Archives for June 2009

Some Thoughts On Exercise and Mood

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Exercise is thought to enhance mood, and studies confirm this. According to research presented in Dr. Bob Arnot’s  The Biology of Success, for moderate anxiety and depression, exercise is just as beneficial as counseling therapy, and results in brain chemistry change similar to what is experienced through pharmaceuticals. Exercise has been shown to raise serotonin levels. In fact, long term exercise, done regularly for years, actually changes personality traits. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I think a lot of the anxiety and depression in the U.S.A. is the result of altered brain chemistry resulting from living in ways contrary to our wiring, i.e. we are inactive, spend most of our time inside, live in big cities, etc, when our brains are wired for constant activity, being outside, living in the country, etc. Exercise may be one way to reconnect to our natural wiring.

However, not every exercise in every situations enhances moods. According to Arnot, “the harder, the better.” He believes we have been sold a bill of goods about “over-exercise.” He says that only about .01% of Americans are in danger of over-exercise, and these are well-trained athletes, while most of us are in danger of under-exercise. To see an enhancement in mood, we have to work a little lot.

Also, where we exercise has an impact on mood. Exercising outside seems to provide the most mood enhancement, as is confirmed by research mentioned in my article Sun and Speed, and by a 1995 study by Harte and Eifert, which I came across in The Biology of Success. The research by Harte and Eifert showed that those who exercised outside had greater mood enhancement than those exercising indoors. However, if those exercising indoors had plenty of stimuli around, i.e. watching people, looking out windows, listening to music, etc, they experienced  mood enhancement. When the researchers placed participants on a treadmill in front of a blank wall, participants actually reported a worse mood following exercise. So, this research suggests that if you are using exercise to enhance your mood, you should make sure you are exercising vigorously (within your physical limits, of course, so consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine), and preferably exercising outside, or at the least, inside with plenty of stimuli around.

Recently, I have been feeling really craving aerobic exercise. I have been pushing up to about 7 miles of running, and I think this could be part of it, since I am perhaps hitting the point of a “runner’s high.” Or it could be that I have been taking phosphatidylserine prior to running, and it happens to kick in near the middle of the run.

Image taken by me, while running (enhanced with Qtpfsgui and Gimp)

Fat Cell Theory

It can be disheartening to dieters, but it appears that we cannot actually reduce the number of fat cells within our body. So, when we lose weight we are merely decreasing the size of the set number of fat cells. However, this still leaves the cells themselves intact, waiting to be filled. This is called “fat cell theory.”

Our number of fat cells seems to be determined throughout infancy and adolescence. And, some scientists believe that this can be controlled, so that skinnier kids create fewer fat cells. Thus, they have an advantage throughout life. This may explain why so few obese children become skinny as adults.

For more info, visit this article

DNE Vitamins Review

About 6 months ago, I posted reviews of popular supplement companies, but I thought I would post more expansive reviews in a series of posts over the next few months. Today, I want to review DNE Vitamins (aka D&E Vitamins) detail. This review is based on my experiences.

Overview

I have ordered from DNE 3-4 times over the last five years. Two of these orders have been fairly large, and in the last year. Some of the products I have ordered include their Time-Release Vitamin C 500 mg, and Bromelain 2000 GDU. I consider DNE one of my regular suppliers of vitamins.

Quality

According to their guarantee, they have quality controls set up to ensure potency and purity. However, I haven’t seen their products verified in independent lab tests, so I can’t speak of a more objective way to guarantee their products are what they claim. The bottles are well-sealed, and seem well-made. All the bottles have child-proof lids. I have only noticed a few minor quality issues. First, the Bromelain tabs are a little flaky. Second, in one case, the label on the bottle did not match what was listed online (or what was listed on the other bottles I got of the same product!). This was fish oil, and I only buy fish oil with a little Vitamin E present to prevent oxidation. A few of the bottles did not mention Vitamin E. I suspect they did contain the vitamin, but it wasn’t mentioned.

Product Selection

DNE has a pretty wide selection of supplements, including some sports supplements I wouldn’t ever take, but I suppose there is a market for that sort of thing (but how many caffiene supplements can one company actually carry??). They seem to get new products regularly, and carry  national brands to supplement lack of selection in their own brand, Nature’s Harbor. From my perspective, they could use higher dose Vitamin D. Right now, all they have is 400 IU strength. Considering many companies are now offering 5000 IU pills, offering only 400 IU seems out-of-date.

Value

DNE’s regular prices are competitive. However, they occasionally have sales, which provide even lower prices. They had a “buy one, get one” sale last December on their own brands, and a “50% off” sale just recently that covered every item. These sales make DNE’s prices incredibly low, and more competitive than most other companies online. For example, I recently ordered their Resveratrol product. The cost? With the recent 50% off sale, it ends up being $1.00/g. I was paying roughly $3.33/g from Puritan’s Pride. I also got free shipping! The sales are announced by regular e-mails I get from DNE. I highly suggest signing up.

Shipping

DNE has been a little weak in this area.  Shipping has sometimes been slow. I placed an order on June 17, and it didn’t ship until June 26 (they said they had just switched to “a new mail system,” because it was supposed to ship June 19). Even though the main DNE website lists various components of my order as “in stock,” they aren’t, which means almost half of my order is even further delayed. When I placed an order in December, I waited over a month for the final part of my order to get in-stock and ship. They now seem to send out emails when an order ships (and you can check online if the order is back-ordered or shipped). This is a new feature, and must be a component of their new mail system.

Service

Customer service has been excellent. I have called a few times, but I usually just chat online. The customer service representatives have been very nice, warm, and friendly. Mary and Joan do a great job!

Overall

DNE Vitamins is a great source of supplements, with very low prices, especially when they run their best sales. The quality seems good, but sometimes the number of back-ordered items can be frustrating.

Workout Tip #6: Start Slowly

I’ve known people for whom a diet can be a life changing extravaganza. They buy the right clothes, pack the ipod with upbeat tunes, get totally motivated, and start to envision their new hot selves. Next, they go to the gym and kill themselves. And, scared off by the soreness and stiffness, they don’t go back for a long, long time.

My basic advice is that you have to start slowly, especially if you are out of shape, overweight, or older. But, even young people who are starting a new fitness activity could use this advice. Now that I’m doing summer camp, I’ve discovered that being able to run, play racketball, lift weights, ride bikes, and cross country ski at a high fitness level didn’t translate to floor hockey. It probably helped, but I was still extremely sore.

You have to start slowly or you risk burning out. Nothing puts the breaks on a new fitness routine like not being able to move! But, you also risk hurting yourself. Waiting several weeks for an injury to heal also does little for your physique.

So, start slowly and work your way up to the harder stuff. It may seem wimpy to walk around the block at first, but you have to start somewhere. Walking around the block now could lead to a mega-marathon way down the line; but if you try to overdo it too soon, you may just feel like you’ve run one.

Vitamin D and African-Americans

Recently I came across two interesting articles about Vitamin D deficiency in African-Americans, and the possible effects this widespread deficiency is having on the black community. Because of their dark skin, it takes blacks 2-5 times longer time in the sun to make Vitamin D than it takes white people. As a result, many African-Americans in the United States and Canada are Vitamin D deficient, especially black teens (black teens are 20 times more likely to be Vitamin D deficient than white teens). Dark skin is actually an adaptation to prolonged sun exposure, so Africans living in sub-Saharan Africa would make plenty of Vitamin D under normal conditions, but when living in northern areas, their skins have difficulty making the vitamin). Traditionally, peoples living far north, like the Inuits, have adapted by eating foods high in Vitamin D (in their traditional diets), but modern diets of people living in northern areas have very little Vitamin D.

Almost exactly two years ago, the blog Acting White posted about Vitamin D and Learning Disadvantages in Black Children. In it, the author (James Collier), argues that rampant Vitamin D deficiency among black mothers and black children is giving them a strong neuro-developmental disadvantage throughout life. As Collier points out, Vitamin D is cheap and beneficial for every race.

Another article I was reading, points out that blacks have lower cancer survival rates than whites, even at the same stage of cancer, and using the same treatment. Some researches have concluded that a Vitamin D deficiency is responsible for this disparity. In a study published in the journal of the AMA, it was found that summertime UV-B doses were inversely associated with incidences of major cancers in African-Americans, which means that the less UV-B rays a person was exposed to, the higher the rate of cancer. Again, according to the same article, a study found that blood levels of Calcidiol, equivalent to an intake of 1000 IU/day of Vitamin D, reduced the risk of colon cancer by 50%. While white Americans do not achieve this level, whites, on average, have 50 to 67% of the proper Calcidiol level. However, blacks, on average, only have 33 to 50% of the level.

