Take a Stand Against Sitting

If you spend all day glued to your office chair like most U.S. workers do, your job could be taking a serious toll on your health. The reason: Too much desk time -- or other sedentary pursuits -- can steal years from your life, even if you log hours on the treadmill.

The amount of time spent sitting or lying down is strongly connected to your risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and even an early death. According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who sat for more than six hours a day had a 37 percent greater risk of premature death, compared with those who sat for three, regardless of their weight or workout habits.

“We don't know how much total sitting time per day is too much. However, our research is currently trying to understand how much sitting at one time is too much,” says Genevieve Healy, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia. Turns out, it’s the prolonged, uninterrupted bouts of sitting still that seem to be the most dangerous. When muscles stop moving, your metabolism slows down, your body stops burning fat and starts to store it, and triglyceride and blood sugar levels rise -- which could clog arteries, says Healy. 

So what can those of us who spend half our waking hours attached to our desks, steering wheels and sofas do to reverse this march toward poor health? 

Exercise Often
First off, says Healy, don’t give up on exercise. Just as a big salad can’t undo a day’s worth of unhealthy eating, a 30-minute run can’t counteract the damage from sitting all day. But it can help. “The most healthy are those who sit least and exercise most; the least healthy are those that sit most and exercise least," says Healy. So the message is to exercise but to also think of your physical activity throughout the day -- stand up, sit less, move more and more often.

Stand Up More
Secondly, stand up at least every 30 minutes, says Healy. You don’t have to do jumping jacks or run around the block. Simply get up, stretch and walk around to activate your muscles.

Be a Clock Watcher
If you get lost in your work, set a timer to remind you to take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes. Download a free timer app, like SnapTimer, on your desktop to use as an instant alarm clock.

Practice Good Hydration
Drink plenty of water. This habit forces you to get up at least once an hour to use the bathroom or refill your water bottle.

Take a Stand
If it’s not bothersome to your co-workers, stand up when you take phone calls or file papers. You can also clean and straighten up your desk at the end of each day while standing.

Track Your Every Move
Wear a pedometer. Clipping on a step counter or activity monitor can clue you in to how much you move each day. Wear it for a week to determine how much you usually move; then, set a goal to increase your distance by 10 percent each week.

Tune In, Tone Up
When watching TV, don’t fast-forward through commercials. Use that time to do a small workout or complete quick household chores, like vacuuming or dusting the living room. If your TV time is more than an hour or two per day, think about installing a treadmill or stationary bike and exercising at the same time. Setting your cardio machine to the slowest speed is always better than doing nothing.

4 Stretches That Stop Back Pain

One of the top complaints I hear from new yogis is lower back pain. In fact, many people begin yoga at the urging of their doctor for this exact reason. Back pain is often caused by another region of the body -- tight hips or shoulders could account for aches felt in the lumbar region. The good news: A lot of lower back pain can be cured with a basic regimen of stretching and breathing.

Of course, I’m not a doctor -- and you should always check with yours before beginning any exercise program. That said, we live in a society that does not value proper body alignment. We drive all the time or slouch at our desks for hours on end, so it’s no surprise that we end up with aches and pains. That’s why stretching is an important component of any effort to alleviate back tension and create an overall healthy lifestyle.

The following poses will help loosen up your muscles and offer relief. Start by doing each pose three times in succession for at least five breaths each, three times a week, and increase the frequency if you’re seeing good results.

Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

This pose increases back, neck and shoulder flexibility.

1.    Begin on your hands and knees, with your shoulders directly above your wrists and hips above your knees. Find length in your neck by extending your head forward while looking straight down at the floor.

2.    As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling as you tuck your chin toward your chest, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head toward the floor, so there is no tension in your neck.

3.    As you inhale, come back to a neutral position on your hands and knees, gazing on the floor just in front of your fingers, keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. Repeat this stretch at least 10 times.

Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

This pose opens your hips and shoulders and strengthens your mid-back.

1.    Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees, putting your feet on the floor then slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip.

