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Updated: 1 hour 15 min ago

Natural Remedies You Can Use To Help with Workouts

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 06:39

We have covered articles in the past that detail the use of Nervines regarding herbal and naturopathic foods. To review, Nervines are substances that affect (either in a stimulatory or a calming perspective) the nervous system of the human body (Examples of this are Chamomile, Peppermint, and Valerian).  What about training?

Well, while you’re exercising, you can utilize herbal nervines that are excitatory or stimulatory. This is to effect an increase in circulating blood volume, concentration, and also to “fire up” the neurosynaptic nerve junctions so crucial to the interactions of neuromuscular functions.

Seriously, herbs such as Guarana and substances such as coffee (the caffeine) can have very positive effects on stimulating the circulation. Things to gauge are also the time of the day (morning, afternoon, or evening) you will exercise, and what you have eaten before the workout. A cup of coffee (depending on the type and the strength) averages anywhere from 100 to 165 mg of caffeine, with a max daily limit, advised of 400 mg. Now I’m here to tell you (and you guys and gals know how much I love coffee), this “ceiling” leaves some “wiggle room,” as caffeine is something your system builds up a tolerance to…with diuretic effects declining after you’ve been drinking it over a period of time.

Be advised: caffeine will have “synergistic effects” with other stimulatory herbs and foods.  This means that combining it with other stimulatory substances will potentiate (add to or increase) its own effects. Guarana is taken to increase athletic performance, to increase cognition and energy, and for the libido. Guarana is a plant from South America whose seeds contain caffeine. It stimulates the CNS (Central Nervous System), and the heart, and contains both theobromine and theophylline, that mimic the effect of caffeine. It is very “powerful,” and must be used wisely in order to prevent taking in too much.

Taurine is an organic compound that can help the neurotransmitter system of the human body. It directly crosses the BBB (Blood-Brain Barrier) and is essential for cardiovascular and muscular function and development. It also keeps Magnesium and Potassium inside of cells and keeps Sodium out. A normal supplementation of this is safe at a dosage of 3 grams (g) per day.

These are supplements you can use prior to the workout, and then afterward. Calmative nervines, such as your herbal teas (Chamomile, Catnip, Peppermint, and Valerian are all relaxing herbs that can help you in your recovery time. Peppermint is very high in potassium, helps relax muscles, and is a crucial electrolyte that we utilize when conducting physical exercise or athletic activities. Please also refer to the article that I wrote on recovery post-workout, and you can utilize these tisanes (teas, if you wish) to help in that recovery process.

To summarize, there is no “quick fix” for your physical conditioning, but proper diet, exercise, and recovery will give you the start on the path toward wellness. Herbal supplements and nutritional aids such as those mentioned are “starters” for your consideration both pre and post workout and to help you recover, as well as maintain what you have.  Stay in that good fight!  JJ out!



11 (More) Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 06:10

Article originally published on All About Habits

Chances are, you believe many things about weight loss that simply aren’t true.

It isn’t your fault: there’s a lot of terrible information out there.

Some advice is outdated, some is overly complicated, and some is just downright outrageous (tapeworm diets, balloons that inflate in your stomach to make you feel full, and the “cotton ball diet” are just a few examples – yes, those are all actual “diet plans” – and are really dangerous!).

In a previous article, I covered 15 Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight.

Here are 11 more.

Myth: Diet pills can help you lose weight.

Truth: Maybe trying the next “miracle” weight loss pill or potion will help you lose a little bit of weight, but at what cost? The weight loss is usually minimal and temporary, and most diet pills carry significant health risks. Dr. Melinda Manore of Oregon State University conducted a research review of a couple hundred studies investigating hundreds of weight-loss supplements in 2012. She found no evidence that using any product results in significant weight loss – and found that many may actually be dangerous. Manore explained her findings to Breaking Muscle:

“For most people, unless you alter your diet and get daily exercise, no supplement is going to have a big impact. I don’t know how you eliminate exercise from the equation. The data is very strong that exercise is crucial to not only losing weight and preserving muscle mass, but keeping the weight off.”

“What people want is to lose weight and maintain or increase lean tissue mass,” Manore said. “There is no evidence that any one supplement does this. And some have side effects ranging from the unpleasant, such as bloating and gas, to very serious issues such as strokes and heart problems.”

For more on why diet pills are usually a bad idea, give this no-nonsense report a read: No Gimmicks: Why Diet Pills Don’t Work.

What DOES work? Mostly, eating healthfully – and tracking your calorie and/or macronutrient intake. For details on how to do that, see 15 Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight.

Also, consistency. Choose a goal (like eating more protein, or drinking less soda), make it a regular habit, and move on to the next goal…that is the way to make lasting changes.


Myth: Eating fat makes you fat.

Truth: By now, you likely know that low-fat diets are not ideal for most people. The low-fat trend that (unfortunately) lasted decades has really come back to haunt us. The truth is – we need some fat in our diets, as I explained in detail in an article appropriately named…You NEED Fat in Your Diet – Here’s Why:

1) Absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K: These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means that the body needs dietary fat to absorb them.

2) Omega-3s and omega-6s play roles in mood and behavior. They are the precursor to many hormones and chemicals produced in the brain.

3) Brain health. Your brain uses fat to make cell membranes and the protective myelin sheath that insulates your neurons.

4) Trans fats are pretty bad for your cardiovascular system, but monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats prevent heart attack and stroke. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are avocados, olives, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanut butter, and olive and sesame oils.

5) Not all saturated fats are bad for you. One beneficial (and super yummy) saturated fat is coconut oil, which has scientifically demonstrated health benefits, including healthy support for your heart and brain, skin, immune system, and thyroid. In fact, coconut oil has some very special properties, in addition to being a source of healthful fat.

6) Fat is filling and provides a pleasant texture to food. Remember when I mentioned low-fat and no-fat cookies that taste like cardboard? Take the fat out, and that’s what you get. Have you ever noticed that when you eat a high-carb, low-fat meal, you are hungry an hour later? It is hard to overeat on a moderate fat, high-protein, low-carb diet.

All that being said – a word of caution: You CAN eat too much fat. If you consistently consume more calories than your body uses – even when those calories are from fat – you will likely have trouble with weight loss…and may even gain weight. And, to date, there haven’t been any long-term studies conducted on the use of high-fat diets for weight loss. Perhaps it is better to err on the side of caution and aim for moderation.


Myth: Eating carbohydrates will make you fat.

Truth: Sweet potatoes, bananas, oranges, berries, oats, apples, beans, quinoa, and chickpeas are all high in carbohydrates. Do you think eating these foods will make you gain weight if they are consumed as part of an overall healthful diet?

While it is true that your body can run just fine on a low-carb diet (and even on a very low carb diet) you don’t NEED to drastically restrict carbs to lose weight. In fact, strictly reducing carbs can cause you to become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. And, for some people, grouchiness, fatigue, and constipation are unwelcome side effects of going very low-carb.

However…low-carb (25 to 150 grams of carbs per day) and ketogenic (50 grams or less per day) diets can be beneficial for people with certain brain disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. Some people use them to help manage conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. And, they do often produce rapid weight loss…for a little while, at least.

The results of a large (year-long, 600+ participants) randomized clinical trial that compared low fat vs low carb diets for weight loss were published earlier this year. Here’s a summary of the findings, from

No significant weight-loss differences were seen between the low-fat and low-carb groups, and neither genetics nor insulin production could predict weight-loss success on either diet. There were also no significant differences between groups for most other health markers tested.

The results of this study contribute to a large body of evidence indicating that, for weight loss, neither low-fat nor low-carb is superior (as long as there’s no difference in caloric intake or protein intake).

What does this mean for you? Well – what works best FOR YOU? What is sustainable FOR YOU?

The answers to those questions are what matters. I personally go a bit batty and get really bored if I restrict carbs too much. But you may feel satisfied on a low-carb diet. Figure out what works for you, and be consistent about it.


Myth: If your weight loss progress slows, you need to eat less.

Truth: The answer to this is quite complicated.

