Exercise and Fibromyalgia

Conditions that cause pain in your joints and muscles can lock you into a terrible loop.
Often sufferers are afraid to exercise out of concern that it will worsen their pain.
Unfortunately, the lack of exercise will usually make their condition more difficult to bear.
Fibromyalgia, which affects 5.8 million Americans, is just such an illness.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Although it is not very well understood, fibromyalgia can be a debilitating disorder that is characterized by pain in the muscles and joints, fatigue and cognitive difficulties. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown but researchers suspect that it is linked to physical or psychological trauma.

The constant dull aching that is associated with fibromyalgia can make it difficult to sleep and is often experienced along with other sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

Fibromyalgia also commonly occurs alongside depression, anxiety, endometriosis, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

When you consider the wide range of symptoms that accompany fibromyalgia, it is logical that people enduring it would avoid exercise. But research indicates that a properly designed fitness program could be an effective way of treating the condition.

How Exercise Can Help

One of the major concerns facing patients with fibromyalgia is deconditioning. The lack of activity will gradually make your heart, lungs and muscles function less and less efficiently. This will, in turn, cause greater difficulty in movement and increase the amount of pain in your joints and muscles.

Poor posture, tight muscles and limited range of motion are also byproducts of inactivity. Each of these factors can contribute to pain and difficulty moving.

If you struggle with fibromyalgia, the solution may be to do whatever is in your control to improve your body’s ability to move efficiently. Even light exercise can provide exactly that.

A large study that observed 170 fibromyalgia patients was funded by the National Institutes of Health in 2013 to gain further insight on the effect of exercise on the disorder. Each participant was given an exercise prescription based on their starting fitness level that gradually became more challenging, more frequent and longer over the course of the 3-month study. Throughout the study, and for six months following, they were also asked to fill out several questionnaires.

At the end of the study, it was found that they subjects who stuck to their exercise routine experienced less physical impairment and better overall well-being than those who abandoned their workouts.

One key element appears to be a steady increase in activity, which showed a corresponding decrease in pain. A rapid and short-live burst of activity didn’t produce any benefits.

Of all the participants who increased their activity levels, even beyond the length of the study, no one experienced an increase in pain.

How To Do It

Anyone, whether they have fibromyalgia or not, will experience pain if they jump in to a difficult workout too quickly. Start off gradually and incorporate both strength and endurance training.

Your strength training should consist of light weights so that you can focus on maintaining perfect form throughout the movement. Consider working with a trainer to be sure that your form is correct to help avoid injury.

Aerobic training should be your chief concern and should be performed at least three times per week. Stick to a moderate intensity, where you can comfortably have a conversation, and start at just a few minutes. Gradually increase the duration of your workouts to about 40 minutes.

Each session should begin and end with mobility training. These movements should be done slowly, emphasizing flexibility and a full range of motion.

If you experience flare-ups, when your pain is especially bad, take time off the recover. Pick up your routine again as soon as you feel better.

Do you struggle to stay active despite fibromyalgia? Please share your experience with us in the comments.





6 Quick Power Breakfast Ideas

You’ve already heard how important breakfast is for providing morning fuel and starting your day with regulated meals and metabolism. The trouble is how much time it takes to build a traditional breakfast — time you’d rather spend getting as close to 7 1/2 hours of sleep as you can manage. Get the best of both worlds with any of these 6 quick and powerful breakfast ideas.

1. Breakfast Burritos (10 minutes)

Scramble up some eggs and sausage with cheese and spinach, then wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla. This combines high protein and healthy fat with fiber from the tortilla and spinach. Add bell or hot peppers for flavor, and feel free to trade in a vegetarian option for the sausage.

2. Greek Yogurt Parfait (3 minutes)

Alternate layersof greek yogurt with layers of fresh fruit, granola, dried fruit and nuts. Stir it all together, or keep the layered effect for a different taste and texture with each bite. Add flavor with a little honey, a splash of vanilla or a sprinkle of dark chocolate powder. Flax seeds or chia seeds can add extra omega oils and micronutrients.

3. Protein Bars (20 to 30 minutes)

You can find protein bar recipes that match your diet all over the web.  The trick for using them as a quick power breakfast is to make a batch on the weekend, then pull out what you need each morning. It’s portable, energy-rich and full of the proteins and fats that will help you focus and control your appetite all morning long.

