Thursday, December 29, 2011

RECALL ALERT: Build-A-Bear Teddy Bears for Choking Hazard

Build-A-Bear Workshop is recalling about 300,000 Colorful Hearts Teddy Bears sold in the United States and Canada because of a choking hazard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said last week.
The CPSC said the bear's eyes could loosen and fall out, posing a choking hazard to children. No injuries have been reported.
The Colorful Hearts Teddy Bear is about 16 inches high with black plastic eyes. The body is covered in multi-colored heart shapes.
The bears were sold at Build-A-Bear Workshops and the company's website from April through December.
Consumers can return the Colorful Hearts Teddy Bear to any Build-A-Bear store for a coupon for any available stuffed animal.
For more information, consumers can call the company toll-free at 866-236-5683 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Saturday, and between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. CT Sunday.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

8 Way Not to Use Vinegar!

"Common household vinegar is one of those wonder products that people are always discovering new uses for. Whether you want to drive away dandruff, eradicate mildew, or keep bugs at bay, vinegar has been proposed as a solution to just about every problem under the sun.

But while it has a number of uses, vinegar isn’t always the solution, and on occasion it can be downright dangerous. Here are the top 8 ways not to use vinegar at home. 

1. While vinegar is good at cleaning many things, you shouldn’t confuse it with soap. Alkalinecleaners like dish detergent are ideally suited for lifting grease, whereas vinegar will have little effect on it. If you have a greasy cleaning job, reach for regular soap and leave the vinegar on the shelf.

2. You should never use vinegar on waxed surfaces. The vinegar will only strip the wax off, dulling the sheen on your nicely shined car. However, vinegar is a great option if you’re looking to remove an old coat of wax before you put down a fresh layer of polish.

3. Do not use vinegar on marble countertops or other stoneware, as it can cause the stone to pit and corrode, according to the Marble Institute

4. Your smartphone and laptop monitor probably have a thin layer of oleophobic coating that limit fingerprints and smudges. Acidic vinegar can strip this off, so you should never use it to clean sensitive screens.

5. Cast iron and aluminum are reactive surfaces. If you want to use vinegar to clean pots and pans, use it exclusively on stainless steel and enameled cast iron cookware.

6. While both bleach and vinegar are powerful cleaning agents, when mixed together they make a powerful chemical weapon. Chlorine gas, the stuff used to clear the trenches in World War I, results when bleach is mixed with an acidic substance, so never mix them together.

7. While vinegar can be useful as an insecticide, you shouldn’t spray it directly on bug-infested plants as it can damage them. However, you can use vinegar’s plant-killing effect to your advantage by using it as a weed killer, as suggested by several people on Hometalk.

8. If you’re the victim of an egging, do not try to dissolve the remnants of this prank away with vinegar. Vinegar will cause the proteins in the egg to coagulate, creating a gluey substance that is even more impossible to clean up, says Popular Mechanics.

I also feel obligated to say that although vinegar is touted as a great way to remove mildew and mold, like bleach it only kills surface mold. Most mold problems are deeper than what you see on the surface, and your best bet is to kill them at their source (which is usually leaks and rotting drywall)."

Adam Verwymeren is a Networx - - writer. Get home & garden ideas like this- - on

RECALL ALERT: Limited Distribution of Spinach with Ecoli

Avon Heights Mushrooms, in cooperation with the FDA is recalling certain packages of fresh packaged spinach. The brands include Krisp Pak 1 Ooz bags, Better Brand 10oz.bags, and Avon Heights 4-2.51b bags.
The implicated packages have a "best if used by" code of DEC16 and codes DP 340 and T691.
During routine surveillance sampling, one package of Better Brand 10oz spinach tested positive for ecoli 0157h. Out of a preponderance of caution the company is recalling all packages produced on the affected day.
NO ILLNESSES have been associated with this incident.
Consumers should discard the product with the specific codes and write to the company address on the package for a refund. Refunds will only be given for the product with the above specified codes.

FOOD LABEL ALERT: Don't Fall for Label Lies!

