Monday, December 22, 2014

But, I Stand All Day....

Wishing You A Great Holiday Season.  The holidays can be stressful and filled with too many things to do, but one of the best antidotes remains regular exercise – aerobic or resistance.  Take breaks, or a walk or stretch.  While you’re stretching – another way to relax – throw in some deep breathing and meditation for even more relaxation benefits.  Just 5 minutes can help.  Studies show when you slow the breathing, the heart rate and release of stress hormones goes down.  The mind body connection is alive and well despite possibly being unaware of it.

Now for those folks who stand all dayand are too tired to get to the gym.  It’s useful to keep in mind that you don’t have to get the recommended 30 minutes a day, all at one time.  Ten to fifteen minutes at a time throughout the day is fine as long as you can get the heart rate elevated.  Do a little before work (park further away – do a lap around the building?), at lunch – walk to the sandwich place, and quick jog around the neighborhood before dinner.  This advice actually applies to those who sit all day, but have jam packed schedules.

So, what do we propose for our nurse anesthetist friend or anybody who is on their feet 10 hours a day?  Here are some tips to lessen the wear and tear on the body.

1)   Get the best shoes for your foot & arch type.  Go to a specialty shoe shop and get fitted properly.  Try the shoes for a lengthy amount of time in the store.  Yes, you’ll likely pay more for this service, but you can always find the additional pairs later.  Get cushioning insoles or quality orthotics if needed.  As we age, we do seem to need these more.  REI gives advice on how to choose a shoe  here

2)   Learn to change body positions – don’t always stand on the same foot.  Sit when there’s an opportunity.  If standing at a computer or equipment station, use a foot rest if available.  Did you know that fitness pros can tell by your posture which hip you lean on?  Your body habits are creating muscle imbalances that show up as tightness on one side of the torso,  a hip that skews to one side, or a shoulder or head tilt.  Try standing on the other foot.  Try a tandem (forward/back) stance.  If appropriate, drop onto one knee (good for primary grade teachers).

3)   Take stretch breaks – in particular do some stretches that counteract the standing position.  Hamstring, quad, chest/shoulder, and back stretches can all be done standing.   A handout with be posted soon on

4)   Be very aware of your posture.  Good neutral posture will help with joint functioning, breathing and muscle strain.  What is good neutral posture? This is when the following bony landmarks are all lined up – ear, shoulder joint, last rib, hips, knees & ankles.  The pelvic girdle is also close to neutral. 

     5)  Take deep breathing breaks.  Deep exhalations help stretch the lats (on your back & sides) and quads (front of the thighs) as the diaphragm pushes on those muscles to help you maintain ideal posture.

What About Organized Exercise?  at home or at the gym for those who stand a lot.  We will address that topic in our New Year’s post.  Spending 30-60 minutes “working out” may be the last thing you feel like doing after a long day, but exercise scientists have devised ways that minimize the time commitment while maximizing the benefits to your body. 

Teachers, nurses, medical workers & all those who stand a lot – let’s hear from you!  What do you do to take care of your body during the day?  Write me at

Before we close, here’s another recipe.  I made several batches of these this year for clients and friends, and got good feedback.

No Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

2 c. rolled oats
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c. applesauce
½ c raisins (I used craisins)
¼ c. almond milk
1 t. vanilla
1 t. ground cinnamon

Mash the bananas & stir in the oats, applesauce, raisins, almond milk (I’ve used soy, or omitted this), and cinnamon till evenly mixed.  Drop by spoonsful onto a baking sheet.  Bake in oven preheated to 350°, for 15-20 minutes or edges are just brown.  These will be soft and are best eaten in a couple of days.  (I also added 1/2c. mini chocolate chips  - for the antioxidants  J ).

My 2015 wish for all of you:  Good health first of all.  Love – with family & friends close by.  Knowledge - on how to choose a nutritious diet.  And how your body works and what your exercise needs are – whether aerobic, resistance or flexibility.  Peace of mind, wellbeing, and the ingenuity to accomplish the above. A very Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Who's Fitter? Are You Sitting Too Much?

Mirror, Mirror, Who’s The Fittest Of Them All?
Is it the nurse who is on her feet all day, constantly moving, lifting patients, and pushing gurneys, wheelchairs, or heavy diagnostic equipment?  Or is it the techie who hits the gym 5 times a week doing weights & cardio, but is chained to his computer over 8 hours a day?  

