Fitness - What Is Fitness?

Aristotle helped define the standards of fitness 2,500 years ago when he taught that a thing that suits its purpose well is fit. Fortunately for us, the cardiovascular system, lungs, skeleton, muscles, endocrine system and all the other amazing components of the body function for our purpose: to live well.

Exercising aids fitness in numerous ways, each involving one or more of those systems.

Increased physical activity causes the heart to work harder than at rest. That increases blood flow, floods tissues with fresh oxygen and removes cellular waste products.

Exercise causes the lungs to draw in extra oxygen to bathe the tissues and help power the heart. Exhalation removes carbon dioxide, a waste product of certain biochemical reactions.

Regular, moderate exercise helps raise HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol (the 'good' type). It helps regulate blood sugar levels and converts stored fat into sugars that are used to provide energy. That process also prevents obesity.

The other benefits of a regular fitness program are more obvious and usually among the more direct goals of most people who make the effort: increased muscle mass, toned legs, buttocks, arms, stomach and healthier looking skin. Along the way, the individual receives the added value of greater strength, improved balance, higher endurance and (often) a better frame of mind.

Different types of routines will emphasize one area more than another. Aerobic routines help the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, weight lifting focuses on building muscle tone and mass, yoga and pilates helps balance, flexibility and muscular control. But each of these, and several more, help more than just the intended focus group. The body is an integrated system and improving one area almost always has beneficial consequences for others.

All those benefits, at least to a moderate degree, can be had for minimal daily effort. Moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes per day, at least five days per week, will go a long way toward optimizing fitness.

A brisk walk, taking the stairs up one or two flights, a short daily jog, jumping rope and many other simple activities can be carried out with no special equipment or training.

More intense activity, done properly, can raise that level even further. A vigorous tennis game, a few laps in the swimming pool, an hour on the treadmill or exercise bike, or any of a dozen others, can raise your fitness to a peak with only a moderate investment of time and money.

For the truly committed there are, of course, a thousand and one classes at the gym, and every conceivable kind of home fitness equipment to fit a variety of budgets. A daily routine using free weights, followed by a good jog around the park will keep all systems functioning well.

And, as Aristotle taught all those centuries ago, to function well is to live well.

Acupuncture Treatments

Acupuncture has been practised in Asia for thousands of years and its use as a treatment for numerous illnesses have been well documented.

acupuncture treatments

What is Acupuncture?

A form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture is an increasingly popular type of complementary/alternative medicine that uses needles to help stimulate different "meridians" in the body. It is based on the concept that the life-force energy of the body runs through various areas or pathways in the body. By inserting small needles into various points and depths, it's considered that a rebalancing of this life-force energy (called 'Qi') will promote good health and correct many ills. Currently there are over 400 known points on the body and each correspond to various bodily functions.

There are documented cases that have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating maladies such as nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and chemotherapy, minor aches and pains, dental pain, headaches, migraines, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia to name a few. However, major diseases such as diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure do not tend to respond to this treatment, although it can be prescribed for help in symptoms associated with them.

While the treatment can help with the whole host of illnesses listed above, there is still some controversy which surrounds this treatment for the reduction of cravings. The results have been mixed, especially around the issue of smoking cessation. Although it may reduce withdrawal symptoms, it isn't being touted as an entirely reliable cure for this addiction.

In China, where the most extensive and comprehensive schooling is available, it can take 3 to 4 years to graduate. The needles must be placed in the correct spot, so it is essential that qualified individuals perform the procedure.

Interest in the West

Although Western medicine has embraced acupuncture as a treatment in recent years, many insurers still refuse to cover these treatments and repeat visits can be costly.

Yet just because the insurance company doesn't pay for it, its many benefits have been acknowledged by the medical community. In the US, the Mayo Clinic has had a full time staff for acupuncture since the 1970s and the National Institute of Health has recommended acupuncture for various treatments since 1997. It is generally accepted that acupuncture has its place and should be considered as an alternative, or in addition to, conventional treatments.

Ultimately, the best way to figure out which treatment is best for you is always to discuss your options with your physician and follow their recommendations.

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Causes of Hypoglycaemia

hypoglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia means that the glucose in the blood has dropped to a level that may cause harm if prolonged. This level is around 2.5mmols/litre in most people.

The most frequent reason for this is seen in diabetics due to the failure to adequately match insulin dose (or diabetic tablets) with food intake and energy expenditure – in effect, an insulin overdose. However it can occur in non-diabetics for a variety of reasons. As the effects of low blood glucose can be serious, rapid attention to the problem is paramount.

Control of Blood Glucose Level

Blood glucose is a prime source of energy for the muscles and organs of the body. Whereas many tissues can also utilise fat for their energy needs the brain can only use glucose, a fact that has considerable bearing on the consequences of hypoglycaemia.

The hormone insulin removes glucose from the blood and transports it into the muscles and the liver where it is stored. Glucagon, also a hormone, has the opposite effect and removes glucose from storage to enter the circulation.

Clearly fine control of these two hormones, and incidentally many other factors, is needed to maintain blood glucose at appropriate levels.

Causes of Hypoglycaemia

  • Reactive hypoglycaemia: probably caused by an overproduction of insulin following a high carbohydrate meal. The left over insulin mops up too much glucose from the blood.
  • Tumour: pancreatic tumours, which are usually benign, can secrete large amounts of insulin
  • Addison’s disease; a disease of the adrenal glands. Some of the hormones secreted by the adrenal have a marked effect on glucose metabolism
  • Reduced liver function; dysfunction of the liver can disturb the control of glucose storage.
  • Poor functioning pituitary gland.
  • Partial gastrectomy: when the stomach is made smaller food enters the small intestine quicker than it should. This stimulates overproduction of insulin leading to a reactive hypoglycaemia.
  • Cancer: many cancers can have a marked effect on the body’s energy metabolism.
  • Fasting or malnutrition
  • Excess alcohol

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycaemia

Depending on the individual and degree of hypoglycaemia, some or all of those listed below may be experienced.
  • Pallor, trembling, perspiration
  • Hunger, agitation rapid heart beat
  • Feeling weak, irritability, fatigue
  • Poor concentration, blurred vision
  • Convulsions, loss of consciousness.

The last two – convulsions and loss of consciousness suggest that the brain is becoming impaired through lack of glucose. As indicated earlier the brain has no other energy supply to fall back on so permanent damage can occur unless action is taken rapidly.

Treatment

The important first step is to make sure your signs and symptoms really are due to low blood sugar. The only way to do this is to get it measured by your physician. If hypoglycaemia is occurring the cause needs be found and treated.

Reactive hypoglycaemia is treated by diet. The trick is to avoid large surges of insulin. This is best done by avoiding refined sugars and eating more complex carbohydrates. Essentially these are carbohydrates that require effort by the body to digest and assimilate ensuring slower entry of glucose into the blood stream. Wholemeal breads, particularly with grains in, whole fruits rather than smoothies are best. It’s also important to eat plenty of fresh vegetables as the presence of these in the gut will help ensure slower absorption of glucose.

This article is intended for information only. If you think you might be experiencing low blood glucose you should visit a health professional.

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Fractures of the Hip

fractures of the hip

Hip fractures are like any other broken bone in the body, but they are also distinctive. Such injuries can result in the inability to walk and lead to major functional disruptions. Fractures of the hip occur often in the elderly, a population that is prone to these fractures. Such reasons make hip fractures a commonly discussed condition.

The following is an overview of how these fractures occur and how they are managed.

Relevant Anatomy of the Hip

The hip joint consists of the femur, or thigh bone, and the pelvis. The head of the femur fits into the acetabulum, a round socket in the pelvis. The femoral head comes out of a narrow femoral neck, and below the neck are two bony prominences called the greater trochanter and lesser trochanter. These anatomic landmarks comprise the upper portion of the femur involved in hip fractures.

The blood circulation to the upper femur is also noteworthy. Of three arteries that carry blood to this region, about 90% of circulation comes from the lateral epiphyseal artery. Despite being a main vascular source, this artery carries more blood to specific areas of the femur than others, a characteristic that may worsen some hip fractures.

Types and Causes of Hip Fractures

Hip fractures involve the upper femur in one of three places: the femoral neck (femoral neck fractures), through the greater and lesser trochanters (intertrochanteric fractures), and below the greater and lesser trochanters (subtrochanteric fractures). They often occur secondary to trauma, which can involve high-energy impact but may also occur with falls and minor injuries in people with more brittle bones. Factors that may weaken the femur and make it susceptible to injury include but are not limited to age, osteoporosis, inactivity of thigh muscles, and deficiency in calcium and/or vitamin D.

Treatment of Hip Fractures

After evaluation of a hip fracture by x-ray, an orthopedic surgeon decides whether surgical correction of the fracture is appropriate. He or she takes several things into account, mainly the features of the hip fracture and the overall surgical risk of the patient. If operative treatment is planned, the surgeon performs a hip arthroplasty, repairing the femur using screws, plates, and other fixating devices.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, not all patients with hip fractures are treated surgically. Such patients are of high operative risk with multiple comorbid conditions, have hip fractures that are relatively minor in severity, or have insufficient bone mass for orthopedic fixating devices to function appropriately. Certain patients may be given a walker or cane for ambulation, provided that they bear as little weight as possible on the injured leg.

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Top 6 Fitness Myths

fitness myths

1. Women who lift weights will get bulky muscles:
Not true; lifting weights, doing cardio and eating right are all three essential for losing weight. If you just want to tone up, perform each exercise between 10 and 20 reps. So keep your reps high and don’t be scared of weights; after lifting your metabolism will speed up for the next 48 hours.

2. Spot reducing is possible:
False; let’s take the stomach for example. Everyone has a “six-pack” in there somewhere - it is just a matter of exercising in general and eating right that gets rid of the fat on top. The best abs in the gym belong to the people who do a variety of things, not just working one area. If all you do is 500 crunches a day for the next two months, you will have the strongest abs that Nobody Will Ever See!

3. No pain, No gain:
No Way! This myth often scares people away, so let’s replace it with the truth. No Consistency, No Gain; consistency is the most important part of exercise, without it you are swimming upstream. Pain is not part of a safe routine; find the difference between pain and discomfort. But be ready to suck it up and deal with some sweat and discomfort; you need to push yourself, just not to the point of injury.

4. Exercising requires a hefty time commitment:
Once again absolutely false; exercise requires a commitment to consistency, not a large amount of time. It is much more beneficial to work out just 10 minutes every day of the week, than to work out for 2 hours once a week. Take pride in exercising more often without the burden of time.

5. If you exercise you can eat what ever you want:
This sounds more like an excuse: still not true. Food plays a huge role in how we feel, perform and go about our everyday routines. If you fill your body with fats and sugars all day any amount of exercise can’t counteract the damage. Don’t make things too complicated, just eat healthy and have the treats in moderation; don’t ruin all your hard work at the dinner table.

6. There is a “magic bullet” or quick fix out there somewhere:
Not even close; there is no magic pill, no 8-min Abs, and no equipment you can use on your couch. It took time to gain that weight and it will take time to lose it. So don’t fool yourself, get up and get to the gym.

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Frozen Shoulder

frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder affects only about two percent of the population but can greatly impact day to day life events such as brushing hair, opening doors or reaching up to retrieve something from a top shelf. It is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60, and, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, can also strike people with diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson's disease or cardiac disease.

Dr. Jennifer Solomon, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, which is well-known for its treatment of frozen shoulder, says, "It is also extremely common in perimenopausal women."

This suggests hormonal changes may cause joint stiffness associated with frozen shoulder.

The disorder often develops slowly, and in three stages.

Stage One: Pain increases with movement and is often worse at night. There is a progressive loss of motion with increasing pain. This stage lasts approximately 2 to 9 months.

