Get Moving Monday: Are You Eating Enough?

The majority of the time when you’re having a problem losing weight, it’s not because you aren’t making good food choices. The reason why your weight loss has stagnated is because you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight.

What Happens When You’re Not Eating Enough Calories?

When most people start dieting, they slash their calories and add a large amount of exercise to their daily routine. That’s fine, but they usually cut their calories way too low. Add in the extra exercise, and all of a sudden you have an extreme calorie deficit that is working against you.

Not eating enough calories causes many metabolic changes. Your body is a smart machine and senses a large decrease in dietary energy. Your large calorie deficit might work for a few days or even weeks, but eventually your body will wake up and sound alarms that it needs to conserve energy.

It doesn’t want to just waste away. It needs that energy (fat) to survive. So, what does your body do when it senses prolonged energy restriction? Not eating enough calories…

  • Slows down thyroid production – Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism, among other things. Your body has the ability to slow down thyroid output in an effort to maintain energy balance.
  • Decreases muscle mass – Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain. In a prolonged extreme calorie deficit, it is one of the first things that your body looks to burn. Your body needs the fat, wants the fat, and the muscle can be spared. It breaks down the muscle tissue and uses it for energy.
  • Lowers testosterone levels – An important hormone for both men and women, testosterone is just one of many hormones that are affected with severe calorie restriction. Testosterone is anabolic to muscle tissue. Without it, it becomes that much harder to maintain, let alone put on muscle mass.
  • Decreases leptin levels – Leptin is one of many energy regulating hormones. More importantly, it’s a “hunger” hormone that tells you whether to eat or not. High leptin levels signal that it’s OK to stop eating, while low leptin levels are a signal to eat more energy. Because of this, leptin levels decrease in calorie restricted environments.
  • Decreases energy levels – There are many physical actions your body takes when you’re not eating enough calories, but there are also some mental ones. Neurotransmitter production is limited, which can lead to a lack of motivation. It’s your body’s way of telling you to “slow down” – conserve your energy.

How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?

Your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible and still lose weight. You always want to start high and then come down with your calorie intake. It’s much easier to do this than come up in calories after your weight loss has stalled and you’ve lost all your motivation.

How many calories should you eat? There is no perfect number. Each person’s metabolism is different. Calorie calculators are a good starting point, but they can’t take into account all the individualistic variables.

To do that, you need to find your calorie intake either through:

  • Experimentation – Journal your caloric intake and compare your weight loss and gain on the scale until you achieve optimal results.
  • Measure it with a device – A device, such as a type of pedometer watch, that measures steps and body movement are found it to be accurate within a 10% margin of error. Many will give you the amount of calories you burned in a 24 hour period. With this information, you should be able to adjust your caloric intake to reflect a loss on the scale.

The problem is most people want the weight gone, and they want it gone now. Weight loss is a patience game. It takes time and consistency to make it work.

Losing 1% of your body mass each week is the most I would aim for. At this pace, it will ensure that the majority of your weight loss is coming from stored body fat instead of muscle. You will also give yourself the best chance to build muscle while you lose fat, which is what you should be striving to do.

So if your progress has stalled, but you think you’re eating the right foods and exercising intensely, more than likely your problem is that you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight. Eat as much as you can, get in as many nutrients as possible, and your weight loss will start moving forward again.

Source: http://www.coachcalorie.com/not-eating-enough-calories-to-lose-weight/

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Get Moving Monday: Avoid Winter Weight Gain

Do you dread the holidays with all those tempting, fattening foods? This year, be prepared for the season with this five-point plan to beat winter weight gain.

Winter can be a bleak time of year for dieters, and not just because of the holidays. The cold weather can interrupt your workout routine, make you more likely to reach for comfort foods like mac and cheese, and can even send you on a mood roller coaster that can lead to overeating.

“Although seasonal weight gain varies from person to person, there have been surveys that show an average of a five to seven pound gain in weight in winter,” says Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

The good news about fighting the pounds of winter is that cold and dark do not appear to be responsible for overeating, for most of us. “A small percentage of people in winter may develop seasonal affective disorder, which is clinical depression brought on by winter’s short days; many of these people may have trouble overeating,” says Cheskin. “But that is due to the depression itself, and people with this disorder are just as likely to undereat as to overeat, which is true of all people who suffer clinical depression.

