With all the talk about weight loss and the benefits of intermittent
fasting, sometimes it’s easy to think everyone should be losing weight
and skipping meals. Certainly not the case when it comes to the average
child. Kids need food – and lots of it, especially if they’re active.
That starts with a healthy breakfast; if nothing else, to ensure they
perform well in the classroom.
Case in point: a study published in Frontiers in Public Health
that evaluated academic performance among secondary-school students
based on the frequency with which they ate breakfast. Children who
rarely ate breakfast scored, on average, two grades lower in various
course subjects (assessment tests) compared to students who regularly
ate breakfast. Breakfast habits were evaluated based on self-reports by
students on all food and drink consumed over a one-week period (seven
days), culminating on the day of testing. Researchers defined
“breakfast” as any food or drink containing at least 5 percent of total
daily energy expenditure consumed before 10:00 a.m. on a school day.
So, what’s a good breakfast (beyond the energy requirements stipulated
above)? It can vary by the child and their preferences. As long as it’s
balanced and as low as possible in sugar / processed carbs (both of
which will burn quickly and lead to fatigue later in the day), it
doesn’t necessarily matter. Just get your child to the breakfast table
and send them off to school in a position to achieve.
Sounds simple enough – and research is proving it. If you’re a senior,
particularly an older woman, remember this simple formula: more steps
equal a longer life. That’s the conclusion of a large U.S. study
involving more than 18,000 women (average age: 72 years) from the
Women’s Health Study. Participants agreed to wear an accelerometer to
track steps during waking hours over a seven-day period. Steps and
several measures of stepping intensity were variables assessed, and
researchers tracked mortality (death) from any cause over a four-year
period to correlate steps taken with mortality.
According to findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine,
“as few as approximately 4,400 steps/d was significantly related to
lower mortality rates compared with approximately 2,700 steps/d. With
more steps per day, mortality rates progressively decreased before
leveling at approximately 7,500 steps/d. ” Just as significant,
“Stepping intensity was not clearly related to lower mortality rates
after accounting for total steps per day.”
In other words, it doesn’t really matter how you get your steps as long
as you get them! And keep in mind that while this study involved older
woman, one can reasonably assume that older men can also benefit from
taking a few more steps every day. Talk to your doctor to learn more,
especially if you have a health condition that increases your risk of
balance / falling issues when walking.
When was the last time you or someone you know suffered an episode of
back pain? Chances are it wasn’t that long ago. It might have forced you
to miss work, take painkillers, anti-inflammatories or other
medication, or just deal with the pain longer than you wanted to.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do some simple things to try and prevent
back pain from happening in the first place? Here are a few easy ones to
get you started.
In the new millennium, the health care
pendulum has swung from treating symptoms toward prevention. It is a way
of thinking that is analogous to going to the dentist for your
six-month check-up or taking your car in
for regularly scheduled maintenance – you avoid problems before they
start, rather than waiting for something to happen and then “dealing
with it.” By that time, your car may be in the junk yard and you may be
relegated to long-term medication or even surgery.
pain is the perfect example of a symptom too many people treat instead
of preventing, and the consequences are staggering. It is the most
frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years
old. Approximately one quarter of U.S. adults reported having low back
pain lasting at least one whole day in the past three months and 7.6
percent reported at least one episode of severe acute low back pain
within a one-year period. Low back pain is also very costly:
Approximately 5 percent of people with back pain disability account for
75 percent of the costs associated with low back pain. Americans spend
at least $50 billion per year on back pain – and that’s just what gets
With all that said, how are you going to prevent back pain? Here are
four things you can start doing today to reduce your risk of suffering
back pain and its costly (physically, emotionally and financially)
1. Get Adjusted by Your Chiropractor
Your muscles, bones and ligaments are stressed continuously by normal daily activities: driving, sitting at the computer, lifting your kids, doing exercise and countless other things. These little stresses add up over time and misalign the joints of your spine, arms and legs. The misalignments can then lead to muscle tightness, spasms, joint stiffness and pain. Although chiropractors commonly see patients who are in pain, getting spinal tune-ups when you are feeling “fine” will keep you feeling fine. Adjustments will put the bones and joints into healthier positions, which will also help muscle tone.
