Incorporating physical activity into our daily lives is one of the biggest challenges in today’s world. We all know the importance, but still seem to find getting into a routine difficult. Instead of listening to the media and government recommendations, figure out what works in your schedule! Here are some tips to help you build a lifetime of healthy living:

Editor’s Note: If you want to live healthfully and you want to be active, there is no better way than to start! Get moving! However, always consult your physician before starting a new exercise or diet regimen. We at Well & Wise, want you to get well, stay well, and be wise about how you do it. 

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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exercise and sleep“There is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and exercise,” said Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital. “Most of us recognize the fact that when we sleep well we feel better and have more energy during the day, which includes feeling more motivated and having more energy to exercise. Those who sleep well tend to lead a more active lifestyle.”

On the flip side, studies show that the average person who exercises regularly has a tendency to fall asleep more quickly and go into deeper sleep stages. “These individuals also appear to prime their body and brain to be better and more efficient sleepers, which results in waking up feeling more rested and restored,” noted Dr. Gamaldo.

Exercise and insomnia
People suffering from insomnia are unable to fall asleep or struggle with staying asleep. For those who don’t respond to treatment, recent data suggests that exercise may help.

In one study, participants suffering with long-standing insomnia exercised moderately (with an increase in heart rate) for 50 minutes, three times a week, for six months,” said Dr. Gamaldo. “The results showed a significant improvement in their insomnia. This was not just a subjective measurement on how they felt, but also based on their sleep quality as measured in a sleep lab. This is exciting news, and there is no downside of exercise, no bad side effects. Patients also reap the health benefits that come with increased physical activity along with better sleep.”

Exercise when you can!
Although this study showed that the time of day that people exercised didn’t negatively impact the participant’s sleep, Dr. Gamaldo warns that everyone is different.  “I encourage my patients to exercise and, if they can fit it in more practically in the evening without hampering their sleep, then they should do so. For a long time we felt you shouldn’t exercise in the evening before sleep, and for some people that may still be the case. Listen to your body and try to incorporate physical activity at some point in your day that works for you.”

Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., is the medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital and associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. For an appointments, call 800-937-5337.

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fitness mythsIn a very health-conscious society where the media is overrun by fitness and nutrition studies and reports, people still struggle with losing weight and living an overall consistently healthy lifestyle. The media gives so much information on the “right” foods to eat, the “right” way to exercise, and the “right” way to live that many people are confused and frustrated. Is there a “right” when it comes to eating and exercising?

As the fitness industry continues to research and discover more information, the public is constantly exposed to new and updated recommendations. After facts have been passed from source to source, challenged and changed, health and fitness news can become distorted and misinterpreted not to mention overwhelming. Let’s take a look at some of these confusing misconceptions regarding fitness.

How about we start with spot reduction? For example, in order to lose “weight” around your belly, focus on sit-ups or some other abdominal exercise regularly. This will give you a smaller waist, right? Well, this theory of “spot reduction” is impossible. You can specify where you build muscle, unfortunately, a person has no control over where his or her body chooses to burn fat. Muscle helps improve metabolism, resulting in an increase in the amount of calories the body burns but your body has a mind of its own and will lose from wherever.

Speaking of building muscle, another misinterpreted fact concerns weight-lifting. Women commonly believe that weights will make them big and bulky like a man and they should lift only light dumbbells. In fact, only a very small percentage of women have the necessary hormones to naturally do so. Men tend to build bulk and carry more muscle, whereas women tend to create tone and definition. Often, the feeling of bulk comes from adding muscle and not burning the overlying body fat. Womens bodies naturally carry more fat than men, in a healthy way. Increasing muscle improves metabolism, decreases risk of injury, makes daily activities easier and builds strong bones.

how to think about exercsieSo we know exercising is important, but how long? “Research says” 60-90 minutes of physical activity most days. Raise your hand if you have that much time in a day to dedicate to exercise. Very few of us do. Do what you can make time for – but do something! If you only have 20 minutes, move and challenge yourself to work hard during that time. Break it down into shorter segments and use the weekends for a little longer workouts.

Looking at when to schedule your workout, exercising in the morning is best, right? As a trainer, I first ask clients who think this if they will actually wake up at 5 am to exercise (or anything else for that matter!). Most of the time, the answer is “no!” So this brings us to science vs. real life. If you know it’s not something you will do, then the science does not matter. Set yourself up for success and consistency, plan to do it at a time when you feel your best. The benefits may be slightly greater but not greater then doing nothing.

Many fitness recommendations out there promise to be the best. Be sure to find out the best way for you to maximize your results based on your goals, body, time frame and resources. Simplify fitness and eating; if it came from the earth, eat it in moderate portions; work out regularly on a consistent basis. No matter what the media claims, choosing your own health path is essential to getting the best results for you.

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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hcls chair exerciseThe past several weeks have been full of exercise suggestions at Well & Wise, and I’ve very much been enjoying reading about walking, running, sneaking (sneaking in exercise during the day, that is), swimming, and a host of other interesting articles. My own recent contribution was about standing, believe it or not. I had vowed, when writing it, that I was going to try to work some traditional-desk-friendly exercise into my routine. I started this process by taking home the DVD No Sweat! Office Fitness for the Mind and Body in attempt to learn some simple exercises.

The workout in No Sweat! Office Fitness for the Mind and Body is lead by Blanche Black, who is the owner/operator of Fit as a Fiddle Productions and creator of the popular Chair Fitness video series. Ms. Black has also been a Geriatric Rehabilitation Nurse and Fitness Instructor. One of her guiding principles to fitness seems to be: “Movement is the key to the health and consciousness of our bodies.” This is something I can totally get behind. I’m probably not going to become a marathon runner or even a mildly avid exercise enthusiast in this lifetime, but I do acknowledge that I need to keep active (both physically and mentally).

