Posts Tagged ‘health’

Varsity Athletes Stay Active into Their 70s

Men who played a varsity sport in high school tend to be physically active into their 70s, and therefore healthier, according to the results of a new study.

Organized sports foster better health and fitness in old age,” says lead author Dr Simone Dohle of ETH Zurich, Department of Health Science and Technology.

The researchers analyzed a unique data set of 712 healthy US men, average age 78 years, who had passed a rigorous physical exam in the 1940s and who were surveyed 50 years later (in 2000).

Their physical activity level after 50 years was correlated and regressed across a wide number of demographic, behavioral, and personality variables from when they were 50 years younger.

The single strongest predictor of later-life physical activity was whether a man played a varsity sport in high school, in particular, football, basketball, baseball, or track and field; this also was related to fewer self-reported visits to the doctor.

The researchers published their results in the December 1, 2013 issue of BMC Public Health.

“I believe that it is important that physicians specifically target physical activity in preventive counseling, combined with suggestions for exercise or physical activity, and information on how to start an exercise routine or where to find a sports or fitness club,” says Dr. Dohle.

“When a physician takes down a patient’s medical history, it would be crucial to assess physical activity levels too,” she continues.

“In addition, a physician could encourage a patient by highlighting that physical activity is one of the most effective ways to prevent chronic diseases.”

Physicians need to keep in mind, however, that every patient has his own needs, abilities, and constraints, Dr. Dohle says.

“Find an activity that ensures long-time involvement and that the patient enjoys.”

The findings also offer some compelling reasons to maintain or enhance high school athletic programs, even in an era of shrinking school budgets.

Dr. Dohle says, “It has been noted that physical education classes may be the only opportunity for many to engage in weekly physical activity. School-based organized sports should be preserved because they contribute to later physical activity levels and decrease the risk factors for early morbidity.”

She suggests that perhaps there are more cost-effective ways to maintain sports programs without eliminating them.

For younger patients, physicians need to ask about physical activity, including time spent playing outside or participation in organized sports, Dr. Dohle states.

“Parents and other caregivers play a role in encouraging them to be active and should be involved in this discussion.

It might be that other forms of relatively vigorous exercise and physical education classes could be promoted across grade levels,” she notes.

“They need not concentrate on competition but rather on enjoyment, and on the benefits of and ways to stay physically active over the lifespan.”

Less competitive students can be steered toward noncompetitive activities, such as dance, weight lifting, and martial arts, Dr. Dohle suggests.

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.”

Invest in Yourself, Not Derivatives

In the wake of Gary Smith’s resignation as an executive director of Goldman Sachs, I particularly enjoyed an essay entitled “Investing in Ourselves” by spiritual thinker and Tai Chi advocate Arthur Rosenfeld.

Here’s an excerpt from Rosenfeld’s essay, which appears in the March 2012 Issue of Yang-Sheng:

“A bit of meditation, a bit of quiet consideration, and we all come to realize that the things we can’t take with us are not nearly so worthy of our investment—restoring, protecting, maintaining—as is our state of health and our state of mind.

While it makes good sense to be “green” about our important material possessions, it makes even more good sense to make strong efforts to avoid illness and decrepitude—along with depression, frustration, envy, disquiet, alienation, loneliness, and a lack of any sense of unity or belonging—by attending first and foremost to the needs of our body and mind.

Make a little change today.

Choose to work out instead of polish.

Choose to meditate instead of repaint.

Choose to stretch instead of shop.

Make a mind/body practice your focus, thereby maintaining and restoring and protecting not your automobile, but yourself.

Read up on nutrition rather than woodworking, on brain exercises rather than video games.

Redirecting yourself thus, little by little, will set in motion a process that will yield great dividends in your longevity and your ability to enjoy life.

Spread the word.

Share these ideas with a friend.

Every individual who moves from external compulsion to internal awareness, from materialism to spirituality, contributes to much-need global change.

