Woman enjoying meal at a cafe

Stress Free Ways To Cut Calories

You know something is big when it gets its own nickname. When Jennifer Lopez became JLo, it was Illuminati confirmed. When Ben and Jennifer united to form Bennifer, the star power was undeniable, and when hunger joined anger to make hanger, you know it wasn’t just a figment of the imagination. Hanger is real. It even has its own meme.

Why do we get hangry? As time passes after you eat, your blood glucose level starts to drop and, if it falls fast enough, your brain perceives it as a life-threatening emergency. Hence the reason you flipped over your desk at work after you were told your lunch hour would be a bit late. So what do you do when you’re trying to cut calories, but want to maintain your cool while doing it? Relax, there are some stress-free ways to diet.

Guilt
If you find yourself going on a major guilt trip every time you sneak that extra cookie, you may have unrealistic goals. If your diet involves cutting your favorite food completely out of your menu or losing 5 pounds a month, you’ve set the bar too high and are giving yourself a greater chance of failure. Clinical psychologist Marlene Schwartz, PhD advises dieters to go easy on themselves. Focus on small goals that will increase your chance of success, like taking a walk during lunch time. According to Schwartz, “Research shows that the more you believe you can lose weight the more likely you are to actually do it.”

Stressed businesswoman

Stress
If your stress levels are through the roof, you might seek some support. A recent study conducted by Ashton University in England showed that dieters who did not have the social support of an organized group showed higher stress-hormone levels than those who belonged to an assigned weight-loss program.

While commercial programs, such as Weight Watchers can help lend a communal feeling to the dieting process. a John Hopkins University study showed that participation in church-based exercise and nutrition programs are just as likely to succeed. The friends you already have can be your biggest cheerleaders. According to Beth Casey Gold, RD, when recruiting your buddies, “emphasize how important it is to you to make these lifestyle changes, then offer specific examples of what kind of encouragement will help and what won’t.” Stress positive reinforcement over negative remarks for best results.

Anger
If you find yourself lashing out at the family, it may be due to a significant cut in carbs, a side effect known by experts as the “Atkin’s Attitude.” “Your body need carbs to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter in your brain that regulates mood, emotion, sleep, and appetite.” informs Judith Wurtman, PhD and director of Women’s Health at MIT. The quick anger fix? Grab a healthy high carb snack like popcorn or whole grain toast. Try to get at least 130 grams of carbs per day to maintain optimal brain function, according to the National Academy of Sciences’ Food and Nutrition Board.

 Temptation
In constructing your diet, focus on long-term changes, rather than short-term deprivation. If you commit to eating nothing but celery and carrots each day, you are probably dieting with an end in sight. Schwartz suggests that you, “gradually incorporate small changes that you’ll stick with for life. Try swapping one unhealthy food out for a healthier one rather than completely depriving yourself. You’ll be less likely to succumb to temptation.

How do you handle hanger? Let us know what works for you. We love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Woman with pruritis

Identifying The Root Causes of Pruritis

Generalized itching, also known as pruritus, can be maddening, perplexing, and even downright depressing. If you are suffering from annoying itchiness, here is some information on pruritus and its causes.

What is Pruritis?
Pruritus can be defined as profuse itchiness of the skin and is a relatively common disorder affecting 20-25% of the population at one time in their lives. The condition can be, but is usually not, accompanied by a rash and the itching can range from a minor itch to a very severe itch, capable of disrupting quality of life. “Acute pruritis” is the term used for pruritus lasting six weeks or less; while “chronic pruritus” is used to refer to cases which exceed a six-week duration. For the majority of cases, there is no identifiable cause. If the condition is chronic and no cause is found, the condition is termed “Idiopathic Chronic Pruritis.”

What are the Causes?
Itching can be caused by many things including allergic manifestation, a side effect of medication, an infection, a skin disorder, or a psychological disorder. It can also be caused by a systemic disease such as, a kidney problem, thyroid disease, a neurologic disease, a blood disorder, liver disease, or connective tissue disorder and malignancy; it can also be caused by pregnancy.

How Is Pruritis Diagnosed?
A board certified allergist should be able to ask the correct questions to discover the cause of pruritis. A detailed family history should be taken from the patient and a thorough physical examination should follow. The next steps may include laboratory tests such as urinalysis, X-rays, skin biopsies , patch tests, and stool samples.

