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Exercise boot camps get you in shape through one or more days of intensive training. Some have a celebrity aspect, like camps run by the dance squads of pro sports teams, while others promise the secrets of elite military training forces. There are so many that a quick internet search could serve up dozens in your area alone. Follow these tips to find the right one for you. According to the experts at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), there are many criteria to evaluate, starting with safety. Ask about precautions the organizers have taken to prevent injury and whether they review your health history prior to sign up to make sure you’re fit enough for the sessions. Investigate the training of the instructors. Are they certified by the ACSM or another respected fitness association such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or IDEA Health and Fitness Association? And what’s their prior teaching experience? How big is the class size and how many instructors are there for each class? You want to figure out whether the instructor-to-participant ratio will allow you to get personalized attention. Does the content of the sessions meet national fitness standards, and will you get a mix of cardio, strength training and flexibility with appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs? How do they track your progress and the boot camp’s effectiveness?…  read on >

Dieting can be hard on your social life. You might think it’s easier to avoid social events like cocktail parties and even family gatherings because of the temptation to overeat. But there’s no reason to deny yourself the joy of being with friends and loved ones when simple tricks will help you stay on course with your diet and still have a great time. The first rule is don’t arrive ravenous. That will just make it harder to eat smart when facing tempting food. Take the edge off hunger before you go out with a healthy snack that’s high in fiber, such as whole grain crackers with avocado slices or an ounce of nuts. Once at the party, make it harder to grab food by holding a glass of seltzer in one hand. Take a sip every time a tray of hors d’oeuvres goes by. You don’t have to deny yourself all treats, but it’s easy to lose count if you take a tidbit from every platter that’s offered. Decide on two or three nibbles of more indulgent food. In general, your calories will go farther if you stay away from hot canapes, which are often pastry-based. Instead choose protein choices, like shrimp and chicken. If a cocktail hour will be followed by a full meal, focus on low-calorie fill-ups like raw vegetables, but skip…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — There’s new research suggesting that a switch over to e-cigarettes can help cigarette smokers kick their habit — even if initially they didn’t intend to. The small British study of 40 people “found that vaping may support long-term smoking abstinence,” lead researcher Dr. Caitlin Notley, of Norwich Medical School, at the University of East Anglia, said in a university news release. Still, anti-smoking advocates in the United States stressed that vaping isn’t without its own hazards. First of all, prior research shows that ex-smokers who vape often return to tobacco cigarettes, said Dr. Len Horovitz, a lung specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. And, “while there are certainly more harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke, there is a question of safety in e-cigarettes because of the presence of propylene glycol, and other as yet unidentified compounds,” Horovitz said. In the new study, Notley’s group asked 40 people who used e-cigarettes about their tobacco smoking history and prior attempts to quit smoking, and about their vaping habits. The investigation was funded by Cancer Research UK. According to Notley, the study revealed that vaping provides smokers with “many of the physical, psychological, social and cultural elements of cigarette smoking.” Beyond that, vapers described the activity as “pleasurable in its own right, as well as convenient and cheaper than smoking,” she said. “But…  read on >

Bicycling or other regular exercise may help reduce harmful inflammation in obese people, a new study suggests. Physical activity tames inflammation by changing blood characteristics, according to a team led by Dr. Michael De Lisio, of the University of Ottawa in Canada. Chronic inflammation is behind many of the health problems associated with obesity, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the researchers noted. Although inflammation is the body’s natural response to harm, it can become long term in someone who’s obese. Then it can cause damage to healthy tissue, De Lisio and his colleagues explained. The new findings were published June 19 in the Journal of Physiology. “This research is important because it helps us understand how and why exercise improves the health of people with obesity,” De Lisio said in a journal news release. He’s a molecular exercise physiologist. The study included young obese adults who were otherwise healthy. The participants took part in a six-week exercise program that included three one-hour bicycling or treadmill-running sessions a week. Blood samples were taken from the participants at the start and the end of the study. The samples showed that after six weeks of regular workouts, there was a decline in stem cells that create blood cells responsible for inflammation. The next step, the researchers said, is to determine if these blood changes improve…  read on >

