Have a Happy, Healthy Christmas

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Holiday gatherings, seasonal treats, and celebratory menus can wreak havoc a healthy nutrition regimen for even the most dedicated dieter. Last week we listed several pointers to avoid stress while preparing for your celebrations. Finally, it’s time enjoy the holiday! Remember, one meal or one day of celebration is not going to doom you to obesity when if you ‘fall off the wagon’ when you eat healthy foods and exercise the rest of the year. Allow yourself enough latitude to enjoy the day and get back to work the next day with these helpful hints.
 
• Eat breakfast! Skipping breakfast sets you up for overeating later in the day!
 
• Plan. If you’ve reached your tipping point and have decided to lose, target for a 1 pound loss during the next week. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 to 300 calories and burn off 200 to 300 calories a day for a weekly deficit of 3,500 calorie. Add an extra day to your exercise routine. Don’t have routine? Walk for fifteen minutes a day!
 
• Start a food diary. Research proves that keeping a food diary is a valuable weight loss technique. Start again to track what you’re eating and how much, it’s a real eye-opener!
 
• Control snacking. Drink a glass of water instead of reaching for the left over Christmas cookies, then wait about 10 minutes to see if you are really hungry. Thirst can be mistaken for hunger, if you’re still hungry, have a small, healthy snack.
 
• Don’t skip meals. Research has shown that eating regular meals or snacks every 3 to 4 hours can keep you from overeating.
 
• Stay active. If you didn’t get any exercise today, relieve that belly bloat by going for a 10-minute walk after eating.
 
• Get enough sleep. Research shows there are links between inadequate sleep and obesity. A study from Case Western Reserve University of about 68,000 middle-age women found that those who slept 5 or fewer hours were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain, and 15% more likely to become obese, than those who slept an average of 7 hours.
 
• Eat slowly to make your meal last longer. Research shows the more chewing you do, the more nutrients your body absorbs. It takes 20 minutes for the body to register that it’s satisfied, slower eating will cut down on the second helpings!
 
Leave the guilt behind. It will only get in your way, and make it harder to get back on track!
 
Happy Holidays to you and all your loved ones!
 
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Avoid The Holiday Blues

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
The final week before Christmas can incur an amazing amount of stress. ’Do I have presents for everyone?,’ ‘I’m really looking forward to Jerry’s party, but I’m just so tired.’ ‘I haven’t made cookies yet!’ ‘I really miss my mom … or my dad … or my sister.’ The joy and companionship enjoyed this time of year is a true blessing, but it can come with a price. You can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays and enjoy them more than ever! You may even be able to spread a little more cheer!
 
• Be realistic. Set realistic expectations. We are barraged with ‘things’ we need for the ‘perfect’ holiday everywhere we go. Remember the true meaning of the holiday. Choose a few special traditions to continue and allow new ones into your lives. If you’re separated from loved ones during the holidays, celebrate together with videos and pictures. If you’re technically savvy, try opening your present together via Skype!
 
• Share the Peace on Earth. Set aside differences with family loved ones. Be patient and understanding if others are upset or distressed, or something doesn’t go as planned. The holidays may be even more stressful for those around you.
 
• Budget. Decide how much money you can afford to spend before you go shopping and stick to it! If times are difficult, give homemade gifts or baked goods. Donate to a friend or family member’s favorite charity in their name.
 
• Plan. Plan ahead for shopping, baking, and visiting. Make shopping lists for baking to avoid multiple last-minute trips to the store. If there are too many events for your schedule, plan on the important ones and take on the extra activities when you can enjoy them — and be enjoyable company!
 
• Pay attention to your health. Holidays can become a time of over-reaching self-indulgence. Get plenty of sleep and stay active…it will pay off in the long run.
 
• Take some time for yourself. Put aside a little time for rejuvenation … your loved ones will be thankful. Go for a long walk, relax with your favorite music or read that book you bought 2 weeks ago! After spending some time recharging yourself, you find yourself more productive — and lovable — than ever!
 
• Volunteer. Many charitable organizations are also suffering due to the economic downturn. Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter where you and your family can volunteer. Participate in a giving tree or an adopt-a-family program. Helping those who suffering may help you put your own struggles into perspective. Sharing the goodwill of the season is a good way to brighten the day for yourself and others.
 
