Suns Out, Guns Out

Summer. That wonderful time of year when there are no pencils, no books, and no more teacher’s dirty looks. There is such beautiful weather that comes out to play and we tend to enjoy it through barbecues, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and more. However, where there is summer, there is prolonged time outdoors under the sun, and skin protection is often overlooked.

summer

Skin protection is a very important part of health and wellness, but typically neglected. How many of us neglect our skin in the summer? I know I sometimes do. Sure, we take care of our skin every other part of the year with moisturizers and exfoliation, but when the sun comes out, and the shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits come on, sunscreen rarely touches our skin. ‘Why’, you may ask. Because we want to be tan. Tan, tan, tan. Having golden, bronzed skin is a sign of healthy skin, right? Who wants to be pale? Not me! I look forward to summer all year because I get to lay out and get a nice new hue.

Our skin health should never be pushed aside for a tan, though. There are serious risks and dangers that can come from long-term sun exposure. The most obvious of these is skin cancer.

There are 3 types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancer is usually caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays that are emitted from the sun. There are 3 types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is the most common type of emission and it can penetrate an individual’s layers of skin and damage connective tissue, which increases risk of skin cancer. UVB is less common because some of it is absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer; it does help produce vitamin D in the body, but too much can still cause skin damage. UVC is entirely absorbed by the ozone layer.

It is important to protect your skin and here are some ways to do it:

  • Wear sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher year round, even on cloudy or hazy days.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs, and wear a hat, especially one that covers your ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning beds! They are not worth the potential risks and skin damage.

If you do spend time outdoors, make sure to check your skin periodically using the ABCDE guide:

skin cancer pic

Definitely be sure to see your dermatologist at least once a year, or if you suspect skin damage. Summer is a wonderful time of year, but make sure that you first focus on skin protection so that you will be able to continue your outdoor activities for many years to come!

 

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Don’t Be That Girl…

Don’t be that girl at the gym.

Trust me, I used to be one of these people, and sometimes I still am. I’m not trying to put these ladies down. I just think we need to be more enlightened about gym etiquette and some of the gym stereotypes we may be reinforcing.

Don’t be this girl at the gym:

  • The Cardio Bunny: I’m looking at you girl who walks in, jumps on the elliptical or treadmill, pounds out 45-60 minutes, changes and then goes home. Cardiovascular exercise is absolutely wonderful for you. It strengthens your heart and lungs, increases brain productivity, and helps lower risks for heart disease and stroke. But if that is all that you are doing, then you are doing yourself a disservice. You’re lacking a very crucial aspect of exercise: resistance-training. And you are simultaneously reinforcing the stereotype that woman are afraid to lift heavy weights. Please stop doing cardio everyday and never going near the weight rack. Burning 400 calories everyday with cardio, and never putting on muscle (which burns calories by the way), will only go so far.
  • The Pink Dumbbells Girl: It’s a running joke that woman walk over to lift a few weights, to ya know, get toned like the celebrity on the cover of that magazine, and what do they reach for? The 8 lb. dumbbells. Maybe 10 lbs. Anything more intense will make you bulky and manly. I’m not saying this stereotype applies to all girls, but this theology is so wrong on so many levels. Ladies, please listen to me! Lifting weights will not make you bulky! You do not have enough testosterone in your body and you do not drink enough supplements to put on that type of mass. But you want to have nice muscle definition? Lifting light weights with no phase training or plan will get you nowhere and you are just wasting your time. You need to lift heavy at least twice a week, and you’ll watch the strength and beautiful muscles emerge.
  • The Beauty Queen: You see her as she walks in. Beautifully curled or straightened hair with blinding shine, enough mascara to weigh the eyelids down, gloss on the lips, and maybe some light pink blush to give that “just worked out” look. Just when you think she might start bursting into a sweat, she sets the treadmill to 3 mph and proceeds to walk for the next 30 minutes. She looks beautiful, so graceful up there, but it’s too perfect… Ladies, no one cares what you look like at the gym. Let me repeat that: no one cares. Sorry if that’s harsh, but this is not the time to be your best looking or trying to impress that hottie you spotted. Exercising should be about your health, fitness, and overall well-being, not about what others think about you. People at the gym will be far more impressed with a sweaty mess busting out some sprints on the treadmill or going for a one rep max on the bench press than they ever will with what you look like at that moment. And when you work hard and consistently in the gym, you’ll look good all the time.

