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Standing More Often: A Prescription for Better Health?

Standing More Often: A Prescription for Better Health?


It seems that almost every day we see new research coming out about the perils of inactivity and sitting too much. We’re becoming a sedentary nation, and it’s taking its toll on us, causing or contributing to epidemic levels of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular problems. So it’s interesting to look at some of the research that’s being done on the “opposite of sitting”. And no, that’s not necessarily exercising—it’s standing. Some studies are indicating that simply standing for a few more hours per day may be even better for your health than joining a gym.

While this type of conclusion may be startling at first, it’s much less shocking when you stop to consider the number of hours that we actually spend sitting each day. One recent study found that most Americans spend up to 12 hours a day sitting. If you add in the hours we spend sleeping, that means that most of us spend up to 20 hours a day being sedentary. One sad result of all this physical inactivity: Those who sit all day long live an average of two years less than those who are more active. Even regular exercise doesn’t seem to completely offset the effects of sitting all day.

So how could standing more help? Well, for one thing you burn about twice as many calories while standing as you do while sitting. For another, standing improves your circulation and tends to prevent the numerous vascular disorders linked to sitting for prolonged periods of time.

The first scientific studies linking standing more often to improved health were done in the 1950s in Britain, comparing bus drivers (who sit) with bus conductors (who stand). The resulting study, published in The Lancet, indicated that the conductors had about half the risk of developing heart disease as the drivers.

More recently, a large research project conducted in Australia as part of The 45 and Up Study examined 194,545 participants and asked them to self-evaluate their overall health and quality of life using a 5-point scale. The amount of exercise the participants got was rated using a standard scale, while the number of hours spent sitting were self-assessed. The results, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that prolonged sitting reduced muscle contractions and shut off the activity of lipoprotein lipase, which helps to turn fat into energy. As a result, there was more obesity in the inactive group, and they died earlier than their counterparts who sat fewer hours per day. Women in the study who spent more than 11 hours per day sitting had a 12% increase in all-cause premature mortality, and the sedentary group also had increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cancer. Men in the study who spent more than five hours a day outside of work sitting were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than those who spent no more than two hours a day sitting, regardless of how much they exercised.

So the facts seem to be in. Standing more often seems to be good for you. How to achieve this is a more difficult question, because so many offices are designed around the idea of sitting at a desk most of the day. But many forward-thinking companies are either installing “standing desks” for those who ask for them or, like Google, instituting required “stand up and walk around” breaks every hour. No matter how you choose to do it (even if it’s resting your laptop on an ironing board so you can stand while you work), try to avoid sitting as much as possible for greater health and longevity.


Exercise as Medicine: Spotlight on Walking

Exercise as Medicine: Spotlight on Walking

Family walking a dirtroadDo you want to become healthier and stay healthy longer? Take a walk. That is the message of two important new studies.

In the first, from Tel Aviv University in Israel, researchers found that a simple aerobic program based on walking was as effective in alleviating lower back pain as muscle-strengthening programs that required specialized rehabilitation equipment. The researchers recruited 52 patients with chronic lower back pain, and assigned half of them to complete a six-week, clinic-based muscle-strengthening program, exercising under supervision two to three times a week. The other half of the patients spent the six weeks of the study walking for 20-40 minutes two to three times a week.

According to study leader Dr. Michal Katz-Leurer, in research published in the journal Circulation, the walking program was “as effective as treatment that could have been received in the clinic.” He explained that when people walk, their abdominal and back muscles are forced to work in a similar way as when they complete rehabilitation exercises targeting those areas. And unlike rehabilitation, which requires specialized equipment and expert supervision, walking is an activity that can be performed alone, and easily fit into a person’s schedule.

In the second study, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analyzed data collected on the activity and sitting habits of 36,000 older men, over a period of 24 years. The researchers determined how much time the men spent sitting, performing other activities, and walking, and whether they walked at an easy, average, or brisk pace. What they found was that even a little walking each week significantly lowered the risk of hip fractures in men over 50.

