Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Check that sodium level in everything you eat

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It continues to astound me on how much sodium is in the average processed food product these days. With the nutritional content and most everything else being gone from most processed foods these days -- along with the need for long shelf lives -- sodium seems to be the key to taste.

After all, hydrogenated oils, MSG and sodium are all additives to enhance shelf life and taste for what are considered "dead" foods from natural health advocates. But the actual level of sodium inserted into some foods is plain unhealthy.

Would you like to have 1,500 milligrams of sodium in one sitting? That is more than half of the suggested maximum daily intake -- and way too much for a single meal.

Childhood trauma very common, according to study

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According to a new report from U.S. researchers, about two-thirds of American kids will go through some kind of traumatic event in their childhoods, although few of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

With divorces, moving and school all combined into a precious few years sometimes, it's not hard to see why kids are increasingly seeing more childhood trauma rates.

In a way, many kids will have an increased emotional resilience, although the researchers were quick to point out that children will process traumatic events differently than adults.

Wal-Mart delis change to trans fat-free oil

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The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has joined the ranks of New York City and some national fast food chains in stating that it won't be using trans fat oils in its deli sections for fried foods any longer.

Wal-Mart said the transition from trans fat oils began at the start of the year and is now complete. The fried chicken and other fried foods now located in the Wal-Mart deli section are now free of the artery-clogging oils. This is a good thing for frequent Wal-Mart deli shoppers.

The switch to the healthier oil affects more than 2,400 delicatessen locations within Wal-Mart's Supercenter and Neighborhood Markets in the United States.

Ask Fitz! Your Fitness Questions Answered

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Have fitness questions? Fitz has your answer. Our fitness expert -- and now your own virtual personal trainer -- will help you get fit, increase your overall health and do it in a fun way. Drop your questions here in the Comments section below and we'll choose two per week to publish on That's Fit! Learn more about Fitz here.

Q. Hello Fitz. I am 29 years old. I exercise 3-4 times a week (running, biking, and pilates), which has been my routine for many years. No matter how hard I exercise though, my legs don't seem to get sculpted or gain definition (especially around my knees and lower). The rest of my body: abs, back and arms are in great shape and I am very happy with. This is very frustrating. Is there any particular exercises you would recommend? Maria

A. Ugh! Frustrating situation Maria, but probably not unsolvable. Oddly enough, you may simply be prone to storing fat in your lower legs. Some people get it in their tummy, bum, or thighs. Isn't it strange how we all have these crazy spots of aggravation with our bodies? Grrrrrrr! Doesn't mean you can't improve though, so have hope!

Few suggestions. First make sure your eating well. Any extra fat you gain or lose probably goes to or from your lower legs first, so that could start your journey to look leaner. As far as exercise goes I would definitely change things up. I adore running and cycling, but they're definitely more strenuous for the glutes and thighs. When someone asks to accentuate a body part I try to think of which athletes tend to have the best. Kickboxers and ballerinas come to mind when I think long lean legs, so give those a try. Both activities require lots of time up on the balls of the feet or toes, and lots of kicks. Sounds exactly like what you need. Jump roping also puts major stress on your calves and anterior tibialis, and burns about the same amount of calories as running. Jump for the same amount of time as you usually run. You'll feel it the next day for sure!

Add some strength training with weights too. Try squats, lunges, leg extensions, and hamstring curls; use weight that feels extremely hard to lift by the tenth rep and go for a few sets. Most women aren't capable of bulking up, but we are capable of gaining strength, firmness, and definition. Weights will help you build bone density as well.

Change things up and see what happens Maria. I'm glad you wrote and look forward to hearing how things go.

Q. Dear Fitz, I am a 22 year old male and love to run and push myself beyond my limits. Last year I had shin splints and it seems to be a reoccurring thing now. I am not very flexible which doesn't help my case. I was wondering if with some daily stretching this could possibly go away or at least reduce the risk of it getting more serious. Thanks, Jean-Robert.

Continue reading Ask Fitz! Your Fitness Questions Answered

Daily Fit Tip: Lock your laces in

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If you're constantly dealing with the issue of flailing untied laces you've got two solutions. #1 Get some retro Velcro shoes, or #2 get some locks for your laces. Lace locks are little plastic bits that keep your shoe- laces contained. That stay put perfectly, come in many different colors, fit all different types of shoes, and will cure the need for double knots once and for all.

