Thursday, 11 January 2007

Australians among the longest living and the shortest

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Recent numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows two very different bits of news: on one hand certain parts of the Australian population are among the longest living in the world, while other populations are among the shortest.

The nations capital, Canberra, boasts the longest life spans -- with women living an average of 84 years and men 79.9 years. But the indigenous Australians don't fair so well, with the average dropping about 17 years -- only 64.8 years on average for woman and 59.4 years for men. Why the dramatic gap? Poverty, substance abuse, and limited access to healthcare are the suspected culprits. Fortunately, these groups make up a very small percentage of the entire population of Australia.

Only 3 places in the world beat Australia's over-all life expectancy averages for men and women: Iceland, Japan, and Hong Kong.

I wish I could see where the U.S. ranks on that list.

Think twice before believing "nutrition" marketing claims

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A new research reports what should be common knowledge to the consuming public. Before you believe all the marketing claims and "wow" benefits for certain types of beverages, you may want to consider who paid for the research that allows hose claims to be made. For example, if a "dairy association" comes out to say that the calcium in milk is the best source -- would it make you more skeptical? I sure would be.

The influence big industries can have on the products t hey tout to consumers is not to be underestimated. But, nor is it a bad thing in many cases. The phrase "question everything" comes to mind -- why would you believe anything that marketers tell you these days about "nutritious" foods and drinks?

Well, you can believe them -- if openness and objectivity is granted in the advertising message. Problem is, it generally is not.

Girls most likely to gain weight in adolesence

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With much of the American population overweight or obese these days, is there a time in the lives of girls and boys when the habits that lead to added weight start to form solidly?

A new report find that girls at least are most likely to gain weight early in adolescence. In effect, girls between the ages of 9 and 12 gain weight at those ages which lasts into later teenage years -- and for some, much later in life.

In fact, a research nutritionist that contributed to the report stated "This shows that obesity and other risk factors for heart d isease track from younger to older. This is a wake-up call for policymakers, for schools, for parents." Because if these habits begin earlier and last for a long time, chances are they'll be so hard to break that they won't be.

No smoking: Pelosi bans butts at the Capitol

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Nancy Pelosi (D-California), the new House speaker, has taken it upon herself to improve the health of those wandering through the U.S. Capitol by banning smoking near the House floor. The Speaker's Lobby is apparently often hazy with smoke as lawmakers run for a quick cigarette fix during breaks. Ms. Pelosi felt that due to the overwhelming evidence available detai ling the dangers of secondhand smoke, the practice should be banned.

She also believes that lawmakers should lead by example. Amen, I say. I guess since smoking is already banned in many federal buildings, and in all public areas in the District of Columbia, smoking in the Capitol shouldn't even be an issue.

Lawmakers will still be allowed to smoke in their own offices. In my state, there's a hospital that recently banned smoking from its campus -- workers can't even smoke in their cars in the parking lot. When you drive by, there are patients, nurses, and other employees standing on the sidewalk out front catching their smoke. It looks horrible, but the hospital is determined to stick to their principles. What do you think? Should smoking be banned entirely from the U.S. Capitol or in your opinion should Ms. Pelosi "butt" out?

How to keep your skin moist

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Before you slap on all the creams and lotions to ensure your skin stays moist all day long there may be some other suggestions you can try that may prove far more effective -- and cheaper.

Not that moisturizer is a bad thing -- but some of the ingredients can actually dry out skin more than anything -- although these "creams" feel great going on. Always looks for all-natural ingredients like essential oils and shea butter and cocoa butter. The more chemicals you put on your skin (even though they make the cream feel great) may be, in turn, drying you out ov er the course of the day.

Here are some tips from MedicineNet:

-- Take fewer baths, and don't use water that's too hot.
-- Apply moisturizer or cream throughout the day (remember, get all-natural moisturizers).
-- Use gentle products. Stay away from harsh soaps, detergents and other products that may dry the skin.
-- Don't rub or scratch your skin, as it will only make symptoms worsen.
-- If your skin begins to look scaly, try applying a salicylic acid cream or ointment.

