The Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise

[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!

As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine!

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Working Hard 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!

Recent 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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Spice for a Healthy Life

[Written by Peter Nielsen].

Ginger has long been used in traditional American cooking, from the wild ginger native Americans added to pumpkin and corn pudding to gingerbread, gingersnaps and Detroit’s famous ginger ale. Ginger can also be found in a wide array of other national cuisines, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese, Moroccan, Italian and many, many more! The great thing about ginger is it not only can serve many purposes as a spice, it has many health benefits.

Traditional Chinese, eastern Indian and native American health practices have used ginger extensively for the treatment of nausea, motion sickness, colds, joint pain, and circulatory problems. Indian Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine use ginger as a warming and stimulating herb to the body’s temperature, thus helping fight infection. Folk medicine has long prescribed ginger to promote circulation and act as a stimulant. Recent interest in Western scientific research has substantiated many of the traditional applications for this root. Gingerol, the active part of fresh ginger, is related to capsaicin and piperine, the compounds that give chili and black pepper their spicy flavor, and are also the active medicinal components in ginger. They contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, which some studies have indicated relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. An animal study at the University of Minnesota suggests that gingerols may even inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells.  The number of health benefits that is stunning:

  • Cancer Treatment and Prevention: A preliminary study conducted at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center indicates that an application of ginger powder induces cell death in all ovarian cancer cells, while research at  the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute found that gingerol prevented mice from developing colorectal carcinomas when compared to a control group
  • Morning Sickness Relief: A review of several studies has concluded that ginger is just as effective as vitamin B6 in the treatment of morning sickness.   A review of six controlled trials with a total of 675 participants confirmed that ginger is effective in relieving the severity of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.  Ginger is also safe, without significant side effects, and only a small dose is required.
  • Motion Sickness Prevention: Recent studies have indicated that ginger is highly effective in preventing the symptoms of motion sickness, reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.
  • Reduction of Pain and Inflammation: Another study showed that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful natural painkiller. These anti-inflammatory properties of gingerol are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who didn’t, found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain and/or swelling.
  • Heartburn Relief: The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger minimize stomach acid, offering natural heartburn relief.
  • Cold and Flu Prevention and Treatment: Ginger can help promote healthy sweating, which is important for detoxification. As an anti-inflammatory, it also offers relief to sufferers of stomach flu.
  • Prevention of Diabetic Kidney Failure: A recent study of diabetic rats found that rats given ginger had a reduced incidence of nephropathy, or diabetic kidney damage. Additional findings included heightened antioxidant capacity in the ginger-supplemented rats.

Ginger is in season from March through September, and is sold in the produce section of markets. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if left unpeeled.  Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months. Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place.  This is all good news, but don’t forget, always check with your physician before undertaking any new nutritional or fitness regimen.

Add a little spice to your life … it’s really good for you!

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Roots

[Written by Peter Nielsen].

The winter holiday season is over, and we’re all settling down into our normal winter diets. Though we may miss the fresh, clean flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables, the comforting, substantial richness of root vegetables are perfect for January through March weather! Root vegetables are full of fiber, rich in minerals and nutrients from the soil and low in calories. Research also shows that winter favorites such as beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips contain cancer fighting substances called phytochemicals and are rich in vitamins and nutrients to help boost resistance to other health problems. Root vegetables come with short and long term benefits!

