Does your workout fall flat without musical accompaniment? If your MP3 player is just as vital to your exercise regimen as your running shoes are, you're probably on the perpetual hunt for inspirational or energetic playlists. But do you know how your musical choices influence your performance, mood and health?
According to Costas Karageorghis, co-author of Inside Sport Psychology (Human Kinetics, 2011) and a reader in sport psychology at Brunel University in London, England, music can enhance workouts in several unique ways. Having completed over 20 years of research on the benefits of music-fuelled exercise, Karageorghis provides the scientific scoop on crafting the perfect playlist. How music affects your performance It's true! Breaking a sweat does feel easier when you have a soundtrack wafting through your headphones.
"Music reduces the perception of how hard we feel that we're working," explains Karageorghis. However, this effect only comes into play when you're exercising at a low or moderate intensity. If you're working out at a high intensity – feeling breathless and experiencing aches from the normal buildup of lactic acid in your muscles – music won't mask the feelings of extreme physical exertion, but it can still make you feel happy.
"Despite the fact that music doesn't influence what you feel at high intensities, it can influence how you feel," says Karageorghis. "In other words, it colours the interpretation of fatigue and enhances mood. It can make exercise more pleasurable and elevate the positive aspects of mood, such as vigour, happiness and excitement, while decreasing negative aspects, such as tension, depression, anger and fatigue."
And if you swear that exercising to your favourite tunes gives you the urge to add an extra bounce to your step, you're onto something.
"If you carefully monitor the rates of your movements, and you get music that is very slightly above that, by consciously synchronizing your movements to the rhythmical qualities of the music in a fastidious way, you will get a 15 per cent increase in your endurance," says Karageorghis.
This synchronous effect of music is actually more beneficial for the average active person than it is for elite athletes, who are more attuned to their own well-developed rhythms.
Factors to consider when creating a playlist Stitching songs together randomly won't result in a playlist that motivates or entertains. Crafting the perfect playlist takes careful consideration. First of all, Karageorghis recommends that you evaluate your audience. If you're a trainer crafting a playlist for your clients, pay attention to their background and musical preferences.
"If you're working with basketball players in the Bronx, and you play Brit Pop, it probably wouldn't go down too well. You need that cultural match," he explains.
The second factor for playlist supremacy is considering the activity that you or your client will be doing. Ideally, you want the rhythmic elements of the music to fit the workout.
"The music that you select for different activities varies greatly in accordance with the mental and physical state that is associated with optimal performance in those activities," says Karageorghis.
Here's where beats per minute (BPM) can make or break your playlist. For a relatively sedate, meditative activity, such as yoga, slow tempo music in the range of 60 to 90 BPM would be perfect. "Take an artist like Enigma. Their track ‘Return to Innocence' has a tempo of 88 BPM – that might be ideal for a yoga session," says Karageorghis. "If you're lifting weights, you'll need something more up-tempo with a hard edge and affirmations in the lyrics. A classic would be ‘Push It' by Salt-N-Pepa (130 BPM)."
For power walking, jogging or other activities where synchronizing your movements to the music can boost your endurance, choosing tracks with 125 to 140 BPM hits the workout sweet spot. In his research, Karageorghis has cited Rihanna's discography as one that contains multiple songs in the 120 to 130 BPM range, like "Don't Stop the Music." He also mentions The Black Eyed Peas tune "The Time (Dirty Bit)" (128 BPM), LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It" (130 BPM) and Maroon 5's "Move Like Jagger" (130 BPM). If you're pushing your body to its limits with high-intensity running, "Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)" by The Pussycat Dolls (137 BPM) is hard to beat.
"The trick is to use music functionally in accordance with who you are, what it is that you're doing and how hard you are doing it," says Karageorghis. "The relationship that we have with music is very personal. It's not necessarily one size fits all."
It's also important to tailor your playlist to mirror your exercise heart rate, advises Karageorghis. Start with relatively slow tracks during your warm-up and then progress to faster songs as you hit the high-intensity portion of your workout. As you prepare to cool down, listening to slower paced tunes will help cap off a winning workout.
Still need some playlist help? Check out free exercise playlists on Songza, which is available on your computer or as a smartphone app.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.
Breathe new life into this wardrobe staple with a bit of style inspiration.
There's a reason why we love the white button-down. Whether it's oversized, fitted, short sleeve, cropped, silk or cotton, it's always a chic—but unfussy—way to embrace classic style. But, like even the most stylish women, we sometimes get stuck in a fashion rut. Which is why we pulled together some great white button-down shirt looks from some seriously stylish women. Discover new and fresh ways to wear a white button-down below.
There's nothing chicer than a casual white button-down shirt under a blazer. Keep the look modern with boyfriend jeans and patent brogues—extra points for embracing metallic.
You can make this borrowed-from-the-boys piece feminine in an old school way by pairing it with a pleated midi skirt and sharp kitten heels.
If you're worried about a white on white look, just remember to play with texture. The silk shirt paired with crisp denim and leather shoes makes this look a winner.
Embrace the menswear vibe of this piece by pairing it with a classic black blazer and trousers—though we might recommend ditching the tie to avoid any waiter confusion.
Keep this piece cozy by topping it with an oversized knit. We especially love the addition of a statement piece of jewellery.
Pair your button-down with tailored separated for the office. A pencil skirt (in a fun print or colour) plus chic heels is a no-brainer when it comes to professional dressing.
This look is for the bold. Pair statement pants and shoes with a white button-down and a classic blazer. Think of this as business on top and party on the bottom.
Put a little prep in your step with trousers, loafers and fun socks. For the extra preppy, add a fisherman knit and drape it over your shoulders. Very refined gentleman, no?
Learn the basics of setting your dinner table with these helpful tips from The Marilyn Denis Show's Charles the Butler.
