Protecting Your Family from Cleaning Compounds

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When it comes to keeping a house clean, most people tend to turn to commercial cleaning products. However, many of these can actually be quite toxic, producing fumes that can irritate the eyes, lungs, and heart. While it is possible to make your own cleaning products, commercial cleaners are sometimes unavoidable, so, if this is the case for you, you need to know how to protect your family from the damaging compounds that are released.

Keep Your Home Ventilated
In order for fumes to be able to leave your home, you need to keep your home well-ventilated. This means keeping all of your windows open and placing fans in strategic positions around your house to optimize the air flow.

Do Not Mix Cleaning Products
While it may be tempting to mix a few different cleaning products together, especially if they are all designed to target different types of dirt, this can be extremely dangerous. The different ingredients in said products can end up reacting with one another, causing fumes that are even more toxic than they would have been.

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Spend Some Time in Nature
If you have just given your house a deep clean with commercial cleaning products, then it is likely that your family will have already inhaled these toxic fumes. A great way to clear these from your lungs while giving them a chance to dissipate from your house is by taking a walk in nature, as this enables your lungs to pump in fresh oxygen while pumping out the chemicals. However, make sure that you choose an area that contains plenty of green trees and plants, and spend at least one to two hours there.

Drink Water and Leafy Greens
As you likely already know, water flushes out the system, meaning that you can reduce the toxicity of any chemicals inhaled by drinking extra water to dilute them and wash them out. In addition to water, you should also be juicing leafy greens and drinking those, as these are great for detoxing the system and will help to move any chemicals out of your body.

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Vitamin C
In the same way that vitamin C protects the body from colds and the flu and speeds up healing when these illnesses do occur, it is also able to help protect the body from any damaging effects that the cleaning chemical compounds may have. Whether you give your family vitamin C supplements or simply increase their intake of fresh foods that contain vitamin C, this is a great antioxidant to have on your side.

Check the Label
When purchasing cleaning products, always remember to check the label, as this will give you some idea of exactly how toxic the product is. If it states that the product’s vapors are harmful, then try to find an alternative product to use.

Commercial cleaning products can be so dangerous, and the best way to protect your family from them is by using products that are natural and safe. If you cannot find these at your local store, try making some yourself, as effective cleaning ingredients, such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice, are easily available everywhere.

Find Time for the Great Outdoors

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The great outdoors benefits the health in so many different ways, from reducing stress and obesity to increasing creativity, and there are countless studies to prove this. However, research has also shown that more and more people, both adults and children, are experiencing a lack of interaction with the great outdoors, but, fortunately, this is something that is easy to fix.

Taking the First Steps
If you have never been much of an outdoorsy person, then spending time outdoors will likely not come naturally to you. Rather than forcing yourself to take a hike up a huge mountain, start off slowly, with activities that you and your family can enjoy together. Whether this means pulling your child along a trail on a sled, finding new places to walk your dogs, or collecting leaves and seeds for a craft project, all of these activities still share the same goal of getting you to spend some time outdoors. If there is absolutely nothing that appeals to you just yet, pick an activity that sounds achievable, and set yourself a prize so that you have some extra motivation.

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Al Fresco Dining
Rather than eating your meals inside your home, try al fresco dining once in a while, as this is a great way to spend some extra time outdoors. While you may only be able to do this when the weather is cooperating, enjoying a meal outdoors will add to the sensory experience of the whole meal, and will do your far more good than staring at your computer or phone. Whether this means a lunchtime picnic in the park rather than an office cafeteria meal, or breakfast on your doorstep under the sun, you will no doubt find that your food tastes so much better when eaten in the great outdoors.

Find an Outdoor Hobby
If most of your hobbies are based indoors, then it is time to find an outdoor hobby that you love, as this will encourage you to spend more of your free time outside. For those who enjoy staying active, there is plenty to choose from, including cycling, running, canoeing and golfing, while those who do not really enjoy sports much can turn to everything from photography to gardening to outdoor cooking.

