Your Belt will Thank You

December is upon us and for many in the days to come you’ll attend or host a dinner, sometimes multiple dinners. It is not uncommon to overindulge, if you are like me you are probably good for 2 plates of food and dessert. After dinner, we typically unwind and pass out on a comfy couch or chair succumbing to a food induced coma.

Here are a 5 things you can do to thin out your holidays:

  1. Get active – at any point in the day try to get out for a walk, attend a fitness class, or lift weights. Whether you have time before or after try to create a caloric deficit by doing some activity.
  2. Portion control – Be mindful of what, and how much you put on your plate. Avoid going back to get seconds. Once you finish your first plate get up from the table and move to another room. The longer you sit in front of food the more likely you are to eat what is in front of you.
  3. Slowly Savor – Take your time to enjoy your meal. Set your fork down in between each bite. Add a little more turkey (light on the gravy), fruits, vegetables and water. Food higher in protein, fiber and water content will satiate your appetite faster and keep you full longer than loading up on heavy carbohydrate foods such as potatoes and bread.
  4. Limit the Alcohol – calories from alcohol can add up quickly. Drinking beer or having a mixed drink can be high in empty calories and dehydrate you quickly. Set a limit on drinks, have a glass of water in between cocktails or designate yourself to drive home that evening.
  5. Host with healthy recipes – If you are hosting try to cut caloric corners. Holiday dinners can be heavy with oil or butters, high in sodium and fat. Try to reduce fat and oil use where ever you can while cooking. Substitute plain yogurt or fat free sour cream in mashed potatoes, casseroles or dips. Finally, use fat free, low sodium chicken broth to baste your turkey and make gravy from

Be realistic, temptation can be high, but set a realistic goal by trying to maintain an average caloric intake over the weekend. If you falter and give in, just remember being active is an ongoing lifestyle habit, one bump in the road should not deter you from reaching your goals. Stick to these tips and your belt will thank you!

Standing Balancing Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

The Sanskrit name for the pose, “Eka Pada Rajakapotasana” (EKK-uh PAHD-uh RAH-juh-KA-poh-TAHS-uh-nuh), comes from five words:

“Eka” — meaning “one”. “Pada” — meaning “foot” or “leg”. “Raja” — meaning “king”. “Kapota” — meaning “pigeon”. “Asana” — meaning “pose”

Target Muscle Group:

Strengthens: Legs. Improves balance and concentration. This is a powerful hip-opener that can help increase flexibility and the range of motion in the hip joints.
Stretches: Hip Abductors, Hip Adductors, Internal Rotators

Performance Points:

  1. Begin in an easy Chair Pose.
  2. Shift the weight onto one foot.
  3. Bring the opposite ankle above the supporting knee keeping the foot flexed to help protect the knee.
  4. Bring hands to heart centre.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

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Stay Active this Winter

Winter is here, and while it can be tempting to stay at home bundled in blankets, Edmonton has so much to offer in terms of ways to get active outdoors in the snowy season that it would be a shame to stay inside. Whether you are looking for family friendly activities suitable for all ages and skill levels, or fast paced sport and adventure there is no shortage of frosty fun in our capital city!

For lower impact family-friendly activities, take a walk down Candy Cane Lane for an easy and cost-effective way to get moving in the winter. There is no admission fee to admire the lights of the neighbourhood, but there are bins set up for food donations to be accepted along the way. Another free activity the city boasts is the Victoria IceWay skating trail, a unique skating pathway that winds through the Victoria Park in the heart of downtown.

If you are looking for something a little more adventurous, why not try out snow shoeing? There are several places in the city that offer rentals of snow shoes, and multiple areas in and around the city to use them. Elk Island National Park is just a short drive out of the city and offers scenic terrain for snow shoeing, as well as snow shoe tours! If you prefer to glide rather than walk, cross country skiing may be the activity for you. Again, there are many places to rent equipment in the city and various trails at Elk Island, Hawrelak Park, Victoria Park, Rundle Park, Kinsmen, and many other locations.

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Forget Lattes, Here’s a Healthy Option for Leftover Pumpkin

Fall is underway and that means pumpkin spice everything! It is now November, Halloween has come and gone and now you are left with a smashed pumpkin.

Both portions of the pumpkin, flesh and seed, are very healthy to consume and provide a significant amount of health benefits. If you did not save the seeds, take a trip to the store and buy roasted or raw seeds.

Health benefits provided by pumpkin seeds:

  • High in magnesium
  • Contain tocopherols, an antioxidant, a group of chemicals known as vitamin E.
  • High in zinc – beneficial for immune support
  • Prostate Health (Movember)
  • Heart and Liver health
  • Anti-Diabetic effects

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Exercise: Standing Straddle with Optional Rotation (Prasarita Padottanasana)

The Sanskrit name for this pose, “Prasarita Padottanasana” (prah-suh-REE-tuh pah-doh-tahn-AHS-uh-nuh) — comes from five words:

“Prasarita” — meaning “spread” or “expanded”
“Pada” — meaning “foot” or “leg”
“Ut” — meaning “intense”
“Tan” — meaning “to stretch”
“Asana” — meaning “pose”

Equipment needed: Yoga Mat

Muscle groups used:

  • Strengthens: Quadriceps, torso and abdominals
  • Stretches: low back, hamstrings

This pose has all the benefits of forward folds and inversions, including increased circulation in the abdomen, a calmer mind, relief from mild backaches, opened hips, relief from neck and shoulder tension plus relief from stress, anxiety, and mild depression.

How to Perform:

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It’s All in the Hips

Why are the hips so important? Before we answer that question, let’s start with some basic anatomy. There are 20 muscles surrounding the hip broken up in to groups based on function. The four groups consist of the flexors located anteriorly (front), the abductors located laterally (side), extensors on the posterior (back) side and finally, the adductors located medially (middle).

