~ Archive for happy life ~

Women’s Vitamins

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Women’s vitamins not only keep your body going they also help us repair the damage we inflict on ourselves. Take Vitamin A, it is vital in repairing cells or Vitamin C , it helps make collagen which is responsible for repairing our skin. Vitamin D is needed for the absorption and utilization of calcium. Calcium is needed to repair the bones we manage to break and the teeth we love to abuse. If you smoke you probably need a Vitamin C Supplement. Women in northern hemisphere climates, the UK for one, probably don’t get enough sun so a Vitamin D Supplement may be needed.

We want to tell you a little about each vitamin on this page. If you want more information about any women’s vitamin just left click on any of the colored, underlined, words. This will open a new window with more details.

As a society we pollute the air we have to live in than we put our bodies in this pollution without any protection. Vitamin E helps neutralize free radicals. This in turn repairs our skin from pollution and damage caused by being in the sunlight. It even helps repair our wounds and keep our eyes healthy. If you’re out in the sun a lot you may need a Vitamin E Supplement.

We already learned that vitamin D is needed to utilize calcium for bone repair. What makes the calcium stick where we need it? Vitamin K does by helping make the protein in bone tissue which causes calcium to crystallize.

The one thing all B vitamins have in common is energy. In one way or another they help create energy from the foods we eat. Vitamin B1 breaks down carbohydrates and helps convert them to energy. Among other things it is also used to transmit certain nerve signals. If you’re on a high-carbohydrate diet you may need a Vitamin B1 Supplement.

Besides helping to produce energy Vitamin B2 helps produce antibodies to protect us. Skin, nails and hair are constantly being renewed. This works out well because while it’s making antibodies it’s also making cells grow and stay healthy. If your nails are thin or brittle you may need a Vitamin B2 Supplement.

We like to call Vitamin B3 the women’s vitamin for sex. It helps produce sex hormones and helps with nervous system functions. Since it also helps with memory recall we can’t help wondering how much sex and memory have in common. Hmmmmm! If you’re pregnant you need to talk to your health care provider before taking vitamin B3 supplements.

The workhorse of women’s vitamins is Vitamin B6 . It is busy helping all over the place. From producing serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine for your mental health to taking apart amino acids to producing RNA and DNA nucleic acids, it’s always busy. Oral contraceptives and antidepressants may make a Vitamin B6 Supplement a good choice.

Compared to vitamin B6 Folic Acid seems kind of lazy. Besides helping produce energy it’s only claim to fame is the formation and functioning of red and white blood cells. On the other hand we guess that’s a good day’s work. Folic acid also has the distinction of being the women’s vitamin that is deficient most often in our bodies. Alcohol and oral contraceptives will probably make a Folic Acid Supplement a must have.

The protector of our cells is Vitamin B12. It puts a coating around each cell like insulation. When it’s not insulating cells it also helps keep our amino acid levels in a healthy zone. If you drink alcohol or are a vegetarian that avoids dairy products you may need a Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Besides helping to produce energy Biotin helps cells such as RNA and DNA become manufactured. Healthy hair and skin require Biotin. Alcohol and estrogen use may mean a Biotin Supplement is needed. A special note for drinkers of power shakes using raw eggs. Raw egg whites block the absorption of biotin.

Pantothenic Acid is a busy little women’s vitamin. It is busy maintaining several body functions while it’s building cells and antibodies. Like many of the other women’s vitamins this one has its own Pantothenic Acid Supplement line.

Fighting cholesterol is one of the great things Choline does. The Institute of Medicine just did a report linking it to memory, and heart, liver, and brain functions. If you have high cholesterol a Choline Supplement may give your body the extra boost it needs to help lower those high LDL numbers.

We hope this women’s vitamin overview has been informative.

Getting Healthy Naturally With A Detox Diet

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Unfortunately, our modern world abounds with harmful substances and we’re exposed to many of them on a daily basis. We eat them in our food by way of preservatives, hormones, herbicides and pesticides amongst other things. We get them by consuming alcohol and smoking. And we often breath them in just by breathing the polluted air around us!

