How Exercise May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

New research published by The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that regular, moderate-intensity exercise may be beneficial in the prevention of the onset of Alzheimer’s, even for those people with a genetic predisposition for the disease.

Healthy Body, Healthy Brain
Healthy Body, Healthy Brain

Researchers took a look at glucose metabolism in the brains of study participants who were at high risk and found that people who exercised at a moderate level for more than 60 minutes a day had better glucose metabolism in the areas of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s.   They also concluded that sedentary or low-intensity exercise didn’t have the same effects on those areas of the brain.

Lead researcher Ozioma Okonkwo, who is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, notes that this research can be reassuring to anyone, including people at high risk because it gives them an avenue by which to control their inherent risk.   “The evidence shows that it’s never too late to take up and maintain a physically active regimen,” he says. “It also suggests that the earlier you begin and the longer you continue it, the more benefits you tend to accrue.”

To read more about Mr. Okonkwo’s research and it’s conclusions, please visit this Time article.  And if you’re on the hunt for ways to increase your physical exercise, a YesFit challenge may be just the thing you’re looking for!

Overcoming Your Inner Defeatist

There is truth to the phrase, “you’re your own worst enemy.”  When it comes to fitness, the voice whispering over and over “this is impossible” seems louder than any other.

I'm Possible!!
I’m Possible!!

Defeating that doubting voice is key to fitness success, and here are some ideas on how to silence that doubter.

Create small wins.  Whether you choose to celebrate the number of minutes or the number of miles, when you meet those small goals, celebrate that victory!!  Make goals for yourself that are achievable, and when you meet that milestone, consider yourself successful, no matter how small that goal was.

Create a personalized plan.  You are not your neighbor.  Set goals for yourself that are about you-your health goals, your skills and abilities, your body’s capabilities, and your preferences.  This hyper-personalized mindset helps to stop the endless defeatist comparisons that knock you away from your goals.

Acknowledge how far you’ve come.  Just how many miles did you run, or bike, or walk?  Using a fitness tracker keeps things in perspective.  You cannot be a failure when you are moving forward.

Keep your eye on the goal, and create new ones to reach.  What is your goal?  All races have goal lines.  Reaching a goal is a great feeling, but it can fade fast.  By keeping your focus on your current goal, but looking out for new ones, you take out that backward “fear of success” voice that tells you you’ll quit once you are ready to move on.

Get others to join you on your goals.  Having a virtual community can help supplement when there is a lack of like-minded people.  Community and communication are vital in persistence and are often brimming with praise needed to vanquish those bad voices.

Keep it fun.  What are you interested in?  Historical fiction?  Traveling? Movies?  Virtual walking and running challenges like Yes.Fit provides can take you to places real and imagined and allow you to truly do what you love.

Finding the Fun in Fitness

Any time I begin to consider restarting my lifelong fitness journey, a familiar phrase echoes through my mind: Find an activity you enjoy so you are more likely to stick with it.

It seems like such an obvious statement, but as a certified introvert and couch potato, I have often felt that exercise is as appealing as stubbing my little toe on the coffee table. I just don’t naturally find it fun.

But just because I don’t love exercise doesn’t mean that I don’t understand how important it is, not only for the sake of physical fitness, but for the overall health of mind, body and spirit. And so, despite my love of the couch, I have tried to develop a relationship with a pair of sneakers and a treadmill.

Most recently, something very surprising happened.

While I am decidedly not a fan of exercise, I am a fan of Edgar Allan Poe. Last fall, as I scrolled through Facebook, I discovered an interesting post in one of the Poe forums to which I belong. The post referenced a virtual race series honoring the Master of the Macabre himself! My interest in my sneakers and treadmill instantly spiked.  Before I knew it, I was running my first Yes.Fit Edgar Allan Poe race, and within a few months, I had completed all four races in the series.