First, be honest with yourself:  Have you been sticking to your eating plan? Or is it possible that treats here and there are sneaking up on you? A cookie here, some French fries there…the rest of your child’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich…all those things add up. Are you tracking your food intake? If so, be sure to include every bite and every sip – it all counts.

If you are not wildly going off plan, there are some possible causes of stalled weight loss.

As you lose weight, your energy needs (calories) may decrease, depending on how physically active you are. Metabolism is complex, and many factors influence weight loss, including your age, genetics, your body fat level, certain medications you may be taking, your gut health, hormonal imbalances, and other things that are beyond the scope of this article.

Are you super stressed? Elevated levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – can interfere with weight loss.

If you’d like to learn more about metabolism and how it is impacted by weight loss, here’s a great report to check out: Can eating too little actually damage your metabolism?

Are you only tracking your progress by weighing yourself? The scale isn’t the best measure of success, because it only tells you your overall body weight – and there are many components involved there. Your body is composed of two kinds of mass – lean mass (bone, water, muscle, and tissues) and fat mass (the squishy stuff). If you are exercising regularly (weight training, especially), it is possible you are losing fat, but gaining a bit of lean mass. This means the scale won’t reflect much change. For a more in-depth explanation on this (and better ways to track progress), please see Why You Should Ditch Your Scale.

If you think you are consistently doing everything right, but your weight loss isn’t progressing as you’d like, it may be time to consider hiring a coach (like me) to guide you.


Myth: You can spot reduce and lose fat from certain areas by doing specific exercises.

Truth: You can do sit-ups til the cows come home, but they won’t do you a bit of good unless your diet is right – abs are made in the kitchen!

Fat distribution varies per individual. Some of us carry more fat in our abdominal areas, for example, and some of us carry more in our hips and thighs (thanks a lot, genetics!).

Yale Scientific explains why “spot reduction” doesn’t work:

It turns out that there are a few basic physiological reasons why targeted fat loss does not work. The fat contained in fat cells exists in a form known as triglycerides. Muscle cells, however, cannot directly use triglycerides as fuel; it would be analogous to trying to run a car on crude oil. Instead, the fat must be broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids, which then enter the bloodstream. As a result, the fat broken down to be used as fuel during prolonged exercise can come from anywhere in your body, not just the part that is being worked the most.

Weight training can help you dramatically change the shape of your body. Muscle weight is a good weight to have because it helps you look firmer and more fit. It’s also more metabolically active, so having more muscle can boost your metabolism and help you stay lean.


Myth: Weight loss diets are boring, I’m always going to be hungry, and I’m going to suffer the entire time.

Truth: If you are miserable and feel deprived when you are trying to lose weight, you are doing things wrong. Very wrong. There’s no reason at all to feel that way! Surely there are healthful foods you enjoy. Make a list of them. Get creative. Visit sites like Pinterest and collect recipes that appeal to you. Variety is the spice of life, right? Play around with seasonings. Make colorful salads with fun toppings like almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. Commit to trying a new vegetable every week.


Myth: I can eat what I want – even sugary, low-nutrient foods – as long as I do it in moderation.

Truth: This is a controversial topic. While many would argue that totally eliminating certain foods is a bad idea, I’m not so sure. Are there treats that you are prone to binging on? I know I can’t keep chocolate around – especially salted caramels – because I’ll inhale the entire bag in a few days. If a food is a trigger for you, it might be best to avoid it. Also, some foods DO have more nutritive value than others. That’s a fact, whether we like it or not. Fill your diet with a variety of flavorful, nutrient-packed foods and chances are, over time, your cravings for the other stuff will diminish.


Myth: If I cut gluten out of my diet, I will lose weight.

Truth: Going gluten-free does NOT guarantee weight loss – in fact, it wouldn’t be hard to GAIN weight while following a gluten-free diet if you consume gluten-free junk foods like cookies, cakes, crackers, and bread. No substitutions for gluten-containing products are necessary, as those foods are usually highly processed anyway. Beware of the “gluten-free” labels that are popping up on products all over stores – many of those products are junk foods, loaded with sugar and other things you don’t need in your diet. For more on gluten and possible reasons to avoid it, please see Everything You Need to Know About Gluten.


Myth: Drinking diet soda is fine and will make weight loss easier.

Truth: Diet sodas have actually been shown to increase cravings and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown a possible link between diet soda consumption and weight gain. There are several possible reasons, as I explained in Do You Need a Reason to Stop Drinking Soda? Here It Is.

Regular sugar triggers satiety (a sense of fullness or satisfaction), but artificial sweeteners do not – they confuse our bodies and weaken the link in our brains between sweetness and calories, which can lead to weight gain and cravings for sweeter and sweeter treats.

And, it is possible that yet another mechanism is involved. One study showed that artificial sweeteners actually changed the gut bacteria of mice in ways that made them vulnerable to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance – both of which can lead to weight gain. And other research suggests that artificial sweeteners are associated with a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, which is a hormone that inhibits hunger.

Other studies have also linked the consumption of artificial sweeteners to diabetes and gut microbe balance.

If you have a soda or sugary drink habit (regular, or diet/reduced calorie) and want to kick it, you’ll find tips and tricks to make the process much easier here: Think Sugary Drinks Are Safe If You Are Not Obese? Think Again.


Myth: Losing weight is hard and I’m too stressed out to deal with it right now. I’ll do it later, when I’m ready.

Truth: Hmm, is it possible that your desire to lose weight and improve your health is one of the things that is causing you stress? There is never going to be a “right time” to get started. How many times have you told yourself you’ll wait to start a plan until ___ or ___ happens?

Just do it. Start now. Three months from now, where you will you be? Still waiting for “the right time”? Or… 15-30 pounds lighter, more energetic, and much happier than you are now?

One day…or, day one? It’s up to you.


Myth: Being too ambitious is detrimental – you will become frustrated and give up.

Truth: There is nothing wrong with setting high goals for yourself. But, be realistic about the time and effort it will take to achieve them. Losing body fat isn’t necessarily difficult – it just requires consistency. That’s what trips a lot of people up. We tend to be all-or-nothing beings. One slip-up, and we give up…instead of immediately getting back on track. Focus on the things you are doing right and the “non-scale victories” – all the positive changes you have made so far that have nothing to do with what you weigh. Are you eating more veggies? Drinking more water? Sleeping better? Is your energy level increasing?

For a lot more on setting goals and changing habits, see Five Powerful Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Habits and Reach Your Goals and Stoicism: How This Ancient Philosophy Can Empower You to Improve Your Health and Your Life.


Read more:  15 Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight

Want to hire me to help you lose weight? Here’s where to get info on what I offer: Nutrition and Weight Loss Coaching

Or, buy my e-book: The Secrets of Weight Loss


Article originally published on All About Habits

A Few Tips To Grow A Juicy Crop Of Cantaloupe Melons From Seed

Sat, 03/09/2019 - 06:08

A bite of sweet cantaloupe is a summer treat!  The delicious melon is full of vitamin A and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. That means it can help with protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. So why not try growing some of this delicious and popular melon in your garden?

*Did you know that the commonly known “cantaloupe” is not really a cantaloupe? The melon that’s most widely recognized as cantaloupe in the United States is actually a “reticulated muskmelon.” This North American muskmelon is distinguished by its netted skin and strong scent. Its European counterpart, which is the true cantaloupe, has ribbed pale green skin and looks very different from our cantaloupe.  But, for all intents and purposes, we’ll still refer to the reticulated muskmelon as cantaloupe in this article because that’s what we know it as!

There are a few things to take note of before you begin:

  • Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer.
  • If you are in a cooler zone, start seeds indoors about a month before transplanting. Cantaloupe vines are very tender and should not be transplanted until all danger of frost has passed.
  • If you live in warmer climes, you can direct sow seeds outdoors, but wait until the soil temperature warms to at least 65 degrees to avoid poor germination.
  • If you have limited space, cantaloupe vines can be trained to a support, such as a trellis.
  • While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves. Reduce watering once the fruit begins growing. Also, dry weather produces the sweetest flavored melon! If you’ve had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause bland fruit.


