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September 2011

Simple Secrets to Keep Your Brain Young

Written on September 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm , by

Social activities—a great way to use your head. (Photo by Laura Doss)

How does your state’s “brain age” stack up? America’s Brain Health Index for 2011 was recently released, and many coastal states ranked highly on the scoring system which considered factors including physical, social, dietary and mental health and their impact on the mind. The top five:

  1. Maryland
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Washington
  4. Colorado
  5. Vermont
We spoke with Michael Roizen, M.D., who is an anesthesiologist, internist and co-founder of RealAge, Inc., to pick his brain about staying mentally young.

What can Americans do to improve their brain health?

Americans are getting heavier and more people are becoming Type 2 diabetics, which impedes longevity and mental health. But even those who are fit often take care of their bodies better than their brains. They don’t realize how simple choices affect brain health. There are simple tips on beautiful-minds.com that anyone can work into their lifestyle.

What do you do to keep your mind in peak condition?

I eat a lot of salmon and don’t smoke. I do have a lot of stress in my life, but try to manage that through physical activity and talking over stressful situations with friends and family.

I also like to multitask with activities that are good for my brain, like standing on one foot while flossing since balance is important and flossing helps with inflammation. Or I play ping pong with a friend to be social and active at the same time.

What can young people do now to keep their brains “fresh” throughout their long lives?

Channel your younger self by playing around! Join a sports league, do a crossword or play ping pong.

More from FITNESS:
Strength Train Your Brain

Steal Celebrity Chef Rocco DiSpirito’s Calorie-Cutting Tips

Written on September 27, 2011 at 11:26 am , by

FITNESS advisory board member DiSpirito's new book is available today. (Image courtesy of Grand Central Publishing)

Rocco DiSpirito has had one busy year. The James Beard Award-winning celebrity chef launched his Bravo reality show Rocco’s Dinner Party, released his Now Eat This! Diet cookbook in March and today his latest book, Now Eat This! 100 Quick Calorie Cuts goes on sale. The FITNESS advisory board member knows weight loss: He dropped 20 pounds training for a triathlon and has kept them off for more than two years.

We asked DiSpirito to share a few of his top tips that offer a taste of all that you can savor in his new book.

Get the Scoop
DIY frozen yogurt and ice cream bars are all the rage, but topping with reckless abandon can lead to a much heftier indulgence than you were expecting! Follow this cheat sheet from DiSpirito of goodies to resist and enjoy. (All calories based on 1/2-ounce scoop of toppings, except cinnamon.)

Shake Some Flavor

  • Resist: Chocolate sprinkles (64 calories)
  • Enjoy: Dash of cinnamon (0 calories)

Pour it On

  • Resist: Hot fudge topping (99 calories)
  • Enjoy: Fat-free fudge (40 calories)

Crush Creaming Cravings

  • Resist: Walnuts in syrup (127 calories)
  • Enjoy: Whipped topping (18 calories)

Get Fruity

  • Resist: Gummy bears (38 calories)
  • Enjoy: Blueberries or cherries (7 calories)

Tote Smart Snacks

We’ve all had those times when our stomachs rumble while we’re stranded far away from our well-stocked fridge and healthy snack stockpile. DiSpirito says that you can save cash and calories by carrying your own 100-calorie snacks rather than relying on store-bought ones (or a supersize cupcake from the bakery down the block). Some suggestions:

  • 12 to 15 almonds
  • 10 walnut halves
  • 2 cups reduced-fat popcorn
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 12 mini cheddar rice cakes
  • 10 baked corn chips
  • 1 Now Eat This! Diet Red Velvet Chocolate Square
  • 2 Now Eat This! Diet PBJ Cookies
Grab your whisks and preheat your ovens, because DiSpirito shared his chocolate square and cookie recipes!

Move It or Lose it! How to Motivate a Lazy Friend to Exercise

Written on September 27, 2011 at 7:00 am , by

It's true—team work makes the dream work! (Photo courtesy of Jay Sullivan)

You’ve found yourself a workout buddy; maybe you even joined a fitness meet-up group. The problem is your workout partner would rather lift a pint of ice cream than a set of dumbbells. Before you give up on her completely, try these tips to help spur her into action. After all, one of the biggest selling points of having an exercise buddy is to keep each other motivated!

