Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Right Amount of Exercise

Every medical professional will tell you that exercise is important. In fact, getting enough exercise is vital to the health of our body. And, we do not realize that exercise is really as important as eating right. Too often, exercise is connected with losing weight. And, while exercise is an important part of weight loss, it is also an important part of our daily health. Therefore, regardless of your weight loss goals, exercise should be part of your lifestyle. How much exercise is the right amount of exercise to be healthy? Health experts say that 90 minutes of exercise a week is the optimal amount of exercise to remain healthy. For the average person, this means you could spend 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, exercising. Consistency of exercise leads to better results. (An intense weekend athletic activity, or constant working out each can cause damage.) For the vast majority of us the best form of exercise is something that we enjoy doing for a moderate amount of time on a regular basis.

What's Right for Me?
One of the biggest reasons people drop an exercise program is lack of interest: If what you're doing isn't fun, it's hard to keep it up. The good news is that there are tons of different sports and activities that you can try out to see which one inspires you.
When picking the right type of exercise, it can help to consider your workout personality. For example, do you like to work out alone and on your own schedule? If so, solo sports like biking or snowboarding may be for you. Or do you like the shared motivation and companionship that comes from being part of a team?
You also need to plan around practical considerations, such as whether your chosen activity is affordable and available to you. (Activities like horseback riding may be harder for people who live in cities, for example.) You'll also want to think about how much time you can set aside for your sport.
It's a good idea to talk to someone who understands the exercise, like a coach or fitness expert at a gym. He or she can get you started on a program that's right for you and your level of fitness.
Another thing to consider is whether any health conditions may affect how — and how much — you exercise. Doctors know that most people benefit from regular exercise, even those with disabilities or conditions like asthma. But if you have a health problem or other considerations (like being overweight or very out of shape), talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise plan. That way you can get information on which exercise programs are best and which to avoid.

Rewards and Benefits
Exercise benefits every part of the body, including the mind. Exercising causes the body to produce endorphins, chemicals that can help a person to feel more peaceful and happy. Exercise can help some people sleep better. It can also help some people who have mild depression and low self-esteem. 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. People who exercise burn more 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.
Exercise helps people lose weight and lower the risk of some diseases. Exercising to maintain a healthy weight decreases a person's risk of developing certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases, which used to be found mostly in adults, are becoming more common in teens.
Exercise can help a person age well. This may not seem important now, but your body will thank you later. Women are especially prone to a condition called osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones) as they get older. Studies have found that weight-bearing exercise, like jumping, running or brisk walking, can help girls (and guys!) keep their bones strong.

The three components to a well-balanced exercise routine are: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training.

Aerobic exercise is any type of exercise that gets the heart pumping and quickens your breathing. When you give your heart this kind of workout regularly, it will get stronger and more efficient in delivering oxygen (in the form of oxygen-carrying blood cells) to all parts of your body.

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.

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.
Being flexible may 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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Power drinks for hydration

Traditional sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade include water, salt, and sugars in proportions that help the body absorb fluids and salts lost in sweat and in the breath while exercising. The sugars not only help the body take in the water, but also provide fuel for muscles that need sugars to keep performing well during long walks, runs, or bikes. A small amount of salt helps protect the body from hyponatremia, (also known as water intoxication), which can happen if you drink a large amount of water without any salt.

Energy drinks are formulated to deliver caffeine and other stimulants, such as guarana or ginseng, to give the drinker a rush of energy. They are not designed to replace lost fluids during exercise. Some come in small cans that deliver a large amount of caffeine in a small amount of fluid. Many are carbonated, which can lead exercisers to experience burping, nausea and a bloated feeling.
While energy drinks do provide short-term energy to the body, they do not provide long-term, usable energy. The caffeine and additives found in energy drinks cause a spike in blood sugar levels and provide short-term energy to the body. This causes the inevitable "crash" in energy after the sugar levels wear down. Additionally, since caffeine is a diuretic, it causes fluid loss.
This can be potentially dangerous when other stimulants, such as ginseng, are added to the drink - these stimulants can enhance the effects of caffeine. Other ingredients, such as guarana, contain extra caffeine on top of the original sugar levels.
The high sugar concentrations in energy drinks slow fluid absorption into the blood system, increasing the probability of dehydration. When a high level of sugar is in the blood stream, the body is not able to provide fluid to cells. This is a precursor to dehydration because when you consume an energy drink, there is not enough fluid in the body to dilute the high concentration of sugar in that beverage.

H2O - The Original Energy Drink
The human body is anywhere from 55 percent to 78 percent water, depending on body size. To function properly and maintain optimum health, the body requires between one and seven liters of water per day to avoid dehydration. The precise amount needed by any one person depends on level of activity and climate factors like temperature and humidity. However, most healthcare professionals feel that six to seven glasses of water (approximately two liters) daily is the minimum amount of water the human body needs to maintain proper hydration.

