Don’t Have Time to Exercise? Try This!

woman with no time for exercise

I Don’t Have Time to Exercise!

Given that exercise reduces stress, allows for better mental focus, productivity, and energy, you probably don’t have time not to exercise. Most people equate exercise with 1-2 hours at the gym 3-5 days per week. It’s great if you have time for that, but if you are a working parent or have a particularly demanding job (and whose isn’t these days?) you probably don’t.  Frankly, the idea that we need to do a one to two-hour workout is so old school. We need to reframe our concept of what constitutes exercise, particularly beneficial exercise for our metabolism. Many studies are now proving that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) does as much, if not more, than endurance exercise in a much shorter period of time. (Dr. Oz even said so on his radio health tips, so it must be true).

What is SIT exercise or HIIT?

Sprint interval training (SIT) is a low volume (that means short!) and high-intensity form of interval training. Energy for SIT is produced via both the aerobic (oxygen burning) and anaerobic (non-oxygen burning) metabolic pathways.   SIT is an efficient and effective means to improve aerobic fitness along with many other parameters related to healthy metabolism. A typical SIT or HIIT workout might involve running or cycling sprints, followed by periods of continued movement at a much slower pace.  For example, you might do a running sprint for 20 seconds, followed by a 1 minute light jog, then another 20-second sprint, 1-minute walk, and repeat this pattern for 20 minutes in total.

Proof that Interval Exercise Training Works

One study had overweight/obese participants perform 6 sessions over two weeks consisting of 4 intervals of 30-second anaerobic sprints on a cycle ergometer, the equivalent of a stationary bike.  That is, they cycled full out for 30 seconds with a 4.5-minute recovery between each sprint. So that’s sprint cycling full out for 30 seconds, keep cycling at a slow steady pace for 4.5 minutes and repeat 4 times, three times per week for two weeks.  The outcome was a significant reduction in waist and hip measurements, and blood pressure and significant improvement in insulin sensitivity.  All very positive outcomes for three 20-minute workouts per week for 2 weeks.

Other Tips for Those Short on Time to Exercise

  1. Squeeze it into your day whenever you can.  Park farther away from work or the store and walk the extra distance.  Sprint up a flight of stairs rather than walk. Run to the bus stop. Anything that sets your heart racing.
  2. Get up early in the morning.  This works with your body’s internal clock and means you are less likely to get sidetracked by other commitments.
  3. Get exercise CD’s or download exercise videos.  Having the option to workout in your own living room makes exercise much more convenient, removes the commute time to the gym and also you can squeeze it in on your own schedule.

Need more lifestyle advice?  See one of our naturopathic doctors, Dr. Rachel Vong or Dr. Pamela Frank or our psychotherapist, Ichih Wang.  Need help with exercise recovery?  See one of our massage therapists, our acupuncturist or our chiropractor.

Exercise Research

Short duration SIT is an effective and efficient form of improving aerobic fitness in untrained individuals. Source: Br J Sports Med 2011;45:A8

2 weeks of this SIT substantially improved a number of metabolic and vascular risk factors in overweight/obese sedentary men, highlighting the potential for this to provide an alternative exercise model for the improvement of vascular and metabolic health in this population.
Source: Metabolism Volume 59, Issue 10, October 2010, Pages 1421–1428

Why Do I Wake Tired?

picture of a woman who will wake tired

Wondering Why You Wake Tired? Here’s how to Lose the Snooze Button

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopath

An overwhelming majority of my patients report that they wake tired in the morning when they have to get up. I’m always a little pleasantly surprised when I ask and a patient says yes, they feel refreshed. If you wake tired, there are a number of possible explanations, read on to learn more.

Not Enough Sleep

Studies show that the optimal amount is 7-7.5 hours of restful sleep. With hectic lifestyles, never enough time, trying to have a little down or me time, we often sacrifice time spent sleeping.  Also, if you are waking frequently in the night or up to go to the washroom, then you only get broken sleep. Broken sleep is not as refreshing as 7 hours of continuous sleep.

