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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Coffee…A Health Food?

Friday, September 17th, 2010

(WFN) Anyone willing to spend $4 for a cup of coffee must be a real fan, but even those of us who gather around the office drip machine, anxiously awaiting the next fresh pot have some concerns about how much we drink and what the long term effects really are.

There is so much information out there (and more comes out every day) that it’s hard to know what is good for you and what is bad for you. Of course, anything ingested in excess is probably not a good idea but there is a lot of evidence that coffee can actually be a beneficial drink and not the evil, addictive beverage choice of the average American workaholic as depicted in so many trendy magazine exposes.

According to an article by Jane Brody, published in the New York Times and widely reprinted on the Internet and in several other print sources, coffee might be a smart drink of choice.

According to studies cited by Brody, one of the big coffee myths is that it acts as a diuretic. Not so according to a study that found that people who consumed up to 550 milligrams of caffeine produced no more urine than when drinking caffeine free beverages. A large coffee from your local coffee shop contains only about 330 milligrams so there is no reason to think that a large cup of Joe is going to send you running to the latrine. In fact, drinking coffee is as hydrating as drinking other beverages and only adds to your daily water requirements.

People with hypertension and other heart ailments are always told to avoid caffeine. But, according to Brody, an analysis of several studies of over 400,000 people found NO INCREASE in heart disease among daily java drinkers. Apparently, there is no substantial evidence that normal doses coffee puts people at risk of heart attack or abnormal heart rhythm.

In fact, according to the Iowa Women’s Health Study, those who drink one to three cups a day reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24%. Go figure? And Ms. Brody informs us that here is a higher risk of developing hypertension from drinking colas than from coffee.

A Harvard study linking coffee consumption to pancreatic cancer has apparently been debunked and it seems that drinking coffee can actually be a deterrent to liver cancer. A Swedish study found no connection between coffee and breast cancer. The news just keeps on getting better.

Women concerned about coffee’s effects on calcium in the body should take heart in knowing that the effect on calcium absorption is only slight and can easily be balanced by supplementation or by just adding whole milk to your coffee. Any loss of calcium might be attributed more to the lack of milk based beverages than to coffee intake.

Perhaps the only downside is that caffeine consumption can lead to weight gain because it speeds up your metabolism. For those who want to shed pounds, excessive coffee drinking might prove to be a detriment. For those who wouldn’t mind adding a few pounds, well, enjoy yourself with a nice tasty brew of rich fresh roasted coffee any time you feel the urge strike.

Of course, we all know that caffeine is a mood enhancer and can have a positive effect on mental and physical performance. According to the Times article, consumption of up to 200 milligrams of coffee, the amount in an ordinary 16 ounce cup (just a tad more than I can hold in my oversized thermos cup) can create a sense of happiness, sociability, energy and alertness. But did you also know that it improves memory and the ability to perform complex tasks? WOW! How about that!

Caffeine also aids in the burning of fat cells so make sure you have an espresso on the way to the gym.

A review of 13 studies showed that people who drink coffee have a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson’s disease and another review shows that there is a 28% lower risk for Type 2 diabetes. This probably can be attributed to the high level of antioxidants in coffee.

So maybe we can look at coffee a little differently now? If you’re drinking organic, fair Trade coffee, grown without the use of pesticides and roasted in small, careful batches, you might actually be imbibing a health drink. So the next time you buy your favorite coffee keep in mind that the world’s best coffees are:

  • Shade grown Arabica coffee beans
  • Roasted in small batches for quality control
  • Grown organically without harmful pesticides
  • Sold by Fair Trade growers and distributors for a better world



Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

You know you feel better after a good laugh and laughter has long been associated with happiness and emotional release, but studies now suggest that a good gut-busting can also be good for your health. In fact, there is growing evidence suggesting that laughter boasts a wide range of health and fitness benefits, including everything from stress relief to blood flow.

Seriously, no joke intended … studies have found that laughter therapy is a viable form of cardiovascular exercise, powerfully working the body’s heart and lungs in the same fashion that a rowing machine or exercise bike might work.

