Regular exercise can improve your mood, help you lose weight, and add years to your life. Still need another reason to hit the gym? A new study suggests that working out regularly helps ward off colds and flu.
In the study, researchers followed a group of about 1,000 adults of all ages for 12 weeks during the winter and fall of 2008. During that time, people who logged at least 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise—such as jogging, biking, or swimming—on five or more days per week were sick with cold or flu symptoms for just five days, on average, compared to about 8.5 days among people who exercised one day per week or less.
What’s more, regular exercisers tended to have milder symptoms when they were ill. Compared to the people who barely exercised, those who worked out frequently rated their symptoms about 40% less severe overall, according to the study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. (Symptom severity was gauged with a standard questionnaire.)
The increased immune activity brought on by exercise only lasts for about three hours, but the cumulative effect seems to keep disciplined exercisers healthier than most. “As the days add up, it adds up to improved protection [from] the viruses that can make you sick,” Nieman says.
Endorphins may also play a role, says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. These feel-good neurotransmitters—the source of the so-called runner’s high—have “positive effects on the immune system, so it’s not surprising there’s a spike in immune cells,” says Dr. Horovitz, who was not involved in the study.
It’s also possible that people who exercise frequently tend to lead healthy lifestyles in general, and are therefore less likely than couch potatoes to get sick.
Nieman and his colleagues measured a host of factors besides exercise that could potentially affect a person’s susceptibility to cold or flu, including age, gender, diet, stress levels, marital status, smoking, and educational attainment. Of all of these, physical activity was most closely linked to the number of days a person spent sick, although some characteristics, such as being married and eating a lot of fruit, seemed to help protect against colds and flu as well.
“You can’t do much about your age, and you can’t do much about your gender. Here’s something you can really do,” Nieman says. “Exercise is the most powerful weapon that an individual has in their hand to reduce illness days.”
By Amanda Gardner, Health.com November 2010
The New Year is here: are you feeling as healthy and vibrant as you can be? If your holiday celebrations have left you vowing to turn over a new leaf once and for all, a food-based cleanse may be the perfect solution.
Weight loss, increased energy, improved sleep, and reduced cravings are all results of detoxing. If you thought that starvation, strange liquid concoctions, and bulking up on a bevy of pills and supplements were all requirements for cleansing, forget everything you have heard! Cleansing with food is safe, and perhaps more effective, than drastic, harsh techniques.
Ready to get clean? Bulk up on leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water, and high-quality protein sources. Focus on eliminating common food irritants such as: processed foods, wheat, dairy, soy, caffeine, and sugar. Read on for more tricks-of-the trade to set you up for cleansing success.
1- Scheduling Smarts: Planning a detox is like planning a vacation; you need to look at your calendar and see when you can take ‘time off’ from food and alcohol indulgences. Chances are you will never have a few weeks free of social commitments and mealtime obligations but be strategic and choose when temptation will be at a minimum.
2- Pre-Detoxing: Sugar and caffeine are the two culprits that cause the most withdrawal symptoms. If you are particularly sugar or caffeine dependent, try to wean off the stimulants fully before starting to cleanse. A sugar and caffeine-free diet help to keep cravings in check, energy levels up, and will make the removal of other ‘favorite’ foods much easier and less tempting.
3- Kitchen Cleanout: To make your cleansing plan easier to stick to, give your refrigerator and pantry a makeover. Get rid of the foods that tempt you. Do you like to mindlessly munch on candy after dinner? If it’s not in the house, your habit becomes much easier to break. Once cleaned out, take a trip to the market and stock up on leafy greens, citrus, berries, and cleanse friendly snacks so you can stay on track.
4- Exit Strategy: How you end your cleanse is just as important as how you begin. Give yourself a few days or a week to gradually re-introduce the foods you have omitted. You have just diligently worked to clean out your body, so it would be foolish to start throwing all sorts of toxins back in. People sometimes find that they have previously unnoticed sensitivities to wheat or dairy, and they feel so much better by continuing to leave them out of their diets. Others are shocked that their once overwhelming cravings for coffee, sweets, cheese, and/or bread have vanished.