  • Amend soil with aged manure or compost before planting. Cantaloupe likes loamy, well-drained soil.  Add a lot of compost to the area before and after planting either seeds or transplants.
  • Plant your seeds one inch deep, 18 inches apart, in hills about 3 feet apart. Handle the plants gently when you transplant.
  • Fertilize when vines start growing.
  • Employ row covers in order to keep pests at bay.
  • Mulching with black plastic will also help serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth, and keep any of the developing fruits clean.
  • Once the fruit begins to grow, prune end buds off of the vines. Your plants may produce fewer melons, but they will be larger and of better quality.
  • Vines will produce both male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the female flowers appear. Don’t be discouraged when the first blooms do not produce fruit!

HELPFUL HINT: Cantaloupe blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to any bees!


Fusarium Wilt: Fusarium wilt is a common vascular wilt fungal disease. It is a soil-borne pathogen that enters the plant through the roots and will inhibit the water-conducting vessels of the plant. Mycostop is a biological fungicide that will safely protect crops against wilt caused by the Fusarium fungus. Approved for use in organic crop production, it can be applied as a soil spray or drench (1-2 gm/ 100 sq ft) to seedlings, ornamentals, and vegetables. Apply sufficient water during application to move Mycostop into the root zone.

Aphids: Aphids are tiny (adults are under ¼-inch), and often nearly invisible to the naked eye. Look for misshapen, curling, stunted, or yellowing leaves. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves; aphids love to hide there. If the leaves or stems are covered with a sticky substance, that is a sign that aphids may have been sipping sap.  Buy some ladybugs to help cure the aphid problem.  They are a natural predator to the destructive aphid. You can also try spraying cold water on the leaves of the plants.

Cucumber Beetles: If you find that the stems of your seedlings are being eaten off, leaves are yellowing and wilting, and holes are appearing, you may have a striped or spotted cucumber beetle problem. Cucumber beetles can also carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus.


  • When the rinds begin to change from green to tan or yellow, the melon is probably ripe, but be careful not to pick too early. Another sign of ripeness is a crack in the stem where the melon attaches to the fruit. The fruit should be easy to separate from the vine. If they fall off by themselves they are usually overripe. The vine will naturally slip from the fruit when it’s harvest time. You may also notice that the skin will turn creamy-beige under the “netted” pattern on the melon.
  • Harvest your melons when the vines are dry and be careful not to damage them. They will soften after harvesting, but will not continue to sweeten off the vine.
  • Cantaloupe can be stored uncut for 5 or 6 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for about 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic.

Fun Fact: Christopher Columbus brought some muskmelon (cantaloupe) seeds on his voyage to the Americas, spreading cantaloupe cultivation to our side of the pond.  A medium-sized melon also only has 100 calories, so eating them is “waist-friendly.” Try Hales Best Cantaloupe! It produces the sweetest, most fragrant and juiciest melons you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting. These award-winning cantaloupes average between three and five pounds each when fully ripened. Now that’s a seriously jumbo cantaloupe melon!

Hales Best Cantaloupe




Homemade Slippery Elm Cough Elixir

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 06:48

Coughs, colds, sore throat, congestion, runny noses. Lately, it seems you can’t go anywhere without running into someone who isn’t feeling well. To boost my family’s immune system, we have a few natural remedy staples that we try to have on hand to boost the immune system and soothe those uncomfortable symptoms.

Made from all natural ingredients, slippery elm cough elixir is easy to make, tastes good, and gets to the heart of a sore throat or cough. Slippery Elm bark was a natural remedy used by Native American mainly because of its many treatment uses. It’s moistening properties reduce inflammation, help with congestion, and coat the throat to help with dry coughs. In addition, it settles acidity and treats inflammation in the bladder, colon, kidneys, lungs, and stomach.

This soothing cough elixir is sweet and natural homemade goodness that heals and quiets that pesky cough.

Health Benefits

Slippery Elm root This herb is a demulcent that coats and protects an irritated throat, as well as, reduces coughing and congestion. A  study which examined slippery elm bark’s use in people with laryngitis or throat inflammation and voice problems has also shown potential soothing effects.

Marshmallow root soothes dry coughs by coating the throat. Further, it soothes mucous membranes of the respiratory tracts. The high mucilaginous content of marshmallow root may make it a useful remedy for treating coughs and colds. A small study from 2005 found that an herbal cough syrup containing marshmallow root was effective in relieving coughs due to colds, bronchitis, or respiratory tract diseases with the formation of mucus. Source

Cinnamon, ginger, and orange are the perfect warming spice combination. When combined together, these possess potent natural medicinal properties. As well, all are immune-boosting, antimicrobial, and are extremely high in antioxidants. Cinnamon adds a “sweet and spicy” flavor and is also a highly effective antiviral for fighting infection. Ginger helps to increase circulation which is helpful in healing but also warms a chilled body. Ginger is also a potent diaphoretic, meaning it helps us to sweat, which helps speed recovery. Orange slices are a good source of vitamin C and provides a level of flavor.

Honey is a time-honored remedy used for thousands of years to treat a host of ailments including help soothe sore throats and used as an effective cough suppressant. The darker the honey, the better for you. Try buckwheat honey in this cough elixir, if you have it. Buckwheat honey is a darker variety with more antioxidant properties than lighter honey. Researchers from Ethiopa’s College of Medicine at the University of Gondar have determined that a combination of honey and ginger extract powder will inhibit the growth of superbugs such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae  – some of the most lethal ‘superbugs’ known.

Slippery Elm Cough Elixir Recipe
  • 3 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons slippery elm bark
  • 1 tablespoon marshmallow root
  • 2 tablespoons ginger root
  • 1/2 organic orange – sliced
  • 2-3 inch piece cinnamon bark
  • 1/2 cup local honey
  • *1/3 cup elderberry for added immune boosting properties
  1. Combine all dry herbal ingredients to the water and heat over medium heat (excluding orange slices and honey)
  2. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.
  3. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to thoroughly cool.
  4. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain liquid into a wide-mouth jar before stirring in honey.
  5. Pack with orange slices and store in the fridge for up to one month.

* A dose is 2 teaspoons up to 4 times a day.

Alternatively, if you want to make a tea made from slippery elm bark, pour 2 cups of boiling water over roughly 2 tablespoons of the powder and steep for a few minutes to help ease cough and sore throat.

Feel Better!


Try our other medicinal recipes:

Honey, Lemon, Ginger Syrup for boosting the immune system

Horehound Cough Drops a natural remedy to soothe a cough and boost the immune system

Elderberry Elixir is the ultimate flu-fighter


How the Right Music Enhances Your Workouts

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 06:27

Music is a great tool to be able to work out, to “move steel,” “pump iron,” or push yourself.  Music has a physiological effect that you need to know about. When you listen to music that is pleasing to your ears, it stimulates the production of Dopamine, the “feel good/good mood” chemical. Outside of the nervous system, it inhibits the release of norepinephrine and acts as a vasodilator. Norepinephrine prepares the brain and body to perform a task and to act, especially during times of stress or danger…tied to the “fight-or-flight” response. Now, vasodilatory action of Dopamine simply means that the blood vessels are dilated, or enlarged…and this increases blood flow…therefore increasing rate of oxygenation to your tissues.

Yeah. Music does this, and more: it also “synchronizes” the brain within the rhythm, and helps you to perform repetitive motions (such as push-ups, or sets of bench presses) with more fluidity, increased smoothness. Age is not a factor regarding the positive effects here: younger athletes or older people who exercise derive benefit from the factors just mentioned.

Music playlists are often used with tempo and pace coordinations that are synchronized in both research facilities and medical therapies administered to patients with varying degrees of condition and different age groups. The physical activity time limit is generally increased by about 37 minutes per day. Cyclists and runners are prime candidates for such increases in performance generated by this synchronicity in rhythm. Although I have not tried it personally with running or cycling, I have done it with long walks or marches with the rucksack and it does help take your mind off of the task at hand and make it more fluid.

Faster paced music helps to motivate a person to work out longer and at a higher intensity: it distracts you from tiring or wanting to quit early. That pace is within reason, and also to the taste of the individual. Obviously, Benny Goodman may be considered “fast-paced” to someone 75 years of age, whereas a 20-year-old could not stand it. Watch out for your volume, though: you should listen to headphones at the 80 for 90 rule…meaning at 80% of the maximum level for no more than 90 minutes a day, so as not to either overdo it on the ears or injure them. It usually requires about 16 to 18 hours to recover from any short-term ear “overloads” you may sustain.

50 to 60% is just as effective, and probably easier on the ears. Also, try and remember to keep those workouts to about an hour, unless you’re breaking it into (2) workouts per day. There are a lot of positive effects on coordinating your activities and synchronizing with music that you listen to simultaneously. It helps you to control cardiac activity and to “pace” yourself, falling into a rhythm.

I listen to some really hard stuff that gets the blood moving while I’m moving the steel. It provides a big psychological “edge,” as you immerse yourself in the tunes and concentrate on the rhythm of your lifting…the breathing and repetitions. After the workout is over, I like to listen to soft, relaxing music that will help me in the “cool-down” period to slow down my breathing and heart rates…light classical as well as some sounds of nature CDs that are very calming. These are very beneficial to recovery, as the recovery process begins the minute you’re done. All of this after throwing down a shake, mind you and then giving yourself 15 to 30 minutes to unwind, depending on your time constraints.

I’d like to hear from all of you about what music helps you to carry out whatever type of exercise regimen you follow after. To summarize, you have to find the best mix of whatever it is that stimulates you to get through your workout program, and then to “cool down” and begin recovery and relaxation. Music is very beneficial as a tool to help you accomplish these things more effectively and certainly inexpensively…as you work toward physical fitness and good health.  JJ out!


Stoicism: How This Ancient Philosophy Can Empower You to Improve Your Health and Your Life

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 07:07

This article originally posted on All About Habits

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive– to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There is an ancient philosophy that can help you find the strength and stamina to gracefully handle the challenges of everyday life, improve your health, and experience true happiness.

This philosophy is called Stoicism. It is an eudaimonic philosophy. Eudaimonia is a term that means a life worth living, often translated as “happiness” in the broad sense, or more appropriately, flourishing.

I’ve only recently started learning about Stoicism. I wish I’d known about it years ago. In the short period of time I’ve been studying it and applying its teachings, I’ve made significant positive changes in my life…changes in the way I think, in the way I handle setbacks and obstacles, and in the way I manage stress and anxiety.

My study of the philosophy began when I came across this quote somewhere on the Internet:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. – Marcus Aurelius

How profound.

Recognizing the obstacles before you, assessing them, and preparing to overcome them…well, there’s power in that.

Every challenge we overcome makes meeting the next one with grace and determination easier because our self-confidence is strengthened.

Here is the full quote from Marcus Aurelius:

Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Epictetus wrote,

In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.

Stoicism teaches us to embrace problems, accept them, prepare to challenge them, and take action to overcome them.


You might be wondering what Stoicism has to do with nutrition or health or weight loss and why you are reading about it here.

The answer is…it has everything to do with those things. 

Consider this passage from professor William B. Irvine’s article entitled The Stoic Two-Step Program for Better Living:

People who lack a philosophy for living will, after all, make very little progress in life. One day they will try to achieve one goal, and the next they will abandon it in favor of some other goal. They will be like a ship captain who randomly changes his course every hour. He is unlikely ever to reach land. He will instead spend his life literally at sea, which is the metaphorical fate of anyone who tries to go through life without a philosophy for living.

This is why it is important for you, whatever your age and your station in life may be, to spend time and energy choosing a philosophy for living — and to spend that time now, so that you can benefit from your philosophy in the days of life remaining to you. Wouldn’t it be tragic if, on your deathbed, you finally figured out the point to living?


Now, let’s explore Stoicism a bit more.

We will begin with an overview from Philosophy Basics.

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy (developed by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C.) which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.

It does not seek to extinguish emotions completely, but rather seeks to transform them by a resolute Asceticism (a voluntary abstinence from worldly pleasures), which enables a person to develop clear judgment, inner calm, and freedom from suffering (which it considers the ultimate goal).

Stoicism is not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, but rather a way of life, involving constant practice and training, and incorporating the practice of logic, Socratic dialogue and self-dialogue, contemplation of death, and a kind of meditation aimed at training one’s attention to remain in the present moment.

Please do not confuse Stoicism with stoicism (in the common sense of the word). Stoics do not seek to be unaffected by emotions, as philosophy professor Dr. Massimo Pigliucci explains:

…the Stoics do not seek to be impervious to emotions. Rather, they work toward improving their judgments about externals, in order to re-align their emotional spectrum, de-emphasizing unhealthy emotions and nurturing and developing healthy ones.

In this video, Dr. Pigliucci provides an entertaining overview of Stoicism.

 Stoicism is a vibrant, action-oriented, paradigm-shifting way of living. It is an ideal philosophy for those seeking the Good Life.

Living life mindfully and deliberately.

Being clear about our intentions, thoughtful in our choices, simple in our desires and content in our days.

Resisting the expectation of being comfortable all the time…

…those are some of the goals of Stoics.

Can you accept forgoing pleasure to a certain point in order to avoid feeling entitled to it all the time? How can you embrace cultivating mental strength and physical resilience?

“Food is the best test of self-control and temperance because it’s presented to us every single day and in the modern world at any hour of the day,” writes Philip Ghezelbash in The Philosophy Of Stoicism: Five Lessons from Seneca, Musonius Rufus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Zeno of Citium:

Musonius Rufus was a Roman Stoic philosopher who in his two part discourse on food said:

“That God who made man provided him food and drink for the sake of preserving his life and not for giving him pleasure, one can see very well from this: when food is performing its real function, it does not produce pleasure for man, that is in the process of digestion and assimilation.”

Although the pleasure of food is experienced on the tongue, it’s clear that the purpose of food is revealed when it assimilates with the body through digestion.

The lesson here is similar to what Socrates once said which is that we should eat to live rather than live to eat.

Because anxiety and fear can significantly influence our eating habits and weight loss, let’s explore how Stoicism can help us improve our mental outlook.

In the article Stoicism, the Original Cognitive Therapy, Jules Evans explains how Stoicism helped him overcome anxiety and panic attacks:

But what finally helped me return to health and happiness was not a lifetime of anti-depressants or expensive treatments, but a 2,000-year-old philosophy called Stoicism, which forms the basis of cognitive behavioural theory today.

This philosophy first emerged around 350 BC in Athens where the Stoic philosophers would teach (among the Stoa, or colonnades of the marketplace). Their immensely practical teachings aimed to cure the soul of emotional suffering. When we think of being stoic today, we think of stiff upper lips and emotional avoidance, but the philosophical truth is different.

Stoicism is about learning to understand and control our emotions, rather than simply stifling them. It is about learning to feel in control again, when our negative emotions seem to overpower us.

Dr. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joywrites that CBT is the branch of psychology that is most in tune with the advice on living given by the ancient Stoics.

He explains how psychologist Albert Ellis, a pioneer in CBT, used it to overcome his fear of women:

He conquered this fear by giving himself the assignment of hanging out at the Bronx Botanical Garden and introducing himself to a hundred of the women he encountered there. No lasting relationship resulted from this experience, but he overcame his fear of talking to women. He taught himself that being rebuffed by a woman isn’t the end of the world.

That approach can help people overcome other fears. Dr. Irvine provides an example:

A fear of public speaking can be overcome with a similar strategy. You start out by offering a few words before a small and friendly group. Thus emboldened, you move on to bigger audiences. Then the day comes when, as you are speaking before a large and important audience, you realize, much to your amazement, that you are not afraid! (This, at any rate, was my experience.)

He adds:

In some cases, we fear something because we fear for our health or life. In other cases, what we fear is failure. It is a fear that many people are haunted by, and it is a fear that can severely limit their ability to succeed in life.

People often make the mistake of thinking that successful individuals owe their success to their ability to avoid failure, when in fact the opposite is usually the case: successful people succeed because they do not fear failure and therefore can embrace it. In other words, it is their tolerance for failure that enables them to succeed.


If your endeavors never fail, it could be because you are very good at what you do. It is much more likely, though, that the reason for your “success” is that you are afraid to fail and are therefore systematically avoiding doing difficult things.

