Five ways to beat fatigue and have more energy

Winter is coming. As December begins, so does the holiday whirl. Office parties. Family get-togethers. Late nights spent trying to put together toys that have instructions written in a foreign language.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed, and feeling tired will make it more difficult to get through the month. So here are five ways to beat some of that fatigue, giving you more energy to face whatever is on your calendar.

 

  • Eat healthier food more often.

 

Most people understand the essentials of healthy eating: Eat several servings of fruit and vegetables every day, plus servings of grains, dairy, and a variety of proteins. Reduce fats, sugars and sodium.

But another way to evaluate how you eat is to look at how often you eat. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom notes that “a good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours.” This helps to keep your blood sugar levels more consistent, rather than spiking after large meals.

Just remember that if you’re eating more frequently, your meals should be smaller. Your daily intake should still remain around 2,000 calories, regardless of how it is eaten throughout the day.

 

  • Drink up.

 

Hydration is a key component of your diet. While you may not reach 64 ounces of water a day (and most doctors agree that eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a bit much for most people), drinking fluids throughout the day is essential. Not only can dehydration cause fatigue, it has also been shown to impair activity, alertness and concentration.

Don't drink your calories!If you’re drinking more than water (and most of us are), try to remember this mantra: Don’t drink your calories! Drinks can add up to a lot of additional calories throughout the day, particularly if you are drinking sodas or specialty drinks from the corner coffee shop. Aside from the additional calories, drinking sugary drinks may initially give you a spike in energy, but it is often followed by a crash, where you may have less energy than before.

When fatigue is a concern, the NHS recommends cutting two kinds of drinks: those that contain alcohol and caffeine. Even though a glass of wine or a pint of beer may help you relax in the evening, you won’t sleep as well after drinking alcohol, which means you’ll be more tired during the next day. And, like sugar, caffeine can cause spikes in your energy, leading to crashes afterward, making you feel even more tired.

 

  • Get moving.

 

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re feeling lethargic, taking a walk or doing some exercise is a great way to have more energy. WebMD points out that “Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.”

Yoga in particular may be especially helpful in increasing energy. A study done in 2009 found that after doing yoga once a week for only six weeks, the subjects had more energy and confidence that those that did not do yoga.

Exercising more may also help you lose weight, another factor in fatigue. “If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting,” notes the NHS. “It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic.”

If you’re struggling to fit exercise in during a busy season, here are some tips to fit exercise into your daily routine. You can also talk to a physical therapist about creating a safe and effective exercise plan. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists can evaluate your fitness and discuss what you should target to grow stronger and healthier. Search our clinic locator to see if there is a Physiquality PT near you that can help you develop a personalized fitness plan.

 

  • Make sure you're getting enough sleep.Catch some ZZZs.

 

Most of us don’t get enough rest to keep going — adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to be well-rested. In addition, pay attention to your habits. If you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, and allow yourself some time to relax before bedtime, you will feel better and have more energy.

If you do fall short on shut-eye, the doctors at WebMD recommend a brief afternoon nap. They explain that “a 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night.”

 

  • Talk to your doctor.

 

Finally, WebMD reminds readers that fatigue may be a sign that something is wrong, particularly if it comes on suddenly or lasts for a long time. They note, “It is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea.” Fatigue could also be a side effect of medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired, and make sure to tell her about any new medications if a different doctor prescribed them.

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5 resolutions to make for 2017

We all get into bad habits in our life, in one way or another. Perhaps you don’t talk to your grandmother enough. Or you eat too much fast food. Or you stopped working out. Setting resolutions for the new year is a good way to try to work on these bad habits.

There are many habits that can be damaging to your health, but here are five resolutions you can make for the new year to improve your health.

  1. Evaluate your eating habits.

Evaluate your eating habits.Have you been skipping breakfast? Snacking constantly instead of sitting down to dinner? Picking up food on the go instead of cooking at home? These are all habits that can cause us to gain weight and damage our health. Take a look at the latest guidelines recommended by the Department of Agriculture and Health to compare to your eating habits.

