Friday, April 29, 2016

Can Exercise Make Your Skin Look Younger?

Exercise not only keeps your skin youthful but it also helps reverse aging. As you workout, your muscles release all sorts of proteins to start the domino effect of your body's response to exercise. One in particular, IL-15, stimulates the skin's power centers, or mitochondria. The pumped-up mitochondria in turn make skin cells perform better, whether they're cranking out plumping collagen or triggering the cell turnover that renews your complexion. IL-15 makes skin cells' mitochondria fitter and healthier, and that makes skin look and act younger. This priceless youth potion is free: Exercise is the only way to get it.

Scientists created a study to compare exercisers and sedentary adults. The exerciser's skin looked 25 years younger - amazing! Even better, when the scientists put the sedentary adults on a moderate exercise plan, the aging of their skin was reversed in as little as three months. They saw the deep layer of skin become firmer and the top layer being replenished with new cells more often.

Getting your heart pumping faster boosts your circulation. That means more oxygen and nutrients reach your skin cells. Each cell is improved when you exercise and you further ward off the aging process. At the same time your IL-15 is spiking, your muscles are releasing similar interleukins that stimulate the body's immune system, which in turn can reduce whole-body inflammation. That is crucial because inflammation breaks down collagen and is a key driver of aging. When your body is fighting inflammation, it cannot focus on its regular functions that keep skin strong & healthy.

Cardio exercise generates IL-15. According to the study, the specific type - running, swimming, cycling - doesn't matter and moderate intensity gets results. Don't worry about stressing your skin's elasticity with running or impact. The small amount of g-force actually stimulates repair mechanisms in your skin and triggers collagen growth. If you do your cardio outside, apply SPF 30 every two hours. Exercise can temporarily lower the skin's protective antioxidant levels. Take advantage of this free youth potion this week.

Keep Moving, Stay Active and
Enjoy Younger-Looking Skin

Friday, April 22, 2016

Are Avocados a Forbidden Food?

Avocados have become even more popular recently with the trendy debut of avocado toast (being sold in hip restaurants nearby at exorbitant prices) Should you include avocados in your diet or are they a "forbidden" food?

Many people tend to stop eating avocado due to its high calorie content, thinking that it may add to their weight. Much of the fat content comes from unique sources, like phytosterols. This special group of fats has been shown to provide important anti-inflammatory benefits to our body systems, including our cardiovascular system.

The addition of avocado to already well-balanced diets has been shown to lower risk of heart disease, improve blood levels of LDL, and lower levels of oxidative stress in the bloodstream. In one particular research study, participants in two groups all consumed a diet with the same overall balance, including 34% fat in both groups. But one avocado per day was included in the meal plan of only one group, and that was the group with the best heart-related results in terms of blood fat levels.

Eating mono-saturated fats can contribute to satiety. You feel fuller and get less hungry when you include healthy fats in your meal plan. Satiety is an important factor in weight management, because people who feel satisfied are less likely to snack between meals.

Avocados are a great source of lutein, a carotenoid that works as an anti-oxidant as well as related carotenoids zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene and tocopherol (vitamin E). Avocados also help you get more of these nutrients from other foods. Anywhere from two to six times as much absorption was found to occur with the added avocado! But in addition, avocados also improved conversion of specific carotenoids (most importantly, beta-carotene) into active vitamin A.

Salad greens—including romaine lettuce—and mixed greens like kale, chard, and spinach are great examples of very low fat, carotenoid-rich foods that might be eaten alone but would have more of their carotenoid-richness transferred over into your body with the help of some added avocado. 

Add avocados to your daily diet to improve cardiovascular health, contribute to satiety and improve antioxidant absorption. Enjoy your guacamole this Cinco de Mayo!

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy our Food

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Secret Workout Weapon

Music is powerful. We intuitively know this, but now, thanks to functional MRI scans and new research on the way music affects the body, scientists have a better understanding of how tunes can make a big difference in your fitness achievements.

Motivation can be as simple as listening to a song that you've conditioned yourself to associate with energy and positivity. The goal: train your brain to know that when you hear a particular song you're going to work out. What you're doing is forging a connection between the song and your drive. This happens in the brain's limbic system, which helps regulate emotions, stores memories, and controls hormonal releases. Try cuing up to three energizing picks at the beginning of your workout to keep your motivation cranked.

Listening to song while you sweat can rev your heartbeat so much that it mimics the effect of a legal performance enhancing drug. Music can improve your endurance, strength and power while making you feel as if you're not working as hard. Music drowns out your stream of consciousness, which can be especially helpful during uncomfortable anaerobic exercise. Music decreases the production of lactic acid, which creates the burning sensation in your muscles, so listening to tunes lets you exercise at a higher intensity for longer.

The right playlist can help you form and maintain an exercise habit. Participants who listened to music worked out 20% more regularly than those who exercised without music. Plan out your playlist. If you typically hit a wall 20 minutes into your workout, save a high-octane song for that point. Consider tempo - your running playlist will be faster than your strength training playlist. Build an association between music and a great workout.

