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The Simple Health Move That Could Save Your Life

Written on April 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm , by

If you liked doing fruit fly experiments back in biology class, you’ll love this new health read about genetics.

Call your mother! And your grandmother. And your aunts and uncles. Interviewing your relatives about their health can help you improve yours.

“You can change your genetic destiny as long as you find out early enough what you’re at risk for,” explains Sharon Moalem, M.D., Ph.D., author of the fascinating new book, Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes. Luckily, a pricey DNA test to map your genome isn’t required—just a family health history. “It’s the lowest tech thing: The next time your family is together, sit down, draw a family tree and say OK, Who are we related to? What does everyone have? Are there any patterns that pop out?” he says.

Then tell your doctor about any diseases that run in the family. Flag any early deaths, in particular. For example, if you have relatives who died unexpectedly at a young age from heart issues, it may be a sign of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—an inherited condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken—and you’ll want to talk to your doc before signing up to run a marathon, Dr. Moalem says. Relatives who’ve had blood clots could indicate the genetic blood clotting disorder Factor V Leiden. If you have it (bruising easily is a sign), being on the Pill further ups your risk of deadly clots, so you’ll need to talk to your ob-gyn about your birth control method STAT. And, of course, a family history of breast and ovarian cancers may mean you have a BRCA gene mutation that greatly increases your risk of the diseases.

If your family doesn’t gather often, start dialing your loved ones today. “When you lose relatives—like your great-grandparents—then you lose that information that they may have known about their siblings and parents,” Dr. Moalem says. Once you create a detailed family history, it’s part of your health toolkit and you can pass it down to your kids as well. “It’s information that you don’t want lost,” he says.

Check out this cool tool from the Surgeon General’s office. You can use it to create a digital family health history, which you can print and bring to your doc.

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Meet the ‘Real-Girl’ Barbie That’s Ready to Hit the Toy Market

Written on March 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm , by

Last July, Nickolay Lamm, a 25-year-old artist and researcher, created a digital rendering of what Barbie would look like if she were modeled after an average 19-year-old woman, based on measurements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The result: a shorter, shapelier-looking doll image that went viral. We fell in love with the new version as quickly as you did, which highlighted that average is, in fact, beautiful. “I simply wanted to show that a doll like Barbie can look good with typical body proportions,” says Lamm.

FITNESS fans had mixed reviews – some of you loved the idea of creating a more realistic-looking doll, while others thought the whole concept silly. “I did play with Barbie growing up, but I didn’t strive to become her,” said one reader. “I saw her as more of a friend, not a sexual image that I need to become.”

Regardless of whether or not you thought the idea to be the next genius step in doll production or a silly farce, very few believed the creation of this new toy to be bad, and many said they would even purchase and use it to help teach their children about healthy body image. “I got a lot of emails saying, ‘Hey, where can we buy a doll like this,’” explains Lamm. “I think that the popularity of the images themselves kind of validated the design of the body.” That said, Lamm is ready to take his vision to the next level.

Today Lamm launched a crowdfunding campaign on his website, Lammily.com, with the hopes of raising the $95,000 he needs to support the creation of 5,000 dolls. He’s offered an exclusive first edition Lammily to every person who decides to back his project with a minimum $17 donation. As of press time, 237 backers had raised $5,375, and the numbers are rapidly growing.

With the help and guidance of former Vice President of Manufacturing at Mattel, Roger Rambeau, Lamm took his digital design and turned it into the Lammily doll. “Lammily is designed off the same body I used in the original project,[which was based on the classic Barbie]” he says. “But I changed her face, her hair, her articulation—even her skin tone a little—so that it’s my original design.”

Interestingly enough, this all comes on the heels of Mattel launching an “unapologetic” campaign for the original Barbie doll, which included featuring her in the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Of course, the Lammily doll would also be in competition with market-dominating, overly-sexualized Bratz dolls. And with a petition floating around for a Disney plus-sized princess, it’s clear there’s a demand for more diversity in the toy market.

Lamm says that his Lammily doll is about promoting a healthy, fit lifestyle, along with realistic beauty standards. He describes her as fun, fit and strong (just like our readers!). She’ll come dressed in a simple blue-white ombre blouse, jean shorts and white sneakers, with minimal makeup.

If this crowdfunding endeavor is successful, Lamm hopes to create more dolls with different ethnicities and body shapes. But we want to hear from you. Sound off in the comments and tell us whether you would buy a Lammily doll over the classic Barbie. Why or why not?