How do we rid our bodies of these toxins?

Detox diets are one way. These diets are designed to give the body a rest from the toxins we consume by eating the wrong foods, and helping it get rid of what we’ve already accumulated. Some of the more popular detox diets include the raw food detox diet, lemon detox diet and cayenne pepper detox diet.

What is the Raw Food Detox Diet?

The Raw Food Detox Diet is a very popular, and healthy, type of detox diet. It involves eating, as the name suggests, raw and unprocessed foods. It also requires removing processed and cooked foods from your diet as well as white foods! This means no more white sugars, white cereals and grains, white rice or the products that are made from them like cookies, cakes, bread etc. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, anything that comes in a box or a packet needs to be tossed with this diet! You’ll be drinking plenty of water, eating lots of leafy greens and other fresh vegetables and snacking on fresh fruit instead!

Lemon Detox Diet May Be Right For You

Another popular detox diet is the Lemon Detox Diet, also known as the Lemonade Diet or the Master Cleanse. It’s an oldie but a goodie and involves living almost exclusively on fresh lemon juice for a period of time to help purge your body of toxins. The diet was first used over half a century ago and has helped countless thousands of people lose weight naturally and effectively whilst also cleansing their systems of built up toxins. One of the effective ingredients in lemonade diet pills is cayenne pepper and for this reason the pills are also known as Cayenne Pepper Diet Pills. This popular spicy spice is renowned for its many health benefits as it contains capsaicin. Capsaicin has been implicated not just in weight loss but also in helping with pain relief, reducing cluster headaches, managing diabetes and treating psoriasis.

Detox Diets – An Effective Way To Get Rid Of Toxins

Whilst the thought of all that energy and radiant health to be achieved with a good natural detox diet may be inspiring, it’s important to note that these diets are not suitable for everyone. Although for many of us a detox diet is certainly a great way to start feeling and looking great again, for people suffering from conditions like heart disease, cancer and kidney disease, they’re not such a great idea! That’s why, as with most things to do with your health, it’s always important to talk to your doctor first before making any significant changes.

Is There Natural Treatment For Type 2 Diabetes?

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Brought on by bad eating habits, stress and a sedentary lifestyle, Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. It’s one of the most endemic ‘lifestyle diseases’ of modern society – a staggering 300 million or more people globally have been diagnosed with it! But this disease is imminently avoidable and can even be brought under control simply by drastically changing your lifestyle!

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to its own insulin or stops producing enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. It’s usually brought on by diets high in sugar and calories, coupled with a lifestyle that does not incorporate enough exercise to burn up the excess glucose consumed. High levels of stress and anxiety also contribute.

How To Determine If One Has Diabetes, Or More Specifically, Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re a prime candidate for Type 2 diabetes, there are several important warning signs to look out for. One is thirst – if you find yourself constantly wanting to drink more than the standard 8 glasses per day, or have a constantly dry mouth, this could be a sign that your blood sugar levels are too high. And that you’re either pre-diabetic or already have diabetes! Sudden and rapid weight loss without being on a diet is another symptom. Your body utilises blood glucose for fuel and requires insulin to facilitate this process. However, if you are becoming resistant to insulin, or aren’t producing enough to effectively utilise blood glucose for fuel, your body will start to use stored body fat instead. Leading to the onset of sudden and rapid weight loss. Bright yellow urine is yet another indicator of potential insulin problems as it could be the body trying to excrete excess glucose via the kidneys. Normal urine should be almost colourless, especially when adequate amounts of fluid are consumed. And last but not least, diabetics often suffer from slow healing injuries and wounds because cells lose their ability to renew and recover due to lack of sufficient fuel ie glucose. If you find yourself experiencing at least two or more of these symptoms, it should be sufficient warning to get to a doctor for testing!

