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M.E.D. Exercise (Part 2)

Thanks for joining us this week for our blog series on getting and staying healthy in a reasonable and sustainable fashion.

There is no one exercise that is best for everyone. What is an enjoyable exercise to one person may turn out to be a suffer-fest to another! You may hate running and I might find hours of yard work (yes, that does count as exercise) mind-numbing, but that is okay! Last week, we talked about how exercise must involve work in order to effect a change in our bodies, but doesn’t necessarily have to involve struggle. We also saw that, if you find something you enjoy doing, even the “work” portion of exercise can be enjoyable!

While there is no single exercise that fits all, there are two basic movement patterns that are consistent in almost all types of exercise:

  1. Alternating Cross Crawl
  2. Core Transfer

When these two fundamental patterns are strong and established, it not only protects one from injury in exercise, but in daily life as well.

Alternating Cross Crawl… aka, Walking!

The cross crawl movement pattern is one of the earliest purposeful motions we make as humans. Babies crawl! This activity of using the opposite arm and leg is essential in developing coordination, the transfer of strength from the larger pelvic muscles of the lower body to the upper, and for getting us places. We start out crawling as infants and, within a few short months, we are walking.

If you think about it, we also judge aging in part by the decline in the ability to walk and hold a strong walking posture. Walking has been related to a myriad of health benefits from back health to brain health. Walking is also one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to stimulate the heart and cardiovascular health. It really is fundamental to human experience and health!

Recently, I have been reading several books by Stuart McGill, PhD. He is one of the most well-respected and published researchers on conservative treatment (non surgical) of the spine. He is a big advocate of walking for back health. When searching for a synopsis on his approach to walking, I came across this great summary article at Fitness 4 Back Pain. In it, the author detailed several key points about how to walk:

  1. Stand tall with your chest out
  2. Walk briskly (not a stroll) with good arm swing
  3. Walk often

Finally, if you are limited by pain or fatigue:

         4. Stop Before You Have To

Inevitably, when I am giving exercise as part of a treatment plan, people always want to know how fast, long, and often they should walk. The reality is, if you aren’t doing it at all, even 12 minutes is going to do you some good.  Start where you are and add a minute or two each time you go out. After you get to about 30 minutes, start to increase your speed. Once you get one session a day for 30 minutes at a good clip, try adding a second session for 15 minutes, or expand your 30 minutes session to 45. Alternatively, you could find a hill to walk up and down! Walking is infinitely variable and can be done just about anywhere. Try to get in at least one session a day.

Planking for a Solid Base (Core Transfer)

The single best exercise I have seen for stabilizing the core of our bodies is called a plank. Planking is actually not just a board on a walkway, but I thought you would like this picture better than the ones that are going to follow of me doing an exercise called the plank!

Seriously though, there is some corollary to the picture above and planks. Imagine walking across the field pictured above in the wet spring time without the boardwalk – you would be slipping and sliding, back and forth, and a lot of your energy would be going in directions other than to propel you forward. Now, imagine yourself walking the same (wet) field, only this time you are on the boardwalk. With a firm foundation, more of your energy goes into propelling you forward in the direction you want to go. When you have a solid mid-section (back, butt, tummy, and hips), that is exactly what happens – you can more efficiently and effectively transfer the propulsion of your hips through your core to move your body forward!

Planking is done in two positions:


Front Plank

On the floor, brace yourself on your elbows and your knees. Don’t allow your butt to fall below the height of your shoulders and keep your head neutral (not raised up or drooping).

Hold this position for a slow count of six, then relax onto your tummy for six seconds, before pushing back into the up position again.

To start, repeat this six times (six up for six seconds, six down for six seconds).

You can help activate your core by first squeezing your fists, then your butt cheeks together, while holding the up position.


Side Plank

Lay on your side with your knees bent, in-line with your shoulders, hips slightly behind both. Slowly press your hips up toward the ceiling, until they are level with your knees and shoulders. Hold for the count of six before slowly lowering back down to the floor for the count of six. Repeat six times.

Roll over and repeat on the other side for a set of six.

Like the front plank, you can help activate your core by squeezing your fists, then butt cheeks together.

