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Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

Getting Fit for Summer Sports

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Spring fever has hit! That means many of you are looking forward to heading outside to hit the golf course, the basketball court, the baseball or soccer field. But before you step one foot out on the green, court or field are you ready? Yes I know you’re ready mentally, but what about physically? Are you in shape for summer sports? This is very important especially for people who have been cooped up inside all winter.
Start an Exercise Program-Now! The first thing you need to do before you participate in any sport is make sure you are working out on a regular basis. A good regular exercise program will increase your physical fitness and help reduce the chance of injuring yourself. Your program should include strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Then you can move on to more intense conditioning with plyometrics.
Make the most our of your cardiovascular exercise program you should keep your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. (see chart below) The best way to do that is through repetitive activities such as walking, jogging, cycling or using machines such as the elliptical trainer or a stepper. Use the F.I.T. (Frequency, Intensity, Time) principle to determine what is best for you. (see chart below)
• Frequency: You should try to do cardio at least 3-5 times each week.
• Intensity: You should strive to maintain a target heart rate between 70 and 80% of your max heart rate. Use the formula below to determine your range.
• Time: Each of your cardiovascular workouts should last for 30 to 60 minutes or more.

220 – Age = Max HR
Max HR x .7 = Low end of range
Max HR x .8 = High end of range
The second part of your exercise routine should be resistance training. This is the best way to build muscle. Try to do two to three sets of 10-15 repetitions for each muscle group.
Now if you want to put some power behind your conditioning, try plyometrics. This type of exercise is used by many athletes to increase their speed and strength. The exercises were developed for Olympic competitors to make a muscle reach full movement as quickly as possible. During each exercise your muscle will reach its concentric contraction (muscle shortens) immediately followed by an eccentric contraction (muscle lengthens). Then the force of each exercise will increase. Here are some examples of lower body and upper body plyometric exercises.
Lower Body:
• Drop Jumping- For this exercise you will drop-not jump-to the ground from a raised platform and them immediately jump up. The drop down gives the pre-stretch to the leg muscles, the intense jump up causes the concentric contraction. The exercise is more effective the faster you do it-meaning the shorter your feet are on the ground. Start slow and then build up to 3 sets of 10 drops.
• Bounding- This exercise will help with your speed. Push off with your left foot and bring the left leg forward. Your knee should be bent and thigh parallel to the ground. At the same time you’ll reach forward with your right arm. As the left leg comes through, the right leg extends back and remains extended for the duration of the push-off. Hold this extended stride for a brief time, then land on your left foot. Make sure you’re landing flat footed and you feel the energy pumping through your leg. The right leg then drives through to a forward bent position, the left arm reaches forward and the left leg extends backward. Think of it as a slow, exaggerated run. You want to make sure each stride is long and cover as much distance as possible. Do 1 to 3 sets covering 30 to 40 meters each set.
• Hurdle hopping- Jump forward over barriers or hurdles with your feet together. The movement should come from your hips and knees. Another form is with one leg. Push off with the leg you are standing on and jump forward, landing on the same leg, then immediately jump again. Do one leg then switch and do the same thing with the other leg. Do 1 to 3 sets jumping 6 to 8 hurdles each set.
• Jumping- With a box in front of you, start in a deep squat with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep you arms behind your head and jump onto the box. Stay in the squat position and then jump off. Do 1 to 3 sets jumping up on the box 6 to 8 times per set. You can also jump without a box. Start in the standing position, then jump up grab both knees as they come up to your chest and return to the standing position-then immediately jump up again. Do 1 to 3 sets with 5 to 10 repetitions per set.
Upper Body:
• Clap push-ups- Begin in the push up position then lower your chest to the floor, explosively push upward to cause your hands to leave the floor, clap and put your hands back on the floor, then immediately explode upward. Do 10 repetitions.
• Medicine Ball- Lie on the ground face up, a partner drops the ball, you catch it and immediately throw it back up to your partner who drops it again. Do 10 repetitions.
Specificity is key! Think of the movements you perform in your sport and condition your body properly. If you’re a basketball player jumping and bounding plyometrics are areas you should concentrate on. For golf, upper body plyometrics and stretching are important. But remember, it takes overall full body conditioning to avoid a sport injury.
Start your program now to be ready for the fun and games this summer.
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Expand Your Fitness Regimen