woman-exercising-towel

  • The Chatty Kathy: Woman love to talk. It’s in our DNA. And when we get around some of our closest friends the good times roll and we can laugh and talk about anything and everything. Catching up on life is fun and having a workout partner is great, but remember what you are at the gym for: to exercise. This is not social hour. If you go to the gym and end up talking on or near a machine the whole time, you are wasting yours and everyone’s time. Do not ever sit or stand on equipment and just talk. It’s rude. You had better be doing something with that equipment or please get off and let someone else use it. There are people at the gym who there to workout and do nothing else, so please respect the facility and the other members. (This also applies to the ladies who sit around on equipment and text or call people- talk to them when you are off the machine).
  • The Justifier: How many times have you heard a girl at the gym mention what she is going to eat after she finishes exercising because she “earned” it? How many of you are that girl? No, a 40 minute workout does not justify a Diary Queen blizzard that is 740 calories. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. Yeah, you may feel better about eating it because you burned some calories, but don’t sabotage all of your hard efforts in the gym with a poor diet. Abs are made in the kitchen and you will see your best results outside the gym with a consistent diet.  Never use exercise to justify your eating. It’s a bad habit. But if you do decide you want to eat a special meal or decadent dessert, just do it. Don’t feel like you need to reason with yourself or others.

These are just some of the top 5 offenses I have seen women commit at the gym and they are all just silly. For help on defeating these stereotypes visit ACSM for advice and guidelines on how to set-up an appropriate cardiovascular and resistance-training program. Also, talk to a Registered Dietician or a corporate or university provided nutritionist for advice on healthy eating habits and choices. Be mindful of your intentions and actions at the gym, and keep working towards the best health and fitness you can achieve.

You Wanna Put Needles Where?

Acupuncture. It’s a word that strikes fear and apprehension into every soul as soon as they hear it. You begin imagining either some hippie or Chinese herbalist jamming needles into your skin, most likely causing pain, while you helplessly look on trapped. So, when my doctor recommended I receive weekly acupuncture to deal with health problems, I was naturally hesitant. I do not respond to well to pain and I hate needles, so the idea of laying on a table unable to move while someone basically gives you pain was not an enticing idea. Nope. Not gonna do it. Sorry.

Well I did. And after one failed attempt at acupuncture 2 weeks before, the time came for a second attempt at a new office. I walked in to the office and sat nervously waiting for my turn. When the time came, the acupuncturist and I talked about my health issues, she then laid me down, and seriously, the next thing I know I had about 15 needles in my body. I didn’t even feel them go in. I was amazed. This was nothing like the previous situation.

acupuncture.jpg

As I lay there slipping into some sort of sleepy state, she explained to me what acupuncture is and why it’s important.

Acupuncture, as defined by Live Science, is an unconventional medical practice of stimulating different organs and tissues, usually through the use of needles and herbs. Basically, ancient Chinese and Asian cultures believe that all of our bodies have a flow of energy, called Chi. When our Chi is disrupted, we begin to manifest pains and problems. By placing needles in different stimulating points, our disrupted Chi is relieved and the Chi travels through body channels called meridians. In more modern terms, our Chi can be referred to as our nervous system and hormones, and the needles can help stimulate more efficient function.

Acupuncture can be used to treat all sorts of health issues and diseases, such as arthritis, digestive issues, reproductive problems and infertility, autoimmune disorders, muscle pain, joint aches, and more. What’s even crazier is that wherever the pain is, the needle isn’t typically going to go in that area. To treat my health problems, I had needles in my head, elbows, knees, hands, and feet, which were nowhere near my problem areas. Over the course of the next 4 months, I returned weekly for treatment.

