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Balanced Living for Athletes

August 2009

by T[iffany Houser||Tiffany Houser], Green Monkey Interactive


I was fortunate enough to have parents that made me take swim classes, dance lessons, and gymnastics during my pre-school years. Not only did theses activities enhance my physical and social skills, but I now realize they began my journey of having a love affair with physical fitness and movement.

iffany Houser

I make it a point to encourage parents that I know and meet to enroll their children in all three activities, both boys and girls, for many reasons.



First, I am a huge proponent of children taking swim lessons for safety reasons primarily. As a former lifeguard, seeing the terror on certain children's faces around water was painful knowing how much joy it brings into other children's lives or the terror I experienced when an unknowing little one would jump into the water with a smile and come above the water in panic.



The reason I feel strongly about dance lessons for children is that it brings out a lot of qualities that cannot be taught because they are learned through experience such as rhythm, creativity and performing in front of audiences. I believe dance not only challenging their bodies but it stimulates their minds by keeping track of the step counts, following the beat of the music and staying aware of their surroundings while moving their little bodies.



The performance aspect of dance brings out personalities and pride as they are not only taking lessons but also preparing to showcase what they learned in front of an audience of more than mom and dad. I'm sure that with television programs such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars is leading to more young adults taking dance lessons since these shows are breaking down the traditional stereotypes that used to be associated with the world of dancing.



iffany HouserHowever, I believe the ultimate activity for all children to experience is gymnastics. This is what truly developed me into an athlete and more so, built my confidence and eliminated fears. I was instantly good at most sports because of gymnastics which is why I gravitated naturally to also becoming a cheerleader and a track athlete. My gymnastics skills catapulted me into doing well in both these sports since I was willing to try anything even if it meant potential injury.



As my body is constantly changing and seems to remember old skills and picks up new skills, I am realizing the results that this movement trifecta had on me.



Getting involved in all three early in life allowed me to be coachable and learn in a group environment and be evaluated in a group and as an individual. I also benefited from meeting friends before I started kindergarten which gave me a sense of familiarity and security rather than being peeled off my parents on the first day of school.



Since I was fairly good at all three, I developed a good deal of independence and pride in myself where I began choosing what classes I wanted to take and routines I wanted to perform. Even though in my early childhood I was TERRIFIED to communicate in public or even order a meal directly from a waiter in a restaurant, I had no problem tumbling or tapping around in front of large audiences.



This led me to trying out for organized teams which brought out the competitive side in me. I believe this is what also made me a better academic student because I was used to performing at my best. I became a parent's dream because I fell in love with school in general. I never wanted to miss a day!



I refer to dance, swimming and gymnastics as activities in this blog post because I wanted to stress the benefits to parents without the association of what it means to involve children in sports. Even though each of the three are among the leading international sports, all three do possess the ability to give children a life set of skills both physically and mentally to use in almost every situation in life. This is why movement at a young age encourages and is a breeding ground for not only successful adults, but healthy, happy and balanced adults.



There are many studies proving that children who are involved in activities outside of school whether they are sports-related or not are better students and develop quality social skills. Other studies go to prove that children who are involved in physical activities whether it be organized sports or some sort of class or lesson in a physical discipline are more likely to live healthier and happier lifestyles because they learn at an early age the importance of the body's performance and because in certain cases they perform in public and are supported by peers and family leading to a fulfilling experience that they want to duplicate throughout life.



443 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: gymnastics, health, children, dance, swim-class

by Tiffany Houser, Green Monkey Interactive


"You are what you eat," says the old adage, but what about "you are what you are not eating?"



Calorie Restriction (CR) is the practice of eating fewer calories (5 - 40% less) while achieving adequate or optimal nutrition. Since the 1930's extensive scientific research has shown that calorie restriction improves health and extends the life span of nearly every species tested due to the reduction of stress on the digestive and immune systems.

Tiffany Houser

The theory is that your DNA recognizes that you body is working more efficiently and re-creates efficient cells. Cardiologist and Oprah's medical expert Dr. Mehmet Oz believes that calorie restriction can have longevity benefits. "We think we can actually reach life spans of 150 years with calorie restriction," Dr. Oz says. However, Dr. Oz says it is far too difficult for most people to restrict calories.



Paul McGlothin and Meredith Averill, authors of The CR Way: Using the Secrets of Calorie Restriction for a Longer, Healthier Life, and Calorie Restriction Society Board Members, say CR can improve brain power, decrease inflammation, lower the risk of cancer, boost happiness and increase your life span.



Dr. Oz explains that calorie restriction sends a message to your body that you will not be able to reproduce because there is not enough food. The body is then sent a self-preservation message. "Preserve what you've got because you can't afford to waste it," he says.



According to the Calorie Restriction Society (CRS) the goal of Calorie Restriction is to achieve a longer and healthier life by eating fewer calories and consuming adequate vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.


