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Archive for the ‘General Wellness’ Category

RunningSThe anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is important for the proper movement of the knee. Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can be a debilitating injury to the knee. Injuries range from a small tear to completely torn and happen mainly during sports like basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and skiing. These sports have a lot of hard and awkward landings or abrupt shift in directions which can lead to tears. In addition to the physical and psychological impact it has to your body, it also takes financial toll. However, a new study show that how teams warm up before practices and games can lower the risk of an injured knee.

Because of the growing number of these injuries, researchers have been developing programs to reduce the number. These programs are known as neuromuscular training and use a series of exercises to teach athletes how to land, change directions, plant their legs etc. These programs have been found to reduce the number of ACL tears by 50% or more.

Despite these findings, few leagues and schools across the country have adopted neuromuscular training. Not completely sure why, Dr. Eric Stewart decided to figure out what the monetary savings might be in ACL injury prevention. He and his colleagues gathered clinical trials related to neuromuscular training and used them to create a model of what would happen in a hypothetical sports league of athletes ages 14 to 22. He compared the monetary impact if they did and did not practice neuromuscular training.

First they found the average cost for surgery and rehabilitation on an ACL tear was $15,000. The incidence for those not practicing neuromuscular training was 3% which equated to about $500 per player.

They then calculated the incidence of injury dropped to 1.5% with neuromuscular training. Because many programs for this training are on-line for free the cost of training was negligible. Based on calculations they found the cost of starting a neuromuscular training program was about $1.25 per player. . . .much cheaper than visiting an orthopedic surgeon.

To give you an idea, most programs consist of 15 – 20 minutes of exercise to include marching, jumping, squatting and side-to-side shuffling. The purpose is to wake up the brain and nervous system. An example of this training is Prevent Injury, Enhance Performance (PEP) program and the FIFA 11 program. Both are free and no training is needed to teach athletes. Easy to follow videos of workouts can be found on-line for free. Below are links to their respective sites:

http://health.usf.edu/medicine/orthopaedic/smart/pep/index.htm

http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/footballdevelopment/medical/playershealth/the11/index.html

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thStretching doesn’t take a lot of time and the benefits are pretty substantial.  Not stretching can lead to slower recovery and potential injuries.  The benefits are even greater.

  • Greater Strength – Stretching improves circulation to the muscles.  This helps provide greater nutrients to muscles and helps them recover faster between workouts.  With increased blood flow there is less soreness and muscle fatigue which allows for more frequent and high intensity workouts where the increased strength comes in.
  • More Flexibility – As you get older your muscles shorten and tighten.  This decreases the range of motion and you are at a greater chance for injury.  Stretching is the best way to improve flexibility.
  • Good for Circulation – As stated above, stretching improves circulation to muscles.  Increased blood circulation helps in promoting cell growth and organ function.  This also impacts the heart rate as it will be lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Reduced Stress – The muscles loosed and built up stress is released when you stretch.  Additionally, it releases and endorphin that causes a feeling of calmness and wellbeing.  If you are having a tough time sleeping, try stretching the muscles in the neck and shoulders before you call it a night.
  • Increase Range of Motion – Stretching increases the range of motion of joints.  This helps with balance and performance.  With a greater range of motion you have more complete workouts with better form and comprehensive muscle recruitment.
  • Enhanced Coordination – Stretching increases range of motion which leads to better coordination and balance. This will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older
  • Better Posture – Stretching helps maintain proper posture through more flexible muscles and joints. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.

For some simple stretching guidelines:

  •  Stretch a minimum of 3 times a week, completing   at least 5 different stretches
  •  Hold stretch for 10 – 30 seconds each
  •  Hold stretch to the point of mild discomfort
  •  Repeat each stretch 3 – 4 times

Stretch on!

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kaleIt’s not quite flu season but that is no reason to not get a jump on strengthening your immune system.  In a recent article on www.naturaltherapypages.com, Kat Tate recommends 10 ways you can do this pretty simply.

