Learning about healthy aging

Many of you know that I am passionate about keeping current with my training in health and fitness. Last Monday I attended a course that focused on working with older people to improve their strength and mobility. We learned that while we age, our bodies become more limited than they were before, but we can work within these limits to retain a greater degree of vitality, health, and happiness than we thought possible before. If you are of an age where you can feel your body’s new limits, you should take some comfort in the knowledge that fitness and healthcare professionals know more than ever about how to retain as much vitality as possible for as long as possible.
I attended this workshop with 30 to 40 other health and fitness pros, and we learned a lot about the normal process of aging, but we also took some deep dives into conditions and diseases common to older adults, like Parkinson’s, Osteoporosis, and COPD. One thing all of these disorders have in common? Exercise is one of the best treatments. We adapt what exercise looks like based on the abilities and conditions of the individual–using resistance bands instead of weights, taking precautions to prevent falls, etc.
Everyone knows that the life of the mind is important to happiness and meaning in life, but many people forget–until they face physical limitations–that the life of the body is just as important. That’s why it’s critical to move our bodies and keep them strong and healthy–it expands our limits and keeps us living our “life of the body” as long as we can.

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Natural Treatments for Pain and Inflammation

I was recently asked about my favorite equipment to reduce pain and inflammation naturally. There are a lot of ways to treat and prevent these common causes of poor health, so here’s a brief rundown of the newest holistic technologies.

Some of my favorites are cold laser, infrared sauna, and PEMF, or Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy.

PEMF is a technique that creates resonating electromagnetic force fields that can act on the body’s cells to promote healing and pain relief. They’ve been shown to help fuse broken bones back together, and to reduce pain, swelling and fluid buildup for post-surgery damage.
They work by increasing the production of nitric oxide in the affected area. This increases blood flow and reduces inflammation. These effect combine to promote healing much faster than the body can do on its own.
PEMF is not known to have any side effects at all. Your doctor may not know about PEMF, since it’s not a required part of medical school curriculums. Doctors are often skeptical of “magnetic medicine” because it’s often associated with quackery, but several PEMF devices are FDA approved to treat post-operative pain and help heal broken bones. PEMF may also help with day-to-day pain like arthritis, low back pain, and chronic joint pain. In Canada, there is an over the counter device approved to treat exactly those issues.
Cold Laser is another directed-energy treatment that stimulates blood flow in pain hotspots. The lasers used have some wavelengths in them that actually penetrate the skin and create heat and stimulation in muscles and joints that have pain issues.
Infrared saunas are a heat treatment like regular saunas, but they use directed infrared light to help promote healing and detoxification.
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How to breathe

Many people don’t know that deep breathing from the diaphragm is important to their overall health and stress reduction.

Babies breathe from their diaphragm, and one way that we can restore strength and balance is to perform actions that bring us back to our developmental roots. Infants integrate their bodies with the environment through basic motions that can help us understand our nervous system.

Most adults have adopted an unhealthy way of breathing mostly by expanding their rib cages. This method of breathing is actually your body’s “emergency” breathing system. Because rib cage breathing is related to the fight-or-flight response, doing it can actually activate your body’s stress response system, which is very unhealthy in the long run. Why do people breathe this way? One reason is that it allows you to suck in your stomach in order to appear more in shape than you really are.

By re-training yourself to breathe from your diaphragm–to breathe more from your belly than your chest–you can reduce the stress response associated with chest breathing and help rekindle the core connection with breathing and coordination that you developed as a baby.

A simple and effective starting point for training would be to lay on the floor with your knees bent, elbows at a right angle, hands beside your head on the floor. Exhale through your mouth while sliding your hands overhead, then inhale and slide your hands back down to their starting point. Repeat 5 times.

To make sure you’re breathing through your diaphragm, try putting a small weight (like a beanbag or paperweight) on your stomach, and feel your stomach expand when you inhale and shrink when you exhale. The weight should provide you with good feedback by making you more aware of your stomach. A variation on the first exercise would be: either standing or laying on your back, knees bent–breathe through your nose, rest your right hand in your lap or over your head on the floor, and hold on to the balloon with your left hand. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to blow up the balloon.

These easy exercises will help re-train your body to breathe from its center, the diaphragm.
We take up to 21,000 breaths a day, or about 8 million over the course of a year. When you do something that often, you want to get good at it.

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Should you take a calcium supplement?

