Thursday, December 27, 2018

Make Your New Year Resolution Work

1. Dream big 
Audacious goals are compelling. Want to compete in a marathon or triathlon? Lose 50 pounds or just enough to fit into clothes you once loved? With perseverance, encouragement, and support, you can do it. An ambitious aim often inspires others around you. Many will cheer you on. Some will be happy to help in practical ways, such as by training with you or taking on tasks you normally handle in order to free up your time.

2. Break big dreams into small-enough steps 
Now think tiny. Small steps move you forward to your ultimate goal. Look for surefire bets. Just getting to first base can build your confidence to tackle — and succeed at — more difficult tasks. Don't disdain easy choices. If you start every plan with "Make list," you're guaranteed to check one box off quickly. That's no joke: a study on loyalty programs that aim to motivate consumers found giving people two free punches on a frequent-buyer card encouraged repeat business. So break hard jobs down into smaller line items, and enjoy breezing through the easy tasks first.

3. Understand why you shouldn't make a change
That's right. Until you grasp why you're sticking like a burr to old habits and routines, it may be hard to muster enough energy and will to take a hard left toward change. Unhealthy behaviors like overeating and smoking have immediate, pleasurable payoffs as well as costs. So when you're considering a change, take time to think it through. You boost your chance of success when the balance of pluses and minuses tips enough to make adopting a new behavior more attractive than standing in place. Engaging in enjoyable aspects of an unhealthy behavior, without the behavior itself, helps too. For example, if you enjoy taking a break while having a smoke, take the break and enjoy it, but find healthier ways to do so. Otherwise, you're working against a headwind and are less likely to experience lasting success

4. Commit yourself
Make yourself accountable through a written or verbal promise to people you don't want to let down. That will encourage you to slog through tough spots. One intrepid soul created a Facebook page devoted to her goals for weight loss. You can make a less public promise to your partner or child, a teacher, doctor, boss, or friends. Want more support? Post your promise on Facebook, tweet it to your followers, or seek out folks with like-minded goals online.

5. Give yourself a medal
Don't wait to call yourself a winner until you've pounded through the last mile of your big dream marathon or lost every unwanted ounce. Health changes are often incremental. Encourage yourself to keep at it by pausing to acknowledge success as you tick off small and big steps en route to a goal. Blast your favorite tune each time you reach 5,000 steps. Get a pat on the back from your coach or spouse. Ask family and friends to cheer you on. Look for an online support group. Or download the "Attaboy" app for your iPhone or iPod to enjoy a stream of compliments whenever you need to hear it.

6. Learn from the past
 Any time you fail to make a change, consider it a step toward your goal. Why? Because each sincere attempt represents a lesson learned. When you hit a snag, take a moment to think about what did and didn't work. Maybe you took on too big a challenge? If so, scale back to a less ambitious challenge, or break the big one into tinier steps. If nailing down 30 consecutive minutes to exercise never seems to work on busy days, break that down by aiming for three 10-minute walks — one before work, one during lunch, one after work — or a 20-minute walk at lunch plus a 10-minute mix of marching, stair climbing, and jumping rope or similar activities slipped into your TV schedule.

7. Give thanks for what you do
Forget perfection. Set your sights on finishing that marathon, not on running it. If you compete to complete, you'll be a winner even if you wind up walking as much as you run. With exercise — and so many other goals we set — you'll benefit even when doing less than you'd like to do. Any activity is always better than none. If your goal for Tuesday is a 30-minute workout at the gym, but you only squeeze in 10 minutes, feel grateful for that. It's enough. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why Do Muscle Tighten Up?

So, what causes muscle tightness? During periods of prolonged inactivity, for example, long days and weeks working at a desk, some muscles can get tight as a result of their restricted movement.  When you are seated at a desk, your hips are in a bent, or flexed, position. This puts the muscles on the front of the hip (hip flexors) in a shortened position, and the muscles on the back of the hip (glutes ) in a lengthened position. In addition, as you sit at a desk reaching forward to work on a computer, your chest muscles (pectorals) will be in a shortened position, while your upper back muscles (rhomboids) will be in a lengthened position. Over time, this can result in muscle imbalances with the shortened muscles becoming “tight” and the lengthened muscles becoming weak.   If you look around you, you’ll notice many people have developed poor posture with forward rounded shoulders and underdeveloped glutes .  The key to preventing this tightness due to decreased range of motion is three-fold.  It is important to maintain porter posture, even while seated.  You should also specifically strengthen those small muscles which have become lengthened and weak.  Lastly, you should make sure to stretch the tightened muscles, specifically the chest and hip flexors. 

Another time when muscles tighten up is during exercise, for example, a muscle cramp.  Cramps are unpleasant, often painful sensations caused by a variety of factors that include muscle fatigue, low sodium, or low potassium.  Muscle cramps can also happen even when you’re not exercising.  When muscles contract, the muscle fibers shorten, increasing tension in the muscle. When the contraction is completed, the muscle fibers lengthen and decrease tension.   During a muscle cramp, however, the muscle fibers remain shortened and are unable to lengthen due to fatigue or improper hydration and nutrition.  Forcibly stretching the muscle when it is in such a tight, contracted form can tear the muscle fibers and lead to injury.  Allow the muscle spasm to relax and recover before attempting to stretch out the cramp.  In order to prevent these from occurring in the future, make sure to be properly hydrated, properly fed, and not overly fatigued when exercising. If engaging in exercise bouts lasting longer than 60 minutes, consuming an electrolyte replenishing drink may help prevent muscle cramps.

Muscles can also tighten up following exercise. This is felt as muscle soreness.  Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) can be felt as pain and stiffness in the muscles for 24 to 72 hours post-exercise.  DOMS is most intense following exercises that focus on eccentric contractions where a weight is lowered or slowed. Examples of eccentric exercises include the downward phase of a bicep curl, or downhill running. The soreness and tightness felt is a result of small ruptures within the muscle.  It can be prevented by gradually increasing the intensity of a new exercise program.  While the soreness will usually disappear within 72 hours of onset, increased blood flow to the sore area, either by moderate intensity exercise or massage may help alleviate soreness.  Stretching does not prevent soreness; however, it is still important to perform some static (holding) stretches after exercise to maintain or improve flexibility.

Proper exercise, stretching, and nutrition strategies can help prevent and correct what can be called muscle tightness.  Proper posture, choice of exercises, and stretches will prevent tightness due to decreased range of motion.  Proper exercise intensity, as well as pre, during, and post-exercise hydration and nutrition can help prevent muscle cramps.  Appropriate exercise progression and static stretching after exercise will help prevent DOMS and maintain range of motion, respectively.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Reducing The Risk of Diabetes

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases characterized by persistently high levels of blood glucose. In a healthy person, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which the body’s cells use for energy. When glucose enters the bloodstream, insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas) signals the body’s cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream and transport it into the cell where it can be used for immediate energy. Insulin also mediates the process of converting glucose that is not needed immediately to glycogen so that it can be stored in the liver and muscles for later use. When glucose levels drop, the pancreas stops secreting insulin until more glucose enters the bloodstream.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D)—or insulin-dependent diabetes—is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. T1D is the more serious form of diabetes and accounts for approximately 5% of diabetes cases. It is thought that a genetic variant predisposes certain people to T1D. People with T1D must take insulin injections or infusions daily.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D)—or non-insulin dependent diabetes—accounts for the majority (90-95%) of diabetes cases. In T2D, the body produces insulin, but isn’t able to use it properly. Both genetics and lifestyle play a role in the development of T2D. Type 2 diabetes typically develops slowly. In the early stages, cells throughout the body become resistant to the effects of insulin—a condition known as insulin resistance. Over time, the body may stop producing sufficient insulin altogether. The processes of glucose uptake by the body’s cells and the conversion of glucose to glycogen begin to fail. The consequence is higher levels of circulating blood glucose. 

