Blogs > Simply Fit

Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can a Text a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Experts agree that the best way to conquer our nation's current health crisis of overweight and obesity, especially in children, is through a collaborative effort from all public and private sectors - government, citizens, schools, the medical community, as well as nonprofit and for-profit organizations.  To be effective, this effort has to start with the individual.  Citizens need to begin assuming responsibility for their own health.  This can prove to be a challenge for the typical American household in this day and age of tight schedules wrought with work and family obligations.  Eating prepackaged foods and opting for automated forms of transportation are much more convenient.  Besides, who has the time to stand in the grocery aisle comparing the nutrition labels of food products or the time to factor how much exercise is needed to negate what you have eaten?

The answer to this dilemma could be in the palm of your hand (or your back pocket or the bottom of your purse for that matter) - your cell phone.  Recent data indicates that more than 285 million Americans have a cell phone.  It is estimated that 93% of adults ages 18-29 years old own a mobile device; and, that 71% of children ages 12-17 years old have a cell phone.  At one time, many cell phone owners used them only in a case of emergency.  Now, these devices can be used to promote your health as well as to protect it.

In the present age, many medical facilities and computer technology companies are offering health and fitness tools online or through smart phone applications, with positive results for their users.  One study published in the May 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that web-based smoking cessation programs proved to be beneficial for adult smokers.  Another investigation published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that there was a trend supporting the use of text messaging to help children and their parents monitor behaviors that effect body weight (e.g., consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, physical activity, and screen time).

These wireless options can serve as your portal to improved dietary and exercise habits.  At a click of a button you can access a program that customizes a plan based on your current medical history, physical activity level, and desired diet plan and health and fitness goals.  Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion regarding one such product that was launched today - PICKKA's "Shop to Lose" application for the iPhone.

"Shop to Lose" creator, Dr. Charles Koo, CEO, Chairman, and co-founder of Evincii/PICKKA, developed the iPhone application to help users to virtually navigate through the grocery store shelves to find food items that promote a "healthy pantry" which, in turn, will help to control body weight and foster health.  According to Dr. Koo, the concept behind the product is that "you eat what you buy."  If you stock your pantry with healthy foods, you are more likely to adhere to a diet that promotes well-being and one that reduces the risk for the development of chronic diseases.  The nutrition information of over 130,000 products, including fresh and packaged foods found in grocery stores and menu items served at major restaurants, are at your fingertips through PICKKA's "Shop to Lose" application.

"Shop to Lose," like many other smart phone health and fitness applications, allows you to customize a plan based on your medical history, physical activity level, and desired diet plan.  It analyzes and screens product information based on the above data and designates foods that are healthy to keep in your pantry.  It monitors your weight and blood sugar levels as well to aid those individuals trying to manage weight or diabetes.  To learn more about PICKKA's "Shop to Lose" application for the iPhone visit their website at

Online tools and smart phone health and fitness applications are a great way to stay on track.  They offer many features that help to educate and motivate you as you navigate your way to optimal well-being.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.


CTIA - The Wireless Association


Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior Volume 40, Issue 6, pp. 385-391 (November 2008), "Use of text messaging for monitoring sugar-sweetened beverages, physical activity, and screen time in children: a pilot study," Shapiro, J.R., et al.

Archives of Internal Medicine, Volume 169, Number 10, May 25, 2009, pp. 929-1193, "Effects of web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs," Myung, S.K., et al.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Eat What You Are"

A basic human need that should be simple enough to meet - eating to satisfy hunger - has become quite complex due to the plethora of diet plans marketed today.  Which is the best program for you?  I suggest that you "eat what you are" - a twist on the age-old adage "you are what you eat."  In other words, active individuals and athletes will need to follow a different dietary plan than someone who is overweight looking to drop a few (or more) pounds.  Likewise, an endurance athlete has different nutrient needs than a weight lifter.  Whether you are a recreational sport enthusiast or an elite athlete, eating a proper diet will help you to achieve your fitness goals in addition to promoting your overall health.

