PFTL News January 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!

THE ONE EXERCISE EVERYONE SHOULD BE DOING  (from Livestrong Nov. 2018)

With so many Americans concerned about the cost of health care, this exercise can positively impact eight out of the 10 most costly health conditions in the U.S. (Heart disease, cancer, COPD, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and back problems.)

This exercise will also improve your mood, boost endorphins, reduce fatigue and lower your stress hormones as well.

What’s more, this exercise is absolutely free and you don’t need a lot of time: Only 15-40 minutes a day five days a week will tone and trim your body, vastly improve your health and could even save your life.

Some of you have probably guessed that I’m talking about WALKING!

How Americans Compare to Other Nations – In a study published in October 2010 in the journal “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,” researchers used pedometers to track the steps of 1,136 American adults. They found that people living in the U.S. take fewer steps than adults in Australia, Switzerland and Japan.

  • Australians averaged 9,695 steps a day.
  • Swiss averaged 9,650, steps a day.
  • Japanese averaged 7,168 steps a day.
  • Americans averaged just 5,117 steps a day.

According to the CDC, 36 percent of Americans are obese, while a 2010 Reuters article states that “During the past decade Australia, Japan and Switzerland have reported obesity rates of 16 percent, 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.”

And it’s not just lower obesity rates; it’s longer life expectancy as well. As A 2013 CNN article reported, 2011 data shows that 27 countries (including those daily walkers in Australia, Switzerland and Japan!) have higher life expectancies at birth than the United States.

Here Are 19 of the Proven Health Benefits Walking

  • It increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and reduces the stress hormone cortisol, helping you feel less anxious or sad.
  • Can lead to a longer life. Research by the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts.
  • Decreases knee pain and stiffness by keeping joints lubricated.
  • Lowers the risk of fractures. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
  • Reduces women’s risk of stroke by 20 percent when they walk 30 minutes a day – by 40 percent when they step up the pace — according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
  • Boosts endorphins, lowering stress, fatigue and anger in 10 minutes and lowers blood pressure by five points.
  • Reduces glaucoma risk by reducing the pressure inside the eye, which lowers your chance of developing glaucoma, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
  • May cut Alzheimer’s disease risk by 50 percent over five years, and for women, reduce colon cancer risk by 31 percent.
  • Decreases the odds of catching a cold by 30-50 percent.
  • Tones ab muscles, builds bone mass and reduces risk of osteoporosis and reduces low back pain by 40 percent.
  • 54 percent lower risk of heart attack with two to four hours of fast walking per week.
  • 30-40 percent less risk of coronary heart disease with three hours of brisk walking per week.
  • 54 percent lower death rates for type 2 diabetics who walk three to four hours per week.
  • Helps prevent and manage arthritis.
  • Decreases body weight, BMI, body fat percentage and waist circumference and increases muscle endurance.
  • Increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Increases heart and respiratory fitness in adults with type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces physical symptoms of anxiety associated with minor stress.
  • Improves sleep quality and is associated with better cognitive performance.
  • Increases the size of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, potentially beneficial for memory. (Check out the study on this one.)

 

 

PFTL News October 2018

10 BEST FOODS TO REDUCE ANXIETY (HEALTH 09/27/18)

We all know the saying, “You are what you eat.” But recent research makes the case that this adage applies not just to your physical body but your mind as well. The foods you put on your plate really can make a real difference when it comes to mental health issues, including anxiety disorders—the top cause of mental illnesses in the United States.

How does food help with anxiety? Anxiety is caused in part by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, explains Ali Miller, RD, an integrative dietitian and author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers believed to play a role in mood regulation. A diet that features nutrients from whole food ingredients helps create neurotransmitter balance by improving the gut microbiome.

When it comes to dialing down anxiety, what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do, says Nathalie Rhone, RDN. “Foods that are processed, high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, fried, or loaded with additives can all heighten anxiety since they are inflammatory in your system, which can eventually affect your brain.”

Here, 10 foods to add to your meal prep routine now.

Turkey – Tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey, has a relaxation effect can also ease anxiety. “Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin, the happy, calming neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep,” says Rhone.

Salmon –This versatile and satiating fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health and a well-functioning nervous system. Opt for wild salmon over farmed varieties.

Dark chocolate – Nutritionists sing the praises of dark chocolate because it has more healthy antioxidants than other kinds. “The antioxidants in dark chocolate trigger the walls of blood vessels to relax, which boosts circulation and lowers blood pressure.” Make a small chunk of 70% (or higher) dark chocolate a part of your mid-day diet.