How Is Pruritis Treated?
If a systemic disease is determined to be the root cause, the itching usually subsides after the disease is treated. If there is no identifiable cause, there are a number of treatment alternatives. Medications can be given to lessen or relieve itching. Oral medications are primarily used, but topical creams can also be successful. Medications are usually administered for one to two weeks, but more severe cases may require years of treatment. UV light therapy has also been used, although degrees of success vary.

If you suffer from generalized itching, it is recommend that you seek professional help in finding the cause. Even if no cause is found, you may be given something to reduce or completely relieve your itching. If you have struggled with pruritis, feel free to contact us and share your experience.

Woman measuring her dress size

What It Takes To Drop Two Dress Sizes

You just got an invite to your high school reunion. Great, right? You’ve stayed chummy with all your old friends through social media; now you’ll get some time to catch up face to face. There’s only one problem. The picture on your Facebook page is about two years old and you’ve gone up about two dress sizes since you took it. What are you going to do? You can’t possibly show up looking like you spent the last ten years channel surfing with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s! You need to drop two dress sizes and you need to start now! What can you do?
Well, Khloe Kardashian did it, Jennifer Hudson did it, and Oprah Winfrey did it, several times! Here’s what you need to do to drop two dress sizes in a few weeks time.

Eating
Leading naturopath Max Tomlinson says, “You need to be clever with your diet to see optimum results, especially within a relatively short time frame. Crash dieting or starvation will only lead to weight gain down the line,” These are some of the suggestions Max recommends:

Eat Regularly
If you skip meals, your body will store the food you eat rather than burning it as a source of energy. Regular eating will kick start your metabolism and help you lose weight. Breakfast is the most important meal for raising metabolic rate and ensuring that the body uses food effectively for the remainder of the day.

Control Portions
Try to reduce food intake by 45 percent. Try to consume 1,000 calories per day to lose weight without slowing metabolism.

What to Eat
Avoid empty calories and make sure to eat food that is nutrient rich. Plan a menu consisting of foods such as organic fish, eggs, poultry, lean meat, brown rice, quinoa and oats. Satisfy the RDA with two servings of fruit and three of vegetables, sticking to leafy greens and avoiding peas and sugar rich roots vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.

What Not to Eat
Steer clear of junk food and saturated fats. Restrict dairy intake, or cut it out completely, and replace it with goat milk and soy cheese. Limit treats like cakes and chips and don’t drink too many fluids. Many people up their liquid intake when they diet, but water can be taxing on your kidneys causing poor digestion and bloating.

Training
Tomlinson says, “When you diet without exercise, at least half of your weight comes for lean body mass. (muscle and non-fat tissue.) This slows your metabolism, setting you up for weight regain as soon as you increase your food intake.” Here’s one of the exercises Tomlinson suggests for his celebrity clientele.

Pile Squats
Stand with your feet a hip-width apart with your feet turned out holding dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing inward. Put your weight on your heals and squat, curling arms to your shoulders and keeping your elbows tucked in. Hold squat, and push your arms up, locking your elbows. Lower arms and come out of squat. Repeat 20-30 times.

Let us know your tips for keeping slim and, if you ever dropped a dress size or two, we’d love to hear how you did it! Let us know!

Fresh potatoes on table

The Health Benefits of Potatoes

So you go to your favorite juice joint and order your lunchtime smoothie? What do you put in it? Almond milk, coconut milk, carrot juice, ginger? What about potato juice? “Potato juice,” you say, “is that even a thing?” And if it is, do you want it? After all, aren’t potatoes full of starch and carbohydrates? Last you heard, the only thing potatoes were good for is making fries, chips, and vodka. Well, prepare to have your mind blown!

Potato juice has a long history of being used as a remedy for everything from skin disorders to inflammation to cancer and is an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients. Have a look at the endless benefits for yourself.

For Your Skin

Dark Circles
If dark circles under the eyes are one of your pet peeves, here’s potato juice to the rescue. Just soak some cotton balls in spud juice and place them under your eyes before you go to sleep. In a week, the dark circles should be things of the past.

Anti-Aging
Applying a face mask made with potato juice and curd is a great way to reduce fine lines and hydrate skin. Mix potato juice with olive oil to help eliminate dark circles and crow’s feet.

Blemishes
The anti-inflammatory properties in potato juice is an effective acne treatment. Apply directly to blemishes for best results.

Angular Cheilitis and Eczema
Angular cheilitis is a skin disorder which causes swelling and redness of the corners of the mouth. Potato juice is an anti-inflammatory that can help tone down lesions when applied to the affected area. Potato juice also contains vitamin B complex which can prevent vitamin B deficiency associated with this condition. Drinking potato juice can also be used to treat eczema, another common skin disorder.