I was recently asked about whether calcium and vitamin D supplements are helpful for bone health. What I like to say about supplements in general is this: They’re called supplements, not substitutes. Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet. More calcium will not necessarily help if you’re not getting the other nutrients necessary to make use of it. It will also not help very much if you’re consuming other things in your diet that actually hurt bone health.
I’ll give you an example of why, in my opinion, calcium is not as important for bone health as most people imagine. Americans eat much more calcium-rich dairy food like cheese and milk than most other countries, but we also have some of the highest incidence of bone disease in the world. People in Singapore, on the other hand, don’t eat very much dairy at all and eat a mostly plant-based diet, but they have a very low incidence of bone disease. How can that be?
One reason is that plants have plenty of minerals like calcium, so if you eat enough vegetables, you don’t necessarily need lots of dairy or calcium supplementation. Another reason is that in the U.S., we often eat an acidic diet. Our body likes to be at a neutral pH of 7, but when we consume something like a soda with a pH of 4, our digestive system needs to draw minerals out of our bodies to neutralize that acidity. Our bones are a “low-priority tissue” as far as our body is concerned, and they contain lots of minerals, so the body will leach those minerals from the bones to buffer the acid we’ve consumed.
So if calcium supplementation isn’t a magic bullet for bone health, what do you do? The best stuff for your bones is dark green vegetables, like kale and broccoli. These veggies have lots of calcium, and unlike supplements, they are whole foods, which means that they have everything your body needs to absorb and use the natural calcium in them.
If you take supplements, I recommend whole-food supplements like Spirulina. Drink plenty of water to help your body maintain its natural pH and replenish minerals–remember your bones are mostly water, too!
Another great way to strengthen your bones? Go for a walk! Any weight-bearing exercise is great for your bone strength.
So, should you take supplements? Maybe. But you should definitely eat plenty of green leafy veggies, and cut back or eliminate the soda!
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Rake in the benefits of physical exercise!

Summer is truly over, and fall has begun! A lot of people like to get in their outdoor activity to the times of year when it’s very warm and sunny outside, but I like to take lots of walks as the leaves fall and the air becomes crisp. There’s something that feels especially good about getting your muscles warm when there’s a little chill in the air.
One good (and unavoidable for many) way that many people get exercise in the fall is by raking leaves. For those of you lucky enough to have a yard full of trees, it’s a nice way to accomplish something while experiencing the season and getting some physical activity.
If you want to maximize the fitness benefits of raking for your body, make sure that you stretch the muscles in your body that are tight before and after raking. Also, people tend to rake while facing only one direction, depending upon the dominant side of their body. If you can, make sure that you swap sides from time to time while raking. Muscle imbalances can cause injury in the long run.
If you work a muscle on one side of a joint, but allow the muscle on the opposite side of that joint to weaken, the stronger muscle will pull the joint into a dysfunctional position, and the weaker muscle will allow it to be pulled. Take the time to prevent that by raking with both sides of your body.
Another unexpected way to prevent injury in day to day activities is to get plenty of sleep. Basic fatigue can cause you to alter your movement patterns in ways that promote injury.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water even if it’s a little chilly out. You still need it, and physical activity still increases the amount you need. Eat high quality food, and skip the Halloween candy!
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Sugar is the new fat!

