Archive for February, 2014


Memory Walks

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Do your brain a favor … make walking a part of your regular routine! Evidence that regular walking benefits brain health continues to pile up. If you’re not a walker, this should convince you to start!
 
A recent study from The Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois involving 120 sedentary people aged 55-80 found that walking increased the size of the hippocampus, a critical area of the brain for new learning and creating long-term memories. Participants of the study had not engaged in more than 30 minutes of daily exercise in the six months before of the study; they then took part in exercise groups for a year. Half of the participants walked three days a week, starting out 10 minutes per day and increasing to 40 minutes per day as their fitness levels improved. The other half did stretching and toning exercises for the same amount of time.
 
Participants were assessed at the start of the study, at six months into the study, and at the end of the year for spatial memory, fitness levels, and levels of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an essential fuel for the growth of new neurons in the brain. They were also given brain scans to track physical changes.
 
The assessments showed that fitness levels for the walking group improved more than in the stretching and toning group. The walking group also had an increase in the size of the hippocampus. Spatial memory and levels of BDNF increased in both groups, but only the walking group was found to have increased the size of the hippocampus. Studies have shown that had the participants continued to be inactive for the year, their hippocampus would have shrunk by one to two per cent, while walking just three times a week boosted their memory and increased the size of their hippocampus.
 
While this study concentrated on walking, it is believed that any aerobic activity could offer the same benefits. If you can’t get out for a walk due to weather conditions try walking on a treadmill.
 
If a knee injuries get in the way of your walking routine, try weight-lifting. A study conducted by scientists at the University of British Columbia focused on women ages 70 to 80 with mild cognitive impairment. They found that after six months of exercise, either walking or weight training, the women performed better performance on cognitive tests than they had before. It is interesting that while both exercise groups improved almost equally on tests of spatial memory, the women who had walked showed greater gains in verbal memory than the women who had lifted weights.
 
So get out there and walk … you’ll build strength and memories!
 
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Recharge While You Sleep

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
It’s not surprising that eighty percent of Americans suffer from long-term lack of sleep. When faced with overwork, stress, and tight schedules, sleep is often the first victim of the time budget. Be careful, the results can be harmful to long-term health and reduce your ability to manage day-to-day tasks!
 
New research from the University of Rochester’s medical school shines a new light on the vital role sleep plays in our overall well-being. This research, recently published in the journal Science, found that sleep plays an important role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. Simply put, it cleans out the trash that has accumulated during the day.
 
Our brains do not use the lymphatic system – the body’s waste removal method. It maintains it’s own system that works with the brain’s blood circulation system and uses cerebral spinal fluid to wash away waste. Additionally, study of mice shows that the brain’s cells shrink during sleep by as much as 60 percent, allowing cerebral spinal fluid flow easily between the cells and flush away waste. This leads researchers to believe that the brain probably has two functional states – processing information while we are awake and cleaning away the material that neurons generate during their normal activity while sleeping.
 
‘Giving your brain time to clean up’ may not spur you to improve your sleep habits, but there are plenty of proven benefits to a healthy sleep routine.
 
• Sharper Memory: Lack of sleep disturbs a person’s ability to focus, learn and consolidate a memory, making it difficult for that information to be recalled at a future date.
 
• Longer Lifespan: According to an article published in the journal SLEEP, researchers studied 21,000 twins for 22 years and found that if people slept less than 7 hours a night or more than 8 hours a night, they had an increased risk of death.
 
• Lower Inflammation Risks: Researchers surveyed 525 middle-aged adults and found that those who reported six or fewer hours of sleep had higher levels of inflammatory markers. C-reactive protein levels were approximately 25 percent higher than adults who slept between six and nine hours.
 
• Improved Performance: A study from Stanford University found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
 
• Help Maintaining a Healthy Weight: The Nurses’ Health Study followed roughly 60,000 women for 16 years. At the beginning of the study, all of the women were healthy, and none were obese. After 16 years, women who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese and had 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study compared to women who slept at least 7 hours each night.
 
Let your brain get to work on it’s other job … and get a good night’s sleep!

 
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Cold Weather Workout Tips

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
It’s been an unusually cold winter, which can wreak havoc on your workout schedule! Don’t give up. That winter weight gain isn’t all tied to eating more or lack of exercise. New research shows how important exercise is … especially in the winter. In this study, researchers from the University of Colorado followed a group of twelve women and six men in both summer and winter. They discovered that their production of ATLPL (Adipose Tissue Lipoprotein Lipase), the chemical that promotes fat storage, almost doubles during the winter and dropped during the summer. They also found that the increase of muscle enzymes gained from exercising can help to counter the increase of ATLPL, and help the battle against those extra winter pounds.
 
Winter workouts carry their own dangers, here are a few tips to protect you on the coldest days.
 
• Wear layers. Insulate yourself against the wind and cold with a layered barrier rather than a single, bulky garment. The first layer that’s directly touching your skin should be a lightweight synthetic or polyester material. It will dry quickly and wick away moisture. The second layer should be wool or polyester fleece. The outermost layer — worn in the rain, snow, or wind — should be lighter weight and water-repellent to help you stay dry.
 
