You’ve likely encountered the physical effects of stress at some point – sweaty palms, a racing heart, and shallow breathing. These sensations often accompany the overwhelming feeling that stress can bring. Stress is a fundamental part of our biology, tied to the “fight or flight” response that has contributed to our species’ survival. However, in the complex landscape of modern life, this innate response can pose challenges to our long-term well-being.

This article delves into the physiological aspects of stress, its impact on various bodily systems, and offers practical strategies for managing it.


Understanding the Physiology of Stress

Stress can be described as a state of imbalance or disrupted homeostasis within an organism. Essentially, we strive to maintain a stable and harmonious internal environment, but stressful events can throw this equilibrium off-kilter. The body’s stress response is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system. When faced with imminent danger, your body activates a series of physical and hormonal changes that prepare you to react. Some of these changes include:


  1. Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  2. A surge in stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol.
  3. Redirection of blood flow away from internal organs toward the muscles.
  4. Increased muscle tension.
  5. Suppression of immunity, digestion, and reproductive functions.

These physiological responses serve a protective function when confronting threats, as they mobilize the body’s resources to meet the demands of a dangerous or stressful situation. Unfortunately, when the source of stress is ongoing daily pressure, these responses can have a detrimental impact on your overall well-being. In such cases, the body’s stress response can end up causing more harm than the stressor itself, affecting various aspects of health.


Chronic Stress and Its Connection to Body Weight

For some individuals, chronic stress can be linked to higher body weight. Several factors contribute to this relationship. While certain stress hormones can reduce appetite, others can heighten it. Cortisol, in particular, tends to spike in the latter stages of the stress response and remains elevated during the recovery phase. This hormone stimulates hunger and a motivation to eat, as a means of replenishing calories lost while responding to a stressor. Chronic stress can also trigger the brain’s reward system, leading to cravings for highly palatable comfort foods, such as fast-digesting carbohydrates and fatty foods, which people may turn to for emotional relief rather than nutritional necessity.

Furthermore, cortisol can prompt increased fat storage, especially around the abdominal area. Visceral fat, the fat cells in the abdomen, is especially responsive to cortisol and tends to store more fat when exposed to it.


Chronic Stress and Digestive Function

Stress significantly inhibits digestion. Blood flow is diverted away from the digestive organs, digestive enzymes responsible for breaking down food decrease, and the muscular contractions of the intestines (peristalsis) are disrupted. This redirection of resources is advantageous when facing an immediate threat, but when stress becomes chronic, it disrupts the digestive system’s efficiency. Additionally, stress can lead to elevated markers of gastrointestinal inflammation and is associated with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.


Chronic Stress and Mental Health

Prolonged stress can have a negative impact on mood, and high stress levels are linked to increased rates of depression and anxiety. Extended exposure to cortisol and other corticosteroids can contribute to feelings of anxiety and the development of depression. Elevated cortisol levels are often observed in individuals with major depression, and animals with high corticosteroid levels exhibit depressive symptoms such as poor sleep, changes in locomotion, reduced appetite, and low libido. Furthermore, individuals exposed to early-life stress are more likely to experience significant mental health challenges in adulthood.


Chronic Stress and Its Link to Disease

Inflammation is a natural part of the immune response to illness or injury, involving white blood cells, antibodies, and cytokines that defend compromised tissues. Like stress, this is beneficial in the short term. However, persistent inflammation can foster the development of most chronic diseases. Uncontrolled stress can incite or perpetuate systemic inflammation, and research indicates that stress is a common risk factor in 75 to 90% of modern diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.


The Positive Aspects of Stress

While stress may appear inherently negative, it can also have positive effects. Stress can enhance cognition, motivation, memory, creativity, vigilance, and perseverance. Moreover, how we perceive a stressor significantly influences its impact on us. Viewing a stressor as a “challenge” rather than a “threat” results in better physical and psychological outcomes. Our attitudes and beliefs about stress, known as stress mindsets, can alter our behavioral and psychological responses to stress, ultimately affecting our long-term outcomes. For instance, a study examining perceived stress and depression in college students found that those with a higher perception of stress were more likely to experience depression.

To objectively assess the effect of mindset on the physiological stress response, researchers conducted an experiment involving a mock interview and measured two stress hormones: cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). As previously mentioned, cortisol is associated with some of the negative effects of chronic stress, while DHEA has positive effects on health. Participants were randomly assigned to watch either a “stress is enhancing” or “stress is debilitating” video before their mock interviews. The “stress is enhancing” group exhibited a significantly greater increase in DHEA levels, which is linked to improved health outcomes in response to stress, compared to the “stress is debilitating” group.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. When left unmanaged, its physiological impact can be detrimental to health. However, your mindset can transform your stress response, allowing it to enhance creativity, motivation, and perseverance, ultimately making you more resilient in the face of future stressors.