Over the period of the study, which was published in in the American Journal of Public Health,  546 hip fractures occurred, 85% of which were from “low trauma” events such as slipping, tripping, or falling from a chair. The study data indicates that the more the men walked, and the more vigorously they walked, the lower their risk of hip fracture was as they aged. Walking over four hours per week was identified as the point at which the most significant benefits occurred, providing a 43% lower hip fracture risk than in men who walked only one hour a week.

Study author Diane Feskanich says about her findings, “It’s well known that physical activity helps to prevent hip fractures, that it helps to build bone and muscle tone. It can help with balance, too. One thing we’re pointing out here is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be strenuous activity. A lot of studies have focused on the benefits of strenuous activity, but we found walking alone helped to prevent hip fractures, and when you come down to it, older people are often more comfortable with walking.”


Want Your Kids to Be Active? Here Is Why YOU Should Be their Lifestyle Role Model

Want Your Kids to Be Active? Here Is Why YOU Should Be their Lifestyle Role Model


It’s not news—obesity is a growing national epidemic among young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that obesity in children has doubled in the last 30 years and quadrupled in adolescents. Nearly 20% of children 6-11 years old are obese as are almost 23% of teenagers. This places them at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Finally—and even more concerning—studies have shown that people who are obese as children tend to be obese as adults.

What’s happening here?  In large part, it comes down to our lifestyle choices. Record numbers of both adults and children are succumbing to the temptations of TV, computers, and video games, and many of us simply don’t get the exercise our bodies need to stay healthy.

Naturally, parents who read statistics like these may be—and should be—concerned about their kids. More and more often, they ask themselves questions like “What can we do to help our kids be more active and physically fit?” One answer to this question is pretty simple: To get your kids to be more active, engage in more active pursuits with them. One of the keys to getting children to exercise more is to have them see their parents exercise more. That’s the finding from a new study published in the journal Pediatrics

In the study, researchers at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine in England fitted 554 mother-child pairs with equipment to measure how much exercise they were getting when they were together as well as when they were apart. Accelerometers tracked their exercise levels, and GPS devices measured how close they were to each other. Over the course of seven days, the findings were clear – the more physical activity the mother was engaged in while with the child, the more active the child was during the rest of the day. In fact, for every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity the mother got, the child was likely to get ten percent more of the same activity. Conversely, for every minute the mother was sedentary, the child was 0.18 minutes more sedentary. Both of these effects were more pronounced in girls than in boys.

These findings seem to indicate that parents can be effective role models for their children by getting more active exercise themselves. But specialists emphasize that parents don’t have to drop their other priorities to do this. Physical therapist Teresa Beckman suggests, “Incorporate small changes into your daily life. For example, rather than playing a board game together, go outside and play hopscotch. Or if you’re planning a trip to your local playground, try walking instead of driving.”

Other suggestions for becoming more active with your children include playing more sports with them, walking more with them (if you take the bus, get off one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way), riding bikes together, and even playing Frisbee. Dancing is good exercise, so you can encourage your kids to take lessons in various forms of dance and then set a good example for them by attending the classes yourself. You can join exercise classes together, schedule regular pre-dinner walks or runs, or just play family games of basketball or soccer.

You are your child’s most important role model when it comes to teaching them about the importance of exercise. And exercising together is just as good for you as it is for them. So switch off that TV or computer and go out to play! You’ll both be doing something good for your health and having fun at the same time!


How to Turn Raking Leaves into a Healthy Workout

How to Turn Raking Leaves into a Healthy Workout

rake-in-leaves-200-300One of the most effective ways to get and keep getting physical exercise is to make it an enjoyable job. While raking leaves may not be at the top of your list of fun tasks, that attitude can change with a few tips. Fall is here, and for many people, that means lots of leaves in the yard. They aren’t going to rake themselves—so why not make this seemingly dull chore into a fun, healthy workout? Here are a few tips that can make raking leaves into a workout you can be proud of.

