Get Moving Monday: 5 Cold-Weather Workout Tips

If cold weather is derailing your fitness activities, personal trainer Kevin Gianni, author of The Busy Person’s Fitness Solution, offers these 5 winter weather workout tips:

  • Lace up your skates. During the winter it’s often too cold, too dark, or too slippery to walk or run outside. To get in a great workout, try ice skating — whether you go to a local pond for a pickup game of hockey, or to the local ice rink (which also offers the advantage of no wind chill).
  • Don’t push it. On days when the air feels too cold to even breathe in, heed your body’s signals and stay indoors. Cold air can trigger exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
  • Try a new home routine. Bodyweight routines are exercises that need no equipment and can be done in your own home. There are many types of bodyweight routines, such as yoga, Pilates, and aerobics. Pop in a fitness DVD or download a workout on your MP3 player to get you going.
  • Set up your own gym. Now’s the time to think about getting a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike. Having your own equipment and knowing how to use it will keep you motivated and help you stay on track.

When all’s said and done, says Tom Weede, a certified health and fitness instructor and author of the forthcoming book, The Entrepreneur Diet, it’s important to be realistic.

“Give yourself a little slack during the holidays,” he advises. “After all, it’s a time to have fun and be with family and friends, and if you have a rigid attitude toward your diet and exercise, you may end up just giving up because you’ve set the standard too high.”

So allow yourself some “cheat” days, Weede suggests. “In reality, what matters is the overall total calories you consume and the overall total you expend through physical activity over the entire holiday period. One or two splurges aren’t going to derail your efforts,” he says.

Remember, though, even if you find yourself simply too bogged down to exercise at all during the holidays, that’s no excuse to stay inactive once the season is over, Ray says.

“If you do fall off the exercise wagon, there’s no reason not to climb back aboard once your post-holiday routine is established,” Ray says. “You’ll find your stride again before you know it.”

Source: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-holidays-8/holiday-fitness?page=4

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Stickin’ It Tue You: Beat Holiday Stress with Acupuncture

Depression is a condition that involves both the mind and the body and affects how a person feels, thinks, and behaves, and can often make a person feel anxious and apathetic. People who suffer from depression or anxiety can experience muscle pain, headaches, upset digestion, fatigue, and loss of interest, among other symptoms. Anxiety, in particular, can be triggered by stress. With travel, big family reunions or party plans, and gift-buying frenzies, the holidays are a particularly stressful time and many people feel the effects of anxiety or depression in December and January.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) evaluates the entire body system, including physical conditions and emotional symptoms, and treatments are uniquely tailored to each patient with the goal of healing the body and mind, as well as revitalizing the spirit. While this is fundamental in any TCM treatment, this treatment of the mind, body, and spirit together is especially fitting for depression and anxiety. Each traditional Chinese medicine treatment, including acupuncture, is an individual treatment plan devised for the patient’s specific issues and health history. An integral part of acupuncture practice is the total evaluation of a person’s “qi”, pronounced “chi”, the body’s vital life energy, and how to accelerate the circulation of qi and blood through a system of specific channels running throughout the body, called meridians. Each meridian relates to major body organs and functions, as well as emotions.

The emotions associated with loss, repressed expression, and other stressful events will cause the muscular structure surrounding the chest cavity to constrict and tighten near the lungs and heart. The chest constriction restricts the qi flow to the liver and heart, a condition diagnosed in TCM as qi stagnation in the liver. Without release, the tension now contained within the chest cavity will continue to strain the heart, which, left untreated, results in panic attacks, anxiety, and panic syndrome, also described in TCM as a condition called ‘Heat in the Heart’.

Because TCM connects the mind, body, and spirit and recognizes this connection, anxiety often leads patients to try acupuncture for the first time, as they realize the important tie between their physical and emotional health.

Acupuncture involves the strategic placement of fine needles on specific points of the body related to meridians. This increases blood circulation and stimulates qi, removing energetic blockages and restoring the flow of vital qi energy throughout the body. Once inserted, the needles remain in body for anywhere between fifteen to thirty minutes, during which time the practitioner may rotate the needles or add a mild electric pulse or vibration to further induce relaxation of the muscles.

Studies show that most Americans report unhealthy levels of stress, and holidays can add to anxiety, stress, and depression—particularly in challenging economic times. As use of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication continues to increase, a natural, safe and cost-effective antidote to stress might be just what the doctor orders.

Hospitals and larger medical practices are increasingly embracing alternative therapies. Studies suggest that acupuncture–which is focused on restoring the body’s “qi”, can indeed reduce symptoms of depression, decrease anxiety, and help relieve stress. Practicing a little self-care this holiday season need not deplete scarce holiday funds: 70 to 80% of insurers now cover all or part of acupuncture treatments.

Chinese medicine has been used in China for over five thousand years and is a holistic, natural alternative to antidepressants or medications that may have side effects. Acupuncture is a drug-free way to feel deep relaxation and to revitalize the spirit.

