Wednesday, June 6, 2018

High-Intensity of Low-Intensity Aerobic Exercise?

What is the Difference Between High and Low-Intensity Exercise?
  • Low-intensity cardiovascular exercise (40-50% VO2max) burns fewer total calories but a higher percentage of fat calories than high-intensity exercise performed for the same amount of time
  • High-intensity cardiovascular exercise (60-80% VO2max) burns more total calories in less time and a smaller percenmtage of fat calories than low-intensity exercise
  • With the goal of body fat loss, higher-intensity exercise yields the same results as lower-intensity exercise, but in a shorter period of time
Guidelines for Cardiovascular Intensity
  • Beginning exercisers should begin at approximately 50-60% of their maximum heart rate
  • Once you adapt to an exercise intensity level, it is beneficial to increase your workout intensity. Changing the intensity and/or duration of your aerobic workout every two weeks to helps you avoid plateaus.
  • A coach or trainer can work with you to design an aerobic routine that incorporates interval training to improve stamina, intensity, and ability to burn fat.

At extremely high intensities, less fat is burned during exercise than lower intensities, but because of the afterburn effect, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), more fat is burned as a result. Very little afterburn takes place following low-intensity exercise.

Bottom Line
If your goal is to lose body fat, higher-intensity exercise yields the same results as lower-intensity exercise, but in a shorter period of time. In order to keep progressing, you should switch up the mode and/or intensity of aerobic training every two to three weeks.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Putting Probiotics to the Test

Beneficial gut bacteria help digest and extract nutrients from everything we eat, and they can crowd out the bad-guy bacteria that make us sick. That's the big idea behind the shelf full of "probiotic" supplements at our local pharmacy or grocery store. Manufacturers claim that these products contain billions of live bacteria and they are often recommended for relief from gastrointestinal problems. But do the supplements actually contain what the labels promise, and how do they compare to fermented foods, like kombucha or miso soup, which are also teeming with microbes?

Researchers from my alma mater, Boston University, recently looked into just this question. After purchasing several drugstore probiotics, they cracked open the pills, diluted the bacterial powder stuffed inside, and dabbed the mix onto petri dishes to see what would grow. "The numbers from our methods have been a little lower than what's claimed on the box, but there are definitely living bacteria in there."
The researchers then tested the probiotic pills against popular fermented rinks that naturally contain good bacteria: miso soup, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha. The results looked very different from the over-the-counter probiotics. While the bacteria from the pills colonized tidy white circles, the dishes plated with fermented foods bloomed in colorful, disorderly splotches. It’s already clear that the foods have greater bacterial diversity than the over-the-counter probiotics.


“A healthy collection of gut bacteria is not one type of bacteria. It’s many types of bacteria, so there could be potential health benefits of having more variety."

Ultimately, the hope is that the research will help doctors and consumers make more informed choices about over-the-counter and food-based probiotics. And while you should always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement, especially if you’re seriously ill or have a weakened immune system, it typically can’t hurt to give probiotics a try. I would recommend the natural probiotics found in yogurt, kombucha, or apple cider vinegar, but the capsule variety are also good.

Full Article

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Practice Intuitive Eating

The correlation between obesity and chronic disease is well established. For decades, efforts to fight chronic disease have focused primarily on obesity--encouraging dieting as the best way to lose weight. Despite a thriving weight loss industry, we haven't seen significant improvements in rates of chronic disease.

Weight-cycling, losing weight and later regaining it, is often see with many diets. Eating less that the body needs triggers endocrine system changes that promote weight regain, reducing satiety after eating and increasing hunger. In addition, dieters develop a lower resting energy expenditure.

An emerging paradigm in health promotion is putting more of a focus on weight neutrality. People who are classified as obese can improve their metabolic fitness and reduce their risk of chronic disease by eating more nutritious meals and increasing physical activity--independent of changes in weight. Research on this weight neutral approach to chronic-disease management actually shows substantially higher overall weight loss retention than dieting.

Intuitive eating encourages internal regulation of the eating experience. Try to apply these key concepts to encourage more mindfulness and enjoyment of your eating experience

Restore Body Trust
Dieting enforces strict rules based on external cues. In contrast, intuitive eating restores a sense of body trust. Respecting your internal hunger cues and fullness cues is key to intuitive eating. While diets say wait for the next planned mealtime, intuitive eating says show yourself compassion by feeding yourself when it feels physically necessary.

Make Peace with Food
Rather than labeling high-calorie, low-nutrition foods as "bad," intuitive eating encourages a neutral perspective on the moral value of foods. Letting go of self- and diet-imposed judgments of foods can help heal our relationships with food.

Address Emotional Eating
We often get temporary emotional relief from eating, followed by a realization that our problem remains. Intuitive eating encourages us to show ourselves compassion by entertaining a solution that is unrelated to food and that directly addresses our emotional challenges.

Full Article

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Green Exercise Benefits

Running through the forest. Cycling through your neighborhood park. Walk­ing alongside a river. To most people, “green exercise”—intentionally being physically active in natural environments—feels good, and growing research evidence confirms its benefits.

