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The Importance Of Upper Body Strength

By: Ken Yamaguchi, MD - “New Guideline on Rotator Cuff Problems” 

Have you ever struggled to get your suitcase into the overhead compartment on an airplane? Have you ever felt the strain of your computer bag over your shoulder? Or even asked for help at the supermarket because your groceries were too heavy to handle on your own?

These are common tasks that we should all be able to do effortlessly. However, these types of functions are a challenge for people if they do not have the proper upper body strength. Proper upper body strength improves quality of life and helps prevent chronic aches, pains and injuries. “Previous studies in both cadavers and patient populations have found the prevalence of rotator cuff tears may exceed 50% in individuals older than age 65.”
Strengthening your body to improve everyday functions and avoid injuries should be a goal for all, especially in those 65 and older since rotator cuff injuries happen so often.

The upper body consists primarily of your shoulder and elbow joints. Common muscles that move your shoulder joint are: the deltoids, pectorialis group, trapezius group and latissimus dorsi amongst many. Common muscles that move your elbow joint are: the biceps and triceps amongst many. It’s important to note that the spine plays a big role in upper body function. Strengthening the muscles named is a key component to a strong upper body. Another very important component is good posture. A straight & healthy spine allows the upper body to move freely and without constraint.
One of the most complete upper body exercises you can do is a push-up. A push-up uses your shoulder joint, elbow joint and integrates muscles of the spine and core when performed correctly. To do a standard push-up, place hands and feet on the floor with your body straight. Your hands should rest directly under your shoulder joint and your hips should be lifted with the strength of your core. Slowly lower your chest to the floor and push yourself up with the strength of your pectoralis muscle. Never let your stomach sag and only go as far as you can with good form.

Is the above exercise painful for you to do? Then come see a JCC Certified Personal Trainer for ways to modify a push-up so it can meet your needs! Call us today (402) 334-6423 to set up an appointment. We are here to help! For more serious rehabilitation needs, make an appointment for Physical Therapy at the JCC. Contact Kurt Harte, of Nannen & Harte Physical Therapy, at (402) 990-8458 or email for a free consultation to discuss your specific needs.

Heart Health Awareness

Tips to Keeping a Happy and Healthy Heart

February is American Heart Month, but keeping your heart healthy and happy is an ongoing process. When was the last time you paused to examine the current habits and lifestyle choices that may be putting you at risk for heart disease? Although heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, the good news is that this disease is preventable and controllable.

According to the Center for Disease Control, every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and about 600,000 people die from heart disease —that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack is very important. The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
If you think you, or someone you know, is having a heart attack, call 9–1–1 immediately. Also, taking an aspirin as soon as symptoms start greatly improves the chance of survival.

Managing existing medical conditions and making healthy lifestyle choices are two important ways you can aid in prevention. For some, the thought of changing old habits for new healthy alternatives might seem daunting. It is important to remember that every journey begins with a single step. Start with small changes and work your way up to bigger ones.

Eat a healthy diet. Focus on getting at least 5 servings of fresh vegetables and fruit each day. Be mindful of your dietary fat intake and focus on eating foods that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Make it a goal to avoid all trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. Chose fresh, natural foods over processed items when possible. Reduce your sodium intake (on average 1,500 - 2,200 mg per day) to aid in lowering blood pressure.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. Ask your health care provider about calculating a current Body Mass Index. You can also calculate your own at the Center for Disease Control “Assessing Your Weight” portion of their website.

Exercise regularly.  With your membership to the JCC, you are already on the road to achieving this goal. According to the Surgeon General, the average adult should partake in moderate intensity physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. Activity aids in maintaining weight and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. The Center for Disease Control has a helpful online resource with their “Nutrition and Physical Activity Program” portion of their website.

Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure has few symptoms, so it is important to monitor. There is a blood pressure station in the Fitness Center, right outside of the Personal Trainer’s offices. Ask a Fitness Center staff member if you need assistance. They are happy to help you!

Don’t smoke. Smoking greatly increases your chances of developing heart disease. If you are a smoker, try to quit as soon as possible. There are many resources available to aid in smoking cession. Ask your doctor about what options might be best for you.

Limit alcohol use.
Drinking excessive alcohol can increase blood pressure. Men should limit their consumption to two drinks per day, and women should stick with one drink per day.

Have your cholesterol checked. Ask your doctor about having your cholesterol levels checked. This simple blood test can provide a wealth of information regarding your health.

Manage your diabetes. If you are diabetic, make it a priority to monitor your blood sugar levels closely. Share this information with your doctor and discuss treatment options. The Center for Disease Control has a helpful guidelines and information at their “Diabetes Public Health Resource” portion of their website.

Take your medicine. If you take medicine to a medical condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Ask questions if you don’t understand something and keep your doctor informed of any changes in your health.
Stress less. Focus on reducing your stress levels. Yoga, meditation, and mindful breathing exercises are all great ways to curb excess stress and anxiety. Try one of the free Yoga classes at the JCC. (See the Group Exercise Schedule for times).

Setting small, attainable goals for yourself will keep you motivated and accountable. If you stumble along the way, forgive yourself and get back on track. Don’t let the stumble become an excuse to fall back into old patterns. Incorporating these healthy choices into your daily routine will place you on the right path to a healthy and happy heart.

The Heart of the Matter: Best Practices To Avoid A Cardiovascular Event 

Heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men in the United States, so it’s important to know how to fight it.

