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General Health Topics

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.

 

SOME SOLUTIONS INCLUDE:

  •      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!

 

SOME EXAMPLES OF EXERCISES YOU CAN PERFORM THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY:

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

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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, Uncategorized

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 Functional Movement Screen

By | General Health Topics
Personally written by Dr. Milan Lassiter, 1303 W. Main St, Richmond, VA 23220.  Contact us at (804) 254-5765 for your FMS assessment.FMS-Pictures

The FMS (Functional Movement Screen) is a series of 7 screening assessments. It’s efficient and powerful enough that it has been used for years as part of the physical assessment at the NFL scouting combine in order to screen potential players.

The FMS can detect limitations in our ability to perform basic movements, reveal imbalances from side to side, and identify risk for future injury. It is also used to identify areas that can be improved upon for better performance. The test is made up of 7 different movement patterns:  (1) Squatting (2) Stepping (3) Lunging (4) Reaching (5) Leg Raising (6) Push Ups (7) Rotating. Each of these patterns have specific criteria that has to be met and a score is given accordingly. It’s basically a series of tests that you pass or fail.

In real life we move in patterns.  In other words, we don’t just bend the knee…instead we bend the knee while also bending at the hips and ankle, simultaneously moving our torso, balancing with our arms, and shifting our weight with subtle movements made all the way from our neck to our toes. The FMS is a screen for movement patterns, not individual joints or areas.  Instead of assessing parts, the FMS assesses patterns, which is actually the way the body moves in real life.  The FMS leads us to the weakest link in the chain within these patterns.

The FMS is a rating and ranking system, sort of like getting a grade in school (an A or an F). However, with the FMS test, the grade is from a 3 to a 0.  Getting a 3 or 2 is a pass, while a 1 or a 0 is a fail.

3 = Optimal (perfect execution of a movement pattern)

2 = Acceptable (some compensation is occurring)

1 = dysfunctional (unable to perform the movement, which will lead to the clinical assessment called the SFMA)

0 = Pain (a movement pattern produces pain, which will also lead to the SFMA)

When pain is discovered upon an FMS test, it should be assessed by a clinician who can perform something called an SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment).  I will write about this in another blog at a later time, but suffice to say that it’s an amazing tool and, in my opinion, you should look for physical therapists, chiropractors, or even MD’s, who can perform an SFMA if you are injured or have pain upon movement. I am in the process of being certified and will be ready to do the SFMA soon.

There is a standardized screening system for the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease (ie: checking for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides and screening for whether or not they smoke, what they eat, whether they exercise or are overweight, etc). It doesn’t matter where you go, these same parameters are going to be screened.  However, we don’t have anything like this standardized screening assessment for exercise, athletic performance, pain upon movement, or musculoskeletal problems. The FMS is a standardized test that is used to quickly assess the way that we move.

When an assessment is performed to screen for cardiovascular disease, a person can have no symptoms or complaints, yet still find out they have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. This puts them at high risk for a potential heart attack or stroke. By intervening and making changes, that person can be saved from something serious or even deadly.

Similarly, the FMS is a risk assessment tool that uses either specific intervention exercises or therapies to save a person from future injury, pain, impaired movement, and performance deterioration. If the assessment comes up decent, but not perfect, it can also be used to enhance the way someone moves…in other words moving them from mediocre, to good, to great. That can only be beneficial for anyone, whether you’re a carpenter who has to do heavy manual labor or a recreational, but competitive tri-athlete.

This is how the pros are being assessed these days.

In our office, you don’t need to be a pro-athlete to be treated like one!

CPM Therapy Has Withstood The Test-Of-Time For Decades

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

 

Continuous passive motion (CPM) is a rehabilitation therapy that’s been around for more than 30 years because it works. The REPEX table in our office is a CPM machine for the low back. It can help when a person has “arthritis,” degenerated/herniated discs in the low back, or just plain stiffness and lack of movement in the low back. It features precise, touch-screen controlled repetitive movements, where exact angles, depth of back and forth movements, speed of treatment, and the total number of repetitions can be controlled.

I was introduced to CPM therapy about 15 years ago without even knowing about it. I was a new chiropractor, just out of school, and I was working for someone. As I remember it, I had an incident of low back pain that was so acute, my boss couldn’t adjust or manipulate my spine. The muscles around the area were locked very tightly. He put me on my back, pulled my knees to my chest, put one hand under my low back and lifted it, and then rocked me back and forth while lifting my low back up and down. After doing that for a while, my muscles were much more relaxed and I felt better with less pain. That is an example of a simple type of CPM. Our REPEX table can do that movement, but do it many more repetitions and also specifically relegate it to the maximum amount of motion that a person’s spine can handle at that given moment in time. It’s all very controllable via a computer interface where you can increase or decrease the range of motion depending on what the person can tolerate.