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Start a Garden
Starting a garden is a great way to really get closer to nature, and simply having that one-on-one time with the earth around you brings with it its own set of unique health benefits. Even if you do not have a large area of land to work with, simply setting up a few pots outside your house can still have the same effect. If growing flowers has never appealed to you, turn your attention to growing food, which can easily be done in a small space. From herbs to potted vegetables, growing something that you can eat will only increase the sense of accomplishment that you will feel from starting a garden.

Making time for the great outdoors is more important than ever due to hectic, digital lifestyles. From finding an outdoor hobby to al fresco dining, these are tips that just about everyone can follow when it comes to making the effort to spend more time outside.

Boost Your Midlife Brain Health

The human brain naturally shrinks with age, meaning that brain cells do not work quite as effectively as they used to. By the time a person reaches the age of 45, the memory begins to decline, as do other aspects of brain health. However, there are a number of ways in which you can boost a midlife brain to improve its health while giving it some extra protection for the upcoming years.

Man doing puzzle

Brain Exercises
There are many brain games and puzzles out there that are designed to help create new associations between different parts of your brain, which is great for strengthening it and keeping it sharp. You can also try carrying out normal, everyday activities, but using your non-dominant hand. For example, if you are usually right-handed, try using your left hand to do everything from brushing your teeth to hoovering the carpet.

Woman running with dog

Regular Exercise
One of the most effective ways in which you can boost your brain health is by partaking in regular exercise, as this has been proven, for many years, to be able to boost cognitive function. It does this by reducing cell damage and inflammation while increasing the density of brain cells, as well as blood vessels in the brain. When it comes to the different types of exercise out there, aerobic exercise is one of the best, as this can help with the parts of the brain that are associated with organizing, multi-tasking, and planning, while boosting heart health at the same time. Resistance training has been linked to beneficial effects on the memory, as has low-intensity yoga, so try to include these in your exercise routine too.

Control Your Blood Sugar Levels
Not only does high blood sugar levels lead to obesity and diabetes, but this also damages blood vessels in the brain, while impairing the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory. Lowering your blood sugar levels is as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, from practicing regular exercise to eating a diet high in vegetables, fibre and whole grains.

Group of friends

Socializing
Humans are social creatures, and, as studies have shown, socializing is important when it comes to keeping the brain stimulated and sharp. Research has shown that older adults who are less socially active tend to experience more cognitive and physical limitations, so make sure that socializing takes a priority in your life.

Brain-Boosting Foods
While a healthy diet itself is important for your brain, as well as your body, there are certain foods out there that are known for being especially beneficial when it comes to brain health. At the top of the list are foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and walnuts, as these have been linked to improved memory and focus, as well as a lowered risk of dementia.

Your brain is incredibly complex, but boosting its health does not need to be. From physical activity and a healthy diet to brain games and socializing, these tips will help you to keep your mind as sharp as possible while your body continues to age.

Add a Digital Detox to Your Summer Getaway

Woman poolside

The average person checks their phone about 200 times a day, making that once every six and a half minutes. While a digital detox is a great way to overcome becoming a slave to your smartphone, the concept is frightening for many, so here are a few tips to ease you into it and set you up for success.

Set an Allowance
Many experts believe that a digital detox is something that people should ease themselves into in order to really succeed at it. For this reason, you should set yourself a daily technology allowance for all of your devices, beginning this well before your summer getaway. By restricting yourself in this way, you will be far more encouraged to spend time enjoying the real world once you have used up your allowance. However, make sure that you set an achievable allowance to begin with, for example, no devices on your lunch break, or in the bedroom at night, before building it up from here.

