Sunday, April 22

Pregnancy Exercises: Three key exercises

Improve your posture

Backache is one of the most common pregnancy niggles. There are many causes, but one of the main ones is bad posture caused primarily by the weight of your bump. This exercise should get you in good habits.

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, making sure your knees are soft. Feel the weight of your feet on the floor and feel your trunk lifted and open.

Tilt your pelvis forward, your tailbone down towards the floor, and pull your baby up and in towards your spine. Make sure you have a natural curve in your back - it shouldn't be arched. Lengthen through the spine and aim for a nice straight back. Keep your shoulders back and down, and imagine you have a string pulling your head upright.

Work your deep abdominals

Strong abdominals will also help you to maintain good posture. Before starting this exercise, though, you need to know what you're working and why. The deep abdominals refer to the transverse abdominal muscles, which come around from your back and act like a corset. It's these muscles that will help to give your stomach a flatter appearance after the baby is born.

Even though you're not directly working the rectus abdominals (the muscles that run down the front of your abdomen) as you would when you do a sit-up (which shouldn't be attempted during pregnancy), don't worry; this exercise still works these muscles. When they're strong they also contribute to core stability and good posture.

Breathe in and as you breathe out again, pull in your pelvic floor and the deep abdominal muscles. Lift the baby up and in towards your spine, drawing the navel to the back, then lift your pelvic floor muscles to deepen the contraction. Hold this position.

You can do this exercise standing or on all fours. If you're standing, check your posture. If you're on all fours, make sure your hands are in line with your shoulders and your hips are in line with your knees. In both cases, make sure you have a natural curve in your back. You may need to tilt the pelvis to align your back correctly.

Advanced versions of this exercise that you can do after the birth include the plank. Ask an instructor to show you how to do these exercises.

Work your pelvic floor

The pelvic floor describes the sling of muscles at the base of the abdomen that keeps all your internal organs, including your uterus, in place. Pregnancy puts pressure on these muscles, while during birth they are stretched to allow the baby through. You should do these exercises every day of your life, to avoid problems such as urinary incontinence and prolapse. A strong pelvic floor will improve your sex life, too.

Breathe in and as you breathe out again, close up your back passage as if you were trying to prevent a bowel movement. At the same time, close up the front passage and draw the muscles up and in, as if you were trying to stop a flow of urine (but never do this when you're actually on the toilet as it could increase the possibility of infection). Contract the muscles to a count of three - imagine a lift going up, one floor, two floors, three floors.

When you get to the top, hold and squeeze, making sure you keep breathing. Hold the contraction for five to ten seconds, then slowly and gently release the contraction. Repeat as often as you can (at least ten times a day).

Try to link the exercise routine to an activity such as washing your hands after you use the toilet, so you don't forget. Start with slow contractions; as you feel the muscles getting stronger you can speed them up.

This exercise may seem simple, but it does work. Norwegian researchers found that women who had followed an eight-week pelvic floor strengthening programme had less urine leakage a year after the birth than women in the control group. If you're one of the 20 to 30 per cent of new mothers who still suffer from stress incontinence three months after delivery, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist obstetric physiotherapist. *

To Be Fit In Pregnancy

Improved circulation

You and your baby are linked by the placenta, so anything that affects your circulation will also affect your baby's. Good circulation supplies the baby with more oxygen and nutrients.

Good circulation also helps to reduce the incidence of piles, varicose veins, swelling, cramps and constipation in you. In fact, exercise is a great way to beat many of the minor complications of pregnancy.

Improved posture

The weight of the baby alters your centre of gravity. This, combined with the softening effects of the hormone relaxin on your ligaments, can lead to bad posture and backache.

Strengthening your abdominal and back muscles will improve posture and your chances of avoiding backache.

Better state of mind

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins into your system. Add to this the physical benefits - better body shape and definition, better complexion - of regular activity and you'll certainly feel stronger, happier and more positive about being pregnant.

Lower risk of miscarriage

Keeping active can also reduce your risk of miscarriage by 40 per cent, according to researchers at New York's Columbia University. This doesn't mean you have to be a slave to the gym. The researchers found that being active could include doing housework, walking or chasing around after young children.

However, if you've had more than one miscarriage in the past, you should contact your GP before embarking on any exercise programme during pregnancy.

Controlled blood pressure

Moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, can help to prevent pregnancy-related high blood pressure, according to an American study. Researchers looked at 16 women with a personal or family history of hypertension. At 14 weeks of pregnancy, the women were split into two groups: exercisers and no activity. After ten weeks, the exercisers had a decline in diastolic blood pressure (the minimum arterial pressure, when the ventricles in the heart are relaxed), while the no activity group's pressure went up.

However, if you already have pregnancy-related high blood pressure, you should check with your GP before starting any pregnancy exercise programme.

A better birth

The better your cardiovascular system (your heart and lungs), the more stamina you'll have for huffing and puffing your way through labour. Improved muscular strength will also help you maintain birthing positions such as squatting.

Pregnancy fitness expert Dr James Clapp has found that women who exercise are less likely to have a caesarean or episiotomy, or go into premature labour. Recently, though, he updated his research and found that: "It is the amount of exercise in late pregnancy that helps. It takes a lot to achieve this benefit, about 40 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity, five times a week."

A healthier placenta

Dr Clapp found that when pregnant women exercised, the placenta grew almost a third faster in mid-pregnancy and had about 15 per cent more blood vessels and surface area at full term. This is good news for your baby because the placenta is her substitute lungs, kidneys and liver, and transfers oxygen and nutrients from you.

Your baby will be bigger

Women who exercise three to five times a week have babies that are heavier, longer and have a better overall weight and body fat than those born to mums who don't exercise, according to researchers from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr Clapp also found that the offspring of exercising mothers stay leaner at five years of age.

The bigger babies were due to the spurt in placental growth, promoted by exercise. But is bigger better? Apparently so. Another piece of research in the British Medical Journal found that the bigger the baby, the better the future exam results.