  • A compliment goes a long way: Keep a friend motivated by acknowledging the hard work she’s putting into her fitness regimen. Let her know that she rocked it in class that evening; if she’s losing weight or has more energy in her step, make sure to tell her that she looks great; if she’s sticking to a new diet regimen, acknowledge that you’re proud that she’s sticking to her goals. These small compliments make a world of difference and can be the extra little step that keeps her from throwing in the towel.
  • Create an incentive program: All work and no play can be a real drag, so make sure to reward each other for your hard work. Together, set goals with your friend; once you meet them, make sure to celebrate in some small way. Your goal can be about weight loss, hitting the gym for a certain amount of days in a month, or being able to run an 8-minute mile for 30 minutes. Whether it’s celebrating with a healthy happy hour, pedicure, or those new pair of lululemon capris, give yourself an end prize for hitting the mark!
  • Be persistent and consistent: If you’ve got a friend teetering on always choosing a session on the couch over one on the treadmill, you are going to have to be the one to wear the pants in the relationship. While it may be a little annoying to do, persistence pays off for a lot of people. Be the one to initiate plans to work out together and keep it consistent — momentum is a driving force in maintaining any good fitness routine. While your friend may be ready to slack off for the day, a little push from you might be all she needs to grab her gym bag and go.

Read on for more tips to motivate your workout buddy.

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What’s For Dinner: The Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge

Written on September 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm , by

Looking for a quick spin on chicken to shake up a weeknight meal? Try Parmesan Crusted Chicken, the winning recipe of the first Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge, a series of cooking challenges to find the best mayo-enhanced chicken dish, hosted by celeb actor and dad Mark Consuelos (hubby to Kelly Ripa), Top Chef Masters’ chef Tim Love and lifestyle expert Sissy Biggers. We caught the showdown live to get a taste of the competition—and the chicken!

Chef Tim Love, actor Mark Consuelos and lifestyle expert Sissy Biggers each cooked up a chicken recipe. (Photo courtesy of Hellmann's)

As it turns out, mayo can be more than just a deli meat-topper or potato salad mix-in. Hellman’s pros suggest using light mayo in a recipe to keep chicken moist. Since it’s seasoned, you don’t have to add salt or pepper to the dish. And good news for the calorie counters: You don’t need to use a ton of it to get the flavor you’re after. The proof is in the taste, as all three recipes in the audience-judged competition, Parmesan, Chipotle Lime and BBQ Cheddar, were delicious.

Post-taste test, we caught up with Mark, who cooked the winning dish (recipe below!), to find out how he and Kelly stay fit and get dinner on the table for their busy family.

Do you and Kelly share the cooking duties at home?

Kelly does most of the cooking, but I do the grilling. Even when I do, she’s making five or six side dishes—different kinds of salads. The kids can be picky, but they love steak, burgers, halibut (we try to get them to eat a lot of fish) and of course, chicken. We always have plenty of vegetables to balance it out.

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Woman Walks Across the Country Just Because

Written on September 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm , by

Time for a walk! (Photo by Laura Doss)

I immediately thought about Forrest Gump when I heard about 24-year-old Catherine Li, who’s walking her way from Daly City, California to New York City with nothing but a Google Map and shopping cart to hold her tent, sleeping bag and other essentials. But that’s not the real shocker in her story: Li is making this 3,000-mile trek not for charity or media exposure, but just because she felt like it.

You read that right. She’s not asking for donations or sponsorships or even Tweeting about her journey. (Though she does have a cell phone with her to let others know she’s safe.) “I just felt like walking,” Li explained to PhillyBurbs.com. “I just decided to click over to living in the actual moment instead of inventing all these fantastic fantasies for the future.”

Kudos to her for going on this adventure and we’re glad she’s stayed safe and received kindness from the people she’s come across. (And we hope a spa is nice enough to offer this lady a free foot massage as soon as she’s done!) While I don’t think I’ll ever make this cross-country trip on foot, Li’s story was just the nudge I needed to lace up my sneakers this evening not because I need to put in miles for a training plan or compete in a race, but just because.

Now tell us: What do you think about Li’s cross-country expedition? And when was the last time you went for a walk or run just for kicks?

Staffer Race Recap: My PR at the Philadelphia Rock ‘N Roll Half-Marathon!

Written on September 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm , by

Doesn't a start like this inspire you to run? (Photo courtesy of Competitor Group, Inc.)

Last weekend in Philadelphia, I ran my first Rock ‘N Roll Half-Marathon (my fourth half-marathon race!). It was a perfect day weather-wise and I was psyched to be running on a new course. With my marathon training, long runs do get a little l-o-n-g when I’m running multiple loops around Central Park. (See our tips for marathon training blues if you’re training is getting a little ho-hum.) Although Central Park is one of my favorite places to be, with it’s many different fields and gardens making it feel like you’re not in the middle of Manhattan, I’d prefer variety on my runs so I never know what hill or turn is coming next.

The race through Philadelphia started at the “Rocky” steps (aka the popular Art Museum) and looped through the city for a few miles, then wrapped around the Schuylkill River and back to Rocky’s famous steps. Before heading into this race, I had the attitude that this wasn’t a race for me but another long run I’d be checking off my calendar of marathon training. However, being a competitive person that I am, lining up in the corrals, I knew I had to put my game face on.