Amanda Skrip (www.amandaskrip.com) provides culinary and wellness services to inspire healthy living. She specializes in food-based cleanses, weight-loss, and eating for energy. Amanda teaches cooking classes and wellness workshops around the city including Detox 101 and a Natural Foods Boot Camp. You can check her schedule here (http://www.amandaskrip.com/?page_id=138)
10 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Turkey Day by Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN
1. Don’t show up hungry to a gathering. It makes no sense to starve just to stuff. Eat a small healthy snack before leaving home to avoid overindulging at the party. Consider a handful of almonds and a piece of low-fat cheese.
2. Budget your treats. Make a decision whether you want a cocktail or two, or a slice of pie. You shouldn’t take a break from budgeting your calories on Thanksgiving. Plan ahead and choose wisely.
3. Stay hydrated with plenty of water, seltzer, and soda water (sugar-free). Many people mistake dehydration for hunger. In addition, water helps us feel full. Also, alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body, so keep hydrated by sipping water and sugar-free beverages.
4. Don’t hang around the food table. Find a spot away from the food table and you’ll find that “out of sight, out of mind” really is true when it comes to food.
5. Eat Slowly. Since it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full, slow down and enjoy your meal. According to experts, putting down your fork between bites and eating mindfully is a sure-fire way to enjoy your meal and be satisfied with less food.
6. Bring a healthy side dish. You may not know what’s in the other holiday goodies, but by bringing your own dish, you’ll rest assured that you’re filling up on something nutritious.
7. Get enough sleep. When we’re tired, our hunger and fullness signals don’t work properly. We may crave more carbohydrates and tend to over eat unknowingly. Get at least 7 hours of sleep during the holidays.
8. Follow the 80/20 rule. Eat until you feel about 80% full, then wait 20 minutes for your body to register that you are full. Eating until we are 100% (or more) full causes overeating by 20% or more.
9. Try the plate method: Fill your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ starch, and ¼ lean meat. If it doesn’t fit on your plate, skip it!
10. Get in some activity: Find the time to get in at least 20 minutes of exercise. Most gyms are open on Thanksgiving, so carve out some time to get the blood moving. Or, take a walk with friends and family and enjoy their company on the holiday.
Sandy Sfikas is a registered and licensed dietitian in Chicago. She’s also a nutrition editor, writer, and blogger. She’s worked in clinical settings as well as fitness facilities. “Change is uncomfortable and if you’re not ready to make changes, I can’t force you. My clients do all the work, and I’m there to facilitate the process. I provide the tools and encouragement to overcome weight loss hurdles. Sometimes a complete lifestyle change is needed, and other times a few tweaks to their current diet can make all the difference.” To contact Sandy, send her an email at email@example.com.
As National Women’s Health and Fitness Day (September 29) approaches, Fit Lincoln Park is reaching out the to the community to remind women to make their health a priority.
Fit Lincoln Park Recommends the following five fitness tips to women:
- Make your workout a priority in your calendar. If you have a lot going on for the week, literally schedule it in. That way, no matter how hectic life gets, it can’t fall by the wayside.
- Vary your exercises, particularly for cardio. Doing the same thing week after week, whether it’s running, biking or playing a sport, can increase your chance of injury. It will also allow your muscles to develop memory for the activity, causing you to burn fewer calories performing the activity over time.
- Combine cardio, strength training and flexibility work for optimum results. People who do one or two of these things will see health benefits, but those who do all three will have stronger muscles, a more efficient cardiovascular system and a great range of motion.
- Enlist moral support. Numerous medical studies have shown that people who exercise with a friend have a much higher likelihood of exercising consistently.
- Don’t diet, change your lifestyle. Regular exercise and good eating habits aren’t a phase. For the best results, create a regime that you can continue for the rest of your life. Your waistline and your organs will thank you.
