By: Ellisha Mannering
Many people want a complete body makeover. The first step in creating the new you is to start a new fitness plan that will fit in with your lifestyle and will start right at your current level of fitness.
A fitness plan will be the most successful if it can be scheduled daily. Some people like to work out first thing in the morning, before they go to work or school. Other people prefer to work in working out on their lunch breaks. Still other people prefer to work out at the end of the day, when all other obligations are completed. Whatever your preference, choose a time of day that you can devote to your fitness regime. This time should be long enough to allow you to see some progress without stopping or being interrupted. If you are able to schedule a specific time per day to devote to your fitness and your health, you are more likely to keep working out and stick to the program.
Depending on your goals for your fitness program, incorporating the right results into your program will give you the fastest results, which will also help encourage you to stick to it. The program should be individualized, but should include aerobics, cardiovascular and strength training. Creating a mixture of these elements will give you a total body workout and build muscle while burning fat.
Diet is another important component of any fitness program. Your diet should include healthy foods that energize you and nourish your body. Remove any junk foods from your diet, and also remove foods that are high in sugar and salt. Just removing these elements from your diet will cut back on calories. Be sure you drink plenty of water and stay fully hydrated, as well.
Creating a New You fitness plan can help your mind, body, and soul. Create a fitness plan that easily fits into your schedule, that is easy for you to perform, and one that you can add to and make more difficult as you progress. Get your friends and family involved and support each other while you lose weight and get healthy.
By: Nicole Carolan
Whether you’re 16 or 60, research has shown that strength-training exercises are effective for women, including those who are not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns such as heart disease or arthritis often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes weights a few times each week. While aerobics and cardio training benefits the heart and lungs and helps with weight loss, it does not build muscle. Strength training, alone or combined with regular aerobic exercise can also have a profound impact on a person’s mental and emotional health.
Many of us grew up thinking that in order to burn calories and lose weight, we had to vigorously jump, run or completely exhaust ourselves. With the evolution of exercise and the surge of knowledge that’s come with it, numerous benefits have been found from regular strength training. It can slow down the aging process, keep insulin levels at a low, reduce symptoms of chronic conditions and yes, burn tons of calories. Here’s a list of more benefits:
- Reduce the risk or severity of diabetes
- Help manage or stave off osteoporosis
- Build muscle, burn calories, and rev up a slow metabolism
- Reduce back pain
- Alleviate and help with depression symptoms
- Improve sleep patterns
Don’t stop your morning walks or avoid the elliptical machine. Just be sure to concentrate on building and maintaining muscle with low weight and high reps.
By: Nicole Carolan
Good nutrition for women is not about eating a handful of foods, but rather the nutritional adequacy of the whole diet. And it’s important to remember that we have specific nutrient needs. We need adequate iron to prevent anemia and calcium to prevent osteoporosis. More importantly, highly active women are susceptible to nutritional deficiencies because of their lifestyles. For example, we often have very busy schedules with little time to eat, or our nutritional needs may have increased because of excessive exercise, but we haven’t compensated changes to their diet to meet these needs.
There are some truly super foods packed with nutrients that can boost performance and protect from cancers and heart disease.
1. Lean red meat
Lean red meat is an excellent source of protein and iron. Its high content of protein assists in the weight loss and provides iron to fight against anemia.
Packed full of protein and healthy omega 3 fats, this type of fish should be on everyone’s dinner plate at least twice a week. It may lower levels of bad cholesterol, which helps prevent heart attack and stroke.
Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps lower blood cholesterol. Eating oats for breakfast can help maintain energy levels for longer and control your appetite.
4. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the human body. Vitamin A is an important antioxidant that helps maintain reproductive function, vision and immune function. Packed with low glycemic carbohydrates and fiber, sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense as well as being delicious.
Berries contain the highest antioxidant score of any fresh fruit. This means they can destroy free radicals in the body before they cause damage to healthy cells. It is important for anyone who is very active to ensure their diet is high in antioxidants.
Regardless of your schedule, try to pack these foods into your meals and snacks. Food choices impact health, mood, energy levels, and your weight.
