Exercise – How Often, How Much?

This week a new student asked me if I do Pilates every day. She said she didn't think that she could exercise every day and was worried that coming to Pilates class only once a week wasn't going to make any difference for her. I explained why she was wrong, and if you are also wondering - not to worry! Yes, I have my own combination workout that I do most days, but I have been teaching these classes for more than 13 years and I see fabulous improvements in women who only come once a week. It takes longer, but doing a once a week class definitely makes a difference. People see their clothes fitting differently, they can walk farther and more comfortably, their flexibility improves, as does their mood!

Some of the reasons for this improvement are:

  1. A workout is like drinking an energy drink - without the caffeine and chemicals! It makes our brains feel more alert and our bodies feel more alive. This, in turn, gives us a greater sense of well being. That makes daily tasks feel less strenuous and gives a greater sense of accomplishment. This happens whenever you exercise, whether it's once a week or three times a week.
  2. As we age, both muscle and bone density are lost, so our posture takes a hit. With either Yoga or Pilates, you build lean muscle, especially in your core and along your spine, so you begin to naturally stand taller. Many women find that after a Pilates class, they need to adjust the rear view mirror in their car because they are sitting taller! I have found that the breathing and posture tools that you learn in Yoga or Pilates become part of your daily life after a while, so you are integrating these in everything you do all day!
  3. Also as we age, our muscles and joints can become stiff and achy, making us feel weak. Strength oriented routines such as Yoga and Pilates, give us more flexibility,while at the same time improving our mind body connection, so we become more aware of our own strength. This translates into accomplishing more at home, too. We find ourselves completing tasks that we had given up on, or performing them for longer periods, like raking leaves, or running upstairs to put a wash in, instead of waiting until you have to go up anyway. 

All of these, put together, make us feel better about ourselves, which means that we have the confidence to take on both more physical activity and mental challenges. The one thing that I notice about students after several weeks of a weekly class is this added confidence. Many of my students have started classes with back, neck, hip, or some other joint pain and are timid about doing anything physical. After a few weeks, the improvement I see in ability, flexibility, and confidence brings a smile to my face and reminds me why I love teaching!

So, if you are thinking about taking a class but are afraid it won't make much of a difference, think again! In a few weeks, you'll be very happy that you took that step!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Take a Hike! Doctors Orders…

HERE is a link to a report that reinforces what other studies have proven how taking some exercise time in nature benefits our mood and brain. Ned and I went for a long hike last weekend and I felt soooooo much better afterward. I was glad that he insisted we get outside!

Get outside and exercise! In this recent study, researchers investigated whether spending time in nature affects rumination, and they found that hiking in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts. Cool – we can all use more positive thoughts…

In this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through an urban environment and a nature environment. They found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment, a grassland near Stanford University, reported lower levels of rumination and also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with mental illness. Those who walked through an urban environment didn’t enjoy these benefits.

These researchers indicate that our world is becoming more and more urban and that urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Visibly, simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health.

In another study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, creative problem solving was improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. In this study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were prohibited from using technology. They were asked to perform tasks requiring creativity and complex problem solving. They found that those immersed in the hiking excursions had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by 50 percent. Wow!

Not to mention that we all know the benefits of walking/hiking for osteoporosis prevention.

So get out there and “take a hike!” And then when you come home, relax your spine with this simple Yoga inversion.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Arsenic In Rice!?

During one of my presentations on nutrition, recently, I was asked about the concern of high levels of arsenic in rice. ARSENIC in RICE?! 

Arsenic is a natural mineral in the earth's crust. Arsenic has also been released into the environment through the use of pesticides and poultry fertilizer, therefore, it's in our soil and water. I was quite surprised when I looked into this. I used to live on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, in a county with high levels of arsenic in the water, so I was very cautious about filtering. Unfortunately, rice tends to absorb arsenic more readily than many other plants. I had no idea at that time about the high levels of arsenic in rice.

So the rice, especially the brown rice which Ned and I were consuming 5 out of 7 days a week, is high in arsenic. Organically-grown and conventional rice both contain arsenic and regular exposure to small amounts of arsenic can increase the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Perhaps if they'd known this when they made the movie "Arsenic and Old Lace" the old ladies could have served rice wine! But arsenic levels in rice appear to vary based on the variety and the region where it is grown. White rice -- particularly basmati, jasmine and pre-cooked "instant" rice -- tends to have lower concentrations of arsenic than brown rice because arsenic accumulates in rice bran. Rice varieties grown in California or imported from Southeast Asia are often lower in arsenic than rice grown in other parts of the U.S.

