Fitness & Nutrition Blog




When it comes to the nutrition habits of Olympians, Michael Phelps’s 12,000 calorie daily consumption inevitably enters the discussion. Do athletes train really that hard? Can someone actually eat that much food? Phelps certainly trained hard (as all Olympians do) and likely expended and consumed more than 10,000 calories during certain training periods, but fueling like an Olympian does not require a 12,000-calorie meal plan. Rather, it requires adequate energy, consistency, periodization, safe supplementation and following the guidance of the USA High Performance Team.

With those factors in mind, here are five keys to fueling like an Olympian:

1. Consume Adequate Energy (food is fuel)

Daily energy expenditure differs based on sport, training phase,  sex, body weight and body-composition goals, but is typically in the range of 4,000 to 6,000 calories. Olympic athletes require consistently high intakes of macro- and micronutrients, so fad diets are not part of the equation. Any athlete touting the benefits of keto, intermittent fasting or Paleo likely will not compete at the Olympics. These diet plans have their application among the public, but any strict diet will provide inadequate energy and nutrients for an elite athlete.

An athlete’s dietary preferences and intakes vary depending on their training schedule and intensity of exercise, but nearly every Olympic athlete follows a relatively high-carbohydrate diet (on average 8-12 grams per kg of body weight). This supplies adequate fuel for someone training six hours per day.

To keep their energy levels up for the high volume of training they do, athletes must consume nutrient- and calorie-dense foods, which contain significant amounts of vitamins, minerals and calories for their volume. As daily energy needs increase beyond 4,000 calories, healthy fats (e.g., nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil) are added in as they are more calorically dense than carbohydrate or protein. 

2. Consistently Eat Well (food is more than fuel)

Athletes often ask, “What is the best food to eat before (or during) a competition?” The answer: “Whatever you have used during training and practice.”

Consider that Olympic athletes often train their entire lives for one moment. The foods, beverages and supplements consumed during the years and months leading to that moment contribute significantly more to performance than the foods they eat on competition day. An individualized and consistent nutrition program contributes to speed, strength and power, recovery, weight management, inflammation control, sleep and cognitive health.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee Training Center (USOPCTC) cafeterias offer nutrient-dense, whole-food options at each meal, including a salad bar, two starch options, two protein options, two non-starchy vegetable options and a soup. Cafeterias also offer grab-and-go yogurts, protein shakes and energy/protein bars. The goal is to provide consistent and familiar fueling options.

3. Periodize Nutrition

Strength and conditioning professionals periodize physical training programs. This involves planning out their athletes’ trainings months in advance with periods of high-intensity and high-volume training combined with planned rest. A typical macrocycle (the longest period of a training program) lasts six to 12 months for most athletes (recreational or professional). An Olympic macrocycle, however, may span four years (or five, due to the delay of the 2020 Games).

An Olympic athlete’s food and fluid intake over the course of four years should follow a similar approach. Nutrition periodization, which includes fluctuations in total calories and carbohydrate intake, varies among training cycles and even day to day. In short, athletes consume more calories and carbohydrates on heavy training days (or weeks) and fewer during light training periods.

4. Practice Safe Supplementation

Elite athletes generally use a dietary supplement at some point during training. Like energy needs, optimal supplementation practices depend on several factors, differ for each athlete and change throughout training cycles.

Olympic athletes follow very strict medication and dietary supplement requirements that are set by USADA and WADA. These requirements vary by sport and competitive season. Regardless, every single supplement ingested by an elite athlete—even conventional supplements such as multivitamins and protein powders—should have third-party verification from reputable companies such as NSF-Sport and Informed Choice/Sport. This process assures that products contain the amounts of ingredients listed on the label and are free of banned substances.

5. Follow the Guidance of USA Nutrition Team

Team USA athletes have varying energy needs, preferences and practices, which sport dietitians must consider when designing nutrition plans. For example, some athletes prefer light pre-workout meals with heavy post-workout spreads, while others can tolerate exercising on a fuller stomach and consume substantial pre-workout meals. Other athletes may prefer to fuel more during practices and workouts. If an athlete consumes adequate energy throughout the day (a 12-16-hour feeding window) they minimize risk of developing relative energy deficiency in sport syndrome (RED-S).

Some sports also allow for easier during-event fueling; for example, road cycling permits food and beverage storage and the use of one hand. By contrast, wrestling makes eating during a practice difficult. Therefore, fueling during non-practice hours may be more pertinent to a wrestler than a cyclist.

While sport dietitians generally do not promote a particular diet plan, many athletes have dietary limitations for personal, spiritual or allergy-related reasons. Dietitians support these restrictions by providing alternatives and/or recommending supplements to prevent energy and nutrient deficiencies.

“Stick with the basics … and do them well,” might be considered the mantra of Team USA Sport Dietitians. The Olympian meal plan isn’t fancy—it necessitates real food (lots of it) on a consistent basis. Travel requires foresight and planning to incorporate familiar foods and safe supplementation. Lastly, the 5-year overall healthy diet plan contributes more significantly to gameday performance than a single pre-game meal.

 



1. Burn calories 

Walking can help you burn calories. Burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight.  

Your actual calorie burn will depend on several factors, including:

  • walking speed
  • distance covered
  • terrain (you’ll burn more calories walking uphill than you’ll burn on a flat surface)
  • your weight

You can determine your actual calorie burn through a calorie calculator.  


2. Strengthen the heart 

Walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by about 20 percent. And your risk may reduce even more when you increase the duration or distance you walk per day.


3. Can help lower your blood sugar 

Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar.

A small study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day (after breakfast, lunch, and dinner) improved blood sugar levels more than taking a 45-minute walk at another point during the day.

More research is needed to confirm these findings, though.

Consider making a post-meal walk a regular part of your routine. It can also help you fit exercise in throughout the day.


4. Eases joint pain

Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips. That’s because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.

Walking may also provide benefits for people living with arthritis, such as reducing pain. And walking 5 to 6 miles a week may also help prevent arthritis.


5. Boosts immune function 

Walking may reduce your risk for developing a cold or the flu.

One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall.

Their symptoms were also lessened if they did get sick. That was compared to adults in the study who were sedentary.

Try to get in a daily walk to experience these benefits. If you live in a cold climate, you can try to walk on a treadmill or around an indoor mall.


6. Boost your energy 

Going for a walk when you’re tired may be a more effective energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee.

Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can also increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Those are the hormones that help elevate energy levels.


7. Improve your mood 

Walking can help your mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and a negative mood. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal.

To experience these benefits, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate intensity exercise three days a week. You can also break it up into three 10-minute walks.


8. Extend your life

Walking at a faster pace could extend your life. Research found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced risk of overall death.

But walking at a brisk or fast pace (at least 4 miles per hour) reduced the risk by 24 percent. The study looked at the association of walking at a faster pace with factors like overall causes of death, cardiovascular disease, and death from cancer.


9. Tone your legs 

Walking can strengthen the muscles in your legs. To build up more strength, walk in a hilly area or on a treadmill with an incline. Or find routes with stairs.

Also trade off walking with other cross-training activities like cycling or jogging. You can also perform resistance exercises like squats, lunges, and leg curls to further tone and strengthen your leg muscles.


10. Creative thinking 

Walking may help clear your head and help you think creatively.

A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors.

The researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity and get physical activity at the same time.

Try to initiate a walking meeting with your colleagues the next time you’re stuck on a problem at work.


Tips for staying safe while walking 

To ensure your safety while walking, follow these tips:

  • Walk in areas designated for pedestrians. Look for well-lit areas if possible.
  • If you walk in the evening or early morning hours, wear a reflective vest or light so cars can see you.
  • Wear sturdy shoes with good heel and arch support.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after your walk to stay hydrated.
  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy days.


 

Benefits of Balance Exercises

 



WHY ARE BALANCE EXERCISES IMPORTANT?

