Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

16 Feb

Hard Core

Core strength – everyone is talking about it. Core is just a buzz word for your midsection, and it’s very important to maximize your core health. A healthy, strong core is the “core” of good health.

A few key steps:

- You must shed that spare tire to naturally improve core health (cut out that sugar, folks).

- Get both resistance and aerobic activity several times a week.

- Do one or two torso-focused exercise sessions a week. The midsection doesn’t need much time: 10 or 15 minutes is enough.

- Maintain good posture.

- Implement some stretching and balance exercises into your workouts.

Trainer Russ Suchala and I were discussing this “core” topic the other day – here’s why you must take care of your core if you want good health:

“Training your core will result in tremendous benefits in a relatively short amount of time. This is because a strong core improves your posture, decreases your chance of injury, increases your power and functionality, and gives you a great-looking lean midsection.

Core training is rapidly gaining popularity for one specific reason: sitting leads to a weak core. Sitting? Yep, sitting.

Think about your typical work day. If you are like most people then your day starts with a 30-60 minute drive to work, followed by 8 hours at your desk and then another 30-60 minute drive home. That’s a lot of sitting. And it all adds up to one thing: a weak core.

The muscles that make up the core play a unique role since they provide stabilization for your entire body.

Core training seeks to strengthen the muscles of your abdominal and lower back using coordinated movement. A strong focus is put on contracting your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine throughout the exercises to ensure that your core muscles are engaged.

Unfortunately many ailments stem from having weak core muscles. You may be personally acquainted with the most common ailment…lower back pain. Other problems include poor posture, being injury prone, having minimal strength and (drum roll please) a bulging waistline.

Alleviating persistent back pain is one of the most welcomed benefits of a strong core. An increase in strength and protection from injury are also nice, and who doesn’t love to lose inches from their waist as a result of tightened muscle?

Everyday motions such as lifting, squatting, reaching, twisting and bending will become less challenging after strengthening your core. While you may not immediately see the value in this, remember that it is better to be safe than sorry – who really wants to throw out their back while taking out the trash?”

Thanks, Russ. Apples, stick around for more fitness tips in future posts. It doesn’t take much to improve your health and physique – just commitment to action. As I always say, putting on the sneakers is 90% of the battle.

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16 Feb

No More Mad Cows

We’re as sick of mad cow as you are (just feed them grass and keep them clean!), but we promised to find out who was behind the crazy study to breed mad-cow-free cows. Ladies and gents, we present Hematech. This outfit uses cows to research and develop all sorts of human disease antibodies. In a bizarre example of how this corporate world works, Hematech is owned by none other than Kirin Brewing Company. As in, the beer.

Drop in later for Mark and Russ’s chat on core fitness, today’s Smart Fuel, and the weekly roundup!

15 Feb

Le Buzz

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

You won’t want to miss today’s health news, Apples – the world of health just got more interesting! There’s plenty of fascinating controversy in the works…

1) Big Puff Ain’t Happy

Which makes the gang here at Mark’s Daily Apple absolutely…elated!

After hanging out for years in cigar-smoke-filled rooms (okay, maybe not), a bipartisan bill that would allow the government to step in when Big Puff hurts people may finally make it to the presidential desk. Even tobacco-growing states have put their support behind the bill, which would stop the tobacco industry from marketing to children, making misleading claims about “low-tar” and “light” tobacco products, and adding harmful chemicals. Lawmakers tried to get a similar bill passed back in 2004, but you can guess what happened there. We’ll keep you posted on this bill’s progress.

Stick around the orchard, kids, because next Tuesday’s 10 will feature ways to quit smoking. If you’re curious and just. can’t. wait. till then, head on over to Ririan Project in the meantime for ways to quit the sticks.

buttout

Photo courtesy Audrey Jacometti.

2) What’s Best for Your Little Guppy?

A big study says mothers ought to consume fish during pregnancy to optimize baby’s development (all those beneficial fats in fish are excellent for fetal brain development). But Uncle Sam says the opposite, citing concerns about mercury’s impact on ‘nates.

In fact, there’s a growing movement questioning the relationship between mercury and autism (you no doubt remember the news from last week that rates of autism have skyrocketed from virtually…well, none…before 1940, to 1 in 150 kids today). We’ll bring you more news as it develops. In the meantime, the wise thing for expecting moms to do: supplement with purified fish oil, or choose cold-water fish – it’s far safer than warm-water fishes, which are more likely to be contaminated with metals and pollutants.

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Thanks to Tiffany Johnson for the photo!

3) The Dumbest Idea, Possibly Ever

Scientists are trying to create cows that can’t get mad cow. Here’s an idea: clean up the poop and stop feeding cows – cud-chewing ruminants – animal protein! This is a real-world example of digging a hole to put in a ladder to wash the basement windows. Who’s paying these genii? We’re gonna find out.
redcow

Web It Out:

The Health Ranger rides again. Er, writes. This time, a disturbingly logical argument for eating cow brains (the entire point of the article ultimately advocates avoiding the consumption of flesh). Whether you’re for vegetarianism, love steak, or have settled on some place in between, this is the kind of highly provocative and interesting writing that is important to read if you’re someone who wants to think, not follow. Think you can trust mainstream health wisdom? Think again.

