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stress-woman

Stress Management in the Modern World

It’s exhausting being a human today – there are over one million Google hits per day for the word “stress”. Good and bad stress is a part of the human condition and it can be real or imagined and it is certainly a broad societal issue. By making a positive “next step” in managing your stress you can avoid becoming worn out by the journey of life.

Stress was first described in 1915 and the theory states that we react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the person for fighting or fleeing. Biologically, physical activity gives the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. Physical Activity releases mood-elevating endorphins, self-confidence and improves your sleep. Studies show that one can access the REM state (the most restorative phase of sleep) quicker on days you include physical activity. Under stress, our raised heart rate and blood pressure but tensions in our arteries and cause damage. Chronic stress which goes on longer than 20 minutes contributes to heart attacks just as acute stress does. It also causes constriction of the blood vessels, dilation of pupils, auditory exclusion and decline of peripheral vision. As the body heals this damage, artery walls scar and thicken which can reduce the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart (occluded arteries). Since the brain uses 20% of the oxygen delivered by the heart foggy-thinking may result. Stress can also cause the telomeres to shorten and erode. The telomeres protect the end of the chromosomes and if they shorten too much, they cannot multiply and die off resulting in quicker aging.

The President of the Salk Institute, Elizabeth Blackburn, and the recipient of the Nobel Prize states, “We’ve found that the better your telomeres are protected, the less chance you’ll have of getting any of the big diseases.” She suggests to stop the erosion, do physical activity of various types and don’t have long-term stress.

Begin to take charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your spending, your environment and the way you deal with problems – especially family system challenges. Ask yourself, is it worth my health? Is this situation/person worth negatively impacting my health? Choose to be happy – it can boost your emotional well-being as stated in studies published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. Be mindful of good and hard-earned accomplishments and enjoy your small victories. Appreciate the simple pleasures, devote time to giving, make a point to listen to the other person’s ideas and UNPLUG! Ferris Bueller said – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.

Hamlet said, “There is nothing good or bad…but thinking makes it so.” Positive thinking is medicine and every thought can enhance or diminish our health, happiness and stress level. Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford proposes in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, “If you are a normal mammal, stress is the three minutes of screaming terror in the jungle which either it is over with OR you’re over with. Perceived threats spark the same physiological survival responses (fight or flight) that crocodile attacks do.” Our modern-day stressors have changed. Fighting off prehistoric predators and trying to find food are replaced by juggling deadlines, multitasking and always being “connected” and available. Modern day saber tooth tigers are bills, traffic, family pressures but our bodies react the same way without the natural release that we would get from fighting or fleeing. Try not to turn to sugar and caffeine which can result in swings in blood sugar levels, limit alcohol to one drink per day and try to achieve a balanced, clean diet on most days of the week to even out your beautiful life.

The United States Government has suggested 150 minutes per week of physical activity in addition to two days per week of strength training for 20 minutes and stretching every day. There are many meditation, relaxation response and calming apps which you can download to have with you and use when you are having a challenge with managing stress. Sit and stand tall and do not “slump” as this can cause shallow chest breathing which can trigger the fight or flight response. Try not to make important decisions while under undue stress as this may result in poor or faulty decisions.

A 2016 study by the American College of Sports Medicine stated if workers do not have emotional resilience skills and habits to help support them during stressful times, their productivity declines. Work-related requirements such as precision and accuracy, problem solving, interpersonal communications as well as speed and quality of work output will suffer. We  need to adjust to change without disruption or difficulty while maintaining good functional capacities. We need to bounce back without breaking and without giving in, giving up or breaking down. Stress Management is an integral component of Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (every May) healthandfitnessmonth.org and as the Architect of this initiative I felt passionately about including this component along with nutrition and physical activity, to give each and every worker the opportunity to go home “whole.”

Each and every day when confronted with stress, think about what advice you would give to a friend and then take this advice yourself!


Diane Hart, Owner of Hart to Heart Fitness, (www.harttoheartfitness.org) is a Nationally Certified Fitness Professional, Personal Trainer, Health Educator and is current President of the National Association for Health and Fitness (www.physicalfitness.org) founded in 1979 by the U.S. President’s Council on Sports and Fitness. 

Back pain

Exercise Not Helping Your Back Pain? It’s Not you, It’s Your Strategy! | Part 2

This is part 2 in a series. Click here to read part 1.