Stickin’ It Tue You:Boosting Your Immune System This Flu Season

It’s now December. It’s cold, it’s grey, it’s not Christmas yet.  AND, it’s now flu season!

Also known as the season for drugging yourself silly and making yourself go to work even when you’d rather curl up in bed and do nothing for at least 48 hours.The ironic commercials touting the importance of the flu shot followed by ads for an anti-viral after you get the flu are in full force and on every channel.

Every holiday season we hear about people get whacked left, right and center with colds and many people simply take them as par for the course: you just deal with it. You know at least one person will be sick every place you go, so you just give in to the fact that, at some point, this winter you will be sick.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to strengthen your immune system without the use of expensive and sometimes dangerous drugs. Diet helps as does exercise and rest, but if you’re looking for a method to fill in the weak gaps in your immune system and promote relaxation and pain relief, you’re looking for acupuncture. How does acupuncture boost your immune system and prevent colds?

From the standpoint of the ancient practice of medicine, the reason why acupuncture works is because of the manipulation of energies in the body. Everyone has varying weaknesses in their energy; places where the Chi naturally has problems. Acupuncture can address these weaknesses in the same way a vaccine addresses weaknesses; by boosting energy and giving the body what it needs to strengthen itself. At the root of it all, we see the movement of energy. When the body’s Chi is moving sluggishly and brokenly, the body falls prey to viruses more readily; when the body’s Chi is in balance, the body stays healthy and can fight off viruses.

Not enough? Studies have shown that acupuncture helps the brain increase the body’s level of T-cells; cells which destroy bacteria and harmful viruses in the body. It is thought that acupuncture does this by provoking the body’s immune response through the use of the needles: the body thinks the needles are a threat and marshal their white cell and T-cell count to fight them off. However, the effect of this lasts days after the acupuncture session and so works on viruses and bacteria as well.

So, sick and tired of being… well, sick and tired? Acupuncture may be a great way to fill in the missing gaps in your immune system and keep you healthy this flu season.

Sources: http://rootwholebody.com/how-acupuncture-boosts-your-immune-system-to-prevent-colds

Get Moving Monday: Are You Eating Enough?

The majority of the time when you’re having a problem losing weight, it’s not because you aren’t making good food choices. The reason why your weight loss has stagnated is because you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight.

What Happens When You’re Not Eating Enough Calories?

When most people start dieting, they slash their calories and add a large amount of exercise to their daily routine. That’s fine, but they usually cut their calories way too low. Add in the extra exercise, and all of a sudden you have an extreme calorie deficit that is working against you.

Not eating enough calories causes many metabolic changes. Your body is a smart machine and senses a large decrease in dietary energy. Your large calorie deficit might work for a few days or even weeks, but eventually your body will wake up and sound alarms that it needs to conserve energy.

It doesn’t want to just waste away. It needs that energy (fat) to survive. So, what does your body do when it senses prolonged energy restriction? Not eating enough calories…

  • Slows down thyroid production – Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism, among other things. Your body has the ability to slow down thyroid output in an effort to maintain energy balance.
  • Decreases muscle mass – Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain. In a prolonged extreme calorie deficit, it is one of the first things that your body looks to burn. Your body needs the fat, wants the fat, and the muscle can be spared. It breaks down the muscle tissue and uses it for energy.
  • Lowers testosterone levels – An important hormone for both men and women, testosterone is just one of many hormones that are affected with severe calorie restriction. Testosterone is anabolic to muscle tissue. Without it, it becomes that much harder to maintain, let alone put on muscle mass.
  • Decreases leptin levels – Leptin is one of many energy regulating hormones. More importantly, it’s a “hunger” hormone that tells you whether to eat or not. High leptin levels signal that it’s OK to stop eating, while low leptin levels are a signal to eat more energy. Because of this, leptin levels decrease in calorie restricted environments.
  • Decreases energy levels – There are many physical actions your body takes when you’re not eating enough calories, but there are also some mental ones. Neurotransmitter production is limited, which can lead to a lack of motivation. It’s your body’s way of telling you to “slow down” – conserve your energy.

How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?

Your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible and still lose weight. You always want to start high and then come down with your calorie intake. It’s much easier to do this than come up in calories after your weight loss has stalled and you’ve lost all your motivation.

How many calories should you eat? There is no perfect number. Each person’s metabolism is different. Calorie calculators are a good starting point, but they can’t take into account all the individualistic variables.

To do that, you need to find your calorie intake either through:

  • Experimentation – Journal your caloric intake and compare your weight loss and gain on the scale until you achieve optimal results.
  • Measure it with a device – A device, such as a type of pedometer watch, that measures steps and body movement are found it to be accurate within a 10% margin of error. Many will give you the amount of calories you burned in a 24 hour period. With this information, you should be able to adjust your caloric intake to reflect a loss on the scale.

The problem is most people want the weight gone, and they want it gone now. Weight loss is a patience game. It takes time and consistency to make it work.

Losing 1% of your body mass each week is the most I would aim for. At this pace, it will ensure that the majority of your weight loss is coming from stored body fat instead of muscle. You will also give yourself the best chance to build muscle while you lose fat, which is what you should be striving to do.

