Tips and Thoughts
TravelFit is continuously researching, sampling and experimenting new ways to get and stay fit and healthy. From equipment to movements to food, we are your guinea pig. Let TravelFit help you find your fit!
Been stressing about those 10 pounds you can't seem to lose? Well maybe (a small part) is due to your environment! This Wallethub (www.wallethub.com) article is a very interesting and very thorough analysis of 150 of the 'healthiest' cities in the United States. The study measured several metrics within the four main categories of Healthcare, Food, Fitness, and Green Space. If you're at all curious as to how the rankings were determined, read the detailed metrics (Methodology) section; AND YOU SHOULD! If you want to join the global wellness movement, and affect change in your city, talk to me and we can do this together!
Find out about your city!
STRESS – It’s An Inside Job
Julie Weidenfeld – Corporate Wellness Consultant, TravelFit, Inc.
This morning I slept right through my 3 alarm clocks, hit every red light on my way to work, got stuck behind an extremely slow driver, forgot to get gas and left my notes for a meeting at home. Now, my heart is pounding and my head spinning. Can you relate? Could you feel your heart begin to beat a little faster just reading this?
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
As an infrequent occurrence, stress (also called acute stress) can actually be a good thing to get your adrenaline pumping and release of the hormone oxytocin, which increases the need to be social or get support. The problem is, stress is not infrequent or short-lived for most people. Numerous studies have been created to determine the rate of increased levels of stress in people, as well as some of the primary contributors to this fickle emotion. According to one study out of The American Psychological Association, the number of people who experience chronic stress has increased to 24% in 2016, versus 18% in 2014. When experiencing stress over long periods of time, the damage that can take place inside a body can be fatal. Compound this with a family history of cardiac disease, and you’ve got a recipe for potential serious and irreversible illness.
WHY IS MY HAIR FALLING OUT?
Under unremitting stress, if you begin noticing sudden changes to your body such as poor digestion, loss of hair, skin irritation or sexual dysfunction, it is important to understand exactly what really happens on the inside. Whether the event(s) that causes stress, called a stressor, persists for several days, months or years, the biological results are the same. Stress travels through your body, releasing hormones called cortisol and epinephrine to carry energy stores through blood vessels as a way of protecting certain organs and cells. Typically, those organs are the brain and the central nervous system (CNS). Cells for immunity also temporarily go to ‘battle stations’ to protect the active tissues during an event. (Dhabar & McEwan, Brain Behavior, 1997) You might know this reaction more simply as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response. In rapid, acute stressful scenarios there is minimal to no damage. Over time, however, the transfer of this energy and excess release of these hormones wreak havoc in other parts of your body.
DO I REALLY HAVE TO EXERCISE MY GUT?
Because the cells of the immune system have left their regular locations, other bodily functions become suspended. These include digestion, cell regeneration and sexual activity. Then a domino effect of sorts takes place. This stress response causes the heart to beat faster to push the reactive hormones through blood vessels towards the organs in need. When this happens consistently, the inner lining of vessels, called the endothelium, basically becomes constricted in some locations by transferring all types of cells to the distressed organs. As scientists discover the high level of importance the endothelium has in regulating blood flow, more solutions in protecting these biological reactions to stress can be developed. (Peramayian Rejendran, et al., The Vascular Endothelium and Human Diseases, 2013)
Over extended periods of time, the release of cortisol causes an increased appetite for comfort foods (think macaroni and cheese) and deep belly (or visceral) fat. Since the brain is distracted while under chronic stressed, digestive gut health becomes compromised (causing diseases like irritable bowel syndrome or IBS), which is why you are seeing so many more television ads for products that help to improve gut health.
Additional biological/physiological reactions to prolonged stress can be:
●Compromised immune system
●Rapid weight gain
●Irritable bowel syndrome
●Impaired cognitive function
Exposure to such activity can then lead to chronic morbidities, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even certain cancers.
...BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS!
Stress, in all its havoc, can actually have benefits as well. In moderate doses, It forces action, can exploit more serious health issues, and can be managed through fun and healthy outlets. One of the more interesting recent findings comes from Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal. After reviewing an 8 year study on the effects of stress (Keller, A., et al. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality; Sep. 2012), she changed her view on effective stress management by exploring the release of oxytocin, the happy hormone, during stressful situations. By viewing stress as a positive force to motivate or move you forward, negative biological results can potentially be reduced or avoided. Oxytocin fine tunes the brain’s social instincts, which cause people to reach out to friends or family during difficult times. Simply the act of reaching out to others for help, or to offer help, can protect your heart and its receptors. McGonigal teaches science-help related topics at Stanford University, and discussed her new perspective and study results in her extremely insightful TEDTalk.
STRESS CAN HELP YOU GROW!
