Throughout Your Day, Add This One Habit For Vast Health Improvements

By | Exercise, General Health Topics

Data shows that, as a whole, exercise is something that our species struggles with. For most of us, it’s an additional demand that is added to our already overwhelming day. Data is showing that the majority of us would rather engage in sedentary leisure than an additional demand on our time. Exercise happens to be one of the easiest things to not prioritize in our schedules.

With close to 90% of the modern workforce engaged in sedentary and seated jobs (along with advancements in technology), we have had an astounding reduction of minor, simple movements that, in the past, would happen automatically throughout each day. The problem is that we’re not thinking about how we’re going to replace this lost activity. This lack of movement is directly associated with our dismal health statistics. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s …the statistics keep going up, not down.

Nowadays, a lot is talked about with a daily goal of 10,000 steps per day, but 15,000 is closer to what our prehistoric ancestors accomplished. For hundreds of thousands of years, what was considered a “normal level” of movement was significantly higher than our level today. It’s common knowledge that, as a species, we are becoming more sedentary. As long as people have to give up what little leisure time they have in order to exercise (which requires substantial motivation and effort), it’s unlikely that the 1/5th of the population that does exercise will increase in number.

The concept of exercise gets re-defined as “physical activity” when we integrate it into our daily lives, rather than, for example, taking an hour each morning to go to the gym. Data shows that as long as exercise and physical activity are dissociated from our daily work activities, many of us will continue to find reasons not to do it.

The difference in concept is to put many short, low-level activity expenditures throughout your daily routine, rather than to block off an hour of time for exercise.

What most people don’t understand is that even if you do exercise vigorously every day, but then go to work and sit for most of the day, your health risks are just as high as that of a couch potato. Many people have started using a standing work desk as a solution, but that’s only slightly better than sitting at a computer if you simply stand in one place for hours.



  •      A treadmill work desk, where people walk very slowly on a treadmill while doing their work
  •      A Fitbit, Apple watch, etc that buzzes throughout your day to remind you to move
  •      A free phone app called “Move,” which buzzes every 45 minutes, assigning a random exercise
  •      Writing down different exercises that you can implement at short, 1-minute breaks during your day (ie: wall sits, push-ups, body-weight squats, side lunges, side abduction leg raises, planks, burpees, walking stairs, Hindu push-ups, chair poses)

So if you already exercise, keep it up. But whether you exercise or not, get down on the floor during a TV commercial or while on a break at work and do a plank!



Image result for exercise at work

Brown Fat is not Just For Babies!

By | Exercise, General Health Topics

One of the reasons babies are so cute is because they’re plump. That’s because they have a generous supply of brown fat to keep them warm. But…once they’re adults, most of their brown fat has been lost.

Last week I read a small excerpt in Men’s Health magazine that referred to the usefulness of brown fat.  It had to do with how people exposed to colder temperatures develop more brown fat. So last week at 5 AM, on a 20-degree morning, I ran with only 2 layers rather than the 4 layers that I usually use…all in the name of brown fat!

I’ve also noticed that, at 55 years old, I can no longer eat whatever I want without gaining weight in my stomach. A frequent complaint amongst middle aged people is that we have to work-out twice as hard and painfully restrict our diets, just to get a fraction of the results as younger people. One reason is that brown fat naturally decreases with age…unless you do something about it.

Brown fat is packed with little metabolic-engines called mitochondria (that’s why it’s brown). Compared to white fat, brown fat is able to burn faster to give us energy. Just like we have ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL), consider brown fat as ‘good’ fat and white fat as ‘bad’ fat. Researchers have been surprised to find that brown fat and white fat have completely different origins. Brown fat is derived from muscle.

Conversely, white fat IS NOT derived from muscle, it is a way for the body to store excess calories that have not been used for energy; it’s the fat that we’re all familiar with. White fat STORES calories in large deposits around your body (remember, brown fat BURNS calories). White fat, especially in the midsection, puts you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol/triglyceride issues (metabolic syndrome).

