Colourful veggies heart health5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease

Although genetics does plays a part in your overall heart health, there are steps you can take to help lower the risk of heart disease. If you follow these 5 strategies you’ll be well on your way to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco

Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week

Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

Eating a special diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can help protect your heart. Following the DASH diet means eating foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Continue reading at for the rest of these 5 heart health tips.

This week’s Fitness Post is brought to you by personal trainer Igor Klibanov from Fitness Solutions Plus.

Are you stretching enough? The truth is that what makes sense for one person may not make sense for another. The same is true with stretching.

If you’ve been to my talk called “exercise for different body types”, you’ll know how our trainers assess our clients to determine whether they should stretch or not.

Whether you should stretch before or after exercise and how is only complicated by the fact that there are 4 different types of stretching:

  1. Static passive. This is the most common form of stretching. Think about putting your leg out and reaching forward. It’s static (meaning that you’re not moving), and it’s passive (meaning that you let an external force, like gravity pull you into position).
  2. Static active. Think about how figure skaters skate with one leg up in the air (doing a standing split). This is static (means they’re not moving), but active (because they’re using their own muscle force to get into position).
  3. Dynamic passive. Think about swinging your leg forward and back. It’s dynamic (meaning the limb is moving), but it’s passive, because you’re letting an external force (in this case, momentum) take you through the range of motion.
  4. Dynamic active. It looks similar to dynamic passive, but it’s done under much more control, in which case you’d be using your own muscle force to move the limb.

I hesitate to make generalizations, since one-size-fits-all isn’t optimal (or can actually injure you), but before exercise, you should do dynamic stretches, and after exercise, static stretches.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. What if you have certain muscles that are tight to begin with? In that case, it makes sense to do static stretching on those muscle both before and after.

Oh, and here’s a side note: just because a muscle feels tight doesn’t mean it is tight, and stretching that muscle will do more damage than good. We look at your range of motion to truly identify if a muscle is tight or not. Often muscles can feel tight because neighboring muscles in the body are weak, so they’re taking the load of the weak muscles.

When we’re working with clients, to determine whether they should stretch, what type of stretching, and how much, here are all the factors that go into our consideration:

  1. Present range of motion of different joints (tighter people will need more stretching. For people who have lax joints, stretching will actually increase their risk of injury).
  2. Demands of daily life. Are we working with a desk-bound employee or a gymnast? The desk-bound employee will require less range of motion than the gymnast.
  3. Previous and current injuries.
  4. Goals. If your goals include improved flexibility, we’ll be stretching you more than if your goals include weight loss.

As you can see, it’s not quite as simple as saying “do these stretches”, and you’ll be healthier for it. Not the case. For some people (we see this especially in women), stretching may create more laxity in already lax joints, and increase risk of injury.

Your heart works hard with every beat it takes.  Ever wanted to learn more about one of the most important organs in your body? Nova Online’s “Cut to the Heart” is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about how the heart works, new advances in the treatment of heart problems and the history of modern heart surgery.

Here’s a short except from Nova Online’s Amazing Heart Facts:

Sure, you know how to steal hearts, win hearts, and break hearts. But how much do you really know about your heart and how it works? Read on to your heart’s content!

  • Put your hand on your heart. Did you place your hand on the left side of your chest? Many people do, but the heart is actually located almost in the center of the chest, between the lungs. It’s tipped slightly so that a part of it sticks out and taps against the left side of the chest, which is what makes it seem as though it is located there.
  • Hold out your hand and make a fist. If you’re a kid, your heart is about the same size as your fist, and if you’re an adult, it’s about the same size as two fists.
  • Your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times.

Visit Nova Online to read more amazing heart facts.

This week’s Fitness Post is brought to you by personal trainer Igor Klibanov from Fitness Solutions Plus.

If you perform resistance training (AKA strength training, weight training, etc.) on a regular basis, chances are that you organize your workouts in one of two ways:

1.     You do straight sets. In other words, you do an exercise, rest, and repeat the same exercise.

2.     You do circuit training. In other words, you do one exercise, then move on to the next, and so on. Once you’re done all the exercises you had, you repeat the entire sequence.

But there is one other way of training. It’s called “supersets.” Supersets are when you perform 2 exercises for opposing muscle groups back to back. A classic example might be to do an exercise for the chest, followed by an exercise for the back.

