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Recent studies from India and Sweden indicate yoga offers multiple health benefits.
Botox and plastic surgery may promise to reduce wrinkles and worry lines, but some New Yorkers are turning to facial yoga to achieve a youthful appearance.
At a recent class in Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side, yoga instructor Annelise Hagen teaches several facial exercises designed to stretch and tone facial muscles.
A group of women practice moves including “The Lion,” showing the tongue hanging out and eyes rolled up. Hagen encourages class members to hold the position for 60 seconds, joking: “You can do this any time. It really helps you get a seat on the train.”
Hagen recently released a book, The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift (Avery, 2007). She said she developed a workshop using facial yoga because women wanted to look their best, “but they weren’t really thinking about how to exercise their facial muscles.”
She said facial muscles become weak and flabby and need regular workouts and circulation to reduce wrinkles.
Besides “The Lion,” other exercises include “Satchmo,” in which the cheeks are blown out Louis Armstrong-style, and ”Marilyn,” in which glamorous kisses are blown to strengthen mouth muscles for full and firm lips.
“It uses the same principles of exercise you would use for any other parts of your body,” Hagen said. “Facial muscles also become more toned, so it is a natural way of getting a lift.”
Hagen recommends facial yoga for those wanting to find outer and inner beauty, saying, “the emotional aspect is just as important as the physiological.”
But she does not rule out plastic surgery or Botox. “I don’t rule it out for myself. One day I may feel like I need that. But regardless, maintaining elasticity and tone is really crucial, especially if you have had Botox and plastic surgery,” she said.
While making faces in front of strangers might intimidate some, those who attended the class thought it the perfect way to combat busy New York lifestyles. “Working in New York is very stressful,” Kathy Healey said. ”It’s a perfect way to end the week.”
Reuters, September 5, 2007
The Ritz-Carlton, Naples's spa introduced two new treatments: Drift Away, designed to soothe those who have trouble sleeping; and Body Training Systems, professionally choreographed exercise classes. 239-598-3300
A coffee habit, coupled with regular exercise, may help prevent skin cancers better than either factor alone, new research suggests.
The study was done only with animals, however, and it's not a reason to abandon standard sun-protection habits.
"You should not give up the sunblock," said Dr. Allan H. Conney, senior author of the study, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The findings aren't entirely new. "In earlier studies, we found caffeine and exercise -- either one by themselves -- inhibited ultraviolet light-induced skin cancer in mice," said Conney, the director of the Laboratory for Cancer Research at the School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
But the new research shows that "the combination [of the two] works better," he said, providing a dramatically better anti-cancer result.
Both caffeine and exercise seem to help kill the UVB-damaged cells before malignancy sets in. "We really don't know how that happens," Conney said.
In the study, his team looked at four groups of hairless mice. The rodents' exposed skin is very vulnerable to the sun.
One group was given caffeinated water to drink each day, the equivalent of a person drinking a couple of cups of coffee a day, Conney said. Another group ran voluntarily on a running wheel, the equivalent of a person running two or two and a half miles every day, he said. (These mice will happily go on an exercise wheel if one is available, Conney said.) A third group had both the caffeine and the exercise, while a fourth group had neither and served as the control group.
The mice in all four groups were exposed to lamps that generated UVB radiation that damaged the skin cells' DNA.
While some degree of healthy, programmed skin cell death ("apoptosis") was seen in all four groups of mice, the caffeine drinkers and exercisers were best at killing off the damaged cells, the researchers found.
To find out how different the four groups were in terms of killing off damaged skin cells, the researchers looked at physical changes in those cells. They also looked at chemical markers, such as enzymes, involved in killing damaged cells.
The differences were dramatic. The caffeine drinkers showed a 96 percent increase in damaged cell death compared to the control group and the exercisers showed a 120 percent increase. Even more significant, the mice that drank caffeine and ran on the training wheel had a nearly 400 percent increase in cell death of damaged cells.
Whether this combination would work in people is not known, Conney said, although some research has found that caffeine and exercise does reduce certain cancer risks. He said he would like to do a clinical study in humans next.
More than a million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in the United States annually, according to the American Cancer Society. About 62,190 cases of melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer type, will be diagnosed this year.
A spokesman for the Skin Cancer Foundation urged caution in interpreting the study findings, however. "It will take years of extensive testing to determine whether this will be a worthwhile concept before you can say anything specific about it," said Dr. Michael Gold, founder of the Gold Skin Care Center in Nashville, Tenn.
