Optimizing Sleep

Sleep is a basic human need, just like eating, drinking and breathing. Proper sleep is not only important for your physical health, but also for your mental health. This is true for both adults and children. This month we will look at ways to optimize your sleep so you can perform at your best!

Sleep Hygiene

What is it?  Sleep Hygiene is defined as a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have a good night time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.  Sleep hygiene can play a role in migraines and certain pain conditions so it can be an important part of your daily routine. Let’s take a closer look at how to improve sleep.

First, it is important to spend an appropriate amount of time asleep in bed.  Spending too much or too little time impacts your natural wake sleep cycle so it is important to keep a consistent schedule.  Even on weekends! 

Other ways to improve your sleep hygiene:

1)  Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes at the most.  Only nap if you need it as it can be beneficial for alertness.

2) Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.  Try herbal teas instead.

3) If you are consuming alcohol, keep it in moderation as it can help you to fall asleep but inhibits your sleep later in the night as your body starts to process the alcohol.

4) Regular exercise can help with sleep.  Even as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can enhance your sleep experience.  Most people cannot handle strenuous exercise late at night but find what works best for you.

5) Night time food choices are important.  Consuming foods that cause you indigestion or heartburn will impact your quality of sleep.  Keep snacking to a minimum.

6) Ensure you are getting adequate exposure to light during the day.  This is important to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. 

7) Establish a relaxing bed time routine.  Everyone is different in what they find relaxing but a warm bath, a gentle stretching routine or a good book can help trigger your body into sleep.

8) Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable with a good mattress and pillow.  The room temperature should be between 60 -67 degrees.  A cooler room is healthier for sleep.  Bright lights and lights from devices should be low or off and you should avoid using them right before you try to fall asleep.  Consider leaving phones and iPads outside the bedroom, using blackout blinds for darkness and maybe a white noise machine for a relaxation.

If you regularly feel tired in the daytime, or wake up frequently at night it is important to talk to your medical practitioner as sleeping is a vital part of the foundation for good health and well-being throughout your lifetime.

Raking Tips to Avoid Injury

Fall is a favourite season for many Canadians.  Cooler temperatures, cozy sweaters, beautiful colours and time with family during Thanksgiving.  The trees are beautiful but when that peak colour passes and the leaves fall, we have some cleaning up to do!  Raking leaves can cause mid and low back pain, as well as strains and pains that we see as chiropractors and massage therapists.  Most injuries happen because raking is a repetitive activity and forces us to use some muscles we don’t commonly use.  So before you grab your rake and head outside, here are a few tips to help remain injury free this raking season.

Tips for Pain Free Raking

1.  Warm Up – Make sure you warm up your muscles before you start raking.  Doing some trunk rotation and shoulder and wrist rotations should help.  If you are prone to mid and low back injury, take some extra time on this step!

2.  Clear Debris – Take some time pre-raking to check for larger obstacles like rocks, sticks, dog or child toys hidden amongst the leaves.  This will help you avoid sudden jarring injuries, trip and fall injuries and slipping.

3.  Use Proper Equipment – Use a rake that is the proper height and weight for you.  Home improvement stores carry a wide variety of ergonomically correct rakes.  Take some time to find the right one.

4.  Wear Proper Shoes – We may want to hold on to those last warm days by wearing summer shoes, but when you are raking wear proper footwear to avoid slip and fall accidents. 

5.  Avoid Twisting Motions – Think about the way you are moving.  Avoid twisting motions.  Shift your weight with your legs.  Change your hand position occasionally and change your which foot you have in front to avoid strain.  Always rake towards your body, not away from it. 

6. Protect Your Back – Let your legs do the work.  Bend at the knees with your back straight to pick up leaves or bags and avoid bending at the waist.  This will ease pressure on your back. 

7.  Be Smart – Be careful not to overfill leaf bags.  They can be deceptively heavy, especially of the leaves are wet.  Again, remember to lift with your legs when moving them to the garage or curbside for pick up.

8.  Take Breaks – Remember that raking is considered an aerobic activity.  Take breaks when needed and drink water while you work. 

9. Cool Down – Cooling down is just as important as the warm up.  Take a few minutes to do so stretches for the back, shoulders, neck and wrists.  You will feel better for doing it. 

