By Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM, 2011), the number of Americans who use some form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) continues to rise. Just what does CAM encompass? This article will provide an overview of the many types of CAM practices and focus on one modality that could be incorporated into a worksite wellness program.
The field of CAM is very broad and includes practices that are not generally offered under the umbrella of traditional or Western medicine. More than likely you have used one or more practices or products that are considered as CAM but did not label it as such. By definition, “complementary” refers to the use of CAM together with conventional medicine, and “alternative” refers to the use of CAM in place of conventional medicine (NCCAM, 2011).
Types of CAM Practices
If you have ever taken a dietary supplement, you have used CAM. The use of herbal medicines like Echinacea to prevent a cold, fish oil/omega 3 for heart health, probiotics for digestive health, calcium and vitamin D for bone health, and multivitamins for overall wellness are all examples of supplements that are considered to be complementary to traditional medicine and therefore a part of CAM.
CAM also includes mind and body practices that focus on the interaction of your thoughts and feelings and how they affect your behavior and overall health. Meditation and yoga are two of the most common mind and body practices used by Americans to promote wellness. Both of these modalities include postures and breathing techniques that are used to cope with stress and illness and enhance overall well-being. Acupuncture is another mind-body practice that is used less frequently in the U.S. but one that can provide tremendous benefits for a number of illnesses and imbalances in the body. Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine and should only be performed by a licensed practitioner.
Manipulative and body-based practices are another category of CAM which includes spinal manipulation (e.g., chiropractic) and massage. You may have taken a Pilates class at your local gym. This is also considered to be a part of CAM and described as a movement therapy that is used to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The use of Tai chi particularly in older adults is growing as this practice can improve posture and balance which is so important for fall prevention in this population group. Lastly, Ayurvedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine are considered to be part of CAM.
CAM in the Workplace
While the list above is not exhaustive, in terms of worksite wellness, chair massage is something that more and more companies are offering to employees not only as a perk but also to increase the morale and productivity of employees. Massage therapy has a long history of use in many different cultures. Loosely defined, massage therapy involves a therapist pressing, rubbing, and manipulating the muscles and soft tissue of the body. The therapist uses his or her hands and fingers but can also sometimes use elbows and forearms to work out those “knots” that clients may have.
Now your first reaction to the thought of massage at work may conjure up images of your coworkers lining up to get undressed and rubbed with oil in the employee lounge. Or maybe you are thinking about what it will do to your hair or what your husband/wife will think. While these are rational concerns, corporate massage generally involves the use of an odd-looking, padded, chair-like contraption.
Chair massage is a fully clothed massaged performed by a therapist in a chair specifically designed for massage. The massage is usually given in a public space and if you don’t want your hair messed up, you just have to ask the therapist not to massage your head. All of the benefits of massages, including stress and injury reduction, are realized but in a manner that is accessible during the work day. The length of the massage will vary and is a detail that your employer can specify along with the compensation agreement with the therapist.
Many local corporate massage therapists are willing to come to a worksite and offer a free “demo day” with the prospect of potentially gaining a new clientele. This is also a good way to demonstrate to employers the potential boost to morale and productivity that offering chair massage would have to employees. Chair massage can truly upgrade the work experience and is an affordable and accessible way to incorporate CAM into the workplace.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011) http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam
Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
Jennifer Koslo is a full time professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences and teaches courses such as Vitamins, Herbs, and Nutritional Supplements, Sports Nutrition, and Contemporary Diet and Nutrition. Ms. Koslo is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and one of the few Certified Specialists in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) in the country. In addition to teaching online, Ms. Koslo is a sports nutrition consultant on a private consultation basis.
Ms. Koslo received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Juniata College, and earned a dual Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Exercise Science from Colorado State University. She earned her Registered Dietitian certification from the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Colorado State University, and is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics certification from the ADA. She also holds a PhD in Education with an emphasis in instructional design for online learning from Capella University.
In addition to serving in the US Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa, for 2-1/2 years, Ms. Koslo also worked as a cardiac rehabilitation dietitian, and at the Arizona Department of Health Services as the chronic disease nutritionist. She is also an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer.
Exercise and Fitness: An Important Component of Wellness
Questions to Consider
- · Is exercise and fitness a part of your life right now?
