Thursday, December 27, 2018

Make Your New Year Resolution Work

1. Dream big 
Audacious goals are compelling. Want to compete in a marathon or triathlon? Lose 50 pounds or just enough to fit into clothes you once loved? With perseverance, encouragement, and support, you can do it. An ambitious aim often inspires others around you. Many will cheer you on. Some will be happy to help in practical ways, such as by training with you or taking on tasks you normally handle in order to free up your time.

2. Break big dreams into small-enough steps 
Now think tiny. Small steps move you forward to your ultimate goal. Look for surefire bets. Just getting to first base can build your confidence to tackle — and succeed at — more difficult tasks. Don't disdain easy choices. If you start every plan with "Make list," you're guaranteed to check one box off quickly. That's no joke: a study on loyalty programs that aim to motivate consumers found giving people two free punches on a frequent-buyer card encouraged repeat business. So break hard jobs down into smaller line items, and enjoy breezing through the easy tasks first.

3. Understand why you shouldn't make a change
That's right. Until you grasp why you're sticking like a burr to old habits and routines, it may be hard to muster enough energy and will to take a hard left toward change. Unhealthy behaviors like overeating and smoking have immediate, pleasurable payoffs as well as costs. So when you're considering a change, take time to think it through. You boost your chance of success when the balance of pluses and minuses tips enough to make adopting a new behavior more attractive than standing in place. Engaging in enjoyable aspects of an unhealthy behavior, without the behavior itself, helps too. For example, if you enjoy taking a break while having a smoke, take the break and enjoy it, but find healthier ways to do so. Otherwise, you're working against a headwind and are less likely to experience lasting success

4. Commit yourself
Make yourself accountable through a written or verbal promise to people you don't want to let down. That will encourage you to slog through tough spots. One intrepid soul created a Facebook page devoted to her goals for weight loss. You can make a less public promise to your partner or child, a teacher, doctor, boss, or friends. Want more support? Post your promise on Facebook, tweet it to your followers, or seek out folks with like-minded goals online.

5. Give yourself a medal
Don't wait to call yourself a winner until you've pounded through the last mile of your big dream marathon or lost every unwanted ounce. Health changes are often incremental. Encourage yourself to keep at it by pausing to acknowledge success as you tick off small and big steps en route to a goal. Blast your favorite tune each time you reach 5,000 steps. Get a pat on the back from your coach or spouse. Ask family and friends to cheer you on. Look for an online support group. Or download the "Attaboy" app for your iPhone or iPod to enjoy a stream of compliments whenever you need to hear it.

6. Learn from the past
 Any time you fail to make a change, consider it a step toward your goal. Why? Because each sincere attempt represents a lesson learned. When you hit a snag, take a moment to think about what did and didn't work. Maybe you took on too big a challenge? If so, scale back to a less ambitious challenge, or break the big one into tinier steps. If nailing down 30 consecutive minutes to exercise never seems to work on busy days, break that down by aiming for three 10-minute walks — one before work, one during lunch, one after work — or a 20-minute walk at lunch plus a 10-minute mix of marching, stair climbing, and jumping rope or similar activities slipped into your TV schedule.

7. Give thanks for what you do
Forget perfection. Set your sights on finishing that marathon, not on running it. If you compete to complete, you'll be a winner even if you wind up walking as much as you run. With exercise — and so many other goals we set — you'll benefit even when doing less than you'd like to do. Any activity is always better than none. If your goal for Tuesday is a 30-minute workout at the gym, but you only squeeze in 10 minutes, feel grateful for that. It's enough. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why Do Muscle Tighten Up?

So, what causes muscle tightness? During periods of prolonged inactivity, for example, long days and weeks working at a desk, some muscles can get tight as a result of their restricted movement.  When you are seated at a desk, your hips are in a bent, or flexed, position. This puts the muscles on the front of the hip (hip flexors) in a shortened position, and the muscles on the back of the hip (glutes ) in a lengthened position. In addition, as you sit at a desk reaching forward to work on a computer, your chest muscles (pectorals) will be in a shortened position, while your upper back muscles (rhomboids) will be in a lengthened position. Over time, this can result in muscle imbalances with the shortened muscles becoming “tight” and the lengthened muscles becoming weak.   If you look around you, you’ll notice many people have developed poor posture with forward rounded shoulders and underdeveloped glutes .  The key to preventing this tightness due to decreased range of motion is three-fold.  It is important to maintain porter posture, even while seated.  You should also specifically strengthen those small muscles which have become lengthened and weak.  Lastly, you should make sure to stretch the tightened muscles, specifically the chest and hip flexors. 

Another time when muscles tighten up is during exercise, for example, a muscle cramp.  Cramps are unpleasant, often painful sensations caused by a variety of factors that include muscle fatigue, low sodium, or low potassium.  Muscle cramps can also happen even when you’re not exercising.  When muscles contract, the muscle fibers shorten, increasing tension in the muscle. When the contraction is completed, the muscle fibers lengthen and decrease tension.   During a muscle cramp, however, the muscle fibers remain shortened and are unable to lengthen due to fatigue or improper hydration and nutrition.  Forcibly stretching the muscle when it is in such a tight, contracted form can tear the muscle fibers and lead to injury.  Allow the muscle spasm to relax and recover before attempting to stretch out the cramp.  In order to prevent these from occurring in the future, make sure to be properly hydrated, properly fed, and not overly fatigued when exercising. If engaging in exercise bouts lasting longer than 60 minutes, consuming an electrolyte replenishing drink may help prevent muscle cramps.