Take stress for example. We know untreated stress is a precursor and risk factor for many disease processes including high blood pressure, heart disease, and various cancers. However, laughter really can elevate your mood and diminish the potential ill effects of a stressful or depressing day and help alleviate anxiety too. What’s more, scientists say that the body can’t actually differentiate between real and fake laughter so if you’re feeling down, a fake chuckle could still trigger feelings of happiness and hormones in your brain and help reduce potential illness.

Laughter also burns calories. As well as relieving stress, laughter offers an even better punch, it burns excess calories. Early research suggests that a strenuous, one-minute laugh can burn as many calories as 10 minutes on a rowing machine or bike. And if you laugh a lot, remember 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat.

Laughing has also been shown to boost blood flow. Studies have found that laughing can raise the flow of blood in the body by as much as 22 percent, because the heart and lungs work harder to supply oxygen to key muscles. As well as boosting blood flow, relaxed arteries also help regulate blood pressure at normal levels.

Need more convincing? How about a healthy immune system? Laughing has been linked to strong immune system function as well. While it may be too soon to tell if we can stop taking our vitamins, help is at hand if you’re willing to lighten and not take everything quite so seriously. A quick dose of laughter can significantly boost the immune system of even the most resistant skeptics. Research has found that the body’s level of killer cells, essential in attacking viruses and cancers, increase significantly after a good giggle. In contrast, these killer cells are reduced during lengthy periods of stress. So if you want to stay healthy and free of disease, it might be time for you to laugh.


Exercise is Good for the Brain Too

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Brian Christie is wearing an Old Guys Rule surfing T-shirt, but the University of Victoria neuroscientist knows that one of the best ways to keep his brain young is to exercise.

It has only been a decade since scientists discovered that brain cells could be increased and made more active through exercise, not just lost through disease–and Christie was part of that groundbreaking research team at the Salk Institute in California. Granted, the studies were on mice.

He’s still looking at ways to help regenerate neurons in the adult brain and isn’t waiting for the research on humans.

“Exercise creates new cells and changes old cells for the better,” says Christie, who bikes or runs two kilometres to and from UVic each day.

“Even if you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, if you exercise, the progression of your disease will slow considerably. As little as 20 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week–if you just do that, it re-ally produces a lot of benefits.”

Backing that is a 2008 study by Dr. Jeffrey Burns of the University of Kansas that found only one-fourth the brain shrinkage in fit people with Alzheimer’s disease compared to less-fit participants.

Abnormalities in new brain-cell growth and connections are linked to Alzheimer’s, major depression and schizophrenia. It’s especially important because brain volume and the production of new neurons decline with age.


Fitness Challenge Promotes Health, Balance

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Carnegie Mellon is encouraging the campus to “Take the Challenge! Restore Balance.”

In an effort to promote health and fitness awareness on campus, the objective of the 2009 Fitness Challenge is to exercise at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week, and to make two smart choices a week.

The program lasts for six weeks, and participants are encouraged with a daily e-mail from someone on the Carnegie Mellon Fitness Challenge team.

Jessica Daluz, a junior business major, said, “The Fitness Challenge is a good way to get people motivated to exercise. I think sometimes people get so caught up in studying and extracurricular activities that they forget to take care of themselves and their health.”

Participants are encouraged to make two smart choices a week, such as taking the stairs one day instead of the elevator, eating an extra piece of fruit or vegetables, or drinking water instead of soda.

Each smart choice or exercise earns Challenge participants a sticker for the smart choice, or a colored-in block for the exercise.

The blocks are located on a wall across from the UC Equipment Desk. Each participant’s name is in a column with various colored-in blocks.

The crayons and stickers are available at the UC Equipment Desk.

If participants are wary about beginning a workout regimen alone, there are a number of fitness classes available to join.

Printed on the back of the Fitness Challenge information cards is a weekly schedule of fitness classes that take place in the UC Gym every day.

In order to take a class, gym-goers must purchase a card from the UC Equipment Desk with a certain number of hole punches available. Each fitness class requires at least one hole punch per class. There are single class cards available, but all cards purchased at the Equipment Desk must be purchased with a check.

