We all have those mornings when we’d rather lounge around in our jammies with an extra cup of coffee than make our way to the gym. Usually, this is a bad idea, and later in the day we’ll end up regretting our decision to skip exercise. Sometimes, however, when you don’t feel like working out, your body may be communicating with you. Here are six times when you should heed the urge to relax.
1-Sleep deprivation. Sleep is vital to health and well-being. During sleep the body recharges and the brain performs “housekeeping” tasks. Sleep deprivation can have devastating effects and lead to a dramatic decline in the ability to perform simple tasks. Furthermore, it compromises the immune system. When the body is already stressed by a lack of sleep, exercise will only exacerbate the problem. If you are suffering from lack of sleep, you’re better off sleeping for an extra hour than you are exercising. Get some extra rest and be ready to hit the gym another day when you feel rested.
2-Fever. If you have a fever, exercise is a big no-no. A fever is a sign that your body is fighting an infection. You want to provide your body with the rest it needs to do this important work. Under these circumstances exercise will break you down rather than build you up. Listen to your body, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. You’ll be back in the gym in no time.
3-Injury or pain. When it comes to exercise, there is such a thing as “good” pain and “bad” pain, and you will likely know the difference. Good pain refers to the sore muscles that follow a challenging workout; bad pain refers to uncomfortable pain that lingers and feels like something is wrong. If you have an injury or a nagging ache or pain, refrain from exercise and visit the doctor instead. Exercising through an injury will only aggravate it and perhaps even lead to bigger problems.
4-Fatigue from overtraining. The fatigue that results from overexercising is different from the tiredness we feel from a late night, a long day, or chronic sleep deprivation. Overtraining leaves us feeling irritable and just plain “different.” You may experience insomnia, depression, weight gain, or a litany of other symptoms. The best indicator of overtraining is an elevated resting heart rate. If your resting heart rate is 10 percent (or more) higher than normal, your body needs rest.
5-Dizziness or nausea. If you’re feeling dizzy or nauseated, your body is already under stress and there is no reason to add exercise to the mix. Even if you don’t have a fever, if your stomach is upset or you feel queasy, you should rest. Learn to listen to your body’s signals rather than try to push through them.
6-Chronic depression or stress. Many experts recommend exercise as a coping mechanism for stress or depression, and in some cases exercise can be appropriate for these conditions. However, when cortisol is elevated and serotonin is depleted—as they are with severe and chronic stress or depression—exercise can further deplete the body and exacerbate the condition. In these cases, intense exercise should be avoided. Moderate exercise (a 30-minute gentle walk) may be appropriate, but consult your physician to be sure.
Inadequate nutrition increases the risk of anemia in postmenopausal women.
Postmenopausal women with inadequate nutritional intake have a higher risk of developing anemia, according to the results of a new study, leading researchers to speculate that nutritional intake and quality of diet should be an important focus as women age.1
Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which are critical for transporting oxygen to tissues. Anemia is the most common blood disorder, and it often goes undiagnosed because symptoms can be vague. Most often anemia results in a general feeling of fatigue, weakness, or poor concentration. Anemia can be a serious problem, affecting overall health and the ability to work or be physically active. It is a serious concern for aging women because it can result in falls and hospitalizations.
Anemia is often linked to an iron deficiency, but this new study sheds even more light on the nutritional connection to the condition. Researchers analyzed data from 72,833 older women in the United States. They found that women with anemia consumed less protein, folate, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C, and red meat than women without anemia. Furthermore, women who had a deficiency in more than a single nutrient had a 21 percent increased risk of anemia. That risk jumped to 44 percent with deficiencies in three nutrients. Use of multivitamins and mineral supplements was not associated with lower rates of anemia; however, age, body mass index, and smoking were associated with anemia.
The takeaway message is simple and clear: A healthy diet becomes increasingly important as we age. It’s imperative that postmenopausal women consume an adequate amount of iron, vitamin B12, and folate to minimize the risk of developing anemia. Healthy habits are the best line of defense to prevent anemia and maintain quality of life.
Thomson CA, Stanaway JD, Neuhouser ML, et al. Nutrient intake and anemia risk in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2011;111(4):532-41.
Obesity Increases Risk of Early Death in Women
The risk of early death increases as obesity increases.
Obesity is a major cause of early death in women, according to the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal.1 The study found that lower-income women were more likely to be obese and at a higher risk of early death, regardless of other risk factors such as smoking.
The study included more than 3,600 women ages 45 to 64 in Scotland who were followed for 28 years. None of the women had ever smoked. Approximately 43 percent of the women were considered overweight, while 14 percent were moderately obese and 5 percent were severely obese. Lower-income women were more likely to be severely obese than those with more financial resources.
During the study period, about half of the women died, with cardiovascular disease (916 women) and cancer (487) being the most common causes of death. Severely obese women had the highest death rates, whereas women who were not obese had relatively low death rates, regardless of socioeconomic status.
The researchers found that women who had never smoked were much more likely to be overweight or obese than their smoking counterparts. Although smoking is one of the strongest risk factors of death and disease, obesity carries its own set of risks and has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other illnesses that increase the risk of premature death.
The researchers in this study concluded that obesity—especially severe obesity—is an important contributor to premature death. If the statistics in this study are any indication, obesity may be socially patterned and related to socioeconomic status, which could result in healthcare inequalities.
If the results of this study sound dismal, the flip side of the story is actually quite optimistic: women who don’t smoke and are not obese have the lowest mortality rates, regardless of socioeconomic status. The takeaway message is clear: prevention works. One of the best ways to stay healthy is by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
- Hart CL, Gruer L, Watt GCM. Cause specific mortality, social position, and obesity among women who had never smoked: 28-year cohort study. British Medical Journal. 2011;342:d3785.
Eat Out without the Extra Calories
Avoiding calorie overload in restaurants
The holiday season is filled with fun, vacations, and lots of socializing—which may mean more meals in restaurants and fewer meals at home. But eating out in restaurants is no excuse to load up on calories. A little caution and common sense can keep your calorie count in check without ruining the fun factor. Here’s how.
Don’t rely on a restaurant’s published calorie counts.
Many restaurants underestimate the calorie content of their meals, and some provide calorie information only for the main course, which can be misleading; you may assume that all of those side dishes are included in the final tally. Furthermore, many cooks accidentally deviate from recipes, which can result in a higher calorie count. So, even if the restaurant provides calorie information, trust your common sense regarding calories and portion sizes.
Get hydrated. Drink the water, especially if you’re drinking wine or other alcoholic beverages. Fill up on water when you are seated and then alternate water and wine—drink a full glass of water for each full glass of wine. This will serve to fill you up and also reduce the amount of calorie-laden wine you drink. Staying hydrated is an added bonus.
Split an entrée. On average, restaurant portions are two to three times as big as an appropriate portion size. We often overeat in restaurants because more food is served and we’re naturally inclined to clean our plates. If you’re counting calories, share an entrée with someone in your group. Alternatively, the group could order “one fewer” and share, meaning if you have a party of six, order five entrées and share them family-style. This is a win for everyone—fewer calories and more options.
Make good choices. Many restaurants offer several preparation options. Choose grilled or steamed over sautéed or fried.
Small plates. Don’t fall into the entrée trap. Consider ordering two small plates or appetizers or choose soup and salad. Start small and see if you’re satisfied. You can always order more.
Doggy bag. Resist the urge to join the clean-plate club. Stop eating when you’re full or simply satisfied. If you don’t have the willpower for that, ask your server to bring you a box at the beginning of the meal and then immediately cut your meal in half and save the rest for later.