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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!

What is an Ice Bath?

Ice baths have become a new trend or fad in health and fitness, especially among elite athletes and some celebrities. However, it is far from a new treatment modality. In fact, the Ancient Greeks employed cold-water immersion for fever, pain relief, relaxation and socialization. In addition, Hippocrates documented the use of cold for medicinal purposes for its analgesic benefits. 

Ice baths, a type of cryotherapy, is also referred to as cold water immersion (CWI) or cold water therapy. This involves immersing your body in ice water for approximately 5-15 minutes from the neck down at 50-59 degrees. The ice baths are commonly used for pain, delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and inflammation and mood elevation. 

In theory, the cold water lowers the temperature of your skin and body by vasoconstriction (narrow) of the blood vessels. When you get out of the cold, water the vasodilatation (widen) of the blood vessels. Immediately, this brings fresh oxygen and nutrient-rich blood back to the tissues to warm the body and in the process, reduce pain, inflammation and promote healing.

Types of Cold Water Therapy

Purported Ice Bath Benefits

Potential Side Effects of Ice Baths

If you have the following health conditions, ice baths may not be the best therapeutic modality for you. Before you consider trying an ice bath, consult with your physician to avoid potentially serious problems:

In Conclusion: What the Science Says

While some studies have shown that subjects report less muscle soreness following CWI when compared  to rest, most studies suggest that the reported effects are placebo. Also, reports of improved circulation, reduced inflammation and improved recovery or performance has not been scientifically validated. In view of this, it is recommended that those considering the use of CWI for pain and inflammation management, reduced muscle soreness, and mood elevation, should consult their physician to determine if the potential risks are worth the purported benefits.

SOURCES: nih; health.com; health.clevelandclinic.org; prevention.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!

Holiday Spirit Requires a Healthy Mind, Body, Spirit!

Happy Holidays! It is at this time of year that we celebrate life with great hope and faith. People of many faiths take time to reflect, respect, and resolve. Christians celebrate Christmas, the miraculous birth of Christ, the Son of God, and the Messiah. Jews celebrate Chanukah, the miraculous festival of lights, when one night’s oil provided enough light and safety for 8 nights. Both major faiths promote healthy lifestyles for the mind, body and spirit. These faiths are grounded in hope, faith, love and peace. It is no surprise that studies repeatedly demonstrate that faithful and spiritual people live longer and healthier lives! At this turbulent time in the world, it is important to note that people of all faiths benefited equally!

With this in mind, I purport, that to be truly healthy, one must have faith because complete health is multidimensional. Socrates preached this message to his students thousands of years before Christ. One must have a healthy mind, which requires intellectual stimulation with attainable goals related to education and intellect. One must have a healthy body by eating well, engaging in physical activity and have attainable goals related to his/her body. Likewise, one must have a healthy spirit with faith, hope, prayer and meditation, comrades and counsel, and set attainable spiritual goals.

5 Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality….(health.com)

How being religious or spiritual has been shown to benefit your mind, body and spirit.

1. Healthy Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). It affects 1 in every 3 adults and only half of these people have their blood pressure under control. Well, religion and spiritually may help …

The health benefits of religion or spirituality are well documented.  One study conducted at Duke University Medical Center on 4,000 subjects, older adults who described themselves as religiously active were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure when compared to those less active. Moreover, they were surprised to find that those who described themselves as spiritual rather than religious also were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

2. Greater Sense of Satisfaction

Research also indicates that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than those without faith. A sociology study determined that high satisfaction among church goers may be due to the strong social bonds that are developed within a religious congregation. Regular church attendees see the same people weekly and often more often, when participating in rewarding and gratifying church-related volunteer work.

3. Greater Tolerance for Adversity

In an impressive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 345 late-stage cancer patients to assess their spirituality as it related to their illness. 88% stated that they were religious as it related to their coping mechanisms. It was determined that those using religion for coping demonstrated a 7.4% rate of resuscitation as compared to 1.8% for those not using religion as a coping mechanism.   

