Fitness - What Is Fitness?

Aristotle helped define the standards of fitness 2,500 years ago when he taught that a thing that suits its purpose well is fit. Fortunately for us, the cardiovascular system, lungs, skeleton, muscles, endocrine system and all the other amazing components of the body function for our purpose: to live well.

Exercising aids fitness in numerous ways, each involving one or more of those systems.

Increased physical activity causes the heart to work harder than at rest. That increases blood flow, floods tissues with fresh oxygen and removes cellular waste products.

Exercise causes the lungs to draw in extra oxygen to bathe the tissues and help power the heart. Exhalation removes carbon dioxide, a waste product of certain biochemical reactions.

Regular, moderate exercise helps raise HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol (the 'good' type). It helps regulate blood sugar levels and converts stored fat into sugars that are used to provide energy. That process also prevents obesity.

The other benefits of a regular fitness program are more obvious and usually among the more direct goals of most people who make the effort: increased muscle mass, toned legs, buttocks, arms, stomach and healthier looking skin. Along the way, the individual receives the added value of greater strength, improved balance, higher endurance and (often) a better frame of mind.

Different types of routines will emphasize one area more than another. Aerobic routines help the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, weight lifting focuses on building muscle tone and mass, yoga and pilates helps balance, flexibility and muscular control. But each of these, and several more, help more than just the intended focus group. The body is an integrated system and improving one area almost always has beneficial consequences for others.

All those benefits, at least to a moderate degree, can be had for minimal daily effort. Moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes per day, at least five days per week, will go a long way toward optimizing fitness.

A brisk walk, taking the stairs up one or two flights, a short daily jog, jumping rope and many other simple activities can be carried out with no special equipment or training.

More intense activity, done properly, can raise that level even further. A vigorous tennis game, a few laps in the swimming pool, an hour on the treadmill or exercise bike, or any of a dozen others, can raise your fitness to a peak with only a moderate investment of time and money.

For the truly committed there are, of course, a thousand and one classes at the gym, and every conceivable kind of home fitness equipment to fit a variety of budgets. A daily routine using free weights, followed by a good jog around the park will keep all systems functioning well.

And, as Aristotle taught all those centuries ago, to function well is to live well.

Using Generic Drugs

generic drugs

Generic drugs can save you money because they cost less than brand-name prescriptions.

Unlike other types of generic products such as cereal or soup where the brand is often better, generic medications are just as pure, effective and high quality as their brand counterparts.

Generic drugs, by law, must have the same active ingredients than the brand names, and they are plentiful – generic options are available for about half of all prescription drugs currently on the market, a recent Consumer Reports report stated.

According to the Consumer Reports article, “Shopper’s Guide to Prescription Drugs” from 2006, generics are simply copies of the medications that have expired patents. It can take any where from 10 to 14 years for a patent to expire, at which point the brand-name manufacturer loses the right to be the only seller of the drug.

What’s Causing All the Confusion?

The confusion between choosing a generic or name brand often is because the name brand stays on the market while the generic is being sold. Seeing the two together, many people tend to choose the name brand because, as is the case with the soup they like to eat, they think the name brand must be better.

Another reason people are not using generics is because they may have been using the brand name for a while and don’t want to switch for fear it won’t work as effectively.

Still another reason generic medications haven’t caught on is because they often look different from the name brands. Again, this goes back to the comfort level of the patient. People like to stick with what they know without considering other options. Pharmaceutical companies have spent millions selling the image of their drugs to people, and, according to this logic, it’s no wonder. Once the idea is planted, it’s hard to uproot and plant another.

Ask Your Doctor About Generics

According to Providence Health Plans’ Web site, generic drugs are now available in all major therapeutic drug classes and are usually subject to a lower copayment or coinsurance, and generics offer effective treatment for many of the common conditions treated in routine care and are equivalent to brand-name products in safety, quality and performance.

If you are interested in trying generic medications, you must speak with your doctor. Pharmacists can change a doctor’s order from brand name to generic, but they have to ask you, by law. If you want more information, even after speaking to your doctor, consult your pharmacist. He or she will be able to provide additional insight about whether or not you should choose a name brand or generic.

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How to Recognize and Prevent Burnout

burnout
What is it?
Burnout occurs when a person feels overwhelmed by work and/or social circumstances and is unable to cope due to high levels of stress and emotional and physical exhaustion. Experiencing burnout can cause a person to feel unmotivated and extremely unhappy. High stress levels in all areas of life can reduce productivity and interrupt normal work, family and social relationships. It may also have an adverse affect on one’s health. It may be caused by lack of control, job boredom or monotony, extreme pressure to meet constant and excessive demands and lack of recognition.

Who is at Risk?
People who are dealing with a stressful environment on a daily basis, who must fulfill certain objectives and are under pressure due to time, financial or employer constraints. These people could be executive high flyers or even carers for the disabled. Any job or environment that can become monotonous and make a person feel like their achievements go unrecognized has the potential to increase the likelihood of burnout.

