Tag Archives | Health

On your knees.

Since my bike accident last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about knees. My right knee suffered quite a hit: a gaping laceration that measured 6 inches across and perhaps 3 inches from top to bottom. Luckily, only a small part of my patellar ligament was damaged. It’s still pretty stiff, and my range of motion is somewhat limited. The good news is that there’s quite a bit of time before ski season, and I should be fine by then.

All the same, it’s given me a new appreciation for knee injuries. Up until now, I’ve been pretty injury-free. But it seems that a number of women on TheSkiDiva.com haven’t been that lucky, particularly with regard to their ACL’s. The ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. It controls how far forward the tibia moves under the femur. (The tibia is the larger bone beneath your knee; the femur is your thigh bone). And it’s the first ligament that tightens when the knee is straightened. If the knee is forced past this point, that’s when trouble begins.

Knee joint anatomy

Knee joint anatomy

According to my research, female athletes are nearly three times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than men — a huge difference.

Which leads to the following question:

Why?

Oddly enough, no one seems to know exactly, though there are a number of theories. I’m no doctor or medical authority, but they seem to boil down to the following:

• Reduced muscle strength: Women have less muscle strength than men, so they rely more on the ACL to hold the knee in place. This can make the ligament more prone to rupture.

• Knee alignment: The Q angle, or the angle in which the quadriceps meet the femur, is greater in women than it is in men. Because of this, any twisting action can exert greater force on the ACL than it does in men. This, again, can cause it to rupture.

• Hormones: Yes, yet another thing we can chalk up to these buggers. On the up side, hormones can give women’s ligaments and joints greater flexibility. On the down side, if the other ligaments and muscles around the knee are so loose that they can’t absorb stress, then even normal loads or forces may be transferred directly to the ACL. And this can make it, yes, prone to rupture. Some studies even show that the knee can become even looser than normal at specific points within the menstrual cycle, making ACL ruptures even more common.

• Delayed response: It’s also been determined that women’s muscles that stablize the knee may take a millisecond longer to respond than men’s, and that this small difference could lead to an injury.

So what’s to be done? Is there anything, apart from not skiing (heaven forbid), that you can do to keep your ACL injury-free?

The good news is yes. Studies show that improving muscular power and strength can help. These are two different things. Strength refers to the amount of force that can be applied to a muscle, and power to the combined factors of speed and strength. Weights and resistance training are good for the former, and plyometric exercises for the latter. Plyometrics are designed to produce fast, explosive movements in which the muscle is loaded and unloaded in rapid sequence.

My advice: if you want to begin any kind of program to help your ACL, consult a good physical trainer. Start your training well in advance, and your knees will thank you next season.

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself by posting this. I’m a little superstitious, and I wouldn’t want to attract the evil eye. All the same, and not being one to take chances, I hope you don’t mind if I include the following picture. Maybe it’ll help.

 



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10 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.

sickSo who has travel plans this summer? You? And you, too? I’m not surprised. Ski Divas aren’t the sort to sit around and veg on the couch. We want to take trips and have adventures, even if they don’t involve skiing. And we don’t want anything to get in the way of our fun.

Nonetheless, sometimes our bodies remind us who’s really in charge. I remember being on a plane from Steamboat with a guy hacking and coughing in the row behind me. Sure enough, a couple days later I came down with a miserable cold.

This isn’t uncommon. The Wall Street Journal cited a study that found you have a 20% increased risk of catching a cold on a plane. Another study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than in normal life on the ground.

But it’s not just colds that are the problem. I’m sure you’ve all heard about those awful outbreaks of GI infections on cruise ships, where hundreds of passengers are stricken with vomiting and diarrhea. Not a vacation highlight, I’m sure.

You don’t have to trust to luck to stay healthy. There are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of falling ill:

Boost your immune system.  The best way to stay healthy starts way before your trip begins, with a good immune system. According to Consumer Reports, there are more than 1,000 products on the market that claim to fend off disease. But honestly, the best way to improve your immunity is very simple: maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Take vitamins. Exercise. Don’t smoke. Reduce stress. Maintain a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure. And if you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation. Good advice, even if you’re just staying home.

Wash your hands. A lot. This seems so basic that it shouldn’t even need to be said. But yet it does. I don’t want to sound like a germaphobe, but according to the Mayo Clinic, cold and flu germ-laden droplets may remain infectious for several hours, depending on where they land. And some viruses can live on surfaces for as long as seven days. In any event, why take chances; just wash your hands, particularly before you eat. According to the CDC, proper hand washing requires at least 20 minutes of scrubbing. And according to a recent study published in Time magazine, it makes no difference whether the water is hot or cold.

Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps maintain the mucus in your throat and nasal cavity, which provides a good barrier against germs. That said, be careful of the water you do drink. No doubt you’ve heard about people getting sick from drinking tap water while overseas. This isn’t necessarily because the water is contaminated. It could just be that it has local  bacteria that your body isn’t used to. So if you’re traveling abroad, you might want to drink bottled water or invest in a water filter.

Carry wet wipes. Hand sanitizer, too. I do. I use them to wipe down my seat tray and arm rests on the plane, as well as the TV remote in a hotel room, the faucet, and pretty much anything else I can think of.

Eat healthy. Sure, vacation is a time to indulge a little and try something new. This is fine. But remember, all things in moderation. And consider the source. If no one is eating at a particular restaurant, there may be a reason. When in doubt, eat food that’s either boiled or peeled. Germs will be killed off pretty much universally by boiling, and can’t get into food that has a peelable skin. Some people recommend taking probiotics for a few weeks before vacation, the idea being that populating your gut with healthy bacteria or yeasts can help fight disease-causing organisms.

Make sure you’re up on your vaccines. Depending on where you go, you may need special shots. Visit the CDC Travel Health site for details on the vaccines you’ll need for various parts of the world, as well as other important information to stay healthy while you travel. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

Don’t forget your meds.  Be sure to bring along any prescribed medications you need. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some  Tylenol, Advil, and Immodium, too. It’s not a bad idea to bring along some motion sickness pills, either, if you’re planning on a cruise.

Use insect repellent.  Mosquitos can spread all sorts of diseases (according to Wikipedia, these include  malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and Zika fever. Phew!). Then, of course, there are tick-transmitted diseases, like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These little bugs can cause a lot of trouble. So bring along some insect repellent and be sure to use it.

If you’re going abroad, make sure you have medical coverage. If not, buy some. But before you do, check with your medical insurer to see if you’re covered by your existing health plan. Even if your health plan does cover you internationally, you may want to consider buying a special medical travel policy.

Going up? Acclimate.  If you’re taking a trip that involves any significant increase in altitude, give yourself some time to adjust at lower elevations first. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or tenth trip over 8,000 feet; altitude sickness can strike at any time. The human body actually takes weeks to acclimate to high elevations, but since you probably don’t have that much vacation time, give yourself between 48 and 72 hours to adapt. It also helps to avoid tobacco and alcohol and drink lots and lots of water. If you start to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don’t go higher until your symptoms diminish.

 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and have fun, Ski Divas!

 



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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. 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.

Is there any way to keep mosquitos from biting?

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!

nwhw_logo

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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