Tag Archives: Exercise

Microbes verse Microbeads

By: Tina Davidson

Microbes-vs-MicrobeadsMicrobes

Let’s start with the unsung heroes, the microbes in your gut.

Microbes may be small but they are up to mighty things. I’ll always be fascinated by them. No doubt they will gain more recognition in 2016.

I mentioned in a previous post that scientists are still figuring out the “Gut-Brain Axis,” so a recent Tweet by @HeartsatPlay caught my attention:

Exercise Alters Gut Microbes That Promote Brain Health / Psychology Today

I recommend you check out the article by Christopher Bergland in Psychology Today. Hopefully, after reading the online article, you’ll be so motivated by the preliminary findings on how early-age exercise promotes gut and brain health that you’ll take your kids (or grandchildren) out on a barefoot walk. Time for us all to invest in the next generation’s developing gut-brain axis (and perhaps college funds?).

Now that you’ve done your due diligence, are you still left wanting more on microbes?  Check out the October 2015 Nature article, “The Tantalizing Links Between Gut Microbes and the Brain,” by Peter Audrey Smith. (Thanks to Christopher Bergland for including this link in his article as well).

Microbeads

Next, on to something hideous: microbeads in your water!

(Side note: Microbes can be hideous as well, but for the intent of this post they will be cast in a rose-colored glow for all dramatic intents and purposes.)

The villainous plastic microbeads were recently banned by the U.S. government in the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.

Not sure what a microbead is? Here’s how it is defined in the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015:

“(A) the term ‘plastic microbead’ means any solid plastic particle that is less than five millimeters in size and is intended to be used to exfoliate or cleanse the human body or any part thereof; and…”

They have been banned from rinse-off cosmetics (this includes toothpaste.)  After cosmetics containing microbeads get rinsed off in sinks and showers, the plastics end up where they shouldn’t (in the sea) since they are too small to be filtered by waste-water treatment plants.

The folks at BeatTheMicrobead.org really know their stuff on getting rid of plastic microbeads if you want to learn more.

I want to send a shout-out to everyone who supported the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. I’m glad it made sense to lawmakers that in order to get microplastics out of our plankton we shouldn’t allow plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics. The bad news is that the ban on plastic microbeads doesn’t go into effect until 2018 (grumble, grumble). These microbeads, aka plastic pollution, are known environmental and human health hazards. I hope cosmetic companies and manufacturers use something other than plastic microbeads in their products sooner than later.

There are economically feasible alternatives to plastic microbeads used in personal care products, as evidenced by the current use of biodegradable, natural, abrasive materials in personal care products such as beeswax, shells, nuts, seeds, and sand. (Text from California Assembly Bill-888 Waste management: plastic microbeads. (2015-2016).

In the meantime (prior to the ban going into effect in 2018), support labels/companies that are 100% microplastic free.

Mighty Microbes to the Rescue?

I wouldn’t put it past the mighty microbes in playing some part in ridding our waters of pervasive plastic microbeads. Microbes have helped clean oil spills and scientists are researching microbes that eat and sink plastic at sea (probably best not to have plastic in the sea to begin with though).

What about you? Were you once an avid user of facial products containing plastic microbeads? What would you recommend as an alternative to plastic microbeads?

On a more random note… if you could be any microbe, what one would you be? Maybe bifidobacterium… 

Bifido-bacterium

There are approximately thirty species of bifidobacteria. They comprise approximately 90% of the healthy bacteria in the colon.

The quote above is from an article by Stuart Cantor. “Digestive dynamos: clinical studies support the multiple health benefits from probiotics, dietary fibers, botanicals and enzymes.” Prepared Foods Nov. 2015: 28+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

Have you consumed your bifidobacteria today? Here’s to a healthy brain and gut! 

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Monkey Bars and Your Brain

Lonesome surfer catching waves at sunset at

Sunset surfer catching a wave on Central Coast, CA.

By: Tina Davidson

It is pretty obvious that a regular exercise routine is part of a healthy lifestyle.  Not only does exercise help keep our bodies fit but also our minds. This is a mantra I want to instill in my children and hopefully one day (in the very distant future) my grandchildren.

