Tag Archives: research and knowledge

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.

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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.

 

 

What the world thinks Healthy means

Does being healthy mean the same thing in Africa as in China? From the charting wunderkind at GOOD Magazine now you can compare.  For an upclose look at this chart and what the world thinks of the term “healthy”, just click on the image, or go to GOOD.is

Is running in Los Angeles bad for your health?

In Downtown Los Angeles there’s a film – not of celluloid, but of soot – covering everything, from shop displays in the fashion district to the tables at high-end cafes.  Blowing your nose at the end of each day proves you breathe it in as well. And when I saw so many people jogging and biking through the streets here  – in this fitness obsessed city – I seriously began to wonder “This just can’t be good for you… right?”

Why exercise outdoors in a city known for smog? It seems counterintuitive. I decided to do a little research and find out if it is really harmful, or just a bunch of hot air.

The American Lung Association releases a “State of the Air” report every year.  In 2011, Los Angeles was #1 in ozone pollution in the country, and #2 in year-round toxic particle (soot) pollution. According to The ALA and a 2008 study by the National Research Council, air pollution aggravates asthma, heart and lung disease and diabetes, and can have a severe effect on children, stunting lung growth. Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer. According to the state Air Resources Board, 9,200 Californians die prematurely each year because of dirty air. Research has also connected a higher risk for these diseases directly to exposure from exhausts of heavy traffic and busy highways.

Now imagine running in that air! You increase your intake of oxygen while running, and subsequently the amount of pollutants. The Beijing Olympics weren’t so long ago as to recall the struggle many Olympian faced when training and competing in China’s own pollution problem.. US Olympic Mountain Biker Adam Craig, went into bronchial spasms because of the air. It’s like suffocating. Craig was unable to fully breathe in the air his body needed. 30 minutes into the competition, he had to quit.  And he wasn’t alone. Many athletes experienced similar problems performing at their peak in the pollution.

While Los Angeles might not be as bad as Beijing, and smog and soot levels have dropped in Southern California over the last decade,  the region still has the highest levels of ozone nationwide, violating federal health standards an average of 137 days a year.  Apparently, it’s getting better, but unfortunately not quick enough to make an impact on our health…sorry Angelenos.

So what can we do? Give up our cars, build reliable, and convenient public transit, plants more trees, and offer more pedestrian and bike friendly means of getting around town…like, tomorrow. And if none of that is happening in the immediate future? Then be smart about activity. Check the air quality before rigorous outdoor activity. My Environment on the EPA’s website provides hourly air quality forecasts. Airnow.gov is another  site providing air quality maps. If you must workout outside, do it when traffic is light. Early morning hours are ideal.

So it seems the answer is yeah…running in Los Angeles is bad for you. But, what’s worse – not exercising at all, or doing it in a polluted city?  Both can cause shorter life expectancy and an array of diseases. Until there’s more research, I’d venture to assume it’s better to exercise than just sit on the couch…though you won’t catch me running through the streets of LA, for fitness purposes anyway, anytime soon.

Stretching and Flexibility. Things to consider before you begin.

Sitting all day – day after day – our bodies become stiff and sore quickly. Suddenly, we feel old beyond our years. It’s no wonder stretching and flexibility practices like yoga and Pilates are so popular, by opening up our bodies and releasing tension we move better and breathe easier.

But is too much of a good thing no good at all? Stretching and flexibility benefits are hotly debated in the physio world. Some say do it, others say don’t and with scientific backing in both camps, it’s hard to know which way to go.

According to some studies, including this one from The Stanford School of Medicine,  dynamic stretching regimens seem the most effective way to stretch – if you feel you need to. Dynamic stretching involves movements while lengthening muscles and connective tissues and could be more effective than static stretching at reducing injuries and soreness. Static stretching is what is most commonly thought of as stretching – holding a position for 30+ seconds.

But if you are looking to do the splits, backbends, or become an extreme yogi, watch out. Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, a professor of physical therapy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis once said in an NYTimes article, ”In my business, I have more problems with people who have excessive mobility than limited mobility.”

