Tag Archives | Health

Why you need a vacation.

luggage

Incredible as it sounds, I’m already planning my ski trips for the coming season. I know, there are months between now and then, but I’m still excited. I have a lot of cool stuff coming up, and it’s looking like a great winter.

Seems like I may be unusual. New research suggests that 56 percent of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past 12 months. That’s 10 million more people than the year before. In fact, the US is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate time off. By law, European countries get at least 20 days of paid vacation per year; some receive as many as 30. Australia and New Zealand each require employers to give at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. What’s more, Americans are taking the least amount of vacation in nearly four decades. And some 25 percent of Americans and 31 percent of low-wage earners get no vacation at all, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Pretty crazy, don’t you think?

People don’t take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Some are afraid of falling behind at work. Some fear losing their jobs. And some risk losing income when they’re not working.

This is really a shame. Vacations are important. All of us need a chance to recharge the batteries; to blast out the cobwebs; to remind ourselves of what it means to be human again. And apart from the shower or bed in the middle of the night, some of my best ideas come to me on the ski slope, which is no where near my desk.

There are plenty of health reasons to take vacations, as well: In a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Vacation deprivation may be equally hazardous for women. In the Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were nearly eight times as likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

Other upsides to downtime, according to Healthnet.com, include the following:

  • Decreased depression – A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
  • Less stress – A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that taking vacations helped alleviate job stress.
  • Improved productivity – The professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and frequent vacationers also were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.

So what does all this mean? Maybe you should put vacation right up there with eating healthy, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Tell your boss it’s good for you.



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Mosquitoes driving you buggy? Me, too.

photo from WebMD.com

photo from WebMD.com

A big advantage of taking up a winter sport is that you don’t have to worry about bugs. To me, this is a real plus. I’m the sort of person who mosquitoes find irresistable (and yes, there’s a scientific basis for this. More on that shortly).

RonZalmeCartoonIt turns out that I’m not the only one. Mosquitoes seem to be causing problems for a lot of people this summer. Take the athletes for the 2016 summer games in Rio. A number have already stated they won’t go because of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Even Lindsey Vonn, who planned to attend as a spectator, is taking a pass.

Zika isn’t the only disease we can get from mosquitoes. There’s malaria, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, and encephalitis.  According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites result in more than a million deaths each year. Most of these are caused by malaria. That said, there are more than 2,500 species of mosquito, and different mosquitos spread different things. The Zika virus, for example, is transmitted by an infected mosquito from the the aedes genus.

Here in the US, malaria isn’t a huge problem. Although we still get a few hundred malaria cases per year, most are in travelers returning from a malaria-ridden country. Instead, you’re more likely to suffer from an itchy welt  — annoying, but certainly not dangerous. Unfortunately, if you want to engage in outdoor activities during the summer — as many Ski Divas do — mosquitoes are something you just have to deal with. So what’s to be done? Is there any way to keep from being eaten alive?

As I said before, I seem to get bitten more than my fair share. And I’m not imagining it, either. Scientists have determined that some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others.  One study found that in a controlled setting, mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A. (My husband is a Type A, I’m Type O). Another reason can be the bacteria on your skin. To a mosquito, certain combinations of bacteria smell particularly enticing. And there’s also exercise. An increase in body temperature attracts them, too, as does the carbon dioxide we exhale and the lactic acid we produce. And yes, they’re also more attracted to beer drinkers and pregnant women.

Well, yes, there is. Obviously, one way is to cover up as best as you can, and use an insect repellent that contains DEET.  DEET worries me, though. While it’s not a carcinogen, long-term exposure may cause moodiness, insomnia, and impaired cognitive function. Studies have also shown that after high concentrations of continued exposure, DEET can cause hypertrophy of the liver and kidneys as well as stimulation of the central nervous system which can cause tremors and seizures. DEET products also have the potential to damage the water supply. DEET can not only harm aquatic life-forms, but it can also enter the drinking supply as runoff if farmers mishandle the product.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay bite free that don’t involve DEET:

• Avoid fragrances and scented soaps and body washes.

