Friday, 8 June 2007

Working in the Workouts: Checking in -- with yourself

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Owen and mommyEach week, Debbie will share her goals, challenges, successes and tips on how to fit in fitness when caring for a rambunctious toddler.

The road to fitness is paved with good intentions. Just when I finally get in my fitness groove, Owen stops sleeping well and I start forgetting to do parts of my routine. Sometimes the days go by in such a flash, I'll get to the end of one and realize I didn't do any exercise at all that day.

Aside from my apparent sleep deprivation, which I am convinced kills off brain cells, there are a few things contributing to my problems, and thankfully, I've come up with some great solutions, too.

The main problem, causing all the others, really, is that I have stopped making exercise a priority. I never really made it my top priority (how can I with a child to care for and a household to run?), but I did have it on the priority list, which means I thought about it every day, many times, and how best to maximize the exercise time.

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Too much dieting and exercise is bad for your bones

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It seems like nothing is as simple as it should be, even building healthy bones. It's true that eating right and exercising regularly starting early in life can keep your bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis, but it's also true that you can overdo it. If you diet too severely while exercising too rigorously you can actually make it harder for your body to form new bone, instead of easier. Which means when you're older your bones will be weaker.

It's all about balance. Exercise is great for bones, but only if you eat enough to provide the fuel your body needs. What you don't want to do is run yourself into the ground, because even if you don't have major symptoms now you'll end up paying for it later.

Stock nutrition in your emergency stash

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For many who live in coastal regions, hurricanes are an unfortunate reality. Keeping an emergency kit is an important safety precaution. Experts recommend having enough food and other items to be self-sufficient for three to seven days. Pre-packaged snack foods may seem like the most convenient food items to pack, but in case of emergency, nutrition is important. Nutrient-dense foods will sustain energy longer than junk foods.

Good options include trail mix, natural peanut butter, shelf-stable milk, dried fruit, 100% juices, canned fruits and vegetables, nuts, canned tuna or salmon, and of course plenty of water. You could also package bite-sized, whole-grain cereals (think shredded wheat) and whole-grain crackers into plastic bags. Reduced-sugar cereal bars and granola bars are also good options. Pack supplies in water-resistant backpacks for quick access.

The National Hurricane Center offers a checklist of recommended supply kit items.

America's most polluted beaches

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Unfortunately the sun isn't all you have to worry about at the beach this summer. I posted yesterday on the dangers of Recreational Water Illness, and although it's fairly easy to prevent by making sure you don't swallow water and dry your ears after swimming there are some places that are much more hazardous and risky than others. Unfortunately many beaches across the country are getting so contaminated with sewage and pollution that they're almost unusable! According to, here's the nation's most polluted beaches, along with what percentage of water samples came back higher than national health standards for contaminants:
Is the beach near you on the list? Were you planning a summer vacation to one of these places? You might want to think again!

You too can eat like a celeb: 7 tasty recipes

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Scarlett Johansson, Heath Ledger and Cameron Diaz - they're young, they're beautiful, they're rich, they're famous and they're all in great shape. Kind of makes you want to puke right? Well just rest assured that these celebs' fabulous bodies aren't necessarily a result of starving themselves. The proof is in the pudding (perhaps literally) if you pay attention to what this article says.

Apparently these, and other fit celebs, all love to dine at Hollywood hotspot Il Sole -- a restaurant serving delicious but likely calorie laden Italian food. Any of you out there who love a creamy pasta dish or a deep-fried bocconcini cheese ball know the potential effects of too much Italian (and I'm not talking about a steamy evening with your better half courtesy of a bit too much vino).

But you too can eat like a star, without putting on the pounds, by preparing some of their favorites from Il Sole. The aforementioned article lists recipes for the preferred dishes of a bunch of fit celebs, but they've been pared-down and altered into diet-friendly alternatives. Apparently Courtney Cox Arquette is a fan of the Linquine ai Frutti di Mare, while Demi Moore likes to dine on Pollo Montecristo. So next time you're craving something decadent but not too fattening, try the Creamy Aspargus Soup (Drew Barrymore) or the Raspberry-Marzipan Tarts (Leo DiCapprio). Because everyone should feel like a star at least once in a while!

Speed Hiking: The leisurely need not apply

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I love walking more than anything else for exercise and fitness, and although I walk pretty fast to get my heart pumping I do also enjoy the fact that it gets me outside with a chance to enjoy the scenery and surroundings. But that isn't for everybody -- some people just want to get out there and get it over with, they want their results faster than fast and the rest doesn't matter.

If this sounds like you (but you aren't a runner) then maybe speed hiking is something you should try. Focused on miles covered and elevation gained (if you're mountain hiking), it's all about time/effort efficiency and getting the most workout bang for your buck. It's a quickly growing flexible subsport, with speed hikers throwing all kinds of different approaches, walking speeds, and even some short jogs into the mix. It's really just up to you.