Balancing is a fundamental aspect of any movement we perform. When standing on two feet, we're maintaining balance, even if we're not consciously aware of it. Watch a child learn to stand, and you'll realize that the act of balancing itself is the challenge—not the lack of leg or core strength.

When balancing, we're not only working the often-neglected stabilizer muscles; we're also improving our joint stability and internal focus. 

Balance-focused activities will challenge our bodies' vestibular and musculoskeletal systems as well as our proprioception. 

Balance is also one critical skill we tend to lose as we age, so maintaining it is crucial. It's a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.


THE BENEFITS OF BALANCE DRILLS

#1. REVERSING AGE-RELATED LOSS OF BALANCE

As we get older, our ability to balance declines. For instance, a critical predictor for longevity is the length of time that a person can stand on one leg.

Balancing is a complex skill that involves the brain, muscles, and parts of the inner ear. If you don't practice and maintain balance, the coordination between these three systems can deteriorate over time, making it harder for you to stay upright and maintain proper posture. 

Practice, however, keeps everything working as if your body were much younger, helping you to stave off some of the balance issues that might accompany getting older. 

#2. PREVENTING FALLS

Balance drills help you to control your core and limbs more deftly. Not only does this help improve the elegance with which you move, but it also helps you avoid falls. When you have good balance, you can more quickly adapt to changes in body position, adjusting on the fly to unexpected variations in elevation or rocks that you didn't see underfoot.

Avoiding falls not only helps you avoid physical damage like broken hips; it also boosts confidence. When you have good balance, you no longer have to worry about whether you might fall every time you leave the house. Even if you're young, having this unconscious awareness allows you to feel more confident in your environment.

When your balance system is working optimally, you can more quickly react to slips, making it less likely that you'll fall.

#3. BUILDING BETTER POSTURE

Thanks to poor movement form, a focus on a narrow range of movement patterns, and an ever-more-sedentary lifestyle, the average person has terrible posture. Many people develop limitations like hunched shoulders, anterior pelvic tilt, and reduced upper-back mobility. Part of the problem is that, as a population, we don't do the balance exercises necessary to counteract the adverse effects of our lifestyle.

Improving balance is excellent for posture. It teaches you the static and dynamic positions that are natural to your human form. Outstanding balance requires good posture: the two go hand-in-glove.


#4. ALLOWING FASTER RECOVERY FROM INJURY

Many people who train athletically suffer injuries, especially of the leg and ankle. Much of what is known about balance comes from research on people with lower-leg injuries. What that research shows is fascinating: the more balance drills people perform, the faster they recover from their injuries. Balance drills may also prevent injuries in the first place. [1,2]

#5. IMPROVING COORDINATION

Humans should have excellent coordination, just like other animals in their natural habitats. But, modern civilization prevents many of the physical tasks that we would have been forced to do in the past. This sedentary lifestyle means that we rarely have to practice balance. One effect of this development is our generally poor coordination.

Balance exercises, especially dynamic balance drills, like balance walking on railings, help to relegate balance to the category of reflexive response. Ultimately, with good balance, you should be able to intuitively adapt to practically any situation, without having to think about it.

#6. MAXIMIZING YOUR WORKOUT TIME

Most people doing weight training in the gym spend much of their time sitting around, doing nothing, while their muscles recover from the previous set.

If you're a busy person and want to use your time as efficiently as possible, then it's a good idea to find a way to capitalize on all that time between sets. Balance drills are an ideal use for those moments because they are low-intensity and do not interrupt muscle recovery.


#7. IMPROVING YOUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE

People with poor running technique can experience all manner of injuries, from shin splints to knee pain to hip problems. Poor form results from a lifetime of not having to run daily and not understanding the dynamic position of one's body. People with poor balance will often develop a sub-optimal gait to compensate.

Dynamic balance drills can help you to assess your center of gravity better unconsciously. Then, when you do go running, you'll feel more confident making more significant strides, opening up your hips, and turning your feet forward. With additional balance drills, you'll also learn how to swing your arms to counteract the rotation of your hips while striding, thereby reducing the strain on your core.

#8. INCREASING YOUR MUSCULAR POWER

Balance can strengthen your muscles, quickly increasing their power output. The more force they can exert, the faster you'll be able to sprint and the higher you'll be able to jump. Balance can help in practically any sport that requires short, sharp, and powerful movements, like boxing, and can help build all-around functional strength.

Fun Activities To Add To Your Summer Workout Routine




Gardening

One of the great things about gardening is that it can be very therapeutic, almost like a meditation. It’s easy to get carried away and feel truly “in the moment,” which is why it’s so important to move around mindfully. 


Bend from your knees and waist instead of your back, and focus your attention on your core. Be mindful of your shoulders, keeping them down away from your ears. Take a deep breath out and feel your abdominal muscles contract. Replicate that muscle contraction while breathing normally. Brace your abs whenever you’re lifting or making a large effort. Change positions frequently, as staying in a low squat for 10 to 15 minutes can cause undue stress to the body.


Swimming

Swimming is a wonderful way to stay cool while working out. Warm up with shoulder rolls and arm rotations. Choose a variety of strokes to keep your body from doing the same motion repetitively. Injuries happen from consistent overuse of the same movement patterns. 

Hiking

Call friends and organize a weekly or monthly time to get together to go hiking. Exercising in a group will keep you all accountable and make the time fly by!

Warm up with ankle rolls and torso rotations. Stop once in awhile to do ankle and shoulder rolls to stay loose and flexible. Practice deep breathing at a scenic point on the hike. Take in that fresh air and expand your lungs.

Yard yoga

Grab a mat or towel and take your routine outside. As you breathe deeply, you can enjoy the sweet air of summer. If you don’t know a routine, search for one online, purchase a video or attend a local class until you’ve learned a safe way to do the movement.     

Paddle boarding

It’s one of the hottest sports around the country. Stand up paddle boarding works your entire body and improves balance. Be mindful of standing tall in between paddle strokes.  Keep your shoulders down away from your ears.


Kayaking


This is a great upper body workout and method for cooling down on hot days. Before you begin, close your eyes and find a neutral position for your spine. This will be where it feels the least effortful to sit up straight. Move your head forward and back to note where it’s aligned over your spine. Start from this position and maintain it as much as possible to avoid kayaking kinks later on. 

Disc golf

If you want to take it easy on your body and challenge your coordination, give this a try. Don’t underestimate the work it takes to launch the disc. Wrist rolls are an important warmup and exercise to do throughout the round. Torso rotations and shoulder rolls will also help keep you loose. 

Cycling

Bring awareness into your shoulders while biking to avoid discomfort later on. Anchor them down away from your ears. Your spine should have a subtle but not excessive curve. Align your hands, wrists and forearms to prevent injuries. 

Pay attention to the pressure you place through each foot and leg as you pedal. Most people are dominant on one side. Use cycling as a way to balance your body. 

Toss a ball

Football, softball, baseball, Frisbee and badminton—all of these sports enhance your coordination and allow you to connect with another person. For a bonus challenge, let your dog play, too. It puts the pressure on to make the catch! 

Meditation

Sometimes the best activity is to slow down and quiet your mind. Lie in the grass on a blanket and focus on your breathing. Enjoy the summer air and sounds around you. 

Choose one of these activities and implement it into your summer routine. Gather some friends and have fun!

 

Ways To Stay Healthy This 4th of July

 




Kick off your holiday with some exercise

Start your celebrations by participating in a Fourth of July run or walk. Register for a race, like the Red, White & Brew 5k here in Greenville, SC or organize your own to get your holiday started the healthy way! If you don’t want to run, just get out there and walk the course. There’s nothing better than a little morning cardio, except for maybe a hot dog when you’re done.

Be sure to stretch it out afterward, so you don’t experience any back pain during the rest of your holiday festivities.