• Accept your feelings. If you’re away from loved ones, or have recently lost someone close to you, it’s normal to feel sadness and grief, especially during the holidays. Take time to express your feelings. Look for community, religious or other social events.
 
Try a little planning and you’ll be amazed at how a little planning and positive thinking can help you find peace and joy during the holidays.
 
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Fit For The Holidays

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Maintaining healthy habits during the busy holiday season is a challenge we should all accept! A study from the National Health Research Institutes in Zhunan, Taiwan confirmed that even short bursts of physical exertion as part of a fitness regimen can lengthen your lifespan by three years. A mere 15 minutes of daily exercise reduces death rates by 14 percent and each additional 15 minutes of activity cuts the rate by another four percent — for up to 100 minutes a day! This eight-year study was part of a medical screening program and included more than 400,000 people, aged 20 and above. Use these busy times to your health advantage, the health benefits are the best present you could give yourself and your loved ones.
 
Remember:
 
• Don’t Skip Meals. Skipping meals is the road to disaster. Stay on your normal regimen and you’ll eat significantly less food — especially those dangerous holiday treats!
 
• Eat Healthy. If you are hungry, fill up on protein and veggies. Protein increases your metabolism by up to 20% and veggies take more calories to digest than what they contain. Protein and veggies are a dietary dynamic duo that will lessen your desire for cookies and egg nog!
 
• Limit Alcohol Consumption. Excess alcohol just contributes too much to fat gain.
 
• Drink Water. Make sure that your water intake is adequate. You’ll stay hydrated and water gives you a sense of fullness so you will eat less.
 
• Put the Holiday Treats Away. It’s easier to resist those treats when when you can’t see them. Bring the goodies out for company and away in the cupboard otherwise!
 
• Turn Off the TV. Take a walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the holiday decorations! Have a snowball fight with the kids!
 
The gift of health will last a lifetime!
 
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Belly Fat and Your Health

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Awareness of the health risks brought on by belly fat — visceral fat that expands in deep into the abdomen among vital organs — has increased significantly since 2005 when only forty percent of Americans knew of the increased dangers posed by growing waistlines. Belly fat is a primary symptom for metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that increase the risks of heart disease and stroke. Research shows that visceral (belly) fat breaks down into fatty acids which then moves quickly into the liver and into muscle. It increases the risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and raises the production of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides.
 
There are, of course, steps you can take to reduce that extra belly fat and reverse the effects it has on your health!
 
• Aerobics. Visceral fat reacts strongly to aerobic exercise. Get your heartrate up! A study published in the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism found that participants who did aerobic exercise lost 20 times as much visceral fat as those who only lifted weights! Don’t drop that strength training though! A number of studies have linked greater muscle strength and muscle mass to lower rates of metabolic syndrome, because it increase the body’s resting metabolic rate.
 
• Eat you protein. Protein builds and preserves lean muscle tissue and uses a higher number of calories for digestion, which helps burn off that fat! Protein also helps ward off hunger, helping the battle against extra snacking.
 
• Watch Your Fats. Research from Uppsala University demonstrated that saturated fat builds more fat and less muscle than polyunsaturated fat. The study, published in the journal Diabetes, found that the fat composition of food we eat determines where the fat will be stored in our bodies. Saturated fat also negatively effects cholesterol levels in the blood and raises the risk of cardiovascular disease! Add nuts, seeds, and fish to your daily nutritional regimen!
 
• Sleep! Try to sleep eight hours per day. According to a 2010 Wake Forest University study, sleeping five hours or less each day increases visceral fat levels.
 
• Green Tea. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found that the moderate exercisers who consumed green tea were more likely to lose abdominal fat while exercising than those who didn’t — thanks to the antioxidants found in green tea called catechins.
 
Take these five steps to heart … you’ll look better, and you’ll be A LOT HEALTHIER!
 
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Changing with the Season

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
The cooler temperatures of late summer bring new opportunities and new challenges for expanding our fitness programs. The 5 to 10 mile bike ride that seemed so easy suddenly becomes an endurance trek when riding into the wind. Meanwhile, cooler weather energizes your runs, pushing you further. Soon children and many young adults will be returning to school and our professional lives shift into high gear. This period of changing seasons is a good time to let that excitement extend into our personal lives and workout regimens.
 
