Are You Cultivating Gratitude in Your Life?
by Maddie Drallmeier
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we rush to get cards, flowers, and chocolates for our loved ones. Do you get that warm, happy feeling when your significant other or family member surprises you with a token of love? We call this feeling gratitude! But what really is this feeling we call ‘gratitude’ and how can it help us live happier and healthier lives? Gratitude is characterized by two components: One, as an affirmation to ourselves that there is good out in the world and two, that the source of this goodness is from others. Together, these principles can help us to achieve happiness in our own lives!
Several studies show associations between gratitude and improvements in physical health. In one such study, heart failure patients with higher dispositional gratitude experienced improvement in their sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of cellular inflammation. Additionally, a recent finding suggests that gratitude may prevent chronic disease; subjects with stronger feelings of gratitude had lower levels of the biomarker hemoglobin HbA1c (tied to kidney diseases, cancer, and diabetes). While there are many more studies supporting its relationship with physical health, gratitude has also been associated with other individual benefits such as improved psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased occurrence of burnout, and much more! So how can you cultivate gratitude in your life?
- Tune in to positive events in everyday life
- Reflect on your gratitude in yoga and meditation
- Stay active and fit – take care of yourself and feel gratitude in your health
- Reward yourself with personal perks – massage, private sessions
- Recognize the value of friendships around us each and every day
Not sure if you are grateful? Take the Gratitude Quiz! https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/gratitude
by Maddie Drallmeier
Top Ten Tips to Avoid Getting Sick this Winter:
- Stock Up on Mittens, Socks, and Scarfs! When we are cold, our thermoregulation system keeps our core temperature elevated, but forgoes our extremities. While this is good for our vital organs, the immune defense around our extremities (like the nose and throat) are dampened and are vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria and viruses that inhabit those areas. Therefore, keeping our hands, feet, and neck warm will help keep our immune system fighting off those illness-causing germs!
- Add Raw Organic Honey to Your Diet! Raw organic honey has been shown to have many benefits, such as being antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and to have wound healing properties. Plus, it’s delicious!
- Stress Less! When stressed, the body produces the hormone cortisol, which can inhibit the immune system. This means you’re are more likely to get sick during times of high stress (like the holidays!).
- Exercise! Not only is exercise good for you in general, but it can help you relieve stress and decrease your cortisol levels. Even if you do become sick, exercising can help boost your immune system (Do not go to the gym if you have a fever!).
- Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! This is a cliché, but for a good reason! Your body NEEDS fluids! Especially when you run a fever, more water is lost and you can become dehydrated quickly. Keep hydrated by carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go!
- Eat a Balanced Diet! I’m sure everyone is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, right? 😉 By fueling you body correctly, your body will be better prepared to fight off germs! This means eating nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, wholesome grains, and getting 40-60 grams of quality protein.
- Get Enough Sleep! Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. However, in general people need 7-10 hours of sleep each night. When sleeping, our body recovers from the day, both mentally and physically. When we don’t get those needed hours of rest, our immune system is compromised and leave us susceptible to germs.
- Disinfect your Smart Phones! I’m sure we all know that washing our hands is a good idea. But our devices? Just think about where your phone has been! Studies have shown that phones can harbor more (both in number and diversity) bacteria than a toilet seat. An easy way to disinfect your phone is wiping it down with some rubbing alcohol.
- Avoid Excessive Alcohol! Having a drink or two isn’t going to make you sick, but drinking excessive amounts (or when you think you may be susceptible to getting sick) won’t help you stay healthy this winter! When drinking, your body temperature drops and your immune system is dampened.
- Get your Flu Shot! The best defense against the flu is to expose your body to an inactive (aka-dead) piece of flu virus so that your body can make antibodies against it. Feeling sick after getting the flu shot? This period post- flu shot is called the ‘inoculation period.’ Your body does have an immune reaction to the virus, but it should subside after a few days. Additionally, the flu vaccine is what scientists assume the flu virus strain will look like that season, so you can still get sick after getting the shot. However, your chances are BETTER if you do get the flu shot.
