‘Tis the season to be sicky…. I think that’s a pretty appropriate spin on a Holiday classic this time of year. One of the questions that I see come up often in terms of being sick and fitness, is whether or not a person should workout when they’re sick. Well there really isn’t one simple answer to this. I think more than anything, a person has to use a bit of common sense when deciding whether or not to rest up and recover, or get out and do some training.
Start by looking at what the illness is. A cold is one thing, but having a full blown flu illness is something entirely different. I certainly suggest that someone with anything more serious than the common cold not go to the gym or workout around others. That being said, if you do have a cold and are going to hit the gym, please use simple precautions to help reduce the likelihood of spreading the illness such as washing your hands often, using antibacterial hand-gels after each machine, and if the gym has anti-bac towels or spray remember to use it on each machine when you finish up.
There are certainly some benefits of working out when you are ill in terms of upping your mood. Sitting around or lying in bed can cause those of us that live active lifestyles to feel depressed and getting out for a quick run or even a walk can do a lot to make us feel better. Exercise can also help circulation and loosen up some of the crud that can build up in our lungs and sinuses. I personally train through most sicknesses I experience during the winter months and I can attest to the fact that the exercise and movement helps me feel better (if doing nothing more than getting my mind off of the sickness for a bit).
I suggest that you lessen the load, so-to-speak, when working out with a sickness. Obviously if you have a cold, the flu or any other type of common winter-time illness, I don’t suggest trying to set a PR 5K time or hammering out some tough interval circuits. Again just shoot for getting the body moving and the blood flowing. Illness alone can cause an increased heart rate, so keep this in mind too as you don’t want to elevate the heart rate too much while under the weather. Sweating can also have a cleansing effect on us and actually help to rid the body of illness. I always try to "sweat it out" a bit when ill, just to help my body rid itself of the potential toxins.
Just remember, working out at a low intensity can be a nice way to boost your mood when experiencing a common low-grade illness, but it is so important to use good judgment and common sense when it comes to it as well. Be certain not to overdo it and always be aware of the possibility of spreading the illness to others. Your body needs time to recover and heal itself from the illness, so you have to be willing for this to take place! It’s tough for us fitness buffs to take it easy when we’re sick, but sometimes we just have to be willing to do so. If you’re going to workout, make certain to keep it light and to increase your water intake before, during and after the exercise session.
In Wellness and Love,
Folic acid is the synthetic supplement form of Folate, one of the B vitamins, which is needed for body function. Folate is especially important to pregnant women, yet folate presents many health benefits to both men and women. Folate is not produced by the body, so it is necessary that we obtain adequate amounts from the foods that we consume or through supplements.
Folate plays an important role in cell maintenance and production. In terms of pregnancy, a growing fetus is constantly requiring the production of new cells. Pregnant and nursing women are recommended to consume 800 micrograms of folic acid per day.
Folate plays a vital role in the body’s ability to produce both white and red blood cells. Scientific research has linked folate to helping to reduce the risk of anemia. Anemia is a condition that occurs when the body lacks the ability to get an adequate amount of oxygen to the organs. Red blood cell health is important as red blood cells carry oxygen.
There is a link between folate and a potential reduction in depression. Studies conclude that up to 35% of people suffering from depression have low folic acid levels. Some research has determined that folic acid can aid antidepressant medications in their effectiveness. Folic acid can also assist in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Research shows up to a 55% decrease in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Folic acid also assists the body in eliminating an amino acid in the blood called homocysteine, which is a byproduct of animal protein synthesis and breakdown. Elevated homocysteine levels are linked to an increased risk of heart attack.
Folate is equally important for men, as it can help with infertility and low sperm count. Folic acid helps to increase both sperm count and quality. Folic acid deficiency can also cause damage to the DNA carried by the sperm. This damage to the DNA can lead to chromosomal damage in the fetus.
Foods that are rich in folate include dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, peanuts, avocado, citrus fruits, rice and sunflower seeds. Current USDA recommendations for non-pregnant and nursing women is 400 mcg per day and due to the current American diet trend of consuming primarily animal products, most people in the US do not come close to this recommendation. This being the case, consider including some of the foods mentioned above or taking a quality multi-vitamin on a daily basis.