Original Article written by Kelsey Graham –  Ace Fitness





There are standard terms used across the fitness industry, but each club will likely have its own lingo. The list below includes lingo commonly heard in fitness facilities, along with definitions. The more you know, the more likely you will go!


AMRAP: As many reps/rounds as possible in a given time.

EMOM: Every minute, on the minute. A set number of reps are performed at the start of every minute.

HIIT: High-intensity interval training. Short, intense work periods provide improved athletic capacity and metabolism.  

TRX®: Total Body Resistance Exercise. Refers to yellow and black straps you might see anchored to the wall or a rack used for bodyweight and suspension training.

BOSU®: Both sides up. The BOSU® is a half sphere. One side is flat and rigid, and the other side is a pliable ball. BOSU® is often used for balance or core training. Note: BOSU® recommends standing only on the dome side of the equipment.

DOMS: Delayed onset muscle soreness. Discomfort and stiffness experienced in the muscles hours or days after performing an exercise with unaccustomed loads or movements. Many people experience the effects of DOMS 1-3 days after exercise.

BMR: Basal metabolic rate. The amount of energy expended while at rest in order to perform biological functions. In general, the more muscle mass one has, the higher the BMR.

BMI: Body mass index. BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his or her height in meters, squared. BMI should be used in conjunction with other measurements for best results.  

WOD: Workout of the day.



Lifting weights: General resistance training with a variety of exercises and equipment. This is what most people do for strength training in the gym.

Weightlifting: Competitive sport focusing specifically on the execution of the snatch, clean and jerk movements.

Powerlifting: Competitive sport focusing on the deadlift, bench press and squat.

Functional training: Compound or multi-joint exercises or movements used to prepare the body for everyday life.

Group fitness: Mode specific, often choreographed classes such as indoor cycling, Zumba, aqua, or group strength training, where the instructor leads by demonstrating exercises.

Group training: Smaller, semi-private group in which the trainer leads by coaching. Group training often occurs on the main, public floor of a fitness center.

Circuit: Performing a series of exercises, moving from one exercise to the next with little or no rest.

Super set: Two exercises performed in alternating fashion.

Intervals: A set amount of time in work, followed by a set amount of time in rest.

Tabata: A method of interval training invented by Dr. Izumi Tabata. Eight rounds of 20-second, high intensity work intervals, followed by 10 seconds of rest.


Equipment and other terms

Kettlebell: Cast iron weight equipment in the shape of a bell. Used for swings, lifts and carries.

Medicine ball: Firm, weighted ball often used for throwing and catching with resistance. Not designed for slamming on the ground. There are pliable balls called slam balls made specifically for slamming.

Selectorized machines: Weight machines where you can easily select a weight by inserting a pin in the weight stack. These machines are sometimes called circuit machines.

Free weights: Dumbbells or other equipment used freely or without the guidance of a machine or cable.

Collar: The attachment that secures plate weights on a barbell, so the weight doesn’t slip off.

Foam roller: A long, cylinder made of foam used for soft tissue massage (which is often called myofascial release).

Elliptical: Cardio machines that create a range of motion that follows an elliptical pattern, reducing impact to joints.

Spot: Watching and/or assisting someone as they perform a loaded exercise to minimize risk.

Rep: One complete motion of an exercise.

Set: A group of consecutive repetitions.

Core: The central most part of the body. In fitness, it means the area between the legs and arms. Core training often focuses on training the abdominals, but can also include back, hip and shoulder training.  

These words are a short sampling of the many phrases used in the fitness culture. Each gym will have its own subculture and language specific to its niche, location and membership. The fitness culture continues to evolve. If there is a word, phrase or acronym that you don’t know or don’t understand, ask a trainer or the person at the front desk.

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Have you decided that it’s time to make a change but aren’t sure how to get started? Or have you already set more goals for yourself than you care to admit-but keep failing to reach them? 

It’s time for a new way of thinking. 

No matter how big or small your goal-whether it’s losing 5 or 50 pounds, walking a mile or running your first marathon-making change requires planning and SMART goal setting. 

