Take your workout outdoors for more benefits!

People think I am absolutely insane for working out at the hour in the morning that I do during the week (I fully admit 430-530am is early, but it’s just how my life rolls) and the fact that I work out outside year round here in New England adds a whole new level of bonkers! I run outside so that I can be efficient, work out while getting my dogs their daily exercise (a kill two birds with one stone kind of thing), but who knew that my daily outdoor exercise was even more beneficial than just those two reasons? Apparently, it might not just be in my brain that my daily runs are like my daily therapy sessions; there’s now a little bit of research to back that up.

natureWhat are the benefits of outdoor exercise?

From the University of Toronto, some research has come out that shows actual physiological benefits foo running outside as opposed to working out indoors. When people work out in nature, amongst trees and far from the every day stressors of life, they have improved moods, less tension, anxiety, and stress. For example, it was found that people running outdoors, due to lower stress levels, had a lower heart rate than those running on a treadmill, showing there is less stress on your body.

I know the next argument: increasing your heart rate is good for you when doing cardio, why do you want to keep it low? Because the runs feel/are less stressful on your body, people tend to run longer and harder when they are working out outdoors as opposed to those in a gym. You also tend to work your body in different ways when outdoors; in a gym running on a treadmill, it is a very stable surface, whereas outdoors, you are jumping curbs and cracks in concrete, running on grass, sand, concrete, etc. which makes you use different muscles to stabilize your body, and your workout tends to burn more calories.

Plus, getting out of the gym, helps to change-up your routine and challenge your body more, you might try an alternate route running, or do lunges instead of running up a hill, find a low branch and pump out some pull ups. I fully realize that people think I am bonkers when I am running, then drop into 100 push ups, or do some pull-ups and dips, but it changes my workout, helps me relax, and after an awesome workout, I always feel amazing a ready to take on the challenges of the day in stride.

My phone, pager, and computer tend to be a major source of stress for me at work, and I find myself despising my work email as it chimes onto my phone when I’m not at work; even though it tends to make me more efficient, perhaps I am too efficient. When I am running, just me, my dogs, and my music, I don’t think about work, I don’t think about email, I think about the now. I focus on my breathing, how my body feels, and some days, on pushing myself to an extreme for speed, others for distance, and some days, I just jog along lost in my thoughts. It makes complete sense that being in nature and disconnected would decrease your stress and anxiety, so now you have even more of a reason to get your butt out of the gym and get into nature!

Yours in Good Health


Squeezing Breast Tissue May Prevent Malignant Cancer Cell Growth

There are always tons of faux “research” studies placed on the internet that go viral and people get all aflutter about nothing, so I really thought for sure that this was another bit of internet hokum, but I always have to delve deep! Apparently there is some validity to this study, but lets not just start groping women in the name of science, there is always a time and a place for things, plus, the study that was done wasn’t based on people grabbing breast tissue in a recreational manner.

What is the Research?

At the University of California Berkeley, a study was performed looking at the effects of physical pressure on malignant (or abnormal cells) and their growth, and actually visualize of this pressure helped to change how the cells grew and their patterns.  They were able to use flexible silicone chambers, that housed malignant cells, and they found that when the pressure was high enough, during the first stages of growth, the cells actually started to  mutate, in a good way, and start growing in a healthier and more organized fashion. Essentially, by squeezing the cells, they were able to redirect how the cells grew.  Once the tissue was structured as breast tissue should be, they stayed in a normal state.  The malignant cells that had no pressure applied to them, grew with no true structure and just as typical cancerous cells grow, without purpose and causing destruction. squuze boobs

What does this mean?

Well, as I said, it doesn’t give people carte blanche to go around groping women’s breasts BUT it should add fervor to your monthly self exam (maybe check weekly, ladies!) but it is a huge leap forward in breast cancer research.  There have already been companies attempting to create cancer detecting bras, maybe they can create compression bras (or weren’t those just called corsets??) On a serious note, do feel free to really squeeze with your self breast exam, and anything abnormal that you may feel….and then go see your healthcare practitioner (HCP).

