Monday, 6 August 2007

Massive toy recall due to lead paint

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Time to check those toy boxes!

Mattel recently announced a recall that affected nearly 1 million of their toys. The toys, which were manufactured between April 19 and July 6th of this year, may contain lead paint and children may be exposed to the lead when they play with the toys and put them in their mouths. The toys include popular Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Go, Diego, Go toys.

The mistake was made in a vendor plant in China, a plant that Mattel says they've been working for for nearly 15 years. If you have own one of these toys manufactured during the recall dates, Mattel says you should take the toy from your child and that consumers will be given a voucher to replace the recalled products. For more information, and for a complete list of products, visit CPSC website here.

Odd fitness: high heels racing

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I guess that's what happens when you race in heelsCorrect me if I'm wrong, women of the world, but I get the impression that, while high-heeled shoes may help you look good, they're not helping you get anywhere fast.

Apparently, however, this isn't always the case. In fact, in Eastern Europe, they've made a sport out of running races in stilettos.

In St. Petersberg, Moscow and Berlin, ladies wearing shoes with a minimum heel of 9cm (3.5 in) competed with one another for thousands of dollars in prize money.

Seems crazy to me, and looks like a good way to break an ankle. But it's also yet another reminder that, no matter what your interests, you can find a way to get active and stay fit in a way that's fun for you.

To see a video of these ladies in action, check out this YouTube clip.

A workout for Harry Potter fanatics

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Harry Potter mania has seized the nation, and the majority of my friends are holed up in their rooms reading furiously and trying to get to the end. What do you do with that monstrous book when you're finished reading and you know the ground-breaking ending? Why, you incorporate it into a workout. Really, what else would you do with a book that size?

Fitness Magazine has developed this workout that incorporates your Harry Potter book, or really, any other book -- perhaps that dictionary you hardly ever use? The workout allows you to work your triceps, core, legs and butt, and the more you do it, the more books you'll need to add. Maybe you'll eventually be able to squat the entire series, if you can find a way to safely do so, that is.

Switch things up with an in-the-gym mini triathalon

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Looking for a way to spice up your gym routine? How about getting some serious cross-training benefits and variety at the same time, while maximizing the resources at the gym? This mini-triathalon plan not only sounds fun, but I bet if you try it the time will fly by so fast that before you know it your workout will be over.

It involves 15 minutes of lap swimming in the pool (or on the rowing machine if you prefer), 15 minutes of cycling on a stationary bike, and 15 minutes of running on the treadmill. And the best part? It's completely adjustable, with the times easily shortened or lengthened to fit your personal fitness level!

Balance tips from Mariel Hemingway

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Famous for her lineage (she is Ernest Hemingway's Granddaughter) and for appearing in several movies and TV shows over the years, Mariel Hemingway is now making waves in the health industry, and even has a self-help book out called Mariel Hemingway's Healthy Living From the Inside Out. She's been practicing yoga and meditation since before it was popular, and now she's sharing her tips for a healthy life with everyone.

I haven't read the book, but from the website, it seems like the program recommends healthy, natural eating, lots of exercise, and allowing yourself some precious moments of silence. Mariel's tips are designed for the busy person, the person who is constantly surrounded by noise -- cell phones, the TV blaring, the commuter humming -- and the person who is always in a hurry, too busy to exercise or sit down to eat. Frankly, I can relate to that person, so I might check the book out.

Angry men get ahead. Angry women? Not so much

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There are so many differences between how men and women are treated in the world, and here's another: When angry, men are admired, whereas women are thought to be irrational. What do you think about this? I for one do believe that women are perceived this way; so often, both men and women are quick to label an angry woman as a witch (or another word that rhymes with that.)

I suppose it's an evolutionary response--historically, powerful, commanding males were the most successful, while women who were good at mothering were favoured. But that notion is outdated and unfair -- a lot has changed since the caveman ages and so should how we women are regarded.

I suppose not getting angry is a solution that women can look towards, but how likely is that? How can powerful women command the same admiration as men when we speak our minds?

Celebrities, addiction, and rehab: What gives?

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Why does it seem so many celebrities have such a hard time and go to such extremes when it comes to substance abuse and rehab issues? According to the experts, celebrities in general tend to feel protected from life's problems and often have to hit absolute rock bottom before they finally face them. So why do celebrities feel so "protected?" Society catches most of the blame, as experts say celebrities are held less accountable than other people. That, and I think being filthy rich helps too -- they don't have many of same issues the rest of do and in some cases get used to buying their way out of trouble.