• Avoid food that contains high levels of salt and potassium. This will reduce the amount of lactic acid that your body produces, thereby decreasing the likelihood that your scent will attract insects.

• Use natural oils, such as lemon oil, citronella, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, clove, geranium and peppermint oils. These are natural, effective ways mosquito repellents and are not threatening to the environment.

• Wear light colors. Dark colors stand out to mosquitoes who are looking for food, but light colors appear less attractive, since they look for colors that contrast with the horizon line.

• Use a fan. A light wind makes it harder for mosquitoes to fly. Direct the air flow downward since these pests fly low to the ground as they try to avoid the wind.

• Pray for winter. Mosquitoes hibernate. They are cold-blooded and prefer temperatures over 80°F. At temperatures less than 50°F, they shut down for the winter. The adult females of some species find holes where they wait for warmer weather, while others lay their eggs in freezing water and die. So yet another reason to dream of ski season.

 

 

 

 

 



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Do I mind? Yes, I do. A look at mindfulness.

meditation-courses1Like a lot of Ski Divas, I do my best to stay in shape. I get out on my bike a few times a week, and I spend a fair amount of time in the gym, doing cardio and lifting weights. And though it’s not always easy, I try to eat right, too.

But while the physical stuff is important, there’s more to staying healthy than just nutrition and exercise. Call it spiritual well being, call it mental health, but I think being truly healthy requires a balance between both mind and body. Anyone who’s been depressed  or anxious can attest to this. If you’re unhappy, if you’re stressed, you can end up feeling pretty crappy. There are all sorts of scientific studies that back this up; I’m sure you can find them if you search the web.

So this past January, I thought I’d give meditation a try. Like a lot of people, I’d heard a lot about something called mindfulness — how it helps with everything from depression and anxiety to lack of focus and sleeplessness. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit. All I’d heard about meditation was that you were required to empty your mind, and to me, that seemed like an impossible task. I’m the sort of person who when someone says, ‘Don’t think about an elephant,’ well, that’s all I’ll think about. On the other hand, committing to meditation seemed pretty low risk. I’t’s not like I had to ingest any special pills or foods or train to run a marathon. I didn’t think I had anything to lose. Besides, how could it hurt?

So what exactly is mindfulness, and what does it involve? Basically, mindfulness means paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without making any judgements. The idea is to focus your awareness on the moment while accepting and acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings as if from a distance, without judging them to be either good or bad. Instead of letting life pass you by, you live in the moment. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness offers a whole host of benefits: everything from stress reduction to improved focus and less emotional reactivity. You can read more about them here. Take a look; it doesn’t sound bad.

So did I light incense, sit in the lotus position, and chant a mantra like Ommmmmm? Did I travel to an ashram in Nepal, seeking a guru who could provide me with extra special guidance?

Umm……no.

This is a new world. I did what any self-respecting individual does these days: I downloaded an app, or in my case, Headspace.com.

Headspace has a pretty good gimmick: it offers 10 free sessions to get you started, after which you pay by the month. For me, paying works; it gives me the incentive I need to stay committed. Once you subscribe, there are a  number of series that address a variety of topics like depression, anxiety, focus, creativity, and more. You can choose the length of time you want your sessions to last; mine are 15 minutes. Throughout, you’re guided by British mindfulness expert (and former Buddhist monk) Andy Puddicombe. Andy has a genial way and a calm, friendly voice that makes him easy to listen to. He also provides a lot of tips and advice not only on meditating, but on how to apply what you’ve learned throughout the day. I haven’t completed all the series but I have found some repetition, from one to another — which really doesn’t bother me. As they say, practice makes perfect.