  1. Chart Your Fitness Progress. “Raking leaves is considered moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk”, according to Barbara Ainsworth, an exercise epidemiologist at San Diego State University. “It helps build upper-body strength, as well as core strength. As you’re raking, your core (or trunk) is working to stabilize your body while your arms are moving, says Ainsworth. A 135-pound person could burn about 240 calories raking leaves for an hour.” Keep track of your workout time so you can be proud of how many calories you’ve burned—not to mention how many bags of leaves you raked.
  2. Enjoy the Outdoors. Autumn is a wonderful time to exercise outdoors—the air is crisp, the leaves are turning lovely colors, and the smell of chimney smoke can be almost intoxicating. Take the time to enjoy your surroundings by noticing the movements of birds, squirrels, and other animals gathering food for the winter. Enjoying nature can be extremely beneficial for your mental health as well as your physical health, so give it a shot—you may end up loving it.
  3. Listen to Music. Bring a radio, CD player, or digital music player and listen to some of your favorite music. For a more rigorous workout, chose fast-paced music with a beat you can rake to. After a while, if you really get into the music, it won’t even feel like exercise—and don’t forget that endorphin rush. Try doing 20 minutes of moderate raking, then take a break and drink some water. Then continue raking. If you feel your enthusiasm start to flag, try switching the song—sometimes that’s all you need to boost your workout.
  4. Take Before and After Pictures. Studies suggest that it is very mentally beneficial to see the product of work you’ve done with your own hands, so why not take before and after pictures of your yard to remind you of the good work you’ve done? It may inspire you to rake your lawn regularly—at least until winter comes along.
Want to Upgrade Your Running Routine? Try Cross-Country

Want to Upgrade Your Running Routine? Try Cross-Country


For many running enthusiasts, it is essential to keep improving the workout technique and to keep things interesting. One way of doing this is it to try out different surfaces such as the treadmill, the street, and the track. However, new information is coming to light about the best way to upgrade your running routine: running cross-country on a trail. Why is trail running so beneficial for runners?

  • Running on trails is better for your body. A trail’s surface is much more forgiving on your joints—the stress of impact is significantly mitigated, making the trail a better place to run, physiologically speaking. Many runners suffer from knee pain, shin splints, ITB syndrome, or other injuries caused by running on a hard surface that puts a lot of pressure on the joints. For these people, trail running can be a life-changer. Trail running is also purported to help prevent most forms of tendonitis (unless you suffer from Achilles tendonitis, in which case, running on a harder surface may actually be better for you).
  •  Trail running works more muscles than hard-surface running does. Trail running involves literally watching your step—roots, rocks, and other small obstructions will compel trail runners to jump, hop, and move around the trail while staying balanced, which uses a wider range of muscles than one would use on, say, a treadmill. In addition, because the trail is softer than paved surfaces, your step depresses a bit each time your foot hits the grounds, requir­ing you to lift your leg and use more mus­cle each time you take a stride.
  •  Trail running requires intense focus. Trail runners not only get a full-body workout, but they also use their powers of concentration much more than treadmill runners. Trail runners find this type of mental workout exhilarating and energizing—and it may even help improve your concentration and memory on a day-to-day basis.
  •  Running in a natural setting is beneficial to your mental health. According to com, “An arti­cle pub­lished by Har­vard Med­ical School states this: ‘Researchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Essex in Eng­land are advanc­ing the notion that exer­cis­ing in the pres­ence of nature has added ben­e­fit, par­tic­u­larly for men­tal health. Their inves­ti­ga­tions into “green exer­cise,” as they are call­ing it, dove­tails with research show­ing ben­e­fits from liv­ing in prox­im­ity to green, open spaces. In 2010 the Eng­lish sci­en­tists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own stud­ies that showed just five min­utes of green exer­cise resulted in improve­ments in self-esteem and mood.’ ”

For trail running beginners, it is important to follow some basic tips, such as:

  • Obtaining the right kind of running shoes for trail running. Use the shoes you feel the most comfortable in. Do a little research if you don’t know exactly what you need.
  • Bringing water. You won’t be finding any drinking fountains out in the woods, so plan ahead and stay hydrated.
  •  Giving yourself plenty of time to complete your run. Don’t push too hard in the beginning—that’s an easy way to burn yourself out on what could be a beloved and effective full-body workout.
  • Maintaining focus. It is essential that you pay close attention to the trail. Remember—you’re not on a smooth treadmill or a predictable, engineered running surface; you’re in the middle of the woods on a trail with rocks and roots. If you lose focus, you may end up inuring yourself, and you truly do not want to be out in the middle of nowhere with a twisted or broken ankle. If you feel like your concentration is beginning to wane, slow down or take a break until you get your focus back.
Fitness Around the World

Fitness Around the World

women doing fist pushups
women doing fist pushups

People in the US who are interested in staying in shape tend to favor running or working out at the gym to maintain fitness. But how do people in other parts of the world stay fit? And what might Americans learn from them? Following is a summary of how people in some other countries keep in shape.