So if your progress has stalled, but you think you’re eating the right foods and exercising intensely, more than likely your problem is that you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight. Eat as much as you can, get in as many nutrients as possible, and your weight loss will start moving forward again.

Source: http://www.coachcalorie.com/not-eating-enough-calories-to-lose-weight/

TGIF: Going Beyond Iron Supplements for Anemia

Anemia is broadly understood as a deficiency of red blood cells. The chief role of red blood cells is to grab oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to every nook and cranny in the body. This ensures the survival of our cells.

Anemia is complex, and there is no one mechanism behind it.

 

When the body is anemic, we feel tired and lethargic. Every tissue in the body needs a steady supply of oxygen in order to have fuel and to function properly. Oxygen is one of the ways that we produce energy.

When we talk about anemia, we are really talking about oxygen not getting to where it needs to be.

Because iron supplements are routinely given to those with anemia, many people believe that anemia translates into iron deficiency.

Iron is found in hemoglobin, a transport system within each red blood cell. Oxygen binds to the iron in red blood cells. This is why many of us take iron when we find out that we are anemic. However, taking an iron supplement or even eating extra iron-rich foods assumes that anemia is the result of low iron levels.

Anemia and Its Relationship with the Gut

Anemia is the result of a deficiency in red blood cells and can lead to exhaustion. To get to the root cause of anemia, it’s critical to focus on stomach and gut health to naturally support healthy red blood cell levels.

 

Anemia is complex, and there is no one mechanism behind it. In order to properly address anemia, it’s essential to understand what is causing it in the first place. The multiple reasons behind anemia can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. The body fails to produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin.
  2. The body destroys too many red blood cells.
  3. Loss of blood from trauma, menstrual disorders like heavy bleeding or endometriosis, and chronic inflammatory disorders.
  4. Fluid overload from excessive sodium intake or pregnancy.

When the body fails to produce fully mature red blood cells, this can be due to a number of reasons, including nutrient deficiency. And we are not only talking about iron!

When the body does not have enough vitamin B12, it’s unable to manufacture healthy red blood cells.

And while it’s not often talked about, B12 deficiency is fairly common. For example, one study found that 40% of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have low levels of B12. (1)

When we look at the possible underlying causes of a B12 deficiency, this percentage is a little less surprising.

You may be deficient in B12 if you:

  • Are vegan or vegetarian
  • Suffer from low stomach acid
  • Take an antacid medication
  • Drink alcohol regularly
  • Suffer from “leaky gut”
  • Are prone to gut infections, cramping, and bloating
  • Struggle with irritable bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease

One of the main factors contributing to B12 deficiency is poor gut health.

This means that even if you eat meat, which contains B12, several times a day, you may not be digesting it well enough to absorb the B12 that your body needs to produce red blood cells.

B12 is important for other reasons besides the production of red blood cells. For example, it also helps to make the myelin sheath that surrounds portions of the nerve cells. This is one reason why B12 deficiency is associated with memory loss and psychiatric disorders.

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Sometimes we have plenty of iron, but we still do not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. This is the case in anemia of chronic disease.

Anemia of chronic disease is sometimes easy for a physician to miss. This is because on a lab panel, all the classic markers indicating iron-deficiency anemia are there: low red blood cells (RBCs), low hemoglobin, and low iron.

This is why it’s essential to check ferritin levels if you know that you are anemic. Especially if you are fighting an infection, or if you have an immune system disorder.

Ferritin is a storage form of iron. This means that oxygen cannot bind to it. When ferritin levels are elevated, the body may in fact have enough iron – only the iron is inactive and unavailable.

More importantly, ferritin is involved in the inflammatory response. This means that when ferritin levels are elevated, it indicates that there is inflammation occurring somewhere in the body. Elevated ferritin tells us that the body is storing iron in order to protect and limit infection. Like us, infectious bugs, bacteria, and parasites need iron to proliferate and grow!

Anemia of chronic disease can often happen in those with an autoimmune condition or with a low-grade gut infection. If you are anemic with high levels of ferritin, an iron supplement can simply make matters worse.

If Iron Supplements Aren’t Working for You…

In the case of anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency or anemia of chronic disease, gut health is the top priority.

If lab tests confirm that levels of vitamin B12 are low or that ferritin levels are askew, iron supplements may not necessarily improve anemia. Worse, they may even feed an infection in the body.

1. If you have anemia, focus on the stomach:

When correcting digestion and its relationship to anemia, it’s critical to begin in the stomach.

Remember, anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency is commonly found in those with too little stomach acid, heartburn, and those who are on antacid medication.

An HCl (hydrochloric acid) supplement that is equipped with enzymes to break down protein can ease the digestive burden on the stomach and help to restore the proper pH of gastric juices. This is an important first step in correcting poor absorption of vitamin B12.

