3 Shortcuts to Exercise Success

10/04/2011

from the Healthy Living area

Are you losing interest in physical activity because you’re not seeing quick results from your efforts?

While there are no magic pills for becoming more fit (and staying that way), some exercises are more effective in less time than others. Check out these three ideas for burning more calories and strengthening muscles faster:

  1. Switch back and forth: It’s called interval training, and it boosts your results by stepping up the intensity or duration of your activity, on and off, throughout your workout. Interval training works like this: Instead of walking for 10 minutes at your usual pace, start by walking at your normal exercise pace for the first two minutes, then increase your speed for the next two minutes, followed by two minutes of your usual pace, and so on. Adapt this system for any length walk. The interval time may vary as well. Your body goes into “active recovery” during the lower speed segments, so you can continue exercising with less risk of injury, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Yet you gain quicker benefits from the higher intensity intervals.
  2. Squat: Pear-shape alert!You’ll strengthen more muscles at one time by doing squats. This exercise works the major muscles in your lower body—the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. When asked to list the most effective exercises, the majority of 17,000 ACE-certified fitness professionals put squats at number one. Make sure your form is correct: with feet at shoulder-width and back straight, bend your knees as you lower your bottom. Don’t let your knees move out over your ankles. If you are doing squats with weights on a barbell (which increases intensity), be sure to have a spotter or trainer check your form.
  3. Rev your engine: All activities are not created equal. For a 135-pound woman, 30 minutes of brisk walking burns 130 calories. In that same 30 minutes, you can lose 258 calories with freestyle swimming or 322 calories by running at a 6 mph pace. Include higher calorie-burning exercises in your activities to boost speedy results.

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Fitness: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/healthy-living/fitness

Diet and Fitness Health Center: www.healthywomen.org/condition/stress

Weight Management: www.healthywomen.org/condition/weight-management

© 2011 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


Make the Most of Indoor Exercise

12/26/2010

Many of us love being outdoors for physical activities. But when the weather gets crummy—too cold, too hot, or too much precipitation of any sort—we stay on the sofa, maybe for months, until things get better.

There’s no reason to give up exercising just because the weather stinks. You can stay physically fit, or get there, without leaving the comfort of indoors.

These tips can help make your indoor workouts work wonders for you:

  1. Put down the dark chocolate hearts and pick up your TV’s remote control. Get up off the couch. Turn on your set. If you have cable, it may offer free “when-you-want-them” video selections, including fitness or exercise programs. You’ll find choices from abdominal exercises to gentle yoga to walking or weight training. Some are as short as six minutes.

    Pick a different program every day or set up your own routine: walking videos three days a week; strength training two days a week. Vary your selection and you won’t get bored. You can also use a video recorder to capture regularly broadcast fitness shows.

  2. Use a free 5 or 10 minutes to do ab crunches on your bedroom rug or leg lifts while talking on the phone. Research shows that three 10-minute sessions of exercise in one day are as beneficial as one 30-minute session.
  3. Dance—with or without a partner. Just push back the coffee table and put on the music that gets you moving.
  4. Ride your bike indoors. Sounds crazy, but you can get a special bicycle stand that turns your street bike into a stationary exerciser. Check sporting goods and bike stores.
  5. Forget that you’re a grown-up and head to the roller rink. Family sessions are usually the most sedate and best for those who haven’t been on wheels for awhile. Once you get your rhythm going, you can burn more than 400 calories an hour. 

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Fitness: www.healthywomen.org/condition/fitness

Weight Management: www.healthywomen.org/condition/weight-management

Healthy Living: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/healthy-living/fitness

Diet and Fitness Center : www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/diet-and-fitness

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


A Little Exercise Can Go a Long Way

11/08/2010
from the Healthy Living area

When you hear advice to exercise for 30 to 45 minutes or more, nearly every day, you may think, “In whose life? Get real.”

Many women feel the same way. We’re too busy and too tired—from job, family, home and other demands—to squeeze exercise into our overcrowded days. Those time blocks seem like impossible hurdles to get over. Even if we try, it’s difficult to stay on track for long.

Now, instead of feeling guilty about what you can’t do, you can start feeling good about what’s possible for you. Research shows that even short bursts of physical activity improve your health, especially if you spend your day sitting. Adding a little activity helps lower your blood pressure and weight, cuts your risk of heart attack and diabetes, and improves how you feel emotionally.

You’ll have more energy to carry packages, garden, climb stairs, keep up with the grandkids at the amusement park, or dance past midnight. Those activities, in turn, will make you even stronger and healthier.

