Three women clasping their hands together, in a gym setting

9 Easy Yoga Poses for Beginners

So, you’re thinking about taking up yoga?

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed by seeing experienced yogis twist this way and bend that way and you’re not sure if you can pull it off?

Well, just remember, they had to start somewhere. And there’s no better way to start than at the beginning. So, take your yoga mat and let’s get going!

There are over 300 positions in yoga, and we’re sure you’ll master them all at some point. But, for now, be content with the simple poses that every beginner should learn. Here is our pick of the best yoga poses for a beginner.

The Benefits of Yoga

In general, and everyone will tell you this – yoga is a way of life. Not only does it help you work on your body, but it also helps soothe your mind. It is a culture of well-being that can truly improve your life in many ways.

Now, this makes it seem like yoga is some kind of superman among various practices.

And you know what?

It kind of is.  

While it can’t, admittedly, fly you to the moon or save you from a villain (unless we count the metaphorical sense), there are great many things yoga can do:

  • Reduce stress.  Many yoga methods are interlinked with meditation, helping you “quiet down” the incessant clamoring of your mind. In turn, yoga relieves stress and relaxes even the most stressed individual.
  • Increase flexibility. One of the main points of yoga is that it gradually stretches your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, increasing the range of motion in your joints. This allows you to practice further poses and, who knows, become a yogi yourself one day!
  • Help with weight loss. In general, while the main purpose of yoga is not to lose weight, it is, however, one of its main benefits. As you balance your mind, you will also learn ways to balance your body, helping you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Improve posture. Because of all of the above, another great advantage of yoga is that now, your abdominal and back muscles can support your weight. As a result, your posture will greatly improve.

Yoga Poses for Beginners

As previously said, when you start doing yoga, your body will start undergoing change which will improve your overall agility.

Agility, that you can later use to increase the difficulty of your yoga poses.

But, for now, here are the easiest ones, perfect for beginners.

The Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Calm woman in sukhasana pose

It makes sense to start here.

The easy pose is great for beginners and, even though it’s easy, it has plenty of benefits. It’s simply divine for your peace of mind and, also, for your back muscles and your spine.

  • Sit with your buttocks firmly on the floor.
  • Cross your legs, but make sure to place your feet directly below your knees.
  • Put your hands on your knees.
  • Press your hips down into the floor and drop your shoulders down and back. Press your chest forward.
  • You should also relax your face, jaw and stomach.
  • Breathe deeply through the nose and hold for as many breaths as you like.

If you have knee or back injuries, you should sit on a folded blanket to remove the strain. In 

general, yoga is recommended for dealing with back pain. If some poses are too difficult, they can always be modified.

Another great way to remove the strain this pose can cause to beginners is to lean back on a wall or, possibly, lean slightly forward.

The Mountain (Tadasana)

Woman in standing pose

This is the basic pose for all standing poses. It is perfect for beginners, because it represents a foray into the point of yoga – learning how to ground yourself.

It may seem easy, but it’s important that you do it right.

While doing the mountain pose, keep the idea of balance in mind, since this is an essential part of yoga.

  • Stand with your feet together, press down with your toes and spread them open. Draw your abdominal muscles in to engage your core.
  • Then, lift your chest and roll your shoulders back and down, all the while keeping them relaxed. Drop your tailbone a bit to lengthen your lower back
  • You should always take slow and deep breaths through your nose. Hold the pose for as many breaths as you like.

Precisely because it is such an easy pose to do, you can do it practically anywhere and anytime, whenever you feel like you could benefit from the balance the pose brings.

The Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward-facing dog pose

One of the biggest benefits of this pose is that it strengthens your entire body, while also stretching it. This is easily one of most widely recognized yoga poses.

However, it’s vital to do it right.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get down on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly below your hips, and your hands should be slightly forward from your shoulders.
  • Spread your palms and turn your toes under.
  • While you exhale, you should lift your knees away from the floor. Keep your hips back and try to straighten your legs as much as you can. If your hamstrings are too tight, keep your knees bent a bit. If needed, you can also walk your hands forward. This will give you additional length.
  • Press your palms firmly on the floor and rotate your inner elbows towards each other.
  • Take long and deep breaths through your nose and, if you can, hold for 5 breaths.

The Tree (Vrksasana)

Woman in yoga tree pose

Another pose which aims at improving the balance of any beginner. It seems fairly simple – standing on one leg, right?

Well, not quite.

Even though it is easy to learn, it can be challenging for your hips, ankles and feet.

That is why you should always do everything at your pace and set realistic goals.

It is said that a good tree pose in the morning does wonder for curbing anxiety and stress, as well as increasing concentration.

  • Start in mountain pose. Keep your toes together and your heels slightly apart.
  • Then, shift your weight onto the left foot. Keep that foot firmly on the floor.
  • Bring your right foot up to the inner thigh and squeeze them together. If you’re having trouble drawing your foot up, simply reach down with your right hand and help it along the way. Toes of your right foot should be facing downwards, while the knee should be turned out.
  • When you’ve found your balance, press your hands together in front of your chest and keep your gaze at a fixed point about 5 feet away from you.
  • You should hold this pose for about 5 breaths, or more, if you have no problem.

If you can’t seem to find your balance at first, place your right foot on your shin, instead of the thigh.

The Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Woman in seated forward fold pose

Another great pose for beginners, simply because – you most likely already know, at least partially, how to do it.

That is, if you’ve ever stretched in your life.

It is perfect for unwinding after an intense workout, and it is perfect for unwinding after an intense day.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Simply sit on the floor and extend your legs right in front of you.
  • Keep your feet firmly flexed. Don’t turn them in or out. Keep your hands by your hips.
  • Then, lift your chest and bend forward from the waist. Make sure to engage your lower abdominals.
  • Once you’ve bent as far as you can, simply stop and breathe for about 10 breaths. Make sure you are relaxed throughout the pose.

Should you feel any sharp pain at any point, stop. However, if it’s tension that you’re feeling when you bend forward and, more importantly, you can continue to breathe unhindered, your body will gradually loosen up. Tension is normal when doing yoga, but pain is not.

Another option is to keep knees bent, but your feet should remain flexed and together throughout the pose.

The Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)

Woman doing the bridge pose

The opposite of the forward bend is the back bend. This pose effectively stretches the front part of your body, while also strengthening your back.

Again, you’ve probably seen it in some form or another. However, this is a good basis for later, more complicated poses.

  • First, lie flat on your back.
  • Then, bend your knees. Put your feet on the floor, but make sure they’re hip-width apart and that your knees and ankles are placed in a straight line.
  • Your arms should rest beside your body and your palms should be facing downwards.
  • When you inhale, lift your back. Try to roll in your shoulders so that your chin touches your chest. Your arms, feet and shoulders should support your weight.
  • Interlace your fingers. You should also push your hands harder to the ground.
  • You can hold this pose for 10 breaths. Lower your hips then and repeat for two or three times.

The Plank (Kumbhakasana)

Athletic woman in plank position

Let’s face it. Many of us are familiar with the infamous plank pose.

Simply because it’s easy to form, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

When it comes to torture in the form of physical exercise, many will testify that planking is right there with pulling a truck with your bare teeth.

However.

