As heart health awareness month comes to an end, we want to highlight the wonders of cardiovascular exercise – help clarify exactly what it is – and remind you to keep your heart healthy all year long.
Cardiovascular exercise – or cardio – is defined as any activity that gets your heart rate up. Now, that’s a pretty wide definition which is great because that means you can choose from a ton of different activities – some that you might enjoy more than others, and that means you’ll be more apt to get your body moving more. You could choose anything from: running; dancing; using the elliptical; rock climbing; swinging a kettlebell; playing tennis, basketball, soccer, football; practicing martial arts; taking classes like zumba, kickboxing, or jazzercise… and the list goes on and on – even sex can count! The idea is to choose activities you enjoy, and shift your mind from thinking it needs to be something you don’t like doing.
The benefits are cardio are huge. Most people immediately associate cardio as a weight loss tool, and it’s true that it is a big benefit. But there are so many other wonderful benefits to highlight as well.
Here is a list of health benefits you may have not have associated with cardio:
- improves mood
- fights depression
- relieves anxiety
- improves cognitive function
- stimulates nerve creation
- boost self esteem
- builds social relationships
- improves cardiovascular health
- lowers risk of all causes of mortality
- decreases risk of heart disease
- improves blood pressure
- lowers cholesterol
- relieves pain as exercise increases pain tolerance
There is also some evidence to suggest that regular exercise effectively slows how quickly our bodies age by helping to repair the little proteins at the end of our DNA strands – called telomeres – which can help to keep us younger and fitter longer. Perhaps we have found the Fountain of Youth after-all!
The secret is to find something you enjoy and like doing, and stick with it. For me, it is martial arts. I’ve trained in it my whole life and get my cardio from Brazilian Jiujitsu and running. Bryan plays hockey and likes to use the rowing machine, while Dongjin plays soccer and Megan opts for aerobic dance. Think about what gets you moving – and of you’re not moving, give us a call and let us help you get started. Who knows, you just might find a new passion or hobby that will help keep you fit for life.
–Sam Spillman, DC
It is that time of year again, the birth of a new year and maybe a new you. Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions? In the fitness and health care communities we tend to focus a lot on losing weight, diet, starting an exercise program. And all those are wonderful things. But I think it is important to focus on what will make your life better. What kind of resolutions will improve YOUR life. Not necessarily what your healthcare provider would choose for you, or your spouse, or your parents. We might want to swear less, or improve a relationship with a loved one, visit family more, get a promotion at work, get more involved with charity, and so on.
Whether you are trying to resist something that is bad for you or start a new thing that is good for you, making a change can be difficult.
I like to start with the end result and work my way backward. For each goal, I like to make it SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. This is a commonly used business idea, but it can be applied to personal goals too. To me, using this method can help really set ourselves up for success.
For me, less screen time in the year ahead is a big goal. You may have noticed that it is more difficult to NOT do something than it is to add a new activity. So instead of setting a screen time limit for myself, I’m endeavoring to fill up my time with other things, so that screen time is less of an option outside of work. I’m making a list of books I’d like to read, and a commitment to do more activities after work. I’ve joined a committee of a local charity and I’m going to attend one evening jujitsu class a week.
So as you make your New Year’s Resolutions, try to spend time planning out how you might achieve your goals, as well as determining what goals to set.
You’ve got this. Happy New Year!
Sam Spillman, DC
At the start of this holiday season, we’d like to give thanks for Balance(d). I named my practice Balanced because I believe in a measured approached to things – to the body, to patient care, and to life. It serves as a reminder to me as much as I hope it does for my patients. Last year I wrote about the importance of balance during the holidays, and you can read about it here. This year, I thought I’d share how I keep my balance during the holidays. Keeping your holidays stress free is great advice, but I want to talk a bit about how you actually do it.
For me, as an introvert, I’ve learned it is really important not to over schedule myself. If I do, it can really wear me out. So I keep track of my schedule in a calendar, and when I consider any invitation I look at the time slot and see what’s around it. If attending the event doesn’t leave me any recharge time, or there’s too much travel time, or if it means I’ll miss too much of my exercise plans, it’s likely a pass for me. Of course for those with children, schedules can be more complicated. You just have to keep your mind on the balance.
