A Little Bit of Weight Loss Goes a Long Way

Image of an older woman and older man on stationary bikes side by side in a fitness gym.

To lose weight, it’s best to set small, achievable goals. One success leads to the next. How much weight do you need to lose? Research suggests losing as little as 5% of your starting weight will make a big difference.

Too much weight increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked into how much weight loss would be necessary to reduce the risk of these life-threatening conditions.

Food for Thought

Their study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, examined 40 obese volunteers who showed signs of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition that interferes with the ability of cells to use insulin for absorbing glucose—the sugar your body makes from digesting carbohydrates. Glucose is used as energy by all the cells and organs in our bodies. If unable to get into the cells, glucose builds up in the blood and damages the lining of blood vessels. Cells become starved for energy, triggering the pancreas to produce even more insulin in an effort to help cells absorb glucose.

Blood vessel damage caused by glucose attracts plaque deposits. Left unchecked, insulin resistance ruins the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, while the body’s cells lose their ability to use insulin. The outcome is Type 2 diabetes, which further increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of people with Type 2 diabetes.

5% Dividend

In the study, volunteers were assigned randomly to programs designed to either maintain their weight or to lose 5%, 10%, or 15% of their weight. Those who lost only 5% showed significant improvements in pancreatic function and the ability of cells in their body to use insulin. Those who lost slightly more showed even greater improvement.
The takeaway from the study is that if your weight has you worried about your health, take heart that losing as little as 5% of your body weight will send you on your way to a healthier future.

SMART Goal Setting

Focus first on what you want to accomplish today. Achieving daily goals will give you the ability to meet weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Setting SMART goals will help build your confidence to commit to the 5% target:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Rewarding
T – Timely

Unlike the general statement “losing a pound,” walking 300 minutes in the next week is specific. Instead of “walking more often,” 300 minutes a week is measurable. If 300 minutes a week is unrealistic, 150 minutes a week may be more attainable. If you don’t like to walk, perhaps riding a bike or swimming would be more rewarding. Finally, one week is the timely standard that ultimately determines whether the goal is met.

Article by Bill Jennings, ACSM-CEP, Touchmark Fitness Professional

What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

Image of two hands cupping a plastic heart.

As one of the hardest-working muscles in your body, it comes as no surprise that the human heart has a significant impact on the functionality of the body’s other organs. Your brain relies on your heart to deliver a continuous blood supply, so the healthier your heart, the lower your risk of developing dementia and heart disease.

With February being American Heart Month, it’s a great time to focus on how you can improve both your heartand your brain with just a few simple changes, including some surprises you canenjoy this season.

Stick to a healthy diet.

Eating clean, nutritious meals is one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind. Those who maintain a healthy diet typically have lower cholesterol and blood sugar levelsas well as a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Foods that are good for both brain and heart health include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat, and fish. Limiting trans and saturated fats is another beneficial change you can make for your overall health.

Let yourself indulge.

While we still recommend moderation when it comes to sweets, letting yourself indulge in treats like dark chocolate can offer your heart some benefits. As long as the dark chocolate is high in cocoa content (and low in added sugar!),consuming it in moderation offers a good source of antioxidants, lowers yourrisk of heart disease, and increases blood flow to the brain.

Another example of an occasional heart-healthy treat is enjoying some grapes, whether as a glass of red wine or grape juice. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red grapes, has been shown to help protect blood vessels and lower your risk of heartattacks.

Get moving …

Research has shown a direct connection between fitness for the heart and fitness for the brain. All Touchmark Health & Fitness clubs andstudios have state-of-the-art equipment. The Expresso HD bike is one example.This stationary bike gives users an interactive riding experience that is funand works large muscle groups while stimulating the brain.

Resident and Club member Bill Hines discovered the bike is a good exercise alternative when he doesn’t take his road bicycle out on trails around Edmond. “I don’t want to sit somewhere and stare at the wall,” he says. “This gives me a way to feel like I’m really there. It’s neat. I can shift gears. I can steer. I can watch peoplepass me on the road and try to peddle faster to pass them up.”

A unique password allows riders to login and track their accomplishments and ride data, even allowing one torace against previous record times. There are also monthly challenges to helpkeep riders motivated.

We recommend individuals exercise for 30 – 60 minutes a day and include cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance in their routines.

… and keep it moving.

Sitting is the new smoking, according to a study performed by the Mayo Clinic. While it may sound like an extreme claim, it holds true. After just 30 minutes of sitting, our body’s metabolism slows down by 90%, good cholesterol drops by 20%, and we become likelier to develop high blood pressure and blood sugar.

There is good news, though. Moving for just five minutes after 30 minutes of sitting can greatly improveyour health over time. This small amount of movement will help protect yourmuscles from deteriorating, increase your energy, and assist you in keeping offunwanted weight.