Eat on the couch much? The Sofa Hanger can help

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Eating on the couch is one of the worst habits you can have if you're trying to be healthy, so when I saw this "Sofa Hanger" my first thought was along the lines of 'what not to do.' But in truth there are lots of ways this could actually help, instead of hurt, your 'be healthy' efforts. If you have one you might be more likely to keep a glass of water at hand while you read a book or relax with friends (hydration is important!), or (like in the picture) having healthy snacks can be a good thing by helping you avoid hunger pangs and binges later.

This could be one of those "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" situations -- just make sure you join 'em on your own terms!

Via Diet Blog

Carbonated water: Good or evil?

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Have you ever wondered if carbonated water was bad for your health? I've heard both sides, that it's good for dieting because it can help you feel fuller, and that it might have negative side-effects due to acidity and lack of fluoride. So is it or isn't it a bad idea? Honestly, there haven't been enough studies looking at just water (as opposed to other carbonated beverages) to really know for sure, but experts say that all arrows point to a very small risk, if any, for negative health effects. A bigger risk? Not drinking enough water of any kind, period.

Lead exposure is a reality in China

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While parents express outrage at the news that thousands of toys are being recalled because of lead contamination, consider this: Kids in China are exposed to lead every day and it leads to a whole slew of problems, from behavioural problems to learning disabilities.

Over there, lead is in the pipes, the water, the paint -- it's unavoidable, and the sad part is, it's not even the most toxic pollutant that Chinese kids are exposed to on a regular basis. The news that lead-based paint was used on toys is no big deal to them -- they are exposed to them all the time.

China manufactures about 75% of the world's toys, and it's thought that while this is the most public admission of lead contamination in toys, many more contain the toxic substance as well -- particularly cheap ones.

The anatomy of a fainting spell

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Do people still faint anymore? I don't think I've ever seen anyone faint in person, although I know it happens. Based on TV and movies it seems like people faint left and right, but have you ever wondered what exactly causes somebody to suddenly lose consciousness and hit the floor?

Fainting is caused by a sudden decrease in blood flow to the brain, which causes loss of consciousness usually just for a few seconds, and people often feel dizzy or nauseous after they wake up. Things that can trigger fainting include any kind of straining or pushing, excessive coughing, medications, drugs, low blood sugar, pain, and of course the Hollywood favorite: emotional distress.

Writer's cramp related to less gray matter in the brain

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Being a writer I can say I've never suffered from "writer's cramp," but I think it's a different deal than it used to be with the invention of the computer and the near-extinction of the quill pen. But people that use their hands a lot for other occupations or hobbies, like playing the piano, can still get painful and downright debilitating cramps that can cause permanent damage.

Now science has discovered something in the brain that may have to do with why some suffer and some don't: it seems that people who get writer's cramps have less gray matter than normal in specific areas of the brain -- including areas that control the affected hand.

All that's good and dandy, but experts still wonder: is the lack of gray matter causing the cramps, or are the cramps causing the lack in gray matter? And what else is affected?

Men, women, and how they diet differently

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Men and women are different, we know that. But have you ever really thought about how we're different when it comes to weight loss and fitness? The thinking and the approaches men and women take are interestingly different, like how when women think "need to diet" men think "need to get in shape." And that women are more quick to realize they're overweight and are better about getting started, but men are much more disciplined and structured once they make the leap.

Have you noticed differences? Do these ring true in your experiences?

Farmers are the unhappiest of the self-employed

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As a general rule self-employment is supposed to be good for you, but for some reason farmer's aren't getting the benefit. In a new report published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, farmers come out scoring low on every measure of health and quality of life.

This news strikes me as really sad because it's such a natural and honest way to make a living, and we need farmers! But if it's such an unpleasant way of life then why will anyone choose it in the future? And unfortunately the article doesn't give much in the way of what to do, other than suggesting farmers need more emotional and social support.

Daily Fit Tip: Make walking the dog exercise for both of you

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Early-morning jogs and fresh air runs are great -- they invigorate the body and get it ready for the day. For some, morning is not a joyful time, though. You have to be a "morning person" to not only get up, but then exercise early in the morning.

