I came across two studies lately that I thought were pretty interesting, and in the case of the second, rather funny.
The first has to do with food labels—you know, the government-mandated tables that go on all packaged food. It turns out that women who regularly read the labels on the food they buy weigh an average of nine pounds less than women who do not. Why? Well, it stands to reason that if you pay attention to what and how much you put in your mouth, you’re less likely to eat junk. Portion size, fat and calorie content as well as actual ingredients are a few of the important pieces of information found on the labels. If you need help figuring out how to make them work for you the FDA has some good resources.
The second study has to do with the tv show The Biggest Loser. I will tell you up front that I find it to be a dreadful show, so I report this to you with a certain amount of glee:
A group of researchers at the University of Alberta wanted to know if the show had an effect on viewers’ attitudes toward exercise. Contrary to what you might expect, they found that the study participants were significantly more negative about exercise after watching clips of the show than were members of the control group who watched American Idol. The reasons for this aren’t clear, but it certainly does make you go, “Hmmmmm.”
Let me know: Do you enjoy watching The Biggest Loser, and do you feel that it motivates you to exercise?
…how exercise affects your ability to get pregnant.
Perhaps not surprisingly, women who exercise strenuously, like athletes or those who train for marathons or triathlons, sometimes find it difficult to get pregnant. When too many of the body’s resources are being used to fuel athletic training and repair the body after each workout then there’s nothing left to support a growing fetus.
A recent Danish study looked at 3000 women who were trying to get pregnant naturally, without any fertility treatments. They found that with just five hours of vigorous exercise per week a woman’s chances of getting pregnant in any given month drop by almost 50%.
In a surprising twist, however, the same study found that women who do little or no exercise at all often have a harder time getting pregnant than women who engage in regular, moderate exercise.
In a further twist, this applies only to women with a normal body weight, or a BMI of under 25. For an overweight woman with a BMI of 25 or above, exercise at any level—light, moderate, or vigorous—slightly improves her chances of getting pregnant in any given month.
So if you’re thinking about trying to get pregnant, or if you’ve already started and it’s not happening as quickly as you’d like, take a look at your exercise habits and perhaps a little adjustment will speed things along.
It’s January which means that lots of you have hit the gym with renewed vigor. And I’m guessing that no small percentage of you are working specifically to diminish a particular trouble spot. From a flatter stomach to tighter triceps to a smaller derriere, we’re all faced with a similar challenge: how much of which exercises will give us the desired results?
Let’s start by busting the Myth of Spot Reduction.
Once upon a time we all got the idea that if we just did enough crunches we could make our stomachs flat. Or that endless squats would shrink a large behind, or that unending triceps dips would eliminated the jiggle. Not so.
All of these exercises build muscle for sure, but they don’t do much to to eliminate the fat at the problem site. Let’s use the stomach as an example. Everyone has a layer of fat sitting on top of the abdominal muscles. Unending crunches will certainly strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles (and also probably give you a backache!). But if nothing is done to reduce the overlying layer of fat then you’re never going to see the wonderfully toned muscles that sit underneath. This same principle holds true for all the other muscles and problem spots in your body.
So how do you reduce the fat?
Cardiovascular exercise and diet. Cardio—the walking, swimming, biking, etc.—burns calories and gets rid of stored fat. And a healthy diet free of excess calories will keep your body from adding additional fat.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am definitely not telling you to cut out the squats, dips and the like. You do want to build muscle and tone these areas. But you cannot look to these exercises alone to reduce any specific area—they just won’t get it done.
So much for 52 Ways to be Healthier in 2012! I really stunk that one up, didn’t I? Well, it’s a new year, a clean slate and all that jazz, so we’re just going to pretend it never happened and move forward.
I’m back with a renewed drive to make this site a great (and hopefully entertaining) resource for all things related to women’s fitness and health. Pass this link on to all the women in your life who might like to join us, and let’s all have a happy and healthy 2013!
Stay tuned for: Bat Wings, Jiggly Thighs and Other Things
Sensational headlines are everywhere, especially in the health and fitness arena. Every day it seems we learn another way to add some extra days to our lives, reduce our risk of diabetes, or lose stubborn belly fat for good. But you need to be a careful reader to get the full picture. Look for red flags like a small sample size, a very specific population sample, or any other “but” that you may come across in the article. These tell you that you probably don’t need to run out and change your lifestyle right this second—more research is needed.
If you’re interested in getting more information you can usually track down the original article online (or at least a good abstract). Occasionally, however, it doesn’t matter how carefully you read the research—sometimes the researchers lie. One of the leaders in the area of red wine and your health has been accused of faking the data in several of his studies!
Perhaps you heard last year that the FDA issued new guidelines for labeling sunscreen. Well, the new rules must be in place by this summer, so your favorite sunscreen might be looking different soon.
Probably the biggest change for all you outdoor exercisers is that the designation “sweat proof” is going away. Instead, you’ll want to look for one that’s “water resistant.” They’ve made this change since the truth is that all sunscreen wears off and needs to be reapplied frequently.
You’ll also want to pick one that says “broad spectrum.” That means it blocks both the UVA and UVB rays. The first causes premature aging and the second causes sunburns; they can both cause cancer.
In addition if you currently buy a sunscreen with an SPF above 50, know that you won’t be able to find that anymore. 50+ will be the highest SPF assigned since there’s not enough proof that anything above that makes a significant difference.
It’s time to find some new ab exercises and make the endless crunches a thing of the past. Crunches just don’t strengthen your core in a way that’s particularly useful in your every-day life, and they put an awful lot of pressure on your lower back which could lead to an injury over time.
Instead, try wood chops, planks–both front and side, or seated trunk rotations. Even if you can’t bring yourself to give up crunches completely, varying your core exercises will both make you stronger and reduce your chances of injury.
Bike, run, swim, walk. Whatever you like. Here’s why:
Goals. If one of your goals for the year is something along the lines of “get in better shape,” “run a 5K (10K/half marathon/etc.),” or, “sign up for the ______ race,” then this is your chance to achieve it.
Structure. Signing up and committing to an event and/or distance gives you incentive to train, as well as a time frame in which you must do it.
Camaraderie. While many of the people who participate in these events do it for the competition, a greater number do it for fun and a sense of accomplishment. It’s a good feeling to push through a physical challenge alongside others who are doing it too.
Good Deeds. An added bonus is that many of these events are held for charity. So your entry fee goes to a worthy cause while you reap the physical benefits.
One of the first things I ask my clients who are trying to lose weight is if they have a pop habit. (Yes, pop. I’m from Iowa. That’s what we call it.) You see, cutting out the empty calories found in all regular pop can make an immediate difference.
Let’s say you like Coke and drink one can every day for an entire year. Each can of Coke has 140 calories (most pop falls between 140 and 190 calories per can).
140 calories x 365 days per year = 51,100 calories per year
51,100 calories per year / 3500 calories per pound = 14.6 pounds per year
Again, in case you missed it, that’s 14.6 pounds that you will gain in one year from all that pop unless you exercise enough to burn an equal number of calories!
Additionally, a study published last year found that sweetened beverages (including pop and many flavored waters) cause other health problems in women. The study followed 4,166 women for five years and found that women who drink two or more sweetened beverages a day are more likely to develop high triglycerides and elevated blood glucose—regardless of whether they gained any weight during that time!!