Before marathon training began, I had always considered myself a 10-minute miler, running along in a nice, steady pace, not exerting myself too much so I could log the most miles. But since training, I’ve realized I can get my butt in gear and take things up a notch after all. I used to think that I’d burn out if I ever tried to go much faster than the 9- or 10-minute pace. This race really proved me wrong! I started out with a quick pace of 8:30-minute miles and kept that up, give or take 10 or 15 seconds, throughout the first 10 miles. Around the 10-mile marker, things always seem to go wrong for me. My somewhat injured right hip started aching, then pain in my knees said hello. I took it easy for another mile then realized where I was: Way below two hours, and if I kept at it or picked up the pace, I would actually finish with a PR of under two hours! And I did it, finishing with 1:58, a lovely two whole minutes to spare and 12 minutes knocked off my previous race record.

That's me! Proud to be a runner. (Photo courtesy of Competitor Group, Inc.)

The bad hip and bum knees have been addressed this week—doctor appointments for the hip, sessions with trainers at Equinox to strengthen my butt, and a lovely massage. I’m working my nutrition—Gus, Chomps, Gatorade—into my long run (18 miles!) this weekend to practice what I’ll do come race day.

Ten athletes qualified for the Olympic trials at this race, including New Zealand’s Kim Smith, who was the female champ and finished with a course and American-soil race record of 1:07:11; which is the fastest womens half-marathon time run in the USA…ever!

I interviewed Kim a few days after the race to find out what she wears, listens to, and what goal is next on her list!

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Music Monday: Be Your Best Self

Written on September 26, 2011 at 10:04 am , by

Listen to how awesome you are. (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Did you know that September is National Self-Improvement Month? Here at FITNESS, we believe everyone can always work on something to make themselves even more awesome, but you have to know how rad you are in the first place! Empowering music is huge in 2011, with artists giving us plenty of inspiring tunes to choose from as we get our sweat on. Check out our favorites below, then tell us what songs inspire you to become the best version of yourself!

More from FITNESS: Give your body confidence a boost with this playlist.

Fit Links: Cost-Saving Grocery Tips and Biggest Loser Insider News

Written on September 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm , by

Shop smart and save cash. (Photo by Jody Kivort)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

WebMD FIT: Your Tool to Raising Healthy Kids

Written on September 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm , by

A screenshot of the FIT Teens dashboard. (Photo courtesy of WebMD)

It’s not surprising that with parenthood come a lot of inevitable awkward conversations with your kids. But what might surprise you is in a recent study of parents ran by WebMD and Sanford Health, one in five parents admitted never talking about healthy weight with their kids, claiming the topic was the most uncomfortable above alcohol, drugs, and even sex.

What’s even more alarming is that childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, making this topic more important now than ever. More than 17 percent of kids between the ages of 2 to 18 years old are obese, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and with obesity rates rising in adults as well; it’s getting increasingly difficult to turn this scary stat around.

That’s where WebMD comes in. To help with those awkward conversations (or conversations that aren’t happening at all), the site has launched FIT – a guide to expand on the four pillars of health, including emotional fitness (Mood), nutrition (Food), physical activity (Move), and restorative fitness (Recharge). Through interactive tools, games, and articles, the site explains not only how to make simple changes that can improve your health but why it actually matters.

Click below to learn more about WebMD FIT.

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Fashion Diaries: Candy-Colored Denim

Written on September 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm , by

Fall is upon us and it seems like it is here to stay—in fact, today is the first official day of the season. You know what that means don’t you? Time to whip out your new fall purchases! If you are like me and have been patiently awaiting the arrival of the brisk breezes and cooler temperatures so that you could wear those new cords or that new wool dress, the time has finally arrived! Bring on the cable knit sweaters, riding boots, and of course, one of our favorite 2011 fall trends, candy-colored denim.

Spicing up your wardrobe with jeans in a variety of colors like purple, cobalt blue, yellow, orange, red and pink, can be a great way to make a bold statement. Our favorite way to wear colored denim: Pair them with a solid color top (bright blue top with red jeans, hot pink top with green jeans, purple top with yellow jeans), a skinny belt (printed or bright colors add for a dramatic effect), and either fun booties or flats. And of course some killer confidence. You can’t wear brightly colored jeans and not have some attitude!

Here are some of our favorite styles:

From left to right: Mother jeans, $200, net-a-porter.com. J Brand jeans, $175, net-a-porter.com. Current/Elliott jeans, $170, net-a-porter.com. Topshop jeans, $76, topshop.com. Ksubi jeans, $170, net-a-porter.com.