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of missing out, emotional eating, lack of self-control…these things can be resolved (or at least, reduced) with the consistent practice of Stoic philosophy.

Stoicism provides far more than “life hacks” because it is a coherent philosophy for living, Irvine says:

Rather than spending their time thinking about how to improve aspects of their life, the Stoics were interested in figuring out how to improve their life itself. To this end, they came up with the following two-step program:

Step #1: Figure out what in life is worth having.

Step #2: Devise an effective strategy for attaining that thing.

“The Stoics concluded that tranquility (by which they mean the absence of negative emotions; they have nothing against positive emotions such as joy) is the thing in life most worth having,” Irvine writes. “Stoics recommend, for example, that we practice negative visualization: we should allow ourselves to have flickering thoughts about how our life could be worse.”

Negative visualization sounds like, well…a negative thing to do, but it is actually an intellectual exercise, as NJlifehacks explains:

Negative visualization is a thought exercise. We imagine bad things to happen so that we’ll be better prepared for them when they actually occur. It’s important to remember that for the Stoics external misfortunes were not actually negative but indifferent. And only their reaction to the events could be good or bad. They trained themselves mentally to be able to respond well when adversity hit them. Thinking about negative scenarios does not make you pessimistic, but rather optimistic. You will appreciate the things you have much more when regularly imagine bad things to happen.


If you would like to learn more about Stoicism, I highly recommend the website Daily Stoic, and the accompanying book, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.

For various exercises that you can do to develop a Stoic outlook on life, please check out 10 Insanely Useful Stoic Exercises by Emanuele Faja. All of these exercises have been around for thousands of years and the reason that they are still applicable today is that they are grounded in common experience and in common sense. In other words, they work.

And, for more on how to use Stoic principles to improve your life, please see Five Powerful Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Habits and Reach Your Goals.


I’ll leave you with a compilation of quotes from Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca.

Quotes from Epictetus

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ”

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.”

“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

“Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views, they take of them.”

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ”

“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. ”

“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”

Quotes from Marcus Aurelius

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”

Quotes from Seneca

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.”

“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”

“He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.”

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

“To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.”



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Read more articles at All About Habits 

A Gardening Guide For Growing Hulless Oats

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 07:07

Hulless oats are whole oats grown without the exterior hull, which means they require less processing after harvest and can be rolled or ground into flour.  They also provide a quick and healthy breakfast.  In our ongoing quest to become more self-sustaining, why we’ve put together this “seed to table” growing guide so you can try to grow your own hulless oats.

Regular oats have a hard shell that is rather difficult to remove. Unless you have a mechanical way of removing this hard shell, you are better off growing some hulless oats (also dubbed “naked oats”) because they have a paper skin rather than a shell that is incredibly easy to remove. Hulless oats are also low in cholesterol and full of iron and fiber, this superfood provides 9 grams of protein per serving. Hulless oats are also a very good source of manganese, selenium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

Helpful tip: Though oats and other small grains are definitely suitable for the home gardeners, you will need to have more space for them than you do for other fruits or vegetables. That doesn’t mean that you need acres to dedicate to your oats in order to get a useful crop.


  • Oats should be planted as early in the spring as you can get them out. Plant in early spring for grain, or in early fall to produce a heavy mulch right where the plants grew.
  • As winter frosts kill the plants, and rain or snow knocks them down, producing a thick mulch all ready to be planted into in spring.
  • To help reduce the weed levels in your field, you should try to do a cultivation in the fall, to bring up any seeds to the surface for the winter cold to kill. Dig again in the spring closer to when you’re going to do your planting.
  • You should plant your oats in a sunny location where it will be easy to access water for them. Oats need more water than most other grains, and you will probably have to water them if there are too many days between rainstorms. Although they like moisture, oats will not grow well in low-lying areas where water accumulates. The soil needs to be well draining.
  • To sow your seeds, you just broadcast them out over the soil. For a small area (like a quarter acre or less), you can just do it by hand. Try to get the seeds evenly distributed.
  •  Cover all that seed once you’re done. If you leave it all on the surface, you will surely lose most of it to the birds. Go over the entire area with a rake and turn over the soil to get the seeds at least an inch under the surface.
  • Consider covering the oat beds with pine needles.  This will help keep the seeds nice and moist and kept the weeds at bay.

Helpful Tip: Another helpful trick is to do your seeding right before an expected heavy rain. The water will beat the seeds into the wet soil, and do a pretty good job of covering without any more effort on your part.


Other than the birds and rodents stealing your grain, there are few pests to worry about when growing oats. But there are some rust fungi that can attack your oats, particularly if the weather is very humid. You will see patches or streaks of rust on the leaves and stalks of your oats. There are fungicide products you can use, as long as you aren’t spraying right before harvest time.


Harvest and Storage

  • Oats will be between 2 and 5 feet tall when they are mature. The leaves should be starting to turn brown, and the oat kernels should be in what is called the “dough” stage. When you squeeze a kernel, there should be no milky fluid left (its still in the milk stage then). The kernels should be soft and can be dented with a fingernail. If you wait until they are hard (also called “dead ripe”, you will likely lose a lot of grain with all the handling during harvest.
  • To harvest your oats, just cut the seed heads from the stalks. You can cut the stalks anywhere along the length, but the higher up you cut, the less straw you’ll have to deal with when you are threshing. A sharp knife or garden sickle will work fine.
  • Once the seed heads are harvested, you will need to let them cure. How long this takes will really depend on the weather, and it can be several days up to several weeks.
  • Store your cut oats outside if it’s not expecting to rain, or indoors where it is warm and dry. When the kernels are dead ripe, you can start to thresh out the oats.
  • You can actually thresh your wheat with a meat grinder with great success. The design of the latest harvesters uses the same principle of a turning screw to thresh the grain. If you’d like to make one improvement to the hand-cranked grinder, attach a drill to drive the auger. It makes the job a bit smoother. Leave the blades of the meat grinder on and run the oats through!
  • Store whole oats in an air-tight container away from the light. They should last up to 3 months. Their high-fat content keeps them from storing longer, and they will go rancid.

Before using your oats, soak them to ensure the skin is gone (it should float to the surface while any pebbles that may have gotten through will fall to the bottom). Once soaked, hulless oats can be sprouted because they are a healthy living grain, unlike common oats that are de‐hulled by a heat process that actually damages the whole grain. Sprouting oats will change their nutrient content, improving it! The carbohydrate content will decrease and the vitamin count will increase as the sprouts take energy from the seed to create a sprout. Not only that, but our human bodies respond to the sprout in a more healthy way; acting as if we are eating a plant as opposed to grain.

For full directions on how to sprout your hulless oats at home in a jar, please click here. 

Use oat sprouts in salads or in your sandwiches! They also go great on soups or as a garnish for dips.

Hulless Oats


Why You Should Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day, and How to Do It

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 06:23

We often hear that we should walk 10,000 steps a day for good health and for weight loss. But where did that recommendation originate?

You may be surprised to learn how that guideline became so popular. It wasn’t based on research – it was created as a promotion by a pedometer company in Japan in the 1960s. The idea became more widespread as walking clubs adopted it as a goal.

That being said – it isn’t a bad goal to work toward. Any physical activity is beneficial, and the more steps you get in each day, the better.

Let’s take a look at what research does tell us about walking.

How fast you walk appears to matter quite a bit.

An analysis of more than 50,000 walkers conducted by the University of Sydney in 2018 found that walking pace matters. The researchers found that walking at an average pace was associated with a 20 percent risk reduction for all-cause mortality, compared with walking at a slow pace. Walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24 percent. Older age groups saw a pronounced protective effect. People 60 years of age and over who walked at an average pace experienced a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Fast-pace walkers experienced a 53 percent reduction, according to the study’s press release. How do you know if you are walking fast enough to reap these benefits? A good indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when that pace is sustained, said lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.

“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up – one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives,” Professor Stamatakis explained.

A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2018 also found that pace matters. For the study, researchers followed 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85% also had coronary heart disease and 15% also had valve disease. They recorded the number of all-cause hospitalizations and length of stay over the next three years. During the three year period, 182 of the slow walkers (51%) had at least one hospitalization, compared to 160 (44%) of the intermediate walkers, and 110 (31%) of the fast walkers. The press release elaborates on the findings:

The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in the hospital over the three years, respectively.

