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We all know how hard it is to fit the gym into our schedules. Watch the video below to see six simple exercises that you can do without leaving your room.

Photo courtesy of Tommy Dyer.

Splenda, Equal and Sweet’N Low are household names nowadays.  Many people rely on a packet or two to sweeten their coffee or tea in the morning and perhaps even another to sprinkle over their oatmeal.  But despite their popularity, they are still considered by many others to cause some serious health problems.  In fact, their safety has been a topic of debate ever since they were first introduced.

The basics

Artificial sweeteners contain chemicals or natural compounds that provide the same taste as table sugar, but with a fraction of the calorie content.  They are found in many foods at the grocery store, most often found with labels boasting “diet” or “sugar free.”  These products are usually sitting right next to their traditionally sweetened counterparts, and if you didn’t know any better, you may not even be able to tell the difference between the pair’s taste.

Cancer claims

Some individuals swear that artificial sweeteners cause cancer.  This controversy began in the 1970s when studies found that saccharin (the chemical in Sweet’N Low) caused bladder, uterine and other cancers in laboratory rats.  The FDA then tried to remove the sweetener from the market, but the suggested ban was eventually overridden by pressure from the diet food industry.

Adding more fuel to this cancer debate is a more recent study done on aspartame (the chemical in Equal).  Scientists again found usually higher rates of cancer with laboratory rats that had been given large doses of the sweetener.  This time, the chemical was linked to lymphoma and leukemia, among other cancers.

However, as of now, the FDA, American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute say that there is no clear evidence that has shown these effects to be true for humans.

The verdict

By and large, there still seems to be a lot of differing expert opinions regarding the safety of artificial sweeteners.  Some nutritionists believe that they are completely safe as long as they are used appropriately and in moderation.  They even say that these sugar substitutes can be useful for those trying to control diabetes or lose weight.  However, many doctors and scientists disagree.  In fact, one seven-year study found that people who were using artificial sweeteners put on 50 percent more weight than those that did not.

And other doctors label these products as toxic.  They believe that many of the chemicals found in them can potentially cause liver damage or cell mutations within the body.  So until there’s more of a consensus on the health risks and benefits of artificial sweeteners, perhaps we should all just stick with good ole natural table sugar.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Prescott.

Let face it—as we enter our twenties, our metabolisms aren’t what they once were.  The calories from those bags of chips we carelessly ate throughout our teenage years are no longer burned from pressing buttons on the television remote.  But thankfully, we do have quite a bit of wiggle room when it comes to controlling our metabolism.  If you find your jeans getting a bit snugger than they were in high school, follow these guidelines.

Exercise.

One of the best ways to speed up your metabolism is through exercise.  Muscle burns more calories than fat does, so incorporating light weight-lifting into your daily routine will make a considerable difference on your metabolic rate.  In fact, your metabolism is based largely on your proportion of lean body mass.

Aerobic exercise (like running or swimming) also increases the amount of calories you burn, though this effect only lasts a few hours after the workout.  While it’s not as long-lasting as weight-lifting exercises, it will still make a difference nonetheless.

Eat smaller and more frequent meals.

Try spacing your meals out to every three to four hours, instead of having three large meals throughout the day.  When you go from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. without any food, you send a message to your body to burn calories more slowly and to conserve fat.  This is because your body enters “starvation mode” and begins to panic.  Plus, eating smaller portions throughout the day will prevent you from overeating when mealtime comes.

It’s also important to listen to your body and eat when you are feeling hungry.  Just remember to make smart and healthy choices when it comes to snacking in between meals.

Pick the right foods.

Many foods, especially those containing protein, have been shown to help increase your metabolism.   Your body takes a longer time to digest protein, so your body burns more calories while doing so.  Calcium and fiber also help speed up your metabolic rate, so make sure you are getting the recommended daily amounts of these nutrients.

Drink lots of water.

Water is essential for your metabolism to function properly.  And it even helps speed up your metabolic rate for 30 minutes after your drink it.  A lot of nutrition experts suggest drinking a full glass of water before eating snacks or meals to help you feel fuller once you dig in.

