Monday, 1 October 2007

Can faith make you healthier?

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Can you imagine trying to scientifically measure if prayer has health benefits? And not just solitary prayer, but whether other people praying for you can help you as well? It's a mind-boggling experiment with an infinite number of twists and turns and outcomes, hurdles that make it impossible to pin down faith through science.

But several studies have linked regular church attendance to better health, including lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, less chronic pain, less depression, and even, possibly, an improved immune system. Researchers say that while faith may be unmeasurable by science, being part of a strong support network that meets weekly for a community purpose is likely the cause for these significant findings.

But what if you aren't religious? The author of this article explores that conundrum and how you can find a similar peace in the parts of your life that are important to you.

The Daily Turn On! Squeeze in the health

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Life is too short not to be fully "turned on." The Daily Turn On! energizes all aspects of "you." Everyday The Daily Turn On! with That's Fit Life Fit expert Laura Lewis will awaken your mind, your body and your life!

Did you know ... There is more to citrus fruits than vitamin C. While lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges pack a powerful punch of vitamin C, they are also packed full of special phytochemicals called limonoids. Limonoids are powerful players in the fight against colon, skin and other cancers. As a matter of fact, you can actually reverse the aging process by eating a diet rich in fruits--at least four servings per day.

Limonoids are also allies in the fight against cholesterol. These tangy phytochemicals are rich in other important nutrients as well, potassium and folate, to name a few.

Oranges and oatmeal are a particularly powerful duo. This combo is especially effective at keeping your arteries clear. The vitamin C content boosts the immune systems while inhibiting the formation of arterial plaque. The phenolic compounds in the oats are excellent antioxidant agents that prevent blood cells from attaching to the arterial walls. This dynamic duo of vitamin C and phenolic compounds together inhibit LDL oxidation, thereby keeping the arteries squeaky clean.

Have an extra serving of oranges, or another citrus fruit, and you may possible reduce the risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx and stomach by as much as 50%!

According to study results, a mere one extra serving of citrus fruits each day may reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, larynx, and stomach by as much as 50 percent. Researchers credit the antioxidant properties of vitamin C-rich citrus fruits for the possible cancer-fighting benefits.

And in case you need some additional encouraging to throw back some orange on a daily basis, how about this ... have a shot of oj morning, noon and night to keep your antioxidant levels consistent all day. This will provide continuous protection from free radical damage all day long!

So, keep some citrus within reach and enjoy a freshing squeeze of healthfulness four times daily!

Teens get hooked after one puff

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Confession time! I remember my first (and only) drag on a cigarette. It filled my lungs with a burning sensation and I coughed for about 5 minutes afterward. That was enough for me!

According to this article, I was one of the lucky ones. One third of kids who try cigarettes report feeling a relaxing sensation afterwards, and two-thirds of those kids are hooked. In fact, this study found that the relaxed feeling kids reported feeling was the biggest predictor in whether they'd go on to become regular smokers or not, adding support to the theory that just one cigarette is all it takes for kids to become addicted. Health experts say that this finding should be enough to ban cigarette advertising, and that efforts should be made to warn kids of the dangers of even taking that first puff.

FDA to fight cough supressant industry over ingredient

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Cough syrup and suppressant products that contain the unapproved hydrocodone ingredient will soon be targeted by the FDA for removal from shelves, according to the federal agency.

The ingredient is included in more than 200 cough suppressants, and it's not approved for over-the-counter drug products. The FDA appears especially concerned about cough suppressant products marketed to kids which contain this component. Why? Well, hydrocodone is a narcotic, naturally.

Ever hear of kids getting high from cough syrup? That's been a well-known problem for years, but for some reason the inclusion of hydrocodone into many easily-purchasable products has not caught the eye of the FDA until now. It's good to know that the agency is catching up with the times, yes?

