Tag Archives: exercise routine

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!

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!

8 Bad Exercise Habits You Should Break

I recently found out that I might have bad exercise habits. I thought that if I was at least putting in the effort to workout, it had to be benefiting me. Yet, some of my bad habits may be hindering my fitness progress.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting the results you want from your exercise routine, maybe you have some bad fitness habits, too.

Here are 8 bad exercise habits you should break right now:

Skipping the warm up
Skipping a warm up and not stretching before you exercise are probably two of the most common habits people pick up. You may be short on time and want to spend the time you have getting to the real workout. If you’re going to power walk, you may not need to warm up – you can start out slow and then increase your speed. If you plan to do an intense workout or sports activity, it’s important to stretch so that you can avoid an injury, muscle strain or even soreness.

Keeping a moderate pace
Conventional exercise has followed the concept that a workout should be done at a steady, moderate pace for a long period of time. Research has refuted this notion in recent years. High-intensity interval training has been shown to be more efficient and effective – and it can be completed in less time than a conventional cardio workout.

Resting too much
While resting between sets is important, resting too much can have the opposite effect. If you take breaks for too long, your heart rate slows and your body stops refueling your muscles. For better gains from your exercise, give it no more than a 30 second rest between each set. However, if you feel lightheaded, stop whatever you’re doing and sit down.

Overdoing it
On the flip side, you may hold to the theory that if some exercise is good, then working out more is even better. Over training – committing yourself to too much activity or too much intensity – can result in pulled muscles and accidents. Try to listen to your body and balance a desire to push yourself with healthy expectations.

Forgetting to hydrate
If you aren’t drinking enough water while you exercise, it’s a habit that must be broken. Proper hydration is necessary before, during and after any type of workout. You need to replenish what your body loses during exercise and prevent the physical effects of dehydration. For most exercisers, sports drinks are a waste of money – you’re drinking refined sugars, artificial colors and chemicals. Water is the best way to stay hydrated.

Going hungry
You may hit the gym on an empty stomach. Fasting before a workout can actually lead to weight gain. In addition, low blood sugar can make you feel sluggish, dizzy or unable to perform at your normal levels. You can maintain good stamina during your workout by eating a healthy meal or snack prior to your workout.

Leaving out the strength training
If you’re wanting to lose weight, you may ignore strength training for fear of “bulking up.” Yet, gaining more muscle through resistance exercises has many benefits, including losing excess fat, maintaining healthy bone mass and preventing muscle loss as you age.

Doing the same thing over and over
I get on the treadmill because it’s easy. Just step on it and push start. However, repetition is typically bad for your exercise routine. If you do the same thing over and over again, it is no longer challenging and your body uses less energy while you workout. By mixing up your fitness routine, you trick your body into working harder and burning more calories.

If you’re exercising on a regular basis, you are well on your way to a healthy fitness routine. Keep it up! And be sure to avoid falling into these bad exercise habits.

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!



10 Exercise Tips for the Unmotivated

yoga-118151-mIt’s a new year and time to get into an exercise routine. Right? Well, if you’re reading this blog, then you probably fall into the unmotivated category with me. I love the idea of being physically fit and getting into a regular exercise routine. And while I like the idea of exercising, in reality, I have a hard time actually making it happen.

Here are 10 tips to get you on the right track to a more motivated and physically active 2016:

Just get dressed
If you’re not feeling in the mood to exercise, put on your workout gear. It usually helps give me more motivation to get started. I may still find a few ways to procrastinate, but I will get going eventually.

Make a list of workout buddies
There’s nothing like having an extremely enthusiastic friend who will bully and guilt you into exercising. It’s even better if you have more than one of these workout buddies. You can even call them when you’re unmotivated and let them harass you into exercising. You can also return the favor. What are friends for?

Find your passion
You have to find the fitness routine that works for you. It may take you a few tries to get it right. I really enjoy kickboxing. There’s something about kicking and punching that just makes me happy. You may enjoy the feeling of a runner’s high. Or, yoga and pilates may help you balance your mind and body. I also like to play sports with friends – I get to have a few laughs and fit in a workout at the same time.

