5 Painless Ways to Make Exercise a Habit That Sticks

For most people, 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity is a good target, but getting there can be a challenge, and unfortunately there is no easy solution for those short on time. The simple truth is that in order to make exercise a regular habit, you need to move it up on your priority list. That said, if you’re able to mentally reposition physical activity as a more positive experience, it won’t feel like a sacrifice, and you may even come to enjoy it. As someone who has long struggled to maintain a consistent fitness routine and finally found some measure of success, I’m happy to share some strategies that have worked for me and others I know.

1. Lower Your Expectations

This seems like a pessimistic way to start a blog aimed at encouraging people to be more physically active, but I think setting a realistic and manageable fitness plan is one of the most important steps in making exercise a regular habit. The same all-or-nothing mentality that deters the best of healthy eating intentions can also sabotage attempts to become more fit. If after months of inactivity you launch right into a high intensity workout regimen, like running several miles at full-speed or starting a series of extreme fitness videos, you’ll likely feel miserable during and after exercising. Breathing so hard that your lungs hurt, or waking up so sore that you can’t move, are telltale signs that you’re pushing yourself too hard, which is counterproductive. If you come to dread exercising, there’s a good chance you’ll quit before you really get started instead of establishing a sustainable routine you can stick with for the long haul. So my advice is to start slow and build your way up as your body adjusts and your endurance increases.

2. Remove Exercise Obstacles

If you have to get in the car and drive five miles to a gym every time you want to get in some cardio, chances are you’re going to skip a lot of workouts. The activation energy needed to get to that first minute of exercise is just too high. That’s why I strongly encourage people to find activities they can do right in their own home or neighborhood. When the weather is cooperating, this can be as simple as stepping out the front door, walking at a good clip for 15 minutes in one direction, and then turning around and heading back home. For the busiest of people, I recommend purchasing a basic piece of fitness equipment for home use, such as a treadmill or ellipitical, if at all possible. (You can usually find affordable used machines on Craigslist or community garage sale groups on Facebook, since there’s always someone willing to sell.) That way, you can work out at any time and in any weather — you can even squeeze in 10-minute bursts while waiting for pasta water to boil or quizzing your kids on their spelling words. Exercise videos are another good at-home option if you want more variety. And if you prefer to use a fitness center, choose one that’s directly on your daily route to and from work so you deviate as little as possible from your normal routine.

3. Pair Exercising With Something You Enjoy

This one was a game-changer for me, personally. When I moved into my first house, I invested in a treadmill and positioned it near a television set so I could entertain myself while I worked up a sweat. Instead of agonizing about exercise, I actually started to look forward to this time as 45 uninterrupted minutes to indulge in cooking programs and talk shows that I otherwise couldn’t justify watching. (After I got into a good groove, I even started ratcheting up my speed during the commercial breaks, turning my power walk into an interval workout.) If TV isn’t your thing, you can use exercise time (and a handy mobile device) to listen to podcasts or books on tape, read your favorite blogs, shop, or even do a crossword puzzle. By pairing fitness with an activity you enjoy, you’ll create a positive association with exercise, which will make getting your daily dose so much easier.

4. Find a Fitness Partner

You’re less likely to bail on your fitness routine if there’s someone else counting on you to show up. Plus, going for a long walk or signing up for a fitness class is an ideal way to spend quality time with friends and family that you might not otherwise see as often as you’d like. Instead of catching up with your spouse or kids by vegging on the couch at the end of the day, go for a stroll around the neighborhood. Or if your loved ones live too far away to meet up in person, schedule a time to talk on the phone while you pound the pavement.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It’s normal to feel intimidated by friends and family members who are extremely fit and constantly chatting about Spin class and 20-mile runs. I know I do. But rating your fitness efforts against someone else’s isn’t constructive. You have to find what works for you and your lifestyle, and for many people, that’s a daily walk rather than a sweat-soaking CrossFit session. If you’re making an effort to be active, you’re doing something terrific for your emotional and physical health, and that’s something to celebrate — not feel badly about. Instead of comparing yourself to friends and family, share in their enthusiasm for health and fitness, and remember to give yourself credit where credit is due.

Study Links Healthy Lunches to Academic Performance

When leading preventive cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston and his Miami-based team began monitoring elementary students participating in an obesity-prevention program, their goal was simple. “We wanted to show that good food was good for kids,” Agatston says. “And that they would eat it.”