If we all do this, we can truly expect a new economy and a revivified society too.”

Wellness Revolution Now Taught at School

When the administrators of the Milton Hershey School recently reviewed the school’s BMI data they realized they had a problem.

The school administration knew they could make a difference in the students’ lives by making health and fitness a priority this school year by highlighting physical activity and nutrition.

Most students at the private school in Derry Township, PA, live at the school, which is funded by the Milton Hershey School Trust.

The new approach, called the “Wellness Revolution”, includes the school’s 5-hour rule.

Students must account for 5 hours of physical activity beyond normal school hours between Monday and Sunday, according to an article in local daily newspaper, The Patriot-News.

There’s no mandated activity; no sit-up requirement or 10,000 steps to count.

Instead, the school’s staff put together a list of activities — from ice hockey, to bicycle riding to weight lifting and swimming — and let the students follow their own desires, writes reporter Nick Malawskey.

As expected, there was some grumbling at first.

But the students have gotten into the groove.

Some of their physical activities include Zumba, turbo kickboxing, and yoga.

Menus at the school have changed as well.

Chicken nuggets, ramen noodles, and spaghetti are out.

Vegetables and buffalo chicken salad are in.

The students said they’re more conscious about what goes into their food — keeping an eye out for high fructose corn syrup and saturated fat content — than they were before, reports Malawskey.

It will take a few years to compile data to see how well the Wellness Revolution is working.

But some students have already lost more than 30 pounds and say they feel better.

If they learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the real gain will be in the prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases when they go off on their own into the real world.

Choosing the Diet that Will Work for You

Scores of weight-loss diets have been in the limelight over the years.

But relatively few have been carefully studied.

What do the data say about the effectiveness of diets and how can you use that information to choose a weight loss approach that will work for you?

In the February 7 issue of Healthbeat newsletter from Harvard Medical School, I was pleased to see the answer is that no one diet works for everyone.

You have to figure out the best eating plan for you.

“The take-home lesson is that it is okay to experiment on yourself,” states the newsletter.

“If you give a diet your best shot and it doesn’t work, maybe it wasn’t the right one for you, your metabolism, or your situation.

Don’t get too discouraged or beat yourself up because a diet that ‘worked for everybody’ didn’t pay off for you.

Try another.”

Here’s the newsletter’s take on the diet studies and what they mean.

The bottom line is you have to reduce the amount of calories you take in (and also burn off calories through exercise) to lose weight.

The diet studies

The reality is that when it comes to shedding pounds, the key is cutting calories — and it doesn’t really matter whether those calories come mainly from steak, bread, or vegetables.

A study led by Harvard researchers published in 2009 in The New England Journal of Medicine compared four different low-calorie diets (high fat, high protein; high fat, average protein; low fat, high protein; and low fat, average protein) in 811 overweight adults.

Although all the participants lost an average of about 13 pounds in the first six months (about 7% of their initial weight), they started to regain at the one-year mark.

After two years, average weight loss was the same in all groups.

An earlier study in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that it’s whether you stick with whatever diet you choose that makes the difference.

In this study, overweight and obese adults were assigned to follow the Atkins diet, the Ornish diet, Weight Watchers, or the “Zone” diet.

After one year, nearly half of the participants had dropped out of the study.

But those who didn’t lost similar amounts of weight (about 5 to 7 pounds each, on average).

People assigned to the Atkins and Ornish diets were more likely to drop out of the study, suggesting that many people found these plans too extreme.

But for certain people, the structure of a restricted plan may be helpful.

Experts advise people to keep the percentage of their calories from major nutrients within the recommended federal guidelines:

Protein: 10% to 35%
Carbohydrate: 45% to 65%
Fat: 20% to 35%

Note that diets that are less than 45% carbohydrate or more than 35% protein are hard to follow, and they’re no more effective than other diets.

In addition to possibly increasing the risk of heart disease, diets with very low carbohydrate levels may have a negative effect on mood, according to several studies.