  1.  Eat your Greens.  Greens contain the nutrients you need to stay healthy and build white blood cells.  They also contain much-needed antioxidants which reduce risks of illnesses.
  2. Stay Relaxed.  Stress puts pressure on your immune system in a negative way which leaves you more prone to illness.  Try to alleviate stress with massage, yoga, meditation etc.
  3. Exercise.  In a study conducted in 2006, researchers found that those that exercised regularly were three times less likely to develop colds then those that did not.
  4. Get Sleep.  This is another way to reduce stress and alleviate pressure on your immune system.  When you don’t get enough sleep inflammatory chemicals increase which leads to illness.
  5. Spend Time with Friends.  Studies show that people who spend time alone have poorer health than those that socialize regularly.
  6. Stop Smoking.  In addition to damaging your skin and internal organs, smoking triggers inflammation.  When you smoke or are exposed to smoke you are more likely to develop illnesses.
  7. Spend Time in the Sun.  Most of us are Vitamin D deficient but you can combat that by getting a little sun every day.  Vitamin D is key in functions like bone health, neuromuscular function, cancer prevention, and enhancing the immune system.
  8. Eat Bacteria.  Good bacteria are found in probiotics, yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut.  Consuming these microorganisms can reduce infections and other ailments.
  9. Get Immunized.  Make sure you are up to date on all of your immunizations because they can keep illnesses and infections at bay.
  10. Reach for Herbs.  There are plants like ginseng, astragalus, garlic, and Echinacea that can help boost your immune system.

For more advice on ways to boost your immune system consult a health professional such as a dietician, nutritionists or naturopath.

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thCAP370U2Everyone always told me that it was best for me to cool down after a workout.  I am not really sure why.  I think I remember something about muscle soreness or flexibility.  I didn’t listen well and skipped the cool down almost every time.  Now it looks like I may have not missed out on much.

The Journal of Human Kinetics conducted a study of 36 active adults that participated in a strenuous one-time program of forward lunges with barbels in hand.  This type of exercise is guaranteed to make most people very sore whether they are in shape or not.  In the comparison, one group warmed up before exercising by riding a stationary bike for 20 minutes.  In another group did not warm up but cooled down for 20 minutes after by the same method of cycling.  The third and final group just did the lunges without warming up or cooling down.

The next day all volunteered did a pain threshold test.  The ones that warmed up before exercising had the highest pain threshold and were relatively pain-free.  Those that cooled down had the opposite results.  They had low pain threshold and the much more pain.  This is equivalent to the control group that did not warm up or cool down.

There were two other studies published in The Journal of Human Kinetics and The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research where professional soccer players underwent a series of physical test to include vertical leap, sprinting speed, agility and leg flexibility.  After the assessment they participated in a regular soccer practice.  When all of this was complete some just stopped exercising and others did a cool down.  When questioned about how sore they were the next day there was no difference between those that did nothing after exercise and those that cooled down.  Both groups experienced soreness.

There are other studies like this that have had the same results so is there a really good reason to cool down after a workout?  Andrea Fradkin, an associate professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania thinks there is a good reason to cool down.  She says, “A cool-down has been shown to prevent venous pooling after exercise.” When exercising the blood vessels in your legs expand and when you stop abruptly the blood pools in your lower body, which can lead to dizziness or even fainting. Walking for a few minutes or cooling down after can prevent this from happening.  Also, some feel that a cool down after a hard session can just feel good.

Since there is not research showing any negative effects when cooling down if probably won’t hurt you.  If cooling down isn’t for you then don’t feel the need to have to do it.

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foot-on-scaleThe ROI of workplace wellness programs is proven.  We also know that ROI increases as participation increases.  Many times motivation is driven by the employees’ knowledge they need to lose weight, do more physical activity or just live a healthier lifestyle.  However, employees need to get their first and what if they don’t?  What if they don’t think they are unhealthy?

A recent study shows that this may happen more often than realized.  In the study, 2800 employees were surveyed and 87% said they thought they were in good health.  Only 23% reported they were overweight.  However, the real numbers showed that 66% had a BMI that would classify them as overweight or obese.  Based on the survey, 53% were wrong about the state of their health.  They were not as healthy as they thought.

Perhaps if they had the information on their health they would make different choices such as being more motivated to live a healthier lifestyle or participate in their company’s wellness program.

Being overweight or obese is linked to problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancer.  It can not only impact their health but also their professional live.  They may take more sick days, be less productive, less motivated and just less happy overall which translates into higher overall costs for the company.

So, how do you get employees to buy into participation in the company’s wellness program or to live a healthier lifestyle?  First, give them the information they need.  Health risk assessments that include biometric screenings and blood work can be the first step.  After employees have this information they may need assistance to interpret the results so they can have a better understanding of their current health status.  Once they know where they stand, provide opportunities to learn through wellness classes, on-line quizzes, posters, informational e-mails, and one-on-one health coaching.