The Health Benefits of Turmeric:
by Maddie Drallmeier
You may know of turmeric from its vibrant yellow hue or as the main spice that makes up curry. If you haven’t heard of turmeric, it is a spice native to South/Southeast Asia that has been used for thousands of years, both for culinary and medicinal purposes. However, within the last 20 years, research has exploded and several studies point to the many health benefits of turmeric. Read more below about some of the more prominent results from these studies.
What is curcumin?
The primary compound in turmeric responsible for its health benefits is curcumin. This compound is highly biologically active and has been found to interact with many molecular targets and pathways. As a result, curcumin has been shown to have beneficial effects in neurological disorders, chronic heart diseases, inflammatory diseases, and certain cancers.
Benefits in Neurological Disorders:
Curcumin is classified as a polyphenol, a plant-derived compound, that has demonstrated abilities such as improving neural plasticity and cognitive function, battling oxidative stress, and exhibiting neuroprotective properties1. Several studies support a diet rich in polyphenols (colorful fruits, vegetables, and spices) to help protect the brain from oxidative-stress related damage and degeneration. Additionally, picking polyphenols that can cross the blood brain barrier, like curcumin, are especially neuroprotective1. Curcumin has also been studied in connection with neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, and depression. For example, in a study using a rat model of depression, the administration of curcumin significantly suppressed depression-like behavior and prevented further deterioration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF; responsible for normal maintenance, survival, growth, and differentiation of neurons) levels in the brain1.
Benefits in Inflammatory Diseases:
Research behind the molecular mechanisms of curcumin have demonstrated its ability to downregulate inflammatory cytokines, enzymes, and transcription factors. Knowing this, studies have been performed to explore its effects in inflammatory diseases such as bronchial asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. One study found that curcumin was effective in improving the function of arthritic knee joints and reducing pain (comparable to ibuprofen)2.
Benefits in Cardiovascular Disease:
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause for mortality worldwide. Many people take pharmaceuticals to cope with CVD, however they come with a myriad of side effects. Therefore, curcumin has been studied as a way to mediate CVD. Cholesterol imbalances are often associated with CVD. In one study, curcumin administration revealed to effectively lower total cholesterol levels, particularly by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL-bad cholesterol)3. Another study demonstrated that after 12 weeks of curcumin intake, high-density lipoprotein (HDL-good cholesterol) levels were elevated while LDL levels were decreased3.
Cancer Prevention and Pain Alleviation:
The effects of curcumin have been investigated in several different types of cancer, such as colorectal, stomach, breast, pancreatic, and cervical cancers. These studies often demonstrated curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects, as well as some chemopreventative properties (ability to inhibit tumor growth). In one such study designed to determine the effect of curcumin therapy, patients with solid tumors (i.e. colorectal, breast, sarcoma, etc.) exhibited a significant decrease of systemic inflammation and improved quality of life4.
If you are currently taking medications such as:
- Blood thinners (Coumadin, Plavix, or Asprin)
- Drugs that reduce stomach acid (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Nexium, Prevacid)
- Drugs for (type-2) diabetes that lower blood sugar
Then medicinal turmeric or curcumin (not including turmeric ingested from food) should be avoided as it may interfere with the action of drugs listed above5.
As always, consult your physician before taking any supplement!
1Gomez-Pinilla, Fernando, and Trang T J Nguyen. “Natural Mood Foods: The Actions of Polyphenols against Psychiatric and Cognitive Disorders.” Nutritional Neuroscience, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3355196/.
2Kuptniratsaikul, V, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Curcuma Domestica Extracts Compared with Ibuprofen in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis: a Multicenter Study.” Clinical Interventions in Aging., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20 Mar. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24672232.
3Kunnumakkara, A B, et al. “Curcumin, the Golden Nutraceutical: Multitargeting for Multiple Chronic Diseases.” British Journal of Pharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27638428.
4Panahi, Y, et al. “Adjuvant Therapy with Bioavailability-Boosted Curcuminoids Suppresses Systemic Inflammation and Improves Quality of Life in Patients with Solid Tumors: a Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Phytotherapy Research : PTR., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24648302.