Agatston, who is also Everyday Health’s heart health expert, has long been a vocal advocate for healthier lifestyle choices. He writes and lectures extensively, and is probably best known for his South Beach Diet, which he originally devised as a way to help his cardiac and diabetes patients lose weight in order to prevent heart attacks and strokes. In 2004, he founded the Agatston Research Foundation, which now conducts and funds original research on diet, cardiac health, and disease prevention.

This particular project, called the Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren, or HOPS program for short, was specifically designed to test the feasibility of introducing a holistic nutrition and healthy lifestyle management program at the elementary-school level in central Florida. As HOPS co-principal investigator, Agatston revealed the findings at the October 2008 meeting of the Obesity Society. In short, the two-year HOPS study found that kids who ate nutritionally sound, high-quality breakfasts, lunches, and snacks — instead of the typical cafeteria food — not only had lower blood pressure and were less likely to be overweight, they also scored significantly better on standardized tests, especially in mathematics.

Of particular interest to the researchers was the fact that the 1,197 students who participated all came from families with low incomes. “The research shows that we can make a qualitative difference in the lives of children through proven, effective, and easily replicated programs such as HOPS,” says Agatston, who recently partnered with the University of Pennsylvania on the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, a multi-faceted health and wellness program serving depressed urban areas.

Teaching Kids Nutrition
Compiling this information wasn’t as simple as swapping white bread for whole wheat. Study organizers had to change what was being served in the school cafeteria and then they had to sell the kids themselves on why the healthy school lunches were better. The youngsters needed to actually prefer healthier fare to foods like french fries and chicken nuggets.

To help overcome the children’s initial skepticism over healthy school lunches, the team initiated a comprehensive educational program, complete with pep rallies where kids cheered for fiber and broccoli and appealing books that taught nutrition basics in a lighthearted way. “The educational piece was critical. We found that if you just put the food on the kids’ plates without any explanation, they simply won’t eat it,” says Agatston, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, whose interest in nutrition springs from the disastrous health effects of the typical American diet. “By purposefully integrating school meal provision with fun and effective nutrition education programming we have created an easy-to-replicate model.”

Wisely, the children were not put on diets, and the focus of the program was not on body weight. “We absolutely never used the word diet,” he says. “It was about nutrition and health. I feel very strongly that kids don’t have to be on diets. When they make good food choices and get more exercise, the weight will take care of itself.”

Agatston also doesn’t credit any one particular food for helping the children do better in school. Instead, he says, balanced blood-sugar levels from the healthier foods provided sustained energy that led to improved academic performance. “Just ask any teacher and she’ll tell you,” he says. “After the usual lunch, most students are on a sugar high that is followed by a crash.”

In fact, most children in America are overfed but undernourished, Agatston maintains. “Today’s kids are consuming an almost all-fast-food diet, full of trans fats, starches, and sugars, with literally no fiber or nutrients,” he explains. “Nutrients are found in the skin of fruits and vegetables, where the fiber is. And vitamins are found in whole grains. When you take the whole grain out of bread and you take the skin and the fiber out fruits, you’re left with just empty calories.”

And a multivitamin can’t make up for bad choices: “Ten years ago we thought that it could,” Agatston says, “but now we know there are thousands of micronutrients in foods like broccoli and asparagus. We have not figured out how to put those into a pill.”

Better Food in Schools
Agatston says he knew they had succeeded when children from the study went on to middle school and asked at the cafeteria where the HOPS choices were. “They realized they feel better and do better now,” he says. “And that they’re doing what’s good for them.”

In fact, getting children to embrace a healthier diet was the easier part of the equation. The real challenge was overcoming the skepticism and resistance of school officials and food vendors. Agatston’s team had to convince them that it was possible to offer cost-effective, nutritionally rich food. “The bureaucracy and logistics of it — not getting the kids to eat the food — was the bigger hurdle,” he says.

Today, Agatston and his fellow researchers hope that the success they’ve had with the HOPS program — and in particular with its effect on increased academic performance — will encourage school officials nationwide to reconsider what they’re serving in their cafeterias. And if they do, Agatston will be one step closer to reaching his goal of changing the way Americans eat for the better.

Healthy After-School Snacks

“How much depends on their age and physical activity level,” says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, former senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center’s Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation & Prevention Nutrition program and now host of a live nutrition show on Sirius Satellite’s new station DOCTOR Radio. “If they are busy and active, away from the computer and running around outside, kids will actually self-regulate how much they need.”

