Category Archives: Exercise

#DANCE AWAY THOSE LOVE HANDLES

6417366-an-image-of-a-woman-s-waist-while-she-is-pinching-the-love-handles-on-either-side-of-her-hipBelly dancing is an aerobic workout offered in many gyms and health clubs across the nation.  In addition to being more fun than elliptical trainers, it strengthens core muscles most people don’t exercise in a regular trip to the gym.

Any kind of dancing is a good aerobic workout.  It promotes general fitness, conditions the heart and respiratory system, stimulates the immune system and increases stamina.

It also tones the nervous system, reduces stress, develops balance and coordination, increases oxygen flow throughout the body and imparts a sense of well-being and empowerment.

Just compare the expression on the face of a jogger to the expression on the faces of a couple doing the swing—dancing is fun!

SOURCE:   Dr Andrew Weil’s Tip of the Day, August 18, 2013

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5 STEPS TO LOWER RISK OF #ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

r7_brainatrophyalzMRIs of normal and atrophying brains Photo credit Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Numerous factors determine which people will develop Alzheimer’s disease and which won’t.  Factors such as age, family history and gender are beyond our control.  Those factors within our control are the pillars of a healthy lifestyle—exercise, good nutrition, an appropriate weight.

The factors that assure our physical health have the same effect on assuring our mental health.

Here are 5 steps to follow to keep Alzheimer’s at bay:

1.  Maintain a healthy weight by cutting back on calories and increasing exercise if you need to lose a few pounds.

2.  Measure your waistline.  A National Institutes of Health panel recommends women maintain a waist measurement of no more than 35 inches and men measure no more than 40 inches.

3.  Eat mindfully.  Eat heartily of colorful, vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables while cutting down on calories from sweets, sodas and refined grains.  Avoid unhealthy fats and mindless snacking.  Pay attention to portion size.

4.  Exercise regularly to control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.   Walk briskly (4 mph) for 2.5 to 5 hours weekly, or jog (6 mph) for half that time.

5.  Monitor important health numbers.  Ask your doctor about your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and make sure you keep them in healthy ranges.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, August 10, 2013

DAIRY HELPS SHED BELLY FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE

1350032941QEAEW5Hamilton, Ontario McMaster University scientists compared three groups of 30 overweight and obese, but otherwise healthy, premenopausal women.  Each group consumed either low, medium or high amounts of dairy foods coupled with higher or lower amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

Additionally, each group exercised seven days per week for four months, a regimen including daily aerobic exercise + two days of circuit resistance training/weightlifting.

At the end of four months, participants in the three groups lost identical amounts of total weight.

But.

The higher-protein, high-dairy group experienced greater whole-body fat and abdominal fat losses, greater lean mass gains, and greater increases in strength.

The lower-protein, low-dairy group lost about a pound and half of muscle, whereas the higher-protein, high-dairy group actually gained a pound and half of muscle—a three-pound difference.

Andrea Josse, lead author of the study, says, “One hundred percent of the weight lost in the higher-protein group was fat.  And the participants gained muscle mass, which is a major change in body composition.”

“The preservation or even gain of muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be a major problem for many seeking to lose weight.”

Speaking of the twice as much belly fat the higher-protein group lost, Josse notes, “Fat in the abdomen is thought to be especially bad for cardiovascular and metabolic health, and it seems—according to what we found in this study—increasing calcium and protein in the diet may help to further promote loss of fat from the worst storage area in the body.”

My Take on the study:  I’m a bit wary of studies paid for by the industry whose product is under examination.  After all, it was the American Bottled Water Association that sponsored the study that concluded it was vital we all drink eight 8 oz glasses of water daily, a recommendation that discounted the water we get from fruits, vegetables and other beverages, coffee included.

Yes, coffee acts as a diuretic, but so does water.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, March11, 2013          Study published in Journal of Nutrition      Study financed in part by Dairy Industry

ENERGY-BOOSTING FOODS

13009855-food-sources-of-complex-carbohydrates-isolated-on-white-backgroundBeyond the importance of eating a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and healthful sources of fats and proteins, there’s little known about foods that specifically support a person’s energy level.

That being said, there are certain foods that give more energy under specific circumstances, as well as foods that sap energy.

During exertion, muscles burn carbohydrates first.  To keep your energy levels stable, avoid highly refined carbohydrates—white bread, white rice, white potatoes, and white, processed pastas.  They’re digested and absorbed almost as fast as refined sugar.