For those who are particularly goal oriented, there’s also a way to track your mediation stats. For example, Headspace tells me I’ve completed 254 sessions for a total of 58 hours of mediation time, with an average duration of 14 minutes. This seems kind of OCD for something that’s supposed to be pretty laid back, but that’s okay. It’s interesting to see how the time adds up.

So what do you think, Ski Diva?
Has it helped? I think so. I don’t suffer from depression and I’m not particularly stressed, so I can’t speak to that. But I actually enjoy the quiet space it creates for me each day. And I think it helps me be a bit calmer and provides me with the tools I need to see things a bit differently, too. I also think it’s made me a bit more patient, which is a huge plus for me, and I think I’m a better listener, too.

I’m hoping the benefits will transfer over to skiing. I do suffer a fair amount of height anxiety and yeah, sometimes I get a little scared, when I really shouldn’t. So stay tuned; I’ll keep you posted,.

 



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It’s your week to get healthy, Divas!

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Let me be the first to wish you a very happy National Women’s Health Week!

What? You’ve never heard of it?

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

Well, maybe not. Don’t let my feigned indignation fool you. I mean, it’s not like it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, or even President’s Day. I’m not surprised I caught you unaware.

But maybe that’s a mistake. After all, we should all know — and celebrate — a week that’s devoted especially to women’s health. As women, we have a tendency to put everyone else first. We take care of our kids, our spouses, our pets, our parents, our homes, often neglecting our own needs in the process. And that’s the problem. If we’re not healthy and happy, we can’t do anything particularly well (and this includes skiing).  It’s all a matter of balance. By putting ourselves first, we actually give ourselves the ability and strength to take care of others better and do the things we want to do. It’s not being selfish. It’s being smart.

Which brings us to National Women’s Health Week.  The week was developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health to promote women’s health and its importance, and to  empower women to make their own health a priority. It also encourages women to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings. There’s a terrific interactive screening menu on the National Women’s Health Week website. You can use it to figure out which screenings you need and when you them.  For someone like me, who can find all this very confusing, it’s defintely worth checking out.
  • Get active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are meeting both the aerobic and muscle strengthening components of the federal government’s physical activity recommendations. So how much exercise is enough? I did a blog post about this once. You can check it out here.
  • Eat healthy. This is a key component not just in keeping  your weight under control, but in preventing disease, keeping your energy up, and making you feel all around better. You know the drill: reduce your fat, sugar, and processed foods, eat more veggies, fruit, and whole grains.
  • Pay attention to mental health,  including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle or ski helmet, and texting while driving. This includes skiing safely, too. Watch out for skiers around you. Look uphill before you start. Ski in control. And if you ski in the backcountry, take the necessary precautions and get avalanche training.

So do yourself a favor. Take some time this week to think about what you can do to improve your health and well being. And instead of setting it aside for later, take action now.

And have a good week.



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Skiing With a Cold.

This is very pertinent to me. Because as I write this, I actually have a cold. And yes, I’m going skiing.

So I thought I’d post about — what else — skiing with a cold. Because when you have a ski day planned, sometimes you just gotta go.

Before I get started, I need to put out a very big disclaimer: I am not a physician (shocker, I know). I don’t know anything at all about health, wellness, or medicine. So please please please, keep that in mind when you read this.

That said, the best thing you can do about skiing with a cold is pretty basic: don’t get one in the first place. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. SO, with that in mind, here are a few ways to stay healthy:

First, if you have any small children, get rid of them. The sooner the better. Kids are nature’s germ factories. Everyone I know who has contact with kids gets sick all the time. So if you have kids, offload them. Now. You didn’t really want them around anyway, right?

And second, don’t touch anything or go anywhere. At all. Complete isolation is the only way to avoid getting a cold. This is very, very important. You must keep away from everyone: spouses, significant others, parents, children, friends, co-workers, anyone who breathes. And keep your hands off everything. Bannisters, elevator buttons, shopping carts, door knobs, all objects that any human being touches. This is the only sure fire way to avoid cold-causing germs.

