5 Practical Ideas to Improve Health and Fitness by Michael Wood, CSCS

“Mens sana in corpore sano” (Latin)  – a healthy mind in a healthy body.

There were almost 82 million Americans who were completely inactive in 2015. We know that exercise on a regular basis can be a very difficult task since most people do not even like to exercise. More than 30% of the population will not workout at all this year and only 5% will exercise at a level that is considered vigorous. Compounding the problem, the average American sits more than 9 hours a day; sitting is now considered the new smoking. We have become a society where inactivity is fast becoming the new norm. If this resonates at all with you then you may want to try to incorporate the following practical tips into your lifestyle.

There have been many things that I have learned and continue to learn during my three decades in the fitness industry and I can honestly tell you, in addition to some nutritional advice, these five particular items should be on your radar. It would be prudent for you to make sure these five components (5M’s) find their way and get ingrained into your lifestyle.

  • Measurement

Athletes at the collegiate and professional level continue to improve because they work with the best strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionist. They have a well thought out plan and get tested periodically. This is the one component that offers the most bang for the buck yet most individuals find reason to neglect it. Find the time to take some type of measurement(s) and periodically test yourself in order to (1) hold yourself more accountable, (2) determine if your exercise plan is actually working and (3) to help keep you motivated. This applies to not just exercise and your workouts but also on the nutritional side of things. Are you eating, for example, too much added sugar? Checking your body weight is OK but go beyond just checking your weight. What percentage of muscle and body fat make up that overall weight of yours? What is your waist measurement? Can you run a mile? Can you run up a flight of stairs without feeling winded? These types of measurements offer more value than jumping on a bathroom scale.

Credit: http://www.azquotes.com

A few (measurement) ideas for you:

  • Determine your Waist-to-hip ratio
  • Monitor your % body fat and/or lean muscle mass
  • Record your daily grams of added sugar (<35 grams/day/men and <25 grams/day/women). Use the MyFitnessPal app.
  • Determine your best 500 or 2000 meter row time
  • Vertical jump measurement
  • Plank challenge (can you hold position for 2:00 or 3:00?)
  • Are you getting 8,500-10,000 steps/day

Finally, remember another great quote from Peter Drucker, “what’s measured improves.”

Suggested Reading

Koning L et al., Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular events: meta-regression analysis of prospective studies. European Heart Journal (2008). 28, 850–856 doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehm026

  • Mindfulness

Once your measurements are taken and documented you’ll then have a baseline and you’re ready to begin. A good first step, is to work towards becoming more mindful, this will help you not only with exercise and diet but in all aspects of your life. The net result will be a significant improvement in the “quality” of your exercise and the way  you fuel your body. As we become more in tune with mindfulness, we become more aware of the relationship between a stimulus and response. You can think of mindfulness as a tool that can help you develop that gap between the stimulus and the response to that stimulus.

Mindfulness is “the ability to stay focused, while being aware of your thoughts and surroundings and being able to recognize and move past distractions as they arise.” Harvard Business Review

Researchers looked at subjects who had the opportunity to choose from 22 general activities, such as walking, eating, shopping, and watching television. Their study showed that respondents, on average, reported their minds were wandering 47% of time, and no less than 30% of the time during every activity except making love. Becoming more mindful in regard to exercise and diet is extremely important. Learn to become truly present when you’re involved in these activities otherwise your mind and body are not taking in 100% of the benefit.

One way to help you get moving down this road of mindfulness is with daily meditation. A typical session involving meditation could range from two minutes up to sixty minutes. I have used the popular Headspace app to help me get started which is excellent and I highly recommend you start with this free, simple to use, app. More than 4 million people have used the app to date. According to a Tim Ferris, podcast, author of the 4-Hour Work Week, more than 80% of the world-class performers who he interviews use some form of daily meditation and he’s a big proponent of the free Headspace Take 10 program.

There is a great deal of research that demonstrates mediation creates positive changes in our brains. Harvard University neuroscientist Sara Lazar told the Washington Post, “long-term meditators have an increased amount of grey matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex.”

In a 2014 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Australian researchers looked at the relationship between various personality traits and exercise and other health-related habits. The researchers found that people who thought they had control over their lives were more likely to exercise and adopt other healthy steps than those who felt that luck or fate largely dictated their lives. Daily meditation offers that sense of control.

With everything we have going on in our daily lives like raising children, marriage issues, social media, political upheaval, and all the demands at work, we need to find more time to focus on ourselves. The goal should be to work on eliminating all the distractions and “noise” that surrounds us. Becoming more mindful will enable us to have better control in all aspects of our lives especially with what we’re focusing on here, improving your lifestyle especially with regard to diet and exercise.

