Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Ask the Doctor: Does Exercise Make You Happier?

Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 02:43 PM

Can exercise make you happier?In many health fitness programs, exercise is considered a key part of improving physical health. From improvements to cardiovascular health that allow people who exercise to work longer and reduce their risk for serious heart disease, to strength training that tones muscles and burns fat, exercise is a proven means of improving physical health and fitness.

However, there are more benefits to keeping up a regular exercise routine than simple (albeit very important) physical health perks. Exercise also has numerous mental health and wellbeing benefits to go along with the physical health perks, such as improved confidence, focus, and mood.

This brings us to this post’s main question as posed by the title: “does exercise make you happier?” In short, the answer is yes, exercise can elevate your mood and promote feelings of wellness or even euphoria. Yet, there is more to this answer than that, as there are a lot of specific mental health benefits to exercise. Some of these benefits are considered short term, while others are long-term.

Short-Term Mental Benefits of Exercise

Many people who work out report having an elevated mood shortly after completing an exercise regimen. This is typically because of the effect of endorphins, chemicals released by the body in response to specific stimuli, such as the “stress” from exercise.

When you exercise, you are putting a controlled amount of strain on your body’s system. The body interprets this strain as stress, and naturally releases chemicals to counteract this stress to prevent harm. The rush of endorphins you get from exercise can cause temporary feelings of euphoria as the endorphins released during exercise attach to the opioid receptors in your brain.

Another shorter-term mental health benefit of exercise is a reduction of anxiety following the completion of an exercise routine. Once again, the release of endorphins after the completion of a workout are responsible for this boost. In fact, according to research featured on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website (NCBI), “exercise compares favorably to antidepressant medications as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression.” While not a cure of severe depression, the feelings of mental wellbeing following exercise have been known to lessen the severity of depression.

With regular exercise comes an increased capacity for physical activity. However, this doesn’t apply only to physical activity. Research shows that workers who exercise regularly frequently out-produce coworkers who don’t work out as often. The chemicals released during exercise can also boost creativity, making post-exercise creative work more inventive.

Long-Term Mental Benefits of Exercise

While the endorphin rush following any one specific exercise routine may be short-lived, the overall mental health benefits of repeated exercise can be much longer-lived than that.

Examples of the long-term benefits of exercise include:

  • With time, the health gains from your exercise will also help you build confidence.Improved Self-Confidence. Even after the euphoria of the endorphin rush is gone, the benefits to your self-image go on. After repeated exercise sessions (paired with a responsible diet/meal plan), you’ll be losing fat, gaining lean mass, feeling more energetic and positive about yourself. In short, as you get into physical shape, you’ll be more confident in and satisfied with your self-image. This is a large part of the reason why exercise is helpful to those who suffer from anxiety or depression.

  • Improved Cognitive Function. In another study found on the NCBI website, it was discovered that physical activity could “improve cognitive function in humans… possibly via a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-regulated mechanism.” Scientific studies suggest that BDNF helps improve decision making, information retention, and brain function. Even better, some research suggests that working out may slow or prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped organ in the brain that plays an important role in the formation of new memories. This, in turn, could help alleviate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (unfortunately, there still is no cure for this condition).

These benefits are in addition to those of overall improved health, strength, and respiratory function that come with exercise.

Getting the Most out of Exercise

While the short-term mental health benefits of exercise that are tied to the release of endorphins might not need repeated exercise to be experienced, gaining some of the longer-term benefits will take some more dedication. Or, maybe, just the occasional reminder.

For many people, one of the biggest challenges in getting the right amount of physical activity and gaining the physical and mental health benefits that come with exercise is that life can seem to just get in the way. It’s so easy to get tied up in doing one thing after another until you realize that the whole day has gone by before you find the time for even a quick workout. Thankfully, there’s a way to keep yourself appraised of your progress towards your exercise goals: a Fitbit activity tracker.

What is Fitbit?

Fitbit is a device that tracks your activity throughout the day, reading how many steps you’ve taken and helping you track your daily calorie burn and intake. With the ability to wirelessly sync to your smartphone or other mobile devices, tracking your progress towards your fitness goals is as easy as loading the app and checking the screen.

Different models of the Fitbit device can also track your sleep, giving you an idea of how restfully you’re sleeping each night! Models of the Fitbit that sync with your mobile devices can be programmed to give you reminders throughout the day of when you wanted to take 5-15 minutes out of your day to get in some physical activity.

