Mallak Anani is a senior at the University of Michigan with hopes of one day working in politics or government. She spent the past semester interning in Washington, D.C., on a school-sponsored program.

A Michigan native, Anani was also a three-sport athlete in high school, starring in volleyball, basketball and track. She played libero for the volleyball team and drew interest from Division II schools, but had her heart on becoming a Wolverine.

"I do wish I had the opportunity to play volleyball at the college level, but playing for a D-1 school meant I needed to fit certain criteria and I, unfortunately, am not nearly as tall as most girls are on Division I volleyball teams," Anani said. "My coaches were connecting with Division II colleges, but I told them I wasn't interested because I was set on going to Michigan and wouldn't have traded that education for an athletic scholarship."

During her sophomore year at Michigan, Anani discovered that she has Multiple Sclerosis. She was just 18 at the time, and the early months after the diagnosis were grueling.

"I was taking a medication that my body rejected for the eight months that I was on it, leaving me sick for two to three days per week,” she said. “I had fevers of 103 degrees, nausea -- I was unable to move out of bed and felt hopeless. After my doctor realized my body was rejecting the medication, she switched meds, and now things are much better.”

Anani still experiences symptoms of numbness and pains in her head, plus blurred vision, dizziness and fatigue, among other unpredictable maladies.

But she has stayed active in her pursuit of studies and career path, in addition to carrying on the athletic commitment that drove her in high school.

Anani played varsity for multiple years on all three of her teams, winning MVP of the volleyball squad and earning a nomination in her hometown, Dearborn, as female athlete of the year. Her basketball coach also deemed her the team's best defensive player, and she won an all-city award in track.

Though the team element of her athletic experience has transitioned to more individual exercise -- and she had to give up the promising opportunity to play college volleyball -- Anani keeps up with her hoops and running.

"I play a lot of basketball at the gym and work out on cardio machines like the elliptical and stair master, use weight training machines and do bodyweight exercises,” she said.

Anani was also able, for the previous month, to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which requires fasting for most of the day.

After the initial complications that accompanied her MS diagnosis, Anani considers her daily routine mostly normal again. She expressed particular gratitude to her father and older sister (one of many siblings) for guiding her through the valleys of a sometimes debilitating ailment.

If you're a pickup player at Michigan, watch out for Anani on the hardwood next year. Almost two years post-diagnosis, she's still taking both the girls and boys to school.

Not long after giving birth to triplets -- two girls and one boy -- Susie Jamharian found out that she had Multiple Sclerosis.

"When my fingertips were getting numb -- when I first noticed it -- I thought I was changing too many diapers,” she said.

Jamharian grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to San Diego, and then settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband. Diagnosed with MS in 2004, she has taken to the pool to stay fit.

"I feel so much stronger in the water and feel so much better once I finish my laps," Jamharian said. "Also, I don’t feel as many aches and pains in the water as I do on land."

Wanting to contribute toward an organization that fights MS, Jamharian came across Swim MS, which is run through the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.

MSAA started Swim for MS in 2008 to raise research funds while promoting athletic activity for people afflicted with the disease. Participants challenge themselves to individual swimming goals and secure donations from friends and family for their efforts.

Those who swim can set their own schedules and goals for swimming a certain number of laps. Swim for MS participants have also hosted pool parties, cannonball jumping contests and synchronized swimming events for the cause.

Some teams have also challenged themselves to group swimming events for MSAA fundraising.

Jamharian stuck with the individual lap swimming initiative, setting a goal of 1,000 laps to complete in one month.

"For several years, I’ve been wanting to do something for MS to raise money, but I was afraid I might get overheated by doing a bike ride or whatnot," she said. “But then I switched medications, and for some weird reason I got this email talking about a swim fundraiser. And I felt very apprehensive about doing it because I was like 'who’s going to support me?'"

A friend helped Jamharian get started, and the swimmer sent out an email to her friends in mid-March. Jamharian began the swimming commitment in April and finished her laps in 12 days, far outpacing her original plan. She raised $3,600 along the way. The donors' generosity surprised Jamharian, helping her overcome the initial concern that few people would support her. Acquaintances that she didn't even ask donated to the cause after hearing about it from mutual friends.

"You kind of don't want to do something like this because you don't think you’re going to get the support, but you’d just be amazed,” she said.

Though she once temporarily lost vision in her left eye and still experiences the numbness in her fingertips, Jamharian considers her MS mild and does not like to address it around her husband and three kids, who are now 13. But her efforts have helped raise money and awareness for people whom the disease has relegated to wheelchairs and crutches.

