Health for Women
Are you getting enough quality sleep?
One of the biggest contributors to early aging is poor-quality sleep, according to Andrea Purcell, ND, Portal to Healing Naturopathic Clinic, Costa Mesa, CA.
“Many people go to bed with lights on or surrounded by ambient light, which can interfere with sleep schedules and quality.”
Stress prematurely compromises hormone production and, over time, your cells aren’t able to repair themselves. We age because stress and lifestyle factors such as improper sleep and hygiene cause hormone depletion. But by triggering the release of growth hormones, sleep helps rebuild healthy cells and decreases the aging process.
Fight it: Sleeping at the right times helps our bodies repair the damage done during the day. And you don’t need to get a full 10 hours; you just need to maximize your hormonal release by sleeping at the right time. Your brain releases the hormone melatonin in response to darkness, usually between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. This triggers the release of a hormone called prolactin between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.; which activates the human growth hormone (HGH) throughout the night and helps repair and replenish the body.
Too much fat and salt?
If you eat a high-fat diet and too many high-sodium processed foods, you are more likely to experience accelerated and worsened cardiovascular aging, according to Douglas Seals, PhD, professor at University of Colorado at Boulder. Such dietary habits can also lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. As you age, you typically gain body fat—it’s where that weight accumulates that determines if it will affect your heart and cardiovascular system. Fat accumulated around the abdomen is a different kind of fat that secretes molecules that are harmful to your heart.
Fight it: Eat various fresh green vegetables for their antioxidants, which can help protect your brain and heart from free radicals and the development of oxidative stress. Do aerobic exercise at least three to four days a week and eat a healthy diet low in fat and sodium and high in fresh, nutrient-rich foods.
What about alcohol?
As you age, your body doesn’t process alcohol as efficiently as it does when you are younger, according to Avid Oslin, MD, associate professor at University of Pennsylvania. Alcohol consumption leads to a pattern of impaired executive functioning and impaired memory and interacts with many medications, particularly in older adults. For some medications, alcohol will change how much of the medication is needed to control the underlying condition, such as insulin regulation, which can result in an increase in side effects from the medication. For other medications, alcohol can interfere with how the medication works and thus make the medication less effective (for example, antibiotics and antidepressants).
Fight it: Stick to moderate alcohol intake only; no more than one drink per night and try to make it red wine, which contains antioxidants. Remember: a 70-year-old who consumes the same amount of alcohol as a 40-year-old will have a higher blood alcohol level and will show more impairment. Also, your brain doesn’t tolerate as much alcohol as you age. Thus moderation is always the key.
Whether she's playing svelte Quorra in the "Tron" film series or the secretive-but-sexy Dr. Thirteen in "House M.D.," others look to Olivia Wilde for tips on how she stays healthy and fit.
It's a well-known fact that Olivia is a fully committed vegan. In fact, she was named PETA's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity in 2010. In an interview published in the January/February 2011 edition of Women's Health Magazine, she and the interviewer spent some time at a vegan macrobiotic hut on Venice Beach. Though one can't speculate what Olivia eats, a vegan diet is typically much lower in fat and cholesterol than that of meat-eaters, and it includes several other health benefits: it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and decrease one's risk for cancer and heart disease. Olivia said she likes to experiment with leafy greens and other veggies she finds at the farmers' markets.
In the same article, Olivia also reveals that she has a varied and active workout routine, including biking, hiking, taking ballet and modern dance classes, doing yoga and attending spin classes. She said that to fit into her snug and sexy cat suit for "Tron" she did 45 minutes of cardio per day and added in martial arts, weights and cross training to get her fabulous muscles. Olivia revealed that, though it was fun, being muscular is not a priority – at least not until the next film.
"It's not my natural resting state," she told the magazine, "Striving for physical perfection takes a lot of energy."
Tips from her "Tron" Trainer
But if you liked Olivia's look in "Tron", you can get her results. After the first film, Olivia's trainer, Patrick Murphy, revealed to Self magazine that Quorra's role required a demanding combination of strength, balance, stability and grace, all of which Wilde perfected with a specially designed routine. He said that many of his celebrity clients use his circuit workout:
"These multi-dimensional, compound exercises help many of my clients gain muscle and burn mass calories, giving them the lean look that they strive for," Murphy told the source.