What's a better cardio workout?

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A That's Fit commenter recently posed the question:

Which is better - walking on treadmill 4.8 miles per hour for 35 minutes or exercising on a stepper (stair climber) for 25 minutes at a brisk pace?

As a certified personal trainer, I can tell you that the answer is "neither." Surprised? This question highlights the simple truth that no one piece of cardiovascular training at the gym is going to provide a better workout. It's what you do while you're on them that makes a difference, not the type of machine.

Using a treadmill, stepper or a StairMaster (these are actually two different kinds of equipment ) are all good ways to increase your cardiovascular health and burn body fat. In this case, 4.8 miles per hour is fast enough to be a light jog for most people and a very high intensity workout. It's also done for 35 minutes, so the person doing this workout will probably burn more calories and give their heart more of a challenge than if they only worked out for 25 minutes.

But the question also says the person on the stepper is working at a "brisk pace" and it's hard to know how difficult that is. If the intensity, or how hard that workout is, is higher than it is when jogging on the treadmill, then that person will be getting just as much of a workout in a shorter period of time.

How can you figure this out by yourself? You can use Rate of Perceived Exertion, a simple scale used by fitness professionals all over the country.

Do you disclipline your children...the 'right' way?

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In terms of mental fitness, one thing that can stretch those mental gears to the limits are the behaviors of our children. From the never-ending loads of distractions to the media's fixation on selling everything under the sun to kids (who will whine like crazy until they get their way), disciplining kids is something that many parents are choosing to gloss over these days in many ways, according to a new survey.

More than a third of parents use the same discipline methods with their children their own parents used on them -- but is that the correct method ology or just the familiar one? After all, there really is no "book" for raising kids, despite the legions of books dedicated to the subject. Every situation is unique, which makes the "manuals" out there mostly useless in many cases.

The third of parents who responded to the survey -- although using the same tactics their parents used on them -- still say that their disciplining strategies aren't working. However, nothing then changes. Oops -- big problem. the researchers in this study said that these parents -- the ones who used the tactics familiar from their own childhoods -- used strategies like removing privileges, yelling, sending the child to the bedroom and spanking but then, 31% of the same group said that their discipline methods were either "never" or only "sometimes" effective.

FitSpirit: Shedding my skin never felt so good

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FitSpirit explores the mind-body connection and the intangible benefits we gain from our efforts to stay physically fit.

New Year's Resolution #8: Get naked with my friends.

Okay, okay. So, I know how that sounds but let me explain. When it came to resolution-making this year, I decided to turn my health focus inward. I'm always trying to stay in shape, pushing and bending my body in countless, crazy ways in the name of exercise. But this year, my goal is to tap into kinder, gentler ways to seek health. Just six days after making that decision, I was invited with a group of friends to Olympus Spa, a Korean-style bath house in Seattle.

If you're not familiar with such a thing, welcome to public bathing in the new millenium. The traditional bath house is not a fancy place, nor a pickup joint, nor a gym. It's a place where all kinds of women soak, scrub, steam and relax, a tradition spanning centuries and the globe -- from the Russian banyas, to the Japanese sentos, Turkish hamams, and German saunas.

Continue reading FitSpirit: Shedding my skin never felt so good

Budget for success: The Crash Cash diet

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Most people spend hundreds, even thousands on dieting gimmicks, foods, etc. But can dieting actually help you save money? It should, really, because theoretically, by eating less food, you should be spending less money on it, at least according to this article.

It's all down to simple math. If, like the average American, you spend $3000 a year on food and consume 3900 calories a day (yikes!), you're spending $0.02 on every calorie. But if you reduce the amount of calories you consume, you spend less on food, and you can use the money you save to buy a new outfit or two!

Okay, maybe this isn't t he most realistic, but it's something to think about, right?