In Wellness and Love,
Folic acid deficiencies are wide spread: here’s why nearly everyone needs more folate. Black, Alexis. www.naturalnews.com/z016208_prenatal_nutrition_folic_acid.html
What Does Folic Acid Do For Men? www.livestrong.com/article/468798-what-does-folic-acid-do-for-me/
Folic Acid for Men. Nicks, J. www.buzzle.com/articles/folic-acid-for-men.html
It is perhaps no secret that our brain is a vitally important organ that oversees the function of our entire body. The brain allows us to learn new things, and gives us the ability to think and therefore makes us into who we are. As your Chiropractor, my main role is to make certain that the brain is fully able to communicate with every cell, muscle, tissue, and organ in your body, without interference. I do so by removing vertebral subluxations, which are misalignments of the spinal bones that are placing a pressure on a nerve and blocking this vital communication.
So what exactly is the brain, other than an organ? It is a collection of over one hundred billion neurons (nerve cells) that are linked to one another. These interconnected cells that comprise the brain, share information with one another, and pass-on information 24/7.
Nerve impulses, which are messages, are arriving non-stop in your brain from all parts of the body. These impulses are actually electrical signals. Your brain then has to process these messages, and then send instructions back out to the body and organs telling them what to do in order to maintain life. So, as you can imagine, it is extremely important that the messages arrive without interference to the brain, and that the body then receives instructions from the brain clearly, and without interference.
So, what fun would learning about the brain be if I didn’t include some fun facts, right? So here you go:
In Wellness and Love,
This is one of my favorite nutritional aids that I have used for a number of years to increase my own Wellness Based Lifestyle. More and more people are utilizing this easily accessible health elixir, and here are just a few of the many benefits that apple cider vinegar offers. These are the benefits that I have witnessed myself through my own use, and also those that have more scientific backing than many of the claims found on the internet. I recommend that all my Practice Members take a shot (1.5 oz) of ACV each day. It can be added to warm water, along with a tablespoon of honey to make it much more palatable. I usually just take a shot of it from a shot glass, and then chase it down with a glass of water. One Practice Member adds it organic grape juice and swears it tastes like red wine!
In Wellness and Love,
A research study conducted at David Grant Medical Center in California recently discovered that aloe vera, when taken orally, can reduce fasting blood glucose levels.
Researchers also found reduced HbA1c levels, which are also screened when testing for diabetes. The HbA1c is glycated hemoglobin, which gives doctors a look at the average glucose levels over a three month period. Keep in mind that this test is done for Type-II, Adult-Onset Diabetes.
During this research study, 89 diabetic patients were analyzed. The findings from this study are suggestive that patients with glucose levels of over 200 experienced the greatest reduction with the use of oral aloe vera.
So check your local natural food stores for quality, pure aloe vera juice or simply make your own by juicing the stems of an aloe vera plant. Beware of the aloe vera juices found in many supermarkets or gas stations, as they contain high amounts of sugar. This of course would negate the positive effects.
In Wellness and Love,
In the age of fitness gimmicks and equipment that promise to produce staggering results in 2 minutes or less of use per day, most of us “more” informed people have become weary of the fitness equipment industry. Yet one simple piece of equipment that has literally stood the test of time and is generally accepted by all health and fitness professionals as being effective, is the stability ball. The stability ball is also called a yoga, Thera-, exercise, fitness, or Swiss ball and regardless of the name given, it is an air-filled heavy-duty plastic ball that comes is a variety of sizes to better fit individual users. The stability ball is an inexpensive piece of equipment and because of the fitness benefits that they offer it is a must for all exercises to have in the home and office.
Although many people think of the stability ball as a relatively recent invention, they have been around since the early 1900’s. Originally they were developed for use in rehabilitation by physical therapist and continued being used in physical therapy and sports medicine fields today. Stability balls are very durable and generally have a weight rating of 600-700 pounds, so there is little reason to worry about them popping during regular use.
Among the health benefits offered by the stability ball, the fact that they assist in stretching and flexibility gains is paramount. Many people that suffer from chronic back pain have found that they are able to stretch the muscles in the back using the stability ball because of the back support it offers. Stretching while standing or lying on the floor offers little to no back support, and therefore make it impossible for back pain suffers to effectively stretch those muscles to improve mobility. The stability ball supports the entire length of the spine when you lie over the ball on your back. Even for those of us that do not suffer from back pain, because of the support of the stability ball, we are able to stretch much more deeply, and can increase range of motion and mobility.
