Fun toys to get you outside this summer

Summer is officially here. It’s time for pedicures, beefing-up on barbecue skills, and generally doing anything that calls us out into the fresh air and sun. It is the best time to take fitness outdoors too, and I don’t mean lugging the treadmill out of the backroom to the porch. In case you forgot, there’s no age limit on playing outside.  Bikes, roller skates, skateboards, and jump ropes are great go-to summer toys, but here are a few other fun outdoor ideas you might have forgotten:

Trampolines

My parents claimed this was the best investment they ever bought our family. We used it regularly, every summer, for 15 years, with lots of giggling, lots of exercise, and luckily, no broken bones.

Kites

Kites are beautiful, artistic, and fun to run around with in the hopes of setting aloft. Make it a DIY party and gather some friends, craft your own, and have a kite-flying contest. Here’s a cool do-it-yourself kite from Popular Mechanics.

Water Guns – or better yet, Water Balloons!

Personal politics about warfare and guns aside, this is a great way to cool down and laugh when it’s hot. Play capture the flag with teams of friends. Or have a little one-on-one couples therapy. Loser makes dinner.

Unicycle

Not only a mode of transportation, it’s a great way to work on balance skills and impress friends. When starting out, a good spot goes a long way. Be patient and you’ll soon be speed cycling with the best single wheelers out there.

Pedalo

A wooden German toy that’s been around for decades, it’s a slightly safer variation on the unicycle. The pedalo builds balance and body awareness. Preparing you to be a natural on the…

Tight rope

Go to the local hardware store and get a strong, thick rope. Tether it, securely to 2 points, starting at just a few inches to a foot off of the ground.  Have tight rope walking competitions. See who can balance the longest, walk forward and backward, maybe even jump up and down. If you’re an adult at a barbecue with friends, watch out for “beer confidence”. No sprained ankles, please.

Retro Toys – Pogo Sticks, hula hoops, and Slip n’ Slide?

These were all popular for good reasons…except maybe slip n slide, with personal memories of grass stains and elbows burns. A lot of the flash back toys are silly mayhem for adults and kids alike. As a parent, you might be able to show off your impressive muscle memory skills to the young ones.

What are your favorite outdoor toys? Send us your ideas!

Tips for improving brainpower and preventing dementia

There’s is no cure for dementia or alzheimer’s, but in the quest for one, researchers are now able to offer evidence-based suggestions to help prevent early onset. Most of the tips are easy to implement. And the sooner you start, the better your chances of prevention.

1. Eat nuts, olive oil, flax seed, and fishAccording to research, it’s all in the omega-3 fatty acids, which might help prevent certain memory and mood problems.

2. Be bilingual –  Bilingual people tend to postpone dementia by several years compared to those who are monolingual, according to researchers in Toronto. If you don’t speak two languages, now is a good time to pick another one up. The challenge can help stimulate reserve parts of the brain. I hear Polish is fun. And who knows, perhaps mastering the tones of Chinese might even improve your pitch and singing skills.

3. Use the computer – It’s still not a good idea to sit at the computer all day long. Learning to use the computer can stimulate the brain, but the research specifically states it’s finding based on computer learning coupled with physical activity, which happens to be #4…

4. Exercise – Moderate activity is always a good thing! Some researchers say resistance training, like Pilates, is best for dementia prevention. Also high on the list is social exercise, like dancing, since studies suggest music also helps in preventing dementia, depression, and enhancing memory recall.

5. Drink – This is the fun one, but it’s also tricky. Certain studies link alcoholism to increased risk of dementia, yet others find moderate drinking, like a glass of wine with dinner, may actually help prevent it. Just another reason why “everything in moderation”, is a pretty darn good maxim to live by.

Party your way to good health this weekend

With the weekend just hours away, it’s time to let loose! Not like you need it, but here’s additional incentive to party tonight – dancing, alcohol, and flirting all fall under the umbrella of healthy living…within moderation, of course.  Howcast and GE’s Healthy Imagination project joined forces in this video with healthy ways to live it up this weekend. I’ll be seeing you on the dance floor…

Get moving outside and feel better inside

Connecting water and board at the beach in Southern California.

With Spring in full bloom, taking your exercise activities outdoors could not only boost physical health, but mental well being too, according to Mind, a nonprofit mental health organization based in the UK.

Mind recently conducted research on whether or not outdoor, “green” activities improved overall mental health. While the survey samples were small, the findings are strong. Out of 100 people polled, over 94% of commented that green exercise improves their mental health. Another test included setting up two contrasting walks with 20 participants in each group, one outdoors amongst nature and one indoors. 71% of  people experienced a decrease in the levels of depression after an outdoor walk verses 45% indoors.

Mind’s website offers suggestions for making an outdoor date and creative ideas to help inspire more outdoor activity.

Other suggestions?

Taking a stroll in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA

Morning – Find a park or outdoor space nearby offering sunrise Tai Chi.

