Why women need to lift weights

Photo by Maria Fernanda Gonzalez

Strength training isn’t just for men and their quest to be ripped. Recent studies show that lifting weights may have important health benefits for women, especially older women.

When considering a strength training program, whether you go to the gym, hire a trainer or work out at home, proper form is critical, as is finding the right amount of weight and intensity for your fitness level.

Always warm up first with a few minutes of walking or light cardio exercise. Lift and lower your weights slowly, engage your abdominal muscles and remember to breathe. Resistance training using your own body weight is also a valuable part of your program.

Here’s how strength training matters to women:
  • Lowers the risk of diabetes by preventing inflammation and blood sugar spikes, especially for overweight postmenopausal women
  • Boosts bone density - it optimizes bone mass in younger women and stimulates bone formation in those with osteoporosis.
  • Soothes low back pain by strengthening your core
  • Prevents frailty and loss of muscle mass that’s common as we age
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease by enhancing blood flow and reducing blood pressure
  • Makes you smarter - researchers found that senior women who did weekly strength training improved their executive cognitive function by at least 10%
  • Improves the quality of your muscles, which allows for more flexible joints and better range of motion

Make sure you give each muscle group a full day or more to recover after each workout. And listen to your body – even though it’s normal to experience mild soreness in your muscles, you’ve overdone it if you feel any sharp pain or end up with sore or swollen joints.

Are you getting enough vitamin D?

Photo by Bryan Minear

The sun is vital to our very existence on this planet, and the sunshine vitamin - vitamin D - is vital to health while we’re here. Nearly all of our our cells have receptors for vitamin D, which means it’s an integral part of our body’s ability to function. That includes our fat cells, which unfortunately tend to cling to vitamin D and block it from the rest of the body.

Maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D in your diet and through supplements can help ward off a variety of health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Spending about ten minutes outdoors each day without sunscreen is another way to absorb vitamin D, but depending on the weather where you live, it may not be enough.

Here’s where studies have shown vitamin D to have an impact:

Prevents inflammation
Reduces chronic pain
Maintains a healthy immune system
Lowers blood sugar
Prolongs cognition as we age
Lowers the risks of cancer
Improves our bone density
Minimizes risk of bone fractures
Helps our body absorb and retain calcium

You’ve probably seen both D2 and D3 on the shelves of your pharmacy. D3 comes from lichen or sheep lanolin and D2 comes from fungi. Our bodies can absorb D3 much better than D2, so D3 is best when you have a deficiency.

Contact me for recommendations on the most effective natural supplements so you know you’re always getting your daily dose of D, even when the sun’s not shining.

Stretches that ease the pain of tech neck

stretches for tech neck

Americans spend an average of 9 hours per day engaged in screen time, which means we are putting a tremendous amount of stress on our spine. By the time you recognize that you’re in pain, you may have already caused some damage - either in your muscles, ligaments, joints or nerves.

Just like you would stretch your body after every workout, stretching your neck after every extended period of screen time will help prevent injury and pain in the future.

Chin Tuck

Move your chin down toward your chest and hold for 5 seconds. You’ll feel a comfortable stretch from the bottom of your neck up to the base of your skull. Slowly raise your head to look straight ahead. Repeat 8-10 times.

Head Tilt

Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder and hold for 20 seconds. Slowly bring your head back to the center, and then tilt it to the left and hold for another 20 seconds. Do this 3-5 times on each side.

Neck Rotation

Turn your head to the right so your chin is hovering over your right shoulder and hold for 20 seconds. Bring your head slowly back to the center, and then turn it to the left and hold for another 20 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

If you’re reading this, your neck probably hurts

tech neck remedies

We do love our devices, don’t we? Cell phones, tablets and laptops are not just convenient tools of the trade, they have become completely indispensable to daily life. But our need for 24/7 access and availability comes with a cost to our bodies.

