MindBody Fitness

The Bank of Life

Many years ago my father sat me down as a young boy and proceeded to give me his philosophy on life. He told me that hard work and financial stability are the keys to a happy and fulfilling life. I admired his love for both his work and devotion to his career. He taught me the importance of saving and building wealth. While his passion for his work was admirable, I was struck by the lack of importance he put on his health and well-being. In fact,  his addiction to smoking and his poor diet contributed to a shortened life –clearly a paradox existed which led to his imbalanced life.  It took me many years to understand why he chose to live his life this way.  His passing served as a gift (of sorts) to me –it launched my life and career in a new direction. I embarked on a crusade  not only to study and understand human behavior but also to comprehend what motivated and influenced people and their lifestyle decisions.

Life is about making decisions and trade-offs. It’s about growth and learning –  making mistakes and learning from them. My father’s life choices  taught me that one needs to invest in both wealth and health. They are, in fact, synergistic. Smart banking is smart living and vice-versa, and the parallels are clear. Life is  like a bank. You make deposits (i.e.  healthy choices like starting an exercise program or studying a new language); and withdrawals (i.e. quitting your gym membership or taxing your body with poor food choices).  If you deposit more than you withdraw you have a surplus. If you withdraw more than you deposit you are at a deficit. It soon became pretty clear to me that health and wellness mimics this principal. Your mind and body are yours for a lifetime. How you treat them is up to you.

Healthy tenets (“deposits”) in the Bank of Life include:

– Find meaning and purpose.

– Find role models and mentors from whom you can learn. Surround yourself with people who are successful and are willing to share their vision.

– Feed and stimulate your mind.

– Challenge and strengthen your body.

–  Give back and contribute to the well-being of others.

– Understand that wealth and money does not buy you happiness, but rather it gives you the freedom to make choices.

–  Recognize that you always have options.

–  Realize  that no one but you and you alone are responsible for your decisions.

–  Avoid withdrawing more than  you deposit.

–  Make sure you pay off your debts ( financial, social, personal).

– Live with integrity.

*And remember, it’s never too late to open a bank account!!

Living Well

Over the many years of study, practical experience and application in the area of  mind-body medicine I have come to the realization that wellness, optimal health and longevity are influenced by many controllable and definable factors. It is true that our genetic code and DNA, which are preset, and determine how we experience life, impact this outcome. Researchers have to come a new understanding that our DNA, brain and overall physiology are integrated and interrelated and can change in response to many internal and external factors. We are the product of our choices, thoughts and beliefs, behaviors and actions. Beyond our DNA and genetic code, we can impact our wellness journey and longevity. In addition, studies show that even our DNA can be altered in either a positive or negative way through various mind-body techniques and factors. Building a functional and integrated mind-body relationship – one can undo faulty genetics and family history, re-program the brain and body, allowing the individual to manage and overcome many internal and external stresses as we age.

The decisions we make early in our life profoundly influence how we experience life in our later years. The cornerstone of this investment are exercise, nutrition, sleep and mindfulness training. The brain, much like the body, needs to be challenged and stimulated. The old adage still holds true: ” Use it or lose it”. The better the mind-body connection and integration, the better they will function over time.  Listed below are several important factors that influence this outcome. It is vital to understand that it is NEVER too late implement these strategies  and that some results come faster and easier to some individuals and that some changes are more difficult to feel and experience than others.

What we put into and how we stimulate our bodies, also affects our brain. Conversely, what we don’t do has an equal and even greater impact. Regular and challenging exercise, healthful nutrition, restorative and proper sleep and mindfulness techniques build the mind and body from the inside-out.


1. Needs to be regular and preferably scheduled.

2. Build in variety and challenges.

3. Functional in nature and include a combination of aerobic, strength, balance, agility and flexibility training.

4. The body is as strong as its weakest link. Address your weaknesses as well as your strengths.

5. Vary your routines ( walking, running, cycling, strength training, yoga, pilates, martial arts, individual and team sports, etc…).

6. New challenges benefit the brain ( creating new neural pathways, slowing down brain degenerative processes) and the body ( building muscle, stimulating the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine and immunological and  metabolic systems).

7. Make exercise a priority. If necessary, hire a personal trainer or find a training partner to develop accountability and consistency. It takes at least 30 days to build a new habit. It takes discipline and commitment to keep it going.