Follow these guidelines to setting SMART goals and you will be surprised at what you can do:

  1. Specific. Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. 
    • A common goal, “get healthy,” is too general. There are so many ways to get healthy. How do you want to do it? Is it losing weight? Start exercising? Stop smoking? Break it down and it will be easier to manage.
    • Let’s pick weight loss and make a SMART goal out of it together. For example, “I will lose weight.”
  2. Measurable. A goal to “lose weight” is not enough. How will you track your progress and how you will know when you have reached your goal? Making your goal measurable means adding a number.
  3. Attainable. Before you can add a number, you have to know how high or low you want to go. It’s good to ‘shoot for the stars’, but don’t be too extreme. Likewise, a goal that is too easy is also not very motivating. Only you know your limits. 
    • Let’s take our goal above. What percentage is attainable for you? Research suggests that a 5-10% weight loss is attainable for most overweight people. 
    • A measurable, attainable goal could be, “I will lose 7% of my body weight.” 
  4. Relevant. Set goals that are important to where you are in your life right now. Don’t set a goal that someone else is pressuring you to attain-that isn’t very motivating.
    • Examine our goal so far. Does it seem relevant to you? If so, let’s keep going. If you are not concerned about weight loss or this is not a good time in your life to focus on that, choose something that IS motivating to you. 
  5. Time-bound. Include an end-point. Knowing that you have a deadline motivates you to get started. 
    • Since healthy weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week, set your deadline accordingly. For our example we can use 3 months. “I will lose 7% of my body weight in 3 months.”

Now we have a SMART goal! With a goal like this, it’s a good idea to set a few more action-oriented SMART goals so that you have a game plan. Here are a few examples:

  • I will walk 5 days every week for 30 minutes each. 
  • I will drink water instead of soda every day this week. 
  • I will bring my lunch to work instead of eating out 4 days this week. 

Becoming a better version of you starts by being SMART!

See original blog here

For seniors, a low-impact exercise routine is very important for ongoing health and wellness for your body, muscles and overall mood. We’ve put together 5 great low-impact exercises that seniors over 65 years old can benefit from.

Yoga While Sitting On A Chair

A low-impact exercise like chair yoga improves muscle strength, mobility, balance, and flexibility, all of which are vital to seniors’ health. More conventional forms of yoga place more stress on joints, muscles, and bones than chair yoga does.

In addition, chair yoga has been shown to improve mental health in older adults. Chair yoga participants report better sleep, lower depression rates, and general well-being.

Great chair yoga exercises for seniors include:

  • Seated overhead stretch
  • Seated mountain pose
  • Seated twist


Water Aerobics

Water aerobics has become extremely popular among all ages, but especially among seniors. Those with arthritis and other forms of joint pain benefit from exercising in the water, since the buoyancy of the water reduces joint stress. Water also provides natural resistance, so weights are not required in strength training. Water aerobics exercises improve your strength, flexibility, and balance with minimal stress on your body.

Great water aerobics exercises for seniors include:

  • Leg lifts
  • Aqua jogging
  • Fluttering
  • Leg lifts
  • Water push-ups while standing
  • Weightless arm curls


Resistance Band Workout

A resistance band is a stretchy rubber strip that adds resistance to workouts while reducing body stress. Beginners can easily use resistance bands for workouts. Due to the relatively low up-front cost of materials, resistance band workouts are becoming increasingly popular among seniors. Furthermore, these exercises improve posture, mobility, and balance by strengthening your core.

Some popular workouts with resistance bands for seniors include:

  • Resistance band leg press
  • Resistance band triceps press
  • Resistance band lateral raise
  • Resistance band bicep curl
  • Resistance band pull apart


Over a century ago, Pilates was developed as a low-impact exercise. As a result of pilates exercises, breathing, alignment, concentration, and core strength are emphasized. 

Most exercises involve mats, pilates balls, and other inflatable accessories that help build strength without the stress of higher-impact exercises. Among older adults, Pilates improves balance, strengthens the core, and increases flexibility.

A great Pilates studio in Coquitlam that I recommend is Vital Core Fitness Pilates.


Walking With Friends

Walking is one of the least stressful and most accessible forms of exercise. For some seniors, walking is a bigger challenge than others, so distance and step goals differ from person to person. Waling around 10,000 steps per day, or 90 minutes,  is great for your cardio-vascular health and body.

If you have difficulty walking or experience joint pain, reduce the steps and build your tolerance levels by setting goals. 

Ideas for walking exercises for seniors:

  • Find a neighbourhood trail
  • Call a family member or friend and plan a walk routine
  • Walk briskly
  • Listen to your favourite playlist or audiobook during your walk

To connect with a senior fitness training professional and build an exercise plan that works for you, contact us. We would love to work with you and help you achieve your fitness goals!

kids and gym

When it comes to kids and strength training, parents often want to know at what age their children should start lifting weights.

