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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!

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.

thIn the United States, 429 deaths out of every million were associated with over consumption of salt.  This may be an indicator that we are eating way too much salt.  This is not just a problem in the United States but all around the world.  There have been 2 recent studies that support this statement.

In the first one, the American Heart Association showed that 75% of people in the world consume more salt than recommended.  The recommended amount of salt consumption by the World Health Organization is less than 2,000 milligrams a day while the amount recommended by the American Heart Association is 1,500 milligrams a day.  The study of 187 countries found that people around the world are eating nearly 4,000 milligrams a day on average.

On the low side, countries like Kenya and Malawi consume about 2,000 milligrams a day.  Higher consuming countries like Kazakhstan, Mauritius, and Uzbekistan take in around 6,000 milligrams a day.  The United States sits in the middle at 3,600 milligrams a day.

A second study involving the American Heart Association, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers found that over consuming salt was associated with 2.3 million deaths in 2010.  These deaths were from heart related causes.

So, what are the biggest salt offenders and what should you be closely watching in your diet to reduce sodium intake?  The list below shows the largest offenders and the percentage of total daily sodium intake.  Perhaps reducing these will reduce your daily intake and lead to a healthier heart.

  • Breads and rolls                             7.2%
  • Cold cuts and cured meats           5.5%
  • Pizza                                                  5%
  • Poultry                                              4.5%
  • Soups                                                4.2%
  • Sandwiches                                      4.5%
  • Cheese                                              3.9%
  • Pasta mixed dishes                         3.4%
  • Meat mixed dishes                          3.5%
  • Savory snacks                                   2.8%

fruitWith the rise in minor digestive disorders many nutritionists contribute this to our modern diet.  It may seem like common sense but the solution to the problem is the same as the culprit.  Instead of eating foods that disrupt the diet, eat foods that aid in digestion.  This article recommends some of the best foods that aid in the digestive process.  http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/best_foods_for_digestion?utm_source=pulsenews&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ntpages+%28Articles+from+ntpages.com.au%29

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.

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.

wellness-programs-reduce-worker-medical-costsA recent report published by American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that workplace wellness programs can reduce medical costs by more than 18% for the average employee.  The study combined data from the Global Burden of Disease Study and Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys to estimate the annual savings from lowering risk factors typically managed by workplace wellness programs.  The report found that wellness programs could reduce costs for risks such as physical inactivity, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.  If these risk factors were lowered to their “theoretical minimum” health care costs would be lowered by an average of $650 per person or 18.4%.  For aging employees or retirees who participate in the wellness program this savings can be up to 28%.  Though these savings may not be immediately attainable they would increase over time.  Additionally, as employee participation increased so would the overall savings to the company.

Another thing to keep in mind is the indirect savings from a comprehensive wellness program in addition to the decrease health care cost.  Wellness programs can lead to fewer employee sick days, lower employee turnover, and increased employee productivity and engagement.  When all of these factors are taken into consideration the 18.4% savings is just the beginning of the savings you can realize from the incorporation of a wellness program.

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