Obviously, I’m kidding here. Neither of these is at all practical. But there are a few common sense things you can do to at least minimize your chances of getting a cold. Like wash your hands. A lot. I don’t want to be OCD about it, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a bit of a germaphobe. For example, I keep Purel in my car and use it to clean my hands after I pump my own gas (God knows what lives on those gas dispensers). Another good preventive measure: Do what you can to improve your immune system. Take vitamins. Exercise. Eat right. You know, all the things you should be doing, anyway.

So despite all this, you still get a cold. Hey, it happens. Well, here’s the easy answer: if you feel really lousy, don’t go skiing. It won’t be fun, and after all, that’s what skiing is all about. If you can swing it, just take a few runs and call it a day. This falls under what I like to call the “Don’t Be An Idiot” rule, which is pretty much my rule for life. If it’s something to which someone you trust would say, “Don’t be an idiot,” then don’t do it. For example, if you’re hacking and coughing and you can’t breathe, if you’re running a fever or you’re too exhausted to move, don’t be an idiot. Don’t go skiing. But if you have a cold that can be easily controlled with a dose of Tylenol, Sudafed, hot tea with honey, or chicken soup, and if you can deal with tamping it down a notch and maybe making it a short ski day, then go ahead. Go. Let your body be your guide.

I’m heading out now. It may not be the longest ski day, or even the most intense, but I’ll stick it out for as long as I can. Because after all, it’s skiing. The season is short. And sometimes you just gotta go.

 



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Why you need a vacation.

luggage

Incredible as it sounds, I’m already planning my ski trips for the coming season; specifically, for next March. I know, there are months between now and then, but I’m still excited. I have a lot of cool stuff coming up, and it’s looking like a great winter.

Seems like I may be unusual. New research suggests that 56 percent of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past 12 months. That’s 10 million more people than the year before. In fact, the US is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate time off. By law, European countries get at least 20 days of paid vacation per year; some receive as many as 30. Australia and New Zealand each require employers to give at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. What’s more, Americans are taking the least amount of vacation in nearly four decades. And some 25 percent of Americans and 31 percent of low-wage earners get no vacation at all, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Pretty crazy, don’t you think?

People don’t take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Some are afraid of falling behind at work. Some fear losing their jobs. And some risk losing income when they’re not working.

This is really a shame. Vacations are necessary for all sorts of reasons. All of us need a chance to recharge the batteries; to blast out the cobwebs; to remind ourselves of what it means to be human again. And apart from the shower or bed in the middle of the night, some of my best ideas come to me on the ski slope, which is no where near my desk.

There are plenty of health reasons to take vacations, as well: In a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Vacation deprivation may be equally hazardous for women. In the Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were nearly eight times as likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

Other upsides to downtime, according to Healthnet.com, include the following:

  • Decreased depression – A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
  • Less stress – A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that taking vacations helped alleviate job stress.
  • Improved productivity – The professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and frequent vacationers also were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.

So what does all this mean? Maybe you should put vacation right up there with eating healthy, exercise, and getting enough sleep. After all, it’s good for you.

 

 



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Eight fitness myths you should ignore.

I wish I had a nickel for all the pieces of bogus advice I’ve heard. Wait an hour after eating before going into the water. Never wear white past Labor Day. Feed a cold, starve a fever. 

I’d be a millionaire.

Fitness is like that, too. There’s no shortage of things we’re told that are supposed to be true, but are way off in La-La Land. The hard part is trying to separate what’s real from what’s absolute bunk.

So helpful soul that I am, I’m about to save you a whole lotta trouble. Here are eight common fitness myths, busted. Think about them while you’re getting getting in shape for next ski season:

RunningDon’t eat before a workout.

Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? No. Your body needs fuel to power through a workout. Contrary to what some people believe, forgoing food before exercise will not force your body into burning more fat; instead, you’ll end up burning protein (muscle mass), and that won’t do you any good. I’m not saying you should eat a big meal and then immediately run a marathon, but have a snack about 45 minutes to an hour before you start. Best thing to eat: something with carbohydrates and protein.

