Pete Swales speaking at the 2010 Whole Health Conference in Victoria, BC.

Massage Benefits for the Athlete

Most of us will probably believe that a massage is a luxury reserved only for special times in our lives like birthdays or anniversaries. As a matter of fact, it is not only an indulgence but also a way of keeping our mind and body healthy. There are numerous reasons as to why people get massages. It can either be for medical reasons to alleviate pain or just simply to be more relaxed and rejuvenated. Massage therapies like the hot stone massage therapy offers many therapeutic effects. It will also give your body an extra boost of energy.

Massage therapies is a soothing practice for the mind, body and soul that is why it is able to relieve the stress. Massage also has great conditioning effects that are a huge help when you are a professional athlete. For instance, after doing a tough workout in the gym, a massage can release the spasms which slow down blood flow. This will usually cause the inflammation, pain and dysfunction. With a massage, it will slowly improve blood circulation by allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and tissues. Overstraining is prevented by the relaxation of the tension and sedation of the nervous system allowing muscles to work more effectively.

A massage can also reduce the recovery time needed for strenuous workouts by helping in the elimination of toxins. With improved blood circulation and increased water intake, toxins will naturally clear out of the body. This will maximize blood flow improving the general nutrition of the muscles for optimal performance.

Energy and vitality is also increased through a massage. It can facilitate the muscle-building response of the body at the same time improving the range of flexibility and motion. Muscles are elongated and its proficiency is increased.

Although there are many benefits you can acquire physically from a massage therapy, you have to keep in mind some of these important points.

  • Remember that you will not acquire the full benefits of a massage therapy if you only have one session. It will take several treatment sessions before you achieve the expected physical effects such as releasing spasms and tightness.
  • You may want to focus on specific areas because of the demand it receives but do not forget this is a holistic approach. Do not overlook other parts of your body to avoid future pains and aches.
  • It is also better to ask advice from your doctor and your therapist. It is much better to have a collaborative treatment plan with professionals so you will be sure of the proper treatment plan.
  • Always make sure you speak up if you feel uncomfortable during your massage session. For instance, if the rock used in the hot stone therapy is too warm, inform your masseuse immediately.

After keeping in mind all these considerations and benefits, it is now time to book your first massage session. Check the credentials of the massage therapist to make sure you have quality bodywork. On your first visit, the massage therapist will ask you about what areas you’d like to focus on and what your goals are for the session. You can get together with your doctor and therapist and select the best time to maximize your goals.

Mary Singleton regularly writes for AML Stone

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Smart Choices Foods: Dumb As They Look?

Article by Rebecca Ruiz

Processed-foods giants spent more than $1 million to create nutritional guidelines for a labeling system that favors their own products.


Most people don’t consider chocolate popsicles, sugary cereal and bagels filled with cream cheese as healthy foods. But it’s no surprise that a new labeling program underwritten by 14 major food companies -including Kellogg, Kraft and Unilever - says otherwise.

Between 2008 and 2009, the 14 corporations paid a combined $1.47 million to fund the development of Smart Choices, a labeling initiative that stamps a green seal of approval on the front of food packaging to indicate healthier fare to consumers.Unilever’s Fudgsicles,Kellogg’s vitamin-enriched Froot Loops and Kraft’s Bagel-fuls all now bear the Smart Choices label. (A 60-calorie Fudgsicle may be low in fat, but has almost no nutritional value and contains three different types of sugar.)

At the heart of the Smart Choices initiative is the Keystone Center, a Keystone, Colorado based nonprofit group that mediates public-policy disputes. In 2008, Keystone convened a group of 40 food executives, academics, health advocates and government officials to develop the program’s nutrition guidelines. Keystone received more than $680,000 from food companies to organize the talks; the remaining funds were spent on consumer testing.

Since it was introduced in August, the labeling program has been criticized by nutrition experts and health advocates for selecting unlikely products as healthy alternatives. It also has been portrayed as in the corner of industry; food companies that participate fund the program annually based on a sliding scale ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. They cannot add their own, additional health-themed logo on the products’ packaging.

