Know Your Body

When choosing an exercise plan, the most important aspect to first consider is body type. There are three primary body types, ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs.

 

Ectomorph traits

  • Delicate frame and build.
  • Hard to gain weight and muscle mass.
  • Flat chest, small shoulders.
  • Much lean muscle with fast metabolism

Ectomorphs find it very hard to gain weight. They have a fast metabolism which burns calories quickly. Ectomorphs need large amounts of calories in order to gain weight. Workouts should be short and intense focusing on big muscle groups. Supplements are definitely recommended. Generally, ectomorphs can lose fat very easily which makes cutting back to lean muscle easier for them, but it may also be harder to gain muscle.

Mesomorph traits

Mesomorphs have solid bone structures, large muscles, and naturally athletic build. They find it easy to gain and lose weight, and are naturally strong which makes their bodies great platforms for building

Typical traits on a Mesomorph:

  • Athletic
  • Hard body with well defined muscles
  • Rectangular shaped body
  • Strong
  • Gains muscle easily
  • Gains fat more easily than ectomorphs

Mesomorphs typically respond best to weight training and cardio workouts together. Gains are seen quickly in muscle, however, the same goes for fat. Mesomorphs need to watch their diets and calorie intake. They also need to make sure to get adequate cardiovascular workouts to avoid accumulating fat.

Endomorphs

Endomorphs have solid, large bodies. Of the three body types, endomorphs gain fat the easiest. However, they also have extremely strong muscles, especially in the legs. Squats and other leg exercises are typically the easiest for endomorphs.

Typical traits of an Endomorph:

  • Soft and round body
  • Gains muscle and fat very easily
  • Is generally short and “stocky”
  • Round physique
  • Finds it hard to lose fat
  • Slow metabolism

In training, endomorphs find it easy to gain weight. Unfortunately, this is not typically in the form of muscle. They must always train cardio in addition to weight training. Supplements are typically not needed as long as the person has adequate protein in their diet and minimal fat and carbs.

A combination of body types:

One person may be a combination of two body types, either ecto/mesomorphs or meso/endomorph. For example, someone may have all the traits of an mesomorph and gain weight like an endomorph. Each person is different, and their training has to be tailored to their exact body type. If you are more on the ectomorph spectrum, eat what you want and lift a lot. If you are more towards the endomorph end, definitely watch your diet and do lots of cardio. Anyone can get in shape, but it is of utmost importance to do the right workouts to make sure workout time is time well spent.

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Working Out Without the Gym

Exercises such as strength training and treadmill running are great gym workouts. These are extremely effective at helping one lose weight and keep it off, but only if a strict regimen it adhered to. For those who don’t like watching Judge Judy or staring at a speckled ceiling while working out, there are many options for getting fit and having fun while doing so.

Surfing
Surfing provides many health benefits including cardiovascular fitness from vigorous intervals of paddling and resting, shoulder and back strength from paddling and balancing on your board and leg and core strength from standing on the board. A strong stance involves many leg and core muscles to maintain. Surfing is also a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy the environment. As with any exercise, it helps de-stress the mind.

Swimming

Swimming works your whole body, improving cardiovascular conditioning, muscle strength, endurance, posture, and flexibility all at the same time. Your cardiovascular system in particular benefits because swimming improves your body’s use of oxygen without overworking your heart.

Running

Running is a fantastic cardiovascular workout. It reduces stress and depression, motivating the runner to keep at it and improve. It also increases elasticity of arteries leading to better circulation and cardiovascular health. It also reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. As with any aerobic workout, it also causes weight loss and a general sense of well-being. There is a higher risk of training injury with running than some other sports, so proper form is important.

Rock Climbing

Climbing increases your upper body strength, particularly in the lats, forearms, biceps and shoulders. Also improved is core strength from coordinating upper and lower body involvement at the same time. It also improves cardiovascular health, though not as much as aerobic activity. It also challenges climbers to push themselves  to new levels mentally, something that comes with increasing difficulty of climbs. Outdoor climbing also provides the relaxation of being in nature and getting in touch with the earth.

These exercises not only work the muscles and promote aerobic health, but they stimulate the mind as well. Since these activities take thinking and concentration to perform, one is not distracted by how much pain they are in or how boring their gym’s paint scheme is. The mind can even think about other things; many even say their best ideas come to them when they are on a run or out in the water. If a packed gym is simply not your scene, give these activities a try to exercise your body and mind.

