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Friday, 30 March 2012

Essential Fatty Acids


Essential Fatty Acids

There are a number of omega fatty acids but only omega-3 and omega-6 are considered essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are acids that need to be ingested by humans as we cannot synthesize them but we require them for good health.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Omega-3s come mainly from fish and plant oils and have many health benefits. Circulatory problems, such as varicose veins, appear to benefit from the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

Research has also shown that a healthy consumption of omega-3s will help against conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and cardiac arrhythmias.

Some research, which is in its early stages, suggests that omega-3s may even help fight depression and anxiety. However, this theory is in the early stages and should not be taken as fact just yet.

On another note, some studies seem to indicate that there is a good chance that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-cancer affects.

Omega-6 Fatty Acid

The main sources of omega-6 fatty acids come from palm, soybean, rapeseed and sunflower oils, which between them produce the majority of omega-6 in terms of human consumption.

It is important to note that excessive consumption of omega-6s can produce negative impacts on health and has been associated with arthritis, inflammation and even cancer. The amount consumer would have to be a significant amount, but it is something that we should be wary of.

What are the differences of the omegas?

Each of the omega fats are essential to the body, however we cannot produce it naturally so we must consume it someway. However, the different omegas are different in structure and the roles in our body.

The differences are actually very complicated, but what it appears to come down to is that omega-3s have anti-inflammatory benefits as well as helping fight heart disease and omega-6s support that skin and help to lower the cholesterol of the blood.

Sources of Essential Fatty Acids

As mentioned previously the human body must ingest essential fatty acids and fortunately there are many food sources available in order for us to get a healthy amount into our body. Fish, leafy vegetables, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and many oils are good sources of omegas and there are of course many supplements available that provide essential fatty acids.

Monday, 26 March 2012

My Sport Relief Run



My Sport Relief Run

Sport Relief Mile

Sport Relief is a charity event held in the United Kingdom. It is associated with Comic relief and is in partnership with BBC Sport and the aim is to bring the two worlds of sport and entertainment together in the name of charity. Participants can take part in 1, 3 or 6 miles where they can walk or run. The official sponsor of the Sport Relief Mile is Sainsbury. Money raised from the event goes to help underprivileged people in the United Kingdom and overseas.

My Goals

I decided to take up the run as a new challenge for myself, as I am not a runner, but also to do something for charity. So my two goals were to complete a 6 mile run and raise some money for charity. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to run with me and she agreed so I had my running/training partner and all was well.

Training
 
We researched into running for advice on training and nutrition to find out what was needed for running. We ended up going out running three to four times a week in the build up to the run and we increased the distance each time we trained. We also included other exercises, such as planks, to build up other muscles.



Fundraising

Throughout the build up we harassed friends and family for sponsor money. I raised £83 and my girlfriend raised £200. Not bad going.

The Run

video
On the 25th of March at 10:00am my run began. The atmosphere was great and there were a lot of people there. We managed to run the majority of the 6miles, only walking a small amount, and managed to complete the distance in just over one hour. We had a lot of fun and hopefully raised some good money for charity. It is expected that there were around 4,000 people that took part, which is fantastic.


Finished!


Sunday, 25 March 2012

What Are Calories?


What are calories?

I think that a major problem is that people simply do not know what a calorie is. I hear and see people looking to lose weight and they purchase ‘low fat’ foods, and foods with reduced sugar. I am someone who does not advocate low fat foods because we need fat for our body so it is important to know what calories are and from there we can alter our diet to get the best from our bodies.

So what are calories?

Calories are, essentially, a measurement of energy. The technical definition of a calorie is how much energy it takes to change the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. As a matter of fact, when talking about food energy, a calorie is actually 1000 times more than 1! On food labels we will find ‘kcal’ and this literally means 1000 calories. However, 1000 calories (1 kcal) is generally referred to as 1 calorie.

So calories are needed for us to complete our daily lives. We each have different calorie requirements and this number varies depending on what we do for our job, our hobbies and our social lives. For the average adult, calorie intake is from 1500 to 3000 on a daily basis. It is important that we know how many calories we need to consume and that we do not go over this amount, or indeed below this amount, as we will gain or lose weight and body fat accordingly. However, our body can only use so many calories at one time, so whatever energy is not needed is stored as fat. This means that eating too many calories is why people gain fat.


