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The Surprising Benefits of Walking

 

The next time you have a check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you’ve been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” in the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including walking, is a boon to your overall health. But walking in particular comes with a host of benefits.

Here’s a list of five that may surprise you.

It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes

Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

It helps tame a sweet tooth

A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.

It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. 

Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

It eases joint pain

Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

It boosts immune function. 

Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.

Cite: Harvard Medical University News

 

Wellness Wednesday: Sometimes all You Need to Do is Breathe

 

Breathing exercises offer an extremely simple, effective, and convenient way to relieve stress and reverse your stress response, reducing the negative effects of chronic stress. There are definite benefits of breathing exercises. While simple diaphragmic breathing can provide relaxation and stress relief, there are several different types of breathing exercises to try, each with its own twist. Here are several breathing exercises, some of which are commonly recommended, some of which are unique, and all of which can each offer help in managing stress. This is an easy exercise that only takes a few minutes. Here’s how.

Mindful Diaphragmic Breathing

Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and start to notice your breath. Before you begin to alter it, pay attention to the pace and depth. Are you taking deep breaths or shallow ones? Are you breathing quickly or slowly? (Becoming aware of your breathing can help you to become more mindful of your body’s response to stress, and can help you to notice when you need to deliberately relax your breathing.)

Counted Breathing

Counting your breaths can be helpful, both for pacing and as a form of meditation. This technique helps with pacing–it enables you to elongate your breath and stretch out your exhales. There are a few ways to do this.

As you inhale, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind your teeth, then breathe through your nose and slowly count down from five; on the exhale, let the air escape through your mouth and count back up to eight. Then repeat. This helps you to really empty your lungs and relax into each breath.

A variation of this is known as “4-7-8 breathing,” and is recommended by wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil. With this option, you inhale for a count of four, wait for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. This allows you to pause between breaths and really slow things down.
You may also find your own pace. Experiment with whatever ratio feels comfortable to you, and see if it helps you to feel relaxed. The act of counting as you breathe still helps you to maintain a steady pace and keep your mind on your breath and the present moment, so it is still more effective than simply breathing regularly and unconsciously.

Visualization Breathing: Inflating the Balloon

Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and begin breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you inhale, imagine that your abdomen is inflating with air like a balloon. As you exhale, imagine that the air is escaping the balloon slowly. Remember, you do not have to force the air out; it simply escapes on its own, in its own time. You may want to imagine the balloon as your favorite color, or that you are floating higher in the sky with each breath if this is relaxing for you. Regardless, the “inflating balloon” visualization can help you to breathe deeply from your diaphragm rather than engaging in shallow breathing that can come from stress.

Visualization Breathing: Releasing Your Stress

Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and start diaphragmic breathing. As you inhale, imagine that all the stress in your body is coming from your extremities and into your chest. Then, as you exhale, imagine that the stress is leaving your body through your breath and dissipating right in front of you. Slowly, deliberately repeat the process. After several breaths, you should feel your stress begin to subside.

Deep, Cleansing Breath

Sometimes all you need to release stress from your shoulders, back, or the rest of your body is a few big, cleansing breaths. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and take in as much air as you comfortably can. Then release it, and really focus on emptying your lungs. (Many people hold air in their lungs after an exhale, so emptying your lungs on a deep exhale can help you to get more fresh oxygen into them.) Repeat this breathing exercise for a few breaths and release the tension in your back, your shoulders, and anywhere else it tends to reside.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breathing exercise variation has been practiced for thousands of years as a form of meditative breathing. As you inhale, place your finger over your right nostril and only breathe through your left. On the exhale, switch nostrils and only breathe through your right. You can breathe at whatever pace is comfortable for you, either a 5-8 ratio, a 4-7-8 ratio or whatever pace feels most relaxing for you (see “counted breathing,” above).

 

Cite: VerywellMind.com
 

Meet the Expert Speaker Series on Tuesday Feb 19, 6pm

 

Dr. Brenda Jimenez, Gastroenterologist will be presenting 

Family History and Herediatary Colorectal Cancer at 

On Tuesday February 19 from 6-7pm 

Holy Family Hospital-Haverhill Auditorium 140 Lincoln Avenue Haverhill, MA

To RSVP email: george.nugent@steward.org or call 978-887-0151 ext: 4897

 

 

How to Prevent Sport Injuries in Children

Sports may be fun for kids and parents, but accidents happen. Around one in three children in the US who participate in sports will miss a game this year due to a sports-related injury. How can you minimize your child’s risk of injury at the next game? Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

Continue reading “How to Prevent Sport Injuries in Children”

Health Benefits of Acts of Kindness

 

 

Today is National ‘Do Something Nice Day’. Did you know that doing an act of kindness has many health benefits plus it makes us feel good.   Did you also know that, 

Kindness is Teachable

“It’s kind of like weight training, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”
Dr. Ritchie Davidson , University of Wisconsin

Kindness is Contagious 

The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!

