Archive for the ‘Exercise’ category

Is Body Mass Index (BMI) an Effective Way to Measure Obesity?

The other night I was watching Jamie Oliver’s Eat To Save Your Life where a selection of slightly over-weight to morbidly obese people were shown what eating the wrong foods are doing to their bodies.

For one of the demonstrations three men (one slightly over-weight, one obese and one morbidly obese) went through a test to see who was the fittest. It appeared that the obese man (who happened to be vegetarian) was the fittest out of the three.

So they went on to give each man a CAT scan to measure the fat inside their bodies. The surprising thing is that the obese vegetarian had considerably less fat than either of the other two men. The reason was that he also had a lot of muscle from playing rugby.

What is Body Mass Index (BMI) and How is it Calculated?

To determine the level of obesity for the show, BMI was calculated. BMI is calculated using your height and weight to give you an indication of how healthy you are. You then compare your score to those on a chart to determine whether you are over-weight or not.

The problem is that it doesn’t take into consideration muscle. People who work out at the gym, work in a manual trade or play sports will receive a high BMI score suggesting they are overweight. When in fact they are perfectly healthy.

What Alternatives Are There?

Because very few of us will ever get the opportunity to have a CAT scan purely for the purpose of finding out how much fat there is in our bodies, we need to look at some alternative for calculating our body fat percentage.

Calipers – This is the traditional method which you can have done by a professional in your local gym or do yourself at home. You use the callipers to measure how much fat you have under the skin (subcutaneous fat). The measurements are then put into an equation to provide you with the percentage.

If you want to do this at home the suggested calipers to use are by Accu-Measure as they have been recommended by Body-for-LIFE, EAS, & World Natural Bodybuilding Federation.

Although this is fairly accurate method of finding out the amount of fat in your body, it’s not 100%. The reason is that as we get older we produce more internal fat around our organs and calipers cannot measure this.

Weighing Scales – There are special scales that you can easily buy which emit a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). Don’t worry it’s totally harmless. It calculates the density of fat in your body by passing an electrical current through you. These currents pass through bone and muscles much more easily than fat, so the more resistance the currents experience, the less fat you have.

BMI may help give an indication to health but it has some serious flaws which make it worthless if you have a lot of muscle. Although callipers and BIA weighing scales are not 100% accurate they are a lot better and do allow you to chart changes and see the progress you are making. Many people who go to the gym to loose weight become disheartened when they don’t see any changes on regular scales. This is because although they are loosing fat, they are also are gaining muscle which weighs more.

There are certainly plenty of people who need to lose weight out there so it’s no surprise that there are weight loss camps popping up all over the place.  Most people tend to think of their appearance but of course there is a lot going on under the surface of your body that you can’t see with the naked eye.  However you should also know that there are some disorders that cause weight loss so you should be careful about this too.  There are many who enjoy going to weight loss clubs such as Weight Watchers but remember, if you stop going chances are you will become even fatter than you are now.

Laughing Policemen: Laughing to Increase Fitness

Last year I wrote a blog post 5 Reasons You Need to Laugh More. Well it seems that the Government in Thailand also believe that laughter is a great medicine because they’ve treated their police force to 2 x 3-hour laughing sessions as you can see in this video.

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Review of PhysioRoom.com – Sports Injuries Info and Online Shop

Sponsored Review

I’m glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to review PhysioRoom.com because I really like the site. To give you a brief background of the company, they first started in 2000 to provide information about sports injuries in a format that we can all understand. It wasn’t until 2003 that they opened an online shop selling a variety of products relating to fitness. One of them being Swiss Balls…

Swiss Balls

Just for Girls? When I used to go to a gym one of the most popular products was the Swiss Ball. If you’re a “macho” kind of a guy you might think that they’re just for girls; believe me, they’re not! My Mum’s personal trainer used to be a trainer in the Army said that they make you’re body work harder and really strengthen your core muscles (that’s the muscles in your stomach and back).

