Tuesday, 1 May 2007

New toys "fulfill the fantasy of telekinesis"

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Gaming may have just got more sophisticated, after an announcement from NeuroSky, Inc. that said they'd invented a game that uses brain waves to encourage higher levels of focus and concentration from users. Though the game is still a prototype, other versions are in the works for release in the near future.

The games use a technique called biofeedback. Psychiatrists have used the method for years, and it uses electrodes to measure electrical signals in the brain. A small sensor is placed inside a headset, and the signals are sent out to a receiver. The more users think and focus about the required activity, the "better" they become at the game.

Though manufacturers say that the technology may someday be able to help children with Autism spectrum disorder or ADD, critics say there's not much evidence to support that claim. What I'm hoping is that, if this technology sells, it'll make gaming more of an active pastime and get gaming kids up and off the couch!

Remember to hydrate yourself!

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This summer is almost here and with it come plenty of backyard barbecues, festivals, outside parties and other entertainment venues under the hot sun.

With all that fun and frivolity, don't forget to pack a lot of water with you. Personal hydration is key when performing outdoor activities that may dehydrate your body (through sweat loss, etc.).

As our friends from Blogging New Orleans found out, all that precious water becomes like gold when all those activities centered around a jazz fest are in full swing.

Moral of story -- don't forget the water!

Marilu Henner looks great at 52 ... here's why

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Remember Marilu Henner from Taxi and .. erm ... that other show? She looked good back in the late 70s and early 90s when she was on TV. But have you seen her recently? She looks fantastic, even though she's now 52. Her secret? According to her, it's plain old healthy living. Like many people, her healthy lifestyle was motivated by watching her parents suffer from various illnesses and she wanted to escape the same fate by looking after her body.

She's written a number of books on healthy lifestyles and, according to this, emphasizes the importance of sleep, proper diet and exercise. She also advises that people give up dairy, meat, caffeine and sugar, which is a great idea but not entirely feasible for this cheese fanatic.

What do you think of Henner's advice?

Fitku: Vitamin D Fix

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sunThe Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun, and the seasons ebb and flow. As springtime heads into full swing and we begin to anticipate summer, I am reminded of why my body craves this weather so much. Sunshine provides vitamin D, which provides us with what we need for muscle and bone strength, improved immunity and cancer-fighting.

And so begins my sunshine-inspired Fitku:

Sun: nourish body
Rejuvenate the spirit
Refresh soul and mind

Ahhhhhh . . . vitamin D anyone?
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Summer's coming; be prepared for ticks

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Spring and summer can bring out the critters, can't they? Mosquitoes, ticks, spiders and just about everything else "blooms" into action when the weather heats up, creating a nuisance.

What happens if a tick burrows into your skin (or even a pet's skin)? There are some specific precautions that need to be taken to safely remove that tick, as it's not just a "grab and pull" operation.

Want to know some specific tips on removing that tick should you find one on somebody? Sometimes, surgical precision is needed (among other things), so be sure and review this checklist. Commit it to memory as well, since you may just need to use it this season.

Working on your functional strength

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I must admit, I'm a bit of a cardio junky. I can spend hours on the treadmill or elliptical trainer, but that kind of exercise doesn't help me when I have to take take the groceries to my second-floor apartment, carry my friend's baby around or, heaven forbid, move some furniture. I don't want to be big and bulky, but I would like some functional strength.

This article from the people at About have suggestions on how to build functional strength. They recommend a few fun things like push-ups and lunges. Ok, by saying 'fun' I'm being sarcastic. But it's worth it to build a little bit of strength to help us out around the house, right?

Smoking ban coming to Arizona

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Another smoking ban is coming to a U.S. state, as Arizona will be banning smoking from public places within the state as of this week.

As usual, the smoking ban is scaring some bar and restaurant owners, who fear a loss of business may dent their businesses. This is understandable (especially for bars), but in most cases, it's a fact of life when smoking bans come to town.

California bar owners, always the helpful bunch, have offered to provide advice to establishment owners in Arizona. This is a real good idea, since bars have not really gone out of business en masse in California, right?

The need for a nutrition coach

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Can you win the game of "healthy nutrition" with coaching from a qualified "nutrition coach"? Most likely, yes. I've known many people who consider hiring a nutrition coach one of the best investments they ever made.

Diets and weight loss strategies are sometimes too hard to turn into a lifestyle change of healthy eating, and more is needed. That "more" can be in the form of a nutrition coach who provides guidance, reassurance and motivation to help those undergoing nutritional changes make the change permanent.

How about you? If you've thought about hiring a nutrition coach and found the experience worthwhile, what's your success story?