Don’t be dissuaded.

Planking is actually so beneficial, that it should be included in every beginner’s routine. It is also the basis for many other more challenging poses that you’ll learn later on.

Now, some prefer going into plank from the downward-facing dog, while others like to keep it simple.

We’re all about simplicity here. (At least until you feel you’re ready for more.)

So, here’s how to do the plank:

  • Start on the ground, on all fours. Your knees should be directly under your hips and your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the mat. Extend your legs behind you. Your body should form one long line.
  • Keep your palms on the floor and core engaged. Your neck and spine should be in neutral position.
  • If you can, hold this position for about 5 breaths.

Again, while this may seem like it’s too difficult to hold, start small. Begin with 15 seconds and work from there. You will gradually feel your body strengthening and you will be able to increase its duration to 1 minute.

The Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Athletic woman in cobra pose

A simply spectacular pose for beginners. This is when you can feel the stretch, but also give your body a bit of a rest.

The cobra pose is simply perfect if you have a stiff lower back after a day of sitting at the office.

Aside from strengthening your arms and shoulders, it also stimulates your heart, as well as the organs in your abdomen. It also improves circulation of blood and oxygen, which, in turn, has many other benefits.

But how to do it properly?

  • Lie on your stomach and stretch your legs.
  • Then, spread your hands on the floor, but make sure they are directly under your shoulders.
  • Your feet, thighs and pelvis should be firmly pressed into the floor.
  • Lift your chest off the floor, but always maintain your pelvis on the floor.
  • Firm your buttocks and your shoulder blades, but not too much.

Again, you don’t want to push too hard. Should you feel pain at any moment, pull back a bit, you’ve most likely gone too far.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Woman in child's pose, yoga setting

This pose is effective when you need to take a break between two more challenging poses.

It is also great for digestion, and it’s in general calming for the mind.

It can often be neglected on your road to mastering new poses, but it shouldn’t be! You should never push your body without giving it the proper rest it needs.

Remember, it’s all about balance.

So, while you’re striving for those harder ones, make sure to rest now and then.

  • Kneel on the floor. Your big toes should touch together and you should sit on your heels.
  • Separate your knees to the same width as your hips.
  • On the exhale, put your torso between your thighs. Stretch your arms forward and lower your forehead to the floor. Let your body release.

Since this is such a calming pose, you can do it for as many breaths as you feel necessary.

It is great for letting your body recuperate from the stress of the exercise, but also, the stress of life. 

Father and daughter dancing on bed

Fun Family Exercise Routines

Obesity rates are a growing problem, especially among the new generations of children who prefer spending their days indoors behind a screen, rather than being active outside.

This is why exercising as a family is so important. It not only teaches your children the importance of staying physically fit, setting a good example for them, but it can also be such a fantastic bonding experience for the whole family.

Not sure where to start?

Here are some fun ways to exercise with your family that everyone will enjoy…

Get Dancing

Dancing is such a fantastic workout, and this is an easy one for getting the whole family involved.

All you need to do is put together a playlist of songs that your family love, turn up the volume and get moving! If you do this in the evening, adding in flashlights in lieu of strobe lights can make the activity even more special for young children.

You will likely find that this is an activity that your family could do for hours, enabling all of you to reap the many benefits of dancing, such as:

Walk the Dog

This may seem simple, but children tend to have such a fascination with animals.

An activity as basic as walking the dog will likely seem so much more exciting to kids than to you, making this a great way to get the whole family (as well as the dog) moving.

Family running with the dog

To keep things interesting, try to pick new routes and locations each day. Areas where your dog can run free and properly play and interact with the entire family would be a bonus.

Don’t have a dog?

Borrow a friend or neighbor’s dog instead. Even if you do have a dog, adding in an extra one can really change the dynamics of your walk.

There are also many apps out there that connect dog owners with people who enjoy walking them. This will give your family the chance to interact with many different pooches, although you would need to ensure that they are each child-friendly.

Commercial Break Workouts

Are there any television shows that the entire family watch together?

Well, since you already have everyone in the same room, this is a great opportunity to sneak some exercise in too.

How?

You will need to wait for the commercials to come on, but, as soon as they do, get everyone doing a certain exercise. From high jumps to planking to push-ups, this is a great way of ensuring that your children don’t end up too sedentary when watching TV.

You could also arrange for each family member to take turns being the “leader” of the workout for each commercial break. This will make things more interesting, as everyone will be able to have their say when it comes to exercises that they enjoy.

Jump Roping

Is jump roping something that your children do?

This simple activity actually brings with it a number of benefits, such as:

  • Improved motor coordination
  • Improved agility, speed, reflexes and balance
  • Provides cardio benefits
  • Helps with brain development and boosts creativity

Plus, the fact that jump roping is a low-impact activity means that it will not put any unnecessary pressure on the joints.

Family jumping rope in the park

There are plenty of jump roping games and rhymes to be found online, so equip yourself with some of these before introducing the activity to your family.

Grow Some Food

No matter what age you are, being able to grow something and then eat it gives you a huge thrill of satisfaction. The fact that you can also enjoy organic produce at a fraction of what you would have paid for it is an added bonus. 

This is something that your whole family can take part in, with each family member choosing a few of their favorite foods to grow.

Wondering where the exercise part comes in?

Gardening itself is actually a fantastic workout!

Did you know that gardening for an hour can burn as many calories as if you had jogged for four miles? 

Gardening requires your body to perform such a wide range of motions, from squatting and bending to lifting and digging, giving you the ultimate workout. It also triggers your brain to release feel-good endorphins, while teaching your children a sense of responsibility.

Wondering how to get started?

Have a family meeting to discuss the foods you want to grow. Then, go out and get some seeds or plants, and get growing!

Some easy foods to start off with include:

  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Different types of lettuces
  • Herbs

Don’t forget to teach your family how to properly warm up before gardening, especially if you have a few strenuous tasks ahead of you that day. Due to all of the muscles that are used when gardening, gardening-related injuries are actually more common than you would think!

Go for a Swim

Swimming is often referred to as the perfect exercise.

Why?

Because it provides you with all of the benefits of a full aerobic workout, but without putting any pressure on the joints. Swimming is an exercise that can be done by just about every member of the family, no matter their age. 

When it comes to deciding where to go for a family swim…

You can either opt for a local swimming pool or the sea, although this does depend on where you live. While the sea usually tends to be more fun, this can often be impractical in the colder months, so make sure that you have a few back-up options too. 

Can’t imagine your children getting on board with the idea of swimming laps?

Don’t worry, they don’t need to!

You can either just leave them to splash and play about in the water, which will bring them pretty similar health benefits, or you can get everyone involved in a family pool game.

Jumping or diving competitions are always fun, as is Starfish Tag. Younger children tend to love underwater mirror games, while balancing competitions on a floating mattress will get everybody’s muscles working.

Cycling Adventures

While it may be easy enough to cycle with your kids to school instead of driving them, or cycling to the shops on the weekends, this list is all about ways to make exercise fun.

The best way to do that when it comes to cycling is by turning the journey into a little adventure.

Family cycling outdoors

This means planning new routes and cycling through new areas, so that the views and scenery are different each time. Try to alternate between urban and rural areas, as this contrast will keep things interesting.

