Written on July 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm , by Bethany Cianciolo
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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Written on July 17, 2014 at 11:19 am , by Bethany Cianciolo
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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Written on July 3, 2014 at 10:57 am , by FITNESS Editors
Big news: Pelvic exams are no longer necessary for women who don’t have symptoms and aren’t pregnant, according to a new recommendation from The American College of Physicians out this week. It’s a topic we covered recently in our April 2014 issue, but it’s not an excuse to ditch your regular gyno visits altogether. Here’s what else you need to know.
So Long, Stirrups!
By Laurie Tarkan
Imagine going to your gyno and not spending the appointment staring at the ceiling with your knees in the air. “Until the Pap test was introduced, a woman didn’t go to the ob-gyn unless she was pregnant or had symptoms like pain or bleeding,” says Carolyn Westhoff, M.D., a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center. When the Pap became standard in the late 1940s, so did the yearly gyno exam. But in 2012, based on new research, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) told its members to dial back on the Pap test and give it every three years; for women 30 and older who combine it with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV), the recommendation is every five years.
The reason: Although the Pap can be a lifesaver, there is no benefit to screening on an annual basis, because cervical cancer is slow growing. “If you do Pap smears frequently, you’ll get some results that are ‘not normal’ but aren’t cancer,” says Miriam Alexander, M.D., the director of the general preventive medicine residency program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. “Patients might then be ordered to have uncomfortable additional testing, which causes anxiety and can, in rare cases, lead to severe complications.”
As for annual pelvic exams, women simply don’t need them, research has found. The exams are not necessary to screen for ovarian and uterine cancers or sexually transmitted infections, and they don’t need to be done before a woman starts taking oral contraceptives. “Gradually, more and more ob-gyns are realizing that the pelvic exam doesn’t have to be done so frequently,” Dr. Westhoff says.
The Bottom Line: The ACOG still recommends an annual gyno visit, but unless you have a medical problem or new symptoms, you probably don’t need a pelvic exam between Pap tests, Dr. Westhoff says.
So, how often should I get tested?
Pap Test: Every three years starting at age 21. If you’re 30 or older, every five years if you combine it with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV).
Exception: More often if results are abnormal.
Pelvic Exam: Not necessary if you are feeling fine.
Exception: Unless you have symptoms such as bleeding, pain, urinary problems or new or unusual discharge.
Photo by Susan Pittard
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Written on June 26, 2014 at 9:54 am , by Bethany Cianciolo
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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Written on June 24, 2014 at 2:35 pm , by Samantha Shelton
Getting outdoors for a workout is great, especially after the polar vortex we were all trapped in this winter. But when you’re an allergy sufferer, sweating amidst pollen is, well, less than ideal, and it can wreak havoc all over your immune system. So if you’re sniffling, sneezing and coughing your way through daily routines, heed this advice from our favorite weatherman, Sam Champion. Yep, turns out weather patterns play a major role in your workout schedule.
Find the right meds. As easy as it may be, grabbing meds from your allergy-suffering bestie isn’t the best road to travel. Their allergies may stem from a different type of pollen or have high counts in a different season, or they may experience more or less severe symptoms than you. Champion suggests touching base with your doc, and shop around before settling on a solution. Whether it’s over the counter or prescription, chances are you’ll find something that provides serious relief.
Protect your peepers. You already know inhaling pollen isn’t the best, but keeping your eyes clear is just as important. “Pollen can come through any mucus membrane that’s open, so you have to worry about not only breathing it in when you’re running, but not allowing it to be absorbed through your eyes,” says Champion. Invest in a solid pair of sunglasses to keep in the clear—we like Oakley’s Break Points.
You don’t need to be an early bird. “The old-fashioned wisdom was that you need to get out in the morning before pollen counts get too high,” says Champion. But if you’re heading into windy weather, it doesn’t matter much—”pollen is still active in the morning, and wind will kick that pollen up.” Check your local pollen count as soon as you wake up to determine when it’s going to be best to sweat.