4. Simple Preloaded Smoothie (4 minutes)

Load yogurt, frozen fruit, bananas and your favorite flavoring into your blender just before you go to bed. Put the thing in the fridge. Pull out in the morning with the contents partially thawed, add your ice and blend. If you forget your evening prep, the whole thing takes only 10 minutes in the morning.

5. Peanut Butter Celery (5 minutes)

It’s not just for kids’ lunch box side dishes anymore. The peanut butter — use organic instead of the sugar- and salt- laden regular — carries the protein and fats that turn breakfast into power breakfast. The celery adds a compelling crunch and plenty of fiber. Experiment with some added nuts and seeds, a little organic honey, or a sprinkling of dark chocolate to add some adult flavor to this handy and portable package.

6. Breakfast Sandwich (7 minutes)

Take some salmon or lean deli meat and slip it between two slices of organic, whole-grain bread along with a fried egg and some lettuce or kale. You get whole-gran carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat in a package that’s easy to carry and eat as you go about your morning. Bonus points for frying the egg and slicing the meat the night before.

Honorable Mention: Breakfast With Family (60 to 90 minutes)

This isn’t a realistic option for most families during the week, but the mental and emotional nourishment you’ll get from making this a weekend tradition pays wellness benefits all week long. Make the time to connect on Saturday or Sunday morning with the people you share your life with. If you live alone, make a standing date with friends to come over, or get together at a healthy breakfast spot in your neighborhood.

There are many more power breakfast options available even for the most on-the-go. What are some of your favorites, and what tricks do you use to make them faster and better?





Power Lunches: The Healthiest Ways to Brown-Bag

Whether you work in an office or work out of your home, you have three choices for lunch.

1. Eat out. This limits your food options to what’s available nearby, and can double or triple your meal choices.

2. Skip lunch. This is more common than you’d think, and sets you up for poor productivity and less-than-healthy panic snacking.

3. The brown bag. It’s less glamorous, but gives you complete control and leaves money in the bank.

Though it takes more effort, option three is the right choice for your physical and economic health … if you do it the right way. To make that happen, take a page from the pros and develop these five habits to beat the brown-bag blues.

1. Put Variety in Your Sandwiches

What says packed lunch more than a sandwich? It’s tidy, easy and a natural fit. Eat one with a side of fruit or veggie sticks and you have a well-balanced meal complete with whole grain bread. But don’t limit yourself to meat on bread. Mix it up with pita bread or wraps. Replace the cold cuts with egg salad and tuna fish. Try hummus instead of mayo. The variety isn’t just healthier, it keeps lunches fresh and exciting.

2. Overcook for Dinner

Lunch gets the short end of the busy schedule stick. Breakfast is easy, and dinner gets some time and attention, but lunch often remains an afterthought. The answer is easy: simply cook enough dinner to pack a serving for the following day. The nutrition and diet attention you gave the evening meal is just as valid for lunchtime. Besides, you can make your cold-pizza-eating colleagues jealous when you reheat that dinner treat.

3. Pack Three Snacks

More than one diet recommends dividing your daytime meals into three snack-sized chow sessions rather than a single lunch. You can set up your lunch to work with this by bringing along enough for all three, or packing three distinct and different mini-meals. If you do this, try packing each in a separate container to avoid the temptation to eat it all at once. This method is about spreading food intake over several hours.

4. Bottle the Water

Drinks are a lunchtime blind spot for many, especially with the easy access to sodas and other sugary drinks at most work-friendly food counters. If you pack your lunch without a drink, you’ll be apt to run down to the vending machines or corner store — and tempted to get the same sugar-rich beverage you would at a restaurant. Instead, invest in a reusable water bottle and use it during, before and after lunchtime.

5. Salads Are Your Friend

We’re not talking some iceberg chunks and shredded carrot like the side dish where you’d buy lunch if you didn’t know better. Instead, take pieces of what you had for dinner and mix them together, then add some shredded veggies and cheese for added flavor. A dinner of beans and whole grain rice gets mixed in with feta, raisins and bell pepper for a Mediterranean treat. Resist the temptation to drown it in dressing. After a week or so, you won’t miss it.

Comment contest! Post below your most successful healthy brown bag lunch ever! Comment on the comments to vote for the winner. Whoever gets the most comments may brag to all their friends until further comments end your reign. 





