Sarah Joseph M.S., CSCS

Workout Blog

Get fit, not sick! Exercise can influence immunity

Posted by Sarah on April 23, 2015 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Can exercise give your immune system a boost?

The benefits of exercise are certainly vast but does exercise actually improve the immune system? To answer this, we need to get a better understanding of immune system functioning.

Pathogens are composed of organisms that cause disease. Luckily our bodies have defense mechanisms including physical barriers like skin, as well as cellular mechanisms including natural killer cells, neutrophils, and immunoglobins to fight disease.

Poor lifestyle choices and stress are proven hindrances to the functioning of these natural defenses. Moderate to vigorous exercise on the other hand improves the circulation of immune system defenses. Immune system suppressants like stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine), and inflammatory cytokines (promote systemic inflammation) remain unchanged.

Though immune system markers tend to return to normal levels following cessation of exercise, the immune system’s surveillance does function better over time. Exercise reduced sick days 25-50%; surpassing any improvement due to supplementation.

On another note, too much of anything is usually not a good thing and exercise is no exception. Excessive strenuous exercise is associated with increased stress hormones and cytokines. For example, the chances of becoming ill in the two weeks following a marathon run is two to six times normal. Remember, there is no one size fits all recommendation to exercise and you need to find your personal balance between working out and resting. Personally, I work out six to seven days per week with no deleterious consequences for my immune system because I’ve acclimatized my body to this work load. If you are a beginner, starting out with a few days per week and working to higher training volumes is recommended.

I can’t talk about immune system function without also mentioning nutrition. Assuring that your diet is varied and contained a variety of plant based nutrition along with lean proteins will set your immune system defense to high. Be wary when buying supplements making claims to boost your immunity. Many of these products are not backed by science but there are measures you can take to assure that your supplement is of the highest quality. That’s an entirely different conversation. Plant substances like polyphenols and flavonoids are currently undergoing a great deal of research as they seem to support immune function during times of physical or physiological stress.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about exercise and your immune system. Now go do it! Go. Go. Go.


Vance is getting old. Aging and Metabolism

Posted by Sarah on April 17, 2015 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This weekend Vance is having a birthday so I thought it might be appropriate to discuss how we can attenuate the effects of aging through proper exercise and nutrition. Without further adieu, let's talk about aging and metabolism! 

Metabolism and Aging

Aging tends to be an unkind process when it comes to human physiology and functioning. You may have noticed some weight gain yourself over the years and I’m going to discuss some possible causes for that.

You’ve heard it before; If you consume more calories than you expend you are likely to gain some weight. There is more at play here than calories in versus calories out but for the purposes of this article, we will regard this to be true. There are three components that determine how many calories you will burn in a day.

1. The first is your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the energy used at rest to power body function. Your BMR is determined by several factors including age, size, gender and lean body tissue (muscle). Each decade, this declines 2-3%. In order to attenuate increases in fat and loss in muscle, a resistance training component is crucial for any exercise program. Muscle tissue consumes three times the number of calories than fat (6 calories per lb muscle per day vs. 2 calories per lb fat per day). Maintaining this muscle will aid in metabolism maintenance.

2. The thermic effect of food is the second contributor to metabolism. This is the energy it takes for your body to digest food. It is unknown how this process changes with aging. Nevertheless, protein and fibrous carbohydrate require more energy to digest than fat. Mainly unsaturated but also saturated fat is still an important part of a healthy diet. The thermic effect of food is the physiologic reason why eating consistent meals will encourage a boost in metabolism (Farshchi, H.R., Taylor, M.A., Macdonald, I.A, 2004). Paid special attention to cite that one because food frequency is a hot topic right now.

3. Lastly, physical activity and exercise accounts for the remaining caloric expenditure of our bodies. Again, research is inconclusive as to whether the amount of calories burned for given activities is actually decreased with aging. At this point it seems likely that there is more of a lifestyle or conscious change to more sedentary behaviors.

We can’t evade aging but eating healthy and exercising will prolong years of health and quality of life. It is never too late to start exercising. You should never feel like you’ve missed the boat on being active. Just because you didn’t exercise when you were younger doesn’t mean that you don’t have the strength to start now. Start gradually. The important thing is that you are consistent and driven to learn what is needed to be done in order for you to reach your goal. In this way you can gain muscle mass while deflecting weight gain, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, hypertension, stroke and a host of other maladies that plague our population.


Psych up! - The psychology of making a health behavior change.

Posted by Sarah on April 8, 2015 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Individual influences including demographics ,perception of health status, as well as social and environmental influences contribute to the ultimate success or failure of an attempt at a health behavior change.

