Play Play Play

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So, what happened?  When did it go away?  You used to play, didn’t you?  Really, when did it stop?  As adults we are quickly led to the world of responsibilities, chores and non-thinking routines.   That sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?  If you were told you could play no longer if you wanted to be an adult, kids, in their right mind, would think that is absolute nonsense.  I have this quote as part of the screen background on my computer:

“The greatest gift you can give your kids is to be fully alive yourself.”  ~Rob Bell

Can you imagine?  Fully alive?  What does it look like for you?  Do you still dream?  When is the last time you did not think about your daily routine or a customer?

Play is essential to so many things in our life, yet it is so easily lost.  The benefits of play are endless and can roll over into areas of our daily routine to take away the mundane and add some zest, make us more attractive.  Play can:

Improve our relationships and connection to others: Sharing laughter and fun can build empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help us loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

Stimulate the mind and boost creativity: Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well.  We learn new tasks better when it’s fun and we are in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate our imagination, helping us adapt and problem solve.

Improve brain function (who doesn’t need this?):  Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.

Relieve stress: Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Keep you feeling young and energetic:  In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost energy and vitality and even improve resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.

Be helpful in healing emotional wounds: As adults, when we play together, we are engaging in exactly the same patterns of behavior that positively shape the brains of children. These same playful behaviors that predict emotional health in children can also lead to positive changes in adults. If an emotionally-insecure individual plays with a secure partner, for example, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions.

Teach cooperation with others: Play is a powerful stimulant for positive socialization. Through play, children learn how to "play nicely" with others—to work together, follow mutually-agreed-upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, we can continue to use play to break down barriers and improve our relationships with others.

With all of these benefits, we need to remember to balance our days and lives, recognizing the importance of play and how it can fully integrate with our daily responsibilities, duties and commitments and be the catalyst towards making us more effective adults.



Water for Life

By Paul Hunter

Summer is here, the kids may be heading to camp or they may stay local for a stay-cation as we DO live at one of the “Most Beautiful Beaches in the World.”  Either way, they and you will most likely be outside in the heat and want to be able to enjoy yourselves.  Spending time outside this time of year can be daunting when it comes to being prepared for the sun and the heat, so let’s take a look at how the proper amount of hydration can prepare you for more fun outdoors.  

Water is essential to life. It constitutes the medium in which chemical reactions occur and is crucial to normal function of the cardiovascular system. Water constitutes about 70% of body weight in the normal adult. It decreases from 75% at birth to 50% in old age and is the largest component of the body. Adipose tissue (fat) contains less water than lean tissue (muscle); thus, women have slightly less body water than men. The effects of dehydration occur with as little water loss as 1% of body weight and become life threatening at 10%.

The good, the bad and the ugly and not necessarily in that order:  dehydration is a loss of fluids and electrolytes (important blood salts like potassium and sodium). Vital organs like the kidneys, brain, and heart can’t function without a certain amount of fluids and electrolytes, which can be lost through sweat, urine, vomit and diarrhea.   

The good news is that dehydration is preventable even in the worst climates and weather.  How?  Here are five tips to stay ahead of the curve and set yourself up for fun days outside:

  1. Drink water, lots of water.  How much?  One way to keep track is the color of your urine.  It is not necessary for it to be clear, but a lighter color is preferred.  The darker your urine color, the more likely you are headed towards dehydration and, as stated above, it only takes as little as a 1% body weight loss.  
  2. Eat foods with high water content.  Fruits and vegetables are loaded with hydrating goodness in addition to vitamins and minerals to replace electrolytes lost through sweating.  In addition, they will fuel you while not making you feel sluggish.  
  3. Stay away from alcohol.  Yes, it’s a liquid but it will increase your urination, thus increasing the likelihood of dehydration.  
  4. When possible, cool yourself off in the water or stay in the shade.  Keeping your core body temperature down will assist in making your outside-in-the-heat time more enjoyable and for longer.
  5. Have a water buddy.  Remember the buddy system?  With two or more, you can look out for each other.  When someone drinks water, it’s good to remind the others to drink some as well.  

