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Why teens should sit up straight

Why teens should sit up straight

How many times did you hear, “Sit up straight!” as a child? How many times have you said this to your own child? There’s  a reason behind that famous advice: poor posture early in life may lead to a number of back problems and pain later on. That’s why researchers conducted a study to better understand slouching in adolescents.

Researchers had 1,5092 adolescents complete questionnaires about their lifestyle and experience with back pain. Their sitting posture,  body mass index (BMI), and back-muscle endurance were also measured. Researchers discovered that boys were much more likely than girls to slouch. Watching TV, having a higher BMI, and having lower self-efficacy also increased a teen’s likelihood of slouching.

Teens who slouched also tended to have lower back-muscle endurance and non-neutral standing position. Some teens noticed their back pain increased while sitting, and those teens often had poorer scores on a child-behavior test.

These findings suggest that whether or not a child slouches isn’t simply about whether they remember to sit up straight. Encouraging healthy lifestyle habits and a strong self-esteem could also play a big role in helping your teen develop good posture. A doctor of chiropractic can evaluate your child’s sitting and standing posture to help them avoid future back pain.

O’Sullivan PB, Smith AJ, Beales DJ, Straker LM. “Association of Biopsychosocial Factors With Degree of Slump in Sitting Posture and Self-Report of Back Pain in Adolescents: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Physical Therapy 91.4 (2011): 470-83.

“Exercise” Versus “Lifestyle Activity”: How Active Are You—Really?

“Exercise” Versus “Lifestyle Activity”: How Active Are You—Really?

If you are like most people, working out just for the sake of working out does not really appeal (although there are many dedicated gym buffs who couldn’t live without their daily workouts!). We all know that it’s important to exercise regularly if we want to live a long and healthy life. However, if you find the idea of trotting along on a treadmill for 15 minutes and then spending half an hour of working out on Nautilus machines to be about as exciting as a trip to the dentist, then this article is for you!

Experts recommend that we get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week to stay in shape. But many people find taking this much exercise at once (or in three 50-minute stretches) too daunting. The good news is that a recent study conducted by researchers at Boston University that was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that bouts of exercise lasting less than 10 minutes a couple of times daily, such as the kind you get when cleaning the house, were sufficient to meet your weekly exercise needs.

Over 2,000 participants were included in the study, more than half of whom were overweight. Motion detectors were attached to each of the subjects for eight days, and an average of half the participants met their weekly exercise quota of 150 minutes. The average participant met his or her quota with exercise that lasted less than 10 minutes at a time. The types of exercise ranged from moderate (heavy cleaning, walking briskly and sports such as golf and badminton) to vigorous (running, hiking, shoveling and farm work).

As long as the participants met their 150-minute per week quota, no matter the length of their exercise, they had lower body mass index, smaller waists, lower triglycerides and better cholesterol levels than those who did not meet the quota. Assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine, Nicole Glazer, says “But this study really speaks to the idea that some activity is better than nothing. Parking a little bit farther away, getting off the bus one stop early—all of these little things can add up and are related to a healthier profile.”

For years, researchers have studied the effects of exercise from practicing sports or visiting the gym. However, according to Glazer, “This idea of lifestyle activity is one that is under-measured in research studies.” Activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, using a push mower instead of a riding mower, etc. can add up to a significant amount of energy expenditure. Experts still stress that it’s important to also get in some traditional forms of exercise and not merely replace it with lifestyle activity. Still, any exercise is useful.

“The levels of sedentary behavior in this country are alarming. So the concern that someone’s going to stop exercising and instead just get off the bus a stop earlier, that’s not my concern,” Glazer says. “The real concern is, is this a stepping-stone? Is this the way we can get inactive people to do any sort of activity? People will come up with any excuse to not exercise. I don’t need to worry about my giving them one. They’ll be able to think of something.”

Remember Dr. Oblander’s adage: If you don’t use it, you will lose it! Make sure that you figure out a way to move and remain active…no matter what your age is or your athletic ability!

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Can You Really “Bank” Sleep?

Can You Really “Bank” Sleep?

striped-cat-sleeping-on-chair

Banking sleep to save energy for later? To most people, this idea probably sounds too good to be true. At the very least, it probably seems to defy common sense and or runs counter to the way we think our bodies work. However, it actually turns out that banking sleep is possible—within limits.

A great deal of research has been conducted on this subject.  In one particular study, American scientists invited a number of volunteers to adjust their sleep patterns so that researchers could observe the effects. For a week, half of the volunteers were permitted to sleep more than usual, and the remaining volunteers were made to sleep according to their usual pattern.