Being overly flexible without the strength to hold up the body structure is a huge problem. If you are already a highly flexible person, perhaps it’s time to add a little strength training.  If you are overly tight, a little dynamic stretching couldn’t hurt. Ultimately, a balance of the two is better than one extreme or the other.

Here are a few recommendations for stretching and building flexibility safely:

1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY Don’t compare yourself to Joe-schmoe in the front of class and copy what he is doing. He could be doing it wrong. If something feels painful, awkward or just not right, ask the teacher, modify or stop. Know what you need.

2. KNOW YOUR INSTRUCTOR Make sure your yoga/pilates/tai chi/circus/etc instructor is familiar with the concept or idea of dynamic stretching. They should also know your weaknesses, injuries and at least, how to keep you safe. Beware the new class that has you immediately trying extreme flexibility tricks that aren’t supported with complimentary strength.

2. WARM UP Do light cardio – jumping jacks, jump rope, jog, whatever, for at least 5 – 10 minutes before doing any kind of muscle stretching.

3. FIND THE WORKING MUSCLES Pay equal attention to the supporting muscles that are contracted and fighting to keep you in the stretch.

4. BREATHE It releases tension and muscles strain. Stretching should not equal pain.

Why we love fitness clubs. A brief history of Gyms.



Funny how words and meanings change overtime. For example, the term salon commonly referred to a gathering of intellectuals to discuss issues of the day, and yet most of us now can’t help but think of the place we go for haircuts.

Another word that’s evolved in meaning is the beloved gym. From ancient times up until even the past 50 years, gymnasiums were considered higher institutions of training the body, mind and spirit. Like a Western equivalent of the Shaolin temple, gymnasiums encompassed not only fitness but; philosophy, community, the arts, and social and political change – a far cry from the health club down the street.

The original Latin gymnos literally means “naked” because what better way to show off physical and raw athletic prowess in ancient Greece than in the buff. Later the word gymnasium would refer to public run high schools in Germany, and gyms were called Turnvereins. Confused yet?

Gyms as we know them in the United States evolved from a political movement in Germany during the early 1800s, with a belief that a healthy mind and body would instill patriotism, a belief in liberty, and unify Germany into one country. They were called Turners (meaning: one who does gymnastics). Thanks to the Turners we have the parallel bars, horizontal bar, the sidehorse, and most gymnastic events still popular in the Olympics.

Large numbers of Germans emmigrated to the US in the mid 1800’s, the Turners included.  They fought with the Union army in the Civil War. But with the end of the war, the Turner’s political edge – their main driving force in Europe- faded in the United States, and their focus shifted to establishing Turnvereins – community centers that mixed social conciousness and fitness. In areas of the country with historically large German immigrant populations, you can still find Turnvereins existing today. Organizations such as the YMCA, were inspired by Turnvereins.

With the Industrial revolution and a growing economy, Americans liked the idea of fitness, leisure exercise, and clubs to occupy more free time. Gyms have continued to evolve and change, until we finally have the posh spots of today – places of little social or political importance, but major on the fitness, health, and fashion spectrum.

We have much to thank the Turners’ for; from the yoga and pilates practiced today, to those scarring junior high physical education classes.  Yes. They were big advocates for physical education in schools.


In a bad economy, gym memberships are one of the first things to go. And with education cuts deepening, PE classes are all but out the door.  Perhaps it’s time for a new localized movement building community, creativity, knowledge, and physical health all in the name of a stronger America. Gyms, Turnvereins…can just we pick a new name though?

Sidenote: If you happen to be in St. Louis, MO, there’s a memorial to Frederic Jahn, The Father of the Turner movement, within Forest Park. It features a large bust of Jahn in the center of an arc of stone, with statues of a male and female gymnast, one on each end of the arc. The monument is on the edge of Art Hill next to the path running north and south along the western edge of Post-Dispatch lake. It is directly north of the St. Louis Zoo.