Tag Archives: exercise

Top 9 Exercise Excuses and How to Overcome Them

exerciseI don’t like to exercise. I will probably never truly enjoy exercising. However, I know that regular physical activity is an important part of living a balanced life. Exercise is good for the mind, body and soul.

I know that I should work out. I have discovered that the reasons we don’t exercise may not be what we really think. What is really preventing you from sticking to your exercise routine?

Here are the top 9 excuses why you don’t exercise and how you can overcome them:

“I’m not motivated.”
This is probably the most common excuse. Many of us think that lack of motivation is why we can’t stick to an exercise routine. If we wanted it enough, we would make it happen. However, that’s not true. If you wish you exercised more, then you are motivated to exercise. Something else is stopping you. It may be one of the excuses below.

“I don’t like going to the gym.”
Many of us are uncomfortable going to the gym and exercising in front of other people. There’s the show-offs, the machine-hoggers, and the grunters. It may be a matter of finding a gym that fits your needs and personality. You can also set up your own home gym and avoid the crowds, or exercise outside.

“It’s too time consuming.”
You may think you need to exercise for 30 or 45 minutes at a time to get any results. If you get hung up on a number, then you’ll feel like you failed if you don’t reach that goal. Maybe you’re only able to take a 10 minute walk at lunch. It counts! Then, you play soccer in the yard with the kids for 15 minutes in the evening. Maybe the next day you hit the treadmill for an hour. If you avoid putting expectations on your exercise, you will feel good every time you do something active.

“I look bad in exercise clothes.”
Even super-models have things they don’t like about their bodies. You may wish your belly didn’t bulge quite so much or worry about your upper arms flapping when you jog. You may have bad memories from gym class as a kid. We all have body issues. At some point, you have to own and be happy with what you have. The important thing is to be healthy and have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re taking care of your body.

“I don’t want to give up my free time.”
You may think you’re too busy to exercise. Or, you may feel that the time you spend exercising will take away from time you could spend doing things you enjoy. If you make exercise a priority, you can find a way to fit it into your life right now. If you wait for your schedule to open up, it will never happen.

“I am too out of shape.”
When you haven’t been exercising regularly, you know that it’s going to be difficult when you first start out. You’ll be out of breath, fatigued and sore the next day. Start out slow and work your way up. Set small goals for yourself and then create more challenging goals as things get easier.

“It costs too much.”
You can spend a lot of money on fitness. If you enlist a personal trainer, stock up on designer workout clothes or buy multiple exercise machines, it can add up. You can skip the expensive activities and stick to a budget.

“I’m not losing any weight.”
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of living a balanced life. However, if you’re only focused on weight loss, you may miss out on the other great benefits of exercising. Regular physical activity decreases your risk of many diseases, increases your life span, improves energy and helps you sleep. Focus on achieving fitness goals, such as jogging a mile or biking 5 miles.

“It hurts.”
Exercise can be uncomfortable when you start out or if you challenge yourself to step it up. However, exercise doesn’t have to be painful. Make sure you stretch before and after exercising. Warm up slowly and gradually increase your intensity over time. While a little soreness is okay, if you feel like you can’t breathe or become overly fatigued, slow down to a more comfortable pace.

I will probably always have a love / hate relationship with exercise. Yet, physical activity is key to creating a healthy lifestyle and achieving a more balanced life. The important thing is to find something you enjoy and keep moving!

Advertisements

10 Habits That Are Zapping Your Energy

too-tired-1752-mAre you tired of being tired all the time? That’s how I’ve felt for the past few weeks. I feel like I’m slogging through the days and fighting to stay awake.

It comes as no surprise to me that many of our habits that can drain our energy are also the same habits that cause us to feel like our lives are out of balance. We need to get back to the basic foundation blocks of living a balanced life.

Feeling tired not only robs you of your productivity and pleasure, it can also make you no fun to be around. The good news is that fixing your fatigue and lack of ambition may be as easy as making a few, simple lifestyle changes.

