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Look Great Feel Good Newsletter

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Why squatting stretches could add years to your life

7 July 2020

By Helen Foster for The Daily Mail

Sitting for long periods is bad for your health, increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

But you don’t need to be on the move all day to offset that damage — new research suggests that if we just change how we ‘sit’, we might be healthier.

The idea comes from a recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which looked at the habits of the Hadza tribe who live in Tanzania, East Africa.

Squats can also improve strength and flexibility in the legs, which is also linked to longevity

‘The Hadzas spend the same nine to ten hours a day resting as we do, yet they don’t have the same levels of disease,’ says the study’s lead author, Professor David Raichlen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southern California.

‘We think this is because they don’t sit when they rest — they squat or kneel instead.’ And this, it seems, is key to their improved health. The question is, why?

When we sit, the muscles in the legs and buttocks switch off. However, squatting — crouching down with your feet flat on the floor — keeps the muscles working. ‘To do this,’ says Professor Raichlen, ‘requires fuel and the muscles pull fats called triglycerides out of the bloodstream.

‘High levels of triglycerides are linked to heart disease, so by using these to squat, you are reducing their levels and, potentially, the risk of this disease.’

A 2015 study, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s conference in San Diego, found that simply breaking up sitting every half an hour with squats and calf raises (when you stand on a flat surface and lift your heels to flex your calf muscles until standing on tiptoes, then slowly lower and repeat) improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Sitting for long periods is bad for your health, increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Squats can also improve strength and flexibility in the legs, which is also linked to longevity.

A trial, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2014, revealed that people, aged 51 to 80, who could get up from a squat-like position without using their hands, were less likely to die within the next six years than those who couldn’t pull themselves up.

The researchers suggest the results reflect the fact that the move encourages strength and flexibility that contribute to better health.

People who commonly squat when at rest tend to use this position when going to the bathroom — and this, too, has benefits.

‘Humans are meant to [use the loo] in a squatting position,’ explains Dr Megan Rossi, a dietitian at King’s College London, with an expertise in gut health.

‘It straightens out the bottom of the intestine and anus, allowing for a smooth evacuation without straining.’

‘The correct position for a resting squat sees you crouching down, knees bent, bottom almost on the floor, with heels flat,’ explains Tim Allardyce, a physiotherapist at Surrey Physio in Mitcham.  ‘I’d guess that 95 per cent of adults couldn’t get into, or comfortably stay in, that position.’

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. ‘Stretching the calves by standing on the edge of a step and dropping your heel down; or lying on your back and bringing one knee into your chest and then holding it there for a few seconds, will improve flexibility in the muscles you need to squat,’ he says.

‘After doing these exercises every day for a few weeks, try to hold a resting squat for ten to 20 seconds, extending the time each week until you can hold it for three to five minutes.

‘At first, only go as far as feels comfortable. With practice, you’ll increase your flexibility to get into a squat position and increase your strength to maintain it. If you have hip or knee problems, talk to your physiotherapist before exercising.’

While UK loos aren’t set up to squat, Dr Rossi suggests it’s still possible to create the position.

‘Ensure your knees are slightly higher than your hips,’ she says. ‘Place a shoe box or foot step under your feet. Then lean forward and place your elbows on top of your knees.’

Look Great Feel Good Newsletter

Health, Wellness, Fitness, Beauty News......and more

5 Ways to eat healthy veg that you hate

22 September 2019

Do you reach the recommended 5-a-day fruit and veg portions? If you love all kinds of fruit and veggies, this might not be difficult for you. But if you’re not a fan of the green stuff, this could make your weight loss harder and your diet a little bit less healthy.

The bad news is that by avoiding the foods you don’t like, you may be depriving your body of valuable nutrients, and making weight loss harder by limiting your options. The good news? You can teach your taste buds to enjoy the foods at which you once turned up your nose. Try these five tactics and you will be eating and liking more of the healthy foods than you ever thought possible.

1. Grant them a second chance. Your palate, like most other things, matures as you get older. In other words, if you were five years old when you declared your hatred for sprouts, it may be time to put them through another taste test. You might be surprised at what you’ve been missing all of these years.

2. Remember: one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. If the word 'vegetable' conjures visions of much-maligned cabbage or soggy greens, it’s time to broaden your horizons. With hundreds of veggies out there, with diverse tastes and textures, it’s unlikely that you’ll hate every one of them.

The key is finding those best suited to your palate. Don’t like broccoli or Brussels? Perhaps you prefer sweet, starchy foods? Then, a sweet potato or sugar-snap peas fit the bill. If you like something more bitter, perhaps chard or rocket would be more to your liking. If spicy is your style, roast onions and peppers with chilli might be the right vegetables for you.

