Keeping it Fresh, New, and Enjoyable

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself. Once you start making positive changes, you will begin to feel your old self sloughing away and a new person being formed. At first, the incredible changes that are happening in your body and even your mind, are enough to keep you motivated and on track.

After some time, it is not unusual and expected, that you may become a bit bored with your routine and long for a bit of spice to keep the spark of motivation lit. When the stresses of daily life creep in along with social pressures, staying plugged in becomes increasingly difficult. Here are some tips to help keep you going strong in your pursuit of optimal wellness:

Change up your aerobic routine

Sometimes all it takes is a change in your workout routine to keep things interesting and fun. Think outside the box and learn how to mix and match for best results. Here are some great ideas.

Outdoor activities

Engaging in aerobic activities outdoors provides multiple benefits. Fresh air, vitamin D, and time in nature are three reasons to spice up your workout routine with some of these great outdoor activities.

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Cross – country skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Rollerblading
  • Swimming
  • Wakeboarding
  • Ice Skating
  • Paddle boarding
  • Rowing
  • Kayaking

Group classes

It is often helpful to be in a common space with people who are all working towards the same goal; to be healthy and fit. Many people find that they are motivated by group classes. Here are just a few that you can try.

  • Zumba
  • Kettlebells
  • Spinning
  • Dancing
  • Power yoga
  • Crossfit
  • Water aerobics

Sports

Are you a sports fanatic? Why not participate in activities that are loads of fun and will also get your heart pumping, Below are some popular options.

  • Racquetball
  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Volleyball
  • Boxing
  • Karate
  • Flag football
  • Soccer

Workout videos

Perhaps you like the idea of an instructor-based class but are not up for the social buzz that goes along with joining a class at the gym. Workout videos are a great alternative that allow you to participate in an instructor-led class in the comfort of your home. You can even get the whole family engaged! There is no shortage of videos from which you can choose. These are just a sampling of what is available.

  • Tae Bo
  • Hip Hop Abs
  • The Biggest Loser workouts
  • Gilad’s Bodies in Motion
  • Dancing with the Stars workouts
  • P9OX
  • T-24
  • Jillian Michaels workouts
  • Fitness Blender ( this one is free online)

At the gym

If you belong to a gym, be sure to get your money’s worth. Perhaps the treadmill is your go-to cardio machine, be daring and branch out a little. Here are some ideas:

  • Elliptical trainer
  • Stationary bike
  • Stair climbers
  • Rowing machine
  • Adaptive motion trainer
  • Incline trainer
  • Versa climber

For the fun of it

Infuse some joy into your life with these exciting activities. You will have so much fun that you won’t even know that you are breaking a sweat.

  • Walking your dog
  • Tag
  • Obstacle course
  • Dodge ball
  • Jump rope
  • Skipping
  • Rebounding
  • Playing with your kids
  • Pool basketball/volleyball

Around the house

Get your chores done and stay fit at the same time.

  • Mowing your lawn with a push mower (no riders allowed)
  • Washing your car
  • Mopping the floor
  • Planting trees and bushes
  • Shoveling snow
  • Washing windows
  • Painting
  • Putting up a fence

Consider high-intensity interval training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), is also known as high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT). This type of training involves short periods of really intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. These cardiovascular exercise sessions last between 4-30 minutes.

This type of  exercise is great because it can help with glucose metabolism and has the capability of blasting fat long after the workout is over. Besides, this type of exercise has the advantage over others in that it requires no equipment. While you can use equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, spin bikes, etc… there are numerous variations that require nothing more than a pair of gym shoes.  A great starter workout is running fast for one minute and walking for two minutes. You can repeat this for a total of 15 minutes for a super effective workout.

Surround yourself with like-minded people

It is a good idea to surround yourself with individuals who share common goals. Social cues can be either positive or negative. It is always best to stay clear of situations that might undermine your success and efforts and gravitate towards those that affirm and lift you up. One way to keep on track is to engage in social activities with other healthy people. Having a group of friends to stay healthy with also keep ideas circulating and provides new opportunities to engage in a fun and active lifestyle together.

Don’t let stress get your best

Everyone has stress; the goal is not to eliminate it but to learn how to respond to it, how to manage it in a way that it doesn’t interfere with your attitude or performance.

Once we let stress overcome us we can quickly become discouraged and lose sight of our goals. This makes it almost impossible to keep on pressing towards the mark.

To keep your healthy lifestyle fresh, new and exciting, set up barriers and coping tools for managing stress in your life. Learn how to relax, say no more often and remember that if you are no good to yourself, you will be no good to others.

A new start each day

Each day gives you the opportunity to be your best. Keep it fresh and exciting while you strive to be the healthiest you can be. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.

-Be Well

Tips for Self-Monitoring Your Weight and Food Intake

Do you know exactly what you have eaten in the last say or so? How about how much you weigh from week to week, month to month, or even year to year? How many steps did you walk yesterday or the day before that?  While it is pretty easy to eat it and forget it, this is not the case when you are practicing self-transparency and monitoring your weight, food intake and even your movement.

Self-monitoring is very easy and will help you achieve your weight and healthy lifestyle goals. By definition, self-monitoring is simply the practice of watching and recording your thoughts and actions and using the information to formulate, follow or realign your health goals

Self-monitoring uses a few tools such as diet journals/logs, regular weigh-ins and measurements and even pedometers.  The key is, to be honest and observant about what you are eating, how much you are moving and even how you are feeling.

Benefits of self-monitoring

Here are just some of the reasons why self-monitoring should be part of your health journey:

  • You will eat less: Research has demonstrated that when people record what they eat, they eat less. 
  • You will exercise more and even enjoy it more.
  • You will see immediate results. Seeing immediate results is an excellent motivator.
  • You will know what works: Tracking what you are eating, and your exercise regime along with your weight and measurement will help you decide what works best.
  • Your goals can seem manageable: Self-monitoring is an excellent way to break your big goals into smaller and more achievable and realistic pieces.
  • You can be flexible: When you record what you eat, and your exercise patterns measure your efforts on a regular basis, you can be more flexible about things like special occasions or day’s off. Once you know what works for you, you can use this information to create whatever kind of lifestyle schedule works for you.
  • You can see how your choices impact your plan: When you weigh in, get measured, etc., and lining these evaluative tools up against what you are doing, you can see just how much or little your choices impact the result.
  • You will avoid plateaus: Many times people have great success with their weight only to find themselves on a plateau. If you record everything with 100% honesty, you can see what works and what doesn’t work

Self-monitoring tools that work

Now that you know the benefits, how exactly does self-monitoring work? Here are some very useful and practical tools that will provide you with valuable data to keep you heading the right direction.

Food/exercise diary

The foundation of any self-monitoring program begins with a food diary or log where you write down everything that you eat and your activity in a given day. Both of these things provide insight into what works best for you. If you are tracking things like calories, steps, etc.. do your best to include these. If you are a diabetic, it is useful to track carbohydrate consumption rather than calories.

Other interesting things to note include time of day, a few sentences about how you feel about an hour after eating or exercising. The things that you include in your diary should be predetermined so that you glean the best information possible to reach your health goals.

Top rated food and exercise diaries:

There are numerous ways to keep track of your food intake and fitness the old fashioned way. Here are two journals that will help you meet your goals.

This inexpensive food journal allows you to keep track of important things like water consumption, daily calories, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This book lays flat for easy recording and has room for up to five meals as day.

Keep track of your activity in this portable  journal that allows you to record your cardio, strength, daily goals and even some nutrition notes. With 60 pages, this little notebook is easy to slip into your gym bag and durable enough to take a beating.

