Tag Archives: heart health

American Heart Month – Let’s Talk About Healthy Hearts


As Valentines Day approaches, it’s important to remember that February is also American Heart Month. We wanted to share these recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) for a healthy diet and lifestyle to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Healthy Eating

The AHA offers the following guidelines for simplifying healthy eating:

  • Use up as many calories as you take in.
  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups:  fruits/vegetables, lean protein, nuts, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products.
  • Eat less nutrient-poor foods. Simply put: avoid junk food.
  • Cut back on added sugars.
  • Keep an eye on portion size.
  • The AHA’s Heart-Check mark on certain products in your grocery store shows you which foods have been certified to meet the AHA nutrition requirements. It’s a good first step in creating an overall sensible eating plan.

Our Koko Fuel plan was based on nutritious, whole foods that meet these requirements. We encourage our members to review their Fuel plan online and try 14 days of healthy, individualized nutrition this month.

Physical Activity

According to the AHA, “Strength and resistance training exercise is one of the four types of exercise along with endurance, balance and flexibility. Ideally, all four types of exercise would be included in a healthy workout routine.” The American Heart Association recommends strength training at least twice per week. “Strengthening your muscles gives you the ability to perform everyday activities and helps protect your body from injury. Stronger muscles also lead to a boost in your metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories even when your body is at rest.”

Stress Relief

It is well documented that stress can contribute to all sorts of health issues, especially heart disease.  Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits from the AHA you may want to develop to manage stress:

  • Talk with family and friends. A daily dose of friendship is great medicine.
  • Engage in daily physical activity to relieve mental and physical tension.
  • Embrace what you can change. You are never too old to learn or do something new.
  • Remember to laugh. Laughter makes us feel good. Don’t be afraid to LOL.
  • Give up bad habits that increase blood pressure:  alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, etc.
  • Slow down. Try to “pace” instead of “race.”
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for six to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Get organized. Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks.
  • Practice giving back. Volunteer, or help a friend. Helping others helps you.
  • Worry less. The world won’t end if  your kitchen isn’t cleaned.

Weight Management

The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go far beyond improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you are also likely to enjoy better sleep, less pain, lower your cholesterol and — most importantly — reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Fortunately, Koko FitClub builds individualized fitness and nutrition plans for each and every member, so that no matter what your age, ability or goal, we can help you with all of the above.  During American Heart Month, we want to remind everyone that a healthy lifestyle can be fun and simple, and easy to get started today.

- Michael Wood, CSCS, Chief Fitness Officer, Koko FitClub, LLC


Kickstart your healthy habits with 30 days of individualized fitness and coaching at Koko FitClub. Try 30 days for just $30 – no risk, no obligation.  


No Joke! Laughing Has Serious Health Benefits.

It’s not the Miles, it’s how you live them. (Video)

It’s hard to argue that laughing is infectious – tell me you didn’t at least giggle while watching that video. It’s also hard to argue that after a good “laugh fest,” you feel better – both physically and mentally.  Did you know the effects of laughter and exercise are very similar?  This is where you say something like: “Is this some sort of joke? Does laughter really provide health benefits that are similar to exercise? ” According to the new field of “gelotology” – the study of laughter and its effects on the body – it sure does!

This is good news people, and for some, maybe that’s all you need to know – laughter has health benefits.  After all, if we enjoy laughing, that’s likely reason enough to continue to laugh.  But, if you are like me, curious about how something as great as laughing can provide health benefits similar to exercise, then put a smile on your face and read on.

Laughter experts, (is that an awesome job or what?) Dr. Lee S Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan, were among the first to discover that laughing helps maximize many functions of various body systems.  One of the key findings of their study was that laughter optimizes hormones in the endocrine system, including decreasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine, which leads to stress reduction.

Cortisol is a key hormone when it comes to exercise and weight loss, and “less is better.”  Cortisol is a “catabolic” hormone, which means that it breaks tissue down (as opposed to building tissue up the way testosterone, growth hormone and insulin do.)  We all know that consuming too many calories and not exercising regularly lead to weight gain, but there are other factors that can make weight loss more difficult.  One of those factors is high cortisol, largely from chronic stress.  If something as simple and enjoyable as laughter has the ability to decrease cortisol levels, start your “LOL” prescription immediately.

Decreasing stress is definitely a shared benefit of laughter and exercise, (unless you are exercising too long – it’s no coincidence that a Koko Smartraining strength workout is only 30 minutes,) but the comparisons don’t stop there.

Blood Flow:
When we laugh, our pulse and blood pressure go up, we breathe faster and send more oxygen to our muscles and organs.  That increased level of oxygen in our blood gives us more energy.   Similarly, exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And, when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily routine.

Immune Response:
As we discussed already, laughter decreases stress, which in turn, improves the functioning of our immune system.  Some studies have shown that laughing and the ability to use humor raises the level of infection-fighting antibodies and boost the level of immune cells.  Laughing also increases the response of tumor and disease killing cells, such as T-cells, and defends against respiratory infections by the immunoglobulin created in saliva.  In the same vein, exercise can boost your immune system by providing a boost to the cells in your body that are assigned to attack bacteria.