Asparagus – In 2013, the Chinese government proclaimed that asparagus extract is a natural functional (aka, medicinal) food for its ability to reduce stress and promote relaxation Bonus points go to asparagus for being a prebiotic food, meaning it serves as a food source for probiotics, which are also thought to have positive effects on mood.

Sauerkraut -Speaking of probiotics, fermented products such as sauerkraut are considered probiotic foods, and consuming more of them on a regular basis appears to have a mood-boosting effect.

Citrus fruits – “Our adrenal glands are the most concentrated storage tissue for vitamin C and they use the nutrient in the regulation of cortisol,” says Miller.

Broccoli – Dark green veggies like broccoli contain magnesium, “a calming mineral that can help with relaxation, as well as with keeping things moving through your digestive system,” notes Rhone.  Other top sources of magnesium include almonds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.

Avocado – Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that help optimize circulation, says Sass, which contributes to better blood flow to the epicenter of your anxious thoughts: your brain.

Oats – Like leafy greens, oats contain high levels of soothing minerals like magnesium. They also provide steady, even energy and are packed with antioxidants and nutrients involved in mood regulation.

Chamomile tea – Chamomile tea might help reduce your anxiety. According to a report from Harvard Medical School, chamomile tea has been shown to be an effective alternative treatment for anxiety.

SURPRISING NEWS ON DIABETIC SYMPTOMS  (IDEA Fit Tips, Vol 16, Issue 9)

Research published online in The Journals of Gerontology turned up some unexpected findings about type 2 diabetes.

Just two weeks without much activity can have a dramatic impact on health, according to researchers who studied overweight older adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And unfortunately, it may be difficult to recover from this negative effect.

Not only did an abrupt, brief period of inactivity hasten the onset of the disease and elevate blood sugar levels among prediabetic patients, but some study participants did not fully recover when they returned to normal activity for 2 weeks.

“We expected to find that the study participants would become diabetic, but we were surprised to see that they didn’t revert back to their healthier state when they returned to normal activity,” says Chris McGlory, a Diabetes Canada Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and lead author of the study.

If people are going to be off their feet for an extended period, they need to work actively to recover their ability to handle blood sugar.

For pre-diabetic older adults to recover metabolic health and prevent further declines from periods of inactivity, strategies such as active rehabilitation, dietary changes and perhaps medication might be useful,” says McGlory.

Research has shown that within days of the start of inactivity, there are notable reductions in skeletal muscle mass and strength, along with rapid onset of insulin resistance, a common feature of type 2 diabetes.

STILL WALKING – We are still walking at 5:30pm, Mondays and Wednesdays, in Gillson Park. Everyone is welcome.

PFTL News June 2018

NEW WALKING CLINIC STARTS JUNE 18

This will be the fourth year that PFTL will offer a free walking clinic to our clients and the public.  We will meet Mondays and Thursdays, from 5:30-6:30pm, at the Wallace Bowl in Gillson Park, Wilmette.  Includes warm-up, stretching, intervals, stair climbing, core strengthening and a great way to get some extra exercise.  Contact Julie at 847-251-6834 or [email protected] for more information.  Let us know if you want to be put on our email list for the walking clinic, as walkers are notified when the class is cancelled.

USE MYOFASCIAL RELEASE AFTER A WORKOUT  (from ACE Fit Tips May 2018)

You have seen them in our studio:  foam rollers, compression balls and rolling-pin-like sticks all help reduce muscle tightness, and at least one of them should be a part of your regular recovery program. If a muscle doesn’t experience a proper cool-down, or is held in a shortened position for an extended period of time, collagen, which are inelastic fibers that are a component of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle, can bind between layers of muscle and create adhesions or knots. Traditional massage therapy works by manually manipulating muscle tissue to break up adhesions, allowing the layers of muscle to slide against one another without restrictions. The pressure and motion of a muscle moving on a foam roller can help break up adhesions and realign muscle tissue to be able to function normally.

In general, foam rollers provide the greatest response when an individual places a body-part directly on top of the roller and moves rhythmically to apply pressure to the underlying muscle and elastic connective tissue. Breaking up adhesions can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint range of motion. Because it is not practical to hire a massage therapist after every workout, foam rollers, rolling sticks or compression balls can be used to apply the necessary pressure to break up collagen and promote optimal muscle recovery.

Do not, however, try to “roll out” your low back or neck with a foam roller, as you will be putting unnecessary pressure on the vertebrae.  Instead, use compression balls to apply pressure to the muscles only, not the bones.

BRAIN GYM ACTIVITIES – (from IDEA Fitness Journal May 2018) These are short, intentional exercises used in workplaces to release stress and enhance learning and work productivity. Here are two to try:

Cross-crawls. Stand or sit and march in place, touching one hand to the opposite knee, then doing the reverse (alternate). Continue for 4-8 complete breaths to activate both brain hemispheres. This exercise engages the brain and coordinates visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities.

