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Wellness

What contaminants are lurking in your water?

“Is my water safe to drink?” –this is something we all wonder on occasion. We like to think our water is clean and free of contaminants, but what exactly is in tap water?

Sometimes we can taste the heavy metals in our tap water, a strong chlorine smell, or even feel the dirt and silt as we’re gargling the water down. Sometimes we don’t taste, smell or feel anything in the tap water, but this doesn’t always mean it’s safe to drink.

Contaminants or waterborne pollutants aren’t always detectable by our human senses, so waterborne illnesses sometimes are attributed to other external factors instead of the water source. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that water sources near agricultural or industrial plants may contain pollutants from these facilities like pesticides, fertilizers, lead, or other chemicals. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies potential health risks from contaminated water—such as increased cancer risk, reproductive issues, and impair organ function, to name a few.

In an article by the New York Times, scientists like Dr. Griffiths, the former chairman of the EPA’s Drinking Water Committee noted that there are thousands of chemicals, viruses and microbes that the EPA has not even begun to assess, which leaves a big question mark on whether or not our water is safe. There is a slew of contaminants that can be harmful to your health. Constantly ingesting these contaminants can lead to chronic illnesses, cancer, and other health issues. To better understand what’s in our water, let’s start with the most common contaminants in tap water.

Lead

Lead can contaminate water through lead service lines that connect the home to main water lines, or from other plumbing systems soldered with lead. Some drinking water fountains, lab faucets, sinks, hoses, and spigots are connected to lead-lined water tanks. Aging pipes and corrosion of household plumbing systems can lead to lead pollution in water. The CDC notes that lead is a toxic metal and can be harmful to human health even at low levels so the maximum contaminant level is set to zero. Despite this, some water goes unregulated; this is evident in the case of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

For those of you who don’t know, the residents of Flint have been served lead-polluted water for several years now. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points out that “nearly 9,000 children were supplied lead-contaminated water for 18 months”—a severe detriment to the health of those children and many other residents of the area. Make no mistake—Flint is just one case where lead poisoning is widespread. Many cities across the country are faced with varying levels of lead in their water.

Chlorine

Water treatment facilities add chlorine as an antimicrobial agent. Chlorine deters the growth and presence of bio-contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and mold. Failure for municipalities to regulate sufficient amounts of chlorine in water mains can lead to waterborne illnesses and bacterial contamination. Flint faced a similar issue where levels of fecal coliform bacteria were discovered in city water. Adding more chlorine, however, is not the be-all-end-all. Chlorination of water can elevate levels of total trihalomethanes (TTHM), by-products of chlorination known to cause cancer. In a 2008 study, scientists determined that the presence of chlorinated disinfection by-products in drinking water was an issue of public health, posing health risks such as cancer in males and adverse developmental effect on infants.

Fluoride

Fluorides are compounds of the element fluorine with another substance. They can naturally occur in the ground, air, water and even plant and animal sources. Fluoridation of water began in the US in 1945 when scientists noticed that people living in areas with high fluoride levels had fewer cavities. That should be a good thing, right? Natural drinking water sources in the US also have fluoride in them, but some areas contain more fluoride than others. In fact, long-term exposure to high levels of fluoride can result in a condition known as skeletal fluorosis–fluoride build-up in the bones. Fluoride tends to collect in parts of the body with high levels of calcium resulting in joint stiffness, pain, and this brittleness can cause weak bones and fractures in older adults.

Mercury

Mercury is a toxic element that can be found in waterways near refineries, factories, landfills, and cropland. High levels of mercury exposure can lead to kidney damage, brain damage, and damage to a developing fetus. Other health effects include effects on brain function, vision, hearing, or memory issues.

Cadmium

Cadmium naturally occurs in zinc, lead and copper ores, in coal and other fossil fuels, and in shales released during volcanic activity, which come in contact with water sources. However, cadmium can release into the water during the corrosions of galvanized pipes, discharged from metal refineries, and be a result of runoff from waste batteries and paints. When consumed long-term, it can cause kidney, liver, bone, and even blood damage.

Copper

Your body needs copper to stay healthy, but too much is harmful to your health. High levels of copper in your drinking water can not only leave an unfavorable metallic taste, but it can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal issues, and headaches.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient for the body—of course in the right volumes. However, ingesting zinc in high levels of zinc can cause stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. You might experience the taste in tap water (it’s chalky in appearance). Contamination usually occurs from hazardous waste sites.

Benzene

Benzene is released into water from atmospheric deposition, petrol spills and other petroleum products, and chemical plant effluents. Based on a study by the WHO, benzene has been detected in 50-60% of potable water samples from 30 treatment facilities across Canada. It can also be formed naturally through volcanoes and forest fires and is a natural part of cigarette smoke, crude oil, and gasoline. Benzene is also used as a solvent in dry cleaning, paints, printing, etc. Benzene enters water as discharge from industrial factories or leaching from landfills and gas storage tanks. Repeated exposure at low levels of benzene produces toxic levels in the blood and blood-forming tissues.

Asbestos

Sources of asbestos contamination in drinking water include the dissolution of asbestos-containing minerals and ores, industrial effluents, atmospheric pollution, and A/C pipes in water distribution systems. This substance was used in cement pipes to distribute water across the US. As the water pipes decay, the substance is released into the water. According to a water sanitation study by the WHO, most of the US population consumes drinking water containing asbestos below 1 MFL, and suggests that most raw and treated waters in the United Kingdom contain asbestos up to 1 MFL. Asbestos is a known carcinogenic contaminant and may lead to cancer in humans.

VOCs

VOCs, also known as Volatile Organic Compounds include a slew of chemicals. Organic chemicals are widely used in various industries and products like paints, varnishes, wax, disinfecting, and even cosmetic products. Since there is such a wide variety of pollutants, health risks also vary greatly depending on levels of exposure and length of time exposed. Some effects include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, liver, and kidney damage.

Radon

Radon is a known cancer-causing substance found in water from wells. Approximately half of the drinking water in the US comes from groundwater that is tapped by wells. The water moves through the soil and natural uranium releases radon to the water. As a result, water from wells usually contain more radon than surface water (lakes and streams).

Bio-contaminants

Bio-contaminants include microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and mold. These contaminants can develop organically in water (they LOVE water). Moist areas become the perfect breeding ground for bio-contaminants, which can lead to illnesses and other waterborne diseases. Without antimicrobial agents like chlorine, water is left vulnerable to bio-contamination, which is why the treatment of water with chlorine is so widespread in certain areas.

Bio-contamination perhaps proposes a more serious risk for most of the world. In an article by the Guardian, Microbiologist Joan Rose experienced first-hand the tragedies that can come from bio-contamination in water. In Walkerton, Canada’s worst-ever water pollution incidents, two pathogens entered into the water supply and many of the small town’s residents fell ill and some even died. This was caused by runoff from local agriculture. Incidents like this stem from overall pollution and increased waste around the world. Most waste goes into water, which introduces different waterborne diseases, viruses, and pathogens which are making people sick at alarming rates.

Pharmaceuticals

The EPA lists pharmaceuticals as potentially risky contaminants in water. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications get into lakes, rivers, and streams, whether they are flushed down the toilet or down sink drains. A Harvard Health Letter indicates that water quality experts and environmental advocates are becoming increasingly concerned with the effects of this on human health. Compounds such as estrogen have been linked to sexual changes in fish. The potential health risk for humans of pharmaceutical remnants in water is currently unknown and being monitored as a public health matter.

Our aging water infrastructure has health consequences.

In the U.S., water safety standards are currently based on decades-old studies. Despite all these efforts to regulate levels of contaminants, 27 million Americans are served by water systems violating health standards established by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Additional contaminants that emerge from the water mains and pipes in aging homes are never reported in municipal water quality reports. As a result, 19 million people become ill each year due to contaminated water. In fact, a 2012-2014 study found that nearly 21,000 municipalities across the U.S. issued Boil Water Advisories (BWA) for microbial contamination. On a global scale, over 3 million people in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and  Canada have received BWAs.

These issues contribute to an environmental crisis

Since the LARQ Bottle launched in 2018, more than 95,637,301 single-use plastic water bottles have been saved from entering the landfill. Unfortunately, during the same time nearly 1,000,000,000,000 (that’s a trillion with a capital T) single-use plastic bottles have been tossed away–likely due to inaccessibility to clean drinking water.