Stage Two: Pain begins to diminish, and moving the arm is more comfortable. However, the range of motion is now much more limited, as much as 50 percent less than in the other arm. This stage may last 4 to 12 months.

Stage Three: The condition begins to resolve. Most patients experience a gradual restoration of motion over the next 12 to 42 months; surgery may be required to restore motion for some patients.

No one has yet to pinpoint the exact cause of frozen shoulder. However, it likely involves an underlying inflammatory process and can develop after leaving the shoulder immobile for any period of time, such as after surgery or an injury.

A medical history and physical exam, including X-rays can usually diagnose frozen shoulder. Treatment options include ibuprofen and cortisone injections. Steroids can significantly reduce inflammation and pain and increase range of motion.

Physical therapy is also often recommended, and consists of stretching or range-of-motion exercises. Therapy can be conducted by a trained and licensed therapist or in the comfort of home without supervision. Surgery is seen as a last resort should conventional methods be unsuccessful.

The recently held 75th Annual Meeting Podium Presentations by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons concluded that frozen shoulder is often misdiagnosed when the real culprit to pain and loss of motion is a tumor localized inside the bone or in the scapular region. These surgeons cautioned that a misdiagnosis can cause a significant delay in treatment. Patients should ask their physicians to consider all options.

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Keep Viruses and Germs in Check

viruses and germs

Many believe that the way one catches a cold is through the air via small droplets that are sneezed or coughed out by an ill individual. This isn't quite accurate. Most colds are caught by way of touching a contaminated object (including any number of common ones like a doorknob or a shopping cart handle) covered with those droplets.

There are ways of preventing colds and making your home environment "cold free".

Wash up!

The best way to prevent colds from occurring is to wash one's hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. During cold season, you may want to do this a second and third time.

If possible, fingernails should be scrubbed by a scrub brush to remove all that's caught underneath. Fingernails tend to harbor not only dirt, but also bacteria and viruses. If using a washroom is impossible, consider carrying around sanitizing towellettes. These are a good substitute in lieu of washing when ouotside.

If you do need to cough or sneeze, do so into your arm or tissue. This will help to prevent the contamination of the area by you. Be also careful about touching your eye. Viruses can enter the eye easily and can cause myriad problems, not the least of which is conjunctivitis or "pink eye".

Breathe in...

Other methods of prevention include the breathing in hot steamy air, or even warm air for that fact. If you can find one at a local gym, a 20-minute sauna session is most helpful. The hot or warm air seems to kill the cold virus fairly well. If one doesn't have access to a sauna, just breathing in the air from a hair dryer may do the trick. (But take care!)

Or try filling up your sink with hot, boiling water, covering your head with a towel and breathing the steam, taking care not to get any hot water on your skin. You can also add a bit of Eucalyptus oil or something like Vicks Vapo-Rub to help clear out any congestion.

One can also help prevent colds by taking certain supplements. Vitamin C, Zinc and a herb called Andrographis can be helpful.
Getting a good night's sleep and decreasing one's stress can also aid in healing. Sleep boosts the immune system, while stress decreases it. Think positively or do activities that help to relax one's system. Exercise can also bolster immunity. Three days of moderate exercise should prove sufficient. But if you're very ill, rest is best.

Cleanliness is key

Another way to minimize colds is to decrease the amount of germs in your home. Clean the phones and doorknobs daily during cold season. Place tissue boxes out in your highest-trafficked part of your home. Consider leaving the window open a crack in the most populated rooms to help drive away germs. Lowering the temperature 5 degrees and keeping humidity at 50% will also help maintain a steady germ-free environment. Viruses thrive in the heat.

By keeping the temperature down, it will keep viruses at bay. Also heat tends to dry mucosal tissues in the nose, making them more prone to allow germs to gain entry here. Finally toothbrushes and towels should be changed reugularly, especially if someone just recovered from a cold, to help keep everyone healthy.

By following the above your chances of becoming ill will decrease. Your odds will improve that you'll escape unscathed during cold season.

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