Calorie Burn:
Last, but not least, laughing burns calories! When you laugh, you are giving your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a light workout.  Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing.  Mr. Buchowski concluded that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.  (Imagine the effect I could have on the calorie burn for Koko Cardio if I worked in a stand up routine…)
While those 50 calories are a nice bonus and add up over time, don’t skip today’s workout because you watched “Bridesmaids” last night.  One piece of chocolate has about 50 calories.  At the rate of 50 calories per hour, losing one pound would require 12 hours of concentrated laughter. The world record for non-stop laughter, held by Belachew Girma, is 3 hours and 6 minutes.  That said, some interesting fitness trends have emerged that combine exercise with laughter; check one of them out here – you won’t be disappointed (but you may decide my Koko Cardio stand up routine isn’t such a brilliant stroke of genius.)

So my friends, as contrary as it sounds, humor and laughter should be taken seriously when it comes to the impact they have on our health and wellbeing.  After all, this “medicine” is fun, free, easy to use and doesn’t require a prescription.  Since laughter pre-dates speech by perhaps millions of years, we can conclude that laughter the most ancient of medicines still being used today.

I hope that every mile of your journey is filled with the wonderful sounds of laugher, that you find humor in as many situations as you can, and that you take the time to stop and laugh with the people you care about the most.

Laugh more…live better!

Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer
Koko FitClub
Customized Exercise. Customized Nutrition. Amazing Results.

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Super Food Saturday Valentine’s Date Night Edition: Dark Chocolate & Red Wine

Red Wine and Dark Chocolate are Valentine's superfood

I typically reserve the first paragraph of every Super Food post for a brief explanation of what family the food belongs to and how the name came to be…but when dealing with dark chocolate and red wine this close to Valentine’s Day, and just in time for date night, let’s forgo the chit chat and skip right to the good stuff!

A Match Made in Heaven

Most people won’t argue that chocolate and wine are heavenly foods, but you may be surprised to learn that chocolate’s botanical name, Theobroma cacao, literally translates to “food of the gods.”   And, while on the topic of the divine, the Greek god Dionysus is credited with inventing wine. As the god of fertility and ecstasy who can blame him?  As the myths go, Dionysus was often in the presence of  “Maenads” – wild women, flush with wine and draped in fawn skins enjoying the “fruit of the vine.” (And some chocolate perhaps?)  There’s no doubt Mr. Dionysus knew how to throw a party, but he probably didn’t know the health benefits of these sumptuous foods.

Flavonoids & Resveratrol – The Language of Love

Dark chocolate and red wine both contain polyphenols called flavanols. Flavanols are super sexy, naturally occurring antioxidants that protect the body by fighting the effects of free radicals – atoms or molecules in our bodies that contribute to a list of serious health issues.  In fact, the ORAC value (the measure of a substances’ antioxidant capacities) of raw, unprocessed cocoa is higher than highly regarded super foods like acai, pomegranates, cranberries, blueberries, kale and spinach.

If the high ORAC value doesn’t get you in the mood, dark chocolate has a list of benefits that will help keep a flame burning that even cupid can’t match:

Dark Chocolate is good for your heart

We all know a strong heart is important when the “mood strikes” and studies show that eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times a week can help lower your blood pressure, improves blood flow and prevents the formation of blood clots.

Dark Chocolate is good for your brain

Attraction is about more than just a pretty face – we want the package deal! Beauty AND brains. (BRAAAAINZ… Ha! Just kidding. That’s the Halloween post.) If you’d like a little enhancement in that department, dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function (and reducing the risk of stroke.)

Dark chocolate improves your mood

It seems too good to be true, but dark chocolate has several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood. One in particular, phenylethylamine (PEA,) encourages the brain to release endorphins, so when you eat it, you’re happier.  Interestingly enough, PEA is the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love.  A few squares of dark chocolate may be all you need to rekindle the romance.

Dark chocolate is high in vitamins & minerals

Dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals, but the ones in large concentrations are potassium, copper, magnesium and iron.  Among other things, copper and potassium help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments. Iron protects against iron deficiency (anemia) and magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

For something as delicious and decadent as dark chocolate, it’s hard to believe how darn healthy it is.  Turn out, red wine provides many of the same benefits as dark chocolate because it too has abundant flavanols. But, the real superpowers behind red wine come from the phytonutrient resveratrol. 

While dark chocolate also has resveratrol, the highest concentrations are found in the skin of grapes.  Resveratrol is the antibody that grapes produce when they are fighting disease, fungii or injury.  This beautiful chemical compound reduces inflammation, reverses the aging process and repairs damaged cells.  In addition, resveratrol has been shown to interfere with the growth of cancer cells.