While fashion in table settings has changed over the centuries, affecting the flatware, glassware and china we use, the method of setting a table remains exactly the same.
This is the basic method I recommend:
1. Set just one place setting first. Don't try to set the entire table at once as there will only be more to undo if you don't like how it looks. Make sure the placement is correct and that you are happy with it.
2. Next, take the rest of the chargers or main course platesand place them around the table where you want to position all the other place settings. Keep the spacing between settings equidistant. Once they are properly positioned, organize utensils and glassware around them.
3. Check for symmetry. Why do we care so much about this? Because the human eye loves symmetry. When things are not symmetrical our eye sees imperfection. Use the butler stick (a specialized yard stick designed for precise place settings) for this!
The North American place setting
In this table setting, the glasses form a diamond shape above the cutlery, with the first glass placed directly above the main course knife (inside, right). The dessert spoon and the fork are at the top of the plate, and above them is the place card. Guests use the cutlery from the outside moving in. This place setting starts with a soup course (spoon, outside right), moves on to a salad (fork, outside left), a fish course (middle fork and knife) and a meat course (inside fork and knife).
The Asian place setting
In Asia, unlike the Western world, there is no standard for formal place settings at tables. In fact, the focus is on the food rather than the place setting. The diagram shows a typical place setting, but it can easily be changed to suit your needs without making any errors of etiquette.
Using a butler's stick
One of the first rules of formal table setting is the 24-inch rule. This refers to the ideal amount of space from the centre of one plate to the centre of the next plate, allowing each guest plenty of elbow room. You may need to decrease the distance if your table is not large enough to allow 24 inches between settings.
A trend in Asian table settings is to provide two sets of chopsticks: an inner set for personal use, and the outer set to be used by guests when helping themselves to communal food.
The ideal distance from the back of a chair to the edge of the table is also 24 inches. This allows guests to sit comfortably. A good butler will use his or her butler stick to take these two measurements.
Today, few people use butler sticks to set their daily dinner tables, and to be truthful, even the contemporary butler doesn't necessarily use the tool every day. But when there is a special occasion—such as an important family birthday or anniversary—the butler stick can be of use.
This is how a professional butler would set the dining table with a butler stick:
Align the bottom of the butler stick with the edge of the table. The baseline for a place setting should be about one inch from the edge of the table—the width of the butler stick.
Align all the cutlery, the plate and the napkin to touch the top of the butler stick. This will create the perfect straight edge for your place setting. The plate should be centred at the 0, the centre of the butler stick.
Ideally, place the first knife 1 to 1.5 inches away from the plate. Continue using this same metric for the rest of the cutlery so that it is all equidistant. You may choose to reduce the amount of space between items of cutlery if your table space is limited. What's important is to keep everything consistent.
As you move around the table creating each place setting, use the same measurements.
To help achieve a beautiful place setting, strive for accuracy, and horizontal and vertical symmetry.
Summer grilling doesn't just brings out the best get-togethers, but also the best in barbecued steaks. Don't throw your t-bones and sirloins into the grill just yet. Our easy-to-follow recipes for marinades for steak will give your meat a hearty flavour-boost that'll please all meat-lovers in your family.
The best way to add some flavour to your steaks is by whipping together some great marinades for steak and letting the meat soak up the amazing flavours. If you love exotic spices, try bathing your steak in a Five-Spice Marinade, which is flavour-packed with Chinese five-spice powder. Or, mix together cumin, paprika, garlic and lemon juice for a hot and zesty Moroccan Marinade.
Want something simple and classic? A quick Salt and Pepper Steak Rub is a perfect addition to any barbecue.
You can also try brushing your steaks on the grill with some Sweet Smoky Tomato Basting Sauce, a delicious mix of tomatoes, apple cider and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Now get out and get grilling with some of these delicious marinades for steak.
10 tasty marinades for steak:
1.Salt and Pepper Steak Rub The classic combination of black pepper and coriander seeds is delicious on thick, juicy steaks, such as T-bones, sirloins or strip loins.
2.Sweet Smoky Tomato Basting Sauce This sauce mellows out considerably when brushed over meat on the grill, but it also packs a punch of flavour when served as a side sauce at the table. For doubly delicious results, use it to baste while grilling and serve extra sauce at the table.
3.Moroccan Marinade Got a pantry of spices? Stir together a few tablespoons of cumin and paprika with cinnamon, garlic and lemon juice for a flavour-filled marinade, perfect for grilling meat and poultry.
4. Universal Spice Rub Keep this simple all-purpose rub on hand for a last-minute flavour boost. You can rub it onto steak, ribs, brisket, chicken, fish or seafood before putting them on the barbecue.
5. Chili Orange Marinadeâ€¨ Love the taste of orange? Try whipping together orange juice, orange rind, tomato paste and chili powder for a flavour-packed marinade, perfect for grilling steaks or chicken.
6. Lemon Pepper Marinadeâ€¨ This zesty mix of lemon rind, lemon juice, garlic and peppercorns makes a delicious marinade for grilling steak and chicken.
7. Five-Spice Marinade Want add a punch of flavour to your steak? Bathe your steaks with a marinade of Chinese five-spice powder, gingerroot, onion, cayenne pepper, soy sauce and orange juice.
8. Cajun Spice Mix Add some spice to your steaks. Mix together some brown sugar, paprika, cumin, dry mustard and hot pepper flakes and lather it onto your sirloins, kabobs and T-bones. 9. Mediterranean Spice Mix If you're interested in adding a milder flavour to your steak, whip together some rosemary, cumin, oregano and cinnamon for a sweet and delicate flavour.
10. Adobo Marinade Love jalapenos? Soak your steaks with this spicy marinade, made of garlic, lime juice, cumin, oregano and a hot jalapeno pepper.