Americans Are Urged to Cut Sugar Intake

Experts recommend far fewer teaspoons a day than average person now consumes

Most American women should not consume more than 100 calories of added sugar a day, while men should limit their intake to no more than 150 calories, according to a new recommendation from the American Heart Association.

‘Added sugar’ refers to sugars added to foods during processing, during cooking or when a food is consumed.

The recommendation works out to about six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and about nine teaspoons for men. In the United States, people take in more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar (355 calories) on average, each day, according to the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Excess intake of added sugars has been linked to numerous health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The Heart Association said that soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the major source of added sugar in Americans’ diets. Its new recommendations are in a scientific statement issued Aug. 24.

One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about eight teaspoons of sugar and 130 calories, noted the statement’s lead author, Rachel K. Johnson, associate provost and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

‘Sugar has no nutritional value other than to provide calories,’ Johnson said in a news release from the Heart Association. ‘Consuming foods and beverages with excessive amounts of added sugars displaces more nutritious foods and beverages for many people.’

The statement, published in the Aug. 24 issue of Circulation, also recommends that added sugars should account for no more than half of a person’s daily discretionary calorie allowance.

People should eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish, the association says.




© UnitedHealthcare

Can Exercise Keep You Mentally Sharp?

As you get older, are you having more and more ”senior moments?” Although forgetfulness seems to come hand-in-hand with aging, could it be that that something as simple as exercise could help enhance your memory?

Exercise may be the best wonder drug of them all – maintaining not just your body, but your mind as well.

Scientists are finding that exercise actually may help prevent mental decline as we age. Regular exercise may enhance memory, planning and organization skills, as well as the ability to juggle mental tasks.

Researchers believe regular exercise – for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week – can help keep your brain sharp. Exercise improves how well the body can pump blood to the brain, helping it perform better. Scientists speculate that activity stimulates the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory.

Another positive effect deals with lowering blood pressure. This is important to most adults, particularly as they age. In fact, most elderly people do have high blood pressure. Those with uncontrolled high blood pressure are more likely to have trouble thinking, remembering and learning.

Activity can also help with depression, a common problem among the elderly. Depression can affect memory and concentration. Exercise helps relieve feelings of depression by increasing blood flow and improving how the brain handles the chemicals that are responsible for mood.

You can’t beat exercise. Not only can it help your brain, it can also keep your muscles and joints strong – all important for helping prevent falls, dealing with arthritis, strengthening your heart, improving your energy levels, and warding off health problems such as diabetes and certain cancers. Even if you have lived a sedentary life up until now, you can still limber up to help keep your brain – and your body – in shape.

First, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise. Together, you can choose a routine that is safe for you.

  • Get at least 30 minutes of activity – most or all days of the week – that makes you breathe harder. You can break up those 30 minutes throughout your day by taking a 10- or 15-minute walk in the morning, another at lunch and a third in the evening. To tell if you aren’t working hard enough, give yourself the “talk test.” If you can talk without any effort, you aren’t working out hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, you are pushing too hard.
  • Don’t neglect your muscles. If you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. Strong muscles help you with numerous everyday tasks such as grocery-carrying and having the ability to get out of your chair on your own.
  • Work on your balance. Stand on one foot, then the other. If you’re able, try not to hold onto anything for support. Stand up from sitting in a chair without using your hands or arms. Every now and then, walk heel-to-toe.
  • Be sure to stretch as part of a well rounded routine of strength and conditioning exercises. This can help prevent back pain and helps you remain limber. Never stretch so far that it hurts.




© UnitedHealthcare

Eating Well On the Road

Map out a healthy-food plan before leaving on vacation, nutritionist advises

Don’t let the road to a summer vacation put you on a crash course with an unhealthy, fast-food diet.

‘Nowadays, you can eat a healthy, balanced, calorie-appropriate meal no matter where you travel,’ Duke University’s Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director of the North Carolina school’s diet and fitness center, said in a news release.

