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Why Dieting is Ineffective and What to Do Instead

By | Nutrition

By Nick Rizzo

We are all guilty of it. You put on a little extra weight and you decide “it’s time to go on a diet.”

Instead of working to actually improve your eating habits, you instead decide to make some radical changes based on a singular proposed idea of what it means to “eat healthy.”

You jump on the latest “dieting trend”. They all claim to be backed by science and guarantee amazing results.

The unfortunate truth is that most of this information has been altered by well-intentioned gurus and cynical marketers. Taking only the studies that support their own biases, ignoring what doesn’t, and avoiding discussions around the glaring gaps in the research they claim as evidence.

Let’s look at two of the most basic and most prevalent lies in the industry.

1. Calories in – Calories out = Changes in body fat

The calorie-counting model of dieting is talked about as being a science fact. I have even overheard trainers say things like “It’s not hard, just eat less calories” when talking about weight loss. The thing is, it isn’t that simple.

That’s because this concept relies on the myth that the calories ingested are independent of the calories you burn throughout the day – a point that was proven false by The Women’s Health Initiative dietary modification trial that followed 50,000 women for seven and a half years. The experimental group ate 342 calories less per day on average, ate 10% less fat, and exercised 14% more. The result? The experimental group lost a whopping .88 pounds on average, and their waist to hip ratio actually increased.

This is only one of the many myths surrounding this general approach to dieting.

2. Another great example is low-fat diets, which only rose to prominence due to the extremely flawed 7 Countries Study by Ancel Keys.

The thing is, this study was actually supposed to include 22 countries, but he ended up removing the rest of the countries from the study as the data that they were producing did not align with his hypothesis.

It is this flawed research that gave rise to things like the Mediterranean diet and the belief that fat is the enemy. In reality, eating too little fat can actually be dangerous. Not eating enough fat can reduce your body’s ability to absorb the necessary fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Fat is also critical for the health of our brain and the overall nervous system. That’s because 60% of our brain is made up of fat. And the myelin sheaths that cover the nerves throughout our body are made up of 100% fat.

Lastly, it is foolish to believe that a style of diet that works for one region will be similarly beneficial for a completely different population. This does not account for genetic and epigenetic profiles of these vastly different populations that are isolated from one another.

Let’s focus more on what you should be doing instead.

5-Step Approach

1) Throw what you think you know about dieting out the window.

There a ton of myths and misconceptions parroted as truths. Start with a clean slate and focus on learning what is best for you.

2) Become more attentive to what your body is telling you.

Are you hungry? Then, it makes sense to eat. Are you thirsty? Drink some water.

Simple right? It is. But it gets a bit more complex when we look at other feelings our body conveys to us. How many times have you started eating because you were bored, because you simply walked through the kitchen, or because you were stressed? I am sure you have done at least one of these before, but you probably don’t think it sounds too weird because of how commonplace it is. To that I say, would it be weird if you ate every time you had to pee? Or what if you brought a sandwich with you every time you showered for a little mid-shower snack? Needless to say, that is a bit weird. But the same can be said about bored or stressed eating.

Additionally, it begins to degrade your relationship with your body and food because food starts to become the answer for things outside of just hunger and nutrition.

By being mindful of what your body is telling you and responding appropriately, you can start to identify and eliminate these poor associations with eating.

3) Eat mindfully.

Next time you are at lunch or out to eat, get your “people watching” on. You will see everyone talking, having a good time, and then as soon as the food comes out, people enter into this feasting trance. Overcome with excitement about eating, they just continue to eat and eat without stopping until the plate is cleared or they have overeaten.

Try to mindfully slow the pace of your eating. Take the time to appreciate each bite. Make sure you are helping yourself to digest your food by chewing more. And when you have eaten about half of your food, take a small break. Use this break to check in with how full you are or if you are still hungry. After a few minutes, if you are still hungry, feel free to keep eating.

4) Address your eating habits by making one change to one meal at a time.

When people try to make changes to their eating habits, they usually try to set up restrictive rules to force a change. They want to change their entire diet in a single day.

Instead, start with focusing on making one small change to the first meal of the day. Continue to make these small changes every one to three weeks. This is the most effective way to approach improvements, because of the science behind habits.

Our habits are engrained in us and changing everything at once is extremely difficult, so even though you may be able to stick with it for the first week, you typically won’t last very long. That’s because your brain is designed to do what takes the least amount of effort as possible.

Changing one small aspect of one meal is significantly easier and will produce the least amount of stress for you. Make a change that is just challenging enough to produce a meaningful benefit without it being overwhelming.

5) Eliminate shame from your diet.

One thing that can set you back is feeling shame and the negative self-talk that comes from eating a not-so-healthy meal.

We are all human, we get cravings, we have favorite foods, and you shouldn’t feel bad for it.

It is perfectly okay to enjoy these foods at parties, family gatherings, when you’re out to eat, or just because. The key is to enjoy these things in moderation and let go of the belief that you should feel bad about it. You shouldn’t.

The thing is, eating well is not a sprint, it is a marathon. If you are eating healthier overall, every day, then over the long term a “guilty pleasure” or two will do very little to hold you back.

Be flexible. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your food. All while improving your overall relationship with food, one meal at a time.

About Nick Rizzo

Nick Rizzo is the Training & Fitness Content Director at RunRepeat.com. He uses his education in the sciences, experience as a researcher, and 10+ years in the fitness industry to craft comprehensive content to educate, motivate, and support readers with information backed by science.

Why You Shouldn’t be Scared to Consume Fat

By | Healthy Living

Fat is not the enemy and we should be consuming the right fats to promote our health!

About Kathleen Trotter

Kathleen Trotter holds a masters in Exercise Science, is the author of two books including the new book Your Fittest Future Self, and is a Personal trainer, Nutritionist, Pilates Specialist and Life Coach. Visit her at KathleenTrotter.com

Twitter: @FITbyKathleenT

Instagram: @fitbykathleent

Facebook:  FIT by Kathleen Trotter

When is the Best Time of Day to Work Out?

By | Healthy Living

By Jamie Logie, PTS, NWS

You are aware of the benefits that come from being physically fit and active. You know strength training, cardiovascular exercise, stretching, and recovery can be life-changing. But what time of day should you exercise?

This article will look at why workout timing may have a big impact on your results and progress in the gym.

Should you work out earlier or later in the day?

If you have always been a morning person, this has probably been an easy decision and you exercise first thing. If the thought of getting up early in the morning repulses you, you may want to reconsider it when it comes to working out.

Not only can working out first thing give you a boost of energy for the day, but it also pays off with better sleep later that night. When you’re active first thing in the morning, your circadian rhythm is engaged. This is your biological clock that needs to follow the course of the day, but can be thrown off very easily. Staying up too late and neglecting your sleep throws it out of whack.