In the FDA's recent analysis of approximately 1,300 samples, they found average levels of inorganic arsenic for the various rice and rice products of 0.1 to 7.2 micrograms of arsenic per serving. Serving sizes varied depending on the rice product they tested. For example, one serving of non-Basmati rice equals one cup cooked, whereas one serving of a rice-based snack bar contains only ¼ cup of rice.

I checked the brand that we use, (Lundberg) since it is from California and was pleased that the company CEO addressed this concern on their website. They test each year and have kept their arsenic levels lower than the international (CODEX) standards. CODEX, a joint commission of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, has adopted a standard for acceptable arsenic levels in rice:  it recommends that governments allow no more than 200 parts of arsenic per billion in white or "polished" rice and no more than 400 parts per billion in brown rice. The European Food Safety Authority has discussed a more restrictive limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in foods marketed for infants and children, because children have shown to be more sensitive to arsenic than adults, but it has not come to a final determination. The CODEX recommendations are not meant to imply that 200 or 400 parts per billion of arsenic in rice is safe. Rather, the international body aimed to encourage regulators of individual governments to ban rice with higher concentrations of arsenic from the market.

My plan is to eat less rice. This is what both the EWG and Consumer Reports recommend. I'm now using quinoa several times a week in place of rice. I like the taste, it's a safer grain, and it's also higher in protein. Muscles and bones need protein for optimum health.

Links to several reports mentioned here are included so you can do further research yourself if you wish. I did not have enough room here to discuss the many rice products, sugars, etc., in our grocery baskets, but most processed foods contain rice, so your total intake may be higher than you think. Be on the lookout for alternatives to rice-based processed foods like breakfast cereals, rice flour, rice pasta, cakes and crackers. Consumer demand for gluten-free alternatives to wheat-based processed foods has spurred a proliferation of rice-based products, but they're not our only option. Low-arsenic grains include barley, faro, couscous, and bulgur wheat. If you are avoiding gluten, consider amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, oats, cornmeal, grits, and polenta. Read labels carefully and investigate products with these alternative grains.

And thank you to the ladies of Cancer House of Hope for asking this question! An informed public is a healthier public!

Best of Health

Kathi

Is Stress Giving You A Pain In The Butt?

This is a good time of year to bring the breathing practice,"Brahmari Breath," back out.

Great stress reliever, can be used to help the little ones who are about to have a melt down, and also helps lower blood pressure!

For many people stress goes right to their backs – what a pain in the butt!  

If you need a little stress relief to help calm your back pain try Brahmari!

In fact, let's try it right now:

 

Ahhh, feel better?

Best of Health,

Kathi

World Peace Begins With A Smile

blogs sad woman on bench

photo by Ryan McGuire

Thanksgiving is a November holiday that we know well, but are you aware that World Peace Day is the 17th? I know we don't get that day off, but let's take a moment now to contemplate the idea of peace. What does world peace look like to you? Do you feel you can make a difference in the bigger picture? Praying for peace is easy, but it isn't the only way we can help facilitate peace. "Being" peace is something that we, perhaps, don't give much thought to. When we are peaceful, however, when we FEEL peaceful, we share that vibration with everyone around us. 

The Dalai Lama has said "World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence; peace is the manifestation of human compassion." I believe he is correct. Many times I have seen examples of how a simple act of compassion for another human being changes others, thus making a larger difference than I expected.

Look around you in the grocery store. There is often an elderly person in a wheelchair shopping cart. It's very hard to reach some of the shelves from those carts - offer to get something off the shelf or to carry something that might not fit on their cart. And the person bagging your groceries may be someone with a physical or mental challenge. How about smiling and making conversation with that person instead of ignoring or thinking about how slowly they are packing? Compassion is easy to share with others. First, we have to look around and truly see the people we often ignore. 

I find that shopping in any store is the easiest way to find people that are in need of my contagious smile and a kind word. And the best part is that when I see, acknowledge, smile, and chat with people, others around me often take a moment to share a smile and a kind word too. Then the people behind them in line do, too, and the ripple spreads out peace and love to many. Try it yourself and see what a difference you can make!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone, the leaves on the trees are doing their brilliant redesign, and colder weather has arrived in the Berkshires. I have already started wearing my fleece lined jeans.