You'll give your baby a head-start

Want a happier, more intelligent baby? Exercise might help. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology compared the newborn babies of women who exercised no more than once a week with the infants of mothers who ran, swam, used stair climbers or did aerobics three or more times a week for at least 20 minutes. Five days after the birth, the babies born to active mums were more alert and less fussy, suggesting that their mother's exercise may have given their babies a developmental boost. *


Saturday, April 21

Weight Loss - IV

The metabolic rate increases as you achieve maturity but it's downhill from then. In fact by the age of 65, some 25% of peak force will be lost. This is almost all due to the loss of muscle mass as you age and a great contributor to this is inactivity. Thus if you reduce muscle, you reduce metabolic rate and we all know what happens next. Calorie accrual, leading to higher bodyfat levels and overall weight increases!

So, stop laying the blame squarely at your slow metabolism or your body type, and shift your focus to what can be done about it. The answer doesn't lie in a 30 min cardio session or in severely reducing calories (also known as the billion dollar industry of dieting). Stop looking to burn calories or severely reducing them. Instead help yourself in building a better body that allows you to eat more and stay lean, thus supporting your eating habits. Building muscle is perhaps the most fundamental component in staying lean. So please, use it!

Stefan Angheli
BAppSci, IBLS-AIS, CSCS

Weight Loss - III

Bodybuilding women on the other hands, especially those that appear in magazines are on a very tough diet and strength program and some even supplement with the illegal steroid: testosterone. Testosterone is a predominantly male hormone and is not plentiful in women. In fact males have around 18 times the testosterone of women. Without it, your body has a hard time building lean muscle mass. With all this talk of muscle you may be wondering what advantage will having more muscle bring apart from being stronger? Lets face it, when are you ever going to be required to lift a 50 kg object?

Apart from increasing strength, preventing osteoporosis (which two in three women will develop and 3 out of four guys) and other health related benefits which even go so far as to conditioning the heart and the respiratory system, building muscle is an essential part in controlling bodyfat. Yes, if you want to lose bodyfat and more specifically keep it off forever, you need to perform muscle building exercises such as weight or resistance training.
It does that by allowing your body to burn more calories, so that less excess calories remain to be stored, usually as bodyfat. You see muscle is a vital component in your body's furnace. Basically the more muscle you have, the more furnaces you have operating in burning energy or food. In fact putting on around 0.5 kg of muscle will allow you to eat an extra 300 calories per week without affecting your weight. This inevitably allows you to control bodyfat by allowing you to eat more and still stay lean. Yes, you'll be able to eat more, stay lean and feeling great.
No way you say?

Surveys from the Australian Bureau of Statistics* have confirmed this. They discovered that men with body mass index (BMI) see our calculator) in the acceptable range reported having the largest intakes of energy as well as most vitamins and minerals. Conversely obese males reported the smallest intakes of energy. Wow, how's that for radical thinking! So I know you love to eat, everybody does?
Still not convinced?

That's the reason 100 kg bodybuilders eat two chickens, one kilo of rice, twenty egg whites and seven rolls plus 2 protein shakes and that's just his desert, yet they're still leaner that you and even me. Clearly, muscle mass is proportional to metabolic rate. The more active muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day.

We've all heard of metabolism and metabolic rate. (This is the energy expenditure that the body undergoes continuously, even at rest. This energy is burned in order to keep your body functioning normally.) With that usually comes the misguided thinking that we were just born with a slow metabolism. When you increase muscle mass you increase metabolism. Since most of our day is spent at rest, on the couch or at a desk, by simply having more muscle, literally on you, you burn more calories compared to your less muscular self. More muscle, more calories burned. It's as simple as that.

Conversely, this also means that those with a high bodyfat level, have a lower metabolic rate and therefore burn less calories. They burn less calories while driving, sitting, walking, or whatever the activity. They burn less calories when compared to an identical individual, at the same weight but with lower bodyfat.
So as you can see it's a win-win proposition. GET MORE MUSCLE !!!

MORE MUSCLE = INCREASE METABOLISM = MORE CALORIES BURNED = INCREASE FOOD INTAKE = LESS BODYFAT *

Weight Loss - II

But wait, you say, wouldn't that lead to more weight loss and thus quicker and faster results?
While this may look good from a bathroom scale perspective, I assure you that this is detrimental to your ability to achieve permanent weight loss. That's because if you lose muscle, you lose your ability to burn calories. With less muscle, you burn less calories. It's that simple. People trying to lose weight should stop and think about that last statement.
And what happens when you now burn fewer calories?

You need to eat less compared to before your training program. This means that you are now more susceptible to gaining back your bodyfat and more. Oh yeah, and it doesn't do anything in helping you control appetite and in developing healthy eating habits.

Eating extra protein will not counteract this destruction because total dietary energy must be first increased to meet the body's energy needs. Fat, be in dietary or bodyfat, will not stop this muscle wasting because some tissues such as the brain need energy as glucose. While amino acids, which come from muscle protein can be metabolised to produce glucose, fats cannot. As a consequence, a person with more than adequate fat stores may suffer loss of muscle and other tissue if the diet is too restricted in calories.

The primary exercise prescription for those wanting permanent weight loss must be weight training or resistance training or strength training.

I know there are some out there, particularly women, who seem to think that their muscles grow like weeds and are afraid of becoming too big or masculine. While the men usually can't get enough and many unfortunately turn to anabolics. I can assure you that it's not easy to gain lean muscle. Losing bodyfat is the easy bit. Gaining muscle is the hard part. I laugh privately when a beginner comes to me and says that he doesn't want to get too big, like Arnold. To be like Arnold you have to be as great as Arnold: genetically and psychologically, mentally and of course follow his "supplementation" program.