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Wellness

COVID-19: What to know before going out

We’re just about ready to return to normalcy, but is it safe?  As businesses start to reopen, there’s one thing you need to remember: COVID-19 hasn’t magically gone away. 

That doesn’t mean you should cancel that cross-country road trip, or refrain from going to that outdoor restaurant, but it does mean you should continue to take all the precautions necessary to stay healthy. Luckily, we’ve all had months of practice–we just have to tweak our methods a bit for social gatherings and other encounters as businesses and restaurants begin to reopen. 

Thus far, this reopening includes hair salons, barbershops, dentist offices, some nonessential retailers, outdoor dining, and a few more. At the time of this post, there are over 8 million cases of coronavirus worldwide and over 2 million of those cases are in the United States of America. However, we’re seeing a spike in cases amidst the reopening of businesses all over the United States. Experts are predicting another spike in the number of coronavirus cases, and awareness and mindfulness should be top of mind. 

There’s a caveat with reopening that with more contact, we might end up right back where we started. The CDC wants everyone to know that “In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” The number one thing to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus is to minimize exposure, which means staying in unless absolutely necessary. 

But in the cases where you just need a break from your apartment (we hear you), here’s how to resume going out during COVID-19 safely:

  1. Wear a mask
    By now, you should have a mask you can wear to protect yourself and others from contracting the virus. Even though things are reopening, you should still wear your mask unless you are eating or drinking. Since coronavirus is believed to be spread through the air, be sure that your mask fits snugly on your face. Gaps can introduce airborne contaminants to your airways.

    Touching a surface that has COVID-19 on it and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes, could be another form of contracting the virus. Wearing a mask will keep you from touching your face, reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus from contaminated surfaces.

    Yes, it’s going to be hot under that mask, but the far worse outcome is contracting and spreading the virus to others. 
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly
    You’re probably familiar with the 20-second rule when washing your hands, but here’s a refresher. Wash your hands for at least 20-seconds with soap and warm water. Be sure to get under your fingernails, and lather up to your wrists. 20-seconds is about the length of singing “Happy Birthday”, as a rule of thumb. Washing your hands thoroughly will prevent the spread of coronavirus as well as protecting you and the people you live with from contracting it.

    If you’re about to head to a restaurant or picking up food, make a habit of washing your hands thoroughly before and after your meal. 
  3. Sanitize regularly
    As you start to go out more, sanitizing is more important than ever. The CDC recommends hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wearing a mask can prevent you from touching your face as you’re touching other surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and other high-touch surfaces, but get into the habit of also using hand sanitizer between touching public surfaces and belongings like your car door, steering wheel, cell phone, and other personal items. When you get the chance to, wash your hands thoroughly, but in the meantime, hand sanitizer is your best bet! 
  4. Stay 6 feet away from others
    Prolonged exposure near others will increase your risk of getting infected or infecting others. When you’re out, stay at least 6ft away from others.  Coupled with wearing a mask, this will minimize the risk of getting infected, especially when having a conversation or in more crowded areas.

    Keep this in mind when eating at newly reopened outdoor restaurants. These establishments should already be spaced according to this guideline, but you should ask a waiter or waitress if you suspect the spacing is too close. When you’re eating, drinking, and socializing without masks on, it is imperative that you keep this 6-foot rule. 
  5. Stay home when safe
    If you feel sick or are exhibiting any symptoms, stay home, and avoid going out until your symptoms subside.
  6. Socially distance outdoors
    Studies show that well-ventilated areas are less likely to spread coronavirus than those that aren’t. Avoid gathering indoors altogether. But if you are gathering indoors, opening a few windows will help disperse any airborne contaminants. In addition, wear a mask and try to keep a distance between people that don’t live with you.

    Luckily, gathering outdoors is so much nicer anyway. Wear a mask when you’re not eating or drinking and keep a 6ft distance from others. You should also bring your own utensils and reusable water bottles or drinking glasses instead of using your friends’. 
  7. Use disinfectant wipes
    When getting gas or going to an ATM, be sure to use a disinfectant wipe if available. If not, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after fueling up. When you get home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

    Additionally, when ordering takeout or getting food delivered, use disinfectant wipes on the outside of the bag or dispose of the bag it came in immediately. Then, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before eating or drinking.

  1. Precautions apply to pets too!
    Although it may be tempting to, refrain from petting that super cute labradoodle you encounter at the park. Likewise, keep your pet on a short leash to prevent contact with strangers and other dogs. This can keep your pet and others safe. Although there isn’t sufficient evidence to say that the virus can’t be transmitted from pet to pet, it’s better to err on the side of caution–for your sake and theirs. 
  2. Get tested
    Coronavirus testing is becoming more readily available and accessible in certain areas. Some don’t even require insurance, citizenship documentation, and are completely free. Check your local area for more information. If you’ve been in a large crowd recently, or are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, find a testing center and get tested immediately.

    In addition, there are also antibody testing available in certain areas. It’s believed that some people remain asymptomatic as their bodies can fight off the virus, but these people can still spread it. It can be reassuring to know if you’ve got these special antibodies, but it’s also good to get tested if you have the means, to be extra careful not to spread the virus to others.
  3.  Keep your social circle small
    Spending time with friends and family is a healthy way to cope with all the uncertainty going on in the world today, so it’s no surprise that people are eager to get back to their social lives. However, the more people you interact with, the higher the risk of getting infected or infecting others. Keep your in-person social circle small to minimize your level of risk. 
  4. Assess your risk
    Of course, it’s your choice whether or not you want to take the risk of exposure no matter what you’re going out for. Consider the three D’s when deciding whether or not to go out: diversity, distance, and duration.

    Diversity refers to the number of households you’re interacting with outside of the people you live with. As stated previously, the wider your social net is, the more likely you could get infected. Pay special attention to whether or not the people you plan to interact with have been to any high-risk areas in the last 14 days. These can include large crowds, social gatherings with people from other households, doctor’s offices or hospitals, hair salons or barbershops, malls, and offices.

    Distance pertains to the proximity of your interactions with others. Are you taking a bike ride with some friends that don’t live with you? Are you dining at an outdoor restaurant without adequate spacing between others? The rule of thumb is to stay at least 6ft apart from others, especially when people aren’t wearing masks. Whether that’s with the friends your dining with or people sitting or walking nearby, these are some things to consider.

    Duration is in regards to the amount of time spent with others outside your household. The longer you spend with others, the more risk you have in contracting or spreading COVID-19. If you’re having an extended conversation with someone or browsing a store in close proximity to others, this risk might increase. 

As we slowly transition back to normalcy, keep these tips in mind. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to stay home for the time being to stay safe.

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Wellness

How to prevent digital eye strain

Headaches? Eye strain? Trouble sleeping? Digital eye strain can be uncomfortable and affect your work and wellness. There are several causes of asthenopia, or eye strain, unrelated to underlying disease. The cause of this is attributed to the overuse of digital devices that emit blue light, prolonged driving, bad eyeglasses prescriptions, extreme fatigue, or lack of sleep. 

Blue light is produced by common devices such as televisions, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Your 8-hour workday in addition to a few hours of video gaming or Netflix, plus a couple of hours of scrolling through social media, is a lot of time exposing your eyes to blue light. This isn’t inherently harmful though, but with overuse, it can cause discomfort such as headaches, eye strain, and difficulty sleeping. 

Eye strain symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Tired eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Difficulty sleeping

Tips for eye strain relief

Overuse of devices can cause eye strain, make it more difficult to sleep, and cause eye strain headaches or migraines. Reducing your usage of digital devices will be a surefire way to reduce eye fatigue and eye strain, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. We know! So if you can’t take a digital detox, try these tips for eye strain relief. 

Blink often

Many people blink less frequently when working on the computer. Blinking helps the production of tears to prevent dry eyes. Remember to blink often when working on a computer or other screens to refresh your eyes. 

The 20-20-20 Rule 

Think of this as taking a break to reset your eyes. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet (6 meters) away from your screen for at least 20 seconds. 

Calibrate your display settings

In most modern devices, you might have the ability to set a “night mode” that will adjust your screen to warmer tones at night to reduce blue light emission. The warmer tones that reduce blue light may help you sleep better as blue light interrupts your circadian rhythm as you may have learned from a previous article on how to sleep better. You should also reduce brightness on your screen according to the amount of light around you. As it gets darker, reduce the brightness on your screen to reduce strain. 