Prevent Back Pain – One of the main reasons you want strong core muscles is that it prevents injuries to your back. So many people suffer from back pain, whether it’s caused by lifting heavy objects or sitting in an office chair all day. My dad had to take a lot of time off work years ago through lifting heavy shopping bags out of the trolley and into the car. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

Flat Stomach – And for anyone who wants a flat stomach you really want to get one of these. I went to a 1-hour Swiss Ball class last year and it was probably the most gruelling exercise regime I’ve ever encountered. The following day carrying out simple tasks like opening the fridge door made my stomach muscles ache. Ouch!

If you’re looking for advice about sports injuries and want to buy products to help PhysioRoom.com is a website well worth checking out. They are based in the UK but they can ship worldwide. Here are some articles you may find interesting (all their articles are written by professionals):-

How to Improve Your Memory: The Amazing Memory Kit Review

Having spent almost four months blogging about health I just realized I’ve missed out a very important topic: memory. We all know that to keep our bodies fit and healthy we should get physical exercise and have a salad a day. But what about memory? Most of us think that loosing our memories is just something that goes hand-in-hand with getting older, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you want to learn how to improve you’re memory you’ll be pleased to know that there are some memory techniques that can be learnt.  Bear in mind however that your memory won’t magically improve over night.  You really need to work at improving your memory over time, it will happen, you just need some patience.

The Amazing Memory Kit

My mum bought The Amazing Memory Kit: Everything You Need to Improve Your Memory! a couple of years ago and, surprise surprise, forgot to use it. So over the weekend I decided to drag it out and check it over. The creator is Dominic O’Brien who has won the World Memory Championships eight times for being able to recall an amazing amount of information. He always believed that he was a slow learner however after seeing someone recall 52 playing cards in the correct order he decided to investigate a way of remembering better.

The kit includes a 63-page book which describes the various techniques of improving memory; a Magical Memory Journey Mapbook; a Memory Wheel and Memory Cards.

Memory Techniques

When I first looked at the kit I thought that it would be full of IQ-style questions designed to give your brain a mental workout. However when I started reading the book I realized that it’s more of a system which you have to learn and develop.

Visual Imagery

Many of the techniques involve the imagination and creating bizarre stories. For instance, if you have to memorize a list of 10 objects you should include those objects in a crazy story. Here’s the beginning of a story he tells in the book: “An ATHLETE who is starting to FLAG hit the DUST when a GOLBLIN struck him on the TEMPLE with a stone…”

The more crazy the imagery is the more likely you are to remember it.

Other techniques include imagining that you are placing object into drawers eg a bottle of BOLinger is placed in the BOLIVIA drawer. I’m not so keen on this technique myself, but I’m working on it. Of course, everyone is different; you might like this technique straight away.

Memory Journeys

Is there a journey you do so often you can remember it inside out? For instance going to work or the gym? Well, use that mental map to attach objects to landmarks on the journey. Again the more bizarre the imagery the more it will stick in your mind. Included in the kit is the journey map which is great for people who find it difficult to use their own mental journey. I used this book yesterday and was able to remember 25 objects perfectly. I imagined all sort of strange things including stealing sunglasses from a scare crow and using a guitar to play volleyball. I can still remember the 25 objects in the correct order today.

Remembering Faces

This is the part I really have to work a lot more on. When you first meet some one you need to look at their most distinguishing feature and somehow link it to their name using imagery/word association. The kit comes with a wheel that you can rotate that has 13 faces, names and careers on it. You can rotate the discs to give more than 2,000 “party guests”.

Remember Numbers

Let’s face it, numbers are pretty dull. Which is why Dominic has created some techniques to combat memory blocks. He created the DOMINIC method which involves allocating a letter to a number. For instance, 1 = A, 2 = B and 3 = C. These letters then become the initials of famous people. If you want to remember 23 then that would be BC which might be Bill Clinton.

