Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Perfect Your Push Up

The push-up has long been used to develop strength in the arms, shoulders and chest. However, the push-up is also a great core exercise. During the exercise, the trunk and hips should remain as stable as possible to create a lever for the working muscles. The deep core muscles, such as the transverse abdominus, become actively engaged to stabilize the spine and pelvis so that the force generated by the pectoral, deltoid and triceps muscles can move the body around the axis of rotation at the toes (or knees, for modified push-ups).

Before one can learn the push-up, it’s important to first develop the strength of the deep core muscles to maintain stability around the spine so the arms and shoulders can move the body. This is the role of the first three exercises described below—they create the foundation. Perform these exercises consistently for at least four to six weeks before progressing to the more challenging exercises described later in this article.

The first step is to develop the proper strength and placement in the wrists and shoulders. This can be done in a quadruped or all-fours position, which reduces the amount of weight directly on the arms. Position the wrists under the shoulders, the knees directly under the hips and keep the spine in a neutral position. Push the hands into the floor while pushing the upper back and shoulders up to the ceiling.

The goal is to push the hands down into the floor while pressing the shoulders in the opposite direction to create tension in all of the muscles. The hands have a high number of sensory nerve endings; when they are placed directly on the floor for a plank, the pressure of the hands pushing into the floor helps to engage and activate many of the muscles responsible for shoulder strength and spinal stability. Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat for three to four repetitions. This exercise should be performed as part of warm-up when working on improving the push-up.

Modified High-plank
A common way to do the plank exercise is with the elbows on the floor directly under the shoulders. This position does not allow for proper strength to develop between the hands, shoulders and the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine (see above). Doing a modified plank with the knees on the floor (instead of the feet) and the hands on the floor helps strengthen the connection between the palms, shoulders and spine by using a shorter lever (the distance between the hands and knees versus that between the hands and feet), which results in less resistance. This is helpful for developing the strength to do a push-up. Start by holding for 20 seconds, gradually progress to holding the modified plank for 45 seconds. After each plank, rest for the same amount of time you held the plank and perform three to four sets. Once you can do four sets of 45 seconds, your are ready for a greater challenge.

High Plank
The high plank is basically the “up” position of the push-up; practicing high planks helps develop the wrist, shoulder, upper-back and core strength to maintain a stable body throughout the entire range-of-motion of the exercise. Place the hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart so that the thumbs are pointing toward the midline of the body and the fingers are pointed the same direction as the head. To increase stability while pushing the hands into the floor, rotate the elbows to point back toward the feet to increase the strength and stability in the shoulder joints. Squeeze the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability around the pelvis (this is a more effective than “contracting the core,” which doesn’t address any specific muscle). Start by holding the high plank for 20 seconds and rest for the same amount of time as the plank; perform three to four sets. Gradually increase the time up to 45 seconds. Once you can hold a high plank for four sets of 45 seconds, it is time to work harder.

During the lengthening phase of muscle action, there is more tension within the muscle fibers so the muscle is capable of generating higher levels of force. Placing the emphasis on the lengthening phase of muscle action by practicing the lowering phase of the push-up can help develop the strength to control movement of the body through the entire range of motion.  Perform the following exercises for three to five weeks before progressing to the full range of motion of the push-up.

Modified Negative Push-ups
The word “negative” is used here because the weight is going down (as opposed to up), which causes the muscles to lengthen and increases the tension in the fibers. This is an effective strategy for initiating strength gains. Start in a modified high-plank position with the knees on the floor and the hands slightly wider than the shoulders. Slowly lower the body to the floor for a count of five or six seconds. At the bottom of the movement, return to the starting position in a way that feels comfortable. Working on the lengthening phase of muscle action can help develop the strength that will be used later for the complete range of motion of the push-up. Begin with two sets of six to eight repetitions, rest for 45-60 seconds after each set. Gradually add one or two repetitions each workout until the client can perform 10-12 reps with control. Complete four sets, resting 90 seconds between each one.

Negative Push-ups
Once you can easily perform 10-12 reps of negative modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to the full version. Assume a high plank position with the feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep the hands pressed into the floor and the thigh muscles squeezed while slowly lowering the body toward the floor. At the bottom of the movement, place the knees on the floor and return to the starting position. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and progress to performing two to three sets of 10-12 reps.

Modified Push-ups
Many people are familiar with modified push-ups, but these are obviously not the best starting point for learning the push-up, especially not for those who first need to develop a foundation of core strength. While the normal push-up has the feet and hands as the points of contact, bending the knees and placing them on the floor shortens the lever of the body significantly thus reducing the amount of resistance. Place the knees together on the floor so that they are bent and the feet are in the air. Keep the hands about shoulder-width apart with the fingers pointed away from the knees. Slowly lower the body to the floor and then push the floor away to return to the original starting position. To increase stability of the core, encourage your clients to grip the floor with the hands and squeeze the thighs to engage the deep spinal stabilizers. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and rest one minute between sets. Gradually progress to performing 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets. Once you can perform three to four sets of 10-12 reps of modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to full push-ups.