Finding the fun in fitness
Finding the fun in fitness

My relationship with my sneakers and treadmill had warmed, and I worried that after I completed the Poe series, the fun and motivation would run dry. That’s the amazing thing about finding a way to make exercise fun, once you do it, you don’t want to stop!

Luckily for me, the fun and motivation have outpaced my ability to keep up, and that has taught me an unexpected lesson about fun and fitness. Sometimes, we may not find a specific activity that motivates us and makes the pursuit of greater health fun enough on its own. For some of us-die hard couchies, we have to dig a little deeper, and maybe even in unexpected places.

For me, a connection between fitness and my other interests in literature, art, culture and travel made all the difference. Virtual racing may not be the ticket for everyone–and that’s okay.

There can be many ways to connect your fitness journey to the other aspects of your life in ways that create motivation and fun. Maybe exercise time is your mental health gift to yourself, and it’s the time you get to explore the outdoors, or even your favorite music. Perhaps there’s a type of dance you have always secretly wanted to learn. Maybe it’s a special time that you can get together with a friend, or even your family.

There is no one right answer when it comes to finding your personal motivation. And finding fun in an activity may come from a different source than the activity itself.

In eighth grade, Edgar Allan Poe helped me discover the love that I had for poetry, writing, and the English language. I never dreamed he would help me discover a love for running!

Contributed by community member Samantha Blanchard

Working Fitness Into Your Day

Meeting your fitness goals can be a challenge, even if you’re incredibly motivated. Finding the time to get in a workout can be difficult when you’re juggling family, a job, housework, and other hobbies. Here are some easy ways to sneak fitness into your weekday or weekend to either elevate your fitness level or just keep you moving on days when you can’t make it to the gym.

Frisbee is a fun way to get the heart pumping.
Frisbee is a fun way to get the heart pumping.

Walking meetings: Host short, informal work meetings outside while walking instead of inside someone’s stuffy office. This works especially well if you’re near a trail, but a sidewalk will do nicely. Keep this tip handy for meetings with only 1 or 2 other people so that you can hear each other easily. This also works for phone calls as long as you can hear the speaker on the other end.   Count those miles toward your Yes.Fit walking challenge, too!

Ride your bike: If you live close enough to walk or bike to work, take advantage of the warm but not yet hot weather that spring offers to get in some extra exercise. Not ready to get sweaty before a full workday? Walk or bike when it’s time for errands. You’ll get in extra activity plus cut-down your carbon footprint.  And biking is a great way to log miles to your Yes.Fit challenge!

Check out your green thumb: Get down and dirty by planting yourself a garden this spring or work on a community garden if your residential situation doesn’t allow for your own personal one.

Play at the park: Kids love an after school outing at the park, but resist the urge to sit on the bench watching them. Run, jump, and climb along with them. Bring a soccer ball or frisbee for a friendly game while you’re there. Challenge your kids to the monkey bars–you might be surprised to discover how difficult they are for an adult!

Wash your car: Bust out the hose and sponges, it’s time to wash your car yourself! Kids will love getting in on this action, and you’ll get a mini workout when you do all the work by hand instead of going through the automatic car wash.

Hopefully these ideas inspire you to get out and move a little every day.  Healthy activities can be fun, and don’t need to take up huge blocks of your busy day.

 

June’s Yes.Fam Feature

Yes.Fam, I’m so pleased to introduce you to June’s Yes.Fam Featured Member, Jason F.  Jason is an active member of our community, and he is reliably encouraging and kind to everyone.  I spoke with him about his Yes.Fit journey and the importance of mental health in addition to physical health.

We spoke via email, and he shared, “Soon after I left the US Army, I began some bad food habits. As life went on, I became self medicated and soon found myself addicted to alcohol and food. I went to get help with my issues, but found that I wasn’t really looking for help.