By: Nicole Carolan
Many people make New Year’s Resolutions, encounter health issues, have a special event, or have another special reason to incorporate exercise into their lives. Unfortunately, sometimes people set themselves up for failure, experience burn-out and even injuries. To prevent these stumbling blocks to a successful fitness routine, first consider the do’s and don’ts of any successful fitness program.
Keep it real — stay within your limits.
Exercise anywhere and everywhere.
Get outdoors to exercise, or away from the cause of your stress.
Don’t try to run a marathon if you’ve never run a mile.
Don’t make excuses about not having the time or place to work out. Use what you have and make it work!
If possible, make your workout venue a positive environment. Don’t exercise at home if that’s the cause or scene of your stress.
Adding exercise to your life can result in better mental clarity. As you achieve results, others naturally are influenced by your positive changes. You will notice the progressive results of the benefits- a better physique, better physical endurance and that will encourage you to continue with this positive life change.
By: Nicole Carolan
It does a body good, not to mention the mind. A consistent exercise program contributes huge benefits to stress management. Unfortunately, more than ever, we face a barrage of stressors every day. Whether it be tough financial times, a demanding schedule, or an uncertain job status, stress and pressure come in all forms and can often wreak havoc on your life and peace of mind. And since we have little or no control over these stressors, it’s important to control what we actually can — the way we manage our stress.
Exercise is key – It is one of the best ways to stave off stress, stay healthy and clear your mind. Besides improving your appearance, exercise improves your overall health and your sense of well-being, which gives you a sense of control over your body and your life.
Here are some stress-slashing benefits of exercise:
Good in, bad out: Exercise can decrease your body’s stress hormones, including cortisol, a culprit in so many health issues when found at increased levels. Physical activity also helps to pump up the production of your brain’s “natural high” neurotransmitters, known as endorphins. These help you go from crazed to cool in a few minutes.
Diversion: Exercise can take your mind off of your problems and redirect it on the activity at hand or put you into a zen-like state. Exercise typically offers you a change of scenery, sometimes taking you to a fitness studio, a park, or a scenic beach — all of which are low-stress places.
It’s all about you! How often do you get the chance to dedicate time just to yourself? Between the demands you face at home, and putting out fires at work, you’re constantly doing for others. Replenish through exercise — take an hour just for yourself and bask in the glory that you are the one benefiting, even if it’s for just a short time.
It’s therapy on the go. After a power walk or an indoor cycling class, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s frustrations and focused solely on your body. As you start to habitually release your daily tensions by physical activity, you may find peace of mind in everything you do.
Better nights: We’ve all lost sleep over a stressful event. But when this becomes frequent or chronic, you can kiss goodbye productive and happy days. Sleep deprivation leads to a run-down immune system, depression, and anxiety. Regular exercise can improve your sleep, making you more alert and energized.
Whatever it is that keeps you up at night, exercise is a great coping mechanism. While it can’t eliminate the stressors we encounter, it gives us the tools to manage stress. So if you’re just starting a healthy lifestyle for the first time, or for the first time in years, be sure to put the right habits in motion.
By: Nicole Carolan
Has your relationship with a gym ever atrophied? Have your visions of a beach body ever become blurry? Whatever the case, maintaining a workout regime is often more difficult than actually starting one.
What causes the most well-intentioned person to stray from a healthy routine? Most of the time it’s not the individual’s discipline level to blame — the culprit is often our approach to staying motivated to exercise.
Whether you get caught in the ebbs and flows of working out or you’re jumping on the healthy bandwagon for the first time, baby steps and creative strategies are the best way to go for long-term results. As you strive for a healthier, stronger, sexier you, it’s so important to acknowledge your efforts, as well as the small (but significant) improvements along the way. Are your clothes fitting better? Feeling a little more stamina when in the past you may have wanted more energy? We’d all like to see tighter abs and less jiggle after a week of strenuous workouts, but since we can’t experience instant gratification, swerving around mental roadblocks will help you stay the course and meet your goals.
Here are 5 ways to stay the course:
1. Find a Buddy – Work out with a friend or even a spouse to help keep each other motivated. Be the motivation that keeps the other off the couch and on their feet. If that can’t always happen, share your experience with friends on Facebook or on a cool blog. There are great ways to get tips and ideas online.
