6 Stress-Busting Workouts

6 Stress-Busting Workouts

Here are some easy – and fun – ways to reduce stress while improving your health.

Working out was one of the things many Americans gave up doing during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. With gyms closed and outdoor recreation restricted in some places, staying active wasn’t easy. And even though you could work out at home, many people felt unmotivated to do so.

Unfortunately, your mental health suffers as much as your physical health when you don’t get enough exercise. Physical activity is a great way to keep stress at bay – and we all know we could use a little stress relieving these days! With so much worry about health, work, school, finances and changes to everyday life that seem anything but normal, the one thing we can benefit from is a good sweat session.

So even if you still can’t to a gym – or you don’t feel comfortable going – it’s important to find ways to be more active. Looking for some inspiration? These six workouts offer fun ways to get some heart-healthy exercise, reduce stress and get back in your groove.

  1. Online Exercise Classes – YouTube is the place to turn to whether you want to learn how to do a downward dog or master kickboxing. Videos cover almost every form of exercise ever created. Although you’ll find amateur videos on the site, many videos are made by professional fitness instructors and offer step-by-step instructions and tips to help you perform the exercises safely.
  2. Fitness App Challenges – You’ll almost feel as if you have your own personal trainer when you participate in a fitness app challenge. Apps offer training videos and tips and allow you to set goals and track your results. They also let you challenge friends and family for some added motivation. Some fitness apps cost as much as $30 per month but free apps are also available.
  3. Zoom Dance Parties – Thanks to the popular video conferencing app, you don’t have to give up dancing with your friends. Virtual dance parties are the perfect way to have some heart-pumping fun. Choose a music genre, turn up the volume and get grooving. While you dance the night away, you’ll reduce stress naturally, burn a few calories and improve your health.
  4. Throwback Games – When was the last time you were “it” in a game of tag? Resurrecting your favorite childhood games for fun game nights with family or friends is an excellent way to stay active (just be sure to follow proper social distancing measures if you’re playing with people you don’t live with). Play capture the flag, hold a jump rope contest or create a family Olympics.
  5. Outdoor Classes – You’re much less likely to catch COVID-19, or any virus, if you exercise outdoors and practice social distancing instead of working out inside a public space. Check websites of local gyms and recreation departments for listings of outdoor fitness classes or gather a group of friends and hold your own informal classes.
  6. DIY Workouts – Even brief amounts of exercise may have surprising mental health benefits. In fact, just five minutes of aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You don’t need a formal exercise plan to get moving. Chopping wood, dashing up and down the stairs or playing with the dog can help you get the stress-relieving exercise you need.

Stress relief is more important than ever as we deal with unprecedented changes in our lives. Fortunately, regular exercise offers a simple way to improve your health and reduce stress and anxiety.

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Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: July 16, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Andrew P. Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS

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Infographic: 5 Smart Ways to Eat Less Sugar

Infographic: 5 Smart Ways to Eat Less Sugar

There are many good reasons to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Here’s how to do it.

Two hundred years ago, the average American ate about 2 pounds of sugar a year. The average American now consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar annually. Sugar is the most common ingredient added to foods in the U.S. It is found in places you would expect, like candy, cookies and soda. But sugar is also added to many processed foods even if they don’t taste sweet.

Sugar has been linked to a variety of health issues from obesity and diabetes to heart disease and cancer. Reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet is a healthy lifestyle choice. This infographic shows 5 ways to get you started…

Infographic 5 Smart Ways to Eat Less Sugar

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Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: September 27, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

If you think your mind and body don’t affect each another, think again.

It’s easy to think of our minds and our bodies as being completely separate. But nothing could be further from the truth—they are intricately connected to each other.

The fact is that people with chronic health conditions are at a higher than normal risk of developing a mental health condition. Those with mental health conditions are also at a higher than normal risk of developing serious physical conditions. In many cases, it becomes a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape. A serious health condition can lead to depression and anxiety, which can worsen the health condition or lead to others, which can increase the person’s depression and anxiety symptoms, and so on.

