Blogs > Simply Fit

Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Music Soothes the Soul and Feeds the Heart

A sweet lullaby can gently hush an infant's crying. A romantic serenade can make a lover's heart swoon. A rock 'n roll beat can get an athletic team psyched for the big game. And, a joyous tune can strengthen the beat of your heart. There is no doubt about it--music is therapeutic and can enhance well-being.

Music therapy is a research-based form of treatment that is used to manage emotional, mental, social and physical issues. The American Music Therapy Association, Inc., states that music therapy is beneficial for:
  • Individuals of all ages
  • Persons affected by learning disorders and developmental disabilities
  • Brain trauma victims
  • Alzheimer's patients
  • Substance abusers
  • Individuals experiencing acute and chronic pain
Music therapy has also been shown to have positive effects on heart health, according to prestigious institutions such as Harvard Medical School and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). It is reported in the November 2009 issue of Harvard Heart Letter that music therapy can benefit your heart by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and decreasing heart rate. Researchers from UMMC found that music also increases the blood flow to your heart by relaxing the inner lining of the blood vessels, which results in vasodilation; however, these findings occurred when the subjects listened to joyous music. When they listened to music that evoked anxiety, blood flow to the heart was actually decreased.

A music therapist can help individuals assess their needs and will design music therapy sessions that will be beneficial to your health. To learn more about music therapy or to find a music therapist in your area, visit the website of the American Music Therapy Association.

Harvard Heart Letter; "Using Music to Tune the Heart"; 2009

University of Maryland Medical Center: Joyful Music may Promote Heart Health

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Laugh Your Way To Good Health

Are you looking for a simple and easy way to boost your health? Try laughing. The act of laughing, whether it is in the form of a chuckle, giggle or guffaw, brings with it a wealth of health benefits.  You can laugh alone, with friends, or in the company of strangers at a comedy club--no matter how or where you laugh you can expect great rewards.

Health Benefits of Laughter
  • Increased circulation of endorphins, which relieves stress and boosts mood.
  • Increased blood flow and oxygen supply.
  • Relief from muscle tension.
  • Decreased sensations of pain/discomfort.
  • Decreased risk for heart disease as a result of reduced stress levels. Chronic stress can damage the lining of the blood vessels making them more susceptible to a build-up of plaque, thereby reducing blood flow to the heart.
  • Burns calories. Researchers found that a hearty laugh can increase energy expenditure by 10 to 20 percent above resting levels (about 10 to 40 calories expended for a 10 to 15 minute bout of laughing).
  • Increases social ties/bonding with friends and family.
How to Bring Humor into Daily Life
  • Read humorous material, such as the "Funnies" section of your newspaper or a joke book, while you drink your daily cup of coffee.
  • Watch a funny T.V. show or movie after dinner.
  • Have a lunch date with friends that make you laugh.
  • Share a funny story with a co-worker before the office meeting starts.
  • When all else fails, laugh. Sometimes things are just out of your control and you have to let life take its course.  In these situations, try to look for the good and humorous and hope for the best.
International Journal of Obesity (2007) Vol. 31; pp. 131-137; "Energy Expenditure of Genuine Laughter"; Buchowski, M.S. et al.,.

Mayo Clinic: Stress Relief from Laughter? Yes, no Joke

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Aunt Edna's pie.....Grandma Carol's sweet potato casserole.....Mom's buttery's  no wonder that the needle of the bathroom scale may begin to tilt in the opposite direction of what you'd like during the holiday season. Fortunately, despite the calorie-dense food fare traditionally served during this time, the average weight gain is really only around one pound--with only 5 percent of the population gaining the proverbial 5 to 10 pounds, according to the American Dietetic Association.

This may be good news to some; however, caution at the dinner table is still warranted. One pound doesn't seem all that much but consider this, one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. Note that this means you have to negate these 3,500 extra calories one way or another to maintain your body weight in the long term. The best approach is through a combination of exercise and dietary changes.

In general, in order for you to lose this extra pound of body fat within one week, you would have to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. This means you would need to increase your daily energy expenditure by about 250 calories and reduce your total caloric intake by approximately 250 calories per day. In other words, you will have to forgo your daily fancy coffee drink and walk for an additional hour per day for the week.*

If you'd rather not risk the extra weight gain, the American Dietetic Association recommends that you do the following to keep your weight in check this holiday season:
  • Practice portion control. Use smaller plates to "trick" your mind into thinking that you are eating more.
  • On the day of your holiday dinner, cut calories from your other meals to balance total daily caloric intake.
  • Just have "samplings" of the higher calorie dishes and fill up on the healthier fare available (e.g., steamed vegetables).
  • Avoid conversing around the buffet table where temptations lie. Also, leave the dinner table when you are through eating. Your conversations can be carried on in another room where food and drink are not readily available.
*Values are for a person weighing 150 pounds and walking at a pace of 3.0 mph.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

American Dietetic Association

ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Sixth Edition.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can Exercise Behavior Be Related To Lower Body Esteem?

Self-objectification is to perceive yourself as an object whose appearance is for the approval of others. In other words, you think that your main purpose of being is to be looked at and judged by others. This internalization of the judgement of others can lead to body shame, depression and dysfunctional behaviors, such as disordered eating. Although exercise has been shown to improve self-image and reduce depression, these effects can be mitigated in the individual who self-objectifies and uses exercise to improve physical appearance. In fact, it has been shown that women who self-objectify and exercise to control appearance actually report poorer body perceptions than women who self-objectify but use exercise to improve health.

The objectification theory, introduced by researchers Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts in 1997, was first used to describe the effects of a society that sexually objectifies the female body.  It has since been applied to men. In recent years, men have been increasingly subjected to media promoting the ideal male physique--one that is muscular and defined. In a study published in the October 2005 issue of Sex Roles, investigators set out to examine the relationship of self-objectification, exercise and body image in men and compared these results to those obtained from women.

The researchers studied 153 subjects, ages 18 to 35 years, consisting of 82 men and 71 women.  Subjects completed questionnaires that measured self-objectification, reasons for exercising (e.g., appearance, weight loss, health, fitness, etc.,), body esteem and self-esteem.  The results indicated that men like women, who self-objectify and exercise for appearance enhancement tend to report lower body esteem. Study data also indicated that men and women who exercised to improve appearance, rather than to enhance health, were more likely to self-objectify.

The researchers conclude that individuals who self-objectify should be encouraged to view exercise as a means by which to improve health and fitness, not physical appearance, in an attempt to prevent poor body esteem.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

Sex Roles; October 2005; "Reasons for Exercise and Body Esteem: Men's Responses to Self-Objectification; pp.495-503; P. Strelan and D. Hargreaves.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Small Steps Between Giving Thanks and Making a New Year's Resolution

Good health is a luxury that is often taken for granted. The fact that our mere existence is a miracle escapes us many times as we scramble to meet work deadlines and other obligations. These responsibilities have become our top priority, frequently at the expense of our own health. We believe that these things give worth to our existence, but forget that our beings won't exist if we do not value our health.

Unfortunately, harried decisions make for slow self-destruction. A cigarette to calm the nerves after a botched business deal. A fast food meal for the third time in less than a week because it's quick and cheap. A skipped exercise session to allow for more time to work on a presentation. Before we know it, poor health ensues and now the top priority becomes battling its effects on day-to-day life.

My challenge to you this holiday season is to bring your good health to the forefront by starting to make a list of your current physical abilities for which you are thankful, no matter how insignificant they may seem at first. Small steps will get you closer to your goal--taking no steps at all will not. Are you happy that you have the endurance to rake the leaves in your front yard or the strength to carry full garbage containers to the curb? Can you climb a flight of stairs without becoming breathless? Are you able to push your child's stroller with ease on a family walk?

From your list of capabilities for which you would like to give thanks, start to make another list consisting of New Year's Resolutions that will help you to maintain and expand upon these traits. Add new physical abilities that you would like to have as well. Think about the changes you can make and develop a plan that will allow for these accomplishments so that they can become next Thanksgiving's list of things for which you are thankful.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Tips on How to Stay Safe and Injury-Free During Home Exercise

Exercising inside your home is an appealing option if you have a tight schedule making gym workouts less feasible.  Despite its convenience, home-based exercise can lead to injury if the proper steps have not been taken to make the environment safe for physical activity. When creating your home-based exercise environment consider the following tips to increase your chances of an injury-free endeavor:
  • Flooring: Consider the nature of your activity when choosing an exercise spot in your home. Engaging in aerobic dance or jumping activities on your unprotected concrete basement floor is not recommended. Concrete does not absorb shock and can lead to overuse injuries, such as tendinitis and stress fractures, if jarring activities were to be repeatedly performed on it. Buy gym mats to absorb the impact of your exercise activity.
  • Ventilation: Choose a location where the air can freely circulate to prevent stuffiness. Consider cracking open a window to improve air flow during your exercise session.  Use a fan to circulate the air if a window is not present.
  • Temperature: It is recommended that the indoor temperature be set in a range of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit for safe exercise; however, you may find that you are more comfortable during the exercise session if the room temperature is kept around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lighting: The area of your home in which you exercise should be well lit. This will prevent accidental falls from tripping over items not seen in the dim light.
  • Child-Proof Exercise Area: Treadmill burns are a common injury among children who accidentally brush up against a moving belt. If possible, install a barrier, such as a child safety gate, that separates your child from the treadmill and/or other exercise equipment with moving parts. Always unplug the treadmill or any other electric exercise machine after use.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

For Healthy Teeth You Need To Brush, Floss And.....Exercise?

What is the secret to a beautiful smile? Exercise. That's right. Individuals who regularly exercise have a lower risk for developing periodontitis, according to a study published in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Periodontology. Periodontitis is a gum disease that destroys the supporting structures of the teeth (e.g., attachment fibers, bone, etc.,). If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss.

The findings of the current study are supported by data obtained from an earlier investigation that was published in the August 2005 issue of the Journal of Periodontology. This latter study found that there was a 40 percent lower incidence of periodontitis in individuals who exercised, followed a healthy diet, and maintained normal body weight compared to their counterparts who did not share any of these characteristics. The researchers suggested that exercise helps to prevent periodontitis by three mechanisms:
  • Exercise lowers the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to an increased prevalence of periodontitis.
  • Physical activity plays a role in modifying the inflammatory response of the body (e.g., decreasing C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker in the blood) and, therefore, may prevent periodontitis via this physiological mediator.
  • Exercise may protect against periodontitis by reducing prostaglandin synthesis in the gum tissues. Prostaglandins are a group of chemicals that play a role in inflammation.
A third study reported that the effects of physical activity on periodontitis can be mitigated by smoking. This investigation,which was published in the October 2005 issue of the Journal of Dentistry found that physical activity significantly reduced the incidence of periodontitis in nonsmokers and former smokers, but not in current smokers.

To maintain a healthy smile you should visit a dentist twice a year, or more frequently if you notice changes in your teeth or gums. Notify your dentist if you experience redness, bleeding, swelling, and/or tenderness of your gums or loose adult teeth. Receding gums and chronic bad breath are reasons to contact your dentist as well.  Frequent brushing, flossing and avoidance of certain foods and beverages, such as sugary sodas, will help to promote oral health. And, don't forget that exercise does the body good--from your smile to your toes.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kidney Stones and Exercise

The National Kidney Foundation reports that approximately 1 in 10 people will experience a kidney stone at some point during their lives. The prevalence of kidney stones is increasing in the United States for both adults and children. A kidney stone is a hard mass composed of mineral and acid salts that begin to crystallize because the urine becomes too concentrated (i.e., not enough liquid for the amount of waste present). The crystals begin to combine with other elements forming a mass. Some kidney stones are small enough to pass through the body without causing pain; however, if the stone is too large and does not move, a back-up of urine occurs and results in pain.

Risk Factors for Developing Kidney Stones
  • dehydration/consuming too little water
  • inactivity
  • excessive exercise
  • high salt or high sugar diet
  • obesity
  • diabetes mellitus
  • hypertension
  • infection
  • family history
  • urinary tract abnormalities
  • gastric or intestinal bypass surgery
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
  • severe pain in the back or side that may spread to the abdomen or groin area
  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever and chills
The Role of Exercise in Kidney Stone Formation and Prevention
  • Excessive exercise, such as marathon running, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals because it can lead to dehydration from fluid lost through sweat. This, in turn, increases the concentration of waste products in the urine and makes it more likely that crystals will form. To prevent dehydration, approximately 16 to 20 fluid ounces of liquid per pound of body weight lost through sweat should be consumed within two hours after completing exercise.
  • Inactivity can increase the risk of kidney stone formation because of its role in the development of obesity, diabetes mellitus and hypertension. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that you have a goal of exercising for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week to lower your risk for these diseases.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

National Kidney Foundation
Up-To-Date: Dietary Factors and Medical Problems that Increase the Risk of Kidney Stones
ACSM Position Stand: Exercise and Fluid Replacement

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