With a Fitbit device, you can make sure that you get the little extra nudge you may need to meet your fitness goals and so you’ll be able to enjoy both the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. Get started with a Fitbit from Step Ahead Wellness today!

FREE FitBit for Fitness

Tags: Exercise, fitbit, Fitness, health

Busting 5 Diet Myths

Posted by Sari Greaves on Mon, Jul 07, 2014 @ 03:26 PM

Are you a victim of one of these diet myths?When it comes to diet and health, don’t believe everything you hear.  Widely publicized information could be incomplete, preliminary, or flawed and create massive misunderstanding. Nutrition expert, Sari Greaves, RDN will help you clear the confusion.

Diet Myth # 1: Weight gain is a common sign of gluten sensitivity.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are different. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten (a protein in wheat, rye, barley, and oats) that damages the intestinal lining and includes symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, anemia, fatigue, headache, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, and joint pain. Some people with celiac disease experience weight loss and absorb less calories.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are NOT one and the same.Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a little-studied diagnosis describing individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms such as bloating and fatigue but lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. The problem is that little is known about NCGS, from how much gluten is needed to trigger symptoms to whether gluten is even the culprit.

Bottom line advice: If you think you are sensitive to gluten, find out if you have celiac disease. That means a blood test for three antibodies and, if you have them, a biopsy. Why test first? Going off gluten can make the antibodies temporarily disappear, which makes celiac harder to detect. A gluten- free diet is the treatment for celiac disease. If everything’s negative but you feel better without gluten, chances are you may be eating healthier and less junk food. Talk to a dietitian to make sure you are getting adequate B-vitamins and fiber in your diet.

Diet Myth # 2: Protein drinks curb appetite

Does a protein shake really fill you up?“Satisfies hunger longer,” promise Special K Protein Shakes, which are largely blends of water, nonfat milk, whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and sugar. “With every tasty shake, you’ll get the nutritional benefits of 10g protein and 5g fiber that can help satisfy your hunger so you can lose weight.” Really? Some studies report that higher-protein foods make people feel more full than lower-protein foods, but other studies find no difference.

Bottom line advice: If you want to feel full, have some food, not a drink. A drink- with or without protein- may be less satiating than a solid food. A little more protein may satisfy hunger but the jury is still out on whether that translates to weight loss. Still, if you’re cutting calories, it makes sense to cut carbs and fat rather than protein. A 10 oz. Special K Protein shake has 10 grams of protein at the expense of 190 calories and the fiber comes largely from maltodextrin and polydextrose, processed fibers that may have little or no effect on appetite. Want some protein and fiber? Try 5 oz of fat-free plain greek yogurt (90 calories, 15 g protein) with a light sprinkle of nuts.

Diet Myth # 3: Low-fat foods promote weight loss.

If your veggie pizza recipe has as many calories as a meat-lover's recipe, then you might not be doing yourself any favors by switching one for the other.Decreasing the fat content of the diet does not guarantee that you’re decreasing calories. Whether you’re eating full-fat or low-fat ice cream, what shows up on the bathroom scale is largely determined by portion control. The food industry has been dishing out larger buns, burritos, bagels, cakes, cookies, scones, muffins, pizza, soft pretzels, pancakes, paninis, wraps, soft drinks, pasta, lo mein, and rice, making it easier to eat more of everything, including both fat and sugar from white flour carbs.

Bottom line advice: Slash dietary fat where it matters most by targeting foods that can improve heart health and actually shave off calories. If you’re going from full-fat to skim milk, you’re almost halving the calories. If you’re going from fatty cuts of meat to very lean cuts of meat, you’re decreasing the calories significantly. But if you’re going to eat fat-free brownies, cookies, waffles, and pancakes, it’s highly unlikely you’re saving any calories at all.

Diet Myth # 4: Dairy foods keep you lean

Is it better to go skim or whole? The jury's still out on this one.Study links drinking fattier milk to lower weight. Really? The notion that high-fat dairy foods keep you lean isn’t really grounded in much solid evidence. High-fat dairy may make you feel more satiated, but the research is skimpy. 

Bottom line advice: Right now, there is no real link between full-fat dairy foods and less weight gain, so it’s best to continue sipping on skim milk.

Diet Myth # 5: A healthy Mediterranean diet is eating Greek or Italian food.

When doing a Mediterranean diet, stick to fish and veggies, not to pasta and cheeses.A Mediterranean diet has been linked to lowered risk of heart disease for young populations. But what constitutes a Mediterranean diet can be misinterpreted. If you go to an Italian or Greek restaurant, you’re getting cheese on almost everything, white bread gyros, and there is definitely meat on the menu. A healthy Mediterranean diet is rich in beans, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish, vegetables, and fruits; its moderate in lean meats and poultry.