There are a number of ways in which our mental health can affect our physical health and vice-versa. Here are some examples:

  • A mental health condition can make it harder for you to deal with a chronic illness. If you’re depressed or anxious, you might not have the energy or motivation to follow up with the recommended treatment for your health issue. Without proper treatment, your physical condition could get worse, which might lead to increased depression or anxiety. On the flip side, being diagnosed with a serious illness can cause you to develop a mental health condition in the first place.
  • A mental health condition might cause disruptions in sleep patterns. Sleep is essential for good health. It’s meant to help us recharge our brains and our bodies. Regularly sleeping less than 7 hours per night increases your risk of serious health conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Sleeping too much can cause the same health issues, plus headaches and back pain. Not getting enough quality sleep can also affect your immune system, which makes it difficult for you to ward off illnesses.
  • A person experiencing a serious physical illness, injury or mental health condition might engage in dangerous behaviors. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs or cigarette smoking as a way to cope with both physical and mental health issues. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, pancreatic disease and cancer. Illegal drugs take a heavy toll on the heart and nervous system, which can lead to seizures, hemorrhaging and heart attacks. Cigarette smoking is a proven risk factor for asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • People with mental illness are less likely to seek routine medical care, such as annual physicals. Preventive visits include essential screenings—like blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checks, among others—which help detect and manage health conditions. It is much easier to manage health conditions that are caught early and are well-controlled compared to when routine medical care has been skipped or recommendations ignored.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

Natural Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol

You have the power to improve your numbers with these healthier habits.

Recently updated cholesterol guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association may result in millions more Americans being prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs than ever before.

But statins aren’t the only option when it comes to a healthier heart. Some people can manage high cholesterol with lifestyle changes alone. Others may still need medication to get their numbers where they need to be, but by adopting healthier habits, it may be possible to take a lower dosage.

You have the power to lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise your good cholesterol (HDL) with a few lifestyle changes. Why not give these a try?

  • Get moving. Buy a fitness tracker or pedometer and aim to walk at least 10,000 steps every day. You don’t have to do all your daily activity in one spurt. Extra steps during the day add up, so take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther from your destination or walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email.
  • Change what’s on your plate. Reduce saturated fat and eliminate trans fats from your diet. Avoid fried and processed foods and limit full-fat dairy and fatty cuts of meat. Reduce the amount of sugar you eat and instead choose foods high in fiber and full of antioxidants. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes and lean sources of protein.
  • Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can lower your LDL numbers. Come up with a plan that allows you to not only drop a few pounds, but keep them off.
  • Stop smoking. Here’s another good reason to quit. Smoking can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol). Within a year of quitting, participants from one study saw HDL levels rise 5%.
  • Relax. Downshifting is crucial to good health and can keep cholesterol levels in check. Take some time each day to slow down, chill out and have some fun. Unplug from mobile devices. Laugh. Stress hormones can increase cholesterol and pave the way for heart disease.

With all of these lifestyle adjustments, start slow and adapt your habits over time. In order to positively affect your heart health, you have to be able to live with the changes you make for the long term.

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Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: January 3, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Elizabeth Kaback, MD

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Is a Laugh a Day the Key to a Healthy Heart?

Is a Laugh a Day the Key to a Healthy Heart?

When it comes to your heart, here’s why laughter really may be the best medicine.

It may sound like a barrel of monkeys, but research suggests that a good laugh may just be the punch line for good health.

The Science behind Your Funny Bone

When you laugh, your brain activates a series of neurons called a reward pathway. The reward pathways triggered by humor cause a sense of euphoria and can lead to a reduction in stress.

Chronic high levels of stress interrupt sleep and can cause a host of health issues, from heart disease and diabetes to depression and anxiety. Laughter, on the other hand, does the opposite. In addition to easing stress, research suggests laughing may decrease blood pressure, reduce artery inflammation, increase HDL (“good” cholesterol), lessen pain, reduce muscle tension, improve your immune system, boost morale and enrich your quality of life. Although research on the subject is limited, results suggest that a laugh a day may be just what you need to keep your heart healthy and improve your overall well-being.

