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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

The opinions and thoughts expressed here those of the authors and do not necessarily correlate with those of the National Wellness Institute. Read more.


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SelfHelpWorks: Activity Log and Walking Summary

Posted By SelfHelpWorks Product Team, Wednesday, February 26, 2020

LivingFit is a 12-week walking program that includes a cognitive behavioral training component designed to help participants ease into exercise and enjoy daily physical activity so that it becomes a regular part of life. The program is divided into three distinct four-week segments, each designed to serve a specific purpose that takes the participant to a new level of activity. LivingFit focuses on changing the way participants think about being active rather than providing a workout regimen, and the result is genuine, lasting behavior change and a higher quality of life.

The LivingFit course contains two closely related elements that raise user accountability, promote mindfulness through interaction, and provide visual motivation to increase activity levels.  

The LivingFit course is specifically targeted to users who are mostly inactive or even completely sedentary, but it can benefit anyone who wants to increase their daily activity or reframe their attitudinal outlook on exercise.

The course contains a metrical centerpiece—comprised of two parts—that functions as a prime motivational tool for users.

The Activity Log

Each session of the LivingFit course (which progresses on a week-by-week basis) issues the user two different types of challenges:

  1. The weekly walking goal: This is a combination of the number of days to walk, the walking pace, AND the total amount of time the user is challenged to walk.
  2. The daily goal: This is an assignment that engages the brain's habit-creation system, often encourages introspection, and plays a pivotal role in re-framing the user's attitude about exercise.  

Both goal-types become incrementally more challenging as the course unfolds. Users are prompted to enter their minutes walking and their completion of the daily goal in the activity log every day (although they can retroactively fill in days they've missed back to the previous week). Here is an example of the activity log, as it appears in week 3:

The Walking Summary

The Walking Summary is kept in the Tools section of the course library; it compiles all the data entered into the Activity Log and displays it so the user can see a weekly breakdown of their days walked, minutes walked, and completion of daily goals. At the top of the summary are the totals for all categories logged:

  1. Minutes walked since starting the course
  2. Hours walked since starting the course 
  3. Average minutes walked per week
  4. Ongoing percentage of daily goals met
  5. Daily breakdown of walking minutes organized by week, with totals on the right to reveal trends later in the course
  6. Days the daily goal was met, and number of days walking minutes were logged (in relation to how many goal-days there were)

In Summary

The Activity Log gives the user a sense of accountability and interactivity within the LivingFit course. There are regular reminders to fill in the activity log that are woven into each session; also, users have the option to schedule reminders sent via email and/or text.

The Walking Summary is designed to give users both a snapshot and a detailed report on their activity levels and adherence to the daily goal challenge. As the user continues through the course, the Walking Summary provides a journal of progress and achievement. 

SelfHelpWorks partners with employers, wellness vendors, health plans and healthcare providers to help people achieve lasting behavior change that lowers chronic disease risk, improves health, and enhances outcomes. Their program LivingFit is a 12-week walking program that includes a cognitive behavioral training component designed to help participants ease into exercise and enjoy daily physical activity so that it becomes a regular part of life, keeping in line with the Physical Dimension of Wellness from NWI's Six Dimensions of Wellness Model.

Tags:  Exercise  physical  Physical Activity  physical wellness  walking 

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Aerobic Exercise Preserves Brain Volume and Improves Cognitive Function

Posted By NWI, Monday, December 5, 2016

“Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain.” 


This quote is from the lead researcher, Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., from the Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM), referring to the findings she and her team discovered when researching the affects of aerobic exercise on the brain’s volume and function.


The research team at WFSM split a group of people who suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) into a group that would perform aerobic exercise tasks, such as running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike, and a control group of people who would perform stretching exercises.  Both groups did their prescribed exercise routine four times per week for six months.


Though both groups saw increases in grey matter over the course of their routines, as tested by an MRI, only the group saw an increase in the white matter, the connective tissues of the brain. The aerobic activity group also saw an increase in cognitive function, whereas the stretching activity group did not.


This study has implications for how doctors may be treating MCI patients, who are at a higher risk of contracting Alzheimer’s Disease, in the future.


To read an article on this study, published by the Radiological Society of North America, click here.

Tags:  aerobic exercise  Brain health  brain science  exercise  physical 

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The Elderly may Benefit Most from Exercise

Posted By NWI, Monday, November 7, 2016

When we think of exercise, we often think of young, fit people running marathons or swimming laps at your local gym, but a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society makes the claim that the people who may benefit most directly from exercise aren’t the young and fit, but the elderly and the infirm.


In their study of data collected at the University of Pittsburgh over 25 years, older adults who maintained lifestyles that included a good diet, physical activity, and avoided smoking lived longer then their peers and had fewer years of illness and disability before death.


The average amount of time spent disabled in old age was 4.5 years for women and 2.9 years for men, but the researchers found a large variance in the time spent disables based on the health habits of the individuals.