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the dilemma of back pain that persists despite your persistent efforts to solve the problem.  You’ve been prescribed medication, exercise, and a myriad of methods to “stretch” and “loosen” your muscles, but no avail. You must be a lost cause . . . right?

Maybe not.

It’s not your effort that’s lacking; perhaps it’s your strategy of solving the problem that’s in need of some tweaking.

In Part 1 we established that the body operates as a system:  an interconnected, interactinginterdependent set of parts designed to achieve a goal– and in the case of the human body, the goal is production of high-quality movement for the sake of survival.  Part of its genius, in my opinion, is in its sophisticated setup for communication within itself: the body is one continuous, cohesive system with a built-in mechanism that allows for every part to be aware of, and work with, the other parts to achieve the goal of operating efficiently.  The human body is a truly amazing system!

Every body movement is a whole-body task that requires an internal, whole-body solution.  Your muscles are an interconnected, interacting, interdependent system, constantly communicating back and forth, working together to create and control movement. All of your muscles are involved in one way or another in any bodily event.

Conversely, an issue with low-quality muscle function in any area of your system has the inherent potential to affect the performance quality—and your brain’s conclusion about how you feel–  in any other area of your system.

 Let’s apply this Systems Approach to form a new strategy to address your back pain.

Solving Your Body’s Problems Using the Systems Approach

The fact that your back is where you feel muscle pain and tightness doesn’t necessarily mean your back itself is the problem.  The standard Western medicine approach subscribes to the philosophy of “Local pain means a local problem, which requires a local solution”, but this isn’t always the case.

Imagine you start your car in the morning, and the “check engine” light pops up.  What’s wrong with your car?  Is the “check engine” light itself the problem?  No– the “check engine” light is an indicator, a safety mechanism built into your car’s system to alert you of a problem somewhere in the car’s system that needs to be addressed.

Likewise, pain you experience with movement is simply an indicator that there’s low-quality function somewhere in your muscle system . . . but not necessarily at the specific location you feel the pain.  The pain is just symptom, the downstream result of poor quality.  The pain itself is not the problem to be solved; the low-quality control is the problem!  Instead of focusing directly on the part where you feel pain, my work focus is on the quality of your position control.  Any area of the body with low-quality muscular control can contribute to a problem with movement, pain, tightness, or discomfort you are experiencing in any other area of their body.

While the work of a Certified Muscle System Specialist™ and the work of a physical therapist may look similar, the philosophy and thought process differ greatly.  Physical therapy generally focuses on a patient’s complaint of pain or tightness, and as a result the therapy is almost always performed on or around the area of the patient’s pain. The physical therapy approach often subscribes to the philosophy of “local problem, local solution” we discussed earlier.

The same goes for massage therapy, stretching, chiropractic, pain medication, and other traditional options for treatment of muscle pain and tightness.  The “local problem, local solution” approach focuses on the pain instead of on the quality of your muscle function as a cohesive, dynamic system.  Chasing “the pain” is rarely an effective problem-solving method. This is the reason why using generic protocols and pre-packaged plans to “treat back pain” are not effective.  This is also why “strengthen your core” isn’t always the panacea for back pain we’re led to believe.

So . . . you’ve completed physical therapy, diligently taken your medication, foam rolled the “tight” area every day . . . but your “check engine” light is still on.  So, how can you understand what your system needs to turn it off?

Find a “systems mechanic” for your muscle system.

Work with a practitioner who is able to look under the hood, run a battery of diagnostics, find areas of low-quality function throughout your muscle system, and prescribe a system-wide plan to remedy the problem and put into place an ongoing maintenance process (like getting regular oil changes and maintenance on your car) so you can keep your system running at its optimal operating potential.

This is the role of a Certified Muscle System Specialist™– we’re muscle system mechanics!  As we help you improve control throughout your system, we can elicit a significant, positive effect on how your entire body feels and moves. Our clients are often surprised that improving muscle control in an area can lessen pain they were experiencing at a different location of their body!

So the next time you’re feeling muscle pain and tightness—or any change in the quality of how your muscles move and feel– remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The strategy you’re using to take care of your system matters!

About the Certified Muscle System Specialist™

If you’re interested in learning more about how a Certified Muscle System Specialist™ can help you move better, feel better, and live better, click here.

