Monday, 2 April 2007

Get into summer fitness -- before summer!

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If you are in the Portland, Oregon area, are you ready to have someone hold you accountable for getting your healthy lifestyle and swimsuit appearance in gear for this summer? If so, you may want to check out "Recess Boot Camp 2007" starting on April 14.

This innovative program offers a two-month, intensive swimsuit-weather preparation course that focuses on making you healthy from the inside out. Excellent! The details include all this:

3 meetings a week to include:
  • a killer workout with a certified personal trainer
  • nutrition classes with a registered dietitian
  • "healthy mystery meat" - a weekly fitness grab bag to keep you guessing and excited about staying fit.
And more -- check it out!

Link between genes and prostate cancer found

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Cancer has been thought of as being caused by genetic predisposition plus certain lifestyle choices by many experts. Prostate cancer was the focus of a recent study, however, that linked genetic risk factors directly to prostate cancer in men.

One of the lead researchers stated that "The importance of it is that this is the first real evidence of the genetic basis of prostate cancer ... it gives us the first real insight we've had into the cause of this disease and how we might do something about it".

The research concluded that seven genetic risk factors bunched in a relatively small region of one of the human chromosomes were reliable predictors for a man's probability of developing prostate cancer.

Create that diet-friendly pizza

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Do you crave pizza but don't fix it that often due to the higher calories and carbs most pizza contains? What if you could fix a "healthy" pizza at home with your own ingredients?

While many of us would freak out if told how many calories are contained in a single slice of pizza from many popular pizza chains in the U.S., here are some pizza ingredients to help you create that pizza while not overextending your calories and fat grams for the day per Prevention Magazine:
  • Fiber-Rich Crust: Boboli 100% Whole Wheat Thin Crust
  • Disease-Fighting Sauce: 365 Everyday Value All Natural Pesto & Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce
  • Bone-Building Cheese: Trader Joe's Shredded Mozzarella Cheese Low-Moisture Part-Skim
  • Waist-Friendly Toppings: Al Fresco All Natural Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage

Job performance drops when smoking

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If you're a smoker, a few new studies conclude that you may have poorer-than-average job performance and above-average sick leave time.

One of the studies was performed in Sweden, where 14,000 workers found they took an average of 25 sick leave days a year. Swedish workers who smoked averaged about 11 more sick leave days than nonsmokers, however.

But, the extra days smokers take off from work may not be health-related, explained the study. So, what explained the difference? The study concluded that "The remaining days are probably explained by something other than health."

Healthy recipes for summer grilling

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One of the best parts about spring, summer, and fall is grilling outdoors. Sadly, the typical grilled menu of hamburgers, brats, and steaks isn't so easy on the health-conscious dieter and their waistline. But happily, there are some healthier and just-as-tasty grilling alternatives.

Try vegetable pizza with the crust-and-all made right on the grill, and grill fruit like bananas and pineapples, or cantaloupe, on kabobs with mint and honey. And for dessert, try grilling slices of angel food cake until they're crusty on the outside and then top with frozen fruit. My mouth is watering just writing this!

Seafood poisoning rising with global warming trends

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Those who eat seafood regularly and even take fish oil supplements can sometimes be concerned with the levels of mercury or other heavy metals that have infiltrated even some of the most pristine waters from around the globe.

How about eating barracuda soup, though? In the Philippines, a family fell ill after eating some of this soup with their sickness being attributed to "ciguatera" poisoning. No, it's not from eating fish from polluted waters, but from consuming "exotic" fish.

This sickness, though, is being exacerbated by damage that pollution and global warming are inflicting on the coral reefs where many fish species feed -- only making a possible problem much worse.

Lasting weight loss: How to get it

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So you've lost some weight, maybe you've reached your goal or maybe you're just partly there, but how do you hold on to the progress you've made? Or maybe you just can't seem to get the scale to move, despite an exercise routine and cutting back on calories. According to this article, an important concept to remember if you want lasting weight loss is that quality counts. The quality of the food and the nutrition you give your body, the quality of the exercises you're doling, it all adds up. There really is no cheating when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle -- you're either doing it or you're not. There's no bluffing your way through.