2. Practice Proper Ergonomics
Think safety: When you make your everyday activities safe to perform, it will help reduce the undue stress on your body.
This includes having your computer work stations at home and at your
office set up properly for your body. Generally speaking, the keyboard
height should be the same height as when your arms are comfortably at
your side with the elbows bent. The mouse should also be close to your
dominant wrist while your arms are at your sides.
Avoid poor posture:
Whenever you sit, it is safest to sit on a full-back chair with plenty
of support. Crossing the ankles is fine, but do not cross your legs.
This puts tremendous pressure on the lower back, contributing to back
pain. Also, if you are experiencing low back pain, it’s a good idea not
to sit on the couch or sofa, since they are typically too soft and
unsupportive for the low back.
Low Back Pain: One Symptom, Many Potential Causes (Including the Following) • Strenuous activity, overuse or improper use (repetitive or heavy lifting, vibration, pressure, etc.)
• Physical trauma, injury or fracture
• Obesity (often caused by increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs)
• Poor muscle tone in the core or stabilizing muscles of the back
• Tightness, spasm, injury and strain of back muscles
• Joint problems (e.g., spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal
canal, which compresses the spinal cord and nerve roots)
• Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk
• Arthritis or degeneration of vertebrae due to stress and the
effects of aging – osteoarthritis, spondylitis (inflammation of the
spinal vertebrae), compression fractures, etc.
When lifting items, use the legs and the trunk of the body rather than
the arms. Always bring objects closer to your abdomen or chest, as that
is the center of gravity and support for most people. Try to avoid
bending the back while you lift.
Sleep well: The most supportive position for the body during sleep
is on your back with a pillow under your knees. The next best position
is on your side with a pillow between your knees and your head on a
pillow that is thick enough to span the distance of your neck to the
shoulders. A neck pillow that is too thin will kink the neck and could
lead to neck and upper back pain down the road.
3. Exercise Regularly
all know how important it is to participate in some type of regular
exercise. Some of you already do that. Whether it be walking, playing
sports or going to the gym, make sure you set up a program that keeps
you consistent. Exercise helps the human body in so many ways, but one
of the most important aspects involves stretching and strengthening of
your back muscles. Often these muscles are referred to as core muscles
of the body because they are located very close to the spine.
The core muscles help move and protect your spine when it is stressed or strained. By keeping them flexible and toned, you prevent pain and injuries from happening. When you are developing an exercise plan, talk to your doctor for ideas on what areas of the body you should specifically focus on to get maximum results, both in terms of overall fitness and protecting the back from injury.
4. Avoid Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
stress can cause muscle tension, which can lead to back pain (it also
can lead to heart problems, chemical imbalances, an inability to sleep
and a host of other bad things).
It’s always hard to maintain balance in your life between work,
family and play, but it goes a long way toward helping your emotional
can be as simple as scheduling some quiet time to be alone, doing yoga
or meditation, taking a bath or just sitting and doing breathing
exercises. Whatever activity you find relaxing or energizing, take time
to do it. Down time allows you to unplug from the world and get
grounded. It also allows your body to reset itself so you can deal with
the next crisis or problem that’s sure to arise.
Poor nutrition. Watching
what you eat is another important factor to consider, because excess
weight literally “weighs you down,” which can contribute to back pain.
Quite simply, losing excess weight in a healthy manner will take
pressure off your lower back and reduce stress on the vertebrae.
is truly amazing that our society is now making an active transition
from listening to symptoms or pain to preventative health care. Now is
the time for you to be able to take a more active role in deciding how
your future health will play out. Armed with the tips discussed above,
you can make changes now that will help your back and your overall
well-being for years to come. The power of health is in your hands.
The Back Pain Epidemic
pain has become an epidemic in our modern society – up to 85 percent of
all people will experience back pain at some time in their life, and it
is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits in the United
States. According to the statistics, if you’re in a room with three
other people, one of you has suffered low back pain for an entire day or
more in the previous three months and only one of you (if they’re
lucky) will avoid suffering back pain at some point in their lifetime.
Kevin M. Wong, DC,
a 1996 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic West in San Jose,
Calif., practices full-time in Orinda, Calif. He is also an instructor
for Foot Levelers, Inc.