Black offers some options for moving and stretching at work that seem completely doable. She even performs these exercises wearing a skirt and in a limited space to better replicate an office setting (though the wisenheimer husband did keep commenting that it looked suspiciously like the reception area of a funeral parlor). Is the production quality a little on the rough side? Are the exercises a bit on the low-impact side (you definitely won’t have to worry about getting sweaty at work)? Do some of the stretches seem a bit silly, especially if you are doing them in front of coworkers? Yes to all of the above. BUT the directions are clear, the DVD is reasonably short (17 minutes), and, after giving it a try, I did feel a little looser, especially in the shoulders and neck (where I tend to carry all my tension).

Black gives you some simple exercises that could totally be done on the job. She’s not out to pump anyone up, but her simple stretches and exercises could help relieve some stress and keep you a little more limber at work. And, if you choose to learn them at home like I did, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be joined by your favorite smart-aleck.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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“Exercise affects your whole body and makes your bones and muscles stronger. It improves your heart, lungs and brain function. It also reduces weight, increases lean body mass and can improve a child’s immune system,” said Suzie Jeffreys, an exercise physiologist at Howard County General Hospital.

Not only does exercise help children physically, but mentally as well. “Kids need to get up and move every day. It is a natural part of living and gets our blood flowing and allows more oxygen to reach the brain, which can result in clearer thoughts, better grades, more energy and focus, and improved test scores,”  noted Jeffreys.

“If you get them moving while they are young, it becomes a way of life. They don’t have to get drenched with sweat. Anything they do is better than sitting on the couch or in front of a video game or on their phone,” said Jeffreys.

Know Your Child’s Fitness Personality
With all the latest technology distractions geared toward children, they may sometimes need a little encouragement from their parents to get moving. “There are different fitness personalities. Not everyone is a born athlete and not everyone wants to be—so get to know your child,” remarked Jeffreys. Fitness personalities include:

The “Non-Athlete” – These children need more encouragement and help to get and stay active. They are not inclined to physical activity due to either lack of interest, ability or both. For these children, it is important to introduce exercise gradually and make it fun. To pique their interest, schedule time for activity, invite friends and find something they enjoy.

The “Casual Athlete” – These children find enjoyment in being active, but may not be a star athlete and are most likely not comfortable in a competitive environment. If you get these children out and moving, they will lead you, and you can introduce them to new activities and inspire them with new equipment or attire.

The “Athlete – These children do not need to have you encourage them as much as support them. Continue to provide support by recognizing their talents and suggest trying a variety of activities.

Low Cost Exercise Options in the Howard County area:

  • Team sports through leagues or school
  • Get Active/Stay Active Howard County has a variety of programs and allows kids to try out different activities.
  • Howard County Striders is a great opportunity to run and walk with other kids at a variety of fitness levels.
  • Girls on the Run is an after-school program through the schools: 443-864-8593,
  • Howard County Recreation Centers (Glenwood, North Laurel, Roger Carter) are great resources for families to play basketball, walk/run on an indoor track, jump rope or swim for a reasonable fee.
Suzie Jeffreys is an exercise physiologist for Howard County General Hospital.



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5892760393_1666c64567_zOne of the major factors contributing to different forms of stress, bodily afflictions, mental illnesses, high anxiety levels, and general dissatisfaction with modern life can be found in the lifestyles we have voluntarily chosen. For example, our inability (or unwillingness) to bring about an appropriate balance among the various components of what should be a “well balanced life” exacts a heavy toll on our body and psyche. For many people, undue, excessive emphasis on any one aspect of life—such as –office work, career, climbing the corporate ladder, pursuit of wealth, etc. leads inevitably to wanton neglect of other important ingredients of a well-balanced life. This type of personal choice leads to various ailments, imbalances and misalignments. In consequence, anxiety, worry, stress, and mental tension ensue.

Our sedentary lifestyles, with its emphasis on income producing activities, and neglect of other important aspects of living, (such as rest, recreation, exercise, relaxation, and adequate sleep), can and does result in irritability, fatigue and poor physical health. Some of us seem to have no time for anything other than the economic aspects of living. Consequently, we become victims of such an unbalanced life style. The neglected areas of life cry out for attention. They manifest themselves in many warning signs – many physical and mental ailments—and we tend to ignore them at our peril.

So the obvious question is: what should be done? What is the remedy? How do we correct this obvious imbalance? Fortunately, the answer is not far to seek!

thriveVarious aspects of daily life, such as: earning and spending; work and career aspirations; family responsibilities; social obligations; activities that promote physical and mental well being—these must be properly balanced—to produce good health and peace of mind. The resulting improvement in life satisfaction will be immeasurable. Whenever we lose sight of this balancing principle, and ignore the vital contribution that each of these components contribute to our sense of life fulfillment, the result is: physical and emotional distress. Happiness and contentment elude us. Life seems empty—filled with worry, anxiety, tension and stress.

The paradox of our unbalanced lifestyle is this: What we think of as enhancing the quality of life—money, power, position, prestige and recognition (all good things in themselves)- can be pursued to excess, to the detriment of our overall quality of life. This is a trap that should be avoided.

So, it is up to each one of us to recognize the importance of balance in life. Engage yourself in a variety of activities—physical, mental, spiritual, and whatever else you want—but do it NOW. Make it a habit. This would be a wise and welcome choice we can and should make; the benefits would be immeasurable.

Dr. Gopal C. Dorai is an author, economist, statistician, and Professor Emeritus at William Paterson University.

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