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Why Do So Many Patients Return for Regular Chiropractic Care Even After Their Initial Symptoms Are Gone?

At some point in your life, you’ve probably heard an acquaintance, friend or family member say something like this: “Once you start going to a chiropractor, you’ll have to keep going back forever.” Most of the time, this is meant as a caution—a warning that chiropractic care is somehow addictive, cultish or (at worst) ineffective.

As chiropractic physicians, we believe that it’s very important for our patients to understand the nature of what we do and the kind of relationship we work to build with them. We also think it’s important to explain the phenomenon that these acquaintances, friends or family members are referring to.

There are indeed many people who return to our office even after their initial symptoms have disappeared. But they don’t return because they “have to”. They return because they CHOOSE to. And patients make this choice for a variety of different reasons. Sometime the reason has to do with a chronic or recurring condition that requires ongoing or periodic attention. Sometimes it has to do with a different health issue altogether. And still other times it has to do with their overall wellness. But in every case, they return to chiropractic because it helps them feel better than they feel without it.

Whether or not you choose to return to your chiropractor for regular treatment will depend on your own physical condition as well as your broader health and wellness goals. We understand that every patient is different, and we will do our best to work with you to design a treatment plan that meets your specific needs. This is true whether your priority is short-term pain relief, physical rehabilitation or general health and wellness. Our goal is always to provide the right combination of in-office care, exercise and stretching recommendations and lifestyle counseling to help you achieve your objectives.

Of course, you don’t have to keep going back to the chiropractor after your symptoms have been resolved. But the simple truth is that those symptoms are likely to reappear at some point if you don’t address the underlying source of the problem. Over time, pain, poor joint function and other signs of bodily wear can begin to creep up again without regular maintenance.

Why Regular Chiropractic Care is Important

Going to your chiropractor for a regular checkup and any necessary treatment is really no different from visiting your dentist or eye doctor. It’s fundamentally about prevention and early detection. The wear-and-tear of everyday living (not to mention the special demands of athletics or certain professions and workplaces) can take a serious toll on your musculoskeletal system in general. And it can be especially hard on your back and neck if your general posture is compromised. Unfortunately, it can take time for the cumulative effects to become obvious and for to you to begin experiencing pain and reduced function. And by the time you do experience these, whatever problems you have may be more difficult to treat.

The keys to good musculoskeletal health (especially spinal health) are:

  • Regular exercise that maintains or improves your posture, balance, flexibility, strength and stamina. Your chiropractor can recommend a specific program that accomplishes just that.
  • A healthy diet that provides the right nutrients for growth and recovery of bones, muscles and joints.
  • A weight loss or weight management approach that reduces (or prevents) unnecessary stress and strain on your joints.
  • Good ergonomics at work and play.
  • Avoidance of unhealthy habits that have been associated with musculoskeletal problems, including excessive sitting, alcohol and smoking.
  • Regular chiropractic check-ups and treatment.

For many of our patients, chiropractic care has become an important part of their overall wellness lifestyle. It’s simply something they do for themselves and their families to protect their overall health and help them feel (and perform) at their best. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you, please call or visit our office today!


Iowa Chiropractic Clinic

1710 W. 1st St.

Ankeny, IA 50023

P: 515-964-3000


Electrical Stimulation as a Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain–whether acute or chronic–can range from mildly uncomfortable to truly debilitating. And in some cases, the exact cause of the pain can be very difficult to diagnose. If you’ve ever experienced severe back pain yourself (or spent time with friends or family members who have), you can probably understand why physicians do what they can to help patients manage the pain as part of their treatment. Relieving back pain can improve quality of life and allow you to get back to doing the things that you enjoy.

electrical-stimulation-search-collage-200-300Depending on the circumstances, doctors can use a variety of approaches, ranging from relatively conservative manual therapies (such as chiropractic adjustments, spinal mobilization, massage techniques and acupuncture) to more aggressive ones involving drugs and surgery. It might surprise you to know that in some cases physicians also use electricity to help relieve patients’ back pain. In fact, electrotherapy has been practiced in a variety of forms for over 100 years.