If you feel that a complete overhaul is too challenging, change one habit at a time, like making sure to eat breakfast, even if it’s a smoothie or a cup of yogurt. Or pledging to not buy any afternoon snacks for the pantry. Or cooking at least one healthy, sit-down dinner per week; you can always find a recipe that will make leftovers to cover your family for another dinner or two.

  1. Calculate how much television you watch.

A study published last year found that watching more than three hours of television a day correlates with lower levels of mental acuity. Other studies have found that extended hours in front of screens can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure. And if you’re watching with your kids, it’s been shown that children who watch more television at a younger age develop language more slowly and have more problems connecting socially with their peers. If you want to escape into another world, consider picking up a book.

A study found that reading stimulates the brain over time — the excitement you feel when sympathizing with a character lingers for days. Samantha Olson at Medical Daily notes, “Researchers believe this prolonged and measurable brain boost, which was found in the region associated with language and sensory motor skills, could improve brain connectivity over time. It brings using books as an escape to a whole new level.”

Of course, both reading and television are sedentary activities, which leads us to resolution number three:

  1. Increase your daily activity.

Increase your daily activity.We all know the benefits of activity: Being more activereduces our risk for a variety of diseases, keeps our weight lower and makes us feel better. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

It might sound like a lot, but they do point out that if you went to see a movie, it would take the same amount of time. And you don’t need to do it all at once; even 10 minutes at a time is better than nothing. If you’re trying to start a new habit, find a friend to do it with you — it’s been shown that if you schedule a class or walk with a friend, you’re much more likely to stick with it. And you get the added benefit of social activity, which improves your mental health. It’s a win-win!

If you’re anxious about starting to work out after a long drought or injury, consult with your physical therapist. A PT can do a wellness evaluation to determine if you’d need to adapt any physical activity, and some even offer fitness programs within their own clinics. Look for a Physiquality member near you with our clinic locator.

  1. Take care of your teeth.

The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist for a cleaning and check-up at least once a year, if not twice. You should brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily in between those appointments.

So you’re brushing your teeth and flossing regularly. You don’t have any pain. Why should you go for a check-up? Because dentists can catch problems before they turn into something painful, both as physical pain and economic pain. Look at it this way: Filling a cavity is much less expensive than a root canal.

  1. Get more sleep.

Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, but many people don’t get nearly that much. A lack of sleepcan affect your mental and physical health. It is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and system-wide inflammation. Lack of sleep can also affect our immune system, our cognitive abilities (i.e., our mental capacity), and our mood and mental health. By getting a good night’s rest, your body can recuperate from a hard day’s work, giving you more energy to get up and get going in the morning.

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Will overspeed running help me?

With margins in elite competitions getting smaller and smaller — Usain Bolt won his gold medal in Rio by running the 100 meter dash 0.08 seconds faster than Justin Gatlin — many advanced athletes, particularly in track and field, are constantly looking for ways to grow stronger and improve their times.

Overspeed training is one way that runners (and other athletes) try to strengthen the muscles used in short bursts of movement, by using some type of external assistance to run faster than one normally would run, about “8% to 13% faster than the athlete’s fastest speed.Daniel Butler, a clinical exercise specialist at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), explains that there are several ways to do this. Tail wind running is the simplest method, running with a wind at your back. Similarly, slight downhill running is running down a hill with a slight grade. (A study in 2008 used NCAA sprinters to determine the best grade of hill for improving sprinting times; the authors concluded that a hill with a grade of about 5.8 degrees was optimal for improved performance.)

Runners use anti-gravity like those from AlterG to improve sprinting times.For more intense athletes, towing machines pull the runner down the track at a slightly faster pace than his normal rate. Runners have also used anti-gravity equipment like that from AlterG, a Physiquality partner, as well as wind tunnels, parachutes and speed harnesses. Chelsea Cole, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, cautions that athletes trying these types of methods should do pre-testing to determine maximum limb speeds and target speeds before training, and advises that any of these training methods should be created and supervised by a professional to ensure safety.

