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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Spin to trim: Hoop your way to fitness

Posted: 29 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Long considered a kid's apparatus, hula hoops are making a comeback for a stronger core and smaller waist.

LOVE handle, beer belly, breadbasket, spare tyre, whatever you want to call it, the abdomen is the one body part everyone wants to trim and tone.

The belly radiates a certain sex appeal in both genders, and it is probably the only section people don't mind having flat. I have no idea how the term sexy became equated with flat abs, but you certainly don't hear cries for a flat tush, or a flat or scrawny top.

I talked about belly-blasting moves in my last column and we examine it again today, albeit differently. If you're tired of doing crunches and planks to whittle your waist, grab a hula hoop and twirl it around your midsection.

Hooping – the modern evolution of the hula hoop, is no child's play, although you've probably spun it around aplenty as a kid. It has become popular in some parts of the world and proponents promote the activity as a total body workout.

Apparently, Michelle Obama, Beyonce and former basketball star Shaquille O'Neal are advocates of the hooping workout and swivel their hips frequently to keep their protrusions in check.

Rumour has it that America's First Lady can do some neat hula moves on her knees! In one interview, Kelly Osbourne revealed that hula-hooping helped her whittle two inches off her waist.

According to a 2010 study conducted at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the United States, hooping burns an average of seven calories a minute and around 210 calories for a 30-minute workout.

At first glance, this may not sound like much (a 68kg person running a mile in less than 12 minutes will burn between 100-120 calories), but it's about the same results you'd get from a cardio kickboxing or aerobic class, or even brisk walking.

The added benefit: you get a sleeker midsection without having to do spot training for the abs.

The rhythmic nature of hooping can also be relaxing and meditative.

History states that hula-hooping dates back thousands of years to ancient Egypt and Greece when children used hoops fashioned from grapevines for play. It spread to England and the rest of the world as a recreational and dance activity before gyms and fitness centres started using it for exercise.

The community grew to be so big that in 2007, two hoopers founded World Hoop Day. Thousands of hoopers synchronised their steps and gyrated their hips on six continents, and continue to do so on the first Saturday of October every year.

The day also brings cost-effective toys that double as a portable gym to remote areas of the world where resources are limited.

Hoopers perform in many cities and countries to raise money for charity, and donate hoops to societies that can't afford them. The intention is for children to have fun, exercise their imaginations, and keep physically fit.

I was introduced to hooping a decade ago by a dance instructor, and was delighted at how quickly I saw my abs contouring and waist shrinking, though the latter wasn't my intention on my Twiggy frame.

The first few classes left me with bruises all over my belly from the weight of the hula. Weighted hula hoops for adults weigh between one to five pounds (0.5 to 2.3kg) and are made of wood, rattan or plastic tubing.

In contrast, children's hoops are typically made of lightweight plastic, have a very small diameter, and are incredibly difficult for most adults to use.

With smaller and lighter hoops, it takes more energy to keep the hoop going, so it's sheer wonder how the kids spin it so well. I tried with my nephew's baby hoop and I couldn't even manage one full rotation!

Some people believe the lighter hoops enable you to sweat more because you have to expand more energy to keep it going. Yes, you lose more calories, but it doesn't trim the waist as effectively.

The added resistance created by a somewhat heavier hoop allows it to rotate around the body slowly, and has a remarkable way of sculpting and reshaping in all the right places.

How to choose a hoop? The right size reaches anywhere between just below your belly button and the middle of your chest when it's resting vertically on the ground. The weight is up to you. Most weighted hoops have a diameter between 38 and 42 inches (96-107cm).

You don't need to be a whiz to learn to hoop. Start with one leg in front of the other, and loop the hoop over your belly. Hold the hoop parallel to the floor, contract your abdominal muscles, give it a good twirl to start spinning, and slowly rock back and forth in a circular motion until you get the rhythm.

If your hoop wobbles and starts to fall, lengthen your spine and move faster. Move side to side with your waist and hips or back to front with your belly.

Hooping can be frustrating, but once you get it, voila!

Over time, you can add in turns, squats and overhead passes from one hand to the other to work other muscle groups.

Now, I occasionally incorporate hooping as part of circuit training classes and my students love it. However, the young men tend to lack grace and coordination, while the young ladies sail through.

Just keeping the hoop in place provides enough challenge for these men, but they don't mind fumbling in the name of fun. When I tell them to do 30 burpees or crunches, they'll moan and groan, but bring on the hula, and their faces will light up like they've touched down in Hawaii.

Weighted hoops are a great addition to your workouts. All you need is 10 minutes of spinning. If you can't manage it at one go, break it up into two five-minute sections.

It's best to spin in both directions so both sides of the abs get an equal workout, although, if you're right-handed, it's easier to spin anti-clockwise.

You don't need to do any fancy tricks – just spinning the hoop is enough to trim your waist, see some definition, and attract stares.