While I do love the colors and the brisk air in the fall, I do not like the idea of heading into winter. In my classes this week, that was a topic of conversation, and most of us are not looking forward to winter. Being the Pollyanna that I am, it made me think of things that we can do to help ourselves enjoy the colder weather more, and be less stressed by it. The result of that thinking is a new video I've added to my YouTube channel.

Tapping is something I not only recommend and teach, but use myself on a regular basis. So, I have created a tapping routine for enjoying the cold! I plan to use it this winter and hope you will, as well!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Sept is Yoga Month!

I've been trained in Integral Yoga, a traditional form of yoga which includes a meditative practice, breathing practices, deep relaxation, and service to others, along with the physical asanas (yoga poses). 

This, to me is Yoga. There isn't any aerobics, or use of weights, etc. Yoga is a lifestyle of healthy habits!

I specialize in helping people with back, hip, knee pain.

Below is a great yoga asana that opens the hips and makes walking easier! Try it - you'll like it.

And if you want more help with your chronic pain issues, contact me HERE for your very own personalized coaching plan!

Piriformis Syndrome Or Pain In The Butt…

If you suffer from Piriformis Syndrome, you know how painful those spasms can be!

Not to mention that the pain makes your lower back ache, can cause headaches, and most definitely causes your body to release more of those dreaded stress hormones!

Well, here's a simple technique that uses an Acupressure point to ease the pain. Now keep in mind that it will most likely hurt like the dickens when you begin, (what's a dickens anyway?) but trust me on this one - breathe through it and after about a minute, you'll feel the spasm release. That will bring that smile back to your face!

Keep smiling!

Best of Health,

Kathi

 

Shoulder Injuries on The Rise!

Countless people have come in to see me lately with shoulder problems.

Forearm plank for book better

Some have injured themselves doing push ups or plank, so we'll talk a bit about the correct way to do those - without injury!

Let's cover correct form. Most people know by now that you can't let your lower back sag down toward the floor without causing injury to your lower back. Keeping the body as straight as possible is the way to go. Unfortunately, there are many other incorrect ways to do a push up that are not so well known.

  • Do your push ups in front of a mirror, or have someone watch you, to make sure your shoulders are level. This is the most common problem that I see with my clients (mainly women). We usually have one arm that is stronger than the other and when we lower towards the floor, the shoulder of the stronger arm goes lower than the other, causing an imbalance. The action of pushing back up from this imbalance can cause injury. I recommend doing knee push ups, with your lower legs up off the floor, to begin with. This position uses the same muscles but it's a little easier to feel whether one arm is going lower than the other. Once you are stronger, and sure of your good form, you can go back to the military style.
  • Also, When doing a push up, make sure that your elbows do not flare out from the body. That is most likely how we learned to do them as kids, but it's really bad form as an adult when we are lifting over 100 lbs! This position puts a lot of stress on the rotator cuff, leading to injury. Keeping your elbows tucked closer into the body might make your push up a little more difficult, but it will most definitely help prevent rotator cuff injuries. One of the ways I teach people to remember to do that is through using a heavy hand barbell. Place the barbells on each side of the body so that when you grab the barbell your palms are facing each other. Complete all of your push ups with hands grabbing the barbells and this will make it easier to keep the elbows in while at the same time, saving your wrists from strain - A win-win solution. 
  • Another common bad habit is letting your body simply drop toward the floor. Don't use gravity, use your muscles in a controlled movement both down and up. Ignore all those TV shows where you see guys doing push-ups so fast, you can't even count them. For proper form, you need to go slow and concentrate on using all of your back, shoulder, abdominal and arm muscles. Keep those abs tight so that they can protect your lower back.

Pay attention to HOW you do your exercises and your body will be much happier!

Best of Health,

Kathi 

Outdoor Exercise

quad stretch at tree cropped

 

Summer is short - let's get out there and EXERCISE!

One thing that I never go without doing, is, stretching before and after a hike. When we walk, run, or hike, often, our leg muscles tighten up. There are a couple of simple stretches that can make all the difference between an enjoyable next day and a painful one. Sometimes, our tense leg muscles can even keep us awake at night. Here are a few recommended, excellent, stretches:

Best of Health,

Kathi

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