A resource for wellness
Controlling Stress-Induced Weight Gain
When you're under stress, you may find it harder to eat healthy. Also, during times of particularly high stress, you may eat in an attempt to fulfill emotional needs — sometimes called stress eating or emotional eating. And you may be especially likely to eat high-calorie foods during times of stress, even when you're not hungry.
To prevent weight gain during stress and reduce the risk of obesity, get a handle on your stress. When you feel less stressed and more in control of your life, you may find it easier to stick to healthy eating and exercise habits.
Try these stress management techniques to combat stress-related weight gain:
- Recognize the warning signs of stress, such as anxiety, irritability and muscle tension.
- Before eating, ask yourself why you're eating — are you truly hungry or do you feel stressed or anxious?
- If you're tempted to eat when you're not hungry, find a distraction.
- Don't skip meals, especially breakfast.
- Identify comfort foods and keep them out of your home or office.
- Keep a record of your behavior and eating habits so that you can look for patterns and connections — and then figure out how to overcome them.
- Learn problem-solving skills so that you can anticipate challenges and cope with setbacks.
- Practice relaxation skills, such as yoga, massage or meditation.
- Engage in regular physical activity or exercise.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Get encouragement from supportive friends and family.
If you try stress management techniques on your own but they don't seem to be working, consider seeking professional help through psychotherapy or counseling.[From MayoClinic.com]
Food, Mood And Stress from www.worksmartlivesmart.com
It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you are irritated, your head is fuzzy and your eyes are having trouble focusing. You would love to find a corner and go to sleep, but there is no time. How about a coffee or a chocolate bar?
Most of us instinctively reach for sweets or caffeine to give relief from the morning sluggishness or afternoon slump. We use sweets as a way of helping ourselves through stressful times. Those strategies might help, temporarily, but there is a downside to these methods.
Many people choose sweets and caffeine as a substitute for proper nutrition. Poor eating strategies affect our brain chemistry and cause fatigue, apathy, apprehension, edginess and the blues. The brain has first call on the body’s available supply of nutrients, therefore, the first effects of nutritional deficiencies are often mental symptoms.
Research shows that low levels of protein in a diet have a negative impact on the body’s production of neurotransmitters, which directly affect our mood and energy. Deficiencies in vitamins B1, B6, C, A, essential fatty acids, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, copper and iron also affect the fine balance of these neurotransmitters.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies In Mental Health:
· Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is drained by simple sugars. B1 helps convert blood sugar into fuel. Without it, we can experience fatigue, depressive symptoms, irritability, anxiety, memory problems, insomnia and even thoughts of suicide.
· Research has found a strong correlation between vitamin B6 deficiency and depressive symptoms
· A lack of B12 can lead to mood swings, paranoia, irritability, confusion, dementia, hallucinations
· Folic Acid assists in the creation of many neurotransmitters and can cause fatigue and dementia
· Low levels of Vitamin C can produce depressive symptoms
We know that food has a profound effect on our mood, but what other simple steps can we take to boost our energy, lift our mood and help us to focus?
10 Simple Strategies To Avoid The Sugar Blues
1. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Smaller balance meals are preferable to large meals
2. Use exercise or stretching to increase energy and lift the ‘fog’
3. Eat protein earlier in the day – we metabolize proteins in a way that we get the full energy from them up to 5 hours later
4. Include fish in your weekly diet as the essential fatty acids they contain increase energy and improve mood
5. Eat complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables instead of simple sugars found in chocolate bars and candy, which give the quick high but a low plunge
6. Don’t confuse thirst with hunger. Drinking a cool glass of water can boost energy in the middle of the afternoon slump
7. Avoid food additives such as colorants and preservatives which can have a negative allergic reaction in the body
8. Don’t buy foods high in sugar. If it is not sitting in the cupboard or desk drawer you are less likely to make snap decisions
9. Have healthy snacks readily available. Plan ahead and keep them in desk drawers, lockers or even in the glove box of your car
10. A daily supplement may be helpful, but don’t rely on it to replace healthy eating. Eat a variety of foods.
We have all heard the saying ‘We are what we eat’, but most of us connect this with the body’s physical reactions. Our brain is just as dependent on the food that we consume. Healthy food choices help us avoid the erratic blood sugar levels and associated mood swings, which can keep us mentally healthy.
