Archive for the ‘exercise’ Category

Sitting Can Kill You

A 2003-2004 U.S. survey concluded that Americans spend more than half of their day sitting. That number may not be news, but the fact that all that sitting may actually shorten one’s life span is frightening information. Several recent studies have suggested that people who spend most of their day sitting may have shorter life spans. While the research is still in its early stages and experts have yet to determine how many hours a day is too much, it would be wise for all of us to find ways to break up long periods of sitting.

Canadian researchers published a study last year that tracked more than 17,000 people for 12 years. This study found that people who sat more had a higher risk of death, and that this was true even if they regularly exercised. In an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Jan 2010), author Elin Ekblom-Bak suggests that “after four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals” that cause the genes regulating glucose and fat in the body to shut down.

From an ergonomic and health viewpoint, the need for movement over the course of the day is not new information. Science has known that constrained seating is bad for one’s health for more than 40 years. Workers who use a fixed seated position all day experience more discomfort and chronic disorders (Graf et al, 1993, 1995). Health problems that can arise from long hours in a stationary position include arthritis, inflamed tendons, chronic joint degeneration and impaired circulation (Grandjean, 1987). As early as 1975, research indicated that workers over 35 that spend more than half their time sitting had a higher rate of herniated discs (Kelsey, 1975).

What does this mean to you? Stated quite simply, get up off your duff and move! Take mini-breaks, five minute breaks every hour or so. Change the seat angle, back angle or tilt of your chair throughout the day or better yet, leave the tilt lock off and let the chair move when you move. Use of a chair with a dynamic mechanism, such as the Humanscale Freedom Chair, Steelcase Leap, or Knoll Life Chair allow for regular position shifts without any active thought on the part of the user.

Better yet, stand part of the day. Research done by Dr. Mark Benden of Texas A&M University, suggests that standing at least two hours a day improves energy levels, productivity and can even assist in weight control. Standing two hours a day can burn up to 280 calories daily (depending on body size and other factors); over the period of a year, this can add up to a weight loss of 20 lbs.

Setting up your workstation so you can stand part of the day can be done in a number of ways. The most direct approach is to use an electric, height adjustable desk and just push your chair out of the way when you wish to work standing. Alternatively, a higher work surface can be used with a tall chair, or a standard desk can be used with a monitor arm and keyboard tray mechanism that offers enough height adjustment range to allow you to work sitting or standing.

References:

Graf, M, Guggenbuhl, U. and Krueger, H. (1993) Investigations on the effects of seat shape and slope on posture, comfort and back muscle activity. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 12 (1-2), 91-103.

Graf, M, Guggenbuhl, U. and Krueger, H. (1995) An assessment of seated activity and postures at five workplaces. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 15 (2), 81-90.

Grandjean, E. (1987). Ergonomics in computerized offices. London: Taylor and Francis. 96-156.

Kelsey J. L. (1975). An epidemiological study of the relationship between occupations and acute herniated lumbar intervertebral discs. Int J Epidemiology. 4(3): 197-205.

Sitting Can Kill You | The Human Solution.

What color is Your Fat?

What Color is Your Fat?
By Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, HNC, Natural Solutions

You probably had no idea until right now that your body houses two kinds of fat–yellow and brown. Yellow fat, which serves as an insulator and a warehouse for unused or excess calories, is the type most people want to shed. Brown fat actually burns those excess calories, acting as the furnace and burning yellow fat as fuel. If you have a good storehouse of brown fat, you can seemingly eat whatever you want and not gain a pound, while the “more yellow, less brown fat” folks find losing weight difficult even as they restrict calories. To add insult to injury, being overweight can actually shut down the mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses) in brown fat, essentially turning it into yellow fat.

Fortunately, many natural remedies can help kick-start fat burning (thermogenesis). First and foremost: exercise. Without enough exercise, it’s difficult to lose and keep weight off. In addition, you can take supplements to boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities.

