Wise Work Out – At the Gym

It’s that time of year when New Year resolutions often involve starting or reviving an exercise program.  One very easy way to derail this is to end up getting hurt so here are some tips for injury prevention in the gym.

Listen to your body.  There’s a balance between pushing yourself and overdoing things.  It’s better to start out doing less and working up rather than doing more and ending up injured.  You do want to challenge yourself but it may take some time to figure out what is a challenge vs. what’s too much.  Give yourself the time.

Not all exercises are good for everyone.  Stay mindful of your body.  I’m don’t like to see people doing  high impact workouts where you’re jumping around a lot.  It puts a long of pressure on your joints and  cause damage in the long run.  If you have an area that’s been injured, get advice from a qualified person, like a chiropractor, about how to best work that region.

Avoid locking out your joints.  A locked joint is one that is in its end range of motion.  If you let your arms hang down, there is still some flex in your elbows.  If you totally straighten your arm your elbow is now locked.  A locked joint is particularly vulnerable because it has no give.  So if you’re doing an exercise like a leg press, avoid fully straightening your legs.  Same goes for a chest press, avoid fully straightening your arms.

Machine Adjustments.  While not everyone uses machines, if you do it is important that it is adjusted correctly.  Some machines and weight benches will be too big for a smaller person.  If you’re unsure, working with a trainer could be beneficial.

What else should you do at the gym.  Using machines isn’t the only way to work-out.  Free weights have a lot of benefit.  Standing up while doing an exercise will recruit more muscles, particularly core muscles.  The more muscles used, the larger the impact.  Using body movements without weights can also be good, again with the caution of doing low impact movements.  Cardio is another topic for another blog.

Body alignment.  If your body is moving properly to begin with, the chances for injury go way down.  Seeing a chiropractor can help get you started in the right direction as well as giving advice about what would be good to do and better avoided.

So don’t let injury occur and stop you from actually achieving your goals. Begin in a reasonable way, have your body in the best shape to start, seek good advice and ultimately see the benefits.


Alzheimer – Brain Health and Cognitive Decline

There are lots of jokes about “senior moments” but for thosemaster-runner who have serious impairments and the people who love them, this is not a joke.  There’s research, there’s drugs and there’s lots of people who can no longer remember or care for themselves.

Looking for someone to invent that magic pill is not actually the answer.  Causes of cognitive decline are many, requiring a number of answers.

Things that are known:

  • How the body processes sugar (glucose) and insulin sensitivity are key factors in what fuels the brain. If the brain can’t properly use glucose it is not going to function very well.
  • Plaques known as amyloids have been found in excessive amounts in people with Alzheimer’s. Amyloids are made as a protective mechanism initially.  They bind toxins, they help decrease inflammation and infection, and if your deficient in various things that support nerves like vitamin D or B12 you will make more amyloids.
  • Things that improve insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation can help brain function.

Possible issues to test for include insulin resistance, heavy metal toxicity, nutrient deficiencies like B12 and vitamin D, fatty acid balance, inflammation markers to name a few.

Dr. Dale Bredesen has been working on a multi-factorial approach for cognitive decline, http://www.aging-us.com/article/NjJf3fWGKw4e99CyC/text.  This article refers to a very small study done with 10 people and additional larger scale trials are needed and being done.

His program addresses a number of issues requiring dietary changes, exercise, sleep, and supplements.

It is interesting to note that he has his ideal recommendations but that even though all of them were not followed, he still got good results with this small number of people.

Some of the recommendations:

  • Fasting for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast.
  • Elimination of simple carbohydrates and processed foods.
  • Elimination of known inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, corn and soy.
  • Exercise, 4-6 days/week for 30-60 minutes.
  • Sleep 8 hours per night.
  • Take supplements to help get rid of the amyloids such as Curcumin, Ashwagandha.
  • Improve focus and neural linkages. Consider Bacopa monniera

Here is a chart from Dr. Bredesen’s article on specific supplements and links to reference rationale. http://www.aging-us.com/article/NjJf3fWGKw4e99CyC/text

I know that this is a long list and not everyone needs to do everything.  There are definite key points.  Increase insulin sensitivity, give the nervous system the nutrients it needs to build and repair.  Eliminate inflammation and toxicity.  Get enough exercise and also rest.

We all know aging is inevitable but mental decline is not.  It’s a sign that something is wrong, that there is neurodegeneration and it is possible to change this.


It’s Cleanse Time

What is a cleanse and why should I do one?nutrient-dense-foods-nutritarian

October is a great time to start a cleanse.  Summer barbecue season is over and the holiday eating season hasn’t started yet.  But why would you want to do this?

Cleanses are not about losing weight – although most people do lose weight, they are about giving your body a break so it can heal and rejuvenate.  They’re about gaining a new understanding of what actually feels good and tastes good.