Breakfast: Your Secret Weapon
By Leslie Fink, MS, RD (Reprinted from WeightWatchers.com)
What do bagels, bran cereal and bananas have in common? They're good-for-you breakfast foods that might help keep you on the weight-loss straight and narrow.
Research has shown that people who skip breakfast may not be as successful with weight management as those people who eat breakfast regularly. Why? Eating breakfast may help you reduce snacking and avoid overeating.
Food is fuel
Eating breakfast is like filling up a gas tank. When you wake up in the morning, your body is low on fuel, like a car running on empty, explains Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition for WebMD. A morning meal can kick-start your engine by giving your body energy.
Zelman warns that skipping breakfast may make you more likely to overeat later in the day to make up for the missed meal.
In fact, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that breakfast eaters fall prey to impulse snacking less often than non-breakfast eaters.
Unleaded or diesel?
Not all fuels are created equal. Most people will get more mileage from a small bran muffin and a cup of fat-free milk than they do from a large glass of juice. That's because the sugar in the juice is a much more rapidly used energy source than that derived from the muffin and milk.
"The ideal breakfast is based on carbohydrate and protein," says G. Harvey Anderson, PhD, professor in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. He theorizes that the most satisfying breakfasts deliver a quick shot of energy (by raising blood sugar levels rapidly) and then a longer term energy boost from high-fiber, complex-carbohydrate, protein-containing foods that slow digestion.
What does that mean for your sugar cereal? Toss a handful into a bowl of low-fat yogurt and then mix it up with some fiber-rich fruit. Other tag-team breakfasts include:
- Low-fat cheese and tomato slices on a whole-wheat English muffin
- High-fiber cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk and dried or fresh fruit
- Peanut butter and jelly on multi-grain bread
- Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs (or egg whites) with a couple of wheat crackers
- Low-fat yogurt and a grain-rich cereal bar
- A banana and a small handful of peanuts or almonds
Banish no-time-for-breakfast excuses
Excuse:I don't have time to make myself breakfast. The only things available to me at work are doughnuts and cookies from the vending machine.
When time is of the essence, think portable. Try a hard-boiled egg (keep a few in the fridge at all times) and a couple of crackers or string cheese and a piece of fruit. And for those real crunch times, keep packets of instant oatmeal, high-fiber breakfast bars and mini boxes of raisins stashed in your desk drawer.
Excuse: I just can't eat before 1:00 p.m.
You don't have to eat when the roosters crow, but it is a wise idea to eat within several hours of waking up. If you can't stomach much, try a few grapes or a wheat cracker and half a glass of juice. After a few days, your body might naturally look forward to this a.m. fuel-up and you can try more substantial meals.
Excuse: I'd like to eat breakfast but I'm afraid it will set my hunger into overdrive.
Plug In to Slim Down -- New Apps Aid in Weight Loss
If you've got a smart phone, you've got easy access to weight-loss tools. Here are a few apps to consider:
With this app, enter how many pounds you want to lose to find out how many daily calories you can consume and the day you'll meet your goal, assuming you stick with the plan.
Use this app with a heart monitor to track your steps, stairs climbed, calories burned and more.
Access more than a thousand exercises with photos by muscle group using gym equipment, dumbbells or body weight with this app.
Healthy Snacking Made Easy
Snacking isn't "bad” if you do it in moderation and make healthy choices. Healthy, good-for-you snacks can be a part of a healthy diet – which you need to do to live healthfully. To snack the sensible way, the American Heart Association recommends choosing nutrient-rich snacks like those listed below:
Carrot and celery sticks
Green pepper sticks
Unsalted rice cakes
Unsalted sunflower seeds
Whole-grain breads or toast
Cherry or grape tomatoes
Low-fat or fat-free cheese
Plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt
Unsalted almonds, walnuts and other nuts
Unsweetened canned fruit
Thin slice of angel food cake
Dried fruit gelatin gems
Low-fat or fat-free unsweetened fruit yogurt
No Bones About It -You Need Calcium Everyday
Many people do not get enough calcium needed for strong bones and proper muscle function. Lack of calcium can contribute to stress fractures and the bone disease osteoporosis.The best sources of calcium are dairy products, but many other foods such as salmon with bones, sardines, collard greens and okra also contain calcium. Additionally, some brands of bread, tofu and orange juice are fortified with calcium.