The Science of Sleep

“Sleep when you’re dead,” has become the motto of many people who think of sleep as a frivolous waste of time that can be cut back on to make time for more productive activities. While one may be more productive in the short term by sleeping less, their body becomes much less productive and over time, a lack of sleep will take its toll on their entire life.

It is truly impossible to be completely healthy without sufficient sleep. Eight hours is the gold standard of sleep. Some say seven is adequate, but 8-9 hours is optimal. Any less begins to affect glucose tolerance and endocrine function, which can lead to weight gain and decreased energy. Sleep loss also can speed up the onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and decreased memory function. Some research even says that the lack of adequate sleep has similar and even worst effects than consistent overindulgence in alcohol. Staying awake for 18 hours or more affects the body much the same as drinking the legal limit of alcohol; 2 out of 3 auto accidents in the US are attributed to sleep deprivation.

College students are particularly at risk for sleep deprivation, as their work loads are extremely heavy at times and they may not possess the time management abilities to make time for adequate sleep. If you cannot get sleep, restful relaxation or meditation can help rest the body’s organs. This is better than no rest at all, however, only during sleep does the brain rest and recover. The immune system also greatly benefits from sleep, as does the adrenal system and many systems that eliminate toxins from the body.

 

While many think sleep is not productive, it’s one of the most important things we can do to take care of our bodies. To get a restful and beneficial night of sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, or as close as possible. Try to get a solid 8 hours, 7.5 at the very least and optimally 9 hours. With a consistent sleep schedule, you should be able to rise feeling rested without an alarm. The body’s internal clock is surprisingly accurate if trained.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in your sleeping area. Cooler is better, and not more than 70 degrees.
  • Make sure the room is as dark as possible, especially if sleeping during the day. Chemicals released in the brain to stimulate the feeling of tiredness are activated by complete darkness.
  • Cold feet are common during sleep, as they are not in use and therefore get less blood flow. Try wearing socks to keep the uncomfortable sensation of freezing toes from ruining your good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. The effects of alcohol on the brain keep it from falling into the most restful and reparative stages of sleep. Even if you get a full night of sleep after drinking, your brain and body likely won’t feel like it.

Getting an adequate night of sleep is the easiest and most relaxing way to keep your mind and body healthy.

The Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is not just a trend for the upper-crust members of society like many perceive it to be. The practice of Yoga has been around for over 5000 years, and about 11 million Americans practice it today. Its benefits have been time-tested, and the craft perfected.

Western Yoga methods focus on asanas, or physical poses incorporating breathing techniques and meditation.  There are different styles of classes for different purposes and age groups, such as power Yoga which is shorter and more intense and Bikram Yoga which is held in rooms around 110 degrees. There are classes with minimal intensity and classes whose sole purpose is to make the body stretch in new ways. Simply put, there is a Yoga class for everyone. Choosing any style of Yoga enables you to develop your flexibility, strength, and balance.

Yoga and The Body

You’re never too old or too unfit to begin Yoga. Anyone can improve their flexibility and benefit from doing so. Asanas, or poses, work by safely stretching muscles. Too hard? Take a break. There is no pressure to be a contortionist in your first few classes.

Yoga rids muscles of lactic acid that causes soreness and tension, and increases range of motion and lubrication in joints. The result is flexibility and fluidity throughout the body. In addition to the muscles and joints, Yoga stretches the body’s ligaments and tendons. And no matter your level of yoga, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time. In one study, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga. The greatest gains were in shoulder and trunk flexibility.

With the more vigorous styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, one can improve muscle tone in addition to becoming more flexible. However, even the less vigorous forms provide strength and endurance. Many poses build upper body strength, a crucial benefit of Yoga especially as people age. Standing poses build leg and abdominal muscles, and poses such as chair and upward dog build back muscles. Nearly all poses build strength deep in the core and abs.

Naturally, with increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. With a stronger core it’s more likely that one will sit and stand taller. Also, with increased awareness of one’s body, it’s more likely that a person who does Yoga will realize that they’re slumping and correct the problem.

Yoga also benefits breathing. Since Yoga involves deep, mindful breathing, these exercises often improve lung capacity. Because of the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves. This helps improve endurance, but Yoga typically doesn’t benefit aerobic strength like running or biking. However, fast-paced intense classes and classes in heated rooms can get you breathing hard and provide aerobic benefit.

Yoga and The Mind

People practicing Yoga even for the first time tend to feel more relaxed after their workout. Some styles of the practice use meditation and breathing techniques to calm stress in the mind. This is not just a mood change, there is a biochemical process behind why Yoga can bring about such positive change in the mind. Yoga causes a decrease in the stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, catecholamines. Some research points to an elevated level of oxytocin, the hormone associated with trust and bonding.