The exact benefits of a cleanse will vary with each person, but here are some general considerations.

  • Feel better.
  • Give the liver a break and a chance to repair.
  • Gain conscious awareness of allergies.
  • Change your relationship with food to ultimately make better choices.
  • Improve digestion.
  • Decrease free radical production.
  • Improve ability to deal with harmful substances that are naturally produced.
  • Clear up sinus congestion.
  • Balance blood sugar.
  • Decrease blood pressure.
  • Normalize endocrine function such as thyroid hormones and adrenal response.


Cleanses are not fasts.  Personally I don’t believe in fasting although I know that many people do and find benefits from them.  Our bodies are over taxed by lifestyle, environmental toxins, stress, etc.  We are constantly making substances to deal with this.  If you take away food, you take away the body’s fuel source.  While fasting might be taking away some of the problem, it is also limiting some of the solution.

A cleanse is a more practical approach.  Get rid of some of the stress on the body, eat better foods and take additional nutrients to facilitate detox and healing.

There are lots of different cleanses and supportive supplements.  Many cleanses are 21 days and I have found that most people don’t feel all that well the first week.  There’s getting used to not eating certain foods, often some emotional volatility and the body is detoxing.  By the 2nd week most people start to feel better.  There’s more energy.  By the third week they’re not only feeling better other people are often commenting on how good they’re looking.

Cleanses involve eliminating pro-inflammatory and common allergenic foods like wheat and gluten products, dairy, corn, and soy.  Some eliminate meat for a certain amount of time.  Elimination of caffeine, alcohol and processed sugars is also part of the cleanse.  The emphasis is on eating good food, as organic as possible with specific recommendations about what to eat and what not to eat.  It’s a good time to experiment and get creative with different recipes.

A cleanse is a great way to get a better grip on your health.  It’s a good idea to do this with support from a knowledgeable practitioner so that you’re making the right choices, taking the best supportive nutrients and herbs and can get your questions answered.  Getting information about how to do a good cleanse as well as what to do once the cleanse is over can maximize your success.


It’s Just Stress

It is getting to be that time of year when our bodies can get really taxed. It’s usually a combination of having lots to do, people to see, places to go and things to buy, coupled with all the less than healthy food and drink. So how do you do things differently? How can you help your body cope through the rigors of the season?

One of the time-honored remedies for dealing with stress is to exercise and eat well. This is not a new idea. It is a very well known fact. What might not be as well known is how stress takes its toll on the body.

Our bodies have well honed and integrated mechanisms for coping with stress. Since the stress response is a very basic and primitive response, the body will sacrifice a great deal to cope. In days of yore, stress was easily displaced by running away from that chasing predator. The excitation, the physical exertion, and the later recovery were necessary to survive, regroup, and continue until the next challenge occurred.

The body’s response to stress has not changed: elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, flooding the body with compounds like glucose, cortisol, and adrenaline. What we don’t get is the physical exertion to respond and let the body burn off these chemicals. Our stressors today aren’t being chased by wild animals. There’s nothing to run from and the body often doesn’t get to reset. This cycle will eventually take its toll. There will not only be the tendency to feel physically fatigued. After a while, various glands and organs will also get exhausted.

The adrenals are the main glands that deal with stress. If they get exhausted, that exhaustion can set off a chain reaction that makes the body less and less able to deal with stress. Metabolism will slow down, digestion and the ability to get nutrients to the body will be compromised, blood sugar imbalances can occur, and the list goes on. It’s not just stress. It’s a cascade of events that can lead to a significant downward health spiral if left unchecked.

So if your stress is short-term, say Thanksgiving to New Year’s, then do your best to eat well when away from the parties. Get lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and eat whole grains. These will help supply the body with the tools it needs to rebalance. Drinking alcohol uses up certain B vitamins which are very important in helping the body to deal with stress. Whole grains are particularly high in B vitamins. Taking additional B vitamins can be helpful but make sure that you are taking a good one, preferably a food based vitamin.

Long-term stress will also be helped by diet and exercise, but the body may need some additional support to help shift it away from its ingrained stress response. Because digestion gets impaired, there could be nutritional deficiencies that need addressing. Since adrenal fatigue or exhaustion can occur, some additional support may be needed.

Live Longer: 15 Minutes = 3 Years

No it’s not bad math. It’s the results of a study recently reported in Lancet’s.  In Taiwan, 416,175 people were studied from 1996 through 2008.  The study found that the low-level activity group, people who did moderate exercise like brisk walking for 15 minutes a day, increased their life expectancy by three years.  They also had a 14 percent reduction in their overall mortality risk.

People who exercised more, showed even better results.


Currently it is recommended that we exercise anywhere from 30-60 minutes per day.  For some people that is just too much.  Between juggling work/school, commuting, family, etc., time can be a very precious commodity.  Knowing you should exercise and being able to find the time can be two very different things.

