¿Por qué es importante hacer ejercicio?

El ejercicio debería ser considerado como algo indispensable en la vida de cada persona, ya que no solo funciona como algo que nos ayuda a deshacernos del estrés, sino también previene problemas para la salud a largo plazo. 

No todos tienen el mismo gusto o motivación para realizar actividad física y por otro lado, hay personas que pueden llegar a obsesionarse pero al final todo se trata de tener balance. También es importante que tu médico pueda ayudarte a alcanzar un estilo de vida más saludable ya que todos los cuerpos son diferentes. 

Es sumamente importante que el ejercicio sea parte de la vida de los adultos, niños y adultos mayores, ya que en cada etapa de la vida este tiene muchos beneficios, incluso durante el embarazo es necesario seguir estando activa.  La actividad física no tiene que ser obligatoriamente enérgico, sino que puede ser algo que se adapte a tu rutina, como caminar. 

Recuerda que informarte junto a tu nutricionista sobre lo que necesitas comer para tener buenos niveles de energía al momento de hacer ejercicio juega un papel muy importante. 

¿Cuánto ejercicio es recomendable para obtener beneficios para la salud?

El Dr. Oscar Figueroa, profesor de medicina en la Universidad Francisco Marroquín, comenta que en términos generales es necesario hacer ejercicio al menos de 30 a 45 minutos a una frecuencia cardíaca  minutos, cinco días a la semana. Esto para tener un mayor pulso y ritmo cardiáco y evitar problemas de estrés. 

30 a 45 minutos por lo menos a una frecuencia cardíaca al 80 por ciento de su capacidad mxima al menos 4 a 5 veces a la semana. 

Añadió que la práctica de actividad física puede tener muchos beneficios para la salud, como disminuir el estrés y la ansiedad, disminuir el riesgo de obesidad, diabetes y enfermedades cardíacas, aumentar la energía,nos permite sentirnos más felices por la generación de endorfinas, nos ayuda a tener más flexibilidad y resistencia, incrementa los niveles de melatonina por lo que mejora el sueño y reduce efectos del envejecimiento.  

Tips para no desanimarte en el entrenamiento

  • Recuerda que toda actividad física va a compañada de una buena alimentación. Puedes acudir a un profesional para que te ayude con las dietas. 
  • Establece metas realistas y no te exijas más de lo que puedes dar, ya que esto puede desilucionarte o incluso causar alguna lesión. 
  • Busca un compañero de ejercicio que te motive a mantener la rutina. 
  • No olvides que debes concocer tu condición  física junto a tu médico para saber qué tipo de ejercicio es le mejor para ti y con qué intensidad debes hacerlo. Además,  te dará tranquilidad y más claridad en cuanto qué quieres lograr. 
  • Es importante tratar de dejar el teléfono celular a un lado cuando se está entrenando, ya que es un momento para enfocarte en ti sin ninguna distracción de por medio. 

Hacer ejercicio para prevenir la osteoporosis

¿Sabías que la osteoporosis y la osteopenia (baja masa ósea) afectan a más de 50 millones de estadounidenses y hacen que los huesos se debiliten y se vuelvan quebradizos? Para las mujeres mayores, es una de las principales causas de discapacidad. Por lo tanto, si te preocupa la salud de tus huesos y la prueba de densitometría ósea (Dexa scan) te dio un resultado bajo, sigue leyendo para averiguar qué tipo de ejercicio necesita para reducir el riesgo de desarrollar osteoporosis y minimizar los efectos negativos.

Un programa completo de ejercicios consiste en lo siguiente:

  • Entrenamiento de fuerza/resistencia
  • Actividades aeróbicas con carga de peso
  • Ejercicios de estiramiento y flexibilidad
  • Ejercicios de estabilidad y equilibrio.

Entrenamiento de fuerza/resistencia

El entrenamiento de fuerza implica el uso de pesas libres, máquinas, bandas de resistencia o incluso tu propio peso corporal para generar tensión muscular en los huesos y fortalecer todos los grupos musculares principales. Solo necesitas hacer estos ejercicios unas 2 o 3 veces por semana (no todos los días) para obtener los beneficios. Recuerda que la forma y la técnica adecuadas son importantes para prevenir lesiones, por lo que si eres nuevo/a en el entrenamiento de fuerza, es posible que desees consultar con un entrenador para que te ayude a comenzar. 

Actividades aeróbicas con carga de peso

Los ejercicios que soportan peso, como caminar, correr, escalar y bailar, son actividades en las que el peso de tu cuerpo trabaja contra la gravedad. Estos ejercicios actúan directamente sobre los huesos de las piernas, las caderas y la parte baja de la columna para disminuir la pérdida de minerales. También mejoran la circulación y la salud del corazón. Estos ejercicios deben realizarse de 5 a 7 días a la semana durante al menos 30 minutos diarios. También brindan beneficios cardiovasculares, que mejoran la salud del corazón y del sistema circulatorio. Los ejercicios aeróbicos como nadar y andar en bicicleta ofrecen muchos beneficios, pero no ofrecen la carga de soporte de peso para fortalecer los huesos. Entonces, si eres nadador y ciclista, asegúrate de incluir otras actividades aeróbicas para combinar.

