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Coach Jen's 2007 Holiday Gift Picks

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hi Everyone!

I've put together a short list of health-related, family-friendly gifts that might "spark" some ideas when you're out shopping this holiday season!

For the chef in the family:

Deceptively Delicious- I heard about this cookbook when Jessica Seinfeld (the author) was on Oprah, so I decided to order it. I am always looking for healthy meals to cook for my 1-year old. Although a lot of the recipes are things I probably wouldn't make for her yet (she's a little young), most of them are very easy dishes that both kids and adults can enjoy. It's a fun book with lots of great pictures and information on nutrition, so I'd recommend it!

Click here to check it out!

For the "hard to buy for" family member:

We all have those family members that seem to have everything; so gift buying can be a struggle. Why not give a gift to charity in their name? Here's a site that gives information on a lot of charities so that you know your money is going to good use:

Charity Navigator

One of my personal favorites is Heifer International . Their goal is to help people around the world obtain a sustainable source of food and income. This is a gift that can make you feel just as good as the recipient!

For the dad (or mom) who needs to squeeze in a workout at home:

This definitely wouldn't be a gift you'd buy spur of the moment, but last winter I decided to buy a treadmill and I'm so glad I did. Being a busy mom, I have to fit in workouts whenever I get time, and a treadmill (or any other piece of home equipment) allows me to workout first thing in the morning while Ava's still sleeping, or when she's taking a nap. I always check out Consumer Reports before making a purchase like this, and this treadmill was recommended. I bought it off of Amazon and it came with free shipping (which is a big cost savings for something so heavy). It was a big expense at the time, but I've been very happy with it so far.

Click here to see my treadmill!

For the mom (or dad) who needs to relax a little:

I never used to be a big fan of spa services. The idea of getting a massage made me more uptight than relaxed. But once I tried it a few times (massage, manicure, pedicure, etc.), I found it was a great way to de-stress and feel good about myself. Is someone in your family always taking care of others? It's time to take care of them! Here's a website to find spas in your area. Can someone send this to my husband please? Haha J


For your little one:

I haven't actually purchased one of these yet, but I know that plastic bottles aren't good for the environment and can be bad for your health (bacteria, toxins, etc.) So I wanted to get Ava a bottle like this one that's stainless steel. They come in different sizes- this is the smallest one that even has a sippy spout. They are a little expensive but come with a warrantee and will likely last much longer than any cheap plastic bottle I would buy.

Check out the Kleen Kanteen!

For the family to enjoy together:

Here's a gift for the family that doesn't have to cost a lot of money, but can be a great way to spend time together (and being active). Plan a family outing(s). A lot of families take summer vacations but might not make time for other kinds of activities through the year. Now is a great time of year to plan activities that promote good health and can be done close to home. Schedule monthly or quarterly outings for the family for next year. Present this holiday gift to them complete with details of the outings, brochures about where they might be going, etc. It gives everyone something to look forward to! Some examples include:

Spend a day at the park- riding bikes, playing Frisbee, etc.
Go horseback riding
Visit the zoo or a local museum
Go ice skating or roller skating
Plant a garden
Find a volunteer project

Happy Holidays!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

M3NOMOFAT 12/23/2007 9:11PM

    I Love your suggestions and I am considering a few for personal gift items. Thanks for your diligence in researching and sharing. Blessings of GOD to you as you journey...
m3--L00king great in '08!

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Moderate Exercise Might Be Healthier Than Intense Workouts

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Does a harder workout always mean it's better? Not necessarily, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Participants in the study were divided into four exercise groups: high amount/high intensity; low amount/high intensity; low amount/moderate intensity; and a control group that did no exercise. The volunteers started with a two- to three-month "ramp-up" period and then continued their exercise programs for six months.

The study found that those who did no exercise had an increase in their LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, but those who did only moderate-intensity exercise prevented this increase from happening. The study also found that low amount/moderate intensity exercise significantly lowered levels of triglycerides, which are particles that carry fat around the body and are also a good indicator of insulin resistance, a marker for diabetes. Reducing triglyceride levels lowers a person's risk of diabetes and heart disease.

But this doesn't mean you shouldn't do high intensity workouts. The study found greater improvements in the HDL cholesterol levels of those in the high-intensity workout groups. So it sounds like each kind of workout offers its own set of benefits, and it might be best to vary the intensity of your workout (just like you vary duration, frequency, etc.) in order to achieve all of the weight loss and health benefits exercise provides.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MS_TLC 12/13/2007 8:22PM

    What's interesting to me is I wonder why the study didn't include a high amount/moderate intensity group? I'm already a varier, however, my variables are "do I have fun doing the workout," "how does my body feel," and "what's available during my scheduled time."