The regimen includes 5 to 10 minutes of cardio, followed by a circuit of various lunges, squats, bicep curls, shoulder presses, rows and pushups. This routine is very similar to the one Olivia used for her role.
Yoga and Pilates both focus on flexibility and strength training of the entire body, as well as breathing, and they both have benefits ranging from heart to immune system health. However, yoga and Pilates are different in that yoga is often more spiritual – it's about the union of the mind and body - while Pilates is an exercise routine focused on precise movements to target particular areas. Here are the basics of both types of exercise along with an overview of their respective fitness foci:
Most people don't realize that pilates was actually developed by a man named Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, though it didn't become popular until the 1980s. This exercise program focuses on strength, flexibility and balance through controlled movements based on dynamic tension – exercising muscle against muscle for self-resistance. You need very little equipment to practice Pilates – a majority of the exercises can be done on a mat.
Pilates exercises often require repetitive, quick and controlled movements for the best results. The most basic Pilates exercises are the hundred, the roll-up, the one-leg circle and the saw.
The practice of yoga has a much longer tradition than Pilates and is more focused on achieving the unison of mind and body in a meditative state. There is evidence of yoga in remnant Shamanistic texts dating back to 3000 B.C. Yoga is also deeply connected to Buddhism and the sought after goal of attaining self-enlightenment. Today, there are more than 100 schools of yoga, though all are based on meditation, breathing, relaxation, and proper diet and exercise.
The most common form of yoga practiced in the U.S. is Hatha yoga. Another popular practice is Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, were a series of 26 postures are performed in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity. Many people like Bikram because it raises your heart rate and tires your muscles with demanding poses. However, exercising in such high temperatures can be dangerous so people are encouraged to check with their doctors before practicing.
Some basic and popular yoga poses for beginners include cat, cow, downward dog, tree, lotus, and warrior one and two. Advanced practitioners of yoga may be able to complete demanding poses like crow, peacock and standing split – all of which require supreme balance, strength and flexibility.
Going vegan can be an excellent choice because it makes you more conscious about the things you're eating. Here are some of the biggest health benefits of choosing to eat a vegan diet:
- A healthy vegan diet is typically rich in whole grains and legumes. These foods have a low glycemic index and are high in fiber, meaning they are digested slowly and thus keep blood sugar steady. This can help reduce cholesterol and, in turn, improve one's heart health.
- Vegans do not eat red meat (or any meat, of course), which the World Cancer Research Fund announced in a 2007 report is good for colon health.
- Vegans often have – but not always – less processed foods in their diets. Several studies have affirmed the unhealthy attributes of processed foods.
- Adherents to a vegan diet avoid all animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy and gelatin-based products. Thus, they are likely to eat less saturated fats and are more likely to have a lower cholesterol, meaning a vegan diet can boost your heart health and potentially help with weight issues.
- Vegan diets are often very high in fiber – beans, lentils, whole grains and various vegetables all pack in plenty of fiber, which is good for the body's digestive system.
Aside from the various health benefits that vegans acquire from their diets, veganism also has several more benefits for individuals and society as a whole:
- You'll save money, as grains, beans, soy and similar foods are fairly inexpensive compared to animal proteins.
- You'll do your part to reduce pollution and environmental deterioration because factory farms take more energy and resources to produce animal meats and runoff can pollute local water sources.
- You'll be contributing to animal wellbeing.
While there are clearly several individual and societal benefits to eating a vegan diet, making this change can require a lot of work at first. It takes time to plan meals that meet all of our bodies' important nutritional requirements, and restricting your food sources means you'll have to get creative. Many vegans choose to supplement their diets with a nutritional shake to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and Omega-3s, nutrients that are available in a vegan diet but not always in large enough amounts to meet the bodies' needs.
If you find that your diet and exercise plan isn't having the effects you were hoping for, it could be because you're implementing a strategy that isn't best suited for your body type. There are three main types of bodies – ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph – and knowing which one you have can ensure that you develop a fitness regime that best suits your individual needs.
The ectomorph body is defined by its delicate bone structure and features such as skinny limbs, a flat chest and buttocks and narrow shoulders. According to Daily Fitness, ectomorphs have a high metabolism and lots of lean muscle, and because their bodies burn calories so quickly, they often find that it's difficult to gain weight.