Daniela Kaufer, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley who studies the biology of stress on the brain, looked specifically at stem cell growth. The hippocampus is the section of the brain that handles stress response, and also regulates learning and memory. The study discovered that, when exposed to short term, moderate stress, like sitting in traffic for an hour or two, stem cell growth was stimulated, and then grew into neurons. Additional testing resulted in improved learning and memory. Keep in mind, this is only under moderate and short periods of stress. (Jaret, Peter; health writer/Berkeley Wellness Newsletter; October 2015; Interview with Daniela Kaufer) In this same article, Kaufer confirms that how individuals view and handle stress itself can determine how it will affect the physiological response in the body. She believes that people who are more resilient and confident can manage stress more effectively than others who might have more vulnerability to stressful situations (such as military veterans suffering from PTSD after active duty. The takeaway here is that, by working on increasing one’s self-confidence and positive self-talk, the effects of stress can be diminished. This is where mindfulness and meditation can take a leading role in a person’s wellness journey.
The body will respond in different ways when stressed. When chronic stress is present, it is recommended to speak with a healthcare practitioner to develop stress management techniques. In addition, it makes sense to have a physical. Often times what might have only been considered stress, can actually lead to more health-related findings, such as blocked arteries or digestive disorders. For example, according to a gastroenterologist in Boca Raton, Florida, patients may end up in his office after being treated for an alleged panic attack, only to learn they have a hiatal hernia or acid reflux. Symptoms of heavy chest, difficulty swallowing and regurgitation of food can be considered stress-related, but can also be evidence of other issues or illnesses. It is not uncommon for emergency rooms to release patients originally admitted for a panic attack, only to learn it was a bad case of indigestion from another underlying digestive disorder. Listen to your body! Don’t discount any unusual physical ailments just because you believe it is stress-related; sometimes there may be more to the story.
ONLY YOU KNOW… what will work for you. If you search for stress management techniques online, you’ll find a plethora of listicles citing ways to reduce this emotion. The specific activities are oft repeated in most posts. It is really up to each person to determine what will work best for them within the confines of their day, schedule, comfort-level and wallet. Simply breathing deeply into your belly for 5 minutes can reduce stress-related signs like a racing heart. Apps like Calm.com and Headspace are designed to focus on the breath. Tony Robbins, before he presents at EVERY event, jumps on his mini trampoline, that accompanies him on every trip. Chewing gum is also believed to be a stress-buster for those who prefer chomping away rather than chanting ohms. Just ensure that you don’t have any jaw deterioration before picking up this habit. Sometimes, all you need is a micro-break which you can learn more about through podcasts such as The Modern Desk Jockey, an informative series on how to improve your wellness while at work (iTunes; Health-Fit Sports Chiropractic-Dr.Kevin Christie).
To suggest that one try to live a stress-free life is entirely unrealistic. To suggest ways to manage it, and how to think about it, are very doable. It’s a matter of perspective. It will require practice. But at least the next time you’re feeling the signs of stress, pop a stick of gum in your mouth, breathe deeply, and spin that stress into a positive outcome!
Julie Weidenfeld is a Corporate Wellness Consultant Specialist focusing on wellness in Finance, Fitness and Food. Combining years of experience in both finance and fitness, and honing her education and teaching skills through Physical Education at Pine Crest School in Boca Raton, Julie’s passion for all things wellness is evident in every aspect of her life. Her goal is to share that passion with as many people and organizations as possible. She is available for educational lunch workshops, in-office or offsite workouts, food programming, and more. She can be contacted at (561) 504-0769, or at email@example.com.
Earlier this month, I was asked to be interviewed by Dr. Kevin Christie, one of the most widely -respected and knowledgable chiropractic physicians and Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialists in the country. Dr. Christie and I both attended The 8th Annual Employer Healthcare and Wellness Benefits Congress in September of 2016, coincidentally. We realized that being in the same neighborhood afforded us some opportunities to collaborate on all things Workplace Wellness. I am genuinely excited to share future well-being ideas with all of you.
Please listen to our conversation on Efficient and Effective Exercise Options While at Your Desk and share your thoughts with Dr. Christie and me. MODERN DESK JOCKEY
If I had to choose one oft discussed obstacle for most people, it is healthful eating hands down. While everybody faces their own challenges when it comes to meal and snack choices, the main theme for all is eating healthy all day long without having to think about or prepare for it. Diet fads are not something I typically recommend, but there's been an uprise in companies that prepare and ship/deliver whole, fresh and tasty foods pre-portioned for ease, right to your doorstep.
I was introduced to The Whole 30 Challenge last summer, during a company-wide summer shred challenge. While I did not enter the challenge (I would have had an unfair advantage), I followed the plan. Broken into 3 components, physical, social/emotional, and nutritional, I embraced each bonus challenge head on. For the nutritional aspect, the recommended plan was The Whole 30. Unfamiliar with this program, I dove right in after reading the concepts and philosophy. The website professes that this program is Life Changing. I actually agree. My goal was to lose about 4% body fat, Not only did that happen, I lost 5 pounds, kept it off, and have been able to maintain a much higher level of energy. The recipes are very easy and delicious, which isn't always the case with healthy food concepts.
I'm pretty particular about what I recommend for my clients. If it proves successful to me, and I do test everything before ever passing along, than it's a no brainer! So, If you're serious about your Wellness, and ready to make a firm commitment to your future health, give The Whole 30 a look and a try.