Everyone has fat that constitutes part of their body make-up and each of us has a different amount that we’re born with. But under the right circumstances, white fat can turn to brown fat; that’s called the ‘recruitable’ type of brown fat.

Turns out that exposing your body to cold temperatures can help with this recruitment process. Research suggests that a couple of hours of exposure to cold temperatures can turn the recruitable fat to brown. Ice baths, cool to cold showers, and drinking cold ice water first thing in the morning are a few ways to promote this process, but the two ways that I like best are to sleep with your thermostat turned down (68 degrees or lower) and exercising out in the cold without too many layers. Interestingly, intermittent fasting is also a mechanism to develop more brown fat (ie: only eating food between the hours of 10 AM to 6 PM), but that’s to be discussed in another article.

Just the act of exercise itself, no matter the temperature, can promote the transformation of white fat to brown. It’s in the research stages, but it looks like it happens through a hormone called irisin. People who are inactive have been found to produce a lot less irisin than people who exercise often. Irisin is especially increased with intense aerobic interval training (think of sprinting for 100 yards rather than a slow, steady jog).

Irisin is called the ‘exercise hormone’ because it’s released during moderate to high-intensity aerobic activity. Think of when you’re breathing really hard and you can feel intense muscle exertion. Irisin is an anti-obesity and anti-diabetes hormone that regulates fat tissue and blood sugar. Irisin works in a few ways to fight fat: 1) It activates a protein that turns white fat to brown fat, which helps to continue to burn energy after you finish exercising 2) It inhibits the formation of white fat in the first place 3) It improves blood sugar regulation

Just sayin’… one more reason to get exercising and avoid sedentary lifestyles.

For Losing Weight, What’s More Important, Diet or Exercise?

By | Exercise, General Health Topics, Nutrition


Last September, my wife and I did an elimination diet (the Whole 30); I was astonished by the results. I was not doing it to lose weight, although I did. Instead, I was doing it to re-set how and what I ate and to eliminate cravings. It worked beautifully and it changed how I eat to this day. I am in my mid-50’s and have been starkly reminded that the amount of time it takes to exercise off a piece of cake or a morning muffin is disproportionately long to how long it takes to eat them.

As far as losing weight, diet is much more important than exercise. Exercise is critical for maintaining lean muscle mass and quality of life, but regarding weight loss, it’s not nearly as important as what you eat or drink. In other words, for weight loss, eliminating poor dietary choices is much more important than how much you exercise. Think of the equation CICO (calories in, calories out). 100% of ‘calories in’ come from what you eat and drink, whereas only a small portion (10-30%) of ‘calories out’ are lost through exercise.

There are 3 main sources of‘ ‘calories out’ :

  • BMR – Basal metabolic rate is the energy used to keep your body operating (ie: heart and brain function, breathing). It consumes 60-80% of calories that you take in.
  • Thermogenesis – The breaking down of foods. It consumes 10% of calories that you take in.
  • Physical activity – Exercise, going upstairs, walking, gardening, etc. It consumes 10-30% of calories that you take in.

The average person only loses, specifically from exercise, 5-15% of the calories that they take in (from what they eat and drink). Even if you’re a hardcore exerciser, you are only burning 30% of the caloric intake that you derive from foods. In addition, exercising will increase appetite. If you choose a burger, shake, and fries, it will kill that hour or two that you just spent in the gym.

For the average person, let’s say that 300-400 calories are burned with an hour at the gym. That can easily be undone by eating a few cookies, a Starbucks latte, or a scoop of ice cream. Even a high-intensity workout that burns 800-1,200 calories could be canceled out with 2 mixed drinks or 3 slices of pizza. With this scenario, it would be better to just eat less and not exercise. This all rings true in the common sayings “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym” and “you can’t out-exercise your mouth.”

I should also clarify that some people may have weight gain issues from organic pathologies, such as thyroid or hormonal disorders. In such cases, blood-work is valuable. However, as a general rule, CICO is worthwhile to keep forefront in your mind.