Here are a few common food label lies we often see at grocery stores. Check out these tips to help you distinguish them:

1. If the label says "0 Grams of trans fat..." 
A mad-scientist project gone wrong, trans fatsare created in a lab by partially hydrogenating healthier oils. This process destroys the many good benefits of the original fats. What's worse, consuming trans fats ups your risk for heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Most nutritionists recommend avoiding them altogether, which doesn't sound so hard except current labeling guidelines allow manufacturers to round anything less than 0.5g/serving down to zero. Eat more than a few servings, and you've consumed a significant amount of the Frankenfood. 

Avoid it: Anything that says "partially hydrogenated oil," "hydrogenated vegetable oil," or "shortening" on the ingredients list contains trans fats, no matter what the label says. [

2. If the label says "100 percent natural" or "all natural..." 
You may think buying an "all natural" chicken is better than buying its unlabeled counterpart, but the truth is that "natural" has no legal definition, meaning that companies can stick the phrase on anything they want. 

Avoid it: Check the ingredients list and label for what you're most concerned about. "USDA-certified organic" means the food has met certain guidelines. You can also check for genetically modified ingredients (if it doesn't specifically say it's non-GMO and it's corn or soy, then it likely is), artificial colorings and flavors, or preservatives. 

3. If the label says "made with real fruit..." 
Everyone knows that fresh fruits and veggies are healthy. Sadly, manufacturers take advantage of that trust by slapping this label on anything with a fruit product in it. This may include fruit concentrates, which are essentially just sugar and things like beet juice for coloring. Many popular fruit roll ups are mostly high-fructose corn syrup and food coloring. Sure, some "real" fruit might be in there, but it certainly doesn't have the benefits of an actual piece of fruit. 

Avoid it: Eat real, whole fruits and vegetables. They should have exactly one ingredient.

4. If the label says "made with whole grains..." 
Whole grains are great for providing essential minerals, fiber, and energy, but all this label means is that there are some whole grains somewhere in the product with typical white flour-confusingly called "enriched wheat flour"-as the main ingredient. 

Avoid it: Check the ingredients list . Whole wheat (or some other grain) should be listed first. Ideally it should be the only type of grain used. "100-percent whole grain" is defined by the USDA and means exactly what it says. Look for this label on foods and don't get confused by those that say "8g of whole grains per serving!"-they're just trying to distract you from the fact that it's not made with only whole grains.

5. If the label says "packed with antioxidants..." 
Antioxidants, the latest health wunderkind, are amazing little nutrients and enzymes that inhibit the potentially harmful (but inevitable) process of cellular oxidation. You don't have to understand all the science to know they're incredibly good for you, with everything from anti-cancer to anti-aging benefits. The problem is that this label does not have a formal definition. When you see "packed with antioxidants," it usually means that the food was either made with something that once had antioxidants in it-like fruit juice used for coloring cereal-or that the food was fortified with some vitamins. Unfortunately nutrients extracted from food don't have all the health benefits of nutrients eaten in their natural state. 

Avoid it: Whole fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants-and are easy to recognize.

6. If the label says "sugar-free..." 
Sugar is fine in moderation, but many processed foods contain much more-and in different places than you'd expect. Since ingredients are required to be listed from most to least on food labels, manufacturers often break up the sugar into smaller amounts of lesser-known sugars , making the food appear healthier. Another issue is that real sugar is often replaced with artificial sweeteners, which can cause bloating and stomach discomfort. 

Avoid it: Nutritionally speaking, there's not a huge difference between different types of sneaky sugars so knowing the pseudonyms is half the battle. While there are more than 50 names for the sweet stuff, common tricky ones include brown rice syrup, barley malt, caramel, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, and anything involving corn syrup.

7. If the label says "reduced-fat" or "fat-free"... 
While fats aren't the dietary demon they were made out to be in the past, many health-conscious consumers still seek out lower-fat or fat-free options. But since removing fat also removes flavor, many companies replace fat with sugar. This label is often used as a smoke screen to give an otherwise unhealthy food, like gummy bears, an aura of health. Of course gummy bears have never been made with fat; they're pure sugar. 