3 Action Steps for Better Sleep:

  1. Set an earlier bedtime, ideally by 10 p.m. and stick to it.  If you want some quiet time, get up early in the morning to be more aligned with your body clock. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night, that way if you fall short, you’ll still get 7-7.5.
  2. Unplug by 8 p.m.  Looking at a screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and decreases melatonin production that should enhance your sleep.  Melatonin has a multitude of additional benefits: it’s a powerful antioxidant, it repairs the esophagus, it can help fertility and it helps stimulate growth hormone production.
  3. If you find you are waking in the night, have a bite or two of protein containing food before bed.  A couple of bites of egg, fish, a tablespoon of almond butter etc, helps stabilize blood sugar to help you get to sleep & stay asleep better.

Low Iron

Ferritin is a blood test that we do to check for stored iron. Iron deficiencies can lead to exhaustion. An optimal ferritin level is above 60 mcg/L.  Some labs consider anything above 11 mcg/L to be normal.  As a result, your doctor may have told you your iron (ferritin) was normal when it was a fair bit below ideal. Ferritin below 40 mcg/L can definitely lead to problems with low energy and cause you to wake tired, as well as contributing to hair loss and shortness of breath.

2 Action Steps for Low Iron

  1. Ask your doctor to check ferritin and then ask for a copy of the blood work. Check that your ferritin is greater than 60 mcg/L.
  2. If your ferritin is below 60 mcg/L, it’s important to determine the cause of the low iron.  Simply taking iron supplements is not the best approach.  If you experience heavy periods that may explain the low iron, but in that case, it’s best to address the hormone imbalance that is causing the heavy periods.  If you absorb iron poorly or don’t take in enough from your diet, it’s best to address that.

Low Thyroid

Your thyroid regulates energy, body temperature, and metabolism.  Think of it like the gas pedal for your body.  If it’s not supplying enough gas, that means that having a sluggish thyroid can have a huge impact on energy. Blood work for thyroid is usually limited to testing TSH, a hormone that should stimulate the thyroid to work harder if it is underactive. So, a lower TSH means that the thyroid is working well, a higher TSH means the thyroid is sluggish.

The normal range for TSH is 0.35-5.00 mU/L.  If we converted this to whole numbers it is like saying that 35 to 500 is normal. The range is far too broad and once TSH gets above 3.00 there can be indications of an underactive thyroid. Some endocrinologists and fertility specialists will medicate the thyroid if TSH is above 2.50 as thyroid problems can contribute to infertility. As with ferritin, you may have been told that your thyroid is “normal”. I will treat a patient’s thyroid if the TSH exceeds 3.00 to try to restore normal thyroid function.

2 Action Steps for Low Thyroid

  1. Ask your doctor to check your thyroid and then ask for a copy of the blood work. Check that TSH is between 0.8 and 3.00 mU/L.
  2. Additionally, it would be helpful to have the following measurements relating to thyroid: free T3, free T4, anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin.  A TSH measurement alone is not adequate to determine that your thyroid is working perfectly.

Allergies

Allergies can often leave people feeling exhausted a good deal of the time as their immune system is working double time, all the time.  Many people will have low-grade food allergies or food sensitivities that they are either unaware of or they are unable to pinpoint the culprit foods.  Dairy and gluten are common, but you can have a food sensitivity to literally anything you are eating.  Journaling what you eat and rating your energy both later that day & the following day may help you unearth patterns between foods & energy.  If not, food sensitivity blood testing is the most efficient way to determine exactly what your immune system is fighting.  For environmental allergies, we aim to limit exposure if possible, but you can’t necessarily avoid pollen and dust.

4 Action Steps for Allergies

  1. Support adrenals – the adrenal glands help your body keep inflammation in check, read more on them below.
  2. Detoxify the liver – phase I and phase II liver detoxification are the steps that your liver takes to remove toxins, body waste, pollution and even hormones from your body.  There are certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for these processes to work optimally including vitamin B6, B12, 5-MTHF, magnesium, glucarate and indole-3-carbinol.  Supporting efficient liver detox can help remove chemicals that may be adversely affecting your immune system.
  3. Cleanse your gut and restore good bacteria to the digestive tract – Healthy gut flora keeps the immune system regulated and working normally.
  4. Remove existing food sensitivities to settle allergies down – Food sensitivities create inflamed, hypersensitive tissue in your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs, bronchi, sinuses).  Calming down this tissue by removing food allergies can help make them less sensitive to environmental pollutants.