Ejercicios de estiramiento y flexibilidad

Los ejercicios de estiramiento y posturales ayudan a mover las articulaciones en todo su rango de movimiento y disminuyen el estrés dañino en la espalda. Estos ejercicios se pueden realizar a lo largo del día para reforzar una buena postura y se deben realizar con delicadeza y sin rebotes.

Ejercicios de estabilidad y equilibrio.

Los ejercicios de estabilidad y equilibrio ayudan a reducir el riesgo de caídas y deben realizarse diariamente. ¿Sabías que más de una de cada cuatro personas mayores de 65 años se cae cada año? Los ejercicios de movimiento equilibrado como el tai chi o pararse sobre una pierna mejoran la fuerza y ​​el equilibrio de la zona media.

Precaución: si ya tienes osteoporosis, debes hablar con su médico sobre qué ejercicios son mejores para ti. Evita ejercicios de alto impacto como correr y saltar, que pueden provocar fracturas en los huesos debilitados. Además, los movimientos bruscos y el exceso de flexión y torsión (como el golf, el tenis, los bolos, algunas posturas de yoga) pueden provocar fracturas por compresión. 

5 Tips to Starting Off the New Year in a Healthy Fashion

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions every year until I realized that making promises at the beginning of the year which inevitably get broken within 90 days was not a sustainable habit. So, in light of the New Year, I’ll share some things you can do to take control of your health without a calendar to dictate your actions.

Cut the Carbs, Sugar & Bad Fats

One of the first things we can do is control what goes into our mouth. We as a society eat way too many carbs, sugar and bad fats. As you may be aware, chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity are all tied to our over-reliance on what has become the standard American diet. Have you noticed how having a high-carb/high-sugar meal makes you crave more snacks several hours later? These high-carb foods (breads, cereals, pastas, waffles, pancakes, cookies, cakes, pies) cause blood sugar fluctuations that lead to incessant carb cravings thereafter. So, what to do after weeks of eggnog, wine (of course – alcohol is formed from sugar), grandma’s pumpkin pie and that holiday feast with turkey, stuffing, and mac and cheese?

First, reduce your carb and sugar intake. This does not mean you have to go on a ketogenic diet as moderation is key as you transition from all the holiday festivities.

  • Get most of your carbs from plant-based sources, primarily non-starchy vegetables like greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). You can add some fruit like apples and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets to up your carb intake but the key is to make greens and veggies the mainstay of your daily plate. And no need to count calories – eat until you are satisfied as these veggies are high in fiber and volume and low in calories. Also, eating a naturally fiber-rich diet will help with elimination and keep you ‘regular’.

  • Eliminate bad fats and add good ones.
    • Man-made fats that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils like margarine should be avoided like the plague. If nature intended for humans to consume them, they would be naturally available. Also, vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, grapeseed, peanut, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower) are HIGHLY processed and READILY oxidized when exposed to light, air or heat. Oxidized or ‘rancid’ oils are NOT healthy for humans so it’s best to avoid them.
    • Healthy fats should be added to the diet – it sounds counter-intuitive for losing weight but healthy fats are necessary building blocks for cell membranes and for keeping hormones in balance. Non-animal sources of fat include avocados, avocado oil, nuts and nut butters, coconut and coconut oil, olives and olive oil. Animal sources include lard, grass-fed butter/ghee, grass-fed/wild-caught/pasture-raised meats and fish. 

Good Health Begins in the Gut

Good health = healthy gut = good intestinal bacteria. The human gut is home to more than 100 trillion micro-organisms and contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body. Recent studies suggest the role that the gut microbiome plays in regulating the risk of diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer AND the importance of diet in altering the gut’s microbial composition. So to keep your gut flora healthy:

Manage stress levels as studies have shown that prolonged stress can negatively alter intestinal microbiota composition

Get Moving!

If you don’t have time to exercise, how about starting off with a daily 7-minute workout? This free app called 7M offers exercises for a variety of body parts and they are only 7 minutes long. They have options with weights or without so no need to invest in equipment to get going.

Here are two 7-minute high-intensity interval training workouts to try without downloading the app:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/well/workouts/

Take Time to Meditate/Reflect

You don’t need a 30-minute meditation or yoga practice to get your mindfulness quotient in. Upon waking, try a 5-minute breathing or meditation exercise. Here are a couple to try:

And before bed, try to reflect on the happenings of the day – what went well and what could be improved. This raises awareness of the positive things achieved in the day along with areas for improvement. Continuous improvement and learning is key to keeping us youthful and vibrant!

Practice Good Sleep Habits

And last but not least, establish a sleep rhythm that works for YOU as we all have different sleep clocks. I have tried to be an early riser (before 6:30am) SO many times but it’s not my optimal sleep clock and ends up making me more tired and run down. Against my better judgment, I woke up REALLY early (5:30am) over Thanksgiving holiday to go walking with my sister – although I got my steps in, I ended up with a head cold which lasted for weeks.

