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In addition to lowering blood pressure, this gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, balance, flexibility and mental health and is an ideal activity for all ages!

This research was brought to my attention by my friend and mentor from Dalton, Peter Frieder, Chairman,Gentex Corporation and current Board Chair at WVIA. Peter is celebrating his birthday today with a number of years that clearly does not represent his physiological age, in great part due to his dedication to health and wellness. Happy Birthday and thank you!

According to a new study by the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (CACMS), the ancient martial art practice of Tai Chi is effective in lowering blood pressure as much, if not more, than traditional aerobic exercise. For those with prehypertension or hypertension and are unable to tolerate the repetitive and prolonged weight bearing stresses of running, walking or cycling, these results have tremendous implications. The slow, gentle and controlled movements and positions of Tai Chi coupled with controlled breathing and meditation may be a valuable alternative, especially for those with aging muscles and joints. Improved strength, flexibility balance, posture and mental health are additional bonuses.

WHAT IS TAI CHI?

Tai Chi is multifaceted in that it combines martial arts, slow gentle and controlled movements, sustained postures, a focused and meditative mind, and controlled breathing. It is considered by many to be “meditation or medication in motion.”

Tai Chi involves slow-motion movements transitioning with control from one position to another. The positions have historically been named for the actions of animals, for example:

“White Crane Spreads its Wings”

Deep and purposeful breathing, mental focus, body awareness and meditation are integral components of the exercise. The beauty of Tai Chi is not only in the physical form, but also in its safety for all levels of fitness. It is helpful for individuals from high level athletes to those with physical disabilities. The movements are natural and gentle without forcing the muscles and joints to extreme or uncomfortable positions. It is often used as an adjunct therapy in the wellness as well as rehabilitation of a variety of athletic (ACL surgery, joint replacements) and neurological conditions (Parkinson’s, MS, head trauma), to name a few. Based on the aforementioned Chinese study, Tia Chi can be applied as a technique to control or lower blood pressure, especially for those who cannot utilize traditional aerobic exercise.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF TAI CHI

Tai Chi has been found to offer many physical and mental benefits. Some of these include:

Muscle Strength – upper and lower body, trunk and core strength

Flexibility – participants report improved range of motion and flexibility of the spine and extremities

Balance and Proprioception – some studies report a reduction of falls due to a variety of sustained positionsand improved awareness of one’s body in space

Aerobic Conditioning  -  recent studies have found that participants have lower heart rate and blood pressure

Mental Health – through improved balance, strength, and flexibility, studies show participants have gained confidence and control as well as lower blood pressure and stress reduction.

HOW TO BEGIN TAI CHI

All Tai Chi classes begin with four basic principles: warm-up, instruction, practice and breathing.

Warm-up- gentle easy motions to warm-up and loosen the joints and muscles to prevent injury.

Tai Chi Forms – “Short Forms” are beginner movements which are gentle, slow, and short in duration while “Long Forms” are more advanced.

Breath Work – gentle breathing combined with movement to relax the mind and focus energy

GETTING STARTED (HarvardHealth):

Don’t be intimidated by the language or history – Yang, Wu, Cheng are only brands of movements with a history of martial arts but this in no way impacts participation.

Get medical clearance – check with your physician to see if Tai Chi is safe for you. Some orthopedic or vestibular problems might require special attention.

Observe or take a beginner class – often available at local fitness clubs or senior centers. Research options in your area and find a friend to join you. Consider an introductory instructional video to get a feel for Tai Chi. (See local Tia Chi classes below)

Meet with an instructor – if it makes you more comfortable, make time to talk to an instructor before enrolling in a class.

Dress for success – wear loose-fitting clothes that allow for range of motion and comfortable shoes for balance and support.

Track your progress – use an app or keep a journal of your progress. Heart rate, blood pressure and endurance (the time you can hold a pose or tolerate a class) are easy to monitor.

Model: Lily Smith, University of Scranton Physical Therapy Student and PT aide at Mackarey Physical Therapy.

Sources: HarvardHealthPublishing; New Atlas; China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (CACMS); National Institutes of Health

Local Tai Chi Classes: Steamtown Yoga, Scranton, PA; Mission Yoga, Scranton, PA;Dragon’s Heart Tai Chi & Kung Fu, Clarks Summit, PA; Rothrocks Kung Fu & Tai Chi, Duryea, PA

For more information: HarvardHealth; www.taichihealth.com; www.treeoflifetaichi.com

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Kick Start Your Wellness New Year’s Resolutions: PART II OF II

January is the time of year that many people set goals and resolve to be their very best. Not surprisingly, weight loss and fitness are the most common resolutions. It is also a time when many residents of NEPA will plan vacations and travel to warmer climates. Well, it may be that you can do both… This year consider visiting a “Fitness Resort.” According to “FitStays,” fitness resorts are rapidly gaining popularity for people of all sizes and shapes. Last week in Part I of “Fitness Resorts” we discussed value of fitness resorts. This week we will present “a typical day, how long you should stay, expected costs, and some recommended resorts.

