No need for speed: meth isn’t worth messing with

I didn’t think it was a big deal,” says Jose, now 17, of his first time trying crystal meth. When Jose was 13, a girlfriend offered him some, saying it would give him a good rush. He figured, why not–it would just be a one-time thing. “I’d smoked marijuana before, but I didn’t know how to deal with this high,” says Jose, from California. “I was tripping out, grinding my teeth, biting the inside of my mouth, shaking a lot.” But by the next weekend, he wanted to do it again.

Jose’s experience has become all too common. While the majority of teens still steer clear of drugs, among those 12 to 17, one in 33 say they’ve tried methamphetamines, according to a GFK Roper survey. However, that’s not the scariest statistic to come out of the study: 33 percent of teens say there is only slight or no risk in trying meth once or twice, something Jose now knows couldn’t be further from the truth.

Wasting Away

Methamphetamine (commonly called meth, speed, chalk, ice, crystal, and glass, see what does meth smell like) is a stimulant that can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected; it is intended to make users feel more awake and energized. Stronger than other stimulants, though, meth is highly addictive–one or two tries may be enough to get a person hooked. “It triggers the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that’s normally produced when we eat something good or listen to music we like,” explains Gayathri J. Dowling, deputy chief of science policy at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Bethesda, Md.). However, meth floods the brain with dopamine, boosting the user’s mood to an unnatural high and making him or her want to use again and again.

But along with that high can come serious problems. Anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, rapid or irregular heartbeat, aggression or violence, and heat illness are just some of meth’s other effects.

After three years of using meth, Jose wasn’t eating or sleeping. At 5 feet 9 inches, he weighed just 100 pounds. A skeletal look isn’t the drug’s only effect on appearance. “Saliva drying up, tooth grinding, jaw clenching, poor oral hygiene, and the excess consumption of sugared, carbonated soft drinks all likely contribute to ‘meth mouth,'” Dowling says of dental problems that meth users tend to develop. “Some people develop the sensation of bugs crawling under their skin and start to pick at themselves, causing pockmarks.” Addicts may also experience visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and memory loss.

Collateral Damage

What may be worse than the physical effects of methamphetamine is the havoc it wreaks in abusers’ lives. “I was skipping school, getting into a lot of fights with my parents, stealing from them to buy the drug,” says Jose. “I didn’t want my friends around anymore. I just got high by myself, alone.” What started out as a way for Jose to have fun had turned into social suicide.

Meth may also drive users to the opposite extreme. “It can cause people to become almost obsessed with pursuing sexual activity,” says Dr. Jonathan Whitfield, medical director and psychiatrist at Phoenix House, a residential treatment facility in Los Angeles.

“Addiction silences the inhibitory control centers of the brain–the parts that stop you from doing things you know are bad for you,” adds Dowling. The result? People high on how long does meth stay in your system are more likely to have unprotected sex or even trade intercourse for more drugs, putting them at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Coming Clean

The loss of inhibition is one reason recovering from meth addiction is especially difficult. “It’s almost like the drug gets up before you do and tells you you’re going to use today,” says Tim Chapman, director of Teensavers, a rehab facility in Orange County, Calif. Changes to the brain and personality are so profound that addicts often need 45 to 60 days after quitting to emerge from the haze. However, behavioral therapies can be effective, says Dowling. Combining one-on-one counseling with family involvement helps, as does offering people incentives for turning in clean urine tests. With the right treatment, methamphetamine addicts may have higher rates of recovery than alcoholics or marijuana users.

As for Jose, his emaciated appearance was what finally scared him into asking his morn for help. He relapsed once, which is common. But now, back in rehab, he has been sober for three months. “I’m happier now that I can deal with my own feelings instead of avoiding them with drugs,” he says. “I’m back at my normal weight, and I have the trust and respect of my family again.”

His advice to other teens about meth: “Don’t even start. You don’t want to know what it’s like.”

No One Is Immune to Addiction

“You’ll make the biggest mistake of your life when you try crystal meth … you’ll spend all the money you’ve worked so hard to earn, and you’ll get into massive credit card debt. You’ll lie to everyone around you, including your parents. And your life will spin completely out of control.”

Watch the nicotine!

A physician and public health school researcher is bemused with the government’s obsession with the sizes of the settlements in the tobacco industry’s various court cases. More important than money is empowering the US Food and Drug Admin with regulation of nicotine, the agent of addiction.

There has been great speculation in recent weeks about how much the tobacco industry will eventually have to pay as part of its landmark agreement with state and Federal governments. Originally pegged at over $350 billion, the sum was reduced by $50 billion by lobbyist sleight of hand during the final budget negotiations. When the industry ploy was discovered, Senators and Congressmen rushed to reverse themselves (by a vote of 95 to 3 in the Senate), restoring the $50 billion that had apparently been removed. Finally, in recent weeks the President and the White House have weighed in, after several months of reviewing the original agreement, suggesting that perhaps the original $350 billion payment level was not really enough but should be further increased. The sound and fury is building on all sides, most of it with dollar signs attached.

