5 Tips to Stay Consistent with Exercise

If the thought of leaving your desk full of work, or comfortable bedroom to go out on a run, or drive to the gym, seems like a daunting task, the good news is that you are definitely not alone. For most people, the idea of a regular workout routine makes a lot of sense, but is extremely hard to implement in practice. This is why gym memberships tend to spike around New Years resolution time, and slowly drop off as the year goes on. The truth is, many people struggle to commit to and maintain a consistent exercise regimen. 

There are many reasons why it might be tempting to skip a workout, and some of them are fully legitimate. 

"The sandwich generation is real, and a lot of my clients are trying to handle a parent with disabilities or cognitive decline, not to mention taking care of their own children or even grandchildren," said Dr. Elizabeth Frates, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and director of wellness programming for the Stroke Research and Recovery Institute at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. "They may also be at the peak of their career and have a lot of wonderful opportunities coming their way to lead or take on more responsibility at work, and all of this can be overwhelming."

However, whether it’s school work, taking care of a parent, working a second job, or general laziness, there really is no excuse to remain glued to the couch, desk, or bed. When it comes down to it, maintaining your health with a physical workout routine is the only way to ensure that you will be at your best when you show up for all of the other things in life. 

Find your why 

If you haven’t pinpointed the reason that you are doing something, you likely have a weak commitment. While you might have many “whys” for working out, try to focus on a couple, such as staying mentally sharp, being able to live independently, getting ready for your long-distance run, and boosting your confidence levels. 

Shift your thinking

Instead of looking at exercise as a way to improve your health, you may find it helpful to think of failure to exercise as a threat to your medical wellbeing. Most people find that it is easier to stay motivated to fix a problem, rather than add a healthy habit. 

Schedule your workouts

A main reason why many people skip their workouts is because they fail to properly schedule it into their day. Be proactive at the start of the week and make sure that you allocate enough time for the vitals, like proper sleep, exercise, and time to meal prep. All of these things will serve as positive reinforcement, given when you are sufficiently rested you have more energy to workout, and when you workout, you want to eat better. 

Create a new environment 

If setting aside time for your workouts seems impossible, try changing up activities that you already do and make them active. For example, suggest walking meetings, or use an exercise ball as your office chair. 

Add some excitement

Just like after a while, eating the same thing every day would make you crazy, going on the same run, or taking the same fitness class with the same instructor will bore you to inaction. Try a variety of things you enjoy, and consider rewarding yourself with something like a drink with a friend, or a relaxing bath afterwards. Hiking outside, or trying a new activity like kickboxing, are great ways to change your environment and shift your mindset for the better.

Ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself. Pretending that you are your own good friend, who has your best interest in mind, will set you up for success. 


Why Iron Is Important and Where to Get It

Most of us have been told to make sure we get enough iron, and have been warned about the risks of an iron deficiency. That said, few people can tell you exactly why their body needs iron, and what foods are the best to get it from. 

Iron is a naturally present mineral necessary for the functioning of hemoglobin, a red blood cell protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. 

“As a component of myoglobin, another protein that provides oxygen, iron supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissue. Iron is also necessary for physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones,” per the National Institutes of Health

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for elemental iron depends on age, sex, and other factors like whether you consume animal products. For the average adult age 19 to 50, it’s recommended that females consume 18mg of iron, and men the same age consume 8mg.

A shortage of iron in your blood can lead to a variety of health issues. Roughly 10 million people in the United States have low iron levels, and half of these people have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, per Medical News Today. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia in the United States, and is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies, per Eatright.org

Symptoms of an iron deficiency include fatigue, pale skin and fingernails, weakness, dizziness, headache, and an inflamed tongue, known as glossitis. Since iron is responsible for carrying oxygen to the muscles and brain, it is critical for mental and physical performance. While a lack of iron may cause brain fog, irritability, and reduced stamina, proper iron intake can boost athletic performance. 

