Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Strength Training Improves Health and Increases Weight Loss

Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 03:52 PM

Why Strength Train?

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Research has shown that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those who are not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns—including heart disease or arthritis—often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes lifting weights a few times each week.  Strength -Fitness Training, particularly in conjunction with regular aerobic exercise, can also have a profound impact on a person's mental and emotional health.

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Benefits of Strength Training

There are numerous benefits to strength training regularly, particularly as you grow older.  It can be very powerful in reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions, among them:





back pain


Arthritis Relief

Tufts University recently completed a strength-training program with older men and women with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis.  The results of this sixteen-week program showed that strength training decreased pain by 43%, increased muscle strength and general physical
performance, improved the clinical signs and symptoms of the disease, and decreased disability. The effectiveness of strength training to ease the pain of osteoarthritis was just as potent, if not more potent, as medications.  Similar effects of strength training have been seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Restoration of Balance and Reduction of Falls

As people age, poor balance and flexibility contribute to falls and broken bones. These fractures can result in significant disability and, in some cases, fatal complications. Strengthening exercises, when done properly and through the full range of motion, increase a person's flexibility
and balance, which decrease the likelihood and severity of falls. One study in New Zealand in women 80 years of age and older showed a 40% reduction in falls with simple strength and balance training.

Strengthening of Bone

Post-menopausal women can lose 1-2% of their bone mass annually. Results from a study conducted at Tufts University, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994, showed that strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk for
fractures among women aged 50-70.

Proper Weight Maintenance

Strength training is crucial to weight control, because individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories while stored fat uses very little energy.  Strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate, which is
enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control.

Improved Glucose Control

More than 14 million Americans have type II diabetes—a staggering three-hundred percent increase over the past forty years—and the numbers are steadily climbing. In addition to being at greater risk for heart and renal disease, diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness in older
adults. Fortunately, studies now show that lifestyle changes such as strength training have a profound impact on helping older adults manage their diabetes. In a recent study of Hispanic men and women, 16 weeks of strength training produced dramatic improvements in glucose control that are comparable to taking diabetes medication. Additionally, the study volunteers were stronger, gained muscle, lost body fat, had less depression, and felt much more self-confident.

Healthy State of Mind

Strength training provides similar improvements in depression as anti-depressant medications. Currently, it is not known if this is because people feel better when they are stronger or if strength training produces a helpful biochemical change in the brain. It is most likely a
combination of the two. When older adults participate in strength training programs, their self-confidence and self-esteem improve, which has a strong impact on their overall quality of life.

Sleep Improvement

People who exercise regularly enjoy improved sleep quality. They fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, awaken less often, and sleep longer. As with depression, the sleep benefits obtained as a result of strength training are comparable to treatment with medication but without the side effects or the expense.

Healthy Heart Tissue

Strength training is important for cardiac health because heart disease risk is lower when the body is leaner. One study found that cardiac patients gained not only strength and flexibility but also aerobic capacity when they did strength training three times a week as part of their
rehabilitation program. This and other studies have prompted the American Heart Association to recommend strength training as a way to reduce risk of heart disease and as a therapy for patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs.

Research and Background About Strength Training

Scientific research has shown that exercise can slow the physiological aging clock. While aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, has many excellent health benefits—it maintains the heart and lungs and increases cardiovascular fitness and endurance—it does not make your muscles strong. Strength training does. Studies have shown that lifting weights two or three times a week increases strength by building muscle mass and bone density.

One 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts University demonstrated 1% gains in hip and spine bone density, 75% increases in strength and 13% increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training. The control group had losses in bone, strength, and balance.  Strength training programs can also have a profound effect on reducing risk for falls, which translates to fewer fractures.


Lose weight and gain confidence with a personalizedprogram and the ongoing support of Step Ahead's expert team, including a physician, certified fitness trainer, and certified nutritionist. We now accept health insurance!

Get Started Today!


 Dr. Deborah Neiman MD, Sari Greaves, RDN & Noelle Lusardi, CPT

49 U.S. Highway 202
 Far Hills, NJ  07931

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Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, May 14, 2014 @ 03:31 PM

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One of the most dangerous lies of mainstream weight-loss advice
is the notion that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and if the number of
calories you consume is fewer than the number you burn, you will lose weight.

Many struggle with their weight, even as they follow this
advice. They count calories and exercise, yet the numbers on the scale never
budge. Or even worse: the numbers grow higher.