Here are 10 ways you can change your habits and put more pep in your step and energy back in your day:

Drink more water
We all know we need to drink more water, but how much to drink is more difficult to determine. Even if you’re not dehydrated, you can still experience the negative effects of not drinking enough water. Being tired and cranky can be a sign that you need to drink more. Water flushes out toxins, keeps tissues hydrated and increases your energy level. If it’s difficult for you to drink water all day, mix it up with 100% fruit juices, nonfat milk or unsweetened tea (preferably herbal or decaffeinated).

Eat smart
If you feel that your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day, it may make sense for you to eat five or six small meals a day. This strategy can help your blood-sugar level remain constant and give you a steady amount of fuel all day. Just remember that you still need to maintain the same calorie intake for the day, simply spread it out over smaller meals. You will find that your energy level stays more balanced.

Cut the sugar
While sugar gives you a quick energy boost, it also drops you back down hard when it runs out. Then, you start craving that energy high again. Along with eating small meals a day, try to avoid the sugar rush and keep healthy snacks on hand. By combining a few ounces of protein with complex carbohydrates, you can keep your blood sugar more stable and boost your energy levels. For instance, snack on whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, fresh fruit, lean turkey or chicken, or nonfat yogurt.

Watch the caffeine
Caffeine increases your energy levels, but it also takes away more energy than it’s giving. Like eating sugar or big meals, caffeine will boost your energy, but too much can cause a rebound effect and lead to fatigue. The best option is to quit caffeine by gradually reducing your intake However, if you can’t cut out caffeine completely, at least stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evenings.

Get more sleep
The need to drink caffeine during the day can also be the result of not getting enough sleep at night. Getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep at the same time every night will put you on track for being rested and alert. Make it a habit to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. You can strengthen your sleep patterns and get a better night’s sleep.

Lose the clutter
Being disorganized or having clutter in your home or workplace can make you feel lethargic, as well as lacking in enthusiasm and optimism. Trying to remember where things are and searching for lost or misplaced things can be a huge drain both emotionally and physically. It’s important to cope with clutter so you can be more productive and quickly move on to doing more fun things.

Stop stressing
Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done. Conflict and stress can quickly deplete your energy and rob you of your ambition. Managing your stress levels is the best option. When you make time to take care of your inner self, you will find that you are able recharge and boost your energy. Relaxation takes different forms for different people. For you, it may mean sitting in silence, taking a walk and appreciating nature, working out or taking a bubble bath.

Move your body
With fitness, there are actually two ways to zap your energy. First, you can simply not exercise. Physical activity can energize us physically, emotionally and mentally. Without it, we are naturally more sluggish. Exercise also releases endorphins that make you feel good and enhance your mood. On the other hand, too much exercise can also cause problems. Over-training depletes your energy reserves, breaks down muscle, and makes you weaker not stronger. Find a balance by creating a healthy, fitness routine.

Say no
Do you say yes to everything? Spending time doing things you don’t really want to do can be another energy drainer. Think about how you spend your time each day. Do you do things that fuel you? Or do you spend your time on activities that deplete you? If you raise your awareness of where your energy is going, you can learn to say no to the things that deplete your energy. Then, energy can flow back into your life.

Make time for yourself
One of the ways to bring energy back in your life is to make time for yourself. Do things that make you happy and energize you. For instance, read a good book, go on a date night with your spouse, spend time with your kids, hang out with friends, focus on the good things, meditate or get a massage.

You can keep your energy levels in balance by creating more healthy habits that also will bring your life as a whole into balance. You can regain and maintain your missing energy!

Why is Belly Fat Bad for You?

tape-measurer-1-433750-mMy healthy habits may have slipped a little during the holidays. I ate things I wouldn’t normally eat – in addition to eating more than I probably should. My exercise routine went out the window with the hectic holiday schedule.

It really hit home when I had trouble buttoning my jeans a few days ago. My belly and waistline had definitely expanded.

Belly fat can be a serious health issue. When we talk about belly fat, we don’t mean the jiggly (subcutaneous) fat you can pinch with your fingers. We’re actually referring to the visceral fat that lies out of reach, deep within your abdomen. It’s found around your liver, intestines and other organs. It’s also stored in a flap of tissue that lies under your stomach muscles.

Why is this abdominal fat worse than fat around the hips and thighs? Here are 5 reasons to be concerned about belly fat:

Belly fat acts like an organ
Belly fat isn’t just idly hanging out on your waistline. Researchers believe belly fat is an active “organ” in your body. It can contribute to health problems all over your body. Abdominal fat breaks down easily into fatty acids. These flow directly into the liver and your muscles.

Belly fat produces hormones
The fat cells in your abdomen are little hormone factories. They produce substances that get in the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. The hormones made by fat cells affect your appetite, metabolism, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Belly fat increases risk of diabetes
Belly fat secretes a molecule that increases insulin resistance, which raises your risk of type 2 diabetes. Learn more about the 6 Truths About Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners.

Belly fat hurts your heart
Visceral fat also makes certain proteins that trigger low-level inflammation. These proteins can increase your risk of heart disease. The fatty acids released by belly fat are also linked to higher LDL or “bad” cholesterol and lower HDL or “good” cholesterol. Read about these Best Exercises to Lower Your Cholesterol.

Abdominal fat also triggers a change in angiotensin – a hormone that controls blood vessel constriction – increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Here are 13 Heart Healthy Foods you should be eating.

Belly fat ups risk of breast cancer
In general, being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer. Belly fat produces the hormone estrogen, which feeds breast cancer cells.

What can you do about belly fat?

There is evidence that your genes do determine how many fat cells you have. In addition, your genes dictate, to some extent, your body shape. You may be more inclined to be apple-shaped (carrying more weight in your mid-section) or pear-shaped (carrying weight in the hips and thighs).

Beyond that, how much belly fat you carry is linked to your lifestyle, including physical inactivity and how many calories you eat.

Learn more about how you can control and lose belly fat in our blog post: 4 Steps to Losing Belly Fat.

The good news is that belly fat responds well with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Visceral fat metabolizes more easily than the fat that’s on the surface of your body. There’s even more good news. Once you start to lose belly fat, the harmful effects of these extra fat cells can be reversed, including the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Just another reason to eat healthy and get more exercise in 2015!

 

 

13 Top Heart Healthy Foods

puzzle-heart-1440817-3-mI lost my grandma to congestive heart failure 14 years ago. I worry that I could have heart issues someday.

I was surprised to read recently that heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Even though we have learned so much about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, it seems we can still do more to stop this deadly condition.

It’s been proven that eating healthier and getting more exercise can make a huge difference in your risk for heart disease.

What you eat matters. Here are 13 top foods to help protect your heart and blood vessels:

Salmon
Salmon is super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Salmon also contains powerful antioxidants. Grill it up with a tasty rub or marinade. Save a chunk of salmon and chop it up for pasta or salad at another meal. To mix things up, you can also eat oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines.

Oatmeal
A steaming bowl of oats is a great way to start the day and also gives you omega-3 fatty acids, folate, niacin, calcium and potassium. It’s rich in fiber and can help lower bad cholesterol and keep your arteries clear. Add raisins or fresh berries to boost this heart healthy dish.

Nuts
Walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, along with mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber. Mix a few of these nuts with yogurt or berries, add them to salads, or make your own trail mix.

Avocado
A bit of avocado added to a sandwich or spinach salad can give you a serving of heart-healthy fats. Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and help lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Avocados also help in the absorption of beta-carotene and lycopene, which are both good for heart health.

Olive oil
Olive oil is also a source of monounsaturated fats and helps lower bad cholesterol. Use it in place of butter or other oils for cooking.