Important questions about calcium
By Dr. Suzanne Koven
| Globe Correspondent
March 18, 2013
Adapted from the In Practice blog at Boston.com.
Certain questions come up frequently in my medical practice. Often these concern issues that have been reported heavily in the media and/or about which there is controversy.
This is the first in what will be an occasional series on this blog addressing some of the questions my patients ask most often.
One of the things about which I’m asked most commonly is calcium. Some of the confusion comes from the fact that our knowledge about calcium and health is evolving.
Here are a few of those questions , along with answers that reflect our knowledge — to date.
Why is calcium important?
Calcium, a mineral element, is a major component of bones and teeth. Smaller amounts are also necessary for normal function of the heart and other organs.
What’s the best way to get enough calcium?
Various foods, including vegetables, fish, and dairy, are rich in calcium. Omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can all get enough calcium in food — though it requires some effort and attention. Supplements are also available.
My blood calcium level is normal — doesn’t that mean I get enough calcium?
No. The level of calcium in the blood is tightly regulated by various hormones, the kidneys, and other organs. It does not reflect the store of calcium in the bones. In extreme cases, lack of or excess calcium intake can lower or raise blood calcium levels — both are dangerous.
Why are calcium supplements often combined with vitamin D?
Adequate vitamin D is required to absorb calcium in the intestines. Many people who live in northern climates or who don’t get outdoors lack adequate vitamin D, since sunlight is necessary to metabolize it. Various foods including fish, eggs, fortified milk, and orange juice provide vitamin D. It is a little challenging for vegans to get adequate vitamin D from food alone, but it can be done.
If I have osteoporosis (bone thinning), will increasing my calcium intake help?
While inadequate calcium (and vitamin D) intake contribute to osteoporosis, supplementing these nutrients may not cure the problem. A landmark study showed that supplementation improved bone density, but didn’t significantly lower the risk of fracture.
What’s the down side to taking calcium supplements?
Excess calcium intake can lead to kidney stones and constipation. Calcium supplements can interfere with the metabolism of certain medications. Also, some data suggest that calcium supplementation in men can cause heart disease and prostate cancer — though other studies have shown a decreased risk of cancer.
So what’s the bottom line?
Calcium is important for bone and general health and most of us don’t get enough of it. Ideally, we’d get what we need from food. If that’s not possible, supplements are available, but we can’t say confidently that these are 100% safe for everyone or that they are a fix for fragile bones.
MyPlate Makes It Easy
The new food icon is easy to understand and teaches the components of a healthy diet. The interactive plate offers tools and tips for eating a well-balanced diet based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Balancing Calories to Manage Weight:
Balance calories - Find out how many calories YOU need for a day as a first step in managing your weight. Go to http://www.choosemyplate.govto find your calorie level.
Enjoy your food, but eat less - Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.
Avoid oversized portions - Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Portion out foods before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish or take home part of your meal.
Be physically active. Being physically active can help you manage your weight. Learn more about physical activity for a healthy weight.
Foods to Increase:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables - Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk - They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.
Choose a variety of protein foods - Eat a variety of foods from the protein foods group each week. This group includes seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Foods to Reduce:
Compare sodium in foods - Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled "low sodium," "reduced sodium," or "no salt added."
Drink water instead of sugary drinks - Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets.
Cut back on solid fats - Eat fewer foods that contain solid fats. The major sources for Americans are cakes, cookies and other desserts (often made with butter, margarine or shortening); pizza; cheese; processed and fatty meats (e.g., sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ribs); and ice cream.
Building Healthy Eating Patterns:
Create an eating pattern - Select an eating pattern that meets nutrient needs over time at an appropriate calorie level.
Be food safe -
- Clean: Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
- Separate: Keep raw meat and poultry apart from foods that won’t be cooked.
- Cook: Use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is cooked safely by how it looks.
- Chill: Chill leftovers and takeout foods withintwo hours and keep the refrigerator at 40°F or below.
- Rinse: Rinse fruits and vegetables (even those with skins or rinds that are not eaten) with tap water.