Knowing when to ask your doctor to do more

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It's hard to stand up to authority, and many people view their health practitioners as just that. But doctors are human and some conditions are difficult to pin down, which can be a recipe for misdiagnosis. CNN has a list of the five most misdiagnosed diseases, including:
  • aortic dissection
  • cancer
  • clogged arteries
  • heart attack
  • infection
In addition, WebMD recently wrote about five conditions that always warrant a second opinion. They include:
  • rare or difficult to diagnose cancers
  • ADHD in young children
  • Parkinson's disease
  • heart procedures
  • depression or bipolar disorder
Need help learning how to advocate for yourself? CNN has an excellent list of tips to help you avoid being misdiagnosed, as well as these five signs that you might not be getting the right treatment for your condition.

Heart attacks in kids rare, but possible

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It sounds odd that kids in their early teens are having heart attacks, but it's been documented many times. The surprising thing is that most of these rare cases have nothing to do with risk factors like obesity, family history, high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels.

The cause? A rare but serious heart spasm that briefly cuts off the blood supply, triggering a heart attack. Adults can experience the problem as well, but when it shows up in kids it is particularly surprising and I would guess not addressed appropriately in many cases.

Have you brushed off the "my chest hurts" explanation from your child? While heart attacks are not always the end result here, signs like that are a red flag -- to parents and teachers especially.

Most can cohabitate with dust mites

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Once again, Americans' disdain for anything dirty has spawned a lucrative business. Lately, a barrage of advertisements touting dust mite obliteration as a necessary housekeeping task leave me wondering why these invisible creatures haven't eaten my toddler alive yet. So, what's the deal?

Here are the facts. According to Wikipedia, the house dust mite (sometimes abbreviated by allergists to HDM), is a cosmopolitan guest in human habitation. Dust mites feed on organic detritus such as flakes of shed human skin and flourish in the stable environment of dwellings. In nature they are killed by micro-predators and by exposure to direct sun rays.

The main issue: Dust mites are considered to be the most common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms worldwide. But if you don't harbor those symptoms, it's probably safe to ignore the advertising for everything from special bedding to vacuums, detergents and sprays designed to rid one's home of dust mites. As Environment, Health and Safety Online explains, microscopic cast skins and feces are a major constituent of house dust that induces allergic reactions in some individuals. But, for most people, while they are disgusting, house dust mites are not actually harmful. And as my neighbor pointed out recently: "They serve a purpose. Imagine all that dead skin lying around if dust mites didn't exist!"

Returning vets suffering long after they come home

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Whether you support the current Iraq war or not, it's hard not to adamantly support the soldiers that return from the battlefield. Are we not a country founded on freedom principles? We sure are, but when those soldiers take off the uniform and try to relax back into a civilian lifestyle, physical ailments sometimes are the least of their problems.

Thoughts of suicide, depression and other emotional maladies plague thousands of returning soldiers these days, and the apparently lack of care being shown to many of them are downright disturbing. Why is this?

Not only are some of these heroes physical casualties, but more and more are becoming economic casualties if they come back to attempt a normal life in the country they've served. Whereas some citizens poach on the system to pay for anything and everything, the welfare of soldiers stands on the line, says experts. To me, it's not a tough decision.

Nickelodeon tells kids to turn off the TV, go outside and play

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This almost sounds like a mistake: a TV network telling watchers to turn off the television to go outside and play. But, that is exactly what children's network Nickelodeon did this past Saturday in an effort to encourage kids to get some exercise in the annual "day of play" that many observed around the globe.

This is a great example of trying to do the right thing for kids of all ages. Television has been called the 'great babysitter' for ages, but there is no substitute for supervised play outside for the health and vitality of that growing child.

Did you participate in this last Saturday? The dead air began at noon PDT and the network featured the case history of a chubby kid who used to play video games and sit in front of the television all hours of the day. After joining the "Let's Just Play Go Healthy Challenge" program, the youth dropped 40 pounds (40?) learned to swim and ride a bike. Those are both excellent activities for youth fitness.

The top 10 foods for heart health

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Blueberries, pomegranates, whole grains -- what do these foods have in common? Why, they are all great for keeping the ole' ticker in fine shape, among other things. With cardiovascular disease being the single largest killer in the U.S., we should all be eating more of these items in our daily diets.

Again and again, we hear that eating healthy is the best insurance we can have in life -- and the premiums paid are just in learning and making time to eat healthy foods while avoiding bad foods. But, what are the best, "hearty" foods, so to speak?