Stay hydrated

For some reason, those good ole American beers taste even better on the Fourth of July, so go ahead and crack a cold one. But remember you’ll be out in the hot summer sun, so be sure to drink enough water too. Don’t get too dehydrated and wake up in the morning with a massive headache. There’s nothing worse than not feeling rested and refreshed after a long holiday weekend.


Put a healthy twist on your patriotic dish

Hot dogs and hamburgers are staples at a Fourth of July cookout along with their potato chip sidekicks. But consider bringing a healthier side option to the celebration this year like a fruit tart or colorful salad. In fact, the healthiest foods are often the most colorful foods, so bring some red, white, and blue in a dish to your cookout this year.


Remember that moderation is key

Why is it so much easier to reach for that extra cookie or pour yourself one more glass on a holiday? This year make sure you eat, drink, and celebrate in moderation. And yes, this includes sleep. Did you know that naps are good for your body? Schedule enough time for you to rest up between your holiday plans, so you don’t wear your body out.

Enjoy your Fourth of July parade, cookout, and fireworks––just stay healthy while you do it! You can thank us Wednesday morning.

Simple Ways To Destress Your LIfe

 




1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.

It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress.

The benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t exercise.

There are a few reasons behind this:

  • Stress hormones: Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones — such as cortisol — in the long run. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.
  • Sleep: Exercise can also improve your sleep, which can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety.
  • Confidence: When you exercise regularly, you may feel more competent and confident in your body, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing.
  • Try to find an exercise routine or activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga.

Activities — such as walking or jogging — that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly stress relieving.


2. Consider supplements

Several supplements promote stress and anxiety reduction. Here is a brief overview of some of the most common ones:

  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family that has been studied for its anti-anxiety effects.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: One study showed that medical students who received omega-3 supplements experienced a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms.
  • Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety. Several studies suggest that it’s effective.
  • Green tea: Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants which provide health benefits. It may lower stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.
  • Valerian: Valerian root is a popular sleep aid due to its tranquilizing effect. It contains valerenic acid, which alters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors to lower anxiety.
  • Kava kava: Kava kava is a psychoactive member of the pepper family. Long used as a sedative in the South Pacific, it is increasingly used in Europe and the US to treat mild stress and anxiety.

Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects, so you may want to consult with a doctor if you have a medical condition.


3. Light a candle

Using essential oils or burning a scented candle may help reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety.

Some scents are especially soothing. Here are some of the most calming scents:

  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Vetiver
  • Bergamot
  • Roman chamomile
  • Neroli
  • Frankincense
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang
  • Orange or orange blossom
  • Geranium

Using scents to treat your mood is called aromatherapy. Several studies show that aromatherapy can decrease anxiety and improve sleep.


4. Reduce your caffeine intake

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety.

People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate.

If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.

Although many studies show that coffee can be healthy in moderation, it’s not for everyone. In general, five or fewer cups per day is considered a moderate amount.


5. Write it down

One way to handle stress is to write things down.

While recording what you’re stressed about is one approach, another is jotting down what you’re grateful for.

Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.


6. Chew gum

For a super easy and quick stress reliever, try chewing a stick of gum. 

One study showed that people who chewed gum had a greater sense of wellbeing and lower stress.

One possible explanation is that chewing gum causes brain waves similar to those of relaxed people. Another is that chewing gum promotes blood flow to your brain.

Additionally, one recent study found that stress relief was greatest when people chewed more strongly.


7. Spend time with friends and family

Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.

Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times. 

One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called “tend and befriend,” and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response.

Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.

Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.


8. Laugh

It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re laughing. It’s good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:

  • Relieving your stress response.
  • Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles.

In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.

A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted.

Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.


9. Learn to say no

Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.

Take control over the parts of your life that you can change and are causing you stress.

One way to do this may be to say “no” more often.

This is especially true if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle, as juggling many responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Being selective about what you take on — and saying no to things that will unnecessarily add to your load — can reduce your stress levels.


10. Learn to avoid procrastination

Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and stop procrastinating.

Procrastination can lead you to act reactively, leaving you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality.

Get in the habit of making a to-do list organized by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.

Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time, as switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful itself.


11. Take a yoga class

Yoga has become a popular method of stress relief and exercise among all age groups.

While yoga styles differ, most share a common goal — to join your body and mind.

Yoga primarily does this by increasing body and breath awareness.

Some studies have examined yoga’s effect on mental health. Overall, research has found that yoga can enhance mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety.

However, many of these studies are limited, and there are still questions about how yoga works to achieve stress reduction.

In general, the benefit of yoga for stress and anxiety seems to be related to its effect on your nervous system and stress response.

It may help lower cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate and increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders.


12. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment.

It can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking.

There are several methods for increasing mindfulness, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga and meditation.

A recent study in college students suggested that mindfulness may help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression.


13. Cuddle

Cuddling, kissing, hugging and sex can all help relieve stress.

Positive physical contact can help release oxytocin and lower cortisol. This can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of stress.

Interestingly, humans aren’t the only animals who cuddle for stress relief. Chimpanzees also cuddle friends who are stressed.


14. Listen to soothing music

Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body.

Slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones.

Some types of classical, Celtic, Native American and Indian music can be particularly soothing, but simply listening to the music you enjoy is effective too.

Nature sounds can also be very calming. This is why they’re often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.


15. Deep breathing

Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, signaling your body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode.

During this reaction, stress hormones are released and you experience physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing and constricted blood vessels.

Deep breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response.

There are several types of deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration.

The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises.

This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful.


16. Spend time with your pet

Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood.

Interacting with pets may help release oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood.

Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active and providing companionship — all qualities that help reduce anxiety.


Hydration Packets: Helpful or Hype?

 



Hydration packets tout benefits from recovery after workouts to relieving a hangover. It’s true — you need to stay hydrated, but do these packets make a difference?

You’re more than half water, and without enough water in your body, people may experience headaches, dizziness, and generally feel low energy.

Adequate hydration yields health benefits including:

  • Alertness
  • Balance
  • Joint health
  • Temperature regulation
  • Waste removal
  • Feelings of overall well-being


HOW CAN I GET ENOUGH WATER?

You might believe drinking water is the best way to get enough water … and that’s generally true. But if you have an extraordinary need for hydration — like if you’re working long periods outside in the heat or if you’ve been suffering from diarrhea — you might need a little extra boost.

Fats, sugars, and minerals in water can cause it to linger in your stomach where you can absorb more of it. But there’s a limit to this benefit. Super-sweet drinks, like soda, pull water into your small intestine to help deal with the inrush of sugar — thus lessening the amount of hydration they provide overall.


DO HYDRATION PACKETS HELP?

Most hydration packets contain some mix of electrolytes, such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium. These minerals help regulate the water in your body, so you can effectively get nutrients into your cells and waste out of your body. Too few or too many electrolytes can become a problem.

“Most of the time, unless you drink only distilled water or exercise heavily, you probably get enough electrolytes from your diet and your usual tap water or bottled water,” Dr. Claiborne says.

However, in some cases, you may need to boost your electrolytes. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people working or exercising in the heat for more than an hour drink beverages containing electrolytes for fluid replacement. Both sports drinks and electrolyte packs can fulfill this need.


ARE HYDRATION PACKETS EVER HARMFUL?

No evidence of specific harm has been found tied to hydration powders, but it is certainly possible to develop an electrolyte imbalance. For instance, too much calcium has been tied to kidney stones, while excess sodium can raise blood pressure and, paradoxically, cause dehydration.

A good rule of thumb is to only use hydration powders when you’ll be working out heavily or in the heat for more than an hour.  Otherwise, drinking water should be all you need to rehydrate. And for those pesky hangovers … the best prevention is to drink alcohol moderately, if at all.



What Happens To Your Body When You Walk 10,000 Steps A Day

 



Walking 10,000 steps a day has become a popular fitness goal. Though it’s certainly not the be all and end all of fitness, research has shown that the more steps you take in a day, the better.

Aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day (or any number that presents a challenge based on your current activity level), is a great way to motivate yourself to move more and to interrupt the time you spend sitting. As a result, it can have a tremendous impact on almost every part of your body. Here are 10 of the biggest health benefits you can expect from walking 10,000 steps a day.

Walking 10,000 steps a day will boost your heart health

Regular physical activity helps increase the amount of oxygenated blood being sent to your muscles—the fitter you are, the more easily this happens, and the harder you will be able to work out. Find out more easy.

It will strengthen your lungs

Moving each day helps strengthen your lungs and surrounding muscles. As the rate and volume of oxygen you inhale goes up, so does your body’s ability to use it efficiently (a measurement referred to as your “VO2 max”). The fitter you get, the higher your VO2 max.

It improves your concentration

Physical activity boosts the release of feel-good hormones (like endorphins) and also increases blood flow to the brain, which results in improved cognitive function. Not only do you feel less stressed and anxious when you regularly move, but you are also working toward improving your creativity, productivity, and concentration.

It strengthens your bones

Physical activity (particularly weight-bearing exercises) places extra stress on your bones, which helps improve their density and lowers your risk for osteoporosis later in life. Walking, and better yet running, are great places to start.

Walking 10,000 steps a day builds muscle

Daily physical activity causes tiny tears in your muscles, which in turn, leads to increased muscle growth and strength.

It helps stabilize your blood sugar

When you’re physically active, your muscles use more of the glucose in your bloodstream. Activity also helps the insulin in your body work more efficiently.

It can help lower blood pressure

Physical activity is important for preventing and managing high blood pressure. Getting in your daily steps can help reduce the stiffness of your vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely.

It improves flexibility

Physical activity helps improve your flexibility, which in turn, helps improve posture, reduces risk for injury, and also decreases the number of aches and pains you feel during the day.

It boosts your energy levels

Physical activity is a great way to boost energy levels and fight fatigue as it strengthens the heart and improves circulation.

It improves your mood

Physical activity triggers the release of key neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, all of which play key roles in mood control.

What You Need To Know About Muscle Strains




What are muscle strains?

A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This usually occurs as a result of fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle. Strains can happen in any muscle, but they’re most common in your lower back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring, which is the muscle behind your thigh.

These strains can cause pain and may limit movement within the affected muscle group. Mild to moderate strains can be successfully treated at home with ice, heat, and anti-inflammatory medications. Severe strains or tears may require medical treatment.

Symptoms of muscle strains

You’ll usually feel a muscle strain as it occurs. Symptoms include:

  • sudden onset of pain
  • soreness
  • limited range of movement
  • bruising or discoloration
  • swelling
  • a “knotted-up” feeling
  • muscle spasms
  • stiffness
  • weakness

In a mild strain, a torn muscle may feel slightly stiff, but still flexible enough for use. A severe muscle strain is when the muscle is severely torn. This results in pain and very limited movement.

The symptoms of mild to moderate muscle strains usually go away within a few weeks. More severe strains may take months to heal.

Causes of muscle strains

An acute muscle strain is when your muscle tears suddenly and unexpectedly. Such tears can occur either from injuries or trauma. This can be due to:

  • not warming up properly before physical activity
  • poor flexibility
  • poor conditioning
  • overexertion and fatigue

There’s a misconception that only rigorous exercises and workouts of high intensity cause muscle strains. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, muscle strains can even occur from walking.

An acute strain can happen when you:

  • slip or lose your footing
  • jump
  • run
  • throw something
  • lift something heavy
  • lift something while in you’re in an awkward position

Acute muscle strains are also more common in cold weather. This is because muscles are stiffer in lower temperatures. It’s important to take extra time to warm up in these conditions to prevent strains.

Chronic muscle strains are the result of repetitive movement. This can be due to:

  • sports like rowing, tennis, golf, or baseball
  • holding your back or neck in an awkward position for long periods of time, such as when you work at a desk
  • poor posture

First aid for muscle strains

Most muscle strains can be successfully treated at home. According to the Mayo Clinic, minor muscle strains can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).

Rest

Avoid using your muscle for a few days, especially if movement causes an increase in pain. But too much rest can cause muscles to become weak. This can prolong the healing process. After two days, slowly begin using the affected muscle group, taking care not to overdo it.

Ice

Apply ice immediately after injuring your muscle. This will minimize swelling. Don’t put ice directly on your skin. Use an ice pack or wrap ice in a towel. Keep the ice on your muscle for about 20 minutes. Repeat every hour on the first day. For the next several days, apply ice every four hours.

Compression

To reduce swelling, wrap the affected area with an elastic bandage until swelling comes down. Be careful not to wrap the area too tightly. Doing so can reduce your blood circulation.

Elevation

Whenever possible, keep the injured muscle raised above the level of your heart.

Other self-care methods include the following:

  • Use an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil). This will help keep pain and swelling down. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help with pain.
  • After three days, apply heat to the muscle several times a day. This will help bring blood circulation to the area for healing.
  • Don’t rest your muscle for too long. This can cause stiffness and weakness. Begin light stretching as soon as possible. Slowly increase your level of activity.
  • Make sure to stretch and warm up before exercising when you return to normal activity. This will help increase blood flow to your muscles and decrease your risk of injury.
  • Make an effort to stay in shape. You’re less likely to develop a strain if your muscles are strong and healthy.

If your muscle strain is severe, you may need medical attention. Physical therapy may also be recommended.

When to see a doctor

For mild to moderate strains, home treatment should be enough. Seek medical attention if any of the following happens:

  • The pain doesn’t subside after a week.
  • The injured area is numb.
  • There’s blood coming from your injury.
  • You can’t walk.
  • You can’t move your arms or legs.

A physical examination and imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRI scans, can help your doctor determine the extent of your injury. Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers to reduce pain and swelling. Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen the muscle and restore movement.

In very severe cases, surgery may be required to repair the muscle.

How to prevent muscle strains

You can decrease your chances of straining a muscle if you take some basic precautions:

  • Try not to sit in one position for too long. Take frequent breaks to move and change position. Use a chair that provides good support for your lower back, or use a pillow for support. Try to keep your knees level with your hips.
  • Maintain good posture when standing and sitting. If you spend a long time in one position, try to alternate putting one foot and then the other on a low footstool. This can help decrease stress on your back muscles.
  • Lift objects carefully. Keep your back straight, bend at the knees, and always lift with your legs. Hold the weight close to your body. Don’t lift and twist at the same time.
  • Take precautions to prevent falls, such as holding handrails on stairways, avoiding slippery surfaces, and keeping your floors uncluttered.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly.

Regular exercise can keep your muscles healthy and strong, but proper techniques are also crucial in preventing muscle strains. Always stretch and warm up before engaging in physical activity.

Similarly, take the time to stretch after each workout or session of physical activity to prevent muscle stiffness. If you’re new to exercising, start slowly. Build up your activity a little at a time.

It’s vital that you understand your body’s limitations. If something doesn’t feel right during an activity, stop immediately.

What’s the outlook for someone with muscle strain?

Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury. For a mild strain, you may be able to return to normal activities within three to six weeks with basic home care. For more severe strains, recovery can take several months. In severe cases, surgical repair and physical therapy may be necessary.

With proper treatment, most people recover completely. You can improve your chances of recovery by taking steps to avoid getting the same injury again. Follow your doctor’s instructions, and don’t engage in strenuous physical activity until your muscles have healed.


 

Tips On Meal Planning For Weight Loss

 



How to meal plan for weight loss

When it comes to weight loss meal plans, the magnitude of options can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you search for the most suitable plan.

Creating a calorie deficit in a nutrient-dense way

All weight loss plans have one thing in common — they get you to eat fewer calories than you burn.

However, though a calorie deficit will help you lose weight regardless of how it’s created, what you eat is just as important as how much you eat. That’s because the food choices you make are instrumental in helping you meet your nutrient needs.

