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Bethany Cianciolo

A New Fitness Band That’ll Shock You…Literally

Written on July 24, 2014 at 9:53 am , by

With more and more specialized gyms popping up around the country, and weight-loss guides sprawling across the shelves in just about every bookstore, trimming down is no longer a secret, and giving up is no longer a solution. Yet even with an abundance of tools and information, more than 25 percent of Americans still don’t exercise willingly, according to the CDC’s State Indicator Report on Physical Activity. Two words: Mind. Boggling.

While we won’t try to understand the laziness phenomenon that refuses to leave our country, we can guess that it’s why a new do-it-all fitness band is about to be released. And it’s so on top of making sure you achieve your goals, it’ll shock you—literally.

Set to release in 2015, Pavlok rewards you when you accomplish a goal and punishes you when you don’t (enter: shock factor). As of now, you can use the Pavlok app to choose from three goals: wake up earlier with the EarlyRiser alarm clock that shocks you when you hit snooze; increase productivity with Pavlok Focus, which will buzz, beep and eventually shock if you have too many tabs open on your computer (studies show too much multitasking doesn’t do you any good in the long run); or increase your gym time with Pavlok Fit, which tracks your sleep and activity levels.

“We’re not just trying to track data,” says Pavlok co-founder and CEO Maneesh Sethi. “What we’re trying to do is take data that other people are tracking and use that information in order to help close the loop and change the behavior.”

Sethi says he and the team will eventually create a wider selection of goals for users to choose from. They’re also working to create a money pot where users can win money when they go to the gym, for example, and lose money when they don’t, much like a few other apps we love. But to take it a step further, if you fail to hit the gym, you might get a nice little post on your Facebook wall that tells all your friends you didn’t go. Ouch.

The Pavlok app will initially be available on iOS, and the team hopes to have it working on Android devices by the end of the year. You can order a prototype now for $50, or wait for the final bands to be released, which will range between $149 and $229.

Image courtesy of Pavlok

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Make It Happen: Solutions to Common Fitness Obstacles

Bad News for New Moms: Could Interrupted Sleep Be As Bad As No Sleep At All?

Written on July 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm , by

When groggy mornings and frantic coffee runs become staples in your daily routine, followed by nights of constant wake-up calls to change diapers or give feedings, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your sleep patterns. Or just say hello to motherhood with a newborn. While we know not sleeping well negatively affects your mood (there’s a reason these signs exist) and brain’s ability to function, what’s more alarming is that a new study found that several nights of interrupted sleep might be just as harmful as not getting any.

Before you panic, moms, keep reading. We spoke with clinical psychologist Michael Breus, Ph.D., who says that although disrupted sleep definitely has an effect on you the next day, it’s not going to ruin your life in the long run.

“Some sleep is still better than no sleep, but you don’t want to keep it up on a regular basis,” he says. “If you get woken up one, two, three times a night, well, that’s actually fairly normal. If you get woken up six or eight times a night, are you going to wake up feeling refreshed? Probably not.”

So what’s a parent to do? Breus recommends alternating on-call days with your partner. Designate Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to waking up when baby does, but let hubby take the reigns on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Or if you wake up with the sunrise and he’s awake well past sunset, compromise that way. “I’m more of an early bird and my wife is more of a night owl, so even on the nights when it might’ve been my turn to be on call, she’ll tend to the baby so I can go to bed early.” Creating a schedule that plays on each others’ more wakeful hours will provide you both with happier mornings, so try a few options to figure out what works best for everyone.

Regardless of your parent status (non-existent or otherwise), Breus says maximizing sleep begins with daily exercise. If you find that exercise really revs your engine, make sure your workout is done at least four hours before bedtime. Otherwise, two hours prior is your cutoff. But if you’re still lacking serious mojo in the daylight, make sure sleepiness isn’t being confused with muscle fatigue. “Sleepiness is, ‘I can’t keep my eyes open.’ Fatigue is, ‘Ugh, I just want to lie down because everything hurts,’” explains Breus. If fatigue is what you’re feeling, take a rest day so you can jump back in with a full bout of energy.

And last but not least, try adding banana tea to your nightly routine. “Bananas themselves have a large amount of magnesium in them,” explains Breus. Chop the top and bottom off of a banana and toss it (peel included – there’s about 3x more magnesium in there) into 2.5 cups of boiling water for 3 or 4 minutes. “You can put a little honey or cinnamon in it,” he says. “It’s quite delicious and it’s literally like taking a sleeping pill.” We know what we’re drinking tonight!

