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

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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

4 Back-to-School Habits For a Healthy Family

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Millions of kids across the country will be starting school this week and learning new routines. It’s not a bad idea for moms and dads too. (Starting new routines, not retaking 6th grade).

Even if they don’t need help with fractions, your kids could you use some help from Mom and Dad. Kids who see parents engaged in healthy behaviors are more likely to follow their lead. With that in mind, here are few tips to help make back-to-school time a little easier and healthier for the whole family.

1. Sleep TIme: Establish a light outs time when everyone needs to be in bed. Kids need anywhere from 8 to 11 hours of sleep per night, depending on their age, activity level, and personal needs. Parents could benefit from more sleep too. So set your alarm at night to tell you when to go to bed to ensure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. And don’t hit the snooze button when it goes off.

2. Eat Meals Together: Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are less likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to do well in school, and more likely to have a healthier diet. It doesn’t have to be dinner. Any meal counts, including breakfast.

3. Digital & Device-Free Time: Set a time, maybe 30 or 60 minutes a day, when everyone in the family has to be digital and device-free — no texting, emailing, tweeting, or pinning.

4. Move Together: We all know exercise is good for us. It’s especially important for kids. According to Let’s Move.gov, 8 to 18 year-olds spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using digital devices such as computers and cell phones, while only 1/3 of high school students get the recommended level of physical activity. Set times when the family will do something fun and active together: it could be Sunday morning bike rides, Friday afternoon swims, or nightly dancing to Wii. My 10-year-old niece highly recommends Just Dance 3 with Katy Perry.

What are your healthy family habits? Please share them with us below.

Photo credit: FCC, USDAgov

5 Tips for Starting a Morning Exercise Routine

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They’re morning people. They don’t need as much sleep as I do. They don’t have kids.

Excuses. The best of us have them.

Working out is difficult for most. Finding time to work out is onerous. But consider this: Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more consistent exercisers, less likely to find excuses, and less likely to make poor eating decisions later in the day.

Here are 5 ways to help you start a morning exercise routine:

1. Set your alarm at NIGHT to go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

2. Set out your gym clothes before you go to bed.

3. Once it’s time to get up, don’t try to argue yourself into working out. It doesn’t work. Instead, tell yourself, “I work out every day. That’s what I do.”

4. Put on your gym clothes and lace up as soon as you stand up out of bed. Dressed like this, there’s no place to go except to work out.

5. Talk someone else into getting up early. You’ll be up to 60% more likely to follow through with your exercise plan if you have a partner who holds you accountable.

Got any tips for exercising in the morning? Please share them.

Photo credit: FCC, bark

Obesity is Linked with Increased Pain

You remember “no pain, no gain” — 1980′s. Jane Fonda. Aerobics. Leg warmers.

Today, we’d like to you think “less gain, less pain.” We’ve known for years that weight gain increases joint pain in arthritis sufferers. Now, according to new research from Stony Brook University, excess fat may be associated with increased inflammation, which can actually trigger chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

In the study, people with higher BMIs (body mass index) reported higher rates of intense pain. Why?

  • Excess fat leads to increased inflammation which leads to pain.
  • Depression can lead to pain, and many obese people are depressed.
  • People suffering from pain may avoid exercise, which can help reduce inflammation.

Photo credit: FCC, Photos by Mavis