Monday, July 26, 2010

Exercise is Medicine

If your doctor were to tell you that you needed to go home and start an exercise routine, would you do it? Would you keep doing it?

If your doctor handed you a prescription for a medication that you needed in order to manage a disease or control a health problem, would you fill it and take it? Would you keep taking it?

These are serious questions to ask yourself. Most of us would fill a prescription given to us by our doctor, especially if it were to control a problem that we were having noticeable symptoms from. However, if your doctor prescribed exercise because it would have the same effect as a pill, if not a better effect with fewer side effects, would you take him or her seriously?

The truth is, exercise is truly medicine and its about time doctors start using their prescription pad to dole out this powerful medicine. While I was working on my MS degree in Exercise Science, I was continuously wowed by the power of exercise. Obviously I was already a believer, or I wouldn't have been there. However, it is just amazing to see the studies proving that exercise can make impacts (depending on the particular population, dose, and severity of the problem) on arthritis, triglycerides, blood pressure, etc that are far more significant than a pill.

On June 17, 2010, the US Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, made a plea that everyone join the Exercise is Medicine initiative. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

As health professionals, we should remember that patients are more likely to change their behavior if they have a meaningful reward -- something more than reaching a certain weight or dress size. The reward has to be something that each person can feel, enjoy, and celebrate. The reward is optimal health that allows people to embrace each day and live their lives to the fullest -- without disease, disability, or lost productivity. I hope you will join the Exercise is Medicine initiative. Together, America can become a Healthy and Fit Nation.

Please take this as food for thought and consider the importance of your exercise! Hold your exercise to the same importance as your morning and evening pills!

Motivational Monday:
I exercise because it allows me to take a lower dose of my medication!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fighting Boredom for Runners/Walkers

My first tip is to cross-train! However, if you don’t have a bike, access to a gym, or access to a pool, it can be difficult to find a lot of different ways to exercise. Here are some ideas for fighting boredom on your runs; and this can also be applied to walkers!

Switch up the type of run you are doing on a regular basis. Some days do a tempo run, and others do interval training. Of course you’ll also want to have days where you just run leisurely.

Download some new running music to listen to. If you need ideas, ask your friends what they’re listening to or look in fitness magazines for ideas. Shape magazine often has music ideas for different types of workouts.

Find a new place to run. Check online for hot running spots or call your local running store for suggestions.

Run your route backwards. No, face the right way, but just start at your normal end and end at your normal start!

Get a running buddy! This can be difficult because you want to find someone who is at your level or higher and who has a similar schedule as you. If you find someone, don’t let him or her go because this can be a great motivator.

Join a running club or meet up with local runners who go on group runs. Even a lot of smaller cities have these. Check online or with your local running store for suggestions.

Consider taking a little bit of time off if you think you may be over training. Sometimes we all need a little break and reviving. This doesn’t mean to sit on the couch for six weeks! However, taking a few days off to relax and recuperate may make you appreciate running when you get back to it.

Any other tips or ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Motivational Monday:

I run/walk because it gives me time to myself!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can chewing gum suppress your appetite?

Before I begin today's post, I just wanted to let everyone know that I have decided to only post once each week. I love being able to blog three times each week; however, with recent increased demands in my life, I think it will fit my schedule better. For now, I will post every Monday! Please enjoy today's post and come back next Monday for more!

A reader brought this question to me and I thought it was a good one to explore. First, I will say that I really think we are talking more about suppressing the desire to eat when we aren’t hungry. We obviously need food and don’t want to take in less than necessary to sustain health; however, it is very easy to over-eat because we’re bored, tired, anxious, or see food that just looks good. I believe this is really what we’re aiming to prevent.

My first thought was that chewing gum probably does prevent this type of eating. First of all, your mouth is busy chewing, so you may not be focusing on the fact that you could be noshing on a bag of chips. Second, if you love that mint taste, or whatever your flavor of gum, you probably don’t want to screw that up with food in your teeth. Third, I imagine it is a lot like finding something for your hands to do when you’re trying to quit smoking. The actual act of chewing gum takes care of your need to chew food; but with much less calories!

After looking around at the research, I found that there wasn’t much! However, there is a lot of positive speculation that points to gum chewing being effective in reducing caloric intake. One study did, in fact, find that gum chewers ingested less calories than non-gum chewers (Hetherington M & Boyland E (2007). Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite. Appetite, DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.109.001.). What this study did not examine was the long-term effect. Sure, maybe those people ate less calories one day, but did that continue over time leading to weight loss? Did those people maintain their weight loss? Did this lead to better health outcomes?

Another study is in the works to be performed and it looks like they will be looking for participants soon. The researchers suspect that gum chewing will be an advantage; however, more so for lean individuals than obese. This may not come as good news to some if it is true. My thought is that some obese individuals may have more issues to overcome with food that cannot be solved by simply chewing a piece of gum.

The research will be interesting as it unfolds. When all is said and done, I believe that this gum-chewing tactic is like many others. It really just depends on what works for you! If you feel that chewing gum helps you to stave off mindless snacking, then you are a great candidate for gum-chewing! It often takes a lot of experimenting to find exactly what helps you to lose those last few pounds or stay healthier by avoiding a lot of junk food.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

Motivational Monday:
I want to lose weight so that I never end up needing two tickets, just for myself, to ride on an airplane!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Gadget For Runners and Walkers: The Nike +

If you’re a runner or a walker and you would like to track your mileage, pace, time, and more, then the Nike + might be for you! With a touch of a button, this device can give you your current distance, time, and pace at any point during your walk/run. Also, it stores all of your workouts, which can be transferred to your computer. The Nike + website will show you all kinds of stats such as your overall total miles, overall average pace, how many miles you run each week, month, and year, and much more.

