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Physical fitness is a general state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical activity, exercise and rest. It is a set of attributes or characteristics seen in people and which relate to the ability to perform a given set of physical activities.

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01 August 2021

  • National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day: Understanding the Impact
    Alberto Bogo/Stocksy United

    National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) occurs every fall on October 15 in an effort to promote information about and access to HIV testing and treatment focused on the Hispanic and Latinx communities, who are disproportionately impacted by HIV. 

    The date is important every year, of course. But in 2021, it’s particularly crucial. This June marked 40 years since the first reports of the condition that later became known as HIV. 

    Over the past four decades, we’ve made huge strides in HIV prevention and treatment. But we’ve also left lots of people behind. We lack progress in eliminating healthcare disparities that hinder access for the communities most disproportionately affected. 

    “The Latinx community continues to be overrepresented in HIV cases when compared to their percentage of the U.S. population,” says Dr. Richard Jimenez, a faculty member in Walden University’s PhD in Public Health program. 

    In 2019, Latinx individuals made up about 18 percent of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for 30 percent of the confirmed 36,801 new HIV diagnoses.

    “Awareness campaigns help to ward off complacency and help keep HIV prevention top of mind,” Jimenez adds.

    Understanding healthcare disparities

    A lack of trust in the medical field — brought on by systemic racism and implicit racial and ethnic bias among healthcare workers — is a major barrier for some Latinx people when it comes to receiving HIV testing, prevention education, and care and maintaining care once it’s available. And that’s why the healthcare system needs to do a better job of becoming culturally competent and meeting people where they are.

    “Culturally appropriate, meaningful, and sensitive educational interventions are important for reaching the Latinx community,” Jimenez says. “Members of the community who are marginalized and hard to reach don’t have readily available access to HIV prevention educational interventions or to the health system when services are needed.”

    Outreach efforts like NLAAD are only a small part of the larger systemic changes needed to ensure that healthcare and educational programs take initiative to reach these communities.

    Another huge barrier to testing and treatment for some people can be fear — and not just regarding their HIV status.

    “If they’re undocumented, they have tons of fear of being deported,” explains Tammy Ayala, intensive case manager at EPIC Sexual Health Center in the Tampa, Florida, area. Ayala does outreach in communities with large migrant farmworker populations. 

    “I tell them, ‘We don’t report people. That’s not what we do here.’” she adds. “I haven’t had a client who is undocumented decline any services. As soon as they know help is available to them, they grab it with open arms. So I know it’s not due to them not wanting help or not wanting care. It’s just that they’re afraid.”

    Despite policy statements by the American Medical Association regarding the ethical obligation to treat patients regardless of their immigration status, reports of individuals facing questioning or deportation after seeking medical care can lead to a justified hesitancy to seek care, even for legal immigrants.

    Affordability can also be a concern, especially for those who don’t have access to health insurance or who have high out-of-pocket costs. “They don’t understand that there are resources out there for them that are free,” Ayala says.

    The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2019, “Hispanics comprised 18.7 percent of the total population, but 28.1 percent of the population in poverty.”

    And according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), as of 2019, people under 65 who were Hispanic, Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander were less likely to be insured than their white counterparts. KFF’s numbers show that, despite gains as a result of the Affordable Care Act, 20 percent of Hispanic Americans under 65 did not have insurance coverage in 2019.

    The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is a federally funded program that provides financial help to people with HIV by covering the cost of medications and doctor’s visits related to HIV care.

    “Undocumented people also qualify for that,” Ayala says. “So it’s not like they can’t qualify if they don’t have a social security number — whereas with a lot of nonprofit agencies, you have to have it.” 

    For these immigrant populations and the 67 percent of Hispanic Americans who were born in the United States, cultural and language considerations still affect health care access and outcomes. Acknowledging and incorporating these factors into healthcare programs can help these communities access care.

    HIV prevention and treatment

    A big message Ayala wants to get out there for NLAAD is about prevention. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, better known as PrEP, is available to prevent HIV infection. “PrEP is an HIV pill for people who do not have HIV,” she explains.

    PrEP reduces your risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by 99 percent and through injecting drugs by 74 percent.

    “Depending on the person and how much they feel their risk level is,” Ayala adds, “they’ll want that pill.” Ayala still educates about safe sex and condom use because, she says, there are still a lot of other STIs out there, not just HIV.

    Awareness about PrEP remains a big barrier, though. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among men who have sex with men, a lower percentage of both Black and of Latinx men than white men had talked about PrEP with their healthcare provider.

    “A lot of people don’t know about that pill,” Ayala says of her clients. “They’re shocked every single time.” 

    PrEP uses a form of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART or ART), which is the gold standard in HIV treatment today. Nowadays, people with HIV can take cART, a combination of several medications. Options include a daily pill and (just approved and coming soon) a longer-acting injectable.

