LiveWell®

Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Take time this fall to create a winter wellness plan

B30

Take time this fall to create a plan for staying physically and socially active this winter.

By Pat Vitale, LICSW

The fall season is fast upon us, and it happens to be my favorite time of year. Cool, crisp temperatures, the smell of wood burning in outdoor fireplaces, apple picking, pumpkin picking, the sounds of Friday night high school football games and other activities that bring back fond memories.

Fall also brings with it the reminder that winter is right around the corner. Like most people, I am hoping for a mild winter that won’t cause all of us to hibernate for six months only to emerge when we hear the sounds of spring.

The change to fall and winter weather can create challenges for each of us. For some, it is the lack of sunlight that is troublesome. For others, it is cold temperatures, deep snow and the need to be inside more.

Now is the best time to start thinking about what strategies you can put into place to stay healthy through the winter months ahead.

For those who are outdoor enthusiasts in the warmer months but don’t like the cold weather, perhaps you can transition some of your outdoor activities to the indoors, or try something new. Mall walking is a favorite of many people who want to continue to exercise. Perhaps taking some classes in yoga, kettlebells or Pilates is more your style.

For those who are a little more adventurous, consider trying indoor rock climbing. Whatever your choice, the most important thing to consider is: What can you do to keep your body moving and to stay off the couch?

But winter health isn’t just about finding ways to be physically active; It’s also about mental health. The weather can take its toll on people, keeping them isolated and disconnected.

We often think we get depressed because of the lack of sunlight. Perhaps we should consider that isolation may be as much of a contributor to our sadness or depression as the lack of sunlight. We can’t change the weather that we live in unless we move somewhere else. We can however find ways to stay engaged in the world and with people. Set up a book club, poker group, find a TV show you love and gather a group to watch it.

I would encourage each of you to start creating a plan now for the winter months ahead. Consider ways you can stay physically active and socially engaged. Please share your ideas here. I would love to hear them and others might benefit from them as well.

Pat Vitale is manager of training and development for integrative medicine for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.


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Why maintaining muscle is important and how to get started

Fitness training session

Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET (left) conducting a fitness training session at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.

By Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET

In a way, muscle is your body’s engine. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, the more calories you burn,  the stronger and more mobile you can be, and the more resilient you are to illness.

As we age, loss of muscle mass is inevitable. This can lead to higher total body weight with increased fat percentage or stable weight with higher fat percentage. It also may result in weakened bones, diminished mobility and a host of other issues.

People who are inactive may lose 4-7 percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 40. This could mean a more than 20 pound loss of muscle for a 160 pound person by the time they are 60 years old. Even active people may lose some muscle as they age, and muscle loss accelerates after the age of 70.

A decrease in muscle mass paired with other disease states, such as osteoporosis, can be devastating and lead to a downward spiral in health. For example, loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to a decline in function, balance and mobility. It can also lead to a fear of moving. This in turn may lead to further loss of function and falls, which often end in hospitalization.

The best way to combat muscle loss is with exercise.  Almost anyone at any age can benefit from exercise with few, if any, bad side effects. A combination of strength and aerobic activity three times per week for 20-30 minutes is adequate to maintain muscle strength and prevent some muscle loss that comes with age.

Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Keep moving and limit sitting for long periods of time if possible. Our bodies are built to move, and staying idle backfires on us.
  2. Pool exercise is an excellent starting point for both aerobic and strength work. It is also easy on the joints
  3. Use simple resistance bands or everyday items like soup cans to design a strength routine for home. In most instances, no fancy equipment is needed to add strength training into your day.
  4. If you are considering starting a strength routine for the first time and need guidance, seek out support. Consult with a physical therapist, or a trusted, credentialed athletic trainer or personal trainer.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing offers a host of programs and services to help you initiate, evaluate or progress in an exercise program.

Our highly credentialed staff of exercise physiologists, physical therapist, dieticians, nutritionists, and wellness coaches can help people of all abilities and fitness levels get going on an exercise routine.

If you have health issues or you haven’t exercised for a long time, it’s advisable to talk to your physician before beginning a new exercise routine on your own.

Gail Ericson is a physical therapist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing‘s LiveWell Fitness Center. She has 25 years of experience in exercise therapy and medical fitness. To make an appointment with her, call 612-863-5178.


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How good and bad gut bacteria can affect your health

Greg Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

Greg Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

The Star Tribune this summer explored the topic of intestinal bacteria and its relationship to health. The newspaper ran an article featuring Greg Plotnikoff, MD, a physician at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and author of “Trust Your Gut,” a book about how to deal with digestive problems.

Plotnikoff explained that our stomach bacteria can help or hurt us, depending on how we treat them. “The gut is much more of a garden than a gutter,” he said. “Our mission is to be good gardeners.”

Read the full Star Tribune article, “Scientists discover more about the battle in your belly.”

Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, is a board certified internist and pediatrician at the Penny George Institute. He is co-author of the book “Trust Your Gut,” which focuses on the science of gut-brain interactions.


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Live well, live happy: Tips for finding happiness amid hardship

Woman looking through a window

Happiness can feel out of reach when life presents great struggles. But research shows satisfaction and happiness are still possible during our dark hours.

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

This is part four in a LiveWell blog series on happiness that launched with  “Live well, live happy” in January.

Being happy can feel out of reach when life presents great struggles.

Though this feeling is valid, research shows that satisfaction and happiness are possible even in the face of difficulties, stress and trauma. Happy people are able to develop strategies for coping and weathering the storms of life.

I personally experienced this recently. I was in the hospital twice with an illness over the course of just a few weeks. While I experienced pain and stress, I also found many unexpected joys. These included giggle-filled visits with friends, tender and loving moments with my parents, and daily deliveries of all things pretty, delicious and inspirational.

Research provides some guidelines for claiming your happiness during difficult times:

  1. Your past holds many lessons that you may apply now.
  • Think back to a time when you encountered great difficulties. What got you through? What supports did you have? What strengths did you use?
  • Now consider how you changed and grew as a result of those past trials. What do you know about yourself? What motivated you?
  1. Consider the intensity of the problem you are facing.
  • To get through it, are you able to develop a plan to deal with it? If so, jump right in!
  • Is it overwhelming to even consider your problem? Then this is not the time to strategize. It is time to step back, regroup and to gather support and comfort. You may need to go for a run or you may need to tend to your spirit, but step away from the problem first for centering and calming.
  1. Be open to growth and resilience.
  • Think of resilience as the ability to hold the positive and the negative in the same space. Resilient people know that life is not one or the other, but both.
  • If you struggle with this, you could seek out help in developing resiliency within yourself. There are books on resiliency, such as “The Chemistry of Calm” and “The Chemistry of Joy” by Henry Emmons, MD. The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing also offers a Resilience Training program inspired by “The Chemistry of Joy” and Mindfulness Training classes based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living.”
  1. This is not the time to go solo.
  • Gather support and reinforcements.
    • If this is not hard for you, seek out some support.
    • If this is uncomfortable for you, consider the following:
      • When we are able to help someone, we feel great. Consider that you would be giving a friend or family member this opportunity.
      • Remember that people are not mind readers. We sometimes assume that others don’t care when in reality, they simply don’t know what we are going through. When we make our needs known, we have a much better chance of having them met.
  1. Find meaning amid hardship.
  • It is important that you find the meaning and it is not imposed on you.
  • The silver lining or meaning may not be readily apparent, but sometimes just trusting that there is meaning beyond what you are experiencing is comforting.

Remember that being happy is not a condition reserved for those without difficulties and stress. It is normal to have difficulties, and there are opportunities for joy, growth and deep connection within the dark hours.

Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.

Past entries by Mary Farrell in the Live well, Live happy series:


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Six tips for reducing school year stress

Family eating dinner together

During the school year, commit to one healthy habit like eating dinner together.

By Courtney Baechler, MD

This is one of my favorite times of year ― cool mornings followed by hot, sunny, summer afternoons and the excitement of a new school year.

While some parents feel good about this, others get anxious thinking about the faster pace of the school year ― carpools, deadlines and the possibility of more commitments.

Here are some tips to help keep you and your family healthy and to reduce stress this year:

  1. Choose one thing that your family wants to commit to, such as:
    • eating breakfast at the kitchen table instead of in the car
    • eating dinner together
    • not overcommitting
    • having dedicated family time
    • sticking to a bedtime schedule.
  2. Create your “team” of support. Just as CEOs need a lot of support to do their jobs, you as the “chief wellness officer” of your family do too. Create a list of the team members who help meet your family’s needs, along with their contact information. Keep this list in a central place so that everyone can see how to get a hold of the back-up players. Team members may include:
    • family members
    • neighbors
    • babysitters
    • kids’ club leader
    • back-up babysitters.
  3. Don’t forget about your social needs and connections. Make time for:
    • friends
    • date nights
    • activities that help you thrive, such as book clubs, exercise, and spiritual groups.
  4. Get outside. Nothing is quite as calming as being a part of nature. During the week, simply take a family walk around the block or a trip to the neighborhood park. Add in a few hikes, bike rides or canoeing trips to make the most of the beautiful and calming scenery of autumn.
  5. Say no. It’s OK to do this, and it can actually be empowering. Try to do more by doing less. Commit to and enjoy the things you are interested in doing, but don’t feel the need to do everything. You will find that you get more joy from experiencing a few things in entirety. That holds up for kids’ activities as well. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to have your kids in only a few extracurricular activities. Trust me, their futures don’t depend on being over scheduled.
  6. Limit screen time. Take a family poll and see how much time your family (including you), is spending using technology. Most families admit that these devices can eat up time. Consider setting clear limits for when and how much screen time is allowed. You don’t need to eliminate screen time entirely, but limits can have the benefits of increased movement and improved sleep.
  7. Rejuvinate on the weekends. Crazy concept, huh? Turns out weekends were never really intended for all of our errands and household chores. While I know it’s impossible to stop running errands, designate at least part of the weekend for rest and relaxation. I would argue that one of the greatest skills we can teach our children is how to relax. It turns out that it’s easier to do all the difficult things in life (choosing healthy foods, exercising, and being productive) when we return to work and school on Monday after recharging our batteries.