For instance, a woman with healthy habits may spend 2 years disabled, compared to a similar woman with poor habits, who could expect to spend 3.7 years disabled – nearly a factor of 2. Some other factors that created problems in old age were smoking, which added 3.7 years of disability to a person’s life, or obesity, which added 0.7 years of disability.  All told, the researchers found that those with healthy habits spent 80% of their time, on average, disability free, compared to 60% of the time for people with poor habits.


Click here to read the study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


Tags:  Aging  Exercise  Geriatrics  Physical  Physical Wellness 

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Outrunning Schizophrenia

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Schizophrenia is a terrible malady that effects as many as 51 million people worldwide with only a 25% complete recovery rate.


However, there is some hope for those afflicted with schizophrenia. New research, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin this August, has found that combining traditional medicinal treatments with aerobic exercise has a more significant improvement on patients’ cognitive function.


Patients who took part in a greater amount of exercise, and therefore saw greater improvements in their physical fitness, also saw more significant improvement in their cognitive function as well, seeming to draw a direct correlation between physical and mental wellness.


The researchers performing this study are optimistic that exercise can pave they way for more effective treatment of schizophrenia in the future, noting that treating the malady with exercise from the earliest stages may increase the likelihood of complete functional recovery for many afflicted.


To read the full research, visit Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Tags:  Exercise  Mental Health  Physical  Schizophrenia 

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Belief in Exercise Turns Into Real Benefit

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Researchers from Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (Germany) published some astonishing findings about the effects of a positive mindset toward exercise in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine this month.  The researchers found that exercise had a stronger and more positive effect for those who believed that it would have a positive effect.


The researchers invited 76 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 to come to their facilities to ride on stationary bicycles. A subset of this group was shown a video promoting the health benefits of stationary bike riding before taking part in the experiment. All participants were also asked whether they believed int eh positive effects of exercise. The researchers found that subjects who had either seen the video, believed in exercise, or both, displayed a better mood, enjoyed the exercise more, and reduced their anxiety more than those who did not.


Electroencephalogram (EEG) read-outs of the subjects also showed that the exercise-positive subjects were more relaxed on a neuronal level than those who were not.


The researchers did not find significant changes to the positive physical effects of exercise, but on the mental level, the power of positivity seems to have a significant impact.


To read the full study, click here.

Tags:  Belief  Exercise  Health  Mind-Body  Physical  Positivity 

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The Secret to Preventing Cancer: Eating Your Vegetables!

Posted By NWI, Saturday, September 5, 2015

Penn State University’s Department of Food Science has found that plant material contains active compounds that actively deter cancer and other diseases.

However, there is a rather large caveat to these findings. Vegetables which are consumed after their peak nutritional development have been found to have less of these anti-disease agents, and some – particularly those in the nightshade family, such as potatoes, eggplants, and peppers – have been found to increase levels of potentially toxic compounds.

The take-away result of these findings is simple, according to Penn State researcher Jairam Vanamala. He recommends buying vegetables locally and in season. By buying vegetables that were grown locally at the peak of ripeness, you have some assurance that the vegetables were ripened on the plant rather than picked before prime nutritional value and shipped long distances.

By educating ourselves about which fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time, we’re not only giving ourselves an immediate benefit in the nutrients our bodies will use right away, but are also banking a long-term benefit in the form of staving off cancer and other diseases.

To read a related article to this study, click here.

Tags:  Cancer  Nutrition  Physical 

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Women, Breast Cancer: Cultural Background May Impact Drug Effectiveness

Posted By NWI, Friday, May 1, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2015

The cause for poorer outcomes for African American breast cancer patients was identified in a recent study. According to an April 2015 press release from Georgetown University Medical School, African American women with estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer have cancer cells with a stronger survival mechanism than the cancer cells of European-American patients.

The Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers found that breast tumors from African-American patients show reduced sensitivity to tamoxifen, a leading treatment for ER+ breast cancer.

To give perspective, about 70 percent of all breast cancers are ER+. The researchers caution that biology is not the only factor impacting African American women and stress the need to continue to reduce racial disparities in treatment overall.

Cavalli, L. Array-CGH and miRNA expression profiling of triple negative breast cancer in African-American women. American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting. May 2015.

For more information on Women’s health issues visit:

May 10 – 16 (Mother’s Day week)

Women’s Health Week

Office on Women’s Health

Department of Health and Human Services



Tags:  Breast Cancer  Diversity  May 2015  Physical  Social  Women 

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Danger: Muscle-Building Supplements are Bad News

Posted By NWI, Friday, May 1, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2015

An April 2015 research release cautions those who use muscle-building supplements. Taking the supplements resulted in an increased risk of testicular cancer. Men who used these supplements, either in the form of pills or powders, were proven more likely to develop testicular cancer, especially if they started using the supplements before age 25, took more than one supplement, or used the supplements for three or more years.

Powders with creatine or androstenedione were linked to a significantly higher likelihood of testicular cancer. Men who started using the supplements before age 25 or who used the supplements for a longer period of time had an even higher risk of developing cancer.