For Your Hair

Hair Loss
If you want to speed up hair growth, mix potato juice with egg white and honey. Apply to hair and let it sit for two hours before rinsing with a mild shampoo and water.

Dry Hair
A combination of aloe vera and potato juice can restore the moisture to dry, fly-away hair.

Grey Hair
Use potato juice to rinse shampoo from your hair instead of water to darken gray hair and give it a radiant glow.

For Your Health

Detox
Another benefit of spud juice is its ability to flush toxins from the body. Toxin overload can break down the immune system. Drinking potato juice can ward off health problems caused by bacterial and fungal infection by detoxifying and boosting immune resistance.

Joint Pain and Arthritis
Potato juice’s ability to perform as an anti-inflammatory makes it a great remedy for gout, back pain, joint pain, and arthritis. Drink it before breakfast in the morning for optimal effect.

Weight Loss
Drink it twice daily to help you slim down–once in the morning on an empty stomach and again two or three hours before you hit the hay.

Digestion
Drink potato juice on a regular basis to improve digestion and thwart constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion. It is also known to have positive effects for those who suffer from GERD and can be used to treat peptic ulcers when combined with carrot juice.

What do you know about potato juice? Let us know how you get the most out of your spuds!

Woman sleeping

Addressing Chronic Sleep Problems

Staying awake all night. It’s been glamorized in rock and roll, pop, hip hop, rap and every other sort of music in between. Doing the walk of shame, showing up bleary-eyed to work the next day, all proudly displayed badges of honor for surviving a night worthy of the wildest of wild men and women throughout the course of history. But if you’re getting the morning after feeling without the experience of the night before, it may be worth taking a closer look.

Sure, staying up all night can be great and looking and feeling unwell may be par for the course after a night of fun, but not if a good night’s sleep was intended. If you are finding yourself suffering from sleep trouble, don’t just shrug it off; it may be a symptom of a medical sleep disorder and treatment may be available.

Sleep Problems
First, it should be acknowledged that there is a distinction between the terms “sleep problem” and “sleep disorder” Sleep problems are often the result of bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, eating a large meal or exercising heavily before bed. Sleep can also be disturbed by environmental factors such as psychological stress, or jet lag. These problems can usually be solved by eliminating the causes. However, sleep disorders fall under a separate category and usually require medical treatment.

Sleep Disorders

Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by an actual cessation of breathing for periods of a few seconds, followed by gasping for air. The sufferer may not be aware of anything unusual occurring until he or
she wakes up feeling hungover with a dry mouth or headache. These symptoms may be accompanied by loss of memory, concentration, and focus. Sleep apnea affects about 7% of the population and is a risk factor for high blood pressure

Treatment
Continuous positive airway pressure CPAP is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. It consists of a face mask or nasal plug which blows air into the nasal passages, allowing air to flow freely.

Surgery
Surgeries can be performed to open the airway be removing tissues that obstruct it, such as tonsils or nasal polyps. However, these are not without risk and the side effects and outcomes can be unpredictable.

Nonspecific Therapy
This addresses behavioral aspects which may be responsible for sleep apnea. Nonspecific therapy commonly involves weight loss, the avoidance of medicine, and adjustment of sleeping position.

Restless Leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome affects about 15% of the population. It is characterized by a “pins and needles feeling” in the legs causing an irresistible urge to move the legs to relieve the feeling. RLS makes falling asleep difficult and may also force the sufferer out of sleep. People with RLS may also suffer from periodic limb movement disorder characterized by repetitive muscle twitches or jerking movements in the toes, knees, or hips. RLS and PLMD have both been associated with other medical conditions, such as anemia.

Treatment
When it comes to treatment of RLS, medications are usually recommended. The three classes include: dopaminergic agents, which produce dopamine in the brain, benzodiazepines, and opioids.

Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is usually indicated by the tendency to fall asleep spontaneously. It is often linked to cataplexy, a sudden weakness brought on by laughter, or intense feelings, sleep paralysis, a situation in which one is half awake and unable to move, and hypnagogic hallucinations, which are intense dreams at the end of sleep. Narcoleptics may also engage in automatic behavior, in which they perform routine tasks without later memory.

Treatment
Behavioral treatment for narcolepsy includes avoiding heavy meals and alcohol, and shift work and making sure nighttime sleep and naps are regularly timed. Medications usually consist of stimulants to increase alertness and antidepressants.

