Group Workouts Shown to Improve Mental & Physical Wellbeing

A new study into the stress-relieving power of group fitness makes world headlines by proving what many have known all along – there is strength in numbers.

As the old proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention”. When Dr. Dayna Yorks first arrived at medical school in Maine in 2013, she had a big problem. Group fitness classes were nonexistent on the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine campus, and she knew group exercise was necessary for her to maintain physical and mental health. What did this Les Mills instructor do about it? She not only brought CXWORX™ to campus, she simultaneously studied the effects of the class on medical students.

Now her research, published in the the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association is gaining worldwide attention, including coverage in more than 30 media outlets, for its overall finding that group fitness improves mental and physical well-being.

Yorks has always excelled in sports. She played college softball (pitcher and first baseman) at university, and was chosen as captain in her senior year. When she graduated team sports ended, and Yorks felt something was missing from her life.

“I somewhat begrudgingly tried a BODYPUMP class on the suggestion of my dad. I would have much rather been lifting big weights on the floor! Turns out that I loved it!” she says. “Group fitness filled the void that was missing as I was no longer a part of a team. I started as an enthusiastic participant, then took the leap to become an instructor about 10 years ago.”

Group exercise kept Yorks fit, provided her with social connections, and offered stress relief. “Exercise has always been my outlet, and by the time I started medical school, group fitness in particular was something I needed to feel grounded, whole, and alive,” she explains.

Without a formal group exercise program at medical school, Yorks once again felt that void. “I infrequently taught free-style classes to small groups of friends in an effort to feel like myself. I’ll never forget being in the [medical school gym’s] locker room, and one of my friends said to me, ‘Dayna, you need to figure out how to create an enduring group fitness program that will live on after you leave campus.’ It was her suggestion that inspired me to do just that.”

She did just that and much more. Yorks wanted to provide her fellow students with something lasting that would not only improve their physical fitness but also provide desperately needed stress relief. “Research has shown that incidences of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are five-fold higher in medical trainees than their age-matched, non-medical counterparts,” she says. “Additionally, many students and physicians suffer from burnout, fatigue, alcoholism, and even suicide.”

The answer for Yorks was obvious. She set her sights on Les Mills. “I realized that if I could get the school to fund the license for a Les Mills format, then I could effectively lay the foundation for an enduring group fitness program. LES MILLS programs have a strong infrastructure – there are multiple Initial Training Modules across the country for new students to become certified, and instructors are provided with music and choreography, which ensures fresh sounds and safe, effective programming based on science. I chose CXWORX because it’s only a half-hour long, requires minimal equipment, and I knew its focus on core and functional training would be relevant for future physicians.”

Yorks also chose CXWORX because of its potential to affect the way these future doctors practice medicine. “The third leading cause for patients to seek care from a primary care physician is low-back pain, and many times, it can be treated with core exercises,” says Yorks. “By affording medical students a class where they could experience core training first hand, it would hopefully carry over into their future practice as physicians. Research also shows that medical students who engage in physical exercise are more likely to encourage their patients to do so as well.”

It was during a workout at the gym that her anatomy professor suggested she also consider a research project. “We both agreed that concrete data on the effects of group fitness on medical student wellness would be helpful in procuring continued funding for the future. I worked in research prior to starting medical school so I was familiar with the process.”

CXWORX was a huge hit and was regularly attended by 70 students and staff. “I’ve never taught to so many people in a CXWORX class in my life,” beams Yorks.

The focus of the research was two-fold: “We wanted to see if participation in group exercise, individual exercise, or no exercise would have an effect on the wellbeing of medical students.” To that end, Yorks and her team hypothesized that:
1 – Participation in regular exercise would yield decreased perceived stress and increased physical, mental, and emotional quality of life.
2 – Participation in group fitness classes would yield greater stress reduction and quality of life improvement than exercising individually.

Bottom line? They were right!

“Essentially, we found that those who participated in at least one CXWORX class a week had a statistically significant decrease in stress, and an improvement in mental, physical, and emotional quality of life. Those who exercised individually showed improvement in mental quality of life, but no other significant changes were noted. This suggests that participation in group fitness classes could be a solution to improving the wellbeing of medical students.”

Specifically, the data showed the CXWORX group experienced:
12.6 percent increase in mental Quality of Life (QOL)
24.8 percent increase in physical QOL
26 percent increase in emotional QOL
26.2 percent decrease in perceived stress

“The individual exercise group had an 11 percent increase in mental QOL, but otherwise, no other statistically significant changes were observed,” Yorks explains.

Without discounting the well-demonstrated benefits of working out individually, the study suggests the “group effect” does have a particular significance: “The possibility that the social aspects of group exercise improved QOL and decreased stress also cannot be discounted. The social component of group exercise is therapeutic. Furthermore, group exercise classes often use up-tempo music and choreography to make the class more fun and engaging. Bringing together medical students who are all going through similar stresses to work out and have fun may transcend the experience of working out on their own.”

