If You Ever Need an Excuse Not to Smoke

Please don't smoke graphic.

I’ve seen a lot of anti-smoking ads, and learned a lot of reasons smoking is bad for you, but this video really drives the message home. It’s a vine that shows a healthy lung inflating, followed by a smoker’s lung inflating. While you may hear that tar can change the lung black, and make breathing like sucking through a straw. In this case, after reading this post on Flash by Self, seeing really is believing. Even if it’s not 100% medically accurate, at least it gets the message across that smoking sucks, right? Right.

Craving Cake? Mind Your Microbes

Craving chocolate cake? It could be your gut.

A recent study in BioEssays, that I read about on Women’s Health, found that the microbes that live in your stomach prefer fat, and others prefer sugar. If you have more of one kind or the other, they could send signals to your immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Those messages can influence you to pick a piece of chocolate cake over a bag of chips. The microbes manipulate you, and certain kinds can cause cancer, obesity, or diabetes. But luckily, the microbiome is influenced by what you eat, and can turn over within 24 hours of changing your diet or taking probiotics. At least now you know that it’s not totally your will power abandoning you, but tons of tiny things in your stomach undermining it.

Romance Makes Everything Sweeter

cake

If there are two words that are thrown together often, they’re love and sweetness. We call our significant others sweet or sweetie. We gush about how sweet being in love is, and are often literally gifted sweet things, especially on Valentines day. Now, according to a study cited in the March issue of Women’s Health magazine, it turns out that being in love may actually make you perceive things as sweeter. In a study authored by Kai Qin Chan, researchers found that when participants thought about love before consuming chocolate, they rated the treat as sweeter than the same snack eaten right after writing about jealousy. The warm fuzzy feelings you get when thinking about your boyfriend or the chocolate covered strawberries in your fridge active the same part of the brain that anticipates rewards, which may make food taste better. So next time you are indulging, try thinking about love and romance before digging in. It just might make that chocolate cake a little bit more delicious.

Bright Lights = Bad Decisions

lightsIt’s not news that your environment impacts how you feel. In cooler temperatures people tend to feel more calm and collected, and are able to feel empathetic with other’s emotions, while on hot summer days you might feel more easily agitated. It’s also well-documented that lack of sunshine in the winter can affect people’s moods. But now researchers have explored the connection between exposure to light and decision making. Typically when someone dims the lights, it’s to create a certain ambience – in a restaurant or in a home – that feels closer, more romantic. Yet a recent study has shown that lowering bright lights can help people to make more rational (read – less emotionally charged) decisions.

Exposure to bright lights turns on the hot emotional system, which can make reactions more extreme. In the study, participants were placed in two scenarios. In one experiment, people were participants in a script with an aggressive character. When experiencing the same scenes in bright and dim lighting, participants found the character less abrasive when the lights were lower. In another experiment, participants were given a tasty juice in bright and dim lighting. They drank more of the beverage when emotions were activated by the well-lit room. The co-author of the study, Alison Jing Xu Ph.D suggests using these results to lower conflict by dimming the lights when hashing out a disagreement with a co-worker, arguing with a romantic partner, or when you are about to indulge in a sweet snack to avoid letting your emotions overrun your better judgement. And wouldn’t every workspace be a better place if we got rid of all the harsh fluorescent lighting anyhow?

The Pro’s (and 1 Con) of Women’s Only Gyms

gymOver the past couple days, I have noticed several posts about women’s only gyms (here and here and here  for example!). They note that there’s a common perception that women’s only gyms are for the older ladies, or a relic from the Richard Simmon’s jazzercise era. While I don’t necessary understand why either of these would be negatives (I mean, Richard Simmon’s is amazing, amirite?), the articles note an upswing in the popularity of exclusively female gyms, and ask readers if they would join one. For me, the answer is yes. I am a member of a ladies-only gym, and I love it. While I do miss being able to oogle cute boys from there treadmill, there are many many more things that I enjoy.

I don’t have to compete with grunting meat heads for the free weights. Instead of racks on racks of bench press equipment, there are big bins of free weights, weighted balls, and body bars – all things geared toward lady-fitness. When I take a Zumba class, I don’t have to worry that my crazy moves and tattered college tees aren’t impressing the potential boyfriends in the row behind me and I haven’t had anyone creepily hit on me while I’m stretching yet. And if people think that all-girls classes are easier, I can say from personal experience that they are not. Last time I went to boot camp, I almost threw up from all of the burpees, pushups, and planks the instructor called out. I don’t remember that ever happening at my coed classes. Then there’s the spirit of team work that reminds me of my days playing high school soccer. People actually cheer during the group classes (and even though this gets on my nerves sometimes), it’s kind of nice to be with a bunch of girls acting like girls while getting fit.