The simple act of looking down at your screen on a regular basis can lead to degenerative changes to your neck, muscle strain, headaches and even spinal injury. We tend to hunch our shoulders forward and hold our necks at a very unnatural angle for long periods of time while we use our devices.

It’s called “tech neck” and the pain is real. Tilting your head forward by just 15 degrees actually puts an extra 27 pounds of stress on the cervical spine – aka your neck.
damage from tech neck

But there are some easy ways to prevent tech neck by improving your posture while texting, reading, working, gaming and watching videos.

Take a little break

Try taking a 3-minute break every 20 minutes while you are using your device. Look up, change your position and move around for a bit. Your device is smart – use an app or alarm to set break reminders.

Take a load off

Sit in an ergonomic chair with a headrest and keep the back of your head flush against it while using your device. You’ll get better support for your lower back, too.

Take it to higher ground

Use a holder to elevate your device closer to eye-level, which can significantly reduce how much you need to flex your neck and head forward.

Take heed with pain

If you feel pain in your neck or between your shoulders, if you have numbness or tingling in your arms, or if you experience frequent headaches - there may be something more serious going on that you can discuss with your chiropractor.

Take time to disconnect

This high-tech world can really take its toll on us. Designate time every day to put the phone down, turn off the computer and go outside. Ditch the virtual world for a while and talk to some real people!

Why daily meditation matters

why daily meditation matters

“If there is only one thing you can do every single day…meditate.”

That’s what all the experts say – do you? Many of us probably prefer to fill our time with activities that feel more productive, provide a memorable experience, or give us something tangible as a result. Whether it’s working or playing – we all love to reap the rewards of our efforts.

Perhaps that’s one reason why many of us find meditation to be challenging to work into our daily routine. Some may even feel that renewing your mind and body through meditation is a waste of time – if you’re going to sit down and rest, you’d rather do it with a good book or the latest movie. But there are many more benefits to meditation than you might realize and it deserves more priority in your busy life.

Think about the concept of renewal like an office workspace. Your desk needs to be cleaned up and organized regularly so you can get more work done. Same with your kitchen – the dirty dishes need to be washed and put away so you can cook another meal. When you meditate daily, you’re clearing your mind and reenergizing your body so you’ll be more thoughtful and productive.

With each day that you practice meditation, the benefits will become more apparent. You’re likely to feel a stronger sense of inner peace. You’ll begin to notice changes in your emotions and coping mechanisms, which impacts how you perceive and interact with other people and external circumstances.

During meditation, you get to step back and observe your own thoughts and feelings, as if you were a third party. Soon you’ll find yourself observing how people around you behave. You start paying more attention to what happens within your environment – this kind of self-awareness is highly therapeutic for managing stress and anxiety triggers.

Other valuable benefits of meditation include feeling calmer and more grounded about your decisions. You’ll become skilled at being more mindful and present in each moment – so much of life just passes us by while we’re busy multi-tasking. You’ll develop a better ability to stay focused on matters at hand and find more sources of creative inspiration. Imagine how those skills will affect how you deal with issues like healthy eating habits or pressing deadlines at work.

People who meditate regularly say it gives them more energy to get through the day. Meditation keeps us feeling positive and stable, ready to face whatever adventures or challenges are in store.

If you suffer from insomnia, meditating before you go to bed helps to remove the clutter and noise that our minds try to sort out while we sleep. You’re more likely to get a peaceful night’s rest and feel more rejuvenated in the morning.

There are several different ways to meditate – do a little research online or at your favorite bookstore to find a method that you like the best.

6 ways to check your body’s alignment

check your body's alignment
How’s your posture? If you’re not paying attention to it, your body might be misaligned. Proper alignment is important when you’re walking, exercising or even sitting. Your muscles work better and you can prevent pain and injury.

Here are 6 easy ways to check your own body for proper alignment, from your head to your toes:

1.  Your head should be straight at the top of your neck and spine, not tilted to one side or pushed too far forward.

2.  Your shoulders should be in line with your ears, not rounded too far forward, nor one higher than the other.

3.  There should be no excessive curves in your back – not hunched forward at your shoulders and not swayed out below your waist.