And, I guess there is a new pick up line out there for anyone who wants to feel some breasts….just what we all needed!

Yours in Good Health


Parkinson’s Disease: Am I at Risk?

My grandfather suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, and while we did all we could to keep him on the latest and greatest medications, he still had a rough path, which he navigated with grace, but he eventually succumbed to it.  When he was suffering with the disease, very little was known about it, and even though there is no cure now, because it is in the public eye, thanks to the strength of Michael J. Fox along with many other celebrities who have chosen to talk about their experience with the disease, we have raised awareness, which has led to funding of tons of research, so we now know much more about the process, and ways to slow it.  Despite people talking a lot about Parkinson’s, and roughly 7 to 10 million people worldwide with this disease, not many people know what it actually is, and if there is anything you can do before you even have any signs of the disease to prevent it.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

It is a chronic, progressive neurological disease, that decreases your muscle movement and gets progressively worse over time.  It can start with very subtle symptoms like a hand tremor, stiffness in joints, or an inability to move muscles quickly.  People with Parkinson’s tend to have very little or no facial expressions, and speech becomes slurred or very soft and mumbled. As the disease progresses, the symptoms become much worse, and as I said before, there is no cure, but there are medications that can treat the symptoms and slow progression.  As well, there is new research being done all the time to find ways to slow the onset of the disease and possibly prevent it.

What are the Symptoms?

Everyone’s disease progresses at a different rate, and the symptoms can start differently in everyone.  For example, some people only experience symptoms on one side, and others are on both sides, some may shuffle first, while others pill roll or slur words.  Plus, the symptoms can be subtle at first and not really noticeable, but if you experience any of the symptoms, you might want to talk to your healthcare professional (HCP) and find out what your risk might be.  Some of the symptoms are:

Tremors: An uncontrolled trembling or shaking of your hands or limbs, also rubbing your forefinger and thumb together (known as “pill rolling”).

Changes in writing: Possibly due to the tremors or shaking, but people with Parkinson’s tend to change their writing style over time; it may become smaller and become more illegible.

Muscle stiffness: Can be painful, stiff muscles that some people might think is arthritis related. It can make daily activities difficult.

Slowed movements: With the progression of the disease, your ability to move becomes more and more impaired, and patients tend to shuffle when they walk, not picking up their feet because it becomes almost impossible to do so.

Speech Changes: Due to impaired muscle movement of the tongue and mouth muscles, speech can become slurred and mumbled, also you can lose your ability to fluctuate your voice because of loss of muscle movement in the throat.

Changes in posture and balance: Because of loss of muscle strength, your posture usually worsens and people become much more stooped over, which leads to changes in balance, and you can have trouble balancing, and feel like you are tipping or fall over more easily, which can be quite dangerous.

*All of these symptoms can lead to other problems such as depression, because people are noticing these changes and assuming they are aging or just due to difficulties with everyday movements. The loss of muscle movement can also lead to sexual dysfunction, with a decreased ability to perform AND a decreased sex drive.  The bladder and GI tract are also controlled by muscles, so there can be a loss of bladder control and the slowed GI tract can lead to constipation. In the end stages of Parkinson’s there is also significant dementia that does not respond to medications, which is difficult for the patient and for the family members/loved ones, and make caring for them much more difficult.

Are there any Causes/Risk Factors?

Genetics: If you have a family member with Parkinson’s you may have the gene mutation that causes Parkinson’s.  Unless you have numerous family members with the disease, then your risk is probably lower, but you should still watch for signs.

Age: Most people start to notice symptoms of the disease later in life, and the risk increases with age.

Environmental Factors: There is some theory that some toxins and various chemicals (herbicides) can lead to Parkinson’s.

Sex: Men are more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.