All this energy and shouting about money and the level of tobacco industry payments unfortunately obscures what is really most crucial in the whole deal: does hookah have nicotine?. While money is major–certainly to the families of those who have died of tobacco-related diseases and to the states whose taxpayers have had to pay the Medicaid bills for the poor who have died of these diseases–it is really peripheral to the most important issue of all: the Food and Drug Administration’s power to regulate the nicotine content of cigarettes. Without some insistence that the F.D.A. have unlimited authority to regulate the nicotine content of cigarettes, it won’t matter how much money the tobacco industry has to come up with. The money will be spent, everyone will go home, and the underlying problem of smoking will remain unchanged.

To understand why this is the case, consider the process of how people start smoking, why they continue once they have started, and what happens to them if they do continue. It has been well established that most long-term smokers (more than 85 percent) start before the age of 18, as much out of curiosity, bravado and brainwashing as anything else. Having begun, they become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes and to its effects. Once addicted, they find it difficult to stop smoking, even though the great majority of long-term smokers want to stop smoking and usually have tried to do so many times. As they continue to smoke for long periods of time, various other materials in cigarettes and smoke cause lung cancer, heart disease and other major illnesses and disabilities.

Put very simply, advertising brings them in, and nicotine keeps them there. Without nicotine in cigarettes, there would be no addiction. Without addiction, there would be no long-term smoking. Without long-term smoking, there would be less lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and the like. It’s all very simple, and the tobacco industry knows it. That’s why the tobacco industry is so anxious to have everyone concentrate on the financial aspects of the settlement, because they know that the money is trivial compared to the importance of our society’s ability to regulate the nicotine content of cigarettes.

Why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration been able to regulate the nicotine content of cigarettes, just as it regulates virtually all other things that we eat, drink, receive as medication or otherwise allow to enter our bodies? The reason, again, is very simple: the tobacco industry was able to get cigarettes exempted years ago in a legislative move resembling the recent $50 billion gift to the tobacco industry. Nobody was watching, nobody cared enough, and as a result the public has been allowed to buy an addictive substance (not labelled or advertised as such) and has died of tobacco-related diseases at the rate of 500,000 persons per year.

The White House and Congress have a chance to correct this incredible mistake in the current discussions, and they must not be distracted by the large amounts on the table. The money is important, but the central issue in the whole settlement is F.D.A. control of the nicotine content in cigarettes. Without this authority, the whole tobacco industry settlement will miss the point and the opportunity of a lifetime–or better, of 500,000 lifetimes each year.

Mr. President, Members of Congress, take the money, but don’t run. Stay at the table until the Food and Drug Administration is given the authority it needs to regulate the addictive material in cigarettes: is nicotine bad for you. The money is important, but control of nicotine is life-saving!

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Invicta Pro diver and Lupah

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The good-carb diet: What does science say you should eat?

Americans are diet crazy. According to a March 2003 poll, 20 percent of Americans are on a diet. Another 30 percent said they were planning to go on a diet soon.

And what a selection of diets we have to choose from! To name just a few, there are Atkins, Ornish, Cooper, South Beach, Beverly Hills, Eat Smart, and even one called Help, I’m Southern and I Can’t Stop Eating. Many of these programs overlap, and others seem to flatly contradict each other.

What’s a dieter to do? Which plan will not only help you lose weight but also be good for your long-term health?

The Willett Way

Science has come to the rescue. Many nutritional experts are beginning to agree on a diet that is based on sound scientific research. The diet does not yet have a name, but it might well be called the Willett diet, after Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Willett’s diet plan is put forth in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. It recommends eating abundant fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and optional portions of fish and chicken. Willett says the diet will improve weight control and help prevent diabetes, maintain clear arteries, and promote overall good health for children, teens, and adults.

“Nutrition used to be like religion,” said Willett. “Everyone said, ‘I have the truth, and everyone else is wrong,’ and there wasn’t much data to refute that. Now we’re starting to have a real scientific basis for understanding what you should eat.”

The Evidence Is In

Willett’s recommendations are based on the largest long-term dietary survey ever undertaken: the 121,700-participant Nurses’ Health Study. The study was begun in 1976 by Harvard Medical School professor Frank Speizer.

Willett has assessed the results of the study since 1980, exhaustively analyzing the health and nutrition of all its participants, regularly collecting samples of blood and even toenails. He launched a second study, including 52,000 men, to be sure that both sexes were represented in the research.

Willett used the studies’ findings to create a new food pyramid, which emphasizes eating vegetables in abundance, nuts and legumes (peanuts, peas), fruits, plant oils, and whole-grain foods at most meals.

Willett says that statistics back up the soundness of his Healthy Eating Pyramid. Study participants whose diets most closely resembled the guidelines lowered their risk of major chronic disease by 20 percent for men and 11 percent for women.

Calling All Carbs?

Willett maintains that dietary advice took a wrong turn in the 1980s, when experts started telling Americans to radically cut down on consumption of fats and oils. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid, first released in 1992, reflects that view, he says. It calls for six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta daily, while fats and oils are to be used “sparingly.”

Willett says the pyramid contributed to obesity by encouraging people to think they could maintain their weight by simply cutting out fat and eating as many fat-free products as they wanted. “If you pen up an animal and feed it grain, it will get fat,” said Willett. “People are no different.”

