Exercise protects against brain shrinkage in old age

To all of you out there, who are trying to stay mentally sharp well into high age: Throw out all of your brain training software or videogames such as memory activities.  You are just wasting time, at least according to a recently published study in the Journal Neurology of the American Academy of Neurology. Instead, start running, biking, swimming, hiking or whatever kind of physical exercise you may prefer. The study showed that only physical activities were a significant neuroprotective factor.

Close to 700 people in Scotland, all born in 1936 and 70 years old when initially surveyed by the researchers participated at the study. They were asked about exercise habits and physical activity level, and also about their social life with friends and family or whether they did mentally stimulating activities.

Three years later, at age 73, the participants were given MRI brain scans. The result was that those, who did more exercise had less age related brain shrinkage and fewer white matter lesions. Participation at socially or mentally stimulating activities on the other hand didn’t make a difference in regards to the aging effect on brain size.

In conclusion, there seems to be no way around it: If we want to stay physically and mentally healthy as long as possible, exercise is the method of choice.

For me, these are expected but not necessarily welcome news. I don’t enjoy working-out and exercise though I’m regularly running 15 to 20 miles per week even in winter. I started a few years ago when age-related weight and health issues became bothersome. As I found out, it’s tough to completely change your lifestyle when you are already over 50 but with self-control and motivation, it’s doable.

It’s much easier when you have outside support and this is where a life coach can really be of tremendous assistance. A life coach will help you to set the right goals and develop a plan with you how to achieve these goals. There are many things to consider: for example don’t set the goal too high to prevent disappointment but high enough to be challenging. Also, if you add roughly three hours of exercise time per week as recommended, where do you find the time in your schedule? What would you be willing to give up to free time for exercise? How could you incorporate physical activities in your daily schedule like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the post office or mowing the lawn and raking the leaves yourself instead of hiring a company? A life coach will also cheer you on and celebrate your victories with you. I’m a life-coach and psychologist myself and I know I couldn’t have done the change from a couch-potato lifestyle to running a 10 k  without using my professional knowledge for my own benefit .

This being said, it’s a nice sunny and moderately cold November day outside and I will go now for my daily run.

This post was written by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is life-coach at Coach4U.net and teaches psychology at a community college in Massachusetts. Email her for a free introductory coaching session at <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=S19rQFhicHZTEDZMb2BLHGZ8Fnl5AWVGTkU-3D_19> .

More about the topic exercise: http://www.coach4u.net/content/healthy_lifestyle_coaching/#entry_675

Sources for the blog entry: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162331.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29


Eight Steps To More Optimism

 “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate” (Thomas Watson). “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” (Winston Churchill)

There are many quotes and inspiring stories about optimism, perseverance and how failures ultimately turned into successes. Just think for a minute about Abraham Lincoln’s political career. I think nobody questions that he was a very successful politician up to becoming president. Still, there were several setbacks in his career where he ran for office in congress or senate and didn’t make it – but he never gave up.

Inventor Thomas Edison spent countless of hours on the development of the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb. When a reporter asked him about the failures, Edison supposedly answered “I didn’t fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.” (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/National_Treasure_(film) )

Most of us would have given up earlier or not even started the endeavor.

Why some people are willing to embark on a long journey toward a difficult goal and others don’t even try is a question many psychologists would like to answer. There is evidence that genes play a role and some people are simply born more optimistic than others. However, there is also evidence that optimism can be learned, which is good news as this means we all can take steps to increase optimism.

Eight steps to increase optimism:

  1. Don’t wait for life to happen. Set a goal and also define subgoals to mark progress toward your ultimate goal. Then make an action plan to implement your goal.
  2. Celebrate milestones, for example when you reach a subgoal.
  3. If there are setbacks, don’t give up immediately on your goal. Focus on  ways to overcome setbacks and remind yourself how far you have come already..
  4. At the end of each day, recall positive events of the day. Find three things that you are grateful for that they happened. This can be mundane things like finding a parking spot quickly.
  5. Surround yourself with positive and optimistic people. Over time you will learn from others to see the glass as half full.
  6. Make sure that you do every day something just for fun. As more positive experiences you have, as more will you enjoy your life.
  7. Exercise regularly. Studies show that physical activity acts like a natural antidepressant.
  8. And last, but not least: Team up with a life coach to have someone who gently pushes you forward toward your goal, keeps you on track, is your cheerleader and sounding board, and helps you to overcome obstacles on your way to success. You will be amazed what a life coach can do for you!