How Electrical Stimulation Is Performed

One method that doctors use is to stimulate the spinal cord using a small electrical pulse generator implanted in the affected individual’s back. Although researchers aren’t certain why this sort of stimulation reduces back pain, they believe that the electricity may work to “distract” the nerve impulses. Instead of focusing on the area that would normally be triggering pain, the nerves focus on the electrical stimulation they’re receiving. As a result, the distracted nerves do not seem to send pain-related messages to the brain and the patient doesn’t experience the sensation of pain.

There are a number of companies that make these types of implants, each of which works somewhat differently from the others. However, all have shown to be equally effective when compared in studies. The actual results vary more patient-to-patient than device-to-device.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS also uses electrical stimulation to reduce pain, but it is applied very differently. Small electrodes are placed on the skin in the areas where pain occurs and are attached with adhesive. At most, you will feel some warmth or tingling where the electrodes are attached. Galvanic Stimulation (GS) and Interferential Current (IFC) are similar systems that are powered by battery or from an adapter that works from an electrical outlet. Electrical stimulation is used often in physical rehabilitation settings.

Increasing Endorphins to Kill Pain

In addition to interfering with the nerve signals that cause pain, electrical stimulation has also been proven to increase the production of endorphins. These brain chemicals are released in response to stress or pain and they act as natural pain killers by interacting with receptors in the brain and reducing your perception of pain.

For anyone who has had to live with back pain, effective treatment options that don’t involve riskier drugs or surgical procedures are often attractive and worth a try. There are rarely side effects experienced with electrical stimulation therapy and, when they do occur, they’re usually limited to minor allergic reactions to the adhesive or transient pain resulting from the electrical stimulation. However, be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or have any other health conditions.

Need a Good Night’s Rest? Try These Natural Approaches Before You Visit the Medicine Cabinet

How well did you sleep last night? If you’re like nearly one third of American adults, the answer is probably “not that well.” Stress and distractions can make it difficult to nod off, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn to over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids to get the rest you need. Consider these natural sleep aids as a way to get some shut-eye.

man-sleeping-at-playground-200-300Create a Restful Environment and Routine

Creating an environment that is conducive to sleep is an effective way to drift off naturally. This includes making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature, as well as following a bedtime routine that helps you wind down and relax. Make sure your bed is comfortable–don’t be afraid to experiment with different pillows and mattress toppers to find the ones that work best for you. Avoid bright lights in the hour before you go to sleep (this includes computers, phones, and televisions). Read a book or take a warm bath before bed to help you relax and get ready to rest. Establishing this type of routine will make it easier to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

Try Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a traditional herbal remedy that has been used for millennia as a solution for sleeplessness. It is a safe, mild sleep aid that can be a relaxing part of a bedtime routine. If you are taking any other medicinal sleep aids, be sure to consult with your doctor before adding chamomile (or any other oral sleep aid) to your regimen.

Watch What You Eat

Your eating habits can impact your ability to fall asleep. If you rely on coffee to keep you going during the day, try eliminating caffeinated beverages in the ten hours leading up to bedtime. It is also a good idea to avoid eating large meals late at night. It takes your stomach quite a bit of work to digest rich food, which may prevent you from drifting off. Finally, be careful about how many liquids you consume in the last two hours before bed. Late night fluid consumption often leads to multiple bathroom trips, making it hard to settle down and fall asleep.

Consult with a Chiropractor

If you’ve tried these natural sleep solutions and still aren’t getting the rest you need, a chiropractor may be able to help. Interferences in the body’s central nervous system can create a stress response in your body, which makes it difficult to sleep. Chiropractic care can help to correct these interferences safely, allowing your body to function as it should. Chiropractors can also work with you to identify lifestyle factors that may interfere with your sleep patterns and help you create a plan to correct them.

Insomnia is a frustrating issue, but there are natural alternatives to visiting your medicine cabinet. In many cases, a combination of lifestyle changes and chiropractic care can help you find the rest you need.

Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

For many people, colder temperatures outside—whether at home or while traveling over the winter holidays—can mean big changes in exercise routines. Some will move their workouts indoors or hibernate during the winter months. Others, though, will decide to work with the seasons and find ways to be active outside. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.

cold-weather-jogging-200-300While there’s certainly no rule against venturing out into the cold for a little bit of exercise, it’s important to be smart about how you do it. Remember to protect yourself from frostbite, hypothermia, and injuries that can come with freezing temperatures. To help you do that, we’ve put together a short checklist that you can use to exercise outdoors safely this winter.

Remember that Cold Weather is Often Dry Weather. Winter weather is often associated with precipitation. However, as the temperatures drop to dangerous lows—close to freezing and below—the opposite is often true regarding humidity. The air will get drier, and even if you don’t sweat as much, you can still lose valuable moisture. When exercising in the cold weather, remember to drink plenty of water, even if you don’t really feel thirsty or sweaty.

Understand the Real Temperature Where You Plan to Exercise. Look up the weather on a website or app before you head out into the cold, but understand the numbers you are looking at. The general weather conditions can differ greatly from place to place locally, even in the same region. Pay especially close attention to wind chill numbers, since the combination of wind and your own movement may lead you to experience lower temperatures. The thermometer may say it’s 35 degrees out, but the wind chill may mean it feels closer to 20 degrees in certain areas.

Dress Appropriately. It may be tempting to bundle up when going out in the cold to work out, but this comes at a cost. Thick, warm clothes will make you sweat more easily, and that sweat can leach heat from your body and allow your temperature to drop to unhealthy levels. The key, as cold weather experts know well, is to dress in layers, starting with a thin synthetic layer of wicking material, then a fleece and finally a thinner waterproof coat. The added benefit to this clothing strategy is that it’s flexible. You can always take off layers if you get too hot.

Warm Up the Extremities. When exercising in the cold weather, pay particular attention to your extremities, which are more vulnerable to frostbite. It’s especially important to cover your fingers and head. If the air is very frigid, cover up your nose and mouth, too: That cold air can damage your lungs and freeze your nose.

Fuel Up. A source of energy is vital to keeping up your metabolism and keeping you warm when out in the cold. Eat a healthy amount of complex carbs and proteins before you go out, and if you’re going to be out for a few hours, then bring a snack along, too. Stay away from sugars and other less dependable sources of energy, if possible.

Start Slow. Stretching and warming up will both make injury less likely and help your metabolism pick up until you are ready for more strenuous work. Always warm up before going out into the winter weather, particularly if you are planning on an intense session with lots of running or heavy exertion. Otherwise, joint and muscle injuries could result.

Know the Danger Signs. Hypothermia and frostbite can creep up on you if you’re not careful. You can defend against the cold better if you recognize the signs. Frostbite occurs on exposed skin like your cheeks, nose, ears, and hands, especially below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs when shivering cannot keep up your core body temperature and your heart and brain begin to shut down. Watch for intense shivering, sudden weariness, slurred words, and trouble with coordination.

Obesity Facts and Figures

Obesity is fast becoming the number one health problem in the world, contributing to an increased risk of other diseases and putting a strain on national health budgets. Following are some interesting facts and figures related to obesity:big-belly-200-300