Protein Powders: What They Do and Don’t Do

One of the most widely used sports supplements by far is protein powder. Generally consisting of either dehydrated whey or casein, protein powder is featured in the routines of bodybuilders, runners and everyone in between. And while the research bears out the usefulness of protein powder in certain situations, it has also been promoted as being an effective weight loss aid.

Since so many people use protein powders in their workout regimens, it makes sense to consider what it truly can and cannot do for the athlete. Do protein powders improve athletic performance? Can they help you gain muscle mass? Do they really help you lose weight? How much do you really need to feel its effects?

What It Does

Proteins are made of amino acids, which are commonly referred to as the building blocks of life. In various forms, these proteins are vital to the composition of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. Protein is also used in building and repairing muscle fibers.

This is especially useful after your workout, when muscle fibers are damaged and left in need of repair. That reparation process is what causes muscles to grow.

Most people satisfy their protein needs through their diet, but if you find that you have difficulty fulfilling those requirements, protein powders can come in handy.

What It Doesn’t Do

Even though protein has such a direct, logical link with muscle, there is no evidence to prove that protein supplementation can actually improve performance. In fact a 2007 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that protein supplements did nothing to increase upper body strength, lean muscle mass or total anaerobic power in college athletes. There was a small improvement in lower body strength, but not enough to recommend protein powder for athletes.

The research is still inconclusive as to whether or not protein powders can actually increase lean muscle mass, though. It’s a difficult thing to prove or disprove, since everyone gains muscle differently.

One study did find that supplementation with whey protein, compared to soy protein, did encourage weight loss in obese individuals. The researchers give credit for this change to low levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin that was found in the whey group. It should be noted that the weight loss was only about two pounds over six months and that the entire mechanism at work here is not yet fully understood. More research is needed to really support the use of whey for weight loss.

The use of protein powders, whey or any other, really isn’t supported by science, despite this study. Most protein powders are high in calories, including calories from fat, so taking large amounts can actually lead to weight gain.

How Much You Need

As stated, most people get all the protein they need from a healthy diet. Still, teenagers who are growing rapidly, vegans, people recovering from sports injuries or those embarking on a new, more difficult workout plan, will all have increased protein requirements. Talk to your doctor to see if you could benefit from protein supplementation.

To calculate how much protein you need, you’ll first have to classify your activity level. Casual exercisers need about 0.5-0.7.5 grams of protein daily per pound of body weight. Competitive athletes need 0.6-0.9 grams per pound.

Again, there are dangers associated with protein supplementation, so discuss it with your doctor. Too much protein in your diet can cause digestive problems, heart disease and gout. Soy protein supplements have even been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers in men by decreasing testosterone levels.

Have you taken protein supplements? Please share your experience with us in the comments.







Still Strong: Helping a Young Boy Fight Cancer

Today, LIVESTRONG Day, shows how the LIVESTRONG Foundation and its partners, including Johnson Health Tech, are Still Strong: strong in our commitment to adapt and flourish, and strong in our commitment to help those affected by cancer. How is Johnson Health Tech Still Strong (#StillStrong)? Earlier this year we were contacted by a LIVESTRONG by Johnson customer, Theresa. Theresa is the mother of Joshua, a young man who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in 2011 when he was only 18 years old. After one doctor told Theresa he “could do the surgery, but…,” she sought a second opinion. They took an ambulance to a different hospital to meet with a different neurosurgeon and Joshua’s brain tumor was removed during a 7 ½ hour surgery. Although the surgery was successful, Theresa and Joshua spent the next year traveling 3 ½ hours each way to complete his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, sometimes five days a week. He completed chemotherapy in August 2012 and continues his path to recovery. Joshua also completed 14 months of occupational and physical therapy after his surgery. In order for him to continue to exercise, a vital component of his recovery, Theresa purchased a LIVESTRONG LS13.0T treadmill for Joshua to use at home since he still tires easily. Theresa quickly learned that the treadmill, as she purchased it, would not work for her son. Unfortunately, Joshua’s balance was severely affected by the cancer. He was unable to adjust his stride to walk on the treadmill without kicking the motor cover because the handlebars did not go back far enough for him to hold on while walking. Theresa wanted to know if we had longer handles to use on their treadmill. Frustrated, but hopeful, she sent an email to our Customer Technical Support Department requesting a solution that would enable her son to use the treadmill comfortably. “When I saw the note from Theresa, I just thought it was a great opportunity for us to use our skills to help someone directly,” said Bob Najduk, senior project manager – global retail. “The problem was unique because the frame wasn’t designed to work with medical handlebars.” Although Najduk was unsure it was possible to meet Theresa’s request, after passing some communication around, the product management team collaborated with the model shop to create custom medical handlebars to retrofit Theresa’s treadmill. “Rick Mobley and Noel Johnson took a look and found an incredibly smart solution that had never been thought of before,” said Najduk. “Rick spent time out of his day perfecting the design with such detail and focus that when I went back to see the final result I was truly speechless.”