The owl. Grasp the R shoulder with the L hand near the neck and squeeze firmly. Inhale deeply, and then exhale, turning the head to look over the R shoulder. Inhale and return to center. Drop the head forward and exhale, then inhale and raise head. Repeat for 3 or more breaths and then switch sides. The owl relaxes the neck muscles and increases listening comprehension.

FIVE FOODS YOU WANT TO SKIIP TO STAY SLIM  (from ACE Healthy Living May 2018)

More than 20,000 new food and drink items hit our grocery store shelves each year and, with so much conflicting information about health and nutrition floating around, it can be challenging to know what you should and should not be putting in your body. Here are five foods with unwarranted health halos that aren’t doing your body any favors, especially if you’re trying to reduce or maintain your weight.

Fruit Juice – skip the juice to stay slim. Eat your fruit—don’t drink it. Juice adds calories in a concentrated form without any of the fiber found in real fruit, which is one of the best reasons to eat fruit. When you juice fruit and discard the pulp or don’t include the peel, you’re getting rid half or more of the fiber. If you like the idea of juice for the flavors it offers, add fresh fruit to your water.

Granola Bars – Granola bars aren’t so good for your waistline. If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie…it’s a cookie. At its core, granola is just a grain with added sugar and fat. Package it up in bar form and it gets even less healthy. Most commercial granola bars are made with refined grains and contain added sweeteners and fat, and they rarely feature whole grains, fiber or protein, which should be key components of a better-for-you bar. You can find great recipes for homemade granola bars that are full of fiber and flavor. Bypass the granola bar aisle and save yourself from what are clearly just cookies in disguise.

Flavored Yogurt – flavored yogurt is bad for your waistline. If you can tolerate dairy, there is nothing wrong with plain yogurt. Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal, and most are packed with added sugar. Fruited and flavored yogurts are the worst, as they pretend to feature fruit. If they actually did include real fruit, it would also contain fiber, which yogurt products don’t. If you like fruited yogurt, make it yourself by adding real fruit to real yogurt and leave the flavored stuff on the shelf.

Veggie Chips – veggie chips aren’t a healthy food. Veggie chip bags show pretty pictures of real vegetables, but the ingredient list tells a different story. Most vegetable chips are a variety of fried and salted versions of potato starch. While a potato is technically a vegetable, when you fry and salt it, you negate its nutritional value. In other words, veggie chips are glorified potato chips. You want real veggie chips? Cut up vegetables, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a modest amount of salt and bake them. If you want potato chips, buy them, but don’t pretend your veggie chips aren’t French fries in disguise.

Pretzels – pretzels aren’t good for staying slim. Somewhere in the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s, people got the notion that pretzels were a health food. Sure, they have no fat, but neither does white bread. And pretzels are just white bread with a little more crunch and salt. What about whole-grain pretzels, you say? You’d be hard-pressed to find a pretzel in which the first ingredient is actually a whole grain. Even pretzels made with whole grains are mostly refined white flour that contains no fiber. If you want a satiating snack, choose nuts over pretzels. Nuts contain fat, fiber and protein, and are a much more satiating snack.

PFTL NEWS March 2018

BREATHING IS NOT JUST FOR OXYGEN; IT’S LINKED TO BRAIN FUNCTION AND BEHAVIOR

(from Neuroscience News, Dec 2016)

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.

In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.

“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”

Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.

This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular, fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.

The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.

When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus, the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.

In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.

The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.

“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster,” Zelano said. “As a result, you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”

BREATHING AND CORE CONTROL

As you may know, your inner core muscles include the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis and lumbar multifidi. These are the true core muscles that stabilize your spine and pelvis.  If these muscles are weak, it is very difficult to balance and center your body, and your spine becomes unstable and prone to injury . Additionally, your body will compensate by trying to use other muscles to stabilize the spine (i.e legs, arms), causing overuse and fatigue which can result in ankle, knee, hip and even shoulder pain.

One of the most important of these inner core muscles is the diaphragm.  If you are not breathing properly, you are not using your diaphragm properly.  AND, if you are not breathing properly, your other inner core muscles do not work as well as they should either.  There is a strong relationship between all the inner core muscles; if one is weak or deconditioned, the others tend to be weak as well.

If your balance is not good, and/or you feel pain in your knees and hips (absent any known pathologies), you may want to focus on how you breathe.

