10 Reasons To Go For A Walk Right Now

On an average day, 30 percent of American adults walk for exercise and with good reason. Walking doesn’t require special equipment or athletic skills, yet it offers a host of health benefits — from helping you lose weight and lifting your mood to controlling diabetes and lowering your blood pressure. In fact, a study published in the journal PLoS Medicine showed that adding 150 minutes of brisk walking to your routine each week can add 3.4 years to your lifespan.

Here are 10 surprising ways to use walking to boost your health, along with tips to make starting and sticking to a walking routine more fun.

1. Walk to Manage Your Weight
Avoiding weight gain might be as simple as taking a walk. Researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed more than 34,000 normal-weight women for more than 13 years. They found that, over time, the women who ate a standard diet and walked for an hour a day (or did some other similar moderate-activity exercise) were able to successfully maintain their weight.

Fun fitness tip: Buddy up for fitness — walk with a friend, neighbor, or a four-legged pal. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog-owners walked more each week and were more likely to reach the recommended levels of physical activity than those who do not own dogs.

2. Walk to Get Blood Pressure in Line
A heart-pumping walking routine can help lower your blood pressure, studies show. A study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that moderate-intensity walking was just as effective as jogging at lowering risk of high blood pressure.

Fun fitness tip: Can’t find a full 30 minutes to walk? Spread it out throughout your day — 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there will add up if you stick with it. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, breaking your workout into several shorter workouts throughout the day is just as effective as one longer workout session, while also making it easier to fit exercise into your schedule.

3. Walk to Protect Against Dementia
Walking, which improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of vascular disease, may help you stave off dementia, the cognitive loss that often comes with old age. According to the 2014 World Alzheimer’s Report, regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat the onset and advancement of the disease. In addition, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh conducted brain scans on seniors and found that walking at least six miles a week was linked to less brain shrinkage.

Fun fitness tip: Download upbeat music you love to listen to on your iPod, and take it with you while you walk. An analysis conducted by the American Council on Exercise found that music not only makes exercise more enjoyable, but it can also boost endurance and intensity.

4. Walk to Prevent Osteoarthritis
Walking is a great form of weight-bearing exercise, which helps prevent the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis, as well as osteoarthritis, the degenerative disease that causes joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found that people who participated in moderate aerobic activities such as walking have the healthiest knees because walking can help maintain healthy cartilage.

Fun fitness tip: Reward yourself. After you stick to your new walking routine for a few weeks, treat yourself to a new pair of shoes, a manicure, or something else that will keep you motivated.

5. Walk to Reduce Cancer Risk
Walking may reduce your chances of developing some cancers. Research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that women who walked at least seven hours per week were 14 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. Similarly, a study conducted by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and Harvard University, found that men who were treated for prostate cancer and who walked briskly at least three hours a week reduced their chances of a recurrence.

Fun fitness tip: Explore. Try a new route around the neighborhood, pick a different trail at the park, or go walking in a new location altogether to keep it interesting.

6. Walk to Prevent or Control Diabetes
Brisk walking can help prevent and manage diabetes. “A 20- to 30-minute walk can help lower blood sugar for 24 hours,” says Tami Ross, RD, LD, a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Plus, The Diabetes Prevention Program, a major government study, found that even a small weight loss — for example, 10 to 15 pounds for a 200-pound person — can delay and possibly prevent the onset of the disease. Adding a brisk walk to your daily routine is one of the easiest ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Fun fitness tip: Dress for the occasion. A good pair of walking shoes and comfortable clothes that are easy to move in are essential for a successful workout.

7. Walk to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk
Walking may help lower your cholesterol and, in turn, your risk for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, walking just 30 minutes per day can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. And since regular walking can keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check, it is a great way to boost your overall heart health.

Fun fitness tip: Challenge yourself to walk more steps every day and make fitness more fun, by using a pedometer or other fitness tracking device to chart your progress. You can set new step goals each week and even join challenges with friends and family to motivate yourself to get moving.

8. Walk to Improve Your Mood
A brisk walk can boost your mood and may even help you treat depression. A Portuguese study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that depressed adults who walked for 30 to 45 minutes five times a week for 12 weeks showed marked improvements in their symptoms when medication alone did not help.

Fun fitness tip: Get outdoors! When the weather permits, take your walk outside, for a dose of vitamin D and an even bigger mood boost. Research published in the journal Ecopsychology revealed that group walks in nature were associated with significantly lower depression and perceived stress, as well as enhanced mental well-being.

9. Walk to Reduce Pain
It might seem counterintuitive, but to reduce pain from arthritis, start moving. Research shows that walking one hour per day can help reduce arthritis pain and prevent disability. The study, published in Arthritis Care & Research, determined that 6,000 steps was the threshold that predicted who would go on to develop disabilities or not. Plus, a recent study found that walking significantly improved mobility loss among patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition where clogged arteries in the legs can cause pain and fatigue while walking.

