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It's Pool Time: Stay Fit While Afloat

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Whether we like it or not, the warm weather marks the beginning of swimming pool season. The opening of public as well as home pools will soon have people breaking out their bathing suits for another season of swimming.

Swimming can be a good way to wind down after a long day or as another means of exercise. It is an excellent way to lose weight and strength train while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. It's also an activity that can be continued for a lifetime. It's an exercise that keeps your heart rate up but takes a lot of the stress off of your body and joints.

According to swimming.about.com, exercise experts recommend swimming as a form of exercise because of the great cardiovascular workout you get from swimming. It is considered a great aerobic exercise because by definition it is an action that maintains an elevated heartbeat for a minimum of 20 minutes. Swimming burns calories at a rate of about 3 calories a mile per pound of body weight. If you weigh 150 lbs. and it takes you 30 minutes to swim one mile (1,760 yards or 1,609 meters), then you will be using about 900 calories in one hour.

In addition to burning calories, swimming also builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. It can also serve as a cross-training element to regular workouts. You can use the pool for a warm-up session before hitting the gym if you like. You can also swim after an intense work out to help cool-down and help your muscles recover while gliding through the water. Or you may want to add swimming to your pre-existing aerobic workout to help switch things up and keep your workouts fresh. Alternate days that you decide to use swimming as your cardio for that day, so you don't get bored with any one workout.

Instead of staying indoors and using the treadmill or elliptical for a day, get outdoors and swim laps in the pool for the cardio portion of your workout and you will find that exercising comes much easier when you aren't sticking to the same routine day in and day out.

Like any exercise, you should also start any swimming workout routine by stretching first. You may not realize the affect swimming has on your entire body until it is too late, so be sure to stretch appropriately before you begin. Then start off slow by swimming strides and gradually increasing your speed in the pool. This will help to elevate your heart rate at a safe pace and help you to last longer during your workout.

Experts suggest starting out swimming laps for approximately 20 minutes for women and 30 minutes for men. You can begin to increase your time as necessary and as you continue your workout over the course of weeks or months. Again, this will prevent you from getting too tired, too sore, wore out or disappointed in your swimming workout.

Try out different strokes when you are swimming, too. Do some laps using the breaststroke, then switch up and do the backstroke, or even the doggy paddle. Each swimming stroke using a different variety of muscles and therefore will give you the best overall workout.

Playing games in the pool is also a good way to get some exercise in the spring and summer. You can play water polo, water basketball, chicken fights, diving games, or even just do some aerobics in the water. You will get your workout in without even realizing it!

Be sure to wear your sun block (preferably a waterproof kind to avoid unnecessary reapplications) to fight the harmful UV rays of the sun while you are in the pool.

And lastly, keep it safe and have fun. Before you know it, the warm seasons will be over and we'll be looking for ways to exercise indoors again. Enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasts!

The Scoop on Seasonal Allergies

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Ahhh! Spring is finally here! After a long and cold winter, everyone is in their glory with the sunshine and warm weather. But with spring also comes seasonal allergies complete with the miserable sneezing, itching and sniffling.

So what are seasonal allergies exactly? Well, according to Allergies.about.com, a seasonal allergy is an allergic reaction to a trigger that is only around for certain seasons of the year. Such triggers can include pollen from trees, weeds and grasses. There are also perennial allergies that include triggers such as pet dander or molds.

More specifically, spring allergies are the result of pollen from trees that usually starts anywhere from January to April. Trees that commonly cause allergies include oak, olive, elm, birch, ash, sycamore, maple and walnut. These pollens are tiny egg-shaped powdery grains released from flowering plants and are carried by wind or insects. When pollen is in the air it can land in a person's eyes, nose, lungs and skin causing allergic reactions.

Pollens that are spread by the wind are usually the main cause of season allergies. This pollen travels long distances and the levels that are in the air vary from day to day. Pollen levels can also vary between different geographic regions and depending on what time of day it is. Pollen is considered highest in the morning from 5 to 10 a.m.

Anybody who suffers from allergies probably knows immediately when their allergies have kicked it into high gear in the spring. However, most seasonal allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and an itchy nose.

There are ways to avoid pollen exposure, however, including:

Keeping windows closed to prevent pollen from drifting into your home

Minimizing early morning activity when pollen is usually emitted -- between 5-10 a.m.

Keeping car windows closed when traveling.

Staying indoors when the pollen count is reported to be high, and on windy days when pollen may be present in higher amounts in the air.

Traveling to a more pollen-free area, such as the beach or sea.

Avoiding mowing the lawn and freshly cut grass.

Machine-dry your bedding and clothing. Pollen may collect in laundry if it is hung outside to dry.


Simple Home Remedies for Headaches

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Millions of people suffer from the pain and discomfort of headaches; in fact more than 45 million people get repeat headaches, day after day. Headaches are one of the most common complaints and the most widely treated with home remedies. Physical and emotional stress and lack of sleep are common triggers for headaches but there can be an array of reasons why you're constantly getting headaches. Oftentimes, simple lifestyle changes and relaxation can often remedy these pains. But if you have consistent headaches that do not respond to treatment you may want to get in touch with your health care provider.

There is also an assortment of home remedies that may help your headache pain go away that is as easy as a quick trip to your pantry. Here are some ideas from Home-remedies-for-you.com:

Lemon- Useful as a remedy for various types of headaches. The juice of three or four slices of lemon squeezed in a cup of tea often causes immediate relief. You can also take the crust of a lemon, pound it into a fine paste and applied to the forehead or temples.

Apple- Also a remedy for all sorts of types of headaches. Remove the upper rind and inner core of a ripe apple and eat with a little salt on an empty stomach.