Avoid it: Don't be afraid to eat healthy fats in your diet. Even some saturate fats like those found in coconut oil and grass-fed dairy have significant health benefits. Plus, fat is satiating so in the end, you'll eat less and enjoy it more.

8. If the label says "free range or vegetarian fed eggs..." 
Who doesn't prefer to think of happy chickens roaming merrily through a barnyard getting fed by a singing Snow White? The truth is that factory chickens are kept in very tight quarters and "free range" only means they had access to an open door, not that they ever used it. Also, "vegetarian fed" is not a good thing. Chickens are natural omnivores and when they are forced to eat a vegetarian diet (often consisting of processed soy) their eggs contain less nutrition. 

Avoid it: If you are truly concerned about buying fresh, organic, natural, or free-range eggs, local farmers are your best bet. Look for them at farmer's markets or find one on Even if the farm isn't certified organic, many small farmers use the highest standards and are happy to have you come check out their farm.

9. If the label says "no nitrates..."

Nitrates, nitrites, and other artificial preservatives are definitely bad for you, increasing the risk of certain cancers by up to 50 percent. Unfortunately while consumers are getting wise to the evils of nitrates, they're still overlooking other problematic preservatives. 

Avoid it: Check the labels, especially those of processed meats like lunch meats and sausages, for BHA, BHT, benzoates, sulfates, and sorbates, among others.

Sources: Shape Magazine, Yahoo

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

20 Foods to Boost Your Brain Activity in 2012

From EcoSalon, check out these 20 foods to supercharge your brain activity. They are rich in quality fats, antioxidants, and small amounts of the best carbs.  The path to a bigger, better brain is loaded with Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Eat the following foods on a daily or weekly basis for results you will notice. 

20 foods that will supercharge your brain:

1. Avocado
 Start each day with a mix of high-quality protein and beneficial fats to build the foundation for an energized day. Avocado with scrambled eggs provides both, and the monounsaturated fat helps blood circulate better, which is essential for optimal brain function. Worst alternative: a trans-fat-filled, sugar-laden cream cheese Danish. Green it: you don't need to buy an organic avocado - conventional is fine. But make sure your supplementary protein is free range, cage free, or organic. 

2. Blueberries
 These delicious berries are one of the best foods for you, period, but they're very good for your brain as well. Since they're high in fiber and low on the glycemic index, they are safe for diabetics and they do not spike blood sugar. Blueberries are possibly the best brain food on earth: they have been linked to reduced risk for Alzheimer's, shown to improve learning ability and motor skills in rats, and they are one of the most powerful anti-stress foods you can eat. Avoid: dried, sweetened blueberries. Green it: buy local and organic, and be mindful of seasonality. When blueberries are out of season, opt for cranberries, grapes, goji berries, blackberries or cherries to get your brain boost. 

3. Wild Salmon
 Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your brain. These beneficial fats are linked to improved cognition and alertness, reduced risk of degenerative mental disease (such as dementia), improved memory, improved mood, and reduced depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. Wild salmon is a premium source, but we'll highlight a few other sources on this list for vegetarians and people who just don't like salmon. Avoid farmed (read: sea lice infested) salmon. Green it: the California salmon stock is threatened, so choose wild Alaskan salmon only, and eat small portions no more than twice a week. 

4. Nuts contain protein, high amounts of fiber, and they are rich in beneficial fats. For getting an immediate energy boost that won't turn into a spike later, you can't do better than nuts. The complex carbs will perk you up while the fat and protein will sustain you. Nuts also contain plenty of vitamin E, which is essential to cognitive function. You don't have to eat raw, plain, unsalted nuts, but do avoid the ones with a lot of sweetening or seasoning blends. Filberts, hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts are great choices, with almonds being the king of nuts. For those avoiding carbs, macadamia nuts are much higher in fat than most nuts. By the way, peanuts just aren't ideal. Aside from the fact that many people are allergic, peanuts have less healthy fat than many other types of nuts...maybe that's because peanuts are not actually a nut! They're still much better than a candy bar, however. Green it: try to choose organic, raw nuts, and if you can't get those, at least avoid the tins of heavily-seasoned, preservative-laden nuts that may have taken many food miles to get to your mouth. 

