Monthly Archives: July 2012
Everyone wants to be more healthy, wants to get into shape, wants to have that toned and athletic looking body, right? We read books, we buy videos, we explore our options through Internet sites and magazine articles.
And we invariably encounter confusing, often conflicting information. So, just how DO you know which fitness program is the right one for you? Trial and error? Cost vs. free? How do you decide where to put your sweat, hard work, dreams, and energy? Let’s see if we can help you out. We’ll look at several options, and then perhaps you’ll have a better idea of just what you need, and what you need to avoid.
- Goals – What are your fitness goals? By looking at where you want to go, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. So, are you needing to lose a great deal of weight? You’ll need to add diet and nutrition into your program as well as increasing your cardio. Wanting to get into fighting trim? You need to add strength training to your fitness routine, to tone and firm up those muscles. Desiring to simply begin a lifetime exercise habit? A better choice for you might be to explore a sport–something you can play and enjoy over a long period of your lifetime–that offers good fitness stability. Golfing, running, dancing, yoga, walking, biking, and swimming are all excellent choices for long-term challenge, fun, and benefits.
- Personality type – Are you a loner or a joiner? Many fitness clubs and gyms offer group classes. Group exercise offers opportunities for accountability, friendship, and an exchange of ideas. Group exercise certification or group fitness certification for trainers is something to consider when choosing a class or program. You don’t want to be in the hands of an untrained individual. Opportunities for loners exist in the solitary worlds of running, walking, and other “home-based” fitness routines. You could also hire a personal trainer–someone to help you get/keep moving, inspire you with stories and fitness quotes, keep you accountable to your own goals, and teach you new ways of eating and exercising. One big benefit of a personal trainer is that your exercise and eating plan are tailored to you, customized to meet your individual needs and goals. But if you and your trainer clash? Well, time to find a new trainer!
- Fitness Level – Your fitness level can have a big impact on what you do, where you do it, and how often. If you are a complete fitness newbie with a lot of serious weight to lose, or health matters to overcome, you may want to start slowly and simply, with a walk around the block a couple of times a day, or a few minutes or miles on a treadmill or exercise bike, or laps in the pool. You won’t want to jump into some very rigorous exercise class or fitness routine right off the bat, because your body may not react as positively to the experience as you’d like it to do. No amount of exercise or fitness is worth an injury or illness brought on by taking on too much at once.
On the other hand, if you’re already in pretty good shape, you may want to change things up–try a new sport or activity; add some new challenges to what you are already doing. Either way, you may want to consult with a trainer or coach, to find out just what kind of activity and progress–your road map to success–would be right for you.
It used to be that when a patient received a diagnosis of a brain tumor, or an acoustic neuroma, or any other cyst or cancer growing inside the skull, it meant brain surgery. And that meant shaving your hair, cutting open your head and messing about with the brain that lives inside there. It also meant a long stay in the hospital, a long recovery time, and a big risk that “something” could go wrong. Not anymore.
Gamma knife surgery has replaced the scalpel in many instances of brain tumors and cysts. Even metastatic brain cancers can be treated without ever requiring so much as a band-aid, let alone a bone saw. While the gamma knife isn’t the only treatment option, it has become more and more popular simply because of what it isn’t. And what it isn’t is brain “surgery.”
The gamma knife is actually a system for delivering pin point radiation right through the skull to the site of the tumor or cyst inside. No blood, no bone saw, no opening up of your brain. There’s no long hospital stay, as most gamma knife treatments are done on an out-patient basis. There’s no long recovery time, either. In fact, most patients are able to return to their regular routine within a few days. Gamma knife surgery’s lack of invasiveness is one of the reasons it has grown in popularity for the treatment of certain brain tumors.
Gamma knife works not by removing the tumor or cyst, but rather by stopping its growth and cutting off its blood supply. In the case of most tumors, this leads to a shrinkage of the tumor, sometimes even a dissolving away. There’s no more tumor to worry about, no cyst to cause symptoms. Thus, the patient can lead a normal, pain-free, symptom-free life. In the case of some tumors, such as acoustic neuromas, however, the cyst remains and so do the symptoms. In cases such as these, more traditional surgery may be required to remove the dead tumor.
