By: Janet Hunt
Flexibility exercises are stretching exercises for the purpose of increasing your range of motion around a joint.

Before stretching, a warm-up should be performed at a low intensity for 5-10 minutes. This increases the temperature of the muscles and decreases the risk of injury. Flexibility training is best performed when the body is very warm. Many people will do stretching exercises following cardiovascular endurance training; and most fitness classes finish with a short stretching session. Classes focused on flexibility only, may be held in a warmer environment.

Flexibility exercises can increase the range of motion throughout a joint. Increased range of motion can improve mobility in sporting events, balance, and everyday activities. Proper range of motion assists in correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from correct positions. For example, we spend so much time at our computers, reading, driving, etc. that many of us have tight chest muscles which pull our shoulders and head forward leaving us with a hunched shoulder look which affects our breathing, as well as causes pain in our upper back, arms, and to our fingers. Stretching can also calm our mind, provide a mental break, and give our bodies a chance to recharge.

When stretching or performing flexibility exercises, strive for symmetry. Focus on having equal flexibility side to side. Flexibility that is not equal on both sides may be a risk factor for injury. When stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders, and any other muscles you routinely use. Never bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement; and hold your stretch for about 30 seconds while breathing normally. While stretching, you may feel tension, but not pain.

Stretch regularly at least 2 or 3 times a week on a regular basis. If you want more, bring movement into stretching with tai chi or yoga.
For more information on stretching or flexibility classes, talk to a personal trainer or check the schedule at your local gym. If you choose to take flexibility classes or yoga, remember to work at your own pace, and do only what is comfortable for you. Flexibility classes and yoga are like other fitness classes, they have different levels so you may need to try a couple of classes to find the best fit for you.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

By: Janet Hunt
Developing core strength is important at the beginning of any exercise program. The first step in training your core is developing stability and then progressing to mobility. Below are some starter core exercises. Begin by performing each exercise for 20 seconds and gradually move up to 30 seconds. If the exercise includes movement, start with 8 repetitions and move up to 12.

Core Bracing – This exercise teaches you how to stabilize your core for all the exercises that follow. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms by your sides with palms facing forward. Contract the abdominal muscles for 10 seconds and continue to breathe deeply. You can progress this exercise by bracing the core and slowly lifting your right knee hip high and then the same with the left. The goal is to brace the core so that you are only moving your hip joint. Do not bring your chest forward. The slower the movement, the deeper you will brace the core.

Bird Dog – Get on your hands and knees on the floor or bench (not a bed) with your hands shoulder-width apart, directly under your shoulders; knees hip-distance apart, directly under your hips; and head in line with your spine. Brace your core and extend your leg behind you with your foot level with your hip. Hold and repeat on the opposite side. If you can accomplish this, add the arm opposite the leg. Extend your arm forward with your thumb facing upward. Keep your hand level with your shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side.

Hip Bridge – Lie on your back on the floor or bench (not a bed) with your knees bent and feet hip-distance apart. Brace your core and lift your hips to feel the hamstring, glute, and lower muscles contract. Hold and slowly release back to the floor, one vertebrae at a time. If you want to add movement to this exercise, then hold each lift for three seconds and slowly release the spine and hips back to the floor and continue for your set.

Supine Heel Taps – Lie on your back and bend your knees to 90 degrees with your shins parallel to the ceiling and brace your core. Keeping your knees at the 90 degree angles, lower one leg to tap the floor with the heel. Return the leg and switch to the other. Do NOT let your spine pop on and off the floor.

If you cannot accomplish the above starter core exercises before attempting crunches or other “ab work,” you are not ready and may be harming or injuring your back. For more information about core work and more, contact Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

By: Janet Hunt
Besides exercise, proper nutrition keeps an aging brain healthy. The Mediterranean dDiet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) dDiet are both known for their cardiovascular health benefits. T The Mediterranean ddiet emphasizes eating mostly plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil; using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods; limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month; and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week. The DASH diet includes lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry and legumes, and encourages a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week. You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat. Recently, researchers have combined pieces of both the Mediterranean dDiet and the DASH dDiet to emphasize foods with the greatest impact on brain health. This is called MIND (Mediterranean-DASH dDiet for Neurodegenerative Delay).

