Category Archives: Health

Why Hard to Exercise

Anyone can have a hard time making exercise part of their routine. But throw kids into the mix, and it can almost feel impossible.

Why is it so hard for busy parents to exercise? Often it comes down to motivation.

“Parents typically don’t get enough sleep and spend their days constantly responding to needs of another human being,” says Dominique Wakefield, a personal trainer and wellness coach based in Berrien Springs, MI. “That combination is emotionally and physically draining, which leads to less motivation for physical activity.”

It’s easy to put exercise on your “wouldn’t it be nice” list, but fitness is too important to keep on the back burner.

“There are so many health benefits that come from being physically active, like reducing your risk for chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, but it’s especially important for parents to stay fit,” Wakefield says. “Plus, working out can give you more energy and reduce stress — extra benefits that parents especially need.”

Another reason to be an active parent: You’ll set a great example for your kid. “Children learn behavior by what they see around them, and it starts early,” Wakefield says. “So when kids see their parents exercise, they become likelier to be active as adults.”

Try these four tricks to tap into some surprising sources of motivation, making it easier than ever to reach your fitness goals.

Become an early bird. Willpower isn’t an unlimited resource — the more you use it throughout the day, the less you have left at night to force yourself to go to the gym. That’s why some people get in their workouts in the morning, when their drive is at its maximum levels.

And that’s not the only reason to become a morning exerciser. “If you wait until later in the day, it’s a lot likelier that things will pop up and get in the way of working out,” Wakefield says. “Your kids go to bed early, so do the same. That way you can wake up and work out, knowing that you’ve already done something for yourself that day.”

Get other people involved. “Parents love family time, which is why that often gets priority over exercising,” Wakefield says. Combine the two and you’ll be motivated to move since you’re doing something you love — spending time with your kids. There are a lot of physical activities that are good for all ages. Go play Frisbee in the park, play tag, go on a bike ride, or work in the garden.

If you want to do something that isn’t kid-friendly, find a friend who likes the same things you do, like running or spinning. “It provides accountability,” Wakefield says. “You won’t want to let the other person down by not showing up to exercise. Plus, chatting with a friend makes working out more enjoyable!”

Set smaller goals. “Most of the time, people don’t work out because it seems like an intimidating, daunting task,” says Erin McGill, senior director of product development for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “But you don’t have to spend an hour at the gym to be active — there are lots of little ways to make everyday activities and chores just a little harder. And it’s so much easier to fit 10 minutes of movement into your day every few hours than find a larger chunk of time in your schedule.”

A few ideas: Take one bag of groceries in at a time from the car, do sets of 10 squats or pushups in between loads of laundry, or take stairs two at a time to get your heart rate up.

Keep equipment front and center. Sometimes a simple thing like putting your workout gear in your living room can be key to feeling more motivated.

“Out of sight, out of mind is true, but so is the opposite,” Wakefield says. “Put things like resistance bands or an exercise ball in a visible place, and you’ll get that extra nudge to actually use them. Every time you see them, you’ll get reminded.”

Some Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast

Relax. You deserve it, it’s good for you, and it takes less time than you think.

You don’t need a spa weekend or a retreat. Each of these stress-relieving tips can get you from OMG to om in less than 15 minutes.

1. Meditate

A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

It’s simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

2. Breathe Deeply

Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.

“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She’s a certified life coach in Rome, GA.

3. Be Present

Slow down.

“Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness,” Tutin says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.

When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.

4. Reach Out

Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others — preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.

5. Tune In to Your Body

Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.

Know More About Caffeine Myths and Facts

For starters, do you know the most common sources of caffeine? Well, maybe two of the sources aren’t too hard to name — coffee and tea leaves. But did you know kola nuts and cocoa beans are also included among the most common caffeine sources? And do you know how much caffeine content can vary from food to food? Turns out it’s quite a lot actually, depending on the type and serving size of a food or beverage and how it’s prepared.

Caffeine content can range from as much as 160 milligrams in some energy drinks to as little as 4 milligrams in a 1-ounce serving of chocolate-flavored syrup. Even decaffeinated coffee isn’t completely free of caffeine. Caffeine is also present in some over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medications, and diet pills. These products can contain as little as 16 milligrams or as much as 200 milligrams of caffeine. In fact, caffeine itself is a mild painkiller and increases the effectiveness of other pain relievers.

Want to know more? Read on. WebMD has examined some of the most common myths about caffeine and gathered the facts to shed some light on those myths.

Caffeine Myth No. 1: Caffeine Is Addictive

This one has some truth to it, depending on what you mean by “addictive.” Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way addictive drugs do. (Although after seeing your monthly spending at the coffee shop, you might disagree!)

