Category: Health

Is the Fitbit Charge HR Worth the Splurge?

Posted on Jan 30, 2015 by No Comments

If you’re fairly active and the Fitbit Flex just didn’t appeal to you because there weren’t enough bells and whistles, the Fitbit Charge HR may have caught your eye recently.

Hyped since around October it’s finally here (in black, at least). Is it worth it? I think so, if you’re already in the market for a fitness tracker that does more than calculate steps.

The Fitbit Charge HR tracks steps, distance, floors climbed, resting heart rate, heart rate during exercise, and sleep (it also tells you the time).

I love mine, and find it quite an improvement over the Flex. It’s a step up from the Charge, which was a replacement for the recalled Fitbit Force, since it does everything the Charge does, plus track heart rate.

I’m not sure this is the most accurate tracker out there, but it seems pretty accurate considering I don’t have to wear a strap around my chest (which isn’t exactly comfortable and really only feasible during workouts and doesn’t do much for resting heart rate over the course of the day).

I think overall, my heart rate is a little faster, but if I keep that in mind as I look at the data, I still get a good idea of what’s going on with my body. If I’m walking without moving my arms, like when I had my hands in my pockets to keep them warm during an outdoor walk, I won’t necessarily get credit for all of my steps or distance.

Unlike with the Flex, I do get credit for active minutes, as well, without the need to put workouts in manually. You can specify your workouts on the dashboard, but you can also keep it simple by putting the Charge HR into exercise mode and going from there. You can see the duration and heart rate information in the dashboard without doing anything extra.

I appreciate the automatic switch to sleep mode when I lie down at night and if I take a long nap, but I will warn you that the “gentle” vibrating alarm didn’t feel all that gentle to me. Maybe it’s less jarring than a blaring alarm, but it’s still not gradual or gentle in my opinion.

It’s interesting to analyze your sleep patterns over time, especially if you’ve been waking up feeling exhausted after a full night’s sleep. This and the nearly-24/7 heart rate monitoring are some of the most valuable features of the fitness watch, and I still find the Fitbit Charge HR the best on the market for sleep, heart rate, and general activity tracking.

Though it seems to have a few flaws when it comes to accuracy, I’m still obsessed with this little gadget and find it superior to the others within the Fitbit line (the Surge may be better in some ways, but it’s huge!).

Photo credit: Amazon

Test Your Child for Scoliosis at Home

Posted on Jan 28, 2015 by No Comments

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can occur in people of all ages, but is typically found in young girls ages 10 and over. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. However, the condition does tend to run in families.

Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR) is offering a free assessment tool to measure your child’s growth and monitor their spine health.

The chart was developed by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush pediatric spine specialists Drs. Howard An and Christopher DeWald, who have published multiple articles on the topic of spinal surgery and are widely recognized as leaders in the field.

It can be ordered all year round at www.rushortho.com under “pediatric scoliosis.”

The free chart is provided as part of MOR’s commitment to early detection of this progressive spine disease. Measuring 9″x 40″, this growth chart allows parents to track their child’s height and monitor spine health. It features a life-size spine graphic and information on the Adams Forward Bend Test, an at-home assessment for detecting scoliosis.

I encourage you to take the time to order this free assessment tool. Untreated scoliosis can lead to serious heart and lung problems, so it’s important to get children with this condition the help they need as soon as possible.

Photo credit: Rush Ortho

Link Round-up: Making Home a Haven, Healthy Recipes, Energy, and More

Posted on Jan 20, 2015 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has tips for making your home a haven, getting energized, healthy recipes, and more.

Chocolate Covered Katie gave us a recipe for chocolate chip cookie overnight oats.

Mind Body Green shared eight yoga poses that will help you strengthen your arms for chaturanga (in case you took up yoga this year!).

Introvert, Dear shared seven ways to get energized and shared a delicious smoothie recipe.

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Kenarry shared some tips for making your home a haven.

Seven Thirty Three shared a child’s slouchy beanie crochet pattern.

Thrifty Jinxy gave us a list of eight things you should buy in January.

Your Charmed Life showed us how to make chicken tortilla soup.