    Over time, treatment can bring a person’s viral load down to an undetectable level, also making the infection untransmissible (this is also known as U=U). “Not only are they healthy,” Ayala says, “but they’re not going to be spreading HIV to other people.” 

    She stresses that cART is not a cure and people must continue to take their medication. But people now live long and healthy lives with HIV. “Whatever dreams you had before HIV,” she says, “you can still have them after.”

    Efforts for Latinx AIDS Awareness Day

    So, what can you do for NLAAD? Ayala says, “Get tested. A lot of testing sites are free.” EPIC, for example, does not charge. Ayala says to pass the word around about testing options as well, if possible. 

    Stigma about HIV can still exist in any community, and that can be a barrier to seeking testing or care or following through with care, Ayala says. Talking openly about HIV can help reduce stigma. Post about awareness on social media and talk with friends and family. 

    “It all starts with awareness and acknowledging that the problem still exists, that we are being highly impacted, and that we can do something to prevent the problem,” Jimenez adds.

  • These 8 New Cookbooks Will Make Your Summer Sizzle
  • 8 Core-Strengthening Resistance Band Moves You Can Do Anywhere

    There’s plenty to be said for fancy gym equipment, but one of the best tools you can keep in your workout arsenal is basically a giant rubber band.

    Resistance bands are rad because they can help you take bodyweight exercises to the next level. And with bands that range from easily stretchable to super tight, the exercise variations are endless.

    That’s one of the reasons personal trainer Massy Arias swears by them. “Resistance training can be very effective and relatively simple to follow — not to mention mobile,” she says. “Bands are so easy to keep at home or pack for a quick workout anywhere.”

    Resistance band core exercises to feel the burn

    1. Standing knee tuck

    Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and place the resistance band around the middle of your feet.

    Lift your left knee toward your chest and crunch your right elbow toward left knee. Try to touch knee to elbow without rounding your shoulders. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating.

    2. Hollow body roll

    Lie faceup, arms extended straight overhead with the resistance band looped around your wrists. Hover your shoulders and legs off the floor for a hollow hold.

    Next, use your core to roll your body to the right, keeping arms extended, biceps next to ears. When you reach starting position, roll back to the left. That’s 1 rep.

    3. Bicycle crunch

    Start in a seated position with the resistance band looped around your feet, knees bent, heels resting on the floor.

    Lean back to about 45 degrees until your core engages and lightly touch fingertips to the back of your ears. Use your core to rotate at the waist, bringing your right elbow to left knee as the right leg straightens.

    Then, twist your torso to bring the left elbow to the right knee as the left leg straightens for 1 rep. Continue to alternate.

    4. Side plank

    Start in a high plank position with the resistance band looped around your ankles. Shift weight to the right hand, stacking feet, placing your left hand on hip.

    Lift the left foot off the right foot until your feet are hip-width apart and hold for 30 seconds, or as long as possible. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.

    5. Single-leg T row

    Stand with your feet hip-width apart and loop the resistance band around your right foot while holding the other end in your left hand. Shift weight onto your right leg, then hinge at the hips and lean forward, extending your left leg behind you.

    When your chest is parallel to the floor, pull the resistance band toward you by sending the left elbow straight back and keeping it close to your side. Extend arm, then return to starting position. Complete reps, then repeat on the other side.

    6. Spiderman push-up

    Start in a high plank position with the resistance band around your feet, wrists directly under shoulders, and core engaged. Lower your chest for a push-up as you draw the right knee to touch the right elbow. Push back up to starting position, then repeat on the other side for 1 rep.

    7. T rotation lunge

    Start standing with arms extended straight in front of you. Hold the resistance band shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot back into a lunge, lowering until your thigh is parallel to the floor.

    Use your core to rotate torso to the right, pulling the resistance band as wide as possible. Drive through your right heel to return to starting position. Complete reps, then repeat on the other side.

    8. Unilateral squat

    Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, and loop the resistance band under the ball of your left foot and around left wrist.

    Extend arms straight in front of you, and send hips back to lower into a squat, keeping your chest lifted. Return to starting position. Complete reps, then repeat on the other side.

    Benefits of a resistance band workout

    Arias particularly likes utilizing resistance bands to build strength in the core, an area she’s been more focused on since becoming a mom. Moves like the resistance band exercises below, she says, can help you do the same.

    “Anything you can do to prepare your body for that experience is key,” she explains. “Maintaining a level of fitness before and during [pregnancy] is important so your body can support the changes, like a belly. After the birth, listen to your body and do what’s best for you.”

    Here, Arias pulls together nine resistance band exercises that target the muscles of your core. “All of these moves really challenge your obliques and the entire abdominal wall,” she explains.

