Archive for July, 2012

Making Fitness Fun for Kids

Get moving with your kids to keep them active.

That’s one of the messages from a sidebar, “Making Fitness Fun for Kids,” to my cover story in the August 2012 issue of Heart Insight magazine, just released online.

The main subject of the cover story is Tamika Catchings, a star professional basketball player and member of the NBA/WNBA FIT team, a program that encourages physical activity and healthy living for children and families.

Basketball players participate in games with kids around the country and get them excited about health and fitness.

Taking my own advice, I’m heading to my local Y this afternoon to workout with my 15-year-old daughter.

Here’s the full sidebar. Enjoy.

“Making Fitness Fun for Kids”

To maintain a healthy lifestyle, kids need to get regular physical activity.

Guidelines from the American Heart Association and other organizations suggest that kids should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

Being physically active doesn’t necessarily mean playing on a school team or working out at the gym.

Kids can ride bikes, jump rope, play hopscotch and run around the park with their friends.

Any game where kids are up and moving is a great way to help them stay physically active and make their heart, bones and muscles stronger, too, says Denver Nuggets head strength coach Steve Hess.

“The fun part of physical activity comes from kids working hard at something exciting that they like to do.

If you make the activity about them, they will find out that hard work can be fun, too.”

Parents need to find out what stimulates their kids and put a plan into place for optimum buy in, says Hess.

He and his sons Jordan, 13, and Korey, 10, will, on a snowy day, build 10 sledding ramps of different heights and then take turns zooming down them.

If the weather is bad, he creates an obstacle course or treasure hunt inside the house.

“Once they get into doing the activity, they lose track of time. They don’t even know that they’re working out and getting fit,” he says.

Here are some other tips on how to make physical activity more fun for kids:

Find activities your kids will love.

Some kids just don’t like competing in sports.

There are lots of other ways to be physically active, including swimming, horseback riding, dancing, cycling, skateboarding, yoga, hopscotch or brisk walking.

Encourage your child to explore multiple activities to find one he or she really enjoys and one that is appropriate for his or her age.

Get the whole family moving.

Plan times for everyone to be physically active.

Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside.

Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time spent together.

Participate in a local walkathon.

Find a local fundraising walk or “fun run” and bring the whole family.

If it’s animal-friendly, bring your dog along, too.

Make household chores into a dance party.

Put on a favorite CD and allot a certain number of songs to complete a household chore.

For example, allow two songs to vacuum the living room, three songs to wash the dishes and one song to pick up toys in the playroom.

Your kids will be moving faster and working harder to beat the clock, causing their hearts to pump harder and get stronger.

Don’t make exercise a punishment.

Forcing your child to go outside and play may increase resentment and resistance.

Use physical activity to encourage your child to do something she wants to do.

For instance, tell your child she can ride a bike for 30 minutes before starting homework after school.

It’s likely she’ll beg for 20 more minutes outside just to put off the homework if she enjoys bike-riding.

Mix it up to keep it interesting.

Don’t get stuck in a workout rut.

Incorporate a new type of physical activity every few weeks to keep your child motivated.

Varying activities also prevents your child’s body from getting used to the same workout, helping improve your child’s strength and fitness.

Break it up.

Kids don’t have to have to get in 60 minutes of physical activity all at once.

As long as daily physical activity adds up to at least 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity, your child meets the guidelines.

That might mean 20 minutes of play during recess, 20 minutes of bike riding after school and 20 minutes of briskly walking the dog after dinner.

For the best effects, parents need to put their own energy and enthusiasm into an activity to set an example, says Hess.

“Parents have to get up and going, too,” he says.

“When I take my sons to the park, I’m not just sitting on a bench watching.

I’ll shoot hoops with Korey and ask Jordan to show me some moves on the skateboard ramps.

I am truly excited about the things they are doing, and they can see that.”

How Hormones Play a Role in Mood Swings During Fertility Treatments

Infertile men and women often say they feel sad or tired.

They can’t eat or sleep, they are anxious, irritable, or pessimistic.

These are all symptoms of depression.

Women, more than men, tend to express higher levels of depression about infertility.

Studies show that women tend to experience greater levels of distress than their male partners in terms of anxiety, depression, and hostility as well as more stress and lower self-esteem.

Often it’s the woman who has to bear the brunt of the medical interventions.

She has to show up for regular monitoring and go through the day-to-day struggle of hormone injections, drug side effects, and recurring periods.

Some of the depression is due to the effect of hormones on a woman’s mood during fertility treatments, writes Piave Pitisci Lake, M.D., Member of the American Fertility Association (AFA) Mental Health Advisory Council, in the July issue of the AFA newsletter.

“There is no doubt that women experience mood and anxiety symptoms during hormone therapy for fertility treatment,” writes Dr. Lake, who is a psychiatrist in Mount Pleasant, SC, who has an interest in women’s mental health and infertility issues.

“The causes of these symptoms are multiple, including the psychological issues involved in having to undergo fertility treatment.