Not only are they great for folks sick of pausing a workout to retie their shoes.....they help those who may not have the flexibility to reach their feet. I'm going to get some for my children's shoes as well. Lace locks can be found at running stores and regular sports stores everywhere.

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How Many Calories ... in Licorice?

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I went to the movies with a friend a while ago. When our turn came in the line up for the concession stand, she ordered a packet of licorice. 'I'm watching what I eat', she told me, 'and this is a healthier choice than M & Ms.' But during the movie, I started thinking about what she said. Is licorice really the better choice? It's lower in fat, sure, but at least M & Ms have some protein (the peanut ones do anyway), whereas licorice seems to be just sugar. So I decided to test my theory out.

How many calories do 10 pieces of red licorice have?

A) 500 cal
B) 300 cal
C) 200 cal
D) 150 cal

Continue reading How Many Calories ... in Licorice?

Workplace Fitness: The best workplace stress relievers

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Stress is a primitive reaction designed to signal to us that something is wrong. However in today's world it's become more of an accepted part of life and working -- especially working. So take these 10 tips and pack them into your arsenal for when unexpected things pop up and stress rears it's ugly head:

  • Find a ritual for when stresses peak. Try closing your office door (if you have that luxury) and putting on a little music, going for a quick walk, or heading to the break room for a big glass of water when things really start to get to you.
  • Plan for the unexpected or for the worse case scenario, like a flight getting delayed or canceled. If it does happen you'll save yourself the last minute "scramble" to figure out how you're going to deal.
  • Get perspective. When something big and bad happens, imagine how things will be way off in the future -- like in a year. Putting some distance on the situation might help give you perspective on a crisis.
  • Stretch! Hunched over bad posture can causea unnecessary aches and pains, which makes you uncomfortable and fatigued. Stretching is a fast and easy way to feel more alert and give your body a boost.

Continue reading Workplace Fitness: The best workplace stress relievers

Frugal fitness: work out at home

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Forget expensive gym memberships, fancy equipment, and pricey workout clothes -- here's a home workout that won't cost you a dime. With equipment that nearly every home has (bathtub, kitchen chair, masking tape), it's both cheap and easy to assemble this home gym.

Not only that, this workout looks surprisingly efficient. Combining bursts of aerobic activity like stair climbing and jumping in place with muscle-building strength training moves, this 10-minute workout (20 if you do it twice) appears to have it all. If you're short on time, light on cash, or just don't feel like leaving the house...give it a try!

Meet the Bloggers: Martha Edwards

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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 introduce Martha Edwards, who plays Diet Detective with Brigitte Dale in How Many Calories? on alternating Wednesdays, contributes her Daily Fit Tip on Thursdays, and brings us Fit Factor each Friday.

1. Who are you?
Writer, photographer, world traveller, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mum to Molly the Cat, a total goofball, someone who loves life, laughter and so much more.

2. Age you tell people you are.

I´m 26 --- really!

3. Where you're from and where you live now.

I´m from the frozen north -- a proud Canadian who has lived in Calgary all her life.

4. Do you have a personal blog?

Nope. I´ve got too much stuff going on at the moment to keep up but I´ll keep you posted.

5. What is your day job, or rather, what do you do when you're not fitness blogging?

I´m currently a writer at a travel website, though I´m taking the jump to full-time freelancer soon.

6. How long have you been blogging with That's Fit and what is your favorite post?

I joined the team in September ´06 and my favourite post is one I wrote about a cause I feel strongly about:

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?

A natural clumsiness left me wary of anything exercise-related during my teenage years, but once I was working out on my own agenda, I realized I loved being active. I don´t have any official credentials, but I´m certainly passionate about healthy living.

8. What's the worst fitness or diet idea you fell for?

When I went to Europe last, my jeans were feeling a bit tight, so I thought a super-speedy cleanse would do the trick. However, I didn´t consider that I was going to spend the next few days squished into the back of a van driving around Scotland ... I don´t think I need to elaborate further!

9. What motivates you to exercise and stay healthy?

My dad passed when I was 24 and I´ve felt his loss deeply ever since. I know there are no guarantees in life, but I owe it to my family to try my best to stick around for a while.

10. Who's your favorite fitness role model?

Anyone who can go for an early-morning outdoor run in the dead of Canadian winter has my admiration.