Heather Ward has trouble slowing down.

While studying interior design -- and anyone familiar with art or architecture knows that the major alone is consuming enough -- at Mount Ida College, Ward worked a full-time job as a bookkeeper for Barnes & Noble. She had also been a cheerleader from age 12 in Pop Warner football through high school, when she was team captain.

But a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at 28 gave Ward no choice but to take a step back. That was 14 years ago as Ward lost feeling in the right side of her body and could not speak clearly. Still, she continued working at Maugel Architects in Boston, where she has ascended to being director of interior architecture in her 16 years at the firm.

Ward, who had participated in Boston's MS Walk before her own diagnosis, found new meaning to the cause while undertaking a personal recovery. In 2013, she transitioned from the MS Walk to MuckFest MS, a Tough Mudder-style obstacle course that raises money for MS research.

There are events in 10 cities nationwide, and the Boston MuckFest lasts two days in April. Participants race through a muddy 5K course complete with rope swinging and other athletic challenges.

"[MuckFest] just seemed like a fun event versus doing a 10K walk, and at the time when we were first introduced to it, I was doing CrossFit with my husband," Ward said. "Then unfortunately, right before the event, I had a relapse."

The relapse forced her to take five months off work and stop driving for three months. She still struggles with speech and memory when under stress.

“My feeling in my hands has not completely come back, so doing things like cooking or even doing my makeup or my hair or taking a shower sometimes is a little difficult," she said.

Nonetheless, Ward toiled through the MuckFest course despite taking some tumbles and having to skip the occasional obstacle. Her team, the "Muckin' A's,” raised more than $8,000 with 40 people last year. Ward and the Muckin' A's tripled their efforts this year by raising $27,000 with a team of 108.

"We were the second-largest team in Boston and the third-largest in the country," Ward said.

Although Ward has made great strides in recovery since her relapse, the 2014 MuckFest still presented the challenge of frigid Boston weather.

Ward said that MuckFest can only be held in April because outdoor spaces are booked in the summer. As a result, contestants must compete through 40-degree, rainy conditions.

"It was so cold out there people were suffering from hypothermia," she said.

Ward specifically recalled, though seemingly fondly, crawling under a tarp over cold, muddy water as AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared in the background.

Meanwhile, she's back to working part-time at Maugel and is grateful for the support of her boss, plus her husband and parents. She has personally raised more $100,000 for MS research over the years and set a team goal of $40,000 for next year’s MuckFest.

MS may impede her work and daily habits, but for Ward, it's really just muck in the way.

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Jenn Cherrey was 23 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Although Cherrey was a sprinter in her youth, she became less active in her late teens and early 20s. Cherrey admits after her diagnosis, she was not quick to make healthier decisions.

"When I found out I had MS, I probably did the exact opposite of being fit," Cherrey says. "I did all the wrong things."

Cherrey, now 41, turned things around about four years ago. She stopped smoking on her 37th birthday, June 17, 2010 (she started smoking at age 14), and went for her first "serious" run that morning. Along with running, Cherry started biking and willed herself into shape.

"For me, being active, especially having running in my life, has been a way for me to kick MS in the shins a little bit," she says. "I keep doing what I want to do and what I like to do. I can keep my body strong, so it doesn't fail me as much as it should."

Cherrey, who works in compliance for Credit Suisse, has run seven marathons, along with several long distance races. Her fastest marathon time of 4:40:02 came at the New Jersey Marathon. Cherrey has two more upcoming marathons and a triathlon on her schedule. The Annapolis, Md., resident also has a history of long-distance bike rides, including the recent Bike MS: Chesapeake Challenge. For the two-day ride, Cherrey did a metric century (day one) and a 50-mile trek (day two).

"I don't have any race wins, but for me, finishing is a pretty big accomplishment," she says of her ironwoman history.

Outside of work and racing, Cherrey gets paddle boarding/yoga instruction from Kate Grove. The classes consist of about an hour of paddleboarding involving such techniques as how to stand up, how to move, how to get across waves and how to turn. For the last half hour, Grove gives the students yoga instruction on paddleboards.

"It works your core more than yoga because you have to use all your core strength to stay balanced," Cherrey says. "Balance is one of the things affected by MS. We do a lot of planks and stuff to strengthen while you're on the board."

Along with trouble balancing, Cherrey notes MS affects her ability to walk in a straight line and causes her foot to drop unexpectedly. Cherrey also has trouble running in heat.