She has been both overwhelmed and thrilled by the media attention her project has attracted. “It certainly was not our intention to take the media by storm, nor were we expecting it,” she says. “Having the study disseminated on such a large scale is also a gift. Our study advocates for a shift in medical education and training to address student and physician wellness, in particular through group fitness. The more people who can become aware of the need for this change and the power of group exercise, the better!”

Today, Yorks is completing residency training to specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation. “I hope to do additional research in the future, potentially a similar project but for medical residents, which is arguably an even more stressful time in a physician’s career.”

While Yorks’ schedule may seem daunting, she says it’s well worth it. “It was towards the end of my medical education that I became a part of the Les Mills US Trainer team. So yes, juggling all of these roles is challenging! But I can’t imagine my life without all of them. I do the best I can, lead with my heart, and realize it’s okay to be ‘hashtag perfectnever’.”


  1. Medical students suffer above average stress-related depression and anxiety – making them an ideal study group
  2. The study used Les Mills’ CXWORX classes attended by 70 students and staff
  3. Those who attended at least one class per week showed lower stress levels
  4. Compared to individual exercisers, those in the group class scored higher for stress-reduction and physical, mental and emotional quality of life
  5. It was hypothesized that the social component of group exercise in itself is therapeutic.

Dayna Yorks is a medical doctor and researcher who, as a member of the Les Mills US trainer team, helps inspire and upskill a growing tribe of group fitness instructors.

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Trainer Tip! Get 2-3 more reps out of your set.

Bicep curls… easy peasy right? Sure the movement may seem simple, but there are several small adjustments you can make to get 2 or 3 more reps out of your next set for better results! Here are 5 trainer tips to get you there:

  • Elbows in at sides. Do not let those elbow flair out. If that’s the only way you can curl the weight – the weight is too heavy!
  • Shoulders back – stand tall & be proud of those beautiful biceps.
  • Elbows and shoulders should not move – think elbows under shoulder – the only movement is the biceps muscle lengthening
  • Hips in neutral position (tuck pelvis and brace core) do not pop the hips forward at the top – we are working those muscles.
  • There should be no pain  in front of shoulder. Re-evaluate your alignment!



3 Tips to Setting Your Fitness Resolutions

Whether it’s running your first 5k or setting a squat PR, here are three tips to setting a fitness or exercise goal:

1) Make it specific and measurable. Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. If you want to run a 5k, how far is that and what training plan will you follow to safely add miles? If you are after a weight room PR, what’s your starting point? How will you track your progress and how will you know when you’ve reached your goal?

2.) Now that you’ve identified exactly where you’re going, it’s time to make a plan on how you’re going to get there! Again, get as specific as possible. How many days a week will you train? What time of day? What will you do each day? What about cross-training/rest days? Are there areas you need support or guidance? What obstacles might get in the way of you reaching your goal? Being realistic and thorough about what works with your life, schedule, and other priorities from the beginning makes you more likely to stick to your plan in the long run.

3.) Enlist the help of others! Find a running partner or training buddy. Try group fitness classes and meet new people. When we add a social element to exercise, it can help keep it fun and keep us accountable. Consider a few personal training sessions – the help of a certified personal trainer can get you started on the right track.

There is no secret, no magic pill.

The holiday season is a magical time of year. But something to keep in mind this joyous holiday season as we head into the New Year… even though the season is magical; there is no magic pill, no new supplement, not never-heard-of-before secret that will will get you to your health & wellness goals.

No magical potion, no fairy dust. There are no foods or supplements that magically burn fat. No super foods will alter your genetic code. No products will miraculously melt fat while you watch TV or sleep. No one (or no product) can do it for you.

But what you can do is get a team of wellness professionals on your side to help you put one determined foot in front of the other. We will help you find your inner strength, your motivators… and you will actually enjoy the experience.

For a personalized plan tailored to your lifestyle and your preferences, contact Vanessa, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, to help you find a realistic, flexible eating style that helps you feel and be your best.

Food for thought: If there was a magic pill wouldn’t everyone be using it? 

Contact Vanessa, RDN, LRD

Why 80% of Resolutions Fail & 4 Ways to be in the 20%


At the close of a year, it is natural to be drawn to the fresh-start feeling that a new year can bring. Making a resolution (or three) for the new year ahead can feel motivating, refreshing, and bring hope for a better year ahead. We all know some of the most popular resolutions: losing weight, getting “fit,” or embarking on some sort of health improvement journey. Come the beginning of January, resolution-ers are enthusiastic to change. They join a gym, buy class passes, pay top dollar for meal plans and/or supplements. But by the second week of February, 80% of those resolutions that started with such bright hope are completely null and void. Why is that?

