Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Painful Christmas gadgets under the tree?

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Nobody wants to give pain for Christmas (well, unless you're the Grinch) but researchers and doctors say that that's exactly what might be sitting under the Christmas tree, this year more than others. High-tech games and fancy gadgets are more popular now than ever, but with them comes the risk of sore thumbs, inflamed elbows, stiff shoulders...and the list goes on.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) used to be fairly uncommon, affecting only people who had reason to perform the same movements over and over -- such as heavy computer users and jackhammer operators. But now that electronics are so popular, and getting smaller and smaller everyday, RSI's are making a much bigger appearance in the mainstream population. Some popular gifts, like the Nintendo Wii, now come with health warnings suggesting users take frequent breaks and pay attention to their posture while playing.

Good news is that RSI's are easy to avoid -- simply pay attention to your body and take a break if you start to feel tense or strained. Moderation (yep, that one again!), stretching, and proper posture are the keys for keeping those gadgets fun, and not painful!

The best snacks for someone on a GI diet

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The Glycemic Index diet is one of the more popular weight-loss solutions out there, and luckily for people on it, there are lots of resources out there for people following the plan. For instance, ediets has come up with this handy list of snacks that are GI Diet-friendly, not to mention delicious sounding. Whole wheat mini pizzas? Yum! Other treats that made the list? Popcorn with just a touch of olive oil and parmesan, smoothies, fruit, cheese (preferably the low-fat variety), nuts and a variety of yummy dips like guacamole and hummus. I don't know about you but my mouth is watering.

What's your favourite GI or low-carb snack?

Reader response: The 10 most popular health & diet stories on MSN

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The news is full of stories about the top 10 health stories of 2006. But the health folks at MSN have done something a bit different: they've compiled a list of 2006's most popular stories on their website, based on reader response. Stories on crazy cures and home remedies were popular. Inflammatory Breast cancer also raised concerns, as did the impact of soda on our waistlines.

Food was a hot topic in 2006, and two of the most popular stories were on what kinds of foods were best for you. Fat made the shortlist too, with 2 articles on what makes and keeps us fat. Fitness, or crunches specifically, made news. And bizarre medical mysteries rounded out the list.

What was your favourite Health/Fitness/Diet story of 2006?

Heart health during the holiday season

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Take time off work, this holiday season. Take time off from the rush of everyday life, too. But remember to take care of yourself, because your heart doesn't take a holiday.

ER physicians see a peak of heart arrhythmias during the holiday season. Otherwise healthy patients come in complaining of heart palpitations and feeling light headed -- symptoms sometimes caused by drinking too much alcohol. The condition usually resolves in 24 hours, but heart-slowing medication is occasionally required.

Other tips this season to keep your heart healthy include staying away from salt and saturated fats, exercising 30 minutes per day, and learning how to cope with holiday stress. Finally, get some rest and relaxation with family and friends. That last one sounds good to me!

The right way to breathe

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In just a few days more people will be starting new fitness plans than at any other time of year. Some will be seasoned athletes simply renewing their focus, and many will people starting up for the first time in a long time. For everybody, but for those newbies particularly, making sure you breathe correctly when working out will make a big difference in how healthy and effective your New Year's workout plan will be.

Start out by relaxing and taking a few deep breaths. Cough if you need to clear your throat, and breathe slowly. A good rule of thumb is to count while you breathe -- breathe in for two seconds and breathe out for four seconds. And if you feel out of breath at any point, slow down the pace to a comfortable level.

Better hand-eye co-ordination with fish oil

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Fish oil is apparently made of magic. It can help with menstrual cramps, combat depression, and now, according to a recent study, may help with toddler's eye-hand co-ordination.

98 pregnant women in Perth, Australia were given either 4g of fish oil, or 4g of oil olive from 20 weeks until birth. At age 2 1/2, their children were tested, and the fish oil group scored slightly higher on understanding, comprehension, average phrase length and vocabulary. The same group scored far higher on eye-hand co-ordination.

No word on yet on why fish oil might be linked to eye-hand co-ordination, and, according to this study's authors, "Further studies are needed to determine the significance of this finding."

What would it take to burn off those holiday calories?

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Next time you're considering whether to have a slice, or seconds, of Aunt Mary's pecan pie, consider this: To burn off the excess calories consumed by eating a small slice, you would have to run for an hour and 11 minutes, bike for 54 minutes or do yoga for 2 hours and 51 minutes. That's a lot of sweating, and I suspect not many people workout that much on a regular basis.