2. If you have anemia, focus on the gut:

If ferritin levels are high, this means that the body is stockpiling inactive iron as a protective mechanism. While elevated ferritin indicates that the body has plenty of iron, it also tells us that the body is inflamed and that it may be fighting off an infection.

Meanwhile, when levels of both iron and ferritin are low, this may indicate poor absorption and possibly an imbalanced inner ecosystem. This is why those with gut disorders are also frequently anemic.

Whether ferritin levels are elevated or low, cover your bases and make sure that your gut is in a state of perfect health. By introducing fermented foods into the diet on a daily basis, you can gently heal the gut and promote a beneficial inner ecosystem. Fermented foods and probiotic beverages are predigested, full of enzymes, and brimming with friendly bacteria.

When anemia follows poor absorption or inflammation, this is a significant first step in supporting optimal levels of red blood cells.

 

Source: http://bodyecology.com/articles/are-you-anemic-going-beyond-iron-supplements#.UvYPvbROKbg

Wellness Wednesday: Flexing Your Mental Muscle

Add mind exercises to your workout schedule.

Physical fitness gets plenty of attention—and for good reason. A healthy body can prevent conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and help you maintain independence as you age.

Mental fitness is just as important as physical health and shouldn’t be neglected. Incorporating mental dexterity exercises into your life can help you reap the benefits of a sharper mind and a healthier body for years to come.

Mental fitness is exactly what it sounds like: keeping your brain and emotional health in tip-top shape. It doesn’t mean training for “brain Olympics” or acing an IQ test. Rather, it refers to a series of exercises that help you slow down, decompress, and boost a flagging memory.

Mind-Body Connection

It’s no surprise that the more you help your body, the more you help your mind. Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain and increases the amount of endorphins, (feel-good chemicals) in the brain. For this reason, it’s not surprising that people who are in good physical shape also tend to enjoy a higher level of mental agility.

Engaging in a vigorous workout can help you battle depression and gain a more positive outlook on life and yourself. It’s also a great way to beat stress, which can harm you mentally and physically.

While exercise is good for the brain and the body, so is meditation. Meditation, in conjunction with other methods, is an alternative way to treat depression. Calming the mind allows you to calmly think through your problems.

Benefits of Mental Fitness

When you finally get to bed after a long day on the go, your body begins to relax, but the mind doesn’t always follow.

Achieve a sense of calm through imagery, the process of picturing a calming scene or location. This reduces tension in both your body and your mind by challenging neurons in the less-dominant area of your brain.

The less-dominant side of your brain is the area that controls feelings of self-confidence and optimism. Increasing activity in your brain’s neural structures by forcing yourself to think about something other than your daily worries through visualization, for example, boosts emotional well-being in addition to calming you down mentally.

Become Mentally Fit

Keeping your mind mentally fit isn’t as difficult as getting ready for a marathon, but it’s the best way to view it. You can simply add it to the many activities you already perform, such as reading, daydreaming, or finding humor in life.
Stop Multitasking

You may think that multitasking enables you to get many things done at once, but it actually creates more problems than it solves. Focusing on one task at a time will not only improve your concentration, but it will help you to see the bigger picture, and get you pointed toward in a productive direction.

Be Positive with Yourself

Positive affirmation is one avenue to increased mental proficiency.

Affirmation—or the way you talk to yourself—involves strengthening neural pathways to bring your self-confidence, wellbeing, and satisfaction to a higher level.

To start, make a list of your good qualities and remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect. Set goals for what you want to improve, and start small to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Try Something Different

New experiences can also set you on the path to mental fitness.

Trying new foods, different ways of accomplishing routine tasks, and traveling to new places improves your memory and expands your horizons. Even taking a new way to work improves your brain.

According to the Franklin Institute, mental dexterity exercises help you see the world in a new way and strengthen your neural pathways. In essence, breaking out of your routine can help keep your brain young and healthy.

Play Games

Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other games that test reasoning and other portions of your brain are fun ways to keep your mind sharp. Any kind of game that employs the use of logic, reasoning, or trivia are great ways to build up your brain muscle.

Read More

Reading is great for your brain. Even as you’re reading this sentence, your brain is processing each word, recalling the meaning instantly.

Beyond the mechanics, reading helps you visualize the subject you’re reading about, imagine what voices sound like in dialogue, and more. If you don’t think this works, find a picture of Morgan Freeman on the internet with a quote next to it and hear his voice in your head. It’s also a great relaxation technique as well.

Reading is a great activity because it can stoke the imagination and ignite so many different parts of the brain. There are also endless genres and types of reading material that you’ll never run out of interesting things to read.
Take the Time

Mental fitness does not have to take up a lot of your time. Just spending a few minutes every day visualizing, affirming, or relaxing can help you feel better and think more clearly. Schedule a mental fitness break into your calendar right next to your workout schedule. Your mind and your health are worth it.

Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/mental-fitness#1

Get Moving Monday: Winter-Proof Your Workout

Hibernating isn’t going to burn you any calories. Winter-proof your workout and your waistline with our seasonal survival guide.

Winter Woe: Your body’s chemical switch has flipped to storing more fat.

Fix-it trick: Get your motor running. When University of Colorado researchers studied a group of 12 women and six men in both summer and winter, they discovered that their production of ATLPL, a chemical that promotes fat storage, almost doubled during the winter and dropped during the summer. But you’re not doomed to don fat pants all season, scientists say. Exercise may increase SMLPL, the muscle enzyme that promotes the burning of fat, to offset the pudge-promoting effects of ATLPL. “We found that people who are normally physically active are more protected from weight gain,” says study author Robert E. Eckel, MD. Get in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, whether it’s Spinning, snowshoeing, or building a snowman.

Winter Woe: ‘Tis the season for big sweaters — the better to hide your bulges with.

Fix-it trick: Opt for layers that leave a little bit of your silhouette intact. It’s no surprise that your comfy cardigan may stealthily up the odds you’ll skip your workout, since it keeps soft spots under wraps, says Jennifer Baumgartner, a psychologist in Potomac, Maryland, who makes the link between clothing and mind-set for her clients. “The first thing I tell people who are trying to lose weight is to avoid baggy clothing, since you won’t be able to see the positive changes in your body,” she says. “There’s also a subconscious association between baggy clothes and lounging.” To help break the lazy spell, pick sweaters in red, pink, or bright blue, Baumgartner advises. Mood research suggests that these colors jolt your senses and help energize you.

Winter Woe: Your carb cravings skyrocket when the days get short.

Fix-it trick: Munch on healthy carbs in the afternoon before the sun goes down to stave off a splurge. Winter can trigger cravings for comforting, sweet carbs because diminished sunlight during the season makes serotonin in the brain less active. Too little of this mood-lifting chemical leaves you feeling tired and hungry, says Judith Wurtman, PhD, founder of Triad, a Harvard Hospital weight-management center, and coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet. Your brain is making you desire carbs because after you eat them, your serotonin level will rise. Wurtman’s research found that “carbohydrate cravers” with seasonal affective disorder may consume an additional 800 calories or more a day because they satisfy their munchies with fatty carbs; indulge like that for five days straight and you’ll gain a pound. Put yourself in a good mood during winter’s dark days by instead eating low-fat, healthy carbs, such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar, and cinnamon toast. Because cravings tend to grow stronger as the day goes on, try to eat protein, dairy products, and vegetables for breakfast and lunch, Wurtman says. Then have a low-fat carb snack, such as popcorn, soy crackers, or cereal, in the afternoon. For dinner, opt for roasted potatoes, whole-grain pasta, black bean soup, or vegetable stew with barley. (Avoid eating a lot of protein, because that prevents serotonin from being made.) Another slimming strategy that may help put the brakes on binges is to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside or near a bright window to amp up your serotonin, suggests Donnica Moore, MD, author of Women’s Health for Life.

Winter Woe: A snowfall derails your usual outdoor workout.

Fix-it trick: Let it snow! The white stuff increases the calorie burn of each step. For example, a 30-minute moderate walk on an even surface burns 106 calories for the average 140-pound woman. Snowshoeing for the same amount of time more than doubles the burn, to 256 calories. Runners, meanwhile, can safely jog through the season by stealing these get-a-grip strategies from the pros up north, who regularly brave the flakes.

1. Invest in a trail-running shoe for its deeper treads, which provide better traction — some water-resistant models, like the Asics Gel-Arctic 2 WR have removable spikes on the outsole — or a set of winter cleats, such as Yaktrax, which slip on over your running sneakers.

2. Listen to your body: Run slower than usual and take shorter strides. “If you continue your normal stride length, your calves will be sore the next day, because you tend to claw the ground with your toes to keep your footing,” says marathon coach Ronnie Carda, PhD, coordinator of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s physical activity program.

3. Skip the hills. “More falls happen on downhills, because you naturally tend to pick up your pace, making it harder to stop when you hit an icy patch,” says Jan Ochocki, a coach with the Road Runners Club of America in Minneapolis.

4. “Get out while the powder is down” is the basic rule of thumb, Carda says; sit it out if snow refreezes overnight into hard-packed ice.

Winter Woe: You’re too comfy on the couch to break a sweat.

Fix-it trick: Don’t settle on your sofa until you’ve completed your workout for the day. “It’s a motivation killer,” Baumgartner says. Change from your work clothes directly into workout wear — skip the pj’s! — when you get home. Still can’t peel yourself off the cushions? Stash resistance bands under the seat to remind yourself to get moving during commercial breaks. Or try the at-home, no-equipment routine that follows, from Mike Donavanik, a celebrity trainer in Beverly Hills. Do these moves during commercials rather than fast-forwarding and repeat the circuit until your show starts up again.

— 15 squats

— 15 push-ups

— 15 crunches

— 15 seconds of high knees

Winter Woe: Brr! It’s too cold to exercise outside.