Reduce glare

A bright light bouncing off the screen or sunlight shining in from a window can cause glare on any screen. You can lower the brightness on your screen, draw the shades, or change the position of your screen to reduce eye strain.  

Blue-light blocking glasses

These are special glasses that block blue light from your eyes. To note, the general overuse of devices won’t be remedied by using blue light blocking glasses alone. Refer to the previous steps as well to improve your overall comfort when using your gadgets at home. 

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Wellness

Improve your WFH posture with these easy moves

Working from home can have its perks, like working with your pet beside you, or not having to put on makeup or wear real pants (or any pants for that matter). However, working long hours in a less than optimal position can have negative effects on your posture and lead to back pain, neck pain, and even injury. Luckily, there are a few exercises to help you improve your posture while working from home, at the office, and beyond! And by “beyond”, we mean the couch. 

Do these 5 exercises throughout your workday

You want to do these exercises periodically to reduce strain on your body. It’s a good idea to look away from your tech devices periodically anyway to reduce eye strain from the blue light. Take the opportunity to do some light stretching in between work! Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds each. If you feel any pain, stop immediately–these exercises should not be painful but feel like stretching. 

  1. Stretch out your neck
    An ideal desk setup would have your monitor at eye level to reduce neck strain. Unfortunately, not everyone has this setup–varying from sitting on our laptops on the couch, in bed, or on a stand that isn’t quite comfortable. These positions can cause you to hunch or extend your neck forward which can cause poor posture and lead to neck pain. Throughout the day, sit or stand up to roll your neck to either side–slowly and comfortably to stretch your neck. Then, roll your head back and towards the front in a clockwise motion, and reverse. You should feel this stretch relieve some tension on the nape of your neck. 
  2. Roll your shoulders
    Ideally, your arms should rest at a 90º angle from your shoulder to your keyboard. If your keyboard or desk is too high, your shoulders may start to strain from being too high up. To stretch, drop your arms down every once in a while and shake them out. Then roll them slowly in circular motions. 
  3. Reach for the sky
    Simple but effective–this stretch lengthens your spine to relieve tension from being crunched up into that weird position you’ve found yourself in for hours. Interlace your fingers and reach your arms up (palms towards the sky). Then, bend to your left side and your right to stretch out your obliques. 
  4. Open up your chest
    Your chest can feel tight when you’re hunched over all day. With this stretch, open up your chest as you pull your shoulders back, with your hands placed on your lower back with elbows bent. As you deepen this stretch by curving your spine towards the back, you’ll feel your chest open up and some tension release from your shoulders. 
  5. Forward fold
    Taking a practice from yoga, this one will require you to stand up and then bend over, hinging at your hips, and reach for your toes. This stretch will relieve tension in your lower back. With this stretch, allow the top of your head, and your shoulders to relax toward the Earth to deepen this stretch. 

 

Yoga for better posture

 

These are a just a few simple stretches to squeeze into your busy workday. If your back and neck are in need of some more TLC, we highly recommend practicing yoga, which has been proven to strengthen your core and other muscles, relieve back pain, and improve posture. 

 

For the following moves, be sure to use a yoga mat for comfort and support. For kneeling positions, you can fold a towel under your knees for comfort. You can do these moves every day to improve your posture:

 

  1. Child’s pose
    For this move sit on your knees with your knees shoulder-width apart. Then gently fold forward, hinging at your hips and extending your arms flat onto the mat. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders, releasing tension from your upper back and arms. 
  2. Cat-Cow
    Get on your hands and knees, with your knees at a 90º angle and your back flat (table-top position). Then, as you breathe in, arch your back, dropping your belly down and look up towards the sky. As you breathe out, tuck your chin to your chest and round out your back towards the ceiling. Repeat this for 20 seconds. 
  3. High plank
    Plant your palms shoulder-width apart on the mat, as you lift into plank position. The key to this is to engage your core and keep your back straight. You may have the tendency to curl your body up or dip your bitt down, so if you’re doing this for the first time, have a friend tell you if your form is correct. You should feel some tension in your arms and your core. 
  4. Downward-facing dog
    You can easily maneuver into this position from a high plank. From the high plank position, lift your bum up towards the sky, keeping your legs straight while extending your arms keeping your back and neck straight. Sort of like an upside-down V. This will stretch out your hamstrings as well as strengthening your back and improving your posture. 
  5. Thoracic spine rotation
    For this position, lay on your left side on your mat and bend your knees up into a 90º angle with your left arm stretched on in front of you. Exhale as you rotate your body and reach your right arm to the opposite side. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side. 
  6. Hip thrusts
    Strong glutes help support a strong lower back and relieve lower back pain by aligning your hips and pelvis, which can lead to better posture. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Then, left at the hips, keeping your shoulders planted on the floor, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat 10-15 times. 

 

If you can spare 10-60 minutes a day to deepen your yoga practice, you will see more improvement in your posture over time. Yoga with Adrienne has a full library of yoga videos you can follow along with for free with varying durations so you can fit in your practice no matter how busy you are. You can also follow yoga practices on the Down Dog app or Nike Training Club. Don’t get discouraged, keep at it, and you’ll get stronger and stronger with every practice, and see major improvements in your posture!

 

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Wellness

No Excuses: Why You NEED to Wear Sunscreen Every Day

Vacation season is upon us and you’re probably planning your next trip to a sunny destination to get your vitamin D on. Before you lay out in the sun for hours with your new book, remember to slap on the sunscreen all over so you don’t have serious regrets later in life. I’m talking about major skin damage from the sun from your seemingly insignificant time in the sun.

Think it’s no big deal? Think again.

At this point, you’ve probably heard every excuse in the book for why people don’t wear sunscreen. From tanning-related reasons to a general notion of sunscreen being completely unnecessary apart from using it at the beach. Well, I’m here to tell you, sunscreen needs to be worn every. single. day. Yes, I mean every single day.

Effects of frequent and prolonged exposure to the sun over time:

  • Increased risk of skin cancer
  • Sunburn
  • Skin discoloration (age spots, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, freckles, etc.)
  • Wrinkles and other signs of aging
  • Leathery skin from reduced elasticity

As you can see, there can be dire consequences resulting from not wearing sunscreen, especially when you are in direct sunlight frequently (even if it’s for a few minutes a day). So think twice before you go out for your run, to work, or out on the weekend without sunscreen. It is also recommended to limit sun exposure between 10 am – 2 pm when the sun is at its peak.

How does sun damage occur?

The sun’s UV rays (UVA and UVB) penetrate the outer layers first, and with prolonged exposure or direct sun exposure, the rays will continue to penetrate the dermis (the middle layer of skin), killing the skin cells and thus damaging your skin. The sun’s ultraviolet rays damage the fibers in the skin called elastin which causes skins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to bounce back after stretching. The skin will also take longer to heal from bruises or tears over time. The results of sun damage won’t be obvious when you’re young, but its effects will show later in life.

TLDR; exposure to the sun speeds up the aging process and increase your risk of skin cancer.

Now that you know all the risks to sun exposure, let’s dispell some of the myths about sunscreen:

“Sunscreen is sunscreen.”

I hate to break it to you but not all sunscreen is created equal. There are actually two types–chemical and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens have shown to pose health risks because they are absorbed into the skin and studies have shown that they may cause disruptions in hormones. The four chemicals in sunscreen you need to avoid are Oxybenzone, Octinoxate (Octyl methoxycinnamate), Avobenzone, and Retinyl Palmitate. Not only are these chemicals potentially harmful to your health, but they are also toxic to coral reefs (more on that later).

So what kind of sunscreen should you be looking for?

Seaside Mint LARQ Bottle with Vitamin A swimsuit and REN skincare mineral reef-safe sunscreen

Physical sunscreens use minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide that form a barrier between the sun and your skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWR) rates mineral sunscreens the highest in terms of efficacy (since they don’t absorb into the skin).

When purchasing sunscreen, always look for broad spectrum SPF which means it should protect you from UVA and UVB rays.