“After this week of either extended or habitual sleep per night, all the volunteers came to the lab and they were given three hours of sleep, per night, for a week,” says Tracy Rupp of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The volunteers were then assigned tasks of varying difficulty, and those who had banked their sleep were more unaffected throughout the sleep restriction.

Rupp elaborates: “They showed less performance deterioration with regards to reaction time and alertness than the group that had been given the habitual prior sleep.”

The study also revealed that a week after the experiment, the banked sleepers were recuperating faster from deficiency of sleep than the others were. Rupp again: “What we’re basically saying is if you fill up your reserves and pay back your sleep debt ahead of time, you’re better equipped to deal with the sleep loss challenge.”

While these results may sound great, there are limits to what banking sleep can do for you. “It’s a strategy that’s only partially successful,” explains Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., in the November 2013 issue of Psychology Today. “New research indicates that although some of the negative effects of a week of insufficient sleep can be remedied with extra sleep on the weekend, others cannot. Researchers at Penn State University College of Medicine studied the effects of weekend recovery sleep after a week of mild sleep deprivation. They found that make-up sleep on the weekends erased only some of the deficits associated with not sleeping enough the previous week.”

Banking sleep isn’t limited to sleeping longer nights. Naps can be extremely effective as well—within limits, of course. According to Science Focus, “A 1991 study at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio found that after an ordinary night’s sleep, subjects could take an extra nap in the afternoon and then work through the night with greater alertness that a control group who didn’t nap. The study also found that performance is proportional to the length of the nap—but the effect doesn’t last.

After a second consecutive night without sleep, all of the subjects performed equally badly, regardless of how much sleep they had initially. It may be that all of us are normally slightly sleep-deprived and one really good night’s sleep will bring us back up to 100%, but that the ‘tank’ isn’t big enough to buffer us against more than one all-nighter.”

The practical uses of banking sleep go beyond needing to pull an all-nighter before finals or a big presentation at work. Dr. Winter, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, puts it thusly: “If you knew you were going to give birth on a particular day, for example, you could sleep for 10 hours a day for multiple days before the event, and be fine.”

Lastly, it is important to consider the host of negative effects of sleep deprivation. Memory loss, obesity, and even early death comprise some of these consequences. The moral of the story here is that banking sleep in advance may actually be a reasonable short-term strategy for coping with an isolated event (like giving birth). However, the best long-term strategy for staying healthy and performing well is to get a good night’s sleep as consistently as possible.

 

What Are the Best Sources of Fiber?

What Are the Best Sources of Fiber?

fruits in supermarket

Getting adequate amounts of fiber in your diet is important for a variety of reasons. The primary ones are that it improves digestion and contributes to lowering your risk of contracting chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The FDA recommends that adults get at least 25 to 30 grams in their diet every day. However, our typical western diet, which is high in refined grains and processed food, provides the average person only about 15 grams of fiber per day.

There are two different types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble, each of which fulfill an important task. Soluble fiber dissolves in water (and our stomach’s digestive juices), transforming into a gel-like substance that helps to lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and reduce high blood sugar. The primary purpose of insoluble fiber is to work as an indigestible bulking agent to keeps things moving along the digestive tract, which aids elimination and reduces the risk of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Fiber may also help you to lose weight, and is important in maintaining general bowel health.

Among the best sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber are the following:

  • Beans and lentils – Make a three-bean salad, a bean burrito, some chili or soup. Hummus (chick pea puree) is another tasty option.
  • Bran cereal – You don’t have to endure Grape Nuts to meet your daily requirement. Any cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving is considered high in fiber.
  • Whole grains – Chuck the white bread for whole-grain bread and pasta. It tastes better, and it does not make your blood sugar spike so quickly due to its higher fiber content.
  • Brown rice – Has a great, nutty taste and is particularly nice with a little soy sauce added.
  • Vegetables – Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and celery are among the vegetables with the highest fiber. Be sure not to overcook them though. They should remain crunchy.
  • Popcorn – A low-calorie snack (if you skip the added butter) and an easy source of fiber.
  • Nuts and seeds – Those highest in fiber are almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Baked potatoes – Be sure to eat the skin, as it’s the part with the good fiber.
  • Berries – There’s a lot of fiber contained in the seeds and skin of berries.
  • Oatmeal – Steel-cut oats are the best in providing good amounts of cholesterol-lowering fiber. If you’re in a rush, instant oatmeal provides fiber as well, if at a lower amount.

So be sure to add more from the above list to your weekly menu and enjoy the many benefits that increased fiber has to offer! If you have questions about your diet choices, always remember that you can call either of our Billings offices and schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Oblander or a member of our staff!