Also, the best way to absorb resveratrol is through “buccai” delivery – which means by direct absorption through the inside of the mouth.  The next time you take a sip of that heavenly juice, be sure to taste it like you’re on a romantic Napa tour and swish it around your mouth a bit.

The Taste of Love

There’s no doubt that dark chocolate and red wine are an attractive couple, but their  uber- super-foodiness escalates them to a stellar-sexy Brangelina status. (Too many hyphens?)  There is every reason to start working both of these decadent foods into your diet immediately…just make sure you can (and do) follow a few simple rules.

1.     Enjoy both in moderation (very important)
2.     Enjoy chocolate with cocoa content of 70% or higher
3.     To maximize resveratrol concentration look for grapes made in northern or higher elevation climates

For those of us in colder climates, try this smokin’ recipe for “Antioxidant Powerhouse Hot Chocolate:”

Mix all ingredients with milk in a medium saucepan. Heat it over low to medium heat, without causing it to boil. Stir continuously with a whisk to dissolve the sugar and distribute the cacao.  Enjoy!

Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer
Koko FitClub

Try a complimentary Koko FitClub workout near you!

Change lives with us! Find out about becoming a Koko FitClub franchisee today!

How Much Exercise Do I Need to Reach My Fitness Goals?

How much exercise is too much?This is a hot fitness topic of late thanks to a recent study that suggests too much endurance exercise- from training for events such as marathons and triathlons – can actually have a negative effect on your heart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and Surgeon General, 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise is what you need each week to stay healthy. They also recommend two strength training sessions.

Knowing that you need to exercise for your health, but given the recent news that it may be possible to exercise at a level that is unhealthy, you might be wonderingwhat types of exercise should I do and how much should I be doing it?”

This is the kind of competing health and fitness information that can become so confusing, it ends up sending people to their couch in defeat. This is why we created Koko. Getting fit and healthy doesn’t have to be confusing.

It ultimately depends on your fitness goals, but if you’re doing 2-3 strength and 3-4 cardio Smartraining sessions each week, you’re in the ballpark of what these health agencies recommend. If it’s a bit more? Fine. Just remember, your exercise routine should become part of your lifestyle, and something you maintain for a lifetime.

If you are training excessively – especially if it is excessive distance and endurance work – then you need to consider the possible risk to your heart. If you are not training to an extreme that risks your heart, but you are “over-the top” with the amount of exercise you are doing, consider that with any extreme you are undermining your long term success. The extreme road is impossible to travel forever.

With the obvious caveat that what you do outside the club – from the quality and amount of food you put into your body to how much you move in a day – is of critical importance, if you’re looking to build muscle, lose weight or prevent weight gain, the amount and type of exercise prescribed by Koko fits the bill. It is also designed to be a fitness routine you can stick with long term. As Koko Co-Founder, Mary Obana, likes to say, “Koko for Life!”

If you’d like to read more about the study I mentioned here, visit:




Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer
Koko FitClub

Koko FitClub Franchising

Get Your Heart Koko Fit for Valentine’s Day & American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to get to Koko FitClub and challenge yourself to work in extra Koko Cardio. In addition to hitting your 3 strength session per-week goal, how about doing four, or even five cardio sessions? During those extra sessions, you can try out some of my new favorite winter cardio programs like the  Koko Crater Head Challenge and the Santa Monica Stairs.

Our hearts are incredibly strong muscles, and we keep them healthy by moving our bodies, but Americans just don’t move enough. With more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes a year, and 800,000 deaths, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. That’s a sobering 2,200 deaths per day on average. And, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that individuals who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Health.com states, “one cardiovascular death per year may be preventable for every 145 people who are persuaded to walk at least two hours a week, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.”

Research has shown that sedentary individuals who begin a regular program of exercise have the potential reduce their risk of a heart attack by 35 to 55%.  In another study, Harvard researchers found an approximate 20% reduction in heart-disease risk for individuals who most frequently found the time to vigorously exercise. Types of activity included: running or jogging, swimming laps, and playing tennis. Even the most basic aerobic exercise showed benefit. Walking 3 miles or more a week resulted in a 10% reduction in risk. Other moderate exercises include golf and yard work.

At Koko, both the circuit-based, strength workouts on the Smartrainer and the high intensity interval training you do for Koko Cardio are already making your heart healthier. If you add a couple of extra sessions of Koko Cardio each week, starting this American Heart month, you can even further reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. What are you waiting for?

Speaking of hearts, Valentine’s Day is only a few days away. What better way to show your love than to share Smartraining with your spouse, friends and family members. You may be introducing them to a new love – the love of exercise! For everyone who thinks they hate exercise, they only hate the negative experiences they have had in the past; discouraged by the “failures” and frustrations. The gift of Koko will be the best Valentine they’ve ever received. It’s a gift of good health that sends the message “I want you around to love for years to come!”

Here’s to your Healthy Heart!

Michael Wood, CSCS
Chief Fitness Officer
Koko FitClub

Koko FitClub Franchising