One major advantage of supersets is that you can get a lot more done , compared to straight sets. Think about it this way: you do your exercise for the chest (like pushups), and the more repetitions you do, the more tired you get. So you have to rest long enough for your chest muscles to recover before you can do that exercise again. So while your chest is resting, why not do an exercise for a muscle group that is fresh? Because when you’re working the fresh muscle group, the chest gets a chance to rest.

When you pair up exercises to work opposing muscle groups, you take it a step beyond. You see, muscles naturally work in opposites. When one shortens, the muscle on the opposite side lengthens. Flex your biceps, and your triceps lengthens. Flex your triceps and your biceps lengthens (by the way, a technical, geeky note: the words “bicep” and “tricep” do not exist. There is always an ‘s’ at the end. Always. Even if you’re referring to just one arm.)

The major advantage of this is by working opposing muscle groups, they recover faster than if you were simply resting. For instance, working biceps, and then triceps will help the biceps recover faster than if you were just working biceps and then resting.

The same applies everywhere else in the body.

So if you want to get a lot more done in the time that you have (thereby really speeding up your metabolism), give supersets a try. If you want specific exercises to use, you can get my seminar, Strength Training for Beginners.

Quick Summary 

3 of the most common ways of organizing your workouts are:

  • Straight sets. In other words, you do an exercise, rest, and repeat the same exercise.
  • Circuit training. In other words, you do one exercise, then move on to the next, and so on. Once you’re done all the exercises you had, you repeat the entire sequence.
  • Supersets. Supersets are when you perform 2 exercises for opposing muscle groups back to back.

The major advantages of supersets are:

  • You can get more done in the same amount of time
  • You speed up recovery

This week’s Fitness Post is brought to you by personal trainer Igor Klibanov from Fitness Solutions Plus.

Everyone wants a fast metabolism, and for good reason. A fast metabolism gives you lots of energy, and the ability to eat “bad” foods without paying the price (immediately, anyway).

But let me correct you. You don’t want a super-fast metabolism. You want an optimal metabolism. There is such a thing as too fast, and if your metabolism is too fast, yes, you burn fat, but you also burn muscle (or have a very hard time building muscle) and bone. Not ideal effects.

Another half myth is that your metabolism slows down as you age. I say “half myth” because people seriously overestimate how much their metabolism slows down as they age. If you’re 50 years old and have more fat than you did at 20 is it because you’re 30 years older? Or is it because when you were 20, you used to play basketball 2 hours a day? Or think back to when you were 10 years old. Do you have more fat now than you did back then because you’re older or because you used to play tag during recess?

Sure, there’s no question that metabolism slows down as you age, but the amount that it slows down due to aging is much smaller than you think. That’s both good and bad news. The good news is that your metabolism is almost completely within your control. The bad news is that now you can’t use age as an excuse for the excess body fat you’re carrying.

But anyways, that’s just a bit of a rant.

How do you speed up your metabolism?

To answer that question, let’s look at what makes up your resting metabolic rate (RMR). There are 3 factors:

1.      Thermic effect of feeding. This is basically how many calories you burn just digesting the food that you ate. With fat, you use up 2-3% of the calories you ate to digest and assimilate it. With carbohydrates, you use 5-10% of the calories you ate to digest and assimilate it. With protein, you use 25-30% of the calories you ate to digest and assimilate it.

2.       Physical activity. This can be divided into:

a.       Exercise
b.      Non-exercise physical activity (NEPA).

It’s in the physical activity department where the greatest potential lies in speeding up your metabolism. With exercise, if you are able to put on lean body mass, you will speed up your metabolism. Muscle speeds up your metabolism. And healthy organs speed up your metabolism even more. Remember, the term “lean body mass” doesn’t just mean muscle. It means everything that isn’t fat. That includes your brain, your skin, your liver, your digestive and reproductive organs, etc. By having well-functioning internal organs, your metabolism will naturally speed up (if it’s slow).

NEPA is an interesting one, because there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that the difference between the naturally thin person and the person struggling. NEPA, as the name implies is everything that isn’t exercise. It’s the fidgeting, chewing the food more, walking around more, tapping your pen/pencil, etc.

Naturally thin people burn as much as 900 calories per day through NEPA alone!

That’s great news for you if you have body fat you’d like to lose. Much of it is within your control.

Short Summary

Metabolism consists of 3 factors:

  • Thermic effect of food
  • Exercise
    • Perform muscle-building exercise to speed up your metabolism.
  • Non-exercise physical activity (NEPA)
    • This may be one of the key differences between naturally thin people and people struggling.
    • NEPA can add up to as much as 900 calories per day!