Exercise tears down muscles, recovery is when you rebuild them. The faster you get to a resting heart rate, the faster your muscles recover (you'll feel less sore in the 24 - 48 hours after). Parasympathetic activity rose in those who listened to calm music after a workout and they recovered 10 - 15% more quickly than those who did not. Cooling down helps flush lactic acid out of your system, regulate circulation and prevent blood from pooling in muscles. Use this time to foam roll and stretch to prepare you for your next successful session.

Music can boost your strength & endurance, amp your motivation & drive, and speed your recovery. Put together a powerful playlist this week.

Stay Active, Enjoy Your Food and 
Keep Moving

Friday, April 8, 2016

Nagging Knee Pain?

Knee pain is one of the most common complaints among regular exercisers. As we age, knee pain can limit your exercise options and reduce your mobility. What are some simple, nonsurgical ways to reduce knee pain?

Strengthen the Muscles Around the Knees
Your feet, lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, core and arms are all part of your moving kinetic chain. When one link isn't working, the repercussions can be felt all the way up or down the chain. Strong quads will help stabilize your knees. You can build this muscle with a sit-to-stand (or squat), moving repeatedly from standing to sitting. Make sure you stand all the way up to work the muscle on the front of the thigh completely. Below the knee, the muscles in your calf are important for knee control. They also help propel the body during walking, stair climbing and running. Weakness in these muscles adds stress to the knee joint. Heel raises can strengthen calf muscles. Hold onto the counter, rise up on tiptoes and lower heels to floor. Try for three sets of 15 repetitions.

Maintain Balance
Balance requires your knees to work with your hips and ankles to hold you upright. This coordination takes practice. Stand with one foot in front of the other, as if you're standing on a tightrope. Move your arms or brush your teeth while holding this position. Switch sides.

Lose Weight
The force of each pound you carry is magnified by the time it reaches your knees. If you're walking across a flat surface, the force on your knees is equal to 1 1/2 times your body weight. Going uphill, it is two or three times your body weight. Shedding extra weight reduces this force and can help prevent arthritis and injury. It can also reduce knee pain. To lose weight, try aerobic activity that doesn't overload the knee. Swimming or walking in a pool, or riding a stationary bike are good options.

Self-care for Knees
If you have occasional pain related to a hard workout, you might be able to get relief at home. I have had great success with foam rolling my IT band (the outside of the upper thigh) for pain on the outside of the knee. Alternating ice packs and heated pads can bring relief. Try an Epsom salts soak. Arnica gel works, too.

Of course, for recurring or debilitating pain, it is wise to see your doctor or physical therapist for a personal diagnosis. Required treatments differ depending on where the pain is and the source of the discomfort.

By taking action now, you can strengthen and protect your knees before they are badly damaged. It may postpone or even prevent surgery in the future. Let's strive to be active and live full lives throughout our years.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, April 1, 2016

The New Emotional Eating

You may have noticed that I often sign off at the end of my blog with the phrase "Enjoy Your Food".  I have talked a bit about that in past blogs but today I will focus on the fact that acknowledging the  emotion in our meals can actually improve our health and even help us lose weight.

Eating can become a mission to get as many good nutrients (fiber, antioxidants, protein) in as little time as possible. We also are afraid to become emotionally invested in food, because if we do, we may overeat or consume the "wrong" things. But, if we don't enjoy what we are eating, we're less likely to be satisfied and - surprise! - more likely to overindulge. Eating can and should be a joyful process.

Sharing a healthy meal with friends and family makes people happy and relaxed. And, it can lead to a leaner body. Carving out time to eat with with people you like lowers the production of the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol can interfere with digestion, trigger an inflammatory response and lead to mid-section weight gain.

Cooking a meal gives us a chance to decompress. We spend much of our day working on electronics and rarely make anything tangible. Cooking can connect us to the food. Imagine the feeling of kneading pizza dough, the scent of basil, the sight of ripe tomatoes. In preparing a meal, we create something we can taste, smell, touch and be proud of.

Focusing only on the nutrients and convenience factor of the foods we eat can sap the joy from eating. To get back to the pleasure of good food and connect to how it makes us feel, try these strategies.

Stop Multi-tasking
To monitor portion control, allow your brain to register how much you are eating. Sit at a table and turn off electronics. If you can sit outside, notice the sun, breeze, and birdsong around you.

Eat More Mindfully
Bring your full attention to your food. Experience the taste, texture and smell.

Cook When You Can
Even just tossing spaghetti with plum tomatoes or stir-frying vegetables with chicken makes you more emotionally invested in what you're eating.

Dine With Others
Almost nothing beats the joy of sharing good food with people you love. It is important to sit down at a table, experience a dish together and have a real conversation. Doing this connects us to the food and to each other. 

Eating is one the the greatest pleasures there is. Take the joy out of it and you end up feeling empty and unhappy. Redeem your meals and eat happy!

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food