*Sources: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines) and ChooseMyPlate.gov (www.ChooseMyPlate.gov)
Baby On Board: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Eating well can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Don't forget breakfast.
- Try fortified ready-to-eat or cooked breakfast cereals with fruit. Fortified cereals have added nutrients like calcium.
- If you are feeling sick, start with whole-wheat toast. Eat more food later in the morning.
Eat foods with fiber.
- Choose a variety of vegetables and fruits like carrots, cooked greens, bananas and melon.
- Eat plenty of beans and whole grains. Try brown rice or oatmeal.
Choose healthy snacks.
- Low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit
- Whole grain crackers with fat-free or low-fat cheese
Take a prenatal vitamin with iron and folic acid every day.
Iron keeps your blood healthy. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects.
Eat up to 12 ounces a week (2 average meals) of fish or shellfish.
- A 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.
- Avoid fish and shellfish with high levels of mercury. Don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish.
- If you eat tuna, choose canned light tuna. Albacore (white) tuna has more mercury.
- Common fish that are low in mercury include shrimp, salmon and catfish.
Stay away from soft cheeses and lunch meat.
Some foods may have bacteria that can hurt your baby. Don't eat:
- Soft cheeses like feta, Brie and goat cheese
- Uncooked or undercooked meats or fish (like sushi)
- Lunch meats and hot dogs unless they are heated until steaming hot
Limit caffeine and avoid alcohol.
- Drink decaffeinated coffee or tea.
- Drink water or seltzer instead of soda.
- Don't drink alcohol.
This information was compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Calorie Reductions Needed to Achieve Obesity Prevention Goals
A new study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine,found that without changes to eating and activity, more than one in five young people could be obese by 2020, up from the current level of 17 percent. Furthermore, to achieve the federal government’s national goals for obesity reduction by that year, children in the United States would need to eliminate an average of 64 excess calories per day. This reduction could be achieved by decreasing calorie intake, increasing physical activity or both. Children with higher obesity rates would need to see greater calorie reductions.
What Plain Old Water Can do For Your Health
By Marcia Hammond (Written in Healthy Living on April 9, 2013)
There are many reasons why water is good for your health - from aiding weight loss to preventing cancer. It will also keep your skin clear, boost energy levels, banish fatigue and prevent diabetes. Learn what water can do for you and how to benefit.It’s fat-free, has zero calories, is always ‘on tap’ (literally) and is essential to life. We’re told to drink more of it, but is it really so good for our health? Water makes up 60% of our body weight and is vital for essential functions such as maintaining blood pressure, eliminating waste products and preventing delicate mucous membranes in our nose, mouth and lungs from drying out. But apart from the essential stuff, what else can it do for us?
Heart Health - Research found those who drank five glasses of water a day were less likely to have potentially fatal heart disease, compared with those drinking two glasses.
Digestive Health - Water absorbed by fiber passing through the digestive system, bulks out stools making them softer and easier to pass. (Many laxatives work on exactly this principle by drawing water into the stool). So not drinking enough water is likely to cause constipation.
Prevents Cancer - A study in men found those drinking 10.5 glasses of water a day were 24% less likely to develop bladder cancer, while another showed the risk of certain types of bladder cancer to be halved in men who drank 11 glasses a day. Large quantities of water may be quickly washing cancer-causing agents out of the body, so they cannot accumulate. Women have also been shown to be at lower risk of cancers affecting the bladder and kidneys the more fluid (of all types) is consumed - water straight from the tap having the strongest effect. It has also been shown that drinking four to five glasses of water a day compared with two or less, reduced rates of colon cancer by 45% in women and 32% in men. Other research showed a greater reduction in men: 92.4% for rectal cancer and 42% for colorectal cancer. Water increases the rate at which stools pass though the bowel, reducing contact time between cancer-causing agents and the bowel lining. The risk of breast cancer is also affected by drinking water - a study showed risk was reduced by 79% in post-menopausal women and by 33% in premenopausal. This demonstrates the importance of water to normal functioning –at low levels cells are less able to filter out toxins.