Low-fat: Doesn’t taste great … and is less filling

Once the main strategy for losing weight, low-fat diets were shoved aside by the low-carb frenzy.

But healthy fats can actually promote weight loss, and some fats are good for the heart; eliminating them from the diet can cause problems.

Since fat contains 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates contain 4, you can theoretically double your food intake without taking in more calories by cutting back on fatty foods and eating more that are full of carbohydrates, especially water-rich fruits and vegetables.

Still, such a diet tends to be less filling and flavorful than other diets, which lessens its long-term appeal.

Low-carbohydrate: Quick weight loss but long-term safety questions

The low-carb eating strategy is based on the biological fact that eating carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels, which triggers an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas.

The theory goes a step further, claiming that high insulin levels produce hunger, so people who eat carbohydrates take in more calories and gain weight.

Low-carbohydrate diets tend to cause dehydration.

To make up for the lack of carbohydrates in the diet, the body mobilizes its own carbohydrate stores from liver and muscle tissue.

In the process, the body also mobilizes water, meaning that the pounds shed are water weight.

The result is rapid weight loss, but after a few months, weight loss tends to slow and reverse, just as happens with other diets.

The American Heart Association cautions people against the Atkins diet, because it is too high in saturated fat and protein, which can be hard on the heart, kidneys, and bones.

The lack of fruits and vegetables is also worrisome, because eating these foods tends to lower the risk of stroke, dementia, and certain cancers.

Most experts believe South Beach and other, less restrictive low-carbohydrate diets offer a more reasonable approach.

Mediterranean-style: Healthy fats and carbs with a big side of fruits and vegetables

Mediterranean-style diets emphasize good fats and “good” carbs.

Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are the bad guys.

Good fats are monounsaturated (found in olive oil, for example) and polyunsaturated (found in such foods as fish, canola oil, and walnuts).

Mediterranean diets tend to have a moderate amount of fat, but much of it comes from healthful monounsaturated fats and unsaturated omega-3 fats.

It is high in carbohydrates, but most of the carbs come from unrefined, fiber-rich foods.

It is also high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish, with only modest amounts of meat and cheese.

People living in Mediterranean countries have a lower-than-expected rate of heart disease.

But the traditional lifestyle in the region also includes lots of physical activity, regular meal patterns, wine, and good social support.

It’s hard to know what relative role these different factors play — but there is growing evidence that in and of itself, the diet can reduce cardiovascular risk and the development of diabetes.

Training Tips On Meditation

Meditation can generate many health benefits.

Those health benefits, according to Yang Yang, PhD, a noted New York Tai Chi researcher and author, include:

• kindness toward ourselves and the rest of the world

• enhancement of mental and physical agility

• better sleep, digestion, bowel function, and sexual function

• cultivation of tranquility, joy, and resilience in daily life

• awareness of our mind, body, and spirit

• awareness of reality

• acceptance of differences between ourselves and others

In the January issue of Yang-Sheng, Yang outlines how he cultivates awareness, which includes meditating on one or another of these maxims, choosing the one that best applies to the situation:

1. The world is yin and yang; we are all different.

2. Everyone is seeking his or her best interests or happiness, including ourselves.

3. Nothing is personal.

4. The meaning and purpose of life.

He also works on the following principles:

1. Gratitude.

2. Kindness and love.

3. Acceptance of differences between self and the rest of the world, and acceptance of imperfection in life.

4. Forgiveness.

5. The golden rule.

“There are no fixed ways to apply these maxims and principles,” Yang writes.

“You can apply one maxim and one principle on one day, and apply another on the following day until you apply all of them.

Or, you can apply more than one maxim and principle to the same situation.

However, one maxim and one principle may be easier for beginners.

After I have meditated through several of these notions, I feel energized, peaceful, joyful and ready to start out a new day to do something for myself, my family, and my community.

I find this method of categorized meditation leads me easily into quiet.