Mild signs of dehydration include: 

  • Thirst
  • Dry lips
  • Slightly dry mouth membranes 

Moderate signs of dehydration include:

  • Very dry mouth membranes
  • Sunken eyes
  • Skin that doesn’t bounce back quickly when lightly pinched and released
  •  

Severe signs of dehydration include:

  • All signs of moderate dehydration
  • Rapid, weak pulse (more than 100 at rest)
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blue lips
  • Confusion, lethargy, difficult to arouse

Don’t let these signs of dehydration alarm you; rather, know them and prevent them and have a great time outdoors!  Make it a Great Day!

What is your Why?

By Paul Hunter

 

I have been working in the fitness industry for 27 years now and a few years ago was interviewed by a person who was instructed to get some questions answered from a “seasoned” trainer.  There were some obvious questions such as, “Why did you get involved in the fitness industry?” and “Do you feel a college degree made a difference?”  One question stuck out, however, and my answer could have gone in a few different directions: “What is your favorite type of client to work with?” Without hesitation, I replied, “The one who is willing.”  I shocked myself with what I thought was such a simple answer. 

Over the years, I have pondered my answer and thought, although the answer is simple, whether the person is or is not willing may not be that simple.  People come to me and other trainers because they want to make a change. One thing I have grown to accept is that whether it be in the fitness realm or looking into other parts of life, change is not easy for everyone.  

Why?  What are great questions to ask of someone requesting change?  A conversation can go like this:

Trainer:  So, what brought you in here today?

Client:  I want to get healthy.

Trainer:  Why do you want to get healthy?

Client:  I have gained some unwanted pounds over the years and I want to feel better.

Trainer:  This may be a silly question, but why do you want to feel better?

Client:  Well, my daughter is coming into town this summer with my grandson and I want to be able to get on the floor and play with him.  

Trainer:   Ah, now we are getting somewhere.  

Getting to the “Why?” as it relates to motivation and change is significant because it can bring along with it the willingness to change.  In the above example, it became not just about being healthy but having a relationship that became important.  The ease of mobility that coincides with getting stronger, becoming more cardiovascularly fit and losing some weight now seems a little more important and creates a willingness to work through things when they become uncomfortable, because they will at times.  

I have seen it written that life begins outside your comfort zone.  If you think about it, your comfort zone got you to where you are now.  You stopped doing certain things because they might have been too difficult to sustain on your own.  That alone can be difficult to think about, but if you’re missing out on goals you had set in the past, think about it.  Was your “Why?” big enough? 

Below are some questions you can ask yourself when you are ready to make some changes in your life.  Remember, you are not a tree, you do not have to stay where you are. 

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Why is that goal important?  (You may have to ask yourself this a few times to uncover the real “Why?”)
  3. What will getting out of your comfort zone look like?  
  4. Are you willing to listen and gain wisdom to grow?
  5. What habits will you need to change?
  6. Are you willing to be consistent?
  7. Are you willing to be consistent long enough to allow your work to have the effect that you choose?

This becomes a good exercise to do with an accountability partner, whether it be your spouse, a friend or even your family.  There is nothing like going through something challenging when you have a strong support system behind you and encouraging you.  

Make it a Great Day!

 

6 Biggest Mistakes When Starting an Exercise Program

By Paul Hunter

The 6 Biggest Mistakes when Starting an Exercise Program

It is warming up, people are shedding their thicker clothes and you have decided now is the time to make a change in yourself and your body.  You may have heard, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten.”  True, however, I’d like to add a little caveat:  “If you always do what you always done, you will get less results than if you had begun to do more sooner.”  Why?  Because as time passes, we get further from our goals both physically and mentally.  We add an extra pound here, pick up an unhealthy habit there - all things that can take us away from our intended goals.

When we venture to make a change in our lives, we need to make a change in our lives and quite often there is more than one.  Activity, nutrition, rest, thoughts - they all play a key role in our success, whatever we do.  Quite often we find ourselves way out of balance and thus not looking, performing or feeling the way we’d like.  Let’s take a look at 6 things that can keep us from achieving all that we hope we can be.