5. Seeds
 Try sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and tahini (a tangy, nutty sesame butter that tastes great in replacement of mayo and salad dressing). Seeds contain a lot of protein, beneficial fat, and vitamin E, as well as stress-fighting antioxidants and important brain-boosting minerals like magnesium. Green it: Again, just look for organic and try to avoid the highly-seasoned, processed options. In general, things like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts are pretty low-impact, environmentally speaking, in comparison to meats and cheeses. 

6. Coffee
 Thine eyes do not deceive (even if you are in the midst of a sugar crash). Coffee is good for your brain. Did you know coffee actually contains fiber? That's going to help your cardiovascular system. Coffee also exerts some noted benefit to your brain in addition to providing you with a detectable energy boost. The trick is not to have more than a few cups. But you can safely enjoy 2-4 cups daily - we are talking about supercharging here. Just please don't go ruining a good thing by loading it up with sugar! Espresso beans are actually a phenomenally healthy snack, by the way.Green it: brew yourself some fair-trade organic coffee to benefit both the planet and the workers who grow your beans. Use a thermos instead of a throwaway cup. 

7. Oatmeal
 Nature's scrub brush is one of the best foods for cardiovascular health, which translates to brain health. Additionally, oatmeal is packed with fiber, a reasonable amount of protein, and even a small amount of Omega-3's. It's a good grain that will sustain you throughout the morning so you aren't prone to irritability or an energy crash. Green it: the healthiest oatmeal is the real, steel-cut deal. Steer clear of those little microwavable packets that are loaded with sugar. All that packaging isn't very green. 

8. Beans One more for carb-lovers. (The brain uses about 20% of your carbohydrate intake and it likes a consistent supply.) Beans are truly an amazing food that is sadly overlooked. They're humble, but very smart. Not only are they loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein, they're ridiculously cheap. An entire bag of beans usually costs only a few dollars and will provide many meals. Beans provide a steady, slow release of glucose to your brain - which means energy all day without the sugar crash. Don't go eating a whole platter of frijoles, though - just 1/4 of a cup is fine. Green it: look for heirloom beans that are raised sustainably. 

9. Pomegranate
 Opt for the fruit over the juice so you get more fiber. Pomegranates contain blueberry-like levels of antioxidants, which are essential for a healthy brain. Your brain is the first organ to feel the effects of stress, so anything you can do to offset stress is a smart choice. Green it: pomegranates are seasonal and not generally local for most of us, so enjoy sparingly and rely on other berries like acai, grapes and cherries when you can't get this fruit. 

 Brown Rice is a low-glycemic complex carbohydrate that is excellent for people sensitive to gluten who still want to maintain cardiovascular health. The better your circulation, the sharper your brain. Green it: don't buy the excessively-packaged "boil in a bag" rice packets. Just make up a big batch of brown rice in a rice cooker on Sunday so you have it on hand for easy lunches all week. 

11. Tea
 You have to brew tea fresh or you won't get the benefits of all those catechines (antioxidants) that boost your brain. Because tea has caffeine, don't have more than 2-3 cups daily.Green it: buy organic, fair trade loose leaf or packets to support sustainable business practices. 

12. Chocolate
 Things are looking increasingly better for chocolate. It's got brain-boosting compounds, it's loaded with antioxidants, and it has just the right amount of caffeine. Chocolate sends your serotonin through the roof, so you'll feel happy in short order. Dark chocolate is also rich in fiber. (Remember, fiber = healthy cardiovascular system = healthy brain.) Green it: go for super dark, fair-trade, pure organic chocolate, not the sugary, processed milk chocolate candy bars. 

13. Oysters
 are rich in selenium, magnesium, protein and several other nutrients vital to brain health. In one study researchers found that men who ate oysters reported significantly improved cognition and mood! Not all shellfish are good for you but oysters are a sure bet. Green it: oysters are actually one of the most eco-friendly seafood options, so eat up! 

14. Olive Oil
 Though we know the brain does need a small, steady supply of glucose, don't overlook fat. Studies have consistently shown that a low-fat diet is not the health boon we hoped it would be (remember the 90s low-fat craze?). In fact, avoiding fat can increase foggy thinking, mood swings, and insomnia. A diet rich in healthy fats is essential to clear thinking, good memory, and a balanced mood. Your brain is made of fat, after all. One study of men found that those who relied on the processed vegetable fats found in salad dressings, snacks and prepared foods had 75% higher rates of mental degradation (dementia, memory loss) than men who ate healthy fats. Most processed foods and fast foods use corn oil, palm oil, soybean oil and other Omega-6 fats. You don't want Omega 6 fats. Even saturated fat is safer than Omega 6's. Choose healthy fats such as those present in olive oil, nut butters, nuts and seeds, flax, oily fish, and avocados. Avoid processed fats found in pastries, chips, candy bars, snacks, junk food, fried foods and prepared foods. Eating the wrong fat can literally alter your brain's communication pathways. Green it: look for organic, local, or farmers' market options when it comes to your food. You should also explore herbal remedies for mood swings and brain health. 

15. Tuna In addition to being another rich source of Omega-3's, tuna, particularly yellowfin, has the highest level of vitamin B6 of any food. Studies have shown that B6 is directly linked to memory, cognition and long term brain health. Generally, the B vitamins are among the most important for balancing your mood. B6 in particular influences dopamine receptors (dopamine is one of your "feel good" hormones along with serotonin). My personal cocktail: SAMe (nature's happiness molecule) and a mega-dose of B-complex keeps me humming even when I've got a mountain of work to do. Which, like you, is all the time. Green it: only eat tuna from sustainable fisheries, and if you're looking for a B6 source that is vegetarian, opt for a banana, which contains a third of your day's requirement (tuna offers nearly 60%). 

16. Garlic - the fresher the better - is one of the most potent nutritional weapons in your arsenal. Eat it as much as your significant other can stand. Not only is it fabulous for reducing bad cholesterol and strengthening your cardiovascular system, it exerts a protective antioxidant effect on the brain. Avoid: I know it makes life easier, but don't even think about buying the chopped or peeled garlic. Nutritional benefits = zero. Green it: just choose organic, and go for local if you can get it. 

17. Eggs
 Eggs contain protein and fat to provide energy to your brain for hours, and the selenium in organic eggs is proven to help your mood. You really needn't worry about the overblown cholesterol fears. (I have quite a bit to say on this topic but I'll restrain myself for once.) Green it: choose organic, free range, vegetarian fed eggs. 

18. Green Leafy Vegetables
 Spinach, kale, chard, romaine, arugula, lolla rossa - whatever green you like, eat it daily. Green, leafy vegetables are high in iron (slightly less "green" iron sources include beef, pork and lamb). Americans tend to be deficient in iron, which is too bad, because the deficiency is linked to restless leg syndrome, fatigue, poor mood, foggy thinking, and other cognition issues. Green it: choose organic, and shop at your farmers' market or order from a local CSA. Leave out the red meat a few days a week and rely on a big, well-seasoned green stir fry or salad. 

19. Tomatoes
  don't usually make the brain-boosting food lists. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that is particularly good for your brain - it even helps prevent dementia. You have to cook tomatoes to get the lycopene - take that, raw foodies! Just kidding. But this does mean that ketchup is good for your brain. Although because of the sugar in it, you should look to other sources for most of your lycopene intake, such as fresh tomato sauce. Green it: try to eat tomatoes that are local and get your lycopene in vitamin form when tomatoes aren't in season. You'll know when that is - the tomatoes will be pale, tasteless, and pithy. 