A good weight loss meal plan should follow some universal criteria:

  • Includes plenty of protein and fiber. Protein- and fiber-rich foods help keep you fuller for longer, reducing cravings and helping you feel satisfied with smaller portions.
  • Limits processed foods and added sugar. Rich in calories yet low in nutrients, these foods fail to stimulate fullness centers in your brain and make it difficult to lose weight or meet your nutrient needs.
  • Includes a variety of fruits and vegetables. Both are rich in water and fiber, contributing to feelings of fullness. These nutrient-rich foods also make it easier to meet your daily nutrient requirements.

Building nutrient-dense meals

To incorporate these tips into your weight loss meal plan, start by filling one-third to one-half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. These are low in calories and provide water, fiber, and many of the vitamins and minerals you need.

Then, fill one-quarter to one-third of your plate with protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, tofu, seitan, or legumes, and the remainder with whole grains, fruit, or starchy vegetables. These add protein, vitamins, minerals, and more fiber.

You can boost the flavor of your meal with a dash of healthy fats from foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.

Some people may benefit from having a snack to tide their hunger over between meals.  Protein and fiber rich snacks seem the most effective for weight loss.

Good examples include apple slices with peanut butter, vegetables and hummus, roasted chickpeas, or Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts.

Helpful tips to make meal planning work for you

An important aspect of a successful weight loss meal plan is its ability to help you keep the lost weight off.

Here are some tips to help increase your meal plan’s long-term sustainability.

Pick a meal planning method that fits your routine

There are various ways to meal plan,  so be sure to pick the method that best fits your routine.

You may decide to batch cook all of your meals over the weekend, so you can easily grab individual portions throughout the week. Alternatively, you may prefer to cook daily, in which case, opting to prep all of your ingredients ahead of time might work best for you.

If you don’t like following recipes or prefer a little more flexibility, you may opt for a method that requires you to fill your refrigerator and pantry with specific portions of foods each week while allowing you to improvise when putting them together for meals.

Batch-shopping for groceries is another great strategy that helps save time while keeping your refrigerator and pantry filled with nutrient-dense foods.

Consider trying an app

Apps can be a helpful tool in your meal planning arsenal.

Some apps offer meal plan templates that you can alter based on your food preferences or allergies. They can also be a handy way to keep track of your favorite recipes and save all of your data in one place.

What’s more, many apps provide customized grocery lists based on your selected recipes or what’s left over in your fridge, helping you save time and reduce food waste. 

Pick enough recipes

Picking an adequate number of recipes ensures that you have enough variety without requiring you to spend all of your free time in the kitchen.

When selecting how many meals to make, look at your calendar to determine the number of times you’re likely to eat out — whether for a date, client dinner, or brunch with friends.

Divide the remaining number of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners by the number of meals that you can realistically cook or prepare for that week. This helps you determine the portions of each meal you’ll need to prep.

Then, simply sift through your cookbooks or online food blogs to pick your recipes.

Consider snacks

Allowing yourself to get overly hungry between meals may push you to overeat at your next meal, making it more difficult to reach your weight loss goals.

Snacks can help lower hunger, promote feelings of fullness, and reduce the overall number of calories you eat per day.

Protein- and fiber-rich combinations, such as nuts, roasted chickpeas, or veggies and hummus, appear best suited to promote weight loss.

However, keep in mind that some people tend to gain weight when adding snacks to their menu. So make sure you monitor your results when applying this strategy.

Ensure variety

Eating a variety of foods is instrumental in providing your body with the nutrients it needs.

That’s why it’s best to avoid meal plans that suggest batch cooking 1–2 recipes for the whole week. This lack of variety can make it difficult to meet your daily nutrient needs and lead to boredom over time, reducing your meal plan’s sustainability.

Instead, ensure that your menu includes a variety of foods each day.

Speed up your meal prep time

Meal prepping doesn’t have to mean long hours in the kitchen. Here are a few ways to speed up your meal prep time.

  • Stick to a routine. Picking specific times to plan the week’s meals, grocery shop, and cook can simplify your decision-making process and make your meal prepping process more efficient.
  • Grocery shop with a list. Detailed grocery lists can reduce your shopping time. Try organizing your list by supermarket departments to prevent doubling back to a previously visited section.
  • Pick compatible recipes. When batch cooking, select recipes that use different appliances. For instance, one recipe may require the oven, no more than two burners on the stovetop, and no heating at all.
  • Schedule your cook times. Organize your workflow by starting with the recipe requiring the longest cooking time, then focus on the rest. Electric pressure cookers or slow cookers can further reduce cooking times.

Inexperienced cooks or those simply wanting to reduce the time spent in the kitchen may want to pick recipes that can be prepared in 15–20 minutes from start to finish.

Store and reheat your meals safely

Storing and reheating your meals safely can help preserve their flavor and minimize your risk of food poisoning.

Here are some government-approved food safety guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Cook food thoroughly. Most meats should reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F (75°C) while cooking, as this kills most bacteria.
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator. Thawing frozen foods or meals on your countertop can encourage bacteria to multiply. If you’re short on time, submerge foods in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  • Reheat food safely. Make sure to reheat your meals to at least 165°F (75°C) before eating. Frozen meals should be eaten within 24 hours of defrosting.
  • Dispose of old food. Refrigerated meals should be eaten within 3–4 days of being made, and frozen meals should be consumed within 3–6 months.

The bottom line

A good weight loss meal plan creates a calorie deficit while providing all the nutrients you need.

Done right, it can be incredibly simple and save you a lot of time.

Picking a method that works for you can also reduce your likelihood of regaining weight.

All-in-all, meal planning is an incredibly useful weight loss strategy.


Why You Should Keep A Food Diary.




What should you include in a food diary?

Most experts agree that the secret to successful food journaling is accuracy and consistency. So, what should you record? A basic food diary should include the following:

  • What are you eating? Write down the specific food and beverage consumed and how it is prepared (baked, broiled, fried, etc.). Include any sauces, condiments, dressings, or toppings.
  • How much are you eating? List the amount in household measures (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons) or in ounces. If possible, it is best to weigh and measure your food. If you are away from home, do your best to estimate the portion.
  • When are you eating? Noting the time that you’re eating can be very helpful in identifying potentially problematic times, such as late-night snacking.

Jotting down where you’re eating, what else you’re doing while you’re eating, and how you’re feeling while eating can help you understand some of your habits and offer additional insight.

  • Where are you eating? Record the specific place you are consuming food, whether it’s at the kitchen table, in your bedroom, in the car, walking down the street, at a restaurant, or at a friend’s home.
  • What else are you doing while eating? Are you on the computer, watching TV, or talking with a family member or a friend?
  • Who are you eating with? Are you eating with your spouse, children, friend, or a colleague, or are you alone?
  • How are you feeling as you’re eating? Are you happy, sad, stressed, anxious, lonely, bored, tired?

Tips for successful food journaling

Here are more tips for keeping a successful food diary:

  • Write down the food or beverage as soon as you consume it. Don’t wait until the end of the day because your recollection is likely to be less accurate.
  • Be as specific as you can with the food or beverage. For example, if you are drinking a latte, note the type and size.
  • Be sure to include any alcoholic beverages you consume.
  • A smartphone app like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal can support your efforts. These apps also offer information on calories and other nutrients.

You’ve kept a food diary. Now what?

After completing a week’s worth of food journaling, step back and look at what you’ve recorded. Search for any trends, patterns, or habits. For example, you might consider:

  • How healthy is my diet?
  • Am I eating vegetables and fruit every day? If so, how many servings?
  • Am I eating whole grains each day?
  • Am I eating foods or beverages with added sugar? If so, how frequently?
  • Do my moods affect my eating habits? Do I reach for unhealthy snacks when I’m tired or stressed?
  • How often do I eat on the run?

Set SMART healthy eating goals

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, set one or two healthy eating goals for yourself. In doing so, use the SMART Goals format. That means your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. Here are a few examples of SMART goals.