Do an easier workout
If you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, do an easier workout than you had planned. You may have intended to run three miles on the treadmill, but just can’t get in the mood. Do something less intensive like getting on an elliptical machine or joining a yoga class. Maybe it’s a really nice day, and you would rather walk outside. As long as you do something, you still benefit and can avoid feeling guilty.

Get everyday exercise
Everyday activities can count as exercise, too. Take the stairs, rather than an elevator or escalator, whenever you can. Instead of fighting for a close parking spot, park at the end of the lot and walk. If you take a train or bus, get off a few stops early and walk. You can even vacuum, clean house, change bed sheets, mop the floor, or shovel snow to fit in more exercise.

Turn off the TV
When the TV is on, it’s hard to get motivated to do anything. Turn it off and get moving. You can come back to it for a few minutes after you finish your workout.

Delay gratification
Give yourself a goal for after you finish your workout. Do you like to have dinner with friends, browse at the mall, or maybe watch your favorite TV program? Make a deal with yourself that first you have to fit in your workout in order to do the fun stuff.

Stay active
It’s much harder to be motivated if you’ve been sedentary all day. Make sure you find ways to stay active. Go out for lunch, take breaks, or stretch periodically throughout the day. When it’s time to workout, you will already be more motivated.

Mix it up
It’s easy to get bored doing the same thing every day. Plan out your week’s exercise routine. Walk or run a couple of times a week. Play tennis, racquetball, or swim. Do a spin class, yoga, pilates, kickboxing or aerobics. Mix it up with weight training. Find what you enjoy and create a plan that will keep you interested.

Celebrate success
Reward yourself when you reach a specific goal or just for exercising on a regular basis. Just make sure your reward goes along with your fitness goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, buy a new outfit or book to read rather than rewarding yourself with an ice cream sundae. Or, put a dollar in a jar every time you workout and then spend it on something frivolous.

Use these tips to help you push past the unmotivated times and soon working out will become a healthy habit. You may even become an inspiration to those around you. Start working out now for a healthier, happier you!

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!

7 Tips to Finding the Best Workout

exercise-at-home-901909-mI have a hard time getting into an exercise routine. And then the next thing I know, I’m in more of a rut than a routine.

It’s important to find a workout routine that will fit your lifestyle and personality. From my own experience, if you try to create an exercise program that doesn’t match your skills or isn’t something you enjoy doing, you won’t stick with it.

Here are 7 questions to ask yourself as you design a workout routine:

What is your goal?
Before you plan a routine, you need to decide why you are working out. What is your specific goal? Do you want to build muscle, lose weight, increase strength and endurance, or get toned?

To lose weight: You need a high-intensity workout. You can try Zumba, spinning or running.
To build muscle and tone: You need strength training, such as kettlebells.
To get more endurance: You need a hardcore burn for your whole body, and can try boxing boot camp or kick boxing class.

What is your fitness level?
If you sit on the couch with the remote, you probably need to start with a workout that’s different than someone who has been running 5K marathons. Decide if you are beginner, intermediate or advanced. With just about any type of exercise routine, you can tailor it to your fitness level. For instance, if you’re a beginner, you can start out walking and then work up to jogging. If you’re advanced and already run 5K’s, you may want to try a half marathon or triathlons.

How often can you workout?
We are all busy. Finding a time to fit in your workout can often be the biggest challenge. Decide when is the best time for you to exercise. Some people like to get up and workout early in the morning. Others find that after work is good time to wind down before going home. I personally have found that right before lunch is a good time for me. Then, decide how many days a week and which days you prefer to workout. If you can make exercise a regular event on your schedule, you are more likely to turn it into a routine.

