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by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Joints are located throughout your body and play a key role in your mobility and overall well-being. While a variety of factors can affect your joints, such as injuries, inflammation, muscle atrophy, and overuse, there are things that you can do to protect your joints and prevent degeneration. The following lifestyle, diet, and supplement recommendations could help keep your joints healthy for as long as possible.

Lifestyle

Do daily physical activity. Movement increases the circulation of synovial fluid (a liquid that protects and lubricates joints) and nutrients through joints and strengthens bones and muscles—which, in turn, protects your joints. It is best to include stretching and strengthening in your exercise routine.

Maintain good posture. Sitting with a straight spine while in front of a computer screen or driving, using an ergonomic chair, wearing flat shoes rather than high heels, and carrying your book bag or purse with the weight balanced equally on each shoulder can go a long way in protecting your joints. Poor posture can misalign your bones and put unnecessary strain on your joints.

Manage your weight. Just 10 pounds of extra body weight can increase the force on your knee by 30-60 pounds with every step you take. Shedding extra pounds through exercise and a healthy diet can not only prevent future knee problems—it can also help reduce pain if osteoarthritis has already developed in your knees.

Exercise safely. While staying active is important, it is possible to push your body too much. Moderate your activity levels. Whether you are stretching in a yoga class or training for a marathon, be sure to always warm up before exerting yourself, practice safe alignment, and listen to your body. If your joints are painful, they’re telling you something!

Sleep deeply. Falling into a deep, relaxed sleep for at least seven to eight hours each night can allow your body to more fully repair itself, including your joints. Before going to bed, practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or warm baths, to help your body slip into a more relaxed state.

Diet

Inflammation is a huge contributor to joint problems, and fortunately there are several dietary strategies that can help reduce inflammation systemically.

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fresh, whole foods, including a lot of green leafy vegetables. Load up on your alliums—garlic, onions, and leeks—because they contain bioactive compounds that can help protect against osteoarthritis. Cherries are also highly anti-inflammatory.

Avoid inflammatory foods. These include foods that are processed and contain and artificial additives, sugar, and alcohol. Work with your doctor to determine food allergens, such as gluten, which may be contributing to inflammation.

Drink enough water. Water helps to lubricate your joints. Aim to drink at minimum eight glasses of water—preferably filtered or purified—each day.

Supplements

There are a few supplements on the market that can help lower inflammation and protect your joints. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Helpful supplements include:

  • Boswellia Serrata. This anti-inflammatory tree extract has historically been used for prevention and treatment of arthritis.
  • Vitamin C. This vitamin can help prevent arthritis when taken within the, key word, recommended daily allowance. Too much can harm your joints!
  • Vitamin D. According to researchers, vitamin D may help lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Curcumin. An extract from turmeric, curcumin has high anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. These agents can be taken in supplement form individually or in combination, and can have a positive effect on overall joint health.

 

morning-fitness

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Exercising early in the morning “jump starts” your metabolism, keeping it elevated for hours, sometimes for up to 24 hours! As a result, you’ll be burning more calories all day long—just because you exercised in the morning.

Exercising in the morning energizes you for the day—not to mention that gratifying feeling of virtue you have knowing you’ve done something disciplined and good for you.

Studies have shown that exercise significantly increases mental acuity—a benefit that lasts four to ten hours after your workout ends. Exercising in the AM means you get to harness that brainpower, instead of wasting it while you’re snoozing 

Assuming you make exercise a true priority, it shouldn’t be a major problem to get up 30 to 60 minutes earlier—especially since regular exercise generally means a higher quality of sleep, which in turn means you’ll probably require less sleep. (If getting up 30 to 60 minutes earlier each day seems too daunting, you can ease into it with 10 to 20 minutes at first.)

When you exercise at about the same time every morning—especially if you wake up regularly at about the same time—you’re regulating your body’s endocrine system and circadian rhythms. Your body learns that you do the same thing just about every day, and it begins to prepare for waking and exercise several hours before you actually open your eyes. That’s beneficial because:

Your body’s not “confused” by wildly changing wake-up times, which means waking up is much less painful. (You may even find that you don’t need an alarm clock most days.)

Hormones prepare your body for exercise by regulating blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow to muscles, etc.

Your metabolism, along with all the hormones involved in activity and exercise, begin to elevate while you’re sleeping. As a result, you’ll feel more alert, energized, and ready to exercise when you do wake up.

Many people find that morning exercise has a tendency to regulate their appetite for the rest of the day. Not only do they eat less (since activity causes the release of endorphins, which in turn diminishes appetite), they also choose healthier portions of healthier foods.

People who consistently exercise find, sometimes to their great surprise, that the appointed time every morning evolves into something they look forward to. Besides the satisfaction of taking care of themselves, they find it’s a great time to plan their day, pray, or just think more clearly—things most of us often don’t get to do otherwise.

Exercising first thing in the morning is the most foolproof way to ensure that other things don’t overtake your fitness commitment, particularly if you have a hectic family life. (It’s so easy to wimp out in the evening, when we’re tired or faced with such tasks as rustling up dinner and helping with homework.)

 

 

 

Tax Day Stress

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

If you are like many people, you feel increased stress around April 15. Tensions can run high from the pressure of getting the forms filed on time or coming up with the funds to pay your (hopefully not too big) tax bill.  Now is the best time to find a healthy way to manage stress.  You owe it to yourself to keep your stress under control as much as possible. When your body is subjected to ongoing stress, unhealthy changes occur at the chemical level, and these changes can lead to food cravings and weight gain.

How does your body react to stress? When you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. In small amounts, cortisol does not present a problem. But when the stress is chronic, such as during the weeks surrounding tax season, the concentration of cortisol in your body stays elevated with undesirable results. For example, you will crave foods that will give you quick energy, such as candy bars and potato chips. And the presence of cortisol will cause many of these extra calories to be stored as abdominal fat. It is hard to eat in moderation while stressed, because cortisol interferes with the chemicals in your body that control appetite.

Good news… While you can never get away from all stress, there is a lot you can do to manage your tax time stress!

  • Exercise. You can reduce cortisol levels in your body by exercising just thirty minutes each day. To make the most of your workout time, try intervals. Alternating between lower and higher intensity periods of exertion allows you to achieve an overall more challenging workout than exercising at a consistent pace. • Eat Well. During times of stress, fuel your body smartly. Be intentional about eating nourishing foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and nuts. If you eat these foods, you will keep your blood sugar level steady, and you will be less likely to give in to the cravings that cortisol causes. • Don’t skimp on sleep. By getting at least eight hours of sleep each night you can reduce your cortisol level by more than half of that of people who get less than six hours. You really can sleep away your stress! • Identify your stress. Generalized anxiety can be paralyzing. Take the time to sort out exactly what is causing you to feel stressed. Rather than saying, “My taxes are causing me so much stress,” figure out the specifics. Perhaps you are stressed because you can’t find a form that you need or you are trying to do your taxes alone without the skills that you need to pull it off. Once you pinpoint exactly where the stress is coming from, you can take steps to take care of the problem. • Make time to relax. Taking time to unwind is not a luxury; it is a necessity if you are going to master your stress. Find something that makes you laugh and smile, get a massage or just breathe deeply. Your mind has a profound impact on your body; take advantage of this by finding time to relax every day.