Food diary observation: You average two servings of vegetables per day.
Goal: Eat more vegetables.
SMART goal: Eat three servings of vegetables per day.

Food diary observation: You order takeout three or four nights per week.
Goal: Cook more at home.
SMART goal: Order take out no more than one or two nights per week.

Food diary observation: You eat healthy meals and snacks until about 3 pm, when you hit the office vending machine.
Goal: Eat healthier snacks.
SMART goal: Bring a healthy snack (a piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts) to work every day.

Keeping a food journal can be very informative and move you toward improving your health. Using the data from your food diary to make SMART changes, and continuing to track your progress, is a great place to start your journey for a healthier 2019.

 

Warming Socks: A Great Way To Boost Your Immune System

 



Feeling that familiar tickle in your throat? Why not try a pair of cold wet socks? Warming socks, as they are known in naturopathic circles, are the application of damp cold socks to the feet before bed. Their purpose is to increase blood flow and circulation to the feet. Most patients find this recommendation disconcerting at best, but they can be a great way to boost your immune system and help you relax a little. Truth be told they are not even that cold!  

How does cold wet socks actually help your immune system? It seems improbable, but hydrotherapy is a great way to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph.  The “warming” sock treatment focuses on increasing circulation to the feet.  By increasing blood flow to the feet, overall circulation of blood and lymph are improved. This in turn impacts upper body congestion and the immune system. This is a great home treatment when you get that “am I getting sick?” feeling. Beyond cold and flus, the treatment is relaxing and can address concerns like stress, insomnia, and headaches.  

Most people who are willing to try them become instant fans of the treatment. It is important to note that there is no research supporting their use. However, there are studies that demonstrate the benefits of hydrotherapy (water therapies) in a larger context. Further, temperature regulation specifically foot temperature regulation and the effect on sleep has been studied. 

Is it a safe therapy? Yes, in general it is a safe therapy. As with anything, there are people who would not benefit from this application. If you have problems with circulation such as with Raynaud’s phenomenon or claudication, it is better to avoid this therapy.  

How do you do it?  

First, gather supplies. You will need one pair of light cotton socks, thicker wool socks, and cold water from the tap. It is a good idea to start off with warm feet. If your feet are cold a warm foot bath or shower can help. Next take a pair of light cotton socks and soak them in cold water. Wring them out thoroughly so they are cold and damp, but not soggy. Put them on your warm feet. Immediately put on the wool socks over the top of the cold damp socks. Go to bed. The cold sensation should not last very long, as your body rapidly warms the socks. Usually, they are dry within a couple of hours. It is important that the rest of your body stays warm so add an extra blanket as needed.  

How Much Water To Drink After A Sweat Session

 




Why you get so sweaty, anyway

First things first: What point does sweating actually serve? Sweating cools the body down. Once your internal temp passes 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, your brain’s hypothalamus (basically, the body’s thermostat) goes off, and it triggers your sweat glands to release a salty mixture of water, sodium chloride, and other electrolytes. Then, when the sweat leaves the skin’s pores, it evaporates into the air, taking some heat with it, which cools you down.

But it’s not just body temp that causes you to sweat while you work out. According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, during exercise, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, which in turn makes the body pump out more sweat.  Plus, the more often you exercise, the more you sweat.  That’s because your sweat glands are able to predict that physical exertion is coming. 

So, if wringing out your shirt post-yoga is your norm, consider it a badge of sweat-gland adaptation.

Trust your thirst, or try this rehydration formula

During exercise, the amount of sweat pouring out is often greater than the amount of fluids heading in. The best way to measure your water needs is by how your body feels. But if you want to get really specific on how much water you need after a workout. Start by weighing yourself before and after exercise. After your workout, drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound you’ve lost. This number is going to be reflective of how much you’ve sweat (assuming you don’t take a mid-workout bathroom break). If after exercise you lost plus or minus 1.5 percent bodyweight, you’re properly hydrated.  If you’ve lost 1.5–4.5 percent bodyweight, you’re dehydrated. And if you’ve lost any more than 5 percent bodyweight, you’re severely dehydrated.

It’s important to drink H2O throughout the day. A good base goal (whether you’re working out or not) is to divide your bodyweight in half and drink that number in ounces of water every 24 hours. This way, you’ll walk into the gym in optimum fluid balance, which not only helps prevent a major water deficit later, but also ensures you’ll get your best workout, since even slight dehydration can cause an energy lag. 

And if you’re working out for longer than an hour (and especially if it’s hot and humid in your gym or outside), it’s a good idea to replace your electrolytes as well as the fluids you lost during your sweat sesh.

How do you know when you’re properly rehydrated? You’re feeling good! You’re not experiencing common signs of dehydration like lightheadedness, lower energy, dark yellow pee, dry skin, muscle cramps, increased heart rate, or stinky breath. 

There’s not an exact, one-size-fits-all water rule because a lot factors into each person’s individual needs (including age, gender, activity level, where you live, and even how heavily you breath. And yes, perspiration comes in to play, too.

Just how many times do you need to refill your water bottle on days you take a HIIT class or go for a long run in the hot sun, and how does it compare to how hydrated you need to be when you’re sitting at your desk?

The bottom line: There’s no exact science to how much water you need to drink based on how much you’re sweating. But if you’re thirsty, it’s your body telling you that it’s time to drink up.

The Importance of Endurance Training

 



What Is Endurance Training?


Before getting into the benefits of endurance training, it’s useful to define exactly what endurance training is – and isn’t. In general, endurance training is any type of exercise you do with the intent of extending how long you’re able to work out. There are two types of endurance training: Muscular and cardiovascular.  


Muscular endurance refers to building muscle strength so that you are physically capable of performing the same exercise over and over again with good form. Strength is your ability to lift things and move easily, while endurance refers to how long you can lift that weight or repeat a motion.


For example, performing a plank is often difficult for people who do not have strength or endurance, as they may not be able to support their body weight, or may only be able to maintain the position for a few seconds. At the same time, someone with adequate strength may be able to hold themselves up, but only with conditioning and practice can they build their endurance to maintain the position for longer periods. Muscular endurance is increased via repetitions and adding weight, steadily increasing your workout intensity.


Cardiovascular endurance, on the other hand, refers to how well your heart, lungs, and blood vessels can provide your muscles with oxygen, which determines how long you can engage in aerobic exercise without needing to rest. As with muscular endurance, people who have been sedentary and are just beginning to work out typically don’t have a great deal of cardio endurance, and can only exercise for 10 to 15 minutes before becoming winded.

The more they exercise and build their body’s strength, the longer they can exercise. Building cardiovascular endurance is mostly a question of time: It can be developed by steadily adding time to your workouts as you build strength. For example, runners build endurance by adding time or distance to their runs gradually. As they become more comfortable running longer distances, they then start working on becoming faster.

The Benefits of Endurance Training

You might be thinking that you have no need to increase your endurance since you don’t have any plans to enter an Ironman competition or start competitive weightlifting. The fact is, though, building endurance has health benefits beyond improving your ability to compete in distance events. Improving your endurance can help you meet and exceed recommendations for regular exercise  (currently 30 minutes per session, five days per week), which has demonstrated health benefits. 


More specifically, endurance training can:

  • Improve your metabolism.  Studies indicate that endurance training can boost production of the hormone FGF21, which helps increase metabolic function.
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Any exercise can be beneficial for your heart, but research indicates that endurance exercise is particularly effective at improving the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Increase your lifespan. A large 15 year study of runners found that people who ran for about 50 minutes per week lived longer than those who didn’t run, suggesting that endurance training can extend your life.
  • Support mental health. Although any exercise can help improve your mood and reduce the symptoms of depression, anecdotal evidence suggests that endurance can further enhance those effects. Continually building your stamina and endurance contributes to a sense of accomplishment, which in turn can boost confidence and self-esteem.
  • Improve your sleep. Exercise is also proven to help improve sleep, as it can promote the production of melatonin, a brain chemical that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Endurance training can also support better sleep by the simple fact that you’ll be more tired after working out, helping you drift off more easily.
  • Promote a youthful appearance. Research shows that exercising can actually slow the signs of aging. A study of long-distance cyclists over age 55 showed they had improved muscle mass and immunity as younger people.