The laws of physics correctly say that if you burn more calories
than you consume you will eventually lose weight. This is a scientific fact,
but hidden in this fact is your metabolic rate is not a static number and the
food you eat as well as other factors can cause your metabolism to fluctuate
throughout the day and over longer periods of time.

These and other factors make accurately determining your
calories burned very difficult.

When combined with overly optimistic and often incorrect
calories consumed as well as thyroid and hormone issues, it easy to see why so
many people calculate calories needed to lose weight wrongly.

 Fat Storage is a Complex Metabolic Process

The idea that you will successfully lose weight if you eat less
and exercise more is continually disproved, but is still often repeated as

Fat storage–how much is stored, where it is stored, and how much
is used as fuel for the body–is determined by the actions of a variety of
enzymes and hormones. How your body processes the nutrients that become fat is
based on genetics and the foods you choose.

You can see evidence of this fact in the people around you: A
pregnant woman’s hips and thighs increase in size, even if she’s usually slender.
One person is thin and struggles to gain weight, while another person is
overweight in spite of hours in the gym and skipped meals.

The foods you eat, especially those that elevate blood sugar
levels, have a tremendous impact on how much fat is burned and how much is
stored. This is why low-carb diets are so effective. These diets eliminate the
foods that spike your blood sugar and promote the release of fat-storing

The Source of Calories Matters

Does it make a difference if you take in 100 calories from a
cupcake or the same amount of calories from chicken breast? Research shows that
the answer is a resounding “yes”.

All carbohydrates convert to glucose (sugar), but some are more
easily digested. This means that, compared to other carbohydrates, they elevate
blood sugar levels higher and for longer periods of time.

Foods like wheat and other grains, sugar, starches, and
dehydrated fruits are the easiest to digest and boost your blood sugar levels
sky-high. Insulin comes in to bring down those levels by storing the sugars as
fatty acids in your fat cells.

Fructose, the sugar contained in table sugar, high fructose corn
syrup, and agave nectar, travels straight to the fat cells. It is much better
at adding to body fat than either glucose or starchy foods.

In spite of its repetition by nutritionists and doctors
everywhere, a low-calorie diet and physical activity do not guarantee weight
loss. All calories are not created equal. Certain foods, like wheat and
starches, stimulate insulin production that leads to fat storage. Sugars not
only stimulate insulin, but also go straight into your fat cells. Remove these
foods from your diet and replace them with high-quality nutrients found in
animal proteins, vegetables, and fruits for the most effective way to lose
excess pounds. To get started, the next time you go grocery shopping purchase
as many whole foods as possible and start reducing your purchase of processed


For more fitness information contact our fitness director/certified fitness trainer, Noelle Lusardi, at




Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the
Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. New York: Knopf,
2007. Print.

Corbett Dooren, Jennifer. “Not All Calories Equal, Study Shows.”
WSJ Health and Wellness. Wall Street Journal, 26 June 2012. Web. 3 July 2012.

Hallfrisch, J. “Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fructose.” The
FASEB Journal 4.9 (1990): 2652-660. Print.



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POWER WALK/YOGA STRETCH CLASSES IN THE PARK START JUNE 4... call today to reserve your spot!

Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, May 09, 2014 @ 02:37 PM

Join us every Wednesday evening this summer for an hour of movement that will restore, rejuvenate, strengthen and energize you... after a long day at work or home with the kids/family.

Email our fitness director Noelle Lusardi at for more info or to sign up!

We look forward to walking and stretching with you!


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Step Ahead Brings Fitness Classes to Local Companies!

Posted by deborah neiman on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 12:16 PM

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Our fantastic Yoga Instructor, Alyssia Saporito, takes employees at Peapack Gladstone Bank through another week of great classes!

Interested in bringing fitness classes to your company?

Call today for details -- 908-470-2235, or email our fitness director, Noelle Lusardi, at


Let us bring fitness to you!

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Mark Your Calendar for "Fit and Fuel" Hour on April 23!

Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 @ 11:20 AM


There is no cost to participate and we encourage you to bring your friends/family!  

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Tags: Personal Weight Loss, Dr. Neiman, Doctor Supervised Weight Loss, Personal Trainers, Noelle Lusardi, Physician Weight Loss, Physician Weight Center, diet to lose weight, best weight loss, Weight Loss Center, diabetes and weight loss

Don't Ignore These 4 Important Muscle Groups!