The right meal plan can benefit the active individual by:
  • Improving your overall performance by allowing you to train for longer durations and at higher intensity levels.
  • Aiding the recovery process by providing your body with the macronutrients needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue as well as to replenish your body's energy stores.
  • Reducing the likelihood of experiencing an electrolyte imbalance which, in turn, can lead to complications such as muscle cramps.
  • Improving your body composition.
To function properly, both in daily life and during exercise, your body needs a diet that provides adequate amounts of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates.  The optimal ratio of these macronutrients varies depending on individual body type as well as exercise training regimen (e.g., endurance versus weight training).  To provide the right fuel for your active lifestyle consider the following recommendations from the American Dietetic Association:

Dietary Guidelines for Improved Endurance Performance:
  • Carbohydrates (CHO) are the main source of fuel because they are easily digested and can quickly meet your body's energy needs during the endurance activity.  If your training intensity is low to moderate, you should consume 2.3-3.2 grams of CHO per one pound of body weight.  If your training intensity is high, you should consume 3.2-4.5 grams of CHO per one pound of body weight.
  • Although protein's role in providing energy during endurance activities is minimal, adequate amounts of it are needed to help your muscles recover from the exercise.  It is recommended that you consume 0.55-0.8 grams of protein per one pound of body weight if you engage in light to moderate intensity endurance activities.  If you endurance train at a high intensity, you will need 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per one pound of body weight.
  • Fat serves as an energy source during prolonged bouts of low- to moderate-intensity endurance training.  Consume healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated) from healthy sources while limiting or avoiding unhealthy fats (trans- and saturated fats).
  • Ideally your diet should consist of whole foods in their natural state (or close to it).  Include protein from lean sources (e.g., beans and legumes; soy; lean cuts of poultry, fish, and/or meat; and, nonfat or low-fat dairy products), healthy sources of fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish rich in Omega 3's), and carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, natural sweeteners (e.g., honey), and whole grains.
Dietary Guidelines for Improved Muscular Fitness (e.g., Weight Training):
  • Consuming high-quality protein is essential to help your muscles repair and rebuild from the micro-tears induced by weight training.  To benefit from general strength training and toning activities it is recommended that you consume 0.54-0.77 grams of protein per one pound of body weight.  If your goal is to "bulk up" or body build, you should consume 0.63-0.77 grams of protein per one pound of body weight. 
  • An adequate supply of carbohydrates is needed to prevent your body from using protein as an energy source.  Consuming sufficient amounts of carbohydrates will also help to delay the onset of fatigue during your strength training session.  It is recommended that you consume 2.3-3.6 grams of CHO per one pound of body weight to get the most out of your weight training regimen.
  • Fat intake should account for about 20-30% of your total caloric intake.
  • To reap the benefits of a weight training program, consume a diet consisting of lean protein sources (e.g., nonfat and/or low-fat diary products, soy, egg whites, beans, legumes, and lean cuts of poultry, fish, and/or meat), healthy sources of fat (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish rich in Omega 3's), and carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, natural sweeteners (e.g., honey), and whole grains.
Food fuels your exercise.  The ratio of macronutrients you consume depends on your exercise training regimen.  In addition, your food choices will be effected based on the timing of your meal relative to the timing of your training session and/or sporting event.  To learn more about eating before, during, and after exercise refer to my earlier posts, "The Last Meal: Pre-competition Meal Basics, "Fueling your Exercise," and "Refueling: Post-Exercise Nutrition," in the May 2009 archives.  It is  recommended that you meet with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that best meets your needs and goals.  To learn more about sports nutrition visit

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

The American Dietetic Association

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Getting Your Adolescent to "Shape Up"

     When my husband and I were navigating our way through the "terrible twos" with our children we frequently heard comments from more seasoned parents such as, "If you think this is bad, wait until the teen years!"  Well, we have a few more years yet before we enter that phase of parenthood but, thanks to new research, when we do get to that point we have hopes of a less tumultuous ride.  Why?  Exercise.