Risk Factors
Diabetes is caused by a combination of environmental factors, lifestyle behaviors and genetic susceptibility. Nonmodifiable risk factors include age, ethnicity, family history and biological factors. While these factors play a critical role in a person’s risk for developing diabetes, several risk factors can be controlled. Read on to learn five things you can do to reduce your risk for diabetes.

1. Eat more whole grains.
A healthful diet in general is associated with a decreased risk of diabetes. However, one dietary habit in particular seems to have a profound effect on a person’s risk for diabetes: consumption of whole grains. There is strong evidence that diets abundant in whole grains have a protective effect against the development of diabetes (van Dam et al., 2002). The bran and fiber found in whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and whole-grain breads help to stabilize blood glucose levels in the body. Refined grains, such as white bread, donuts and sugary cereals, have the opposite effect and produce spikes in blood glucose levels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making half the grains you eat whole. Additionally, a prospective cohort study published by the Public Library of Sciences found that women who averaged two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who seldom consumed whole grains (de Munter et al., 2007).

2. Get enough sleep.
You know that sleep is important for feeling your best every day, but did you know that chronic sleep deprivation could influence your risk of diabetes? People who are sleep deprived are at an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of risk factors that often precipitates chronic disease, including diabetes. One symptom of metabolic syndrome is impaired glucose metabolism—a sign of prediabetes. Chronic sleep deprivation can alter your body’s hormone regulation, causing less insulin to be produced and an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol. The aggregate effect is potentially elevated glucose in the bloodstream. Aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, evaluate your personal sleep habits. Sleep can often be improved by adopting a few simple sleep, hygiene promoting behaviors. If you think your sleep problems are more serious, talk to your doctor.

3. Get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.
You’ve heard for years that exercise can improve your overall health. According to the American Diabetes Association, two types of exercise are important for reducing your risk for diabetes: aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week is the goal, but if 30 minutes seems overwhelming in the beginning, start with 10-15 minutes and build from there.

4. Do strength training.
The other type of exercise that can help to reduce your risk of developing diabetes is strength training. While aerobic exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently, strength training makes your muscle cells more sensitive to insulin, which helps to lower blood glucose levels. Use the following industry guidelines to plan your strength-training program:
Select eight to 10 exercises that target the major muscle groups.
Choose multijoint exercises (those affecting more than one muscle group) over single-joint exercises.
Train each muscle group for a total of two to four sets, completing eight to 12 repetitions per exercise.
Perform resistance-training exercises for each major muscle group two to three nonconsecutive days per week, with at least 48 hours of recovery between sessions.

5. Manage your stress.
Try to do something stress-reducing daily. According to the American Diabetes Association, stress management plays an important role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and managing the disease after a diagnosis. Lifestyle behaviors associated with unchecked stress, such as poor sleep hygiene, poor eating habits and lack of adequate physical activity, increase a person’s risk for diabetes, but stress hormones such as cortisol may have a direct effect on blood glucose levels (Virtanen et al., 2014). The stress paradox can make it seem impossible to fit in stress-reducing activities such as exercise or meditation when you already feel like you’re spread too thin. But even just a few minutes of deep breathing every day can help to subdue your body’s fight or flight stress response.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Festively Fit: Thrive Through The Holidays

The Good News: There is a Better Way!
If all this sounds familiar, your first step is to change your mindset. Practicing sound nutrition, health and fitness habits is vital to life-long wellness. Healthy eating, effective physical activity and regular rest are practices that should become part of who you are and essential to your daily life, just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. This shift in mindset sets the stage for greater self-empowerment and self-confidence, as well as a transition in locus of control from external to internal.

The key is to recognize that you have the power to transform your life and live it to the fullest during times of joy, trouble, hardship, success, holidays and festivities by applying key foundational behavioral principles. When you do that, you won’t get bogged down with seemingly endless challenging choices in every situation.
If you make the following key foundational behaviors a priority, circumstantial, seasonal and unexpected events won’t have the power to derail you. Each 
“Festively Fit Tip” showcases an example of how you can apply these behaviors in real situations.

1) Drink water
Choose to drink water over anything else. Cold or hot herbal teas are a good option, too. Drink two cups of water when you first wake up in the morning and when you feel hungry outside of your regular mealtime/regular snacks.

Festively Fit Tip: When you arrive at a holiday party, drink two cups of water or herbal tea before you start eating.

2) Move more, sit less
If you have the option of standing versus sitting, stand. If you have the option of walking versus driving, walk. If you have the option of moving about versus standing, move about. Daily physical activity and structured exercise, including cardio, strength and flexibility exercises, are a part of a healthy daily routine.

Festively Fit Tip: When you attend a holiday party or an event, find a way to avoid sitting for the majority of the time (move about the room, start a dance party, etc.)

3) Something positive is better than nothing
Get away from an all-or-nothing mindset. If you don’t have time for a full workout, do 10 minutes of exercise and you’ll reap some positive benefits. If you forgot to add any fruits or vegetables to your meals during the day, add an apple at night. Apply this principle where it makes sense.

Festively Fit Tip: Focus on nutritious foods during the holidays rather than on what you shouldn’t eat. Each time you eat at home or at a holiday party, add things to your plate that are good for you, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts or other healthy proteins or grains.

4) Take control 
Focus. Reflect. Ask yourself: Is this behavior good for me? Be mindful. Choose wisely. Follow-through.

Festively Fit Tip: When you are at a party and about to fill your plate with all the goodies from the buffet, pause and ask yourself: Is it time to eat now? What have I already eaten today? What is available here that is considered healthy?

5) Half is enough
Eat only half of the less-nutritious foods on your plate. If you take a cookie, for example, eat half of it and pack the other half for another day.

Festively Fit Tip: At a holiday party or event, serve yourself only half of what is on the serving platter. For example, if you want a brownie, cut it in two on the serving platter and only serve yourself half (and don’t go back for seconds).  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pelvic Floor Muscles

Pelvic floor muscles
Having strong pelvic floor muscles gives us control over the bladder and bowel. Weakened pelvic floor muscles mean the internal organs are not fully supported and you may have difficulty controlling the release of urine, faeces (poo) or flatus (wind).
Common causes of a weakened pelvic floor include childbirth, obesity and the associated straining of chronic constipation. Pelvic floor exercises are designed to improve muscle tone and prevent the need for corrective surgery.