Photo credit: Chocolate Covered Katie and SergeMouilleUSA [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fabulous Frannie Makes It Easy to Start Using Essential Oils in Your Home

Posted on Jan 19, 2015 by No Comments

If you want to experiment with essential oils, but can afford the pricier brands like Young Living and doTERRA, this essential oil starter set from Fabulous Frannie is a great deal. For under $40, you receive a great assortment of multi-purpose essential oils.

The set includes 14 of the most common essential oils:

  • Lavender
  • Tea Tree
  • Peppermint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Spearmint
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Lime
  • Rosemary
  • Sweet Orange
  • Pine Needle
  • Grapefruit
  • Patchouli
  • Tangerine

All of the bottles in this set are 10 ml. They look small at first glance, but since you only need a few drops of oil at a time, they should last for several months. The glass bottles have Euro caps that dispense oils one drop at a time, so there’s no waste.

The number of ways you can use essential oils are endless. They make great additions to homemade lotion bars, soaps, and other bath and body products.

I like to use a blend of lavender, tea tree, and peppermint to help unclog stuffy noses. Lemon essential oil makes a great addition to homemade cleaning supplies. You can also add sweet orange essential oil to a bit of olive oil to make a fabulous homemade alternative to Goo-Gone.

Essential oils are safe to use around pets and children, although you should never apply essential oils to the skin unless they’ve been properly diluted in a carrier oil. It’s also not a good idea to take essential oils internally unless you’re being advised by an experienced aromatherapy practitioner.

In addition to this essential oils set, Fabulous Frannie also sells individual oil bottles as well as a set containing blends specially formulated for different purposes such as a cold and flu blend and an insect repellent blend. Visit the Fabulous Frannie website for more information.

Photo credit: Fabulous Frannie

Link Round-up: Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, DIY Tissue Pouch, and More

Posted on Jan 6, 2015 by 1 Comment

Today’s link round-up has peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes, a tissue pouch DIY project, and more.

Chocolate Covered Katie showed us how to make peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes.

Create Craft Love shared a recipe for a Valentine mocktail.

Pink Heels Pink Truck shared her favorite books of 2014.

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Muslin and Merlot taught us how to make cute a tissue pouch.

Mommypotamus inspired us with her happiness jar project.

Mommy in Sports showed us how to make Sharpie mugs with the kids.

Confessions of an Overworked Mom showed us how to make orange flaxseed soap.

Photo credit: Chocolate Covered Katie and Muslin and Merlot

A New Way to Experience the Benefits of Oil Pulling

Posted on Jan 5, 2015 by No Comments

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic healing practice that is getting a lot of buzz today as a 100% natural way to improve your oral health. The theory behind oil pulling is that swishing oil in your mouth helps rid the body of toxins.

GuruNanda Pulling Oil is a blend of sesame oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, and peppermint oil. Together, these oils are said to perform at a higher level than the single oils routinely used for oil pulling.

The blend is made in the USA, 100% organic, and is not tested on animals. One 8-ounce bottle should last you approximately one month with daily use.

My main problem with oil pulling so far has been that I gag really easily. To see the maximum benefits, you need to swish the oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. I am lucky if I can make it 10 minutes, although I do find the process a little easier to do with this blend as opposed to using straight coconut oil.

The oil leaves a bit of a weird taste in your mouth, but you’re supposed to brush your teeth immediately after you spit it out anyway since the oil can leave a film on your teeth that can trap harmful microorganisms. (Remember to spit in the trash can and not down the drain to avoid the possibility of the oil harming your plumbing.)

With oil pulling, it’s said that you’ll see the best results if you do it consistently over a long period of time. Since I’m still trying to work up to the recommended time frame, it’s hard for me to thoroughly evaluate the benefits of this practice.

The only benefit I’ve personally noticed is that my teeth look a bit whiter when I do it regularly. But, it’s definitely worth a try if you’re looking for a natural way to help improve your oral health.

To learn more or to purchase GuruNanda Pulling Oil, please visit the GuruNanda website.

Have you ever tried oil pulling? If so, what do you think of this practice?

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer of the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: GuruNanda

Is the Fitbit Flex Worth the Cost?

Posted on Dec 31, 2014 by No Comments

I’ve been considering a fitness tracker for about two years now, maybe more. Since I recently slacked off on getting up and getting moving, I decided now was the time to finally put in some serious research time and find the best one for me—and get up off the couch again (okay, my office chair more than the couch, but still).

