Posted in Concierge Medicine, Exercise For Health, Healthy Living

The Perils of Sitting and Standing at Work

perils of sitting at work blog pictureBy Leslie Murphy MDVIP

Did you know there are perils to sitting all day?

Did you know that sitting for more than 1 hour has been shown to induce biochemical changes in lipoprotein lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue. (Cornell University) Sadly, extensive sitting relates to heart disease risks, obesity, and kidney disease. So with that in mind many people are advocating standing at work, standing desks, and even desks on treadmills,  because these use more muscle activity (burns about 20% more calories).

Sitting uses less energy than standing and tends to lead to eating at the desk, snacking at the desk, and lethargy. Sitting helps to stabilize the body, so we sit to perform fine motor tasks like driving, computer work, creating detailed drawings and math or accounting work. However, for many years ergonomists have recommended that sitting be broken up by periodic standing and moving during the day. Hence to movement for standing instead of sitting at work.

But standing can have problems as well. Standing all day can lead to varicose veins, and lower back problems. So standing in a stationary period for prolonged periods of time is not the answer either.

Motion however, is the answer. Our bodies from time immemorial have been attuned to motion. It is really not until the 20th century and really the 21st century where we got stationery. So with that being said moving your body at periodic times throughout the day will help your body function better. Preferably 1-2 minutes of movement for every 20 to 30 minutes of sitting. A large body of research has shown that frequent microbreaks improves levels of comfort, work performance, and reduces the risks of musculoskeletal injuries.

So what is the bottom line?

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward tilting keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 8 minutes AND MOVE, MOVE, MOVE for 2 minutes. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and stand and move for a couple of minutes.  Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. And movement is FREE! Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day). Try a few standing exercises , touch your toes, swing your arms, lean back and forth on your feet, sit and stand from your chair. Bring weights to work and do a series of bicep curls, tricep extensions, upper cuts, shoulder raises, flys, and jabs. At lunch get a group together for a 1 mile walk. The free ideas to move are endless. Please share your movement ideas with me and I will post them on my facebook account. But until then…please remember to MOVE every 20 minutes.  Keep Healthy! Leslie Murphy MD

To learn more visist  www.ergo.human.cornell.edu

For more movement programs:http://www.letsmove.gov/

Posted in Concierge Medicine

Six Proven Steps to Beat Stress

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By Leslie Murphy MDVIP

I get asked an awful lot about how to beat stress. Questions like “What can I do today to limit my stress?” or ”Can you give me some quick steps I can take today to limit the amount of stress I feel?” are common to hear in the medical field. Fortunately, stress is not inescapable. Try following these easy tips to reduce the stress in your life as soon as possible.

When faced with stressful life situations, learn to take care of yourself. I hear you asking, “What do you mean by that Dr. Leslie?” What I mean by that is that when we get stressed, we seem to fall into patterns where we push ourselves harder and harder, thinking that we can beat the stressors in our lives. We overexert ourselves trying to live up to others’ expectations when what we really need to do is take a step back and recognize our own limits. We need to be gentle with ourselves.

Step 1 – Remember to be gentle with yourself and step back and look at the situation with new eyes.

Another vital step towards reducing the amount of stress in your life is to get sleep.

We all race around like rats on a wheel. Step off the wheel. Sleep is essential when you are dealing with stressful situations. It is during sleep that the body and mind heal and rejuvenate themselves and dreams help you figure out answers to your problems. Many of my patients have asked for direction before bed and woken up with a new step to take or a solution to a problem they had. Sleep is healing for body and mind, so forget the dishes tonight and make a habit of going to bed an hour early.

Step 2 -Make sure you get a good night’s rest.

Sometimes we just have too many tasks. How many times have you looked at your to-do list and sighed with resignation because you could not possibly get everything done? Don’t assume you can take on more projects just to please everyone. Look at your time commitments and plan your day accordingly. Lists upon lists add stress. Slow down and only take on what you know you can get accomplished that day.

Step 3 – Block out your time so that you are able to accomplish your to-dos in one day without them hanging over your head the next.