  • About 17% of medical costs in the US are due to obesity and its related diseases, totaling an estimated $168 billion per year.
  • Obesity adds about $2,800 to a person’s medical bills annually.
  • An estimated 300,000 premature deaths in the US each year are caused by obesity.
  • One third of US adults are obese, indicating a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
  • If an 18-year-old remains obese throughout their adulthood, it will cost them $550,000.
  • 80% of cases of Type 2 diabetes are related to obesity. The rate of diabetes has doubled in eight states since 1995.
  • 70% of heart disease is obesity-related.
  • Low-income women are more likely to become obese than high-income women. Over 33% of people earning less than $15,000 annually are obese, as opposed to a 24.6% rate of obesity in those earning $50,000 or more.
  • The highest rates of obesity are found among non-Hispanic African Americans (44.1%), followed by Mexican-Americans (39.3%), Hispanics (37.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (32.6%). Asians have the lowest rate of obesity at 16.7%.
  • In the last 30 years childhood obesity has tripled, from 6.5% in children aged 6 to 11 years to 19.6% today. The obesity rate in teenagers aged 12 to 19 years has increased from 5% to 18.1%.
  • Of children who are overweight at age 10-15, 80% will be obese as adults.
  • As a percentage of the population, the US has the highest number of obese people (33.9%), followed by Mexico (24%), the UK (23%), Slovakia (22.4) and Greece (22%).
  • College graduates have an obesity rate of 20.8%, which is lower than the 29.5% rate of those who have only graduated high school.
  • Obesity begins to decline after age 60. The population of those over age 69 has an obesity rate of 20.5%.
  • The rate of obesity is increasing in the US. In 2007 only one state had an overall obesity rate of over 30%. In 2011, 12 states had a greater than 30% obesity rate.
  • 40% of obese Americans aged 50 to 84 have osteoarthritis of the knee, caused by the wear and tear to the joints from excess weight stress. One extra pound of weight is equivalent to four pounds of stress on the knee.

Good health is a combination of many factors including your nutrition, preventative care, appropriate corrective care and the small choices you make every day in the course of living. If you have questions about this article, your general or spinal health, please ask. We are here to help!

Why Kids Don’t Feel Cold the Same Way Adults Do

As millions of moms and dads will attest, kids frequently balk at being bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves when they go outdoors in the winter. The children claim they’re just not cold, but parents usually error on the side of caution by bundling them up and making sure they don’t get too wet or stay out too long.

mother with son in winter timeThe truth is that kids are at the same risk of heat loss and hypothermia as adults are, and maybe more. But it’s also true that children often really don’t feel cold, even when their parents do. Why is this?

Part of the issue involves a fundamental difference between how effective the human body is at actually regulating its own temperature and how sensitive it is to the temperature outside. We are born with the ability to generate, maintain, or get rid of heat as outside weather and circumstances dictate. In general, our bodies are quite adept at creating heat in the winter (by shivering or becoming more active) and eliminating excess heat in the summer (by sweating). But some bodies are more efficient at these processes than others—people of the same height and weight can differ dramatically in their ability to maintain a healthy body temperature. In much the same way, different people can exhibit very different levels of sensitivity when outside conditions are jeopardizing their ability to conserve or dissipate heat.

When dealing with young kids who are playing outside in freezing temperatures, one of the things to remember when they claim that they don’t feel cold is that they probably really don’t feel cold. They are naturally so active that their bodies are generating enough heat to keep them feeling warm, even if they aren’t. This can be a dangerous illusion, however, because young children’s bodies are less able to regulate their internal temperature than those of adults, and thus more prone to hypothermia as a result of their bodies’ smaller surface area, smaller amounts of subcutaneous fat, and a not-yet-fully-developed ability to shiver. So they may be telling the truth when they claim not to feel cold, but they’re probably more at risk than adults.

Another factor to keep in mind when your kids balk at being bundled up is that they don’t like being bundled up for the same reason that some babies don’t like being swaddled and wrapped in tight blankets or clothing. The “bundling” decreases their ability to move around and process sensory stimulation, and subconsciously makes them feel constricted and uncomfortable. Also, as kids grow older and become more socialized, they may not feel that wearing a coat and hat and gloves is “cool,” so they may resist being forced to wear clothing that makes them stand out and not “fit in” with how other kids are dressing.

Still, as a general rule, it’s better to make sure that your kids are dressed warmly in extreme cold to prevent issues of hypothermia and frostbite. Wearing that coat, hat, and gloves will not protect them from catching colds and the flu—that’s an “old parents’ tale” because these diseases are spread by microorganisms—but it will protect them against the physical dangers posed by extreme cold.