I checked out the Garmin Vivofit, the Fitbit Flex, the Fitbit Charge, and the Fitbit Charge HR (which isn’t available yet).

The Garmin Vivofit sounded good, but the reviews said they tend to fall off and get lost, plus the heart rate monitor requires a separate chest strap. I know I’m not likely to take the extra minute to put that on, especially not when I often sleep in my workout clothes and it’s cold.

You have to wet the chest strap before putting it on your skin, from what I understand. Though heart rate tracking is important, I talked myself out of going for one that had the capability simply because of that strap.

The Charge seemed a little bulky for me and didn’t have enough additional features that fit my needs, so I went for the less expensive, thinner Flex. I wore it for two days, tracked everything (workouts, water intake, steps, miles, food, and sleep) in the amazing Fitbit program (app and on the computer), and was impressed at first.

Then I realized I could work out for 30 minutes and only get credit for four to seven “very active minutes.” Probably because there was no heart rate tracking feature. Boo.

The pros: The steps, distance and sleep seem mostly accurate. I felt like it told me I slept better than I actually did, but it was a good estimate, overall.

It made tracking my health way more fun and helped me not only move more but remember to drink more water. It was easy to track what I was eating because the dropdown list was very detailed—I could do more than just choose “almond butter,” for example. I could choose the brand and get all the nutrition information added to my daily totals.

The cons: I wanted active credit for those workouts! I knew when I bought the Flex that it wouldn’t track my heart rate, tell me how long I was in my target zone, or anything like that, but I did think it would register more than it did.

I could manually enter workouts on the computer, but I didn’t get the very active minutes for them. If I had done some serious running, I may have gotten them, but I don’t do that type of workout all the time.

Ultimately, I took it back because even though I really liked it and it felt comfortable on my wrist (even though I type all day), I didn’t feel like I was getting a true overview of what I was doing. I decided to wait for the Charge HR to come out in early 2015 and see what that’s like. It doesn’t require a chest strap to track the heart rate.

If you’re just looking to track your food, water, and steps throughout the day—or if you prefer to use walking and running as your primary forms of working out and aren’t worried about “active” minute tracking—I still recommend this one. It just wasn’t right for me.

Photo credit: Fitbit

Link Round-up: Frugality, Fitness, Recipes, and More

Posted on Dec 30, 2014 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has lessons in frugality, fitness apps, recipes, and more.

Happiness Is Homemade showed us how to make whipped sugar cookie body butter.

Frugality Gal shared what she learned in her $27 challenge.

Thrifty Jinxy shared the best health fitness apps.

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Confessions of an Overworked Mom shared a recipe for homemade cream of tomato soup with ravioli.

CopyKat shared a recipe for roasted potatoes and leeks.

Create Craft Love taught us how to make a pintucked canvas.

A Beautiful Mess shared a gingerbread hot chocolate recipe.

Photo credit: Happiness Is Homemade and Confessions of an Overworked Mom

Burt’s Bees Offers a Natural Way to Get Through Cold and Flu Season

Posted on Dec 16, 2014 by No Comments

During cold and flu season, I like to keep my medicine cabinet fully stocked so I don’t get stuck making a last minute Target run whenever someone gets sick.

One thing that we go through a lot of during the winter months is cough drops. I think I’ve tried almost every brand imaginable at this point. My current favorites are the ones from Burt’s Bees.

Burt’s Bees cough drops come in three flavors: Honey, Honey & Lemon, and Honey & Pomegranate. These cough drops are made with over 35% pure honey, with a touch of cooling menthol and eucalyptus essential oil. They are free of any artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners.

Although these are one of the more expensive brands of cough drops in my area, they seem to be worth the increase in cost simply because you end up using less. The recommended dose for adults and children five years and over is two drops every two hours. When I buy cheaper brands of cough drops, I tend to go through two or three times that amount!

I also like that these cough drops offer the moment of menthol without the yucky taste. Menthol cough drops are the most effective, but I tend to avoid them because of the nasty medicine taste. The Burt’s Bees cough drops aren’t as good as candy by any means, but the taste is certainly much more pleasant.

Visit the Burt’s Bees website for additional information.

How is your family coping with cold and flu season this year?

Photo credit: Burt’s Bees