Planning your route so that there is something special and rewarding at the end of it will help to give your kids some extra motivation. Treating them to a hot chocolate at a cafe, or visiting a pond to feed some ducks, will help to make the activity even more special.

Turn Household Chores into a Workout

Ok, so the idea of turning household chores into a workout may not seem like much fun at first, but hear this out…

Just like with gardening, household chores require the body to perform such a wide range of motions, giving you a great workout.

The trick to getting the whole family involved is to make it fun, by adding in some music and a competitive edge.

The music needs to be energetic and fast-paced, and you should try to get each family member to contribute to the playlist, as everyone will have certain tunes that motivate them.

You need to make sure that you also time this chore workout well…

You don’t want to do it before a mealtime, when everyone is hungry and cranky. You also don’t want to do it after a meal, when everyone is full.

Wondering how to actually turn those boring chores into a competitive workout?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Wash the car within a certain length of time, competing to see whose side is the cleanest
  • See who can tidy away the most items in a certain amount of time, but make sure that everyone squats instead of bending down normally
  • Everyone takes a window or a wall to clean, competing to see who can do the best job the fastest
  • Play a guessing game with laundry items, before giving each family member their own items to fold
  • Get everyone making some bread, as the kneading process gives the arms a great workout
  • Use step trackers to see who takes the most steps when doing chores for 20 minutes. Many smartphones already have a step tracker in them, saving you from having to purchase dedicated trackers for each family member

Try Different Sports

Sports games can be so much fun, to the point where you often forget how long you have actually been exercising for.

Learning a new sport can be even more exciting, and there are so many different sports out there that you and your family could try.

In addition to providing some good ol’ fashioned fun, regularly playing family sports games will result in the following:

  • Better learning skills, and therefore better academic results
  • Improved problem-solving and teamwork skills
  • Gives the body a workout, keeping it healthy
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Reduced stress

So, which sports should you try playing with your family?

Well, that depends…

If there is already a sport that every member of your family enjoys playing, you could try to improve your skills in this. Sign your family up for a class, or enter yourselves into a local tournament.

On the other hand, if your family isn’t naturally inclined to sports…

Keeping things varied will help to make the activities more fun.

Try having each family member pick a sport that they would want to try, and then you could alternate which one you do each week.

A few ideas would be:

  • Cricket
  • Boxing
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Frisbee
  • Table tennis

Father and child playing basketball

Even something like bowling would still ensure that your family are on their feet for a few hours.

You could make things more interesting by having rewards for the winning team or “punishments” for the losing team. For example, the losing team would need to cook the family meal that night, or the winning team would be able to decide what to watch on TV for that week. This will give everyone the motivation to put their all into the activity.

Make Some Exercise Cards

Have you heard of exercise cards before?

They’re an increasingly popular way to plan a workout.

Each card in the deck would feature a specific workout, whether this may be a bodyweight exercise, a stretch, or anything else.

Exercise cards are available pre-printed, but since this is an activity that you are basing around your family, you may find it more useful to create your own deck of cards.

Why?

Because this way you can incorporate exercise that fit your family’s specific skills and requirements. You can add in plenty of fun games, such as the jump roping mentioned above, to keep your kids interested.

Once you have your deck of exercise cards together, set aside some time for your family workout. Then, get everyone in the family to pick one or two cards from the deck, before combining these all together to create your unique routine.

You can keep things interesting by alternating the location of your workouts. While there is nothing wrong with doing these at home or in your backyard, taking your deck to a local park or hiking trail will instantly make the workout seem so much more exciting.

Exercising is something that every family should be doing together, but it can definitely be tricky to find activities that the whole family can enjoy. Each of these activities will provide your family with a fantastic workout, while keeping them motivated and engaged at the same time.

Workout friends high-five each other, resting

Setting Realistic Workout Expectations

When it comes to working out, consistency is key. Pushing yourself too hard will only damage your motivation, making it far less likely that you will stick to a regular workout routine. 

This is why it is so important to set yourself realistic workout expectations, as this is what will give you the best results. 

How do you make sure that your aims and goals are realistic? 

Here are some tips: 

Smart Goals

When it comes to setting goals, SMART is an acronym that can really help you. 

What does SMART stand for? 

  • Specific – your goal should be clear and succinct. Read on for advice on choosing these specific goals 
  • Measurable – this basically means that you need to add a number to your goal. Make sure that there is a way to numerically track your progress 
  • Attainable – this is the tricky part. Your specific, measurable goal needs to be difficult enough to challenge and motivate you but attainable enough for you to actually achieve 
  • Realistic – make sure that your goal is realistic and relevant to you, and that it is the right time in your life to be putting your time and focus into achieving it 
  • Timely – give your goal a realistic deadline 

Infographic on SMART goals

Confused? 

An example would be “I will go running four days a week for an hour each time, so that I can lose 5% of my body weight in six weeks time.”

Choosing Realistic Goals and Expectations

For many people, especially those who are new to working out, the main goal tends to be weight loss. 

There is nothing wrong with this, but you do need to make sure that you are still being realistic…

How can you set a realistic weight loss goal? 

You need to first take into account your current weight, along with your body fat percentage. The heavier you are, and the more body fat you have, the faster you will be able to lose this. 

Once your body fat percentage and weight starts to decrease, it will then take you longer to lose the rest. 

For many people out there, a good expectation to aim for would be to lose about one percent of your body weight a week. 

How about for those who are trying to build muscle and strength? 

Well, as above, those who are new to strength training will make progress faster. 

Ideally, you should be able to add five pounds to the amount you lift each week. 

For those who are beginners, you could aim to increase your body weight by between 1% to 1.5% each year. Those who are intermediate lifters should aim for about 0.5%, while those who are experts should aim for around 0.25%. 

As you can see, there is quite a bit to take into account when setting your goal. You will need to do some research into making sure that your goal is a realistic one, so that you know that you will be able to achieve it. 

Measuring and Documenting Your Progress 

To begin with, you need to write your goals down. 

Why? 

Because not only does this make them more definite and real, but research shows that those who write down their workout plans and aims exercise around twice as much as those who do not. 

Once you get started with your workouts, it is important to keep monitoring your progress. This will go a long way when it comes to keeping you on track to accomplishing your goal. 

How should you monitor your progress?

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Keep a log book – your log book should contain the following information: your workout schedule, the actual exercises you have done, the amount of time you spent working out and numbers relating to your goal. This could be weight loss numbers, fitness levels, or anything else. Keeping track of your energy levels and your mood can also be beneficial 
  • Use an app – there are so many different workout apps out there that will help you to track your progress. Many of these can be accompanied by pieces of wearable technology, enabling you to obtain the highest in accuracy 

Checking watch and mobile phone app for workout statistics

  • Keep a calender – this is similar to a log book, but laying it all out on a calendar will make it easier to visually see your overall progress 
  • Take pictures – taking pictures throughout your workout journey will enable you to compare any aesthetic changes side by side. They will also provide you with extra motivation when it comes to continuing on to making improvements to your body. Posting these photos on a social media account can also help to keep you accountable when it comes to sticking to your aims and goals 

Sticking to Your Goals

For those of you who already regularly work out, you have likely had those days where you just can’t seem to muster up the motivation to exercise. 

Sticking to your workout goals can be tough, but here are a few tips to help you out: 

  • Reward yourself – set yourself mini goals and then reward yourself each time you achieve one of these. The rewards could be anything from a pampering spa session to a short break away, depending on how much motivation you need 
  • Keep your workout bag packed – this makes it easier to just “grab and go” before a workout, rather than having to waste time sorting through your belongings and packing your bag 
  • Work out with friends and family – this not only makes working out more enjoyable, but will also hold you more accountable to your goals 
  • Plan some form of exercise for each day – even if you only plan to work out in the gym four times a week, you should still try to plan an active exercise for the remaining days of the week. This could be as simple as a bike ride, a hike with the dog, or even an evening stroll around your neighborhood 
  • Go public – whether you simply announce your goals to your friends and family, or set up a social media account where you post your progress, putting your goals out there in the big wide world makes it much harder to ignore them when things are feeling difficult 
  • Work with a personal trainer – this will give you some extra motivation, while the advice given to you during your workout will help to make your workout even more effective 

Aligning Your Diet with Your Workout Goals 

You are likely already well aware of the fact that your diet will have a huge impact when it comes to achieving your workout goals.

Eating the right foods before your workout will give your body the energy it needs to really thrive and be active, while eating certain foods afterwards will help when it comes to building muscle and reducing fat. 

So, which foods should you be eating? 

Well, before a workout, try to eat foods that are low in fiber and fat, but contain a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates. Stay away from anything fried, greasy or filled with sugar. 

Drinking plenty of fluids with your food is also important. 

Why? 

Because the water in these fluids acts as a cooling mechanism for your body, while also preventing it from becoming dehydrated. 

What about sports drinks? 

All you really need is water. However, if you tend to sweat quite a bit, or are working out in a humid environment, then a sports drink could be quite beneficial. Of course, if weight loss is your end goal, then make sure that the sports drink you choose does not contain too many calories. There are many diet versions of sports drinks available, so these may be better suited to you. 

What should you be eating after your workout? 

Ideally, you want to be eating foods that contain plenty of protein. This is what your muscles need in order to recover from all the exercise, as well as to grow. 

However, don’t go overboard…

Your body only needs about 10 to 20 grams of protein after a workout.

Do you struggle to stick to a healthy diet? 

Here are some tips to follow to make it easier: 

  • Eat smaller meals, but eat these more frequently throughout the day. This will help to naturally raise your metabolism, enabling you to burn more calories in the end 
  • Give food prep a try. Sorting your meals from before will make it much easier to stick to a healthy diet 
  • Try not to skip meals. This may seem beneficial in the short run, but it only means that you are much more likely to over-eat during your next meal 
  • A journal that documents your diet will help you to eat healthier 

Keep Your Workouts Enjoyable

Working out can sometimes seem a bit tedious, and this only makes it so much harder to achieve your goals and expectations. 

The key here is to make sure that you are keeping your workouts fun and enjoyable. 

How? 

Well, to begin with, choose some exercises that you genuinely enjoy. For example, if you hate going to the gym, then coming up with a workout plan that revolves around the gym isn’t something that is going to fill you with excitement. 

In fact, working out outdoors can really give you a mental boost. Spending time in nature is extremely therapeutic, and you will likely find that you have a much clearer head after an outdoor workout. Research shows that exercising outdoors is much more effective at reducing feelings of stress than exercising indoors.

Yoga group in the park, morning

Try to keep mixing your workouts up, so that you aren’t doing the same exercises day in and day out. There are so many new and inventive exercises constantly being put out there, and trying something that you’ve never tried before will not only help in stimulating your body and muscles, but also your mind. 

This is especially the case for those who haven’t been seeing the results that they have been expecting. This could be a sign that the exercises you have chosen aren’t quite right for your goal, and it would be worth exploring other options. 

Listening to music while working out can also really be a game-changer…

Music has been shown to improve performance while also boosting motivation. 

Wondering if there is a particular genre of music you should be listening to? 

This all depends on the type of workout you are doing…

If you are warming up, something with a slightly slower tempo would be beneficial, while speed or endurance exercises would require a faster tune. 

There are many BPM (beats per minute) calculators online that can help you to work out the tempo of a particular song.

Here are some guidelines to follow: 

  • Warming up – 100 to 110 BPM
  • Stretching – 90 to 100 BPM 
  • Strength training – 110 to 120 BPM 
  • Endurance, agility and speed training – anything over 120 BPM 

Another way to make your workouts more fun is to exercise with someone else. As mentioned above, this also has the added advantage of giving you some extra motivation while also making you more accountable to your goals. 

Don’t have any friends or family who want to work out? 

That’s ok because there are plenty of workout groups that you can join. Whether you join a more informal workout meet-up or an actual class, working out with others will give you a support system that will make your workouts so much more enjoyable. 

Not only can it be difficult to decide upon workout expectations, but then you also have to make sure that you stick to your goals in order to actually achieve your expectations. This is why it is so important that any goals or expectations you set for yourself are realistic, as setting yourself up for success is key when it comes to successfully making progress with your workouts. 

15 Fun Ways To Move More

Keeping fit is very important.

Why?

For a number of reasons, such as:

  • It helps to keep your weight under control
  • It prevents certain health conditions, such as stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, different types of cancer and more
  • It boosts your mood, thanks to the way in which it triggers your brain to release feel-good chemicals
  • It increases your energy levels
  • It boosts brain function
  • It improves digestion and gut health
  • It promotes better sleep

Don’t enjoy exercising?

This is actually quite common, but it only means that you haven’t yet found the right physical activity for you.

If you need some inspiration, here are 15 fun ways to get moving more:

Cook Yourself a Meal

Did you know that you can combine the time you spend cooking yourself a meal in your kitchen with a workout?

You are probably wondering how…

Well, there are a few ways in which you can go about doing this:

  • Enthusiastically wiping down your counters will burn 200 calories an hour
  • Putting away any gadgets, and doing things like mashing potatoes or kneading dough by hand, will really use some muscles
  • Use your counter-tops to do a few push-ups
  • Perform a squat each time you load something in the dishwasher
  • Wash your dishes by hand

Not only will all of this give your body some exercise, but you’ll also end up with a tasty meal at the end of it. Just make sure that it is something healthy, so that you don’t undo all of the hard work you have just done! 

Doga

Never quite taken to the idea of yoga?

You might change your mind if you can bring your pooch with you…

Doga, which refers to doing yoga with a dog, is becoming increasingly popular, because not only is this a great way for people to keep fit, but their dogs benefit too.

Having your dog with you also makes the whole experience so much more fun, as well as social, since pooches are such a great ice breaker when it comes to meeting new people.

There are doga classes held all over the world, but if you would like to give doga a try from the comfort of your own home first, you will find several tutorials online that will help the two of you to get started. 

Geocaching

If you used to love treasure hunts as a child, then geocaching may be right up your street.

Never heard of it before?

All you need to do is download a geocaching app on your smartphone, and then pick a set of GPS coordinates in your area. Follow these coordinates to find the geocache, which is a hidden marker or container at that location, but can be just about any shape or size.

What do you do once you find the geocache?