If you have an ectomorph frame, you may find that you get full quickly or don't have a big appetite. High density foods with plenty of fat – including avocados, almonds and peanut butter – can help you put on pounds. If you get full quickly, you should try eating several small meals a day rather than three large ones. Ectomorphs can also try a calorie-packed snack like Naturade Weight Gain Mix. When training, ectomorphs should use heavier weights and do only 5-10 repetitions. Take longer rests in between sets, and do cardio exercise less frequently than weight training.
Endomorph bodies are essentially the opposite of the ectomorph. This body type is large, round and soft, with a low metabolism and muscles that are less defined. Endomorphs often fatigue easily, and may have a very high appetite. If you're an endomorph, you probably find that it's easy to gain weight and difficult to lose it.
It's important for endomorphs to drink plenty of water to stay full and hydrated, and in addition, they should eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Non-processed foods and whole grains are also important, though an endomorph diet should only include between 30 and 40 percent carbohydrates. When exercising, people with this body type should do as much cardio as possible. Endomorphs should use weights that are slightly lighter and do 15 or more reps during a set, taking a 30- or 45-second break in between sets. Compound lifts like squats are great for endomorphs, as they burn more calories and increase strength quickly
According to Muscle and Strength, mesomorph bodies are typically those that are "naturally athletic," with a large bone structure and defined muscles. Mesomorphs are strong and gain muscle quickly, and they generally have broad shoulders and a narrow waist.
A mesomorph diet can be high in calories as long as you are getting enough exercise, as this body type gains fat more quickly than ectomorphs. Carbohydrates should make up between 40 and 60 percent of food intake for mesomorphs, and you should consider breaking your food intake into five or six medium-sized meals over the course of the day. Mesomorphs should have a fitness routine that combines cardio and weight training, doing enough cardio to stay lean and doing eight to 12 reps during weight training. If you're a mesomorph, you'll likely see results from your fitness regime very quickly.
You may think that you have your fitness routine down to a science, but gym-goers of all experience levels and body types can probably do more to make the most out of every minute spent at the gym. If you're thinking about updating your workout, try one – or all – of these seven tips!
1. Start your routine with something you like
If you find that your workouts are getting a little stale, try beginning your fitness routine with the exercise you enjoy the most. This will help you get your heart rate pumping while also getting you psyched up for the workout ahead.
2. Eat before you go
While you don't want to wolf down a steak before hitting the treadmill, eating a small meal or light snack before the gym can help boost your metabolism and keep you from fading during your routine. Try an antioxidant-rich snack like blueberries, a yogurt packed with probiotics or a shake made with a total soy meal replacement.
3. Use your upper body during cardio
Using a treadmill or stationary bike to improve heart and lung endurance is a great way to stay fit, but chances are you're ignoring your upper body during these workouts. Using a full-body elliptical machine that works on arms as well as legs can help you burn more calories while improving your overall stamina.
4. Get a little competitive
Notice someone on the treadmill near you who's really giving it their all? Use their motivation to work a little harder! Friendly competition can give you the boost you need to spend a few extra minutes on the machine or convince you to push yourself to run just a little faster. However, be sure that you don't do anything that's outside of your limits.
5. Try eccentric exercises
It's tempting to focus solely on improving muscles like your abs, but many abdominal workouts shorten and "crunch" those muscles. Mixing in movements that lengthen your spine and strengthen back muscles can help you achieve all-over body fitness.
6. Take advantage of unilateral training
Most of the time, when you're using a leg press or extension machine you're using both of your legs at the same time. While there's nothing wrong with that, most of us tend to favor one leg over the other, even when using both at once. Try doing a full set with your weaker leg – for most people, this is their left – and then doing a full set with your stronger leg. You'll immediately notice that one side completes the exercise with greater ease. Doing this can also help improve balance!
7. Invest in a personal trainer
Maybe you haven't achieved the arm tone you wanted, or maybe your runs are still leaving you feeling exhausted after five minutes. If it seems like your workout isn't having the effects you were hoping for, you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer who can help you reach your fitness goals. Sound too expensive? Try splitting a session with a friend or looking into group fitness programs.
When it comes to getting in shape and improving your overall fitness, just finding the time and motivation to get yourself to the gym can be half the battle. Unfortunately, once you're at the gym there are several common mistakes that can derail even the most dedicated fitness fans during their workouts. Watch out for these 10 errors that can hinder your efforts.