Exercise and nutrition, of course, are the keys to positive health outcomes. Try these tips to get started.
 
• Expand your aerobic regimen. Aerobic exercise reduces health risks, helps you lose or maintain weight and is great for the heart. Engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity per week — 11 or 22 minutes a day. Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, aerobic classes, hiking, and stair climbing, among other things. Work up a sweat and get your heart pumping!
 
• Don’t forget weight training! Regular resistance training will maximize fat loss while boosting bone density. It improves posture, develops muscle tone, and even slows down the aging process!
 
• Stay active throughout the day. Walk a few extra blocks, take the stairs instead of the elevator, try dancing through your household chores! The calories you burn will really make a difference!
 
• Add some interval training to your aerobic routines! Start small. Warm up by walking at a moderately brisk rate for five minutes. After warming up, alternate walking briskly for four blocks with a block of power walking; repeat 6 times. You can apply the same method to biking or running. It’s a great way to challenge yourself, and you’ll see the results quickly!
 
• Drink at least eight glasses of water every day! The weather may be cooler, but your body still needs to be hydrated!
 
• Eat small meals throughout the day. Your appetite increases in cooler weather; eating smaller meals or snacks every two to three hours during the day will help suppress hunger and will help control your appetite and maintain a balanced blood sugar level throughout the day. Think a hand full of nuts, a piece of fruit or a salad!
 
• Eat healthy! Consume five helpings of vegetables and three fruit servings every day. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient rich with high water content and low fat and calories overhead. Fill up with fruits and vegetables and you won’t have room for the junk food! Choose healthy proteins and concentrate on using only healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
 
• Keep a daily fitness journal. Taking note of the food you eat and your daily fitness regimen will help you make better fitness and nutrition choices.
 
Break your personal goals down into daily goals. Your long-term goal may be to lose 20 pounds, or run a marathon. Your daily goals could be to exercise for 20 minutes, drink 8 glasses of water and eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables or add a block onto your running regimen. If you don’t meet all the goals one day, pick it up again the next … daily goals give your results you can measure and will help you achieve your long term goals!
 
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It’s Never to Late!

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Beginning a new fitness program comes with great benefits at any age. An inspiring example of this Olga Kotella. She worked as a teacher, raised her family and retired at age 65 … and what an amazing retirement! At the age of 77 she began training in track and field and went on to earn 37 world records and win 750 gold medals in nonagenarian track-and-field events around the world by the time she turned 95! Her story is inspiring, and that is only part of her legacy.
 
In 2012, when Ms. Kotella was 93, she traveled to the University of Illinois from her home in Vancouver to take part in a study that compared her brain to the brains of 58 active women between the ages of 60 and 78. Scientists at the university were especially interested in her because she had started her fitness training at an advanced age and they felt she could shed light on the effects of exercise on seniors. For the study, participants underwent MRI brain scans, cognitive tests, and a treadmill fitness examination. The study was published in the journal Neurocases.
 
Her brain appeared younger than her age. The white matter of her brain — cells that help transmit messages from one part of the brain to another — had fewer age-related abnormalities than is usually seen in people of comparable age. Her hippocampus, which is involved in memory, was larger than that of the other participants closest to her age. In other words, her brain was younger than her age.
 
At that point, the question for the scientists became more focused … did becoming an athlete late in life improve her brain’s health or did a healthy brain help her to become a celebrated athlete? Trying to find an answer, the scientists then conducted another study, published last month in PLOS One. Researchers again scanned the brains of older men and women between the ages of 60 and 80, tracking the levels of oxygen delivered to cells as a method of determining brain activity. They also measured the participants’ aerobic capacity and closely monitored the amount and intensity of their activity for a week. In this case, none of the participants were athletes.
 
The result? The most physically active elderly participants, had healthier patterns of brain activity than the less active participants — particularly in improved memory , cognition and more robust connections between different brain areas.
 
More studies are underway to see if a fitness regimen can actually reverse the effects of aging, but the overwhelming improvements to daily life –at any age– are undeniable.
 
Be inspired! Get moving! There’s so much at stake!
 