Learn How To Treat Type 2 Diabetes In 3 Simple Steps

All is not doom and gloom however! There are many examples of people who have successfully brought their Type 2 diabetes under control, or brought themselves back from the brink of developing it. The key lies with a lifestyle change that helps treat type 2 diabetes in 3 simple steps. Step 1 – lose weight, or more specifically, get rid of excess body fat and particularly the stuff stored around your waist! Excessive abdominal fat has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a host of other ailments. Step 2 – take the time to learn about diabetes type 2 and what should you eat. Then make sure you put those principles into practice by implementing a proper diabetic diet. Step 3 – get plenty of exercise. This improves your glucose metabolism and insulin production. Plus it helps get rid of that excess fat mentioned in step 2.

Find Out How To Control Diabetes: Don’t Let It Control You

For more information about dealing with, and managing diabetes, check the Planet Supplement Health Portal & Blog.

The Joys Of Pregnancy – From Conception To Child Birth

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Congratulations. You’ve just visited your GP who confirmed what you already suspected. You’re pregnant! Now comes the fun part – ensuring that you do everything you possibly can to stay fit and healthy for the next 8 and a bit months. Not just for your own health, but also for the health of your unborn child. You decide to read up on what you can expect as your pregnancy progresses – I found a great pregnancy week by week guide on Plant Supplement – and your enthusiasm begins to wane a bit. This pregnancy gig sounds like hard work!

The truth is that whilst some women sail through their pregnancy with few of the problems like morning sickness, lower back pain and various other pregnancy related ailments, many of us don’t. So yes, being pregnant can be a very long, hard nine months but there are any number of things you can do to look after yourself properly and help make it easier. Starting with what you eat. It’s always important for good health to ensure you’re eating a well-balanced diet but when you’re pregnant, this becomes doubly important. Because what you eat, or don’t eat, can have a direct impact on your baby. Remember too that your body will be supplying the baby first with what it needs and you’ll get the leftovers – make sure there are enough leftovers for you to stay in good health.

Pregnancy – What’s On And Off The Menu

Eating additional dairy foods is particularly important for a pregnant mum. Your baby needs the calcium for its developing bones and you need to think of your own bones and teeth as well. But not all dairy foods are good for you during pregnancy. Avoid products made from unpasteurized milk as well as cheeses that have a surface mould (brie, camembert etc), most of the blue cheeses and cheeses with a wax coating. Raw and partially cooked eggs are also off the menu due to the possibility of salmonella. As is raw or undercooked meat, seafood and poultry. Of course it goes without saying that junk food and caffeine are out! Onto the menu comes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly leafy greens and sweet potato. And fluids – plenty of water and fresh fruit juices.

Exercising During Pregnancy

It’s a fact that women who are fit and healthy have an easier time of the birthing process than those who aren’t. So, unless you’re under strict doctor’s orders to take it easy, you can and should keep yourself as fit as possible. It improves your circulation, keeps your energy levels high and helps you recover faster. Swimming is a great pregnancy exercise, as is walking and yoga. Some women even do a bit of weight training!

Enjoy your pregnancy and don’t forget to check out the Pregnancy – From Conception To Childbirth article on Planet Supplement as well as the informative pregnancy week-by-week guide I mentioned earlier.

Buying pain medicines without a prescription? Find out whether it is safe or not.

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Here’s everything you need to know about over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication.

Splitting headache? Quick, get me Dispirin.  Ate too much biryani? No problem, here’s Digene!

We don’t think twice before using these medicines. Why so? These are over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you can buy without a prescription. And, of course, we have used them umpteen times earlier. However, new ones keep popping up ever so regularly. There are hundreds of thousands OTC drugs being sold in the world not only in the pharmacies and chemists, but in grocery shops, departmental stores, and even online.

OTC drugs are defined by the United States Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as ‘drugs that are safe and effective for use by the general public without seeking treatment by a health professional’. This does not mean that doctors can’t prescribe these drugs. It just means that you can go buy them from any store that is licensed to sell these drugs.