The writer is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places. The views expressed are entirely her own.

Young women who eat lots of veggies are healthier later

Posted: 30 Mar 2014 08:10 PM PDT

Oddly enough, this doesn't apply to men.

Young women who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables show significantly lower rates of hardening in the arteries 20 years later, said US research out on March 28.

However, men did not appear to benefit the way women did, raising questions about why a heart healthy diet may benefit one sex over the other, according to the study presented at the American College of Cardiology conference.

The research was based on 2,508 participants in the government-sponsored Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which began in the 1980s with the aim of tracking heart health among 18- to 30-year-olds over time.

Women who reported eating eight to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables in their 20s were 40% less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries in their 40s, compared with those who ate the just three to four servings a day.

The association remained even after researchers accounted for other lifestyle behaviors that could impact cardiovascular health.

"These findings confirm the concept that plaque development is a lifelong process, and that process can be slowed down with a healthy diet at a young age," said lead author Michael Miedema, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute.

"This is often when dietary habits are established, so there is value in knowing how the choices we make in early life have lifelong benefits."

Researchers are not sure why the same benefits were not apparent in men, and said one possibility is that not enough men were included in the study to provide a clear picture.

Sixty-three per cent of the people in the study were female and 37% were male.

"Several other studies have also suggested that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is less protective in men, but we do not have a good biological reason for this lack of association," Miedema said. – AFP Relaxnews

Show off your teeth: Oral care is important for well-being

Posted: 29 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Why oral healthcare should be taken more seriously.

JUST mentioning the word toothache is usually enough to make people wince. Understandably, many avoid seeing a dentist until the pain becomes unbearable. Such delays can lead to complications, and potentially compromise the ability to swallow or speak.

Although statistics from the National Oral Health Survey of Adults (NOHSA 2010) showed that an alarming 88.9% of adults had dental caries, the public's cognizance on the importance of oral healthcare still remains at low levels.

In addition, we still see reports from studies showing that more than 70% of 12-year-old children suffer from dental decay. Worse still, surveys have shown that eight to 10 milk teeth of Malaysian pre-school children are affected by caries even before they turn five.

The good news is, despite the high prevalence of caries, there is mounting evidence that tooth decay and cavities can be most effectively deterred by understanding what causes caries and following a few simple rules.

A combination of an effective daily oral care routine and an annual consultation with a dentist can be a good start.

Oral care is important for everyone's health and well-being for a variety of reasons. Considering the impact of dental disorders, it is astonishing to see how often it is ignored. Evidence shows more than 3.6 billion people are suffering from caries globally, which today is categorised as an infectious disease.

It's more unfortunate if children are the sufferers – the pain combined with swelling can hinder the ability to eat and speak, stunting a child's growth. They end up missing hours of school, affecting their quality of life.

The pain increases when the tooth has to be extracted, leaving a wound that is just as painful, if not more painful, than before the extraction, and which takes time to heal.

A child under five with 50% of the 20 baby teeth affected by caries is at a higher risk of having other health problems when he/she becomes an adult. Unfortunately, the impact of caries is not limited to oral health, but to general health and overall quality of life.

Why do cavities develop?

Dental decay is caused by three major factors: bacteria, food and bad oral health. Except for bacteria, the other two – the food we eat and the oral condition of teeth and saliva – are within our control.

Make sure to have a balanced diet with fibrous foods, and limit the amount of daily sugar consumption.

Eat at the right time, with few snacks in between. Avoid foods that are sticky and starchy, as they retain the plaque mass for a longer duration on the tooth surface.

Plaque sticks on both hard and soft surfaces, and nurtures bacteria. It takes less than five minutes for your sugared food to be sought after by some two million resident bacteria in your mouth, particularly Streptococcus mutans and its relatives (Strep salivarius, Strep viridians, etc).

The end result is a lowering of the acid level in the mouth to below pH 5.5. At this level, good chemical ions that make up the outer enamel matrix (the pearly white outer layer) will be demineralised or dissolved, leaving openings that can pick up poor chemical ions from your saliva in the mouth to be attached to the holes.

Dentist Timothy Kosinski checks the dental implant of Kevin P. Brennan, of Grosse Pointe Woods, at his office in Bingham Farms village in Southfield, Michigan, March 12, 2012. (Jessica J. Trevino/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Visit your dentist at least once a year so that any decay problems can be detected early and interventions can be carried out. – MCT

Therefore, to make sure you have a good pool of positive chemical ions like fluoride, you must drink fluoridated water instead of sweetened beverages. A regular size café latte contains up to nine teaspoons of sugar.

Those who like to drink distilled water or use filtered water should note that evidence has shown fluorides are often lost during the distillation or filtration process.

Also, do not forget to brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpastes.

As soon as it becomes foamy, the fluoride ions in the toothpaste will fill up the microscopic holes in your enamel to make your teeth stronger.

