Healthy Tips

Learn to Walk

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Do you know how to walk? Of course, most people would say, everyone knows how to walk; it is as instinctive as breathing. The comparison is apt — just like many people breathe inefficiently, in today’s increasingly motorised world many have forgotten how to walk. If you look around, you will see that by the time people reach their fifties, they either waddle with a sideways swaying movement or have a forward shuffling gait. This unnatural way of walking pushes the spine, hip and knees out of alignment, eventually resulting in aches, pains and even degenerative arthritis.

As we grow older, we need to concentrate on maintaining a proper walking technique. Slouching, bad posture and an improper gait are avoidable pitfalls. Whenever you walk, hold your head high and the neck straight. The eyes should be focused 15-20 feet ahead, the chin held parallel to the ground, the stomach pulled in, the feet a shoulder-width apart and the arms should swing naturally at right angles (not across the body).


It is even more important to learn to walk properly as a toddler but cramped housing and an unsafe environment makes fearful parents confine children indoors. Also, early unsteady steps often result in falls, leading to bruises and bumps. Anxious parents then start carrying children or restrict them to prams. Watching television programmes seems safer and less stressful (for the caretaker) than letting tiny tots walk around.

That, however, is not the right attitude. Toddlers attempting to take their first steps need active encouragement. Hold them by the hand and make them walk alongside for around 20 minutes morning and evening. Encourage them to walk fast, run, jump and skip. This will improve muscle tone, balance, coordination as well as make them confident and sturdy. This will help them all through life.

The preparation for a healthy life in which one (barring an unforeseen event) remains active and mobile well into the nineties, should ideally begin in the twenties but it is never too late to start. Even the sixties or the eighties is not too late. These days doctors recommend an hour of aerobic activity a day. Of all the activities — jogging, walking, running swimming, dancing and sports like tennis — walking is the easiest. It does not require much training or equipment, no partner is required, and it is the least likely to cause an injury.

The intensity or speed of the walk can be varied to obtain maximum health benefits. The perception of the intensity of exercise can be misleading. This is why it is important to have an objective assessment. The “target heart rate” should be calculated from the formula 220-age. In light activity, 40 per cent of this heart rate is reached, breathing is normal, sweating is minimal and it is possible to carry on a conversation. In moderate activity, 50-70 per cent of the target heart rate is reached, breathing is rapid, sweating occurs and it is possible to speak but not sing. During vigorous activity 70-80 per cent of the target rate is reached, breathing is rapid and it is not possible to speak without pausing for breath. The intensity of exercise should be gradually built up over a period of months to the “vigorous stage” as this confers the most health benefits.

It is important to wear seamless socks (will not injure the feet) and proper footwear while walking. Slippers slap up against the heel. After many kilometres, this is likely to result in heel pain. Clothes should be loose and made out of natural or “climate controlled” material, not tight fitting synthetic and non sweat absorbing.

In 10-15 per cent of people over the age of 65, walking can result in a pain radiating down the leg or in the buttock or calf. After a period of rest, the pain disappears. This is a condition called intermittent claudication and is caused by poor blood supply to the leg muscles. It can occur in diabetes, hypertension and if cholesterol plaques block the vessels owing to elevated lipids .It can be a precursor to strokes and heart attacks. Intermittent claudication responds 250 per cent within a few months to walking for at least an hour a day with rest whenever the pain arises.

People who walk regularly get an endorphin (mood-elevating chemical) boost. The constant pounding helps calcium enter their bones making them stronger. Recent research has shown that the hippocampus (the area in the brain responsible for memory) expands by as much as 2 per cent in people who walk regularly. In sedentary elders it shrank by 1.5 per cent.

Have a clear aim, like eventually being able to walk for an hour. Make walking a habit, beginning each day with the thought “when I finish my walk,” rather than “if I walk today”. In short, walk to be fit, healthy, happy and to have a good memory.

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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New Study Shows Profound Impact of Anger on Your Health

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When you get angry, your heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone production increases, cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and the left hemisphere of your brain becomes more stimulated.

………… & see.

Researchers induced anger in 30 men “Anger Induction” (AI), which consists of 50 phrases in first person that reflect daily situations that provoke anger.

Before and immediately after the inducement of anger, the researchers measured heart rate and arterial tension, levels of testosterone and cortisol, and the asymmetric activation of the brain.

According to Eurekalert:
“The results … reveal that anger provokes profound changes in the state of mind of the subjects (‘they felt angered and had a more negative state of mind’) and in different psychobiological parameters.”

Eurekalert May 31, 2010
Hormones and Behavior March 2010, 57(3):276-83

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Healthy Tips

Feel the Runner’s High

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Running is one of the best forms of aerobic conditioning for your heart and lungs. It can significantly increase your metabolic rate and the amount of calories you burn, leading to loss of excess body fat. Running is also beneficial for slowing down the aging process. Those who run regularly are less likely to experience bone and muscle loss due to the body’s positive response to additional physical demands.


Running can also have many psychological benefits. Most runners typically report being happier and feeling less stressed from the grind of daily life. Why? Because regular exercise has the ability to alter mood, attributable to a surge in hormones called endorphins. These hormones create a sense of euphoria often referred to as a “runner’s high” and can result in an improvement in mood.

Here are some great tips, courtesy of running coach Chipper Robinson from Running on the Edge in Ramsey, N.J., on how to maximize your running experience:

* Incorporate cross training into your running routines. Add weight-lifting, bicycling, yoga, elliptical training, or swimming. Why? They make you fitter and less prone to injury.

*Exercise your abdominal muscles almost every day. A strong midsection (core) is a key component to running. In fact, it can often be the single most important factor for success in long-distance running.

* Change your intensity levels by running faster or farther. Alternate which one you choose to implement in various workouts. It prevents your body from adapting to routines.

*Pay attention to your shoes. Most shoes wear out after 300 to 500 miles. You often can’t see the wear, but, your knees, hips, and back will feel it. Visit a running specialty store for quality shoes and talk to your doctor for suggestions on the best shoes to get. Not just any shoe will do.

* Run on different surfaces. See how many different surfaces you can run on in a month: asphalt, gravel, trail, grass, track, treadmill, and beach. Each stresses your leg muscles in a slightly different way, helping to prevent overuse injuries. (If possible, avoid concrete, the hardest and most harmful surface for runners.)

* Keep a training journal. A journal can be a great way to maintain motivation and consistency. Keep it filled with running times, routines, motivational quotes, and how your body reacts to various routines. You should have a documented road map for reaching your running goals.

* Take some time off. You don’t have to run every day, every week, or even every month (as long as you’re performing other cardiovascular activities). For healthy, consistent training, your body needs regular recovery periods. Performance suffers with too much exercise. Start slow and work your way toward higher mileages and/or more frequency.

* Introduce high-intensity interval training into your running routine. Alternate, pace, speed, tempo and rest periods during a single running session. For example, keep a steady pace for a mile and then sprint run for 30 seconds. Do this for several cycles and notice how your heart rate and muscle fatigue threshold increase.

Every great journey starts with a single step; now just put one foot in front of the other to see how far this new journey takes you. Welcome to the wonderful world of running. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the benefits of running.

You may click to see more

to your Health. April13. 2010

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News on Health & Science Yoga

Yoga Cures Heart Related Issues

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, in Uttrakhand, India, have confirmed that yoga keeps heart healthy. In the study, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, heart rate variability – a sign of a healthy heart – has been shown to be higher in yoga practitioners than in non-practitioners. The autonomic nervous system regulates the heart rate through two routes – the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The former causes the heart rate to rise, while, the parasympathetic slows it. When working well together, the two ensure that the heart rate is steady but ready to respond to changes caused by eating, the fight or flight response, or arousal.
…………… to see
The ongoing variation of heart rate is known as heart rate variability (HRV), which refers to the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate. In healthy individuals HRV is high whereas cardiac abnormalities lead to a low HRV. To reach the conclusion, Ramesh Kumar Sunkaria, Vinod Kumar, and Suresh Chandra Saxena of the Electrical Engineering Department, at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, have evaluated two small groups of men in order to see whether yoga practitioners can improve heart health. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that yoga practice may improve health through breathing exercises, stretching, postures, relaxation, and meditation.

The team analyzed the HRV “spectra” of the electrocardiograms (ECG) of forty two healthy male volunteers who are non-yogic practitioners, and forty two who are experienced practitioners, all volunteers were aged between 18 and 48 years. The spectral analysis of HRV is, the team says, an important tool in exploring heart health and the mechanisms of heart rate regulation. The power represented by various spectral bands in short-term HRV are indicative of how well the heart responds to changes in the body controlled by the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

The team explains that very low frequency (VLF) variations in the spectra are linked to the body’s internal temperature control. Low frequency peaks are associated with the sympathetic control and high frequency with parasympathetic control.