In India, many Ayurvedic medicines are also sold as OTC medicine. For example, Liv52, Isabgol, and baby care products such as Gripe Water are routinely prescribed by doctors and these are available as OTC medications. So much so, according to a newspaper report, Liv52, prescribed routinely to patients with liver disorders, is among the top 20 OTC brands sold in India.

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According to the Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act, Schedule K, following is the list of OTC drugs for household use:

  • Aspirin tablets
  • Paracetamol tablets
  • Analgesic balms
  • Antacid preparations
  • Gripe water for use of infants
  • Inhalers, containing drugs for treatment of cold and nasal congestion
  • Syrups, lozenges, pills and tablets for cough.
  • Liniments for external use
  • Skin ointments and ointments for burns
  • Absorbent cotton wool, bandages, absorbent gauze and adhesive plaster
  • Castor oil, liquid Paraffin and Epsom salt
  • Quinine and other antimalarial drugs
  • Magnesium sulphate

Contraceptives, cosmetics, ophthalmic ointments of the tetracycline group of drugs, hair fixers, tablets of chloroquine salts,preparations applied to human body for the purpose of repelling insects like mosquitoes, medicated dressings and bandages for first aid, oral rehydration salts, white or yellow petroleum jelly IP (non-perfumed), morphine tablets and even nicotine gum containing upto 2 mg of nicotine are also considered OTC medication as per the Act. [2]

Benefits of OTC drugs include –

  • Increased access and increased autonomy to you;
  • You don’t have to rush to a doctor / health care professional for every little ailment;
  • Lower health care costs; and
  • Lower cost of drugs.

There are possible risks to choosing OTC drugs too –

  • Diagnosing the condition inaccurately
  • Drug resistance and drug interaction
  • Failure to follow label instructions leading to adverse reactions

Generally, when we have, say, a splitting headache, we or someone in our family would go to our friendly neighbourhood drug store and ask for a painkiller. Many a times if the brand we ask for is not available, the druggist would give us another brand saying it works just fine. How would we know if we got the right medicine?

Following are some of the commonly used OTC drugs for pain to help you select one more appropriate to your needs.

Analgesics is the category of medicines for relieving pain. There are many sub-groups of analgesics but the two analgesics that are available over-the-counter are non-narcotic analgesics and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Along with pain relief, most analgesic medicines also have anti-inflammatory(inflammation reducing) and anti-pyretic (fever reducing) properties.

OTC analgesics are used only in cases of mild or moderate pain that is self-limiting (improves in less than a week). You will choose them, for example, if you have a headache, toothache, menstrual cramp, or pain due to musculo-skeletal injuries.

Most OTC products marketed for pain have one of these active ingredients – acetaminophen (paracetamol),aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. The last three are the active ingredients of NSAIDs. Acetaminophen does not have anti-inflammatory action. Other common examples of NSAIDs are ibuprofen, ketoprofen, diclofenac, indomethacin, etodolac, oxaprozin, celecoxib.

Don’t use OTC analgesics if you have kidney problems or liver problems. NSAIDs can interfere with blood’s ability to clot, so avoid it if you are about to have surgery, or if you are on chemotherapy. These medicines are also not recommended if you are on steroids, blood pressure medications, blood thinning medications, and diabetesmedication.

Here’s a cheat sheet on some common painkillers.

Paracetamol–Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is a non-narcotic analgesic that helps relieve pain and fever, and non-nerve pains. It is not an NSAID because it does not have anti-inflammatory effects. Scientists are not very sure about the mechanism of action but they do know that it inhibits the synthesis of hormone like substances prostaglandins in the central nervous system. They also found that serotonergic pathways are also involved. [3]

Side effects are rare, except if you are hypersensitive to paracetamol. Avoid paracetamol if you are under long term treatment for liver problems. (Read: Painkillers or analgesics: Side-effects and precautions)

Aspirin – Aspirin has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, and also anti-platelet properties. It works by reducing prostaglandin activity thus reducing pain. The drug also reduces the synthesis of thromboxane 2, a substance that makes new platelets, subsequently reducing platelet aggregation. However its anti-inflammatory effects occur only when taken in high doses, that is, more than 3g per day, so you may prefer other NSAIDs for inflammation. (Read: Aspirin — 10 amazing facts you should know)

Although it is the ‘original’ analgesic, it has worse safety profile than paracetamol. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal ulceration or haemorrhage (especially in people who are 75 years or older, smokers, alcoholics, and those with existing liver or kidney problems), stomach ache, and even gout.

