Monday, August 29, 2016

Two parts of fitness that are often overlooked are flexibility and balance. This may be because of conflicting information regarding their importance or relevance. However, both can play a vital role in overall fitness and function. Tight muscles can contribute to back pain or difficulty performing simple tasks, such as putting objects into overhead cupboards. While poor balance is known to increase the risk of falls in older persons, it may also affect sports performance in younger individuals. Luckily, it is very easy to work on both flexibility and balance on your own.

To train flexibility, stretching or repeated movement through a joint’s complete range of motion will work to increase joint range or prevent loss of motion, respectively. To stretch a muscle, it should be put in a position that produces a slight pull on the muscle but not to the point of pain. With a static stretch, the position in which a slight stretch is felt should be held 15-30 seconds, and each stretch should be repeated 3-5 times on each side of the body. The primary note regarding stretch position is that it should not cause pain or take the joint past the normal range. There are several forms of dynamic stretching, with the key difference being that dynamic stretches take the joint and muscles through the full range of motion, often repeatedly.

ACSM guidelines recommend that stretching activities be done at least two days per week. If you have lost some joint motion or feel stiff, range of motion or stretching activities should be done daily. The muscles that are most often tight are the hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and chest muscles. Each of these can be stretched using different positions, and some general motions may stretch more than one muscle group. For simplicity’s sake, only common static stretches will be described below.

   Hamstrings. Sit on the ground with legs straight in front of you. Gently lean forward from the hips (try to keep the back fairly straight) until a stretch is felt on the back of the thighs.
   Hip flexors. Stand on one foot, and bring the other foot to the buttocks. Pull back gently, while keeping your knee pointed at the ground and your hip straight. If needed, hold onto a counter or chair to keep your balance.
   Calves. Step forward with one leg. Shift your weight toward the front leg while keeping the back heel on the ground. If you press the hip of your back leg forward, this will also help stretch the hip flexors.
   Chest muscles. Standing in a corner, bring hands up to shoulder height and place against the wall on either side. Keeping hands in position, lean body forward until a stretch is felt in the front of the chest. This can also be done using a doorway, turning away from the hand that is on the wall.
Problems with tripping or falling often indicate difficulty with balance. Ideally, you should be able to stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds unsupported for static (not moving) balance. Balance activities can be started with simple position shifts for those that already have balance issues. Shifting should take place in all directions, including angles, with different placements of the feet. Improving balance requires a progressive challenge. This can be done by increasing the number of repetitions or the length of a balance activity, adding movement to make the activity more dynamic, or by reducing input from other senses, such as by closing the eyes. In addition, the amount of support from the arms can be progressed by using both hands, then one hand, then one finger, and finally no assistance. ACSM guidelines suggest such activities be done at least two days per week. A simple progression at home might be:

   Weight shifts. Step side-to-side, forward and backward. Then step forward and backward at an angle.
   Single leg stance. Stand next to a counter or chair for support. Stand on one leg and touch the toe of the other leg to the front, side and back.
   Single leg stance with movement. Stand next to a counter or chair for support. Stand on one leg and perform a partial squat. Repeat five times with each leg. This will also help with thigh strength. Alternative: turn slightly to the left, then right, moving only at the hip. Repeat five times with each leg.
Other activities can also be used for flexibility and balance. Tai chi, an activity based on martial arts, is excellent for balance because it uses multiple types of weight shifts as well as standing on one leg for short periods of time. Yoga uses different body positions and more sustained holds, thus it can also be used to improve static balance and flexibility. There are numerous DVDs and other aids available for those wishing to learn one of these activities. The key to any stretching or balance program is regularity, and these activities are not meant to be done at a high intensity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Which is better for weight loss?

