Monday, 1 January 2007

How to keep your New Year's resolutions

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If you're like most people, you'll probably be ringing in ringing in the New Year with at least one resolution. This year, I've joined many Americans in making what is by far the most popular resolution: to lose weight. I've taken up jogging to give myself a head start, but a fair number of you may have plans to hit the gym or start your diet after the final chime of 2006. This is a great way to kick off your 2007, but make sure you're doing it right.

For starters, don't overdo the exercise. If you push too hard and injure yourself, it'll be much easier to quit. The same applies to dieting -- moderation is key. You don't want to feel like you're depriving yourself of anything, and nutrition -- especially with increased physical activity -- is very important. When you are exercising, start by doing 30-45 minutes of anything that keeps your heart rate up. Then focus on the largest muscle groups -- namely, your chest and your back.

Above all, stick with it. Resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep, and the first few months of a new exercise routine can be rough. But feeling healthy, stronger and more alert will make for a great 2007 and beyond.

Easy tips for avoiding eye strain

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If you're reading this, you're at your computer and your eye muscles are busy flexing and focusing on the screen. Computers, technology, and the online environment have really opened up our world, but working long hours at your computer can tax your eyes. Imagine standing on one foot for several hours at at time -- wouldn't you get tired? When you don't give your eyes a break, they get tired too. Fortunately, this article outlines seven easy tips to take care of your eyes during your work day.

As the article points out, 60 to 90% of computer users suffer from some sort of eye strain. You can do a lot to alleviate that strain by following their first step -- give your eyes a break. Give your eyes a quick stretch by looking out a window or down a hallway, focusing on something far away. Interestingly, the article says that looking into a mirror has the same effect, a great tip for cubicle users!

Other tips include getting up once an hour for a quick walk and glass of water, eye-friendly posture and monitor positioning, and easily enough, blinking more often to moisten eyes. I spend several hours working at the computer each week and am going to start using these tips today!

Young smokers often quit cold turkey, or try at least

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According to the current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (that sounds like a fun read!) young smokers, those between the ages of 16 and 24 years old, who want to quit smoking usually try it cold turkey instead of using other more effective and recommended methods.

Young smokers have always had a higher failure rate when it comes to quitting the habit, and the CDC now thinks this information could explain why. Of the several recommended ways to quit smoking, only one -- talking with a health professional -- was used by at least 20% of young people. There were also some interesting differences between how men and women approached the quitting issue, but of greatest concern to the CDC was the fairly significant number (36%) of smokers who tried switching to light cigarettes or other tobacco products as a way of cutting down because it doesn't really help, so much as undermine, efforts to quit completely.

Trying to quit yourself? The CDC recommends calling 1-800-QUIT NOW or speaking with a health professional to get a good plan that will work for you.

Government uses internet to teach people how to read food labels...sort of

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Not everyone looks at nutrition labels, but expert consensus is: you should.

That's why the Food and Drug Administration has launched two websites to help people better understand nutrition labels. One site, Making Calories Count, takes the user through exercises to help plan a healthful diet while managing calorie intake.

This is a great idea, but the implementation is awful. The site's design is not only a visual abomination, but it's so difficult to navigate that it's more work to figure out how to use the "Training Modules" than it was to understand the nutrition labels in the first place.

But maybe I'm just dumb. Did you visit the site? What did you think?

USDA Publications Inadequate

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The United States Department of Agriculture releases a series of pamphlets to poor people, detailing how they can get enough to eat, boost their nutrition, and apply for food stamps. A recent study found that these booklets are poorly written, aren't aimed at their target audience, and don't reach 40% of those who need them.

In 2004, 38 million people, including 13.9 million children, couldn't afford nutritionally balanced meals -- often because they either cut portion sizes, or simply weren't able to eat three meals a day. The ineffectiveness of these USDA pamphlets is an additional burden to escaping the food insecurity felt by those only tight budgets.

The study, conducted by the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, will be released in the January/February issue of the "American Journal of Health Promotion."

Music to my ears: great tunes for great workouts

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I've got my eye on running a 5K this spring, and tomorrow (cliche or not, it is January 1st after all) I'm going to put my running shoes back on. Today I've been spending some time surfing the net looking for music to jog to and came across jogTunes. I tend to put the same music on my mp3 player, often because the songs mean something to me, but also because I don't have time to look for new music with the right tempo.

JogTunes takes all the work out of creating a playlist. Organized by the traditional tune, artist, and genre, the songs are also defined by beats per minute so you can create a list at exactly the tempo you want for your personal workout. This is important to me, because I'm constantly getting into a fast paced walk or steady jog and then a slower song comes on and it throws my stride. They also link directly to iTunes, a popular source for online music. You can surf and see what other people are listening to or look at prepackaged playlists as well.

Music keeps my workouts longer, faster, and more intense. If you like to exercise to music -- whether you walk, jog, dance, ski, or lift weights -- I suggest playing around on this site a little for some inspiration. I have a new playlist ready to go for my first day of training tomorrow!

While we're on the subject, what songs do you like to listen to while working out?

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Focus on high fiber cereal

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In a new study, funded by Kraft Foods, Inc., researchers suggest that eating high-fiber cereal helps dieters both lose weight and supplement important nutrients. The study followed 180 over-weight people for six months, and found that the group that included high-fiber whole grain cereal in their diet lost more weight and had higher intakes of fiber, magnesium, and the vitamin B-6 than the group that did not eat cereal. This is significant information, because quite often when dieters cut calories they also cut the quality of their nutrition, and these findings may o ffer a way to combat that effect.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Focus on high fiber cereal

Housework reduces risk of breast cancer

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A new study of more than 200,000 women suggests that doing household chores like dusting, mopping and vacuuming was significantly more cancer protective than playings sports, or having a physical job.

While it's long been known that physical exercise lowers the risk of breast cancer -- most likely due to the resultant hormonal and metabolic changes -- housework is the only physical activity that's been shown to have positive effects on both pre- and post-menopausal woman.

This isn't to say that there's something inherently cancer protective about the act of mopping itself, but rather that moderate physical activity, like housework, may be more effective in reducing a woman's risk of breast cancer than more rigorous, but less frequent exercise.

Doctor's lose patience with googling patients

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What do you do when you have a new health issue and your doctor's appointment is a week away? If you're like many, you head to the nearest search engine and plug in a description. Patients are increasingly using the Internet to try and self-diagnose themselves or bring information to their doctor.

And what do doctors think of this trend? A recent study found physicians used words like "nightmare" and "irritating" when describing this kind of patient. They expressed frustration that patients were testing them or simply gathering piles of misinformation, and complained that the practice increased their workload or led to an atmosphere of distrust. To help patients find reliable information, the Medical Library Association made a list of the 10 most useful websites.

I can see both sides of this issue. On one hand, anyone can put information (or misinformation, for that matter) on the net. On the other, I think taking an active role in your own health care is important. I think it's important to find a good doctor who will truly listen, be your own advocate, and then let your doctor do their job. What do you think?