What are pelvic floor muscles?
Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic organs are the bladder and bowel in men, and bladder, bowel and uterus in women. The diagram below shows the pelvic organs and pelvic floor muscles in women (right) and men (left).

The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a muscular trampoline from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side). These muscles are normally firm and thick.

Imagine the pelvic floor muscles as a round mini-trampoline made of firm muscle. Just like a trampoline, the pelvic floor is able to move down and up. The bladder, uterus (for women) and bowel lie on the pelvic floor muscle layer.

The pelvic floor muscle layer has hole for passages to pass through.There are two passages in men (the urethra and anus) and three passages in women (the urethra, vagina and anus). The pelvic floor muscles normally wrap quite firmly around these holes to help keep the passages shut. There is also an extra circular muscle around the anus (the anal sphincter) and around the urethra (the urethral sphincter).
Although the pelvic floor is hidden from view, it can be consciously controlled and therefore trained, much like our arm, leg or abdominal muscles.

What do pelvic floor muscles do?
Pelvic floor muscles provide support to the organs that lie on it. The sphincters give us conscious control over the bladder and bowel so that we can control the release of urine, faeces (poo) and flatus (wind) and allow us to delay emptying until it is convenient. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, the internal organs are lifted and the sphincters tighten the openings of the vagina, anus and urethra. Relaxing the pelvic floor allows passage of urine and faeces.

Pelvic floor muscles are also important for sexual function in both men and women. In men, it is important for erectile function and ejaculation. In women, voluntary contractions (squeezing) of the pelvic floor contribute to sexual sensation and arousal.

The pelvic floor muscles in women also provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in the birthing process.
The muscles of the pelvic floor work with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilise and support the spine.

What can make these muscles loose?
Pregnancy and childbirth for women
Straining on the toilet
Chronic coughing
Heavy lifting
High impact exercise

How can I strengthen these muscles?
The first thing you need to do is find out which muscles you need to train. It is very important to correctly identify your pelvic floor muscles before moving into a regular pelvic floor muscle exercise program. To find out how to find and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, see the links below.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Ways To Give The Gift of Health

1. Services
Health club memberships promote year-round health, but they can be pricey. The average cost in the United States is about $58 per month or $700 per year. If that's too much, consider a gift certificate for a few sessions with a personal trainer. Look for a personal trainer who's certified through an organization such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

2. Gadgets
A wearable fitness monitor is helpful to track everything from heart rate to the number of steps walked per day. The majority cost between $50 and $200, and you'll find them at big box stores and sports retailers. An automatic pill dispenser makes sticking to a medication regimen easier for someone who takes several pills daily. The devices are available in drugstores and online. Prices start at about $50.

3. Workout equipment
For people who like to exercise at home, consider giving a new set of resistance bands, hand weights, a yoga mat, or exercise clothes with fibers that wick away moisture. Any of these can be found for less than $50.

4. Classes
An exercise class makes a good gift, especially if you offer to come along. Sometimes people are more inclined to exercise with company. Plus, having someone with you adds an element of safety, and you can share a common goal.  Consider tai chi, ballroom dance, or yoga. Classes are usually sold in packages. You'll find them in exercise studios, hospitals, and community centers. Prices vary.

5. Information
Don't forget the gift of knowledge. Not surprisingly, we are partial to products from Harvard Health Publishing. Give someone a newsletter for $20 a year, or one our many special health reports for $20 ($18 for an electronic copy). There are reports on dozens of topics, each offering insight and advice for improving your health, such as gaining better balance, boosting energy, and losing weight. Check them out at

Monday, October 29, 2018

What You Should Do After EVERY Workout

1. Commit to a Cool-down
When you're especially crunched for time, you might decide it’s best to head to the locker room right after cardio. Not a great idea. A proper cool-down—where you move around at a light intensity—only takes a few minutes and helps you stay safe at the gym.

Allowing your body to comfortably come down from moderate or intense exercise provides a smooth, gradual transition away from increased heart rate. And cooling down helps prevent lightheadedness from blood pooling in the lower extremities, among other benefits. 

2. Turn Off Your Workout App
Analyzing and comparing your tracker metrics from one workout to the next can be motivating—plus it helps you keep improving toward your goals. While some smart workout apps detect when you’re done exercising and stop collecting data automatically, many don’t.

Forgetting to turn off a workout app can be frustrating: The longer the app runs when you’re no longer exercising, the more messed up the metrics get. One fix is to set a standing reminder on your phone for times when you typically work out (such as a weekly fitness class or personal training appointment). The reminder will prompt you to tap the app off at the appropriate time.

3. Stretch the Muscles You Worked
You’ve heard it before, and for good reason: Stretching is an important components of fitness. Taking the time to perform a good stretch after working out—when your muscles are already warm—can help improve posture, increase mobility and range of motion, and enhance muscular relaxation. Plus, it’s nice to take a few minutes to mentally relax before carrying on with your day. If possible, tack on a few minutes of foam rolling to further iron out muscle tension.

4. Wash Your Hands
You don’t hear this tip all that often in relation to exercise, but it can go a long way toward keeping you healthy so you don’t miss workouts due to illness. A lot of people handle (and sweat all over) gym equipment, such as dumbbells, weight machines, kettlebells and bike handlebars. Before leaving the gym, wash hands thoroughly in the shower or at a sink to prevent the spread of germs. 

5. Swap Out Your Shoes
If you typically wear the same fitness shoes at the gym as you do walking around town, consider tweaking your approach. Change sneakers before heading out so you get in the habit of wearing a designated pair only at the gym. This will keep your kicks feeling new and supportive for longer—and the gym floor cleaner, too.

6. Refill Your Water Bottle
It’s easy to drink water right before and during a workout because your water bottle is at arm’s reach. But people often stop sipping as soon as they move on to other things. To stay hydrated for longer, top up your water bottle as you’re leaving the gym. Keep it handy so you can drink from it for the rest of the day.

7. Have a Post-workout Bite
Aim to eat a healthy snack within about half an hour after a moderate-to-intense workout. Experts recommend a combo of carbs to replenish glycogen stores (fuel for the body) and protein to help repair muscle. Good post-workout snacks include almond butter spread on banana slices or whole-grain bread, or a plain yogurt smoothie with fruit.

8. Prep Your Gym Bag for Next Time
Preparing for your next workout just as you’re finishing your current one can help set the stage for long-term fitness success. Once you’re back at home, re-pack your gym bag right away with socks, a towel, shoes and anything else you might need. When it’s time for your next workout, you’ll be ready to grab your bag and go, reducing barriers to exercise like lack of time. Plus, knowing you’ve already prepped for the workout is a great motivator.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Why You Should Train For Dynamic Balance

When we hear the word balance, we usually think of standing still on one leg or trying not to fall when walking on a slippery surface. While standing on one leg can certainly help improve static balance, maintaining control of a moving center of mass over a changing base of support is probably more relevant to many of life’s activities. This type of training is known as dynamic balance, and can help enhance skills that are relevant to a number of sports and activities of daily living. Dynamic balance training is also an effective way to help you achieve your fitness goals. 

