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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

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Intermittent Fasting Has Broad-Based Health Promoting Potential

Posted By Dr. Mark Pettus, MD, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

For most of recorded time, cultures around our planet and their wise traditions have recognized and honored the ritual of fasting. In addition, anthropologic studies of modern ancestral cultures like Hadza and Australian aborigines reveals periods of fasting and diminished caloric intake as a way of life, given seasonal variability and availability of plants and animals to consume.

Research studies in many life forms from yeast to primates have shown that caloric restriction of approximately 30% from baseline is associated with greater longevity. In addition, many lines of evidence in humans suggest periods of fasting to be associated with a “turning-on” or upregulation of deeply built-in resiliency systems. These include improved efficiency of metabolism, more effective sensitivity of insulin, more efficient cell recycling aka autophagy, more tolerant immune systems, i.e., less inflammation, and a host of other health-promoting metabolic changes.

The key concept of interest today is that of metabolic resiliency. This refers to our ability to efficiently burn our own fat when food is limited and to burn our fuel more cleanly, in other words, more energy produced with less free radicals and oxygen reactive species known to accelerate inflammation and aging.

What is confusing is that fasting can mean many different things. And while they all seem to offer many health benefits, they are not necessarily the same.

For example, here are some of the types of intermittent fasting (IF) that have (are being) been studied:

The 5:2 IF: this is essentially ad lib intake 5 days/week with 2 days of caloric restriction in the 500-600 calorie/day range.

The 16:8: this is time-restricted eating (TRE) where an individual consumes all their food in an 8-hour window, fasting for 16 hours. It is not intended to caloric-restrict. One eats what they want, just narrowing the window within which they consume. The smaller the window the better. Many reported health benefits including reduced risk of recurrence of breast cancer have been reported up to a 10-hour consumption window. While it is currently unproven, there may be a further advantage if the eating window is more closely aligned with sun-rising and sun-setting circadian cycles for that time of year.
24-hour IF: This is essentially fasting (water only) for 24 hours at specific interval e.g. monthly or every other month.
Fasting-Mimicking Diet: This has been researched and popularized by Valter Luongo, PhD. It involves predominantly plant-based foods with caloric restriction of 500-600 calories/day for 5-straight days from monthly to every 2-3 months depending on one’s health goals.

I believe all of these strategies are substantial health-promoting upgrades compared to the “ad-lib” all day grazing most tend to do in modern life. Yes, this is a phenomenon of modern life!

Some of the above strategies, in particular the 16:8 or the 24-hour IF, will result in the liver’s production of ketones. Ketones themselves appear to have many unique health benefits from improved cell signaling, metabolism, epigenetic (how our genes can be turned on and off) effects and is a super fuel for the brain and heart. There may be important risk reduction of many chronic diseases like diabetes, neurological diseases, cancer, heart disease, etc. While the jury is still out on long-term risks and benefits of nutritional ketosis, the early returns are quite favorable.

Clinical trials of IF have been done in animals and humans. While most studies lump the above strategies, it is not clear if one has a great advantage over the other. I personally like the 16:8 and try to do it at least 2-3 days a week. Taking a whole-foods, minimally processed and nutrient-dense approach and then integrating it into one of the above strategies is a powerful 1-2 health promoting punch that will pay huge benefits!

These are some of the possible reported benefits from a review recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine (December 2019):

Greater metabolic-stress resiliency at the level of cellular function in many different tissues
Improvements in longevity and healthspan (quality of life)
Improvements in sleep quality
Reductions in obesity and diabetes risks
Reduced cardiovascular risks
Reduced cancer risks and enhanced recovery/prognosis with cancer treatment
Improvements in neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS
Improvements in inflammatory arthritis and asthma
Improvements in wound healing and post-operative complications

As you can see, IF appears to have broad-based health promoting potential. While long-term clinical trials are limited, these strategies appear safe for most. While there will inevitably be a lot of pharmacological research to develop a drug that can “mimic” the effects of IF, they are likely to be inferior to the actual practice.

Dr. Mark Pettus currently serves as the Director of Medical Education, Wellness and Population Health at Berkshire Health Systems in western Massachusetts. In addition, he serves as The Associate Dean of Medical Education at The University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is the author of two books, The Savvy Patient: The Ultimate Advocate for Quality Health Care and It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind, Change Your Health. He serves on the teaching faculty at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine based in Washington D.C. and The Meditation Institute in Averill Park NY. He's also a member of NWI's Board of Directors.

Tags:  Fasting  Intermittent Fasting  Physical Wellness 

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SelfHelpWorks: Activity Log and Walking Summary

Posted By SelfHelpWorks Product Team, Wednesday, February 26, 2020

LivingFit is a 12-week walking program that includes a cognitive behavioral training component designed to help participants ease into exercise and enjoy daily physical activity so that it becomes a regular part of life. The program is divided into three distinct four-week segments, each designed to serve a specific purpose that takes the participant to a new level of activity. LivingFit focuses on changing the way participants think about being active rather than providing a workout regimen, and the result is genuine, lasting behavior change and a higher quality of life.

The LivingFit course contains two closely related elements that raise user accountability, promote mindfulness through interaction, and provide visual motivation to increase activity levels.  

The LivingFit course is specifically targeted to users who are mostly inactive or even completely sedentary, but it can benefit anyone who wants to increase their daily activity or reframe their attitudinal outlook on exercise.

The course contains a metrical centerpiece—comprised of two parts—that functions as a prime motivational tool for users.

The Activity Log

Each session of the LivingFit course (which progresses on a week-by-week basis) issues the user two different types of challenges:

  1. The weekly walking goal: This is a combination of the number of days to walk, the walking pace, AND the total amount of time the user is challenged to walk.
  2. The daily goal: This is an assignment that engages the brain's habit-creation system, often encourages introspection, and plays a pivotal role in re-framing the user's attitude about exercise.  

Both goal-types become incrementally more challenging as the course unfolds. Users are prompted to enter their minutes walking and their completion of the daily goal in the activity log every day (although they can retroactively fill in days they've missed back to the previous week). Here is an example of the activity log, as it appears in week 3:

The Walking Summary

The Walking Summary is kept in the Tools section of the course library; it compiles all the data entered into the Activity Log and displays it so the user can see a weekly breakdown of their days walked, minutes walked, and completion of daily goals. At the top of the summary are the totals for all categories logged:

  1. Minutes walked since starting the course
  2. Hours walked since starting the course 
  3. Average minutes walked per week
  4. Ongoing percentage of daily goals met
  5. Daily breakdown of walking minutes organized by week, with totals on the right to reveal trends later in the course
  6. Days the daily goal was met, and number of days walking minutes were logged (in relation to how many goal-days there were)

In Summary

The Activity Log gives the user a sense of accountability and interactivity within the LivingFit course. There are regular reminders to fill in the activity log that are woven into each session; also, users have the option to schedule reminders sent via email and/or text.

The Walking Summary is designed to give users both a snapshot and a detailed report on their activity levels and adherence to the daily goal challenge. As the user continues through the course, the Walking Summary provides a journal of progress and achievement. 

SelfHelpWorks partners with employers, wellness vendors, health plans and healthcare providers to help people achieve lasting behavior change that lowers chronic disease risk, improves health, and enhances outcomes. Their program LivingFit is a 12-week walking program that includes a cognitive behavioral training component designed to help participants ease into exercise and enjoy daily physical activity so that it becomes a regular part of life, keeping in line with the Physical Dimension of Wellness from NWI's Six Dimensions of Wellness Model.

