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Archive for May, 2009

Find an Active Hobby

May 30th, 2009 No comments

What do you like to do? If the answer to that question is running and lifting weights, you might think this post doesn't apply to you, but it's beneficial for anyone to aquire an active hobby. Often the determining factor between someone who is in the shape they want to be and someone who is still struggling to lose a few pounds is the calories they burn without even trying to. Doing 30 minutes on the treadmill each day is great, but why follow it with four hours of vegging in front of the television. An hour or two spent doing an active hobby can burn as many or even more calories than that one short exercise session.

What I’m talking about is a hobby that burns calories, but not excessively so. An active hobby is something that is interesting. You might even find it relaxing. If you're lucky it'll also leave you with a sense of accomplishment. This time of year I find those qualities in gardening.

I enjoy walking the perimeter of my house and trying to remember which variety is planted where. Sometimes I can tell by sight, like with the thick spikes of a hosta or pineapple looking tops of Asiatic lilies, and sometimes I have to rely on my memory or photographs of the previous year to figure out what’s coming up where. I enjoy putting my brain to work recalling the names and characteristics of the plants in my garden. I put my body to work travelling to plant sales to find new varieties, digging up and separating plants that have grown too big and weeding and mulching to make sure the garden looks great all summer long. It's not usually strenuous work but I find it very rewarding and know it' doing its part in keeping me healthy and happy.

If I sound a little obsessed it’s because I am. I never think about burning calories or getting into shape when I spend hours each week in my garden, and that’s precisely why it’s such a great hobby. Deep down I know I am strengthening my muscles and bones but I’m so absorbed in my enjoyment of doing it that I never stop to think about it. No matter how much you enjoy running or resistance training there’s always the knowledge that it’s an activity done specifically to become more fit.

Find a hobby that incorporates fitness but puts other priorities ahead of it. Create beauty with a flower garden, produce food for your family with a vegetable patch, make time for your kids by volunteering to coach their soccer team. Those are just a few options, can I help it if my brain is stuck on foliage right now? I'm still looking for an active winter hobby, let me know if you've got any good suggestions.

My 10 Minute Mile

May 9th, 2009 No comments

Since I've decided this is the year to improve my long-distance running skills, I've been thinking a lot about speed issues. As it stands, I can run continuosly for 10 minutes. And using the word run is being pretty generous. It feels like more of a jog or possibly even a quick walk. I'm used to running fast and for very short periods of time. Sprinting has always been my preference, ever since I was 10 years old and bringing home ribbons from track and field. Back then, much like today, I was fairly impressive for short bursts of effort but completely miserable when it came to running more than half the school track.

So to find out how the speed of my new long-distance efforts measure up I again turned to the trusty Gmaps Pedometer website. Turns out the answer is pretty good. I marked the spot my run starts and the point where I consistantly give up and walk. Turns out that 10 minutes takes me to about .97 miles.

In other words I'm pretty darn close to a 10 minute mile and I'm sure next time out I can force those last few steps. There's not a whole lot of consensus on whether a 10-minute mile is all that fast. Some people are pumped when they reach it, while others consider it a starting point. Since I've already confessed my inabilities I'll go with being excited.

Next step, seeing if I can duplicate the results indoors on a treadmill with a one percent incline. That means 10 minutes at 6 MPH. I have a feeling I might not be so motivated when there's no destination. I'll let you know what happens.

What's your mile time?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Pole Dancing Out – Pole Walking In

May 7th, 2009 No comments

There's no denying that the acrobatics exhibited in pole dancing or strippercise classes will get you a toned, sexy body. But what about those women who don't possess the exhibitionist gene? Well they'll just have to exercise with a different sort of pole, or rather set of poles.

These poles are similar to the ones used for cross country skiing and the activity that's becoming more popular everyday is called pole walking, Nordic walking or any variety of other names used by companies selling their own brand of ergonomic walking sticks.

The premise is simple and effective. Using your upper body while walking engages more muscles and burns more calories, while not making you feel like you're working harder. The numbers being touted are 20 to almost 50 percent more calories burned while walking with poles. Pole walking is also said to be good for posture and balance, as well as being easy on joints. Basically it's beneficial for men and women of all ages and abilities.

Since most of the time I'm not that crazy about cardio I like the idea of doing more work and not feeling it. I also like that It would allow me to work my upper body aerobically without using a rowing machine (which I don't have access to) or gripping the moving handlebars on a cross trainer (which I find uncomfortable).