Optimal balance is achieved when multiple sensory systems provide information about the body’s position as it moves over the ground. The eyes (visual), inner ear (vestibular) and skin (kinesthetic) contain numerous sensory receptors that provide important feedback to the central nervous system (CNS) about which muscles to activate and when. Maintaining static balance as the body remains in one position is relatively easy because you can concentrate on which muscles to contract to remain stable. However, many activities of daily living happen quickly, which means you have to rely on conscious thought to control which muscles to activate. 

Here are five reasons why it’s important to train dynamic balance and how adding it to your exercise program can produce results.

1. Training for dynamic balance could help you improve your running technique. The gait cycle, whether walking or running, requires the body to maintain control of its center of gravity as it changes position over a constantly moving base of support. During the gait cycle your body must maintain control of your center of gravity—usually found near the belly button—as you transition from one leg to the other. As your right foot hits the ground, the left leg prepares to swing forward; at the same time your left arm is swinging forward while your right arm is moving backward. The motion created by the swinging of the arms and legs results in a counter rotation between the upper back and pelvis to generate the momentum to move the body in a forward direction.

2. Dynamic balance training is an effective way to strengthen and tone the obliques and the muscles of the hips, thighs, glutes and low back. These muscles connect your hips to your pelvis and your pelvis to your spine. Increasing the strength of the core muscles can help improve your balance and coordination, while also improving your appearance.

3. Having good dynamic balance can help improve your coordination and ability to react to sudden changes of direction, both of which can help reduce the risk of an accidental fall. Controlling dynamic balance should be a reflexive response that happens automatically. If you feel that you don’t have good balance, it is extremely important that you do the work necessary to improve it.

4. Dynamic balance exercises can easily be added to the warm-up phase of a workout to prepare for lower-body strength training, a long run, an obstacle-course race, or for recreational sports such as tennis, basketball or soccer.

5. Dynamic balance exercises can be used as low-intensity recovery exercises between sets of high-intensity interval training or as a low-intensity bodyweight workout to help promote recovery the day after a challenging training session. These exercises can also be used on those days when you can’t make it to the gym, but still want to do something active. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What To Look For In A Fitness App

Does it fit your skill level? 
Apps come in all shapes and sizes and it’s important to find one tailored to your workout regimen. Someone who is a newbie or does not like exercising may need an app that is in their face and is going to continually stimulate and encourage them. On the other hand, people who are already fit and know the basics are often looking for something more data driven to help them reach that next level.

Is it personal? 
Everyone’s body is different, so no fitness app should take a one-size-fits-all approach to your health. It’s important to look for apps that tailor their recommendations to you. The more the app knows about you, the better it’s able to help you. If an app doesn’t get any information about your height, weight, age, sex and intensity level, that’s a sign you should uninstall it.

Does it use all your phone’s features? 
Your phone is a marvel of technology, and the best apps take advantage of all your phone has to offer. The best apps use your GPS and accelerometer to track your workout.  Some will use sound to motivate you, and others use your phone’s camera to help you nail down the correct form for an exercise.

Is it connected? 
The fitness app you choose shouldn’t be a standalone program – it should work with your other phone apps to give you as large a view of your health as possible. We know that fitness and health is a combination of diet, exercise, sleep and more.  Having apps that work together and talk to each other to track all of those factors is imperative.

Does it have good reviews? 
While you shouldn’t base your decision solely on reviews, a poorly reviewed app is a sign that it isn’t the one you want.  Check for reviews that go into detail about what the reviewer did or didn’t like about the app.  You can always test it out for yourself, but if a lot of reviews mention similar issues, you might want to just stay away.

Is it social? 
One of the hardest parts of getting into shape is sticking with the program, which is why having people to encourage you and keep you accountable is  key to reaching your goals. Many apps will allow you to share your workouts to Twitter and Facebook.  You can have a comparison and competition with friends, and if you see that you’re behind, it might encourage you to work out more to try and beat them.

Does it keep you interested? 

Downloading the best app in the world won’t make a difference if you never actually use it.  That’s why the right app for you is the one that keeps you interested and keeps you coming back. Simply having the app on your phone isn’t going to help you lose weight. They make it easier to engage in good behaviors, but it’s ultimately up to you to go out and exercise.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Why You Should Add Pumpkin Seeds To Your Diet

Pumpkin seeds are truly a gift from nature. They don’t just taste great (actually fantastic!), but can also serve as a healthy protein option too. Keep in mind that raw, organic darkly colored heirloom pumpkin seeds or raw, organic bright green pumpkin seeds will offer more nutrients than other varieties that are salted, roasted or sprayed with pesticides, so be sure you choose the best source. (These versions also tastes the best too!)

Here’s what these seeds have to offer:

Pumpkin seeds are rich in iron and are one of the best sources in such a small amount found throughout the plant-based diet. Though beans and some legumes are much higher (along with grains), pumpkin seeds are pretty impressive, offering 16 percent   of your daily needs in just 1/4 a cup. Raw, organic pumpkin seed protein powder is even available now, which would be an even denser way to get your fill of iron from this healthy seed, providing 40 percent, almost identical to hemp protein protein powder. 

Alkalizing and Anti-Inflammatory
Raw, green pumpkin seeds are green because they have a high amount of natural chlorophyll in them. Chlorophyll is found in all green foods, which alkalizes and naturally cleanses the body (no need for a detox here!). Pumpkin seeds offer the most of any seed or nut since they are denser in the green hue, though hemp and even purely raw sunflower seeds are other good sources. Chlorophyll alkalizes the blood, which prevents inflammation that occurs from a high acidic diet or other lifestyle factors.

Pumpkin seeds also have more fiber than many nuts, boosting 5 grams per 1/4 cup. This can help regulate your blood sugar, enhance regularity, and the fiber in pumpkin seeds is easier to digest than from some other sources like beans or hard-to-digest grains and nuts. Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to improving insulin regulation, which can help those with blood sugar issues or even diabetes.

If you have a nut allergy, you’ll especially want to jump on board the pumpkin seed train! Pumpkin seeds and other seeds should be enjoyed since they provide beneficial fatty acids that one might miss out on when they can’t enjoy the healthy fat from nuts. Even if you don’t have an allergy to nuts, these seeds will provide other nutrients that you won’t get in such a small serving from other foods. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of soy-free protein for those that have a soy allergy or just want to avoid it.

Of course, we can’t forget protein! Pumpkin seeds have a good amount of protein in a small serving, containing 5 grams in just once ounce. They’re a rich source of amino acids and contain an especially high amount of tryptophan, the amino acid that enhances serotonin production in the body. They’re true mood-boosters and make a great addition to any meal to up the protein content. Think smoothies, oatmeal, salads, soups, stir-fries, and more!

These seeds are also a fantastic source of zinc, which helps carbohydrate metabolism in the body, hormone production, and even improves immune health and even your skin, hair, and nails. Pumpkin seeds contain 23 percent of your daily zinc needs in just 1/4 cup serving. Cacao, nuts, seeds, and some grains are also good sources.