At first I didn’t understand the point in doing this. It all sounds a bit of a palaver. However if you need to remember really long strings of numbers then you can put the names of famous people into your journey map.

To remember 237263 it might be Bill Clinton (23) is washing your car, then you see George Bush (72) pulling hamburgers out a trash can, at the bus stop you see Sean Connery (63) begging for spare change.

Alternatively you can look at the shape of each number and decide what it resembles. For instance a swan looks like a 2 whilst a boomerang looks like the number 7.

Conclusion

The book is really easy to read so you don’t have to worry about it being too technical. Obviously you’ll want to re-read it a number of times to fully understand the concepts but overall it’s very accessible for the average person. Don’t expect to read through the book and suddenly be able to remember better than you did yesterday. You will need to work at it.

The book also talks about using the above techniques to remember poems, speeches and remaining composed during a job interview. These things, you could say, are more practical than just remembering lists as a party trick.

I really like the kit and would recommend anyone who wants to improve or maintain their memory to buy The Amazing Memory Kit. The more you work on it the better you’ll become.

Further Info on Improving Your Eyesight by William

William kindly left a comment on my blog post How to Improve Your Eyesight Naturally saying that he’s got a blog called Improving My Eyesight. On his blog he shares what he’s been doing to improve his eyesight through exercise and nutrition. Some commenters have shared their experiences too.

I learnt something very interesting on his blog, it seems according to research, if you exercise your eyes for 30 seconds every day, your memory can increase by 10% Now all you’ve go to do is remember to do your exercises. ;)

Easy Exercise Program

In an ideal world we would all be setting our alarm clocks for 6:30am, drinking a smoothie made of 7 vegetables for breakfast before heading to the gym for a gruelling 3 hour workout.

Life just isn’t like that is it? No matter how good our intentions, life has a knack of throwing things at us. How is it possible to keep fit whilst dealing with all the hassles of every day life?

The Answer: Work Smart Not Hard

I was going to join my local gym the other week but decided against it as I wasn’t impressed with it. So instead I’ve been using a “little and often” technique which can be done from your own home without the need for any expensive equipment.

Basically you do a few exercises at regular intervals spread throughout the day. You might only have time to do 30 seconds at a time or you might be able to manage 5 minutes. It’s better to do a little bit often than nothing at all.

(I’ve included a number of quality links in this post, I suggest you bookmark this page so you can refer to it later.)

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Warm Up

It’s important to get the blood warmed up and pumping round your body so that your muscles can stretch easier. Swing your arms around your head, do star jumps or have a dance to your favourite tune.

2. Stretch

To prevent possible injuries you need to make sure your muscles are nicely stretched and supple. A lot of people don’t spend enough time stretching or even miss it out altogether. If you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle you’ll probably want to concentrate on stretching for a couple of weeks before doing any strength exercises to prevent injury.

If you are looking for a comprehensive book on stretching I personally recommend Sport Stretch as this is what was recommended by my mum’s personal trainer. He used to be a trainer in the Army, so he should know what he’s talking about!

3. Strength

When it comes to increasing strength there’s two main types of exercise you can do. You can either work each muscle individually (isolated) or you can exercise a number of muscles all at the same time (compound).

Ideally you should do a mixture of both isolated and compound exercises but because you have a life you should concentrate on compound exercises. You don’t need expensive gym equipment to do these exercises however you might later on want to buy a Dumbell Set and an Exercise Ball.

Here are some links on how to do the main compound exercises:

  • Lunges – Workout all the muscles in you legs and bum (great for us girls!). If you’re new to exercising then you can start of doing lunges without dumbbells.
  • Press-ups – This is an excellent video on how to do a press-up correctly. I learnt a lot from it.
  • Tricep Dips – If you find your wrists get sore, try doing Dumbbell Kickbacks instead.