I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to be healthier. It’s my job and my passion. I’m constantly looking for the latest research on health and nutrition. Lately, I’ve had something sweet on my mind: sugar!
We’ve spent so much time thinking about fat for the past few decades that research on sugar has only recently caught up. Let me tell you, the results are not good. It turns out that added sugar can be toxic to your liver like alcohol, and it contributes to a set of symptoms called “metabolic syndrome”, which can damage your organs, ruin your mood, contribute to diabetes, and even cause weight gain without consuming extra calories.
It’s a commonly held belief, even among scientists and doctors, that a calorie is a calorie and in terms of weight loss, calories in minus calories out equals gaining or losing weight. However, In a recent documentary called “That Sugar Film”, Damon Garneau was able to gain weight without changing his calorie intake or activity level, because the excess sugar he was consuming caused changes in his body that led to more fat storage.
Over time, consuming too much sugar can damage the liver and pancreas. These organs both help regulate blood sugar, and if they are overwhelmed, they trigger your body to store blood sugar as fat, usually around the waist.
The good news is that sugar in its natural state–in fruits and vegetables–comes packaged with fiber, which slows down our body’s absorption of sugars and reduces their impact on the pancreas and liver, which are the organs most affected by over-consuming sugar. This does not apply to other natural sources of sugar, like honey, maple syrup, and fruit juice. These concentrated forms of sugar, even though they are natural, act on the body more like processed sugar, since they are not incorporated in whole foods with fiber and other nutrients.
Just because sugar is bad, doesn’t mean you should jump on the “sugar free” bandwagon either. Most products that advertise this use artificial sweeteners instead. There is some evidence that specific artificial sweeteners have toxic effects or are carcinogenic. In general, there is also evidence that eating artificial sweetener causes your body to crave sugar and make up for lost calories elsewhere. Be careful with the Splenda.
Fat has a lot of calories in it, so it’s gotten a bad rap over the years. But now we know that WHERE you get your calories matters, and the worst place to get calories is concentrated sugar. It hides in all kinds of food, and companies use over 61 different names for it on ingredient labels: high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, sucrose, glucose, dextrose–the list goes on and on. It’s a lot to pay attention to, but your health is worth it.

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Invest in your success!

A Harvard psychologist released a study concluding that you are the sum total of the five people you hang out with most.  If you hang out with smokers, you are likely to be a smoker. If your friends are overweight, you are likely to also be overweight. Are your friends rich and successful?  Guess what you’re most likely to be?

I’m a very goal-oriented person, so the five people I “hang out” with most are: Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, and Thomas Edison.  When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is read inspirational passages from these men and people like them. It helps me set my mind on course for a good day.

Napoleon Hill is one of my biggest inspirations.  His book “Think and Grow Rich” is a classic source for the secrets of success.  He lays out 17 keys to achieving your goals, and the first one is this: Definiteness of purpose.

Definiteness of purpose means that you must have a specific goal in mind in order to be successful, otherwise you will drift aimlessly through life.  What that means is that your goal must be specific, and it’s best to write it down so that you can remind yourself each day what your goal is. Napoleon Hill also recommends writing down what you are willing to give up to achieve your goal.  He’s clear that nothing comes for free, and that you must be able to control your own mind and actions to accomplish anything meaningful. My definite purpose is to live a healthy, fit, organic life, while educating people on the correct way of exercising and moving.

Mr Hill’s second key to success is called the “Mastermind Alliance.”  This rule refers to securing inspiration and cooperation from like-minded people.  This is why I wake up each morning and read the writings of people I admire. It’s also why I attend so many conferences and belong to several mastermind groups relating to health, fitness, and nutrition.

The third key to success is “Applied Faith”, which means having faith not only in a spiritual sense, but also faith in yourself.  The faith is that the Divine has given you all you need to succeed, and all you need to do is to tap into that potential. If you pray or meditate or do anything where you call on the universe for assistance, don’t ask for success.  Instead, ask for the ability to tap into your already-existing potential to achieve it.

I have faith in myself, and I also have faith in my clients–I know they have the strength to achieve their goals.  My hope is that I can pass along some of the wisdom I’ve gathered from the “five people I hang out with” so that they can tap into that potential to live healthy, wealthy lives.

Titleist Performance Institute: Get get smarter, get stronger.

As many of you know, I’ve made golf fitness a key part of my practice.  For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been certified as a level one trainer by the Titleist Performance Institute for some time now.  I recently upgraded my certification from level one to level two. That doesn’t make me a golf pro–I can’t teach golf, but I can expand the limits of what a golfer can do.  TPI’s philosophy of the swing is: “We don’t believe there is one way to swing a club; we believe there are an infinite number of ways to swing a club. But we do believe that there is one efficient way for everyone to swing a club and it is based on what they can physically do.”  In other words: the efficiency of your golf swing is only limited by what your body can do. What I can do for you as a TPI golf fitness pro is to assess your body’s limits and work to expand those limits as much as possible.

By training and testing to upgrade my certification, I learned better and more precise techniques to assess and develop power and strength.  I can also now design a comprehensive program for golf fitness, including nutrition, cardiovascular development, and advanced golf swing biomechanics.  I learned specialized techniques and practical applications for motor learning. I also trained in how to spot golf-specific injuries before they get serious, so that I can adjust your program to help you heal, and teach you how to move so that it doesn’t happen again.