     Data from a scientific study published in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of School Health suggest that adolescents who frequently participate in vigorous physical activity are less likely to engage in risky behavior such as marijuana use and are more likely to practice health promoting behaviors such as adherence to a healthier diet, use of stress management techniques, and following a better sleep routine.  The purpose of the study was to determine if the frequency and/or intensity of exercise influenced the health behaviors (health risk versus health promoting) of adolescents.  The subject population consisted of 822 eleventh and twelfth grade students (56% female; 44% male; average age of 17 years) from an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse school in the suburbs of northeast Florida.

     Subjects completed The Personal Development and Health Survey which provided information on their level of physical activity, dietary habits, sleep patterns, and use of cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol.  An adaptation of the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (LTEQ) was used to determine the students' intensity of exercise (moderate vs. vigorous) and frequency of physical activity over a seven day period (low = 0-1 time; medium = 2-4 times; and, high = 5 or more times).  Moderate physical activity was defined as "exercise that was non-exhausting" (e.g., slow bicycling) and vigorous physical activity was defined as "activities that cause the heart to beat rapidly" ( e.g., running).

     Researchers found that those students who participated in high levels of vigorous physical activity were less likely to smoke marijuana frequently and heavily.  Investigators also discovered that this population was more likely to get a better quality of sleep, to practice stress management techniques, and to follow a diet that included healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats when compared to individuals who participated in low levels of vigorous physical activity.  Although not statistically significant, there was a trend that showed that cigarette consumption was lower and occurred less often for participants who engaged in high levels of vigorous physical activity versus those students who participated in low levels of vigorous physical activity.

Interestingly, the data showed mixed results for the influence of moderate physical activity on health behaviors practiced by the adolescents.  Those students who participated in high levels of moderate physical activity consumed a diet that included significantly greater amounts of healthy fat and they engaged in more stress management techniques than those individuals who engaged in low levels of moderate exercise.  When comparing these two subsets, a trend was noted for the consumption of a diet consisting of more healthy carbohydrates for those involved in high amounts of moderate physical activity, but the results were not statistically significant.  No differences were found in sleep quality or in the use of marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol when comparing the influence of high levels of moderate physical activity to low levels of moderate exercise.

     The researchers propose the following explanations for the positive role high levels of vigorous physical activity play in promoting healthy habits in adolescents:

  • Engaging in high levels of physical activity may expose the adolescent to positive social influences which, in turn, promote healthy behavior.
  • Social images frequently display physically active individuals engaging in other health promoting behaviors which may, as a result, positively influence an adolescent's decision.
  • Individuals who participate in physical activity may be more inherently inclined to partake in other health promoting behaviors while avoiding unhealthy practices.
     The researchers conclude that their findings have significant implications in light of the fact that health behaviors adopted in adolescence tend to continue into adulthood.  Of particular importance is the finding that dietary practices, stress management techniques, and cigarette consumption are positively effected by participation in high levels of vigorous exercise since these factors contribute to the development of chronic diseases later in life.

     Unfortunately, activity levels start to decline when a child reaches adolescence, especially for females.  Adolescents need an hour of physical activity per day.  This can be accomplished through structured and unstructured activities.  Parents play a vital role in encouraging their children to be active.  If you are active yourself, your child will likely follow your example.  Exercise can be part of your family's daily routine (e.g., family bike rides or football games).  Also, support modes of exercise in which your adolescent can engage with friends, since socialization is a key component at this age.  Furthermore, speak with school officials to encourage policies that require curriculums to include daily physical activity throughout the school day.

     Exercise can play an important role in preventing risky health behavior practices during the adolescent years.  And, evidence indicates it can encourage the adoption of other behaviors, such as a consumption of a healthy diet, that promote health.  Adopting a lifestyle that includes exercise will help your adolescent to "shape up" his behavior, as well as his body.

Note:  Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

J Sch Health. 2010 Mar;80(3):134-40. "Relationship between frequency and intensity of physical activity and health behaviors of adolescents," Delisle, T.T. et al.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Nutritional Building Blocks

"Nutrition From the Ground Up" is this year's theme for National Nutrition Month* - an annual campaign led by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) every March. During this month, the ADA reminds the public that a healthier life can be enjoyed through a commitment to eating better and exercising more. Proper nutrition is essential to help ward off certain chronic diseases and to fuel your body during physical activity.