So try some of these tips, and try them for real: don't drastically cut calories, keep junk food out of sight (therefore out of mind, hopefully anyway), make fitness a priority, beware of drinking in too many calories, change your mindset, realize that every little bit counts, find your inspiration, and get help if (when) you need it.

These ideas aren't easy to do every minute of every day, but my favorite is "every little bit counts." So give yourself some credit, even if you just did a "little bit" today, it's still something. Then do two "little bits" tomorrow!

Sleep less, feel more pain

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Having trouble sleeping? Feel like life is more painful than normal? New research shows the two might be related.

A recent study of 32 women discovered that those whose sleep was regularly disrupted had an altered perception of pain. Their bodies became less-capable of inhibiting pain signals, and they were more susceptible to "spontaneous" pain -- like aches, or cramps -- after having slept poorly.

But you night owls don't have to worry -- it's not the sleep loss that's the problem, just the interruptions. So new parents, doctors on call, and others who are forcibly awakened from sleep are most affected.

In fact, for chronic pain sufferers, researchers recommend restricting the amount of time that you're asleep as a possible treatment for insomnia. You may be tired, but you'll feel less pain after a few hours of uninterrupted sleep than you would after a night of tossing and turning.

Are your medications making you overweight?

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Did you know that some of the medications you may be taking right now could be making you overweight? A few years ago, most people I talked to did not know this, but it's become pretty standard knowledge in the public recently with all the coverage of different diets and such.

How about birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, various mood stabilizers, diabetic medications and steroids? All of these items can cause unwanted weight gain -- but is there anything you can do about it?

According to this article over at eDiets, a combination of lowered calorie intake and increased activity works best for losing those pounds caused by some of the medications you may be taking right now.

Florida or OSU? A winning team may make you more aggressive

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Are you hoping Florida or Ohio State takes home the NCAA championship tonight? Whichever team you're rooting for, if they win, you're likely to be more aggressive than if they'd lost.

It may seem strange, but that's the truth according to a recent study from Cardiff University. Researchers found that fans get so excited when their team pulls through -- so euphoric -- that they lose perspective, which in turn increases aggression.

Oddly, while watching your team lose reduces happiness, watching them win doesn't increase it.

So while losing is certainly frustrating for all you dedicated sports fans, it's after a big win that you'll want to keep yourself in check.

Does your fitness routine need a spring cleaning?

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Spring is a time to fling open your windows and let the fresh air clean the stale winter air from your home. The same could be said for your tired old winter fitness routine. Here's an article that will help you clean the dust bunnies from your workout and spruce it up...just in time for spring.

Here's a tip for walkers and runners: Write the date of purchase on the tongue of your shoe and keep track of your average mileage. If you run 10 miles a week, your shoes should be good for about a year, but if you log more miles than that you may need to replace them sooner. And if you really want to add some flair (and fat blasting) to your walking or running workout, consider adding in some interval training. Rather than going one speed for the whole workout, try speed walking or sprinting for 30 seconds at two minute intervals. You'll fire up your calorie burning furnace and can shorten your workout by half.

There's lots more tips if you follow the link. Even the best routine needs a little freshening up now and then to keep your body challenged and on its toes!

Are nutrition articles in popular magazines unbiased?

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Do you trust the nutrition and food articles found in popular nutrition and healthy living magazines you've read in the past? It's pretty well-known that many larger publications have to twist editorials and features to please advertisers, many of whom appear to make healthy food items -- but really don't in many cases.

In fact, it's increasingly hard to find unbiased opinion (backed up by verifiable facts) these days on anything without the influence of "paying" advertisers to get in the way. Discriminating minds can spot this pretty easily when paying attention. But that leaves the question -- what can you believe?

The views of vested interests appear so frequently that it's hard to find unbiased suggestions for the best nutrition your body deserves while not breaking the bank.

Black tea: Once you go black, you never go back!

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Between green, black and white it is no secret that tea and all of its variations have a wealth of health benefits. If you keep in the know then you're probably already aware that the subject goes far beyond the quintessential green variety. Black, for instance, can help us recover from stress faster.