livestrong_treadmill_handlebars2 (3)

Theresa’s story really hit home with Johnson Health Tech Model Shop Lead Rick Mobley. “I lost my nephew to cancer last year so I am very familiar with the toll that battling this disease takes,” he shares. “I felt that anything I could do to help someone else that is going through it would be time spent in the best possible way.” Joshua is thrilled and Theresa tells us the extensions make it much easier for him! Several weeks ago he had another MRI and all is still well. “…Wow I could not have expected how hard you all would have worked to help one person. I thought you might give me some suggestions but to have them build and ship a new design to us went way beyond my expectations!” said Theresa. livestrong_treadmill_handlebars (3) This story truly inspires our team to keep looking for ways we can make a difference in our customers’ lives. “We spend every day using our knowledge and skills to help people improve their fitness and this time it was extra special because we could help someone who needed more than most,” said Najduk. How are you Still Strong? Who are you Still Strong for? Tell us in the comments and share your story on our Facebook page using hashtag #StillStrong.

How to Talk to a Friend Who’s Sick

Anyone who’s dealt with a serious illness knows how it goes….you’ll bump into a friend you haven’t seen in a while who has heard about your situation and they’ll ask “How are you?”  Even if you answer “Fine,” they’ll  then lower their voices an octave and say, “No, how are you really?” Or you tell them you have breast cancer and they blurt out, “I had an aunt who died from breast cancer.” Not very helpful or uplifting!

Most people know someone who has been sick or has a chronic disease. But most have no idea how to talk to them about it. Some people simply ignore the issue, even going so far as to drop the friendship because they don’t know how to deal with it. Others ask “What can I do for you?”  But this means that the ill person has to come up with a way for you to help them. Better is to offer a tangible way to help from offering to pick up their child from school to getting them milk the next time you go shopping.

It’s a natural human reaction to feel awkward in the face of illness, but what you don’t want to do is make the sick person feel worse or demoralized by an insensitive comment or even ignored by no comment at all. So what’s the best way to talk to someone who is dealing with an illness, surgery or even facing their mortality?

Author Letty Cottin Pogrebin helps us through these common situations with her new book out this month, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick. The book is chock full of great advice to help you be a good buddy. Here are some of HER tips:

·         The main three things you ought to be able to say to someone who’s sick:

o   Tell me what’s helpful and what’s not.

o   Tell me if you want to be alone and when you want company.

o   Tell me what to bring and when to leave.

·         Show you care. That’s the key even if you don’t know what to say or do, be there for the person.

·         If you’re going to visit a sick person, first make sure they really want you to visit. Sometimes just dropping off their favorite food or writing a note telling them you are thinking of them may be enough. Don’t overstay during a visit because you think your friend wants company; actually ask and get them to tell you the truth. And don’t expect to be entertained.

·         Ask if they want to talk about their illness, and if they do, really listen without judging, interrupting or offering your solutions. “Advice,” she writes “can be dangerous, usolicited advice infuriating.”

·         Don’t tell horror stories and avoid self-referential comments or anecdotes. You probably don’t know “what it’s like” so don’t claim to. Even success stories can fall flat because every situation is different.

·         Avoid hackneyed platitudes, empty eloquence, and feel-good clichés.  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Chin up.” Those don’t help. More helpful  is to express empathy and availability: “I’m so sorry this happened to you.” “I’m here if you want to talk.” “I’m bringing dinner.”

Think before you speak, she advises. “What pops into your head should not necessarily plop out of your mouth.” And remember, everyone wants to matter and know they are thought of and loved especially if they are going through a hard time. You can never go wrong telling someone what they mean to you.  “Your job is simply to be their friend.”

Let us know if you’ve found words that have helped or something someone said to you or did for you when you were sick that was spot on.


