Sunday, July 31, 2011

Outdated Exercise Rules

Between the time that our parents’ generation discovered the benefits of exercise and today, so much has changed. As with anything, myths were taken as rules and sometimes never went back to being myths. Or a group of researchers could have come up with a theory that became popular and always stuck even after it got disputed. Given that we have a limited amount of time to work out, we don’t want to be wasting any of it on outdated facts. The beauty of information is supposed to be that the more we get, the more we realize that knowledge is power. So let’s do a one-minute information refresher course, shall we?

Outdated rule 1: Crunch till you can crunch no more. Hopefully, if you have been reading the posts on Eights & Weights long enough, you should have realized by now that our bodies don’t work this way. People used to get up in the morning and do hundreds of crunches without working much on anything else. If you have fat on your belly, crunches won’t help burn that fat. You have to do cardio exercises to lose weight all over, and also do crunches to firm up that area as the fat burns off. So if you’ve been spending hours on crunches every day, sorry! You need to add in some gym time.

Outdated rule 2: Work out till your body breaks down. The truth is that it’s very difficult for your body to function well in this manner. Professional athletes work out all day because they also keep fueling their bodies all day. But for the common man, to lose weight, don’t treat your body like garbage. Work hard at the gym, but don’t spend half your day there. Try to work out for about an hour, two at most, but much more than that on a consistent basis is over-tasking your body and making it prime for injury.

Outdated rule 3: Machines are better than free weights. The good thing about machines is that they help with your posture so you don’t have to work too hard to think about whether you’re bending your arm right or lifting to the appropriate height. However, the truth is that machines tend to work different muscles than when we use free weights. And free weights (like dumbbells) or even our own body weights are just as good as using machines. Think about how much benefit you get from a pushup or a downward-facing dog. Do you need any equipment for those? Think about the bodies of those that do kickboxing or pilates. They build all that with their own body weights.

Outdated rule 4: What hurts the most works the most. Granted, exercise usually hurts or we’d all be happy doing it. But the things that hurt the most don’t always burn the most calories or build the most muscles. For example, the elliptical and the spinner burn tons more calories than a regular cycling machine and even a treadmill (depending on your speed). But running takes more effort because of the impact it has on your knees and ankles, and so you feel like you’ve worked out more.

Outdated rule 5: Weight loss is all about your gym time. No, a very important part of losing weight is your diet. But besides your diet, it’s also taking on an active lifestyle. Your gym time definitely counts, but the rest of your day counts too. If you sit for hours and hours, you’re not helping your body burn the calories it would have if you walked down the corridor to talk to your colleague. If you drive everywhere and always take the elevator instead of the stairs, you may be missing out on those few extra calories you could have burned getting to your destination. Remember that these few calories spread across your day definitely add up.

Outdated rule 6: Girls should stick to cardio exercises. Ladies, all you’ve heard about getting big muscles when you lift weights is not really true. To get muscle tone, you need to do strength training exercises like lifting weights, pushups, etc. Men get big muscles faster because they have testosterone, which we don’t. If you’re lifting weights, you won’t suddenly become Arnold Schwarzenegger, especially if you’re also doing cardio to stay lean. Women that gain tons of muscle mass work very hard and take a lot of supplements to get that way. So don’t be scared to lift some weights.

There are tons more outdated rules, and we’ll discuss some more at a later date. But for now, do you readers have any rules you found out were not helping you?

How about we talk about outdated diet rules next week?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Staying Cool in the Heat

Depending on where you are right now, you may be going through the extreme weather conditions that hit a lot of cities in the past week. It was (and still is) very very very hot and humid. Humidity went to about 100% in some places, and the lack of rain didn’t help much. Maybe it is always hot where you are, but I’m pretty certain it got hotter last week.

With extreme heat comes all sorts of dangers to our bodies. You could argue that it is “Aje Butter-ness” causing people to faint and get burned, but there really are health risks associated with the heat and humidity. The body temperature and your heart rate generally increase to inordinate amounts leaving your body pretty vulnerable. This is one of the reasons we always feel like all the energy is drained right out of us when we step outside in the heat. And if you’re exercising outside, well, you may be at even more risk because you have two things raising your body temperature.

If you let your body temperature get too high, and let yourself get too dehydrated, you could go as far as suffering a heat stroke. According to the Mayo clinic website, one of the symptoms of a heat stroke is when your body temperature feels extra high, yet your body is no longer producing sweat to cool itself down.

So how can you stay cool, and still stay fit?