Since the question was asked, let’s look at this more closely.  We need to ask  “fit for what”, and “what kind of fitness are we talking about?”  And, more importantly, what happens when we are just sitting.
Can Sitting Too Much Kill You?
As it turns out, research has found that those who sit more have higher mortality rates, and greater rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.* Even correcting for exercise – which does help some – researchers found significantly higher adverse effects in those who sat more than 6 hours a day.  Men who sat for 6 hours a day were found to have a 20% higher rate of mortality, compare to those only sitting for 3 hours a day.  The rates were 40% higher in women who sat.  As James Levine of the Mayo Clinic has stated “excess sitting is lethal” for couch potatoes or marathoners.

So Nurse or Techie? Or What’s Going On Here?  First, the obvious – uninterrupted sitting can result in weight gain which increases the risk of obesity.  We know that obesity has been linked to higher rates of insulin resistance, and inflammation – both of which increase the risk of cancer.

Sitting also results in less active postural or support muscles. This inactivity shuts down the electrical activity & biochemical signaling in the muscles.  One of the enzymes involved is called lipoprotein lipase. It has been found to be 75% less active in sedentary folks.  Its job is to clear the blood stream of harmful fats; the resulting build up of harmful fats in arteries can lead to cardiac disease.

The good news - interrupting sitting time with walking or even changing body positions is enough to keep the enzyme active. The experts recommend at least hourly movement.

The Bottom Line Or How To Minimize The Risks  The simplistic answer is to keep moving.  But how do you do this if your job involves sitting? Some ideas:

• Set an alert on your computer or watch      for every 30-60 minutes.  See below for    recommendations.
• Take a stretch or water break.
• Train yourself to work standing part of      the time.  See if you can arrange for a      sit/stand or treadmill work station.
•  Walk while talking on the phone.
•  Move the printer or garbage can further away.
•  If you watch TV, move every commercial break – and not just     to the fridge.  Keep some dumbbells near by and use them         during the breaks.

Activity Trackers & Alarms    Besides such high tech trackers such as Jawbone’s UP, Nike Fuelband, & the FitBand, look for Apps for your smart phone.  For free, there’s iBreaktime, Tabata Timer, Alarmed & Crazy Alarm. Apps come & go so please share if you have any experience with any of these or others. 

Alerts can also be set on your home computer.  For an Apple product, go to Settings>Date/Time>Announce Time. For Windows users, go to Control Panel>Administative Tools>Task Scheduler.  A voice will announce the time every hour.  Apps that can do this are Workrave or Breaker for Windows & Time Out for Macs. 
 A trial of the latter had my screen fading out every 15 minutes so there’s obviously some tinkering that needs to be done on my part before reactivating the program. The computer alert is working fine, however.

Free Handout - Exercise Break Activities   For ideas on what to do on your exercise break, click here.  If you get funny looks from your colleagues, hand them this blog to read, and invite them to join you.

Recipe Make Overs   Submit your favorite made over holiday recipe & I will post them for others to enjoy.  From Alex Starr, comes this family recipe for Sweet Potato & Apricot Casserole that both adults & kids will love, yet is lower in calories with just a little butter & 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  Thank you, Alex!  
Sweet Potato and Apricot Casserole This is for those who like tart rather than sweet & sticky sweet potatoes. My grandkids LOVE these as do the adults.

1 lb. Can whole sweet potatoes or 4 medium size sweet potatoes - or buy fresh yams and cook them until just tender (yes, they are different from sweet potatoes and they are delicious)
3 T. undiluted frozen orange juice
3 T. melted butter
1 T. brown sugar
salt (to taste)
pinch of nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 C. of chopped dried apricots

Mash sweet potatoes. Mix with O.J., butter, sugar and seasonings. Stir in unbeaten eggs and last, the pieces of apricot. Spoon into shallow buttered (or use PAM) casserole dish (glass). Bake 350 for 20-24 minutes or until brown and fluffy. Serves 4.  Double or triple, if you wish - just bake a bit longer.

E-mail me at with to suggest comments, give feedback or to be removed from the mailing list.