The Netherlands and Scandinavia – The number one form of physical exercise in these countries is undoubtedly the bicycle. They use it to do everything from getting to and from work and school to shopping for groceries and cycling someone home from a date. There are dedicated bike lanes in every city, and many that stretch from one side of the country to the other. From small children to the elderly, everyone cycles as a matter of course, and their overall fitness shows how beneficial it is to their health.

China – You may have seen people in public parks around any major city (or any community with Chinese immigrants) performing a series slow, precise movements. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts that is good for conditioning not only the body, but the mind as well. It is especially good for seniors, as it improves balance and overall mobility, increases strength in the legs and reduces stress.

India – Most people are surprised to learn that the physical practice of yoga as we know it is not actually ancient. Yoga in India was traditionally a mental and spiritual practice that incorporated special breathing techniques while in a sitting or standing posture. The type of exercise that comes to mind when we think of the word “yoga” (incorporating different postures called asanas, in combination with measured breathing) was not developed in India until the early 20th century. Nevertheless, yoga is now practiced very widely in India and all over the world as a way to promote overall mind-body fitness. It strengthens and stretches the muscles, increases flexibility and reduces stress.

Japan ­– Radio Taiso is a program of simple calisthenics set to music that is broadcast several times a day and is used by schools and many companies to help keep people fit. There are three official versions. One is a general fitness program for people of all ages, one is specifically designed to increase physical strength, and one is geared toward the elderly and disabled, who can perform the exercises while sitting down.

Brazil – An energetic form of dance that is taking off elsewhere in the world as well, Capoeira is a combination of dance, martial arts, acrobatics and music. It improves balance, coordination and rhythm while strengthening all the muscle groups. It will also improve your reflexes and help increase concentration.

Middle East – Belly dancing was originally developed as an exercise to aid women in childbirth. But belly dancing has many additional advantages. It particularly targets the “core” muscles, which are the ones responsible for keeping us upright and which have all too often become weakened by sitting for long hours at a desk. By strengthening your core muscles, you reduce your risk of suffering a back injury or chronic lower back pain.

Summer Fun and Water Safety

Summer Fun and Water Safety

inner-tube-boy-200-300Summertime’s here and for many children around the country that means fun in the water!

But here’s the catch… Whether it happens to be a neighborhood pool, a lake near a favorite camping spot or the ocean right across the beach from a vacation rental, playing in and around the water comes with certain risks. And while the rate of accidental death by drowning has been dropping over the years, it is still the leading cause of accidental deaths for children between the ages of one and four.

We believe that parents should pay special attention to these risks—especially at this time of the year. Here are some safety tips for parents whose kids will be spending time around the water during the next few months.

Tip #1. Teach your child to swim.

This is one of the best things you can do for your child, and the earlier the better. You can start familiarizing your child with water as an infant so they do not develop a fear of it. Ensuring that your child receives swimming lessons is especially important if he or she comes from a family of non-swimmers, as children from these households are eight times more likely to drown than children who come from swimming households. If your child can’t swim, be sure he or she wears a life jacket at all times around open water. Children should be taught never to swim alone and not to play around unattended pools or drains.

Tip #2. Remove drowning hazards.

Children—especially young ones—can drown not only in a pool, but also in a tub, toilet, or even a bucket with only a few inches of water at the bottom. Keep bathroom and laundry room doors shut and keep toilet seat lids closed. It’s also a good idea to install a child safety lock on the seat. Keep buckets drained of liquid and store them upside-down when they’re not in use. Remove water from the tub or any kind of wading pool immediately after use.

Tip #3. Be nearby at all times.

Always remain within arm’s reach of your young child in any setting where there is water, including pools, tubs, ponds and buckets. Never leave your child unattended in the tub, even for a minute. Two thirds of home deaths from drowning (apart from pools) occur in the bathtub!