Jason, Before and After
 Jason’s amazing transformation!
 In 2010, a great personal tragedy happened. Both of my parents were murdered. Having to deal with their loss as well as their personal matters lead me back to some of the addictions I had before. I had stopped smoking, and decided to keep sober. As time went on I found comfort in eating, it had become a crutch for me. As a result, I sought help, and I was diagnosed with severe PTSD and depression. Not wanting to depend on medication, knowing my personality type, I kept seeking help and my food addiction became out of control. Although we were addressing my issues, some reached as far back as 1989 while I was in the US Army, I wasn’t addressing the food addiction.”
Despite incredible personal tragedy, Jason continued to persevere, but struggled with his health.  He continues, “By April of 2016, I had gained so much weight, my doctor said I was in danger of having a heart attack. But I still kept eating.  Anytime I was feeling sad or upset, I turned to food. I’d eat 1500-3000 calories a meal, and then grabbing a big bag of chips between  meals and eating the whole bag. I just kept replacing my clothes and buying larger ones and putting the smaller ones away. It was a vicious cycle of depression and eating.

In June of 2016, I was moved to a different group with a new counselor. My new counselor believed that PTSD was real, treatable and wanted to help me. Over the next three months, I began to understand my PTSD, the triggers and tools to learn how to cope with some of it. I realized the images in head were never going to leave, the scents/smells that trigger my condition were going to be around, I needed to learn to deal with these issues. So together, my counselor and I began to dismantle these issues and I was given the tools that I need to address them when they happen. I learned that my PTSD and depression were linked to my poor eating habits.”

Having gotten a solid foundation and coping mechanisms for dealing with PTSD, Jason decided it was time to address his health concerns.  He shares, “By December of 2016, I weighted in at 363 pounds, and decided I needed to address my food addictions. The truth is, I was going to die if I didn’t do something. In January of 2017, I mustered enough courage to move forward. On the 16th of January I started my diet and exercise program. It was just a little at first, but inside I knew every step counted. I began a weight loss challenge at work, and my official weigh in was 358 pounds.

After a month went by, trying to keep me motivated, my friend Josh asked me to check out a website called Yes.Fit. He wanted us to take a virtual race on together, a race where we could log our miles in and see the places on Route 66.  It was pretty neat, and soon I found myself staying with it everyday and soon I finished my first race. Days later, in the mail, a green package arrived. It was my first medal from Yes.Fit and I felt like I had accomplished something other than walking a few miles and losing some weight. Doing this race motivated me, and kept me motivated through some pretty tough days. Not everyday was going to be great, but every day the steps I took added up. I started to hang my medals at work to show those people I was in the weight loss challenge with that I was doing something.
Using my Fitbit tracker, I have been able to log in all the miles I do. Not only am I losing weight, but I am also getting a reward. It is a keepsake and a reminder that I am doing something, even when I am having a hard week and feel like doing nothing at all. Hanging on my medal rack are 9 Yes.Fit medals I earned. Each one is uniquely design and all are very colorful. They are a reminder that what I have done has counted, what I am doing is counting and my goals are attainable.
Now, each Friday we weigh in at work for our company sponsored weight loss challenge. Today I weighed in at 269 pounds which means I have lost a total of 89 pounds in 17 weeks. On July 14, 2017 we will have our last weigh in and the winner will be the person who has lost the greatest percentage of body weight. The prize of $200.00 will be used for new clothes that fit IF I win. If I don’t get the $200.00, I have still won and will keep winning.”
Jason, we are so proud of you for taking control of your journey!  Thank you for speaking so candidly with me about your experiences, and thank you so much for shining a light on the importance of mental health.

Making Healthy Choices: How To Get Started

Well, you’ve done it.  You’ve said out loud (or at least under your breath), “It’s time to make some better choices so I can be a healthier me.”   Now, where to start?  It might help to approach one main category at a time.

