Day: February 25, 2016

Mind, Body and Soul: 8 Great Ways Martial Arts Benefit Kids

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Martial arts training is a wonderful way to give kids who aren’t into team sports an opportunity to get some exercise and feel like a part of a social group.  No matter which practice you select, the general philosophy is one of non-violence, despite the fierceness often displayed by karate movies.

The true goal of self-defense training is to teach students to automatically respond to the threat of physical harm in a calm, controlled manner to keep violence from escalating. Teaching children martial arts can help them learn how to protect themselves from bullies, as well as giving them self-confidence.

Below are 8 great ways martial arts benefit kids:

 

1. Martial Arts Promote Physical Fitness—

Some kids simply aren’t team sports-minded, but all kids need to keep moving to stay healthy, making martial arts training an excellent form of exercise.

If you’ve tried soccer, baseball, football, or any other team sport, and your child didn’t seem to click with the concept of playing with a team, an activity like martial arts can give them the opportunity to work towards a goal without the pressure of a group setting.

 

2. Martial Arts Train Kids to Focus—

Kids with trouble concentrating will find that martial arts is extremely conducive to focus, as there are choreographed forms such as kicks, punches and intricate movements they will need to practice and perfect.

For this reason, kids with ADHD often greatly benefit from the structured concentration training necessary for this type of exercise, because it motivates them to pay attention, stand still awaiting the next instruction, and eliminates the distractibility factor of sports that move quickly.

 

3. Martial Arts Provides Catharsis—

Being a kid can be tough, and there’s something extremely cleansing about the emotional release to be found in kicking and punching.

While the main motivation of this practice is the avoidance of violence, there’s nothing wrong with using the kicking and punching parts to work out feelings of anger.

If your child had a tough day at school, they might be able to get the frustration out of their system at martial arts practice and sleep better that night, the same way adults use the gym to purge stress.

 

4. Martial Arts Boosts Self-Esteem—

Generally using a system of testing and differently-colored belts to reward kids for progression in the practice, martial arts can give kids the self-confidence that comes from working towards and achieving goals.

It is also empowering for kids to be able to physically defend themselves, and the knowledge that if a bully comes calling, they will be able to hold their own can give a child a sense of personal safety.

 

5. Martial Arts Makes Kids More Respectful—

Showing reverence to your instructor is king in every dojo, with kids expected to address him or her with a bow of honor.

Many parents will notice a change in the demeanor of their kids after a few weeks of practice, as kids learn to respect themselves and others, and to treat people as they would like to be treated.

 

6. Martial Arts Increases Flexibility—

This form of exercise involves kicks, punches, blocks and turns, all of which promote flexibility and range of motion, as well as balance and coordination.

Being limber can also prevent kids from getting hurt as often in the other activities or sports in which they engage every day.

 

7. Martial Arts Provides Socialization—

Many kids who don’t gravitate towards team sports find it hard to make friends without the group setting and multiple opportunities of such activities.

Martial arts allows for bonding and friendship with a smaller group, so children who are shy or easily overwhelmed by noise and crowds will find this quieter setting much more favorable to forming relationships.

 

8. Martial Arts is a Safe Exercise—

With more data constantly emerging about how head injuries sustained in school sports such as football and soccer can negatively affect kids, martial arts offers a safer way for children to get some exercise.

As they progress in certain martial arts practices, there may be sparring involved, which can increase the chance of injury, but there is no pressure to engage in physical contact if it isn’t wanted.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 as a good age to start kids in karate or martial arts classes, because at this age they have the muscle control to turn and punch safely. But it’s never too late for anyone to give this self-esteem, discipline and strength-building practice a try. Consider giving your kids—or even yourself—the many mind, body and soul benefits of martial arts training today.

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Healthy New Year! Top Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Holiday weight gain is a widely accepted fact of life, causing many to hopelessly give up and give in to the temptation of high-calorie treats that seem to lurk around every festive corner. But accepting rather than fighting poor habits throughout the holidays can set anyone on the path to dietary disruption and bad health.

As we get older, every ounce of weight gain matters, and can seem impossible to lose, making it especially important to keep a close eye on calories. Luckily, there are many easy ways to prevent the sabotage of all your fitness plan progress.

Below are some top tips to help anyone avoid the trap of holiday weight gain.

 

1. Retain the Routine—

Yes, you’re on vacation. No, this doesn’t have to mean you should take a break from the gym, yoga classes or whatever form of exercise you generally work into every week.

Sticking with your workout regimen can keep your metabolism moving and help you burn extra calories; something you might really appreciate later when faced with a plate of holiday cookies.

And don’t be afraid to go heavier on exercises that burn more calories during the holidays to offset the extra intake.

 

2. Step Away from the Buffet—

When hanging out at social events, it’s easy to get caught in a conversation while standing near the buffet table if you’re grazing randomly, so purposefully grab a plate, make your selections, and move away from the food area.

This will help you be aware of exactly how much you eat, while removing the temptation to have “just one more” cookie or chip with dip as you stand mindlessly chatting and nibbling.

 

3. Make Friends with the Vegetables—

At every holiday party, there is a generally a plethora of sugary baked goods and salty snacks, with a sad, neglected vegetable tray sitting alone and ignored somewhere on the table.

Find that lonely tray of vegetables and load up your plate with these fiber and nutrition-packed beauties, because they’re going to fill you up without a lot of calories while fueling your body with vitamins and minerals.

Remember to go easy on the dip, and eat all of the veggies before moving on to the more calorie-dense foods.

 

4. Protein is Your Pal—

In addition to vegetables, lean protein in its various forms is a great way to fill up and stay full without fattening carbohydrates.

Look for shrimp, chicken or any other versions of protein that aren’t covered in heavy sauce, and add these to your vegetable bounty for a healthy holiday meal.

 

5. More Sleep, Less Stress—

Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases weight gain, especially around the middle. It can be difficult when you feel like you have one million things to do, but making sleep a priority is definitely worth it.

Cortisol is also known for breaking down muscle, and muscle loss lowers metabolism, making it especially important to get the sleep you need during the food-filled holidays.

 

6. Wonderful Water—

Feelings of dehydration can mimic hunger, making it important to remain hydrated at all times to prevent pointless snacking.

Dehydration can also lower the metabolism and increase inflammation levels in the body, both of which lead to weight gain. Some experts recommend alternating a glass of water between every adult beverage to prevent the dehydrating diuretic effects of alcohol.

Drinking water before meals has also been shown to create a feeling of fullness that can help promote weight loss, so before you head out to that holiday party: drink up!

 

7. Do the Shopping Shuffle—

Buying gifts online can be more convenient, but if you want to sneak in a little extra exercise while you take care of holiday-related errands, go to the actual stores and walk around.

Worried about missing an online deal? Many stores will match online competitor prices, so be sure to take a device with you that allows Internet access, or print out the best price you can find to show store employees.

 

8. Saving Calories is Sabotage—

Don’t make the mistake of trying to starve yourself all day to “save calories” for the holiday party later. This will only drop your metabolism down into starvation mode, and set you up to overeat late in the day, which is the worst time to overindulge if you’re trying to stay trim.

Instead of starving, eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and if the party you’ll be attending isn’t a dinner party, consider eating your final meal of the day before you go to keep the snacking to a minimum.

 

Focusing on the humanity, kindness and goodwill of the season (rather than trying to figure out how much food you can stuff into your face in a few weeks) is also a helpful way to avoid holiday weight gain. The holidays may involve a lot of food, but they really aren’t ultimately about food at all, are they? If you can keep this philosophy in mind, and use the smart tips above, you can keep your diet and fitness program on track to have a healthy New Year!

Fight the Flu! 6 Top Ways to Boost the Immune System

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It’s that time of year again; when the office is full of coughing employees, and the work environment sounds more like a doctor’s waiting room than a place of business. We can thank the various strains of influenza, common colds, multiple stomach bugs, and all of the many other viruses that rapidly spread during the winter months for this unpleasant phenomenon.

Every year during this season, we know illness is coming, and while many of us get our vaccinations hoping to avoid catching the flu, sometimes shots just aren’t enough. Fortunately, there are many things every person can do to bolster the immune system and decrease the chances of catching a virus.

