Wellness Articles

Archive for 'Exercise'

Spring Cleaning Is For More Than Your House

Every year, we get a little older and hopefully a little wiser – but how many of us realize how important it is to do the little things that keep us healthy? When the winter draws to a close and the buds start popping out, we know it’s time to do some spring cleaning in our homes – but how many of us do the same for our bodies?

Smart and well-informed people know that developing healthy lifestyle habits is a critical key to a happy, healthy life. Eating well, sleeping enough, observing the basic rules of hygiene and including the right amount of the right kind of exercise builds a foundation most people can grow on – you can take the opportunity now to check yourself on these and other essential lifestyle choices, and do some “spring cleaning” inside your body.

You may want to knock off a few pounds of winter weight by eating lighter and increasing your activity levels. You may want to choose some nutritional supplements to give your body some extra building blocks to work with. You may want to reduce or eliminate your intake of sweets, or increase the fruits and vegetables in your diet.

All of these options are fairly well-known, but there are other things you can do to streamline the efficiency of your body and get it working at peak performance, not the least of which is to remember the role your spine and nerve system play, and take proper care of them by visiting your chiropractor. Those adjustments you receive are a way to improve your body’s function, clearing any interference in the way your brain tells your body parts what to do, so that your body works the best it can.

All of your body’s functions, from growth and repair to detoxification, are influenced by nerve system control, and that’s why it’s so important to make chiropractic care part of your regular health habits – it helps your body work the way it’s supposed to, naturally.

One more tip – when you clean anything, you usually use water, and your body is no different – drinking plenty of water, as much as eight or ten glasses a day or more, is one of the best ways you can keep yourself clean on the inside, not just in the springtime, but all year round.

Exercise and reduce your stress

Current research is documenting that as little as thirty minutes of exercise three times a week can reduce your stress levels as effectively or more effectively than taking medication. Walking, stretching, yoga, light calisthenics – you don’t have to become a gym rat to get the benefit of exercise.

Pick something you like to do – take a walk on a beautiful day. Get some small dumbbells and lift weights while you’re watching TV. Do some deep breathing to get yourself moving inside. Remember back to grade school, and do some light exercises the way you used to (take it easy when you get started) – sit-ups, push-ups and squat thrusts may seem retro, but they are time tested to strengthen your muscles, improve your circulation, and make you feel better overall.

And, they’re fun!

Consult your doctor of chiropractic to ask which exercises would be ideal for you. Investing as little as ninety minutes each week can make all the difference in the world – try it and see!

Long Winter’s Naps

If you haven’t noticed, we are on the brink of our first cool snap of the year.  It is well into the first part of November and I have a brand new Halloween sweater that still has the store tags on it because it was too hot for me to wear it this year.  Oh, well…watch out next October!  Along with the first cool snap I start getting prepared for my fall rituals like making sure there is adequate firewood, stocking up on enough ingredients for that first pot of chili, and checking the condition of my sets of flannel sheets.  That’s right.  I have two sets- one for on the bed and one for changing on Saturdays.  My guest rooms also have flannels.  It is time for preparing for the proverbial long winter’s naps. Many of us prepare for sleep ritually and others barely scrape enough time out of a day to get in a few winks if we’re lucky.  The next couple of columns will focus on the importance of sleep and acquiring the appropriate equipment for it.  I hear innumerable complaints from people who are tired all the time and who just do not seem to have enough time to get the right amount of rest.  Let’s take a look at sleep and just how important it is to our healthy lives.

In our ridiculously busy world, there simply are not enough hours in the day to do all that we feel compelled to do.  How do we get it all done?  Most of the time we rob our bodies of the sleep we need in order to function optimally.  In the last century we have decreased the amount of time we spend sleeping by 20 percent.  A survey done by a major mattress manufacturer revealed some startling information about sleep-deprived people.  For instance, 40 percent of adults are moderately to severely sleep-deprived.  50 percent of adults say they get enough sleep but 75 percent of this same group admits to being sleepy during the day and not feeling well-rested.  1 out of every 4 adults does shift work and 56 percent of all shift workers fall asleep at work at least once a week.  64 percent of adults suffer from insomnia and 50 percent of business travelers do.  Sleep deprivation costs an estimated 5 billion dollars annually in terms of lost productivity, illnesses, absences from the workplace, motor vehicle and on-the-job accidents, and loss of life.