A candy cane, on the other hand, requires only 19 minutes of yoga to burn off. That fruitcake? 55 minutes of dancing should eliminate those calories. A cracker with a slice of cheese can by burned off with 8 minutes of biking, so if you consume 5 of those, you'll need to spend 40 minutes peddling it off. A serving of honey glazed ham translates into 26 minutes of swimming.

Are they worth it?

Can hypnosis cure back pain?

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A host of recent clinical trials show that those with chronic low back pain have less problems after psychological interventions like hypnosis, relaxation or biofeedback.

"The largest and most consistent effect was a reduction in pain intensity," Dr. Robert D. Kerns, who led the analysis, told Reuters Health. "This is good news for persons with pain and for providers who struggle to find effective and sustained approaches for reducing unnecessary pain and suffering of the lower back."

Generally the purpose of psychological therapy is to help patients learn to leave with the pain. The fact that such treatment actually reduces pain comes as quite a surprise.

Low back pain is a significant problem in the United States, affecting 15 to 45% of adults annually and at least 70% of adults over their lifetime.

Christmas compounds mental health problems

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For most people, the holidays are a festive, joyful time of year. But for those with mental health problems, the stresses of the season can be too much to bare.

Increased depression and anxiety, arriving at a time of year when friends leave to be with families, and health clinics are less accessible due to holidays schedules, lead to increased January admissions at psychiatric hospitals and a higher suicide rate.

According to Dr Mike Isaac, a psychiatrist based in London, "I think that part of the problem with Christmas is that there is nothing they can do about it. Christmas is just there."

Those who need help this time of year can call 800-784-2433 in the US, and 08457 90 90 90 in the UK.

How does Stallone look so bad ass at 60?

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Sylvester Stallone is 60 years-old, yet in the latest Rocky movie, he whips off his shirt and manages to look like a legitimate heavy-weight boxer. How did he do it?

Work. And carbs. Stallone was in the gym five days a week, and boxing six days a week -- up to four hours daily. He ate "a lot of pasta. [And] a lot of protein drinks, a lot of supplements."

Sounds pretty rough, but, judging by the film's success, it seems like Stallone created the right look for his iconic Rocky character's big comeback.

However, you should know that this is not a healthy way to bulk up. In fact, Stallone adds at the end of his interview: "Do not try this at home or anywhere!"

Best fitness tips of all time

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There's a multitude of fitness and weight loss info out there, but how do you sort through it and figure out what the best tips are? WebMD has the solution -- they've compiled a list of what they believe are the best holiday (and year round, I think) tips for losing weight are. They're mostly simple, easy-to-follow tips, like wearing snug clothing to keep from overeating to incorporating activity into your family time to laying off all the fatty additives that may sneak their way into your holiday meals. The article encourages people to do ea sy things like chew gum become a food snob.

Each of the tips sound like something I could easily incorporate into my lifestyle. What about you? What are you doing to shed the pounds?

Keeping the pounds off for good: 5 strategies

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You've done it. You've worked hard and after what seems like eons of eating well and spending countless hours at the gym, you've reached that goal weight and you've never felt better in your life. So how are you going to reward yourself? By treating yourself to a couple of bacon double cheeseburgers with a large shake and half your body weight in fries? I don't think so. Losing the weight is half the battle -- keeping it off is as challenging as shedding the pounds. You're tempted to revert back to your old habits and enjoy those bad foods again, but guess what? That's what got you here in the first place.

If you've taken off the weight. check this out for tips on how to keep it off. The bad news is that you'll still have to work out, and you'll still have to watch what you eat. But you're doing yourself a great favor by changing your old habits to healthy ones, and I guarantee that your healthy choices today will make all the difference a few years from now.

If you've lost the weight and kept it off, please feel free to add you're two bits and let us know what helped you keep the pounds off.

Get yourself a great butt with these easy workouts

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A friend of a friend recently confessed that she thought I had a nice butt. I was overjoyed but also shocked. I've received my share of compliments in my time, but that's one I have never heard. Maybe those hours on the elliptical trainer really are paying off! But I'm still not convinced that my backside is comparable to J.Lo's.