So, since I have a ways off until any tiny creatures are calling me “G-ma”, I’ll do my best to help my young children improve their executive function skills.  Studies have proven that these skills, like the ability to pay attention, multitask, and control responses, are improved with exercise.

Stand Up For Your Right to Exercise

It seems you’ve got to get children running and playing so they can sit longer and focus in the classroom.  However, I suggest the public education system consider standing desks over traditional desks because according to a September 2014 Time.com article, “sitting is killing you.”

The future doesn’t have to be bleak and we can help our children increase their longevity.  One way to do this is to teach them “the single most important pilates exercise for you and your children” which is the sit to stand exercise, according to pilates expert, Alycea Ungaro. (Please see article on tips to safely perform this exercise).

Stand up

I tried this exercise and it is a little tricky getting back up once seated. I guess I’ll just have to practice more and find a “helper upper” to join me.

Exercise Your Right to Play

Perhaps you tried and your child is just not interested in the sit to stand exercise. No worries, structured exercise is not required to help children develop better executive function skills.  Gretchen Reynolds’s article, “How Exercise Can Boost Young Brains” for The New York Times states this point well:

Encourage young boys and girls to run, jump, squeal, hop and chase after each other or after erratically kicked balls, and you substantially improve their ability to think, according to the most ambitious study ever conducted of physical activity and cognitive performance in children.

The details of the study are worth checking out.  The results support parents who allow their children to run and play freely. I’m very encouraged by this– no more sheepishly dragging my children away from the playground when they appear to storm through the area like Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. (Of course, I don’t allow them to respond, “I”LL EAT YOU UP!” when I tell them it is time to leave.)

Take the Monkey Bar Challenge

Why not join in and have some fun with your children on the playground? I thought about this the other day as I watched one of my son’s classmates swing effortlessly across the monkey bars. Once he made it across, another boy was waiting in line for his turn on the “MEGA bars!” as he called them. From a five-year-old’s perspective, the bars probably look quite intimidating.

Inspired by these fit fivers, I got in line, climbed to the top of the ladder, and just hung on the first bar.  I thought I’d drop right away and wouldn’t be able to hold my own body weight. Instead, I changed my thinking (remembering Kacy Cantanzaro’s incredible display of strength on America Ninja Warrior) and decided to conquer the mega bars.  Surprisingly, I made it across and it wasn’t as hard as I imagined. I’m hooked.

I like the idea of making a workout like play and wish Jon Hind’s Monkey Bar Gym was located in California and not Wisconsin.

Step inside Jon’s gym and you won’t see treadmills, leg extension machines, dumbbells or even mirrors. Instead, you’ll find something of an adult playground: ropes hanging from the ceiling and loads of medicine balls, ladders, traveling rings, jump ropes and, of course, people. “First, we teach clients how to use their bodies (the best machines in the world!) for basic motor fitness. …”

You could always forego a gym membership and hit a local park for your workout. I’d pick one with monkey bars.  For those that want to feel the burn on the monkey bars, try bending your knees and keep them at 90 degrees while you swing across the monkey bars for a total of four times.

I’m not about to attempt the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course any time soon just because I made it across the bars in front of a bunch of kindergarten students– but I was pretty proud of myself.  As I help my kids move towards better fitness, I’ll keep a positive attitude and try to be a more playful example.  My brain seems to perform best that way.

How about you? What exercise makes you feel strong and like a kid again?

I hope to see you on the playground taking the monkey bar challenge.

Resources & Further Reading

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BMX Racing and Your Brain

BMX race against grandpa

My son and my dad trash talking at the Y BMX track in Orange, CA.

By: Tina Davidson

Hold Your Line

I thought my dad was taking life a little easier since his retirement, but it seems I was wrong.

He stopped subjecting his body to the wear and tear of motocross racing many decades ago.  He promised that his days of concussions and broken collar bones were over.

Or so he said.

Recently, he’s traded in his motorcycle throttle for bike pedals.

He claims he is only practicing, but he has had a few minor injuries.  He showed me a scab on his elbow and remarked, “It’s healing nicely.”  He received the flesh wound after a five-year-old had cut him off at the finish line at the Y BMX track in Orange, CA, during a practice run.