Posted by deborah neiman on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 @ 06:51 AM


Start Paying Attention To These 4 Important Muscle Groups!


You probably have muscle groups you love to work. It might be your
shoulders, biceps or glutes – but more importantly what muscles are you giving
the “cold shoulder?” If you enjoy working certain muscle groups, you may be
spending more time on training those muscles than you are your least favorite
muscles to work.

Why is this a problem? By focusing more on your favorite muscles, you
creating strength imbalances. Strength imbalances are a problem because they
increase your risk for injury. Strength imbalances also create asymmetry. A
symmetrical, balanced body in terms of strength and development is better from
a structural standpoint and is more aesthetically pleasing as well. Muscles
work together in an integrated manner to help you move. If one muscle is weaker
it throws movements slightly off balance and increases the risk of injury

What muscles are you not working often enough? In terms of muscle balance,
some muscles are more likely to get the “cold shaft” than others. Here are some
of the most commonly neglected muscles.


Chances are you invest more of time working your quadriceps and hamstrings
than you do your calf muscles. Your calf is made up of two muscles
gastrocnemius and the soleus. Strong calf muscles are important if you do
sports that require explosive power like jumping. Always stretch your calf
muscles after every workout to maintain flexibility, especially if you run or
do plyometric exercises that involve jumping.

Fortunately, it’s easy to work your calf muscles by doing standing or
seated calf raises. The results you’ll get from working your calf muscles will
vary. Some people develop calf muscles more easily than others based on
genetics. Even if you don’t develop noticeably defined calves, you can still
strengthen them for greater muscle balance and symmetry. Why should your quads
and hamstrings get all the attention? Add some calf raises, with or without
weights, to your lower body routine.


The obliques are another group of neglected muscles for some people. The
oblique muscles, made up of the internal and external obliques, are muscles on
each side of your rectus abdominis. Why do you need to work them? They give
your lower back support and help to improve your posture. Plus, your obliques
come into play as stabilizers when you do other types of lifting movements.

Two of the best exercises for working your obliques are oblique crunches on
a mat or a stability ball and side planks. Don’t let your obliques be an
afterthought. Side bridges and Russian twists also target your oblique muscles.
For overall core balance, don’t make your obliques an after thought.muscle


Lower Back Muscles

When you work your abdominal muscles and obliques, save some focused
attention for your back. By zeroing in on your abdominal muscles without
training your lower back muscles, you create a core imbalance that increases
your risk for injury and back pain. After all, back muscles are part of your
core. When you focus on abdominal exercises without balancing things out with
lower back exercises, your core becomes “off-balance,” being stronger on one
side than the other. Your goal should be core symmetry. Plus, strong back
muscles provide the support you need to train other muscles harder by
supporting your spine. When your spinal stabilizers are weak it affects your
posture. This places added stress on your vertebrae. Not to mention strong back
muscles reduce your risk for back pain.

How can you give your lower back muscles more love? Balance abdominal
exercises with “supermans.” To do this, lie on your stomach and lift your
shoulders off the floor as high as you can. Hold for a few seconds before
releasing. Repeat until you can’t do anymore. Deadlifts are another good
exercise for strengthening your lower back muscles.


Forearms you say? Why do I need to work them? Strong forearms reduce
fatigue when you train your biceps and when you do presses. They also improve
your grip strength – perfect if you play racquet sports or if you do pulling
exercises. Having weak forearms can limit the amount of weight you can lift
when working other body parts. Don’t let your forearms limit your development
in other areas.

Among the best exercises for strengthening your forearms are wrist flexion
and extension exercises using weights. When you do biceps curls, add a set of
reverse barbell curls to strengthen the extensor muscles in your forearms.
There’s no need to spend a large amount of time working your forearms, but
don’t ignore them either. They help you maximize the rest of your resistance

The Importance of Total Body Workouts

One way to make sure no muscle gets left behind is to focus more on total
body workouts and compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups. You’ll
also burn more calories doing a greater percentage of compound exercise as
opposed to exercises that isolate a single muscle group. Still, if you already
have muscle imbalances because you’ve ignored certain muscles, you’ll need to
do isolated exercises that target those muscles to create muscle balance.


The Bottom Line

Everyone has favorite body parts that they love to work more than others.
Enjoy training those parts but don’t neglect ones you don’t like to work and
those you deem less important. It’s also about balance and symmetry. Your body
is only as strong and powerful as its weakest link. Make sure your training is

For more information on exercise please contact our fitness
director/certified personal trainer, Noelle Lusardi, at  And visit our website
for our latest weight loss programs and weight loss specials.