A quick way to test if you are using your diaphragm properly is to stand in front of a mirror and take a deep breath.  If you notice your shoulders rise, then you are not fully utilizing the diaphragm. Practice inhaling and feel your back rib cage expand, but your shoulders should stay relaxed.  This is easier to practice while lying on your back with your knees bent. As you inhale (through your nose, if possible), maintain a neutral spine (no arching), and imagine your ribs in the back of your body expanding.  As you exhale (through your nose or mouth), imagine your ribs compressing and your abdominal muscles contracting.

If you can activate your diaphragm fully before exercising, you will find that physical activity may be easier as the other inner core muscles can then do their job to stabilize and center your body. Even walking may be easier and more enjoyable.

PFTL News January 2018

LIFESTYLE CHANGES CAN BOOST YOUR METABOLISM (ACE Healthy Living Dec. 2017)

Have you hit a plateau in your fitness journey? Do you feel like you can’t lose any more weight, no matter what you do? If so, don’t despair—you are not alone. Many people struggle to meet their fitness and weight-management goals.

In many cases, the root of the problem lies in not knowing enough about how the body works. It can be easy to focus only on external results rather than pay attention to the internal functioning of our own bodies. The human body is a fascinating creation and, if we understand our own physiology just a bit better, we have a better chance of being able to conquer these frustrating plateaus.

Having a good understanding of one’s own metabolism is a great place to start. The term metabolism simply refers to the chemical processes that occur within the body to maintain life. There are two categories: catabolism, which refers to the breaking down of organic matter to obtain energy; and anabolism, which refers to the building up of components of cells. These processes require energy, burn energy and produce energy, which significantly impacts each person’s fitness and weight-management outcomes.

Interestingly, each person’s metabolism is different in terms of speed and effectiveness. Your age, sex and genes can contribute to your metabolism, but lifestyle choices related to eating, physical activity and sleep also play significant roles. While you can’t change some of these factors, you can make better lifestyle choices, which will help increase the effectiveness of your metabolism, which will, in turn, help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Here are some basic things to consider when preparing to make fitness and body weight changes:

  1. Know your basal metabolic rate (BMR).This is the amount of energy your body needs to keep functioning while at rest throughout the day. You can find a basic calculator hereto get a general idea of your BMR, but note that this is only an estimate based on factors like age and weight.
  2. Know your body composition.It is possible to weigh a “normal” weight and yet still have an unhealthy body-fat percentage. A body composition assessment can give you a better idea of your body-fat percentage and total muscle mass, and even a breakdown of visceral fat percentage. Some fitness facilities and medical offices offer this type of service. Devices are also available for home use, but tend to be somewhat less accurate.
  3. Know your daily total caloric intake, including the specific breakdown of major nutrients, such as fat, carbohydrates and protein.
  4. Keep a two-week journal of your actual exercise, eating, drinking and sleeping habits. This process can help identify the areas where you’re doing well and those that may present potential problems.

To use the metabolism factor to your advantage to reach your fitness goals, here are some basic tips to consider implementing:

  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration may slow down your metabolism.
  • Eat regular meals. Having smaller meals or healthy snacks every three to four hours helps keep your metabolism burning calories throughout the day. Studies show that people who eat smaller meals regularly are less likely to overeat.
  • Build muscle. Even while at rest, your body burns calories. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to exist, whereas each pound of fat requires only two calories a day.
  • Be physically active. The more active you are throughout the day, the more energy your body burns.
  • Add some aerobic workouts with a higher intensity. This provides a steady and more long-lasting rise in resting metabolic rate.
  • Eat balanced meals. It is essential for overall health and better fitness to balance your meals and eat good, organic and nutritious food. In particular, include healthy proteins, such as tofu, nuts and beans, as your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does while digesting carbohydrates or fat.
  • Do NOT skip meals or lower your caloric intake to below 1,200 calories for women or 1,800 calories for men (these numbers are basic guidelines and may vary for each person). Skipping meals and fasting for long periods of times slows down your metabolism.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast. 
  • Sleep seven to eight hours per night.

Turning these tips into daily habits is a great way to give your metabolism a boost and enhance your ability to meet your health and fitness goals. You may also benefit from working with a personal trainer, who can design a specific exercise regimen that your body responds to positively. Regardless of where you are in your health and fitness journey, don’t despair—get up, get moving and give your metabolism the boost you need to start seeing result

DO BRAIN GAMES IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTION? (from IDEA Fitness Journal December 2017)

Brain-training programs and games have blossomed into a competitive industry with direct consumer spending on digital brain-health software products expected to reach $1.52 billion by 2020. Companies such as Lumosity, Posit Science, Cogmed and CogniFit advertise the brain-boosting benefits of their software platforms.

But do these products really work? The scientific evidence is somewhat scattered, but several recent reports conclude that brain-training games do not reduce the risk of cognitive decline or dementia. They can significantly improve specific cognitive processes—but not much else.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!