What is a Fitness Resort? (fitstays.com)

A fitness resort is a vacation destination where travelers go to exercise and lose weight. Sometimes called a “weight loss resort”, “fitness retreat”, “wellness resort”, “weight loss boot camp”, or “adult fat camp”, fitness resorts around the United States cater to people of all shapes and sizes.

Most fitness resorts consist of pre-determined, calorie-limited menus to help travelers in their weight loss journey. Some resorts promote menus of 1,000 to 1,500 calories-per-day, which is fewer than most people burn naturally via their resting metabolic rate (RMR).

In addition to net-negative calories through nutrition, fitness resorts and retreats typically have an extensive workout plan as part of their standard program. Many resorts and retreats offer daily hiking, in addition to strength classes, cardio, sports, and other physical activities.

The combination of healthy nutrition and active exercise means that most visitors can expect to lose weight at a fitness resort. Specific weight loss goals are determined by which fitness resort you pick, how long you stay, and how strenuously you want to stick to the program.

Fitness Resort – What’s it all about?

Fitness resorts (fitness retreats) are not your average “Reality TV Fat Camp.” In fact, your do not have to be excessively overweight to attend as people of all shapes and sizes benefit and enjoy the experience. Thousands of people chose to visit fitness resorts and fitness retreats every year because they are looking for a healthy alternative to a typical vacation. Instead, many want to “kick-start” a healthy lifestyle in a controlled environment. The basic concept of combining a limited-calorie diet with daily exercise, most people will have net-negative calories every day, lose weight, and gain strength and endurance at a fitness resort—provided they stick to the program.

Length of Time/Cost

Typically, fitness resorts offer one week programs but multiple weeks with a variety of options are available. However, for the best outcomes and carryover, experts recommend 2-3 weeks for your first visit to a fitness resort.

Fitness resorts, like everything else, vary in cost. According to FitStay, programs cost as little as $1,500 per week (all-inclusive), while some are more than $7,000 per week.

To choose the best fit for you, your budget, and goals, visit fitstay.com. Remember, most fitness resorts are all-inclusive, meaning that you won’t need to budget any extra for food. The program includes meals. Also, when choosing a fitness resort consider: location (where would you like to travel?); cost (how much can you afford to spend?); how long can you stay (one, two or three weeks?)

FitStays – Top 20 Fitness Retreats (7 of these discussed below):

NOTE: One of these includes a fitness retreat in our very own Pocono Mountains!

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Kick Start Your Wellness New Year’s Resolutions- Part I of II

January is the time of year that many people set goals and resolve to be their very best. Not surprisingly, weight loss and fitness are the most common resolutions. It is also a time when many residents of NEPA will plan vacations and travel to warmer climates. Well, it may be that you can do both…this year consider visiting a “Fitness Resort!” According to “FitStays,” fitness resorts are rapidly gaining popularity for people of all sizes and shapes.

What is a Fitness Resort? (fitstays.com)

A fitness resort is a vacation destination where travelers go to exercise and lose weight. Sometimes called a “weight loss resort”, “fitness retreat”, “wellness resort”, “weight loss boot camp”, or “adult fat camp”, fitness resorts around the United States cater to people of all shapes and sizes.

Most fitness resorts consist of pre-determined, calorie-limited menus to help travelers in their weight loss journey. Some resorts promote menus of 1,000 to 1,500 calories-per-day, which is fewer than most people burn naturally via their resting metabolic rate (RMR).

In addition to net-negative calories through nutrition, fitness resorts and fitness retreats typically have an extensive workout plan as part of their standard program. Many resorts and retreats offer daily hiking, in addition to cardio and strength classes and assorted sports and other physical activities.

The combination of healthy nutrition and active exercise means that most visitors can expect to lose weight at a fitness resort. Specific weight loss goals will be determined by which fitness resort you pick, how long you stay, and how strenuously you want to stick to the program.

Fitness Resort – What’s it all about?

Fitness resorts (fitness retreats) are not your average “Reality TV Fat Camp.” In fact, you do not have to be excessively overweight to attend as people of all shapes and sizes benefit and enjoy the experience. Thousands of people chose to visit fitness resorts and fitness retreats every year because they are looking for a healthy alternative to a typical vacation. Instead, many want to “kick-start” a healthy lifestyle in a controlled environment.