Additional reporting by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern. Photos courtesy of Lammily.com

More from FITNESS:

Should Disney Make a Plus-Sized Princess?

How America Should Move Forward in a Nation of Obesity

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Pucker Up: Reap the Health Benefits of Kissing on Valentine’s Day

Written on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am , by

She’s thinking about how healthy she’s getting right now.

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

We’re sure you know by now that the biggest date night of the year is swiftly approaching. While some are thrilled to be spending a romantic evening with their beaus and others are boycotting the holiday altogether, we’re concerned about something else entirely: our health. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day coincides with the peak of cold and flu season, making us wonder if we’ll regret cozying up to that special someone when we wake up the next day with a fever, runny nose, cough or worse – all of the above.

To calm our over-anxious hearts, we reached out to kissing experts William Cane, author of The Art of Kissing, and Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips are Telling Us, to find out if a flirty make-out sesh is worth the risk. Luckily, there’s good news:

It’s safer than shaking hands. “You’re a lot more likely to get sick from shaking hands with people during the day than from the people that you kiss,” says Kirshenbaum. “You’re touching a lot more stuff with your hands than you are with your lips.” So now we have one more reason to stress about work, but at least our love lives are in the clear.

It helps us chill out… and possibly eat less. Kissing makes us less likely to feel stressed by reducing the cortisol levels in the body, says Kirshenbaum. “That’s the bad stress hormone, which is also associated with overeating.” Being in an emotionally healthy relationship plays a key role in maintaining your physical health—and maybe even your waistline if you tend to handle stress with excessive snacking.

It puts us on cloud nine. Both Cane and Kirshenbaum noted how kissing increases our endorphin and serotonin levels, explaining that head rush you feel after a deep kiss or being intimate with someone you love. Cane calls it the afterglow, Kirshenbaum calls it the giddy, walking on air feeling—either way, its presence is undeniable after a really good smooch. These chemicals don’t necessarily boost our immune system, but they make us feel good and less depressed, therefore making us less susceptible to getting sick.

It helps us live longer. Kissing sends another powerful hormone circulating through the body that actually helps keep us alive and well. “Oxytocin is associated with bonding, connection and that sense of attachment you feel in a relationship,” says Kirshenbaum. “These kinds of bonds keep us healthier and less likely to die by any given cause.” Additionally, Cane noted a study that connected greater oxytocin levels with lower blood pressure. Sweet!

It helps us find that deeper connection. It’s not surprising that kissing makes us feel more connected to the people that we love. But according to Kirshenbaum, “it’s the most powerful, intimate way to show someone how you feel, beyond even sex.” Women use kissing subconsciously to identify compatible life partners, she notes. “It’s the ultimate way to get close—I would absolutely be promoting it all times of the year, but especially now.”

Alright, someone hand us the cutest gloss they can find. We’re ready to score some health benefits this holiday.

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Hot Topic Tuesday: Should Disney Make a Plus-Sized Princess?

Written on February 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm , by

Should there be a new Disney princess? (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Take a moment and think back to when you were a little girl watching your favorite Disney princess movie. You idolized everything about Cinderella,Belle or Snow White – from the color of her hair down to the sound of her melodic voice, we bet we weren’t the only ones who wanted to embody the princess in every way possible. But what if you were that child who couldn’t quite find her perfect princess role model? One who didn’t quite look like any of the childhood heroines? Walt Disney Pictures moved to solve this problem in 2009 when it unveiled Tiana, its first African-American princess character in The Princess and the Frog fairytale, and again in 2012 with red-headed tomboy Merida in Brave. But that wasn’t enough. Now, 17-year-old Jewel Moore is asking for a princess of her own size.

A high school junior from Farmville, Virginia, Moore posted a petition on Change.org on January 24 requesting that Walt Disney Animation Studios create a plus-size princess. “I made this petition because I’m a plus-size young woman, and I know many plus-size girls and women who struggle with confidence,” says Moore. “Disney films are highly influential, and they impact the lives of many children, especially girls. It would be revolutionary for Disney to show support to a group of girls who are otherwise bullied by the media. It would make many young girls feel confident and worthy to see a strong character that looks like them.”

Her petition has received more than 18,000 signatures in its first week, and it’s inspired others to create similar campaigns. For others, though, it ignited a backlash of petitions for Disney to not feature plus-sized princesses in its future animated films. Why? Perhaps it’s too close to promoting childhood obesity, or it feeds into the idea of complacency regarding obesity in America. Regardless, this young woman’s goal of helping other girls realize that every body is beautiful and giving them a figure to look up for a boost of self-confidence is nothing shy of empowering. Strength is beautiful because it can take on so many different forms. Moore’s courage makes her strong on the inside, but her actions make it clearly visible for the rest of us to see.

