Get a boost with exercise tools designed to help you get moving

August 19, 2018

Exercise of any kind should be fun. After all, it’s basically playing. But it doesn’t strike a lot of folks like that. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only about 22 percent of Americans meet even the minimal physical activity guidelines for aerobic and strength-building activities! The less you get up and move around, the harder it is to feel like doing it — or even to be able to do it — in a way that feels satisfying.

That’s why we’re so enthusiastic about some cool tools that will make it a whole lot easier for you to start and continue to add at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day to your routine. The benefits are enormous: You can dramatically reduce your risk for diabetes, cancer, a lousy sex life and depression.

We got to thinking about all of this because of a new study out of Switzerland in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine that found that for out of shape, overweight participants, using a pedal assist e-bike at least three days a week to commute to work provided as much improvement in cardiorespiratory function as a regular bike!

Just think of how much more confidence you might have setting out on a bike, knowing that if the going gets too tough, the bike will help you keep going. We’re not talking about motorized bike/scooters that propel food delivery guys at 30 miles an hour through busy urban centers. We’re talking about pedal-assist technology that requires you to move the pedals, but after you set the level of assist the motor helps them turn and keeps your momentum going uphill or when you’re tired.

If biking appeals, but sounds daunting, this may be the way to get you out the door. Just remember, wear a helmet, get bike shorts with a padded crotch, use an ergonomically designed seat and take a water bottle with you on every ride.

More of a hiker or walker — in theory? If you’d rather set out for a walk in the park or in a local forest preserve, but find you tire too easily or your joints get too sore to cover much ground, then walking poles can transform your experience.

Walking poles are made to assist on both soft and hard walking surfaces. With so-called Nordic walking poles, there are three strides you can do: Nordic walking, exerstriding (both more vigorous) and hiking (adds stability). You’ll want to choose a grip that suits your activity. Make sure it lets you hold the pole with a positive angle, to avoid stress and overuse of the wrist joint. You want different grip designs for fitness walking and for hiking, and a half-glove for fitness walking and a simpler strap for trekking.

Your assisted walk will burn more calories than walking without poles, and they’ll help you take weight off your joints, maintain your balance and increase your endurance. One study found that when going downhill, they can cut pressure on knees by up to 25 percent, and on flat ground by 5 percent. So grab a pedometer and aim for a goal of reaching 10,000 steps daily over time.

Pool player? If you want to get your exercise in water (so good for sore joints!), but don’t yet have the stamina you wish you had, then you’re in the market for these great tools, which can help strengthen and tone muscles and improve your cardiorespiratory health:

Fins: Flippers increase your propulsion and help improve ankle flexibility.

Hand paddles: These can strengthen your stroke, and if one arm or hand is weaker than the other, use a paddle on your weaker hand to help balance your stroke.

Kickboard: They are very effective in building leg strength, without worrying about breathing with your face in the water. You can go as slow or as fast as is comfortable.

Q: Our local paper published an alert that hand, foot and mouth disease is on the rise, and I don’t even know what that is. My kids are off to school and preschool in a few weeks. Is there anything I should do to make sure they don’t get it?

Laura K., Nashville, Tenn.

A: Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild virus that mostly infects children from infancy to about 5 years of age. Sometimes, kids as old as 10 contract it, and adults have been known to get it too! We’re aware of the recent report from the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville that there’s been a steep rise in the number of cases of this enterovirus, most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus. Although it is rarely a serious infection, you want to spare your children, if at all possible.

In child day care centers and schools, it spreads through person-to-person contact. The first sign often is a spotty rash on the hands and feet, and sores may appear in the mouth. Tough cases can result in blistering on the upper arms and legs, and ulcers in the mouth. The blisters contain the virus. Until they dry, they’re highly contagious. As with any virus, it can leave kids feeling wiped out.

The virus and symptoms will resolve on their own, but if you have young ones, now would be a good time to teach or reinforce personal hygiene, especially frequent hand-washing. Also, make sure the folks in charge of the preschool and the teachers are aware of the heightened need for good hygiene, so everybody stays healthy and happy.

If your child does catch it, keep him or her away from other kids for a few days — up to a week, if symptoms last that long. As for treatment, ask your doc about using child-safe pain and fever relievers and mouth sprays.

Q: I looked at the ingredients in my toothpaste, and it contains triclosan. I know it’s a hormone disruptor, and I want to go with an herbal toothpaste, but do they work? And does my family need fluoride in the toothpaste to protect our teeth?

Jessica B., Tucson, Ariz.

A: Yes to your first question, and no to your second. The most important thing you and your family need to do is brush regularly: once in the morning, once before bedtime (when you floss, too) and, if you can do it, after every meal. Do that and see a dental pro every six months; that’ll maintain healthy teeth and gums.

As for herbal toothpastes, a recent randomized control study of people who had slight to moderate chronic periodontitis found that herbal toothpaste worked just as well as the control toothpastes that contained both triclosan and fluoride, and improved their periodontal conditions.

And as for fluoride, you can have too much or too little. The right balance of fluoride in water (and if you choose to have it in your toothpaste) is important for good tooth health. But you do get it in your water supply. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends water fluoridation, and the addition of fluoride to the water supply is something public water utilities have been doing since 1945. Recommended levels are between 0.7-1.2 milligrams per liter. The CDC also recommends that parents monitor the use of fluoride toothpaste in children up to age 8, if you have a fluoride concentration in your water supply above 2 mg/L. You can check out the CDC database for water fluoridation levels in your water. For children 8 and younger, when permanent teeth are forming, too much fluoride can result in fluorosis, which can cause yellowing and pitting of the tooth enamel. That’s why it’s important to teach proper brushing, which means spitting out (not swallowing) toothpaste after every brushing.

Contact Drs. Oz and Roizen at sharecare.com.

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