To eat better on the road, Politi suggests:

  • Take healthy snacks with you. Stock a cooler with cheese, pre-cut vegetables, yogurt and other good foods to munch on while in transit. Pack a bag with individual portions of low-fat popcorn, trail mix, energy bars, nuts or dried fruit.
  • Drink more water. Avoid the sugar of soda and other soft drinks that add empty calories. Don’t think that diet sodas and artificial sweeteners are any better because some studies find they may actually increase appetite. If you crave a sweet drink, try a little low-fat chocolate milk.
  • Pick healthy menu items. Opt for lighter fare like salads, grilled sandwiches and wraps when possible, an option easier to do now that many restaurants either post or can provide their food’s nutritional information. If you must indulge, choose small portions or share larger ones to help limit intake.
  • Eat a good breakfast. Always start a travel day with a healthy meal to help balance out what may come later. If your overnight hotel room has a refrigerator, load it the night before with cereal, low-fat milk, yogurt and fruit so you can start the day right.


The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about choosing healthy fast foods.

Preventing Heat-related Illness: When the Heat is Too Hot to Handle

Kids and the elderly are at highest risk for heat related illnesses.

How hot is it? It’s so hot that your antiperspirant is on strike. Your clothes stick to you. The air conditioner and water cooler are your best friends.

With hot summer weather, you probably feel lethargic and sweaty, but still cope. Yet, when a heat wave hits, it’s harder to cool off.

Overheating is a serious danger, and soaring temperatures take their toll.

Who’s at risk?
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness. Young and old are at the greatest risk. This includes infants and children up to 4 years of age and people 65 years of age and older. Also at risk are those who are overweight, and people who are ill or on certain medications.

The bottom line is this: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures or problems with your your body’s cooling system raises your risk for a heat-related illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

How our natural cooling system works
Normally, heat escapes through the skin as sweat is evaporated (perspiration). This helps cool the skin, and more importantly, the body core. But in humid weather, sweating doesn’t work as well. The air around you is already warm and heavy with humidity. It can’t absorb extra heat and sweat from your body. So your body warms up. When your body can’t compensate for the heat, you may suffer a heat-related illness.

Tips to stay cool in extreme heat

  • Take it easy. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Stay indoors. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of direct sunlight. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Open windows at night.
  • Dress light and loose. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect the sun’s energy. Natural fibers like cotton may help you feel more comfortable.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you do not feel thirsty. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Make sure your pets get plenty of fresh water as well.
  • Eat light but often. Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
  • Check the heat index chart. Knowing the temperature alone is not enough. The heat index gives you the temperature of what it “feels like” by taking into account both temperature and humidity.
  • Ease into it. If you are not accustomed to warm weather, let your body acclimatize to the new environment over several days.
  • Take a cool bath or shower. This will help cool your body.



© UnitedHealthcare

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoking

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is commonly called secondhand smoke. Smoke from the burning end of cigarettes, pipes or cigars and smoke exhaled from smokers contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans and animals. It is classified as a Group A carcinogen by the EPA, a rating used for substances proven to cause cancer in humans. (Group A carcinogens also include radon and asbestos.)

Exposure to secondhand smoke, also called involuntary smoking or passive smoking, is concentrated indoors where ETS is often the most significant pollutant. Indoor levels of the particles you may inhale (the “tars” in the cigarettes) from ETS often exceed the national air quality standard established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for outdoor air.

According to the American Cancer Society, ETS causes about 3,400 lung cancer deaths and about 46,000 deaths from heart disease each year in healthy nonsmokers who live with smokers. Nonsmokers living in the household are also more likely to get asthma and other respiratory problems, eye irritation and headaches.

Special risks for infants, children and pregnant women

Infants and young children whose parents smoke are among the most seriously affected by exposure to secondhand smoke. They are more likely to suffer from asthma pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, coughing, wheezing, and increased mucus production.