Tip #4. Watch your child constantly.

Children playing in or near the water need to be supervised at all times, even if they know how to swim. It is important not to be distracted by talking on the phone, sending text messages or reading a book, as children can drown very quickly and quietly. Most deaths from drowning occurred just after an adult was watching them. If you find your child is missing, check the water first.

Tip #5. Put up safety barriers.

If you have a pool or spa at home, be sure it is surrounded on all sides by a fence that is at least four feet high. The fence should have a gate that locks automatically, and alarms to both the gate and pool area should be installed. Remember to cover and lock the pool or spa when you are not using it.

Tip #6 Learn CPR.

Children who are rescued from drowning need to receive CPR as soon as possible to decrease the likelihood of death or brain damage. Don’t wait for the paramedics to arrive. Learn CPR and do something!

The Joys of Swimming for Fun and Fitness

The Joys of Swimming for Fun and Fitness

man-swimmming-200-300With summer weather heating things up across much of the country, swimming is a great way to cool off and have some fun!  But did you know that it’s also an excellent way to increase your fitness, help control your weight and improve your overall mood?  Plus, swimming is a type of exercise that people of any age and physical ability can enjoy.  It’s easy on the musculoskeletal system while at the same time providing a good aerobic workout.

Swim for Fun

Even among avid swimmers, boredom in the pool is one of the common reasons for losing interest in sport.  While swimming laps in the pool may not seem like a recipe for fun, here are a few things you can do to add some variety to your in-water workouts.

  • Plan your in-pool workout ahead of time and vary your activities so that variety is built-in.
  • Swim with buddies who have the same water fun and fitness goals that you do.
  • When swimming laps, do things to keep your mind engaged in your activity and help sharpen your technique.  Counting how many strokes you need to complete a length of the pool and how quickly you can do it is one way to look for improvements.  Experimenting with stroke length is another.
  • If you have the option, change up the locations of your swimming workouts.  A change of scenery—from an indoor pool to an outdoor one, or from a lake to the ocean—can make a big difference in how your workout feels.
  • Add to your “playbook” of swimming drills.  You can reach out to others or go online for suggestions to help mix things up.
  • Learn some new strokes or make up some of your own.  You might look silly doing it, but it adds to the experience!

Swim for Fitness

While swimming may not be as accessible as walking, running or even biking in some communities, it has distinctive health benefits that make it well worth the trip to a local pool.  The organization that governs all swimming-related activities in the UK (called the ASA) compiled a report of scientific findings from all over the world about the health benefits of swimming.  Some of them are truly striking.  For instance, researchers have found that swimming regularly reduces men’s risk of dying early by a staggering 50% relative to those who run, walk or do no physical activity.  Experts estimate that just two and a half hours per week of swimming can significantly reduce your risk of chronic disease.

A good all-around exercise, swimming involves both aerobic activity and working against resistance.  Unlike most aerobic activities, however, swimming involves little in the way of jarring impact (like the shocks and jolts involved with running) and doesn’t require you to support your full body weight while doing it.  When submerged up to your neck in water, your body weight is effectively reduced by 90 percent.  As a result, overweight and obese people can get a good workout without placing large amounts of painful stress on the lower body’s muscles and joints.  This removes a common deterrent to exercise for a large (and growing) part of the US population and suggests that swimming could be an attractive option for people trying to manage their weight.

Arthritis sufferers or those with musculoskeletal injuries can also benefit from swimming, since studies have shown that it improves range of motion without causing a worsening of symptoms such as pain and stiffness.  In fact, according to the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, swimming as a form of exercise (as opposed to running or practicing other impact sports) can reduce your risk of osteoarthritis.

Beyond increasing fitness levels and helping to manage weight, swimming may provide a variety of other health benefits:

  • Studies performed on people suffering from fibromyalgia have found that exercise performed in a warm pool reduced anxiety and depression and caused an improvement in mood.
  • For older adults, swimming has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Post-menopausal women in particular are at increased risk of bone loss, and swimming provides a safe and effective form of the resistance exercise that is needed to maintain bone density.
  • Pregnant women find that swimming strengthens their shoulder and abdominal muscles, which are put under increased stress during pregnancy.  Obstetricians recommend swimming as a good form of exercise for most pregnant women, as it provides them with temporary relief from the extra weight they are carrying.