Yoga students often talk about concentration and mental focus being improved with Yoga. The scientific reasoning behind this phenomenon is hard to pin down. Many explain that when performing specific asanas, focus is taken from problems and worries in one’s life and channeled into the pose, improving one’s focus by holding the pose and taking the mind away from distractions. They also often say their mood is elevated after a workout. Yoga can even help eradicate depression by boosting oxygen in the brain.

Other Benefits

Yoga is the topic of much scientific research. Studies have shown that Yoga can have a positive effect on learning and memory, slow the process of aging, increase one’s self-awareness, and improve energy levels. These studies are hard to prove, however, because much of the data is not quantifiable. What is known is that Yoga has profound effects on the body and mind, no matter what the specific reason. There is an abundance of positive claims about Yoga, many from personal accounts. The only way to be sure of Yoga’s benefits are to try it for yourself.

Integrated Medicine

Many Americans don’t understand the flaws that exist within our healthcare system. Allopathic medicine, or any medical doctor readily available to residents of the US, is largely symptom-based. Instead of considering the entire person and their lifestyle choices and prior ailments, most allopathic doctors assess a patient’s symptoms and write a prescription.

While doctors are generally seen as giving medicine with the best of intentions, their intentions aren’t always pure. Many doctors receive kickbacks for prescriptions, or compensation by drug companies for each patient they get to take a certain medicine. The drug industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Business decisions are replacing patients’ needs, when a person may not even need drugs if they changed their lifestyles even slightly.

But modern allopathic medicine has huge benefits as well. In serious diseases such as cancer and infections, allopathic medicine is by far the most effective. But these measure are extreme, and many drugs should not be doled out as carelessly as they are.

On the other end of the spectrum is alternative medicine. Alternative medicine has been around for thousands of years and hails from eastern cultures such as China and India. Medicine in these cultures focuses on the entire human being, from what they eat and their daily habits to the thoughts they think and the energy they project.

Alternative medicine uses nutrition, herbs, acupuncture, massage, meditation and many other techniques to bring about positive changes in health. However, differently from allopathic medicine, alternative medicine focuses on preventing ailments instead of simply covering up their symptoms.

Today, alternative medicine is less popular mainly because there is less money to be made in it. Patients learn to treat their bodies well and what it takes to be healthy, many times getting completely off of drugs. The results take longer to see than allopathic drugs, which is why some consider alternative medicine “quackery.” However, it is growing in popularity today as people become more educated and aware of their bodies. Prescription drugs have many undesirable side-effects that patients often turn to alternative medicine to get away from. Time tells all; these practices have been around for about 5,000 years. If these treatments didn’t have any value, they would not be around today.

Both health views have their benefits. Alternative medicine prevents ailments and focuses on the entire body. It is effective in treating acute disorders, but there are some problems it can’t necessarily fix. Allopathic medicine treats symptoms for the most part. However with major diseases, it’s life-saving. Unfortunately it is a business that makes money from each prescription. Many drugs patients simply do not need, as the original ailment is preventable. This is where integrative medicine comes into play.

Integrative medicine comes from a historical appreciation of the limitations of today’s medicine. While standard pharmaceutical approaches rely on isolated testing scenarios, which often fail to consider the entire patient and many multi-faceted conditions, integrative medicine uses forms of medicine that have various cultures have used for thousands of years, often taking into account the intuitive intelligence of the patient and their health provider rather than the assumed expertise of laboratory technicians and general care providers.

Since both approaches to medicine have great benefits, integrated medicine is growing in popularity. Most people receiving medical attention are at least interested in alternatives to harsh drug treatments. Integrated medicine provides them this option while also making sure their lives are safe in more serious conditions.

All the Rage and Combating Age

We all know when something is inflamed. But, what about inflammation inside of our bodies? Internal inflammation can happen for a host of different reasons: high temperatures when cooking food, eating processed foods, sugar, trans fats, and many other reasons. A high level of inflammation within the body can cause many health problems. An easy way to combat this? Eat more anti-inflammatory foods and eliminate the inflammatory ones. But what is an anti-inflammatory food? While you know healthy, whole foods from processed foods, none of us can see the true effect they have on our bodies often until it’s too late.

One diet plan with an increasingly large following is the anti-inflammatory diet. The thought behind this diet is that constant inflammation within the body causes illness, and that eating to avoid inflammation fights the disease and promotes preventive health. Inflammation is a component of conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Proponents of the diet say it reduces heart disease risk, keep existing cardiac problems in check, reduces blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothes sore and stiff arthritic joints.

