There’s no shortage of talk about mindfulness. In fact, a growing amount of research is exploring the connection between our brains and our bodies. Whether or not Hannah Bronfman knows it, the catchphrase that the HBFIT founder lives by is at the core of this way of thinking.
“My personal mantra would be, ‘Mind right, body tight,’" Bronfman tells Health. "And that is because I think a lot of people lose sight of why they work out, and for me it is more of a mind-body connection. So that kind of reminds me that it’s not just about the physical, it’s about the mental as well.”
Clearly Bronfman’s brain is in alignment with her frame because her workouts—from one-legged deadlifts while balancing on a slam ball to prowler pushes to yoga—have been yielding some pretty awesome results. But she wasn’t always as dialed in as she is now. It was a tragedy in her life that may have launched the change in her perspective.
“My grandmother actually became very sick when I was 19 and it was actually because she had battled with anorexia her whole life, and so she basically got to a point in her life where her body could no longer support her,” Bronfman told us at a launch event for her book Do What Feels Good, which hits bookshelves in January. “When she passed away, that was a huge eye-opening experience for me to not only lead my happiest and healthiest version of myself."
She also hopes that other women "realize that these types of issues that I had seen as a little girl—if you don’t get that under control and change that conversation with yourself—these are thoughts and feelings that will stay with you your whole life, and, ultimately, could lead to your demise, like my grandmother.”
Intimate and personal stories like this—along with recipes, DIY beauty, and healthy-living advice—are all things that have helped Bronfman on her overall wellness journey, and she includes them in her book. She also wants to get one more point across.
“This book is not a how-to, it’s not a diet book, it’s not a manual on how to be like me… This is all the information that has gotten me through. It has changed the way I thought about myself, changed the way I have conversations about myself, and taught me a lot about how I feel, and so this knowledge is to help everyone on their journey of self-discovery.”
Bravo Bronfman. Bravo.
I love to dance, though I rarely get to do it. This is likely why, even though I have rhythm, it can take me a while to catch on to the steps. So when the newest Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) DVD, Cardio Dance for Weight Loss, came across my desk proclaiming â€œPerfect for beginners! No partner needed!â€ I couldnâ€™t wait to get home, pull the rug back in the den, and bust a move.
The DVD offers samba, salsa, and swing routines, led by two long-time DWTS instructors: Kym Johnson (she partnered with singer Donny Osmond and football player Hines Ward to take first-place finishes in seasons 9 and 12, respectively) and Mark Ballas (who helped Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson bring home the coveted mirror ball in seasons 6 and 8).
First, the good part: These routines will make you sweat, even if you donâ€™t get the steps quite right. Youâ€™re constantly in motion, so your heart rate gets up and stays there. And itâ€™s fun…some of the time.
Why just â€œsome of the timeâ€ you might ask? For each style, Kym and/or Mark teach three multi-step combinations in just 15 minutes, and I found myself wishing again and again that they hadnâ€™t tried to cram so much into just a short period. Youâ€™re given very little time to learn a step before moving on to the next oneâ€”not a good set-up for beginners, and something that caused me to mutter â€œslow down!â€ to the TV in frustration every couple of minutes. Seriously, cutting the number of steps in half wouldâ€™ve been a game changer for me.
What's more, thereâ€™s limited specific instruction, and both coaches assume you know terms like â€œkick ball change,â€ â€œlocking,â€ and â€œpas de bourree.â€ I donâ€™t. Granted, the warm-up cleverly doubles as an intro to a few of the basic steps for each dance style, but those basics only get you so far.
Donâ€™t get me wrong: The routines are fun and lively, and I can totally see how a more experienced dancer would enjoy the heck out of this DVD. As for me, Iâ€™ll be on the lookout for a more beginner-friendly dance forum. Maybe a return to Zumba is in order….
Product: Dancing with the Stars: Cardio Dance for Weight Loss
Pros: The lively routines will get you sweating in no timeâ€”they make for an excellent cardio workout.
Cons: The routines are too complicated and fast-moving for beginners to master easily.
Cost: $13.49 at Amazon.com
Extra tip: Wear shoes with smooth bottoms so you donâ€™t wrench your knees.
With daylight saving time ending this weekend, many walkers and runners will soon find themselves pounding the pavement in the dark. And while morning exercisers will get a bit of a boost from the lighter sky, it won't last for long. But that doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to traveling the sidewalk or going nowhere on the stationary bike at the local gym.
I've always preferred exercising in the fresh air, whether it's dark or light. Before my daughter was born, I worked out in the evenings; now, I do it super early in the morning as I'll be through by the time my husband leaves for his teaching job. So, I'm used to working out in the dark. Here's what I've learned about staying safe:
Be visible. Wear at least one major reflective piece (I'm talking about a vest, jacket, or belt, for example—that tiny silver logo on the ankle of your black running tights isn't going to do the job). This way you'll be seen by whoever might be traveling the road. Don't have one? Click here to read about some of my favorite after-dark workout wear. And for even more visibility, clip a flashing light onto your waistband.
Go against traffic. You want to be able to see oncoming cars so you can get out of the way if the driver doesn't seem to have registered your presence. (And trust me, that applies to the majority of folks on the road after dark.) If you can, choose streets with either a sidewalk or a wide, flat shoulder.
Leave your iPod at home. I'm not saying Lady Gaga isn't an awesome workout partner, but you need to be able to hear approaching vehicles, especially if you live in a hilly area (as I do), where you can't rely on headlights to clue you in. Plus, you'll want to have a heads-up when someone is approaching on foot.