It’s hard to exaggerate the potential fitness benefits of swimming.  Swimming helps to build cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance.  It tones your muscles and helps to maintain healthy heart and lung function.  It also improves flexibility, reduces blood pressure and alleviates stress.  Whether in a community pool, at a nearby lake or in the ocean, swimming offers an ideal way for most people to keep fit that’s also easy on the body’s musculoskeletal system.

So get out there this summer and have some fun in the water!

Seven Deadly Health Sins

Seven Deadly Health Sins

jolly-roger-200-300Behind many of the debates about healthcare in the US—its availability and cost as well as its effectiveness—is an important phenomenon. The demands being placed on healthcare providers are growing and changing (at least in large part) because of the way we live our lives.  Day-to-day choices we all make are contributing to a wide variety chronic health conditions that are sometimes referred to as “lifestyle diseases.” And while our healthcare system is very good at treating acute medical problems, it is not very good at preventing or treating chronic ones.

In many cases, it’s fair to say that the health we get in the future is a result of the lifestyle decisions we make in the present. With this idea in mind, it’s also fair to ask whether it makes good sense to ask our healthcare system to single-handedly save us from the effects of our own unhealthy habits. This is why, as chiropractic physicians, we work closely with our patients to help them be more active in their own health by taking more responsibility for their own lifestyle choices.

So which lifestyle choices are causing the most trouble? While we could obviously point out harmful behaviors like smoking, drinking too much alcohol or using harmful drugs, the behaviors that really need more attention from most people are much more fundamental. We call these the “Seven Deadly Health Sins” that compromise longevity and quality of life.

Sitting Too Much. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have a sedentary lifestyle are in danger of things like “obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.” A recent study showed that those who spend a large amount of time in front of a television or other forms of screen entertainment had a roughly 50% greater risk of death from any source.

Eating Too Much Fat, Sugar and Salt. The typical American diet not only contains too many calories, it’s also too high in fat, salt and sugar. In excess, these ingredients (all too common in processed foods) trigger a wide range of complex, self-inflicted health problems.

Sleeping Too Little. According to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, a combination of daily stress and lifestyle choices (including nighttime activities as well as eating and exercise habits) is causing more than a third of the U.S. population to get fewer hours of sleep than they need.

Drinking Too Little Water. Most of us would be much better off if we drank lots more water and fewer sugary drinks. While there’s no real evidence that Americans are chronically dehydrated (despite all the hard work of bottled water companies), there is plenty of evidence that the things we are drinking aren’t particularly good for us from a nutritional point of view.

Mismanaging Stress. Our relationship with stress is a complicated one. The simple truth is that stress itself isn’t inherently positive or negative for our health. The thing we actually have to pay attention to is how we respond to it. While the physiological stress response we’ve inherited through evolution is designed to help us confront immediate physical dangers, most of today’s threats aren’t immediate or physical. The result of this mismatch is that our “fight or flight” response may stay switched on for much longer periods than nature intended. This in turn can cause a variety of health problems. Since stress is an inevitable part of modern life, it’s important for us to embrace the positive view of stress that helps us grow and develop while also learning how to turn off the harmful effects.

Ignoring Posture Problems. The way we carry ourselves while sitting or standing can have lasting implications for our musculoskeletal health. The bad news is that poor posture can reduce our strength, flexibility, and balance and—at the extreme—can cause pain and even compromise organ function. The good news is that posture problems can be corrected once they’ve been recognized. Even better, it’s possible to prevent them by developing good habits in the first place.

Putting Off Preventive Healthcare. The best time to pay attention to your health is while you still have it. Unfortunately, many Americans still cling to the reactive “sickness care” model and don’t take full advantage of the expanded preventive care options that have been made available to them as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates the ACA made 76 million Americans “newly eligible” for free preventive care. But a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll in March 2014 revealed that only 43% of the population was aware of the change, meaning that many people are probably foregoing preventive care out of cost concerns. Remember—it’s always better to recognize and treat a health problem early before it grows worse and becomes more difficult to address!