Biking is one of the easier exercises on Cherrey's body due to the built-in seat and breeze. While Cherrey's muscles are challenged, the wind cools her body off.

Cherrey also finds a cooling aspect in paddleboarding.

"If I fall in the water, it's kind of a nice way to cool my body down," she says. "There's a downside to having trouble balancing, but the water's a nice break during the workout."

When Cherrey was married this May in Oxford, Md., she and her partner Jen Bornemann (yep, that's right, Jenn and Jen) did not ask for gifts. Instead, the couple asked for donations. Guests could donate to their choice of three organizations: The Girls on the Run of the Greater Chesapeake, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the National MS Society. Cherrey and Bornemann also hosted a "Wedding 5K+1 Run" (with T-shirts made) to highlight the charities. The wedding raised $1500 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, $1650 for Girls on the Run of the Greater Chesapeake, and almost $6000 for the National MS Society Maryland Chapter.

Cherrey attributes Bornemann as a voice pushing her to challenge herself.

"We sign up for races together, train together and she is currently teaching me triathlon swim technique, so I don't drown in September," Cherrey says.

Cherrey's father also suffers from MS. Bornemann senses her wife's determination may stem from that family connection.

"I think that with every run, ride, swim, paddle and strength session, she has her dad with her," Bornemann says. "Unfortunately, his MS has worsened and she brings his spirit, influence and love with her at every workout and event.

Cherrey's MS is currently relapsing/remitting and her active lifestyle limits the chance of any major exacerbations. Still, such instances as fatigue in heat are common and must be dealt with accordingly. Jenn is not one to make excuses. Instead, she troops on.

"Jenn is incredibly tough, in every sense," Bornemann says. "She does not often talk about her MS, as she doesn't like to burden others, but I do know when it's effects are taking their toll."

Jenn Cherrey has suffered from MS for 18 years, but the word suffer should be used loosely. It has not stopped her from living out her everyday desires. One of those desires is kicking MS in the shins.

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The claim: You're more likely to order a higher-calorie meal from restaurants offering a special "low-calorie" menu, according to a new study from the Journal of Consumer Research.

The research: Authors asked study participants to order food from menus similar to those found at well-known chain restaurants. Some picked from menus containing traditional lists (e.g. “seafood,” “pasta,” “meat entrées,” etc.) with no calorie information listed. Another group ordered from the same menu but with calories listed by each dish. And a third group ordered from menus with low-calorie dishes grouped together in a separate “low-calorie” section. Surprisingly, people who ordered from the traditional menu without calorie information ordered similarly to those who made selections from the menu with the low-calorie section. Those who ordered from the calorie-labeled menu (not grouped) ordered meals with fewest calories overall. (Do you know that the average person eats 580 calories a day in snacks? Click here for 16 Ways To Curb Mindless Munching.)

What it means: As part of our brain's natural decision-making process, we may eliminate the low-calorie menu to simplify our decision when looking at a large restaurant menu, says one of the study's authors Jeffrey R. Parker, an assistant professor of marketing. "Negative associations with ‘low-calorie’ dishes tend to make it easy to eliminate this category. In contrast, low-calorie dishes in their natural categories can’t be easily dismissed in the early choice-simplification stage."

The bottom line: Parker notes that other studies have found that the negative effects of the low-calorie category goes away when people take longer to decide. "So it might be in your best interest to send the waiter away for a few minutes before placing your order,” says Parker. "Don't let your mind trick you into picking something high-calorie.” (Find out how restaurants use some sneaky tricks to try and get you to eat more. Here's how to not get duped.)

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Americans put an enormous amount of time and effort into losing weight. Unfortunately, many of those efforts are misguided. Read on to make sure you're not following any of these three common beliefs.

1. You can localize fat loss
It's sad that so many people still fall victim to marketing that promises the localization of fat loss. It's physiologically impossible to spot reduce fat. You can do a million crunches, but it won't help you lose belly fat. Want toned arms? Sorry, curls won't melt your fat either.

According to coach Josh Kozak, founder of HASfit, "Your body doesn't discriminate from where it pulls fat from. It is constantly mobilizing and storing fat, from all over your body, at all times of the day. Fat storage locations are different from person to person so it is possible to have more fat on one part of your body than another, but you can't target that spot through exercise."

2. You can outwork a bad diet

Successful weight loss takes a two pronged attack of both exercise and proper nutrition. If you're
someone who justifies eating junk food with the excuse, “It’s OK. I worked out today,” then you may
want to reconsider. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average 30-minute aerobic or resistance training workout burns 182 calories.

