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Brain Power

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We know that exercise makes us feel better and ‘clears the mind’ and recent studies have pointed out the benefits of exercise on mental stresses and work. Now, new research shows not only does obesity harm the brain, exercise may actually reverse those negative effects!
 
Extensive research has indicated that sedentary, obese animals have lower memory and learning skills when compared to active, normal-weight animals. Recently, scientists have been trying to find out how excess weight affects the brain. Until recently, we thought that the brain was protected from excess weight … after all, it contains no fat cells. But the research shows that obesity actually weakens the protection of the brain, allowing substances manufactured by fat cells to enter the brain.
 
Additional research published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that as lab mice gained excess weight, larger doses interleukin 1, a substance know to cause inflammation, was found in their brains. Additionally, the mice had very low levels of a biochemical that helps support healthy synapse function. Researchers felt the results strongly indicated that fat cells were the main cause of the mice’s cognitive decline in the study. The good news from new research is that simply introducing exercise into the mice’s regimen gives substantial protection the bad effects of a sedentary lifestyle on the brain!
 
This research adds on to what we already know:
 
• Those extra pounds may weaken the brain’s sensitivity to the pleasure we get from sugary and fatty foods, leading people to eat more for the same amount of pleasure. Research on animals found that eating foods with high fat and sugar content reduced responses to dopamine, known as the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter.
 
• The orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain tasked with impulse control, appears shrunken in obese children compared to those of children with normal weight. More research needs to be done, but some researchers believe this may be a response to changes in the immune system caused by obesity.
 
• A study published in the Annals of Neurology found that the belly fat that shows up as you enter middle age is actually associated with a decrease in total brain volume! Researchers believe that belly fat, or visceral fat may contribute to a reduction of brain size.
 
• A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that may impair memory. The study included 8,745 women ages 65 to 79 and found that each 1 point increase in an woman’s body mass index (BMI) was corresponded to a 1 point decrease on a 100 point memory test.
 
Strong findings that should spur us all to get off the couch.. get started now! Why wait for spring to be a lean, mean, thinking machine!
 
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More News on Memory and Exercise

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Numerous studies have been conducted in the past 10 years focusing on exercise and memory, creating a consensus about the positive effect of exercise on brain functions. Still, details have been missing, and many questions remain. When is the best time to exercise? Is a more strenuous workout more beneficial? How long do the gains last? Three studies in particular demonstrate the benefits of exercise to learning and retaining that ability throughout your life.
 
The latest study, published this week by PLOS One, included eighty-one healthy, German-speaking women, who were randomly divided into three groups. Members of all groups listened to lists of German words with their Polish equivalents through headphones for 30 minutes, with instructions to memorize the Polish word. One group listened after sitting for 30 minutes, the second group rode a stationary bicycle at a mild rate for 30 minutes before sitting down to listen to the German/Polish words, while the third group also rode a bicycle at a low intensity for 30 minutes, but listened to the word lists while riding the bike.
 
The participants were tested two days after hearing the lists. While all women could recall some words, the women who had ridden bicycles while listening to the German/Polish words performed best while the women who exercised before the tasks did slightly better than the women who had not exercised at all before listening to the list.
 
Another study asked 11 female students to read difficult chapters from a textbook on different days. One day while sitting quietly and, on the other day, during strenuous workout on an elliptical machine for 30 minutes. The students were tested on the material they’d just read immediately after reading it, and retested the next day.
 
These test scores were actually worse on the memory tests taken right after reading during a high-intensity workout than the test scores taken after they’d been sitting quietly and studying. Interestingly, when retested the following day, there were no differences in their scores, whether they exercised or sat quietly when reading the chapter.
 
Researchers concluded that exercising during learning was significantly more effective than exercising beforehand or not at all. However, that beneficial impact seems to depend on the intensity of the workout with light-intensity exercise leading to significant benefits. It’s believed that higher-intensity exercise may use more of the brain’s resources during the workout, leaving fewer resources to recall functions, which could explain lower testing immediately after strenuous exercise.
 
In a third study, a group of people 50 to 85 years old with and without memory deficits viewed pleasant images followed by a six-minute workout at 70% of their maximum capacity on a stationary bicycle. Another group viewed the pictures but did not ride the bike afterwards. One hour later, all participants were given a recall test on the images they viewed. Results showed a striking enhancement of memory in the group that exercised compared with subjects who did not ride the bike.
 