Get a great body: 3 exercises

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Are you sick of working out at the gym day after day and not seeing any results. Perhaps you should get a personal trainer. Too expensive/not enough time? Well, here's another solution -- the fitness pro at eDiet's has come up with a routine that should sculpt your body within a month ... at only 2-3 sessions per week. designed to tone your arms, legs and core, the workout uses weights and simple, easy-to-follow exercises like lunges. There are even pictures you can refer to, to ensure that you've got the technique right.

Combined with a healthy diet and some cardiovascular exercise on the side, you should see results quickly. What do you think?

Visual DNA: A different kind of personality test

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Sometimes I get personality quizzes sent to me by a friend through a website, urging me to try it as I'm guaranteed to learn so much about myself. I usually delete them, but recently a friend sent me this quiz. It's a visual quiz, one that tests for what the creators call your Visual DNA -- in other words, how you react to images and what your image choices say about you.

Try out the Visual DNA test and see what you think. As a photographer, I thought it was inspiring and helped me understand my personality better. It helped me realize the many faces to art, love and everything in between. It also conjured images of things I love: laughter, music, indulgences, holidays and landscapes.

Am I way off base here, or did it inspire you as well?

Fit Links: Your skin is an organ, too

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As fabulous as we at That's Fit think this blog is, the truth is there are hundreds of wonderful blogs on healthy living to be seen all over the blogosphere. So in this feature, Fit Links, we'll introduce you to some that have caught our eye.

When you think about being healthy, you probably try to forget about appearances and concentrate on taking care of things like your heart, lungs, and other organs. But don't forget, your skin is an organ too! Don't feel shallow for wanting to take good care of your skin. Here's some great blogs to keep you informed on the latest in skin care.

Skin Care is exactly what the name suggests -- a blog all about skin care. What they may lack in blog-naming creativity (as do the rest of my suggestions this week), they make up for in great info!

eBeauty Daily is an all-around beauty site with a great skin care section. I especially appreciate the product reviews!

Natural Skin Care Blog
offers home remedies and natural cures for everything from acne to wrinkles.
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Have scientists finally discovered "weight loss in a pill?"

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This sounds too good to be true, so it probably is. But scientists think they may have found the secret to "weight loss in a pill."

Apparently all this excitement is due to a drug that has been developed that revs up the metabolism in mice, much the same as physical activity would. The mice are able to eat as much of a high-fat, high-calorie diet as they want and they don't gain weight.

Now what works in mice doesn't always work in people (so I wouldn't get your hopes up), and that doesn't even consider possible side-effects and health complications something like this might cause. And I'm wondering: if this revs up the body as if it were working out, does that mean I'll be sitting on my couch breathing heavy and sweating profusely while watching TV? Ugh, no thanks.

You Are What You Eat: So go nuts -- walnuts!

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walnutsEach week, we'll be offering original recipes and unique ways to use those Super Foods that pack nutritional power. After all, you are what you eat -- make it count!

Yes, I am a Foodie, yes I eat healthily and yes, I love writing about it! But do you know what is the most interesting part about writing this feature? The variety of Super Foods. You really do need to eat a balanced diet, not just blueberries all day long (a Super Food high in antioxidants). I guess it was fun just to notice validation for eating lots of different healthy foods.

But I digress . . .

The walnut, our Super Food for the week. What makes them super is the amount of essential fatty acids per serving. You get more bang for your buck, in a nutshell, pun intended.

Continue reading You Are What You Eat: So go nuts -- walnuts!

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Meet the Bloggers: Jessica Ashley

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For months now, you've read our thoughts about living fit. Don't you wish you knew more about the people behind the posts? Throughout May, we'll introduce you to our bloggers. We know you're dying to learn if we favor spandex over sweats, the craziest diets we've fallen for, what "forbidden foods" lurk in our pantries, and what motivates us to embrace each lunge after glorious lunge. So, read on. And if you feel like asking us a question we haven't posed for ourselves here, ask away!

Today we're thrilled to introduce you to Jessica Ashley, who authors our FitBeauty feature every Thursday.

1. Who are you?
Jessica Ashley

2. Age you tell people you are:
I'm holding on to 34 as tightly as I can until (*gulp*) my birthday in a couple of weeks. I believe strongly that women should tell their age with pride so we have truthful, powerful models of the amazing things women are doing at every age.

3. Where you're from and where you live now.
I'm from Chicago, did the college thang in rural Missouri, lived for four years in Oregon and then returned to my city grrrl roots in Chicago. My heart is also in Portland, but for a good while, my family and I will stay planted in Chicago.

4. Do you have a personal blog?
Oh yes, darlings. Find me at Sassafrass, where I like to dish about grrrlfriend-type stuff and playgroup, talk politics and feminism and books and bad TV, and go on and on about my hilarious husband and honey of a toddler, Lil E. I also have a site just for my art business -- YourStory Creations.

