Khamis, 17 April 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Marienkron: Where health tourists get hydro-blasted by Austrian nuns and love it

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 04:35 AM PDT

At Marienkron, a health resort in Austria that's operated by nuns, guests can undergo Kneipp hydrotherapy, among the health services offered. Here, a guest feels the shock of cold water administered by Sister Elisabeth as part of the hydrotherapy session. – Reuters

At Marienkron, a health resort in Austria that's operated by nuns, guests can undergo Kneipp hydrotherapy, among the health services offered. Here, a guest feels the shock of cold water administered by Sister Elisabeth as part of the hydrotherapy session. – Reuters

Being blasted with jets of hot and cold water by a 70-year-old nun may not be everyone's idea of fun, but it has some firm fans. They return year after year to Marienkron, an Austrian health resort 3km from the Hungarian border.

The regular guests relish the tranquil yet disciplined atmosphere fostered by the Cistercian nuns who run the Kneipp hydrotherapy centre, look after the visitors and offer opportunities for prayer and life-coaching.

Marienkron: An old school health resort in Austria operated by Cistercian nuns that offers Kneipp hydrotherapy, qigong, prayers and life-coaching. Here, Sister Bernarda (left) and Sister Gertrudis walk toward the abbey. – Reuters

But the ethos of Marienkron, a low-profile resort frequented mainly by older guests seeking relief from aches and pains and mobility problems, may not survive once the current generation of nuns is gone.

The abbey and retreat at Marienkron, framed by spring flowers. – Reuters

Just five of the abbey's 12 nuns are still fit or young enough to work in the resort, and management has already been handed over to a secular director.

Its dominant figures, 71-year-old Sister Elisabeth and Sister Bernarda – who declines to give her age – have been there for decades. They fear they may have no successors.

Sister Elisabeth (left) talks to Sister Bernada at the abbey retreat in Marienkron. – Reuters

"I don't think so. Not in the next 10 years," Sister Elisabeth said when asked about the prospects for new joiners.

She administers the Kneipp treatments with a firm but kindly hand – a skill she learned after the abbey first began taking in guests in 1969.

Sister Elisabeth administers Kneipp hydrotherapy to a guest at the abbey retreat in Marienkron. – Reuters

The nuns who went on to found the resort had moved from Germany in 1955 to pray for the souls on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Before the guests arrived, they eked out a living growing vegetables, raising chickens and teaching.

Sister Gertrudis runs the shop at the abbey retreat in Marienkron.  – Reuters

Health resort where 'wellness' is banned

Today, the retreat is an established health resort with more than 100 beds offering activities ranging from qigong – a traditional Chinese practice involving movements designed to align body, breath and mind – to water gymnastics.

It made a loss last year, though, perhaps due to its modest prices – a week's full board for 529 euros (RM2,375).

'No fuss' guest rooms at Marienkron. – Reuters

Marienkron could do more to attract publicity – Sister Bernada's qigong classes made it briefly notorious in the Austrian media – but it is wary of attracting the "wrong" kind of guests: weekenders who may not understand its philosophy.

"The word 'wellness' is banned here," director Gunther Farnleitner said. "We don't really take visitors just for a weekend."

The rules are strict. Lights out is at 10 pm, when even the tea bar closes. Use of mobile phones is banned in public areas. Guests are encouraged to use one of two small Internet cabins if they must get online. Prayer is optional.

Sister Bernada talks to a guest at the abbey retreat in Marienkron. – Reuters

An inquiry from British Vogue magazine last year was answered but never followed up by the magazine.

In the hope of showing young women the attractions of a monastic life, the abbey is planning to revive a program this year to offer young women short-term stays with the nuns, from a few days to a few weeks.

"Such lovely work as we have – you can't find it any more," said Sister Bernarda. But she acknowledged that the scheme might not save the abbey. "If someone decides to join, that's not up to us."

The health resort itself would continue, said both Farnleitner and Bernada. They showed little enthusiasm for what form it might take, though. "It's thinkable, but it would make no sense for us," said Sister Bernada. "We would lose the spirituality." – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Health, Europe, Health, Alternatives, Travel, Europe, Austria, Marienkron, health resort, Cistercian, nuns, Kneipp hydrotherapy centre

Blame the elders: Study suggests laziness could be hereditary

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 01:20 AM PDT

There could be a very simple reason why many of us feel lazy every now and then.

Could genes be to blame for a lack of motivation to hit the gym? A recent study conducted at the University of Missouri suggests this could be the case.

By studying a population of rats over 10 generations, researchers came to the conclusion that there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to laziness, at least among rodents. The study was conducted by Franck W. Booth and Michael D. Roberts of the University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine and the results were published in the latest issue of the American Journal Of Physiology.

Around 50 rats were placed in cages with running wheels. Over a period of six days, researchers recorded the amount of time each rat spent willingly running on its wheel. The rats were then separated into two breeding groups, so that the 26 most active rats bred only amongst themselves, and the 26 least active bred only with each other. The process was then repeated over 10 generations.

At the end of the experiment, the researchers observed that the rodents from the "super runners" line willingly ran 10 times longer per day on average than those from the "couch potato" line.

To find which traits predisposed the active rats to working up a sweat, the researchers looked at several factors, including body composition and mitochondria content in muscle cells. But the most significant difference between the two populations was in their genes.

"Out of more than 17,000 different genes in one part of the brain, we identified 36 genes that may play a role in predisposition to physical activity motivation," Roberts noted.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether such a gene exists in humans and how crucial it might be in determining our willingness to engage in physical activity. — AFP Relaxnews

When it comes to exercise, start small and work your way up

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Fitness celebrity Tosca Reno urges us to make small changes that can snowball into big improvements.

Hers is the Cinderella story of the fitness world.

At age 40, Tosca Reno says she was nearly 36kg overweight, depressed and clinging to a bad marriage because, as a stay-at-home mother, she feared she couldn't raise her three young girls on her own.

Today, at 53, she is one of the most recognised celebrities in the fitness world – and not only because she recently posed for the cover of Oxygen magazine in a blue bikini that showed off trim, tight abs and a brilliant smile.

Reno says there's nothing remarkable about her transformation, except that she consistently took the small, persistent steps toward health and wellness that she outlines in her latest book, The Start Here Diet.

"I didn't come from a fitness world. I didn't know where to begin," Reno says. "But I knew I had to begin somewhere. I would get winded walking up a single flight of stairs. It scared me. I remember thinking, 'If I don't do something about this, I won't see my girls grow up to be young ladies.'"

Reno says The Start Here Diet is her most revealing book to date, and there's no doubt it's her most accessible.

Typically, Reno is preaching to the converted. She writes a monthly column in Oxygen magazine, one of the few mainstream fitness magazines aimed at women who are not afraid to hit the weight room at the gym.

She is also author of the Eat Clean Diet franchise, which includes more than a dozen bestselling wellness books and counts Angelina Jolie as a fan. (Reno is also behind the glute workout bible, The Butt Book.)

But she says she realised that the Clean Diet approach and its emphasis on exercising and eating like a body builder – six small meals a day, eliminating all processed foods in favour of lean proteins, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables – was too intimidating for some.

"Women would come up to me at a book signing and say, 'I love your book, but I don't know how to get started,'" Reno said. "So I thought, 'Ah, I really need to go back to the beginning'."

The Start Here Diet begins with Reno detailing the shambles of her life when she made the decision to put down the peanut butter, cheese and ice cream – her "drugs" of choice – and leave her husband. (She would go on to meet and marry the late fitness magazine publisher Robert Kennedy, who brought Reno into the pages of Oxygen and often pointed to his wife as proof that it's never too late to get in shape.)

Reno's book outlines the three-step process she says she took after her life reached a turning point.

In Step 1, she walks readers through what she calls an emotional "dive inward", traversing thorny terrain such as the real reasons we turn to food for emotional comfort and how to break those destructive habits. Step 2 urges readers to identify just two or three "hidden foods" – trigger foods that we binge on in secret.

"In my experience, it's not a dozen foods that keep us from losing weight, but one, two or three old standbys," Reno says. She goes on to coach readers to give up those foods for just one week, one of those baby steps that Reno says give people confidence that they can tackle their food demons.

"It's really about changing your thinking and rewiring your brain," Reno says. "When I realised it was just one or two foods standing in my way, it helped give me the momentum I needed to keep going. It was very exciting to see how changes could be made so dramatically. I remember trying on a skirt and it actually fell down and off of my hips, and I thought, 'This is because I put the lid on the peanut butter!'"

While the book goes on to encourage a meal plan, there is no calorie counting or dictated menus. Reno explores ways to eat seasonally and make fast, easy meals.

Recipes, for example, include an egg-and-muffin breakfast sandwich, peanut noodles with chicken and vegetables, and shrimp and sausage gumbo.

Don't like to cook? Reno has suggestions for dining out, even at fast-food restaurants. There are dessert recipes, such as a homemade cherry pie, with the caveat that these dishes should be reserved for the rare splurge.

Step 3, of course, is fitness.

But it doesn't necessarily mean the gym. Gardening and house-cleaning can be great workouts, she says.

Once people see progress on the scale and in the mirrors, it begins to snowball. People will begin to reach for more healthful foods and have the courage to embrace more intense levels of activity.

"The idea is to start small," Reno says. "I want people to understand the difference between 'food' and 'nutrition'. It's almost impossible to overeat kale. But it's amazing how easy it is to overeat potato chips because there's nothing satisfying in there.

"The body is beautifully programmed to keep asking for what it needs, and if you haven't satisfied that need yet, your body will keep asking for it."

There is so much about life that is beyond our control, Reno says. Three years ago, Reno's stepson, Braden, died of injuries suffered during an accident years earlier.

Peanuts and peanut butter

The Start Here Diet begins with Reno detailing the shambles of her life when she made the decision to put down the peanut butter, cheese and ice cream – her 'drugs of choice'. — Filepic

And while she was writing this book, Reno's husband, Kennedy, succumbed to cancer.

But eating clean and exercising were areas over which she had "absolute control", she says.

"I needed to fortify myself through these tragedies," she says. "I didn't make the same mistake of going back to my drugs of choice. And, really, that wasn't going to help anything. I got through those days by sticking to the discipline of eating clean and exercising."

That might sound daunting, as if requiring superhuman willpower and strength. So just start small, Reno says. "If you get rid of those 'hidden foods' and just move a little more each day, you will get amazing results." – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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