Fitness & Wellness

Ready To Become A Brainiac? Ways To Increase The Size Of Your Brain

Ready To Become A Brainiac? Ways To Increase The Size Of Your Brain

No matter what your age, you can increase the size of your brain or boost your processing power with a few lifestyle changes. If you want to have better cognitive thinking, consider working out. Since you’re already reading this blog, I presume you already are going to my gym in Etobicoke, Ontario, so good for you. Don’t you feel smarter already? One research study at Western Sydney University found that muscle strength, measured using hand grip strength, is linked to the health of your brain. The study identified a strong link to the strength of the person’s hand grip and their ability to perform on brain functioning tests. The better the grip, the more positive the results on the test.

Studies link more than muscle strength, they link endurance, too.

There are a number of studies showing individuals improved cognitive functioning when physical activity was boosted. The studies varied in the length of time with anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes of activity improving cognitive performance. Participating in regular aerobic study shows a boost in the size of the hippocampus, that’s where the primary function of verbal memory and learning occurs. Some theories as to the reason include increased circulation and release of neuroprotective benefits and the creation of new neurons from specific proteins.

Improving your omega-3 fatty acid intake also helps.

The average diet has a disproportionate amount of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s. Some studies show that it can increase aggression. One thing is certain, you need omega-3 to boost your brain power. Salmon caught in the wild, eating meat certified by the American Grassfed Association, fish-algea-krill oil supplements, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts all contain larger amounts of omega-3.

Consider intermittent fasting.

There are studies that show the benefits of fasting for short time periods. In fact, one study showed that just eating all your meals in an eight hour time frame and fasting the other 16 hours could bring many of the benefits. Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, while maintaining the metabolic rate. It can help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of diabetes and benefit heart health, too. Best of all, it increases the neurotropic growth factor production in the brain. That’s a protein that helps protect neurons and promotes their growth. It can boost the resistance to neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Learning new things can help you boost your brain power. Those benefits increase if you’re learning a musical instrument.
  • Who would have thought juggling could build your thinking powers? It does more than just improve hand-eye coordination, it boosts building the white matter in the brain. One study divided their subjects into two groups, those who practiced juggling a half hour a day for six weeks and those who didn’t. Those who juggled built more white matter, improving spacial awareness, regardless of how well they juggled.
  • Including pecans and macadamia nuts in the diet on a daily basis can provide the perfect blend of fat, carbs and protein to boost brain power.
  • Celery, broccoli, avocado, blueberries and beets are more than just a low calorie snacks, they also provide nutrients and reduce inflammation that can assault the brain. Adding these to your diet can protect the brain and even give it a boost.

Getting Back To Exercise After A Major Health Issue

Getting Back To Exercise After A Major Health Issue

If you’ve been bed ridden for a while, had a heart attack or any long term major condition, you need to combat the toll it has taken on your body and fight back. It’s tough getting back to exercise after a major health issue, but that’s exactly when you need to do it, with your health care professionals blessing, of course. It may be easier said than done, since after a layoff of inactivity, you may not have the energy to increase your activity level.

Lack of muscle use equals lack of energy and strength.

You don’t have to suffer an illness to have a problem getting back into exercise. Muscle disuse atrophy starts in as little as 72 hours on smaller muscle groups. The large muscles take longer. That can occur to anyone who isn’t active, healthy or not. When you’re trying to get back into shape, listening to your body is extremely important. Do as much as you can without overtaxing. Each person will have a different level of exhaustion based on age, severity of the condition, fitness level before the problem occurred and length of time incapacitated.

Start slowly.

You may be only able to do one set of one repetition when you first start or just get into the right form to start the exercise. It doesn’t matter, anything you do toward working out counts and improves your overall fitness. If you’re able to walk, do so daily. Go as far as you can until your body tells you otherwise. It may only be a few feet or a half block, but it’s a start. Even if you think you can do more, take it easy at first.