To Stay Healthy this Fall and Winter? Wash Your Hands! The Simplest Way

To Stay Healthy this Fall and Winter? Wash Your Hands! The Simplest Way

As summer turns to fall, lots of people (children and adults alike) will be spending more time inside and in closer proximity to one-another. Washing your hands is something simple we can all do to keep our schools, workplaces and homes just a little bit healthier. In fact, it’s actually been identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

But researchers at Michigan State University recently found that only about 1 person in 20 actually washes his or her hands properly in even the most obvious hand washing scenario—after using a public restroom. According to a summary by writer Lindsay Abrams of the Atlantic:

“Of 3,749 people observed leaving the bathrooms, 66.9 percent used soap, while 10.3 percent didn’t wash their hands at all. The other 23 percent of people stopped at wetting their hands, in what the researchers, for some reason, call “attempted washing” (as if maybe those people just weren’t sure how to follow through). Although the researchers generously counted the combined time spent washing, rubbing, and rinsing, only 5.3 percent of people spent 15 seconds or longer doing so, thus fulfilling the requirements of proper handwashing. They average time spent was 6 seconds.

Why Hand Washing?

Bacterial and viral infections can be spread when the hands come into contact with infectious respiratory secretions and carry them elsewhere. This happens most often as a result of someone coughing, sneezing, shaking hands, or touching an object that has been in the proximity of a sick person and then touching the face—particularly the nose, mouth or eyes. This is one of the primary ways of transmitting the virus that causes the common cold.

Washing your hands after using the toilet or changing a diaper is of utmost importance, as the ingestion of even the smallest amount of fecal matter can cause serious illness from deadly pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, giardiasis and hepatitis A, among others. You should also be particularly careful about washing your hands after touching garbage, handling animals or animal waste, visiting or caring for an ill person, or if your hands show visible dirt.

Those who handle food should routinely wash their hands, not only after using the toilet, but also after touching raw meat, fish or poultry, since the microbes present on uncooked food can cause gastrointestinal infections ranging from mild to severe or even life-threatening.

Perhaps those with the greatest need to wash their hands on a regular basis are healthcare workers. Because they’re constantly exposed to sick patients and patients with weakened immune systems, and since they frequently come into contact with contaminated surfaces, these professionals have a special responsibility. Before the importance of hand washing was widely understood within the healthcare community, millions of people became sick or died from infections passed along on the hands of their caregivers. During the 19th century, up to 25% of women died in childbirth from childbed fever (puerperal sepsis), a disease subsequently found to be caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. After hand washing was introduced as a standard practice in the delivery room, the rate of death dropped to less than 1%.

It All Begins With Hand Awareness

Here are the “4 Principles of Hand Awareness”:

  1. Wash your hands when they are dirty and BEFORE eating
  2. DO NOT cough into your hands
  3. DO NOT sneeze into your hands
  4. Above all, DO NOT put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth

How to Wash Your Hands the Right Way

To wash your hands properly, you need only two things: soap and clean, running water. If these two things are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has a minimum 60% alcohol content.

Before washing your hands, remove all rings and other jewelry. Using running water, wet your hands thoroughly, then apply enough soap to work up a nice lather. Keeping your hands out of the water, rub them together, being sure to scrub both the front and backs of your hands, including your wrists, and also washing between the fingers and under the nails. Do this for 20 seconds, then rinse completely under the running water. Be sure to turn off the taps with a paper towel rather than your bare hand. According to the CDC, the whole process should take about as much time as singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

But What About Drying?

The Mayo Clinic recently published its own comprehensive review and analysis of every known hand washing-related study produced since 1970. Interestingly, their researchers found that drying hands was a key part of preventing the spread of bacteria. They also concluded that paper towels are better than blowers for this purpose. Here’s some of their reasoning:

  • Most people prefer paper towels to blowers, so they’re more likely to use them.
  • Blowers take too long, encouraging people to wipe their newly-cleaned hands on dirty pants or to skip the step altogether.
  • It takes less energy to manufacture a paper towel than it does to dry hands with a blower.
  • Blowers dry out the skin on your hands.
  • Blowers scatter bacteria three to six feet from the device.

As chiropractic physicians, we have a special interest in helping our patients (and non-patients, for that matter) avoid illness and injury. This means helping them develop healthy lifestyle habits—like regular hand washing—that prevent disease. We also work closely with them in areas like diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to help you stay healthy and live your life to its fullest, please call or visit our office today!