Take a deep breath. Believe it or not, the simple step of taking three long, deep breaths a day will add years onto your life. When you are stressed, you tend to breathe at the top of your chest in short gulps of air. Taking the time to breathe fully will help relieve symptoms of stress from your body by bringing the air and oxygen you need into your blood and lung tissues.

Step 4- Take at least three deep breaths a day.

Take a walk outside. Just being exposed to nature can have curative effects on your body and mind. A famous study in the 70’s showed that patients recovered faster from surgery when they had a view of trees in the recovery room. Make outdoor walks a daily part of your life and reap the stress-reducing benefits of being in nature.

Step 5- Go take a walk outside and enjoy the stress-reducing benefits of nature.

Lastly, take a fifteen-minute break from everything. Whether you want to learn the art of meditation or just sit outside and listen to the birds chirp, make a point of relaxing for fifteen minutes a day. No activities. Just relax. Be still and let your thoughts pass like clouds in the sky.

Step 6- Just take a fifteen-minute break every day.

If you take these steps, you will see a marked reduction in your stress levels. Each of these small steps can help you to change your lifestyle, from reacting to difficult circumstances more easily to having the space to decide what is best in each moment. Take the time to learn how to manage your stress levels with these six simple steps, and let me know how it goes.

To your health.

Dr. Leslie Murphy MDVIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Concierge Medicine, Exercise For Health, Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

   Why Walking in the Forest Leads to Better Health

By Leslie Murphy MD

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Do you remember being young and exploring undiscovered places? Did you walk in the woods and feel invincible?  Can you recall the feeling of relaxation that came over you when you entered that forest?

Believe it or not, there is science behind why you feel so relaxed after taking a hike in the wilderness or a stroll through the forest. A variety of research findings has discovered that walking in the forest, or “forest bathing” as it’s referred to in Japan, is responsible for positive improvements in health ranging from a better mood and sleep, to heavily reduced stress levels and even a boosted immune system that could potentially fight cancer.

In 1990, Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University performed a study in the ancient Japanese forests of Yakushima. Miyazaki found that physical activity in the form of a 40-minute walk through the forest could be connected to an improved mood and feelings of health and robustness. Furthermore, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol were found in test subjects that took a walk in the forest, as compared to a controlled group of subjects who engaged in walks within a laboratory setting.” – (Source: Mother Earth News)

Miyazaki, a physiological anthropologist and vice director of Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health, and Field Sciences, believes that because humans evolved in nature, it’s where they feel most comfortable even if they don’t always realize it. According to Miyazaki, since nearly all of our time has been spent in “natural environments” throughout our evolution, our bodily functions are still in tune with the outdoors, hence the “feeling of comfort” that we get when we spend time outside.

Japan currently has 48 official forest therapy trails designated for shinrin-yoku by Japan’s Forestry Agency. The Japanese government has funded about $4 million in forest-bathing research since 2004 and intends to designate a total of 100 forest therapy sites within the next ten years. As a part of the research into the benefits of forest therapy, visitors of Japan’s forest therapy parks are routinely taken to a cabin where rangers measure their blood pressure to gain valuable data that helps support the projects.

Miyazaki has taken more than 600 research subjects into the woods since 2004. He and his colleague Juyoung Lee, also of Chiba University, have found that leisurely forest walks, as opposed to walks in an urban environment, yield a 12.4 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a seven percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate. Although a more subjective measure, study participants also report better moods and lower anxiety. As Miyazaki concludes in his 2011 paper, “This shows that stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy.” Since the research has begun, between 2.5 million and five million visitors walk the Forest Therapy trails each year.

Thanks to Miyazaki’s research, several countries interested in studying the positive health effects of nature have followed Japan’s lead. Juyoung Lee was recently hired by the South Korean government, which has poured over $140 million into a new National Forest Therapy Center. At the same time, Finland, an empire of boreal spruce and pine, has also begun funding numerous medical studies on the soothing power of forests. “Japan showed us that there could be cooperation between forestry and medical fields,” says Liisa Tyrvainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute. “Now there is no surprise that these shifts occur when we analyze the objective data derived from physical measurements.”