But here is another interesting side of the story. Scandinavian parents (from Sweden and Norway, where winter temperatures are often extreme) maintain centuries-old traditions of allowing their newborns and young infants to nap outside while sleeping in their strollers. It’s not unusual to walk past a child care center and see rows of strollers lined up outside, the babies in them wrapped in blankets and sleeping soundly. The parents—doing what their parents and grandparents before them did—feel that exposure to fresh air at any temperature is better than being cooped up inside. And the cold/flu/disease statistics in Scandinavia support this belief because the Scandinavian “outside nappers” have fewer colds than American infants do. But it’s also important to realize that these naps are always supervised by adults, the babies are wrapped warmly, and the adults bring them back inside the moment outside temperatures dip below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, when the kids get bigger, their parents dress them just as warmly when they go out to play as American parents do and probably endure just as many protestations of “But Mom… I’m not cold.” as we do.

So the general consensus in the global healthcare community seems to be that you should ignore these protests from your kids when they don’t want to wear appropriate clothing in the cold, and make sure they do it anyway. The dangers of developing frostbite and hypothermia far outweigh the dangers of not appearing “cool” in front of their playmates.

Top 5 Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for Winter Fitness

Everyone knows that exercise is essential to maintaining your health. However, not everyone is able to perform the kinds of high-impact exercises that are hard on the joints. Whether your particular concern relates to aging, injury, or some type of chronic musculoskeletal problem, there are several low-impact aerobic exercises that can help keep you fit throughout the winter.

snowboarder-grabbing-air-200-300Walking—This simple activity costs absolutely nothing, requires no additional equipment and can be done in most any weather conditions. If walking seems too boring, then try different routes. Mix it up! If you have hills nearby, include them for greater aerobic challenge. Make certain you have good footwear before taking on anything other than flat terrain. If walking isn’t giving you enough of a challenge, add ankle weights or carry barbells. If you don’t have nearby hills, then take to the stairs. Your local high school or college likely has a stadium with steps that can increase your workout intensity.

Swimming—If you have access to an indoor pool, count your blessings. Swimming is not only one of the lowest impact exercises there is, but it may also be the best full-body workouts around. Swimming involves even less impact than walking, and merely staying afloat (without pool floats) requires far more energy than just standing still. Do laps. Time yourself. There are numerous swimming strokes available, plus aerobic activities and games that you can play in the water. Whether you bring friends or go it alone, swimming can give you just as much aerobic “bang for your buck” time-wise as any other activity, and maybe more.

Cycling—Whether you take to the cycle in your gym or take your bicycle out for a spin, this activity produces virtually zero impact and delivers lots of aerobic benefit. Going nowhere in the gym may seem tedious and even boring to some, so take to the bike lanes or walkways with your bicycle. Once you’ve built up your strength, climbing hills can give your legs a good burn. Inside, no helmet is required. Outside, always protect your head when cycling.

Dancing—This might well be the most fun, low-impact aerobic exercise you can do (at least in public). Of course, many dance routines require a partner, but that’s what makes it all so much fun. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the simple waltz. Try the foxtrot for a little variety. Or try salsa, tango and other more strenuous styles to test your timing, finesse and stamina. A good dance routine can get your heart pumping. Performed well, it can even be downright sexy. And if you don’t like being on the dance floor alone with a partner, there’s always line dancing. It’s a great opportunity to work on your timing and coordination while getting a low-impact workout!

In-Line Skating (Rollerblading)—Protective gear is essential for your safety, as is choosing the best path. Most sidewalks have bumps and imperfections that can prove challenging… or disastrous. An empty parking lot might offer a better alternative for beginners. Some parks also have paths that are perfect for this kind of low-impact activity. Taking to the blades can burn more calories than many other exercises. Until you get your balance perfected, you might want to squat down to keep your center of gravity lower to the ground. Take shorter strides when starting out. Don’t go too fast until you’ve perfected your ability to maneuver, slow down and (yes) stop!

Cold-Weather Risks to Your Health: What You Should Know

Last winter was a particularly tough one across much of North America, given the combination of the freakish “Polar Vortex” winds and snowstorms possibly brought about as a result of climate change. Hundreds of people died, either in transportation-related accidents or from exposure to the cold temperatures. But did you know that your health is at greater risk any time the weather gets cold, not just when near-blizzard conditions strike?

woman-building-snowman-200-300The most obvious health risks from low temperature are hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when you allow your body temperature to drop below 95°F (35°C) and can be very dangerous—it can result in disorientation and can actually stop your heart. About 700 Americans per year die from hypothermia. Frostbite—when your nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes are exposed to extreme cold—is not usually fatal, but can result in gangrene and the loss of the frostbitten limbs. To protect against both, “layer up” with warm clothing, keep dry, and don’t stay outside too long.

