• How Your Back Can Keep Cookies Out of Your Mouth

    But what does a back have to do with a mouth? If you’ve ever felt pain in your back, well, it has a lot to do with it.

    You probably never think about your spine when you’re cramming junk food in your pie hole. But just because you can’t see your spine doesn’t mean it isn’t affected by your nutrition. Eating to keep your spine healthy then becomes a motivation to keep eating healthy—even over the holidays, even at a Chattanooga holiday party.

    But I Want Some Eggnog

    Let’s say you’re visiting relatives in Chattanooga this week so you decide to stay at the Mayor’s Mansion Inn bed and breakfast. Sounds lovely—until you hear that cookies and eggnog are part of the welcome party. Cookies and eggnog will be fun going down, of course, but the high sugar content in both will lead to stress on the heart . This creates a domino effect, eventually affecting blood flow to the spine. If you have a history of pain in your back, you do not want to mess with blood flow to it. Reduced oxygen and minerals to the spine can lead to degeneration of the spinal discs , spelling pain for you.

    So while some eggnog and cookies consumed before bed at the Inn aren’t immediately going to make you double over in pain, the sugar and fat they supply to your body takes away from the nutrients and oxygen that need to be delivered to the spinal discs.

    What to do?

    The obvious answer is to just say no. No thank you, because we can’t be rude to our hosts in Chattanooga, the Scenic City of the South. Sure, we can say “no” all day long. But realistically, all the rich, welcoming food of the holidays is going to get to you, and you’re going to cave. So you need a plan.

    One idea is to make your own alternatives. This Chattanooga TV station, channel 3, published an eggnog recipe on the lighter side. It recommends “sweetener to taste” rather than a bucket of sugar. So maybe you call ahead and offer this light eggnog recipe to your hosts at the Inn, or maybe you just be “that guest” who brings their own eggnog to the party. Maybe you just eat your own baked goods at home, go have fun without eating any sweets, and chow down when you get home again as a reward. Either way, you’ll need this very helpful list of alternate sweeteners to get you started in the right direction with your own holiday baking.

    Are you motivated yet?

    Most people have very tangible reasons for sticking to a diet plan long term. They have a disease, like diabetes or heart problems. They are overweight and have found a way to keep losing weight. That’s why it’s a little harder to stick to a healthy lifestyle when your motivation is your spine—you can’t see it, and unless you suffer from chronic pain, you can’t feel it.

    But this doesn’t mean your spine isn’t worth eating for, even when you’re faced with piles of luscious pies and ladyfingers. We’ve already read with that link up there about spinal disc degeneration that unless your spine gets enough oxygen and nutrients from blood supply, the casings on your discs will fail, causing excruciating pain. So while your back doesn’t hurt now, it may a few years from now—which is reason enough for most people to stay on a healthy track.

    What’s your healthy strategy?

    If you’re serious about staying healthy over the holidays, then you’ll be interested in creating alternatives to stick to a plan. In the Chattanooga area, stores like Earth Fare and Whole Foods exist to help you stay on track with products that are hard to find in general grocery stores. You can stay healthy this holiday season!

    What are your food strategies? Do you nibble at forbidden foods so you don’t crave them later? Do you bring your own snacks to parties? Let us know in a comment below!

  • Unraveling the Mystery of Barefoot Shoes

    Have you ever slipped your foot into the glove-like interior of a barefoot shoe? You have to place each toe in its individual casing, making your foot into a hand for just one weird moment.

    You might be surprised to hear that not all barefoot shoes are shaped like foot gloves, though. In fact, barefoot has another name: minimalist. Minimalist shoes aren’t shaped like feet—they just remove most of the padding we’re used to so that our feet can flex better while running. What, then, is all the buzz about?

    Barefoot Running

    Let’s start with the basics: just what is this barefoot running phenomenon? A reporter from the Guardian tells us that barefoot running is nothing new, but only a section of the population were into it. When Chris McDougall published the book Born to Run , a study of barefoot runners in Kenya, it suddenly became a mainstream practice.

    The point of barefoot running is to change your jogging gait from hitting your heel first, to hitting the front of your foot first. The idea is that this is more efficient and prevents more injuries. Does running barefoot really do this? We’ll explore that in a minute.