Almost all the bodybuilders appearing in magazines these days are on or have used anabolic steroids. I would probably say that at least 85% of all bodybuilders in magazines today and if I include those taking prohormones the number could go as high as 95%. (Prohormones are biological substances one step away from testoserone or closely mimic it. These are deemed illegal in Australia, and in most sports organizations but are freely available in the US as sport supplements. They have been found to increase LDL or 'bad' cholesterol and other negative side effects which leads to cardiovascular problems.)

The ones that do it naturally would have had to work out optimally for at least 3 years with a sound diet before you can achieve anywhere near that. I'm not being negative I'm being real. But of course you do get the genetically gifted ones that gain considerable muscle after a year or two training naturally. For that to happen you must be on the right program for you. (And in case you're wondering, bodybuilding magazines and gyms are amongst the worst place for great resistance training programs.)

So, that's the men. *

Weight Loss - I

Building muscle is the key to reducing bodyfat!

In this article, I will discuss a fundamental principle that is imperative in losing weight or more specific body fat loss. I think that the fundamentals have been drowned in an enormous mass of information. Most of it is great and can definitely help but there is a major misconception about weight training and it's "weight gaining" effects.

We've been lead to believe that aerobic exercise is necessary for weight loss. Common prescription for weight loss is walking, running or other cardio type exercises. "You run to lose weight" is the common thinking. While this may work in some cases, research has shown that aerobic exercise alone is not sufficient for weight loss.
Wanna know why?

Because although you burn calories when training aerobically, you only burn a relatively small amount. For example in a 30 min jogging session you may burn around 200-300 calories depending on your body weight (especially muscle), age and other things. What you've just burned is the equivalent of a large apple and banana. But that's comparing it to fruits. Considering a Big Mac is around 500 Calories and a Hungry Jacks Vege Burger Supreme coming in at more than 600 Calories you can see how that's a relatively small amount.
Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way saying that aerobic exercise has no value. Aerobic exercise has been shown in numerous scientific studies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent the onset of diabetes, prevent some cancers and many other health benefits. But aerobic exercise alone is not the most effective way to lose bodyfat or "lose weight". And again science has proven this.

This may be not only because of the relatively small amounts of calories burned but also due to the potential loss of muscle mass. Aerobic exercise, especially heavy exercise may increase your chances of burning muscle. This muscle burning effect is further enhanced when coupling aerobic exercise with a reduced calorie diet. This is a situation you want to avoid at all costs.

When aerobic exercise is performed your body burns both carbohydrate and fat. But when you increase the aerobic/cardio intensity your body also switches to burning more carbohydrates and less bodyfat proportionately. If not enough carbohydrates are consumed your body will switch to making carbohydrates from protein. That is called catabolism and results in losing muscle mass, which is the exact opposite of what you should be aiming for. Therefore, if you are already on a low calorie diet and you add aerobic exercise, you will further accelerate this catastrophe.

Friday, April 20

The Enchanting Equation!

MORE MUSCLE = INCREASE METABOLISM = MORE CALORIES BURNED = INCREASE FOOD INTAKE = LESS BODYFAT

Water Works for Weight Loss*

Nothing quells the appetite like water, lots and lots of water. Start out with two quart bottles in the morning and carry one with you to work or wherever you go. If you like, divvy up the 64 ounces of water into eight (8-ounce) bottles or four pint (16-ounce) bottles to carry around with you all day. Freeze half of them the night before and they will last all day, even in a hot car. Keep some unfrozen so they will be ready to drink immediately.

Yes. You will have to make more frequent bathroom trips, but it is worth it. Drink your 64 ounces of water before dinner, if possible, so you're not up half the night going to the bathroom.

Water not only fills you up and lessens your appetite, it prevents those "hungry horrors" we all encounter when our blood sugar drops and we reach for cookies, candy, ice cream, fries or other high-calorie treats. Water also flushes out the system, rids the body of bloat and toxins and rosies up the complexion. Now, start splashing. *

Thursday, April 19

Basic fitness equipments

There are lots of fitness equipments on markets, since some of them are very useful, some of them are not. So, there is some basic fitness equipments which you can use at home:

Cardio Machine Type
  • Treadmills
  • Exercise Bikes
  • Elliptical Trainers
  • Rowing Machines
Abdominal Equipments
  • Ab rollers/sliders
  • Ab lounges
  • Ab ex benches
Weights
  • Dumbbels
  • Weight Bench Sets
  • Barbells
  • Racks
You can also use
  • Jump Ropes
  • Exercise Mats
  • Steppers
  • Belts
  • Multi Function Trainers

Wednesday, April 18

Principles of Pilates II

Precision

Every movement in the Pilates method has a purpose. Every instruction is vitally important to the success of the whole. To leave out any detail is to forsake the intrinsic value of the exercise. The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. Eventually this precision becomes second nature, and carries over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.

Fluidity

Pilates mat exercises are supposed to be performed fluidly. There are no static, isolated movements. Concentration and body awareness replaces the quick, jerky movements of other exercise regimes. Grace of motion is emphasized over speed; ultimately the movements are meant to feel as fluid as a long stride or a waltz. Uniformly developed muscles are then developed to complement good posture, suppleness, and natural grace. However, with the usage of the apparatus, clients will need to take at least some time to adjust their equipment settings and props.

Drawbacks

Because of the extensive and expensive education that most Pilates instructors must complete, plus studio rentals and equipment, instruction can be costly. It is possible for the method to be taught in a class setting, but this will not allow an instructor to take the individual students personalized needs into consideration. Ideally new trainees will be given close, personally tailored supervision until they develop sufficient knowledge to continue their training in a class or group.

In recent years the term "Pilates" worked itself into the mainstream, and following an unsuccessful intellectual property lawsuit, a US federal court ruled the term "Pilates" generic and free for unrestricted use. Whilst this ruling prevented artificial restrictions on the use of the term "Pilates" by legitimate, qualified Pilates trainers, it also permitted a small number of untrained or under-qualified practitioners to capitalise on the name. Consumers now face extensive and conflicting information about what Pilates really is, how it works, and what credentials they should seek in an instructor.

