live it active

Wednesday Workout Tip: DO Zumba

Zumba is the most recent exercise fad and for good reason. It totally rocks. Why?

1. You work all muscle groups (even your wrist flexors and extensors).

2. Your cardiorespiratory system is worked hard – for some dance sequences I bet you are working around 75-80% of your Vo2Max.

3. You sweat like a beast.

4. You smile the entire time.

I would recommend this activity for all age groups and for anyone who has uttered the phrase “I hate exercise”. Zumba will completely alter your perspective.

Happy grooving.



Ironwomen Hitting the Wall

Do you know what it’s truly like to “hit the wall”? Well, these two ladies definitely do. While their actions are funny, it is pretty scary that they were able to push their bodies to full blood glucose and near muscle glycogen depletion.

This may cause you to rethink ever trying an Ironman…


Funny Friday Video…Aren’t they cute?

Hope you enjoy! Have a lovely weekend.


Wednesday Workout Tip: Create a Healthier Workplace

We sure do spend a lot of time at work. On average, work accounts for 36% of our waking hours (I included weekends in that calculation). And by the time you get home you’re completely zonked with little interest in exercising.

How can you fit exercise and/or healthy living into your daily routine?

Help create a healthier workplace. This doesn’t require a lot of cash, but it does require willpower, energy, and commitment as you may experience some resistance from employers and potentially, other employees.

What can you do to create a healthier workplace?

Hire me (yes, apologies for the self-promotion). I would be more than happy to come and help make your office a healthier one. However, I appreciate that most employers may not have the funds to pay a health promotion consultant, so I have listed a few tips below!

1) Talk to your employer about your intentions. Ask them for support. And be sure to tell them that this will not require a large cash commitment and will not interfere with the productivity of the office. In fact, you could show them some stats on how physical activity improves productivity!

2) Ask your fellow employees what they are interested in. Perhaps they want to learn to run, need stretching help and/or healthy eating information, etc. Work hard to meet their requests.

3) Make a plan and schedule of when and where the health events will take place.

4) Post this schedule either online or in the company kitchen. Make sure people know when the events are. Communicate via email. Create a Facebook page – just make sure people know.

OK perhaps you need some ideas on how to make your workplace a healthier one? Here are a couple of ideas:

1) Start a stretching group. My best friend created one at her work and was given an employee award for her initiative. She runs it once a week at 3 PM to get her fellow employees out of their afternoon slump. She struggles to get people there, but she has been doing it for close to a year (talk about perseverance)!

2) Create a health food drawer in your company fridge. I was visiting a previous employer yesterday and my friend pointed out the health food drawer which contained hummus, bread (multigrain, of course), rice crackers and apples. Staff were encouraged to bring stuff in themselves or give my friend money for her to go grocery shopping. So instead of reaching for a salty or sweet treat mid-afternoon, employees had a healthy alternative.

3) Do a recipe exchange.

4) Set-up a lunch exchange. My previous employer (yes, the same as above) did the lunch exchange thing and I absolutely love it. How does it work? If there are 8 people participating, for example, each person is required to make 8 servings of their favourite (preferably healthy) lunch dish. So not only do you get a healthy lunch, but you get an unbelievable variety. Keep in mind that they should be freezable.

5) Instead of sitting during lunch, go walking. Eat your lunch after. You may groan and complain when you first get started, but eventually you’ll be addicted.

6) Start an office challenge of some sort.

OK so I think that should be enough to get you started. If your office is already doing all the above, you are working in amazing place and do NOT leave.

Happy Wednesday.


What’s going on during sleep?

If you are a regular reader you may have noticed the current fixation on sleep. This fixation is due to a number of reasons:

a) I stated in a blog post last week that I would talk about sleep for the next two weeks and;

b) Because I find sleep fascinating.

Before I begin getting into the nitty gritty, I want to point out that my post on Saturday was a very basic overview of how sleep is induced. I did not touch on the many other mechanisms responsible for regulating sleep such as the circadian rhythm which is regulated by our suprachiasmatic nuclei and pineal gland in the brain. I may touch upon this information at some point, but today I will discuss the role sleep has on the consolidation of memories.