I suspect I'm not alone in my dissatisfaction with my derriere. Many people want a more shapely backside and the good news is, it's totally achievable with these simple exercises. Squats, lunges, bridge pose -- these are all exercises that you can do at in your spare time, either at the gym or at home, that will sculpt your rear and make you want to get out there and strut your stuff in your best pair of jeans.

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get motivated

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I'll be totally honest -- if there's ever a good day to procrastinate on your fitness plan and "start tomorrow" I think today, Christmas Day, is the perfect day for that. But even if you plan on starting the physical exercise tomorrow, there's no reason you can't start getting motivated today. Motivation is key, it's paramount, to your success. And the more thoroughly you motivate yourself the easier it will be to stick to your plan once you get it going.

Here are some ideas taken from a survey of experts to amateurs, so one or a few of these might work for you:

  • Use stickers on a calendar to track your workouts, or tape your goals up on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator. The idea is to keep a visual reinforcement of what you promised yourself.
  • Join a club, any club, even one you might not normally think of yourself fitting into. It definitely won't be boring, you'll meet new people, and have others counting on you to be there.
  • Make a commitment to a goal. Pick an event, like a 5k run or a weekend biking getaway. Once you make reservations, or pay deposits and entry fees, you'll be invested (literally!).
  • Dance! Music is a great motivator in and of itself. If you're not in the mood to workout, the right tune can change your mind and get you moving in no time.
  • Reward yourself with luxury. Try putting a dollar in a jar every time you go to the gym or get outside for that jog. At the end of the month go get your nails done, have a massage, or buy whatever pampering you don't get on a regular basis.

So today I am not going to worry about what I'm eating, or whether or not I worked out. I am giving myself permission to procrastinate! But I am going to think about what I'm gonna do tomorrow (and by tomorrow I don't mean next week or next month!) and I'm going to renew my focus and motivation to make sure I get off to a good start. Looking over this list of motivators, I think the whole "stickers on the calendar" thing works the best for me. It's addictive somehow, sticking little stickers on day after day -- it almost gets hard to take a day off my workout just because I want that fun little row of designs to go on uninterrupted! ...anyway...

Happy Holidays!

Still looking for that last-minute gift? Try a fitness journal

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Ok, so it's Christmas morning. If you still haven't purchased all of your gifts, than what you really need is a planner, but just in case you have time for a quick pit stop on the way to your relatives' house, you might consider getting yourself a present that the whole family will appreciate: a fitness journal.

Fitness journals make it easier to form new eating and exercise habits, and a healthier parent or spouse is a present with far greater value than sweaters, sweets, or that new Wii you scored from Wal-mart.

A fit parent causes his or her family less worry, less financial strain from lifestyle-related illnesses, and is a better role model for the kids. Sounds like for $15.99, this might just be the perfect Christmas present, last-minute and all.

Surprising holiday foods that are good for you

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It seems like this time of year most of the focus is on what not to eat, and how unhealthy all the tempting goodies surrounding us on the holiday table are. But although all foods can be bad for you if you eat too much, many of the foods that sometimes get a bad wrap are not actually all bad. Mashed potatoes, for instance, are full of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Egg nog has calcium and protein, and "figgy pudding" has loads of nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and niacin.

See this article for 7 holiday foods and how they can be good for you. It's Christmas! You're gonna indulge, at least a little, so ya might as well feel better about it.

Fit Links: Making healthy New Year's resolutions

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2007 is only six days away. What will your New Year's resolution be?

The most common New Year's resolutions are related to eating healthier, exercising more, and losing weight. The Families.com fitness blog is a great place for fitness news, products, and motivation.

How about resolving to improve your look without sacrificing your health? Check out thebeautybrains.com for real scientists answering your beauty product questions.

Another great New Year's resolution is to take better care of the environment. After all, keeping the earth healthy makes it easier to keep ourselves healthy! Keep up to date with the latest green n ews and products at Treehugger.

When it comes to making a New Year's resolution, remember to set realistic goals and set up checkpoints for yourself throughout the coming year to reduce the chances of forgetting about that resolution after January passes. Good luck!
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Daily Fit Tip: Listen to your biorhythms

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A recent article from psychologytoday.com concludes that if people would just pay attention to the natural rhythms of their bodies they would perform better and feel better. The article centered on biorhythms, human beings' innate system that corresponds to the cycles of day and night. The results of many biorhythm studies indicate that we perform best when our internal cycles are aligned with external cycles such as light and darkness.