Below are 6 recommended ways to boost the immune system:

 

1. Wondrous Water—

In order for all of the systems in the body to perform at top strength, they need to be adequately hydrated. Think of water as the oil for every engine in your body, because without it, nothing can run smoothly.

Dehydration weakens the immune system by forcing the body to spend too much energy on inadequately hydrated and inefficiently running internal systems, stealing valuable virus-fighting resources.

Most experts recommend at least 8 glasses a day, but if you want to drink more, go right ahead. Your body will thank you by removing toxins faster to fight off disease.

 

2. Splendid Sleep—

Everyone is different: some people can function on 6 hours of sleep, and others are worthless without a solid 8 or 9 hours. You can tell how much rest you need by how you feel, so be sure to make sufficient sleep a top priority during flu season.

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, experts recommend cutting out all caffeine by 2 p.m. every day, turning off screens and bright lights 1-2 hours before bedtime, and if needed, a melatonin supplement can help the body realize it’s time for bed.

 

3. Stress Less—

Stress drastically reduces the immune system’s ability to ward off illnesses, making it crucial to find ways to relax.

For some, stress relievers like a walk, warm bath or meditation can help, but if home remedies aren’t cutting it, be sure to get professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist. There’s no point in going through life feeling anxious, and if untreated, chronic stress can adversely affect overall health.

Stress hormones like cortisol can also trigger negative reactions like weight gain, so the less of these negative substances produced by the body, the better – especially when contagious viruses are spreading amongst the general population.

 

4. Excellent Exercise—

Great for reducing stress and promoting good sleep, exercise also helps keep us strong by improving cardiovascular health, releasing positive mood endorphins and controlling weight.

Exercise strengthens the immune system by increasing circulation, which allows immune system cells to move through the entire body to perform more efficiently.

 

5. Protective Probiotics—

Our intestines contain bad and good bacteria that can hinder or promote certain biological processes. If you’ve ever taken antibiotics, you’ve eliminated all of the bacteria—both good and bad—making it extremely important to replace the good bacteria (called probiotics).

Probiotics are the helpful intestinal flora generally delivered in yogurt, kefir, fermented food or supplement form that assist in bodily functions like digestion, calcium absorption and brain function.

Probiotics have also been shown to reduce allergies and enhance the immune system, so replenishing the good bacteria in your digestive tract can be a powerful way to keep the illnesses away.

 

6. Fighting Foods—

It’s important to eat a nutritious diet all year long, as this has been proven to help us stay healthy, but some foods are believed to be immune system-boosters as well.

Garlic, for example, is known for having natural antimicrobial properties that fight infection, with studies showing those who frequently include garlic in their diets catch fewer contagious illnesses.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for reducing inflammation, fighting infection and boosting immune function. Fish, walnuts and flaxseed are a few common foods high in Omega-3s, but supplements are also available.

Antioxidant-rich foods and beverages like berries, dark chocolate and green tea are well known for creating a powerful immune system, so be sure to ingest extra antioxidants daily during peak flu season.

 

A weakened immune system can lead to more illnesses, allergies and sicknesses, making it important to keep it in tip-top shape no matter what the season. Use the helpful tips above to boost your immune system so you can stay healthy all year long and avoid catching viruses like the flu.

Slow and Low: 6 Reasons Low-Intensity Exercise is the Way to Go

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“No pain, no gain!”

“Extreme workouts equal extreme results!” 

 “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re wasting your time!”

These are the kinds of exclamations you may hear at the gym and read about in fitness magazines. But some people have tendon and joint issues that prevent intense exercising.

And beginners often aren’t at a level of fitness where pushing muscles hard will be helpful. In fact, for many, starting off too tough can lead to injury, derailing a brand new workout program completely.

This means that starting slow and low may actually be the best way to go, especially for older folks who don’t heal as quickly as they used to, or those who haven’t worked out in a long time.

Below are 6 benefits of low-intensity exercise.

 

1. Weight Loss—

Yes, it is entirely possible to lose weight with a low-intensity regimen. This is because when you’re doing an exercise gentle enough to allow a longer workout, you’re giving your body the opportunity to use up more calories.