Be cautious though, as moving quickly over uneven outdoor terrain makes it easy to trip and fall. There's even a term many speed hikers have started using called "foosh," or "fell on outstretched hand."

Motion sickness? Some tips on keeping everyone happy this travel season

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Very few things can destroy a road trip as fast as motion sickness. Those who suffer from it know all too well that the effects of a long car ride, with someone at the wheel who is a little bit heavy on the breaks, can make you desperately ill for hours after the offending trip is over.

The problem isn't much better for those accompanying the ill traveler either, as they're the ones who have to look after their incapacitated friend or family member and, if worse comes to worse, smell the aftereffects of a round of heaving into a barf bag. If you, or someone you're about to travel with, gets serial car sickness here are a few tips to help you cope.

The article is geared towards parents with sick kids, but the suggestions should work for everyone. Some things to try include not reading or playing video games in the car, letting the nauseous person sit in the front seat where they'll get a more normal view and keeping the windows open for fresh air. Motion sickness pills like Gravol work, but only if taken before starting a journey. So keep these, and all the other tips listed, in mind before starting a car trip as your entire group will be much happier for it.

Five all-natural foods for your brain

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You've read the research, played the brain-training games, and now you're wondering if there's anything else you can do to help tweak your noggin. If you're one of those people who love to fine-tune your diet, you may find this list of five healthy, all-natural brain foods helpful in deciding what to add to the daily routine.

BrainReady went the extra mile to compile this list based on the scientific health benefits for each food, consumer reports, and even ease of incorporation into people's diets. So what are they anyway?

The first item they cover is wild salmon. By itself, true wild salmon is amazingly healthy in just about every way (great source of protein and omega-3, for example). As far as the brain benefits go, this fish improves your mood, synaptic junctions, and helps ward off dementia and Alzheimer's as well.

Continue reading Five all-natural foods for your brain

Fresh ways to burn more calories

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Fitness doesn't have to be only about treadmills and scheduled workouts. There are a ton of opportunities throughout your day to burn some calories. As long as you get that heart rate up and keep it up, whatever you're doing counts toward your activity quota of the day.

Summer is an excellent time to burn calories while doing something fun. Whether you're at the beach, in the woods, on the playground, or on the water, there are plenty of chances to get your fitness groove on and burn some fat. Check out this list from for 18 fresh ways to burn calories as you go about your day. Get some exercise, but most of all have fun doing it!

No smoking at home for most U.S. households

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With smoking becoming banned in more states in the U.S. and in more public places in many countries, the last refuge for many smokers is at home. Well, at least in the U.S., smoking is now forbidden in 75% of homes. This is up sharply from about 43% just 10 years ago.

According to a new government study, more households are prohibiting smoking at home. Are homeowners increasing their awareness that smoking is really bad for human health? Perhaps.

In terms of state rankings, Utah was first with 90% of home banning smoking (disdain for tobacco in that Mormon-heavy state may be at play there), and Kentucky was the worst, with just over 50% of households not smoking inside home.

Cucumber flavored Pepsi?

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I am usually of the philosophy that the grosser two flavors sound together (like banana and peanut butter sandwiches) the better they usually taste once you actually try them. But I'm not so sure about this one, called Pepsi Ice Cucumber. Yeah, that's right! Cucumber flavored Pepsi! Eeeeew. I'm half curious, but I have to get past the idea that just thinking about anything both sweet and cucumber-flavored turns my stomach a little.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) we in the U.S. won't get to try it since it's being released for a limited time in Japan only. I suppose if it's a raging success over there we might get lucky, but I'm not holding my breath.

And no, I'm pretty sure drinking one of these would not count as a serving of vegetables!

Hot flash alert! Okay, it's over

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The trend in society has always been towards the bolder and less inhibited, from the changes in swimsuits to what's now allowed on TV -- from generation to generation we're definitely not getting any more conservative! It's a delicate subject for some, as opinions on whether it's good or bad for society as a whole vary wildly.

That being said, menopause happens to all women at some point in their lives, and it's not always a simple or easy change to go through. Of course there's a time and a place for everything, but nowadays it's getting much easier for women to find the support and understanding they need because it's more acceptable to talk about things like hot flashes and mood swings. It used to be so "hush hush" women were stuck suffering in silence.

I'm still pretty shy when it comes to blurting out personal issues in a public setting (and I'm not going through menopause), but it's nice to know that when I do want to talk about something it's not going to be a big deal or make for some broken social rule. And for those of you who do enjoy announcing "hot flash!" loudly over dinner? More power to you!

10 baby milestones for first 24 months

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Have a newborn? Are you aware of the most significant interactions your infant needs to have in the first two years of life? Many parents are no doubt blow away with the amount of information needed to cope with a new baby while preparing it to interact with the outside world, but there are resources from which to learn from.

Baby moments are special, never to be repeated again. The first word, the first walk and even the first diaper change can all be moments parents cherish forever.

Are there other occurrences in those first 24 months that every parent should focus on, like social stimulation and recognizing the stages babies go through during that development. Want to know details? Click here.

