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We have a wide range of articles about fitness, health and events at Active.

Read one of our many articles below by clicking on the title and after you have finished, let us know what you think by submitting a comment. What fitness techniques have you tried that have worked or failed? Is there a new kind of fitness class that we don't currently provide? What more could we do to help you achieve a healthy lifestyle?

We will be uploading more articles regularly so please keep an eye on this page, and we hope to hear from you soon!

POWERLUNCH!

At a loss for what to eat at each lunch-time or bored to death with your usual choice of sandwich? Check out some of the following lunch ideas. Choosing a healthy nutrient-packed lunch can go a long way to help you avoid that mid-afternoon slump (along with a good night's sleep!), boost your afternoon brain power and help you avoid the temptation of joining in the daily afternoon biscuit ritual.

Alternative lunch options

Occasionally trying an alternative to a sandwich may help to boost the nutrient levels of your diet. Try some of the following suggestions:

• Hummus with raw vegetable selection (carrots, broccoli, cucumber, chunks of pepper)

• Try Cauldron's Organic vegetable Pates - spread on brown rice crackers from Health Essentials (try roasted parsnip & carrot or Moroccan chickpea - gorgeous!)

• Wholemeal pasta / rice / cous-cous salad with chopped raw veggies and flavoured with herbs, sun dried tomatoes, lemon, chilli. Include a dessertspoon of oil such as Udo's oil blend or Essential Balance Oil in the dressing to boost essential fat levels in the diet (oils available from Health Essentials, Carob or Leaders health food shops)

• Baked potato without butter topped with prawns and chopped carrot; cottage cheese, chives and cucumber; or tuna with chopped olives, spring onions and herbs

Good lunchtime sandwich shop food

• Sushi from M & S, The Potteries or Jersey Sushi at Fort Regent

• Mange-tout do great salad tubs - really healthy and nutritious

• Rice and pasta salads - opt for wholemeal pasta or brown rice. Check they include loads of veggies and not too much oil/mayonnaise

• Wholemeal sandwich with healthy fillings such as prawns/grilled chicken/cottage cheese/avocado and tomato

• Home-made or shop bought natural ingredient soups - if you are vegetarian

check these soups are not made with chicken or beef stock

• Fresh fruit smoothies - made in house. Some smoothies can contain LOADS of sugar. Always check the sugar content.

Beware of these ingredients hidden in your lunch-box!

• Sugar laden yogurts - instead opt for low fat Bio yogurt with chopped fresh fruit

• Pre packaged meats such as bacon or ham - often contains unhealthy preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites

• Flapjacks or muffins (which appear healthy enough) high in sugar and fat

• Low fat 'healthy' snacks - check the ingredient list for unwanted hydrogenated fats, additives or artificial sweeteners

• Mayonnaise coated coleslaw or potato salad

• High fat sandwiches - check the ingredients - not all sandwiches are equal e.g. bacon and brie/ham and cheese/chicken and thick mayonnaise

Written by Mandy Bonhomme at 12:00

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Be sharp in the gym

We all know the scenario. You arrive at the gym, pushed for time and raring to get your workout over and done with. Warming up takes time and after all you did just walk all the way from the car park!!! So how can we convince you of

the importance of always including the warm-up and show you the risks if you just throw yourself straight into the gym without any preparation.

The Benefits

• Raising Core Body temperature - Muscles will be much more responsive due to the increase in blood supply and oxygen to the working muscles. REMEMBER warmed up muscles are able to exert greater power - a definite plus!

• Improved Flexibility and Mobility - Due to the increase in blood supply the muscles become more pliable and the joints secrete synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant - think of oiling your bike to keep all the parts working efficiently. 

• Mental preparation - A warm-up gives you time to focus on the exercise ahead and leave the stresses of the day behind. You wouldn't ask an Olympic diver to throw himself off a height without some sort of mental preparation - now would you? 

The Risks

Injury - Decreasing your risk of injury is the MAIN reason to warm-up. Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury due to lack of elasticity. Imagine your muscles as a piece of chewing gum. If you tried to stretch it when it was cold and just out the wrapper, it would snap. But if you chew it for a few minutes and allow it to warm-up, then you can stretch it to your hearts content. 

The Process

Mobilise joints - include movements that take your joints through their full range e.g. shoulder circles. This increases synovial fluid production. Lower body mobilisation can be done on the cardio equipment. 

A 10 minute pulse-raiser - helps raise body temperature and should leave you 'mildly' sweating. In the gym this can be done on the cross trainer, bike etc.

Powerplate - warms-up the muscle fibres super fast and offers an alternative warm-up for weights equipment. 1 minute for lower body (e.g. mid-squat) and 1 minute for upper body (e.g. press-up position).

Specific Warm-up - concentrates on the body part about to be used through rehearsal e.g. performing the first couple of sets of an exercise using light weights. 

The Big Question - Pre-workout stretching? It's been shrouded in controversy for some time. Should we stretch before a workout, or should we simply not bother and get on with our routine?