Fix-it trick: Dress for success in freezing temperatures. With the right gear, it’s almost never too frigid to work out, according to John W. Castellani, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts. Because moisture on your skin evaporates and pulls much-needed heat from your body, the key is to dress so that you’re protected but you don’t get soaked with sweat, Castellani says. “Begin your workout feeling cool, not toasty, since you’ll warm up once you get moving. Do your warm-up, stretching, and cooldown inside to reduce your exposure. If it’s a blustery day, start your walk or run by facing the wind so you’ll work hardest when you’re fresh.

Winter Woe: You can’t get out of bed on dark mornings to do your a.m. workout.

Fix-it trick: Tuck in earlier to go from tired to inspired. “Darkness is a cue for your brain to crank out the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin,” says Alfred Lewy, MD, a sleep and mood disorder researcher at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. “In the winter, when you wake up before sunrise, it’s like having jet lag — for four or five months,” Lewy says. If it’s not possible to wait for the sun to sneak in your workout when you’re more energized, he suggests making your wake-up easier by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week over the next four weeks: Set your cell phone alarm for when it’s time to hit the sack at night and avoid computer and TV use for an hour before bedtime to shut out light and other brain stimulators. That extra hour of shut-eye could make a huge difference in your morning-after mood: Brazilian researchers randomly assessed 200 healthy people and found that night owls, who went to sleep at midnight, were almost three times more likely to experience severe symptoms of depression than those who turned in at 11 p.m.

TGIF: Natural Methods for Reversing Atherosclerosis

Even when cardiologists aggressively manage their patients’ cholesterol and blood pressure levels, millions of Americans continue to suffer heart attacks and strokes. The reason is that many cardiologists fail to address the key underlying cause of coronary artery disease—that of endothelial dysfunction.

Endothelial dysfunction is the major cause of atherosclerosis—the blockage of arteries that increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fortunately, it is never too late to start counteracting this circulatory breakdown, which is often a part of the aging process.

A wealth of research now points to several nutritional agents, such as cocoa polyphenols and pomegranate, that have been shown to dramatically improve arterial blood flow, helping promote youthful endothelial function and protect against the processes known to damage aging arteries.

Very few doctors discuss the importance of endothelial health with their cardiac patients. The endothelium comprises the thin layer of cells that line the interior surfaces of the entire circulatory system including the heart, blood vessels, the lymphatic system, and even the smallest capillaries. Essential to good health, the endothelium maintains uninterrupted circulation by allowing blood to flow smoothly to every part of the body and by participating in blood pressure control. One of its most important functions is the release of nitric oxide, which signals the surrounding smooth muscles of the arteries to relax and dilate, which increases healthy blood flow throughout the body.
But harmful oxidative stress, such as that which occurs in hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and the aging process itself inactivates nitric oxide, thereby contributing to endothelial dysfunction.

Damage occurs when the endothelium’s structural integrity is compromised and is no longer able to protect the artery walls against the infiltration of cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Thus, endothelial dysfunction is one of the first steps in the creation of atherosclerosis—the buildup of arterial plaque that elevates the risk for heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Unfortunately, as we age, our body continually loses optimal endothelial function. A research study published in the journal Gerontology that examined healthy people showed that endothelial function declines with increasing age. Even worse, some research has shown that the development of endothelial dysfunction can begin as early as the teenage years. Cardiovascular researchers believe the endothelium has an “enormous yet largely untapped diagnostic and therapeutic potential,” which is why a better understanding of endothelial dysfunction may help to prevent or delay deadly cardiovascular events. As scientists continue to unravel the numerous causes of heart disease and atherosclerosis, the importance of preserving endothelial health is gaining appreciation.

Fortunately, researchers have identified several innovative nutritional ingredients that appear to enhance endothelial health. Among them are cocoa and pomegranate. In studies published in peer-reviewed journals, these substances have been shown to have properties that protect against endothelial dysfunction, while helping reverse clinical markers of arterial plaque.

Centuries before European confectioners processed the beans of the Theobroma cacao plant to make a confection we call “chocolate,” cocoa was used in Mexico and parts of Latin America in its powdered form for medicinal purposes. Recent studies in medical journals have found that cocoa may actually be cardioprotective, and a new study showed it may even be able to reverse the effects of endothelial dysfunction by improving the dilation of blood vessels.

Cocoa has a high concentration of polyphenol compounds, specifically a class of natural compounds called flavonoids. Scientists have identified several cocoa flavanols, including epicatechin and catechin, which can benefit circulatory health. Cocoa flavanols improve endothelial function by enhancing nitric oxide bioactivity, increasing blood flow, reducing the tendency of blood clot formation, reducing moderately high blood pressure, and helping LDL resist oxidation, which may prevent the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in artery walls.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that giving flavanol-rich cocoa to diabetic patients improved their vascular function. In an editorial accompanying the research report, another team of scientists noted that the study provides “sizable evidence that cocoa flavanols have a positive effect on the health of the arteries.”

A recent clinical trial examined the effects of dark chocolate including liquid cocoa on endothelial function and blood pressure in overweight adults. Consumption of dark chocolate or liquid cocoa improved endothelial function and decreased blood pressure. Sugar-free cocoa produced greater improvements in endothelial function, compared with regular cocoa containing sugar. This led the study authors to conclude that sugar may decrease cocoa’s benefits for endothelial health and blood pressure, and that sugar-free cocoa preparations may offer superior benefits.