Open it up and sign the logbook. Some geocaches also have small gifts within them. However, the rule of the game is that if you take something, you need to replace this with a small item or gift of your own

Once you are done, put the geocache back in the same place that you found it. You can then share your experience via the app if you desire.

There are geocaches hidden in 190 countries around the world, with millions to be found, so you will never be short of new adventures to have.

Pole Dancing

Pole dancing as a workout has become so popular, with these moves offering up a fun way to stay active.

The best way to begin is by signing yourself up for a pole dancing class, as these will take you through the basic moves that you need to know.

Wondering how pole dancing benefits your body?

In a number of ways, such as:

Thanks to how popular pole dancing classes have become, these are now available in so many different countries, with competitive rates.

Horseback Riding

For those who love animals, especially horses, horseback riding seems like a no-brainer when it comes to keeping fit.

Even if you have never ridden before, this is such an easy hobby to pick up.

Just be warned…

Horse riding can become extremely addictive!

Want to know how to get started?

Look for a riding center or stables near you, and then see what sort of lessons they offer. You will usually be able to choose between private lessons or group sessions. Both of these have their advantages, so opting for a mix of both would probably be best.

Circus Workouts

The circus is always so exciting and awe-inspiring.

If you love the circus, why not bring some of that energy and excitement into your own life?

You are probably wondering how to do this…

Many gyms around the world now offer circus-inspired workouts.

What do these involve?

A wide mix of activities, from juggling and trapeze work to tumbling and jumps.

Just one thing to keep in mind…

Make sure that the gym you choose uses equipment that has been modified for beginners.

Community Trash Pick-Ups

Passionate about environmental causes?

That same drive can also help you to get moving more.

How?

You have likely heard of, or even participated in, community trash pick-ups. These are basically when people from the community get together to clear up trash from a certain area, whether this may be a park, a beach, a forest, or any other natural setting.

Not only will you be doing good for your local environment, but joining in on one of these sessions will also get you moving quite a bit, and will work out a number of different muscle groups in your body.

Trampolines

Many people equate trampolines with children, but more and more adults are turning to trampolines as a way to stay fit.

How does all of that jumping help your body?

Well, not only does it tighten and tone your core, but it also helps with calorie loss, and gives you a cardio workout that is just as effective as going for a run, but without stressing your joints in the way that running does. 

There are so many different moves that you can do on a trampoline, and plenty of classes that you can join to teach you how to do these.

One thing to remember…

While you may be tempted to get bouncing straight away, make sure that you warm up for a few minutes first, as this will prepare your muscles for the workout ahead. Cooling off for a few minutes once you are done is also just as important.

Exergaming  

If you love video games, then exergaming could be the perfect workout for you.

What is exergaming?

It refers to playing video games that encourage you to be physically active.

Research shows that many exergames can offer up the same health benefits as traditional exercise, and there are an increasing number of studies that continue to back up the many benefits that exergaming has. These include:

One big benefit to exergaming is that not only does it keep you moving, but it is also a form of entertainment, and is one that will likely easily keep you fully engaged.

There are exergames available on all video gaming platforms, from the Xbox to the Wii, and even on mobile devices, making this an easy hobby to pick up.

Play a Musical Instrument

You are probably wondering why playing a musical instrument is on a list of ways to move more…

This is because playing a musical instrument actually results in an increase in physical activity.

How?

Well, no matter what instrument you choose to play, you likely make full use of your arm and back muscles, not only while you are playing but also to hold your instrument up.

Certain instruments, such as the drums, will even give you a cardio workout!

Karaoke Workouts

Do you love to sing?

If so, you definitely need to give a karaoke workout a try.

These are usually found at cycling or spinning classes, with a television screen, complete with karaoke words and instructions, attached to each bike.

If you are quite picky about the type of music you enjoy, it would be worth checking out the song list before signing up to the class. Some instructors, in order to prevent students from getting too carried away, will only open up certain songs during each class.

If you have a friend with a karaoke system at home, that’s even better! This means that you can get a group of friends together to belt out your vocals.

High Heel Workouts

Yes, a high heel workout is exactly what it sounds like – working out in your high heels.

Wondering why you would want to do this?

Well, these workouts not only give you some exercise, but also teach you how to wear high heels safely.

When you are wearing a pair of heels, your center of gravity shifts to the front. These classes will teach you how to adjust your posture when this happens, so that you don’t cause any damage to your lower back or feet.

This will also help you to strengthen your lower leg and foot muscles, both of which will make a long day on your feet seem much less tiring.

Hula Hooping

Hula hooping has become quite trendy recently, with everyone from Kelly Osbourne to Michelle Obama giving it a go.

Hula hooping is a great way to give your body a workout, because not only does it strengthen your core, but it exercises other muscle groups too.

When it comes to weight loss…

You lose about seven calories a minute while hula hooping.

Think this doesn’t sound like much?

It’s actually more than what you would lose per minute when doing everything from walking briskly to aerobics to Pilates.

Never quite got the hang of hula hooping?

Here are a few tips:

  • Go for a heavier, rather than a lighter, hoop, as this makes it easier to build momentum
  • A bigger hoop will be easier, as this gives you more time to react to the movements necessary 

Cleaning Your House

Don’t have time to work out?

Try combining a workout with a house cleaning session instead.

While housework may be boring, giving your body a workout at the same time makes the task seem all the more valuable.

Wondering how to do this?

Here are some ideas:

  • Do squats or forward bends when putting items away 
  • Walk briskly up the stairs
  • Wash dishes to tone your arm muscles, making sure to do 20 repetitions per arm
  • Perform lunges while using your vacuum cleaner
  • Stretch your body and muscles while dusting
  • Iron for an hour, with a good posture, to burn around 150 calories
  • Blast some music and dance around the house while cleaning

Not only will you end up with well-worked muscles, but you will also be able to enjoy a clean house at the end of it all.

An Urban Workout

Do you live in an urban area?

There is no reason why you can’t use the urban environment around you to put together a fun workout.

How?

Begin by heading on over to your local playground…

The equipment that you will find here is ideal for pull-ups, while a picnic table is great for doing some tricep dips.

Found some spare tires?

These can be used for shoulder presses, while a park bench is perfect for push-ups.

Exercising definitely does not need to be boring. There are so many unique and fun ways out there to get your body moving more, so try being more creative when it comes to finding ways to stay physically fit.

Man running in the city against the sunset

9 Reasons to Give Running A Try

Running is one of the oldest and most effective forms of exercise, and many people today use it as their primary workout source or as a cardio-boosting addition to a more elaborate routine.

There are many reasons why running as exercise can be great: it increases stamina, tones the body and blasts calories. 

Furthermore, its benefits for mental health are not negligible either – running can help balance stressful schedules and help you center your thoughts.

Moreover, it’s practically free and can be done pretty much anywhere!

If this intro hasn’t made the case for running yet, let’s dive into all the reasons why this type of exercise might just be the ideal fit for you.

It Lowers Stress Levels

If you tend to exercise on the regular, you might already be aware of the fact that workouts can do wonders for your mood.

When we’re breaking sweat, our body releases endorphins, neurotransmitters which are incredibly beneficial in reducing stress and pain levels.

Even as little as 20 or 30 minutes of uninterrupted exercise can trigger the release of endorphins and contribute to an overall improved mood.

And running is a great way to squeeze in that precious endorphin-boosting session into your day-to-day routine.

Not only will running activate your muscles and get the blood flowing through your veins, it will also give you an opportunity to be focused on nothing but yourself and your thoughts.

This will help you clear your mind and re-balance yourself.

Moreover, if your daily schedule tends to be hectic and your sleeping pattern is all over the place, running can contribute to a more regulated sleep-wake cycle, due to release of serotonin and other sleep-facilitating hormones.

Finally, the more you exercise, the physically fitter you’ll get. Watching your body transform for the better will increase your confidence and make you feel more comfortable in your skin.

It Increases Your Productivity

Our day-to-day lives are riddled with all kinds of stressful situations.

Whether you are worrying about your job, studies or other obligations, sometimes it’s hard to focus and keep your priorities straight.

When your mind is frazzled, it’s easier to slip up and fall behind on your schedule.

With running, you will not only feel more energized and physically fit, you will also improve your concentration and sharpen your mental abilities.

You will feel revitalized and ready to take on whatever challenge is presented before you.

Moreover, if you turn running into a regular habit, you will feel motivated to arrange the rest of your schedule around it and stick to your routine.

It’s no wonder that so many great minds of our time were also enthusiastic runners.

It Will Make You Go Outside

Very few modern-day jobs require being on your feet or spending prolonged periods of time outdoors – the majority of people go about their day sitting behind screens in stuffy offices and cubicles.

This can greatly affect your mood and make you feel sluggish and devoid of energy.

And if you don’t often come up with an excuse to venture outdoors, running can be a great tool for readdressing this issue.

By exercising out in the open, you will find a way to reconnect with nature, which will instantly make you feel more happy and fulfilled.

woman running outside with dog

How is this the case?

Well, being out in nature is closely linked to feelings of accomplishment and happiness.

Moreover, running outside will also replenish your body with Vitamin D, which tends to decrease during dark winter months.

Vitamin D can also contribute to strengthening your bones, soothing your nerves and improving your overall immune system.

And when you mix the benefits of being out in nature with a body-boosting workout, it becomes clear why this combination can be so beneficial for your overall wellness.

It Doesn’t Cost a Thing

One of the main reasons why people are hesitant to take up exercising is the potential cost.

These days, even the most basic gym membership can put a strain on your wallet, not to mention the dizzying prices of tailored workout routines and personal trainers.

Furthermore, once you fall down the rabbit hole called the fitness sphere, you might start feeling that you’re not doing exercise right unless you’re shelling out big bucks for all the right equipment, workout gear, and state-of-the-art accessories.

It’s no wonder that the financial aspect of exercising turns people off physical activity.

Luckily, this is not the case with running.

To start running, all you need to do is get out of the apartment and get your two legs going.

OK, perhaps a pair of good running shoes might make your life easier.

Of course, if you want to enhance your running experience at a later date, you can always do so with various workout-facilitating accessories.

However, none of this is absolutely essential if you’re just looking to set your body into gear – which is what makes running one of the cheapest forms of exercise.

You Can Do It Anywhere

Sometimes, the hardest part about exercising is actually dragging yourself to the gym.

This is especially the case if you don’t live close to it.

And if you exercise at home, sometimes you’ll find this isn’t the ideal setting either, especially if your living space is cramped or if you share your apartment with other people.

If you decide to go running, you won’t have to worry about any of this.

And yes, while running on treadmills is very convenient and requires the least amount of effort (especially during cold winter months), going outside to run is even better and more beneficial for your mind and your body.

Is there really that big of a difference, you ask?

The answer is yes! Whether it’s in nature or an urban environment, trail running activates more muscles than running on a treadmill, since your legs and feet move at different angles, depending on the surface and incline.

Consequently, you burn more calories and become firmer in a shorter amount of time.

Moreover, you’ll be more mentally stimulated due to constant changes in your surroundings – as opposed to the faceless interiors of gyms and exercise studios.

It’s Great For Losing Weight

If weight loss is the primary reason why you have decided to take up running, then you’ll be pleased to hear that this type of exercise is extremely effective at burning those extra layers of fat.

Even a simple, slow-paced jog can speed up your metabolism and help you shed the pounds faster.

But if you take it up a notch and start doing high-intensity runs, your body will be able to melt those calories away even faster.

Another great thing about running is that your muscles have to keep on working even after your workout is over in order to recover. This is called “the afterburn effect”.

Even better, combine your running routine with a couple of weekly strength training sessions, and your muscles will turn into bona fide fat-blasting machines.

And if you want to fully maximize on the weight loss potential of running, try to maintain a balanced diet. Processed sugars and fats may slow down your calorie-burning journey, so it might be best to switch to a diet packed with whole grains, veggies and nuts.

It Tones the Body

So, we learned how running can be extremely helpful in shedding excess weight.

But this type of exercise can also be efficient in sculpting your body and firming your muscles.

When you run, your legs tend to do most of the work. With time, you will notice how your calves, your thighs and your hamstrings are becoming more defined.

If your workouts involve running on diverse terrain with plenty of inclines, you can also rest assured your glutes will become toned as well.

However, firming your body through running doesn’t end with legs.

If you work out continuously, you will develop a strong and resilient core, which will result in more sculpted abdominal muscles.

A stronger core will improve your posture and prevent the occurrence of injuries during future workouts.

If your main fitness goal is to tone your body, you should make the most of your running sessions.

The best way to do this is to keep them varied and interesting. Combing long-distance runs with high-intensity sprints; try to run on all kinds of surfaces with different inclines.

This type of exercise will activate a good chunk of your muscles and enhance your performance. Plus, you can rest assured your workouts will never be boring!

It Clears Up the Skin

Some benefits of running are skin deep.

But hey, who’s complaining? If you can achieve a glowing complexion in addition to a healthy, toned body, then all the better.

There are many ways in which running helps improve your complexion.

For one, running boosts your circulation, which increases the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients into your cells. This increases collagen production, which then results in plumper, firmer skin.

Moreover, when your skin cells are feeling energized, they are then motivated to shed your body of all the toxins and pollutants that can cause a host of different skin woes.

Moreover, when we exercise, the levels of stress hormone cortisol become gradually lower. And with lack of tension and stress, you lower the chances of developing stress-caused skin conditions, such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.

However, in order to maximize on all the perks running has for your skin, you need to take a couple of precautionary measures.

For one, when possible, try to avoid wearing makeup when running.

A combination of thick product and sweat may cause breakouts. A lightweight, salicylic acid-enriched cleanser should give you a clean canvas and reduce the chances of spots and blackheads.

If your skin is prone to breakouts, be that on your face or your body, you might want to invest in quality workout gear. Avoid anything that’s too tight and opt for nature-derived fabrics like cotton or hemp. This way, your skin will be able to breathe and you won’t have to worry about pimples caused by sweat-drenched clothes.

It’s Social

Exercising can often feel solitary.

Between the unfriendly hours and drab gyms, it’s hard to look forward to a good workout when you know you’ll be alone with your thoughts for the entirety of the time.

This doesn’t have to be the case with running, though!

If you find yourself an exercise buddy, you’ll never have to worry about your runs feeling dull or lonely.

Moreover, when you set plans to run with another person, it makes it harder to bail out on workouts. Plus, having someone to talk to and catch up with will definitely make you excited for every running session.

social running group

Also, running with friends might awaken your competitive streak – by comparing yourself to another runner, you might feel extra motivated to do better with each running session.

And if you don’t have any friends who are willing to jog with you, you can always join a local running club. Not only will you have company during your sessions, you might make some new friends!

Finally, a great way to boost your performance is to join a race in your area. Half-marathons, marathons and charity races will inspire you to achieve better results and become a more accomplished runner.

Has this list convinced you to finally go for a run? With all the benefits running will provide for your body, you’d be foolish not to. Now it’s time to put on your best pair of trainers and hit the ground running!

Woman exercising with kettlebell in gym

Hidden Signs Of Osteoporosis

These days there is a lot of emphasis on Extreme Exercise. With celebrity gym instructor singing the praises of the time saving high-intensity workouts and kick-starting metabolisms, it sometimes seems like the extreme is the routine. Sure, you can work at moderate levels of intensity, as long as you scale a hill at a full speed first thing in the morning. Exercise can be good, but pushing yourself too far may come with a few health setbacks, osteoporosis is one of them. Lots of women who have osteoporosis don’t know about it until they break a bone. Here are a few red flags that might help you figure it out a little sooner.

Too Much Exercise
Exercise is a good thing, right? Sure, but it turns out it can also be too much of one. Women who exercise too much are at risk of female athlete triad syndrome. The symptoms include an abnormal or absent menstrual cycle, decrease bone density and low energy. According to Fredrick Singer, Md, “Women are often a high school of college athletes who run 40 to 50 miles a week. If you run that much and don’t consume enough calories, you’re at risk for bone loss.”

However, what’s too much for one person, may not be excessive for another, so be sure to consult a doctor if you start missing periods. You may be able to get help from a fitness professional or nutritionist who can customize a diet and exercise program best suited to your needs.

You’re Very Thin
Very skinny women who stop menstruating can experience changes in hormones in the bones and brain, a condition which occurs frequently with eating disorders. Dr. Singer says, “When you lose an excessive amount of weight, a signal is sent to the hypothalamic area of the brain which shuts down the pituitary hormones, which in turn shuts down the ovaries.” How do you know when skinny is too skinny? If your body mass index,(BMI) is lower than 18.5, you’re too skinny.

Little Nightcap
If you’re drinking more than one to two glasses of vino per night, your bones may be paying the price. Health professionals say: stop at two. In fact,y you may want to have one or two. According to a 2012 study from Oregon State University, those one or two drinks may actually improve bone health, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.

You Binge Watch TV
What? “Orange is the New Black” is bad for your bones? Apparently, lying prone on the couch can lead to bone breakdown with a 24 to 48 hour period. Says Dr. Singer, “Total lack of weight bearing activity is one of the fastest ways to develop osteoporosis, which happens within months.”

While Singer isn’t suggesting you miss the finale of your favorite shows, he does recommend getting up when you can and says even brief periods of walking may help to prevent bone loss.

You Take Antidepressants
If you’re depending on SSRIs to keep depression at bay, you may want to pay attention to your bone health. A review of nineteen studies in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience says these types of antidepressants can accelerate bone loss and affect bone mineral density. If you are taking SSRIs, you may want to explore other options with your doctor.

Do you think you may be at risk for osteoporosis? Let us know how you’re boning up and getting in shape to keep this “silent disease” away.

Couple doing walking lunges

Exercises That Help Shape Your Body

Some people look great exercising. Their limbs seem to relax into certain positions, their faces full of fierce determination, their bodies long and lithe. For others, however, the struggle is a little more evident. Graceful angles seem unattainable, body parts jiggle, eyes cross, mouths gasp, hip width and sweat drips. If you find yourself in the latter category, exercising publicly may not be on the agenda. However, if you are one of the blessed, for whom physical exercise comes effortlessly, you can exercise just about anywhere. Here are some exercises for those without issues.

Walking Lunges
If you don’t mind people wondering why you’re taking such emphasized steps, walking lunges are a great way to get some outside exercise in. Start off standing with you hip-width apart. Take a giant step forward and bend your knees until your rear knee almost reaches the ground. You will know if you are doing them correctly if your shoulder, hip, and knee form a straight line. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and continue, alternating legs.

Body Weight of Air Squats
The squat is another great way of toning the legs and butt. Begin with the feet about a shoulder width apart, turning toes out slightly. Hold your chest up and shoulders back as you bend your knees and begin to sit back onto your heels. Lower yourself to an angle of approximately 90 degrees, or a little less, and then use your muscles to power your body back up with a little more speed, without overextending your knee. Do three to five sets of 20-30 repetitions.

woman doing mountain climbers

Mountain Climber
This is a great exercise which targets the whole body and is great for alternating between lunges and air squats. Start in a plank position with lips lined up directly under your shoulder with your stomach muscles tight. Alternate lifting feet up toward your hands in a running motion. Do three to five sets of 30- 40 reps of this, making sure to keep your tummy tight while trying to keep hips from sagging.

Push Ups
Because women often lack the upper body strength for pushups, stabilizing the upper body may be a helpful strategy in execution. Begin with hands just beyond your shoulders and stomach, keeping your glutes tight. Lower yourself, leading with the chest and then push yourself away whatever you are leaning on. Allow your chest to stretch and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lower yourself. Use your legs, abs, and chest to pull yourself back up. Try to get in three to five sets of 10 to 15 pushup repetitions.

woman doing step-ups outdoors

Step Ups
Another great booty shaper, step ups are done by first finding something stable to step your foot on. Keep all your weight on the heel of the raised foot, and step up. Try to prevent going forward as you go up, keeping your upper body in a straight line. Use your butt, keeping your weight centered on your heel. You can add a little more core resistance by starting with the foot on the ground slightly bent. Aim for three to five sets of 15 to 20 repetitions, alternating legs.

If you give any of these a try, let us know how they go. And let us know what other exercises we can do without a gym membership.

Couple lifting weights in the gym

Exercisers Have More Youthful Brains

If Amanda spends 20 minutes on the stationary bike, jogs half a mile, and does 10 minutes of yoga poses, how long will it take her to burn 60 percent of the cheesecake she ate last night? Don’t know? Maybe if you started exercising, you would! According to studies, people who exercise not only have larger muscles in their arms and legs, they have them in their heads, too. Healthy body, healthy mind? Read on to find out.

Studies show that people who exercise have larger brain volume and a greater amount of intact white matter ( the filler that conducts nerve impulses and interconnects the brain) than those who don’t. In a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, scientist looked at brain activity measuring brain activity at rest and changes in blood oxygen levels with MRIs and evaluated white matter fibers.

White Matter
According to the study, exercise stimulates the brain, and that stimulation can cause people to perform better on cognitive tasks. According to Agnieszka Burzynska, the University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher who led the study, “We found that spontaneous brain activity showed more moment to moment fluctuations in the more active adults.” She adds, “In a previous study, we showed that in some of the same regions of the brain, those people who have a higher brain variability also performed better on complex cognitive tasks, especially intelligence tasks and memory.” The study also found that the white matter in more active people had a more youthful structure.