    Minimalist Shoes

    Nobody went completely barefoot, of course. There’s too much concrete in our country, too many dangers on the road. So companies developed shoes that could function like you don’t have anything on, yet still provide protection.

    Barefoot shoes range from transitional to full-on glove, so the term “minimalist” is used to cover all types. Transitional shoes look just like normal running shoes, but really have very thin soles so the ball of your foot hits before your heel. Examples include Nike’s Free , New Balance’s Minimus , and Adidas’s Adapt . Vibram is a shoe company famous for their foot glove construct, called, fittingly, the FiveFingers . If you’re brand new to barefoot running, start with a transitional shoe and work your way up to the FiveFingers. But keep in mind, says a shoe blogger , everybody is different, so you should focus on choosing a shoe that works best for your body, not what someone told you would work best.

    Barefoot and Your Spine

    Now we come to the big question. Since Born to Run was published in 2009, have we been able to tell that barefoot running is actually good for us? And more to the point—for our backs? According to Stanford sports medicine physician Dr. Michael Fredericson , not necessarily. The only conclusive evidence they’ve found is that it more efficiently dissipates forces of stress to our joints in the spine and lower body. It hasn’t proven to prevent injury. Our shoe blogger suggests that if you really want to keep injury at bay, you should switch things up every week. Don’t go cold turkey barefoot—run barefoot some days and go with a regularly padded shoe other days. This will strengthen the muscles of your feet without putting too much strain on them.

    Do you run barefoot?

    So what’s the verdict? Barefoot running can reduce the impact of running to your joints, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent injuries. The choice is up to you. Do your own research, try on some shoes. To get you started, we’ve found a pros and cons list .

    And once you’ve decided whether or not to go minimalist, let us know about it! Leave a comment so our readers can hear how barefoot running works—or doesn’t work—for you. Are you already a barefoot runner? We’re curious—does your back feel better or worse? Our readers want to know, so leave a comment now!

  • How to Use Your Phone to Stay Motivated

    We’ve all been there—you’ve fallen out of the workout routine and you’d rather sleep in than get all sweaty and uncomfortable. It’s a good thing you don’t have to get back out there on your own. There’s an app (or a hundred) for that.

    With so many health-tracking apps, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In order to make sure you download the most helpful apps to your phone, we’ve compiled a list with some feedback about how well they work. You’re welcome.

    Nutrition Tracking Apps

    At this point, you’ve probably downloaded a calorie tracker or two. Maybe you deleted it after you slipped off the fitness wagon. If this is you—or if you’ve never tried a nutrition app—we’ve got some ideas to get you back in the rhythm (or started in the first place).

    With potentially hundreds of nutrition apps available, we know you’re probably looking for the cream of the crop. Check out this extremely helpful post by Tom’s Guide for Real Life that breaks down the top 8 most popular diet apps. Tom’s Guide lists them as follows:

    • Fooducate
    • Calorie Counter Pro
    • Diet Point Weight Loss
    • MyFitnessPal
    • Lose It!
    • HealthyOut Healthy Meal Finder
    • Calorie Counter by FatSecret
    • Primal Paleo

    Why a nutrition app? These apps force you to look at your daily habits. If you’re looking to lose weight or simply eat better, these apps will get you there. When you keep track of what you eat, you’re less likely to indulge in junk food. If you keep track of how much you exercise, you’re more likely to keep doing it—after all, having proof of how many calories you burned today feels pretty good.

    Exercise Apps

    Which brings us to our next roundup: exercise-tracking apps. The food apps listed above are great for tracking weight loss, but the following apps are honed in on exercise routines. These apps can get pretty serious. Take RunKeeper . Once you download this free app, you’ll be able not only o track your runs, as the name implies, but join a community of other runners. That’s right, your workouts are now a social network. You can track pretty much any type of exercise—jogging, cycling, etc.—via GPS. The app stores all kinds of stats: pace, distance, time, calories burned. It even offers coaching. You can note your progress over time, which is always a good motivator.