The problem with overeating low-fat products, says Willett, is that so many of them are made mostly from refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are organic (carbon-containing) compounds made by green plants. Sugars, starches, and cellulose are carbohydrates. A refined carbohydrate is one that has been so thoroughly processed that most of its nutrients are gone. Table sugar and white flour are refined carbohydrates.

When a person eats refined carbs, the body quickly converts them to the sugar glucose. Glucose signals the pancreas to produce insulin, a substance that conducts the glucose into the body’s cells for use as energy. Too much glucose over the years, however, can result in insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells reject insulin and the sugar remains in the blood. That rejection goads the pancreas to produce even more insulin, which is also rejected. The result: type 2 diabetes and other significant health problems caused by too much sugar in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes used to be a condition of only older adults, but more and more cases of children with type 2 diabetes are being reported–a problem Willett blames squarely on eating too many refined carbohydrates. Research shows that insulin resistance can also contribute to other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer.

“For many people, particularly overweight people with a high degree of insulin resistance, [refined carbs] produce exactly the opposite of what they need,” Willett said.

The Ratings

Willett’s solution: Replace refined carbs with regular carbs and with other foods that have a low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a number that represents how quickly the body converts a certain food into glucose. A GI of 55 or less is considered to be low, 56 to 69 medium, and 70 or more high. The lower the GI, the more slowly the body processes the food into energy.

Foods with low GIs include whole grain (such as wheat bread, rye bread, oatmeal, and brown rice), plant oils, and vegetables (except for potatoes). A diet rich in foods with low GIs helps keep blood glucose levels stable, since those foods gradually release glucose into the bloodstream and spare the pancreas from overwork.

Steady blood glucose also helps keep the appetite in check, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight, says Willett. Low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet or the South Beach diet, with their emphasis on meat, fish, and cheese, do maintain steady blood glucose, but Willett says his studies show there are significant health advantages to adding plenty of whole grains and vegetables to the diet.

Bye-Bye Fries?

Will you have to give up French fries for whole-wheat bread to maintain a healthy weight and to protect against diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments? Not totally, says Willett. Most people can summon the willpower to substitute whole-wheat flour for white flour, use unsaturated oils instead of butter or lard, and eat less sugar overall.

“My suggestion is not severely restrictive, because it can be achieved mainly by substitution,” said Willett. In any case, “it does not mean you cannot eat any of [the foods you like] but rather that they should be de-emphasized.”

So take heart. Even Willett has a little chocolate now and then. He recommends that everyone also take a multivitamin and mineral tablet every day.

Oh, one other thing–daily exercise is essential in Willett’s diet plan. Remember what he said about feeding a penned-up animal a lot of grain. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. A half hour a day of moderate activity, such as walking, offers “impressive health benefits,” said Willett.

Note: Adapted with permission from Discover magazine


* What are carbohydrates? (carbon-containing compounds made by green plants)

* What are refined carbohydrates? (carbohydrates that have been so thoroughly processed that most of their nutrients have been removed)

* What is the problem with overeating low-fat food products? 80 many of them are made mostly from refined carbohydrates)

* What happens if the body has too much glucose over the years? (It can result in insulin resistance, which, in turn, can lead to diabetes and other significant health problems caused by too much sugar in the blood.)

* What is a glycemic index (GI)? (a measurement of how quickly the body converts certain foods into glucose)

* What types of foods have a low GI number? (Answers may vary but can include the following: whole grains, such as wheat and rye breads, oatmeal, and brown rice; plant oils; and all vegetables except potatoes)

* What benefit is there to eating foods with a low GI number? (They help keep blood glucose levels stable, which can spare the pancreas from overwork and keep the appetite in check.)


1. Brainstorm with students how to replace carbohydrates that have high GI numbers with carbohydrates that have low GI numbers. Have students make charts, graphs, or posters that display foods that have low GI numbers. The same could be done for foods with saturated and unsaturated fats. The goal is to display healthful foods that can be substituted for the carbohydrates that quickly turn into sugar in the body

2. Have students comparison shop to determine which types of foods are more economical: refined carbs or carbs with low GI numbers. Graph foods according to their GI values: high, medium, or low. What is the average price of one serving from each of the columns?

Walking and Running are simple, green, cheap routes to fitness

A step in the right direction can literally begin with just that–a step. Just put on a pair of reliable shoes, and place one foot in front of the other. You can walk, jog, or run in the direction of better physical and mental health.

Moving Ahead

There are many reasons for pounding the pavement. For starters, you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to take to the streets; anyone can do it. There’s no need to shell out for balls, rackets, skis, clubs, or other expensive equipment that could end up forgotten in your closet or make their way to a landfill if you don’t stick with the activity. And on an environmentally conscious level, your feet don’t burn fossil fuels. (See “Green Feet.”) Setting them in motion can improve not only your scenery, but your heart, lungs, bones, joints, and even mood.

Teens need at least an hour of daily physical activity, and aerobic exercise should make up most of it. Aerobic exercise–such as walking, jogging, or running at a steady pace–slowly boosts your body’s need for oxygen. It makes your heart and lungs work harder, which gradually strengthens them. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces your risk of diabetes and some cancers, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. And if all those physical benefits don’t cheer you up, consider this: Aerobic exercise triggers your brain to release chemicals called endorphins into your bloodstream. They block pain and anxiety and lift your spirits naturally.