  • Boost your energy stores! A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that drinking two cups of beet juice a day for 6 days, participants could cycle 16 percent longer than those who drank a placebo. That beet juice also contains a color pigment called betalain, which has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fungicidal and detoxification properties.
  • Lower cancer risks! New research indicates that the betalain in that beet juice may also spur anti-cancer activity, while a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that carrots reduced the likelihood of developing full-scale tumors by one-third in laboratory rats compared to those who were not fed carrots.
  • Get your folate. Root vegetables are an excellent source of folate. Parsnips, with their nutty flavor, contain almost twice as much folate as carrots. Folate is vital for normal nerve functioning, and helps support cell production, prevent anemia and and contributes to healthier bones. Studies indicate that it helps lower the risk of dementia and depression.
  • Raise your iron absorption. Root vegetables are high in the powerful antioxidant, vitamin C, which help the body absorb iron and helps build bones and cartilage.
  • Beta boosters! Carrots, yams, beets and turnips are all excellent sources of betacarotenes, which the body converts into vitamin A. Important for vision and bone growth, betacarotene also helps regulate the body’s immune system.

Last but not least, the high amounts of nutrients and soluble fiber in root vegetables will keep you satisfied longer. Root vegetables – a healthy, tasty way to help lose those holiday pounds!

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Keep Your Cholesterol Healthy

[Written by Peter Nielsen].

Approximately one in every six adults—17% of the U.S. adult population—has high blood cholesterol! We’re also seeing a sharp rise in children with high cholesterol. This is a dangerous condition, and it comes with a sharp increase of risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s important to know that high cholesterol often can be reduced through regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Add these items to your menu to help lower your cholesterol levels.

  • The fiber in oatmeal mixes with cholesterol in the small intestine and attaches to the cholesterol molecule, helping to flush them from the body.
  • Eating fatty fish can help lower your blood pressure tthe high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.
  • Pinto beans may actually be more efficient than oatmeal when it comes to lowering cholesterol. A study from the University of Colorado found that eating a half-cup of pinto beans a day for eight weeks resulted in an average drop of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol of more than 8 percent, while eating half-cup of oatmeal will reduce cholesterol 2 percent to 3 percent!
  • Garlic can prevents plaque from clogging your arteries by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls. Fresh garlic is best.
  • Studies show that macadamia nuts and other nuts are helpful in the fight against bad cholesterol. In one study published in the April, 2008, researchers reported that 1.5 ounces of macadamia nuts eaten daily reduced total cholesterol by 9.4 percent and low-density lipoprotein by 8.9 percent. Walnuts are also excellent for reducing cholesterol levels.

Along with lowering the ‘bad cholesterol’ you want to be sure your ‘good cholesterol’ gets a boost:

  • Foods that are high in soluble fiber, such as flax seed, apples, and oranges will help keep HDL levels at a healthy level.
  • Fatty fish not only lower LDL levels, it helps raise HDL levels!
  • Cranberry juice has been shown to increase HDL levels.
  • Monounsaturated fats such as canola oil, avocado oil, or olive oil and in the fats found in peanut butter can increase HDL cholesterol levels without increasing the total cholesterol.
  • Aerobic exercise has been shown to have a highly beneficial effect on HDL.

The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is through testing. However, the following factors raise your risks of high cholesterol. If any of them describe you, and you haven’t been tested, see your doctor!

  • Lack of exercise)
  • Poor  diet
  • Smoking
  • Specific medications
  • Age
  • Family history of high cholesterol
  • Weight – even a few extra pounds can increase your cholesterol

The American Heart Association states that high cholesterol levels can result in heart attacks, strokes and other preventable diseases. So take control and give yourself a longer, healthier life!

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Sunscreen Facts

[Written by Peter Nielsen].

If you’re going to the beach, boating, playing in the sun or just taking a quick walk… don’t forget your sunscreen! If the higher risks of skin cancer hasn’t convinced you, think of this: Daily use of sunscreen will give you significantly younger-looking skin, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Nine hundred and three participants were divided into four groups. The first group applied a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher on a daily basis and were told to apply it to the head, neck, arms, and hands in the morning and again after extended exposure to the sun or contact with water. The second group applied sunscreen when and if they usually did — without any guidance, the third group took beta-carotene supplements, while the last group took a placebo.