Flaxseed
Flaxseed is full of fiber and omega-3 as well as omega-6 fatty acids. Sprinkle flaxseed on oatmeal or whole-grain cereal for breakfast. You can also use flaxseed instead of eggs when making muffins, quick breads, pancakes or cookies.

Berries
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and blackberries are all full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain vitamins and nutrients as well as fiber. Mix berries in your salads, muffins or trail mix.

Red wine
A glass of red wine can improve your good cholesterol. Red wine contains both catechins and reservatrol, also known as flavonoids.

Legumes
You can fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans. These legumes are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and soluble fiber.

Leafy greens
Spinach can help your heart with lutein, folate, potassium and fiber. Spinach can make nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches. Other leafy greens include kale, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce and cabbage.

Soy
Soy is low in saturated fat and is a great source of lean protein for a heart-healthy diet. Try natural sources of soy, such as edamame, tempeh or tofu. Soy milk is good with a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal, or even in smoothies.

Fruits and veggies
It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. You should even try to make them half your plate. You can buy fresh fruits and veggies that are in season, frozen or canned (just be sure it’s 100% fruit juice and not syrup). Some heart healthy veggies include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus and squash. In addition to berries, add these fruits to your diet: oranges, apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, peaches and papaya.

Tomatoes
I’m never sure if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, but it deserves its own category anyway. Tomatoes are a super food packed with beta- and alpha-carotenes, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber. You can add tomatoes to salads, pasta dishes, pizza and more. You even eat them in ketchup.

Adding these heart healthy foods to your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. See if you can eat a few of the foods listed above today!

9 Ways to Make Lifestyle Changes That Stick

sticky-notes-and-pen-695000-mDid you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2014? Were you able to accomplish your goals?

As 2014 is quickly coming to an end, I’ve been thinking about my progress in living a more balanced life. I still stay up too late. I am working on a regular exercise routine, but I do lapse from time to time. I could definitely do a better job of managing stress – I worry entirely too much. I have been eating healthier, although I still enjoy my favorite junk foods.

So, how can we make lifestyle changes that last? Here are 9 ways to make changes that stick:

Think big
What do you want to change? You can create an overall road map for your journey to balanced living. Make a list of the lasting changes you want to accomplish. For instance, I need to get more sleep. There is so much research that backs up the importance of getting plenty of sleep. I also want to maintain my exercise habits. I would like to cook meals at home more regularly so that my whole family can develop healthier eating habits.

One thing at a time
All those goals sound overwhelming when you consider doing it all at once. That’s why you should pick one aspect of your life to change at at time. For example, I want to work on better eating habits for my family and myself. To improve my chances of success, I need to focus on making this change first before starting on additional ones.

Start small
Now that I have my goal of healthier eating habits, I can break that down into ways to achieve that goal. If I just say that we’re going to eat better, it will be difficult to accomplish. Start by making a plan and creating some steps. First, I’m going to make a list of meals I would like to prepare over the next week. Then, I can put together a grocery list of supplies I need to buy, adding in some healthy snack foods. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and tired, I will have a list of meals I can make and the ingredients on hand.

Set goals
For more complex lifestyle changes, you can set additional goals to keep you on the right track. For instance, if you want to get your finances in order, you may want to set several goals to accomplish this task. You can start by reviewing your financial situation. Then, you can create a budget that will, in turn, help you set goals to pay off credit card debt, reduce your mortgage, and save for retirement.

Get a buddy
Knowing that someone is on your side can help you make changes that last. It can be your spouse or partner who gives you encouragement or works with you to achieve a goal. You can enlist a financial planner to help you put your finances in order. A personal trainer can help you develop an exercise routine and set goals so that you stay on track.

Share your plans
It’s okay to tell your friends and family about your plans. Having support can help you feel more confident about accomplishing your goals. Sharing your challenges and successes can make the work easier and may help others feel inspired to make changes themselves!