According to Robin Redgrave, Director of YMCAfit, exercise sessions where joints remain within a controlled range of movement (as in a resistance machine session or a group indoor cycling session) may not need a stretching component during the warm-up. However given that the jury is currently out on this issue, it wouldn't hurt to spend a couple of minutes stretching the muscles about to be used in your workout. However spending ten minutes static stretching after the warm-up, where the body temperature is allowed to drop completely defeats the aim of the warm-up and may actually increase your risk of injury! Don't waste time - get on with the workout!

Remember

From a weight training point, warm muscles are able to exert greater power, contract more efficiently and for longer before fatigue.

With regards to cardio training, research shows that an effective warm-up can increase exercise time and enable you to continue for longer.

So start your workout with a big bang and prep yourself properly!

Now that we've got you hot and bothered and raring to go, you'll have to wait until the next issue to check out more top tips to get the most out of your workout.

Written by Craig Masefield, Mandy Bonhomme at 00:00

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Are you dying of thirst?

The bones that support your body are 25% water. The muscles that drive performance are 75% water. The blood that carries nutrients to your muscles is 82% water. The lungs that oxygenate you are 90% water. Your brain that motivates you is 76% water.

People tend to think that it's impossible to drink the recommended 1.5 - 2 litres of water a day. But often these people are having a couple of coffees in the morning, a can of soft drink with lunch, and alcoholic beverages with their dinner. They all provide hydration, but are not as healthy as water.

Substituting these drinks with water will make it easier for you to achieve the recommendations. Start by drinking a couple of glasses when you first get up in the morning and then continue to drink water throughout the day. Keep a bottle of water with you all day and drink plenty before, during and after your workout.

Somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of the earth's surface is covered with water.
Michael Colgan in his book Optimum Sports Nutrition labelled us a "hairy bag of water". Very apt considering the body is approximately 66% water.

Keeping your fluid levels topped up is crucial for optimal performance. The main factors that will negatively affect performance and increase fatigue are insufficient carbohydrate stores and poor fluid intake. Research has shown that even mild dehydration of 1% bodyweight can negatively affect performance.

In an attempt to prevent a rise in core temperature as you exercise, the body tries to get rid of excess heat through sweating and also as water vapour in the air as you breathe out. Unless fluid is replaced, sweating causes a drop in circulating blood volume and a thickening of the blood. When this occurs, the heart has to work harder to maintain blood flow to the muscles, making exercise seem a whole lot harder!

According to Michael Colgan performance literally dries up without adequate hydration.
"Dehydrate a muscle by only 3% and you cause about a 10% loss of contractile strength, and an 8% loss of speed." In an article written by Lee Coyne Ph.D. entitled 'Water for Health and Performance' "Even low levels of dehydration have physiological consequences. A loss of 2% bodyweight (just 1kg for a 50kg person) causes an increase in perceived effort and is claimed to reduce performance by 10-20% A fluid loss exceeding 3-5% bodyweight reduces aerobic exercise performance noticeably and impairs reaction time, judgment, concentration and decision making - vital elements in all sports,from pole-vaulting to football."

Are you drinking enough?
Take the pee test. Sounds classy I know but this provides an easy way to check your water intake. When water losses from the body exceed water intake, the kidneys need to conserve water, making the urine more concentrated and darker in colour. Dark coloured urine is a good indicator that you are dehydrated. If you are drinking enough water then your urine should be almost clear. Please note however that certain vitamin supplements and vegetables such as beetroot can alter this colour.

A healthy person can drink about three gallons (48 cups) of water per day. Drinking too much water too quickly can lead to water intoxication. Water intoxication occurs when water dilutes the sodium level in the bloodstream and causes an imbalance of water in the brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
• Headaches
• Dry eyes / Dry mouth
• Drowsiness / Light headedness
• Reduced concentration
• Irritability
• Reduced urine output
• Fatigue
• Muscle weakness
Reduced performance

Soft drinks, coffee and tea, while containing mostly water, also contain caffeine. Caffeine can act as a mild diuretic, preventing water from travelling to necessary locations in the body. From a health point of view these are not the best choices but can contribute towards your daily intake. By the time a person feels thirsty, his or her body has lost over 1 percent of its total water amount.

Recommendations
• Don't wait until you are thirsty
• Sip fluid throughout the day - aim for 8 glasses of good quality water, herbal teas, diluted fruit and vegetable juices
• Remember that a diet high in fruit and vegetables will have a high water content that contributes towards daily intake
• Arrive hydrated to your exercise session
• Exercise can suppress thirst - so get into the habit of drinking regularly during your session
• Take a water bottle with you
• Sportmediceine.about.com recommend drinking 300ml every 10 - 15 mins during exercise
• If exercising longer than 90 minutes then the addition of a sports drink formula can help performance
• Adjust drinking strategy according to heat - training in warm temperatures or outside in the sun encourages more sweat loss - therefore drink more
• Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses - each kilogram of weight loss equates to approximately 1 litre of water
References
www.centralhome.com - 'Water for Health and Performance' by Lee Coyne
The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition Anita Bean
Optimum Sports NutritionMichael Colgan
www.sportsmedicine.about.com

Written by Mandy Bonhomme at 15:50

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Devoid of Energy...Has your engine run dry?