For any New Year’s resolution to be successful – health related or otherwise – it takes changing behavior and habits, built up over a lifetime (teaching an old dog new tricks). We set all these resolutions but we fail to address our ability to sustain motivation and how we’re going to handle the stress and discomfort that often accompanies change.

Changing habits and behaviors will not magically happen from January 1st when the clock strikes midnight. It takes time and practice to set new behavior patterns in order to sustain them long-term. Before you hit the gym every day in January, never to set foot in it again in February… or spend hundreds of dollars for packaged shakes and bars that will be on BisManOnline by March, follow these simple tips:

1) Set realistic goals. Keeping your goals within reach is important to staying motivated.

2) Set up your support system. No one likes to “go it alone” and we can all benefit from a little accountability. 

3) Try substitution instead of elimination. This simple change of mindset can quickly improve your attitude towards your goals.

4) Celebrate success. Tangible rewards are motivating and it’s important to celebrate along the way.

Ready to make 2018 the year you will reach your resolutions? Stop Resolving. Start DOING. Purchase the 2018 Kick-off Coaching Special, which includes:

  • 1 (60-75 minute) Vision Session, where we will map out your action plan for 2018
  • 3 (45 minute) Follow-Up Sessions (must be used within 6 weeks of initial session), where you’ll find the motivation and support to keep you on track towards your personal health and wellness goals.

Price: $175

Online scheduling


One More Rep: Assisted Pull-ups

Here’s to get one more rep out of your pull-up set!

  • Setup with hands in over grip position & hips over knees 
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and push them down into your back pockets so you feel all the muscles in your back working
  • Think of driving elbows down as you pull
  • Engage your core in both up and down motion
  • Keep in mind your arms are the secondary muscles used in this exercise, not primary
  • Slow controled on the down motion
  • Do not fully extend arm in the down phase
  • Do not pull knees up in up phase

3 Signs You Are Using the Band-Aid Approach to Pain Relief

Pain is not normal. Some muscle tension/tightness and soreness can be expected but if you are dealing with pain that does not go away or seems to come back regularly, chances are you are using a band-aid approach to your pain relief. Here are three signs you are merely applying a band-aid to your pain:

  1. There’s no end in sight. While things like massage & dry needling can help alleviate pain – and are all things we do too-  if your pain doesn’t go away or returns than you need to dig deeper (pun totally intended!). 
  2. You have no idea what’s really causing the pain. Sure you know what aggravates your pain – running, standing too long, lifting something heavy, moving this way or that way. But do you know WHY it’s happening? Chances are, you are treating the symptoms of the pain, not the cause of the pain – there’s a huge difference! 
  3. You don’t know what to do about it or how to control it. So maybe it’s something you’ve been dealing with for quite awhile, you’ve seen your doctor, you’ve tried other treatments – maybe even surgery – but you still haven’t learned anything about your pain, why it’s happening and what you can do to control it. 

Proximal50’s team of Physical Therapists are passionate about treating the cause of your pain and not simply covering your pain with a band-aid treatment. We breakdown how your body moves to ensure that once the pain is gone… it stays away. As much as we love seeing our patients, our priority is educating you on why something hurts and what to do about it so YOU can be in control of your health & wellness.

Start advocating for yourself and seek the care that will address the cause of your pain, not just the symptoms!

Tana Trotter, PT, DPT
Proximal50 Life Center

To schedule a physical therapy consultation at Proximal50, call 751-2974.

How healthy is your smoothie?

Not all smoothies are created equal! Smoothies, especially ones you get at a restaurant or a local juice spot, can be loaded with extra sugar in order for it to “taste good”.  

The next time you are out and about and want to order a smoothie, keep these lower sugar options in mind. Or stock up on the ingredients below to make your own smoothies at home! 

Keep in mind that sugar and carbohydrates from whole foods aren’t ‘bad’; but properly balancing carbs & sugar with protein, fiber, vegetables (like greens), and healthy fats is the key to keeping your smoothie healthy.

Here’s a quick equation: 40% veggies (green is best) + 20% healthy fat  + 20% protein + 20% fruit