2.    Laying the outside of your left leg on the floor, step your right foot over your left leg; your right knee will point at the ceiling.

3.    Exhale and twist toward the inside of your right thigh. Press your right hand against the floor behind you, setting your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh. Pull your front torso and inner right thigh snugly together, pressing your inner right foot into the floor. Lean your torso back slightly, and continue to lengthen your tailbone into the floor. As you inhale, feel a little more lift out of the floor, and as you exhale, sit still and twist deeper. Stay in this position for one minute while taking controlled inhalations and long exhalations. Repeat with the other leg for the same amount of time.

Bridge Pose (Bandha Sarvangasana)

This pose opens your shoulders and hips, and strengthens your quadriceps.

1.    Lying supine on the floor, bend your knees and set your feet down directly underneath your knees with your heels as close to your sitting bones as possible.

2.    As you exhale, press your inner feet and arms into the floor, pushing your tailbone upward toward your pubis, firming your buttocks without feeling like you’re gripping too hard. Lift your hips off the floor into a bridge while keeping your thighs and inner feet parallel.

3.    Clasp your hands below your pelvis and extend through your arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders -- you want to press your forearms into the ground to avoid tensing your neck. Lift your buttocks until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.

4.    Keeping your knees directly over your heels, push them forward away from your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Lift your chin slightly away from your sternum and, firming your shoulder blades against your back, press the top of your sternum toward your chin. Remain here for at least thirty seconds and release. Repeat two more times.

Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
Another excellent hip opener, this stretch targets both your hamstrings and hip flexors, and is great for easing the lower back.

1.    Lying on the floor, with both legs extended straight out, bend your left knee and draw your thigh into your torso, hugging it into your belly. Press through your right heel to keep your bottom leg grounded and active.

2.    Straighten your left leg up toward the ceiling, holding onto the back of your thigh or calf muscle, pressing your left heel directly upward. Broaden your shoulder blades so that you’re not gripping around your neck.

3.    As you press your heel upward, release the head of your thigh bone more deeply into your pelvis and draw your foot a little closer to your head. Take this slowly, as it will increase the stretch on the back of your leg. If you’re shaking a little, that’s fine, but the feeling should be manageable. Remain here at least 45 seconds and breathe deeply, then switch legs.

Escape Your Energy Vampires

Who hasn’t hit a slump in the middle of the afternoon? Or kept slamming the snooze button when the alarm went off for work?

“Most people have at least a few bad habits that make them feel tired and run-down,” says Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, and author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood With Food and Exercise. “The problem is they usually don’t recognize what they’re doing wrong.”

Here, Thayer and other experts identify the five most common energy vampires -- and how to escape them before they suck the life out of you.

Energy Vampire: Checking Email Obsessively
Admit it: What is email really but an endless stream of interruptions? If you’re constantly stopping your work to respond to messages, you’ll feel worn out without accomplishing much at all, says Leo Babauta, author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential … in Business and in Life. Worse still, you might have to stay late at the office to finish the projects you didn’t get done because you were on email all day.

Bite Back:
Set two or three times each day when you’re going to empty out your inbox -- and then be done, suggests Babauta. “Don’t even have your email program on your screen for the rest of the day so you won’t be tempted,” he says. Let your boss know about your change (say you want to be more productive) and ask him to just call you if he needs anything stat. Remember that old relic, the telephone?

Energy Vampire: Sugary Treats

Doughnuts, cupcakes, candy bars -- yep, they’ll give you a sugar rush. But about 45 minutes later, you’ll crash big-time, says Thayer.

Bite Back:
If that midafternoon energy drain is all too familiar, Thayer suggests taking a 5- to 10-minute walk. In one of his studies, he analyzed how eating a candy bar affects mood in comparison to taking a brisk 10-minute walk. Two hours later, participants who took a walk were still more energetic. The candy bar eaters, however, felt worse than they did before they had the snack.

If you’re hungry, opt for snacks -- like a handful of nuts, cheese and whole-grain crackers, or whole-grain tortilla chips and salsa -- that release glucose slowly into your bloodstream, giving you steady energy, suggests Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Bonus: They’re better for your teeth too.

