Fitness & Wellness

Boost Your Health By Improving Your Sleep

Boost Your Health By Improving Your Sleep

Just because you go to bed at the right time and get the appropriate amount of sleep, it doesn’t mean you’re getting quality sleep. You can boost your health by improving your sleep. Of course, you also need to get adequate sleep, too. You can get too much sleep, also! How much is the right amount. Everyone’s needs vary, but one study using women aged from 50 to 79 had a longer life if they slept six and a half hours, compared to a group that slept less than five hours. Better sleep also reduced the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.

You’ll improve your workout and performance by getting adequate sleep.

It may seem like old hat, but there’s a reason coaches insist players get a good night’s sleep before a game. They perform better. It works the same for people in the creative world, too. When you get adequate sleep, your creativity gets a boost. The brain organizes during sleep and restructures the events of the day. Not only does it effect creativity, it also helps boost grades and improves attention.

You’ll lower your stress level that can cause visceral fat—abdominal fat.

That belly fat that comes from stress isn’t the result of lack of sleep. People who get adequate sleep also lose more fat when they diet than those who don’t sleep enough. One study showed that dieters that had adequate sleep dropped 56 percent more fat than those who weren’t well rested. While they may have shed just as many pounds, they lost more muscle mass. Lack of sleep can also boost your appetite. That’s because the same hormones that send signals to your body that boost your appetite are also the same ones that tell you when you’re sleepy.

The quality of your sleep is also important.

You need a certain amount of three types of sleep, REM sleep, light sleep and deep sleep. Deep sleep is the time the brain literally detoxes, which can help prevent serious conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s when repair and recovery occur. You need to lower your core temperature to achieve that. One way to lower your core temperature is to take a hot shower before bed, followed by a minute or two of a cold shower. If you have a pool or live near a cold water source, diving in before bedtime could be just what you need to lower your core temperature.

  • Avoid overeating later at night to improve your sleep. Alcoholic drinks should also be avoided at bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom cooler and avoid sleeping with too many blankets. If you’ve ever awaken sweating from too many covers, even though it didn’t feel that warm initially, you’ll understand how it disturbs sleep.
  • While exercising is always good, don’t do it right before bedtime. It stimulates circulation and can keep you laying awake for hours.
  • Keep a schedule. Start a bedtime ritual an hour before bedtime. Turn the lights lower, brush your teeth or whatever it takes to signal to your body you’re getting ready to sleep. Get up at the same time each morning, even on the weekend.

New Exercise Trends Aren't Always That New

New Exercise Trends Aren’t Always That New

If you’re into fitness, you’re probably always interested in new exercise trends and the latest gadgets to make your workout better or at least more interesting. You’ll find many of the new trends aren’t really new, but recycled trends of the past. That’s because they aren’t a fad, but really work to help you get into shape faster than you thought possible. You’ll probably recognize many of these trends and may even be doing some of them. If they’re new to you, it’s time to get on the bandwagon and give a few of them a try.

HIIT is one of the more popular fitness trends.

It’s been around for a while, but has surged in popularity because HIIT—high intensity interval training—really works. Not only does it burn off pounds quickly, you don’t have to workout as long to get the same benefits of traditional workouts. That’s one of the reasons we use it here. HIIT combines a burst of maximum-effort for about 20 to 90 seconds, followed by a low-intensity recovery period, then you go back to maximum effort. As you improve, the length of recovery shortens or the high-intensity period grows longer.

Group training is becoming even more popular.

Not only does group training provide a lower cost method of getting the services of a personal trainer, it’s actually more fun. People in the group often provide a great deal of support for one another and you’ll often hear grunts and groans mixed with words of encouragement. While there are many types of training where you work in a group, not all group training is alike. When you work with a personal trainer, each person has his or her own goals, so nobody feels left behind or bored. Group training often provides far more motivation to continue than you’d get working out on your own.

Strength training has come into its own.

Sure, you still have cardio lovers that spend the entire morning on a stationary bike or run miles through the neighborhood, but strength training has become far more popular because of all the benefits it provides. When you do specific types of strength training, you can get a cardio workout and some flexibility training in the process. It boosts the metabolism by building muscle mass, which also slows the age related atrophy of that mass that can affect the heart and bones. Strength training is more popular with women, now that everyone realizes it won’t bulk them up, but will help them lose weight.