Fitness trainers began using stability balls in their training programs as a result of the core strengthening benefits they offer. Even just sitting on a stability ball requires that we engage the core muscles (the muscles in the abdominals and lower back) in order to maintain balance. Abdominal exercises on the stability ball are more effective in that exercisers must constantly engage the core while on the ball. Also, any weight training exercises that you perform on a bench can be performed with dumbbells on the stability ball. Again because of the need to maintain balance on the stability ball, users increase the strength of stabilizing muscles that would not otherwise be worked by the same exercises, if performed on a traditional weight training bench.
Stability balls can help users to improve their posture. Using a stability ball helps to improve alignment of the natural curve of the spine. Having a stronger core also improves posture. Using a stability ball in place of a desk chair at work is an easy way to improve posture, while also burning additional calories throughout the day resulting from maintaining balance and keeping the core tight. Stability balls also introduce an element of fun for users, so if you are using one in place of a chair, you are much more likely to rock back and forth and bounce around during the day which burns calories. If using a stability ball in place of a chair, it is important that you use the correct size ball. Find a ball that allows your thighs to be parallel to the floor when seated. We here at PRANA Chiropractic and Wellness Center also use yoga balls when helping folks recover from disc bulges and conditions.
To learn more about the benefits of stability balls and exercise in general, contact us to set up a FREE consultation.
In Wellness and Love,
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man, dating back to 2,700 BC according to both Chinese and Egyptian texts. Cinnamon is a small tree grown in Asia and South America, and is produced by taking the bark from the tree and drying it. It is then typically ground into powder for consumption. There are 4 different varieties of cinnamon, but the most common type found in grocery stores is Cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon offers a good deal of health benefits including regulation of blood sugar, relieving pain associated with arthritis, improved memory and brain functioning, anti-clotting and blood thinning effects, helping with cold symptoms including a stuffy nose, reducing flatulence and nausea ,and can help with painful menstrual cramping. Cinnamon also contains important nutrients including manganese, iron, calcium and fiber. The combination of calcium and fiber is particularly important in that it has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer. Both calcium and fiber bind to bile salts and bile salt has been scientifically linked to colon cancer. Cinnamon has also been demonstrated to reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms that cinnamon reduces blood pressure.
A 2003 study published in the medical journal Diabetes Care reported that after 40 days of cinnamon consumption, test subjects presented a 18 to 29% reduction in fasting blood glucose levels and a reduction in total cholesterol by 12 to 26%. Before using cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels, consult with your doctor, especially if taking medications for diabetes.
Cinnamon has an anti-microbial effect and therefore has been shown to help treat yeast infections. Cinnamon stops the growth of harmful bacteria in the stomach and intestines.
Cinnamon is also high in antioxidants (see my earlier blog on antioxidants). Antioxidants help to reduce free radicals in the body, which are damaging to cells.
In Wellness and Love,
Two of my favorite things in life are working out and music. So why not combine them and get the best of both worlds! In all seriousness, listening to music while working out can increase your ability to train and in that way, help to boost results. If you take a second to think about it, it isn’t really hard to see how music can help you increase the intensity of your workouts.
Throughout history, music has been used to illustrate and illicit emotions and to create moods. Choosing music that creates the mood for the type of training that you’ll be engaging in is important. For heavy weight lifting or sprinting workouts, it makes sense to choose a powerful, face-paced type of music. For yoga or meditation, go with light and expressive instrumental type music. They even make waterproof MP3 players these days, so you can listen to music while swimming! http://www.amazon.com/Underwater-Audio-Waterproof-Swimbuds-Bundle/dp/B00CELMZG0 Pretty cool indeed!
Music can help us to block out the distractions that often times cause us to lose focus during our training sessions. Whether it’s the pain associated with exercise, or it’s the chatter from others in the gym, distractions are ever-present in our environment. Music can help us to eliminate these and help us to be able to really focus in on the workout.
The only consideration that I suggest you keep in mind is to never listen to music while exercising near traffic or in an environment that you need to be aware of and hear your surroundings (such as road biking). Most races do not allow competitors to use headphones during events for this very reason.
