We all know that being overweight is bad for our health, but is lack of physical fitness worse? The answer might surprise you.
Back in the mid-1990s, when researcher Steven Blair introduced the idea that thinness wasn’t synonymous with fitness, fitness fanatics of all shapes and sizes rejoiced. His landmark study was the first to suggest that fitness trumped fat when it comes to overall health, concluding that a lack of exercise poses a greater risk to health than being overweight. Blair’s results, along with several subsequent studies confirming his findings, sparked the term “metabolically healthy obesity,” which is defined as being overweight (a body mass index above 30) without the associated high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar and elevated cholesterol levels often associated with carrying excess weight.
Since regular exercise has proven effective in reducing mortality even among the severely obese, it’s clear that being fit can mitigate the health risks associated with being overweight. In fact, it’s worth noting that fit individuals with heart disease had a lower risk of mortality independent of body weight and age, proving once again the importance of exercise for all ages and sizes.
Faced with the reality that exercise alone isn’t always effective when it comes to getting rid of unwanted inches, it’s nice to know that your efforts in the gym won’t be in vain, despite the fact that the numbers on the scale may not change significantly. So, it’s time to stop using the scale to determine success in the gym. Exercise is truly its own reward — at least as far as life expectancy is concerned.
So how much exercise does it take to reap the rewards of being fit? Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise most, if not all, days of the week should do the trick. And it doesn’t have to be done in the gym...a brisk walk, bike ride or swim will get the job done. It does have to be aerobic exercise, however, which means yoga lovers and those who pump iron need to include some form of sustained activity that raises heart rate and oxygen consumption into their workout schedule.
The best news of all is that it’s never too late to get in shape. Men who went from unfit to fit in a study that spanned five years experienced a 44-per-cent drop in all-cause mortality. The opposite occurred in fit individuals who joined the ranks of the unfit. They saw their mortality risk increase as their commitment to regular exercise waned.
The time has come to own the idea that being fit is more important than becoming thin. After all, anyone who’s tried to lose weight and keep it off can tell you success in the gym is easier to achieve than moving the numbers on the scale. Fitness is a goal that’s not just attainable, it’s accessible no matter your shape or size.
With fall sports in full swing, concussions are certain to ramp up within the mainstream consciousness. And while conventional wisdom often states that “time and rest” are the best and only options for recovery from concussion, studies now suggest managed exercise and movement can hasten recovery.
In 2010, researchers at the University of Buffalo were the first to show that specialized exercise regimens can relieve prolonged concussion symptoms. Focusing on both athletes and non-athletes, researchers based their findings on the hypothesis that “the regulatory system responsible for maintaining cerebral blood flow, which may be dysfunctional in people with a concussion, can be restored to normal by controlled, graded, symptom-free exercise.”
Nearly 3.8 million people suffer from concussions each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these are a result of athletic injuries or motor vehicle accidents, and 5 to 10 percent of those suffering from a concussion may experience symptoms that last beyond six weeks. Concussions are serious medical conditions that can hold you back for days … even weeks. The good news is that physical therapy can guide a patient through the healing process, making recovery more proactive and possibly even quicker.
When choosing physical therapy to aid in recovery, a physical therapist will first provide concussed patients with thorough neurological, orthopedic and cardiovascular evaluations in an effort to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses specific needs and goals. Then, following some rest and recovery, a physical therapist can determine when it’s best to begin treating the problems related to the concussion (dizziness, balance and headaches) while also starting a light, guided exercise program for the restoration of strength and endurance, putting the patient on track to a full recovery.
If you or a loved one are suffering from a concussion, do not delay in getting help. The quicker you seek help, the faster you can return to your normal activities. Call us today to set up an evaluation and let us help you get back on track!
If you knew that a certain type of exercise could benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your bones, and help you lose weight all while making you look and feel better, wouldn't you get started right away? Well, studies show that strength training can provide all those benefits and more.
