- Category: Be Active
We all know that eating healthy and getting exercise is good for you but there are reasons to do so beyond what we can see just at face value. Unfortunately, we have no real control over how long we will be here, but we can take the effort to feel as best as we can while we are. This is referred to as "quality of life." Every once in awhile, it is a good idea to remind ourselves what we are working against... not necessarily all the things we are working towards.
There are many illnesses and diseases that are not necessarily caused by but associated with lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Due to genetic make-up, not everything is 100% avoidable just by taking care of yourself, however, it is possible to at least delay the inevitable. The following are just a few common disorders to consider:
- Osteoarthritis is a condition in which synovial joints ("moving" joints such as wrists, knees, hips and shoulders) lose healthy cartilage. Osteoarthritis is related to age and wear and tear along with bio mechanical factors and the consequences of inflammation. It only effects synovial joints. Although one possible cause is from repetitive pounding stress such as running or jumping without adequate support, regular exercise is a productive means of prevention as well as a treatment for it by helping to maintain a healthy range of motion, increasing stamina, promoting weight loss, and improving the strength of muscles surrounding affected joints.
- Osteoporosis is the reduction of bone density and increased fragility of bones. Osteoporosis usually develops as we age affecting mostly post-menopausal women and some men. Early developmental nutrition plays a vital role in decreasing the risk for this disease. It is important that our body receives adequate amounts of calcium for building strong bones. You can find calcium in dairy products and green, leafy vegetables. Smoking and alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Weighted exercises will strengthen the bones of the body.
- Gout is a form of inflammation that develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid- called hyperuricemia, in the blood. The acid forms crystals in a joint and causes sudden, severe episodes of pain and swelling. Gout can usually be identified as painful, red swelling in the big toe but can also affect other lower body joints such as the ankle or the knee. Among other triggers, some of the causes of gout are excessive alcohol and diets rich in red meats, shellfish and sugary beverages such as soda. Historically, gout is known as the "disease of kings" due to their lavish eating habits. Educating yourself in nutrition and avoiding these trigger foods is a good strategy for keeping your joints happy and healthy.
- Prediabetes and Type II Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body processes glucose, or blood sugar. Some of the risk factors for this disease can include obesity which increases the cell resistance to insulin, high blood pressure, low HDL or "good" cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides. Not everyone who has these risk factors has diabetes and research is still being done but with exercise and proper eating habits it is safe to say that you can definitely decrease your chances of developing this class of diabetes.
Unfortunately, we are at constant risk for many other infections as well that can be contracted simply through physical contact. Maintaining healthy habits will promote a stronger immune system and faster metabolism. Just by exercising 30 minutes to an hour a day and practicing healthy eating, our bodies can prepare to fight back and defend itself against the many pathogens we come in contact with each day.
- Category: Be Active
September is Arthritis Awareness Month and for many people this is a serious issue as arthritis effects people of all ages. There are many types of known arthritis and therefore there are a variety of causes from degeneration with age to autoimmune diseases. Currently there is no cure for arthritis but one thing is for certain, once again exercise is highly recommended to combat the effects and symptoms of this disorder.
One of the reasons exercise is so crucial for people with arthritis is because it increases strength and flexibility while reducing joint pain and fatigue. Because the effects of arthritis can be overwhelming, getting past the unwillingness to exercise may be the most difficult part to overcome. Your body is in constant or regular pain and it may seem impossible to work during the flare-ups. However, it must be understood that exercise is actually a way to reduce the pain. Find something, anything that can be used to motivate you whether it be a fitness goal, a need to be independent, or to be there for your loved ones. It is wise to establish a regular work out schedule and routine. Remember that you are an example to someone and the fight in you can be the inspiration someone else needs, too.