Do you think your suffering from a sleep disorder? If you do, you may not have to deal with it. Go see a medical expert and explore your options. Let us know how it went.

Woman working at desk

The Downside Of A Desk Job

For artistic Gen Xers, the desk job was the ultimate sign of failure. The death sentence. Rebellious rock and rollers and artists would claim that suicide was preferential, much to the dismay of their concerned parents. If those Gen Xers know how dangerous desk jobs were, they might have been more kindly disposed toward them.

You may have heard the currently circulating slogan, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Suddenly, every activity associated with excessive sitting, desk jobs included is labeled as not only unhealthy, but also dangerous. Rebellious Gen Xers may have a legitimate excuse! However, if you consider the new mantra, a little bit of an over exaggeration, judge for yourself.

Side effects of sitting for an extensive time period may include:

Organ Damage

Heart Disease
While you are sitting, your muscles are burning less fat and blood flow is slowing down, allowing fatty acids to clog the heart. Sitting too long can cause high cholesterol and blood pressure and chronic sitters are twice as likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than more active people.

Over-productive Pancreas
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that carries glucose to cells, providing them with energy. When cells are idle, they don’t respond as well to insulin, causing the pancreas to produce more which can cause diabetes, among other diseases. In fact, according to a 2011 study, insulin response begins to decline after just one day of sitting.

Muscle Degeneration

Abdominal muscles
When you slouch on a chair, your abdominal muscles go unused. That along with tight back muscles can create a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback.

Tight hips
Your hips help you to keep balanced, but sitting calls for such few opportunities to stretch hip muscles, that they become tight, limiting range of motion.

Upper Body

Brain Fog
You need to move your muscles to get blood and oxygen to your brain and trigger the release of mood-enhancing chemicals.

Neck Strain
Craning your neck forward to type on a computer keyboard or cradling a phone while you type, while can strain your cervical vertebrae and causing posture imbalance.

Spine Stiffness
As we move, discs between the vertebrae contract and expand soaking up nutrients and fresh blood. However, when we sit, these discs are squashed into uneven positions causing collagen to harden around ligaments and tendons.

Legs

Poor Circulation
Long periods of sitting slows blood circulation, causing the fluid in the leg to pool, resulting in everything from varicose veins and swollen ankles to dangerous blood clots.

Soft Bones
Physical activity that incorporates the lower body stimulates hip and lower body bones to grow stronger. Hence, lack of activity can lead to decrease in bone density, and has even been attributed to cases of osteoporosis

What can we do?

If you are destined to sit behind a desk for long periods of time, there are some things you can do to keep from ending up hunched and unfocused. Here are some expert recommendations.

1. Sit on something wobbly. Sit up straight on an exercise ball or backless stool with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Stretch hip flexors. Once a day, three minutes easy side
3. By walking during commercial, couch potatoes can burn twice the calories of sitting, even at a pace of 1 mph.
4. Alternate between standing and sitting at your desk or workstation, or stand up and walk at regular intervals.

What do you think? Is sitting really the new smoking? Let us know! And tell us your strategies to give up the sitting habit.

Peaches and Plums

Foods For Breast Health

We ladies sure seem to obsess about out breasts. We enlarge them, reduce them, push them up, plunge them down, stick adhesives on them, pad them, powder them, rouge them, pamper them and scent them with perfumes and after bath sprays. We even do exercises at the gym to keep them at their peak. But do we make sure they are getting proper nutrition? Maybe not.

We owe a lot to our breasts, and we know what can happen if we don’t take care of them, and usually that care entails a lot more than just picking the right bra. Cheryl L. Rock, Ph.D, RD, professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California says, “A woman can cut her chance of cancer by as much as two-thirds with good nutrition and weight management.” If you are concerned with the health of your breasts, here are some foods that might help you out with that.

Peaches and Plums
According to researchers at Texas A and M, peaches and plums have levels of antioxidants that pose a threat to the celebrated superfruits known as blueberries. The two p’s contain two varieties of polyphenols, antioxidants that may help to destroy breast cancer cells while leaving healthier cells intact.

Walnuts
Research in the Nutrition and Cancer Journal suggest that walnuts may help to impede the spread of breast cancer. Studies on mice found that the rate of tumor growth in walnut -eating mice was half of that in a group that was not fed walnuts. Experts believe that it is the anti-inflammatory properties in walnuts that give them the ability to fight tumors.

Broccoli
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a compound shown to reduce breast cancer stem cells in mice, according to the University of Michigan. Although it is unclear whether the amount found in broccoli is sufficient enough to have the same effect, make sure to get the most of it by eating broccoli raw or steaming or stir frying. Boiling can lower the level of sulforaphane.