Fun fitness tip: Add some healthy competition to your walk. As you move down the sidewalk or trail, imagine the people in front of you are rungs on a ladder. Then, focus on walking fast enough to overtake them one by one.

10. Walk to Reduce Stroke Risk
A large, long-term study reported in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that women who walked at a brisk pace for exercise had a much lower chance of having a stroke than those who didn’t walk. Researchers credit this to walking’s ability to help lower high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for stroke.

Fun fitness tip: Join or start a regular walking club with friends or coworkers and make fun fitness plans for your outings. Recent research published in the British Journal of Sports and Medicine found that participants were enthusiastic, less tense and generally more relaxed after regular, organized walking groups.

By Beth W. Orenstein for Huffington Post

MAKE BRAIN HEALTH A PRIORITY

brain health

Brain health is as important as your overall physical health. Here’s why…

As your brain ages, it becomes less efficient at utilizing glucose as an energy source. This defect in energy conversion starves your brain of nourishment and weakens its ability to withstand normal oxidative stress from free radicals.

As a result, you are more susceptible to neurodegenerative disorders and you can run the risk of developing dementia.

KETONES TO THE RESCUE! 

Ketones are designed to fuel the brain and other peripheral organs during reduced carbohydrate diets when blood glucose levels are low. Normally, your brain primarily derives its energy from glucose, but when ketosis is induced, up to 75% of energy requirements can be obtained through the production of ketones.

MCTs leads to substantially more ketones in the blood (compared to LCTs), making the fatty acids a critical substance for a healthy brain.

Studies show a state of ketosis may help prevent and provide symptomatic relief to a wide variety of brain disorders:

  • ALS
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
  • Autism
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Traumatic brain injury

Ketones have been found to reduce Alzheimer’s-type plaque in the brain.

In clinical studies, Alzheimer’s patients who consumed a beverage with MCTs compared to one without MCTs, scored significantly better on cognitive tests.

In other studies, ketosis has led to:

  • improved performance on visual-spatial memory tasks
  • increased ability of learning tasks
  • enhanced short-term memory

Ketones trigger the activation of specialized proteins called brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs) that aid in brain cell maintenance, repair, and protection. BDNFs also stimulate the growth of new brain cells to replace dead or dying cells, allowing some mental function restoration.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MCT

Snow Skiing as a Natural Anti-Aging Remedy

By Brian Rog for ATI Physical Therapy

Snow Skiing as a Natural Anti-Aging Remedy

Contributions by: Peter Braun MS, LAT, ATC, ITAT

The effects of time on one’s body are unavoidable and often substantial. Many of us in the field of medicine are in an endless search to find the perfect sport, activity or exercise that will unlock our physical potential, well into our years. Scientific research has found that there are certain factors that contribute to longevity and sustainability. Bone density, lower extremity strength, balance and cardiovascular endurance all play critical roles in maintaining a physically active lifestyle. With this, physicians make an effort to integrate these factors into exercise plans for much of our elderly population. But what if there was a simpler answer? What if we could prescribe involvement in a recreational activity that naturally addresses all these areas? As we unravel the details, we challenge the question; “Is there such a thing as an anti-aging activity?”

Snow Skiing and bone integrity

As we dive into the leading factors that affect our ability to remain physically active, it is important to begin by discussing the foundation of our musculoskeletal system: our bones. Proper bone integrity allows our joints and muscles to function at peak levels. As more research is released clarifying the comorbid factors associated with aging, we are realizing how important bone density truly is. As we get older, it is natural to lead a more sedentary lifestyle. This reduces the forces exerted on our bones and leads to less deposition and remodeling. Consequently, bones become weaker and more fragile.

There is also a threshold where forces may be too much for a bone to adequately tolerate. Therefore, we don’t see many 60 or 70-year-olds participating in heavy plyometric type activity that requires sprinting, jumping, or heavy lifting. What makes skiing so unique is that the peak force exhibited on the bone is achieved over a longer period of time compared to other activities. If someone is running, the peak force at heel strike happens instantaneously and stress is quickly translated through the bones. In skiing, this process is lengthened due to the natural mechanics of a turn. As we begin to turn while skiing, ground reaction force increases and it doesn’t achieve maximum force until the dynamic center of the turn, and gradually reduces as we bring the skis back underneath the body. There is no sharp or sudden spike in pressure or force. This allows for a healthy and acceptable loading of our joints and bones, which optimizes remodeling.

Snow Skiing and lower extremity strength

Lower extremity strength has been promoted by many as a key to upholding a physically active lifestyle and essential to healthy aging. The biomechanics of a skiing turn activate all lower leg muscles in a complex and symmetrically balanced fashion. The intrinsic muscles in the foot are important to control edge initiation and release. These muscles are also essential to foot rotation, which affects the degree and engagement of an edge throughout the turn. The muscles of the lower leg are important for staying balanced and continuously adjusting to the changing pressure and contact with the snow.