Exercise Indoors: If you can, buy a gym membership. I know it sucks to have to spend money when you want to be outside, but for your health, it may be a great investment. You don’t want to restrict yourself to a gym? Then maybe participate in some indoor sports like squash and racquetball. Or go swimming. Or attend a spin class. Or buy some Jillian Michaels DVDs. There are so many ways you can work out indoors.

Find a hot meteorologist: To make you pay attention to the weather report! What else did you think I was talking about? If the forecast says it will be hot hot hot, maybe plan to be outside less and make alternate plans for that run time.

Drink water like your life depends on it: No kidding. Drink as much water as you can find. And for all the caffeine addicts, maybe drink less caffeine as it does help to dehydrate you. If you don’t like water, find some drinks with electrolytes (and low calories).

Barbecues might be a no-no: Instead of planning those summer barbecues, if it gets too hot, plan a movie night or go hang out at a bar with air conditioning. Hot weather plus a hot grill can be dangerous.

See the sun rise: If you absolutely must work out outside, try to do it really early in the morning, when the humidity is still relatively low and the sun is not out yet. However, still take precautions because just because the humidity and the temperature are lower than the rest of the day, does not mean it isn’t still hot.

Pretend it’s Labor Day: Make sure you are not stuffing yourself with clothing that could make you feel warmer. It is summer after all so wear light and light-colored clothing. I don’t know about you, but black most certainly does not work for me in this weather.

Wear sunscreen: If you plan on spending a lot of time outside, wear sunscreen. I know most of us come from cultures where darker skinned individuals think they don’t burn, but having seen black people with sunburned skin, I can testify that we do burn. Wear some sunscreen, even if it’s just on your face. For the ladies, a lot of foundations and moisturizers come with sunscreen nowadays so it shouldn’t be the most difficult thing in the world. Increased sun exposure could damage your skin.

Take frequent cold showers: Unless you’re Ke$ha or you think sweatiness is sexy, please take consistent showers in the heat. And when I say showers, I mean cold showers. Cold showers help to regulate your body temperature, even if it’s for a short while.

Pay attention to your body: If you feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, or your heart rate seems to be going much faster than normal, go indoors and get hydrated. If it persists, please see a doctor! Your health is very very important so please take it seriously.

Do you have any other techniques that help you beat the heat?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Exercise like a Caveman

Several articles published and research done in recent history has shown us that we are definitely less physically fit than our forefathers. There are so many things that they absolutely had to do to survive that constituted ‘exercise’ that we just don’t have to do anymore. Thus, our bodies are deteriorating faster and faster. Granted, we have more tools to “keep us alive” even when we’re old and sick, but wouldn’t you rather be old and healthy?

As a culture, we have become so sedentary, and yet more and more, scientists are proving that the body was designed to move. THE BODY WAS DESIGNED TO BE ACTIVE. Let me tell you a little more of what I mean here.

Walking: We had to start with that one. Countries like Nigeria, India, and the US are the biggest offenders in this category. We jump from house to car to office to car to bar. Back in the day, people could walk about 16 km (or 10 miles) per day just as part of their daily activities. Imagine how many calories they were burning and how many muscles they were toning! You could be burning like 1000 calories just going about your daily business. I think we all know it would be incredibly difficult to walk this distance today simply because it would take up all of our time, but at least we could up our walks a little more. If you need two things from the store, don’t drive. Maybe walk out there. You just ate dinner with your significant other? Maybe take a little walk afterwards. Are you just heading down the street? Maybe put your heels in a bag and walk down there. The key is to add extra walking time to our day.

Relax: When those cave men slept, they slept. Today, most adults survive on little to no sleep (I am the worst offender). Our bodies were designed for both activity and rest, and we’re not getting enough of either. Even when we sit, we’re not really resting. We’re either working or talking on the phone. If you work out a lot, you really really need your rest. No joke. Your body needs recuperation time to repair those muscles you’ve worked so hard on. I believe that lack of R&R leads to a lot of injury as well.

Go outdoors: Cavemen know nothing about tar or a treadmill. Yea, they fought wars all the time, but sometimes the body just needs dirt, grass, and other stinky men/women. If you know how to play a sport, do it more often! It’s summer time now, so go outside and play. Kick a football around, run on the beach, or even throw a ball around. It’s good for you. Exercising with other people always makes you work harder, and puts you in a good mood. Plus, there’s that vitamin D that our bodies need, and can only get from the sun. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more rampant as people are now spending all their time on their laptops and video games.