For the rest of us, winter weight gain is largely the result of reduced exercise and increased eating, Cheskin says. “Research studies show that the ‘hibernation theory’ of winter overeating does not hold up for the vast majority of us who do not have seasonal affective disorder.”

So this year, be prepared for the season with our five-point plan to beat winter weight gain.

1. Exercise, exercise, exercise
“Setting a regular fitness schedule is the key to keeping weight off in winter,” says Lisa Giannetto, MD, an assistant clinical professor in the Diet and Fitness Center at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “Come five o’clock, when it’s pitch black and cold out, you’re a lot more likely to go to your warm home and watch TV if you don’t have a regular fitness schedule that includes a variety of types of exercises.”

2. Never go to a party hungry
“Fruits and vegetables are where we need to get our carbohydrates, and not from alcohol and brownies,” says Jule Anne Henstenberg, RD, director of the nutrition program at La Salle University. “Use high-fiber fruits and vegetables to fill up before a party.” Eat a bunch of baby carrots, a big salad, or an apple, for example, to curb your desire for empty party-food calories.

“When we eat outside the home, studies suggest that we may take in 40% more calories than we would otherwise,” says Cheskin. “We even have seen this finding replicated in animal models.” So much of our eating is not related to hunger, he says. The more variety of foods available at a meal, the more likely you are to eat more food.

“The stress of a social setting and an environment with many food choices and alcohol will tend to foster overeating,” Cheskin says. “So these are good times to be on guard.”

3. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol is loaded with calories. And since “many holiday celebrations involve drinking, it’s easy to take in a lot of calories without being aware that you are,” says Scott Isaacs, MD, clinical instructor of medicine at Emory University and medical director at Intelligent Health Center. “Drink a glass of water before and after each alcoholic beverage to help pace yourself and to dilute calories,” says Isaacs.

4. Practice calorie damage control
“If you do overeat, don’t ‘fall off the wagon.'” says Isaacs. “Make up for it by cutting your calories for a few days and adding extra exercise.” And get exercise in anywhere you can, says Giannetto. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break and after dinner. At work, use stairs rather than the elevator. “When you get just 100 fewer calories per day through dieting and exercise or both, that is the equivalent of 10 pounds per year.”

5. Remember to have fun
“The main reason you’re at a party is to see people and celebrate, not to eat a lot of high-calorie foods,” says Cheskin. “So be aware of why you’re there and make that your focus.”

Source: http://www.webmd.com/diet/5-tips-to-avoid-winter-weight-gain?page=2

Wellness wednesday: Tips for Eating a Low Glycemic Index Diet

The glycemic index measures how much a fixed quantity of different foods raises your blood-sugar levels compared with a standard, pure glucose (GI=100). Foods with a high GI value (greater than 70) tend to cause a higher spike in blood sugar—and in insulin, the hormone that helps glucose get into cells. The spikes are especially problematic for people with diabetes, who lack an effective insulin system to clear the sugar from their blood. And, because high-GI foods are so quickly metabolized, they tend to make you hungry again sooner, says David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., a Harvard endocrinologist and author of Ending the Food Fight (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Ludwig’s research found that obese teenage boys were hungrier after they’d eaten a high-GI breakfast of instant oatmeal, and ate 600 to 700 calories more at lunchtime than when they’d breakfasted on moderate- or low-GI meals like steel-cut oats or omelets.

By contrast, lower-GI foods (under 55) are metabolized more slowly, and are believed to keep your appetite on a more even keel. Some experts think that by tempering blood-sugar surges, eating low-GI foods may even help prevent the damage to cells that’s caused by high blood-glucose concentrations.