To find a Certified Muscle System Specialist™ near you, see our list of practitioners throughout the U.S. and Canada.

If you’re a fitness practitioner who is interested in learning more about how to become a Certified Muscle System Specialist™, visit us at www.exerciseproed.com.

Originally published on Physicians Fitness. Republished with permission.


Jessica Cahen, M.S., CMSS, ACE-CMES, RTS is a Course Facilitator for Exercise Professional Education, a rapidly-growing Continuing Education company for exercise professionals, offering the Certified Muscle System Specialist™ course as well as custom-tailored CEC courses for groups upon request.

Jessica holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology and the Certified Muscle System Specialist™ designation.  She has also earned the distinction of being one of only a handful of ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialists in the Midwest.  She practices as a Certified Muscle System Specialist™ at Physicians Fitness in Columbus, OH.

team hands

Collaborative Thinking in Health & Wellness

Over the past 18 months, I have seen my primary M.D. three times, enjoyed the services of my favorite massage therapist six times, visited my chiropractor nine times, chatted with a local R.D. twice and seen my personal trainer regularly. And not one of them even asked if I was seeing any of the others, much less inquiring what their treatments or approaches to treatments might be. To me, that is like trying to achieve success with a baseball team where the 1st base coach, 2nd base coach, 3rd base coach and pitching coach never communicate with each other.

Success cannot occur in a vacuum, neither can true individual health & wellness, yet for decades these medical, fitness & wellness providers have proffered their services in distinct and distinctly separate spaces.

Even as the internet has made access to information easier and facilitated the sharing of knowledge, including private, HIPAA compliant information, these providers continue to operate in “informational silos.”

It is true that in the past some of these providers may have held less than favorable opinions of some of the other providers, but that is, and certainly should be, a thing of the past. No longer will M.D.’s consider Chiropractors “quacks”, R.D.’s claim nutritionists “just don’t know enough”, and Physical Therapists think of Personal Trainers as ”wanna-be P.T.’s who couldn’t hack the education.” Science, knowledge and time have evolved all these disciplines into valuable, useful and incredibly beneficial specialties, each offering specific training and specific methods to apply to their patients/clients. And all those patients/clients typically can benefit from their combined expertise and knowledge.

No longer is it sufficient to simply treat the symptoms. Real wellness needs to encompass the patient/client holistically… address the symptoms, understand the cause, strengthen the mind, examine the diet, resolve the issue and prevent future occurrences. And isn’t that best accomplished by viewing patient/client wellness as a Team Sport?

Over the years I have had the pleasure of knowing and speaking at length with many of these medical, fitness & wellness providers, and not one of them indicated there is anything in their training that says “Thou Shalt Not Collaborate.”

We are not talking about “asking for help.” Rather we are simply saying to include those other practitioners in the conversation. Instead of the M.D. telling the patient to “walk more to improve cardio health”, why not conference call with the Personal Trainer and discuss the walking program that is most appropriate. Let the Physical Therapist inform the Personal Trainer of any specific issues to address or avoid. Allow the Massage Therapist to work with the Chiropractor to ensure optimum results from both. In other words, (and the simplicity of all this may surprise you), just TALK TO EACH OTHER.

So, let’s start to make that happen. For more than 20 years my company has helped health clubs and fitness centers create mutually beneficial relationships with Physical Therapy practices, Chiropractic offices, Registered Dietitians, Nutritionists and Massage Therapists. Now is the time to extend the conversation, and, to return to my baseball metaphor, get ALL the coaches working together to create truly Championship results.

Join Cosmo for his upcoming MedFit webinar on this topic:


Cosmo Wollan is the Senior Executive at Synergy Cubed, a premiere consulting firm providing customized solutions to the health & fitness, parks & recreation, medical fitness and corporate wellness industries since 1994. His Fitness Industry clients have engaged him as an expert problem-solver in profit center development, retention strategies, customer engagement, sales training, programming design, operational streamlining and health club management.

kid-swing

14 Fun Ways to Get Your Family More Fit

Time is one of life’s most valuable commodities. Consequently, between school, work and every day demands in today’s hectic world, family time is becoming more of a fond memory of days gone by. Additionally, television, computers, cell phones, and other technology are taking the place of family activities and interactions.