A Detox Buddy
Difficult tasks are always much easier when you have someone by your side, which is why a detox buddy could really come in handy this summer. Ideally, choose someone who you will be spending your summer getaway with, because this way, you will be able to support each other all the way through and keep up with each other’s progress. If you are travelling with a group of people, give phone stacking a try. This is where you all put your phones in a stack in one place and move on to do another activity. The first person who takes their phone from the pile then has to do a forfeit, whether this may be cleaning up after everyone else or buying dinner that night.

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Leave Your Gadgets at Home
While the thought of travelling without all of your gadgets may seem frightening, this is one way to ensure that you do not slip up on your digital detox. If you have planned this well in advance, with set allowances in previous months and a detox buddy to travel with, you are likely to be much more receptive to the idea when the time comes.

Digital Detox Retreats
If you feel as though you may need some extra help when it comes to your digital detox, it could be worth looking into an organized digital detox retreat. These retreats tend to be held in areas of outstanding natural beauty, as this tends to really open the eyes of participants and make them see all that they have been missing while their eyes have been glued to their phones. They will also offer a schedule of physical activities, and help with setting yourself some personal boundaries when it comes to technology for when you return home.

While a digital detox may seem like a drastic move, it actually brings with it so many different benefits. From reducing depression and anxiety to increasing work productivity, these are just a few of the reasons as to why you should give a digital detox a try this summer.

Use a Foam Roller to Get Rid of Aches and Pains

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Foam rollers have been used for decades in physical rehab clinics when it comes to pain management, and, when done correctly, can bring about the same benefits that a professional massage does. If you have never used a foam roller before, here is all you need to know to get started.

Purchasing a Foam Roller
Foam rollers are widely available at the majority of sports stores out there, and can also easily be purchased online. If you have never used a foam roller before, then it would be advisable to purchase a softer roller, designed for beginners, and this should be marked on the packaging, whereas if you are a competitive athlete and really require the extra help, a firmer roller would be the better option for you.

How to Use a Foam Roller
When using a foam roller, there are several different moves that you can do, each one targeting different areas of the body. The majority of moves are best carried out on the floor, with a yoga mat or low-pile carpet to provide a bit of support. The Upper Back Roll requires you to place the roller across your back, so that it is supporting your body, before rolling forwards and backwards slowly, to work on tight muscles along the middle of your back. For painful calves, the Calf Roll is ideal, while those who have been experiencing pain in their hamstrings or glutes should gives the Glutes and Hamstring Roll a try. There are multiple tutorials online for each of these moves, and these will help you to get the hang of all you need to do. With all of these moves, you should be applying a moderate amount of pressure to each muscle group, rolling no more than one inch per second. Each time you come across areas that are particularly tight, pause for several seconds and try to relax. Once you feel the muscles releasing, you can continue to move again.

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The Benefits of Foam Rolling
Foam rolling stretches and tones the muscles, while increasing circulation, meaning that a greater amount of nutrients are able to reach all areas of the body, including the muscles, and their surrounding tissue, being worked on. This then helps with the body’s detoxification process, enabling waste to be broken down and eliminated in a far more effective manner. This waste would have otherwise built up within the muscles, causing stiffness and pain. If you often experience areas of tight, knotted muscles, then a foam roller would be able to help with this too, breaking up these bands and providing relief.

After each foam rolling session, you are likely to feel a little sore the next day, as your muscles will have experienced quite the workout. In order to experience maximum benefits, you should try to drink more water than usual after foam rolling, while eating cleanly and getting enough sleep, as all of this will aid in flushing out your system and allowing your muscles to function as effectively as possible.

Beating an Afternoon Energy Slump

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Afternoon energy slumps are extremely common, and can be attributed to the body’s circadian rhythm, which sends out sleep signals during the afternoon, usually at around 2pm. Rather than spending the afternoon wishing that you could curl up in bed, here are a few tips to help you to beat the energy slump and ensure that the rest of your day remains productive.