A calorie break-down

Overall calorie consumption is the key to weight control but here is a break down of the amount of calories in protein, carbohydrates and fats, per 1 gram of each:
  • Protein – 4 calories
  • Carbohydrates – 4 calories
  • Fats – 9 calories 
So calories are units of energy and we depend on them to live! Different nutrients have different amounts of calories in them, but it is overall calorie intake that we need to be aware of in order to control our weight and body fat storage.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Danger of Obesity


Obesity

A few years ago I was overweight, well technically I was obese. I was actually still fairly fit, but I did not look good. I remember I wanted to lose weight to look better and be fitter. However, I never really thought about my actual health when looking to get in shape. I truly believe that this is a common thought process of many people who are overweight and obese and that many people do not think of what this is doing to their health.

Obesity stats and facts

According to British government reports, obesity levels are a major concern in this country. Studies show that almost one in four adults, and over one in ten children (ages 2-10) are obese. Forecasts from 2007 suggest that if no action is taken at government level, by 2050 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children would be obese.

Statistics also suggest that obesity and overweight levels increase by age, so it is important that we are aware of this as we grow older and ensure that we do not get caught in the same trap as many before.


The Dangers of Being Overweight and Obese

There are a number of dangers that are directly associated with being obese and overweight, and our health can be extremely affected if we are not at a healthy weight.

According to studies, a moderate amount of excess fat (which is considered to be between 10 and 20 pounds for an average person) increases the risk of death.

People who are obese have an increased risk of premature death from ALL causes, compared to those who are at a healthy weight. This is due to the body being weaker and less able to defend against what the world can throw at us.

Obesity is also linked to an increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases such as high cholesterol and strokes.

Being overweight and obese MAY increase the risk of many forms of cancer. Strong evidence shows a link with obesity and colon cancer, endometrial cancer and breast cancer. Science has not shown HOW obesity increases risks of cancer but it has shown strong evidence that losing weight can help to prevent many cancers.

Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Almost 90% (according to Everyday Health) of type diabetics are overweight. Losing weight can, therefore, help to manage and prevent type 2 diabetes.

Psychological issues can also be developed if we are overweight or obese. This may include self esteem issues, confidence problems and even depression. Being obese can also lead to bullying and discrimination, which can also help to have an effect on us in a psychological manner.

So, while I would suggest that often people look to other reasons for wanting to lose weight, there are so many health issues that need to be addressed also. Not only will losing weight help us to look and feel better, we will be saving our body from so much more in terms of health risks. We really must sort our diets out and start exercising to get in great shape for our health as much as anything else.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Importance of Vitamin D


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is fat soluble vitamin that we need. There are five types of vitamin D that have been identified and vitamins D2 and D3 appear to be the most important to us as humans. Most people do not need to take vitamin D supplements as long as they have a reasonable amount of exposure to the sun. As the vitamin can be synthesised by the human body, it is often argued that it should not be considered a vitamin.

The Health Benefits

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for the human body and there are many health benefits associated with it.

A major reason as to why we need vitamin D is due to the fact that without sufficient levels we are unable to process calcium properly. This is important for healthy bones.

There are reports that suggest that the threat of colon cancer can be reduced with the right amount of vitamin D being taken in. Reports show that vitamin D can help protect against other cancers too, such as prostate and breast cancers.

There are a number of other reasons as to why vitamin D is so important to us. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis are all conditions that have been found to be helped through having healthy levels of vitamin D in our body.

The Risk of Too Much Vitamin D

As with most things in life, moderation is the key. There is the risk that we can have too much vitamin D and this can cause various problems. The feeling of nausea, vomiting, weight loss and a weak feeling are all potential signs of too much vitamin D and there are more serious symptoms too. Kidney stones, mental confusion and an irregular heartbeat are all serious signs of too much vitamin D.

A Natural Source

There are a number of sources of vitamin D, but there is one natural source that can be utilised easily for us all to get free vitamin D. The Sun provides us with vitamin D so it is important that we get ourselves out there in the sunlight.

Other Sources of Vitamin D

When not getting our vitamin D from the sun, the best way to get it is from the diet. In reality should only really use vitamin D supplements if our doctor, or another medical professional, advises us to do so. Foods such as milk and yoghurt are good sources of vitamin D.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Benefits of Broccoli – A True Superfood


Broccoli

I was considering writing my own list of my preferred ‘superfoods’, however I decided that I would (today) single out broccoli. Broccoli is one of the greatest foods out there and is something I would recommend EVERYONE eat!

A Little About Broccoli

Broccoli is a nutrient-rich vegetable and the great thing about it is that it is widely available all year round. Although broccoli is one of the least popular vegetables to the taste buds (not in my mouth though) they are very versatile and so there is no real excuse to not have them in our diet as we can put them in almost anything! Broccoli originates from Italy.

The Health Benefits of Broccoli

There are numerous benefits to including broccoli in our diet. One of the main gains from eating broccoli is the high amounts of vitamin C that it provides. We need vitamin C for numerous reasons such as helping with iron absorption and ease the symptoms of the common cold amongst other things.