Choosing to Move  

Decide to Try
Decide to Try

The how will depend on you and your body.  Some of walk, others roll in chairs, on bikes, or on skates.  Some run while others swim or bounce on trampolines. Find what works for you. If you are starting from a really sedentary period in life, or trying a completely new activity, start slowly. Give your muscles time to adapt and learn.

Choosing to Fuel

Thinking about food as the fuel for the engines that move you through the world may help you choose wisely. Your muscles need a healthy balance of nutrients (and enough of them) to keep you going. Consider logging your food for a week or two, taking inventory of those good old “food groups”.  With that snapshot in mind, you can begin to make choices that your body needs to keep moving.  

Choosing to Rest

Research tells us that plenty of good sleep is crucial to emotional, physical and intellectual health.  The bad news? There are about a billion ways our 21st century culture makes it hard to tune out and turn off our brains, even at bedtime. That means we really have to choose to shut down. Aiming for a consistent bedtime and developing a routine to disengage isn’t just for kids anymore.   

Choosing to Connect

We are social critters, and most folks need a little encouragement now and again. Find a group or two that will help celebrate your accomplishments and push you to keep making those healthy choices. Virtual spaces like the Yes.Fit Facebook group are great (especially for the introverts among us).  Local meetups, fitness groups and even newbie-friendly gyms can be good choices for ongoing community beyond your household.    

Choosing to Love and Care for You

This may be the most important – and for some of us the hardest!  All of us have failed at something, and most of us have fallen off some kind of health-related wagon.  The most important choice you can make for your health every day is to believe that you are worth it.  You are worth all the time and effort it takes to make or find healthy meals, to get up and move, to connect with other people and to get a full night’s sleep. You are worth trying again and again.

Contributed by Community Member Laura Viau

Smash Those Excuses

Summer time is rolling in, and it’s so incredibly easy to come up with an excuse to avoid exercise.  It’s too hot out, the weather is miserable, I don’t feel well, the list could go on and on.   It’s easy to get side-tracked and lose sight of your goals.  You certainly wouldn’t be the first, or the last, to look up on the first of September and realize that your exercise routine,that you’d worked so hard at in the earlier months of the year, has fallen by the wayside.

Truth from Bruce Lee
Truth from Bruce Lee

Let me tell you, it’s something I struggle with too! Living here in the middle of Central Florida, where the weather guarantees 100 degree temperatures and 90% humidity levels, it’s so easy to abandon my plans for a 5k in favor of binge-watching Netflix in the air conditioning.

So, how do we push past this summer lag?  There’s no best or worst way to get yourself moving again, but I figured perhaps a little inspiration might get you up and off the couch.

I learned an incredible amount from one of our Yes.Fam members a few weeks ago.  Her name is Diana, and she has impaired mobility.  Talking with her got me to thinking, though, that if an incredible woman like Diana can overcome her physical limitations and keep pushing toward her goals, I can too.  There are no excuses big enough to keep me from trying to get in my exercise, even if it’s just that one mile in the summer heat.  Diana overcomes obstacles that life throws at her, and keeps on keeping on, and that’s something I strive to emulate.

Conquering obstacles and excuses is a state of mind.   Some days it might be a challenge to achieve just 5000 steps for my Fitbit goal.  Some days ice cream might seem like a much better alternative to getting out and accumulating a few miles.  But at the end of the day, I have to choose to keep going, despite my challenges, and smash my excuses.

I encourage you to keep smashing those excuses life offers up, to keep on pushing through to your goals.  Be kind to yourself, but remind yourself the benefits of pushing through that challenge – benefits I guarantee Netflix might not give you.  Participating in a virtual race allows you to work through some of those challenges you may be experiencing – earn your miles in the air conditioning of your local mall, or chalk up those steps by hiking through a cool forest.  If you’ve limited mobility like my friend Diana, earn those miles the best way for your body, through arm movements by pushing your wheelchair, or bicycling miles, or whatever works for you.  We can do this together.  Obstacles are only challenges to be overcome, like speed bumps, rather than brick walls to stop us.