11. What's your exercise "M.O." -- Gym workouts or outdoor endeavors; team or solitary sports?

My aforementioned clumsiness means I´m not much for team sports -- I always seem to miss the crucial goal by tripping over my own feet or something similar. I prefer outdoor activities, preferably on the water. Unfortunately, the time frame for outdoor activity is limited where I live so I spend most of the year indoors on the treadmill or in yoga class.

12. Choice of fitness gear: Baggy sweats or sultry spandex?

I´m a sucker for the lululemon fad we have going on here in Canada. They make stuff that is breathable, comfy and oh-so cute.

13. What's your favorite fitness activity?

Gosh, I have so many. I love yoga, and I love watersports, though nothing too extreme.

14. Do you have any non-fitness-related, non-blogging hobbies?

I´m an avid yodeller ... just kidding. I take pictures constantly, I love to read and when I´m not doing either of those, I´m probably enjoying a few laughs with my friends.

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?

I don´t go to the movies much, but when I do, the smell of that popcorn has me under its spell as soon as I walk through the door, whether I´m hungry or not. And I have to have it with butter. Extra butter. It´s terrible, I know. Also, I am a cheese addict. It´s actually scary sometimes how much fromage I can put away.
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Skin irritants to watch out for this summer

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With the return of summer comes increased time outdoors amidst all the sunshine and blooming plant life. Most of it is harmless, but a little knowledge up front can keep you and your family from winding up stuck inside with an irritating rash.

If you're into hiking, and especially if you have kids or pets that get into everything, be on the lookout for chigger bites. Chiggers are little mites that hide out in tall grass and attach to your skin. They fall off after a couple days, but leave very irritating welts behind.

Heat rash is another unfortunate summer condition, that comes from over-active sweat glands. Fortunately, the rashes aren't serious, so by keeping the affected areas dry and clean, you should see it clear up relatively quickly.

As for plants, be on the lookout for poison ivy, wild parsnips and ragweed -- all three can cause skin irritation to varying degrees. Again, these conditions should resolve themselves in a couple weeks with proper cleaning, but if they don't, see your doctor.

For a full list of skin problems to watch out for this summer, along with effective ways to treat those conditions, check out this slideshow from the Mayo Clinic.

Living in a house with fitness equipment at hand

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Do you work out at home? Many of us have sacrificed that precious square footage for some exercise equipment, but if you're about to build a house, why not design some areas for exercising from the start?

It's not that you have to dedicate an entire room to exercise equipment, but if your home doesn't allow for an exercise room, you may have to get creative. Set aside some room in the corner for an elliptical. Carve out the side of that study for a treadmill that can put "condensed" when not in use.

Although some exercise machines take up a lot of room, finding a way to integrate those products into your home will make it more likely that you'll use them. And, that is a good thing, yes?

"Apod" makes carrying an inhaler fashionable

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Asthma rates are on the rise worldwide, and it's estimated that over 9 million American children suffer from the disease. It's hard enough to teach children the proper way to use preventative and emergency medications, but what about getting your child to carry their rescue inhaler in the first place? It's ugly, it's makes them stand out (and not in a good way) and it's just cramping their busy kid lifestyle.

Enter the Apod. Created by a UK design team, the Apod is a trendy new way to carry an inhaler. Just put the puffer inside the case and snap together and suddenly you have a hot new accessory that's reminiscent of many of today's popular gadgets. Apod comes in several different colors, including a glow in the dark version, and has an integral cap. The medication can be taken while the inhaler is inside the Apod, so kids and teens (or even adults) can feel fashionable while keeping their asthma under control.

Sneaking in fruits and veggies

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Do you have to try and sneak those fruits and vegetables into your child's diet? Too many kids are used to junk foods and sugared products, and that can make the transition to healthier foods a bit tricky these days. but with some reinforcement, it can happen (and you may lose your mind in the process, but it's worth it).

What to do? How about combining children's entertainment with healthy eating lessons? This is precisely what noted children's author David Goldbeck is doing. He says that he is tired of the "eat your vegetables" scolding that is a general tactic to try and get kids to eat healthier. How about forming a relationship with healthy foods instead of using them as a "perceived punishment?"

To read more, see this. What an exciting strategy to get kids more in touch with nutrition rather than the standard methods that have to break through walls of junk food memories.

Gluten: The latest dietary villian

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Now that trans fats are widely recognized and on their way out (ever so slowly, however), gluten seems to be the latest dietary "fall guy." Many people are beginning to swear that when they cut out gluten they feel more energetic, less irritable, and have better skin. Some even claim a gluten-free diet helps lessen anxiety and help solve infertility problems.