Before going down the list, try this short stack on for size regarding the best diet we can try to achieve:
  • A diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • A diet high in plant-based foods (legumes).
  • A diet high in whole grains (fiber).
  • A diet that includes low-fat dairy and low-fat meat selections (low in saturated fats).
  • A diet low in fast food meals.
  • A diet low in processed snacks and desserts (low in trans fats, sugar, and sodium).
Trust me -- this sounds hard but it's all in your head. Anyone can do this with enough will power and determination. Are you game for change?

World Vegetarian Day coming tomorrow

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Tomorrow is World Vegetarian Day, and veggie lovers the world over will be singing the praises of their chosen lifestyle. Is that a bad thing? Not at all -- education is an important part of finding out why some choose to become a vegetarian.

Although many people I know are Vegans (different than just eating vegetarian products), I know only one person who is a vegetarian. And, hat person is one of the happiest people I know. Coincidence? Who knows.

Have you ever tried just eating grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables with no meat, fish or poultry? How did you fare after a few days or a week?

Food safety system perceived as in crisis, says U.S. Congress

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After so many food recalls from sources in China recently, is it any surprise that many Americans are skeptical of imported food and other products ? Shouldn't be, although in a country where 200 million+ people have to eat every day, aren't there always going to be risks?

All things considered, the food supply in the U.S. is pretty safe, although that does not absolve Chinese suppliers from being laggards when it comes to safety or American companies that have no idea of the quality of goods they are selling to consumers.

However, the Food and Drug Administration needs more power to inspect imports and recall defective ones, according to lawmakers in Washington this week. I'm not sure I agree with this statement by Rep. Diana DeGette from Colorado, but take for what it is worth: "The "system has pretty much fallen apart from top to bottom ... people are shocked by the continuing number of food safety issues we have."

If counting calories doesn't work -- stop!

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Calorie counting can be a major pain, even with handy tools like I mean, come on -- who really wants to measure every piece of food and make note of every single ingredient that we put into our meals? If you share my distaste for calorie counting, breath a sigh of relief for this article, which says that if calorie counting just isn't working out, you should quit. Seriously.

But that doesn't mean you're off the hook. You're still going to have to watch what you eat -- but this time, use visual cues to decide what constitutes a portion of what and be very stringent about what extra ingredients you are adding to your healthy foods. Still, with these tips, you can find a good balance -- without all the math.

How do you size up your food and lose weight without counting calories?

Week in Review: September 23 to 30

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If you missed our daily postings this past week, we invite you to take some time to catch up on our prior week's news and gear up for a new week of healthy living information and inspiration.

Whew! It's been a busy week at That's Fit, and we covered lots of stories, including these ones:
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Hair, nails and skin: Some cheap(er) ways to get an expensive look

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Manicures, pedicures, facials and visits to a salon for haircuts, coloring and hi-lites can be incredibly expensive. So what's a girl to do if she wants to maintain a polished, movie star look but obviously doesn't have the same kind of money to spend as a star? Well, you can try some of these tips on getting an expensive look for less.

The piece offers advice on how to keep hair looking shiny, keeping a just-polished look on finger and toe nails and getting celebrity-worthy eyebrows. Tips include not washing hair every day or using mousse as both will make your mane look dry and dull, shilling out for a really great, classic and personalized haircut a few times a year rather than opting for a trendy cut that needs maintenance every six weeks and buffing nails or using light, shimmery polishes -- like opal and taupe -- to keep nails looking like you've just been for a mani-pedi.

Let's face it, unless you've got too much money to throw around -- and most of us don't -- it's not really realistic to try to keep up with all of the treatments and styles that the stars favor, but these hints will help you look great without spending a fortune.

Nike shoe for Native Americans

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In an effort to fit the taller and wider foot of the American Indian and combat the population's high obesity rates, Nike has designed the Air Native N7 shoe for Native Americans. Not only is the shape unique, the look is culturally specific, even the name. N7 refers to some tribes' use of the seventh generation theory to seek wisdom from three preceding generations and to look ahead three generations for their legacy.