Eating a balanced, healthy diet is the best way to get enough iron, although iron supplements can be helpful. For vegetarians, it’s beneficial to combine iron with vitamin C in the same meal. For example, a juice with lemon and spinach would be ideal. This is because when iron comes from plant sources, it is called non-heme, as opposed to heme iron, which comes from animals, and there are multiple steps the body needs to absorb it. The RDA for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher than for meat eaters. 

Some of the best plant-based sources of iron include beans and lentils, tofu, dark chocolate, baked potatoes, cashews, dark leafy vegetables like spinach, and fortified grains. Be sure to consider components of food and medications that block or reduce iron absorption, including phosphates in carbonated beverages like soda, and tannins in coffee, tea, and some wine. 

Individuals who are the most at risk of iron deficiency include pregnant women, since increased blood volume requires more iron to drive oxygen to the baby and growing reproductive organs. Making sure infants and young children have enough iron is also crucial, as after six months, babies’ iron needs increase. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent blood donors, people with cancer, or those with heart failure, gastrointestinal disorders, and other health issues, should also be more cautious of their iron levels. 

It’s important to note that too much iron has been shown to increase the risk of liver cancer and diabetes.

To make sure your body has a sufficient level of iron, first discussing the topic with your medical professional is advised.


Jonathan Jasak

At age 21, Jonathan Jasak of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer typically seen in infants and children. He received treatment at the MassGeneral Hospital (MGH) for Children’s Division of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology. This included a nine-hour surgery, six months of chemotherapy, and two months of radiation. 

Now, at age 40, Jonathan is cancer free, and has been for the nearly two decades since his treatment. To give back to MassGeneral, he joined the MassGeneral Pediatric Cancer Team in running the 2019 Boston Marathon. 

"They definitely saved my life. Without them, I probably wouldn't be alive. They gave me a three to 10 percent chance of living and without them, I probably wouldn’t be here," said Jasak, as cited by Western Mass News

Excerpt: “Jasak has raised money for cancer before. For 14 years, he and friends have participated in the Pan–Mass Challenge (PMC), a bike–a–thon that raises money for the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute. He said he has raised over $500,000 over the years for the PMC.

Although Jasak has been a runner since high school, he has had to train for the marathon with relatively shorter runs throughout the week and longer runs during the weekend. Jasak said he has been training by himself since he works odd hours, but this weekend he and the MGH team of 75 people ran from Hopkinton to Newton in a dry run for the marathon on April 15.

‘There’s a wide variety of people on the team,’ Jasak said. ‘Parents of patients, survivors, healthcare providers, and a lot of people who just want to give back.’

Read more at local news site The Reminder.


Jack Gioffre

Jack is a 19-year-old go-getter with a passion for sports. As a student and an athlete, he makes sure to never take anything for granted, as is an inspiration for those around him.

His story: "I currently attend the University of Michigan, where I study computer science and work with the Men's and Women's Lacrosse programs outside of the classroom. I played baseball at Wilton High School. Even though I didn't continue playing baseball in college, I played pickup basketball and frequently lifted weights in order to stay in shape.

My passion for playing and following sports lead me to Michigan, and I hope will lead me into a career in sports as well. I hope to complete treatment this summer so I am able to return to school in the fall and continue my work with the Athletic Department at Michigan.

In October of 2018 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in my left tibia, which left me on crutches. As someone who moved freely so frequently, the physical limitations of a weak leg bone are frustrating. As it slowly heals, I look forward to being able to walk, use a stationary bike, and more. I have met many children who are less fortunate than I am, so I am grateful for the many kinds of exercise that I am still able to do. I hope to be able to return to playing basketball, skiing, and running in the near future.

His Goal: "Regain muscle tone and stamina."

Personal Motto: "We go again."


Rachel Domogala

Rachel is a loving, kind, and motivated 22-year-old with a passion for trying new things and pushing her limits. She is determined to help those around her and looks at her diagnosis as a gateway to a new perspective on life.