How to Build Your Endurance


Many people build endurance naturally as a part of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. For instance, think about the first time you went for a run after a long hiatus or tried a new exercise routine. It was likely difficult, and you might have needed to take some breaks or even considered quitting altogether. The more you stuck with it, though, the easier those workouts became, and eventually, you were able to run longer and faster or complete the routine while hardly breaking a sweat.

Even though some endurance improvements happen naturally, it’s still important to work on intentionally building your endurance to continue getting the most out of your workouts. Long-distance runners, cyclists, swimmers, and anyone playing sports like football, soccer, or hockey also need to focus on their endurance.

There are several different approaches to building your stamina, and the best option for you depends largely on your fitness level and goals. The most common type of training is the long duration/moderate intensity approach. Distance runners, for instance, often use this approach to prepare for races, building up to running at a moderate pace for the distance of the race plus 30 minutes. This approach allows for a long training session without putting too much strain on the body, giving the athlete confidence in their ability to complete the event. For those who aren’t training for a race, exercising at a moderate intensity for a longer period helps regulate blood sugar, burns fat, and improves blood oxygen levels.


Other types of endurance training last for either moderate or short durations at a high intensity. Also known as interval training, this type of exercise helps build endurance with alternating periods of high-intensity exercise (at or close to your maximum capabilities) for a short period, usually a minute or less, followed by a rest period of less intense exercise.


This type of training has been shown to improve cardiovascular function, and it is beneficial to endurance athletes who are likely to face differing conditions during events. For example, runners may encounter hills during a race and need to adjust their intensity. The primary benefit of interval training is that it takes less time while still offering similar benefits to longer workouts.


Finally, resistance training is another form of endurance training designed to increase strength, power, and stamina.  Resistance training focuses on building muscular endurance using your own body weight. Exercises like planks, squats, lunges, pushups, and sit-ups are all effective at building your muscular endurance and can help increase your power during aerobic workouts while reducing the risk of injury. Increasing the number of repetitions and sets you perform during each workout gradually builds your endurance.

Benefits of Eccentric Training



Eccentric exercises are also referred to as negative training or negative work. They benefit muscles by absorbing the mechanical energy exerted by the heavy workload.  That energy is then released with what is called elastic recoil, essentially a spring-like actions that facilitates the next muscle movement.  


Eccentric muscle contraction was originally called excentric by Danish researcher Erling Asmussen in 1953 to describe the movement away ("ex-") from the center ("-centric") of a muscle. Other examples of eccentric contraction include:


  • Lowering a weight during a shoulder press  
  • The downward motion of squatting   
  • The downward motion of a push-up  
  • Lowering the body during a crunch  
  • Lowering the body during a pull-up  

Exercise Benefits

Sports physiologists believe that eccentric training can build muscle size and strength better than standard concentric-eccentric movements. By focusing solely on the downward force exerted on a muscle, you can enlist heavier weights than you might otherwise be able to lift.

As a result, you may see improvements in the weight room faster. Eccentric training can help you get stronger in certain movements.

By working on the negative phase of a pull-up, pushup, squat, or any exercise, you get more proficient in that movement. 

There may also be benefits for those trying to lose weight. While an eccentric contraction uses less energy and oxygen than a concentric contraction, the negative movement actually creates more force. This not only enhances muscle growth but also increases the rate of metabolism (the conversion of calories and oxygen into energy), promoting weight loss.


According to research from Wayne State University, a full-body eccentric workout increases the resting metabolism in athletes by 9% and for no less than three hours following the exercise.  


Eccentric training often involves a partner who aids in the lifting of weight (the concentric movement) and stabilizes you as you lower the weight on your own (the eccentric movement). Alternately, you can focus on the eccentric movement by lifting a weight or body part quickly (say, within a second) and lowering it slowly (over three to five seconds).


Rehabilitation

Eccentric exercise is also commonly used for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Because eccentric contractions create more force with less energy, it is less likely to overtax injured joints and muscles. This can be especially valuable for elderly people who haven't the physical capacity for traditional eccentric-concentric exercises.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are typically treated with eccentric exercise. The downward movement is less likely to compromise the stabilizing ligaments of the knee. Concentric movement, by contrast, places extreme stress on the joint as it is forced to simultaneously lift and stabilize the weight.

Other medical conditions for which eccentric training may be helpful include:1

  • Patellar tendonitis, also known as "jumper's knee"
  • Muscle-tendon injuries
  • Osteopenia diminished bone mineral density
  • Sarcopenia, muscle wasting related to aging
  • Tendinosis and other repetitive stress injuries

Side Effects and Risks

While beneficial, eccentric contractions are not without risks and side effects. The downward force exerted on muscle can protect against injury but will likely increase the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

This is due to micro-tears that develop as a contracted muscle lengthens, causing soreness and pain 24 to 72 hours after the exercise. Repeated training can help reduce much, if not all, of the post-exercise soreness.

Eccentric contractions may also pose a health hazard if you lift weights larger than your maximum capacity. With something as simple as biceps curl, the lowering of excessively heavy weight can cause wrist sprain, elbow strain, and shoulder injury. To avoid this, you need to determine what your ideal lifting weight is.

Your ideal lifting weight is between 50 and 70 percent of your one-repetition-maximum (1-RM). This is the maximum amount of weight you can lift with proper form.  If your 1-RM is 50 pounds, you should lift no more than 25 to 35 pounds. 


 

Beat Spring Allergies

 



1. Limit your time outdoors.

Each spring, trees release billions of tiny pollen grains into the air. When you breathe them into your nose and lung, they can trigger an allergic reaction.  Staying inside can help, especially on windy days and during the early morning hours, when pollen counts are highest.

When you do head outdoors, wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. A filter mask can help when you mow the lawn or work in the garden. Different types are available, so ask your doctor to suggest one that will work best for you.

Once you head back inside, always take a shower, wash your hair, and change 


your clothing. Otherwise, you’ll bring pollen into your house.


2. Take allergy medicine.

It can help adults and children with sniffles and a runny nose. Antihistamines, which block your body’s response to allergies, usually work in less than an hour. But read the package carefully. Some older drugs, like chlorpheniramine, clemastine, and diphenhydramine can make you drowsy.

For more severe allergies a nasal spray is suggested. But don’t expect symptoms to vanish right away, they may take a few days to work. Since they can have side effects like burning, dryness, or nosebleeds, use the lowest dose that controls your symptoms.

Your doctor may recommend allergy shots if other medicines can’t relieve your symptoms. They contain a tiny amount of the pollen and will help your body build up resistance to it. You’ll likely need to get one shot each month for 3 to 5 years.

3. Protect yourself early on.

Start taking medicine long before your eyes get watery and you’re sneezing nonstop, at least 1 week before the season begins. That way, the medicine will be in your system by the time you need it.

4. Get natural relief.

Some herbal remedies may help stave off allergy symptoms. More research is needed, but an extract from a shrub called butterbur shows promise. Biminne, a Chinese herbal formula with ingredients like ginkgo biloba and Chinese skullcap, may also help. One study found that people who took biminne five times a day for 12 weeks still felt the benefits a year later.

Tell your doctor first. Natural or alternative doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Butterbur may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to plants like ragweed and marigold. Biminne doesn’t always work well with diabetes medicines. And because it’s unclear how these herbs help, the possible long-term side effects are unknown.

5. Tweak your home.

Simple changes make a difference. Shut all windows to keep out pollen. Use an air conditioner to cool your home instead of a fan, which draws in air from outside.

Take off your shoes at the door and ask guests to do the same. That keeps allergens outside.