Finally – Do not be embarrassed to call the office for an appointment after raking.  Too many people think a raking injury is silly and then avoid coming into the office for treatment.  If you feel you have injured yourself get in for an adjustment.  Leaving it will only make it worse! 

Finding the Perfect Backpack

Summer has come to an end and that means back to school! Which also means packing lunches and school bags.  It is important that kids of all ages follow some basic tips for backpack safety.

Purchasing the Proper Backpack  

When purchasing a backpack for your child, ensure it is the appropriate size.  If possible, take your child with you so they can try them on. You may think bigger is better but kids will fit as much as they possibly can in the bag, often making it too heavy.  When a backpack weighs too much it can cause back, neck and shoulder pain and contribute to poor posture. The Canadian Chiropractic Association suggests that a backpack should never weigh more than 10-15% of a child’s bodyweight.  

A backpack should not be wider than your child’s back and should not hang more than 4 inches below their waist.   The backpack should have wide, padded, adjustable straps for comfort. It is also a good idea to have multiple compartments in the bag to distribute the weight evenly.  

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Proper Fit

Having raised two teenagers I know the importance of your child to “look cool.” A lot of kids like to put their backpack over one shoulder.  This does not contribute to proper posture and can lead to possible injury so it is important to encourage proper backpack use from an early age.  The best way for a child of any age to wear a backpack is using both straps so the weight is evenly distributed and the straps should be tightened so the bag rests comfortably on the child’s back and the bag doesn’t hang too low down the back.  

Pack Smartly

Once you have found the perfect backpack. Now what?  It’s time to teach them how to pack it. The large, heavy items should be packed closest to the back of the bag so it is close to the child’s back.  Smaller items should be distributed throughout the bag so all the weight isn’t in one place. It should also be encouraged to leave unneeded items either at school or at home.  

Pro Parent Tip

Try to incorporate a weekly backpack cleanest!  You will be amazed at what you will find.  

By following these backpack tips, and encouraging proper use, your child can have a back pain free start to school. 

The staff at FORM Health wishes all our teachers and families a fabulous start to the school year!  

WATER.

We all need it. Water is essential for life but most of us don’t get enough of it. We hear it all the time. Drink water. But it is absolutely true. We NEED water. 60% of the human body is made up of water and 90% of our blood is composed of water. Water is required for every single bodily function – from digestion and circulation – to controlling body temperature and excreting waste products. Water is constantly being used so it needs to be continually replaced.

Reasons for Drinking More Water

1) Delivers oxygen throughout the body;

2) Lubricates joints;

3) Forms saliva and mucus;

4) Cushions the brain, spinal cord and other sensitive tissues;

5) Regulates body temperature;

6) Helps maintain blood pressure;

7) Boosts performance during exercise;

How will I know if I am Dehydrated

“But I drink 3 cups of coffee a day.”

“I drink soda”.

Are these acceptable ways to rehydrate? The short answer is no. As humans, we need more water. Beverages with alcohol or caffeine are not good sources for rehydration because they contribute to dehydration. Dehydration happens when more water is lost then taken in and that can lead to imbalance in electrolytes. Any form of fluid loss, whether from sickness, exercise or extreme heat, can make us feel rotten. Feeling thirsty and weak is a good indication that you need water. If you don’t get some, you may start to get a headache and become lightheaded. It may even lead to heart palpitations and muscle cramps as your body struggles against the lack of fluid in the body.

How Much Water Should I Drink?

There is no actual formula for how much water you should drink. Most commonly, we hear that we should drink 8 glasses a day but that may not be enough. Another theory that is gaining momentum is to drink half your body weight in water every day. Also, probably not enough. Other research says women should drink 2.7 litres of water a day and men should be drinking 3.7 litres at a minimum and that is for someone who isn’t exerting themselves. If you exercise, work outdoors in the heat, or are generally very active you will need more water.

How to Increase Your Water Intake

If you are not accustomed to drinking a lot of water, you will need to gradually increase. Keep a refillable water bottle with you at all times. Tap water is just as good at hydrating then any fancy bottled water. Some people don’t like the taste of water. Adding citrus fruit, berries, even cucumber and mint is an excellent option to encourage you to drink more water. You will find a favourite. You will feel great and your body will thank you!