A few key things to look for in an acupuncturist:

  • Are they a licensed acupuncturist? And more importantly, are they licensed in your state?
  • Do they do hard or soft acupuncture? (Choose soft!)
  • Double check that they use new needles every time and dispose of the used needles properly. This is a medical treatment and should be treated as so.

It’ s key that you are 100% comfortable and trusting of the individual who is treating you. If you are tense or nervous for any reason, it is not going to be a great treatment and your benefits will be lessened.  Many holistic or integrative medicine offices offer acupuncture or can recommend an acupuncturist, but feel free to ask around for whom your friends may prefer.

Don’t be afraid to get acupuncture! It is a very wonderful and beneficial medical practice, and is one of the top reasons I had such great health recovery. Oh, and you can totally tell people you had needles willingly shoved in your body once. Next Evil Knievel perhaps?

Laughter is Medicine

Laughter. Whether it’s cramp-up, side-stitching funny or a silent giggle, laughter makes you feel good and lifts your mood. I’ve found that when I am having a rough and exhausting day, my mind always turns to humor for a quick outlet. But why? Why do we laugh and why is it so important? I don’t know about you, but being around people who find no humor in anything and don’t laugh leaves me feeling tired and pessimistic. On the other hand, I think about those friends that are always cracking jokes or doing something silly. I want to be around them! Their happiness is contagious, and they seem less stressed and more willing to face each obstacle with optimism. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lifestyle worth having.

Laughing kid

So, why do we laugh? Seriously. What causes our mouth to all of the sudden elicit unrecognizable sounds, our body to cramp up or shake, and for us to create ridiculous facial expressions? If someone had never seen laughter before, they would think we were having some sort of attack or seizure. But no, we are physically displaying our mental enjoyment of something. We can make ourselves laugh, but true laughter comes from deep down, and according to How it Works, it shows our social connection to others. Like I said, think about it. Have you ever been around people who don’t laugh? The situation gets really uncomfortable really fast which makes you want to crack a joke to lighten the mood, but of course it doesn’t work. Ah, a vicious cycle. Laughing together with others creates comfortable, social bonds and you become more willing to be vulnerable to those around you.

Laughter is contagious and fun to do. I love laughing! Growing up was probably the time when I laughed the most. Everything was funny. There were no cares in the world, so why not be silly and make jokes? Think about your present. Really think. When was the last time you had a good laugh? Last week? Last month? I get it, we’re adults. We have more important things to do like worry about work deadlines, not being silly. But what if I told you that laughter is healthy for your body? It’s true. According to multiple studies, such as a study done by Web MD, laughter can do four important things for your body. First, it can increase blood flow, especially to your brain, which you need for productive working anyways. Second, it can raise your disease-fighting antibodies and increase the amount of immune cells in your body. This is because with decreased stress, your body is able to more readily use its white blood cells. Now, you’ll have less sick days. Third, it can lower your blood sugar. Low blood sugar is important for avoiding health effects such as hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and diabetic ketoacidosis. In addition, it can help avoid damage to the heart, blood vessels, and nerves. Lastly, laughter can help you sleep and relax. It releases pent up tension and relaxes the muscles in your body allowing for a more deep sleep. And we all know sleeping is one of the most important parts of our day.

Let’s learn to laugh more and stress less. Research has shown it’s good for you, so why not do it? Laughter and happiness can be increased by surrounding yourself with optimistic people. Also, learn to laugh at yourself. I mean, if Jennifer Lawrence can laugh at herself for falling at the Oscars, I’m pretty sure we can let some embarrassing moments go too. Learn to find humor in everything and take time for fun. Lastly, exercise. Exercise makes you happy! And happiness lowers stress.

Laughter isn’t hard to do and happiness isn’t hard to find, you just need to look for opportunities and remember that laughter is medicine too.