5Ehrlich, Steven D. “Possible Interactions with: Turmeric.” Penn State Hershey Health Information Library, 5 Jan. 2015, pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000932.
John and Nelson’s Corner: The Challenge of Staying in Shape Over the Winter
If you are reading this blog you probably know what winter is like in Michigan:
Winter is the season when some of our best intentions to stay fit are swept aside by our complacency. You know the symptoms/excuses: “It’s too cold to run.” “It’s too dark for a walk.” “My gym is too crowded, hot, cold, far away, etc, etc.” Or, if you are honest with yourself, “I am too cozy at home, why venture out?”
Then suddenly it’s spring again and you find you’ve lost most, if not all of the fitness you worked so hard to achieve. Now you are back to zero and worse you have also put on a few pounds.
Here are some suggestions that will help you deal with the inconvenience of winter:
- If you are a runner and would like to continue to run outside, get the right gear to sustain outdoor runs on cold days. Today’s cold weather gear is terrific. If you need help just ask the trainers at Imagine, especially Nelson, he will have an answer for you.
- Join a good fitness facility, Imagine comes to mind, and use it regularly. Make it a priority.
- Use the treadmills and stepper machines when the footing is poor outside.
- Lengthen your workouts in winter to compensate for the lower overall winter activity level so you don’t gain weight. For example, gardening/walking in the summer is a great way to keep gain weight in check.
- Take a weekly cycling class to supplement your aerobic routine. This is a challenging way to maintain aerobic fitness and burn calories in the company of other, similarly-minded people. Plus it’s fun! Join Jackie and her troupe and you will see what I am talking about. You’ll have fun and she will work you hard.
- Experiment with different workouts to challenge different muscles. Take classes from a variety of trainers, you will find that each one has their own spin and favorites. Of course Jeff Barnett has the best stories and Margo is Margo, she has it all.
- Take some fitness classes, like circuit training or yoga. Here again you will find that each teacher is different but very good. For advanced yoga try Wendy or Sandra.
- Set a goal to do a 5K in early spring something you’ve always wanted to do, but were never prepared for after a long winter. Just talk to Nelson he will get you ready.
Winter in Michigan can be a challenge, but this year, let it be just another bump in the road that you navigate on your path to life-long good health and fitness.
John and Nelson's Corner: Testing Yourself
Challenges, Goals and Expectations…
Just over a year ago I started teaching a fitness class at Imagine Fitness and Yoga.
The class is at 6am, so I had to keep it interesting!
After a few weeks of working out, I decided to test the class just for fun. Actually I had reasons for doing that.
- Establish a baseline for each person. In other words, determine what each person is capable of doing at this stage.
- I wanted the group to have fun, but also create a level of competitiveness.
- Lastly, I wanted them to know that they can make progress and that progress mattered to me.
To accomplish the above I selected a set of exercises that each person had to do; for example: Push-ups, pull-ups, plank, jump rope and so on. I also recorded what each person did that day.
This test was not met with a lot of enthusiasm at first, but the class quickly “got into it”. Weeks after I posted the initial results, I noticed a marked increase in the group’s effort level overall.
Last week, I had the class complete the same test again. This time I added a 1 mile run to the warmup. Not surprisingly, at least to me, everyone improved from their baseline performance on each test. I also felt an increase in the energy level from every participant.
The class really started appreciating the rewards of their hard work. The run prior to the test also had an interesting effect on the group. Running was suddenly not so intimidating. Their goal now is a 5K race as a team in a few weeks. Should be fun.
This example illustrates how adding some challenge to a routine workout can help participants recognize their progress and encourage them to keep going and improving.
A good fitness regimen is diverse and offers many activities in which improvement can be measured. Once you have decided on your program, establish a baseline of your capability for each activity. Check your progress every 10 to 12 weeks. With regular (3X/week) exercise, you should expect from 10% to about 30% improvement over your baseline in 3 months.
While you adjust to your new workout regimen try not to compare your performance to anyone else. Remember everyone responds differently to training. It is important that you keep some records as you progress to remind yourself how far you have come! Last but not least, never, ever stop trying to improve and always have fun.