Salmon
Fish oil supplements are known for their cancer fighting characteristics. Ten years of regular consumption can shrink risk the of ductal carcinoma, the most commonly found type of breast cancer. Omega-3 fats in fish oil prevent inflammation, a known contributor to breast cancer. However, if you eat about 8 ounces of fish like salmon daily, you can skip the supplements.

Coffee
Need another reason to go to Starbucks? A May 2011 study in Breast Cancer Research finds that drinking two twelve oz cups a day can lower great cancer risk. According to study author, Jingmei Li, Ph.D, “One possibility is that coffee’s antioxidants protects cells from damage that can lead to cancer.” However, these findings are not confirmed, so you may want to wait until you become a fixture at your local coffee house.

Beans
You know what they say about beans- the more you eat…. the more your risk of breast cancer decreases. A new report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing fiber intake can lower the likelihood of great cancer. The research found that eating 10 grams of fiber a day (about 1/2 cup of beans) decreases risk of breast cancer by 7%.

So the next time your spending money on your lovely assets, you may want to do it in the grocery store. Let us know what you’re doing to support your breast health. We love to hear it!

Woman exercising

Get A Handle On Your Health

When it comes to health, are you a Felix or an Oscar? Maybe you remember an episode of the original Odd Couple where the two protagonists order room service. Oscar, the wild man, typically orders a rare steak with a baked potato and fried onions, while the mild-mannered Felix opts for sand dabs, cottage cheese, and weak tea. Where do you fall in? Are you the one drinking a smoothie and wielding a yoga mat headed for the nearest gym, or the one at the donut shop peering out from your stained napkin.

If you are the Oscar, you might be noticing a proliferance of healthy people out there and you may even be starting to feel that you are in danger of being run over by the relentless human race. But, buck up, you too can get a handle on your health by taking some simple steps.

To Do List for Healthy Living
Go see your doctor. Even if you’re feeling great, its always a good idea to make sure everything is running smoothly. Get yourself screened and immunized and get the answers to all of the nagging questions that may be on your mind.

Keep tabs on your height and weight and make sure you are getting in enough physical activity. The CDC recommends that adults get a minimum of two and a half hour of moderate aerobic activity and 15 minutes of more intense aerobic activity each week, plus muscle training exercises at least two days a week.

Nutririonist Kathianne Sellers Williams, MEd, RD, LD tells you to, “Keep track of what your eating – all of it. The idea is to write it down without judgement. You can’t change what you’re not aware of or don’t acknowledge.”

Check your relationships and evaluate your mood and energy levels. Make sure your surrounded with people that enrich your life; get adequate sleep, and monitor yourself for signs of depression.

Exercise More
Not the exercise type? No such thing! Dr. Williams says there’s no need to stick with the dreaded cardio: find something you enjoy and keep track of what you’re doing. Put big Xes on the calendar on days when you exercise. A visual record will Keep you motivated. Set weekly goals rather than daily ones, so you have greater day to day freedom. That way, you can forgive yourself if you miss a day, so long as you make it up before the weekend.

Improve Your Diet
It’s all about taking back the power over food. Says Williams, ” Instead of,’I should be eating more fruits and vegetables,’ it’s, ‘I choose to eat more fruits and vegetables,’ or, ‘ I choose not to, It shows your in control, you’re making the choice. Stock the kitchen with healthy foods, so you have a healthy strategy for when cravings hit. Slow down and enjoy your food. According to Williams, “You’re much more likely to feel psychologically satisfied,'” and shoot forgive to nine servings of varied vegetables and fruits per day.

Cut Down On Stress
When it comes to handling stress, Williams has two suggestions. Routine maintenance entails the development of coping skills, like meditation or yoga to keep your stress level down. You can also breakthrough stress, by finding ways to handle stressful situations when they pop up. For example, you might run up and down the stairs to quell aggravation after a stressful encounter.

Sleep More Soundly
If sound sleep is a problem for you, Lisa Shives. MD has a few tips. The doctor advises avoiding the stimulation of computer and tv two hours before bedtime and recommends a light reading lamp that doesn’t shine into your eyes directly. She warns against vigorous exercise near bedtime and taking a hot bath to relax yourself mentally. Shives also stresses the importance of maintaining a regular sleep schedule and making good sleep a priority saying sleep is, “just as important as diet and exercise.”

Sound doable to you? Of course it does! Let us know how you’re getting a handle on your health in the New Year. We love to hear it!