In addition, there are specific points during a treatment cycle that are associated with increased anxiety and distress.

The length of time one has been pursuing fertility treatment also affects how vulnerable a woman might be to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

There is now some evidence to suggest that, among women given hormone therapy for fertility treatment, fluctuating levels of hormones, especially declining levels of estrogen, will have a negative effect on mood beyond that attributable to psychological distress.”

So how can a woman handle the emotional issues of fertility treatments?

— Recognize that feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt, isolation, and anger are very common among infertile couples.

— The more you know about your condition, its causes and treatments, the less stress you will feel about it.

— You can manage the effects of stress through techniques such as breathing exercises, journal writing, meditation and relaxation, mindfulness, and making time for yourself.

— You can learn to replace negative thoughts with new, more balanced thoughts.

— You and your partner may respond differently to infertility. Support each other and try to understand your partner’s feelings.

What a Blast — Tai Chi in Space

I usually practice Tai Chi at my local Y in a group class and in my home on my own.

Occasionally, I’ll go to the park or the beach as well.

I’ll often take a Tai Chi break to relax at the end of a busy day.

And that’s just what the first Chinese female astronaut, Liu Yang, did recently in her second night aboard the Tiangong -1 Space Lab Module.

Yes, she played Tai Chi in outer space.

Liu Yang performed a 3-minute routine that was specifically designed by the mission crew and a physical trainer for the Chinese astronauts.

After finishing all of her routine tasks, she strapped her feet down and performed warm up exercises and then the Tai Chi routine.

The physical trainer who designed the program, Tong Feizhou, explained that performing Tai Chi regulates the breath and relaxes the body, muscles, and bones.

And, of course, Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese sports activity.

Regular exercise in space is crucial.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, if astronauts don’t exercise, their bodies start losing bone and muscle and this can reduce an astronaut’s ability to do work.

The next time I do my after work/early evening Tai Chi, I’ll try to imagine myself floating in space, just as Liu Yang did for real.

The Elbow — A Common Source of Misery for Golfers

The foot-high fescue (benignly called “native grass”) has grown in particularly thick on East Coast golf courses with all the recent rain.

I found out just how thick yesterday when I hit a drive into the tall grass on the second hole of South Fork Country Club in Amagansett, NY. I followed the sage advice of a Jamaican caddy from the Atlantic Golf Club who once told me how to get the ball out of this gnarly lie — “Take your wedge and hit it as hard as you can, mon.” I took my punishment and used the wedge to advance the ball about 50 yards, remembering the caddy’s cheers when I had done the same — “good shot, good shot!”

But I didn’t get out of the rough unscathed. My left elbow took a blow as I pounded down on the ball. It took a hole or two for the sting to go away, and after the round it still hurt some so I took some ibuprofen (which also helped relieve the pain in my surgically repaired right knee, which I had tweaked a few weeks ago) and iced it when I got home.

The elbow is a common source of misery for golfers. The most common type of elbow pain among golfers is called golfer’s elbow. Traditionally, doctors believed that golfers only had pain on the outside of the left (non-dominant) elbow, and dubbed this golfer’s elbow to differentiate it from pain on the inside of the right (dominant) elbow, called tennis elbow. But there seems to be an equal number of problems on both sides of the elbows of golfers.

A right-handed golfer normal feels pain in the left elbow. Pulling the club through the swing with the left wrist causes irritation in the left elbow. So a right-handed golfer who feels pain in the right arm or wrist is doing something terribly wrong during the swing.

As explained in the Golf Injury Handbook, golfer’s elbow is an inflammation of the muscles of the forearm and the tendon that connects the muscles to the bones in the elbow. These muscles are used to bend the wrist backward and to turn the palm face up. When the muscles and tendon become inflamed from overuse, you feel pain on the outside of the elbow. The pain is worse when you try to lift things with your palm facing down, so you may have trouble picking up a coffee cup or taking a quart of milk out of the refrigerator.

This injury also causes pain when you rotate your hand in a counterclockwise direction. You also will feel pain when you clench or squeeze something, such as when you hold a golf club.

Treatment for golfer’s elbow is the same as for tennis elbow — rest and anti-inflammatory agents, followed by physical therapy and a wrist strengthening program. Cortisone injections are only used when this fails. On rare occasions, surgery is necessary to reattach tendons to bone. If elbow pain is very severe, or if it persists for more than a few weeks and prevents playing, you should see a doctor.

Here are a few other tips from the Mount Sinai Department of Orthopaedics on how to avoid Golfer’s Elbow:

1. Select the Right Golf Clubs. It’s crucial to make sure that you are using golf clubs that are sized properly, including grip size.

2. Stretching Exercises. Simple stretches of the muscles and tendons around the elbow may help reduce the symptoms of golfer’s elbow.

3. Anti-Inflammatory Medication. Persistent pain in the elbow area can be relieved by taking an anti-inflammatory medication. Speak to your doctor about a prescription for one of these medications if your pain is severe.