If you are an early morning person, you can do a lot of the important tasks early in the day. But if you’re like me and cannot get going until around 7am after a stiff cup of coffee, you may be more prone to get some productive work done well into the evening.

So, in addition to when you sleep, determine how much sleep you need to feel optimal – some feel fantastic after just six hours but if you’re like me, you will need at least 7-8 hours to survive the next day.

So, how about a New Year’s plan of consistency, moderation and steady improvement to keep you going and going? Happy Holidays!

Exercising to Prevent Osteoporosis

Did you know that osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone mass) affects more than 50 million Americans and causes bones to become weak and brittle? For older women, it is a major cause of disability. So, if you are concerned about your bone health and tested low on the bone density scan (Dexa scan), read on to find out what types of exercise you need to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and minimize the negative effects.

A complete exercise program consists of the following:

  • Strength/resistance training
  • Weight-bearing aerobic activities
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Stability and balance exercises

 

Strength/resistance training

Strength training involves the use of free weights, machines, resistance bands or even your own body weight to generate muscle tension on the bones and strengthen all the major muscle groups. You only need to do these exercises about 2-3 times a week (not daily) to get the benefits. Remember that proper form and technique are important to prevent injury so if you are new to strength training, you may want to consult with a trainer to help get you started. You don’t need a lot of heavy weights either – when not at the gym, I use the 5-15 pound dumbbells or resistance bands at home to get a great workout.

Here are some to try at home:

I like this 20-minute full body workout because it has no repeats – if you are not a fan of weight training like me, this one is for you:

If you have resistance bands, try this 30 minute full body workout:

Here’s one that requires no equipment so very travel friendly:

Weight-bearing aerobic activities

Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, climbing, and dancing are activities where the weight of your body is working against gravity. These exercises work directly on the bones of your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss. They also boost circulation and heart health. These exercises should be done 5-7 days a week for at least 30 minutes daily. They also provide cardiovascular benefits, which boost heart and circulatory system health. Aerobics like swimming and biking offer many benefits but they don’t offer the weight-bearing load to strengthen bones. So, if you are a swimmer and biker, make sure to include other aerobic activities to mix it up.

 

Stretching and flexibility exercises

Stretching and postural exercises help move your joints through their full range of motion and decrease harmful stress on the back. These exercises can be performed throughout the day to reinforce good posture and should be done gently and without bouncing.

Here are some exercises to incorporate:

(to improve posture and balance)

Stability and balance exercises

Stability and balance exercises help reduce the risk of falling and these should be performed daily. Did you know that more than one in four people over the age of 65 fall each year? Balanced movement exercises like tai chi or standing on one leg improve core strength and equilibrium.  Here are some easy options to try:

A 10 minute tai chi with relaxing music to try:

How about a Qi Gong morning routine? Qi Gong is a mind-body-spirit practice that integrates posture, movement, breathing and focused intent:

A word of caution – If you already have osteoporosis, you should talk with your doctor about what exercises are best for you. You should avoid high-impact exercises like running and jumping which can lead to fractures in weakened bones. Also, jerky movements and excess bending and twisting (like golf, tennis, bowling, some yoga poses) can lead to compression fractures so when in doubt, be the turtle, not the hare.

Don’t Go Breaking Your Heart – Myth-busting and Top Tips for a Healthier Heart

I recently listened to a healthy heart masterclass sponsored by the Food Revolution Network where Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a holistic cardiologist, shares tips on how to prevent or reverse heart disease without relying solely on drugs, surgeries or stents. So, in this blog, I’ll highlight the top myths along with health tips to keep your blood pumping machine in optimal condition.

Myth #1:

  • Your genes are not your destiny. Did you know that 90% of heart disease is related to lifestyle? And because these lifestyle and environmental factors are passed down from previous generations, you see family histories of heart disease. 
  • And according to Dr. Dean Ornish who is a proponent of a plant-based diet, four out of five cases of coronary atherosclerosis can be reversed using diet, exercise, meditation and group support. I’m personally a fan of the pegan or flexitarian diet (mostly vegetables and fruits but occasional meat and fish consumption) which is considered mostly plant-based.
  • Age and genetics do not seal your fate. You’re never too old to adopt new habits in spite of what all the old, ‘not-so-wise’ sayings indicate. Based on this Johns Hopkins study, conducted on 6,000 atherosclerosis patients aged from 44-84 years old, healthy lifestyle changes decreased risk of death by 80% no matter what age group they were in. 

Myth #2:

  • There is more evidence pointing to the lack of evidence on dietary cholesterol as the main risk factor in heart disease. In fact, up to 75% of people who experience heart attacks have what’s considered normal cholesterol levels.
  • Read my earlier blog on the role that cholesterol has in heart disease: https://community.wholistics.health/heart-disease-and-the-role-of-cholesterol/
  • In order to avoid or reverse heart disease, you need to consider all pillars of health (nutrition, exercise, mind and sleep) and stop focusing on just a number that is not even a good predictor of heart disease.