There are other cold weather health risks that are even more common:

  • Colds and flu. Although they can occur in warm weather too, your risk of contracting these viral diseases goes way up during the winter months. To prevent them, wash your hands often, avoid work or family environments where others have colds or the flu, and if you get sick yourself, stay home. Don’t “tough it out” and go to work and spread the virus.
  • Sore throats. These symptoms are more prevalent in cold weather, and there is some evidence that they are triggered by sharp changes in temperature, such as going in and out from warm, heated homes and offices to cold weather outside. If you feel that scratchy sensation in your throat, treat it immediately by gargling with salt water.
  • Asthma. If you already suffer from symptoms of asthma, cold weather may trigger more attacks than usual, including wheezing and shortness of breath. So try to stay indoors on cold, windy days and keep your rescue inhalers handy.
  • Norovirus. Otherwise known as the “winter vomiting bug.” It’s not fatal, but if you catch it you may wish you were dead. This is an infectious disease that is transmitted via contact, so avoid public places if you’re susceptible to it.
  • Arthritis and joint pain. Yes, your mother and grandmother were correct that you can “feel the effects of cold weather in your bones.” Maintaining your daily exercise regimen can help to prevent outbreaks of joint pain when the weather gets cold.
  • Cold hands and feet. No, it’s not just your imagination. Cold weather affects your circulation, and your fingers and toes can literally “turn blue” in cold weather. To limit this, try to avoid caffeine, smoking, and drinking alcohol, all of which restrict circulation.
  • Depression. Although technically not a transmittable disease per se, about 5% of Americans (75% of them women) experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which causes them to become clinically depressed, socially withdrawn, fatigued and sleepy, to crave carbohydrates, and gain weight. An additional 15% of the public has a milder form of the condition. Spending more time in sunlight or using full-spectrum light bulbs in your house and office can help to stave off depression.
  • Dry skin. It’s even more important to stay hydrated and keep your skin moisturized during the winter months than it is during the hot summer months. A tip to be aware of is that “moisturizers” and skin lotions aren’t really absorbed through your skin. What they do is act as a sealant to keep moisture from evaporating, so the best time to apply them is right after a bath or shower.
  • Heart attacks and stroke. We’ve saved this one for last, because it’s the most important winter health risk that you should be aware of. Your blood vessels constrict in cold weather, which can raise your blood pressure and trigger stress reactions that place additional burdens on your heart and circulatory system. Numerous studies have shown that the incidence of heart attacks and stroke go up dramatically during cold weather, and that the greatest periods of risk may be when the temperature changes rapidly during the day. One recent study showed that each 5-degree fluctuation in temperature increased stroke hospitalizations by 6%, and that each additional fluctuation increased the risk by an additional 2%. So don’t over-exercise when the temperatures get cold, or are fluctuating wildly. Take it easy while shoveling snow (one of the biggest winter weather sources of heart attacks) and while performing winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.

Additional Resources

Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626

Everyday Preventive Actions That Can Help Fight Germs, Like Flu. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/everyday_preventive.pdf

Are You SAD This Winter? Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. http://psychcentral.com/lib/are-you-sad-this-winter-coping-with-seasonal-affective-disorder/00010241

Why Better Nutrition Alone Won’t Stop the Obesity Epidemic

It’s no secret that many Americans’ eating habits have taken a turn for the worse over the past 20 years in terms of the quantity, quality and combination of foods we eat. A number of diet-related trends have converged to help create a perfect storm of expanding waistlines:?????????????????