Simply eating less may not improve health or extend lifespan - it can lead to malnutrition. Before worrying about how many calories you're eating, make sure that the foods in your diet provide sufficient nutrition to avoid malnutrition once you begin to restrict them.



In order to chart your progress, and to make sure that you are avoiding nutrient deficiencies and other hazards, the CRS recommends getting at least the minimal recommended blood tests done. You'll want to know these results before your calorie restriction begins, so that you'll have a baseline for comparison as you move into calorie restriction.



Once your diet consists primarily of nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse foods, you can safely begin to reduce your total calorie intake. Make sure, however, you have considered your current state of well-being and consult with your doctor to ensure this is the right plan for you.



The recommended time for the transition from your current diet to increasingly introducing more steps towards calorie restriction, according to Dr. Roy Lee Walford, a pioneer in the field of life extension, is a minimum of 6 to 9 months, but preferably 1 to 2 years.



Adult mice that were suddenly put on calorie restriction experienced shorter life spans, than mice that were slowly transitioned into to calorie restriction.



Even though most people on CR cut their calorie intake by 30%, they say it is not necessary to follow a drastic diet in order to reap the benefits of calorie restriction. They suggest that even cutting calories by 5 to 10 percent, can be a great starting point.



Here are some things to consider before moving forward with calorie restriction:



  • "Negative" appearance changes due to weight loss

  • Bone health challenges due to weight loss is often accompanied by reduced bone mass

  • Cold sensitivity due to reduced body mass

  • Children, adolescents, and young adults (under approx 21) should be advised against starting CR.

  • Loss of "cushioning" - discomfort sitting on hard surfaces, etc., due to reduced body fat.

  • Reduced energy reserves due to less body fat

  • Hunger (both psychological and physical effects), cravings, or food obsession

  • Menstrual irregularity due to dramatic weight loss. Women planning to get pregnant soon, should not begin CR until after having (and weaning) their baby.

  • Pregnancy - low body mass index is widely regarded as a risk factor in pregnancy.

  • Loss of strength and/or stamina due to loss of muscle mass from the weight loss

  • Decreased testosterone

  • Rapid weight loss (greater than 1 - 2 lbs/wk) - may do more harm than good

  • Slower wound healing - potential hazard in major accidents, violent attacks, surgeries, etc.


The CRS also mention how it can affect other lifestyle factors including social interaction such as going on CR without support from people in your inner circle or the separation it can create if you cannot participant in social gatherings or need a different meal during holidays and family dinners. CR can also be costly since most of the food is fresh and organic. CR represents a dramatic change in diet which can appeal to people who are attracted to the extreme or who may push the limits of safe or healthy CR practice.


The Calorie Restriction Society was formed to inject some scientific responsibility into the discussion of attempts to slow the aging process. As any scientifically responsible review of research in the field of gerontology, the study of the aging processes and individuals as they grow from middle age through later life, will quickly reveal, the only valid life-extension method that has any proven scientific backing behind it at all is Calorie Restriction (CR), from which "The Calorie Restriction Society" derives its name.



The CRS stresses that calorie restriction is not a weight loss program and should not be approached as a dieting tactic. This is lifestyle approach to adding years to your life by easing the work your body does to digest an over abundance of food and processed food which is a major stressor on your immune system.



So if you are what you are not eating then according to calories restriction you are promoting your health and longevity.



Check out this follow-up video from the 1991, 60 Minutes Report, Wine Rx, on the French Paradox, discussing Resveratrol and calorie restriction diets.



492 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: food, calories, lifespan, calorie-restriction, dr.oz, bone-health

Joggin' the Noggin

Posted by TiffanyHouser Aug 26, 2009

by Tiffany Houser, Green Monkey Interactive


As we continue to explore longevity this month, the attention of the topic, in general, focuses heavily on our physical body addressing illness prevention and maintaining our outer appearance. One aspect of longevity, however, that seems to only receive focus in the senior stage of life is our brain health.

Tiffany Houser

There is something to be said about aging gracefully. As most people approach their golden years, even if they are in good shape, the health of their brain could still lead to a deteriorating lifestyle leaving them and their loved ones in a painful situation.



A recent study conducted at the 1.[] showed that age-related mental decline starts in your late twenties. At 22, the human mind is at apex of mental powers and starts declining as early as age 27. Mental functions like reasoning, mental speed, and puzzle-solving are the first to go, and memory loss starts to kick in around age 37.



The findings from this study suggest that some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s, and that therapies designed to prevent or reverse age-related conditions may need to start earlier, long before people retire.



One of the most troubling American illnesses is 2.[], a brain disorder that destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging and may be a sign that brain cells are failing.



The health of your brain plays a critical role in almost everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing - even sleeping. In 1993, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, "There is a suspected link between Alzheimer's disease and the toxicity of aluminum." One of the WHO's Public Health Reports cited autopsies that found high concentrations of aluminum in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.