Excerpts from Finland’s data collection can be found in “The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. In the experiments documented through this paper, twelve subjects walked in and viewed either a forest or a city area. On the first day of each test, the group was halved, with six members being sent to the forest and the other six to the  city. On the second day, each group was then sent to the opposing area by way of a cross-check. After calculating the data, the researchers noted that their results “show[ed] that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.” These positive results would later “contribute to the development of a research field dedicated to forest medicine.”

As far as preventive medicine goes, forest bathing seems to significantly mitigate the root cause of a multitude of ailments: stress. Excess stress can play a role in headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, and arthritis, among other health problems. As the results indicate, forest bathing catalyzes increased parasympathetic nervous system activity which prompts rest and helps the body conserve energy, slowing down the heart rate while increasing intestinal and gland activity. Lower cortisol concentrations are also a signal that the body’s stress-response system is being triggered less. When this system is triggered, cortisol and other stress hormones are released into the body. Overexposure to these chemicals in response to chronic stress can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory loss.

Live in an urban environment? That’s okay! City-goers can still reap the benefits of forest bathing through a more indirect form of natural therapy. Research has indicated that attempts to mimic a forest environment can still have positive physical and psychological effects. An article entitled “Trends in research related to ‘Shinrin-yoku’ in Japan” suggests that visual stimulation in the form of natural images are perceived as more “comfortable” and “soothing” when compared to a gray screen control. Subjects who view “Shinrin-yoku images” — specifically a photograph of people taking a walk in the forest of Vincennes in Paris — have significantly decreased blood pressure and prefrontal activity. Such reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex has been associated with a decreased risk of relapsing back into depression. It is thought that this response is due to the prefrontal brain’s ability to deeply analyze sadness, which can result in unhealthy thought patterns, whereas the visual areas of the brain are associated with acceptance and non-judgement.  

Other ways that city-goers can reap the effects of forest therapy include going to a natural area, such as a park, a running trail along a waterway, or a bike path through a garden. For a more encompassing experience, there is always the option of spending one weekend a month in a forest reserve or a national park. Visit a local park at least once a week. Start a garden or join a gardening club. Go for walks wherever trees,gardens, or lush greenery can be found. Find a quiet place. Venture into uncharted territory and find that special spot that can bring back the feeling of exploring the forest and being invincible again.

Make it a point to plan a forest walk this weekend. Listen to the birds, take off your shoes and walk in the dirt, and smell the flowers and the leaves. Feel the bark of trees and guess what species they are. Make a picnic and enjoy it on the forest floor. Then tell me how you enjoyed your weekend. Did you feel like you did when you were a kid? I have a feeling you will want to do it again.

Additional resources:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2008/05/02/national/forest-therapy-taking-root/#.V2mxKZMrLq-immunity/http://www.outsideonline.com/1870381/take-two-hours-pine-forest-and-call-me-morning

www.lesliemurphymd.com

 

Posted in Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

How To Use The Power Of Positive Thinking To Uplift Your Health

Ever wonder if there was a correlation between positive thinking and your health?

Wonder no more. There is a direct correlation.

Take into consideration that negative thinking contributes to chronic stress and a host of health problems. Advances in neuropsychology have shown that returning to the same thought, whether that thought be negative or positive, over and over creates a real neural pathway in the brain. Continually focusing on a train of thought is just like taking the same path through a field day after day creating a visible trail. So once you have created the positive or negative train of thought you will be more likely to go down that same path once triggered. Continue reading “How To Use The Power Of Positive Thinking To Uplift Your Health”

Posted in Food as Medicine, Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

Your Garden…Your Medicine

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Hello Girlfriends….Doc here

Now that we have grown and worked the land to gain a healthy harvest I felt it time to share with you all of the benefits of eating healthy food as medicine. Did you realize the three vegetables we planted the green pepper, tomatoes, and basil are all loaded with healthy vitamins and health giving nutrients. Did you also know that they are good for curing some of your ailments?

How about if we dive into some of their health giving benefits.

Let’s start with Green peppers.

