Friday, August 29, 2008

Running Children

Beginning habits at an early age that will lead to a lifelong interest in physical activity is very important. As a relatively new parent, nearly every day I am reminded of how influential a child's brain is and the responsibility that comes with that.

There are certainly psychological risks when parents pressure their children to be excessively competitive. Accordingly, the meaning associated with exercise is pivotal with children.

As I finished my undergraduate degree in Calgary, legislation was being passed to ensure that Alberta children would have increased amounts of physical education (PE) classes. Although the idea was excellent, we were given reports of some unforeseen side effects as teachers without PE training attempted to meet the new exercise quota. Military style exercises may possibly have some short term physical gains but, will not establish a positive experience with physical activity and as such will be quite detrimental in the long term. Similarly, exercise should never, ever, be used as a punishment.

Here is some information about children and competition:

1. Children are not miniature adults. It is recommended that children do not specialize in one sport too early but develop a variety of skills.

2. Aerobic exercise is very important in children although there is debate about how much a child's aerobic ability can be increased with training. However, Nieman (2003) stated, "Aerobic (heart and lung) fitness is lower than recommended for many young people. About half of girls ages 6-17 and 60% of boys ages 6-12 cannot run a mile in less than 10 minutes." As such, there is some room for improvement!

3. Children are quite capable of Calisthenics (body weight exercises) and higher repetition, lower intensity weight lifting workouts (Heyward, 2006; Nieman, 2003).

4. Because of the surface area to body mass ratio, children are not physiologically well equipped to dissipate body heat. Therefore, it is not recommended for children to compete in adult marathons until they are 18 years old.

For detailed reading on the subject here are some links:

I. American College of Sports Medicine Youth Activity Guidelines

II. Endurance training and aerobic fitness in young people

III. IMMDA Advisory Statement on Children and Marathoning

VI. Nutritional considerations for the child athlete

David C. Nieman, 2003. Exercise Testing and Prescription: A health related Approach, 5th ed. p.16.
Vivian H. Heyward, 2006. Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription, 5th ed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Naturopathic Movies VII

Toxic Trespass

This Canadian documentary by Barri Cohen highlights the effects of environmental pollution on children's health. As her own 10 year old daughter was found to have known carcinogens in her blood, she persistently navigates through the dead ends and barriers put up in response to her difficult questions. What I found inspiring was that there were experts in the field of environmental health (in North America) that were trying to make a difference. The documentary points out that the Canadian government, in response to public pressure, will begin assessing the toxicity of 500 of the 23,000 chemicals that are currently legal for use (in herbicides, plastics, children's toys, stain guards, fire retardants, foods, etc).

Is it possible to be healthy in a sick world?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Food of Champions

In addition to the millions of dollars in bonuses Michael Phelps received for winning his 8 Olympic gold medals, his pictures will also appear on the boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes. I don't know if Michael Phelps begins his day with either of these breakfast cereals but the association will now certainly be there.

McDonalds has also capitalized on the Olympics with a commercial showing athletes eating a breakfast chicken sandwich, "a new gold standard" according to the commercial.

Similarly, I saw an interview with Jamie Oliver who was irritated by many of the professional football (soccer) players in England who were endorsed by a fast food company or some other junk food.

There are many more multinational companies than Kelloggs and McDonalds that do this. I understand, especially in Canada, that an athlete may be forced to accept sponsorship from whom ever offers because Canadian athletes receive so little Government funding. However, the example these heroes of sport display to the youth, in regards to what food they eat, is unfortunate.

Jamie Oliver's campaign is inline with Naturopathic medicine. Nutrition forms the basis of health and a massive re-education of parents and children is necessary to build healthy people.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Antiobiotic Resistance

I was first confronted with the reality of antibiotic resistance during the prenatal class my wife and I attended in Toronto. The nurse told us not to touch anything! Not the doorknobs, elevator buttons or railings as hospitals are a breeding ground for antibiotic resistant bacteria. Even in the small town of Invermere BC, there was a case of flesh eating disease last year and people were discussing how serious the problem of antibiotic resistance really was.

Now, as my wife is nearing the end of her maternity leave, we have to make decisions about putting our son in daycare, etc. and this reality has resurfaced.

According to Dr. Gladwin, M.D. and Dr. Trattler, M.D. (authors of Clinical Microbiology made ridiculously simple, Edition 4, 2006) the reasons stated for the development of antibiotic resistance were:

1. Widespread and inappropriate use of broad spectrum antibiotics, especially in daycare centers and intensive care units.

2. Use of antibiotics in animal and fish farming to prevent infections and increase growth (which is a desired side effect of antibiotic use. For more information on the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of animals in Canada, check out the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food's excellent website).

3. Excessive use of antimicrobial preparations such as soaps and cleaning solutions in non-health care facilities (An article on WebMD, states that antibacterial products account for a billion dollars in sales annually. Accordingly, the public may not be made aware of the risks).

4. Increased numbers of immunocompromised patients requiring prolonged courses of antibiotics.

5. Debilitated patients which survive longer.

6. International travel which promotes the movement of resistant bacteria.

7. Inability to afford expensive antibiotic therapy (poverty situation).

*Be wary when an ad states that a product will kill 99.9% of bacteria. The surviving 0.1% may end up being the entire population bacteria in a very short time! For practical ways to combat the progression of antibiotic resistance, bring some questions to your next Naturopathic appointment.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Natural High

Today I went gliding for the first time in my life. Apparently Invermere BC is a gliding mecca that offers tremendous thermals and of course beautiful views of glaciers and the mountains. I had an amazing pilot who asked if I would be willing to "play" on the way back. I had no idea how maneuverable a glider was!! I'm not sure if I am allowed to disclose all the things we did with the plane... However, I will mention that I got to experience complete weightlessness (negative gees) for the first time in my life and it is quite a different sensation than jumping from a great height.

With about a month left of summer, I hope that more people will be able to take a few days, and turn off the lap top and cell phones, and take a break from their routine. The Roman's used to say, "a change is as good as a rest" and there might be some truth to that!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Quote of the Month

"Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money."

Cree Indian Proverb