FitBeauty: Yoga clothing that'll make you go ohhhhhm

Welcome to Fit Beauty, a new weekly feature that will focus on the lovely intersection of looking fabulous and feeling (or getting) fit. Fit Beauty won't be about conforming to an unattainable ideal or all lip gloss and over-priced luxuries (although there may be a bit of the luxe, just for fun). We'll focus on things that help you help yourself feel phenomenal (and after all, sometimes that is lip gloss), things that feel great on your skin and are good for the earth, and above all, things that are healthy lifestylish. Fit Beauty is a bit cheeky, a teense chic, and always celebrating the gorgeousness within.

So you've made your resolutions, signed up for a sweaty yoga class and sworn to stop hitting the snooze button and start practicing sun salutations. Or perhaps you've already clocked lots of hours with your pilates instructor, said your so-hums and transformed that junk food body to a toned-up temple. Wherever you are on your journey to healthy living, whether you are seeking some motivation or a few rewards, great new gear can turn you from a yoga chick to yoga chic in just a few clicks.

Of course, you can get your om on in a big old baggy t-shirt and sweatpants (I judge not, honest). You can also get sassy, sexy and spirited (even at the same time) with a wide range of yoga clothing that will knock your socks off. If getting into your very own goddess pose includes hand-painted pants, appliqued tanks or couture-ish tunics, then get ready for a workout wardrobe change. The internet is bursting at the seams with hip yoga clothing that is also comfortable and asana-appropriate.

It's all about the pants. I have a really hard time being present in my yoga class if I'm wearing ill-fitting or unsuitable pants. My favorite hiking pants are too warm, my favorite lounging pants are too long and my favorite Sunday afternoon pants are too binding. It sounds complicated, but what it comes down to is that I can't concentrate on letting go if I'm yanking on my not-so-yoga pants. If you are one of those people who is happy working out in jeans (like the nice lady on the mat next to me each week), more power to you. But for those of you who require more stretchiness and less rise and fall, I highly recommend breaking down and buying yourself a few pairs of yoga pants (or a few more pairs, as the case may be). And if you're going t o invest, consider these eye-catching pants that will actually make you excited about a spandex blend:

The Buddha pants by Balidog come in a host of colors and are hand-painted with spiritually-inspired graphics that resemble gorgeous Zen tattoos. My favorite are the Gods style, but on a day when I depend on the powers that be to get me through my practice, I am sure the Krishna print pants could answer the call. I'm also drawn to the Shiva pants that seem to be a kicked-up version of the plain old black capris I've worn around the house to yoga for years.

If you're looking for pants that sport a bit more flow than yoga bootie, Yogi has a butter-soft pair of wide-leg, tie waist pants that are just cheeky enough. The four color choices keep your yoga uniform interesting and the sweet (and forgiving) tie allows you to cinch or release the low-rise waist as needed.

Top it off. Admit it, it's time to trade in the oversized 5K souvenir shirt for a more form-fitting tank or tee. If you're sticking with yoga pants in a basic color or style, consider accentuating your well-honed mudras or glorious biceps with one of these tops:

While I personally love the sweeping angel-wing stretches my yoga teacher works into every session, I am not so fond of showing my nakey belly to the whole class. To avoid the belly-ring-sneak, I'm going to follow the Eighties-obsessed fashion trends and get a few of these lengthened tees in whispery cotton fabric. These tunics will easily go from work to workout and the tummy protection will make all of us a bit more comfortable in class next week.

If you've worked hard for those abs, show off a bit with this chakra shirt by Sivana Spirit. The cute center drawstring allows you to adjust how deep you'd like the v-neck to be, while the style accentuates your waistline and midriff (not to worry, it's more peekaboo than Paris Hilton).

This sweet flower top by Scout Performance is made from a quick-dry lycra blend and will stand up to steamy power sessions and still look styley during backbends.

For the brave and the cool. If you need more than just a variation on a standard, you've got to stop by TranquiliT, an online boutique for the yoga-minded. I imagine you'll want to fill your shopping cart with this trendy-wear that's perfect for the mat divas among us:

When someone says "jumpsuit," I immediately think "Barbarella," so I was taken aback when I saw this number. I love the bare-shoulder flair. I love the palazzo pants. I love that you could throw on some sessy heels, a big old necklace and a fitted jacket and go from final relaxation to fantastic night out. Who knew bamboo could be so beautiful (and so delightfully antibacterial)?