Underactive Adrenal Glands

If all else above has been ruled out, the reason you wake tired is likely due to underactive adrenal glands. These are your stress glands, they sit on top of your kidneys and regulate a wide range of functions including: blood pressure, blood sugar, nervous system, libido, energy, drive, motivation, stress response, inflammation, hormone balance etc. Signs of low adrenal function include: wake tired after at least 7 hours of sleep, hypoglycemia, PMS, anxiety, depression, feeling dizzy or light headed on standing up quickly, low libido, inflammatory conditions like allergies, asthma, eczema, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease etc.

3 Action Steps for the Adrenal Glands

  1. Lower your stress.  The adrenal glands were meant to help you deal with short term stress, like running away from danger.  Chronic stress is hard on them and depletes vital vitamins and minerals for them to function normally.  Stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, exercise, and getting good sleep can help.
  2. Support the adrenals with lots of vitamin C, B5, B6, zinc, magnesium and potassium rich foods like avocadoes, citrus and leafy greens.
  3. Measure.  You can do blood work to determine how well the adrenal glands are working.  Your adrenals produce all of your DHEAs, much of your testosterone and a stress hormone called cortisol.  These can all be measured in your blood.  Lab ranges are not particularly ideal for these tests either, so it’s best to obtain a copy of your results and consult with a naturopathic doctor to see if blood work is showing a problem with your adrenal glands.

Our naturopathic doctors are the masters at troubleshooting fatigue and why you might wake tired.  Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture with Joy Walraven may help you have more energy. If pain is keeping you up at night, address the cause with massage therapy and chiropractic. If stress is keeping you up, combine massage therapy with psychotherapy.    Book an appointment now. 

 

The Trouble with Stress


woman with stress

Why is Stress a Problem?

We often underestimate the power of stress. We like to see it as natural, and even helpful, in being productive in our day-to-day lives. But the positive effects of stress, like goal orientation, motivation, and even intensified memory or cognitive responses are most beneficial in small doses.

Many of us have built up tolerances to living with constant, heightened stress levels, and the temptation to see this as a positive or heroic trait has reduced our natural desire to respond to it. Instead of recognizing and reacting to the core ‘fight or flight’ survival response that it provides, many of us function with long durations of heightened stress without realizing that living under continued high levels can have dire health consequences.

How Stress works:

You’ve probably heard this before, and you’ve certainly felt it: the pounding heart, the rushing sounds in your ears, and an acute and intense desire for action when something has caught you completely off guard.

When your brain perceives some kind of stress, be it your move in a basketball game, a heated argument, or stepping off a busy street, it starts producing an influx of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol hormones. This flood of chemicals produces a variety of reactions: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and an acute focus on taking whatever action is necessary to stay safe.

Stress can be brought on by a variety of internal and external factors, and it can be a very healthy reaction and necessary to maintain our survival. It’s when you remain in a heightened state for prolonged periods of time, that the effects of stress on your system can become a real medical problem.

How much stress is too much?

Life events, changes in lifestyle, work, family, or even shifting responsibilities such as child or parent care, relationships, and work can directly affect feelings of overwhelm. When the amount on our plate reaches a place of critical mass, we experience overwhelm. That experience can present itself in many ways. Emotional stressors like these, that remain for a period of weeks, months, or even years, can become detrimental to your immune system, and your overall health. Being able to recognize our own stress signals is the first step to finding ways to cope with and dissipate it, to return to a healthy state that will enable you to work through the demands placed on you.

Recognizing Stress Responses:

There are many ways that stress expresses itself. While some might be more familiar to you than others, a person can experience some or all of these at different times. But, multiplied sources of ongoing stress can lead to larger health issues. If chronic stress is not dealt with effectively, it can become debilitating, leading to an inability of what we want to do most: thrive at work, and in life with our family and friends.

Being able to recognize the sensations of stress is the first step to being able to discuss them with your family doctor and your personal health team. Then, they can help you find ways to cope more effectively.