So, while gamma knife surgery may not qualify as true surgery, it can be just as effective at removing tumors as a threat to health and life as blood-and-brain cutting. And while it may not completely remove the need for more traditional methods, it is certainly a more attractive alternative whenever possible. Oh, and it has just about rendered “inoperable” tumors a thing of the past, as very few tumors are truly out of its reach.
If you are relying solely on your child’s school physical education program to help them learn healthy exercise habits, or to maintain physical fitness, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. PE programs are not enough. Most PE curriculum isn’t designed to promote overall fitness, or even to help kids meet fitness goals. Even schools that have set up coordinated school health programs aren’t really capable of meeting all your child’s fitness needs. Here’s why:
- It is human nature to model more what we see and what we know in our daily lives, than what we are told to do or taught in school. Your kids’ school PE program teacher or coach can preach at the students all day, every day, about the importance of regular physical exercise, proper diet and nutrition, the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, etc. But if all your kids see is you sitting on the couch, munching junk food and rarely, if ever, engaging YOUR body, guess what? All that talk from the teachers is going to be an incessant round of blah, blah, blah… If you want active healthy kids, you have to be as active and as healthy a model as you can be for them.
- PE programs can only do so much. The time allotted for most pe classes is only about 30 minutes a day, if that. Some students only get class 2 or 3 times a week. Or for short “terms” of a few weeks, as the teachers and coaches must also share time with health classes. Many elementary schools have even abolished recess–free play time–in favor of more academic classroom time, presumably to aid in passing all those all-important standardized tests. Only 25% of students nationwide receive 30 minutes of physical activity in school a day. (That, by the way, is the recommended minimum for children.) And less than 10% of all elementary schools have any sort of “effective” PE program at all.
- PE materials are often last, or nearly last, when it comes to budgeting, be it time or money. Therefore, equipment is often old, outdated, or sparse. Likewise, many learning materials–texts, manuals, etc.–are also outdated. This can cause even the most well-meaning but poorly informed teacher or coach to pass along improper, out-of-date, inadequate information. Some might say that any information is better than no teaching at all, but when it comes to the proper health, nutrition, and fitness of your child, wouldn’t you rather it be as current and up-to-date as possible? And wouldn’t you like to know that your child has the opportunity to engage in safe, fun activities, rather than having to make do with worn-out, in-need-of-replacement equipment?
The key to a healthy childhood begins at home. The key to effective PE programs begins with parental involvement. If your school doesn’t supply adequate time and resources to promote a healthy, active lifestyle, then you either need to supplement it by modeling good behavior at home, or by helping raise funds and awareness to meet the needs. Arrange for a fundraiser for new equipment, new materials, or facilities. Meet with the teachers and coaches to find out what they’ve got planned. If you’re already a sport or fitness enthusiast, volunteer your time and talents. Good PE programs begin with good resources. Healthy kids begin with healthy parents. And that’s the biggest reason why PE programs aren’t enough. They don’t live in your home.
What with all the talk about childhood and teen obesity, health-conscious parents are looking for ways to get their families active and help them stay fit. Many look to their school and community sports programs for a solution for at least the kids. Some sports and extra curricular activities can be rather expensive, however. For example, in cheerleading, cheer gear, cheer shirts, shorts, skirts, shoes, pom poms, and socks all add up. While the sport is very worthwhile for any teen, if their squad doesn’t offer many fundraising opportunities, the burden lies on the parents’ pocketbook. So, that leaves parents looking for less expensive ways to motivate their teens and preteens into fitness-building activities. If you are one of those, look no further! Here’s a few you just might hadn’t thought of yourself:
- A family membership to the Y or to a health center can actually be quite inexpensive in the long run. Most charge by the month, while some do offer yearly memberships. This may be a large one-time cost, but after you break it down over 12 months, it can actually be quite budget-friendly. Add to that fact that many facilities offer discounted or even free tuition to their various classes and special group activities, and you’ve saved even more. Oh, and let’s not forget the extra benefit that everyone can have the opportunity to have some good fitness fun–not just the young folks in the family!