So, when my seven-year-old son rode the Y BMX track with his grandpa for the first time this last week, my dad advised, “Hold your line.” This means when you are a newbie racer you ride in a straight line– you don’t veer off to the right or left.  Not heeding this advice may cause you to get hit by someone else, like a hot-shot five-year-old, or you may take out another rider, like a grandpa.  My son crashed once and no grandpas were injured during the two hours of practice racing, so I think the advice sunk in.

Pros vs. Cons of BMX Racing

The top three benefits to BMX:

  1. A fairly inexpensive hobby
  2. A good form of outdoor exercise
  3. A sport suitable for all ages

The top three things I dislike from my son’s recent BMX experience:

  1. Kids comparing their bikes
  2. Kids trash talking each other in practice
  3. Kids getting injured

Protect Your Brain

Thankfully, my son was wearing a helmet (a track requirement) when he crashed.  Are you familiar with what to look for in the event of a head injury following a crash? The Medicine of Cycling has a great handout on how to assess for a concussion.  It gives clear and simple instructions on how to proceed after a head injury from a cycling crash.

In researching information on traumatic brain injuries, I stumbled upon an article in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.  It included information on providing traumatic brain injury patients with psychosocial interventions (among other important interventions).

To promote brain health throughout the life span, the injured person and family should be instructed on the health benefits of social support and community engagement as methods to promote brain neuroplasticity and positive behavioral outcomes. Although the mechanisms remain elusive concerning how social behaviors contribute to neuroplasticity, there is a growing body of evidence that social service programs, meditation, and physical exercise improve brain plasticity (Davidson & McEwen, 2012). The family and injured person should be informed of the benefits of community engagement, friendships, and social relationships as well as, reducing stress through cognitive reframing or meditation practices. Furthermore, these psychosocial interventions can prevent or reduce the negative effects of emotional distress and depression, which are both known to contribute to the inhibition of neural activity.

It seems that whether you have a brain injury or not, everyone can benefit from socializing and getting exercise.  I’m glad my dad has found a hobby that can help support his brain health.  In the long run, he is doing his body and brain a big favor by trying BMX.  Plus, he gets the added benefit of riding with his grandchildren.

My dad has always enjoyed the thrill of racing and I think my oldest son has inherited that gene. Thanks, Dad!

Lift Weights to Ride Better

A brief article, meant for long distance riders, in Bicycling, suggests leg presses and squats to improve your riding muscles. (I’m sure BMX racers can benefit from strengthening their quadriceps and muscles in their lower bodies too.) A weight lifting routine over 8 to 12 weeks (during off-season it was recommended) will aid your brain as well.

“Your brain also becomes more adept at recruiting the muscles you need to keep riding.”

Try three sets of five Dumbbell Bulgarian Squats two days a week. There are many Youtube videos out there to show you how.

Try Something New

Are you contemplating a trial ride around a BMX track? Remember, you are never too old to try something new (consult your doctor first if you have reservations). It is best to be cautious, but don’t let fear of injury stop you from trying.  Perhaps, we will see you out on the track!

Orange-Y-BMX

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

 

Sources:

Bay, Esther H., and Kattlynn S. Chartier. “Chronic morbidities after traumatic brain injury: an update for the advanced practice nurse.” Journal of Neuroscience Nursing June 2014: 142+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 June 2014.

“ACTIVATE YOUR MUSCLES.” Bicycling Mar. 2014: 024. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 June 2014.

 

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Two Products My Brain Would Agree to Give Awards To

DishwasherTwo weeks ago, Parade, published their winners for “The Product of the Year Awards!”

Here’s the two products that I would give a thumbs-up to from their 23 picks (note: I am not “sponsored” by any companies):

1.  Le Savonnier ­Marseillais All-Purpose Soap

First, let me state that I’ve never used this soap. I’m basing my opinion solely on what I’ve read about the soap and checked out online.  This soap does not contain dyes and seems to contain a minimal amount of “safer” preservatives. I give it a thumbs-up since they offer a fragrance free option and say, “Way to go, Le Savonnier Marseillais!”

Their all-purpose soap sounds great and has really pretty packaging, but for now I will be sticking with my go-to-soap, Dr. Brooner’s Magic Soap, specifically the Baby-Mild Liquid Unscented Soap (certified fair-trade and organic).  I steer clear of products with fragrances since my household is allergic to most chemical and natural fragrances.  This soap is great for sensitive skin.  I mix it with water in a foaming hand soap dispenser to make it last longer.  This is a big plus since I have children who can be a bit overzealous when pumping soap.