- · How do you feel about that?
- · What is your inner conversation about exercise?
- · How do you feel about that?
- · What role would you like exercise and fitness to play in your life?
- · How do you feel about that?
- · What is stopping you?
The term "wellness" is defined as: "An active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence."1 "A more successful existence"—what a wonderful image that conjures up: health, wholeness, and physical well-being. Exercise and fitness are some of the key ingredients to achieving this vibrant state.
Often, wellness means making a change in daily life, embracing this change, and then putting this change into action. Merely approaching the idea of a change can feel like a daunting task.
This Center for Health and Wellness page will help answer the following questions:
- What defines exercise and physical activity?
- What are the benefits of exercise and physical activity?
- What are the components of a successful physical fitness program?
- How much exercise do we need?
Dangers of Inactivity
Let us consider some the dangers of inactivity:
- · Cardiovascular disease
- · Heart attack
- · Diabetes
- · Colon cancer
- · Bone fractures
- · High blood pressure
- · Obesity4
The New England Journal of Medicine (Myers, et al. 2002), reports that the two highest causes of death in the U.S. are tobacco use (38 percent) and poor diet/physical activity (45 percent). No doubt this is a troubling statistic.
What is Exercise and Physical Fitness?
Exercise is "planned, structured and repetitive physical activity done to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness."2 Physical fitness is "a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity."3 According to the Centers for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, less than 50 percent of adults engage in the amount of exercise recommended for optimal health; 16 percent do not engage exercise at all; and almost half of 12 to 21 year olds are regularly inactive. What does it take to get more people interested in exercising?
Benefits of Exercise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity is one of the most important things we can do for our health. 5 The benefits of exercise include:
- · Weight control
- · Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- · Lower risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- · Lower risk of some cancers
- · Stronger bones and muscles
- · Improved mental health and mood
- · Improved mobility in daily activities and better prevention of falls
- · Increased longevity
What is a Successful Fitness Program?
Our favorite resources for online workouts, training plans and information
For workout ideas, training plans, videos, and fitness information, visit the following websites:
Another great resource is iTunes U,accessible from the main iTunes page. Here you will find free lectures, podcasts, and effective exercise and fitness videos.
The following three major components should be part of every exercise program:6
- Cardiorespiratory endurance/aerobic activity
- Muscular strength and endurance
Aerobic activity is any physical action that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster, for example:
Moderate Physical Activity
- · Hiking
- · Gardening or yard work
- · Dancing
- · Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
- · Bicycling (less than 10 mph)
Vigorous Physical Activity
- · Running or jogging (5 mph)
- · Bicycling (greater than10 mph)
- · Swimming
- · Aerobics class
- · Basketball
Muscle Strength and Endurance
In order to gain muscle strength benefits, this exercise needs to be repeated to the point where it is difficult to perform one more repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight. Between 8 to 12 repetitions is called a set.7
Examples of muscle strengthening activities include the following:
- · Lifting weights
- · Using resistance bands
- · Push ups or sit ups
- · Yoga
How Much Exercise Do We Need?
There have been recent breakthroughs in exercise science research that propose exercising for only 10 minutes at a time may be just as or more effective than exercising for 30 to 60 minutes continuously.8 This provides the opportunity to break up the total daily exercise requirement into manageable amounts.
Amount of Exercise Needed to Gain the Health Benefits of Exercise (for Adults)
- · 2-½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days per week, OR
- · 1-¼ hours (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days per week
Remember: More time equals greater health benefits:
- · More than 300 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity plus strength training OR
- · 150 minutes per week of vigorous intensity activity, plus strength training
1 National Wellness Institute (accessed February 2009).
2 Alton L.Thygerson and Karl L. Larson, Fit to Be Well (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 2006) xxi.
4 National Center for Health Statistics 2002 (accessed February 2009).
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (accessed February 2009).
8 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (accessed February 2009).
The Benefits of Yoga for Children
By Kristin Henningsen, MS
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Our fast-paced world provides few opportunities to slow down, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the lives of today’s children. Typical days can include pre-dawn wakeup calls, 6-hour school days, after-school clubs, jobs, and a litany of activities. Last minute dinners are followed by sleepy homework sessions and late bedtimes. This exhausting process is repeated over and over, day after day.