1. Socializing too much
Having a buddy can be a great way to make sure you get to the gym regularly. However, working out with a friend can also be a distraction. It's fine to socialize, but try to make sure that your trips to the gym actually involve some focus on fitness!
2. Lifting weights that are too heavy
Don't head right for the heaviest dumbbells in the gym. Lifting weights that are too heavy for you can lead to muscle strains, so don't feel like you have to show off. In many cases, studies have shown that lighter weights – used effectively – can have just as much of an impact as heavy ones.
3. Lifting weights that are too light
On the other hand, lifting weights that aren't causing you to exert yourself at all won't help. Fitness experts suggest choosing a weight that you can lift 30 times during your first set, but can lift only 15 times during your second.
4. Not mixing up your routine
If you're getting on the treadmill regularly, that's great! But fitness experts recommend switching up your workout to promote full-body fitness, rather than focusing on just one area.
5. Exclusively using the machines
Sure, your gym may be full of fun equipment that you're eager to try. But many of these machines focus on one particular muscle group, meaning that your time could be better spent elsewhere. Lots of free weight exercises require that you use your whole body, so they can help you burn more calories and strengthen more muscles in less time.
6. Ignoring your core
According to experts, the body's core is where all human movement originates. Therefore, a strong core can help you get fit much faster. It's a great idea to use ab machines and do sit-ups, but it can also be beneficial to keep your core strengthened during other workouts, like the bench press and leg press.
7. Not understanding the equipment
If you're new to the gym and have questions about a certain machine, just ask! Using a piece of equipment incorrectly is ineffective and won't help you get in shape any faster, and you want to ensure that you get the most out of every minute of your workout.
8. Inconsistent workout schedule
This is a common and easily-avoided mistake. Instead of going to the gym four days in a row and then skipping your workouts for the next two weeks, try to hit the gym with relative consistency. This helps you get into a routine and can promote a speedy metabolism.
9. Setting unrealistic expectations
Improving your fitness is all about hard work and perseverance. While it's common to yearn for instant results, it's important to remember that healthy living is an ongoing process. Don't stop hitting the gym because you didn't drop 10 pounds in one week – continue working hard and you'll start to see results!
10. Not changing your diet
Even if you're going to the gym regularly and avoiding these common workout mistakes, exercise alone often isn't enough to help you lose weight. If you've been sticking to your routine like a pro, you can consider adding a weight loss supplement or trying a protein meal replacement to kick your metabolism into gear and help you get the body you want.
You may not think that you have time to get the bathing suit body you always wanted before summer's end, but there are actually lots of speedy exercises that you can do to gradually improve your beach bod! If you have 15 minutes to train before hitting the sand, you can get your body looking great in that bikini with these easy-to-do fitness tips.
1. Cross-Body Mountain Climber
Mountain climbers are a full-body workout that can strengthen legs while toning your tummy. Get your body into pushup position, and brace your abs. Keeping your core tightened, pick up your right foot and bring that knee toward your left shoulder. Return to your starting position, and make the same motion with your left leg. Complete 12 reps per leg, remembering to brace your core throughout the workout.
2. Alternating bug
The alternating bug is a great core workout that can also improve coordination. Start on your back with both arms and legs pointed at the ceiling and your feet flexed. Next, lower your left arm and right leg until they are parallel with the floor. Bring your arm and leg back to their previous position, and do the same thing with your other arm and leg. Continue alternating with slow, fluid motions for 30 seconds.
3. Curtsy lunge
To strengthen and tone your legs, try a curtsy lunge. Begin by standing with your feet together. Step into lunge position with your left leg, bringing the foot across your body and in front of your right foot while dropping your right knee. Use both feet to push yourself back into a standing position, and repeat the same motion with your right leg. Remember to keep your chin and chest up throughout the lunging motion – no slouching! Do 10 reps with each leg.
4. Superset plank
Planks are a great, low-impact exercise that will strengthen your core and arms. To start, get into a modified pushup position with your elbows beneath your shoulders and your forearms in front of you on the floor. Your body should be in a straight line, and your shoulder blades and back shouldn't be sticking up into the air. Brace your abs and maintain the position for 30 seconds.