Did you know that the chemicals used in sunscreens are killing the coral reef and organisms that depend on it? Good news is that mineral-based sunscreens are considered reef-safe. About 14,000 tons of sunscreen is believed to be deposited in oceans annually, resulting in the greatest damage found in reef areas such as Hawaii and the Caribbean. You can stop the damage by swapping out your usual chemical sunscreen for reef-safe sunscreens for face and for body.

“I want to tan.”

The notion that wearing sunscreen will prevent you from tanning is absolutely false. No, it does not prevent you from tanning but rather from burning; you’ll tan based on your skin’s melanin, not on how much sunscreen you have on.

“I am not going to be out in the sun for that long. I’m just going to the grocery store.” or “I work in an office all day.”

Even if you’re working from home, you need sunscreen. Windows from your home, car, on the train or even your office windows that let in sunlight, will filter out UVB rays but not UVA rays. Always, always wear your sunscreen.

“I never get sunburnt.”

Even if you don’t burn easily after spending time in the sun, you still need to put on sunscreen to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays that can cause aging, skin discoloration, and skin cancer. The degree to which you get sunburnt is not a sign that you’re not going to get skin cancer.

“I don’t want flashback.”

Face sunscreens are notorious in the beauty community for leaving a white cast or having ‘flashback’ (when taking pictures with flash, SPF may make your skin look lighter), but there are a ton of sunscreens out there now that will appear nearly invisible–or that give you minimal flashback.

For people of color, it can be especially difficult to get sun protection without the white residue. Luckily, the beauty industry is taking note of this and there are great options for sunscreens that are virtually untraceable on the skin for people of color. Another great tip is to find tinted moisturizers or foundations that contain SPF 30-50 that match or blend into your skin tone.

“I have darker skin, therefore I don’t need sunscreen.”

It’s true that folks with lighter skin can burn more easily and have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than those with more melanin in their skin, but it is absolutely false that having darker skin will absolve you of needing to use sunscreen. Although skin cancer is less frequent in people of color, it is more fatal–as shown in a study conducted by The Journal of American Academy of Dermatology. The solution? Lather up no matter what.

“My SPF 100 sunscreen should last me all day.”

SPF 30-50 is considered an adequate amount to protect against UV rays. SPF higher than 50 is negligible because you’ll still need to reapply sunscreen every two hours. In fact, more SPF does not mean longer lasting sun-blocking power–it can actually mean that there are added chemicals in the sunscreen that can pose health risks. As a rule of thumb, always use between SPF 30-50 for sunscreen.

“I applied sunscreen on already and reapplying is too difficult.”

Realistically, people have a hard time reapplying because of the hassle of having to slather on more sunscreen, but if you’re in the sun for extended periods of time, this is an absolute must. Now, it’s more convenient than ever to reapply with powders, sticks, lotions, and sprays, so there really is no excuse.

“I went through my whole childhood without sunscreen and I don’t have skin cancer. My kids don’t need it either.”

Children should be taught to apply sunscreen whenever they are exposed in order to form a healthy habit and reduce the risk of skin cancer. Your child might be outdoors more often than you were growing up–you never know–don’t add to their risk of skin cancer. As parents, you should always pay attention to any birthmarks or moles your child has in order to distinguish a mole your child was born with between a new mole that may turn out to be malignant melanoma.

Doctors do not recommend applying sunscreen on infants under 6 months old. Instead, it’s recommended to limit sun exposure completely (stay inside), seek shade, or have your baby wear a hat. Consult a doctor if you are planning to be outdoors with your baby and are concerned about sun exposure.

“It’s cloudy outside.”

False. Sure, the clouds are covering the glorious sun, but it doesn’t mean that the sun’s UV rays are blocked too. UVA and UVB rays are able to penetrate through those wimpy clouds and cause skin damage and all of the above. And yes, you can get sunburnt on a cloudy day.

Please please please wear your sunscreen–and make it reef-safe at that. Share this post and be an advocate for sun safety among your family, friends, and beyond!

Categories
Wellness

Cut the Noise in a Digital World: Meditation and Mindfulness for Beginners

With all the noise and chatter that is this digital age–where your mind is constantly being overstimulated from work, social media, and general responsibilities of adulthood–it’s easy to lose sleep or fixate on things that are happening around you, which can almost always lead to unnecessary stress. At LARQ, we value wellness and strive to find ways to lead healthier lifestyles, whether it’s from drinking enough water to getting enough exercise, and even mediation.

During this time of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to unplug from the world. Whether stress is related to your adjusting to working from home, missing your loved ones, or even your overconsumption of social media (probably all of us), you can care for your personal wellness with one simple practice: meditation.

Meditation is a form of emotional wellness. Caring for the mind, managing stress, and promoting happiness.

We often think that meditation may be a waste of time, but it can be the best form of self-care you can give to yourself. Meditation doesn’t come easy the first few times around, but with practice, meditation can be a lifelong tool you can use to manage your stress.  Take a moment to focus on being calm and mindful instead of thinking about that report due tomorrow.

Allowing yourself to pause for a few minutes a day can help you maintain your stress levels and give you the ability to recenter yourself during stressful situations.

An additional benefit to meditation is to practice quieting the chatter in your mind in order to sleep. Many people suffer from restlessness and inability to sleep, which can, in turn, lead to more stress. Your mind naturally wanders, but when you learn to meditate, you will find it easier to shut off those restless thoughts and doze off into a peaceful slumber.

Don’t get us wrong, it does take a bit of practice in order to find your rhythm. The trick is to be patient with yourself and give yourself the time to focus on your practice.

How to Meditate

Find a peaceful space

For some this can mean a bedroom, living area or even outdoors. Whatever makes you feel the most at peace. When you’re first starting off, it’s important to meditate in a quiet area. This will help you focus on your thoughts instead of external factors.

Set a time limit

It can be 1 minute, 3 minutes, or even 30 minutes. Take the time you have or need. (Tip: Set your alarm tone to something soft–the sound can be jarring)

Sit in a comfortable position

Whether it’s cross-legged, on your knees or on the edge of your bed, get into a position you find suitable for the time you’ve allotted for your meditation.

Focus on your breathing

Close your eyes, and begin by taking slow and controlled breaths; breathe in through your nose and exhale deeply through your mouth. Then breathe comfortably–focus on your inhale and exhale, the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe in and out.

Be present

Focus on being present. What’s happening around you? Is there a breeze blowing against your skin? How are you positioned? Are there sounds around you?

Allow your mind to wander

As David Gelles writes, “The goal isn’t to stop thinking or to empty the mind. Rather, the point is to pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions in order to see them more clearly, without making so many assumptions, or making up stories.” It’s okay to let your mind wander, just remember to come back to the present moment.

End on a positive note

Thank yourself for taking the time to complete your practice. Reflect on what you’re grateful for that day and plan to incorporate meditation into your daily routine.

It’s okay to take a pause every once in a while to center yourself. Meditation is a great daily reminder to be mindful, be peaceful, and relax in a noisy digital age.

Categories
Lifestyle

8 Unique latte drinks to try during your quarantine

One of the good things to come from shelter-in-place is that starting our mornings now are a bit more enjoyable. Saving some time from getting dressed for work or commuting to the office allows for more relaxed mornings. As a result, you can take advantage of that time and do an at-home workout, a yoga session, or… you can prepare yourself a proper cuppa. 

There’s nothing like starting your morning with a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tea. If you fancy a nice cup in the morning and want to jazz things up during this shelter-in-place, here are some upgraded coffees, teas, and beverages you can try at home. Need an afternoon pick-me-up? Some of these lower caffeine options are perfect to give you a little boost. 

 

Dalgona Coffee

The term “Dalgona” actually refers to a Korean honeycomb toffee. South Korean actor, Jung II-woo coined the term after tasting a whipped coffee in a Macau cafe during a taping of the TV show called “Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant” (신상출시 편스토랑). The flavor of the whipped coffee reminded him of the beloved Korean flavor, Dalgona. 

If you haven’t heard of this viral favorite by now, don’t worry–we’ll give you the scoop. This traditional Korean drink gained popularity right as COVID-19 news started to break. It’s a concoction of instant coffee, sugar and hot water, which are whipped together with an electric mixer or by hand with chopsticks until it becomes frothy and creamy. The texture is thick and meringue-like. Once whipped, top it over any milk or milk-alternative, stir and enjoy with a reusable straw.