Stretching is a great warm up.

Experts say this can actually be harmful. Why? Stretching a cold muscle is like stretching a rubber band to its limit. When you stretch to the maximum, your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched, so it compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you’re not able to move as fast or as freely, so you’re more likely to get hurt. Instead of stretching, many experts recommend warming up with a light jog or sport-specific exercise, like a few serves for tennis. That type of light movement increases your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, warming up your body temperature.

Walking isn’t as effective as running.

Simply not true. Walking and running target the same muscle groups and offer similar health benefits: a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and better cardiovascular health.  Sure, you’ll have to walk twice as long to use up the same amount of energy as you would running. But a runner and a walker will burn about the same number of calories over the same distance. So don’t worry about taking the slow lane. Just get out there and move!

Weight training makes women bulk up.

This is only true if the woman is on steroids. To be truly bulky, you need a lot of testosterone. That’s why it’s so easy for men to bulk up — the average man produces 10 times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. Weight training, though, has a lot of great benefits: it burns fat, improves your athletic performance, and reduces your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. So don’t stay away from weights because you’re afraid you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You won’t.

The only reason to wear a sports bra is to keep the girls from bouncing.

There’s more to it than that. Sports bras also help prevent breast sag. High-impact activities, like jogging or aerobics, can stress the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm, causing them to sag more quickly. According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women; the more well-endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.

The more time you spend in the gym, the better.

Did you know that lifting weights creates tiny muscle tears? You need to rest to help them repair (this is when they get stronger). Overtraining can also mess with your menstrual cycle. And thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, it can also cause a plateau in your weight loss. So take some time off to recover. I’m on a three-day on, one day off workout schedule.

Crunches can give you six-pack abs.

Losing weight in a targeted area won’t work. The body just isn’t built that way. Oh, exercise may strengthen the muscular groups in a specific area, but no matter how many crunches you do, you ain’t going to have six-pack abs. Why? Fat can only be lost from the body as a whole in an order that is predetermined by your genetics. So if you have a high percentage of body fat, your abs will be covered with — you guessed it — fat. In order to get visibly toned abs, you have to first reduce your overall body fat, which means plenty of cardio, coupled with strength training for faster results.

No pain, no gain.

This is just plain silly. If it hurts while you’re doing it, STOP. Your body is trying to tell you something. Pain is an indicator that you either have an injury or you’re doing something wrong.  (Of course, this doesn’t include the mild muscle soreness you may feel for a day or two after a workout.) If something really hurts, stop, rest, and see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, or if it starts again or increases after you begin to work out, see a doctor.

 



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Why Women Should Lift Weights

If you’re not lifting weights because you’re afraid you’re going to end up looking like this……..

Muscle-man

…..forget it. You have nothing to worry about. Most women don’t have the level of testosterone that’s needed to support a bulky physique. And any woman who does is probably supplementing with hormones.

Nonetheless, a lot of women don’t lift weights because they’re afraid they’re going to bulk up. Well, it’s time to set all that aside. Lifting weights is good for you. And here are a number of reasons why:

It’ll help you burn fat: One of the biggest benefits of  weight training is the effect it has on your body’s ability to burn fat during and after exercise. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest. So, basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in more effective fat loss.

You’ll improve bone health: Strength training is an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, thereby decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. This is particularly important for postmenopausal women, whose bodies no longer secrete estrogen. When you perform a curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. The cells within those bones react by creating new bone cells  The result: your bones become stronger and more dense. Another great benefit: strengthening your muscles can also help improve balance and keep you as strong as possible which lowers the chance of a fall-related fracture.

You’ll decrease joint pain: Stronger muscles are better able to hold your joints in position, improving joint performance and decreasing pain. For example, research shows that weak thigh muscles can increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis. Even small increases in muscle strength can reduce that risk.