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A Light, Protein-Filled Lunch
If your lunches are usually packed with carbohydrates, this will be having quite the impact on the way in which your body functions in the afternoon, as carbohydrates tend to zap the body of energy. Instead, opt for foods that are high in protein, such as a tuna salad rather than a tuna sandwich, or a green salad with hard-boiled eggs and sliced turkey instead of a bowl of pasta. You should also try to avoid having a heavy lunch, as the digestion process diverts blood away from the brain, meaning that the more food that needs to be digested, the longer you will feel lethargic for.

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A Midday Workout
Physical activity during the day will not only boost your productivity, but will also help you to beat that midday slump. If you have a gym near you, some light aerobic exercise is all that you need. Alternatively, if you do not have time for a quick gym session, head out for a brisk walk on your lunch break, or pay a visit to the very top floor of your building, using the stairs of course. Even a few simple stretches can help to provide your body with a boost of energy, and these do not require much space or time at all.

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Green Tea
If you tend to reach for a cup of coffee each time you feel your energy levels dropping, you may want to try swapping this out for a cup of green tea instead. While green tea still contains caffeine, it does not have quite as much as coffee does, meaning that it is much better for your health, and will also bring you a range of nutritional benefits.

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Listen to Some Music
Studies have shown that listening to music has the potential to boost the way in which a person focuses, while making them feel more energized at the same time. This is a great quick fix to the afternoon energy slump problem, and if you compile a few energizing playlists on your phone in advance, you will have a pick-me-up to hand whenever you may need it.

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Don’t Skip Breakfast
Considered to be the most important meal of the day, a healthy breakfast provides the body with enough energy to sustain it throughout the day. However, if you skip breakfast, you are likely to experience quite the energy crash at around 2pm, which is why this is a meal well worth making some time for. If you tend to be strapped for time in the mornings, there are many on-the-go breakfast options that may work for you, from berry and yogurt smoothies to a portable bowl of porridge.

Nobody wants to experience an afternoon energy slump, especially if you have a long list of tasks that you still need to complete before the end of the day. From nutrition to exercise, these tips will help you to beat that slump, filling you with energy for the rest of the day.

Be Nice, It’s Good for Your Heart

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It is rare for people to consciously try to be nasty, but it is also quite rare for people to go out of their way to be kind to others. While helping other people should be enough of a reason to be nice, research has shown that having this friendly attitude will also bring you a number of different health benefits, making it more worthwhile than ever to be nice to others.

Heart Health
There are now several studies that have shown that there is a link between acts of kindness and the different markers of heart health. A study carried out in 2006 was especially successful in showing that acts of kindness were able to lower blood pressure, as it releases a chemical called nitric oxide within the body, which then dilutes blood vessels. This is also the case for “bad” cholesterol, which is lowered to quite an extent after consistent levels of kindness have been practised.

Stress and Cortisol
Whenever your body experiences stress, it releases the hormone cortisol throughout your body. While this is absolutely fine on occasion, chronic stress, and therefore the continuous release of cortisol, has many negative health effects. However, being nice is something that can drastically lower the cortisol levels within your body, which then has an impact on everything from your state of mind to the rate at which your body ages.

Illness Prevention
Research has shown that people who spend more time helping others tend to have a much stronger ability to ward off infections and illnesses.

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This could be due to the fact that they have lower markers of inflammation, as inflammation is responsible for a whole array of different diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

Reduced Pain
In addition to being nice to others, you should also remember to be nice to yourself. This means that, if you suffer from chronic pain, you should try to be as accepting and understanding about your condition as possible, rather than berating yourself for not improving fast enough. By being kinder to yourself in this way, the amount of pain that you experience is likely to quickly drop, which will then help you to recover even faster.

Longer Life
It comes as no surprise that those who are experiencing all of the above health benefits would enjoy a longer life, and research has backed this up. The studies looked in particular at people who volunteered for two or more charitable organizations, and found that they experienced a 44% lowered risk of dying early, which is even more of an impact than regular exercise has.

