Posts Tagged ‘ exercise ’

Exercise and the Brain

by Sarah McAuliffe


We all know the choice: brains or brawn? Our culture sometimes treats our body and mind as if they were unrelated, but the effects of exercise target both body and mind. Dr. John J. Ratey of Harvard Medical School goes so far to say that “building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are essentially side effects” of exercise and exercise is more meant to condition the brain. Several studies have been done proving exercise’s benefits to brain function. Neuroscientists have found strong links between exercise and increased levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – three important neurotransmitters that traffic thoughts and emotions. More than that, exercise also releases growth factors that confirm connections between brain cells and increase the size of certain parts of the brain, such as the frontal lobe. Exercising prepares the mind to learn and retain new information. But don’t just take my word for it! Let’s look at the case study of Naperville Central High School.

Naperville, IL has one of the fittest student body in the nation – with only 3% of the sophomore class being overweight compared to the national average of 30%. This is due to their revolutionary physical education program. The aim at Naperville is to instill in students good fitness and exercise habits as opposed to just exposure to sports. Some freshmen literacy students have volunteered to participate in aerobic exercise training before first period. The goal is to prepare the brain for learning. At the end of the semester, literacy students showed a 17% improvement in comprehension, compared to the 10.7% improvement in the students that opted out of the program. Not only are literacy students improving, but Naperville’s entire student body has improved. Naperville students scored higher on mandatory state tests than the more wealthy schools in the district. More importantly, Naperville students scored much higher than the national average on the TIMMS standardized test, which is meant to compare students across the world. The Naperville district scored first in the world in the science section and sixth in the world in the math section. Compare this to the national ranking of the United States as eighteenth in science and nineteenth in math! This exercise program has had proven effects on the brain! Think about that the next time you go for your jog!


Resolutions 101

With a brand new year ahead, January is always so full of promise and motivation. But year after year the gyms empty out by February and most people will forget what their resolutions are before St. Patrick’s day. But how can you keep the motivation going for all of 2012 and finally see a resolution through the entire year? Here are a few tips and tricks to make this year  the year you finally stick to all of your new years resolutions.


  • Plan Ahead! Don’t wait until December 31st to decide what your resolution for the new year will be. Take time to evaluate the areas of your life you want to improve upon and make a conscious choice about what you will be working on for all of 2012.
  • Be realistic. When choosing your resolution be sure to make it something that is realistic and attainable.  Instead of swearing off chocolate for the rest of eternity, resolve to eat less than you currently do or gradually lower your intake throughout the year. Don’t choose a resolution that will set yourself up to fail.
  • Make a plan. Sit down and write out all of the ways you plan on helping yourself achieve your goal for the new year. If your resolution is to get in shape, research local gyms and parks. Schedule out your year with goals and deadlines. It’s much easier to stick to your resolution when you have a plan of how you are going to do it.
  • Talk about it! You are not an island. There are going to be days when sticking to your resolutions are going to seem impossible and that is why you shouldn’t keep your resolution a secret. By talking about your resolution  with other people in your life, they can help keep you accountable and offer you much needed support on your bad days.
  • Reward yourself. Mistakes and slip ups will happen. But instead of beating yourself up about it, set up goals and deadlines and reward yourself when you reach those goals!
  • Stick to it. Even if you slip up or slack off, all is not lost. Stick to your resolution even after you mess up. Revise your plan and goals and keep trying. By not immediately chucking your resolution through the window after the first bump in the road, you are much more likely to have positive results in the end.


Staying Healthy During the Holidays

December is full of hustle, bustle, excitement and holiday cheer. But it can also be a time that is stressful for some and a time where a lot of people put their health and exercise on the backburner. Here a few tips to help you stay on track with your health and exercise goals as well as getting the most out of your holiday!

Stick to your routine! With vacations, travel and special holiday hours almost everywhere in December, it is easy to get kicked out of your normal routine. But don’t let a new city, closed gym, or a few days with the family stop you from exercising. If your holiday plans have brought you to a different city, do a little research and see what’s available to you in your new surroundings. And even though you may not be able to get to the top of notch gym you may be accustom to, every city a variety of places where you can get in a workout. Look up some local parks, pools, and bike paths. And if those options don’t pan out, you can always put on your sneakers and go for a walk or run and explore the outdoors of a new city for free.