Myth #3:

  • According to Dr. Guarneri, if medicine took care of heart disease, it wouldn’t be killing eight million people every year. She states that 92% of first heart attacks are totally preventable.
  • Medications can decrease heart disease risk but they are almost never as effective as sustainable and lasting lifestyle changes.
  • Addressing root causes of heart disease is what’s important, not reducing symptoms with medications.

Heart Health Tips #1:

  • Eat more of the right omega oils (omega 3) like oily fish and fish oil to get the right balance.
  • You need omega-6 oils but we consume way too much with oils like corn, safflower, soy, sunflower and canola and these processed vegetable oils create a pro-inflammatory response in our bodies.
  • The best vegetarian sources of omega-3 oils are flax seeds and chia seeds which should be ground up prior to consumption so they are digested properly.
  • Of the three types of Omega 3s (ALA, EPA, DHA), ALA is found in flax and chia seeds but EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish and algae. And your body needs all three, so if you don’t like the idea of consuming oily fish, you can opt for algae. Here’s my favorite that’s been tested to be free of heavy-metals:

https://www.energybits.com/energybits.html

Heart Health Tip #2

  • White flour, sugar and other processed foods cause inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • When consuming grains, opt for whole grain to ensure you’re also getting the soluble fiber and the phytonutrients.
  • Pseudo-grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth are good options.
  • I’m personally not a fan of a lot of whole grain consumption – eating a bowl of whole grain pasta will make my glucose monitor sing but when eaten sparingly, it’s fine.

Heart Health Tip #3

  • Dr. Guarneri suggests to NOT eat red or processed meat. Although I agree with avoiding processed meat which is high in salt, nitrates and other additives, I think eating clean, grass-fed meat in small portions should be ok if you are generally healthy and want to avoid heart disease.

Heart Health Tip #4

  • If you don’t visit the dentist regularly for oral check-ups and cleaning, you should know that periodontal (gum) disease is related to heart disease. Evidence has shown that bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease travels to the heart and triggers inflammation in the blood vessels and increases your cardiovascular disease risk.
  • So keep up the daily flossing, Waterpik (which I love) and the bi-annual visits to the dentist.

Heart Health Tip #5

  • Did you know that evidence shows that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in the occurrence of coronary heart disease? When you experience feelings like anger and hostility, you can increase your risk of heart attack by more than 200%!
  • It’s important to be in loving relationships with family and friends as it will have a physical impact on your heart health.
  • Make sure to take actions to support your emotional well-being with mind care (yoga, meditation, etc.) and positive social interactions.

Heart Health Tip #6

Heart Health Tip #7

  • Dr. Guarneri suggests dancing as an excellent form of exercise as it’s not only great physical movement but the music and the rhythms elicit positive emotional responses which are great for the heart.
  • If you prefer regular exercise over dance, keep it up 3-5x per week and make sure to include aerobics, strength training and stretching into the regimen.
  • Remember – variety, frequency and FUN are key to a sustainable program of movement.

Heart Health Tip #8

  • Did you know that more than 70% of all visits to the doctor are related to stress? And research shows that chronic stress can raise your blood pressure, cause inflammation and increase your risk of a heart attack.
  • Engaging in activities like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises can calm your heart and your brain.
  • I like Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise to shift the energy balance to a peaceful state: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

Heart Health Tips #9

  • The journey is as important as the destination so focus on progress with small, tangible steps that you CAN do that will become a habit over the long term.

To learn more about this masterclass visit: https://heart.foodrevolution.org/masterclass/?orid=174172&opid=364

Weekend Warrior Injury Prevention and Management: Part 2

As we age, our mind may say ‘yes’ but our body says ‘no’. If you love sports and activities but mostly enjoy them at the weekend, you may be a Weekend Warrior. In this blog, I will highlight some nutritional and supplement tips for injury prevention and management. You don’t have to stop doing what you love if you take stock of what your body is telling you and give it the TLC it needs to regenerate and repair.

Bromelain

Did you know that this enzyme that comes from pineapples is used as a meat tenderizer to break down the connective tissues that makes meat tough? If you want to tenderize a cut of meat fast, make a marinade with some pineapple – it will make the chewy cuts of meat more enjoyable. Bromelain’s enzyme action has been touted and widely used as a natural remedy for improving digestion and reducing inflammation. There’s a lot of scientific evidence (more than 70 studies) evaluating the benefits of bromelain on a variety of conditions including connective tissues injuries, ACL tears, sprained ankles, tendonitis, joint pain and arthritis. In this study, oral bromelain supplementation was as effective as a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug in reducing pain, swelling and quality of life. 