Titleist has 7,000 golfers under contract, so they have a huge sample size of highly skilled golfers to perform research on the physical and mental conditioning of golfers.  The techniques I’ve learned incorporate lessons from years of study with thousands of individual athletes, and they take into account physical conditioning, course management, mental and emotional state, and many other factors to make sure that your program is tailored to you personally.

I have a passion for this stuff, so if you have a passion for golf and want to expand your boundaries, give me a call.  If you contact me in the months of September and October, you’ll get a complimentary one hour assessment and functional movement analysis.  We’ll work together so you can stay sharp in the off season and come back next year stronger than ever.

Ten ways to reduce blood pressure naturally

I was recently asked for ideas about how to reduce your blood pressure naturally. Honestly, I had to work to keep the list to only ten! There are so many great ways to reduce blood pressure and promote health. Before I start, let me say that if you have high blood pressure, these methods aren’t a substitute for seeking treatment from a medical professional, but they are great ways to take control of your health and wellness, and maybe they’ll help you relax and have fun a little in the process.
1. Exercise – I’m sure you know this one already, but it’s worth repeating because exercise is truly a miracle drug! It reduces blood pressure, increases insulin response, strengthens your bones, and has a great effect on your mood.
2. Herbs and nutrients – Certain herbs and supplements like Hawthorne berries, Coenzyme Q10, Garlic, and Cayenne have been shown to lower blood pressure. A good plant-based multivitamin will help, too.
3. A plant-based diet – Plant based diets are best for your health. Over time, animal protein will slow down your circulation. Industrially raised animals are also exposed to lots of chemicals, hormones, and GMOs as well. By eating them, you’re consuming those same chemicals.
4. Plenty of water – Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water. 200 pounds? 100 ounces of water.
5. Essential oils – used externally for massage and aromatherapy, these can relax and calm your mind, body, and muscles. Any way you can reduce stress is great for your blood pressure.
6. Tai Chi and Meditation – I call practices like these “working in.” They are great ways to reduce and cope with stress. Again, reduced stress = reduced blood pressure.
7. Going barefoot outdoors – I like the beach, personally, but the grass is good too. The stimulation on the 6,000 nerve endings in the bottom of your foot is relaxing. Walking on the bare earth also helps your body to “ground out” negative energy.
8. Salt cave – Also known as “halotherapy”, spending time in a salt cave allows you to breathe air enriched with Himalaya salt that’s been said to influence healing on a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure.
9. Acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage therapy – These modalities can reduce your stress levels. They also help energy and blood to flow easily through your body, helping you to heal and feel better.
10. Pet ownership – People who own pets live longer and happier lives than people who don’t. They reduce your stress and blood pressure levels and promote physical activity.
Bonus number 11. – Make sure you get adequate, high quality sleep. Sleep quality is right up there with physical activity for improving your health and wellness. That includes blood pressure, insulin response and mental health.
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Use it or lose it!

The New York Times recently highlighted several studies about the consequences of being a couch potato.  Earlier science has suggested that if you’re a relatively active person and you suddenly start sitting for long periods, your metabolism will go way down, and your body will start developing unhealthy symptoms, like lower blood sugar response.  The good news was that if you started moving again, these symptoms mostly reverse themselves. New studies point to some limits on that good news.

In earlier studies, the test subjects were mostly young, healthy college students.  The new studies drew from older pools of test subjects. In the first one, scientists studied healthy adults who were free from symptoms of diabetes and who took at least 10,000 steps every day.  When these people were forced to take fewer than 2,000 steps per day, they started to develop symptoms of their metabolisms slowing down–lower insulin response, less muscle mass, and more fat around their abdomens.  When these people started moving again, most of them saw their metabolisms return to normal, but some of them never recovered their normal metabolic function, and they never returned to their earlier levels of activity.  This suggests that for some people, the damage from taking a break from activity can be permanent.

In another study, scientists focused on senior citizens who were overweight with high blood sugar, but who were otherwise active and healthy, taking at least 7,000 steps every day.  When these people were forced to go down to fewer than 1,000 steps per day for two weeks, their insulin resistance shot up, and some had to be removed from the study because they had become diabetic.  The majority of the other study participants didn’t fully recover their metabolisms even when they started moving again.

So what does that mean?  It means that the older you get, the more important it is to stay active.  Every time you stop, it gets harder to start again, and the consequences last longer.  You don’t have to train for a marathon, you just have to get moving every day.

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