Ibuprofen – This drug is used to reduce fever, and alleviate pain and swellings due to headache, toothache, muscle aches, menstrual pains, back pain, arthritis, cold, or minor injury. You can take it every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain or fever. Children below 12 need to reduce the frequency to 6 to 8 hours, and children below 6 months should not be given ibuprofen or for that matter any NSAIDs. (Read: Ibuprofen — why you shouldn’t pop these pills indiscriminately)

An overdose ofthe drug can harm your stomach or intestine. It increases the risk for heart attack or stroke. Don’t use the drug if you have had or are going to have heart surgery. If you are hypersensitive to the drug you may experience symptoms such as rash, shortness of breath, fever, nausea and vomiting, fast heartbeat, confusion, and vision problems. Get immediate medical attention.

Diclofenac – This drug is used for short-term management of headache, toothache, menstrual pains, muscle aches, and to treat symptoms of cold and flu.

Adverse effects are similar to those of other NSAIDs. The drug is licensed for use only for adults and children above 14 years of age. Don’t use the drug for more than 3 days.

Naproxen – Naproxen is used only in cases of menstrual pain. It can be used by women aged between 15 and 50 years. Take 2 tablets of 250mg initially, then if required another one after 6 to 8 hours. If required take another tablet on day 2, but don’t take more than 9 tablets in 3 days.

Naproxen also has anti-platelet properties.

Combination analgesics

NSAIDs and other analgesics are available in combination as well. One such example is codeine (and dihydrocodeine). The drug is combined with paracetamol, aspirin, or ibuprofen in fixed combinations of 8mg or 12.8mg of codeine phosphate per dose unit. [3] Dihydrocodeine is found in combination of 7.46mg per dose unit. The combination works better for some people because codeine is sort of metabolised to morphine to give the analgesic effect. However, Caucasians do not benefit from codeine because they are genetically not geared to metabolise codeine to morphine.

Here’s a list of OTC drugs you can try for different types of pain –

  • Period pain: Naproxen, diclofenac, ibuprofen
  • Migraine and headache: Acetaminophen, aspirin
  • Stomach ache, indigestion: Calcium carbonate, aluminium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide
  • Indigestion, acidity: Ranitidine (Zantac) and asomeprazole
  • Indigestion, nausea, vomiting: bismuth subsalicylate
  • Back pain, low back pain: Ibuprofen, indomethacin, aspirin, oxycodone, hydrocodone
  • Muscle relaxants: Acetaminophen, cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • Toothache: Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen

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Nutrition Tips For Living Life With A Healthy Nutritious Diet

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It sounds daunting but choosing to become a healthy eater is one of the wisest decisions you could make with your life! Being a healthy eater is not so much about studying labels, although that’s important. Nor is it about counting calories, although again that can be important depending on what your lifestyle goals are. It isn’t really even about knowing how to figure out how much fat is in the food you’re about to eat, even though that too is important. No, healthy eating is about being smart and making educated decisions about what you’re going to eat and knowing why you’re going to eat it. It’s about making balanced choices and eating in moderation. And about eating a variety of foods instead of restricting yourself to one or two food groups, or food types.

In other words, it’s about making sure you’re eating a healthy nutritious diet. Eating healthy is also a lifestyle commitment. A commitment to a better, healthier you and in return your body will reward you for it. You’ll be more alert, feel better, be able to do more, think better, learn better, have more energy…. The list of health benefits to be had by living life with a healthy nutritious diet are endless!