While this goal-oriented, forward looking lifestyle certainly has some benefits, there are negative effects as well. Among our students are unprecedented rates of stress, bullying, obesity, learning issues, school violence, and depression.1
Yoga and Stress
Indeed, childhood is an intense period of physical, emotional, social, and intellectual growth. Often when confronted with these stressors the body’s sympathetic nervous system is triggered, resulting in an elevated heart rate and blood pressure which, over time, contributes to a lowered immune system, low self-esteem, depression, and isolation.2
Research has shown that school curriculums incorporating stress management programs improve academic performance, self-esteem, classroom behaviors, concentration, and emotional balance. In addition, there is a decrease in helplessness, aggression, and behavioral problems of students.3
Yoga is a holistic, comprehensive approach to stress, and can offset stressors by providing a moment of pause amidst all the activity. The word yoga originates from the Sanskrit meaning “to yoke,” to bring together in the mind, body, and spirit.4 Using breathing integrated with physical postures and relaxation methods, yoga creates experiences to develop a healthy and balanced life. This safe and nurturing environment can also foster physical, intellectual, and spiritual development. Yoga offers a way for students to reconnect their bodies with their minds.
Pranayama, the practice of breath awareness prominent in yoga, encourages parasympathetic drive, allowing the body to slow down and bring the mind and body back into balance. Transferring this skill of breath is key to handling stressful situations—for instance, before taking a big test—and emphasizes a creative outlet to balance overly structured and stressful atmospheres of classrooms. Yoga can also be used as a tool to help foster students’ motivation, cultivate an internal locus of control, and facilitate deeper and more restful sleep.
Yoga and Obesity
Stressful and overly structured atmospheres can contribute to childhood obesity. Routine physical activity is often a challenge with reduced physical education in school, more time spent in a car or bus travel, and the increase in sedentary activities such as playing video games or watching television. According to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), the rates of obesity and inactivity in the U.S. are dramatic. Of children ages 6-19, 17 percent are obese, equaling about 9 million children. In addition, 35 percent of the 9 million children do not meet the minimum requirements of regular activity (1 hour per day) set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
This inactivity is unfortunately supplemented by poor eating habits. Consumers today are bombarded by unhealthy food marketing, promoting processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods that fit into our fast-paced lives. Obesity is linked to such unhealthy eating habits.
While yoga is often perceived as a passive activity, in reality it is extremely engaging. It is physical, yet safe, and also encourages healthy and balanced living. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, yoga provides learning experiences in all major focus areas of a physically educated and active person.5 Thus, actively engaging in yoga on a regular basis is one way to strive toward the AAP’s activity requirements and help children remain within a healthy weight range.
Yoga and Body Acceptance
Another aspect of yoga that is beneficial for children is the practice of self-awareness, or pratyahara. Through this practice students begin to listen to their internal cues and emotions. By shifting self-awareness inward, a buffer forms between the yoga student and the numerous negative societal and cultural influences (media, Internet, etc.) that promote unhealthy living and profoundly influence poor body images.
Yoga fosters self acceptance and actualization. It invites all participants to improve concentration and focus, and even helps develop self-compassion and compassion for others.
Benefits for Every Child
The beauty of yoga is that its benefits are available to students of every school-age group. For young students (4–6 years) yoga creates a framework for total body movement and gross motor development.6 Incorporating games, storytelling, and songs allow this age group to connect with the energy of the poses and philosophy of the practice. Children ages 7–9 years benefit from yoga by building on their gross motor skills while taking on challenges in strength, agility, and endurance, as well as cooperation.7 Benefits for those coming into adolescence (10–12 years) include creating a safe place to thrive, while their bodies experience amazing changes and their connections to social peers strengthen.8
While the teenage years can typically be a time for disconnect, this age group can also vastly benefit from yoga. As Tummers (2009) states, “Practice allows for self-study and self-care as well as development of vital intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, such as improved communication skills, which are critically needed at this developmental stage”.9
Students with learning or behavioral challenges also benefit from yoga practice. Shown to be an effective stress-management tool, studies show that students in primary grades with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who practiced yoga improved on-task time and attention as well as reduced symptoms.10 In addition, yoga has been used to help at-risk youth around the U.S. and is seen as an important outlet for students who have behavioral problems, spent time in the juvenile justice system, or failed at traditional school settings.11 The practice has also been shown to be an effective teaching tool when working with students with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, sensory integration disorder, and learning difficulties.12
Why it Works
Yoga works by engaging the whole body and mind, providing activities that incorporate learning styles such as visual, kinesthetic, musical, intuitive, and naturalist (the awareness of one’s personal environment and interaction with nature).13 By providing students with inner resources—such as calming, centering, and self-acceptance—yoga helps them feel connected and whole.