The month of March may be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean your efforts to improve your health have to as well. Healthy behaviors should be practiced year-round. Spring is a good time for you to revisit the nutritional and exercise goals you made at the start of this year. If you discover that you have fallen short, use the beginning of warmer days and the anticipation of a season full of fresh produce to motivate you to recommit to healthier practices.

This year's National Nutrition Month* theme, "Nutrition From the Ground Up," places emphasis on making change by adhering to the basics which will plant the "seeds" from which a healthier life can grow. To reap the benefits of following a sound diet plan, the ADA recommends the following:
  • Think fruit and vegetables. Produce is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Adding a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors (think in terms of "Eating the Rainbow") is a good way to meet your nutrient needs without adding a lot of calories. If you are not use to this type of food fare, try adding a serving to one meal a day, then gradually increase the number of servings every few weeks.
  • Buy local. Support your community by purchasing produce locally grown. Or, plant your own vegetable garden and reap the nutritional and exercise benefits of your own physical labor.
  • Make calories eaten count! Choose foods that will give you the most nutrients you need per serving. Eating "empty calories" may stave off hunger initially, but will end up sending you back for more as your body attempts to replenish its nutrient stores.
  • Give your taste buds some variety. Try an exotic fruit or a traditional food from a different country. By so doing, you may end up adding a new favorite healthy food to your diet.
  • Go ahead, treat yourself - but healthfully. If you are craving something sweet and salty, don't grab your favorite candy bar, instead try a trail mix with pieces of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Or, opt for apple slices dipped in low-fat yogurt.
Changes to your diet do not have to occur all at once. Each time you choose a healthier option, you come one step closer to achieving optimal well-being. Re-evaluate your dietary needs periodically and make adjustments as needed. Remember, adhering to a nutritionally sound diet will provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to maintain a physically active lifestyle. To learn more about what you can do to celebrate National Nutrition Month,* visit

*"National Nutrition Month" is a federally registered service mark of the American Dietetic Association.


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Friday, March 19, 2010

The Ripple Effect

It takes just one shout to hear an echo. Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama called out to the American public a message that she hopes will resonate among all sectors of our nation - Let's Move, a national campaign to solve childhood obesity within a generation. The goal is to get Americans to adopt a lifestyle that includes healthier eating habits and increased physical activity. Over the last few decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled, with one in three children being classified as either overweight or obese. Sadly, experts predict that the childhood obesity epidemic, with its concurrent increased risk for the development of chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes and heart disease), will subsequently lead to a shorter lifespan for today's children compared to that of their parents.

Multiple factors have contributed to this dramatic rise including widely-available, inexpensive high-calorie foods and beverages, increased portion sizes, technological advancements that promote a sedentary lifestyle, and the creation of environments that make it difficult for individuals to make healthy decisions (e.g., lack of access to healthy foods). The Let's Move initiative has an ambitious objective, but one that can be achieved by a collaborative effort of citizens, government, parents, school systems, nonprofit and for-profit private organizations, and corporations. The key is education.

Education will empower Americans to make healthy lifestyle choices. This information has to be readily accessible, widespread, and "user-friendly" to all Americans. The Administration has partnered with representatives of both the public and private sectors to provide Americans with the support, tools, and information needed to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The Let's Move campaign has facilitated changes and commitments from the following entities:
  • Food and beverage manufacturers will change their front-of-package labeling format to provide easy access to the nutrient contents of their products.
  • The medical community will start to prescribe healthy eating practices and exercise for their patients.
  • Major media companies, such as the Walt Disney Company, will devise marketing strategies and create public service announcements and programming devoted to increasing the public's awareness about the obesity epidemic and what can be done to combat it.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture will update the food pyramid and provide citizens with a greater number of tools to help them follow the outlined recommendations.
  • Major school food suppliers, such as Chartwells School Dining Services, will increase the number of whole grain foods and produce offered to students while decreasing the amount of sugar, fat, and salt in meals served.
  • Professional athletic leagues, such as the NFL, MLB, WNBA, and MLS, will offer sports clinics and create public service announcements encouraging children to increase their physical activity through the "60 Minutes of Play a Day" campaign.
  • The Administration will update the President's Physical Fitness Challenge to advocate a more active lifestyle. They will also implement strategies to create safer and healthier schools.
  • Corporations will develop products aimed at helping citizens adhere to a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise, such as PICKKA's "Shop to Lose."*
The current American lifestyle is literally "weighing us down." To "lighten our load" all sectors of our society need to get involved and work together to combat childhood (and adult) obesity. If changes are not made, the life expectancy and quality of life of future generations will be greatly reduced and, as a result, so will the progress and productivity of our great nation.