Laugh Therapy Is No Laughing Matter

Today, humor therapy is often used as part of an integrated regimen to treat chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and asthma. Convinced about the benefits of laughter for older adults, a hospital in Washington, DC even created a “Laugh Café” where seniors meet for hour-long laugh sessions.

If you’re looking for an easy way to help improve your health, don’t forget to laugh each day. Hang out with funny people, read a humorous book or see a silly movie. While humor is contagious, its only temporary side effects are shortness of breath and a sore belly but it can provide a host of long-term benefits.

Copyright 2017-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: March 17, 2017

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

The Pros and Cons of Vegetarian Diets

The Pros and Cons of Vegetarian Diets

<h1>Eating plant-based foods sounds healthy, but there are still drawbacks to this type of diet.</h1>

<p>Many people follow a vegetarian diet in an effort to improve their health. The health-related benefits of vegetarian diets are well-documented. But there are downsides to this type of eating style, too. If you are thinking about following some type of vegetarian diet, consider these pros and cons to make sure it’s the right fit for you.</p>
<p><strong>Pro: Vegetarian diets may lower your risk for disease.</strong></p>
<p>Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are the core of a healthy, well-balanced vegetarian diet. These foods provide an abundance of health-protective vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that may lower the risk for common chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and obesity.</p>
<p><strong>Cons: Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s healthy.</strong></p>
<p>On the flip side, if your vegetarian diet includes a lot of highly processed foods instead of whole plant-based foods, the risk for some chronic diseases may actually increase. There are many junk foods that fit into a vegetarian diet but are not good for you—think soda, chips and cookies, among others. Packaged vegetarian meals and snacks may contain high amounts of added sugar, sodium and fat and offer little to no nutritional value. Keep in mind that just as with any diet, there are ways to make a vegetarian diet healthy and ways to turn it into a diet disaster.</p>
<p><strong>Pro: You have options when it comes to going vegetarian.</strong></p>
<p>You can determine the type of vegetarian eating plan that’s right for you. Some people eliminate meat, fish, and poultry from their diets but eat eggs and dairy. Others allow only eggs or only dairy. Some include seafood on occasion. A vegan diet eliminates all foods derived from animals, even things like honey.</p>
<p><strong>Con: You may have possible nutrient deficiencies.</strong></p>
<p>Some essential nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and D, calcium and iron, aren’t available in many plant-based foods. Vegetarian diets may provide these nutrients as long as food intake is planned properly, but supplementation is sometimes necessary. Top sources of these nutrients for vegetarians include:</p>
<ul>
<li><strong>Vitamin B12: </strong>Found in animal products like eggs and milk (as well as meat, fish and poultry). Also found in some fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, meat substitutes and soymilk.</li>
<li><strong>Vitamin D: </strong>In addition to eggs and fish, also found in fortified plant milks and mushrooms. Vitamin D is also gained through sun exposure.</li>
<li><strong>Calcium: </strong>Aside from dairy products, calcium can be found in fortified plant-based milks, cereal, juice, tofu, collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans and almonds.</li>
<li><strong>Iron: </strong>You can get iron from eggs and also fortified cereal, soy, spinach, chard and beans. Pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, peppers or tomatoes to increase absorption.</li>
</ul>
<p>Starting a vegetarian diet can be tricky when grocery shopping, dining out and eating in social settings. Over time this becomes easier, but it does require some work. Read labels on products and become familiar with common ingredients derived from animals, such as casein, whey and gelatin. At restaurants, keep in mind that meatless meals may be prepared with dairy or other animal products, like beef or chicken broth, so ask questions to make a selection that’s right for you. When dining at someone’s home, the best thing to do is to bring along a vegetarian dish that everyone can enjoy.</p>
<p>If you are committed to starting a vegetarian lifestyle, a registered dietitian can give you helpful tips that better ensure that your nutrition needs are being met.</p>

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<p>Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021</p>
<p>Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. <a target=”_blank” href=”mailto:andreac@baldwinpublishing.com”>Contact Editor</a></p>
<p>Medical Review: Beth Stark, RDN, LDN</p>
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