When you work out in the morning you set your biological clock into motion. This means it will start to wind down right around when you need it to. This is beneficial as it will help you to not only fall asleep faster, but stay asleep. It will allow for deeper sleep and with that comes improved recovery from training.

Research from Johns Hopkins University found that when you work out in the morning it improved slow-wave sleep. This is that deep restorative sleep you need to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. The other benefit of early morning workouts is that it raises your body temperature, which is a signal to your body that it’s time to wake up.

The rise in core temperature will allow you to become more alert and productive first thing in the morning. Morning workouts will also give you a brain boost and with it comes alertness and improved creativity. This will allow you to bust through plateaus at work and focus better on projects and requirements.

Is there a best time of day to work out?

The mornings look good for exercise as it helps set you up to take control of your day. Working out first thing may also be the ideal choice if you’re looking to feel better and more energized.

To find the ideal time to work out you need to look at what type of training you are doing. Regular cardio such as running, or even walking, will be quite manageable early in the day. If your training involves more intense activities such as strength training or HIIT, you may want to wait for a few hours after you wake up. This is not to say you won’t get results from high-intensity training early in the morning, you just might not be able to provide maximum exertion.

Training will depend on your schedule, but if it’s possible you could be better off waiting an hour or two after a light breakfast for more engaging workouts. Another option is to do some lower-intensity cardio earlier in the day and save the more intense training for lunch breaks or after work.

Your goals will determine the best time of day to work out

If you’re looking to lose body fat and want to boost your energy, early morning workouts would probably be best for you. You get the added bonus of your metabolism continuing to burn throughout the day after your workout. If your goals are more strength and muscle-based, then training in the earlier half of the day would be more ideal.

Hormone levels – specifically testosterone – peak from around 8 am to 11 am and then drop over the rest of the day. With testosterone at it’s highest, gains in strength and muscle are more likely. If you are only able to workout late in the day, you want to leave a gap of a few hours between training and sleep. High-intensity training late at night will lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Better pre-sleep exercise choices include walking, stretching, and yoga.

Final thoughts

If you’ve been wanting to get up and at ‘em first thing in the morning, this can be a great time to start doing early workouts. Many benefits come from training at this time, but it’s important to look at what you are looking to accomplish from your training. Your schedule will determine a lot of this, but for general fitness and cardiovascular exercise, earlier in the day is ideal.

The other advantage of working out early is it helps you in time management and structuring your day, making you more productive. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the time of day where you will be consistent with your workouts and consistency is what drives results. Consistency leads to better performance, improved oxygen consumption, and lower exhaustion rates. So find your ideal time and stick with it.

About Jamie Logie

Jamie Logie is a personal trainer and health and wellness coach (PTS, NWS). He’s worked in gyms in Canada, U.S, England, and Australia. He runs www.regainedwellness.com and is a contributing writer on health and fitness for The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, LifeHack, askmen.com, and has an Amazon #1 book called ‘Taking Back Your Health’.

 

Developing Your EQ: Body Language

By | Healthy Living

By Judith Humphrey

I once coached a young financial executive who was tall and attractive with a warm, engaging manner.  I assumed that he would come across with executive presence when he spoke to prospective investors. But, at our first coaching session I asked him to pretend he was talking to potential clients, and suddenly his body language became guarded and uninspiring.

Good body language doesn’t just happen because we are handsome or attractive. It requires an awareness of what our body is saying – and adjusting it when it sends the wrong messages. If you are a personal trainer who wants to build strong relationships with your clients—or prospective clients—you must make your body speak well for you and convey the right messages.

The following five guidelines will enable you to project body language that expresses emotional intelligence (EQ) and builds a strong relationship with your clients.

  1. Create a Shared Space

Good body language requires a good setting. At the beginning of your sessions, find a spot on the floor you can share only with your client. A heavy traffic area may not be the best setting because it conveys the impression that you don’t value the one-on-one relationship with your client. And it also creates distractions.

So move away from the crowd and say, “Here’s a good spot for us” or “Let’s set up shop here.” This positioning will create a better one-on-one experience.

In creating this collaborative space you’ll also want to keep the area free from objects. Even a water bottle or a cell phone can be intrusive and create a barrier between the two of you. So create a shared space that belongs to the two of you.

  1. Adopt a Strong Stance

Your stance says a lot about how focused you are on your client. If you want to show you are attentive to your client’s needs, stand tall, indicating that you are in the “ready” position and intent on helping the trainee. When your client is on the floor, you may kneel so that you are closer to her and not looking “down” on her.  But, avoid slouching at all costs, for it sends a message that you are disengaged and too tired to be of assistance.

As you stand or kneel, face your client directly– don’t position yourself at an angle to her. You want to show that you are completely centered on her and ready to engage and support her.

  1. Make Eye Contact

Our eyes are more powerful than all our other senses put together, so use them well.

Keep your eyes on your client. When you look intently at your client, you are saying, “I am focused on you” and “I care about everything you’re doing.” Hold eye contact when your trainee is doing specific exercises. Hold eye contact when you are praising your client or “high fiving” him. It will mean much more than praise without eye contact.

Finally, don’t let your eyes wander. A client can easily feel less important if you glance at others while you’re training. A wandering eye—even if it’s just to look at a fellow trainer—can undercut your relationship with your client by making them feel less important than the object of your gaze. So stay focused.

  1. Use Open Gestures

Emotionally intelligent body language includes gestures that are open and directed to your client.

Keep your arms loose at your sides when not gesturing and avoid crossing or folding your arms—a position that suggests detachment or distance from the person you’re working with.  Don’t even cross or fold your arms because you are cold. Crossed arms announce, “I’m not open to you.”

Your arm gestures should always be extended toward the client. And the best ones are full arm gestures, not gestures from the elbows or from wobbly wrists. Big gestures are powerful and convey a sense of energy and excitement about what you are saying or what you are observing.

  1. The Human Touch

Touch can be a powerful expression of your emotional intelligence, but it must be handled with great sensitivity and discretion.

Touch is therapeutic. According to physicist Leonard Mlodinow, “During a conversation, a light touch can impart a subliminal sense of caring and connection, leading to more successful social interaction and even better teamwork.”

As a personal trainer, you have tremendous power to demonstrate emotional intelligence by using your hands to gently touch your client. This can be done by touching a client’s back to adjust his position when he’s doing a plank, or by holding a client’s shoulders to explain how she can perfect her posture in an exercise. If touch is as important to our health and our humanity as research says it is, these gestures are far more sensitive and effective than simply shouting, “Ribs down,” or “Pin your shoulders back.”