Walk This Way

Walking may be the easiest exercise to take up. You already have the skills. Step outside and pick up your feet. If it’s raining or snowing, walk in a shopping mall or make tracks inside your house. Walk 10 or 15 minutes at a comfortable pace. When that begins to feel easy, speed up a bit and walk a few minutes longer. Even if you don’t have a big chunk of time, a few short walks each day can provide many of the same health advantages as one long trek.

Kelson G., a high school junior, sometimes walks with her morn for exercise. In 2009, they hiked 34 miles in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. You may not be ready for that kind of mileage, but see whether you can gradually work your way up to walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Because walking is something you can do on your own, it’s an exercise you’re more likely to continue after high school and throughout your life.

Fun Run

Though she walks and runs now, Kelson didn’t get much exercise before joining the Nittany Track and Field Club in State College, Pa., three years ago. She felt very slow starting out, and she says “being bad” at running made it tempting to quit. “My dad helped me see that I was healthier than I would be if I wasn’t doing it at all,” Kelson adds.

Likewise, Jacob P., 15, wasn’t doing much physical activity when he decided to start running to get in shape for baseball tryouts at his Las Cruces, N.M., high school. His goal was simple: Keep moving forward. “When I cramped up,” Jacob says, “I walked until I could run again. I built my endurance.”

That’s what Jeff Galloway, a columnist for Runner’s World magazine and a former Olympic runner, advises. Want to get the pick-me-up of a good workout while reducing the risk of aches, pains, or injuries? Try alternating periods of running with short walk breaks, Galloway suggests. As you build up your stamina, gradually add minutes to your running time and decrease your walking. But remember: Any time you need to stop running and walk, do it. You never have to eliminate walk breaks.

If you are looking for something between walking and running, try jogging. What’s the difference between joggingand running? “None,” according to Galloway. It’s all about moving forward.

Jacob defines jogging as “a more relaxed pace.” He goes 1 to 3 miles every day after school. “I usually jog the first half,” Jacob says, “then I run faster on the way back.”

He really looks forward to his runs. “It gives me a chance to reflect,” notes Jacob. “I get rid of the stress of the day.” He also credits running with helping him increase his energy and drop extra weight.

And no matter how you are moving forward, don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right. Galloway doesn’t get too hung up on form. The three keys are maintaining an upright posture; taking short, relaxed strides; and keeping your feet low to the ground.

Going for the Goal

The beauty of walking and running is that you can do it casually, for fun, or you can make a sport of it. For instance, Kelson now competes on her school track team. “I don’t run to win gold medals,” she says. “Once in a while, I’ll surprise myself and do better than I thought I could, and that feels great, but I run for me.”

Kelson, Jacob, and Galloway all recommend setting realistic goals. Experts advise increasing your mileage no more than 10 percent from week to week. In other words, if you walked 10 blocks last week, ramp up to 11 blocks this week; don’t jump to 5 miles.

Probably the biggest obstacle to any kind of exercise is making it a habit. “The most common motivator,” says Galloway, “is running in a group.” Walking and running clubs lace up all across the country. Try Web sites such as,, or to find one near you. Whether your goal is to walk for half an hour or run a race, you can do it. Just start with one step.


Walking and running are easy on the environment–the only greenhouse gas those activities produce is carbon dioxide, and plants use that for food. The only equipment you really need is a good pair of sneakers, and even those can have a low Impact on the environment, depending on how you reuse them when you’re done. Donate shoes with good miles left in them to charity. Worn-out sneaks can be recycled and used In surfaces for playgrounds, tennis courts, running tracks, and other places. For more information, check out

The Reluctant Runner

Jeff Galloway’s family moved to Atlanta when he was in eighth grade. He was out of shape, overweight, and unhappy. And Galloway’s new school required him to participate in a sport.

“I went to the lazy kids and asked what I should sign up for,” says Galloway. “They said the track coach was the most lenient, and you could run into the woods and hide out until practice was over.” That’s what Galloway did for a while, until some older kids asked him to run with them.

At first, he ran just minutes at a time. “The kids were funny. I wanted to keep up as long as I could to hear their next joke,” he says. As Galloway became able to run farther, his attitude, motivation, and energy level improved along with his physical fitness.

That initially reluctant runner went on to earn a spot on the 1972 U.S. Olympic track team. He has also completed more than 100 marathons. Now, Galloway writes about running and tries to help people reach their fitness goals. Check out for tips and inspiration.

Before Stepping Out, Remember …

Get the nod. Clear exercise plans with your doctor if you have any health concerns.

Ease into a routine. Start by exercising every other day, and work up to five days a week.

Dress the part. Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes custom-fit to your feet and gait.

Bundle up. Running in winter is possible! In cold weather, layering your clothes is smart. If it’s too cold or icy, try walking in a mall or jogging on a treadmill.

Choose the right path. Select safe, well-lit locations traveled by other walkers and runners, and avoid areas with heavy car traffic. Let your family know your route. It’s safest to run or walk with a friend.