 Written by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is a professional life and career coach in Massachusetts and teaches psychology at a community college in the Boston area. She is author of the e-workbook “Job Satisfaction – Learn To Love Your Job”  . Email her at c<http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=QEVwWl9-2FeHlYNRVAYWJAQCcnVnJoZUZORQ-3D-3D_19>

It’s all about the right motivation

How to succeed with exercise goal

Improving wellness by doing more exercise and eating better is a popular New Year’s resolution. However, by now – not even two weeks later – many people have  a hard time sticking to these goals or even gave already up. According to a study by Richard Wiseman in 2007, ultimately more than 80 % of the resolutions will fail.

My experience with my clients is that many people simply want too much and too fast without being able to incorporate necessary life style changes into their daily life. If you didn’t exercise for many years, don’t expect suddenly to spend five hours in the gym per week.

I was asked recently how it comes that I’m able to stick to my running regimen of 15 – 20 miles per week for two years now though I was never running before. Here is my answer:

After several failed attempts earlier, I did two things differently in 2010:

First, I started with a small step, just learning to run a half mile daily. I was in such a bad shape that this was difficult enough, however it took only a few minutes out of my daily schedule. I could afford these minutes and this way, I experienced at first the advantages of more exercise in the form of feeling better and being more energetic before I had the price to pay – giving up something that I did for fun to free up time for exercising. Once I got in better shape, I slowly increased the distance. The pounds started to come off when I was at about two miles per day. The weight loss was of course a big motivator and today I’m running in average a 5 K on most days of the week. I lost more than 30 pounds and I am in a better shape now than I was 20 years ago.  I’m sure had I started with a longer distance right away, I probably would not have made it.

The second reason why I’m still running is that I learned to incorporate the exercise into my daily life. It takes out 30 to 45 minutes every day, and to make this work, I started combining my errands with running. I do as much as possible local now and run to the post office, library, hair dresser, subway station etc., often carrying a small bag. I found out that it doesn’t take much more time than going by car because I can use a different route when running without having to stop at traffic lights, and of course at my destination, I don’t have to search for a parking spot. Being able to combine exercise with errands makes it much easier for me to stick to my close-to-20-miles-per- week- goal.

In summary, like many people, I also had failed in the past with my resolutions. Two points  made all the  difference in 2010: starting slow and finding a way to combine exercise with my day to day life .

Christiane Turnheim is life coach in private practice and psychologist instructor at a community college in the Boston area. You can reach her at <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=S19rQFhicHZTEDZMb2BLHGZ8Fnl5AWVGTkU-3D_19>


6 tips for more success with goals – New Year’s resolutions or other time

There is something about a New Year that entices many people to make resolutions to change their lives for the better. They decide to break some habits, live healthier, do more exercise, lose weight, or reduce stress… Of course, you don’t need a New Year for making resolutions, and therefore the following recommendations apply also to goals you may start to pursue anytime throughout the year

What often happens when we start to work toward a goal is that for the first week or two, we manage to stick to our plan. The problems start as time goes on and ultimately, most of us end up back with the old habits and routines which we were trying to break.

One of the main reasons for giving up on the resolutions is simply that many people want too much too fast. Changing ingrained behaviors takes time and effort, and occasional setbacks are to be expected.  If you want major changes in your life – and losing 40 pounds for example or starting daily exercise will require big lifestyle changes – you will be more successful if you take it one step at a time.

Here are six tips that when followed will make success with (New Year’s) resolutions more likely:

1)      Don’t make too many resolutions– you will have more success when you focus on one at a time. If for example you have three things in your life you want to change, then make a priority list and start with the most important. A year is long,  and you can work through your list as the year progresses

2)      Find out the degree of commitment to your goal. How strongly do you wish for it? Ask yourself the following questions: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “not at all” and 10 is ”extremely”:

  •  How important is it for you to change the particular habit/situation
  • How confident are you that you can stick to necessary behavior changes
  • How ready are you to actually start with the changes today and stick with them for …… weeks/ months

Only if you are really committed to your goal, you will have a true chance for success

3)      Don’t reach too high with your goal to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Instead take changes slowly, step by step. Behavior changes need time, often months or even years, to become part of the new YOU. If you never exercised before, you most likely won’t have the strength to exercise daily for an hour or two. If you always ordered take-out and rarely ate vegetables, you may miss your usual food too much and give up on the eat-healthier-plan.  