Strength training. While you burn only up to 10 calories per minute lifting weights, compared with as many as 12 for cardio, you continue torching calories after you put those dumbbells down.
"When you jog or hit the elliptical, your body is actually pretty comfortable,” says exercise physiologist Mike Bracko of Calgary, Alberta. “But when you strength train, your body is like, ‘Whoa, this is a lot different!'” And that “whoa” takes you about an hour to recover from—burning an extra 25 percent on top of the calories you torched during your workout. That means if you burn 160 calories doing a 20-minute strength circuit, you’ll actually burn 200 by the time you’ve gone on with your day.
Bonus: Your metabolism stays elevated by up to 10 percent for three days after you lift as your body repairs the microtrauma in muscles, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., an exercise-science professor at Quincy College in Massachusetts.

Which should I do first?

Whichever you prefer, because they both have benefits, says. On one hand, moderate-intensity cardio makes a great warm-up, priming your muscles for strength training. On the flip side, cardio also makes a great cooldown, helping flush out the soreness-inducing lactate that builds up in your muscles during tough training and turning it back into energy you can use. The one exception: If you’re training for an event like a triathlon or 10K, you want to tackle that type of exercise first, when you’re fresh.

Does one give a bigger endorphin boost?

Cardio. It’s been shown to change brain chemistry enough to improve mood, anxiety and depression. And in a new study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, volunteers who ran on a treadmill increased their levels of endocannabinoids—marijuanalike chemicals created in the body that make you feel good and even have a slight pain-relieving effect.
You can still enjoy an endorphin boost from strength training, but you’ll need to rev your heart rate. Do that by lifting heavy weights or moving quickly between sets and strength exercises instead of taking long rest breaks.

Should I lift heavy or light weights?

Both. Light weights—light enough that you can do 15 to 20 reps before fatigue sets in—tend to activate slow-twitch muscle fibers. Heavy weights—so heavy that you can eke out only 8 to 10 reps—activate a higher percentage of fast-twitch ones. Combining the two lifting styles will give you the best results, says Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., an assistant professor in exercise science at CUNY Lehman College in Bronx, New York. Ideally, you’d do one light lifting day and one or two heavy days in a week, or mix it up in a single session.

What if I have time to do only one?

Strength train, for one simple reason: “It’s possible to get your cardio from strength alone,” says Westcott. If you keep moving between sets, either by inserting plyometric moves that leave you breathless (think jump squats) or going straight from one exercise to the next, you’ll strengthen your heart and lungs along with your other muscles. Studies show that you can get better results—both aerobic and strength gains—from three 20-minute strength circuits a week than you can from 60 minutes of cardio five days a week.

Self Magazine 

Monday, August 15, 2016

How Artificial Sweeteners Lead To Weight Gain

If you are using artificial sweeteners to control your weight, take heed. While past studies in both animals and humans have suggested they can lead to weight gain, scientists have identified for the very first time just how this can happen. In a series of sophisticated lab experiments, scientists found that lab animals regularly fed a diet containing the popular artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda) ate 30 percent more (yikes!) relative to when they consumed a naturally sweetened diet. The researchers directly related the boost in appetite and eating behavior observed in the lab mice fed the artificially sweetened chow to changes in an area of the brain's reward center. This specialized area of the brain is responsible for integrating sweet taste and energy (calorie) density. 

From the beginning of time if we consumed a natural food, the sweeter the food the more calories it contained, and this important connection was duly registered in the area of the brain mentioned above. But with zero calorie sugar substitutes, there is no relationship between sweet taste and calories, and this is where things get dicey. According to the researchers, what results is a recalibration in this special part of the brain that ultimately signals to the body that more calories are needed, thus boosting appetite and eating. As an additional consequence of this recalibration, sweetened foods taste even better, further promoting a sweet tooth and driving up excess calorie intake. Ironically, the neuronal pathway involved in this study's findings is an ancient remnant from our early history that makes nutritious foods taste better when we are starving.
In addition to stimulating appetite, the researchers also noted that sucralose triggered hyperactivity, increased insomnia, and diminished sleep quality-all features common in a semi-starved state. 

