31 Instant Health Boosters
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Fitness

31 Instant Health Boosters

Try one of these tips each day -- you'll feel better and get fitter and smarter in just one month.
1. Give lip service.

Thirty minutes of making out can improve allergy symptoms. Research shows that kissing reduces the amount of chemicals your body releases in response to allergens.

2. Turn up the heat on your sheets.

Bedding contains thousands of dust mites that can irritate sensitive skin and exacerbate eczema, according to a new study. Wash sheets in H2O that's at least 140 F. to make sure you kill the critters.

3. D-stress.

Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D can decrease your risk of developing a stress fracture by 20 percent. Active women should strive for 1,000 IU of vitamin D and 2,000 milligrams of calcium daily to keep their bones strong, experts say.

4. Get your head examined.

Melanomas found on your scalp or neck almost double your risk of dying compared with those detected elsewhere on the body, report researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Because they're often hidden by hair, malignant moles and other skin abnormalities are typically detected too late for treatment to be effective. See your MD for an annual skin check.

5. Clean up your mouth.

Two ounces of yogurt a day (the typical container holds six ounces) may protect you from gum disease, a recent study in the Journal of Periodontology shows. The "good" bacteria in yogurt helps fight germs in your mouth.

6. Play red light, green light.

For increasing your endurance, four to six 30-second bursts of all-out cardio are just as effective as up to an hour of training at a lower intensity. Short on time? Use intervals to get stronger more quickly.

7. Reboot your brain.

Mundane tasks, such as entering data into a spreadsheet, can switch your mind into default mode, making you more likely to mess up within about 30 seconds, scientists say. Feel like you're operating on autopilot? Snap out of it by going for a quick walk down the hall.

8. Debug your desk.

As many as 283 species of bacteria can thrive in ordinary office dust, including nasty streptococcus, the main cause of strep throat, and staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, according to a recent report. Wipe down your workstation, keyboard, and phone regularly with a disinfectant such as Formula 409 Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner or Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner.

9. Shrug it off.

Strengthening your trapezius muscle, which runs from your shoulders to your neck and upper back, can reduce chronic neck pain by up to 80 percent.

 
10. Juice your looks.

A diet rich in vitamin C and linoleic acid (a fatty acid found in many vegetable oils) can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dryness, and thinning skin, according to a study.

Tips 11-20: Control Cravings, Fight Off Illness, and Stand Taller

11. Get sappy.

Spending just 30 minutes a day consciously thinking of a loved one can promote mental and emotional well-being, say University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. Cultivating the feeling of love and compassion stimulates the brain to make new connections and neural pathways.

12. Chill out.

Just two to three minutes under cool water in the shower can boost your mood. The cold may cause the brain to release feel-good hormones.

13. Go slo-mo.

Doing tai chi regularly not only improves your endurance and flexibility but may also help control blood sugar and improve your immune system. The exercise increases levels of certain bacteria-fighting T-cells in your body, research shows.

14. Be a dairy queen.

Women on a low-calorie diet who took supplements to up their calcium from 600 milligrams a day or less to 1,200 milligrams a day lost an average of 10 pounds more than those who didn't boost their intake, according to a new study. Your brain may be able to detect low calcium levels in the body and tries to compensate by increasing your appetite for foods rich in this mineral, experts say. Skim milk, low-fat cheese, and fortified OJ are all good sources.

15. Straighten up.

Tension in your neck may affect how your body regulates blood pressure, animal studies indicate. At work, sit with your back firmly against your chair, your feet on the floor, your knees slightly higher than your hips and your chair close to your desk.

16. Go green.

Drinking green tea with your antibiotics helps the medication destroy harmful bacteria up to three times more effectively, researchers found.

17. Grab some garbanzos.

People who regularly consume beans typically weigh six pounds less than those who don't, even though they take in more daily calories. Researchers believe this may be because the legume eaters get more fiber but consume less fat, especially saturated fat, than those who shy away from beans. Throw a handful into salads, soups, or pasta sauce for an extra boost of protein and fiber.

18. Chomp cravings away.

Chewing gum after lunch can curb hunger, a recent study shows. But pick your stick carefully. Ingesting too much sorbitol, a common ingredient in sugar-free gum, can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain. We like sorbitol-free Ice Breakers Ice Cubes White sugar-free gum.

19. Reach new heights.

Wearing a pair of moderately high heels (2 to 2 1/2 inches) can strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles, which can improve your sex life.

20. Munch a bunch.

About one cup of red grapes a day can help suppress the abnormal cell formation that leads to most types of breast cancer, according to a recent study in Cancer Prevention Research. Resveratrol, a natural compound found in grapes, grape juice, and red wine, may prevent estrogen from reacting with DNA molecules, which can lead to cells becoming cancerous, scientists say.

Tips 21-31: Eat Better, Relax, and Get Your Game On

21. Run for your life.

Joggers have a 40 percent lower risk of dying than people who don't lace up their sneakers, according to Stanford University researchers. Runners are less likely to have cardiovascular problems or develop disabilities as they age. Motivate yourself to become fit by training for a 5K.

 
22. Be cuckoo for coconut.

An oil high in fatty acids made from coconut oil has been shown to burn fat and promote weight loss, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. People who consumed four to five teaspoons of this type of oil (in baked goods and through cooking) every day for 16 weeks lost almost four pounds more than those who used olive oil.

23. Get crackin'.

Adding one egg a day, yolk and all, to your diet can increase good HDL levels without increasing bad LDL cholesterol levels. Low levels of HDL have previously been linked to memory loss.

24. Strike a pose.

Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation help your body beat the symptoms of stress before they harm your health, according to researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

25. Tap into the magic of mushrooms.

White button mushrooms can boost your immune system by improving how your T-cells work, according to recent preliminary studies. T-cells are the white blood cells that help protect your body from harmful intruders.

26. Try the silent treatment.

Being exposed to just 35 decibels of noise (about the sound of people talking softly) while in bed could raise your blood pressure by six or seven points, according to a recent study. Snooze more peacefully by investing in a white-noise or sound machine like the Obus Forme Sound Therapy Relaxation System ($30, amazon.com).

27. Get your game on.

Playing video games with a lot of action sequences can sharpen your visual skills by 20 percent, according to research from the University of Rochester in New York. A fun game to try: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Anniversary for Wii ($30, amazon.com).

28. Hit the sauce.

People who munch on apples, eat applesauce, or drink apple juice are 27 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome -- a combination of health problems, such as increased blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, that can lead to heart disease and diabetes, research shows. Other studies suggest that eating apples may reduce your risk of breast cancer.

29. Take a nature break.

Heading outdoors for 30 minutes when the sun is shining can make you happier and improve your brain's ability to process new information, according to a study at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

30. Go, go, go!

If you feel the urge, race to the restroom. Having an overly full bladder can increase stress on the heart, upping the odds of a heart attack in those at risk, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows.

31. Fly away.

Women who take at least two vacations a year are more happily married than those who rarely get out of town, because they are less likely to be depressed, tense, or tired. Book your summer trip now.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2009.

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