Thursday, March 28, 2013

Zumba: Benefits and Risks

Zumba is an extremely popular dance fitness class that burns over 800 calories per hour on average.
Zumba is an extremely popular dance fitness class.
Image from
These days, Zumba is one of the most popular ways to get back in shape. Lots of women and men are finding that dancing to fast-paced music in a large group is a great way to have fun while burning calories at the same time. But Zumba may not be for everyone; like any type of exercise, it has a unique set of benefits and risks that you should be aware of before embarking on a booty-shaking journey to weight loss.

What is Zumba?
Zumba is a dance fitness program that was created by Alberto “Beto” Perez in the 1990s. It combines elements of aerobics and various dance styles, including hip-hop, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, and more. According to the official Zumba Fitness website, there are over 14 million people taking weekly Zumba classes in more than 140,000 locations worldwide.

Like aerobics, Zumba is a great way to burn off excess calories. Kass Martin, a Zumba instructor and education specialist, claims that the averagenumber of calories burned in an hour was 817. This is due in part to the large number of muscles engaged, as opposed to some other exercises that only use certain muscle groups. It’s that “total body fitness” thing at work.

There is also a variety of age- and fitness level-appropriate class types available for kids ages four all the way up through seniors. Because it’s exercise and it’s fun, Zumba can also be a great way to handle the stresses of everyday life—plus, being more physically active often helps you feel better both emotionally and physically. Most Zumba-goers also say the time goes by quickly, and that it’s a great way to socialize and meet new friends.

Despite the amazing array of benefits, Zumba also comes with some risks that class goers should be aware of. The most prominent issues is that some people end up overly excited and strain their bodies too much—and that can cause some bad things to happen.

Zumba can result in injury if participants push themselves too hard or movements are done improperly.
To avoid injury, be sure you're in control of your movements!
Image from
“A lot of people get caught up with the music and excitement of it, and they lose track of what they’re doing and they don’t realize they overdid it until long afterwards,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joel Buchalter. He’s had many patients come in with injuries to their backs, knees and hips.

To avoid injury, you must be aware of your body’s limits, as well as how to do the movements appropriately. If you just throw your body around, you’re setting yourself up for an injury. There are also other factors to take into account, such as where the class is taking place and what type of shoes you’re wearing. Avoid hard surfaces with no give—such as cement—as well as surfaces that will cause your foot to stick, like carpet. Shoes should also be chosen wisely. Running shoes are not ideal because they grip the floor and are designed more for forward motion. Get shoes that will allow you to pivot and turn. This will help you avoid ankle and knee injuries from twisting awkwardly.

JLo suggests Zumba for fun and fitness.
That being said, Zumba can be a fun and efficient way to get in shape. Even some celebrities have joined in on the fun, like Jennifer Lopez, Kirstie Alley, Jordin Sparks, Madonna, and Vivica A. Fox. Have you ever tried Zumba before? Let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments below! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Six Workout Moves You Can Do With A Chair

I’m not one for buying expensive athletic equipment. I have one pair of dumbbells, which I borrowed from a friend. I have a yoga mat. I have workout clothes and shoes. And I have… well, that’s pretty much it, actually. I’m a big believer that you can get lean and fit just by using your own body weight. You may not become a body builder doing so, but that’s not really what I’m aiming for anyway.

In that spirit, here are six different workout moves you can do with a chair—and that’s it! If you have a yoga mat, it’s helpful to keep the hard ground at bay, but it’s not necessary. Try 10-20 reps of each of these moves:

