Friday February 28, 2014
One of the most frustrating side effects of getting older is the extent to which sleep can be fractured. Staying asleep - even for people who have no trouble actually falling asleep - becomes a nightly challenge for many.
How can you manage this, and still feel well-rested in the morning? Many sleep experts advise getting out of bed in order to read or listen to music, to avoid turning your bed into a stress-ridden bastion of sleep performance anxiety.
I've never found this approach to be effective for me, however. So-called "morning people" (and I am one) just wake up too thoroughly once out of bed, whether it's 3 am or 7 am. Instead, I have through trial and error developed some techniques of my own, and benefited from those recommended by sleep doctors such as practicing meditation or relaxation exercises.
Thursday February 27, 2014
For an avid walker, ice on roads and pathways can really get in the way. I live in Calgary and this year we've seen an unprecedented number of falls within the community. While living near the mountains always creates a freeze-thaw cycle that repeats several times over the winter, the temperature has really jumped up and down more than usual this year. With every big melt comes a rapid freeze, creating skating rink conditions on city sidewalks and streets.
In one 48-hour period, thirty people fell and suffered injuries requiring emergency medical care, with broken limbs occurring at triple the seasonal average. Some seniors' homes were advising their residents not to walk outdoors at all. Indeed, falls are the top cause of injury and injury-related deaths in people over the age of 65, and the effects can be disastrous.
So, I've researched tips on how to walk safely in winter conditions! Not only should you be careful to dress for the weather to avoid getting too cold, proper footwear and technique can help keep you vertical on icy surfaces. This is the time to wear your flat, supportive shoes rather than boots with smooth soles and spiked heels. Think stability over fashion.
Above all, don't stay inside if at all possible. Enlist the help of a supportive friend or family member. Being outside is good for your morale, your health, and is likely to help you continue exercising more regularly. Just make sure you do it safely.
Read more: Winter walking tips
Saturday February 22, 2014
Like many people, I recently asked myself how much daily movement I was getting, over and above the time I spent exercising at the gym. A traditional step-counting pedometer could tell me how many steps I logged each day - and according to a 2007 study might succeed in giving me that motivational push to take more steps. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the research found a strong link between regular pedometer use and lower Body Mass Index, lower blood pressure and more physical activity in general.
Still, I have always found step counters to be cumbersome: they bulge out under my shirt, and inevitably they fall on the floor or worse, into the toilet. I decided I'd rather wear something on my wrist than on my waistband, to register not only my daily steps but all movement.
Based in part on our Walking Expert's review of the Nike FuelBand SE, I decided on this model. I knew I would like the visual readout, not to mention the fireworks display when I hit my daily goal. Nike's "fuel" reading took some getting used to (1 point of fuel = roughly 3 steps) and I had to return it to the store once in order to get the right size. But overall, even though there's very little independent research on these wearable trackers, I have found the Fuelband motivates me to get moving. When else have I been on the phone at 11pm, walking around the living room to log some last movement of the day in order to hit my goal?
Research is pending on the accuracy and motivational power of digital activity monitors. I suspect they'll find that for people who pick an achievable goal and stick with it, these little devices will prompt them to sit less and move more during the day.
Read my full articles:
Compare prices on the Nike FuelBand
Dena M. Bravata, Crystal Smith-Spangler, Vandana Sundaram, Allison L. Gienger, et al. "Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health: A Systematic Review." JAMA. 2007;298(19):2296-2304.
Wednesday January 29, 2014
New research out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has found that spinal cord injury rates are rising among seniors. In fact, falls appear to be a greater cause of these injuries than traffic accidents - a switch from past trends.
Injuries from falls: Falls in older adults represent a serious threat to their health and independence; a person with a hip fracture, for example, has twice the mortality risk in the first year after suffering the break. But spinal cord injuries also pose a danger, according to the study. It found that seniors with spinal cord injuries are four times more likely to die from those injuries than younger adults.
Published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, the research found that 41.5% of spinal cord injuries were caused by falls between 2007 and 2009, while traffic accidents caused only 35.5% of the injuries recorded in the same period. The scientists speculate that safer driving laws may account for the drop in injuries from car crashes, but call for more programs to prevent dangerous falls among seniors.
Shalini Selvarajah, Edward R. Hammond, Adil H. Haide et al. "The Burden of Acute Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury Among Adults in the United States: An Update." Journal of Neurotrauma 31:228-238 (February 1, 2014).