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Expanding the variety while focusing on the quality of your fitness regimen is more important than adding on extra hours in the gym according to new research recently published in the The Journal of Applied Physiology. The study was authored by Paul J. Arciero DPE, the director of the Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at Skidmore College.
The sixteen-week study included fifty-seven participants, 36 women and 21 men, between the ages of 35 and 57 years old. The participants were obese or overweight and exercised less than 60 minutes each week. Participants were then randomly separated into three groups. One group was sedentary throughout the study, one group did intense resistance training four times per week, while the third group’s training sessions included resistance, interval sprints, stretching, and endurance exercises. All included the same amount of whey protein in their nutrition regimens.
At the end of the study all participants demonstrated a decrease in body fat, which is attributed to the addition of the whey protein to their diets. However, the group that followed the varied, multidimensional regimen had significantly more health improvements than the other two groups — the largest reduction in body weight, total fat and abdominal fat mass, smaller waist circumference, healthier blood glucose levels, and the largest increase in lean body mass.
This study indicates why you round out your fitness routine with:
• Resistance exercise or strength training to increase the strength and mass of muscles, bone strength and metabolism.
• Sprint interval workouts to help build endurance, increase your anaerobic threshold and burn more calories and fat both during and after your workout.
• Stretching exercises increase flexibility and improve the range of motion of joints.
• Endurance (aerobic) exercise to increase your breathing and heart rate and keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy while improving overall fitness.
A well-rounded exercise regimen can help you maintain interest in your fitness program while preventing injuries that can occur from overuse of the same muscles. Combine the four basic types of exercise in your fitness regimen; you’ll notice the difference … and feel it!
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Brain Workout

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
The benefits of exercise for brain health have long been accepted, but new research just added a big item to the long list of bonuses for the brain from physical fitness!
We know that the benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have effects on brain functions. A study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Studies has shown that even 20 minutes of exercise will improve information processing and memory functions. Exercise increases heart rate and pumps more oxygen to the brain. It aids the release of a number of hormones which aid in and provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the brain by boosting the growth of new connections between cells in cortical areas. Researchers also found that the antidepressant-like effects associated with “runner’s high” is caused by a drop in stress hormones which is associated with added cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. This increase in brain activity increases the brain’s need for food.
Scientists used to believe that the brain absorbed glucose from the blood, but about 10 years ago, they found specialized cells in the brain, known as astrocytes, that act as support cells for neurons and contain stores of glycogen, or carbohydrates. Glycogen turned out to be critical for the health of cells throughout the brain. However, there was no way to measure the levels of the glycogen, in order to understand how it works to support brain health.
This spurred researchers to develop a method that could measure how much brain glycogen uses. Scientists at the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Neuroscience at the University of Tsukuba gathered two groups of adult male rats. One group was put on a daily treadmill running program, while the other group was sedentary for the same period of time each day. They discovered that prolonged exercise significantly lowered the brain’s stores of energy, particularly in the areas of the brain that are involved in thinking, memory, and movement. After a single session on the treadmill, the animals were allowed to rest and feed, then their brain glycogen levels were studied. The scientists found that the levels of glycogen had not only been restored to what they had been before the workout, but had increased by as much as a 60 percent in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. The astrocytes had overcompensated, resulting in a kind of brain carbo-loading. The levels returned to normal within about 24 hours.
However, when the animals continued the exercise program for four weeks, heightened levels became the new normal, with levels of glycogen showing substantial increases compared to the sedentary animals. These increases were especially notable in the parts of the brain critical to learning and memory formation — the cortex and the hippocampus. In other words, this energy balance affects how well the brain functions during exercise, and how well our thinking and memory work the rest of the time!
This is more proof of the overall importance of exercise for good health!
• Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain.
• Exercise in the morning before going to work. It prepares you for mental stresses of the day, and improves your reaction to complex situations.
• The best brain health workouts involve routines that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy. Try a new activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance or zumba.
Keep these tips in mind when designing your fitness regimen. They give ‘work smarter’ a new meaning!
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Incline Walking