Evening  – The classic after dinner stroll is a perennial favorite. A nice way to wind down after the day, digest dinner, and enjoy the night air.

Anytime – Pull together your own action/adventure team, and as a united front take on various outdoor challenges and activities.

 

 

Fitness Fashion Friday – Stella for Adidas, and The London Olympics

The world of fitness fashion is growing at a fast pace. According to market research firm GIA, the global market for fitness clothing is expected to reach 126 billion by the year 2015. This is due to, according to GIA, “dramatic lifestyle changes and the desire for stylish, functional and versatile sports apparel.”

I live in Los Angeles, where people don two uniforms – red carpet clothes or workout wear. And while I too spend most of my days in fitness clothing, I love fashion, and am constantly seeking unique pieces, creating ensembles reflective of a personal style.

Lucky for us the options are growing everyday. Recent workout fashion history has gone from spandex leotards and day-glo parachute pants to sustainable materials and tailored designs… I’m still holding my breath for a Rodarte dancewear line.

You always remember your first, and my first brand loyalty went to Stella McCartney and her line for Adidas.  What still draws me to these clothes is the combination of Stella McCartney’s impeccable Saville Row tailoring, with her sense of whimsy. Stella McCartney makes workout clothes that are both fun and smart. One of the first to elevate workout wear to a high-end sense of style, her designs have made lasting impacts throughout the fitness apparel world. It’s not just about looks, McCartney is an active person herself, and it shows in the practical aspects of the clothing and materials as well.

While her last few collections for Adidas were not as strong as the preceding ones, McCartney’s made a strong showing with her Olympic Designs for England, who is also hosting this Summer’s Olympic Games (July 27th – August 12th) in London.

Having worked on the line for over two years,  McCartney told UK Vogue that she considers her country’s flag as one of the most iconic.

Recognizing the Union Jack colors are similar to a lot of other flags, and that the flag might be overused as the Olympic build-up continued,  McCartney chose different shades to express the Union Jack aesthetic, wanting athletes to feel identifiable as Team Great Britain, but unique and yet respectful of the flag’s beauty.

How to get skinnier right now.

From SF Chronicle/ photo by Kate Wade

Did you know you could lose inches just by standing and sitting up taller?

Practicing better posture not only lends to a leaner more confident looking you, but it also works and stretches the muscles into longer habits. Look at the way a dancer walks. They constantly train their muscles to lift and project outwards – stretching away from themselves, rather than curling inward.

I have personally seen Pilates clients who “looked” as though they lost as much as five to ten pounds after just a few sessions, because they were able to support better posture.

Apart from being visually slimming and confidence improving, good posture lends to overall better health. According to the Mayo clinic website, your Mother was right all along to nag about sitting up straight :  Your spine is strong and stable when you practice healthy posture. But when you stoop or slouch, your muscles and ligaments struggle to keep you balanced — which can lead to fatigue, back pain, headaches and other problems.

To trim your waist, neckline, and entire body right now, imagine a huge helium balloon attached by a string to the top of your head, gently but constantly lifting your spine away from the ground, or your seat.

Why turning out the legs builds core strength

Joseph Pilates in "Pilates Position" working on strong, balanced posture.

Pilates position, Pilates stance, Pilates “V”,  – all these refer to the positioning of the legs in Pilates exercise –  a 30 degree turnout of the legs from the hip socket with the heels pinched together and feet turned out – roughly 3-4 fingers apart.

Often student look down, turnout their feet, and move on without understanding why. The common assumption is that it’s a “dance thing”. And if only the feet are twisting at the ankle without incorporating the knees and hips, it could lead to knee and leg strain, tightness in the hips, and even low back and neck pain.

It is important to feel that the top of the leg – the femur bone – is rotating outward and stretching away from the trunk to create the turnout in the feet. No movement is forced in the knees or ankles. We extend out from the hip joints without gripping in the buttocks, but wrapping and using the muscles underneath the buttocks and at the top of the thighs.

But why?

This turnout position allows the pelvis to stay neutral, helping us engage and lengthen the “zipping up” sensation of the core muscles – from the pelvic floor through the deep belly and psoas, all the way up to the diaphram and neck muscles.

Remember, Pilates is not just abs, but requires control and understanding of all the muscles and how each affects the other to create overall balance and postural health.

Pilates V position is not so much an extreme ballet turnout, as it is more like a military stance – standing upright with an assertive and famous “chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in”, keeping the heels together, toes apart, with weight balanced forward over the balls of the feet – stable and centered,  the body is standing active and ready for action.

A good time to practice your Pilates position is waiting in line at the grocery store, using the cart handle for balance. Draw your thigh bone outward, heels together and weight over the balls of the feet (but keep your heels on the ground). At the same time lift up through the crown of the head and draw your core in towards the spine (like you are putting on a pair of tight jeans). Your entire body should be in lengthening and working at the same time. Now try to take your hands off the cart handle…just don’t fall into the candy and magazine racks.