Healthy Nutritious Diet.

Healthy Nutritious Diet.

Start Your Healthy Eating Lifestyle With Some Education

Here are a few nutrition tips on how to start your healthy eating lifestyle. First up, ensure you know how to make healthy food choices. If you don’t already know why fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains are good for you, learn! There’s nothing like knowing what something is going to do to, or for, your body for encouraging you to eat it, or stay away from it. If you suffer from any health conditions, learn whether you need to remove certain types of foods from your diet, and what food groups are better for you. Eating whole grains when you have belly fat is a case in point! Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole grains is an effective way to lose belly fat – if you’re trying to lose belly fat you should know something important like that. YOUR healthy nutritious diet therefore should include plenty of whole grain foods. Likewise, be aware of what the recommended daily consumption of various food groups is and try to follow those guidelines as much as possible.

Another Honey Of A Nutrition Tip

Take the time to learn about fruits and vegetables from a seasonal perspective, including some of the more unusual ones. Knowing what else is available over and above the standard winter fare for instance will add variety and additional food types to your diet. There is a great article on 4 overlooked but valuable winter veggies that you may not have thought about on the Planet Supplement website! And if you have a sweet tooth, honey is a great and healthy alternative to refined sugar – check the extensive honey compendium on their site while you’re there.

Treadmills: Tips for using this versatile piece of exercise equipment

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I used to think of treadmills as the walk (or run) of shame. They were only used on rainy or cold days when I was desperate to get in my workout.

But I have since wised up. Approached the right way, they can offer in-depth, all-around workouts beyond the usual push-the-button-and-go.

“The machines can target all the key muscle groups needed to improve lower body strength and endurance, such as quadriceps, calves, glutes, and hamstrings,” says Dr. Adam Tenforde with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “Plus they offer various programmed workouts that vary the speed and incline, so you can focus on specific goals and needs, like cardiovascular health.”

Treadmills are also ideal for people returning to exercise after an injury or surgery, since you can control the pace and intensity, and they are equipped with handrails for added support.

Using treadmills safely and effectively

Most treadmills monitor intensity with hand sensors that measure your heart rate, but that’s not always the most accurate approach, says Dr. Tenforde. A better way to gauge your effort is with the rate of perceived exertion. This involves ranking your sense of how hard you’re working on a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 being low and 10 being high. For example, 5 to 7 is a moderate-intensity level where you work hard, but can maintain a conversation and not overexert yourself.

Finally, always do a five- to 10-minute warm-up and cool-down by walking at a slow pace. This helps reduce your risk of injury and improves post-workout recovery. (As always, talk to your doctor first before beginning any exercise program.)

Speed, endurance, and muscle building

Here are three treadmill routines from Dr. Tenforde you can add to your exercise program that address three areas of fitness: speed, endurance, and muscle building. Begin with a 10-minute workout and then gradually build up to 20 to 30 minutes as you progress.

Routine 1: Incline (endurance and muscle building). An incline setting generates more muscle activity than walking or running on a flat surface, since you work against gravity. A small 2014 study in the journal Gait & Posture found that incline treadmill walking also could benefit people with knee osteoarthritis and knee replacements.

The workout: Begin walking or running at a zero-grade incline at an exertion rate of 3 or 4 for up to two minutes, then increase to level 1 incline for another minute or two. Repeat the routine until you reach an incline level where you work at 5 to 7 exertion and try to maintain it for a minute or longer. Then reverse the routine until you reach the zero-grade incline again. It is fine to stay at an incline longer, or to exercise at a lower exertion rate, until you are more comfortable.

Routine 2: High-intensity interval training (speed, endurance, and muscle building). HIIT involves alternating between set periods of high-intensity work and rest. The high intensity is at an exertion rate of around 5 to 7, while you rest at a rate of 2 or 3. “HIIT is based on your individual exertion, so adjust the treadmill to match this desired effort,” says Dr. Tenforde. “The point with HIIT is to mix up the intensity to make yourself work harder for shorter periods. It can be fun and breaks up the monotony of exercise.” HIIT is also ideal for people who have trouble finding time to exercise. A study published online by PLOS One found that HIIT produces health benefits similar to longer, traditional endurance training.