Full Push-ups
To perform a full push-up, start in a high-plank position with the legs hip-width apart. Press the hands into the floor with the fingers pointed away from the feet. Contract the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability and slowly lower the body toward the floor. Press the hands into the floor to return to the up position. Start with two sets of five to six repetitions, resting for one minute between sets. Gradually add repetitions until you can perform two sets of 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April Is Financial Literacy Month

Financial Stress

Let's begin with stress. Stress is the body's response to any demand made on it. It affects almost every system of the body, including heartbeat, breath, muscles and our brains. A little stress can be a good thing, if it motivates us to respond constructively to a threat or opportunity and if it doesn't last too long.

Unfortunately, stress resulting from financial challenges is often chronic, affecting 26% of Americans most or all of the time.  Unexpected expenses, the need to save for retirement and out of pocket health care expenses are major culprits.

Stress Spiral No. 1: Physical Health

Chronic stress is linked to physical health issues. High stress causes a fight-or-flight reaction, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can suppress immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems, which, if sustained, may cause them to stop working normally.

Employees with high financial stress are twice as likely to report poor health overall and are more than four times as likely to complain of headaches, depression, or other ailments. The chart below shows how much sicker people with "debt stress" were during the depths of the financial crisis.

Stress is also associated with high-risk behavior including alcohol and drug abuse: overeating, sedentary behaviors like web surfing and TV watching. These behaviors can worsen one's health and finances.

The potential feedback loop then is financial challenges leading to poor health, directly and indirectly via unhealthy behaviors. Poor health can worsen money challenges and financial stress by increasing medical expenses, reducing productivity at work and making it harder to make good financial and medical decisions.

Stress Spiral No. 2: Delayed Healthcare

Financial stress can also harm health when lack of financial resources causes people to delay necessary medical treatment. One in four Americans has trouble paying medical bills, with some delay treatment. Cost-related non-adherence may be most important for people with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes. Fifty-six percent of Americans with common chronic diseases say they've have missed medication because of cost.

This leads to the second feedback loop: a medical condition results in unexpectedly high out of pocket costs, increasing stress, which worsens the condition directly and indirectly as the patient delays needed medical care and medication. This spiral may become more widespread as more employers switch to high-deductible health plans, which put a greater financial risk on patients.

Stress Spiral No. 3: Mental Health

Of course, we experience financial stress mentally as well as physically. People with debt are three times more likely  to have a mental health issue, especially depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders. Financial stress is the second most common cause of suicide, after depression.  Unfortunately humiliation among the financially stressed makes it harder to seek help as it worsens mental health.

Mental health challenges can impair financial (and medical) decision making, self-control and employment possibilities. Those with dealing with scarcity suffer from greater cognitive loads  from managing the various challenges of making limited means work, impairing executive functioning including creativity, empathy, planning for the future and problem-solving.

So we have our third vicious cycle. Financial stress is associated with mental health challenges, which impair financial decision making and employment, further worsening the financial situation. This can increase stress, which may then worsen the mental health condition. 

Breaking the Chain

Left to themselves, vicious cycles like these can spiral out of control, with grave consequences for individuals, employers and societies. Fortunately, there are things individuals and organizations can do to break these loops.

Individuals can take steps to improve their financial behaviors, by better controlling spending and increasing savings. This begins with empathetically planning for one's future and creating a budget designed to make you happier.  Others may benefit from the advice of a financial advisor or credit counselor. We can also work on developing "pride in good money habits instead of money itself,"  exercising, using relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, and obtaining support from friends, family and, perhaps, a therapist.

Governments, healthcare providers and businesses have a moral responsibility and a direct interest in breaking these loops which destroy welfare, social capital and shareholder value. They should sponsor financial  (as well as general and mental) wellness programs to help people control their spending, attain resiliency with emergency funds, and plan for the future. Financial institutions need to support such programs and provide products and services more appropriate to low and middle-income consumers.

In short, the status quo for millions of Americans is not sustainable. The typical American is stressed because she lives paycheck-to-paycheck, saves nothing for retirement, has little financial literacy and is increasingly being asked to shoulder the costs and uncertainties of healthcare and retirement. The resulting stress can cause physical and mental health to spiral along with financial health. It's time we do something about it.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Natural Seasonal Allergy Remedies

1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar might just be the most useful condiment in your kitchen. It can help you clean showers and sinks. It’s wonderful in dressings. It adds a pop to marinades. It can remove odors from sweaty clothes, reduce heartburn, and treat dandruff. Like we said, it’s a rock star.