 Also, for many goals you must make changes in your daily schedule to carve out time for exercise or for cooking. I experienced this myself when I decided to exercise more about two years ago: I first started to run for only 10 minutes per day – actually I didn’t have breath for more – and then I slowly increased this time in one minutes increments.  After two months, I was at two miles five times per week, now – almost two years later and more than 30 pounds lighter, I’m running a 5k five to six times/week and occasionally, I’m running a six- miles- lap. If anyone had told me at the beginning that I would do this today, I would never have believed it and if this had been my plan from the start, for sure I would have given up.  

An additional perk is that by starting slow you can enjoy more successes along your way. There is something to celebrate and to be proud of each time when you accomplish a step and then reach higher for the next goal. Nothing is more motivating than success.

4)      When setting goals follow the SMART goals rules, which say that a goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For more about these rules, read my blog about SMART goals.

5)      Last but for sure not least: Be patient with setbacks. They are normal occurrences and actually to be expected. View setbacks as learning experiences, not failures. From a setback you can learn what to do differently. If you relapse into old behaviors, ask yourself: What worked for a while? What is the part that is not working so well? What kind of adjustments would help? Did something happen that you didn’t anticipate? What triggered the slip? Was this a sudden stumbling, or was this gradually building up? What would help to be better prepared next time? In regards to your action plan how to achieve your goal, what do you really like about the plan, what do you dislike? How can you change the plan to make it work better for you?

6)    Work with a life coach! Changing long standing habits and routines is not easy and it’s rarely a straightforward path. In fact, it could take up to two years until the new behavior turns into an automatic routine and the path to success may feel more like a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs.

That’s the reason why many people work with a life coach to accomplish a goal. Having someone at your side, who cares about you and your goal will increase your success rate.

As your life coach, I would design the SMART goal with you, define the action plan and then work with you through all the ups and downs, adjusting the action plan when necessary. For more information email me at <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=S19rQFhicHZTEDZMb2BLHGZ8Fnl5AWVGTkU-3D_19> or call 781 777 2791.

Dreaming of Career Change? What is holding you back?

Are you feeling stuck in your old job? Are you unhappy with your current line of work?  Then you are not alone. Many people dream about a new and more satisfying job but only a few dare to take the necessary steps.

 So, what is holding you back? Fear of the unknown? Afraid that you would have to take a pay cut? Doubt about your skills and abilities? Feeling “too old” for starting over?

It’s true, making a career change can be a scary prospect – but think of the payoff: Loving again what you do, feeling challenged, seeing purpose, helping others, having fun… In all, working in your dream job means so much more than just getting a paycheck.

It’s not an empty phrase when I say that it is never too late to make a career change. In my college classes, I have every semester a few students, who are well into middle age. They are eager to learn, inspired by their goals, and therefore are often the highest achievers in class.

If you have a strong desire for a career change, don’t allow your fears to hold you back.

Many people find it difficult to find the energy, time and information needed for a successful career change. They worry that they may make a wrong choice and waste money on expensive retraining programs.

My Career Coaching Program can help you to find the right career for you.

I will help you:

  • Identify your interests and abilities
  • Explore career alternatives
  • Find your dream job
  • Compare and evaluate education and job training options
  • Make an action plan witha  step by step guide to achieve your career goal
  • Plan your finances
  • Overcome roadblocks and obstacles that you may encounter on your way to a more satisfying new career.

 Email me to find out more:  <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=S19rQFhicHZTEDZMb2BLHGZ8Fnl5AWVGTkU-3D_19>

 Christiane Turnheim is psychologist and Life & Career Coach. She also teaches Psychology at a Community College in Massachusetts. Visit her website at www.coach4u.net

How to achieve weight loss goal

Only a few days into January and many New Year’s resolutions are probably already abandoned.