Science has definitely proven that being nice really pays off in so many different ways. If you are looking to carry out more acts of kindness, there are a number of ways in which you can do this. From volunteering at a local charity to paying someone a genuine compliment to simply being a listening ear for someone who is having a tough time, make it your mission to go out of your way to be nice to others as much as possible.

The Lowdown on Protein Powders and Shakes

Woman drinking protein

While protein powders were once quite a niche product, they have now become much more mainstream, especially since the benefits of protein are being much more widely acknowledged. If you have been wanting to venture into the world of protein powders and shakes but do not know where to begin, here are a few basics that will help you to understand all that is out there.

Whey-Based Powders
Whey-based protein powders are the most commonly available, and are basically a milk product that has had all of its fat and carbohydrates removed. This means that it is quickly absorbed by the body, which is why many athletes turn to whey-based protein shakes for their post-workout recovery sessions.

Casein-Based Powders
Just like whey, casein is also a milk-based product, and is commonly used in the making of cheese. However, the difference lies in the way in which the body digests casein, as this process takes longer than it does with whey. While this means that they are not ideal post-workout, they are great for an afternoon or evening snack, as they will help your muscles to gradually recover overnight.

Protein powders

Combination Powders
If you feel as though you could benefit from both a casein and a whey powder, it may be worth looking into products that combine the two. This means that your body will be able to obtain an immediate effect from your shake, thanks to the whey, as well as long term energy for many hours afterwards, due to the casein.

Plant-Based Proteins
Even if you do not follow a vegan diet, plant-based proteins still have so many different benefits, making them well worth considering. These tend to contain antioxidant-rich superfoods, which will have the effect of boosting your immune system, enabling you to train for longer, and harder. They also tend to be kinder to the gut, and while many may feel as though they are not as effective as milk-based protein powders, recent studies have shown that plant-based proteins are just as capable of building muscle as milk-based proteins. Common examples of plant-based proteins include pea protein, which contains high levels of arginine, which is an amino acid required to build muscle, soya protein and hemp protein, which also contains many beneficial life enzymes and essential fatty acids.

An Energy Boost
While a protein shake on its own is fantastic for maintaining your muscles, it is not going to provide you with much energy, which is where all of the extra supplements come in. However, since you are only beginning to experiment with protein shakes, it would be easiest to skip the supplements for now and working on adding your own energy-rich foods to the blend. An easy way to do this is by using a protein powder in a smoothie, mixing it with ingredients such as oats, almond butter and coconut milk.

The world of protein shakes and powders can often seem intimidating, but even if you are not a serious athlete, you are still likely to be able to derive a few benefits from one. However, it is important to keep in mind that protein powders are supplements, and cannot replace your body’s need for a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Easy Post-Workout Snacks

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The food that you eat after a workout is extremely important, as it needs to be something that will help your body to repair muscle tissue while replenishing your glycogen stores, which end up depleted after periods of intense exercise. If you have been looking for some new post-workout snack ideas, these are not only deliciously healthy, but incredibly satisfying too.

Hummus with a Whole Wheat Pita
Hummus, which is a dip that is made from puréed chickpeas, is packed with protein, and a whole wheat pita is a great source of carbohydrates post-workout, making this a fantastic, and tasty, combination. To add some extra zing to this snack, try incorporating some new flavors into your hummus, whether this be red peppers, jalapeños or beets, all of which will provide your body with some extra antioxidants too.

Pistachios

Dry Roasted Pistachios
While all nuts contain protein and healthy fats, pistachios have the highest levels of potassium in comparison to all of the other nuts, and since potassium is an electrolyte that you lose through sweat, pistachios make a great post-workout snack. To add more texture and flavors to this snack, toss some pistachios into a bag with raisins, along with some other nuts and seeds, making your very own portable trail mix.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
A large number of athletes tend to depend on protein shakes for their post-workout snack, but the taste of these can often put many people off. For a healthy and tasty alternative, try whipping up a peanut butter and banana smoothie at home, adding a small touch of protein powder, along with some almond milk and a sprinkling of cinnamon. The protein in your smoothie will provide your body with long-lasting energy, while the cinnamon will help to control your blood sugar levels after your workout. If you want to make your smoothie even more nutritious, experiment with adding some other fruits, or leafy greens such as kale or spinach, to the mix.