Do the heavy lifting: When they needed heat, they chopped firewood. When they needed food, they killed a deer and brought it home. I’m not saying kill a deer (unless you see it jump in front of my vehicle on the highway), but I’m saying try to do some heavy lifting every day. Men, this is a clear excuse to be a gentleman.  You see your hot neighbour struggling with some bags? Help her and get a workout in the process. I have a friend that lifts the pot of food over his head when he cooks and stays that way for a few seconds. Before you hurt yourself and then sue me, maybe don’t try this at home because it’s super-dangerous. But you get the picture. Try to find innovative ways to lift stuff every day. Move your boxes around at work just to move something. Lift your kids, nieces, or nephews when you get home. Men, make it a habit of lifting your girlfriend or wife. And don’t give me the excuse that she weighs 200 pounds; it’ll make you stronger. Look around your home for things you can lift regularly. Work on that back!

Incorporate movement into your day: You’ve heard me say this time and time again, but take the stairs! Park your car at the end of the parking lot and walk. Or park your car far away from your favorite market woman. You know she’s the last person you’ll visit at the market so you try to park close so that you can jump right into your car afterwards. Yea, I see you. Maybe park a few shops back. A lot of people take pride in the fact that they spend 2 or 3 days a week in the gym, but what about the rest of the time? Move as much as you can every day.

If it helps, wake up in the morning and say to yourself “I am a cave man!” Okay, maybe that’s sort of drastic and weird, but do what you must to start thinking a little like one when it comes to your body. In the age of technology, metrosexuals, makeup, and processed food, it’s pretty difficult to give up some of the luxuries simply to feel healthier. And it’s even harder to explain to people why you just walked 15 minutes instead of driving. But soon enough, it’d become habit and you’d start to use your body the way it was meant to be used.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

No, we did not win the Best Health and Fitness category in the Nigerian Blog Awards, but I’m glad we still got a ton of new readers. Thanks a lot to all who voted! You are awesome :-)

For all of the ladies and gentlemen that have been letting me know about your success stories with your weight loss or health goals, thanks a lot for including me in such an important part of your life! For all others, if you would like to share success stories with me, please send them to You might be our first published success story!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is There Really Such a Thing as a Healthy Barbecue?

It is summer, and I know there is one question on all our minds: Hot dog vs. Hamburger? It’s barbecue season and that can trigger all sorts of anxiety when you’re trying to watch what you eat. But short of locking yourself up indoors, how can you still have all the summer fun, but yet stay on track with your diet? The key is knowing what your options are.

It’s all in the bun: Did you know that you could rack up up to 200 calories from the burger or hot dog bun alone? This is why it is necessary to be really careful when selecting barbecue buns. If you can, try to stick to options that say “whole grain” in the list of ingredients. Otherwise, you can substitute a regular bun with any of the following options: English muffin, Sandwich Thins, or a whole wheat wrap or pita. This could help cut your bun calories in half.

Dress it up low-cal style: Another big offender that is easily overlooked is the dressing. At barbecues, we use everything from mayo to ketchup to mustard, but what should we be using? I suggest either using just a drop of the items listed (as much as your pinky finger to be exact), or switch to something else completely. I know I tend to talk about jerk sauce a lot on this website, but it is such a great substitute for some of the other sauces. For example, one tablespoon of mayonnaise contains about 50 calories, while one teaspoon of thick jerk marinade contains only 5 calories. And you probably won’t use the whole teaspoon for one grilled piece of meat.

Don’t do the mystery meat: The big problem with a hot dog is that we really don’t know what’s in it. They say it’s pork, but sometimes you eat it and you’re like “That sure does not taste like the pork I know”. Hot dogs are becoming more and more processed, and so when you’re selecting what to eat at a barbecue, it may be better to go for the burger. At least burgers are less mysterious, and have very many lean options. However, if you must have a hot dog, and if you have options, there are now lean sausage versions like chicken and turkey that can help bring your calorie count down. I’ve seen lean turkey sausages with about 150 calories. Aside from burgers and hot dogs, it would be even better if you just grilled whole chunks of real meat like chicken breast or salmon. Marinade them and grill. Yum…

Veg it up: Another reason why choosing a burger might be better than a hot dog? You can fill your burger with loads of veggies. But besides the veggies you put in your bun, grilling vegetables gives them that awesome smoky taste. You can basically grill anything from broccoli to tomatoes to peppers. Rather than stuff yourself with meat, shake it up a bit and add in some veggie options.