Two studies with more than 900 adults, found that by sticking to the MIND diet, cognitive decline was slowed by as much as 53%. By strictly following the MIND diet principles, the best results were achieved. But even following the diet partially showed directly proportional results.

The MIND diet emphasizes 10 brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and moderate amounts of wine. It avoids foods from five unhealthy groups: red meats, butter and margarine, cheeses, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast foods.

If you or someone you know enjoys cookbooks, several excellent cookbooks for the MIND diet are available.

Additional healthy holiday gift ideas might include:

  • Personal tTraining sSessions
  • Gym membership
  • Weight Watcher membership
  • Fitness shoes/hiking boots
  • Fitness clothing/swimwear
  • Yoga mat
  • Activity tracker
  • Workout music

For more answers to fitness questions, call Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment

By: Janet Hunt
Exercise may help! Research has shown that certain levels of physical activity can positively affect mental health – stress, depression, anxiety.

People with higher levels of fitness are capable of handling stress more effectively than those who are less fit. Cardiovascular exercise is the activity that benefits stress reduction the most. Cardiovascular exercise (often referred to as cardio) is any exercise that raises your heart rate. This usually involves using the large muscles in your body – walking, running, biking, skating, etc.

The antidepressant action is one of the most commonly accepted psychological benefits of exercise. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce stress more effectively than antidepressant drugs. Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise seem to be equally effective. Both a onetime exercise session and long term programs have positive results. However, greater improvement is seen after several weeks of regular exercise. Both men and women show the positive effect of exercise on depression.

Research also shows a reduction of anxiety with exercise. Even short bursts (5 minutes) of cardiovascular exercise stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Again, regular training offers the greatest benefits. .

So to reduce your Holiday Stress, reduce your Holiday Blues, and burn the extra holiday calories – exercise! If you need a little help getting started, join some activit programs that are available or consult with a personal trainer.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Misleading Labels On Foods

By: Janet Hunt
The other day, I pulled out some small center cut pork chops for dinner. As I was cutting open the package, I started reading the nutrition label. The first thing I read was each serving was 140 calories. Since I am a calorie counter, I thought “wow – not bad.” Then I put my “let’s be real” hat on and took another look. The label said there were 8 servings in the container, but I saw only four small pork chops. This is a great example of misleading the consumer. If the producer thought there was 8 servings, then each pork chop should be cut in half!

As an ACE Certified Health Coach, I teach Weight Management classes. One of the favorite class topics is on food labels. I am always amazed at how producers and manufacturers mislead consumers and how many consumers do not read the labels thoroughly. Besides the pork chop package, let’s look a few other misleading labels.

Another good example related to serving size is pork and beans. On a regular 16 oz. can, the manufacturer claims the number of servings in the can is 3 ½. That is pretty darn small when you compare it to a serving size of beans at a typical BBQ restaurant. Be wary! You might need to do some math to get the real number of calories for what you are eating.

How about “multi-grain”? It means nothing! You could stuff every grain in the world into a single loaf of bread—but if they’re not whole grain, they’re not worth your time. Dense multigrain breads are often packed with sugar. Check the ingredients list for only whole grain flours and make sure there’s less than 2 grams of sugar per slice.

Another is “wheat” bread. Again it means nothing unless the label says whole wheat. Heck! Old fashioned white bread is made with wheat flour. If the first, second or even third ingredient says “enriched” wheat flour, then you are getting duped if you are trying to eat healthy.

How about sea salt? I was recently at someone’s house and they were bragging that they only purchased sea salt. Why? It’s a complete myth that sea salt is healthier than table salt. Both have the same amount sodium. Plus, table salt supplies iodine, a nutrient that’s necessary for thyroid health—and sea salt does not. Choose sea salt if you like the coarse texture, not because it’s “healthier” or more “natural.”

As I have said before: READ THE LABEL and DO YOUR RESEARCH! Manufacturers are in the business to sell you their products!

For more information on nutrition labels, contact Janet Hunt, ACE certified Health Coach at jhunt9155@gmail.com or a dietician.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

By: Janet Hunt
I have been teaching a Silver Sneaker™ Flex Stability class at East Limestone Senior Center for over six months now. This class is designed for individuals that are still mobile and wish to lower their risks of falling. Often during this class and my other classes, students ask me why does the risk of falling increase as we age. Because I feel so strongly about remaining fit and active throughout life, my first answer is that risk for falling increases due to muscle weakness. But there are other health and environmental issues that increase the risk. One is the vestibular system (often simplified to “inner ear problems”).

