This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Body Mass Index (BMI) vs. Body Composition: These measurements are used in the healthcare and corporate fitness worlds to help identify risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. But which is best? Many experts reason that both tools can be useful in different circumstances.
BMI is calculated by dividing weight (kg) by height (m²). Although it takes into account only these two factors, it can generally identify levels of fatness in most people, and has more of a place when a simple, general assessment of a larger group is needed. Labels of “underweight,” “healthy,” “overweight,” and “obese” are used to describe BMI ranges.
The drawbacks of BMI are manifested in a couple of ways. Someone who possesses a great amount of muscle mass may be classified as overweight or obese, when in reality they are in superior shape. An unconditioned individual can be classified as being at a healthy weight when muscle mass is actually lacking. This is where measuring body composition is valuable.
Body composition separates fat mass from lean mass and provides a better assessment of an individual’s health status. The limitations of body composition are that it’s not quite as simple and may not be practical for use in assessments of large groups. The simplest means of measuring it are by scale, handheld device, or skinfold testing and include some margin of error. While most accurate, underwater weighing or air displacement can be complicated and time consuming.
When embarking on a fitness program, it’s a good idea to track your body composition to help you measure your progress. This will allow you to have a much better idea of how your body is changing for the better with the effects of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise.
This blog was written by Mara Winters. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
You know the feeling. The alarm clock is ringing and you're thinking, “If only I had one more hour to sleep.” Americans tend to lose about an hour of sleep per night (about two full weeks of slumber per year), pushing our bodies into sleep debt.
The side-effects of sleep deprivation are not fun to experience: impaired memory, foggy brain, worsened vision, and impaired driving. Long-term effects of lack of sleep can include obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease.
Work Out Wisely to Improve Sleep
If you’re like many people, you are looking to get out of sleep debt. Exercise can help you sleep more soundly. Consider the following when exercising:
- Morning exercise can relieve stress and improve your mood. Coupling exercise with the natural morning light reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle, improving your night’s rest.
- The most beneficial exercise time is mid-afternoon to early evening. Vigorous exercise during this time raises your body temperature a few hours before bed. Then as you get ready for bed, your body temperature is falling, allowing a natural wind-down for the night.
- Vigorous exercise before bed is not good for sleep. It raises your temperature and stimulates your brain and muscles, making winding down more difficult.
Understand the Importance of Sleep to Your Health
With some practice you can repay your sleep debt. Just like with exercise, the amount of time and intensity you sleep is important. Add an extra hour or two of sleep a night to ensure that you spend more time in deep sleep. Go to bed when you are tired and allow yourself to wake up naturally.
Sleep is vital to restorative health, so bail your body out of sleep debt by being active and catching up on your Zs!
This blog was written by Mara M. Winters. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Hit TV shows about weight loss such as The Biggest Loser and My 600-lb Life continue to excel in ratings, and we are bombarded daily with new information about how excessive weight negatively affects health. However, U.S. obesity prevalence remains high.
Recent studies show that overall obesity prevalence in the U.S. is 35.7 percent in the adult population and 16.9 percent in children. Over the past two years (2009–2010), there were significant increases in obesity for men of all ethnic backgrounds compared to data from the previous studies (1999–2010). There were no significant increases among women overall, but researchers found statistically significant increases in African-American women and Mexican-American women. Another sobering finding of the studies is that children are going into adulthood weighing more than ever before.
While this report seems a bit grim, there is hope. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that over the past 12 years, the obesity rates among adults and children are not increasing.
While no one can say exactly why there has been a stall in the obesity rates, most experts are hopeful that national campaigns in promoting healthy eating and exercise are having some type of effect. We know that obesity costs the U.S. $147 billion every year and is a major health problem.
Many corporate wellness centers offer unique ways to curtail obesity, such as the following:
- Body composition screenings and health assessments
- Weight-loss contests and incentive programs
- Group fitness classes
- Educational telesminars about healthy living
While it seems U.S. weight gain has leveled out, we will still feel the effects for a while. Take advantage of wellness services available to you to reduce problems caused by obesity.
This blog was written by Melissa Cusick. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
In the world of technology, time equals improvement and efficiency. Back in the day, we had computers that occupied the space of an entire room and Zack Morris-sized cell phones. Now we have personal computers that fit in the palm of a hand and Zoolander-sized cell phones. It seems that as more is discovered in the world of technology, items have become smaller and more efficient. Interestingly enough, this concept does not seem to apply to people.
In 1995 when the United States began tracking obesity rates, Mississippi had the nation’s highest adult obesity rate at 19.8 percent. Now, 16 years later in 2011, Colorado has the nation’s lowest adult obesity rate at 19.4 percent.