Don’t be afraid to get exercise, as long as you have the doctor’s okay.

Serious conditions like heart attacks often make people afraid to workout, when in reality, that’s exactly what they should do. There’s an inverse relationship between exercising and a coronary event. That means the more you get, the less your chance of another one. A study in Europe showed that exercising after a coronary event lowered the risk of dying of a heart attack in the next four years by 50%. Even low activity cut the risk by more than one third, which climbed to as much as 59 % based on increased activity.

  • If your condition was severe enough to warrant physical therapy, follow the suggestions of the therapist. Do other types of movement on the times you aren’t in therapy, such as walking.
  • Don’t neglect a healthy diet while trying to get back into shape. Eating a nutritious diet can help speed the process.
  • Keep hydrated. Even if you aren’t a water drinker, it’s time to change your ways. Even minimal efforts can work up a sweat.
  • Stay positive. It may be a struggle, but instead of thinking “why me?” consider this as an opportunity to come back even stronger than before the illness, injury or chronic condition. That feeling of gratitude helps lower stress levels and keeps you focused on your progress.

Reduce Your Risk Of Back Pain And Even Stop It With Exercise

Reduce Your Risk Of Back Pain And Even Stop It With Exercise

There’s a lot to be said for modern health care. Pain killers are wonderful for coping with injuries and modern surgery has come a long way in relieving many chronic problems. But what if you could prevent the problem or even cure it with something you can do at home and the only side effects are improved energy levels, appearance, health and weight loss. You’d jump at the chance, wouldn’t you? Well it’s true, you can stop taking so many aspirin or ibuprofen and reduce your risk of back pain and even stop it with exercise.

Back pain is not only a common health complaint, it’s the most common one.

If you looked at statistics you’d see that back pain is the leading cause of disability at the workplace. It also is a leader when it comes to causing opioid dependence. With the opioid crisis so prevalent in our country, more and more physicians are refusing to write prescriptions and more and more patients with children are reluctant to take those that are written home. However, there are some simple methods to help reduce the potential of back pain and even eliminate it if you already suffer from it.

Non exercise movement, can help relieve pain and prevent it.

Non exercise movement are things like getting up from your desk and walking around frequently can dramatically reduce the potential for back ache. Standing and walking are two great deterrents and one of the reasons the standing desk is becoming more popular. It improves circulation and as long as you have proper posture, can do worlds to strengthen your back muscles.

Just a half hour a day could bring relief from back pain.

While you can exercise more, a number of studies show that people who exercised regularly, not only lowered the potential for back pain by 33 percent, but if they were already sufferers, reduced the amount of pain they had significantly. Other studies focused on those who already had problems and found that exercise reduced the risk of the pain leading to a total disability by 38 percent. There are even specific exercises for pain in various areas of the back that work wonders. According to the American College of Physicians, you should try these first before using medication, particularly for lower back pain.

  • Some of the recommended treatments use mindful stress relief and are psychological in nature. Stress can cause the body to react in a number of ways, back pain is one.
  • Core exercises help strengthen the stomach muscles that also support the back. When you have strong stomach and back muscles, you’re less prone to back pain.
  • Sitting for long periods actually shortens your muscles that connect the lower lumbar with the upper portions of the pelvis and femur. That can cause pain when standing.
  • Weight loss, regular stretching, quitting smoking and eating healthy all contribute to reduced back pain and should be incorporated into your lifestyle change plan.

The Cause Of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness---DOMS

The Cause Of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness—DOMS

If you’ve been working our regularly, but included new exercises into your normal workout and find you suddenly have pain a day or two after the workout, you may have delayed onset muscle soreness—DOMS. During workouts, your muscles contract, they shorten or lengthen when the muscle is producing force. Each phase has a name. When the muscle is shortening, it’s concentric, but during the lengthening phase it’s called eccentric. It’s believed that during the lengthening process—the eccentric phase—that the potential for DOMS occurs.

Why do you get DOMS?