Man wakes after 19-year coma, discovers Poland is no longer communist

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With all the knowledge the medical community has about how our bodies function, I find it amazing that some people recover from illnesses in a way that's beyond explanation.

That's the case with Jan Grzebski, a Polish man who fell off a train in 1988, slipped into what appeared to be a coma for 19 years. After nearly two decades of being almost completely isolated from society, he recently "woke up," and has since been re-acclimating himself with the world.

At the time of Grzebski's accident, Poland lived under communism, but only months after they held their first free election and became a democratic society. He tells the Guardian newspaper: "Everything is new," and "The clothes are much better." But he adds: "Things were simpler in 1988. Now everything is colorful and everyone talks constantly on their mobile phone and moans, even a three-year-old child."

According to doctors, Grzebski wasn't actually in a coma, but conscious the entire time. Even though he was paralyzed and suffering from aphasia (a condition in which you lose the ability to produce or understand language), he was still able to hear his wife when she spoke -- but wasn't able to respond.

Now the pair have the rest of their lives to catch up on all that they missed over the last 20 years.

Fitness DVD aimed at teens

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If you have a teen that's looking to get in shape (or if you are a teen yourself), there's a new DVD out there that was created with teens in mind. MorePower2U is a fitness DVD that includes cardio, strength training, core exercises, and stretching exclusively for teens and tweens. Because young adults often have their own (strong) preferences in music, the exercises are not set to music, which I think may be a welcome relief!

Fran Johnson, who created the DVD is a personal trainer and her brother, who is releasing the video with her, is a pediatrician. If you're interested in checking MorePower2U out, check out their website and see what you think.

"Word drinking games" for your exercise inspiration?

If there is such thing as exercise ADD, I am pretty sure I have it. Other than a few standards like walking and yoga, I am constantly searching for that one activity that will inspire, awaken and tone me. When it comes to stretching and strength training, I'm even worse, quickly getting bored with the same-old squats and tired lunges.

My need to mix it up may just be met today by Dumb Little Man's boredom-busting fitness tips. DLM offers a nice little list of ways to rev yourself up to workout and among them, my favorite is to use Word Drinking Games to make your living room routine more fun.

No no no. Unfortunately, this does not mean that gimlets will help you get fit. It does mean that all that time and strategy you invested in drinking games in college is now useful for burning the resulting beer belly. All that's required is choosing a word or action that is often repeated in your favorite TV shows. Then, when you hear it, rather than pound a shot like you did back in the day, toss up a medicine ball and catch it.

Clearly, this would work well for other activities, like short sets of bicep curls or a pre-determined number of crunches. DLM recommends Googling "word drinking games" for more details and ideas. I say the possibilities for fun and focus are endless. Just imagining doing squats every time Tyra says "pose" or "inner beauty" or even her own name on America's Next Top Model gives me new workout purpose. Ooh! Or "Mc"-anything on Gray's Anatomy or the eye-rolling on Idol. The possibilities -- and maybe the lunges -- are endless. And I can certainly toast to that.

China rejects imports of U.S. raisins

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In a reversal of roles (of sorts), China said today that it has banned the import of certain nutritional supplement capsules along with raisins from the U.S. Authorities in that country stated that an abnormally high amount of bacteria was found on those two items upon inspection in China, leading to the ban decision.

While this ban is most likely temporary, it comes as a possible surprise in the wake of several Chinese-based health issues dealing with toothpaste, dog food and cough syrup items that were made in China but were found to contain potentially deadly substances.

While raisins and the capsules that comprise certain nutritional supplements probably are not a big export to China, what will be next? If 2007 is any indication so far, who knows.

Accidental deaths start to creep up

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In a report this week from the National Safety Council, the rate of deaths attributed to accidents was found to have again crept up recently. Compared to the lowest overall accidental death rate on record (in the year 1992), recent accidental deaths were up 12% compared to 15 years ago.

Accidental deaths can happen from high-risk behavior like skydiving or motorcycle racing as well as normal activities like driving (with a seatbelt, hopefully) as well as medication overdoses.

Illegal drug use and the increasing rate of falls and injuries to the elderly population are being cited as having contributed to the increase lately, although there are many more areas showing increases as well. An unsurprising one? Motorcycle deaths in the 45+ age category. Baby boomers with a penchant for Harleys, please be careful.

What to do when teens are depressed

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Being a teenager is not easy these days. Drugs and alcohol usage have increased in that age segment and then amount of bad influences by the media and entertainment industry can be a tad destructive to an impressionable mind. Okay, that's an understatement.

Depression in that teenager can last for a few days or a few weeks (or months). If a teen you know seems depressed for a few weeks or longer, there are a few important things you can do to assist.

The most important? Get them talking. That's right, that depressed teen can get lifted out of that emotional hole just by talking -- to parents, family, friends or the school counselor. Nothing is as reassuring than a close circle of personal support.