For example, sleep is one activity in which we engage that should be governed biorhythms. When we don't get enough of it, we are unable to function and perform properly. It has been suggested that not getting enough sleep can also affect our mood, and lead to depression.

Most of us think we get enough sleep, but do we really? Even those of us who do may not approach sleep in the best way. Rarely do we go to bed when we're tired or get up when the morning light naturally wakes us. More often than not, it's sitting through one more inning of baseball and hitting the alarm four times while making sacrifices like skipping a shower or breakfast in order to get a few more winks, the alarm screaming at us to get up and get on with it already.

So how much sleep is enough? The old recommendation used to be 8 hours. Later that was amended to at least 8 hours and more if possible. Try telling that to anyone living in a major city like New York, where action is to be found 24 hours a day, or, as the article points out, anyone with internet access.

Now it seems the ideal number of hours of sleep is different for every person, depending on an individual's specific set of biorhythms. A quick check on the internet, which I can assure you has undermined my attempts to keep on a healthy sleep schedule, turned up little in the ways of mastering my personal biorhythms other than offering some new-agey techniques better suited to an article on my sun sign.

There are some things we can do to better align our habits with our biorhythms. According to Dr. Roseanne Armitage, who was interviewed for the article, our bodies operate on smaller cycles throughout a given day as well, known as ultradian rhythms. Humans operate best in 90-minute cycles, and should take a break every 90 minutes or so to reboot and refresh.

Regarding sleep, while 8 hours may not be enough for you, you can determine what the right amount is. Although it may seem like a luxury, try going to bed when you feel tired and let that hour be your guide for hitting the sack the rest of the week. Wake without the aid of an alarm and note the time as well. This should give you an approximate determination of how much sleep you need and begin to clarify your body's natural rhythms.

Pilates may help Parkinson's patients

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There seems to be a growing number of people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease finding some relief from symptoms by doing Pilates. Parkinson's affects a person's ability to control movement, and so Pilates' focus on precise motions seems tailor-made to helping the body deal with the degenerative disorder and prolong the severity of symptoms.

Although no formal research or studies have been done to determine the official affect Pilates may or may not have for Parkinson's patients, there is some evidence that exercise in and of itself has benefits. It could be that exercise helps ensure your body is in its strongest and healthiest state to best deal with disease, or possibly just that working out boosts confidence and positive morale. But either way, if you or someone you know has a Parkinson's diagnosis, talking with your doctor and looking into a local Pilates class might be a good idea.

Jogging for Normal People: Runner's Low

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The last thing I want to be, during this, the week of holiday cheer, is a downer. I'd like to bring you a tale of hope, of triumph, of finding an inner strength and stridently surpassing my previous jogging milestones. But that'd be a big. Fat. Lie.

So, instead, deep in the heart of this season of guilt, let me shout in desperation -- my voice filled with vitriolic disdain for all things fitness! I am a crappy runner!

It's been three weeks -- which, I know, isn't enough time to see "real progress" -- but if I hadn't stupidly committed myself to writing a weekly column for this fitness blog, I'd have given up, thrown in the towel, taken my place in running's proverbial loser's circle like the stumbling, wheezing, pathetically out of shape has-been that I am. Woe is me!

My shins hurt. So I take a day off. Then my knees hurt, so I take another day off. Never mind that the last time I was physically active I could run up and down a basketball court for hours, barely breaking a sweat. But now, when I'm finally able to move like a normal person -- unabated by embarrassing physical ailments -- the insufferable breathing problems I had my first few times out have returned with such a startling vengeance that I routinely feel like my chest is imploding.

After each run, it's now become customary for me to lie on my kitchen floor, gasping for breath, cursing this ridiculous endeavor to my poor, unsuspecting girlfriend. And while it's great that she's so understanding, these moments of acute physical distress, when witnessed by loved ones, are even more emasculating than they would've been had I just experienced them alone. Dropping the f-bomb in an empty house feels far more manly than whispering "I'm really having trouble breathing" in response to kind, sweet, soothing affirmations: "honey, it's ok, I just know you can do it."

But, in spite of my childish tirades, you'll notice I haven't quit. Hell no! Instead, like Rocky, clopping up the final few steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I will conquer my flab! I will laugh in the face of that mocking sidewalk, defying it's meek-ass assertions that I can go no further! So join me, joggers of the universe! Join me as we take back our chubby bubble-guts from their insidious, slothful creators!

We. Will. Overcome!

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