Motivation is one individual influence that has several driving factors. Perceptions of exercise are partially based upon previous experiences with it. Perceptions of the benefits of the health behavior change are based off previous experiences and as a result, determination of the benefits of making the change. Additionally, those who are more self-motivated will continue to be motivated through self monitoring and goal setting. Those who are motivated by external factors will seek more support from their social group and their environment will be a greater determinant of their health behavior change attainment.

Because externally motivated people will be more likely to be derailed if their environment does not support their health behavior change, it will be important for them to make decisions that limit exposure to such unhealthy situations.

Allow me to demonstrate. Someone who takes body measurements monthly and experiences increased energy and reduction in medications with regular exercise is less likely to be derailed by media influences that contribute to poor body image or a spouse that does not have the same lifestyle goals. This person is well prepared for the behavior change. They’ve recognized their unhealthy patterns. They’ve taken initial body measurements. They’re getting positive feedback. Overtime these things may lead to increased self-efficacy (the belief one has in their ability to accomplish the task), and internal motivation.

If you are truly self– determined and intrinsically motivated, your best friend bringing over a batch of brownies will be less likely to derail you and it won’t matter if the gym is closed because you’ll find a way to fit in a workout.

One of the most important aspects of preparation for a healthy behavior change is preparing for failure. Making a behavior change is not easy and chances are that at some point something will go wrong.

Consider how you will deal with these challenges. What actions will you take? What thoughts will you think? Will you resort to negative statements like, “It’s impossible to find time to exercise?” Will you restructure your thinking to, “I’ll make the changes I need to in order to succeed?” Take advice from Missy Elliot and some other rappers and think, “Ya’ll can’t stop me now!”

Cognitive restructuring or turning negative statements into more constructive positive ones takes practice. “I’m talkin’ bout PRACTICE, man.”-Allen Iverson.

The key point is to recognize what individual, social, and environmental factors are steering you towards to away from success. Understand and learn how to deal with things that you can not change so that they become less of a barrier to you. Also, realize that your motivational influences may be extrinsic initially, but as you progress, they can become more intrinsic through positive health changes.


GENEs... Why you can't lose weight and gain muscle.

Posted by Sarah on July 21, 2014 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

“I was born with bad genes.” Heard that excuse before? One thing that is important to remember that though genes are important for physical activity and human performance, you can also impact which of your genes are expressed through your lifestyle habits.

If you are inactive and also have bad genes your BMI (body mass index) is more likely to be higher than those who have “good” genes. But if you are inactive and have good genes, there will be no difference between your BMI, and the BMI of those with bad genes who ARE active. Make sense? Inactive + good genes= Active + bad genes.


Whether you are in the worst risk profile or best according to genes, there is the same reduction in cardiovascular risk with activity. YAYYYYY.


How do you know if you are “active?” If you do 150 minutes moderate or 75 min vigorous activity or more, then ACSM says you are active. Oh and also you need to do some muscle strengthening at least twice per week for all those body parts.


Why should you be active? Those who meet these guidelines tend to live around 3 years longer than those not meeting guidelines. If you do more than the minimum you live on average 4 years longer. Sounds good to me?


What about light activity like daily walking, standing, carrying heavy things? Will this help you live longer and reduce your risk of disease? Well current research shows that there was no risk reduction in diseases that developed in this longitudinal study. But this data may be unsound because the physical activity data was gathered via self report.


Do you even know what sedentary behavior is? It’s defined as any waking behavior in a sitting or reclining position requiring less than 1.5 mets…. (MET - a physiological measure expressing the energy cost of physical activities). Why is sedentary behavior so bad…. Well idk about you but I’m definitely more likely to be munching on some tortillas when I’m sitting in front of the Netflix than when I’m just walking around town or doing laundry or something). The good news is that there may be no harm if you break up sedentary bouts.


Moral of the story… get off the computer. Turn off your you tubes. And LETS GO! Lets crush it. Peace.


Kicking the Habit - Carbohydrates

Posted by Sarah on March 20, 2014 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the Shred Spot!

Hi everyone. Springtime is here! It is time to really start making a commitment to DO something about whatever it is in your life that you feel that you want to improve. For me that means stopping being addicted to sugar! As you'll notice, I don't really have a problem sticking to a workout schedule, however, I find myself wandering towards unhealthy carbohydrates after dinner every day. And now is the time to change that. Join me this week in cutting down on sugar. I'm going to be eliminating all processed carbohydrates!

I’ve already made great strides towards this goal after committing to do a Bikini Competition this April. A whole new diet and exercise program doesn’t mean that cravings are just going to disappear though. You may have heard fitness professionals say success is determined by 80% diet and 20% exercise…. But I maintain that it’s 50% mental, 30% diet, and 30% exercise.