May’s Yes.Fam Feature

For the month of May, Yes.Fit is is pleased to introduce you to Todd M.!  Todd is an incredible member of our Yes.Fam community and inspires us all to keep pushing toward our goals.

Todd and all his medals!
Todd and all his medals!

I had the opportunity to speak with Todd about his incredible story via email, and I’m pleased to share his experience with you.  Todd writes, “The Viking Conquest. That was what drew me in. I saw a friend on Facebook post a picture of his medal after he completed it. Then I saw that it was 65.3 miles! Yikes! I wasn’t sure I could complete 6.2 miles at that time of my life- back in September of 2016.

Exactly a year earlier, on 9/25/2015 I had a Rectopexy surgery and was still experiencing LOTS of pain and nausea on a daily basis. It was uncomfortable to stand up OR sit down at that time, let alone walk. I did not know when it would end, so I decided at that time to take my health into my own hands, suck it up, push through the pain and signed up for my first Yes.Fit race. I didn’t feel ready for the Viking, so I started with another race where I loved the medal and was interested in the region of the race. I began the ‘27.3 mile, ‘All Roads Lead To Rome’ race.

At this time I had been asked to chaperone my son’s High School cross country team down to an Invitational at Stanford University. When the team would go out on their morning practice runs, I would tag along and started getting in a few miles in the morning and in the evening. I couldn’t quite keep up with those young whippersnappers, so I just hobbled on my way. I realized then that I might be able to pull this [challenge] off. It would be very difficult, but step by step, I was working toward a new goal, and this was something that would drive me. The carrot that was in front of my horse was that shiny Yes.Fit medal.

After completing a number of these races over the course of the next month, I found that I was feeling better. Most of the time. There were many days which were still quite horrible, but when I was half-way into a five mile walk, there was no stopping, because I had to get back to where I started! I found that as I pushed the pain back, I would start feeling OK and I could endure until I finished.”

He continued on to tell me about how he’d discovered a new passion, writing, “After that first month and realizing that I had walked close to 300 miles, (Yes, these Yes.Fit races had created a monster!) I started to formulate a new fitness plan. My daughter, Autumn, had left to be a missionary in the Czech Republic back in July. We missed her so much, but I knew what a great experience she would have that would forever benefit her in her life. I had also served as a missionary in Japan back in the 90’s so can understand the challenges and triumphs that she would have. As a tribute to her, I decided that I would ‘Walk To Prague’ and work toward getting there by the time she finished serving as a missionary on January 24th, 2018. I calculated the distance from Seattle, where we live, to Prague and found that it was 5,210 miles. I did some math and took the 567 days that Autumn would be gone and found I would need to walk 9.19 miles per day in order to get to Prague by the time she was finished with her mission. This was way more aggressive than anything I had ever thought I was capable of, but decided that this would be a way for me to honor her service. I felt that not only would I benefit by improving my health and fitness, but knew that it would draw me closer to her and the experiences she was having by focusing on this goal and ‘enduring to the end’.

I went through the records that were tracked from my Apple watch and backtracked to July 6th, 2016, when Autumn left. Though the miles weren’t many through that first couple of months prior to Yes.Fitting, Every. Step. Counts.

Initially, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to hit the 9 miles a day, so I started hitting the gym during the cold days of winter and riding the bike there as well. I hit almost 500 miles on the bikes, but as I have gotten stronger, I found that I was doing even more miles walking than I anticipated. Through the first few months of 2017, I found I was hitting about 13 miles a day! Who knew!? I was getting out and enjoying it more and more. I was experiencing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and loving being out more in nature. I was seeing beautiful places and things I never knew were there, but was amazed at what was all around me. There are plenty of rainy days where I am in the gym or walking around in malls, but I was still seeing a huge benefit of feeling good and working toward that goal. Each Yes.Fit medal that I achieved helped me to feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment. I am now focused on doing the whole #WalkToPrague by walking. As of 5/4/2017, I have surpassed 2,504 miles of walking and that leaves me with 2,706 remaining. Almost halfway there! That is about the distance from Seattle to Pittsburgh. Next month, I will be walking out over the Atlantic! 😉 I have now completed 54 of the Yes.Fit races and 26 ‘other’ virtual races over this time period. One of my new goals is to finish ALL of the Yes.Fit races. 🙂 Currently, there are 10 more and I know there will be new ones coming, but I am up to the challenge!