Nikes have always been too narrow for my foot. The Air Native has a wider toe box, fewer irritating seams and a thick, comfy sock liner. Nike is also pledging to reinvest the shoe's profits in tribal health programs. You won't find N7s in the stores, they'll be distributed to tribal schools and wellness programs nationwide at the wholesale price of $42.80 a pair.

Check out this interesting article summarizing the responses of supporters and cynics to Nike's first culturally-targeted product ever designed. Reactions range from "Nike is socially responsible" to "Nike is racist." What are you thinking?

French women don't get fat? Um, yes they do

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Recently, I've been hearing from a lot of girls I know about the book French Women Don't Get Fat. I haven't read it yet, but from what I've been told, the book basically says that you can eat whatever you want -- cheese, chocolate, wine, crusty bread -- and not get fat as long as you watch your portion control and eat these foods in moderation.

This common sense attitude has kept French women svelte while the size of people in other populations balloons. According to this though, even the French are starting to become victims of the obesity-epidemic sweeping many nations. A recent study on that nation's weight found that nearly half of the population (42%) either had a weight problem, were overweight or obese.

The number of obese French is still much lower than in North America but still obesity is on the rise in France. The problem isn't a traditional 'eat what you please, just don't go overboard' attitude, but an increase of people switching to a North American lifestyle. So if you still want to eat what you want don't lose heart, because you can as long as you keep the portions reasonable.

Will chatting for hours on your cell cause hearing loss?

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A small study of 100 participants conducted by the chairman of the Department of Ear, Nose, and Throat at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India found long-term cell phone users who chatted on their mobile for an hour or more a day, were more likely to suffer from high-frequency hearing loss.

Users who had their phones for four years or more were most effected, while those who had only had their mobiles for two years were less likely to have problems. According to the article, those suffering from high-frequency hearing loss have trouble hearing consonants like s, f, t and z.

It's important to keep in mind though, that the study is small and the researcher who conducted it points out that a much larger study and more research needs to be done before any definitely links or conclusions can be drawn. So don't panic, but maybe try not to chat on your phone for hours on end either.

Are smokers less productive at work?

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I used to work at a shop where approximately half of the employees were smokers and half were not. The smokers used to take extra breaks and longer breaks in order to get their fixes and it used to drive the rest of us crazy. Why should they get to work less because they smoke?

According to this article, that sort of thing might be a regular occurance. A study conducted by U.S. Navy showed that, on the job, smokers were generally less productive, took more sick leave and tended to have a higher instance of personality disorders. The study, which followed the careers of women in the Navy, also found that non-smokers often made more money than those who lit up daily.

The piece is quick to point out that so far there is no direct correlation between job performance and smoking, and a doctor from San Diego State University comments in the article that those who smoke might also have other personality traits, such as non-conformity and higher risk taking, that would lead to the results observed in the study.

Daily Fit Tip: Get in that stretching before exercising

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When it comes to regular exercise, there is something I've seen in a few people recently that caught me off guard. Mainly, the pre-exercise stretching just was not cutting it. Why exercise if you're not going to give your muscles what they need to be limber and ready?

At least five minutes of stretching should accompany any workout session. Loosening up the leg, arm neck and other muscles it crucial to prevent that pulled muscle or that dreaded hurt when your exercise is over. This includes those on treadmills and other low-impact activities as well.

If you have a sense of feeling in pain a little after you exercise, make sure you are getting in enough quality stretches beforehand. It would not be good to give up on any type of exercise simply due to some pain caused by a lack of stretching. Your muscles will thank you, trust me.

Jumpstart Your Fitness: By using the best benchmarks

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Are you having trouble sticking to your goal? You're not alone, and although there are many possible reasons why consider if it's because the goal you're trying to stick to is unrealistic or unclear in some way. Often people set their goals too low (motivation is an issue), too high (risking disappointment), or they aren't specific enough with how they're going to measure it. But understanding different fitness benchmarks, and using them to focus and measure your goals, can fix all that and give you both clear direction and clear ways to mark your progress. It's hard to know where you're going if you don't know where you're starting from!