Where will you exercise?
Some people like the gym. They like going somewhere specifically to workout. You may have more access to equipment and get more variety at a gym or fitness center. Others like to be outside and go to a park or just run or walk in their neighborhood. I personally like to be at home. I work from my home so I am more likely to fit in a workout if I do it at home.

What do you enjoy?
I am more inclined to workout if I enjoy doing it. As much as I hate my treadmill, I do like the ease of just going to my basement and hopping on for a walk or run. I also like playing team sports, such as volleyball, softball and basketball. I have fun playing in the yard with my kids. I pass a volleyball with my girls and play baseball with my son. Sometimes we do some basketball scrimmage or just throw a frisbee. All of these activities get the heart pumping and incorporate muscles that I may not use on a daily basis.

What is your personality?
Your personality can impact the type of workout routine that will be best for you. If you like to socialize, you may want to go to a gym, attend exercise classes or get together with a group of friends. You may need someone to yell at you to motivate you. You might thrive in a boot camp setting or having a personal trainer to challenge you. Most of the time, I am a loner and like to do my own thing. I also like to keep things the same. I like to know what to expect and not have to put a lot of thought into deciding what my workout will be each day.

How can you mix it up?
However, your routine may get stale or just need to be shaken up every once in a while. You may need a challenge or to get motivated again. Here are few ways to mix things up:

  • 7-minute workout: You work harder than you thought possible and push yourself to the max.
  • Sprint triathlon: It’s a shorter version with a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride and 3-mile run.
  • Ballet barre class: You can take classes at a studio or follow a video at home.
  • Adult sport leagues: Show your team spirit and join a recreational league, such as tennis, volleyball, basketball, softball or even dodgeball.
  • Aerobic gaming: Get serious about video games with exergaming. Burn calories by dancing or boxing.
  • Hula hoop: Give hula hooping a whirl. Who knew this grade school fun could burn calories and raise your heart rate.

If you’re having trouble getting into an exercise routine, design a fitness program that will fit your goals and your lifestyle. You are more likely to keep on track and achieve more balance in all aspects of your life. You can make your workout routine fun and effective!

7 Ways to Exercise on Vacation

imageI recently went on vacation and was extremely lazy. Other than walking to and from the beach, I didn’t get any exercise. I used being away from my normal routine to get out of working out.

Where would I find a treadmill? Or, how would I find time to squeeze in a run? Is there a gym nearby?

Here are 7 ways you can still keep up your exercise routine – even when you’re on vacation or away from home.

Adjust your expectations
While on vacation, you most likely won’t be able to get in your full, regular workout regimen. Assume that you will have to adjust your routine. Think creatively based on where you’re going. For instance, if you’re going to the beach, plan to take a daily walk or run along the beach. If you’re staying in a hotel, research for hotels that include a gym for guests to use.

Plan ahead
Start thinking before you leave about how you can fit exercise into your vacation plans. You may need to add time to your schedule of events to include your workouts. Put some tourist attractions on your list that will require walking or hiking.

Pack it with you
You can pack a resistance band or jump rope for just about any trip. You can use a resistance band to do strength training. A jump rope can provide an intense cardiovascular workout in a short amount of time. Jumping rope also works your arms and legs while you burn calories.

Go old school
You can get back to basics and incorporate some old school exercises in your workout. You can do push ups in a hotel room, condo or even outdoors. Push ups are a great exercise for the arms and chest. You can do sit ups or crunches to target your core. Burpees are also an old standby exercise that can help work your entire body.

Work your legs
Make sure your legs are getting a workout, too. You can fit in calf raises and lunges on your vacation. For calf raises, all you need is a raised surface. Stand with the balls of your feet on the surface and then let your heels drop down and then raise yourself back up. You can do a variety of lunges to work your legs and buttocks, including forward lunges, back lunges and side lunges.

Take the stairs
When you have the choice between a hotel elevator or the stairs, take the stairs. If you’re visiting museums or taking in the sites, walk up and down the steps when you have a choice. Walk to a restaurant instead of driving or taking a cab. Make it a point to walk instead of riding whenever you can. In addition, hotel hallways and corridors can be as good as walking a track. You can also walk up and down the stairs in your hotel – or mix it up and walk the halls, then use the stairs to go up or down a floor, and walk those halls.