Scale

Whether you like what you see or not, stepping on a reliable scale once a week may be just the thing that you stay motivated and even encouraged. Keep in mind that the scale is not your enemy, but rather a way to keep you informed. When you combine your food and activity log with your weight records, you can get a good picture of what is working and what is possibly getting in the way of your success.  For best results, use the same scale each week ( a reliable one) and be sure to weigh yourself at the same time each week.

Here are two scales that are both accurate and affordable:

Although this scale only costs $ 32.95 it scores big with over 12,000 positive reviews on Amazon. This scale offers instant readings, a large lit display, precision g sensors in .2 lb increments up to 440 pounds. The platform is durable and large and there is an auto calibrate feature and an auto shut off.

This scale measures not only body weight but also % body fat, % body water, % muscle mass and bone mass. Another nice feature of this scale is that it can store data for up to 8 users. These features make it well worth its $44.95 price tag.

Pedometer

Pedometers provide an accurate way to keep track of the steps that you take daily. These little devices are well worth the money you will spend which can average between $15 – $75 depending on just how fancy you want to go.

Although most people get about 3,000 steps per day, 6,000 steps are suggested for health maintenance. It is recommended that you walk at least 10,000 steps if your objective is weight loss. Walking is a very low risk, safe and inexpensive way to stay in shape and keeping track of your steps will show you just how effective it is.

Here are two popular pedometer tools to choose from:

This top of the line fitness tool does a lot more than count your steps. You can monitor calories burned and even stairs climbed. In addition access data about how long and well you sleep, set your fitness goals and earn motivational badges to help you do your best. Sync your stats wirelessly on your computer or on over 150 smartphones.

The Yamax is an affordable tool that claims to be 98 to 99% accurate. You can track your steps, distance, stride, calories and fat burned using this low-cost pedometer. Other features include a 30-day memory and a clock.

Accelerometer

If you want to take your tracking to a new level, consider an accelerometer. This device measures frequency, duration and intensity of physical activity. You can find these in a wide variety of prices from $50 to $1,000.

Apps

Technology can be an excellent thing when it comes to self-monitoring. If you prefer to use an app on your smartphone to keep track of your diet and exercise, there are plenty to choose from. What makes mobile apps so great is that they are always with you making it easy to keep track. Here are two top performers:

This little app is fabulous at helping you set your goals for weight loss and exercise. It even helps you track your blood pressure, sleep and more. This powerful program allows you to count calories, share favorite meals with friends and even scan food items using your camera and bar codes. One of the best features of this app is the ability it has for you to connect to accountability partners. Who doesn’t need a little motivation from time to time. Keeping track of your exercise and setting personal challenges is also included.

While the free version does plenty, the premium for just $39.99/year is loaded with awesome features such as informative content and tools to manage conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Some call this food, fitness, and overall health tracker one of the best free programs available. You can customize your weight loss and fitness goals, store your favorite food items and recipes, count not only calories but also micronutrients and find nutrition facts.You can access even more free tools at livestrong.com such as meal plans, free workout videos and the latest in health and wellness.

For just $29/year you can become a gold member. With this membership, you will have advanced statistics tools, a private community board, a clean eating guide with recipes and tips, priority customer support and more

It counts to pay attention

If you are serious about your health, it will serve you well to be serious about self-monitoring. Although it is unclear as to what extent of self-monitoring is best for optimal performance and compliance with healthy lifestyle plan, it is evident that there are many benefits to becoming more aware .

– Be Well

 

 

6 Great Reasons to Work Your Muscles

Be honest, did you ever stand in front of a mirror when you were younger and flex your muscles? Remember turning from side to side, leg poised, admiring your well-toned body for hours? Oops, perhaps you still do that today, and that’s ok. However, by now you probably know that muscles are for more than flexing.

The human body employs between 640 and 850 muscles. Some of these muscles are voluntary while others are operating without you even knowing. The heart is a cardiac muscle and an involuntary muscle. It just keeps beating without us having to initiate or oversee anything. Voluntary muscles are known as skeletal muscles because they attach to your bones and work in partnership with your bones to allow you to walk run, push things, pull things, bend over, etc.