5. Jump and tuck
This routine is slightly more challenging, but it can really help improve lower body strength. Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at the knees, pushing your hips back into a squat, and jump as far forward as you are able. Land with your feet hip-width apart, and immediately jump as high in the air as possible, bringing your knees up into your chest. Try to land softly, with your knees slightly bent. If you find that this is too tricky at first, don't worry! Regular squats are a fine substitute.
Never underestimate the effectiveness some good old-fashioned push-ups can have on your arm tone! First, do pushups for 20 seconds. At the top of your last push-up, hold the position for an additional 20 seconds. Repeat the routine four times, taking breaks as necessary in between sets.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle means exercising and eating right. But sometimes, the vitamins and minerals your body needs aren't as easy to get through diet and exercise. In fact, we need certain nutrients that our bodies don't make, but require to function properly. Many women turn to supplements to complete what their bodies need to stay healthy. But with all of the pills on the market, how are we supposed to know which one to take? Here is a guide to the best supplements and vitamins for women:
A lack of iron in the diet can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath and even a weakened immune system. Iron carries oxygen in the body and helps to produce red blood cells, support immune health and regulate body temperature. Iron can be found in foods like red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, cereals, whole grains, dark leafy green vegetables and beans. However, if you're a vegetarian or don't get enough iron in your diet, consider opting for a supplement as well.
Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight, is great for strengthening bones and promoting joint health. Without it, your bones can become thin or brittle. You can find this powerful vitamin in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and fish liver oil. There is a smaller concentration found in vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice, beef liver and cheese.
Also found in fish are omega-3s. These are fatty acids that promote heart health, ward off memory loss and strengthen bones. They're found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed. However, one of the best sources of omega-3s are fish oil supplements. Women's Health Magazine suggested taking less than three grams per day because fish oil can thin your blood.
This powerful supplement aids in digestion and even keeps keep reproductive health in check. It can be found in yogurt and other dairy products. But if you're not into dairy, Naturade Probiotics 30 B CFU naturally supports your body's defenses and helps to restore and maintain intestinal flora.
This antioxidant is great for protecting the skin against damaging UV rays and can even promote heart health, boost memory and help the immune system. While you can find vitamin E supplements, it's also found in almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, wheat germ, safflower oil and spinach.
Magnesium helps to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps the heart rhythm steady and even supports a healthy immune system. It can be found in supplements as well as green vegetables like okra and beans, nuts, seeds and unrefined whole grains.
When you're expecting, you want to do absolutely everything you can to improve not only your health, but your little one's as well. While diet is vital for providing you and your child with the nutrients you both need, supplements can offer vitamins and minerals you may not get from food to help give you everything you need for healthy development. It's important to keep an eye on the type of supplement you're ingesting, however. Some supplements may not be as safe as they would seem. The following supplements are safe to take during pregnancy, however, it's important to talk with your doctor before ingesting anything:
This acid, a member of the B-vitamin family, can be found in green leafy vegetables, brown rice, breads, margarines and some breakfast cereals. The synthetic form is often more easily absorbed by the body than the natural form, however. According to Dr. Eric Levens, a board-certified reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist in Annandale, Va., folic acid has been shown to decrease the incidence of a specific birth defect by as much as 36 percent. Folic acid also helps to support the rapid growth of both the placenta and fetus. It aids in DNA production as well as cell division and fetal growth.
While this vitamin can come from sunshine, taking a supplement can give a pregnant woman and her child an adequate amount. Exposure to sunlight during pregnancy intensifies pigment changes that cause irregular skin darkening, so it's best to stay protected from the sun. Vitamin D is essential for regulating the amount of phosphate and calcium found in the body – both of which are needed to keep teeth and bones healthy. This vitamin can be found in fatty fish, fish liver oil, fortified milk, eggs and cereal products.
This vitamin, found in fruit and vegetables, protects cells and keeps to keep the immune system healthy – working to fight off infection. It's also essential for tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and skin health. You and your baby can benefit from vitamin C because it helps make collagen – a protein that's vital to cartilage, bones, skin and tendons. It can also help absorb iron.
Iron can come from red meat, legumes, vegetables and grains. This supplement makes hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to other cells. Iron also helps to form myoglobin – a protein that supplies oxygen to the muscles. And just like vitamin C, iron helps to maintain a healthy immune system.