Obesity is no picnic for those who struggle with it, but new research sheds some light on why so few ever find their way to a healthy weight. It turns out that overweight and obese folks hold starkly different views on diet and exercise than their normal-weight peers, the study found. Namely, taste is their top consideration when choosing what to eat, nutritional labels are rarely examined, and their relationship with food tends to be more impulsive and emotional. And while many were open to the idea of smaller meal portions, they were on the other hand less likely to exercise than normal-weight people. Cost was also a factor, with many believing that healthier foods were more expensive. What does all this mean for public health efforts to tackle America’s obesity epidemic? “A major disparity exists between food-related policies and the mindsets and motivations of the people these policies are designed to impact,” said report author Hank Cardello. He is director of the Hudson Institute’s Food Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “Previous Hudson Institute studies have confirmed that healthier items are where the [food product] growth is coming from,” Cardello stressed. But that trend just doesn’t seem to apply to overweight and obese Americans, whose “eating patterns and attitudes reflect the more traditional consumer mindsets exemplified in the ’70s and ’80s,” he explained. “This suggests…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — To some people, keeping a food diary might seem old hat or just another busy-work task on your diet to-do list. But when done correctly (and diligently), it’s a very effective tool for losing weight and keeping it off. Studies show that dieters who monitor their eating and weight the most consistently achieve the most weight loss. Essentials include writing down everything you eat and drink, and keeping a running tab on those calories. You might find it easier to stay on track by writing down what you plan to eat each day in advance and using the diary as a menu to follow. If instead you plan to jot down details as you go, be sure to make your entries as you start to eat or at the latest within 10 minutes. After that, it’s easy to forget details (read: some of the calories). When first starting to keep a diet diary also note when you ate (what is a scheduled meal or an impulsive snack, for instance), the emotions you were feeling, and even where you were and who you were with. These details will help you uncover eating habits that may have led to weight gain, showing when and why you tend to eat extra calories. Becoming aware of your unique triggers can help you know when you’re about…  read on >

As scientists look into the effects of diet on health, they’re finding that more and more everyday foods offer benefits that go well beyond making dishes tastier. Garlic, an ingredient found in almost every cuisine, has emerged as one such superfood. Part of the allium family, which includes onions and leeks, garlic has a number of compounds that supply its health-boosting effects as well as its pungent aroma. According to wide-ranging research, garlic can seemingly improve immunity and heart health, possibly help prevent as well as fight certain cancers, and lower triglycerides and total cholesterol. Its many compounds include antioxidants and allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties, researchers report. Some of these benefits can be seen after eating just one meal with raw garlic. Yet overall there’s enough evidence to have at least half of a clove every day. To get the most benefits, first chop, slice or crush fresh garlic — this fires up a process that makes its compounds more potent. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before eating or using in a dish, especially if you’ll be mixing it with a highly acidic food like lemon juice. Here are some easy ways to use raw garlic: Mash into avocado for guacamole. Blend into Caesar salad dressing. Puree with chickpeas for hummus or with white beans for bean dip. But you don’t have to always…  read on >

Employees struggling with depression take less time off from work if they receive support and help from their managers, a new study suggests. Many people suffer depression at some point during their working lives. But they often don’t disclose their condition or seek help because they’re afraid of repercussions, according to the researchers. The new findings — based on surveys in 15 countries — show the value of active mental health workplace policies, the study authors said. “Manager reactions to employees with depression can reflect broad cultural and organizational features that directly relate to employee productivity,” Sara Evans-Lacko and colleagues concluded. Evans-Lacko is in the social services research unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science in England. For the study, her team analyzed data from a survey of more than 16,000 employees and their managers in the United States, Canada, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey. Nearly 3,000 of the workers said they were or had been depressed. In general, managers in Asian countries tended to avoid employees with depression and were less likely to offer active support than managers in other parts of the world. Managers in Japan and South Korea were least likely to offer help to employees with depression, while those in Mexico and South Africa were most…  read on >

Black men in the United States have higher rates of aggressive prostate cancer than other males. Now, a $26.5 million study is underway to figure out why. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Prostate Cancer Foundation have launched the study to investigate social, environmental and genetic factors behind this disparity. “No group in the world is hit harder by prostate cancer than men of African descent, and, to date, little is known about the biological reasons for these disparities, or the full impact of environmental factors,” Dr. Jonathan Simons said in an NIH news release. He’s president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black men disproportionally experience aggressive prostate cancer — meaning tumors that grow and spread quickly. Black American men have about a 15 percent chance of developing prostate cancer, compared to about a 10 percent chance for white men, according to the news release. And black men also have a higher prostate cancer death risk than white men — 4 percent versus 2 percent, respectively. The NIH agencies supporting the new research are the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the U.S. National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. A team of scientists nationwide will conduct the research. “Understanding why African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed…  read on >

Fizzy, fermented kombucha tea is the hot new health drink. But experts say it’s not clear whether the bacteria-laden beverage lives up to all of its health claims. Proponents say kombucha’s powerful probiotics can help improve digestion, promote your immune response and reduce inflammation in your body by introducing healthy bacteria into your gut. “Kombucha is a living food, and can be highly effective in restoring an individual’s microbiome and an overall feeling of good health,” said Barbara Cole, a nurse practitioner with Penn State Health Medical Group. The drink is a source of live beneficial bacteria and yeasts, organic acids, B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals, Cole said. But while kombucha is undeniably a good source of probiotics, it’s yet to be seen whether the drink lives up to all of the hype, said Torey Armul, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “There’s a lot of health claims behind it, most of which I would say are unfounded, not backed by research,” Armul said. “It can do A to Z if you listen to the right people: ‘It can cure every health malady and help with all sorts of things.’ There’s really not enough research to support the vast majority of those claims,” she said. Kombucha is made by adding bacteria, yeast and sugar to brewed tea.…  read on >