Shannon's health and fitness blog

Childhood Obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  More than 23 million children and teenagers in the United States are overweight, and it’s estimated that obesity results in $14 billion per year in direct health care costs.  The U.S. is doing its part to raise awareness of the obesity issue, and has provided a downloadable toolkit full of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month resources.  For more info, visit


September 10, 2012 Posted by | Children, Exercise, Food, Health, Weight loss | , | 1 Comment

Posture Police

One of my biggest peeves is bad posture.  Ask any one of my clients, and they will tell you that I am the posture police.  Poor posture is the number one cause of musculoskeletal pain, something your doctor probably won’t tell you.  And the longer you remain is a compromised position, the tighter those muscles surrounding your joints will become.  Keeping good posture can make a difference to the long term health of your spine and the rest of your body.  Not only that, but people with poor posture are more likely to have poor self-image and less self-confidence (Watson & MacDonncha 2000).

Posture is a state of skeletal and muscular balance and alignment that protects the supporting structures of your body from progressive deformity and injury (Britnell et al. 2005).  Whether you are erect, lying, squatting, or stooping, good posture allows your muscles to function with maximum efficiency.  With good standing posture your body’s joints are in a state of equilibrium with the least amount of physical energy being used to maintain this upright position.

Posture muscles help to fix or stabilize a joint.  They prevent movement, while other muscles create movement.  They are composed of muscle fibers that have a particular capacity for prolonged work.  For instance, as you lean forward slightly to walk upstairs, the posture muscles surrounding the spine help to prevent the upper body from falling too far forward.

There are three natural curves in a healthy spine.  The low back (lumbar spine) curves inward and is called the lordotic curve.  The mid-back (thoracic spine) is curved outward. The neck (cervical spine) curves slightly forward or inward and thus has a lordotic curve.  “Neutral spine” usually refers to the lumbar region.  Neutral spine is a pain-free position of the lumbar spine attained when the pressures in and around the pelvis joint structures are evenly distributed.  The pelvis is balanced between its anterior and posterior positions.

Exercise programs that are designed for musculoskeletal injury prevention involve neuromuscular control components.  These programs involve joint stability exercises, balance training, proprioceptive training, plyometric exercises, and skill-specific training.  They provide multiple stimuli to improve the body’s neuromuscular control mechanisms.

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Exercise, Health, Mind-body awareness, Personal training, Physical therapy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Very Happy Anniversary!

At the moment, I am reading “Younger Next Year:  Live Strong,, Fit, and Sexy Until You’re 80 and Beyond.”  This book was recommended to me by one of my clients, not because he thought I would learn something, but because he thought I would be interested in a book that talks about everything I try to teach my clients (and anyone else who will listen to me).  All those tidbits of information about how much we should be exercising, what we should be eating (or not eating), and the role inflammation plays in our health.   I love this book, not just because it embodies everything I believe in, but also because the authors make it funny, easy to read, and motivating.

So what does this have to do with my anniversary, you ask?  Well, November officially marks one year since I incorporated the 28 Days to Health program into my life.  When I started this program I had no idea how much it would change my life.  I had known for a number of years about the role food plays in our health and it’s effect on inflammation in the body.  This was the first time I had found a program that was designed to reduce inflammation by teaching people what to eat.  I decided to try it for myself just to see what it was all about but I honestly didn’t think I would get much out of it personally.  My food intake was almost identical to that of the program, I really only needed to change a few small things.  How much difference could that possibly make, right?  Wrong, I was so wrong.  I learned so much about how what I was eating was affecting my body, my health, my energy levels, and my emotions.  It was an eye opener!   Within one month, I knew I had to teach this program so that I could help others towards better health and educate as many people as possible about the toxicity of our food supply.

One year later, I am pain free, healthier than I have been in years, and happy.  I am stronger and faster than I’ve been in at least 7 years.  Every week my running times get a little bit faster.  A few days ago, a friend told me that she had seen me out running and how strong I looked and with great form.  What an improvement from a few years ago when friends were telling me that limping while I run is probably a good sign to stop running and try something different!!!  And this week, I was able to run three times in one week without pain.  The last time I could do that without crippling myself was about 7 years ago. I’m 42, BUT I feel 25!   I feel good, I look healthy, and I get the added bonus of helping others improve the quality of their lives!   28 Days to Health has not only made me younger in one year, it has made me about 7 years younger in one year!

Oh, and I can’t forget to add that I got a free trip to the Bahamas this summer, just for helping others!  Life doesn’t get any better than this !  A very Happy Anniversary to me 🙂

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Exercise, Food, Health, Mind-body awareness | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stem cells provide yet another reason to be exercising

Exercise researchers at McMaster find exercise boosts health by triggering stem cells to become bone, not fat…and missing genes may separate coach potato from active cousin

McMaster University in Ontario recently released the findings of two interesting studies about exercise. McMaster researchers examined how exercise boosts health by triggering stem cells to become bone; and discovered that a missing muscle gene impairs the ability of mice to exercise.

In the stem cell project, researchers found that exercise triggers influential stem cells to become bone instead of fat, improving overall health by boosting the body’s capacity to make blood.

The body’s mesenchymal stem cells are most likely to become fat or bone, depending on which path they follow. Using treadmill-conditioned mice, a team led by Gianni Parise found that aerobic exercise triggers those cells to more often become bone. The exercising mice ran under an hour, three times a week, enough time to significantly impact their blood production. In sedentary mice, stem cells were more likely to become fat, impairing blood production in the marrow cavities of bones.

“A modest exercise program significantly increased blood cells in the marrow and in circulation,” says Parise. “What we’re suggesting is that exercise is a potent stimulus — enough of a stimulus to actually trigger a switch in these mesenchymal stem cells.”

The findings add to the growing list of established benefits of exercise, Parise says, and suggest that novel non-medicinal treatments for blood-related disorders may be in the future. “Some of the impact of exercise is comparable to what we see with pharmaceutical intervention,” he says.

In the other study, researchers made the unexpected finding that a lack of desire to exercise may be due to missing genes-not laziness. The researchers were working with healthy, specially-bred mice, and they removed in some of the mice two genes in muscle that are essential for exercise. The genes control the protein AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that is switched on when you exercise.

“While the normal mice could run for miles, those without the genes in their muscle could only run a short distance,” said Gregory Steinberg, associate professor of medicine. “It was remarkable. The mice looked identical, but within seconds we knew which ones had the genes and which ones didn’t.”

The researchers found the mice without the muscle AMPK genes had lower levels of mitochondria and an impaired ability for their muscles to take up glucose while they exercise.

“When you exercise you get more mitochondria growing in your muscle. If you don’t exercise, the number of mitochondria goes down. By removing these genes we identified the key regulator of the mitochondria is the enzyme AMPK,” said Steinberg. He said the findings are important for individuals who find it difficult to exercise, such as the obese, asthmatics and people in wheelchairs. Their inability to exercise may lead to other complications such as diabetes and heart disease.

Steinberg warns couch potatoes, “As we remove activity from our lives due to emerging technology, the population’s base level of fitness is going down, reducing the mitochondria in people’s muscles. This makes it so much harder to start exercising.”


October 8, 2011 Posted by | Exercise, Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment