The Butterfly Pavilion is a great way to spend a rainy day

Making the most of a rainy day in Denver

From the beautiful scenery to wonderful weather, living in Colorado certainly has its advantages. Lately though our state hasn’t felt like itself, with rain and snow hitting the Front Range nearly every day for the past month – which doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Don’t let a rainy day dampen your spirits, or ruin your memorial day plans; here are some fun ideas to have a great time with the whole family regardless of the weather.

Ski A-Basin. There’s one ski resort in the state with lifts still running. All the rain along the Front Range means snow at higher elevations. With a 60 inch base and all of its blue and black diamond runs open, not to mention reduced ticket prices for spring, there is still plenty of skiing to be had.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. From sprawling exhibits of dinosaurs, some of which once roamed the very grounds the museum is located on, all the way to the depths of space – The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has so much to offer to young and old alike. Its dozen or more (depending on new exhibits) exhibitions will keep you entertained through the day. A planetarium and IMAX screen on site are also great ways to combine entertainment and education.

Butterfly Pavilion. The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO features more than 5000 species of invertebrates. These misunderstood creatures constitute over 97% of species on Earth, and there is so much to learn about these creepy crawlies. At the end of your tour you might even get the opportunity to hold the famous Rosie, a rose haired tarantula.

Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Constructed in 1994 on the grounds of what is former Lowry Air Force Base, this museum features about 40 aircraft which once flew over our skies. You can view the history of the Air Base from the early 30’s across the century, seeing the airplanes that led our armies to victories in numerous theaters of war around the world.

Denver Aquarium. The largest aquarium between California and Chicago, the Denver Aquarium features more than 500 different species from all corners of the globe. A trip to the aquarium will take you to the jungles of Southeast Asia where Tigers roam, to the deserts of the Southwestern US putting you in the middle of a fast flood. It’s a great resource to learn about the importance of water in the Western US.

A rainy doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Make the most out of this weather by taking advantage of many of our great local museums and zoos, learning a thing or two along the way.

Brain Health Shmrain Health: Keys to Healthy Brain Living

When you think about health what comes to mind? Nutrition, fitness, maybe even stress-relieving activities? What about brain health? Cognitive decline is a scary concept, but what can we do about it? Studies have shown that embracing healthy lifestyle habits not only improves one’s overall health but can also slow and even halt cognitive decline. It’s never too late to actively protect your brain. From teenage years into elderly living, the brain continually rewires and adapts. Start protecting your brain by adopting a lifestyle that includes plenty of exercise, a nutritious diet and staying cognitively and socially active. Read on to learn how these easy changes can keep your brain mentally sharp.

Exercise
Staying physically fit is the number one way to stay mentally fit. Similar to car care, brain tune-ups will not only increase performance but longevity as well. Sedative lifestyles without physical fitness negatively impacts brain function. The number one cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia is the building up of plaque in the brain. Decreased blood flow from lack of cardiovascular activities allows unchecked plaque growth, increasing the chances of, amongst other factors, cognitive decline. It’s never too late to start. Join the local gym, take exercise classes and start running, jogging, or walking. Start improving your brain and body health today.

Nutrition
Like mom used to say, always eat your veggies! Vegetables and fruit should be consumed everyday. Alzheimer’s Association research has indicated that low-saturated and low-fat diets reduce chances of heart disease and cognitive decline. Decrease your intake of fats, red meats, sweets and sugared beverages and sodium. Focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Instead of butter, try healthy fats such as olive oil. Instead of salt, try incorporating herbs and spices. Many diseases of the body are linked to diet and consumption. Choose a healthier diet to protect your heart and mind.

Mental Sharpness
Challenging yourself is a sure way to improve mental fitness. Learning a new skill, developing a hobby and reading more are just a few examples of positive mental activities. Start playing table tennis. Table tennis is the best activity for your brain, and is one of the few physical activities considered a ‘brain sport’. Table tennis improves motor skills, strategy, memory and is a great social activity. Stay mentally sharp, use it or lose it!