    Another app takes RunKeeper to the next level and gives you a real reason to run. Zombies, Run! is a combination of exercise tracking and video game. Pop in your headphones, launch the app, and suddenly you are in a world where zombies are on your heels and you must outrun them to “stay alive.” You must also complete “missions” while you run, such as collecting supplies. It’s a pretty fun app if you’re looking for a reason to get active.

    Lifestyle Apps

    We can’t forget about apps that aren’t so focused on making your body fit as they are on making life a little easier. We found a list of 13 top healthy lifestyle apps at Healthline.com , and we think you’ll like what they have to offer. Sleep cycle tracking, sleep talk recording, brain exercises, a pedometer, a medical dictionary, just to name a few. Go check out that Healthline.com list to start gathering apps that will make your daily routine smoother.

    What apps do you use to stay healthy?

    Whether you want to eat better, exercise more, or simply uncomplicated your schedule, these apps are pretty helpful. No point in limiting the vast resources of your smartphone to phone calls and texts.

    Do you use apps to stay fit? Tell us which ones, because we’re sure you’ve found one or two that we haven’t mentioned here. Leave us a comment!

  • The Halloween Sugar Rush

    You know the feeling—sweetness has turned your mouth dry. You feel lightheaded. There’s a strange rush of energy through your arms and legs. You feel like you could run for miles, but you know if you do that, you’ll fall flat on your face.

    The feeling? A sugar rush. Sometimes you get one when you eat too much dessert at a party…and sometimes you get one the night of Halloween after gorging on your kid’s bucket of candy! A sugar rush does the same thing to adults and kids, so it’s time to find out why you (and your kids) should avoid one this month.

    Sugar and Your Skin

    Did you know that a sugar rush is harmful to your skin? A sugar rush does more damage than small amounts of sugar in your daily diet. We hope that this discovery will motivate you to ignore the candy that comes home with your kids next Friday, or to bypass the sugary treats your coworkers are bound to bring out.

    According to Acctifirm.com , when blood sugar spikes rapidly (as in a sugar rush), a process called glycation starts, where sugar attaches itself to collagen. This attachment makes the skin inflexible, leading to premature aging of the skin. This process is not limited to adults—although you probably won’t see it in kids, sugar is no respecter of persons. Did you need a better motivation to keep sugar off the table this month?

    Sugar and the Waistline

    Of course we can’t forget to mention this well-known side effect of sugar. You know that sugar will eventually travel from your tummy to your hips, but not all at once. And it’s not all about your waistline—it’s about your health in general. Long-term consumption of high amounts of sugar will eventually lead to insulin resistance, which poses a risk for all kinds of health problems—diabetes to high blood pressure to breast and prostate cancer.

    How does insulin resistance develop? When you eat sugar, you trigger a release of insulin, which is in turn a trigger for the body to store energy as fat. One Halloween sugar rush amidst a lifestyle of low- or no-sugar meals may not lead to the health risks listed above, but it will certainly lead to weight gain in the days following. Insulin resistance develops in conjunction with a high-sugar diet—check out the “Sugar’s Long-Term Effects Aren’t Sweet” section of this article to learn more.

    What to do?

    So you’re motivated to stay away from the sugar rush this Halloween, but don’t know if you’ve got the willpower to avoid sweets altogether. That’s ok. There are healthy alternatives to sugar! You don’t have to go the aspartame route to get a sweet fix. You can eat candy sweetened with stevia, an herb that has no affect on blood sugar. You can find candy sweetened with xylitol or maltitol, sugar alcohols (but don’t eat too much of these, either, as they can cause mild intestinal distress). So get busy finding these safe alternatives to sugar to keep your sweet Halloween!

    Will you allow yourself a sugar rush anyway?

    If you want to avoid the inflexible skin of a sugar rush, or a risk of insulin resistance, you know how to find safe alternatives to sugar. But you don’t have to have candy copies. You can still party this Halloween with natural and creative delights— the fruit treats on this blog are just as fun as most sugary ones!

    Are you thinking you’ll dive into the sugar rush in spite of these facts? What’s your reasoning? Or have we convinced you to steer your family towards a healthier way this year? Tell us about it! We want to know, and so do our readers!