A coworker of mine just earned her Urban Polling certification (I neglected to mention there is a specific technique you have to use getting the most benefit) and will be leading classes so I'll check one out and let everyone know what I think. Anyone else hopped on the Nordic walking bandwagon yet?

Kentucky Grilled Chicken a Small Step in the Right Direction

May 6th, 2009 No comments

As you know the F in KFC stands for fried. But not anymore. Kentucky Fried Chicken is now offering a slow grilled alternative that has almost half the fat, sodium (although it's still high in sodium) and calories of the original fried recipe.

Sounds like a step in the right direction, but I just can't wrap my mind around the idea of KFC being a place to eat healthy. Hopefully when people are choosing the grilled chicken they also pick better sides and drinks, such as green beans and salad (not the ceaser) while skipping the almost 200 calorie options, which include mac & cheese, BBQ baked beans and of course the home-style biscuit.

Sure the chicken is grilled, but that won't matter if you complete your meal with 800 calories worth of sides and beverages.The garlic parmesan dipping sauce sounds delicious, but at 130 calories and 13 grams of fat it might not be the best idea.

Just for fun I tried out KFC's nutrition calculator (click on nutrition facts) to find out what it would take to put together a decent meal. It's a little time consuming and I can't help but wonder if this was intended. Only the truly motivated will stick around to see the results, and they are probably not the people who would be eating at a KFC anyways.

My meal: 1 grilled chicken breast, a side salad with low fat italian dressing, a small cob of corn (no butter) and the biscuit (8 grams of fat without adding butter). It comes in at just under 500 calories, which comparitively isn't bad. The 1640 mg of sodium is though - it's more than half of what the CDC considers to be the upper limit for sodium intake. It's above the limit for those with high blood pressure or over the age of 40.

The bottom line is if you already eat at KFC a grilled chicken meal is better than a fried one. But don't fool yourself into thinking it is a great choice. If you have the willpower to be around all those temping breads, side dishes, sauces and desserts without giving in and ordering them then a KFC grilled chicken meal every once in a while isn't going to hurt. If you often give in to temptation it's probably best to avoid this sort of place altogether.

The grilled chicken is only in U.S. locations right now so I've haven't had a chance to try it, let me know if you have and what you think about it.

Categories: nutrition and health Tags: ,

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Is it as Bad as they Say?

May 6th, 2009 No comments

If you know anything about corn syrup, it’s likely you know it’s not that good for you, although your taste buds may disagree. Here’s the condensed version of the full story:

For some time now popular opinion has been leaning towards pinpointing the consumption of high fructose corn syrup as a major cause of obesity. On the surface it makes sense. Just after this corn-based sweetener burst onto the scene as an ingredient in everything from soda to bread, people started gaining weight - and associated conditions such as diabetes. If corn syrup is not the direct cause of obesity, say some opponents, its initial low cost was a big contributor. With the arrival of corn syrup, sugary high-calorie foods could be priced lower and purchased more often.

More recently the Corn Refiners Association has been fighting back, claiming that since corn syrup is made from corn (the reason some consider it to be natural) and has the same amount of calories as sugar, it can’t possibly be as bad as people are making it out to be. (They also have on their side the fact that the FDA has ruled corn syrup safe to consume.)

Some researchers might disagree. As explained more fully in this Prevention Magazine article, studies have found links between diets high in fructose (which corn syrup is) and certain conditions associated with diabetes. Nothing conclusive, but enough to warrant further research. (As far as I know there have been no studies that show benefits of consuming high fructose corn syrup.)

So it seems high fructose corn syrup doesn’t have many redeeming qualities beyond its sugary flavour, but it also hasn’t been proven to be harmful. Maybe the lesson here is that rather than blindly trusting the information we’re given by scientists on either side of an argument, we should trust our own instincts. And if something is being touted as being “just as good” as something else, it’s helpful to consider what that “something else” is. If corn syrup is only as good as calorie-laden, nutrient poor sugar, should the comparison really make you think that it’s ok to eat more of it?

We all know there are better sweetener options out there than corn syrup and refined sugar. Honey and agave nectar are two natural alternatives to consider. But if we smother our food in honey it will still have a negative effect on our health and waistlines. So enjoy the sweetener you prefer, as long as you do it in moderation.

Categories: women's fitness Tags: ,