Blog courtesy of Amy Meyers MD

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How To Deal With Negative People

Do you have any friends or colleagues who are negative? If so, you’ll know they aren’t the most enjoyable people to be around. Negative people can be real downers in any conversation. No matter what you say, they have a way of spinning things in a negative direction. Some negative people can be so negative that it feels draining just being around them.
 Rather than be affected by others’ negative energy, consciously deal with it. Here are 9 tips to deal with negative people in your life:

1) Don’t get into an argument

One of the most important things I learned is not to debate with a negative person. A negative person likely has very staunch views and isn’t going to change that just because of what you said. Whatever you say, he/she can find 10 different reasons to back up his/her viewpoint. The discussion will just swirl into more negativity, and you pull yourself down in the process. You can give constructive comments, and if the person rebutts with no signs of backing down, don’t engage further.

2) Empathize with them

Have you ever been annoyed by something before, then have someone tell you to “relax”? How did you feel? Did you relax as the person suggested or did you feel even more worked up?
From my experience, people who are negative (or upset for that matter) benefit more from an empathetic ear than suggestions/solutions on what he/she should do. By helping them to address their emotions, the solutions will automatically come to them (it’s always been inside them anyway).

3) Lend a helping hand

Some people complain as a way of crying for help. They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as complaints rather than requests. Take the onus to lend a helping hand. Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders.

4) Stick to light topics

Some negative people are triggered by certain topics. Take for example: One of my friends sinks into a self-victimizing mode whenever we talk about his work. No matter what I say (or don’t say), he’ll keep complaining once we talk about work.
Our 1st instinct with negative people should be to help bring them to a more positive place (i.e. steps #2 and #3). But if it’s apparent the person is stuck in his/her negativity, the unhappiness may be too deeply rooted to address in a one-off conversation, or for you to help him/her unravel it. Bring in a new topic to lighten the mood. Simple things like new movies, daily occurrences, common friends, make for light conversation. Keep it to areas the person feels positive towards.

5) Ignore the negative comments

One way to help the negative person “get it” is to ignore the negative comments. If he/she goes into a negative swirl, ignore or give a simple “I see” or “Ok” reply. On the other hand, when he/she is being positive, reply in affirmation and enthusiasm. Do this often and soon he/she will know positivity pays off. He/she will adjust to be more positive accordingly.

6) Praise the person for the positive things

Negative people aren’t just negative to others. They’re also negative to themselves. If you already feel negative around them, imagine how they must feel all the time. What are the things the person is good at? What do you like about the person? Recognize the positive things and praise him/her for it. He/she will be surprised at first and might reject the compliment, but on the inside he/she will feel positive about it. That’s the first seed of positivity you’re planting in him/her and it’ll bloom in the long-term.

7) Hang out in 3’s or more people

Having someone else in the conversation works wonders in easing the load. In a 1-1 communication, all the negativity will be directed towards you. With someone else in the conversation, you don’t have to bear the full brunt of the negativity. This way you can focus more on doing steps #1 (Empathizing) and #2 (Helping the person).

8) Be responsible for your reaction

Whether the person is negative or not, ultimately you’re the one who is perceiving the person is negative. When you recognize that, actually the negativity is the product of your lens. Take responsibility for your perceptions. For every trait, you can interpret it in a positive and a negative manner. Learn to see the goodness of the person than the negative. It may be tough initially, but once you cultivate the skill, it becomes second nature.

9) Reduce contact with them / Avoid them

If all else fails, reduce contact with them or avoid them altogether. If it’s a good friend, let him/her know of the severity of the issue and work it out where possible. It’s not healthy to spend too much time with people who drain you. Your time is precious, so spend it with people who have positive effects on you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Healthy Snack Ideas

The aroma hits you as soon as you walk through the doors of any movie theater…popcorn!
For many people, a trip to the movies isn’t complete without a big tub of buttery popcorn and a giant cup of soda. But if you don’t choose carefully, that treat could be scarier than the next blockbuster horror flick! With a little planning, you can still enjoy a yummy snack that doesn’t wreak havoc on your good eating habits.