How it Works
When teaching yoga to children, it is essential that there is a safe and accepting environment. Directing classes that are focused on the student and accepting of all individual experiences is key to encouraging a positive social environment. 14
Fortunately, yoga does not have to be confined to traditional setting such as a studio or a gym. Many yoga exercises are perfectly suited to an ordinary classroom. As suggested in Yoga Games for Children, “[s]ome exercises need a little adaptation—such as sitting on a chair with…feet on the ground instead of sitting or lying on the floor. Others can be done while standing next to a desk.”15
There are many resources out there today to help integrate yoga into children’s lives. Parents and teachers have a wide access to books, articles, DVDs, CDs, and even podcasts to help creating lesson plans. Many studios also offer kids yoga classes with instructors specially trained to teach children.
Currently we are at a crossroads of school reform. Our nation’s public schools are beginning to see the importance of supporting academic achievement while promoting healthy behaviors. Approximately 53 million children attend the 117,500 elementary and secondary schools in the U.S.16 We have an amazing opportunity and responsibility to introduce health initiatives such as yoga programs in schools and communities to help prepare students for healthy and balanced living.17
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov (accessed August 2009.
2. Nanette Tummers, Teaching Yoga for Life (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2009.
3. M.S. Kiselica, S.B. Baker, R.N. Thomas, and S. Reedy, “Effects of Stress Inoculation Training on Anxiety, Stress, and Academic Performance Among Adolescents.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 41, no. 3 (1994): 335-342.
N.K., Manjunath and S. Telles, “Spatial and Verbal Memory Test Scores Following Yoga and Fine Arts Camp for School Children,” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 48, no. 3 (2004): 353-356.
T. Norlander, L. Moas, and T. Archer, “Noise and Stress in Primary and Secondary School Children: Noise Reduction and Increased Concentration Ability Through a Short but Regular Exercise and Relaxation Program,” School Effectiveness and School Improvement 16, no. 1 (2005): 91-99.
M. Stueck and N. Gloeckner, “Yoga for Children in the Mirror of Science: Working Spectrum and Practice Field of the Training of Relaxation with Elements of Yoga for Children,” Early Child Development and Care 174 no. 4 (2005): 371-377.
5. National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Moving into the Future. National Standards for Physical Education 2nd ed. (Reston, VA: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
10. H. Peck, T.J. Kehle, M.A. Bray, and L.E. Theodore , “Yoga as an Intervention for Children with Attention Problems,” School Psychology Review 34, no. 3 (2005): 415-424
12. Nicole Klimas, “Yoga for Youngsters,” Advance for Physical Therapists and PT Assistants (2003), http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com (accessed August 2009).
Sonia Sumar, Yoga for the Special Child: A Therapeutic Approach for Infants and Children with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Learning Disabilities (Buckingham, VA: Special Yoga Publications, 1998).
13. H. Gardner and T. Hatch, ” Multiple Intelligences Go to School: Educational Implications of Theory of Multiple Intelligences,”Education Researcher, 18, no. 8 (1989): 4-10.
Marsha Wenig, Yoga Kids: Educating the Whole Child through Yoga (New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 2003).
15. Danielle Bersma and Marjoke Visscher, Yoga Games for Children (Alameda, CA: Hunter House Inc., 2003).
16. National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/ (accessed August 2009).
17. C.R. Burgeson, H. Wechsler, N.D. Brener, J.C. Young, and C.G. Spain, “Physical Education and Activity; Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000,” Journal of School Health, 71 (2001): 279-293.