Reward yourself
Don’t wait until you’ve achieved your final goal to reward yourself. Rewards, however small, can help motivate you to keep at it. For short-term goals, set simple rewards. For instance, if I cook healthy meals for a week, I can buy a pair a shoes. Or, if I meet my exercise goals for a month, I can treat myself to manicure.

Be prepared for lapses
You will slip up. Everyone has lapses when trying to build healthy habits. You will eat that brownie a la mode. You’ll have a cold and skip your workout routine for a week. It doesn’t mean you failed. The only way you fail is if you give up. After a lapse, forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Do it again!
Once you feel like you’ve developed a healthy habit that will stick, start on the next lifestyle change you want to make. Finding a healthy, balanced life is a work in progress. Keep at it!

16 Ways to Exercise Your Brain

shiny-brain-1254880-mAs I stood in front of the refrigerator, wondering why I had walked into the kitchen, it made me think about my brain. I blame my kids for making me dumber. Or maybe it’s just because I’m approaching my mid-40s. I really feel like I’ve lost some of my brain function.

Can we exercise our brains? Why yes, we can!

Here are 16 ways you can work out your brain and keep it strong:

Do daily puzzles
Simple puzzles like crosswords, Sudoku, word search and anagrams can challenge your brain. Logic puzzles help your brain’s deductive reasoning and teach you to organize your thinking. Lateral thinking puzzles – which challenge your preconceptions – train your brain to think outside the box. You can even find free puzzles to work online.

Use your peripheral vision
When you’re riding in a car or walking down the street, try to view things at the edge of your vision without turning your head. Actively challenging your peripheral vision helps improve your brain performance and allows you to better navigate your world safely.

Put down the calculator
Math is the basis of all things logical and technological. Doing math has been shown to increase your fluid intelligence, or your ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations. The next time you need to make some calculations, try to work them out in your head. Mental math trains your working memory and helps you better store information for immediate use.

Learn to play an instrument
Playing an instrument exercises many interrelated parts of your brain function, including listening, control of refined movements, memory and ability to concentrate.

Read anything and everything
Reading is great exercise for your brain. You can read newspapers, magazines, books and blogs. Just keep in mind that the more challenging the text, the better the workout for your brain.

Take a class
You can take a class in just about anything online. Or, sign up for a class at a community college, join a dance class or learn to make pottery. Attending a class in person also gives you a chance to talk with people, and having interesting conversations can help workout your brain.

Pick up a ball
Play catch with friends or your kids. Or practice throwing a ball up in the air and catching it. Using your brain’s visual, tactile and hand-eye coordination responses can have a positive impact on your brain.

Turn off the TV
Watching TV takes very little brain power. TV tells you what to think and how to think it. Of course, that’s why we like to veg out in front of it. If you want to give your brain some activity, then turn off the TV. Or if you can’t live without TV, watch educational programs or movies with complex plot lines and highly developed characters. You can also turn the TV volume down to a conversational level so that you have to concentrate to hear it.

Reminisce about the past
Take out the photo albums or play the old home movies. Work at recalling the actual events and what else was going on in your life at that time. Recall the dates, names of people and other details that will help reinforce your long-term memory.

Build something
When I was a kid, we played with erector sets, Lincoln Logs and Legos. Now, there are even more opportunities to build or assemble something in order to work out your brain. Putting something together without a manual or instructions is even better because it involves spatial reasoning.

Shut off the GPS
Instead of letting the GPS tell you where to go, sharpen your navigation skills. You can even get lost on purpose – just remember to bring a map! Finding routes and navigating on your own helps the brain create new neural pathways that are needed for storing complex spatial relationships.

Play games
Play chess, checkers or a card game. These are all tactical games that help exercise your brain. It’s even better to play with other people so that you can socialize and have stimulating conversations.

Eat a healthy diet
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet also plays a role in your brain health. By including foods rich in both protein and omega 3 fatty acids, you can keep your brain physically fed.