Contrary to popular belief, strength training exercises from weight lifting to bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, and planks will not make you bulk up. Instead, they offer a slew of other benefits — both physically, and mentally. In fact, numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related declines in bone mass.
According to the American Heart Association, strength training is physical activity designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance, including free-weights, weight machines, or your own body weight. It is an important part of your overall fitness and benefits people of all ages, particularly those with health issues such as obesity, arthritis, or a heart condition. So, besides the well-touted (and frequently Instagrammed) benefit of adding tone and definition to your muscles, how does strength training help? Here are just a few of the many ways:
1. Makes you stronger
This benefit is the obvious one, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Strength training not only increases our muscle strength, but also our bone strength, helping minimize the risk of fracture. In addition, strength training works the range of motion of our joints. All of these things help us to stay independent and perform activities of daily living, such as house and yard work, playing with grandchildren, or caring for a pet.
2. Protects bone health and muscle mass
At around age 30 we start losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of lean muscle mass per year thanks to aging. Just 30 minutes twice a week of high intensity resistance and impact training has been shown to improve functional performance, as well as bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass.
3. Helps you develop better body mechanics.
Strength training also benefits your balance, coordination, and posture. One study showed that in older people who are at higher risk of falling (and causing a lot of damage) because of worse physical functioning, strength training reduced risk of falling by 40 percent compared with individuals who did not do strength-training exercise.
4. Helps with chronic disease management
Studies have documented the many wellness benefits of strength training, including helping people with chronic diseases manage their conditions. A few examples are:
Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, and cycling is well-known as a way to help increase the number of calories you burn in a day, thereby shedding extra pounds. But strength training helps, too (even if you’re not burning a huge number of calories during the workout). Strength training is helpful for weight loss, because it helps increase your resting metabolism (meaning the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re just going about your day, not exercising).
6. Boosts energy levels and improves your mood
Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which lift energy levels and improve mood. In addition, research that’s looked at neurochemical and neuromuscular responses to such workouts offers further evidence it has a positive effect on the brain.
There’s also evidence that strength training may also help you sleep better.
7. Strength training has cardiovascular health benefits
Along with aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening physical activity helps improve blood pressure. The recommendation is doing muscle-strengthening activities twice weekly plus 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity activity, at a minimum, to help reduce hypertension and lower risk of heart disease.
If you’re looking to add strength or resistance training to your routine, you don't have to jump into a CrossFit class to see such major health benefits. Even relatively simple exercises such as a sit-to-stand or wall push-ups can go a long way, particularly if you're just starting to get back into shape. If you're no stranger to strength training, though, try taking it up a notch. Interval training, where you alternate between, say, 40 seconds of weight lifting and 20 seconds of rest, has been shown to be particularly effective. So, what are you waiting for? Start taking steps (even if they're small ones!) toward your goal today, and you'll start seeing benefits in no time!
Picnics in the park. Perfectly grilled fish. Farmers' markets piled high with summer's peak produce. Summer is our favorite time to cook...it's the best time to eat a little healthier, too! We're playing the following recipes on repeat straight through Labor Day. Try them and let us know what you think!
Avocado and Chicken Caprese Salad (20 Minute Meal)
Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Zucchini
Chicken and Bulgur Salad With Peaches
Skillet Ginger Peach Crisp for Two
Watermelon Feta Blueberry Salad
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
It's a scorcher out there, folks! And as summer continues to heat up and temps camp out in the triple digits, it is important to take precautions and protect yourself from heat illness while being outdoors. Extremely high temperatures especially put athletes at an increased risk for heat illness. Knowing the steps for prevention can help keep you safe.
The common denominator of heat illness prevention is: Water, Rest, Shade. Getting plenty of all three when outdoors is the best way to beat the heat and stay out of trouble.
Heat Safety Tips
When overheating does occur, it's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four stages of heat-related illness: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat Rash is an irritation to the skin caused by sweat buildup. While common, heat rash is usually treatable by getting individuals into a cool environment with good ventilation.