Following the glycemic index (GI) system can be confusing—“but only if you spend too much time crunching numbers and not looking at the big picture,” says Joyce Hendley, EatingWell’s nutrition editor and author of The EatingWell Diabetes Cookbook (The Countryman Press). Knowing a few overall principles can make low-glycemic eating much simpler, she explains:

1. Bigger is better.

Large food particles take longer for the body to break down and absorb, so they move more slowly through your digestive system. So in general, the more intact and less processed a food is, the lower its GI. Think whole rather than refined grains, whole fruit rather than fruit juice, steel-cut oats rather than instant oatmeal and stone-ground rather than plain cornmeal. When buying whole-grain bread choose stone-ground, sprouted or cracked-wheat types; the grain kernels should be visible.

2. Fiber up.

By definition, fiber is the part of plant foods that cannot be digested by the body, so fiber-rich foods like beans, nuts, dried fruits and high-fiber cereals, pasta and breads are inherently low on the GI. Focus on boosting fiber by eating more foods like these and you won’t have to think about GI.

3. Pair with protein.

When it has protein to break down, the stomach empties more slowly. Adding a little protein to a carbohydrate-based meal or snack—say, adding a few chicken strips and a sprinkle of cheese to your pasta bowl, or a light smear of peanut butter on your toast—can lower the GI value of your meal.

4. Drizzle on a healthy fat.

Like protein, fat molecules also slow down digestion, so including a little fat can lower a food’s GI and make it more satisfying. Be sure to choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats like vegetable oils and nuts. And, if you’re watching calories, be moderate: drizzle bread with a little olive oil, toss carrots with a bit of tasty dressing, sprinkle slivered almonds on your salad.

Following low-GI eating principles can help people with diabetes fine-tune their blood-sugar responses and may even help people with prediabetes lower their risk of progressing to full-blown disease. New research connects low-GI diets with lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness, and other work suggests a possible link with reducing risk for heart disease and even colorectal cancer.

And of course, there’s the tantalizing possibility that by its moderating effects on blood sugar and thus appetite, eating a low-GI diet may help people lose weight. Unfortunately, research results in this area have been mixed. Ludwig has found that low-GI diets seem to be most effective in people whose bodies secrete more insulin: more often “apple-shaped” people, who accumulate extra fat around their waists, compared to people with lower-body fat (“pear shapes”). “Apple-shaped people who have done poorly on traditional low-fat diets may do especially well on a low-glycemic-load diet,” he says. And, regardless of body shape, those who followed low-glycemic diets improved their triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels, he added; both are important risk factors for heart disease.

Sources: http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/diabetes/can_understanding_the_glycemic_index_help_you_eat_better

http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/diabetes/easy_tips_for_eating_low_on_the_glycemic_index?page=5

Wellness Wednesday: Rethink What You Drink!

When it comes to weight loss, there’s no lack of diets promising fast results. There are low-carb diets, high-carb diets, low-fat diets, grapefruit diets, cabbage soup diets, and blood type diets, to name a few. But no matter what diet you may try, to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than your body uses. Most people try to reduce their calorie intake by focusing on food, but another way to cut calories may be to think about what you drink.

What Do You Drink? It Makes More Difference Than You Think!

Calories in drinks are not hidden (they’re listed right on the Nutrition Facts label), but many people don’t realize just how many calories beverages can contribute to their daily intake. As you can see in the example below, calories from drinks can really add up. But there is good news: you have plenty of options for reducing the number of calories in what you drink.

Occasion Instead of… Calories Try… Calories
Morning coffee shop run Medium café latte (16 ounces) made with whole milk 265 Small café latte (12 ounces) made with fat-free milk 125
Lunchtime combo meal 20-oz. bottle of nondiet cola with your lunch 227 Bottle of water 0
Afternoon break Sweetened lemon iced tea from the vending machine (16 ounces) 180 Sparkling water with natural lemon flavor (not sweetened) 0
Dinnertime A glass of nondiet ginger ale with your meal (12 ounces) 124 Water with a slice of lemon or lime, or seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice 0 calories for the water with fruit slice, or about 30 calories for seltzer water with 2 ounces of 100% orange juice.
Total beverage calories: 796 125-155
(USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Substituting no- or low-calorie drinks for sugar-sweetened beverages cuts about 650 calories in the example above.