Exercise
Physical activity is important for a healthy heart but also benefits the brain. Walking and cardio exercise are great for brain health.

Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is crucial to your overall health and plays an important role in keeping your brain healthy. While you’re sleeping, your body cleans toxins out of your brain and makes repairs. To protect and rejuvenate your brain, make sure you get a full night’s sleep as often as possible.

Vary your routine
Drive a different route to work. Change your lunch routine by taking a walk, window shopping or running some errands. If your day becomes too monotonous, your brain may feel neglected.

When you stop learning and challenging your brain, it stops growing. Exercise your brain as often as possible to keep it strong!

12 Ways to Stop Stressing Right Now

I was riding in the car with my son, and the country song “I’m in a Hurry” by Alabama came on the radio. He said, “Mom, that sounds like you.” The opening lyrics are:

I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Do you feel like you’re in a constant state of stress? Rushing here and there trying to accomplish everything, until you realize you aren’t having any fun? I definitely have days like that.

If you’re stressed out and feeling like your life is out of balance, here are 12 ways to stop stress in its tracks:

Admit you’re stressed
When my son said that song sounded like me, I looked at my knuckles clenched on the steering wheel, hunched back and overall impatience. I realized I was stressed about fitting in everything I needed to do that day. Was it that important? Did I need rush until I was stressed out? Recognizing that you’re anxious, grumpy and just plain tired, you can make a determined effort to do something about it.

Take a deep breath
While you may not have time to take a yoga class or find a quiet place to practice relaxation techniques, you can take a few moments to just breathe. Breathe in deeply through your nose and then slowly let it out. Repeat a few times and think about letting the stress of the moment go. You will feel better!

Go outside
Taking in nature can reduce stress and improve your health. Go outside and take a walk or even sit in a peaceful place and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature. Spending time outdoors can put things in perspective and inspire a more positive outlook.

Laugh or smile like you mean it
A genuine smile can reduce your body’s stress responses, even if you’re not necessarily feeling it on the inside. Smiling can also lower your heart rate. Humor can help you relax. Read the comics in the newspaper, watch a comedy show or hang out with funny friends. Find a reason to have a little fun each day.

Do something for you
I spend all my time worrying about my kids, husband, work and all the things that need to be done to keep everything running smoothly. Take a few minutes to do something you enjoy – and that’s just for you.

Chew bubble gum
Studies show that chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. It may be that the rhythmic act of chewing improves blood to your brain. Or, it may just be that the smell or taste help relax you.

Try aromatherapy
Certain scents can sooth. Lavender is a common scent thought to help ease stress. I personally like the smell of honeysuckle. It takes me back to summer nights when I was young, sleeping with the windows open and smelling honeysuckle. Other scents may trigger positive or special memories for you.

Get moving
Exercise improves mood, releases stress and can make you feel better about yourself. Just 30 minutes of physical activity three times a week can positively impact your mood and your health. Exercise can also be meditative, allowing you to clear your mind and let go of whatever is stressing you out.

Make time for friends and family
Talking to close friends and family members can help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Telling someone your troubles and getting their input can put things into perspective. It helps to share your thoughts and be supported and heard.

Hug a pet
Spending time with animals can also alleviate stress. You can tell them your troubles, worries and fears, and they won’t judge you or give you unwanted advice. Animals can help your brain produce less of the stress hormone cortisol and more serotonin, which helps you feel more relaxed.

Rock it out
Music can help you let go of stress or put your worries aside for a while. The type of music is up to you. Some people enjoy classical music while others want to jam out to some old time rock and roll. It’s about being in the moment and letting yourself get into the music.

Read a book
I love to get lost in a great novel. I can shut down my brain and let go of distractions. I enjoy becoming caught up in the story. It’s a great way to relax, especially right before you go to bed.

Once you learn to recognize that you’re stressed out, you have the power to let the worry and anxiety go and find a more balanced, low-stress life.