The vestibular system is the apparatus of the inner ear involved in balance. It consists of two structures of the bony labyrinth, the vestibule and the semicircular canals, and the structures of the membranous labyrinth contained within them. A properly functioning vestibular system does the following:

  • Allows us to see properly while in motion
  • Helps us orient ourselves to gravity
  • Determines direction and speed
  • Makes automatic postural adjustments

The vestibular system is sensitive to head rotations and to linear accelerations. The vestibular system can be affected by injury, disease, some drugs, and the aging process. Below are some other facts about the vestibular system:

  • Over 35% of U.S. adults over 40 have had a vestibular dysfunction at some point in their life.
  • The annual cost for fall-related injuries is expected to reach $44 billion by 2020.
  • People with vestibular disorders may have vertigo or spinning sensations, dizziness, fatigue, jumpy vision, unsteadiness, brain fog, nausea/vomiting, hearing loss and ringing in the ears

.

But like most other systems in our body, the vestibular system responds to exercise. Some of the standard balance exercises like standing on one leg are effective, but additional activities are good, too. Join a more traditional exercise class that includes resistance work. Try a yoga or tai chi class. Enjoy some childhood activities – swinging, merry-go-rounds, ball tosses, etc.

For more information about balance and stability and exercise to lower the risk of falling, contact Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530 or other personal trainers that work with older adults.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment

By: Janet Hunt
Below is a list of fitness classes offered in the Athens area, outside of a gym, that are targeted to older adults. These classes are open to all. No sign up is needed and classes are ongoing. All equipment is provided. Donations are accepted. Below is a schedule:

Youth Center at the First United Methodist Church
203 N. Jefferson St. (next to LCCI)
Strength and Balance – this class uses hand weights, elastic tubing, and a small ball. Exercises are both standing and seated. Classes meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 – 9:15 a.m.

Gym at Round Island Baptist Church
14790 Brownsferry Rd.
Strength and Cardio – this classes uses hand weights, elastic tubing, and a small ball. Because we have the entire gym, we walk laps indoors. Most of the exercises are standing with some seated work. Classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday at 10 – 11 a.m.

East Limestone Senior Center
25820 Nick Davis Rd
Strength and Balance – this class uses hand weights, elastic tubing, and a small ball. Exercises are both standing and seated. Classes meet on Monday and Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

East Limestone Senior Center
25820 Nick Davis Rd
Stability – this class includes standing and walking exercises that will be beneficial in decreasing the risk of falling. Chairs are encouraged for warm-up and cool-down only. Class meets on Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Above listed classes are offered by Janet Hunt, an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, and ACE Certified Health Coach. For additional information please call 256-614-3530 or email at jhunt9155@gmail.com.

For those that are looking for more personal instruction (one-on-one or with a partner), Janet offers personal training to fit your special needs whether is it strengthening your core, increasing your flexibility, working on increasing strength, or losing weight. If you have a small group interested in starting fitness classes at your location, Janet is available or can refer you to instructors to fit your group’s needs.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Cost Of Diabetes In The USA

By: Janet Hunt
With all the talk about healthcare, how much it costs this country, and whether it is a basic right or a privilege, I thought I would take look at the costs of Type 2 Diabetes. It is a disease that some studies indicate is preventable by lifestyle changes in as many as 90% of all cases.

From information published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and ADA (American Diabetic Association), the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity. These costs are broken down as follows:

  • Hospital inpatient care (43% of the total medical cost)
  • Prescription medications to treat the complications of diabetes (18%)
  • Antidiabetic medications and diabetes supplies (12%)
  • Physician office visits (9%)
  • Nursing/residential facility stays (8%)
  • Other (10%)

People with diagnosed diabetes have average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. On average, people with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be without the diagnosis of diabetes. Then there are the indirect costs:

  • Increased absenteeism ($5 billion) for those employed
  • Reduced productivity while at work ($20.8 billion)
  • Reduced productivity for those not in the labor force ($2.7 billion)
  • Inability to work as a result of disease-related disability ($21.6 billion)
  • Lost productive capacity due to early mortality ($18.5 billion)

In 2012, an estimated 22.3 million people or 7% of the population in the U.S. were diagnosed with diabetes. It is predicted that one in three people will be diagnosed with diabetes in 2050. With that, it is doubtful that medical costs will decrease.