2. Change your tune – Music is a huge motivation when it comes to exercising. Certain songs can strike a personal chord and help get you over a hurdle or dry spell. Download your favorite songs to get the push you need — or listen to the same song 10 times if that’s what gets you psyched!
3. Lighten up – Life is challenging enough. Instead of scrutinizing yourself, start each workout with the feeling that you’ll finish being a healthier person, not always a thinner one. Be patient and stay positive.
4. Crawl before you run (a marathon) – It is important to start with a realistic exercise schedule to avoid burnout. If you’re just beginning, start off slowly. Remember that even a limited exercise schedule is better than none at all, and it can serve as a starting point to a more robust exercise routine.
5. Change Your Scenery – If your routine is becoming, well, too routine, then make a change right away. Trying a new class or adding a whole new component of exercise could be just what you need to stay in the game.
By: Nicole Carolan
Exercising under the best of circumstances is hard enough. Just the regular interruptions of everyday life can keep you home, late at the office, or driving your kids around. Compound these daily obstacles with the pitfalls of aging, and getting or staying in shape can become an uphill climb.
Don’t let it be!
So when do we really notice the effects that aging has on our exercise routines? If we could hold on to our 20s, no one would read this post. In your 20s, your taken-for-granted body is running at its peak in every way. From a fired up metabolism to forgiving flexibility, your body is a well-oiled machine. This is a time to push!
When you hit your mid-30s, there are subtle but proven changes in how your body reacts to exercise. Studies have shown that your natural fitness start to decrease around age 35. These pitfalls include a slower metabolic rate by up to five percent, slower recovery times, and a slight loss in flexibility. The good news? You’re still so young, and time is on your side.
There’s plenty of opportunity to get in shape and appropriately balance your workouts for future damage control. Instead of doing excessive cardio (which we all tend to think wards off weight gain and burns the most calories), incorporate 30 minutes of weights and resistance, followed by 20 to 45 minutes of cardio. This combination will maintain muscle mass and increase overall strength — both weapons in the fight against aging.
In your 40s, it is all too common to start working out for the first time because you’ve had a rude wake-up call by a more cavalier (and maybe more indulgent life in your 20s and 30s). Your clothes may be tighter and you might be asking yourself, “Where did those 20 pounds come from?” It’s never too late to start exercising, and it’s very important at any age to make exercise a part of your life. And in your 40s, exercise is critical to thwarting osteoporosis and the inevitable bone loss that many women experience as we age. Focus on weight-bearing exercises such as running, walking and weights. But don’t just jump into a rigorous routine — realize that your body (albeit still young) has to transition slowly. For those who head into their 40s with an established exercise routine, be thoughtful about pushing toward new personal bests. It may still be possible, but it could require more work and carry more risk of injury.
In your 50s, it is extremely important to keep up the workouts. If you lapse, it’s much harder to get back into a routine. During these years, setting attainable goals helps you stay focused. Work on a particular body part you may have taken for granted over time (and one that shows the effects of aging). Legs can look remarkably toned and young if you’ve clocked the hours biking, running or power walking; upper arms, on the other hand, may require more attention now.
And in your 60s and beyond, do whatever your body allows you to do to keep fit. Keep an open dialogue with your doctors and fitness instructors about what’s right for you.
There is no question that as we get older we face many challenges in terms of the changes that occur in our bodies. The good news is that through trial and error, we figure it out, we look and feel better. Being armed with self-confidence and wisdom is powerful –it’s possible to achieve fitness goals even as we age.
The bottom line: Exercise is the best revenge against time.
By: Justin Devonshire
One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Is it possible to build muscle without weights?”
I’m glad to tell you that the answer is a definitive ‘yes’!
Let me quickly tell you the story of how I know this is true.
Years ago I taught a martial arts school. I always knew the importance that fitness and strength plays in martial arts so I would include a fitness regime into my martial arts classes.
In our karate dojo, however, we had no weights, no equipment and no other means of exercising other than using our own bodyweight.