  • Beginning in the mid-1970s, government nutritional guidance (backed by the limited scientific data that was available at the time) triggered a nationwide shift away from foods with saturated fat (such as milk, eggs and meat). However, it also inadvertently ushered in the age of “fat-free” marketing that gradually drove Americans toward a diet high in complex carbohydrates.
  • The rise of convenience-oriented packaged foods made home cooking seem unnecessary. As a result, a generation (or maybe two) grew up without planning meals, shopping for ingredients or preparing food. While it’s easy to focus on the loss of these basic skills, something else was lost, too—control over the contents of the food itself. In adopting diets built on ready-made meals, American ouseholds left decisions about fat, sugar and salt as well as chemical additives to the chefs in corporate kitchens.
  • A new culture of snacking evolved that made eating a sort of parallel pastime—something that was done almost without thinking alongside other day-to-day activities. Plus, grab-and-go packaged food meant that the dining room was now anywhere you happened to be.
  • Supersize portions, value meals and double desserts slowly changed Americans’ ideas about how much food should be eaten at a single sitting. For much of the population, the new normal included many more calories than would have been common in the 1970s or 1980s.

But for all the evidence that the American diet has played a prominent role in the current obesity epidemic, there is also evidence that another factor may be even more important.

On average, Americans are LESS PHYSICALLY ACTIVE THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME in our history. Sweeping changes in the kinds of work we do and the way we do it, along with changes in how we get from place to place and how we spend our leisure time have meant that much of the population just doesn’t move around very much. We increasingly lead very sedentary lives.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine drives home this point. According to researchers at Stanford University who analyzed 20 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a very sharp drop in leisure-time physical activity may be responsible for the general upward trend in obesity rates.

Dr. Uri Ladabaum, Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and lead investigator, noted that total daily calorie, fat, carbohydrate and protein consumption hasn’t actually changed much over the past 20 years but that the general level of physical activity has. “At the population level, we found a significant association between the level of leisure-time physical activity, but not daily caloric intake, and the increases in both BMI and waist circumference.”

The fall-off in physical activity over the past two decades is truly striking:

  • During the 1988-1994 period, the number of female American adults reporting no physical activity was 19.1%. During the 2009-2010 period, it was 51.7%.
  • The percentage of American men reporting no physical activity grew from 11.4% in the 1988-1994 period to 43.5% in the 2009-2010 period.

Over the same time frame, the incidence of obesity across the country has grown. While the average BMI has increased across the board, the most dramatic change has been among woman between the ages of 18 and 39.

An earlier study reported in the December 2013 Mayo Clinic Proceedings painted a similarly grim picture. Based on two years’ worth of data collected from sensors attached to 2,600 people, investigators concluded:

  • Men and women of normal weight exercised vigorously (think jogging or a brisk uphill hike) for less than two minutes a day. They engaged in moderate exercise (yoga or golf, for instance) about 2.5 to 4 hours per week.
  • By contrast, the average obese American man gets only 3.6 hours of vigorous exercise per YEAR, and the average obese American woman gets only ONE hour of vigorous exercise in the same period of time.

What’s happening here?

According to Edward C. Archer, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “We’ve engineered physical activity out of our daily lives and that’s causing the health disparities that we have in this country.”

There is a very clear relationship between physical activity and your health—including your musculoskeletal health. But it’s also true that there’s a link between your musculoskeletal health and your ability to lead an active lifestyle. If you’re suffering from back, neck or joint pain, it can be very difficult to exercise. This in turn raises your risk of weight gain as well as your risk of other health problems.

We can help relieve musculoskeletal pain and restore your mobility. Just call or visit our office today!

Additional Resources

Lack of exercise, not diet, linked to rise in obesity, Stanford research shows. http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/07/lack-of-exercise–not-diet–linked-to-rise-in-obesity–stanford-.html

U.S. mothers, 1965 to 2010: More TV, less housework leading to a more obese population. http://www.sph.sc.edu/news/mothers_inactive.html

‘Get Up!’ or lose hours of your life every day, scientist says. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-get-up-20140731-story.html

Why Eating with the Seasons Makes Good Sense

It’s true. The combination of industrial agriculture and efficient global logistics has made it possible for many American families to enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables year round.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????But just because they’re available doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best choice for you or your family. In fact, there are several really good reasons that your diet—particularly your choice of fruits and vegetables—should change with the seasons. Now that fall is here and winter is just around the corner, this is a great time to talk about seasonal eating and how you can make the most of the cold-weather months.

