Tag Archives: exercise

7 Tips to Restart Your Exercise Habit

ExerciseHabitBlogIf you’re like me, you were hung-ho to start a new exercise routine in the beginning of January. Then, February rolls around. It’s cold and gloomy outside. You’re getting over a head cold. Your work schedule is especially hectic.

It’s easy to become derailed from your fitness routine. The important thing is to get started again.

Exercise has so many health benefits. It can help improve your sense of well-being, give you more pep and energy, let you sleep more soundly, make you feel more alert, relieve stress and give you more self confidence.

Here are 7 tips to get your exercise habit back on track:

Set specific goals
You might want to run a marathon, bike 100 miles or train for a triathlon. The best way to get there is to set specific, smaller goals that will lead to your big goal. You may want to practice running a mile first, or biking 20 miles and improving on the time it takes you. You may just want to get more active. You could set a goal to walk two or three miles every day.

Do activities you enjoy
There’s no rule that says you have to go to the gym or buy expensive equipment. I personally don’t like to run. So, I don’t run. There are plenty of physical activities you can do that you enjoy. It may take some time to find what suits your personality. You can try team sports, walking with friends, playing tennis, bike riding or whatever is fun to you.

Make exercise a priority
Until you put exercise at the top of your to-do list, you’ll find every reason not to do it. Make your exercise routine non-negotiable. Then, it will become an integral part of your daily life.

Create a ritual
Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or another cue will automatically lead you to begin your workout. If your physical activity is completely random, it’s harder to get in the habit of sticking to that ritual.

Mix things up
You can still mix up the types of exercise you work into your regular routine. You’re more likely to get bored if you do the same thing every day. Plus, if you work your muscles with the repetitive motion every day, your muscles adapt to it. You burn fewer calories and build less muscle. Switch up strength training with cardio activities like swimming, cycling or kickboxing.

Make it social
Commit to working out with another person. If you promise to meet a friend at the gym or go for a walk after dinner, you’re more likely to make it happen. You can also challenge your friends to meet their exercise goals through phone calls, texts or social media. A strong social network can motivate you to reach your goals.

Reward yourself
Experts say that making behavior changes is hard and that rewards motivate. Decide on a goal and a reward, and work toward it. You can buy new walking shoes after you meet your walking goals. Or get together with your exercising buddies and go out for dinner. Come up with rewards that will motivate you to keep at it!

11 Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Life

teaspoon-of-sugar_01I know that I eat too much sugar. I want to cut back but it’s really hard. Sugar is so tasty!

The average American consumes about 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day.

You’re probably eating sugar throughout the day without even realizing it. Sugar is added to foods that don’t even taste that sweet, including breads, condiments, sauces and all kinds of processed foods and many low-fat products.

Cutting down on sugar can be one of the best ways to improve your health and your weight. Here are 11 ways you can lower your sugar intake and start feeling better:

Read food labels
You’ll soon realize how often sugar is added to foods when you look at the ingredients. Check the grams of sugar and choose products with the least sugar per serving. In addition, ingredients are listed in the order of how much exists in the product. If sugar is near the top, that’s a red flat that it’s loaded with sugar.

Learn sugar’s other names
When you read labels, you need to look for more than just the word sugar. It hides under many tricky names, such as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn sugar, sucrose, dextrose, honey, cane sugar, cane crystals, maple syrup, molasses and brown sugar.

Buy unsweetened
Now that you know where sugar hides, you can choose to buy foods that are labeled “no added sugar” and “unsweetened.” You’ll find many unsweetened versions of common foods in most grocery stores. You can pick up sugar-free non-dairy milk, nut butters, applesauce, oatmeal and canned fruit.

Don’t go fake
When you start reducing your sugar intake, you may be tempted to switch to artificial sweeteners. These types of sweeteners can mess up your taste for sweet. Your body will be expecting to receive calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars won’t give your body these things. Studies have shown that fake sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain, not weight loss.

Incorporate more protein and fat
Unhealthy carbs are loaded with sugar and can cause blood sugar to rise rapidly. Then, it crashes only to leave you hungry again. To avoid these ups and downs, add more protein, healthy fats and fiber to your meals to slow down the release of blood sugar in your body.

Add spices
While you’re cutting down on sugar, swap it our for healthy spices in your foods. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon will naturally sweeten foods and reduce your cravings.

Eat real foods
The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Foods in their natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually present a more healthy option to added sugar.

Drink water
Sometimes drinking water can help with sugar cravings. It turns out, what we perceive as a food craving can actually be thirst. In addition, water offers many other health benefits.