Start and finish smart. If you’re a walker, warm up by walking slowly for three to five minutes. Warm up for a run with a brisk walk. Cool down for three minutes by slowing to a walk if you are running or slowing your pace if walking. While your muscles are still warm, stretch them slowly and gently-no bouncing!

Think About It …

What are some reasons it may be difficult for people to run or walk for fitness? Think of ways to minimize those obstacles.

Key Points

1. Walking and running are both environmentally friendly ways of getting exercise.

2. Walking is, for many people, the easiest activity to start with.

3. Many teens find jogging or running rewarding.

4. Some basic steps can help new walkers or runners get started.

Critical Thinking

What are some reasons it may be difficult for people to run or walk for fitness? Think of ways to minimize those obstacles.

Extension Activity

Find a local fund-raising event that involves walking or running. Organize a group to take part in it, and train together.

Running for brain power

Have you ever heard the phrase “jog your memory”? There’s more to it than just an old cliche. Imagine yourself taking a history test. You’ve studied for weeks and know the textbook backward and forward. You even know which page talks about the civil war. But then, your mind draws a blank. You can’t think of the answer to the next question. What do you do?

If you’re like most people, you’ll try different ways to “jog your memory.” You might try to picture the page and the words in your mind. You might try to think of something that’s associated with the same topic. You might even try to think of where you were when you studied that question. These are some ways to try to trigger a memory. But did you know that jogging (really running and working up a sweat) can actually benefit your memory as well as your intelligence?

Exercise stimulates the growth of developing brains. Dan Landers, Ph.D., looked at 13 different studies, and in each one, students under 16 years old showed the greatest link between exercise and brain power. In fact, these studies indicate that young people who exercise regularly become smarter than those who don’t. And that goes for older people too. Professor Brad Hatfield found that men who did aerobic activities (exercise that really gets your heart and lungs working for at least 20 minutes) did much better in math and in concentration than men who didn’t work out regularly.

More Oxygen, Higher IQ?

Now what about that history test that has you stumped? Dr. Roy J. Shephard found that young people who jog or do other aerobic activities for an hour each day did better on their school tests than those who were less active. Studies are now finding that there is a direct link between fitness and intelligence. So why is it that going out for a jog not only works your heart and lungs but your mind too? It’s simple: The answer is oxygen! When you expand the heart and lungs, your body is able to take in more oxygen. The brain depends on oxygen to function properly, and a healthy heart gets more oxygen to the brain. Robert Dustman, Ph.D., acknowledges this vital link to the brain: “Improve your heart and lungs and you get smarter.” Scott Hinkle and Bruce Tuckman tested students in fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth grades. Half of each group ran for a semester and the other half didn’t. The kids who ran showed greater gains on their end-of-the-semester creativity tests than those who didn’t run.

So, when you can’t figure out the right answer for your history test, don’t get too bummed out. Go for a jog! Jogging actually makes you feel better. It can help clear your mind of worries, which can free you up to think of new strategies for problem solving. In fact, more doctors are becoming aware of the benefits jogging can have on changing moods. Some even prescribe exercise programs for people who are depressed. Higher amounts of the hormone called noradrenaline are found in people who run regularly. This hormone helps to put you in a better mood. Some people who once needed drugs to feel better are now exercising instead. Regular exercise is a natural, drug-free way to better health and self-esteem. When you’re feeling down, go for a jog and feel the difference!

If You Think You Can…

Picture yourself winning a race, making every free throw you attempt, kicking field goal after field goal. Does this sound impossible? Thinking it is actually the first step in doing it. On May 11, 1995, the American Academy of Neurology met in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone explained his research on mental practice. He studied three groups of people – one that practiced a physical skill, one that visualized themselves doing the activity, and one that practiced both physically and mentally. The group that had the best performance improvement after five days was the group that practiced the activity both physically and mentally. He found that this was true for any skill needing rehearsal, not just sports activities. If you are going to give a speech or perform music or drama, mental practice can make dramatic improvements.

A Win-Win Situation

Working the body to help the mind perform and working the mind to help the body is a win-win situation. Exercise helps you feel better about yourself and shapes up your body. Jogging can escalate your creativity, chase the blues away, and elevate your IQ. It’s a total body workout. Remember: “Practice makes perfect.” Imagine yourself running and doing well on a run. But don’t stop there. Imagine yourself doing other things too, and doing them well.

Looking good

You look in every mirror you pass to make sure you haven’t gained any weight. You’re sure that if you lose 10 pounds, all your problem is will go away. You know that the actors and actresses on television and the models in magazines have what seem like “ideal bodies.”

But no one has a “perfect body.” Everyone, however. can look good – and feel good.

Instead of striving for the perfect body, make your goal that of being physically fit. Your image of your body will improve along with your fitness.

Forget the “thin is fit” myth. Thin is not necessarily fit nor ideal. Weight loss is not the most important factor in improving body image.

Physical fitness has more to do with how well you can perform certain physical activities than with how much you weigh. A physically fit person has good endurance, strength, and heart and lung capacity.