The Fitness Challenge program is not focused solely on helping people get back in shape, but on restoring order and balance to participants’ lives.

Several yoga classes are available throughout the week and the Challenge coordinators encourage yoga practices and meditating as smart choices.

Elisha Clayton, a first-year CIT major, feels inspired when she sees the Fitness Challenge board with everyone’s name on it. “I have been thinking about working out more often now that I know there’s a program to help people stay motivated.”

Most people have that same sentiment about the program.

Dominique Davis, sophomore creative writing major, has been faithful to the Challenge, “but I keep forgetting to put my little stickers up there. I definitely get my workouts in but I haven’t been keeping up with coloring in my blocks. Either way, the e-mails remind me to keep going, and that really helps.”

Along with the daily e-mails, Challenge coordinators also plan sessions with specialists to help people fit more ways to restore balance in their lives.

Two sessions were planned for Monday in Rangos 2 with Chris Rose and Tracy Linza.

Chris Rose is Carnegie Mellon’s head athletic trainer and on Monday will explain why and how to choose the best walking and running shoes for fitness activities.

It is important to have the proper foot equipment, as serious injuries can result from wearing the wrong shoes.

Linza is from the Heinz School and will lead participants through a meditation experience in their chairs.

The session is encouraged for a quick release of tension anywhere in the body. There is also a professional personal trainer in the UC weight room every Friday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the month of February for participants who may have any questions about their workout regimen, or for those who need help modifying the intensity of their regimen safely.

The 2009 Fitness Challenge is slightly altered this year from last year’s program.

The introduction of smart choices takes the pressure off of having to work out as often, yet still makes an impact in a person’s weekly routine.

The goal is to live a healthier lifestyle, and for an added incentive, all participants who meet the six-week challenge will be awarded prizes and be included in a raffle on March 19 in the Danforth Lounge from noon to 1 p.m.


Good Childhood Fitness Tied to Adult Health

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A person’s fitness level in childhood seems to influence certain measures of their health as young adults, new study findings suggest.

The study followed Norwegian students and found that those who were more physically fit at age 13 were less likely to become obese or have elevated blood pressure in early adulthood.

By the age of 40, however, that effect had faded, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings, they say, indicate that childhood fitness may have an impact on later health, but adults still need to keep up their fitness levels as they age.

As people move into middle-age, other factors intervene to affect their health, so their fitness during their youth may become less and less important. “And this suggests that it’s important to keep up the good habits, like being active, also into middle-age,” lead researcher Dr. Elisabeth Kvaavik, of the University of Oslo in Norway, told Reuters Health.

She and her colleagues based their findings on 1,016 men and women who’d been followed since 1979, when they were 13 years old, on average. At that time, they’d been questioned about their exercise habits and had their fitness measured during testing on a stationary bike.

In general, the study found that the more fit participants were at age 13, the less likely they were to be obese or have elevated blood pressure in their 20s and early-30s.

There was no clear link between childhood exercise levels and adulthood health measures. However, Kvaavik said this is not surprising since the methods used to measure exercise levels — namely, questionnaires — are much less precise than the objective tests that measure a person’s actual cardiovascular fitness.

Fitness is not only a matter of exercise habits; genes play some role, for example. Nonetheless, since fitness is at least partly a reflection of physical activity, Kvaavik said, children who exercise regularly may help protect themselves from obesity and elevated blood pressure in early adulthood.


Getting Back to Fitness Basics

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Our next fitness trend for 2009 is “Getting back to basics.” Well it sounds a lot simpler than you may think.

Walk into any facility in the area you will see machines, machines, and more machines. Where did these machines come from? And what purpose do they serve? Well believe it or not, Nautilus machinery was once considered “intelligent exercise”. I find it quite funny that sitting in a machine which gives you a fixed path of motion (and may require a seatbelt) with which to work with could be considered “intelligent”.

