Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Are Rest Days Important or No?

No matter how much you love to exercise, your body needs regular time away from the gym to rest, recover, and rebuild. Depending on how intense you train, you may need anywhere from 1 to 3 days off, each and every week, with an additional extended rest or de-loading week every second to third month.

Active rest involves replacing your scheduled workout with another, less intense form of movement. Not to be confused with complete rest, an active rest day doesn’t involve sitting on the couch, catching up on your shows (although it sounds good) and tossing back junk food. Schedule your active rest days when you schedule your workouts, making it a regular part of your plan. There are many benefits of active rest, aids recovery and decreases delayed onset muscle soreness, reduces over-use and repetitive strain injuries, increases exercise enjoyment and bolsters your immune system.

Some examples of active rest can include low intensity cardio, walking outdoors, swimming, golfing, yoga and even getting a nice massage. Whether your aiming to increase muscular size, strength or endurance, taking a day off between workouts is a great strategy for avoiding injury and ultimately reaching your health and fitness goals sooner.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lean For Life!

Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout your life could help you live longer while the other end of the spectrum, carrying excess body fat, might do the opposite. Now, this hardly seems monumentally news-breaking given the amount of research we have that links obesity to numerous health-related conditions that decrease mortality. But maybe it is a good thing that researchers continue to probe these relationships as it seems that quite a large portion of our population still hasn’t made it a priority to keep their weight under control. Not only does it affect the individual from a personal health perspective, but it also affects everyone from the standpoints of increased medical costs and dollars being spent on diseases that are largely preventable with proper lifestyle modification.

In one study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, U.S. scientists found that slim people had the lowest risk of dying over a 15-year period -- 12 percent for women and 20 percent for men. Meanwhile, obese men and women had the highest risk -- 20 percent for women and 24 percent for men. The underlying effect here is that preventing obesity may also prevent its consequences, which include diabetes and heart disease. The data collected from 116,000 participants in 2 prior health studies showed that people who maintain the leanest body shape have the lowest risk of dying prematurely. Participants were asked to recall their body shape at ages 5, 10, 20, 30 and 40. They also provided their weight at 50. They were followed from age 60 over an average of 15 to 16 years. In addition, participants completed questionnaires on lifestyle and health every two years and on diet every four years.

Another group of researchers analyzed 230 previously published studies that included more than 30 million people and nearly 4 million deaths. What they found was that among people who never smoked, the leanest lived the longest, and that gaining weight over time was linked with higher risks of premature death. While this also underscored the mortality risk that one incurs from smoking, it did reinforce the importance of weight management throughout life.

Ideally, the process should start early since adult obesity could be prevented by managing weight in childhood and adolescence. Once good habits are set at an early age, it is more likely that they will continue on in adulthood, when losing weight becomes less easy than it was during the younger years. Therefore, parents need to help instill good eating practices in their children while also setting a good example by the diets they eat themselves. And if those practices are repeated generation by generation, we just may see a decline in obesity related deaths and health issues. Lean and healthy is the way to go!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Shin Splints

You know that annoying pain in your lower legs that never seems to get better? This leg pain always seems to slow your training just when you are starting to make some real gains. This group of lower leg injuries commonly referred to as “shin splints” is one of the most commonly occurring injuries in active people.

Unfortunately, the advice people get on the prevention and treatment of these injuries when shopping for athletic shoes is far from science. Most people end up with shoes that are not helping their condition, or are even causing it. The good news is that with the proper shoe selection, shin splints can be prevented or reduced. The one characteristic that ALL athletic shoes should have is a flexible toe region. This prevents over working the gastro-soleus complex (the calf) during activity and opening yourself up to a whole different category of athletic injury.

It is important to keep in mind that this information is useful for all active people, not just for those who commonly experience shin splints. So make sure you are choosing the proper foot wear for any activity you do during your active day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Berry Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

Servings: 2 • Serving Size: 1 bowl • Points+: 6 pts • Smart Points: 5
Calories: 240 • Fat: 4.5 g • Sat Fat: 0.2 g • Carb: 47 g • Fiber: 6 g • Protein: 6 g

Sodium: 95 mg • Sugar: 23 mg • Cholesterol: 0 mg


1/4 cup uncooked pre-washed quinoa, or rinse well under water
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tsp honey
1 medium banana, sliced
6 strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tsp hemp seeds, pepitas or nuts
1/4 cup warmed almond milk


Fill a small pot of almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, add quinoa, cover and cook on low until liquid evaporates, about 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Divide the hot quinoa in 2 bowls, top each with sliced fruit and hemp seeds, drizzle with honey and add warm milk if desired.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dementia Risk From Common Meds?

When people are taking a medication they are usually doing it with the intent to correct a health problem or concern. While there may frequently be safer and less stressful ways to improve one’s health, sometimes pharmaceutical intervention may be necessary if a condition has become out of control and needs immediate attention. But the last thing that anyone wants is to take a medicine to correct one problem and then have it cause another. Side effects from medications are probably one of the biggest reason not to take them and research continues to support this belief. Case in point, a new study has found that medicines taken commonly for conditions such as depression, asthma and allergies may raise the risk for dementia later in life.