At the minimum, stronger teeth delay the formation of big cavities. We should aim to acquire the Japanese 80/20 concept. It means Japanese seniors in their 80s still retain 20 occluding permanent teeth out of 32, enabling them to eat, smile and enjoy a healthy life.

More importantly, remember that it takes at least half an hour for the post-eating acidic environment to return to a neutral pH of six or more.

More often than not, we don't have a chance to reach that level as we Malaysians love to snack in between meals. Leaving an acidic ecosystem in the mouth is certainly dangerous as other harmful bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and its relatives, thrive in acidic pH.

Snacking maintains the acidic environment for a longer period, allowing more time for teeth dissolution.

This is a dynamic ongoing process that lasts a lifetime.

Yes, you will have some caries that may or may not be visible to the naked eye during your lifetime, but if you take good care of your teeth and visit your dentist for early painless intervention, chances are, you will not have a cavity or collapsed gums early or late in your life.

How to care for your mouth

Although our mouths are exposed to tooth decay, we can decrease the chances of getting cavities by caring for our general and oral health, and making small lifestyle changes.

·If you are pregnant, start loving your unborn baby by providing a balanced diet with lots of vitamins from vegetables and fruits, and avoid or limit sugary foods and drinks.

At the minimum, drink lots of fluoridated water.

Make sure you always clean your teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste; especially before going to bed. Cut down on snacking habits in order to reduce mouth acidity.

Do not forget to see your dentist regularly to make sure all is well.

> Protect your baby's health by starting the oral hygiene habit early. With a wet and clean small towel, wipe baby's mouth after milk feeding.

> Keep your baby smiley and healthy. Start brushing baby's teeth without toothpaste first when the baby teeth are out at five to six months.

When you start using toothpaste on baby around two years of age or so, make sure you supervise the brushing so that baby will not swallow excessive toothpaste, particularly if it has fluoride.

Rinse baby's mouth well. Like you, your baby will feel fresh and nap well.

> When you start feeding solid food, keep the sugar level threshold low. Do NOT add any flavours (sugars or salt) to your baby's food. Their taste buds should not be stimulated to these tastes early.

Start with a few spoons of non-sweetened cereal or rice porridge with some vegetable gravy. Subsequently, include tasteless meat soup and fruits. You are well on the way to helping your baby adopt a healthy lifestyle.

> If you are wearing dentures, make sure you take them out at night and brush well to keep them clean.

Put them in water overnight. The soft tissue in your mouth needs to breathe, so clean your mouth well.

Make sure you brush your tongue (which usually traps dead cells, food debris etc), and rinse with a fluoridated mouth rinse. You will feel good and fresh when you go to bed.

> If you have chronic diseases like diabetes or heart problems, it is even more important that you have good oral health, with no open cavities.

As the mouth is the first port of entry for everything and contains billions of bacteria, we don't want these to travel down into your inner organs and wreak havoc.

Poor oral health has the potential to exacerbate chronic ailments.

It may help to add mouth rinse to your shopping list. But mouth-rinsing is to be done only after toothbrushing.

epa04107828 Elderly Japanese woman stand in front of Hina dolls displayed on the steps at a Shinto shrine in Katsuura city, Chiba prefecture, Japan, 03 March 2014. Every year on 03 March, Japan celebrates the Doll Day, or also called Girl's Day. On this day, Hina dolls are traditionally placed on a red carpet and displayed in homes to protect against evil spirits.  EPA/EVERETT KENNEDY BROWN

We should aim to acquire the Japanese concept of 80/20. It means Japanese seniors in their 80s still retain 20 occluding permanent teeth out of 32, enabling them to eat, smile and enjoy a healthy life. – EPA

Four basic steps

In general, there are four essential steps that you can take to achieve good oral health: 

> Maintain good oral hygiene – brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day to make sure you remove dirt and bacteria that sticks to your tooth surface and collects in the loopholes of your tongue papilla.

Use other oral hygiene devices like floss or interdental brushes to help you get rid of food debris stuck in hidden places between your teeth.

This is especially important if you are wearing braces for orthodontic treatments or other forms of expensive restorations like bridges and even implants!

Ask your dentist what is best for you.

> Use fluoridated toothpaste to strengthen your teeth against dental decay.

> Avoid frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks, and cut down on snacks to reduce the chances of dental decay.

> Visit your dentist at least once a year so that any decay problems can be detected early and interventions can be carried out. It will cut your dental budget down as you will need less complicated or expensive procedures.

At the turn of the 19th century, caries was termed as a disease of affluence in the developed West. We hope that as we achieve developed status as a nation, caries will be a story of the past.

Prof Dr Rahimah Abdul Kadir is dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Lincoln University College, elected member of the Malaysian Dental Council, assessor for the Malaysian Qualification Agency, and chairman of the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future (ACFF).


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