2. Your body, brain and mind are directly impacted by your food choices. Food sources are critical as well. When possible select organically certified vegetables and fruits, raw nuts and seeds, grass fed meats , cage free chickens and eggs, wild fish.

3. A balanced diet consists of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, quality proteins. Not all carbs, fats and proteins are created equal. It is not just what we eat, but also how and when we eat.

4. Water, preferably spring or filtered, needs to consumed daily. Add a slice of lemon ( it’s great for digestion and builds alkalinity).  Water should be consumed throughout the day but NOT during meals ( interferes with digestive enzymes). It is essential for neurological, cardiovascular, endocrinological, immunological and respiratory function.

5. NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST. It is essential for stimulating the metabolism and body energy systems.

6. Ideal meal breakdown: ( breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner).

7. Dinner should be preferably eaten before 8pm and at least 2 hours before bedtime.

8. Moderate alcohol and caffeine use. If you drink coffee, use organic coffee and add whole milk /cream to aid in digestion. Red wine is best since it is high in polyphenols which are potent antioxidants that bolster the immune system.

9. Before breakfast: 2 oz of Aloe Vera Juice (Lilly of the Desert) mixed with water of freshly squeezed juice. 1000-1500mg of Omega 3 fish oils (Nordic Natural Ultimate Omegas). Acidopholous probiotics – important for digestive health of stomach, intestines and  colon ( Jarro-Dophilus) 5-8 capsules


1. Take  a multivitamin.

2. Avoid refined sugars ( cereals, breads, juices).

3. Options:

– Omelet w/ tomato, spinach, onion, cheese and chicken sausage or turkey bacon

– Greek yogurt w/ fresh berries or apple, flax seed, walnuts.

– Smoothie ( almond milk, fresh berries, banana, flax seed, whey protein) Or use fresh fruits like papaya, mango, apple and mix with cucumber, kale, spinach.

– Steel cut oatmeal w/ fresh berries or banana.

Lunch and dinner options:

– Grilled chicken w’/ salad ( add in cranberries, walnuts, apples.

– Grilled chicken or tuna spinach  wrap  w/ avocado, tomato, cheese, sprouts.- Turkey burger w/ sweet potato or brown rice.

– Turkey Chili w/ mixed greens and veggies.

– Meatball marinara w/ spinach pasta

– Home made tacos  w/ rice chips.

– Chicken or Lamb kabobs w/ veggies and basmati rice.

– Grilled fish w/ brown rice or couscous  and salad.

– Pesto chicken or shrimp salad ( add walnuts, goat cheese, cranberries, pine nuts, garbanzo beans w/ balsamic dressing)

-Lean meat or pork loin w/ baked potato.


– Fruit

– Kind energy bars.

– Veggies w/ hummus.

-Manna Bread ( Whole Foods) w/ almond or sunflower seed butter.

– Trail mix ( walnuts, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds- preferably raw, cranberries)

Rice chips or seaweed crackers.


– 7-8 hours per night.

– Try to get to sleep and wake at same time.

– Minimize stimulus before bead time ( i.e TV or computer use).

– Use a supportive mattress and pillow.

Mindfulness Techniques:

– Yoga.

– Deep breathing and relaxation techniques ( meditation, visualization and guided imagery)

– Puzzles or word games.- Nature walk ( pay special attention to your breathing and your visual surroundings)

Investments for Life

As a professional in the fitness and wellness industry I have come to understand that our lives are defined by our choices and decisions. Our futures are based on how we prioritize these choices and live them. We are the product of many interacting variables. We are influenced by our parents, the education we receive, the friendships we develop, the careers and jobs we create for ourselves, and the relationships we have with our selves – specifically our health and well-being.

We are the captains of our own destiny. If you prioritize your health and wellness needs you are setting yourself up for “life success”. Investing in your health and fitness means that you stay ahead of the aging process. We all age , but we all age differently. The human body ( which also applies to the mind and spirit) is a dynamic and fluid entity. It is impacted by many factors, many of which we can control. We cannot change our DNA or the genetic code that we inherited. We can however influence how we live and how we age by the choices we make.