Stress can feel like:

  • Frenetic energy or restlessness
  • Fatigue, or trouble sleeping or staying awake
  • Digestive issues, changes in appetite, over or under eating
  • Change in use of addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • Increased frequency of colds or other illnesses like autoimmune disease flares
  • Heightened anger or impatience
  • Headaches, migraines, body aches
  • Increased irritability, anger, or anxiety
  • Lack of motivation, depression, sadness
  • Inability to catch your breath, panic attacks
  • Change in sex drive, social withdrawal
  • Feelings of being ‘burnt out’

That’s me! What should I do?

First, know that everyone experiences high stress at one time or another. You are not alone.

Second, understand that it is manageable and that there are many tools that Dr. Pamela Frank, ND  Dr. Rachel Vong, ND and Ichih Wang, therapist in training, have at their disposal to help hone in on treatments and and actions that will support you in managing yours. If stress is creating muscle tension, back pain or neck pain, see one of our massage therapists, Helen Bhavnani or CJ Paterson, our acupuncture/TCMP Joy Walraven and Dr. Farnaz Najm, our chiropractor.

There’s no need to wait until stress is overwhelming to start practicing some simple management techniques. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends including a few key practices to help manage everyday stress, so that if a major issue should arise, you’ll have a few great tools already in your tool box.

Some people find great benefit in:

  • Effective, gentle breathing and stretching techniques
  • Tai Chi or gentle yoga (such as Hatha, Yin, or Restorative not Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power)
  • Exercising regularly, choosing gentle forms of movement and temporarily reducing or eliminating cardio intensive exercise (which increases the cortisol response)
  • Allotting quiet time for yourself, to think, journal, meditate, or engage in a creative activity that you enjoy
  • Implement a restful sleep routine that makes a conscious effort towards reducing screen-time and stimulants before bed, and gives you the opportunity to regulate the amount and timing of your sleep hours – the mind and body heal when at rest

Let the mind and body work together:

Remember that stress starts in the brain, and then exhibits in the body. It is not a form of weakness; rather, it is a normal psychological and physical response to situations that require our attention. The way that we can best manage stress is by paying attention and caring for the mind as well as the body, holistically. Some potential stress diagnostic and stress management tools your practitioner could suggest include:

  • Hormone testing and re-balancing
  • Methods of identifying and eliminating stressors
  • Natural, non-addictive, sleep training
  • Building inroads to create family support
  • Natural nutritional supplements such as:
    • Magnesium glycinate
    • B vitamins
    • Adrenal support and adaptogenic supplements (like ashwaganda, Korean ginseng, licorice root, or schisandra)
  • Properly administered essential oil blends, such as:
    • Chamomile
    • Frankincense
    • Lavender
    • Lemon balm
    • Rose
    • Vanilla
    • Valerian

It’s never too early to start learning how to identify and copy better with stress. After all, life is full of surprises. Have you tried any of these tools? Which ones have worked best for you? Which new ones will you try?

Your Forces of Nature Wellness Team is here to help you. If you find that your stress management toolkit isn’t providing what you need, please call us. We would love to support you to finding your best health.

 

How To Survive a Hectic Lifestyle

how to survive a hectic lifestyle

6 Ways to Survive a Hectic Lifestyle

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Schedule “Me” Time

Take a certain amount of time every day just for you. Read a book, enjoy a cup of tea, take a walk, have a bath, get a pedi, have a massage, or do a craft (colouring for adults is hot right now!).

Exercise Every Day

Exercise is an investment in your short and long term health. It is the best stress reducer and it helps prevent every chronic illness. Walk, jog, bike, run, swim, dance, do a class, take karate, do some yoga,, whatever, just make it a priority like you would brushing your teeth or having a shower.

Take Vacations

Don’t be a martyr and forgo vacations in favour of work. Vacations will help you recharge and you’ll come back more productive afterwards.

Re-evaluate Priorities

Should work really be the most important thing in your life? Why?

Bolster Your Adrenal Glands

The fast pace depletes the necessary ingredients for your adrenal glands to perform their job, then you can’t deal with the hectic pace as easiliy. Take B5, B6, C, Magnesium and Zinc along with adaptogens like ashwagandha, rhodiola, schisandra and eleuthrococcus.

Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night

It doesn’t have to be 8 hours per night, but it should be at least 7 to allow your body to recover and recharge. Staying up to work on a project will hinder your performance the next day.

Book an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors now for more advice about how to lead your healthiest, happiest life possible.