The cardiovascular system consists of your heart and all the blood vessels in your body. The heart pumps blood through arteries to deliver oxygen. The veins carry blood back to the heart to deliver waste products (e.g. carbon dioxide). Arteries can be damaged by smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. Fatty materials and other substances are sent to the damaged area (response to healing). When left unchecked, damage continues to occur, causing the arteries to narrow and leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Everyone has seen dramatizations of a heart attack. Someone dramatically clutches their chest and has pain going down their left arm. However, there are other symptoms to be aware of that aren’t typically represented:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain radiating to one or both arms, upper back, or jaw
  • Sweating
  • Light headedness
Women may have the same experience as men, but could have the following symptoms instead:
  • Neck, shoulder, upper back, or stomach pain
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue
Best Practices to Avoid a Cardiovascular Event
Know your Numbers: Make sure you know what your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol numbers are, and your correlating level of risk.

Don’t smoke or use tobacco products: If you only do one thing - stop smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start, but do start moving.

Be Active: How much activity do you get each week? Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. It will help manage your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

Know your Family History: Research your family history to determine your genetic risks. Knowing your inherited risk could save your life.

Get checked regularly: Get an annual checkup that consists of measuring at least your weight and waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting glucose. Discuss your results and, if necessary, a plan of action with your doctor.

Sources: American Heart Association Go Red for Women


Eat Well While On the Go!

Airport travel can be frustrating, and those stresses don’t even include the obstacle of trying to eat healthily while on the go. The abundance of unhealthy food choices, frequent restaurant meals and lack of control that sometimes accompanies visits with friends/family can send your best intentions into a downward spiral. Try using these five tips to keep yourself healthy while traveling this summer.

1. HYDRATE The dry air onboard airplanes can cause gradual fluid loss. Make sure to hydrate before you board the plane. To get around the liquid restrictions at security, pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it after passing through security. For further hydration, bring a single-serve packet of an electrolyte sports drink powder or tablet.

2. BRING HEALTHY SNACKS The old standard airline snack – pretzels – are fillers that don’t satisfy hunger. With a little planning, you can eat much better on the flight. Snacks like a packet of oatmeal, nuts, raisins, even a small packet of veggie or protein powder (whey mixes easily with water) transport great and provide more nutrients and fiber to keep your body satisfied.

3. THE HOTEL ROOM If possible, get a room with a kitchenette or refrigerator and stock it with some key items from a local grocery store to save money and boost your nutrition while traveling. You’ll save money on food or room service, and have more control over making healthy choices.

4. THE CAR TRIP Traveling on a long road trip? Pack the cooler with snacks instead of frequenting fast food restaurants. You won’t be tempted by gas station junk food. Stop at a pretty roadside spot for a picnic and to stretch your legs – it beats fast food options any day of the week!

5. KNOW THY RESTAURAUNT If you’re going to eat in a restaurant, check their website beforehand and carefully select your order. That way, you don’t have to look at the menu inside the restaurant so you won’t be tempted to order something unhealthy when you sit down.

Man Up for Men’s Health!

June is Men’s Health Month, a time to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and to encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. In 1920, the average life expectancy of a woman was just one year longer than a man. Over the past century, that discrepancy has jumped to an average of six years.
Congressman Bill Richardson said, “Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.”1 Here are some statistics that reinforce those thoughts:
  • 80% of the elderly who live alone are widows
  • Half of the widows who live in poverty were not poor before their husbands’ deaths2 
  • Early death in males leaves children without fathers and removes a pillar of support from women and children 
What causes such high male mortality rates? The largest and most important factor is that men are much less likely to seek routine and preventive medical care, a simple step that would help decrease deaths related to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and depression, and increase the chances of early detection of cancers.

More frequent doctor visits can also increase awareness of the dangers of smoking or excessive drinking, which include heart attack and heart disease – two leading causes of death which occur more often with men than women. Many of these health problems don’t produce symptoms in early stages and can do significant damage before any signs are seen. Remember that preventive medicine can often be the best medicine!

Regular health screenings, exercise and healthier eating are things we should all be doing to improve our wellness, but let Men’s Health Month remind you to give extra encouragement to the men and boys in your life…it may help them make up that six-year discrepancy!

1.    Congressional Record, H3905-H3906, May 24, 1994

Barefoot Running

History suggests that our ancestors ran safely and comfortably before the development of the modern running shoe in the 1970s. Before then, runners often wore moccasins or very thin running shoes that encouraged mid- or forefoot strike form, where the impact force falls on the ball of the foot (the widest part). Bulkier modern sneakers, however, induce heel strike form, where runners land on the heel of the foot. This change in foot strike completely changes impact force to the body and how the body moves, sometimes leading to injury.

Research theorizes that at least 30% of runners sustain injuries every year, many of which can be attributed to the common heel strike form. A heel strike causes severe impact directly to the heel, which transfers up through the ankle, leg, knee, hip and torso. In a mid-foot or forefoot strike, the impact is absorbed by the fat pads of the foot and spread across, diffusing the force of impact and limiting the amount of force sent up the body.
The right minimal footwear makes running with a mid-foot or forefoot strike drastically easier. A typical modern running shoe has a raised heel, little flex in the sole and is heavier than your foot. Minimalist footwear, on the other hand, allows the sole to flex and the foot to roll slightly, adding little weight and leaving the foot in a natural, level position. Lightweight or barefoot-style shoes are becoming more common – but, regardless of your sneakers, remember these tips when transitioning your running form:
•    Shift to barefoot running gradually
•    Choose minimal shoes with a level, flexible sole
•    Land gently on your mid-foot or ball of the foot
•    Don’t run on the tips of your toes
•    Be aware of ground objects when running barefoot        
•    Stretch your calves and Achilles tendon well
•    Don’t continue with anything that causes pain

Exercises of the month: