Archive for July, 2010

Spruce Up Your Exercise Routine: What to Get and What to Ditch for a Switch in Your Regimen

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Now is the perfect time to change up some of those old worn-out items and routines that you have been stuck with for so long in exchange for a spruced up exercise routine. Changing things up not only keeps them fresh for you (which in turn helps you stick to them) but also benefits your body.

This is a handy list of “what to ditch” to make the exercise switch:

Get rid of that cheap pedometer- Instead buy a good $20 one that counts accurate steps; cheaper pedometers are highly inaccurate.

Ditch the old running shoes-
Instead opt for a new pair and keep track of how much “mileage” you get out of them. Typically if you run/walk 10 miles per week then shoes can last for 12 months (15 miles – 8 months, 20 miles – 6 months, 30 miles – 4 months).

Throw out the old cotton workout t-shirt- Instead invest in some shirts that are made of wicking fabrics. Wicking fabrics (like synthetics) do a better job of keeping you drier and cooler when you are exercising.

Get an exercise ball- According to fitnessmagazine.com, exercise balls are good for developing balance and stability while making it easier to target specific trouble spots. It may be hard to not roll off at first, but once you get the hang of it there are a number of exercises that you can do on a fitness ball including pushups, squats and sit-ups.

Toss the lightweight dumbbells- Instead try heavier dumbbells that are more challenging in your workout. Making small changes and gradual increases in weight may not seem like a big deal but will make a difference in the effectiveness of your workouts.

Try a resistance band- Work out your chest, biceps, triceps, abs, and shoulders better by using resistance bands. With their varying levels of resistance and their extreme versatility, resistance bands are suited to most fitness programs and people of most ages. They add resistance and challenge to a normal fitness routine.

Great Summertime Fruits: Get Them While they Last!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Summer is a great season to partake in the numerous delicious seasonal fruits. Not only do these summertime fruits taste great, but they also give you many nutritional benefits. According to MSNBC, electrolytes and water are readily available in foods such as fresh fruits. Summer offers a wider selection of yummy and juicy fruits than any other season making it super easy to get your daily helping of fresh produce.

Some fruits to enjoy before the season ends include:

Berries- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries and more are high in fiber and vitamin C. In addition, the phytochemicals in blueberries, strawberries and blackberries all boost immunity, and protect against heart diseases and circulatory problems. Cherries are another summer ripe fruit that contain these wholesome nutrients as well.

Peaches and plums- Full of vitamin C and beta carotene, peaches and plums help to eliminate free radicals from the body. Purple and red plums also contain fiber and the skins contain anthocyanidins, potent antioxidant phytochemicals.

Papayas and mangoes-
Irresistibly mouth-watering summer fruits, both papayas and mangoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene and fiber. Papayas also contain potassium and folate. Folate prevents developmental defects in fetuses and supports cardiovascular health.

Figs- Summer is the season for fresh figs. Fresh or dried, sweet figs are one of the highest fruit sources of fiber, and they also contain significant amounts of minerals potassium (great for replenishing losses in sweat), calcium and iron.

Melons-
You can’t forget about ice-cold, refreshing watermelon! All the melons, including cantaloupe, casaba, and honeydew, are summer fruits. Cantaloupe with its peachy-orange flesh is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Juicy watermelon is a rich source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and a good source of lycopene. Lycopene, most popularized in tomato products, is an antioxidant carotenoid that has been shown to prevent prostate cancer.

There’s nothing quite as tasty or nutritious as beating the heat with the thirst-quenching and nutritious fruits of summer- make your summer a savory experience.

Quick Fitness Fixes: Easy Ways to Fit Fitness In

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Tired of feeling like the path to health and wellness is a long, drawn out path? Then start small! Use these quick five minute fixes to boost your health and to reach your goals one step at a time!

• Wear a pedometer to determine the distance you walk each day. Shoot for 10,000 steps per day. If you aren’t reaching that goal, add an extra mile to your routine or take the steps instead of the escalator whenever possible.

• Add jumping to your exercise routine – also known as plyometric moves – to build muscle and improve your bone density. Try jump squats or scissor lunges in your next routine.

• Spend the extra money to purchase good work out necessities – clothing, shoes, bras, supports, etc. Purchasing the better brands versus going the cheaper route will ensure that you use them and that they are the best for your workout.

Edgeboston.com says to break up your workouts into 10 minute spurts. Daily recommendation is at least 30 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise, but it doesn’t have to all be done at once. Any sort of physical activity counts as exercise, and little bits of it throughout the day really add up.

• Don’t be a creature of habit. Switch up your routines, walking routes, gym machines and even what days you do specific workouts. Change is good when it comes to exercise and fitness.

• Consider the other ways that you can lose weight without really trying – clean the house and burn 200 calories or work in the garden and burn 272 calories.

• Even if you have to travel or spend all day in a car or on a plane, still try to fit in physical activity. Take advantage of bathroom breaks by stretching and doing some light exercise. Walk briskly through the airport in between flights if traveling by plane.

• Use downtime- Readersdigest.com suggests that anytime you’re cooling your heels during the day-waiting to meet a companion at the mall or staring at the download bar- look for opportunities to take a short walk, do toe raises or perform some other physical movement.

• Yoga has many healthy benefits for your body and your mind. Even if you are a novice, take a class and try something different.

• Work out with your significant other or a friend or family member. This allows you to be a spotting partner for one another or just spend some quality time together working out.

Managing Stress by Choosing Stress-Fighting Foods

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

STRESS. We all deal with it at some point in our lives. But having too much stress in your life can be very harmful to your health and can make you more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and even heart disease.

Stress management is a valuable tool to learn when it comes to your overall wellness. While there are many ways to cope with stress, eating stress-fighting foods is one good way to start. From boosting serotonin levels to lowering stress hormones, there are a number of foods that actually counteract the impact of stress on our lives.
According to MSNBC, there are three nutrients that have the ability to soothe your nerves including Folic acid, a B vitamin that enhances mood; Vitamin B-12, which boosts your energy; antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E, and the mineral selenium, which help to repair damage to cells caused by stress.

The following foods should be part of your diet for stress management:

Complex Carbohydrates: All carbohydrates give a signal to the brain to produce that “feel good” chemical, serotonin. To keep a steady flow of serotonin, dieticians suggest complex carbs like whole grain cereals, breads and pastas and oatmeal.

Oranges: Because they are a wealth of vitamin C, studies show that oranges are great stress-busting foods, as well as a great immune system strengthener. Experts suggest taking 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C before a stressful event.

Spinach: It’s the magnesium in spinach that helps to regulate cortisol levels that particularly get depleted when we are in stressful situations. Not enough magnesium can trigger headaches, adding to stressful situations. One cup of spinach is the recommended amount, as the magnesium goes a long way. Can’t do spinach? Try cooked soy beans or salmon instead, for the same effects.

Fatty Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are important to prevent surges in stress hormones, as well as protect against heart disease. Try fatty fish like salmon or tuna for your Omega-3’s.

Black Tea: Good for lowering levels of cortisol following stressful events, many experts swear by the healing powers of black tea. Black tea helps you to recover quickly following stresses and helps you to remain calm.

Pistachios:
Chosen for their ability to soften the pre- and post-effects of stress, experts suggest eating a handful of pistachios every day to help lower blood pressure so it won’t spike when faced with stressful situations.

Avocados: Another great high blood pressure reducing food is avocados, due to their potassium content. Half of an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Additionally, avocados, in guacamole form, are a great and nutritious treat when stress has you craving snack foods.

Almonds: Chock full of vitamins, like vitamin E and a range of B vitamins, almonds are a great treat to eat that help with resiliency when dealing with stress.

Raw Vegetables: In a purely mechanical way, crunching on raw vegetables can help to alleviate stress. By releasing your clenched jaw and possibly warding off headaches, chomping your carrots, celery and other veggies is beneficial on many levels.

Need a Good Night’s Sleep? Try These Bedtime Snacks

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

A good night’s rest is good for your overall well-being and is also helpful in keeping a youthful appearance and will make you feel younger too. So which foods should you snack on if you’re finding it hard to get to sleep and counting sheep just isn’t working?