If your class is your catwalk, you'll also adore this capelet/skirt combo. Add some (more) panache to the jumpsuit by throwing it over your shoulders. It's also perfect to wear over those Lindsey Lohan tights you've been debating whether you should rip the tags off and wear with no shame, or just return already.

Finally, this sophisticated 4-in-1 Cardishawl will serve you well from warm-up to cool down. I wish I'd had this graceful cover a few years ago to take me from proud, prenatal belly through awkward post-partum transition. Cashmere-soft and versatile, this piece will make over your tank-and-velour-pant routine with a pulled-together, elegant look.

Jumpsuit or jeans, tank or tattered tee, you'll look as sassy or serene as you feel in yoga class. Here's to a year ahead adorned with your favorite fitness style and -- whatever that is -- I bow to you, beauties all. Namasté.

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Daily Fit Tip: Fidget

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Are you the type of person who can't sit still? The type of person who, when forced to sit still, must tap your feet, twirl your hair, bob your head to the music or do something, anything to ward off the monotony? I used to be but years of slaving away at a desk has changed that a bit -- sitting still isn't really a big deal anymore. Too bad because according to this, people who fidget can burn up to 500 more calories a day than people who don't.

So tap those fingers -- it's good for you! Just don't do it too loudly -- it might not impress your co-workers.

Can germs be the good guys?

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With all the products lately boasting "antibacterial" and "antimicrobial," can there be such a thing as good germs? Some bacteria, called probiotics, are actually very beneficial for your health. Thankfully they've been getting more mainstream attention lately, and you may even start seeing them advertised on food labels (think yogurt) in the grocery store.

Probiotics help with the absorption of nutrients, production of vitamin K, and even help crowd out populations of unhealthy types of bacteria. They can be particularly beneficial for people who have just finished antibiotic therapy, since antibiotics kill the good guys along with the bad.

Probiotics have also been shown to have positive effects on conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and chronic constipation. Think maybe probiotics are for you? Although they are widely available in stores, they can be expensive and may or may not greatly benefit you. It's probably a good idea to consult with your doctor first, and see if in your specific situation it's worth dropping the extra cash.

Asthma doesn't have to stop you from running a marathon

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I have a mild case of asthma, and while it doesn't affect my life too severely like it does to other asthmatics, it's convinced me that I will never be able to run a marathon. Not so, according to this. Asthmatics are just as capable of running for long periods of time -- it just takes a bit more hard work. There's even a program in Ontario that trains asthmatic adults to run in marathons, showing them and everyone else that asthma doesn't have to restrict physical activity in those who have it.

I am intrigued. I'm in pretty good shape but the longest I've ever ran without stopping is 15 minutes and that almost killed me -- and I only have a mild case of asthma. If I lived in Ontario, I would definitely consider trying out the marathon training and seeing how hard I could push myself.

What are your thoughts? Are you an asthmatic? Have you run a marathon? If so, tell your story and inspire us with your awesome achievement.

Most popular dieting method is wishful thinking

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Sixty percent of US adults say they'd like to lose 20 pounds, but according to a recent survey, most of them don't work to make that desire a reality.

In fact, the percentage of Americans who say they're on a diet is at it's lowest in 16 years. 26 percent of women and 19 percent men claimed to be dieting, which pales in comparison to the 35 percent of women and 26 percent of men who were dieting in 1990.

This news comes at a time when officials estimate that 60 percent of the US adult population is overweight.

When Americans do chose to watch what they eat, the majority opt to create the diet themselves, while doctor-prescribed diets and Weight Watchers lag behind as the second and third most popular methods for dropping pounds and losing inches.

Did you seek your doctor's advice before dieting? If not, why did you chose to go it alone?

What can color therapy do for you?

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Color therapy, simply put, is using intense exposure to specific colors to affect health. Some big believers in color therapy insist that being exposed to certain colors can affect specific internal parts of the body, for instance yellow is supposed to have healing properties for the digestive track.

While I'm skeptical to many of these claims, I definitely do believe that color can affect mood, and therefore emotional health and stress levels.