Another less obvious drawback to Pilates is that while it can tone the rectus and transverse abdominis muscles, when performed wrongly or too often, certain of the exercises can also cause over-development in the external and internal oblique muscles of the abdomen, resulting in a flat stomach and a thick waist. This is because much of Pilates is practiced through extension with the torso moving in a linear, forward fashion.

Principles of Pilates I

Mind over matter

The central element of Pilates is to create a fusion of mind and body, so that without thinking about it you will move with economy, grace, and balance; using your body to the greatest advantage, making the most of its strengths, counteracting its weaknesses, and correcting its imbalances. The goal is this: to produce an attention-free union of mind and body, the method requires that you constantly pay attention to your body while you are doing the movements. Paying attention is so vital that it is more important than any other single aspect of the movements or the method.

Breathing

Joseph Pilates believed in circulating the blood so that it could awaken all the cells in the body and carry away the wastes related to fatigue. For the blood to do its work properly, it has to be charged with oxygen and purged of waste gases through proper breathing. Full and thorough inhalation and exhalation are part of every Pilates exercise. Pilates saw forced exhalation as the key to full inhalation. “Squeeze out the lungs as you would wring a wet towel dry,” he is reputed to have said. Breathing, too, should be done with concentration, control, and precision. It should be properly coordinated with movement. Each exercise is accompanied by breathing instructions. Joseph Pilates stated, “Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly”.

Centering

Pilates called the very large group of muscles in our center – encompassing our abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks – the “powerhouse.” All energy for Pilates exercises begins from the powerhouse and flows outward to the extremities. Physical energy is exerted from the center to coordinate one's movements. Pilates felt that it was important to build a strong powerhouse in order to rely on it in daily living.

Concentration

Pilates demands intense focus. For instance, the inner thighs and pelvic floor may be accessed when doing a standing exercise that tones the triceps. The beginner learns to pay careful attention to their body, building on very small, delicate fundamental movements and controlled breathing. In 2006, at the Parkinson Center of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, the concentration factor of the Pilates method was being studied in providing relief from the degenerative symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Control

Joseph Pilates built his method on the idea of muscle control. That meant no sloppy, uncontrolled movements. Every Pilates exercise must be performed with the utmost control, including all body parts, to avoid injury and produce positive results. It's not about intensity or multiple repetitions of a movement, it's more about proper form for safe, effective results.

Discovering Pilates

Pilates refers to the way the method encourages the use of the mind to control the muscles. The program focuses on the core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso muscles, which are important to help alleviate and prevent back pain.

Pilates follows principles based on a well-constructed philosophical and theoretical foundation. It is not merely a collection of exercises but a method, developed and refined over more than eighty years of use and observation. While Pilates draws from many diverse exercise styles, there are certain inherent ruling principles that bring all these elements together under the Pilates name. One interpretation of Principles: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breathing, and Flowing Movement.

4. Stability and balance

Stability and balance are associated with your body's core muscle strength — the muscles in your lower back, pelvis, hips and abdomen. These core muscles provide the support system for almost any activity or motion your body makes. They help you maintain stability and balance during your daily activities.

You can improve your stability and balance through core exercises that strengthen the muscles at the center of your body — the area around your trunk — where your center of gravity is located. A strong midsection helps combat poor posture and low back pain. It also helps prevent falls, especially in older adults.


Cover all 4 elements

Whether you create your own fitness training plan or work with a personal trainer, make aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility, and core strengthening for stability and balance a part of your overall exercise plan. Factoring in these four fitness elements can help you live a longer, healthier life.

3. Flexibility

Flexibility is the ability to move your joints through their full range of motion. You maintain your body's flexibility through stretching. When you're flexible, routine tasks, such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoe and hurrying to catch a bus, are easier and less tiring.

Fitness training activities that lengthen your muscles increase your flexibility. One way to become more flexible is to include stretching exercises in your fitness routine. Yoga and tai chi, if performed correctly, can be effective for improving flexibility. No matter what type of stretching exercises you choose, make flexibility training an integral part of your fitness plan.

Tuesday, April 17

2. Muscular fitness

Muscular fitness refers to the strength and endurance of your muscles. The more fit your muscles are, the easier your daily tasks become, whether they include lifting groceries, raking the yard or pushing a vacuum cleaner.

Strength training can help you improve your muscular fitness. It also enables you to increase your body's lean muscle mass, which helps with weight loss.

Training options include using free weights, resistance bands, weight machines or your own body weight to increase muscular strength and endurance. Fitness training that includes more than one option will help ensure greater overall muscular fitness.

Fitness training

As Mayo Clinic says, Fitness training has 4 elements of a rounded routine.You're a committed fitness fanatic looking to optimize your results. Or perhaps you've just begun your journey to improved health and want to establish a rounded fitness training routine. Regardless of your present level of physical fitness, it's important to base your exercise goals upon these four primary elements of fitness.

1. Aerobic fitness

Any activity you do — from taking a walk to washing the dishes — requires oxygen. Regular aerobic fitness exercise increases your body's ability to use oxygen. How well you use oxygen is termed your "aerobic capacity." When your aerobic capacity is high, your heart, lungs and blood vessels efficiently transport and deliver large amounts of oxygen throughout your body.

Aerobic exercise helps you in your daily activities. It helps your heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles complete routine tasks and rise to unexpected challenges, such as running to your car in pouring rain.

The key to achieving aerobic capacity is to find fitness training activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. You needn't limit yourself to a single activity, such as running. Add variety and increase your motivation by trying different types of aerobic activity, such as dancing, bicycling or water aerobics. Aerobic exercise at least 10 minutes in length is required to obtain health benefits.

Exercise at Your Office *

You may not want to turn your office into a mini gym, but there are exercises you can do at or near your desk to boost energy levels, relieve stress and burn calories. These are exercises which you can practice anytime of the day, while you are in the kitchen or in your office or even before a bath.