Passive range of motion moves an area gradually and slowly, without the use of the patient’s muscles. CPM produces a stressless motion by controlling motion in the affected area and moving it passively, without causing additional strain or inflammation.  A common way to produce CPM is to have a machine do all the work and force the area to move within that persons limitations. During rehabilitation, these joints may be too sore or weak to bend on their own. CPM machines are commonly used in the knee, ankle, elbow, or shoulders. Our office has the only machine that specifically produces continuous passive motion in full range of motion (flexion and extension) for the lumbar spine.

 

CPM has been clinically proven to:

Reduce pain and swelling

Prevent joint stiffness

Promote blood and oxygen to a damaged area

Increase range of motion

Prevent scar tissue formation and muscle contractures

Activate muscles so they don’t weaken

 

How does the REPEX treatment work?

The REPEX machine was developed by Robin McKenzie, one of the forefront specialists on spinal conditions in the world. He even has an entire institute named after him, which trains physical therapists and rehab specialists. The exclusive, trade-marked design of the REPEX table was developed by him to address low back disorders using his McKenzie Technique.

Because of pain, fatigue, and other limitations, patients are sometimes unable (or very limited) to repeat exercises to maximum benefit. The REPEX table automatically and passively exercises a patient’s lower back to its full available range of motion (the table does all the work for you until you’re able to do it on your own). The REPEX table can exercise a patients low back with a greater number of repetitions than what is possible using exercises that someone could perform on their own.

 

Do You Neglect This One Simple Health Habit? Beware!

By | General Health Topics
Personally written by Milan Lassiter, DC, 1303 W. Main St, Richmond, VA (804) 254-5765

 

I had a patient who came in last Friday and told me a crazy story about her husband who had a seizure that was so bad, he actually bit his tongue half way off. Right before he had the seizure, he called his wife (my patient) and she detected that something wasn’t right, so she called his father and told him to get over there ASAP. Long story short, if his father hadn’t gone, she said that her husband very well may be dead.

 

You won’t believe why he had the seizure…from dehydration! She said that he doesn’t drink water…ever. The seizure was so bad that he actually caused a few compression fractures to his spine. She also said that their place looked like a murder scene because there was blood all over the place from the tongue.

 

Drinking water is one of the most powerful health improvements that most people can make. Water makes up more than 70% of the body’s tissues and plays key roles in nearly every body function. Drinking water is one of the most important health habits that you can establish and if you don’t get enough, you’ll suffer with bad health consequences.

 

The basic rules are:

 

• Most of what you drink should be water.

• If you drink alcohol, space out drinks by drinking water in-between drinks and drink water before going to bed.

• Avoid drinking tap water because of chemicals.

• Brita filtered water will cost maybe $0.20 per gallon and is well worth the investment.  Filtered tap water is great because there are a lot of minerals in there, but you can still filter out bad things like lead, chlorine, flouride, arsenic, etc.  (One of the problems with bottled water is that minerals have been taken out)

• Don’t buy the one-gallon jugs of water from the grocery store that are in the cloudy or bumpy plastic containers because of PVC plastic, which will transfer chemicals  into the water.

• Never drink water bottles that have been out in the sun, especially bottles that have been left in the car for the same reason.

 

Also important is to avoid ALL sodas and juices.  That includes diet and “zero calorie” sodas, orange juice, and sports and energy drinks.  Coffee and most sodas are loaded with caffeine, which is a diuretic that will dehydrate you even more. Add in all the sugar or high-fructose corn syrup and you have a recipe for worse health and the number one source of calories for all the overweight people in our nation (almost 70% are overweight).

 

You can use 2 things to determine when to drink water:  thirst and color of your urine.  When thirsty, drink filtered water, not Gatorade, lemonade, or iced tea. If it’s hot or dry outside, or if you exercise a lot, you’ll need more water.  As for the color of your urine, it should be a very light pale yellow. A deep, dark yellow means you’re dehydrated, even if you’re not thirsty.

 

As far as sports drinks go, your most healthy choices for replacing electrolytes are (1) fresh coconut water or (2) simply adding a pinch of natural, unprocessed salt to a glass of water and stirring it very fast to create a vortex (like a tornado).  I like sea salt or Himalayan salt as natural salt options. Sodium is the most important electrolyte that you need to replenish after exercise, so I like adding salt to filtered water, but I know that many people won’t be able to handle the taste.

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