  • Why You Should Be Drizzling On the Olive Oil

    The media has told us for decades to avoid fats if we want to lose weight and stay healthy. But what if we’re telling you today that fats can be good—and that you should eat more of them?

    We’re not talking about saturated fats found in things like fried food, of course. We’re talking about uncooked oils that you can drizzle over salads and fish to boost the flavor and satisfaction of a meal. Specifically, we’re talking about the health benefits of one Mediterranean staple: olive oil.

    Just what are the health benefits?

    photo credit to Wonderlane For starters, olive oil isn’t saturated fat. It’s full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are known to be healthy dietary fats. When you eat olive oil, you aren’t affecting your arteries. In fact, studies done on the Mediterranean diet have found that those who consume olive oil throughout their lives have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease like hypertension.

    Olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent strokes, lower depression, reduce risk of breast cancer, protect against Alzheimer’s, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and protect the liver. All that in one oil. If you don’t have any in the pantry, you better start stocking up!

    The Wrap on Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    If you’re up on the growing popularity of olive oil, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of extra virgin olive oil. As its name implies, this type of olive oil is more pure and therefore has more health benefits.

    Extra virgin olive oil has not been highly processed. It is essentially just the result of olives pressed to extract the oil, and placed in glass jars for selling. Check out this website to learn more about the olive oil process and find out why you should be avoiding labels like “pure oil” in favor of the “extra virgin” one.

    How to Effectively Use Olive Oil

    photo credit to Darya Pino While you’re busy rushing to the supermarket to gather bottles of this precious oil, you should keep in mind that it’s not always the best choice for cooking. This article points out that olive is great for uncooked settings, like drizzling over a salad or dipping bread, but is less awesome when it comes to frying. If you’re going to sauté vegetables over medium heat, go for olive oil. But if you need to fry something at a high heat, try oils with high smoke points, like coconut oil or butter.

    Olive oil’s smoke point—the point at which it literally begins to produce smoke—is also the point at which its good properties break down and bad ones take their place. As a rule of thumb, the smoke point of olive oil is between 365 and 420 degrees Farenheit.

    How do you like to use olive oil?

    Extra virgin olive used in uncooked settings—on salads, over fish, for dipping bread, in hummus and other dips, as a garnish—is the perfect oily addition. If you need to fry at high heat, use something else, like butter or coconut oil. But bottom line—if you don’t have any olive oil in the cupboard, you need to rethink that right now! Try some of these olive oil-based recipes to get inspired.

    What’s your favorite way to use olive oil? Do you have a suggestion beyond what we’ve listed here? We would love to hear about it! One way we can make our blog relevant is to hear from our readers—so leave a comment now, and you’ll hear back from us very soon!

  • Sleep: The Enemy of Back Pain?

    photo credit to martinak15 How many mornings have you awoken to throbbing, stabbing, or aching back pain? Or perhaps your mornings have been the opposite—your back feels fine, but once you start moving, the pain comes rushing in.

    You’re not alone. You can’t be, since we’re writing this post! Just how does sleep affect back pain? Are there ways to sleep without making it worse?

    How Sleep Positions Can Make Pain Worse

    photo credit to Adikos If your back hurts as soon as your eyes open, it’s a clue that you’re sleeping in the wrong position for your body. For example, do you ever have a night where you’re pretty sure you didn’t move because you were so tired? Did you wake up sore? Lying in the same position for hours at a time not only cause stiffness—it’s often the explanation for the standard “crick” in the neck.

    The idea is that your muscles are affected by your sleep position . When you lay in one position for too long in the night—especially if that position was hard on your muscles to begin with—you will cause muscle strain. That strain can lead to the pinching of a nerve, which is why you wake up with pain.

    Sleep Positions that Can Cause Back Pain

    Ok, so you know why sleeping can make back pain worse. But which sleeping positions make it worse? This list of positions explains which ones are worse than others. Stomach sleeping is pretty hard on the spine, for one. In this position, your spine isn’t supported by any external force—meaning all night long, your back muscles struggle to hold everything in place. Since nighttime is when you want all your muscles to relax so they are refreshed for action the next day, you need to find a position that supports the spine.