Kindness Increases

THE LOVE HORMONE

Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re in anxious or shy in a social situation.

ENERGY

“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth”
Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center

HAPPINESS

A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—were happiest overall.

LIFESPAN

“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains.Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise,gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” Christine Carter, Author, “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”

PLEASURE

According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your rain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”

SEROTONIN

Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy! So today do something nice to someone who least suspects it… maybe you both could reap some of the health benefits from a random act of kindness. 

cite: randomactsofkindness.org

Update: Monday September 17. All locations including ExpressCare are open

Update:  

All Pentucket locations inlcuding ExpressCare are open. Please allow extra travel time for road closures in some areas. Thank you. 

We would also like to thank our patients for your support over the past few days. 

Pentucket Medical and Partners Healthcare are in contact and supporting our staff who have been impacted these events.

We wish to extend our thoughts and prayers to all those affected. A special thank you to all first responders who continue to ensure the safety of area residents.

Plugged In

Couple sitting at table on phonesAccording to a New York Times report, both teens and adults check their smartphones 150 times per day (or every six minutes), and send an average of 110 texts per day.

For many teenagers these days, texting is passé, so they have upgraded to platforms like Snapchat and Instagram—suggesting that these numbers may not represent actual usage.

In a study at the University of Maryland as part of The World Unplugged project, researchers evaluated students from 10 different countries. They found that the clear majority experienced distress when they went without their cell phones for a mere 24 hours.   In another large-scale study evaluating more than 2,500 college students, 60 percent of them admitted being addicted to their cell phone. 

With 83 percent of Americans owning a cell phone, let’s face it, they are here to stay.

Learning how to manage the risks, particularly with our children in mind, is one of America’s new challenges.

Technological Takeover

Studies suggest that excessive online activities are linked to sleep, learning, social, psychological, and focus disorders, as well as violence.

A recent Huffington Post article reported the following in regards to teenage girls:

  • Most teens are on their phones all the time—in school, in bed at night, when they go to the bathroom, while you are trying to talk to them, and while they are  trying to do their homework.
  •  They are in instant access with each other all the time—living in a perpetual state of staccato interruptions.
  • There are virtually no enforceable societal or parental controls short of depriving a child of a phone, which then subjects them to rejection from their real and virtual friends.
  •  The popularity contests of childhood are online now, and they revolve around how many “likes” you get. A low number of “likes” typically translates into low social status, and can subject you to shaming and bullying. A high number of “likes” translates to popularity and often induces pressure to sustain your status.

 

More Teen Statistics

·         92 percent of teens go online daily, and 24 percent say they are online “almost constantly.”

·         76 percent of teens use social media (81 percent of older teens, 68 percent of teens ages 13 and 14).

·         71 percent of teens use Facebook, 52 percent use Instagram, 41 percent use Snapchat, 33 percent use Twitter.

·         77 percent of parents say their teens get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together.

·         59 percent of parents say they feel their teen is addicted to their mobile device.

·         50 percent of teens say they feel addicted to their mobile device    

The consensus is that technology is here to stay and it is all about finding balance, maximizing the good in technology, and minimizing the bad. We cannot live in a bubble pretending it does not exist.

So what can parents do?

Here are some strategies to help manage the technological human experiment.

1.     When the kids come home from school, give them some free cell phone screen time.

2.     When homework starts, the cells phones are left charging in a different room, like the kitchen or bathroom.

3.     When they finish their homework, if it’s before bed time, they can check in on their phones until it’s bed time.

4.     No cell phone use during meals, at restaurants, or in the car. In certain cases, some exceptions are made here.

5.     No TV during the school week. In certain cases, some exceptions are made, but they are rare.

6.     Phones and tablets are plugged in at night in the kitchen or bathroom, not in the bedroom.

7.     Try turning off the Wi-Fi connection in the house at 10 p.m.

8.     Middle schools, high schools, and now some elementary schools give iPads to the students, which makes these rules tricky. Solution: no social media apps
their school iPad and, of course, parental controls on everything. It is surprising how many kids have full access to the internet in middle school.

9.     Break any of these rules and they lose their phone for 24 hours. No argument, no discussion, no emotion. This rule works amazingly well!

 

More tools: Personalize Your Own Family Media Plan

The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a very cool online guide to developing a personalized plan for your family and kids of all ages.

 

Article excerpts: Author: Dr. John Douillard/ Elephant Journal August 2017