Sleep deprivation manifests physically in some obvious ways and in some ways you might not think.  Mental function decreases, reaction time decreases, and irritability increases.  Metabolic changes occur in the body that can mimic effects of premature aging.  Skin tone decreases and gives the “bags under the eyes” look.  Not getting enough sleep taxes the immune system and lowers resistance to common illnesses while chronic illnesses lie in wait to attack people whose defense mechanisms might not be up to par.    In order for our nervous systems to work properly, we need consistent uninterrupted sleep.  According to Philip DeTrana, MD, a sleep expert, sleep is as important to our health as diet and exercise.  Dr. DeTrana says that it is most important to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.  In order to accomplish this if we aren’t already we should make some lifestyle changes to set our bodies up for getting the 8 hours that we need on a regular basis.  We should avoid caffeine as much as possible anyway but especially in the evening hours.  Exercise should not be done in the evening just prior to bedtime since energy levels tend to rise just after a period of increased activity.  Exercise early in the day to avoid the over stimulation of your nervous sys tem just before bedtime.  A very important issue is that of setting a consistent schedule for going to sleep and getting up.  Erratic sleep patterns are often responsible for leaving you feeling tired and run down.  If you get used to a bedtime and awaking time even on the weekends you will feel more rested in general.  Avoid the temptation to sleep in on the weekends.  If, for example, you sleep really late on Sunday morning you won’t be able to go to sleep at your regular time Sunday night.  Then getting up at the necessary time on Monday morning becomes a problem and there you are beginning another negative sleep cycle for the whole week.  It is not really possible to “catch up” on your sleep.  Sleep loss is a cumulative problem and it will catch up to you.  Losing an hour of sleep per night for a full week can be as devastating to your body as staying up for a full 24 hours straight.

As time catches up with me and I face the second half of my life (after all I am 40 now and if I complete 80 years in health I will feel blessed), thinking about all of the years of losing sleep due to worrying, studying, and having committee meetings in my head as I tried to doze off makes me tired!!  I am personally committed to being the healthiest person I have ever been as I venture into real adulthood.  Getting the proper quality of rest for my body is one of the cornerstones of true health.  Treat your body well.

Exercise Shortcuts

“Get amazing abs in just minutes a day while you rest!”
“Fabulous abs can be yours while you watch TV from your easy chair!”
“Get that 6-pack of ab muscles you’ve always wanted without breaking a sweat!”

The claims are pretty incredible.  Imagine being able to build impressive muscles while you solve the day’s crossword puzzle.  I use muscle stimulation in my practice, and often patients ask if the muscle stimulation that we use is similar to those machines advertised to build muscles without any active effort.  The answer to that question is that muscle stimulation which is used therapeutically is similar to the type that is available from the companies that advertise super abs in minutes a day.  The other answer, of course, is that those machines do not build abdominal muscles while you vegetate on the sofa.  In reality, the amount of muscle stimulation that would actually build the elusive six pack would be unbearably painful.  I had knee surgery in 1989 from a snow skiing accident, and during physical therapy my quadriceps muscle would not contract properly after atrophy from several months in a cast.  My physical therapist had to use a mode of stimulation to teach the muscle to contract again, and let me tell you it was no picnic regenerating the tone in my leg.  The therapy was excruciatingly painful, but it did work.

There is simply no shortcut to muscle tone.  Period.  Get used to it.  You must put in the time and effort to eat properly and get appropriate amounts of exercise in order to tone your body.  There is no magic pill or potion or machine which will do it for you.  Unfortunately we live in a very busy world and people are searching for shortcuts to everything.  Marketing companies will capitalize on the desires for us to take the easy way out, but there is no shortcut to fitness.  If you want great abs, put in the work to get them.  Find a personal trainer who will lay out a program for you to follow or buy a video tape which will outline the proper exercises to build abdominal muscles.  The key is that you must do the work.  No trainer or video or muscle stimulation machine will do for you what must be done. 

The same principles apply to reaching true health.  Without your participation, no one can make you healthy.  The cornerstones of health must all be strong.  You must get the proper amounts of rest, eat a balanced diet that is not full of fat and sugar, get some type of exercise on a regular basis, and make sure that you remove any obstacles to reaching your goals for health and happiness.  You will want to keep your nervous system clear of interference, and make sure you manage the stresses that come your way.  There is a lot you can do to keep yourself healthy, but you must first make a conscious decision to do those things.  Ask for help if you need it.  Form a group of like-minded people to keep you motivated, and set concrete goals that are easy to reach.  Then raise the bar a little bit.

If you happen to be one of the people who bought the ab stimulator machines, don’t just throw it away.  It can be used therapeutically to assist in pain management and muscle spasm relief.  Ask your health care provider how to use it to your benefit.  Your chiropractor or physical therapist should be able to tell you where you can acquire additional electrodes so that you can use them in the future.

Life is very much like a huge smorgasbord.  Anything and everything you could possibly want is out there and is available to you, but if you wait around  for someone to bring it to you, you will be left out.  You have to get up and get it yourself.  Treat yourself well.