The decline in positive family interactions at home, and the increase in leading a more sedentary lifestyle, are two of the greatest threats to our children’s health and wellness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “family has a big influence on how we perceive exercise and mental health. Exercising as a family not only gets the entire family moving to reap the benefits of exercise but also models healthy beliefs about physical activity and improves family relationships”. And with childhood obesity becoming a nationwide epidemic, getting kids moving and active is extremely vital.

As parents, we want only the best for our children’s future. Making time for simple and fun family activities can have a profound impact on the mental and physical well-being of every single family member, both young and old!

Here are some fun, budget-friendly ways to bring your loved ones closer together and get a little exercise at the same time!

1. PLAY: Avoid television for family entertainment. Go to the park and play, have a family sports night (soccer, basketball, etc.), play Frisbee, hop scotch, or get a mini trampoline.

2. PETS: If you have a dog or other pet, actively play with them as a family and even take them on a family walk.

3. SWIM: Go to the beach, lake, or public pool. Swimming is fun and lively, and your family won’t even realize they are getting exercise.

4. WALK: Walk to the store, walk to school, etc. Get pedometers for the whole family and see who can rack up the most steps. Certain ones even log your steps online or through apps, so you can expand the contest to your friends and other families.

5. ADVENTURE: Every weekend, try a new activity your family hasn’t done yet. Hiking, bowling, canoeing, ice-skating, etc., all are active exercises disguised as fun. Let each member of the family have their turn to pick the next activity, so they stay involved.

6. GYM: Join a gym that offers family discounts, and work out together. If you can afford a personal trainer, they can organize a routine for each family member.

7. WILDLIFE: Visit a zoo, wildlife preserve, or an aquarium where you’ll be walking most of the day.

8. GIFTS: When birthdays and holidays come around, give gifts that encourage fitness. Jump ropes, Frisbees, running shoes, balls, active toys, etc., can all inspire your family to get up and get moving.

9. STAIRS: Encourage your family to take the stairs, instead of the elevator, whenever possible. If they object, make a creative game out of it.

10. REWARD: Exercise can be a reward. Offer to play catch with them or play a game of kickball or capture the flag as a break from homework or chores.

11. FRIENDS: Invite your child’s friend along for any of these activities. Kids have more fun with their friends, and are more likely to want to do it again.

12. FUN: Make things fun! Build an obstacle course with your family and have everyone participate. Have hula hoop contests or play active games like hot potato, Simon Says, and Duck, Duck, Goose. The internet is a great source for finding new games to play.

13. CHORES: Household chores done as a family can be great exercise (cutting grass, cleaning, etc.). You can also make chores fun by adding a “challenge” element. Kids love challenges. “I challenge you to put away all your toys in 1 minute.” You can have a fun family reward at the end like fruit popsicles.

14. DANCE: Dancing is a great form of exercise and is a lot of fun. You can have the kids each pick their favorite song and even have themed dance nights where you dress up in funny outfits.


Kendra K is an award-winning music artist with a passion for educating and entertaining children. She is a seasoned singer, songwriter, producer, pianist and violinist with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Arizona. Kendra has worked as a physical education teacher and is also certified as a national health and fitness consultant. When Kendra is not busy writing songs and recording albums, she enjoys donating her time and talents as a children’s health advocate. Her biggest joy in life is spending time with her husband and their young son at their beach side home in the Los Angeles area.

Visit her website, kendrakmusic.com and her new children’s music CD is available through Amazon or CD baby

 

References:

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2016/Exercise-for-Mental-Health-8-Keys-to-Get-and-Stay

https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html

senior fit

The Case for Fitness & Healthy Aging

An important principle that has emerged throughout my writing on “healthy aging” has been the issue of fitness and the role being fit plays in preventing illness and injury, yielding a fulfilling and vibrant life – a “life well lived”. The point of healthy aging is to be in a position as we grow older “to do what we want when we want without getting hurt”. I have always believed that my level of fitness would yield positive results as I got older emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually – and so far I have been proven right in my own life. The “fitness lifestyle” is a consciousness issue just as healthy aging is as well. I make choices everyday that are designed to enhance my ability to live the way I choose. This always includes high intensity, focused training which will (hopefully) prepare me for the challenging years ahead.

Speaking, traveling, teaching, program design, consulting, writing and other activities that I wish to do in my future will require focus, high energy, inspiration, imagination, and physical stamina and endurance. The ability to train the way I am now will translate into the future actions that will yield the result I envision for audiences in the years ahead. Planning for a future that requires me to be prepared to do my work at a high level will also demand that I be as fit as I can be in order to give me the strength to help as many people as I possibly can – while I can. This is my mission – and my purpose.