Who says you have to walk (or jog) around the block in the morning, though. Why not turn walking your dog into an exercise activity? There are plenty of people I see around neighborhoods and parks these days jogging with their dogs right beside them.

It sounds trite to some, but turning an experience like dog walking into a short (or longer) exercise period for both of you would seem to hit the "multitasking" button for many. Fido will enjoy it (and will be healthy) and you'll knock out some decent daily exercise as well.

Jumpstart Your Fitness: By recovering faster after a workout

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Sometimes what you need the most to get in shape (excitement, energy, and motivation) can be exactly what ends up sidelining you unexpectedly once you get started. Going after a workout with everything you've got is a good thing, but if you step too far out of your comfort zone all at once you risk ending up too worn out the next day (or days) to keep up the efforts. And a skipped workout is a missed opportunity, not to mention there's always a chance just one missed workout will turn into several missed workouts, or worse yet the end of your plans altogether.

Recovering from a workout as efficiently as possible is obviously a pretty valuable thing to know how to do, and this list of 10 tips includes both common ideas and off-the-wall ones, so you're sure to find something that works for you:
  • Have a workout shake immediately after your workout. Something with a 2-to-1 mix of carbs and protein is your best bet.
  • Take a contrast bath immediately after your workout. This is one of those "off-the-wall" ideas, and if you try it you'll have to let us know if it works or not. It's from ancient Eastern techniques and means taking a shower or bath of alternating hot and cold water for 1 minute each for up to 10 minutes total. This is supposed to stimulate recovery.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: By recovering faster after a workout

Help your child choose a backpack

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Back-to-school season often means back-to-school shopping, and one of the purchases you need to make may be a backpack. Before you buy, take a minute to read this article about children's backpacks so that you can make the best decision based on your child's situation. For instance, did you know that despite the fact that sling backpacks are popular, they can cause shoulder pain? Other tips include:
  • Look for padded shoulder straps, the thicker, the better.
  • Wheeled backpacks are not always better. Consider whether your child will have to haul the backpack up stairs or through snow before buying.
  • Conservative estimates say a backpack shouldn't be packed with more than 10% of a child's body weight.
  • Teach your child to wear their backpack correctly. For tips on how to do that, click here.
Finally, Rigel recently wrote about these ergonomically designed backpacks that are built to spread weight a little more evenly across the shoulders.

DIY dieting: Tips and tricks

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There's always satisfaction in a job well done, especially if it's a DIY project. Though diet books and products are a huge industry today (likely because over half of us say we want to lose weight), experts say that following someone else's diet plan isn't a guaranteed success. Instead, making simple habit changes that fit easily into your own lifestyle may be the recipe for successful and lasting weight loss.

Check out this article about going it alone when losing weight. It outlines what works in weight loss, including, cutting simple carbs, adding in protein, eating high-volume foods, and keeping a food diary, and then offers simple suggestions for making these habits a part of your daily life. (And the best part? You don't need to spend $29.95 to read it!)

Eat well without ever turning on your stove

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In the winter, I love to cook. But the past few days have been sweltering and the thought of cooking over a stove top or heating up my oven makes me sweat just thinking about it. So when I saw an article from MSNBC about No-Cook Dieting, I was intrigued. If you have a microwave and a toaster, you'll be able to follow this 1600-calorie-per-day plan without a problem, and you won't have to lift so much as a stirring spoon!

The plan is heavy on processed foods -- frozen dinners, hot cocoa, canned soups -- but includes plenty of fruits, veggies, and lean proteins as well. If you're going out to dinner too often and are tired of eating super-sized restaurant portions, or if you just want to beat the heat in your kitchen, it may be worth taking a look at this eating plan.

Eco-running: Fitness for a cleaner world

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Don't you hate it when your favorite outdoor space is littered with trash? It's easy enough to take a few minutes to clean it up, but a new running trend adds fitness to that Earth-friendly activity. Eco-running is the (sometimes) simple act of taking a garbage bag with you on your run, and picking up any trash that you see on your route. It's not as easy as it sounds, and it takes practice to swoop up that trash without breaking stride. But at the end of your run, you've not only accomplished a great workout, you've left a the world a cleaner place.

And as Diet-Blog points out, you don't have to be a runner to participate. It's easy to get kids involved, and If you hike or walk, you can bring a small trash bag with you as well and clean up your favorite route.