Bromelain is safe for most people but if you are on blood-thinning medication or supplements, it may increase the risk of bleeding so get the ‘ok’ from your doctor before supplementing. Here’s one to try:

Collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and vital to our health as it gives strength and elasticity to our bones, muscles, tendons and skin. As we age, our body naturally loses collagen which leads to sagging skin and achy joints. Your body needs collagen to heal and repair damaged tissue. In this study, daily supplementation with collagen peptides improved skin elasticity while improving joint function and general wellbeing. To get collagen from food, try adding beef or chicken bone broth to your diet. I use it as a cooking base in the winter for soups and stews. I prefer to make my own and store in freezable containers. Here’s a simple recipe:

https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a83002/how-to-make-beef-broth/

If you decide to supplement, opt for the multi-collagen variety. Our body has over 15 types of collagen in the body so you want the most comprehensive collagen available in supplemental form. Here’s my favorite:

Magnesium

This essential mineral is involved in over 300 chemical processes in our body to support bone health and aid in the healing of connective tissues and muscles. Magnesium also impacts your muscles’ ability to contract and relax so it’s great for relieving cramps and pain. In this study, even one week of magnesium supplementation showed improvements in muscle soreness and pro-inflammatory responses after strenuous exercise.

 Some magnesium rich foods include spinach, avocado, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. If you need a supplement, opt for a type which has multiple forms. I use this one as it contains all seven forms of magnesium.

MSM, Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Most often sold in a combination, these three are natural components of connective tissues and support and restore cartilage tissue and joints. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a great source of sulfur which is critical to the proteins of muscle tissues, bones and joints. Glucosamine is a simple carbohydrate that is used to synthesize cartilage tissue and chondroitin is formed from glucosamine.  Chondroitin is responsible for structuring the connective tissue and providing strength to cartilage, ligaments and bones. These three compounds are produced in sufficient quantities in young and healthy bodies but slow down as we age which result in loss of strength and elasticity.

It is recommended that the compounds are taken together as they reinforce each other’s actions. This controlled trial shows the clinical benefit that the combination of MSM, glucosamine-chondroitin has on osteoarthritis patients.

Here are two to try:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Often called essential fatty acids (EFAs) as our body is not capable of producing its own so we need to consume it in food or supplement form. There is plenty of well-established evidence on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for supporting cardiovascular, skin and mental health, but did you know that EFAs are as effective as NSAIDS in reducing arthritis pain?  

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are from cold water fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies which can be consumed twice a week for optimal health benefits. If you are not a fan of fish or prefer to supplement, here are two high-dosage products that have been tested for freshness and purity.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fishoil-1.png

Turmeric

Known as a super spice and widely used as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, the active compounds in turmeric, curcuminoids, have also been frequently studied for their impact on joint pain. Turmeric helps heal and repair damaged tissues so the spice should be an integral part of your diet. If you’re like me and don’t cook with turmeric often, you can opt for the supplement form – look for ones that contain bioperine (ingredient in black pepper) to optimize bioavailability. Here’s one to try:

Vitamin C

An essential micronutrient, vitamin C aids in healing and is a potent antioxidant that reduces inflammation and provides immunity by supporting cellular function. There are numerous studies on the role of vitamin C to support immunity. In this randomized clinical trial, high-dose vitamin C (2,000mg/daily) and E (1,400mg/daily) reduced muscle damage and inflammatory responses in athletes.

There are so many ways to get vitamin C into the diet but if you need more than 1,500mg, you can supplement with pure ascorbic acid powder. It is inexpensive but as it can give you disaster pants on too high of a dosage, take it slow until your body can tolerate it (bowel tolerance = until you get the runs). Or if you don’t want the hassle, take the liposomal vitamin C which is more expensive but coated to prevent intestinal discomfort with good bioavailability. I take the more economical powder form at home and add it to my shake but have the liposomal capsules on hand for travel. Here are a couple to try:

Pure ascorbic powder:

Liposomal Vitamin C:

5 Ways to Achieve Mental Fitness

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with Cara Bradley, who is a best selling author (On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up and Shine), mental strength coach and recently named as one of the most powerful women in the mindfulness movement. Cara exudes a sense of presence and calm that’s apparent when you are with her. Cara’s belief is that similar to the fitness craze that started several decades ago, we are now heading into the mental fitness era and so she developed a protocol that outlines her cross-training strategies to feel alive and vibrant. Here, I’ll highlight the key pillars of the protocol. For a full read, you can submit a request to get your own copy.

First, what does being “mentally fit” mean? It is a mind and body approach that optimizes your physical and emotional state to provide you with clarity, sharpness and resiliency.

Movement

Daily exercise and movement are key to building physical and mental fitness. And as we age, it’s not only aerobic exercise but resistance training that is critical to keep our bodies strong. Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week. Need motivation? How about a workout buddy? Or use a friend to help track progress; for example, I tell my friend that I’m committing to X days a week on resistance training/swimming/walking/hiking and then update her on my progress several times a week. I can do it myself but it’s nice to know someone is keeping tabs on me to make sure I commit to getting it done.

Nervous System Regulation

We are bombarded by negativity and news of calamity which promotes fear, anger, anxiety and stress. Cara suggests that rather than succumb to these ill effects, choose to shift to a calmer state through mindfulness meditation, yoga, proper sleep, spending time outside and optimizing the gut-brain connection.

