4 ways to spring into better health
Baseball players aren’t the only ones getting their groove back during spring training. For the rest of us, spring provides an opportunity to reassess, restructure and revitalize our lives—often after a season of hibernation. Below are four tips from osteopathic physicians to help you emerge from winter healthier in mind, body and spirit.
Cabin fever has you ready to hit the tennis courts and running trails but it’s important to ease into new exercise routines. Naresh Rao, DO, partner at Sports Medicine at Chelsea and author of “Step Up Your Game,” recommends “pre-habilitating”, or strengthening and stretching muscle groups before exercise to prevent injury. One of his favorite techniques is Muscle Energy, a form of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment that uses the muscle’s own energy to relax and lengthen the muscle.
First, bring the muscle into a full stretch, then contract the muscle without moving your position for five seconds, using less than 25 percent of maximum force. Relax for three seconds, then repeat three times. Afterward, stretch the muscle again without contraction for 10 seconds. When you are done, you will have an increased range of motion—more than if you had done plain stretching.
Reconnect with yourself
Every day, find a few minutes out of your busy schedule to just be still, recommends Tiffany Lowe-Payne, DO, family physician and author of “A Woman’s Guide to De-Stress for Success: 10 Essential Tips to Conquer Stress and Live at Your Best.”
She says mindfulness techniques such as meditative breathing and awareness have been shown to lower stress levels and help people focus and better prepare for the daily tasks ahead. Finding something in nature to focus on or simply going to a quiet place to be still are great ways to become acutely aware of and at peace with yourself and the world, says Dr. Lowe-Payne.
She acknowledges this activity may be easier said than done for many, as sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing.
Let the sunshine in
Increasing and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels can be as easy as spending 5–30 minutes in midday sun twice per week, according to Kim Pfotenhauer, DO, assistant professor at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She says the appropriate time depends on your geographic location and skin pigmentation—lighter skin synthesizes more vitamin D than darker skin.
Vitamin D plays a wide role in the body’s functions, including cell growth, immune function and inflammation reduction, so it’s important to maintain a healthy level of this ubiquitous hormone.
Dr. Pfotenhauer adds that it is important to forgo sunscreen during these sessions because SPF 15 or greater decreases vitamin D3 production by 99 percent. She emphasizes that sunbathing is not necessary. A simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people.
Take a break
Make plans for a sunny spring destination so you have something to look forward to after a long, cold winter. Not only does taking a vacation boost productivity in the long run, it makes people happier and more connected to their loved ones, says Vania Manipod, DO, a psychiatrist and wellness blogger.
Like any skill, the ability to relax can diminish and even disappear when not used over time. Vacations create a perfect opportunity to break the cycle of chronic stress brought on by daily professional and personal responsibilities. This pays tremendous dividends with people returning to their normal lives feeling refreshed and happy. Time away also helps people gain perspective that enables creative problem-solving.
While lying out on the beach is great for rest and relaxation, active vacations that involve new experiences and adventures are especially beneficial. When shared with our loved ones, these moments create lifelong memories that also build stronger bonds.