But did you know it holds a more distinct flavor that can range from sweet and spicy to even chocolaty? This fully fermented style of tea is in a league of its own and is definitely worth a closer look. A fifteen year study conducted in the Netherlands found that black tea reduces bad cholesterol thus lowering the chances of having a stroke. The cardio benefits don't end there. Boston's medical school concluded that drinkers of this leaf had a lower risk of heart attack due to the reversing of abnormal functioning in the blood vessels. Who knew!

Black tea is shaping up to be a contender with its green cousin, especially if you enjoy a robust and full-bodied brew. Check it out and learn more if you think this addition to your diet is worth the research.

Toys for kids (and grown ups) who love to move

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I'm of the firm opinion that kids don't need a lot of "stuff" to be active and exercise -- a ball for kicking and chasing, some sidewalk chalk (for hopscotch), a parent to teach them how to play tag or soccer or racing games or to take them hiking or bike riding. Kids love to move and it's usually pretty easy to get them going. But if you have doting grandparents or an upcoming birthday to buy for, there are some cool toys out there right now that encourage lots of active play. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Gigaball: This "big yellow ball" (as it is known at our house) is a huge, inflatable ball that kids can crawl in and out of, push and chase, or just clamber all over. This showed up at our house one Christmas and has been an indoor and outdoor hit ever since.

Hop Balls: These classic favorites have been around a long time, but they never really lose their appeal. The best part about them is that they can stay outside all summer, are totally portable, and also can be cleaned up and brought in for indoor play as well.

Continue reading Toys for kids (and grown ups) who love to move

Limit that sugar in your diet

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Have you ever noticed the high amount of sugar in many foods these days? While processed (white) sugar may indeed make things taste really good, too much intake of it is definitely not a good thing. To understand why, a little research on the overconsumption of refined white sugars could be in order.

This article over at eDiets explains that the average American consumes well in excess of 100 pounds of refined sugar each year. 100 pounds! Yikes -- and my guess much of that is in the form of soft drinks. I've said it before -- the best thing you can do for your health is to rid your daily diet of all soft drinks.

Your body will be glad to get rid of all that high fructose corn syrup and caffeine. Even diet drinks have the chemical aspartame and I'm not sure they are any better than regular soft drinks over the long term. Type "endocrine disruptor" into your favorite search engine a read a bit. Prepare to catch your mouth as it hits the floor, though.

In dietary terms, though, sugar is really just carbohydrates. Unless you crave an abundance of carbs in your diet,

What do sports dietitians suggest?

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Although not all of us are athletes, the diets of those who regularly participate in sports can sometimes be a great guide to proper nutrition habits.

Now, I'm not advocating sports diets to the standard non-athlete citizen -- only that some aspects of sports nutrition are good guidelines for all-around excellent nutrition, which then leads to better health (at least from my experience). Areas like carbohydrate intake, the "right kind" of calories and the consumption of water (not anything else really, as your body only required water) are the areas I'm focusing in on here.

Take a quick break and

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get to 10,000 steps a day

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10,000 steps a day can either be easier than you think, or a lot harder, depending on your particular situation. 10,000 steps a day is a pretty well accepted standard for basic activity, but if you're having trouble getting there then these ideas may help. Some of them I guarantee you've heard before (like taking the stairs instead of the elevator) but sometimes it's good to hear it again. Plus, there are a few new ideas that you probably haven't heard and may be just the thing that does the trick for you:

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get to 10,000 steps a day

Daily Fit Tip: Replace your OJ with Grape Juice

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Orange juice is a staple of breakfast everywhere, and we seem to take for granted that its good for us. True, it has lots of vitamin C, but what if I told you there is an even healthier juice out there? Grape juice has been getting lots of good publicity lately, because of a substance in it called resveratrol. Resveratrol has been touted as an anti-aging elixir, and it has a number of other benefits.

So does that go for another version of grape juice -- wine? As it happens, the answer is YES! So drink up -- in moderation, of course -- and let those antioxidants go to work.

Could Sugarest put an end to your sweet tooth?