Some more exercises to try out here: Total Body Strength for Beginners

4. Cardio

Doing cardio is important for increasing lung capacity, reducing your chance of coronary artery disease plus generally gives you more energy. It might be a bit more difficult to do a cardio workout in your own home without a treadmill or exercise bike but here are some tips for you:

  • Walk instead of taking the car
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator
  • Run up the stairs instead of walking
  • Play with your kids in the garden

It might seem a lot to do everyday but you only need to do a few exercises at a time. Remember: little and often. I’ve been on this regime for about 2 weeks now and am amazed at how much strength and flexibility I’ve gained.

Why not challenge yourself to do this for the next 21 days?
Why 21? Well, it seems that’s how long it takes to form a habit.

Disclaimer: I’m not a trained fitness expert; the above tips are what I follow personally and may not be suitable for every one. Please check with a doctor before starting any exercise regime.

How to Improve Your Eyesight Naturally

Our eyes are a very important part of us. They capture images and then send them to the brain. The brain then tells us what it is we are seeing. The eyes are constantly taking in information while they are open, working non-stop to help us view the world.

As we age, all the wear and tear on the eyes will start to weaken the muscles. This is what causes our vision to become blurred as you get older. However, age is not the only thing they will cause the eyes to have problems. The way they are treated daily will have the greatest impact on them.

Eye Problems

Normal ageing of the eyes is the reason that most of us will need glasses as we advance in age. Macular Degeneration is the number one cause of blindness in older adults. However, it doesn’t only affect the elderly. Macular Degeneration is also found in people who are smokers, have hypertension, or a family history of the disease.

Genetics, also, plays a big part in our vision. If Mum or Dad have less than perfect vision, chances are you will, too.

Then we have the care of our eyes. They are very sensitive and need to be treated with great care. When we spend long hours on the computer, watching T.V., or playing video games, it puts stress on the eyes and the muscles. You may have noticed after spending time on the computer, if you look away from the monitor to different points in the room, things seem blurry. It takes a few moments for them to adjust.

Sun is another enemy. Most people are unaware of the negative effects the sun has on the eyes. More specifically the UV rays.

Care of the Eyes

There are several things you can do to care for your eyes and keep them healthy. Along with using a little common sense, adding supplements to your diet will also help your optical nerves.

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time watching the T.V. or computer monitor. If your job requires you to work at a computer, stop once in a while and look around the room.
  • Wear sunglasses to limit UV exposure.
  • Exercise your eyes. I’ve been doing eye exercises since I was at school because I had problems seeing what my teacher was writing on the board plusI hated wearing glasses. My eyesight isn’t 100% perfect but I have found that the exercise helps greatly.

Paul McCartney Shows You “Eye Yoga” in this Video


Here are some supplements that improve vision as well:

  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It can slow down the onset of Macular Degeneration
  • Vitamin C works a lot like Vitamin E to protect the eyes. It helps protect the tissues and improve the health of your eyes.
  • Zinc strengthens the cells.
  • Vitamin A is another antioxidant. It helps the eyes with light exposure and prevents cataracts.
  • Lutein can be found listed in supplements designed for eye health. It can also be found in leafy, dark green vegetables, broccoli and peas.
  • Fish oil also has compounds that will help vision.

If you want to buy a multi-vitamin for helping your eyesight then there are many on the market that you can buy. They can also include herbs such as eyebright and bilberry.

Another thing to remember when caring for your eyes is to never touch them. There are all sorts of germs that can infect the eye. Also avoid any chemicals around the eye.

Improve your Immune System with Exercise

If you followed every faddy diet going you’d be running around in circles so much you’d fall over! One moment you’re reading that oats are good for you, then you read it’s not. Same goes for protein and fat. But the one thing that everyone agrees on is that exercise is essential and can help give your immune system a boost.

The role of exercise in helping to lower stress – and the subsequent beneficial effects on health – has been widely studied. Here the studies are less clear, contradicting one another in some details. But overall the conclusion is the same: moderate, regular exercise helps the immune system by moderating the effects of stress.