If you’re someone who diets in the spring because you want to fit into your bathing suit in the summer, remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. People who slowly lose weight end up keeping it off in the long run. It really is something that you have to work on daily and constantly, not just for a season. Losing weight and maintaining ideal weight level involves lifestyle modifications and making better choices every time you eat or drink something. The big thing is to make sure that the calories that you do consume are nutrient dense (whole, clean, healthy foods loaded with nutrition) rather than empty calories (a lot of calories with little beneficial nutrition). For me, choices, like drinking water over juice at lunch-time, doing away with my daily bagel for breakfast, or forgoing the weekend growler of stout beer, are examples of small modifications that, over time, have helped reduce visceral fat in my abdomen.

Why Should You Lift Heavy Weights In Middle-Age?

By | Exercise, General Health Topics, Health, nutrition, wellness

I had a 40-year-old friend recently ask me, “why do I still need to lift weights?”  He’s more interested in stretching and running. Running and stretching are great, but adding in 2-3 days per week of strength training would be an important and beneficial addition, particularly at his age.

We are metabolically and hormonally designed to be anabolic (building our bodies) until about our mid 20’s. Muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in our 30’s, we start to lose muscle mass and function, and our bodies become more catabolic (breaking down). The cause is age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss), hormonal shifts, and weight gain.

Even if you continue to be active, you’ll still have some loss of muscle. The good news is that you can vastly slow and limit the decline if you use heavy, intense resistance training principles.

Inactive, sedentary lifestyles cause about a 5% loss of muscle mass each decade after age 30. Loss of muscle causes a decrease in strength, mobility, balance, and functional capacity (e.g. the capacity to get up and down stairs, do yardwork, get around on vacation trips).

Keeping a heavy resistance training program not only helps you maintain lean muscle mass, it also:

  • increases neurogenesis (forming new brain and nerve cells)
  • increases beneficial hormones that normally decline with age, such as growth hormone, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, DHEA, while lowering the hormones of estrogen, insulin, and cortisol
  • Increases the ability to turn protein into energy
  • Creates a unique metabolic afterburn in the body where your metabolism stays elevated after the workout for 24-48 hours, burning more fat than sugar (carbs). Strength training and interval training create this afterburn much better than aerobic exercise
  • Helps bone become stronger and denser by stressing it
  • Acts as a storage mechanism for important proteins that help you recover from injury or illness

When we have muscle mass, it consumes a lot of calories just in order to maintain the muscle, even while we’re asleep. Fat needs zero calories in order to maintain itself. So, as we get older and we tend to lose muscle and gain fat, the aging body burns fewer calories. In addition, even as our metabolism slows down, most of us continue to take in as many calories or more as we did in our 20’s and 30’s. We have to remember that our appetites don’t naturally decline as we age.

It takes hard work, discipline, and a plan, but it’s never too late to build lean muscle mass. It’s important and totally worth the work. As far as anti-aging goes, it’s one of the most important things you can do.

The Most Powerful Medication Ever Developed

By | Exercise

A couple of years ago, Time magazine did a great article on the topic of exercise (Sept. 12, 2016). The article had a lot of the research work of scientists such as Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky (a genetic metabolic neurologist). Basically, the article talked about how even severely sick people can use exercise as medicine. Dr. Tarnopolsky stated:

“if there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.” 

In the early 1900’s doctors shifted their focus away from keeping people healthy (the PREVENTION of symptoms and disease). Instead, with the rise of modern pharmaceutical companies and surgical procedures, they started to focus on the TREATMENT of symptoms and sickness. This has been the trend ever since.  Statistics increase every year with people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even childhood obesity. In an article published in 1905 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors emphasized how people were losing attention on the healthy-benefits of exercise.

