Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

The Role of Adult Mentors: If You See Something, Say Something

I recently had the opportunity to spend five days with seven amazing teen women doing community service at the Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary in Oregon. My eldest daughter has arranged this annual camping trip since she was in middle school and I tag along to drive, cook, provide first aid, reminders about bug spray and sunscreen, and do a lot of dishes.

This year I also gave some feedback to a couple of new teens that was not well-received and the experience set me to thinking about the role of adult mentors in the lives of teens. I think as adults, it is easier to just watch teens, make our own judgments about their behavior, but unless they are our own, refrain from helping them reflect on those behaviors.

Sadly, I think this lack of feedback from adults does not benefit youth. I am of the mind that teachers, doctors, counselors, and actually all adults spending time with teens are ethically responsible for giving them feedback about their behavior – to provide an opportunity for them to reflect on a person’s perception of their behavior and his or her response to it.

The flip side of this is hearing the feedback given back, so yes, I heard when I was “snippy” and did have to apologize several times for losing patience – but it is all good and we are never too old to “engage” in relationships.

Teens really are blessed if they spend time with adult who will talk with them honestly and give them feedback, but the teen has to make the decision to hear the feedback and not just feel criticized and withdraw – which is the hard part of honest relationships. This group of girls was a new group, with four new members, and a wide age range – 12 to 17 – so there were several mini-lectures about judgment and being self-centered, which of course were translated into “she does not like me.”

I have to say it is hard to have conversations with teens who do not want to hear, but if they can hear that the feedback is about being perceived as the type of person they want to be, then there is hope. For example, if a teen says something negative about a person we pass or interact with in the community, I am likely to say, “whoa, that is really judgmental – are you sure you want to judge her without knowing more about her?” Or, maybe, “I hope you do not judge me solely on my appearance,” and if focused, I might add that people tend to shy away from people who are negative or judgmental, which is usually not what we want, which is to attract people.

Reactions range from silent sullen and angry to a brief nod and maybe “I am sorry,” but I think the process is the important part. Teens are going to be adults soon, and then feedback gets really rare except from friends, family, and bosses (which have consequences attached), so it is important to give the feedback and help teens hear it.

This post, The Role of Adult Mentors: If You See Something, Say Something, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

What Can Weekend Warriors Learn From Elite Athletes?

For this week’s CBS Doc Dot Com segment, I thought I’d cover something completely non-controversial: what can weekend warriors learn from elite athletes? But I’m starting to believe that in this era of evidence-based medicine, nothing may be truly knowable. I went to the studios of the world famous Ballet Hispanico in New York City and spoke to athletic trainer Megan Richardson. She took me through the motions, emphasizing the importance of warming up and stretching in preventing injury. It sounded good and it felt good. But proving in the medical literature that it’s effective is another thing. An online search quickly produced multiple conflicting reports and advice: stretching definitely works, stretching definitely doesn’t work; stretching only works if you do it my way. Click here for a sampling:

PubMed:Warm-up And Stretching PubMed: Stretching Perspectives BioMed Central: The Effects Of Stretching

My friend and CBS colleague, Richard Schlesinger, offered his solution. ”I get around it by neither stretching nor exercising.” Had I listened to Richard, my blog post would have ended right here. But I figured I needed at least one more paragraph so I contacted a true expert on the subject, Ian Shrier MD, PhD, a specialist in sports medicine and Associate Professor at McGill University. He has a PhD in physiology and is Past-President, Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine. He’s not a huge fan of stretching right before exercise.

“First, the stretching, whether with or without warmup, does not improve performance. It makes you run slower, jump not as high, and makes you weaker.” And “stretching definitely can hurt people if you overstretch; people do it all the time if they force the stretch.”

He added, “I don’t think it hurts you in general if you do it properly but it doesn’t prevent injury.” He’s more supportive of stretching at other times, including after exercise, saying, “Regular stretching at other times is beneficial. It makes you stronger, jump higher, etc, and there are three studies suggesting it reduces injuries as well, although the results were only significant in one.” He adds that “stretching is analgesic; it allows you to put your muscle through a wider range of motion without feeling tension. And that may be why ballerinas say that stretching helps them.” Dr. Shrier spells out his take on the subject in detail in a chapter called
Does stretching help prevent injuries?

For me, Dr. Shrier’s most interesting advice, especially for weekend warriors, was about the importance of warming up. He explained that muscles need energy to function properly. Energy is mainly produced inside of cells in structures called mitochondria. When you are resting, your mitochondria power down. During exercise, it takes awhile for the cell to rev up the enzymes needed for breaking down fat and carbohydrates for fuel and for using oxygen to make energy from that fuel. If you start running at full speed without warming up, your body will produce lactic acid. Lactic acid can impair muscle function for awhile, preventing you from sprinting efficiently at the end of the race.

So Dr. Shrier suggests gradually warming up. He estimated it takes about 3 to 5 minutes to efficiently go from one level of exercise to the next – for example, going from rest to a ten minute mile or going from a ten minute mile to a seven minute mile. If you go for a jog, “you walk, then jog slowly, and then pick it up. Elite marathoners might go for a fifteen to twenty minute jog before they run a marathon. That allows them to run faster at the beginning of the race. They run the second half of the marathon faster than the first.”

In summary – and I suspect that I am the first person today to tell you this – don’t outpace your mitochondria.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »