The Healthiest Thing You Can Do For Yourself

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An overweight patient of mine who is frustrated that exercising isn’t helping her lose enough weight told me that she plans to stop exercising and just keep dieting. Can you relate? I know that slow weight loss can be disheartening. But, if there is one change you make in 2013, please have it be to start exercising every day.

We humans were never meant to live the sedentary lifestyle we do. Our prehistoric ancestors had to hunt and forage to survive. We order take-out from the comfort of our couches and have it delivered. And our bodies don’t like it. That’s part of the reason why 1 in 3 Americans is obese.

Here’s the truth about weight loss: Diets alone can help you lose weight. But a combination of diet and exercise will help you become healthier in many ways and live a happier, longer life.

The best part is that even if you’re older or overweight, exercise still has clear health benefits. An August 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that people who were most fit in midlife were at a reduced risk for developing chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s longer. Why? Researchers believe that regular exercise leads to strong cardiovascular health and improved cellular function.

And if reducing your risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s isn’t enough, a November 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that regular exercise can literally add years to your life — anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 years — even if you’re obese. Indeed, they found that obese people who exercised were healthier than their thinner couch potato counterparts. That’s because exercise, even without weight loss, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Physically fit people also suffer fewer side effects from illness.

By the end of our appointment, I felt like I had convinced my patient to not give up on exercise, despite her slow weight loss. I also shared with her some other surprising health benefits of exercise such as a reduced risk for skin cancer, which she was happy to learn about. I also hope that by the end of this post, I’ve inspired you to exercise for your overall health. If not, I’ll keep working at it because you’re worth it.

Photo credit: FCC, ozanhatipoglu

Exercise Less, Lose More

Jogging

Still trying to shed those stubborn holiday pounds? You don’t have to starve yourself or run two hours a day to do so.

A recent Danish study published in The American Journal of Physiology showed that less exercise leads to more weight loss. Those who exercised 30 minutes daily for 3 months shed more weight than those who worked out 60 minutes daily. How can this be? Those who exercised less actually increased their activity level all day long, thereby burning more calories.

Take that, Christmas cookies.

Photo credit: FCC, Eleanza

9 Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise

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Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, millions of Americans resolved to begin exercising and lose weight in 2013. While exercise helps you burn calories and lose weight, it also has numerous other health benefits that will help you have a truly healthier, happier 2013.

Here are 9 surprising health benefits of exercise:

1. Sleep better. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, provided it’s not done within 2 to 3 hours of your bedtime. Exercise can also reduce and sometimes eliminate sleep apnea, a frustrating and potentially health-threatening sleep disorder that causes disruptions in breathing.

2. Reduce your risk for skin cancer. Studies show that regular exercise lowers your risk for skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma.

3. Be happy. If you’ve heard of “runner’s high,” then you know that exercise makes people happy. That’s because exercise boosts mood-enhancing or feel-good endorphins.

4. Reduce heartburn. Studies show that regular exercise, especially less stressful aerobic types like swimming and walking, reduce the severity of acid reflux or heartburn. And reducing heartburn can also help you sleep better.

5. Improve your acne. Because regular exercise helps regulate blood sugar, it helps reduce inflammation which can improve acne. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, which is an acne trigger.

6. Have more energy. Many studies show that exercise, even just a few times a week, boosts energy. And morning exercisers reap the biggest benefit. If you need some help learning how to exercise in the morning, check out this post on 5 Tips for Starting a Morning Exercise Routine.

7. Improve chronic pain. Losing weight is critical to improving chronic pain since the  more weight you carry, the more pressure and pain to your joints and bones you’ll experience. Exercise also reduces pain because it reduces inflammation.

8. Reduce your risk for Alzheimer’sA 2012 study from Rush University Medical Center showed that daily exercise significantly reduced your risk for Alzheimer’s, even if —get this— you start exercising after the age of 80.

9. Reduce your risk for psoriasisA 2012 study from Harvard Medical School showed that vigorous aerobic exercise and calisthenics are associated with a reduced risk of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition.

While this isn’t a direct health benefit, regular exercise saves you money by reducing the  the number of medications and doctor’s visits you’ll need. And who wouldn’t like that?

Photo credit: FCC, Yogrenda174

6 Tips To Not Gain Weight During the Holidays

When you’re younger, you worry about “the freshman 15.” When you’re older, you worry holiday parties. Eggnog shots, peppermint fudge, Christmas cookies, bacon-wrapped everything. How can you not gain weight? It’s possible. Not easy, but possible.

Here are 6 tips to not gain weight during the holidays:

1. Exercise in the morning. Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to make healthier eating choices throughout the day. And morning exercise means you burn more calories all day long.

2. There’s an app for that. Whether you’re trying to drop a few pounds or simply maintain your weight, using a diet or calorie count app will help you stay on track. Studies show that when people record everything they eat and drink, they’re more likely to make healthier choices.

3. Be choosy. Going to a potluck or buffet? Scan all the food choices before digging in. One satisfying bacon-wrapped scallop may be fewer calories than 5 pieces of baked chicken. Eating what you’re really craving may help you to avoid overeating foods you don’t really want. Just remember one word: moderation.