Running Your First 5K
Dexter Ann Arbor is a little less than four weeks away – can you feel the excitement? No? Well, I can. It may be a little late to start training effectively for the half-marathon if you’re new to running, but fear not – there’s always the 5k.
Hmm. That cheer of enthusiasm sounded an awful lot like a groan of despair. But trust me, 5K races are so much fun you’ll actually find yourself wanting to exercise more. Strange, I know, but true.
Taking part in a 5K is an amazing experience – and not just because of the running. 5Ks are everywhere these days. The races are incredibly festive, like one big athletic carnival, with runners in colorful outfits, booths set up to show off cool new gear and nutritious food, and crowds of friends and family and random spectators there to join in the fun.
And then there’s the run itself. Completing your first race gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment and purpose, whether you come in first or finish 20 minutes behind everyone else.
Life these days can be pretty uncertain – just look at the politics in Washington – and who knows what next week will be like, much less tomorrow. But finishing a 5K gives you a sense of control, of confidence. You set yourself a goal, and you accomplish it.
Once you do that, you feel like you can do anything.
But as cool and accessible as a 5K is, preparation is still important. We are, after all, talking about a little over three miles. It still is a good idea to take some specific steps to get ready for your first race, which may require a solid 30-35 minutes of jogging at a steady pace.
This plan will get you ready to run a 5K with four weeks of training. Because time is limited, we’re going to focus less on speed and more on building endurance.
Week 1: Guess what? We’re only running four days this week! Do three miles a day, the first mile running, the second walking, and the third running again. Total miles: 12. If this sounds too much to you, then run a half-mile and walk a half mile instead of one mile. Total is still 12 miles.
Week 2: We’re still only running four days this week, but we’re upping the mileage on two of them. On days one and three, do a total of four miles – running the first mile, walking the second, then running two more. On days two and four stick with the same plan as last week. Total miles: 14.
Week 3: This week we’ll add a mile to days two and four as well. So each day you’ll run one mile, walk one mile, then run two more. Total miles: 16.
Week 4: This week we reduce the walking. On days one and three, run three miles in a row. Keep days two and four the same as last week, running one mile, walking one, then running two more. Total miles: 14.
Option 2: Don’t increase the miles, just keep it at 12 each week.
Tips for Race Day:
* Before the race, jog slowly for 10 minutes to warm-up. Do some gentle stretching. It will get your heart rate up and muscles loose.
* When the gun goes off, don’t start off fast with the masses. If you expend too much energy at the start, it’ll be harder to finish strong. Start conservatively and push hard in the last half of the race.
* Have fun!
John and Nelson's Corner: Fitness and Persistence
Have you ever met someone who says they want to be out of shape? Of course not – we all at least say we want to be fit.
Well, there is actually a trick, a single word that’s not exactly magic, but comes pretty close. I’m talking about persistence.
I want to share with you a few of my friends who embraced that simple word and accomplished everything they wanted.
Larry Eiler is a successful businessman I met 35 years ago, when he and his wife came to my dental office. His wife, Sandy, passed away unexpectedly a couple of years ago. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult on Larry.
One day I invited him to come to Imagine. Larry was trying to lose a few pounds, and also embrace life after his devastating loss. I introduced him to one of our trainers, Natalie. Before I knew it, Larry had lost ten pounds and was coming in all the time.
“I feel great,” he told me with a big smile. “I was just at my cardiologist and he told me I was in the best shape I’ve been in in 35 years.”
I loved Larry’s enthusiasm. He’s been working out daily, seven days a week, for an hour at a time, and watching his diet too. He feels fantastic and has a whole new lease of life. Persistence.
Then there’s Heinz Grassl. I’ve known Heinz since our days as undergrads in aerospace at Michigan. I won’t even tell you how long ago that was because I really don’t remember.
Heinz was active, played volleyball at a competitive level, and loved a stiff Manhattan after work. As he aged, his love for Manhattans increased and his volleyball faded.
