LiveWell®

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


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LiveWell blog experts now found on Allina Health’s Healthy Set Go

Training for a 5K or looking to increase your daily steps? Gail Ericson, MS, PT, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing shares the pros and cons of using a fitness tracker to meet your health goals at Healthy Set Go.

Gail Ericson, MS, PT, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing shares the pros and cons of using a fitness tracker to meet your health goals at Healthy Set Go.

This is the last post of the LiveWell blog, but it is not the last post for practitioners of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

They will be offering the same great, wellness and prevention expertise with a holistic twist at Allina Health’s new digital destination Healthy Set Go.

This new digital hub offers health advice, tips, recipes and inspiration from Allina Health experts, including Penny George Institute practitioners, along with other primary care doctors, specialists, physical therapists, nurses and more. Healthy Set Go covers these topics:

  • Nourish: Tips and recipes for healthy eating.
  • Move: Inspiration and how-to articles to get moving.
  • Thrive: Support and insight for mental and emotional well-being.
  • Heal: Knowledge to deal with illness.
  • Prevent: Information to prevent illness and injury.
  • Care: Advice to care for yourself and others at life’s unique stages.

Here are just a few new stories by Penny George Institute practitioners that you can find on Healthy Set Go:

Thank you for reading the LiveWell blog and enjoy Healthy Set Go. As T.S. Elliot said, “… to make an end is to make a beginning.”


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How to break down your barriers to exercising, eating healthy and other health goals

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

February is a time when many people find their New Year’s resolutions are waning. If you are one of these people, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of resolutions fail.

Too often, it can feel like the obstacles you face to accomplishing a resolution are insurmountable. But there things you can do to break down these barriers.

Here are some tips for busting barriers:

  1. Have a plan and a backup plan.
    • Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time dependent). If your goal is simply to “eat better,” dig into what that means by creating a SMART goal.
    • Plan ahead. Maybe that means putting meditation time on your scheduler, keeping your gym clothes handy, or taking time each week to draw up a healthier meal plan. This takes a few extra moments on the front end, but will save you frustration on the back end.
    • Know your backup plan. For example, keep healthy snacks on hand in case you don’t have time for lunch. If you exercise outside, have an indoor workout in mind for when the weather is bad.
  1. Know your barriers and break them down. To figure out what your barriers are, fill in the blank: “I’m too _______________ to exercise/manage stress/eat right, etc.”One common answer is, “I’m too busy.” If this is the case:
    • Look at your schedule for a week. Does it reflect your values? Is there time anywhere to fit in your health goal?
    • What is the least amount you could do to meet your goal? Perhaps 10 minutes of walking? 5 minutes of meditation? Bringing a healthy lunch 3 days a week?
    • Consider if you been able to accomplish your healthy change in the past. If you have, think about how you did it. What support did you have? What else enabled you to meet this goal?
  1. Resist “all or nothing” thinking. This kind of thinking can cripple the best intentions. You may be succumbing to this if you hear yourself saying things like, “I blew my diet at lunch, so I’ll just start again tomorrow,” or “I can’t get to the gym today, so I’ll just skip my workout today.”If you are prone to this kind of thinking:
    • Envision what it will feel like to take a step in the right direction. What would that do for your confidence?
    • Remind yourself that every little bit counts. Repeat that phrase as often as necessary.
    • Consider what happens when you do too much too soon? Could you sustain it?
  1. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. We are a society that values independence, but when it comes to lifestyle changes, going it alone can be a recipe for failure. To deal with this, consider what good support would look like for you: a buddy? a class? a coach? an online community?

Regardless of the barriers you face, tackling them with intention and honesty will pay big rewards.

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.


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Build your brain power through exercise

Believe it or not, exercise builds brain power in a way that not even thinking does. Exercise seems to positively change the brain, and slow or reverse its physical decay.

Studies show that exercise:

  • builds a brain that resists physical shrinkage
  • enhances cognitive flexibility
  • increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain
  • aids your body’s release of a surplus of hormones, which supports the growth of brain cells
  • stimulates brain plasticity by repairing old connections and stimulating new connections between brain cells.

Many studies suggest that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus to those who don’t.

Exercise also has benefits for our mental well-being. For example:

  • The “runners high” is associated with a drop in stress hormones.
  • Another effect of running is more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Interestingly, antidepressant medications also work by stimulating the growth of neurons in the hippocampus. At times exercise is even prescribed as an antidepressant “medication” with positive side effects unlike most medications.
  • Exercise may help improve sleep and mood, and help reduce stress and anxiety.