Socially Active
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, social engagement is associated with reduced rates of disability and may also reduce the risk of depression. Instead of messaging someone online, talk to them in person or call them on the phone. Strike up conversations with others and listen to what they have to say. Social engagement is a fundamental element for self-sustainability and preservation. Protect your noggin and get social.

Start protecting your brain today. Body builders did not become chiseled by exercising every now and again. Dedication to their craft got them to their goal. You too can reach your goals by setting small objectives to reach, building up confidence and genuine fulfillment. Make plans to set aside time for your brain. Make notes and keep track of activities. Log your achievements and work towards bettering your mind and body. Brain health should be a serious concern. Living a healthy lifestyle has permeable effects on your life and those around you. Stay active, eat healthy and socialize. Challenge yourself along the way and promote healthy living in everything you do.

Take Care of Yourself First to Stay Merry and Bright this Holiday Season

Hanukkah has started and Christmas Day is just one week away, quickly followed by Kwanzaa and New Years. This special time is synonymous with spending time with family and friends, feasting, opening presents, attending holiday parties and more. However, too often we lose the meaning behind what makes this time of year special by getting overwhelmed with our holiday to-do lists. Amid the rush of last minute shopping, wrapping and baking stress can take the “ho-ho-ho” out of the festivities.

According to Everyday Health (http://bit.ly/1wZYocY), stress can cause forgetfulness and concentration loss, acne, headaches, nausea and a weakened immune system. Here are some tips to help de-stress so you can enjoy every minute of holiday magic:

Plan Ahead: Balancing numerous responsibilities and expectations is one of the primary causes of stress during the holidays, especially during the final days of preparation. Plan ahead to manage your time. Some things can wait; make lists to prioritize tasks and take care of the most urgent matters first. Utilize evenings after the kids are asleep to wrap gifts or address Christmas cards while cookies are baking in the oven. Don’t forget to schedule time for the fun stuff also: watching holiday movies, decorating the tree or going ice-skating.

Exercise. The importance of this can’t be reiterated enough. Exercising is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Whether running, walking, doing yoga, lifting weights or skiing—get moving! Health.com promotes physical activity, which give you natural stress relieving endorphins and boost your mood for up to 12 hours (http://bit.ly/1wGrlIL). You will also sleep better if you keep active – and sleep is key to stress reduction. Plus, a little daily sweat will keep those extra pounds off and ensure you feel great at every holiday party!

Eat Well. We are what we eat. Eating well is essential for improving overall mood and staying stress free. Eating unhealthy foods can make us feel sluggish and tired, not to mention adding unnecessary pounds during an already indulgent time of year. Make sure you eat breakfast everyday, especially before shopping and baking marathons, to feel full and satisfied. Pack a granola bar, some fresh veggies or a few hard-boiled eggs to eat on the go when hunger strikes rather than resorting to fast food or treats. When you do try those cookies or sweet treats, add something with protein to temper the sugar high – and low.

Practice Mindfulness. We can spend far too much time looking forward to and preparing for an upcoming event that we forget to enjoy the present – and the event. Stop and look around to see all you have for which to be grateful. In addition – try as much as possible to stick with your normal routine—continue book club, yoga, or whatever ‘me’ time you take for yourself. Living in the now can help you appreciate what you already have, rather than thinking about what isn’t done. Watch a holiday movie with your kids, go-out for a romantic date night—before we know it, the season will be past. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, close your eyes and take three or four deep breaths to re-center your mood. And remember the joy of the season – research shows that doing a small something that’s nice for someone else – as simple as smiling – will improve your day even more than theirs.

Say no. Learning to say no is important for staying stress free. Getting caught up trying to please everyone makes us forget about ourselves. If you don’t have time to do a favor for a friend or committing to another social engagement might increase stress levels, it’s fine to say no. Sometimes, simply accepting that not everything needs to be perfect can greatly reduce stress. Again, prioritize what is most important, and be willing to let some other stuff slide in favor of your mental well-being.