Women who walk for a total of just one hour a week have half the rate of heart disease as women who don’t walk regularly. And it’s never too late to benefit—in a recent study, people over 65 who were physically active once a week had a 40 percent lower death rate than those who were inactive.

It’s easy to start
To get yourself moving, think small. “Take two-minute walks, whether it’s one or 10 a day,” says Andrea Dunn, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral Science Research Group at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, Denver.

Walk at a moderately vigorous pace, Dunn says, as if you’re trying to get to an appointment on time. Each week, increase how many minutes you walk a bit, or how often.

Gradually work up to three 10-minute brisk walks a day, several times a week. “It doesn’t matter how fast you move up,” says Dunn. In her research, people who succeeded often kept track of their walks on checklists or calendars.

If you have health concerns and are under a health care professional’s care for a medical condition, review your exercise plans with her or him before you start.

Step this way
You’ll gain more benefits from walking by increasing the steps you take at home, at work and for exercise. Middle-aged women who take more steps have less body fat than those taking fewer steps.

Use a pedometer, a step-counting gadget that clips onto your waistband. Record your step count for one week. Then divide by seven to get your daily average.

Increase your daily step count little by little. Sneak extra steps into your everyday life: Walk around the house while talking on a cordless phone, park at the far end of a supermarket lot (be sure it’s well-lighted and secure), pace the sidelines while your child plays sports, or climb the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator.

Aim for 10,000 steps a day, but work to that goal slowly. It’s equal to about five miles.

Target fat in your middle
How does physical activity, even small amounts, improve your health?

Think of your body as a jelly doughnut. (Okay, for some of us that’s easy to do.) The outer part of your doughnut—uh, body—is made up of fat that lies just under the skin. When you go on a diet and lose weight, you usually lose this type of fat, says Osama Hamdy, M.D., director of the Obesity Clinic at Joslin Diabetes Center, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Hidden deep in the center of your body is a more dangerous type of fat. This internal fat—often shown by a growing waistline—is directly related to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. According to Hamdy, physical activity reduces this belly fat more effectively than dieting does.

“Any moderately intense exercise that a person can do is very important. Do it five minutes a day, or 10 minutes a day,” he says. “If you look at it as a routine of your day, you will find it easier over time.”

A recent study Hamdy co-authored showed that obese adults who lost just 7 percent of their body weight—16 pounds in a 220-pound woman—through moderately intense exercise and diet lowered their heart disease risk. In another study, people at risk for type 2 diabetes reduced their risk 58 percent with brisk walking and a small weight loss.

Make it fun
Some women exercise with friends or in walking clubs. Mall-walking is fine, says Dunn, so long as you’re moving briskly and not just strolling and window-shopping.

If walking doesn’t appeal to you, choose another moderately vigorous activity, such as bike riding, swimming or dancing. Or mix up your exercise choices.

“Do things that are fun for you,” Dunn advises. “Start small, work at your own pace and don’t give up.”

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Fitness: www.healthywomen.org/condition/fitness

Healthy Living: http://www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/healthy-living/fitness

Diet and Fitness Center : http://www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/diet-and-fitness

http://www.healthywomen.org/© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


RECIPE FOR WORKOUT SUCCESS

07/19/2010

 

Too much of a good thing isn’t always such a good thing. Your body needs a well-rounded exercise program to stay in optimal health. Here are some ingredients the experts at Life Fitness recommend for workout success:
 

Cardio. Cardiovascular exercises increase your heart rate for a sustained period of time. This is a necessary part of being fit because it strengthens your heart muscle, which in turn helps you breathe easier and helps your heart beat more efficiently But just like anything, your body gets used to your daily cardio routine. Next time you’re at the gym, try using the interval training program on the treadmill or cross-trainer for an extra boost of heart-pumping intensity. 

 

Strength. For first time strength trainers, adding weights to a workout routine can provide impressive results on your body and on the scale. But it takes regular updates to ensure your training routine keeps your muscles guessing. Circuit training is a great strength workout as it follows a series of strength and/or cardio exercises that offer a great way to work all the major muscle groups in a short amount of time. Many gyms offer specialty circuit classes, or have strength machines arranged in the same area making it easier to arrange your own circuit.

 

Flexibility. Flexibility is another key component to a well rounded program and the part that most often gets overlooked. As your muscles get worked more often, they become tight, sore and sometimes this leads to over-use injury. One way to prevent this from happening is by incorporating a good stretching routine. This will lengthen out those tight muscles and help stretch the connective tissue that surrounds them. 