So while more exercise can give more improvements, it’s good to know that even carving out 15 minutes a day can have significant benefit.  Pretty much everyone can find 15 minutes to go do some brisk walking.  It doesn’t require fancy equipment, although a good pair of shoes is recommended.  You don’t need to invest precious time getting to and from a gym.  Just go out the door and walk briskly for 15 minutes.

Often people start an exercise program, but find that they just don’t have the time to keep up the routine. Then they stop everything. Exercise becomes an all or nothing proposition. While it is better to have a comprehensive program of weight lifting and aerobic work, it’s good to know that even doing a little can produce solid results.

So if you don’t have time to do the full gamut, see about adding those 15 minutes daily.  You might wind up with more energy and find the time to do even more. But at least you’ve still done something good for yourself.



The good workouts are tough, demanding, sweat & blood. So here’s a sneaky workout trick: add fun. And in this kind of heat, the best fun is kayaking.

Getting a kayak to move is primarily about the core muscles of the abdomen and back. Sure, arms are important, but you don’t want your arms doing all the work. Your torso’s big, your arms are small. Do the math.


Done right, plowing through the water is more about rotating your body. The central power comes from your core. That lets you go faster with less effort and fatigue.

Kayaking is easy, but you want to get some instruction. We’re fortunate to have plenty of great groups in Chicago to check out.

Right here at the lakefront we have the Lincoln Park Boat Club (http://www.lpbc.net/). It’s a great place to learn paddling. Join the club and you can take out a wide variety of boats. It’s located across from the Lincoln Park Zoo, which means easy access to Lake Michigan. That’s a great jaunt on a hot day.

Kayak Chicago (www.kayakchicago.com) does tours and rentals as well as lessons. They go out on Lake Michigan or various points along the Chicago River. You can do skyscraper paddling near downtown, or explore shady byways back in the neighborhoods.

In the forest preserves, Chicago Kayak(http://www.chicagokayak.com/) holds classes in the Skokie Lagoons. They also do organized trips. They even have a club of their own.

If you already have your own boat, you’ve got to know the Chicago Area Sea Kayakers (CASKA http://www.caska.org/ ). These are paddlers who do local trips most weekends, plus the occasional get-out-of-town-and-camp adventures. You’ll get to learn the best places for paddling, and meet some great people in the process.


How to Tell What Your Bones Are Doing

We think of our bones as solid, stable structures, but they are not. Bone is a living tissue that is constantly being broken down and remodeled. As we get older, issues around bone thinning, or osteoporosis, can become a problem.


Facts and Figures

  • Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women.
  • In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis, and 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease.
  • One out of every two women and one in four men age 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
  • More than 2 million American men suffer from osteoporosis, and millions more are at risk. Each year, 80,000 men have a hip fracture, and one-third of these men die within a year.
  • Osteoporosis can strike at any age.
  • Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including approximately 300,000 hip fractures, 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures at other sites.

So we exercise, take calcium, vitamin D, etc and hope for the best. Dexa scans are used to determine if there is bone thinning. This is a static test, showing the condition of the bone as it is now. What it can’t show is how well the bone is responding to therapy.

A good test for this is looking at the actual breakdown products of bone. One such test looks at a breakdown product of bone called cross-linked N-telopeptides (NTx). This can be measured in the blood or the urine. The more of this substance that shows up, the more bone is being broken down and not being rebuilt. Knowing this can help by either assuring you that your bone maintenance program is successful or warning you that it needs to be changed.


How Are Your Feet?

Chiropractors work on backs, right? Well that’s true. However we also work on all joints in the body, and I must admit that I am particularly fond of adjusting feet. Our feet are the foundation of our bodies, and if they aren’t moving properly everything else gets thrown off: knees, back, and even the neck. People are often surprised how minor adjustments to their feet can translate into immediate improvements in their bodies.


Most runners know the value of good shoes to decrease the impact of running, but that is usually the only attention paid to the feet. Common problems arising from improper foot movements include knee pain, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

Wearing shoes gives our feet support but also weakens them in a way. Actions in our feet are controlled by large (extrinsic) and small (intrinsic) muscles. Because we wear shoes, the smaller muscles do not get much work. We don’t tend to flex our toes as we walk, and these muscles can get weak. Being aware of toes while walking and making a point to flex them can help. A good way to actively strengthen these muscles is to spend some time picking up marbles with your toes.

Another exercise is to focus on your big toe and move it sideways away from the rest of your toes. Try to keep the movement level where the toe is neither pointing up or down. Do a similar maneuver with your little toe, moving it to the side away from your other toes and again keeping it level. Moving the little toe individually will take more effort and concentration than moving the big toe. Walking barefoot in the sand is also good for strengthening the feet but may not be the most practical day-to-day approach.