Steps:

  • Try some squats: Stand in front of your office chair or Infact any sturdy chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees as though you're sitting on the chair, keeping your weight on your heels. When your legs are parallel with the seat of the chair, slowly rise to your original standing position.

  • Opt for pliĆ© squats: Take a wide stance with your toes pointing outward. Standing upright, slowly bend your knees in the direction of your toes until you can no longer see your toes. Slowly return to your starting position.

  • Hold up the wall with wall sits: With your back touching the wall, move your feet away from the wall so that the wall is supporting the weight of your back. Bend your knees so that your legs form a 90-degree angle. Hold as long as you can.

  • Pose like a warrior - with a lunge: With your arms by your side, take a giant step forward with your right leg so your thigh is parallel with the floor. Pushing off the same leg, return to your starting position. Repeat with the left leg. (Traveling lunges are also an option.)

  • During a coffee break, try calf raises: Holding onto your desk, wall, slab or a file cabinet for balance, raise your heels off the floor, then lower.

  • Peek into your neighbor's cubical while you do toe raises: Sitting in your chair or standing, lift and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the ground, or walk around on the heels of your feet.

  • *

    Exercise boosts brainpower!

    Exercise boosts brainpower by building new brain cells in a brain region linked with memory and memory loss. *

    Monday, April 16

    Live Healthy VI *

    Go nuts with your salad.
    Sprinkle an ounce and a half of walnuts into your salad or mix them in with your yogurt. Why walnuts? They contain ellagic acid, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Plus, these nutritional powerhouses, low in artery-clogging saturated fat, are a good source of protein and cholesterol-reducing omega-3 fatty acids, which may decrease the risk of heart disease.

    Take your iPod to your next dental appointment.
    Whether you rap along with Mary J. Blige or bliss out to Beethoven, new research in the Journal of Advanced Nursing shows that listening to music eases pain -- be it from a cavity filling, a pulled muscle or even a bikini wax -- by 12 to 21 percent. Another suggestion: Schedule uncomfortable procedures during the second half (the last two weeks) of your menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are their highest; that's when women produce the most endorphins to offset pain, according to studies conducted at the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland.

    Make a play date to boost brainpower.
    We tend to blame "mommy brain" for the fuzzy-minded chaos that comes from life with kids, but new research on animals indicates that caring for children actually makes women smarter. Neuroscientists at the University of Richmond found that pregnancy hormones prime moms' brains -- literally enlarging neurons and dendrites in the hippocampus -- to prepare them for the challenges of motherhood (providing nourishment, protecting against predators, etc.), all of which improve their cognitive functions. And you don't have to get pregnant to enjoy the effect. Lead study author Craig Kinsley, Ph.D., says that stimuli from spending time with children will give any woman's brainpower a lift.

    Stretch out your fingers.
    "The prolonged grips, repeated pressing of small buttons and awkward wrist movements used with a BlackBerry or an iPod can lead to repetitive stress injury in your fingers," says Stacey Doyon, president-elect of the American Society of Hand Therapists. To decrease your risk, do the following a few times a day:
    • Interlace fingers and turn palms away from your body as you extend arms outward; feel the stretch from your shoulders to your fingers; hold for 10 seconds.
    • Extend right arm in front of you, palm facing down. Place left hand on top of right hand and gently pull fingers on right hand toward your body. Feel the stretch in your wrist. Hold 10 seconds, then switch sides.
    Help a greater cause.
    Whether you write a check to your favorite charity or head up a fund-raiser for your child's school, philanthropy not only gives another person a lift but it also can boost your own health. Studies by Boston College, Vanderbilt University, the University of South Carolina and the University of Texas at Austin show that helping others can alleviate chronic pain and even depression.

    Wear sunglasses anytime you're outdoors.
    Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, which penetrate clouds even on overcast days, increases your risk of cataracts (the leading cause of vision loss in those over 55). Choose shades that block both UVA and UVB rays. Look for a sticker that says "100% UVA and UVB protection."

    *shape.com

    Live Healthy V

    Use a straw.
    "My patients who drink water through straws find it easier to get the recommended 8 cups a day," says Jill Fleming, M.S., R.D., author of Thin People Don't Clean Their Plates: Simple Lifestyle Choices for Permanent Weight Loss (Inspiration Presentation Press, 2005). Sipping with a straw helps you suck down water faster, encouraging you to drink more. Another stay-hydrated hint: Drop a flavor-enhancing slice of lemon or lime into your glass.

    Grill a spicy burger.
    Flavor your beef (or chicken or fish) with rosemary. Researchers from Kansas State University found this herb to be rich in antioxidants that help block the cancer-causing compounds that can form when you barbecue meat. And it goes without saying that rosemary makes for a better-tasting burger!

    Allow yourself to give in to that caffeine craving.
    According to a study from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a moderate dose of caffeine could jump-start your libido. Researchers studied animal behavior and discovered that caffeine likely stimulated the part of the brain regulating arousal, which motivated females to have sex more frequently: A similar effect in humans is probable only in women who don't drink coffee regularly. If that's you, try ordering an espresso after a romantic dinner and see whether sparks fly.

    Rent Wedding Crashers one more time.
    We all know that laughter is the best medicine, but it turns out that even anticipating a laugh can boost feel-good hormones (endorphins) by almost 30 percent. What's more, its effects appear to last up to 24 hours, according to researcher Lee S. Berk of California's Loma Linda University. Go see a comedian, or TiVo a funny television show like My Name is Earl and watch it over and over again.

    Live Healthy IV

    Beat stress by holding hands.
    Sounds a bit hokey, we agree, but a new study from the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that married women under stress were soothed by holding their husbands' hands. What's more, the happier the marriage, the calmer they felt.

    Add beans to your diet.
    When eaten regularly, any type of bean can dramatically lower your risk of breast cancer. So put a handful of garbanzo beans into your salad, toss some pinto beans in with your rice, make a pot of minestrone (mix kidney beans in with broccoli, kale or your favorite cruciferous vegetable) -- all contain beneficial compounds that protect against cancer.