I know you might think it would be hard to change from the standard barbecue choices, but it really should not be too difficult. If you’re not sure what they’ll be serving at a barbecue, ask if you can contribute. I’ve never seen a barbecue host that said no when asked if a guest could bring something. As I always say, when invited to eat, bring something you can eat. That eliminates the problem of not having any options, or having the wrong ones.

What are your secrets for getting through summer barbecues unscathed?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Does More Sex = Better Health?

If you were looking for a yes or no to determine whether you should have sex with a different person every day this year, you have come to the wrong place. However, I’d like to shed some light on some of the myths and the truths about sex and your health.

Most of us come from cultures where faith and religion are two very popular things, and so we pride ourselves on the fact that no pre-marital sex makes us better, healthier people. But besides the belief that sex is tied to faith, how much is it tied to how healthy we are?

Question 1: Is there such a thing as too much sex?
Per Dr. Claire Bailey of the University of Bristol, for women, there is no such thing. Well, unless your body has a problem producing lubricant. Then the problem is more with chafing the vaginal area than anything else. For men however, there is such a thing as too much sex. It's funny how we've come to think of this the reverse way.

Per Dr. J. Francois Eid, a urologist with Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, during an erection, very little blood flows to the penis. During actual intercourse, zero blood flows into penis. So basically, to absorb oxygen, the tissue must become relaxed. This is why the penis naturally experiences periods of flaccidity between orgasms. If you do not allow the penis to relax, then the muscle tissue does not get enough oxygen. That could lead to a whole bunch of complications where the muscle becomes so engorged, it's painful.

Additionally, for men, having sex with multiple partners can, all by itself, raise a man's risk of prostate cancer by up to 40%. That's because he runs an increased risk of contracting sexual infections. So unfortunately, the answer for the male species is that yes, there is such a thing as too much sex.

Note that for either party, unprotected sex with multiple partners also poses the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. So women, while you're out humping today in jubilation, please remember to take the necessary precautions.

Question 2: On the other hand, is there such a thing as too little sex?
If you have never had sex before, whether as a man or a woman, there is little risk associated with not having any sex. However, as a woman (especially post menopausal women), if you have been sexually active and chose to stop, the opening of your vagina could slowly start narrowing from disuse, says Dr. George Winch Jr., an obstetrician/gynecologist in Elko, Nevada. This could lead to vaginal atrophy, or a loss of vaginal function (yes that actually happens to people). Per Dr. Winch, he has actually advised his sexually inactive post menopausal patients to go and buy vibrators to reduce this risk. A post menopausal woman with a vibrator is not really an image I want in my mind right now. Thanks Dr. Winch! Speaking of which, that name of yours…

Question 3: What does sex do for my physical fitness level?
For everyone, sex does serve as cardiovascular exercise, especially because the body releases endorphins and adrenalin that allow us to work hard and expend energy without being too conscious of the physical effort we are putting in. You want specifics though, don’t you? Alright, alright. You can actually burn as many calories from one sex session as you can from a 15 minute cardiovascular sweat session.

Sex also seems to have a lot of additional benefits for women. Regular sessions can not only firm a woman's tummy and buttocks but also improve her posture because of the intense pelvic movements. Well, it depends on the sex positions I guess.

Question 4: Are there any additional health benefits of sex?
Yes, there are tons. Several studies have shown that having sex about three times a week reduced the risk of a heart attack or a stroke by about 50% in men. That’s a huge difference. I think that the risk of heart disease might be related to the next benefit, which is reduced stress and reduced depression.

I’m sure you know of all the hormones released during and after sex in both men and women. These hormones help to reduce our stress levels. But where does the reduced depression come in? Several studies have shown that prostaglandin, a hormone in semen, helps modulate the female hormones. Talk about male and female bodies working in sync!

There are also several other diseases that regular sex helps to prevent. Endorphins, the hormones released during exercise, are also released during sex. So is another antibody called immunoglobulin, which boosts our immune systems. When endorphins and immunoglobulin are released, our bodies naturally become their own pain relievers, alleviating different types of pain from headaches to pains associated with PMS. So regular sex could actually cure you? That’s a new one.

What are your views on sex and health? Are there any sex questions you'd like answered by a professional? Ask and we'll help you get the answers.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

PS. Thanks to all our readers for nominating Eights & Weights as one of the Best Health & Fitness blogs in the Nigerian Blog Awards! Now please vote here! We'd love to win :)

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