The workout: Begin with a moderately high intensity-to-rest ratio of 1:3, in which you power walk or run for one minute and rest for three minutes. As you improve, you can vary the ratio to 1:2 or 1:1 or even work for longer high-intensity periods with shorter rest breaks.

Routine 3: Speed variations (speed, endurance). Most treadmills have pre-programmed workouts that vary the speed and incline with labels, such as “fat burning” or “hill climbing.” “These can help increase your cardiovascular health by varying the effort and can be another way to add variety,” says Dr. Tenforde.

The workout: Choose one of the pre-programmed workouts and adjust the speed and resistance as needed to ensure you stay within an exertion range of 5 to 7.

Secret to brain success: Intelligent cognitive rest

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Many people do focused brain exercises to help develop their thinking. Some of these exercises work, while others do not. Regardless, the focus network in the brain is not the only network that needs training. The “unfocus” network needs training too.

The “unfocus network” (or default mode network)

Called the default mode network (DMN), we used to think of the unfocus network as the Do Mostly Nothing network. And this network uses more energy than any other network in the brain, consuming 20% of the body’s energy while at rest. In fact, effort requires just 5% more energy. As you can imagine, this network is doing anything but “resting” even though it operates largely under the conscious radar. Instead, when you turn your “focus” brain off, it will retrieve memories, link ideas so that you become more creative, and also help you feel more self-connected too. Somewhat surprisingly, although the DMN is involved in representing and understanding your self, it also helps you read the minds of others. No wonder then, with all these functions on board, this network metaphorically converts your brain into a crystal ball, allowing you to predict things more accurately too. This is the kind of sharpness that you will develop if you train the DMN.

There are many ways to activate the DMN. Below are some that will give you a good start.

Surprising ways to train the default mode network

Some simple interventions could help you engage this network, depending on your goal.

Napping: If, for example, you are dog tired in the midafternoon, and just need your mind to be clear, a 10-minute nap might be all you need for sharper thinking. But if you have a major creative project ahead of you, whether it is an innovative idea at work, or redecorating your house, you will need at least 90-minutes of napping time. This gives your brain enough time to shuttle around ideas to make the associations that it needs to make.

Positive constructive daydreaming (PCD): It’s hard to imagine daydreaming as a type of training, but it is. It has to be the right type of daydreaming. According to Jerome Singer, who has studied this for decades, slipping into a daydream is not of much use; neither is guiltily rehashing everything that makes you feel bad — like the expense you incurred when you bought the shoes you liked, or the one-too-many drinks that you had at a party. But there is a type of daydreaming that will make you more creative and likely re-energize your brain. Called positive constructive daydreaming (PCD), it is best done while you are engaged in a low-key activity, not when you are fading. And as opposed to slipping into a daydream, which is more like falling off a cliff, you must parachute into the recesses of your mind with a playful and wishful image — perhaps one of you lying on a yacht or floating on your back in a pool on vacation. Then comes the swivel of attention — from looking outside, to wandering inside. With this move, you engage your unfocus brain and all the riches that it can bring.

Physical exercise and free-walking: In the brain, thinking supports movement, and movement supports thinking. In fact, exercise improves your DMN function. It normalizes it in obese people (who have too much of it) and increases connectivity in young healthy people. Even a single session can make a difference. Aerobic exercise can help prevent atrophy of key regions within the DMN, and also help the connectivity between different regions too.