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LIGHTERRED 11/29/2007 2:10PM

    This is quite interesting, I've been wondering about this.
I'm doing Cardio Kickboxing for 30min, 6 times/week and I feel it's been taking a toll on my lower leg muscles. That made wonder if I should keep this program as it is now or substitute 2 of these days with some lower impact activities...
Thanks for the article!

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People walk 1 mile more if wearing a pedometer

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Studies have found that if people wear a pedometer, they end up walking an average of a mile more throughout the day (vs. those who didn't wear one)- even if they can't see how many steps are being logged. Participants set a daily step goal and kept a diary of their progress. The goal and diary seemed to be key: those in the study who didn't set a goal and didn't log their progress didn't increase their activity.

This reinforces something we talk about a lot on SparkPeople- the importance of setting goals and tracking your progress as a way to get you where you want to go! So if you've ever considered not tracking your cardio or strength training in the fitness tracker, this study might make you think again!

If you're interested in purchasing a pedometer but aren't sure what to look for, check out the article "Get Fit the Right-Left-Right Way" (
cles.asp?id=327) in the Fitness Resource Center.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JUDY4FITNESS 11/29/2007 10:59AM

    What a great article! I purchased a pedometer and found it amazing to see how active I was from one day to the next. I am healing from a broken hip. I found that I needed a healthy balance between getting exercise and resting for my hip to strengthen. The pedometer was one way of seeing when I sat too much.

I need to get to a safe place to walk now as it is getting bitter cold in Michigan....and my joint hurts and aches sometimes. I have inflamed it by other stretching, so as I say it is a healthy balance.

I appreciated the article!

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NAVELACADEMY 11/28/2007 12:09AM

  There is a free site called "Walk to Whistler". The site figures out for you how far it is to walk from your town to the 2010 Olympics (for me it is 940 Km and I am now on my third trip) It is inspiring to track my steps and the site helps keep me motivated. Give it a try. One walker will be randomly drawn to win two tickets to the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics.

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HELP4ME2 11/27/2007 3:25PM

    I am far more motivated to walk since I bought a pedometer. I set a goal of 10,000 step a day. I go to the mall before work and usually get in my steps. Weekends really through me off but I am going to work on that also.

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LASEVDA 11/27/2007 11:08AM

    My workplace had an initiative last spring and I wore a pedometer for 8 weeks. The program had a website to track the steps and It converted every workout to "steps" but I also wore a pedometer everywhere. In that 8 weeks, I tracked over 1,000,000 steps! The friendly competition really made me want to get in as much exercise as possible and win! There were approximately 500 users and teams were the focus. Our team won!

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RIVER0 11/27/2007 6:23AM

    I love my pedometer. I bought it in August, wearing it sporadically. It wasn't until I set my goal at 5000 steps a day, that I really kicked it into gear. I added a walk on my lunch hour and then found more reasons to keep moving at home. I bumped my goal up to 8000 steps for October and November and am getting ready to boost it to 9000 for December. Honestly, it doesn't seem to matter whether my goal is 5000 or 8000. It's just exciting to look at the numbers and say "Hey! I'm at 4000 steps and it's only 11:00 in the morning!" and there is nothing like being just a few hundred steps away from 10,000 to get yourself up out of the chair in the evening for just a "short walk"!!

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CHARLYSMAMA 11/27/2007 12:59AM

  I volunteer in a hospital and we had a special emphasis on walking in October called "Walktober" and we all received pedometers and kept track of our steps each day. It was fun and really motivated me to get more steps than I did the day before. I recommend getting a pedometer and making it a game by challenging yourself on beating your own personal best!

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KSTYLEFITNESS 11/27/2007 12:34AM

    I love my pedometer, and it is true, I walk more when I have it on, even if I am not constantly looking at it.

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JERSEYPRINCESS1 11/23/2007 6:56PM

    Thats pretty crazy. I have been debating getting one and I think I really will wind up getting one. Any extra movement is a plus so why not right?!

Thanks for sharing too! :)

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What the world eats

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coach Nicole sent me the link to this awhile ago, and I thought it was totally fascinating and wanted to share.

It's amazing to me the differences in how much money is spent, what kinds of foods people eat (and how much they eat), and how that varies so much from country to country. Can you imagine only spending $1.23 per week to feed your family like the picture from Chad?

