Healthy Living

with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

Question of the Month

Q. I have limited time to exercise. Is there any way I can make my workout more efficient?

A. Efficiency is based both on duration and intensity of exercise, and one great way to increase your intensity without extending your duration is to include some interval training. If you’re a walker, add some jogging every few minutes to pick up the pace; if you’re already a jogger, add some short sprints to your routine. This works for equipment as well. On a stationary bike or elliptical machine, alternate the resistance periodically, or try increasing the incline on the treadmill. Always get your doctor’s clearance before making any significant changes in your daily physical activity.

Help for Troubled Sleepers

While it’s normal to have an occasional problem night, chronic sleep problems can have both physical and behavioral consequences.
An important first step is to review your "sleep hygiene" and adjust the lifestyle factors that can help promote a good night’s sleep. Keep some structure in your day, and set a regular bedtime and wake-up time.

Avoid going to bed if you are not tired; instead, read or watch TV in another location. Only use your bedroom for sleeping. Keep your sleeping area cooler, as research shows that a cooler environment can help trigger natural body signals for sleep initiation.

Limit daily caffeine intake to 300 mg/day or less, and avoid caffeinated products after 3 p.m. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, so limit use before bedtime (if you consume it at all). If lifestyle changes don’t work, take this information to your doctor and discuss medical strategies for both short- and long-term sleep problems.

Fitness in the ‘Burgh

It’s official, and another first for us in the national fitness arena. The annual Men’s Fitness "Fittest Cities in America" has named us in its top 25. While we’re ranked No. 25 on the list, it’s still a major achievement to be listed with cities such as Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, which have long had a reputation for being "active" cities.

Kudos to all the public and private support we’ve had in our region for walking and bike trails, parks and other forms of outdoor recreation. The cooler weather of fall and colorful foliage make it a perfect time to explore our region on foot.

Check out to get some ideas on the "walkability" of your own neighborhood.

In the News

Drink ginger ale for an upset stomach? It turns out this "old wives’ tale" is true based on a study from the University of Rochester Medical Center. During chemotherapy, more than 600 cancer patients had about a teaspoon of ginger added to their standard anti-nausea medication with convincing results. Nausea was reduced by up to 40 percent by adding the ginger.

While the mechanism is not well-defined, it seems to have an anti-inflammatory response in the intestinal tract. Read the labels carefully on ginger ale or packaged ginger tea, because these and other "ginger" products may only contain ginger flavoring and not ginger root (containing the active ingredients).

You’ll need about a teaspoon of ginger (powdered) to match the study dose. Make your own "ginger tea" by adding a teaspoon of powdered ginger to a cup of hot water and flavoring with a little sugar, honey or low-calorie sweetener.

If you have a health question for Dr. Fernstrom, e-mail her at

Categories: Top Doctors