Do You Love Dogs More Than People?

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Painting by Holly Hunter Berry (Excellent teacher & Artist!)

I believe many people love their dogs, not only more than humans, but more than their families and themselves. How so? you wonder. Most people are willing to make sure there dog gets walked or gets time outside. They are also careful to make sure that their dogs get the right kind of food. They are willing to do all of this for their dog, but not themselves.

Daily activity, daily exercise, is THE most important thing we can do for ourselves. I’ve posted before that exercise reduces risk of cancer (bowel 50%, breast 30-40%), reduces heart disease, diabetes, depression, and helps with several other problems as well. I haven’t even touched the reason most people do exercise–body image. Yet, we don’t do what is needed to take care of ourselves.

I think most people would say that animals are important. We love our pets. HOWEVER, I think most people would also say that when push comes to shove, we need to value humans more. Why then, do we not value our own health and take care of it at least as much as we do our pets’?

The Barre

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It has been a while since I posted. What have I been up to? Well, I’ve been getting ready to move. While I have been ready to pack, I have still exercised but it is taking me extra motivation. That motivation has come in taking a variety of classes at different locations.

Two of the places I have tried is Pure Barre and Define (Define Body class). Both are exercises that use a ballet barre. These classes are combinations of ballet, pilates, and yoga. There isn’t much cardio; however, I think if you took heart rates, you would get a mild cardio workout for at least thirty minutes (based on my own experience, it would drop too low to be considered cardio once you sit on the floor).

The two locations were very different in appearance but surprisingly similar in practice. They start with a warm up of walking in place (except more dancer like), weights for the upper body, deep squat/barre exercises for the legs, and lastly, ab work.

Based on my experience and speaking with other clients, Pure Barre had a much more defined sequence. The people at Define seem to vary the exercises slightly more. And this may not be the case elsewhere in the country, but Pure Barre had a dark, moody dance studio feel; whereas, Define had a bright room in front of the building with barres set in the middle of the floor as well as the sides. (But Define did also have a dark and moody cycle/revolution studio.)

Both classes gave me shake inducing strengthening (more muscular endurance than muscular strength which I have been recently focusing on). So, I would recommend these classes for someone who has been doing traditional weights and wants to get the connecting muscles to the ones you normally work–you know, those places that you say, “I’m feeling muscles I didn’t know I had.”

Oh, and it is fun to say that you are going to “The Barre” in the morning.

Preventing Alzheimer’s

Share Preventing Alzheimer'sYou can reduce the chances that you will Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is not all due to chance and heredity. Check out the areas that you can work on to reduce your risks by up to 30% (according to this BBC article):

  • Diabetes
  • Mid-life hypertension
  • Mid-life obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Low educational attainment

Except for the last 2, all correspond to diet/nutrition & exercise. Diabetes- exercise helps MORE than food in leveling off blood glucose levels. Hypertension: Less salt & more exercise. Obesity…yup the same things. Oh, and exercise helps reduce depression as much or more than medication. Hmmm, if we meet these standards, then physical inactivity shouldn’t be a problem.

Forgive me for being flippant. I know it isn’t as easy breezy as I make it seem, but my point is that we keep coming back to the same things. It is time to take control of the ways that we damage our bodies by feeding them nutritionally-lacking foods and by being inactive. Nutrition and exercise are not only important for your waistline, it affects your health in ways that cannot be made up by popping a few pills.

Have doubts? Another article by NPR stated that one of the ways they can watch the risks of if people have dementia is their slowed walking pace.

Just Thinking About the Gym May Get You There

Share Memories of Running may Get You Running Again

Circa 1950
Photo courtesy of Flickr/GovernmentPressOffice

Remembering an exercise experience may be enough to get you to exercise again. And it doesn’t have to be a positive memory. A new study asked students to recall a memory of an activity, and then, they tracked how much the students actually exercised thereafter.

While those recalling a positive memory exercised more than those who recalled a negative memory, those with a negative memory still exercised more than the control group. So, even thinking about a negative experience exercising might be enough motivation to go out there and try again.

Maybe this is why people who participate in races (running, triathlons, even color runs), stick to exercising more? Besides having fun and having goals, it is something to remember. Having an event like that might make you think about that “exercise memory” more often.

Just my theory, what do you think?

The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick

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The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick is written by Gene Stone. It is an easy, fun read although if you are already knowledgeable about healthy habits, then it may contain much new material. For example, exercise was one of the top secrets listed and includes running, lifting weights, yoga, and stretching. A few others that I completely agree with are PH balance (eating a low-acid diet), taking probiotics, and doing detoxes. Even garlic and  chicken soup made the list.

Another one that you might know a bit about is napping. But did you know that there is an optimal time? The author says 1-3 hours, with 90 minutes being perfect because balancing the stages of sleep. Stone cites a study that says people who napped 90 minutes scored better on a test, but those who did night-cramming decreased their ability to learn by 40% because areas of the brain shut down. Warn those college students!

I had seen nutritional yeast mentioned in recipes before, but I don’t think I had seen the nutritional benefits laid out: low in fat, starch, and sugar because it is mostly protein. It is contains B vitamins and trace minerals.

Some others for me to mention although I kind of took these with a shrug because while they might be true, achieving them is not as simple a prescription: see friends, spirituality, less stress, and a positive attitude.

The Truth about Yoga & Metabolism

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Photo by Mary Matte @cucumberprints

The simple truth is that multiple studies have shown that yoga reduces base metabolism. But is that all the truth? On the flip side, almost every study done on weight loss has shown that yoga is effective for weight management. That is probably the key feature you have been searching for. But what does this mixed data suggest?