An exotic fruit whose taste and beautiful ruby-colored seeds have been revered since ancient times, the pomegranate (Punica granatum) has recently become universally prized for its cardiovascular health benefits.
Studies have found that pomegranate has powerful antioxidant properties that appear to protect the heart and blood vessels. Pomegranate juice may have anti-atherosclerotic properties, slowing the progression of arterial plaques. Most promising may be the results from studies showing that pomegranate juice improves stress-induced ischemia in patients who already had cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Pomegranate even shows benefits in reducing systolic blood pressure. Punicalagins, tannins, and anthocyanins are the major components in pomegranate that are responsible for its antioxidant and cardiovascular health benefits.

One of pomegranate’s key mechanisms for supporting cardiovascular health is its ability to modulate nitric oxide activity. In endothelial cells, pomegranate enhances the bioactivity of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that generates nitric oxide. Pomegranate’s antioxidant effects also help protect nitric oxide against oxidative destruction, thus ensuring its availability for essential vessel-protective functions.
Preserving optimal endothelial function is essential to maintaining smooth flow of blood through the arteries and preventing the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque that can contribute to heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Powerful, natural antioxidant sources like cocoa and pomegranate have been shown to enhance cardiovascular health. In some studies, pomegranate and cocoa have been shown to limit or reverse atherosclerosis, lower high blood pressure, and improve endothelial function in people with the most serious arterial problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

Source: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2008/10/natural-methods-for-reversing-atherosclerosis/page-01

Curvesday Thursday: The Importance of Maintenance Care

Every day more and more people are reevaluating their options when it comes to health care. They are realizing that wellness comes from within and that the best way to avoid illness and discomfort is to be “health conscious” in their daily lifestyles. In order to accomplish this we must first understand what it is we need to do to get and stay well.

The simple answer is that we need to adopt lifestyle behaviors that promote health – as opposed to those that lead to sickness. Because the truth is there is no drug that can fix our poor diet or remove the toxins from the processed food we eat. There is no drug that can undo our sedentary living or poor fitness – the answer is in our lifestyle choices. One major lifestyle choice we can adopt is to receive regular chiropractic adjustments, often called maintenance or wellness chiropractic care.

Understanding the reason for maintenance chiropractic care mandates an understanding of two major well documented concepts: 1) immobilization degeneration; and 2) the neurology of pain processing. A primary component of a subluxation (misalignment in the spine) is loss of normal motion in that area; and there is an immense body of research to support the ensuing degenerative process that will occur with this loss of motion and the logical conclusion of restoring movement to the spine.

You see, chiropractic is important for our health in many of the same ways that exercise is so crucial for our overall health and well-being. It’s all about movement. Movement feeds the brain, when we become misaligned we lose the normal motion of that spinal segment – which leads to degenerated joints and  decreases these movement- rich nutrients to the brain (proprioceptive signals).

Immobilization degeneration is supported by over 40 years of research. The literature shows that a joint that has lost a degree of its normal movement will begin degenerating at a rate measurable within one week of onset. Its important to realize that this degenerative process will continue, often painlessly, until significant degeneration has occurred. A big reason why you don’t need to be in pain to be adjusted.

This loss of motion leads to an increase in nociceptors, which are receptors that fire when damage is detected, sending pain signals to the spinal cord and the brain. These impulses account for more systemic autonomic changes which can occur without the perception of pain. This is the same neural mechanism that allows serious disease processes to progress without warning.

What this basically means is that if we allow our body to progress in this direction, we are headed towards a state of alarm and adaptation, and ultimately fatigue, illness and early death. However, if we restore the motion to these spinal segments – through regular chiropractic care – we reduce stress hormone levels in the body and we restore proper brain-body communication, which in turn restores health and function in our body.

What happens when we reduce this stress load on our body? The many well documented improvements of chiropractic patients in areas like immune function, allergies, asthma, anxiety, colic, to name a few – show how far reaching of an effect this has on our body. Regardless of symptoms, the research shows we are much healthier with a properly moving spine than without.

Source: http://www.truehealthct.com/2013/why-do-i-need-maintenance-chiropractic-care/

Wellness Wednesday: The Low-Down on Probiotics

When venturing down the rabbit hole that is health and nutrition education, oftentimes it’s difficult to know exactly where you’re heading. There are countless signs claiming to be the way to go – offering a cure-all to your every ailment – and guaranteeing your success if you just follow along. Among these many signs and signals is a message to take probiotics – to load up on yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha – but is taking probiotics really the way to go? And if so, how do you know if it is the right path for you?

To start, we know that probiotics are good for us, and that they are a natural part of the body’s environment. Probiotics are microorganisms (micro flora) that reside in our intestine. They are good bacteria that keep pathogens (harmful micro-organisms or bacteria) in check, aid in proper digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function. Probiotics have been researched extensively, showing positive results for an array of conditions ranging from asthma and allergies, to skin disorders and vaginal and urinary infections. They crowd out bad bacteria, preventing the bacteria’s ability to host in the body, which inhibits infection, inflammation and disease.