The study lasted 4-1/2 years. The results? People who applied sunscreen daily showed no visible signs of increased aging on their skin! Members of the groups who used sunscreen occasionally or not at all displayed an average of 24 percent more skin aging — dryness, wrinkles, and blotches! The results for groups that used the supplement and placebo were inconclusive.

There are a lot of sunscreen products out there. There are a couple things to remember. The sun has two types of invisible rays: ultraviolet A (UVA), and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays are actually longer, their penetration into the skin is deeper than the UVB rays, and play a large role in tanning, premature aging, loss of elasticity, and wrinkling of the skin. UVB rays main risk is in damage to the superficial layers of the skin — reddening of the skin and sunburns. Both types of rays are associated with skin cancer. Keeping this in mind, remember that sunscreens list their level of sun protective factor (SPF). An SPF of 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. Unfortunately, no system approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration measures UVA protection is available at this time.

Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays, these products will say “broad spectrum protection” or “UVA and UVB protection” on the label. You’ll get a lot of protection for the few minutes application costs you! You’ll …

  • shield you body from harmful rays.
  • decrease your risk of skin cancer.
  • prevent facial brown spots and skin discolorations.
  • reduce the appearance of facial red veins and blotches.
  • slow premature aging of your skin.

Go for it! Relax and and enjoy some carefree fun in the sun – block the rays, and wrinkles and age spots while reducing the risk of skin cancer!

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Sweat Equity

[Written by Peter Nielsen].

More than fifty million Americans are affected by hypertension.  It can lead to a laundry list of dangerous health conditions, including heart disease and stroke! The good news is that you can usually take care of the problem with the right diet and just a little bit of exercise.  Cut down on simple carbs and be sure to reduce your sodium intake. Plus, exercising as little as sixty to ninety minutes a week can do a lot more than you may think! A recent eight-week study shows that patients working out as little as an hour to an hour and a half per week cut their systolic blood pressure by as much as 12 points.  Diastolic blood pressure dropped by as much as 8 points. It’s important to note that test subjects getting less than sixty minutes a week of exercise showed no reduction in blood pressure. That’s a big health payoff for a little bit of effort.

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Five Spring Stars

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Some of the great joys of spring line the produce aisles of you local produce store or farmers market. Along with the delicious spring harvest comes some great opportunities to up the nutrition content of your diet, while enjoying it more! Fresh, seasonal produce reaps the most nutritional value. We’ve picked five of our favorites to share with you!
 
• Apricots‘ long growing season last from May to August. Fresh apricots are an excellent source of Vitamins C, E, potassium, and iron, as well as being a great source of beta-carotene. Additionally, two to three apricots offer nearly 50% of your daily value of Vitamin A. Did I mention they’re a great source of fiber with the low-overhead of three for 50 calories!
 
• Artichokes are available year-round, but the best time for truly fresh artichokes is from March through May. A study done by the USDA found that artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable. Some of the powerful antioxidants in artichokes are quercertin, rutin, anthocyanins, cynarin, luteolin, and silymarin. They are also a good source of iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin C. A 2-ounce serving has about 3 grams of fiber… all that for just 25 calories!
 
• Asparagus is one of the first foods to signal the beginning of spring. Fresh asparagus are at their peak from March through June. They are a good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K; and are also a very good source of chromium, which heightens the ability of insulin to move glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Additionally, asparagus is rich in of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. Finally, each one of those green spears is brimming with antioxidants that neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. Preliminary research shows it may even help slow the aging process!
 
• Sweet cherries have a short harvest season, from late spring to early summer. They’re not only a highly sought-after summer favorite, they’re a true super fruit! Chock full of antioxidants, they help replace free radicals in your body before they can cause any damage. They are rich in the flavanoid queritrin, one of the most potent anticancer agents and contain ellagic acid, a naturally occurring plant phenolic known as an anti-carcinogenic/anti-mutagenic compound, which some researchers say acid may be the most effective way to prevent cancer. It’s hard to find a treat that offers so much goodness along with great taste!
 