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Looking for a workout that will let you burn the maximum amount of calories in a minimum amount of time? Treadmill walking or walking up an incline might be the solution. The benefits are impressive!
• Increase Your Calorie Burn Rate. It’s simple, walk for 30 minutes at 4 miles per hour and you’ll burn 145 calories… raise the incline for the same distance and time and you’ll burn 345 calories!
• Improve Cardiovascular Health. Walking on an incline increases the workload on your system, and increases your the heart rate!
• Burn Fat. When you walk on an incline, your body uses a greater percentage of fat. Studies have shown that walking 3 miles per hour on an inclined raised between 16 and 18 percent will burn 70 percent more fat than running on a flat surface.
Treadmill walking on an incline works the muscles of the calves, hamstrings and glutes. For optimal benefits increase the incline fifteen percent or more!
Incline walking is stunningly effective! A one hundred and sixty pound man walking a treadmill at just two and a half miles per hour burns around four calories a minute. That burn amount surges up to seven calories a minute when walking up a ten percent grade and ten calories a minute when walking up a twenty percent grade! Help yourself succeed. Start off slowly and work your way up! If you use your treadmill effectively and gradually increase the incline, it could give you just the kind of lift you’ve been dreaming about to help shed those unwanted pounds!
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Winter Roots

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
The humble beet, often used as a colorful garnish on the table, is a terrific source of nutrients for your winter diet. Rich in natural sugar, sodium, sulphur, chlorine, iodine, copper, it’s also a terrific source of vitamins B1, B2, C and bioflavonoids. This tasteful root vegetable’s health benefits have been known for generations. A fibrous root, it’s also an excellent source of bulk fiber, and the fresh beet offers all this for 30-58 calories per cup! Are you interested yet? The beet is also high in folic acid, potassium, calcium and antioxidants, and that’s just the beet roots, the leafy beet greens can also be used for juicing, or cooking as you would any other green. In fact the beet greens contain significantly more iron, vitamin A, potassium and calcium than the roots!
Beets are not only delicious, they offer excellent health benefits:
• Detoxification – The Encyclopedia of Healing Juices states that the beet is a blood-building herb. It detoxifies blood and renews it with minerals and natural sugars.
• Fighting Cancer – Early research in Hungary indicated that beet juice slows the development of tumors. It’s thought that betaine, an amino acid in beet root, has significant anti-cancer properties. Studies show that beet juice inhibits formation of cancer-causing compounds and is protective against colon and stomach cancer.
• Blood Building – The high content of iron in beets regenerates and reactivates the red blood cells and supplies fresh oxygen to the body, while the copper content in assists in iron absorption, helping in the fight against anemia.
• Lowering Cholesterol – Beets help to keep bad cholesterol at bay. Studies show that eating beets on a regular basis can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 30 percent.
• Regulating Blood Pressure – In a British study of 14 healthy volunteers, half drank 2 cups beet juice and half drank 2 cups of water within 30 minutes. Their blood pressure was checked every 15 minutes for one hour before and every 15 minutes for three hours after drinking the beet juice. They were also checked every hour for six hours with a final check at 24 hours after drinking the juice. The results were amazing! Compared with the water drinkers, blood pressure dropped one hour after the volunteers drank the beet juice. It reached its lowest point 2-1/2 to 3 hours after ingestion and continued to have an effect for up to 24 hours.
Roasted, boiled or juiced, beets are great winter superfood!
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Aerobic Fitness