If you spend hours reading or looking at your computer each day, investing in a standing desk can help you stay on your feet and get your blood flowing. Transitioning to a standing desk can also reduce back and neck pain, according to Start Standing. This transition may feel uncomfortable at first, but soon, your body will be thanking you.

Maintain your friendships.

Next time a friend or family member suggests you get together, say yes. Studies show that routinely interacting with friends and loved ones can improve your physical health by strengthening your immune system and fighting off common sicknesses.

While all social interactions can improve your health, face-to-face interactions are best. After all, humans are social creatures and have always done best when interacting within a community and social setting.

Having a healthy heart and brain starts by committing to these changes daily. To learn more about the different health and wellness programs offered at Touchmark, visit our website, Touchmark.com. Happy Heart Month!

Top Outdoor Attractions in Touchmark States

As summer begins drawing to a close, you may feel compelled to spend as much time outside in as many awe-inspiring locations as possible. Always striving to be HELP{FULL}, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful outdoor attractions within a day’s driving distance of each Touchmark community.

Alberta, Canada

Banff National Park

Image of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada

Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park, and just a few hours away from Touchmark at Wedgewood. Every year millions of people travel to Banff to explore the breathtaking mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes, and enchanting forests. The park offers exciting activities all year round, including boat tours, dog sledding, bird watching, golf, museums, and much more. Travelers of all activity ability can find something fun to do at Banff National Park, making it a memorable trip for anyone and everyone.

Bonus: Strap in for an otherworldly adventure atop the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle. See a variety of different landmarks and top it off with a ride on the Ice Explorer over the ancient landscape of the Columbia Icefields. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Arizona

Coconino National Forest

Image of Cathedral Rock in the Coconino National Forest.

Known as one of the most diverse National Forests in the country, Coconino offers something for everyone. The geography of the park boasts the famous Sedona red rock peaks and canyons, Ponderosa pine forests, high desert land, and even alpine tundra. Visitors can hike through the forests, wade in lazy creeks, take helicopter tours over red rock formations, or go on white-knuckle, off-road 4×4 rides.

Bonus: Stop by Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona to sign up for one of many exciting ridealong tours, including ancient ruins with hieroglyphs from the Hopi and Sinagua tribes, Mystic Vista and other famous vortex sites, or Coyote Canyons chockfull of native wildlife sightings.

Idaho

Sawtooth National Forest

Image of hot springs in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho.

Covering more than two million acres of land, the Sawtooth National Forest is a beautiful landscape of mountains and valleys. A close neighbor to Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village, the Sawtooth is a fun day trip for any nature lover. The forest is home to four of Idaho’s beautiful scenic highways, which makes sightseeing easy and fun. While there are things to do all year round, Sawtooth is known for its winter activities. Its peaks and valleys make for amazing skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Bonus: If you’ve worked up and appetite, head to Limbert’s at Redfish Lake Lodge for fresh elk and trout entrées.

Montana

Glacier National Park

Image of Perito Moreno Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Located on the northern tip of Montana along the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is the gem of Montana. Glacier has a long, rich Native American history, perfect for the history buff and the outdoor adventurer. Contained within the borders of the park is the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, a largely preserved ecosystem that is almost completely untouched. Visitors will see almost the exact same view that European explorers saw when they first entered the region. The main attractions for outdoor enthusiasts are the many beautiful lakes and waterways within Glacier. Lakeside camping and hiking, kayaking, historical sightseeing, and stargazing are just a few of the breathtaking attractions in the park.

Bonus: Make your way over to Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 52-mile scenic highway through the park which crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. You might catch a glimpse of mountain goats, bears, moose, and other wildlife!

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Image of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Just two hours away from Touchmark on West Century, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is not only a beautiful sight but also a historic landmark. Before becoming president, Roosevelt fell in love with the rugged terrain and bought two ranches in the surrounding area. After his death, the park was established to celebrate his life and love of the North Dakota landscape. While visiting the park, you can overlook the Painted Canyons, explore Roosevelt’s ranch, or take scenic drives to see the beautiful rock formations and wildlife.

Bonus: Visit the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and step back into the time of the Wild, Wild West! Learn about real-life cowboys and horses of the past and present, go on a horseback tour, and maybe catch a glimpse of a rough-and-tumble-style wedding.

Sheyenne National Grassland

Coming in at over 70,000 acres of land, the Sheyenne National Grassland is the largest and only National Grassland in the prairie region of the United States. Visitors can participate in many activities, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and sightseeing. Exploring the Grassland will lead you through bubbling creeks, historic bridges, a pioneer cemetery, and an old fire tower.

Bonus: Keep an eye out for the rare Dakota skipper and regal fritillary butterfly, two endangered species present only in North Dakota’s grassland.