You can take this assessment to see where you currently rate when it comes to mindfulness. Try taking the assessment before and then after completing ten sessions using the Headspace app.

  • Mobility

Mobility, or joint mobility, in general, is one of the most misunderstood terms. The first thing you need to understand about mobility is that it does not start this week and then end in a day or two. If you want to improve mobility then it needs to be part of your every day life and one of the components of each workout you do. You will receive the most benefit when regular mobility work becomes part of your lifestyle.

Let’s first look at a good definition of mobility. According to physical therapist Joe Vega, M.S.P.T., CSCS,. “a person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions in the range of motion of those movements.”

A more in-depth look at what happens when you perform specific mobility exercises is given here by fitness expert, Steven Maxwell. “Joint mobility exercise stimulates and circulates the synovial fluid in the bursa, which ‘washes’ the joint. The joints have no direct blood supply and are nourished by this synovial fluid, which simultaneously removes waste products. Joint salts, or calcium deposits, are dissolved and dispersed with the same gentle, high-repetition movement patterns. Properly learned, joint mobility can restore complete freedom of motion to the ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck and hands.”

Remember, you should take a proactive approach when it comes to mobility, not a reactive one. In other words, don’t wait for problems to arise before you address them.

There are many specific exercises that can be done to improve joint mobility for areas like the ankle, hip, back and shoulder. Here is one such example that targets the back, specifically, the mid back (thoracic spine). What I particularly like about this mobility exercise is how it isolates the mid back while stabilizing the low back (lumbar spine). For mobility exercise ideas please visit Michael Wood Fitness on Instagram.

Prior to performing these movements try “rolling out” the area. A great tool to help you get started is a foam roller (see below) which can be used for self-myofascial release. It has been shown to help increase joint range of motion and with delayed-onset muscle soreness, commonly known as DOMS. For more information check out MWOD.

Suggested Reading

Supple Leopard, Dr. Kelly Starrett, Victory Belt Publishing, 2013.

Foam rolling and self-myofascial release, Strength & Conditioning Research.

Mobility Training May Be the Most Important Factor in Musculoskeletal Health, Steve Maxwell.

Training Principles for Fascial Connective Tissue, Schleip R., Muller DG., J. Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 2012.

  • Movement

Hippocrates once said, “walking is a man’s best medicine.” To find out if his 2,400 year-old remark was actually valid, two scientists from University College London performed a meta-analysis of research published between 1970 and 2007 in peer-reviewed journals. After studying more than 4,000 research papers, they identified 18 studies that met their high standards for quality. The studies evaluated 459,833 test-subjects who were absent of cardiovascular disease at the start of the investigation. The subjects were followed for an average of 11.3 years, during which cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attacks and deaths) were recorded. Their meta-analysis makes a strong case for the benefits of good old walking. The group of studies showed that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, and decreased the risk of dying during the time of the study by 32 percent.

More movement of any kind is obviously a good thing. One tool you can use to monitor your exercise and especially walking is a pedometer. It can be valuable because it (1) can hold you more accountable, (2) it can help to build up to a desired step total for a daily/weekly/monthly total and (3) it can be a useful motivational tool along the way. Research out of Stanford University has shown that individuals who use a pedometer take an additional 2,000 steps each day, compared to nonusers, and their overall physical activity level increases by 27%. Another study showed participants who increased their steps to average more than 9,500 a day for 32 weeks lost 5 pounds, 1.9% body fat and 1.9 centimeters from their hips. They also increased their HDL cholesterol by 3 mg/dl and lowered their BMI by nearly 2 points. The participants in the study increased their steps by an average of 4,000 steps a day from the start of the study.

The goal with trying to add in more daily movement is consistency. If you have a crazy week at work and can’t get to the gym as much during the week then be sure you check it off during the weekend. The key is to do something. Research by Krogh-Madsen and colleagues showed the dramatic changes that can take place after just two weeks of decreasing your activity. The subjects were young, lean, healthy men who decreased their daily steps from 10,000 steps a day to 1,300 steps a day. They experienced an increase in body weight, 7% decline in VO2 max, a 2.8% loss of lean muscle in their legs, and a 17% drop in insulin sensitivity after just two weeks of decreasing their activity by 8,700 steps a day.