Healthy Fats
Pumpkin seeds might be high in fat, but it’s the fat your body loves! They’re an especially good source of omega 3 fatty acids and a rich source of mono-unsaturated fats that protect your heart, prevent inflammation, and help manage your weight. Like all healthy fats, they’re not meant to be consumed in massive amounts, but eaten in single serving portions at each of your meals or as a healthy snack. Healthy fats ensure good heart health, help balance your blood sugar, and are an important factor in your mood, digestion, and overall health. Always choose whole food based sources of healthy fats which also have fiber and whole food sources of vitamins and minerals.

Pumpkin seeds have even been shown to eliminate seriously dangerous microbes from the body, including parasites!  These seeds are no joke when it comes to keeping you healthy all the way around. Just 1/4 cup a day has been shown to be beneficial at improving immune health and also eliminating (not just preventing) various unhealthy microbes from harming the body. Keep in mind an overall healthy diet, rich in whole, plant-based foods is a key primer for keeping unhealthy microbes away, though some specific foods like pumpkin seeds, garlic and coconut have been linked to especially impressive treatment benefits as well. Even for yeast infections like candida, pumpkin seeds have been shown to prevent yeast overgrowth, inflammation, and can improve skin conditions in those with skin-based yeast infections.

Magnesium is such an important mineral for your health.  It’s commonly called the ‘forgotten mineral’ because many people suffer health issues, all because of magnesium deficiency (headaches, low blood sugar, constipation, insomnia, lack of energy, and a foul mood, just to name a handful). Some people believe this is because the important mineral that’s found in the soil has been destroyed by factoring farming, soil depletion and other agricultural factors, while some people simply don’t eat enough naturally magnesium-rich foods (plant-based foods). Animal foods, sugar, refined grains and processed foods don’t contain the true magnesium that whole plant-based foods do. Pumpkin seeds are some of the richest sources of magnesium in such a small serving, while greens, grains, beans, legumes, cashews, almonds, and cacao are other especially dense sources.

How to Use Pumpkin Seeds:
As you can see, protein is just one of the many nutrients found in pumpkin seeds. Be sure to enjoy them in oatmeal, smoothies, chia pudding, raw energy bites, granola bars, muffins, salads, soups, and whole grain dishes, which are all easy ways to add the seeds to your diet. Toss them into one of your meals each day, or enjoy them in a healthy trail mix!

You might also like to try some of these deliciously healthy recipes with pumpkin seeds that we love:

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bizarre Effects of Working Out

Most don't work out for the pure joy of being drenched in sweat. They do it for the side effects: shed pounds, sexier muscles, and a longer, healthier life. But most don't know that itching, the runs, coughing, headaches, and a snot-covered face are all just as common side effects. Luckily, you can keep the good side effects without the (literally) crappy ones. Here's how:

You expect your skin to get red from your workout, but if it also gets splotchy, itchy, or covered in hives, a ton of different things could be ticking off your epidermis: tight workout clothes, chemicals contained within them, or a condition called exercise-induced urticaria. All three can stress out your body, causing it to produce histamines, antihistamines, and finally itching, says exercise physiologist Pete McCall, CSCS. It's basically an allergic reaction.

Skip the side effect: If you develop hives or rashes during or after exercise — and they also tend to pop up when you take hot showers, eat spicy foods, or get really ticked off — exercise-induced urticaria is likely to blame. Talk to your doc about your symptoms and find out if it's safe for you to take an antihistamine before hitting the gym.
Meanwhile, to prevent any skin irritations that your clothes can cause, try switching to looser-fitting clothing and make sure to wash everything with a fragrance-free detergent and no fabric softener, as both can irritate skin, says Michael Shepard, MD, a sports-medicine specialist with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute and team doctor to the Los Angeles Angels. Also, some people don't get along with polyester, spandex, or Lycra, so if you notice that you commonly have problems when you wear synthetic fabrics, stick with cotton.

The Runs
Funnily enough, this one is most common in runners. "When you go for a long run, your body has to shuttle blood to your muscles and away from your digestive system for an extended period of time," Shepard says. So any food in your gut just sits there and rattles around with every step, making diarrhea a real and ever-present threat.
Skip the side effect: Carbo-load the night before, not hours before, a long run, Shepard says. It will help guarantee that by the time you hit the trail, the food is already out of your stomach and the carbs are ready to go, packed away for safe keeping in your liver and muscles. You should still eat a small carb-rich snack within a couple hours of working out, but some runners can't stomach more than Jell-O. Meanwhile, if your long runs aren't mandatory, breaking them up into shorter intervals can help ease stomach upset.

You finished your workout strong. Then all of a sudden, you can't breathe. Congratulations: you have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,  the condition, which causes a narrowing of the airways in the lungs, causes shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing in about one out of five people and nine out of 10 people with asthma. It's believed that, in people who suffer from the condition, the body reacts to airborne irritants by constricting its airways.

Skip the side effect: Exercising indoors may help keep your airways moist (dry air can make them clam up) and clear of pollutants.  Upping your vitamin C intake can also help prevent inflammation in your airways. In one 2013 study published in BMJ Open when exercisers popped a vitamin C supplement, they cut their symptoms in half.

During exercise, to keep your blood pumping, blood vessels throughout your body — including your brain — dilate. Especially in people who are prone to migraines, these expanded blood vessels can trigger headaches, Shepard says. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, holding your breath while you crank out reps can deprive your brain of oxygen-filled blood and bring on pain.

Skip the side effect: Exercise headaches are most frequent during strenuous exercise, especially when exercisers are pushing themselves too hard. Mastering moderate-intensity workouts before you start hitting high-intensity ones can help prevent headaches, according to the Migraine Trust, a UK-based research charity. Warming up before any workout can also help by preventing a sudden rush of blood through your brain.

By dilating blood vessels in your nose, and constricting others, exercise can open the floodgates that are your nasal passages. Called exercise-induced rhinitis (EIR), it's most common in people with nasal allergies, but is anything but rare in people who don't generally have the sniffles, according to research from the Allergy Asthma Immunology Clinic of Colorado.

Skip the side effect: Outdoor EIR is more common than its indoor counterpart, causing experts to believe that outdoor irritants like pollen and nitrogen dioxide in car exhaust may make things worse, McCall says. If your symptoms start getting in the way of your workout, you can talk to your doctor about possible nasal sprays that can help.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Why We Are Nuts About Nuts

People who consume five or more servings of nuts per week have lower levels of disease-causing inflammation than those who never (or almost never) eat nuts, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. What’s more, people who sub in three servings of nuts per week in place of red meat, processed meat, eggs, or refined grains can also experience lower levels of inflammation.

And, in a 2013 study of nearly 190,000 people published in the New England Journal of Medicine, those who ate a 1-oz serving of nuts daily decreased their risk of dying from any cause, including cancer and heart disease, by 20%. “These people also tend to be leaner, which is a curious finding, considering a serving of nuts is 160 to 200 calories,” says study researcher Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Fuchs suggests that nuts’ positive effect on energy balance, metabolism, and satiety likely explain how the high-fat snack can actually keep your weight in check.

But this isn’t a free pass to eat peanuts and pistachios by the bagful. “The key is portion size,” says Maureen Tarnus, M.S., R.D., executive director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation. “The FDA-qualified health claim for nuts and heart disease recommends 1.5 oz (about 1/3 cup) per day, and much of the research on nuts and diabetes, weight, and so on has looked at that same amount.”