Urban legends of stunted growth, fractured growth plates and prematurely inflated physiques have made many parents understandably hesitant when it comes to involving prepubescent kids in resistance-training programs.

Tall tales and fear-mongering aside, the best answer to the “How old?” question may surprise you.

While there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that there is a perfect chronological age to start weight training, “freshman year” (of high school) seems to be the widely accepted safe zone to begin training. This is not unfounded, as it represents a developmental milestone right in the middle of puberty. During this time, muscle, strength and performance gains from resistance training can be optimized.

Peer-reviewed research, however, has yet to report any negative health consequences from resistance training in children as young as 5 years, assuming proper movement and progression is introduced under experienced supervision. It appears an overwhelming majority of youth resistance-training injuries are primarily due to equipment accidents (e.g., weight falling on them and tripping in the weight room) or overzealous coaching that ignores proper program introduction and progression. Furthermore, concerns about abnormal body morphology (getting too big) prior to puberty are unfounded due to the minimal amount of natural anabolic hormone available in a child’s body.

In actuality, it appears that prepubescent children involved in a supervised, progressive resistance-training program experience improved fitness, favorable effects on bone density, improved movement ability and a reduced incidence of athletic injuries.

Before visions of 5-year-olds hoisting heavy barbells above their heads keep you up at night, it’s important to understand that weight training is another word for resistance training. Resistance to movement can come in many forms. Gravity, heavy backpacks, stretch bands, dumbbells and other implements can add resistance to a movement, making it more challenging. When an increased amount of muscular force is required to move (due to resistance), the body gets stronger. When this happens regularly and strategically it’s resistance training.

While most parents would be O.K. with their children carrying a 5-pound backpack as they run off to school, the idea of their children holding a 5-pound dumbbell while performing a squat may set off the “danger” alarm. In both scenarios, the external weight merely represents an increased amount of resistance to movement. Either type of resistance can function to make the muscles associated with a movement stronger.

To reap the benefits and minimize any risk with a resistance training program for kids, consider the following four questions to determine if a child is ready to benefit from resistance training:

1. Can the child perform movements such as squats, lunges, push-ups and pull-ups (horizontal and/or vertical) correctly with his or her own body weight? If not, adding additional load (e.g., speed, resistance) to a dysfunctional movement pattern makes little sense. If the child can perform these movements easily and repeatedly, adding small amounts of resistance keeps the body adapting and getting stronger.

It’s important to consider, however, that many children struggle with strength-to-weight ratio during body-weight exercises. Take the push-up, for example. A child with an elevated body weight in comparison to his or her level of strength may not be able to perform this exercise. Instead, doing a bench press movement with dumbbells allows for strength gains without using body weight. Some weight-training equipment functions to create sub-bodyweight resistance. For children who struggle with bodyweight exercises, these may be a better first choice.

2. Does the child have the intrinsic focus, attention span and desire to learn the proper way to resistance train? Supportive parents and great coaching combined with an uninterested/unfocused child are still a poor match. Safety during resistance training depends on a child’s ability to understand and respond to coaching.

3. Is the environment the child will be training in safe, supportive and positive? It’s important that a training environment for kids caters to a wide range of skills, sizes and general level of awareness. A crowded gym with people, weights, medicine balls or other implements in motion can prove extremely dangerous for young children. Additionally, adult-sized equipment may not be appropriate for small bodies. If the culture of a gym or training area is intimidating or otherwise negative to a child, it could turn him or her away from exercise for a long time.

4. Is the person in charge of the child’s program experienced and knowledgeable about the intricacies of youth physical and cognitive development?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, your child will receive little benefit from an organized weight-training program. Rather, his or her risk of injury will be significantly elevated.

In this case, focus on keeping your child active with things he or she enjoys. Kids don’t have to “train” to be fit and healthy. However, if and when they express an interest in lifting weights, a proper resistance-training program is a safe and effective way to improve fitness and performance.


Brett Klika

sleeping and fitness

In a new study, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden demonstrated that one night of sleep loss has a tissue-specific impact on the regulation of gene expression and metabolism in humans. This may explain how chronic sleep loss impairs metabolism and adversely affects body composition.