Tags:  Exercise  physical  Physical Activity  physical wellness  walking 

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Leadership Engagement Positively Affects Students' Physical Activity

Posted By Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, PhD, FACSM, Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2020
Great research on how your pedometer/fitness monitor is positively affected when leadership is engaged. In this case, when the teacher moved, the students moved. The same will hold true with your tribe. Get leadership engaged and people will adapt to the leader's routines.  

Pedometer program promotes physical activity for children and teachers in the classroom and could be a practical way for students and teachers to work towards achieving the 2018 PA Guidelines for both teachers and students while in a school setting. 

Implementation of a Pedometer Program to reach the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines during the School day in an Elementary School Setting


The 2018 Physical Activity (PA) Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released the 2018 PA Guidelines, which clearly state that PA bouts of any duration or length contribute to the health benefits associated with the accumulated volume of PA. A teacher-led Health and Wellness Committee at an elementary school created a pedometer program focused on increasing PA and movement throughout the school day for teachers and students in order to meet the 2018 PA Guidelines during the school day. This paper will outline the “how-to’s” of the pedometer program in order to encourage program replication and best practices in an elementary school setting. 


In 31 self-contained classrooms, teachers and one rotating student per classroom wore a pedometer during the school day and recorded step counts over two academic school years. 


The pedometer program revealed a significant increase in steps during the school day for teachers and students.  


The pedometer program promoted PA for children and teachers in the classroom and could be a practical way for students and teachers to work towards achieving the 2018 PA Guidelines for both teachers and students while in a school setting.

Research conducted by: P. Brian Kiessling II, M.S. (Corresponding Author); Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, PhD, FACSM; Jessica Yoder, MPH; Michael Frisby, M.S.

Tags:  Leadership  Physical Activity  Physical Wellness  Research 

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Aroma Therapy Uses in Addiction Recovery

Posted By Patty Bell, Friday, January 17, 2020
Updated: Friday, January 10, 2020
aromatherapy bottle and herbs

Anyone who has enjoyed the aroma of lavender, eucalyptus, or frankincense during a massage already knows firsthand the relaxing properties of essential oils. Wafting into the senses, these aromatic essences immediately improve the state of mind, inducing a state of soothing calm.

It may come as a surprise to learn that aromatherapy is also very useful as a supportive measure in addiction recovery. As a complementary treatment element in detox, treatment, and recovery, aromatherapy has a multitude of wellness benefits. The mind-body connection is one that must be considered in recovery, as the mind is a powerful engine that can influence recovery outcomes. Aromatherapy is useful in helping individuals in recovery restore that mind-body connection.

The mental health component to addiction recovery cannot be overstated. Our mental wellness can literally make or break any attempts to live a sober, healthy life. Increasingly, addiction treatment programs are embracing holistic measures, including the use of essential oils, as complementary therapies to the conventional evidence-based protocols.

Learning about the role of aromatherapy in recovery offers the newly sober an additional tool to help achieve a more serene and balanced state of mind. Coupled with therapy and recovery support groups, aromatherapy offers just one more tool to aid the process of restoring health and reshaping one’s lifestyle.

What is Aromatherapy?

The use of essential oils is ancient. Originating in Eastern medicine thousands of years ago, aromatherapy has a proven history of efficacy in providing medicinal effects, both physical and psychological. Essential oils are created from the most potent parts of various plants and flowers. The distillation process, using water or steam, yields medicinal grade oil, with each variety having its own healing properties. Today, essential oils are an increasingly popular drug-free alternative to achieve a state of relaxation or to improve mood.

Essential oils are utilized to benefit a multitude of health and wellness conditions. Aromatherapy, using the scent and medicinal properties of the essential oils, is beneficial in the healing of mind and body. There are a multitude of essential oils that can produce healing effects, such as by reducing inflammation and improving the immune system. In summary, aromatherapy can help relieve symptoms of various ailments, reduce stress, and to bolster the immune system.

There are two basic methods of using aromatherapy:

  • Topical. Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin. When applying the essential oils to the skin it is important to first dilute the oil with carrier oil, such as coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba, or olive oil before massaging it into the skin. Essential oils are best applied to the soles of the feet, the palm of the hand, and the temples and the scalp.
  • Inhalation. The vapor from a diffuser that is produced by drops of the essential oil added to water stimulates the olfactory system, entering through the nasal passage, into the lungs, and reaching the brain. A differ is not necessary, as just placing two drops of the essential oil on the palms, rubbing them together, then cupping them to the nose while inhaling deeply can also provide immediate effects.

Other uses of essential oils might include placing a few drops in the bath, or on a pillowcase. It can also be added to a candle allowing the heat of the candle to release the scent into the room or mixed with water in a spray bottle and spritzed into the air. Aromatherapy can be used in massage therapy, during meditation or prayer, while bathing, or during any relaxing activity.

illustration of inside of the nose from the sideThe Science of Smell

Most people have experienced how a scent or odor can immediately elicit a memory. Our sense of smell has a powerful effect on our mood by activating the limbic system or the mood center of the brain. The aromatherapy affects the mood center of the brain by helping to regulate emotions, stress, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. This can help promote relaxation in the face of a stressful situation or event.

The pleasant effects enjoyed with aromatherapy can help the brain develop new scent-mind connections, creating a positive stimulus-response when the oils are introduced. Essentially, the aromatherapy induces feelings of pleasure and calm. This is because the reward path of the brain is part of the limbic system. Aromatherapy can be used to activate the reward path using a natural substance such as essential oils.

Basically, in addiction recovery, the brain is in recovery. Addiction takes a steep toll on brain structures, brain chemistry, cognitive functioning, and overall brain health. Aromatherapy can be an additional salve as brain health is restored to optimum functioning by creating a healing environment through the olfactory system.

How Essential Oils Assist the Detox Process

The detox process is the dreaded, but necessary, first step on the recovery journey. Detox and withdrawal involve the cessation of the substance of abuse, allowing the body to begin purging any chemicals or toxins associated with the substance. During alcohol or drug detox the body is destabilized. As the brain struggles to achieve equilibrium the person going through detox experiences assorted unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

While each specific substance of abuse has its own list of withdrawal symptoms, there are some that are common across the board. These symptoms include both physical and psychological symptoms such as headache, nausea, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and agitation. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms rests on a variety of factors that influence whether symptoms will be mild, moderate, or severe, and how long the detox process will take to complete.

During detox, trained professionals will utilize medications to minimize withdrawal discomforts. As a complementary holistic measure, aromatherapy can augment traditional medical interventions and ease the unpleasant effects of withdrawal. Adding essential oil therapy helps the individual processing through detox and withdrawal in several ways, including relief of some of the physical discomforts, boosting mood, reducing cravings, and aiding sleep. These benefits can assist the individual to safely and successfully complete the detox process before transitioning to addiction treatment.

Some essential oils for addiction can alleviate the general discomforts of withdrawal symptoms during the detox process, while others are uniquely suited to a particular drug or alcohol detox. For general withdrawal symptoms, clary sage, lemon, and bergamot essential oils can be helpful during detox and withdrawal. In addition:

For alcohol detox adding black pepper oil and Roman chamomile oil can help reduce withdrawal discomforts and help restore liver health.