Sweating causes a loss of body salts and fluids, which can lead to heat cramps. An individual suffering from muscle spasms or pain due to the heat should move to a cool area, rest and hydrate.
If the body loses too much water and salt, heat exhaustion may result. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist skin, nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness and rapid pulse. Workers should immediately lie down in a cool area, drink lots of water and apply cold compresses or ice packs if available. If signs of heat exhaustion do not abate or worsen, the individual should go to the emergency room.
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency. Heat stroke signs and symptoms are:
Don't be afraid to get out and enjoy summertime with your friends and family. Just be sure to be prepared, use precaution and common sense, and know when it's time to take a rest.
Are you experiencing pain? Pain can be both physical and emotional, and results from actual or perceived damage to tissues. That’s right—pain is all in your head. But regardless of whether the damage is real or not, pain most definitely feels real.
Why do we have pain? It is our body’s way of protecting itself from danger and can be a warning sign of damage rather than damage itself. Although injury pain is different from the pain we feel from a hard athletic effort, the concept is the same. Athletic pain is our body’s way of telling us that we are approaching our physical capacity, and if we continue at the same intensity, we will soon run out of energy or other essential needs. However, the athletic limit of individuals can be altered to push through performance barriers.
How is it that a runner can feel like she is in so much pain that it is impossible to go any faster, but then suddenly find the energy to sprint for the finish? The body’s reserves are the same, but the brain perceives the end of misery to be near and allows free use of available resources. In a similar way, injury pain warns us to protect vulnerable areas of our body. Nociceptors, or special nerves throughout the body, send signals to the brain to create feelings of pain. Everyone experiences pain differently and life experience can increase or decrease the way we perceive situations related to pain. If we have had a previous back injury, for example, the next time we are in a situation that might cause back injury, it can trigger warning pain to prevent us from overworking and leading to re-injury.
The American Physical Therapists Association Move Forward Guide to Pain tells us:
"Stand up straight." That's timeless advice we've likely all heard at one time or another, and it's worth heeding. In fact, researchers have linked bad posture with some uncomfortable health conditions and high risk of injury, especially during exercise.
Posture is the positioning of the body when a person is sitting, standing, lying down, or performing different tasks. But what is good posture really? Good posture is also known as neutral spine. When we have good posture, the muscles surrounding the spine are balanced and supporting the body equally. Poor posture, on the other hand, can cause an array of health problems. Some of those include:
Now that we know the dangers that come with poor posture, here are 9 key benefits along with tips to achieving good posture:
1. Reduced lower back pain
Sitting or standing in a slouched position for prolonged periods of time stresses your lower back. More specifically, it puts pressure on the posterior structures of the spine, including the intervertebral discs, facet points, ligaments, and muscles.
Tip: Do bridges to strengthen your lower backBridges strengthen and engage your gluteal and abdominal muscles, so your body relies on them instead of stressing your lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your core without changing your back position. Lift your hips and lower torso off of the ground by contracting your gluteus maximus muscles, then slowly lower your hips back down.
2. Fewer headaches
Poor posture can contribute to tension headaches, due to increased muscle tension in the back of the neck. Often if we correct our posture, we can reduce muscle tension and improve our headaches.
Tip: Stretch your neck muscles with a head retraction exerciseThis exercise strengthens the neck muscles that are often weak and stretched out. Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your chin back toward the floor like you’re trying to make a double chin. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat 10 times.
3. Increased energy levels
When your bones and joints are in correct alignment, it allows the muscles to be used as they’re intended, so you’ll have less fatigue and more energy. In other words, the muscles don't have to work so hard to do what they’re supposed to do.
Tip: Twist your torso to activate your side abs Strengthen your obliques so the right muscles are activated when you’re sitting or standing. Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your feet off of the floor about 6 inches. Tighten your core as you rotate your upper body and elbows from side to side.