Luckily present day science has shown that the benefits of machine work may in fact be counterproductive due to the dysfunction that they cause. Let’s take the leg extension for example, an extremely popular machine in many facilities, but an incredibly dangerous one. In lifestyle movement, whether it is walking, squatting, etc, the patella (knee cap) rotates on the femur (thigh bone) but in a leg extension it is reversed. There is also a reduction in hamstring activity, a necessary component in natural movement at the knee joint. There are countless other problems with the leg extension in regards to its safety, so overall we can deduct it is fairly useless.

Examples like this exist with most of your fixed movement exercises, so why use them? The answer for all your problems is getting back to the basics, or in buzz terminology, primal movement patterns. Primal patterns are movements your body performs everyday. By exercising within the primal movement patterns you will increase your strength and endurance of daily activities, in other words, training your body to be the best at what you need it to do.

You will find a few different primal patterns, but for my clients we use the following:

1. Squat

2. Lunge

3. Push

4. Press

5. Bend

6. Rotation

7. Posture

8. Gait

These movements are the basis of human bio-mechanics. By performing them in their basic form and then progressing to additional loading and movement through multiple planes, you can train your body for proper function and strength gains.

For an exerciser unfamiliar with these patterns and the exercises that correspond to them, search out a personal trainer at your local facility. Ask them if they understand functional primal patterns. If they look at you strange, move on, chances are you will be taken through another round of tedious machine work.

Owners and managers out there, are your trainers taking advantage of these functional processes? If not, shame on you and them. Our society is full of dysfunctional, over weight, inactive people who are constantly in pain from the simplest forms of exercises. Can exercises that allow them to sit really help? The answer should be obvious. In the meantime, send your trainers for some continuing education and give them the education to continue to grow. Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen would be a great start.

So for those of you who still spend your time sitting in a machine, wrapped in a seatbelt, and measuring your workout on the amount of “pump” you have garnered, it’s time to change things up. I guarantee you will continue to see gains all while preparing your body to be functionally preserved as long as it can.


Muscle & Fitness Aims to Pack a Punch in India

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Fitness enthusiasts will soon have help at hand. All those body-building tips they yearn for will be available in a monthly package. Muscle & Fitness, a US monthly magazine on body building and fitness, is set to hit the stands this summer. Its publisher, American Media Inc, has secured the magazine’s title rights from a local publisher who had been printing the magazine without permission.

Arnold Schwarzenneger, the Hollywood hunk, had worked with the magazine as its Editor-in-Chief for 7 years. Schwarzenneger was groomed by Joe Weider, the magazine’s founder, over 35 years ago.

The lifestyle of sports and film celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, Evander Holyfield, Dwyane Johnson is frequently featured in the magazine. In India, it has Bollwood stars Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan on its advisory board.

Muscle & Fitness is priced at $5 a issue in the US. Its promoters are also into health-related allied business like sports nutritional products, high-end protein drinks etc. In India, the magazine will be published by Health is Wealth Media Private Ltd, the Indian arm of its US publisher.

“We have managed to secure the title registration for Muscle & Fitness after a two-year legal battle with a local publisher. The publisher had been bringing out the magazine illegally after adding an extra ‘S’ to Muscle and registering the title with the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI),” said Raj Makhija, CEO, Health is Wealth.

“We were confident that we will publish the magazine. We had started working with celebrities, guiding them on their muscular and fitness needs. We worked with John Abraham for Dostana for three months in Miami…our protein and health drinks are used by leading cricketers. We may bring in foreign investment of up to $1 million over five years. Initially, our target is a monthly circulation of about 50,000,” added Makhija.

But with recession eating away the advertising revenues to magazines, will the venture survive? Makhija said 50 per cent of the content for the Indian edition will be produced locally to ensure relevant content and possible local advertisements. “This is a specialised magazine for people who are already into fitness and for those aspiring to take fitness religiously. It will have specialised advertising only, related to health and fitness domain, sports, and sporting events…this coupled with subscription by fitness clubs and gymnasiums should work in our favour,” he added.

Either Arnold Schwarzenneger or Sylvester Stallone is expected to come to India for the launch. sometime in July-August. The magazine will be priced at Rs 100.

Over 2-dozen foreign magazines are unable to enter India, despite getting all other necessary government clearances because their titles have been already registered with the RNI by local publishers.