It does this not only by improving my ability to manage my daily stress, but also — and more importantly — by reducing the stressors.

Meditation helps me realize that I have created stressors through my rumination, and that those stressors should never have been stressors at all.

New stressors can arise every day.

The good news is that we can develop a habitual mental pattern to neutralize them.

In this way, we can make some stressors less stressful, and eliminate others entirely.

We can reduce the stress of our daily lives.

And we can make positive thinking our way of life.”

Deepen Your Breath with Tai Chi

A Tai Chi joke:

Student: “Master, what is the secret of a long life?”

Master: “Keep breathing as long as you can!”

Strong lungs and efficient breathing are central to overall health and well-being and living a long life.

In fact, on average, we breathe more than 20,000 times per day, so it naturally follows that efficient, mindful, and freer breathing patterns have the potential to enhance and sustain your health.

Part of the reason breathing so centrally impacts health may be because how we breathe is regulated and intertwined with nearly all core physiological systems, including the musculoskeletal, nervous, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems.

The slow, deep, mindful and rhythmic breathing developed in Tai Chi potentially impacts the efficiency of breathing and lung health.

It also impacts other multiple physiological systems that control cardiovascular processes (such as blood pressure), nervous system processes (such as involuntary control of blood flow to organs or muscle contraction in the intestines), perception and tolerance of pain, and mood and stress, says Peter Wayne, PhD, Director of Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Programs, Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center.

Breathing in Tai Chi serves more than the function of bringing oxygen into and expelling carbon dioxide out of the body.

“Breathing provides as an internal massage, serves as a tool for sensory awareness and focus, balances the nervous system and emotions, and regulates and enhances the flow of qi,” says Wayne.

“More efficient posture and increased inner awareness and flexibility with Tai Chi exercises deepen breathing in a natural way.”

Muscles, including the diaphragm and intercostals, play big roles in mechanically expanding and contracting the lungs, and thus drawing in and expelling air.

The diaphragm is the primary muscle of healthy breathing.

When the diaphragm is relaxed, it assumes a domed, upward shape.

When it contracts, it pushes downward.

Along with some help from the intercostal muscles (which pull the ribs upward), the downward movement of the diaphragm opens the rib cage, decreases pressure on the lungs, and creates a vacuum (negative pressure) that draws outside air in all the way to the bottom of the lungs.

As you exhale, the diaphragm returns to its relaxed, upward domed shape, compressing the lungs and squeezing air out.

When you adopt this breathing method, inhaling makes your diaphragm expand outward as well as downwards to the abdomen, which can give your lungs more space.

During Tai Chi the air that is breathed in and out should have a fine, continuous flow.

The idea is to attain a level of natural breathe that flows regularly, lightly, slowly, and deeply.

As the Tai Chi classics say, “Let the body breathe you.”

A Cold Beer For Your Health!

A votre sante!

A toast to the health of all fathers looking forward to a cold beer on a hot day this Sunday.

Beer can be beneficial to the heart, kidneys, and bones, says Ethan A. Bergman, PhD, RD, CD, FADA, American Dietetic Association President-Elect.

“A cold beer is the perfect way to relax at the end of the day, it tastes great, and in moderation, it can even be good for you,” he says.

Here’s how your favorite beer can enhance your health:

–Studies show one or two drinks a day can reduce your chances of heart disease by increasing levels of so-called “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

The barley in beer also contains a type of fiber that lowers cholesterol levels.

And beer is a good source of B vitamins, including B6 and B12, which lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage arteries and encourage blood clots.

–Beer, compared to other alcoholic drinks, is more likely to lower your risk of kidney stones, probably due to its high water content.

The hops found in beer may also slow the release of calcium, and high calcium levels may lead to kidney stones.

–One or two beers a day can make your bones stronger.

The silicon in beer may be the key element that increases bone density.

So as you celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, consider you’re doing your body a favor.

One or two beers a day is a healthful way to celebrate.

Just don’t try get in a week’s worth of health all in one day.