But, as positive and important as touching is, it must be done with professionalism. For example, a trainer should ask the client first if it’s OK to touch, before doing so. Be sure to get this permission when you begin working with a client. She will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and by asking you will make her feel less vulnerable.

Your body language speaks for you in so many ways. Use these five guidelines for projecting “body intelligence” and you will build stronger, longer lasting client relationships and a more robust business.

About Judith Humphrey

Judith Humphrey is Co-Founder and CEO of EQUOS Corp, a firm that teaches EQ skills to fitness professionals, manual therapists, and health care practitioners. Before entering the world of fitness, Judith was Founder and CEO of The Humphrey Group, a company that works with corporate leaders around the world who wish to speak with clarity and confidence. Judith is a Fast Company columnist, and the author of three books on communication: Speaking as a Leader: How to Lead Every Time You Speak (2010), Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed (2014), and Impromptu: Leading in the Moment (2018).

EQUOS will be offering a one-day workshop, “The Emotionally Intelligent Fitness Professional,” in Toronto on November 9th and December 7th. For further information, visit their website.

Follow EQUOS on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Teaching Outside the Fitness Box

By | Movement

By Elizabeth Mooney

It is easy to find yourself in a “rut” as a fitness instructor. Your certifications land you many jobs at local gyms and fitness centers. However, only so much money can be made at these types of establishments. In addition, if you live in a small, rural community, these traditional options may be limited.

Enter Country Fusion®, a new fitness workout that incorporates country music and line dance.  Country Fusion members and instructors have become engaged in a whole new lifestyle and all of the new opportunities that come with it.

Most of Country Fusion choreography is actual line dances. These are dances that get your heart pumping at the fitness studio, but are also recognizable in the Honky Tonks. Country Fusion has capitalized on this unique aspect in many ways that other fitness instructors could replicate as well.

“Star Instructors” are hired to teach line dancing at private parties for birthdays, holidays, showers, etc. Instructors run dances at schools and hold after school programs for either students or school staff.  Country Fusion gets involved in charity events that may hire a country band or have a country theme. Instructors have participated in events at breweries, wineries, liquor tastings, and at stores that sell country wares. Additionally, corporate parties and wellness programs are eager to include workouts like Country Fusion for their employees.

Country Fusion recognizes the interests and needs of its members. Senior living homes hold fitness events with Country Fusion and instructors modify their line dances for the senior population. Many members want to practice and build their confidence with line dancing before coming to class, so I created an online tutorial Country Fusion program available for a monthly subscription.

The most common way that Country Fusion makes money is at bars and restaurants.  Instructors establish themselves at a local fitness center then encourage those same clients to attend a nightlife event. Sneakers are traded for cowboy boots! The instructor teaches a few dances and plays songs that participants know from attending fitness classes. Being visible at these nightlife venues brings new people into the gyms to take County Fusion once they see how fun it is!

Country Fusion has become the leading example of how instructors can get out of the gym and take a workout to new clients. The brand has set itself apart by being both a day out at the gym with your sneakers and a night at the Honky Tonks with your cowboy boots!

About Elizabeth Mooney

Country Fusion® is created by Elizabeth Mooney. Elizabeth has been a dancer since the age of 2 and has taught fitness for over 10 years. Past experience includes directing her own off-Broadway show in NYC, America’s Got Talent Season 6, and Mercedes Benz fashion week. Elizabeth’s personal achievements include being a finalist in the Miss Italia competition, Elite Model Management competition, Bikini USA, and in Miss Hawaiian Tropic. Being an accomplished actress, dancer, choreographer and model, Ms. Mooney has appeared in many television roles, including HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, and roles on USA’s “Royal Pains”. Her most recent film and television appearances have been as a featured dancer on the Stars network show “Power”. Certifications include AFAA Personal Trainer, Pole Dance, Barre Assets, and training in BOSU and Bootcamp.

www.countryfusion.net

Facebook: Country Fusion

Instagram: countryfusionllc

Movement of the Month: Cable Horizontal Split Squat

By | Movement

By Coach Kennedy

With the fall season now in full swing, winter is not far behind. As we move many of our activities indoors, we also tend to spend more time at the gym, meaning as a trainer and coach we should always be looking for something new or different to add into our own training regiments, but also your clients.

The Cable Horizontal Split Squat is one of those movements that is more often than not performed incorrectly. The biggest error is that many perform this like a regular split squat, meaning the movement is performed vertically, an up and down motion as opposed to a horizontal motion. I’ll be showing you exactly how this movement should be performed and when done correctly, watch out glutes – here comes the fire!

Aside from it being a great exercise for the glutes, other benefits include, dynamic balance (remember that your center of gravity is constantly changing over your base of support due to the constant shifting back and forth, improving that cross body/contra lateral core strength), helping to integrate lower and upper body, and body awareness.

Exercise Execution:

Set your body in a split stance position, right leg in front, foot pointing forward, slight bend in the knee with a tall spine. Your left leg is straight behind you, on your toes. With the left hand, take hold of the cable and keep your arm extended. Begin by moving horizontally, not up and down. The idea is to shift through gravity by taking your right knee towards the second toe. Remember, it’s horizontal, not vertical. The arm holding onto the cable remains extended and locked with no change in its position.

Exercise Protocol:

This movement can be performed for time or repetitions. If time is your choice, begin with approximately 30 seconds per leg. If repetitions is your choice, they can vary depending on the outcome; higher reps for endurance (12-20) and lower reps for strength (8-12).

ALWAYS regress and progress as needed. Not sure how?  Find me at: kennedy@coachkennedyonline.ca.

About Coach Kennedy

Coach Kennedy (Kennedy Lodato) is a 28-year advocate of health and a 14-year veteran of the fitness industry with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for teaching and running his CKM Mentorships, CK Private Coaching, AOW- Anatomy of Work workshops and courses, as well as a Fitness Educator of LIVE education to the fitness industry.

Before pursuing his true felt passion for mentoring trainers and coaches, he occupied the positions of Personal Trainer, Sport Conditioning Coach and Personal Training Manager. Kennedy is a three-time recipient of the canfitpro PRO TRAINER of the Year Award as well as the 2019 Canadian Delegates’ Choice Presenter of the Year Award.

Coach Kennedy is Director of Operations for HQ Consulting, an education training facility that he recently co-established. For more information go to: www.HQconsulting.ca or www.KennedyLodato.com

Imagining a Society Where Physicians Write Prescriptions for Physical Activity

By | Healthy Living

To date, there is an epidemic of physical inactivity within the Canadian population where apparently healthy, low risk, sedentary individuals are not meeting the recommended Health Canada recommendations levels of physical activity.

On average, 90 percent of Canadians are inactive (in that they are not meeting the minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week).