ACE Fitness. “Muscular Imbalances Increase Your Clients’ Risk for Injury”




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Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 @ 12:14 PM

We, at Step Ahead Wellness Center in Far Hills, NJ, just made losing weight and reaching weight loss goals even more rewarding! 

With the launch of our "Cash For Fat Program" ... we reward you for each pound you lose!  This program is being offered to all existing and new clients!  Don't delay, call today to schedule your weigh-in and start getting paid to lose weight!


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Posted by deborah neiman on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 @ 06:18 AM

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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 dietician and leave with these

FREE Step Ahead measuring cups. 

Great for all your measuring needs!

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

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Don't Let Lack of Sleep Derail Your Fitness/Weight Loss Goals!

Posted by deborah neiman on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 @ 11:15 AM

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Can’t stop snacking? Make sure you’re not skimping on sleep. Research
already shows a link between not spending enough hours in dreamland and weight
gain, but exactly how sleep contributes to weight gain and overeating isn’t
clear. According to some research, the answer lies with the way sleep affects
two appetite hormones that turn on and off the desire to eat.

The Dueling Duo: Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin and ghrelin are hormones that control appetite control. Leptin is
produced by fat cells and sends a signal to the brain that curbs the desire to
keep eating. It essentially puts a brake on your appetite. Some obese people
don’t respond as readily to the satiety signals leptin sends because their body
is resistant to it, a condition known as leptin resistance.

Ghrelin is produced by cells lining the stomach and pancreas. It’s the
hormone that causes your to stomach to growl and sends you rushing to the
kitchen for a snack. Ghrelin is a hormone you don’t want working overtime if
you’re trying to control your weight.

Together, leptin and ghrelin working quietly behind the scenes in
conjunction with other hormone players to control your desire to eat. They’re a
powerful duo when it comes to appetite control.

How Sleep Affects Appetite

In a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers measured
the effects of inadequate sleep on appetite hormones in 12 healthy young men of
normal weight. They did this by restricting the amount the men slept for 2
night consecutive nights. On those nights, they were only allowed to sleep for
4 hours.

When researchers measured levels of appetite hormones in these
sleep-deprived young men, they found that their leptin levels had dropped by
18% and their ghrelin levels rose by 28%. Not surprisingly, their appetite also
increased, and they experienced more cravings for high-carb, energy dense foods.

Even though this study was small, other research also suggests that lack of
sleep boosts appetite and cravings for carbs. Some experts believe it’s an
underappreciated contributor to obesity.

Another Way Lack of Sleep Causes Weight Gain

If you deprive yourself of sleep, levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise. Cortisol is a hormone that breaks down muscle tissue, reduces resistance to infection and boosts belly fat, especially the most dangerous kind, visceral fat. Cortisol is another hormone that can trigger cravings for carbs and send you running to the vending machine for a high-calorie snack.

As you can see, a variety of hormonal players work overtime when you don’t
get enough shut-eye. That’s why sleep should be a priority in the same way
exercise is. If you’re working out regularly and aren’t shedding body fat, keep
a sleep diary for two weeks and see if you’re getting enough sleep. If not,
it’s time to re-prioritize.

To keep your appetite hormones in line, between seven and eight hours of
sleep a night appears to be optimal. Less than that and you’ll have a harder
time reigning in your appetite and may find it more difficult to resist
high-carb treats like doughnuts that usually get passed around the office.

The Bottom Line?

Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for controlling your weight.
Lack of it can upset the delicate balance between your appetite hormones and
undermine your efforts to control your weight. Next time you’re tempted to
watch a late show on television, head to bed instead. You’ll feel better the
next day, and you may eat less.

For more healthy fitness tips contact our fitness director/certified
personal trainer, Noelle Lusardi, directly at  And be sure to visit our website at
for our latest weight loss program special and lose weight fast tips!



Medscape CME. “Getting Sufficient Sleep May Help Reduce Weight Gain”


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Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 @ 06:09 AM

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You’ve seen charts that list a range for ideal body weight based on a
person’s sex and height. Some weight charts also add another variable – body
frame. People with smaller frames should theoretically have a lower ideal body
weight than someone with a larger frame.