Another way in which probiotics impact the health of the body is by improving digestion. Proper levels of probiotics in the gut have been shown to be effective in combating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, they help the body to absorb nutrients, making sure your body receives the vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids from the foods that you are consuming. In fact, probiotics are needed for the generation of certain B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, and some short-chain fatty acids.

Finally, we know that probiotics are the foundation of a concept called the “gut-brain” connection. This is the idea that micro flora (probiotics) directly impact your brain behavior. Proven by researchers at UCLA, the correction of healthy bacteria in the gut can optimize neurotransmitter function, leading to a reduction in anxiety, depression, and stress, and may even improve learning and sharpen focus and memory.

Now that we see how probiotics help the body, how do we know if our body needs them? Probiotics exist naturally in your gut, so we really only need to supplement with them if they have been depleted. And how do we know if they have been depleted? Take a look at this list of the top signs that indicate deficiency, and see if a probiotic supplement needs to be added to your shopping list.

 Antibiotic Use:

Antibiotic means anti-life, which is the exact opposite of probiotic, which means pro-life. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria in the body, and they do not discriminate between the bad and the good. So if you have ever taken a round of antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic to reintroduce the healthy flora back into the body.

Tip: Start a round of probiotics after you finish your antibiotics. Antibiotics prevent the probiotics from living in the body, so do not waste your money by taking them concurrently.

Food Poisoning:

If you recently have had food poisoning or have eaten something that just didn’t sit right, there is a good chance bad bacteria has made a home in your body. Taking a probiotic will fight off these bad guys and get your digestion and bowel movements back to normal.

Tip: When traveling in a foreign country, take probiotics as a preventative measure both before and during the trip. The more healthy bacteria you have in the gut, the better defense your body has against potential invaders.

Digestive Disturbances:

If your gut has not been functioning correctly and you are suffering from a condition of the digestive tract, consider using a probiotic supplement. Oftentimes the simple addition of these healthy bacteria can quell symptoms, and no further treatment is needed. Research has shown probiotics to be helpful for diarrhea, gas, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s and H. pylori infection.

Tip: Always improve the diet first, eliminating hard-to-digest foods such as processed, packaged, and fried foods, dairy, gluten and soy. If your condition is still occurring, then you know it is time to bring in probiotics.

Skin Conditions:

If you suffer from acne, eczema, rashes, hives, or psoriasis, it’s most likely due to poor digestion and an imbalance in gut bacteria. Start using probiotics while also cleaning up your diet.

Mood Disorders:

If your daily life is riddled with stress, anxiety, irritability and depression, it could be because your intestinal flora is out of whack. Start using probiotics to normalize the flora, which will improve the functioning of your neurotransmitters and therefore your mood.

Tip: If your mood does not improve with the use of probiotics, consider taking a phyto-nutirent multivitamin with live source B vitamins as well.

Weak Immunity:

If you get sick from the flu every year, have maxed out your work sick days and seem to catch everything that goes around, then try probiotics. Probiotics have been clinically found to boost the immune system and strengthen the body’s defenses against illness. Healthy bacteria can train your immune system to distinguish between “foreign” microbes and those originating in your body, making probiotics the best front line against infection.

Asthma and Allergies:

Research has shown promise in the effects of probiotics in reducing symptom severity and medication use for asthma. Probiotics may also be helpful in reducing allergies, especially food allergies. Most often the root cause of food allergies is leaky gut, which can be improved by proper flora levels in the gut. Studies indicate that children with healthier gut flora have a reduced risk of developing allergies and asthma.

Autism:

New research suggests that probiotics may have therapeutic potential in autism spectrum disorder. They believe that gut bacteria may contribute to symptoms of Autism. By balancing the gut bacteria – reintroducing healthy probiotics – communicative, stereotypic, anxiety-like and sensorimotor behaviors were shown to decrease. While more research has to be done on the topic, probiotic supplementation for autism appears hopeful.

Yeast Infections:

If you suffer from recurring yeast infections or Candida, then this is a good indicator that there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the body. The best way to bring it back into balance is with probiotics. Probiotics, or good bacteria, crowd out the bad bacteria, helping to relieve the body of the symptoms attributed to the overgrowth.

Tip: Eliminate white sugar and significantly reduce natural sugars, and sugary carbohydrates. These foods are what bad bacteria feed on, so in order to expedite their elimination from the body, it is best to cut off their food source.

Insider’s Info: Probiotics are abundant in fermented foods, but most often their probiotic concentration is not enough to be used therapeutically when the gut flora has been drastically depleted. Therefore, use fermented probiotic-rich foods as an ongoing part of the diet to keep your levels up as a form of prevention. Then choose a high-quality probiotic as a form of nutrition therapy.

Source: http://thechalkboardmag.com/9-signs-you-need-probiotics