HAPPY NEW YEAR!  – A 3-Pronged Approach to 2015

1.  Move More

2.  Eat less sugar and processed foods

3.  Smile daily


Boosting the Immune System for the Holidays

(from the George Mateljan Foundation Newsletter)

Do you have friends who always seem to be sick around the holidays? This reminds me that with the flurry of social activity and travel to see family and friends both near and far, the holiday season can also be the season of colds and flu.

That’s why this is the time of year it is particularly important to include immune-boosting foods as part of your healthy eating. Included among these foods are those fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild salmon and sardines), which help reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protecting lungs from colds and respiratory infections. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins C, E and pro-vitamin A (such as spinach), and vegetables like onions, provide antibiotic protection and serve as anti-inflammatory agents. The selenium and zinc found in nuts and seeds are also supportive of immune function by assisting in the production and function of white blood cells that help ward off illnesses and infections.

Additional foods that can help you ward off the colds and flu:

  • Crimini mushrooms: rich in selenium and antioxidants that help fight off flu. B vitamins help support your immune system.
  • Cabbage: source of an immune supporting phytochemical, indole-3-carbinol, which promotes the body’s production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant enzyme that helps strengthen the immune system and detoxify carcinogens.
  • Grapefruit and oranges: renowned for their concentration of vitamin C, also contain flavonoids, which have been found to increase immune system activation
  • Spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes are also especially good for immune support with their rich concentration of vitamin C, pro-vitamin A and other immune-building nutrients.

While it is important to know what foods are good for immune support, it is equally as important to know what to avoid to keep your immune system strong:

  • Cooking oils exposed to high heat can produce immune system damaging substances
  • Excessive consumption of calories and fat can weaken immune system strength
  • Refined grain products, white sugar, and processed foods deplete the body of vitamins, minerals necessary for promoting immunity
  • Refined sugar reduces the responsiveness of your immune cells and lowers your immune defenses

The Do’s and Don’ts of Flexibility Training  

(from IDEA Fitness Journal, Dec. 2014)

While research clearly indicates that joint range of motion is improved acutely and chronically following flexibility exercises, flexibility training continues to be one of the most overlooked aspects of most people’s fitness programs. With a growing focus on functional training to adequately prepare the body to perform optimally, not only when completing exercises in the gym but also when engaging in activities in everyday life, it’s imperative that proper levels of joint mobility be established to ensure quality movement.

While more studies are needed to definitively understand the effect of flexibility training plays in reducing the risk of injuries and minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness, based on the current available research there are some things we know that we should be doing—and not be doing—when it comes to this essential component of a well-rounded workout routine.

DO: Roll it out – While most people think stretching is the only way to enhance flexibility, self-myofascial release to address tissue density is also effective and should be incorporated into your exercise experience. Beginning your warm-up by using tools such as a foam roller or tennis ball to decrease trigger points or “knots” within the muscles by applying pressure to commonly tight areas of the body can help to relieve tension and increase blood flow. In turn, this helps to enhance mobility and improve overall movement quality. Interestingly, self-myofascial release can also be incorporated into the cool-down to offer even more flexibility-related benefits, as first focusing on tissue density will then help to then address tissue length through the completion of static stretching.

DON’T: Go in completely cold –  Research suggests that flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscles are warm. Therefore, engaging in light aerobic activity—such as jogging, jumping rope or briskly walking—to get the blood flowing to the tissues can prove beneficial before performing static stretches.

DO: Get mobile –  When it comes to injury prevention, ensuring adequate joint mobility is imperative. The body is comprised of joints that tend to favor stability—such as the knees and lumbar spine—and joints that favor mobility—including the ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders. To get more out of your movements, your workouts should include a dynamic warm-up to enhance range of motion in these four areas. This should include movements that mimic the five primary movement patterns: bend-and-lift movements (squatting); single-leg movements (lunging); pushing; pulling; and rotational or twisting movements. The warm-up should serve as a dress rehearsal for specific exercises within a given workout, activity or sport, an to increase core body temperature, address movement deficiencies, improve joint range of motion and reduce the risk of injuries in both the gym and during everyday life.

DON’T: Focus only on one area – Flexibility training, like resistance training, is joint specific, meaning there’s not one specific exercise or stretch to do to improve your overall flexibility. Instead, incorporate a variety of different movements and stretching techniques into your training to target the major muscle tendon units of the neck, chest, shoulder girdle, trunk, lower back, hips, legs and ankles.

DO: Make it a priority –  Studies have shown that while range of motion around a joint is improved immediately following flexibility exercises, chronic improvements are seen after three to four weeks of regularly stretching at least two to three times per week. For the greatest benefit, perform your flexibility training after your resistance-training workouts and stay committed in your approach to stretching regularly.

DON’T: Make it painful – As is the case with any aspect of fitness, when it comes to flexibility training, you want to feel challenged. However, there’s a big difference between slight discomfort and extreme pain. When performing static stretching, make it a point to stretch only to the point of feeling mild tightness or slight discomfort to ensure the greatest level of safety and effectiveness.