A few thoughts to keep in mind when it comes to movement. More movement, like walking, and other forms of exercise (like strength training), translates into an elevated metabolism. There are many external as well as internal forces that can have an effect on your metabolism and exercise is the most variable. Sedentary individuals may add only 10-30% to their total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) while very active individuals can increase that number above 50-75%. TDEE is the total amount of calories the human body burns (or expends) in one day. When you’re more active throughout the day you get the added bonus of what scientist refer to as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT is the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than exercise. NEAT can vary by up to 2000 kcal per day between people of similar size in part because of the substantial variation in the amount of activity that they perform. Obesity is associated with low NEAT; obese individuals “appear to exhibit an innate tendency to be seated for 2.5 hours per day more than sedentary lean counterparts.” When you exercise at higher intensity levels you increase your body’s ability to burn calories post exercise, known as exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC is one of the by-products of high-intensity interval training.

TDEE = BMR + TEF + NEAT + EPOC + Exercise

Finally, according to research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, subjects who were least active during this particular study were five times more likely to die than the most active people and three times more likely than those in the middle range in terms of daily activity. The data was taken from approximately 3,000 people aged 50 to 79 that were part of the University of Pennsylvania Population Study. When in doubt, always remember the old saying “use it or lose it.”

Suggested Reading

Movement: Functional Movement Systems, Gray Cook, Lotus, 2011.

The One-Minute Exercise, Martin Gibala, PhD, Avery, 2017.

The Inner Runner, Jason Karp, PhD, Skyhorse Publishing, 2016.

How to Think About Exercise, Damon Young, The School of Life, 2015.

Better Movement, Todd Hargrove, Amazon Digital, 2014.

Born to Walk, James Earle, Lotus Publishing, 2014.

  • Muscle

The ability to maintain muscle mass as you age is considered by many as the closest thing to the fountain of youth. There is still hope for you even if you’ve been inconsistent or unable to exercise at all. That hope comes in the form of regular strength training. Research has shown that approximately three decades of age-related strength loss and two decades of age-related muscle mass loss can be recovered or reversed within the first couple of months of starting a strength training program. Research from a 2016 meta-analysis published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed 49 studies of men ages 50 to 83 who did regular strength training and found that subjects averaged a 2.4-pound increase in lean muscle mass.

There are a few additional items you need to focus on consistently beyond your strength training. When it comes to maintaining or building muscle, sleep and recovery are critical and good nutrition is a must. When I say nutrition I’m talking about eating a surplus of good calories especially in the form of high quality protein. If your body is not continually in an anabolic state you will not be building new muscle any time soon. The goal is to eat a “clean” diet that consistently includes the three major macronutrients. Eating a plant-based, high fiber diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits and healthy fats is always a good thing. Avoid the processed foods, watch the extra calories from soda and other sport drinks, and limit alcohol. Put yourself on an added sugar budget, see #nosugar40 for more information.

A recent study in the journal Nutrients suggests a daily intake of 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is needed for older adults who do resistance training. For example, a 175-pound man would need about 79 to 103 grams a day. If possible, divide your protein equally among your daily meals to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

There is a strong association between strength training and muscle mass but as you continue to age the key is working smarter. You can do that by making sure you include these primary lifts or movements as part of your strength program: squat, dead lift, pulling and pushing movements, and some type of loaded carry.

In a recent comprehensive research review, Donnelly and colleagues note that the majority of peer-reviewed resistance training studies (lasting 8–52 weeks) show increases of 2.2–4.5 pounds of muscle mass. These researchers suggest that an increase of 4.5 pounds of muscle mass would probably increase resting metabolic rate by about 50 kcal per day. Although this small change is not nearly as much as some advertisers may suggest, it does help close the gap between energy intake and energy expenditure.

There you have it – my five practical tips that will help take your health and fitness to the next level. The choice is now yours.

Suggested Reading

Biochemical Adaptations in Muscle. J. Biol. Chemistry 424(9): 2278-2282, 1967.

Dynamic exercise performance in Masters athletes: insight into the effects of primary human aging on physiological functional capacity. J Applied Physiol 95: 2152-2162, 2003.

Core Performance, Mark Verstegen, Rodale Books, 2005

Athletic Body in Balance, Gray Cook, Human Kinetics, 2003

Functional Training for Sport, M. Boyle, Human Kinetics, 2003

Never Let Go, Dan John, On Target, 2011


Schneider PL, Bassett DR, Thompson DL, Pronl NP, and Bielak KM (2006). Effects of a 10,000 Steps per Day Goal in Overweight Adults. Am J Health Promotion 21(2): 85-89.

Donnelly, J.E., et al. Is resistance training effective for weight management? Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine, 1(1): 21–29, 2003.

Krogh-Madsen R, Thyfault JP, Broholm C, Mortensen OH, Olsen RH, Mounier R, Plomgaard P, van Hall G, Booth FW, and Pedersen, BK (2010). A 2-wk reduction of ambulatory activity attenuates peripheral insulin sensitivity. J. Applied Physiology, 108(5):1034-1040.