Signs of Burnout
Early signs of burnout relate closely to high levels of stress and the mental rather than physical state of a person’s well-being. Feelings like frustration, hopelessness, irritability and lack of emotional energy are all early signs. As they are also feelings experienced with depression fast diagnosis and early prevention of further burnout is required to.

Introduce positive change. As the state of burnout progresses physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, weight gain or weight loss may manifest and a person is at higher risk of developing extreme mental depression and even other emotional problems, for example, anxiety attacks.

Prevention
Burnout can be prevented or alleviated with the same methods used to combat stress. Having good physical health and maintaining strong relationships within the family and workplace will ensure a foundation of support, if and when it’s needed. A person that can socialize and connect with like-minded people is able to relax easier and counter stress more effectively. To prevent burnout a person may request different duties in a monotonous job or indeed make a career change altogether. A clear expectation of work duties may help as will a clean and relaxed office environment. If the first signs of burnout are being experienced, a person may reassess personal and private life goals and realise and set limits on their capabilities in certain situations. Taking regular breaks may help reduce stress in a highly demanding work environment. Once burnout has occurred, positive changes may be undertaken through counselling, doctor’s advice and help from family and friends. The best defense against burnout is for a person to remain connected with others and practice good communication within work, social and family circles.

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What You Really Need to Know About Cholesterol

cholesterol
When a person eats fatty foods, those fats are ultimately absorbed by the small intestine and sent along to the liver, which breaks them down into various other fat products, but mostly cholesterol. The liver then transforms 80 percent of this cholesterol into cholic acid (bile), which is necessary to digest fats and proteins.

The rest of the cholesterol is then used as building blocks for all cell membrane construction, all hormone fabrication, stem cells and the insulation of nerves cells in the brain. Pretty important stuff. In fact, huge amounts of cholesterol are required for these functions. Remember that the brain is 80 percent fats by weight, mostly cholesterol and omega-3.

Cholesterol's Bad Rap

Then why does cholesterol have such a bad reputation? It’s because there are two types of cholesterol. The first is high density lipid (HDL) cholesterol, which is beneficial and does not harm blood vessels. In fact it protects them because it actually collects some of the negative cholesterol and carries it back to the liver for removal.

The negative cholesterol is low density lipid (LDL) and it acts as a free radical in the body. A free radical has nothing to do with the 1960s. It is an unstable protein molecule that can do great damage to the body and cells. The damage done by LDL cholesterol attracts inflammation which obstructs blood vessels and allows excess cholesterol in the circulation to be deposited in the damaged vessel walls. It is when clots form on these blockages in the blood vessels that flow is restricted and heart attacks or strokes may result. That is the cause of cholesterol's negative reputation.

Arteriosclerosis

This inflammation and blockage of the blood vessels is called arteriosclerosis. (By the way, calcium is also deposited in the vessels when inflamed and in this case is as dangerous as cholesterol.) And since it can have such dangerous consequences for human health it's worth understanding more clearly how it develops.

The lining of blood vessels can be damaged by many factors, not just cholesterol. The inflammation caused by the free radicals actually tries to repair damage, but the swelling it causes allows cholesterol and calcium to deposit. There has to be damage for cholesterol to stick and cause and arteriosclerosis.

So it's not so much LDL cholesterol, but the damage done by free radicals that are created by LDL cholesterol, that eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes. The blockages in the blood vessels cause protrusions, which lead to clots, which deprive the heart or brain of oxygen.

Guarding against arteriosclerosis

  • Exercise is the best cure. It can actually reverse arteriosclerosis.
  • Maintain a high intake of potassium. Bananas, orange juice, tomato paste and potatoes are among the foods high in potassium, or take a supplement.
  • No smoking.
  • Eat a balanced diet, low on toxins, fats and meat. Also avoid high amounts of sugars, starches and prepared foods.
  • Lower intake of saturated fat, but don’t cut it out entirely.

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Exercises for Air Travel

exercises for air travel

Travel often involves extended flights. Long periods of time seated in a cramped atmosphere can lead to reduced movement. In addition to general discomfort, this immobility can lead to dangerous health events.

Excessive sitting has the potential to cause blood clots in the legs. This condition is referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), sometimes also called traveler’s thrombosis. When blood pools in the legs, these clots can form which may have varying degrees of size and effects on health. Small clots often go unnoticed. Moderately sized clots can cause swelling, stiffness and pain.

Unfortunately, large clots can have life threatening consequences. The clot can break off and transfer to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, also termed a venous thromboembolism (VTE). The effects of a pulmonary embolism may not result until hours after it has occurred. The signs include chest pain and shortness of breath. In some cases it may cause sudden death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently launched a project evaluating DVT and its relationship to air travel. The project, WHO Research Into Global Hazards of Travel (WRIGHT), is evaluating if higher risks of DVT and VTE are related to air travel versus other modes of transportation such as sitting in a car.