4. Less tension in your shoulders and neck
A forward head posture puts strain on the upper back, shoulder, and neck areas. With proper alignment, the joints and ligaments are less stressed and less subject to chronic overuse.
Tip: Look in the mirror and perform this neck stretch Stretch out your neck to relieve pressure and correct tension. Stand with a straight spine and neck. Slightly tuck your chin backward. You should feel a slight tensioning of your clavicle muscles and a lengthening of the posterior part of your neck. Hold for 3 seconds and complete 15 repetitions.
5. Decreased risk of abnormal wearing of the joint surfaces
Crooked sitting and standing, such as resting on one leg or side of your body, leads to hip strain. Your joints wear down naturally over time. If your posture is even, not many problems arise. But if you’re uneven, more pain and issues tend to occur.
Tip: Strengthen your core and lower back with this hip flexor stretchThis exercise strengthens your core and lower back at the same time while stretching your hip flexors. Start in a lunge position with one knee on the floor and your leg extended backward. The other leg should be at a 90-degree angle in front of you with your foot planted on the floor. Engage your core by pulling in slightly.
6. Improved circulation and digestion
If you’re compressing vital organs, your circulation is poor, and those organs aren’t going to work as well. Healthy blood flow requires proper alignment and avoiding positions which cramp circulation, like crossing your legs.
Tip: Roll out your spine with a thoracic foam roll
Lie on your back on the ground and place a firm foam roller in a horizontal position underneath you at the bottom of your rib cage. Support your neck with your arms. Slowly extend your spine over the roller. Hold for 5 seconds and take a deep breath. Slowly move up 1 to 2 inches at a time. Perform this exercise daily.
7. Reduced TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain
When we have a forward head position, our mandibular joint and jaw muscles experience stress and tension. This can contribute to pain with eating, talking, yawning, as well as clicking with opening, and headaches.
Tip: Loosen your jaw
With your head and neck in a neutral position and your eyes looking forward, turn your head slowly from one side to the other to stretch your neck muscles.
8. Better form during your workouts
Our posture doesn’t just affect us when we’re sitting and standing, but when we’re exercising, too. For example, having an engaged core and neutral spine during a squat will help prevent injury.
Tip: Try the tree pose
Stand upright with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Bring your hands to meet in the middle of your chest with palms and fingers touching. Pull your shoulder blades back with your ears resting above your shoulders. Lift one leg up to your thigh or shin (not your knee), and press the sole of your foot into your leg for stability. Both legs should be engaged, and your core should be tucked slightly as you maintain a neutral spine.
9. Appear taller
While it’s icing on the cake, good posture can make us more attractive. “People look taller and slimmer when they have good posture,” admits Griffith. Sometimes it can even make our abdominals appear more defined.
Tip: Flex with the forearm plank
Lie on the floor with your frontside down. Keep your forearms parallel and your feet hip-width apart. Tighten your core and lift your torso off of the ground. Make sure you’re looking down between your elbows, your shoulder blades are pulled back, and your core muscles are tight. Hold your plank for up to 30 seconds, but stop sooner if your form starts to decline. Complete 3 sets.
Up for a challenge?
Aim to get all the benefits of good posture by trying the above tips consistently for 30 days! Being mindful of body positioning, stretching regularly, and employing the tips listed above can tremendously improve posture and your overall health. For even more help, call to make an appointment at The Smith clinic today!
If you’ve ever tried to define sprains and strains but can’t quite identify the difference between the two, you’re not alone. These two terms are often used interchangeably to describe overstretching or tearing of soft tissues in and around your ankles. There is a key difference, however, and knowing what that is can help you differentiate between ankle sprains and strains.
An ankle sprain involves a stretching or tearing of the ligaments connecting the bones in the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Ankle sprains are a very common injury among athletes and active individuals. These sprains can sometimes be prevented by performing targeted exercises to help strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankles, providing protection for those ligaments.