 

In general, anti-inflammatory diets recommend:

  • Eat plenty and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat little saturated and trans fats.
  • Eat omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates such as white pasta and white rice.
  • Increase your consumption of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
  • Limit (or quit) your consumption of red meat and full-fat dairy foods, increase lean protein and plant-protein source.
  • Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
  • Generously use anti-inflammatory spices.

Lose weight fast and safely

Though weight loss is not the main purpose of anti-inflammatory diets but they do help you lose weight fast and safely. With lots of food low in refined carbohydrates, there will be less excessive energy to be stored so fat will not be created. The fruits and vegetable you eat will boost the metabolism, help cleanse your body and burn fat quickly. Researches showed that average people can lose as much as 2 pounds in a week with an anti-inflammatory diet.

Playing God

For many reasons, positive and negative, genetically modified organisms have made their way into our food. While many countries know not to mess with mother nature, the United States is not so wise. Proponents of genetically modified foods back their stance up by saying that there are higher yields, better shelf life and more availability. While this may be true, they don’t take into account the fact that this method of farming is not sustainable. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from sustainable.

Seed companies such as Monsanto take seeds of crops such as corn and tomatoes, and modify them to be “better.” These modified crops are tougher, larger, and yield more. This sounds great on paper, but these crops also have less nutritional value, require a great deal of pesticides and chemicals, and don’t come back the year after because of “terminator” genes placed in the seed’s DNA.

There are also increased food allergies and weakened immune systems due to this food. But since there are no tests to see what GM food causes allergies, this food has been released into the public anyway. A person doesn’t become allergic to this food until they have eaten it multiple times, thus food allergies are on the rise with no concrete correlation known. What is known, however, is that this is due to genetically modified food allergies are on the rise, especially in children.

Crops smolder near where an Indian farmer lay writhing in pain after drinking chemical fertilizer, committing suicide as a result of seed monopolies.

Economically, the introduction of genetically modified organisms has greatly affected the poorer countries. Since their economies are so reliant on farming for livelihood, throwing the process off track greatly affects farmers and communities. The big GM companies looking for profit and dependence by its customers went as far as giving gifts of seeds to farmers in third-world countries to produce one successful harvest, and then force the farmers to buy more seeds. When the farmers couldn’t afford to be tied to the large corporations, many committed suicide by drinking chemicals they bought from the seed companies to prove their

point, as there was no way out of their struggle. Many protests are now happening around the world against genetically modified organisms given to third world countries as “poisoned gifts.”

Organizations such as Monsanto want to control the world’s supply of food, and they are pushing for more and more deregulation. One way they are pushing for deregulation is in the form of labeling. The GM companies want food containing genetically modified organisms to not be labeled as such. With Americans already lacking crucial knowledge about genetically modified organisms, if they do not know they are even consuming them, the problem will be exacerbated further. If these companies patent and control all crop seeds, they literally will own all the food in the world. Farmers will have to report to Monsanto and other large GM companies to get seeds, feed them, and get more seeds after one harvest. This creates a total monopoly by the corporations who control something that traditionally belongs to individual cultures and, in a larger scope, the earth.

The global implications of genetically modified organisms greatly affect the way the world runs. Traditionally, cultures have had their own crops germane to their particular geographic location. The seeds were passed down for generations, and were completely sustainable. Since the seeds have now been tainted and patented, this all has the potential to change. Luckily the problem is not worldwide. Hopefully it will be a matter of time before the US realizes the damage genetically modified organisms are doing to the world, with its land and people.

A Real Process

What image comes to mind when you think of “processed food?” Burgers and fries? 49-cent deep-fried tacos? This is correct, since all fast food is processed and often doesn’t contain anything nutritious. But processed food is not just in quick and convenient restaurants. Most of the food in your pantry is processed. Something most people don’t realize is that processed food is food canned, frozen, dehydrated, or supplemented with chemicals to change its natural characteristics. However, there is a large spectrum of levels of processing.

The idea of processed foods has made meals more convenient than ever, and was developed with the best of intentions to preserve food and help businesses prosper. However, the methods used to make food convenient are highly unnatural and the effects of these foods on our bodies has not been proven. Today, chemicals and other processes play a pivotal role in food as we know it. Processing does for food the following:

  • Color – Grapes aren’t royal purple…
  • Stabilize – How does cranberry sauce stay in tube form?
  • Emulsify – Who says oil and water can’t mix?
  • Bleach – Sterilization prevents bacteria growth
  • Texturize – Not too hard, not too soft, just right…
  • Soften – It’s as if the ice cream was churned twice
  • Preserve – What if you want to eat the cupcake six months from now?
  • Sweeten – Artificial sweeteners are up to 600 times sweeter than sugar
  • Flavor – Nothing like the taste of pink.