Here are some tips for exercising to boost your brain power:

  • Try activities with both physical and mental demands, such as ballroom dancing and martial arts. The best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm and strategy.
  • More intense exercise usually provides more benefits. However, if you are just starting to exercise, it is important to work your way up to higher intensity work outs to avoid setbacks and injuries.
  • Exercise in the morning. Exercise before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses, but also increases retention of new information and improves your ability to react to complex situations.
  • The amount of exercise required to see benefits is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (think walking) most days of the week or 150 minutes a week. If that seems overwhelming, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by 5-10 minutes every week. If you don’t like to walk, any activity that gets your heart rate up will achieve positive benefits for your brain.

Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising, and the best thing you can do is avoid physical inactivity. Whatever exercise you choose, commit to establishing exercise as a habit, almost like taking a prescription medication. After all, they say that exercise is medicine.

Steve Moore, MS, is an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. He is available for exercise physiology consultations, fitness assessments and personal training appointments. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment.


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Women’s wellness: Embracing change

This article originally ran in the Fall 2014 issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Nancy Van Sloun, MD, advises women to recognize the importance of balance and to be deliberate about building it into their lives.

Nancy Van Sloun, MD, advises women to recognize the importance of balance and to be deliberate about building it into their lives.

If Nancy Van Sloun, MD, could get one message across to all women, it would be this: Love the body you’ve been given.

In appreciating your body, Van Sloun, an integrative medicine doctor at the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing-WestHealth, believes you are more likely to take care of it.

And rather than seeing aging and different stages of life as something to fear, Van Sloun advises women to embrace their life’s path. “It’s easy to focus too much on how we look,” she said. “Instead, we should be thinking about what’s next on our life’s journey: How can we best go through it, remain content and do the things that are most important to us?” Van Sloun identified some ways that women can live well throughout their lives.

Twenties and thirties

Whether or not you have children, this is a time when finding balance in your life can be a challenge. Van Sloun encourages women to recognize the importance of balance and to be thoughtful about building it into their lives. “Know what it is that fills you back up, and be deliberate about making time for it,” she said.

If you are planning a pregnancy, check in with your doctor to see what you should do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Talk about whether vitamins and supplements might be helpful, and discuss any pregnancy risks you may face. If you already have children, remember that you’re a role model. “How kids eat, how physically active they are and how they respond to stress is reflected in what they see in you,” said Van Sloun. “Give your kids the gift of modeling a healthy lifestyle.”

Forties

Changes in your menstrual cycle and mood may be signs of peri-menopause. “These changes are easy for some women and harder for others, but overall, women tend to do better if they are exercising and eating a plant-based, whole food diet,” said Van Sloun.

Because we all lose muscle mass as we age, Van Sloun recommends that women include strength training in their exercise routine. “Maintaining muscle mass also makes weight gain less likely,” she said.

This is also a time when your family life may be changing. “It’s time to refocus on yourself and think about what’s next in your life,” said Van Sloun. Don’t overlook the emotional and spiritual components of health. “Maintaining social connections and having a sense of purpose is important to your health. If your focus has been on your kids or your job and that’s changing, you may need to cultivate new interests.”

Fifties and beyond

As we age and after we go through menopause, we are at higher risk for many diseases. At the same time, women are living longer after menopause. These are two important reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.

While women tend to focus on breast cancer, heart disease is a much bigger threat. “As much as 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented through modifying our lifestyles,” said Van Sloun.

With a longer life expectancy, you want to age well, said Van Sloun. “Investing now in eating an optimal diet, staying active and learning how to handle stress will reap benefits as you get older.”

 

Nancy Van Sloun, MD, sees patients at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – West Health in Plymouth. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.

 


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Live well, live happy: how exercise increases happiness

Even a small amount of exercise can make a difference in your happiness and health.

Even a small amount of exercise can make a difference in your happiness and health.

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

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

I am excited to share more great news about happiness. As noted previously, most happiness comes not from our circumstances, but from how we think and what we do given our circumstances.

Recently my mother has experienced joint inflammation and pain. She had to cut back on activities, including running around with her grandchildren. I was able to recommend to her a supervised, gentle exercise program. After just a few weeks, she is moving better and is also experiencing a shift in her mood. Her confidence has grown, she feels more hopeful and optimistic, and the return of her joyous laughter makes everyone around her smile.

My mother is experiencing what Sonja Lyubomirsky describes in her seminal publication, “The How of Happiness.” She says “exercise is the single best thing that you can do to improve your happiness.”

Documented benefits of activity include:

  • Enhanced ability to manage stress—Exercise releases norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the body’s stress response.
  • A boost in “happy chemicals”—Exercise releases endorphins, which produce a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Additionally, exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety and can sometimes be just as effective as anti-depressants in treating depression.
  • A profound positive effect on your brain—Exercise helps create new brain cells and protects certain brain structures, thereby sharpening memory and focus, and preventing cognitive decline.
  • Improved self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Increased focus, creativity and energy.