Appreciate the true magic of the season by keeping your stress in check. Have other tips to keep calm and still celebrate? Share them with us in the comments below.

Christmas Holiday Gift Guide

It’s very difficult to find the perfect balance of a great gift: something the recipient will use, thoughtful for their lifestyle, and doesn’t break the bank. The best gifts though have benefits that go beyond their use. We have compiled a gift guide for the special someone in your life, whatever their interests, and promotes a healthier lifestyle and community at the same time.

For the Athlete:

Yoga Mat ($20). A yoga mat makes an excellent holiday gift. It’s an inexpensive hobby since a yoga mat is the only piece of equipment needed. Yoga provides an excellent source of exercise and mindfulness that improves both physical and mental well-being.

Foam Roller ($20-100). A simple, yet effective tool designed to provide therapeutic relief to areas constantly beat up by physical activity. These work well for injury prevention as well as soothing aches and pains. Here’s a guide on how to use a foam roller properly.

For the Techie:

Fitness bands ($70-200+). Alongside advances in wearable technology, Fitness bands are becoming an effective and popular tool to track personal fitness habits and progress. Some of the more popular models are the FitBit ($93), Garmin ($70), and Nike Fuel ($149). These bands sync with your Smartphone, tablet, or computer to relay information about your fitness progress. Other features include step tracking, sleep and heartbeat monitor, and GPS coordination.

Soundpeats Wireless Earbuds ($40). No more hassling with tangled wires! Wireless headphones are exactly as advertised, wireless. Using Bluetooth technology these earphones allow seamless streaming of music from iPod to earphone.

For the Foodie:

Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook ($21). This book is ideal for those who have trouble finding time to prepare healthy meals. Every recipe can be made ahead of time, which means less time in the kitchen and more time spent enjoying the meal with your loved ones.

Fred the Obsessive Chef: Beechwood Cutting Board ($15). Perfect for the most anal chefs. Chop even veggies using the guides on this board. Grids make everything from dicing to julienne style cuts easy. 

For the Fashioista:

Nike Legend Pant ($70). Possibly Nike’s best legging ever. A wider waistband provides maximum comfort and coverage. Available in both, yoga and tights styles these will make you looking great and comfortable for any activity.

Smith Polarchromatic Sunglasses ($219). The tortoise shell pattern looks great in both professional and recreational settings, and the chromatic technology from Smith is designed to change the tint of the lenses according to lighting conditions. Polarized lenses block glare, and maximize the wearer’s personal comfort.

The Holiday season is a time for giving. This season, give something you know the special people in your life are going to love.

Giving Thanks for Good Health

Amid the holiday hustle and bustle, I often find myself reflecting on my life—feeling thankful for everything I have and wanting to give to others less fortunate. There can be a lot of pressure this time of year: shopping, baking, cooking and party planning. However, much of the meaning behind the holiday season has been diluted.

Expressing gratitude can improve your mood and, on a long-term basis, even has health benefits. Here are three positive benefits from expressing gratitude:

  1. Bolsters our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Recognizing how much we have— loved ones in our lives, living in a free country, access to clean water—somehow makes our life feel more significant and improve self-esteem.
  2. Helps build social bonds. Thanksgiving, and the season in general, brings families and friends together from across the nation. We get so caught up in our busy lives, we lose touch with one another. Thanksgiving reminds us why our loved ones are so important, and how lucky we are to have them. Improved social bonds has been linked to increasing overall happiness and health.
  3. Strengthens relationships. There’s nothing more endearing than a heart felt expression of gratitude. Certainly you have done something, at work or home, and felt you weren’t being recognized or appreciated. A simple “thank you” improves mood and makes others feel valued.