A Quick Way of Calculating Ideal Body Weight

Health professionals sometimes use a formula to estimate an individual’s
ideal body weight based on their height. Based on this formula, women who are
five feet tall have a theoretical ideal body weight of 100 pounds. You would
then multiply each additional inch in height above 5 feet by five to get a
person’s approximate ideal body weight. For example, a woman 5 foot 4 inches
would have an ideal body weight of 120 pounds. (100 + 4 x 5). For men five feet
tall, 106 pounds is theoretical ideal body weight. For men over 5 feet, each
additional inch is multiplied by six to get ideal body weight. So, a man that’s
5 foot 10 inches would have an ideal body weight of around 166. (106 + 10 x 6).

BMI: Another Approach to Gauging Ideal Weight

Another way health professionals gauge a person’s weight is by calculating
their BMI or body mass index. There are BMI calculators online, like in our
Workout Manager, where you can plug in your numbers and get your BMI and look
at a BMI chart to see if you’re in a healthy range. BMI uses a formula based on
height and weight.

Both body weight and BMI are quick ways to assess someone’s weight but both
have limitations. They only take into account height and weight. There are a
growing number of people, especially those who don’t exercise, who are
“skinny-fat.” These people fall into the ideal range or under ideal on the BMI
and weight charts, but if you measured their body fat percentage it would be
high. That’s where BMI and body weight as measurements of ideal weight are
limited. They tell you nothing about body composition or how much of that
weight is muscle and how much fat.

The reality is an athlete with a very low body fat percentage and lots of
lean muscle tissue can fall into the overweight category based on body weight
or BMI. At the same time, someone with a high body fat percentage and little
muscle can still be in the “ideal” range. You can’t necessarily assume you’re
healthy from a weight standpoint just because you’re in the ideal range on
weight and BMI charts. A 5 foot 4 inch woman that weighs 120 pounds and has 35%
body fat is less healthy than a woman of the same height that weighs 132 pounds
and has 18% body fat.

 Body Composition Matters When it Comes to Health

A better indicator of health and fitness is body fat percentage. The most
accurate ways to measure body fat is a DXA scan (similar to an x-ray and
involves radiation) or air displacement plethysmography where you get into a
chamber that’s sealed off. Body fat percentage can be calculated based on how
much air you displace inside the chamber.

Another technique called near-infrared interactance delivers an infra-red
beam of light into a muscle and measures how much is absorbed by the fat
tissue. These are all accurate methods for measure body fat percentage but you
can’t do them at home.

What about body fat scales? Body fat scales for home use aren’t necessarily
all that accurate. They work by sending a weak electrical impulse through body
and measuring how quickly the impulse returns. The impulse moves more quickly
through lean tissue as opposed to fat. The reading is affected by factors like
how hydrated you are and when you last ate. Despite their lack of absolute
accuracy, body fat scales are helpful for following changes in body fat percentage.

Calipers that measure skin fold thickness are a low-tech way to estimate
body fat percentage. They’re reasonably accurate if you do the measurements
correctly and measure under the same conditions each time.

Another Measurement of Health and Fitness

When’s the last time you measured your waistline? An old-fashioned tape
measure can tell you a lot. Most importantly it can tell you your waist-to-hip
ratio or WHR. WHR is one indicator of cardiovascular risk and general health as
well. People who have a high waist-to-hip ratio have more visceral fat, deep
waist and belly fat that’s pro-inflammatory.

To measure your WHR, measure your waist at its narrowest point. If you have
a waist that bulges outwards, measure an inch above your navel. Get your hip measurement
by measuring at the widest part of your buttocks. Divide your waist measurement
by your hip measurement to get your ratio.

How did you score? If you’re female, your waist-to-hip ratio should be less
than 0.9. Males should have a WHR of less than 0.8 to place them in the lowest
cardiovascular risk category.


The Bottom Line?

Most people use the scale as an indicator of how fit and healthy, but
they’re not getting the full story. If possible, know and follow your body fat
percentage. Be sure your waist-to-hip ratio falls into a healthy range too.
These tell you more than your body weight or BMI.

For more healthy fitness tips and quick weight loss tips, contact our
fitness director/certified personal trainer, Noelle Lusardi, at
And visit our website
for our latest weight loss specials and programs, and get great weight loss



Medical News Today. “What is a Healthy Weight?”

Southwestern Medical Center. “Waist-to-hip ratio may better predict
cardiovascular risk than body mass index”

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