Here one small thing anyone can do to benefit from the effects of color in your daily life: The colors red and orange have been shown to boost energy levels, so try wea ring these colors when you're having trouble getting energized for a workout. For more hints on using color to benefit your health, check out the Natural Holistic Health Blog's article on color therapy.

Pet owners more likely to be fat

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A recent Finish study has found that pet owners are often heavier and less active than their pet-free counterparts. While this certainly doesn't mean that pets make us fat, it does show a correlation between those who own pets and those with more sedentary lifestyles.

Oddly, even though some studies have suggested that pets are good for us -- lowering blood pressure, easing stress, and helping with loneliness -- this study finds that, not only are pet owners more likely to be overweight, but they're also more likely to view their overall health as poor.

These results are due largely to the fact that those with pets tend to be middle-aged, less-educated, and have more health-risk factors, but -- according to researchers -- regardless of your background, if you take the extra effort to play and walk your dog, it's more than possible to avoid the potential pitfalls of pet ownership.

Man survives bird flu

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According to Chinese media, a farmer who caught the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has since "fully recovered."

The farmer, identified only as Li, did have poultry in his backyard, but Chinese experts are still investigating whether or not those birds gave him the virus. Anyone who regularly came in close contact with Li has been put under medical observation, but, fortunately, none exhibit any symptoms of the disease.

A human to human transmission of the disease would be significant, as doctors fear such a mutation could lead to a pandemic. Currently, the virus is difficult for humans to catch, only affecting those who come in close contact with infected birds.

14 people have died in China as result of bird flu, with the most recent case reported over 6 months ago.

Elton John's 60th birthday resolution: Go on a diet

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Sir Elton John feels that he's let himself go recently and has resolved to look fit and fabulous by his 60th birthday, which takes place at the end of March. He and husband David Furnish are planning a party to commemorate the milestone, which will no doubt be one of those legendary extravaganzas he is famous for. He hasn't mentioned any specific diet plans -- just good old healthy eating and exercise.

Losing weight is never a bad idea, but does losing weight for a particular event work? I'm going by personal experience -- whenever I have something specific I'd like to lose pounds for, they are extra hard to shed. What do you think?

Asthmatic beach-goers: beware the "red tide" of Florida

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Are you an asthmatic planning a Florida vacation get-a-way this winter? If so, you might want to watch for the notorious "red tide" that forms in the Gulf of Mexico each year, and be sure to bring your medication. Though not immediately dangerous to most people, a recent study has found what allergic visitors to the coast have known for years -- red tide irritates asthmatic lungs.

Red tide is caused by a bloom of harmful algae called Karenia brevis. The bloom kills off fish (creating a fishy odor) and sometimes turns the waves a brownish color. Anecdotal co mplaints of allergy and asthma symptoms roll in each year from people who spent time on the beach during the bloom. So researchers sent 100 asthmatics out to the shore during red tide and found that a significant number of them suffered a 10% reduction in lung function, as well as itchy eyes and runny nose.

Though the reaction isn't severe, researchers are concerned about how quickly the asthmatics reacted, as well as the long term implications. The red bloom is thought to be caused by global warming, and coastal areas may be seeing an increase in this type of biological allergen in years to come. It makes me sneeze just thinking about it.

Will Arnold's health plan work?

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In his state of the state speech on Tuesday night, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed sweeping healthcare reform -- essentially, championing a plan that would require every Californian to buy health insurance. While the plan has public support, some have expressed concerns about the how the new initiative will be executed.

This plan is similar to the one Massachusetts implemented last year.

California intends to expand it's Medicaid program and penalize employers that don't offer coverage, while redirecting charity funds and raising taxes on hospitals to defray the $12 billion cost of the proposal.

However, Anmol Mahal, president of the California Medical Association, believes that "Doctors and hospitals will be forced to pass the cost on to their patients, which could actually decrease many Californians` access to healthcare. It is not a tax on physicians or doctors, but rather sick Californians."

What do you think? Do you believe universal healthcare is important? Do you think it's feasible?