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The Sequoia Advisor
IN THIS ISSUE                                                                June 15, 2008 
  • Meditation... An Effective Weight Loss Tool
  • 5 Exercises That Do More Harm Than Good
  • Lap-Band Activity Classes... Make it Work Better
  • Active Adults... FITT Testing Program Starting Soon


Meditation... An Effective Weight Loss Tool

The Danger of Too Much Cortisol

Our fast-paced world creates stress on the body increasing your blood levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Excess cortisol levels negatively affect your health by weakening your immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems. Conversely, stressful situations reduce the "feel good" hormone serotonin. When serotonin is not being produced in adequate amounts, you feel down and less optimistic. Your brain likes to feel good so food ends-up being a convenient way to try and increase serotonin levels. Even though food will temporarily improve your mood, it is not without side effects. namely excess weight gain. Meditation is effective in reducing over-eating and helping you reach a healthy weight.


The Classic Signs of Cortisol Overload
The telltale signs of excess cortisol build-up are having trouble losing or maintaining a healthy weight; tiredness and lack of energy; difficulty sleeping; high blood pressure and frequent colds;flu or other chronic illnesses. Nervousness, depression and anxiety are also good signs of cortisol overload. General aches and pains, fibromyalgia and other muscle and joint problems are usually found in high cortisol situation. Meditation is a little used tool that can quiet your mind, reduce cortisol levels, improve how you look and feel and increase your health. 


What the Research Says
According to the American Psychological Association, "Jean Kristeller, PhD, a psychology professor at Indiana State University, and Ruth Quillian-Wolever, PhD, clinic director and clinical health psychologist of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, are completing a randomized clinical trial using mindfulness meditation. They have found that along with its general stress-relief applications, meditation is also being studied as an intervention for weight gain and obesity, particularly for binge-eating disorder."

The American Psychological Association went on to say, "Rather than assuming such deficits are biologically driven they may be instead due to a 'disconnection' related to over-dieting or to using food primarily to meet emotional needs." The researchers said that, "while the relaxation effects of meditation may help with how food is used emotionally, the most important aspect may be incorporating nonjudgmental awareness into eating. In fact, other laboratory research on regulation of eating shows that individuals with eating problems are generally less aware of experiences of hunger and satiety cues, including taste-specific satiety and feelings of fullness."

Re-building Your Serotonin
Increasing serotonin levels by overeating is not the answer to trying to feel better. Food only provides a short-term feel good followed by excess weight gain and long-term misery and frustration. Meditation, on a daily basis, helps reduce stress and returns serotonin to healthy levels. It is an effective tool against overeating and helps you restore your body to a natural, healthy weight. Meditation works by calming your mind, helping provide order in a hectic and disordered world. Meditation also enhances your physical health by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and reducing pain.

How to Start
Meditation is quite easy and a pleasant way to start the day. Find a quiet spot, sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and allow your mind to calm and slow down. You can concentrate on a candle flame or your breath as a way to center your attention. Don't force it but allow your mind to slowly de-clutter. Try  mentally picturing your favorite spot and go there for a few minutes. You'll be amazed at how good you feel afterwards and all it takes is just five minutes a day to start.

When it comes to weight loss, mental wellbeing is as important as physical health. Meditation is an effective tool helping you get control of your mental urges to eat. In 2008, end the struggle with your weight. Contact us for more information on our meditation classes that can make meditation a daily part of your life. For more information or to schedule your free Fresh Start consultation, please call Woody McMahon at 703-464-5171 or email to


5 Exercises That Do More Harm Than Good

Exercise Safety Alert
Going to the health club is a great thing for your health. Keeping your exercise program safe helps you spend more time at the gym and less at the doctor's office.  Listed are 5 of the most common exercises you should never do. In an effort to help you prevent injury each and every time you exercise, here are the "worst of the worst" and a suggested substitute activity(s) in its place.


1. Behind-the-Neck Pull Downs

This exercise usually involves sitting on a lat pull down machine bench and pulling a bar down behind your neck. It is presumably performed to strengthen the shoulders and upper and middle back.

Problem: Studies have found that this exercise will not help pull-up performance. This exercise also rotates your shoulders into a position that strains the rotator cuff muscles eventually leading to muscular tears.

Better Alternatives: Assisted regular pull up's, standing rows followed by high-lows on a cable pull down machine or bent knee rows with a dumbbell. Breathe regularly. Do not hold your breath.  

2. Behind-the-Neck Shoulder Press
This exercise usually involves sitting on a bench or standing. A weighted bar is placed on the shoulders behind the neck and then pressed above your head and returned to behind the neck. This exercise is presumably performed to strengthen the shoulders and back of the arms.

Problem: This exercise puts too much stress on the front of the shoulder joint which can lead to an overuse injury commonly referred to as "weight lifter's shoulder."  

Better Alternative: ½ Roll Toe Touch and Press: Stand on a ½ foam roll holding a 10 pound medicine ball. Squat and touch your left toe with the medicine ball. Make sure to keep your head up and back straight. Return to the starting position and then turn and press to your right. Repeat touching your right toe and pressing to the left.

This activity stimulates balance and provides for less shoulder pressure and more natural shoulder motion. Breathe regularly. Do not hold your breath.

3. Straight Bar Arm Curls

If you let your arms hang loosely by your sides, you'll notice that your palms face inward. Problem: Straight bar curls lock your arms into an unnatural palms-up and out position. Both your elbows and wrists are taking too much stress which can lead to joint and tendon problems.
Better Alternative: One leg standing cable curls: These are more effective than dumbbell or barbell curls because the cable places constant tension on the arm muscles through the whole curling motion. Breathe regularly. Do not hold your breath.  