    Assess what's in your medicine cabinet.
    A recent nationwide survey of more than 2,000 people found that nearly half have unknowingly taken a medication past its expiration date. Make a point to check dates before you take anything; it's easy to lose track. Better yet, when you buy a drug, highlight or circle the expiration date right on the package, so it's instantly visible each time you reach for a pill.

    Get a massage on your insurance company.
    Not only are health-insurance providers recognizing the benefits of alternative remedies such as massages, acupuncture, nutritional supplements and yoga, but more of them are actually offering discounts for them.

    Live Healthy III

    Live in the moment.
    By practicing mindfulness (concentrating on what you're doing right this second instead of everything on your must-do list), research shows that you'll destress and possibly even improve your immune system. A University of Wisconsin study found that all 25 participants who focused on happy moments produced more antibodies to a flu vaccine than those who focused on negative memories.

    Schedule your annual flu shot.
    October and November are the best times to get the influenza vaccine and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's the single best way to stave off infection, blocking the virus in 70 to 90 percent of healthy people under the age of 65. Afraid of needles? If you're 49 or younger and not pregnant, try the nasal-spray version. Skip the vaccine altogether, however, if you have a severe egg allergy (the vaccine contains a small amount of egg protein) or if you have a fever (wait until your symptoms go away).

    Put aside your work so you can socialize more.
    Haven't talked to your best friend or sister in weeks? What about that lunch date with your co-worker you keep postponing? Make it a point to stay in touch with your old friends and add some new ones to your social circle. According to research published in the American Sociological Review, women today have fewer confidantes than they did 20 years ago, which could be why we're more stressed, anxious and depressed.

    Stressed? Take a probiotic.
    Labeled "good bacteria," probiotics (in supplement form) seem to help prevent and treat stress-induced gastrointestinal problems (cramping, bloating and gas) and diseases like ulcerative colitis. In a new study, researchers affiliated with the University of Toronto fed probiotics to stressed animals and determined that afterward, they had no harmful bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts. But stressed animals who did not receive probiotics did. Supplements are available at health-food stores and in some supermarkets (many are in the refrigerated aisle) and should be taken as directed. Yogurt is also a good source of probiotics. Check the label to make sure it contains live active cultures -- not all brands do.

    Live Healthy II

    Turn envy into inspiration.
    Do you find yourself turning green when you see women who are in great shape or who seem to be able to juggle a thousand tasks with a smile? Jealousy is a self-defeating behavior that can make you seek solace in something potentially destructive, such as alcohol or junk food, says Ellen Langer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Harvard University. "Rather than envy her, find out how she did it, and try her tips."

    Plan a trip (and be sure to leave your BlackBerry at home).
    People who take a vacation each year have a lower overall risk of early death by almost 20 percent and a reduced risk of death from heart disease by as much as 30 percent, according to a study from the psychiatry departments at the University of Pittsburgh and the State University of New York at Oswego. When you take time off, don't stay home to catch up on errands. Experts say travel distances you, literally and figuratively, from your burdens and anxieties, so go on that trip to Paris or that hiking adventure you've always dreamed of.

    Get high on knowledge.
    A recent report in the journal American Scientist suggests that learning -- those satisfying "aha" moments -- triggers a cascade of biochemicals that gives the brain a hit of what amounts to natural opium. The greatest hit comes when you expose yourself to something new. Read that long article you skipped in the newspaper today, promise to do a crossword puzzle on your computer or get through one round of sudoku. All these activities will help forestall age-related memory loss.

    Get vaccinated.
    If you're 26 or younger, talk to your OB-GYN about the new cervical-cancer vaccine, Gardasil. It helps ward off infection from the human papilloma virus (HPV), which could lead to genital warts and cancer.

    Sneak calcium into your diet.
    Many women consume less than half the recommended daily dose of calcium (1,000 mg), and 1 in 2 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime. Easy ways to up your calcium: Take a supplement or drink a glass of lowfat milk. Also make sure you get 400 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day to aid your body's calcium absorption and to strengthen your bones.

    Order in Vietnamese -- tonight.
    High in nutrients and low in calories, Vietnamese cuisine is typically created around lean meats, fish and vegetables that have been grilled or steamed rather than panfried. Commonly used seasonings include cilantro and red chili pepper, both of which are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants -- and delicious! Steer clear of popular dishes such as deep-fried fish cakes and stuffed chicken drumettes, which are high in fat, cholesterol and calories

    Live Healthy *

    Eat a more satisfying breakfast.
    Instead of running out of the house with a cup of coffee, take 10 minutes to eat breakfast. Your best bet? Jazz up ordinary oatmeal by topping it with antioxidant-rich raspberries or blueberries (use frozen if you can't find fresh) and 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, which contains mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, possible safeguards against hypertension and heart disease. Not only will you feel full until lunchtime, but you'll get almost half the fiber you need each day in a single meal.

    Just say no.
    Resist the people-pleasing urge that plagues most women (and often leaves us angry and resentful) and politely turn down someone's request today. Whether you decline to take on the lion's share of a group project at work or to watch your neighbor's kids, "adding one no a day reduces the anxiety and stress that come from being overcommitted, overscheduled and overwhelmed," explains Rutgers University social psychologist Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It -- and Mean It (McGraw-Hill, 2006).

    Snack at the vending machine.
    Sounds surprising, right? It turns out that you're better off getting treats -- healthy or not -- out of the vending machine than out of a stash in your desk. According to research from Cornell University, people who kept a dish of chocolates on their desks ate almost twice as many as they did when they had to walk to reach the candy. Keep tempting sweets out of sight and you'll be more likely to hit the vending machine (or refrigerator) only when you're truly craving something.

    Switch your salt for a healthy heart.
    Trading in your regular salt for a low-sodium, potassium-enriched substitute -- also called "light salt" -- may decrease your risk of heart disease by up to 40 percent, according to a study of nearly 2,000 people published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Adding more potassium to your diet (present in bananas, orange juice, beans and potatoes) and trimming sodium can help regulate blood pressure, says study co-author Wen-Harn Pan, M.D. Another way to slash sodium intake: Swap herbs and spices for salt when seasoning dishes.