5. What is your day job, or rather, what do you do when you're not fitness blogging?
Lots and lots of lunges. OK, not really. I am a freelance writer and that means I do a lot of projects during naptimes and between the hours of whenever-Lost-is-over and 1 a.m. I also paint customized canvases for children's rooms. I spend the rest of my day taking walks through the neighborhood with Lil E, acting out toddler-mandated scenes from Bob the Builder and gathering blogging material at playgroup.

6. How long have you been blogging with That's Fit and what is your favorite post?
Since January. I love Kristi's first FitSpirit post because I'm all about the spiritual connection to healthy living.

7. Do you have a specific fitness background or are you a mere mortal who's just passionate about being healthy and fit -- and living to write about it?
I am definitely on a journey to healthier living, which I think is a necessary challenge for women and for mamas. My husband is a personal trainer and fitness specialist and we talk shop. A lot. I like to say I'm a fitness ombudsperson, spreading the good word about hydration and stretching to all who will listen.

8. What's the worst fitness or diet idea you fell for?
Let's just say that three days of grapefruit can make you very crabby and very faint. *Sigh* High school.

9. What motivates you to exercise and stay healthy?
I want to feel fabulous in the body I have.

10. Who's your favorite fitness role model?
It has to be my husband, Bruce. He's a really gifted trainer, full of motivation and compassion. He trained me for the most challenging and empowering moments of my life -- to strengthen my back for pregnancy, to walk the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, to stretch out my baby-holding and laptop-crouching muscles.

11. What's your exercise "M.O." -- Gym workouts or outdoor endeavors; team or solitary sports?
I love yoga. I go to an amazing class now that is non-competitve and meditational. It connects all the body-mind-spirit dots for me and I realized in the first moments of the first class that I need this. In our house, if mama's not yoga-ing, nobody's happy.

I need distraction, so I love to walk and I am very happy to have a chatty partner beside me to talk our way through the time or to jam out to Pink on my own.

12. Choice of fitness gear: Baggy sweats or sultry spandex?
Eeee! Neither. I'm all about yoga wear that feels comfy and looks a lot like my regular clothes. I'm one of those looky-loos who feels ready to go to yoga class when I have on my big earrings and sparkly lip gloss. I just want to feel good and feel myself when I'm in Warrior pose.

13. What's your favorite fitness activity?
Honestly, the relaxation portion of my yoga class. My mind and body are rarely still at the same time. I love to sink into my mat and focus on my center while I can still feel my heart pumping and forehead sweating.

14. Do you have any non-fitness-related, non-blogging hobbies?
I am a reality TV junkie and an avid reader. I love to spend afternoons laughing, singing and running around the park with my family. I paint, doodle, dance and make lunch dates in a desperate attempt to avoid housework.

15. Confession time! What nonhealthy food do you eat -- or what unhealthy habit do you indulge in -- that would get you banned from That's Fit? What's your excuse for doing so?
Oh gaw. This is like those terrible job interview questions about your biggest flaw in which you are supposed to answer that you work too much, are too obsessive about details or that you are too loyal to the company. I believe in healthy living but I am seriously no fitness saint. I sneak my kid's fishy crackers while he's zoned out to Elmo, I sometimes forget to eat lunch until 3 in the afternoon when I suddenly feel like I could eat my own shaking hand, I have to make myself eat veggies a lot of the time and I curse the fact that hauling a 2-year-old, a diaper bag, a purse, a stroller and a bucket full of talking trucks up and down three flights of stairs for my apartment doesn't burn noticeable calories.
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Perfectionists beware...

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Being perfect, or more accurately trying to be perfect, is a very stressful endeavor. It's a proven fact.

A study looked at 50 middle-aged men, and those who rated highest on tests for perfectionism also rated highest on stress level tests and secreted the highest amount of the stress-related hormone, cortisol. The sad part, or the good part, about this (depending on how you look at it) is that perfectionism is largely self-inflicted. So we're bringing unnecessary stress on ourselves!

For you perfectionists out there: knowing this, can you stop? My guess is probably not (I know I can't!).

Frozen or canned -- which is better?

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When it comes to fruits and vegetables, which selection is better? In most cases, frozen fruits and vegetables are the more healthy choice, but why is that?

Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally the same as fresh selections of the same foods, except that they are frozen. In general, there are no (or little) preservatives used at all -- because the foods are frozen soon after being harvested.

With canned foods, additives like sodium and preservatives are commonly used since there is no preservation method in canning really. In addition, the taste of "fresh" fruits and vegetables sure beats the taste of "dead" foods like those that are generally canned.