When you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar shoots up and your pancreas floods large amounts of insulin into your bloodstream.  You feel amazingly alert and energized—for a short while, because the insulin rapidly lowers your blood sugar and leaves you less energetic than you were before you ate the sweets.

Instead of highly refined carbs, choose complex carbs—high-fiber whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta and most vegetables, foods that take longer to break down and cause blood sugar levels to rise and fall more gradually.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, March 14, 2013

3 WAYS EXERCISE HELPS KEEP THE PROSTATE HEALTHY

8444366-examination-timeActivity each day/ Keeps the gloved fingers away

The walnut-sized prostate gland can be troublesome.  As with many conditions, prevention is the best cure, and many studies suggest that regular physical activity promotes a healthy prostate.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, (BPH), is an enlargement that interferes with urination.  In the ongoing Harvard-based Professionals Follow-up Study, physically active men were less likely to suffer from BPH.  Even men who engaged in low- to moderate-intensity activity, such as regularly walking at a moderate pace, yielded benefits.

Prostatitis is an infection and inflammation of the prostate.  In a study of men with chronic prostatitis, Italian researchers studied a group engaged in 18 weeks of aerobic exercise (brisk walking) and a control group that engaged in anaerobic exercise (sit ups, leg lifts and stretching).

At the end of the 18 weeks, men in both groups felt better, but those engaged in aerobic training reported less prostatitis pain, less anxiety and depression, and better overall quality of life.

Prostate Cancer Progression  Researchers in a Health Professionals Follow-up Study tracked 1400 men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer.  Men who walked briskly for at least three hours a week were 57% less likely to have their cancer progress than men who’d walked less vigorously.

In another study of men with localized prostate cancer, those who engaged in vigorous activity for at least three hours a week had a 61% lower risk of dying from the disease, compared to men who exercised vigorously for less than one hour per week.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, May 7, 2013

5 WAYS TO AVOID FEMALE INCONTINENCE

4742190-funny-toilet-sign-of-a-woman-with-knees-pressed-togetherIn many cases, the causes of incontinence are out of a person’s control.  For women, incontinence is associated with childbirth.  For men, often it’s a side effect of treatment for prostate problems.

Though it may be unavoidable, you can follow some guidelines to lower your risk of developing this troublesome condition.

1.  Watch your weight.  Particularly with women, overweight and incontinence go hand in hand.  One explanation is that abdominal fat weakens the pelvic floor muscles and leads to stress incontinence (leaking urine when laughing, sneezing, etc.).

2.  Don’t smoke.  Besides being a life-threatening habit, smoking doubles the likelihood that a woman will develop stress incontinence and even urge incontinence (the sense that you need to urinate even when the bladder isn’t full).

3.  Stay active.  According to the Nurses’ Health Study, the least likely middle-aged women to develop incontinence are those who were most physically active.

4.  Minimize bladder irritants.  Caffeine and alcohol are linked to urge incontinence in some persons, as are spicy foods and citrus fruits and juices.

5.  Don’t strain with bowel movements.  Straining weakens the pelvic floor muscles.

In a study involving people ages 65 and older, treating constipation improved urinary symptoms such as frequency, urgency and burning.

Increasing fiber intake and drinking sufficient fluid can help prevent constipation.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, March 9, 2013

TAI CHI RELIEVES #DEPRESSION AND IMPROVES QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THOSE OVER 60

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Researchers at UCLA studied 112 adults, age 60 and over, with major depression.  For the first 4 weeks, participants were treated with escitalopram, a standard antidepressant drug.  Showing only partial improvement, 73 of the adults were randomly assigned to 10 weeks of either a tai chi class for two hours per week or to a health-education class.

All participants were evaluated for levels of depression, anxiety, resilience, health-related quality of life, cognition and immune system inflammation at the beginning of the study and again four months later.

Among tai chi participants, 94% scored below 10 on a depression rating scale, 10 being the cut-off for a diagnosis of depression.  65% achieved a score of 6 or less, meaning their depression was in remission.

By comparison, 77% of the control group achieved 10 or less, with 51% in remission.

Researchers believe that the control group may have benefited less because of the social aspects of spending time with others in the tai chi class.

Lead investigator Helen Lavretsky, MD, had this to say about the results of the study:  “Depression can lead to serious consequences, including greater morbidity, disability, mortality and increased cost of care.

“This study shows that adding a mind-body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults. . . .  With tai chi, we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications.”

University Health & Nutrition Letter, May 6, 2013    NY Times, March 18, 2011   Study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, March 2011