Photo by Sara Forrest

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Birth Control’s Newest Form Is Crazier Than You Think

Written on July 17, 2014 at 11:19 am , by

Oral birth control? So two years ago.

That’s what Bill Gates thinks, anyway.

The do-it-all man has been planning to fund the development of a remote-controlled birth control ($4.6 million-worth of funding, to be exact!), and now a Massachusetts startup company called MicroCHIPS is bringing the concept to life using technology invented by MIT engineer Robert Langer in the ‘90s.

Placed under the skin of the upper arm, butt or abdomen, the microchip releases levonorgestrel—a birth-control hormone currently in many contraceptives—but only when you want it to. You can turn the device on and off with the flip of a switch. When on, an electrical current melts a part of the chip and 30 micrograms of the hormone is released each day. The chip supposedly lasts up to 16 years, and the MicroCHIPS team wants it on the market by 2018.

“Thirty micrograms sounds low and sounds like it might not interfere with ovulation but might interfere with implantation,” says Sarah Berga, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and associate dean of women’s health research at Wake Forest Baptist Health. “The question I would have is what does it do to your estrogen levels across time and would they be too low?”

A contraceptive that only interferes with implantation might not be as effective, but it would be safer, says Berg. “You would be interfering less with ovarian function and potentially less with estrogen levels, therefore promoting better bone health, better mood, and the kinds of things that we think estrogens are good for,” she says.

Carolyn Westhoff, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and obstetrics and gynecology professor at Columbia University, says the microchip is an “interesting idea with lots of potential,” but that more work still needs to be done to evaluate the chip’s safety and effectiveness. Pre-clinical testing is scheduled to begin next year, but the chips will need to be encrypted to secure wireless data before MicroCHIPS sends an application to the FDA.

What do you think? Would you use remote controlled birth control over the more traditional varieties?

Photo courtesy of MicroCHIPS

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Your Guide to Choosing the Right Birth Control for You

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We Tried It: 305 Fitness

Written on July 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm , by

While running on treadmills and hitting the stair-climber will always be great ways to get in some sweaty cardio sessions, we have to admit that they can get boring (especially when you end up staring at that same spot on the wall during each gym visit). So when the girls of Lole and 305 Fitness invited me to a dance party overlooking the Hudson River, I practically ran there, excited to see what its founder, Sadie Kurzban, had in store.

Not only did she kick my butt, but she somehow simultaneously made me forget that I was strengthening my core, leaning out my legs, and cranking my cardio to the very max. It probably had something to do with her wild spunk and the DJ’s amazing tunes (yes, there was a live DJ there—expect that at every single class), but that’s the whole idea behind 305 Fitness. My planks were interweaved with sashays, and squats didn’t happen without a little shimmying in between. The classes are designed to get you so pumped about what you’re doing, you forget that the fun dance moves are actually contributing to your workout.

You’ll be winded by the end of it and will probably burn the next day (my calves: ow), but it makes that feeling of accomplishment so much sweeter. Add in the realization that you were just dancing for much of the class, and you’ll begin to understand (if you haven’t yet) what we FITNESS editors stress all the time: that working out can be fun.

If you’re in the New York or D.C. area, check out the schedule, sign up for one of the 55-minute classes, and get dancing.

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Crank Up Your Cardio

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Must-Try Fourth of July Recipes

Written on July 2, 2014 at 10:01 am , by

Slurping on cocktails and enjoying some mouth-watering grub with friends and family underneath the fireworks are our Independence Day musts. Throw in some bikini-approved nutrition facts and you’ve got a “flawless” Fourth of July bash. (We’re looking at you, Beyoncé.) We rounded up some super easy recipes that we know your taste buds will love and your body will appreciate, so go ahead and dig in.


Fourth of July Adult Snow Cone
Calories: 188 per serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Clos du Bois Rouge
  • 1 cup sugar

Mix 1 cup of Clos du Bois Rouge with 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan over heat until the sugar has dissolved. Cool completely before pouring on crushed ice (your snow cone).

Recipe courtesy of Jung Lee

Photo courtesy of Clos du Bois Winery


Red Berry Sangria
Calories: 150 per serving  

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce CÎROC Red Berry
  • 1 ounce rose wine
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces berry tea

Combine all ingredients and stir over ice in wine glass.

