Tag Archives: physical activity

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!

Advertisements

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

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!

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!

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!

12 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise

jogger-657075-mI know I should be exercising. I know it’s important to good health. I know it will help me find better life balance. Yet, I manage to make excuses and find reasons why I can’t fit a workout into my daily routine.

So, if you’re like me and need more motivation to just get moving, here are 12 unexpected benefits and rewards of exercise:

Reverse the effects of stress
You probably already know that physical activity is a stress buster. What you may not realize is that you are actually reducing stress levels. That’s because when you workout you reduce the levels of stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – in your body. You can calm your body and your mind to help you get in the right mindset to identify and tackle what’s causing your stress.

Release happy chemicals
Working out can help boost your mood. Exercise releases endorphins that help create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies show that exercise can even alleviate the symptoms of someone who is clinically depressed. In some cases, working out may be as effective as antidepressant pills.

Build self-esteem and confidence
Physical fitness can boost your self-esteem and improve your self-image. It’s not about age, weight or size – exercise can help elevate your perception of your attractiveness and self worth. You can also feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish a challenging workout or reach a difficult goal.

Alleviate anxiety
You might be surprised to learn that jogging can be more relaxing than a warm bubble bath. Getting on the track or treadmill for some aerobic exercise can help reduce sensitivity and anxiety.

Live longer
Research shows that regular exercise can add years to your life. Working out and being active can lower your risk of early death by 30%. We’re not talking extreme – just a little exercise can help you live a longer, healthier life.

Sleep better
Regular exercise may help you enjoy a good night’s sleep. Try walking, running, biking or strength training during the mid morning or early afternoon to promote better sleep. Avoid evening workouts because they may interfere with sleep patterns.

Boost your brain power
Exercise can make you smarter. A study has shown that mental agility improves when testing is conducted on a treadmill. When you’re physically active, more blood flows through all parts of your body, including your brain. Cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance.

Get more done
Sitting on the couch or at your desk and feeling uninspired? Research shows that taking the time to exercise on a regular basis can increase productivity and leave you feeling more energized. Getting in a workout during the workday seems to benefit your health, mood, efficiency and even relationships.

Strengthen your bones
Your bones and muscles get stronger with physical activity. Weight bearing exercises, such as walking, dancing, tennis and running, can help lower your risk of osteoarthritis, help you maintain balance, and improve coordination.

Ward off illness
Many health experts feel that one of the most important habits you can adopt for good health is regular physical activity. Exercise may help prevent a variety of ailments from heart disease and diabetes to breast cancer and the common cold. A 30 to 45 minute walk every day can boost your immune system and help you lower your risk of chronic disease.

Be more creative
Vigorous exercise that gets the heart pumping can help boost creativity for up to two hours after you’ve finished. Physical activity can free your mind from your worries and help you let the creative juices flow. If you’re blocked at work, take a walk outside, get some fresh air and let your mind wander. You can free up your mind and refresh your brain.

Keep Alzheimer’s at bay
In addition to improving brain power and learning, exercise may also help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Working out can boost brain chemicals that support and prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. A daily walk or jog can help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s or even slow its affects once it’s begun.

Working out can have positive benefits beyond the gym. You can improve your mood, boost your self confidence, get more creative and increase your life span. Those are all good reasons to step away from the computer and get moving!

Best exercises to lower your cholesterol

Control cholesterol with exerciseHigh cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease. Heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33.5% of Americans have high LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

The good news is that a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss are the key components of reducing LDL cholesterol levels. While cholesterol-lowering drugs may also help, most health professionals would recommend lifestyle changes as the first defense (except in those with very high lipid levels, or pre-existing diabetes or coronary disease).*

So, you’ve been told you need to lower your LDL cholesterol. Exercise is one of the best ways to help control your cholesterol. But what kind of exercise should you do? How long and how often?

Here are answers to the questions you may have about the best exercise routine to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and even raise your “good” HDL cholesterol:

What type of exercise is best?

Aerobic exercises seem to benefit cholesterol the most – lowering LDL by 5 to 10% and raising HDL cholesterol by 3 to 6%. Aerobic exercise includes jogging, running and walking.

In addition, newer exercise crazes such as zumba and kickboxing are aerobic. You can even swim, cycle or do yoga. Everyday activities like walking the dog, raking leaves and dancing can also count.

The reason aerobic exercise is the best for reducing cholesterol is that it makes your heart pump harder and faster. You then raise your metabolism and cause your body to burn more calories. Your body burns calories it gained from fat, and reducing this fat impacts your LDL cholesterol levels. Exercise also helps keep LDL cholesterol from building up on the walls of your arteries, which is good for your heart health.

strength trainingStudies have shown that strength training can also help improve your LDL and HDL levels. In addition, strength or resistance training will help you build muscle. Adding in stretching exercises will help keep you more limber and flexible, and you’ll be less likely to experience an injury. Endurance, strength and flexibility all add up to increase your overall level of fitness.

How much exercise do I need?

Most research has shown that to lower cholesterol levels, you should exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. The good news is that you don’t have to fit it in all at lower cholesterol levelsone time. You can divide the time up into 10 or 15-minute sessions – as long as you get in the 30 minutes total.

You can also mix up the types of exercise you do in a day. For instance, you could take a 10-minute walk, rake leaves for 10 minutes and do 10 minutes of strength training.

And, if you’re not up to vigorous exercise every day, then any type of physical activity is better than none. Just get up and get moving!

What else can I do to achieve lower cholesterol?

Lose weight
A side benefit of increasing your activity levels and exercising more vigorously is that you may also lose weight. People who are overweight tend to have elevated LDL cholesterol. Therefore, losing even 5 to 10% of your body weight will also help improve your cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that you can be at the recommended weight and still have high cholesterol, so exercising is important for everyone.

lower cholesterol heart healthy foodsEating heart-healthy foods
Choose healthier fats such as those found in leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy. In addition, monounsaturated fats found in olive, peanut and canola oils are healthier options.

Avoid trans fats which can be found in fried foods and many commercially baked products like cookies and snack cakes.

Choose whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pastas and flour, and brown rice. Eat fruits and vegetables because are rich in fiber and help lower cholesterol.

Quit smoking
If you stop smoking, it can improve your HDL cholesterol level. You also reduce your risk of a heart attack and your blood pressure decreases.

Drink in moderation
Moderate alcohol levels may increase your levels of HDL or good cholesterol. However, the benefits aren’t strong enough to start drinking if you don’t currently. And, drinking too much leads to serious health problems, so keep it to one drink a day for women and one or two drinks a day for men.

Exercise has so many benefits beyond lowering cholesterol. It can help keep your bones strong, reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and stroke, improve your mood, and help you sleep.

Now, step away from the computer or mobile device and get moving!

*It is important that you consult your physician and other practitioners/counselors/consultants before initiating any changes in your diet or exercise program.