The body of a fit person turns fat tissue into muscle tissue. Muscles weigh more than fat because they are denser. Muscles need more calories than fat. As you start getting more muscle tissue, you’ll find you can eat more without gaining weight.

How Do You Get Fit?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends some physical activities every day, and vigorous activities for 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week. While most teens claim they do an hour a day of physical activity, a 1994 study found that only about 50 percent of the boys and 25 percent of the girls exercise vigorously. One study showed that as teens get older, they exercise less.

You may walk to school every day, but unless you’re doing four to five miles per hour for a half hour, you can’t count it as the kind of vigorous exercise you get with activities such as brisk walking, jogging, basketball, racquet sports, dance, swimming laps, skating, bicycling, strength (resistance) training, and waist training with the best waist cincher. All these activities get you moving quickly and breathing hard for sustained periods of time.

One way to tell if you’re exercising hard enough is to check your target heart rate. To get your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220, and multiply that number by .65 and .85 (example: 220 – 16 = 204 x .65 = 133; 204 x .85 = 173. For a maximum workout that bums fat, your pulse rate should be between those numbers.

Do something you like. Let’s face it, doing something you hate will only encourage you to avoid exercise. Catch up on the latest news while you and a friend jog together. If you’re alone, doing a variety of activities will keep you from getting bored and will exercise different muscles.

Carrie Sowiak, athletic director of The Oxford Club in Denver, Colorado, recommends weight training to increase your percentage of muscle. Muscle tissue demands energy and increases your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories).

Carrie has found that once teens start developing muscle and upper body strength, they don’t worry about losing weight. The muscle definition makes them look better, and they have a new body image.

Be sure you get instruction in weight training. If you don’t use the correct techniques, you can tear or strain your muscles. Carrie recommends a trainer who has a degree in a health - related field and is also certified by an accredited organization such as the American College of Sports Medicine.

Some of your exercises should be aerobic – activities that use a lot of oxygen such as jogging, bicycling, dancing, and swimming. If you haven’t done the activity before, start slowly and build up to longer times and greater distance over a period of weeks. Always start your session with some stretches to give your muscles a chance to warm up, and end with a few minutes of slower exercises and stretches to cool down.

Do, Not Overdo

Avoid the “weekend athlete syndrome,” saving up your daily exercise and spending it all on the weekends. If you do, you’re likely to set yourself up for a sports injury. You’ll want to set up a program that will strengthen you for your chosen weekend activity.

On the other hand, don’t over – do exercise. Some teens decide that more is better and start exercising every spare minute. Soon they’re obsessed with the idea of going longer distances and losing more weight.

Some of the signs that you are overdoing things are weighing yourself every day, or seeing yourself as fat no matter how much you weigh. You need some fat to provide insulation and store energy.

Get Moving

Get off to a good start this school year – get moving.

Exercise is great. A regular exercise program can help you tone muscles and get in shape. You’ll feel better – and look good, too.

Overdoing it with aerobics

Whether you go to an aerobic dance class or work out with Jane Fonda on videotape, if you’re one of the 24 million Americans who participates in aerobic dance programs, you’re on the right track to physical fitness. Aerobic dance programs and other aerobic exercise like walking, running, swimming, and bicycling improve heart and lung function and offer all those other benefits you know by heart: better quality of life, decreased risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, less stress, and more energy.

But (and it’s a big one) you can get too much of a good thing. Injuries associated with excessive amounts of aerobic exercise include stress fractures, shin splints, muscle pain, knee and ankle damage, back and foot problems, and (during hot, humid weather) heat exhaustion. Some people even develop “exercise addiction,” continuing intense programs in spite of chronic fatigue and problems with work or family relationships caused by an unreasonable drive to exercise.

Experts emphasize that benefits of moderate exercise programs far outweigh risks, but they also warn that increasing the amount and intensity beyond moderate levels increases the chance of exercise-related problems. Generally, a session that lasts longer than 45 minutes with the intensity of hard running carries a danger of injury. On the other hand, a session lasting less than 20 minutes has very little positive effect on the cardiovascular system.

High- vs. Low-Impact

In the early 1980s, health problems first noticed in aerobic dance program participants were attributed to the high-impact nature of the exercise: the jolting and pounding that results from having both feet off the floor at the same time. Concrete floors also contributed to stress on joints, as did improper shoes that didn’t give the stability, shock absorption, and flexibility needed. Researchers have since spent time looking for ways to improve aerobic dance facilities, shoes, and choreography to make programs safer without losing cardiovascular benefits.

The challenge was met in other ways, too. Low-impact programs were introduced, in which one foot is always touching the ground. Low-impact aerobics involve less jarring and cause fewer injuries. Still, the exercise are not injury-free. Ankle and knee injuries can nevertheless occur and without proper guidance, you might not get the heart and lung workout you seek.

Move Around

Still, benefits of a good low-impact program can equal those of a high-impact workout if participants use multi-directional, full-body movements. What does this mean? In every session: Move around the room often and change direction frequently; use the large muscle groups in the legs, hips, and back; and use smooth, controlled movements.

Your instructor should always explain each exercise, especially proper position and placement. If you’re not doing a movement correctly, you won’t get the benefits, and you could hurt yourself.