According MSNBC.com, among the best natural sedatives is tryptophan. One of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter best known for creating feelings of calm, and for making you sleepy.

Experts suggest the following snacks to induce “feel-good relaxation chemicals” thereby calming your nerves and slowing your brain towards relaxation:

• Non fat popcorn
• Oatmeal with sliced bananas
• One cup of plain yogurt with mixed nuts or granola
• Sesame seeds
• Pretzels
• Low fat vanilla pudding
• Grapes
• Healthy cereal with skim milk
• Low-fat granola bar

It’s also suggested that bedtime snacks not exceed more than 200 calories

So next time you’re tossing and turning opt for any of the snacks above to achieve a peaceful night’s sleep that you need and deserve. Good night!

Tips and Tricks for How to Deal with Summer Bummers

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Now that summer is upon us again, it’s time to get out and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer. But unfortunately, there are plenty of “summer bummers” – those things that we find in nature that try to ruin our good time. Keep these in mind the next time you are outdoors and your summer can be bummer-free!

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Sumac: Coming in contact with the sap from a poison ivy, oak or sumac plant can cause a pretty nasty rash. Symptoms start as redness and swelling at the infected site, and then progresses to a strong itching feeling. Over-the-counter medicines will help alleviate the pain and all symptoms should be gone in a week or two.

Heat Rash: Also referred to as prickly heat, is a red or pink rash usually found on body areas covered by clothing. According to health.msn.com, heat rash can develop when the sweat ducts become blocked and swell and often leads to discomfort and itching. Children are most commonly affected by heat rash resulting in small pinkish pimples on the skin. Most of the rashes heal on their own, but to alleviate the symptoms take a cool bath, air dry and avoid using lotions on the affected area.

Mosquito Bites: Mosquitoes may be one of the most annoying bugs around. The blood-suckers bite and can leave some major itching in its aftermath. To protect yourself against these annoying little bugs, wear bug spray when you are outdoors for an extended period of time, use screens in your windows and doors, and don’t let water sit stagnant in your yard, as this becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes to lay their eggs.

Flip Flops: Despite being fashionable, flip-flops do very little for you in the way of summertime protection. Flip-flops can lead to stubbed toes, cuts, abrasions, having a large object dropped on your foot, and insect or snake bites. If you plan on being outdoors a lot this summer, you should maybe opt for a closed toe shoe instead of your flip-flops. (Not to mention there is NO arch support in your fashionable flip-flops!)

Bee Stings: While most reactions to bee stings are mild, there are a number of people who are severely allergic to bee stings. For those who develop a swollen tongue, feel like their throat is tightening up or are having breathing problems, they need to get to the ER immediately. Mild reactions include swelling, redness, and itchiness, while severe reactions can result in death. According to MSNBC.com, if you don’t have a severe reaction, apply ice or cold running water directly to the sting. Remove the stinger if it’s still in the skin by brushing the skin with a credit card or using tweezers. To take the pain away, apply hydrocortisone cream or a paste made of baking soda and water.

Fireworks Burns: Burns due to handling fireworks is one of the number one reasons why people end up in the emergency room during the summertime. Most injuries involve the hands, arms, eyes and ears, with most of these injuries being burns. Minor burns can be treated at home by running cool water over the burn and then put a cool, dry cloth on them. More severe burns will need to be treated by a doctor.

Sunburn: Prolonged exposure to the sun and its harmful UV rays can cause pain and redness on the skin commonly known as sunburn. Sunburn can happen within hours of sun exposure and can last for weeks depending on the grade of the burn. Over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, aloe or moisturizing creams can all alleviate the pain and stinging associated with sunburn. Burns that are expressed through blisters need to be treated by a medical professional.

Eat your Leafy Greens! The Health Benefits of Spinach

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Ever since we saw Popeye take out that can of spinach to make himself super strong, we have known about the nutritional benefits of spinach. But there are plenty of other benefits of spinach that maybe even Popeye was not aware of.

Leafy, green vegetables, like spinach, provide more nutrients than any other food. Researchers have found at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that have been known to act as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents.

