Massage – more than just a feel good experience

6 Sep

Lying face down on the massage table, dim light, soft music playing in the back ground, sometimes makes me feel like I’m living the lifestyle of the rich and famous!  But it goes far beyond just pampering.  Massage can really add to your wellness!

Massage has many benefits that go beyond the obvious awesome feeling you get while you’re there.

Studies have shown that massage can actually reduce the levels of stress hormones in your system.

Substances such as cortisol and norepinephrine are released in larger amounts when we are under stress.  They help our body respond to dangerous situations helping us muster up the strength for the fight or flight response.  The problem is that although we may not be in any real danger most of the time, we may have frequent low level stress causing the release of these stress hormones.  This causes increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, and slowed metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity.  When this becomes chronic we can start to feel pretty run down.

That’s where massage can help.  Massage can help to break this cycle of ongoing stress response.

Massage can also be an effective strategy when recovering from surgery or an injury.  All ages can benefit from massage, even infants.  Many massage therapists specialize in specific types of treatments.  Do some research and find the therapist that’s right for you and your particular needs.

In the Winnipeg area you could check out Symmetry Massage.  Their “our people” tab provides information about the therapists and their specialties and interests.


The more you do – the more you can do!

24 Aug
Exercise calisthenics #2

Exercise calisthenics #2 (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

And the more you want to do which equals increased wellness for you!

The saying use it or lose it is for real.  If you are not doing regular physical activity, your muscles will not develop, in fact, they can atrophy.  This means they actually shrink!

I have seen very ill patients loose increasing amounts of muscle tissue after a few weeks of bedrest.  Fortunately most of us get up and walk around the house at the very least, so we don’t experience that degree of atrophy but we do lose some muscle if we are not active.

The less muscle you have, the more difficult it is for you to do the physical activities you want to do.  You may find even mild activity tiring.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.  The less muscle tissue you have, the more difficult it is for you to burn calories.

If you are a couch potato and you want to increase your activity levels and your muscle tone, start small.  Don’t go straight for the 5 mile run after 5 years of relative inactivity.  You will feel horrible, probably both during and for at least a day or two after.

Start with something a little more manageable.  Do something that will leave you feeling invigorated but not exhausted.  You want to feel like you’ve succeeded, that way you will not mind doing it again in a day or two.  You might want to start with a short walk.  After a few days increase your distance a little.  Keep increasing gradually as your tolerence and your muscles increase.

The same goes for weight lifting.  Just because you could use 30 lb dumbells to do arm curls back in the day does not mean you can pick up where you left off.  If it’s been a while since you last hit the gym you may have to cut back a little or maybe even a lot.  Start low and gradually increase as you regain your tone.

Whatever activity you choose to do, the more you do it the more you will be able to do it – and many other things.  And forget about trying to get away with the I’m getting old excuse.  Check out Winnipeg’s Jaring Timmerman for some inspiration.

You can do it, just get started.  Better to do a little than none at all and before you know it you’ll be able to do more and more!

Let nature be your gym!

21 Aug

Sometimes we get fooled into believing that we have to go to a gym to get a proper work out. Not true.

My daughter and I checking out the geocache we found while hiking the Hunt Lake trail.

Last week while camping I went for a hike on the beautiful HuntLake trail in eastern Manitoba. The views were spectacular! The terrain was rugged, and that’s what made it a great workout.

There were steep inclines and rocky uneven surfaces. Like a Bosu ball, a typical peice of equipment found in a gym, the uneven terrain forces you to use your muscles differently. You need to incorporate a whole range of different muscle movements in order to maintain your balance. By adjusting your speed and the distance you hike, you can tailor your workout to your own fitness level.

The Hunt Lake trail is supposedly 16 kms long. We chose to do slightly less than half. I would love to do the whole trail someday when I have plenty of time, and when I have built up my endurance level. Since my concussion I have had to increase my activity levels gradually. I’m currently up to approximately 6 kms of walking.

That’s what makes hiking great; you can tailor it to your own abilities. It’s also a great way to get the whole family involved.

You can even make a game of it. Many people do and we stumbled upon the evidence. Quite by accident we found a geocache! Geocaching is basically a treasure hunting game using your GPS to guide you. Someone hides a “treasure”- usually a waterproof container with a log book inside. They will then share the GPS coordinates online so others can go in search of it. Maybe this would be a good way to get the tech lover in the family to try hiking?