All the research is showing that exercise is the best and most effective way to improve our quality and duration of life. An exercise session will improve the health of your heart, skin, eyes, gut, and even your gonads!  It will slow the aging process, put you in a better mood, and decreases chronic pain from all sorts of sources.  Exercise will also lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and early death from any other cause.  When you exercise, it helps you to improve your memory and to learn quicker by way of improving blood flow to the brain. Increased blood to the brain stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and brain cells (while also repairing damaged brain cells and protecting brain cells from degeneration).  Physical activity will also decrease all of the following:  back pain and arthritis symptoms, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The list goes on and on. Another researcher, exercise physiologist Marcas Bamman, says:

“exercise is regenerative medicine – restoring and repairing and basically fixing things that are broken.” 

Still, an overwhelming percentage of the population does not exercise. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says that more than  80% of the population does not get the recommended amount of exercise.

The CDC recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (ie: when your breathing speeds up from brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc) and twice a week strength training.

Strength training doesn’t mean that you have to join a gym. You can just use your body weight as resistance, such as with yoga, tai chi, pilates, or calisthenics.

Rats and mice are used in medical testing because their genetic, biological and behavioral characteristics closely resemble those of humans. Also, many human conditions can be replicated in mice and rats. Dr. Tarnopolsky says, “you open up sedentary mice and there’s fat all over the place. About half of those mice have tumors.”  When comparing that to mice who run on an exercise wheel every day, he says, “We haven’t found a single tumor.” He thinks that if people could see this, they’d be pretty motivated to exercise.

A Different Way For Core Stability

By | Exercise

Personally written by Dr. Milan Lassiter, Laser Sport & Spine, 1303 W. Main St, Richmond, VA 23220. He can be reached by calling (804) 254-5765.

ATM2 logo




The idea of core stabilization is different than that of core strength. Often (especially with athletes) we have sufficient strength. After an injury, however, core stabilizer muscles can fail to fire appropriately, causing atrophy and, ultimately, failure to regain their function to stabilize the spine. Muscles will fire with different patterns depending on if there’s pain or not. These abnormal nervous system patterns can’t be corrected with core strengthening exercises.

Core stabilizer muscles are very deep and wrap very closely around the spine. When the spine is injured, there’s a loss of stability. The larger muscles that are not designed to stabilize the spine get recruited. This is a guarding, defensive mechanism to prevent instability (everything tightens up).

Traditional core strengthening exercises contradict the basic principles of motor learning and motor training. Following are three of the basic principles for re-training motor/movement patterns:

•  Similarity and specificity principles – You have to practice the same movement in the same position that you’re having a problem. If your restriction is that you can’t bend forward, doing a crunch or plank does not put you in a similar position as that movement restriction (floor exercises are not in the same position as being upright and weight bearing).

•  Internal vs. external principle – In real life, we think of what goal we want to accomplish (external), not what muscles we need to internally use to accomplish that goal. For example, you don’t think about what muscles you need to use in order to bend forward to wash your face, you just think of the end goal (which is to wash your face). In other words, when you have a pain pattern when bending forward, you don’t need to strengthen the muscles that bend you forward. You have to change the way the nervous system is automatically firing the different muscles involved with bending you forward.

•  Economy of motion – The brain is always trying to optimize motor patterns to avoid pain and to sequence the least amount of muscle movements. The ATM2 uses a belting system to reposition and compress the spine into a stable position. This allows an optimized, pain-free sequence of movements to be learned. When you’re in pain and you’re using regular floor exercises, you’re just re-affirming a dysfunctional movement pattern (one that’s already painful).

How do we change how people move? Instead of looking at pain and movement problems as being caused by local injury and dysfunction of an area, another important aspect is to look at how the body has “learned” how to move. These abnormal patterns are deeply ingrained habits that the body has adopted over time as a preferred movement strategy. Deficits in strength and mobility still need to be addressed (ie: through exercise and chiropractic adjustments), but they can’t be expected to correct the abnormally learned movement pattern. The body has to be re-taught how to coordinate movement with more appropriate patterns.