Much more research is being done on this important subject, but one thing is sure … an active body supports an active brain!
 
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Snow Shoveling Reminder

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We’re entering the end of the winter season, but there is the possibility for more snow. Remember these important pointers from the American Heart Association for snow shoveling safety!
 
• Take breaks. Frequent rest breaks during shoveling will help avoid overstressing your heart. Pay attention to how your feel.
 
• Don’t eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.
 
• Use a smaller shovel. Lifting heavy snow can cause sharp rises in blood pressure, instead, lift smaller amounts more times and push the snow when possible.
 
• Pay attention to heart attack warning signs. Minutes matter! Fast action saves lives!
 
• Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol increases a person’s sensation feeling of warmth and can lead you to underestimate the extra strain their your body is under.
 
• Avoid hypothermia. Heart failure is the primary cause of death from hypothermia. Dress in layers of warm clothing, that will trap air between the layers and form a protective insulation. Wear a hat!
 
The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms. If you experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain, seek medical help immediately!
 
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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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Starting the New Year Right!

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Whatever your New Years resolutions, there are small additions to your lifestyle that will pay big dividends to your overall health and help you attain your health goals for 2014. They’re simple, easy ways to help you start off on the right foot.
 
• Add beans to your menus: Be sure you include beans in your nutritional regimen — and include black beans. Not only are they a great source of protein, recent studies suggest that the darker the bean, the more antioxidants! Interestingly, beans are considered a separate food group in Brazil, and are part of their food pyramid. The U.S. Government’s Dietary Guidelines urge adults to consume one and a half cups of cooked dry beans a week.
 
• Snack on nuts: The risk of dying of heart disease dropped 29 percent and the risk of dying of cancer fell 11 percent among those who had nuts seven or more times a week compared with people who never ate them. These positive results were seen from peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts. And for those of you with weight-loss resolutions: nut eaters were slimmer. Research has shown that snacking on nuts can curb your appetite for the whole day.
 
• Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables: Raw or fresh, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can reduce risk for heart disease, certain types of cancers, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Vegetables are also low in calories and high in fiber! According to the latest dietary guidelines a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, should eat nine servings of fruit and vegetables. That equals 4-1/2 cups a day, 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables.
 
• Use healthy oils: Get rid of the unhealthy fats in you diet, start by adding healthy fats where possible! Olive and canola oils are monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol levels, high blood pressure,and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Canola oil, walnut and flaxseed oils are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that is known to reduce arthritis pain and improve cholesterol levels.
 
• Read the labels: Processed food contains sugars, sodium and unhealthy fats, along with many additives that are used to maintain the appearance of freshness. Keep away from frozen entrees and microwaveable dinners.
 
Finally, exercise! Your entire body benefits from a workout. It gives a boost to memory and concentration, lowers cholesterol, and reduces blood pressure. Exercise is vital for prevention of disease. You should have a minimum of 2-1/2 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or a minimum of 1-1/4 hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity; combine them in a way works for you and build up from there. You’ll look better and feel better!
 
Happy New Year from everyone at Peter’s Principles. Thank you for your support in 2013!
 
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Post Holiday Detox

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Even with the best intentions and the healthiest food, many of us will feel bloated and sluggish going into the new year after the holidays. Whether it’s due to rich food, too much food or the seasonal change of diet, you may want concentrate on cleaning the toxins out of your system. A few indicators that you may want to detox are:
 
• Feel tired or sluggish
• Have trouble concentrating
• Suffer from headaches or joint pain
• Have trouble sleeping
• Have gas, bloating or indigestion or other gastrointestinal irregularities
• Are depressed, irritable or have mood changes
• Have recurring respiratory problems.
 
A few easy-to-remember tips are:
 
• Read the labels. If you can’t say it, don’t eat it.
• Keep away from processed, prepared and packaged food.
• Allocate 70% of your nutritional intake to vegetables. Whether it’s a fresh, crisp salad, roasted root vegetables or your favorite steamed veggies, the fiber will keep your digestive system happy while nutrient-rich veggies will keep you energized… and they’re low in calories!
• Eat more smaller meals throughout the day. It will help stabilize blood sugar levels and give your digestive system a break.
• Drink plenty of water!
 