When you stress your muscles in new ways, it often causes microscopic tears in the muscles. These tiny traumas sets of an inflammatory response. That causes electrolyte shifts and intramuscular fluid. The biochemical markers that occur with these small tears are lactic dehydrogenase and creatine kinase are found in the blood of people suffering from DOMS, making it a logical conclusion.

The symptoms of DOMS vary in degree.

Your muscles will have an achy feeling about one or two days after you injured them. It’s normally after a very strenuous, new-to-you type of exercise. Also, people first starting a program of regular exercise after a long delay of inactivity will often experience it. The affected area will be still and tender and even passive stretching causes pain to increase. The range of motion and muscle strength is reduced, with potential swelling in the area. Light exercise often helps with the pain.

You should exercise during this time, just not aggressively exercise the sore area.

Don’t give up your workout program just because of this pain. It goes away in three to five days. Instead, switch to a lighter exercise that doesn’t involve the sore muscle group. If your pain is in your arm, there’s no reason you can’t go walking or do exercises for the lower half of your body—within reason. Avoid a heavy workout that could exacerbate the pain and slow the mending process. Remember, even though the pain is uncomfortable, it’s a sign that you’re getting stronger and fitter.

  • If the pain doesn’t go away in three to five days or is debilitating constant and severe, seek medical attention. It could be something more serious.
  • Take aspirin or other over the counter pain remedy to help soothe the pain. Natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, such as turmeric, can be used on food or taken in capsule form.
  • Alternating heat and cold on the affected area can also help bring relief. One study showed that the massaging warm bubbles of a hot tub helped, too. Consider hot showers or hot soaks in the tub as an alternative if you don’t have a hot tub available.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you have muscle soreness or DOMS. It’s a sign that your muscles are getting back into shape.

What Is The "Exercise Is Medicine" Movement?

What Is The “Exercise Is Medicine” Movement?

Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) is a global movement that the president of the American College of Sports Medicine—ACSM—initiated. It’s an effort to improve the knowledge of doctors to the benefits of exercise and urges physicians to assess each patient level of physical activity and even use exercise as one of the prescriptions. When doctors find a patient that’s inactive and needs assistance, a referral to a local resource for help getting fit is given to the patient.

Why is this movement important?

For years personal trainers and people involved in the world of fitness have been helping clients become fit and healthier through exercise and diet. Unfortunately, many physicians don’t have the knowledge or training to promote this. In fact, many receive only a few hours of training in the benefits of exercise and an average of less than 20 hours of training in nutrition. In the 1980s, only 37 percent of medical schools provided just one course in nutrition. The rest had none. Today, that number is even lower, averaging about 27 percent. The reason is obvious, there’s so much information in our fast moving world of technology, that the basics, exercise and a healthy diet, are left behind.

The new approach is providing more training and using specialists.

Exercise in medicine is a movement to help doctors recognize the need for changes in lifestyle to achieve a healthy body. It’s a hope that physicians will identify people at risk for serious conditions and help them reroute their lives before their body succumbs. Some schools of medicine, such as the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, which opened in 2012, adopted physiology and exercise science as part of their curriculum, to help new physicians understand the importance of fitness and use that information to help clients live healthier.

Will this movement take hold and change medicine?

If a patient comes in with uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure, the physician will still prescribe the necessary medications to get them healthier. If it’s an enlightened physician, he or she will also prescribe exercise and diet and help the patient find the resources to make the changes easier. Instead of just treating the symptoms, the doctor will take an active part in helping the patient treat the problem that caused the symptoms.

  • Before you start any program of exercise, always get a physical, to ensure you have no hidden conditions that could cause a problem or a known condition that might require monitoring of medications.
  • Be aware that exercising and healthy eating are two foundations for a healthy body. It needs to be part of your healthcare plan regardless of your age.
  • If you have a serious condition or are recovering from a lengthy illness or condition, such as a stroke or heart attack, always tell your personal trainer. Make sure you give your okay to your doctor to discuss your health with your trainer to get the best merging of medicine and fitness that’s available.
  • Even though Exercise Is Medicine has been around since 2007 and supported by the AMA and Office of the Surgeon General, not all doctors or insurance companies are aware of the benefits or program. Check to see if your doctor and/or insurance company is.