Walking does boost creative thinking, but how you walk matters. One year of walking boosts the connections between the different parts of the DMN too. In 2012, psychology professor Angela K. Leung and her colleagues tested three groups of people. One group walked around in rectangles while completing a mental test; one group walked around freely; and the last group sat down while taking the test. The free-walking group outperformed the other two groups. Other studies have shown that free-walking results in improvements in fluency, flexibility, and originality of thinking. So if you want to boost your creativity, go on a meandering hike on a safe path less traveled. Furthermore, walking outdoors may be even more beneficial than puttering around the house (unless you’re using PCD, of course!)

Why you should focus on unfocus

We now know that focus is important in improving how we think, but for optimal brain training, we need both focus and unfocus. So, build unfocus times into your day. Ensure that you’re not in one continuous slog. Your brain is wired for focus and unfocus to work together, so take advantage of both types of intelligence when thinking of training your complex but delightful brain.

You can learn more about the benefits of unfocus and how you can build it into your day, in Dr. Pillay’s new book Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try.

5 research-backed lessons on what makes a happy life

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Ever wonder what it would be like to be able to look at people’s entire adult lives? Not asking older people to remember, but starting with them as teenagers and tracking their health and well-being until they die? We’ve been lucky enough to do this for the past 78 years, starting in the late 1930s and early ‘40s with a group of men who agreed to be part of one of the longest studies of adult life ever done.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men from the time they were teenagers into old age — 268 Harvard College sophomores, and 456 boys from Boston’s inner city. Using questionnaires, interviews, medical records, and scans of blood and brains, we’ve monitored their physical and mental health, work lives, friendships, and romances.

Here are five of the big lessons we’ve learned about what contributes to a good life.

Lesson 1: Happy childhoods matter

Having warm relationships with parents in childhood predicts that you will have warmer and more secure relationships with those closest to you in adulthood. We found that warm childhoods reached across decades to predict more secure relationships with spouses at age 80. A close relationship with at least one sibling in childhood predicts that people are less likely to become depressed by age 50. And warmer childhood relationships predict better physical health in adulthood all the way into old age.

Lesson 2: Fostering the welfare of the next generation can ease the sting of difficult childhoods

People who grow up in difficult childhood environments (chaotic families, economic uncertainty) grow old less happily than those who have more fortunate childhoods. But by the time these people reach middle age (ages 50 to 65), those who mentor the next generation — guiding younger adults at home or at work — are happier and better adjusted than those who do not. The kind of maturation needed to nurture younger people also seems to reduce some of the sting of growing up disadvantaged.

Lesson 3: Coping effectively with stress has lifelong benefits

We all have habitual ways of managing stress and relieving anxiety. Some people tend to ignore uncomfortable facts, while others tend to face difficult issues and deal with what is unpleasant. For example, someone who is angry at his boss might “forget about it” but start missing important work deadlines. Alternatively, he might find a way to take up his concerns directly with that boss. We found that the people who cope with stress by engaging more directly with reality rather than pushing it away have better relationships with others. This coping style makes it easier for others to deal with them, which in turn makes people want to help them. They end up having better relationships and more social support, and this predicts healthier aging in your 60s and 70s. People who use these more adaptive coping mechanisms in middle age also end up with brains that stay sharper longer.

Lesson 4: Breaking bad habits earlier in life makes a difference

Watching people’s smoking habits across adulthood, those who quit earlier are less likely to develop lung disease as they grow old. They are also more likely to live longer than people who do not quit smoking or who quit later in life. Our findings differ from some studies that find no change in risk of disease and death once you’re tobacco-free for 15 years or more. Getting off the couch and starting to exercise earlier in life predicts that you’ll stay healthy longer in life, that your brain will stay sharper, and even that your immune system will be stronger.

Lesson 5: Time with others makes us happier

Looking back on their lives, people most often report their time with others as the most meaningful part of life, and what they’re proudest of. Time with other people makes us happier on a day-to-day basis, and time with a close partner buffers us against the mood dips that come with increased physical pain.

You can learn more about the study and our research at www.robertwaldinger.com and www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org. We are now studying the children of these men. Almost 1,300 of these second-generation baby boomers are participating in our study, and we hope to know more about what helps people thrive across generations.

Stay tuned.