    Prevent period pain without over-the-counter drugs.
    Skip the ibuprofen, and relax. Take a walk, do some yoga or indulge in a juicy novel during the first two weeks of your cycle to keep monthly cramps at bay. Research in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that high stress levels can double your period pain.

    *shape.com

    Sunday, April 15

    Everyday Stretches - IV

    IX. Inner Thigh Stretch

    While seated, pull both feet inward toward the body. Grab your feet with your hands, while using the elbows to press downward slightly on the knees. You should feel this stretch in your inner thighs. Hold for 10-30 seconds.

    X. Cat" (Back) Stretch

    To stretch the upper back, hands and knees should be on the floor. Just as a cat would do, slowly lift your back up toward the ceiling and hold in place for 10-30 seconds.

    Everyday Stretches - III

    VI. Quadriceps Stretch

    Supporting your body with your left arm against a solid object, grab your left toes with right arm. Pull your heel up to your buttocks until you feel the stretch in your thigh. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Stretch the other side.

    VII. Forearm Stretch

    Extend your right arm. Using your left hand, pull your finger tips back toward your body until you feel the stretch in your forearm. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. Repeat using the other arm.

    VIII. Triceps Stretch

    Bend the right arm while placing your fingers in the middle of the back. Using the left arm, pull your right elbow backward until you feel the stretch in the back of your arm. Hold it for 10-30 seconds. Stretch the other side.

    Everyday Stretches - II

    III. Calf Stretch

    While standing, place your left foot near the wall. Bend forearms and rest them against the wall. Keeping the right foot flat on the floor, move right leg back until you feel the stretch in the calf muscle. Hold an easy stretch for 10-30 seconds. Do not bounce. Stretch the other leg.

    IV. Chest Stretch

    Place flat palm of right arm against a wall. Slowly rotate forward until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. Stretch the other side.

    V. Shoulder Stretch

    Extend your left arm in front of your body. Using the left wrist, place the right wrist underneath and pull inward toward your body, while keeping the left arm extended. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Stretch the other side.

    Everyday Stretches

    Use these stretches daily, to fine-tune your muscles. This is a general routine that emphasizes stretching the muscles that are most frequently used in normal day-to-day activities.

    I. The "Spinal Twist"

    While seated, extend the left leg in front of you. Bend your right leg, placing your right foot on the outside of the left knee. Extend your right arm behind you to support your body. Place the left arm on the outside of the right leg. Slightly twist the torso using your left arm until you feel the stretch in your side. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Stretch the other side.

    II. Hamstring Stretch

    While seated, extend your left leg in front of you. Bend your right leg, placing the bottom of your foot on the inside of the left knee. Place your right hand on top of your left hand. While keeping the lower back straightened, reach toward your left foot. Hold this for 10-30 seconds. During this stretch, keep the foot of the straight leg upright with the ankle and toes relaxed. Repeat for the right leg.

    Details of Flexibility Training

    Like aerobic endurance and muscle strength, flexibility provides anti-aging benefits. I'll want you let you know this. (The Department of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University)

    Who: Everyone can learn to stretch, regardless of age or flexibility
    When: ANY time is a good time

    • In the morning
    • After sitting or standing for long periods
    • Any time you feel tense or stiff
    • At odd times like watching T.V., reading, or sitting and talking
    Why: As you age, your muscles tighten and range of motion in a joint can be minimized. This can put a halt to active lifestyles and even hinder day- to- day , normal motions. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and restore youthful activity.
    • To relax your mind and "tune up" your body
    • To preserve range of motion
    • To maintain flexibility
    • To prevent injury during exercise
    • To prepare the muscles for more vigorous activity
    • To help develop body awareness
    • To promote circulation
    How:
    Frequency: At least 3 days per week
    Intensity: To a position of mild discomfort
    Duration: Hold stretch for 10 seconds working up to 30 seconds
    Repetitions: Perform 3-5 for each stretch
    • Stretch slowly and smoothly;
    • Never bounce
    • Maintain normal breathing during each movement
    • Focus attention on muscle being stretched; try to limit movement in other body parts
    • Feel the stretch, but don’t strain by stretching too far

    Saturday, April 14

    Health and fitness

    Considering the benefits to the heart, muscles, joints, and mind, it's easy to see why exercise is wise. This is often the biggest exercise challenge for people as they get busy with college and careers. One of the great things about exercise is that it's never too late to start. And don't forget that even small things can count as exercise when you're starting out - like taking a short bike ride or raking leaves. Even walking your dog counts as part of your 60 minutes a day of exercise.

    And do not forget:
    Women who overexercise may stop getting their periods, a condition known as amenorrhea. Girls who regularly miss periods are less able to incorporate calcium into their bones, which can lead to the decreased bone density and increased risk of injury that goes with osteoporosis. The combination of amenorrhea, disordered eating, and osteoporosis is a condition called female athlete triad.

    Wednesday, April 11

    Flexibility Training

    Strengthening the heart and other muscles isn't the only important goal of exercise. Exercise also helps the body stay flexible, meaning that your muscles and joints stretch and bend easily. People who are flexible can worry less about strained muscles and sprains. Flexibility can also help improve a person's sports performance. Some activities, like dance or martial arts, obviously require great flexibility, but increased flexibility can also help people perform better at other sports, such as soccer or lacrosse.

    Tuesday, April 10

    Strength Training

    The heart isn't the only muscle to benefit from regular exercise - most of the other muscles in your body enjoy exercise, too. When you use your muscles and they become stronger, it allows you to be active for longer periods of time without getting worn out. Strong muscles are also a plus because they actually help protect you when you exercise by supporting your joints and helping to prevent injuries. Muscle also burns more energy when a person's at rest than fat does, so building your muscles will help you burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight. Different types of exercise strengthen different muscle groups, for example: For arms, try rowing or cross-country skiing. Pull-ups and push-ups, those old gym class standbys, are also good for building arm muscles. For strong legs, try running, biking, rowing, or skating. For shapely abs, you can't beat rowing, bike riding, and crunches.