Gratitude shouldn’t disappear as the holidays pass, try to make this a daily occurrence. Here are a few ideas to practice gratitude beyond Thanksgiving into the New Year:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down something you are thankful for every day. Over time, you will develop greater mindfulness as you notice more and more things you appreciate in your life. In fact, studies show this actually helps treat or prevent depression. Simple things you may have taken for granted will gain greater meaning; a bird singing outside your window, the sound of children playing in your front yard, the warmth of a winter fire.
  2. Imagine yourself in another’s shoes. Sometimes taking a moment to appreciate another’s perspective and experiences not only helps us understand who they are, but also makes us thankful for our own background.
  3. Give back. Nothing says thank you more than giving to others. Whether delivering food to the needy, spending time volunteering or just buying another’s drink at Starbucks, paying it forward is a great way to express gratitude.

Tomorrow as you’re carving the turkey or slicing into that pumpkin pie, take a moment to really appreciate all the good around. Make gratitude an integral part of your day, and you can be on your way to a happier, healthier, and more gratuitous life. How else do you show what you’re thankful for?

3 Ways to Keep off those Holiday Pounds

It might seem early for Christmas music and Hanukkah lights, but every year the holiday season seems to start a little sooner. As soon as the Halloween decorations are put away it’s time for Christmas lights, Hanukkah celebrations, pilgrims and turkey. Last week we talked about national diabetes awareness month, and how staying at a healthy weight greatly reduces your risk of developing Type II diabetes. The holidays make it hard to prevent putting on a few extra pounds, but we want to give you some ways to be proactive against those pounds.

Here are three areas that are most effective to help stave off the holiday weight gain:

Stay Active. People spend far more time indoors during this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you should allow the cold to keep you from exercising and staying active.

Colorado is arguably one of the best states for winter recreation look into picking up a winter hobby like skiing or snowshoeing. Or, if you really don’t like cold weather, get yourself a gym membership to avoid the shivers entirely.

Another idea is to take up a fitness class or join an indoor sports team (hockey or soccer, anyone?). Group activities are fun and make it easier to fulfill your fitness commitment. You can always find fitness videos online too, and there’s enough variety to do just about anything you want. BeFit’s YouTube Channel is an amazing resource for numerous types of workouts (abs, yoga, aerobic and anaerobic cardio) that you can perform without ever having to leave your living room. Remember, lack of exercise is the number one reason why people gain weight during the Holidays, so get moving.

Smart Tip: Aim for 3-30 minute sweat sessions a week minimum to elevate heart rate and kick start your metabolism and keep off the holiday weight gain.

Drink Water. It’s perhaps the unofficial motto of our state, and staying hydrated is just as important during the cooler months. Doctors recommend you drink at least eight-8oz glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated promotes a healthy body overall, and helps fight infections and illness as well as stimulating your metabolism to burn extra calories.

Drinking water also helps curb appetite. People often mistake thirst with hunger pains, and will grab something to snack failing to satisfy the initial craving. Try this—next time you start to feel hungry, grab a glass of water instead. Having 2 glasses of water during meals will help you feel full faster and has the side benefit of helping your metabolism process your meal.

Smart Tip: Carry a full bottle with you to drink in between meals-must finish before next meal.

Find healthy substitutes. Who doesn’t love the holiday feasts? But many holiday favorites are high in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fats—substitute them for healthier alternatives. Everyday Health has some great suggestions for substitutes of popular holiday food and drinks.

A personal favorite are roasted sweet potatoes. Simply cut and brush the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, maybe some honey and cinnamon for additional flavor, and stick them in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. They are naturally sweet, full off vitamins and nutrients, and at only 100 calories a serving they make for a great substitute for candied yams.

Smart Tip: Indulgences help us not feel deprived. Look at your calendar and decide when to indulge each week, maybe at your company holiday party, or best friends cookie exchange. You deserve that treat!

There’s a reason Santa is a fat and jolly ol’ man. It’s because he eats cookies and drinks milk all day. Exercise, stay hydrated, and make smart and informed decisions with your diet and you’ll be on your way to a healthy holidays and an even healthier New Year.