  1. Step-Ups: Stand on the ground beside the chair, with the back parallel to your right leg. Step up on the chair with your right leg and without touching down, bring your left leg up to a high-knee position. Your knee should be about chest height. Take a controlled step back down with the left leg and then repeat. You can leave your right leg on the chair. Switch and repeat on the other side. 
  2. Knee-Tucks: Place your hands on the ground (or a yoga mat) in front of the chair. Place your feet up on the seat of the chair so that you are in push-up position with your legs elevated. Bring one leg forward, tucking the knee to your chest, then returning it to the chair. Switch legs back and forth.
  3. Leg Lifts: Lay on your back in front of the chair, placing your heels on the seat of the chair. Lift your pelvis so that your body is in a straight diagonal line. While keeping your body in the same position, lift one leg off the chair to be perpendicular with the ground and then return to starting position. Switch legs back and forth.
  4. Lunge Hops: Stand with your back to the chair. Place one foot on the chair seat and bend your knees until they are at 90-degree angles. Push up with your front foot so that your leg straightens and you hop a few inches off the ground. Make sure your back foot stays on the chair. Repeat with both legs.
  5. Triceps Kick Dips: Facing away from the chair, place both hands on the edge of the seat and lower your body so that your legs are bent to about 90-degrees. Alternating sides, lower your body by bending your arms while simultaneously kicking out one leg so that it is straight. Bring the leg back in as you raise back up and straighten your arms.
  6. Knee-Raises: You’ll need two chairs for this one. Place them so they are facing each other, with just enough room for you to kneel between them. Place one hand on either chair and straighten your arms so that you are hanging just off the ground. Bring your knees up to your chest and then lower back down while keeping your arms straight and your body off the ground.

For this article, I used a chair workout infographic found on Pinterest (pictured). When I tried to click through to the original website, it had been reported as spam. If anyone knows where this originally came from, please let me know so that I can give due credit!

Try to do 10-20 reps of each move, and if you can, 2-3 sets. Let me know how it goes for you all! Good luck!

Lululemon’s Latest Problem Revealed

While I do love Lululemon, the news this week hasn’t exactly been flattering. After numerous complaints from customers, the yoga clothing line came clean with a not-so-great admission: some of their black Luon women’s pants were made just a tad too sheer. Okay, quite a bit too sheer, actually.

Lululemon built a loyal customer base by creating a community based around health, fitness, and happiness.
Lululemon makes getting fit fun & communal
Image from
Right now, it’s unclear how the mistake came about. But it is clear that women doing yoga in the pants were rather unhappy when they found out their pants were fairly transparent while practicing any number of yoga stretches and positions. The company has recalled the line, pulling the pants from its stores and offering full refunds or exchanges to women who have purchased them.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first issue Lululemon has had with sheerness in the past year. Their stock, which has skyrocketed in the past three years, took a 5% dip on Tuesday when the recall was issued. The recall of the pants will also cause their profits to take a significant dip for the quarter.

Lululemon built a loyal customer base by creating a community based around health, fitness, and happiness.
Image from
But the main problem here is the potential loss of loyal customers. So many women and men have come to love the brand, which, although a little pricey, has a strong mission and ideals. Hopefully this flub up won’t lose them too many customers.

It’s certainly frustrating that a mistake on this grand of a scale could happen because of what appears to be a lack of proper oversight in its overseas factories. But one thing Lululemon does have going in its favor (besides the large customer base) is its friendly, fun appeal to anyone wanting to live a healthy lifestyle.

What makes it so? It’s in everything from the company’s many inspiring phrases found on its website, bags and more (“run against the grain, take the road less travelled,” “Breathe deeply,” “Friends are more important than money”) to its colorful and exciting lines of exercise clothes.
Lululemon's manifesto is inspiring and close to our hearts. It tells us to love, that friends are more important than money, and provides inspiration.
Lululemon's inspiring manifesto
Image from

Lululemon makes it fashionable to be fit and living a healthy life, and it makes people feel connected to each other—just like I feel connected to all of the other fitness and health bloggers I find on social media sites. Lululemon offers free yoga classes in its stores, connects customers with qualified yoga instructors, and generally cultivates a sense of community.

And business flub up or not, that makes them one of the few retailers who do.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gwyneth Paltrow Health Scares: A Good Reminder For Us

People today have plenty of health problems that they know about. But there are plenty more they don’t know about, too. Not to sound cynical, but it’s true. We tend, as a society, to go to the doctor mostly when we’re sick. We assume things are all good until something comes up and gets serious enough to have us worried. And really, that’s probably not a good plan overall.