Energy Vampire: Staying up Late

Sure, it’s hard to squeeze in eight hours of sleep. By the time the kids are in bed and dinner is cleaned up, you want a little time for yourself before you the hit the sack. And even if you’re ready to catch some z’s, your body may have other plans. About three-quarters of Americans have trouble falling asleep at least a few days a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Still, getting less than seven to eight hours of shut-eye is a surefire way to run yourself down. “Your brain retains more information from the previous day if you’ve had a good night’s sleep,” says Thayer. Sleep also improves your concentration so you can get your tasks done faster.

Bite Back:
If you’re staying up late to watch the news, you’ve just got to shut it off and get some rest. But if you’re there in bed counting sheep, try putting on some relaxing music. In one study, in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, participants improved their sleep quality by 35 percent by listening to soothing music at bedtime. And once you get into a routine, stick with it. It helps reinforce your body’s sleep-wake schedule, so you’ll doze off faster.

Energy Vampire: Negative People

You know those people who are constantly complaining or who never have a nice word to say? “They can drain the energy out of you without you knowing it,” says Babauta. Sure, you’re sweet to listen to their rants once in a while. But daily, even weekly, is way too much.

Bite Back:
You might not be able to rid your life of these people entirely -- maybe they’re relatives. But you can cut way back on your interactions with them, says Babauta. For instance, if your sister starts on another one of her tirades about how rotten her life is, tell her you understand, you sympathize, but you simply don’t have time to talk right now. Suggest a phone call next week or the week after. Maybe in the meantime, she’ll find someone else to unload her problems on.

Energy Vampire: Drinking Coffee 24-7

Don’t worry: Experts say it’s OK to have a cup or two of coffee in the morning. “In fact, the caffeine boosts your energy and helps you get going,” says Blatner. But grabbing another cup in the afternoon will definitely interfere with sleep. In fact, half of the caffeine from a 3 p.m. brew is still in your body at 9 p.m.

Bite Back:
Make sure your meals have staying power, and you’ll be less inclined to reach for caffeine-induced energy, says Blatner. Imagine dividing your lunch and dinner plates into four equal parts. Create your power meal by filling one part of the plate with whole grains (like brown rice or whole-wheat bread), one part with lean protein (chicken breast, hard-boiled egg, or turkey), and the other two with fruits and veggies. Then, it’s off the races for the rest of the day!

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/track5

Eat to Lose Weight

Do you run out the door in the morning with just coffee in your stomach -- or maybe nothing at all? We’re a country of breakfast skippers: Although 93 percent of adults agree that a morning meal is an important part of a healthy diet, more than half of us don’t practice what we preach, according to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council.

What’s your excuse? Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs, makes toast out of every reason to avoid starting the day off right.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I’m trying to lose weight.” 

Wake-up Call: Eating in the morning actually helps you slim down. When you’re sleeping, your metabolism -- how you burn calories and fat -- slows to practically a crawl. But a meal revs up your body’s fat-burning ability, says Blatner. Besides the metabolism boost, breakfast gives you willpower. “I think of it as the prevention meal,” she says. “When you eat in the morning, you’ll be less likely to take second helpings at lunch and dinner, and have a better chance of resisting temptations throughout the day, like the bowl of candy at work.”

In fact, four in five successful dieters -- those who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off on average for six years -- make time for breakfast every day, according to the National Weight Control Registry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. And don’t let your kids out of the house on an empty stomach either. A recent study of more than 4,000 British schoolchildren found that those who skipped breakfast were 62 to 92 percent more likely to be obese than students who had a morning meal.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I don’t feel like eating in the morning.”

Wake-up Call: Skipping breakfast will leave you sluggish all morning long. By the time you wake up, your body has used up most of its fuel for energy overnight, and your blood sugar is low. If you don’t raise it with food, you’re dooming yourself to feeling fatigued and unfocused for hours. In fact, research shows that eating breakfast improves performance on brainy tasks for both children and adults.