• Keep your head covered. It is believed that between 50 and 70 percent of body heat is lost when your head is unprotected in cold weather. Wearing a hat can help your body retain heat.
 
• Protect your feet and hands. Keeping hands and feet warm is vital. Your body concentrates on keeping your internal organs warm in cold weather. Gloves also help prevent skin damage and frostbite. To keep your feet warm, make sure your torso is properly insulated and keep feet dry with winter athletic socks that have an inner layer that moves moisture away from the skin to an outer absorbent layer.
 
• Wear a face mask or scarf in frigid temperatures. A loose layer over your nose and mouth can warm cold air before you inhale and protect your lungs.
 
• Drink Water. You don’t feel as sweaty as you do in the summer, but water is just as important in winter months. It even keeps you warm by helping the body retain heat!
 
• In extreme cold, which we’ve seen this winter, move your workout indoors to the gym. Can’t make it to the gym? Develop a workout regimen you can do at home, take the stairs at work or speed walk through the mall!
 
• Finally, consider some traditional warming foods. Ancient Chinese medicine advised adding fresh ginger, garlic and cayenne to your food as a way to boost the immune system! Eucalyptus and juniper also stimulate the circulation and help protect the immune system.
 
It may seem more difficult to exercise when the weather gets cold and days seem shorter, but it’s important to work against the natural increase in fat storage that occurs during the winter months!
 
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Take a Vacation from the Winter Blues

 
Winter is almost here. That means staying in and waiting for spring — right? Not at all! There are plenty of activities you can do in the winter, no matter where you live. You can even plan a getaway to one of the many winter sports resorts in the United States.
 
From coast to coast, you can find a resort for yourself or your family to satisfy all your winter sports desires. Those traveling to the West Coast, Midwest and northeastern parts of the country will find an abundance of resorts close by, but others will not have to travel far. There are winter sports resorts all over the country to satisfy any of your cold-weather interests.
 
“States as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee feature ski resorts that also offer other winter sports, such as ice skating and tubing,” said TripAdvisor Public Relations Specialist Julie Cassetina.
 
You don’t even need to find mountains to find great winter sports, Cassetina said. There are Winter Wonderlands all across the U.S.!
 
“While the mountainous regions of the East and West Coasts are the most popular destinations for winter sports, travelers in the comparatively flat Midwest can find resorts that offer plenty of snow-filled fun across the Great Plains,” Cassetina said.
 
Popular resort destinations in the western half of the United States include Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev.; Park City, Utah; Big Bear Region, Calif.; and Sun Valley, Idaho. Eastern destinations include Lake Placid, N.Y.; North Conway, N.H.; and Stowe, Vt.
 
Those living in the Midwest can find a variety of Winter sports resorts as well, including Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs, Mich.; Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior in Lutsen, Minn.; Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Mich.; and Granite Peak in Wausau, Wisc.
 
Ski-lovers will find a plethora of trails to suit their needs at nearly any winter sports resort. For example, Boyne Highlands has 55 trails on 435 skiable acres, which makes it the largest ski area in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. You even find a resort —like Boyne — with a variety of room styles, from hotel rooms to condos and cottages.
 
Erin Ernst, director of communications for Boyne, suggests that resort-goers consider their skill level when choosing a resort. If you are new to skiing, for example, you should see if the resort offers lessons or free hills to beginners.
 
“There are many factors to explore when considering a winter resort for vacationing,” Ernst said. “Lodging options, resort offerings and variety of winter sports should all be taken into consideration.”
 
Looking to branch out for your winter sports vacation? You aren’t limited to skiing! You can find resorts that offer almost any winter activity you desire. Cassetina said resorts are branching out in their offering to accommodate sports such as horseback riding, dogsledding, snowshoe hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
 
Heading out into the snow is fun—but it can be dangerous and downright unpleasant if you aren’t prepared with the correct gear. The National Ski Patrol says that having the proper clothing is a key to safety and enjoyment when participating in outdoor winter activities.
 
The right equipment means not only having the right skis, skates or sled. It also means having the proper clothing to stay both warm and dry. The National Ski Patrol says that the key to dressing for the cold is in the layering. The organization suggests lightweight layers. You should have an inner moisture-wicking layer, a middle insulating later and an outer shell layer.
 
Check the weather forecast to be sure you are dressing appropriately. Also consider your exertion level. Are you going on a horse ride, which requires very little exertion, or cross-country skiing, where you will be exerting a high amount of effort? Layering allows you to shed and add clothing as it is necessary, but you should always be prepared for the worst.
 
If you are searching for a resort, the best way to find the one you want is to use a service such as TripAdvisor to look at reviews and photos from real travelers, Cassetina said.
 
“When searching for a resort, travelers can use the filters on TripAdvisor to sort by price, traveler rating, distance and more,” Cassetina said. “They can also select from additional categories such as ‘family,’ ‘romance,’ ‘ski-in/ski-out’ and more to identify resorts that will fit their travel type.”
 
Don’t take the chilly season off from being active. Get all the cold-weather gear you need at your local Dunham’s, and head out into the snow!
 
-Ski Bum
 
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