Yogurt parfait

Greek Yoghurt Parfait
Greek yoghurt contains just the right amount of digestible protein to help your muscles recover from a workout, and turning it into a yoghurt parfait makes it even more nutrient-dense. While this may sound like a complicated snack, it will only take you a couple of minutes to put together. Simply pour the yoghurt into a portable container, before topping with granola and berries, making sure to remember to bring along a spoon!

Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Chicken
If you have been working out at home and have access to a kitchen immediately after, then this hot snack promises to hit the spot. Sweet potatoes are a hugely beneficial post-workout food, as they are packed with so many vitamins and nutrients, as well as just the right amount of carbohydrates. Eating this along with some grilled chicken will not only create a well-rounded snack, but will also ensure that your body is receiving all of the lean protein that it needs.

Eating after a workout is important, and you should aim to have a snack within 20 minutes of your training in order for your body to optimally function. While you may feel ravenous after a particularly gruelling session, be sure to keep your snack under 150 calories, so that you do not undo all of the hard work that you have just done.

Walk More to Keep Your Heart Healthy (and Happy!)

Strengthening your heart is so important, and while many may think that running and other more vigorous forms of exercise are the only way to properly do this, walking is an activity that is just as beneficial. Studies have shown that, when it comes to heart health, walking brings about many of the same advantages as other forms of exercise, and is an activity that just about everybody can easily partake in.

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The Health Benefits of Walking
A brisk walk each and every day will bring your body so many different benefits. Not only does this lower high cholesterol, as well as high blood pressure, but it also cuts down your risk of diabetes. All three of these conditions are risk factors when it comes to heart disease and stroke, meaning that making an improvement in this area will significantly boost the health of your heart. In addition to this, regular walking is able to prevent depression, protect against dementia, and reduce the risk of so many other health issues, from colon cancer to erectile dysfunction to obesity.

How Much Walking to Do Each Day
The American Heart Association recommends that adults need around 30 minutes of physical activity each day, and brisk walking can definitely be a large part of this. If you find 30 minutes quite challenging to begin with, start off with smaller, achievable goals, and built this up slowly as your fitness levels increase. Alternatively, you could split your 30 minutes of exercise a day into two or three sessions, walking for just 10 or 15 minutes each time.

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Ways to Incorporate Walking Into Your Life
There are many different ways in which you can incorporate more walking in your life, and the more that you do so, the more enjoyment you will gain from it too. Taking the dog for a walk is a great way to exercise the both of you, as is taking your children to the park every afternoon. If shopping is a passion of yours, spend more time window shopping, making a conscious effort to cover the entire mall in a certain amount of time. When it comes to being at work, simply park your car further away from your workplace than you normally would, so that you have some walking to do to get there, and always take the stairs rather than the elevator. Rather than spending your entire lunch break sat at a table, take some time to walk around outside, as you will also gain so many benefits from the fresh air.

Walking Shoes
If you have decided to make the commitment to start walking more, then a reliable pair of shoes is a must. Many of the major athletic brands out there offer shoes designed specifically for walkers, with everything from a shock absorbent sole to a roomy toe box. Before purchasing a pair, make sure to try on your walking shoes while you are wearing athletic socks, so that you will really know how well they fit.

Physical activity is a must, but if you do not tend to enjoy the more traditional forms of exercise, walking could be perfect for you. Not only will this keep your heart strong, while boosting many other parts of your body, but it is also an activity that is easy to squeeze into your day, no matter how busy you may be.