Three a Day: Stocking Up on Snacks

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that because kids have smaller stomachs, they can’t hold enough food from meals alone. Generally three meals and up to three healthy snacks each day will allow them to meet their nutritional needs. Children who play sports, however, will need heftier snacks and more calories than a child who is less physically active.

Try to plan your kids’ snacks wisely and schedule them at least two hours before mealtime. With this many snacks, kids don’t need to feel full all of the time, so keep the portions small. A bit of hunger between snacks and meals will help them to eat healthier foods when they are offered.

“Give them celery and tofu cream cheese or apple slices with peanut butter,” Heller says. “Make mini zucchini-carrot muffins, offer low-fat string cheese, and have fruit already cut up. Air-popped popcorn isn’t filling, but it’s fun to eat. Just be sure to have healthy food in the house because there’s no reason to have unhealthy junk for snacks,” she says. “Make it a fun, pleasurable part of life.”

When providing snacks for your kids, it’s also important to keep in mind food allergies. If your child is allergic to peanuts, for example, you may want to purchase sunflower butter. “There are a lot of snacks that don’t have wheat, milk, or peanuts,” explains Heller. Talk to an allergist or registered dietitian for some more ideas.

“Food allergists with whom I’ve spoken don’t know why food allergies are on the rise,” says Heller. “But parents need to be very careful when choosing snacks for kids with allergies.” Talk to your kids and their friend’s parents.

In general, junk food once in a while is okay, says Heller. Be careful not to forbid any foods. “It’s very important to talk with your kids about being heathy and how good it is for you,” Heller says. “However, you can make it a fun and motivating thing to do. If a child comes home and says ‘Franny’s mom gave us doughnuts,’ you should say, ‘I’m sure it tastes good, but we don’t have it here because it’s not healthy.’ Once in a while it’s okay. Don’t forbid any foods.” Some research even suggests that parents who are overly restrictive send their child down a road to unhealthy eating, she explains.

Finally, be sure to recruit your kids to participate in the process and set an example by eating a healthy diet yourself. If kids are allowed to make healthy choices and see that you’re doing the same, healthy snacking will be that much more appealing.

Tips for Improving Your Health

Do I need to change what I eat?

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may need to talk about improving your nutrition with your doctor:

  • Has your doctor talked with you about a medical problem or a risk factor, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Did your doctor tell you that this condition could be improved by better nutrition?
  • Do diabetes, cancer, heart disease or osteoporosis run in your family?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have questions about what kinds of foods you should eat or whether you should take vitamins?
  • Do you think that you would benefit from seeing a registered dietitian, a member of the health care team who specializes in nutrition counseling?

Won’t it be hard to change my eating habits?

Probably, but even very small changes can improve your health considerably. The key is to keep choosing healthy foods and stay in touch with your doctor and dietitian, so they know how you are doing. Here are a few suggestions that can improve your eating habits:

  • Find the strong points and weak points in your current diet. Do you eat 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day? Do you get enough calcium? Do you eat whole-grain, high-fiber foods regularly? If so, you’re on the right track! Keep it up. If not, add more of these foods to your daily diet.
  • Keep track of your food intake by writing down what you eat and drink every day. This record will help you see if you need to eat more from any food groups (such as fruits, vegetables or dairy products) or if you need to eat less of a food group (such as processed or high-fat foods).
  • Think about asking for help from a dietitian, especially if you have a medical problem that requires you to follow a special diet.

Can I trust nutrition information I get from newspapers and magazines?

Nutrition tips and diets from different sources often conflict with each other. You should always check with your doctor first. Also, keep in mind this advice:

  • There is no “magic bullet” when it comes to nutrition. Short-term diets may help you lose weight, but they are hard to keep up and may even be unhealthy in the long run.
  • Good nutrition doesn’t come in a vitamin pill. Only take a vitamin with your doctor’s recommendation, as your body benefits the most from eating healthy, whole foods.
  • Eating a variety of foods is best for your body, so try new foods!
  • Stories from people who have used a diet program or product, especially in commercials and infomercials, are advertisements. These people are usually paid to endorse what the advertisement is selling. Remember, regained weight or other problems that develop after someone has completed the program are never talked about in those ads.

What changes can I make now in my diet?