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Being a Great Fitness Buddy

Being a Great Fitness Buddy

Studies have shown that one of the best ways to stick to your fitness regime is to have a reliable fitness partner. Being a fitness buddy means that someone else is counting on you to make them accountable for their workout, keep them inspired and ensure that they are not alone in their quest for fitness. To be a great fitness buddy you just need to keep a few basic guidelines in mind:

You should both have similar goals ­– If you are training for a place on the Olympic team and your fitness buddy just wants the occasional weekend workout, neither of you is likely to meet your goal. This does not mean that you have to share the same goal, but they should be relatively comparable. That way, you can encourage your partner to meet their goal while not losing sight of your own.

Find someone at a similar fitness level – Your fitness partner does not want to feel like they are being left behind if you are at a much higher level than they are. Similarly, choosing someone at a higher level may make them feel like they have to hold back. Having the same starting point is more motivating for you both.

Be reliable – Always show up when you say you are going to. Your fitness buddy will be more motivated knowing that he or she can count on you to be there for a scheduled workout. You should ideally have similar schedules so that your partner does not have to work around your previous commitments.

Don’t hesitate to push your partner – It’s natural to want to do as little work as possible to reach our goals. But encouraging your fitness buddy to push themselves a little farther than they might on their own can help them to reach their goals a little faster. Never push them beyond what they can safely do, but there is no harm in encouraging your partner to push beyond what they perceive are their limits, and they will be pleasantly surprised at how much they can accomplish that they never thought they could.

Keep focused – Help your partner to keep focused on his or her workout by ensuring that your mind does not wander off or become distracted by the cute guy or girl walking by in the gym.

Provide useful criticism ­– Do not hesitate to correct your workout partner if you feel he or she is using bad form or doing something unsafe. Part of the responsibility of being a great fitness buddy is ensuring that your fitness partner does not become injured during their workout and that they perform to the best of their ability.

 

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Beating the Odds: How Some People Stick with Diet and Exercise Plans

Beating the Odds: How Some People Stick with Diet and Exercise Plans

Billings Chiropractic Diet Services
balance-scales

How long did your last diet or exercise plan last? If you’re like many people, your answer is “not that long.” In fact, one UK survey found that the average length of time a person stays on a nutrition plan is 19 days. A slightly more positive poll found that women tended to quit their diets after five weeks and two days. If these statistics sound distressingly familiar, it might be time to reassess how you approach your own diet plan.

How Do People Stick with Their Diet and Exercise Plans?

If you want to make sure your diet and exercise plan doesn’t become just another statistic, a change in attitude can make all the difference. In order to create a diet plan you can stick with, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what types of changes will fit into your lifestyle. Diet plans with long lists of “bad” foods might help you cut back on calories in the short term, but do you really plan to go the rest of your life without cake? People who stick with their diet plans take a more moderate approach, making small changes that they can live with in the long term.

Exercise plans can be just as difficult to carry out. People who stick with their exercise plans view physical activity as a regular part of life, not something they do only when they have the time, energy, and motivation. Of course, sticking with physical activity is much easier when it’s enjoyable. Rather than slogging it out on the treadmill, try yoga, martial arts, or another exercise program that stimulates your mind as well as your body. And variety helps too!

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Whether you’re building a diet plan or an exercise program (or are making changes in both areas), the people around you can make a huge difference in your level of success. If your spouse, children, or friends tend to turn to food in celebration or out of boredom, it’s easy to forget about your diet goals. Getting enough exercise is a lot more difficult if the people around you would rather watch TV than go on a walk.

Fortunately, when it comes to sticking with your diet and exercise plan, the people around you can also be a huge help. Making dietary changes as a family can help everyone involved lose weight and improve their health, while exercising with a friend can make the time go by much more quickly and pleasantly.

Having the support of a chiropractor who really understands the power (and challenges) of making healthy lifestyle changes (think nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management, for example) is another way to help you meet your goals. The staff here in Billings at Oblander Chiropractic can work with you to make targeted, realistic adjustments that you’ll be able to stick with in the long term. Sticking with a diet and exercise program isn’t always easy, but you might be surprised by just how easy it is to make the changes you’re looking for with the right type of advice and support!

Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

cold-weather-jogging-200-300For many people, colder temperatures outside—whether at home or while traveling over the winter holidays—can mean big changes in exercise routines. Some will move their workouts indoors or hibernate during the winter months. Others, though, will decide to work with the seasons and find ways to be active outside. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.

While there’s certainly no rule against venturing out into the cold for a little bit of exercise, it’s important to be smart about how you do it. Remember to protect yourself from frostbite, hypothermia, and injuries that can come with freezing temperatures. To help you do that, we’ve put together a short checklist that you can use to exercise outdoors safely this winter.