- Running or walking can be another relatively inexpensive activity to engage in as a family. All you really need is a good pair of shoes and the time and place to hit the road. Some advocates for barefoot running say skip the shoes and just simply go for it – toes au naturale! Many communities have created walking/running trails, too, to provide a safe place for families to walk together without fear of dogs or traffic.
- Backyard games are another inexpensive yet fun way for families to stay active and enjoy a little friendly competition. How about an afternoon of touch football? Or an old-fashioned field day with sack races, three-legged races, frisbee throwing, or hula hoop twirling? Is it hot where you live? Consider a cooling water battle with balloons or blasters! It doesn’t have to be anything great or fantastic, as long as you are physically active on a consistent basis.
- Geocaching is another great, fairly inexpensive hobby that offers great fitness opportunities. All you need is a handheld GPS and a list of caches in your area. If you don’t know what geocaching is, it’s kind of like modern day treasure hunting–but with no eye patches or pirate gear required! You have a list of “caches” in your area giving only the GPS coordinates and a general location, like the McWhorter Trail or Franklin Park. You go to the starting point and then use your GPS to find the cache. You can choose to leave a memento in the cache to prove you’ve been there, and take something someone else has left, or you can simply sign the log book and then leave the cache as you found it for the next group of intrepid hunters. Some caches require more physical exertion and skill than others, so the caches are typically rated by difficulty. Start off easy and work your way up, matey!
Fitness doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. As long as it works those arms, legs, and other body parts too, you’ll be good to go!
Churchill may have said that one should “never surrender” but sometimes the only way to win is by quitting. While that has you scratching your head in wonder, let me explain what I mean by it. Sometimes, the only way to regain your health and fitness, or to have a new start to a healthier lifestyle is to give up something you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. In other words, by quitting something bad for you and either replacing it with a good habit, or simply turning your back on it forever, you win by becoming a healthier, happier you! Let’s look at a few ways you can win through quitting, shall we?
- Quitting tobacco – Smoking and using smokeless tobacco isn’t just bad for you–it’s bad for those around you, too. Second-hand smoke can be just as dangerous as smoking. While using smokeless tobacco can’t really harm anyone but you, it is certainly repulsive to many, as it stains your teeth, stinks up your breath, and all that spitting? GROSS! Whether you choose to quit cold turkey, or try something like those electric cigarettes or a non-tobacco product like mint chew, you won’t regret the day you chose to take the first step. There are many programs and websites devoted to how to quit chewing tobacco and smoking if you need help getting started. There’s even a few posts running around the I Love 2 B Healthy blog! (hint, hint…)
- Quitting the couch – Too many folks today have sedentary, sit-still lifestyles. Our jobs keep us glued to our seats, while the commute to and from work requires more sitting on our biscuits. While we may not be able to control our work environment or commute to and from, we can do something about it when we get home. Instead of flopping down, keep the momentum going with a walk around the neighborhood, or a bike ride to the store for dinner. How about devoting weekends to active pursuits such as a dance class or hiking? Or spending your lunch hour at the gym a couple a times a week? My point is to get up and get moving and keep at it. Your heart, your waistline and your family will all benefit from your efforts.
- Quitting the non-food diet – I recently saw a poster that said “Quit eating CRAP” with the letters standing for Carbonated drinks, Refined sugars, Artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives, and Processed foods. I loved it, naturally, and found it to be a perfect how-to for getting a good start to forming healthy eating habits. Keep the CRAP acronym in mind when at the grocery store, drive-thru, or restaurant table. You’ll soon find out just how good (and good for you) real food can be!
- Quitting the stress – Stress may seem like an unavoidable part of your life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can set aside part of every day for some peace and quiet. Try meditating, or prayer, or just unplugging and picking up a book. Exercise helps relieve stress, too, so quitting the couch may help you quit the stress, or at least relive it somewhat. Avoiding negative people and situations as much as possible is a good idea, too. Surround yourself with positive, happy people and places. Exchange the stressful attitudes and atmospheres for more peaceful, positive ones. It may not be easy, but once you start, you’ll soon discover how much of a difference “a little peace and quiet” can make.