• Fava beans are a nutrient-dense food that provide a high amount of nutrients packed in a low amount of calories. You can get 10 to 19 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin B1 or thiamin, iron, copper, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium in just 1/4 cup of fava beans.They’re also an excellent source of folate, and manganese, supporting the immune system function and cardiovascular health while enabling metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and cholesterol. Fava beans also have 9 grams of fiber in that 1/4 cup and are particularly rich in soluble fiber which may help improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
 
Leap into spring with a with these high-nutrient and anti-oxidant rich foods for a great, fresh start!
 
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Sleep

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Busy schedules, stress, family, and medical issues can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Four common problems that arise from lack of needed sleep are depression, memory loss, weakened immune system, and a lower tolerance for pain. Now, recent research indicates that the health costs of sleep deprivation is greater than previously thought.
 
A recent study restricted a group of young men to four hours of sleep for six consecutive nights. After the sixth night, researchers found levels of glucose spiked for the study participants while production of insulin, the hormone that removes sugar from the blood was reduced. The effect was so strong that the participants’ blood sugar levels rose to between normal and diabetic! Fortunately, blood sugar levels returned to normal after the individuals’ customary sleep patterns were restored, but long-term results remain unknown.
 
How much sleep is enough sleep? Requirements vary between individuals, however general guidelines are:
 
• Infants need about 16 hours a day
• Teenagers need about 9 hours on average per day
• Adults need 7 to 8 hours per day, keep in mind that individual requirements for adults vary widely.
 
Easier said than done? Many of us lie in bed at night, our minds racing with chores, careers and family issues. There are steps you can take that will help ease you into sleep.
 
• Go to bed the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
• Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment.
• Exercise daily (but not right before bedtime).
• Turn off the electronics — yes, the computer and cell phone!
• Relax before bedtime. A warm bath or reading both help muscles relax.
• Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.
 
Feel better … be better, get your sleep!
 
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Children and Cardiovascular Health

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We have watched with dismay in the last 30 years as the rates of childhood obesity more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. Now we find there is more to this story. Recently published studies have found that kids are about fifteen percent less aerobically fit than their parents were at the same age! The findings of this research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013 in Dallas, TX.
 
For this large study, researchers analyzed 50 separate studies that concentrated on running and fitness between 1964 and the present that included more than 25 million children who ranged in ages from 9 to 17 years-old in 28 different countries. Timed runs, which were either a set amount of time or set distance, were used as the measure of cardiovascular strength and endurance.
 
The findings? Over the 46 years during which these studies were conducted, children’s cardiovascular endurance has decreased approximately five percent in every decade. This decrease in cardiovascular strength is accompanied by higher obesity rates. Along with sedentary lifestyles, researchers concluded that between 30 and 60 percent of the decline is directly the result of rising obesity. This decline is made evident by the finding that it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile now than it did in the 1980s!
 
How did this happen? Inactivity is the main culprit. Children no longer walk to school. Communities are designed without sidewalks, which discourages walking. Schools no longer offer daily physical education. Finally, our kids are sitting in front of the television or computer screens rather than becoming involved in physical activities.
 
This is a very serious situation, and the lack of a robust cardiovascular system can follow a child throughout his or her entire life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some important guidelines.
 
• Kids should exercise for at least 60 minutes a day, most of which should be aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, swimming, gymnastic or bicycling. A minimum of 3 days per week should include vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
 
• Include muscle strengthening exercises, such as gymnastics, pull-ups or push-ups, at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s 60 or more minutes of fitness activity.
 
• Don’t forget bone-strengthening activities! Try jumping rope, gymnastics, running or hiking, also at least 3 days per week.
 
• Stretching offers more flexibility and help protect your child against injuries. Include side-stretches or toe-touching bends or go for martial arts, dance or gymnastics.
 
Give your children the gifts of a lifetime … help them pursue active and healthy lifestyles!
 
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