What is clearly understood after 30 years of research, is that high amount of stress affects overall health. If you’re stressed and under pressure then you’ll be more prone to colds, fatigue and digestive problems. Also if you are stressed then you won’t be getting a deep sleep which somewhat compounds the problem.

An Outlet for Stress

Regular exercise helps relieve stress. It does so directly, by providing an outlet for, and consuming much of, the nervous energy produced by stress. It also helps indirectly by shifting one’s focus away from the external factors producing the stress.

When my mum had a personal trainer she used to do a lot of boxing as part of her warm up. She was told to imagine that she was punching some one she hates. Is there any one in your life causing you grief that you’d like to give a good “thump”? If so get yourself a punching bag and feel the stress dissipate.

Cardiovascular System and Toxins

Exercise can help the cardiovascular system, which in turn improves blood flow, carries away toxins from muscles and organs, and helps keep the kidneys and endocrine system working well. It helps remove germs and circulate antibodies.

All those promote a healthy immune system by lessening the body’s susceptibility to disease, while increasing the robustness of the immune system itself.

By exercising you’ll also be increasing your body’s temperature, enough to help keep away cols and flu. The increased temperature also helps kill the infecting organisms.

A study at the University of Colorado, Boulder suggests that moderate exercise helps prevent colds as well. It showed that individuals are less likely to get sick after stressful situations when they had engaged in a regular program of moderate exercise. Those that began exercise only on the same day as the stressor didn’t enjoy those benefits.

The study was carried out on rats, but one of the reasons those mammals are used is the similarity in some systems, and their responses, to humans. Oh how I pity these poor little lab rats.

Many people start an exercise program with the sole purpose of improving their body image. Try not to let this be the only reason for exercising; there are so many more benefits to be enjoyed than simply looking good on the beach.

Whether the effects are direct or indirect, exercising can help you support and enhance your immune system. That leads directly to better overall health.

How to Avoid Sports and Exercising Injuries

Many people working out at the gym will tell you “no pain, no gain”. But what does that actually mean? First of all it’s important to push yourself beyond your “comfort zone” otherwise you won’t increase muscle or stamina. In doing this you may feel out of breath or tired, however if you start to feel sharp pains then take these as a warning that something is wrong.

When you use your muscles more than you would normally on a day-to-day basis you’ll experience lactic acid and micro-tears which happens when your muscles are being built up.

If you’re having pain in you back, neck, knee joints amongst other symptoms you should always consult an expert. There could be a variety of reasons why you’re experiencing pain. Perhaps your technique is wrong or you are overdoing it. Alternatively you might have a medical problem that needs attention.

Warm Up and Stretching is Often Ignored

You need to ease yourself into any workout. First of all you need to warm up your blood and get your heart pumping by either running, rowing or cycling for 10 -15 minutes. After that you should spend about 10 – 15 minutes stretching.

Stretching is one of the areas most people ignore or don’t pay enough attention too. If you have tight muscles you can do yourself some serious injuries. Last year my mum had a personal trainer at the gym who tested all her muscles for flexibility and wouldn’t let her go onto any other exercises until she was suitably flexible.

Her trainer lent us a book called Sport Stretch: 311 Stretches for 41 Sportswhich as the title suggest has lots of stretching routines you can do for the various sports/exercises you do. If you follow the “all star” stretches then you will have stretched all the main muscles in your body.

If you have suffered an injury always take advice from an expert because if you start training too quickly you could do yourself even more damage!

If you’re new to exercising then get advice from a trainer to make sure you are doing all your exercises correctly. Some of the equipment at the gym can also be quite confusing to adjust so it’s always better to ask for help rather than struggle on your own.

Stay within your comfort zone as you gradually expand it. One of the foremost reasons people give up on workouts is injuries produced by working beyond their capacity. That makes working out no longer fun. Building up, while you build out, to increase your ability to do more, faster will keep you going for years to come.

Your health will thank you for exercising common sense, while you exercise your body.