  • You can’t bring up new trends without mentioning the wearable technology that tracks heartbeat, steps and other fitness related information. Even fitness clothing has gone high tech with new fabrics and designs.
  • Bodyweight training has come back into the world of fitness with full force. It doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere, even on the beach at sunrise.
  • Personal trainers that provide both exercise and dietary information are now more popular than ever. People are often lost when it comes to fitness and healthy eating and trainers are a good source of information.
  • Senior fitness programs now are gaining in popularity. Part of the reason is the increasing number of seniors, but the bulk of the reason is the information on how staying fit can prolong life and improve quality.

Get Lower Back Pain Relief Naturally

Get Lower Back Pain Relief Naturally

When you consider the statistics on people who lose days of work due to back pain and even those that are considered permanently out of work due to the pain, you realize that it’s a huge problem in our country today. Two percent of the total population of working-age people have some sort of back problem that doesn’t allow them to work. That accounts for about one out of every thirty people in the US. That’s not even considering people who go to work, while suffering from back pain. Since the dangers of long term use of NSAIDs— nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—like aspirin and ibuprofen, has become well known, more and more people are looking for ways to get lower back pain relief naturally.

Improving your posture and building strong core muscles should be at the top of your list.

Exercise doesn’t sound even the slightest bit inviting if you’re suffering from lower back pain, but it’s often the first place you should turn. There are exercises that not only help stretch and relax tight muscles that can be causing the back pain, but also those that build the core muscles to help reduce the potential of future pain. They build the stomach muscles and back muscles that support the spine, while also improving your posture. Bad posture is another trigger for back pain.

Skip the aspirin and get to a cryotherapy tank or floating tank.

Athletes used to ice down after a workout, they no longer need to do that. Instead, they spend about two to three minutes in -240 degree temperature and walk out with great pain relief. Cryotherapy is the new technique used to help speed the healing of muscles and get the body back into shape. It has many other benefits, besides pain relief. A float tank is also another form of therapy that creates an almost weightless atmosphere. Your body isn’t encumbered by gravity and you completely relax, helping to improve tight muscles and reduce pain. It’s also known as a isolation tank, because it’s dark, quiet and reduces your awareness of touch. These two technologies aren’t for everyone, but they can bring pain relief.

Go natural with herbal tea or other anti-inflammatories.

Nature provides its own type of pain relief. In fact, the first aspirin was actually white willow bark. Since then science has created it synthetically, but that doesn’t mean the change came without problems. The synthetic salicylic acid in aspirin can cause stomach damage, while the salicin in willow bark converts to salicylic acid in the stomach and doesn’t cause problems. Other anti-inflammatories include turmeric and ginger tea. Just sprinkle some turmeric on your food each night to get more than just pain relief.

  • Consider massage therapy. Massages are for more than just relaxation. Massages can do wonders for a painful back by relaxing the tense muscles.
  • Acupuncture is another pain relieving technique that has been used for centuries for many different health problems, including backache.
  • Weight loss doesn’t relieve the pain instantly, but it can be used in conjunction with exercise and pain relief to create a permanent solution for back pain.
  • Take a warm Epsom salt bath or just soak your feet. The magnesium in Epsom salts transfers to your body transdermally to help relax muscles and ease the pain.

Dirty Dozen Or Clean 15?

Dirty Dozen Or Clean 15?

There’s a lot of talk about eating organic to avoid the pesticides found in food. That can be quite expensive. Your job is made a lot simpler if you follow the USDA findings and particularly easy if you simply go to the Environmental Working Group—EWG for this year’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. The EWG uses the information from the USDA testing to identify fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue and the least.

Just washing the fruit or vegetable may not be enough.

The samples are taken from the grocery and include produce grown in traditional manners. In some cases, even after a thorough wash and sometimes peel, the fruit or vegetable still has high levels of the 230 pesticides and residue tested for by the USDA. These veggies and fruits make the Dirty Dozen list. Some fruits and vegetables show almost no pesticides, so they make it to the Clean 15 list.

Should you be concerned?