In infants and children under 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). This results in 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations in that age group each year.

Babies living with parents who smoke also have a greater chance of dying of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The ALA estimates that secondhand smoke causes 1,900 to 2,700 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the U.S. annually.

Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights.

Minimizing exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Don’t smoke in your home or permit others to do so.
  • If a family member smokes indoors, increase ventilation in the area by opening windows or using exhaust fans.



© UnitedHealthcare

How to Rev up Your Metabolism

How to Rev up Your Metabolism

Can the way you eat have an effect on your metabolism? Read on to learn what strategies really work.

Can the way you eat really have an effect on your metabolic rate? Are there types of foods that will burn fat more efficiently than others? The answer to both questions is yes.

Beyond the calorie in-calorie out theory, you can help control the timing of your eating and how your body responds to food. Check out the following guidelines to see if you are practicing any of these healthy eating habits. If you’re not, it’s time to start.

Eat lots of small meals

  • Split up your calories between breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
  • Don’t make dinner your largest meal.
  • Eat every three to four hours. Your body works hard to digest and absorb the food we eat, and your metabolism revs up in response.

Don’t skip breakfast

  • Eat a healthy breakfast to jumpstart your metabolism.
  • Have breakfast within two hours of waking. Studies show that if you do this, you are more likely to control your weight.
  • Don’t let coffee ruin your appetite.

Never starve yourself

  • Don’t skip meals. It’s like going on a mini-diet. Going long periods of time between meals each day may slow your metabolic rate so that you burn calories more slowly.
  • Stop dieting. The same metabolic slowdown that kicks in when you skip breakfast also works against you whenever you drastically cut back on the amounts of food you eat.
  • Don’t take in too few calories or your body will try to store more fat.

Don’t eat late at night

  • Your metabolism is slowest in the evening, so don’t overeat then. Give your body at least three hours before bedtime to digest.
  • Remember, you are going to eat within one hour of waking up.
  • If you do shift work, your metabolism will fall in line with your eating and sleeping schedule, not the clock.

Eat protein with almost every meal/snack

  • Eating protein boosts your metabolism more than carbohydrates or fats.
  • Eating enough protein will help you maintain and build muscle mass.
  • Keep protein intake anywhere from 0.5 gram to 0.8 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Use the higher end only if you exercise vigorously.
  • Good sources of low-fat protein include lean meats, turkey breast, skinless chicken breast, fish, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, tofu and beans.

Balance your other nutrients

  • Choose whole-grain carbohydrates instead of refined. That means oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, beans, etc.
  • Eat enough healthy fats. These include avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, natural peanut butter, ground flax seeds and fatty fish.
  • Round out your diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. The more color and fiber, the better.


  • Exercise to burn calories and speed up your metabolic rate.
  • Move your body to stimulate fat-burning enzymes to break down fat.
  • Do aerobic exercise (at least 30 minutes) four or five times a week. Your metabolism rises every time you work out.
  • Do strength training at least twice a week. Lifting weights and doing push-ups or crunches will help you increase muscle tissue, which burns slightly more calories than fat.

Sample Meals

  • Cottage cheese or yogurt with fresh fruit
  • One or two eggs and a slice of whole-grain bread


  • Turkey burger on a whole-grain bun and a salad
  • Salad with grilled chicken and small amount of dressing


  • Fish with vegetables and a baked potato
  • Shrimp and vegetables over a small amount of brown rice or pasta


    • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter on a large rice cake
  • A pear and a piece of low-fat string cheese



© UnitedHealthcare

9 Ways to Exercise … When You Don’t Have the Time

Think you have no time to exercise? These strategies will help you get fit in just minutes a day. 

We all know exercise can help us improve our health and lose weight. Yet, 25 percent of adults don’t exercise at all, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Hectic schedules may be to blame. Who has the time to exercise when juggling work, school, family and more? It’s worth squeezing it in, though, because regular exercise can relieve daily stress and lift your mood. At the same time, you can reduce your risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes most days, but it’s okay to start slowly. Find activities that you enjoy. You only need to find a few minutes a day to start getting the health benefits. First, check with your doctor before you start or increase your activity level.