Daniel also notes that using pre-activation, or potentiation, exercises before sprinting has been shown to improve running times. “The exercise performed before the sprint would be selected for its ability to activate the target muscles without overly fatiguing them, allowing the muscles to fire more effectively and the athlete to sprint faster,” he says. John Shepherd, a coach for Team Great Britain, explains in an article how this has been done by other athletes: “To provide a potentiation example, the 30m sprint performance of athletes from various sports, including football, handball and basketball, was improved by performing 10 single repetitions at 90% of their 1 rep maximum 5 minutes before the completion of the sprints.”

Increasing leg strength through squats and deadlifts can help improve sprinting strength.Before focusing on speed and results, good form must be established, reminds Mark Salandra, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder ofStrengthCondition.com, another Physiquality partner program. Mark emphasizes the importance of flexibility in improving stride frequency and length, two key components of faster running times. He suggests strength training to increase leg strength, incorporating such exercises as squats and deadlifts into your off-track regimen, in order to increase your stride.

Mark also notes that overspeed training often causes eccentric muscle damage, which usually presents as soreness in the quadriceps (thigh) muscles and can be painful to the touch. To minimize such pain, Mark recommends that these techniques be introduced into any training program gradually, combined with other pre-conditioning and strengthening exercises. Daniel also emphasizes that overspeed techniques should be used only by advanced or elite athletes, as beginner to intermediate runners and athletes would see more results from perfecting their technique and form (as noted by Mark above) and building their explosiveness strength.

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Stress and back pain

We’ve written in the past about a variety of causes for back pain: poor posture, improper ergonomics at the office, even straining to lift heavy items like a baby improperly. But did you know that stress can also cause back pain?

The experts at Physiquality partner Kiss My Back! point out that any stress — from the home, the office, or the family — decreases oxygen to potential areas of discomfort, like the neck, shoulders and back. If you have a pre-existing condition or a history of chronic pain, this can exacerbate the problem.

Back pain often leads to less activity, which can increase the pain even more.To make it worse, “when someone is experiencing back pain,” says Laureen Dubeau, “they often decrease their activity level,” which leads to weaker muscles and joints — and more pain. A certified strength and conditioning specialist and MERRITHEW™ Master Instructor Trainer specializing in STOTT PILATES®, another Physiquality partner, Laureen cautions against letting the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine to weaken. If these muscles stop working to stabilize the spine, she says, the larger, superficial muscles become tense and overworked, which increases the pain (even more) and restricts movement.

If your stress leads to postural changes, like hunched shoulders, this will add to your muscular tension throughout your back. And if you start to lose sleep because of the stress, not only will you be crankier during the day, but your body won’t have the chance to recuperate and heal overnight, leading to… tense muscles and more pain.

So how can you break this cycle of stress and pain? Your physical therapist is an excellent resource for the best methods. In addition, being mindful of what is causing the stress and how you are handling it is vital. Kiss My Back! reminds readers that a lot of stress is caused by lack of or miscommunication. Talk to your colleagues or your family about what is creating the stress, and discuss ways to reduce the problems that are causing it.

Using a mind-body exercise like Pilates or yoga can allow you to strengthen your internal focus on your body, which calms the mind.Making time for exercise can also reduce both stress and pain. Laureen notes that increased activity will strengthen the muscles that support your back, while producing endorphins and increasing oxygen flow in your body, reducing pain in your back and elsewhere. Using a mind-body exercise like Pilates or yoga can also allow you to strengthen your internal focus on your body. This calms the mind, which improves your ability to deal with stress. In addition, she says, “the focus in Pilates on restoring ideal posture and reducing the force on joints can help restore a sense of support and control.”