A Ride to Conquer Cancer

A Personal Story by Julie Peters

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As part of the B-Strong Cycle Team a couple of years ago, I was about to embark on what was likely the most difficult physical test I had put my body through in a very long time.  I was about to ride a bike 216 km from Toronto to Niagara Falls over two days. I was excited, and scared! I was part of the B-Strong Cycle Team for the first time. I had a great bike and all the proper gear.  I looked every bit the part of experienced cyclist but appearances can be deceiving. The fact of the matter was I had only ridden my bike about 20 km before the Ride Weekend and I had just learned how to clip in and out of my pedals.  This was a steep learning curve but I was going to do this.  

Day 1

I was surrounded by thousands of cyclists ready to take on the weekend.  We had all put our baggage on trucks that would meet us in Hamilton and we had found our team members.  The opening ceremonies were inspiring and emotional. I learned that if I saw a rider with a gold flag attached to their bike, they were either battling cancer in the present or was a cancer survivor.  Having a good look around, I could not believe how many flags I saw. Other people had names and pictures of people they knew and loved on their shirts, showing people the images of the true heroes that battled and fought against the brutal disease.  Approximately 5000 people were cycling and it was truly amazing.

It took me a while to get comfortable riding.  There were so many people and I was afraid I would cause an accident with my lack of experience but the members of my team gave me confidence and tips as we rode and I gradually got more comfortable.   Everything was going well, the weather was great, people seemed genuinely happy to be there. There are several pit stops along the way with everything from washrooms to first aid to food and drinks for replenishment and these stops are on the properties of people along the way.  Another amazing way to support the cause. It was a lot of city street riding the first day which was intimidating but the hardest part of the first day was the escarpment in Hamilton. For an inexperienced rider, this was by far the most difficult part of the day. Not only was the way up crowded with cyclists, but there was traffic as well.  In my mind it was the longest hill ever but I did it and to say I was proud is an understatement. The rest of the ride to camp I was happy and enjoying the fact that I conquered would turned out to be the hardest physical challenge of the weekend.

The camp  the organizers set up was something to see.  Thousands of blue tents, side by side for all the cyclists along with food tents and shelters, first aid, massage therapy and chiropractic care, shower trucks and the bicycle parking lot with everyone’s bike.  This is home for the night and there are speeches and celebrations as well as entertainment and I do believe a tent had the Stanley Cup final on as well! Most people made an early night of it and I was no exception.  It was a long day and another long day to come.

Day 2

We were up and out at the earliest we were allowed and that was early enough to witness a beautiful morning.  Day two was a little more relaxing for me. I didn’t try to keep up to the more experienced riders on the team.  Instead, I enjoyed my day. We were cycling through some of the most gorgeous country side and I wanted to take it all in.  We cycled past orchards, and vineyards and through the cutest towns. All along the way, the riders supported each other and people were standing outside their homes cheering for riders.  For me, day two also became emotionally and mentally challenging. Even though I was enjoying the ride and taking it all in, the truth of the matter is my body was sore, and I was tired from not having the best sleep in the tent.  I was spending a lot of time fighting mentally with myself. More than once, I was questioning why I did this, and then I would look around and see a rider with a gold flag. It was at those points of questioning my mental toughness, that I realized that if people can do this while they are fighting cancer or recovering from cancer treatment, I, as a healthy, fit person, can certainly keep riding my bike.  It gave me more energy and I kept pushing.

After about four hours of riding, I realized I am way closer to the finish line then I thought.  Gradually, the beautiful country and rural roads, were giving way to busier streets with more traffic.  One left turn and I saw downtown Niagara Falls! I thought to myself, this is it and then we turned right.  So close, yet so far! It was about another 30 minutes before the finish was getting closer. I crossed the finish line,  to cheers from the crowd and huge sense of pride. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion and the tears were flowing. I had just completed two days, and 216 km for cancer research.  I thought about the people I know that had battled cancer, those who had survived and those who hadn’t. All the pain in my body was worth it. It was then, that I found my dad and my daughters who had come to pick me up.  Seeing the pride in their eyes, knowing that I had accomplished this was monumental.