Thank you Yes.Fit for inspiring me to reach for and become a better me. I am listening to audio books as I walk and have listened to 28 books (including learning some Czech language lessons). I have walked in Canada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. I realize that I don’t have to be fast to finish these races, just consistent. The guys at work call me ‘Todd the Turtle’, and I’ll take it! As I tell people about my journey, many people are baffled about my ‘finding’ the time to walk that many miles in a day. I say, that which you treasure, you will find. Its all about having goals. I wake up an hour earlier. I walk during my lunch hour. I walk another hour after work. I walk twice a week with my wife and this has strengthened our relationship. As Autumn has told me: ‘I feel like you are walking every step of the way with me on my mission!’ We actually are planning to pick Autumn up when she completes her mission. So, when I finally do ‘get’ to Prague, it will no longer will be a ‘virtual’ walk for me, I will PHYSICALLY be walking IN Prague!”

Todd, thank you so much for sharing your story with us!!  We are so proud of you, and we’re cheering you on as you walk to Prague!!

May’s Charitable Partner: Brighter Tanzania

We are pleased to introduce May’s Charitable Partner: The Brighter Tanzania Foundation.  For the month of May, Brighter Tanzania will receive a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the Kruger National Park – South African Safari challenge.  Brighter Tanzania helps kids in villages in the African country achieve their full potential by providing educational services.  They are hoping to fund an addition to their primary school, which will allow them to expand into secondary education.

Raising funds for education
Raising funds for education

Yes.Fit is proud to partner with charitable organizations, to help them fulfill their goals through fundraising.  If you are interested in fundraising for your 501(c)3, please reach out through the Green Chat Bubble at Yes.Fit for further information.

Fitness Comes In All Shapes And Sizes

As an overweight woman, people are often surprised to learn that I do, in fact, workout several times a week, that I make healthy lifestyle choices, and that I’m not a couch potato.  I used to be offended by their reactions, but I’ve learned to accept that people aren’t reacting to my body specifically. Rather, they are responding with surprise, because they see images of fitness that are more difficult to achieve presented in the media.

Truth!
Truth!

Fitness magazines feature men with ripped abs, or women with no flab or stretch marks.  The media images of athletes hide the truth: fitness comes in all shapes and sizes.

Do I want to lose some weight? Sure do.  I know I’m overweight, and that isn’t the healthiest choice I could be making.  But I’m a 36-year old mom of two and my focus has shifted from wanting to lose weight to wanting to be healthy at the size I am now.  I want to improve my fitness to make sure that my heart is healthy, to lessen the strain on my joints, and to give me the best chance at a long life.  I’m learning to be proud of what my body can do instead of stressing out about what it looks like.   My Yes.Fit challenges keep me moving forward, motivating me to log miles and keep pushing past my limit, and I keep finding that I can go a little further every time.

It’s so hard to remember that fitness isn’t a competition with everyone around us, though.  I struggle sometimes to keep my chin up, watching the younger, thinner crowd breeze through a race while I’m puffing like a sickly steam engine.  But I keep putting one foot in front of another, because the challenge is all mine, and fitness is possible in the shape I am in right now.  So the next time you’re at a race, looking around and getting intimidated by all the men and women, who look more athletic than you, remember that there is no one body shape that can be defined as “fit.” Your fitness is based on what you feed your body and what your body can do, not how it looks in spandex.