As for the intensity of your workout, one easy way to be sure you’re not exercising too hard is the “talk test.” You should be able to carry on a conversation during your workout. If you’re breathing too hard to do that, your intensity is too high.

Stretching, the Myth

Finally, the myth that injury can be prevented by stretching before exercise has been called into doubt by a study at the University of South Carolina. Researchers found no difference in injury rates among runners who stretched before their workout and those who didn’t. In fact, they found some evidence that improper stretching may even cause pulled or torn muscles. (Competitive athletes in sports such as tennis or volleyball with a lot of stop-and-go and those that require a full range of motion of joints such as gymnastics may still benefit from pre-workout stretching.)

Other studies show that a few minutes of warm-up jogging, walking, or bicycling before exercise sessions prevent injury by helping muscles absorb more force and making them less likely to tear. A gradual cool-down, such as walking after jogging or slow swimming after a tough practice may do more good than post-exercise stretching.

What this all means is you don’t need a “no-pain no-gain” workout to benefit from aerobic exercise. If you work at your own pace and use habits that work for you, you’ll improve your health and fitness–without overdoing it.

A walk in the park: savoring life’s small dramas, one lap at a time

Every morning, after I’ve worked at my desk for a couple of hours, I go walking in a nearby park. It’s a ritual I’ve followed for 14 years, ever since my husband, my son, and I moved to our Los Angeles house.

I smear on sunscreen and pull on a hat and sunglasses, and off I go for my usual four miles. Even if it rains (unless it’s torrential), I do 13 laps around a track that meanders along a playground lined with strollers, curves around a bank of jasmine past baseball diamonds and soccer fields, and slips coolly under pine, magnolia, and pittosporum trees.

This head-clearing march, which I do for obvious reasons (exercise, weight control), is also a never-ending source of midday entertainment. Do anything in one place long enough, and you come to know the regulars.

At my park, these run the gamut, from babies in slings to the ancient grandpa with a cane to other track rats like me. This latter group includes friends who meet to stretch, run, or walk their dogs (one guy jogs with a scrappy terrier, one girl trots with a stuffy, dignified Bouvier); an older woman with an ever-shifting cast of pals; a nonstop talker who, even alone, is constantly on her phone.

Over the months, I’ve watched a man with a gray crew cut and the name of a Russian professional boxer on his T-shirt whittle away an impressive gut. Another guy, who runs shirtless, a religious medal bouncing on his chest, is a lane hog: Running clockwise, counter to prevailing traffic, he claims the inside track; if someone’s on it, he bears down, muttering curses, till the person moves. Yet he, too, has dogs, a German shepherd and a poodle mix he brings for catch with a tennis ball–a sign he can’t be all bad.

Since I am in the land of cute, toned actors with iPods, the sights are sometimes unexpected: A line of people on Segway scooters may roll past on the sidewalk below the track. A group of joggers might appear in high-topped plastic boots with giant springs in place of soles.

Change comes to my park, too: I’ve seen children pushed in running strollers outgrow them, to be replaced by smaller siblings. I’ve watched a speed-walking couple, the woman in heart-patterned pajama pants, suddenly break into a fight, departing in different directions.

One girl in a bandanna used to regularly meet a guy who didn’t appear to notice what was obvious to me–her painful crush on him. They haven’t been back in a while.

Last week, though, my cloak of walker’s anonymity was lifted when someone signaled that she’d noticed me.

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” she said shyly–a slim, familiar–looking walker with a ponytail and shorts–“but I recognized your hat. I’ve seen you here for years, since I first came with my baby. I used to think, Wow, look at her. She’s so good; she totally works exercise into her day. Then it dawned on me: If I’m seeing her, I’m here, too; I can work this into my day. I’ve lost 30 pounds because of you. I just wanted you to know.”

I blushed and beamed. I told her she looked terrific–she did–and then I pushed off. I still had three more laps to go.

30 days to a beach-ready body

No false promises: You will have to work a little harder. Only for a month, though, with moves that go right for your trouble spots.

If baggy T-shirts or cover-ups look like your best beach-wear options, we’ve got a shape-up plan that might change your thinking. Fact is, if you start now and can devote about 30 minutes a day, six days a week, for the next month, it’s possible to slim and sculpt your stomach, legs, butt, arms, and back by bathing suit season.

The secret is to up your muscle-to-fat ratio, says Jim Clarry, a trainer at New York’s David Barton Gym. “Each pound of muscle can burn 50 calories a day,” says Clarry. “And that leads to fat loss.” Not to mention a toned body. Expect to replace about four pounds of fat with muscle – and lose up to an inch and a half in your hips, thighs, and waist – with this plan. How it works:

Part 1 Do 20 to 30 minutes of weight training three times a week (skipping a day in between so your muscles can recover).

Part 2 On alternating days (three times a week total), do 20 to 30 minutes al aerobic exercise. Choose fast walking,jogging, biking, aerobics, a treadmill – whatever workout gets your heart beating fast yet doesn’t leave you too breathless to talk comfortably.