For opiate detox adding lavender oil, ylang ylang oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and cinnamon oil can help with lethargy, reduce anxiety, and improve mental clarity.

For stimulant detox adding orange oil, jasmine oil, and peppermint can help boost mood, energy, and help soothe anxiety.

Detox and withdrawal are an uncomfortable but necessary first step in addiction recovery. Using the healing power of essential oils along with conventional medical interventions can provide relief from withdrawal symptoms and help the individual to persevere through the possible post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) as well. PAWS may linger for weeks, even months, so individuals experiencing these lasting withdrawal symptoms will benefit from the effects of aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy as a Complementary Treatment Element

As a complementary treatment element, aromatherapy can offer safe, natural effects that help boost mood, improve sleep quality, enhance mental clarity, and promote relaxation. All of these are essential in reinforcing recovery. Low mood can reduce motivation to stay the course and remain sober. Sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on overall wellbeing and can leave someone feeling fatigued and depressed. Stress is one of the most common triggers that can result in relapse. Why not use aromatherapy as a routine component of healthy living in recovery?

In many cases, the individual with a substance use disorder also suffers from a co-occurring mental health disorder. This goes beyond just feeling down or a little tense or irritable. Clinical depression or an anxiety disorder complicates the treatment picture, as they must be treated alongside the addiction. While essential oils will not replace antidepressants or other psychotropic medications, aromatherapy is excellent complementary therapy.

To improve mood, sleep quality, and reduce stress some of the most effective essential oils that benefit recovery include:

Basil sweet oil
Reduces stress, promotes deeper sleep, aids mental clarity, and improves memory
Helps relieve tension, regulate appetite, and has antidepressant properties
Black pepper oil
Reduces cravings, increases serotonin levels, calms anxiety
Chamomile oil
Lifts mood, has relaxation properties
Cassia oil
Improves state of mind, reduces cravings
Cinnamon bark oil
Promotes relaxation
Clove oil
Supports brain and liver health
Coriander oil (cilantro)
This oil may reduce cravings and has a stimulant effect that helps reduce fatigue
Dill oil
Helps promote relaxation and calm anxiety
Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
Geranium oil
Relieves negative emotions and tension, lifts mood
Ginger oil
Enhances mental clarity and decision-making abilities, reduces brain fog
Grapefruit oil
Combats fatigue and renews energy, reduces cravings, boosts mood
Jasmine oil
Has antidepressant properties, boosts mood
Lavender oil
It’s calming effects can also help with insomnia and anxiety, reduces mood swings, and promotes liver energy flow (qi)
Lemon oil
Increases energy, boosts mood
Orange oil
Helps lift mood while calming anxiety
Peppermint oil
Aids in mental clarity, revitalizes the spirit, energizes, reduces cravings, and lifts mood
Pine oil
Improves energy and boosts mood
Pink grapefruit oil
This oil can help depression symptoms, reduce cravings, promote relaxation, and induce a positive state of mind.
Rosemary oil
This oil stimulates mental clarity, improves mood
Sandalwood oil
Helps achieve mental clarity and focus

Group therapy sessionIntegrating aromatherapy into a traditional evidence-based treatment program can help ease some of the stress of being in a treatment environment, as well as help induce better sleep while in rehab. The core treatment elements in addiction treatment include:

  • Detox and withdrawal
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication management
  • Narcotics Anonymous 12-step program or similar programming
  • Addiction education
  • Adjunctive activities

Holistic Addiction Recovery Practices

The holistic benefits of aromatherapy positively impact the psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects of wellness. When using aromatherapy in conjunction with other holistic activities and regular exercise, the individual in recovery can significantly improve their state of mind without the need for drugs or alcohol. So often those substances are used to self-medicate, to quiet an anxious mind or cover up feelings of depression. In recovery, holistic practices can offer a healthy alternative to substances of abuse while achieving the desired sense of calm.

Some holistic recovery practices include:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Guided meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Gardening therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Sound therapy
  • Journaling
  • Aerobic exercise

Early recovery is a challenging phase as individuals adjust to a completely new lifestyle. By combining aromatherapy with other holistic activities, it can significantly improve the mind-body connection and enhance recovery efforts, especially because of the stress-reducing properties of these activities.

Holistic activities help the individual gain a clearer sense of self and a fresh perspective through practicing them. These new insights, combined with the relaxation-promoting aspects of these activities, can help calm the mind and reduce the risk of relapse. Recovery is further reinforced by using these holistic methods in conjunction with ongoing outpatient therapy and participation in a recovery community.

Some Considerations About Aromatherapy

While aromatherapy is generally considered to be safe, some caution should be exercised when beginning aromatherapy. First, it should be emphasized that aromatherapy alone is not the answer to defeating an addiction. Engaging in active treatment while in rehab and continuing with ongoing outpatient rehab following rehab is the bedrock of addiction recovery. Aromatherapy compliments traditional therapy.

Also, the essential oils should not be ingested unless the individual is under the guidance of a naturopath who can provide the specific type of oils that are designed for this purpose. Essential oils can cause skin irritation, so in most cases should not be applied directly to the skin.

Other considerations include:

  • Essential oils can cause serious eye injury
  • Pregnant women should not use aromatherapy
  • Essential oils may be harmful to individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions Hyssop oil can trigger seizures in people with a history of convulsions
  • Rosemary oil can cause an increase in blood pressure so should be avoided by individuals with hypertension.

Patty BellPatty Bell has been working in the alcohol and drug addiction industry for over 20 years. She is currently the Family Relations Manager/Interventionist at Solutions 4 Recovery a residential rehabilitation facility providing substance abuse treatment services to men and women suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, and dual diagnosis.  Patty has been sober since May 1996 and looks to help those struggling rise from their past to a new and brighter future.

Tags:  addiction recovery  aromatherapy  emotional wellness  physical wellness 

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Combating the ‘Silent Killer’

Posted By Colin Bullen, Monday, December 16, 2019

This is part 1 of The BRATLAB ‘Behavioral Prescription’ Series

High blood pressure, or "hypertension" has no immediately noticeable symptoms. It is therefore difficult to spot and often referred to as the "silent killer." It is one of the most frequently diagnosed health conditions amongst US adults and was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 410,000 Americans in 2014. That's over 1,000 deaths each day and represents an 18% increase since 2009.

Hypertension is defined as blood pressure in excess of 140mmHg Systolic or 90mmHg Diastolic (“140 over 90”) and these levels are experienced by over 30% of the US population. The percentage of the population with hypertension increases significantly with age and is one of the leading indicators for chronic heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, aneurysms and aortic disease. The relationship between high blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease events is continuous, consistent, and independent of other risk factors — the higher the blood pressure, the greater is the chance of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

If you have a population impacted by hypertension, what behavior change would have the greatest impact on an individual’s risk profile? With a limited budget, where should you focus your resources?

The most effective wellness interventions for High Blood Pressure

Seniors laughing using hula hoops outdoorsThe Behavioural Research and Applied Technology Laboratory research suggests that behavior change can reduce hypertension significantly, and fast. Compared to other lifestyle habits, exercise has the largest impact. Research suggests that a reduction of around 55% in the prevalence of hypertension can be achieved through a ‘habit prescription’ or ‘dose’ of cardiovascular exercise at moderate (brisk walk) to intense (running) intensity levels for 30 minutes, five days per week. Although physicians recommend that exercise should still be combined with drug therapy, clinical trials confirm that exercise is at least as effective at controlling blood pressure as medicines — and with none of the unpleasant side effects.