Move your body
Exercise at the gym, do yoga or go for a walk. When you move, you will help reduce stress and tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar boost.

Get enough sleep
What does sleep have to do with cutting down on sugar? Several studies have found that sleep deprivation of two hours or more under the recommended seven to nine hours leads to overeating and junk food cravings. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help you curb cravings and cut down on your sugar intake over time.

Stick to it!
Cutting down on sugar may feel like an impossible task. But now you have the tools to reduce your sugar intake. Eventually, your taste buds will adjust. Overly sweet foods like ice cream and candy will start to taste too sweet. When you may have normally eaten a whole slice of cake, you’ll find that a few bites will be enough. And, you’ll notice that the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables tastes better!

16 Habits of Extremely Healthy People

healthy-life-sign-250x165As we head into cold and flu season, I wonder how some people always seem to stay so healthy. I blame my kids for spreading germs, but I’d like to think there are things we can do to stay healthier during the fall and winter months.

Real health is about more than just the physical aspects of wellness. It encompasses much more. You need to include your mental, emotional and spiritual health in your plans for a healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no magic plan or potion that will guarantee your health, you can take steps to increase your overall health. In the process, you may also boost your immune system to ward off those pesky cold and flu germs.

Here are 16 habits that healthy people incorporate into their daily lives:

Look on the bright side
Healthy people are optimistic. They don’t waste time and energy complaining. If they need to make a change in there lives, they do it. A positive mental attitude goes along way to promoting and supporting other healthy behaviors.

Commit to a healthy life
Healthy people aren’t born that way. They have made a choice to live a healthy lifestyle. They take it one day at a time just like the rest of us. Do healthy people slip up and revert to bad habits occasionally? Absolutely. However, they know not to let one setback hold them back and continue to actively work toward living a healthy life.

Eat for nourishment
Eating right isn’t just about what you eat. It’s also about how much you eat. Your body will let you know when you’ve had enough. Healthy people pay attention to their bodies and listen when it tells them they are full. You can stop eating when your hunger is satisfied, and before that bloated, full feeling sets in.

Believe in moderation
Healthy people don’t deprive themselves of the foods they love. They eat healthy the majority of the time, but enjoy their favorite unhealthy foods once in a while without feeling guilty. Eat a couple pieces of pizza or have a cookie. Just remember to stay on your healthy course the rest of the time!

Enjoy exercise
I am not here yet. Healthy people actually enjoy exercising. How do they do it? They spend time doing exercises they actually like doing and avoid those they hate. If you hate to run, don’t run. If you don’t like going to a gym, don’t go. Find things you like to do: taking walks outdoors, swimming laps, riding your bike or doing yoga.

Balance work and play
With technology taking over our lives, many people never really clock out from their jobs. You may check emails from your phone or send work texts at dinner. Healthy people know that work is important, but they also know that our health suffers when we don’t take time for us. Make sure you maintain a good balance between work and play.

Drink water
Everyone knows they should drink more water, but healthy people actually do it. Drinking at least six, eight-ounce glasses of water a day can help you in so many ways. You can control your appetite, avoid dehydration and be more mentally attuned. Keep a refillable water bottle with you everywhere you go.

Eat healthy snacks
Snacking can make or break your health goals. Healthy people choose snacks like vegetables, fruits, almonds and other nuts. Replace processed snack foods with raw types of snacks, and you’ll develop an important healthy habit.

Reduce stress
Some stress is a good thing. It keeps us on task and prepares us to handle important challenges. But, chronic stress can be bad for your overall health. It can even weaken your immune system. Take time to relax and do things you enjoy. Say no to stress!

Get enough sleep
Without enough sleep, your immune system doesn’t have the resources it needs to fight off illness. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Keep a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine at bedtime, relax and make your bedroom an oasis.

Just say no
Healthy people are attuned to their own needs. You can say no to friends and loved ones. It means that you are respecting yourself. When you’ve reached your limit, listen to your mind and body, and say no. Your friends and family will understand.

Kick bad habits
If you smoke or drink alcohol, it can weaken your immune system. Smoking is also likely to give you additional health problems. While a glass of wine or a couple of beers is okay, overdoing it can cause you to get sick more often.

Get a pet
Dogs and other pets aren’t just good to have as companions. They can help you get exercise and improve your health. Pets have been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contributing to a healthier heart. Dogs can also be good for your immune system and help you relieve stress.

Have a laugh
Laughing can be good for you. Research as shown that laughter may help boost your immune system. Laughing and smiling also help relieve stress and put you in a good mood.