Eat a healthy, fiber-rich bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Alcohol depletes your potassium levels, so add some beans, leafy greens, salmon or avocados to give it a boost! Tame that over-active sweet tooth with clementines or pears! Put the cookies and candy out of sight and replace them with a bowl of nuts or fruit! Focus in on that weak spot in your day and turn it into a strength-builder!
 
Try a good, simple, nutritional detox, and get ready for the new year!
 
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Overeating?

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We are all aware of the serious negative effects of long-term overeating and sedentary life styles, including obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Past research has indicated that even a few days of eating more calories than you use has negative health effects. However, researchers from the University of Bath in Great Britain have found that daily exercise may actually counteract the negative affects of short term inactivity and overeating!
 
The week-long study included 26 healthy men, ranging in ages from their late teens to early thirties. All participants gave blood samples and had oral glucose tests; samples of abdominal fat was also taken from all members of both groups.
 
Volunteers were separted into two groups, one group was asked to limit physical activity to below 4,000 steps each day and eat fifty per cent more calories than normal. The other group was told to eat seventy-five percent more calories and run on a treadmill for 45 minutes per day. This was done so the ‘net daily surplus’ of calories was the same for both groups.
 
The results were amazing! The inactive group demonstrated a marked decline in blood sugar control, fat cells indicated that both nutritional balance and metabolism were disturbed. Meanwhile the results for those in the exercise group were markedly different: blood sugar levels remained stable, and changes in fat cells were significantly lower!
 
In other words, even though the exercise group ate more, and both groups had the same ‘net’ daily energy intake/output … the participants in the exercise group were protected from many of the negative effects of overeating!
 
This is an important new information that supports the importance of exercise in our daily lives! Remember, when you’re not in a period of overeating and lowered activity, the benefits of exercise will keep you healthy and happy throughout the year!
 
• Helps prevent weight gain and maintain weight loss.
Protects against heart disease by boosting high-density lipoprotein while lowering unhealthy triglycerides levels.
 
• Helps in the fight against depression while lifting your spirits.
Boosts energy levels.
 
• Is important in the prevention of a wide range of health problems, including including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and arthritis.
 
Protect yourself against the negative health effects of overeating this season with a good daily workout … and get a head start for the upcoming new year!
 
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Holiday Eating Tips

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
The holiday parties and family gatherings are in full swing. The whirlwind of preparing for and partaking in the festivities can really take us off guard, no matter how many years we’ve prepared for it. You want to enjoy warmth and love of the season, but you certainly don’t want to pay for it with those extra pounds later! There are a few easy steps you can take that will help you maintain your weight without distracting you from the moment.
 
• Have a small healthy snack before you leave the house. Walnuts are a great choice. They’re packed with protein and fiber, making them an excellent choice for keeping hunger at bay.
 
• Go easy on the appetizers, choose vegetables and fruits with dip or whole-grain crackers.
 
• If you’re at a buffet, start on the salad end of the table. If you’re the host, put the fruit and vegetables at the beginning of the table. A recently conducted study with 124 adults asked participants to select food from two breakfast buffets. The first buffet table had fruit and other healthy foods at the front of the table with fattier foods at the end, while the second buffet had the fatty foods at the front of the table and healthy foods at the end. Both tables contained the same items.
 
Eighty-six percent of the participants chose fruit when it was the first item on the buffet table, compared to 54 percent who selected fruit when it was at the end of the table. They also found that the first three food items chosen from the buffet made up 66 percent of their total choices, regardless of whether the items were high or low-calorie foods.
 
• Try using smaller plates for your meals if they’re available! Different studies have shown that smaller plates lead to actually eating less!
 
• Don’t let yourself feel deprived, have a dessert or cookie, AFTER you’ve eaten a healthy meal!
 
Even though you’re may be much busier than usual, make time for exercise. Exercise not only helps prevent weight gain, it relieves holiday stress. Add an extra 15-minute walk or run to your fitness schedule to help offset holiday eating.
 
Follow these simple suggestions and support your overall goals throughout the holidays into the New Year!
 
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