    
Standing Front & Side Plank

The nice thing about the planks is you can do these standing if it is to hard to get down on the floor. This is also a useful posture if you have shoulder problems. The counts are the same.

The further you are away from the wall, the more load on the core. When doing a side plank, place one foot in front of the other (heel to toe). Don’t forget the fists and butt cheeks!

Setting the Bar

You might be reading this blog post and thinking, “Doc, that is too easy,” or you might be thinking, “Man I can’t do that!” Either way, my question to you is: “Are you currently doing any exercise?” If you aren’t, and you think it is too easy, go ahead and start, it shouldn’t be a problem.

If you would like to take the planking exercises up a level, check out this video on McGill’s Big 3. If you aren’t currently exercising and think they may be too hard, I encourage you to give it a try anyway. If you are able to make it work on some level, you can begin to build from there. If you are having pain with the exercises, give me a call and we should be able to determine over the phone if it is just a conditioning issue or if you need to seek care. 

Truth be told, the main reason most of us don’t engage exercise is we just don’t want to take the time. If you decide you want to get going, try working with walking and planking daily or every other day for the next six weeks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised about how just moving through your day gets easier. Let me know how it is working out for you!

Yours In Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

 

By Dr. Doug Williams
March 18, 2019

We are getting close to wrapping up the series we started at the first of the year on practical ways to get and stay healthy.

Last week, we identified two high-profile targets when it comes to diet: sugar and grain/wheat. This week, we are going to start Part One of Two on the Minimum Effective Dose of Exercise.

You will recall that Minimum Effective Dose, or M.E.D., is the least amount of something needed to affect a change. That doesn’t mean that you never “amp it up,” but, often times, when we try to do too much too soon, we either get hurt or discouraged because the outcome is not meeting our expectations! If you want to really affect a permanent change, your best bet is to start with small steps and gradually increase!

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What Exactly Is Exercise?

Before we get into my recommendations for the M.E.D. on exercise (next week), I think it is important to explore what exercise actually is! The phrase “I’ll know it when I see it” is attributed to supreme court Justice Potter Stewart, in reference to a case he was reviewing. It has been used ever since to articulate that while we might not know exactly how to describe something, if we actually saw it in front of us, we would know it!

This may not always be true of exercise. For many, if you asked them to paint a picture of what exercise is, they would describe someone struggling: to lift weights, run a mile, do a push-up. But does exercise always involve struggle?

YES AND NO.


Physiologically, by definition, exercise must involve “work.” It has to cost your body something. After you pay the price, your system grows a little bit; it gets stronger, leaner, more flexible, etc. 

“Struggle” has the connotation of anguish with it. Sometimes, exercise does involve this, as in a 50-meter dash athlete giving 100% capacity in a race. But, this is probably more of a competition than exercise.  Struggle usually leaves the body completely spent, requiring days or even weeks of recovery, and carries with it, a higher risk of injury.

In effect, all competition involves struggle and work, but not all exercise involves struggle. In fact, even for very competitive athletes, they usually plan their training year around a lot of exercise sessions at a level below struggle and only participate several times a year in competitions that involve struggle. 

So, the first thing to think about, when considering the M.E.D. for exercise, is to keep most, if not all of it, at the level of work vs. struggle, at least for the first several months.

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Beyond Physiology

Dr. Sue graduated from chiropractic college in 1989. She had spent the better part of seven years busting her tail (she graduated magna cum laude, by the way!) to become one of the sharpest chiropractors I know.  I wanted to get her something special for a graduation present. You know what she wanted? A golden retriever puppy! She had never had a dog growing up and really wanted one.

We moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, shortly after she graduated and we bought a golden retriever puppy and named her K.C. (for Kansas City, where we had gone to chiropractic college).

Besides Dr. Sue, K.C. loved two things more than just about anything else: water and something in her mouth. Just west of where we lived was Horse Tooth Reservoir. We used to take K.C. to the reservoir and throw her toy out into the water as far as we could. We’d watch her swim out to get it, swim back, and drop it at our feet, then go back and stand at the water’s edge and wait to do it again. Over and over and over.  Literally, I would throw the ball until she could hardly swim back to shore, but, as soon as she made it, she would drop the ball and go back to the edge ready for more!