You’ll look better: Which would you rather have: a body that jiggles or one that’s tight and sculpted? Weight training can help you get the latter, creating curves and definition right where you want it. It can also help fight the effects of gravity, making you much less likely to have arm jiggle in your upper arms.

You’ll be mentally stronger: Weight lifting is empowering. When you challenge yourself, your confidence grows. And that can help you tackle stuff you never before thought possible.

women-lifting-weights

You’ll improve your heart health:  In an Appalachin State University study, people who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance exercise lowered their blood pressure by up to 20% — a benefit equal to or surpassing that of taking anti-hyperintensive drugs. These effects persisted for about 30 minutes after the end of a training session and continued for as long as 24 hours in people who trained regularly — 30 to 45 minutes a few times a week.

You’ll have better control over your blood sugar: This is especially important if you have diabetes or risk factors. A study published on the Nature Medicine website in April, 2013, reported that weight training encourages the growth of white muscle, which helps lower blood glucose because it uses glucose for energy.

You’ll have more strength for skiing: (It always comes back to this, doesn’t it?) Skiing requires more than gravity to get you down the hill. You need lots of strength in your hips, glutes, and thighs to perform to your optimal level. And while you can get some of that through exercise like running or biking, weight training can help build the muscle strength you need and better protect you from the acute and overuse injuries that are too common in this sport. So when you’re getting ready for ski season, be sure to make weight training part of your fitness routine.

 



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Separating Sunscreen Facts From Fiction.

When I was a kid growing up, I used to slather on baby oil and sit on the beach and roast. The idea, of course, was to achieve the “perfect tan.” But what I usually ended up with was the perfect burn, instead.

Yeah, I was a moron.

Now, of course, we know better. Sun exposure can cause all sorts of damage to your skin, not to mention contribute to skin cancer. And yes, it can cause premature wrinkles, and who wants that?

So when I saw this on CNN about common sunscreen “myths,” I knew I had to post it here.

sunscreen-cancer-ftrMyth No. 1: Sunscreen is all you need to stay safe.

Reality: “Sunscreen is only one part of the sun-protection picture,” explains Francesca Fusco, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “Just slathering it on and doing nothing else isn’t going to cut it because, even with sunscreen, there’s still up to a 50 percent risk that you’ll burn.”

You also need to seek shade between 10 AM and 4 PM, when sunlight is strongest; cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses; do regular skin self-exams; and get a professional skin evaluation annually.

Myth No. 2: SPF measures levels of protection against both UVB and UVA rays.

Reality: The SPF (sun protection factor) measures only the level of protection against UVB rays. But several of the 16 active ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in sunscreens also block or absorb UVA rays, says Warwick L. Morison, MD, professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Medical School and chairman of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee.

Ingredients include: avobenzone (Parsol 1789), octocrylene, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide, as well as the recently approved Mexoryl SX. Make sure one of these is in your sunscreen, or look for products labeled “broad spectrum,” which means they protect against UVB and UVA rays.

Myth No. 3: Some sunscreens can protect all day.

Reality: “Regardless of the SPF or what the label says, sunscreens must be reapplied every two hours,” Fusco says. “The active ingredients in most products begin to break down when exposed to the sun.” Only physical blockers such as zinc oxide stay potent after two hours, but not all sunscreens are made with these ingredients.

Myth No. 4: Some sunscreens are waterproof.

Reality: The FDA does not recognize the term “waterproof,” so don’t count on sunscreen to last through hours of swimming. The agency does recognize “water/sweat/perspiration resistant” (which means a product offers SPF protection after 40 minutes of exposure to water) and “very water/sweat/perspiration resistant” (which means it still protects after 80 minutes). To be safe, reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating.

Myth No. 5: A sunscreen can provide “total sunblock.”