4. Leg Extensions

The four parts of your quadriceps are designed to work together as one, but a recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that leg extensions activate the sections slightly independently of one another.

Problem: Even a five-millisecond difference can cause uneven compression between the kneecap and thigh bone, inflaming the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone (a painful injury known as jumper's knee.)
Better Alternative: Lunges: Help strengthen the whole leg and hip complex as a unit. To lunge safely, place dumbbells in your hands keeping your back straight. Take a bigger step than normal step forward. Balance and then with your back straight dip 8 to 12 inches towards the ground. Your back knee should be at least 6 inches from the ground for knee safety. Proper form is crucial with this exercise. Breathe regularly. Do not hold your breath.

5. Sit-ups and Crunches

This exercise involves lying on the floor with your knees bent curling your body until your elbows touch your knees.

Problem: Not only are sit-ups and crunches bad for your neck and lower back, they're also one of the least-effective core abdominal exercises you can do according to a recent study at San Diego State University. It is more important to strengthen the entire "core" (abdominal and lower back muscles) than just the abdominal muscles by themselves.
Better Alternative: Roman Twist: Sitting on the ground with your knee bent, pick-up a 10 pound medicine ball. Twist slowly to the left and then back to the right. For a more advanced activity, lift your legs slightly off the floor. Keep your back straight during the entire exercise. Breathe regularly. Do not hold your breath.


Staying active and physically fit is the best way to avoid chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, alzheimer's, osteoporosis and depression. Commit to Getting Active, Eating Healthier and Reducing Stress while living a healthier lifestyle. No matter how old you are, Fresh Start provides the education, motivation and accountability necessary to improve your health while helping you feel and look your best. For a free Fresh Start consultation, please call Woody McMahon at 703-464-5171 or email to    


Make Your Band Work Better With Pinnar Activity Classes
Do you want your Band to work better? Have you been thinking about beginning a weight training program but the local health club seems a little scary? Maybe you are concerned about how you look and would rather have some place a little more private? Are you older and have a medical condition that needs someone with special knowledge to help you get active again? We have just the program for you.  


The Better Alternative. This year we are offering a more sensible solution that will keep you coming all year long. Our once a week, small group fitness program (4 people maximum) will only cost you $20 a session. For your money you get your own personal trainer with convenient times offered on evenings and weekends. These are beginner, lower intensity classes designed to help you get moving again. 

You'll also get:

  • Goal Setting to help you stay on track all year long
  • Fun Activity with an instructor who knows how to Educate and Motivate
  • Exercise Guidance so you get the most benefits from exercising properly

To find out more please call Woody McMahon at 703-464-5171 or email Twice a week training packages are available as well.


Active Adult FITT Testing Program Starting Soon

Your Conditioning is Important to Your Health
Research continues to show the positive effects of good physical conditioning on maintaining your heath and independence. You noticed I said physical conditioning not exercise; there is a big difference. Physical conditioning is a broader measure of fitness. It includes stamina, balance, flexibility, strength and flexibility as its important components. Just going to the health club or Yoga studio is not enough to put you in good physical condition!


The Signs of Poor Physical Conditioning
The body will tell you when you're not paying enough attention to it. Stiff and sore muscles and joints, back and neck pain, shortness of breath walking up stairs, headaches, difficulty getting out of a chair, sleep trouble, arthritis and difficulty tying your shoes or putting on your pants are all signs of lack of physical conditioning. The best way to maintain your independence as you get older is to have an activity program that keeps your body in top condition.     


Testing for Physical Conditioning
In the next few months, we'll be offering FITT, the physical conditioning testing program affiliated with the Presidential Physical Fitness Awards program for adults. Once you complete the test, you'll receive a conditioning score. You can compare your score with a national ranking system to see how you did. For those interested in improving their score, we will offer assessments for current fitness programs, program design and conditioning classes specifically designed to improve your scores.    

The Time to Start is Now

It is easier than you think to improve your physical conditioning and your health.
Dedicating as little as three hours a week can make a big difference in how you look and feel. Health problems don't need to slow you down or keep you from enjoying life unless you let them. Besides, getting active, eating healthier and reducing stress significantly improves most medical problems. Remember, if you want to be an Active Adult in the future, it takes being proactive now rather than reactive when it's too late.


Become An Active Adult Today
Give us a call at 703-464-5171 or email to find out what steps you can take to feel and look your best. Click here to take the

Health Investment Questionnaire, a great way to learn what it takes to stay independent and healthful for the rest of your life. 

Continued Good Health,


Woody McMahon

The Sequoia Advisor

Sequoia Health and Fitness, Inc.
483A Carlisle Dive
Herndon, VA 20170  

Required Disclaimer: The material provided herein should not be construed as a health-care diagnosis,
treatment regimen or any other prescribed health-care advice or instruction. The material is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in the practice of medicine or any other health-care profession and does not enter into a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with its readers. The publisher does not advise or recommend to its readers treatment or action with regard to matters relating to their health or well-being other than suggesting that readers consult appropriate health-care professionals in such matters. No action should be taken based solely on the content of this publication. The material and opinions provided herein are believed to be accurate and sound at the time of publication, based on the best judgment available to the authors. However, readers who rely on material in this publication to replace the advice of health-care professionals, or who fail to consult with health-care professionals, assume all risks of such conduct. The publisher is not responsible for errors or omissions. 

Copyright (c) 2006-2008 by Sequoia Health and Fitness
, Inc.

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