Avoid Diabetes - By drinking water Not drinking enough fluid has also been found to increase risk of developing high blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes. In a study, those drinking less than half a liter a day were more likely to develop high blood sugar than those drinking a liter or more. The link here is a hormone (vasopressin or ADH) secreted by the brain when fluid levels are low. It leads the kidneys to retain water, but causes the liver to release glucose into the blood. So the more vasopressin released due to dehydration, the higher blood sugar levels become.
Weight Loss - Drinking plenty of water helps you feel full, making you less likely to indulge in calorie-laden snacks between meals. In addition, many dieters have realized that drinking a glass or two before meals, curbs appetite, so you’re less likely to overeat.
Energy Levels - Being dehydrated by as little as 1-2% has been shown to reduce energy levels. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks will also prevent the energy slump that inevitably follows a high sugar load.
Headache - Many people experience headaches as a result of dehydration, although the precise mechanism is not known. It may be that the balance of substances in the blood is affected by a drop in the amount of water in the bloodstream, and that the brain is very sensitive to these changes.
Better for teeth and gums - Drinking water and swishing it around the mouth will help to dislodge food and plaque around the teeth, which lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Replacing sugary drinks with water will also be better for tooth and gum health.
Fitness and Tone - You are better able to exercise when not dehydrated, as lack of fluid can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue.
Skin Quality - Skin health is dependent on removal of toxic waste produced by cells, and water is essential for this process So it’s not surprising that drinking plenty of water has long been associated with a clear skin.
How Much and How Often to Drink - There is no ready-made answer to the question of how much water we should drink, although experts seem to agree that it is better to drink small amounts regularly, rather than large quantities infrequently. Many recommendations regarding how much to drink ignore the differences body size and weight will make. They also do not take into account that in high temperatures and when exercising we all lose fluid through sweat, so have more need to replace it. We obtain water from food as well as drinks other than water, but ironically some drinks can lead to a loss of water. Caffeine and alcohol cause more vasopressin to be released, so we lose more water by producing lots of dilute urine. So the general rules are to drink water steadily through the day, producing pale-coloured urine, and increase intake when sweating a lot. Health experts advise drinking more water before, during and after exercise to maintain hydration throughout. The message is don’t wait until you’re thirsty – that’s way too late!
Water, Water Everywhere
You can survive for a month without food, but only a few days without water.
- Water is the most important nutrient for active people.
- When you sweat, you lose water, which must be replaced. Drink fluids before, during and after workouts.
- Water is a fine choice for most workouts; however, during continuous workouts of greater than 90 minutes, your body may benefit from a sports drink.
- Sports drinks have two very important ingredients - electrolytes and carbohydrates.
- Sports drinks replace electrolytes lost through sweat during workouts lasting several hours.
- Carbohydrates in sports drinks provide extra energy. The most effective sports drinks contain 15 to 18 grams of carbohydrates in every 8 ounces of fluid.
Johnny Can't Run: Study Finds Kids Take 90 Seconds Longer To Run Mile Now Vs. 1980s. - From Forbes Magazine
On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a
mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has
declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.
The American Heart Association , whose conference featured the research on [Nov. 19], says it’s the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades. …
experts recommend that children 6 and older get 60 minutes of
moderately vigorous activity accumulated over a day. Only one-third of
American kids do now.
The good news, I guess, is that researchers said in many regions,
including North America, the fitness decline is leveling off, though in
China it’s still getting worse.
Researchers’ concern is that if cardiovascular health is bad in kids
now, it’ll be terrible when they’re adults. After all, adults, before
you get all Old Man Grumpus about "how back in my day, we could run a
mile without collapsing,” remember your obesity rate has shot up over the last 30 years, too.
So what can we blame for the lack of movement? The first thought that
comes to mind might be video games and other screens, but that’s only a
small part of it. Over the last 30 years, we’ve also had a lot more suburban sprawl, fast-food chain expansion and child poverty — all of which contribute to poorer health.
Sprawl — along with worries about child safety — also explain a
precipitous drop the percentage of children walking or biking to school,
from 50% in 1969 to 13% in 2009,
according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a
private-public advocacy organization. And with food, farm subsidies go
much more toward crops used for unhealthy food than for many fruits and vegetables, creating a price imbalance that makes junk cheap and good stuff relatively expensive.