Of course, not everyone drinks the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages shown above. Check the list below to estimate how many calories you typically take in from beverages.

Type of Beverage
Calories in 12 ounces
Calories in 20 ounces
Fruit punch
192
320
100% apple juice
192
300
100% orange juice
168
280
Lemonade
168
280
Regular lemon/lime soda
148
247
Regular cola
136
227
Sweetened lemon iced tea (bottled, not homemade)
135
225
Tonic water
124
207
Regular ginger ale
124
207
Sports drink
99
165
Fitness water
18
36
Unsweetened iced tea
2
3
Diet soda (with aspartame)
0*
0*
Carbonated water (unsweetened)
0
0
Water
0
0
*Some diet soft drinks can contain a small number of calories that are not listed on the nutrition facts label.
( USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Milk contains vitamins and other nutrients that contribute to good health, but it also contains calories. Choosing low-fat or fat-free milk is a good way to reduce your calorie intake and still get the nutrients that milk contains.

Type of Milk
Calories per cup (8 ounces)
Chocolate milk (whole)
208
Chocolate milk (2% reduced-fat)
190
Chocolate milk (1% low-fat)
158
Whole Milk (unflavored)
150
2% reduced-fat milk (unflavored)
120
1% low-fat milk (unflavored)
105
Fat-free milk (unflavored)
90
*Some diet soft drinks can contain a small number of calories that are not listed on the nutrition facts label.
( USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Be aware that the Nutrition Facts label on beverage containers may give the calories for only part of the contents. The example below shows the label on a 20-oz. bottle. As you can see, it lists the number of calories in an 8-oz. serving (100) even though the bottle contains 20 oz. or 2.5 servings. To figure out how many calories are in the whole bottle, you need to multiply the number of calories in one serving by the number of servings in the bottle (100 x 2.5). You can see that the contents of the entire bottle actually contain 250 calories even though what the label calls a “serving” only contains 100. This shows that you need to look closely at the serving size when comparing the calorie content of different beverages.

NUTRITION FACTS LABEL
Serving Size 8 fl. oz.
Servings Per Container 2.5
Amount per serving
Calories 100

Sweeteners that add calories to a beverage go by many different names and are not always obvious to anyone looking at the ingredients list. Some common caloric sweeteners are listed below. If these appear in the ingredients list of your favorite beverage, you are drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage.

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose

High-Calorie Culprits in Unexpected Places

Coffee drinks and blended fruit smoothies sound innocent enough, but the calories in some of your favorite coffee-shop or smoothie-stand items may surprise you. Check the Web site or in-store nutrition information of your favorite coffee or smoothie shop to find out how many calories are in different menu items. And when a smoothie or coffee craving kicks in, here are some tips to help minimize the caloric damage:

At the coffee shop:

  • Request that your drink be made with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
  • Order the smallest size available.
  • Forgo the extra flavoring – the flavor syrups used in coffee shops, like vanilla or hazelnut, are sugar-sweetened and will add calories to your drink.
  • Skip the Whip. The whipped cream on top of coffee drinks adds calories and fat.
  • Get back to basics. Order a plain cup of coffee with fat-free milk and artificial sweetener, or drink it black.

At the smoothie stand:

  • Order a child’s size if available.
  • Ask to see the nutrition information for each type of smoothie and pick the smoothie with the fewest calories.
  • Hold the sugar. Many smoothies contain added sugar in addition to the sugar naturally in fruit, juice, or yogurt. Ask that your smoothie be prepared without added sugar: the fruit is naturally sweet.

Better Beverage Choices Made Easy

Now that you know how much difference a drink can make, here are some ways to make smart beverage choices:

  • Choose water or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Don’t “stock the fridge” with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
  • Serve water with meals.
  • Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water.
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
  • When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size. Some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
  • Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages

Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

Get Moving Monday: Walking Is Great Exercise!

It’s a gentle, low-impact form of exercise that’s free, easy and suitable for people of all ages and most abilities. Here is why it is so good for you:

1. It strengthens your heart

Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and keeps blood pressure in check.”Anything that raises your heart rate and gets your blood pumping is a workout for your heart and circulatory system,” says personal trainer Stuart Amory. According to the Stroke Association, walking briskly for up to 30 minutes can help prevent and control the high blood pressure that can cause strokes – reducing your risk by up to 27 per cent.