The reasons for eating local produce in-season basically fall into four categories: nutrition, taste, cost and environmental sustainability.

Nutrition. Local fruits and vegetables picked seasonally at their ultimate ripeness are usually more nutritious than produce that is grown in a hot-house environment or that is raised in other parts of the world and transported over long distances.

Taste. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, flavors and textures tends to suffer when they’re grown out-of-season or spend lots of time in transit. This encourages farmers to do things they might not ordinarily do, including adding colors, sweeteners or preservatives. The fact that out-of-season produce needs to be marketable after shipping may also encourage farmers to grow varieties that are more durable but less flavorful. The net result is often a poorer product.

Cost. Growing produce out-of-season or transporting it over long distances involves expenses that just don’t exist when fruits and vegetables are grown and marketed locally. As anyone who has ever bought fresh strawberries or tomatoes in the middle of January has noticed, these expenses translate into higher prices at the grocery store.

Environmental Sustainability. The emergence of a global marketplace for fruits and vegetables has opened up lots of possibilities for growers and consumers alike but has also come with high environmental costs. The new economics of farming and distribution have changed how land, water, energy, and chemicals are used in producing food. In some cases, they’ve also tipped the scales against centuries-old patterns of sustainable crop rotation and conservation practices. Plus, moving and storing large amounts of fresh produce requires energy and increases our collective carbon footprint.

When you consider all of these factors together, it’s clear that out-of-season produce is really a pretty big compromise. So what’s the alternative? There are many winter fruits and vegetables that will soon be their peak. Knowing about these and adding them to your diet over the coming months can provide plenty of variety and may even help you get important nutrients that you wouldn’t normally get from produce at other times of the year.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of our winter favorites.

Winter Butternut Squash. Squash has relatively few calories (only 63 calories per cup) but contains lots of vitamin A and potassium. Plus, a single cup of squash also provides half your daily requirement of vitamin C!

Kale. Kale is another winter vegetable that’s packed with important nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C and K, and minerals such as calcium, copper and magnesium. Kale is also rich in cancer-fighting phytonutrients called flavonoids (quercetin and kaempferol, among others) and has been shown in some research to lower cholesterol. Cooked kale can easily be added to mashed potatoes to make for a healthy side dish.

Leeks. Leeks too are abundant at this time of year. They are rich in vitamin K (good for bone health and vital for blood coagulation), and have a healthy amount of folate. A versatile member of the allium family (like onions and garlic), leeks can be added to soups and stews in pretty much the same way you might typically use onions. Leeks are also tasty on their own—just braise them a little liquid. If you’re willing to put just a bit more effort into preparation, creamed leeks is another tasty alternative. Just clean and slice 2-3 leeks thinly, then sauté them in a little butter, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and cover for about 10 minutes or until cooked. Mix in a tablespoon of flour and about ½ cup of sour cream and you have an excellent side dish to serve along with fish or chicken.

Apples. Apples are a great seasonal complement to the vegetables on our list. Over 2,500 varieties of this fruit are grown in the U.S., with 100 varieties grown commercially. A medium apple contains about 80 calories and is fat, sodium, and cholesterol free. If you’re interested in getting the most nutritional bang for the buck, be sure to eat the peels! Two-thirds of a typical apple’s fiber and lots of its antioxidants are concentrated in the peel. Most apples are still picked by hand in the fall and are ready for eating throughout the country all winter long!

Nuts. Many popular types of nuts (which are technically fruits containing a hard shell and a seed) are actively harvested in the fall and are available throughout much of the country year-round. Almonds, chestnuts and walnuts are a few winter favorites. It’s worth noting that while almonds and walnuts are not true nuts in the botanical sense, they are considered nuts in the culinary sense. Nuts like these are typically very high in protein and fat and naturally low in carbohydrates. They also contain several important vitamins and minerals. They are a particularly dense nutritional package and have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

While it’s natural for many people to wish for the warmer weather in the depths of winter, there are definitely benefits to changing up your menu to follow the seasons!