By avoiding these Seven Deadly Health Sins, you can also avoid many chronic health conditions. If you or someone you care about has health questions or concerns, we encourage you to call or visit our office today. We’re here to help!

Spring is Here and Summer is Coming! Ease into Your Warm-Weather Exercise Routine to Avoid Injury

Spring is Here and Summer is Coming! Ease into Your Warm-Weather Exercise Routine to Avoid Injury

Woman is trained on a riverside

The prospect of warmer weather just around the corner, especially after a winter like this one, is already inspiring many people to “get back in shape.” It’s like a second chance at that New Years’ resolution you made back in January and never followed up on because it was freezing outside.

We all know that exercise is good for us. But no one likes having to put on ten layers of clothing to run outside or having to drive 20 minutes to the gym for a one-hour workout during the winter months. At around this same time every year, spring weather makes it easier for many people to “reboot” their exercise goals and to increase their level of physical activity. However, it’s important to use some common sense when jump-starting your warm-weather exercise program.

There are at least two big reasons why. First, statistics tell us that over half the people who start a new exercise program quit within six months. “Easing into it” and taking things slowly at first can help to prevent this. Second, starting to exercise again after a period of inactivity can lead to a number of injuries that can easily be avoided by taking a more realistic approach to exercising again. For example, if you’re a runner, don’t start out by trying to run a marathon. Ease into a new running routine by starting with short runs and extending the distance you run each time you go out. Also, try to remember the following general guidelines about exercise in general and exercising in warm weather.

  • Always warm up before exercise and stretch/cool down afterwards. The warm-up period is far more critical if you haven’t exercised for a while, because you need to get your body used to increased activity before you put demands on it. So do your jumping jacks or other gentle exercises to raise your heart rate and get your circulation going before you start your sports or exercise routine, and then do some stretching afterwards during a “cool down” period to allow things to settle down again.
  • Start slow, and don’t overdo it. If you’ve been inactive for some months, start with a couple of weeks of vigorous walking before you ease back into running. Also, if you’re an outdoor runner, be sure to pace yourself when picking routes, remembering that you have to run just as far to get back home.
  • Set goals, measure your progress, and try to keep to them. If possible, work with a trained sports/exercise counselor at your gym to set realistic exercise goals for yourself. Then carefully monitor your progress, making note of exactly how far you run or how much weight you lift in each session. Doing this will help you actually see your own progress and provide additional motivation when you run into problems or your performance plateaus.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We can’t say this enough—hydrate. Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercising, especially as the temperature and humidity rises. The amount of water you need to consume depends to some extent on your weight and how long you exercise, but as you make progress and your workouts get longer, remember to consume a sports drink beforehand to replenish your electrolytes. This becomes more important as temperature and humidity rises, and you begin to sweat more.
  • Cross-train. If possible, try to vary your workouts, even as you’re easing back into them. Try running one day, lifting weights the next, and swimming the next, etc. This will develop different muscle groups more evenly and help you avoid injuries caused by repeatedly using the same ones.
  • Listen to your body and be aware of your limitations. If your arthritis has been acting up all winter, naturally don’t start with exercises that put a lot of pressure on your knees and joints. As a general rule, avoid believing in the “no pain, no gain” meme. That’s for committed athletes, and until you’ve been back in the swing of your exercise routine for six months or more, you’re not one. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain, and if you feel weak or in pain after a particular workout, rest for a day or more before exercising again.
  • Dress right. Yes, the temperatures are warmer, but be sure to wear proper clothing and foot gear for the sport or exercise you are performing. A remarkable number of injuries are caused each year by things as simple as running while wearing improper shoes.
  • If you become injured, remember R.I.C.E. This acronym stands for Rest (take off for a few days to rest the injured area), Ice (apply ice or cold packs to reduce swelling and inflammation), Compress (wrap swollen areas in a compression bandage), and Elevate (raise the injured limb). Avoid activities that use the injured area for a few days—you can still remain active, but don’t rush back into the same activities that caused the injury in the first place. For example, if you sprain your ankle, spend the next week exercising your arms and upper body.
  • If you are overweight or have known health problems, consult a doctor first. Don’t be macho—discuss your plans to get back in shape with your physician, and follow his or her advice.