The SparkPeople Blog

Monkey Around & Get Fit With This Playground Workout

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/14/2016  12:00:00 AM   :  7 comments   :  7,562 views

The playground is to children as the bar is to adults--a communal space where gossip is exchanged, friendships are cemented and good times are had by all. The big difference between the two, though, is the level of activity. Kids hit the playground like it's their job, running from slide to slide, pushing themselves to finally make it across the monkey bars, pumping their legs furiously to prove to their friends that it is possible to flip over the swing bar and racing one another from one activity to the next. It's almost exhausting to watch how hard they play.

But just because we've graduated from the fourth grade doesn't mean we should let the kids have all the fun, does it? Isn't it time we took back the playground? 

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Get Up & GO: How a Gaming App is Inspiring Accidental Exercise

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/12/2016  12:00:00 AM   :  22 comments   :  8,258 views

SparkPeople's tech team gives the Pokemon Go app a whirl.Have you caught Pokémon fever yet? Since the July 6 release of the free Pokémon Go app, gamers across the country (including SparkPeople's very own tech team, shown at right) have been roaming the streets, parks and shopping malls while staring down at their phones—but for once, it's got nothing to do with texting.

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Bacon or Bust: Should You Skip Breakfast?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/11/2016  12:00:00 AM   :  16 comments   :  23,828 views

Rise and shine, or rise and dine? For decades, eating breakfast on the daily has been heralded as the cornerstone of a healthy diet, with countless studies linking morning meals to everything from better academic performance to more efficient glucose metabolism to reduced risk of heart disease. For many, it provides the necessary fuel to tackle an early workout or demanding workday. If you're trying to slim down, breakfast has also been shown to give you an advantage in the weight loss department.
But recently, new research emerged suggesting that it may be okay for dieters to skip breakfast. In one Canadian study of more than 12,000 people, there was no significant difference in body mass index between the groups who started their days with morning meals and those who opted out. And other studies have suggested that minifasting, or occasionally skipping meals—breakfast, perhaps—could help regulate blood sugar, boost energy and strengthen immunity.
Complicating things further, a 2016 Yale study showed that eating two breakfasts could do more to prevent childhood obesity than skipping breakfast, the idea being that breakfast-skippers would be more likely to overeat later in the day. "In addition to preventing obesity, eating breakfast has also been linked with better concentration and test scores in school-aged children, as well as reducing incidence of hunger, notes Lisa Andrews, registered dietitian with Sound Bites Nutrition. "As 15 million children suffer from food insecurity in the U.S., offering breakfast at school is a great alternative to combating malnutrition as well as obesity."

With all of these conflicting reports hitting your newsfeed, what's the definitive answer on the a.m. eating debate? SparkPeople's registered dietitian, Becky Hand, is here to break it down.

One Breakfast Does Not Fit All

Hand's quick answer to whether breakfast is beneficial or expendable: It depends.

"One-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations just don't work, and that includes breakfast," she says. "It's not realistic to make a general recommendation that everyone needs to eat breakfast within a certain time of waking."

According to Hand, the question of when and if to eat first thing in the morning hinges on many different factors, such as age, medical needs, physical and mental demands, and hunger scale and food availability throughout the morning hours. For example, a construction worker who will spend the next six hours digging a ditch likely needs more early sustenance than a teenager who will sleep until mid-morning, and someone who will be doing creative work at a computer may need more fuel than someone performing routine tasks. If you typically become grouchy or fatigued when you go a few hours without eating, you're probably not a good candidate for waiting until noon to nosh.

"When determining the importance of breakfast, also consider the quality of that breakfast," Hand recommends. Chocolate-covered puffs of dough won't deliver the same benefits as, say, scrambled eggs with whole-wheat toast or an apple with peanut butter.
The Breakfast Bottom Line

The only way to determine whether breakfast is essential or dispensable is to assess your situation and your eating plan, says Andrews.

If you don’t have much of an appetite in the mornings, you’re already a healthy weight and your a.m. activities don’t require early fuel, you may be able to skip it. But if you tend to wake hungry and your body needs sustenance to perform critical morning tasks, you’re a good candidate for a healthy breakfast. The quality of the food also plays a big factor in the decision to skip or not to skip. If you usually start the day with sugary cereal or donuts, which add more empty calories than sustaining fuel, your diet won’t suffer without it. But if you reach for high-protein, relatively low-calorie breakfasts that help curb cravings and keep you full until lunch, your current eating plan is likely serving you well.

And in the event that hunger strikes early, it's always a good idea to have high-quality foods readily available. "If food is not available or there is no time for a break, you may need to force yourself to eat a lighter breakfast earlier in the morning to stay in working action until noon," Hand says. Short on time but big on hunger? Check out these quick and healthy breakfast ideas to get your engine going in 10 minutes or less.

What do you think about the purported benefits of eating (or skipping) breakfast? Do you eat a full breakfast, grab a quick snack on the run or just wait until lunch?

*Updated 7/19/16 to ensure accuracy of research findings.

Surprising Lessons Learned at 'Fat Camp'

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/6/2016  12:00:00 AM   :  19 comments   :  30,020 views

If you would have asked Joe Panarella a year ago if he would ever consider attending a weight loss camp, he probably would have laughed. Although he weighed more than 400 pounds, he had no interest in making a change, and was perfectly content with continuing along the same unhealthy path he'd followed since adolescence. But his friends and family refused to give up. Today, Joe is the first to admit that his three-week stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center could very well have saved his life. This is his story.

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Keep Your Feet Happy and Healthy During Summer Travel

By: , – Vionic Shoes
7/5/2016  12:00:00 AM   :  10,220 views

Traveling and exploring are some of the best parts about summer, but walking long distances and standing (hello, airport security lines!) can take a toll on your feet. We spoke with Vionic Innovation Lab experts Dr. Jackie Sutera and Brian Hoke, DPT about how you can preserve the health of your feet while enjoying a jam-packed schedule of summer travel.

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7 Yoga Moves Guaranteed to Target That 6-Pack

By: , – Laurenn Cutshaw, Yoga Six Studio
7/5/2016  12:00:00 AM   :  7 comments   :  29,589 views

The coveted six-pack is here to stay, but before you start doing a bunch of ineffective crunches, there's something you need to know. Aesthetics aside, having a strong core is essential for everything from balance and stability to preventing injury during other activities, according to Harvard Health Publications. Work on your core and you're also working towards better posture, comfort while you twist or lift items, a pain-free back and more.
There are four main abdominal muscle groups: The deepest muscle layer, the transversus abdominis, stabilizes your trunk. The internal and external oblique muscles work together to rotate the trunk. The final muscle in the group, the rectus abdominis, draws the ribs down toward the hips to create spinal flexion–and six-pack abs. If you're lean and do a ton of crunches you'll surely develop a six-pack, but crunches alone are not going to stabilize your core.
How can you stabilize your core and build killer abs? Three things: clean eating, cardio and smart strength training. With its challenging stabilization poses, yoga is a great place to start. Try these seven poses that target your middle and deliver in all the all the right ways. You'll be feeling these in a hurts-so-good kind of way tomorrow.

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