20. Cacao nibs
 That's right, I'm putting chocolate on this list twice. My boyfriend knows I need it. I eat chocolate or cacao nibs daily and I think you might want to consider it, too. Cacao nibs are among the top five most powerful brain foods, right next to wild salmon and blueberries. My girlfriends and I like to mix cacao nibs with frozen blueberries and a generous splash of organic heavy cream while we watch really bad television on Sunday nights. Green it: as long as it's fair trade and organic, it's green. 
Things that drain your brain:

 kills your brain cells outright! Alcohol also interferes with dopamine production. Moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly resveratrol-rich red wine, can help improve your health, but anything beyond a glass or two of wine daily is a recipe for reduced brain function and energy loss. 

Corn Syrup and Sugar
 lead to health problems like diabetes and obesity, and they're terrible for your brain. Don't eat sugar except on special occasions or as an infrequent treat. If you can't cut back that much, try to limit yourself to just two bites of whatever tempts you daily. 

 constricts blood flow to the brain, so while it may "soothe" jittery nerves, smoking will actally reduce your brain function severely - and the effects are cumulative. 

A high carbohydrate lunch
 will make you sleepy and sluggish. Opt for a light meal with some quality protein, such as a salad with grilled chicken breast or vegetables and hummus or wild American shrimp and avocado. 

Sources: EcoSalon, Yahoo

A Few Things Learned in 2011 by Science

Here are some interesting facts learned in 2011, through real Science:

Fat in moderation is good for you.
You need some fat in your diet, even if you're trying to lose weight. The Institute of Medicine recommends that it make up 20 to 35% of your calories. It's the kind of fat that counts. Limit saturated fats, and avoid trans fats in your diet (both kinds can cause health problems), but find a spot for some monounsaturated fats--MUFAs (pronounced MOO-fahs), for short. MUFAs come from the healthy oils found in plant foods such as olives, nuts, and avocados, and may boost metabolism. A report published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a MUFA-rich diet helped people lose small amounts of weight and body fat without changing their calorie intakes. Another report found that a breakfast high in MUFAs could boost calorie burn for 5 hours after the meal, particularly in people with higher amounts of belly fat. 

You get more than just a little help from your friends. 
You get good health, too, if you have the right ones, finds a new Brigham Young University study. A strong social network, especially if it's stacked with healthy pals, improves your chance of living longer by 50%. It doubles your odds of surviving cancer and wards off colds. Friends may even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, says lead study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD. And not having close bonds can be as bad for you as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Be sure to make spending time with the friends who lift you up a priority: It's good for your mood and your health. 

Weight Lifting beats a diet any day. 
Lifting weights could make you lighter-without making any changes to your diet! It's important to incorporate strength training into your routine so you burn calories at an optimal rate all day long, and using heavier weights could help maximize your efforts. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that working out with heavy weights even for as few as 3 to 6 repetitions increased exercisers' sleeping metabolic rate--the number of calories burned overnight--by nearly 8%. That's enough to lose about 5 pounds in a year, even if you did nothing else! 

Fight memory loss with more walks.
Misplacing your keys more than usual these days? Take more walks. Just 40 minutes 3 days a week can help prevent and even reverse memory loss and other effects of aging. That's because moderate exercise increases BDNF, a protein associated with improved memory and learning. Plus, exercise can actually increase brain volume, while non-exercisers experience shrinking-a contributing factor in memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, 21% of Alzheimer's cases are linked to too little physical activity. 

Happiness could be the fountain of youth
"Although medicine is becoming increasingly high-tech and our ability to prevent, diagnose and treat illness continues to grow, there remains a huge mystery around longevity," says contributing editor Holly Phillips, MD. "What is that intangible 'it factor' that makes some people live to 101, and other seemingly healthy people pass away much earlier?" 

Dr. Phillips points to new research that helps us quantify an important but illusive contributor to our overall health: happiness. In a study of 3,853 people ages 52 to 79 years old, those who were the most upbeat were 35% less likely to die in the next five years-even when taking into account socioeconomic status and pre-existing health conditions, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Experts aren't exactly sure how happiness can help extend your life exactly, but speculate one reason may be that positive mood lowers the overall level of stress hormones in your body (stress hormones such as cortisol have been linked with speeding the aging process). 