In theory, popcorn should be low in calories and high in fiber—a healthy, whole grain snack. And it is when you air pop your own at home. But everything changes when it's made at the theater and becomes a greasy and oil-soaked mess covered in artery-clogging butter or margarine.

A few years ago, when the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reported that movie theater popcorn was full of unhealthy fat, the industry immediately made changes, switching from coconut oil to healthier oils, such as peanut. Over the years, however, some chains have switched back to coconut oil to save money and improve flavor.

But just how bad could a tub of popcorn be? On average, a large popcorn (which contains 20 cups) boasts a mind-boggling 100 grams of fat—the equivalent of more than six fast food hamburgers. With about 1,300 calories, that large popcorn packs almost a full day’s supply of calories for the average dieter.

If movie theater popcorn is a must-have, stick with a kid-sized serving and forgo the added butter or margarine. Avoid the larger sizes completely, even if it seems like a steal. Moving up to the medium serving from the small size costs only pennies more, but adds about 500 more calories and two days worth of saturated fat. Ouch!

Think you can get away with buying large and sharing? Think again. One study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people who were given a large bucket of popcorn ate 50 percent more than those who were given a medium-sized bag. When asked to estimate how much they had eaten, participants thought they only ate as much as those with a smaller bag. This is one of many studies proving that if there’s food in front of us, we’l eat it without thinking.

Those giant chocolate bars and boxes of candy at the counter are also bad news. While you might kid yourself into thinking that you won’t eat the whole thing, chances are that once you're munching away in the dark, you’ll mindlessly consume the entire box without blinking. If you absolutely have to have a treat from the candy counter, choose the smallest sizes. They offer built in portion control and fewer overall calories.

Check out the following chart to see how your movie favorites compare. Pay particular attention to the sizes, which vary from two to over nine ounces.

Theater FoodSizeCaloriesFat
Sno Caps3.1 oz box30015 g
Hot dogMedium (2 oz)3055 g
Mike & Ike3 oz box3200 g
Junior Mints3 oz box3607 g
Milk Duds3 oz box37012 g
Gummi Bears3.5 oz bag3900 g
Raisinets3.5 oz bag40016 g
Soft pretzelLarge (5 oz)4805 g
Starburst4.4 oz48011 g
Goobers3.5 oz box50035 g
Twizzlers6 oz bag5704 g
M&M's5.3 oz bag75032 g
Skittles6.5 oz bag7659 g
Peanut M&M's5.3 oz bag79040 g
Dots9.2 oz box8500 g
Cheese nachosLarge (4 oz)1,10060 g
Reese's Pieces8 oz bag1,16060 g

One way to enjoy at treat at the movies without destroying your waistline is to bring your own snacks from home. Yes, this is discouraged by most theater owners because they make a huge profit at the concession stand. However, all theaters have different policies, and some even allow you to bring food from outside vendors (such as restaurants or shops in the same mall or shopping center). Find out the policy at your favorite theater, and be prepared to lose your snacks to an angry employee if you get caught breaking the rules.

Here are some healthy alternatives you can bring from home to munch on:
  • Bottled water or 100% fruit juice
  • Trail mix, made with nuts and dried fruit
  • Dry cereal (watch the sugar content in these)
  • String cheese
  • Air-popped popcorn, flavored with Parmesan cheese, chili pepper, or garlic powder
  • Whole Grain crackers, graham crackers, or rice crackers
  • Baked potato chips or tortilla chips
  • Bananas, grapes, raisins, or other no-mess fruit
  • 2-3 miniature dark chocolate bars
The best way to avoid temptation at the theater is to eat a balanced meal beforehand—lean protein, whole grains, veggies and healthy fats will keep you satisfied for several hours. (Sorry, but the concession's pizza, nachos and hot dogs don't fit the bill of a healthy meal.)

Going to the movies is a social experience—and that means eating for many people. But you don’t have to miss out on the fun just because you’re watching what your diet. By bringing your own portion-controlled snacks from home or choosing carefully at the candy counter, the only things you’ll be missing are the inches you'll lose from your waist.