Note: Instant coffee froths up when mixed with sugar and water because of the drying process it has endured–so this won’t work with freshly ground coffee. 

dalgona coffee latte with brownies

Dalgona Coffee Recipe

(serves 2) 

2 tablespoons of Instant Coffee

2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, turbinado sugar, raw cane sugar, or brown sugar 

2 tablespoons of hot water

Milk of your choice

Whip together the ingredients in a clean bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer. It’ll take longer and require a little bit of elbow grease to whisk by hand, but it’s absolutely achievable without an electric mixer. It should take about 3-5 minutes for the mixture to fluff up. Prepare your cup with hot or cold milk or milk-alternative, leaving room for the Dalgona mixture. Then, spoon the Dalgona over the top and enjoy! 

Matcha Dalgona

If you’re more of a matcha person, or want to try a slow-burst caffeine alternative to coffee, the Matcha Dalgona is a worthy alternative. This version has gained popularity as people experimented with the Dalgona-style of drinks. Matcha powder won’t froth up the same way instant coffee would so it’s not a swap for the Dalgona Coffee recipe. Instead, the best way to achieve the whipped texture is with a meringue style base–that’s right, with raw egg whites. 

Matcha Dalgona Recipe 

(serves 2)

1 pasteurized egg white

2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)

2 to 4 tablespoons water (1:1 ratio with sugar) 

1- 1 1/2 tablespoons of matcha powder

Milk of your choice

Make a simple syrup with the granulated sugar and water by heating over a stove until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Then, in a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until it starts to become frothy and white. Gradually pour the simple syrup into the egg white mixture as you continue to whip with the electric mixer. It should become glossy and stiff–be careful not to overbeat. Once you’ve got the right consistency, add the matcha powder and mix until well combined. Pour a cup of your favorite milk (can be enjoyed hot or cold), spoon the dalgona over top and serve. 

Golden Dalgona Latte  

A caffeine-free take on your beloved viral favorite. It features turmeric, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb. If you’re familiar with golden lattes (we’ll talk about this later), you might want to try this take. Similar to matcha, turmeric won’t froth up with only hot water and sugar. This will require an egg white to achieve the fluffy consistency of a Dalgona. 

If you’re feeling even more adventurous, we’ve tried this Golden Dalgona spooned over a matcha latte. There are some strong flavors here but it’s unique and complementary. Can you tell we’ve been getting creative in the kitchen lately? 

golden dalgona latte recipe
 Golden Dalgona over almond milk

Golden Dalgona Latte Recipe

(serves 2) 

1 pasteurized egg white

2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)

2 to 4 tablespoons water (1:1 ratio with sugar) 

½ to 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Milk of your choice

Make a simple syrup with the granulated sugar and water by heating over a stove until sugar is fully dissolved and remove from heat. Then, in a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until it starts to become frothy and white. Gradually pour the simple syrup into the egg white mixture as you continue to whip with the electric mixer. It should become glossy and stiff, but be careful not to overbeat. Add the turmeric powder and ground cinnamon and mix until combined. Feel free to increase or decrease the amount of turmeric powder or cinnamon according to your taste! Pour some hot or cold milk of your choice into a cup and spoon the Golden Dalgona over top. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or a dash of cinnamon if you’re feeling fancy! 

Lavender Black Tea Latte

The calming effects of lavender meet energizing black tea. Not your usual combination, but if you like florals in your lattes, you’ll love this one. Dried florals don’t have much color to them so they can be very light. You can drink them like teas when steeped on their own, but they’re amazing additions with tea if you’re looking to jazz things up. 

Lavender Black Tea Latte Recipe

(serves 1)

1 teaspoon dried lavender 

1 to 2 teaspoons black tea (or 1 sachet) 

8 oz hot water 

Milk of choice (optional, to taste)

Sugar (optional, to taste)

To make this, steep dried lavender in hot water for 2-3 minutes on its own. Then, add 1-2 teaspoons of black tea (about one sachet’s worth) with the lavender and steep for an additional 2-3 minutes, or as directed on your tea packaging. Remove the black tea and the lavender with the steeper. Then add milk or cream as desired. This tastes great on its own, but the addition of a little sugar brings out the flavor of the lavender. 

You can also try a lavender coffee, but instead of using dried lavender, this will require a lighter roast of coffee and lavender extract so the lavender flavor comes through. Both are amazing drinks you ought to try! 

 

Honey Black  Tea Latte

If you’re feeling allergy season kicking in, many swear by drinking local honey to build immunity from local allergens. Although some experts have debunked this myth, a lot of people still believe in its allergy-relieving properties. Either way, if you enjoy honey, you might want to give this Honey Black Milk Tea a shot. 

The key is to use a really good local honey. Raw and unfiltered versions are our favorite because of the richness in flavor. Use your favorite black tea for this–we prefer loose leaf, of course. A Darjeeling, English breakfast, or any mild-flavored black tea will work wonderfully with this one. You really want the honey to take center stage here. 

Honey Black Tea Latte

(serves 1) 

3 to 4 teaspoons of loose-leaf black tea 

2 to 3 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered local honey (Or, to taste) 

2 to 3 oz hot water

5 to 6 oz Milk of choice

First, steep the loose leaf black tea in the water as directed. You can let it go a little over the recommended time, but not too much lest you want a bitter-tasting tea. You want it to be more concentrated than you normally would drink it because you’ll be adding milk later. Once steeped, remove the tea leaves from the hot water. The result should be a dark concentrated tea. Then, add the honey. 

Now, if you want a hot latte, heat the milk over the stove before adding it to the honey and black tea mixture. 

If you prefer it cold, you can prepare this ahead of time and leave it in the fridge overnight before adding cold milk when serving. Otherwise, you can add a bit of ice and your milk of choice to the concoction and enjoy. 

Golden Milk Latte

Unlike the Golden Dalgona we mentioned earlier, the Golden Milk Latte is a lot easier to achieve. We’d recommend trying it this way before the commitment of a Dalgona because the turmeric flavor does take some getting used to if you haven’t tried it. It’s used frequently in curries to give it that earthy flavor and yellow-orange hue. But no, this is not a savory drink–it is a sweet one, if you want it to be. It’s traditionally enjoyed with cinnamon and ginger for some added spice and digestive benefits. This one has no caffeine so you can enjoy it any time of the day. Drink this to unwind in the evening or jumpstart your digestive system in the morning. It will also give you immunity a boost too! 

Golden Milk Latte Recipe

(serves 1) 

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon fresh ginger (or sub for ground ginger) 

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 oz Milk of choice

On the stovetop, heat your milk of choice in a small saucepan over low-medium heat until it starts to simmer. Then, add fresh ginger. You can substitute for ground ginger if you don’t like too much heat or if you don’t have fresh ginger on hand. Continue on low heat for about 1-2 minutes. Then, remove from heat and add the turmeric and cinnamon. Whisk to incorporate the mixture. Then, place a small sifter over your mug (a tea stepper will work too), and strain before serving to remove the ginger and any remaining clumps. This recipe is fully customizable depending on how much turmeric you like or how much ginger or cinnamon you like in your latte, so feel free to experiment! 

Matcha Latte

For you matcha lovers out there, this is probably what your drink of choice is every morning. For those who want to venture into the wonders of matcha and sick of the jitters you get from coffee, try this on for size! Matcha is a powerful antioxidant that contains the same levels of caffeine as brewed coffee and about half the caffeine of espresso. However, it doesn’t come with the jitters or crashes that are characteristic effects of coffee. Matcha contains amino acid L-Theanine, which slows the release of its caffeine content, giving you sustained energy throughout the day.

matcha powder, and matcha whisk  

Matcha Latte Recipe

(serves 1) 

½ to 1 teaspoon matcha powder 

¼ cup hot water

Sugar, honey or another sweetener (to taste)

6 oz milk of choice

Measure the matcha powder into a bowl or wide mug. Add hot water and stir with a bamboo matcha whisk until the powder dissolves and there are no visible clumps. Then, add your sweetener and stir until dissolved. For hot, heat up your milk of choice over the stovetop before adding to the sweetened matcha mixture. For cold, you can prepare the matcha mixture ahead of time and add your milk of choice straight from the fridge; or add a few ice cubes before adding the chilled milk to complete your matcha latte. 