*On Thursday, March 18, 2010, I attended an online discussion hosted by PICKKA to learn more about their "Shop to Lose" product to be launched soon.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.


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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wild, But Simple

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) wants you to "Get Wild, Child!" during National Wildlife Week, March 15-21. This designated week is part of NWF's Be Out There campaign, a call to action for families and communities to connect with the outdoors. The goal is to ward off the effects of a new health hazard that is impacting the well-being of our children (as well as many adults)- too much time spent indoors.

According to a study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in January 2010, American children ages 8-18 years spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes per day engaged in electronic media. In other words, the average American child devotes 53 hours per week to this type of entertainment - more than a full work week for many adults. Furthermore, NWF states that our nation's children are only spending 4-7 minutes outside per day.

Children who spend more time outdoors compared to their "indoor junkie" counterparts have stronger bones; leaner, fitter bodies; better eyesight; less depression; fewer behavioral problems in school and at home; greater attention spans; enhanced creativity; and, better academic performance. Similar benefits are enjoyed by adults who spend great amounts of time outside.

Celebrate National Wildlife Week by doing what is simply natural, physically explore the outdoors. NWF recommends the following activities for families and friends to connect with nature:
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt: Make a list of objects commonly seen outside and then hit the trails of your local park or take a walk around your neighborhood and take note of the natural world around you. Check off each item on your list as you discover it on your walk.
  • Hike with your 5 senses: You have heard of mindful eating, well this is mindful walking - listen for the birds, smell the hint of new Spring growth, taste a raindrop falling from the sky, see the squirrels frolicking, and feel the gentle breeze against your skin - use your senses to increase your awareness of the natural world around you.
  • Build a fort: Sometimes there is nothing better than an outdoor getaway - a temporary hideout from life's demands - to ease the mind and body. Have fun with your children as you search for sturdy sticks, vines, leaves, etc., to build your own piece of natural solitude.
  • Go for a moon walk: Experience a nighttime adventure with family and friends during the next full moon (March 30). Head outdoors and enjoy the sight of the night sky. Listen for the sounds of nighttime wildlife, such as the hooting of owls. Don't want to wait for the full moon? Go for a flashlight walk instead.
In honor of National Wildlife Week, take a little time to experience the outdoor world. But don't stop there, make a commitment to devote time each week unplugged from the indoor world and connected to the natural world.


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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Keeping Up With The 'Fit' Joneses"

There appears to be an inherent tendency in most, if not all, of us to gravitate toward the behaviors of others in our environment. Our desire to socially conform can either lead us to partake in health damaging behaviors or result in our adoption of habits that promote health. Recently, research data has indicated that friends and family can have a negative impact on your eating habits during shared mealtimes if they tend to overindulge in calories and "fattening" foods.

If eating habits are influenced by "peer pressure," then can your behavior during exercise be altered by those exercising around you? Researchers from Santa Clara University set out to answer this question. Their study, which was published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Social Sciences, used the social comparison theory to determine if exercise performance was altered based on the perceived fitness level of a fellow exerciser. The social comparison theory states that individuals rely on their social environment, when objective standards are not present, to determine an appropriate level of action/behavior of which they should partake.