A fresh green pepper is low in calories and contains 0 grams of fat and a good supply vitamins and minerals. Their mildly sweet flavor makes green bell peppers versatile enough to include a wide variety of nutritious recipes such as salads, roasted green peppers, and antipastis. Continue reading “Your Garden…Your Medicine”

Posted in Food as Medicine, Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

    May The Planting Commence

So last month we prepared our soil and learned all about the healthy bacteria in the soil and how to amend it if needed. The freeze warnings have passed so it’s now safe for us to proceed with our healthy garden.   Are you ready to get started?

Food gardens can be grown easily in containers, a small 4×4 raised bed, or a small portion of your garden. Place the containers, or plant the garden starters or seeds where they will get even sun and shelter from prevailing winds.

The first step is preparing the soil for your seeds, or small plant starters – but we’ve already covered that last month. When starting a garden sometimes it is best in a cooler spot in your garden or on your patio.  As an aside you can start a garden in the cooler months of spring or fall. Anytime of year will work as long as your plants are not in direct hot sun which will wilt the leaves. Continue reading ”    May The Planting Commence”

Posted in Food as Medicine, Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

Grow Your Non Toxic Garden Today

Grow Your Non Toxic Garden Today1As with all new adventures, sometimes it takes a little planning.  While we are pretty excited to start gardening, the potential for frost has left us in our planning stage until April 10th, but as the saying goes – “proper preparation prevents poor performance”, so that is what we are shooting for!

Before we get started, I want to talk some dirt on dirt. Just like your gastrointestinal system , the soil that grows your food is a microcosm of bacteria and yeast….or at least it used to be .  In the days prior to industrial farming , farmers would rotate their crops, growing different types of plants at different times of year , letting the fields rest at least once yearly . The livestock would roam the fields after harvest.  By having a “life cycle “, important nutrients that were lost at different times in the crop rotation would be replaced . Also being replaced were the bacteria that populate plant roots that help plants resist disease and insects .  Some of these bacteria then find their way to onto our skin at the time of harvest and then later into our GI system.  These are what we call ‘good bacteria.’ Continue reading “Grow Your Non Toxic Garden Today”

Posted in Exercise For Health, Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

How To Increase Happiness With Random Acts Of Kindness

Do you think you may be depressed? Are you feeling a lack of energy and a lack of interest in life around you? Something as simple as reaching out to help someone else has been shown to decrease feelings of depression and is also associated with improved overall health . Did you know there is real science that backs up this claim!

Intuitively we know that helping others is a good thing to do. You may have thought this was a good thing to do because it helped others who were less fortunate but in reality it is good for YOU and your health  when you help others. This can manifest itself in a number of ways with physical measurements such as lower heart rates  and stress hormone levels decreasing such as cortisol.  It makes sense that biologically we are programmed to want to help others and to receive physiologic benefits in doing so. When we lived in tribes and were dependent on community to survive, those who were best at helping others were more likely to survive themselves and in doing so pass their genes along to future generations.  Much like the much beloved Aesop’s fable of the Lion and the Mouse , there is more to giving and helping than meets the eye. Continue reading “How To Increase Happiness With Random Acts Of Kindness”

Posted in Food as Medicine, Healthy Living, Preventative Medicine, Wellness

What’s the dirt on dirt?

As with all new adventures, sometimes it takes a little planning.  While we are pretty excited to start gardening, the potential for frost has left us in our planning stage until April 10th, but as the saying goes – “proper preparation prevents poor performance”, so that is what we are shooting for!

Before we get started, I want to talk some dirt on dirt. Just like your gastrointestinal system , the soil that grows your food is a microcosm of bacteria and yeast….or at least it used to be .  In the days prior to industrial farming , farmers would rotate their crops, growing different types of plants at different times of year , letting the fields rest at least once yearly . The livestock would roam the fields after harvest.  By having a “life cycle “, important nutrients that were lost at different times in the crop rotation would be replaced . Also being replaced were the bacteria that populate plant roots that help plants resist disease and insects .  Some of these bacteria then find their way to onto our skin at the time of harvest and then later into our GI system.  These are what we call ‘good bacteria.’ Continue reading “What’s the dirt on dirt?”