Monday, January 25, 2016

Do Elastic Tubes and Bands Really Work for Strength Training?

Strength training is an important component of a senior exercise program, helping older adults avoid age-related muscle loss, bone loss, and loss of flexibility. Lifting weights and using machines both provide benefits, but many seniors prefer to use resistance bands. Do these stretchy implements provide a good workout? Yes, if you use them correctly, say experts from The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR):
Elastic tubes and bands are now available for virtually all levels of strength training, and they’re inexpensive and easily stored. You need to use the right band or tube to match your strength level and the particular muscle group being exercised (chest presses, for example, need more resistance than the arm curls that exercise your upper arms).
When working with an elastic tube or band, you secure it under your feet or around a heavy piece of furniture or a pole. Focus on squeezing the muscle in use when you encounter resistance as you pull on the tube/band. Stop and pause, keeping the muscle tight when you’ve completed the pulling motion, and then keep the muscle working as you release the weight slowly, rather than letting it spring back as you return to starting position.
Just as when strength training with free weights or stationary machines, good posture and proper technique are important to work the muscle appropriately and to avoid injury. You can use many of the same exercises you may have learned with other forms of strength training, but if you haven’t received instruction, it’s best to learn good technique by meeting with a certified fitness trainer at a local facility. If this isn’t possible, check out a recognized fitness organization’s DVD or website. For example, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers a free suggested routine with elastic tubing. You also can see how to use a resistance/stretch band in this video from AICR.
Source: Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN for The American Institute for Cancer Research. The AICR focuses on the link between diet and cancer. Visit their website ( for a wealth of information and recipes for healthy eating.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Beyond the Food Pyramid: What Should You Know About the New Government Nutritional Recommendations?

During the first week of January 2016, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released updated nutritional guidelines for Americans, reflecting the latest science-based recommendations on diet.
What should consumers know? The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has provided a helpful list of the top ten things to know about the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
  1. A lifetime of healthy eating helps to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.
  2. Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease. The Dietary Guidelines recommendations can help you make informed choices about eating for you and your family.
  3. The path to improving health through nutrition is to follow a healthy eating pattern that’s right for you. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks you eat over time. A healthy eating pattern is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture and budget.
  4. A healthy eating pattern includes:
    o    A variety of vegetables: dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables
    o    Fruits, especially whole fruit
    o    Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
    o    Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
    o    A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
    o    Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.
  5. Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. See to find more information about added sugars, which are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits.
  6. Healthy eating patterns limit saturated and trans fats. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil
  7. Healthy eating patterns limit sodium. Adults and children ages 14 years and older should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and children younger than 14 years should consume even less. Check the Nutrition Facts label on food products to check for sodium, especially in processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces, and soups.
  8. Most Americans can benefit from making small shifts in their daily eating habits to improve their health over the long run. Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a difference in working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you.
  9. Remember physical activity! Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week.
  10. Everyone has a role–at home, schools, workplaces, communities, and food retail outlets–in encouraging easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices.
Find the entire set of guidelines here:
Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (, adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The CDC Says 2016 is the Year to Quit Smoking

If you or a loved one smokes, it’s likely that quitting made your list of New Year’s resolutions. But most smokers know that this can be one of the toughest resolutions to keep! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released some information and tips that can help. If smoking cessation was on your resolutions list for 2015 but you didn’t succeed last year, try some of these ideas.
Develop a Quit Plan
Planning ahead is a major part of successfully quitting smoking. offers details on how to create an effective quit plan, including:
  • Picking a quit date. Starting the new year smoke free is a great idea.
  • Letting loved ones know you’re quitting so they can support you.
  • Listing your reasons to quit smoking.
  • Figuring out what triggers make you want to smoke so you can avoid them, especially during the early days.
  • Having places you can turn to for help right away.
Get Some Free Help
The CDC recommends several free resources for people trying to quit smoking:
  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) (for Spanish speakers). This free service offers a lot of resources, including coaching, help with making a quit plan, educational materials, and referrals to other resources where you live. Learn more here:
  • Smokefree TXT ( This free 24/7 texting program sends encouragement, advice, and tips to help smokers quit smoking for good. To get started, just text QUIT to 47848, answer a few questions, and you’ll start receiving messages.
  • Online help. Includes tips from former smokers and other resources (
  • Smokefree App ( The QuitGuide is a free app that tracks cravings, moods, slips, and smoke-free progress to help you understand your smoking patterns and build the skills needed to become and stay smoke free.
Talk to Your Doctor About Medication
Because cigarettes contain nicotine, a powerfully addictive drug, when you first quit, your body may feel uncomfortable until it adjusts. This is known as withdrawal, and there are medications that can help lessen this feeling and the urge to smoke. Studies show that smokers who use medicine to help control cravings, along with coaching from a quit line, in a group, or from a counselor, are much more likely to succeed than those who go it alone. Seniors should talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider before using any of these medications, especially when they are using other medications and/or living with a serious medical condition.
Many options are available if you are considering using medications to help you quit smoking. The most common smoking medications are nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), which give your body a little of the nicotine that it craves without the harmful chemicals found in burning cigarettes. Examples of Food and Drug Administration-approved NRTs that you can buy over the counter include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and nicotine lozenges
NRTs that need a prescription include nicotine inhalers and nasal spray. Your doctor can also prescribe medication that does not contain nicotine to help you quit smoking completely.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise, 2016.