 

The Core. The core is the center of your body that holds you up and keeps you tall, much like the trunk on a tree. Strengthening your abdominals and back muscles will give you better posture, keep your body strong and tall, help you age more gracefully and help every movement you make easier. Try these balance props with free weights or a pulley-based system like the Life Fitness Dual-Adjustable Pulley and feel the difference. Example: sit on a stability ball while performing the shoulder press reps. While your arms push the resistance, your midsection muscles engage to remain balanced on the ball, toning your core.

 

Before you get overwhelmed … Remember, it’s not as hard as it seems.  It’s all about cross training. A little bit of each is really all you need.

 

Fit Tips are provided by Life Fitness, the leader in designing and manufacturing high-quality exercise equipment for fitness facilities and homes worldwide. For more information on FitTips and other fitness advice and expertise visit www.lifefitness.com


Back to Nature: Take Your Workout Outdoors

04/23/2010

Exercise equipment fills Tami Hart’s garage, gathering dust. Tami also ignores the 24-hour fitness room she could use for free at her workplace.

It’s not that the Payette, Idaho, woman has given up on physical activity. “There’s just something about walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike that is totally unappealing and uninspiring,” she says. Instead, you’ll find her exercising outside, year-round, even in snow and icy wind.

“I need to feel some connection with the outdoors and experience nature as I’m exercising,” says Hart, a 47-year-old sales manager and mother of three, whose fitness routine includes Nordic walking and mountain biking. 

Holly Frew feels the same way. She spends her workdays inside, sitting at a desk. At the end of a long day, she ties on her sneakers and heads outdoors near her Atlanta, Georgia, home to run—just for the fun of it.

“When I’m running outside, I feel such freedom and release,” says Frew, who is 29. “I’m in tune with nature … I get in this zone, feeling like I can run forever.”

By contrast, when she runs indoors, “I feel like a hamster on a wheel. All I can do is wonder when it will be over!”

“The monotony and confinement (of indoor exercise) leaves me mentally unmotivated,” Frew adds. “I quickly become physically exhausted.”

Natural revival

There’s good scientific reason why Hart and Frew feel such a difference between outdoor and indoor exercising. It starts with how we pay attention to the world around us and function within it, explains Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, a researcher in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

During most of our waking hours, we use our directed-attention ability, which helps us stay on task, take an exam or drive in heavy traffic. Directed attention—while useful for success in many life functions—demands concentrated effort. It leaves us feeling mentally fatigued and even stressed, Dr. Faber Taylor says.

By contrast, being in natural settings triggers involuntary attention. We use this when watching a flickering campfire or the moving water of a stream. Involuntary attention is easier on the mind, helping to rebuild and renew directed-attention strength.

“When people exercise outdoors in nature, they are not only exercising their body, but likely restoring attention and receiving physiological stress-reduction benefits. It’s a whole-body effect versus just the physical,” says Dr. Faber Taylor. Among her research findings: that walking in a park setting for 20 minutes improved the attention performance of children with attention deficits, compared to walking in more built settings. Similarly, a University of Michigan study released in 2008 showed that walking in natural environments or even simply looking at pictures of nature scenes restored the cognitive functioning of a group of college students.

Combining nature and physical activity—a phenomenon called “green exercise” by researchers at the University of Essex in England—produces a positive effect on physical and emotional health. Green exercise has been shown to significantly improve self-esteem and mood, reduce blood pressure and burn calories.

Those benefits contribute to why women who walk, run, dance, do yoga, bike, weight train or do other sports outdoors are so committed to the open air.

“I will walk in rain, shine, snow, deerflies biting or anything else,” says three-mile-a-day walker Sally Berry, 48, a travel consultant from Canandaigua, New York. “I get to notice things no one else does—the first birds back in the spring, a heron in a creek or the first tree to start changing color in the fall.”

Although some nature exercisers do go inside when the weather becomes too challenging, most return outdoors as soon as they can.

Taking it outside

We all know women who love going to the gym. They enjoy the fitness equipment, trainers and classes within those walls. Others work out at home, preferring the privacy and convenience they find there.

Yet green exercise has appealing advantages: it’s often cheaper and easier than a gym or fitness club, usually provides a better visual and sensory experience than being inside and may be more easily adapted to your changing interests and needs. What’s more, exercising in a natural environment—rather than indoors on a treadmill—produces higher levels of positive emotions, with less tension and stress, and encourages you to exercise longer.

“Whether I’m surrounded by nature in the woods or running through the city, just being outside gives me a huge boost of energy,” says Esther Steinfeld, a 25-year-old from Houston. Being in a gym “makes it so much easier to stop,” she adds.