Almost everyone can benefit from cutting back on unhealthy fat. If you currently eat a lot of fat, try just one or two of the following changes, or those suggested in our handout on healthier food choices:

  • Rather than frying meat, bake, grill or broil it. Take the skin off before eating chicken or turkey. Eat fish at least once a week.
  • Cut back on extra fat, such as butter or margarine on bread, sour cream on baked potatoes, and salad dressings. Use low-fat or nonfat versions of these condiments.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables both with your meals and as snacks.
  • When eating away from home, watch out for “hidden” fats (such as those in salad dressing and desserts) and larger portion sizes.
  • Read the nutrition labels on foods before you buy them. If you need help reading the labels, ask your doctor or your dietitian.
  • Drink no- or low-calorie beverages, such as water or unsweetened tea. Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as fruit juice, fruit drinks, regular soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened or flavored milk and sweetened iced tea can add lots of sugar and calories to your diet. But staying hydrated is important for good health.

Balanced nutrition and regular exercise are good for your health, even if your weight never changes. Try to set goals that you have a good chance of reaching, such as making one of the small diet changes listed above or walking more in your daily life.

Eight tips for healthy eating

Get started

These practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating, and can help you make healthier choices:

Base your meals on starchy foods

Starchy foods should make up around one third of the foods you eat. Starchy foods include potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread. Choose wholegrain varieties (or eat potatoes with their skins on) when you can: they contain more fibre, and can help you feel full.

Most of us should eat more starchy foods: try to include at least one starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the calories of fat.

Eat lots of fruit and veg

It’s recommended that we eat at least five portions of different types of fruit and veg a day. It’s easier than it sounds. A glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice (150ml) can count as one portion, and vegetables cooked into dishes also count. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit?

Eat more fish

Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which may help to prevent heart disease. You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned: but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt.

Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, fresh tuna, sardines and pilchards. Non-oily fish include haddock, plaice, coley, cod, tinned tuna, skate and hake. If you regularly eat a lot of fish, try to choose as wide a variety as possible.

Cut down on saturated fat and sugar

We all need some fat in our diet. But it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we’re eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as hard cheese, cakes, biscuits, sausages, cream, butter, lard and pies. Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake, and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados.

For a healthier choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When you’re having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat.

Most people in the UK eat and drink too much sugar. Sugary foods and drinks, including alcoholic drinks, are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules or calories), and if eaten too often, can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.

Cut down on sugary fizzy drinks, alcoholic drinks, sugary breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits and pastries, which contain added sugars: this is the kind of sugar we should be cutting down on, rather than sugars that are found in things such as fruit and milk.

Food labels can help: use them to check how much sugar foods contain. More than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g means that the food is high in sugar, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means that the food is low in sugar.

Eat less salt

Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt. Adults and children over 11 should eat no more than 6g of salt a day. Younger children should have even less.

Get active and be a healthy weight

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health. Check whether you’re a healthy weight by using our Healthy weight calculator.

Most adults need to lose weight, and need to eat fewer calories to do this. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more active. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help: aim to cut down on foods that are high in fat and sugar, and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Don’t forget that alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down can help you to control your weight.

Physical activity can help you to maintain weight loss or be a healthy weight. Being active doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym: you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, try getting off the bus one stop early on the way home from work, and walking. Being physically active may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. For more ideas, see Get active your way.

After getting active, remember not to reward yourself with a treat that is high in energy. If you feel hungry after activity, choose foods or drinks that are lower in calories, but still filling.

If you’re underweight, see our page on underweight adults. If you’re worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.

Don’t get thirsty

We need to drink about 1.6 to 2 litres of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated. This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices.

Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary, so try to limit how much you drink to no more than one glass (about 150ml) of fruit juice each day.

When the weather is warm, or when we get active, we may need more fluids.

Don’t skip breakfast

Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that eating breakfast can help people control their weight. A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet, and provides some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health. A wholegrain, lower-sugar cereal with fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and nutritious breakfast.

World’s Tiniest ‘Preemies’ Growing Up Healthy

At the same hospital in 2004, Rumaisa Rahman took over the title of world’s tiniest infant, weighing in at 0.57 pounds. She was one of twins, and she spent 50 days on a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill.

At her five-year checkup, Rumaisa weighed 34 pounds and had grown to 3 feet, 3 inches. She was attending first-grade on an individual learning plan. She wears glasses because of retinopathy of prematurity, an eye problem common in preemies.

Madeline, whose mother had been treated for infertility, was the only survivor among triplets. Her mother, like Rumaisa’s, had severe preeclampsia, a life-threatening condition in pregnant women that can only be cured by delivering the baby or babies. Madeline was on a ventilator for 65 days. She had a heart condition and also had retinopathy.