"Mice and humans are very different. That said, we do know that caffeine applied topically has been popular as a 'cosmeceutical' anti-aging ingredient and might be useful in helping prevent non-melanoma skin cancers," Gold said. "The concept of systemic caffeine needs to be addressed further. We also know that moderate exercise is an immune moderator and can help ward off cancers and other diseases."
He echoed standard advice to wear sunscreen when out in the sun. "If you are exercising outside you must wear sunscreen no matter what," Gold said. "If you don't protect yourself from the sun while exercising outdoors you are increasing your risk of getting non-melanoma skin cancers and melanoma. Protecting yourself from the sun is currently the only proven way to prevent skin cancer."
By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay News, July 30, 2007
Yoga's postures, controlled breathing and meditation may work together to help ease brains plagued by anxiety or depression, a new study shows.
Brain scans of yoga practitioners showed a healthy boost in levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) immediately after a one-hour yoga session. Low brain levels of GABA are associated with anxiety and depression, the researchers said.
"I am quite sure that this is the first study that's shown that there's a real, measurable change in a major neurotransmitter with a behavioral intervention such as yoga," said lead researcher Dr. Chris Streeter, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
She believes yoga could prove a useful tool to help people battling depression and anxiety disorders. "We're not advocating that they chuck their medication, but I would advise that they could use it as an adjunct and see how they are doing," Streeter said.
Her team published its findings in the May issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
In the study, the Boston researchers used high-tech magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging to gauge levels of GABA in the brains of eight long-time yoga practitioners and 11 non-practitioners. The participants were healthy, and none was diagnosed with a major psychiatric condition.
Brain scans were taken before the beginning of the experiment. Then, the yoga group was asked to engage in the meditative practice for 60 minutes, while the non-yoga group simply read. The researchers then re-scanned each participant's brain, looking specifically at GABA levels.
"We showed a 27 percent increase in the brain GABA levels of those doing yoga -- a really significant increase," Streeter said. No such change was noted in the non-practitioners who had just read.
She said the style or school of yoga practiced didn't seem to matter. "We had hatha, ashtanga, bikram, vinyasa, and kripalu" practitioners included in the yoga group, Streeter said, "and many had been trained in several different schools."
According to Streeter, "this all gives us one of the mechanisms by which yoga may be having a beneficial effect. There could be other mechanisms."
But another expert pointed to what he considered flaws in the research.
Zindel Segal, chairman of psychotherapy and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Toronto, has for years studied the use of behavioral interventions to alleviate psychological woes.
He said the Boston researchers were to be commended for using brain scan imaging technologies to investigate the effectiveness of these techniques. But he questioned why the yoga group was simply compared to a sedentary reading group and not to another movement-based group.
"Exercise itself may have some effects on GABA, so I think in this study, you'd really want that comparison," he said. Including such a control group would make it clear that it was yoga and not just an hour of physical exertion that was responsible for the brain changes.
He also pointed out that all of the people in the study were mentally healthy, and clinical depression and anxiety disorders involve more than the "daily fluctuations in stress and tension" that healthy individuals are prone to.
"We know that yoga can have a profound effect" on smoothing out life's daily ups and downs, Segal said. "But so does working out on a Stairmaster for an hour."
Segal also questioned the role of GABA in depression. While it may play a role in anxiety disorders, "GABA is not one of the main neurotransmitters that seems to be a part of the depression story," he said. Other neurochemicals -- most notably serotonin -- play much bigger roles in the disorder, he said.
None of this means that the study's findings are without merit, Segal said. "In fact," he said, "we have a program called 'mindfulness-based cognitive therapy,' where we do use yoga, as well as mindfulness meditation," as therapeutic tools. Streeter's findings "suggest the need for more study of these practices," he said.
Streeter agreed that her study is probably just a beginning.
"I think what's important about this study is that it shows that by using really cutting-edge neuroimaging technology, we can measure real changes in the brain with behavioral interventions -- changes that are similar to those that we see with pharmacologic treatments," she said.
Would other mind-body practices -- Tai Chi, for example -- produce similar effects?
"I think that's very possible," Streeter said. "I suspect that all roads lead up the mountain."
HealthDay News, Thursday, June 7, 2007 By E. J. Mundell
Despite more health benefit options available to them than at any time in history, America's Baby Boomers may not be even so healthy as their parents.
The Washington Post reports that as the first wave of Baby Boomers -- a generation of Americans born between 1948 and 1964 -- heads toward retirement, surveys indicate they describe their own health as less than ideal.
As a matter of fact, the Post reports, a major study indicates that Boomers say they have more problems with cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure and physical exertion than the previous generation born between 1936 and 1941.