1. Exercise: Our bodies were designed to move. They function better and for longer if we challenge them to remain strong and flexible. Fitness is the key to longevity. It directly impacts the vital systems that keep our bodies functioning at a high level. It keeps the body and mind strong and adaptable.

2. Nutrition: We are what we eat. Eating a balanced and high-nutrient diet compliments the exercise component. Good nutritional habits help the body to function at an optimal level. It is the energy that fuels not only our bodies, but our brains as well.

3. Sleep: Is a vital component to longevity and good health. Healthy sleep habits are integral to our health and wellness. It helps to bolster our cardiovascular, immune, metabolic, neural, cognitive and mental functions.

4. Managing Stress: Stress comes in many forms. It is a part of all our lives and left unmanaged can speed up the aging process. The key is to identify those areas that create stress in our lives and develop a strategy to avoid the triggers and put in place a plan that keeps us on track and clear about our intentions and goals. Create a clear road map and you can avoid many of life’s roadblocks and distractions and arrive at your desired destination!

5. Find Meaning in Life: A life that has direction and meaning is a life worth living. Developing a mission statement gives you a guide to live by and furthermore helps you to gain and maintain clarity. Your success in your work, relationships, health and wellness begins with a commitment to yourself.

6. Mental Stimulation: The “Use it or Lose it” principle applies to both the mind and body. Much like the body, the mind needs to be exercised. Stimulating the brain by creating new neural pathways helps to build mental acuity and ward off brain degeneration and eventual dementia. Everything that stimulates and strengthens the body ( regular exercise, healthy nutrition, restorative sleep, managing stress levels and developing a life-purpose) also stimulates the mind. The greater the integration of these two, the easier it becomes to strive for optimal health and longevity.

Taking Small Steps Leads to Success

I have always been intrigued by what leads people to success and how do they remain successful? Is success a state of mind or an approach to life? Are certain people more apt to reach their goals than others? What are the keys to success?

1. Intrinsic Motivation:  Successful people are internally motivated. They collect and process information before making decisions. They are good listeners and ask good questions. They are always learning and applying this information. They are motivated to reach their goals and create a solid plan to reach them. The more intrinsic ( internal) the motivation, the greater the result. Feeling or experiencing pleasure helps to support the effort.

2. Taking Small Steps:  Success comes to those who take small steps. They also strive for S.M.A.R.T. goals ( Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). Small steps produces long-term changes that lead to long-term success. Small steps are easy to manage and monitor. This build self-confidence and self-esteem that helps support the effort.

3. Small Questions:  Help reduce fear. Reducing the size of the project or challenge helps to lower the fear factor and fear of failure. Spotting mistakes when they are small are easier to correct.
Avoid multi-tasking. The human brain can only process one thought at a time. We think that we are accomplishing twice as much in less time, but actually, we are accomplishing half the amount.

4. Ask Questions:  This leads to information. It keeps the brain in learning mode. It helps to build new neural pathways.

5. Repetition Build Brain Power:  Research suggests that building and even more importantly, maintaining success, is directly correlated to repetitive stimulus. Also known as “mind- sculpting”- repeating small steps over time helps the brain to shift when managing stress or facing a difficult challenge.

6. Find Joy and Passion in the Process:  Enjoy and savor the steps as you create and build on your goals. Writing or journaling about the process reinforces success.

7. Identify your “harsh voice” and give it a name.  Soon you will be able to recognize it and separate from it. The sooner the logical part of your brain gets on board – the sooner you can get past any resistance which has prevented you from reaching your goals.

8. Visualize your Success. A marathon run (26.2 miles) is easier to run if you break it down to 26 by 1 mile efforts! Feed your brain the right food and it will feed you the right information.

Reaching and Solidifying Your Goals

For most of us, a goal is the endpoint of a desired action or behavior. Reaching a desired goal is never guaranteed. Achievement is obviously the objective and below are a few tactics and suggestions that may improve those odds.1. Be Flexible – When sudden changes in your plan occur, stress damage control. Discover alternatives to minimize the impact of the problem, and be open to new opportunities. Many solutions can be found in second and third options.2. Accept Responsibility – When things get challenging and difficult people often tend to blame others or circumstances for lack of progress. Instead of becoming defensive and looking for blame, re-group and re-focus your energy to solving the problem.3. Strive for Balance – Prioritize your time and efforts, especially if working towards several goals. Adjust your focus and time spent based on its importance.

