Monday, December 31, 2012

Get Moving in the New Year

Now seems like a good time to make good decisions regarding your family's heath and well-being.

Make the decision to get moving.

X-Box, smartphones and other electronic devices can stop us in our tracks (and, realistically, should not be used when moving too fast if you want to avoid injuries). However, sitting is one of the most dangerous habits to cultivate.

Sitting leads to slouching, especially while you're reading or on the computer. Ergonomics experts remind us to stand up and move around at least every 45 minutes or so, but few of us actually do it. Try this: consciously sit up straight at least every 10 minutes. Stretch your back and straighten your spine; imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you up tall.

Once you leave the office or classroom, dedicate at least an hour of your evening to play.

  • When the weather allows, go outside to play. Many fields and some parks have lit courts and tracks. Check with local schools to see when the fields are open for public use. A bike ride in a lit parking lot or a brisk walk around the neighborhood count.
  • When weather doesn't permit outside activities, look to local gyms, schools and rec centers. They often offer drop-in programs for just about every sport, or just use of the facilities.
  • At home, put that Xbox or DVD player to good use: play Wii sports or use a video exercise program. Try something new, like Bollywood dancing or Dance Dance Revolution
Think you don't have time? 

Do yourself a favor: for a week, keep track of how much time you spend on the computer or watching television. You'll be surprised just how much time you spend sitting still. Trade that time for a healthy activity.

Finally, if you're not sure how to start, contact a personal trainer — they often offer group services as well as one-on-one training to put you on the right track.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Green Tea Extract: Does it Burn Fat?

Bodybuilders are the biggest target audience, but everyone can be intrigued by the claim: green tea extract helps the body burn fat.

But does it really?

Supporters claim the key compounds in green tea is Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), what the New York Times calls "a potent antioxidant thought of by some as a sort of kryptonite to body fat." Proponents of the extract claim reduces fat gain and enhances fat-burning. 

However, simply drinking green tea won't provide EGCG in high-enough concentration, say extract manufacturers. Hence the need for the extract.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published a study this month in the American College of Sports Medicine's Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

In this study, 31 men were divided into three groups: one given the extract in a dose equivalent to eight cups of green tea a day, one given a placebo, and yet another given lower doses of the green tea extract plus placebos. The men were given similar diets and exercise regimens.

After a week, extensive blood tests revealed little difference between the groups. The conclusion: EGCG did not offer the benefits touted by its fans.

Don't rely on supplements for the the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. There is no magic bullet or shortcut. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Ten Steps on How to Start Practicing Tai Chi

Give Yourself the Gift of Tai Chi

WikiHow offers 10 easy steps to begin learning Tai Chi. Here are the highlights:

  • Talk with your physician if you have any medical issues or current injuries. While virtually everyone can practice Tai Chi, some injuries or medical conditions may need to be taken into account when deciding when and how to begin.
  • Choose the style of Tai Chi that best fits you.
  • Choose an instructor that best fits your style.
  • Practice daily.
  • Try it for a few months before making any judgments.
  • Read up on the subject.

Tai Chi is excellent for all ages and physical abilities. Give it a try!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Don't Go It Alone

There are plenty of DVDs and television shows, YouTube programs and books to help you start your path on Tai Chi.

But don't stop there. And don't go it alone.

You aren't the only person looking to improve health and flexibility using this martial art, so don't do it by yourself. And you aren't the only person at your current skill level, either, so don't worry about how you compare to others.

Find a shifu you trust. Find a supportive class. Find people who share your curiosity, your passion, your interest. If the first class you choose or the first shifu you meet isn't quite the fit you sought, keep looking (and keep practicing as you search).

Once you find that right fit, let these companions spur you on, engage you, challenge you. Guide each other. Chances are, you'll find a friend, and that's always a good thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fitness Gear Gift Ideas

Active friends and family members are easy to shop for this holiday season. Here are a few gift ideas for the fitness fan in your life (with some help from the Seattle Times).

Hula Hoop — Never underestimate the power of play. Hula-hoops tone your thighs, hips, glutes and arms. There are plenty of routines on the Internet, including one from Real Simple, you can use to mix it up and make it fun. Hoops are not that expensive, and you can even take them with you when you travel and work out with the Hoopnotica TravelHoops.

Fitness classes — What do you want to achieve? There's a class that can help you get there: check the nearby community center, city recreation program, gym or nearby college. Nia provides relaxation and liber movements. Tai chi improves flexibility, oils joints and tones muscles. Get some aerobic action and lose weight with help from Zumba or spinning. Tone up with Pilates. For an added bonus, take the class, too: it's more fun with a companion.

Insanity — Stay home and get fit. The fitness company Beachbody offers a number of fitness programs, including Chris' personal favorite, Insanity. She and I have spent plenty of time with Shaun T. and his crew. Our fitness level and strength are demonstrably better after only a few weeks of diligent work with the crew. Other BeachBody programs include PX-90, Hip Hop Abs and Brazil Beach Butt. Choose the one they'll stick with, or let them choose.

Personal training package —Learn better, newer and fresher way to achieve your fitness goals with a professional. Even a few sessions can make a difference, and many gyms and fitness centers offer specials around the holidays. Choose your trainer carefully and be sure to communicate: talk openly, listen and be ready to try something new and different.

Tell us about some gifts you've received that have helped you meet your fitness goals or just made it more fun to work out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Tai Chi and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Tai chi is a perfect exercise for many people with various capabilities and health issues.

How about those who have rheumatoid arthritis? Just ask the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the National Health Interview Survey (2007), tai chi has several advantages that make it suitable for people of all ages and those who have some physical limitations:
  • Gentle movements of tai chi preclude sudden or vigorous movements.
  • Individuals move at their own speeds and can easily adapt the practices to their capabilities.
  • Tai chi improves balance, coordination and flexibility — especially beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Check out ExMax's article on the subject here.

CDC specifically cites tai chi as an excellent source of exercise for those with arthritis.

Don't hesitate: start today on good health practices. Find a tai chi class near you that will help you remain flexible, healthy and mobile.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fitness Friday: Impossible? Ask Arthur.

This video proves that we can achieve what some call "impossible," as long as we're willing to try ‚ and to never give up.

It features Arthur Boorman, a disabled veteran who was told by his doctors he would never be able to walk on his own again. He tried a yoga program by Diamond Dallas,  a professional athlete and motivational speaker and — well, Arthur proved a lot of people wrong, and he changed his life.

Never give up. Do your best. Reach your goals. Be your best. Those aren't just words, they're challenges you can meet, if you try.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can You Give the Gift of Fitness?

Everyone wants to give the perfect gift for the holidays. But can someone give the gift of fitness?

The more important question is: can someone receive the gift of fitness?

No one can be forced into fitness or health. You may want Mom to eat healthier or your husband to start working out — but that doesn't mean they want to do it. In fact, giving someone a gift that suggests they need improvement could be insulting and, ultimately, could backfire.

Listen, and ask questions, even if you're an expert in the field. In fact, especially if you're an expert in that field, listen carefully. Find out what the person wants to achieve, then help them find the best way to do it.

Ask an expert: find someone at the gym or sporting goods store for recommendations. Consider taking them to the store or the gym to look around and ask questions.

Always include a gift receipt and don't take it personally if the gift is exchanged. If you're giving a gift that cannot be exchanged, consider giving a gift certificate, or take the person to the site to purchase the class or equipment.

Don't make them do this alone: join your friend or family member in this endeavor. If you buy your friend a hula hoop or baseball mitt, get one for yourself. Both of you will benefit, with the bonus of spending time together. Barring that, hire a coach or personal trainer to help them identify how to achieve their goals.

What recommendations would you add?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Benefits for Fibromyalgia Patients

Tai Chi Makes Life Less Painful for Fibromyalgia Patients

Shifus may have told us for years about the benefits of tai chi for people who experience the pain of fibromyalgia.

But what happens when the New England Journal of Medicine joins the party?

According to a report in The New York Times, fibromyalgia patients in a clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center in 2010 were found, after 12 weeks of tai chi, to rate better when measuring pain, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than other patients who were given stretching exercises and wellness education.

And the improvement continued three months later.

The New York Times defines fibromyalgia as

a syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

What makes tai chi such an optimal choice for pain relief, fatigue, depression and other fibromyalgia symptoms? As an exercise, tai chi emphasizes flexibility, focused breathing and mental clarity. It can be dialed down to low impact or dialed up for a higher impact.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor, and consider finding a shifu to help you manage your symptoms.