If you stop taking caffeine abruptly, you may have symptoms for a day or more, especially if you consume two or more cups of coffee a day. Symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depressed mood
  • difficulty concentrating

No doubt, caffeine withdrawal can make for a few bad days. However, caffeine does not cause the severity of withdrawal or harmful drug-seeking behaviors as street drugs or alcohol. For this reason, most experts don’t consider caffeine dependence a serious addiction.

Caffeine Myth No. 2: Caffeine Is Likely to Cause Insomnia

Your body quickly absorbs caffeine. But it also gets rid of it quickly. Processed mainly through the liver, caffeine has a relatively short half-life. This means it takes about five to seven hours, on average, to eliminate half of it from your body. After eight to 10 hours, 75% of the caffeine is gone. For most people, a cup of coffee or two in the morning won’t interfere with sleep at night.

Consuming caffeine later in the day, however, can interfere with sleep. If you’re like most people, your sleep won’t be affected if you don’t consume caffeine at least six hours before going to bed. Your sensitivity may vary, though, depending on your metabolism and the amount of caffeine you regularly consume. People who are more sensitive may not only experience insomnia but also have caffeine side effects of nervousness and gastrointestinal upset.

Caffeine Myth No. 3: Caffeine Increases the Risk of Osteoporosis, Heart Disease, and Cancer

Moderate amounts of daily caffeine — about 300 milligrams, or three cups of coffee — apparently cause no harm in most healthy adults. Some people are more vulnerable to its effects, however. That includes such people as those who have high blood pressure or are older. Here are the facts:

  • Osteoporosis and caffeine. At high levels (more than 744 milligrams/day), caffeine may increase calcium and magnesium loss in urine. But recent studies suggest it does not increase your risk for bone loss, especially if you get enough calcium. You can offset the calcium lost from drinking one cup of coffee by adding just two tablespoons of milk. However, research does show some links between caffeine and hip fracture risk in older adults. Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on calcium metabolism. If you’re an older woman, discuss with your health care provider whether you should limit your daily caffeine intake to 300 milligrams or less.
  • Cardiovascular disease and caffeine. A slight, temporary rise in heart rate and blood pressure is common in those who are sensitive to caffeine. But several large studies do not link caffeine to higher cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you already have high blood pressure or heart problems, though, have a discussion with your doctor about your caffeine intake. You may be more sensitive to its effects. Also, more research is needed to tell whether caffeine increases the risk for stroke in people with high blood pressure.
  • Cancer and caffeine. Reviews of 13 studies involving 20,000 people revealed no relationship between cancer and caffeine. In fact, caffeine may even have a protective effect against certain cancers.

Caffeine Myth No. 4: Caffeine Is Harmful for Women Trying to Get Pregnant

Many studies show no links between low amounts of caffeine (a cup of coffee per day) and any of the following:

  • trouble conceiving
  • miscarriage
  • birth defects
  • premature birth
  • low birth rate

At the same time, for pregnant women or those attempting pregnancy, the March of Dimes suggests fewer than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. That’s largely because in limited studies, women consuming higher amounts of caffeine had an increased risk for miscarriage.

Caffeine Myth No. 5: Caffeine Has a Dehydrating Effect

Caffeine can make you need to urinate. However, the fluid you consume in caffeinated beverages tends to offset the effects of fluid loss when you urinate. The bottom line is that although caffeine does act as a mild diuretic, studies show drinking caffeinated drinks in moderation doesn’t actually cause dehydration.

Caffeine Myth No. 6: Caffeine Harms Children, Who, Today, Consume Even More Than Adults

As of 2004, children ages 6 to 9 consumed about 22 milligrams of caffeine per day. This is well within the recommended limit. However, energy drinks that contain a lot of caffeine are becoming increasingly popular, so this number may go up.

Some kids are sensitive to caffeine, developing temporary anxiety or irritability, with a “crash” afterwards. Also, most caffeine that kids drink is in sodas, energy drinks, or sweetened teas, all of which have high sugar content. These empty calories put kids at higher risk for obesity.

Even if the caffeine itself isn’t harmful, caffeinated drinks are generally not good for kids.

Caffeine Myth No. 7: Caffeine Can Help You Sober Up

Actually, research suggests that people only think caffeine helps them sober up. For example, people who drink caffeine along with alcohol think they’re OK behind the wheel. But the truth is reaction time and judgment are still impaired. College kids who drink both alcohol and caffeine are actually more likely to have car accidents.