  1. Not setting attainable goals:  Here people set out to accomplish the impossible.  I hear, “I need to lose 30 lbs this week because my sister is getting married.” Or, “My 20-year high school reunion is in two weeks and I want sculpted arms.”  Even the American College of Sports Medicine has a standard set that our bodies can healthily lose 1-2 lbs per week.  More than that and research has shown it’s mostly water if not muscle mass.  Frequently I’ll measure someone’s body composition and explain the difference between lean mass and fat weight.  Simply, lean mass is you, bones, muscle and organs.  Now why would you want to lose any of THAT?!  Take it easy and keep reading. 
  2. Starting too fast, going too hard:  It’s “An apple a day that keeps the doctor away,” not “Seven apples on Saturday.”  You’ve now set your realistic goals, right?  You plan to continue this “healthy new you” program for a long time, right?  If your body has been dormant for some time, you need to remember your brain may be strong but the tissue connecting your muscles, bones and joints together may not be so strong.  It takes time for your tendons and ligaments to gain strength, and with a safe and effective program it will happen.  Rome was NOT built in a day but it continues to stand.  
  3. Not fueling the body while starting a “diet:”  “I need to go on a diet” may be one of the most-often uttered phrases in the English language.  Something happens when someone begins a diet.  They eat nothing but what the book or magazine says, thus cutting out all snacks, extra food, et cetera.  All sounds great until the body is not receiving what it needs to function at its optimum and the dieter commonly “snaps” and fills it with very familiar snacks.  Remember, we are looking to “be changed” two years from now and not have sprung back to our original shape.  Make consistent changes in the right direction, and your chance of success will improve.
  4. Not getting some expert instruction:  If you study the people at the top of their game, you’ll find there is a coach or trainer working with them to guide them along the finer points for better results.  No time?  No money?  It’s an investment in yourself and the knowledge goes a long way.  A trainer should actually be a time manager for you; the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
  5. Giving up too soon:  It may feel like only yesterday that you were in shape or had the shape you wanted, but you didn’t actually get here overnight.  If you have set the right goals, not started out too fast and received some expert instruction, your goals will be closer than you think.  Do not grow weary in doing the right things.  
  6. Not starting at all because you see the hill and not the view from the top:  The view from the top is rewarding, and you’ll find that the majority would rather complain or make excuses about the trip “they want to take or could have taken if only...”  The daily changes, the effort, the discipline, the view.  It’s all worth it and so are you.  You’ll be surprised at what you can become if only you stop trying to steer the “parked car” and get moving.

 

Make it a Great Day!

 

You Should be Dancing!

By Paul Hunter

New year, new goals, right?  How do you choose your goals?  Often in the new year, we focus on the physical aspects of our lives.  Why not enhance your goals with learning a new skill, causing a positive impact on your brain as well?  Having graduated from a college whose main focus is the holistic balance between spirit, mind and body, I rather like this idea.

As we age, our brains trend towards processing more slowly, meaning how rapidly our brains are able to absorb, assess and respond to new information slows down.  If you are over 40 and reading this, it may be taking you longer to process the world around you.  What causes this slowdown has been shown to be a naturally occurring “fraying” of our brain’s wiring or “white matter.”  Is this degeneration avoidable or reversible?  Maybe, with the right stimulus.

There is some good news.  Earlier this year, there was a study performed by a group of researchers from the University of Illinois, et. al. that explored the link between physical activity and neurological benefits.  What they found was we may not be doing enough of the best things.   

Eating well:        check

Drinking water:        check

Walking:         check

Weight Training:    check

Social Dancing:        wait, what?

One hundred seventy-four healthy people in their 60s and 70s with no cognitive impairments were recruited to participate in a study whereby they were brought through a series of initial tests to establish a baseline.  This baseline testing included markers and university lab testing involving a sophisticated brain scan MRI, processing speeds, aerobic capacity and mental capacities.  

They were then randomly divided into three groups:

1.    Supervised brisk walking program involving 1 hour of walking 3 times weekly

2.    Gentle stretching and balancing 3 times weekly

3.    The “Learn to Dance” group.  Progressively more difficult and intricate country-dance choreography for 1 hour 3 times weekly.

After six months, the same brain scans and testing from the beginning were repeated.  So, what did they discover?  Not surprisingly, there was continued thinning of the size and numbers of connections between the neurons in the brain (“white matter degeneration”), subtle, but there, most notably in the oldest volunteers.  

Wait… What is this?  Compared to testing six months prior, in one group there was some actual improvement in areas of the brain containing the white matter.  The DANCING group showed an increased density of their white matter, even showing improvements in cognitive performance. 

