Archive for the ‘Mental Wellness’ Category

rollITWhen you want some of the benefits of a sports massage but don’t have the money you may want to try foam rolling.  For various reasons including disuse, not stretching, and injuries, the fascia and underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together.  This adhesion of the fascia to the muscle restricts muscle movement.  It can also cause pain, soreness and reduced flexibility.  Foam rolling stretches muscles and tendons and breaks down the soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue.

To foam roll all you need is a cylindrical foam roller which you use your own body weight to perform a sort of self massage.  There are several website with instructions and videos on various foam rolling exercises.  An example of one of these sites is at the link below:


If you are still not sure if this is for you, here are some benefits you may experience when foam rolling:

  • Help prevent injuries:  One of the most important reasons for a regular foam-rolling routine is to prevent exercise-related injuries. Foam rolling every day ensures you are massaging away fascia buildup in your muscles, in order to help prevent those areas from becoming injury trigger points.
  • Help distress:  Foam rolling helps releases tension that is built up in the connective tissue which also keeps you less stressed.  Even sitting all day at the office puts stress on your body.  An all-over body routine can help you distress after a long day at work.
  • Helps with flexibility:  Breaking down the soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue while stretching the muscles will build up your flexibility.  This will also help in any fitness routine.  It can also help combat tightness from sitting as well as lower back pain.
  • Improves blood circulation:  Foam rolling improves blood circulation in the skin, fascia, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  With improved circulation comes more efficient exchange of nutrients and wastes at cellular level.

The use of foam rollers has increased over the past ten years and will likely continue to grow.  It is a low-cost investment for a potentially great return towards your overall health.


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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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Would you like to be part of an organization that is flexible, adaptive, and firing at peak performance a majority of the time?  Find out how to achieve and maintain this peak performance by directing energy in the right direction through physical, social and mental fitness.

Maintaining Physical, Social and Mental Fitness for Peak Performance 

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skiI usually post my articles on Wednesday of each week but I missed this past Wednesday.  I decided to take the day off and spend it skiing and posting an article completely slipped my mind.  I felt a little bad about missing my posting but now this is an opportunity to write a little bit about the benefits of skiing and how to be prepared when you hit the slopes.

Some don’t understand why skiers would spend the money on gear, tickets, and transportation to spend 6 – 7 hours pushing your physical limits in (sometimes) freezing temperatures.  Sure there are fitness benefits but there is more to it.  Here are a few to include the fitness benefits:

  • Fitness Benefits – Skiing is a weight-bearing exercise which strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis.  Skiing successfully requires balance, coordination, agility, and spatial awareness.  It also provides some cardiovascular fitness.  A person weighing 160 pounds burns 365 calories an hour downhill skiing.
  •  Motivation to Stay in Shape – Skiing itself has health benefits but it also can motivate you to stay in shape.  When ski season is approaching, I spend more time focused on my balance and leg strength so I can enjoy the experience and prevent injuries.  Because skiing is so physically taxing there may be a desire to train harder for ski season but low-impact aerobic training is the way to go.  Try shorter, less intense runs, elliptical workouts and yoga or Pilates.
  • Overcoming the Winter Blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression caused by the longer hours of darkness and cold temperatures.  To combat these winter blues, skiing provides some sunshine, physical activity and social interaction.
  • Social Benefits – Skiing is one of those physical activities that almost anyone can do despite age, size, and fitness level.  It’s also an activity that the entire family can enjoy.  Skiing always offers the opportunities to meet new people on the lift, on the slopes, or in the lodge.

If you are now motivated to hit the slopes, here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Prepare yourself physically by jogging, using the elliptical trainer or doing some leg strength training exercises.  This will help you avoid muscle strain and injury.
  • Don’t overdo it.  Most injuries happen at the end of the day when people are fatigued and going for that last run of the day.  Listen to your body and when you are tired it’s ok to call it a day.
  • Drink enough fluids even though it’s cold and you don’t feel thirsty.  You can become easily dehydrated in the cold dry weather in no time.  The same goes for fuel.  Eat enough food to keep you energized throughout the day even if you are not hungry.
  • Wear appropriate gear for comfort, warmth and protection.  Helmets and sunscreen area must.
  • If you are a first time skier, spend the money and take a lesson.  It’s better to learn to ski the right way than through trial and error.

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happyWe all know that certain healthy behaviors like exercise, nutrition, and everyday habits can extend the average life expectancy.  But does personality also affect how long you might live?  It’s possible according to recent research evaluating how personality can impact our life span.

It’s also important to remember other things in addition to life style such as genetics can determine your life expectancy.  However, it has also been found that six traits in particular can lead to longer lives.  Do you have any of these traits?

  • Conscientious – Authors Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin wrote the book, “The Longevity Project” which looked at research over the past 80 years that associated being conscientious with living longer.  The authors found that, “young adults who were thrifty, persistent, detail oriented, and responsible lived the longest.”  They felt that those that were more conscientious were more likely to take care of themselves and avoid risks.
  • Easy to Laugh – In a study published in the journal of Aging researchers found that frequent laughter led to a longer lifespan.  In the study, researches worked with 243 centenarians and found qualities associated with a positive attitude towards life to include lots of laughter.
  • Socially Connected – Strong social relationships can increase your odd of survival by 50 percent according to researchers at BYU and University of NC.  Because the positive social interaction you benefit psychologically and physically.
  • Optimistic – In the same study that identified frequent laugher as way to increase longevity, they found optimism might serve the same purpose.
  • Happy – Want to live longer?  Be happy!  A study found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found older people who reported they were happy had a 35 percent decreased risk of dying over five years.
  • Extroverted – When looking at the offspring of centenarians most were high in extroversion and low in neuroticism.  This leads to physical health benefits and a longer life.  These people are able to better manage stress and have lower anxiety.

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There are many studies out there that demonstrate the mental benefits of exercise.  Endurance exercise can boost the number of memory and learning neurons in the brain.  Exercise has also been found to relieve stress by decreasing cortisol and increasing endorphins.  When it comes to memory and learning, what exactly is the science between exercise and brain functioning?  A recent study published in Learning and Memory found the key may be in the muscles.  The lead scientist in the research, Henriette van Praag, believed that exercise causes your muscles to produce a substance that leads to stronger muscles and some of those compounds travel to the brain to enhance functioning.

Using mice as test subjects and two drugs to simulate exercise, van Praag set out to see whether changes in muscles initiated changes in the brain.  The two drugs used were Aicar and GW1516.  Aicar boosts muscle production of AMPK which is an enzyme produced through exercise.  It has been previously found that mice who took Aicar ran 44% faster than mice who did not receive the drug.  GW1516 increased endurance in animals that ran but didn’t have much of an effect on mice that were sedentary.

The drugs were given to the unexercised mice for a week and found that the mice who received the drugs performed better on learning and memory tests than those that did not exercise or receive drugs.  When the brains of the mice that were given the drugs were later examined they found they had many more neurons in the learning and memory parts of the brains than the control mice.

One of the other things that van Praag shared was that the drugs do not cross the blood-brain barrier so she was fairly confident that the changes they were seeing the brains of the mice were related to an exercise-type reaction and not a reaction from the drugs specifically.  Van Praag also thinks the AMPK enzyme created during exercise enters the blood stream and enters the brain to aid in the enhanced memory and learning.

These drugs that were used in the experiment are not meant as a substitution for exercise.  In fact, when scientists continued to inject the mice for another week the subjects brains stopped responding and began to lose their increased ability to learn.  Thus, van Praag concluded that exercise was a good and safe way to enhance memory and learning.

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