    The Best Sleep Positions

    photo credit to epSos .de If you want to support your spine at night, consider sleeping on your back. In this position, your spine is obviously getting full support. The only things to consider when sleeping on your back are the tendency to cock out a knee, which twists the pelvis, and getting a flat pillow, since a thick pillow will push your neck up at an unnatural angle.

    Side sleeping, however, is probably the easiest on your spine. Although you aren’t sleeping with anything directly supporting the spine, it feels supported through your side. Simply place a pillow between your knees to keep the pelvis in alignment, and make sure your pillow supports your neck so that it’s extended evenly on both sides. More in-depth descriptions about these positions can be found at this website .

    How do you sleep?

    If you have morning back pain, you know that the culprit is most likely your sleep position. If you’ve been given a chronic back pain diagnosis, like stenosis or degenerative disc disease, check out this list of sleep positions tailored to support the spine for specific diseases.

    Are you one of our morning back pain readers? Have you solved your back pain by learning a new sleep position? Tell us about it! When you share your story, you encourage other sufferers that there is hope. Leave us a comment now!

  • A Lot of Smiles a Day Keep the Doctor Away

    We’ve all heard that smiling is good for us—it uses fewer muscles than a frown, it makes you appear more attractive to others. But just what is the science behind a smile—and can it really have any effect on your physical body?

    The answer is, of course, a resounding yes. Among other things, smiling (a real smile) can lower your blood pressure, release endorphins, and lower stress. Some people report feelings of happiness occurring after a smile, not the other way around; so if you feel your heart rate increase due to stress or anxiety, start smiling.

    A smile can lower my blood pressure?

    When you smile, your heart rate is reduced. Researchers are still not 100% clear on how the two are linked, but the results from a recent study have researchers believing that smiling sends a message to your brain: “You’re happy. Calm down.”

    Obviously a lowered heart rate will lead to lowered blood pressure. In fact, one blog claims that doctors tell hypertension patients to smile to reduce tension! Our conclusion: if you want cheap blood pressure medicine, find something really funny and look at it every day.

    A Rush of Endorphins

    Another reason smiling affects us so positively is that a real smile releases endorphins (that “calm down” message to the brain). The fascinating thing about endorphins is that not only do they make us feel better, they actually reduce the body’s ability to produce cortisol, according to this blog . Cortisol is a stress hormone linked to anxiety and weight gain. Want to feel good and stay healthy? Next time you want to down that carton of ice cream, resist the urge to pick up a spoon and instead turn on some stand up comedy. You’ll get a rush of feel-good emotions without any affect on your waistline. Hey, you could even go for a walk—exercise releases endorphins too!

    Lowering Stress Level

    Although we’ve already talked about how smiling increases endorphins and consequently lowers blood pressure—which are some of the reasons smiling impacts your stress level—we haven’t yet talked about anxiety. Whether it’s simple niggling worries about getting tasks done or full-blown dread, anxiety ups your stress level. Smiling can reverse this process, this “stress cascade,” by putting you in a different state of mind, according to Livestrong.com . By taking a moment to slow your breathing and change your frown into a smile, you will remind yourself of truth—that this moment is not forever, and the difficult things right now will probably be forgotten tomorrow.

    Lowering your stress level is important because stress wrecks havoc on the body. Smiling can reduce that havoc, perhaps prevent it altogether, as proven by a study done in 2012 . Results showed that patients who both smiled genuinely and were forced to smile (with a chopstick in the mouth) had lower heart rates after the stress test was performed. Crazy, right?

    What do you do to keep smiling?

    Now that you know how healthy you can be by smiling, it’s time to make sure you keep it up! Whether you are seeking to lower your blood pressure, lose weight with an endorphin rush, or lower your stress level, these smile-inducing strategies might help .

    What do you do to keep smiling in daily life? Do you make sure you read the comics over lunch, or watch a comedy bite on Youtube before falling asleep? Is smiling something that comes easily, or do you find it difficult? Tell us how smiling has impacted your health, and we’ll answer with an encouragement (or at least just a comment)!