Tips for fitting in fitness

  • Wake up a little earlier. Start by setting your alarm clock just 5 minutes earlier. Do stretches and jumping jacks before getting in the shower, or follow a short exercise DVD.
  • Find a workout buddy. Exercising with a friend is more fun than working out alone and a good motivator. Ask a coworker to go for a walk during lunch or see if a neighbor wants to shoot hoops.
  • Change into exercise clothes before leaving work. You’ll be ready for a short walk as soon as you get home.
  • Schedule your fitness activities. If you put exercise on your calendar like other appointments, you’re more likely to do it.
  • Acknowledge your successes. Keep a log of all the times you make a healthy choice to move more, such as by taking the stairs instead of an elevator. After the first week, reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or a cool new water bottle.
  • Create a home (or desk) gym. If you have equipment always at the ready, it will be easy to steal five minutes to use it. A jump rope, a stability ball, exercise bands and dumbbells don’t cost much or take up much room.
  • Move while you watch TV. Don’t sit idly – or worse, get a snack – during commercials. Do sit-ups or jog in place instead.
  • Play games with your kids. Don’t just watch while your kids play outside – join in their fun. Play tag or Duck Duck Goose, or just toss a ball back and forth. If your kids love video games, think about swapping their console for the Nintendo Wii. The whole family will break a sweat using special controllers to compete at boxing, tennis, golf and bowling.
  • Exercise while you work. Raise your activity level and productivity with neck rolls or arm raises (push hands out to the side and then up toward the ceiling). Or do a few modified push-ups on the edge of your desk.

Stepping it up
After you’ve built short periods of activity into your day, think about times when you could lengthen each burst by a few minutes. The key is to start small and ramp up gradually.

Even if you’re worn out from a busy day, try to make time for fitness. Regular exercise actually boosts your energy level. Exercise, along with restricting calories, is also important for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.

Next time you look for an excuse to skip exercise, remind yourself of the benefits. You’re helping yourself feel good, look better and live longer. Who wouldn’t want that?




© UnitedHealthcare

6 Soothing Ways to Ease Stress

Feeling stressed out? Learn ways to calm the stress in your life.

Feeling stressed out? Most Americans do.

Not all stress is bad. A certain amount of stress enables executives to perform at their peak.But too much stress can be harmful. Stress is linked to such chronic conditions such as heart disease and depression.

The trick is to manage or control stress to keep it within healthy limits. If your stress meter is soaring, learn to relax. Here are some soothing ways to handle the stress in your life.

1. Breathe
You’ve heard the expression, “take a breather”? Sometimes just five minutes of deep breathing is enough to ban stress.

Most people take shallow breaths that fill only part of the lungs. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into the lungs and can help calm the brain. Try these steps:

  • Sit or lie with one hand on your belly.
  • Breathe in through your nose, filling your lungs. Focus on making the hand on your belly rise.
  • Breathe out through your mouth, trying to empty your lungs as much as you can. The hand on your belly should move in as your muscles tighten.
  • Continue these deep, slow breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth, making your belly rise and fall.

This simple but powerful exercise can be done almost anywhere. It can be combined with meditation or muscle relaxation.

2. Relax your muscles
Progressive muscle relaxation is another simple way to ease stress. Practicing it can help you become aware of when you are holding stress in your body. Relaxing your muscles can help your mind relax.

  • Lie down in a quiet place. Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and deeply.
  • When you feel relaxed, start with your right foot. Squeeze the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold while you count to 10.
  • Relax your right foot. Take a few deep breaths.
  • Next, squeeze the muscles in your left foot while you count to 10.
  • Relax and breathe.
  • Slowly work your way up your body (legs, belly, back, chest, arms, neck, face), squeezing and relaxing each group of muscles.