Not all teens want to be the stereotypical couch potato playing video games or cruising Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube all waking hours. Not all fitness-minded teens want to become gym rats and jocks either. Often, your choices seem limited to one or the other, though. So, what’s a guy or gal to do that’s in between the two extremes? Here’s some ideas that just might fit the bill.
- Cheerleading – Now admittedly, you have to have some skills if you want to make the squad. However, cheering is a way to get in some really good fitness and athletic training. What with all the practice and performing, there’s no time to be a lazy lay about. Your cheerleading apparel is going to demand a toned body, as the shirts and cheer shorts place a great deal of Y-O-U on public display. One good thing about cheering as a form of staying fit is that your wardrobe is at least appropriate for the activity. Most squads require cheerleading shoes and socks that fit well, and eliminate the risk of foot, ankle, and knee injury.
- Dance – While cheerleading may require some skill and talent, and may not be for everyone, dance is a little more forgiving. There are also many styles of dance to choose from, from ballet to jazz to tap to hip hop to ballroom. Don’t forget about traditional forms of folk or cultural dancing, as well, when making your decision. While it may seem more appropriate for an Irish-American to learn step-dancing, don’t let the fact that your last name is Delmonica or Musckovich stop you if that’s where your passion lies!
- Yoga – Yoga may seem like such a weird thing to do if you’re a North American teen, but it definitely should be on your radar if you are health and fitness conscious. The gentle stretching of yoga, combined with the opportunities for quiet reflection and deep breathing can help erase the stress and tension of high school with all its associated drama and demands. Imagine a time where you can not only reenergize your body, but also your mind. That’s yoga in a nutshell!
- Walking – Perhaps the simplest and easiest and cheapest of all forms of fitness is walking. You can do it anywhere, at almost anytime. Provided you have two good legs, the feet to go with them, and some decent supportive shoes, (no flip-flops for walking, please!) you’re all set to go. Walking can also be beneficial to your mental health, as a nice solitary walk can give you time to think. Or you can make it a social occasion by finding a walking buddy to share your trails.
- Barefoot running – This is perhaps the oldest, and yet newest, fitness trend. And since you need nothing but two good feet and the strong legs attached to them, it could be even easier to start doing than walking. You simply run barefoot. It has been noted that people strike differently when running without shoes. This difference is believed to prevent many of the injuries associated with traditional shoe running. Minimalist shoes–anything from the good old canvas sannies we wore as kids to new high-tech models with a place for each toe offer barefoot runners a bit of protection from hot asphalt and dangerous gravel while still allowing the foot’s more natural strike.
So, there you have it. Now, get off the couch, put down the chips and go move your body!
I love high-tech gadgets and gizmos almost as much as I love health and fitness. Maybe that’s why I love to write about the high-tech aspects of modern health care–it combines two of my favorite topics! Now I know I’ve discussed lasers in medicine and health care before, many times before in fact, but could you indulge me just one more time, please? And for those of you new readers out there, I can almost assure you that this won’t be the last time you’ll be hearing from me on this topic!
I guess I find medical lasers so fascinating because they seem so paradoxical. Lasers are more thought of, at least by me, as super weapons, capable of vast amounts of destruction and damage. So how could they be useful in the delicate, intricate field of medicine? Are medical lasers somehow less powerful, smaller, less capable than “other” lasers? Or is it just that technology has made lasers safer and more delicate, better suited to brain surgery, pain relief, and eye treatments than a James Bond villain’s world-ending prototype? Actually, the answer lies in a bit of both.
Most medical lasers are low-level lasers. They truly aren’t as powerful, as scary, or as dangerous to humankind as the ones the bad guys build in the movies and comic strips. You can’t utilize laser therapy for pain with a laser of the same intensity as one capable of blasting space ships out of the sky, now can you? Low-level laser means just that–the light rays it emits are on less intense levels of the light spectrum–than other high-powered lasers. That doesn’t mean that they can’t do their jobs. On the contrary, low-level lasers are perfect for treating joint pain, for removing cataracts, for stopping the growth of brain tumors, and for making almost bloodless incisions that leave minimal scars. Cosmetologists use lasers to reshape and redefine the body. Ophthalmologists use them to save the sight of patients blinded by diabetes and other diseases. Doctors have developed laser scanning equipment, too, to capture images of the inside of the body, effectively doing away with the need for as many biopsies. Medical researchers are constantly loking for ways to integrate even more lasers into health care.
