‘Science Says’ Sunday – Physical Activity

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I am not naturally drawn to physical activity. I AM drawn to food and sloth-like behavior. #letsbereal

Nonetheless, I recognize the importance of being physical active and also know that it yields significant benefits for health. Therefore, although I sorta live to eat, I try to counter that with working out to eat, too. Ha! More so, though, I can’t just preach and not practice, so off to practice (ie be physically active) I go!

There is often a lot of confusion about what exactly it means to be physically active though. In honor of National Physical Education and Sport Week (May 1-7), I decided to share some physical activity tips with you this week. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, scientific evidence suggests that individuals who are ages 6 and older should maintain or improve their health through regular physical activity.

What does that mean though??

According to the National Institute of Heart, Lung, and Blood, the guidelines recommend that:

  • children and teens be physically active for at least 60 minutes on most, if not all, days. For children, the 60 minutes of activity can be done in smaller chunks of time over the day. Some of that time may come from physical education (PE) and gym classes in schools.
  • adults should do a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes, or 30 minutes 5 days a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. Health experts recommend this level of activity to reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life.
  • 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week will help adults avoid gradual weight gain. This physical activity also can be done in smaller chunks of time over the day.

“Quick Tip: Test Your Exercise Intensity

When you’re being active, just try talking: if you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily, it’s moderate-intensity activity. If you can only say a few words before you have to take a breath, it’s vigorous-intensity activity.”

But really, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Well, this article summarizes the different types of activities that adults can engage in that are super beneficial for your health. They include:

  1. Endurace exercises (below are some types that fall in this category)
    1. Brisk walking or jogging
    2. Yard work (mowing, raking)
    3. Dancing
    4. Swimming
    5. Biking
    6. Climbing stairs or hills
    7. Playing tennis or basketball
  2. Strength exercises
    1. Lifting weights
    2. Using resistance bands
  3. Balance
    1. Standing on one foot
    2. Walking heel to toe
  4. Flexibility
    1. Stretching exercises

Yoga can also be helpful for #’s 3 and 4, for example. Remember to always consult with your primary care doctor before beginning any exercise regimen or routine.

“Safety tips

  • Do a little light activity, such as easy walking, before and after your endurance activities to warm up and cool down.
  • Listen to your body: endurance activities should not cause dizziness, chest pain or pressure, or a feeling like heartburn.
  • Be sure to drink liquids when doing any activity that makes you sweat. If your doctor has told you to limit your fluids, be sure to check before increasing the amount of fluid you drink while exercising.
  • If you are going to be outdoors, be aware of your surroundings.
  • Dress in layers so you can add or remove clothes as needed for hot and cold weather.
  • To prevent injuries, use safety equipment, such as a helmet when bicycling.”

I know that being in quarantine has affected many of our daily lives, including routines which included going to the gym. However, it’s a great time to get creative about how you get those workouts in! My friend and colleague, Dr. Olivia Affuso told me about the REI challenge, where people who normally train outdoors or in gyms, are now running in their living rooms (around the coffee table) or in their small backyards!

I have personally walked a mile around the inside of my house (a loop around my living room, foyer, dining room, kitchen) while on a zoom call and run a mile in our backyard while the kids were playing. I have also walked/run on our treadmill and used our stepper, in our little makeshift gym we built in our basement!

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Lots of great apps allow you to work out virtually too. I’ve loved the 7 minute workout for years.

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Youtube also has tons of workout videos, including Yoga and Zumba! I personally loved my P90X videos from years ago, but can’t find them, so I’ve relied on YouTube to access that content.

Being physically active has so many benefits, and yet somehow for some of us, it’s so hard to get motivated and be consistent. As someone who struggles with being active on the daily, I’ll be the first to admit that starting is the biggest rate limiting step. But also, that every little bit counts. So start small! Go for a walk. Play basketball with the kids. Try to ride a bike. Try a little yoga. Whatever you do, try to move everyday, and see the benefits magically work their way into your life over time.

 

Articles use to inform and provide quotes for today’s post:

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/get-active/physical-activity-guidelines.htm

 

 

‘Science Says’ Sunday – Wellness checks

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I have covered COVID-19 so much lately that I figured we could take one Sunday off to remind us all that wellness checks are still necessary this year and you should still plan to schedule them if you haven’t already! Here I am, pictured above, getting my annual check up a while ago, but pulled the picture out of the archives because I forgot to take a picture when I went to get my exam in January.

I heard ‘on the grapevine’ that people are afraid to go get wellness checkups. Admittedly, I did convert my dermatologist appointment in March to a tele-health visit (that means we had the visit over the phone), but only because I didn’t need an in-person visit with my dermatologist. However, let me be clear and say that IF YOU NEED TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR, YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR. The boys are still getting their check ups this summer, and so should you.

The stay-at-home orders have confused a lot of people, but many clinics and hospitals have policies and procedures in place to see patients who aren’t there for COVID-19 related symptoms.

Therefore, consider the following:

Call or email your physician if you are due for an annual exam, mammogram, prostate exam, pap smear, cholesterol or blood pressure check, etc. Depending on your health and history, your physician will determine when and how those procedures should be done. Dental visits should be scheduled as dental practices permit, but dental emergencies should absolutely be addressed immediately.

Personally, here are some of the health checks I get done:

Annual wellness check

Annual gynecologist visit (pap if needed, breast exam, and mammography if needed)

Dermatology check as necessary (I was going every three months lately because I had dermatitis that was OUT OF CONTROL. Finally under control though, yay!)

Bi-annual dental check (cleaning every time, and other procedures as needed)

Annual eye exam (super important, especially as I age)

 

For the kids, their health checks include:

Annual wellness checks with pediatrician (vaccines as indicated on vaccine schedule)

Bi-annual dental checks (only cleanings so far; yay for no cavities)

 

For my hubby, health checks include:

Annual wellness check (including testicular and prostate exam)

Bi-annual dental checks

Dermatology check as necessary

 

A good rule of thumb is to schedule all of these appointments around the time of your birthday so that you don’t forget to get them in throughout the year.

 

In between health checks, remember to:

Maintain physical activity (remember it’s safe to go for walks, bike rides, hikes, etc, and just maintain a 6′ distance from anyone you may come across). You may notice you’re doing a lot of sitting around during the stay-at-home quarantine. Get up for about 2-5 min every hour to burn a few calories. They add up during the day and prevent you from being overly sedentary (or not active) during the day.

Drink water. I’m notorious for favoring diet Cokes (#sorrynotsorry), but I do try to drink a glass of water in the morning, noon, and night. I should probably drink more, but hey, we all have our limitations, right?? How much water depends on a number of factors, so drink water when able, is a good rule of thumb.

Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced meal. So very super important. More to come on what “healthy” means in an upcoming post. Fruits and veggies, lean meat (if you eat meat), protein, fiber, beans, etc…those sorts of things. Well balanced means you also get to eat a donut every so often if that’s what makes your heart happy. 🙂

Get some sleep! Sleep is restorative and helps improve health outcomes (lack of sleep is associated with poorer heart health, for example). I love sleep, but it’s so hard to get in. Cat naps help, so just try to squeeze it in when ever possible.

Try not to stress. Every time I go to the doctor, she says to me ” DON’T STRESS!! It’s not good for your health!” Sigh. I’m such a ball of stress most of the time. I internalize it and it physically manifests. Stress has been shown to increase cortisol in your body; a hormone that in high quantities, is associated with poor health outcomes, including inflammation, diabetes, even weight gain. More to come on the relationship between stress and health later.

So, try a little TikTok (I still don’t get it and am NOT dancing for strangers, lol!), some Instagram or Pinterest DIYs, virtual happy hours with friends (but don’t drink too much, because hello, also bad), and try to manage your health as best as possible during a time that is uncertain at worst, but a great time for reflection, at best. 🙂

Finally, super important to also note that if you have an emergency, you should ABSOLUTELY go to the ER or call an ambulance to come to your home. COVID-19 should not keep you from maintaining your health checks or or keep you from getting the health help you need. Remember that substance or alcohol abuse, mental health, and other conditions should also be checked, so call a physician, clinic, or hospital as necessary. Okay??

Be safe and be well, friends!

 

‘Science Says’ Sunday – To mask or not to mask?

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There is so much talk about ‘re-opening states’, despite not quite being in a place where we can do that. For scientists and health care workers, talk it’s immensely worrisome. The need to get people back to work is very real, but if we’re going to move forward with easing social distancing restrictions, especially “lockdowns” or “stay-at-home orders” then, a few things need to be in place:

  • Continued decrease in cases over time (flattening of the curve)
  • A capacity to treat all patients who need hospitalization with all resources needed (eg, protective equipment, beds, ventilators)
  • Comprehensive testing (everyone with symptoms or at risk gets tested)
  • Antibody testing, combined with contact tracing and isolation of those with COVID-19

Currently, we don’t have any of the above in place, which means scaling back social distancing measures and re-opening places where groups of people can gather or be in close proximity – hello, beaches, movie theaters, restaurants, daycares, etc – is extremely worrisome.

However, despite the concern that scientists, physicians, and many others have expressed, it appears that some states are eager to move forward with plans to re-open. As such, I felt the need to discuss masking in today’s ‘Science Says’ Sunday post. And I’m not talking about avocado or charcoal masks (though that’s an excellent topic for another day), I’m talking about face masks.

So, in short, YES, if you’re going to leave your house, you should absolutely mask.

The Centers for Disease Control have an excellent video out about the Do’s and Don’ts of cloth face coverings or masks:

 

My immediate family has not been able to secure masks, so I decided to try and make our own! According to some guides, a simple bandana or other cloth covering will do, but I decided to give a neck scarf a go!

Note: Don’t touch the outside of the mask to adjust like I did. Try and avoid that, oops!

Using masks regularly, though, requires some guidance about safety and careful hygiene. This gif describes things you should keep in mind when wearing masks to go to work, grocery shopping, or to engage in other essential activities:

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There is a lot that we are still learning about COVID-19 and so much that we have to do to get this under control. To those who have social distanced for weeks, thank you. To those who are essential workers and continue to have to go to work, ALSO thank you!! Remember to continue to support your local businesses if you are able, and to only leave your home for essential activities. In general, essential services include:

  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants
  • Banks
  • Laundromats/laundry services
  • Essential state and local government functions will also remain open, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services.

Remember, we continue to social distance because we have no idea who will and will not get sick. Because we believe there is a pre-symptomatic and/or asymptomatic phase, it is possible that you can get people sick without getting sick or super sick yourself. I thought this gif was worth re-sharing to demonstrate exactly how this works:

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I know it’s hard. There is no doubt that this is significant, life altering phase of life we are all experiencing. Know, however, that until we have a vaccine, treatment for COVID-19, tests for everyone, and antibody tests, we will continue to need some form of social distancing to remain. Remember that this is truly unprecedented and unlike anything we have seen in modern history. You are writing history as we speak. Let’s learn from past experiences like reopening too soon and the effects of large gatherings during the 1918 flu pandemic. Let’s do the right thing, and get through this together.

Be well, and be safe, friends.