Woman smoking

Smoking Makes You Look Terrible

We all know that while smoking may make you look cool in the moment, it can make you look terrible for the long term. If you are finding yourself seduced by the allure of the cigarette, here are some facts which may make you change your mind.

Bags Under Your Eyes
If you think bags under the eyes is a good look, keep smoking. According to a study by John Hopkins University smokers are four times more likely to feel unrested after sleep than nonsmokers. Scientists have speculated that it may be the overnight nicotine withdrawal keeping smokers from resting peacefully.

Psoriasis
Although psoriasis can manifest itself in smokers and non smokers alike, your risk of developing scaly skin is a lot higher is you puff. A study done in 2007 showed that individuals who smoke a pack a day for 10 years increased their risk of psoriasis by 20% and those who smoked for 11-20 years increased the risk by 60%.

Yellow Teeth
Unless you want to spend a lot of time and money whitening your teeth, you should give up the smoking habits. Nicotine is known to stain those pearly whites, so if a great smile is important to you, make sure cigarettes aren’t.

Yellow Fingers
Don’t think your teeth are the only things affected by yellowing nicotine. Nicotine is infamous for its tendencies to stain fingers and nails alike. Of course, you can always scrub your fingers with steel wool and bleach them to restore your natural skin tone, but quitting might be a more civilized option.

Thin Hair
Here’s one that should cause you to drop the habit like its hot. Smokers not only have thinner hair than non smokers, their hair is also more likely to grey. Experts believe that the chemicals in cigarette smoke are capable of not only producing free radicals which cause cell damage, but also of damaging the DNA in existing hair follicles. In fact, a 2007 study in Taiwan showed that male smokers are two times as likely to lose their hair than their non-smoking counterparts.

Scarring
Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow and limit blood flow to the face and other body parts.The result? Your wounds will take a longer time to heal and your scars will be worse than they would have been for a non smoker.

Smoking is also more expensive than you might think, the average person pays more than $1,652 a year for smoking. (source)

So smoking may make you look cool, but scars, yellow fingers and teeth and thinning hair probably won’t. If you were able to kick the habit, we hope you are looking prettier already, and if you’re still trying, we wish you luck! Let us know about your smoking experience and what you think about smoking and coolness.

Woman working out

Strengthen Your Back For These Health Benefits

There seems to be a lot less slouching going on. For Generation Xers, the slouch was the standard. It was a symbol of rebellion and rock and roll. It was the “guitar slouch,” modeled by rock gods Slash and Ace Frehley. However, with the emergence of a new millennium, the guitar has been replaced by “Guitar Hero” and pilates has improved the postures of the would be slouchers. While it may be with bittersweet sorrow and fond memories, it is high time to bid farewell to the sullen slouch and embrace the benefits of survival of the fittest, starting with the benefits of a strong back.

Get a More Shapely Body
Even though it may not be your first priority when you think of toning, the large muscles in your back actually have a lot to do with the shape of your body, The latissimus dorsi, which are the wing shaped muscles on either side of your back, should create an inverted triangle, lending width to the upper body making the lower body look smaller. If its a great butt your after, target the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus to shape the sides and back of your rear end.

Better Spinal Stability
Your back has multiple muscle groups including your traps, lats and core erector muscles along your spine. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, back strengthening exercises help build the strength you need to keep your spine in proper position and provide your back with adequate support. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends exercises such as squats, crunches, and back bridges done with your back against a wall.

Increase Flexibility
Stretching exercises can increase muscular endurance and range of motion, says the NIH. Whether or not you participate in athletic activity, a flexible back is important for turning, lifting and general movement. Even everyday chores require a flexible back. Having a full range of motion allows for a broader choice of exercise without the limitations of tightness in the back.

Improve Posture
Height commands respect. If you want to look taller, stand up straight.The erector spine muscles that line up along the spine help to improve posture and support the body. Try adding back flexion exercises to your regular routine to prevent hunching.

Reduce Back Pain
When it comes to back pain, sitting in front of a computer is a very common culprit. When your back muscles are as strong as the muscles in your abs and chest, it is easier for the back to support the weight causing less chance of discomfort. A Harvard Health Publication article states that exercise is essential for the healing and prevention of back pain. The NIH supports these findings, suggesting that the regular back exercise is the best way of avoiding back pain. It recommends a minimum of a combination of flexibility and stretching exercises for 15 minutes, three times a week.

How do you keep your back strong and pain free? What are your best back exercises? Let us know!