According to MSNBC, spinach protects against eye disease and vision loss and is also good for brain function. It guards against colon, prostate, and breast cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, and dementia. It lowers blood pressure; is an anti-inflammatory; and is great for bone health.

Spinach has an amazing array of nutrients, including high amounts of vitamin K, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and iron. In addition, a carotenoid found in spinach not only kills prostate cancer cells, it also prevents them from multiplying. Folate promotes vascular health and has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers and to help stop uncontrolled cell growth, one of the primary characteristics of all cancers.

The vitamin C and beta-carotene in spinach protect against colon cancer in addition to fighting inflammation, making them key components of brain health, particularly in older adults. Spinach is loaded with vitamin K and is also rich in lutein, which protects against age-related macular degeneration, and it may help prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol buildup.

With this laundry list of health benefits, it’s no wonder why fresh spinach should be a daily staple in your diet. It’s easy to find year-round so do yourself a healthy favor and aim for a few ounces, raw or steamed, every day. Cooked spinach is a great source of iron, and is totally fat free.

So maybe Popeye was really onto something…

Making the Most of your Summer: Why Not Give These Outdoor Activities a Whirl?

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Walking, swimming, and playing outdoor sports are all great ways to get your daily amount of exercise, but why not try some new outdoor activities this summer? According to MSNBC, recreational pursuits such as biking, hiking and inline skating allow you to reap up to six times more fat-blasting and body-shaping benefits that cruising around the neighborhood on foot.

Mix up your routine by trying one or more of the following exhilarating activities and enjoy the weather while it lasts while achieving a firmer and fitter body by September.

• Rock climbing: Although this sport requires the assistance of a professional, most people do not realize the amount of physical strength it takes to participate in rock climbing. Find an experienced rock climber in your area, and give it a shot. Before you know it, you’ll get the “hang” of it and will wonder why it took you this long to try it out.

• Inline skating: Not only does inline skating getting you around more quickly it is also a fun and different way to sculpt your buns and thighs without pounding your knees. Skating is much less jarring than other high-intensity sports like jogging. It’s also a way to relax and empty your mind while burning nearly 800 calories an hour. Try practicing in your driveway or an empty parking lot to start out with. You may also want to check out your local inline skating resource center for route ideas and trails.

• Water skiing: While water skiing is a sport that you may need to work up to, there is no time like the present to give it a try. Water skiing is a fun water sport, where you use a wide variety of muscles to participate in it and therefore it is a great summertime sport for someone looking for something new to try out.

• Snorkeling: If you are heading to the beach or if you live at the beach, pick up a mask and snorkel and get ready for a good time and a great exercise. Not only will you see some pretty amazing things below the water’s surface, but you will also be getting a great aerobic workout without even realizing it.

• Kayaking: For those of you who live by bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, or oceans, kayaking is a challenging yet peaceful way to experience the earth and get a good workout as well. Kayaking can burn up to 340 calories per hour and helps to sculpt your upper body by the resistance created by pulling the paddle against the water. It also works your shoulders, triceps, biceps, back and core. Beginners should use an open kayak and take a lesson or two to learn how to escape from the kayak before taking it to open waters. While kayaking make sure to take a break and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

• Yoga and Pilates:
Not all summertime sports have to be extreme summertime sports. Instead, buy a book or take a class on yoga and/or pilates and get started on your own path to holistic healing and exercise. Yoga and pilates can be done in the comforts of your home or your gym, but it can also be done outdoors where nature itself will serve as your calming background.

• Yard sports: Not all outdoor exercises or sports have to be organized. Shooting hoops with your family, friends or neighbors is a great way to get your exercise outdoors. Play a game of wiffleball or baseball with the neighborhood. Pick up a tennis racket and hit the local courts. Any outdoor sport that keeps your heart rate up and keeps you moving, is a great way to get your work out in.

So, whether you decide to take up a new hobby like water skiing or rock climbing, or if you and the local neighborhood kids have a pick-up game of wiffleball or kick ball, there are plenty of ways to get your exercise in and still enjoy your summer.

Remember to drink lots of water and keep hydrated in whatever outdoor exercise you take part in and have a good time outdoors!