Carry your cell phone. You hate to think there'd be an emergency, but let's be realistic: It happens. And if it's dark, fewer people will be around to help you. Make sure to have your ID with you, too (I love my RoadID wristband—no need to pull my license from my wallet and hope I'll remember to put it back). Another idea: Invest in a Travel Stix, a nifty credit-card-size flash drive that stores your medical and contact info.
Buddy up. Not only is it safer when two people are running together, but having a workout partner is a great motivator too. It's not easy making yourself get out there at the crack of dawn or after a long day at work, so it helps to know someone's counting on you to do it.
And hey, the whole darkness thing isn't so bad. Think of it this way: No need to worry about what you look like!
Walk your way to a better memory
Exercise may improve memory as well as or better than medication in older people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study included 138 people over age 50 who had memory problems, but not outright dementia. Half of them walked or did other types of relatively vigorous exercise for 50 minutes, three times a week, and half did not. By the end of the six-month study, the exercisers had about a 1-point memory improvement on a test with a 0 to 70 point score compared to non-exercisers. Yes, it doesn’t sound like much. However, the Australian authors point out that it beats medication, which does relatively little to improve memory in at-risk people. So why is exercise beneficial? It’s unclear, but it may improve blood flow in the brain. However, getting people to exercise—particularly those who are older or who may have arthritis or other health problems—is tough, according to a JAMA editorial. But fear of Alzheimer’s disease “may help motivate older individuals and society to become more physically active,” writes Eric B. Larson, MD. (Read more about the health benefits of exercise for senior citizens, as well as tips for working out.)
If diamonds really are forever, you can be too
You may have heard about the "Bling Is Dead" movement—basically, a backlash in hip-hop circles against the so-called "blood diamonds" harvested in war-torn African nations. Now, as Reuters reports, a Swiss company is making bling from the dead. For as little as $7,500, the chemists at Algordanza (which means "remembrance" in the local Swiss dialect) will take your loved one's ashes, extract the roughly 2% carbon content from them, and subject the purified residue to intense heat and pressure. A couple months later, a cut, buffed, and polished synthetic rock is yours to take home. "Some people find it helpful to go to the cemetery and grieve, and they leave their grief in the cemetery," Algordanza chairman Veit Brimer told Reuters. "There are some people who, for whatever reason, do not want to have this farewell." The company's biggest market so far is Japan, where land is scarce and cremation is common. Meanwhile, U.S.-based LifeGem takes a different approach: It makes diamonds from the carbon-rich hair of deceased loved ones, pets included.
Kids burn more calories with some video games than others
It appears that stamping out ninjas—virtually, that is—burns more calories than dispatching them with a joystick. In a study that parents around the globe should love, University of Hong Kong researchers discovered that children who play an active video game that involves bowling, action, or running burn four times more calories and have higher heart rates than they do playing a conventional video game. The children, aged 6 to 12, used a gaming system called XaviX, which has a mat that allows virtual running and walking on the streets of Hong Kong, in addition to activities like “stamping out ninjas,” according to the report in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. While encouraging, the study is just a “drop to the bucket of research” needed to figure out how to combat obesity in U.S. children, according to an editorial.
You’ve come a long way, baby
Women who smoke can achieve equality with men—in terms of heart attack, that is. In a study of Norwegian heart-attack patients, women who didn’t smoke tended to have their first heart attack at an average age of 81, and male smokers tended to have a first heart attack around age 72. However, if they smoked, women tended to have their first heart attack at 66 and men at 64, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology. So men lost an average of six years of a heart-attack-free life, while women lost 14 years (after taking into account other risk factors). "Smoking might erase the natural advantage that women have," Robert Harrington, MD, a professor of medicine at Duke University and spokesman for the American College of Cardiology, told the Associated Press. Estrogen is thought to protect women from heart disease before menopause, and smoking may cause earlier menopause, the researchers say. (Take Health.com's quiz: What Kind of Smoker Are You?)
Surgical nano-bots on the march
Johns Hopkins University engineers have unveiled a nano-sized surgical tool that could make minimally invasive surgery even more precise. According to the MIT Technology Review, the hand-shaped, copper and chromium "micro-gripper" (at work in this video) can be controlled remotely by magnets outside the body. The gripper's tiny "fingers" respond to chemical cues or temperature changes and curl around tissues, cells, or tumors that need extracting from the body. The gripper is a mere 500 micrometers in diameter with its claws extended (about the width of 8 human hairs), and 190 micrometers when clenched. David Gracias, the biomolecular- and chemical-engineering professor at Hopkins who led the development of the gripper, says the goal is "to have a machine that you can swallow, or [to] inject small structures that move and can do things" on their own. No word yet on what sort of indigestion a battalion of nano-surgeons duking it out inside your gut might cause.
(PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)
By Tina Haupert
Over the weekend, my husband and I participated in a 5K road race with our pug, Murphy. Yep, you read that right—our little pug finished 3.1 miles! He's one buff dog!
I enjoyed the event so much, I couldn't help but think about other ways to incorporate fun, easy fitness into my everyday life. Of course, the 5K was a special event, but regular exercise should be enjoyable! I know exercise is essential to maintaining my weight and improving my overall health, but with my busy schedule, it's often tough to fit in fitness. Sometimes hitting the gym feels like an impossible task! I don't want to skip out on my weight loss and fitness goals altogether, so I found a number of easy ways to fit fitness into my everyday life.