Here are four easy ways to integrate more water into your diet:
Always carry a water bottle
If plain water doesn't appeal to you, purchase one of the many water mix-insavailable on the market like Crystal Light or Kellogs.
Use water in your cooking
Eat fruits and vegetables with a high water content
So put down that energy drink and grab a glass of all-natural H2O.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

High heels - Back pain

Why are they good?
They  make us look taller - to other people as well as changing our perspective of the room.
They don't make you look fat - unlike low-rise jeans, or *gasp* spandex sportswear.
They transform an outfit -  jeans and a t-shirt can take on an entirely different look when a pair of heels is added and they add a feminine touch to suits as well.
They make us look & feel sexy - they change our body stance, making our calf muscles more pronounced, and forcing our butts and chests out -- it's nearly as if high heels force us into better posture , which is always sexy.
They're inexpensive - there are few things that can cost as little and make you feel quite as happy. (They cost you no calories. In fact you burn more in them, as your body uses stabilizing muscles to keep your balance/posture.)

Why are they bad?
High heel shoes cause you to lean forward and the body's response to that is to decrease the forward curve of your lower back to help keep you in line. Wearing high heels causes lumbar (low-back) spine flattening and a posterior (backward) displacement of the head and thoracic (mid-back) spine.
Your hip flexor muscles work much harder and longer to help you walk because your feet are held in a downward position (plantarflexed) and have reduced power to move your body forward.
The knee stays flexed (bent) and the tibia (shin bone) turns inward (varus) when wearing high heels. This position puts a compressive force on the inside of the knee (medial), a common site of osteoarthritis.
The position of the ankle may also cause a shortening (contraction) of the achilles tendon. This can increase the pull of the achilles tendon where it attaches on the back of your heel bone (calcaneus) and may cause a condition called insertional achilles tendonitis.
There is significant increase in the pressure on the bottom (plantar) of the forefoot. The pressure increases as the height of the shoe heel increases. For example wearing a 3 1/4 inch heel increases the pressure on the bottom of the forefoot by 76%. The increased pressure may lead to pain or foot deformities such as hammer toes, bunions, bunionettes (tailor's bunions) and neuromas.

What can we do about it?
Change shoes often. This allows your feet a change of scenery and reduces constant pressure on the different body parts mentioned above. Or go barefoot once in a while.
Wear the right shoe for the job: low heels or flat shoes if you are standing or walking around, sneakers for exercise, boots for inclement weather, etc.
If you must have height, try platform shoes. They help absorb the shock but give the illusion of a higher heel.
Foot soaks and massages are a nice treat. They help stimulate blood circulation. Pedicures are great for this!
Some people may find wearing compression stockings help. They're available in most pharmacies and medical supply stores, but you may want to speak to  your doctor or a podiatrist first.
There's always painkillers, but use this as a last resort. (You should never be in agony, so  please use good jugdment in the first place and you may not need to do this.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Good night, sleep tight.

Not getting enough sleep does more than make you irritable, sluggish and foggy, but why?
 1. Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. 
2. Sleep May Prevent Cancer
Light exposure reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and is thought to protect against cancer. Melatonin appears to suppress the growth of tumors. 
3. Sleep Reduces Stress
When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body's functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones.  
4. Sleep Reduces Inflammation
The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. 
5. Sleep Makes You More Alert
Of course, a good night's sleep makes you feel energized and alert the next day. Being engaged and active not only feels great, it increases your chances for another good night's sleep. 
6. Sleep Bolsters Your Memory
While your body may be resting, your brain is busy processing your day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings and memories. Your dreams and deep sleep are an important time for your brain to make memories and links.
7. Sleep May Help You Lose Weight
It is thought that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones: ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep. Sleeping less may affect changes in a person's basal metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn when you rest). 
Inadequate sleep interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage. This can also lead to insulin resistance and contribute to increased risk of diabetes.
8. Naps Make You Smarter
Napping during the day is not only an effective and refreshing alternative to caffeine, it can also protect your health and make you more productive. People who take a nap at work have much lower levels of stress. (On their break time - don't get caught napping on the job!) Napping also improves memory, cognitive function and mood.
9. Sleep May Reduce Your Risk for Depression
Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. 
10. Sleep Helps the Body Make Repairs
Sleep is a time for your body to repair damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage.

How much sleep do you need?
How much sleep we need depends on what is happening in our bodies. The rapid growth of infancy (16 hrs), youth (10-14 hrs) and adolescence (9hrs) also the demands on the body during pregnancy (9+ hrs in 1st trimester) mean more sleep. Contrary to the common sleep myth, older adults need just as much sleep as younger ones (7 to 9 hrs). Here is a list of sleep needs by group:

A person should be alert and awake throughout the day. Some signs that you are not getting enough quality sleep include: Feeling tired during the day, Falling asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, Experiencing “microsleeps” or brief “nodding off” episodes

Sleep Quality and Sleep Quantity
If you find that you are not getting enough sleep, there are two things to look at: the amount of time you spend sleeping and the quality of your sleep.
Sleep Time: If you spend less than 7 hours in bed (asleep) each night, you will most likely have a sleep deficit. You could also be spending enough time in bed, but have trouble falling asleep quickly. Learning good sleep habits can help you fall asleep faster and get more sleep in the same amount of time.
Sleep Quality: If your sleep is interrupted, if you wake up several times a night or if you toss and turn, your sleep quality may be poor. You need two kinds of sleep each night – deep sleep (sleep stage 3 and 4), which makes you feel refreshed, and REM sleep, which we don’t fully understand, but we know you need it. Developing better sleep habits can help with sleep quality.