One of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight. This year, I joined those who want to shed some extra pounds in 2011. I’m optimistic that I will be successful as for me it’s about continuing what I achieved last year. 20 pounds are already gone; another ten shall follow in 2011.

Like many people, I have tried in the years before several times to lose weight. Like so many others, I also struggled with the typical pattern of losing and gaining back – until last March, when I had enough.

Two ways to lose weight:

There are only two ways to lose weight. Either you cut down on calories or you burn more than you consume by increasing physical activity.

In previous diets I focused on cutting calories. As this didn’t work so well because I can’t deal with hunger, I had only one path left: exercise! I have never been the athletic type, and frankly, I don’t enjoy workouts in gyms or running on sidewalks of busy streets, right next to car exhaust fumes. But I needed to do something and so I began jogging, and was at first shocked to learn that I could hardly run for a mile. With time and perseverance, I made it eventually to five miles. The weight loss started when I ran in minimum three miles on at least five days per week. I keep doing this despite winter temps and snow outside, but I still don’t enjoy it – however, I do enjoy the results.

On the positive side, I didn’t need to make major changes to my diet. I did replace caloric drinks like fruit juice and sweetened tea with water, though, and cut down on cookies and candy. Other than that, I’m eating normal meals and don’t go hungry.

After nine months of running, I know that I found a weight management technique that works for me- and will work in future as I will have to keep running to avoid gaining back the pounds I have shed.

It works for me because it didn’t require extreme life tyle changes – I just had to make room for 30 – 50 minutes of running. (Sometimes now, I’m literally running my errands like running to the library or to a store)

Secret to weight loss

I firmly believe this is the secret to achieving your weight loss goal: You must find a way that doesn’t require major changes in your daily routine or diet because it’s hard to stick with something that is totally different. I think, this is the problem with most of these fancy diets – they are too different to our normal grocery shopping, food preparation, and eating routine, and therefore after a while we go back to our old (unhealthy) eating habits and portion sizes.

If you want to lose weight and keep the pounds off, you must make changes that last.

Start by listing your biggest diet sins, and then, perhaps step by step, eliminate or reduce these sins. Instead of two spoons of sugar in coffee, only one; instead of a muffin only two small cookies….eat the burger, but only half of the bun and half of the fries….Also, add exercise. It’s good for your health and will speed up the weight loss. You may not lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks, but if you develop new healthier eating and exercise habits that you can stick with, you will keep off what you lose.

Posted by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is Life & Career coach, author of “Learn to Love Your Job” , and teaches Psychology at a Community College in Massachusetts.

What happened?

Quick question: What happened to your New Year’s resolutions? It’s April, and therefore I think it’s reasonable to ask how many of your commitments survived that far into the year? If you are like most people,  it may be time to review and adjust your original goals and then start over. Who says that you have to put your resolutions on hold until  January 1st, 2011?

First step, find out why you gave up on your goals. Did you want to lose weight and were frustrated because you didn’t shed the pounds as fast as you had hoped? Was it too difficult to stop smoking altogether? Did bad weather or sick kids keep you from going to the gym regularly? Review what happenend and how you felt about your commitments as long as the memory is relatively fresh.

The main reason why many people don’t follow through with their New Year’s resolution is that they want too much too fast, and they strive for perfection. Any setbacks, and they give up. If you think that’s you, take another run on your goals – this time only slower and allow for slip-ups.

First, when setting your goal, follow the SMART rule: Define your goal in a way that it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For example, instead of “Eating healthier” commit to eating two pieces/servings of fruits and a salad and to drink one glass of orange juice daily for the next three months. At the end of each day, you will know whether you kept to your plan. If not, ask what kept you from achieving your daily goal and then make corrections.  If you discover for example that you would prefer salad or cooked vegetables over fruit, go for it.

Don’t be a perfectionist. If you didn’t eat any fruit before, it’s already progress to eat one piece of fruit, even if your plan called for two. Therefore, give yourself credit for it.  Don’t focus on how much you fell short of your goal, instead think positive and focus on how much you achieved.

Take babv steps. If you want to lose weight, don’t aim for losing ten pounds in a month. By aiming too high, you are setting yourself up for failure. Set a realistic goal, like losing one pound per week. If there is a week where you don’t even achieve this goal because of a birthday party or because the muffin in the coffe shop just was too tempting , see it as a learning experience. Temporary set backs are normal, so don’t beat yourself up about perceived weakness.