4. Ask for Help – A key to goal achievement is building networks with others. Identify those individuals that can help you reach your objectives, and ask for their assistance. You might be surprised how many people are willing to step up and help.

5. Think Long, Think into the Future – Keep track of your ultimate objective. Reaching short-term goals leads to long-term success. Staying focused on the benefits of achieving your goal, will increase your motivation. Keep visualizing your outcome and stay clear on the process that will lead to your desired goal.

6. Establish Compatible Goals – Competing goals can leave you exhausted and stressed. When goals conflict with each other, they compete for your time, energy and personal resources.

7. Minimize Interruptions – Stay on track. Commitment and follow-through are critical to success.

8. Review and Check – Reviewing your goals helps to identify the progress you have made, and furthermore, provides an opportunity to ensure you are on track.

9. Chart Setbacks and Progress – Success is not only what we accomplish but also what we overcome. We cannot progress and grow unless we examine our mistakes. Analyze your mistakes and learn from them. Once a week, look over your efforts ask yourself the following questions:
– Are you using your time and energy wisely to reach your objectives.
– What are your strengths in reaching short-term goals?
– How can you maximize your strengths in reaching long-term objectives?
– How can you convert weaknesses into strengths?

10. Be Prepared – Ask yourself if you are willing to make short-term sacrifices to reach long-term objectives. Rate your objectives and be prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve those you rate with high priority.

11. Expect Some Roadblocks and Problems. Not every road is paved smoothly. Tackle each problem as soon as you encounter it. To be a successful goal – achiever you must be a good problem solver. Stay alert and calm.

posted by Philip Bergman at 11:17 AM 0 Comments


Research supports that willpower is not a personality trait or a skill, rather it operates like a muscle, and as such, it can be strengthened – but also easily fatigued. So, the question is, how do we train it?You are at a breakfast buffet – do you select the healthy options or the fried foods and pastries?

You are going to bed late, skipping breakfast and your workout and simply grabbing 3 espresso shots to start your day. Is this a healthy alternative?

Staying on the treadmill ( the weather is unpleasant outside) for a time goal you set and you are watching the minutes go by and feeling the increasing fatigue and boredom. Are you losing motivation?

Your schedule is becoming increasingly demanding – commitments to family and work. Your workouts are becoming shorter and less frequent. How do you respond?

What do all of the above have in common? Each requires willpower – the ability to ignore temporary pleasure or discomfort to pursue a longer-term goal.

The research further indicates :

– Willpower is a mind-body response, not merely a mindset.
– Using willpower depletes resources in the body.
– Willpower is limited.
– Willpower is trainable.

1. Willpower is in the Mind and Body.

Mind-body responses allow you to adapt to some challenge due to coordinated physiological changes. (Ex: The fight-or-flight response to stress or danger- with increased heart rate, blood pressure, and heightened sense. The relaxation response, in contrast, allows the body to respond to its internal needs of digestion, growth and restoration).

Similarly, physiological changes occur in the body during acts of willpower – coordinated responses that help us adapt to challenges requiring self-control. The mind-body response allows us to temporarily freeze our impulses and focus on our long-term goals.

Heart-rate variability (HRV) seems to help us slow down and proceed with intention, not instinct. Maintaining a higher HRV in the face of a self-control challenge seems to connect with an inner strength and stress resilience – stay focused ( as in the fight-or-flight response) and calm (as in the relaxation response). The result – acting to support our higher good and not giving into immediate gratification.

2. Willpower Depletes Resources of the Body

The mind-body response of exercising willpower actually produces fatigue. In essence, mental self-control effects physical stamina. Our mind and bodies draw from the same source of strength – glucose. Glucose is the primary fuel for the body as well as for willpower. Willpower engages many areas of the brain and uses up high levels of fuel.

When blood glucose levels are low, willpower is impaired, impacting self-control, attention, emotions and behavior. Therefore, it is vital to maintain a healthy diet and choose foods that stabilize blood glucose levels and not skip meals.