Positive Results

Fitness resorts have been found to be effective for most attendees. The basic concept of combining a limited-calorie diet with daily exercise, most people will have net-negative calories every day, lose weight, and gain strength and endurance at a fitness resort—provided they stick to the program.

While some people report losing 1-3 pounds-per-week at a fitness resort, others experience much more success. Exactly how much you will lose will be dependent on a wide variety of factors, including the duration and intensity of your exercise and activities and the calories you consume. Inherently, men tend to lose weight more easily than women, and younger people typically have an easier time shedding pounds than older people.

Ideally, for long term success, a fitness resort program should be a part of a healthy lifestyle, rather than an absolute weight loss goal. Be aware that many “spas and wellness centers” entice people with lavish facilities in a beautiful environment but mostly offer passive modalities such as massage, meditation, acupuncture, manicures, pedicures and facials. While these modalities have value, if your goal is jump start on weight loss and physical fitness, a fitness resort may be a better option.

Frequently Asked Questions…“Will they starve me?” “How intense is the exercise?” “Will I be intimidated?”

Most fitness resorts are not “diet retreats” or painful “boot camps.” With a little effort, you can easily find the right fit for you. You will not starve! While you need to limit caloric intake, you also need enough energy for the 3-6 hours of exercise and activities (swimming, biking, hiking, Zumba, Yoga) offered. There is no need to be intimidated as most attendees are like-minded people with the same goals and needs. A good resort will not only provide the right amount of calories and exercise for your goals but also educate you how to prepare meals and engage in proper exercise once you return home.

A Typical Day at a Fitness Resort

According to FitStays, most fitness resorts offer a set schedule and a camp-like experience for adults with three meals every day, usually prepared by expert nutrition staff and/or dietitians, designed around healthy foods. A typical morning begins with extended cardio exercises, such as a run, bike or hike. The afternoon may have more intense exercise classes such as strength training classes as well as more fun activities such as sports and games. Educational classes are offered throughout the day, so you can carryover the lessons from your fitness resort experience when you return home. Evenings are usually lighter to allow for leisure, rest, or spa services, which are also offered at many resorts.

NEXT WEEK: FITNESS RESORTS - PART II – A typical day at a fitness resort, recommended length stay, cost and top 20 recommended resorts.

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, please check out our exercise forum!

3rd of 3 Columns on Balance Disorders and Falls Prevention

Preventing a fall can not only save your independence but also your life! Preventing injuries from falls reduces the need for nursing home placement. Injuries from falls are the seventh leading cause of death in people over the age of sixty-five.

The following suggestions will assist you in minimizing your risk of a fall:

Following these helpful hints will keep you safe by preventing a loss of balance and a potential fall!

Contributor: Janet M. Caputo, PT, DPT, OCS

Medical Reviewer: Mark Frattali, MD, ENT: Otolaryngology /Head Neck Surgery at Lehigh Valley Health Network

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

TAKE THE TEST!

Northeastern Pennsylvania is home to a large elderly population and many of the medical problems we expect to see are age related. Dedicated medical practitioners are in constant search for new knowledge and information to prevent or delay many age-related problems. One of the most devastating problems associated with aging is the risk of falling and falling.

Loss of balance causes falls. Falls are a leading cause of injury and death. Thirty percent of women and thirteen percent of men over the age of sixty-five will fall. Twenty to thirty percent of these individuals suffer moderate to severe injuries. Preventing falls is not an easy task. A good understanding of the causes of loss of balance and knowledge of a few fall prevention suggestions can enhance your balance and reduce your risk of a fall.

The Falls Risk Self-Assessment below allows and individual to determine their risk of falling to take the appropriate steps for prevention and treatment. The next three weeks will be dedicated to this topic to educate and inform readers and their families to make good decisions.

The Falls Risk Assessment is from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

WHAT IS YOUR RISK OF FALLING?