The psychological effect of being in the open air is as important to Steinfeld as the physical benefits. “Running outside doesn’t necessarily solve my problems, it just helps me put them in perspective. It’s like my mind is a tangled ball of yarn, and after I’m done, it’s one long strand.”

Outdoor classes are now springing up around the United States, bridging the gap between gyms and green exercise. Fitness instructor Paula Dunwoody, who taught step aerobics and other traditional indoor classes for 12 years, now runs her own fresh-air exercise sessions in Olney, Maryland. Participants (nearly all are women) in Out-n-About Outdoor Fitness classes use body weight, resistance tubes and exercise balls to work out in public parks, playgrounds, on trails and even on Dunwoody’s own property. “I knew how being outside affected me mentally and was excited to take my work outside,” she says.

At the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, groups of walkers take part in regularly scheduled “wellness walks” from October through March. “It’s a time when people don’t get out as much as usual. They have a safe place to walk, the air is clean and the views are gorgeous … but the focus is to keep moving,” says volunteer walk leader Elaine Bell.

A daily dose of nature, gained in as little as a 10-minute walk, is important for the health of adults and children alike, Dr. Faber Taylor believes. “We need to raise the priority of getting into nature,” she says.

Breathing easier

Maybe outdoor exercising sounds lovely to you, but you’re worried that being in nature will trigger your allergies, asthma or other breathing problems. Talk with your health care provider about coordinating your activity interests with your health condition. Then consider these suggestions to help make exercising outdoors like a breath of fresh air for your body and spirits:

  • If you have asthma, use your medications before exercising, in the manner prescribed by your physician. Do a five- to 10-minute warm-up. With the right treatment and management plan, people with exercise-induced asthma can participate safely in exercise, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
  • Walking is a good exercise choice over activities that cause you to breathe faster, such as running or soccer.
    • Higher ozone and pollutant levels can cause breathing problems, so check levels before exercising outdoors. Many online and print weather forecasts now report air-quality levels:
      1. 0 to 50 is good;
      2. 50 to 100 is not harmful, but could cause breathing problems for some people with asthma;
      3. above 100 is unhealthy if you have lung or heart disease and other conditions;
      4. above 150 is unhealthy for everyone.
  • Exercise in the early morning or early evening, when pollution levels are lower.
  • If you have breathing problems, avoid exercising outdoors in very cold weather.

For more on fitness, visit: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/healthy-living/fitness

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


A Fitness Program for You and Your Dog

04/21/2010

“If your dog is overweight – neither of you are getting enough exercise!”

Your pet’s state of health is usually a mirror of your own.  So if you and your beloved canine are leading a sedentary lifestyle, it might be time for a change that can benefit you both. Regular exercise helps humans and canines maintain muscle mass and improve cardiovascular function, both keys to health, wellness, functionality and longevity. 

Exercise and good nutrition go hand-in-hand.

¨       A humane/canine fitness partnership should be viewed as a preventive measure, begun as early as possible in your dog’s life.  “Use it or lose it” applies; physical exercise preserves muscle mass.

¨       But it’s never too late:  even if exercise isn’t a regular part of your (and your pet’s) routine, it should be added immediately.  Even a brisk 20-minute walk daily will have an impact.

¨       The ideal fitness program consists of a brisk walk/run on variable terrain, with some incline and decline (hill climbing and descent is good resistance training for muscles.)

¨       Play such as tug of war (being careful of the dog’s teeth and gums, and never pulling too hard so as not to put strain on the neck, especially in smaller breeds) or catch and fetch on a slight incline are also good ways to vary the routine (but if your animal is older or has hip weakness be sure the incline is not very steep).

¨       Remember that just as with your pet’s diet; you are in charge.  For both of you to be active, you must be the proactive one.   You set the pace to challenge your animal to a certain extent, but must also know its limits and play within that.  Note that some breeds will keep on playing to please, even if they are exhausted.

¨       Always finish the workout with a special but healthy food treat.

According to the experts at Weider Pet Health (www.weiderpethealth.com), exercise is an innate need for dogs, and owners who engage in more physical activity to address this need automatically enjoy better health themselves.

So what are you waiting for?  Turn that computer off and go take your dog for a walk….


Tips to Achieve Your Five Impossible Fitness Goals

04/19/2010

We all make empty resolutions to ourselves. “This year, I’m going to run my first marathon,” “Next month, I’m going to shave a minute off my mile,” “One day, I’m going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro” We sprinkle ambitious goals into conversations with friends at dinner parties and with colleagues at work. However, it seems these deeds are much more easily said than done. Year after year our ambitious to-do lists remain unchecked and we become less and less motivated to see them through to the end.