WAS THIS WORK? YES.

WAS THIS STRUGGLE? YES.

WAS THIS EXERCISE? YES.


Did the dog think so? No way! She just did what she loved and enjoyed every minute of it.

My point is, if you find something that you like doing, and it just happens to involve work and occasionally some struggle, you are way more likely to keep doing it over and over and over. Keep that in mind as you contemplate what type of exercise you might want to begin to engage. Next time, we are going to review two baseline practices (exercises) that form the foundation of most movement in life and support almost all the sports I can think of.

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

I have faced my fair share of diet challenges in life like most of you. One of them is the picture above: Dr. Sue is an amazing cake maker and she also makes some pretty amazing chocolate-coated strawberries!

This week, we are talking about how to apply the Minimum Effective Dose (M.E.D.) to our diets. M.E.D. is the concept of applying just enough of something to effect a positive change.

M.E.D. is really a way to get right to making changes in our lives without overthinking or planning things. Think of it as looking for the biggest bang for your buck.

WHAT IS THE LEAST I CAN DO FOR THE LARGEST OUTCOME?  


Two of the biggest culprits in the Standard American Diet are grain (including wheat and corn) and sugar.

Grain… Tastes Good But… (and hips and thighs and belly!)


There is no doubt you can go to the bookstore right now and find one magazine that promotes a diet high in complex carbohydrates (whole grain) and, right next to it, one that promotes eating grain-free (keto, paleo, etc.). I have actually written pretty extensively on this before on our blog under Paleo – Carbohydrates: What Kind and How Much?. But, for our purposes today, here are some facts about grain (wheat, corn, etc.):

  • Grains raise blood sugars
  • Grains have a high calorie count
  • Certain proteins in grain can cause inflammatory/auto immune reactions

These three issues can result in: diabetes and diabetes-related health issues, obesity, and obesity-related health issues, inflammatory diseases and symptoms (pain, stomach and gut issues, worsening fibromyalgia and arthritis, possibly lead to brain degeneration and worsening neurological issues). Some people have greater reactions than others, in terms of active disease states, but the scale doesn’t lie in terms of weight gain.

Reduce or eliminate grain in your diet = lose weight and get healthier.


M.E.D. for that right away? Every time you go to have a grain product, reduce it by half and replace it with a) nothing, b) vegetable, c) fruit. Start making your sandwich open faced, instead of with two slices of bread. Only eat one roll instead of two at dinner. Cook an egg and eat it with 1/2 your regular amount of oatmeal. Have an apple instead of a granola bar. You get the idea. In a few weeks, cut everything in half again. You’ll get used to it!

I Do Love Me Some Sugar!


The second thing I am going to suggest as a dietary M.E.D. is straight-up sugar. There are a lot of forms of sugar, but the two largest culprits in the U.S. are high-fructose corn syrup (found in pop, candy bars, ice cream, cookies, really, anything that is sweet and packaged) and table sugar (the sugar we bake with).

Sugar has two of the same issues that grains do, namely:

  • Raises your blood sugar (leads to diabetes and related disorders)
  • Has a high calorie count (leads to obesity)

In addition, while you might be able to make the case for grains having some B-vitamins (often added in) and fiber (you can get more than enough, if you eat a healthy amount of vegetables), but sugar really has no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever. I didn’t say it doesn’t taste good, just that it has no redeeming nutritional value! Any more sugar is like the surgeon general ads that warn you against smoking. Who doesn’t know that?

So, if nobody is arguing that we can benefit from reducing sugar, how can you do that? Following the “Half Approach,” outlined above in the grain section is a good start. Another simple hack would be to have a big glass of water before you’re going to partake in a sugary snack. Often times, the water will make you feel fuller and you are less likely to eat as much or at least as fast.

Finally, if you are going to eat sugar in your snack, see if you can combine it with protein or fat. This can do two things: it can slow the rate it is digested and reduce spikes in blood sugar, and the protein and fat may be more effective at making you feel full sooner, as opposed to just consuming the sugary snack alone.

Don’t Forget the 85/15 Rule!


