Friday, June 26, 2015

The Incredible Calorie-Burning Power of Housekeeping

Lots of folks love the camaraderie of working out in a gym, where they’re surrounded by their fellow stay-fit warriors. But if you’re not that social by nature, you don’t care for formal workout routines — or you simply don’t have the time or money to squander on a health club membership — don’t fret: Just by performing routine chores around the old homestead, you can easily burn enough calories to keep weight gain at bay and your muscles toned to boot. Here’s a handful of examples:

Digging in your yard burns about 630 calories per hour, in addition to toning the muscles in your calves, thighs, arms, and shoulders. Plus, if you go at it vigorously for 20 minutes or more, you can increase your heart rate and strengthen your cardiovascular system at the same time.

Raking leaves for an hour can burn 450 calories, and the resistance offered by the leaves helps tone all the major muscle groups in your body.

Scrubbing the bathroom burns 400 calories an hour and tones your arm and shoulder muscles.

Sweeping and mopping a floor burns about 240 calories an hour and gives you a great upper- and lower-body workout.

Washing the car burns 286 calories an hour and helps tone your arms and abdominal muscles.

The exact number of calories a person burns during any activity varies greatly, depending on gender, age, weight, and individual metabolism. An Internet search for “calorie burn calculator” will bring up scads of sites where you can type in your vital stats and learn how many calories you’ll expend on common chores, ranging from loading your dishwasher to washing your dog, as well as more athletic endeavors such as swimming, dancing, and hitting the rowing machine at the health club. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Are You Asking for Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis, and it results from either injury or wear and tear on your joints. If your hips or knees ache when you climb out of bed in the morning, and you were a jock or a dancer in high school or college, it’s all but guaranteed that OA is the culprit.

But you don’t have to be a hung-ho athlete to put yourself at high risk for developing OA. There could be potent dangers lurking in your everyday routine. Like these, for example:

The shoes you wear. If you opt for high heels day in and day out — whether they’re pencil-thin stilettos or chunkier versions — you’re all but begging for OA in your knees. Plus, high-heeled shoes (or boots) that are pointy or tight can also lead to arthritis of the toes. Wearing dress-up pumps on special occasions isn’t likely to cause damage, but for daily wear, choose footgear with ample toe room and sturdy heels that are no more than 1 to 2 inches high.

The loads you tote. Walking with heavy bags in your hands, with your arms stretched downward, puts an undue strain on shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers. So when your shopping haul weighs any more than a couple of pounds, cradle the bag in both arms, or use one or two long-handled canvas sacks slung over your shoulder(s).

The pounds you pack. Obesity is the leading cause of OA because excess weight puts enormous stress on your knees and hips. Shedding just 10 pounds eases the stress on each knee by a full 40 pounds!

The moves you don’t make. Couch potatoes are prime targets for OA. Even if you’re not overweight, regular physical activity is a must for strengthening the muscles that support your joints — and keeping the joints themselves flexible. But there is one caveat: Running, especially on hard pavement, is murder on your knees. So opt for more easygoing activities, such as walking, yoga, or even bowling. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Don’t Drag the Demons through the Door!

On average, an astonishing 85 percent of household dirt is tracked in from outdoors, primarily on your shoes and your pets’ paws. And that crud includes just about every kind of noxious substance you can name, from viruses and bacteria to mold spores, pesticides, animal waste, insect eggs, construction debris, and even heavy metals. The list goes on. The good news is that while you can’t avoid picking up a little bit of everything from the surfaces you walk on, these three simple ploys will help you keep most of that stuff outside:

Ploy #1: Leave your shoes at the door, and have everyone else in your family do the same. What you do once you’re inside is your call. You can walk around barefoot or in your stocking feet, as many folks like to do, or trade your outdoor footgear for versions you keep for indoor use only. Likewise, you can decide whether to extend the shoes-off demand to visitors, or simply have them comply with Ploy #3 below.

Ploy #2: Wipe your dog’s paws thoroughly after every outing, preferably using a glove or mitt that’s specially designed for the purpose. (You can find them in pet-supply shops, both online and in brick-and-mortar versions; just do a quick search for “paw cleaning gloves.”) And if you know the pup has been walking on a toxic surface—for instance, a lawn that’s been treated with pesticides—give his paws a soak in a povidone iodine bath.

Ploy #3: Invest in a high-quality doormat for every exterior entrance in your home. Make sure it’s the kind specially designed to trap and retain dust, dirt, and water. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

4 Shocking Causes of Asthma

Breathing is something that most of us take for granted. But for folks with asthma, the simple act of inhaling is a constant struggle. And the ranks of those who wage this battle are on the rise — over the past 25 years, asthma rates have quadrupled and the number of deaths from asthma attacks has doubled.

About three-fifths of all asthma cases are hereditary. And while no one knows for sure what triggers attacks in folks whose genes do not predispose them to the condition, natural health practitioners point their fingers at these four factors:

The modern American diet (MAD) and its two ugly offspring: chronic inflammation, which causes your airways to swell up and become clogged with mucus, and nutritional deficiencies, which make you more prone to diseases of all kinds, including asthma.