This article is about something I think about EVERY day. Each of my actions, decisions, and thoughts are applied to the outcome that I seek with every step I take in becoming stronger, faster, quicker, more powerful, balanced, imaginative, flexible and skilled. My purpose is to be able to PERFORM at a high level even as I approach my 70’s and this is the point of my plan – and these articles in this series. How fit are you today for the future you envision for yourself? Does your vision inspire you to reach beyond your grasp? Does it “pull you forward” so that you will take the actions necessary to enable and empower you for the journey ahead? Only you can answer this question! Do it now!

Power, speed, quickness, strength, endurance, balance & flexibility:  the “core” of healthy aging and growing old – not old.

I think of training in terms of performance and so much of fitness today is “gimmicks” – programs designed for the “few” in America who are NOT the obese, overweight, poorly trained, seniors, and youth. The “fatting” of America does NOT include practical programming on TV, the internet – or anywhere for that matter – that appeals to the average, untrained individual struggling just to live a ‘moderately’ happy life. I see this huge “hole” in our society everyday when I go out into the world where the “connection” between being fit and “regular” people is NEVER being made. To most of the world, fitness – or becoming fit – means acquiring a gym membership with all the “hassles” that implies and THAT isn’t healthy or inspiring at ALL!

I worked in the Nautilus and Bally’s systems as a trainer for over ten years and I never once saw the effort being truly made to help people “realistically” ACHIEVE anything. The world outside the gym is a giant “blank” for over two thirds of the population. The only thing I see that is visible today is elementary lifestyle “advice” on Dr. Oz and other related sophomoric network shows that really change nothing. The other major factor in the sales “pitch” to America on fitness comes in the form of “infomercials” that literally “sucker” people into buying USELESS stuff that will never really help them – EVER! The latest gimmick is the “abdominal belt” that will ‘melt” fat away with just 10 minutes a day! This is just the latest in the same old scam – “sell them anything and make a buck in the process!” What a disgrace and a shame that we have resorted to “hucksterism” in this country in order to sell the virtues of being fit! Jack Lalanne’s legacy has almost been completely forgotten today and I want to make sure I play my role in carrying the work he started so long ago forward with me. At least he TAUGHT simple exercises to people of all ages in the 50’s and 60’s with passion AND led them every step of the way during his shows. Those days are long gone!

When we think of helping people to become fit and healthy, we must always remember to train ourselves FIRST so that we can inspire others to do the same. I will not TELL anyone anything because for each of us our understanding and perspectives are different – just as each of us is different. I will always side with “being the example of the change I wish to see in the world” – the theme of my first article in this series. How do I retain my skill level with the “seven keys” of fitness highlighted above? I maintain them – and will elevate myself to higher levels of performance in the future – through my weekly weight training program, running 40 to 50 miles a week, stretching, and meditation. This dedication to fitness will hopefully allow me to do what I want, when I want, without injury and live with joy the active future of service I am envisioning for myself. I believe that with each passing day we are ALL falling ‘behind the fitness curve’ in life – whether we are training or not – and it is imperative that we translate our passion for being fit to others through our example. If we CAN’T DO IT, WE SHOULDN’T BE TEACHING IT!

Conclusion

My primary commitment to myself each day is to NEVER GIVE UP. If I am not sick or injured, I am training – training for my life to come and the role I have chosen for myself as “an agent of change in the world”. Each of us MUST decide what it is WE STAND FOR so that others can be inspired by our example. Jack LaLanne taught me through his example – as John Wooden did – that it is WHO WE ARE on the inside that will be the ‘key’ to inspiring and encouraging others to reach beyond their current grasp and strive for more than they ever dreamed possible. I am convinced every day by what I see in the world that what we have to offer the ‘many’ is desperately needed now more than ever. If we do not take up this challenge, who will? When will the REAL change come? It will only come when we change ourselves (on the inside – healthy aging is an inside job, remember?) and that is the greatest challenge that we will ALL face in life. It is worth fighting for this principle every day of our lives. Will you take it upon yourself TODAY and join me in this “journey of change” – and touch millions of lives in the process? I hope your answer is a resounding YES!

Article reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop. 


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.