You’re not as small as a bug, so even though pesticides are used to kill insects, will they affect your health? Probably not if you only ate a tiny bit throughout your lifetime, but that’s often not the case. If you’re eating healthy and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, you’re bound to have more than a bit in your system. Numerous studies show that pesticides can contribute to a predisposition for conditions like cancer, nervous system disorders, hormone disruption and brain disorders. Women eating two or more servings of fruits and veggies high in pesticides reduce the changes of a successful pregnancy by as much as 26 percent.

One of the benefits of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list is to save you money.

Besides showing how ridden with pesticides some fruits and vegetables are, identifying the foods on both lists can be a real money saver. It means you don’t have to buy everything organic, especially foods on the Clean 15 list that have minimal if any pesticides. These foods often have a thick skin, like avocados or are their own natural protectors and didn’t need pesticides, such as onions. Fruits and veggies on the clean 15 list include onions, avocado, sweet corn, cabbage, pineapple, papaya, asparagus, eggplant, mangoes, honeydew and cantaloupe melons, kiwis, frozen sweet peas, broccoli and cauliflower. Save money by buying the traditionally grown variety rather than organic.

Stick with organic for the following fruits and vegetables to avoid pesticides and pesticides residue strawberries, spinach, apples, nectarines, peaches, grapes, pears, celery, potatoes, tomatoes and sweet bell peppers.

  • Spinach, the second on the list of the Dirty Dozen, slightly behind strawberries, had 1.8 times the amount of residue from pesticide than any other fruit or vegetable, when judged by weight.
  • Tests for pesticides were done AFTER the USDA thoroughly washed the fruits and vegetables.
  • While domestic blueberries were high on the list in 2010, they’ve dropped in the amount of pesticides in this year’s list. For a complete list of foods and their contamination, go to the EWG website.
  • Lastly, a6 fats to Omega3, contains more CLA—a potent cancer fighter and is higher in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene and Vitamins A, D, C and E.

Make Perfect Green Smoothies

Make Perfect Green Smoothies

Anyone trying to eat healthier knows that it can be hard to create healthy meals that provide all the nutrients, as well as time consuming. Have you ever tried to make a green smoothie and found it simply wasn’t what you wanted? They’re quick and easy, plus can use up loads of left overs and will taste better if you follow this easy formula. To create a perfect green smoothie that tastes good, plus is good for you, you need to use 2 cups green leafy veggies, 2 cups liquid base, such as coconut water, water or almond milk and 3 cups of fresh fruit for that sweet taste that adds appeal.

Start with the liquid and leafy greens.

If you have ever created a smoothie by first throwing in the liquid and fruit, then adding the leafy veggies, you know that it’s hard to ensure all the vegetables are thoroughly blended and often come up with a big chunk of kale or spinach to chew. You can avoid it by blending the leafy greens with the liquid first. Only after it’s completely blended, do you add the fruit.

If you want it thick, you don’t have to add ice.

Whether you opt for fresh fruits or frozen ones, can make a big difference in the texture of the smoothie and also how simple it is to make. I buy frozen fruits to add to my smoothie when I want something quick. While it’s not as good as those fresh off the tree fruits, most people don’t have that type of fruit available and frozen is often fresher. Peel and chop your banana in one inch rounds and freeze it. Use frozen berries. Wash grapes and freeze them to add.

Add extras to beef up your smoothie.

  • Whether you’re adding nut butter—yum, fresh almond and cashew butter is tasty—chia seeds, protein powder, hemp seeds, flax seeds, nuts, spices or coconut oil, you’ll be giving your smoothie a boost of nutrition and also some added flavor. If you’re adding flax seeds, grind them first in a spice/coffee grinder. Flax seeds offer no benefit unless preground, since the body can’t break it down and it passes through the system without providing health benefits. Flaxseeds also go rancid quickly once you grind it, so grind only what you’ll use.
  • You can make a smoothie ahead and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days. Use an airtight lid for storage. Make it the night ahead and shake it up right before you use it. Green smoothies can be a great way to add nutrition to your diet and boost your energy level. Want better looking skin, add green smoothies to your diet. It also helps strengthen your immune system.
  • You’ll stay regular when you add green smoothies to your diet and help eliminate the bloat. They contain a lot of fiber, which helps your elimination system.

Make Fitness Fun

Make Fitness Fun

Your jaw is set, teeth are clenched, you’re going to get this run (you can substitute any exercise you hate for this one) out of the way. You’re going to do it! You’ve got your shoes on and are ready to head out the door. The telephone rings. Thank heavens, it’s Aunt Bessie. She talks forever. All your plans for that workout today are out the window as you sit nodding on the phone, listening to the latest scoop. If you find this scenario typical of your plans to exercise, you’re doing it wrong. You need to make fitness fun or even the best laid plans will fly out the window and you’ll be right back where you started.

Group exercising is often more fun that working out alone.

You knew I was going to mention this at some point, didn’t you? As a personal trainer, I love helping people and getting them excited about exercising again. Not only do I provide a varied routine that will keep their heads in the game, I also track their progress and record their goals, so they have something to shoot for and a way to know if they’ve reached that goal. Seriously, just making a goal and tracking your progress is a huge way to make the workout more fun. Varying it, of course, takes the monotony out of it.

There’s no doubt about it, if you workout with a group, you’re more likely to go. First, the group becomes your conscience and holds you accountable because

they know when you’ve skipped a session. Most importantly, it’s just more fun with a group. There’s loads of comradery and if you’re working out with a personal trainer, nobody feels left behind or bored. Consider a group boot camp or other type of sessions.

Do active things you enjoy as part of your workout program.

If you’d rather clean the toilet or scrub each tile in the kitchen by hand, rather than doing your workout, you need to change that workout—even if it’s only one or two days a week. Riding bikes, hula hooping, rock climbing or taking a hike with the kids could be an alternative and break the monotony of doing the same old thing. A night out dancing, where you dance to all the fast songs, not just the slow ones, is more than just fun, it’s great exercise too.

Consider working with a personal trainer.

  • Put on music and headphones and make your workout serve two purposes. Dance your way through household chores going at top speed. You’ll have a good workout and a super clean home.
  • Break your workout up to shorter sessions and do them throughout the day. Getting three fifteen minute workouts will do you as much good as one 45 minute one and they could be a great way to break the monotony or stress from other things in your day.
  • Find ways to squeeze extra “fit moments” into your day. Do exercises during commercials if you’re watching TV or jog in place while you’re waiting for that super slow download on the laptop. Use the stairs rather than the elevator at work for added exercise.
  • Learn something new or try a challenge. Whether you want to learn how to use battle ropes or kettlebells, it’s the fact it’s new that will hold your interest. You can also challenge a friend to a workout contest based on the amount of improvement each shows or the weight lost.

Benefits Of Bone Broth

Benefits Of Bone Broth


You may have already read about the many benefits of bone broth for not only weight loss, but also good health. Bone broth is made from slow cooking bones in the crock pot or on the stovetop for hours to days. The bones that are the best are often the “toss aways,” such as chicken necks, knuckle bones and joints. You can even roast a couple of chickens and use the bones left over after removing the meat. While Grandma often used these bones to make stock for soup and prevent waste, people now buy the bones specifically for bone broth. The health benefits range from healing leaky gut, a rather mysterious syndrome that’s not fully accepted as a condition in the medical community, to looking younger and evenlosing weight.

What is leaky gut and how does bone broth help?

The existence of leaky gut has two camps. One medical camp adamantly denies it exists and the other claims many of the health woes from inflammatory bowel disease, slow thyroid, food intolerance, psoriasis, acne and mood disorders. Both camps agree that changing the barrier in the gut or making the bowel more porous could create these problems. Treatment for leaky gut includes removing offending foods, replacing them with healing ones and boosting your system with supplements and probiotics. Bone broth is one of those healing foods. The bone has gelatin that helps seal up the porous intestinal lining. That helps relieve the diarrhea, food intolerance and constipation that can occur.

Bone broth is packed full of nutrients.

While it shouldn’t be the only healthy food you have in your diet, it can supplement your diet when consumed either as a quick drink or made into soup. It provides calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. Those can help build healthy bones, teeth and even help muscle recovery and boost your energy. That makes your workout easier and more effective.

