#409 5/18/2010 HEALING MIND AND BODY

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When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping.
Men invade another country.

Elayne Boosler

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5 Keys to Treating Depression through Exercise

By Omar Shamout

About 19 million people in the United States suffer from some form of depression ranging from mild to severe. It's hard to imagine that something as seemingly intangible as the feeling of sadness is governed by science, but it's true. Emotions, like everything else found inside our bodies, can be broken down into chemical equations. The upside of this is that you can sometimes take charge of which emotions your brain generates by altering the things you do every day. Yes, there are a number of pharmaceutical treatments for depression, but studies show that our bodies produce a natural defense that can combat this debilitating mental condition.

Woman Holding a Dumbbell

What are these organic wonder drugs, you ask? And how do we get them? The answer is endorphins, and you get them through exercise. These chemicals interact with receptors in our brains that send a euphoric feeling throughout the body to combat pain in all its forms. Many people have dubbed this phenomenon "runner's high."

Evolution has gifted us with an anatomy filled with a vast repository of resources that can fight many of the obstacles nature will throw at us. The key is understanding how to unlock the door and utilize all the tools we have available at our disposal. So, with some hard work and dedication, we might be able to discover the secret to one of our self-healing properties.

  1. Man Holding an Alarm Clock on His BicepConsistency. Because depression is a chronic problem that can't be cured by an hour in the gym, sufferers must realize that it takes a strong commitment to an aerobic routine to see any improvement. Even then, endorphins alone may not be enough to aid in more severe cases. Research studies conducted by Harvard Medical School found that daily aerobic exercise over a sustained period of time can have exactly the same impact on lowering rates of depression as antidepressant drugs can have. The length of the daily workout is crucial though, as workouts of less than 15 minutes produced negligible results compared to those of 30 minutes or more. Workouts don't have to be high impact, either. Low-impact routines involving walking and light stretching are equally effective.

    Prescription drugs may work faster, but the benefits of aerobic exercise on our brain have been shown to last longer, while also improving other physical conditions such as heart health and blood pressure. You must make a long-term commitment, though, because we are talking about a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. A serious problem demands a serious solution.

  2. Drugs are addictive; exercise is not. You might be tempted to take an "easier" route for self-medication. Drugs such as morphine and cocaine also trigger the release of endorphins in your system, but their addictive qualities are dangerous and deadly, not to mention illegal. Overeating can also trigger the release of endorphins, but all of these activities will only make you feel more depressed in the long term once the guilt sets in, and the cycle will only become harder to break. Recognizing any destructive personal triggers of your depression symptoms is vital to understanding how your psyche got to where it is now. Exercise is one of the few coping mechanisms that is not addictive, so embrace it as a welcome and positive addition to your life.
  3. Exercise can be social. Willpower, you say? But, I'm depressed! I have no willpower! Here's where other people can come in. Exercise doesn't have to be a solitary activity, and the Mayo Clinic recommends social activities as a way to cope with symptoms of depression. Maybe try joining a group dance or yoga class, joining a pickup basketball game, or softball league. Tennis, anyone? For some people, this is the way to stop thinking of exercise as a chore. The more we turn our workout into a fun activity with friends, the easier it is to think of it not as "work" at all, but rather an "out"ing. Get it?
  4. 10-Minute Trainer®Little things add up. Just because you need to get in 30 minutes of cardio a day to improve your mood, doesn't mean you have to do it all at once. Simple things like walking or biking to work, taking the stairs, parking farther away, and the like really do add up, and count as exercise even if you don't have your cross-trainers on. If you do want to wear those shoes, but still don't have the time for a long workout, consider trying 10-Minute Trainer® for a game-changing blast of cardio.
  5. Be honest with yourself. Understanding your limits and setting realistic expectations are crucial to establishing a routine that you can sustain over a long period of time and enjoy simultaneously. If you're not used to exercise, don't expect to run for an hour nonstop, because you won't, and will end up getting frustrated with yourself, which is exactly what you don't need! Ease into your routine by setting manageable and attainable goals, and build up your confidence. Overdoing your exercise routine will not make you twice as happy, so there's no need to harm your body while taking care of your head.

The bottom line is that exercise should be considered one part of a strategy to overcome depression and get yourself back on track, and shouldn't be considered a one-way ticket to Happytown. Changing your lifestyle is difficult, but a regular aerobic routine can give your brain the added boost it needs to conquer your destructive habits and combat negative emotions.