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For a Healthy Heart

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We don’t need to be convinced about the importance of a healthy heart. Every year approximately one of every four deaths — 600,000 people — in the United States are the result of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and a major cause of disability around the world. We are all at risk, therefore it is absolutely vital that we understand that foods we eat and the amount of activity we take part in dramatically affects the overall health of our heart. You can prevent and may even reverse heart disease!
 
Research has shown that regular training can help fend off the major heart attacks by improving triglyceride counts, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and reducing body fat. Strength training, aerobic exercise, and flexibility training work together to build a healthy, strong heart.
 
Strength training. Researchers from Harvard studied 44,000 men and found that those who lifted weights for 30 minutes or more a week reduced their risk of heart disease by 23 per cent. Strength training conditions your heart to work better when you have to lift and carry heavy objects, so your blood pressure and heart rate are lower during everyday chores.
 
Aerobic exercise. Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise is an activity that increases breath rates and spurs deep breathing. It includes walking, running, swimming, and dancing. Aerobic machines in gyms include rowing machines, treadmills, stepper and elliptical trainers. Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart muscle by improving the body’s ability to extract oxygen from the blood for the body’s use while improving metabolism of fats and carbohydrates to energy.
 
Flexibility training. Stretching helps relax and lengthen your muscles, encourages improved blood flow, and helps to keep you supple so you can move more easily. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology, found that while regular exercisers generally have been found to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, participants who could not reach to or beyond their toes in the sit-and-stretch test were more likely than their flexible peers to have higher systolic blood pressure! Another recent study found that middle-age and older adults who undertook a stretching exercise regimen significantly improved the flexibility of their carotid artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood to the brain!
 
Small changes to your diet is another important and effective way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
 
• Reduce fat consumption, especially saturated and trans-fats.
• Eat more fruit and vegetables, wholegrain food and soluble fiber.
• Reduce salt to maintain lower blood pressure.
• Grill, bake or steam food rather than frying.
• Limit intake of trans-fats from processed food.
• Eat at least two portions of omega-3 rich fish, such as salmon, each week.
 
If you are overweight, you may increase the risk of heart disease as much as eighty percent! Eat a healthy diet and , take regular exercise, and you’ll live healthy, strong and long!
 
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Why You Need to Train Legs…

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Leg day is the easiest session to skip in the gym. Leg training is tough — no doubt about it — and it can be tempting to forget your leg workouts in favor of easier training sessions or missing the gym altogether. Many guys and girls prefer to focus on the showier muscles — arms, abs, shoulders and chest — but leg training has many benefits that go beyond aesthetics. No matter how big your upper body is, Not training your legs will stunt your potential for your overall body. Having small legs will make your physique look odd at the least, if not ridiculous too. I was called chicken legs by a man who was like a second dad to me, my Brooklyn manager Dr Julie Levine who owned R & J Health studio. Those words were rocket fuel for me, it motivated me to prove him wrong, which thank God I did. In bodybuilding contests, judges don’t look at muscle mass in one area — they look at your whole package. This includes proportion and symmetry criteria, so if your legs are lacking, you won’t get far in the bodybuilding game. Even if you’re not looking to compete, small legs don’t look good when you’re at the beach or strutting your stuff in shorts.As you get older your legs become your best friend, helping you get out of a chair or car or bath tub.
 
For sport and athletic performance, working out your legs is vital, according to a 2013 study. A bigger squat, dead lift and power clean will translate to running faster on the sports field and jumping higher on the basketball court. Even endurance athletes can benefit from stronger legs. You’ll also build strong knee, hip and ankle joints leg training, reducing your risk of injury.
 
Think you need cardio workouts to burn fat? Think again. Training your legs, particularly with multi-joint compound exercises, burns a higher number of calories than easier upper-body moves such as biceps curls or lateral raises. This leads to increased fat loss, which is also partly caused by the release of hormones you get when training legs. Your leg muscles are so large that this hormonal response can even help you build upper-body muscle mass.
 
Weight-bearing exercises and resistance training are crucial components in the prevention and management of osteoporosis and arthritis. If you’re using weight training purely to keep bones and joints healthy later in life, do front squats, stiff-legged dead lifts, calf raises, leg presses and any other challenging leg moves that take your fancy. If you’ve been diagnosed with a bone or joint condition, however, and are looking to training to manage your condition, consult with your doctor and a fully qualified trainer before starting a routine.
 