Be adventurous
Play volleyball on the beach. Go snorkeling or swim with the dolphins. Rent a bicycle and take in the sites, go hiking and get some fresh air. Take lessons and go kayaking or surfboarding. Play tennis or work on your golf game. Just get moving and burn some calories!

With a little planning, you can create a fun and unique exercise routine while you’re on vacation. You can burn calories, get a cardio workout and maybe even strengthen different muscles than you normally work. You may even find a new hobby or sport that you enjoy!

6 ways winter affects your sleep

How winter affects sleepIt seems like every year I start having trouble sleeping at night right around the daylight savings time change.

I recently read an article that talks about how the Earth’s axis affects our sleep habits. As the days shorten with the arrival of winter, a gap is created between our internal body clocks and our sleep patterns in comparison to the natural day. Daylight savings time was actually created to help deal with these changes in daylight hours.

Before electricity and the daily grind of getting up at the same time every day to go to work, people woke up with the rising sun and went to bed when it was dark. During the long winter nights, sleep was actually biphasic. That means we slept for a few hours, then woke up for a few hours, and then slept again for a few hours.

Artificial light modified our sleep habits and made them more routine. The good news is that a regular sleep routine and getting plenty of rest are good for our bodies. On the other hand, artificial light means we can stay up long after it’s dark outside and get up before the sun rises. We are more likely to create a pattern of sleep deprivation.

From a previous blog, we know it’s important to get plenty of sleep. Here are 6 ways your sleep can be affected during the winter:

Lack of sunlight
We need sunshine to help us be alert and energetic. A lack of sunlight can make us sleepy and sluggish. During the winter months, many of us get up in the dark and drive to work before it’s barely daylight. By the time we leave work, it’s once again dark. We need the light to tell our bodies it’s time to be awake. On the other hand, we need darkness and nighttime so that our body knows it’s time to go to bed. Spend a few minutes outside each day. Even on dreary days, it’s still good to experience fresh air and natural light.

Lack of exercise
Because you feel tired and unmotivated during the winter months, you may skip your exercise routine. In addition, cold weather can keep you from getting outside and doing chores or activities that would normally tire you out. Try to take a brisk walk or even use the stairs to increase your movement during the day.

Fluctuating sleep patterns
Winter time and cold weather makes it even more appealing to snuggle under the covers and sleep in on the weekends. Just as too little sleep affects you mentally and physically, too much sleep on the weekends can throw off your sleep patterns during the week. It’s best to only vary your bedtime and wake up time by about an hour or so, even on weekends.

Bad eating habits
I know I tend to hibernate in the winter. I want to eat warm, filling comfort foods that aren’t the best choices. But when you eat a heavy meal in the evening, your body has to work harder to digest it. Your full belly can actually keep you awake at night or disrupt your sleep pattern. Keep up your healthy eating habits even in the winter, especially if you aren’t burning as many calories.

Your house temperature
Turning the heat up may make you more comfortable on a cold evening, but it will make it harder for you to sleep. We tend to sleep better in a cooler room because it will keep our body temperature down. However, a room that’s too cold can make it difficult to sleep as well. You need to find the temperature that’s just right to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Winter often brings on more colds and flu. We need sleep to help heal our body. Yet, when we get sick, it often interferes with our sleep because we may have a sore throat, stuffed up nose, or run a fever. It can be harder to get a good night’s sleep with cold and flu symptoms.

If you notice you are feeling tired, sluggish and grouchy this winter, take a look at your sleep habits. You may need to make some adjustments to your routine and your sleep environment so that you can get a better night’s sleep.

Do you have tips for creating a healthy sleep routine, even in the winter? We would love to hear from you!

15 exercise and fitness dos and don’ts

Fitness and exercise stretchingI started an exercise routine about a year ago. At first I was very enthusiastic and committed to working out several times a week.

Now, I have to force myself to fit in exercise. I am really not seeing any results so it’s difficult to stay motivated. I know that regular exercise is vital to good health. It’s just hard to be consistent in my workouts.

I recently read an article explaining that most people make fitness mistakes. This means your exercise routine may be unsafe. It can also mean you aren’t getting the most out of your workout. These mistakes could even cause you to fall short of your fitness goals.

Here are 8 exercise and fitness DOS to help you reach your goals:

Do write down your fitness goals
If you put it in writing, you are more likely to stick with it. Post your goals on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. When you feel less than inspired to workout, it can give you the motivation you need to keep at it.

Do warm up
Many of us bypass warming up and jump right into our routine with cold muscles and stiff joints. You are more likely to cause an injury than if you warm up your body first. Start out with stretching exercises or walking before you begin more rigorous exercise.

Do stretch more
In addition to reducing sore muscles and strains, stretching can improve your range of motion and flexibility. To get the most from stretching, add it to the end of your workout when your muscles are still warm. It also helps you cool down slowly. If you stop exercising abruptly, you can feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous.

Do drink water
It’s important to rehydrate your body when you exercise. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout routine. This will replace lost electrolytes and keep your body in balance.

Do find the middle ground
Many people work out too intensely while others don’t work out intensely enough. You may try to lift too much weight or start a new routine before you’re ready. On the other hand, you may spend too much time socializing when you’re at the gym or exercising with friends instead of getting the most out of your workout. You can work with a fitness instructor or trainer to help you determine the routine and intensity that’s right for you.

Do use good form
At the very least, if you are exercising incorrectly you won’t achieve the full results and may become discouraged. At the worst, you could cause an injury or do harm to yourself. You can work with a professional trainer to ensure that you are achieving the best results.

Do vary your routine
It’s important to mix up your routine. First, it helps to prevent repetitive injuries and by changing your workouts you will see better results. Second, it keeps you from getting bored and can give you the motivation to stick with it.

Do eat healthy
What you eat influences the effectiveness of your fitness regimen. Good nutrition combined with regular exercise will help you reach your goals. In addition, when you eat healthy, you have more energy to workout and stay active.

Here are 7 exercise and fitness DON’TS to help you get more out of your workout:

Don’t skip breakfast
Be sure to eat breakfast every day. Eating breakfast helps rev up your metabolism and gives you the energy you need throughout the day.

Don’t get stuck in a rut
You may find yourself on the treadmill, doing the same routine for the same amount of time. It’s easier to do the same thing over and over than to mix things up and vary your routine. Yet, it’s important to vary the type of exercises you do and change the time and intensity so that you challenge your muscles and workout your entire body.

Don’t skimp on sleep
Your body needs sleep so that you can function at your best levels. Getting enough sleep can also give you the energy and focus you need to make the most out of your exercise routine.

Don’t set unrealistic goals
If you set goals that are too difficult or not realistic, you will only be disappointed. A healthy weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, so it would be unrealistic to lose 50 pounds in a few months. You may find more success setting other types of goals. For instance, you could work toward walking three miles a day or running a mile without stopping. When you accomplish a goal, you can set new goals.

Don’t over do it
By doing too much too quickly, you can do more harm than good. If you want to challenge yourself, work your way up gradually and always listen to your body. Working out until you’re tingly or tired is fine, but you don’t want to push it to the point of muscle exhaustion.

Don’t compare yourself to others
You are a unique individual. What works for some people may not work for others. You shouldn’t measure your results against someone else’s successes or failures. You can only do what is best for you.

Don’t give up!
It is very difficult to turn exercising into a habit. And it’s very easy to become discouraged with your workout routine. The key is to stick with it. If you fall out of your exercise routine, make yourself get back in it. Get encouragement from a friend. Bribe yourself with a reward if you meet certain goals. The important thing is to just stick with it!