Broccoli contains a lot of potassium and this can really help us to maintain a healthy nervous system and help the brain function. Along with the potassium, magnesium and calcium is also present in broccoli, which helps to regulate our blood pressure.

A lot of evidence supports the theory of broccoli helping to fight cancer in our bodies. Glucoraphanin is found in broccoli, which gets processed by the body into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane. Indole-3-carbinol is also found in broccoli and this helps fight the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancer.

In truth, the health benefits of broccoli go on and on. Digestion, blood sugar, heart disease and vision are all things that can be helped through eating broccoli.

How to cook

There are many ways of cooking broccoli but to retain the most nutrients the best way is to steam the broccoli for 3-4 minutes.

Other Varieties

There are other varieties of broccoli that can be found. Sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower are other types of broccoli. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads than the typical broccoli that we eat. Purple cauliflower is type of broccoli that is commonly sold in Europe.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

How Much Exercise?


How much exercise should we do each week?

A major question with regards to fitness and health is how much exercise should we do. Well, the answer really does depend on what the goals are, and even then the answer can vary. In this blog we will look to answer these questions. According to a report from the UK government, only 37 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women complete enough exercise to see any benefit.


General health and fitness

For general health and fitness there are a wide variety of guidelines available to suggest how much exercise we need to do. The NHS seems to offer a reasonable answer to this question. It is suggested that we should attempt to be physically active each day, and try to complete two and a half hours of exercise per week. On top of this we should attempt to include two days (at least) of muscle building exercise, exercise each muscle group. However, these numbers appear to only apply to the average adult and so people who are older, younger, overweight, underweight and so on may need to increase or decrease the amount of exercise they do in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Fitness

When we are looking to improve our fitness for other physical activities, like team sports, it is important that we do more than the required amounts for general health and fitness. To improve our fitness levels we must be looking at cardio-vascular training along with some strength training and flexibility training.

Muscle building

If our goal is to build muscle then our focus changes a great deal with regards to our exercise requirements. Two days a week weight lifting will not have us looking like Arnie in his hey day. I would suggest keeping the cardio exercise levels similar, mainly for the health benefits that we will get from it, but we must increase the days of muscle building exercise in order to really bulk up our muscle mass.For muscle building it is essential that the muscles have a rest period to recover, so if we work the arms one day we should give them at least one day off in between in order for them to recover and grow.

Losing weight

Although losing weight is as much about diet as it is about exercise, the amount of physical effort we put in has a major effect on weight loss. The key to weight loss is burning more calories than we consume so we must bear this in mind when deciding on how much exercise we are going to do. Obviously, the more exercise we do, the more calories we burn off.

So, the short answer to the question of how much exercise we need to do is that it varies depending on the goals we have and what we wish to achieve from exercise. From the basic levels of exercise that we need to live healthy lives we can adapt our routine to meet the goals that we want, whether that be improved fitness, muscle gain and/or weight loss. It is important to note that we must also watch our diet when looking to meet any of these goals.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Benefits of Exercise – Beyond Fitness: Part 2


We all know that to be fit, lose weight and/or build muscle we need to exercise. However, there are many other benefits to regular exercise. Today’s blog is the second part of the Benefits of Exercise – Beyond Fitness.

Empowerment

It is true that we can feel more empowered through regular exercise. The most important aspect of this, in my mind, is that we gain control of our own lives. Exercise can certainly give us a sense of accomplishment and this can help us to attack other obstacles in our lives.

Self esteem

Although self esteem could fit in with ‘Emotional Benefits’ (see here), I decided that it probably deserved a section of its own as I see at as such an important part of exercise. Through improved physique and posture from exercise we can develop a greater self image and our esteem can improve. An improved esteem can lead to an improved life in so many areas, including work, love life and family.

Slows aging process - Can exercise slow the aging process?

A lot of research suggests that regular exercise can help to slow the aging process, and who wouldn’t want that?! It is suggested that the level of insulin in the blood is reduced through exercise and these hormones impact the aging process. It is also thought that there are anti-aging hormones that are increased through exercise. A study published in the journal, Circulation, suggests that regular, strenuous, long term exercise may in fact impact on our chromosomes and help with anti-aging in this form too.

Look good

Although we exercise for our health, one of the main reasons we exercise is to look good, let’s be honest. Through exercising we get in the shape we want to be in and end up looking how we want. This is turn can lead to many other positive effects such as the improved self esteem mentioned earlier.

So that wraps up the second part of Benefits of Exercise – Beyond Fitness. It is fair to say that there are probably even more benefits to exercise out there, but these are some of the most important ones in my mind.