In terms of variety, “pick whatever nut you like,” advises Fuchs. “They all appear to be providing comparable benefits.” Still, some nuts offer unique health-boosting bonuses, like strengthening bones, boosting braining health, or improving eyesight, so zero-in on these eight.

1. Pistachios
Serving size: 49 nuts
160 calories, 6g protein, 8g carbs, 13g fat, 3g fiber
If snacking presents a once-you-pop-you-can’t-stop problem, pick pistachios. The tiny green nuts afford you the biggest serving size—49 kernels—and since they’re typically sold in-shell, the work that goes into peeling the nuts slows down consumption. Pistachios are also the nut with the highest levels of three eyesight-boosting antioxidants: lutein, zeazanthin, and beta-carotene.

2. Almonds
Serving size: 23 nuts
163 calories, 6g protein, 6g carbs, 14g fat, 3.5g fiber
Almonds offer up more fiber than any other nut, which may help explain why participants in a Purdue University study who added 1.5oz of the nut to their daily diets reported less hunger and did not gain weight despite taking in 250 extra calories. Almonds also contain 75mg of calcium per serving—a fourth of what’s in a cup of skim milk.
In addition to the Purdue study, a study from Penn State found that almonds, when eaten regularly, were a big help in removing cholesterol from the body and lowering the risk of heart disease.. 

3. Peanuts
Serving size: 28 nuts
166 calories, 7g protein, 5g carbs, 14g fat, 2g fiber
Since they grow underground, peanuts are technically legumes, but offer the same health and nutrition benefits as tree nuts. At 7g per serving, peanuts are the big winner when it comes to protein. They’re also one of the best sources of arginine—the amino acid promotes the production of nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels and may help lower blood pressure.

4. Walnuts
Serving size: 14 halves
​190 calories, 4g protein, 4g carbs, 18g fat, 2g fiber
Walnuts’ claim to fame: They’re the only nuts that are a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that boosts heart and brain health. What’s more, a walnut-rich diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as the nut’s high levels of antioxidants protect the brain from degeneration, according to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

5. Brazil nuts
Serving size: 6 nuts
186 calories, 4g protein, 4g carbs, 19g fat, 2g fiber
​Brazil nuts are best known for their selenium content—a 1-oz serving delivers 777% of the recommended daily intake of the antioxidant. Selenium fights free radicals, particles that damage cells and cause diseases like cancer and heart disease; plays a role in thyroid function and reproduction; and may bolster the immune system. So stock up during flu season. 

6. Cashews
Serving size: 18 nuts
157 calories, 5g protein, 9g carbs, 12g fat, 1g fiber
​In addition to being the nut that’s lowest in fat, cashews are also an excellent source of copper—one serving takes care of almost 100% of your daily intake of the mineral. Copper does a number of things in the body: It helps absorb iron (and make energy); manufactures red blood cells; and forms collagen, a key component of bones and connective tissue.

7. Hazelnuts
Serving size: 21 nuts
178 calories, 4g protein, 5g carbs, 17g fat, 3g fiber
Hazelnuts are big on folate—a lack of the B-vitamin, found primarily in leafy green vegetables, may cause mental-health issues, like depression. Hazelnuts also have a higher concentration of proanthocyanidins than any other nut. PACs are antioxidant plant compounds that may lower blood pressure, keep blood vessels and arteries healthy, and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

8. Pecans
Serving size: 19 halves
196 calories, 3g protein, 4g carbs, 20g fat, 3g fiber
​Think outside the pie. Pecans are the nuts with the highest concentration of antioxidants, especially vitamin E, according to research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Joined by foods like blueberries and beans, food potent in antioxidants protect against cell damage and decrease the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Why You Should Incorporate Dry Brushing In Your Routine

You may be thinking, Why do I need to add something else to my already busy morning routine? Let me assure you, the extra five minutes this takes is well worth the investment.

Think back to your human biology class (minus the traumatizing exam) and answer these questions: What is the largest organ in the body? What is one of the most important elimination organs in the body, playing a large role in daily detoxification? What organ receives a third of all the blood that is circulated in the body? When the blood is full of toxic materials, what organ will reflect this with problems? What organ is the last to receive nutrients in the body, yet the first to shows signs of imbalance or deficiency?

Answer for all: the skin! 

The benefits of dry skin brushing include:

Listen up ladies: Increasing the circulation to the skin could possibly reduce the appearance of cellulite. Cellulite is toxic material accumulated in your body’s fat cells. So, rather than take drastic measures like liposuction, how about utilizing the dry skin brushing techniques to help break down unwanted toxins?

Dry body brushing helps shed dead skin cells (and encourages new cell renewal), which results in smoother and brighter skin. It can also help with any pesky ingrown hairs.

It assists in improving vascular blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. By releasing toxins, it encourages the body’s discharge of metabolic wastes so the body is able to run more effectively.

Dry skin brushing rejuvenates the nervous system by stimulating nerve endings in the skin (and it feels pretty great, too!).  It helps with muscle tone and gives you a more even distribution of fat deposits. Dry skin brushing helps your skin to absorb nutrients by eliminating clogged pores.

Dry body brushing first thing in the morning can actually set up a perfect day! By doing something solely for yourself first thing in the morning, you can develop a beautiful follow-through effect, starting with a healthy breakfast - why ruin all the good work you just did?

Can you try dry body brushing at home?

Good news – you don’t have to book a pricey spa treatment to reap the benefits; this one can be done in your very own bathroom. All you need to do is purchase a natural bristle brush (not one made from nylon or synthetic materials). One with a long handle is also a plus, as it means you can reach all areas of the body.
The directions are pretty simple:

Start on dry skin before bathing.

Work in gentle circular, upward motions, then longer, smoother strokes.

Always begin at the ankles in upwards movements towards the heart - the lymphatic fluid flows through the body towards the heart, so it's important that you brush in the same direction.

Your back is the only exception to the preceding rule; brush from the neck down to the lower back.

After you've finished with the ankles, move up to the lower legs, thighs, stomach, back and arms. Be cautious of softer and sensitive skin around the chest and breasts, and never brush over inflamed skin, sores, sun-burnt skin, or skin cancer.

Ensure you shower to wash away the dead skin cells and impurities.
Tip: alternating temperatures in the shower from hot to cold will further invigorate the skin and stimulate blood circulation, bring more blood to the outer layers of the skin.
Then follow it up with a slick moisturizer to nourish the skin.
Give it a go for 30 consecutive days and your body will love you for it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Include More Plant Based Proteins

A person may try a vegan diet for health, animal welfare, or religious reasons. In 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that a vegetarian or vegan diet could provide all the nutritional requirements of adults, children, and those who were pregnant or breast-feeding.

Even so, getting enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals can be harder for people who do not eat meat or animal products. A person must plan ahead to ensure they get enough protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B-12, which people on an omnivorous diet get from animal products.

Read on for a list of some of the best plant-based foods for protein. We also discuss the differences between animal and plant proteins, and whether plant-based protein powders can be good sources of protein.