When compared with the average calories of a fast food value meal at 1,000 calories, one margarita
at 500 calories, or a slice of cheesecake at 400 calories, you can see where this philosophy falls apart.

Enjoying a treat in moderation is totally acceptable, but starting an exercise program isn't a reason to eat whatever you want.

3. The best way to lose fat is with cardio
Research presented at the Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting ¹, demonstrated that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) burns more calories in less time than conventional cardio. The study found that you can burn up to 220 calories in just five minutes using a form of HIIT called Tabata Training. You’d have to use the treadmill for more than 30 minutes to get the same results.

Try this 10-Minute HIIT Routine to help you torch fat fast:

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People talk about their metabolism a lot. You'd think they actually understand it.

But often that's not the case. Here are four things you should know about the M-word:

Burning Truth No. 1: Skinny People Have Fast Metabolisms

VERDICT: Sometimes

"There are slim people with slightly low metabolisms who just don't eat very much," says Michael Jensen, M.D., an endocrinologist with the Mayo Clinic. "And there are heavy people with really high metabolisms who eat a huge amount." (Create your toughest workout with these 10-minute routines!)

Burning Truth No. 2: Lean Tissue Burns More Calories Than Fat Does Even While You're Asleep

VERDICT: True

"Your brain, heart, liver, and kidneys use a lot of energy, even when you're lying still," says Dr. Jensen. Muscle and the GI tract don't use much at rest; fat burns practically nothing. His estimate: You burn about a calorie per minute at rest. A quarter of that is torched by muscle, and 1/50th of it is burned by fat. (Is your workout burning flab -- or just burning up your time? Don't fall for these 5 Fat-Loss Myths.)


Burning Truth No. 3: Some Guys Can Only Slim Down By Slashing Calories

VERDICT: False

"In 30 years I've never seen anyone with a truly low metabolic rate," says Dr. Jensen. "People who think they need an 800-calorie diet often have resting metabolic rates of 1,500 calories."

So why can't they slim down? They're often eating many more calories than they realize. His fix: Accurately record everything you eat for two weeks. Unhealthy trends may emerge. (Are all calories created equal? Click here for The Truth About Calories.)

Burning Truth No. 4: Cutting 500 Calories A Day Means You'll Lose A Pound A Week

VERDICT: Not Quite

A pound of fat does equal 3,500 calories, and you may lose a pound the first week. "But when you eat less, you lose lean tissue, so your basal metabolic rate goes down," says Dr. Jensen.

Surprise: You may gain more than a pound after a 3,500-calorie pig-out, since calories stored as sugar cause you to retain water. (Eat 30 percent less with this easy research-proven trick: The Easiest Way to Shrink Your Gut.)

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Ivan Nolia of Washington D.C. began practicing yoga a year ago. Now as a 9-year-old he has already completed the standard 200 hours of yoga teacher training to become a certified instructor.

We're not sure how official these records are -- there was a report in 2011 of an 11-year-old teacher in Miami -- but Ivan could be the youngest yoga teacher in the nation. (The world record was bestowed on a 6-year-old from India in 2010.)

Ivan, who also participates in gymnastics, kung fu and swimming, says yoga gives him discipline in school.

"I don't act too wild and things like that -- like some kids do," Ivan told WJLA.

Ivan told WJLA that he has aspirations of being a doctor and an astronaut while continuing to be a yoga instructor. If Ivan needs any inspiration to maintain his practice for the long haul, he can turn to the world's oldest yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch, who released an instructional DVD when she was 94.

Yoga Comedy: Leave Ego At The Door

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In today's Western society it's much easier, and not to mention quicker, to spend a few bucks at the McDonald's across the street than it is to make a satisfying dinner. In a world of Big Macs, KFC and Häagen-Dazs ice cream, who really wants to eat their spinach and celery sticks? As a result, however, our fat-filled diets have brought about an epidemic of heart disease, which has become North America’s No. 1 killer. Fortunately, over the years scientists and nutritionists have studied the foods that are good for the heart, and some of these might come as a surprise. So, here's a list of the best heart foods that you should include in your diet, and maybe it will help you avoid a trip to the doctor’s.

Oats

Oats belong to a larger category of foods referred to as whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire kernel as opposed to refined grains that have been processed to remove the bran and the germ. While this process allows certain grains to last longer on store shelves, it also removes much of the good stuff like B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, and antioxidants.