 

Strawberry Matcha Latte 

As San Francisco natives, we’re huge fans of the local tea shop, Boba Guys. They make an amazing Strawberry Matcha Latte that puts a sweet spin on a beloved classic. The strawberry puree sweetens up the drink for a bright pick-me-up in a cup. The drink is assembled in a sequence so that the thick strawberry puree sits on the bottom, slightly thinner milk is center, and the matcha is added on the top. This drink is best served cold and can easily be prepped ahead of time. Here’s our spin on this local favorite. 

Strawberry Matcha Latte Recipe 

(serves 4)

For the Strawberry Puree 

½ cup fresh strawberries, diced 

¼ cup raw cane sugar

¼ cup water

 

For the Matcha

2-4 teaspoons matcha powder

1 cup hot water 

16 oz milk of choice (4 oz per serving) 

In a small saucepan, add strawberries, sugar and water over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to bubble up, reduce to low-medium heat and stir–mashing up the strawberries as you go. When the puree thickens to a honey-like consistency, remove from heat to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, transfer the puree to a container to chill. 

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the matcha and hot water until dissolved. Let cool for a few minutes until room temperature. 

Prepare a 10oz glass to assemble your Strawberry Matcha Latte. First, spoon in a quarter of the strawberry puree to the bottom of the glass. Then, pour in 4oz of your milk of choice. Lastly, pour a quarter of the match mixture over that. The result should be a beautiful 3 part drink. Serve with some ice and a reusable straw and stir before enjoying. 

If you’re getting a little stir crazy, stir up a nice cup of coffee or tea, take a break, and enjoy. We’re loving this time to declutter, be introspective, and to really push the limits on our creativity. How are you spending your shelter-in-place? 

 

Categories
Lifestyle

Grow your own produce from kitchen scraps

Getting a bit stir crazy cooped up inside during COVID-19 shelter-in-place? Us too. We know a lot of you guys have been cooking for yourselves at home so you’re probably wondering about the same things we are–like, can we grow some of our frequently purchased produce at home? If you find yourself constantly using certain grocery items, it might be a good idea to set up your own little garden at home. 

There are so many benefits to growing your own produce at home. Most common produce items are extremely easy to grow. All you need is some water and some sunlight to grow most of these fruits, vegetables, and herbs from their otherwise discarded scraps! 

  1. You can control what goes into your produce–it doesn’t get more organic than this.
  2. You’ll end up saving money in the long run! If you’re constantly buying garlic, or if onions are a staple in your home cooking, it might be worthwhile to start growing your own!
  3. Especially during shelter-in-place, grocery shopping has become difficult in some regions where high demand for certain produce has resulted in scarcity. Seriously–have you tried driving to 6 different stores just to find fresh basil? It’s brutal. Growing your own produce at home means you’ll have your own supply, and no need to worry about finding it at your local store. 
  4. Produce from the safety of home. It’s important for your health to limit exposure, which is why staying at home helps to flatten the curve and reduce new cases of COVID-19. Having your own supply of fresh produce reduces the need for you to go out and find your essential ingredients. 
  5. It’s sustainable. You produce what you like to eat, and chances are, that doesn’t include harmful pesticides that are detrimental to the environment. Plus, there’s no need to wrap up your produce in a plastic produce bag either (although, we like to use reusable produce bags anyway), or worrying about extra packaging or the cleanliness of your produce. 

Seriously, there has never been a better time to start your own home garden than now!

Scallions

Green onions, also known as scallions, are super easy to grow and they grow FAST. Just cut off 1-2 inches (2-5 cm) from the root of each scallion stalk and place them in a glass jar with clean water. Replace the water daily to ensure healthy growth. If you want to foster the growth of these more, transfer the growing scallions into nutrient-rich soil in a pot. Otherwise, growing them in the jar on your countertop works fine too. Just trim off what you need and replace the water frequently. 

Garlic

Garlic is used in many different cuisines so it’s no surprise that this might be something you’re using quite frequently nowadays. To grow garlic from the grocery store, it must be organic to ensure it hasn’t been treated with pesticides and or treated to prevent sprouting. You’ll want to select a large clove from the bulb–preferably one that has sprouted slightly already. Place the clove in a shot glass with water just filled above the root end of the clove. Once the clove has sprouted roots, transfer to a pot with soil and cover the entire clove, leaving the sprouted end above the soil surface. 

Basil 

This fragrant herb provides flavor and aromatics to any dish. They can be quite expensive, and oftentimes we don’t end up using all the basil before it goes bad–bummer! Luckily, these can be planted quite easily. Take a single stalk of basil and put it in a glass with water and change the water every other day until you notice roots beginning to sprout from the base of the stalk. Once this occurs, transfer the basil into a pot with soil, water, and watch it flourish. 

For that matter, mint, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, and oregano are all highly successful herbs to regrow from kitchen scraps using the same method. 

Lemongrass 

Lemongrass can be placed into a jar with water until roots begin to sprout. When this happens, transfer the lemongrass into a pot with soil. Water these every day for the first week. They need lots of direct sunlight, so make sure you put them in a spot that gets plenty of sun. It’ll take 4-6 months before you can harvest. When it comes to harvesting, trim your stalks (leaving 1-2inches in the soil) and freeze the lemongrass until its needed. 

Lettuce

Cut off the base of the lettuce and put into a shallow bowl half full of water. Be sure to change the water in the bowl every couple of days. You’ll begin to see leaves sprouting from the original stems. You can continue to harvest and trim the leaves for salads or sandwiches! They won’t get as large as the original bunch through this method, but you’ll definitely get more out of the lettuce you purchased from the store. There isn’t always success with lettuce, so it’s a good idea to keep trying if your lettuce isn’t producing new leaves

Celery 

Celery is a relatively easy vegetable to grow from kitchen scraps. Cut off the base where the stalks meet, and place into a bowl of water. Once it starts sprouting new leaves, you can leave them in the bowl or continue to let the flourish be transferring them to a pot with soil. Cover the base with soil, leaving only the new sprouts visible and water daily. 

Get creative with your garden! We don’t know how long this shelter-in-place will be but we can make the most of it and pick up a new hobby–like gardening. I mean who could complain about fresh home-grown food?

 

Categories
Wellness

17 Fitness apps that will help you achieve your fitness and health goals

Calorie and nutrition trackers

Whether you’re trying to get stronger, build muscle, lose weight, or hit all your nutrition goals to be healthier, your diet is a huge part of your fitness and health journey. Ever heard the phrase, “you can’t outwork a bad diet”? Well, that rings true in all aspects. No matter how hard you work out at the gym, if you’re eating poorly, you won’t achieve the results you want or need for your health. Luckily, there are apps that will help to calculate your macronutrient or micronutrient goals, log your daily caloric intake, and track your progress throughout your journey.

MyPlate Calorie Counter

MyPlate is an app by LIVESTRONG, that provides more than just nutrition help. They’re focused on meeting health goals, not necessarily fitness goals by offering users customized meal plans, recipes, and workouts to help you along your way. MyPlate tracks daily calories, exercise, and progress towards your health goals, develops customized meal plans for your target macros, includes free recipes to inspire you to eat healthier, and short workouts and estimated calories burned per workout.

Free

Available on: iOS and Google Play

MyFitnessPal

This calorie counter app is beloved by many for its interface, vast user-uploaded meals that make calorie counting a little easier, and ability to scan packaged foods and upload its nutrition into the app. Their premium version offers features like a macronutrient chart that shows you your macros by the gram or percentage in your diary, food analysis, CSV export, and more. However, the free version is tried and true and is great on its own!

Free

Available on: iOS and Google Play

FatSecret

For all you keto dieters out there, FatSecret helps you count your calories and your macros to ensure you stay on track. You can even connect it to your Apple Health app and Fitbit to sync your fitness stats with the app and keep everything in one place.

Free

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Carb Manager: Keto Diet App

Another one for you keto-ers and low-carb dieters out there. It tracks net carbs, macros and micronutrients in over a million foods, includes keto-friendly or low carb recipes, meal plans, shopping lists, and can be integrated with your Fitbit, Garmin, and other apps like Apple Health and Google Fit. You’ll be good with using the free portion of Carb Manager, but there is an option to upgrade to Premium which includes more recipes, exclusive premium recipes, personalized meal plans, unlimited logging and more. We’d recommend starting off with their free version if you’re just starting out on your keto journey and upgrading to the more robust Premium once you feel the need to kick things up a notch!