If you’re not hungry shortly after you wake up, you’re probably eating too much at night, says Blatner. Cut back on after-supper snacks and eat less at dinner. “It just takes a couple of days to re-adjust your body to the new schedule,” she says.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I’m running late.”

Wake-up Call: Whether you’ve got to get to work or your workout, there are many good options you can make in five minutes and eat on the run. Blatner’s equation for a balanced breakfast: one whole-grain food (toast, cereal, English muffin) and one protein-rich food (milk, yogurt, nut butter, eggs, turkey bacon), plus at least one serving of produce (any fruit or veggie). According to a recent study at the University of Nottingham, eating a whole-grain breakfast with fruit can help you burn more fat at the gym than chowing down on refined carbs like white bread and doughnuts.

Eating this way is easy and delicious. Try these quick and easy morning fixes:

  • 1 toasted frozen whole-grain waffle topped with fruit sauce made by pureeing ½ cup berries and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. “I’ve got a lot of the Cub players eating this,” says Blatner.
  • Yogurt, cereal and chopped fruit layered in a bowl for a breakfast sundae. “Use low-fat, protein-rich Greek yogurt because it’s thicker and won’t get the cereal soggy,” she suggests.
  • Instant oatmeal with nuts and apples.
  • Sliced hard-boiled eggs (made the night before) on English muffins with a side of fruit.

For kids, Blatner suggests:

  • A peanut butter and strawberry sandwich on whole-wheat bread.
  • Scrambled eggs rolled into a whole-grain tortilla with orange slices on the side.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I don’t like breakfast food.”

Wake-up Call: If you’re not a fan of typical breakfast fare, eat something else that contains the aforementioned three important breakfast components. Dinner leftovers like veggie pizza on whole-grain crust, brown rice with dried fruit and nuts, and even creamy tomato soup with whole-grain croutons all count as a nutritious breakfast. Blatner’s own favorite creation: “I whip low-fat cottage cheese with chives and lemon, and spread that on my whole-grain toast. Then I put a couple of tomato slices on top. It reminds me of Italy.” 

18 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Everyone in Your Life!

We scoured the Web for a whole year, finding, trying and reviewing the best and healthiest products you should know about daily. Now, to help you choose the perfect gift for everyone in your life, we’ve pared down the list to just our favorites in these six categories: fitness, food, home, gadgets, beauty and style.

What made the cut: ingenious healthy gifts that simplify your life. There are ideas to fit every budget and will cover everyone on your list -- even yourself. Happy holidays!


Mi Adidas Customized Sport Shoes
Design your own sneakers.

If your feet are different sizes (as most people’s are), Mi Adidas lets you order the right fit for each foot. Then you choose the colors for the body, trim and sole. Available for men and women for running, training, tennis, golf, basketball and more.
Cost: Starts at $105

Pear Mobile Training Intelligence System
A personal coach for serious runners.
This little gizmo is a smart biofeedback training system: It measures your body’s response as you work out and delivers coaching to keep you on track. It even syncs with your favorite playlist.
Cost: $250  

Hyperwear Sandbells
A new way to strength-train that torches more calories.
They’re dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls and more. Sandbells (sand-filled, disk-shaped bags in a range of weights) really raise your heart rate, giving you a cardio burn at the same time. Use them to break out of your usual strength training routine.  
Cost: $7.99 and up


Aqua Zinger
Make your own flavored water.
Not a fan of straight-up water? The base of this water bottle has a mini-grinder. Fill it with your favorite fruits or herbs, shake the bottle and voila: You’ve got great-tasting water!
Cost: $26

Brooklyn Brine Pickling Kit
Make your own pickled veggies with expert help.
Love pickles? You’ll love pickled carrots, radishes and just about everything else pickled too! This kit, developed by Williams Sonoma and the pickling experts at Brooklyn Brine, will help you make your own great homemade versions with jars, spice blends, easy recipes and more.
Cost: $29.95

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
A vegetarian cookbook that makes healthy food taste positively sinful.
This cookbook, from a top London chef, is our top favorite of all time. Every recipe is bursting with so much flavor, you won’t miss the meat!
Cost: $19.47 