This is more concerning than the obesity epidemic. Our cultural evolution has outpaced our physiological evolution—Humans are designed to move!

The power of a written prescription

It is unfortunate that patients only become motivated to move more when a physician writes them a prescription for physical activity; this is our new reality. This uniquely designed prescription gives patients of all ages advice on how to increase their physical activity levels and provides them with access to resources and community recreational and fitness facilities for free. In a 2018 report, 73 percent of participants in the Prescription to Get Active program said they are more active because of this prescription, and just over 80 percent of them stated that they saw health benefits and increased their physical activity because of this program, especially when they were presented with recreation and fitness facility access.

What is Prescription to Get Active?

Prescription To Get Active (RxTGA) is a not-for-profit corporation with a program created by a passionate, diverse and experienced board of directors, and local chapters committee members in Alberta and Ontario (and growing fast).

These leaders are dedicated to improving the health of Canadians by providing an impactful program and making physical activity the most powerful prescription given. RxTGA supports individuals to become more active by collaborating with community-based recreation and fitness facilities and research community resources for accessible spaces for patients to be active where they live, work and play.

RxTGA equips doctors and their healthcare teams with the tools to educate their patients on the importance of physical activity and provide resources to ensure physical activity is an important conversation at every appointment. Click here to learn more about RxTGA.

How does the program work?

Step 1. Healthcare members identify patients who below the Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior Guidelines and who are able to participate in unsupervised physical activity without medical clearance.

Step 2. Prescribers then write a specially designed prescription to their patients

Step 3. Patients record their Prescription to Get Active at www.PrescriptionToGetActive.com.

Step 4. Patients start moving at home and in their communities, access physical activity resources provided through the website and they can also fill their prescription at participating recreational and fitness facilities and receive a free trial access.

If you wish to learn more about this latest trend in fitness—‘exercise as medicine’—visit www.prescriptiontogetactive.com. To participate in this program or become a member,  you can also email info@prescriptiontogetactive.com

canfitpro is proud to support Prescription to Get Active as this will provide our members with a massive opportunity to grow their careers, their membership and clientele base while helping improve our cultural evolution to one that better serves the human race, and the health of the planet.

Start and Grow a Profitable Fitness Business–and Increase Your Profits, Revenue, and Happiness

By | Business

Many fitness professionals dream of starting and growing their own fitness business. They’ve put a lot of investment (both time and money) into getting certified … and they’re excited to get going. And then what happens? 

They get stuck and don’t progress. WHY? 

They fall into a trap. When most people think about growing their fitness business, they think “I just need more leads and clients.” Followed by: “How can I get more clients?” And then: “But really, where do I find more clients?”

But the problem with that line of thinking is that it almost always leads to a dead end. Truth is, there’s some hard strategizing and planning that needs to be done before you hit the accelerator on new client acquisition.

WARNING: If you DON’T review and address these critical areas of your business, things actually get WORSE when you add more clients into the mix (NOT better).

Where you need to begin is here: 

  1. Understand the “money math” that drives PROFITABILITY and cash flow with your business model
  2. Get real SYSTEMS in place that support increased retention AND new client acquisition every single month 
  3. Increase your LEADERSHIP (and eventually, your team capacity) so your business and life will get better (not worse) as you grow.

At NPE, we take a different approach. Since 2006, we’ve helped over 45,000+ fitness professionals and business owners in 96+ countries grow to the next level. We’ve been listed 8x on the Inc 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies, and we’re a global team with offices in Los Angeles, London, and Sydney.

Our ‘secret to success’ is our methodology. Through the NPE 5 CORE DISCIPLINES™ we relentlessly focus on creating more profitability, revenue, and (critically) happiness with your fitness business to create long-term success.

Each of the NPE 5 CORE DISCIPLINES™ aligns to a powerful business growth question:

  1. What does success look like and how will you get there?
  2. Where do you find (and how will you sign up) new prospective clients?
  3. How do you serve the market in a unique and powerful way?
  4. How will you increase revenue, cash flow, and profitability to ensure continued success?
  5. How will you look after yourself, have fun, and enjoy the journey? 

As you get better answers to these questions, you will have increased FOCUS.

To help you get the better answers, we at NPE are inviting canfitpro members to take an exclusive FREE eCourse. In this course, you will learn how to:

  • Grow your income while doing more of the work you love helping people transform their lives
  • Take your passion for fitness and turn it into a successful business 
  • Find the business model that best fits your strengths and allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition 
  • Increase business cash flow and profitability while scaling to multiple 6 and even 7+ figures
  • Feel inspired by the work you’re doing, so you can continue enjoying the journey while making a bigger impact in the lives of the clients and communities you serve. 

Head on and register now to start and grow your fitness business and create the life you want. 

Business Member Spotlight: City of Mississauga

By | Business

What type of facility are you?

Municipal Recreation

Tell us about your business?

City of Mississauga fitness and therapeutic programs are part of the municipal recreation division. We have 13 fitness locations across the City with a variety of weight room and group exercise studios. Facilities and memberships also include squash, swimming, skating and walking tracks.

How long have you been in the fitness industry?

More than 10 years.

What attracted you to the fitness industry?

The City of Mississauga offers fitness as part of recreation offerings to appeal to the broadest interest of residents.

What made you choose to own/operate your own business?

The City of Mississauga is committed to offering fitness as part of recreation services as a community-based option for fitness facilities and programs.

What has been your greatest challenge as a businessowner/operator and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge faced has been promoting the quality and breadth of fitness programs and services offered along with the high standards for staff qualifications and accountability. Sometimes we’re too humble and understated for our own good!

What do you hope your member’s achieve within your facility?

Our objectives for residents are to find facilities and programs that best fit their needs along with a community connection and belongingness.

Tell us your greatest memory/highlight in your career?

One of our greatest highlights has been the development and introduction of the Therapeutic Membership and line of business. This includes many hospital partnership programs along with post-therapy focused programs – for example COPD, Strong and Steady and the Next Step to Active Living.

This membership also includes programs like Ai Chi, Therapeutic Pilates and Therapeutic yoga that creatively combine functional and post rehab type exercises with modifications to enable all levels of ability and movement to participate. These programs connect people in their community while maintaining and building strength for activities of daily living and independence.

How long have you been a Business Member?

8 – 10 years.

Have you used a business coach to better educate you and your business? If so, who?

Yes. We have the support of recreation managers and leaders along with a team of business and marketing advisors.

Do you have a favourite quote or saying you try to live by each day?

Our mission is to have more people connected more often through programs and services that reflect our community’s needs.

3 Portable Protein Snacks

By | Nutrition

By Carol Harrison, RD

Help your clients to eat better in the long run by making small changes over time, like swapping sugary snacks for protein-filled snacks that help to curb hunger, and build and repair muscle. Here are three dietitian-approved options that are also perfect for on-the-go eating.