An overload of chemicals in our food, water, and air — indoors and out — that both weaken your immune system and throw your hormones out of balance.

Increasing levels of allergens, such as mold, mildew, and toxin-bearing dust mites in homes and offices.

A tidal wave of tension, anxiety, and stress, all of which contribute to or worsen every health problem under the sun.

Studies have found that a chemical called limonene, which is found in the rinds of all citrus fruits, can provide potent protection against obstructions in your bronchial tubes. Here’s how to put this a-peeling healer to use:
  1. Sniff it. Fold a piece of peel between your fingers, and squeeze it. Then slowly inhale the refreshing aroma.
  2. Eat it. Add freshly grated lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, or tangerine peels to stir-fries, salad dressings, baked good, and rice. Or top your toast, bagels, and muffins with marmalade.

Bathe in it. Stuff cheesecloth bags or panty hose feet with crushed citrus peels, and toss them into your bathwater. Whatever you do, though, never put loose rinds — or any other solid material — in the tub, or your cleared up wind pipes will come at the expense of clogged-up drain pipes!

Friday, May 29, 2015

3 Slick Tricks for Pulverizing Neck Pain

Got a pain in the neck that just won’t quit? This trio of simple actions will put you on the fast track to freedom from distress:

Practice the complete breath. This yoga exercise opens up airways and is a surefire way to relax and soothe the sore muscles in your neck. Visit the American Yoga Association's website  for the how-to.

Keep your work at eye level. Looking down or reaching up for long periods of time is guaranteed to give you a sore neck. Adjust the height of your desk, chair, or computer monitor so that you’re looking straight at the screen. If you do a lot of reaching up — for instance, to pull supplies from shelves — use a stool, stepladder, or elevated platform to bring you even with your targets.

Change your habits. Poor posture puts a huge strain on neck muscles. So do seemingly innocent activities, such as washing your hair in the sink, cradling a phone receiver between your ear and your shoulder, or falling asleep in a chair and winding up with your head at an awkward angle. Identify and change behavior patterns that keep your neck in unnatural positions for any length of time. And for Pete’s sake, do what your mother (or your drill sergeant) always told you: Stand — and sit — up straight!

While it’s true that most neck pain is the direct result of stress and muscle tension, it can be a sign of far more serious trouble. Make a mad dash to the ER in any of these instances:
  • The problem was caused by a fall or other accident.
  • The pain radiates down your arms and legs.
  • Your neck discomfort is accompanied by a headache, numbness, tingling, or weakness.
  • Your vision is disturbed in any way.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Congestion = DWI?

If you think a head cold is just a nuisance, think again. Recent research shows that driving when you have a cold is just a dangerous as driving when you’re drunk. That’s because common head cold symptoms reduce your reaction time to the same level as drinking four beers. But that’s not all! Consider these findings from a study at Cardiff University in Wales:
  • A cold or similar minor malady reduces your overall alertness by one-third.
  • Under-the-weather drivers tend to follow cars more closely than they should and take longer to stop.
  • A single sneeze takes your eyes off the road for up to three seconds. That’s long enough to travel more than 300 feet at highway speed or breeze through a stop sign on a local road.

And that doesn’t take into account any meds you may be taking that make you drowsy, woozy, or light-headed. So do yourself and your fellow motorists a favor: When you’re feeling under the weather, stay home — or at least have someone else take the wheel. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

10 Steps to a Stronger Immune System

Nothing short of sealing yourself up in a bubble can keep you germ-free. But you can make yourself a less likely target for infectious diseases — and better your chances of making a complete recovery when you do fall sick with anything from a common cold to strep throat, or even hepatitis. How? By building and maintaining a robust immune system. Here’s your to-do list:

Stop smoking! Of all the ways to suppress your immune system, smoking tops the list. One example: Smokers get the flu more often — and are more likely to die from it — than nonsmokers are.

Toss the toxins. Limit your exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, chemical pesticides, and secondhand smoke. They can severely compromise your immune system, and may contribute to life-threatening autoimmune diseases.

Sleep tight. Too little or poor-quality sleep impairs overall immune system function and reduces the number of germ-killing cells in your body.

De-stress. Chronic stress causes a measurable downturn in your system’s ability to fight off or recover from diseases.

Get happy. Even mild sadness can weaken your immune system, and the more negative and pessimistic you are, the more likely you are to get sick. Cheerful, optimistic souls have an army of battle-ready, infection-fighting T cells in their bodies.

Get a move on. A recent study compared people who took almost-daily brisk walks to folks who were inactive. The non-walkers took twice as many sick days as their strolling counterparts.

Pal around. The more human connections you have, and the more you get out and about, the better you can fight off illnesses.

Eat well. Good nutrition strengthens your immune system. Poor food choices are major immunity busters.

Yuk it up. Laughter decreases stress hormones and raises your supply of immune-boosting hormones and endorphins.

Limit antibiotics. While they are sometimes necessary, they can suppress your immune system and make you more likely to become sick again.