Epidemiological studies have shown that the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes is elevated in those who suffer from chronic sleep loss or who carry out shift work. Other studies have shown an association between disrupted sleep and adverse body composition, in which fat accumulation is increased at the same time as muscle mass is reduced—a combination that in and of itself has been associated with numerous negative health consequences. Previous studies have shown that metabolic functions that are regulated by skeletal muscle and adipose tissue are adversely affected by disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms. However, until now it has remained unknown whether sleep loss per se can cause molecular changes at the tissue level that can confer an increased risk of adverse weight gain.


In the new study, researchers studied 15 healthy normal-weight individuals who participated in two in-lab sessions in which activity and meal patterns were highly standardized. In randomized order, the participants slept a normal night of sleep (more than eight hours) during one session and were kept awake the entire night during the other session. The morning after each nighttime intervention, small tissue samples (biopsies) were taken from the participants’ subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle. These two tissues were selected to study because they often exhibit disrupted metabolism in conditions such as obesity and diabetes. At the same time in the morning, blood samples were also taken to enable a comparison across tissue compartments of a number of metabolites. These metabolites comprise sugar molecules, as well as different fatty and amino acids.

The tissue samples were used for multiple molecular analyses, which revealed that the sleep loss condition resulted in a tissue-specific change in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation, one form of mechanism that regulates gene expression. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that is involved in regulating how the genes of each cell in the body are turned on or off, and is impacted by both hereditary and environmental factors, such as physical exercise.

“Our research group was the first to demonstrate that acute sleep loss in and of itself results in epigenetic changes in the so-called ‘clock genes’ that within each tissue regulate its circadian rhythm,” explains lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes. “Our new findings indicate that sleep loss causes tissue-specific changes to the degree of DNA methylation in genes spread throughout the human genome. Our parallel analysis of both muscle and adipose tissue further enabled us to reveal that DNA methylation is not regulated similarly in these tissues in response to acute sleep loss.”

Dr. Cedernaes highlights the fact that they saw changes in DNA methylation only in adipose tissue, and specifically for genes that have also been shown to be altered at the DNA methylation level in metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. “Epigenetic modifications are thought to be able to confer a sort of metabolic “memory” that can regulate how metabolic programs operate over longer time periods,” says Dr. Cedernaes. “We therefore think that the changes we have observed in our new study can constitute another piece of the puzzle of how chronic disruption of sleep and circadian rhythms may impact the risk of developing, for example, obesity.”

Further analyses of gene and protein expression demonstrated that wakefulness affected skeletal muscle and adipose tissue differently. A possible explanation for why the two tissues respond in the observed manner could be that overnight wakefulness periods exert a tissue-specific effect on tissues’ circadian rhythm, resulting in misalignment between these rhythms. This is something that the researchers also found preliminary support for also in this study, as well as in an earlier study that was similar, but smaller.

“In the present study, we observed molecular signatures of increased inflammation across tissues in response to sleep loss. However, we also saw specific molecular signatures that indicate that the adipose tissue is attempting to increase its capacity to store fat following sleep loss, whereas we instead observed signs indicating concomitant breakdown of skeletal muscle proteins in the skeletal muscle, in what’s also known as catabolism,” explains Dr. Cedernaes. In other words, lack of sleep increased both the body’s ability to store fat and break down muscle.

“We also noted changes in skeletal muscle levels of proteins involved handling blood glucose, and this could help explain why the participants’ glucose sensitivity was impaired following sleep loss,” continues Dr. Cedernaes. “Taken together, these observations may provide at least partial mechanistic insight as to why chronic sleep loss and shift work can increase the risk of adverse weight gain as well as the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

The researchers have only studied the effect of one night of sleep loss, and therefore do not know how other forms of sleep disruption of circadian misalignment would have affected the participants’ tissue metabolism.

“It will be interesting to investigate to what extent one or more nights of recovery sleep can normalize the metabolic changes that we observe at the tissue level as a result of sleep loss,” says Dr. Cedernaes. “Diet and exercise are factors that can also alter DNA methylation, and these factors can thus possibly be used to counteract adverse metabolic effects of sleep loss.”

What Does the Research Mean to Health and Exercise Professionals?

When it comes to health and wellness, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Your clients could meet every physical activity and dietary guideline, but if they are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, it is unlikely that they will be able to sustain their health and wellness goals. As this study demonstrates, a lack of sleep can have a negative effect on body fat, skeletal muscle and blood glucose levels.

Encourage your clients to make sleep a priority by practicing good sleep hygiene and to aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night. Offer them tips such as going to bed at the same time each night and eliminating all screen usage an hour before bedtime. And remind them that rest and recovery are essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reaping all the intended benefits of their fitness program.

American Council on Exercise