Unfortunately, it is not really clear what truly causes Parkinson’s, but there are many theories and this is an area that is being heavily researched. So, I am hoping that in the near future we will know more about what causes Parkinson’s.

How am I diagnosed?

There are no tests to determine if you have Parkinson’s, it is diagnosed based on your presentation, your past medical history, and the symptoms that you have. Sometimes HCPs will give you a medication, carbidopa-levodopa which is a medication that is used to improve symptoms related to inability to move muscles from Parkinson’s, and if your symptoms improve, then you are diagnosed as having Parkinson’s.  I know, not the most scientific based diagnosis, but it is the only option we have at this point,

What are the Treatments?

There are many different medications used to treat the symptoms and help to slow progression of the disease, like carbidopa-levodopa, and they can be very helpful at off-setting the symptoms but the side effects of the drugs can be almost intolerable, and most of them have side effects of hallucinations, which can be scary for the patient and the family members around them. And for people who are unable to tolerate the medications, you can have a surgically implanted Deep Brain Stimulator (DBS) that pulsates specific parts of the brain to increase muscle movement such as sowed movements, tremors, etc, but it cannot usually offset issues with communication and cannot prevent the dementia.  There are always risks from surgery such as bleeding, infection, stroke, brain damage, and death, but if you cannot tolerate medications, it may be your only option.

What can I do to Promote Wellness?

Since there are both balance and mobility issues, you may talk to your HCP about having an Occupational Therapist come to help you with various activities at home that are causing you problems; they can you with you to improve balance and hone in on alternative ways to do the activities that may work with the muscle strength that you have.  Also, they can help you with assistive devices and to make sure that you are safe in your home, ensure things are off the floor so you won’t trip, suggest handrails for stability, etc. It is also really important to east a healthy diet full of fruits and veggies and fiber, to offset the constipation that can occur, along with lots of water.

There are also some alternative therapies that are suggested that can help you cope with the disease process, such as: massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and Coenzyme Q10 supplements can improve muscle function (it is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in low levels in Parkinson’s patients.) There is new research suggests that cycling (riding a bike quickly) can help to improve muscle function, in patients with early Parkinson’s. Basically, it’s an “if you don’t use it, you lose it” type of theory; strengthen and utilize the muscles you have through exercise (the study was specifically done on cycling) and your symptoms will decrease as long as you consistently strength train.  They are just starting to study the intensity of exercise needed to see results and other types of exercise that may be beneficial, as it is brand new research.

 Is it Preventable?

At this point, no. We cannot prevent a disease that the true risk factors are not even known.

How do we live with this disease?

Living with Parkinson’s (or a loved one with Parkinson’s) can be difficult; there are times of depression and frustration, it is normal to be scared, feel exhausted, and just have days when you don’t know how to feel. The best way to cope with it is to talk about your feelings and what you are experiencing.  There are also support groups that your HCP can set you up with so that you (or your loved ones) can find people to talk to about living with the disease. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) is also a great resource for those living with the disease and The Michael J. Fox Foundation is am amazing resource, that has a goal of finding a cure for the disease, and is actively and aggressively working towards that goal. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has funded over $300 Million to research to find a cure for Parkinson’s and they actively have 51 clinical trials on-going. Not only is it a great resource to learn more about the disease, it is also a place where you can learn how to become more active to also work towards finding a cure, and find resources for support and coping to help deal with the disease for you or a loved one.

It is not always easy having a disease that there is so much unknown about, the upside is that there is a ton of research currently going on, and there is an increased public knowledge.  It is important to talk to your HCP if you think you are at risk or have any of the symptoms because early diagnosis and intervention is key.  And even though it can be a struggle, there are people out there going through a similar situation, whether you have the disease or live with someone with it, so talk to others, appreciate your time together, and know when, as a caregiver you need a break.  Be open and honest, and talk to your HCP, there may be studies you are eligible for, or various resources to assist with care and treatment.

Yours in Good Health