Take a few moments and catch up on the latest and most noteworthy in the world of health and fitness this month. According to me, anyway.




Natalie Portman loses and wins. The award season is over and Natalie Portman cleaned up as supporting actress in Black Swan.  To play the role, Portman lost 20 pounds from her already slight frame.  She logged at least 35 hours per week of cardio and ballet training under the guidance of former NYC Ballet member Mary Helen Bowers – a regimen she now calls “very extreme”.  Portman trained for a year with Bowers (5 hours per day, 7 days per week) before even commencing rehearsals for the film.  That’s commitment!  Now pregnant, Portman has made it clear that she was thinner in the film than she has ever been, or would ever want to be again.  If you like the ballerina look (and who doesn’t?… long, lean muscles & perfect posture?), add these 4 moves from Bowers to your usual workout routine.  Psychosis optional.

The fountain of youth. Guess what!  Exercise will not only keep you lean, fast, strong, fit, able and happy… it just might keep you young!  A recent study at McMaster University (reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) demonstrated that vigorous endurance exercise reversed aging in mice which had been genetically programmed to age more quickly.  Each mouse had a genetic mutation affecting the performance of its mitochondria, the part of a cell where energy is created.  Inactive mice were dead or dying within 3-8 months, with shrunken brains, grey fur and deteriorated muscle.  Within 1 year, all the mice were dead — except one group which exercised 45 minutes, 3 times per week.  This group had lustrous fur and good health, and not one was dead of natural causes at a year of age (that’s about 60 in human years, by the way!).  Now if that isn’t reason enough to get on the treadmill, I don’t know what is.

Barefoot runners. It’s the newest thing in the running world – maybe you’ve heard of barefoot running?  Or almost-barefoot running, using a “non-shoe” known as the Vibram FiveFingers, which essentially looks like a glove for your foot. The hype: running barefoot forces the feet and legs to work more naturally and engages more muscles than running in shoes.  The truth: we are not conditioned as our ancestors were for barefoot running. There is some controversy surrounding the barefoot running trend, with reports of broken bones, strains and other injuries among users of the FiveFingers shoes.  The FiveFingers shoes offer no shock absorption system as in standard running shoes.  While I can get behind barefoot aerobics, weight training, walking, yoga and other fitness (I teach my own Belly Bootcamp classes in bare feet), I’m not sure the average person’s feet and legs can handle 5 to 50 km “barefoot” on concrete, where most of us run.  If you’re incorporating barefoot exercise into your routine, build up gradually.

Video games can help keep kids slim. Ten hours straight of World of Warcraft (or whatever it’s called) is akin to child abuse but the new “exergames” available for gaming systems like Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move might help kids stay in shape.  A recent study of middle school-aged kids at the University of Massachussets (not yet published) showed that the intensity of an “exergaming” workout was just slightly less than that of a 3 mph walk (which, on little legs, is fairly quick).  The study authors determined “exergaming” is a much better alternative to traditional gaming and might help make up a portion of a child’s regular physical activity.  Check out my review of Xbox Kinect and consider adding it to your usual home entertainment repertoire.  If nothing else, interactive games get you on your feet and keep your hands out of the chip bag.

Red wine might just be a diet drink. Skip the protein shake.  Pour yourself a big old glass of vino (wait a minute… what time is it?).  In a study at the University of the Basque Country, hamsters on a reduced-calorie diet were given resveratrol (a polyphenol and antioxidant found in red wine).  Resveratrol reduced the hamsters’ triglycerides levels and induced lipolysis – that’s fat burning in lay terms.  Resveratrol has been shown to activate lipolysis in both rodents and humans.  More studies are needed to determine dosage, side effects, etc. but this might just be another reason to choose red wine over beer or liquor when cocktail hour comes around.
There you go! That’s what’s on my radar this month! Stay tuned…