I trained many guys using nothing but their own bodies and every one saw great increases in muscle and strength.
You can build muscle without weights by following this simple secret:
understand the principles behind muscle growth and you can use them to your advantage whatever equipment you have (or don’t have!).
The first thing to remember is that your muscles need to be challenged with resistance in order to grow.
The second thing to remember is that your muscles cannot determine a difference between resistance from a barbell and resistance from your own bodyweight.
Your body does not know if it under the resistance of a push up, or of a bench press. It simply knows that it is under a degree of tension and must adapt.
Therefore, it’s a relief to know that you can defiantly build muscle without weights, or any type of equipment. All you need to put resistance on your muscles is gravity!
The two main principles of hypertrophy (muscle growth) are ‘time-under-tension’ and using short rest periods. Let’s quickly discuss each of these proven factors and then how you can apply them to bodyweight training.
Muscle Building Factor #1: Time Under Tension
Time under tension refers to the amount of time your muscles are stimulated during each set of an exercise. Most bodybuilders agree that the optimal time a muscle needs to be under tension in each set to see growth is 60 – 90 seconds.
Therefore, simply slow down your sets to a 4-4-4 tempo. Let’s use a press up as an example. You would lower your chest to the floor over 4 seconds, then remain holding yourself in the bottom position for another 4 seconds, and final push yourself back up over 4 seconds.
You would immediately start descending into the next repetition to repeat the process.
This puts your muscles under a longer time under tension and will still cause stimulation to the muscle.
Another option is to perform a normal, or faster repetition speed but perform a higher amount of total repetitions and sets to achieve a longer time under tension.
Muscle Building Factor #2: Short Rest Periods
Another concept bodybuilders agree on is that short rest periods are more effective for causing muscle growth. This is because the incomplete recovery causes your body to release lactic acid and growth hormone – two chemicals that are shown to be linked to hypertrophy.
To incorporate this principle to your workout routine, simply rest a maximum of 30 – 90 seconds in between each set of your bodyweight exercise.
Muscle Building Factor #3: Progressive Adaptation
The third principle is perhaps the most important, and yet the most overlooked by most trainees I see in the gym.
No matter what you do, you must be progressively making the exercise more challenging to your body. If you keep applying the same stimulus to your muscles then it will adapt once and then no more.
In a typical gym setting most guys progress their workouts by adding weight to the bar. But don’t worry – even without weights you can still increase the difficulty of an exercise in many ways.
Try any of the following methods to progressively increase your workouts and avoid a muscle building plateau:
Try a harder variation of an exercise (for example, progress from a squat to a single-leg squat)
Shorten your rest periods by 5 seconds each week
Add 1 more set to your total amount for each exercise each week
Complete your entire workout in a faster time
Only try one or at most two of these progressions at any one time, as any more will be too much of an increase to your body.
Follow these principles closely and you’ll always be sure that you can build muscle without weights.
By Kendra Whitmire
Recently, the benefits of standing for work have been touted as much healthier than sitting in a chair all day. Companies have even capitalized on the fad by selling standing workstations. However, many who stand all day for work at a variety of jobs complain of many pains and injuries due to being on their feet all day. Both sides have their pros and cons, making the decision of which is best for your body the harder.
Sitting all day has long been accused of causing back pain, obesity, and increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Poor spinal alignment due to slouching causes an imbalance of the core muscles and a bending of the spine, leading to back pain. Many of the back muscles become weak, are out of balance, and no longer support the back properly. Additionally, the human body is not made to sit all day. Human ancestors walked, farmed, ran, hunted, gathered, and many more actions that hardly required sitting. Evolution has not caught up to the present sedentary society, so the human body finds it difficult to adjust, creating many health problems.
Sitting is one of the most passive actions a person performs, and too much sitting slows down the metabolism exponentially. The body recognizes sitting down as resting; therefore, it does not burn any calories. Even people who regularly exercise but then sit at a desk all day are heavier, have higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar than those who stand.