Free, Premium for $39.99 USD for 1 year

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Strength training apps

Working those muscles? Us too. If you need a little guidance when it comes to weightlifting or strengthening and toning up, it’s important to keep in mind good form to avoid injury. Strengthening your muscles is not only going to help sculpt your body, but it will also help you build muscle tone that will help you get stronger and to burn fat. Ready to get really really sore?

Nike Training Club

Leave it to Nike to create a completely free fitness app that is actually really amazing. NTC is a beautifully designed app that’s easy to use and includes a huge library of workouts for all fitness levels, workout preferences, variable equipment (or no equipment so you can work out at home), and features workouts led and guided by their Nike Master Trainers and sometimes celebrity athletes. Each workout is guided by voice, includes video instructions on how to do each move, and sets the interval time for you so all you have to do is follow along. It really is like having a personal trainer with you. Nike is constantly expanding their library so now you can find everything from yoga to HIIT and boxing to bodyweight training.

Free

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Fitbod

Fitbod is a strength training app designed to guide you through your workout at the gym. It takes the planning out of your gym session so you can focus on getting those reps in and getting stronger. Their method is unique because it personalizes your workout plan based on your strength-training ability, studies your past workouts and maximizes the equipment available to you.

Free

Available on: iOS only

Fitness Buddy

Similar to Fitbod, Fitness Buddy is another great app for guidance at the gym. What we love about it is the animations (with real people) that show you how to do each move with the ability to select the type of equipment available to you. The app also includes curated workouts you can do at the gym or at home too! We’d recommend it for anyone who’s just getting started with weight training or cultivating an at-home gym.

The free version is pretty straight-forward and easy to use for guidance at the gym with free weights as well as machines. With premium, you get curated gym workouts, custom workout creator, exercise videos nutrition plans and more.

Free

Premium: $9.99/mo; $29.99 billed annually

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Yoga apps

Whatever your fitness goals are, yoga is always a good idea to include in your workout routine. Why? Well, yoga focuses on strength and balance as much as it does on flexibility. It’ll help improve posture so if you’re working at a desk all day, you need yoga in your life. You’ll also find the practice of yoga particularly relaxing–maybe not at first as your body is getting the hang of the positions, but it is a nice change from your usual cardio or gym session.

Asana Rebel

Asana Rebel uses the foundations of yoga to bring robust yoga-inspired fitness to your workout regimen. You can find meditative yoga tutorials as well as fat-burning HIIT workouts using yoga moves you never knew could burn so much. The free version contains loads of yoga videos to follow along and do wherever you are–upgrading to premium unlocks even more variety of videos and workouts if you ever get bored of the free ones or want to deepen your practice.

Free

Premium: 3 months $43.99

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Daily Yoga

If you’re looking for an all-around yoga app, look no further. Daily Yoga features a ton of guided yoga classes, meditation, work out plans, and even mixes in HIIT, pilates, and vinyasa to help you burn fat. You’ll stay motivated too with workouts and challenges that you can complete that will show up in your practice profile. It becomes really addicting once you have a few days logged and minutes. The app is free to use but you can upgrade to their Pro subscriptions for added features and more workouts.

Free

Premium: $12.99 – $19.99/mo

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Meditation and wellness

Mental health and wellness are of the utmost importance when it comes to overall fitness. Studies have shown that exercise alone can help improve mental health, ease anxiety and reduce stress, but what about when you’re not working out? Meditation is great for your health and can help you develop a calm and mindfulness most of us desperately need. It’s not a cure-all for all mental health issues, but can be a solution and a practice that will help you make the days more bearable.

Headspace

We love Headspace because of how it is set up. You can ease into your meditation practice if you’re a total newbie and you will feel better and better each day. It does take practice to truly be able to focus on meditation, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to use your practice whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s a great tool to have and Headspace will help you get there.

The free portion of Headspace includes the foundation of meditation and mindfulness that will help you get you accustomed to the practice. You can upgrade to the premium subscription plan that includes the basics, mini-meditations for busier schedules, themed meditations, mindfulness exercises and more extras that will deepen your practice.

Free

Premium: $12.99/mo ; $7.99/mo billed annually

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Calm

If you’re looking for a meditation app that also helps you get more restful sleep, Calm is it. The downside is, this app doesn’t offer a free version past its 7-day trial, but it’s a great app that we couldn’t exclude from this list. They’ve created a platform that masterfully combines methods to help you meditate and sleep better–something we all need–and even includes their unique Sleep Stories, which are basically bedtime stories read by well-known voices to help you drift off into a deep slumber. What are these well-known voices you ask? Let’s see… there’s Matthew McConaughey for starters–need we say more?

7-day free trial, then $59.99 billed annually

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Running & cycling apps

Charity Miles

OK, folks–if you’re running you need to use Charity Miles. With Charity Miles, you can select a charity ranging from categories like health, children, animals, environment, education, veterans and more to fundraise for. You can turn your evening jog, walk, dance or cycling session into a fundraiser for the charity of your choice by connecting in the app and tracking your activity. Every mile you log means money for your selected charity. If you needed the motivation to get moving, we hope you’ve found it here.

Free

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Runkeeper

If you’re looking to track your progress and runs, map routes and discover new ones, Runkeeper does all that and more. Runkeeper lets you schedule your runs and helps you stick to your goals. If you’re training for something like a marathon, the app lets you set distance, pace or weight goals so you can stay motivated and on track. They even have audio cues to let you know what your pace, distance and time is without having to look at your phone. Keep in mind that the free version offers tracking and logging of activities and basic stats (that’s really all you need), but the Runkeeper Go–their premium version–includes the aforementioned progress insights, stats, tailor-made workouts, weather insights, live tracking and more.

Free

Premium: $9.99/mo

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Strava

Strava is a unique running and cycling app built as a social platform for athletes. Not only does it allow users to map routes, view popular routes, and track new ones, but it also includes a social aspect where users can share trails and routes, photos, cheer each other on, and meet new people. The complex GPS mapping system connects with your phone, GPS watch or head unit, heart rate monitor or power meter to record your stats and track your performance so you can focus on getting better.

The free portion of the app allows you to track fitness activity, record your run, map cycling routes, and analyze training with stats. With their premium upgrade called Summit, you can get a customizable workout and training plans, get live feedback on your training, and extensive performance metrics. There are three Strava Summit packs you can opt into for a fee: Training, Safety, and Analysis–depending on your needs you can sign up for one, two, or all three. Each offer different use cases like race analysis with the Training Pack and live GPS tracking for the Safety Pack.

Free

Premium: 1-pack $24/year; 3-pack $60/year (17% discount)

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Boutique fitness studio locator apps

As boutique fitness studios are becoming more popular, we wanted to include a few apps that will help you find a studio or fitness class you love. Not all of us enjoy lifting or going for runs and that’s totally okay. There are a ton of different workout methods you might enjoy that hit all your cardio and strength training needs without having to lift heavy weights at the gym or running on a treadmill. Some of these include kickboxing, pilates, yoga, barre, cycling–you get the gist. The following apps make it easy to find something you love and reinvigorate your enthusiasm for working out again.

Mindbody

Mindbody allows you to explore an immense library of fitness classes, studios and even salons and spa treatments around you easily and acts as a platform for reservations without the need for pesky memberships or complicated sign-up processes. The app even connects to your Fitbit if you want to track your workouts and heart rate from the classes you take all in the app! We love that it allows you to easily reserve classes instead of having to call or drop-in.

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Classpass

Classpass offers membership to users to access a wide array of fitness studios across the US without having to sign up for a bunch of different studios. If you’re still on the search for a workout method that you enjoy, or if you’d like to try out a bunch of different fitness classes, Classpass might be for you. You’ll also save money this way since you won’t be paying drop-in rates at all the fitness studios you’ll be trying.

Available on: iOS and Google Play

Zenrez

You can find group fitness classes to attend last-minute at a discounted rate on Zenrez in major cities across the US. The platform includes fitness classes like boxing, barre, Zumba, Pilates, TRX and many more. They’ve built a network of fitness studios all over to make it easier for people to discover new fitness studios in their area. We love Zenrez for this reason. It’s easy to just jump into a class on a whim and try something new for a change. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your new favorite thing.