Caffeine Myth No. 8: Caffeine Has No Health Benefits

Caffeine has few proven health benefits. But the list of caffeine’s potential benefits is interesting. Any regular coffee drinker may tell you that caffeine improves alertness, concentration, energy, clear-headedness, and feelings of sociability. You might even be the type who needs that first cup o’ Joe each morning before you say a single word. Scientific studies support these subjective findings. One French study even showed a slower decline in cognitive ability among women who consumed caffeine.

Other possible benefits include helping certain types of headache pain. Some people’s asthma also appears to benefit from caffeine. These research findings are intriguing, but still need to be proven.

Limited evidence suggests caffeine may also reduce the risk of the following:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • liver disease
  • colorectal cancer
  • type 2 diabetes
  • dementia

Despite its potential benefits, don’t forget that high levels of caffeine may have adverse effects. More studies are needed to confirm both its benefits and potential risks

Know More Abot Yoga

How It Works

Workout fads come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years.

Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation.

There are more than 100 different forms of yoga. Some are fast-paced and intense. Others are gentle and relaxing.

Examples of different yoga forms include:

  • Hatha. The form most often associated with yoga, it combines a series of basic movements with breathing.
  • Vinyasa. A series of poses that flow smoothly into one another.
  • Power. A faster, higher-intensity practice that builds muscle.
  • Ashtanga. A series of poses, combined with a special breathing technique.
  • Bikram. Also known as “hot yoga,” it’s a series of 26 challenging poses performed in a room heated to a high temperature.
  • Iyengar. A type of yoga that uses props like blocks, straps, and chairs to help you move your body into the proper alignment.

Intensity Level: Varies with Type

The intensity of your yoga workout depends on which form of yoga you choose. Techniques like hatha and iyengar yoga are gentle and slow. Bikram and power yoga are faster and more challenging.

Areas It Targets

Core: Yes. There are yoga poses to target just about every core muscle. Want to tighten those love handles? Then prop yourself up on one arm and do a side plank. To really burn out the middle of your abs, you can do boat pose, in which you balance on your “sit bones” (the bony prominences at the base of your pelvic bones) and hold your legs up in the air.

Arms: Yes. With yoga, you don’t build arm strength with free weights or machines, but with the weight of your own body. Some poses, like the plank, spread your weight equally between your arms and legs. Others, like the crane and crow poses, challenge your arms even more by making them support your full body weight.

Legs: Yes. Yoga poses work all sides of the legs, including your quadriceps, hips, and thighs.

Glutes: Yes. Yoga squats, bridges, and warrior poses involve deep knee bends, which give you a more sculpted rear.

Back: Yes. Moves like downward-facing dog, child’s pose, and cat/cow give your back muscles a good stretch. It’s no wonder that research finds yoga may be good for relieving a sore back.

Type

Flexibility: Yes. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. With regular practice, they’ll improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: No. Yoga isn’t considered aerobic exercise, but the more athletic varieties, like power yoga, will make you sweat. And even though yoga is not aerobic, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health.

Strength: Yes. It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose. Regular practice will strengthen the muscles of your arms, back, legs, and core.

Sport: No. Yoga is not competitive. Focus on your own practice and don’t compare yourself to other people in your class.

Low-Impact: Yes. Although yoga will give you a full-body workout, it won’t put any impact on your joints.

What Else Should I Know?

Cost. Varies. If you already know your way around a yoga mat, you can practice for free at home. Videos and classes will cost you various amounts of money.

Good for beginners? Yes. People of all ages and fitness levels can do the most basic yoga poses and stretches.

Outdoors. Yes. You can do yoga anywhere, indoors or out.

At home. Yes. All you need is enough space for your yoga mat.

Equipment required? No. You don’t need any equipment because you’ll rely on your own body weight for resistance. But you’ll probably want to use a yoga mat to keep you from sliding around in standing poses, and to cushion you while in seated and lying positions. Other, optional equipment includes a yoga ball for balance, a yoga block or two, and straps to help you reach for your feet or link your hands behind your back.

What Family Doctor Melinda Ratini MD Says:

There are many types of yoga, from the peaceful hatha to the high-intensity power yoga. All types take your workout to a level of mind-body connection. It can help you relax and focus while gaining flexibility and strength. Yoga can also boost your mood.

Even though there are many instructional books and DVDs on yoga, it is well worth it to invest in some classes with a good instructor who can show you how to do the postures.

Chances are, there’s a type of yoga that suits your needs and fitness level. It’s a great choice if you want a holistic approach to mind and body strength.

Yoga is not for you if you like a fast-moving, competitive workout. Be open-minded, since there are physical and mental benefits you can gain by adding some yoga into your fitness plan, even if it isn’t your main workout.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Yoga is a great activity for you if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. It gives you strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness. You’ll also need to do something aerobic (like walking, biking, or swimming) if you’re not doing a fast-moving type of yoga.