 

Courtney Baechler, MD, is a practicing physician with and the vice president of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She has a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

 

 


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Common questions about acupuncture and its use in treating pain

gp_acu_0931

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing offers acupuncture, group acupuncture, and other services for pain management at multiple locations.

By Michael Egan, LAc, DiplOM, MaOM, licensed acupuncturist, Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing – WestHealth

How did you get into acupuncture?

As an acupuncturist at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, this is a question I often get asked.

The answer is I discovered acupuncture as a patient. About 15 years ago, I was suffering from a severe case of tennis elbow (lateral-epicondylitis). The pain was impacting my ability to do just about anything and everything. I received a shot of cortisone that took the edge off for a short while, but then the pain reared its ugly head and it was worse than ever. So, I decided to try acupuncture.

I was treated with acupuncture and electric stimulation for about 10 visits. And I was coached to take a break from weight training and do some very gentle movements to help relax the tendons in my forearm and improve my circulation. I was encouraged to “give myself permission to heal” (a revolutionary concept for me at the time). The pain went away, the function improved, and I’ve had more than 10 years without pain.

What does acupuncture treat? What can it do for pain?

These are also common questions. While the answer to the first question is too expansive for this blog, one of the things acupuncture is most recognized for is treating chronic pain. Acupuncture is recognized as a safe and effective treatment option for conditions such as:

  • neck and back pain
  • knee pain
  • migraines/headaches
  • shoulder pain
  • arthritis pain.

It is important to remember that acupuncture is part of an ancient medical system called Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is much more that just acupuncture. Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, Tuina massage, and movement/breathing exercises such as tai chi and qi gong can also help people suffering with chronic pain.

The Penny George Institute has an amazing integrative approach to treating chronic pain that addresses the body, mind and spirit.

Approaching the treatment of chronic pain from a holistic point of view incorporates addressing the whole person, not just the symptoms. One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is the wisdom that has been compiled over 3,000 years. It encourages asking questions like: How do we nourish our lives? How do we save and preserve our health so we can live more meaningful lives?

Anyone dealing with chronic pain knows it is not only physically challenging, but it can be an emotional burden as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we address the mind and emotions, as well as the body. I work with my patients to remind them that they are not their pain, and they are not their symptoms. They are a whole person who happens to be suffering with a difficult condition.

Michael Egan, LAc, DiplOM, MaOM, sees patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – WestHealth in Plymouth. For an appointment, call 612-863-3333.

 


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Tips for shopping at the Farmers Market

Garlic

Farmer’s market tip: Talk with the people who grow the food for ideas on preparing an item.

This article ran in the summer issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

When Carolyn Denton goes to the Farmers Market, her plan is to not have a plan.

“I like to go and explore,” said Denton, who is a licensed nutritionist at the Penny George InstituteAbbott Northwestern Hospital. “We can take our cues on what we should be eating from what nature provides at each week’s market.”

“The foods we see in early spring, like salad greens, radishes, dandelion root and nettle are cleansing, and act as natural detoxifiers. Later in the summer, we have more cool and wet foods, like melon.”

Denton also enjoys the social atmosphere of the Farmers Market. “I like to talk to the people who grow the food. They will often have ideas on how to prepare an item and are happy to talk about their products.”

One of Denton’s favorite recipes using Farmers Market produce is pesto (see recipe below). While traditionally made with basil, it can also be made with almost any herb, as well as with spinach or other greens. It can be used with pasta, fish or chicken, spread on pizza crust, used as a vegetable dip or mixed with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread.

For more ideas on cooking with Farmers Market produce:

Pesto Recipe

From Spoonriver Cookbook by Brenda Langton and Margaret Stuart

2 cups slightly packed basil (or substitute arugula, spinach or parsley)
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or pistachios, sunflower seeds, almonds)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make pesto: Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts, oil and salt in blender or food processor.

Process until the pesto is smooth. Stir in the cheese.

© University of Minnesota Press
Reprinted with permission.

The Penny George Institute will be at Mill City Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis Saturday, Aug. 23. Stop by our booth and meet our practitioners.

Carolyn Denton, MA, LN, sees patients at the Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern Hospital. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.

 

 

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