Wu BH, Lin J, (2006). Effects of exercise intensity on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and substrate use after resistance exercise. J Exerc Sci Fit, 4(2).

Abboud GJ, Greer BK, Campbell SC, Panton LB, (2012). Effects of Load-Volume on EPOC after Acute Bouts of Resistance Training in Resistance Trained Males. October.

Levine JA, et al. (2006). Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 26: 729-736.

Ivey, FM et al., (2000). The Effects of Age, Gender and Myostatin Genotype on the Hypertrophic Response to Heavy Resistance Strength Training. J. Gerontol: Med Sci 55A: M641-M848.

Ezra I. Fishman, Jeremy A. Steeves, Vadim Zipunnikov, Annemarie Koster, David Berrigan, Tamara A. Harris, Rachel Murphy. Association between Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Mortality in NHANES. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000885

Four Things We Need to Focus More on

It can be a challenging process for many when attempting to follow the latest diet plan or exercise program claiming various health benefits. There is an easy way to cut through all the rhetoric regarding these types of diet plans and so-called healthy programs by simply getting more of the following each day: sleep, spinach, steps and strength. Here are some of the health benefits when you get more of each on a regular basis.

GET MORE SLEEP: Sleep should be first on everyone’s list of things to try to get more of because when you’re deficient in it, everything from how you feel to what you eat is affected negatively. Research has shown that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more than 6 hours of sleep.

This is important because inflammation is linked to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and premature aging, according to data published in the Centers for Disease and Control and Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Research conducted in 2004 has shown that sleep deprivation can enhance the release of specific peptides in the body that produce hunger. Men that slept only four hours each night for two days witnessed a decrease in specific hormones such as leptin and an increase in ghrelin compared with men who slept ten hours during that same time period. Leptin is an appetite suppressant hormone that is produced by adipose (fat) tissue, and ghrelin is released from the stomach in response to someone fasting and promotes the feeling of hunger. The hormone leptin acts on the central nervous system, most notably the hypothalamus, by not only suppressing food intake but stimulating energy expenditure as well. Ghrelin levels typically increase before meals and decrease after meals. This particular hormone stimulates appetite as well as fat production and can lead to increased food intake and a gain in body weight. A second study from the University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate, on average, an additional 553 calories typically choosing foods higher in fat when they were kept awake until the early morning hours. So  you may want to start getting more Z’s beginning tonight. A good tip is to eliminate all caffeinated products by early afternoon if you typically have trouble sleeping.

Recommended reading: The Promise of Sleep by William Dement, MD, Dell Publishers, 2000.

Research study: A Prospective Study of Change in Sleep Duration: Associations with Mortality in the Whitehall II Cohort, Sleep, 2007.

Photo Credit: http://www.12keysrehab.com

EAT MORE SPINACH: Eating more of a plant-based diet, including spinach, would in fact be a good thing for all of us. There is a 32 percent less chance of getting heart disease on a plant-based diet. Spinach is considered at the top of the healthiest vegetable list for nutrient richness. Not only is it rich in vitamins and minerals, it also has an abundance of health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids to provide you with powerful antioxidant protection. In one study on the relationship between the risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake — including the vegetables spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, collards, and kale — “only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.” If you’re interested in trying to eat cleaner, healthier and more of a plant-based diet, like we were, than the Boston-based food delivery service Purple Carrot may be just what the doctor ordered. Visit Purple Carrot and use the promo code “koko” for a $25 discount on your first order.

Recommended reading: What to Eat by Marion Nestle, North Point Press, 2006 and Always Hungry? David Ludwig, MD, PhD, 2016.

Research study: Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets, 2013.

Photo Credit: Purple Carrot (https://purplecarrot.com). Use promo code: “koko” for a $25 discount on your first delivery.

GET MORE STEPS: The odds are that you have heard the old adage “use it or lose it” more than once. It can be a good idea to do a reset, especially before the upcoming Holiday season that is about to take over your life and have a goal of changing your mindset regarding daily activity. The fact is if you’re not finding the time to stay active as you age, your body will slowly begin to “shut down.” When this begins to happens over time – everything from energy levels to metabolism to aerobic capacity to strength – are effected and slowly begin to decrease. Simply getting out for a walk/run/hike will help offset those areas and more. Hippocrates once said, “walking is a man’s best medicine.” To find out if his 2,400 year-old remark was actually valid, two scientists from University College London performed a meta-analysis of research published between 1970 and 2007 in peer-reviewed journals. After studying more than 4,000 research papers, they identified 18 studies that met their high standards for quality. These overall studies evaluated 459,833 test-subjects who were absent of cardiovascular disease at the start of the investigation. The subjects were followed for an average of 11.3 years, during which cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attacks and deaths) were recorded. Their meta-analysis makes a strong case for the benefits of good old walking. The group of studies showed that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, and decreased the risk of dying during the time of the study by 32 percent. A good tool for your tool box is to wear a pedometer to make you more aware of your daily activity via daily steps. Find your 3-day average for steps and start adding 500-1000 steps/week until you’re in the 7,500 to 10,000 steps ball park. For additional information on the benefits of pedometers look into my TBC4 Plan.