So, these low-level lasers are making a big name for themselves in medicine, and more so every day. Medical lasers may not be capable of blowing up the world, but they have a power uniquely their own, in their delicate, low-powered way!
One of the more insidious effects diabetes has on the body is that is can slowly deteriorate the sense of sight. Vision becomes dimmer and dimmer as cataracts form, or lights become cloudy and spots of vision go dark as retinopathy sets in. Often, the changes are so gradual that little notice is taken at first, but then as the damage done increases as time goes on, the changes in vision are no longer incapable of being ignored. Sometimes, if it’s not too late, the damage can be reversed, or at least stopped. Other times, when the patient has gone too long without doing anything, complete, total, permanent blindness is the result. Diabetes is nothing to ignore, and maintaining healthy vision should be a priority for every diabetic. Regular visits to the ophthalmologist are the only answer. Let’s look at what your eye care professional does in the quest to keep your diabetic eyes bright and healthy.
Your ophthalmologist’s office may look like something out of a Star Trek set, with various machines and computer screens clustered about thanks to medical equipment suppliers like EMR vendors. All this high-tech ophthalmic equipment is necessary, however, to your vision’s good health.
- You’ll most likely be treated to a visit with the scanning laser ophthalmoscope. It uses a laser to take a good, long look at the retina and produce high-definition images of it. This can be very beneficial in diagnosing diabetic retinopathy. In fact, regular scans with a scanning laser ophthalmoscope can catch those little leaking capillaries before they have time to form scarring or detach the retina.
- Another high-tech gizmo found in nearly every ophthalmologist’s office is an ND-YAG laser. This laser is not a diagnostic tool, but rather a surgical tool. For most diabetics, the ND-YAG laser is used to “burn” the capillaries at the back of the eye to either undo, or prevent, diabetic retinopathy. The ND-YAG laser is also used to treat certain types of glaucoma, so its use by your ophthalmologist is not just restricted to his diabetic patients.
- One last gadget to mention: the fundus camera. This little dude is the one with the puff of air that snaps pics of the inside of your eyeball. With this, your doctor can get a broad overview of the entire health of your entire eye. We know that diabetics are prone to certain eye health issues, but they are still candidates for other problems that plague us all, especially age-related ones.
To wrap up, if you have diabetes, regular check-ups with your doctor are a must. Regular visits to your eye care professional are essential, too. To maintain healthy vision while being diabetic doesn’t take much; it is well worth it to “watch” yourself!
With food prices continuing to soar, more and more folks are getting into the gardening habit. The perfectly manicured grass has been replaced with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers or melons. For many first time gardeners, the long hours, hard work and heartbreaks of gardening are an unpleasant surprise. There’s little to be done about seedlings that suffer, rain that doesn’t fall, or weeds that grow like, well, weeds. But pests in the garden are something that can be eliminated, and in the interests of best gardening practices, organic garden pest control is the way to go. Why poison your plants, the soil, and water with harmful pesticides and chemicals. No, whether it’s cutworms or a rodent, pest control the natural way is best.
Many household items can be used for organic garden pest control. Adding certain plants to your garden will help, too. Now, not all areas suffer from the same kind of pests. But some remedies can be used with great effect nationwide. So whether your little veg patch is in New York or Idaho, Dade County or Orange County, pest control the natural way is well within your grasp! Let’s look at some ways to get rid of common garden pests, shall we?
- Deer – Many, many a garden has suffered under the hooves and ravenous appetites of deer. One bad thing about the deer is that it is very much a creature of habit. Once it discovers your appetizing little salad bar in the backyard, it will keep coming back. One method of defense is to surround your garden patch with plants that deer don’t like. They are turned off by strong smelling herbs like anise (fennel) and chives. They also aren’t too fond of strong smelling flowers like marigolds, evening primrose or forget-me-nots. Add a second line of defense by planting things they DO like–dogwood, viburnum, burning bush–in an area away from the garden. The deer will be attracted to these yummy offerings first and avoid entering the garden area.