Standing seems like a much healthier alternative. Because your body has to work to stand, including tensing leg, back, shoulder, and core muscles, it burns calories and keeps your metabolism on. Additionally, standing correctly maintains a proper spinal alignment. With the right workstation, you can work while standing and might even boost your mental capacity and work efficiency. Some of the greatest minds, like Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Wolfe, and Leonardo di Vinci, all worked while standing up.
However, standing all day takes its toll on the body as well. It can cause feet swelling, varicose veins, lower back pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, and other leg problems.
With health benefits and problems for both sitting and standing, the question remains of which is healthier. A mixture of both is a great alternative solution. Whichever you choose, either standing or sitting should be done properly.
If sitting, make sure you sit properly. Engage your core, sit straight, have both feet flat on the ground, have your computer monitor to where your head and eyes look straight, and type with your hands at a natural, elbow level. Find an agronomical chair, or a balance balls work perfectly. They engage your core, adding some movement and calorie burning while strengthening your back muscles and relieve some pressure on your sit bones.
If you choose to stand, be sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Additionally, stand straight, concentrating on proper posture. Use a workstation that allows for the monitor to be at eye level and the keyboard at a natural alignment with your arms. Avoid slouching or too much rocking back and forth on your legs.
Regardless of your work habits, posture, alignment, and a strong core will limit any back problems. Additionally, take short breaks often, even if it is just a one-minute turn away from the screen with a quick stretch or a quick walk to the bathroom or the copier. Do something other than sit, and your body will thank you. If you do choose to stand, remember that initially it will tire you out. Build your body up to standing all day.
By Kendra Whitmire
As the old adage goes, laughter is the best medicine. So it is only natural that a new kind of yoga is making the rounds: Laughter Yoga. A bona fide wellbeing workout, Laughter Yoga was first launched in 1995. It has spread worldwide and is now practiced in 72 countries. The concept is to harness the healthful benefits of laughter for both psychological and physiological wellbeing.
At a Laughter Yoga session, you start with forced laughter, mixed with yogic breathing. Although at first the laughter is forced, it will soon turn to natural, unconditional laughter. No jokes, comedy, or humor is needed. The group dynamic helps transform the forced laughter into a natural, contagious laughter. However, even if the laughter remains forced, it does not matter. The body does not differentiate between forced and natural laughter, so all of the health benefits are reached either way.
Laughter Yoga clubs are completely free. The central idea behind them is that they are a social clubs run by volunteers trained as teachers, leaving any politics, religion, or spirituality at the door. A desire to laugh your troubles away is all that is required. Most sessions meet in a local park or community center of some kind.
Laughter has many health benefits. It boosts mental energy and mood. Starting the day with laughter yoga leads to a positive energy that prepares your body to cope with daily stress. It also boosts your mood, easing anxiety and depression. In fact, laughter yoga will help you get off of anti-depressions and other medications. Laughter boosts the immune system, leading to fewer diseases including the common cold and flu. Many chronic medical problems can be cured through laughter yoga. The combination of yogic breathing and laughter controls emotions, stress, soothing the body so that it can heal itself.
Studies on Laughter Yoga at several universities have proved the health benefits. Laughter decreases the levels of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol. Because these stress hormones lead to many chronic diseases, finding ways to minimize their affects on the body strengthens and heals the body. Additionally, laughter fosters positive emotions, leading to a happy and hopeful disposition. This strengthens and prepares the body and mind when daily stresses and problems happen. A person can easily laugh away any troubles, maintaining a light, healthy and happy attitude.
A good attitude filled with hope can help you achieve anything, for the mind is a powerful tool. Laughter yoga has helped cure cancer patients due to strengthening the immune system and providing a hopeful attitude. Similarly, it has helped people with mental or physical disabilities and other chronic diseases.
Laughter yoga has also provided benefits to schools, businesses, senior centers and even prisons. It improves the mood and overall wellbeing of workers in the workplace, boosting performance and achievements. In schools, students have better attitudes, attendance and discipline records. Similarly, prisons have used laughter to help with the attitudes, discipline problems and repeat offenses of prisoners.
So, whether you make loud guffaws or small little chuckles, laugh and make yourself feel great with Laughter Yoga. To find a laughter yoga club near you, visit laughteryoga.org.