Use these benchmarks to set you're starting point, and your finish line:
  • Heart Rate A great way to measure your physical fitness level and cardiovascular health is to keep track of your heart rate -- hence all the heart rate monitors on the market these days. You want to aim to be at around 50% of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) when you're first getting started, and work your way up to 75% as your fitness level increases.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: By using the best benchmarks

Have kid, will exercise

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If you're an active one and feel slowed down by the little ones in your life, take a stroll over to this website and check out the Kelty Kangaroo carrier.

The Kangaroo carrier allows on-the-go moms and dads the luxury of packing up a bunch of gear, along with a kid up to 28 pounds, and heading out for a day of exercise and adventure. The tike gets to face forward while parents, or anyone wishing to tote along little ones, get a weighted workout.

The Kangaroo is not your only option. There's a bunch of carriers to choose from -- this one lugs up to 40 pounds -- and other cool products too. And while this is no endorsement -- I've never tried this and cannot testify to its greatness in any way -- it may be something worth looking into, so you and your tag-alongs can share in the fun of physical fitness.

Step up workouts with sand and surf

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Next time you get the chance to jet to the ocean, think of it as an opportunity for stepping up your workouts.

For a 150-pound woman, Health Magazine experts report that two to three times more energy is required to walk on the beach than on a hard surface. Women, you'll burn 82 more calories per hour by hoofing it on the sand compared to pounding the pavement. And if you're like me, you'll cover more ground at the beach as you ambitiously trek in one direction, only to realize the return trip is just as long.

Oh, and that frozen daiquiri you dream of sipping when your sandy excursion is complete: 112 calories.

For more walking tips and techniques, compliments of the folks at Health, click here.

Are expired drugs safe?

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Are expired drugs perfectly potent, less potent or potentially dangerous? According to the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) administered by the Food and Drug Administration, many drugs can be kept past the expiration date -- if properly stored.
SLEP confirms shelf lives of many drugs exceed expirations. However the drugs were studied under controlled conditions -- pills remained sealed in original vials. Hardly representative of that dusty, already-opened bottle of acetaminophen rolling around your dresser drawer. One expert recommends strict compliance to expiration dates.
The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics reported in 2002 that many drugs retain 90 percent of potency for at least five years after expiration -- once again, provided they're stored under 'reasonable conditions.' In my household, the expiration date often rules. What is your experience? Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune. Photo by Shutr.

Give a kid a break -- with healthy choices

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One of the best pieces of parenting advice I've ever received -- and now the best I have to offer -- is to give kids choices. Not just any choices, though. Just the choices where each option is a winner from the parent point of view. Take bedtime, for example. In our household, one of our two bundles of joy always resists this dreaded hour. He'd do anything to stay up a few minutes later. He'd also do anything to avoid completing his first-grade homework. So we, his parents, often present him with a choice. First we back up bedtime by 20 or 30 minutes. Then we ask, "Would you like to go to bed right now or would you like to do some homework first?" Homework always wins. And so does everyone involved. Joey gets to make an important decision and postpone bedtime -- kind of -- and we get a more cooperative boy when tucking-in time arrives.

The choice thing works for picky eaters too. For those who beg for cookies and candy snacks, why not head off the sweet request with a question like this:, "Do you want a crunchy apple or a juicy orange?" For the kid who complains about veggies, try this: "Do you think I should make piles of peas or bunches of broccoli for dinner? Let's face it -- kids like power. And if they can use it to arrive at safe and healthy outcomes, I see no problem with a little delegation. In fact, I sometimes leave our weekly menu planning up to Joey -- he fights bedtime and eating -- and he gets to pick the meal for each night of one week. As long as it meets our nutritional standards, it's a go. If he picks it, he eats it. He likes to be in charge.

Next time you're faced with a cranky kid, whip out some options and see where it takes you. Just make sure you're happy with each choice. This way, both you and the kiddo will end up satisfied.
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The 300 Workout

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It's near impossible to watch Frank Miller's epic film 300 without marveling at the peak physical condition that all of the actors are in. From the lead, Gerard Butler as King Leonid, down to Spartan Soldier #299 (whoever he may be), every last one of these dudes were shredded. You took a look at these guys and thought, if any 300 guys could take on an army of 1 million, it's probably them. But, in reality, Spartan warriors they are not. They're actors; thespians portraying the eight-packed, human version of a well-conceived graphic novel. So, the question remains: How did these guys get into such great shape?