Muscles can also tighten up following exercise. This is felt as muscle soreness.  Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) can be felt as pain and stiffness in the muscles for 24 to 72 hours post-exercise.  DOMS is most intense following exercises that focus on eccentric contractions where a weight is lowered or slowed. Examples of eccentric exercises include the downward phase of a bicep curl, or downhill running. The soreness and tightness felt is a result of small ruptures within the muscle.  It can be prevented by gradually increasing the intensity of a new exercise program.  While the soreness will usually disappear within 72 hours of onset, increased blood flow to the sore area, either by moderate intensity exercise or massage may help alleviate soreness.  Stretching does not prevent soreness; however, it is still important to perform some static (holding) stretches after exercise to maintain or improve flexibility.

Proper exercise, stretching, and nutrition strategies can help prevent and correct what can be called muscle tightness.  Proper posture, choice of exercises, and stretches will prevent tightness due to decreased range of motion.  Proper exercise intensity, as well as pre, during, and post-exercise hydration and nutrition can help prevent muscle cramps.  Appropriate exercise progression and static stretching after exercise will help prevent DOMS and maintain range of motion, respectively.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Reducing The Risk of Diabetes

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases characterized by persistently high levels of blood glucose. In a healthy person, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which the body’s cells use for energy. When glucose enters the bloodstream, insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas) signals the body’s cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream and transport it into the cell where it can be used for immediate energy. Insulin also mediates the process of converting glucose that is not needed immediately to glycogen so that it can be stored in the liver and muscles for later use. When glucose levels drop, the pancreas stops secreting insulin until more glucose enters the bloodstream.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D)—or insulin-dependent diabetes—is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. T1D is the more serious form of diabetes and accounts for approximately 5% of diabetes cases. It is thought that a genetic variant predisposes certain people to T1D. People with T1D must take insulin injections or infusions daily.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D)—or non-insulin dependent diabetes—accounts for the majority (90-95%) of diabetes cases. In T2D, the body produces insulin, but isn’t able to use it properly. Both genetics and lifestyle play a role in the development of T2D. Type 2 diabetes typically develops slowly. In the early stages, cells throughout the body become resistant to the effects of insulin—a condition known as insulin resistance. Over time, the body may stop producing sufficient insulin altogether. The processes of glucose uptake by the body’s cells and the conversion of glucose to glycogen begin to fail. The consequence is higher levels of circulating blood glucose. 

Risk Factors
Diabetes is caused by a combination of environmental factors, lifestyle behaviors and genetic susceptibility. Nonmodifiable risk factors include age, ethnicity, family history and biological factors. While these factors play a critical role in a person’s risk for developing diabetes, several risk factors can be controlled. Read on to learn five things you can do to reduce your risk for diabetes.

1. Eat more whole grains.
A healthful diet in general is associated with a decreased risk of diabetes. However, one dietary habit in particular seems to have a profound effect on a person’s risk for diabetes: consumption of whole grains. There is strong evidence that diets abundant in whole grains have a protective effect against the development of diabetes (van Dam et al., 2002). The bran and fiber found in whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and whole-grain breads help to stabilize blood glucose levels in the body. Refined grains, such as white bread, donuts and sugary cereals, have the opposite effect and produce spikes in blood glucose levels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making half the grains you eat whole. Additionally, a prospective cohort study published by the Public Library of Sciences found that women who averaged two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who seldom consumed whole grains (de Munter et al., 2007).

2. Get enough sleep.
You know that sleep is important for feeling your best every day, but did you know that chronic sleep deprivation could influence your risk of diabetes? People who are sleep deprived are at an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of risk factors that often precipitates chronic disease, including diabetes. One symptom of metabolic syndrome is impaired glucose metabolism—a sign of prediabetes. Chronic sleep deprivation can alter your body’s hormone regulation, causing less insulin to be produced and an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol. The aggregate effect is potentially elevated glucose in the bloodstream. Aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, evaluate your personal sleep habits. Sleep can often be improved by adopting a few simple sleep, hygiene promoting behaviors. If you think your sleep problems are more serious, talk to your doctor.

3. Get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.
You’ve heard for years that exercise can improve your overall health. According to the American Diabetes Association, two types of exercise are important for reducing your risk for diabetes: aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week is the goal, but if 30 minutes seems overwhelming in the beginning, start with 10-15 minutes and build from there.

4. Do strength training.
The other type of exercise that can help to reduce your risk of developing diabetes is strength training. While aerobic exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently, strength training makes your muscle cells more sensitive to insulin, which helps to lower blood glucose levels. Use the following industry guidelines to plan your strength-training program:
Select eight to 10 exercises that target the major muscle groups.
Choose multijoint exercises (those affecting more than one muscle group) over single-joint exercises.
Train each muscle group for a total of two to four sets, completing eight to 12 repetitions per exercise.
Perform resistance-training exercises for each major muscle group two to three nonconsecutive days per week, with at least 48 hours of recovery between sessions.

5. Manage your stress.
Try to do something stress-reducing daily. According to the American Diabetes Association, stress management plays an important role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and managing the disease after a diagnosis. Lifestyle behaviors associated with unchecked stress, such as poor sleep hygiene, poor eating habits and lack of adequate physical activity, increase a person’s risk for diabetes, but stress hormones such as cortisol may have a direct effect on blood glucose levels (Virtanen et al., 2014). The stress paradox can make it seem impossible to fit in stress-reducing activities such as exercise or meditation when you already feel like you’re spread too thin. But even just a few minutes of deep breathing every day can help to subdue your body’s fight or flight stress response.