Sleep

We all know the importance of sleep (check out my earlier blog on getting proper sleep). Poor sleep leads to not only foul moods but also a weakened immune system and even weight gain –  it makes you hungrier and promotes insulin resistance according to this study. So make sure to develop good sleep habits and make sleep a priority. Here’s a 3-minute mindfulness movement for sleep that Cara recommends: https://www.mindful.org/mindful-movement-ease-sleep/

You can also check out my tips on ways to optimize sleep.

Mind Training

Meditation is a practice of being present with your mind while sitting still and breathing. It’s called “practice” because you need to keep doing it on a consistent basis to achieve mental fitness. Here are some tips from Cara to get you going:

Purpose of meditation:

https://www.carabradley.net/50-stable-body-stable-mind-and-the-purpose-of-meditation/

Meet your mind:

https://www.carabradley.net/episode-20-meet-your-mind/

Guided meditation with deep breathing:

Gut-Brain Optimization

Have you heard the famous Hippocrates quote: “All disease begins in the gut”? Well, Cara proclaims that “Mental fitness begins in the gut”. Recent studies have shown that our gut microbiome is made up of more than 100 trillion bacterial cells and they produce more of the feel-good transmitters like serotonin and dopamine than the brain itself.

So, to improve our mood and mental clarity, we need to combine psychological approaches with dietary ones to optimize our gut microbiome. A healthy whole foods diet is a foundational pillar but did you know that the nutrient density of our produce grown in the US has declined in the past 50 years? According to The Rodale Institute, we are eating plants that are nutritionally starved thanks to all the industrial agriculture depleting soils worldwide. So, it’s also important to take supplements to ensure you are getting all the vital nturients critical to your health. I am happy to make what naysayers call ‘expensive urine’ as I don’t have my own soil-rich organic garden nor live in a toxin-free bubble.

I’ve been a long-time fan of the products that are produced by Amare Global – they are a mental fitness company with high quality natural products.  Here’s info on the mental fitness pack:

http://ltl.is/xq9tks2

And Last But Not Least, Get Going!

You don’t need to commit to all of the above at once, but gradually adding one of these practices will form your new habit and an established cross-training routine for your mental health. 

You can check out more of Cara’s mental fitness podcast episodes here: 

https://wavve.link/wvo80HTdW/episodes

Injury Prevention Tips for Weekend Warriors

If you enjoy the great outdoors, yardwork, gardening, sports but like many of us, have sedentary jobs, you may be labeled a ‘Weekend Warrior’. These folks typically sit in the office all week and then physically exert themselves on weekends to ‘catch up’ on all the activities they love. Unfortunately, this can be a shock to our bodies particularly as we age, and can often result in a whole list of ailments including shin splints, pulled/strained muscles, plantar fasciitis (heal pain), tennis elbow, knee pain, back pain, neck pain, tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, ankle sprains – and more! Many of us are no longer 20-somethings but continue to dive into activities forgetting how much more pliable, fit and well-trained we were as youngsters. If you are not frequently training to improve your core strength, flexibility and endurance, you are almost certainly putting yourself at risk for Weekend Warrior injuries. 

So, in this first blog of a series, I’ll cover tips on how to enjoy your activities without getting hurt.

Gradually increase your activity level and do it often!
  • Increase your workouts 10-20% a week to give your body time to build and include enough rest days to ensure adequate repair. The older you are, it’s likely you will need more time to recover so don’t try to keep up with the teenagers but go at your body’s comfortable pace. Keep in mind that even young, competitive athletes train to gradually build strength and endurance over time. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I would push myself to do 5-6 intense workouts a week but was constantly catching a bug/cold. If only I knew then what I know now…
  • If you are active most days of the week with exercise and resistance workouts, you are ‘conditioning’ your body for the weekend ahead and preventing injuries. So don’t be a couch potato during the week – aim for at least 20-30 minutes of exercise daily. If weather is not cooperating, you can do resistance training at home or a short Tabata workout (intense 20-40 sec movement with 10-20 sec break) which requires no equipment. Here are several to try:
Wear the right gear!
  • In addition to safety gear (helmets, knee and elbow pads) and comfortable/supportive clothing, you need proper footwear. If you like to run, buy running shoes that support your shins and feet. You can have the right ones measured for your sport and foot form at stores like Fleet Feet. And make sure you replace the shoes after 350-500 miles. Click to find a Fleet Feet store near you: https://www.fleetfeet.com  
  • To protect your bones and muscles, you can try compression socks and wraps to help reduce inflammation and swelling. I wear compression socks for long plane rides so my shoes will still fit by the end of the journey! They are widely available in different lengths and styles. This one got high marks but make sure you hand wash them so you can wear them for a long time.
Stretching and posture
  • You should incorporate a stretch routine daily even if you are not working out. Stretching can improve flexibility and range of motion while reducing muscle tension. If you’re like me and have little patience for stretching, here’s a 5-minute full body one to try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L2lnxIcNmo
  • Have you heard of the Egoscue technique? It was designed to build proper posture and body alignment to prevent injuries and pain. When you are in alignment, the spine and muscles  work in sync with optimal function instead of trying to compensate for each other’s weakness. Try out this 5-minute Egoscue exercise to start your day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdNS95hpL-o
Keep hydrated!

