Saturday, 28 April 2007

Up past your bedtime? Your memory may suffer

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They didn't need to do a research study to convince me of this one. When you sleep, your memory improves. Ask any new mother what she thinks about this study and she'll say, "Can you ask me that again? I forgot the question."

But what makes this study different is that it didn't look at procedural memory, such as learning a new task, but instead looked at "declarative memory" or the memory you use to recall events, dates, and facts. What researchers found was that sleeping -- whether disrupted or not -- appeared to strengthen this kind of memory. Those who slept recalled information better than those who were asked to recall it before they went to sleep. This research just adds to the stockpile of information out there that urges students and anyone in an educational setting to get good rest to improve their performance.

My days of being a walking zombie who puts peanut butter in the freezer, goes to the grocery store without her purse (or means to pay for the groceries) and loses her keys on a daily basis are (mostly) behind me. Researchers aren't sure if the effects of sleeplessness are due to lack of sleep or the extended wakefulness, but what is clear is that getting in your zzzz's is an important part of your good health.

Phobias: you're not alone

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Do you have a phobia? I don't but I think I'm one of a rare few who don't. Everyone around me seems to have some sort of irrational fear, whether it's spiders, the dark, flying or one of the hundreds of other fears. An irrational fear of something is called a phobia, and phobias affect many people worldwide -- celebrities included.

When I came across this article on celebrity phobias, The nosy person in me couldn't resist peeking. Here are some celebrity fears you might not have guessed:

Justin Timberlake is afraid of Sharks and Snakes
Uma Thurman is afraid of small spaces
Oprah is afraid of chewing gum
Billy Bob Thorton is afraid of Antique furniture

Pretty random, huh? What's your phobia?

Is your new car bad for your health?

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I once had a friend who liked that "new car smell" so much he actually found an air freshener scented like it and put it in his old beater car. He loved it. But have you ever thought about why new cars smell the way they do? And they usually smell that way for weeks, if not months to a year or more (depending on how many fast food meals and to-go coffees you spill!). Unfortunately, it's due to chemicals used during the manufacturing process like bromine, chlorine, and even lead that give off harmful fumes for up to 3 years.

Suggestions for limiting your exposure include avoiding sunny parking spots whenever you can, using a screen on the windshield when you park, and then letting the car air out before you get in. Click here for a listing of the 10 worst cars tested, and the 10 best.

Do you learn from your mistakes?

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My mom has a saying that has stuck with me for life. "It's not a really a mistake until it happens again." Though you can't apply that in every situation, it's a very forgiving attitude that has taught me that we all make mistakes, it's the learning from them that's important.

But there are some that don't, in fact, learn from their mistakes and often repeat the same behaviors, which can lead to impulsive and sometimes destructive behavior. Researchers have long thought that there might be some neurological reason why some people, who logically know that their behavior will lead to negative consequences, do it anyway. A recent discovery in brain research has experts believing they may have found a clue -- an electrical impulse that peaks when we make a mistake, missing in those who have higher levels of impulsive behavior.

I think that when we talk about health and fitness, this is a development worth talking about. It's important to note that the participants in this study were happy, healthy college students, not people who were regularly engaging in criminal or what we commonly think of as destructive behavior. Researchers say that this missing link, so to speak, can affect us emotionally and physically every day. So, for example, even though you know it's not good for your health and will slow your weight loss, you pick up that jelly donut with your coffee every morning anyway.

Becoming healthy and fit for life means leaving old and destructive "mistakes" behind and replacing them with new and healthier habits, even if it's hard work. In other words, as the saying goes..."If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." So if you had a jelly donut for lunch today, make sure tomorrow's lunch is healthy and full of nutrients, and take the first step in leaving those impulsive eating habits behind.

Running: Can you do too much?

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You can definitely do too much of almost anything, whether it's generally good for you or not. As far as doing to much running? Well that all depends on how well you take care of yourself.

The human body is amazing as far as what it can adapt to, but according to this article it's more designed for short spurts of high exertion (think sports like basketball or sprinting) as opposed to long stretches, like a marathon. Now that's not to say that marathon running is a terrible thing, just that understanding how it impacts your body is especially important.

So how much is too much running? It's a great way to burn calories and stay fit, but obviously very individualized as far as just how much is the right amount. If you feel energized and healthy then you're probably okay, but if you have constant aches and pains, or feel drained all the time then maybe you should cut back a little. And always make sure you get enough sleep and enough to eat for fuel. I also suggest checking out our own Jonathon Morgan's inspirational (and often hilarious!) regular feature Jogging for Normal People.

Out With Facelifts? Not Yet

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Sometimes it seems like "facelifts," in the traditional sense, are old news. Isn't there a cream out there that does that, like, overnight or something? Although there are countless nonsurgical treatments available nowadays like Botox and other injectables, or laser treatments, or *insert latest fad here,* many women (those age 45 and up especially) are still turning to surgery in order to get the results they're after. Creams and shots, apparently, just don't stack up. And like everything else, the world of cosmetic surgery is constantly evolving with new techniques and procedures available all the time. Currently facelifts are the 2nd most commonly requested surgical cosmetic procedure from people over age 55 (what's #1???).

Pet food recall leads to contamination of human food supply

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This pet food recall seems to have started a huge chain reaction. According to reports this week, the dangerous chemical found in pet food recently -- melamine -- has now been found in hogs inside the U.S.

Once that happened, the melamine probably entered the human food supply. IN fact, several hundred of the 6,000 hogs that may have eaten contaminated pet food are believed to have entered the human food supply. Scared?

This is really no laughing matter, and points strongly at some kind of needed quality control, right? For more details on the hog melamine contamination, see this.

Teenage obesity surgery risks studied

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Are more U.S. teens electing to have obesity surgery these days? According to many reports, this is indeed the case. But, are teens exposing themselves to unneeded risks by doing so?

A new five-year study will look at the benefits and risks of bariatric surgery on adolescents, something that is probably overdue as more people (younger people) have surgery to help them lose all those pounds.

The purpose of this study that will take until 2012 is to find out if adults and adolescents who have bariatric surgery have different health problems -- and it surgery is more beneficial if had earlier in life.

The slow road to diet control

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Are diet failings a matter of self control more than how good a particular food tastes? In some cases, yes. I've talked to many people who eat very healthy foods, but way too much of it.

Those are the types that have self-control issues that cause overeating (too many calories), which ends up many times in too much excess weight.

Is a mental health professional sometimes more appropriate to assist in weight control instead of a nutrition expert? Only you can answer that one, but whatever works needs to be the road more traveled.

That's Fit Weekly Podcast #9: April 27, 2007

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We're always looking for fresh and innovative ways to blog about news and trends fit for helping you live a healthy life. Now, thanks to Saturn, we bring a new voice to our efforts with the launch of our That's Fit Weekly Podcast. Each Friday, we'll go from blogger to broadcaster as we discuss topics relevant to pursuing your health and fitness goals.

In the final episode of our April "Step It Up!" series, our topic is Staying Motivated. Starting any program is hard enough, espeically if we're fitting it into a busy daily or weekly schedule. It's one thing to get all fired up, buy cool new workout clothes, join a gym, or even download good workout music on our iPods. But is all this enough to keep you motivated?

Let's fast it: Starting a fitness regime is easy. It's sticking to it that's tough. One recent study found that half of all Americans exercise only sporadically, and another quarter don't exercise at all. What keeps the other 25 percent going? Their secret is that they've found ways to stay motivated. You can, too, with these six simple tips.

Have comments on our current shows or ideas for future podcasts? Or, do you have a burning health and fitness question you'd like answered on an upcoming installment? Comment right here and we'll do our best to provide the helpful information you're looking for!

There are several ways to receive the That's Fit Weekly podcast: Subscribe to our RSS feed, through iTunes, or just hit the MP3 file directly -- your choice!

Receive That's Fit Weekly Podcast using one of these methods:
[RSS] Add The That's Fit Weekly Podcast feed to your RSS feedreader and have it delivered automatically
[MP3] Download the podcast directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to the podcast directly in Apple iTunes

Kristi Anderson

File Format
8:28:00 length, 7.76 MB size, MP3 format (128kbps)

Intro/Outro Music (great workout music!)
Song: Sound Scientist

Next week, we kick off our two-month May/June series, "Fit Life," where we'll explore how to introduce fit and healthy habits into other areas of our lives beyond diet and exercise. We'll discuss ways to maximize memory, reduce stress, minimize noise, meditate, hazard-proof our homes, boost our moods, and other topics. With this series, we'll also introduce our new "Fit Finds" mini-segment, where we'll feature fitness tips and products related to each week's podcast topic.

May 4, 2007 Program: Maximize Your Memory!

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Cover yourself from dust mites

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If you're seeing yourself sneeze at home and are possibly suffering from allergies while inside your home, have you checked out to see if you're allergic to dust mites?

These tiny little (microscopic) creatures feed on dead skin that we lose as we sleep and can cause allergies and itching while in bed (and afterward). No matter how clean you are, your bed is probably full of them.

Washing sheets once per week (at least) and having an all-natural mattress cover is a good way to reduce (or even eliminate) those unseen but pesky mites. The next time you lay down to sleep, you'll probably wake up better.

Can stretching make you thinner?

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In principle it seems like stretching could make you thinner, because usually if you stretch something it changes shape to get longer and narrower. But obviously your muscles can't get any longer, not really. They are attached to your bones in certain places, and no amount of stretching is going to change that.

Stretching is good for your body in many ways, and it's something that should definitely be a regular part of your daily health and fitness routine. But of all the things stretching will do for you (including increased flexibility, increased circulation, and reduced stress), actually becoming thinner (unless it inspires you to lose weight) will not be one of them.

No "body" to diet soft drinks?

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Are diet drinks as good as the real thing? While I don't drinklg soft drinks any longer, I can't stand the taste of "fake sweeteners" in products like Diet Coke and such.

In fact, most diet drinks I've tasted are unpalatable. In that vein, possible alternatives are being bandied about to give the "mouthfeel" a better run for its money in the diet soft drink market.

