If you are thinking about joining a fitness club to get in shape, you are not alone. Over 50 million Americans belong to a health club, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), and the numbers are rising by approximately 10 percent every year. And it’s no surprise, with more people becoming health-conscious and doing what they can to reduce their risk of obesity and heart disease, which go hand-in-hand with a sedentary lifestyle. Following are a few interesting facts regarding fitness club membership in the US.
There is a reason why you reach for the chocolate when you are feeling depressed. Scientists have been studying the connection between food and mood for a number of years, and they have found that the foods we eat have a definite influence on the state of our mood. After all, foods are essentially chemicals when broken down by the body’s digestive processes, and those chemicals all have some influence on the brain. The neurotransmitters most responsible for mood (such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) are all affected by what we eat.
Our feelings can be affected by foods in other ways as well. Something as simple as fluctuations in the level of our blood sugar can make a big difference mood-wise. Low blood sugar can make you feel tired and irritable, but too much sugar at once in our bloodstream can make you hyper. Sticking to a low-glycemic diet, in which the sugars from food are released slowly into the bloodstream, can keep your mood on a more even keel.
Carbohydrates may help to boost your mood (which is why we crave “comfort foods” like macaroni and cheese). Carbohydrates (such as those in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) assist in the production and absorption of tryptophan into the brain. With the assistance of B-vitamins, tryptophan is important for the synthesis of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can boost mood. A study performed by scientists at Arizona State University found that a very low-carb diet caused feelings of fatigue and discouraged overweight subjects from exercising. Just be sure to avoid simple carbohydrates such as foods containing refined flour and refined sugar, as they will just spike your blood sugar and cause a subsequent energy and mood crash.
The consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help to ward off depression and reduce anger and irritability. Researchers believe that omega-3s enhance the pathways of important neurotransmitters. Study subjects who suffered from depression were found to have low levels of omega-3. Eating fatty fish three times a week, such as sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon, can help you get a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acid.
Just as there are foods you should eat to improve your mood, there also foods you should avoid eating. In addition to refined foods, you should avoid excessive consumption of foods containing caffeine, alcohol, hydrogenated oils and artificial additives. These all have been shown to contribute to anxiety, depression and difficulty concentrating.
Foods high in vitamin D (fortified milk, sardines) and selenium (seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meat and whole grains) can also boost feelings of happiness. A little dark chocolate would not go amiss either. Just a small amount (1.4 oz) of dark chocolate can reduce cortisol and catecholamines, the stress hormones. Just don’t overdo it, as too much sugar can negate chocolate’s beneficial effects.Learn More
Chiropractic care has become such an indispensable tool for athletes to keep performing at their best and to reduce the time that it takes to heal from injuries that 28 Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) were employed in the Olympic polyclinic during the 2012 Olympic Games in London. This was in addition to 27 other team DCs who traveled with their nations’ teams, not to mention individual athletes’ chiropractors. Some of the greatest athletes of all time attribute a large part of their success to the chiropractic care they receive.
Dan O’Brien, after winning three consecutive world titles in the decathlon, went on to win a gold medal in decathlon at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He said, “If I could put a percentage value on it, I think I compete eight to ten percent better from regular chiropractic care. I think that is how much of a benefit it is – if not more. If it wasn’t for chiropractic, I wouldn’t have won the gold medal.” He continued, “Every track and field athlete that I have ever met has seen a chiropractor at one time or another. In track and field, it is absolutely essential. Chiropractic care is one of the things I think that no one has denied or refuted.” O’Brien added, “You obviously can’t compete at your fullest if you’re not in alignment. And your body can’t heal if your back is not in alignment. It was the holistic idea that I liked about chiropractic and that is what track and field is about.”
During an interview in the August 2012 issue of Details magazine, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who has received the most (22) Olympic medals of all time, noted that he receives Graston technique treatments to keep him in top form. Phelps said, “My trainer, Keenan [Robinson], uses Graston tools, these little metal crowbars. He carves them into my shoulder blades, my back, my knee, my hamstrings—wherever I’m really tight—to loosen things up. It’s pretty intense.”
Elite cyclist Bradley Wiggins has won the most medals of any British Olympic athlete and is the first British winner of the Tour de France. He has nothing but praise for his chiropractor, Matt Rabin. Some months before the 2012 Olympic Games, Wiggins said, “I first started working with Matt at the end of 2008 following my success at the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics. After years of struggling with minor niggles that I had learned to live with, and having never really found the answer to my problems despite having sought numerous treatment options with no great success, I went to see Matt.”
Wiggins continued, “From my first session with him I had great results that were not short lived. That followed up with regular sessions I saw improvements that I had never seen before and that reflected in the way my body held up on a day to day basis which eventually saw me achieve 4th place in the 2009 Tour de France under his supervision.” He added, “Matt will undoubtedly remain an integral part of my medical support in the forthcoming seasons and lead up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.”
If the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, used chiropractic to keep him a step in front of his competitors at the 2012 Olympic Games, perhaps you should too!Learn More
The “core muscles,” which are the muscles responsible for giving us strength and stability when bending or twisting, can essentially be broken down into seven different sets: the rectus abdominis, the external obliques, the internal obliques, the transversus abdominis, the multifidus, the quadratus lumborum and the lumbar erector spinae. Each of these sets of muscles performs a different function, as follows:
Rectus abdominis – Responsible for flexing and rotating the trunk, the rectus abdominis is the set of muscles made famous by the term “six pack” abs. The muscle extends out from the xiphoid process and adjacent costal cartilages, and attaches to the pubic bone at the crest and symphysis.
External obliques – These contribute to spinal stability and allow the trunk to flex and bend toward the side. They also enable the trunk to rotate toward the opposite side of the body. It begins at the front lateral part of the lower seven ribs, and attaches at the pubic tubercle, the linea alba and the front part of the iliac crest.
Internal obliques – Provide stability to the spine and allow for the flexion and rotation of the trunk toward the same side of the body. It originates from the inguinal ligament, the thoracolumbar fascia and the anterior iliac crest, and attaches at the linea alba and lower four ribs.
Transversus abdominis – Plays a key role in trunk stabilization and compresses the abdominal wall. It starts at the thoracolumbar fascia, the lower six costal cartilages and the iliac crest, and attaches at the middle of the linea alba.
Multifidus – Stabilizes and allows for the rotation and flexion of the spine by supporting the vertebral joints. They begin at the posterior sacrum, the superior iliac spine, the mamillary processes of the lumbar vertebrae, the transverse processes of the thoracic vertebrae and the articular processes of the cerebral vertebrae. Each connects at the spinous processes of the vertebrae, two to four bones above where they originate.
Quadratus lumborum – Connects the spine to the pelvis and is responsible for movements related to bending and twisting the spine in relation to the pelvis, such as bending while rotating. It begins at the top of the iliac crest, and attaches to the top of the lumbar spine and the lowest ribs.
Lumbar erector spinae – These are long muscles that allow the spine to extend, bend and twist. They extend from the lumbar spine to the neck. They begin at the iliac crest, the sacrum, the lower seven ribs, and the spinous and transverse processes of the thoracic vertebrae, and attach at the angles of the ribs, the transverse processes of the vertebrae and the base of the skull.Learn More
No one should underestimate the importance of getting adequate minerals in our daily diet. Composed of metals and other inorganic compounds, minerals are just as important as vitamins when it comes to the proper functioning of the human body’s systems. And since the body cannot produce its own minerals, we must get them from the food we eat.
While many common minerals, such as calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium are required in larger amounts, others are only necessary in trace amounts. However, modern farming practices have depleted the soil of some of these important trace minerals, resulting in a greater risk of mineral deficiencies in the overall population. A 1992 study found that the mineral content of soil in the U.S. was 86% lower than it had been a century before.
Minerals are needed in order for our body’s enzymes to work and to facilitate the transport of nutrients across cell membranes. Without minerals, our cells would essentially starve. Minerals are responsible for proper conduction of nerve impulses, for the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue, and they help regulate tissue growth.
Following is a short overview of some of the most important minerals for our health:
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost one out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated levels of radon. Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that is the result of the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil. It is undetectable to humans without the aid of a specialized detection device. The effects of chronic radon gas inhalation are significant. The EPA estimates that about 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year are due to radon gas inhalation, second only to the effects of cigarette smoking.
Radon rises up from the ground and seeps into your home via small cracks and holes in the foundation. No matter the age or condition of your home, radon can seep into it through gaps around service pipes, cracks in solid floors and walls, through construction joints and even through the water supply. Elevated levels of radon have been found in homes in every state in the U.S. The EPA advises that every home be tested for radon below the third floor.
Luckily, radon testing is relatively simple and inexpensive, particularly with a do-it-yourself testing kit that can be purchased online or at a home improvement store. For a little more money, you can hire a professional radon detection service that will measure the radon levels in your home and provide solutions for bringing radon down to a safe level. Radon in the air is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Any measurement below 4 pCi/L is considered to pose a low level of risk.
There are two different types of radon tests you can perform: short-term and long-term. Short-term tests last between two and 90 days, depending on the test. A long-term test remains in your home for over 90 days. As radon levels fluctuate throughout the year, a short-term test may not give you an accurate measurement of your annual radon exposure. However, the EPA recommends that you start with a short-term test. It this first test detects a radon level at or above 4 pCi/L, a second short-term test or a long-term test is used for confirmation. If the level of radon detected is particularly high on the first test, it is best that the second test is short-term in case action needs to be taken quickly. Otherwise, a long-term test will provide you with a more accurate measurement.
If your home has high levels of radon, the EPA recommends that you hire a certified contractor who specializes in radon mitigation, since reducing radon levels requires special skills, technical knowledge and equipment. The size of your home and the type of foundation will determine the kind of radon mitigation system that will likely work best in your situation. While the cost of radon mitigation averages about $1,200, the reduced risk of lung cancer for you and your family is certainly worth it!Learn More
Almost everyone is pressed for time these days, and squeezing a workout into your day is often not easy to do. However, it is possible to learn some ways of exercising more efficiently so you get a better workout in less time. Following are a few tips on getting the most out of your workouts.
Exercise both your upper and lower body at the same time – This allows you to not only save time, but also burn more calories. Use hand-held weights and pump your arms hard while running and walking, or use a rowing machine that causes you to give both upper and lower body a good workout.
Do high-intensity interval training – Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that shorter but more intense workouts were far more effective than longer workouts of lower intensity. Professor Martin Gibala was the lead author of a two-week study that analyzed the workouts of healthy middle-aged men who performed six sessions of high-intensity interval training for 20 minutes each. Each session consisted of 10 intervals at 90 percent intensity lasting one minute each, with a minute of rest between each interval. The results matched or were better than those from participants who practiced traditional aerobic exercise for longer lengths of time.
Gibala says, “The participants showed dramatic improvement in their exercise capacity. Before, maybe they could ride a bike pretty intensely for 25 minutes. After those two weeks, they could ride it for 50 minutes.” Some exercises that lend themselves well to this type of training are the elliptical machine, rowing machine, bicycling and sprinting. Do one minute of intense exercise at 90 percent of your capacity for one minute, then rest for one minute. Repeat this sequence ten times for a 20-minute workout and you’re done!
Vary your workouts – Studies have shown that the body becomes more efficient at a particular type of exercise if it is done repeatedly, so if you want to burn more calories, vary the exercises you do. Physical trainer Dino Novak says, “When the body is doing a set rhythm, it expends less energy than when it’s forced into multiple movements.” He advises, “For example, instead of just going for a run, do sprints — and then stop, start, turn, twist. Add motion and movement into your activity and you’ll literally keep your body expending the maximum energy.”
Listen to fast music – According to the results of a study performed by scientists at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, subjects who listened to fast music while working out pedaled an exercise bicycle faster and achieved a faster heart rate than when they listened to slow music. So crank up the tunes!Learn More