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems, ask your doctor what you can do. You may need to avoid certain postures, like those in which you’re upside down or that demand more balance than you have right now. A very gentle program of yoga, coupled with a light aerobic activity like walking or swimming, may be the best way to start.

Do you have arthritis? Yoga can help you stay flexible and strong without putting added stress on your joints. You get the added benefit of a mind-body approach that can help you relax and energize.

If you’re pregnant, yoga can help keep you relaxed, strong, and in shape. If you’re new to yoga or have any health or pregnancy related problems, talk to your doctor before you give it a try. Look for an instructor who’s experienced in teaching prenatal yoga.

You’ll need to make some adjustments as your baby and belly grow and your center of gravity shifts. After your first trimester, don’t do any poses that have you lying on your back. And don’t try to stretch any further than you did before pregnancy. Your pregnancy hormones will loosen up your joints and make you more likely to get injured.

While you’re pregnant, avoid postures that put pressure on your belly or low back. Don’t do “hot” yoga, where the room temperature is very high.

Know More About Women’s Health Tips

Looking for the path toward a healthier you? It’s not hard to find. The journey begins with some simple tweaks to your lifestyle. The right diet, exercise, and stress-relief plan all play a big role.

Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet

There’s an easy recipe if your goal is to keep away problems like heart disease and strokes.

  • Eat more fruits and veggies.
  • Choose whole grains. Try brown rice instead of white. Switch to whole wheat pasta.
  • Choose lean proteins like poultry, fish, beans, and legumes.
  • Cut down on processed foods, sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

When eating healthy, flexibility often works best, says Joyce Meng, MD, assistant professor at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health. If you like to follow a strict diet plan, go for it. If not, it’s OK. “Find what works for you.”

Tricia Montgomery, 52, the founder of K9 Fit Club, knows first-hand how the right diet and lifestyle can help. For her, choosing healthy foods and planning small, frequent meals works well. “I don’t deny myself anything,” she says. “I still have dessert — key lime pie, yum! — and I love frozen gummy bears, but moderation is key.”

Exercise Every Day

The more active you are, the better, Meng says. Exercise boosts your heart health, builds muscle and bone strength, and wards off health problems.

Aim for 2 and a half hours of moderate activity, like brisk walking or dancing, every week. If you’re OK with vigorous exercise, stick to 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of things like running or playing tennis. Add a couple of days of strength training, too.

If you’re busy, try short bursts of activity throughout the day. Walk often. A good target is 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs. Park your car far away from your destination.

Montgomery exercises every day, often with her dog. By adding lunges, squats, and stairs to a walk, she turns it into a power workout. “I also am a huge Pilates fan,” she says.

Lose Weight

When you shed pounds you’ll lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Aim for a slow, steady drop. Try to lose 1-2 pounds a week by being active and eating better.

“It doesn’t have to be an hour of intense exercise every day,” Meng says. “Any little bit helps.”

As you improve, dial up the time and how hard you work out. If you want to lose a lot of weight, try for 300 minutes of exercise a week.

“Eating a healthy diet will go a long way,” Meng says. Start by cutting sugar, which she says is often hiding in plain sight — in store-bought items like salad dressing, packaged bread, and nuts. Try to avoid soda and sugar-laced coffee drinks, too.

Visit Your Doctor

Get regular checkups. Your doctor keeps track of your medical history and can help you stay healthy. For example, if you’re at risk for osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones, he may want you to get more calcium and vitamin D.

Your doctor may recommend screening tests to keep an eye on your health and catch conditions early when they’re easier to treat.

Keep the lines of communication open. “If you have questions, ask your doctor,” Meng says. “Make sure you understand things to your satisfaction.” If you’re worried about a medication or procedure, talk to him about it.

Cut Down Your stress

It can take a toll on your health. You probably can’t avoid it altogether, but you can find ways to ease the impact. Don’t take on too much. Try to set limits with yourself and others. It’s OK to say no.

To relieve stress, try:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Talking to a friend, family member, or professional counselor

Create Healthy Habits

If you make the right choices today, you can ward off problems tomorrow.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss every day.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit your alcohol. Keep it to one drink a day.
  • If you have medication, take it exactly how your doctor prescribed it.
  • Improve your sleep. Aim for 8 hours. If you have trouble getting shut-eye, talk to your doctor.
  • Use sunscreen and stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wear your seatbelt.

Take time every day to invest in your health, Meng says.

It paid off for Montgomery. She says she overcame health problems, feels good, and has a positive outlook. “My life,” she says, “is forever changed.”