  • Yogliosis: How to Fight Scoliosis Pain with Yoga

    So maybe “yogliosos” isn’t a thing—but it should be! If you or someone you love suffers from the pain of a laterally curved spine, known as scoliosis, then you need to know the wonders that yoga can do.

    It’s not so much about the spiritual elements of yoga, but about the deep stretching that its poses foster. Yoga builds the core abdominal muscles, which, when engaged, take pressure off your back muscles. Once your back isn’t doing so much work all the time, it relaxes, including the muscles surrounding the part of your spine that’s crooked.

    You see, when the spine curves where it’s supposed to be straight, muscles on either side are strained. When muscles strain, they pinch nerves. Pinched nerves send pain signals to the brain, resulting in discomfort—for some, chronic discomfort. Check out these three essential yoga poses to relax those muscles and unpinch those nerves.

    Triangle Pose

    Although this probably isn’t the easiest pose to begin with if you’ve never done yoga before, it is one of the best positions or stretches for scoliosis for a couple of reasons. One, the twist and lift of your upper body in the pose decompresses the ribs on one side of the scoliosis curve and reigns in the ribs on the other side. This is important because with a lateral curve, one side of the spine and rib cage is pulling the other out of alignment.

    And two, triangle pose strengthens the obliques, which promotes good posture and in turn stronger abdominal muscles. For instructions and images for completing a proper triangle pose, check out this detailed post .

    Mountain Pose

    Possibly the easiest pose to achieve in yoga (though not the easiest to maintain!), mountain pose looks simple but does a lot of great things. Although someone in mountain pose looks like they are just standing on a mat, the upward lift of the body and straightness of the spine engage the back and abdominal muscles, creating a very strong core. It also promotes better balance and posture. For instructions on how to complete and maintain mountain pose, see these 11 steps .

    Locust Pose

    Although certainly not the final pose you can do for scoliosis pain relief (there’s a lot more out there), locust pose helps engage the hamstrings and what is known as the erector spinae, or the group of muscles that run the length of your spine. These muscles are important for posture, making locust pose perfect for core building. It is essentially a mild backbend, one where you lie on your stomach and lift your arms and legs until your body shape resembles a locust, or grasshopper. Visit these instructions for how to do locust pose properly.

    How do you treat scoliosis?

    Treating scoliosis doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. If you’ve been discouraged by the gloomy prophecies of doctors, take heart with the news that yoga’s strengthening poses can bring relief. If you want more options, check out this post with poses selected by Elise Browning Miller, a scoliosis sufferer and the founder of California Yoga Center.

    Do you know of other treatments for scoliosis besides yoga or in place of medications? If so, we want to hear them! Every scoliosis sufferer will benefit by hearing your scoliosis story, so tell us all about it in the comment box below. We’ll even respond!

  • The Active Family: How to Become One

    photo credit to U.S. Army Do you wish your family had it together like the Brady Bunch—or at least had your health under control? One of the best ways to maintain health is to eat right together and, yes, to exercise together.

    As a parent, your job is to create the optimum atmosphere for your child to thrive in. This includes being active. You may love to work out while your kids like to watch tv, or it may be the other way around. Regardless, being active together is what ensures that everyone stays healthy.

    Family-Wide Activities

    photo credit to Susumu Komatsu The cheapest way to work out as a family, of course, is to find things to do at home. There’s tons you can do as a family to keep the heart rate up. For one thing, you can take daily walks together. This is a favorite of many families as it allows for fresh air, quality time, and exercise.

    But there’s lots more. You can turn up the radio after dinner for a dance party. You can make chores into active adventures (make sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and mopping into battles with evil dust bunnies). You can even turn commercial breaks into fitness breaks if you have a hard time getting the kids off the couch. Check out many more ideas at Parents.com .

    Gym Times

    Not every family has time for a gym membership, but if you have even a small chunk of time every week, you should take advantage of it. Testimonies like Tiffany Slater’s don’t happen without setting an example. This girl set a goal of losing weight, and the only way she was able to accomplish it was the encouragement and support of her family. As she worked out and ate healthier, her weight began to come off.