Tara Zimliki, creator of Tara ’s Boot Camp, is one health expert who has helped many people achieve a range of fitness goals. Whether overcoming weight-loss challenges, running their first marathons, or improving their overall health, Tara has coached her clients through their most difficult fitness endeavors. Along the way, she has taught them to live by the credo that taking on a personal fitness milestone is just as much a physical feat as it is a mental one.

Maintain achievable mini-goals.

Impossible Fitness Goal: Break the Yo-Yo Diet Cycle

  • Easy Solution: Consult a Good Personal Trainer

o        Sometimes we need a little one-on-one attention to get us to the goal weight we desire. “People are often unsuccessful because they try to fit into the mold of what they think they should be doing, instead of trying something tailored to personal preference,” Tara warns. Some of us may be turned off by the cost of personal trainers and health experts, but many people don’t realize these sessions need not last forever.

o        Think of a personal training session as an investment. Once you have the knowledge and guidance that can only come from a certified health professional, you will have the tools to defeat your waistline woes once and for all.

Impossible Fitness Goal: Lose Those Last Five-Ten Pounds

  • Easy Solution: Enter a Weight-Loss Contest
    • The most important thing to do when getting rid of those last few unwanted pounds is to stay motivated. What better way to do so than with a little competition? Join a weight-loss competition or start one with friends and family in order to get you through a diet slump.
    • Studies show support from a partner or buddy will increase your chance for successful weight loss. If there’s a prize involved, the cash incentive will give you that extra push to see this objective to the end. You’ll lose those nagging pounds easily – no contest!

Impossible Fitness Goal: Run Your First Marathon

  • Easy Solution: Start Training Early
    • Tara says, “The most important thing about training for a marathon is to start early.” Race day is the culmination of months of training and preparation. However, don’t be discouraged by the commitment you are about to make.
    • The Internet offers online workout-building devices and nutrition calculators to help you set a realistic training program. By creating a personalized training guide, you know exactly how much time you need to get race-day ready. There are thousands of marathons each year, so don’t feel rushed to get this lofty goal checked off your list. You will make it happen in due time!

 Impossible Fitness Goal: Break a Personal Record

  • Easy Solution: Take a Break!
    • Competing in a 5K, 10K, marathon, or triathlon is a feat in itself, but breaking a previous race time is a glorious accomplishment. A faster time is concrete proof of all your hard work and dedication, regardless of whether or not you won the race.
    • In order to beat a personal record at your next competition, keep track of your progress daily, including on off-days, and take breaks often. “The worst thing you can do before race day is to burn yourself out,” Tara warns. When monitoring her clients’ progress, Tara has found that runners at a 10 minute/mile pace tend to lose about 15 seconds when they walk for one minute. This means that for every minute run, the runner only has to run 5 seconds faster. This break also gives the runner time to recover and regain his or her strength. For veteran competitors, running at a slower pace, rather than walking, can have similar effects on your race time.

 Impossible Fitness Goal: Bounce Back From an Injury or Hiatus  

  • Easy Solution: Alternate Between Different Types of Workouts
    • Re-starting your old fitness regimen can be more difficult than it was the first time around. The fear of a repeat injury or being unable to complete a desired work-out can be daunting.
    • During the first few weeks back of releasing your pent-up physical and emotional energy, there is a danger of overdoing it. Tara recommends working out differently than you are used to. “Biking or swimming can be great alternatives to running and weight-lifting, for example,” she says. Trying a new fitness program will not only force you to start slow, but will help keep your body sturdy when you decide to return to your normal work-out.

 

Evaluate your goals in terms of the joy and fulfillment they will bring you once they are completed. No matter how big or small, each milestone will make you stronger in body and mind. When beginning your next fitness task, keep these expert tips in mind and before you know it, you’ll be scaling Mt. Everest. Good luck!

Tara is a Certified Personal Trainer through The American Council on Exercise (ACE), and a Boot Camp Instructor. She has competed and trained with top athletes at the University of South Carolina where she was awarded a full cross-country scholarship. Tara has a B.A. from Rutgers University and specializes in fat loss and nutrition
Tara has completed 15 Marathons and hundreds of races worldwide. In 2008, Tara placed in the top 500 women for the NYC Marathon. Tara ’s practices what she preaches in all aspects of fitness and health and for this reason she is a trusted trainer that produces results.  For more information, please visit www.tarasbootcamp.com