3. The Limits of Willpower

As with the body – no matter how fit we are, exertion can lead to exhaustion. Self-control depletes willpower. Since willpower is limited – each act of self-control is a win-lose situation, helping in the immediate time frame but potentially leading to a loss of control later. Ex: Resisting the impulse to splurge on expensive clothes makes it more difficult to resist a high-caloric dessert at dinner. Therefore, it’s important to set priorities and be easy on ourselves with less important decisions.

Further research indicates:

– Image can deplete willpower. Managing our image in work or social settings – especially when repressing our natural personality – impacts other goal setting.

– Social stress impacts willpower. People feeling socially rejected have less control over their thoughts and health-enhancing behaviors.

– Social support is critical to developing willpower – share your goals and celebrate your successes with others.

– Make a list of things in your life that create stress and make a plan of the things in life that are in your control. If you cannot control it, cross it off the list.

4. Restoring Willpower

Getting adequate sleep is essential to restoring willpower once it is exhausted. Sleep deprivation weakens our resolve and we head toward the path of least resistance. We often revert back to unhealthy habits that require less mental/physical effort.

Elevating one’s mood also seems to help restore willpower – this can be done by gifting or rewarding oneself after we have followed through with a new healthy behavior.

Getting enough sleep, laughter, positive thinking and treating yourself – are helpful strategies that give people a sense of greater control over their willpower reserves.

5. Increasing Willpower

Willpower can be trained like a muscle. The more you work it, stretch it, and let it recover, the stronger, more flexible and more resilient it will become. Committing to incremental, consistent acts of willpower in any area of life – from improving your posture to creating a sound financial plan – can increase overall willpower.

6. Conserving and Bypassing Willpower

If willpower is inherently limited, it would make sense to conserve it. Planning in advance is a key strategy in conserving willpower. Organize your life so you don’t have to think about what you are going to eat or whether you are going to exercise. Emphasize the positive – make healthy choices in advance and in moments of greatest strength.

Deal with obstacles before they arrive. Often writing in a journal about how to deal with barriers to exercise leads to greater adherence to the program. Visualizing your success and following through with your intentions and plans leads to better results.

Also, you can face challenges by completely bypassing willpower and drawing on a different strength – motivation. Instead of focusing on the sacrifice or effort, focus on the positive reward of the behavior. ” Who do you want to be”. “Why do I care”. “What’s the higher purpose” – create a self-image in your mind that leads to success.

In summary:

– Willpower is limited. Set reasonable goals and priorities. Save it for when it really matters.
– Reaching for success has bumps on the road. Setbacks will happen and they are only temporary.
– Willpower is not “all in the mind”. The fuel that supplies the mind-body that’s needed to face life’s challenges include – rest, a healthy diet, a balanced exercise regimen and a flow of positive experience.
– Understand that your ability to adhere to a health or fitness program can be challenged by the demands of your job, family, and other relationships.
– Identify and reduce stress in your life which will support any significant life change.
– Conserve or bypass willpower by focusing on other strengths such as planning, commitment and positive motivation.

posted by Philip Bergman at 5:46 AM 0 Comments

Slowing Down

As a life coach I am always trying to study and learn more about human behavior and then provide this information as a tool that will help  facilitate positive changes in the lives of my clients. One thing that has become more and more apparent to me is how much time we spend keeping busy in our work and personal life. The more we take on in life the greater the stress and the implications for our health and longevity. I frequently hear – ” where has my day, week, month and year gone”.

The busier we get the more distorted this reality seems. Well, I am here to explain how we can not only slow down time but also learn to quiet our minds and greatly reduce our stress and improve our health and well-being.  The key lies in our minds and learning to find time to do nothing or simply quiet our overstimulated brains.

If you are always doing something, there’s in fact, no way to actually absorb new information and expand your mind. Victoria Sweet , MD believes that ” there’s no way to reach new conclusions” – if your mind is always busy. Our society rewards busyness and hard work, thus, we are always encouraged to be “on”. The reality is we spend so little time just thinking or even relaxing. We often worry about what we have have done in the past or concern ourselves about the future. The only thing we can control is the present moment. And what we do in the moment is completely under our control.

Busyness exhausts our nervous system. In fact, it activates the sympathetic nervous system which if constantly stimulated turns off the para-sympathetic  system – which calms our minds and bodies. Neuroscientists believe that this over stimulation is destroying our ability to be productive and creative and can lead to unmanaged stress levels that lead to illness, disease and aging.