I have done the Ride to Conquer Cancer 2 times and both times I finished with an enormous sense of pride, not only in myself but also in the thousands of people who rode the weekend.  The physical, emotional and mental challenges made me a stronger person, and to this day, I find myself reflecting on the lessons learned on those days. Since I have done the ride, I have lost more people to cancer, and I have known more who have battled and won.  Next year is the 10th anniversary for the B-Strong cycle team and with any luck, I will ride again!

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Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical activity doesn’t just make us stronger and healthier, it affects our emotional and mental health too.

Do you ever feel emotionally a little low and don’t really know why? Or feel mentally fatigued and like you just need a break?  Many of us feel this creep in at times and some more than others. Our daily lives can get so busy with our jobs, taking care of our children, etc. that we forget to take care of ourselves. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just affect us physically, it can start to impact our mental health and happiness as well.

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Why is Exercise so Important?

Getting out for a walk, going to the gym, or whatever form of exercise you find enjoyable has immense impact on our well being.  Regular exercise helps:

– reduce stress and anxiety levels;

– increase energy and mood levels;

– reduce feelings of sadness and depression;

– increase self-esteem, confidence and provides a sense of general well-being;

– improves sleep;

– boost brain power;

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Regular exercise promotes changes in the brain that include neural growth, reduced inflammation and promotes feelings of calm. This happens because when we are active, our body releases endorphins, which are powerful, feel-good chemicals that energize and invigorate us. There are many studies that demonstrate that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as some anti-depression medications.   And for those that require medication to manage their symptoms, they may need less medication or feel better with a combination or exercise and medication.

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The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious or generally mentally unwell, remember to take time for yourself.  Self-care isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessary part of being healthy.

WHY EXERCISE?

Some of us love it, some of us hate it….. but exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our long-term health and longevity. This month, let’s talk about the physical benefits of exercise and why we should ALL be incorporating exercise into our daily lives. 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, in periods of 10 minutes or more at a time.

Exercise is Essential for Cardiovascular Health. 

Many of us have busy schedules so if you’re not active now, the idea incorporating exercise into your life can seem overwhelming.

There are easy ways to exercise and get more active! 

  • Take a 10-15 minute walk on your lunch hour.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Start walking your dog in the morning and/or when you get home at night. 
  • Play outside with your kids.   Ride bikes, play some one-on-one, or road hockey. 
  • Make exercise a fun part of your lifestyle. It’s easier to keep up that way & you’ll also be setting a healthy example for your children. 

The most important thing as that you get active and stay active.

Cardiovascular health is just one reason to exercise. Improved mood, weight control, better sleep, boosted energy and improved posture. As well as a decreased risk of disease, chronic conditions and certain cancers.

Adding strength training into your exercise routine can help increase bone density, improve balance and prevent falls. This doesn’t mean you have to go to a gym and start a whole weight-lifting program. Starting with basic bodyweight exercises will do the trick!  Squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks are all exercises that will help increase muscle strength. 

Our bodies were made to move. Make the time to exercise, it will pay off.  Many people find it easier to do if you have a buddy.  Find a family member, friend or neighbour that may like to incorporate more exercise into their lives too and do it together to help motivate and support each other.

If you don’t know how to start, the practitioners at FORM Health can help make suggestions that are appropriate for you.  It is also important to discuss any new exercise program with your health care practitioner(s). Spring is here now and the weather is improving – it’s the perfect time to get outside and start that exercise program you have been putting off.  Have fun and move your body!

FORMING HEALTHY HABITS

We all want to try to be as healthy as we can be.  

Our daily routines are made up of a series of habits. Most have become our norm: some good, some bad.  But how do habits form?  

Some are formed in childhood.  Daily routines that are reinforced day after day that we carry into our adult lives.  Others start later on. 

What they have in common is that all habits are formed because of a reinforcement cycle,. That’s how they become a routine. Here’s how it works: there is a cue, a craving, a response and a reward.  

For example, why do we drink coffee?

Cue – Wake up.

Craving – Want to be alert.

Response – Drink coffee.

Reward – Feel alert and ready to start your day.

There was a positive reward for the craving, therefore the cycle continues day after day, forming a habit.