    Monday, April 9

    Aerobic Exercise

    Like other muscles, the heart likes a good workout. You can provide it with one in the form of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is any type of exercise that gets the heart pumping and the muscles using oxygen (you'll notice your body using oxygen as you breathe faster). When you give your heart this kind of workout on a regular basis, your heart will get stronger and more efficient in delivering oxygen (in the form of oxygen-carrying blood cells) to all parts of your body.

    Sunday, April 8

    Exercise and fitness

    You've probably heard countless times how exercise is "good for you" but did you know that it can actually help you feel good, too? Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help you to feel better emotionally.

    Experts recommend that adults get more than 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. There are three components to a well-balanced exercise routine: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training.

    Exercise benefits every part of the body, including the mind. Exercising causes the body to produce endorphins, chemicals that lead a person to feel peaceful and happy. Exercise can help some people sleep better. It can also help with mental health issues such as mild depression and self-esteem: If you feel strong and powerful, it can help you see yourself in a better light. Plus, exercise can give people a real sense of accomplishment and pride at having achieved a certain goal - like beating an old time in the 100-meter dash.

    Exercising can help you look better, too. People who exercise burn calories and look more toned than those who don't. In fact, exercise is one of the most important parts of keeping your body at a healthy weight. When you exercise, you burn food calories as fuel. If a person eats more calories than he or she burns, the body stores them away as fat. Exercise can help burn these stored calories.

    Thursday, April 5

    Your personal trainer

    Is you. Start small. Small changes are a lot easier to stick with than drastic ones. Try reducing the size of the portions you eat and giving up regular soda for a week. Once you have that down, start gradually introducing healthier foods and exercise into your life.

    Stop eating when you're full. Lots of people eat when they're bored, lonely, or stressed, or keep eating long after they're full out of habit. Try to pay attention as you eat and stop when you're full. Slowing down can help because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize how much is in your stomach. Sometimes taking a break before going for seconds can keep you from eating another serving.

    Avoid eating when you feel upset or bored — try to find something else to do instead (a walk around the block or a trip to the gym are good alternatives). Many people find it's helpful to keep a diary of what they eat and when. Reviewing the diary later can help them identify the emotions they have when they overeat or whether they have unhealthy habits. A registered dietitian can give you pointers on how to do this.

    Eat less more often. Many people find that eating a couple of small snacks throughout the day helps them to make healthy choices at meals. Stick a couple of healthy snacks (carrot sticks, a low-fat granola bar, pretzels, or a piece of fruit) in your backpack so that you can have one or two snacks during the day. Adding healthy snacks to your three squares and eating smaller portions when you sit down to dinner can help you to cut calories without feeling deprived.

    Five a day keep the pounds away. Ditch the junk food and dig out the fruits and veggies! Five servings of fruits and veggies aren't just a good idea to help you lose weight — they'll help keep your heart and the rest of your body healthy. Other suggestions for eating well: replace white bread with whole wheat, trade your sugary sodas for lots of water and a few cups of low-fat milk, and make sure you eat a healthy breakfast. Having low-sugar, whole grain cereal and low-fat milk and a piece of fruit is a much better idea than inhaling a donut as you run to the bus stop or eating no breakfast at all! A registered dietitian can give you lots of other snack and menu ideas.

    Avoid fad diets. It's never a good idea to trade meals for shakes or to give up a food group in the hope that you'll lose weight — we all need a variety of foods to stay healthy. Stay away from fad diets because you're still growing and need to make sure you get proper nutrients. Avoid diet pills (even the over-the-counter or herbal variety). They can be dangerous to your health; besides, there's no evidence that they help keep weight off over the long term.

    Don't banish certain foods. Don't tell yourself you'll never again eat your absolutely favorite peanut butter chocolate ice cream or a bag of chips from the vending machine at school. Making these foods forbidden is sure to make you want them even more. Also, don't go fat free: You need to have some fat in your diet to stay healthy, so giving up all fatty foods all the time isn't a good idea. The key to long-term success is making healthy choices most of the time. If you want a piece of cake at a party, go for it! But munch on the carrots rather than the chips to balance it out.

    Get moving. You may find that you don't need to cut calories as much as you need to get off your behind. Don't get stuck in the rut of thinking you have to play a team sport or take an aerobics class to get exercise. Try a variety of activities from hiking to cycling to rowing until you find ones you like.

    Build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat. So adding strength training to your exercise routine can help you reach your weight loss goals as well as give you a toned bod. A good, well-balanced fitness routine includes aerobic workouts, strength training, and flexibility exercises.

    Forgive yourself. So you were going to have one cracker with spray cheese on it and the next thing you know the can's pumping air and the box is empty? Drink some water, brush your teeth, and move on. Everyone who's ever tried to lose weight has found it challenging. When you slip up, the best idea is to get right back on track and don't look back. Avoid telling yourself that you'll get back on track tomorrow or next week or after New Year's. Start now.

    Try to remember that losing weight isn't going to make you a better person — and it won't magically change your life. It's a good idea to maintain a healthy weight because it's just that: healthy. *

    Monday, April 2

    Lose Weight

    Weight loss is a tricky topic. Lots of people are unhappy with their present weight, but most aren't sure how to change it — and many would be better off staying where they are. You may want to look like the models or actors in magazines and on TV, but those goals might not be healthy or realistic for you. Besides, no magical diet or pill will make you look like someone else.

    If it turns out that you can benefit from weight loss then you can follow a few of my simple suggestions to get started.

    The crappy articles tell you that you can, for example, "lose up to five pounds a week, in only ten minutes a day!" Wrong. You can automatically tell that an article is worthless if it makes it sound like it will be easy to lose weight. There is only one way: eat less and exercise.