Physical activity — everything from weightlifting to sit-ups, jogging to biking, even yoga — is powerful feel-good stuff. And it’s not just women who get the rewards. According to researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, their latest findings apply to men, too.
We’ve been saying for years that getting and staying active delivers big benefits physically and psychologically. You know our “10,000 steps a day” mantra? We promise it lowers bad cholesterol, clears out your arteries and lowers your blood pressure and blood glucose. Exercise helps you dodge everything from osteoporosis to dementia, and protects you from sexual dysfunction.
Emotionally, exercise bestows a whole second menu of goodness:
• Stress melts away; you crank out pleasure-boosting endorphins and cut the risk of moderate depression almost in half.
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• Self-confidence and self-esteem skyrocket with accomplishment.
• Body image improves, even before you lose weight or see substantial changes in muscle tone, and that makes you more interested in canoodling with your sweetheart.
• And, it’s confirmed, sensations of pleasure also register during exercise for many men and women. So go out there and feel the burn and a whole lot of other good stuff, too.
A new study delivers data on skin cancer that means everyone — North and South — needs another lesson in sun safety: The rate of melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) has multiplied eight times for women ages 18 to 39 and four times for men the same ages in the past 40 years. Gals do worse than guys because they use tanning beds more often — something hardly anyone should ever do.
Well, we want you to know you can soak up the shine safely — and get all its vitamin-D-making powers — without risking skin cancer. It’s OK to bask for up to 20 minutes a day without sunscreen. On a sunny day in July, four minutes of midday sun on the fairest skin produces 1,000 IUs of D; the darkest skin will need 11-15 minutes for the same D-light.
Once you’ve got your daily sun, here’s what you can do to make sure you are protected from harm:
• All year round, sun or rain, make sure your food plus supplements deliver 1,000 IUs of vitamin D-3 and 1,000 mg of calcium daily; this can cut your melanoma risk by up to 57 percent.
• Use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunscreen with a 30 SPF. Apply it 1 mm thick (much thicker than you think). And reapply frequently.
It’s Lyme Disease time: Tick, tick, tick
Lyme disease, which is transmitted by ticks carrying the Borrelia bacteria, can trigger a nasty rash, arthritis and mental dysfunction. And this year tick-ologists are predicting a particularly intense bite season.
The reason? A mild winter? Nope. It’s the lack of acorns. Turns out when the acorn crop is down (it is), then there are fewer of the ticks’ favorite meal plan — white-footed mice. Without as many little rodents running around, the ticks cruise for a substitute. And that means you.
So what’s a nature-loving, pet-hugging person to do? Here’s your basic four-point plan to take the bite out of tick season:
No. 1: Use insect repellant with DEET. We’re convinced the benefits far outweigh the risks, if there are any risks at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does say young kids and pregnant women should avoid the pesticide. Try oil of lemon eucalyptus (or PMD, for para-menthane-3,8-diol, the synthesized version).
No. 2: Cover up with long sleeves and pants tucked into your socks when in grassy or wooded areas; and wear light-colored clothing to spot any hop-alongs.
No. 3: Shower when you get home; ticks don’t always bite immediately, and you may wash them off.
No. 4: Check your pets. Ticks hidden in fur and hair can infect you easily — and your family’s best friend.
Is plastic in the food chain dangerous?
We’re living in a world of plastic. And it’s everywhere around our food — inside soup cans and outside microwaveable lunches and acidic drinks.
But a debate rages over the safety of BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical added to some plastic. Is it leaching into food and drink and damaging our bodies?
Animal study after animal study finds that BPA lowers fertility, triggers breast cancer and causes genetic changes. The latest shows early-life exposure harms adult learning ability. Yet the Food and Drug Administration says there’s no reason to remove BPA from food and beverage containers.
If you’re not convinced, follow our five-step risk-reduction plan.
1. Eliminate canned foods (BPA lines the cans) and opt for fresh or frozen. In a small study, five families who ate fresh foods for three days saw their blood levels of BPA drop by 66 percent.
2. Use ceramic, metal and glass in the kitchen, and metal water bottles without BPA liners.
3. Don’t use plastic containers with the numbers 3 or 7 on the bottom. Avoid No. 6 (styrene), too. And buy low-density polyethylene plastic wrap.
4. Avoid thermal printed receipts: one receipt made from this coated paper delivers about 2 percent of your daily exposure to BPA.
5. Don’t put very hot liquid in plastic containers made with BPA — it’ll seep into your food.
All these steps can improve your well-being.
Walk away from obesity genes
More than 100 million North Americans don’t get any physical activity for even 10 minutes a day. And many of those folks, plus another 100 million or more, are overweight.
Not surprising when you consider that weight gain often is a result of not enough healthy activity and too much unhealthy food. And, for some folks, such bad habits are even more damaging because they have a genetic tendency to pack on pounds.
The good news? Genes can be switched on or off, depending on lifestyle choices: If you get up and moving, you actually can turn off the genes in you that promote weight gain. Walking just an hour a day can slash your genetic predisposition for obesity in half. And walking is the single best physical activity to stay stress-free. So, step up to our steps for better health:
1. Walk at least 10,000 steps a day — total. Start slow; aim to hit that mark in a month or so. You’ll be surprised at how easy this becomes. And it’s even easier if you do it with a pal.
2. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and lean protein; choose unsaturated fats (olive oil); get enough omega-3 fatty acids a day to equal 900 mg (take supplements from algae); and drink plenty of water.
3. Sleep at least seven hours a night (many folks need eight). It helps keep off extra pounds.