Apple cider vinegar is also an amazing natural allergy remedy, as it can help reduce mucous production and cleanse your lymphatic system. The quick and dirty approach is to swallow a tablespoon. For a more palatable option, try adding a tablespoon to a cup of hot water with a small bit of honey.

2. Exercise
Yes, the last thing you probably want to do when you feel crummy is workout. But, researchers in Thailand found moderate to intense activity for just 30 minute can result in substantial allergy relief. The hypothesis is that this relief occurs because exercise produces an anti-inflammatory effect in your nasal passages, helping to naturally reduce allergy symptoms.

If pollen counts are extremely high, an indoor workout will most likely be more beneficial as it will reduce re-exposure.

3. Local Honey
Allergy symptoms are your body’s reaction to a substance it deems hazardous to your health. The runny nose and watery eyes are your body’s attempt to flush the foreign substance from your system.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply tell your body that grass and pollen aren’t bad for it. But you can help your body learn that the local habitat isn’t deadly. You do so by giving your body small doses of the grass and pollen that are irritating it.
This is where local honey comes in so handy. Bees create their honey from what’s around. Thus, their honey contains trace amounts of the very pollen that could be making you feel sick.

While a tablespoon (or two) won’t immediately relieve your allergy symptoms, it can help naturally reduce your allergy symptoms over time. Start administering it immediately to begin seeing results. 

4. Neti Pot + Saline Rinse
Your nasal passage is an elaborate system of tiny passageways. For most of us, these passageways are filled with nooks and crannies where dirt and pollen can easily be trapped.
Until that foreign substance is expelled, your body will most likely keep trying to flush it from your system. This can mean lots of mucous (aka a runny nose), coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes.
With a neti pot, you can use saline to flush your nasal passages and help relieve your allergy symptoms.

5. Nasal Sprays
Not sure you want to pour liquid in your nose? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Neti pots aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. A nasal spray is an alternative. By spritzing saline solution in your nose once a day, you can help flush those same harmful irritants from your nasal passage.

6. Bee Pollen
Like honey, bee pollen contains the natural substances where the bees live. It offers an alternative way to introduce these substances into your immune system. Because sometimes we all want to add a little variety to out diets.
Great sprinkled on fruit or tossed in salad, it offers a bit of a sweet crunch.

7. Acupuncture
Acupuncture treats a wide variety of health issues, including depression, digestive issues, pain, muscle weakness, and immune deficiency. And, as a study in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reveals, it can help naturally reduce allergy symptoms.

8. Probiotics
In some cases allergy symptoms are a result of your body’s immune system being imbalanced. This can cause you to have a more severe reaction to foreign stimuli – like pollen, dust, and grass.

Probiotics give your immune system a boost by introducing beneficial bacteria into your digestive tract. A good source of probiotics can be found in fermented foods, like kimchi. Kombucha is another great source of probiotics. Both make yummy additions to nearly any meal!

9. Dietary Changes
Our diet plays a huge roll in your overall health. It contributes to your mood and ability to get a full night’s rest. It’s a major factor in energy levels, skin appearance, and weight balance.

It can also play a big role in how our body handles allergies. The healthier you are, the better your body will respond. Additionally, some patients have found that certain foods can trigger more intense allergy symptoms. For example, many allergy sufferers experience an allergic response to the following foods:

Sunflower seeds

10. IV Drip Therapy
When your body is missing key vitamins and nutrients, dietary changes and adding probiotics can often a long time to start having an effect. This means you’re stuck, suffering through the symptoms.

IV drip therapy bypasses your digestive tract, delivering they key vitamins and nutrients you need directly to where you need it. Administered through an IV in the comfort of our clinic, you can get a cocktail tailored just for you.

11. Nettle Leaf
Nettle leaf can help naturally block your body’s ability to produce histamine, which can provide allergy relief naturally. While you may be able to find nettle leaf grown locally, we think it’s easiest to buy it.
You can get it in capsules or buy the leaf whole, which is our preference. Steep it with peppermint leaves and a small amount of honey to create an herbal tea that will be as tasty as it is beneficial.

12. Water
Hydrate like it’s your job. That sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people are dehydrated!

And, the side effects of being dehydrated are immense. It can cause you to be moody, make you hungrier, and make it harder to lose weight. Being dehydrated can make you tired and make it difficult for you to get a full night’s rest. It can cause headaches, breakouts, and bloating. And, it can heighten any allergy symptoms you’re experiencing.

In short, being dehydrated is bad for your health. The more water you can drink, the better you’re going to feel.

13. Immunotherapy
Like local honey, immunotherapy introduces small amounts of the allergen into your system to train your body’s immune system to have a better response. The treatment typically takes 3 to 5 years. However, once it’s done, most patients are allergy free for the rest of their life!