It is needless to say that college students rarely get the amount of sleep they need.  With seemingly never-ending to-do lists, schoolwork or stress often keeps us up at night.  Here are some ways Cal Poly students unwind from the day before bedtime.

We all know how monotonous workouts can get.  Even the biggest fitness buffs can’t help but feel a little tempted to switch up their routine now and again.  If you too have found yourself stuck in an exercise rut, here are a couple types of workouts that will keep you on your toes.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Cowden.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is also referred to as “hot yoga” and is different from the traditional form that you probably already know about it.  This type of yoga is done in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit and contains a 40 percent humidity content (hello sweat!).  The session combines 26 complementary poses (called asanas) and breathing exercises (called pranayama), which are believed to be more easily done in the high temperature.  The warmth of the room enables your body to become more flexible.  This helps strengthen muscles, joints and ligaments and even prevents the risk of injuries.

One of the reasons why Bikram Yoga is so beneficial to your health is actually because of the heat.  It allows fresh blood and oxygen to circulate through the body and stimulates functioning in the digestion, immune and cardiovascular system.  Plus, the sweating allows toxins to be released from your glands during the class.

Each class usually lasts around 90 minutes, so it’s important to remember to drink plenty of water before and after the session so your body doesn’t get dehydrated.

Pilates

Photo courtesy of Danielle Ferreira.

Pilates is another exercise that that will help you break out of your workout routine.  It includes a series of smooth and steady movements to strengthen the body, focusing on the torso as the “powerhouse.”  The movements are designed to enable you to use your own body for resistance and can either be done on an exercise mat or equipment.

This type of exercise also gets your mind in sync with your body by helping you concentrate on balance techniques and proper breathing during the session.  Learning these breathing exercises are especially beneficial to students because they are said to help reduce stress and tension.

Pilates has many of the same health benefits as Bikram Yoga.  It too improves muscle flexibility and circulation and can also help you better your posture.  Plus, the emphasis on the torso as the core of body may even help you get those abs you’ve always dreamed of.

Click on the picture above for a data visualization of calorie counts for popular McDonald's items.

Photo courtesy of Frederic Poirot.

I’m sure you all remember the days of Flintstone vitamins.  And perhaps the years of your parents force-feeding them to you after breakfast have even led you to continue taking them religiously (in the form of more mature and adult-standard brands like Centrum or One a Day, of course).   Still, you might be wondering whether your habitual supplement is really benefiting your health.  Well, to answer that question—yes and no.  It does provide health benefits as long as it is taken properly and serves as a complement to a healthy diet.  But if you are already getting the recommended daily amount of a nutrient through the foods you eat, you may not be reaping any extra benefits from it.

The basics

Your body needs vitamins and minerals for normal functioning, growth and health.  It gets them from a healthy diet or in other cases, from vitamin supplements.  However, vitamins do not offer the same level of nutritional benefits that you would find in foods like fruits and vegetables.  So, in other words, popping a multivitamin after a cheeseburger and fries won’t substitute for a healthy and well-balanced meal.

Choosing a supplement

One thing to remember when choosing a supplement is to steer clear of any that are in “mega-dose” forms.  Instead, pick those that offer 100 percent of the suggested daily intake for specific vitamins.  A few of the ones that are essential to both men and women are vitamins A, B2, B12, C, D and K.

It’s also important to look for products that are high-quality.  There is a large degree of variation between different brands and surprisingly, dietary supplements are not regulated.  The FDA doesn’t review them before they are put on shelves, so it is up to the manufacturers to ensure that the product is safe and true to its claims.  This also means that the amount of nutrients that it is listed to provide could actually be a load of bologna.  If you’re unsure of a brand’s quality level, it’s a good idea to check with an independent testing company, like Consumer Lab

And as a rule of thumb, always talk to your doctor before you start taking supplements.  Some medications can interact with them and leave with you some bad side effects.  But once you get the green light to start, happy supplementing.