Having trouble getting your engine started in the morning; feeling stressed and frazzled; tired all the time;having problems concentrating; or feeling de-motivated?If this rings true for you, then read on for tips on how to increase your zest for living and re energize your batteries.

Step 1
Identify what is sapping your body of energy?
• Lack of sleep
• Stress
• Overwork
• Blood sugar imbalance
• Excess alcohol
• Over reliance on stimulants such as tea and coffee
Poor diet

Step 2
Shake up your diet.
Energizing nutrition can have a profound effect on the way you feel. Instead of relying on that chocolate bar or double latte to keep you pepped up; fill your diet with fresh foods and slow releasing carbohydrates to keep your body running in peak condition. The body has to work harder processing low quality nutrient-poor foods and uses some of its own energy reserves in the process - resulting in less energy for you.
Action.
Eat oat porridge for breakfast topped with fresh berries and a desert spoon of ground seeds (mixed ground seeds available from the health food shops).

Eat every 3 - 4 hours.
To stop your energy levels from falling. Leaving long gaps between meals can cause blood sugar levels to drop resulting in tiredness, reduced concentration and general lethargy.
Action
Take a small tupperware of mixed nuts and seeds to work to snack mid morning and mid afternoon.

Drink plenty of water.
Dehydration can exhaust your body.
Action
Aim to drink between 1 and 2 litres of bottled or filtered water per day.

Avoid eating late at night.
It disrupts digestion and prevents the body from carrying out its essential repair work - this can leave you feeling groggy and low on energy the next day.
Action.
If you get home late at night, try to eat your main meal at lunchtime and have a smaller,
more easily digested meal for dinner.

Eat slow releasing carbs with protein.
Simple carbs release sugar in the body at a faster rate than complex carbs, fats, and protein, and give the body an immediate energy surge. However this boost is short-lived and can leave you constantly fighting a battle for energy during the day. Protein gives your body a boost, and when combined with the right carbohydrates, gives the body long-lasting energy.
Action.
For a super quick protein-rich lunch try tinned sardines in tomato on whole meal toast.

Cut caffeine.
Caffeine is an anti-nutrient and will rob your body of vital vitamins and minerals. It can reduce the absorption of iron and zinc by up to 50%. Sugar and stimulants such as caffeine do provide a quick energy boost but they are usually followed by an even greater low, as blood sugar levels crash back down. These fleeting bursts of artificial energy can leave you feeling whacked out.
Action
Come off the caffeine slowly. Start by reducing the amount of coffee you drink by half. Experiment with alternatives such as Red Bush (Rooibosch) tea, Caro coffee alternative and herbal teas. Don't be put off by your first herbal tea taste, there are loads to choose from!

Useful supplements to help boost energy B vitamins, Coenzyme Q10, Ginseng and spirulina can all help increase energy levels in the body.

Step 3
Try the following to take your energy to new heights
✔ Let the sunshine into your life. Get yourself outdoors and breathe in that fresh air
✔ Get enough sleep. Poor sleep is one of the main contributing factors to low energy. Work out how much you need and stick to it
✔ Get active and exercise at least 3 times a week - exercise helps create vitality, resilience and health
✔ Practice proper breathing - take deep breathes to reduce stress, unwind and re energize - all in one shot!
✔ Stop worrying - stress and anxiety literally drain the body of energy.Worry never helped anyone
✔ Be positive - negativity is draining

High energy eating ideas

Breakfast
✔ Porridge oats soaked overnight with almonds, desiccated coconut, raisins, flax seeds. Add berries in the morning. Glass of diluted unsweetened fruit juice
✔ Fresh fruit smoothie mixed with yogurt or plain tofu and seeds

Snacks
✔ Glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice (homemade, or from the Market juice bar or Cafejacs at the Arts Centre) + a small handful of nuts
✔ One chopped pepper + a small tub of hummus (M & S or Waitrose at Checkers)

Lunch
✔ Wholemeal tortilla wrap with chicken and vegetables
✔ Fresh soup (made without cream) and wholemeal brown roll

Snack
✔ Unsweetened probiotic yogurt with chopped banana
✔ Chopped apple with peanut butter (healthy version)

Dinner
✔ Stir-fried beef with broccoli and spring onions served with brown basmati rice
✔ Baked potato and chilli
✔ Grilled trout or salmon fillet with steamed green vegetables

To sum up -
For good energy eat food that brings goodness to your body. Keep nutrient-poor foods to a minimum - to process these the body has to use its own stores. Avoid stimulating an unnatural high with caffeine and finally sleep well, smile lots, breathe deeply, relax whenever you can and take time to enjoy your life.

Written by Mandy Bonhomme at 15:35

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