Heinz is one of my best friends and I want him to stick around for as long as possible, so I kept encouraging him to take up yoga to improve his flexibility, balance and overall health. He finally signed up for a class with Sam – in fact, he was Sam’s first student at Imagine when we opened. He struggled, but Sam was patient, he had her full attention.
To my amazement, Heinz stuck with it, and soon Sam’s class started attracting more and more people. It’s now the most popular class at Imagine. The students love yoga and they love Sam – and they also love to party.
Heinz himself is an expert at parties, having run a business with me years ago called Parties Unlimited. Yes, this was an actual thing. A well-kept secret you should definitely ask Heinz about.
Heinz now takes two yoga classes and two fitness classes a week. Parties or no. Every time I see Heinz, he’s upbeat, all smiles, and looks fit, very fit in fact. I’ve known Heinz for years, and he’s never been dull, but I must admit I’ve never seen him quite this energetic.
Two weeks ago Heinz told me that he’s even been encouraging his sister in Germany to start working out, and she finally has. Heinz has become a fitness crusader. I love it.
Persistence, persistence, persistence.
I could stop here, but let me tell you two more quick stories.
Kit Howard – a patient of mine I’ve known for about twenty years.
She’s extremely bright, smart and entertaining, and one day she came to a yoga class at Imagine – and promptly left a few minutes later. I didn’t think she’d ever come back. Boy, was I wrong.
Now I see Kit often at yoga classes, fitness and cycling classes. She’s attended all of Jackie and Natalie’s presentations on nutrition and never hesitates to add her two cents worth. She’s definitely taught me a thing or three.
Lastly, there’s Victoria Paye, whom I met a year ago at Imagine. Victoria is in her early 30s, and the first time I saw her in Nelson’s fitness class, she couldn’t do one push-up.
How times have changed. Now she can hit at least ten push-ups, her form in planks is something to admire, and she can hold one for at least two minutes. And her yoga? I’m glad you asked. I saw her taking Wendy’s class, and for those of you who don’t know, Wendy is a tough teacher. She does not mess around. Well, neither does Victoria. She was more than holding her own. Who knows? Maybe she’ll be teaching one day.
Like I said, it all comes down to that one magic word – persistence. All four of these people found their path to persistence at Imagine. And trust me, you can too.
John and Nelson’s Corner: If You Can’t Run, Walk
I’ve known Nelson for 25 years.
I met him one hot day in July 1991 while I was out running. I was on West Liberty, less than a mile from home, when I saw him running towards me. I waved, and he waved back. I could tell he was the friendly type so I yelled, “How far are you going?”
“Three or four miles!” he shouted.
I crossed the street and added a few more miles to my run.
We talked and ran, talked some more and kept running. Actually, now that I think about it, he did most of the talking. Of course, Nelson’s version is that I left him out to die while I headed home.
Since that day I’ve run more miles with Nelson than anyone else.
That’s not why I’m writing this “Corner” though. I’m writing this because even though Nelson is my best running buddy, he’s also the person who got me interested in walking.
Nelson believes in walking as a way to stay fit and healthy, lose weight and just stay upbeat. For years, he’s done everything he could to get his coworkers to go on walks, even if it’s just a few minutes during their lunch-break.
In fact, he’s so passionate about walking, here he is with a few exhortations of his own:
Hi guys, Nelson here. And yes, John really did leave me to die on that very first day.
If you’re trying to jump-start a healthier lifestyle, walking is a great way to go. Here are a few easy goals to set for yourself:
- Start today by committing to walk at least 20 minutes a day. (Schedule a meeting with yourself if needed to block out the time.)
- Put on some comfortable shoes, and get out the door. Walk at a comfortable pace. No need to hurry.
- Walk for 10 minutes and then walk back.
- Repeat this daily – that’s right, every day.
- Over time try to go a bit longer until you can go out 30 minutes on some days. This will give you about one hour of walking and about 3 miles of aerobic exercise.
To check your progress, note where you turn around at 10 minutes for the first week or so. You’ll find that in time you will cover more distance as your aerobic fitness and strength improve.
I promise you’ll feel better and will notice a significant increase in energy after only a few weeks!