Up until recently, most of the people bothering to avoid gluten were those diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten allergy. Going on a gluten-free diet is hardly easy, as gluten is found in so many foods. Avoiding wheat, rye, and barley might not sound that daunting until you consider just how many products have some form of one or the other. Besides bread and bread products, even foods like soy sauce, malt vinegar, and treats like Twinkies and Ho Hos have gluten (well, you should really be avoiding those two anyway!).

Mother's Day gift ideas: healthy food!

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With Mother's Day coming up, what are you planning on giving that precious mom who helped raise you into a productive adult? Instead of the usual jewelry and possibly flowers, how about a dose of healthy food?

You know what your mom likes, so why not find a healthy recipe without a lot of sugar, refined flour and preservatives to make (or buy) for her?

If she's a chocolate fan, have you tried raw cocoa bars and things like this? Raw chocolate is actually very healthy for you (unlike processed milk chocolate), and it's on my list already. How about you?

Is it possible to have an allergy-free garden?

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Do seasonal allergies have you down? It may be time to take a look around your yard. When it comes to shedding pollen, certain trees and plants are worse than others and you may be sharing the same space with the thing that's making you sneeze.

If you love to spend time in your yard or garden and can't due to allergies, you might want to check out this article about creating an allergy-free zone around your home. For instance, when there are both male or female versions of a plant, choosing the female will eliminate pollen altogether. And annuals are generally safe even for people with allergies, because their pollens are large and sticky. Once you know what's in your yard -- and what you're allergic to -- you can start making decisions about what goes and what stays.

So what are the best plants for those with allergies? Check out the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale to find out what's safe to plant and what to stay away from.

Drivers walk 30% less than commuters

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Here's a quick tip for getting more exercise throughout your day: don't drive your car to work. It's impossible in some places, but more urban areas have at least some kind of mass transit -- whether it's subways, light rail or buses.

A recent study finds that those who do commute to work walk an average of 30% more than those who don't. That makes you 4 times as likely to walk 10,000 steps per day -- which is the recommend amount for healthy individuals.

For those that have to take their car to work, FitSugar has some fun tips on how you can still incorporate more walking into your daily routine. She suggests: park at the furthest spot from your building, skip the elevator, and walk to lunch.

It might take a little more time, but in the end, you'll be healthier for it. So get out there and walk!

How clean is the air on your child's school bus?

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What's riding on the school bus with your child? Air pollution, say experts, at least for students who take older, diesel powered buses to school. Newer buses have been designed to cut diesel emissions, but on older buses the air inside can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside around the bus.

Diesel emissions on school buses are a concern, because children's lungs are still developing. Children also tend to breathe more quickly than adults and take on more air per pound. There is a quick fix, however, for these older buses -- a $700 filter can reduce up to 85% of emissions. A more expensive $7,500 filter can do even better and eliminate 90% of soot emissions.

Many states have started clean air initiatives to fund the retrofitting of the older buses. Check out the EPA's website on the issue, and more importantly let your school district know that grant funding is available to help offset the cost of getting their buses fixed.

Turn off the tube if your kids are becoming fat

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It's really not news to me that watching TV causes more incidences of childhood obesity (think: less regular exercise). British researchers have said the same thing now in regards to English kids. Solution? Switch off that TV set.

It's common practice in many households I know that TV hours are set in stone -- and no TV watching is permitted beyond that. What kids must do outside of those TV hours is to find mentally or physically-stimulating activities that broaden horizons instead of being subjected to much of the boring tripe on TV these days.

Don't get me wrong here -- there is quite a bit of excellent TV available for kids, from Discovery Health to Animal Planet. The trick is to know when even those channels should be turned off.

Immune cells trained to fight cancer

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What if your own immune system could fight cancer? Scientists in Hong Kong are currently trying to make this type of treatment a reality, by training patient's white blood cells to treat their nose and throat cancer.

While the science is undoubtedly complicated, the idea is fairly straightforward. Scientist plan to extract blood from cancer patients, take it a lab, and teach the white blood cells, or T-cells to fight cancer. Once trained, they'll put the cells back in the patient's body, with the hopes that they'll remember what to do, while also instructing the body's other T-cells to follow suit.

Nose cancer in particular has been targeted because contracted it is often linked to a virus called Epstein-Barr virus. If the procedure is successful, scientists hope to apply the theory to other virus-related cancers, such as liver cancer, which is linked to hepatitis B.