Bottom line advice: To make a diet more Mediterranean, you can add unsaturated fat (largely from olive oil) and subtract carbs. But many people forget to subtract. If you are going to drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on your salad, (120 calories per tablespoon, you are better off misting!) make sure to subtract the croutons which are high in salt and usually made with white bread.  Cut back on the portions of pasta or rice and choose whole grains as opposed to refined grains.

Do You Need a Personalized Weight Loss Program? 

References: Nutrition Action Healthletter, June 2014,

Tags: Weight Loss, health, diet myths


Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 01:12 PM

Wednesday is “GIVE-AWAY” DAY at Step Ahead!



Come in for a weigh-in, personal training session, or check
in with the Doctor and Registered Dietitian and leave with these


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Each medium-sized apple -- approximately 3 inches in diameter -- contains 95 calories. Roughly 87 percent of these calories come from carbohydrates, and the carbs found in apples help you metabolize fats, allow your nervous system to function and help your muscle tissue hold onto its protein stores. Each medium apple also contains 4.4 grams of dietary fiber, a nondigestable carbohydrate that fights chronic diseases -- including diverticular disease and type-2 diabetes -- and helps keep you regular. The fiber in one apple contributes 18 percent toward the recommended daily fiber intake for women and 12 percent for men.

Call Erica at 908-440-2235 to schedule your appointment. 

 Don’t delay… offer is good for today only and while supplies last.

We hope to see you today!!


For more information on all the weight loss programs we
offer, visit us at

Tags: diet, fruit recipes, healthy eating, Fitness, doctor supervised weight loss center, Nutrition, health, Weight Loss Center, give-away day, apples, metabolize fats, fight carbs, fiber


Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 @ 12:17 PM

Wednesday is “GIVE-AWAY” DAY at Step Ahead!



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Come in for a weigh-in, personal training session, or check
in with the Doctor and Registered Dietitian and leave with these

Step Ahead Customized 100 calorie packs.
Enjoy only 65 calories of veggie sticks and 35 calories of popcorn for a delicious 100 calorie snack!

Call Erica at 908-440-2235 to schedule your appointment. 

 Don’t delay… offer is good for today only and while supplies last.

We hope to see you today!!


For more information on all the weight loss programs we
offer, visit us at

Tags: Exercise, diet, HEALTHY DIET SHORTCUTS, Diet and Nutrition, healthy eating, Dr. Neiman, summer weight loss, Doctor Supervised Weight Loss, Fitness, Healthy, just 100 calories, Doctor, weight loss goals, diet to lose weight, lose weight in 2014, health, Weight Loss Center, giveaway day, wellness, healthy entertaining, 100 calorie snack

Spring 2014 Newsletter

Posted by deborah neiman on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 @ 09:46 AM

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                                                                                               SPRING 2014 NEWSLETTER


Spring Fit & Fuel Event
Wednesday, April 23rd 5:30-6:30 pm presented by certified personal trainer, Noelle Lusardi and Nutritionist Sari Greaves. 30-minute exercise class followed by 30-minute cooking demonstration. Event is free, RSVP by April 18th
Optifast Support Group
Meet, greet, and connect with others following the Optifast Weight Loss plan. Support group meets every Friday from 11:30-12:00pm and every other Wednesday from 5:00-5:30pm starting May 2nd. Register by emailing
Recipe E-newsletter with Personalized Recipes
Take the hassle out of calorie counting and cooking by signing up for Step Ahead’s weekly recipe, emailed directly to you. Learn how to prepare tasty and nutritious meals from start to finish under 30 minutes. Request a personalized recipe from Step Ahead’s Nutritionist, Sari Greaves.  Register by emailing
Friday Morning Coffee Chat with Step Ahead’s Nutritionist
Join Step Ahead’s Nutritionist & contributor to the Dr. Oz show, Sari Greaves at Starbucks coffee shop in Bedminster, NJ  Friday mornings from 10-10:30 am starting May 2nd. Enjoy a free skinny coffee and discuss your diet with Sari. Sari will also discuss seasonal nutrition topics and latest diet trends. Register by emailing
We are offering a "2 FOR 1" spring training special.  Buy any one of our personal training packages and bring a friend or family member in to train with you for FREE!!  This is a limited time offer so act now to take advantage of it. if you have any questions or to schedule appointments.  Offer is good until June 1!
Interested in taking your fitness routine to the next level??  Call today to schedule your FREE 30-minute TRX training session, 908-470-2235.  What is TRX?  The TRX Suspension Trainer is a workout system that leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises. You're in control of how much you want to challenge yourself on each exercise - because you can simply adjust your body position to add or decrease resistance. TRX delivers a fast, effective total-body workout, helps build a rock-solid core, increases muscular endurance, and benefits people of all fitness levels (pro athletes to seniors).
We are taking you outside this summer!  From June 1 thru Labor Day weekend, our wonderful certified Yoga instructor, Alyssia,  will be offering a weekly 30-minute power walk followed by a 30-minute Yoga Stretch class in the park across the street from our office.  More detailed info on this exciting new summer program will be out soon!  In the meantime, email if you have questions or want to reserve your spot!
Our group exercise classes are still in full swing on Monday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings.  Email to sign up or for more info!
Can you pass along a healthy recipe?
Have a success story to share?
Want to join a support group?