Essential fatty acids. Many overweight people suffer from chronic deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs), the primary fuels that stoke the body’s thermogenic furnace. When they are in short supply, brown fat becomes inactive, which can make weight loss more difficult. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, is of particular concern. Normally, the body can manufacture GLA from dietary sources of another omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid–found in safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils. However, a diet high in saturated fats–much different than EFAs–combined with stress, alcohol, aging, or illness, can block this conversion, and you wind up with a GLA deficiency. Take 500 mg of GLA daily; evening primrose, black currant, hemp, and borage oils are all good sources.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs tend to accelerate metabolism while lowering blood levels of cholesterol, which can help you lose weight. Consider adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of grapeseed or organic virgin coconut oil on vegetables or in salad dressings each day. But if you have diabetes or a liver disorder, avoid MCTs entirely.

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens), ginger, and cinnamon. Used in Chinese medicine and ayurveda, these warming spices help break down fat. Cayenne helps digestion and increases feelings of fullness and satiety.

Ginseng. Studies show this ancient remedy works as a useful antiobesity agent. It decreases the release of free radicals generated by exercise and also reduces levels of appetite-stimulating compounds such as leptin. Extracts of both ginseng root and ginseng berry help stabilize blood sugar.

Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Green tea can increase the metabolic rate and stimulate fat burning. It’s rich in a variety of compounds, including theophylline, theobromine, caffeine, and polyphenols, all of which increase the body’s use of energy, inhibit the absorption of fat, and break down fat cells as they form. Consider drinking one or two cups of green tea per day.

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Derived from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit (Garcinia cambogia), HCA helps clear fats from the liver, suppresses appetite, and slows the conversion of carbohydrates into fat. For best results, take 250 mg of HCA three times daily, along with 100 mcg of chromium polynicotinate or picolinate, 30 to 60 minutes before each meal.

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis). Traditionally consumed as a tea in South America, yerba mate acts as a stimulant to boost thermogenesis. Its stimulating effect comes primarily from a compound called mateine, a close relative of caffeine, plus small quantities of theophylline and theobromine.

via What color is Your Fat? | Healthy and Green Living.

Fix Your Posture in Two Easy Steps

If you sit at a desk and work on a computer for most of your workday, you already know that your posture suffers. Here is a secret which will help you become more aware of your slouched shoulders and learn to prevent all pain and injuries caused by poor posture. Say goodbye to tension headaches, upper back strain, shoulder aches and unattractive posture!

After six years of helping office workers deal with job-related pain, I discovered that following two easy steps will guarantee an improvement in the quality of daily life in front of a computer.

To prevent the hunchback look, not to mention tension headaches, tightened shoulders and neck muscles, you need to follow 2 simple steps:

1. Stretch out your chest

2. Strengthen your upper back

Stretch out your chest

Your chest tightens because your arms are held out in front of your body all day in an unnatural position. Typing and using the mouse, for example, can cause chest muscles to shorten. Pulling the arms forward for many hours a day contributes to a slouched look, giving the appearance of tiredness, lack of confidence and overall weakness. You can easily perform a chest stretch by doing the following:

– Place the inside of your forearm against an open door frame slightly above shoulder height

– Turn away from the door until you feel a comfortable stretch in the chest

– Be sure to hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds and perform it on both sides, 2 times per day every day

Strengthen your upper back

If you work at a computer long enough your upper back is bound to become strained. With prolonged sitting, we allow our heads to hang too far in front of their bodies…mostly because of back fatigue. Over time, this postural mistake will pull and weaken the muscles in the upper back which are supposed to hold the head straight. By strengthening the upper back, we can prevent the head from falling forward and stop many of the problems that come with it (tension headaches for one!). Perform standing rowing exercises to build back the strength lost in the upper back and you won’t believe the difference.

– To get into position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Bend forward slowly at the waist so your back is at a 45-degree angle. Make sure to keep your back straight, and your head positioned forward, not down at the floor. Try to avoid slouching your shoulders.

– With your arms hanging at your sides, hold light weights (soup cans or light dumbbells) in each hand, making sure to position your head properly by looking at the wall straight ahead of you.

– Pull the weights straight up toward your body, concentrating on squeezing the shoulder blades together for a count of 3

– Slowly release the weights straight down to your sides and repeat

– Do 3 sets of 10 every day

I can’t stress enough the importance of these two exercises. The chest stretch allows your shoulders to move back, and the rowing not only pulls your shoulders back, but also increases strength in your upper back, keeping your head in a safe, proper position and preventing future neck and upper back pain.

via Fix Your Posture in Two Easy Steps.