TIP: Remind clients that a way to avoid turning a snack into a meal (unless of course a large snack is warranted!) is to try not to snack while distracted with things like working, driving or watching TV. When we are distracted we tend to overeat.

Delicious hard-cooked eggs

Two eggs serves up 12 grams of hunger-curbing protein, vitamins and minerals, all for a mere 140 calories.

What’s more? With Eggs2go! TM you’ll get a boost of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fats. It’s a natural alternative to supplements. All it takes is adding flaxseed to a hen’s diet!

TIP: Look for Eggs2go! TM in packs of two in the deli section of grocery stores or packs of six in the egg section. These pair great with raw veggies like grape tomatoes or sugar snap peas.

Todd’s Better Snacks

New to the snack market, these lightly puffed flavoured crisps are made from high-quality Canadian egg white protein (each bag contains 2 ½ egg whites), plus prairie lentils (and are peanut and gluten-free). They can satisfy a savoury snack craving and help curb hunger until your next meal with 10 grams of protein in each portion-controlled bag.

TIP: Todd’s Protein Crisps are available in BBQ, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, sea salt and vinegar flavours and can be ordered online: Todd’s Better Snacks.

Almonds

These are an oldie, but reliable goodie. Just a small handful of almonds (23 almonds, one ounce) packs six grams of protein plus four grams of fiber for a winning hunger-curbing combo with that crunch appeal many of us crave in a snack.

What’s more? You also get about 50% of your antioxidant vitamin E needs, helpful to keep our immune system in tip top shape.

TIP: Pack up single-serve containers with a small handful of almonds for easy grab-and-go snacks. Keep them at work, in the car and in your gym bag. Almonds pair well with banana slices, a mandarin orange or crisp apple.

Find out more Healthy Snack Ideas for Adults and be sure to visit www.unlockfood.ca

About Carol Harrison

Carol Harrison is a registered dietitian who loves her daily workouts! She has a food nutrition communications company in Toronto. Follow Carol on Twitter and Instagram.

Fight Back Against Aging With Strength Training

By | Healthy Living

By Nick Rizzo

Canada’s population has been steadily aging. As of 2014, seniors were making up 15.6% of the population (approximately 6 million). By 2030, estimates expect that number to rise significantly to over 9.5 million seniors that account for more than 23% of Canadians.

With life expectancy increasing and the baby boomers still entering their senior years, these numbers are expected to keep rising, which is why there is a need now, more than ever, for more personal trainers, nutritionists, fitness instructors, and weight loss coaches to garner a greater understanding of seniors and the best ways to serve them. One way to better understand seniors is to first take a look at how aging impacts the body.

Four Impacts of Aging on the Body

1) Age-related loss in muscle mass (and sarcopenia)

The unfortunate fact is this, aging inherently leads to seniors losing muscle mass. At first, it can be a bit slow. But, from age 50 on the rate of decrease starts to pick up. At this milestone, you start losing muscle at a rate of 1-2% every year. If left unaddressed, this can develop into significant issues like sarcopenia, which, up to 13% of those aged 60-70 suffer from. Then, looking at the 80+ crowd, it is clear that this issue has continued to progress since as much as 50% of this population struggle with the health issues of sarcopenia.

2) Deterioration in strength over time

As you continue to lose muscle, you are also going to be losing your strength. Those above the age of 60 are estimated to lose as much as 3% of their strength every calendar year. This is troubling for a slew of reasons, but no more troubling than this next point.

3) The degradation of functional capabilities and functional independence

As muscle and strength decline, basic functional capabilities start to become harder and more difficult. Overall mobility and flexibility begin to take a hit as well. As these capabilities begin to degrade, it starts to limit overall physical activity which only further expedites the loss of functional capabilities. With this comes a continuous loss in seniors’ abilities to simply be functionally independent and living life by their own means.

4) Slowing down your metabolism and increasing obesity

The three above points all play a role in packing on the pounds as you age. Muscle mass is beneficial for more than looking good, mobility, and strength – having higher levels of muscle mass leads to a direct increase in one’s metabolic rate.

A decrease in strength causes speed, intensity and power generated in your day-to-day activities to significantly decrease as well. This means you are utilizing less energy, burning fewer calories, and missing the benefits of more intense physical activity.

The loss of functional capabilities inherently leads to a more sedentary lifestyle. Being less physically active overall is only going to further decrease your metabolism, increase weight gain, and a whole host of other issues.

All of this is dangerous – continually adding on weight while being less and less active can bring upon other health concerns like heart disease and diabetes.

It is clear that all of these aspects are all interconnected. But what is the best way to fight back against these issues?

View the full infographic: 78 Benefits of Weight Lifting for Seniors

Click to view the full infographic: 78 Benefits of Weight Lifting for Seniors

Strength training: Five benefits for the 65+ population

Weight lifting to build muscle and increase strength is easily one of the most important things that the aging population needs to be engaged in. In fact, a meta-analysis analyzed over 120 peer-reviewed studies and identified 78 benefits of strength training for seniors. It addresses everything from the topics we are touching on here to cognitive health, mental health, reducing fall risk factors, reducing mortality rates, and much more.

But, even if we focus just on the issues listed above, it is clear that strength training is critical. Here’s why.

1) First of all, it’s safe

The amount of times I have heard people spread the myth that lifting weights is dangerous for older folks is mind numbing. I have even seen trainers refuse older clients because “they should just walk at the mall”. Infuriating. So let’s do away with this myth first and foremost. Study after study has shown that not only is it safe, it is extremely effective for a whole bunch of reasons.

2) The best prescription for preventing and reversing sarcopenia

A lot of people, my father being one of them, didn’t think that they would be able to really see any improvements in their muscle mass. The question is always something like “I am just too old, will this really work?”

The answer is a hard yes.

Whether your 50 years old or 90 years old, you can still build muscle. In fact, even just doing one set of exercises three times a week has been shown to produce significant improvements in muscle mass. Increasing the sets, reps, intensity or number of exercises leads to a dramatic boost in benefits.

By starting earlier, rather than later, you can actually prevent the decline from ever occurring. But, if you haven’t started, it isn’t too late. As studies have seen, volunteers aged 61-80 can see dramatic improvements of their current health status, with volunteers being able to add over two pounds of muscle mass in 10-12 weeks, which reduced their physical age by five years on average.

3) Best way to maintain strength and improve it

No matter the age, strength training will improve general functional strength, maximal strength, endurance, and conditioning.

Being ahead of the curve has its benefits. Those who had been strength training as a regular way of life were protected against significant losses in strength.