Defining Green Exercise
Green exercise is any form of physical activity that takes place in urban green spaces like city parks and campuses maintained by people or in natural green spaces with minimal human upkeep.

What the Research Says
Study findings on green exercise speak loudly: The advantages of exercising in healthy, natural environments go beyond the benefits of exercising in synthetic indoor locations. Green exercise delivers physical, mental and even spiritual rewards and has positive effects on health, well-being and athletic performance. Being active in nature has many advantages compared with doing the same activity inside or on city streets:
  • more stress relief
  • clearer thinking
  • improved attention and concentration
  • enhanced mood and more happiness
  • less anxiety
  • greater self-confidence
  • more vitality
  • more feelings of being refreshed
  • reduced pain sensations
  • less fatigue for the same amount of physical work
  • improved quantity and quality of nighttime sleep
  • enhanced mindfulness or present-moment awareness
Underlying Mechanisms
The theory that exposure to nature is in itself beneficial to people is bolstered by studies that show that viewing videos of nature scenes, having indoor foliage or flowers, seeing nature through a hospital room window, or simply having green classroom walls boosts mental and physical well-being and performance.

Ready to Take It Outdoors?
With an understanding of current green-exercise research, we’re reminded that being active in nature is restorative to brain, body and spirit. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul,” said environmentalist John Muir.
Perhaps it’s time to take some barefoot walks in the grass.

Full Article

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Creating Healthy Habits

Creating and sustaining new habits can be difficult. Let's look into the anatomy of a habit and some strategies to create new behaviors.

Anatomy of a Habit
A habit is more than just a repetitive behavior, but rather a construction of three sequential components that make up the habit loop: the cue, the behavior, and the reward.

Cue: an environmental or internal trigger that provokes us to learn a behavior. An example of an environmental trigger is placing a foam roller next to your shoes, which triggers you to do self-massage prior to running.

Behavior: the actual routine we commonly associate with the habit.

Reward: makes the behavior stick. The "high" runners feel after a 6-mile run is enough to make them want to repeat the experience.

Establishing New Habits
1. Establish goals and milestones: Habit formation varies greatly from person to person and can take as long as 66 days. It's a long process that requires consistent implementation. If you have an ambitious goal like losing 60 pounds, it's important to divide it into smaller, less daunting and more realistic outcomes.

2. Identify motivational factors: Intrinsic motivation involves doing an activity for the inherent satisfaction rather than for a separable consequence. For example, losing weight for long term health outcomes rather than an upcoming wedding. Focusing on your intrinsic motivation tends to lead to results which last longer.

3. Pick a goal-oriented behavior: While it might seem appealing to make a lot of changes at once, focusing on one habit at a time may lead to greater success.

4. Create the cue and reward: Once you've selected a behavior, choose a cue that will trigger it. For example, if you opt to drink 2 cups of water before every meal, consider setting a reminder alarm or keeping a water bottle next to the computer screen. Then select a reward to reinforce the behavior.

5. Eliminate disruptors: If you can identify disruptors, you can overcome pitfalls before they occur. For example, if not having water readily available disrupts the behavior of drinking 2 cups before every meal, purchase a water bottle that's easy to fill and transport.

6. Follow up: Hold yourself accountable to the new behavior.
--The Power of Habit: Charles Duhigg

Have you had success with creating new habits? What strategies worked for you?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

New Blood Pressure Guidelines

New guidelines on high blood pressure made headlines late last year because they suggest that nearly half of all Americans have hypertension--up from about one-third under previous guidelines. The guidelines were updated because so many authoritative studies show a strong association between high blood pressure and serious health risks, such as high cholesterol, kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease. More than half of deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke happen to people with hypertension.

Blood Pressure and Aging
High blood pressure tends to worsen with age. Aging populations are more prone to "isolated high systolic blood pressure," where systolic pressure is elevated but diastolic pressure is not.

How Exercise Affects Blood Pressure
Increasing physical activity and fitness--even by small amounts--reduces blood pressure and hypertension. Both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training can reduce blood pressure. The guidelines recommend cardio (90-150 minutes/week) plus resistance training (90-150 minutes/week).

Diet and Hypertension
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can help reduce blood pressure. DASH encourages people to consume less sodium, saturated fat, total fat, and alcohol and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

Full Article

What blood pressure category are you in? Have you had success in decreasing your blood pressure with exercise or diet?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fruit and Vegetable Storage Tips

A common difficulty in eating and preparing more fruits and vegetables is that vegetables and fruits tend to spoil quickly. I'd like to share some tips on how to keep them fresher longer. I'll use my CSA box as an example.

The vegetables when they first arrive:

I remove the greens and line several large containers with paper towels.

Then, I store bulbs and greens in separate containers or bags with another paper towel over top.

My CSA subscription is through Farm Fresh to You. You can customise your box and control the delivery frequency. I receive a box every other week and it is $33/box. I like getting vegetables this way because it increases their diversity and holds me accountable to consume the box before the next one arrives. There are also recipes on their website if you need help cooking things like celery root. If you'd like to sign up, use my promo code VIKT2992 and save $15 off your first box.