Live in the moment
Take time to enjoy life’s little pleasures. Be thankful for everything that is good in your life. The ability to appreciate the things you have, regardless of what else might be going on, helps you maintain a peaceful mindset rather than focus on what you don’t have.

Be kind
Healthy people treat others how they want to be treated. Creating a habit of kindness and respect will make you feel good about yourself and build strong relationships with your friends and family. Small acts of goodness can change your life – and can impact someone else’s life, too. Be compassionate, and you’ll give off a healthy glow!

11 Exercise Benefits You Don’t See

exerciseWhat’s the most common reason why people exercise? To lose weight. Yet, physical activity provides so many more benefits. Do you want to feel better? Need more energy? Want to live longer? Then get out there and get moving!

Here are 11 important benefits to exercising that you don’t see:

Improved mood
If you’re in a bad mood or have had a stressful day, you can blow off some steam by going for a brisk 30-minute walk or working out at the gym. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about yourself because you fit a workout into your day.

Energy boost
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is move. Yet, when you use energy to exercise, it gives you an energy boost. By exercising more regularly, you may also be able to eliminate fatigue and find that you have a lot more pep.

More confidence
Working out can make you look better on the outside. It can also make you feel better on the inside. Exercising can make you feel more empowered and boost your self-esteem. You feel ready to conquer anything.

Sleep better
We need our beauty rest so that our bodies can recover, repair damage, renew energy and clear the mind. Exercise is an all-natural sleep aid. People who exercise regularly have less insomnia and a higher quality of sleep.

Reduce stress
Exercise calms your body and your brain. After you work out, the levels of stress hormones – such as adrenaline and cortisol – drop. Especially after aerobic exercise, stress and anxiety melt away. You may also be able to cope more easily with stress when you feel confident about yourself.

Pump up your heart
If high blood pressure and heart disease run in your family, exercise can help you strengthen your heart. Being active boosts HDL or “good cholesterol” and lowers unhealthy triglycerides. Physical activity keeps your blood flowing and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Combat disease
In addition to giving you a healthy heart, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems. Do you have a family history of certain types of diseases? Get moving and reduce your risk of stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls.

Relieve arthritis pain
Regular exercise can help ease your pain if you have arthritis. It can make your daily activities easier. Consider non-impact exercises like swimming. These types of exercises can be easier on your joints.

Strengthen bones
It’s important to keep our bones and muscles strong as we get older. Weight-bearing exercise, such as weight-lifting, walking, tennis and dancing, can help you strengthen and build bones. It can also help ward off osteoporosis and improve balance and coordination.

Look younger
People who work out often look younger than their friends. Now research has found that exercisers are truly younger on a cellular level than their peers. Exercise more and feel free to lie about your age!

Live longer
In addition to looking younger, regular exercise can add years to your life. You don’t have to be a hard-core fitness buff. Just get up and get moving. Even a little exercise can help you live longer than not exercising at all.

The bottom line: exercise is a great way to feel better, gain confidence, combat disease and improve chronic health conditions. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. So get moving!

9 Ways to Burn More Calories

burn-300-caloriesLike most Americans, I am always searching for quick and easy ways to boost my metabolism. Is there really anything we can do to increase the number of calories our bodies burn each day?

The simple answer: yes and no. There is no magic trick to burning calories. Your age, gender and genetics play a role in your metabolism. You may inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn calories more easily than women. And, for most of us, metabolism slows steadily after the age of 40.

So, what can you do? The best way to burn calories is the old fashioned way: by moving more.

However, research suggests that there may be other ways to amp up your metabolism. Here are 9 ways to burn more calories:

Get Active
Energy is burned when you move. From making your bed in the morning to lifting your arm to push the remote control at night, you are burning calories. Simple daily activity can account for 30% of the calories you burn each day. So, get moving! The more active you are each day, the better.

Build Muscle
While you can burn calories when you’re doing nothing, the resting metabolic rate is higher in people with more muscle. For every pound of muscle you put on, your body uses about 50 extra calories a day. Training with weights 3 times a week for just 20 minutes is enough to build muscle.

Add Protein
Your body can burn more calories when digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. To create a balanced diet, replace some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods. Good sources of protein include lean meats, such as beef, turkey, fish and white meat chicken. You can also add protein to your diet with nuts, beans, eggs, tofu and low-fat dairy products.

Snack smart
Eating more frequently can help you lose weight. When you eat 3 large meals a day with several hours between them, your metabolism slows down in between. Having smaller meals or snacks every 3 or 4 hours can help keep your metabolism going at a steady pace throughout the day. In addition, small snacks help you eat less at mealtimes.