Sources: yahoo, prevention

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tips to Dramatically Improve Your Workout Routine in 2012

If you are planning to improve your workout routine in 2012, here are great tips from Real Simple publication. Very useful material, enjoy!
1. You Need to Switch Up Your Workouts 
"After doing the same cardio or strength routine three to six times, your body adapts and you burn fewer calories," says Michael Sokol, the owner of One-on-One Fitness Personal Training Services, in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona. Eventually your results--weight loss, muscle definition--will slow down. Also, repeatedly placing stress on the same muscles and joints could lead to an overuse injury. 

Action plan: Once a month, change one thing about your cardio and weight-training regimens: Take a Zumba class in lieu of your Saturday walk, for instance, or use a resistance band instead of dumbbells. Bonus: Mixing things up may help you stick with exercise. A 2001 study conducted at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, found that people who varied their routines enjoyed their workouts more--and exercised more regularly--than did people who went with the same thing every day. 

2. Cardio Isn't the Magic Bullet for Weight Loss
While biking, running, and walking are great for your heart, "research suggests that it's difficult to lose fat when you do only cardiovascular activity," says Jeff Halevy, a celebrity trainer and the CEO of Halevy Life, a health and fitness service company in New York City. Although aerobic exercise will burn calories, it doesn't really change your metabolism. What does: lean muscle mass. "Muscle helps you burn more calories even after your workout is over," says Halevy. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (the baseline amount of calories you burn in a day), says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., the director of fitness research at Quincy College, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Women tend to lose five to seven pounds of muscle in each decade of adulthood--one reason why the pounds creep on as we get older. Westcott's research has found that if you do strength training three times a week, you can add an average of three pounds of muscle in about three months, increasing your metabolism by 6 to 7 percent. 

Action plan: Keep doing cardio three times a week, but add two or three strength-training workouts. Aim to work all the major muscles over the week; complete one to two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. To get started, check out the website of the American Council on Exercise for an extensive library of weight-training moves. 

3. Wimpy Weights Will Get You Nowhere 
According to the "overload principle," for muscles to become stronger, they have to be challenged with a load that's heavier than what they're used to. (Think about the weight of your handbag--dinky three-pound dumbbells just don't compare.) Without challenging your muscles, "you can't substantially strengthen or tone them," says Halevy. 

Action plan:
 Choose a weight that you can lift for only 10 to 15 repetitions before losing good form--trainers call this "working to failure." (That doesn't mean your arms should feel like noodles when you're done, or that you can't bang out a second set after a minute or two of rest.) Don't worry: You won't bulk up. "Women's bodies have a biological limit on how much muscle mass they can build," says Halevy. "It's hard for women to get big without using steroids." 
4. Muscles Come in Pairs; Train Them that Way 
Most of us focus on what trainers call the mirror muscles--the ones you see when you look in the mirror (biceps, quadriceps). But just as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every muscle has a mate that works in the opposite way. For example, you use your triceps to extend your arm and your biceps to bend it. To avoid imbalances that can lead to injury, it's essential to train both equally. 

Action plan:
 Consider doing weight training in what's known as a split. Work, say, your biceps and hamstrings one day, then your triceps and quadriceps the next. This way, you'll hit every muscle pair over the course of a week. One exception: the back muscles. "Many women have weak back muscles from working at a computer all day," says Carly Pizzani, a New York City-based personal trainer. If you're deskbound from nine to five, follow a two-to-one ratio when working your back and chest. That is, for every exercise you do for the chest, do two for the back. 

5. Crunches Aren't Crucial for Strong Abdominals 
"They're not the best exercise choice, because they strengthen only a few of the muscles in your core," says Pizzani. What's more, if your abs are weak, doing crunches could cause a strain on your neck, since you'll probably be pulling on it in an effort to lift your torso. 

Action plan:
 Although you don't have to eliminate crunches from your repertoire, you'll get more bang for your buck with moves that work the entire core area. The plank is a good one: Lie facedown on the floor with palms down and forearms under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and tighten your abs to lift your torso. Keep your body in one line from head to feet. Hold for 30 seconds. 

Sources: Real Simple, Shine Yahoo