All muscles, whether involuntary or voluntary are essential for human health. While being healthy will have an impact on your involuntary muscles, more effort is required to keep skeletal muscles at the top of their game.

Here is why you should work your skeletal muscles

If you think that just doing daily living things like brushing your hair or taking out the trash will keep your muscles in check, think again. It is necessary, especially if you are over 40 to focus some attention on your skeletal muscles. Here are just a few reasons why:

Stronger muscles help make daily activities easier: Muscles are important not just for athletics but for everyday living. Without muscles, simple tasks like pushing a lawnmower or vacuuming the floor would be tough.

Skeletal muscles help improve posture:  If you can hold good posture, you will find that you have a reduction in back problems and things like chronic pain ease up. Now sit up straight!

Leaner muscles accelerate calorie burn: If you really want to burn calories and drop pounds, train your muscles more. A high energy twenty-minute workout with weights will burn more calories than an easy fifty-minute walk in the park. These calories are burned during the training session and also during the post-workout period. For every pound of muscle you put on your body burns 50 more calories each day.

The more muscles you develop, the stronger you will be: Who doesn’t want to be stronger? There is an obvious connection between well worked and toned muscles and strength. Contrary to what Popeye taught us, you need more than a can of spinach to be strong.

Skeletal muscles help keep you upright and balanced

When your muscles are healthy, you can move more freely. Strong muscles also keep your joints in good shape. Healthy muscles are what also keep you from falling each time you stumble.

Muscles help optimize insulin

skeletal muscle strengtheningGood news for anyone who is pre-diabetic ( metabolic syndrome) or diabetic, working your muscles can help you better use insulin and absorb glucose.(2) Resistance training combined with aerobic activity is the best combination for optimizing insulin.

How do muscles become strong?

In the case of muscle building and toning, an injury must occur before good things can happen. That injury involves muscle fibers that break down when we work them in resistance training exercises. Oh, so that you know, mowing the lawn or vacuuming don’t count as muscle building exercises unless your mower and vacuum are super hard to push. When muscle fibers become irritated, the body goes to work to patch up the problem that results in more muscle tissue. It is a pretty amazing process.

Don’t forget a healthy diet

In addition to physical exercise, you need a good wholesome diet to fuel your muscle building. Many people make the mistake of not eating enough or often enough, and they find they lack the energy necessary to be physical. Consuming a snack before you exercise and after will help fuel your workout and recover afterward.  These Savory Breakfast Muffins make the perfect anytime pre-workout snack when paired with a serving of your favorite protein such as eggs or lean chicken. After your workout, refuel with plenty of water and a baked sweet potato with real butter or some guacamole spread on a whole wheat or gluten-free pita.

Won’t I get huge bully muscles if I work them?

Many people, perhaps even you, might shy away from muscle building exercises for fear of ending up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although some might be happy with the look, others are probably thinking, what does he need all that muscle for? The good news is that to fine tune your muscles to look like any bodybuilder takes more than just a few visits a week to your local gym. Chances are, you are not likely to waddle your way out of the gym after a few months of weight training with muscles on muscles. What will happen, however, is that your skeletal muscles will get a great workout and this, in turn, kickstarts your metabolism and impacts overall health and wellness in a large way.

How big do my skeletal muscles have to be?

If you have ever been to a gym, you have probably seen guys and gals that have really large, well-toned muscles. These are people that have trained for hours upon hours, months upon months and years upon years,  to achieve the look of a very muscular body. Don’t fret, it is not necessary and sometimes not even healthy to push the body so far. In reality, the size of the muscle is not the all in all – what is important, however, is that you consistently you train your muscles to increase your muscle mass and reduce excess fat. The saying that we all know, “use it or lose it,” applies perfectly in the case of muscles. Atrophy sets in when we don’t give our muscles a job to do.