Another consideration around the holidays is food. I love food. You can often hear me talking about cooking, restaurants, and value-driven ingredients. To balance food around this time of year, I try to keep lunch light and very healthy – especially if I have plans for dinner or a party later. Then there are the oh-so-tempting sweets that pop up everywhere during the season. So, I eat a healthy snack before I head out since counting calories doesn’t work for me. When I am trying to relax and enjoy a party the last thing I want to think about is how healthy the food is I am eating. Filling up a little on healthier foods before I go can also help ease the guilt along with the managing how much I eat. I gain weight easily if I’m not careful, so I tend to stick with my plans.
I’m a big proponent of exercise, as many of my colleagues in the healthcare field are. If you’re trying to keep from gaining weight, or if you’re trying to lose weight during the holiday season, you’ve got to pay attention to your diet the most. However, exercising during the holidays will also help keep your weight in check as well as help to alleviate stress and keep you in a better mood overall. Of course, if you’re on a set plan for a competition, stick with your plan. If you’re like most people, you exercise more because you should and less because you love it – or perhaps you don’t exercise at all. Time is a big factor for those who don’t, but it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. The key thing is to keep your body moving. If during the holidays, you drop from four days a week to three, that’s a good trade-off. Another way to make the most of your time is to consider high-intensity interval training to make your exercise shorter but more intense. You’ll still build muscle, improve your cardiovascular function, and get all those wonderful stress relieving chemicals – going hard for 10-15 minutes can be as useful as an hour of moderate exercise on the bike or a long walk.
So, take these tips and find your balance this holiday season:
- Look at your calendar frequently and make sure you aren’t overloading yourself and the family
- Stick to a healthy breakfast and lunch and have a healthy snack so you don’t have to watch too much at a party
- Keep up with some amount of exercise, even if it’s less than you normally do
Sam Spillman, DC
Trying to focus on your health in 2018? According to research, almost 25% of people will abandon their New Year’s resolutions by the second week in January and almost 60% will quit before six months. Starting resolutions that are too vague, large, or unrealistic will only set you up for failure. If this has happened to you in the past, try setting up specific and actionable goals for yourself this New Year. For example, instead of saying “I want to get healthy in 2018”, break it down into smaller goals that you can attain by gradually changing some of your daily habits. Need some ideas?
We’ve rounded up a checklist to help create realistic, actionable, and attainable goals for a healthier lifestyle in 2018.
- Decrease processed sugar intake (cookies, cakes, candy, juices, jelly, etc). Women should aim to consume less than 25g per day and men should eat no more than 37g per day.
- Decrease refined carbohydrate intake (white flour, white pasta, white rice). Replace these unhealthy calories with whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta.
- Decrease red meat and dairy intake. Replace red meat with fish, and substitute almond or soy milk for dairy products. To ensure adequate protein intake, be sure to eat plenty of beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
- Eat more fruits and veggies. It is recommended everyone strive for 9+ servings per day of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Drink more water. Reduce or cut out carbonated, caffeinated, or calorie-containing beverages and replace them with water. Aim for 6-8 glasses per day.
- Prepare healthy meals ahead of time. Pick one morning or afternoon each week to shop for healthy foods, then prepare them in advance for more convenient meals and snacks throughout the week.
- Practice proper portion control. Protein portions should be the size of your palm. A portion of fat should be the size of your thumb. Fruit and vegetable servings should be the largest, and roughly the size of your hand. Eat slowly and only until you are satisfied, not stuffed.
- Include both aerobic and resistance-type exercises. Start slowly and gradually build some form of exercise into your daily regimen. Ultimately, shoot for 30 minutes each day at 4-6 days per week.
- Stretch more. Stretch your muscles daily, especially after exercising.
- Sit less. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is detrimental to your health. Move your body more each day, even if it means intentionally parking farther away at the grocery store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Stress less. Carve out daily time for yourself that allows you to relax and unwind. Plan ahead and stay organized to ward off additional stresses when life gets busy.
- Quit smoking. Consider using nicotine-replacement therapy and avoid triggers. Celebrate small successes along the way.
- Get more sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours every night. Sleep-proof your bedroom (get rid of lights, noise, and distractions) and create a bedtime ritual to help induce quality sleep. Avoid computer, tablet, or smartphone screen-time in the hours before bed.
- Improve Posture. Whether you’re sitting, standing, or sleeping, become more mindful in keeping your spine in its natural “S” curve. Imagine that you are being held up by a string attached to the top of your head.