The research looked at nearly 900 men—356 of whom had been diagnosed with testicular germ cell cancer, and 513 who had not. The men were asked about supplement use, smoking, drinking, exercise habits, family history of testicular cancer, and prior injury to their testes or groin. The data showed that the men who used supplements had a 1.65 odds ratio (a 65 percent greater risk) of having developed testicular cancer compared to the men who did not use supplements.

The researchers defined "use" as consuming one or more supplements at least once a week for four consecutive weeks or more. The odds ratios increased to 2.77 (a 177 percent greater risk) among men who used more than one kind of supplement, and to 2.56 among men who used supplements three years or longer. Men who started using supplements at age 25 or younger also had an elevated associated odds ratio of 2.21, the researchers calculated.

Li, N et al. Muscle-building supplement use and increased risk of testicular germ cell cancer in men from Connecticut and Massachusetts. British Journal of Cancer, 2015; 112 (7): 1247 DOI: 10.1038/bjc.2015.26


Tags:  May 2015  Muscle Building  Physical 

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Simple, Long-Term Weight Loss

Posted By NWI, Friday, May 1, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2015

The results of a study released by Tufts University in early April 2015 may make understanding and implementing long-term weight control easier.

In a nutshell (excuse the pun) the study (conducted over a 16-year period, involving more than 120 people) found the following:

  • Increasing intakes of red meat and processed meat were most strongly associated with weight gain
  • Increasing intakes of yogurt, seafood, skinless chicken, and nuts were most strongly associated with weight loss—the greater percentage people ate, the less weight they gained
  • Increasing other dairy products, including full-fat cheese, whole milk, and low-fat milk, did not significantly relate to either weight gain or weight loss.

In addition, changes in refined carbohydrates enhanced the weight-gain or weight-loss effects of certain protein-rich foods. For example, it is better to get our carbohydrates from vegetables and whole grains than it is to get them from refined white bread, potatoes, or sweets.

Further, small changes over time in these areas had a big impact on long-term weight gain or loss.

The study, Changes in intake of protein foods, carbohydrate amount and quality, and long-term weight change: results from 3 prospective cohorts was conducted by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. The results were published on-line in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

JSmith, J.D. et al. Changes in intake of protein foods, carbohydrate amount and quality, and long-term weight change: results from 3 prospective cohorts. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.100867

Tags:  May 2015  Physical  Weight Loss 

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Wellness in 10: 10 Easy Things You Can Do to Get Your Bicycle Ready for Spring

Posted By NWI, Friday, May 1, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2015

May brings with it many events to celebrate health and fitness and specifically bicycling (see the bottom of this article for a complete list). To get you ready to move and to make sure you do it safely, here are 10 things you can do to get your bicycle ride-ready for spring.

1.      Check your tires. Fill them up to the recommended pressure (usually on the sidewall of the tire). Look for cracks in the rubber. Make sure the wheel nuts and/or quick-release levers are tightened. Check for “trueness” (if you look at your wheel straight-on from the front, does everything look in line?

2.     Clean your bike. Wipe off dust, dirt, and grime from the frame and brake pads.

3.     Take extra care with the chain. Use an old rag to clean off the chain. Look for any damaged links that may mean it is time for a new chain. Then apply some fresh chain oil.

4.     Check all bolts and screws. Make sure everything is tightened appropriately.

5.     Get your ride-pack together. It is wise to ride with a water bottle, basic bike tool, extra tube, and portable air pump. Some people also ride with a bike lock, bike gloves, and riding glasses.

6.     Make sure your helmet is ready to go. Dis you take a spill last season? It might be time to get a new helmet. Also, are all of the internal pads in place and still sticking? Does the strap look and feel like it is in good shape?

7.     If you have a bike pedometer, check the battery. Make sure your bike pedometer is ready to go to measure your efforts. How old is the battery? Are all of the settings correct?

8.     Check the brakes. Before starting on your ride, test the brakes to make sure they are catching properly and hooked up.

9.     Go for a short test ride. You don’t want to discover a slow leak, faulty brakes, or an old chain on a long ride. Plan a short one to two mile gentle ride to make sure everything is in good working order.

10.   Have fun and be active!

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition

Employee Health & Fitness Month
National Association for Health and Fitness, ACTIVE Life

May 3 – 9 (first full week in May)
North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH)
American Society of Safety Engineers

May 1 – 7 (same dates annually)
National Physical Education and Sports Week
National Association for Sport and Physical Education

May 6 (first Wednesday in May)
Project Aces Day
(All Children Exercise Simultaneously)
Youth Fitness Coalition, Inc.

May 27 (last Wednesday in May)
National Senior Health & Fitness Day

National Bike Month
League of American Bicyclists

May 11 – 15
Bike to Work Week
(Bike to Work Day: May 15)
League of American Bicyclists

Tags:  Bicycle  Bike  Intellectual  May 2015  Physical  Wellness In 10 

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