High-impact, extreme exercises may burn more calories in direct comparison, but intense activity can only be done for a short period of time. Once you’re exhausted, the workout is over… and so is the calorie burning.

 

2. Less Injury—

You’re into your new regimen, you’re working out consistently, and then… BOOM. You push yourself too hard and injure a muscle or tendon. Now you’re sidelined, watching all your progress disappear – and nothing demotivates like having to wait weeks for the body to heal.

With low-intensity exercise, you can avoid this frustrating and discouraging scenario. By starting slowly and giving muscles a chance to build at a safe pace, you reduce the chance of physical setbacks, helping you stick with the plan.

 

3. More Motivation—

Consistency is one of the most important factors for getting results from exercise, yet one of the hardest to maintain; and it’s difficult to look forward to a particularly grueling routine.

For this reason, finding an enjoyable, less strenuous form of exercise can keep us motivated by alleviating stress without unpleasant physical exertion.

An hour of brisk walking on a nature trail feels better than straining to lift heavy things or doing sprints to the point of fatigue, making us more likely to look forward to the activity, rather than dreading it.

 

4. Extra Endurance—

Are you a tortoise, or are you a hare?

High-intensity exercises are a faster way to build muscle mass, obviously, but low-intensity exercise can be done for a much longer time, building endurance, heart and lung strength.

This means the elderly gentleman who can walk quickly on the treadmill for an hour may actually be in better cardiovascular shape than the young muscular fellow who can bench press large amounts of weight.

 

5. Less Inflammation—

If you have joint pain or certain tendons and muscles that are easily ruptured, high-intensity exercise is not your friend. The more pressure and impact you put on the body, the more you’ll pay the next day.

While there are natural anti-inflammatories like Omega-3 fatty acids and good old ibuprofen, the best way to reduce inflammation is to avoid inflicting it on the body in the first place.

By choosing a low-impact, mild form of exercise such as yoga, walking, swimming, or cycling, you can obtain the calorie burning and health benefits of regular exercise without hurting your body.

 

6. Less Health Problems—

In addition to lessening inflammation and increasing endurance, low-intensity exercise has been proven to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, as well as reducing the risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Longer, easier exercise sessions have also been shown to reduce appetite by decreasing hunger hormones released by more demanding forms of exercise.

 

Research has shown that it is entirely possible to get excellent results from a low-intensity workout regimen.

In one study, participants did only stretching and gentle exercises for 90 days, with positive effects such as weight loss, reduction of stress, better sleep, lower blood pressure and more. (Source: University of Queensland in Australia.)

Another study found that simply not being sedentary (i.e. standing, moving around rather than sitting) improved lipid and insulin levels better than an hour of intense daily exercise. (Source: Hans Savelberg and colleagues, Maastricht University.)

If you are a beginner, have back, joint or tendon issues, or simply seek a gentle workout routine, don’t listen to those who tell you low-intensity exercises can’t get you in shape. Find the fitness regimen that’s right for you, and enjoy your easy exercise.

Is Your Home Burglar Bait? 9 Top Tips to Prevent a Break-In

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As the economy stumbles, making budgets tighter all around, crime rates have risen — especially theft-related offenses. Desperate people do desperate things, and even the best neighborhoods are no longer exempt from break-ins and robberies. In fact, nicer neighborhoods are often targeted because thieves know they’re guaranteed to find goods they can sell for cash.

We all know criminals are lazy, because if they weren’t, they’d get a job and work for their money like the rest of us. With the knowledge that these lazy losers like quick victims, people often wonder: What can our family do to make sure our house doesn’t look like an easy target?

Below are 9 top tips recommended by security experts to help your home look like it’s not easy to rob:

 

1. Looking Lived In—

The number one thing everyone can do to deter criminals is: always make the home look like somebody’s there.

This can mean parking your car in the driveway while your spouse is at work, having a table with coffee mugs and chairs on your porch to give it a “we hang out here” vibe, or keeping a filled bird feeder in front of your home.

Thieves choose empty homes for minimal hassle, so any way you can make your house seem lively and inhabited will help keep criminals away.