Vitamin D deficiency is something that we all have to address, but it seems like African-Americans would benefit from exploring supplementation with Vitamin D, since blacks living in most of the U.S. and Canada have a disadvantage when it comes to making Vitamin D.

Choosing Eating Over Life

Connie: You would rather stuff yourself and roll around in your stupid electric cart than take me to the dance?

Bobby: Why, I guess I would.

This little conversation comes from the TV show King of the Hill when chubby Bobby Hill develops gout from eating too many deli type foods from a local restaurant and prefers to keep the food (and the gout) rather than go to the dance with his girlfriend.

This storyline is indicative of the decisions many people, especially in the USA, make on a daily basis. They choose food over many of life’s alternatives. Now, the choice may not be as clear cut as in King of the Hill, but it is real. Obesity can often lead to lack of mobility, shortness of breath, a lower quality of life, and an early death. So, in a sense, by choosing to eat too much, many people are rejecting such things like an active lifestyle, playing with their kids, general mobility, and spending a longer time on earth with their loved ones.

I love food and believe it should be enjoyed in life, but not at the expense of the other good things. The sad truth is that large numbers of people are choosing food over living life.

Camp Counseling and Fitness

I am working my school’s summer camp this year for some extra money. It’s a job that pretty much involves getting paid to babysit and play games with the kids. It’s also a good way to get paid while exercising. We play floor hockey, basketball, kickball, and many other sports that get the kids and the counselors winded. And, since we’re encouraged to play with them, I often leave each day with a great workout. And, I’m incredibly sore. It’s amazing how playing different sports can use muscles that a balanced fitness routine doesn’t! Oh, and I’m often exhausted after I do my evening workout on top of camp.

50% Off at DNE Vitamins

I have ordered from DNE Vitamins since I sent for a free catalog back in the mid-1990s. Recently they have been having some great sales, and I have ordered from them more than ever. Their prices are naturally competitive with the warehouse and catalog discounters, so when they have an additional sale, the deals are GREAT.

Right now, until June 22, DNE is having a 50% off sale, on your entire order. This even includes their national brands. Enter the coupon GET50OFF at checkout. Shipping is free for all orders over $89!!

Your Hotel Room Can Be A Gym

I know it’s not as common anymore for many of us because of the economy. I’m speaking of traveling, of course! But, for those of us who do travel and stay in hotels, CNN has posted some advice for how to turn your hotel room into a gym. You can view it here. These are generally good ideas, especially for people short on time, but…also quite boring! I’ve brainstormed a few ideas about how to get a good workout and actually leave your room too.

-Visit the workout room or the pool- Still kind of boring, but better. And, your hotel has to have one.
– Use an “away” membership for your gym- a lot of gyms that have locations in multiple areas will often give you access to all of them. The YMCA often does this. There may be limitations in terms of times you can use it, but some have no restriction. It’s always kind of cool to see how different gyms operate.
-Get outdoors- Find a bike path or area popular with runners or walkers. You also will get to see new scenery and maybe even meet new people. Of course, be careful and make sure the area is actually safe.

Bad Carbs are Bad for the Heart

I guess there is a reason they are called “bad,” right? A new study shows that high-glycemic foods, like Corn Flakes and white bread, can contribute to heart disease (which seems to vindicate what Dr. Atkins and others have said, which is that carbohydrates can negatively affect circulatory health).

Another study found that consuming a moderate level of carbohydrates, i.e. less than the average American consumes, “had lowered blood insulin levels, more stable blood sugar, and a longer duration of a sense of fullness after a meal than did the 14 people on the control diet.”

I tried the Atkins diet for about 3 days. I became cranky, and gave it up pretty quickly, especially since I didn’t really need to go on such a diet. Nonetheless, my study of Dr. Atkins’ ideas has convinced me that there are bad carbohydrates, namely those found in refined grains. I consider myself to be on a “lower” carb diet, or perhaps a “modified” Atkins, which is to say I try to eat only unrefined grain products, avoid high-sugar products, and consume a lot of nuts, seeds, and beans. I was eating a few of my mom’s Sun Chips the other day, and I notice that despite giving the impression of being “healthy” the product contained less than one gram of fiber per serving.  Of course, not that I have room to talk, since I just finished off some ice cream!