Thursday, 22 May 2008

Is it hot in here?

Light a fire under your work team with salsa dancing. Yes, salsa dancing! A London-based Latin dance company, provides workshops for coworkers to develop greater interpersonal skills and liven up the corporate environment.

In addition to team building, salsa dancing is a great cardio workout. Salsa classes are a great way to spice up your individual routine as well, especially if you're feeling unmotivated and bored at the gym.

If salsa isn't your thing, why not try the elegant world of ballroom dancing? Learn a variety of steps, from the waltz to swing. What a great way to have fun and get fit with someone you love!

Of course, if you're feeling like even more sizzle than salsa, there's always one of the latest fashion crazes that's popped up (or, should I say, hopped up) all over London: pole dancing fitness. Out of gentlemen's clubs and into fitness centres, the moves that have driven an entire industry have attracted London women in droves. Most courses are held in safe, female-friendly environments and claim to improve confidence in women as well as muscle tone, and to burn a purported 250 calories per session.

In the worlds of Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, "Keep on dancin!"

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Guys vs Gals

It's an age-old feminist debate: Can women perform just as well as men, if not better? When it comes to research in exercise tolerance, experts actually say no. Although individually women may outperform their male counterparts in some activities, overall, women are not built to exert themselves as much as men.

One reason is due to the hormone oestrogen, which can inhibit proteins that fuel the body during intense exercise. That's why women's performance may be better at certain times of the month than others. Men have a constant supply of the energy-producing testosterone, which provides them with strength and endurance.

Women also have smaller lungs than men, and therefore a smaller lung capacity. During intense exercise, women need to breathe more frequently. This causes them to perceive their exertion as more difficult than that of men, even if women are doing the same amount of work.

Instead of carbo-loading to prepare for intense exertion, women's bodies are geared to rely more on fat stores than energy from carbohydrates. When it comes to distance running, women excel, and the reason for that is the greater ability to consume energy from fat, which burns longer than sugars.

A recent study suggests that women benefit most from weights and interval training. In order to maintain optimum fitness, women need to mix up the activity more frequently than do men. This means doing everything from running and biking, to swimming, dancing and yoga, weight training, and kickboxing to kung fu. Variety is the spice of life, and most important is staying fit, for both men AND women. Get a move on!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Get fit with Fido

Want an easy trick to keep fit? Buy a dog. Not only are dogs wonderful companions, but responsible dog owners are said to reap multiple health benefits from their relationship to their furry friends. How do they help? Let me count the ways:

  1. Dog owners are more fit, in general, than non-owners. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Western Australia, dog owners are at least 50 percent more apt to achieve adequate levels of physical activity, as opposed to non-owners.
  2. Dog walking, according to the University of Portsmouth, helps prevent depression and lonliness in many dog owners in the UK.
  3. Petting a dog may help lower blood pressure, and could possibly reduce the effects of stress on the body and mind.
  4. You've heard of the whole "single man buying a puppy to attract women" ploy, but actually, owning a dog can help people make friends. Dog owners are generally perceived as friendly. Plus, dog lovers tend to flock together. Find a playmate for your dog and a friend, or even, yes, a date!
For very active people, a dog can be a great companion for long runs and hikes in the woods. Dogs can be amazing atheletes as well and can challange their owners with agility competitions. There are large networks of doggy agility enthusiasts in the UK. Many events operate outside of London, but training can be done anywhere.

Considering owning a dog? Think about doggy adoption. Here is a great website illustrating everything you need to know about choosing and owning a dog.

Some Londoners don't have the space, time, or money for a dog. In such a case, maybe you have a friend who is a dog owner, and perhaps you can opt to help take the dog out to the park once or twice a week. Or, consider a side job as a dog walker. Not only will you earn some extra money, but you will keep fit as well.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Breathe easier in the big city

The weather's warming up and some of us are just itching to get outside for our exercise after being cooped up for the long months of winter. However, living in a big city makes outdoor exercise surprisingly risky for our health. Extreme pollution can adversely affect the cardiovascular system, making the heart and lungs less efficient in getting the proper nutrients through the body.
There are ways to enjoy exercise in the city while minimizing our risk of cardiovascular damage.