OK let’s get started

Stage 2 of sleep is characterized by spindle oscillations. Spindle oscillations consist of 7-14 Hz waxing-and-waning field potentials (i.e. electrical waves). These oscillations are  generated in our thalamus (our information relay centre) and sent to the cortex which then returns information to the thalamus via a continuous feedback loop (i.e the thalamacortical loop). Information shared between the thalamus and the cortex is sent via neurons and each electrical signal is referred to as a synapse. Our cortex, specifically our neocortex, is what makes us different from other mammals. It provides us with the capacity to problem-solve, logically-reason, and analyze past, present, and future situations.

It is posited that during Stage 2 of sleep this thalamacortical connection provokes and activates certain intracellular mechanisms in the cortex (i.e. it opens various molecular gateways within the nucleus of pyramidal cells). More specifically, this process likely opens the gateway between synaptic activation from the thalamus and gene expression in the cortex. This “opening of the gateway” sets the stage for the next stage of sleep.

The next stages of sleep (3 & 4) are dominated by delta oscillations. During these stages, researchers posit that if the gateway has been opened (by the spindle oscillations described above) information will reach the nucleus of the pyramidal cell (cell located in the cortex) that, in turn, will stimulate the synthesis of various proteins. The synthesis of such proteins can induce long-term modifications or even morphological changes to the neuronal structure. By changing the morphology of your neurons you are changing how memories are stored and thus, remembered.

In summary, during  stages 2,3 and 4, we appear to create strongly connected and interactive neural networks via the recollection of past events and activities. As the expression goes “those that fire together (i.e. neurons), wire together”. Thus, it is the constant communication between the thalamus and cortex via the thalamacortical loop that is largely responsible for the strengthened neural networks and thus, our ability to record, remember and recall our past experiences.

Whew – that’s complex stuff and I haven’t even touched on REM sleep!

My apologies if this is a bit dense and/or confusing. Please email me with questions and I will try very hard to clarify.

This Friday I will talk about the various techniques used by you (my readers!) to get a good sleep.



Sejnowski T., et al. 2000. Why do we sleep? Brain Research; 886:208-223.

Why do we sleep?

I have to start off with an apology to my readers for the title of my post yesterday. I totally forgot to change the title before I published it – it wasn’t intended to be a trick to get you to read the post, but it sure does appear that way. Sorry! I do hope that you enjoyed the babies though…aren’t they funny?

OK, let’s get on with the actual post.

Why do we sleep?

Well the leading scientific notion is that sleep is restorative. I know, I know, you already know this – it’s nothing new. But how do we know this? What is the evidence to suggest that sleep is restorative? What goes on physiologically, biologically and neurologically to back up this claim of restoration? Could we not argue that sleep evolved along with our species out of necessity for survival (i.e. we slept to avoid getting eaten in the night)? Yes, a bit of a stretch, but it’s still something to consider.

I think before we can answer the question of why we sleep, it is important to address the physiological process of sleep – how do we start sleeping? What mechanisms come into play that force us to lie down, close our peepers, slow our breathing and tune out?

Sleep is the result of the interplay of three systems:

1) The arousal system (associated with the reticular activating system in the brain stem)

2) A slow-wave sleep centre (located in the hypothalamus)

3) A paradoxical sleep centre (located in the brain stem that has

rapid eye movement (REM) “sleep-on” neurons)

The reticular activating system housed in your brain stem assists in the regulation of incoming sensory information (i.e. it helps to shut out the outside world to the brain). We then slip into the first stage of sleep. We are easily aroused from this stage and typically toss and turn to find a comfortable position for the night. Following stage one we progress into deeper stages of slow-wave sleep (named after the increasing amplitude of the electrical signals – check out the pic). Dreams during theses stages of sleep are typically more plausible and based upon your daily events. The exception are nightmares which occur during stages 3 and 4. Progression through the four stages of slow-wave sleep takes about 35-40 minutes.