Despite these benefits, you may still have obstacles to building more movement into your life. These tips may help.

  1. Fill in the blank: “I’m too ________ to exercise.” Is it busy? Tired? Old? Overwhelmed? Understanding your primary barrier will help you to work through it.
  • If you are too busy, what is the smallest amount that you could do?
  • If you are tired, experiment with just a bit of activity and see if you get an energy boost.
  • If you are prone to black and white thinking, i.e. “unless I am running, I may as well not bother,” know that research overwhelmingly shows the benefit of even a small amount of movement.
  1. Understand your exercise personality and preferences.
  • Do you love the great outdoors or prefer the climate-controlled comfort of your home?
  • Do you crave time alone or do you do best when with others?
  • Do you prefer joining a class or sports team, or is it easiest to weave in movement during your day?
  1. Start slow, be gentle and build gradually.

Even if it has been a while since you’ve been active, it is never too late to start, or restart. Here’s to happiness through movement!

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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A talk on managing menopause with Dr. Debra Bell and Nutritionist Sue Moores

Debra Bell, MD, will talk about holistic approaches to managing menopause with Nutritionist Sue Moores at an October event in Minneapolis.

Debra Bell, MD, will talk about holistic approaches to managing menopause with Nutritionist Sue Moores at an October event in Minneapolis.

In last week’s LiveWell blog entry, Busting Menopause Myths, we dispelled some menopause misconceptions. We also offered a few holistic tips for managing symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes and sleeplessness.

Later this month, Debra Bell, MD, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, and Sue Moores, a nutritionist with Kowalki’s Market, will team up to tackle this topic in person at An Integrative Approach to Managing Menopause. Attend to learn how to deal with symptoms through diet and integrative wellness strategies. Discover which foods trigger symptoms and which can help boost metabolism. Come with questions, and walk away with tips for being well.

The Kowalski’s event will be held Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, from 6:30-8 p.m. in Minneapolis at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, which is across from Kowalski’s Parkview Market.

Learn more or register here.

 


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Busting menopause myths

WomensHealth

Healthy living – exercise, sleep, good nutrition, and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine – is the first step in managing the symptoms of menopause, according to Debra Bell, MD, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

This article will run in the upcoming issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Contrary to popular belief, menopause isn’t just about estrogen.

In reality, there are many hormones involved, including several types of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and pregnenolone. Aging can affect other hormones as well, such as those that control metabolism and other body functions.

Another misperception about menopause is that it reflects a hormone imbalance. “Menopause is not a state of imbalance, and it is not a disease. It is a state of change,” said Debra Bell, MD, an integrative medicine doctor at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Adding to this complexity, fluctuations in hormone levels affect women differently. In fact, the severity of menopause symptoms is not directly related to an individual’s hormone levels. That’s why Bell does not routinely check hormone levels when a woman is experiencing symptoms.

But this does not mean women have to simply endure menopause.

Bell said her goal is to help women go through this change with the least amount of symptoms. “What we do depends on what else they are doing in their lifestyle and what their symptoms are.”

While hormone replacement may have a role in helping some women, “I think it’s important to not just focus on hormone replacement,” said Bell. She recommends that women take a more holistic approach.

“Healthy living is the first step: exercise, sleep, good nutrition, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine. For many women, this is enough to keep their symptoms in check. For others for whom that’s not enough, there are many treatments that can help,” said Bell.

That includes dietary supplements, herbal preparations, acupuncture, mind-body techniques and more. For example, Bell often prescribes black cohosh and vitex to treat hot flashes, anxiety and other symptoms. “Herbals often work together synergistically, so we put different herbs together to address different symptoms,” she said. Before considering herbs or supplements, it is best to check with a health care practitioner.

Bell encourages women to view menopause as a new stage of life and to be open to adapting to it. “This is more about a process than a quick fix. We should be thinking about what we can do to be healthy at different stages of our lives.”

Going through menopause? Help yourself with these tips:

• Eat wholesome foods.
• Avoid sweets, alcohol and caffeine.
• Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.
• Try yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
• Try acupuncture.

If you do not have other medical problems and are not taking prescription medicines, consider supplements or herbal remedies that are formulated to address menopause symptoms. These should be purchased from a reputable natural foods store.

Consult with an integrative medicine provider if:
• Your symptoms are very disruptive and make you uncomfortable.
• Your symptoms are affecting your sleep, your work life or your relationships.
• You have tried addressing the symptoms on your own without success.
• You are not sure if your symptoms are related to menopause or to something else.

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis. For appointments, call 612-863-3333. See her profile at wellness.allinahealth.org/bell.