When deciding on which exercises to begin with, choose low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, elliptical or yoga with modifications. Decide what exercises are best for you, which ones movements and stretches relieve the pain of arthritis and also which exercises to avoid because they may exacerbate the issue. You will have to seek help from your doctor but with guidance, practice and regular sessions you can create and easy to follow fitness plan. An example of a low impact but effective workout routine for those with arthritis could be as follows:
10-15 minute walk
*try to cover a little more distance every week
10-12 air squats
10-12 wall push-ups
10-12 step ups
10-12 bicep curls
10-12 tricep overhead extensions
10-12 side lying hip abduction
10-12 reverse crunches
10-12 bicycle crunches
Yoga Poses such as:
Cat to Cow
It is of up-most importance that you listen to your body. If something does not feel right, discontinue the exercise and either find a reasonable modification or wait until you feel ready to to perform that specific movement. Consult your doctor when necessary. It is recommended that everyone gets at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. If this feels like too much at first, ease into working out by starting out at 10-15 minutes at a time and gradually extending the duration and regularity of your sessions.
- Category: Be Active
“I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up.” It’s a very common misconception amongst women that requires some looking into. Personal trainers often find it difficult to convince someone otherwise but the truth is, as women, it is actually very difficult to increase in muscle mass. Hopefully, this article will help put them those with this exact concern at ease as well as highlight a couple of the benefits.
Let’s begin by looking into why you shouldn’t worry about bulking up:
First and foremost, women lack the testosterone levels required for hypertrophy (a.k.a. bigger muscles). Women produce significantly less testosterone than men. It is the testosterone that promotes body hair, a deep voice and, of course, an increase in muscle and bone mass. The extremely muscular women that we see in competitive sports and magazines are dedicated to an incredibly strict training regime as well as a strict diet high in calories and supplements. Most of the time these routines consume a lot of their lives.
Muscle bulk comes from lifting weights at a high volume. This means extremely heavy weights for many reps, several sets and a variety of exercises intended to target the exact same muscle group. The purpose of this type of training is to increase the amount of damage caused to the muscle fibers. It’s the repairing of these muscles while we rest that increases the size. So unless you intend to dedicate an entire hour to just one particular muscle group (e.g. chest, glutes) then you’re pretty safe from extreme muscle enlargement.
Reasons weight-lifting is beneficial:
You actually lose weight faster. Weight training boosts your metabolism for up to 36 hours meaning that even after your workout is done your body will continue to burn more calories at rest than if you had remained sedentary that day. With regular resistance exercise and a healthy diet you will definitely notice an increase in muscle tone. If you are not losing weight and appear to be “bulking up” there is a greater chance that it is a dietary concern than it is an exercise routine issue. It’s highly likely that added bulk is a result of more fat. Check your calorie intake and be sure you are consuming a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
You will get stronger. It seems like that’s an obvious result but not only do your muscles increase in strength but so do your bones delaying the degenerative effects of aging and decreasing the risk of the bone disease osteoporosis. By keeping our bodies strong we open doors for other abilities- maybe you used to walk on flat sidewalks but now you’re hiking hilly trails. Along with flexibility training we increase our energy, prolong the aging process and most importantly remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.
Keep an open mind about weight training because in the long run it is just as important for you as it is to get your cardiovascular and flexibility training. Start off with one day a week and work your way up to three days a week with a day or two in between. Full body workouts are perfectly fine or you could alternate such as upper body on one day and lower body on the next. This is especially helpful if you start weight training more than three days a week. Test your limits, try new things and see where it takes you!
- Category: Be Active
Our heart is one of the most important organs in our body so it stands to reason that we take extra caution to treat it well. Although love, fear, anger, heartbreak and other emotions don't actually derive from the heart organ itself, it is safe to say that emotional stress can have a great impact on our health. More research is needed on the direct affect of stress to heart disease but stress can cause behaviors and factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, over or under eating, and lack of exercise which do have a direct link to heart disease.
Smoking. Cigarettes contain chemicals that damage blood cells and so many organs of the body including the heart. Smoking increases the risk for several heart related diseases such as atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and peripheral artery disease. Obviously, if you don't smoke, don't start as nicotine is a highly addictive chemical. Smokers can and will only benefit from quitting but the choice is entirely up to you.