4. Stronger Immune System

According to a Duke University study of 1,718 older adult participants, those described as “highly spiritual” were 50% less likely to have high levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that weaken the immune system and have been linked to some cancers, viral infections and autoimmune diseases. The outcome was similar for those who attend religious services at least once a week.  

5. Greater Longevity

Those who attend religious services more than once per week are found to live and additional 7 years when compared to those who never attend services. Again, researchers feel that the social benefits of a belonging to a strong religious community may be a large part of the associated longevity. Additionally, the lifestyle of religious people is often healthier: members of these communities rarely engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, indiscriminate, unprotected sex, etc. 

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

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 in Scranton and Clarks Summit and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

The “First Thanksgiving” was in 1621 between the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag tribe in present day Massachusetts to celebrate be grateful for the harvest and other blessings of the previous year. In 1789, President George Washington, at the request of Congress, proclaimed Thursday, November 26, as a day of national thanksgiving. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday of Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November.

Americans and Canadians continue to celebrate this holiday as a time for family and friends to gather, feast, and reflect upon their many blessings. Like most, I am very grateful for the simple things; family, good friends, food, shelter, and health. This year, I am also thankful for the dedicated scientists who developed the COVID 19 vaccination so we can safely enjoy Thanksgiving with our families. It turns out that being grateful is, not only reflective and cleansing; it is also good for your health!

Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when it is not reciprocated. A study by the University of Kentucky found those ranking higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when others were less kind. Emmons and McCullough conducted one of the most detailed studies on thankfulness. They monitored the happiness of a group of people after they performed the following exercise:

There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.” The study showed that people who are encouraged to think of things they’re grateful for are approximately 10% happier than those who are not.

7 Proven Health Benefits of Being Grateful

  1. Being Grateful is Contagious!
    • Studies show that something as simple as saying “thank you” to a stranger holding a door open for you or sending a co-worker a thank you note for helping you with a project makes them more likely to continue the relationship. Showing gratitude can improve your life by fostering solid friendships.
  2. Being Grateful Improves Physical Health
    • Research has found that those who are grateful experience fewer aches and pains and tend to report that they feel healthier than most people. Moreover, grateful people are more likely to be health conscious and live healthier lifestyles.
  3. Being Grateful Improves Psychological Health
    • Multiple studies have demonstrated that gratitude reduces many negative emotions. Grateful people have less anger, envy, resentment, frustration or regret. Gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
  4. Being Grateful Fosters Empathy and Reduces Aggression
    • Participants in a study by the University of Kentucky found that those who scored higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others and were more sensitive and empathetic when compared to low gratitude scorers.
  5. Being Grateful Promotes Better Sleep
    • A study published in Applied Psychology, found that 15 minutes of writing down a gratitude list before bed led to better and longer sleep.
  6. Being Grateful Improves Self-Esteem
    • When studying athletes, it was determined that those who scored high on gratitude scales demonstrated improved self-esteem which led to optimal performance. Conversely, those athletes who were not grateful and resented contemporaries making more money, for example, had lower self-esteem and negative performance outcomes.
  7. Being Grateful Improves Mental Strength
    • Research has repeatedly shown that gratitude not only reduces stress, but also improves one’s ability to overcome trauma. For example, Vietnam veterans who scored higher on gratitude scales experienced lower incidences of post-traumatic stress disorder. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of your life, fosters resilience.

Conclusion:

Amy Morin, psychotherapist, mental health trainer and bestselling author offers this advice: “Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life. We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have, rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve.” So…be grateful and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Source: NIH, Forbes, Amy Morin “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.”

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

 Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

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!