In addition to exercise, getting adequate sleep (>7 hours per night) and meditation (transcendental, practiced twice a day for 20 minutes) significantly reduce hypertension prevalence by up to 40%. Other wellness interventions also show benefits, but not as large as these.

Making the Change: Adopting Healthy Behaviors that Reduce Hypertension

Organizations looking to change the health risk profile of their employee populations would do well to address hypertension, at least through exercise. Setting up a change-ready environment that allows employees to adopt healthier behaviors regarding exercise, meditation and sleep hygiene will result in significant improvements in an organization’s health risk profile.

Alongside the 30% of the population with hypertension, it’s estimated that around 60% of the US population does not exercise adequately. In the worst case this means that 18% of a typical US population will both hypertensive and not exercising adequately. However, given these findings, it’s likely that more than 60% of the hypertensive population are not exercising, meaning that 18% is an underestimate. Combining this finding with the 55% reduction available through exercise, suggests that a reduction of at least 10% in hypertension prevalence is achievable in a typical US population.

Within a few years, that will translate to significant reductions in cardiovascular and heart disease, more than reversing the increasing trend and reducing health plan costs. The cost and productivity benefits will manifest over time and can be accurately predicted.

Any organization looking to evaluate the impact of investing in these changes or wanting to understand more about how to create happy, healthy and change-ready cultures should contact Change Craft at hello@changecraft.consulting.

Colin BullenColin Bullen is the founder and director of Change Craft, a global business established to help organisations execute effective and successful wellbeing change. In business, he’s the technician, evaluator, and strategist. A true road-less-travelled devotee, he qualified as an actuary in 1992 in the UK before spending 13 years in South Africa where he met Chicago-based business partner Hanlie van Wyk. During this time, he has steadily broadened his métier into health, well-being, leadership, strategy, assessment, and data.

Colin has a deep passion for helping companies find their human touch, whilst accelerating their performance and focusing their vision. Colin is also one of the creators of the behavioural research database that is BRATLAB and has been a driving force behind early successes in Change Craft.


Tags:  aneurysm  aortic disease  exercise  heart attack  heart disease  high blood pressure  hypertension  Physical Wellness  stroke 

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Chiropractic and the Immune System: A Great Relationship

Posted By Dr. Anthony Odney, D.C., Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

A baseball team keeps nine players on the field when it is that team’s turn to pitch. If something happens to one of those players, an alternate player is sent to take that person’s place on the field. As a unit, the team works to accomplish the task of getting all of the batters out in one way or another.

The body’s immune system works in much the same manner as a team of baseball players. How is this so?

During a game, the initial goal of the pitching team is to keep as many batters from gaining access to the field as possible. However, it is expected that batters will eventually make it on base. Once a batter does make it on base, that does not mean that a complete run has been gained for the running team. The defensive team can still get the running batter out before he or she crosses the home plate.

The human body is equipped with multiple methods for keeping out infection, disease, and illness. As the outermost layer of the body, the skin is often considered the body’s first line of defense against disease and infection. Mucous membranes, airways, and the digestive tract are a few of the body’s other natural defense barriers. Life naturally brings us to easily ingest or acquire harmful bits of the world in which we live.

A pitcher and his teammates can do everything right, and a batter will still get a hit. When a ball is put into play by the batter, the nine players must work together to retrieve the ball and use it to get the player out. How the baseball team plays will depend on the skill and determination of the players, time spent in practice, and the ability of the team to communicate effectively.

The immune system also has more than one chance for recovery. The body’s power to protect itself is incredible, but not quite impenetrable. We do get injured and sick, requiring the body to invoke its natural ability to begin healing — often before we are even fully aware there may be an illness underway.

When this happens, our bodies must begin to fight each individual matter from the inside. How well this happens will depend very much on our immune system’s health and ability to send information efficiently through the body.


How Does Chiropractic Boost Your Immune System?

A team may have amazing players, but if they have not learned how to understand one another’s hand signals and verbal cues, enjoying and winning the game will be far more difficult. Players must be able to communicate if they wish to achieve the secondary goal of getting the batter out.

In much the same manner, it is imperative for even the tiniest portions of the body to communicate via their highly intricate methods. Slight misalignments in the body can cause an interruption to the natural communication signals in the body. Chiropractic care empowers the human immune system with one of the most powerful defense mechanisms available: the ability to send messages.

When the ability to send messages through synapses to the brain is hindered or lost, the effectiveness for which wellness in the body can be retained is altered. Chiropractic care techniques work to restore this natural power from within the body.

Chiropractic care fosters a cooperative defensive team within the body’s natural mechanisms for health. Preventative and recovery care overlap in their techniques. Yet, the results are similar in that once communications are retained, wellness is better retained within the tiniest hidden portions of the body.

A seasoned baseball player may seek to inform another player through hand signals that get jumbled or missed. Perhaps a player’s vision becomes blurred, causing him to misinterpret signals. This will affect the outcome of the next play in the game. Something must be done to improve communications in order for the team to improve their game.

Like improving the vision of a player, chiropractic improves the nervous system’s ability to "see" and interpret signals that are sent through the body. Care of the spine and nervous system helps to improve the effectiveness of the information superhighways that run through the spinal column. In turn, the body receives a higher level of properly functioning tiny parts that may assist in keeping it well.


Chiropractic and White Blood Cell Counts 

illustration showing human vertebraeChiropractic adjustments serve as a series of gentle communication reminders for the body. These reminders help to reintroduce a sense of focus for nerves as they work to provide healing and wellness in the body. Manual adjustments to the spine and joints help to hone the focus of the joints as they work to help the brain and body communication efficiently.

Chiropractic adjustment(s) work to bring the vertebrae back into proper positioning, relieving pressure on the spine and restoring signals that are needed through the central nervous system. When this happens, white blood cells set about thwarting illness, ailments, and physical conditions that may cause pain and discomfort. In somewhat of a snowball effect, wellness can help us breed wellness within our bodies. When we are healthy enough to enjoy some exercise, we increase our ability to be well.

According to Kate Gilbert in Psychology Today, studies show the relationship that white blood cells have with chiropractic adjustments is positive. A study by the National College of Chiropractic in Illinois found that white blood cell counts are elevated following a spinal adjustment. Intentional care for the spine brings the immune system’s fighting power to an improved level of function benefiting the body throughout.

The relationship between the human immune system and chiropractic is clear. The immune system, as well as the rest of the body, loves the attention and care that chiropractic offers. Dr. Jonathan Verderame of the Digital Journal echoes this, noting the nervous system’s ability to control the immune system as shown by Musculoskeletal Science and Practice.

It is clear that the effects of chiropractic on the immune system are quite desirable. A team that operates with all of its powers and capabilities may bring a winning season, in part, due to good communication!

Doctors of chiropractic may be viewed as a collection of coaches silently bringing beneficial communications back into the immune system for the benefit of the patient.

Dr. Anthony Odney, D.C.Dr. Anthony Odney, D.C. is a graduate of Southern California University of Health Science where he earned his doctorate of chiropractic. In addition, he has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and kinesiology. Originally from Norway, Dr. Odney became a chiropractor because of his belief that the human body is a marvelous machine that can be “fixed” by chiropractic care. At Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, he continues to use a scientific-based chiropractic approach to help patients resolve their medical conditions.