Till later - keep moving,
*References with more detailed explanations and statistics: 
Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. ILSI Presentation  Physical Inactivity: Healthy Aging & Chronic Disease.
Warren, TY, et al.  Sedentary Behaviors Increase Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Mortality in Men.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Holiday Eating Tips

Fitness Spark*S* 
A random collection of information, tips and food for thought on fitness, health, wellness and wellbeing meant to spark - inspire - the lifestyle changes that will boost your wellbeing. 

spark – a latent particle capable of growth or developing. (Merriam Webster).

Who Is More Fit?  This topic has been bumped for another more timely topic….holiday eating tips.  We will revisit it soon, however.  

The stress of the holidays can lead to overeating.  To combat this, a plan is essential before hitting that overflowing Thanksgiving buffet.   There are dozens of articles out there on this topic, but here are some of the best Spark*S* for you to pick & choose from.  Like any lifestyle change, its best to choose one or two to concentrate on, and not make wholesale changes that might be self defeating.

At The Holiday Buffet 

·  Choose lower calorie offerings – crudités, deli meats, chicken kebabs, salsa, steamed or fresh veggies, boiled shrimp, feta rather than hard cheese.  Or skip the cracker with the hard cheese and use a vegetable.

·  Stand at least 3 feet away from the buffet table.  Better yet, move until it’s out of sight.

·  Use the smallest plate, or even a napkin if practical - it holds less. 

·  Give yourself a calorie allowance for sweets and desserts by eating less of other things.

·  Follow the three bite rule – if you don’t like it after 3 bites, it’s not worth the calories.

·  Alternate water with alcoholic drinks.  And limit yourself to one or two drinks.  Drink water, tea or coffee before eating – you will feel fuller.

·  Avoid the eggnog…at 343 calories & 11 gm of saturated fat per cup – that’s a lot of excess calories.  Even wine is only 125 calories per five ounces.

·  Pop a mint or piece of gum after eating – you’ll be less tempted to indulge.

·  Limit the number of items on your plate.

·  If it’s a potluck, bring something healthy that you are willing to eat.

·  Don’t rush to eat.  Take time to socialize away from the buffet.  Think about people, not food.

·  Survey the whole buffet before filling your plate.  Skip your least favorite foods & take smaller servings.  Be a food snob & pick only foods you love.

Guidelines For The Rest Of The Time    

·  Be realistic about your goals.  The holidays aren’t the best time to try to lose weight.  Consider making weight maintenance the goal instead.

·  Remember to eat when shopping so you won’t overeat when you get home.

·  Eat three balanced meals a day – no skipping of meals.   A hearty breakfast with protein, complex carbs & dairy will help fill you up & keep you going.

·  Exercise as much as possible.  Plan your exercise times like any other appointment in your day.  First thing is best for a lot of folks.

·  Choose a sit down restaurant rather than a fast food one.  And avoid eating places decorated with a lot of red.  It’s been shown to stimulate the appetite.

·  Weigh yourself daily.  Try on your slimmest fitting pants once a week.  Notice how they fit – are they getting more tight?  Make adjustments in your eating.

·  Stay away from the office goodie table – try to keep it out of sight.  Out of sight, out of mind.  People ate more when chocolates were placed within arm’s reach rather than 6 feet away.

·  Use tall skinny glasses, rather than the fat, wide kind.  People poured 30% more into the latter.

·  Watch your portion sizes.  Split desserts.  Share entrees.

·  When cooking or baking try to make smart substitutions.  See the link below to the AHA’s healthy Eating Guide.

·  Eat slowly & leave the table when you’re done.

From A Long Term Client   Kudos to Alex Starr for this suggestion.  Ask what is in a dish before taking a portion.  If its something you don’t like – coconut, pineapple or cilantro, for example - or can’t eat, you have a reason to pass it by.

For more information, check out these websites:
American Health Association’s Heathy Eating Guide
Ten Top Holiday Diet Tips Of All Time

Recipe Make Over  From WebMD, here’s a lower calorie version of that perennial favorite – green bean casserole 

Next Time   We'll get back to the question of who’s healthier and if sitting too much can be lethal.

Till later – keep moving,


Fitness Spark Personal Training
Judy Chong, Pharm.D., MS, CSCS


©Judy Chong, Fitness Spark Personal Training,
510-589-1337, Nov.20, 2014.