But don’t be confused, just being physically active isn’t the same. When one study compared populations of strength training masters and physically active seniors, the masters had greater strength, functional capabilities, functional performance, and more.

4) Fighting back against obesity

The obvious is that exercise is going to help fight back against obesity. What isn’t obvious is what sets strength training apart from other forms of exercise.

One study demonstrated that hitting the weights over the course of 10 weeks was able to reduce more than 1.8kg of fat mass. All the while, the participants saw their average metabolic rate increase by as much as 7%.

Another aspect is that load-bearing exercises are known for significantly elevating metabolic rates for 12-48 hours post-workout. Adding this on top of the already elevated resting metabolic rate will help to utilize more calories and increase your daily energy expenditure to drop fat.

A third way that isn’t talked about as much revolves around a singular hormone known as isrin. Lifting weights increases the levels of this hormone (while also improving other aspects of your endocrine system). What isrin does is help promote “good fat” while also decreasing “bad fat”.

You see, if you live a more sedentary lifestyle, the type of fat you are more likely to have is known as white fat (bad fat). This type of fat tissue is not metabolically active. It doesn’t produce much energy or burn many calories.

On the other hand, brown fat (good fat) is the complete opposite. These brown fat cells are packed with mitochondria that are highly metabolically active. Having higher levels of brown fat vs white fat leads to overall great fat loss.

Coming back to isrin… isrin works to actively convert white fat into brown fat. By working out more you can keep the levels of isrin elevated to continually improve the ratio of white to brown fat.

5) Staying physically fit to keep that functional independence

Last but not least, lifting will help you to stay functionally independent.

Seniors that were hitting the gym were able to see physical capabilities improve across the board. Studies demonstrated significant increases in:

  • Walking speed and step length
  • Performance and time of doing tasks like sitting down, standing up, climbing stairs, and walking
  • The flexibility of every single joint movement
  • Overall mobility
  • Static and dynamic balance
  • Movement control due to improved neuromuscular functioning

With these improvements, seniors can expect to reduce fall risk factors. With that, they may experience improved confidence in their movement which helps to reduce their fear of falling – a fear that can be restrictive and paralyzing from even attempting to be active.

Active living: Are you ready to help seniors with active aging?

The goal of this article is to simply help you understand this aging population and the struggles they may endure. Just simply strength training two to three times a week can be absolutely critical to having a long, healthy, and active life.

With that said, there is so much more you can do to help older adults. If you want to become someone that older clients can look to for “all of the above”, look into earning your Personal Training Specialist Certification and the corresponding Active Aging Certificate from canfitpro. You will get a deep dive into the impact and physiology of aging, healthy eating, the crucial type of exercises for older adults, and even how to adapt regiments for specific conditions or illnesses they may be struggling with.

About Nick Rizzo

Nick Rizzo is the Training & Fitness Content Director at RunRepeat.Com. He uses his education in the sciences, experience as a researcher, and 10+ years in the fitness industry to craft comprehensive content to educate, motivate, and support readers with information backed by science.

Visit his website runrepeat.com

 

Get Over Your Fears of Being the Newbie at the Gym

By | Healthy Living

By Leah Staff, PTS

The gym can be a scary place, until you feel like you belong. When joining or rejoining a gym, it can raise intimidation that make us fearful of being judged, left out, conspicuous or other feelings of simply not fitting in. Let’s look at it a different way to see that the gym is indeed the right place for you!

In all areas of life, we either feel like we belong or like we don’t. Back in the 1970’s, Henri Tajfel developed the theory of in-groups and out-groups as part of social identity theory; situations where we either see ourselves as a group member or as an individual. With a sense of common ground, interests or circumstances we experience a sense of loyalty, common purpose and togetherness with other people.

We are a part of this particular in-group and feel comfortable because we have an idea of what to expect from members of our group and what is expected of us – a team at work, your curling club, fellow dog owners, are just a few examples. If someone is part of an out-group, a group to which we don’t belong, it is easy to see them as “other” and separate from ourselves. This information will sound familiar to many of you. Here’s what might be surprising. Creating an in-group can be as simple as assigning a random group of strangers to a team. Think of the last time you were at an event and assigned to the Blue Team. Did you automatically feel a competitive push towards the Red Team, even though two minutes earlier you were all part of the same large group? The same idea applies when walking your dog in a new neighbourhood and you automatically smile or wave to other dog owners. You have common ground that allows for easy, casual interaction. They get you and you get them.

Let’s apply this in-group theory to going to the gym or a fitness class for the first time. It feels daunting. You don’t know the social etiquette, who is new like you and who are the regulars, what is the cool dress code, how to work the machines, do you bring your own water or are there water fountains, where is the change room – the list of unknowns can be quite long. We assume that we are seen as a member of the out-group. We are a newbie trying to get into the in-group. It is natural to experience a heightened awareness of all the ways in which we are different, whether or not our assumptions are correct. “Everyone else has a towel, I don’t.” “Lots of people seem to know the instructor and what equipment we need. I am clueless.” And, the most common thought? “I am the most out of shape person here and everyone can tell.”  At the gym, it can feel like everyone else but us belongs there and is super fit. But, just because you feel like an outsider, doesn’t make it so.

Here comes the good news. You do belong. Simply by showing up you are part of the group of people who exercised today. Congratulations! You are in the elite 20% of Canadians! A pretty nice in-group wouldn’t you say? That camaraderie is immediately noticed by other people in the gym. In all my years as a personal trainer, the only comments ever made by my clients about fresh faces in the gym all ran along the lines of “I hope they come back.” Without exception, they were wishing people success. When we are comfortable in the gym, it is easy to see others as part of our group.

Here’s the take-away message: The rest of your gym family, even though you don’t know their names, are all rooting for you! So head high, big breathe and smile. Guaranteed you’ll get a smile back!

About Leah Staff

Leah Staff is a communications consultant, wellness expert, and 25 year veteran of the wellness industry whose corporate programs have achieved national award-winning success. As an educator, presenter and coach, Leah helps people talk with people.

Website: www.staffcommunications.ca
Twitter@StaffLeah
LinkedIn: www.linkedin/leahstaff

Jump In and Take Your Next Workout to the Pool

By | Movement

By Cat Kom

We’re not just talking about swimming laps, because you can absolutely get a body-sculpting weight-training session in a pool. So many people think of swimming as a cardio workout, but at Studio SWEAT onDemand, we think it’s an ideal place to gain power and build muscle. Seriously – your body weight is supported in water, so you can focus on building strength and flexibility. The buoyancy of a water workout is also perfect for people who suffer from conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, joint replacements, and balance issues.

On average, people burn about 500-600 calories during an hour of swimming, so, if you want the best pool exercises ever, dive into our easy-to-follow guide. We suggest anywhere to three rounds, depending on how much time you have to play.