Reality: “No sunscreen blocks 100 percent of UV rays,” Fusco says. An SPF 15 protects against 93 percent of UV rays, SPF 30 protects against 97 percent, and SPF 50 wards off 98 percent. You should slather two tablespoons on your body a half-hour before going outside, so the sunscreen has time to absorb into your skin.

All this is well and good. But there are an awful lot of sunscreens out there. Which one should you use?

Consumer Reports recently tested sunscreens from both large and small manufacturers. All had to have an SPF claim of at least 30, be broad spectrum (protect against both UVA and UVB rays), and be water-resistant. They considered cost, too.

Here are 7 they recommend:

  • Banana Boat’s Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110 spray, at $1.75 an ounce.
  • BullFrog Water Armor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+ spray, at $1.67 an ounce. This was one of the two screens that lived up to its SPF claim.
  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50, at $1.38 an ounce.
  • Neutrogena Ultimate Sport SPF 70+ lotion, at $2.75 an ounce.
  • Target’s Up & Up Spray Sport SPF 50 spray, at $0.80 an ounce.
  • Walgreens’ Well Sport SPF 50 spray, at $1.58 an ounce
  • Walmart’s Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50, at $0.56 an ounce.

And here are 13 they don’t:

  • Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sport SPF 45, at $2.75 an ounce.
  • Banana Boat Kids SPF 50, at $1.25 an ounce.
  • Banana Boat Sport Performance CoolZone SPF 30 spray, at $1.42 an ounce.
  • Beyond Coastal Natural SPF 30, at $4 an ounce.
  • California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+, at $6.90 an ounce.
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50, at $1.67 an ounce. This sunscreen lived up to its SPF claim, but only earned a “fair” rating for UVA protection.
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 spray, at $1.67 an ounce.
  • Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple SPF 50, at $1.31 an ounce.
  • CVS Sheer Mist SPF 30 spray, at $1.80 an ounce.
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 30 spray, at $1.90 an ounce.
  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50, at $0.63 an ounce.
  • Target’s Up & Up Kids SPF 50, at $0.64 an ounce.
  • Walgreens’ Well Baby SPF 50, at $0.80 an ounce.

Consumer Reports recommends applying all sunscreens at least 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. And they say to use spray sunscreens carefully. The FDA is exploring the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens, but until the results are known, they recommend not using them on children, and not spraying them directly on your face. Instead, spray them on your hands then apply. Sprays are flammable, so let them dry before going near an open flame.

Whew. And you thought sunscreen was easy. But the bottom line is this: no sunscreen will work if you don’t use it. So apply frequently, be careful of the sun, and be safe out there.



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Age is just a number. Right?

Think about women’s skiing, and a lot of young faces come to mind: Mikaela Shiffrin (19), Lindsey Vonn (30), Lynsey Dyer (31), Julia Mancuso (30). Let’s give them their due. These are amazing female athletes who have made some remarkable achievements.

But to be honest, Mikaela, Lindsey, Lynsey, and Julia might as well live in a different planet than the rest of us. Because not only can’t we ski like them (no surprise there), but they’re also considerably younger than many of us who’re out there on the mountain.

Me, included. I just passed a fairly significant birthday, so getting older has been on my mind a lot lately. On the upside, I’m healthy, I have the physical ability to continue skiing, and to be honest, I’ve reached the point where I don’t feel like I have to ski to impress anymore. If I don’t want to ski something, I just don’t do it (hey, I could break a hip). On the downside, however, I do notice that my stamina isn’t what it used to be. Even though I ski a lot, I don’t ski first chair to last. I’ll ski maybe from 9 to 1/1:30/2 and then go home. (Then again, that might  be because I ski nearly every day.) I also have osteopenia, which is a bit troubling. And I have a little arthritis creeping in. If I ski too hard, too long, or too many bumps, I feel it in my hips. Ugh.

As a weekday skier, I see a lot of older people on the mountain every day, and while they may not be hucking cliffs or setting any speed records, they do manage to have a heck of a lot of fun. One of these is my good friend, Lil Georg.  At nearly 72, Lil skis at least every other day at Okemo here in Vermont, and she does just fine, thank you.