Tags: Exercise, diet, diabetes health, weight loss newsletter, fitbit, Diet and Nutrition, healthy eating, summer weight loss, Fitness, Step Ahead exercise classes, Healthy Meals, Healthy Recipes, weight loss goals, health, diabetes and weight loss, exercise classes, Step Ahead Wellness Center, healthy cocktails, healthy dinner recipe

Quick Weight Loss Tip: 100-Calorie Oatmeal Topper

Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 11:55 AM

Get Bold at Breakfast With These Super Stir-Ins.

Stay warm and healthy this winter!


The Step Ahead Team

100-calorie Oatmeal Toppers!

Tags: diet, quick weight loss, losing weight fast, healthy eating, Healthy Meals, Nutrition, lose weight, diet to lose weight, best weight loss, health, best diets 2014, Step Ahead, lose weight fast, sharecare

Snap Dinner Decisions From Your Dietitian

Posted by deborah neiman on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 @ 06:26 PM

Snap dinner decisions

Tags: Sari Greaves, weight loss video, Diet and Nutrition, healthy eating, Doctor Supervised Weight Loss, Fitness, health, diabetes and weight loss, healthy entertaining, Step Ahead Wellness Center, healthy cocktails, healthy dinner recipe

Step Ahead Wellness Center Brings You CARB CHECK... Carb Blocking Supplement

Posted by deborah neiman on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 @ 03:11 PM
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If you've been battling carb cravings, Step Ahead Wellness Center can help!  We are thrilled to announce a new carb blocking supplement called CARB CHECK.
Carb Check contains a northern white bean that inhibits the breakdown of starch in the intestinal track, thus alleviating cravings for empty carbs. By blocking these empty carbs, you're energy/sugar levels remain steady throughout the day thus making it much easier to stick with your healthy eating plan, and your exercise regime!
Let us help you stay on your healthy weight loss track this holiday season and beyond!  Call today to learn more about Carb Check, and all of our weight loss programs:  Call 908-470-2235 or email

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Check Out This Killer Indoor Leg Work Out!

Posted by deborah neiman on Mon, Dec 09, 2013 @ 06:50 AM

While the weather outside is frightful, indoor workouts are delightful!  Check out this killer leg workout you can do wherever, whenever!  No equipment is needed.




Let Step Ahead Wellness Center meet all your fitness, healthy weight loss goals... See our website at for our latest special weight loss offer.


Email our fitness director, certified personal trainer, Noelle Lusardi, at for more fit tips.

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Daily Turkey Day Tip

Posted by deborah neiman on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 @ 09:45 AM

Noelle's daily Turkey Day tip:

Be active: Go for a bike ride, a long brisk walk, a run or spend at least one hour at your local gym to burn calories before the big Thanksgiving meal.  Check your local newspaper, town website for various outdoor activities such as 5k Turkey Trots, etc.  It's a great way to rev up the metabolism before the big family meal.  Once the meal is over, go back outside and take a stroll or get the entire family involved in some sort of outdoor fun: ie: pick up basketball or soccer game.. not only will you burn off extra calories, you'll feel lighter and more energized as well!

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Tags: diet, Diet and Nutrition, healthy eating, Dr. Neiman, prevention, Fitness, Noelle Lusardi, healthy thanksgiving recipes, Healthy, Healthy Meals, Physician Weight Loss, Nutrition, Heart Disease, Prevention Heart Disease, Physician Weight Center, OptiFast, Doctor, healthy thanksgiving, healthy thanksgiving tips, health, healthy entertaining, Step Ahead Wellness Center