Texting While Walking – More Dangerous Than You Thought

walk and textYou already know that texting while driving is a MAJOR health and public safety hazard (RIGHT?!). All you city dwellers out there probably shrugged off all the publicity on this issue, as not applicable to people who get around using their two legs and the subway – unless you spotted your cabbie texting. But now there is new data about how even texting while walking can be dangerous, and here’s why. Overall, texting affects your posture and balance while you walk which can put you at risk for injury and it’s pretty distracting. Data published in PLOS ONE journal found that people who walk while texting tend to walk slower and zig zag around more than people looking straight ahead and walking. That’s no big surprise, right? However, this can be dangerous if you pull out your phone to send a text while you’re crossing the street. If you veer enough from the straight line of the crosswalk you could wander right out into traffic, or miss the 10 second window you have to cross the street, putting oyu in the path of oncoming cars.

Additionally, holding the phone and looking down while walking puts your body into an unnatural posture for movement. Instead of swinging your arms with your body’s motion, and turning dynamically, most texters lock their upper bodies to  keep their phone steady while typing. This can put people at a higher risk of becoming unbalanced and falling. Then finally, it increases your risk of bumping into something, tripping, or falling because you’re just not looking where you’re going.  So why not avoid an embarrassing encounter with that lamppost, and stop walking then text. Or, if you’re really in a rush, only text while you’re waiting for the light to change to walk and you’re stopped anyhow. Your fellow pedestrians will thank you for not getting in their way.

Aerie Bras for Real Women

aerieI am SUCH.A.FAN. of this new ad campaign by Aerie. It’s called Aerie Real, and not only does it make you feel a little less like a freak-of-nature by seeing real women modeling lingerie, it takes the guesswork out of your size and fit. After perusing the Victoria’s Secret catalog, and then going to try on bras in the dead of winter, the reflection in the mirror can be a little disheartening. Oogling all of those perfectly bronzed and well-toned bodies and then seeing your own normal, pasty white body can lead to a little bit of a let down when you’re trying on swim suits or lingerie. But now, Aerie is featuring real women without re-touching in their ads to promote acceptance of a wider range of body shapes, and to show what real bodies actually look like in their underwear. After seeing them, your body might not seem quite so bad after all.

And to top it all off, they are cutting all the mystery out of what size to buy. Sure, you can get measured at any Vicky’s store, but unless you want to invite the sales lady into the dressing room with you, it’s hard to tell if you have the exact right fit. Aerie launched a section of the site where you can view various bras on women with your cup size so you can see what amount of push-up is the right amount for that style. Well done!

Mayor Bloomberg Wants YOU to Take the Stairs

stairs

The latest in a string of public health campaigns spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (see anti-soda, and anti-salt foods), now the NYC public figure is exhorting people to take the stairs in an effort to fight obesity. He proposes that any new buildings or buildings undergoing renovations would be required to post signs encouraging people to take the stairs, and leaving stairwells open (unlocked) all the time except in case of emergency. He hopes to start a non-profit to help foster building designs that encourage physical activity – read: creating stairwells that are appealing with are on walls and well lit, not dark sketchy places where predators lurk. Experts quoted by The Scoop recommend starting with 2 flights of stairs and then upping the ante when those start to feel easy. Or, if you want to mix things up, start taking every other step to strengthen glutes, hamstrings, and quads and increase your heart rate.

As someone who works on the 12th floor, I could probably lop off a gym session a week if I went up and down the stairs on foot every day! What do you think of Bloomberg’s latest tack to fight obesity?

Skip the Poolside Margarita to Save Your Skin

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If a margarita, bloody mary, or lemon drop is your favorite pool side drink, you may want to reconsider your choice to save your skin. The juice of certain fruits (limes, lemons and celery in particular) contains chemicals that react with the sun, and can cause phytophotodermatitis, or sun induced chemical burns when present on your skin. Using lemon juice to lighten your hair, or drinking cocktails with these garnishes can put you at risk. If you notice redness, hyperpigmentation, or blistering, try hydrocortisone cream to reduce irritation, or see your doctor for a skin tone evener. Or, more simply, just avoid fruits and herbs containing these chemicals that are also found in parsley, parsnips and dill. Swap out your margarita for a daiquiri, and be sure to wash your hands/skin with soap and water after handling any garnishes to eliminate any residue on your skin.

Desk with a View = Better Sleep and More Movement

window

 

Another reason to get outta that cube farm! A study presented by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (I read about it on The Scoop) found that people who worked near windows are more active during the day, and get better sleep at night.  People who had more light exposure slept up to 46 minutes more on average each night than those who didn’t get any sun. And, they moved their bodies 4 times more than those confined to an office with no windows. If you can’t score a corner office, no need to give up your current gig. Just make it a point to get outside on your lunch break to eat, or take a spin around the block to sleep and feel better!