Tags:  chiropractic  physical wellness 

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Can Good Posture Help to Prevent Back Pain?

Posted By Dr. Nicholas McCarty, Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2019

Man stooped forward, holding his back in pain.Do you suffer from back pain? Are you trying to find ways to help alleviate it? If so, you might first want to look at your posture. Back pain is often caused by poor posture. This is because it causes strain around the spinal cord which results in pain. In many cases, it can also cause more extreme symptoms, like ruptured discs. Keep reading to learn how good posture could help your back pain. You’ll learn how back pain is often caused and how good posture can fix it.

What Causes Back Pain

Back pain is typically caused due to severe inflammation or strain around the spinal cord. This problem can be caused by numerous things. This includes:

  • Muscle or ligament strain
  • A ruptured disc
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Scoliosis

Woman holding her head on both sides, with a headache.Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain comes with quite a few different symptoms. Many common symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Pain when you move around
  • Pain radiating down your leg
  • Stabbing pain in your back
  • Numbness in your back and legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches

The Benefits of Good Posture

While some back pain problems are due to a medical condition, most are caused by bad posture. Hence, the importance of good posture cannot be understated. Below are some benefits as to how it can help to eliminate your back pain.

It Keeps Your Bones and Joints in Correct Alignment
When you use incorrect posture, it can put strain on your bones and joints. This can eventually cause them to move out of alignment, when your spine’s strange position causes them to shift. Eventually, this can lead to back pain. Using good posture prevents this because it stops strain on your back’s bones and joints.

It Prevents Stress on Your Spinal Cord
Bad posture can also put stress on your spinal cord. Your spinal cord is surrounded by vertebrae, which protect it and enable both flexibility and support during movement. Bad posture can cause these bones to move or be pushed into awkward positions creating stress on your spinal cord as your vertebrae try to maintain their natural curve. Poor posture not only causes the vertebrae to move in different directions, but it can shift your body weight, putting even more stress on your spinal cord.

It Improves Circulation
Good posture can also help improve your circulation. When you slouch, it causes your blood to move away from your heart. When you use proper posture, circulation to your heart is increased. This also helps to lower blood pressure, as your body is optimally aligned for your blood to circulate as efficiently as possible.

It Reduces Muscle Tension
When you have poor posture, it can lead to muscle contractions which can lead to back pain and tension headaches. Good posture keeps your muscles relaxed which can reduce tension headaches, stiffness, back pain, and other soreness throughout the body. Reducing muscle tension also helps to prevent injury.

It Can Boost Your Energy Levels
You might be surprised to learn that good posture can help to boost your energy. This is because it reduces tension and strain around your spinal cord which can alter your mood. As mentioned above, it also improves your circulation which can encourage your body to feel happier and energetic.

Techniques for Using Good Posture

Woman stretching with an exercise partner

Below are some techniques you can keep in mind to help ensure you use good posture.

Stand Tall
One of the best ways to improve your posture is to stand as straight as you can. This will work to stretch your spine back into its natural curve. It can also help to provide relief to painful muscles around your spinal cord affected by your poor posture. While standing straight, make sure to also bring your shoulders back slightly. This will help to align your neck and spine.

Use a Lumbar Cushion When You Sit
One way to help your posture is to use a lumbar cushion when you sit. Your lumbar system consists of your spinal cord and the nerves surrounding it. This item will work to help keep your lumbar system aligned while preventing you from slouching.

A lumbar cushion is designed specifically to provide support to your spine when you sit. It helps to make you feel as if you’re floating rather than compressed against a seat which can cause tension in your tailbone that moves up into your spine.

Limit Your Screen Usage
Many people today suffer from what is called “text neck”. This is when your neck becomes sore and tense due to you lowering it down to look at your smart device. Because your neck is connected to your spine, tension in your neck can affect the spine as well. Due to this, it’s ideal to limit your time on your smart devices. You can also make sure to lift them up to eye level to prevent bending your neck down.

Watch Your Shoes
Sometimes the shoes you wear can cause strain to your spine. This is because your gait—the way in which you walk—involves the bones in your feet, and how they move will ultimately affect the alignment of the spine. If not properly supported, your feet can cause your spine to slouch which can lead to back pain. Take care to wear adequately supportive shoes to ensure they properly support your spine.

Gently Stretch Your Body
Back pain can be caused by your muscles tensing up because they aren’t being moved. You can help to prevent this by standing up, keeping your shoulders back, and gently stretching your body. This will keep your spine aligned while also releasing any tension you might have.

Keep Your Weight Evenly Distributed on Each Foot
Some people might lean more on one side of their body. This can cause strain to the side that is being pulled. To prevent spinal strain, work to keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet. This will also help to keep your spine aligned and prevent back pain.

In some cases—such as with scoliosis—you might need special medical treatment. If you suffer from back pain that persists, is intense, or comes with other symptoms (such as tingling in your extremities), it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Remembering to pay attention to your posture, however, can help to significantly reduce the symptoms of many causes of back pain, improve your circulation, boost your energy levels, and prevent injury. Good posture is one of the simplest and most important ways to start yourself off “on the right foot”.

Dr. Nicholas McCartyDr. Nicholas McCarty is a graduate of Logan University where he earned his degree in chiropractic medicine. After moving to Alaska, he became a chiropractor at Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage as well as a physiology lecturer at the local university. However, his true passion lies in chiropractic medicine. He found his calling as a chiropractor after being treated for post-surgical pains of his own. His primary mission is to treat and reduce unrelieved pain in patients, as well as stay abreast of new technological developments in chiropractic and physical medicine.

Tags:  back pain  physical wellness  posture 

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How to Keep Your Workforce Population Moving

Posted By Wellsource, Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Thursday, April 11, 2019

This is the third post in a six-part series focusing on the Six Dimensions of Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Each post features a different dimension of wellness. This post will discuss physical wellness and the importance of combating a sedentary lifestyle.

Part 1: Using Gratitude to Improve Your Population’s Emotional Wellbeing
Part 2: 5 Ways to Highlight Occupational Wellness in Your Health Program
Part 3: How to Keep Your Workforce Population Moving
Part 4: Six Strategies to Promote Social Wellness
Part 5: Keep Your Workforce Sharp with These 4 Simple Strategies
Part 6: Mindfulness: The Focus Path to Spiritual Wellness

woman working out with battle ropesWhen California resident Leigh Ortiz decided to give exercise a chance, she couldn’t imagine the transformation that would result. Workouts, combined with eating clean, and holding herself accountable, left her 100 pounds lighter. She feels powerful and confident.


“My attitude, confidence, and outlook on life all changed for the better because of my HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts,” Ortiz says. “I am loving the muscle tone that I have; I feel powerful and that I can do any activity instead of sitting on the sidelines. Working out is the highlight of my day and I have to force myself to take rest days now.”

We all know that we’re supposed to get a certain amount of exercise each week, as an inactive lifestyle causes risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and early death. But have you thought about how much time your population spends sitting each day? According to some research, four consecutive hours of sedentary behavior is enough to undo the benefits of one hour of exercise. Americans sit an average of 13 hours each day. At first this statistic can seem quite shocking, considering that when you add another eight hours of sleep, Americans are sedentary 21 out of 24 hours a day. But when you consider time spent sitting at your desk, eating, and commuting, the hours add up fast. Once individuals surpass 10 hours of sedentary time per day, their risk of cardiac problems increases substantially, but sitting less than three hours a day can increase life expectancy by two years. So what can you do?