But what do you think? Should Disney start working on their next princess debut? Or do you think that would be the first step down the wrong road? Sound off in the comments below.

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Meet the “Real Girl” Barbie Doll

Body Proud: “Why I Love About My Body”

Who’s Up for Some Skypercise?

Written on January 22, 2014 at 9:32 am , by

Pair up to slim down! Photo by iStockphoto.

Whether it’s with a bud or a personal trainer, we recommend pairing up to slim down! Photo by iStockphoto.

ICYMI: Our week 2 #GetFitParty Instagram challenge was to show us your pics of working out with a buddy. Studies have shown that working out with a partner improves weight-loss results, which could be because you push yourself harder, have more fun, and have the all-important accountability factor influencing you.

But if scheduling a workout sesh with a bud or even just getting to the gym creates a problem, we’ve got a stellar recommendation for you: Skypercise. Whether you’re partnering up with a pal to workout over the world wide web or enlisting a professional trainer to help you out virtually, it’s an excellent way to ditch the excuses so that you can stick to your resolutions.

Which is why we’re thrilled to offer a lucky reader a fabulous Skype prize package, courtesy of Skype!

One lucky FITNESS reader will score a $100 Skype gift card and two one-on-one sessions with Marc D. Thompson, a fitness trainer, personal coach, owner of Virtufit.net, and Skypercise pro. All you have to do is enter here by January 31, 2014. [Official Rules]

Good luck! Now get to work, #GetFitParty crowd!

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Location #6: India

Written on January 13, 2014 at 9:55 am , by

Local indian girls share a laugh and bright smiles with Paige's team. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Local indian girls share a laugh and bright smiles with Paige’s team. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige climbed in India to support Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which works to combat sexual exploitation of women and girls. Help Paige raise $10,000 for Apne Aap on her Crowdrise page and don’t miss this bonus video from Louder Than 11 about the three million women currently trapped in prostitution

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By Paige Claassen

In our society, we strive towards a similar ideal. Whether that comes in the form of a high ranking, high paying job, a slender waist, or elegant clothes, the model women of magazines all look much the same. We’re praised for creating our own paths and for defining ourselves as individuals; but if we step too far outside the box, our motives might be questioned. I, for example, am currently traveling around the world to rock climb. I’m not earning a salary, I haven’t worn makeup or fixed my hair in months, and I don’t have a permanent home. The path I’m taking is not straight, it’s not predictable, and I don’t know what’s around the next bend.

I spent the month of December in India, and my goal was to climb the hardest route in India, called Ganesh and graded 5.14a. Unfortunately, the hot Indian sun beat down on Ganesh all day, making it nearly impossible to climb. I woke up at 5 a.m. each day to put in my attempts before the sun rose at 7 a.m. My day ended at 9 a.m., when I walked away from the cliff, dripping in sweat, hair disheveled, and frustrated with my efforts. This route lent itself better to a male’s strengths. The moves were long and powerful and I would need to channel all my strength and motivation to complete this climb.

A beautiful sunset and a monkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

A beautiful sunset and a monkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Meanwhile, India offered a few additional obstacles of its own. The small, dusty town I visited had a reputation for inflicting the dreaded traveller’s diarrhea on visiting foreigners (which I did not avoid). A high risk of malaria in the region also had me taking preventative medication, rumored to have a variety of unpleasant side effects. Oily food, few fresh fruits and vegetables, and no opportunities to run or cross train provided further fitness challenges.

But I had traveled all this way for one route, which was one of the best in the world. I knew I was capable. So with that determination, the matter was settled. I punched through the long moves that a girl isn’t supposed to be capable of doing. I finished the route, and I finished it before the boys. A little extra icing on the cake!

It's one big move after another, says Paige about Ganesh. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige Claassen becomes the first female to ever ascend Ganesh, the most difficult sport climb in India. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

I realized that my path, with all its turns and unknowns and new challenges each month, is a path of choices. Sure, India wasn’t the most comfortable month of travel, but it was a month I’ll never forget. The sites I saw, the people, and the colors each left their own special imprint in my mind and opened my eyes to a new world.