Burzynska expresses hopefulness in the usefulness and application of such studies in the future. “We want to know how the brain relates to the body, and how physical health influences mental and brain health in aging. Here, instead of a structural measure, we are taking a functional measure of brain health. And we are finding that tracking changes in blood oxygenation levels over time is useful for predicting cognitive functioning and physical health in aging.”

Best Exercises for Brain Health
Yet another study, published in the Journal of Physiology, aimed to find out which exercises increased brain volume most effectively. Researchers in Finland gathered a group of rats injected with a substance to mark the growth of new brain cells and set them on a variety of workouts. After seven weeks, the results came in.

senior couple jogging

Jogging
Rats who’d jogged on wheels showed the largest improvement in neurogenesis. Their brain tissue was full of new neurons, and the greater the distance the runner jogged, the greater the number of cells produced.

HIIT
For the rats perfuming high-intensity interval training, the results were less promising. Although they showed higher amounts of new neurons than sedentary animals, the results were far less impressive than those of the runners.

Weight Training
Although weight training rats were physically stronger at the end of the experiment, their brains showed no such improvement. Their brain tissue was identical to the animals that had not exercised at all.

Of course, animals are not humans, and weight training and HIIT may lead to changes elsewhere in the brain, implications of these studies may carry some weight. Miriam Nokia, a research fellow who led the study speculates that “sustained aerobic activity might be most beneficial for brain health also in humans.”

What do you think? Is aerobics the key to a fitter and smarter population? Let us know how you weigh in on the findings.

Woman refusing offer of cigarettes

Kick Butts This Summer

If you’re still smoking, you must be a pretty tough cookie. Let’s face it, those anti-smoking ads can be pretty discouraging if you don’t want to shake the habit. In fact, if you’re still smoking, that means you’ve toughed it out through media scare tactics, dirty looks, bad seating, no seating, fines, and price hikes- OUCH! But there is one thing that’s going to break you- smoking itself. You may have pretty thick skin when it comes to popular opinion, but lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke can be a lot harder to take in stride. If you are looking to quit this summer, here are a few tips that might be worth checking out.

Find A Reason
If you’re going to do something, you need a reason to do it, and giving up smoking is no exception. Why is it you want to quit? Is it to feel better, look better, lessen your risk of disease, or just to protect loved ones from second-hand smoke? Remember, the first step is motivation.

Don’t Try To Go Cold Turkey
One of the biggest mistakes people, when they attempt to quit smoke, is by trying to do it “cold turkey.” Nicotine withdrawal needs to be done in small doses to avoid unpleasant symptoms.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy
If nicotine cravings prove too overwhelming, replacement treatments including nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches are available, just don’t smoke while you’re using them.

Prescription Pills
Talk about nicotine replacement with a doctor. Medical professionals may be able to refer you to prescription medications that can help to reduce cravings and reduce symptoms of withdrawal.

Get Support
You’re never too tough to ask for help. If you don’t like the idea of asking for assistance from the same people who kept bugging you to quit, consider going to a counselor. Behavioral therapy has been used to varying degrees of success and can increase the odds of quitting in certain people.

Manage Stress
If you look to cigarettes for stress relief, you may want to consider other options. Yoga, massage, Tai Chai, and exercise are all good ways of relaxing butt free.

Avoid Alcohol
Smoking and drinking often go together, as do coffee and cigarettes, and it can be very tempting to smoke after meals. Try to find replacements for cigarette triggering activities and chew gum or brush your teeth after a meal.

Clean Your House
So, you’re probably thinking you’d rather smoke than clean your house any day, but that’s not quite what this advice is getting at. Ashtrays, lighters, and smells can all trigger the desire to smoke. Empty your house of those reminders and try using some air fresheners to rid your home of the smell.

If At First, You Don’t Succeed….
Remember, relapses happen. If you find yourself returning to the nasty habit, just ask yourself what got you smoking again and try to avoid it next time.

Exercise
Movement and exercise can be a good way of curbing your nicotine cravings, and it also keeps your weight down. Next time you find yourself getting the urge to light up, light out!

Are you trying to kick butts this summer? Let us know your best advice! And good luck, we know you can do it!

Natural Ways To Fight Incontinence

For nearly 25 million American, 75 to 80 percent of which are ladies, incontinence is an inconvenient truth. There is nothing sexy about it, there is nothing fun about it, and there is nothing cool about it, but there are some things that can be done about it. While drugs and surgeries are options, they often come with inconveniences of their own. Here are some healthy alternatives you may want to consider.

Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises involve flexing the muscles you use to stop the urinary flow. According to Philippe Zimmern, MD, and professor of urology,”Kegels are very useful for early stages of incontinence and after a surgical repair to maintain pelvic floor tone over time.” You can get a tutorial from a physical therapist and may see an improvement after 6 to 12 weeks of regular practice.

Lose Weight
Extra belly fat puts excess pressure on the pelvic muscles. Says Zimmern, “Losing weight if you are overweight is an important step toward reducing the severity of your incontinence.”

Bladder Control
The mind can be a very powerful tool. The idea is to learn how to delay urination. To start, try to put the need to rush to the bathroom off by ten minutes, gradually building toward twenty. The goal is to eventually increase the time between goes so that you can use the restroom comfortable every four hours.

happy woman

Magnesium
Magnesium has often been linked to muscle and nerve function. In a study at Tel Aviv University at Israel involving 40 women, more than half of the participants who took magnesium hydroxide twice a day showed improvements in incontinence and did not wake up as many times during the night to use the toilet. Doctors believe magnesium reduces bladder muscle spasms, allowing the bladder to empty completely. Magnesium rich foods include potatoes, corn, and bananas, but consult your doctor before taking supplements.

Biofeedback
Biofeedback involves the monitoring of your body by electrical sensors, allowing you to get an idea of what’s happening inside you and make appropriate changes. Zimmern says, “Physical therapists use biofeedback to help patients understand what muscles they should contract during Kegel exercises, and/ or improve the performance of these muscles by providing a visual feedback to the patient during the training session.” However, he allows, “It’s very beneficial in general, but potentially a bit costly depending on insurance coverage, and requires perseverance on the part to the patient. ”

Pessary
A pessary is a ring like an instrument that is inserted into the vagina to lift and support the bladder. It can be helpful in lowering stress incontinence, associated with exercise and coughing. Zimmern explains, “Some vaginal devices have been designed to support the bladder neck, in the same way, a tampon can work. They require good local hygiene and sometimes the use of hormonal cream to avoid vaginal wall irritation.” Pessaries usually remain in place for about a week, and a may be used for an indefinite amount of time.

Acupuncture
Amber Addison, licensed acupuncture therapist recommends her treatments for incontinence patients. She believes that the imbalance can come not only from the kidneys and bladder but from other body parts, like the heart and lungs. “Most of the time it’s a combination of two or more system imbalances that causes overactive balance,” she says. While it may take some time for acupuncture to take effect, Addison assures, “I have had success with every person I have treated for incontinence.”

Are you suffering from incontinence? What do you think works best? Join the conversation and shed some light on an inconvenient truth.