Know your area. “Pollen is very, very local and though it can travel for 30 to 60 miles easy in the wind, you need to know what’s happening in your region,” advises Champion. The Weather Channel, where Champion now works, pulls up those numbers by zip code, making it an easy search. Unfortunately, there isn’t a general scale of what’s “too high,” Champion says, but paying attention to your symptoms is key. Which leads me to my next point…
Watch your symptoms. Notice tons of, er, snot build-up going on? It may be time to head indoors. If that’s coupled with swollen eyes, your body is trying to tell you to quit. “When your body is building mucus, it’s trying to fight the pollen,” explains Champion. “It’s trying to grab that pollen and get it out of your system because it’s an irritant.” If you still want to get your cardio on, try these no-boredom cardio routines.
Run in the rain. Besides the fact that it’s just plain fun (come on, you did it as a kid!), rain is an allergy-sufferer’s best friend. “Rain is like a giant filter,” says Champion. “If you put a water filter on your tap, you get clear water out and all the gunky stuff is separated. And that’s what rain does to air; rain cleans it. So right after the rain, no matter what the pollen count is, boom—get outside and do your run.”
Keep your home clean. We’re not saying you don’t, but are you keeping pollen out of the house? I, for one, have no idea if I am. Champion’s quick tip to find out: grab one of those cute throw pillows on your couch and give it a good slap. If dust or little particles pop up and appear (you can see them really well in sunlight), then pollen is in the home. Champion uses Febreze’s Fabric Refresher Allergen Reducer to take action when that happens. “After I spray the fabric surfaces, it forms a protective shield, almost like a net. If I hit the pillow again, nothing will show up.” Basically, that shield is locking the dust and pollen into the pillow until you get around to vacuuming it, which will remove about 95 percent of the nasty stuff. Phew.
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Written on June 16, 2014 at 6:43 pm , by Bethany Cianciolo
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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Written on June 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm , by Bethany Cianciolo
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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Written on June 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm , by FITNESS Intern
Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern
Attention, fitness junkies (and if you’re reading this, we’re going to assume that’s all of you): Apple has announced that they will be unveiling every runner, biker, yogi, and health-conscious person’s dream app—Health (and its tracking feature HealthKit).. The technologically advanced app is coming our way when i0S 8 becomes available, and can only be described as the self-obtaining, on-the-spot, no-doctor-involved, personal quantification of health. It is that hyper-organized file cabinet that we wish existed in our lives.
Okay, now that I’m done pumping it up, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Think of Health as the mega fitness drop-box. It pulls in health and exercise info from other applications and activity monitors you already use, and deposits them into one place. For example, the app recognizes data collected in Nike+ after you go for a long run, along with daily movement and sleeping patterns tallied in Moves and Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. Then, Health takes that data and uses it to analyze your fitness level and general health, subsequently providing personalized wellness plans according to the goals you want to reach.
But what if you really want to see your heart rate, sleep patterns and miles logged, but don’t care about calorie burn? It’s simple: don’t include it in your settings. Health is completely customizable so you can pick and choose what information is available, and since the app also works with innovators in the health care industry (think Mayo Clinic), it promises to keep your personal health information private; only sharing it with the services you select.
In other words, shedding pounds, tracking calories, controlling your diet, and maintaining a fairly consistent blood pressure is now manageable, and won’t cause a traumatizing migraine. So forget bouncing between apps, and just bounce between your workouts. Health will cover the rest.
Photo courtesy of Apple
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Written on May 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm , by FITNESS Intern
Written by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern
Feeling like your to-do list has grown legs and run away from you? Welcome to my life. Sometimes I feel like there’s just not enough time! Fortunately, Barb Schmidt, author of The Practice and founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, teaches a three-part daily guide that focuses on managing stress, finding inner peace and uncovering happiness. I touched base with her—on one of my insanely busy days, no less—to snag a few top tips that helped keep me calm, focused and ready to tackle the biggest challenges. Sharing is caring, so go ahead and use them too.