Even during various parts of the turn, the hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings help create dynamics and proper leg lengthening necessary to carve and ride the edge of the ski. The core, hip flexors, hip rotators, hamstrings and glutes all work harmoniously to transition our body from the initiation of the turn through to its completion. These muscles are stressed, more or less, depending on the size and shape of the turn, slope of the hill, and conditions of the snow.

The combination of all these components create an exceptional foundation for strengthening. In addition, skiing requires a diversity in motor activation patterns, therefore resisting motor specificity and repetition. The movements of skiing are so complex that when coupled with the aid of gravity and slope as we ski downhill, chronic injuries are minimized when compared to many other recreational sports-activities.

Snow Skiing and the role of balance

Balance is another function that tends to decline with age. The rate of falls and severity of resulting injury are often fatal in the elderly population. There are many contributing factors to one’s overall capacity to stay balanced. It is important to recognize that even as we challenge this system there may be limiting factors, whether centrally or peripherally, that inhibit our skills as we age. But there are few other sports that challenge the body in such a dynamic and functional way as skiing. Proprioception is arguably one of the most important skills in skiing. Awareness of our limbs in space allow us to successfully stay standing as we move down the hill. Even in a static fashion, as we click into our skis there is an immediate and drastic reduction in friction under our feet. This makes even the most finite movements more substantial and challenges our joint awareness and control.

As we begin the move down the hill and turn our skis, this skill becomes exponentially more difficult. Our movements, pressure, center of balance, turn dynamics, turn radius, as well as the snow conditions all affect how we need to position our body over our skis. Furthermore, the skier often must be reactive to many of these factors. To put all this in perspective, it would be like executing a balance exercise in the clinic wherein the surface that we are balancing on is changing, while simultaneously shifting weight from side to side, alternating single leg stance, and also reacting to a stimulus (such as catching a ball). Tremendously complex, right? If there are any benefits of proprioceptive training to improve overall balance as we age, you will definitely see the results if skiing is incorporated into your lifestyle.

Get active, and stay active

Individuals in the physical therapy profession and others in the medical field are continually trying to encourage others to enroll in an active lifestyle. We can all agree, regular exercise is important, but leading a life that incorporates consistent and regular activity throughout the days is the main goal – and it shouldn’t stop at 10,000 steps. What we are doing during the time we are not accumulating steps is just as important. When we observe the scope of different activities we can perform to stay physically active, none are quite as sustainable as skiing. Most skiers set aside an entire day to enjoy time on the mountain. Even other sports that are notoriously lengthy such as golf, hiking, or long distance biking and running, don’t even remotely match an eight hour day.

Although activity isn’t continuous, a single run on the slopes, which typically takes only a few minutes, is just enough time to increase the heart rate and stress the musculoskeletal system before resting on the chairlift. This is a perfect combination of rest and exercise that can easily fill an entire day. The sustainability of skiing is what makes it stand apart from most other sports activities. If the overall goal is to create a physically active lifestyle, skiing may be one of the few solitary solutions that can achieve this goal.

We will never be certain as to what is the best thing to do to resist the effects of aging. Our genetics, our bodies, and our history all have a role that is too intricate for us to predict. However, if there’s one thing that is definitive, it’s the positive impact that exercise and activities like skiing brings to someone’s well-being.

Dealing with a lower body injury?

Recognizing and assessing an injury is the first step in ensuring a speedy and effective recovery. Most individuals are led to believe that surgery or opioids are their only lines of defense when dealing with an injury. Instead, consider physical therapy as a first course of action, even if it’s only a screening, which are complimentary at all ATI locations. Recent research suggest that people who underwent physical therapy enjoyed faster recovery and less pain than those who chose alternative routes such as surgery and opioids. Give PT a try!

Therapy that moves you!

By Erica Hornthal, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT, Chicago Dance Therapy

Chicago Dance Therapy is the premier dance/movement therapy practice serving Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Offering psychotherapy with a body-centered approach focused on connecting mind, body, and spirit.


Mind

In dance/movement therapy, movement is the therapeutic tool used to process feelings and emotions. The client is encouraged to experience, observe, and process behaviors and thoughts through body sensations, non-verbal communication, and body language. We use the body to recharge, refocus, and even re-pattern the mind.


Body

We use the body to assess, observe, and intervene in the therapeutic relationship. When words alone may not be expressing what someone is experiencing, dance/movement therapy can help to validate and support each individual.


Spirit

This holistic alternative to traditional talk therapy is a wonderful way to treat mind, body, and spirit. Using movement we can connect to our subconscious, enhance our awareness, and learn to be more present.