 Weight Training Twist

It’s not all pool noodles and beach balls. You can actually buy pool weights, foam, and plastic dumbbells that work well underwater. These weights are perfect for building bulk – so, it’s time for you to change your perception around aquatic sports.

What it works: obliques, core, and quads

Here’s how to do it:

  • With both hands, hold your pool noodle or barbell shoulder height with arms straight in front of you.
  • Keeping your arms extended rotate your torso to the right while hopping your feet to the left.
  • Repeat by hopping feet to the right while twisting your upper-body to the left.
  • Repeat back and forth for 30 seconds.

Running in Place

No, you’re not dreaming – it’s really that hard to run in water. So, if you want the ultimate aerobic exercise, then try this new take on high knees. Just remember – slower kicking means less resistance, while faster kicking increases your resistance.

What it works: cardio, hip flexors

Here’s how to do it:

  • With your feet touching the floor, begin to run in place.
  • Go as fast as you can, kicking your legs and lifting your knees as high as you can.
  • Complete for 30 seconds.

Leg Lifts

This deceptively simple ab move is difficult enough on land, but in a pool? You’ll find that you’ll need extra core strength to keep your body from floating away AND push your legs through the water.

What it works: abdominal muscles, obliques, and hip flexors

Here’s how to do it:

  • Holding on to the edge of the pool, lift your legs together until they’re parallel to the floor.
  • Lower them down.
  • Repeat for 25 reps.

 Use Your Noodle

This one may require you to steal your kids’ pool noodle, but trust us, it’s worth it, and they’ll forgive you.

What it works: core, shoulders, and triceps

Here’s how to do it:

  • While on your belly floating in the water, hold on to a horizontal pool noodle.
  • Engage your core to hold your position, then push down the pool noodle with arms straight.
  • Complete for 25 reps.

Tuck Jump

Because it’s so high impact, not everyone’s a fan of the tuck jump. But, in a pool, treading water? You’ll experience that same heart-pumping cardio without being as hard on your knees as you add a bigger element of ab work into the mix.

What it works: core, quads, glutes, deltoids, chest, and lats

Here’s how to do it:

  • Make sure the water comes up to your shoulders.
  • While treading water (or with your feet touching the bottom of the pool), bring both knees up to your chest.
  • Extend your legs straight down.
  • Complete for 10 reps

A note to improve your pool workout: yes, you still have to drink water before and after your workout. Accidental pool water intake doesn’t count!

Just because a workout is creative and fun doesn’t mean it’s inefficient. If anything, changing it up with out-of-the-box exercises keeps you from getting stuck in a workout plateau and keeps you on your toes!

About Cat Kom

Cat Kom is a celebrated fitness trainer who launched a global movement to bring fitness to the masses, no matter their age, ability or skill level. Through her company Studio SWEAT onDemand, a fitness studio based in San Diego, California, she produces streaming workouts that can be accessed through their app, any internet browser, smart device or TV. As one of Huffington Post’s‘ Limit Breaking Female Founders,’ Cat has gained notoriety for her fat-torching classes featuring passionate trainers and real people, getting real results.

 

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

By | Business, Healthy Living

By Judith Humphrey

During the 30 years that I was building my company, I became increasingly tired and stressed. There were plenty of gyms near me, but I regarded them as sweat factories where people rode bikes that went nowhere. It was only after I sold my company that I made a dramatic discovery: signing up with a personal trainer can turn your life around.

Working with a trainer, I enjoyed the physical experience of discovering the power of my body and the beauty of a more aligned and confident physical presence. But it took me three tries to find a personal trainer who was a “good fit” for me. The first one was OK, but we didn’t connect on a personal level. The second one didn’t read me very well and pushed me too hard.

The third one, as the expression goes, “was a charm.” The reason I love working with him is that he not only has technical skills, but he has superb emotional intelligence. Every word he delivers inspires me, motivates me, and makes me feel hungry for more coaching. Each session is fun, we laugh, we talk, and we connect on an interpersonal level. I would never leave him.

If you want to keep your clients for the long term—you’ll need this emotional intelligence (EQ). These are the interpersonal skills that allow you to form better and more lasting relationships with your clients.

In the world of fitness, emotional intelligence is imperative. It enables you to elevate the client experience and retain clients in an increasingly competitive industry.

This is the first in a series of four monthly articles that will explore how you can develop your EQ and use it to foster deeper, lasting client relationships.

This first article is on how to “connect” with clients. The next three will deal with body language, the art of listening, and vision.

The Importance of Connecting

In his book, Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman writes: “We are wired to connect. Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable.”

The clients you deal with want that connection with you – in fact, clients rarely leave trainers for technical reasons. Whoever left a trainer because he couldn’t bench press 250 pounds? It’s more likely that relationships end when there is an interpersonal disconnect.

As you build healthy bodies, make sure to create these crucial ties with your clients. Even if you feel you are a social introvert, you have an obligation to give your clients an experience that is personally enriching. Hence the term, “personal trainer.”

Three Ways to Connect

There are many ways to reach out and connect with your clients, but let’s look at three that will create “stickiness” in your client relationships, and encourage clients to enjoy working with you and stay with you.

#1 Show Interest 

The first way to connect is to show interest in your client’s life. You’re dealing with a whole person, not just a body or a set of muscles.

During the initial assessment start probing. You might ask what that individual’s current exercise routine is. Or where he lives or what brought her into the gym.

Over time, you may ask what your clients do professionally, whether they have children, what sports, if any, they play, and what their hobbies are. And if someone tells you they’re going to be giving an important presentation, next time they come, say “How was your presentation?”

The important thing is to remember things they’ve told you and ask about them. Never start a session with the generic, “How’s it going?” That’s a non-starter. Ask more specifically about something that’s happened to them that week.

#2 Show Sensitivity

The second rule of connecting is to be sensitive to your client’s feelings. A sensitive trainer recognizes what a client is going through – and responds accordingly.

Your client may come in and say, “Hey, I know you assigned me cardio workouts at home, but work’s been crazy and I haven’t found the time.” Instead of saying, “You need to find the time,” or ignoring their words all together, say, “Hey, I completely understand. Sometimes life gets in the way.” 

If your client pulls you aside and says, “You know, I’m just not having fun with these sessions anymore,” take note of that, stop what you are doing and say “Let’s talk about why that may be happening.”

Showing sensitivity also means giving kudos to your clients because they show up and work hard for you. So, instead of saying “see you next week” at the end of a session or giving a pro-forma high five, be specific. Say, “Wow, you worked really hard today,” or “You hit a personal best on your pull-ups, impressive stuff!”