Uncommon Goods Self-Watering Planter
Gives anyone a green thumb.
Having a roomful of plants is good for your health, since they can remove indoor air pollutants. But if you are the type who always forgets to water them, this planter is perfect. Just fill the center chamber with water, and the planter does the work for you.
Cost: $50

Brinse Tumbler and Toothbrush Holder
Protect your toothbrush from bathroom germs.
This all-in-one toothbrush and tumbler set saves you space and keeps your toothbrush germ-free. The tumbler stacks on top of your brush after you’re done brushing your teeth, protecting it from airborne germs -- like the kind that get sprayed when you flush the toilet.
Cost: $13

Tree Leaf Rocca Ultrasonic Humidifier
A cute humidifier you’ll be happy to display.
If your skin gets dry as soon as the heat goes on in the winter, a humidifier may be a necessary evil. But this is one that actually looks good in any room. It’s quiet, easy to fill, and no filters are necessary -- and it’s just as effective as that old ugly one. 
Cost: $249 


Power Commute Laptop Messenger
Never search for a socket again.
This messenger bag by Timbuk2This comes with a TSA-compliant charging pack, so you can stash your phone or tablet in it and charge as you travel or commute. There are tons of pockets and compartments to keep your other stuff organized too. 
Cost: $200

A diabolically ingenious alarm clock.
Never be late to work again! This alarm clock rolls out of reach and forces you to chase it if you hit snooze more than once. It sounds crazy -- but it works!
Cost: $39

Echo Touch Gloves
Text with your gloves on.
No more taking off your gloves to use your iPhone or other touch-screen device. These gloves sport special fabric on the index finger and the thumb, making them gadget-friendly. Plus, they come in gorgeous colors and are available for men, women and kids.
Cost: $32 and up


Josie Maran Argan Bronzing Oil
Get a safe glow all over -- instantly.

Say goodbye to winter-pale skin. Add a drop or two of this organic oil, rich in vitamin E and other good-for-your-skin ingredients, to your body moisturizer and foundation for a lovely glow that’s totally believable.

CoverGirl NatureLuxe Gloss Balm
Moisturizing balm, gloss and lipstick -- all in one!
Looking for a lipstick that’s moisturizing enough to wear all the time? With 16 shades to choose from, this lip balm is perfect. It goes on shiny like lip gloss, has color and moisture that won’t quit -- and SPF 15 to keep your lips perfectly kissable all year long. 
Cost: $8

Liquid Palisade
The secret to a perfect manicure.
This new product makes flawless nails possible even for the most manicure-challenged. It works like painter’s tape: Simply brush it on your cuticles and the areas surrounding your nails, and it’ll keep the polish off them. After the polish dries, just peel off the Palisade and admire.
Cost: $22


Hollywood Jean Kit
An easy way to change the length of any pants -- fast.
This kit lets you change the length of your jeans so you can wear them with flats or heels. It also includes straps that keep your jeans from getting untucked from your boots, and a belt that prevents gaps and underwear sighting at the back of your jeans. Brilliant!
Cost: $19.99

PUMA Lily Ballet Flat
A stylish shoe that feels like a sneaker.

Dressy enough to wear to dinner but comfy enough to trek around in all day, these flats are a godsend, especially for vacations. Available in basic black and lots of fun color combinations.

And, finally, a special bonus and our personal favorite, which we’ve found to be a sweet surprise for those who are far from you this holiday season:

Gone Pie Gluten-free Vegan Brownies
Chocolatey, gooey and, oh, so good!
Whether you choose the fudgy smooth brownies or the triple nut variety (or both), these tasty treats are worth sending away for. Since they come in a pan, you can even fib and claim that you made them yourself. We won’t tell!
Cost: $21 for an 8 x 6 pan (six to nine brownies)

More articles from Completely You:

·         Take Back the Holidays

·         Stay Healthy When Everyone Else Is Sick

·         Look Thinner During the Holidays

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