According to the American Dance Therapy Association, dance/movement therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual. Benefits of dance/movement therapy include:

  • Facilitate self-awareness
  • Enhance self-esteem
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Encourage reminiscing
  • Maintain and/or increases mobility
  • Enhance body-mind connectivity
  • Focus on non-verbal communication
  • Enhance emotional and physical well being

Sleep…Beyond Counting Sheep

By Valerie Odea for Athletico Physical Therapy

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep…and awakening to the promise of a new day! But these days, getting a good night’s sleep seems to be more elusive than ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three sleep beyond counting sheepAmericans routinely do not get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can contribute to health issues such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and impaired memory. Therefore, lack of sleep is a true public health crisis. The Rand Corporation published a study reporting over $400 billion loss to US companies annually due to employees’ lack of sleep. So why is our nation sleep-deprived and what can we do to be better sleepers?

Falling asleep should be one of the easiest tasks for us to accomplish, right? Yet many of us cannot do it well, nor on a consistent basis. How can we improve “sleep hygiene,” or healthy sleep habits? Happily, most of the practices that promote sound sleep are under our control! Here’s what you need to know:

A Consistent Schedule Matters: Humans have a circadian rhythm, which means we follow a day/night cycle of approximately 24 hours. That being said, the more consistently we manage our sleep/wake cycles, the better. Try to get to bed at the same time most evenings and awaken at approximately the same time each morning. Resist the temptation to stay up very late or sleep in, even on weekends or days off. By staying consistent with your cycle, your body will have an established routine.

Age Makes a Difference: Aging presents issues with regard to sleep, with many people waking up more frequently and have a harder time getting back to sleep as they get older. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including less time spent in a deep sleep, the need to urinate during the night, anxiety, or discomfort from pain or chronic illness.

Avoid Substances and Meals that can Interrupt Your Sleep: Be judicious about using substances such as alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. These chemicals can stay in our systems for up to 14 hours and disturb sleep. On that note, a large, heavy meal can be difficult to digest close to bedtime and interfere with sleep.

Stress Plays a Role: Stress…who doesn’t have it? A stressful day flows into the evening and you can’t relax. Besides your brain being preoccupied, stress cause the body to release the stress hormone cortisol which promotes increased alertness.

Medical Conditions can Make an Impact: A variety of medical issues can also keep you from sleeping well. More than just annoying snoring, sleep apnea is a dangerous condition where you can have decreased breathing, changes in vital signs and startle yourself into wakefulness. Oftentimes Restless Leg Syndrome may accompany sleep apnea. If you or your partner snore, have a sleep study performed by a specialist and follow the recommended treatment. Chronic insomnia interferes with your body’s restorative sleep and can have deleterious health effects on the brain and body as well.

So, how can you overcome these issues and catch your zzzzzzzzzz?sleep beyond counting sheep

Try to Respect Your Circadian Rhythm:Establish a consistent bedtime and wake up time and stick to it. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible with room darkening shades, blinds or use a sleep mask. Avoid lights from electronics in the bedroom. Keep your bedroom cool with the use of a fan, or by opening a window and turning down the furnace. Foam earplugs can reduce noises surprisingly well. Some swear by white noise machines available at most department or electronics stores. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a comfortable, supportive mattress, pillows and blankets. Make a rule that you won’t eat, watch TV or pull out your phone/laptop to do work in bed.

Limit Fluids After Dinner as much as Possible: Have that last coffee at lunch or switch to an evening decaf. Some feel that a “night cap” alcoholic drink will relax them for sleep. Initially, alcohol will make one feel sleepy, but then it will actually disturb your sleep.

Have a Bedtime Ritual (like when you were a child): I often share this information with my patients who are just home from the hospital, may have pain, are off their routine, have stress and concerns. Take a warm bath or shower if possible, perform some relaxation techniques such as tensing and relaxing muscles, or do some deep breathing. Try reading for a short time. Enjoy a small glass of milk and a light carbohydrate snack. A very effective technique I employ is to keep a pad of paper and a pen on my nightstand. I journal about ideas, concerns and worries. Then I put them aside. I have taken everything off my mind and put it down on paper where I know it will be waiting for me in the morning.

Exercise: With regard to exercise and fitness, those who have a regular fitness routine fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. However, try to exercise earlier in the day or at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.

Napping: Short “cat naps” of 20-30 minutes are fine if needed. They can refresh you. Anything longer can make you feel groggy and interfere with your nighttime sleep.

Sweet Dreams!

These days there are high tech mattresses, gadgets, apps, fancy pillows that monitor sleep cycles, sensors and sleep tracking watches available to help you get to sleep and measure your sleep performance. None of these devices come cheap. I would argue that for most people, following the ideas discussed above and taking a do-it-yourself approach to improving your sleep works best. Of course, if sleep problems persist, see your health care provider for help.

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