2. It lowers disease risk

As well as heart disease, a walking habit can slash your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma and some cancers. A study in the British Medical Journal showed taking more steps every day can help ward off diabetes. And according to the charity Walking For Health, regular exercise such as walking could reduce risk by up to 60 per cent. Those of us who are active have around a 20 per cent lower risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and womb than those least active.

3. It keeps weight in check

“If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to burn about 600 calories a day more than you’re eating,” says Amory. “Putting one foot in front of the other is one of the easiest ways to do that.” A person weighing 60kg burns 75 calories simply by strolling at 2mph for 30 minutes. Increase that to 3mph and they’ll burn 99 calories. Speed it up to a fast walk (4mph) and that’s 150 calories – the equivalent of three Jaffa Cakes or a jam doughnut. “Walking also increases muscle mass and tone and the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism – so the more calories you burn, even at rest,” he adds.

4. It can help prevent dementia

Dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80. We know being active has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise reduces dementia risk by up to 40 per cent. And, according to Age UK, older people who walk six miles or more per week could avoid brain shrinkage and so preserve memory as the years pass.

5. …and osteoporosis, too

“Walking counts as a weight-bearing activity,” says Amory. “It stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density – really important, especially for women. It also helps maintain healthy joints so may stave off conditions such as arthritis.”

6. It tones your legs, bum – and tum

A good walk can help strengthen and shape your legs, giving great definition to calves, quads, hamstrings and lifting your glutes (buttock muscles) – especially if you add hills. But if you really pay attention to your posture as you walk, it can tone your abs and whittle your waist, too.

Fitness expert Joanna Hall is founder of the Walkactive method of ‘conscious’ walking for better posture and overall fitness results. She says: “Think about lengthening up through your spine to create space between your earlobes and shoulders. Relax your shoulders, pull in your tummy and pelvic floor and imagine you have a cup of water balanced on top of each hip bone that you don’t want to spill. As you walk with this posture, your shoulders will naturally rotate and this works your oblique abdominal muscles – you’ll be taking inches off your waist with every step.”

7. Let’s not forget your arms

“Your speed when walking comes from your arms,” says Hall. “Hold them at a comfortable level, bent at the elbow, and swing them backwards and forwards as you walk. Swing them faster and you’ll automatically speed up. And all this movement tones your arms, shoulders and upper back.” Bye bye, bingo wings!

8. It boosts your vitamin D levels

If you’re walking outside in daylight, you’ll be boosting your body’s stores of vitamin D – a nutrient that’s hard to get from food, but that we can synthesize from exposure to sunlight. Many people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D and it’s a nutrient that plays a big role in everything from bone health to immunity. While sun safety is still important, experts agree that exposing as much skin as you can to the sun, little and often and without burning, will help you to produce sufficient vitamin D.

9. It gives you energy

It might seem like a paradox (and the last thing you might feel like) but a brisk walk is one of the best natural energizers around. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to each and every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and alive. It wakes up stiff joints and eases muscle tension so you feel less sluggish. Always have a mid-afternoon energy slump at work? Head out for a walk at lunchtime instead of sitting in a café or at your desk and see what a difference it makes.

10. It makes you happy

The ability of exercise to boost mood is undisputed. Studies have shown regular, moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) to be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression. Getting active releases feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety. And don’t forget it’s often a social activity – joining a walking group or meeting friends to walk and chat is a great way to banish feelings of isolation and loneliness. A survey by the charity Mind found 83 per cent of people with mental health issues look to exercise to help lift their mood. For greatest benefit, they say, get active outdoors and somewhere green.

Wellness Wednesday: Low Impact Aerobics Can Relieve Back Pain

A typical response to experiencing back pain is to take it easy – either staying in bed or at least stopping any activity that is at all strenuous. While this approach is understandable and may even be recommended in the short term, when done for more than a day or two it can actually undermine healing. Instead, active forms of back exercises are almost always necessary to rehabilitate the spine and help alleviate back pain.