The average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and 9 days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively. Each 1 km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalized during the three-year period. Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37% lower likelihood of hospitalization in three years.

Another study published in 2018 found that walking for at least 40 minutes several times per week at an average to fast pace is associated with a near 25 percent drop in the risk of heart failure among post-menopausal women. The researchers found the benefit appears to be consistent regardless of a woman’s body weight or whether she engages in other forms of exercise besides walking. This study analyzed walking behavior and health outcomes in 89,000 women during a 10-year period. According to a press release published by the American College of Cardiology, this study is the first to examine the benefits of walking by parsing the effects of walking frequency, duration, and speed. It is also the first to specifically focus on the risk of heart failure among women over age 50.

Dr. Somwail Rasla, a cardiology fellow at Saint Vincent Hospital who conducted the study during his residency at Brown University, said of the findings:

“We actually looked at women with four different categories of body mass index (BMI) and found the same inverse relationship between walking behavior and the risk of heart failure. The results show that even obese and overweight women can still benefit from walking to decrease their risk of heart failure.”

Even lower intensity walking provides benefits.

study conducted in Sweden found that there are considerable health benefits to be gained not only from moderate or intense physical activity but also from low-intensity (everyday) activity. Researchers analyzed how different levels of physical activity in 1,200 people across Sweden affected the mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease (among other causes) 15 years later.

Replacing half an hour’s sedentariness a day with low-level activity can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by an estimated 24 percent, the researchers found. While lower intensity exercise was shown to provide benefits, this study also found that replacing sedentariness with physical activity of at least moderate level equivalent to a brisk walk or higher intensity training had an even greater effect on cardiovascular-related mortality. “Ten minutes of moderate to intense activity a day reduced the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by 38 percent, 30 minutes a day by a full 77 percent, according to their calculations,” the press release reports.

In 2017, researchers looked at data from nearly 140,000 participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and found that walking has the potential to significantly improve health. The team found that regular walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared to inactivity. Walking for less than 2 hours per week was associated with lower all-cause mortality compared to no activity. “Meeting 1 to 2 times the minimum recommendation (2.5-5 hours/week) through walking-only was associated with 20% lower mortality risk. Results for those exceeding recommendations through walking-only were similar to those who met recommendations,” a press release reported.

Research has found several ways to stay motivated and to track progress.

Join a walking group and track your steps with a pedometer.

People may be more likely to stick to taking exercise if they walk in groups, according to a study published in January 2018. The research, led by Anglia Ruskin University, also found that group walking plays a part in improved physical activity and better quality of life. Researchers analyzed 18 studies of physically healthy adults who walked in groups compared with those who walked alone (or not at all). They found that people who participated in group walking were more likely to have kept up the exercise by the end of the study, which was an average of six months later.

Researchers at the University of St George’s London found that people who use pedometers to count their steps as part of a 12-week walking program had a healthier, more active lifestyle three to four years later.

If you’d like to use a device to count your steps, you have a lot of options, including basic pedometers, fitness trackers, waterproof fitness watches, and more sophisticated trackers like FitBit Smart Fitness watches with heart rate monitors and GPS and the Apple Watch (this one even has an Emergency SOS feature). (ALL of those are Amazon links)

No pedometer? No problem – you can still estimate your steps.

If you do not have a pedometer and do not want to use complex calculations to figure out your walking intensity, you can measure your walking cadence instead, according to research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Catrine Tudor-Locke, professor of kinesiology, and postdoctoral researchers Elroy Aguiar and Scott Ducharme concluded that for adults, age 21-40, walking about 100 steps per minute constitutes moderate intensity, while vigorous walking begins at about 130 steps per minute. To use this method, count your steps for 15 seconds and multiply by four to determine steps per minute.

In a press release, the researchers elaborated on their findings:

Aguiar said that the natural walking pace of 90 percent of the study participants was above the moderate-pace threshold. “If you just tell people to walk at their normal speed, they probably are going to walk above 100 steps per minute. Asking people to walk for exercise is a low-cost, low-skill, feasible activity choice which has the potential to drastically improve people’s health,” he says.

The research suggests a simple but powerful public health message: Just walk, as much as possible. “Our society has engineered movement out of our life,” Aguiar says. “We have TVs, we have cars, we have remotes. It’s clear that you can achieve the public health guidelines for physical activity through walking.”

How many steps per day is ideal?

Public health organizations typically offer recommendations for physical activity in general, not for walking specifically. Of course, walking IS physical activity, so let’s take a look at what general guidelines for that say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommends the following:

For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

How do we translate those guidelines into steps?

The time it takes to reach 10,000 steps depends on intensity of your steps. For moderate intensity, take 100 steps per minute, and for vigorous intensity, take 130 steps per minute.

If your walking pace is moderate in intensity, it would take you 100 minutes to reach 10,000 steps. If you do this every day, you’ll get a little over 11 hours of walking in each week.

If your pace is vigorous in intensity, it would take you 77 minutes to reach 10,000 steps. If you do this every day, you’ll get close to 9 hours of walking in each week.

As you can see, walking at a moderate to vigorous intensity every day (or nearly every day) exceeds general recommendations for physical activity.

If you want to think in terms of distance, 2,000 steps is about a mile, and 10,000 steps equals roughly 5 miles.

Do you need reasons to start a walking routine? Here are a bunch!

The American Heart Association’s guidelines match those of the CDC. The organization’s website provides an excellent summary of the benefits of physical activity:

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Improved cognition, including memory, attention and processing speed
  • Less weight gain, obesity and related chronic health conditions
  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) reports that regular physical activity:

  • Improves good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Lowers blood pressure (it is recommended to shoot for a top number (systolic) of 120 mm Hg or lower)
  • Aids in weight management
  • Reduces HbA1c (measure for diabetic control)
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces mental stress
  • Reduces the incidence of depression
How can you add more steps every day?

This depends on several factors, including your current activity level and overall health.

First, figure out what your baseline is. Put on a pedometer or fitness monitor or use an app (remember to carry your smartphone with you throughout the day if you use an app). Go about your day as usual. At the end of the day, check your step count. Do this for a week, and calculate your average.

Then, gradually add steps every day.

According to a report from VeryWellFit, Professor Tudor-Locke advises a goal of 10,000 steps per day as a good baseline. She offers these tips to match physical activity recommendations for heart health:

  • Increase your daily steps by 3,000 to 4,000 steps taken during bouts of 10-minutes or longer at moderate-to-vigorous intensity, which is a pace of brisk walking to jogging.
  • Achieve a goal of 8,900 to 9,900 steps at least five days per week with at least 3,000 steps of moderate-to-vigorous intensity bouts of 10 minutes or more.
  • Alternatively, set a goal of 9,150 to 10,150 steps at least three days per week with at least 3,250 steps of vigorous intensity bouts of 10 minutes or more.
Here’s how to fit 10,000 steps into your busy schedule.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to get all of your steps in one walking session. All of the walking you do during the day counts! Here are some ways to sneak in more steps to help you reach your goal.

  • If you drive to work, park farther away from your office.
  • Get off the bus or train one stop earlier and walk home.
  • Take several shorter walks daily, preferably outside. Yes, even during the colder months! Research shows that spending time outside during winter provides many benefits.
  • Go for walks during your lunch break and other work breaks. Even 10 minute walks spread through the day add up.
  • Join a walking group. Sites like MeetUp have lots of them. If you can’t find a group, consider starting one.
  • Take the stairs instead of using elevators and escalators.

If you walk alone, please keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Stay alert – if you use headphones, be sure to keep the volume low or leave an earbud out of one ear so you can hear what is going on around you. Don’t look down at your device – practice situational awareness.
  • Tell someone your planned route and your expected return time. Ask them to check on you at that time.
  • Carry a personal safety device like pepper spray, an alarm, or a stun gun (legality for each varies in different localities).
  • Know how to avoid possible attackers, and how to defend yourself should someone attack you.
  • Wear bright colors. Carry a flashlight if you walk when visibility is low.