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Hot Weather Tips

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We all embrace the warm weather after a long, hard winter, but we also need to keep in mind that changes in temperatures call for changes in our workout regimens. An average of 618 heat-related deaths occur each year in the United States. It’s a grim statistic, but with a little planning, you can avoid dangerous hot weather health issues!
 
Start by making adjustments to your fitness workout routine to prevent heat-related problems while keeping active. Here are a few important pointers to keep in mind:
 
• Drink Water. We sweat more when the temperature’s hot, especially when working or exercising in the heat. You also burn more calories working out in hot weather due to the extra cardiovascular effort required to cool the body when blood is pumped to the skin — this results in increased perspiration. It’s important to drink water to replenish the fluids lost by any excessive sweating.
 
• Work out during the milder times of day. The combination of hot temperatures and dehydration can lead to serious heat-related illnesses, so don’t try to maximize your regimen when temperatures and humidity are high! Try to fit the most demanding parts of your regimen in early morning or evening hours.
 
• Wear sunscreen. It reduces the risk of long-term damage to your skin, and protects the ability of the epidermis to do its job — regulate temperature.
 
• Eat regularly. Your appetite may be reduced on hot days, so try eating 5-6 small meals throughout day. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, they’re in season and nutritious.
 
There may be days when it’s just too hot and humid for you. Heat combined with humidity increases the risk of a heat-related illness, so consider other exercise options when temperatures spike:
 
• Try speed-walking and stair-climbing at a local mall with air conditioning. Join your local exercise club.
 
• Have a cool room at home? Pull out your workout DVDs you’ve been looking at, open up the strength training or Pilates book that has been sitting on the shelf!
 
• What could be more refreshing than swimming on a hot day! Look for water aerobic classes at your local public pool or include a water routine in your current regimen.
 
• Find a gym that works for you. Local gyms come in all shapes and sizes. It’s easier than ever now to find one that fits your budget… with or without a contract!
 
Whatever option you decide to embrace, pace yourself and enjoy your workout. A hot summer day can give you a new appreciation for the value of sweat equity!
 
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Belly Fat Risks

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Recent news on belly fat reminds us that there are more reasons to get in shape than appearance! A new international study found that men and women with larger waists are more likely to die younger from a wide array of illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer. The study was managed by a Mayo Clinic researcher and is published in the March edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
 
The researchers pooled data from 11 different studies that included more than 600,000 people from around the world. They concluded that men with waists 43 inches or greater in circumference have a 50 percent higher mortality risk than men with waists less than 35 inches, while women with waist circumferences of 37 inches or greater have an approximately 80 percent higher mortality risk than women with waist circumference2 of 27 inches or less. They also found that this risk increased 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women for every 2 inches of greater circumference, even among people who had normal body mass index levels.
 
Men tend to have more belly fat than women from an earlier age, which may be why men have more coronary disease than women. After menopause, women’s fat settles in the belly and increases the risk of death from heart disease and breast, uterine, cervical, colon and kidney cancers!
 
Why does belly fat have such a great impact on your health? The fat you see on your stomach indicates the development of deep visceral belly fat — the fat that grows close to organs such as your kidneys and liver. This is why when you develop belly fat, you want to concentrate on full-body weight loss and include exercises that tone and tighten your abs.
 
Here are three pointers that will slim down that waist and help get rid of the that dangerous visceral fat.
 
• Maintain a healthy, balanced nutrition regimen. Drop the processed food, refined baked goods and sweets and focus on fruit, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish, whole grains and beans. Remember, healthy fats not only lower cholesterol and prevent food cravings, they also increase fat burning. Olive oil, flaxseed oil and avocados help prevent insulin spikes. Sesame, sunflower and safflower oil are thought to have significant fat-burning qualities.
 
• Good nutrition is a vital part of getting rid of that belly fat… as is physical activity, which leads to an even greater percentage of loss of the visceral, intra-abdominal fat. Cardiovascular workouts will help burn the fat. Start with 20 to 30 minutes three days a week on nonconsecutive days, then work towards longer and higher intensity workouts.
 
• Weight training helps build active muscle mass. Like cardio training, start with 20 to 30 minute workouts three days a week and and aim towards higher intensity and longer workouts. Do your weight training on the days you’re NOT doing your cardio workouts.
 
You’ll look better and live longer!
 
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