When done in a controlled, gradual, and progressive manner, active back exercises distribute nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues in the back to keep the discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints healthy. Consequently, a regular routine of lower back exercises helps patients avoid stiffness and weakness, minimize recurrences of lower back pain, and reduce the severity and duration of possible future episodes of low back pain.

Depending upon the patient’s specific diagnosis and level of pain, the back pain exercises and rehabilitation programs will be very different, so it is important for patients to see a spine specialist trained to develop an individualized program of back exercises and to provide instruction on using the correct form and technique.

Just like reinforced steel can bear more weight than sheet aluminum, a strong, well-conditioned back can withstand more stress, and protect the spine better, than a back that has not been conditioned through exercise. Conditioning through flexibility and strengthening back exercises not only helps the back avoid injury, or minimize the severity of injury if the spine is traumatized, it also can help relieve the pain of many back conditions.

Many back exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Most of these back exercises focus not only on the back, but also the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles. Taken together, these strong ‘core’ muscles can provide back pain relief because they provide strong support for the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine.

Two of the most well-known back strengthening exercises are: McKenzie exercises and Dynamic Lumbar Stabilization. These back exercises are generally first learned by working with a physical therapist who can demonstrate the exercises and correct a patient’s form to ensure strengthening and/or back pain relief is achieved. Although McKenzie exercises and dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises tend to be used for specific conditions, the two forms of physical therapy exercise may also be combined when appropriate.

Along with specific back exercises, aerobic exercise that increases the heart rate for a sustained period is very beneficial for helping back problems. Aerobic exercise increases the flow of blood and nutrients to back structures which supports healing, and can decrease the stiffness in the back and joints that lead to back pain. While many patients with back pain are able to participate in vigorous exercise like running or step aerobics, others find it easier to engage in low-impact exercise, which does not jar the spine.

Reconditioning through aerobic exercise is very useful for both rehabilitation and maintenance of the lower back. Patients who regularly undertake aerobic exercise to condition the back will benefit in several ways:

  • They have fewer episodes of low back pain, and will experience less pain when an episode occurs.
  • They are also more likely to stay functional (e.g. continue working and carry on with recreational activities), whereas those patients with chronic low back pain who do not engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience the gradual loss of functional capabilities.
  • It is easier to control weight or lose weight, decreasing the stress placed on the spine structures and joints.
  • An increased production of endorphins after 30 or 40 minutes of exercise can combat pain. These bio-chemicals are the body’s natural painkiller, and frequent release of them can help patients reduce their reliance on pain medication.
  • Endorphins can elevate mood and relieve symptoms of depression, a condition common in those with back pain or a back injury.

Here are several types of aerobic exercise that are gentle on the back and, when done on a regular basis, highly effective in providing conditioning.

  • Walking. In general, walking for exercise is very gentle on the back, and walking two to three miles three times per week is very helpful for patients. Walking also has the advantage of not requiring special equipment (except a good pair of shoes suitable for walking) and it can be done inside or outside, in almost any location, including at home on a treadmill.
  • Elliptical trainer or step machine. These machines provide a low-impact workout because the participant is using pedals suspended above the ground to move in a continuous oval motion, as opposed to continuously stepping on a hard surface. The motor on the machine facilitates a smoother step or forward glide motion, which is less jarring than walking. The benefit of these machines is that they provide an aerobic workout as well as strengthening or resistance training because the arms of most cross-training machines can be pushed and pulled, thus working the upper body, and the resistance of the pedaling motion increased to require greater muscle exertion to maintain the movement.
  • Water therapy. Doing exercise in the water provides for effective conditioning while minimizing stress on the back because the buoyancy of water counteracts the gravitational pull that can compress the spine. When ‘unweighted’ in water, a patient becomes more mobile, and stretching and strengthening exercises are less painful. Exercises such as hip abduction lifts, bicep curls, arm circles to exercise deltoids and shoulders, and tricep kickbacks are all easier done water for most people. All these muscles build strength in the low back or neck, and reduce back pain. Water therapy exercise is especially useful for patients in too much pain to tolerate land exercises on a mat or hard floor, or for elderly patients.
  • Stationary bicycling. For those patients who are more comfortable seated rather than standing, biking or stationary biking may be preferable. Bicycling or ‘spinning’ classes have grown in popularity over the last decade as more people realize the benefits of this lower impact form of exercise. There are several upright and recumbent (reclining) bikes that can be purchased for home use, and many come with programs preloaded so that patients have a good variety of sessions from which to choose.Whatever low-impact exercise is used, the exercise should be vigorous enough to increase the heart rate to the target zone (which is scaled to the age of the patient) and keep it elevated. Elevating the heart rate for at least 20 minutes is required to improve cardiovascular strength, burn excess calories, and make noticeable strides in fitness.