Fourteen best plant-based proteins

The right plant-based foods can be excellent sources of protein and other nutrients, often with fewer calories than animal products.

Some plant products, such as soy beans and quinoa, are complete proteins, which means that they contain all nine essential amino acids that humans need. Others are missing some of these amino acids, so eating a varied diet is important.

The following healthful, plant-based foods have a high-protein content per serving:

1. Lentils
Red or green lentils contain plenty of protein, fiber, and key nutrients, including iron and potassium.
Cooked lentils contain 8.84 g of protein per ½ cup.
Lentils are a great source of protein to add to a lunch or dinner routine. They can be added to stews, curries, salads, or rice to give an extra portion of protein.

2. Chickpeas
Cooked chickpeas are high in protein, containing around 7.25 g per ½ cup.
Chickpeas can be eaten hot or cold, and are highly versatile with plenty of recipes available online. They can, for example, be added to stews and curries, or spiced with paprika and roasted in the oven.
A person can add hummus, which is made from chickpea paste, to a sandwich for a healthful, protein-rich alternative to butter.

3. Peanuts
Peanuts are protein-rich, full of healthful fats, and may improve heart health. They contain around 20.5 g of protein per ½ cup.
Peanut butter is also rich in protein, with 8 g per tablespoon, making peanut butter sandwiches a healthful complete protein snack.

4. Almonds
Almonds offer 16.5 g of protein per ½ cup. They also provide a good amount of vitamin E, which is great for the skin and eyes.

5. Spirulina
Spirulina is blue or green algae that contain around 8 g of protein per 2 tablespoons. It is also rich in nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins — although not vitamin B-12 — and manganese.

Spirulina is available online,  as a powder or a supplement. It can be added to water, smoothies, or fruit juice. A person can also sprinkle it over salad or snacks to increase their protein content.

6. Quinoa
Quinoa is a grain with a high-protein content, and is a complete protein. Cooked quinoa contains 8 g of protein per cup.
This grain is also rich in other nutrients, including magnesium, iron, fiber, and manganese. It is also highly versatile.
Quinoa can fill in for pasta in soups and stews. It can be sprinkled on a salad or eaten as the main course.

7. Mycoprotein
Mycoprotein is a fungus-based protein. Mycoprotein products contain around 13 g of protein per ½ cup serving.

Products with mycoprotein are often advertised as meat substitutes and are available in forms such as "chicken" nuggets or cutlets. However, many of these products contain egg white, so people must be sure to check the label.

A very small number of people are allergic to Fusarium venenatum, the fungus from which the mycoprotein brand known as Quorn is made. People with a history of mushroom allergies or with many  food allergies may wish to consider another protein source.

8. Chia seeds
Seeds are low-calorie foods that are rich in fiber and heart-healthy  Omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein that contain 2 g of protein per tablespoon.

Try adding chia seeds to a smoothie, sprinkling them on top of a plant-based yogurt, or soaking them in water or almond milk to make a pudding.
Chia seeds are available from some supermarkets, health food stores, or to buy online.

9. Hemp seeds
Similarly to chia seeds, hemp seeds are a complete protein. Hemp seeds offer 5 g of protein per tablespoon. They can be used in a similar way to chia seeds. Hemp seeds can also be bought online.

10. Beans with rice
Separately, rice and beans are incomplete protein sources. Eaten together, this classic meal can provide 7 g of protein per cup.
Try rice and beans as a side dish, or mix rice, beans, and hummus together then spread on Ezekiel bread, which is made from sprouted grains, for a savory, protein-packed meal.

11. Potatoes
A large baked potato offers 8 g of protein per serving. Potatoes are also high in other nutrients, such as potassium and vitamin C.
Add 2 tablespoons of hummus for a flavorful snack that is healthier than butter-covered potatoes and increases the protein content. Two tablespoons of hummus contain about 3 g of protein.

12. Protein-rich vegetables
Many dark-colored, leafy greens and vegetables contain protein. Eaten alone, these foods are not enough to meet daily protein requirements, but a few vegetable snacks can increase protein intake, particularly when combined with other protein-rich foods.
         •        a single, medium stalk of broccoli contains about 4 g of protein
         •        kale offers 2 g of protein per cup
         •        5 medium mushrooms offer 3 g of protein
Try a salad made from baby greens with some quinoa sprinkled on top for a protein-rich meal.

13. Seitan
Seitan is a complete protein made from mixing wheat gluten with various spices. The high-wheat content means that it should be avoided by people with celiac or gluten intolerance.  For others, it can be a protein-rich healthful meat substitute.
When cooked in soy sauce, which is rich in the amino acid lysine, seitan becomes a complete protein source offering 21 g per 1/3 cup.

14. Ezekiel bread
Ezekiel bread is a nutrient-dense alternative to traditional bread. It is made from barley, wheat, lentils, millet, and spelt. Ezekiel bread is an excellent choice for bread lovers who want a more nutritious way to eat toast or sandwiches.
Ezekiel bread offers 4 g of protein per slice. Get even more protein by toasting Ezekiel bread and spreading it with peanut or almond butter.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Salt Therapy Benefits

You may already be using Pink Himalayan Salt on your food, but have you ever tried salt therapy? There are actually several ways you can reap the benefits of salt therapy at home or at a salt therapy spa.

Is it bad to inhale salt? One of the best health benefits of salt therapy is said to be its ability to help you breathe better. According to the Lung Institute, salt’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties combined with its ability to help remove airborne pathogens while decreasing allergic reactions makes it a great therapeutic choice for people with asthma, bronchitis and even COPD. 

Before you visit your nearest salt therapy spa, let’s talk about all of the potential benefits of this ancient practice and more forms of incredible salt therapy.

What Is Salt Therapy?

Salt therapy comes in several forms that can be divided into two main categories: wet salt therapy or dry salt therapy.

Wet salt therapy includes the use of neti pots, salt centric gargling mixtures, salt scubs, soaking in salt water baths and internal salt water flushes. 

What is dry salt therapy? 

It’s a form of salt therapy in an environment that has no moisture or humidity. Dry salt therapy takes place in a space that is often referred to as a “salt cave,” but a salt spa might also call it their “salt therapy room.”

Dry salt therapy is also called halotherapy or speleotherapy. According to the Salt Therapy Association, speleotherapy takes place below the Earth’s surface in naturally occurring salt caves and mines. Halotherapy, on the other hand, is a form of dry salt therapy that uses man-made salt caves created through the use of a halogenerator that disperses a dry salt aerosol into the salt “cave” or room. So with both forms of salt cave therapy, you are breathing in salty air but speleotherapy is naturally occurring salt while halotherapy uses natural salt that is pumped into a man-made environment. 

Other forms of dry salt therapy include salt inhalers and salt lamps. These forms of salt therapy at home are easy to do and not too pricey.