Her story: "Growing up, I was always very active and loved trying new things. In high school, I started training in classical voice performance, a physically demanding area of study since your body becomes your instrument. By the time I reached my sophomore year of college I was used to rigorous class, rehearsal, performance, and physical training schedules. Despite mybest efforts, I started to experience chronic fatigue among other common thyroid disease symptoms. After consulting an endocrinologist, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and papillary thyroid cancer. I underwent a total thyroidectomy and central neck dissection followed by a radioactive iodine treatment.

Despite the heath setbacks, I continued my studies throughout surgery and treatment and graduated college having focused on music and international business courses. Throughout my recovery process, I have been working on rebuilding my physical and mental stamina through hobbies such as rock climbing, yoga, biking, photography, hiking, archery, running, swimming, etc. I've been able to try a lot of different activities and continue to stay active in many of them. Overall, my cancer journey has taught me a lot about life, mainly that you can’t rush the healing process. I love helping people, and this experience has given me new opportunities to help people in ways I wouldn’t have been able to before my diagnosis.

Her Goal: "Rebuild my psychical stamina. Become scuba certified; rock climb in Kalymnos, Greece"

Personal Motto: "Just keep swimming."


Research Finds a Healthy Gut Can Build Muscle

Scientists are just starting to uncover the countless ways in which the gut’s microbiome is crucial to individual health and wellbeing. More and more people are awakening to the fact that maintaining a “healthy gut,” full of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic living things, is essential to the body’s functioning. 

The growing amount of research in recent years on the human microbiome demonstrates that gut microbes, which have been found to interact with nearly all human cells, play a key role in metabolism, immunity, and other key bodily functions. Changes in gut microbes have been linked to obesity, liver disease, diabetes, cancer and neurological conditions that damage brain tissue, per Medical News Today

Now, new research supports the idea that gut microbes have a role in regulating muscle mass and function. Scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore led a study published in Science Translational Medicine, which compared strength and movement in mice as they performed activities in a lab. One group of mice had no microbes, or were “germ-free,” and the other group had normal, “healthy” gut microbes. 

“Researchers found that the mice without the gut microbes had weaker skeletal muscles and produced less energy than the mice with gut microbes,” per Medical News Today. “In addition, the team found that transplanting gut microbes from normal mice into germ-free mice increased muscle mass and strength in the latter. This intervention also led to partial restoration of muscle growth and function in the previously germ-free mice.”

"These results," said senior study author Sven Pettersson, a professor in the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at NTU, "further strengthen the growing evidence of gut microbes acting as crucial gatekeepers to human health, and provide new insight into muscle mass maintenance with respect to aging."

Another study compared the gut microbiome in 18 adults with high-physical functioning and favorable body composition, and 11 with low physical functioning and less favorable body composition. The findings showed that the bacterial profiles of the two groups were significantly different. Researchers then inoculated mice with the bacteria from both groups of humans. They found that the mice with bacteria from the adults with “favorable body composition” had more grip strength than when compared to LF-colonized mice. 

These studies support the notion that bacteria plays a role in maintaining muscle strength, especially as we age. 

You might be asking yourself, how do I maintain a healthy gut microbe? To support the general health of the gut microbiome, you should consume foods high in prebiotic fiber, and consider taking a probiotic supplement. Other steps to improve gut health include getting good sleep, drinking water, eating slowly, engaging stress-reducing activities, and shifting your diet towards plant-based.

Read more on Healthline about signs of an unhealthy gut and ways to improve your gut health.


Maya Oberstein

Maya is a 16-year-old who won't let anything get in the way of her living life to the fullest. Whether it's gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, or biking, Maya is in her element when she is moving her body. She's an optimist and an inspiration for all.

Her story:  "From the age of 5 I had been competing in gymnastics. So, at the age of 9 when my knee was in pain and my leg was a little swollen, I just assumed it was an insignificant injury that I had gotten while doing gymnastics. At a certain point, my leg was causing me too much pain to just ignore. So my parents brought me to the doctor who diagnosed me with osteosarcoma. Over a period of eight months I underwent chemotherapy and a rotationplasty amputation. I was devastated to lose my leg because no one knew if I would be able to continue gymnastics,
but I was driven to do so. After I completed treatment, I spent a year relearning to walk and run so that I could resume gymnastics. By age 11, I was able to get back on the team and compete with able-bodied peers. I even managed to place in several events at the state championships.