Were there any pictures you thought were interesting or surprising? If so, why?,29307,1626519,00.html

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KRISTEC 11/27/2007 9:33PM

    Chad was clearly shockingly low - but lots of inexpensive garins. I was surprised by the low volume of food for the large family in Egypt!

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NELLIEC 11/27/2007 12:13PM

    It seemed that the family that spent the most per week also had the most packaged foods compared to fresh in their picture.

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JBELLI 11/27/2007 11:27AM

    My family of 6 spends about $250/week... what I find most interesting about the pictures is that even though some of the people are from countries I've never heard of and have cultures and customs so different from my own experience... when I see their families together and the looks on their faces and gleams in their eyes, I realize that at the core all of us are pretty much the same.


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LASEVDA 11/27/2007 11:15AM

    Amazing! It is interesting that soft drinks are common in different parts of the world.

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MOJO1971 11/27/2007 8:00AM

    My family definitely spends in the middle of these, but it makes me think that we should be spending more on fruits and veggies than on meats, and junk food is exactly that. I was disappointed by the fast food and pizza, because I know that with 4 kids, my table would include that as well. Thank you for these pictures, because it makes me think about what would be on my table for the week and what I would want to change. I actually might put everything out on the table after I go grocery shopping next time and see what it looks like and how I can cut back.

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L*I*T*A* 11/27/2007 4:00AM

    thanks for sharing,it does open ones eyes to the rest of the world,in comparison to the western world...................lita

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SHORTYGIRL1978 11/27/2007 12:38AM

  Looking at these photos made it very clear that most countries eat more fruits and veggies than Americans. I was surprised to see all the soda bottles in most the pictures. Im sure If I lined up how many soda's I use to drink I would be shocked too. Thanks for posting this. it was very interesting

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SANDYKMAC 11/27/2007 12:28AM

    Very interesting. I found it fascinating to see the similarities on so many of the tables. The corn flakes, the Ritz crackers and the sodas.

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ELAINEVDW 11/26/2007 12:55AM

    What a fascinating photo essay! I found all the soda and bottles of beer throughout the world very interesting. And I found the one family who had to live on a few bags of grain and a bottle of water for the week absolutely heart wrenching.

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LADYPI 11/21/2007 12:36PM

    Wow...I'm not sure what to say. Very interesting!!! Thanks for sharing- Deb

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GYPSYGOTH 11/21/2007 10:10AM

    wow, that's really cool. i want that book now!!

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AZKITTYKATE 11/19/2007 7:40AM

    Thanks so much for sharing that! It was fascinating!

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Stretching may offer extended benefits

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A new study from the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that stretching helps with more than just flexibility and range of motion. Participants also increased strength, muscular endurance, and jumping. Although they stretched for 40 minutes, 3 times a week (which is a lot), smaller amounts of stretching should have benefits too.

There's still debate as to when to stretch- before exercise (always after a warm up), after exercise or both. But no matter when you stretch, it's certain that it can help relieve muscle tension- and plus, it feels good!

So if you're one of those folks who finishes their workout, jumps off the treadmill and heads for the car, stop and think about what you're missing. Even if it's just 5-10 minutes after a workout, you'll likely see a difference in flexibility and how you feel by taking the time to stretch!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MOV4WARD 11/27/2007 10:29AM

    thanks for the link! this is something I am going to do! Woot!

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NOMI_822 11/27/2007 8:27AM


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KITT52 11/27/2007 8:19AM

    When I first started sparkpeople I was so heavy that execise was not easy. I started to do stretches for 5 minutes and then added more time. Now almost 18 months later, I exercise 6 days a week and love my stretching, I'm over 50 and it sure has made a difference in how much better I feel, no more aches and pains when I first get up. My flexiability is so much better and I now can kiss my knees and put the palms of my hand flat on the floor.
Thanks for all you do coach Jen


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HOSHANG 11/15/2007 12:03PM

    Hi Jen,
Could u update us with some of relevant strectching 4 cardioi.e is treadmill and cycling.

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COACHGIA 11/15/2007 9:30AM

    HI Coach Jen, thank you for sharing that article I'm quilty of sometimes skipping my stretching exercise before doing my cardio, mainly if the gym is crowed and I jump on a machine so that I don't have to wait. Now I will use that wait time to stretch even if it's for 5-10 min. I'm also incorporating some yoga at home before I leave for the gym :-) Gia

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