If you have young kids, it’s never too early to start hiking with them.  Start with short easy hikes while they’re young and gradually increase the difficulty.  If you wait until your kids are older to start hiking, there is a chance they might not have a great attitude towards it.  By starting young, they will come to view these types of activities as a normal and probably enjoyable part of life.

Do you have a favorite hiking trail?  Reply to this blog and share some great hiking trail ideas so we can all enjoy them!



The empty nest and staying positive

13 Aug

Packed up and ready for a week of camping

Don’t let change negatively impact your wellness.

Over the past three years my nest has gotten very empty.  Only one out of three children still live here and she is only here part time.  Sure the others still visit on weekends but it’s not the same as having them here all the time.

I had been spending an increasingly large amount of time with my dog lately.  We would walk 4 or 5 kms together most evenings.  On Saturday she passed away.  The other two dogs passed away last year and the year before.

My home is suddenly much quieter with much less action than I’m used to.  It would be easy to wallow in self pity and use that as an excuse to drop my good habits, but I’m going to fight that urge.

We have the camper packed up and we’re heading out on our first camping trip with no kids and no dogs.  It’s a little emotional.

We packed bikes, fishing rods, hiking shoes and tennis raquets.  My plan is to stay busy doing things that are good for body and soul.  The vacation is a chance to recharge, and when we get back home I will need to make an effort to go for a walk…without my dog.  I need to make it a habit even though the first little while will be tough.

Rather than letting a change set you back, seize the opportunity to move forward in a positive direction.

Just because you don’t chew it doesn’t mean it doesn’t count

8 Aug

Drinks! (Photo credit: Martin Cathrae)

I know I’ve written about drinks before but it bears repeating.  Your wellness is important.

If you’re not careful, you can consume more than your daily recommended amount of calories just in your beverages!  Somehow people tend to underestimate the amount of calories and sugar that are found in beverages.

Summer time is a popular time for cocktails on the deck, around the campfire, at the barbeque, etc.  Here is a list of some of the comonly enjoyed drinks and thier average caloric content obtained from  Remember that these are generally empty calories – meaning they do not contribute nutritional value.

Gin or vodka and tonic =126

Dark rum and coke =142

Medium glass of white wine (175ml) =130

Medium glass of red wine (175ml) =120

Bottle of wine (white) =555

Bottle of wine (red) =510

5% Lager (pint) =240-50

Cider (pint) =180-250

Stout (pint) =210

Bitter/Ale =180-230

Liqueur (50ml) =100 -170

Brandy (50ml) =110

Whiskey (25ml) =55

Many non alcoholic beverages are very high in calories as well.  Check out this website to see the 20 worst drinks.

The recommended intake for maintaining your weight is 2000 calories for women and 2500 calories for men.  You would need to decrease the amount if you are trying to lose.  You don’t want to use up your entire alotment just in your drinks.

You may want to rethink that diet pop as well.  True it contains little or no calories, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.  Artificial sweeteners give you the taste of something very sweet.  Drinking them regularly means you are training your tastebuds to prefer things that are very sweet.  It’s more difficult to appreciate and enjoy natural flavours when your taste buds have grown to expect the ultra sweet.

A Globe and Mail article reported on a study that found a link between diet pop consumption and health problems.

“The results revealed that people who drank at least one diet pop a day had a 48 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke or fatal cardiac event than those who reported no soda consumption.”

While further studies are required to prove that the diet pop caused the problem, I think the strong possibility of harm is enough reason to avoid it.  Diet pop contributes nothing to your nutrition so removing it from your diet can’t hurt and there is a good chance it can help.

There have also been some animal studies that suggest digestion is altered causing the gut to absorb more sugars as a result of consuming diet pop.  This means while you are smuggly thinking you’re not consuming any additional calories, you may be gaining weight, contributing to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

If it’s the fizz you crave, try sparkling water like Perrier or S. Pelligrino.  Pour over ice with a wedge of lime for a crisp refreshing beverage, or add to your wine to make a spritzer.

Now that you are informed go forth and enjoy your summer – but – govern yourself accordingly.

Plan to eat healthy

2 Aug
Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables (Photo credit: nutrilover)

What’s in your kitchen?  Do you keep a supply of healthy food and beverage options readily available for you and your family?

The other day I was visiting at someone’s home.  They had a very busy day.  Rushing in after a full day at work, they had only a few minutes to spare before heading out to the ball diamond for a game followed by a late supper.  Feeling like they couldn’t wait for the late supper they reached for a snack.  In what looked like a practiced move they quickly opened a cupboard and pulled out a candy bar, then reached into the fridge for a can drink.