Is bone broth a cure all?

Absolutely not. No one food can provide all the nutrients you need for a healthy diet. However, it can provide an inexpensive way to supplement your diet and maybe even help you lose weight. Bone broth is low in calories, but very filling. It doesn’t cost much since you can make it from the bones left over from meat. While “fancy” bone broths are made from roasting bones, then boiling them for hours on end, you can roast chicken, use the meat for low calorie chicken salad, as a main dish or to top a salad and save the bones for nutrient rich broth for filling soup.

  • Even though nobody is certain whether bone broth really does provide the benefits touted, it can’t hurt and is easy to make. It is one way to supplement a weight loss diet and provide extra nutrients.
  • Bone broth contains collagen. A study in 2014 showed that collagen consumption improved skin elasticity and moisture. The nutrients in bone broth can help slow the growth or reduce the potential for cataracts.
  • Bone broth can help boost the immune system. Many of the nutrients found in bone broth are beneficial to boosting the immune system. You can help keep colds at bay when you drink bone broth regularly.

How To Simply Cut Out Junk Food

How To Simply Cut Out Junk Food

If you want to lose weight, learning how to simply cut out junk food is the first place to start. Almost everyone knows what junk food is. It’s those sugary snacks close to the checkout counter, the salty crisp chips piled high in a prominent place in the store and foods in the frozen food department, bakery and even in the soft drink area, although most people fail to identify soft drinks as food. They’re all empty calories that are specifically created to tickle our taste buds with just the right blend of sugar, salt and flavors that make us want more. Junk food may contain ingredients that actually make you hungrier and can cause weight gain.

Switch to whole foods and those less processed.

Whole foods are foods closest to their natural state, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. If you read the label and there’s more than just two or three ingredients, it’s probably highly processed. You can create your own treats like trail mix, by purchasing bulk items such as nuts and seed, with a bit of dried fruit for the sugar. Other treats can include raw veggies and healthy dip or sliced fresh fruits with a bit of nut butter on the slices. Have them ready for those times you need something sweet and quick.

Create a vision for the eye that won’t create an abundance of calories.

Visual appeal is part of marketing junk foods, but you can use that to your benefit. Did you know that most people like foods that have three colors and three visible ingredients? That trail mix is starting to look a lot better, but a plate with celery, carrots and red pepper slices with a dopple of white dip will do too. Who wouldn’t love cantaloupe, honey dew and watermelon kabobs ready to eat in the refrigerator. When you plan ahead, it helps you stick to your weight loss plans.

Breaking any habit takes at least three weeks.

You can control what you have in your home, so plan ahead and you’ll beat the junk food habit. Create healthy snack menus and make them up ahead of time. Make a grocery list, so you won’t have to “shop,” which can lead to craving and impulse buying. Give yourself at least a month and then identify whether you still have cravings for sweet, salty, fried or other empty calorie foods.

  • Know your weaknesses. Is there a time of day you crave certain foods or emotional triggers? Do you crave some foods more than others?
  • When you find you have a craving for your favorite junk food, get busy. Even if you have to take a walk or run up and down the stairs, keep your body moving. Grab a healthy snack if it’s real hunger.
  • Give up your daily soft drink, even if it’s a diet soft drink. One study showed that diet soda puts extra inches on the waistline. That’s visceral fat, the most dangerous type to your health.
  • If you break down and sneak a snack, chew it slowly. Masticate it until there’s no evidence left that it was once whole and don’t take another bite until you swallow it. Eating slower will let you really taste the snack and not just gobble it for the memory of how it tastes. You’ll eat less, the slower you eat.

Healthy Weekend Activities

Healthy Weekend Activities

While it might not sound like a great activity, getting up at your normal time and getting weekend tasks completed will not only free you for fun things, but also maintain your biological clock and sleep schedule. It gives you time for other healthy weekend activities that will help you stay fit, while having fun. Shifting your sleep schedule just one hour increases the risk of heart disease by 11 percent.

Plan something outdoors.