Start Off Refreshed “If we start the day in a very centered, balanced place, then we can carry that throughout the day,” explains Schmidt. Keeping calm and cool under pressure is key to making that clutch game-time decision, like when you need to convince your boss that path A is better than path B. If you start off on the wrong foot—say, slapping the snooze, racing to get ready and skipping breakfast instead of slowly rising and maybe even squeezing in a yoga sesh—things tend to go awry quick. For an early morning pick-me up, follow Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life on Facebook for a morning quote and photo, and follow us on Instagram for inspiring Motivation Moments from women just like you.
Give Yourself Permission To Stop We’re constantly trying to get more and more done throughout the day, but sometimes the relentless go, go, go can seriously drain you. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, Schmidt suggests going to the bathroom (or closing the door to your office),shutting your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to regain composure and clarity. Even better: “Take a quick five-minute walk and re-center yourself,” says Schmidt. I’ve taken a few laps around the block recently and come back refreshed, re-energized and sometimes with a brand new idea. Yay for Vitamin D!
Detach From Your Day So much happens from the moment you wake up to when you finally head home and kick off your shoes. “Usually it’s things that happen during the day, good or bad—but mostly negative—that we either wish we didn’t do or had handled differently,” says Schmidt. I know I’ve regretted a decision or two (buying that extra pair of un-returnable shoes, for example—just say no!). Schmidt says to take a mental scan and noticed what happened, and then make the conscience decision to not dwell on it. “[We] don’t have control over what happened, but [we] do have control over whether to let it go,” says Schmidt. And know that it’s a process. “The heart and the brain may be saying ‘No! I can change all of it.’ But it works.”
Photo courtesy of HCI Books
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Written on May 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm , by FITNESS Intern
Written by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern
You know her best as the hilariously vivacious housewife, Gloria, on Modern Family. Her thick accent, hysterical one-liners and constant nagging on Jay always have me doubling over in laughter. But one thing I didn’t know about the star? In 2000, at the age of 28, Sofia Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have her thyroid removed. That resulted in a condition known as hypothyroidism, which in non-scientific terms basically equates to an underactive thyroid, and it’s usually marked by symptoms of extreme fatigue, depression and weight gain.
Since then, the Emmy-nominated actress says life is relatively normal, thanks to her doctors and regular checkups. “I’ve been very lucky, I never felt any symptoms,” admits Vergara. “[But] now I have to take a pill every day of my life.”
The treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine, explains Dr. Jordan Geller, M.D., Vergara’s endocrinologist. “It’s basically an exact chemical copy of the thyroid hormone that our body makes. It’s taken as a pill, once a day on an empty stomach and it’s usually life-long.”
OK, so what exactly does all this mean, and why should you care? First of all, the thyroid gland is a pretty important asset to maintaining good health. “From the minute we are born until we die, there is not a system in the body that doesn’t need the thyroid hormone,” explains Dr. Geller. And while nearly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), about 60 percent of them don’t even know it. Yeesh!
It turns out women are 5-8 times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, too, notes the ATA. If you’re one of them, don’t panic about missing your beloved barre class quite yet. “If somebody’s thyroid levels are managed appropriately, then it really shouldn’t interfere with their ability to exercise or do anything throughout their life,” says Dr. Geller.
So how do you manage hypothyroidism? In 2013, Vergara and Dr. Geller teamed up with AbbVie (the makers of Synthroid, levothyroxine sodium tablets) to launch a campaign called “Follow the Script,” which aims to educate those with hypothyroidism about symptom and treatment information, helpful questions to ask your doctor and pharmacist, and create a community for people to come together and share their stories. You never know what fitness-minded friend you’ll find—and I never say no to a new workout buddy.
And while Vergara is known for her extreme aversion to exercise, she does admit to recently adopting a workout regiment since she’s “started seeing age changes.” While she doesn’t really have a favorite, you can find the actress currently doing a lot of SLT, Spinning or trying her hand at TRX (we recommend this routine). Fingers crossed she falls in love with one—or all—of them!
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Photo courtesy of Abbvie/Follow the Script