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.

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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.