4.  Your hips should be even with each other, positioned over your heels, not pressed forward in front of your ribs.

5.  Your bottom should be in a neutral position with your spine, not sticking out with your pelvis tilted forward.

6.  Your toes and ankles should face forward, not be turned too far inward or outward from the middle of your body.

If you want to learn more about improper balance or alignment anywhere on your body, check out this article. Then call me for an appointment to learn the best stretches and exercises that you can do to correct it. Power to your posture!

Six hidden benefits of your daily exercise routine

We exercise for all the right reasons that everyone talks about - to lose weight, tone muscles and improve our overall health. But medical research studies show that there are additional benefits you might not be thinking about – and we all can use a little extra motivation to get up and move, right?

  1. Better mobility – Daily long walks (or an hour or two of similar activity) can reduce the age-related deterioration of your motor abilities.
  2. Improved memory – Twenty minutes of strength-training exercises can boost your long-term memory by ten percent.
  3. Reduced anxiety – Exercise releases neurotransmitters that quiet your brain and improve your response to stressful situations.
  4. Stronger immunity – You’ll beat a cold or the flu much faster if you exercise regularly, plus you’ll reduce your risk more more serious health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
  5. Deeper sleep – Fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and kick those sleeping pills to the curb.
  6. Higher self-esteem – In addition to feeling better about your body, regular exercise will improve your stamina and your libido.

How to soothe chronic inflammation

The pain and swelling you experience with an injury is actually a good thing. That kind of temporary inflammation acts as your strongest ally by reminding you to rest so the injury can heal.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is one of your body’s stealthiest enemies. Medical research has found that chronic inflammation can be an underlying cause for many debilitating conditions, including allergies, depression, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Hundreds of illnesses that modern medicine has classified as “unique and unrelated” are actually products of the same underlying balances in our bodies.

Chronic inflammation can simmer for years, wreaking havoc on your body. It might manifest as chronic pain or it could be silently compromising your internal organs and other disease-fighting cells without you even knowing it. It occurs when your immune system is overworked and your white blood cells start accumulating beyond what your body can tolerate, because they can’t find a legitimate infection to fight off.

So what can cause your immune system to work overtime? Research shows that weight gain and poor food choices could very well be the main culprits. Not only does weight gain lead to inflammation, certain foods that we eat actually cause unnecessary inflammation – by avoiding these, we can help bring our immune system back into balance. And bonus! There are also plenty of wonderful foods you can easily add to your diet that reduce inflammation.

Our plant kingdom is filled with naturally anti-inflammatory nutrients - eat more of these foods:
  • Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower 
  • Tomatoes, beets and leafy greens
  • Tuna, salmon and other fatty fish
  • Olive oil, garlic, ginger, turmeric and parsley
  • Almonds, walnuts and macadamias
  • Seeds – pumpkin, hemp and flax
  • Berries and citrus fruits
  • Tea, red wine, cocoa

Eat less of these foods:
  • Processed meats, red meats
  • White flour - bread, pasta, pastries
  • Fried foods, excess vegetable oils
  • Margarine or lard
  • Sugar, sodas, alcohol

There are several supplements that have been found to reduce inflammation, too.
  • Omega 7 can lower CRP (a protein marker for systemic inflammation) by more than 40%
  • Curcumin, which comes from turneric, reduces the low density lipoproteins found in cholesterol
  • Magnesium can lower blood pressure and control blood sugar
  • Resvertol (an ingredient in red wine) helps protect arteries and inhibits blood clots
  • Cocoa flavonoids help the body synthesize nitric acid, which iscritical for healthy blood flow
  • Boswella lowers inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis

The best way to permanently decrease chronic inflammation is to make better choices with your die, exercise routines and stress management. Now go enjoy a lovely salmon dinner with lots of veggies and a glass of red wine!