It's All About Your Mindset

It’s All About Your Mindset

No matter what you decide to do in life, your success or failure is based on your mindset. If you believe you’ll achieve something, you will. If you believe you won’t achieve something, the chances are that you’ll be right, too. While some people object, saying that they really believed that they’d achieve their goals, but failed miserably, it’s just not true. If they truly believed they’d achieve a goal, they wouldn’t have quit after just one misdirected attempt. They’d continue trying.

Thomas Edison said it best.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Thomas Edison when asked about the 10,000 failures he had when trying to create the first practical incandescent light bulb. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That reply is almost as important as the actual accomplishment. It’s inspiring and should be remembered by anyone that has an important goal. You may have tried other times, but just found out what didn’t work for you. Edison also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” If your mindset is that you’ll succeed, you’ll work toward success no matter what the obstacles.

Make sure your goals are realistic.

This may sound like a step backward, but it’s not. If you want to lose 40 pounds and have a gorgeous beach body in a week after living a sedentary lifestyle for years, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you set a realistic goal that includes being able to achieve more in your exercise program, such as shedding 8-10 pounds in a month and increasing the number of reps you can do, you’ll be successful if you work hard. The goal should be difficult and challenging, but still within your capabilities.

Enjoy your workout and you’ll keep working toward your goal.

Part of a successful program is enjoying what you’re doing. If you dread every minute of working out, you’re doing something wrong. Ways to improve your attitude is to include fun things in your exercise program. Nobody says every day needs to be spent in the gym. You can go dancing, ride a bike, hike with the kids or rock climb. Even when you’re in the gym, mixing it up can make it a lot more fun. Personally, I love the kettlebells. I save those for my special treat at the end of each workout and often just do a kettlebell routine because I enjoy it.

  • Eating healthy is as important as exercise. Don’t prejudge healthy food. It doesn’t all taste “healthy.” You know what I mean, like vitamin soaked cardboard. Fresh fruits and vegetables are delicious and some nutritious meals are elegant and flavorful enough to serve in the most expensive restaurants in town.
  • Spend time with positive people. If you have people in your life that are continuously making you feel like a failure, avoid them or replace them with someone that lifts you up and keeps you going. If you can’t avoid them, remember that only you decide whether to believe what they say.
  • Get a workout buddy. A workout buddy can make your exercise time more fun and even help you stick to a healthy diet. By sharing a workout time, you’re less likely to skip that day at the gym.
  • Believe in yourself and know that you can accomplish any goal, you just have to be willing to do what it takes to succeed.

Returning To Fitness After Surgery

Returning To Fitness After Surgery

If you’ve always been fit, you’ll be a more likely candidate for a swift recovery after a surgery or serious condition. But there are pitfalls you have to avoid and a process to follow when returning to fitness after surgery. To muddy the waters even more, one study used a questionnaire to discover surgeon’s and GP’s recommendations on how much time to take off work that required after a 25-year old had unilateral inguinal hernia repair. The recommendations varied from one week to 12 weeks. General Practitioner’s recommended a period between two and thirteen weeks. That wide response was just for one type of surgery and one age bracket. You can see that it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific time frame for all surgery, all fitness levels and all ages.

Take it slowly when you start back to your fitness routine.

You may think you need to go to the gym to start working out immediately, but the truth is, getting up out of bed and walking is the first step to getting back to your fit self. Getting out of bed and starting a walking routine helps you heal faster, so do light stretches during the first week. If stretching causes pain at the surgical site, don’t do it. Let your body have time to heal that area. By the end of the first week, you should be logging in between one and three miles a day. That doesn’t mean all at once, but throughout the day. Each person has to listen to their own body to find the right amount and pace of post operative exercise.