    And while the midsection is the focus, you’ll challenge your upper body and lower body as well, making these moves the perfect addition to your strength routine.

    A quick resistance band ab workout to try

    For a quick, core-strengthening workout, Arias recommends this 4-move routine. Complete 3 sets of each exercise in order. Perform each exercise for 8 to 10 reps and rest for 30 seconds in between each set.

  • 9 Party-Approved Popcorn Recipes That Aren’t Just Buckets of Butter

    Movie nights are inevitable during winter. Whether you live somewhere cold and refuse to leave the house when it’s below 30°F (-1°C) (wise decision) or just live for Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas movies, you and your couch are about to get some extra quality time. All the more reason for a movie snack upgrade.

    When you make popcorn at home, you’re pretty much guaranteed to come up with something more nutritious than a movie theater bag… Those nutrition facts are downright frightening. But that doesn’t mean you need to skimp on flavor. These recipes show you how to make your popcorn sweet, savory, or spicy, with just a few extra ingredients.

    1. Brown butter cinnamon sugar popcorn

    Brown sugar cinnamon will forever remind us of our favorite childhood toaster pastries, and it turns out the flavor combo tastes just as good on popcorn. After all, you really can’t go wrong with cinnamon, sugar, and butter (ever). Melt the butter in a saucepan and let it turn to a golden brown color, then pour it over your ‘corn and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

    Give this recipe a try here.

    2. Oven-roasted pizza popcorn

    You had us at pizza. This popcorn would also be great to serve at a party or game day, and it definitely makes enough to feed a crowd. For the most part, you just need to raid your spice cabinet: This popcorn uses paprika, sea salt, garlic powder, oregano, and basil, plus a dash of hot sauce and freshly grated Parm. Ain’t no party like a pizza popcorn party.

    Let’s get our pizza flavors on here.

    3. Cinnamon bun popcorn

    Protein popcorn might make your eyes roll, but trust us on this one. When you blend a scoop of vanilla protein powder with cinnamon and sweetener (like coconut sugar), you barely notice the taste. And by spraying the popcorn with coconut oil cooking spray, the cinnamon bun mix will stick well to the popcorn.

    Grab the recipe here.

    4. Spicy lime popcorn

    If you like your snacks to pack a little heat, this one’s for you. It’s heavy on the spices, with a mix of cumin, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Lime juice and zest give it just the right amount of tang. We’re not saying you should snack on this with a marg in hand, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world, either.

    Learn this spicy treat here.

    5. Dark chocolate sea salt popcorn

    Chocolate and sea salt: A true classic. Popcorn is the perfect vehicle to get these two flavors in your mouth, and it’s crazy simple to make. Just melt a handful of dark chocolate chips, drizzle it over popcorn, and sprinkle with sea salt. The hard part? Trying to leave some for tomorrow.

    Snag the recipe here.

    6. Healthy popcorn trail mix

    Popcorn is less the main event here and more of a fun addition. You can pop your own on the stovetop, use a microwave bag, or grab some of your favorite pre-packaged kernels. Mix your popcorn of choice with cashews, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, and cranberries, and shake it up. Easiest trail mix ever with lots of nutrients.

    Head over here for the recipe.

    7. Everything bagel popcorn

    Shout out to Trader Joe’s (and now so many others!) for making Everything but the Bagel seasoning, which turns this recipe into an easy two-step process. If you don’t start with a buttered popcorn, we recommend drizzling a little on top or spraying the popcorn with coconut oil spray before sprinkling with the seasoning.

    Grab this recipe here.

    8. Trail mix popcorn balls

    A post-workout snack that includes popcorn? Count us in. Making them in cupcake liners is a pretty genius idea and makes grabbing one on the run so easy. The energy balls don’t actually require any baking, just refrigeration so all the nuts, popcorn, dates, and PB can meld together.

    Energy up with the recipe here.

    9. Holiday Santa munch mix

    You kind of have to make this festive snack sometime during the holiday season… it’s too cute not to. Santa munch is made with popcorn, pretzels, nuts, white chocolate chips, and holiday M&Ms. Apparently, Santa likes to nom on all the same snacks we do, so looks like we’re making double.

    ‘Tis the season to snag this recipe.

  • Do Metabolism-Boosting Foods Even Exist? Well, Sorta

    We’ve all seen the headlines singing the praises of that one fat-melting food that will rev up metabolism or somehow magically melt away extra pounds. While some foods may aid in boosting your metabolism, they won’t likely make a significant difference overall.

    That’s not to say foods don’t affect your metabolic system at all. For example, hot peppers and green tea have both been shown to boost metabolism, albeit slightly. We dug into the science to understand the nuances behind those dramatic headlines and serve up some truth about food and metabolism.