As you can see, what used to be the upper end of the nation’s obesity scale is now at the extreme low end of the spectrum. This is concerning because common conditions associated with obesity include, but are not limited to, high cholesterol and triglycerides, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease, all conditions that can be avoided with proper nutrition and activity.
Nowadays, we have low-calorie options at stores and restaurants, fitness centers popping up on virtually every corner, and educational tools at our fingertips. We can download an app on our tiny cell phones to count calories or find a healthy restaurant or fitness facility. But do we?
Something common to the field of technology and humans is that bigger is not always better. What has changed in our society in the last 16 years that has influenced the adult obesity rate to increase so severely? What can corporate wellness programs do to help reverse this alarming trend?
This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Larger office furniture, larger company cars, and reinforced toilets are a few of the major costs companies are taking on to accommodate their larger employees. In fact, at a recent trade show for tech and office furniture, one company displayed its bariatric seat, designed to hold up to 600 pounds and at a cost of $1,300! The representative from Ergogenesis, the maker of this specific seat, says there is a “tremendous amount of demand.”
In a research report released by the School of Public Health and Human Services at George Washington University, it is estimated that 50 percent of the population will be obese by 2030. This means the healthcare costs associated with obesity will continue to grow as well. The study also estimated that the current overall annual cost for obese women is $4,879 and $2,646 for obese men. This estimation includes costs associated with medical care, short-term disability, absenteeism, and productivity losses.
With rising healthcare costs in the midst of an economic recession, many companies have chosen to cut benefits. However, they have kept their corporate wellness programs and incentives for employees who practice healthy behaviors.
What can your company do to invest in your employees while they’re healthy rather than when they get sick?
This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann, MS. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with arthritis do not make physical activity fun or easy. Research has shown, however, that exercise is a vital tool for managing discomfort associated with arthritis.
In fact, avoiding exercise can increase joint pain and stiffness as the supporting muscles get weaker. By moving and using the muscles, bones, and other tissues that surround joints, people who suffer from arthritis can expect to protect themselves from further damage and pain.
Activity such as weight training promotes joint strength and stability, while aerobic exercise can help keep body weight down, which also relieves pressure on joints. Stretching exercises are useful for maintaining joint range of motion.
Arthritis is a leading cause of physical disability in the U.S., and people who are obese and physically inactive are at higher risk for developing this chronic condition. As our aging population grows, the need for senior fitness programming and management for this group does, too. Qualified health and fitness professionals can guide senior members or residents through a safe and effective exercise program designed to improve strength, reduce pain, and maintain the function of joints among arthritis sufferers.
This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Although it’s hardly what you would call a wholesome meal, the McDonald’s Happy Meal has taken a small step in a more nutritious direction with the addition of apple slices. Apples have previously been an option in the past in place of French fries, but kids will now automatically find a small portion of apple slices paired with a smaller serving of fries in place of the traditional serving of fries.
With the added option of skim milk, there is potential for about a 20 percent reduction in calorie content as compared to the traditional Happy Meal. For fry lovers, special requests for the traditional serving of fries in place of the apple slices will be honored (and vice versa; a double serving of apples is also available).
What Are the Motives Behind This Nutritional Improvement?
Potential arguments explaining why McDonald’s has implemented this change include pressure from the government to combat childhood obesity, a marketing strategy, or even a sincere interest of the company in promoting healthier options.
There are a couple of perspectives to take on the change; on a positive note, regardless of the underlying intentions, the new meal should have at least a small, positive impact on kids by marginally increasing their consumption of fruit in lieu of a sodium-rich, processed alternative. It may help reinforce the fact that fruit is an important part of every meal; however, this must go hand-in-hand with sound nutritional habits and lessons taught by parents at home. Happy Meals can be enjoyed in moderation as a treat for kids who enjoy them.
New Happy Meal Doesn't Stack up Well According to MyPlate
Sizing up the new Happy Meal in a more negative light, it is clear that the combination of breaded chicken nuggets or a hamburger on a white bun, French fries, apples (only a half-serving’s worth), and soda has a lot of ground to make up in regard to the new MyPlate recommendations. These guidelines present an ideal meal as a plate half full of fruits and vegetables (preferably fresh and unprocessed), a lean protein source, a grain (preferably whole), and a lean dairy item.
Some may wonder how much a change like this would really impact kids’ health and help combat larger issues such as childhood obesity. The unfortunate fact remains that if a child is being raised in an environment where fast food is a staple, there’s a good chance they’re forming bad habits and attitudes about nutrition that could set them up for health problems down the road. There are many more far-reaching issues affecting the health of American kids than the act of replacing a few French fries with apples.
All in all, this slight nutritional makeover of the Happy Meal certainly won’t hurt, but can spur a great deal of discussion. What are your opinions of McDonalds' actions?