Stop the “New Year’s Resolution” Mentality. With January 1st just a few weeks away, many of us are deciding on and preparing for our new year’s resolutions. But with this day and possibly a new lifestyle looming ahead of us, many use the holidays as an opportunity to indulge in all the lifestyle behaviors they are soon going to give up. Eating extra sweets, having another drink, or skipping another day of working out doesn’t seem like a big deal when you are planning on being very regimented and committed to your new goals come January. But instead of waiting until the clock strikes 12 to start your diet or start exercising more, start today. By making a healthy change in your life today, you avoid the risk of indulging “just this one last time” over and over again.

Moderation. The holidays bring an extra level of temptation when it comes to food and sweets. There is no need to swear off your favorite meals, drinks, and treats entirely but when you do choose to indulge make sure you do so wisely and remember the key is moderation! A healthy meal followed by a small treat will keep you full and satisfied!

Holiday Sickness and Blues. With winter’s short days, long nights and cold weather the holiday season can often bring around depression for some people. If you think you are experiencing some holiday blues, try and go outside and get some sunshine or do some exercise. These things have proven to help improve your mood. Also, if the holidays are getting you down, be sure to talk to someone you trust about it. Often just expressing what we are thinking and feeling can help lighten the load and instantly make us feel better. Winter’s months also often bring about sickness. From stuffy noses, to head colds, to sore throats. To help avoid catching any holiday bugs be sure to get enough sleep at night as well as take a multi-vitamin or some extra vitamin C. Also, be sure to wash your hands frequently. Traveling and be around lots of other people is an easy way to catch a cold!

Take Time for You. There is often a lot of pressure put on us to spend the holidays surrounded by family and loved ones. But often this can be a very stressful time of the year. Be sure to make time for yourself. Go for a long walk, take a hot bath, curl up in bed and watch a movie. Dedicate some time in your life for yourself. Taking time for yourself is an easy way to unwind from a hectic holiday schedule and an easy way to de-stress.

Daily Motivation

Daily Motivation

Quick Office Cardio and Strength Exercies

Do you sit at your desk most of the day? How many times do you get up and move around or stretch? Are you too busy to get to the gym? Here is a solution for you! A short workout you can do throughout the workday that will get the blood flowing and help you stay in shape and stay focused.


Cardio Ideas:
When exercising, you want to get your heart rate in your target heart rate zone. To figure out your target heart rate zone you first need to figure out what your max heart rate is. To do this, subtract your age from 220. This number will be your max heart rate.  Multiple your max heart rate by 55% and this will be the lower limit of your target heart rate zone. Next multiple your max heart rate by 85% and that will be the upper limit of your target heart rate zone. Going from a resting heart rate into this zone will strengthen your heart muscle and benefit you in many ways. Below are a few ways to get your heart rate into the target zone.


  1. Walk or run a set of stairs in your office building. If you need it to be little bit more challenging take two stairs at a time. Do this 5-7 times throughout the day.
  2. Do jumping jacks in your office for about a minute.
  3. Run in place for 30 seconds.
  4. Imitate the motion of jumping rope for 30 seconds to one minute.


Strengthening Ideas:

  1. Squats with one leg (while holding onto the wall or desk) or with two legs while waiting for your fax to send or the copier to
  2. Push-ups with your hands on your desk. After you place your hands on your desk, walk your feet out behind you until your body is in a straight line and then do 10 pushups.
  3. Grab the edge of your desk and push your chair back until your arms are fully extended. Using your arms, pull yourself toward your desk and repeat. This works your arms and stretches your lower back.
  4. Replace your desk chair with a stability ball. This will strengthen your core muscles and can also be used to do wall sits or
    crunches during breaks.
  5. Do bicep curls with small hand weights while sitting or standing.
    *Note: Any exercise that is done while standing will burn more calories than if it was done while sitting.


All of these cardio and muscle strengthening ideas are great quick workouts for short breaks that you take during your workday. You may not have a lot of time throughout the day to hit the gym, but with a little bit of creativity, you can create a fun little workout to do while at the office. Give this a try and you will see an increase in energy and a better ability to focus.

By: Samantha Lawton


Resources: Lawrence, Jean. “Exercise at Your Desk.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. <;.

Daily Motivation