Q: Is yoga enough exercise to help me lose weight?
A: Some studies do suggest that yoga could play a role, although results vary depending on the type of yoga. A study of six healthy young adults who did the Sun Salutation (a series of 12 poses repeatedly going from standing to floor) estimated that they burned about 230 calories in a half-hour session. That's comparable to what the average person burns in the same period on a brisk walk. Since these people weighed less than 135 pounds on average, a person who weighs more would likely burn somewhat more calories. In addition, researchers found that as these subjects were doing this more actively moving form of yoga, they were working out at a heart rate that could improve cardiovascular fitness if done regularly. Yoga that involves more sitting and less movement would burn fewer calories and have less effect on cardiovascular fitness. Aside from any weight impact, yoga increases flexibility, improves balance and relieves stress. Depending on the type of yoga and your health goals, it may or may not offer all the strength-building exercise you need to maintain body muscle. Yoga can be an excellent choice of exercise. We tend to get the most benefit from a mixture of different types of activity, each providing different benefits, so it would be ideal to also add in some regular walking, swimming, biking or other type of aerobic activities. Note that research clearly shows that physical activity plays a major role in maintaining weight. For weight loss, almost everyone also needs to make some changes in eating habits to decrease calorie consumption.
Q: I've cut back on meals to try to lose weight, but I still snack. I don't seem to be losing weight so do I have to cut my snacks too?
A: It might be your snack choices that are holding you back. The latest national survey of U.S. eating habits shows that on average, about a third of the "empty calories" we eat come from our snacks. Empty calories are calories we get from foods that supply little if any nutrients or protective plant compounds. Many of the foods Americans typically choose for snacks come with a high calorie load in a relatively small portion. If snacks are part of your weight control challenge, consider nutritional, behavioral and psychological solutions. If you need only a small snack to tide you over to your next meal, fruit or raw vegetables would be a great choice instead of chips or sweets with calories that add up so quickly. For a snack that will sustain you longer, add a little protein, such as some yogurt or a handful of nuts. Perhaps the problem involves how you snack: if you sit down with the whole bag of chips or cookies, chances are that despite intentions to eat just a bit, you will eat more than you intended. Whatever you choose, take out the amount you think you need and put the container away. Another possibility is that you are using snacks to treat yourself or cope with stress and getting loads of empty calories your body doesn't need. Look for other ways to unwind that are truly being good to yourself, like taking a break for a brief walk around the block on a beautiful day or even a few moments of deep breathing to decompress. If none of these snacking problems is the issue, check your overall eating habits using the free online MyPlate Food Tracker. If you're not clear about how to make workable changes, find a registered dietitian who can help you individually to develop a strategy.
Q: Are other berries as rich in antioxidants as blueberries, or should I just stick to blueberries every day?
A: Go for variety! All berries are high in antioxidant compounds and vitamin C. Studies suggest that blueberries have good potential as a cancer-fighting, health-promoting food. But since strawberries come into season a little sooner, start there. One cup of strawberries provides enough vitamin C to meet current recommendations for a whole day, and eating strawberries has been shown to increase blood levels of vitamin C and total antioxidant capacity. Strawberries provide compounds called ellagitannins and ellagic acid, which bacteria in our digestive tract convert to other compounds. In laboratory studies those compounds show antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and direct anti-cancer effects. We don't currently have, and may never have, large human studies that isolate effects of berries, especially particular types of berries, on cancer risk. Research does suggest, though, that compounds in a variety of berries could play many roles in cancer prevention. Antioxidant protection from vitamin C and phytochemicals appears to protect DNA from damage and enhance its repair. Beyond that, berry phytochemicals seem able to inhibit carcinogens and stimulate self-destruction of abnormal cells. Enjoy your favorite berries in season when costs are lowest and you'll be rewarded with nutritional variety and fresh flavor.
More from MSN Healthy Living:
- The Pros and Cons of 4 Trendy Diets
- 5 Foods for a Flatter Stomach
- "Worthless" Foods That Are Actually Good for You
- Bing: Top Tips for Weight Loss
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