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The makers of a new gum called Sugarest are promising to put an end to your cravings for sweets, at least for 45 minutes at a time. The tasteless gum, which has an active ingredient called gymnema sylvestre works by numbing the area of the tongue that tastes sweets for up to 45 minutes, helping dieter's say no when their sweet tooth tries to take charge.

Doctor's warn that the gum isn't a cure-all for those struggling with their weight, and are concerned that as more people start using it, safety issues may arise. Sugarest acknowledges that the gum itself is not a diet, just a tool for those who can't seem to control their sugar cravings.

Do you struggle with the need to eat sweets? Take a minute to read this article which outlines five of the top reasons people eat sweets, including thirst, poor hunger management, and eating too much salt. Once you get to the bottom of your sweet eating habit, you may just find sweets lose their power over you.

Mixing meds: Even supplements and OTC remedies can be dangerous

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With all the new medications being developed practically on a daily basis, and new health benefits being found for "old" supplements and herbs, it's no wonder that people are ending up with more and more substances floating around in their bodies all together at the same time. Doctors and scientists are noticing more and more life-threatening side-effects being created by people mixing medications. Not necessarily just prescriptions meds, either, but also seemingly harmless supplements and OTC drugs.

A good rule of thumb is to remind yourself that if you expect it to do something good for you then it has the potential to do something bad also, if not taken properly. Just because something is "all natural" or doesn't require a prescription doesn't mean you can take it willy-nilly in whatever doses and mixed with whatever else you're taking. Read labels and ask your doctor if you have any questions. It's great to be involved in your own health, just take care not to hurt yourself and get sicker in the process.

Universal red blood cells could end blood bank shortages someday

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A group of international researchers have discovered an efficient way to strip antigens from red blood cells, making donated blood "universal." Everyone has a blood type -- A, B, AB, and O -- and your blood type makes a big difference in who you can give blood to and who you can receive blood from.

But a new process, using a type of bacteria, can strip red blood cells of their "type" making the blood safe to give to anyone. This would not only relieve blood bank shortages, but may also make blood transfusions safer overall. Though the risk is small, mistakes are made in about 1 in 15,000 blood transfusions.

Though the process has been developed, the method has not yet entered clinical trials to test for safety. But if the process turns out to be safe and efficient, universal donor blood may just be a part of the medical industry's future.

Does your freezer contain healthy foods?

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Are you a fan of the frozen meal? Millions (tens of millions) of us are these days, as we try to balance eating right and healthy with the challenges of everyday life -- raising a family, our jobs, daycares, grocery shopping -- you name it.

So what to do? Well, become familiar with the ingredients inside many frozen foods (as pre-packaged meals) and learn to pick the right ones. When I say "right ones", I mean meals without a lot of saturate fat and calories. There are brands like "Healthy Choice" and "Lean Cuisine" that have these attributes, but the preservatives and other chemicals in those brands make me stay away.

Two brands I like? Kashi and Amy's Kitchen. Kashi makes a pretty decent lineup of cold breakfast cereals, crackers and even frozen meals with no preservatives and excellent whole-grain ingredients. Amy's Kitchen makes excellent frozen meals as well that are all-organic (99% of the time) and taste great without all the scientific-sounding chemicals in many brands. These meals are more expensive, but easily worth it. Try them out if you see them and see what you think.

Can getting dirty lift your mood?

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Just in time for spring gardening comes this headline -- a recent study found that the bacteria Mycobacterium accae, commonly found in soil, increased serotonin levels in the brain of mice. A lack of serotonin is thought to cause depression in humans. Researchers became interested in the bacteria after cancer patients being treated with it began unexpectedly reporting lifted moods and better quality of life.

The study was small, but researchers hope to look into the connection between the bacteria, healthy immune systems, and depression to find out if there would be benefit from developing treatment options from this or other kinds of bacteria. Gardeners already know that digging in the dirt and soaking up the springtime sunshine make them feel happy and rejuvenated, but as Dr. Chris Lowry -- lead author of this study -- says, "They (these studies) leave us wondering if we all shouldn't be spending more time playing in the dirt."