Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tips for Flexibility Training

When it comes to the Big Three of exercise--cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training--it’s pretty clear which one can get overlooked. After all, while we prize cardiovascular and strength training for their role in helping us lose weight, build muscle and get fit, the benefits of flexibility training are less immediately alluring. However, as the population ages, more of us are learning to appreciate the rewards of stretching. Staying limber can offset age-related stiffness, improve athletic performance and optimize functional movement in daily life. Research shows that flexibility training can develop and maintain range of motion and may help prevent and treat injury. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine has added flexibility training to its general exercise recommendations, advising that stretching exercises for the major muscle groups be performed two to three days per week. How can you include an effective flexibility workout in your fitness program? Here are some guidelines: 1. Think in Terms of Serious Flexibility Training, Not Just Brief Stretching. Squeezing in one or two quick stretches before or after a workout is better than nothing, but this approach will yield limited results. What’s more, generic stretches may not be effective for your particular body. The more time and attention you give to your flexibility training, the more benefits you’ll experience. A qualified personal trainer, physical therapist or health professional can design a functional flexibility program specifically for you. 2. Consider Your Activities. Are you a golfer? Do you ski, run or play tennis? Do your daily home or work routines include bending, lifting or sitting for long periods? Functional flexibility improves “the stability and mobility of the whole person in his or her specific environment,” says physical therapist Deborah Ellison. She recommends an individualized stretching program to improve both stability (the ability to maintain ideal body alignment during all activities) and mobility (the ability to use full, normal range of motion). 3. Pay Special Attention to Tight Areas. Often the shoulders, chest, hamstrings and hips are particularly tight, but you may hold tension in other areas, depending on your history of injuries and the existing imbalances in your muscle groups. Unless you tailor your flexibility training to your strengths and weaknesses, you may stretch already overstretched muscles and miss areas that need training. 4. Listen to Your Body. Stretching is an individual thing. Pay attention to your body’s signals and don’t push too far. Avoid ballistic stretching, which uses bouncing or jerking movements to gain momentum; this approach can be dangerous. Instead, slowly stretch your muscles to the end point of movement and hold the stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds. Older adults, pregnant women and people with injuries may need to take special precautions. 5. Get Creative. Varying your flexibility training can help you stick with it. You can use towels, resistance balls and other accessories to add diversity and effectiveness to your stretching. 6. Warm Up First. If you’re stretching on your own, don’t forget to warm up your muscles before you begin. Walking briskly for 10 or 15 minutes is a simple way to do this. 7. Find a Flexibility Class That Works for You. Classes that include stretching are becoming more popular and more diverse. Some combine cardiovascular and strength components with the flexibility training; others focus exclusively on stretching. 8. Stretch Yourself--Mind and Body. Did you know that your emotional state may affect your flexibility? If your body is relaxed, says Ellison, it will be more responsive to flexibility training. Listening to music and focusing on your breath can help you relax as you stretch. You may also want to explore yoga or exercise inspired by the work of Joseph Pilates. In addition to stretching, classes in these disciplines may include relaxation, visualization and other mind-body techniques designed to reduce stress and increase mindfulness. 9. It’s Not Just for Wimps. Forget the idea that stretching is just for elderly, injured or unconditioned people. Many Olympic and professional athletes rely on flexibility training for peak performance. 10. Do It Consistently. It doesn’t help to stretch for a few weeks and then forget about it. Integrate regular stretching into your permanent fitness program. For inspiration, look to cats and dogs--they’re dedicated practitioners of regular stretching! Visit my site for exciting Health and Wellness Tips/products. Helping You Live a Healthy Lifestyle !

Monday, February 2, 2015

In a Nutshell: The Health Benefits and Culinary Uses of Nut Meats

With mounting evidence showing their many health benefits, it’s OK to recommend nuts as part of a healthy diet. In fact, it’s more than OK. Tree nuts are plant-based proteins that contain fiber and a combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for each variety. They are also rich in plant sterols and fat, particularly the heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated kinds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a Qualified Health claim that states: Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. These nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts — which contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat for a 50-gram (about 1.5 ounce) serving. The combination of fiber, protein and fat in nuts provides satiety to meals and snacks, making them an excellent option for weight management. There is a caveat, however: portion size. While nuts are healthy, they are calorie-dense. Nuts range from 160 calories to 200 calories per ounce. To get their health benefits without breaking the calorie bank, it’s best to substitute them for other foods in the diet, particularly those high in saturated fat. This can be achieved with one to two ounces a day. It’s easy to lump nuts into one category, but what makes each nut meat special is its unique package of nutrients, taste, texture, origin and culinary uses. Here’s a taste ... in a nutshell. Pecans (Approximately 19 halves per 1 oz. serving) Rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Sweet, mellow flavor and meaty texture lend well to a variety of dishes, including salads, as a coating for fish and in sweets such as pralines and pecan pie. Cashews (Approximately 18 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Excellent source of copper and magnesium. Soft consistency with delicate, sweet flavor. Native to South America, but introduced by colonists to Africa and India. Commonly eaten as a snack, raw or roasted, but often used in Asian recipes and to make a rich, creamy nut butter or vegan cheese. Walnuts (Approximately 14 halves per 1 oz. serving) Integral part of Mediterranean diet, contributing to health benefits of this style of eating. Rich in antioxidants and excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3. Grooves hold onto flavors well and are delicious when seasoned sweet or hot. Oil can be used in dressings and sautés. Brazil Nuts (Approximately 6 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Largest nut commonly eaten. Grows wild on trees in Amazon rain forests. In addition to poly- and monounsaturated fats, contain more than 100 percent daily value for antioxidant selenium. Rich, creamy texture lends well to snacking, raw or roasted; and confections. Pine Nuts (Approximately 167 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Soft nut found inside cone of several varieties of pine trees. Good source of vitamin E and phosphorus. Standard ingredient in Italian cuisine and most known for its use in pesto. Light, delicate flavor also ends well to pastas, salads, sautés, breads and other baked goods. Hazelnuts (Approximately 21 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Also known as filberts, they are rich in monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of vitamin E, copper and manganese. Available in-shell, whole, diced, sliced and as a meal for gluten-free baking. Pairs well with savory, citrus and sweet flavors, particularly chocolate, and commonly used in confections. Pistachios (Approximately 49 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Contain antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating in-shell helps slow consumption. Bright color makes for great addition to salads, grain dishes and as a coating for meats. Native to the Middle East, home of favorites like baklava, halvah and ma’amoul, a shortbread pastry. Almonds (Approximately 23 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, also provides calcium and folate.*Versatile ingredient, can be used whole, sliced, blanched to remove skins and as flour, paste or butter. California provides 80 percent of world's supply, but almonds are enjoyed in savory and sweet dishes globally. Macadamias (Approximately 10 to 12 nuts per 1 oz. serving) Native to subtropical rain forests of Australia, this nut is high in fat, but 17 of the 22 grams are monounsaturated. Excellent source of manganese. Unique rich, buttery taste and smooth texture lends to eating as a snack raw or roasted. Often baked into cookies and coated with chocolate. Please visit my website for great Health & Wellness products. LIKE me on Facebook FOLLOW ME on Twitter.