Madeline also wears corrective lenses, but she drives and is in good health. At 65 pounds and 4 feet, 6 inches, she’s still small. Now a college senior, she’s an honors student majoring in psychology.

Both girls are living proof that even the smallest preemies can survive and lead normal lives, although not all do so well. Updates on their progress appear online Dec. 12 and in the January 2012 issue of Pediatrics.

Dr. Jonathan Muraskas, a professor of neonatal-perinatal medicine and a member of the medical team for both girls, said, “You always worry about [future health] when babies undergo so much stress in the uterine environment. Down the road, as they’re reaching their teens, they’re at risk for diabetes, heart disease.”

Survival in these tiny infants is much more dependent on how many weeks the pregnancy lasts, rather than weight at birth, he emphasized.

“The big story is that gestational age is much more important than birth weight,” Muraskas said. At 25 and 26 weeks, Rumaisa and Madeline were relatively “old” compared to some preemies, and each extra week makes a difference.

“At 23 weeks, survival is about 20 percent — of those that survive, 80 to 90 percent have significant, devastating handicaps,” Muraskas said. “At 27 weeks, newborns weigh about two pounds. The rate of significant neurodevelopmental handicap — blindness, profound deafness, cerebral palsy — drops to about 5 to 10 percent.”

Female preemies do much better. “If Madeline and Rumaisa were male, it would probably be a whole other story,” said Muraskas.

Prenatal steroids — given to prevent severe brain damage and developmental problems — were another factor in their favor, and Rumaisa received surfactant to help immature lungs.

“These are remarkable case reports — these are extremely small babies,” said Dr. Eric Eichenwald, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center. “The technical aspect of their care is immense. Imagine putting an intravenous catheter in someone that small. They’re at high risk for injury and infection,” he explained.

“The college student [Madeline] is still extraordinarily small; it’s great that’s she neurodevelopmentally normal,” he said.

With tiny preemies, ethical issues often arise.

“The big decision: do you resuscitate a baby the size of a cellphone?” Muraskas asked. “At 25 weeks — today, and even back in the 1990s — chances are that everyone will be resuscitated in the U.S.,” he said.

“At 22 weeks, they commonly resuscitate in Japan,” Muraskas added. “Twenty-three to 24 weeks is what we call the gray area. A lot of it is respecting the parents’ wishes.”

“Another ethical dilemma is when one [unborn] twin is doing better than the other, when do you interfere for the littler baby, putting the more normally developing baby at risk?” Eichenwald added.

“For every baby like this who survives, nine out of 10 don’t,” he said. “It’s important for the public to know that a baby who weighs less than a pound has an extremely low [chance] of survival.”

“The key thing,” agreed Muraskas, “is you don’t want parents to read this and think: ‘My premature baby was two pounds and didn’t survive; did I, or my doctors, nurses, etc., do something wrong?’ The answer is no.”

With patients like Rumaisa and Madeline, “it is rewarding,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have played a part.”

Warning Labels May Help Parents Skip the Soda

In the new study, lead researcher Christina Roberto and her colleagues conducted an online survey of nearly 2,400 parents who had at least one child aged 6 to 11 years.

In a simulated online shopping experiment, parents were divided into six groups to “buy” drinks for their kids. One group saw no warning label on the beverages they would buy; another saw a label listing calories. The other four groups saw various warning labels about the potential health effects of sugary beverage intake, including weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

Overall, only 40 percent of those who looked at the health warning labels chose a sugary drink. But, 60 percent of those who saw no label chose a sugary drink, as did 53 percent of those who saw the calorie-only label did.

There were no significant buying differences between the groups seeing the calorie-only label and no label, the findings showed.

“The warning labels seem to help in a way that the calorie labels do not,” said Roberto, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The study was published online Jan. 14 in the journal Pediatrics.

According to Roberto, sugary beverages have as many as seven teaspoons of sugar in a 6.5-ounce serving, or nearly twice the amount of recommended sugar intake daily for children. Even beverages parents might consider healthy, such as sports drinks, may have high sugar levels.

About 66 percent of kids aged 2 to 11 drink sugar-sweetened beverages daily, the researchers said.

The study findings make sense, said Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Just as we see with public health efforts to decrease smoking with warning labels, warning labels about sugary drinks will be effective with some parents but not all,” she said.

This Ingenious Device Solves Back Problems Caused By Prolonged Sitting

If you work in an office environment and spend most of your day hunched over in front of a screen, you can be sure that your posture is probably atrocious.