Whether it’s a walk to the park with the kids, a day of hiking, bike riding or sight seeing walk to appreciate the historic buildings on Main Street, plan to spend some time outdoors in the sun. It’s the best if you go to a natural setting and soak in the atmosphere Mother Nature provides. Studies show that spending time in natural settings makes people happier and soaking in the sun’s rays boosts the production of vitamin D. If you live near the shoreline or on a lake and the weather is right for it, spending time near water can also be quite relaxing.

Plan meals ahead and spend a few hours cooking them for the whole week.

Unless you love cooking, it may not sound like much fun, but it can be. Get the kids involved to make a week’s worth of make ahead healthy meals, so all you have to do during the work week is heat them. It may take a few hours, but you’ll only have to clean the kitchen once and you’ll be done. Not only will it save you time, it will save you money too, especially if you’re often tempted to pick up carry out. If you love experimenting with healthy cooking, this could be the time to get adventurous.

Enjoy everything that McKinney has to offer.

Whether you take a walk around town or go visit Chestnut Square, there’s a lot to see in McKinney. Too often we spend vacations visiting other towns for their historic value, when there’s plenty of that close to home. Take the kids to the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary where they can get in touch with nature, walk the butterfly and bird gardens and learn as everyone gets exercise on the paths.

  • Enjoy sprucing up the house. Nothing makes you feel better than painting a room, creating a garden or organizing a room. Pick just one project that can be done in a day.
  • Save one day for fun. If you spend all day Saturday, fixing meals, cleaning and doing chores, make sure Sunday is strictly fun for you and the family.
  • Take some time to get together with others. Socializing is important to your health. It lowers the risk of depression and helps improve mental skills.
  • Make one day a non-tech day. Put your computers away and turn off the TV. Those iPhones should be shut off too. Spend a day with just conversation and family fun.

Breakfast Is The Most Important

Breakfast Is The Most Important

You were probably raised to believe, or at least heard, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s somewhat true for children. Studies show that the first meal of the day creates the energy for improved cognitive performance and better focus and task performance throughout the day. However, when kids reach the age of 18, it’s a toss up whether a hearty breakfast actually helps the individual and it becomes more a question of personal preference. People whose daily routine causes them to eat later at night often find they aren’t hungry for breakfast. Rule of thumb, if you want to lose weight, pay attention to your hunger pangs. Don’t eat if there aren’t any. However, be ready with a healthy snack for those times you need sustenance.

There are reasons to eat in the morning.

If your workout is in the morning, you’ll want to make sure you have something ready to eat before you continue the day. The same is true for anyone with diabetes or other chronic health conditions. The food doesn’t have to be the farmhouse breakfast of flapjacks, eggs, grits, potatoes and bacon. In fact, that’s probably what you don’t want to eat. You’re not going out to work in the fields, but going to the office. Choose healthy foods and if they aren’t traditional breakfast foods, it’s okay.

A healthy breakfast does provide a good amount of nutrients.

Even though some people can function well without eating a healthy breakfast, that doesn’t mean that a healthy breakfast doesn’t have its benefits. Not only do you get valuable nutrients, they’re spread out throughout the day. This is ideal since it sustains higher blood levels. Even though adults don’t have to perform in school, good cognitive functioning is still important. Breakfast can boost your performance. It also can give a boost to your energy level.

Some studies link a good breakfast to better health.

There are contradictory studies about breakfast, as noted previously. Some of them declare that unless you’re young, you don’t need to eat it. Others link a good breakfast to lower levels of LDL cholesterol—bad cholesterol—to a healthy breakfast. It could be the oatmeal that helps with that. Some show that it helps keep weight in check and lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

  • Skipping breakfast can interfere with the fasting and eating cycle of the body. It might make the difference between having the energy to think clearly or have muscle power when you to the most.
  • As noted earlier, certain foods, such as oatmeal, that are relegated to breakfast may have benefits no matter when they’re eaten. If you skip breakfast, consider adding them to your diet later in the day.
  • While one study showed that eating a breakfast lowered the risk for coronary heart disease by 27%, another showed that a high fat breakfast increased the risk of atherosclerosis. Be careful what you eat.
  • Eating breakfast has been linked to weight loss. Effectively, when you eat breakfast, you’re giving your body the sign that you have ample food for the day, so it can burn those calories. Studies show that people who skip breakfast have a higher weight compared to height, even though they eat fewer calories.