Empty time is actually productive time. Taking mental breaks throughout the day is extremely beneficial and shifting out of multitasking is even more crucial. The reality is our brains can only do one task at a time. Multitasking is a very unproductive and harmful activity.

Unstructured time stimulates what neuroscientists call the ” default -mode network” in the brain, where problem solving and creative thinking take place. When we are performing a task, whether it’s sitting in front of a computer or driving a car, we are using our executive-control network ( deductive reasoning ). When are relaxing and letting our minds rest and wander the brain’s default-mode network kick in. This process is called “incubation” – new ideas become innovations. In other words, a certain amount of inactivity is essential to creativity. Furthermore, it leads to a higher level of health and well-being

Studies have shown that over working the mind actually has profound negative effects. The more people work beyond 40 hours a week the worse they feel, the more stress they report, the less they are engaged  and the more ill effects they experience. Idleness stimulates the para-sympathetic system, leading to a plethora of positive health outcomes, including better cardiovascular and digestive function and improved energy and moods.  Andrew Deutscher of the Energy Project states ” doing nothing gives your brain a chance to work out things that are not urgent. Otherwise, we’re just skimming the surface of our lives”.

Our society is addicted to busyness  and activity – in our always-busy culture, doing nothing carries a stigma. Success is often defined by doing more and taking on greater responsibility. Frank Lipman, MD believes ” most people seem  to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.” He continues: ” In some cases, people just don’t feel comfortable stopping and feeling their feelings. In other cases, they feel uncomfortable because they perceive it as being lazy.”

Deutscher says there is a difference between quieting the mind and enjoying leisure time. Watching TV or taking a weekend trip with your friends is leisure time and but your brain is still very active and busy. It is more about sitting quietly and emptying your mind – you have to aware of your intention about going into the empty time.

Quiet time really yields real benefits: replenishing glucose and oxygen levels, your brain can actually file and archive information and you will feel more rested and clear- headed. Additionally, if you are stuck resolving a problem taking a break actually yields greater and more obvious solutions ( think ” big aha moment”)

Simple Strategies:

Minimize time stealers- ex : constantly checking email and social media feeds or playing games on your phone. 

When performing repetitive chores or while working out allow your mind to wander. Shut out the noise and empty the mind. 

While at work – take a few minutes several times a day to break from your focused activities and relax the mind.

At the end of the day – shut off the electronic devices and just sit quietly and allow your thoughts and feelings to unfold. 

Doing nothing or practicing idleness is a learned skill and  takes practice.

Biochemical Individuality

Each person has a unique biochemical profile. This profile can be altered over the course of time by many factors – genetics, physical and emotional stress, nutrition, drug interactions, etc… Our mind and body are connected via the pyschosomatic network. Our thoughts and beliefs truly impact our physiology ( neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and hormones). Positive thinking leads to positive biochemical changes, while negative thinking leads to negative ones. Research has proven that the brain can change ( neuro-plasticity) at any age. We are not as hard wired as we once thought we were.

This individuality allows each of us to approach the world differently – how we respond to stress, how flexible we are mentally and psychologically, and how are bodies manifest these individualities.  Below are some interesting facts about our biochemical make up:

1. Every cell in your body knows everything about you all the time.

2. You cannot fool your body.

3. Your memories are attached to your emotions.

4. Genes are not your destiny, rather they are your predisposition.

5. Genes are correlated to disease if they are turned on.

6. Psychological age ( how you feel) influences biological age ( your cellular reality).

7. Live more consciously – awareness impacts biology.

8. Be open and flexible – willingness to leave where you are to go to what you want to become.

9. You and you alone determine your life journey – be more flexible and open

10. Remove the ” shoulds” and ” absolutes:”

Unmasking Mental Health

The recent passing of comedian/actor Robin Williams once again reiterates the growing problem that seemingly is increasing and can no longer be ignored. Whether we are talking about the unspeakable mass killings we have witnessed in recent years, gang violence in our inner cities, the tragic suicides among not only celebrity actors/performers but also the countless number of individuals that take their lives due to depression, substance abuse  or social isolation is no longer an issue that can be ignored.