What is the takeaway from this?  Get moving and challenge yourself physically AND mentally.  Social dancing places physical demands and encourages social interaction that can improve our daily functioning.  Dr. Burzynska, the study’s lead author and professor of human development and neuroscience from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado states “any activities involving moving and socializing” might spruce up mental abilities in our brains as we age.  She also found that those who came into the study already exercising showed the least decline in their white matter.

Whether this pertains to you or a loved one and you have or have not been “exercising,” it is never too late to start or encourage those around you to do so.  Most people know where the local gym is, but how about dancing opportunities?  A quick internet search for “dancing instruction near me” brings up over 10 locations for fun and learning the art of dance.  

Personally, my wife and I have been attending Fred Astaire in Fort Walton Beach for over a year now and I although we have more than a decade to reach our 60s, I can attest to the benefits of participating in ballroom dancing.  Overall, there has been improvements in the area of reaction times, balance, learning and coordination.  I have noticed it is not just the learning of the dance moves, style or techniques, but the social interaction of dancing with the group that has benefitted not just me but the other participants.  

Get out, get moving and…

Make it a Great Day!

 

Get a Tune Up!

By Paul Hunter

As we head into the remaining two months of 2017, many have long abandoned their New Year's resolution(s) in lieu of comfort, simplicity, and immediate gratification.  We HAD goals and a lot of ambition as we embarked on 2017, then busyness found its way into our lives.  So where are we now?  An age-old adage is, “What we measure improves.”  Have you been measuring?  If so, what?  If not, why not?  A common measurement is weight.  It’s easy, quick and sometimes painful.  Below, I will discuss a few others to measure and some others to consider.

Basic Anthropometric information

Weight

Height

BMI

Circumference Measurements

Body Composition

How about some blood-work?  The details of blood-work beyond the basics are often overlooked.  Find a doctor who is aware of and knows what to order for you beyond the basics; however, be sure to get at least the basics measured.

There are some basics like Total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, Complete Blood Count (CBC), glucose, TSH (for thyroid) that everyone should be getting and if you’ve never had consistent blood work done, get these.  

On the other extreme, there are additional areas to assist with your “fine-tuning” of your physical self beneath the skin.

Advanced Cholesterol

These advanced cardiovascular and lipid panels go beyond typical blood tests for total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL to uncover early risk factors for heart disease.  Some of the additional tests include:  ApoA1, ApoB, both key binding proteins; Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Free Fatty Acids (FFA), Lipid Particle numbers and sizes.

Liver and Kidney Health

Your kidney and liver detoxify your body of harmful pollutants from your everyday environment. Poor liver and kidney health can lead to chronic disease, unwanted weight gain, loss of energy and more.  Creatnine, Total Bilirubin, Albumin, Total Protein test are used to determine your health in these areas.

Performance Hormones

Testosterone deficiency has numerous effects on muscle growth, fat storage, mood, and libido. We measure the biomarkers that indicate the cause of such hormone dysfunction.

Metabolic Hormones

This panel measures the body's balance of stress and weight gain/loss, both of muscle and fat via Cortisol, Insulin and IGF-1 (Growth hormone surrogate) levels.

Thyroid & Blood Sugar

Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are among the fastest growing chronic diseases, and thyroid disease is the most common hormone imbalance.

Advanced Thyroid

This panel is an advanced assessment of the biomarkers related to your thyroid function. An imbalance can cause excess storage of energy, leading to weight gain and fatigue, or excess use of energy, leading to unhealthy weight loss and restlessness.

Advanced Inflammation

This panel is an advanced assessment of the biomarkers related to systemic inflammation. These tests are useful to detect and monitor infection, injury, and certain inflammatory diseases.

Complete Blood Count & Advanced Nutrients

All cells and tissues in the body are dependent on the delivery of oxygen by your red blood cells. This panel provides a detailed assessment of your blood and essential nutrient levels.

Women's Reproductive Panel

This panel examines the biomarkers related to fertility and the overall function of female hormone and reproductive health.

There is a lot going on underneath the surface.  Our blood hides what we have done to ourselves if we don’t peek under the hood periodically.  Some don’t want to know.  I suggest you get at least the minimal ordered, measured and recorded when you are healthy so you have a baseline prior to something happening that would throw these haywire.  Some people are naturally elevated or suppressed in particular areas.  The more we understand how our bodies function when healthy, the more likely we are to catch something prior to our health getting too out of whack.

Make it a Great Day!