Hydrate
We know that water is good for our health. Your body also needs water to process calories. If you become even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In studies, adults who drink 8 or more glasses of water burned more calories than those who drank four glasses.

Spice it up
Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can rev up your metabolism. Eat foods spiced up with chopped red or green chili pepper, order Thai food or spice up pasta dishes, chili and stews with red pepper flakes. Spicy foods can spike up your metabolism by 23 percent.

Drink coffee
Caffeine is a stimulant and can help you burn more calories. In moderation, one of coffee’s benefits may be a short-term rise in your metabolic rate. Caffeine can also help you feel less tired and increase your endurance while exercising or give you the motivation to get moving!

Sip tea
Green and black tea may have calorie-burning effects beyond the caffeine they contain. Green tea contains catechins – substances that rev up your metabolism for a couple of hours. Drinking tea at meals may have another fat-fighting benefit. Tea extract may interfere with the body’s absorption of carbohydrates when eaten in the same meal.

Get fidgety
Fidgeting qualifies as movement and can help you burn more calories. What counts as fidgeting? Anything that keeps you moving! You can tap your feet, swing your legs, drum your fingers, pace, wriggle, stand up and stretch, move your head from side to side, or clench and release your muscles.

It’s easy to work these tips for burning calories into your daily routine. And, if you do nothing else, get moving! Make it a point every day to find more ways to be physically active.

9 Simple Ways to Handle Stress

relaxOur lives are filled with stress. It’s impossible to avoid. You’re already late for an appointment and get slowed down by road construction. Your boss dumped a proposal on you that’s due tomorrow. Your schedule is hectic, and you need to be in two places at once.

Research shows that some stress can be good for you. However, if you’re dealing with persistent – long-term stress, such as a sick parent or a demanding boss, it can actually lead to a variety of health issues.

Here are 9 simple and practical ways to copy with stress in your daily life:

Enjoy some fresh air
Make it a point to get outside every day. Research shows that vitamin D from sunlight can elevate your mood by releasing feel-good serotonin. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells around you will take your mind off your worries or frustrations. Even feeling the wind on your face can lift your spirits.

Take a walk
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to make you feel better, such as a candy, cigarettes or caffeine. Next time you’re feeling anxious, go for a quick stroll. Studies show that even 10 minutes of exercise can provide a mental boost. Better yet, climb a few flights of stairs. Climbing stairs requires you to pay more attention to what you’re doing and helps vent frustrations.

Rely on rituals
You probably already have rituals that help you relax, and you may not even realize it. For example, you may read the newspaper as you eat breakfast, listen to music while you clean or take a bath before going to bed. Our bodies naturally crave routines, so focusing on regular rituals can help you relax physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you stick to your regular routines.

Put down the junk food
Do you handle stress by eating? In hectic times, you may choose comfort foods, such as refined carbs or sugary snacks. You will most likely experience a sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Extra calories can also quickly add up to extra pounds. The next time you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruits, vegetables or a handful of nuts.

Get out of your head
Stress likes to mess with your mind. Do you ever get stuck in an ongoing loop of negative thoughts or playing back conversations in your head? A great way to get out of your own head is to engage in fun activities that put your focus on your hands or body. For instance, you can cook, knit or crochet, climb a rock wall or play a sport. When you do something creative or an engaging activity, you fall into a rhythmic pattern and your brain helps you relax and feel more grounded.

Visualize calm
Find a quiet area and create a happy place for a few minutes each day. Just sit still, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Clear you mind and concentrate on thinking about nothing stressful. It’s harder than you think! Find a comforting and calming image that works for you and helps you relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.

Focus on the present
It’s easy to get sucked into worrying over things that have already happened or imagining what could happen in the future. Let go of thoughts about the past and future, and focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are and what’s happening right now. Think about how the air feels on your skin, the sound of your kids laughing or a friend telling you about their day. Being mindful of the present can help you let go of stressing about the past and future.

Express your gratitude
Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. It can be as simple as going over the good things that happened that day before you go to sleep. You can write your feelings in a journal. Or, you can let friends and family know you are grateful for them. Research has shown that showing more gratitude releases hormones that make you feel good and lowers stress levels.

Connect with your spiritual side
Spirituality can boost happiness in times of stress. Many religious groups and native tribes use prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice. Having something to hold while communicating with a higher spirit can provide comfort and routine. Prayer can also help you pass your worries over to God and give you peace.

Learning how to cope with stress on a daily basis can help you improve your overall health and well-being. Take the time each day to acknowledge stress and find ways – like the tips above – to help you let it go and live a more balanced life.

6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.