Recommended reading: The Step Diet, by James Hill, PhD et al., Workman Publishing, 2004 and Move a Little, Lose a Lot by James Levine, MD, PhD, Three Rivers Press, 2009.

GET STRONGER: There is no way around it, you need to get stronger and maintain strength as you age. Getting and staying stronger as you age will help you hold onto your functional ability. The only way to “hold on” to your strength is work on getting stronger now by becoming more active and sticking with strength training for the rest of your life! An area that is often neglected, when it comes to strength, is grip strength. Research has shown for a long time now that elevated grip strength level is associated with increased longevity. In addition to grip strength, focus on getting your big muscle groups stronger, like your back, buttock and legs.

According to research, individuals who did not strength train lost about 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and the by-product of this was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day. As you grow older, the loss of muscle becomes more pronounced and by the time you reach the age of 70, the muscular system has experienced a 40 percent loss of muscle mass and a 30 percent decrease in strength. With the loss of muscle mass comes the loss of strength and power. A person’s balance, mobility and functionality are also compromised. Strength appears to peak between the ages of 25 and 35 and is maintained or slightly lower between ages 40 and 59 and then declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 60 years of age, according to research published by Doherty in 2001.

Research study: Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, Lancet, 2015.


Doherty TJ, (2001). The influence of aging and sex on skeletal muscle mass and strength. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 4:503-508.

Centers for Disease and Control and Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Nedeltcheva AV, et al., (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Internal Medicine 153, 435-441.

Spiegel, K. et. al, (2004). Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141: (11) 846-85.

Rogers, M. A. and Evans, W. J. (1993). Changes in skeletal muscle with aging: Effects of exercise training. In J. O. Holloszy (Ed), Exercise and Sport Science Reviews. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

The Total Body Conditioning Plan, Wood, M, (2016).

Small Changes are Key to Improving Health and Fitness

lens19443020_1335810382aThe cumulative effect of small changes are key to improving both your health and fitness level. Many people are looking for the home run or the secret “ingredient” when it comes to trying lose weight or improve their fitness level. Implementing a few of the recommended changes throughout your day, coupled with your daily workout, is a great start to help you change the way you look and feel over the course of the next few weeks.

-Drink more water first thing in the morning.
-Make sure your eating breakfast.
-Try squeezing in more activity like walking/hiking before work (start wearing a pedometer).

-Workout at lunch time if you’re able, and if not, take a walk.
-Add more protein to your lunch and avoid bread and fried foods.
-Stand more at work rather than sitting for 6-8 hrs (make a standing work station).

-Make dinner your smallest meal of the day.
-No eating within three hours of going to bed.
-Cut down on your screen and TV time.

Finally, throughout the Morning/Afternoon/Evening watch your added sugar and salt intake – this one simple tip will pay back big dividends in no time! If you’re a female, work on consuming <100 calories a day of added sugar (25 grams/day) and if you’re a male, work on taking in <150 calories a day (38 grams/day).

How Reducing Calories After Dinner Helps with Weight Loss

There are many different thoughts on how an individual can reduce their body weight in a safe, effective manner.  A good idea is to keep a food journal of what a person is eating over a three to five-day period.  Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has shown that people who keep a journal lose more weight than those that do not keep some type of record.  Exercise and nutritional modification can also help with weight loss.  Simply becoming more active throughout the day will also play a role in reaching a specific weight loss goal.  A great training and accountability tool that will help increase daily activity and steps is a pedometer.

Credit: http://growingnaturals.com

We understand intuitively, that to lose weight, a negative deficit needs to occur.  More calories need to be expended than consumed over time in order to eventually lose weight.  With all this insight we still have high levels of obesity and many people still have trouble changing their body composition.

Let’s say that you exercise regularly and you “think” your diet is pretty good, but you just can’t lose weight.  Make sure to keep up the exercise, especially, strength training at least 2-3 times each week.  Keep that pedometer on you and continue to work towards getting your 10,000 steps a day but make one change with how you’re eating.

Get plenty of protein with each meal, never skip a meal and finally, the one change, avoid all calories after dinner – for a week – and see how you look and feel after seven days.  The average person easily eats a few hundred calories watching a little late night TV.  Reducing any extra late-night calories, collectively over the course of a week, is a surefire way to help reduce body weight.  I know, it sounds simple, but it works.  Your goal should be to consume the majority of your calories with a bigger meal in the morning, a high protein lunch, and the smallest amount of calories coming at dinner.