Much of our discussion on mental health is usually intense and probing right after an event occurs. Media and health care professionals take up the mission to initiate the dialogue to find solutions to the growing problems we see. but what is really being done. After every tragedy we reflect back on what could have been done. We see obvious signs and behavioral changes that raise red flags. So what is the problem. Is it a follow through issue? Are we not putting enough resources into a failed system of accountability and supervision?

One thing that seems clear it is predominantly a problem that features more males than females who are acting out against society or committing suicide. Whether we are examining young males going on shooting sprees, witnessing  the elevated use of mind altering drugs, and increasing use of physical violence to solve problems – the trend is clear.

What really needs to change is the dialogue. We as a society  – as individuals, family members, co-workers need to reinforce the idea that it is ok and healthy to talk about one’s concerns and problems. We need to become better listeners. We have to make it acceptable to feel safe to ask for help and then provide that system of support. Mental health issues primarily depression is running rampant in our society. The system strikes me as very incapable of handling the problems and providing solutions.

Depression and other illnesses such as bi-polar and personality disorders  have a hereditary element. As such, family history needs to be taken into account. Early signs such as social isolation, lethargy, substance abuse have to be dealt with. Difficult life events can also trigger emotional and  bio chemical changes that can lead to a cascade of declining mental health.

So what are we to do? I believe that there needs to be an integrated informational and educational system that provides resources to everyone – not just the folks who can afford it. Support groups that are well staffed  and well funded that can reach out and also provide a “safe” refuge for those who feel scared to come forward and help them understand they have options.

I also believe that treating depression and other mental illness requires alternative therapies: wellness and fitness programs that help to re- balance a person’s mind and body. Much research indicates that the brain can be changed. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s own ability to change and reset. Some of our veterans returning from war with PTSD and TBI are benefiting from such therapies. Thousands of young men and women are coming back  from war and unfortunately many have fallen through the cracks of the VA system. These individuals who put their own lives at risk to protect our freedoms really need our help and support. If we do not address this large problem soon we are going to have an epidemic crisis on our hands. Simply treating them with drugs just addresses the symptoms. Most drugs used to treat depression and bi-polar disorder have far reaching side effects.  I have seen it up close and personal.  We cannot turn our backs on these or any other individuals. Parents and teachers need to be the first  line of defense. Beyond that, it should be everyone’s duty and obligation to act if you see or sense that someone is in need. You never know, one day it could be you!!!

Stop talking and start acting !

Music and Movement

Exercising or moving to music has many physiological and psychological benefits. The expression “being in the zone” applies to both the competitive athlete as well as to a person engaging in mindful exercise such as Chi Gong or yoga.

Music can serve as a distraction – that some need in order to participate in their fitness activity but it can also enhance one’s mood at medium and high levels of exercise intensity. Many sedentary people report that physical discomfort is a barrier to exercise. These same individuals report less pain and fatigue when working out to music. Several studies back this up and indicate these same people will train harder and longer to reach desired fitness goals. With that being said, it is also important to monitor one’s level of intensity to ensure that over-exertion or over-training is not occurring!

Further research indicates:
1. Physical performance improves with music ( in both training and competition ).
2. VO2 ( maximal oxygen consumption ) can improve, lower levels of blood lactate, reduced blood pressure and lower exercise heart rates have been documented.
3. When movements are synchronized to music benefits are seen in terms of energy efficiency in repetitive endurance activities ( aerobics, running, cycling) and dissociation ( through having to focus on time).
4. The tempo of the music impacts motivation: slow and soft music produces a calming effect ( cool down or yoga) – tempo less than 80 beats per minute and fast, upbeat music creates a stimulative effect ( aerobics and spinning class , interval training) – tempo of 120 beats per minute or greater.

Additionally, it seems that well-trained individuals often prefer no music when they are doing specific types of workouts as they can better listen to their bodies and breathing patterns.

Music also seems to have huge benefits for special populations. Studies have shown that dementia patients respond well to background music.

Patients suffering from TBI and PTSD have also shown positive responses to music. Although, it has been noted that certain high intensity sound can further exacerbate their psychological and physiological conditions.