“The food companies paid because they had the ability to,” said Mike Hughes, vice president and director of the Center for Science and Public Policy at Keystone. “You’re not going to get [money] from the little nonprofits, so we said, ‘Let’s go get some,’ and we passed the hat.”

Hughes declined to disclose how much each company spent, citing a previous agreement that those figures would not be shared with other participants. The organization’s most recent annual report shows that ConAgra, Nestle, Kraft, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, Unilever andWrigley each contributed $50,000 or moreThe American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, the only two non-industry organizations to help subsidize the cost of the panel, contributed a total of $40,000. (Keystone has listed all of these contributions as donations, but they were in fact fees for Smart Choices-related services, Hughes confirmed.)

Once convened, the group identified qualifying criteria for products in 19 food and beverage categories, with the goal of promoting items low in trans and saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium. The criteria, which were based primarily on dietary guidelines developed by the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services, also encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and select nutrients. (See the criteria here.)

Smart Choices, which is now administered by the American Society for Nutrition and NSF International (a nonprofit public health organization), has approved approximately 800 products, including Kid Cuisine’s Magical Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza, Healthy Choice’s Philly Cheese Steak Panini and Slim Fast’s Rich Chocolate Royale Shake. (The pizza meal contains 23% of one’s recommended daily saturated fat intake, not to mention dozens of ingredients.)

New product applications are reviewed by the ASN and NSF and the program is governed by a board of nine directors: Four seats belong to independent experts, four are held by food industry executives and the ninth is for someone with “no skin in the game,” according to Hughes. He holds that seat and will for the next year.

Hughes denied that industry funding swayed the group’s judgment when developing the nutrition guidelines for the program. “If a company makes a [contribution] because they value our neutrality, it does not upend that neutrality,” he said.

Keystone argues that it is bringing food companies and health advocates together to help address America’s obesity epidemic. “How all of this money comes together is really uninteresting,” Hughes said. “It’s all a way of helping these folks get a conflict resolved.”

Despite Hughes’ hope for resolution, the program has become controversial in many quarters. In addition to criticism from nutritionists, Smart Choices also garnered a letter from the Food and Drug Administration, expressing its concerns over potentially misleading claims.

“We do have some concerns,” said Barbara Schneeman, Ph.D., the FDA’s director of the Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements. “It’s hard for us to know what products are going to bear the logo until they show up in the marketplace.”

Schneeman observed some of the roundtable discussions and was aware that the process was being paid for by industry groups.

In a response to a request for comment about its involvement with Smart Choices, Battle Creek, Michigan based Kellogg said its financial support of the panel was an outgrowth of their consumer education efforts.

“Kellogg joined many others in the industry in investing in the development of the Smart Choices program to help consumers make informed food choices,” said spokeswoman Kris Charles.

Susan Davison, a spokeswoman for Northfield, Illinois based food giant Kraft, said there was no conflict of interest in the company’s funding of the panel, referring to the fact that the nutrition criteria were developed by a coalition of food executives, academics, health advocates, and government officials.

Richard Kahn, Ph.D, a panel participant and now an independent consultant serving on the board of trustees, said the guidelines were designed to help people who are currently making “terrible, terrible choices” with their diets.

Kahn, who was formerly the chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetic Association, said it seemed unrealistic to point consumers toward less-processed foods like fruits and vegetables because the intended audience of the Smart Choices program comprises those who might be choosing between asugary cereal and a doughnut.

“If you get someone who has diabetes and they’re eating doughnuts for breakfast,” he said, “anything down the ladder is a better choice.”

Kahn was surprised to learn that all 14 food companies had paid for the development of Smart Choices, but said he sees no conflict of interest.

“I personally like multiple companies sponsoring,” he said. “If it’s just one company, people think that company gets a bias.”

In this case, it appears, Fudgsicles, Froot Loops and Bagel-fuls were all treated equally.

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