Paige got to know a few local Indian women while on her trip. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige got to know a few local Indian women while on her trip. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Part of that world is beautiful, but deep scars lay behind the beauty. Lead Now’s non-profit partner in India, Apne Aap, offered a glimpse into the struggles many women in India face.  Apne Aap says that “every year, nearly two million people are trafficked for sexual exploitation; of these, the vast majority are female, and half are aged 12-16.”  This is a statistic I can’t even begin to grasp, but I want to do what I can in reducing that figure so that other women can have the choices that I enjoy day to day. Join me by donating online at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourindia

To get involved and donate online to help combat sexual exploitation, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in India! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

10 Awesome Music Videos to Work Out To

Written on January 10, 2014 at 9:37 am , by

vevo playlist with fitness magazine

Check out FitnessMagazine’s #GetFitParty playlist on Vevo.com!

It’s a #GetFitParty all month long for our FITNESS followers and we’ve got the perfect motivation for your workouts this weekend: Hot music videos that are fun to sweat to!

Our Instagram challenge this week has been for you to show us your “workout view,” i.e. what you see while you exercise…and we noticed quite a lot of you are working out at home. We teamed up with Vevo, the world’s leading music video platform, to create this playlist of FITNESS editor-selected videos to watch while you’re planking, squatting, or just going nuts on the treadmill. Enjoy!

Watch the full playlist here: FITNESS Magazine on Vevo

Or cherry pick which one(s) you’d like to watch:

 

Cheer Up! How to Nix Holiday Stress and Diet Disasters

Written on December 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm , by

Keep those spirits bright! Co-author of Hijacked by Your Brain, Dr. Julian Ford has the de-stress dos and don’ts to keep you from overindulging during the holidays. (Photo courtesy of Sara Forrest)

‘Tis the season to be jolly—right? With last-minute presents to purchase, cookies to bake and traveling woes up the wazoo, the holidays can be just plain stressful. And when we’re stressed, we eat. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

“We overeat because the alarm center in our brain hijacks the thinking center—it’s an ancient mechanism, built to protect us from danger when food was scarce,” says Dr. Julian Ford, professor of psychiatry and director of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine traumatic stress center. “It tells us we have to keep eating even if we know we shouldn’t or no longer feel hungry.”

The external “joyful” holiday pressures, in addition to those we put on ourselves, cause our noggin to go into over-drive, explains Ford. “It’s a perfect storm for putting our brain’s alarms on high alert, leading to a feeling of constant pressure, exhaustion and ultimately disappointment when we can’t duplicate the Jimmy Stewart/Donna Reed wonderful life.”

Eating can be a break from the hullabaloo hassle, as well as a source of more stress. As we all know, indulging in our favorite sweets and savories can lead to a downward spiral and the residual guilt always outweighs the joy we get from that temporary fix. To make matters worse, colder temps play into these mental games, setting us up for a diet disaster. “Our bodies may need more calories to keep us warm in the cold weather,” says Ford. ”Eating more in the winter is also often a way to cope with feeling bored when cooped up inside or depressed with the long, dark nights and short days.”

So how can we stop all the stress? Follow Ford’s top tips to tackling holiday H-E-double hockey sticks and the overeating that seemingly comes with the territory:

Make Your List, Check It Twice. Write down all of the foods you enjoy—those that give you that warm and fuzzy feeling with every bite, says Ford. Include both naughty foods and nice options so that you have a complete menu of what hits your pleasure zone. Keep the “good” ones handy in times of trouble (a low-cal granola bar is the perfect munchie for those long, winding checkout lines!) and prioritize those items at your seasonal soirée.
Want vs. Need. When you find yourself about to eat as a reflex reaction, take a few seconds to get off auto pilot and focus your mind by asking yourself, “Is eating this, right at this moment, going to really satisfy me and give me a sense of personal control?” If the answer is no, don’t eat it. “Remember that it’s your choice, based on valuing yourself,” says Ford.
Silent Flight. What’s the best way to avoid temptation? Distraction. “Look for ways to free yourself from the holiday (and day-to-day) pressures and demands,” suggests Ford. Carve an hour out of your busy schedule to find your center in your fave yoga class or sweat it out with some cardio. “Besides burning calories and reducing the feeling of hunger, exercise can help focus our minds by providing the quiet time we all need to think carefully about the choices we’re making,” says Ford. It’s all about seeking enjoyment and having a sense of self control.

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Ditch the Fitness Excuses: How I Hope America Moves Forward in A Nation of Obesity

Written on December 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm , by

Photo courtesy of Maria Kang

Photo courtesy of Maria Kang

Written by Maria Kang

I believe our emotions are what drive our successes or failures.

Motivation is an incredibly powerful emotion. It helps you challenge yourself and push through plateaus. This kind of energy can help us interpret messages in a positive light, envision possibilities, and then seek out those opportunities.