Gwyneth Paltrow had a stroke scare and suffered a miscarriage.
Image: DFree / 
It’s a big part of the reason I (and I assume many of you) try to keep up on eating healthy and exercising regularly. What we put into our bodies and how much physical activity we get are the biggest factors in determining our health. But there are also things under the surface that we can’t necessarily see on our own.

Gwyneth Paltrow recently opened up about her past health problems that have led her to make some major lifestyle changes. The actress, an Academy Award winner, is the mother of two and has always looked slim yet healthy. But after she suffered both a miscarriage and a stroke scare, she discovered she had several health problems.

She was in her London home when she “lost control of her right hand and suffered a blinding pain in her head that was so extreme she thought she was having a stroke.” It turned out to be a combination of a massive migraine and a panic attack, but going to the doctor revealed several other problems.

“I was vitamin-D deficient, I had [anemia], I had thyroid issues, my liver was congested, I had hormonal imbalances and a benign [tumor] on my ovary that had to be removed. I mean, it was crazy,” she said. “I knew it was time for a change.”

Your body is your most priceless possession. Take care of it.
Your body is your most priceless possession. Take care of it.
Image from
It feels like a bit of a wake-up call. If someone who can afford all the doctors in the world, who has infinite access to services to monitor her health, wasn’t aware of all those problems, what must it be like for the rest of us?

Gwyneth’s experience motivated her to adopt an elimination diet, which eliminates all foods that have potentially adverse affects on the body. I’m not saying everyone should do so, but I think there’s an important lesson to take from Gwyneth Paltrow’s story. It’s so important to be aware of and actively take part in our own health—because if we don’t, then we risk letting dangers go unchecked.

You only get one body, and it’s your permanent home. Take care of it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Average Sized Mannequin Photo Goes Viral

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s ever walked by mannequins on display at a store and asked, “Really?” It’s not uncommon to see weirdly skinny mannequins sporting merchandise in size 0, safety pinned at the back because it’s still too big. Those clothes often end up being what I describe as “good on the rack,” but not really anywhere else.
Mannequins like Death Camp Chic are abnormally skinny and long-limbed.
The Gap's "Always Skinny" mannequin earned
the nickname "Death Camp Chic"

You know it’s a problem when your bones are literally bigger than what’s supposed to be a full flesh-and-bone representation. Of course, not all mannequins are like that. But the average size for mannequins in the United States is between sizes 4 and 6. This contrasts sharply with the average woman’s size, which is between 12 and 14 according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Mannequins are also blessed with abnormally long figures and limbs, some as much as 6 inches taller and 6 sizes smaller than the average woman, according to the Chicago Tribune. But lately some in the fashion industry have taken a stand against the promotion of anorexic figures, including major gurus like Vogue, which is run by editor Anna Wintour and contributed to by fashionistas like Lauren Santo Domingo.

But now a photo of two mannequins is making the viral rounds on the Internet—and the approval has been overwhelming. The picture depicts two mannequins from an unknown Swedish retail store sporting sets of purple lingerie. What’s special about them is that they actually look like real women. They have hips, breasts, and soft tissue. Their legs and arms look proportional. They are still slim, yes, but in a healthy way.

These Swedish mannequins have realistic proportions, soft tissue, and actually look like real women.
Average-sized mannequins from a Swedish retailer
are receiving praise for being realistic.
A few worry that making larger mannequins will promote obesity, but to that I say “Pah!” The mannequins aren’t obese; they are a more realistic depiction of what women actually look like. How does seeing a super skinny mannequin help us picture clothing on our own bodies? How does it make us feel when those clothes don’t seem to fit in quite the same way?

The picture surfaced earlier this week on the Women’s Rights News Facebook page with a message attached: “Store mannequins in Sweden. They look like real women. The US should invest in some of these.”

And I have to say, I agree. What do you think?