  • Add a zucchini – with a very neutral taste, zucchini adds fiber while giving smoothies a great creamy texture. They are super easy to freeze (cut & cube and put in a freezer bag), making them convenient too. Zucchinis also add nutrients like potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
  • Cauliflower is another low sugar alternative to try in your smoothie. Cauliflower contains essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and folate.
  • Cucumbers have a high concentration of water making them a great swap for high-sugar juices.  Cucumbers contain a good amount of fiber as well as unique antioxidants and polyphenols that have been studied for their effects on reducing some cancers, cardiovascular disease, anti-microbial properties, and inflammation.
  • Beets are naturally sweet and incredibly rich in antioxidants and fiber. Beets are also high in vitamin C, folate, and manganese. (Tip: chop beets to bite size, steam or roast beets before freezing, then use about 1/2 cup at a time.)
  • Carrots are a naturally sweet root vegetable. Carrots have several health benefits from their antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content ranging from anti-inflammatory & anti-cancer to cardiovascular health benefits.
  • Avocados add healthy fats, fiber, and protein while giving smoothies a great texture. Avocados also contain essential nutrients like potassium, folate, and vitamin K
  • Think beyond protein powder too with greek yogurt, nut butters, quinoa, hemp seeds. (And if you do use a protein powder – be familiar with the nutrition label & ingredient list – there could be a lot of added sugar & unnecessary extra ingredients)
  • If you need a little sweetener go for maple syrup, honey and dates, but be sure sure to “count” them in the 20% fruit category of your smoothie equation.


Vanessa Lennick, RDN, LRD
Registered Dietitian
Proximal50 Life Center

5 Reasons You Should Hire a Personal Trainer

There’s no need to go it alone in the gym! Here are the top 5 reasons you should hire a personal trainer:

  1. You are feeling overwhelmed. Let’s be honest, exercise can be a little intimidating – there’s all the machines, everyone around you seems to know what to do, cardio first or weights first, lift heavy & low reps or light & high reps…?? A qualified personal trainer will be able to determine what’s best for YOU and YOUR goals, where you need to start, and when to give you that little extra push. 
  2. EveryBODY can benefit from personal training. Just as exercise is more than just weight loss, personal training is more than just getting your butt kicked. Working with a personal trainer will help you maximize your time in the gym. Your trainer will use a variety of methods – like heart rate monitors & progress measures – to track intensity and adjust both your workouts and your recovery.
  3. Accountability & professionalism. Scheduling an appointment to workout with a trainer means you are less likely to skip. And you schedule appointments for all sorts of professional services – dentist, hair stylists, massage – why not have a fitness professional on your calendar too!?!
  4. Preventing injury & maximizing performance. A good personal trainer will make sure your workouts are well-balanced and your overall training load is appropriate for you and your goals – this will prevent injury AND maximize your results.
  5. Having a reliable resource at the gym. Whether you sign-up for just a few sessions or become a long-time regular client, once you’ve established a relationship with a personal trainer, we are always here to help with any questions or concerns!

We take exercise seriously. That doesn’t mean we don’t have fun, it means we are committed. Along with experience & specialty certifications, all our personal trainers have a minimum of a Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science (or related degree) and work together as team to meet the needs of all our clients.

Oh… and personal training may be more affordable than you think! We offer several options from individual training to team training to help make personal training more accessible to more people. Check it out:

Have questions or want more info on personal training? Schedule a complimentary personal training consult

3 Strategies for a Healthy & Happy Holiday Season

Do you look forward to the holiday season every year only to be reminded of the stress, exhaustion, and derailment this time of year can often bring? Before things become hectic, make a commitment to your health by following these 3 simple strategies:


Make a Plan
Planning can help you stick with your goals and start the new year off on the right foot to avoid playing catch-up on your resolution. First, you must choose your goal or main focus for the season. Is it to stay active? Maintain your weight? Stress Less? Whether you’ve already been working on a goal or are just starting, it is important to set a concrete, realistic goal. Once you’ve pinpointed what the overall goal is, make a plan on how you’re going to achieve that.

For example: If your goal is to stay active, figure out how you’re going to make it a priority. With the demands on the season pulling us in every direction, it is easy to skip workouts. Start by figuring out what is going to make you stay accountable (tips: schedule workout sessions, recruit a friend, sign up for a holiday challenge, find more time-efficient workouts, etc). If you’re not sure where to start, schedule a session with a Certified Health and Wellness Coach would be a great choice!  


Avoid the Blues
The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, yet for many, they trigger deep feelings of sadness and anxiety. From family dynamics and missing loved ones to the financial pressure of gifts, not to mention the unpredictable North Dakota weather and lack of sunlight – all can be prime conditions for a world-class funk.

Combat the holiday blues by:

  • Exercising – which releases endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” hormones
  • Socializing – isolating yourself, however tempting, often only feeds a depressed mood. Surrounding yourself with close friends, even if you don’t feel like it, provides you with opportunities for pleasure and joy.
  • Volunteering – giving back is an opportunity to redirect your focus in a positive, and often rewarding, manner.
  • Limiting social media – as the saying goes “comparison is the thief of all joy.”

Prevent illness and injury
You’ve made a well-thought out plan and things are humming right along – don’t let the sniffles, flu, or preventable accident bring you down! The holiday season is prime time for colds and flu. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. Sprinkle sand on icy patches and use caution when driving in adverse weather conditions.

Investing a little time and effort into your own health and happiness will help ensure a merry & bright holiday season! If you need help on where to start, contact Lindsey at 701.751.2974 or schedule a complimentary consult.