Preliminary research from the WRIGHT project indicates that the risk of VTE doubles for flights that last four hours or more. The risk increases as the flight time increases and can also be present in instances where travelers take several flights within a short time frame.

Move to Reduce Risk

Regular movement is advised during long flights to improve blood circulation. This can be done through standing and walking around the cabin every 60 to 90 minutes. Exercises performed in a seated position can also be beneficial in reducing the risks of DVT. Focus on the calf muscle may be related to increasing the blood flow in the legs and the prevention of clotting.

Many airlines provide suggestions and even explanations of exercises on their web-sites. Northwest Airlines provides a list of 10 possible movements complete with graphics for instruction.
A few examples of exercises that can improve blood flow include:

Ankle Circles

Slowly rotate the feet at the ankle in circles both clockwise and counter clockwise.

Seated Calf Raises

Start with the feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise the heels off the ground bringing the feet up on the toes. Lower the heels and press them into the floor and try to raise the toes off the ground.

Knee Raises

Lift the knees up towards the chest. This can be performed with both knees together or one at a time.

Reach

Raise the arms above the head and elongate the finger tips towards the ceiling, stretching the upper body.

Neck Stretch

Slowly drop the head to one side, almost to touch the shoulder. Circle the head to the front, chin to chest, and over to the other side.

More Tips

Travelers can incorporate additional practices during long flights for comfort and safety. Avoid tight fitting clothing when traveling. Garments should be loose and comfortable while seated. Also, increase leg room by removing items from under the seat in front. If there is no room in the overhead bin, pull the bag out and allow it to sit under the knees so that the legs can be stretched out. Air travel can be very dehydrating to the body. It is beneficial to regularly consume water and fruit juices throughout the duration of the flight.

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Beta Carotene and Vitamins A and E

beta carotene
In a recent press release, a Chicago study of 68 existing studies on Beta carotene and vitamins A and E have been found to increase the risk of death. The review consisted of studies on almost 250,000 people using these antioxidants.

According to critics, many of the study's participants were chronically ill before starting antioxidant treatments. Researchers have not found evidence of risks associated with natural antioxidants found in fruits or vegetables; only in synthetic supplements.

Synthetic supplements have higher concentrated levels of antioxidants and can therefore be more problematic. Antioxidants fight free radicals that can cause cell damage. The study explained that by wiping out the free radicals from our bodies, we are interrupting important defense mechanisms needed to fight disease.

According to the study, using antioxidants Beta carotene and vitamin A and E, can increase the chance of mortality by 5 %. Vitamin C, which is thought to increase longevity, was shown to have no real effect on longevity at all.

While the study may demonstrate that Beta carotene, vitamin A and B may not help you live longer it does not have the valid and reliable support needed to back the claim that antioxidants can actually increase your risk of death.

Check with you physician, especially if you are using anitoxidants as a form of treatment for a serious illness, and consult other surveys that contradict this latest study and recommend antioxidants.

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Acupuncture Treatments

Acupuncture has been practised in Asia for thousands of years and its use as a treatment for numerous illnesses have been well documented.

acupuncture treatments

What is Acupuncture?

A form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture is an increasingly popular type of complementary/alternative medicine that uses needles to help stimulate different "meridians" in the body. It is based on the concept that the life-force energy of the body runs through various areas or pathways in the body. By inserting small needles into various points and depths, it's considered that a rebalancing of this life-force energy (called 'Qi') will promote good health and correct many ills. Currently there are over 400 known points on the body and each correspond to various bodily functions.

There are documented cases that have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating maladies such as nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and chemotherapy, minor aches and pains, dental pain, headaches, migraines, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia to name a few. However, major diseases such as diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure do not tend to respond to this treatment, although it can be prescribed for help in symptoms associated with them.

While the treatment can help with the whole host of illnesses listed above, there is still some controversy which surrounds this treatment for the reduction of cravings. The results have been mixed, especially around the issue of smoking cessation. Although it may reduce withdrawal symptoms, it isn't being touted as an entirely reliable cure for this addiction.

In China, where the most extensive and comprehensive schooling is available, it can take 3 to 4 years to graduate. The needles must be placed in the correct spot, so it is essential that qualified individuals perform the procedure.

Interest in the West

Although Western medicine has embraced acupuncture as a treatment in recent years, many insurers still refuse to cover these treatments and repeat visits can be costly.

Yet just because the insurance company doesn't pay for it, its many benefits have been acknowledged by the medical community. In the US, the Mayo Clinic has had a full time staff for acupuncture since the 1970s and the National Institute of Health has recommended acupuncture for various treatments since 1997. It is generally accepted that acupuncture has its place and should be considered as an alternative, or in addition to, conventional treatments.

Ultimately, the best way to figure out which treatment is best for you is always to discuss your options with your physician and follow their recommendations.

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