Do you currently walk on a regular basis? Do you have tips for other readers? Let us know in the comments!

Be well!


10 Health Boosting Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Tonics

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 09:00

Apple cider vinegar has a fairly lengthy history when it comes to natural home remedies. It has been touted as a cure-all for almost everything; from helping blood pressure issues, fungal infections, to sore throats and even weight loss.

Let’s get one big myth about apple cider vinegar out of the way first. Many erroneously believe that apple cider vinegar contains a lot of nutrients; it actually doesn’t.  Apple cider vinegar is fantastic for all sorts of ailments, not because of it’s nutritional content but from its ability to acidify the body.  ACV does have acetic acid, which is the one reason why it helps with so many conditions. Acetic acid is actually the key ingredient and has a pH of 2.5. This will help in the transportation of minerals, especially calcium, the digestion of protein and the stimulation of thyroid function. Interestingly, due to the common excessive alkalinity, a good portion of the population has, apple cider vinegar is a safe and healthy solution.

10 Healthy Benefits From Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar’s most common use may be for weight loss, however, it may work overall on a lot of conditions by balancing your gut microbiome. Because of the new and trendy “Give It a Shot” craze, many have found that “taking a shot” of ACV can have lasting effects on your health. Some of those benefits include:

    1. Antibacterial and Antiviral – Vinegar has been shown in studies to mildly lower the growth of gram-negative bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Gram-negative bacteria have an impenetrable outer wall and are more difficult to kill with antigens than gram-positive bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are often more resistant to antibiotics making them culprits for “superbugs.” But bacterial colonies like these are higher in bacterial endotoxins called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Higher levels of LPS are implicated in a whole of inflammatory health problems and leaky gut syndrome, so it’s great that apple cider vinegar could help keep the number of these bacteria down! ACV has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-yeast and -fungal benefits, all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance.
    2. Digestion and acid reflux – apple cider vinegar increases the acidity of your stomach, which helps your body create more pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein and aids in quality digestion of your food.
    3. Immune boosting – most germs can’t survive in the overly acidic environment created by ACV.
    4. Improves complexions and helps with skin disorders – although there are few studies to prove this, ACV can help with acne. ACV contains acetic, citric, lactic and succinic acid, all of which have been shown to kill acne. In one study, 22 people applied lactic acid lotion to their faces twice a day for one year. Most of them experienced a significant reduction in acne, while only two people experienced less than a 50% improvement.
    5. Weight loss as a hunger suppressant – ACV helps you feel fuller for longer.  Because of that, you’ll consume fewer calories. The acetic acid acts as a natural appetite suppressant. 
    6. Helps with Diabetes by reducing blood sugar –  One European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, for example, found that those who consumed ACV before eating white bread experienced 31 percent smaller spikes in blood sugar than those who ate bread but no vinegar. Acetic acid, one of vinegar’s main components, decreases the activity of an enzyme that breaks complex sugars into simple sugars. It’s also been shown to increase levels of glucose-6-phosphate, a compound that helps convert glucose (the simple sugar in our blood) to glycogen (a form of sugar stored in our muscles and liver to be used as energy). Both effects contribute to vinegar’s potential blood sugar benefits.
    7. Reduces Inflammation – ACV is an anti-inflammatory, see #1.
    8. Pain relief – Since ACV helps eliminate inflammation in the gut, it can also help with pain relief. A healthy gut microbiome can help reduce inflammation in the digestive system, joints, and even other areas of the body such as the heart, blood, and more.
    9. Natural detoxan ACV detox may help your body function at optimum levels by removing toxins and “detoxing.”
    10. Headaches – using a compress of ACV helps to reduce the pain in headaches

It’s incredibly important that you are aware of a few of the negative effects associated with apple cider vinegar. Please keep these in mind when consuming ACV, especially if you drink it straight or “take a shot” of it. Some of those potential negative outcomes are:

  1. Dental Erosion – Studies have found that weekly consumption of apple vinegar increased the risk of dental erosion. Acetic acid is the culprit. If you are concerned about your teeth enamel, consider taking ACV supplements.
  2. Stomach discomfort – The acids in vinegar can have a negative effect on those who have sensitive stomachs and can cause issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.

* DO NOT “take a shot” of ACV, or consume it straight.  Mix “the shot” in a salad dressing or dilute it in more than 8 oz of water. “Apple cider vinegar has a strong effect on the teeth because of its acid content,” says holistic dentist Tom Valmadre, D.D.S. “Exposure can increase [the] risk of decay, sensitivity, and erosion.” Not to mention, it can rather unpleasantly burn the heck out of your throat and damage its lining over time.

The best type of ACV to purchase is perhaps in an already made drink. This one from Bragg’s is organic. If you’re buying ACV itself, look for organic apple cider vinegar with a cloudy bloom in it: this is the “mother” fermentation in the vinegar and is a sign of quality. This will afford you the freedom of making your own tonic, but again, we suggest heavily diluting the ACV.  If you choose, more than 10 ounces of water can be used.  Personally, I loathe the smell and taste of vinegar and ACV is not any different.  I dilute 1/2 tablespoon of ACV in 20 ounces of water because I honestly can’t handle it any stronger. My dislike of the stuff actually helps keep me from consuming it more than every 10-15 days or so, which helps with minimizing the tooth enamel erosion risk.

ACV Tonic Recipe for Health


  • 10 – 24 ounces warm water
  • 1-2 tablespoon/s apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Add all of the ingredients to warm water. Do not use boiling water as it will destroy the vitamin C in the lemon juice. Add optional fresh ginger and cinnamon to help with the taste and give the body a little extra boost.

** This article is for informational purposes only.  It is not meant to treat, cure, or diagnose any health concern or medical condition.  Please see a qualified medical professional if you need treatment or diagnostics.


This Winter Survival Skill Saved Two Women Lost in the Mountains

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 00:47

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and as two women recently found out, when you plan for the worst, your odds of survival increase.

A survival story made headlines recently about two women who lost their way in the Sierra Nevada mountains over President’s Day Weekend. The two became disoriented in the snow and lost their way while cross-country skiing and spent two days in harsh winter elements before they were able to notify relatives that they were lost, and the relatives then called 911. Emergency responders are now claiming they survived subzero temperatures from knowing how to make a winter survival shelter.

Image Source: Mountain Democrat

In the article:

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Almos said they received the call about the women’s distress at midnight on Saturday. On Sunday they did a “hasty search” but all attempts were failing due to conditions, Almos said that even snowmobiles and a snow cat couldn’t navigate in the deep snow. “We even contemplated sending a drone,” he said, but there was a blizzard. “It’s tough to even send people out there due to the conditions.”

Fortunately, the women knew enough to build a snow cave in the heavy snow and were able to survive Saturday night when temperatures dropped below freezing.


Jared Boothe, a flight officer/paramedic with the California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division Air Operations said the helicopter crew spotted the women around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. “If they hadn’t had the skill set and experience to build a snow cave, it likely would have been a fatal event as temperatures were reported to be a minus 8 degrees without considering wind chill,” Boothe said. “If they had sat out in the open, they likely wouldn’t have made it out.”

Navigating in the Snow

It is easy to become disoriented in a snowy landscape. In a previous article about navigating the snow, the writer states it’s more difficult than one would think. “First, with snow blanketing the landscape, the appearance of the terrain is changed. Secondly, the landscape is also physically altered: it is a different thing to walk across six inches to several feet of snow. Right now, where I live, I have almost three feet of snow on the ground. The winter weather conditions are another item: it’s a far cry from a summer stroll when you walk into a cold wind that is throwing sleet right into your face in the middle of February.” He emphasizes knowing the terrain and pace count is the best way to navigate in a wintry area.

While it should go without saying, dress appropriately for winter conditions. You never know when you will find yourself staring down the business end of an emergency situation. “Pick up a good pair of goggles that do not fog up, and appropriate shielding for the face. Make sure you’re dressed in all-weather to combat the weather.  I recommend Gore-Tex from head to toe.  A GPS compass will help, but here it is important to rely on the basics because batteries do die, electronics can be fouled up by extremes in weather and temperature, and it’s always best to rely on the “primitive” and skills.” Try this compass instead.