The good news is that office workers don’t want to spend the whole day glued to their chairs. One study found that workers don’t want to sit more than four hours a day, or 53.8 percent of the work day, although they spend 73 percent of the day seated. This means there is great opportunity for you to enable your population to be more active.


The ergonomic solution

The first step is to give office workers the best possible experience at their desk, since they do spend so much time there. Consider investing in office chairs that reduce stress on the spine by keeping the body in an upright position with a backrest that supports the natural curve of the spine, a headrest that supports the neck (preventing arthritis of the neck), and height adjustment that ensures the knees are at a 90-degree angle. You can also invest in sit-stand desks, because research shows they boost productivity, reduce sitting time by over an hour each day, and improve musculoskeletal problems. An employee’s muscle activity is two and a half times higher when standing at work, and standing desks reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 40 percent.

Man doing squats beside his desk


Squeeze in a little desk workout

Okay, so the employees you work with are all set up with their ergonomic desk and chair (and maybe even a keyboard and mouse if you really want to go nuts!). Now what? Encourage employees to make the most of their time at their desk. This could mean sharing videos demonstrating workouts like leg lifts while sitting, desk squats during moments of down time, or lifting up out of one’s chair to exercise their core. Or hang posters around the office that remind employees, “How long since you last stood up?” and “Feeling sleepy? Stand up for a bit.”


Take it a step further

Now that your population has been using the standing setting of their desk for part of the day and has been doing minor exercises in their office or cubicle, they’re eager to really move. Great! There are so many opportunities throughout the day to engage your population with physical activity. Try holding walking meetings instead of sitting in an office. Invest in an onsite fitness center free to all employees. Encourage employees to go on walks during break time. You can motivate them by holding quarterly competitions to see who can contribute the most to Charity Miles (an app that donates to the charity of your choice based on the amount of miles you move) or conducting a month long step challenge. It can even be something as small as encouraging employees to walk over and talk to coworkers instead of messaging them. Every little bit helps.


What if employees don’t have time for long walks or workouts?

This is where the exercise routine that helped Ortiz go from a size 24 to a size 8 in just 15 months comes into play. HIIT is a form of exercise in which short periods of extremely demanding physical activity are alternated with less intense recovery periods. It originated around 1910 with the coaches of Finnish Olympic runners who wanted to train their athletes by focusing on alternating fast and slow runs. Since then the principles of HIIT have been applied to all kinds of workouts.


Benefits of HIIT

Only 23 percent of U.S. adults are getting enough exercise, which puts the majority at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, and cancer. Many people cite time as their reason for not working out, but HIIT can be completed in just 10 minutes. This is a huge benefit for people who have busy schedules and is great for incorporating exercise into the workday without taking too much time away from work. A great workout can be accomplished during break time!

People doing HIIT training in a gym.And believe it or not, HIIT yields the same health and fitness benefits as long-term aerobic exercise, and in some populations works better than traditional aerobic exercise. One study found that HIIT improved cardiometabolic health as much as traditional endurance training while taking a fifth of the time. HIIT is superior to moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) in improving cardiorespiratory fitness and it increases the amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise (VO2 max). Another great benefit of HIIT is that after such an intense workout calories are burned for up to 24 hours in the muscle recovery phase. The employees you work with will love knowing they are burning more calories even after they return to their desks!

Vicki Griffin, RN, decided to give HIIT a try because of the cardiovascular benefits. At the start, she couldn’t run a lap or do more than a few pushups. But Griffin kept at it, and got more than she was hoping for. “I noticed the results of the endorphins almost immediately,” she says. “Even when I’m sore, I always have a positive attitude and a spring in my step! Plus, I sleep like a baby at night.”


So how can you reap the benefits of HIIT in the workplace?

HIIT is perfect to introduce into the workplace because it doesn’t take a lot of time, or require a lot of space or equipment. Try running a weekly 10-minute HIIT class during lunch hour/break time where employees exercise extremely intensely for one minute out of the 10 minutes. One study found that participants who did this three times a week over a period of six weeks improved their endurance by 12 percent. If you want to get creative hold a 50-yard dash at the next company picnic. Encourage employees to take the stairs every day. Organize a monthly jump rope day. Challenge employees to a contest to see who can do the most burpees in one minute. The options are endless!

Give your members the opportunity to experience HIIT for themselves and track their progress daily by sharing our Get Fit with HIIT health challenge with them. You can even turn it into a month long health challenge as a part of your wellness program.


Ready to get started?

Download our health challenge "Get Fit with HIIT” which includes:

  • A basic quiz for participants to see how much they know about HIIT
  • A personal account of how well HIIT-style workouts served one individual
  • The benefits of HIIT
  • Tips on how to best execute HIIT workouts
  • A calendar to track HIIT workouts each day

This is the third post in a six-part series focusing on the Six Dimensions of Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Below are links to the other published in this series.

Part 1: Using Gratitude to Improve Your Population’s Emotional Wellbeing
Part 2: 5 Ways to Highlight Occupational Wellness in Your Health Program
Part 3: How to Keep Your Workforce Population Moving
Part 4: Six Strategies to Promote Social Wellness
Part 5: Keep Your Workforce Sharp with These 4 Simple Strategies
Part 6: Coming Soon!


About Wellsource

Wellsource, Inc. has been a premier provider of evidence-based Health Risk Assessments and Self-Management Tools for four decades, making us one of the longest-serving wellness companies in the industry. With a strong reputation for scientific research and validity, we offer an innovative family of products that empower wellness companies, health plans, ACOs, and healthcare providers to inspire healthy lifestyles, prevent disease, and reduce unnecessary healthcare costs. Our assessments connect lifestyle choices with healthy outcomes, measure readiness to change for maximum results, and drive informed decisions with actionable data.


Works Cited

“3 Ways To Exercise While Working At Your Desk.” Wellsource, 28 Apr. 2015, blog.wellsource.com/3-ways-to-exercise-while-working-at-your-desk.

Batacan, Romeo B, et al. “Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training on Cardiometabolic Health: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, bjsm.bmj.com/content/bjsports/51/6/494.full.pdf.

“Charity Miles App | Walk, Run, Bike for a Cause.” Charity Miles, charitymiles.org/.

Coldrick, Lloyd. “The Benefits of Ergonomic Furniture on Both Physical and Mental Wellbeing.” Open Access Government, 16 Oct. 2018, www.openaccessgovernment.org/the-benefits-of-ergonomic-furniture/53340/.

“Employees Want to Sit down Less and Walk More during Work Days.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 17 Nov. 2017, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171117085330.htm.

“Jarvis Adjustable Height Desks.” Fully, fully.com/standing-desks/jarvis.html

Gillen, Jenna B, et al. “Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 26 Apr. 2016, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0154075.

Hannan, Amanda L, et al. “High-Intensity Interval Training versus Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training within Cardiac Rehabilitation: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, Dove Medical Press, 26 Jan. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5790162/.

Heid, Markham. “HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training Exercise Really Works.” Time, Time, 10 Aug. 2017, time.com/4893161/hiit-high-intensity-interval-training-exercise/.

“Here's the Maximum Sitting Time before You Harm Your Heart.” Star2.Com, Star2.Com, 26 July 2016, www.star2.com/health/wellness/2016/07/26/this-is-the-maximum-time-you-can-sit-before-harming-your-heart/.