While processing has made some aspects of the food industry better, the problem is out of hand. Take a look at the list of ingredients from the strawberry flavoring of a milkshake served at a fast food restaurant.

Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamylvalerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl Nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, heliotropin, hydroxphrenyl-2butanone(10% solution to alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbone, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl slicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobulyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, sore rum ether, g-undecalctone, vanillin, and solvent

These ingredients simply do not belong in the human body. Anyone would agree with this, but the problem is even larger than the fact that people harm their bodies with this food. People don’t even know what they are eating, and by FDA standards, this is acceptable. This is why our country is home to staggering amounts of overweight children and obese homeless people, not to mention many preventable diseases on the rise. It is time for our country to be honest with ourselves and take a look at the problems our poor food quality is causing.

The American diet kills.

America has a unique problem. Many Americans are malnourished, yet many Americans are obese. The shocking part is that in the vast majority of these categories are the same exact people. Nowhere else in the world does one have access to so much food with so little nutritional value. The high-fat, high-calorie, low-protein diets many Americans eat are killing people right and left, but this fact is widely understated. The standard American diet could be responsible for more than two-thirds of disease-related deaths in our country. Americans are eating food full of empty calories and wreaks havoc on their health. This has been known for years. The Surgeon General Report of 1988 claimed the following:

Food sustains us,… Yet what we eat may affect our risk for several of the leading causes of death for Americans, notably, coronary heart disease, stroke, arteriolosclerosis, diabetes, and some types of cancer. These disorders together now account for more than two-thirds of all deaths in the United States. …

… But for most of us the more likely problem has become one of overeating—too many calories for our activity levels and an imbalance in the nutrients consumed along with them. Enough has been learned about the overall health impact of the dietary patterns now prevalent in our society to recommend significant changes in those patterns.

The Report’s main conclusion is that over consumption of certain dietary components is now a major concern for Americans. While many food factors are involved, chief among them is the disproportionate consumption of foods high in fats, often at the expense of foods high in complex carbohydrates and fiber that may be more conducive to health.”

This report was the first of its kind by the US outlining in detail the problem and scientific basis for recommended diet changes. Yet America continues to ignore this problem.

The major deficiency in the American diet comes from too much refined and processed food. White rice, white bread, frozen meals, some cereals, and refined sugar are not healthy for the body. Yet the media had convinced the population that fast food and junk food is the only food. Children with malleable minds watching commercials about McDonalds on Nickelodeon don’t stand a chance. They undoubtedly will equate McDonalds with what good food is. It’s no wonder the child obesity trend in America is spiraling out of control.

The human body was designed to consume raw vegetables and food as natural and close to its original state as possible. Progress is being made in getting Americans to understand how to eat for the sake of their health. In 2005, the USDA retired its food pyramid, released in 1992 after Harvard’s department of public health decided the pyramid is not conducive to a healthy diet. The USDA now uses MyPlate, a more personalized approach to a diet plan. MyPlate is better but still lacks the education and information Americans need to make truly healthy diet choices.

Spiraling

If obesity trends in America continue at the rate they’re moving today, half of the US population will be obese by 2030. Two thirds of the population is currently overweight or obese. This was nowhere near as serious of a problem even twenty years ago. Sure there were unhealthy people in the past, but the American lifestyle and diet puts our population at risk for many completely preventable conditions that lead to death.

I have been fortunate enough through my upbringing, workplace, and education to be educated about diet and lifestyle choices and how they can affect one’s health and well-being. I consider myself very lucky because in American culture, this education is either lacking or completely absent. Conversely, in eastern countries this education is a way of life. America is now unhealthier than ever and the problem is spiraling out of control.

As a country we need to cut off this problem at its root through education. While diet and exercise are the best ways to get healthy, knowledge is the most important tool for creating sustainable changes. Genetically modified organisms, pesticides, preservatives, and artificial ingredients are not supposed to be put in our bodies, yet most Americans do every day. Most people have no idea that our country has a huge problem on its hands.

While change is impossible to bring about overnight, it is necessary to educate Americans about the diet and lifestyle changes each individual must make to protect their health. When the hazards of our country’s

This chart shows the percentage of obese children through the decades.

lifestyle are fully understood, lives will be saved and quality of life will greatly improve for millions of Americans.