I am not a politician, but if I were, I would recommend we focus on our lifestyle and what we need to do to reverse this trend. We need greener communities that encourage physical activities. We need school lunches that focus on healthy choices. We could tax the unhealthy foods that lead to diabetes and our incredible health costs to offset these healthcare costs. We could educate people on the true seriousness of diabetes and its costs.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

By: Janet Hunt
Often I cannot sleep at night or I sleep very poorly. And I hear the same concern from many of my students, which is not all that unusual. According to the American Sleep Association, 35.3% of Americans report sleeping less than seven hours a night which is the minimum recommendation for most of us. Chronic lack of sleep does more than make us tired. It lowers our immune-system functioning and increases our risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Lack of sleep also negatively impacts cognition –, impairing memory, judgment and concentration.

If you fall into that 35.3%, below are some suggestions that may help you. First, set up your bedroom. If unwanted noise or silence is an issue, a fan can help neutralize the sound. Ensure you are sleeping with the right mattress and pillows.
Now that you are set up, here are some sleep dos and don’ts:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (give or take 20 minutes).
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal near bedtime as it can interfere with digestion. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can interrupt sleep in the middle of the night
  • Keep all blue light electronics out of the bedroom (TV, smartphones and tablets).
  • Exercise regularly but not right before bed if it tends to rev you up instead of calm you down.
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep after five to 10 minutes, get out of bed and sit quietly in another room (don’t turn on electronics).

Below are some ideas that can promote sleepiness:

  • Hot bath/shower
  • Reading
  • Gentle stretches
  • Journal writing
  • Hot cup of decaffeinated tea
  • Meditation
  • Quiet time

Now that you know some do’s and don’ts, it is time to set up some sleep rituals. First, look at your current sleep habits and identify the negative factors. My bet is the culprits are TV and smartphone. I hear people say they watch TV until they fall asleep or play games on their phone.

If all else fails, see your doctor. But I would turn to drugs as a last resort. Often they will make you groggy the following day; and all drugs have side effects. In my opinion, the less you take the better off you are.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

By: Janet Hunt
People in this country spend more than $30 billion per year on dietary supplements. I believe, and studies show, that most dietary supplements are a waste of money.

Dietary supplements do not replace healthy meals. Most healthy adults can obtain all of the nutrients they need from food alone. I agree there are circumstances when a dietary supplement is recommended, but those have to do with treating a diagnosed nutrient deficiency by a physician such as:

  • Iron supplements if diagnosed with iron deficiency
  • Prenatal vitamins with folic acid before and during pregnancy
  • Vitamin B12 for vegans and older adults with low B12 levels
  • Calcium and vitamin D for those at risk for or who have osteoporosis
  • Fluoride for older infants living in areas where water supply isn’t fluoridated
  • Vitamin K in a single prophylactic dose for newborn infants to prevent bleeding
  • Omega-3 fatty acids for people at risk for heart disease who don’t consume fish

Besides most dietary supplements being a waste of money, some are actually toxic in large doses. Some fat–soluble vitamins such as vitamin A can build up to toxic levels. Even water-soluble vitamins can cause problems such as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems when taking too high a dose.

If you do take vitamin or mineral supplements, stay below the Institute of Medicine’s Tolerable Upper Intake Levels. These upper levels tell you the maximum daily intake and are based on available research.

Sometimes supplements can also harm someone with certain health conditions, or who take prescription medications for those conditions. For example, someone taking a blood thinner could experience serious harm from high levels of vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting. Sometimes the effectiveness of medications can be altered if taken with supplements. For example, oral contraceptives can be rendered inactive if taken with St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort can also interfere with other medications, including antidepressants.

Pregnant and nursing women should be especially cautious with supplements, including herbal supplements unless prescribed by a physician. Supplements can sometimes cross the placenta or be transmitted through breast milk. Most supplements have not been tested on pregnant or breast feeding women.

Remember supplements are not drugs. According to the FDA, supplements are “Not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure diseases.” If you think you might need a supplement, talk to your physician. If you still choose to take a supplement, do your homework. Supplement manufacturers do not have to disclose the amounts of ingredients, or sometimes even the exact ingredients in their products.

For additional information about supplements and whether you may need them, talk to your physician or a registered dietician.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.