How to do just enough, but not too much

It doesn’t have to be a huge or complicated job either, just a consistent job. Over time, muscles respond and become toned and healthy. One of the best ways to achieve all of the benefits of well-toned muscles is not by going to the gym and using all the fancy equipment but rather using the best and most reliable piece of equipment you own, your body. That’s right, body weight exercises are highly effective at building a sleek and well-toned physique without the bulk. A simple workout such as this one, done only twice a week for 30 minutes each time is all it takes to keep your muscles alert and engaged.

Overkill not the answer

Now you know that being Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a must (unless. of course, you want to look like him) when it comes to benefiting your overall health and wellbeing. Just be consistent and dedicated to a body weight routine and you will see and feel a significant difference in no time at all.

 – Be Well


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6 Reasons to Get Moving

Even small amounts of physical activity can be good for your health. But do you know all the reasons why?

If the thought of exercise turns you off, it may be time to reframe your perspective. Research shows that it’s not just structured exercise but any type of physical activity that has benefits. This means anything that gets you moving—a walk with a friend, raking leaves in the yard, climbing several flights of stairs—counts, as long as it gets you moving for a sustained amount of time. And any amount of physical activity is better than none. This means getting moving for just 15 minutes a day can start to bring benefits, especially if you are usually not active.

In terms of guidelines, experts say that to maintain health, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This is any activity that gets your large muscle groups moving continuously, such as walking, biking or jumping rope. For strength benefits, you should aim for two sessions per week that work your major muscle groups. This could be formal exercises using machines or free weights, but it can also be everyday activities with no equipment at all.

But the most important thing is to get started doing any physical activity rather than worrying about restrictive guidelines. “If you can’t make the guidelines initially, strive to achieve them over time,” says Todd Galati, exercise scientist for the American Council on Exercise. Start with short periods of physical activity, then work your way up. To get motivated, consider these six life-enhancing benefits of exercise.

1. It can help you feel more energetic.

Aerobic exercise stimulates the growth of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Your heart uses these vessels to pump more blood and oxygen around your body, which translates to feelings of greater energy and vitality. When you first start an exercise program, you may feel tired, but soon you’ll likely find you have more stamina and energy.

2. It can help you age well.

People who engage in regular exercise have a better quality of life and live longer. Physical activity combats the effects of getting older by slowing down the aging process through increased strength of the body’s systems. Exercise increases your resiliency to disease and injury, keeping your body and mind in tip-top shape for years.

3. It can boost your metabolism.

Exercise plays an important role in weight control by burning calories that would otherwise be stored as fat. Research shows exercise increases metabolism during and up to one hour following an aerobic workout. Increased metabolism burns more calories and improves your ability to lose unwanted pounds.

4. It may help prevent chronic disease.

Regular aerobic exercise can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and some forms of cancer. Exercise may not eliminate all pains but it often reduces muscle and joint pain. Studies show that weight-bearing exercises build stronger bones and help prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.

5. It can mean a happier you.

Exercise has a powerful ability to improve your mood, self-image and general sense of well-being. Aerobic activity stimulates the brain to produce endorphins, the feel-good hormones, which are said to relieve stress. Research indicates exercise is likely to reduce depression and anxiety. After a demanding day, a single session of aerobic exercise often decreases tension and helps you relax.

6. It can help you be stronger and more flexible.

Regular exercise keeps all muscles strong—not just the ones you might generally think about—and gives you more flexibility, reducing your chances of injury. Aerobic exercise strengthens muscles, and strength training tones and builds muscles, giving you more power, increased endurance and better fitness.

You can start reaping exercise’s benefits by adding just a little activity each day. Try jumping jacks during commercials, a brisk walk at lunch or a burst of dancing to your favorite music. Start with just 10 minutes a day if you need to, and see if you can get to 150 minutes a week. But remember to check in with your doctor before you start or change your exercise routine, especially if you have a chronic health condition. Your doctor can tell you how much and what types of activity are right for you.

Special guest author: Irene Lewis-McCormick, M.S.
With permission by Diet (Meredith’s Food & Health Content Center)