4. Make it 2 for 1. For every alcoholic beverage you imbibe, drink two glass of water. It’ll help you stay fuller and less tipsy.

5. Eat normally. Don’t starve yourself the day of the party so you can pig out. You’ll slow down your metabolism and weaken your willpower, two things you do not want to do before a party. Instead, eat a light breakfast, lunch, and snack high all high in lean protein  whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. Step away from the table. See the guy in the picture above? Don’t be him. Walk around the room, strike up conversations, dance, and kiss under the mistletoe. You’ll eat less and have more fun.

How about you? What are your stay-slim tips for the holidays? Please share them with us in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, Average Jane

Food Friday: Don’t Worry, Fruit Happy

Farmers' Market

We know an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It can also put a smile on your face. A new study out of Britain shows that eating 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is linked to happiness.

Researchers analyzed the diets of 80,000 British men and women and found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables were the happiest. Seven servings was indicated as the ideal number.

Researchers aren’t claiming a cause-effect relationship. Think about it: Do people who eat more fruits and vegetables actually become happier, or are happy people more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables? There’s no definitive answer.

Either way, we know that eating more fruits and vegetables is linked with decreased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. So even if that extra side of kale doesn’t make you feel like laughing on the outside, you’ll be laughing on the inside.

Photo credit: FCC, NatalieMaynor

Food Friday: Eating Fish May Be Healthier Than Fish Oil Supplements

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Eat fish or take supplements? Which is better?

For years, omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil supplements have been touted as beneficial for heart health. This was especially good news for people who didn’t like to eat fish.

However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that supplements may not be as beneficial for heart health as eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna.

Researchers measured the fatty-acid blood levels of more than 20,000 male doctors and found mixed results when it came to omega-3 supplements and the men’s likelihood of heart failure. However, eating fish regularly was linked to a lower risk.

Should you stop taking your supplements? Talk to your doctor. In the meantime, order the salmon next time you go out for dinner.

Photo credit: FCC, Andrea Pokrzywinski

 

Sun Safe Tee: Aiming to Keep Golfers Sun Safe

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Mark Wishner was first diagnosed with skin cancer in his mid-30‘s. “It very much caught me by surprise. It was a basal cell carcinoma that was treated successfully,” he says.

Then one day, the golf-loving San Diegan was watching a tournament on TV that took place on a scorching day. “It showed the players cooking out in the sun and I thought, Who teaches golfers to wear sunscreen?

Inspired, Wishner began researching the issue and realized no one was addressing the golf community about the importance of sun protection. He contacted a few friends and fellow golfers including Dr. Curt Littler (son of Gene Littler, who won the US Open in 1961), and soon, SunSafeTee.org was born.

Sun Safe Tee is a 501-C3 non-profit charity dedicated to educating the golf community about the importance of sun protection, the risks of skin cancer, and the benefits of early detection.

Though no studies have actually looked at the incidence of skin cancer among golfers, anecdotal evidence is strong that they are a high-risk group. “Golfers spend a lot of time in the sun. A round of golf takes between 4 1/2 to 5 hours which is a long time to be in the sun, especially without proper protection,” says Wisher.

That’s where the Sun Safe Tee program comes into play. They provide educational materials, offer skin cancer screenings, and conduct both in-person and virtual events across the country. And since several dermatologists sit on the board, Wishner assures that “all information is vetted, screened, and accurate.”

The majority of the Sun Safe Tee program is geared towards junior golfers, ages 7 to 18. “We know that sun exposure before the age of 25 is critical,” says Wisher, “so we really want to teach them while their young so they can develop a lifetime of safe sun practices.”

To reach more youth, Sun Safe Tee partners with many groups including the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA). They’re also part of The First Tee curriculum, a national program dedicated to teaching children ages 7 to 18 life skills and values through the game of golf.

To date, the Sun Safe Tee curriculum has been taught to over 400,000 children. And Wishner is seeing changes in their behaviors. While at a junior golf tournament recently Wishner was talking to a teenage boy who was disappointed with his poor round. To Wishner’s amazement, the boy added, “But I did remember to reapply at the turn!”

“Don’t burn, reapply at the turn,” is one of Sun Safe Tee’s slogans. It refers to the half-way point or “the turn” in a round of golf when kids are taught to reapply sunscreen.

He’s also seeing young golfers applying sunscreen more often, using UVB- protected umbrellas on their carts that block 98 to 100 % of UV rays. And most importantly, he’s seeing them cover up. “Wearing clothing as a non-chemical, physical barrier to the sun is just about the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the sun,” says Wishner. So he never tires of telling the kids, “Cover up before you tee it up!”

It’s those kind of behavioral changes that buoy Wishner’s resolve. ”We’d love to see skin cancer get the kind of national public awareness that other diseases like Alzheimer’s have gotten, especially in the golf community,” says Wishner. To that end, he’s seeking a professional golfer who would like to champion the cause and continues to plan exciting events in conjunction with golf tournaments across the country.

If you’d like to sponsor a Sun Safe Tee event at your organization then email Mark Wishner at mwishner {AT} sunsafetee {DOT} org. For more information about Sun Safe Tee, visit their website at SunSafeTee.org.

Photo credit: FCC, Makelessnoise

Guest post written by Susan Russo.