The ill effects of sitting too long affect pretty much every part of our body. From organ damage (heart disease, over productive pancreas and even colon cancer) and muscle degeneration (mushy abs & limp glutes) to foggy brains, strained necks and back ache, sitting at your desk all day increases your mortality risk and has a detrimental effect on your overall health.

But do not worry! Thanks to a new product called BackGenie you’ll be able to fix the problem without spending gazillions of dollars on one of those new-age ergonomic office chairs.

BackGenie is a device that passively and effortlessly forces you to sit with perfect posture. It’s about as low-tech as a chair, and that’s exactly what makes it so brilliant.

BackGenie takes a practical approach to helping you sit straight and retain a healthy back, free of pain. Instead of using expensive high tech gadgets or super expensive chairs, BackGenie uses a set of simple, adjustable straps to keep your spine from bending into an arc while you sit. It uses your knees and legs to support your back, requires no electricity to run, works immediately and is super affordable.

Here’s a video of how it works:

BackGenie is shipped for FREE worldwide, and also comes with a FREE eBook that teaches you how to sit correctly and avoid back pain.
BackGenie is super easy to use and folds up into a small pouch which you can carry with you wherever you go.
If you suffer from back pain, mild or severe, or want to avoid back pain problems in the future, do your back a favor and get BackGenie now.

How does healthy eating affect mental and emotional health?

Healthy eating tip 1: Set yourself up for success

To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day—rather than one big drastic change. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.

  • Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food.
  • Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing dangerous trans fats with healthy fats (such as switching fried chicken for grilled fish) will make a positive difference to your health. Switching animal fats for refined carbohydrates, though (such as switching your breakfast bacon for a donut), won’t lower your risk for heart disease or improve your mood.
  • Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients.
  • Read the labels. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.
  • Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.

Healthy eating tip 2: Moderation is key

Key to any healthy diet is moderation. But what is moderation? In essence, it means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed. Moderation is also about balance. Despite what fad diets would have you believe, we all need a balance of protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body.

For many of us, moderation also means eating less than we do now. But it doesn’t mean eliminating the foods you love. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, could be considered moderation if you follow it with a healthy lunch and dinner—but not if you follow it with a box of donuts and a sausage pizza. If you eat 100 calories of chocolate one afternoon, balance it out by deducting 100 calories from your evening meal. If you’re still hungry, fill up with extra vegetables.

  • Try not to think of certain foods as “off-limits.” When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. Start by reducing portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
  • Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything. At home, visual cues can help with portion sizes–your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, add more leafy green vegetables or round off the meal with fruit.
  • Take your time. Stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
  • Eat with others whenever possible. As well as the emotional benefits, this allows you to model healthy eating habits for your kids. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads to mindless overeating.

It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat

  • Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up.
  • Avoid eating at night. Try to eat dinner earlier and fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Studies suggest that eating only when you’re most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day may help to regulate weight.

Healthy eating tip 3: Reduce sugar

Aside from portion size, perhaps the single biggest problem with the modern Western diet is the amount of added sugar in our food. As well as creating weight problems, too much sugar causes energy spikes and has been linked to diabetes, depression, and even an increase in suicidal behaviors in young people. Reducing the amount of candy and desserts you eat is only part of the solution as sugar is also hidden in foods such as bread, cereals, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, low-fat meals, fast food, and ketchup. Your body gets all it needs from sugar naturally occurring in food so all this added sugar just means a lot of empty calories.

Tips for cutting down on sugar

  • Slowly reduce the sugar in your diet a little at a time to give your taste buds time to adjust and wean yourself off the craving.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Try drinking sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice instead.
  • Don’t replace saturated fat with sugar. Many of us make the mistake of replacing healthy sources of saturated fat, such as whole milk dairy, with refined carbs or sugary foods, thinking we’re making a healthier choice. Low-fat doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, especially when the fat has been replaced by added sugar to make up for loss of taste.
  • Avoid processed or packaged foods like canned soups, frozen dinners, or low-fat meals that often contain hidden sugar that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.
  • Be careful when eating out.  Most gravy, dressings and sauces are also packed with salt and sugar, so ask for it to be served on the side.
  • Eat healthier snacks.  Cut down on sweet snacks such as candy, chocolate, and cakes. Instead, eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Check labels and choose low-sugar products.