3. Say yes to yoga
Yoga is a system of exercises (called asanas) for gaining bodily or mental control and well-being. The philosophy is that the breath, the mind and the body are so closely linked that whatever you do to one will affect the other. In addition to easing stress, yoga can improve strength, balance and flexibility.

Yoga is gentle form of exercise that is safe for most people when it’s practiced correctly. Consult a trained yoga teacher. Make sure you ask your doctor before you start any new activity.

4. Try tai chi
Tai chi is a series of postures that flow into one another through connecting transition moves. These slow, graceful and precise body movements are said to improve body awareness and enhance strength and coordination. At the same time, they are supposed to help the practitioner achieve inner peace. Like yoga, it is designed to enhance both physical and emotional well-being.

Tai chi is a low-impact aerobic activity, so you can chill out and burn some calories at the same time. Another advantage to tai chi is its low risk of injury.

Take a tai chi class or buy a book or instructional video. Once you learn how to do tai chi, you can practice almost anywhere.

5. Meditate
Meditation is a centuries-old practice spiritual practice that is also a powerful stress-buster. Here, you learn to relax while focusing on a word, a sound or your own breathing. It can have a deeply calming effect.

There are many different types of meditation. One type is mindfulness meditation. You can practice mindfulness while sitting in a quiet place or while walking. The key is to keep bringing your focus back to your breathing or your steps. When distractions come into your mind, observe them without judging and let them go. The technique is simple, but achieving the desired result takes practice.

6. Get a massage
In massage therapy, the hands (or sometimes forearms, elbows and feet) are used to manipulate the soft body tissues. A good massage is not only relaxing, but it may also have some real healing benefits. Some studies have shown that the kneading and pressing of muscles slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, relaxes muscles and helps reduce stress levels.

If you can’t fit in or afford a visit to a spa, ask your partner or friend for a neck, back or foot rub. Trading massages can be a relaxing way to reconnect after a stressful day.




© UnitedHealthcare


Don’t Get Burned! How to Protect Your Body From Sun Damage

Sunburn doesn’t just cause pain and redness. It can also have immediate dangers and long-term effects. Learn the risks and find out how to protect yourself.

Between the beach, the pool and the weekend cookouts, you may be having too much fun to worry about sunburn – until that telltale stinging and redness set in. Sunburn isn’t just painful – it’s also bad for your health.

The dangers of sunburn
The sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet A (UVA) causes tanning, aging skin and wrinkles. Ultraviolet B (UVB) causes sunburn. Both can cause skin cancer. You can burn on sunny days, cloudy days and cold days. The white sand on the beach and the white snow of winter both reflect the sun’s rays. You can burn whether you’re skiing on water or snow.

Signs of sunburn are redness and pain. You may also have swelling and blistering. Get medical attention right away if you have a severe burn that covers your body, or if you have chills, vomiting, an upset stomach or confusion.

Long-term effects
Every time you tan or burn, DNA damage builds up in the deeper levels of your skin. Having five or more burns over a lifetime – even in childhood – doubles your chances of getting skin cancer.

Other side effects of tanning and burning include premature wrinkles and age (pigment) spots. Over time the sun can age your skin, making it tough and leathery.

Remember that your eyes can burn, too. Too much sun can burn your corneas and lead to various eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It can even cause blindness.

The truth about sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen doesn’t always keep you from burning. No sunscreen can completely protect you from UV rays.

A sunscreen labeled “waterproof” or “water resistant” will not protect you all day. When you swim or sweat, reapply your sunscreen. Waterproof sunscreens last about 80 minutes in the water. Those labeled “water resistant” last about 40 minutes.

The UV index
Your local news may broadcast daily heat index reports. The higher the index, the less time it will take to burn. Here is your risk for overexposure to the damaging UV rays. The number indicates the daily UV index, followed by the degree of risk. The higher the index on a given day, the greater the need to protect yourself.

