Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Variety, Napping, and Fitness

Previously discussed have been the benefits of exercise on mental abilities, so for contrast here's a study showing the benefit of napping on the brain.  The exercise research is much more thorough, so if there's time for only one I suggest exercise- just be sure to get adequate sleep at night.

Behavior: Napping Can Prime the Brain for Learning

The New York Times, February 22, 2010

I think the napping study supports the idea that the body and mind need variety for optimal functioning.  Just as it is important to get up from your chair and move occasionally, even if you sit with excellent posture, breaking up a day of working the brain with an afternoon nap intuitively makes sense.

Exercise simillarly needs variety.  This can be expressed as doing different routines instead of the same exercises every workout, and as doing exercises that use your body in a variety of ways simultaneously.  Consider variations on the pushup.  Alternate workouts of putting your hands on different unstable surfaces such as a bosu one day and a suspension device(such as TRX) the next gym day, and hands on the floor and feet on something wobbly still other times.  Of course my readers know that all machines except for the cable-pulley type should be skipped, and one reason is that they completely eliminate variety in how you move.

It seems safe to speculate that variety in exercising will challenge and boost the brain, just as it benefits the body.  Exercise with awareness, changing and improving your workouts, and build brains and brawn at once.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Massage protocol and dressed up dishes

Here's a bit of massage protocol advice:  Please don't get undressed or on the table before meeting with your therapist.  In my office this has never been a problem, but it can happen in more "high volume" environments.

Therapists want to meet you before they start in order to ask some health questions and the reason for your massage.  Some of us want to observe things like posture and gait to get an idea about your condition.  Most of all, we want to make a personal connection before beginning treatment.  And to be frank, it is a bit insulting for a client to assume they are getting some generic massage and generic massage therapist so there's no need to actually talk with them before they start.

If the establishment tells you to get on the table without meeting your therapist, take your business elsewhere.

There are also some logistical snafus that can be avoided.  Several times I've seen or heard about people lying undressed on the table waiting for an absent therapist.  In a gym spa where I once worked there a was a woman who considerately took a shower before her massage, and then stood around wrapped in a towel cold and wet while her therapist finished another treatment.  It is possible there is a reason why you cannot receive a massage.  A receptionist should prevent these sorts of problems but don't always, and many massage businesses are too small to have a front desk person.

Wait for your therapist and chat for a moment, and you'll have a much better massage.


On my balcony the peas have finally begun to produce pods.  The plants grew quickly and blossomed but have taken their time making vegetables for me.  I was about to start eating the leaves and stalks, which I've had from the farmers market and know to be good(tastes like snow peas, surprise).

My two calendula plants are looking good and are giving me large if not abundant blossoms.  They are welcome guests at my winter dinner table.

New nasturtium seeds have been planted, and I've kept the best looking plants from last year to see if they will continue to thrive.  Some plants are from seeds I've bought, others are seeds shared from a neighbor.  Nasturtium blossoms are quite tasty, and if I get an exceptional crop I'll pickle the buds.

Chefs and junk food manufactures know the value of making food visually interesting.  For someone such as myself who eats a lot of grains, legumes, and other plain foods, tossing some edible flowers on top is a great way to liven up a meal.  From what I've researched flowers don't have any significant nutritional value, but nutrients aren't the only reason to eat.  For someone with limited growing space they are an efficient garden option compared to vegetables.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More Science Supports Barefoot Running

The latest study on running barefoot or with minimal footwear is a compelling argument against wearing standard running shoes:
Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes
"People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes."  Harvard University. "Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes." ScienceDaily 1 February 2010."

My skepticism about barefoot running has been based on the fact that although shoes aren't natural, neither is pavement, and one might be needed to compensate for the other.  This study completely refutes that objection.

The authors have an extremely informative and readable website on the topic, with lots of details and suggestions.  I haven't run for many years because it was too hard on my body.  Maybe it is time to start- at least I won't need to buy shoes.

Being a massage therapist, I'll add one more perspective to the mix- If you start barefoot running, please take extra time to clean and care for your feet before you get a massage or any other service where someone may be handling them.  The reason is obvious.  On the plus side, it also occurs to me that with the feet getting aired out instead of being stuffed into shoes, plus getting a good exfoliation from the sidewalk, feet which might otherwise smell will actually improve in the hygiene department.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Exercise is Better

Excelsior!

The San Francisco Chronicle today has the article More exercise better in long run, study finds.

"A scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Williams has put together the world's largest study on runners, and the evidence found over 20 years of research points to an important conclusion: When it comes to exercise, more is almost always better."
Public Health messages are designed to maximize the benefit for the largest number of people, and primarily those at low end of the health curve.  They are presented as minimums and simple rules, and try to not be so challenging that people will ignore them and do nothing.  Thus we have house cleaning considered exercise.
"But Williams' findings haven't exactly caught on with the mainstream public health gurus.

It's not that they disagree with Williams' findings. But doctors and public health officials worry that with half the country not meeting the current guidelines, even talking about running 50 miles a week will intimidate folks who aren't doing anything."
OK, if you're completely sedentary, set a goal of taking a 30 minute walk 3 times a week.  And then make it a brisk walk, then do it for 45 minutes, then add a cardio class at the gym...  Rather than trying to meet the minimum amount of exercise, keep pushing yourself.  What Williams shows that there isn't an amount of "enough" exercise, but that there is constant improvement in health available.  And everyone, even if you already exercise regularly and at a high level, can benefit from the same approach.

The other point brought up is that running is studied because it is easily quantifiable and a large number of people do it.
"He decided to focus on runners because they're an easy group to follow - they usually know exactly how much exercise they get, in terms of miles run, and they can gauge their fitness based on race times."
Weight lifting, kickboxing, power yoga, and many other forms of exercise will serve, but make sure the intensity level is high enough to provide a workout.  (Or do them in addition to deliberate cardio exercise.  More is better!)