Traditional core stabilization exercises are performed on the ground (ie: a crunch or a plank). Muscles are activated differently in a standing, weight-bearing position than they are when you’re doing floor exercises. This is why the ATM2 puts the patient into an upright, weight-bearing posture.

With Active Therapeutic Movement, we’re also looking to treat a specific movement impairment (the specific movement that causes pain and limited range of motion). Core stabilization is movement specific. For example, a patient may be able to bend backwards and sideways just fine, but there’s a lot of pain and limitation when bending forward. With the ATM2, we’re working on a specific movement impairment. We need to restore that specific, painful movement impairment, but we need to eliminate the pain first.

The active therapeutic movement concept has 4 Phases:ATM extension

1)  Exam What movement is painful and impaired?

2)  Set-up Stabilize the restricted movement to make it pain-free by using belts to compress and re-position the area.

3)  Intervention Isometric exercises, in a specific direction, are performed to make the nervous system memorize the pain-free movement pattern. This is where the nervous system says “aha, this is the position in which I can fire my muscles correctly and not have pain…so I’ll remember it.”

4)  Re-exam Re-test the movement impairment; There should be 50-100% reduction in pain and improvement in movement.

The ATM2 gives you the capability to alter the way the brain activates the muscles, teaching the brain a different and non-painful way to execute a movement. As a person does the ATM2 exercises, now their central nervous system is training and learning a new firing pattern per their condition. The ATM2 changes the way the nervous system acts to fire muscles. You can’t change this firing pattern by doing floor exercises or by thinking about it; It has to happen automatically by the brain. The ATM2 does not use exercises to strengthen an area, it uses exercises to change the way your nervous system is activating a movement to occur.

The Balancing Act

By | Exercise
Personally written by Milan Lassiter, DC, 1303 W. Main St, Richmond, VA, Tel #: (804) 254-5765


In it’s simplest sense, I break down exercise into 4 parts:


–  Resistance training (weights, bands, kettle bells, etc)


–  Cardiovascular training (aerobic exercise)


–  Stretching (lengthening muscles and tendons)


–  Balance training


Many people who exercise do 1 or 2 of the above; most people do not do all 4.  The most common one that is overlooked is balance training. Your sense of balance can be improved when it is trained, just like you’ll get stronger by lifting weights or become more limber by stretching.


Clinically, a good deal of your sense of balance comes from something called proprioception. Proprioception is your sense of knowing where your body is with relation to the space around you. This is an abstract concept to grasp because much of proprioception occurs subconciously. Think of your ability to close your eyes, put your arm out in-front of you, and then touch tour finger to your nose. You know how to do that because of proprioception.


Your sense of proprioception is often impaired when you’ve had a muscle sprain or strain, arthritic joint, or have damaged an area of your body on the job, in an accident, during sport,  or in some other way. Over the years, you may notice increased stiffness, chronic inflammation, continual pain, and the diminished capacity to use an area of your body. This will commonly lead to reduced proprioception, sometimes recognized as poor balance.


Proprioceptive exercises teach your body how to control the position and stability of a deconditioned or injured area of your body. A simple example that I teach in the office is standing on one foot and being able to hold that position for 1 minute.  Think it’s easy?  Try it. If it is easy, try closing your eyes and balancing on one foot (working up to 1 minute). This helps to retrain your balance and proprioceptive abilities from a conscious state to a subconscious state. A fast, subconscious, and properly firing proprioceptive system is important for your daily activities and is especially essential relative to sport activities.


Balance and proprioception are critical to retrain after any injury, but it’s also smart to train them during your daily workouts. Below are a few ways to exercise your sense of balance during your normal workouts. Shown here are delt flies, but you can use the same concept to do bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, over-head presses, etc.


Instead of doing deltoid flies while standing on the floor, try doing them with both feet on a BOSU Ball or other balance board

Instead of doing delt flies while standing on the floor, try doing them with both feet on a BOSU Ball or other balance board


To make it even harder, do delt flies while balancing on only one foot.

To make it even harder, do delt flies with only one foot on the floor (or even harder, with one foot on a balance device).