What do they Do?

The anterior group flexes the hip and helps stabilize the spine. Movements such as sitting up, kicking a ball, and lifting the knee up to walk, jog or run all involve contraction of the anterior muscle group.

The posterior muscle group is made up of the gluteus maximus muscle and the hamstrings group. Climbing stairs, standing, walking, and running are all activities that require strong contractions from the posterior muscle group to extend the leg.

The adductor muscle group, also known as the groin muscles, is located on the medial side of the thigh. These muscles move the thigh toward the body’s midline – think bringing the knees together.

The abductor muscle group is located on the lateral side of the thigh and moves the thigh away from the body’s midline. Think lifting the leg laterally.

Hips can be a real pain in the back!

Low back pain affects a large portion of the population, up to 85% of working people can expect to experience low back pain during their lifetime[1]. And the problem could be your hips.

Low back pain can radiate or be felt through the hips and down the side of one leg, this may be a symptom of sciatica. A common result of sciatica is inflammation, numbness or pain in one leg. Seeking help from a doctor, physio/athletic therapist can help alleviate the pain and strengthen the surrounding areas to improve your lifestyle. “People with troubled backs use their backs more. Generally, they walk, sit, stand and lift using mechanics that increase back loads. Many of them have stronger backs but are less endurable than matched asymptomatic controls. They tend to have more motion in their backs and less motion and load in their hips. A common aberrant motor pattern is known as gluteal amnesia[2].”

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The Sleep Diet


Sleep Diet graphicOn my way into work the other day, I was listening to Virgin Radio. Ryan Seacrest was on air and told listeners to stay tuned to hear about this new diet, the one he was talking about was the Sleep Diet. In my 14 years of combined academic and work experience in the field of kinesiology and fitness consulting I have not once come across this diet. The segment did not air while I was in the car and when I arrived at work I immediately looked up the ‘Sleep Diet’. The earliest result returned in my google search showed articles from 2013. The News tab returned results showing mainstream media sources, Fox news, Huff Post, The Daily Meal, reporting on the ‘Sleep Diet’.

The news articles are based off a peer reviewed study published in the Lancet that looks at the impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The researchers used 11 young male participants (small sample size, all male) and measured them after six days of sleep debt, four hours of sleep a night. They measured the same group after a sleep recovery period where they slept for 12 hours a night. Their findings suggest that sleep deprivation is harmful to carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function. They believe this may increase the severity of age related chronic disorders.

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Wall Sit w/ Tricep Dips

Equipment needed: none
fitness exercise picture

Muscle groups used:

  • Wall Sit – glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings.
  • Tricep Dip – triceps, anterior deltoid, pectoralis major.

How to Perform:

  • Partner A begins with back against a wall. Step feet forward and approximately hip width apart.
  • Slide back down the wall to assume a 90-degree bend in the knees, holding this position for the duration of the exercise.
  • Partner B sets up in front, resting hands on the thighs of partner A. Bending only at the elbows, lower yourself down, keeping back close to partner A’s legs.
  • Extend the arms to return to the start position.

Modifications:

  • To simplify – Tricep dips – walk feet in closer to you while performing dips for more assistance from the legs.
  • To intensify – Wall Sit – lift toes off the ground for increased glute activation, or rest a weight across lap. Tricep dips – walk feet farther away to full extension to reduce assistance from legs, or rest a weight across lap.

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Latest in Fitness Trends

Some of the latest in fitness trends include wearable technology, fitness apps, bodyweight training, HIIT, circuit training, personal training, outdoor activities and various group fitness style classes.  Some of the most popular trending group fitness classes are barre, dance, bootcamps, spin, strength, yoga, functional fitness and specialized classes for older active adults.  Even stretching has made its way back into vogue in a new way.

Wearable Technology
Wearable technology such as fitness trackers and smartwatches have been hot for the last few years.  Today’s wearables track distance, provide heart rate readings, GPS route tracking, and so much more.

Fitness Apps
Like wearables, there are many fitness apps available.  Whether you’re looking for help with a fitness program or meal planning, there’s probably an app out there for you.   Some examples include MyFitnessPal, MapMyRide, Nike Running, and Tabata Pro.  It’s projected that as these apps become more accurate, usage will also rise.

Bodyweight Exercise
No equipment workouts are relatively easy to learn, they can be modified to suit any ability level, and they can be done just about anywhere. Plus, bodyweight exercises are an efficient way to get fit for free. Some common bodyweight moves include push ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and planks.

HIIT
HIIT (high intensity interval training) helps boost metabolism by alternating quick bursts of high-intensity exercise with short rest periods. To try a high-intensity interval training workout yourself, spend approximately 20 to 30 minutes alternating repeated shorts bursts of work with short break periods.  For example, you could try 30 seconds of burpees or squat jumps with 10-15 seconds of rest followed by another work/rest cycle.

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Swim to Survive

From extreme fear of the water to overconfidence in swimming ability, I have heard it all.SwimtoSurvive-400px

What is the fear of water? Aquaphobia, as it is medically termed at its extreme, is a social phobia that is defined as the persistent, unwarranted and irrational fear of water. Many people experience these feeling of being uncomfortable in and around deep water, often due to childhood incidents. As we get older these fears grow and grow causing many to be terror-stricken at the thought of being near deep water.

As a swim instructor and lifeguard, I have heard countless times, “I want my children to learn to be comfortable in the water because my fear stems from a childhood trauma.” I am happy to see that these parents recognize that a fear of the water is not something they want to pass on to their children, but I also feel for those parents. Fear of water is so commonly associated with individuals who were not given the opportunity to learn safety in aquatic environments, whether this be a pool, river, lake or ocean.

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