2. Finish Quantum Power & Free

I must admit I use Finish products- A LOT! I use my dishwasher at least 7 times a week.  When I bought my dishwasher five years ago, I consulted Consumer Reports on which dishwasher to purchase and what dish washing detergent worked best.  I believe they recommended Finish Powerball tabs.  I was delighted with the clean dishes and even happier when I found out Costco sold the tabs in bulk.  Once my husband bought another brand on sale at Costco and it was a lemon-flavored dish-coated disaster after the first load.  He quickly returned the lemon goo and went back to Finish Powerball formula.

The Finish’s product that was picked for Parade’s list, Quantum Power and Free, contains no chlorine bleach and fewer fragrances and dyes. I wish there were no fragrances and dyes instead of fewer! (Anyone have a recommendation for one that doesn’t have these ingredients but actually works?)  Finish is giving away free samples, so I’m going to give them a try and see if I notice a difference in my dishes.

Until I find the perfect tabs, or get rid of my dishwasher (because of the scary amount of tabs I’ve used in the last five years!), I give a thumbs-up to the product engineers at Finish for trying to improve!

Do dyes in soaps help them clean better?

Do dyes in soaps help them clean better?

What about the other 21 products listed in Parade?

I’m going to keep this post positive so I won’t voice my thoughts on the other 21 products.

Check them out for yourself and let me know which product selections  you agree with!  Do you see any patterns from the list in terms of what Americans’ brains prefer? (hum.. convenience food? candy? soda? video games?)

What are the best products for your brain?

I believe the best products for your brain are the ones that are free of dyes and other types of chemicals/preservatives.  I’ve mentioned super brain foods and super brain drinks on my blog, but sometimes the “best-for-your-brain product” is the actual product of your actions.  This is the case when it comes to the benefits associated with exercise and socializing.  It doesn’t cost any money to take off your shoes and go for a walk on the beach or play a board game with your grandchildren.  Don’t be swayed by flashy marketers pushing their best brain supplements.  Do your research, stay active, eat in moderation, get enough sleep, consume healthy fruits and vegetables, try new things, and keep social connections.  Also, make sure to keep your environment clean and as chemical free as possible.

It may seem overwhelming if you are not doing these things I’ve mentioned, but focus on just one area of your life to improve at a time.  You may not win any awards, but if you continue to pay attention to what’s best for your brain you won’t regret it!

I give you a thumbs-up for trying!

By: Tina Davidson

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Fine-Tuning of Brain Function and Autism

Perhaps you have a friend or family member on the autism spectrum?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

Dr. Martha Herbert, pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, wrote an article about autism that was published online for the Orange County Register on October 18, 2013.  She wrote: “Some autism self-advocates don’t think autism is a “disorder” at all – they describe themselves as having a “condition” that is simply a different way of being human.”

Her article, “Autism challenges us to ‘think different,'” did indeed challenge me to think differently about the subject.

Here’s an excerpt from her article regarding the brain and autism that has implications for us all:

“The areas where people on the autism spectrum have the hardest time are the functions requiring the most exquisite fine-tuning of brain function. The brain requires loads of energy to fire its signals, and to coordinate them. When the brain and body are worn down by too much stress and exposures from the environment, its cells are going to have a hard time generating that energy. The most complex functions will be harder to perform. They may even be put on hold, to protect the rest of the system.

A brain with low energy is going to be challenged when the demand gets high – so finding the right words or tone, figuring out what facial expressions mean, integrating vision with sound and smell, being coordinated, paying attention or even being flexible – all of these will be hard – often too hard.

From this perspective you can see why there would be a spectrum in autism – it’s because there are a million ways of getting overloaded and running out of energy. Each person has their own unique combination of genetic weak spots and exposures that pile on top of this. Each person has their own total load recipe.” Check out the whole article here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/spectrum-531927-autism-many.html

There is a lot to learn. I am intrigued to check out her book, The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be.

Anyone read it?

I hope that you are taking care of your brain so that it is not overloaded.

One thing you can do to keep your  brain happy and healthy is to exercise.  Try just a casual walk with a friend to reduce your stress. Your brain will be happy you did!

 

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