Part 3 Eat sensibly. Cut back on foods that stimulate the appetite, such as simple sugars (cookies and cake, for example). Also, avoid eating saturated fats (found in meat, butter, cheese) and have your fill of low-fat, fiber-packed foods (vegetables, for example). Because fiber isn’t absorbed by the body, it helps you fell full without adding calories.

Part 4 To maintain your loon look throughout the summer (and beyond), you can cut back your workout schedule to two or three times a week, but you’ll need to do both the strength-training routine and 15 minutes of intense aerobic exercise (jogging, jumping rope) in each session. (The cumulative effect ups your body’s fat-burning potential.)

The Toners

Do the strength-training moves that follow using a set of three-to five-pound hand weights. (To choose, hold a five-pound weight out to your side for ten seconds; if it’s just too heavy to handle, try the same test with a four-pound weight, then, if necessary, a three-pound weight.) Count to 4 slowly during the first part of each exercise, and count to 4 again as you return to the starting position. Each time you work out, add one count (so that by the third time you do these moves, you’ll count to 6, and so on until you reach 16). Note: If you’re doing either the toning or aerobic exercises first thing in the morning, warm up your muscles by jogging in place for a few minutes.

The squat (works butt, thigh, and hip muscles): Grasping a weight in each hand, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Squat down so knees are directly over toes, keeping your butt out. The first day you do the move, count to 4 as you go down and again as you rise back up. Then, each time afterward, add one count until you reach 16. Do ten repetitions. TIP: Keep your shoulders back and chest up.

Stiff-legged lift (works butt and back of legs): Stand with knees slightly bent, hands at sides. Bend forward as far as your hamstrings (back-of-thigh muscles) allow, keeping your back flat and heels on the ground. Return to starting position. Do ten repetitions. TIP: Keeping your chest up will help your back stay flat.

Chest fly (works pectoral muscles, which support the bustline): Lie on floor with arms out to sides, hands grasping weights, palms toward feet. Hold lower arms and end of each weight just above the floor. With elbows slightly bent, lift arms up and toward center until the weights nearly touch; return to starting position. Do eight repetitions. TIP: Slightly arch your lower back to help keep your chest up during the move.

Side lifts (shapes shoulders): Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides, palms facing body. Lift both arms slowly until they are parallel to the floor, pause briefly, then return to starting position. Do eight repetitions. TIP: Keep knees and elbows relaxed.

Back row (creates a sexy back by working the “lats”): Stand with knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward, placing right hand on a chair seat so that torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Hold left arm to side with dumbbell in hand. Pull left elbow up the side of your body (as if starting a lawn mower), hold briefly, then go back down. Do eight repetitions. Repeat with opposite side. TIP: Your elbow should be slightly higher than your torso before you hold the position.

Tricep extension (firms back of upper arms): Sit in a chair and, with weight in hand, hold left arm straight up above your head, palm facing in. Slowly bend your left elbow to bring the weight down as far as it will go (without forcing it) and then back up. Do eight repetitions. Repeat with other arm. TIP: Your upper arm should not move. If necessary, stabilize it by reaching around front of body and grasping the arm with your free hand.

Bicep curl (shapes and strengthens front of upper arms): Stand with arms at sides, palms facing forward. Bend your arms at the elbow to lift the weights up near your chest. Return to starting position. Do eight repetitions. TIP: Arms should remain still from elbow to shoulder.

Reverse ab crunch (works entire midsection): Lie on your back with knees and feet together, thighs perpendicular to the floor, and knees fully bent. Press lower back into the floor, place arms at sides and palms on floor, and rest head and neck on a small pillow. Press palms into floor and move knees toward collarbone, which will cause hips to elevate. Contract abs as you move pelvis toward head, and hold for the duration of the count. Then, slowly lower pelvis. Do eight repetitions. TIP: Keep middle of back on floor the whole time – only your butt and hips should lift.


Although our shape-up plan requires you to carve out time from your no doubt crowded schedule, a few shortcuts may help. For instance, although it’s best to do all eight strength-training exercises in a row (to give muscles more of a workout), once a week you can break them up into two groups of four. And if you have to cut back, skip the tricep and bicep exercises. (The reason: The muscles they tone will got a partial workout through some of the other exercises.) As for aerobic exercise, try to work activities into your everyday routine. Walk (or bike or skate) a bit farther each time – in the sum amount of time.


Set your alarm earlier and do all eight strength-training exercises as you listen to the news. (Remember to warm your muscles by jogging in place first.)


Go for a 30-minute walk with friends at lunch. Or if you have a treadmill, use it for half an hour while your husband makes the salad and sets the table for dinner.


Do the first four weight exercises as soon as you wake up (keep your weights beside your bed as a reminder). Do the other half after the kids are in bed.


Take an aerobics or spinning class (or pop in an exercise video at home); motivation may be flagging, and it helps to have someone else set the pace. Or spend 20 minutes on a stationary bike, followed by 5 minutes each of jogging in place and jumping rope. Do before or right after work.


Day off. (Note: Schedule your weekly break on whatever day is typically busiest.)


Do all eight strength-training exercises while the kids are busy watching cartoons.


Push yourself a little harder. Go bike riding or Roller-blading with the kids (make sure you get in 30 minutes of high-intensity activity) or take a 30-minute jog.