Other interesting findings:

The perfect workout music:

1. To get people to move use a lot of percussion – rhythm helps to optimize activation levels during workout.

2. Use harmonies – positive harmonic blends keep the mood elevated.

3. Positive lyrics – affirmation in lyrics are helpful.

4. Utilize cultural and personal connections when appropriate.

5. Tempo should match the desired heart rate.

6. Match work and recovery cycles to support the desired training profile. Get synched !!

7. Try a variety of music it may produce new and better results.

Meditation: The Wellness Booster

The majority of us are busy from the minute we wake to the moment we fall asleep. Hopefully, we get get a restorative night sleep so we can embrace the challenges of the next day. It is becoming ever apparent that we all, and some more than others, are feeling overwhelmed by life and the many decisions  we have to make day to day. How we manage these decisions and the stress that comes with them as a profound effect on out health and well-being.

An abundance of research and studies has clearly provided us with some solid findings that getting stimulating exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, positive approach to life and healthy relationships are the foundation for minimizing stress and creating wellness.

An area that does get mention but needs further discussion is mindfulness meditation. Meditation is the quieting of the mind and the awareness of living in the moment. It is at it’s simplistic form a way to slow the brain and the nervous system down. It enables us to shift out of the high gear ( sympathetic nervous system ) and into a low gear ( parasympathetic nervous system). This allows the mind and body to become more integrated and allows a person to become more present and focused, which ultimately allows you to gain clarity and process information better. In this super fast moving and multitasking world that we all live in, meditation can give you an edge in handling and processing all the information.

Meditation changes the brain. Studies indicate that people who meditate regularly have more gyrification ( folding) in the cortical brain and these extra folds seem to help regulate distractions and improve cognitive function.

Mindfulness meditation (10-12 minutes per day) can make you more productive. In the journal Emotion, a study has shown that mindfulness improves working memory, the “system we tap into for managing information, controlling emotions, problem solving and complex thought”.

It may also play a role in boosting positive brain neuro-chemicals which could help combat depression and help in managing chronic pain.

Children with ADHD who practiced Transcendental Meditation for 10 minutes twice a day were able to significantly reduce their symptoms within 3 – 6 months. This may have huge implications for children with learning difficulties. It may also help counter some of the negative brain effects that children experience due to prolonged use of video games.

Additionally, deep relaxation brought on from meditation may impact bodies and thus longevity on a genetic level. Research indicates that genes that protect us from hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and infertility were switched on by the “relaxation effect”.

Mediation classes and course are available everywhere and can be found at yoga studios, health clubs, spas and online.

Take time to slow down and you will find that a quiet mind leads to a more productive life.

It’s Never Too Late 

I have been in the health and fitness industry for over 30 years. I got into this business because I wanted to make a difference in how people lived their lives. I watched my father die of cancer at a young age. At the time I didn’t understand how it was that his lifestyle choices had such dire consequences. As I look back on his life and that of many others who I have consulted and advised over the years, it has become very clear that we all make choices that impact our quality of life and longevity. Research has now proven that our genetics play only a small part in how we experience life and it is more significantly impacted by our behaviors, actions, thoughts and beliefs. We are the product of both our internal and external environment.

I have watched my clients over the years make extraordinary changes once they have committed to and truly embraced a healthy lifestyle. I have heard all the stories: “I was never very athletic in my youth.” “I was always very uncoordinated in sports.” “My family never supported or encouraged me to be very active.”

Well, I say that was then and this is now! We all can change and start to embrace a healthy way of life! We all have busy lives and many commitments to fulfill. We make time for our jobs, our kids, our social life. What seems to get neglected is our health and well-being. What needs to be understood is your health is the most important aspect of your life. Without it, you are eventually going to experience stress and disease. It’s inevitable. Stop procrastinating and start making time for yourself and realize that your mind and body will function more optimally. Trust me when I say that exercising daily and eating right have profound benefits. You don’t have to become a marathon runner or a triathlete to reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Your  personal and work relationships will improve.

Your social life will be more fulfilling.

Your energy will be greater.

Your mood and outlook will be enhanced.

Your ability to concentrate and problem solve will improve.

Your immune, metabolic, hormonal and neurological systems will function at a higher level.

Your self-image and self-perception will change.

Your enthusiasm to try new things will lead you in many new and exciting ways.

Your motivation and drive to achieve greatness will be increased.

So what are you waiting for .

It’s never too late !!