A study published in the journal Diabetologia confirms that, when people with type 2 diabetes ate a large breakfast and lunch and no dinner, compared with those eating six small meals with the same calories, lost body fat and improved insulin sensitivity.  The majority of people are pretty good during the day with what they are eating.  It’s when they get home after a long day, have dinner, and then a few hours later you’re bored or stressed out and start to mindlessly eat whatever favorite comfort food is available.  If you can put together a few good nights where you’re not eating any additional calories in the evening, after dinner, you may experience some unexpected weight loss.  Here are a few good tips to follow to help you be more successful.

Suggested Reading

Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, PhD (Bantam, 2006).

7 Health Tips from Fitness Expert Michael Wood, CSCS

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photo credit: http://kokofitclub.com

One of the many great things about life is that we continue to learn as we advance in age. This is especially true when it comes to finding new health and fitness tips and I’m sure this applies to your own personal health and fitness routine too. After close to thirty years working in the fitness industry, I have learned a few tricks of the trade myself and here are a few fitness tips that I focused on this past year that you may want to follow as well.

1. Challenge Your Mind, Body and Spirit with New Activities. Your thing may be yoga, running, biking, swimming or taking the 10,000 step challenge and if it’s something else that’s great too because these types of activities will get your body stronger, give you more energy and keep your mind clear. The key, however, is to stimulate your mind, body and spirit each day with either one of these eight letter words: movement, activity or exercise. For example, a few activities that I gravitated towards over the past year were stand-up paddle board, walking or running stadium stairs and snow-shoeing. What were some of your new activities?

I highly recommend that you try a new activity or two before the year comes to an end.

2. Start Wearing a Pedometer. A pedometer is ideal for helping you increase your daily activity. I have been wearing a Fitbit pedometer since 2009 and I really like the accountability factor. Fitbit, as a company, has gone on record stating their user base takes 43% more steps with Fitbit. If you go out and purchase a pedometer, have a goal of determining your daily average steps over the course of three days, then try adding 500 to 1000 steps a week (or 10-20% increase of your average from baseline) until you progress to 10,000 steps a day (this is about 5 miles). The average Fitbit user records about 6000 steps a day. Research conducted by Tudor-Locke and Schuna recommend that adults avoid averaging less than 5,000 steps a day and strive to average greater than 7,500 steps a day, of which about 3,000 steps (about 30 minutes) should be taken at a cadence of 100 steps or more a minute. Stanford University researchers looked at 26 different studies and summarized the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their synopsis showed individuals who use a pedometer take 2,000 additional steps each day compared to nonusers and had significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure while overall physical activity level increased by 27%.

Your goal is 10,000 steps a day and about 8-10 flights of stairs.

3. Get Stronger with Stadium Stair Workouts. Whether you walk or run the stairs it doesn’t matter because in the end the stairs always win. Stair workouts are ideal for improving cardiovascular health and increasing hip and leg strength. It is also a great supplement to your weekly strength training. It engages most of the muscles in your body and the caloric expenditure is high especially if you run. Look for an area high school stadium or college near-by and if you’re in the Boston area give Harvard Stadium a try and don’t forget to wear your pedometer, you won’t be sorry.

Try adding a 30-minute stair workout to your routine at least once a month.

4. Understand Strength Training is for Life. Some things in your training bag will come and go but when it comes to strength training it should be done for the rest of your life!  Be consistent, challenge yourself and make it progressive. According to one 1992 study women who did not strength train lost about 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years and a by-product of this was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day.

Add strength training in 2-3 times each week.

5. Bring High Intensity Interval Training into Play. No matter what you’re doing on the cardio side of things add interval-based cardio sessions into the mix on a weekly basis. You can find this type of exercise at a Koko FitClub near you. Here are two FREE (audio-based) cardio sessions to try. You can find interval-based workouts like Tabata and Stadium Stair intervals for all ability levels at Koko FitClub.

Add high intensity intervals to your cardio 1-2 times a week with adequate recovery between workouts.

6. You Are What You Eat. Exercise is great but if you don’t fuel up optimally it will eventually catch up with you. Try this one tip, watch your added daily sugar. If you’re a male eat no more than 150 calories a day (38 grams/day) and if you are female make it no more than 100 calories (25 grams/day). Do this for the next 4 weeks and see how much better you look and feel. A recent study found a correlation between high sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes rate across various countries. Remember that more than 80% of processed foods have high levels of added sugar.