So this week as you are being challenged to kick the simple carbs, (white breads, wheat breads, tortilla chips, French fries, ice cream….) start to recognize when and why you crave them. Once you understand this, you can take steps to change your habits and live a healthier life.


Personally I have found that I am more likely to go for the carb binge whennn…. 1.I’m tired 2.I’m stressed/ procrastinating 3.I’m alone 4.After 7:00pm 5.If I’ve already eaten something unhealthy 6.This is not surprising as consuming carbohydrates releases dopamine, a feel good hormone. Unfortunately, the feel good moment is fleeting and guilt sets in rapidly.


Steps I will take to prevent these carb vulnerable moments include…. 1.Brushing my teeth at 8:30 PM (not 7 because sometimes I have another meal to eat before 8:30) 2.Getting ready for bed an hour prior to the time I would like to go to sleep. 3.Saying no to plans if I know I have a lot to get done 4.Having visual reminders of why I am not going to eat the unhealthy carb •Ex. Wearing a bracelet with something personally inspirational on it, writing down health goals daily 5. Reorganizing fridge and cupboard so that unhealthy options are less readily available.


I feel like this is the only way I will be able to kick the habit.


Some tips for kicking your habit.... - listen to your body - journal to determine what is triggering you to do the undesired behavior (for me this means dwoddling around food after I'm already full) - avoid the stimulus - replace your undesired behavior with a healthier alternative etc. etc.


Let me know what you all do to help curtail your unhealthy cravings.

I'm TOO Skinny

Posted by Sarah on September 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

“Wow I look skinny. I should really increase my intake of calories”…. Said hardly anyone ever. As a society, we can become so consumed with worrying about how to lose weight that the dangers of being underweight can actually be overlooked. Underweight is defined as a BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m^2. (google BMI calculator to see where you fall).



This is an especially important topic with the fall and winter runny nose months coming up BECAUSE 1. The immune system can be weakened when underweight. There is an increased risk of developing an infection due to the inadequate intake of nutrients including ANTIOXIDANTS.


Many of the issues associated with underweight stem from consuming too little and thus consuming too little vital vitamins and minerals as well as too few MACRONUTRIENTS (protein, carbs, fat). Not consuming enough protein can cause 2. Issues with repairing the tissues in the body. Most things in the body are composed of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. So gotta eat those, especially the essential amino acids (body cannot produce these amino acids, you must consume them).



Another common affliction of the underweight is 3. Cold extremities. This is often times indicative of iron, vitamin C, and B vitamin deficiency.



On a even more concerning note, underweight people are prone to 4. Osteoporosis! Osteoperosis is characterized by a curvature of the spine, shrinking, and reduced physical mobility. Fractures are also more likely and may lead to permanent disability. How can you prevent this? Make sure that you’re getting adequate vitamin D and Calcium. Word.

Screen Time and Physical Activity

Posted by Sarah on June 15, 2013 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Increased screen time has been suggested as a potential explanation for decreased exercise behavior. The displacement hypothesis proposes a zero sum relationship between screen time and physical activity. Researcher’s utilized this to survey 461 males and 275 females in a college setting. In comparison to females, males had higher BMI, more days of aerobic exercise, strength training, screen time and television watching, while females reported more time spent on homework. Homework was considered a sedentary behavior but was not included in the screen time category. Therefore, males had more recreational time. The researchers concluded that more females were classified as insufficiently active and may have had little time for physical activity. It is this demographic that may benefit most from a short high intensity interval training session due to inherently shorter duration of activity.

Exercise Pill: Fact or Fiction

Posted by Sarah on June 6, 2013 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Diet Can Protect Your Heart!

Dietary priorities associated with cardio protective benefits

  • The Mediterranian diet supplemented with oliveoil or mixed nuts significantly reduced MI (heart attack) compared to the controldiet group who was simply advised to reduce dietary fat.

DASH study

  • This study found that a diet richin fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, and small amounts of saturated fat,significantly lowered blood pressure.
  • In prediabetic patients,lifestyle surpassed metformin.
  • A combination of drugs, diet, and exercise are proven to reduce risk of heartattack. Bypass, and angioplasty are not.
  • The first line strategy to prevent heart disease should be lifestyle- poor diet year habits, physical activity, smoking lead toheart disease