What is a salt inhaler? How do you use a salt inhaler? A salt inhaler, also called a salt pipe, is a small, ceramic device that you fill with with pink Himalayan salt crystals. To use the inhaler, you put your mouth on the mouthpiece and deeply inhale through your month. A salt inhaler is used as an alternative therapy for respiratory concerns.
So how does a salt lamp work? A real Himalayan salt lamp is a solid block of Himalayan salt that has been hand-carved and in the hollowed-out center is a light bulb that gives off both light and heat. Since salt is hygroscopic (attracts water molecules), it can attract water molecules along with any indoor air pollutants like mold, bacteria and allergens. When the water vapor meets the salt lamp surface, the pollutants are believed to remain trapped within the salt. Just beware of the salt lamp hoax and learn how to spot real (Himalayan salt lamp) vs fake salt lamps.

How Does Salt Therapy Work?

The main idea behind all salt therapy is that by coming in contact with salt — through some form of wet or dry salt therapy — you can enhance your health and well-being. Salt water soaks and salt room therapy are also known for being highly relaxing and stress-reducing. 

So why can salt therapy have positive effects on the body? According to the Lung Institute, salt has some incredible properties including: 

Loosens excessive mucus and speeds up mucociliary transport
Removes pathogens (ie., airborne pollen)
Reduces IgE level (immune system oversensitivity)

4 Major Benefits of Salt Therapy

Respiratory Ailments
The theory behind dry salt therapy and its ability to improve respiratory problems is that the salt helps to decrease inflammation and open up airway passages while helping to get rid of allergens and toxins from the respiratory system.

According to the Salt Therapy Association, many people who make halotherapy a part of their “wellness routine” may find relief from several respiratory health conditions including:

Common cold
Cystic fibrosis
Ear infections
Smokers cough

The Salt Therapy Association also points out that “for respiratory conditions low concentration and gradual administration of dry salt and consistency of the sessions are the key elements for successful results.” 

Is there any science to back this all up? A double-blind, controlled, pilot study published in 2017 looked at the effects of halotherapy on young children (ages 5–13 years) with a clinical diagnosis of mild asthma who were not receiving any anti-inflammatory therapy.

Twenty nine children had 14 sessions of halotherapy in  salt room with a halogenerator over the course of seven weeks while the other 26 were put in a salt room without a salt halogenerator. The group that received halotherapy exhibited a “statistically significant improvement” in bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR) and overall, the researchers conclude that a salt room with halogenerator may have some beneficial effects in mild asthmatic children. 

Multiple studies also demonstrate the positive effects of halotherapy on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. Improvements in lung function and decreases in blood pressure have specifically been observed. 

Another example of salt therapy benefiting respiratory problems is a 2008 study which found that inhaling a three percent saline solution is a safe and effective form of treatment for infants with bronchiolitis, a common lung infection in young children and infants. 

Skin Conditions
Making dry salt therapy a regular practice is said to possibly help people with various skin conditions including: 

Dry, flaky skin
Swollen/innflammaed skin

Wet salt therapy has also been shown in scientific research to improve skin hydration, skin roughness and skin redness making it a great option for people with eczema and other dry skin conditions. A study published in theInternational Journal of Dermatology had volunteers with atopic dry skin submerge one of their forearms in a bath solution containing five percent Dead Sea salt for 15 minutes while their other arm was submerged in tap water as a control.

What were the results? The arms bathed in salt water experienced improvements in skin barrier function and stratum corneum  hydration as well as decreases in skin roughness and inflammation. The researchers mainly attributed the skin benefits of the Dea Sea salt soak to its rich magnesium content. 

Immune System Booster
There’s good reason why salt is commonly used in food preservation — the antimicrobial properties of salt (NaCl) are extremely impressive. Research has shown that salt reduces bacterial contamination in food from the following bacteria that causes major sickness in humans: Salmonella typhimurium, and Listeria monocytogenes. 

Studies also demonstrate halotherapy’s ability to boost the immune system. Research conducted to find out the benefits of halotherapy as part of a combined treatment approach for chronic bronchitis patients found that in addition to improved lung function, there were also normalized measurements of reduced immunity. 

Reduce Inflammation
Research conducted at The University of Manchester demonstrates another major benefit of salt — its ability to reduce inflammation, which is huge since we know that inflammation is a the root of most diseases 

 According to the research using animal subjects, a hypertonic solution (a solution with an elevated concentration of salt) “can ease inflammation purely through bathing in it.” The salty liquid was also shown to reduce inflammation when applied via bandages.

It seems as though the hypertonic solution produces an osmotic gradient through the skin. An osmotic gradient is a pressure caused by water molecules that forces water to move from areas of high water potential to areas of low water potential. The researchers point out that this explains why salty hot springs are known to improve pain associated with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

History of Salt Therapy
Halotherapy comes from the Greek word for salt which is “halo.” Salt therapy is a newer practice in the U.S., but it’s been used in places like Europe for hundreds of years. It’s said that European monks started using salt therapy centuries ago when they noticed that respiratory ailments improved faster after spending time in natural salt caverns. In written records from the 12th century, there is also one of the first mentions of spa resorts featuring salt water mineral baths in Poland. 

In the the 1840s, a Polish physician named Dr. Felix Bochkowsky noticed that metal and coal miners had a tendency to experience severe respiratory problems, but salt miners tended to be healthier than most people. This lead Dr. Bochkowsky to publish a book about the health benefits of salt dust.

Fast forward to World War II when German salt mines were used as bomb shelters. When there were bombings, people would have to stay in the mines for long amounts of time breathing in all that salt dust. The good news? When people with breathing problems left the salt shelters, they supposedly could breathe much easier.

Salt Caves
Salt caves are also called salt rooms or salt chambers. How does a salt room work? Dry salt room therapy includes spending time relaxing in a man-made environment breathing in salt-infused air.  The dry salt therapy can either be in an active salt room or a passive salt room. The active room uses a halogenerator to put micro-particles of salt into the air of an enclosed space so that you can then breathe it in and also so that your skin can come in contact with the salt. This variety of dry salt therapy is called halotherapy.

Passive salt rooms (speleotherapy) are also man-made, but instead of using a halogenerator to put salt into the environment, they fill the space with large quantities of salt. The idea is to simulate natural salt caves like those found in Europe.
Man-made salt caves can use various types of sea salt. Many choose to use pink sea salt. Where does pink sea salt come from? True Pink Himalayan sea salt comes from salt mines 5,000 feet deep below the Himalayan Mountain Range. The salt can be pink, red or white, and all of the colors are indicative of its impressive natural mineral content.

Salt therapy side effects from halotherapy have been known to include a slight cough, minor tightness in the chest or runny nose, which salt therapy providers typically say is a result of the salt doing its work to remove mucus and toxins from the lungs and airways.

Halotherapy is not recommended for people with a fever, contagious disease, open wounds, cancer, severe hypertension, mental disorders or active tuberculosis.
If you’re pregnant or have any health concerns, talk to your doctor before trying halotherapy or any other form of salt therapy.

Are there any other salt therapy dangers? According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Inhaling concentrated salts (hypertonic saline) has been proven to irritate the airways, causing cough and mucus, which can make asthma worse for some people. Halotherapy, or sitting in a salt room, is not likely to make your asthma better. For most asthma patients, halotherapy is ‘likely safe.’ Since you don’t know how you will react, AAFA warns that it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid salt rooms.”