Monitor your added sugar on a daily basis for the next 4 weeks.

7. Lengthen and Restore Tight Muscles. First, perform a quick “needs analysis” on your body. Have a goal of finding out what muscles are weak and what’s tight. Once this is determined, you need to work on strengthening what’s weak and lengthen what’s tight. In regard to the tight muscles, try adding these modalities or activities to your current routine: add a dynamic warm-up prior to exercise, try a yoga class, use a foam roller, get a regular massage or relax in a hot tub. If muscles are either too tight or too weak they are basically an accident waiting to happen. Maybe this is the cause of your low back pain?

Start using a foam roller asap. Focus on “rolling-out” your glutes, hamstrings, calf, back, IT-band and quads.


Tudor-Locke C and Schuna JM (2012). Steps to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Exercise, Walk More, or Sit Less? Frontiers in Endocrinology 3(142):1-7.

Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, et al. (2007). Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. Journal American Medical Association 298(19):2296-2304.


Start Preparing for the 10k Step Wellness Challenge

images-1Lets face it, now that summer is over it can be more difficult for some of us to stay active. This 10K Step Wellness Challenge is the first step to keeping you active during the upcoming months especially as the seasons change. The challenge is as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Try to walk 10,000 steps a day for the month of October. There maybe days due to work commitments or travel that you won’t be able to do this. No problem, you can also have a secondary goal of 70,000+ cumulative steps over the course of each week during the month of October. You will need to use a pedometer. Read 7 Benefits of walking from the San Diego Spine & Rehab.

2) Become more aware of your added sugar consumption. Your goal for each of the 31-days in October is to eat less than 150 calories of added sugar a day (which is 38 grams) if you’re a man. If you happen to be a women your goal is to eat less than 100 calories of added sugar (which is 25 grams) a day. You will need to start looking at food labels from everything you eat that is not whole food. Meaning, check the side of that box, carton, package or can to see the amount of sugar it contains. That is it. Don’t over-complicate it – if you want to record the number of grams of added sugar you eat from breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner…then go for it…”you don’t own it until you write it down.” Remember fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain natural sugar not added sugar.

3) Determine your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR). Seeing changes in body composition over the course of the month can happen by increasing your activity and monitoring your added sugar intake. You need to determine a baseline measurement though and then do a follow-up. The easiest way to due this is to take a waist and then a hip measurement. To find out what your WHR is simply divide your waist/hip. Try using this online calculator. Please read this article on the importance of knowing what your waist measurement and WHR are.

Start date: Wednesday October 1, 2014

Completion date: Friday October 31, 2014

Take The 10,000 Step Wellness Challenge

Are you looking to lose body weight or decrease your percent body fat over the next month? Maybe you’re looking to lose an inch from your hips or waist? Or maybe you’re looking to reduce the amount of daily added sugar that you’re currently consuming? If so, then you definitely need to take part in this upcoming month-long 10,000 Step Wellness Challenge. The challenge will start on Wednesday October 1, 2014.

photo credit: http://tescoliving.com

The challenge is easy to follow and requires only 3 steps to “fully” participate.

Step 1: Determine your current waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and body weight. You will need to first find out what your waist and hip measurements are. The WHR is obtained by dividing your waist into your hip. To get the most accurate measurement results use a Gulick tape measure or digital Health o meter. If you don’t have access to these devices, you can use a typical cloth tape measure. In terms of a WHR goal, women should be <0.70 and men <0.90, for example, a women with a 27 inch waist and 37 inch hips would have a ratio of 0.73

Step 2: Determine a baseline for daily steps. Increase that number by 500 steps a week. Build up to 10,000 steps. If you’re already walking over 10,000 steps/day (or 70,000+ steps over the course of a week) then maintain it or try to increase that number over the course of the month. You will need a pedometer to do this.

Step 3: Monitor your added sugar. Women need to consume <100 calories/day (25 grams/day) of added sugar while men should consume <150 calories/day (38 grams/day). This does not include natural sugars like fruit, vegetables and grains…it’s basically everything else out of a box, package, container or can! Start reading all food labels as well.

Your goals over the course of the month are to (1) accumulate a minimum of 10,000 steps each day (or 70,000+ steps/week) (2) decrease your added daily sugar and (3) lower your WHR.

Check back periodically for additional information on each of three components that you will be tracking, 10k steps, added sugar and WHR. I would also recommend downloading a free app called Nudge to help you stay focused over your 30-days.

Ten More Reasons Why You Need to Start or Continue a Healthy, Active Lifestyle

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” (Edward Stanley, 1869)

Did you know inactive people, after the age of 30 lose 3-5% of muscle mass per decade with a parallel decline in muscle strength? This loss of muscle and strength will progress at a faster rate once you reach age 50 and by the time you’re 75 that number could hit 15%.