Physiquality partner PowerPlay points out how important it is to be aware of your environment. Pay attention to how your desk is laid out at work, and make sure that it’s ergonomically correct. If you sleep on your stomach, consider sleeping on your side or your back, as it’s better for your back muscles, or read through these tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to improve your sleep posture when you have back pain. You may also need a new mattress or one that is more firm; if you haven’t bought one in the last 10 years, it’s time to start shopping. And don’t forget to think about what you wear every day — supportive footwear and a bag that is worn cross-body vs. over one shoulder can affect your back muscles as well.

In the short term, cold therapy, or even cold + compression therapy, can help to relieve pain, reminds Shawn Hickling, a physical therapist assistant and the founder of ActiveWrap, another Physiquality partner. If the back muscles are spasming, heat therapy, or a combination of heat and ice, may be better. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, known as NSAIDs, may also help to relieve pain, but beware of using them over a long time due to their side effects.

 

The pros and cons of working out with your partner

The pros and cons of working out with your partner

There are many benefits to working out with another person: Motivation. Accountability. Group support. Combining exercise with a social activity. But should you work out with your significant other?

Sharing a common activity with your partner has been shown to lead to better relationships. This doesn’t have to be a physical activity, but playing sports together, or taking a dance class together, can improve your relationship. And if you’re learning together, it can help increase your confidence in both the activity and your relationship.

Running with a partner can help keep you accountable.Randy Gustafson, a physical therapist and the owner and clinical director of Mesa Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in San Diego, California), points out that working out with a partner can keep you accountable and improve results for both people. (And sometimes that partner isn’t even human — research has shown that people with dogs and those that use virtual partners are often more active than those who work out solo.) But research shows this correlation is strengthened within a relationship: A 2013 study found that “when partners care about fitness — their own and their partner’s — it becomes easier to achieve fitness goals. … Average-weight husbands who care about fitness engage in more physical activity when their wives offer more supportive health-related comments.”

If you’re working out at the gym, working out with your partner can help to make your time there more effective, for a couple of reasons. Having someone to spot you on the weights and to watch your form can ensure that your technique is correct. And trainers — and our own experts — will tell you that rest is essential to building muscle, even during your workout. Taking turns on equipment or with free weights will build periods of rest into your regimen, improving your pace and making your workout more efficient.

Randy notes that when you exercise, you release endorphins, which makes you happier and can improve your relationships and mood. And Psychology Today adds that exercise induces the symptoms of physiological arousal — sweaty hands, a racing pulse, shortness of breath. These symptoms mirror, in many ways, the thrill of romantic attraction, and might lead to more private activities when you get home from the gym.

If your fitness personalities clash, it will be difficult to find activities that please both people.Not all couples are compatible for couples workouts. If your fitness personalities clash — one into intense, sweat-dripping workouts, while the other prefers low-impact yoga or Pilates — it will be difficult to find activities that please both people. And if an agreement to work out isn’t working out, it can lead to nagging or more negative encounters than positive feedback.

The number one danger? Competition. If one of the people is highly driven to succeed on the court or in the gym, it could easily lead to pulled muscles and sore feelings. It’s probably better for those individuals to go their separate ways, in the fitness realm, at least. Maybe it’s better to join a fitness program, like the exercise and nutrition program offered at Mesa Physical Therapy. Or perhaps it’s time to get a dog.

 

What is the difference between reactive and preventive healthcare?

Many Americans take a reactive approach to their healthcare needs: They only seek care once they have an injury or fall ill. This approach, says physical therapist Kathy Blair, often involves a costly progression of doctor visits, tests, medications, and procedures, in order to diagnose and treat conditions that might have been prevented. In addition, she points out, this type of care accounts for more than 75% of healthcare spending in the U.S.

Preventive or proactive care, on the other hand, means taking responsibility for your healthcare and well being before something happens. This includes taking simple actions, like exercising more and eating better, which can help you avoid unnecessary procedures and costly ER visits. Preventive healthcare, says Kathy, “stresses personal responsibility for staying well, and keeps healthcare spending in check as a result.”