Within the first 30 days of Shakeology, I lost over 30 pounds. My blood pressure is so low and [my] attitude so positive. I no longer take diuretics or Zoloft [an antidepressant].—Bob A., Omaha, NE

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, May 24th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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The Rub on Massage: 8 Great Ways to Relax and Rejuvenate

By Denise Michelle Nix

Part of being fit and healthy is being kind to your body—listening to it when it tells you it's hurt and caring for it. Sure, if you twist your ankle doing Slim in 6® or pull a muscle pushing yourself to your limits during an INSANITY® workout, you'll go see a doctor. But sometimes, your body talks to you in a much quieter voice, yearning for care and attention that you didn't even know it needed or could benefit from. This is when a massage becomes a valuable recovery tool. Whether you're seeking to relieve an injury, focus your mind, or work on flexibility, there is a type of massage suited for you.

Woman and Man Getting Massages

Not only do massages feel great, studies show that massages can help bring stress relief, manage anxiety and depression, reduce pain and stiffness, control blood pressure and boost the immunity. Massage therapy goes a long way toward preventing pain and injury, too. According to a 2003 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, subjects who received 20 minutes of massage therapy 2 hours after exercising had significantly less soreness 48 hours later than subjects who did not.

The different kinds of massages, and their benefits, are not always so obvious just from what's on a therapist's shingle or the menu at the most luxurious day spa in town. We've asked Los Angeles-based acupuncturists and massage therapists Tanja Degen and Hillary Wollman to break down the eight most popular kinds of massages and to demystify what can sometimes be described only as a mystical experience!

  1. Swedish: In Western massage practice, the experts agree that the Swedish massage is the basis for all others. It's meant as a relaxation massage, says Degen, an instructor at the California Healing Arts College. "It's your most common type, and it can be firm, moderate, or light pressure," she adds. Long, gliding strokes on the skin, usually with the aid of massage oil, promote circulation and bring stress relief not only to tired muscles, but to the busy mind.
  2. Hands Massaging a LegDeep Tissue/Sports: A deep tissue (or sports) massage builds on the techniques of the Swedish massage but takes it further. "It's more of a focused, individualized discipline targeting different areas for deeper relief," Degen explains. While Swedish is relaxing, it does not have any therapeutic effect on the muscles like a deep tissue or sports massage does, she added. The slow stroke technique, usually with a bit less oil, is designed to increase range of motion and loosen up tight muscles.
  3. Chair: You've probably seen this form of on-the-go massage therapy at the mall or street fairs. Clients sit, fully clothed, facing the back of a special chair as hands, fists, and elbows work their backs, necks, shoulders, and heads. "It's therapeutic and convenient for someone who doesn't have a lot of time, but still wants the benefits for what [a] massage can provide," says Wollman, owner and operator of Bliss Acupuncture. While a therapist performing a chair massage is more limited in terms of range of motion and depth, the convenience of it makes it popular. Wollman often performs chair massages in the business setting for companies that want to give their employees a nice way to de-stress.
  4. Shiatsu/Acupressure: Shiatsu massage, commonly referred to as Acupressure, is the basis for traditional Eastern medicine that dates back to ancient times. "It actually works with the body's meridians and energy flow," says Degen, explaining that meridians are the channels through which energy flows in the body. Where there's a block in a meridian, a therapist applies deep pressure, promoting circulation, relaxation, and lymphatic and hormonal health benefits.
  5. Reiki: Also a part of Eastern practice, Reiki also concentrates on the body's energy, but can be done either deeply or more subtly, says Wollman. In Reiki, the therapist places hands on the different energetic systems of the body, including the crown of the head, brow, heart center, and abdomen area. It's gentle touching that allows an exchange of energy between the practitioner and the patient. Reiki may not always involve massaging. Wollman incorporates it into the end of her practice. "It helps close the session, almost like saying goodbye to the body without just leaving. It seals in the benefits of what just happened," she added.
  6. Man with Hot Stones on His BackStone: Incorporating warm, smooth stones into the practice is a great way to loosen up sore or tight muscles and heal injuries, Wollman says. "It is so delicious. It's very sensual, and the heat of the stones is very penetrating." The therapist either places the stones on key points of the body, allowing their weight and heat to penetrate, or uses them to go deeper with strokes and penetration. It increases circulation and has calming and sedating effects. "For someone who is fitness oriented and on the go, it is great," Wollman adds.
  7. Reflexology: In Reflexology, the hands and feet are the focus based on the idea that all the body's systems are juxtaposed there. "You can activate different points on the foot that then help the body's ability to function better," Wollman says. For example, people who have problems with their digestion or intestines can often find relief through Reflexology. Another benefit is that it is a convenient therapy with no oils or lotions needed, and the patient can stay clothed if he or she chooses.
  8. Thai: Thai massage is the ultimate combination of Swedish, or deep tissue massage, with some yoga-like qualities added in. In a Thai massage, the therapist uses practically his or her entire body to massage and stretch the patient. "It's a very active approach to getting things healed in the body," says Wollman, "It's active, but relaxing." Thai massage, for athletes especially, helps with flexibility and range of motion. "You have to kind of know that you're gonna be almost thrown all over the place and have the practitioner on top of you," she adds.