Listen to your body and your doctor’s advice.

Today, most doctors encourage light exercise quickly following surgery. In fact, they may even suggest short walks the same day or the following day. Studies and years of experience show it helps the body heal faster. By the third to the fourth week, if your physician says it’s alright based on your recovery, boost up the intensity of your exercise. Brisker walks, riding a stationary bike and low impact aerobics can be included. Avoid exercises that put excess strain on your body or high impact exercises, such as heavy lifting, sprinting and jumping.

It’s a fine balance between moving to fast and moving too slow.

While no exercise actually slows recovery time, to intense or too much exercise can too. If you exercise hard, raising your heart rate significantly, the altered tissue at the surgical site may experience increased blood volume in the area, which can cause increased swelling and scarring. It can break apart stitches if done too quickly—five days or less after surgery—and sweating can spread germs to the area and increase potential infection.

  • Like in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Surgery in the chest cavity and lower should require a slower return to fitness than head surgery.
  • Listen to your body and follow what it’s telling you. If you get exhausted after a short walk, don’t try to go further, but rest and try walking again a little later. If you feel abnormal pain, stop and check with your health care physician.
  • Don’t expect to pick up where you left off, ease back into fitness.
  • Discuss your situation with your personal trainer so he or she can create a program best for your situation. Make sure you have the okay from your health care professional or professionals, before getting back to the gym to your old fitness regimen.

Is Cross Training Right For You?

Is Cross Training Right For You?

Cross training offers a plethora of benefits, but even with that said, not everyone does it. Before you know whether cross training is something you should include in your workout program, you need to identify exactly what cross training is. If you’re a runner, you might cross train by taking up boxing or martial arts. For weight lifters, swimming or running might be how they cross train. In other words, it’s training in a variety of ways.

You’ll not only train all your muscles, you’ll also get train in all areas of fitness.

You know that runners are getting cardio when they train, but running doesn’t offer strength or flexibility training. Luckily, as in our example earlier, boxing and martial arts training do provide training in those areas. This can help you avoid injury. What also helps you side step injury is the fact you’re not spending all your exercise time pounding the pavement. It gives you adequate recovery time while you’re still building endurance with the cross training you chose.

You’ll get better in the sport of your choice.

You’ll boost your flexibility, strength and/or endurance when you cross train. It can improve your overall performance in your primary sport by building up all areas of fitness. For runners, it can provide a burst of power that you and increase flexibility making muscles more efficient. With strength training added, it can increase stride power for faster times.

Cross training can make runnning more fun.

If you love to run, that’s great, but if it’s all you do, one day you’ll start thinking of it as “same-old-same-old.” Variety is the spice of life and cross training is the spice you need for working out. You start to look forward to days at the gym, while also maintaining your love of running. Changing things up is good and it prevents you from getting into a rut.

  • You need to switch your focus after a big race and give both your mind a body a rest. Cross training can keep you in shape and provide an alternative.
  • When you cross train, it boosts your motivation by providing concrete results. You’ll see the improvement in your primary sport, which will increase your desire to do more cross training and training in the sport of your choice.
  • Cross training workouts shouldn’t have the same intensity as your primary sport workout. If you’re primary sport training was intense, your cross training workout should be moderate active recovery sessions.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, cross training can improve weight loss. You’ll be approaching from mult-muscle groups and boosting your caloric output.

Healthy Date Night

Healthy Date Night

If your date nights are becoming the same old thing, dinner, drinks and a movie, you might be ready for a change. You can create a healthy date night to make a change and get fitter in the process. The date night might involve an earlier trip to the store to get the makings for a healthy supper you prepare together and some activity that will get you moving and healthy. Choose food that’s easy to make, such as salad fixings, a side vegetable and lean meat to grill. You can eat before you go out, but most people opt for putting together the meal afterward and then relaxing.