For those that are truly already healthy, you can motivate a continued healthy lifestyle by sharing other benefits such as stress reduction, longer lives, or better overall health with decreased chance of diseases.  Offering incentives such as lower health insurance premiums, gift cards, or other prizes can also be motivation to some.  However, the first goal is awareness followed by support and education for all for an overall healthier and happier life.

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Research has shown that what you eat and drink can protect your body against health issues to include heart disease.

One of the recommendations is to vary the types of fish, vegetables, whole grains, and other items you enjoy every day. This article reviews a list that has been put together by Deborah Hastings of Prevention.com of the world’s 25 top foods for your heart.  Here is the second bunch that you can mix and match these for a healthier diet.

Raisins – This high energy, low-fat snack is easy to carry and easy to eat.  Raisins are high in fiber which is associated with lower cholesterol and greater heart health.  They also contain flavonols and isoflavanols, 2 common antioxidants.  A 2012 study by the American College of Cardiology found that raisins helped in reducing high blood pressure.

brocBroccoli – This vegetable can provide some cholesterol lowing benefits like high fiber and antioxidants.  An added benefit is the high supplies of vitamin K and A in this green veggie.

Brussels sprouts – These have similar benefits to broccoli as far as fiber and antioxidants are concerned.  They are great for reducing inflammation in the cardiovascular system and improving blood vessel health.

Cauliflower – Even though it looks like a vegetable, you are really eating the flower of a plant.  It’s packed with antioxidants, high in fiber, and contains allicin, a component of garlic shown to help lower the risk of heart attacks and reduce cholesterol.

Sweet potatoes – This is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.  A medium-sized sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C needed, almost 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10 percent of the necessary potassium.  Like other vegetables previously mentioned, sweet potatoes are high in fiber and antioxidants which means a healthier heart. NCI5_POTATO

Whole grains – These are unrefined grains that have not had their bran and germ removed by milling so they are a better source of fiber than refined or enriched grains.  They also a great source for selenium, potassium and magnesium.  In addition to protecting against cardiovascular disease they have also been linked to protection against diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Apples – The pectin in apples helps lower LDLs.  Research shows that those who eat 2 apples a day may lower their cholesterol by as much as 40 percent.  The skin also contains antioxidants which shield cholesterol from free-radical assaults.

oraOranges – They are rich in fiber which reduces cholesterol and is helpful in preventing atherosclerosis.  The high content of Vitamin C, flavonoids and phyto-nutrients reduces the risk of heart disease.  Citrus also contains hesperidin, a plant chemical that improves blood flow to the heart.

Grapefruit – Similar to oranges, grapefruit contains high levels of vitamin C.  According to research, vitamin C can help protect against stroke and helps reduce cholesterol.  This fruit also contains over 1500 IU of vitamin A which also functions as an antioxidant.

Acocado and oil

Acocado and oil

Avocado – Most fats in avocados are monounsaturated fats (good fats) which help lower triglycerides in the bloodstream.  Adding one to two avocados a day can lower your triglycerides by as much as 20 percent.   They also contain vitamin B6 which prevents homocysteine from forming cholesterol deposits around the heart.

Avocado oil – Because this fruit is pressed from the oil of the avocado it has the same healthy heart properties as the fruit itself.  The Journal of American College published a report that found that avocado oil is comparable to olive oil as a healthy heart choice for dietary oil.

Olive oil – The purer the olive oil the more good fat it contains.  Similar to avocados, avocados contain monounsaturated fats (good fats) which help lower triglycerides in the bloodstream.  Because it helps unclog your arteries it is considerably more healthy for your heart than vegetable oil.

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1294539597440633048bananaBananas are considered one of natures “super foods” because it is rich in vitamins and minerals.  It also had four times the protein and twice the health carbs as apples.  They are the perfect snack for anyone but a recent study has shown bananas are especially good for endurance athletes in maintaining stamina. . . even better than sports drinks.  The study was sponsored by Dole Foods and conducted by Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab.   The study centered on the health benefits of bananas for athletic performance.  In the study, 14 cyclists were divided into 2 groups.  One group drank a cup of ports drink every 15 minutes for a 75 kilometer simulated road race.  The other group ate a half of a banana every 15 minutes for the same distance.  Through blood tests, researchers were able to see:

  • Bananas contained healthier sugars than the sports drinks.
  • Bananas had greater nutritional benefits than the sports drinks.  Nutrients include fiber, potassium and vitamin B-6.
  • Bananas are rich in anti-oxidants.

Though this study focused on cyclists it looks like bananas might be healthier alternative to sports drinks for all athletes.

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