Also in the last 30 years, schools have cut physical education because of budget issues and institution of stricter academic standards. Schools keep cutting athletic programs, or instituting pay-to-play rules,
restricting opportunities for kids to get free or inexpensive organized
activity, particularly at the elementary or middle-school level, when
kids are trying out different sports on for size.
Then again, there’s no profit in children playing for free, and it’s very easy to frighten parents into deciding they need high-level competition for their children at an early age,
rather than let their kids figure it out themselves outside (and with
sprawl, crime worries and all the other kids in organized sports, who
would those kids play with, anyway?)
Often, obesity is portrayed as being about bad parenting and an
inability to put down the fork. But the choices, if you will, about
obesity aren’t just on the individual level. In many ways, we as a
society have made choices that have led us to the point that if we dared
ask our children to run to the store, they could not actually run to
Exercise of any kind is always good for you, but the New York Times points out that getting out of the gym (or your house) and into the open air adds a few subtle benefits, including an increased chance you'll stick to your routine.
In some cases, it's all about just being outdoors. Your stride is different when running outside as opposed to on a treadmill, and you're more likely to hit hills, so it's usually a bit more strenuous. You'll also run into wind resistance on a bike or running, which means you burn calories faster because you're expending more energy. More interesting though, are a few smaller studies that suggest we're willing to exercise more, and for a longer period of time when we're outdoors. The New York Times explains why that might be:
Studies haven't yet established why, physiologically, exercising outside might improve dispositions or inspire greater commitment to an exercise program. A few small studies have found that people have lower blood levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress, after exerting themselves outside as compared with inside. There's speculation, too, that exposure to direct sunlight, known to affect mood, plays a role.It's still a lot of speculation at this point, but if you're having trouble sticking to an exercise routine it might be worthwhile to move those activities outdoors. Just remember to stay safe in both the winter and the summer.
Break Out That Jump Rope!
A new study from researchers at the University of Buffalo found that children ages 8 to 12 were more physically active when they had a greater number of "active” toys to choose from. Giving kids a variety of active toys, such as a beanbag toss, mini indoor basketball and jump rope, boosted both the length and intensity of active play sessions, especially for girls. The researchers speculated that being given the power to choose their own recreation motivated the children to be even more active.
You’ve been exercising regularly, but now it’s summer — and hot. Sometimes even dangerously hot, and seemingly too hot to go work out.
But don’t decide this is the time for a little summer break from fitness, experts say, because you may be hurting yourself in the longer term.
"It’s important to continue exercising over the summer because the effects of exercise training are rapidly lost once training stops — use it or lose it,” said Barry Franklin, Ph.D., director of the William Beaumont Hospital Cardiac Rehab and Exercise Laboratories in Royal Oak, Mich. "Most studies suggest many of the key benefits are lost in four to six weeks of inactivity.”
Be smarter than the heat
Still, you can’t just ignore the heat because you could wind up with heat stress, heat stroke or other problems. So to keep the heat from melting your workouts, Franklin recommends you:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Maintain salt-water balance by drinking plenty of fluids (preferably water) before, during and after physical activity. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
- Exercise smarter, not harder. Work out during the cooler parts of the day, preferably when the sun's radiation is minimal — early in the morning or early in the evening. Decrease exercise intensity and duration at high temperatures or relative humidity. And don’t hesitate to take your exercise inside, to the gym, the mall or anyplace else where you can get in regular physical activity.
- Ease in to summer. Allow your body to adapt partially to heat through repeated gradual daily exposures. "An increase in the body's circulatory and cooling efficiency, called acclimatization, generally occurs in only four to 14 days,” Franklin said.
- Dress the part. Wear minimal amounts of clothing to facilitate cooling by evaporation. "Remember, it’s not sweating that cools the body; rather, the evaporation of sweat into the atmosphere,” Franklin said. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton.
- Team up. If you can, exercise with a friend or family member. It’s safer, and could be more fun.
Know what’s up
Because vigorous exercise in hot and humid conditions can lead to heat stress, heat stroke and related complications, you should know the signs of danger to keep an eye out for.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, moist skin, chills
- Dizziness or fainting
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Nausea, vomiting or both
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- Warm, dry skin with no sweating
- Strong and rapid pulse
- Confusion and/or unconsciousness
- High fever
- Throbbing headaches
- Nausea, vomiting or both
Take steps to cool down and get medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Easing Brain Fatigue with a Walk in the Park
by Gretchen Reynolds (in print on 04/02/2013, on page D5 of the New York Times edition with the headline: Brain Fatigue Goes Green.