3. Cheat. Include hidden veggies. Add finely chopped celery or grated carrot to your meaty Bolognese sauce, for example, add extra fruit to your yoghurt or muesli or add lots of veggies to a meat curry or use exotic and exciting veggies, as detailed on the recipe sheet. But if you really can’t face a portion of carrots, why not try making the lower fat carrot cake, as detailed on the recipe sheet, which includes carrots and uses crushed pineapple to reduce the fat content. Remember this is a treat and not an everyday way to increase your veg portions.

4. Seek out flavour sponges. If you truly can’t find vegetables with flavours you find tasty, choose the ones that act like sponges, taking on the flavours of whatever you’re cooking, such as mushrooms and aubergine. Add them to a stir-fry and they’ll taste like the soy sauce, cook them in wine or herbs and spices and they’ll absorb those flavours. Before long, you’ll start thinking of these foods in terms of the endless possibilities you can cook them in - rather than the raw flavours you associate with them now.

5. When all else fails, put on a mask. Why was salad dressing invented? Perhaps it was for people who don’t like the taste of raw veggies. Choose a low-fat or fat-free variety, and the dressing will make each crunch on those nutrient-rich veggies guilt-free and enjoyable.

Other flavour enhancers can serve the same purpose for low-fat meats and whole-grain breads. Spice things up a bit with hot sauce, garlic, ginger, balsamic vinegar, chilli paste, honey, mustard, spices and herbs. The possibilities are endless.

20 Non-weight related reasons to exercise!

31 August 2019

We are constantly bombarded with the message that obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in this country and that we must all take action! However many people are unaware of the many other benefits, beside weight management, of regular exercise that all add up to a happier, healthier person regardless of their weight, size or shape!

Most people automatically associate exercise with weight loss and are unaware of the many additional benefits to our physical and mental health that regular moderate physical activity brings:

1. Exercise reduces the initial risk of disease e.g heart disease, hypertension, and stroke

2. Exercise can help in the management of existing disease e.g diabetes, arthritis, and back pain

3. Exercise helps to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in our blood

4. Exercise promotes regular and good quality sleep patterns

5. Exercise increases bone strength and reduces the risk of osteoporosis

6. Exercise improves your muscle tone

7. Exercise increases your stamina

8. Exercise improves your strength

9. Exercise can increase your flexibility making everyday tasks easier

10. Exercise improves your balance

11. Exercise can reduce depression and improve your mood

12. Exercise can boost your self-esteem and body image

13. Exercise promotes a healthy immune system and helps ward off coughs, colds and infections

14. Exercise encourages social interaction

15. Exercise can reduce stress/anxiety and promote relaxation

16. Exercise boosts your energy levels

17. Exercise promotes better posture

18. Exercise maintains independence in later life

19. Exercise can be fun!

20. However, the most important reason to exercise is to do with the most essential muscle in our body. We only have one, it works as a pump, it has been working for us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year since before we were born and hopefully for many years to come and without its constant and regular pumping action we don't live!


The 7 ways you won't be fit this summer

7 July 2019

Summer is coming up and I know you want to look good in a bikini. I hear your cries and feel your pain but also know that you are the only one that is holding you back from getting what you really want and deserve no matter what age you are!

Many women ask what diet they can go on to lose weight quickly. I have seen and heard some of the craziest things women do to try to get into shape for the summer and here are 7 ways you won't be fit this summer!

1. Going on a liquid diet. This is a very quick way to lose weight (not fat) and when you stop you gain all the weight back and gain some extra weight too. Plus have a slower metabolism! Keep away from the SLIMFAST type drinks.

2. Not doing anything and just complaining that you don't have the body and health that you want! If you keep focusing on what you don't want you will always get that back.

3. Not setting a goal. If you just say "I want to look better" and don't give yourself a deadline then most likely you won't get there. Or it will take you twice as long.

4. Exercising too much and not eating enough! Go ahead and exercise for hours a day and starve yourself and watch your body eat away at your muscle and feel miserable.

5. Doing sit-ups thinking it will get rid of your pot belly.

6. Being obsessed about getting results. The more you say "I HAVE TO lose this weight", you will sabotage yourself. Your subconscious mind is so powerful and whatever your inner voice is saying that is what the outcome will be.

7. Weighing yourself on the scales! If you want temporary results then by all means go ahead and weigh yourself, and don't even think about getting your body fat checked since that is the only way that you can truly measure results.

So if you don’t do any of the above, you stand a chance!