Mark is totally comfortable with animal protein, provided it’s organic, lean and unprocessed (check out his new page on vegetarians way up yonder). But we think it’s important for everyone to arrive at their own health decisions only after careful research and consideration. Although a lot of mainstream health experts genuinely believe you are incapable of arriving at your own smart health decisions, our answer to that is: oh yeah, and whose idea was it to breed mad-cow-resistant cows instead of simply feeding a vegetarian species vegetarian feed?

Also, health information shouldn’t be boring or stale, so it’s our goal to annoy the heck out of purveyors of the status quo – down to every last mainstream milksop. Face it, bees are annoying.

15 Feb

The Secret to Great Abs

Admit it: half the reason we all watch Lost is because the main characters are just so great looking. They all have those ripped abs and defined arms that every guy and gal wants. Guess what? It’s not as tough as you’d think to look like Kate or the Doc (oops…lest I start yet another “which guy for Kate” debate, Sawyer, too).

The big myth about getting a sleek, jelly-free belly is that you have to do endless stomach exercises. Hence the never-ending procession of rollers, riders, crunchers and other fitness gimmicks that never give you the washboard you want.

You cannot roll, twist, or squeeze your way to a sexy stomach, no matter what the infomercials tell you.

Here’s why: you already have abs! They might not be as developed as the dude on the cover of Men’s Health, but you already have abs. The problem is that fat is covering them up. Get rid of the fat, and your abs will show up just fine. Believe me, they are there.

Doing stomach exercises is important for further developing those muscles and building core strength (more on that in a moment), but the best thing you can do as far as your torso is concerned – not only for improving confidence, your looks, and your comfort with your body, but your health – is to shed fat. Midsection fat is the most harmful kind of fat to your health and is a critical indicator of stress.

Flex your stomach – even if you’re a couch potato, there’s a little muscle there. Now, if you are flexing and you can still grab abdominal fat in your hand, that’s exactly how much is surrounding your precious internal organs – and that’s a dangerous thing. Fat on your backside? Not so much.

So by all means, crunch away – but your middle will actually get bigger if you don’t simultaneously shrink the fat. Spot toning without overall fat reduction is the wrong approach to getting flat abs, but it’s what most people do. (And notice, nothing changes much, and we all have to suffer through yet another magic abs infomercial with way too much spandex.)

I’m a big proponent of taking care of your torso, not so you can look like a Lost extra (though that’s not a bad thing), but because a healthy middle means reduced chances of obesity (duh), diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and sleep problems.

I’ll be bringing you tips on cutting fat in upcoming posts, but here’s a quick suggestion: cut out all refined carbs, sugar and alcohol for two weeks. I guarantee you’ll see a major reduction in bloat and midsection fat. Although excess calories are what adds the poundage, sugar is the culprit that goes right to the gut. It’s incredibly difficult to have a spare tire if you are primarily getting your calories from protein and produce.

Be sure to check in tomorrow when I’ll be posting a discussion I recently had with Russ Suchala, a fitness colleague of mine and top L.A. physical trainer. You’ll get tons of helpful insights on core health and yes, getting those ripped abs.

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My secret: I never do a sit-up. I just think about having great abs, and poof, there they are!

No, no, just kidding. I do a lot of ab work, but 90% of nice abs = avoiding excess weight from empty calories.

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15 Feb

The Sisson Spoof

Cereality: doing our part to make diabetes a national pastime.

cereal

Folks are raving about the “genius” of Cereality (thanks, Donny Deutsch), a chain of bars for grownups that lets them access their “inner child” again. Hey, when cocktails get old, I guess people need new ways to flood their body with lethal amounts of sugar.

The cereality of life may be fun – temporarily – but sooner or later, we have to get back to being grownups. I think a certain amount of play is healthy for adults, especially in our modern, fast-paced society. But I’m pretty disgusted by the simultaneous jading of youngsters and infantilization of adults going on everywhere you look. We are a nation of instant gratification addicts. It’s not just in health – baby boomers haven’t saved for retirement, fashion’s latest trends feature women looking like pigeon-toed little girls, and the general trend of commercials for both fast food and household items is to make grown men look like five-year-olds. Men hiding from mouthwash because it doesn’t taste good? Come on! I don’t want a mother, I want a wife, and I don’t want a bowl of Lucky Charms, either. I’ve got a family to care for and suspending reality for cereality isn’t the way to do it. I’ll pass on the obesity and diabetes, thanks. How about you?

In reality, relying on refined sugar – particularly at the beginning of your day – is an excellent way to tax your body’s insulin response and pave the way for diabetes so you can harm yourself and everyone you love. But in cereality, it’s all good fun!

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