Like so many things, most people don’t acknowledge their feet until something has gone wrong and pain shows up. The pain may not actually show up in the feet. It could be felt in the knees, hips, pelvis, and/or the low back. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that all of the joints in the body are moving properly. Take care of your feet so that the rest of your body can feel better.

Healthy Aging

Aging is inevitable. How we age is open to lots of options. The other day I saw a friend’s family picture taken over the holidays. It showed twp generations, the older group being in their 50s and 60s, and the younger generation in their 30’s. My friend was part of the older group, but looking at the picture you would have put her in with her younger relatives. It was quite the pictorial testimonial for what a healthy lifestyle can look like from the outside.

One of the underlying causes of many of the so-called chronic diseases of aging–like arthritis, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, and plaque in the arteries–is inflammation. While inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism to protect against threats and help with repair, internal chronic low-level inflammation can wreck havoc with the body.

So how do you tell if this is happening to you? Are you highly stressed, have joint and muscle stiffness, fatigue easily? Do you have adult onset diabetes or high blood pressure? Of course other things could be behind these symptoms and conditions but inflammation is a definite possibility. A definitive way to determine if you have inflammation would be to have a blood test that measures C-Reactive Protein (CRP).

The best way to avoid or eliminate chronic low level inflammation is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Stay physically active, eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, get enough sleep, and make time to have fun.

Common causes of inflammation

  • Stress
  • Allergies
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Wheat
  • Trans fats
  • Excessive weight
  • Insulin resistance

Ways to eliminate inappropriate inflammation include:

  • Manage stress. Exercise, go for a walk, stop and take deep breaths.
  • Eliminate allergens. If you are reacting to certain foods, either eliminate them from your diet or try an allergy elimination technique like NeuroModulation Technique (nmt.md).
  • Avoid sugar. Decrease (or ideally) eliminate sugar from your diet.
  • Avoid processed foods. These foods usually contain high amounts of trans fats that wreak havoc with the body, even to the point of changing the very nature of your cells.
  • Get more omega-3 fatty acids. Increase the amount of wild caught fish that you eat. Nuts are also a good source of omega-3s. Or take a good quality fish oil.
  • Increase anti-inflammatory foods. Eat more of these foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Fruits especially berries
  • Vegetables
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Tumeric
  • Onions
  • Fish (wild caught) For a more complete list, check out Dr. Weil’s food pyramid, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02995/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Food-Pyramid.html
  • Move more. Exercise is a very important component to decrease inflammation. It can lower the excess stress that actually will cause inflammation. It can help reduce weight, and excess fat actually has chemicals that promote inflammation. It helps decrease insulin resistance. It will increase circulation and better enable the body to eliminate the accumulation of inflammatory chemicals.

So while aging is inevitable, we have some choices about how that will occur. Eating in a way that nurtures the body, decreasing stress, exercise, eliminating allergies will go a long way towards ensuring that we not only get to those golden years, but we enjoy them.

Getting Back in Shape

There’s a lot to be said for getting in shape. You feel better and look better, and your clothes start fitting better. But what if you haven’t done much for a while? How do you even start?

Fitness woman holding dumbbells - detail

Starting your program

  1. Start where you are now. If you spent the last ten years on the couch flipping channels, you can gain a lot just by getting out the door and walking. As you get used to walking, increase your pace. If you are already pretty active, you will probably need cycling, running, or workout machines to challenge your body and see the effects.
  1. Watch your ego. It is easy to start out gung-ho.“YES, I can lift 100 pounds, and work out for hours.” You might feel good at the time, and walk out of the gym tired and excited. But by the next day you will be in real pain. Not just the usual sore muscle pain, but pain from muscle tears and overuse. This will set you back, not move you forward, and will make it harder to continue working out.
  1. Lift amounts that actually challenge you. For best effect, use weights heavy enough to allow you to do 6-8 repetitions. Repeat for 3 sets. If you can do 15 or so reps, your weights are too light. Too many people at the gym are working out and never see a change in their bodies. They’re probably not working at a level that challenges their muscles.
  1. Include some kind of cardio workout. This does not mean hours on the elliptical or treadmill. In fact, the latest research shows that people do better with intensity training of short bursts and quick rests. (I’ll write more about this later). This short, intense workout will increase lung capacity as well as cardiac output. Two really good books about this type of work out are Ready, Set, GO! by Phil Campbell and A.C.E. The 12-minute Fitness Revolution by Al Sears.
  1. Keep at it! You need to stick to your program long enough to see positive results. That may be just a week or two, but give your body time to change.

 Starting a fitness program at any age is possible and will just about always produce benefits. Our bodies are highly adaptable and will be able to make changes at almost any age. So see what you can do and stick with it. You’ll probably end up living longer and better for you efforts.