Lil Georg

Lil Georg

Recently I spoke to Lil about the challenges and rewards of being a senior skier:

Q. So Lil, how and when did you start skiing?
A. I started in 1986, when I was 43. My daughter married a skier, and the whole family started skiing together. He wanted his wife to ski, and the only way he could get her to do that was if all of us would go along.

Q. How has skiing changed for you as you’ve gotten older?
A. It’s an interesting thing, because I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older. So things that were harder for me in the beginning are easier for me now. Even five years ago, I would’ve been exhausted from skiing hard 3 or 4 days in a row. But it doesn’t take so much energy now because I ski better. I go home tired, but not exhausted-have-to-go-to-bed-at-seven-o’clock tired, which I did when I first started. So in that respect it’s easier. In another respect, I get colder more easily. I have to wear more layers. Where you wear three, I have to wear six. So I just pile the layers on.

Q. Do you face any other particular challenges, now that you’re older?
A. Not really. It’s been good. Before I started skiing every other day, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and I was taking Fosamax. After I started skiing every other day, in two years’ time I was diagnosed as no longer having osteoporosis/osteopenia, and I went off the medication. It’s about the weight bearing exercise. I think skiing has made me healthier.

Q. What are people’s reactions when you tell them you ski?
A. They say, Really? You’re still skiing? And then, if they ski with me, they say, My God, I can’t keep up!

Q. Why do you think your peers don’t ski?
A. I think they stop because they get cold and because it’s no longer fun. And why is it no longer fun? People are pushing them to do things they don’t want to do, they’re afraid of getting hurt, and frankly, some of them have trouble getting up if they fall.

Q. So what keeps you going?
A. I think it’s partly social. You know, they say as you get older, what keeps you healthy is social interaction, and skiing is a great means for that. Plus if you look at any of the lists for things you should do to live a long life, skiing fills the bill on most of them. They nearly always include exercise, staying active, doing something you’re passionate about, being social – for me, the answer to all those is skiing.

Q. Any advice for senior women who ski?
A. Yeah. Ski what you want to ski and don’t ski what you don’t want to ski and don’t let anyone force you to ski what you don’t want to ski.

Lil’s not the only senior woman skiing out there. According to data from the National Ski Areas Association, even though seniors  make up a smaller portion of the skier total, they spend 25 percent more time on the mountain each season than any other group.

SkierVisitsByAge

Mike Maginn, co-founder of  SeniorsSkiing.com, a recently launched online ski magazine and resource for the fifty-plus crowd, agrees. “This is an age group that’s seen a lot of growth,” he said.  “All the other age groups are flat. It’s one of the reasons we started our site. Sure, we thought it’d be fun. But we wanted it to be a place where seniors could learn about deals just for them and read about things they’d find of interest. Beyond that, we wanted to be an advocate for senior skiers. We want resorts to do things that are helpful to us, as well as influence manufacturers to think about things that are appropriate for seniors: lightweight equipment and warmer clothes, for instance. I think we have a point of view that since we’re here, why not pay attention to us?”

According to Mike, many in this age group have come back to skiing after being away for a period of time. “They have time on their hands that they didn’t have before,” he said. “And lighter weight gear and more technical, warmer clothing, have certainly helped. Modern technology makes it easier to ski now than ever before. I think a lot of seniors are realizing that. Still, there are those who may be apprehensive. Fear of injury is a big deterrent, and some aren’t familiar with the new gear or the new skiing technique that goes along with it. They need positive reinforcement, a hand holding experience. Some resorts are offering programs that provide that. I think it’s great that they’re seeing that skiing isn’t just for young people, and are taking steps to keep them involved.”

So what does this mean for senior women who ski? Maybe more of them on the hill. As for me, I definitely plan to ski as long as I am physically able, no matter what my age. So all this is very encouraging.

After all, you’re as young as you feel, right?

 



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