Consider a picnic along a hiking path.

A Saturday or Sunday afternoon hike on the Humber River Trails with a picnic lunch can be perfect for a date. Make the lunch a healthy one and you’ll have a date that will make your body say thank you. Veggie and chicken pinwheels, vegetarian muffulettas, healthy wraps and fresh salads provide filling nourishment that won’t fill you out. The hike will also burn calories. Plan the route ahead of time to ensure you’ll return before it gets dark.

Go roller skating, ice skating or roller blading.

Choose roller blading, ice skating or roller skating for a date night. Centenial Park Skating Club has a free Try It Out-Learn to Skate Day. It’s part of Canada’s new Canskate program that offers loads of fun whether you want to choose figure skating, hockey, speed skating or just skating for enjoyment. There are several roller rinks in the area. Roller skating can be fun and healthy. If you or your partner don’t know how to skate, think of how romantic it will be holding each other close for support.

Peddle your way around the countryside with a romantic bike ride.

While you might not talk as much as you would hiking when riding a bike, you can use the picnic time to achieve that. You can plan a romantic destination or just make it one that has picnic tables and a place to eat. Don’t forget to take extra bottled water, especially on warm days. You’ll have fun and love cuddling together for a good movie at home after the day is over.

  • Rent a jet ski or go kayaking and you’ll burn calories while having fun.
  • If you haven’t bowled in years, it may be time to try it again. Most bowling alleys have balls available and rent shoes, so you don’t even need your own equipment.
  • Go dancing. There’s nothing more romantic than a slow dance or more invigorating than a fast one. Stick to just one drink and then drink plenty of water the rest of the night. You might even consider ballroom dance lessons as another option. After all, the rumba is the dance of love.
  • Get pampered and spend a day at the spa. Try a massage, sauna or pamper yourself with a wrap. After the spa, eat at a restaurant with healthy organic options.

Have You Tried Boxing As A Workout

Have You Tried Boxing As A Workout

If you’re ready for something different to help get or keep in shape and lose weight, it’s time to try boxing as a workout. Boxing provides a total body workout that will leave you tired, but feeling great. Training for a match requires you to punch a heavy bag, with professional ones weighing 100 pounds or more. It takes a lot of strength to do that, so you’ll be toning your muscles while you train.

It’s more than just resistance or strength training, it’s cardio training, too.

If you’re tired of the same old treadmill cardio or hate running and cycling, take up boxing to get your cardio workout and you’ll have a lot more fun. It’s almost like HIIT—high intensity interval training—because you go at top speed for a while and then switch to low gear and quickly back to high intensity. It certainly gets your heart pumping and that’s the ultimate goal of cardio. Just like HIIT, it burns calories fast.

You get a full body workout.

You never are stationary when you’re boxing or training to box. There’s foot work and constant movement. You’ll be bobbing, weaving and punching your way to total body agility and strength. While boxing isn’t known for flexibility, you need to improve your range of motion to protect your muscles. Stretching before working out can help and also help your boxing skills. You workout from top to bottom training all muscles as you go.

When you box, your muscles have to work in synergy.

Boxing trains your muscles and joints to work together. Just throwing a punch at a bag involves many different muscles that work in unison with joint movement. The back and abs are involved in throwing a punch. In fact, the power comes from kenetic energy that starts at the lowest part of your body, your feet, and works its way up to pack all the power in the punch.

  • Boxing improve the composition of your body, burning fat and replacing it with more muscle. The more muscle you have, the more energy you burn. That helps you lose weight and keep it from returning.
  • You’ll relieve stress and enjoy every punch you throw at the bag. Most people who take up boxing will admit, they often put a face on the bag and that face is someone that gave them woe earlier in the day.
  • Boxing improves hand-eye coordination. That improves reaction time and reflexes.
  • Boxing leaves you feeling empowered. Knowing you can handle yourself, feeling strong and having the skills and strength to throw a punch changes women from potential victims to victors.