Buyer beware: 5 health foods that aren't so healthy

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Did you know that the average American eats 40 teaspoons of sugar a day? That's a stunning statistic. Experts say that if you sweeten your own food -- even if you do so with good, old-fashioned sugar -- you'll never get near what manufacturers put into the processed version. Take yogurt, for example. Some varieties can have up to 8 teaspoons in those little 8 ounce cups. Now imagine sweetening some plain yogurt at home. Even if you put sugar in, it's unlikely you'd dump in 8 teaspoons. Or better yet, top it with some all-fruit spread or fresh fruit.

Here are five foods typically promoted as "healthy" that may not be so healthy after all:
  1. sweetened yogurt
  2. low-carb desserts
  3. enhanced waters
  4. whole grain bread
  5. salads (certain kinds): salad dressings can add 3 tablespoons
It's something we talk about often here at That's Fit, but it bears repeating: Reading food labels and knowing what goes into your food can go a long way toward helping you make better food and nutrition choices!

KFC and Taco Bell hop aboard the trans fat-free bandwagon

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And another one bites the dust! Yum Brands, Inc. announced this week that two of it's restaurants -- KFC and Taco Bell -- have switched to trans fat-free oils in their restaurants. KFC and KFC/Taco Bell combo restaurants will be using a soybean oil and Taco Bell will be switching to canola oil. Both restaurants still have items on their menus that contain trans fats -- such as biscuits and baked goods -- but the change in oil will affect several popular items.

Trans fats have been shown to raise bad cholesterol and reduce good cholesterol. Restaurants, food manufacturers, and even entire states have been dropping it like a hot potato. But before you run out for a "healthy" bucket of trans fat-free chicken, don't forget to consider the saturated fat and calories. KFC and Taco Bell have improved the health of their products for sure, but they are still selling fast food after all.

Cavities increasing in baby teeth?

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When baby teeth start showing more cavities in the toddler group (and those a little older), nothing good can be a result, right? Almost assuredly, a sign of too much sugar intake can be signaled by tooth cavities.

In the largest national study on dental habits in the last 25 years, it was found that more youngsters were seeing cavities, but older children were having fewer cavities and adults were having less periodontal disease than in the past. That's good news -- but what is going on with childrens' consumption of sugar (and other products) that are rotting their teeth?

I'm not sure the prospect of a three-year old with fillings makes for nice dinner conversation.

Merck's Arcoxia gets final FDA rejection

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After having been reported to be disapproved by the FDA, Merck's arthritis drug Arcoxia was officially panned by the Food and Drug Administration this past week, taking with it any hopes of that drug ever being sold in the U.S.

The new osteoarthritis drug will continue to be marketed outside of the U.S. according to Merck representatives, but won't be seen in the U.S.

Although Arcoxia will be sold in 63 countries, Merck was unable to prove to the FDA that it was a better pain drug than related drugs. After the Vioxx mess from a few years back, it was going to be an uphill climb to prove that Arcoxia was also safe. Apparently, it was not.

Got a whim this spring to start working out?

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This time of year inspiration runs high and the outdoors call to us, but you have to be careful not to go flying out the door in a hurry -- you'll have a good shot at losing all that perfectly good health and fitness mojo and wasting your efforts.

Of course there's always the risk that if you're not careful you might hurt yourself, but thinking things through and making a plan is about more than just safety: it's also about success. If you start something new on a whim, and then don't see immediate results, you run the risk of burnout, boredom, and disappointment. That's not to say whims aren't good for anything, just make a point to turn it in to something deliberate. After all, it's really about changing your way of life, right? Not just working out a couple times here and there.

Gyms get creative with classes to make them more fun

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So maybe the thought of joining a regular old spinning or Pilates class at the gym just doesn't trip your trigger. Maybe you're looking for something more interesting and different than that? Well then maybe, if you're lucky, one of these unique classes are located near you:
  • In the Los Angeles area at the Crunch gym try the Rocket Workout. You'll get to use a new machine that is rapidly catching on in gyms all over called the Orbital 360, and the workout includes everything from strength training to stretching to Pilates.
  • In Boston at Healthworks try the class called Burn. You'll alternate between walking and running on and off a treadmill for up to 50 minutes. Feel the burn!
  • The Miami David Barton Gym has a class called Barton Biking where you'll alternate between biking and arm strengthening moves to burn over 500 calories in an hour.
  • Chicago's Equinox is home to Chaos, where you'll get to do intervals of strength training and cardio, but with an element of make-believe mixed in.
  • And finally, at the New York Health and Racquet Club in New York City you can opt for the Bin Zhou class where you'll meditate and do tai chi, qi gong, and isometrics.