Do you have difficulty getting a good night sleep? If the answer is yes, remember, caffeine has a half-life of five hours, meaning five hours after your last cup, ½ of the caffeine content is still circulating through your body. Tip: make your last cup of coffee around mid-day to avoid any possible sleep issues.

stair-climbing-pilatus-mountainLooking to increase your activity level? Try using a pedometer, research studies have demonstrated that your activity level will increase by wearing one. Pedometer users walk an additional 2,000 steps/day compared to nonusers, and their overall physical activity levels increase by 27%.

A recent study of 24,000 people suggest that regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than those who don’t nap.

Avoid eating while watching TV. You’ll eat up to 288 more calories if you eat in front of the TV, according to research from the University of Massachusetts.

How would we all look and feel if we did not consume (on average) 63 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year?

Do you need another reason why it’s important to stay active and watch what you eat? Researchers have reported a 2.2% increase in percent body fat per decade in men and a 3.6% increase in women between the ages of 40-81 years old. This is why it’s creeping obesity.

Aerobic capacity can fall 7% in just 14 days after reducing your daily steps from 10,000 to 1500 a day.

Researchers believe that over the course of a year, individuals who increase water consumption by just 1.5 liters a day could burn an extra 17,400 calories and experience a five-pound weight loss.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School determined that those who skip breakfast are 4 ½ times more likely to be obese compared to people who make time to eat in the morning.

5 Facts About the Benefits of 10,000 Steps You May Not Have Known

fit10000steps_article“Given what we know about the health benefits of physical activity, it should be mandatory to get a doctor’s permission NOT to exercise.” Per-Olaf Astrand, MD, Author of Textbook of Work Physiology and one of the founding fathers of exercise physiology

There is growing evidence that 10,000 steps a day is an amount of physical activity that is associated with indicators of good health. For instance, individuals who accumulate at least this amount of activity have less body fat and lower blood pressure than their less active counterparts (1).

  • A Stanford University study (2007) looked at pedometer users from 26 different studies with an average training period of 18-weeks. The number of subjects totaled 2767 with a mean age of 49 and 85% were women. Bravata and colleagues (2) reported that pedometer users increased their physical activity by 26.9% over baseline. An important predictor of increased physical activity was having a step goal such as 10,000 steps per day. When data from all studies were combined, pedometer users significantly decreased their body mass index by 0.38 and significantly decreased their systolic blood pressure by 3.8 mm Hg.
  • The American Heart Association has used the 10,000 steps metric as a guideline to follow for improving health and decreasing risk of heart disease. The Surgeon General has also recommended using 10,000 steps a day to accumulate 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. It should be enough to reduce your risk for disease and help you lead a longer, healthier life. The benefits are many: lower BMI, reduced waist size, increased energy, and less risk for Type II diabetes and heart disease.
  • The Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) looked at 60,000 workers in 55 countries who had goals to walk 10,000 steps every day for eight months. At the end of the challenge, 67% of participants reported an increase in fitness and energy levels and participants lost an average of 10 pounds each. After four months of taking part in the study, the number of GCC participants with high blood pressure was reduced by 34%, while waist size was reduced by an average of two inches. They also reduced risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Krogh-Madsen and colleagues looked at activity levels using pedometers in healthy, young men and found going from 10,000 steps a day down to 1,300 steps a day lowered aerobic capacity by 7% and reduced insulin sensitivity by 17% compared to a control group in just two weeks (3).
  • A pedometer study of an Old Order Amish community showed that the average man recorded 18,000 steps per day while the average woman reached 14,000 steps per day, and it turns out the Amish have one of the lowest rates of overweight and obesity of any community in North America.

Bonus: When you’re looking to increase your volume of walking, two thousand steps seemed to be the magic number. Research from the journal Lancet showed that for every 2,000 steps a day one participant tended to walk on average compared to another, they enjoyed a 10% lower rate of heart problems by the end of the year. During the study year, there was an additional 8% lower risk of heart disease for every 2,000 steps walked a day.


1. Tudor-Locke C, Ainsworth BE, Whitt MC, et al. (2001). The relationship between pedometer-determined ambulatory activity and body composition variables. Int. J Obesity 25: 1571-1578.

2. Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, et. al. (2007). Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. JAMA. 298(19):2296-2304.

3. Krogh-Madsen R, Thyfault JP, Broholm C, Mortensen OH, Olsen RH, Mounier R, Plomgaard P, van Hall G, Booth FW, Pedersen BK (2009). A 2-wk reduction of ambulatory activity attenuates peripheral insulin sensitivity. J Appl Physiology doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00977