Yikes!  These snacks that are high in sugar will provide you with energy in the short term but they are typically providing you with empty calories.  By that I mean that you are getting calories but not nutrition.  I think the candy bar may have contained nuts so that would provide some protein which is good, but it also contained a lot of sugar which is not good.

Healthy eating requires planning, especially if you have not been in the habit of eating healthy.

You can plan to eat healthy.  Start by planning to eat about 5 times each day.  Most people will break that down into 3 main meals and 2 snacks – one for mid morning and one in the afternoon.  Avoid the evening snack.  Your metabolism is in slow mode at night while you sleep so it doesn’t need the extra calories and will just store them as fat – typically in just the place you least want it.

The Canada Food Guide can give you some ideas about the types of foods and portions you should be eating daily.

By planning ahead for healthy eating you can make a shopping list with healthy meals and snacks in mind.  Make sure to include healthy convenience foods that are easy to grab when you’re on the go, and stick to the list.

Fruit is nature’s fast food.  You could grab a banana or apple just as easily as a candy bar – and you’ll feel better for it.  Raw veggies make a great snack too.  If you cut them up as soon as you bring them home from the store, they’ll be an easy snack to grab.

A handful of almonds (about 10-15 nuts) together with a fruit or veggie of choice and a bottle of water would make the perfect on the go snack if you want wellness in your life.

Don’t buy pop, candy bars, chips or other snacks that are high in sugar, fat, or salt and low in nutritional value.  If they are not in your kitchen they will not become that convenient snack that is so unhealthy for you.  These kinds of snacks should be very occasional.  By occasional I mean once a week or less.

You deserve wellness and healthy eating is a huge part of wellness.  It doesn’t happen by accident though, it takes effort.  The good news is its habit forming and gets easier the more you do it.

Do you plan to eat well?

Keep our rivers healthy

26 Jul

La Salle River Manitoba – Help keep this and all rivers healthy and beautiful!

Sitting by the bank of the La Salle River I smile as I see two people paddle by in a canoe.  I wave and they smile and wave back, clearly enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds them.  A loud smack of a beaver’s tail can be heard in the distance as it warns its fellow beavers of the oncoming canoe.  Occasionally I see a deer come to the water for a drink and see a fish jump leaving circular ripples on the waters surface.

I think to myself, “How lucky am I?!  I get to live near such beauty!”

On occasion however, as I travel down the river I see things that are so disappointing and lead me to believe that not everyone shares my love of our water.  Travelling west along the river I pass by an old bathtub partially submerged in the water.  I see an occasional tin can floating by.  As I continue I see a large algae bloom and soon discover the source.  A home owner with the most pristine of lawns has been dumping lawn clippings into the river.   Clumps of grass float on the surface of the slow moving river, a green scum surrounds them.

Throwing inorganic material into the waterways shoud be a no brainer.  Just don’t.

As for organic materials such as yard waste or food waste, you may think, “It’s all good.  Organic stuff will just biodegrade – no harm done, right?”

Wrong!  High levels of nutrients provided by organic waste feed the aquatic plants and algae causing them to grow too much.  This overgrowth causes oxygen depletion in the water which in turn affects the health of fish and other organisms.  The overgrowth of algae will also cause unsightly scum and a foul odour.

Think since you don’t live next to the river you are not having an effect on its health?

Wrong again!  If you live in a town, rain water running off your roof and pavement will make its way into storm drains which typically return the water to a river.  Any contaminants that are picked up from your driveway or lawn are carried into these drainage systems.  Pollutants from farms are washed into ditches and carried to the rivers.

Some interesting facts from Environment Canada:

  • One drop of oil can render up to 25 litres of water unfit for drinking.
  • One gram of 2,4-D (a common household herbicide) can contaminate ten million litres of drinking water.

Many communities get their drinking water from nearby rivers.  Fortunately we have effective water treatment facilities and our drinking water is safe.  We need to take care not the jeopordize this by making efforts to reduce water pollution.

How you can help:

  • Don’t throw organic or  inorganic waste into the rivers
  • Reduce chemical use in your yard and garden
  • Avoid spilling things such as gas and oil on driveways and streets
  • Use environmentally friendly cleaning products for cleaning driveways

If we all do our part we will continue to have a beautiful place for recreation, a healthy environment for fish and wildlife and a great source of safe drinking water for years to come.

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