“Is Sedentary Behavior America's Biggest Health Risk?” Wellsource, 21 Aug. 2015, http://blog.wellsource.com/is-sedentary-behavior-americas-biggest-health-risk.

Lee, I-Min, et al. “Effect of Physical Inactivity on Major Non-Communicable Diseases Worldwide: an Analysis of Burden of Disease and Life Expectancy.” The Lancet, Elsevier, 18 July 2012, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673612610319?via%3Dihub.

“Leigh Ortiz - Weight Loss and Challenge Winner Success!!!” Vimeo, 18 Mar. 2019, vimeo.com/218094661.

Molina, Brett, and Lilly Price. “Only 23% of U.S. Adults Are Getting Enough Exercise, CDC Report Says.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 28 June 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/06/28/cdc-report-only-23-americans-get-enough-exercise/741433002/.

“Nebraska Medicine Case Study.” Wellsource, go.wellsource.com/nebraska-medicine-case-study.

“New Survey: To Sit or Stand? Almost 70% of Full Time American Workers Hate Sitting, but They Do It All Day Every Day.” PR Newswire: Press Release Distribution, Targeting, Monitoring and Marketing, 17 July 2013, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-to-sit-or-stand-almost-70-of-full-time-american-workers-hate-sitting-but-they-do-it-all-day-every-day-215804771.html.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “Really, Really Short Workouts.” The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/guides/well/really-really-short-workouts.

Pinola, Melanie. “How Many Hours You Should Limit Your Sitting To, To Avoid an Early Death.” Lifehacker, Lifehacker, 12 July 2012, lifehacker.com/how-many-hours-you-should-limit-your-sitting-to-to-avo-5925428.

Quinn, Elizabeth. “Burn More Calories With High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).” Verywell Fit, 31 Jan. 2019, www.verywellfit.com/high-intensity-interval-training-benefits-3119149.

“Risks of Physical Inactivity.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,p00218.

“Sit Less Move More Posters.” Wellplace.nz, wellplace.nz/resource-library/sit-less-move-more-posters/.

“The Past, Present, and Future of Interval Training.” STRETCH EXERCISE EAT, 14 Apr. 2010, seeadamtrain.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/exercise-the-past-present-and-future-of-interval-training/.

Tigar, Lindsay. “Incredible Body Transformations That Will Convince You to Try HIIT.” Reader's Digest, www.rd.com/health/fitness/hiit-before-and-after-pictures/.

Weston, Kassia S, et al. “High-Intensity Interval Training in Patients with Lifestyle-Induced Cardiometabolic Disease: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, 1 Aug. 2014, bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/16/1227.short.

Tags:  ph  Physical Wellness  Wellsource 

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Missing the DX

Posted By Molly McGuane, Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

It’s estimated that every year 12 million people in the United States are affected by a misdiagnosed disease or condition. Incidences of cancer misdiagnosis can be particularly concerning, unfortunately altering the course of a person’s life. In the beginning stages of many cancers, symptoms can be vague and difficult to differentiate from more common illnesses. A misdiagnosis early on can be very detrimental and potentially lethal if the cancer continues to grow and spread. While the fault of a misdiagnosis of a disease doesn’t necessarily fall on a specific doctor or healthcare team, there are steps that doctors and patients can take to reduce the instance of a misdiagnosis.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers


Woman with a tan applying sun blockAs an unfortunately common skin cancer, melanoma takes the lives of nearly 9,000 patients every year. Melanoma is caused by exposure to UV radiation that is generated from tanning beds and from exposure to the sun. Melanomas emerge on the skin as an irregular-looking mole or dark spot on your skin, but can be easily missed or misdiagnosed.

Health care providers and patients can be more vigilant about their skin by remembering the anagram ABCDE when looking at their moles and beauty spots. “A” stands for asymmetrical, “B” for irregular borders, “C” for abnormal color, “D” is for diameter, and “E” is for evolving in shape or size. These signs shouldn’t be ignored and moles or marks with these characteristics should be tested by a pathologist.

Primary care doctors and physician assistants should also recommend that patients see a dermatologist annually or biannually based on their risk. They should also encourage patients to perform “self check-ups” regularly to be alert of any new or changing skin lesions. Extra diligence could lead to a more accurate and early diagnosis, which is crucial in skin cancer and melanoma cases.

Colorectal Cancer

In many cases, cancer of the colon or the rectum often begins as a growths known as polyps, that grow in the walls of these areas over time. The best way to find colorectal cancer early is through screenings, but the problem of misdiagnosis comes when symptoms are misunderstood and screenings are done too late.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can be uncertain, like unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and a change in bowel movements and symptoms like these can be misunderstood even by medical professionals, especially in younger patients. Most frequently, colon cancer can be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, and ulcerative colitis due to similar symptoms including rectal bleeding and abdominal pain.

If pain continues or new symptoms arise, a colonoscopy or CT scan might be necessary to check for any serious issues. It’s also important to keep in mind that colorectal can be genetically connected and 1 in 3 people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a familial connection. Understanding a patient's family history is an important step in diagnosing disease and can provide additional insight into their symptoms. While it’s on the patient to know their family history, healthcare professionals can assist by impressing the importance of knowing that history upon their patients and making sure to ask when issues arise.

Lung Cancer

Man smokingThe most widespread cancer globally is lung cancer, and it can be caused by a number of environmental factors. The most obvious reason for developing lung cancer has historically been smoking and secondhand smoke, but cancers of the lung can also arise from elements in the air and invisible and odorless carcinogens we may not even realize that we are exposed to.

Symptoms of lung cancer, and related cancers of the lung like mesothelioma, often first appear as a persistent cough, pain in the chest, or shortness of breath. These symptoms could be easily misdiagnosed as asthma, COPD, or even a common cold. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are common occupational cancers, so knowing a patient’s occupational history can also lead to a better understanding of their condition. Those who have worked as firefighters, miners, and in the construction industry are more vulnerable to carcinogens like asbestos and silicates.

Breast Cancer

Understanding a patient's family medical history can also help in being vigilant about the beginning stages of breast cancer. Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States and the risk of a patient developing breast cancer can nearly double if a mother, sister, or daughter has also been diagnosed.

The beginning stages of breast cancer develop as a lump in the breast tissue but can be missed entirely if screening isn’t done frequently enough. Breast cancer screens are done routinely at primary care and OB-GYN appointments, and self checkups can also be performed to check for any abnormal bumps.

If there are any abnormalities in a mammogram, a follow-up imaging screening, mammogram, or biopsy should be scheduled in a timely manner so that the potential cancer does not worsen. Those who are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer need to communicate that risk with their primary physicians and specialists as well as their family history for the most accurate and timely testing.

How are we Closing the Gap?

Missing a cancer or other disease diagnosis can have regrettable consequences for patients and their families. Both healthcare professionals and those they treat can play a role in a misdiagnosis and they are an unfortunate reality of human error. However, the medical community is taking the time to learn from mistakes and invest in technology that analyzes stored data and can close the gap on inaccuracy. Being able to log patient data from around the world can help better understand symptom patterns and allow for more accurate testing, including mammograms and lung cancer screenings.

The use of artificial intelligence and telehealth in the medical field is helping connect the dots on cancer symptoms, but there is still a lot of ground to cover in perfecting these technologies in the real world. Today, AI should just be used to augment the human work of healthcare and there is still an active role doctors and other professionals can take to avoid a misdiagnosis.