    You can do the same for your kids, no matter what age and weight they are. Your dedication to lose weight—or just to stay healthy—will encourage them to do the same. Most gyms ( like these Chattanooga-area ones ) have childcare, so you can’t use having kids as an excuse! Going to the gym as a family also encourages your kids to develop friendships and experience sports they would not be exposed to at home.


    photo credit to USAG- Humphreys And don’t forget team sports. If your children aren’t involved in a sport, you may want to consider signing them up for one in your neighborhood—whether it’s Upward Bound basketball, soccer, little league baseball, softball, or the swim team. And guess what? You can take advantage of their practice times to do a little practice yourself—of walking, jogging, or whatever fitness routine you enjoy most. Make friends with other parents at practice, and you’ll have a workout buddy (or buddies) in no time.

    What does your family do to stay active?

    Whether it’s gettin’ down at home, running to the gym as a family, or taking a jog while your kid practices baseball, you can make physical activity a family habit. Kill two birds with one stone with family activities—family togetherness and a health boost.

    What do you already do to make sure the family stays active? Has this post inspired you to make some changes? Tell us about it—what you already do, or what you are planning to do. Sharing your resolution creates a form of accountability that helps you stay motivated. Plus, we always answer our posts, so leave us a comment now!

  • Is Your Toddler Hurting Your Back?

    Once your baby passes the 12 month mark and starts walking, your daily routine kicks up a notch. You’ll be chasing your little tyke all over the house, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or if you pick up the babies from daycare after work.

    All that running around takes a toll on your body—but not as much as picking up your growing darling when she reaches for you from her latest precarious position. Knowing how to lift and chase to protect your spine is vital for preventing back pain from adding to your worries.

    Holding and Picking Up Your Big Baby

    photo credit to Action Baby Carriers You won’t be spending as much time holding your toddler as you did your infant, but you still need to know how to hold him properly so you don’t hurt your back. The risk of back injury increases with added weight, and the rapid surge in your child’s weight and height over the next couple of years will certainly add to any back pain you already deal with; 12-month-olds weigh an average of 20 pounds, and it only goes up from there.

    Consider these ways to hold your toddler to protect your spine:

    • As with any heavy object, lift with your knees instead of your back. Bend at the knees (squat) to pick up your child, don’t bend over. This places strain on your shoulders and goes all the way down the spine.
    • If your child is in your lap and you want to get up with them in your arms, again, use your thigh muscles instead of your back to pull yourself up.
    • If you need to hold your toddler for a long time, try a baby carrier like the one pictured here because it will bear the child’s weight for you.

    Car Seat Mechanics

    When it’s time to get your little buddy out of the backseat, how do you approach it? Have you trained yourself to kneel on the seat rather than bending over your child? That’s right—if you arch your body over your child to unfasten the buckle, you aren’t doing your back any favors. The best way to protect your back with a car seat is to kneel on the side of the seat and use your abs and hip muscles to move forward. By two years old, your child should be in a forward facing car seat like these , making it much easier on your back. Just remember to use your legs to lift your child out.

    Diaper Bags and Working Out

    photo credit to Dr. Abdullah Naser Take advantage of your child’s growth and teach them how to carry their own bags. Getting a fashionable (or favorite themed ) mini backpack can be just the thing to make your toddler feel special while relieving you of the weight of diapers, wipes, and even snacks. (Of course you should always supervise your toddler when they carry anything that could become a hazard.)

    However, the best way to deal with all of it—from lifting to carrying to shouldering bags—is to keep your body in shape, whether you are the primary caregiver or not. When you strengthen your muscles, you can both prevent and recover from injury faster. So it’s not just about good body mechanics—it’s about strong muscles too. Try exercises like these to help you keep up with your little one.

    Has your toddler ever hurt your back?

    From lifting to carrying a diaper bag, keeping your back strong for your toddler is important. You can’t take care of your little guy with a hurt back, so get to strengthening it—and using other muscles—to stay active with him. Check out these other tips for further reading.

    Have you ever injured your back while caring for your child? Or do you know someone who has? We want to hear how it happened and what you did to recover. The more stories our readers share, the better we’ll all be at preventing injuries around our little ones. Leave a comment now!