The investigators studied the effects on mood and level of exertion of 91 college-age subjects (43 females, 48 males) who were randomly assigned to one of three testing conditions: biking alone, biking with a high fit individual, and biking with a low fit individual. The high and low fit individuals with whom the subjects exercised were actually research assistants posing as participants in the study. This fact was unknown to the subjects. Those research assistants posing as high fit individuals wore athletic attire and declared "I love exercising" in the presence of the subject. Those who posed as low fit participants were dressed in nonathletic apparel (jeans and slippers) and declared "I don't know why I signed up for this experiment" in the presence of the subject.

The subjects pedaled on a stationary bike for 20 minutes while their heart rate was monitored. They were instructed to keep their heart rates at a moderate level (60-70% of maximum heart rate). Wristwatch heart rate monitors were given to the participants to monitor their own heart rate. Subjects completed questionnaires that measured their mood and level of enjoyment as well as their perception of the degree of difficulty of the exercise.

The data indicated that those subjects who believed they were exercising next to a high fit individual experienced higher heart rates and worked harder than those participants who thought they were biking next to a low fit individual. This trend held true when compared to the results of those biking alone. Interestingly, the female participants tended to have higher heart rates and worked harder when exercising next to the high fit individual than did the male participants under the same testing condition. Mood was not significantly impacted by the different testing conditions.

The researchers state that the results of their study are consistent with the predictions of the social comparison theory. That is, even when instructed to maintain a heart rate at a certain level, the subjects tended to mimic the behavior of their fellow exerciser. The investigators conclude that for someone who is interested in increasing the intensity level of their workout, they should seek a partner whom they perceive to be high fit. However, they note that high fit individuals may not benefit by exercising with someone they perceive to be poorly fit because it may influence them to exercise less intensely.

The desire to "fit-in" with those in your environment can have its benefits. If you are looking to increase your fitness level, exercising with a friend or family member that is highly fit just may help you to achieve your goal a bit faster.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.


Journal of Social Sciences 6 (1): 50-54, 2010, "Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion," Plante, T.G., et al.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kicking Back Kidney Disease

With so much emphasis being placed on the prevention of heart disease, it is easy to overlook the role exercise has in promoting the health of other organs in your body, particularly the kidneys. The month of March is National Kidney Month, and this Thursday, March 11, is World Kidney Day. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is a voluntary health organization whose goal is to promote kidney health and prevent kidney disease. It has launched a national public education campaign, "Love Your Kidneys," that is devoted to educating the public about the functions of the kidneys in the body, the signs and symptoms of kidney problems, and the risk factors for developing kidney disease.

Now in its 60th year of operation, NKF has been responsible for increasing the awareness of the importance of prevention, early detection, and treatment of kidney disease. On their website, NKF outlines the following facts about chronic kidney disease (CKD):
  • 26 million adult Americans (1 in 9) currently have chronic kidney disease
  • More than 20 million Americans are at an increased risk for developing CKD
  • 71,000 individuals with CKD are waiting for kidney transplants
  • 18 patients with CKD die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant
  • Early detection reduces the risk of the progression of CKD to kidney failure
  • Heart disease is the most common cause of death for individuals with CKD
  • With doctor approval, exercise can be enjoyed by individuals with CKD and is encouraged because of its counter-effects on risk factors for kidney disease as well as other chronic disease states
The kidneys have many functions in your body which include:
  • Filter toxins and waste from your blood which, along with excess fluid, are excreted in your urine
  • Fluid regulation/balance in your body
  • Synthesis and release of hormones that function to regulate blood pressure and stimulate production of red blood cells
  • Regulation of various minerals in your body such as calcium, potassium, and sodium
When your kidneys do not function normally, a build-up of toxins and wastes in your blood stream can occur, as well as a retention of fluid in your body. As a result, you may experience complications such as hypertension (high blood pressure), anemia (decreased number of red blood cells), osteoporosis (decreased bone density), nutritional deficiencies, and damage to your nervous system.

Symptoms of kidney disease: Note that many individuals with CKD will not experience symptoms until they are in the advanced stages of the disease, hence the importance of early detection through screening tests.
  • Fatigue/decreased energy levels
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling of your extremities (hands and feet) and puffiness around your eyes
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased appetite
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
Signs of chronic kidney disease:
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Protein and/or blood in your urine
  • Elevated creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) levels in your blood (these are indicators of waste in your blood stream - increased values indicate decreased kidney function)
  • Decreased glomerular filtration rate (GFR) - a glomerulus is a group of tiny blood vessels that function in the filtration process of the kidneys
Causes of chronic kidney disease:
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Glomerulonephritis (a group of disorders that cause inflammation and damage to the filtering units of the kidneys)
  • Genetic disorders
  • Birth defects
  • Auto-immune disorders, such as Lupus
  • Kidney stones, tumors, or enlarged prostate
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
Risk factors for chronic kidney disease:
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity (because of its link to diabetes and hypertension)
  • Family history
  • Older age
  • Race/ethnicity - African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are at a greater risk
Detection of chronic kidney disease:
  • Urinalysis (to look for protein in your urine)
  • Blood tests (to determine your creatinine and BUN levels)
  • Blood pressure measurement
Treatment of chronic kidney disease:
  • Prevention, treatment, and management of diabetes and high blood pressure, kidney stones, and urinary tract infections
  • Dialysis (artificial filtering of your blood by a specialized machine) or kidney transplant in advanced stages (kidney failure)
The best approach to reduce your risk for the development of chronic kidney disease is prevention. Adhering to a healthy lifestyle that involves routine exercise and a nutritious diet will lower your risk for precipitating health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. The National Kidney Foundation urges the public to take advantage of one of their many free screening events to determine if you are at risk for, or already have, chronic kidney disease.

In honor of World Kidney Day, this Thursday, March 11, The University of Michigan Hospital will be hosting one of these free health fairs -"Amazing Kidneys, A World Kidney Day Event." This free health fair will take place in the Dow Auditorium at The University of Michigan Hospital between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. It will offer free kidney and depression screenings and information on stress management, fitness, and nutrition according to June Swartz, a Peer Mentor Associate for the Michigan Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. For more information on this event, call (734) 936-4999 or visit the website

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.


University of Michigan Health System Daily Bulletin

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Heads Up!

The sun has been shining, the birds have been calling, and the squirrels have been scampering. Over the last few days, Mother Nature has given us a taste of what is to come. If you are like me, you have been eager to head outdoors for a little pre-Spring physical activity. But before you do, follow the tips outlined below to ensure that your transition to exercise in the open-air is a safe and enjoyable one.

The Basics:
  • Health check. If the winter months kept you hibernating indoors, with no or little participation in exercise, you'll want to schedule a visit with your physician to rule out any health conditions that need to be treated or managed prior to beginning an exercise program.
  • Not so fast! The sun can be invigorating and boost your spirits, perhaps even to the point where you feel invincible and ready to tackle it all. But, if your body has been as dormant as the grass that lies beneath the snow, you'll want to take it slow your first few days out. Reduce the intensity and/or duration of your outdoor exercise from where you left off last fall. Gradually increase the workload by 10-20% every two weeks until you are back up to speed. By so doing, you'll prevent the aches and pains of your joints and muscles that can occur if you begin an exercise program too abruptly.
  • Prepare for an emergency. Carry a cell phone, bring/wear identification, and take money with you.
The Unforeseen:
  • Watch for uneven sidewalks, raised cement, cracks, and potholes. You may have walked the route a hundred times last summer without a problem, but keep in mind the toll that early Spring's cycle of thaw-and-freeze can take on cement and asphalt. These hazards can quickly turn a brisk walk into a fall, resulting in injury.
  • Watch out for the ice! The days are getting warmer, but the nights are still cold enough to cause what thawed during the day to freeze. Patches of ice are more likely to be encountered during the early morning and late evening hours.
  • Be alert! Be on the look out for cars. Drivers may have forgotten that they need to share the road with walkers, runners, bikers, etc., due to a decrease in pedestrian activity during the winter months; therefore, your presence may be unexpected. Wear reflective attire/gear so that you are noticeable. Cross roads at intersections. Runners and walkers should face on-coming traffic. Bikers should follow the flow of traffic.
  • Update your attire. Now may be a good time to invest in new exercise clothes and footwear. Tighter fitting exercise clothes as a result of winter weight gain can restrict blood flow to working muscles and even impinge on a nerve resulting in discomfort. Investing in exercise clothes that fit properly now will ward off potential costly complications later. Inspection of exercise shoes is warranted as well. Replace shoes that are past their prime.
Welcome the coming of warmer and longer days by taking your physical activity outdoors. Invite a friend or two. Make this Spring the season that you and yours become fit and healthy.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Working the Night Shift? Here's How to Stay Heathy While on the Job