- Cats – Neighborhood cats often see the freshly tilled soft soil of a garden plot as a giant litter box just waiting to be used. Their digging can disturb plants, while their scat can make gardening an unpleasant experience for you. Like deer, cats have certain scents that they really can’t stand, and using these in your garden plot can keep Kitty at bay. Sprinkle orange peels throughout your plants, as well as cinnamon sticks. Or spray plants with a light coating of orange oil. These should deter Puss from planting his boots in your rhubarb.
- Cutworms, Japanese beetles, slugs, snails, and other creepy crawlies – Certain bugs can wreak havoc in your garden. Cutworms love to simply cut through the stem of a nice young plant. Deter them by using large plastic drinking cups. Cut the bottom out of the cup. When you plant your seedling, place the cup over and around the plant. The large top of the cup will allow the plant to grow as it should, while the plastic bottom will shield it from the worms. Japanese beetles are a bit like deer and cats–there are certain plants they don’t like. Planting garlic or chives near the plants they DO like, or simply as a border around your plot, might be enough to deter them. Snails and slugs can do serious damage to leafy green plants. The best cure for them is beer. Yep, pour a little liquid gold into a shallow dish and set it under a plant. They will drop by for the “last call” of their lives. (There are no stats on the effectiveness of light beer versus full bodied. I guess you’ll have to ask the slugs which they prefer.)
Organic gardening needn’t be filled with heartbreak and setbacks caused by pests. Get rid of them naturally, safely and easily. Then go on to enjoy the harvest!
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that we love fitness and all things to do with natural, wholesome health and well-being. We’ve advocated a tobacco-free life, tried to inform you of just what and how certain diseases can affect your life, and strongly urged you to get up, get moving, and get fit. Today we’re going to look at what many may consider the “next step” in fitness–taking it to the professional level. No, we’re not going to discuss professional athletics, but rather the rather exciting world of the professional personal trainer. We all know that celebrities have their own personal trainers, but did you know that for as little as $25 a week, you can have one too? Of course, that will only buy you one hour of the trainer’s time, but what a difference a one-hour session can make when you have the guidance and tutelage of a professional fitness expert. And if one hour isn’t enough for you, well, what price can you really place on your health and well-being and a chance to live a longer, fuller life? Let’s look at what it takes to be a professional personal trainer, how to choose one, and what he or she can do for you!
- Certification – DO NOT hire a personal fitness trainer who is not certified through an accredited training program. Personal trainer certification ensures that the person into whose hands you are placing your health, well-being, and safety is fully trained and educated. In other words, your brother-in-law’s ex-football buddy might be in great shape and an experienced gym rat, but can he really know what’s best for you? Personal trainer certification isn’t hard to get, but it does take time and effort. Personal training certification online programs exist to aid the motivated individual who otherwise might not be able to obtain personal trainer certification. Just make sure that the certificates your trainer holds are from an accredited program, or accrediting agency, such as the NCCA.
- Experience – Hiring a personal fitness trainer who is new to the game isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you want to make sure that evn if you are their first client that they have some experience with fitness and health. A newly minted certified personal trainer is most likely someone with great enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, physical fitness and overall well-being. Certification will ensure that they have some experience and knowledge, but personal achievements and recommendations should also accompany that certification.
- The Big Picture – A personal trainer should be able to create an overall plan to meet your fitness goals. Some trainers go on to receive additional certifications in weight loss and nutrition, as well as fitness. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds, then you may want to look for a trainer who has this additional education. If you’re wanting to become a competitive runner, for example, can your trainer take you all the way to your first big race? If all you need is to get back in shape after giving birth, or an extended illness, or have recently suffered an injury and needed to take some time off, does your trainer have a program that will meet your needs as well as your limitations? If your trainer seems to have a one-size-fits-all mentality, or if he can’t seem to adjust your program to meet your specific needs, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Hiring a personal trainer shouldn’t be difficult, and it should have the positive results you are looking for. Otherwise, maybe you’d be better off with your brother-in-law’s football buddy after all.