  • First, you can assess the amount of pollution in your area with Google Earth's 3D air pollution map overlay.
  • Second, try exercising during early morning hours or later in the evening, after most of the work commuters have disappeared from roads.
  • Work out during or just after a heavy fog. Experts say that fogs help to clean the air.
  • On really hot summer days, opt for indoor climates, preferably ones with air conditioning, or wait until the sun has set to exert yourself out of doors.
Help keep the lungs of other exercisers clean by walking or biking to your local destinations. Pay it forward!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Get fit while you flop?

London seems to be going crazy over the FitFlop, a sandal that made headlines in New York due to it's reported thigh-toning powers. The shoe's built around a micro wobbleboard that the company claims helps to tone leg and bum muscles while you walk. The latest in summer footwear, worn by the likes of celeb singer Carly Simon, comes in a variety of styles and colours, as well as men's and women's versions. Clicking on the website reveals several emphatic testimonials.

Experts say use caution when wearing flip-flops of any kind, however. The lack of support they offer is not ideal for walking long distances or for playing sports. Excessive wear can cause damage to the achilles tendon and sometimes calf muscles as well. In addition to muscle damage, the flat rubbery sole of most flip-flop styles can cause the foot to roll inward, which can damage the arch of the foot,
Foot Pain from Flip Flops - The most popular videos are a click away not to mention that the whole of the foot is exposed to everything from blisters to fungi.

The bottom line: there is, as you probably suspected, no "easy way around" a proper hour of exercise every day. If you want to have toned legs and a superstar bum, start challanging yourself by taking on those hills as you walk. Walking is a fantastic way to get fit and to maintain a healthy heart, and you've got the whole summer, so get moving!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Too late to benefit? Never!

Health professionals and experts all over the world are pushing seniors to get active after several studies and reports have confirmed that people at any age reap the benefits of physical activity when it comes to health and longevity.

Exercise can help stave off heart disease, muscular atrophy, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, obesity, joint problems, and a vast number of other ailments by which age increases the risk. In addition to health benefits, exercise can be a fun way to enjoy retirement or to spend weekends with a partner or family. Instead of sitting around watching the telly in the evening, sometimes a nice walk can help refresh the soul.

If you're over 50 and just beginning an exercise programme, it's important to consult a GP to find out what type of exercise is right for you. Starting slowly and with the assistance of a professional (preferably one trained in geriatric health and fitness) helps kick start an injury-free programme. Some fitness centres offer special programmes for seniors.

Comfort and care are vital to keeping fit past age 50. Take the time to listen to your body. Heart monitors are a good thing for fitness buffs of any age, but can be extremely important to seniors in keeping track of just how hard they are working. Ask your doctor or a certified fitness professional as to what equipment would best benefit you and your routine.

Some of the best activities reccommended by health experts for seniors:

  • Walking. Whether it's fitness or race walking or just a leisurly stroll, many people can reap the cardiovascular benefits of walking. When the weather is unpleasant, this activity can be brought inside by using a treadmill, either at the gym or at home.
  • Yoga. Recent studies have shown that yoga is one of the best stretching exercises for seniors. Take a beginner's course and get stronger, more relaxed, and limber!
  • Swimming. Due to the low impact nature of this sport, it's a wonderful way to get in shape both cardiovascularly and in helping build muscle tone. It's also a lovely activity for summer heat. Try a water aerobics course for added guidance and benefit.
  • Dancing. With so many styles to choose from, the possibilities are endless! For women, belly dancing can be a fun way to revive your "mo-jo", while couples dancing is a great idea for a night out with your partner.
  • Golf. On a nice day, what better than to socialize with others and take a walk in the sunshine? It's never too late to pick up the clubs, so get on the green!

Put your heart into it

I always love a gym with a conscience.
This week, Saddlers Sport Centre on Goswell Road is holding a fundraiser for the British Heart Foundation. Guest instructors will teach a variety of classes, and the gym will also be staging a raffle and an auction for a variety of wonderful prizes.

Other BHF events can be found on its home page. The BHF holds a number of fundraising walks, runs, bike rides, and other physically challanging events.

Other health-oriented organisations hold similar activities. The popular athletic shoe company, ASICS UK has a site that lists charity runs held in the UK. Participating in such events usually requires some prior planning. Generally speaking, a person cannot just show up to participate in this type of fundraiser, as organisations usually do not sell tickets. The onus is actually on each participant to acquire a donation, or sponsorship from friends, family members, coworkers, or strangers, which will go to the organisation for which he or she is running, biking, etc.

Spring and summer is a great time to get outdoors for fitness, but while you're out there, why not check out something that not only helps yourself, but does a great service to others as well!