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Aerobic exercise pumps oxygenated blood from the heart to working muscles. To accomplish that, it stimulates the heart and breathing rates throughout your exercise session. As a rule aerobic exercise can be light-to-medium intensity activities that can be performed for extended periods of time, such as walking, jogging or biking. Whatever your age, weight or athletic ability, aerobic activity is a health booster that gains efficiency as your body adapts and gets stronger and fitter!
What are the benefits offered by aerobic exercise?
• Reduces Fat: A study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism found that vigorous aerobic exercise such as jogging or brisk walking beats weight or resistance training for reducing belly and visceral fat.
• Increases Stamina: Increased stamina improves your overall physical health and the power to endure disease, fatigue, and illness.
• Protects the Brain: A new study from the University of Washington School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System finds that regular aerobic exercise can protect the brain and even improve cognitive performance in older adults showing signs of mental decline. It’s important to note that the study found that memory gains may take 6 months or longer to emerge.
• Boosts the Immune System: Aerobic exercise activates your immune system. This leaves you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu. Aerobic exercise may accomplish this by flushing bacteria out from the lungs, and may even flush out cancer-causing cells by increasing output of wastes, such as urine and sweat. It also sends antibodies and white blood cells through the body at a faster rate, allowing them to detect illnesses earlier than they might normally. Additionally, the temporary rise in body temperature may inhibit bacterial growth, allowing the body to fight the infection more effectively.
• Strengthens Bones: In a new study, step aerobics offered the greatest gains in leg, spine, and heel bone density, while hip bones health was heightened most with weight training.
• Reduces Health Risks: Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.
• Strengthens the Heart. Regular aerobic exercise increases the heart’s efficiency,leading to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. When a person is aerobically active, more capillaries develop as the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange between blood and cells increases. If for any reason an artery is damaged or blood flow is blocked, the blood can easily be rerouted to deliver the necessary oxygen.
• Increases Good Cholesterol, Burns the Bad: Research shows that moderate aerobic exercise increases the number of HDLs in the bloodstream and reduces the number of LDLs by increasing lipid metabolism. Like fat, cholesterol is a lipid that can be oxidized, or broken down, for energy.
• Supports Mental Health: Aerobic exercise relieves depression, and promotes relaxation. Exercise also slows down the release of stress-related hormones.
Remember, if you’ve been inactive for a long time or if you have a chronic health condition, talk to your doctor before you start. Begin slowly and build each day.Try walking five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening and add a few minutes each day. Pick up the pace and soon you’ll be enjoying all the benefits of regular aerobic activity!
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Cold Weather Workout Tips

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Winter weather can wreak havoc on your workout schedule, but 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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Keeping Your New Year Resolutions

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
The new year is a time to reflect on our lives, to embrace the opportunity for change a new year brings and to look forward with hope to the future. With hope for the future in mind, millions of Americans make New Year resolutions. If you’re one of them, try these seven helpful pointers to help reach your goal!
1. Decide on realistic goals. Realistic goals can help you stay on track and reach your target. Weight control experts use the term ‘false-hope syndrome’ for unrealistic expectations about how long it will take to lose extra weight. Planning realistic goals can be applied to all situations, set a target that is attainable, reaching that will spur you on to greater heights
2. Make a plan. Be specific. Whether you’re going to be counting calories, making more time to spend with your family or quitting smoking — give yourself a plan. How you will deal with the urge to skip a workout, have potato chips instead of celery, or have just one more cigarette? This can be as simple as breathing deeply while you count to ten, calling a friend, or having a list on-hand to remind you of the positive effects of sticking to your plan.
3. Write down a “pro” and “con” list. Writing and seeing a list of of the positive effects of keeping your resolution and the negative effects of continuing as you are on paper strengthens your resolution. Keep the list with you to help you through the rough periods.
4. Practice mindfulness. Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, offers a quote from author and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl. “Between stimulus and response, there’s a space, and in that space is our power to choose our response, and in our response lies our growth and freedom.” Recognizing the triggers to actions you want to stop gives you the choice to respond positively.
5. Keep track of your progress. Remember, your larger goal is at the end of a road of small successes. Breaking a large goal into smaller segments or timeframes will help guide you, give you a ‘checking mechanism’ and keep you motivated. Break a weight-loss regimen into 5 pound segments, keep a work-out diary for your fitness regimen or a phone log for those old friends and family members you reach out to.
6. Treat yourself to something special. Go out to a movie or sports event, have lunch with a friend … celebrate your success by treating yourself to something you enjoy that does not contradict your resolution!
7. Be forgiving. Relapse is a common part of changing behavior. If you have an occasional slip, learn from it and keep going. Make the best of each day, and take each day as it comes. It takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit, and about 6 months for it to become part of your personality. With a little patience, new habits will become second-nature in no time.
Good luck on your resolutions! Wishing you a Healthy and Happy New Year!
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Spreading Holiday Health!