Available on: iOS only

Categories
LARQ News

The DIY Bust-a-germ Box: Sanitize your household objects in a pinch!

With resources running low, our wonderful LARQ Community has been asking us how to use the LARQ cap in other ways. So, we’ve been experimenting and testing to find out how. You can actually leverage our PureVis™ UV-C technology to neutralize bio-contaminants from common items like your cell phone, keys, remote, or even your keyboard! This means there is less need for using single-use disinfecting wipes and paper towels. If there’s a way to reduce, you know we’ll always take it. Since we’re all quarantined safely at home, we’ve concocted a step-by-step guide to making your own method of sanitizing objects at home with things you most likely already have around the house–including your LARQ Bottle’s cap!

We’re calling it: The Bust-a-germ Box

How it works

With the scientifically proven power of UV-C LED technology, PureVis™ is effective at neutralizing bio-contaminants in Adventure Mode, a 3-minute cleaning cycle you can activate with a double-tap of the button. UV-C is germicidal at 200-280nm, and our PureVis™ technology operates at the optimal 280nm wavelength to bust germs. The power from UV-C at this wavelength can effectively neutralize bio-contaminants from the air, surfaces, and water. 

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about how UV technology works to neutralize bio-contaminants. Devices like UV wands aren’t as effective because they require optimal conditions. UV-C is most effective in environments where the distance between the UV-C light and the object is controlled and the duration of sterilization is controlled–which is why we cooked up this Bust-a-germ Box DIY recipe to help you take household items and upcycle them to sanitize items around your home! 

With The Bust-a-germ Box, you’ll be taking your LARQ Bottle’s cap and putting it to use outside of the usual self-cleaning and water purification in your LARQ Bottle! This DIY will allow you to eliminate germs from things like your keys, remote controls, phones, and just about anything that can fit into it without obstructing the light!

The Bust-a-germ Box works best with objects that have flat or curved uniform surfaces. Items like glasses, headphones or a computer mouse are great examples of things you can sanitize.

Pack it up, box it in, Let me begin
I came to clean, infect me that’s a sin
I won’t ever slack up, cold you better back up
Try and stop the world and yo the whole crew’ll act up
Get up, stand up, c’mon, wash your hands up
If you’ve got the inklin’, use our box for cleanin’

inspired by “Jump Around” – House of Pain

Before you start:

  • Ensure that you remove as much lint and dirt as possible from items that you are using in the Bust-a-germ Box. UV-C is effective in neutralizing bio-contaminants that are invisible to the naked eye, so physical sediments like dirt or dust are not going to be removed by the UV-C light. 
  • Sanitize all the pieces for The Bust-a-germ Box
  • Sanitize your work surfaces 
  • The Bust-a-germ Box works best with two LARQ Bottle caps
  • Avoid direct contact with skin and eyes! 
  • Please be careful when handling any sharp objects

What you’ll need:

LARQ livelarq.com icons for aluminum foil, pen, and box cutter

  • A LARQ box or a similar box that is close to 11”x4”x4” (28.2 x 10.16 x 10.16 cm) in size.
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • Box cutter
  • Ruler
  • Pen, pencil, marker or marker
  • Protective gloves

The Bust-a-germ Box

This ideally requires two LARQ Bottle caps for maximum efficacy. The PureVis™ light emitted will cover more surface area so you can sanitize objects with ease. 

  1. Upcycle a LARQ Bottle box and measure about 4 inches (10.16 cm) from left to right. Repeat on the right side.Step 1 Bust-a-germ box. Measure 4 inches from the left and the right and make marks with a pen.
  2. Outline 2 circles where the LARQ Bottle caps will be placed against a side of the cardboard box (we’d recommend a side that doesn’t multiple layers of cardboard when closed). Make sure they are drawn on the same side of the box.LARQ Bust-a-germ box step 2. Outline circles for the LARQ caps where you made the markings in step 1.
  3. Cut out the circular outlines with a box cutter or scissors. Please exercise precaution when doing this! LARQ Bust-a-germ box step 3. Cut out the circles you outlined from step 2
  4. Use tape to line the inside of the box with aluminum foil, leaving openings for the holes where the LARQ Bottle caps will go. LARQ Bust-a-germ box step 4. Use tape to line the inner walls of the box with aluminum foil (shiny side up). Leave holes for the LARQ caps.
  5. Affix the LARQ Bottle caps into the holes you cut out.LARQ But-a-germ step 5. Affix the two LARQ caps in the holes.
  6. Now, you’re ready to toss in a set of car keys, cell phone, face mask or any other small item into the aluminum foil-lined box and activate the PureVis™ technology at the push of the button.
    LARQ Bust-a-germ step 6. Place an object into the box (a smartphone is pictured here). Then close the box.For maximum efficacy, double-click the button of the LARQ cap to activate Adventure Mode–a 3-minute cycle that basks the object with purifying UV-C light. 
    LARQ Bust-a-germ step 7. Double-click the LARQ caps to activate Adventure Mode. After 3 minutes, the cleaning cycle is finished. Then flip your object over and repeat this step.
  7. After the cycle, flip the object over and repeat. 

LARQ Bust-a-germ step 8. Flip the object over and repeat step 7.Double-click the LARQ caps to activate another Adventure Mode cycle. After 3 minutes, your object has been sterilized!

The Bust-a-germ Tube

The tube version of this project will require a cylindrical box or container. Due to the rounded inner surfaces, the PureVis™ UV-C light reflects and covers more surface area of a given object. The tube should be 10.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches (27.5 x 9.8 x 9.8 centimeters) or larger in size. We recommend using two LARQ caps for better performance but you can also use one LARQ cap.

Bust-a-germ Tube version by LARQ

The Bust-a-germ Tube Instructions

  1. Upcycle a LARQ Bottle Movement box or tube-shaped container and measure about 7 inches (17.78 cm) down from the cap and make a mark
  2. Take a box cutter and cut the tube in half. Put the bottom piece of the tube aside – you’ll use this if you have a second LARQ Bottle cap (See below for Double Cap instructions)
  3. Take the lid of the tube box and align the LARQ Bottle cap where you want to cut an opening. Outline the LARQ Bottle cap with a pen or pencil.
  4. Use tape to line the inner walls of the tube with aluminum foil. The foil will help reflect the UV-C light to provide more coverage. Line the box lid with aluminum foil being careful to leave an opening where the LARQ Bottle cap will go.
  5. Put the LARQ Bottle Cap into the hole of the lined lid. 
  6. Take the other half of the tube, cut out the bottom piece so you can use it to cover up the bottom of the first half of the box.
  7. With that bottom piece, align the LARQ Bottle cap where you want to cut an opening. Outline the LARQ Bottle cap with a pen or pencil.
  8. Affix the second LARQ Bottle cap to the new opening. Use tape to secure both caps on either end of the bottle. (Tip: Lay both halves of the bottle on their sides to make assembly easier!)
  9. Place an object in the center of the Bust-a-germ and close the opening. You’re ready to double-click to activate Adventure Mode on both caps at the same time to start busting germs!

 

If you only have one LARQ cap, follow the steps below:

  1. Place a piece of aluminum foil on your tabletop to increase reflectivity and to protect the surface.
  2. Now you’re ready to eradicate germs from things at home that need a serious clean! Double-click the button of the LARQ cap to activate Adventure Mode–a 3-minute cycle that basks the object with purifying UV-C light. After the cycle is complete, flip the object over and repeat. 

Bust-a-germ around the house!

Your high-touch items like house and car keys, your phone, wallet, and even pens should be sanitized using PureVis™ every so often to keep bio-contaminants at bay. But what about high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and other surfaces around the house, you might ask? Don’t worry we’ve got that covered too. 

LARQ PureVis™ Bust-a-germ DIY used on a doorknob to sterilize and eradicate bacteria & virusesLARQ PureVis™ Bust-a-germ DIY used on a AirPods to sterilize and eradicate bacteria & viruses

Get creative with what’s available to you. We used an empty and cleaned yogurt container here. Cut a circular opening for the LARQ Bottle Cap and line the inner walls with aluminum foil. Just make sure the opening of the Bust-a-germ Box fits over the object in question! 

Use LARQ Bust-a-germ to sterilize surfaces and objects around the house.