According to reports, "scientists would like to find an ingredient that gives body to diet soft drinks without adding calories or other unpleasant side effects." Sounds like a best-case scenario. Let's hope it's not yet another synthetic chemical.

Passion and arguments

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Arguments aren't necessarily bad. Conflict is often how we sort out what we really want from what we're willing to compromise on. Even in good arguments, the terms may not exactly be kind and gentle, the language not always respectful and there may not be closure, but the argument has a beginning and an end. Learning when to end is the most important step in maintaining a healthy relationship. When you start to feel that you just have to no matter what, get the other person to agree with you, at that point you must stop arguing. That feeling comes from a deep fear of being alone or being misunderstood or abandoned by people we count on the most. When an argument reaches that point, it is useless anymore to continue.

Know when to step away and just end the argument is important. Repeating yourself will only make it worse. Most arguments are never won. And most often nothing is resolved in that heat of the moment. It is hours, days, even weeks sometimes before a point might seek in. But many arguments never do get settled and that is very normal. Everyone has points of views and some are more passionate about them than others. That does not make them a bad person or a person that is hard to get along with or someone that you should end a relationship with.

Try not to respond to digs or jabs that are designed to set you off. Ignoring them and recognizing them for what they are, an attempt to edge you into an argument, will save you a lot of wasted energy into what is more than likely going to end up in another pointless argument. When giving and receiving advice, don't require the other person to recognize it as the most brilliant suggestion ever. Just say it and move on. Let the other person process it for what they feel it is worth.

Learning how to argue and learning how to let the argument end, will prevent these disagreements from damaging your relationship. In the book Why Can't You Shut Up?: How We Ruin Relationships-And How Not To, psychologist Anthony Wolf, Ph.D. states, "In the best relationships, there remain serious pockets of unresolved bitterness. It's an outgrowth of the basic need that we all have to be close to and understood by the people we love the most, and during arguments, that feeling can get out of control."

Most of the time the more passionate the love, the more passionate the arguments.
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Make your own healthy granola bars!

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I'm not much of a cook, but even I think this recipe for granola bars looks not only easy but delicious. And considering granola bars make such handy snacks, and the store-bought kinds usually have so much added sugar and preservatives, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a batch for yourself and family every so often. And one more reason I'm feeling inspired to give this a shot is the fact that the recipe is so easily interchanged to add some variety and switch up flavors, and you can find the perfect combination.

Now to come up with a cute way to wrap them besides Press 'n Seal...

Fitness corporate-style: The busy woman's workout

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Everywhere I go, I'm surrounded by amazing, successful women who have kept up with and even exceeded their male counterparts in the career depoartment.But life's not easy for your average business woman. Chances are she has little time for herself. A life that includes corporate-climbing, household responsibilities, and perhaps even a growing family leaves little time for our career woman to take care of something that should be on the top of her to-do list: her health.

If this sounds like you, please, for your own sake, check out this article from eDiets on how to incorporate exercise into a busy schedule. There's nothing particularly new here, but we women occasionally need reminders of the important person we're forgetting to take care of: ourselves.

How do you balance the work/home obligations?

Junk foods starting to get "healthy" ingredients

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I kind of giggle when I shop some mainstream stores these days. Sugary energy drinks has "ginseng" and chocolate desserts are "fat free". Those marketing pitches don't fool the informed, but they generally work.

But, "Hershey's Antioxidant Milk Chocolate"? Give me a break. Adding something into sugary chocolate bars to get the term "antioxidant" in there is ridiculous.

How about a "cholesterol-lowering" pizza? This one takes the cake. Read more about it here. Why not cheeseburgers that do push-ups for you as well? Heh.

Horizon dairy products: not really organic?

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When I purchase organic products, I do so for three reasons: 1) because, while there's not a lot data to support it, I feel like it might be healthier, 2) these products often taste better, and 3) I'd like to think these animals get better treatment.

But the latest news about Horizon -- a company that makes a range of "organic" dairy products -- has me feeling like I've been duped.

Normally, for milk to be considered organic, the cows have to have access to fresh air, exercise, and be able to graze on fresh grass.

According to a post on Fit Sugar, however, Horizon's cows "are let out rarely, at nighttime, or coincidentally when a tour group comes by. It's awful, but they are mostly stuck in barns, chowing on energy-rich food that increases their milk production. So when they're not eating, they're hooked up to milking machines."

Subsequently, this weekend I'll be heading down to my local farmer's market, in the hopes of finding some dairy products that are actually organic. Even if there isn't a dairy stall, I'm hopeful that someone there can point me in the right direction. At the very least, I won't be supporting Horizon any longer.

Coronary heart disease caused by vitamin C elimination?

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Is a pretty strong statement when something like "the medical establishment is wrong about the underlying causes of coronary heart disease" is uttered. That's precisely what is being said here, though.

A roundup of supporting facts is hard to argue with, though. Since coronary heart disease has grown from rare to the top killer in the U.S., we have to ask: what has changed?

Dr. Thomas Levy thinks that a vitamin C deficiency (of all things) could be the cause of all coronary heart disease. This is a very interesting idea and one that is worth further reading I think.