    Yulia Reznikov/Stocksy United

    Foods that can help boost metabolism

    Metabolism refers to any bodily process that uses energy, including digestion, breathing, circulation, controlling body temperature, muscle contraction, and brain and nerve function. The body expends a certain number of calories to perform these functions at rest, which is otherwise known as resting metabolic rate.

    There’s much debate as to whether your resting metabolic rate is set in stone or can be altered. “In a way, every food will increase metabolism because it needs to be broken down,” says Mascha Davis MPH, RDN, owner of Nomadista Nutrition. “The speed of our metabolism is largely outside of our control and plays only a minor role in weight management,” Davis adds.

    Here are some foods that have the potential to moderately or temporarily affect your metabolism.

    1. Green tea

    Many believe that sipping a cup of green tea revs up your metabolism, but that’s only partly true. One older meta-analysis found that drinking green tea in conjunction with reducing calories resulted in weight loss. The researchers attribute this positive impact largely to EGCG, a compound in the tea which is believed to promote fat oxidation.

    A 2017 study also suggested that EGCG alone might increase metabolic rate at sufficient doses (~300 milligrams). The study noted that larger trials were needed to fully understand how it affects metabolism.

    Adding a cup of green tea full of healthy things like polyphenols to your daily routine sounds like a no-brainer, but the amount used in clinical settings tends to be much higher than an average cuppa. Our take? Drink it if you enjoy it… maybe in latte form?

    2. Hot peppers

    We’ve all heard the rumors that drinking cayenne and lemon water will crank up your metabolism. That’s probably a little far-fetched, but there’s some evidence that capsaicin (the compound found in hot peppers) may boost metabolism and have other metabolic benefits.

    Here’s the caveat: Most studies use a large amount of cayenne pepper in supplement form. A 2017 review of studies found that most benefits in sustained weight loss and fat oxidation were from supplements with higher amounts than you’d eat in typical food.

    However, studies have been showing benefits in weight loss from the addition of capsaicin. A 2013 study suggested that a potential benefit of capsaicin is preventing some of the normal decreases in energy expenditure you might see when in a calorie deficit.

    So while more research is needed to truly understand how it affects the body, if you enjoy the spicier side of life, there’s no reason to hold back. Add that cayenne to those eggs or tomato sauce!

    3. Protein

    According to Davis, meals higher in protein or fiber typically take more energy to digest — meaning they might amp up overall energy expenditure.

    A small 2021 study found some connections between a high-protein diet replacement and the promotion of fat loss and energy expenditure more than just a calorie deficit. This doesn’t mean we should all replace our diets with high protein supplements, but rather that protein may have some beneficial effects on the metabolism.

    Other studies have suggested that including good amounts of protein (about 35 to 30 grams per meal) may have benefits for appetite, body weight management, and cardiometabolic risk factors.

    4. Coffee

    Coffee has had a bit of a comeback in the nutrition world due to a few studies linking its antioxidants to benefits in weight, BMI, and body fat reduction.

    “Moderate caffeine intake has been shown to temporarily increase an individual’s metabolic rate,” says Kristen Smith, MS, RD. However, she suggests holding off on the extra-large coffee. “Large intakes of caffeine can result in health consequences such as a rapid heart rate, digestive issues, or insomnia,” Smith says. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends less than 400 to 500 milligrams per day for most nonpregnant adults.

    She also adds that drinking a ton of coffee may displace other much-needed nutrients from your diet, like protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. So while that cuppa joe might be a convenient way to wake up all the systems in the a.m., it shouldn’t be the only thing you put into your body. Plus, watch out for a ton of added sugar which can start to counter those beneficial effects.

    5. Coconut oil (maybe…)

    Coconut oil’s claim to fame is that it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are thought to be stored in the body less easily than other types of saturated fat.

    One 2018 study suggested some exercise endurance benefits from increased MCTs. A 2015 meta-analysis suggested some potential for modest reductions in body weight from eating more MCTs than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), but more research needs to be done to understand long-term effects and the full picture.

    Another 2018 study, on the other hand, found no significant changes to energy metabolism when coconut oil was added to a breakfast meal.

    Ultimately, we’re not sure if coconut oil is having any major effects on metabolism. If you’re including it for other health reasons, then we’re with you. But all signs point to other foods for more solid evidence of metabolism bonuses.

    Takeaway

    “Unfortunately, no single food is going to magically boost your metabolism,” Smith says, and the research concurs. “The downside of such claims is that people might rely on the ‘fat-burning’ effect of certain food instead of making sustainable dietary changes,” Mascha adds.

    Even though green tea or cayenne pepper may help you burn an extra 20 to 50 calories, neither is likely to make a huge difference in your overall weight. According to the experts, the key to a healthier-for-you weight is eating a balanced diet composed of nutrient-dense foods. Yup — good old balanced eating and moderation come out on top yet again.