Research suggests that forming a habit takes an average of 21 days.  This may be true for some things and for some people, but it isn’t universally true..  This is why deciding you want to create a good habit has to be something that is possible to achieve AND that you are mentally ready to go after it.  You may want to start exercising.  You have to dedicate yourself to the hard work it will take.  The cue is whatever makes you think about you health or cause you to desire to be healthier, the craving is wanting to feel healthy, the response is exercising, the reward is feeling stronger and healthier.  The more times you do this cycle, the more natural it becomes and the more likely it becomes routine for you. 

It may take 21 days, it could take 60 days.  You could stumble along the way and start again.  But every step towards creating a healthier you is a step in the right direction.  The key is to set your goal, keep finding the drive to pursue it and reach for the rewards that are within your grasp.

NEW YEAR… NEW YOU?

We have all been there.  January 1st of a New Year and we feel we have to make a self-improvement goal. It has become common place, as if it is a social norm in our culture.  So much so, that it is a topic of conversation for many. Do you know why we do this?

HISTORY OF NEW YEARS

The roots of New Year Resolutions go back 4000 years. While some cultures around the world still follow a lunar calendar and have New Years at different times, the majority of the world looks to January 1st as the time for new beginnings and setting resolutions.  

ARE RESOLUTIONS ATTAINABLE?

So, here we are, January 1st.  What will your resolution be?

The most common resolutions are losing weight, eating better, getting out of debt, saving more money; or finally quitting smoking! All good ideas. Yet all likely going to fail. Why? Because typically, resolutions are far too general. “This year I’m going to lose weight” or “This year I’m going to save money.”  Studies have even labelled January 12th as “Quitters Day”. Because by this date, the majority of people have already let their resolutions go or have started to slip in their commitments.  Less than 1-2 weeks later it happens and has probably happened at some point in your life. When a resolution fails, the downward spiral begins. So perhaps this year, instead of making a resolution, we do something different.  

S.M.A.R.T. Goals – What are they?

Often used in business and education, SMART goals are a way to make a resolution in a different way.  The acronym stands for:

SSpecific – the goal you are setting is specific and strategic

MMeasurable – the success of your goal can be measured in a tangible way

AAttainable – the goal is action oriented, agreed upon (if you have a support system) and achievable

R –  Reasonable – your goal is reasonable and realistic

TTime bound – you have an end date that is trackable

Using a SMART goal instead of a resolution allows for the very general “I’m going to lose weight” to become a goal you can actually hold yourself accountable to and work toward.

Example. By March 30th, my goal is to lose 15 pounds.

TAKE RISKS and STEPPING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

If March 30th comes and you’ve met your goal, you may be ready to change your focus.  This is a great time to do that. Maybe you have always wanted to try a 5 km run or participate in a Mud Run with your family.  Sign up! The goal is not the weight loss now, it is fitness and trust me, you will continue to see changes in your body as you train for whatever event you choose.  

Julie’s Story:

5 years ago, I had a goal to run a 5 km.  Before I had time to really think about what I was doing, I signed up and paid the money.  It was a slow process but as I trained I felt my cardiovascular health and stamina improving and my legs getting stronger and soon the hill I had to walk up, I was able to run.  Then, my competitive spirit kicked in and it became about time goals. I didn’t want to be last and I wanted to try to run my 5 km in under 40 minutes. The day of the run, I was nervous.  I was completely out of my comfort zone but I had done the work. I knew I could run the entire 5km at a reasonable pace. With the help of my trainer, who ran at my pace which was much slower than mine, I finished that 5km run in 37 minutes.  I wasn’t breaking any time records but the sense of accomplishment I felt that day stayed with me for a long time. It was at that finish line that I really understood that in order to change and in order to grow you have to be uncomfortable for a while.  Did I love the early morning runs, the hill training and the sore knees? Not really. But what I did love is seeing myself becoming more confident, stronger mentally, physically and emotionally!

This year, we invite you to do something that challenges you!  Set 1 or 2 SMART Goals. Write them down, reach out for support from friends and family or your practitioner at FORM! Do something  that makes you a little uncomfortable. Sign up for a race, start lifting weights, go to a yoga class or a dance class. Do something that pushes you to take a step outside of that comfortable bubble.  You never know what could happen!