Founded by Sarah Martin and Bojan Jocic, certified trainers from the Chicago area, Fit Lincoln Park boasts a unique indoor-outdoor workout space, single or joint personal training sessions, more than 25 group fitness classes, ultrasound body fat analysis and a Pilates studio with a private view of the outdoors. With no enrollment or membership fees, clients only pay for the services that they use, offering a more flexible workout option for frequent travelers, people who use a corporate gym during the week, or those who want to try a workout without making a big membership commitment.
To learn more about Fit Chicago, contact them through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 312.929.2395, or on Facebook or Twitter at Fit Lincoln Park. Visit their website at http://fitlincolnpark.com.
The KIND movement, generated from KIND healthy snacks, is focused on being kind to “your body, your taste buds, & the world.” This movement is also motivated to inspire “not so random acts of kindness”, which is a “pay it forward” movement in which people are encouraged to do something kind for someone, then give them a “you’ve been kinded card”. Intentional acts of kindness, rather than random acts of kindness are what has caused this New York City based company to generate over 40,000 dollars to donate to three different charities: Operation Gratitude, Good Girls Give, and the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center, and have begun to make the world a “little kinder”. KIND healthy snacks promote the end of mindless snacking and the shift to “kind” snacking, which means putting all natural, wholesome ingredients into your body. Read more about the KIND movement HERE
These bars, which come in a variety of flavors, are not your typical cardboard-crunchy, chemical-laden bars, but rather a combination of fruits, nuts, chocolate and peanut butter. Some may be weary of fruit and nut bars, worried the nuts or dried fruit will be overbearingly “healthy” tasting, but KIND snacks gives you the best of both worlds with nutritious but delicious food that you can “see and pronounce”. These bars come in six new flavors, all very filling and varying enough to appeal to all taste buds. There are 11 bars in the regular fruit and nut bars, that are all natural, gluten and wheat free, and packed with protein and fiber. There are also 10 bars in the Plus Line, which feature specific additives to make the bar even better for you.
The New Flavors:
Peanut Butter & Strawberry The delicious peanut butter & strawberry brings out the child in you as it tastes like that peanut butter and jelly sandwich mom used to make. With seven grams of protein and four grams of fiber this bar is perfect for people of all ages that want a good hearty snack. With eleven grams of fat and 190 calories, this is a hefty snack but is very filling and nutritious.
Apple Cinnamon & Pecan This bar is very nutty but yet sweet as you can taste the real dried apples. It is crunchy but chewy at the same time and is loaded with 2.5 grams of fiber, is dairy free, gluten free, and has no GMO’s and trans fats.
Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate This is a common combination of flavors in the health and protein bars category, but this bar definitely takes the cake as far as tastiness goes. The chocolate is not overwhelming like some types of bars, but is decadent enough for a midday snack or desert. The dark chocolate gives you a natural energy boast, and this bar is loaded with fiber and protein as well.
Blueberry Pecan This bar is packed chock full of fiber, with five grams of it in one bar, but it does not taste gritty like most fiber bars. It is promoting a healthy digestive system and promotes regularity, while also being gluten, wheat, and dairy free and tasting delicious.
Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew Just the name makes it sound like an indulgence, but this is one indulgence you will not feel guilty about. Because it includes 50% of the daily value of antioxidants, four grams of protein and three grams of fiber it is a tasty treat that is doing your body good. It is an excellent mix of flavors and is perfect for the health conscious chocolate lover.
Pomegranate Blueberry Pistachio This was Healthy in Chicago’s favorite bar, as the sweetness of the pomegranate and blueberry perfectly compliments the saltiness of the pistachio. It includes 50% of the daily value of antioxidants as well as having four grams of fiber. It is great for that three o’clock snack or even as breakfast.
The new KIND bars are available now at your local Whole Foods and soon at Starbucks and more places!