Unfortunately, at the age of 13, I tore my medial meniscus due to overcompensating for my amputated leg. So I had to work my way back to being fit. At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with May-Thurners syndrome which meant that my leg was constantly swollen and I could not wear my prosthetic leg. After a stent was placed in my iliac vein, I started to wear my leg again, but I started losing weight, prompting an evaluation for cancer recurrence. Fortunately, there was no sign of cancer, but I was diagnosed with celiac disease. By the time I was able to start a proper diet, I had already lost fat and muscle, causing my prosthetic to no longer fit. Once I began a gluten-free diet and started feeling better again, I began to struggle with athletics. I went through some evaluations and was told that my decrease in activity combined with my weight loss caused me to become de-conditioned."

Her Goal: "I would like to be able to remain fit and active so that I can stay healthy and reduce my chance of recurrence."

Personal Motto: "If you believe in yourself, you can do anything.

To learn more about Maya, click here.


Sarah Thomas

Inspirational. Determined. Record-Breaking Swimmer.

This September, Sarah Thomas, age 37, became the first person to swim across the English Channel four times without stopping. Not only was swimming almost 134 miles in the open sea in just 54 hours an incredible feat for any person, but the Colorado-based athlete had recently completed treatment for breast cancer. She dedicated her swim to “all the survivors out there.” 

In November 2017, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Swimming was her means of coping, according to her support team. 

Before the swim, Thomas was admittedly nervous. “I’ve been waiting for this swim for over two years now and have fought so hard to get here. Am I 100%? No,” she said. “But I’m the best that I can be right now, with what I’ve been through, with more fire and fight than ever.”

The swim, which began at midnight on Sunday went until dawn on Tuesday, tested Sarah’s limits of endurance, and put her ahead of the four others who have previously completed the Channel crossing three times without stopping. 

Excerpt: “Thomas completed her first open-water event in 2007 – a 10km swim in her home state of Colorado – and went on to become the overall champion of the race. In 2016, she also set a distance record of 128.7km in 56 hours, non-stop, across Lake Powell in the US.

‘This is for those of us who have prayed for our lives, who have wondered with despair about what comes next, and have battled through pain and fear to overcome,’ she said.

‘This is for those of you just starting your cancer journey and those of you who are thriving with cancer kicked firmly into the past, and for everyone in between.’”

Read more about Sarah's courageous journey at The Guardian.


The Underrated Benefits of Walking

While no one may be posting on social media or bragging about that really long stroll they took yesterday, there are countless reasons to get outside and go on a walk. 

High-impact workouts like HIIT training and running have their place in a well-balanced fitness routine, yet many times, they are not evenly balanced with other low-impact exercise. Plus, for people who need to give their joints and muscles a break, or who want to connect with a friend while getting their movement in, walking is a much better alternative to the couch or your desk. 

Research shows that walking for just 15 to 40 minutes a day five days a week can significantly impact your health, according to Livestrong. Walking has been shown to reduce body fat, improve core strength, ease lower back pain, and prevent heart attack and stroke. It’s also an easy, free way to change your surroundings, get a breath of fresh air, and reduce stress during the day. Walking has been shown to positively impact emotional wellbeing, increase endorphins, reduce fatigue, and decrease stress hormones. 

Like any form of physical activity, walking can increase the functioning of your body’s immune system. Harvard Medical School reports that individuals who are more active are sick for a shorter amount of time, and experience less severe symptoms. 

“Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer,” wrote Harvard Medical School. “But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.”

The Harvard Health article outlined other surprising benefits of walking, such as its ability to counteract the effect of weight-promoting genes, and to curb cravings for chocolate and sugary snacks. 

According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking is "the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”

The next time you have a meeting or a coffee date with a friend, why not propose a walk and talk? Instead of that heavy-traffic commute to work or the gym, next time, give yourself time to walk. You may find that you have a more enjoyable time when you get outside of the box, and feel better too.