Do some detective work

Spotting added sugar on food labels can require some sleuthing. Manufacturers are required to provide the total amount of sugar in a serving but do not have to spell out how much of this sugar has been added and how much is naturally in the food. Added sugars must be included on the ingredients list, which is presented in descending order by weight. The trick is deciphering which ingredients are added sugars. They come in a variety of guises. Aside from the obvious ones—sugar, honey, molasses—added sugar can appear as agave nectar, cane crystals, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, and more.

A wise approach is to avoid products that have any of these added sugars at or near the top of the list of ingredients—or ones that have several different types of sugar scattered throughout the list. If a product is chock-full of sugar, you would expect to see “sugar” listed first, or maybe second. But food makers can fudge the list by adding sweeteners that aren’t technically called sugar. The trick is that each sweetener is listed separately. The contribution of each added sugar may be small enough that it shows up fourth, fifth, or even further down the list. But add them up and you can get a surprising dose of added sugar.

Let’s take as an example a popular oat-based cereal with almonds whose package boasts that it is “great tasting,” “heart healthy” and “whole grain guaranteed.” Here’s the list of ingredients:

Whole-grain oats, whole-grain wheat, brown sugar, almond pieces, sugar, crisp oats,* corn syrup, barley malt extract, potassium citrate, toasted oats,* salt, malt syrup, wheat bits,* honey, and cinnamon.

*contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and/or brown sugar molasses.

Combine brown sugar, sugar, corn syrup, barley malt extract, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar molasses, and malt syrup, and they add up to a hefty dose of empty calories—more than one-quarter (27%) of this cereal is added sugar, which you might not guess from scanning the ingredient list. This type of calculation can be especially tricky in breakfast cereals, where most of the sugars are added.

Adapted with permission from Reducing Sugar and Salt, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications.

Healthy eating tip 4: Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Focus on eating the recommended daily minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables and it will naturally fill you up and help you cut back on unhealthy foods. A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or veg or a small apple or banana, for example. Most of us need to double the amount we currently eat.

Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day as deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Add berries to breakfast cereals, eat fruit for dessert, and snack on vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, or cherry tomatoes instead of processed snack foods.

  • Greens. Branch out beyond lettuce. Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are all packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.
  • Sweet vegetables. Naturally sweet vegetables—such as corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, and squash—add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for added sugars.
  • Fruit. Fruit is a tasty, satisfying way to fill up on fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, and so on.

Healthy eating tip 5: Bulk up on fiber

Eating foods high in dietary fiber can help you stay regular, lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and help you lose weight. Depending on your age and gender, nutrition experts recommend you eat at least 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day for optimal health. Many of us aren’t eating half that amount.

  • In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber.
  • Good sources of fiber include whole grains, wheat cereals, barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears.
  • There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.
  • An easy way to add more fiber to your diet is to start your day with a whole grain cereal or add unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.

How fiber can help you lose weight

Since fiber stays in the stomach longer than other foods, the feeling of fullness will stay with you much longer, helping you eat less. Fiber also moves fat through your digestive system quicker so less of it is absorbed. And when you fill up on fiber, you’ll also have more energy for exercising.

Healthy eating tip 6: Eat more healthy carbs and whole grains

Choose healthy carbohydrates and fiber sources, especially whole grains, for long-lasting energy. Whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.

What are healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs?

Healthy carbs (or good carbs) include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, helping you feel full longer and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

Unhealthy carbs (or bad carbs) are foods such as white flour, refined sugar, and white rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. They digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.

Tips for eating more healthy carbs

  • Include a variety of whole grains in your healthy diet, including whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley.
  • Make sure you’re really getting whole grains. Check for the Whole Grain Stamps that distinguish between partial whole grain and 100% whole grain.
  • Try mixing grains as a first step to switching to whole grains. If whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta don’t sound good at first, start by mixing what you normally use with the whole grains. You can gradually increase the whole grain to 100%.

Avoid: Refined foods such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.

Healthy eating tip 7: Add calcium for bone health

Your body uses calcium to build healthy bones and teeth, keep them strong as you age, send messages through the nervous system, and regulate the heart’s rhythm. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take calcium from your bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over 50 years old. Try to get as much from food as possible and use only low-dose calcium supplements to make up any shortfall. Limit foods that deplete your body’s calcium stores (caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks), do weight-bearing exercise, and get a daily dose of magnesium and vitamins D and K—nutrients that help calcium do its job.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, unsweetened yogurt, and cheese.
  • Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and crimini mushrooms.
  • Beans: such as black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or baked beans.

Healthy eating tip 8: Put protein in perspective

Protein gives us the energy to get up and go—and keep going. While too much protein can be harmful to people with kidney disease, the latest research suggests that most of us need more high-quality protein, especially as we age.