Scientists have known for some time that the human brain’s ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed by the constant noise and hectic, jangling demands of city living, sometimes resulting in a condition informally known as brain fatigue.
With brain fatigue, you are easily distracted, forgetful and mentally flighty — or, in other words, me.
But an innovative new study from Scotland suggests that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park.
The idea that visiting green spaces like parks or tree-filled plazas lessens stress and improves concentration is not new. Researchers have long theorized that green spaces are calming, requiring less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets do. Instead, natural settings invoke "soft fascination,” a beguiling term for quiet contemplation, during which directed attention is barely called upon and the brain can reset those overstretched resources and reduce mental fatigue.
But this theory, while agreeable, has been difficult to put to the test. Previous studies have found that people who live near trees and parks have lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their saliva than those who live primarily amid concrete, and that children with attention deficits tend to concentrate and perform better on cognitive tests after walking through parks or arboretums. More directly, scientists have brought volunteers into a lab, attached electrodes to their heads and shown them photographs of natural or urban scenes, and found that the brain wave readouts show that the volunteers are more calm and meditative when they view the natural scenes.
But it had not been possible to study the brains of people while they were actually outside, moving through the city and the parks. Or it wasn’t, until the recent development of a lightweight, portable version of the electroencephalogram, a technology that studies brain wave patterns.
For the new study, published this month in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh attached these new, portable EEGs to the scalps of 12 healthy young adults. The electrodes, hidden unobtrusively beneath an ordinary looking fabric cap, sent brain wave readings wirelessly to a laptop carried in a backpack by each volunteer.
The researchers, who had been studying the cognitive impacts of green spaces for some time, then sent each volunteer out on a short walk of about a mile and half that wound through three different sections of Edinburgh.
The first half mile or so took walkers through an older, historic shopping district, with fine, old buildings and plenty of pedestrians on the sidewalk, but only light vehicle traffic.
The walkers then moved onto a path that led through a park-like setting for another half mile.
Finally, they ended their walk strolling through a busy, commercial district, with heavy automobile traffic and concrete buildings.
The walkers had been told to move at their own speed, not to rush or dawdle. Most finished the walk in about 25 minutes.
Throughout that time, the portable EEGs on their heads continued to feed information about brain wave patterns to the laptops they carried.
Afterward, the researchers compared the read-outs, looking for wave patterns that they felt were related to measures of frustration, directed attention (which they called "engagement”), mental arousal and meditativeness or calm.
What they found confirmed the idea that green spaces lessen brain fatigue.
When the volunteers made their way through the urbanized, busy areas, particularly the heavily trafficked commercial district at the end of their walk, their brain wave patterns consistently showed that they were more aroused and frustrated than when they walked through the parkland, where brain-wave readings became more meditative.
While traveling through the park, the walkers were mentally quieter.
Which is not to say that they weren’t paying attention, said Jenny Roe, a lecturer at Heriot-Watt’s School of the Built Environment, who oversaw the study. "Natural environments still engage” the brain, she said, but the attention demanded "is effortless. It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection,” and providing a palliative to the nonstop attentional demands of typical, city streets.
Of course, her study was small, more of a pilot study of the nifty new, portable EEG technology than a definitive examination of the cognitive effects of seeing green.
But even so, she said, the findings were consistent and strong and, from the viewpoint of those of us over-engaged in attention-hogging urban lives, valuable. The study suggests that, right about now, you should consider "taking a break from work,” Dr. Roe said, and "going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces from your office window.” This is not unproductive lollygagging, Dr. Roe helpfully assured us. "It is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”
Exercise in the Great Outdoors
It's tempting to skip the gym when warm weather rolls around, but your exercise regimen doesn't have to suffer. You can get a great workout in the great outdoors. Try these moves next time you need to burn some serious calories.
Playing Multiple Sports Helps Beat Teen Obesity
Being a team player may help teens tackle rising childhood obesity rates. A new study shows that teens who play on three or more sports teams are up to 39% less likely to be obese. Click here to read more.