The answer is the 300 workout, designed specifically for the film's actors and, according to Butler, designed to make them want to throw-up. Bottom line, the 300 workout is absolutely grueling, and I speak from experience after having following the routine myself for the past month.

Any interest in looking like a Spartan warrior? If you answered yes, then you're either crazy and a glutton for punishment, or you're still both of those but you are also looking for a killer, new workout. Well, to that I say: This is Sparta!!

Continue reading The 300 Workout

Are you ready for some football (Uh...I mean soccer)?

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A common complaint against running as a form of exercise is that it is boring. Redundant, even. I can't say that I disagree, as I tend to avoid running almost altogether and instead opt for more lively forms of cardio. Fortunately for the anti-runners out there, a recent Dutch study revealed that you burn more calories playing a game of soccer (though I'm sure they called it football in their study) than you do when just going for a run.

When comparing men with similar health profiles aged 31 to 33 who played soccer for an hour a day, three times a week against men who jogged for this same amount of time, it was found that the soccer players saw a 3.7 percent reduction in body fat. By contrast, the joggers dropped about 2 percent.

As an added incentive to kick the ball around, soccer players also demonstrated an increase in muscle mass by almost 4.5 pounds, whereas the joggers did not show any significant change one way or the other.
The soccer players and he joggers had similar heart rates, but the health advantage the soccer players experienced came from occasional bursts of speed and intensity. Also, because the soccer players were more focused on the game than on their exhaustion, they were able to push themselves to greater levels of exertion.

Finding the right gym for you

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Let's face it, we have long-since passed the dawning of the fitness age. Truth be told, we're even well past high noon by this point. Everywhere you look, you're sure to find a health club, personal training facility, or gym of some kind or another. Hell, you can even get a gym workout in at some airports these days!! But, knowing which is the best place for you to start doling out your hard earned cash should come down to many factors.

First, be honest with yourself about your level of commitment. And by Be Honest, I mean Be Extremely Freakin' Honest. If you're a first-time exerciser and not quite sure if a workout program (especially one that takes place in a gym facility) is really for you, then I strongly suggest that you don't spend a fortune at the outset. YMCAs and other fitness centers of this caliber typically offer fairly reasonable rates, while at the same time provide you with more than enough fitness options (i.e. weights, cardio machines, classes, etc.).

Continue reading Finding the right gym for you

Letting kids drink alcohol early reduces future problems?

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It seems quite weird to many of us that some would encourage teenagers to drink a little alcohol while legally under-age. But that is just what might keep them from binge drinking later in life, according to a new study.

Anna Peele's parents would let her drink at social functions and holiday meals, something that seemed ordinary to them but would catch many an American parent off-guard I think. Are small, social drinks okay for those teens in high school?

Some think that moderate drinking takes away from the mysterious, 'forbidden fruit' viewpoint many kids have about alcohol. And, since we all know most teens are perfectly non-rebellious (yeah, right), giving access to alcohol in those years may set some kind of mental precedent that would make going overboard later a slimmer possibility. What do you think?

Depression during pregnancy very common

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More than one in seven pregnant women are depressed in the nine months after pregnancy as well as during the pregnancy, according to a new study. All things, considered, that is a higher level than I would have thought. Although the physical torment can be a huge drag for pregnant women (or so I've heard), it is easily outpaced by the joys of having a new life come into the picture soon.

Many of us have heard of postpartum depression, which can be devastating for many women emotionally. The most recent study looked at three nine-month periods: the nine months before pregnancy, the nine months of pregnancy and the nine months after birth.

The results seemed to suggest that women with a history of depression had a higher risk of postpartum depression compared to women with little to no history of depression before pregnancy. One of the research team concluded that "about 54 percent of women in the study identified as having postpartum depression had also been identified either before or during pregnancy as being depressed." Ladies, that's even more reason to seek help when you're feeling depressed.