#3 Show Respect

The third rule of connecting is to show respect for your clients.

If a client asks you to explain something, do so with as much clarity as you can and if you don’t have the answer say, “I’ll get that for you.” Once you’ve explained something, ask the client, “Is that clear?” or “Does that answer your question?”

Show respect by being sensitive to your client’s personal boundaries. If you are with a client and take a video of her doing an exercise, don’t show it around to other trainers. In fact, one disgruntled client said she left her trainer because he did just that.

Show respect, as well, by not mimicking the poor posture or bad form of a client. You may be trying to show your client what not to do. But it’s far better to focus on what the client should be doing.

Finally, show respect by not talking to other trainers, gazing at other clients, or checking your phone when you are with your client. Sure, it’s tempting to do so, but showing respect means you are 100% focused on your client.

These three ways of connecting will ensure that you are giving your clients all the personal attention and respect they deserve.

About Judith Humphrey

Judith Humphrey is Co-Founder and CEO of EQUOS Corp, a firm that teaches EQ skills to fitness professionals, manual therapists, and health care practitioners. Before entering the world of fitness, Judith was Founder and CEO of The Humphrey Group, a company that works with corporate leaders around the world who wish to speak with clarity and confidence. Judith is a Fast Company columnist, and the author of three books on communication: Speaking as a Leader: How to Lead Every Time You Speak (2010), Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed (2014), and Impromptu: Leading in the Moment (2018).

EQUOS will be offering a one-day workshop, “The Emotionally Intelligent Fitness Professional,” in Toronto on November 9th and December 7th. For further information, visit their website.

Follow EQUOS on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Exercise for Anxiety and Depression

By | Healthy Living

By Igor Klibanov

You’re a personal trainer, and you work with clients who have mental health issues (be it anxiety, depression, or something else). You know they’ve gotten better over time, thanks to exercise, but what’s the best form of exercise for different mental health issues, and how does it work? That’s what we’ll talk about in this article.

Exercise Prescription for Mental Health

Interestingly, when a doctor prescribes a medication to his/her patients, s/he says the name of the medication, the dosage, whether it should be taken with meals, or away from them, and whether it should be taken in the morning or evening. There is precision in the prescription. But when a doctor tells his/her patients to exercise, s/he leaves it at that. No more information.

So what is the patient to do? Should they do cardio or strength training? How frequently? At what intensity? For how long?

The truth is that just as the doctor has the right medication for each condition, so should exercise recommendations differ based on the specific condition. Fortunately, in recent decades, there has been more and more research on the right type and “dosage” of exercise necessary to improve and support different conditions.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a persistent worry and restlessness, which is normal to most people. By the time it crosses the line (once the label of “anxiety” is official), the person is in a pretty dark place. Fortunately, exercise can help with that (as you already guessed).

In one study, researchers took 26 well-conditioned college athletes and divided them into two groups. The first group cycled for 30 minutes at 70-80% of their maximal heart rate. The second group lifted weights for 30 minutes at 70-80% of the 1RM. The group that cycled had a lower anxiety level after exercise, compared to before. What about the group that lifted weights? Their anxiety levels were actually higher after exercise than before. But, when they were measured through the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire at 20 and 60 minutes post-exercise, their anxiety levels only returned to their pre-exercise levels.

The conclusion: cardio is more effective than strength training for anxiety reduction, when done at 70-80% of the maximal intensity.

What about duration? What’s the least that you need to exercise to have anxiety-reducing effects? Most studies start at 20 minutes, but that’s because they don’t directly look at the minimum effective “dose”. There are currently two studies available that look at the least amount of exercise someone needs to do to have anxiety-reducing effects.

Their conclusion: somewhere in the 10-15 minute range. That’s pretty cool! For only 10-15 minutes of exercise, anxiety is reduced, and usually for up to 6 hours.

But there are still a few unanswered questions, like:

  • Does it only change their anxiety in the moment, or does it change how they are as a person?
  • What about people with severe anxiety? Does exercise work for them as well?

Depression

We now know that exercise works well for anxiety, and that cardio is more effective than strength training. How about depression?

In the case of depression, it seems that both cardio and strength training have equal effects. In one study, the researchers enrolled 40 women with depression and divided them into three groups. The first group was the control group. They didn’t exercise. The second group ran four times per week for 30 minutes, and the third group lifted weights four times per week for 30 minutes

The results: both the cardio and the strength training groups reduced their depression symptoms by an average of 50%. Not bad, considering that exercise was used as a stand-alone therapy (no medications or psychotherapy were used).

But just as in anxiety, there are a few unanswered questions, such as:

  • How does exercise compare to medications in those with depression?
  • How long do the effects of exercise last?
  • How does exercise affect those with severe depression?

Mechanisms: How does it Work?

There are eight hypotheses that explain why exercise works to improve mental health. Three of those will be covered here.

  • Hypothesis #1: Self-Efficacy
    Self-efficacy means that you feel like you’re in control. When you have anxiety or depression, it feels like things are happening to you. You feel helpless, out of control. But then you start exercising, and you quickly realize that if you exercise you can make yourself feel better, which brings back a sense of control to your life. You start to understand that you can control how you feel. You can control when, where, and how intensely you exercise. Exercise doesn’t just “happen” to you. You make it happen.
  • Hypothesis #2: The Tryptophan/Serotonin Hypothesis
    It is believed that one of the mechanisms of fatigue in exercise is the increase in tryptophan levels in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid and it gets converted to serotonin. Serotonin is the “happy chemical.” When serotonin levels rise, you feel happy and relaxed.
  • Hypothesis #3: Increased Alpha Waves in the Brain
    If you were to hook up the brain to an EEG machine and measure electromagnetic waves, you’d notice four types of waves: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. The beta waves are what you experience when you’re awake and concentrating. The gamma and delta waves predominate in deep sleep. It’s the alpha waves that are less present in the person with anxiety. Alpha waves signal relaxation, and they’re most evident when a person is relaxing, daydreaming, or in that period when lying in bed and you’re not quite asleep, but not quite awake. Exercise helps increase alpha wave activity and calms you down.

About Igor Klibanov

Igor Klibanov is the author of five books on fitness and nutrition, as well as the CEO of one of Toronto’s premier personal training companies, Fitness Solutions Plus. He was selected as one of the top five personal trainers in Toronto by the Metro News newspaper, and has performed approximately 400 speaking engagements, many of which have been to some of Canada’s largest corporations (including RBC, IBM, Intact Insurance, and others).

Additionally, he has multiple programs for personal trainers to enhance their skills and is a regular speaker at various personal training conferences, including canfitpro.

Igor is generously giving away free digital copies of his most recent book, The Mental Health Prescription to canfitpro members. You can get your copy by visiting this website.