At the culmination of our slow-wave sleep cycle we move into paradoxical sleep, more commonly referred to as REM sleep – the crazy eye sleep stage. During this phase, brain activity is almost akin to that of waking (which is why it is referred to as paradoxical). Additionally, there is an abrupt inhibition of muscle tone throughout the body. Typically, we do not wake up from REM sleep, but if you are awakened during this phase you will experience a moment of paralysis which can be very disconcerting. REM lasts for about 10-15 minutes and is typically accompanied by very vivid, emotionally charged dreams.

This gives a very basic overview of the mechanisms responsible for sleep. On Monday I will address the initial question of why we sleep.

Happy sleeping (tonight).



Sherwood, Lauralee. 2006. Fundamentals of Physiology.

Why do we sleep?

Stay tuned – post coming tomorrow. My sincerest apologies.

But here is a funny Friday video clip for your viewing delight.

Happy Friday.


On the Wednesday Workout Routine…

As promised I completed the workout routine after work yesterday. And…I think I was a little too generous with the time. You should aim to get that workout done (with a few extra jumping jacks) in about 30 minutes. I definitely had a good sweat going on!

The best part of the workout – the stares I got from people walking through or driving past the park. It was as if they had never seen someone doing jumping jacks and/or burpees before. However, I was not deterred. And you shouldn’t be either! Just keep on jacking (i.e. doing jumping jacks)!

My good friend sent me a link to a video that provides some other burpee ideas/options. You should definitely check it out!

Happy Thursday.


P.S. Make sure to send me an email on tips/tricks you use to get a better sleep! I’ve received some great ideas already!



Wednesday Workout Routine

Perhaps you noticed the slight change in the title this morning? I thought I would give you a routine to perform at lunch or after work today instead of a general tip.

I appreciate that doing exercise at lunch is tough. First of all, time is tight. Second, getting sweaty and then getting back into work clothes without showering can make for a difficult afternoon (i.e. your clothes are sticking, you feel gross, and your fellow employees keep giving you the eye due to the regular whiffs coming from your direction). Perhaps going after work is a better solution, but I know most people like to have their evenings free.

So…let’s get to the routine.

1. Get outside and do a 10 minute moderate-vigorous walk to get your heart rate (HR) up. If you want to know how many calories this would burn check out my old post about skipping. Note: Moderate-Vigorous walking would be around 6 METs (give or take).

2. Find some green or carpet space and do 10 burpees. What’s a burpee? You start by jumping up with hands up above your head. Upon your return to ground you move directly into a push-up position. Do a push-up. Return to standing. Repeat. Yes, I know it’s hard.

3. Take a 30 second rest.

4. Move into a plank position. Check out this site for information on a proper plank. Make sure your elbows or hands are directly below your shoulder blades to avoid strain. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or more). Repeat 2-3 times.

5. Take a 30 second rest.

6. Complete 25 jumping jacks to get that HR back up.

7. Complete 10-15 squats. Make sure you are able to see your toes when you squat down (you do not want your knees going too far forward). Also, be sure to stick your butt out as you move into the squat position. Hold each squat for two seconds.

8. Cool down. Do a quick 5 minute low-intensity walk or whatever else tickles your fancy.

9. STRETCH. Spend at least 5-10 minutes stretching.

10. Get changed and get back to work!

Approximate time:  41 minutes (which is very generous and includes 10 minutes of stretching :))!

Have an active lunch today. I will likely be in the car at lunch travelling – but I will definitely do this tonight.


Getting a good night’s sleep…or not

Good morning and a happy, happy Monday to you.

Did you manage to get a good nights sleep last night? Uninterrupted? A full 7-8 hours? Or were you too, awakened by the water softener at 2 AM going through its regeneration cycle (it honestly sounds like a waterfall is running through your house and to add insult to injury, it continued for 2 hours)?

Perhaps it wasn’t the water softener – maybe the dog or your child crying for comfort interrupted your soft slumber. Whatever the form of your disruption, it’s not good (however, I know it’s sometimes impossible to avoid responding to your child and/or dog).

Why is sleep so important? For many, many reasons. Over the course of the next two weeks I will explore and aim to answer this question.

Over this period I would love to know what you do to get a good nights sleep. Either write a comment or send me an email at

Happy Monday (I know I’ve said it already, but I thought you may need it again).


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