Overall, yoga is a low intensity exercise. No, this doesn’t mean it is an easy exercise, but it does mean that the heart rate doesn’t get as high as in many traditional exercises. Most studies have determined that the highest heart rate tends to be that of a brisk walk. (One exception to this was found by practitioners practicing Surya Namaskar wearing heart rate monitors; however, they were told to exercise up to a particular heart rate range vs. seeing the heart rate range while doing yoga already planned.) This also means it is burning less calories than you think.

Yoga is keeping the heart rate low, but gaining flexibility and strength. Yoga has also been proven to be extremely efficient at reducing lipids in the blood stream (for diabetes) and blood pressure. Lots of good benefits!

Some studies studying weight loss have suggested that yoga helps to manage the appetite as well. Unlike other exercises where people want to go and eat a lot of calories afterwards, with yoga bringing awareness to the body, people are more aware and making better choices when they are eating. Another suggestion is that the muscle build helps to burn calories over extended durations of time and practice.

My best suggestion: Yoga can and should be a piece of the program for health and weight loss, but you want to try to make sure you get 3-4 days a week of cardio in too. (If you are viewing this page as a runner, cyclist, or triathlete, keep it up & add yoga for its added benefits. It will also keep you limber & less likely to lead to injury.)

Exercise: How it helps when you’re depressed


Please enjoy my guest post this week from Dr. Zita Weber on how exercise helps depression. (To any of my previous students, remember, I always told you that studies have shown exercise helps as much as medication.) Exercise helps depression

Photo from Flickr/canonsnapper

Researchers tell us that exercise is an important value-added part of a daily well-being.  Exercise works for both our physical and mental well-being. In fact, exercise has been found to release endorphins, which are considered natural opiates.  So, after we’ve exercised, we feel a sense of well-being.

The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon or climb a mountain to get the benefits of exercise.  Any regular physical activity that raises your pulse rate and makes you puff a little is adequate exercise.  Whatever exercise you choose, you must do it regularly to get the physical and mental fitness benefits.  Twenty minutes on each occasion is good, and an hour is ideal.

Think about going for a brisk walk or doing a yoga or gym class or perhaps going for a swim.  It’s important to find some form of exercise that suits your temperament and time because if you’re not going to enjoy the activity, you’ll soon give up on the exercise resolution!

Getting – and staying motivated

The key to getting the most out of exercise is to make it a regular part of your life.  It should be a kind of routine thing that you do and doesn’t seem like another chore in your life.  When you’re feeling depressed, it’s sometimes difficult to start new activities, however helpful you’ve been told – or know – they are.

How you can get started

  • Making plans to begin an exercise program is a good first step
  • Plan to do your nominated activity at least three times a week
  • Tell a trusted friend about your plans and ask for their support
  • Join an established yoga or gym class to feel part of a community of people committed to their well-being

Plan an activity that you enjoy – walking, cycling, swimming playing tennis, surfing – the list is endless.  It’s always easier to stick to an exercise regime which gives you pleasure – and that natural high.

Remember, when you find your resolve slipping and you feel low and don’t have the energy to follow-through on your commitment, call on that trusted friend to provide support and encouragement.  Positive nudges from people you know and trust can help you to remain committed to your plan to exercise regularly. Exercise helps depression

Photo from Flickr/miamifitnesstv

Embrace unexpected exercise

You’ll feel better if you feel in control of your fitness and energy levels.  Sometimes you can exercise unexpectedly – so go on, embrace those times!  How about taking your walking shoes to work so that you can go for a walk with colleagues at lunchtime?  Why not keep your swimming gear and towel in your car, because you never know when the opportunity to go for a swim will arise.  Use the stairs instead of the lift at work every other day and remember to park your car a little further away from the entrance to the shopping mall.

To learn about more strategies to deal with depression, see Losing the 21st Century Blues


Zita Weber, Ph.D. is an author and honorary academic, and has worked as a counsellor and therapist with individuals, couples and families.  She has researched and written about communication, anxiety, stress, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief.  More information about her work and books can be found at:

Prescribing Healthy Living

Share Prescribing Healthy LivingLast week I discussed how New York doctors can prescribe fruits and veggies in the latest effort to get people healthier. Their efforts have also included nutrition labeling requirements at restaurants and limits on soft drink beverage sizes.

This week, I want to put highlight some of the ideas from my students in Human Services:

Hilda G. recommends a legal requirement to have a 24″ x 36″ poster in every doctor’s waiting room called “A Patient’s Way to Healthy Living” that will have at least 4 different approaches to health, including asking your doctor for a natural alternative to your health plan. She recommends that it be implemented by an independent board of 30% general practitioners, 20% specialists, 20% holistic doctors, and 30% fitness specialists.

Lynna M. asks that doctors be required to have an education requirement on alternative medicine. She also wants all Medicaid facilities to use alternative methods first. (She hopes there will be a financial incentive because this treatment may be less expensive and will help to involve patients directly in their care.) To make this work, she says there needs to be access to healthy foods on food stamps (like Boston Bounty Bucks).

Lisa T. wants to require that doctors’ CEUs come equally from healthy living as from drugs/pharmaceuticals.

Leona R. suggests a tax break to insurance companies that promote good health. Insurance companies to offer incentives to healthy patients and those that eat healthy and exercise to eliminate or minimize medication. Again, she believes that there should be a limit on junk food that comes from governmental assistance.

fit2aA previous group in my class also suggested that insurance companies have a strong financial incentive to push doctors to emphasize nutrition and exercise as part of their treatment. Insurance companies could host more CEUs on alternative medicine for doctors as well.

If you want to see more from my students, check out  This is a wiki my class collaborated on Fall 2012.