Tell other people about your goals, and write reminders or use motivating pictures and put them at places where you will see them often. 

And if you still struggle, hire a Life Coach to support you. Think of all the seemingly perfect celebrities you may admire. Most of them have personal trainers or nutritionists to help them stay on course. So, it’s nothing wrong with a little outside help. And if your goal is about your health, see it this way: a little money spend now on a Life Coach could save you later more money spend on doctor fees and hospital bills.

Written by Life Coach Christiane Turnheim. Visit her website at www.coach4u.net or email her <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=S19rQFhicHZTEDZMb2BLHGZ8Fnl5AWVGTkU-3D_19>

Afraid of goals

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford (American Industrialist,, 1863-1947)

I love this quote because for me it’s a perfect spot on description of Life coaching: Helping people to realize that they are stuck because they took their eyes of the goal and then got lost. The next step in life coaching then is to assist with getting unstuck by reconnecting with life goals.

Some people find it easy to always stay focused on their goals. These are the lucky few. Most people get sidetracked at some point in their lives, others take it day by day without having a bigger goal and a third group doesn’t know, what and where to start because the only things, they see, are obstacles.


Unfortunately, my youngest son belongs to the latter group. Whenever he has to tackle a new project, he starts by telling us why he can’t do it. He lists all the hindrances, difficulties and obstacles he can think of and he can be very convincing that the particular project, whatever it is, is impossible to realize.

Behind all that is fear. He feels overwhelmed because the task at hand seems to be complex, unclear, uncontrollable and unmanageable. Some psychologists believe that a pessimistic approach to the world may be part of the inborn temperament. Regardless of the cause, we have learned that there is a way to work with him.

We must break up any complex task in sub goals and provide a specific time frame for each sub goal. As long as he stays focused on each step (and forgets the big goal) he can move onward.

But don’t say to him “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” (Chinese proverb). As soon as he remembers that each successfully mastered step is just that, a step toward the big goal, he feels overwhelmed again. To him, his successes suddenly seem to be so small.

I hope that by growing up he will learn to understand what Henry Ford meant when he said:
“Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”


Web based „Committment Contract“ for your personal goals

Struggling with weight loss, exercising more, eating healthier? Are you still holding on to your New Year’s resolutions, but just barely? Wait, before you give up. Signing up at stickK.com maybe the solution you have been looking for.

The website offers support for those of us with willpower issues when it comes to achieving our personal goals:

stickK is a web-based company that helps you achieve your personal goals through “Commitment Contracts.” You create a contract obliging you to achieve a specific goal within a specific time-frame. By doing so, you put your reputation at stake. You may also choose to wager money to give yourself added incentive to succeed. If you do succeed, you get your money back. If you fail, the money is forfeited to charity, or to one of several causes, or to a person of your choosing.( http://www.stickk.com/faq.php)

The contracts follow the principle of setting SMART goals (read about SMART goals: http://www.coach4u.net/blog/smart-goals.html)

To increase the incentive to reach your goal by putting up money, you can choose an Anti-Charity where your money would go to if you fail. An Anti-Charity is any organization/person whose goals you strongly oppose. Let’s say, if you feel strongly for Hillary, pledge your money for Obama or McCain, whoever is your least favorite candidate, and vice versa.

If you decide to put money at stake, your credit card will be charged for the full amount when you create the contract. The site also encourages its users to name a referee who acts as overseer and the site also offers the possibility to designate supporters.

Does it work and really increase your chances of achieving your goals? The website creators, two Yale professors and a student, of course say yes:

The Commitment Contract concept is grounded on two well-known principles of behavioral economics: (1) people don’t always do what they claim they want to do, and (2) incentives get people to do things.(http://www.stickk.com)

A few months ago, I wrote on this blog about a British research study about the success rate for New Year’s resolutions. (http://www.coach4u.net/blog/only-12-of-new-years-resolutions-successful.html). One result of the study has been that particularly women increase their chances of achieving goals by telling others about them. So, yes, stickK.com could be the solution for some people.

And if a public commitment contract, money at stake, referee and support network still are not enough, then – I believe – it would be really time for hiring a professional life & career coach like me; don’t you think?