The research was performed at the Indiana University School of Medicine and looked at the brains of 451 men and women, 60 of whom were taking one or more anticholinergic medicines. Study participants took the medicines on average for about 7 years. Anticholinergics work by blocking a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which is crucial for memory. They can be found in medicines ranging from Benadryl to Dramamine to Paxil and about 100 different drugs were evaluated in the study.

The conclusions from the research were that was that the brains of those people taking the medicine did not work as well as the brains of those not taking them and that there was an increased risk of getting dementia over time. While it was not a direct cause and effect link, there was a strong correlation between taking the drugs and development of the dementia. Overall, the researchers found that those on the medicines were ''four times more likely to develop either mild cognitive impairment [which often develops into dementia] or dementia'' than those not taking the medicines. The brain problems developed over a time frame ranging from 6 months to about 8 years. Older adults who took the drugs had poorer thinking skills than those not taking them and their brains were also smaller, especially in the areas important for memory and other thinking skills.

While the individual conditions that the various medications were taken for would still need to be addressed, there is always opportunity to help support the body naturally to decrease the risk of developing health conditions in the first place. Supporting brain health by ensuring that optimal levels of essential fatty acids are consumed daily is a good place to start with the diet, as is limiting foods that promote inflammation such as sugars and grains. Avoiding aluminum, whether it be from leaching from metal cookware or foil or absorbed externally through the skin, can help limit exposure to a substance linked to dementia. And something as simple as getting adequate sleep every night when your brain goes through its detoxification processes will prevent you from hindering a necessary recovery mechanism. All easy steps that could help keep you thinking sharp for years to come.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Muscle Balancing

Most people walk into a gym and experiment on the machines having no idea how important it is to achieve balance. Balance between muscle pairs prevents injury. When muscles are unbalanced, you use your joints incorrectly and cause wear, tear and damage over time. Unbalanced muscle can also cause pain.

As an example, think of a weight lifter who is really focused on his pectorals. He spends less time on the traps. When he stands or walks, he stoops forward because his pecs are stronger than his traps. The result? Poor posture and eventually neck and back pain. Knee damage and pain is pretty common. You can help avoid it by balancing the training of your hip abductors and adductors. When these are balanced and strong they pull the tendons holding the kneecap into place. When one of these muscles are weaker, the kneecap gets pulled out of place and the result is pain and possibly even an injury if you move the wrong way.

The best balance comes from weight training. Cross training is always a good thing but the very best way is to achieve total fitness and muscle balance is a combination of cardiovascular exercise and weight training. Weight training offers specific possibilities to achieve balance over and above any other form of exercise. Of course, you can’t just weight train any old way. You have to train each side of your body. Everyone has a weaker side, and a weaker muscle. The key to achieving body balance and avoiding injury is to strengthen up the weaker muscle and then train each equally once you achieve that balance.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mixing Alcohol With High Blood Pressure Is Not A Drink Of Choice

Prevention is always an important part of managing your health. Ideally, you want to do everything you can so as not to develop health-related conditions in the first place. But if they do develop, the goal should be to do as much as possible to try and reverse the condition, while also doing as little as possible to make the condition worse. One-third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure (hypertension) and it can have multiple causes ranging from poor dietary habits to inadequate amounts of sleep to being overloaded with high levels of stress. In order to help relax and reduce stress, many people may “unwind” at the end of the day with a cocktail or glass of wine. But that may actually be doing more harm than good. Even an ounce of alcohol a day might alter heart function if you have high blood pressure, researchers report.

In a recent study at the University of Udine School of Medicine in Italy, researchers examined the effect of alcohol on 335 patients with high blood pressure who had no other heart problems. Their heart function was measured with an electrocardiogram and heart scans and they were asked about their drinking patterns. For someone with high blood pressure, even small amounts of drinking can impair functioning of the lower left chamber of the heart, which pumps blood to the rest of the body. Those who drank the most had thicker left ventricular walls, stiffening the chamber and making it function less efficiently, the researchers said. They also found signs of heart damage in nearly half the participants, which was associated with how much they drank. The more they drank, the more trouble the heart had properly filling with blood between each heartbeat, which could lead to more serious conditions such as a heart attack.

Patients with more damage tended to be older, heavier, have diabetes and higher blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, the study authors noted. But after taking these factors into account, the researchers found that alcohol consumption still seemed to be a factor in damaging heart function. This should be concerning because hypertension contributes to more than 350,000 deaths each year in the United States, which equates to about 1,000 per day! If high blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing heart failure, and alcohol is showing that it can contribute to the progression of it, then eliminating or limiting alcohol consumption seems to be an easy preventative measure.

From a health perspective, alcohol offers no benefit to the body. It provides no real nutritional value and can also add stress to the body by promoting dehydration and fat deposition and inflammation in the liver. And then there is the effect on weight! So while it is enjoyable to many to partake in alcohol consumption occasionally, those at risk for serious heart conditions may want to take a pass and choose another drink of choice to maximize their longevity and quality of life.