Monday, January 7, 2013
For some, the first sign of snow means it is time to dig out the wool socks and blankets and go into hibernation. For others, though, it means time to wax those skis and hit the slopes! Skiing is an incredible sport that involves physical, mental, social and emotional aspects of wellness. Often times winter can bring people into a depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Skiing combines the great outdoor air with physical activity and some sunshine exposure that many people forget about.
The physical aspect is obvious, however many individuals, especially those that have never skied before, may not realize how much brain power goes into the sport. Skiing is a proprioceptive activity. Proprioception is an aspect of fitness that is defined as one’s ability to feel the position of different body parts and the effort that goes into moving them. This is almost defines skiing because skiing involves quite a bit of balance and coordination. There are so many slight movements and positions of your body that you must be conscious of to ski well. The more you ski the more you strengthen your ability to be aware of the movement of your body parts. This is important because proprioception weakens with age so the more you are involved in proprioceptive activities the less it will diminish.
Skiing prevents aging in more ways than that though. When you ski you carry the weight of your entire body on your feet. Your knees are the joints that endure that weight and must be able to move quickly despite it, so they are being strengthened when you ski. Great news for those that have been skiing for many years; you’ve been strengthening those joints and making an injury later in life less likely the whole time. In addition to strengthening your knees your bones become stronger as well because skiing is a weight bearing activity. So not only are you having a fantastic time gliding down the slopes, but you are preventing knee damage, osteoporosis and increasing your proprioceptive strength. Skiing is also a great way to get some moderate aerobic activity into your day. For most people, skiing is an all day event, so you can imagine the workout your heart is getting without you even becoming winded.
It is hardly necessary to mention the social aspect of skiing, but I will for that sake of those that have never been. Waking up at the crack of down to drive an hour or two to spend a day in the freezing cold may not seem appealing to a “winter hibernator.” Add a whole group of close friends that all share the same love for skiing, and you’ve got one heck of a good day. What is unique about skiing is that it brings together people of all different ages and cultures. All over the world if there are mountains and snow, there will be people skiing. So not only do you have a great group of people having a fantastic time; you’ve got a motivational team that encourages you to get off the couch in the winter and get your heart pumping all day! Try something new this winter instead of being miserable when the first snow falls. If you are already an avid skier, bring someone that isn’t and show them how much fun they are missing!
Friday, January 4, 2013
The presence of gluten-free foods has sky-rocketed across the nation and is causing some confusion. Some think that it can be used as a new fad diet, while others think that Celiac’s disease and gluten sensitivity are the same thing. First, let us determine what this “gluten stuff” actually is.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. The two most talked about issues relating to gluten are gluten sensitivity and Celiac’s disease. These two diseases are often incorrectly used interchangeably. In reality the two differ dramatically in the way the body reacts to the presence of gluten. Gluten sensitivity is intolerance to gluten. This means that when those with the sensitivity consume gluten their immune system will exhibit allergic-reaction-type symptoms including diarrhea, a skin rash, bloating, constipation, and abdominal cramps and pain. There is no permanent damage to the body and no chronic illnesses will result.
Celiac’s disease has the same symptoms as gluten sensitivity initially, but can result in chronic illnesses if left untreated. Celiac’s disease is an autoimmune response that is triggered when the body of the person with the disease is exposed to gluten. Villi are tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine that help the body absorb nutrients. The autoimmune response of Celiac’s disease flattens and consequently destroys these villi, making it almost impossible for the small intestine to absorb the nutrients the body needs to survive. Major nutrients that are affected with Celiac’s disease are folate, iron and calcium because they are predominantly absorbed in the first part of the small intestine where the villi can be damaged. The absorption of other nutrients may be affected as well, resulting in many malnutrition-related issues including osteoporosis, anemia, joint pain, muscle cramps, seizures, amenorrhea, infertility, weight changes, dental problems, fatigue. Sometimes the person may exhibit behavior changes such as depression, anxiety and ADHD. In the United States alone, .7% of the populations (2 million people) have Celiac’s disease. For many, it takes several attempts to diagnose it because of the similar symptoms to irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, and iron deficiency. It is crucial that Celiac’s is diagnosed correctly because of the chronic effects described above. Another important detail to the disease that many may or may not think of is the gluten content in cosmetic products, over-the-counter and prescription drugs and even some craft supplies. For those with Celiac’s disease, reading the labels of these products in addition to food products become essential. Simply because the label advertizes the food as “gluten-free” does not mean that it avoided cross-contamination with other foods that contain gluten. Even the slightest amount of gluten can cause problems with this disease.
Some people choose to eat foods that do not contain gluten as a means to lose weight. This is strongly discouraged for multiple reasons. Firstly, just because a food is listed as gluten-free does not mean it is low-fat, low-calorie and all around healthy for you. Second, eliminating entire food groups without medical reasons to do so can be detrimental to your body. A large portion of the carbohydrates (our body’s energy source) we consume contain gluten. The avoidance of gluten results in less carbohydrate consumption which results in energy-loss. Lastly, avoiding carbohydrates can trigger the starvation mechanism of the body which causes the storage of fat, in turn causing the person to actually gain weight.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
For my junior year, I decided to make the move to an off campus apartment instead of staying in the dorms. Other than having my own bedroom, the biggest perk is that I have a full kitchen now. No more two foot mini-fridge and nonexistent freezer. The transition from having a meal plan to cooking for yourself can be challenging, but it is certainly fun to learn how to cook. However there are some downsides as well, like the fruit flies that seem to never go away or last week's dinner rotting in your fridge.
Luckily, Women's Health Magazine put together an expired food guide to help know when to toss old food or keep it. They found that in most cases you can keep food long after the expiration dates, which for college students on a budget, is super helpful. In this guide they have everything from when to toss your apples to how long that jar of pickles is safe in the fridge. For example, produce such as lettuce and broccoli is good for about five days after expiration. Other foods such as canned or packaged food last much longer. For example, jellies and jams can survive and extra year past expiration. It also important to use common sense when trying to preserve your food as well. As long as your handle your food properly, it can last much longer. For more tips on how long to keep your food, check out the article in Women's Health Magazine!
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