The team concludes that in their preliminary study of 84 volunteers, there is strengthening of parasympathetic (vagal) control in subjects who regularly practice yoga, which is indicative of better autonomic control over heart rate and so a healthier heart.

Source: Nov.16, 2009

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Feel Your Pulse

Our heart works to keep us alive. As it beats, pressure waves travel along the blood vessels as a “pulse” which can be felt at the wrist, in the armpit, on either side of the neck, in the thigh, behind the knee and in the foot. The pulse rate is an indication of the heart rate.

The wrist is the easiest place to measure the pulse. Place the tips of the index, second, and third fingers on the palm side of the other wrist, below the base of the thumb. Press lightly with the fingers. The pulse can be distinctly felt as a steady beat. The rate is usually counted for 30 seconds, and then the value obtained multiplied is by two. The pulse is expressed as the rate in one minute.

The rate varies at the different stages of our life. It is normally:

• 100 to 160 in children less than 1 year old,

• 70 to 120 in children between 1 and 10 years,

• 60 to 100 after that,

• 40 to 60 in trained athletes.

It can go up to 200 with exercise, anxiety or fear.

For running, jogging, swimming and other forms of aerobic exercise to be efficient, the “target heart rate” has to be achieved. This is 60-80 per cent of the predicted maximum heart rate (the highest rate achieved during maximal exercise, and calculated by deducting your age from 220). So if you are 35 years old, your predicted maximum heart rate is 185 and target heart rate is 60-80 per cent of this — 111-148.

As athletic conditioning improves, the target heart rate is achieved within a few minutes. Once the exercise is stopped, the rate returns to normal equally fast, usually within two minutes.

Newspapers and television all over the world have been publicising the benefits of regular exercise. In spite of knowing that exercise is good for us, 70 per cent of adults over the age of 50 years do not get adequate exercise.

To ensure that the exercise is efficient and adequate, the target heart rate should be achieved and maintained for a minimum of 30 minutes for five days a week. (A slow stroll in rubber slippers while gossiping vociferously obviously will not do the trick).

Pure yoga, Tai-Chi or other stationary exercises are good for acquiring muscle strength and improving balance and posture. But they have to be combined with active movement for efficient heart protective exercise.

Before the discovery of stethoscopes, electrocardiograms and X-rays, physicians had little evidence to go on, except the pulse rate. By feeling the wrist they were able to arrive at a variety of diagnoses.

Anxiety and excitement increase the rate, producing a rapid, throbbing pulse. This is the basis on which patients sometimes say, “The doctor felt my pulse and diagnosed pregnancy!” An overactive thyroid gland, anaemia and heart diseases have the same effect. Coffee, tea and many cola drinks, containing caffeine, increase the heart rate if taken in sufficient quantities.

The pulse may be slow in well-trained athletes, if the thyroid levels are low, and if there are diseases of the heart, especially heart blocks. Certain medication used to treat high blood pressure also slow the heart rate.

A resting pulse rate of more than 76 doubles the risk of heart disease. To lower the rate to desirable levels check with your doctor and then start exercising. If your life has been sedentary, the intensity of exercise should be graded and increased gradually. You should feel a warm glow as you start the exercise and should be able to speak a complete sentence at all times while exercising. It is important to have a five-minute slow walk to “warm up” and a similar one to “cool down” at the end to give the heart time to adjust. This prevents muscle injury as well.

Although 30 minutes is the minimum recommended, it does not all have to be done at one stretch. It can be broken up into five or 10-minute slots and done several times a day. The other way to exercise adequately is to buy a pedometer, clip it on and try to complete 10,000 steps a day.

As age advances, it becomes important to remain fit and maintain a healthy heart. Studies have shown that fitness levels can be calculated by measuring the pulse rate. Individuals with a low resting pulse rate, rapid acceleration to target levels and quick recovery are likely to live longer and have active and healthy lives.

The amount and intensity of the exercise is important. It is, also, never too late to start. At any age from five to 100, it is important to start moving and keep on doing so.

Adults who have taken up regular exercise even after the age of 70, have remained independent and mobile, and have reduced their risk of dying before the age of 90 by nearly 30 per cent.

The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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