Note: If you are experiencing chronic back pain, please seek a specialist. A professional can give you a proper diagnosis and assign the proper physical therapy regimen to alleviate the pain. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr Chambers, please call (304) 263-4927.

Source: Full article and additional links can be seen here http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/low-impact-aerobic-exercise.

Tips for Success in Planning Your Health Goals

Icon for Health Sign

The New Year brings with it a fresh start in planning your new health goals. Whether it’s changing an eating habit to lose weight or for an immediate health risk, to train for a physical activity or event, or to get into that swimsuit for the first time in years, success depends on sensible and achievable strategic planning.

Here are some tips on planning for your health goal success:

Decide on measurable steps to achieve your goal.

For example, if you are using walking as your physical exercise, how far are you going to walk? For how long? How many days each week are you going to walk? If you are focusing on your nutrition, for example if you are lowering or giving up sugar—how long? How much? During all meals or only during the week.

Track and review your progress each week. Were you able to successfully meet your goals last week? Think about what worked and what didn’t. Then plan for how you will reach your goals next week.

Focus on what’s attainable and relevant to you

Set goals that are within your capabilities and that take into account your limitations. Consider your personal fitness level, health concerns, budget, available time and motivation. Tailoring your expectations to your personal situation helps you set achievable goals. Don’t wait till you can afford to buy a new pair of running shoes or yoga pants, use what you have and make that a mini reward for achieving a milestone in your goal. If you can’t make time to work out side the home or if the weather is not ideal for walking, use your house as a indoor gyms—stairs to carry laundry or toys up and down make a great cardio workout throughout the day. Make everyday an opportunity to be working toward your health goal.

Think about timing

Timing is crucial, often making the difference between success and failure. Choose a definite start date for your health goal and don’t put that date off. Be sure to account for life circumstances that might hamper your efforts, such as work or school demands, vacations or relationship problems. You may need to resolve some issues before starting.

Set both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals keep you engaged on a daily basis, but long-term goals motivate you over the long haul. Your short-term goals are the stepping stones to your long-term goal.

Focus on the process

Make the most of your process goals, rather than outcome goals. For example, ”Exercise three times a week or cut carbs during the week” is an example of a process goal, while “weigh 145 pounds” is an example of an outcome goal. Process goals are easier to plan strategy and see the immediate success of your effort and discipline, while outcome goals can take much longer to see results. It’s changing your processes — your daily behaviors and habits — that’s key to weight loss, not necessarily focusing on a specific number on the scale.

Plan for setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Everyone who successfully makes changes in his or her life has experienced setbacks. Identifying potential roadblocks — a big holiday meal or office party, for example, and brainstorming specific strategies to overcome them can help you stay on course or get back on course. This is where tracking your progress is vital in strategically planning ahead for known roadblocks and returning back to focus.

Reassess and adjust your goals as needed

Be willing to change your goals as you make progress in your health goal plan. If you started small, you might be ready to take on larger challenges sooner or amp up your efforts if you are not reaching milestone targets. Or, you might find that you need to adjust your goals to better fit your new lifestyle as it changes. Goal setting is a fluid process, and giving yourself the ability to adjust as life develops will set the tone for success.

 What are your health goals? Are you ready to start the journey to a lifetime of wellness? Share your stories in the comments below.