It’s important to keep yourself hydrated especially during the summer heat to avoid cramps, muscle pains and other injuries. Your body sweats out water, electrolytes and even toxins so you should replenish all of it minus the junk. These are good tablets to have around to add to your water. They taste good and have calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium:

To take a comprehensive approach to hydration, you should also add the trace minerals that your body needs. Trace minerals are essential but only needed in small amounts. Your body depletes them through activity and sweating so it needs to be replenished in small quantities. I like the fulvic and humic trace minerals because they are plant-based, 100% bioavailable and work in concert to support hydration, optimize nutrient uptake and assist in removing cellular waste. As a fan of fulvic/humic mineral complexes, I take it daily even if I’m not doing any physically exerting activities. There are many on the market but this one is pure, odorless and tasteless so mixes in nicely with whatever drink you are having:

Best Exercises for Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes

If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you’ve probably heard from your physician about the importance of a good diet and regular exercise. Consistent body movement (which goes beyond walking to the fridge) will help boost energy, better manage blood sugar levels, reduce insulin needs, manage stress, improve your mood and promote better sleep. If you’re like me and have glucose management issues, the temptation to sit on the couch after a long day is often overcome by my uplifted mood and energy level after a brisk walk or workout.

So here are some of the best exercises to engage in.

Aerobic dance

Dancing not only provides a physical workout but boosts your memory with the mental work required to remember steps and sequences. Have you tried Zumba? It’s a form of dance that’s a fun way to increase physical activity, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. In this study, a 16-week Zumba dance class program improved markers of health and fitness in Type 2 diabetic or overweight women. Here’s a beginner 20-minute Zumba workout to try: 

Cycling

Did you know that diabetes is a predictor for osteoarthritis? In this study, the findings showed a strong correlation between Type 2 diabetes and development of severe osteoarthritis. Another common risk with diabetes is diabetic neuropathy which damages nerves causing joint pain. So for those with joint pain, choosing low impact exercise like cycling can help you get the movement without straining your joints. If you have a bike and a decent path around the neighborhood, this is a fun exercise to enjoy with a partner. I prefer to ride on flat roads and gradually increase the length of time on the bike but if you’re up for the challenge, try a hill or two! Here are 10 popular bike trails in North Carolina: https://www.visitnc.com/story/hVVj/popular-north-carolina-bike-trails-cycling-routes    

Pilates

Pilates is a form of exercise that is performed on a mat (or equipment) to promote muscular strength, stability, endurance and low-impact flexibility. According to this study, 12 weeks of Pilates training improved glycemic control in older women with Type 2 diabetes. The beauty of Pilates is that you don’t need any fancy equipment to get the benefits and you can do this at home in the comfort of your living room. Here’s a 25-minute beginner workout to try:

Swimming

This is one of the most joint-friendly activities with maximum aerobic benefit as it works your heart, lungs and muscle without putting pressure on your joints. This study demonstrated the reduction in HbA1c levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes after 8-12 weeks of aquatic exercise. So whether it’s freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke, water aerobics or jogging in place, find a pool nearby and jump in!

Tai Chi

This centuries-old Chinese martial art utilizes slow, flowing exercises with movement, meditation and rhythmic breathing. This analysis of 14 research studies showed that Tai Chi can effectively reduce blood glucose and HbA1c markers in Type 2 patients with diabetes. New to Tai Chi? How about this 15-minute sunrise Tai Chi (or whenever you are up) to start your day?

Walking

You may have heard that being sedentary is as bad as smoking for your health. One of my favorite activities is walking as it can be done just about anywhere and the only equipment required is a good pair of sneakers. In this analysis of 81 studies, there was a strong correlation between physical activity and decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes. All subtypes of physical activity were beneficial whether it was vigorous or low intensity. The Standards of Medical Care of Diabetes recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. So aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking 5-6 times per week and bring a pet or a friend along for company. If you are walking on the treadmill, find a good Netflix show to indulge in – I’ve often walked over an hour on the treadmill because I was so engrossed in the show that I didn’t realize how time had passed!

Weightlifting

Resistance training and other strengthening exercises help build muscle mass but also increase the number of calories burned. According to this study, 10 weeks of resistance training has shown to increase resting metabolic rate and reduce visceral fat, resting blood pressure and HbA1c. Don’t have weights at home or have a desire to venture out to the gym?  No problem – resistance bands are also effective in improving glycemic control according to this study. I have a set of these at home – they come in a set and are easy to carry when traveling.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the perfect exercises for diabetes. It incorporates fluid body movements to build flexibility, strength and balance while lowering stress and improving mental function. This study demonstrated the feasibility of yoga as a complementary therapy with significant reductions in HbA1c and improved blood glucose and psychosocial factors in patients with Type 2. You don’t have to pay for a class or join a gym to enjoy yoga as there are a plethora of free options. Here is one of my favorite channels:

Kicking off the New Year With Intent – Diet and Exercise

I’m sure many of us are happy to say goodbye to 2020 and have plans to kick off the new year with resolutions, lifestyle changes and programs to improve our well-being. I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions as I always break them so I prefer to make small changes as I go. So in this blog, I’m providing some simple tips and guidelines on diet and exercise that you could consider and easily adopt as part of your new lifestyle in 2021.