·         How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, by Letty Cottin Pogrebin (PublicAffairs)

·         Help Me Live: 20 Things People With Cancer Want You to Know, by Lori Hope (Celestial Arts)

·         There are lots of free web-based care-giving coordination sites that allow family, friends, colleagues and neighbors  assist those in need by setting up a private community and calendar to organize visits, meals, rides and other tasks so life can run smoothly when someone is sick. Here are a few:

o   www.lotsahelpinghands.com

o   www.caringbridge.org

o   https://www.carepages.com/

Condiments Can Make or Break Your Diet

What would a burger be without ketchup? A sandwich without mayo? Or a baked potato without sour cream? It’s hard to imagine eating many foods without their condiment counterparts. But using high-calorie condiments may actually be sabotaging your healthy eating efforts.condiments - musturd and ketchup

Condiments and Your Waistline

Condiments kick dishes up a notch by adding flavor. But if you’re not careful, you may end up getting more than you bargained for. Many popular condiments are loaded with calories, fat, sodium and added sugar.

What’s more, even if you use “light” versions of your favorite spreads and dressings, you may not be doing yourself any favors. That’s because experts say when we see “less sodium,” “low-fat” or other nutritional claims on labels, we assume the food is healthy, and end up using more of it. One tablespoon of reduced fat mayonnaise comes in at approximately 5g of fat and 50 calories. Compared to one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise, with 11g of fat and 100 calories, it is healthier. The problem is that most of us don’t limit ourselves to one tablespoon.

Healthy Alternatives

To keep condiments from sabotaging your diet efforts, the key is to make healthy choices and be mindful of portion sizes. Try these substitutions:

·         Instead of using mayonnaise or sour cream for dips and spreads, opt for plain, low-fat Greek yogurt. The consistency is the same, but the Greek yogurt packs a protein punch, meaning your meal or snack will be more satisfying.

·         Dip your crudités and chips in hummus rather than ranch dressing. It’s lower in fat and higher in protein and fiber.

·         Make your own salad dressings instead of buying them. This way, you can control exactly what goes into them. Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a dollop of mustard and a spritz of water together for a healthy, homemade vinaigrette. If you must have the store brand, keep in mind that vinaigrettes are typically healthier than cream-based dressings and sauces.

·         Don’t double up. Do you like to dip your buffalo wings in bleu cheese dressing? Chances are the chicken wings are heavily coated with buffalo sauce. Either skip the dip or only garnish the wings with buffalo sauce. Choosing one or the other will help you cut calories.

Get Condiment Savvy

These condiments are almost always fat-free and generally low in calories. Just watch the sodium and sugar content:

·         Ketchup: This picnic staple is made using puréed, cooked tomatoes, spices and seasonings. Look for low-sodium and low-sugar versions.

·         Barbeque sauce: BBQ sauce is made from combining ketchup, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Steer clear of “brown sugar” or “honey” varieties to keep sugar in check.

·         Mustard: Yellow mustard just contains mustard seeds, vinegar and seasonings. On the other hand, honey mustard is usually packed with sugar and fat.

·         Salsa: Salsa is made using fresh veggies, fruit, herbs and/ or spices. It’s one of the lowest calorie condiments out there, coming it at just 5 calories per tablespoon. Use it as a dip, on a baked potato or as a marinade for fish or chicken.

·         Soy sauce: Soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans, roasted grains, water and a lot of salt. Choose low-sodium soy sauce and use it sparingly.

What’s your favorite condiment? I put hot sauce on everything!






Reasons to Watch Less TV

We all grew up hearing about how too much TV was bad for us. It was killing our braincells or destroying our eyesight or making us socially awkward. Despite all these warnings from our childhood, the average American still watches about 34 hours of TV every week,with another three to six spent watching recorded shows. And we’re still OK, right?

But new research is suggesting that watching all that TV really is bad for us after all.

One Australian study calculated that every hour of TV watching has the potential to chop 22 minutes off of your life. If you were to combine these findings with the amount of TV watched in America, you could reasonably estimate that each week Americans are losing 12 and a half hours off their lives.

Along with that, TV watching has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine even linked 20 hours spent in front of the TV with a sperm count that was decreased by half.

But let’s be honest. It’s not the TV doing these things to us. It’s what we do while spending all that time watching TV: Nothing.