Raj Thangamuthu  opened Empower Physical Therapy and Fitness with the express purpose of integrating physical therapy and fitness in one facility.Raj Thangamuthu, a physical therapist, opened Empower Physical Therapy and Fitness (a Physiquality member in Michigan) with the express purpose of integrating physical therapy and fitness in one facility. His goal was to encourage clients to improve their overall health and actually spend less time in his clinic as healthcare patients. Raj gives several reasons why it is better to have a preventive approach to healthcare:

  • In preventive care, pain is often not a limiting factor in making progress.
  • Muscle imbalances identified in preventive care often respond to treatment more quickly than when an injury is present.
  • Preventive care can help identify imbalances within your body and ultimately make you function much more efficiently when addressed. Read More

 

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Preparing for your first race

In theory, running is an easy sport to take up — it might seem that you could simply put on a pair of running shoes and run. But if you don’t take into consideration the proper form, training, shoes and nutrition, you could easily set yourself up for an injury.

While we all may have run around the playground as children, running is not a natural skill for most of us as adults. Many of us sit for hours at a time, in front of a computer at work or at home on the couch. So before you focus on improving your time, make sure that you have thought about your form. If you have tried running already, but have felt pain after or especially while running, consider seeing a physical therapist for a fitness assessment, as well as gait analysis, to determine whether improving your form can reduce pain and the chance of injury.

To stick to your running regimen, sign up for a race.Once you and your PT have come up with a training plan, one of the best ways to stick to your plan to run is to sign up for a race. Most metro areas host plenty of 5Ks throughout the year that may be convenient for you. Having a deadline makes it easier to train gradually, explains Ryan Bozant, a physical therapist at Moreau Physical Therapy in Louisiana.

Ryan cautions runners to think about training without overtraining, which can cause an overuse injury. He points to several online running plans that can help to set running goals and a running schedule. Most will recommend training over a two-month period. Here are a few of Ryan’s favorites:

Be sure to do an active warm-up whenever you run.Ryan also recommends doing an active warm-up whenever you run. This can be a series of running drills or simply walking for a few minutes before picking up the pace. A warm-up can also include simple exercises like squats and lunges, or getting on the ground for some sit-ups and push-ups. Any of these things will get your heart pumping and prepare the body to run.

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How to adapt your workout as you age

As you get older, it’s easy to let your exercise regimen slip away. Schedules get more complicated with work, spouses and children. Bodies don’t respond as well to high-intensity workouts or longer bouts of activity. But it’s important to stay active for the long run — for a variety of reasons.

As we age, the goal of our activity may shift from weight-loss or general health to more specific goals. Injury and even death from falls is an unfortunate trend for older adults — as adults approach their 70s, they need to consider how to improve their balance and reduce their chances of falling.

There are lots of exercises and programs to improve balance that can be done at the gym or at home.There are lots of exercises and programs to improve balance that can be done at the gym or at home. Lee Spieker, the founder and CEO of Physiquality partner program Railyard Fitness, lists a variety of exercises that challenge balance and coordination:

You can also use a balance board to challenge your balance at a higher level….. Read more 

10 common fitness mistakes you might be making

Hopefully those New Years’ resolutions have paid off. You’re eating healthier and working out more, and maybe your clothes are a little bit looser. But have you thought about what could be holding you back or putting you at risk of an injury? Here are some common errors you might be making at the gym.

You walked in without a plan.
Many people — especially those that are going for the first time (or the first time in a long time) — walk into the gym and wing it, with no sense of how they are going to structure their workouts. But if you walk in without a plan, how can you expect to make progress, asks Mark Salandra, the founder of StrengthCondition.com (one of Physiquality’s partner programs). Mark advises, “Write down a workout plan: Map out all your workouts to the set. Figure out your goals and set a plan to get there.” (Need a workout journal? Check out Physiquality partner fitbook™ journals for tracking your workouts and diet.)

There are many ways to set such goals. Mark suggests reading books, doing research on the internet, or even taking advantage of the trainers the gym makes available. He points out that they can advise you on proper form, the right machines for you, the frequency of your workouts and — most importantly — creating a workout plan.

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