Many doctors and holistic experts advise avoiding products known to contain additional aluminum - especially deodorants or antiperspirants in an aerosol spray, which can be absorbed through the nasal passages, into the bloodstream, and affect both the respiratory system and the brain. You should also reconsider your consumption of food and beverage products in aluminum containers.



To jump start your own brain health program, the 2.[] recommends:



  • Staying mentally active
         Mentally stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new nerve cells. Brain Fitness is becoming increasingly popular in addition to physical exercise; people dedicate time for brain conditioning activities such as puzzles, card games, board games and brain teasers. Some fitness venues have incorporated ‘ where members can leverage their time and get both a physical and mental work-out. More and more executives are incorporating brain fitness into their workouts.

  • Remaining socially active
         Social activity not only makes physical and mental activity more enjoyable, it can reduce stress levels, which helps maintain healthy connections among brain cells.

  • Staying physically active
         Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells. It can also significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. Depression and anxiety disorders both contribute to this burden and are associated with low GABA levels.

  • Adopting a brain-healthy diet
         Research suggests that high cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage. A low fat, low cholesterol diet is advisable. And there is growing evidence that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, may help protect brain cells. We provided a list of brain food below.


Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Making A Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program For Achieving And Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance, offers six things you can do to relieve stressors on the brain which include:


  • Recognize that Stress Can Make You Sick

  • Get Enough Sleep
         Tai Chi, often described as "meditation in motion," is an ancient form of stretching and balance that can help you age well. Numerous studies suggest that Tai Chi may improve everyday physical functioning, lower blood pressure, ease chronic pain, relieve anxiety, and slow bone loss after menopause. It also shows promise for alleviating insomnia, a common problem in the elderly: A sleep study found that people age 59 to 86 who regularly practiced a form of Tai Chi got more Z's and better sleep quality than those who didn't.

  • Take Supplements
         There are lots of things you could take, but Amen wants to keep this simple. He says that there is research that shows that Omega 3 (fish oil) and a good multi-vitamin promote brain health.

  • Develop Internal ANT-Eater
         Dr. Amen calls ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) stressors for the brain. These are the daily, automatic negative thoughts that go through your head in the day. "Whenever you feel sad, mad or nervous, you need to write out what you are thinking. Look at them," he says. "Are they reasonable or are they torturing you unnecessarily? And then you talk back to them. You don't have to believe every thought you have. Thoughts can lie. Correcting them will go a long way to treating depression and anxiety."


Check out these brain health tips and mind game from Dr. Mehmet Oz,cardiologist and Oprah's medical expert.


Neglecting the health of your brain is like having a beautiful, top-notch car without a gas tank to hold the fuel. Be smart and remember that a balanced approach to longevity is from head to toe caring and acknowledging the body, mind and soul.



BRAIN FOOD!![mind game|]



  1. Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, as well as fish oil, walnut oil and flaxseeds (linseeds) - are high in DHA, a fatty acid crucial to the health of our nervous system. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. Fish also contain iodine, which is known to improve mental clarity.

  2. Evidence suggests that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.

  3. Vitamin B12, found in seafood and poultry. A recent study found that people with low blood levels of this nutrient experienced a faster decline in cognitive function than those with higher levels. Most of us can get enough B12 from our diet, but certain people need supplements, such as vegans (who don't eat animal products), notes Dr. Andrew Weil. The same goes for some people over 65, because decreased levels of stomach acid can make it difficult to absorb B12 from food. Weil recommends these groups take B12 as part of a B-complex supplement.Folic acid and vitamin B12 help prevent homocysteine from building up in the body - levels of which have been found to be higher in people who have Alzheimer's. Fortified cereals are a great source of B12 and also contain complex carbohydrates which release energy over a long period and will keep you more mentally alert throughout the day.

  4. A daily dose of zinc, found in a handful of pumpkin seeds, can be vital to enhancing memory and thinking skills.

  5. Broccoli is a great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve [Dr. Andrew Weil|]brainpower.

  6. Sage has a long reputation for improving memory

  7. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of Vitamin E might help to prevent poor memory. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, seeds, eggs, brown rice and whole grains.

  8. Eye Q, a blend of high grade marine fish oil and evening primrose oil, is thought to boost brainpower in children. A study by Durham County Council and Mansfield College, Oxford, concluded that 40 percent of the children sampled improved both their reading skills and attention spans when taking the supplements.

  9. Ethos Endymion, which contains L-Carnosine, a strong antioxidant which appears to have dramatic results for a number of conditions: cataracts, improving skin tone, speeding up wound healing, and protecting the brain from plaque formation that may lead to senility and Alzheimer's. L-Carnosine is found in chicken and lean red meat so this powder supplement could be especially useful for vegans or those with high cholesterol.




More on Brain Health




633 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: diet, active, exercise, sleep, brain-health, memory, alzheimers, stree


Member since: Aug 26, 2009

Tips and articles on the athletic body and the athletic mind from Tiffany Houser of Green Monkey.

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