  1. I HAVE FALLEN IN THE PAST YEAR.
    • People who have fallen once are likely to fall again.
  2. I USE OR HAVE BEEN ADVISED TO USE A CANE OR WALKER TO GET AROUND SAFELY.
    • People who have been advised to use a cane or a walker may already be more likely to fall.
  3. SOMETIMES I FEEL UNSTEADY WHEN I AM WALKING.
    • Unsteadiness or needing support while waking are signs of poor balance.
  4. I STEADY MYSELF BY HOLDING ONTO FURNITURE WHEN WALKING AT HOME.
    • This is also a sign of poor balance.
  5. I AM WORRIED ABOUT FALLING.
    • People who are worried about falling are more likely to fall.
  6. I NEED TO PUSH WITH MY HANDS TO STAND UP FROM A CHAIR.
    • This is a sign of weak leg muscles, a major reason for falling.
  7. I HAVE SOME TROUBLE STEPPING UP ONTO A CURB.
    • This is also a sign of weak leg muscles.
  8. I OFTEN HAVE TO RUSH TO THE TOILET.
    • Rushing to the bathroom, especially at night, increases your chance of falling.
  9. I HAVE LOST SOME FEELING IN MY FEET.
    • Numbness in your feet can cause stumbles and lead to falls.
  10. I TAKE MEDICINE THAT SOMETIMES MAKES ME FEEL LIGHT-HEADED OR MORE TIRED THAN USUAL.
    • Side effects from medicines can sometimes increase your chance of falling.                       
  11. I TAKE MEDICINE TO HELP ME SLEEP OR IMPROVE MY MOOD.
    • These medicines can sometimes increase your chance of falling.
  12. I OFTEN FEEL SAD OF DEPRESSED.
    • Symptoms of depression, such as not feeling well or feeling slowed down, are linked to falls.

1. YES (2) NO (0)

2. YES (2) NO (0)

3. YES (1) NO (0)

4. YES (1) NO (0)

5. YES (1) NO (0)

6. YES (1) NO (0)

7. YES (1) NO (0)

8. YES (1) NO (0)

9. YES (1) NO (0)

10. YES (1) NO (0)

11. YES (1) NO (0)

12. YES (1) NO (0)

SCORE YOUR RISK OF FALLING.

Add up the number of points for each YES answer. If you have scored 4 or more points you may be at risk for falling.

Accordingly, 0-1 = Low Risk; 1-2 = Moderate Risk; 3-4 =  At Risk; 4-5 = High Risk; 5-6 = Urgent; > 6 = Severe

Low    Moderate     At Risk     High Risk   Urgent   Severe

0          1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8         

Listen to your body and talk to your doctor.

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

Next Monday Part II of III on Balance Disorders and Falls Prevention

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate clinical professor of medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Paul's articles, check out our exercise forum!

We are more than one month into the New Year and many people are still talking about their health and fitness goals. As you probably know, losing weight and getting fit are the most popular resolutions, however, for many who have not maintained an active lifestyle in years, it is challenging to know where to begin. Moreover, beginning without a good plan can lead to injury and leave you discouraged. For example, those overweight and de-conditioned should not start a walking program to aggressively. Walking at a fast pace and long distance without gradually weaning into it will most likely lead to problems.

WALKING FOR HEALTH

There is probably nothing more natural to human beings than walking. Ever since Australopithecus, an early hominin (human ancestor) who evolved in Southern and Eastern Africa between 4 and 2 million years ago, that our ancestors took their first steps as committed bipeds. With free hands, humans advanced in hunting, gathering, making tools etc. while modern man uses walking as, not only a form of locomotion, but also as a form of exercise and fitness. It is natural, easy and free...no equipment or fitness club membership required!

BENEFITS OF WALKING

“There’s no question that increasing exercise, even moderately, reduces the risks of many diseases, including coronary heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Jennifer Joyce, MD, professor of family medicine at GCSOM. “Research has even shown that you could gain two hours of life for each hour that you exercise regularly.”

According to the American Heart Association, walking as little as 30 minutes a day can provide the following benefits:

PLAN AHEAD

SET REALISTIC GOALS

Anything is better than nothing! However, for most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. Also aim to do strength training exercises of all major muscle groups at least two times a week.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you can't set aside that much time, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day (3 ten or 2 fifteen minute sessions). Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefit.

Remember it's OK to start slowly — especially if you haven't been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.

For even more health benefits, aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Once you are ready for a challenge, add hills, increase speed and distance.

TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

Keeping a record of how many steps you take, the distance you walk and how long it takes can help you see where you started from and serve as a source of inspiration. Record these numbers in a walking journal or log them in a spreadsheet or a physical activity app. Another option is to use an electronic device such as a smart watch, pedometer or fitness tracker to calculate steps and distance.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Make walking part of your daily routine. Pick a time that works best for you. Some prefer early morning, others lunchtime or after work. Enter it in your smart phone with a reminder and get to it!

FIND A WALKING PARTNER

Studies show that compliance with an exercise program is significantly improved when an exercise buddy is part of the equation. It is hard to let someone down or break plans when you commit to someone. Keep in mind that your exercise buddy can also include your dog!

USE EFFICIENT WALKING TECHNIQUE

Like everything, there is a right way of doing something, even walking. For efficiency and safety, walking with proper stride is important. A fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here's how you'll look when you're walking:

Sources : Sapiens.org; WebMD; Mayo Clinic

* Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles: Visit our Healthcare Forum!