Alternatively, an ankle strain occurs due to overstretching of the muscles surrounding the ankle joint. Symptoms of an ankle strain include pain and swelling. To help prevent ankle strains from occurring, conducting stretching exercises before participating in sports or other activities is always a good idea. Another preventative measure is to avoid overdoing it, as many muscle strains occur when you are fatigued and worn down.
Anyone at any point can experience a sprain or strain, but certain risk factors increase your odds for overstretching a joint. Factors contributing to sprains or strains include:
Treatments for Ankle Sprains and Ankle Strains
Ankle sprains are most often treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (also known as R.I.C.E.). Sometimes, a severe sprain in the ankle may require that the patient wear a walking boot for ankle support.
An ankle strain can generally be treated at home. Resting for several days will help to limit pain and prevent further damage. You can also alternate between icing and heating the ankle to loosen up the muscle. Other treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications, which will reduce pain as well as swelling.
Severe strains and sprains may need more time to heal. You may also need physical therapy to help you regain strength and range of motion. If you are experiencing lingering ankle pain, let us help you get back on track. Schedule an appointment with us today by calling 901.756.1650.
"Sit up straight!" "Don't slouch!" We've likely all heard those admonishing words more than once growing up. And most of us begrudgingly complied, having no concept of the anatomical rationale behind the prodding. So, what is posture anyway? And why is it so important?
In short, posture refers to the body's alignment and positioning with respect to the ever-present force of gravity. Whether we are standing, sitting or lying down, gravity exerts a force on our joints, ligaments and muscles. Good posture entails distributing the force of gravity through our body so no one structure is overstressed. Like a building with a poor foundation, a body with poor posture is less resistant to the strains and stresses we experience over the months, years and decades of life.
The sitting position is where most of us get into trouble with poor postural habits. This is especially true when driving or using a computer for extended periods of time. As we focus on the activity in front of us, we tend to protrude the head and neck forward. When this occurs, the weight of the head and upper body is no longer balanced over the spinal column, but instead must be supported by increased muscular energy and placing spinal ligaments on stretch. Over time this leads to fatigue and eventually even pain in the neck and upper back.
Sitting and standing with proper postural alignment not only allows alleviates strain on your body's ligaments and muscles, but also offers many other additional benefits. Here are just a few:
To achieve correct posture while standing, the ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should align in one straight line. To give you a mental image of what good posture looks like, imagine a plumb line running from your earlobe. If you have correct posture, the line would hang straight to the middle of your anklebone.
A big issue people have with achieving a neutral spine is getting the shoulders to line up where they should be. Most individuals with bad posture have shoulders that round forward, giving them that Quasimodo look. If you can’t tell if you’re rounding your shoulders forward, here’s a quick test:
Hang your hands down by your side. If the backs of your hands face forward, then you’ve got rounded shoulders. If your thumbs face forward, then your shoulders should be aligned for good posture.
Being aware of good posture is the first step to breaking old poor postural habits and reducing stress and strain on your spine. Standing straight and sitting upright just takes some intentionality and consistent work. To repeat an old adage you may have heard from your mother: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Thanks Mom!
On Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day, which naturally makes many of us mindful of our earthly fathers. But, did you know that you also have a Heavenly Father? Think of the purest love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of our Heavenly Father's love for us. In fact, He loves us so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus, to take on our sin, so that we might live holy and blameless with Him in eternity!
You see, before Jesus was born of Mary, He lived in perfect glory, intimacy, and unity with His Father and the Holy Spirit. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God desired you and I to share in that same love, intimacy, and glory. Jesus’ death and resurrection reveal to us the very desire of our Heavenly Father's heart, which is to be with us for all eternity.
We are important to God because we are His children. No matter our flaws or mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us. He knows and loves you, is mindful of you, hears your prayers and knows the desires of your heart. So, this Father’s Day, may you have joy knowing that your Heavenly Father has shown His love for you, not just in words, but also through the the most amazing gifts of love, forgiveness and eternal life in Christ Jesus.