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
Written on May 20, 2014 at 4:21 pm , by Lauren Cardarelli
Memorial Day weekend is just a few days away (who’s ready for a long weekend?). Kick summer off on the right sandal-sportin’ foot by snacking smart. We rounded up three bikini-friendly recipes to dip into without the guilt—or bloat. The secret ingredient? Avocado, which research has linked to lower BMI and waist circumference, among a laundry list of other health benefits. Um, win! And forget the greasy munchie pairings. Late July Organics’ new SubLime will rock your socks off.
Blue Cheese Avocado Dip
4 ripe avocados
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Stonyfield Organic Greek Plain Nonfat Yogurt (or their Fat Free Plain works, too!)
½ cup blue cheese (crumbled)
Peel, seed and coarsely mash avocados. Chop the green part of the scallions. Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition Info: 420 calories, 26g total fat, 65mg cholesterol, 890mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 25g protein
Wholly Guacamole Chicken Salad
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 limes, juiced (and zest from one)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup Wholly Guacamole dip
Mix oil, salt, black pepper, cumin, sugar, chili powder, lime zest and juice of 1 1/2 limes. Combine with chicken to marinate for 20 to 30 minutes. Grill chicken on each side for 2 minutes. Finish cooking in 400°F oven for 8 minutes and allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before dicing. Once cool, fold chicken in with bell peppers, onion, cilantro, Wholly Guacamole dip, the rest of the lime juiced and the remaining salt.
Nutrition Info: 340 calories, 17g total fat, 90mg cholesterol, 570mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 2g sugar, 35g protein
In a blender, blend the tofu, avocado, lemon juice, garlic, salt and cilantro until smooth. Place mixture in bowl and stir in onions. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Serve chilled.
Nutrition Info: 110 calories, 9g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 4g protein
Photo courtesy of Late July
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Written on May 16, 2014 at 10:44 am , by Lauren Cardarelli
Tick. The 4-lettered word alone gives me the heebie-jeebies—and for good reason. These creepy crawlers are the perpetrators of one of the fastest growing epidemics to date, Lyme disease (LD). And now that the temps are finally warming up, ticks are back in full swing. (I’ve already pulled two of the little buggers off my pup. Not cool.) Are you prepared? We talked about the nasty pests with A Twist of Lyme author Andrea H. Caesar, who has battled chronic LD since she was 11-years-old. Here are the must-know dirty deets to bite back.
The No-Zone Walking Fido around the block? Catching up on the newest FITNESS issue poolside in the shade? Risky business, girlfriend. “You can get a tick [bite] in a parking lot…anytime of the year,” warns Caesar. Like us, ticks are most active from April to September. Steer clear of wooded, shady areas as much as possible; in particular, stonewalls and moist leaf piles are their playgrounds. Hitting the open trail? Stick to the middle of the path, away from weedy edges.
Play It Safe Sport light-colored clothing to your next outdoor BBQ so you can easily spot the bad guys and tie long locks back into a tight ponytail. “Then they can’t crawl right up into your scalp,” says Caesar. (Your fave baseball cap will do the trick, too!) Swap out the shorts for leggings or pants tucked into tall socks when tackling yard work. The latter is a total fashion faux pas, we know, but hey—wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry!? And don’t forget the repellent sprays/lotions. The CDC suggests products with 20 percent or more DEET, although Caesar—who lives a non-toxic life—prefers catnip oil. “It can be ten times more effective [than DEET]!” Her fave: Ava Anderson’s Natural Bug Spray ($19.95, avaandersonnontoxic.com).
Check Mate “In my house, we do a tick check morning and night from head to toe,” says Caesar. “The problem is that deer ticks are the size of a piece of dirt so you’re not only looking—it’s a sensory test, too.” Thoroughly comb through your hair with your fingers and be sure to examine your, err, nooks and crannies (where they unfortunately love to take cover). According to the CDC, it takes more than 24 to 36 hours of attachment for ticks to transmit LD bacteria…hence the hide-and-seek urgency. Found one? Start by disinfecting the area with an alcohol swab. Next, use tweezers to grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight out and disinfect the bite site. “Put it in a plastic bag with a damp cotton ball if you want to send it away for testing,” advises Caesar. “It’s much more effective and easy to test a tick than a person!”
Tick’s Best Friend You may follow all of the prevention rules, but your pooch? Doubtful. Animals are LD carriers, which includes those not-so-welcome houseguests. “Set mouse traps to keep them under control!” says Caesar. As for pets, discuss repellent products with your vet, inspect their coats daily and reduce tick habitats in your yard, if possible. “My dogs are crated downstairs [at night] because of LD,” Caesar says.
Ticking Time Bomb “In its chronic form, Lyme disease can represent a complex set of infections involving the nervous system and its most basic functions,” says Caesar. “But it really also represents all of the body systems.” Translation: There is a seemingly endless rap sheet of symptoms, making the illness difficult to diagnose. Some general indicators to be aware of include achiness, headaches, tingling or numbness in extremities, fatigue and fever, which can have severe implications if undetected or ignored.
Photo courtesy of Andrea H. Caesar
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Written on April 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm , by Lisa Haney
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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Written on March 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm , by Samantha Shelton
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
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Written on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am , by FITNESS Intern
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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Written on February 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm , by FITNESS Intern
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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