Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Mindfulness matters for making meaningful and lasting health behavior changes

Mindfulness can be described as an awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. This is most commonly explored through mindful meditation, a practice that is credited with improving physical and mental health. Beyond meditation, being mindful can help to improve attention and focus in nearly every aspect of life. This is important for making meaningful and lasting health behavior changes. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Mindful brain

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Exercise and the gut microbiome

We tend to think of bacteria as something to avoid. Germophobes beware, but our bodies are literally covered with and filled with bacteria. From our skin to the lining of our GI tract, bacteria are literally part of us. For sure, some bacteria are harmful, but many more play an important role in our health. The balance between the helpful and harmful bacteria seems to be important for health; diseases from eczema to irritable bowel syndrome can result from an imbalance.  

The combination of bacteria in our bodies is known as the microbiota, the genes of which are called the microbiome. Researchers study the bacteria themselves (microbiota) and the genes (microbiome) and use both as an indicator of the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria. This is especially relevant in the large intestine, where there has been much research into the role of gut bacteria on health.

Gut bacteria

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Juice is good, but eating whole fruits and vegetables is even better!

Nutrition information is often confusing and conflicting, making healthy food choices a challenge. Fortunately, there are some recommendations that are consistent. Among these is eating more fruit and vegetables. Depending on how you consume these foods, you may be missing some of the nutrients that make them so healthy.

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Functional fitness and why it is important for you.

Functional fitness involves exercise to improve balance, coordination, strength, and endurance to enhance the ability to perform activities of daily living. Practically, functional fitness training aims to replicate the movements associated with the wide range of physical activities someone might do in his or her daily routine. For example, athletes have long used functional fitness training to target the movements they utilize in their sport.

 

This concept of “sport specific” training has applications outside of athletics. Firefighters come to mind, lifting and carrying heavy equipment, climbing stairs and ladders, and moving through tight spaces, often for extended periods of time without rest. But the same could be said for construction workers, landscapers, and other occupations that require manual labor. To be sure, the components of functional fitness are as important for workers as they are for athletes.

 

This is important to you even if you don’t participate in sports or have an active job. Functional fitness plays a role in nearly all activities, from simple things like maintaining posture, sitting, and standing, to more complex movements including lifting a heavy box, carrying bags of groceries, or playing with your children (or grandchildren). Even something as routine as bending down to tie your shoes requires strength, flexibility, and balance. These are the very activities that become more difficult as we age, so improving functional fitness can help maintain independence and quality of life.

linfing boxes

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Second chance New Year’s resolutions for the whole family.

How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Hopefully, you are still on track to meet your goals. If not, you are in good company. Research suggests that by this time well over halfof people who made New Year’s resolutions have either lost momentum or given up altogether and that only 8%will eventually achieve their goal.

It turns out that now is a perfect time to restart your stalled New Year’s resolution or finally get around to doing what you planned months ago. Since Labor Day marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, so it is a natural time to set goals and make changes.

 

Here are some ideas for a few resolutions that your whole family can make that will help you all move, eat, and sleep better to make this new school year a happy and healthy one for everybody.

family-eating-at-the-table-

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When you need it most, exercise can help. In fact, it may save your life!

Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of exercise. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. Exercise is essential for development of children, maintaining health in adults, and can even reverse some of the effects of aging.

Despite these clear benefits, many people do not participate in regular exercise until they have a medical condition, like a heart attack or cancer, that motivates them to start.  This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

usca-cardiac-rehab

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It’s time to go back to school. Let’s make sure kids are ready to learn!

Physical activity and good nutrition have long been recognized as essential for promoting good health in adults and children. More and more research suggests that these health behaviors can have beneficial effects beyond health, including how we perform both physically and mentally. The emphasis here is on children in school, but it applies to adults, too. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week, just in time for the first day of school here.

children playing

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