Sunday, May 29, 2011

World No Tobacco Day

The World Health Organization has declared Tuesday May 31st to be "World No Tobacco Day."  I haven't addressed smoking much on this site since it is such a no-brainer for people who are wanting to improve their health, but I figure now would be an appropriate time to do so.

Smoking is not nearly as popular as it used to be. Whenever you watch a classic black and white movie from the 40's and 50's, there is frequently non stop chain smoking throughout the film. I remember being on an airplane flight from France in the early 90's. I was shocked that right after take off, half the passengers lit up and smoked for most of the flight. I was turning green and wheezing for air until we landed.

The World Health Organization claims that tobacco use causes nearly 6 million deaths per year. Today, anti-smoking campaigns have reduced the glamor previously associated with smoking and have actually created a stigma for smokers. I've been shocked at some of the graphic anti-smoking commercials I've seen. I've included one of the more conservative ones below.

If you are a smoker or if you have a loved one who smokes, then I encourage you to make a change this Tuesday and give up the habit. Smoking cessation is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stretching Controversy

Flexibility has been promoted as a component of physical fitness for quite awhile. Despite this, there are many people (as well as research) which claim stretching is not beneficial and may even be detrimental to athletic performance. 

Before we throw stretching under the bus, it is important to determine one's reasons for stretching. I also think it is important to differentiate between warming up and stretching since they are not necessarily the same thing. 

Static stretching would not be a wise thing for a power lifter or sprinter to do prior to their event since it can decrease the ability of muscle fiber to contract, but it may be beneficial for someone rehabilitating an injury or wanting to loosen up after a workout. Our bodies naturally want to stretch when we wake up or after a long cramped ride.

I still consider myself a proponent of stretching, which is kind of ironic, since I am so inflexible. Years ago while at my boy's karate lesson, their instructor invited me to join in on some exercises. He got a kick out of how inflexible I was (no pun intended). He was in awe that my range of motion and flexibility were so limited. I've never been one of those limber people who can bend over and touch the floor with their palms without bending their knees.

Many people associate stretching with sports and athletics as part of a warm-up or for injury prevention, but I believe it is more beneficial to do as part of a meditation or relaxation program. There appears to be quite a bit of data that negates the benefits of stretching prior to athletic events, but I still see many professional athletes stretching as part of their warm-up routine.

The stretching controversy is yet another area where experts and science give us conflicting data. I think stretching is beneficial as part of a wellness program, if for no other reason than the benefits of body awareness, relaxation, and stress relief. I always sleep better when I briefly stretch before going to bed.

If you decide to stretch, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

* Warm up before stretching. Don't stretch until after you warm up your muscles.
* Relax your muscles while you stretch them and breathe deeply when you stretch.
* Don't stretch a muscle if you are injured or if it causes you pain.
* Don't perform ballistic or bouncing stretches.
* Hold static stretches for 10-30 seconds.
* It may be more beneficial to stretch after exercising to promote recovery.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I like 5 K Races

I've always hated running and thought that runners were a strange breed and gluttons for pain. I'm not sure what made me want to run my first race, but it was probably a T-shirt. I hadn't trained at all but was young and cocky enough to think I would be able to outrun all the girls and women and anyone who was older than me. I remember crossing the finish line towards the end of the pack with a burning throat and legs and feeling like I was going to vomit. I was humbled.

I've since learned that that you compete against yourself and it's not such a bad experience if you actually condition yourself prior to running a race. I really like how running can make you feel, but I am not into long distance running. My body takes forever to recuperate from marathons, but I think that 5 K (3.1 miles) is the perfect distance for a race, especially for beginners.

I want to give a heads up about a local 5K race that Your Fitness Quest is co-sponsoring this month. It is the Community Action 5K on May 28th at 8:00 a.m. and it benefits the Provo Food Bank. I ran it last year and it was really fun.  If you have never run in an official race before, then I challenge you to give it a shot and let this be your first. You can run/walk at your own pace, it's a beautiful time of year to be outside, you get a t-shirts and prizes, and it benefits a good cause. You can register at

Warning- Running 5K races can be habit forming and one may become addicted to them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Do You Drink Enough Water?

I have never been a big water drinker. I usually only drink when I get thirsty or if a beverage is served with a meal. When I go out to eat with friends I notice their glasses are usually refilled multiple times during the meal but I seldom finish mine. Keeping myself properly hydrated is an area where I could improve.

I've seen a variety of sources which indicate that our bodies are composed of 55-75% water on a cellular level, so hydration is an important component of good health. The benefits of adequate water consumption include: better skin tone, improved body function, decreased urges to eat, decreased headaches, improved ability to excrete wastes and toxins, etc. I've seen conflicting data as to some of these claims, but I still think it is better to err on the side of more water than not enough, even though that makes me a hypocrite. We obviously can't survive without water, but too much water can also be fatal in the rare case of water intoxication.

Many people are curious to know exactly how much water they should drink. For years experts were telling us to drink 8-10 10 oz. glasses of water every day, but a 9 year old girl doesn't have the same water needs as a 200 pound man living in a warmer climate who is involved in manual labor. Climate, health conditions, body size, and activity level need to be taken into consideration when determining water needs, therefore, I'm reluctant to recommend a magic number for the entire population since every one's needs are different.

It's especially important to drink water if you are exercising or in a hot climate. Being dehydrated can cause fatigue, muscle cramping, disorientation, nausea, weakness, or even death. If you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated. When you know you will be exercising or working hard it is always wise to drink before during and after your physical activity.

I'm adding the commitment of drinking more water than I have in the past as this weeks health commitment. If you don't think you've been drinking enough water then I invite you to join me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Helping Kids To Be More Active

I get concerned each time I hear statistics about childhood obesity. This problem is only compounded when kids have a sedentary lifestyle. I'm sure diet is the biggest culprit, but inactivity among children is also a contributing factor.

I've seen stories in the news where P.E. classes are no longer offered in many schools due to budget shortages or where liability concerns over injuries at recess have resulted in playground equipment being removed.

I don't want to sound like the grumpy old man, but in my day we walked to school, rode bikes (without helmets or pads), played on dangerous playground equipment, and looked forward to recess as the highlight of the day. I appreciate the efforts of society to protect our young, but sometimes I think we are creating a generation of wimps. If our parents and grandparents were to be judged by today's standards, I'm sure many of them would qualify to have their kids taken away because of the "dangerous" things they allowed their kids to do when we were growing up.

Video games, television, and heavy Internet use are causing many kids to become sedentary. What really makes me angry about this problem is that I am also guilty of raising sedentary kids myself. I constantly find myself telling my kids to settle down and stop running around. I tell them to be careful, to not get hurt or get dirty or get holes in their knees of their pants. Sometimes it sounds like I am trying to change my kids into furniture.

This has been a painful realization for me since I love sports and pride myself on being active, yet I have hardly taught any sports to my kids. I know sports aren't for everyone and I don't believe kids should be forced to participate in them, but it's sad when kids don't even know how to throw a ball or understand the basic rules to different sports.

I am committing to be a better parent and to create opportunities for my kids to be more active. In case you are also guilty of raising sedentary kids, here are some suggestion that can help you remedy this situation and keep your kids from turning into couch potatoes.

* Put time limits on TV, Internet, and video game playing.
* Sign them up for swimming, karate, dance lessons or a team sport.
* Take your kids to the park and just let them run around.
* Set an example for your children. They are more likely to exercise if you do.
* Take your kids camping or on a hike. Spend more time outdoors.
* Just throwing a Frisbee or playing catch is a good start.