 

2. Let the Light Shine—

Like the human cockroaches they are, thieves scurry away when light is shined on them, so install motion-detecting flood lighting around your home’s perimeter, focusing on the driveway to prevent car theft, and of course, the front door area.

If you don’t have motion sensor-triggered lighting, leaving the porch light on at night can help keep the bad guys away.

A light facing a front window, set to go on and off randomly with a timer is also an inexpensive yet very effective way to make a potential criminal think twice about choosing your home to rob.

 

3. Dogs Sound Dangerous—

You don’t need to have a large dog to protect your home, unless you want to, of course. But if you prefer a smaller dog, interviews with convicted thieves have taught us that criminals definitely avoid homes in which they hear barking.

Large dogs offer a visual deterrent that many find helpful for enhanced feelings of safety, but little dogs make great alarm systems, and their painful, bacteria-laden bite is nothing to dismiss as harmless.

If you can’t adopt a dog or have allergies, consider placing “Beware of Dog” signs on your front porch area and/or gates leading to the backyard, as this has also been shown to deter criminals.

 

4. Noise Means No—

If you’re going away on vacation, consider leaving a television or radio playing loudly to make it seem as if someone is home. These noise makers can also be set on a random timer to make them more convincing.

And speaking of noise, turn off all phone ringers when you’re not home as well. If a burglar is listening at a window or door to determine whether or not somebody’s home, an unanswered phone is just the confirmation they’ll need.

 

5. Remove the Routine—

Creepy as it seems, sometimes criminals watch houses for weeks ahead of time, trying to learn its inhabitants’ schedules. Then, once they determine the daily “empty time” for the home, they move in for the robbery.

To make it harder for someone to learn your routine, try to mix it up as much as possible. This means taking a different route to and from work a few times a week, or maybe driving home for lunch sporadically.

If you work from home, don’t run errands at the exact same time every day, and park your car in and out of the garage on random days to confuse spying eyes.

 

6. Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs—

Consider having a professional security system installed, and place the company’s yard signs on your property to make it clear you’re protected. If a thief thinks an alarm will sound when they break into your home, they’re going to find another victim.

Be sure to also place security company stickers on back windows to let potential criminals know that the entire house is protected.

 

7. Under Lock and Key—

Remember the potential thief that might be watching your home? That creep can see exactly where you hide your “secret” extra key, as can your neighbors or anyone else who happens to be driving by, so don’t make this mistake.

If you move into a new home, get the locks changed immediately, because you have no idea who has a key to your house.

Other expert recommended ideas: Install electronic locks, drill and saw-resistant deadbolt locks, security doors, window guards and gates specifically built to provide extra protection to make your home harder to breach. If the job is too difficult, thieves will often move on to easier pickings.

 

8. Secure the Scenery—

Unkempt landscaping makes it look like people aren’t home, or don’t care about their house, which might lead a criminal to think the homeowner is lax in other areas… like security.

Keep all trees and shrubs trimmed to eliminate unsavory characters from lurking on your property unnoticed, paying special attention to areas around windows.

Using rose bushes, holly and other varieties of plants with thorns can also be a great way to safeguard your vulnerable perimeter areas.

 

9. Don’t Flaunt Your Wealth—

If you buy high-dollar items worth stealing, such as electronics or other easily-pawned-for-cash purchases, cut up the product boxes and hide them in opaque (dark) garbage bags. If thieves know exactly what’s waiting inside a home, they may try harder to get the goods.

Also: Don’t tempt criminals by leaving bicycles, lawn mowers, weed eaters, or anything else someone might want to take lying around. Keep windows covered and garage doors closed and locked, as well.

 

If you are the unfortunate victim of a break-in and first on the scene, remember to call police immediately, wait in your car, and don’t enter the house to assess the damage until law enforcement arrives. If the thieves are still inside, you don’t want to be the one to find them, and by walking around in your home post-robbery, you may destroy evidence that might have led to a conviction.

It’s unsettling to think about, but peace of mind can be yours by using the helpful tips listed above to make sure your family, home and belongings stay protected, safe and secure.