The website is a great way to track your progress! It rewards you when you reach certain milestones and allows you to join and create challenges. I have found that the challenges can be quite motivating and they can be completed against strangers or friends.

The Nike+ transmitter can be attached to your Ipod; however, you don’t have to have an Ipod to use this cool gadget. Nike now sells a wristband that will do the same job. However, having an Ipod can make this toy even more fun! Not only can you listen to your preprogrammed folder of running/walking music while you record your stats, but you can also program a “power song” to get you through a tough spot in your walk/run or carry you through your finish.

The Nike+ sensor can be worn inside your Nike+ shoes; however, this is totally unnecessary and I have never done this. I bought a little sensor pouch off of It is small and laces right into any shoe. Beware; the sensor has about 1000 hours of battery life. Every time the sensor is moved, it “wakes up” and begins the ticking clock. Ideally, if you are a runner, you should only be running in your running shoes anyway. That is another topic for discussion, but if you are following that rule, you’ll only be “waking up” your sensor when you’re going for a run. If you won’t be running for a while and will be wearing your shoes, remove the sensor and put it away so that it will not run down the battery life. Sensors can be replaced, but they cost around $20.

I will say I have had some problems with my Nike+. My biggest problem was that my miles/hour were being grossly underestimated and it took me (actually my husband) quite some time to figure it out. After a lot of googling, my husband determined that my sensor needed to be placed on my shoe more parallel to the floor. He changed the position on my shoelace and things have been better ever since. Also, do not expect this gadget to perfectly report your mileage. It will not be exact, but it should be pretty darn close. When I ran a marathon with mine, it ended up congratulating me on my “finish” about a half-mile before I actually finished. With 26.2 miles to cover, I thought being a half-mile off wasn’t all that bad!

Any other criticisms good or bad are welcome!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Benefits to the Babies of Pregnant Mothers Who Exercise

Babies are less stressed throughout the contractions in labor. 3

Significant decrease in the incidence of cord entaglement. 3

Decrease in the incidence of meconium during labor. 3

Babies more readily respond to stimuli in their environment and self-quiet during times when they are disturbed. 51, 52

A study that looked at children at five years of age showed that children of exercising mothers were less fat and scored higher on intelligence and oral language skills than those children whose mothers did not exercise throughout pregnancy. 55

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pros and Cons of Counting Calories for Weight Loss


It can help you to get a reality check of how many calories you are actually eating.

It may help you to identify a problem area so that you can move past a plateau.

Some people may find that this regimented style helps to keep them on track.

Using a computer/internet program to log your food and calories will usually also give you a breakdown of other nutrients that you are ingesting. This could help you to identify areas where you are lacking and areas where you are overdoing it.


Calorie counting can be very time consuming.

It can be too regimented making the process of eating a very negative experience.

It makes you rely more on numbers and less on your natural instincts of hunger and fullness.

Unless you are taking the time to focus on what those calories mean (ie how full/hungry you feel, what the portions look like on your plate, etc), calorie counting will not teach you anything in the long run. However, paying attention to those items can make it a great learning experience.

Does anyone else have any pros and cons they would like to add to the list?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tips For Staying Accountable With Weight Loss and Healthy Living

It can be difficult to stay on track when trying to lose weight or fight chronic disease. Sometimes it can take people decades to find a method that works for them and that they can stick to. Hopefully everyone who is reading this has already found their method, or will find it very soon! Here are just a few ideas that may be right for you. Remember that everyone is different and sometimes you have to assimilate many ideas to find just the right fit.

Keep a food journal. You don’t have to share this with anyone, but it may keep you from eating a larger portion or from eating a certain food all together. It is a lot less appealing to see a list of non-nutritious food on your journal than to actually eat them. Food journals can also be eye opening to see what you really ate all day and be helpful in determining weight loss blunders.

Take a picture of everything you eat. That’s right, in this crazy, technologically advanced world; most of us have a camera with us at all times. Do they even make cell phones that don’t contain a camera anymore? A lot of people have found success in this because they take the picture of what they will eat, and then it keeps them from eating more because they don’t want to take a picture of more food after finishing their meal. Also, it’s a quick way to have a “picture food journal”.

See a dietitian regularly.
Of course I promote this because I am a Registered Dietitian and feel that it can be a great learning experience. However, this can be an expensive option. You may be able to get a “packaged deal” where you pay a lower rate for a certain number of visits. This will often allow you the option of checking-in with email too. Remember that this option can be equal to, or cheaper than a personal trainer.

Stay accountable to a friend. This could be very helpful or disastrous. The results of this really just depend on the dynamics of the friendship. Sometimes ill feelings may surface if one friend is doing better than the other with weight loss, or one friend may be an enabler to break the rules and go back to old eating habits. If the dynamics are favorable, this just may be the ticket for some people to stay on track with exercise and healthy diet.

Log everything you eat on a website that calculates nutrients. There are many websites and software that allow you to log everything you eat and give you a breakdown of all the nutrients that you are getting. I have mixed feelings about this approach, but wouldn’t count it out if it might be your key to success. Look for a post in the near future about the pros and cons to this approach. Also, many of the sites allow you to log your exercise as well. Here are a few to check out if you are interested:

Calorie King
Spark People this one is FREE
My Food Diary
My Calorie Counter
Fit Day contains some FREE services
Weight Watchers