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.

Woman running across track

Here's How To Increase Your Stamina

So you’re all set. You’ve got your sports bra, your yoga pants, your sweatband, and your athletic sneakers. You’ve even got a cool pair of those cut-off gloves to help you grip the equipment better. You’ve got it all planned out. Ten minutes on the treadmill, a few lifts, ten minutes on the stationary bike, and a few reps on the elliptical. Start with a few stretches, check yourself in the mirror, you’ve got this. You step up on the treadmill, start it up, two minutes later, you’re ready to hit the showers. If you want to make your investments in workout gear and gym memberships pay off, it’s probably in your best interest to be able to use them for more than ten minutes at a time, and that means you need to build stamina. Stamina is the body’s ability to partake in physical activity without fatigue or having to quit before reaching your goals. If you need to increase your endurance and make your investments pay off, here are some exercises that may help.

Balance
Balance is key to endurance. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, improving balance is a crucial component of stamina building. Training tools like a balance pillow, balance disc, foam roller, balance board, or a stability board are all great for building balance. If you’re using a balance disc, try to stand or sit on it while keeping your body steady.

Woman lifting dumbbells

Free Weights
Free weights can increase stamina while increasing your muscles size and boosting overall health levels. Use hand-held barbells for lifts, focusing on the legs, torso, and upper body. One to three sets of 15 to 20 reps should help with building muscle endurance.

Intervals
Interval training entails alternating between short bouts of high-intensity exercise with longer bouts of lower intensity ones. Research published in the journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,” found that while subjects who engaged in moderate cycling for an hour a day for six weeks showed improved physical endurance, they showed no such change in anaerobic endurance. In contrast, cyclists performing eight sets of high-intensity 20-second intervals with 10 second rest periods for six weeks improved not only aerobic endurance but also increased anaerobic stamina by 28 percent.

Woman working out

Circuits
Circuit training refers to the use of three to twelve different exercise stations that combine strength training with cardiovascular exercise, putting all muscle groups to work. Because circuit training challenges both anaerobic and aerobic endurance, it is a great way to build stamina. Aim to perform each exercise for thirty seconds, giving yourself a 30-second break in-between. As your stamina increases, try reducing rest periods to 15 seconds while increasing work time to 45 seconds.

Medicine Balls
Working out with medicine balls is another way to lengthen staying power, and are great for doing V-ups. V-ups require lying on your back with your arms outstretched overhead holding a medicine ball with your legs down. Raise your legs into a V-position while using your arms to raise the medicine ball over your head. Lower your arms and legs and repeat.

How are you working to improve your stamina? Let us know how your lasting longer to reach your goals!

Woman running outside

Get Your Workout Without Hitting the Gym

If a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, does it make a noise? The same can be applied to real life situations. If we eat at home alone, did we really eat? If we drink at home alone, did we really get drunk? And if we exercise at home alone, did we really work out? Doing things publicly seems to affirm that they really happened, but they usually involve extra expense, extra energy, and, of course, leaving the house. Sometimes there can be advantages to eating without a restaurant, drinking without a bar, and working out without a gym. Here are some ways you can do the last, and when you see the results, there will be no doubt you had a great workout.

Running
You definitely don’t need a gym to take off running. And no one will deny the results. You’ll get fabulously toned legs and burn tons of calories. Plus, there is no shortage of places to do it. There are running and jogging trails all over the place, or you can run along the street to change up the scenery.

Walking
If running is too brutal for you, walking may be more your thing. You’ll get in your cardio and your calorie burn. You can join a walking club if you need some people to motivate you, or start your own.

Woman exercise to video

Exercise Videos and TV Shows
Videos are great because they provide you with a structured exercise that you can do in the privacy of your home at a time most convenient for you. They also cover every type of workout known to man, from yoga to high intensity, to step aerobics, so you can find the one best suited to your abilities and preferences.

At Home Exercise Equipment
Stationary bikes, treadmills, and stair masters are all great ways to workout without the gym. They can cost a pretty penny but are well worth it when considering what you may be saving in time and gym membership fees.

Woman swimming

Swimming
Swimming is an excellent way to burn calories without damaging your joints, and you don’t even have to break a sweat. While you may not have the luxury of an Olympic sized pool in your back yard, there may be a community center or park nearby that does.

Bicycling
Bikes are functional as well as beneficial to your health. You can get a quick workout while running an errand, or take a more intensity focused ride. Neighborhoods are making their streets more bike friendly, and, biking is a good way to exercise your environmental consciousness while you exercise your body.

Woman playing with pug

Play With Your Kids Or Pets
You’ll get a workout and your family will love you for it. See who lasts longer, you or the kids. Plus, it’s more entertaining than walking on a treadmill.

Public Courts
Public courts are ideal for cool summer nights and lazy summer Saturday mornings. Many parks offer tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts to the public. It’s BYO on the equipment, but space is free.

Are you working out without a gym this summer? Good for you? Let us know what you do when the gym is not an option?

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