Physician's assistant going over a patient's medical history.

Discussing personal, family, and occupational history and impressing the importance of gathering and communicating that information on your patients is vital to their well being. The more information you know about their health and history, the more accurately you can understand their symptoms. Recommending patients to keep up with an annual schedule of appointments and cancer screenings is another way primary care physicians can help their patients be preventative and avoid a missed or late diagnosis. Communicating closely with every healthcare provider working with the patient including nurses, radiologists and lab technicians is important for everyone’s understanding. Attention to detail and thorough communications will ensure that no important information is missed.

Molly McGuaneMolly McGuane is a communications specialist and health advocate for the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. She is passionate about informing others on cancer prevention and rare disease. Molly's areas of content expertise are cancer prevention, rare disease, occupational health, and asbestos exposure.

Tags:  clinical practice  emotional wellness  medical care  misdiagnoses  Physical Wellness 

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How Air Pollution Affects Your Body and What You Can Do About It

Posted By Gavin Wilson , Thursday, April 4, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is tasked with making sure that the amount of pollution released by factories, cars, and other industrial items is regulated, but they aren’t responsible for pollution within the home. Have you thought about how air pollution inside can affect you and your body? It can be just as much of a health hazard as what you breathe in while you’re outside, if not more, considering how much time you spend in your home.

One way you can reduce some of the pollutions in your home is by getting a humidifier. That may sound strange, but it’s true. Of course, picking the right one to get the benefits you need is essential in assuring that the air quality in your home is improved (more on this later). Take a look at how a humidifier can help you reduce pollution in your home and what features you need to consider to get the job done right.

Woman and man with cold and flu symptoms

Before installing a whole house humidifier, however, it is important to understand what causes air pollution and how it can affect your overall health. With this knowledge comes the understanding of why it is important not only for your long-term health but also for the environment, to improve overall air quality.

Effects of Air Pollution

When there are rampant pollutants in the air in your home, it can have significant effects on you and your body. Your health may decline, and you’ll probably feel symptoms of cold and flu. Why? Those pollutants are irritants, and even if you don’t have allergies—which significantly increase the symptoms you'll experience—you will sneeze, cough, and could end up congested due to your body’s production of excess mucus, which is used to trap those pollutants so they don’t enter your lungs.

While the most common effect of air pollution is respiratory-related; it can also have long-term negative effects on those with existing heart conditions or those with a history of heart-related health problems in their family. Cases have been reported that show a direct link between heart attacks, hypertension, and angina and air pollution. When exposed to high amounts of air pollution, strokes are also more common; especially in the elderly or those with existing health conditions. While the negative effects of air pollution on our physical health are significant on their own, recent studies are now also linking air pollution with poor mental health.

What Causes Air Pollution?

Fossil fuel example - gasoline

While people understand that air pollution refers to the release of pollutants and contaminants that have long-term and irreversible effects on the human body—and the planet—the exact factors that cause poor air quality are not always common knowledge. The top common causes of air pollution are as follows, but are not limited to:

  • The burning of fossil fuels—either in the heating of the home, gasoline for a motor vehicle or during operations of a production company.
  • Climate change—the warmer the temperature of the overall atmosphere, the more air pollution is created during increased smog production and increased ultraviolet radiation.
  • Climate change—the warmer the temperature, the more condensation forms in the atmosphere increasing mold production and pollen that is released into the fragile air system.
Global warming effect on the polar ice caps

How you can Help Reduce Air Pollution

The reduction of air pollution is not just the concern of production companies and factories but instead a universal concern in which each and every single person the planet can complete certain tasks to ensure their carbon footprint is reduced.

If you are wondering exactly how to reduce air pollution, not just inside the home but also in the outside environment, here is a list of some basic guidelines to follow:

  1. Consider changing your mode of transportation – look into public transportation (buses, transit lines, etc.) or organizing a carpool for work and other extracurricular activities.
  2. Look into the possibility of changing over to clean energy for your home – think solar power or wind turbines instead of oil or wood-powered heating appliances.
  3. Support local businesses to reduce the amount of items and products that need to be shipped and/or trucked into your location whenever possible.
  4. Weather reports – to reduce the effect of air pollution to your person, browse through weather reports to find out the smog index for the day and consider closing the Installing solar panels on roofwindows of the home on muggy days. Exercise away from heavily trafficked roads when possible and limit the amount of time spent in areas where air pollution is visible.
  5. Install a whole home humidifier to reduce the amount of air pollution found in the residence caused by common household pollutants (cleaning products, cooking,heating methods, etc.)

Protect yourself at home

Pollutants in your home, such as dust, dander, dead skin, and other particles are everywhere, despite your best efforts to clean. The heat and air conditioning assure that these never truly settle, blowing air through the dwelling. Fans are similar, spreading these so that we’re breathing them in all the time. The dryer the air is, the more likely these are to permeate the air since there is no moisture to weigh them down and keep them at least stuck to a surface.

A humidifier can dampen this, keeping as many harmful pollutants from floating around in the air. In addition, humidifiers have filters, which help reduce any particles in the water that may pollute your air, therefore emitting fewer pollutants overall.

Ok, but which one should I get?

Furnace with whole-home humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers use heat to evaporate water, turning it into steam and blowing it out into the air around you. This is effective, but there are seve

They require a heating element of some kind, which means the unit may be hot to the touch and could burn you or a small child.ral negative factors involved.

  • The water is essentially boiled to produce the mist, which means if you bump it, you risk spilling boiling water on your skin and burning yourself.
  • A lot of warm mist humidifiers don’t have an automatic shut off when they run out of the water, which could cause the unit to burn up, reducing the lifespan of the humidifier.

By contrast, a cool mist humidifier uses either a wick and a fan or ultrasound to create water molecules that can be spread into the air around you. A cool mist humidifier doesn’t affect the ambient temperature of a room as much as a warm mist humidifier, so you don’t need to adjust your thermostat accordingly. In addition, they are much safer, since there is no threat of being burned from either the tank or hot water. They tend to run very quietly, though the ultrasonic units are quieter than the wick and fan versions most of the time.

Features to Watch for in Humidifiers

To be sure that your humidifier is going to help with the air pollution in your home, make sure of several features that are incorporated into the unit before you purchase, including:

  • A filter (few humidifiers don’t have one, but check just in case)
  • An antibacterial system
  • Automatic shut off
  • Timer
  • Adjustable humidistat and mist levels
  • A diffuser (which can be used for essential oils)
  • A large tank (so you don’t have to refill twice a day)


Making sure your respiratory system doesn’t suffer from air pollution in your home is important, probably more so than worrying about the air outside. You’re confined into space, and if you aren’t careful, your home will be the place that you’re least comfortable because you have too many pollutants and allergens that you’re breathing in. With a humidifier, not only will you increase the overall air quality in your home by assuring you have enough moisture in your air; you’ll also help control the pollutants that would otherwise plague you and your health and wellness. It’s a small investment, with tons of options for sizes and types, so you should be able to find something that suits you and your family’s needs in your home with little trouble.

Gavin Wilson is the director of content over at goodairgeeks.com. He lives with his wife, his dog (Mr. Peanut Butter), and his "attack cat" (Bojack!). He is a nature lover and cares deeply about the environment. He hopes to help make a cleaner and greener Earth with this website.

Tags:  air quality  clean air  physical wellness  pollution 

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