Barry Franklin

Exercise pill: fact or fiction


  • Is an exercise pill Cost effective?- nope
  • Adaptive effects to prevent chronic diseases-maybe?
  • Does an exercise pill not have unhealthy sideeffects?- testosterone has performance benefits however, it is not an exercisepill because of the host of unhealthy side effects that do not mimic exercise.
  • Does an exercise pill decrease mortality rate?
  • Is it ethical?
  • Exercise pill types
    • Gw1516- This pill changes muscle genes but nottheir endurance. Additionally, you have to exercise for it to work. The goal is not to develop a replacement to exercise, but to develop drugs to help those who are unable to exercise. Only cardiorespiratory fitness can be helped by this pill,but none of the other host of things that exercise helps can be helped by thispill.
  • It is unlikely that a single exercise pill willever supplement all of the benefits of regular exercise.
  • 97 out of 100 of adults do not get 30 or more minutes of moderate exercise a day.
  • Transcriptome reductions (genetic component) canlead to reduced motivation to be physically active... but you can change the expression of your genes.

ACSM Topics: From Fat Metabolism to Heart Attacks

Posted by Sarah on June 1, 2013 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

ACSM Indianapolis was great and I wanted to share some of the things that I learned. Here are some of the notes that I took. I apologize that there are no citations. I'm sorry. But I tried to make up the notes such that they are easily read and understood. 


Integrative control of skeletal muscle fat metabolism: impact of dietary intake

Featured science session

University of Copenhagen

Lorraine turcotte

Regulation of f.a. Metabolism

Fatty acid availability- When exercising at 85% vo2 max, fatty acid concentrations are reduced. This is because blood flow to adipose tissue is reduced. Less blood flow to fatty acid tissue causes the fatty acid coming out of adipose tissue to be reduced. However, during recovery after high intensity exercise, fatty acid oxidation increases.

Fatty acid uptake- cd36 and fappm , The higher the intensity, the higher the fatty acid uptake is, until you reach a certain level of intensity, then fatty acid uptake goes down.

  • Cd36 is a fatty acid transporter, involved in f.a. Uptake during muscle contraction.
  • Fabp is a fatty acid transporter whose level is increased with contraction, fatty acid uptake increases following the increase in cd 36 and fabp

Just because you increase fatty acid uptake, that doesn’t mean that you increase fatty acid oxidation. CPT1 is very important for fatty acid oxidation.


Healthy living through lifestyle: beyond pills and procedures

A very low fat, natural food diet combined with regular exercise is effective for treating many of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular artery disease, including hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension metabolic syndrome and inflammation.


A cardio protective polypill

Risk factors are being under treated.

Statin, frolic acid, aspirin, 3 BP drugs - 80% risk reduction

A poly pill may be good for ppl with known cardiovascular disease, and ppl for those over 55.

Limitations to a cardioprotective polypill.

- Don't know about interactions between drugs, mostly assumed to be additive

- Ignored conventional risk factors, smoking, obesity, sedentary activity

- Aspirin component could lead to hemmorage


10 year difference in lifespan between smokers and non-smokers

Obesity and age of first non st segment elevation MI- the higher the BMI of the patient, the lower the age that the patient experienced their first MI (MI- myocardial infartction)

Low cardiovascular fitness increases relative risk of all-cause mortality compared to being fit. Unfit ppl are 3 to 5 times to die in follow up after MI rather than fit counter parts regardless of weight. There was a bigger difference between for and unfit than smoker and unsmoker for risk for all-cause mortality.

For each 1 MET increase in exercise capacity (this is a way to measure cardiovascular fitness), there was a 16% decrease in cardiovascular risk which compares more favorably to statins following MI.




Posted by Sarah on March 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Let's talk about poop and exercise. I'm sure we've all had our exercise and poop experiences. Back on cross country I'm pretty sure every one of us girls had to make an emergency pit stop while running at someone's house at one point or another. So based on anecdotal evidence alone, based on my experiences and talking with my fellow friend exercisors, they do not an increase in gastrointestinal movements. 

That said, really when you exercise, your body's sympathetic or fight or flight system usually kicks in. This is supposed to supress digestion because that's not a super important process back in the day when we had to run away from things trying to kill us on a day to day basis. This may be part of the reason why the research is mixed when it comes to exercising and the treatment of constipation.

Still, some exercises like running and jumping are very high impact and jar the gastrointestinal tract, thus shortening the transit time for it's contents. One study investigating the impact of regular exercise on idiopathic constipation found no effect. However, they did note that exercise intensity may have played a role. Perhaps it is the more jaring or twisting type exercises that helps bowel movements along. Another study did find that physical activity positively influenced bowel movementin middle aged people complaining of constipation. They had "improved defication patterns" and "colonic transit time."

So if you are finding that you're having trouble pooping make sure to get in your regular exercise! Also if you exerience GI distress when running make sure to plan ahead, drink plenty of water and plan your route near public restrooms. 

Check out this link for some great foods for digestion!