Remember that you should not try to achieve every one of these goals all at once. Living a healthy lifestyle begins with one simple choice after another. Even choosing just a few of these to help you create better habits for yourself will put you on the right path.
Summer is here again, and with it comes the feeling of needing to get into shape. We want to look our best, so naturally our activity levels increase drastically. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as exercise is one way to ensure a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, a large increase in activity level without a sufficient ramp-up period can spell injury trouble. The good news is there are warning signs your body sends prior to actually sustaining an injury.
Our body does a great job of helping us know whether something is harming us. There are many checks and balances within the body that allow this to happen. For one, the level of pain does not necessarily equal the level of tissue damage. A little ache in the knees could be osteoarthritis or a torn meniscus. Sharp pain may represent only a minor ligament sprain or inflammation. So, how do you know if you’re over-doing it?
Here are the warning signs to watch out for:
- Pain during your warm-up: Warm-ups should not be painful! They get the body primed to work. If it is painful while priming, there is likely something underlying that needs to be take care of. Think of a car “warming up” for a trip on the highway; if it is shuddering, stalling, and a lot of warning lights come on before you make it to the highway, you’re in trouble before you even start the trip.
- Soreness that lasts more than 2 days: Soreness following a run or session at the gym – even into the next 24-48 hours – is OK. But, when it lasts for more than three days, something’s wrong. Take a step back and see what can be done differently. Did you push too hard or forget to include a proper warm-up? Our tissue needs to be exposed to demands that it can handle before loading too much. A proper ramp-up period will allow the tissues to adapt and respond to the demands placed on them.
- Inability to do as much work as the previous session: We’re always on the go, but our bodies do need REST. If you notice that your performance on workouts is declining, it might be a good time to give your body a rest. When we exercise, our muscles experience small micro tears. Healing these tears allows our muscles to build up and adapt to increased weight, distance, or other demands on your body. Your body needs time to heal before exposure to the same demands that lead to the damage. This doesn’t mean exercise needs to be stopped, but it may be a good idea to target a different part of your body or different muscular subsystem. For example – if you’re a runner, take a day off from running and add strength training on off days. If you’re lifting weights, try alternating days between upper and lower body exercises. Our bodies need variety to adapt. Without it, a decline in performance is likely follow.
- When in doubt, listen to your body: This one is relatively straight forward. If you refuse to listen to your body, and continue experiencing pain, it’s likely you’ll suffer an injury. The ‘no-pain, no-gain’ cliche is out. There is a difference between pain stemming from muscular fatigue, buildup of lactic acid and depletion of energy supplies and pain experienced when tissue damage is occurring. Know the difference and respond appropriately to the signals your brain is sending.
Getting back into shape for the summer can be extremely rewarding to just about everyone. But, a phase-in period to safely ease into your programs will help to ensure your body has enough time to adapt. Remember – listen to your body, learn from your mistakes, and build on the progress that you have already made. Stay healthy my friends!
Bryan Esherick PT, DPT
A diet that is planned to create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day (but no more) should be an integral part of any weight loss program aimed at achieving a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
But this is only part of the story. The kinds of calories you consume matter every bit as much as how much. Recent research has shown that a protein heavy diet can help you lose weight faster. Keeping your macronutrient ratios in order can help you stay full while trying to lose weight. There are many free apps that will help you do this right on your phone. MyFitnessPal works pretty well. An important thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different. So it may take some experimentation to find what method of eating works the best for you. Some people will do well on a high protein and low carb diet, but the next person may need to eat a high carb and low-fat diet to lose fat. Keeping track of what you’re eating will help you learn what works for you.
Exercise! This is another key component of a weight loss program. Where to begin? It depends on your physical fitness level. You want to stress your system, but that may mean different things to different bodies. As you begin to add or increase exercise it is easy to over do it. This can lead to frequent or recurrent injuries which can be very frustrating and unfortunately it is all too common. Consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist before starting an exercise regimen can be a way to limit risk with a new workout routine. In general, you’ll need to have both a strength or weight training component along with a cardiovascular component to maximize results. Charlottesville has many wonderful exercise options.
Sleep! This is a major factor. You should be getting 8 hours of sleep. Sleep is vital for good health and aids in muscle and tissue repair, memory, and cognitive function. If you’ve been struggling with performance or weight loss, sleep can be one of the best ways to break through a plateau.