Other lightweight tools to keep in mind are:

How a Snow Cave Will Protect You

If you find yourself in a situation like the women skiers who lost their way, learn from their survival story and teach yourself essential winter skills. A snow cave or a quinzee will protect you from the elements and is perfect for areas where snow is not too deep and has powdery snow in order to form correctly. This snow shelter uses the powdery snow which will pack and bond together so that it is easier to hollow out and form a shelter. A properly made snow cave can be 0 °C (32 °F) or warmer inside, even when outside temperatures are −40 °C (−40 °F).

A snow cave is constructed by excavating snow so that the tunnel entrance is below the main space to retain warm air. If made correctly, your body heat will insulate and heat the inside of the cave and save your life.

The video provides step-by-step instructions. If you do not have a shovel on hand, look for makeshift tools like a flat rock or a split piece of wood.

Keep These Winter Shelter Tips in Mind
  • If you can face your shelter towards the east you will be able to prevent heat loss from prevailing winds and storms coming into your shelter.
  • Protect yourself from the elements by using branches, sticks, tarps or whatever you have available. Pine branches are great for wind-proofing your shelter and preventing heat loss from the ground.
  • Body heat can quickly escape if you do not have a ground insulator. If you can make your bedding area off the ground, you will be able to conserve more body heat. Consider pine needles, leaves, spruce boughs and/or branches, or even building up the snow around your primitive shelter.
  • Dehydration in cold climates can be a major risk when outdoors. Excessive perspiration, heavy clothing, and increased respiratory fluid loss are other factors that contribute to dehydration in cold climates. For example, when you can see your own breath, that’s actually water vapor that your body is losing. The colder the temperature and the more intense the exercise, the more vapor you lose when you breathe.
  • Take into consideration your energy output on building the shelter versus the protection of the shelter. This is labor intensive so be mindful of how much time it is taking to ensure you are not overexposed to the winter elements. Being exposed to the elements longer than three hours could be life-threatening.

Start training for winter survival emergencies with some basic shelters and then move into more advanced. Knowing these skills could save your life!


Additional Reading:

How To Build a Snow Cave

Quinzee Building

A Step-By-Step Guide To Prepare You For Any Disaster

A Green Beret’s Guide To Building an Emergency Winter Shelter


How To Get More Eggs From Chickens Over Winter

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 05:28

Backyard chicken owners dread winter! Winter conditions and changes in sunlight cause a decrease in chicken’s egg production. While this can be bothersome to see your investment of egg-laying hens “close up shop” during winter, (and you’re still footing the bill for the cost of feed) there are some things you can do to help them. In a previous article, we covered how to winterize your coop for winter and touched on a few of these pointers. Today, we are going to go into more detail.

So why do hens stop producing? When the cooler days of autumn turn into the bitterly cold nights of winter, more of your chicken’s bodily resources have to go into keeping her warm rather than go toward producing eggs. As well, after the long egg production that happened during the warmer months, chickens tend to “rest” when the days get shorter. This is a normal reaction for hens, and if you allow nature to takes its course, they will stop laying completely during winter and start back up in spring. This also reduces burn out from overactive egg production. But, some of us depend on a daily amount of eggs and try to encourage them to continue laying.

Give your girls what they need to keep them laying all winter long 1. Plenty of Food and Water

Did you know that chickens need more food in winter? Typically, they require 1.5 times more food during colder months. They tend to eat more because their bodies are fighting more to stay warm. It’s alright to play around with the amount of food as chickens do not tend to overeat. If you’ve overfed them, you may notice some leftover food in their feeders in the morning. Giving them extra food will help them ensure they have adequate nutrition during winter.

In addition, pay attention to adding extra nutrients to their diet. Because they do not have as much access to fresh grasses, fruits, vegetables, and bugs, they need more carbohydrates and protein in their diet during winter. Remember, hens need protein to produce eggs! While most chicken owners will add some chicken scratch to their feed, there are some additional nutrients to keep in mind. As well, a hens’ diet shouldn’t consist of only cracked corn/scratch grains. What nutrients do they need in winter

We’ve had great success sprouting our garden seeds that we didn’t use the previous growing season and mixing those sprouts in with mealworms. This provides them with the extra protein they need in winter and they love it. A note of caution: stay away from feeding nightshade seed varieties (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, etc.) to your chickens as these contain solanine and can cause your health problems for your girls. A frugal alternative to sprouts is to supplement their diets with fodder, as well as vegetable and fruit scraps for added nutrition.

I also like to give my hens a cup of oats along with their sprouts every few days to provide them with additional carbohydrates. Moreover, a handful of grit can also help since it’s harder for them to get access to it in winter. A handful once every 2 weeks will be plenty for a small flock of 12 hens.

As well, ensure there is plenty of water for them. If chickens, particularly laying hens, are without water for a 24 hour period, they may stop laying eggs for several weeks following. Simply put, it stresses them out. As well, hydration protects them during periods of severe cold as well as extreme heat. One solution is to purchase a heated base for the water system and run a heavy-duty extension cord into the chicken coop. Another solution is to check on your chicken’s water more frequently. Bringing warm water out to replace the frozen water will be very welcomed.

2. Sunshine

According to The Happy Chicken Coop, “The amount of daylight tells your hen when to release a yolk and produce an egg. So when the daylight is reduced, chickens don’t receive this light ‘cue’ to tell them to release a yolk. This is mainly a survival mechanism as their offspring would have a very small chance of surviving during a cold winter.”

Keep in mind that young chickens will require more body heat compared to a fully grown chicken. Further, the avian reproductive cycle, which is how a hen produces eggs, is stimulated in poultry by increasing day length. 14 hours of light is what a chicken requires to lay eggs and usually get these results during the warmer months. Having a light bulb hooked up to a timer to assist in continued egg laying. An added benefit to this is it creates added warmth to the flock. To provide some warmth, but not too much light, we use a 250-watt bulb in our coop. One heat lamp per 30 chickens will be sufficient. Light fixtures in the coop should be placed above feeders and watering container, and care should be taken to avoid having areas in the chicken house that are shaded from light.

One homesteading blog asked Extension Poultry Specialist Jesse Lyons at the University of Missouri how to convince hens to keep laying using supplemental daylight, and she said, “It takes about 12 hours of day length to get the birds stimulated to where they start laying,” Lyons says. “Up to about 16 to 17 hours or so, somewhere in there, is probably the maximum day length that will stimulate the birds.” The light has to be constant, and if you have a timer set for say, 14 hours of light and the egg production slows down, Lyons adding another half-hour so the hens think springtime is coming.

3. Be Observant

There’s a chance that with all of these suggestions, your girls still may not produce eggs until spring. So pay attention and make sure it’s just the weather and not them being sick. Chickens may get sick in the winter, so keep an eye out for symptoms of the cold or flu. If your chicken gets sick, seek out the help of an avian veterinarian.

According to Backyard Coops, some common signs of chickens not feeling well are:

  • A pale, limp comb (potential symptoms of frostbite, worms)
  • Coughing, wheezing, runny nose (Chronic Respiratory Disease)
  • Mangy/patchy feathers (lice or mites)
  • Heavy breathing, holding wings away from their body (heat stroke)

If you notice any of these signs your chicken could be ill and you may need to give her some extra care or call a vet.

Other factors that could contribute to decreasing eggs is the hens age and even molting. Molting could also be an issue with decreased egg production. This occurs in response to decreased light as summer ends and winter approaches, so it is entirely possible they are using their energy to get their new feathers in; and with that you must be patient until this process is complete.

Just in case you need more reasons why your chickens aren’t laying here are 20 more reasons!

To conclude, during the winter months the best thing you can do as a backyard chicken owner is to keep them warm, well fed and watered, and give them extra light to try to encourage more eggs. On a personal note, we have 12 chickens on our little farm and the average daytime temperatures have been in the 30s – 40s with intermittent snow storms. With this nasty weather, I am still getting a nice amount of eggs from them. All that I have done this year is give them fresh bedding, increased their feed, give them extra nutrients (as described above), and made sure they have plenty of water. They seem happy and are still laying.