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Are you taking a dish to a holiday a holiday potluck? Having friends over? Share the gift of healthy food for your friends and loved ones! Whether making your traditional seasonal treats or experimenting with new and adventurous dishes, you can create a great, even indulgent holiday spread while protecting against growing waistlines and rising cholesterol levels.
Try some new ideas for the healthiest holiday foods to add to your table!
• Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts have come roaring in from the culinary cold! Sweet and piquant, brussel sprouts are as tasty roasted as they are simple to prepare with an added nutty flavor. Simply toss with olive oil, a touch of garlic and salt, then roast until crisp on the outside. Easy to prepare, tasty and packed with nutrients, roasted Brussels sprouts are an extremely healthy dietary choice.
• Collard Greens: Collards offer exceptional nutritional value with low caloric overhead and are a popular dish on any dinner tabl. Sadly, the traditional method of cooking greens with fat-back or bacon overwhelms the benefits of this great veggie. If you crave the flavor of traditional collards without the cholesterol-causing bacon or fatback, try using smoked turkey wings and a drizzle of olive oil!
• Green Beans: One of America’s favorite vegetables, green beans are one of the healthiest holiday foods. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K (important for bone health) and manganese. They’re generous in vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron. Unfortunately, that yummy green bean casserole served with traditional holiday meal is high in calories due to the butter, cream of mushroom soup and cheese. Try tossing with sauteed fresh garlic and top with toasted almond slivers. It’s your next, healthy holiday favorite!
• Pecans: Sprinkle pecans over salads with dried cranberries or cherries, or gently roast for a pre-meal snack. Pecans are a great source of vitamin E and magnesium. They’re also packed with fiber, protein, and the same “good” fats that are found in olive oil.
• Winter Squash: If winter squash isn’t a staple in your winter nutritional regimen, it should be! Try an apple and squash casserole as a tasty and healthy replacement for mashed potatoes. Pumpkin empanadas with whole wheat crust are a great appetizer that will disappear off your buffet table as fast as you get them there!
It’s the rich desserts and cookies that will really catch you, but there’s plenty of ways to make those holiday favorites healthier while retaining the flavor.
• Use whole grains like oatmeal, dried fruits and nuts in holiday cookies and breads.
• Make a low-fat ricotta cheesecake!
• When baking gingerbread and deep-hued cakes and cookies, replace half the flour with whole-wheat flour to increase the fiber, they will fill you up quicker and make you feel full longer.
• Try using an egg substitute to cut cholesterol.
• Add the simple elegance of baked, poached or roasted fall fruits to the dessert menu. Making tarts? Reduce the amount of sugar and let the fruit flavor shine! Decorate with some fresh mint leaves and cranberries for that seasonal touch!
Let you creativity shine through! You’ll not only share a loving feast made with the well-being of your guests in mind … you may create a new holiday tradition to share for years and years!
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