"We're seeing some very powerful evidence all pointing to parallel findings," the newspaper quotes Mark Hayward, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, as saying. "The trend seems to be that people are not as healthy as they approach retirement as they were in older generations. It's very disturbing."
One of the primary reasons for the decline in good health, researchers speculate, is that previous generations were much more physically active in their daily routines, the Post reports. The number of Baby Boomers who said they were overweight might be a key to the decline in good health, the newspaper said.
HealthDay News, April 22, 2007
Albuquerque, N.M. moved from 13th place last year to be named American's fittest city this year in the March issue of Men's Fitness magazine.
The other top 10 in the nonscientific survey of 50 cities are: Seattle; Colorado Springs; Minneapolis; Tucson, Ariz.; Denver; San Francisco; Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; and Honolulu, the Associated Press reported.
The magazine said this year's top 10 fattest cities are: Las Vegas, Nev.; San Antonio, Texas; Miami; Mesa. Ariz.; Los Angeles; Houston; Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Detroit; and San Jose, Calif.
The survey results are based on various lifestyle factors in each city, including the availability of bikes paths or gyms, commute times, fast food restaurants per capita, amount of television watching, along with federal statistics on obesity-related illnesses and injuries.
Magazine editor Neal Boulton told the AP that the list is published each year "to motivate folks to look at the simple things in their lives they can do to be healthy."
HealthDay News, February 9, 2007
By Michelle Kleist, RD
YadaYadaYoga is a new Los Angeles-based company that presents a mobile approach to holistic fitness. It offers a range of services at times and locations clients want or need them. 310-274-2665
To arrest rising health-care costs, a growing number of U.S. employers are expanding workplace "wellness" initiatives. Providing workers with tools and incentives to improve their health, the thinking goes, will reduce medical-care costs and boost worker productivity.
Experts say it's a trend that bodes well for employees who are motivated to lose weight, quit smoking, manage a chronic condition or just stay fit.
"Pretty clearly, employers have realized that if they're going to manage benefit costs and manage work loss, they need to get at the underlying health drivers of that -- employee health -- and get at the root causes of health-care utilization and health-care expenditures," said Bruce Kelley, practice leader for data services in the Minneapolis office of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a human resources consulting firm.
According to Kelley, employers have been investing much more heavily in wellness services in the last few years. "I've been consulting in this area for 20 years," he noted, "and I've never seen as much activity among employers as I've seen just in the last few years."
Wellness is a broad term that describes the panoply of health-management services that companies offer, from onsite fitness centers and smoking-cessation classes to health-risk appraisals and disease-management programs.
Survey data show that more large employers are offering programs to improve employee health and productivity. Seventy-five percent offered a "health promotion" program in 2005 or 2006, up from 56 percent in 2003, according to survey results released last December by Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health.
Nearly three out of four employers (72 percent) are sponsoring health-risk appraisals to measure individual employees' health risks and behaviors. And 40 percent are engaging "personal health coaches," health professionals who can help, say, an employee with diabetes manage their diet, exercise and drug regimens.
At the same time, corporate America and public health leaders are grappling to understand which particular interventions or combinations of programs and incentives yield the greatest return on investment.
"There has not been a tremendous amount of high quality research in this area," said Doug Evans, director of the Center for Health Promotion Research at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute based in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
But there are a number of efforts under way to learn what works. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for one, is sponsoring a series of studies to evaluate worksite efforts to prevent and control obesity.
In one study, published in the September/October 2005 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, CDC and RTI researchers found that obesity boosts employers' costs, including medical expenditures and absenteeism, by $460 to $2,500 per obese employee per year. They estimated that the cost of obesity at a firm with 1,000 employees is about $285,000 per year.
In March, the National Business Group on Health issued 10 recommendations for promoting prevention in the workplace. Overall, it concluded that without the support of top-level management, companies cannot convey "the importance to employees of caring for themselves."
Some employers are using incentives to get workers on the wellness bandwagon. You might qualify for a lower health insurance premium, say, if you stop smoking, or you could earn a $25 gift certificate for completing a health-risk appraisal.
The use of incentives will continue, Evans predicted. However, he believes employers must do a better job of promoting the benefits of health, much like anti-tobacco advocates did by portraying a non-smoking lifestyle as cool, hip and fun.
"Maybe that kind of technique can be effective in obesity," he offered. "Can you make it cool to be healthy weight and not to be fat?"
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chairman of the National Governors Association, is encouraging all Americans to live healthy lifestyles through a national campaign, Healthy America: Wellness Where We Live, Work and Learn.
By Karen Pallerito, HealthDay News, October 5, 2006