I graduated from chiropractic college over 30 years ago (yeah, I was pretty young!). I don’t remember a lot about the ceremony, but I do remember one thing the commencement speaker said. It was something to the effect “that we had just spent a lot of time, energy, and money learning how to get sick people healthy, but not to forget to have an ice cream cone once and awhile along the way. You never now when you might step out on the street and get hit by a car, and it would be terrible if you had never had ice cream!”

Now, I really don’t want anything bad to happen to you, but I have found life a little more enjoyable when I work hard on diet and exercise 85% of the time, and take it easier 15% of the time. I think this rule can apply to food as well!

Next week, we will look at some M.E.D. recommendations on exercise.

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

If you are just joining us, we are working our way through a New Years series on a practical approach to improving the following four health parameters:

  1. Rest 
  2. Exercise
  3. Diet
  4. Sound Nervous System

We set the stage for the series by exploring Rest through the concept of Margin. Margin really gives us permission to create a space in our lives for the things that matter by starting to let go of all of the things that don’t.

Next we are going to look into exercise and diet. We are going to do that through the lens of Margin’s cousin: Minimal Effective Dose. 

If margin invites us to create a space for health in our life, Minimal Effective Dose helps us to know with what and how much to fill it.

At its simplest, Minimal Effective Dose (M.E.D.) is the least amount of something you need to take or do to see a result.

Why Start Small?

This concept came up a few weeks ago in a conversation with a friend on what constitutes a healthy diet. He and his wife started out the new year with the intention of starting to change the way they ate, in order to improve their health (weight, cancer prevention, etc.). He asked me what I thought about a particular dietary approach put forth by Dr. Steven Gundry called “The Plant Paradox.”

Dr. Gundry calls for a fairly restrictive diet, even among vegetables. I have been exposed to some of his material and I think it has merit. However, in discussing my friend’s current diet state, it made more sense to address some of the easier “soft targets” first, like total carbohydrate intake. It wasn’t that he may not get to a place where a more focused approach could improve his health. It was more a matter of what would have the greatest outcome for the least amount of energy at that point in time, especially when it actually takes a lot of energy to change large parts of our lifestyle, like how we eat.

Is There Ever a Time To Max It Out?

See if you recognize any of the following scenarios:

  1. Eat like there is no tomorrow through the holidays. Then on January 1st, throw out any remaining food that tastes good, fill the refrigerator with vegetables and the pantry with rice cakes.
  2. Realize you are turning 30-40-50-60 (insert age here) and decide to run/swim/walk/ride your age in laps or miles on your birthday, but don’t start training until a month before.
  3. Look at the calendar and freak out because your imagined Florida spring break body looks nothing like your Indiana winter one, so you embark on a Keto-plunge diet in hopes of losing 15 pounds in two weeks.

We have all been in at least one of these scenarios, probably more than once! But, is there ever a time to set big goals and go for a maximum effective dose?

I think so. But almost always the successful completion of a really big outcome is made up of multiple Minimal Effective Doses over a long period of time.

Take running a marathon, for example. A lot of people could probably go out and run/walk a 5K (3.1 miles) without doing much, if any, training. Granted, they would be sore afterward, but likely would recover without too much issue. Show up to a marathon (26.2 miles) on race day without any training and there is pretty good chance you won’t finish, and, if you do, perhaps cause some real damage!

If you aren’t inspired unless it is a really big goal, no problem!

SET A BIG GOAL, BUT STAGE YOUR “TRAINING” WITH SMALL MINIMAL EFFECTIVE DOSE BLOCKS.


This works for running a long race, losing 50 pounds or even learning a new language. It allows you continue to move towards a goal with the minimum damage and greatest likelihood of success!

(Dr. Sue and I on Sunday getting our M.E.D. exercise. It was freezing!)

Margin and Minimum Effective Dose Go Together Like Cookies and Cream!

(We will start the diet next week!)

Take the time to go back and read the last two posts on margin. You need to have some of that built in your life to succeed in making lasting change. The next few weeks, we will go over Minimum Effective Dose prescriptions for Diet and Exercise. I think you will find it worth your time!

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafeyette, Indiana