Wollman and Degen agree that everyone can find the massage therapy that works best for them. The key, Degen explains, is to communicate with the therapist before the session begins, discussing problem areas and the level of firmness desired. Both note that some people may be hesitant because massage therapy can be such a personal experience, especially when your clothes are off. Most therapists, they said, will accommodate their practice to fit a client's comfort level.

The health benefits of this type of holistic medicine are bountiful, and it's an easy way to care for your body. "There are no [bad] side effects," Degen says. "And it feels great." Wollman adds that, especially for fitness buffs, the strengthening and focus that a massage brings can have far-reaching effects. "It can calm the mind in a way that can enhance better focus," she says. "It's something passive, but it helps support your game."

Related Articles
"Going Gaga for Yoga!"
"Meditate for Your Heart"
"10 Tips for Stress Relief"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, May 24th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Splurge vs. Save - Which Beauty Products Are Worth More Money?

Cosmetics and Money

Taking care of your body and your appearance is important. But looking and feeling beautiful doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. The trick is to know which types of beauty products are worth investing money in for better results—and which can give you fantastic results at a low price. For example, you'll want to invest in a good eye pencil, but you can save money by picking up a cheaper lip liner. Find out where to splurge and where to save, and why . . .

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Cleanse IQ!

By D. V. Donatelli

Empty Plate and Glass of Shakeology®A week ago, I was walking past the Shakeology® fountain here at Beachbody® Headquarters, and I started thinking—after reading so many articles about the benefits of fasts and cleanses—that maybe I should give a cleanse a try. I just happened to be entering the recovery week of my second round of P90X®, and that was the clincher—I would skip a few days' workouts and do a cleanse instead. I would do something unthinkable in my family: not eat for a while. Yes, it would be tough, but I was determined to set upon the path to inner cleanliness. Below are some true/false statements about my experience.

True or False?

  1. False: My hunger only got worse and worse throughout. I couldn't believe it, either, until I thought about it. While normally we associate hunger with crankiness and discomfort, I found that after approximately 36 hours, I had returned to a "normal" feeling in my stomach. No longer were virulent hunger pangs viciously flapping the sheets of my digestive system; instead, it was almost like a cranky child who slowly realized his tantrum wasn't going to work this time. And it makes sense: when we were cavepeople, we probably went very long stretches without eating, and our bodies needed to be able to enter a noncranky-yet-still-hungry mode. I was happy to find that, despite the trappings of modernity and the rampant fatness of my genetics, that mechanism still exists within me. I think my roommate, who had started to cartoonishly look like a box of pizza to me, was happy about it, too.
  2. False: Despite being hungry, my body felt fine the whole time. I could definitely tell that I was at a calorie deficit. It wasn't bad; it was just noticeable. For instance, my movements were slower and more (lazily) calculated. Additionally, sometimes when I would stand up from my desk, I would get a mild lightheadedness—a lightheadedness that was actually rather enjoyable. I have an alcohol allergy, so I haven't had a drink in years, and the lightheaded feeling kind of reminded me of being mildly tipsy, which was actually kind of fun until I started hitting on a coat rack.
  3. False: I didn't eat anything. In my 60 hours of cleansing, the only calories I put into my body came from Greenberry Shakeology, some strawberries, and two bananas. I also guzzled water like I was at the world's lamest frat party. Let me tell you, when you are at a caveperson-like calorie deficit, three strawberries blended with water, ice, and Greenberry Shakeology will send you to your knees, praising the name of chemistry or the Creator in appreciation of the sweet glories of merciful, transcendent satiety.
  4. True: I loved it and would do it again. Again, after the first 36 hours, I felt like I could continue with the cleanse indefinitely. After I ate and had my energy levels return to normal, I felt better than I've felt in years. And the benefits must be aesthetic, too, because just yesterday my coworker Jeff told me he overheard a female coworker tell her friend that she thought I was cute. Unfortunately, Jeff didn't get a chance to actually see who said it. So, basically, Jeff gave me a treasure map without an X on it. Oh well—to mix my metaphor, I'm just happy to be nominated.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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