So go out and buy some upbeat tunes to crank through the ear buds during your next workout. Use this as a motivator to get in your workouts. If you make it through a couple weeks of training, reward yourself by purchasing a new playlist’s worth of music to listen to for the next couple of weeks. Have fun coming up with different playlists for different types of workouts. I have a different playlist for my runs and my weight training workouts, and the music really helps me on days that I am dragging and lacking the motivation to step foot in the gym. Like the Doobie Brother’s sang “music is the doctor, makes you feel like you want to.”
In Wellness and Love,
Urinary Tract Infections, or UTI’s for short, are a no-fun yet common condition that many of us find ourselves suffering from at one point or another. There are a number of causes, and if you find that you are suffering from burning sensations while urinating, or a burning and itching type sensation in the bladder, chances are you might have a UTI. Certainly, the best way to determine this is to see your trusted healthcare provider.
Women seem to be more susceptible to developing UTI’s. There was a recent study detailed in Phytotherapy Research journal that looked at the effects of consuming whole cranberry fruit powder on women that experienced two or more UTI’s over the previous year. There were 182 test participants, and 89 of those were given 500 milligrams of the cranberry powder daily for 6 months, while the other test participants were given a placebo. Those participants that received the cranberry powder reported a drastic decrease in UTI’s than the other group.
So if you are someone that seems prone to developing UTI’s, or you feel that you currently have one, perhaps taking cranberry powder could be a solution for you. Cranberries are certainly a healthy addition to everyone’s diet, as they are high in antioxidants. Cranberries and cranberry juice can help with inflammation as well.
In Wellness and Love,
Arthritis is a disease that affects the body’s joints, causing severe pain and stiffness in sufferers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 50 million Americans that suffer from one of the dozens of types of arthritis, meaning that it is one of the most prevalent forms of disease in American society. Given the fact that arthritis causes severe pain and stiffness in the joints, exercise is often one of the last things that sufferers consider as a mode of treatment and pain management, yet physical activity is one of the most beneficial means of reducing these symptoms.
Exercise helps sufferers in several important ways including increasing flexibility of the muscles, increasing the range of motion in joints, and increasing the strength of the muscles that support the joints. One of the biggest issues associated with arthritis is decreased mobility due to the stiffness and pain it causes. Inactivity will actually exacerbate these symptoms, thereby making exercise all the more important. By actively working to increase both flexibility and range of motion, sufferers can begin to counteract the effects of the disease. By strengthening those muscles that surround the joints, a person can reduce the amount of impact on the joints that occurs from daily activities such as walking. In addition to increasing flexibility, reducing stiffness and pain, and strengthening the muscles, exercise can also help with weight management. By maintaining a healthy body weight, there is less stress placed on the joints due to excessive weight.
Another common issue associated with this disease is fatigue. Having a regular exercise routine is one of the simplest and most effective means of treating general fatigue, and it is recommended that arthritis sufferers follow the American Heart Association’s general guidelines for exercise: 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 days per week. The Arthritis Foundation has several different group exercise programs available in many communities nationwide, and these programs and locations are listed on their website. Arthritis sufferers should focus on exercises that target increased range of motion such as gentle yoga, strength building including weight and resistance training, and low impact aerobic activities such as walking or swimming. Water exercise programs, such as water aerobics, are available at many fitness and recreation centers that have a pool. Water exercise a great alternative to traditional aerobics and group classes for arthritis sufferers, and can actually burn more calories than the same exercises being performed out of the water.
Some other tips to consider include applying heat to the affected joints prior to exercising. Heat actually helps to loosen the muscles and joints and can help with relieving some of the pain that is present. Use a heating pad or other heating device for approximately 20 minutes before beginning the physical activity. While exercising, remember to move slowly and avoid jerky and fast movements that could potentially lead to more pain in the affected joints. Lastly, applying ice to the affected joints after exercise can help reduce swelling and pain. Icing also can prevent some of the negative effects associated with inflammation and decrease recovery time.
Prior to beginning any exercise program, it is important to check with your doctor or other trusted healthcare professional to make certain that there are no serious health risks present.
In Wellness and Love,
Dr. Christopher Weaver DC, PAK is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He's published two books on health and Wellness.