The Problem

The real cause of all this trouble is the simple fact that when you’re watching TV, you’re sitting and doing nothing else. This sedentary lifestyle is really to blame for increased chronic health problems and shortened lifespan. These periods of inactivity mean that your muscles aren’t moving so they aren’t burning calories, therefore you have plenty of used calories that need to be stored. These calories get stored as fat.

Prolonged, habitual inactivity can actually program your metabolism to operate at a slower rate. This means that your body could get stuck in a fat-collecting rut, rather than using those calories more efficiently.

TV is also solidly linked with an increase in snacking, especially on calorie-rich junk food. Since your metabolism is already slowed down when you’re watching TV, chowing down on snack foods isn’t going to help the situation any.

The fact is that long periods of TV watching contribute to bad habits and break good ones. Physically and mentally, you’re better off doing chores around the house.

Breaking the Habit

Butthis is easier said than done. There’s a good reason TV watching is so prevalent: people need to relax. Just like everything else, though, this mode of relaxation is best enjoyed in moderation.

Instead of sitting down and flipping through the channels aimlessly, try having a plan for what show you want to watch. If your purpose is to watch that one program, you’re much less likely to spend hours on the couch.

If that’s still asking too much, try taking breaks during your TV marathons to get up and move around. Commercials are a built-in excuse for you to get moving, even for just a few minutes every so often. The point is to break up these long bouts of sitting and inject some activity throughout your day.

Or do something radical and consider NOT watching TV for an evening. What will you do instead? Cook a meal with your family or friends. Dance to music. Read a book. Have a conversation. Take a walk after dinner. You might find yourself energized and more upbeat, since you’ve been active and social instead of not. You might be surprised to find that the hours between getting home from work and going to bed seem longer once you cut TV out of the evening.

If you’re really feeling hardcore, consider getting rid of your TV altogether. What else could you do with that money you used to spend on the cable bill? Buy a bike? A gym membership? New running shoes?

Your waistline — and your wallet — would both thank you.

Do you have any tips for watching less TV? Please share them in the comments.






Remembering Keiko Fukuda

The world lost a living treasure in February when Keiko Fukuda died in her sleep at the age of 99. Ms. Fukuda was the last living student of Judo founder Jigoro Kano, a quiet activist for women’s rights and an inspiration to generations of athletes, male and female alike.

The “Women’s Division”

Fukuda joined judo’s “Women’s Division”  in 1934 at the invitation of Kano, who knew her mother when she was just 21 years old. She remained in Tokyo during the bombings of World War II, driving through the ruined city to teach lessons. After the war, she represented Judo on the world stage, including a demonstration at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games that led to Judo’s induction as an Olympic sport. When Kano asked several of his students to volunteer to learn English in order to bring Judo to the west, she alone took the challenge.

In 1966, she took her art to Mills College in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco. She taught Judo at the college and in her San Francisco school until her death this year.

Male Prerogative

Despite Kano’s progressive decision to create a women’s division for Judo, Japanese culture in the pre-war 20th century held women as second-class citizens. Neither Kano nor any other members of Judo leadership felt any woman needed rank above a 5th degree black belt. Sensei Fukuda remained at that rank for nearly 20 years, watching male students of hers surpass her rank due to the sexism inherent in Judo culture at the time.

One of her long-time students and friends was Shelley Fernandez, an influential member of the National Organization for Women. Starting in the early 1970s, Fernandez led a movement to get Fukuda promoted, a movement that included pressure from Yale University and the State of California.

Sacred Treasure

Fernandez’ work was fulfilled in 1972 when Sensei Fukuda was promoted to 6th degree black belt, making her the highest-ranked female Judo player in the world. In 2011, she became the first woman to receive the rank of 10th degree black belt in her art. Because of her example, and Fernandez’ advocacy, she will not be the last.

In 1990, the National Government of Japan awarded Sensei Fukuda the title of “Sacred Treasure.” Her life story has inspired many, including American Judo Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison and Bronze Medalist and UFC Champion Ronda Rousey. Even in her late 90s, “O-Sensei” (a title she earned with the rank of 10th degree) taught class three times a week and hosted both a women’s training camp and an annual tournament.

O-Sensei Fukuda is the subject of a documentary named after her life motto: Be Strong. Be Gentle. Be Beautiful. She voluntarily took on spreading Judo worldwide instead of taking a husband or having a family, but her influence lives on through Judo players and martial artists who would never have trained without her journey, and women who experienced greater opportunity because of her courage.