Drinking Alcohol. Drinking more than the recommended guidelines (more than 3 drinks/day or 7/week for women and more than 4 drinks/day or 14/week for men.) greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Alcohol consumption can cause high blood pressure which increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Drinking can also weaken the heart over time resulting in premature death or heart failure. Offer yourself a more constructive method of stress reduction such as yoga, meditation, massage or quiet walks.
Over- or Under-eating. Stress can change a person's normal eating habits causing the person to eat more or have trouble eating. Under-eating can cause blood pressure to drop dangerously low and slow the pulse weakening the heart. Over-eating causes your body to store extra fat and eventually leads to obesity which can also cause coronary heart disease. Either dynamic can benefit from prepping your meals ahead of time. Pick a day to put together healthy snacks and meals that can easily be packed and taken with you to work or school. This is a great way to deal with portion control for over eaters, or providing easily digestible meals for under-eaters. If the situation worsens and noticeable weight gain or loss occurs, visit your doctor for further help.
Lack of Exercise. Without regular exercise we put ourselves at risk for high blood pressure. Exercise does not have to be an unattainable chore. Start off with just 10 minutes a day and work your way up to 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activities such as walking, jogging, yoga or swimming. Benefits of exercise in relation to the heart include lower cholesterol levels and possible increase in blood vessels that connect to the coronary arteries.
You may have heard in a yoga class before to "open your heart." Some yoga poses aimed at the heart cavity are cobra pose, wheel pose, bow pose and camel pose. Cardio activity is a major type of exercise aimed at healty hearts. Running, tabata, kickboxing and zumba are examples of cardio related exercises or group activities.
Find your way to keep your heart happy.
- Category: Be Active
At some point or another we all experience back pain. When this happens it is recommended that you see your doctor for the cause and for possible treatments. Before you end up at the doctor though, let’s look into some preventative measures.
Exercise with resistance. Maintaining your muscle strength, including your back, is vital. We carry backpacks, purses, briefcases, suitcases, boxes and we lift heavy objects from one place to another. All of these things can twist our spines and throw us out of alignment. The stronger your muscles the better support you will have along your vertebral column and hips. Examples of exercises to help strengthen your back are: deadlifts, lat pulldowns, pull-ups, seated and bent-over rows, and good mornings.
Strengthen your core. Another cause of back issues is an imbalance of opposing muscles. When you have a weak core then your back has to take up all the slack. Prevent this by focusing on exercises that build stronger abs and hips. Examples of some core exercises are planks, side planks, stability ball crunches and stability ball oblique crunches and using the hip abductor and adductor machine.
Yoga for the back. Yoga offers many poses that not only strengthen the back but also help to increase flexibility and balance. A leading cause in back injury is losing balance and accidentally overcompensating with one side of the body. We can lower the risk of that happening when our bodies have a controlled center of gravity. Examples of yoga poses that target the back are helicopter pose, child’s pose, rabbit pose and warrior III.
Always use proper form. Speaking of moving heavy boxes and lifting weights, quality performance is key. When moving objects at home or in the workplace always lift from your legs. Squat down and keep your chest above your hips at all times. Never bend over and round your back to lift something up. An object only needs 5lbs of resistance to cause an injury. Proper form is important for ALL exercises. If you are unsure if you are using proper form, look around and ask a fitness professional or if one is not available be sure to research a few fitness websites before trying yourself.
Relax. Taking a warm bath can help loosen muscles. You could also look into foam rolling, getting a massage or visiting a chiropractor for realignment. Make sure to get plenty of sleep as this is when the body does most of it’s healing. If your bed is too soft or too hard it may also be contributing to back pain.
Remember to keep checking in on your posture throughout the day. We start off in the morning strong and proud but throughout the day after long hours of standing, sitting at a computer, or playing on our electronic devices we gradually hunch over and lower our necks. Stop what you are doing… slowly turn your head left to right, forward and back and roll your shoulders up, back and down. Then take a few energizing breaths to realign and compose yourself. You may need to remind yourself several times a day before it becomes a habit but it will be worth the pain to lose the pain.