Recipe courtesy of CÎROC

Read more

What Jessica Alba Eats That You Don’t

Written on June 27, 2014 at 9:50 am , by

Jessica Alba loves salt.

Did that catch you by surprise? We about fell out of our chairs when she said it during a private cooking class last week with Chef Anthony Sasso of New York’s Casa Mono restaurant, but then again, it just means she’s up-to-date on her nutrition news. Maybe she reads FITNESS…

So why were we cooking with Alba? As the new brand ambassador for Zico Coconut Water’s “Crack Life Open” campaign, the actress helped Sasso create various dishes that can all be made using coconut water: a chicken marinade, salad dressing, ice pops, or even chocolate cake. Umm, yum!

Alba is no stranger to flavor (her weaknesses: cheese, crackers, wine, French bread, and all things Mexican—we can totally relate, girlfriend), but she knows what foods to stay away from. “I try to eat as much fresh and natural food as possible,” she says. “I don’t eat a whole lot of processed food or packaged food.”

Well, that explains her perfect bod. She loves kale and butter lettuce, and keeps an abundant supply of fruits and veggies at home for hubby Cash Warren and daughters Honor, 6, and Haven, 2. (When she’s on the go, it’s dried fruit and nuts.) She even has a hanging felt wall that she uses to maintain her herb garden. Amazing!

“We use bananas a lot in the house,” she says. “We use apples, strawberries, and watermelon, but then it also depends on what’s in season. We get a monthly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables and it’s whatever is in our box that we just use.”

Her secret to dishing up the perfect kale salad? “Massaging the kale was something that changed my life,” she says.  “I tried to make it so many times at home and it’s just not the same when you don’t.”

Try it yourself: mix ¼ cup of Zico Coconut Water with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper to get the dressing. Knead the kale with your hands into the dressing until the kale becomes soft. Sweeten it up with some peach, plum, and nectarine slices, toss in some blackberries and almonds, and violà! You have a refreshing summer salad with dressing you didn’t just grab off the shelf, and are one step closer to following a Jessica Alba-approved diet. Sign us up!

Photo courtesy of ZICO Premium Coconut Water

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The New, Weird Way to Protect Yourself From the Sun

Written on June 26, 2014 at 9:54 am , by

Apply sunscreen. Jump in pool. Dry off. Repeat.

It’s the beat of summer, but imagine being able to skip one of ‘em—applying sunscreen—without any consequences. What are we talking about? Drinking sunscreen.

Say what?! Yeah, that’s how we reacted when we heard that Osmosis Skincare said it’s possible. The company recently released a drinkable UV Neutralizer, which apparently provides three hours of ultraviolet protection with just one teaspoon, claims creator Dr. Ben Johnson. He says he discovered how to print radio frequency waves on water molecules, and found waves that cancel out UVA and UVB radiation. When you ingest the Neutralizer, it supposedly vibrates frequencies that neutralize the sun.

While the product sounds wonderful and heavily researched, the FDA has yet to approve any of the product’s claims.

“If this thing really worked, the American Academy of Dermatology would be all over it,” says Elissa Lunder, M.D., owner of Dermatology Partners Inc. and FITNESS advisory board member. “This would’ve been presented at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting and it would be in all of the journals, and it’s not. I wouldn’t drink it, would you?”

Right now, we’re gonna have to pass, especially since the product has only been tested on 50 people. But the concept is weirdly cool. Jessica Weiser, M.D., a dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group, is also skeptical, but is convinced that ingestible sunscreen is where the future of sun protection is headed.

“They’re trying to say that this is going to give you the equivalent of an SPF 30, and I think that would be great if that was true,” she says. “Until it’s approved by the FDA, I don’t think it’s something that I would recommend replacing your normal topical sunscreen with. I think it’s a promising future—I just don’t think that we’re quite there yet.”

In the meantime, Weiser stresses the importance of reapplying sunscreen (most of them are only active for about two hours) and paying attention to water-resistant labels to see how long you can splash around in the water before needing to reapply. “The amount of a shot glass should cover your body every two hours, or about a teaspoon to the full face,” she says.

Lunder recommends using a sunscreen with zinc and titanium dioxide because they act as physical blockers rather than chemical blockers. “It’s sort of like the next best thing to wearing sun-protective clothing,” she says. “The zinc and titanium provides against UVA and UVB, which is really important.” (UVA radiation causes wrinkles, and UVB radiation causes burning.)