Oklahoma

Natural Falls State Park

Image of waterfalls in Natural Falls State Park, Oklahoma.

Located near the Oklahoma/Arkansas border and only two hours from Touchmark at Coffee Creek, Natural Falls State Park is a fun day trip for those near Oklahoma City. The park’s main attraction is the 77-foot waterfall that cascades down fern covered rock formations. Railed and well-maintained trails allow visitors to look at every angle of the falls. The dense greenery offers fantastic flora and fauna, and cool forest trails. For those looking for a weekend, overnight trip, the park even offers several yurts to stay in.

Bonus: The 77-foot waterfall, called Dripping Springs, was the filming location for the 1974 movie that made us all cry, Where the Red Fern Grows. See if you can spot the famous backdrops from infamous scenes!

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park

Image of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

Located in south-central Oregon, Crater Lake is one of Oregon’s most treasured attractions. The famous cerulean blue water has been welcoming travelers for over 115 years. Visitors have many activities to choose from while exploring the lake and Crater Lake National Park. There are miles and miles of hiking trails, lovely campgrounds, and unlimited fishing.

Bonus: Stand in the center of the crater on Wizard Island! Tours will take you there and back via boat and give you plenty of time to explore, hike, fish, or swim. If you are interested in hiking to the summit of the island, we recommend taking the morning tour as opposed to the one in the afternoon.

Mount Hood National Forest

Just a quick, hour-long drive from Portland, Oregon, the shorter list would be what you can’t do on Mount Hood. Mount Hood National Forest offers unparalleled hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, skiing, and wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Historical Timberline Lodge is a National Landmark, and known for its beautiful views, architecture, and fluffy St. Bernards. Mount Hood is also located only minutes off Oregon’s notorious Columbia River Gorge. Cities along the Columbia are known for their intriguing history and delicious foodie scene.

Bonus: Stop at Frog Lake in the late summer and early autumn to see literally millions of tiny frogs hopping around the lake or sometimes dried-up lakebed. Just be careful not to step on any of them, as they are everywhere!

South Dakota

Black Elk Peak

Image of Black Elk Peak, South Dakota.

If you truly want to feel like the king or queen of the world, you must make a beeline to Black Elk Peak in the Black Hills National Forest near Mount Rushmore. It is the highest point in the entire country east of the Rocky Mountains at 7,242 feet and provides stunning 100-mile views from the summit.

Bonus: Several trails lead to the summit, but the Harney Peak Trail Number 9 (Southern Approach Hiking Trail) is the most frequently climbed and is likely the easiest route up. Set out from the Sylvan Lake Day Use area and prepare for about a four- or five-hour trek roundtrip through granite towers and pristine lakes.

Badlands National Park

History and geology buffs, come round! The striated plains and pinnacles throughout Badlands National Park are downright awesome. These views allow us to see the true power of Mother Nature and her ability to transform.

Bonus: In addition to many hiking trails, Loop Road takes you through the park and allows you to absorb the scenery from your vehicle. There are many viewpoints at which you can stop, stretch your legs, and snap photos.

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Image of wildflowers at the base of Mount Rainier, Washington.

A short drive for the folks at Touchmark at Fairway Village, Mount Rainier is a sight to behold year round. Snow-capped trails in the winter give way to flower-laden meadows in the spring and summer. Most of the trails are accessible during the majority of the year and don’t require any hiking equipment.

Bonus: If wildflowers make you swoon, start off at the Paradise Area with an elevation of 5,400 feet. During the summer and early autumn, this area explodes with native flower species, butterflies, and honey bees.

Mount Spokane State Park

Only an hour away from Touchmark on South Hill, Mount Spokane State Park is a beautiful day trip destination that everyone can enjoy. As one of the largest state parks in Washington, Mount Spokane offers hundreds of miles of trails, activities for every season, and spectacular wildlife viewing.

Bonus: Summit Road is perfect as a lower impact or even drivable adventure. Drive to the top and take in the views, stop at the Vista House with a view of six different lakes, and walk easy trails around the summit.

Wisconsin

Apostle Islands

Image of the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin.

The Apostle Islands are an idyllic collection of 22 islands located on the coast of Lake Superior. The National Lakeshore offers provides the opportunity for a plethora of water sports, bird watching, and cave exploring, but is first and foremost (surprisingly) a botanist’s dream. Within the lakeshore, over 800 plant species can be found; many of which are endangered, threatened, or uniquely native to Wisconsin.

Bonus: These islands have a rich geological history. Glaciated several times independently, you will find rock formations, mineral deposits, and other natural wonders not typically found all in one spot. Maritime Forest, Sandscape (includes beaches, sandspits, cuspate forelands, and tombolos), and Maritime Cliff State Natural Areas are all ready for exploration within the Lakeshore.