Tag Archives: regular exercise

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!

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6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

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

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

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

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

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!

Get motivated to exercise in 2013

getting exerciseOne of my goals for 2013 is to get into a regular exercise routine. I seem to exercise in fits and starts. I do really good for a week or two and then something happens and I lose ambition. I might get a cold and not feel like exercising. Or work gets hectic and I bump exercising to meet deadlines.

And sometimes I’m just lazy. I don’t think I will ever be one of those people who looks forward to exercising. For me, it’s something I feel I should be doing but don’t really want to do – like going to the dentist and washing laundry.

After I exercise, I feel great. I am so proud of myself for doing it. It’s the making myself do it part that I struggle with. So, I am putting together a list of ways to get motivated – and hopefully stay motivated – to exercise in 2013. Maybe some of them will inspire you, too!

Set Goals
Start with simple short-term goals to keep you motivated. You can set weekly and monthly goals. By setting exercise goals, you can track your progress and have a sense of accomplishment. Make sure your goals are reasonable and will keep you interested in exercising. For instance, you can set a goal to get your heart rate up with 30 minutes of cardio exercise three times a week. Depending on how active you have been, you can walk briskly or jog. See how far you can run or walk in 30 minutes. Challenge yourself to increase the distance over weeks and months.

Maybe you want to run a 5K. Set goals to help you increase your speed and endurance as you train for the race. Maybe you want to fit into an old pair of jeans or look better in your swim suit. Set goals to help you get there.

Make It Fun
I have a mental block against planned exercise. I have a really hard time making myself get on the treadmill or put in an aerobics DVD. I would much rather exercise accidentally. I play volleyball once a week with friends from high school. We reminisce about the good old days, talk smack about our playing abilities, and have a great time. It definitely gets the blood pumping, and I use muscles that don’t get used on a daily basis. I also go bike riding with my family, play basketball with my son, and jump on the trampoline with my girls. Adding some variety to your exercise routine can also help keep you interested and motivated.

Find an Exercise Buddy
If you make plans with a friend to go to the gym, walk on the local track, or play tennis, then you feel obligated to follow through. It’s easier to get motivated when you know someone else is counting on you. It’s also more fun to exercise with someone. You can push each other to work harder and get in some social time, too.

Schedule Your Workouts
Write it down. Seeing your exercise times written on your schedule will help you view it as a real commitment. Think of it as an important meeting and mentally prepare that you are going to do it. If you workout at the same time on the same days of the week, you can turn exercising into a habit. Once you make exercise part of your daily routine, you will be that much more likely to stick with it.

Reward Yourself
I often bribe myself to exercise. I will plan my time on the treadmill to coincide with one of my favorite TV shows. I get to watch a great show, and I get in my exercise. I also reward myself for reaching my goals. For instance, if I workout 3 or 4 times a week for a month, I can spend $50 on new clothes.

Be Flexible
Try not to be too hard on yourself. There will be times when you don’t reach your goals. Maybe you need to reevaluate your plans and set new goals. Even if you only have time to walk for 20 minutes instead of 30, do it anyway. Any exercise is better than none at all. You may have a cold or the flu and miss a week’s worth of exercise. You may feel like you’ve failed and want to quit altogether. Give yourself a break. Exercise is a lifelong journey. You will fall off the workout wagon. The important thing is that you get back into your exercise routine with renewed enthusiasm.

We know we need to exercise. Exercise benefits the mind, body and soul. So, why is it so hard to workout regularly? Share your exercise tips with us. How do you get motivated to exercise?