  • 0-2: low
  • 3-4: moderate
  • 5-6: high
  • 7-10: very high
  • 11+: extreme

Preventing sunburn
Follow these prevention tips:

  • Use only water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen. It should protect against both UVA and UVB rays and have an SPF of at least 15. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing when possible. Always include a hat and sunglasses.
  • Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when UV rays are strongest. If your shadow is shorter than you are, get out of the sun.
  • Keep children in the shade and in protective clothing. If shade or protective clothing are not available, apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 to small areas like the cheeks and backs of the hands. If a child under age 1 gets sunburn, apply cool compresses and call your pediatrician right away. Also call if an older child has a sunburn with fever, blistering, severe pain or lethargy.
  • Be aware that water, snow and sand all reflect UV raysand increase your chances for sunburn.

Cool wet compresses, lotions and baths may help relieve sunburn pain. For serious burns, call your doctor. Medication may prevent infection and help with the swelling and pain.



© UnitedHealthcare

Staying in the Game: How to Keep Your Back Healthy

Back pain robs workdays and keeps people on the sidelines. Learn how your back works and why certain motions can raise your risk for injuries.

Back pain is one of the most common conditions in the United States. Over the course of a lifetime, eight in 10 Americans will have at least one episode of back pain.

The problem results in over 100 million lost work days per year. And over 41 million people visited a doctor for back pain in one year.

Back injuries – common causes
Many back injuries are the result of cumulative damage. But certain motions and movements can contribute to back injuries more than others. These include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Twisting at the waist while lifting or holding a heavy load
  • Reaching and lifting
  • Lifting or carrying objects with awkward or odd shapes
  • Working in awkward positions
  • Sitting or standing too long in one position
  • Poor posture

How the back works
A spine consists of small bones called vertebrae. They are stacked to form a column. Vertebrae are held together by ligaments, and muscles are attached to the vertebrae by tendons. A cushion, or disc, sits between each vertebra. The spinal cord runs through the column and nerves branch out through spaces between the vertebrae.

The lower back holds most of the body’s weight. Stress is placed on your back every time you bend over, lift something heavy or sit leaning forward. While standing, bending or moving, even minor problems with bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons can cause lower back pain. Discs may then irritate nerves from the spinal cord and cause pain.

Sudden back injuries can be due to a tear or strain in ligaments and muscles. Back pain may also come from injuries that break down discs or by muscles that have involuntary contractions (spasm). Stress or tension can bring on back spasms, too.

What can you do to avoid back problems?
Three practices may help avoid serious problems: Lift safely, sleep correctly and keep up with core conditioning.

Lift safely. When possible, use lift-assist devices for heavier objects. When you can’t avoid lifting, remember to reduce the amount of pressure placed on the back. Bending the knees keeps your spine in better alignment and allows legs to do the work

  • Keep feet apart for better stability and lifting power.
  • Keep your back straight so spine, back muscles and organs align right.
  • Tuck your chin to keep the neck, head and spine straight.
  • Grip an object with your whole hand for more lifting power.
  • Keep arms and elbows tucked in for more gripping power.
  • Center your body over your feet for better balance and lift.
  • Bend your legs and then lift by straightening the legs. The leg muscles will carry the load instead of your back.

Sleep better. A poor sleeping position can create back stress. The best sleeping positions are:

  • On your side with knees slightly bent
  • On your back with a pillow under knees

Conditioning. Regular exercise can improve overall fitness and lower the likelihood of back problems and injury. Exercises for strength, flexibility and aerobics are best.

Get into a daily flexibility routine and do strength training for your core muscles. The core muscles surround your midsection, support spine and torso movement, and coordinate limb motion. Strong core muscles improve posture, balance and stability. They can also reduce back and neck pain.

Yoga and Pilates classes offer good core workouts. Each uses the body as its own form of resistance. If you have trouble doing certain exercises, swimming, walking, or bike riding may be good options. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.