Diet

It’s often easier to add something to a diet than to eliminate something completely. So, here are some suggestions on what to add to your diet to improve your overall well-being when it comes to eating.

  • Fat – Opt for healthy fats like olives, avocados, flax seeds, MCT oil and fat from pasture-raised meats and wild-caught small fish
  • Fruit – Stick with low-glycemic fruits like berries and grapefruit and eat them whole with the fiber, not in juice form
  • Non-starchy veggies, cruciferous vegetables and mushrooms – Kale, Swiss chard, lettuces, fennel, leeks, cucumbers, radishes, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, shiitake, button and portobello mushrooms
  • Nuts – Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds. Read my blog on nuts.
  • Protein – For plant protein, beans are a great option. Check out my blog here. For animal protein, opt for wild-caught, grass-fed and/or pasture-raised. Fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies are great for their omega-3 content. And remember the “condi-meat rule” – small portions are all you need. 
  • Seeds – Black cumin, hemp seed, flax seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed. Check out my blog on seeds here.

Now here’s what to limit or avoid:

  • Dairy – Avoid conventionally-raised dairy that includes milk, butter, yogurt, ice cream. If you are sensitive to dairy, it’s best to avoid or limit consumption. Many of us are lactose intolerant and that’s our body’s way of telling us to NOT eat it. I think it’s funny that Lactaid is so popular. We still insist on eating something that our bodies are telling us otherwise. I will occasionally indulge in ice cream and rich dairy products with Lactaid knowing that I am creating inflammation in the body – but infrequently, I think it’s ok.
  • Gluten can be tolerated by some people based on their genetic profile but not others – so if you’re like me and cannot process gluten, limit foods like wheat, rye, and barley to avoid inflammation caused by these proteins.
  • Refined grains, processed foods If its shelf life is for months/years and it comes out of a bag or box and has ingredients that you cannot comprehend (or pronounce), just don’t eat it!
  • Sugar of all types including high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols, cane sugar, aspartame and artificial sweeteners. And that includes not only drinks but in dressings, dried fruits and even frozen foods. Real maple syrup and sustainably-raised honey are good in moderation – but remember, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you should eat a LOT of it.

Exercise

If you’re planning to add more movement and strength training in the new year, adding variety to spice up your workouts will create sustainability and fun to your new lifestyle. Here are some options to add to your training program:

  • High Intensity Interval Training – There is compelling research that shows that high intensity interval training (short bursts of high intensity exercise) provides significant health benefits like boosting your body’s production of fat-busting enzymes, human growth hormone, while improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation. This is one of the most efficient and effective forms of exercise and it can be done in under 20 minutes. Here’s one to try.
  • Hiking – If you are a fan of the outdoors, hiking is a fun activity that can make your body work harder as you navigate through the different terrains and long distances.  Here is a map of all the trails in the US. Just enter the city and state where you are interested in hiking and all the trails will come up.
  • Jump Rope – Jump roping is inexpensive and one of the most effective cardio exercises you can do. It’s quick and challenges your endurance and your hand-eye coordination. And you only need 10 minutes to get started! Check out this video.
  • Rowing – If you’re in search of a low intensity workout that is a calorie crusher, try a rowing class. It’s a low impact exercise that engages the core muscles on your legs, glutes and lower back without beating up your joints. If you’re looking for something a bit more pedestrian try paddle boarding or kayaking.
  • Swimming – This is considered the king of all exercises because it works every muscle in your body and builds strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Also, it’s fantastic for those with excess weight and/or joint problems. Look for your local Y or a fitness center that has a lap pool so you can get in 30 minutes of swim time.
  • Treadmill – How about walking or running on the treadmill on a virtual trail with rivers and waterfalls? Try this video to simulate being outside enjoying nature. It’s a 45 minute virtual walk.
  • Yoga – There are many health benefits of practicing yoga like strength, balance, flexibility and stress reduction but did you know that research indicates that yoga can provide similar benefits as other moderate to vigorous exercises? Yoga was found to be superior to other forms of exercise for improving self-reported outcomes on aerobic fitness, muscular strength and health status on older adults. It’s also been found to benefit those who are already aerobically strong as yoga strengthened the running performance of distance runners. Similarly, yoga performed for 8 weeks led to improved balance, leg strength and muscle control in young athletes. Need we say more? If you want to do yoga but don’t want to pay for a class, try the Yoga with Adriene series. There’s something for everyone on this site.