My “What’s Your Excuse?” poster evoked motivation in some, particularly the audience reading this right now. For others, it sparked shame—and outrage. Those people labeled me a bully and a fat-shamer, and suddenly I was at the core of controversy.

But when FitnessMagazine.com asked its audience what they thought of me, a large chunk of you said I was an inspiration. When Facebook banned me from its site and FitnessMagazine.com then interviewed me, you rallied on my side. You’ve defended me because of one common truth among us: We know our health is important.

So what do we do now?

We want to stop the obesity epidemic in America. We aren’t complacent—or at least don’t want to be. Whether we’re overweight or super fit, we know none of this is really about me, the messenger. It’s about the message.

The message is about balance, and yes, pushing past self-acceptance. It says that when we deprive ourselves from living a healthy life, we limit our ability to thrive.

As I’ve said numerous times over, it’s important to love yourself. But let’s challenge ourselves and the people around us. When something or someone refers to obesity as “normal,” challenge it! I’m not saying to shame or bully anyone, but we must focus on progress. On a daily basis we engage in a comfortable schedule, with comfortable people and comfortable habits. Instead, let’s focus on how there is always room for improvement.

The first step in discouraging complacency is to create a goal and go public with it. This goal may be to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans or to eat less processed foods. You need to write it down, set a deadline, and create daily steps in your life to hold you accountable. Accountability begins when you set up mental and physical enforcers that will push you to move out of your comfort zone – because let’s be honest, we are creatures of comfort. It’s only natural to gravitate toward what is easier rather than what is harder.

So let’s fight the complacency trend by making life harder. Here’s how:

Read more

Actress Tia Mowry’s Path to Healthy Living

Written on December 4, 2013 at 10:00 am , by

Tia Mowry puts her hands together for a flu-less holiday season and a healthy 2014. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for FluMist Quadrivalent)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Actress Tia Mowry (we know you’ve seen throwback show Sister, Sister) has quite a few projects on her plate. From the premier of her new television show, Instant Mom, on Nick at Nite to the postpartum products brand she is developing with twin sister Tamera, it was amazing she found the time to sit down for a chat with us! And one thing is for sure—despite her hectic schedule, her top two priorities remain in tact: her family and her health.

Despite marrying a man with a passion for health and wellness, Mowry wanted to discover it in her own way. Unfortunately, her journey began with a sudden diagnosis of endometriosis, an extremely painful infertility disorder. She quickly gained control of her health, though, and hasn’t slowed down since. “I wanted to have kids, so my doctor told me, ‘Tia, you’re going to have to change your diet,’” she says. After following the Body Ecology Diet for a full year, which focuses on alkalizing the body, Mowry became pregnant with her son Cree. “I’m now a believer that food can be medicine.”

Mowry also decided to try veganism earlier this year to help with other physical ailments – eczema, migraines and genetically high cholesterol – and she could not be happier with the decision. “What I like most about it is the emotional benefit that I get, realizing and understanding that I am doing the best that I can possibly do for my health,” she says. “I feel better, I have more energy, my eczema has disappeared, I no longer get migraines and my cholesterol levels are now fine.”

When it comes to working out, Mowry is all about doing what she loves, thanks to the advice she got after meeting yoga pro Tara Stiles. The routine that’s captured her heart? Dance cardio. “I was the type of person who would be out on the dance floor until the club closed, so I’m doing all types of dance cardio now,” says Mowry. “I’ve done Zumba, I’ve done Piloxing—which is boxing and Pilates at the same time—and I go to classes.” Oh, and she doesn’t look to the mirror for her workout motivation. “It’s not about what I look like; it’s about how I feel. When I focus on that, I actually find that I work out more,” she says. And cute workout clothes don’t hurt! She picks her outfit the night before for a little motivational push the following morning to get up and go have fun with her fitness.

This season Mowry teamed up with Flumist Quadrivalent, a nasal spray influenza vaccine option, to address another health issue she is passionate about now that she has little Cree to consider. “In the past, I did overlook flu vaccinations,” she says. “But after understanding how the flu can take a huge toll on an entire family, I started making it part of my annual routine. I want to protect my family.”

Mowry has experienced quite the journey to health and fitness, so maybe we should take a note or two from her book. “Changing your lifestyle takes time, so don’t get frustrated,” she suggests. “We have a lifetime to get this right, so don’t be too hard on yourself—it’s not beneficial. Start out slow and then build up your momentum and endurance. And just do what you love to do! I have seen a big change in my body since Tara gave me that advice.”

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