Oats, in particular, as found in your morning oatmeal, contain a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan that decreases the total cholesterol in your blood as well as your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is important because it is the LDL or "bad" cholesterol that’s responsible for heart attacks. Some studies that required people's diets to be supplemented with oat bran showed a decrease in total cholesterol by as much as 18 percent while others have found a drop in LDL cholesterol by as much as 9 percent.

In addition, whole grains have a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how high a food raises your blood sugar level. Foods with a low glycemic index have a clear health advantage, particularly in helping to prevent diabetes (a major risk factor for coronary heart disease). Next time you reach for that cereal bar for breakfast, maybe you should reconsider and make a bowl of oatmeal.

Red wine

Want to have your cake and eat it too? Then drink red wine. In moderation (4 to 8 ounces/day), red wine is cardio-protective. This effect comes from antioxidants found in red wine, particularly resveratrol. This compound found in grape extracts has several beneficial effects on the heart, including reducing LDL as well as total blood cholesterol. Moreover, resveratrol, as well as other polyphenols found in red wine, have been shown to reduce blood clots by inhibiting a component found in blood known as platelets. Similar to the action of aspirin, which is one of the mainstay therapies in heart attack prevention, red wine helps to prevent platelets from clumping together, which is a key event in coronary artery blockage.

More recent scientific studies have shown that red wine has the ability to relax arteries and, therefore, lower your blood pressure. In addition, wine consumption is also associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of coronary vessel inflammation. This means that drinking wine could decrease your risk of CHD.

Spinach

Spinach, and many other green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, contains folate, also known as vitamin B9. Although folate deficiency is well known for its effects in causing spinal malformations in newborns, recent studies reveal that folate may have a role in heart disease by reducing circulating levels of homocysteine in the blood. High homocysteine levels increase your risk of heart attacks as well as stroke; therefore, increasing your dietary intake of folate-containing foods may help reduce the risk of CHD.

In general, a diet rich in vegetables as well as fruit can significantly reduce hypertension, a major risk factor for CHD. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension study, those who consumed more fruits and vegetables showed a drop in blood pressure over only an eight-week period.

Almonds

Almonds and other nuts are a rich source of mono and polyunsaturated fats that can not only reduce total cholesterol but also raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. Almonds also contain phytosterols that are naturally occurring plant steroids that block the intestinal tract from absorbing all types of fats. In 2003, the FDA claimed that “foods containing at least [a] 0.4-gram per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 grams as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” One pooled study showed that subjects in the group with the highest nut consumption had reduced their risk of CHD by 35 percent.

One drawback of almonds and other nuts, however, is that they are calorie-rich, so not more than a handful of nuts should be consumed per day.

Salmon

Salmon and other fish are the foods with probably the most scientific evidence for heart protection. The active ingredient in salmon is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce risk of CHD by several mechanisms including reducing blood pressure, blocking platelet function and clot formation, and preventing plaque formation in artery walls. One study in the Netherlands following men over a 20-year period showed an obvious inverse relationship between fish consumption and CHD.

Omega-3 fatty acids also help to regulate the electrical activity of the heart, thereby reducing the likelihood of sudden cardiac death. How much fish do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Only two or more servings of fish per week have been associated with a reduced risk of CHD by as much as 30 percent.

Take Heart

Healthy eating requires a change in behavior as much as a change in what we eat. For example, simply substituting foods with trans fats with unsaturated (mono or polyunsaturated) fats have been shown in some studies to reduce the risk of diabetes. Similar benefits can be met by replacing red meats with fish and poultry. Diet is only one modifiable factor in the development of coronary heart disease, and so we have to remember that regular exercise and smoking cessation should always be incorporated in promoting a healthy lifestyle.

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You can spot the signs of a computer body miles away. You know: the rounded back, the less-than-stellar posture, and a butt that's seen perkier days.

"When you spend all day sitting at a desk your back seems to be permanently in a hunched over position, which can lead to lots of aches and pains," says Prevention's Fitness expert Chris Freytag. "To counteract that, you need to strengthen the muscles in your back. You'll start to feel better, and look better instantly." (Prevent bad posture and pain with these beginner yoga moves.)

The antidote is this week's exercise, the renegade row with burpee. It combines a back strengthening exercise with a calorie-burning cardio burst.

 

There's also a bonus core-toning benefit: you're holding a plank -- one of the best core exercises -- while performing the renegade row. "A strong back supports your belly, keeping your body balanced and healthy," says Freytag.

(Flatten your belly without a single crunch with this super-effective No-Crunch Ab Workout.)

Best-Selling Author Makes His Case: How To Really Reform College Sports

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