Fall in NEPA is one of my favorite times of year. For outdoor enthusiasts, there is nothing more refreshing than activities in the bright sunshine and crisp, clean air. The hot humid summer weather can be a deterrent to outdoor activities and this time of year provides an opportunity to get fit by beginning a walking program. For many who have not maintained an active lifestyle or have health issues, 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 too 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:

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

Sources : Sapiens.org; WebMD; Mayo Clinic 

NEXT MONDAY BLOG and in print in THE SUNDAY TIMES TRIBUNE – 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. Paul Mackarey's articles, check out our exercise forum!

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”  Robert Frost

The purpose of this column is to present an alternative to traditional running that will allow training on more interesting and less stressful surfaces such as those used when hiking, mountain biking and horse riding trails in the beautiful woods of Northeast Pennsylvania…”trail running!”

I remember my trail running days with fondness. One day, when the temperatures soared above 90 and my wife pleaded with me to avoid running in the heat (she was wise), as a typical runner, I needed hit the road. As I set out on State Road 348 just on the periphery of Lackawanna State Park in Dalton, the sun was beating down on me. I happened to see a sign that read, “Orchard Trail, Bull Hill Trail, Tree Line Trail.” I thought it might be a good idea to find some shade and decided to run on this path normally used for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. It turned out to be a great decision. While I was forced to run 25% slower due to the uneven terrain (rocks, tree roots, stumps), I was able to practice “light running” techniques by running with short strides on the balls of my feet. I felt much more refreshed as I avoided the direct sunlight under the cover of the trees.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the up close view of nature as I ran by cool streams and wet mossy rocks. I saw beautiful flowers, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. I observed deer, chipmunks and birds. In my quest to avoid the hot sun, I discovered the beautiful underworld of “trail running” – a growing trend in today’s running community. If you, like me, enjoyed pounding the pavement for many years, trail running can help you rediscover why you love to run. It is beautiful, peaceful, natural and unique. It is fun to get in touch with your inner child as you run in the woods and get muddy. Trail running makes running fun…and it’s good for your joints!

The trail running community purports that trail running is popular because it satisfies a primal need for man to move through nature, derived from hunter/gatherer days. Others who promote trail running feel the popularity is due to the many advantages it offers. One, trail running prevents impact injuries due to soft surfaces. Two, the training style of running with shorter strides on the ball of the foot, lessens impact. Three, this type of running will develop stronger ankles and trunk core muscles while improving balance, coordination and proprioception from running on uneven surfaces. Lastly, the ability to release copious amounts of endorphins while breathing fresh air instead of roadside fumes is invaluable.

Trail Running Gear

Tips to Begin Trail Running

Sources: American Trail Running Association, Trailspace.com

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

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

Have Fun and Get in Shape!

Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer…outdoor furniture is out, the grill is fired up and the pool is open! This summer try to think of your pleasure puddle in different light…a health spa! It may very well be the exercise of choice for many people. Many have discovered the benefits of moving their limbs in the warm water of a home pool following knee or shoulder surgery. Also, long distance runners who often look for cross training methods without joint compression and arthritis sufferers who are often limited in exercise choices by joint pain from compressive forces when bearing weight, can enjoy the buoyancy effects of  water. These are good examples of the benefits or water exercise…aerobic and resistive exercise without joint compression.  

Exercise and Arthritis

Most doctors recommend some form of exercise with arthritis. Pain and fatigue are the most limiting factors for the person with arthritis. Pool exercise may be the answer. With proper technique, adequate rest periods, appropriate resistance and repetitions, water exercise can be very effective.

Benefits

The following are some of the benefits of water exercise:

Getting Started

  1. Start Slowly – Don’t Overdo it
    • 5-10 minutes and repetitions first time and add 2-3 minutes/repetitions each week
    • Long Term Goal: 20 – 40 minutes per session - 3-4 times per week
  2. Submerge The Body Part - That you want to exercise into the water and move it slowly
  3. Complete The Range of Motion - Initially 5 times, then 10-15-20-30 times
  4. Assess - Determine if you have pain 3-4 hours after you exercise or into the next day. If so you overdid it and make adjustments next time by decreasing repetitions, speed, amount and intensity of exercise.
  5. Warm-Up - Make sure you warm up slowly before the exercise with slow and easy Movements
  6. Advance Slowly - By adding webbed gloves, weighted boots, and buoyant barbells to increase the resistance.
  7. Exercises – standing in shallow end of pool
    • Heel Raises - push toes down and heel up
    • Toe Raises – lift toes up and heel down
    • Leg Kicks – extend leg up and down
    • Hip Hike – raise knee up 4-6 inches and down
    • Leg Squeeze – squeeze knees together and apart
    • Leg Curl – bend knee
    • Torso Twist – slowly turn arms/torso to right, then to left
    • Shoulder Forward and Backward – like paddling a boat
    • Shoulder Out and In – like a bird flying
    • Bend Elbow Up and Down

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

NEXT 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 GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our Health and 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!

For those trying to lose weight or “get in shape” for the New Year (number one resolution), a better understanding of the role sugar plays in your diet and overall health may be valuable. You have probably noticed a lot of attention being paid to sugar lately. Many television stars, like Ellen DeGeneres, have shared their experiences using a “sugar cleanse” when they need to lose a few pounds and get healthier.  I have had several patients and friends tell me the same thing.

For 4-6 weeks these people decide to avoid all refined sugars with the goal of losing weight and improving their health and wellness. Well, what is all the fuss about? Terms like simple sugars and simple carbs, which are purported to be bad, and complex carbs, suggested to be good, are being used ad nauseam. While medical research does not support the value of a short term “sugar cleanse,” it may have value for another reason. For example, it would be very beneficial if one engages in a “sugar cleanse” for the purpose of changing their palate with the hope of developing long term healthy eating habits, especially for those with diabetes.

So, with this in mind, I decided to find the answers to some simple questions about the fuss over sugar. What is a simple sugar? What is a complex sugar? Which sugars are good for you?

WHAT IS A SIMPLE SUGAR (CARBOHYDRATE)?

Sugars, along with starches and fibers, are one of three types of carbohydrates (also referred to as a carb). A carb is “simple” or “complex,” based on its chemical composition and how it is processed in the body. It gets a little complicated because some foods have both simple and complex carbs.  Typically, simple carbs are chemically more “simple” and basic, and therefore they are broken down more easily and serve as a quick source of energy. Some of these carbs are naturally simple (like fruit and milk) while others are processed or refined sugars such as those used in candy, soda and baked goods.

It is Good Sugar or Bad Sugar?

To determine if a food product has good or bad simple sugar, you must also know how much fiber, vitamins and minerals are in the food. A food with a higher sugar content combined with a low fiber, vitamin or mineral content will be worse than  a food with the same sugar content but high fiber and vitamins or minerals. For example: a candy bar, which is high in sugar without fiber or vitamins or minerals, is not as healthy as a fresh orange, which contains fiber, vitamins and minerals along with its simple sugar (fructose).

Examples of simple carbs:

WHAT IS A COMPLEX SUGAR (CARBOHYDRATE)?

Complex carbs have a more complicated chemical makeup and take more time for the body to break down for use as energy. Therefore, these are considered “good” carbs because they provide a more even distribution of energy for the body to use during activity. They cause a more consistent and gradual release of sugar into the blood stream (as opposed to peaks and valleys caused by simple carbs) and provide energy to function throughout the day. Additionally, “good” carbs have the added benefit of providing vitamins, fiber, and minerals that are missing from simple carbs.

Examples of complex (carbs):

WHY EAT COMPLEX CARBS INSTEAD OF SIMPLE CARBS?

Remember that carbohydrates fuel the body and are an important source of energy, especially for active and athletic people. However, carefully selecting the type of carb you eat is critical to peak function and performance.

Simple Carbs

Complex Carbs

TIPS TO EAT MORE COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES!

Sources: www.everydayhealth.com; www.yourdictionary.com; Mayo Clinic

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

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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 orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

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