We’ll be using these easy sun-safe tips this summer, and in the meantime, remain hopeful that Osmosis Skincare’s new product will undergo the testing and credibility it needs to become an effective sun protectant. But for now, we’re not buying it.

Photo courtesy of Osmosis Skincare 

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Ride a Bike, Win a Bike: Pledge to Pedal with Element Hotels

Written on June 25, 2014 at 11:21 am , by

Living in NYC, it’s pretty safe to say that most people (at least the ones that work at FITNESS) would prefer to take a breezy bike ride to work any day over a crowded, sweaty subway commute. And because we know you love jumping at every opportunity to get your heart pumping and sweat glands going, we figured you’d get just as excited as we are about this cool program.

Element Hotels is launching its third annual Pledge to Pedal initiative, which encourages participants to ride his or her bike one day each week instead of driving a car. The bonus? Element will give away a custom-made Mott Street Cycles bicycle (hello, dream bike!) every week for 10 weeks. Yes, you read that right—a new bike will be given out EVERY WEEK.

How do you enter to win? Simply head to Element Hotels’ Facebook page, sign up on the “Pledge to Pedal” tab by August 27th, and get pedaling. That’s it!

What we love most about this initiative—you don’t have to be a guest at any Element Hotel, or live in a certain city, to join in. To us, that’s a rad testament to the company and their dedication to helping people stay healthy all summer. But if you do happen to be traveling—and stay at an Element Hotel—you’ll find an array of Mott Street bikes in the lobby ready for you to use. Fit vacations? We’re in.

Photo courtesy of Element Hotel 

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Everything You Need to Know About Bicycling and Spinning

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The Fitness Gear You Don’t Have (But Really Need)

Written on June 16, 2014 at 6:43 pm , by

When we think of Bluetooth chips, we usually don’t think of them in relation to water bottles. And when we think of yoga mats, we usually don’t think sensors and LED lights will be involved. But with personal trainers continually developing new ways to crank our calorie burn, and nutritionists creating new recipes that are easier, tastier and healthier, it’s no wonder the products meant to streamline our journey to a healthy lifestyle are nearly lapping the experts in innovation. These soon-to-be available high-tech gadgets are meeting—and potentially exceeding—our expectations, and you better believe they’re on our wish lists! Check ‘em out:

Dehydration affects nearly half of us, which is how the creators of BluFit came up with its concept. It’s a glass water bottle that syncs with your phone to keep track of how much water you need (based on weight, age, humidity levels, etc.) and how much water you drink. When it’s time to grab another sip, BluFit alerts you via sound and light to drink up. Not near your water bottle? It’ll alert your phone, too. The rechargeable battery lasts for about six days, so you’ll be good to make this little guy your running buddy or your staple between gym sessions.

A yoga class in the comfort of your own home? Sign us up! That’s basically what the Tera mat provides. Also a wool carpet, the mat uses sensors to identify where you are on the mat and guide you where to go next based on each workout you do. You can even tailor the workouts to help you reach your personal fitness goals. The mat syncs with the Tera app to record and analyze your movements, while the app itself provides step-by-step guides for completing each movement correctly. You can also use the mat for Zumba, Pilates or Thai Bo. Versatile, convenient and stylish? Talk about every fit girl’s dream!

Photos courtesy of BluFit and Tera Mat

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Google To Give Health Another Try, This Time With App

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Google To Give Health Another Try, This Time With App

Written on June 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm , by

After an unsuccessful attempt at popularizing two different health services for users (Google Health and Google PowerMeter: more info about that here), Google is planning to try again, this time with Google Fit, Forbes reports.

The service—reportedly launching later this month during the Google I/O conference—will provide users with an easy way to track and collect health data from different health-related apps they’re already using. Forbes reports that the service will even be offered through a wearable device that will measure steps, heart rate, and will sync with Google’s cloud-based services. Google might sync the app with Android Wear’s smart-watches, too, so that anyone wearing multiple Android devices can use Google Fit to store all of the information in one place.

Interestingly, the news comes soon after Apple’s  release of Health (and its partner HealthKit), which similarly aggregates information from different health-based apps—basically creating a file cabinet that privately stores personal information like sleeping patterns and blood pressure, so you can easily access it whenever you may need to touch base with a doc.

We’re excited to see what the Internet giant rolls out later this month and how it will—or won’t—compare with Apple’s Health. Similar or not, we know one thing’s for sure: everyone’s excuses for not exercising and eating right are quickly shrinking. It’s about time!

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Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s New Health App

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