Find Your Motivation in the Closet
You're 16% more likely to work out for an hour or more if you buy new exercise apparel, according to a recent study.
What Would It Take?
Ever wondered how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories in your favorite food? We've got the answers ...
Activity to Burn Calories
IAPD Member Agencies Offer
60 minutes of fast dancing
Hundreds of Zumba classes
40 minutes of dog walking
More than 60 dog parks
30 minutes of biking
More than 1,000 miles of bike trails
25 minutes of vigorous swimming
More than 420 swimming pools
Hot fudge sundae
75 minutes of Spin class
More than 160 health clubs & rec centers
45 minutes of jogging
More than 650 miles of jogging trails
Here's Another Way To Think About It:
Maybe walking is your only exercise. So how far would you have to walk to burn off the calories you consume? Let's think of walking in terms of the length of a football field (120 yards, including end zones).
|1 Plain M&M||1 Football Field|
|1 Peanut M&M||2 Football Fields|
|1 Potato Chip||2 Football Fields|
|1 Chocolate Chip Cookie||8 to 10 Football Fields (depending on cookie size) |
|1 12-ounce light beer||36 Football Fields|
|Big Mac, french fries & shake ||240 Football Fields|
Nighty, Night ... Sleep Tight
Don't let insomnia sap your energy and add to your stress level. A few simple changes can mean a more restful night's sleep.
- If you're not getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier. It's a small change that will create a new pattern and gradually increase your rest.
- Worried about something? Jot it down on a notepad. It will give you peace of mind and ready your brain for sleep.
- Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep -- a dark, quiet and cool environment is ideal for rest. Turn off the television, and turn on the fan. You'll be more relaxed.
Park Districts Make a Difference
The Batavia Park District is encouraging its community to get active and take advantage of the opportunities available to them, including Kamp Kaleidoscope, their summer kids' camp. Click here to read more.
Raising Active Children
Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a parent, you can help shape your child's attitudes and behaviors toward physical activity, and knowing these guidelines is a great place to start. Throughout their lives, encourage young people to be physically active for one hour or more each day, with activities ranging from informal, active play to organized sports.
Here are some ways you can do this:
- Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself.
- Make physical activity part of your family's daily routine by taking family walks or playing active games together.
- Give your children equipment that encourages physical activity.
- Take young people to places where they can be active, such as public parks, community baseball fields or basketball courts.
- Be positive about the physical activities in which your child participates and encourage them to be interested in new activities.
- Make physical activity fun. Fun activities can be anything your child enjoys, either structured or non-structured. Activities can range from team sports or individual sports to recreational activities such as walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground activities or free-time play.
- Instead of watching television after dinner, encourage your child to find fun activities to do on their own or with friends and family, such as walking, playing chase or riding bikes.
- Be safe! Always provide protective equipment such as helmets, wrist pads or knee pads and ensure that activity is age-appropriate.
The True Cost of Obe$ity
What is obesity really costing our country? About $117 billion in medical expenses ($61 billion in direct costs and another $56 billion in indirect costs -- other medical expenses from diseases related to obesity).
Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Review the CDC's fact sheet for more information.
Did You Know?
By the age of 65, individuals who haven't engaged in exercise on a regular basis may incur a decrease in their muscular strength by as much as 80 percent.
What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable. However, melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous. Learn more from the CDC.Heart Smart
Walk This Way
Studies have shown that healthy, active adults should aim for 10,000 steps a day. Purchasing a pedometer can help you track your steps and motivate you to move. Following are a few easy ways to increase your steps each day:
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Park your car at the far end of the lot instead of closer to the door.
Take a walk during your lunch hour.
Walk to do your errands when you can.
Illinois has thousands of miles of trails to make walking outdoors easy and enjoyable. Check out your local park district's website for more information on what's available in your area.
You would need to drink a quart of milk every day for three to four months to drink as much blood as your heart pumps in one hour.
Your heart is about the size of your fist and weighs about as much as a softball.
In the course of a lifetime, the resting heart will have pumped enough blood to fill 13 supertankers.
Your heart is the strongest muscle of your body and beats about 100,000 times in one day in an average adult.