Remember that Cold Weather is Often Dry Weather. Winter weather is often associated with precipitation. However, as the temperatures drop to dangerous lows—close to freezing and below—the opposite is often true regarding humidity. The air will get drier, and even if you don’t sweat as much, you can still lose valuable moisture. When exercising in the cold weather, remember to drink plenty of water, even if you don’t really feel thirsty or sweaty.

Understand the Real Temperature Where You Plan to Exercise. Look up the weather on a website or app before you head out into the cold, but understand the numbers you are looking at. The general weather conditions can differ greatly from place to place locally, even in the same region. Pay especially close attention to wind chill numbers, since the combination of wind and your own movement may lead you to experience lower temperatures. The thermometer may say it’s 35 degrees out, but the wind chill may mean it feels closer to 20 degrees in certain areas.

Dress Appropriately. It may be tempting to bundle up when going out in the cold to work out, but this comes at a cost. Thick, warm clothes will make you sweat more easily, and that sweat can leach heat from your body and allow your temperature to drop to unhealthy levels. The key, as cold weather experts know well, is to dress in layers, starting with a thin synthetic layer of wicking material, then a fleece and finally a thinner waterproof coat. The added benefit to this clothing strategy is that it’s flexible. You can always take off layers if you get too hot.

Warm Up the Extremities. When exercising in the cold weather, pay particular attention to your extremities, which are more vulnerable to frostbite. It’s especially important to cover your fingers and head. If the air is very frigid, cover up your nose and mouth, too: That cold air can damage your lungs and freeze your nose.

Fuel Up. A source of energy is vital to keeping up your metabolism and keeping you warm when out in the cold. Eat a healthy amount of complex carbs and proteins before you go out, and if you’re going to be out for a few hours, then bring a snack along, too. Stay away from sugars and other less dependable sources of energy, if possible.

Start Slow. Stretching and warming up will both make injury less likely and help your metabolism pick up until you are ready for more strenuous work. Always warm up before going out into the winter weather, particularly if you are planning on an intense session with lots of running or heavy exertion. Otherwise, joint and muscle injuries could result.

Know the Danger Signs. Hypothermia and frostbite can creep up on you if you’re not careful. You can defend against the cold better if you recognize the signs. Frostbite occurs on exposed skin like your cheeks, nose, ears, and hands, especially below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs when shivering cannot keep up your core body temperature and your heart and brain begin to shut down. Watch for intense shivering, sudden weariness, slurred words, and trouble with coordination.

Billings and our surrounding areas have had lots of severe cold and snow thus far this winter; be sure to be smart about going outside and take care of your health!

Chiropractic for Chronic Back Pain

Chiropractic for Chronic Back Pain

back-pain-office-200-300About a third of the millions of people who make appointments with chiropractors every year seek relief from back pain. Back pain can be acute, meaning it happens suddenly, lasts 6 weeks or less and often clears up on its own; or back pain can be chronic, meaning it comes on gradually and lasts 3 months or more. Chronic back pain can be particularly debilitating and can limit movement and mobility.

Traditional treatments for back pain include medication, physical therapy, surgery or steroid injections. While these treatments may provide symptomatic relief, they do not address the root cause of the pain. They can also be painful and expensive to carry out.

The foundation of chiropractic care for chronic back pain is the understanding that misaligned vertebrae can cause the pain. This misalignment can result in many additional problems, such as headaches, body pains and impaired joint mobility. Chiropractic treatment aims to restore alignment to the vertebrae, returning natural health to the spine and all the body parts the spinal nerves serve.

Chiropractors believe in the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Chiropractic care avoids medications and their possible side effects, and it also avoids surgery. As an example of the differences in treatment, surgeons may remove a herniated disk from the spine in order to relieve pressure on the nerves, while chiropractors use non-invasive spinal manipulation to achieve the same result.

Dr. Oblander can treat your chronic pain based on the vertebral misalignments found in your body. A quick, sudden force is applied to the appropriate vertebrae in order to restore the motion of the joint. Another common treatment for chronic pain is known as the flexion-distraction technique. This treatment involves a special table that stretches the spine. It is particularly effective in treating injuries to the discs that have been the cause of long-term back pain.

Chronic back pain will probably also require additional treatments such as massage, exercise, and perhaps physical therapy. A good chiropractor will work with other health professionals as needed to ensure you get the best possible treatment for your pain. He or she will also look at the entire picture of your life, including your diet, health habits, medical history, family history, and other conditions you may have. This approach is holistic and has a better chance of eliminating the root cause of your chronic back pain than traditional treatments that only work on the symptoms.

Every body is different. If you have questions about this article or whether chiropractic is an appropriate choice for your specific situation, please ask. We are here to help those in the greater Billings area!