Adhering to healthy lifestyle habits can prove to be a challenge even in the most conducive environment. Trying to stay fit and healthy while working a shift that goes against your body's natural sleep/wake cycle can seem to be near impossible. According to the Bureau of Labor Satistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 15% of American full-time wage and salary workers follow a schedule other than the typical "9 to 5" business day, with 4.7% working evening shifts and 3.2% working night shifts (the remaining 3.1% work employer-arranged odd schedules and 2.5% work rotating shifts). Data from the BLS reveals that service occupations (e.g., hospital personnel, police, firefighters, etc.,) have the greatest prevalence of shift work, followed by food preparation and serving jobs, then transportation and manufacturing work.

Night shift work has long been associated with health and safety issues. Compared to employees who are on the job during traditional business hours, individuals who work the night shift not only get less hours of sleep, but they also experience fewer hours of restful sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of obesity, anxiety, depression, and mood disturbances (e.g., irritability and impatience). Other common health conditions among night shift workers include:
  • cardiovascular disease
  • gastrointestinal complications (e.g., heartburn, indigestion, etc.,)
  • high blood pressure
  • increased incidence of substance abuse
  • chronic fatigue
  • menstrual irregularities
  • increased risk for work-related accidents/injuries
What can be done to reduce your risk for these health conditions and to improve your well-being?
  • Protect your Sleep: You may find that you experience the deepest sleep if you set a bedtime for mid-afternoon, when many individuals experience a midday low in their circadian rhythm. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Eliminating noise, such as turning off the phone's ringer, and blocking out other sounds with ear plugs or "white noise" (e.g., a fan) can help. Sleep in an environment that is dark (use room darkening shades or wear an eye mask), well-ventilated, and cool.
  • Watch your Consumption of Foods and Beverages: Avoid drinking caffeinated and alcoholic drinks during the later part of your shift which can interfere with the quality of your sleep later. Heavy, greasy foods will also interrupt your sleep and, therefore, should be avoided. Sugary foods may give you an initial boost of energy, but will eventually lead to a drastic drop, increasing your risk for fatigue on the job. The best way to ensure that you eat a healthy diet is to avoid buying items from vending machines and fast food restaurants during your shift. Instead, prepare and pack your own low-calorie, nutrient-dense meals and snacks to eat while at work.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is important for your well-being. The timing of your workout session is key. Because exercise raises your body temperature and can make you more alert, a session before you begin work may be ideal in order to perform your best on the job. If you are unable to exercise prior to the start of your shift, try to exercise - such as walking the halls - during your breaks or "lunch hour." But, because exercise can have an energizing effect, you will want to avoid exercising at least 3 hours before you intend to sleep. This will allow enough time for your body temperature to drop, making sleep disturbance less likely.
  • "Wind-down" After Work: Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and/or deep breathing exercises after work and before going to sleep. Allowing yourself to get rid of work-related stress will help you to fall, and stay, asleep. Decreasing your stress levels will also reduce the likelihood of emotional eating which can result in the over-consumption of calories and weight gain.
The key to staying fit and healthy while working the night shift is to adhere to a routine. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and exercise regimen will lower your risk for chronic health conditions and work-related injuries, alleviate stress, boost your mood, and provide you with the energy you need to perform at your best.

Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor. "Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules in May 2004."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Plain Language about Shift Work." July 1997, Rosa, R.R. and Colligan, M.J.

National Sleep Foundation "Shift Work and Sleep," Drake, C.

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