Henna- Useful for headaches resulting from exposure to hot sun. Rub henna flowers in vinegar and apply to the forehead.

Cinnamon- Useful for cold air headaches. Mix cinnamon with water to create a fine paste and apply over the temples and forehead.

Marjoram- If you have a nervous headache, an infusion of marjoram leaves in tea often helps.

Rosemary- This herb can be helpful in curing headaches resulting from cold. Take a handful of the herb, boil it in a liter of water and put it in a mug. Cover the head with a towel and inhale the steam until the headache is relieved.

Hot foot bath- Keep legs in a tub or bucket filled with hot water for fifteen minutes.

Proper nutrition, exercise and positive thinking- The best way to prevent headaches is to build up a resistance through proper nutrition, physical exercise and positive thinking. And drink lots of water!


Nail Health 101: Finger Nails Can Detect Dangerous Medical Conditions

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Did you know that by taking a good look at your finger nails you may be able to get a good read on your health? Certain nail conditions are early warning signs for more serious health conditions. So the next time you get a manicure be sure to pay close attention to the look of your fingernails. If you see any ridges, dents or areas of unusual color or shape you may have an illness that requires immediate medical attention.

According to Mayoclinic.com your nails are composed of laminated layers of protein call keratin. Healthy nails are smooth without too much ridging or grooving. They're also uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Normal nails may develop vertical ridges but these are harmless and often become more prominent with age. Nails can also acquire white lines or spots but these are often just due to injury and grow out in time. However, not all nail conditions are normal. Here are a few conditions outlined by Mayoclinic.com to look out for:

Yellow Nail Syndrome- Yellow coloring of the nails may be a result of a respiratory condition such as chronic bronchitis or lymph edema. This condition is often accompanied by thick nails and slow growth, often resulting in discoloration. Cuticles may also detach from the nail bed in places.

Nail Pitting- People with psoriasis, a skin condition that often produces scaly patches; often encounter pitting or small depressions in the nails. Pitting is also associated with other conditions such a chronic dermatitis of the fingers or alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Nail Clubbing- The term clubbing refers to when the tips of your fingers enlarge and nails curve around the fingertips. This is often cause by low oxygen levels in the blood caused by lung disease. Clubbing is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular and liver disease.

Spoon Nails- Koilonychias or spoon nails refer to soft nails that look scooped out. The scooped out area is usually large enough to hold a drop of liquid. Spoon nails may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.

Terry's Nails- This condition makes your nails appear opaque with a dark band around the tip. This can often be associated with aging but it can also be attributed to illnesses such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver disease, or malnutrition.

Beau's lines- These are indentations that run across the nails. These can appear when growth under the cuticle is interrupted by injury or by severe illness such as uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory diseases, peripheral artery disease, or high fever caused by pneumonia, scarlet fever, mumps, measles or malnutrition.

Onycholysis- With this condition your fingernails become loose and can separate from the nail bed. Detaching nails are commonly associated with injury or infection, thyroid disease, drug reactions, or psoriasis.

By keeping an eye out for these nail conditions you have may be able to detect a much worse medical condition.


Stay Healthy This Winter by Following these Nine Simple Tips

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Winter time is synonymous with cold and flu season. But this year you can help to ward off the winter sniffles by following these few simple health tips. Keep these in mind to quickly and easily boost your immune system and keep you healthy right through spring.

1. Exercise- Exercise, in moderation, is a great way to boost your immune system for the winter. Because exercise improves your circulation, immune cells are able to get around your body better to target viruses.

2. Sunshine- Vitamin D, which is produced in the skin after exposure to the sun, is a great boost for your immune system and cell defense. Even getting outdoors when the sun is shining, despite the cold weather, will do wonders for your body.

3. Echinacea- According to a study put out last year, Echinacea, an herbal medicine, could reduce the risk of you catching a cold by half. The study also looked into its effectiveness in treating more serious respiratory infections, as well. Echinacea is said to regulate the immune system's response to infection.

4. Water- According to Suite101, you should be drinking, in daily ounces, half your body weight in pounds (i.e. body weight in pounds, divided by 2 = number of ounces of water per day. Drinking plenty of water will ensure healthy food metabolism, it will eliminate toxins or wastes from your body, carry vital nutrients, and regulate your body's temperature.

5. Diet- What you eat and what vitamins and minerals that food contains is also a huge boost to your immune system. Many doctors agree that a balanced and varied diet is key to help ward off sickness. A diet rich in vitamin C, zinc, iron and selenium will give your immune system that boost.

6. Stimulants- Be aware of the amount of stimulants that you put into your body. Where no research shows that an abundance of stimulants have an adverse effect on your immune system, moderation should be used when dealing with caffeine, alcohol and over-the-counter drugs. If you are looking for a stimulant that could help you immune system, try green tea instead. The antioxidants in green tea will help to prevent illness in the long run.

7. Sleep- If you are looking for a surefire way to help ward off a cold and the flu this year, be sure to get your seven hours a sleep per night. Sleep is extremely important and many doctors agree that lack of sleep can have a negative response on our immune system and our body as a whole.

8. Meditation- Even just 20 minutes a day of peace, quiet and relaxation can have a major impact on your immune system and can help to ward off winter colds. If you are able to put your body into a meditative state at least once a day, your bodies' cells will be able to rejuvenate tremendously. Meditation is also a good stress reliever and can allow you to re-energize.

9. Mood/Stress- Being positive and avoiding stressful situations are both excellent immune boosters. While everyone's mood and stress levels are different, studies have shown that chronic stress and depression have been linked to a weakened immune system. It's important to find the stress in your life and work to deal with that stress in a positive way or to eliminate the stressful situations entirely.