How much protein do you need?

Protein needs are based on weight rather than calorie intake. Adults should eat at least 0.8g of high-quality protein per kilogram (2.2lb) of body weight per day.

  • Older adults should aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of lean protein for each kilogram of weight. This translates to 68 to 102g of protein per day for a person weighing 150 lbs.
  • Divide your protein intake equally among meals.
  • Nursing women need about 20 grams more high-quality protein a day than they did before pregnancy to support milk production.

How to add high-quality protein to your diet

  • Eat plenty of fish, chicken, or plant-based protein such as beans, nuts, and soy.
  • Replace processed carbohydrates from pastries, cakes, pizza, cookies and chips with fish, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, tofu, chicken, dairy, and soy products.
  • Snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips, replace baked dessert with Greek yogurt, or swap out slices of pizza for a grilled chicken breast and a side of beans.

Healthy eating tip 9: Enjoy healthy fats

Despite what you may have been told, not all fats are unhealthy. While “bad” fats can increase your risk of certain diseases, “good” fats are essential to physical and emotional health. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats, for example, can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia.

Good fats

  • Monounsaturated fats from avocados, nuts (like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such as pumpkin and sesame).
  • Polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3s, found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Good vegetarian sources of polyunsaturated fats include flaxseed and walnuts.

Bad fats

  • Trans fats, found in processed foods, vegetable shortenings, margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, or anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredients, even if it claims to be trans-fat free.

The debate about saturated fats

Saturated fats are mainly found in tropical oils, dairy, and animal products such as red meat, while poultry and fish also contain some saturated fat. Eating saturated fats won’t lower your risk of heart disease like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, but the latest studies suggest that not all saturated fat is a dietary demon, either. While many prominent health organizations maintain that eating saturated fat from any source increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, other nutrition experts take a different view. In fact, recent evidence suggests that consuming whole-fat dairy may even have beneficial effects by helping to control weight.

Of course, not all saturated fat is the same. The saturated fat in whole milk, coconut oil, or salmon is different to the unhealthy saturated fat found in pizza, French fries, and processed meat products (such as ham, sausage, hot dogs, salami, and other cold cuts) which have been linked to coronary disease and cancel

Healthy eating tip 10: Watch your salt intake

Sodium is another ingredient that is frequently added to food to improve taste, even though your body needs less than one gram of sodium a day (about half a teaspoon of table salt). Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, memory loss, and erectile dysfunction. It may also worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder.

  • Use herbs and spices such as garlic, curry powder, cayenne or black pepper to improve the flavor of meals instead of salt.
  • Be careful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sodium. Some offer lower-sodium choices or you can ask for your meal to be made without salt.
  • Buy unsalted nuts and add a little of your own salt until your taste buds are accustomed to eating them salt-free.

Runny Nose? Try These Tips.

A peek behind the tissue
A runny nose may be a symptom of many different things. Knowing what’s causing it is the first step to taking care of it. There are several home remedies, which can help and powerful over the counter medicines that can make living with a runny nose from colds, allergies, or the flu more bearable. Mucinex® Fast-Max Cold and Sinus can help stop a runny nose since it contains phenylephrine, a nasal decongestant. Your nose can run but it can’t hide. Read below for more information.

Help stop a runny nose.

Suffering from a runny nose can be irritating, embarrassing and overall, just miserable. Learning how to help stop a runny nose can help you get on with your day when symptoms are holding you back.

The cold virus and allergies can cause your body to make histamines, chemicals that are part of an inflammatory reaction and your body’s natural immune response. The effects of histamine can cause runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. To try to relieve a runny nose at home, try the following to promote a healthy nasal environment:

  • Salt water nasal rinse
  • Humidifier
  • Drink hot liquids like herbal tea, chicken soup, or even just hot water
  • Take a steam/warm bath
  • Apply a warm towel to your face

Some home remedies are really effective, but when those don’t work, runny nose medicine can help relieve symptoms. Choose a medicine that contains an antihistamine, to combat inflammation that makes tissues in your nose itch and swell. Mucinex® Fast-Max Cold and Sinus can help stop a runny nose since it contains phenylephrine, a nasal decongestant. It can also help relieve various other cold and flu symptoms, such as chest congestion, sinus pressure, aches and more. But if your runny nose is caused by allergies, you’ll want to be sure to take a medication made with specific antihistamines for allergy symptoms.