Clean floors with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. These filters trap 99.97% of microscopic particles in the air. And don’t line-dry clothes or sheets in warmer weather! They’ll collect pollen while they hang outside.

Finally, don’t smoke. It can make allergy symptoms worse. If you or someone you live with smokes, now is a good time to quit.

Positive Affirmations Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

 



Affirmations are positive statements that are often used to combat negative self-perceptions or enhance focus on personal goals. Affirmations also tend to foster the expectation of success. Often, affirmations address a specific concern or fundamental self-talk theme. As an example, someone struggling with weight concerns may have frequent, albeit self-defeating thoughts such as, “I am never going to be able to lose/gain weight” or “My body is my enemy.”


Self-critical, pessimistic statements can make it more difficult to stick with goals, especially during the expectable minor setbacks most people experience on the road to success. In essence, habitual negative self-statements can erode self-confidence and become self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.


HOW AFFIRMATIONS CAN BE EMPLOYED IN DAILY LIFE

Affirmations can serve as an important tool for staying on track and staving off feelings of discouragement. To use the previous example, an affirmation to address anxiety or pessimism around weight concerns could be, “Each day, I am one step closer to achieving my healthiest weight.” If the negative self-talk is more generalized or self-critical, one might create an affirmation such as, “I partner with my body in keeping myself well.” An affirmation that is counter to negative feelings or beliefs related to exercise is, “It feels wonderful to eat well and move my body.”

Again, a productive affirmation is specifically related to a positive goal; the opposite of what the negative self-talk says; and helps one imagine a successful outcome.


AFFIRMATIONS PRESENT AND FUTURE

Although affirmations are commonly phrased in the present tense (to foster a feeling of these statements already being true), affirming statements can also be combined with guided or self-directed imagery to focus on future success. This technique is actually used in hypnosis and self-hypnosis, and is referred to as “future progression.” Future progression imagery involves creating the multisensory experience of being in that moment when one has already achieved a future goal, even though the actual imagery is happening within oneself, in the present moment.


HOW AFFIRMATIONS WORK

Although crafting affirmations can be straightforward, recent research has found affirmations effectively increase feelings of well-being and improve the likelihood of making good choices. As you’ve probably noticed, when under stress, most people are more vulnerable to self-doubt or feeling overwhelmed in general. Affirmations appear to work by reminding us of personal resources beyond what we notice when we are discouraged. Relatedly, affirmations seem to help us to reflect on our core values and draw upon the positive personal experiences we’ve had.


AFFIRMATIONS AND THE BRAIN

Several different brain regions are thought to be involved in the benefits seen related to engaging in affirmations. For example, in previous studies, the ventral striatum and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex have been linked to assigning a positive value to something (such as achieving a goal) and viewing it as a reward. Increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex have been linked to focusing on one’s personal strengths. In addition, self-affirmations may work in part by engaging the anterior cingulate cortex and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex to regulate emotions (staving off negative emotions, or remaining more objective) when faced with difficult situations.


HOW TO INCORPORATE AFFIRMATIONS INTO YOUR LIFE

There are a number of easy, free-to-low-cost ways to use affirmations to help you make positive change. A quick internet search will reveal an abundance of audio programs featuring positive affirmations and imagery, but you can also make your own. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Set aside some quiet time to engage in this exercise.
  2. Write a list of some goals that you’d like to achieve. Make the list simple, specific, and concrete.
  3. Pick one goal to start. You are probably more likely to stick with a goal that is consistent with your personal values rather than one someone else sets for you.
  4. Note any negative thoughts you tend to have when you try to focus on your goal.
  5. For each negative statement, write a positive statement that is the opposite of the negative self-talk. Make the statements short and to the point.
  6. Even if the goal is for some time in the future, write the positive statements as if they are already true (e.g., “I enjoy moving my body and feeling healthy” or “Each day, I feel stronger, happier, and healthier.”).
  7. Recall a specific time in your life when each statement rang true for you. Remember, it’s not about recalling a time when things were perfect.
  8. For each affirmation, vividly envision the future goal as already being true. Imagine how your body feels, envision how your life or health will have changed, and how terrific it feels to have achieved something meaningful to you. Use as many of your senses as you can to engage in this imagery.
  9. Repeat each individual affirmation, silently or out loud. Breathe.
  10. Set aside a few minutes to meditate on your affirmations each day. You can even record yourself saying each positive statement, and play this back to yourself.



Benefits Of Muscular Endurance

 



What is muscular endurance? Muscular endurance is the ability to continue contracting a muscle, or group of muscles, against resistance, such as weights or body weight, over a period of time.

Increasing the performance of these muscles means they can continue to contract and work against these forces.

Greater muscular endurance allows a person to complete more repetitions of an exercise, for example, pushups or squats.

Benefits of muscular endurance training

According to the American Council of Exercise (ACE), the benefits of muscle endurance include:

  • helping maintain good posture and stability for longer periods
  • improving the aerobic capacity of muscles
  • improving the ability to carry out daily functional activities, such as lifting heavy items
  • increasing athletic performance in endurance-based sports

How to measure muscular endurance

Muscular endurance tests measure how many repetitions of a movement people can do before the muscles reach a state of fatigue and cannot continue the exercise.

Many tests focus on measuring upper and lower body muscle endurance by measuring how many pushups, squats, or situps people can achieve.

A person can work with fitness instructors to measure muscular endurance or record how many repetitions of a particular exercise they can perform before reaching the fatigue state.

How to improve endurance

To increase muscular endurance, ACE recommend a combination of lower and upper body exercises, with strengthening exercises to target the whole body.

Moderate resistance training, with short intervals in between for rest, creates short bursts of tension to build strength.

Circuit or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be a suitable way to combine cardio and strength training into one workout.

Unless a person’s fitness goals involve training for a particular endurance-based sport, training for muscular endurance alone may not be the most appropriate strategy.

The best exercise programs mix strength and muscular endurance training.

Some evidence also suggests that exercise programs that people find enjoyable may be more likely to generate long-term benefits, as they may be more likely to stick with them.

Training for muscular endurance

When training to improve muscular endurance, what matters most is not the type of exercise, but how people design their workout.

People should take into consideration the following when tailoring a workout to boost muscular endurance:

  • the number of reps
  • the weight or resistant force on the muscles
  • the number of sets
  • length or rest periods

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, individuals training for muscular endurance should aim to complete three or more sets of 15 or more exercise reps with a load that is 50% or less of their one rep max (RM).

A person’s one rep max is the maximum load with which a person can complete one repetition of an exercise.

For example, a person may wish to use the leg press machine at the gym to build endurance in the legs.

If they have an RM of 300 pounds (lbs), they should aim to perform 2–4 sets of 15 or more reps with a load of 150lbs or less, with brief rest periods between sets.

As their muscular endurance for this exercise increases, they may wish to make the exercise more challenging by reducing rest times between sets, or increasing the reps per set, rather than increasing the load weight.

A person can apply the same principle of high rep and set volume, low–moderate load, and short rest periods to any exercise,  such as bench presses, dumbbell curls, pushups, or squats.

People can choose exercises that suit their preferences and are challenging yet enjoyable enough to sustain training.

Promoting A Healthy Spring

 



Start a New Exercise Routine

The mornings are warming up, the spring means the sun rises earlier each day.  So take good advantage of this change.  Get out and exercise before starting your day, whether it is going for a run or walking the dog.  Exercising before work can begin your day on a high note with clarity and energy. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals do moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.

Revamp Your Diet with Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Take advantage of the variety of vegetables available during spring. A healthy diet includes adding vegetables and fruit every day. Vegetables like broccoli, green beans, leafy greens, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Try to eat about 3 to 5 servings every day. Fruit is also a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You should try to eat about 2 to 3 servings of fruit each day. It goes without being said that it is OK to indulge in the occasional ice cream cone. Although, frozen yogurt would be a healthier alternative.

Drink More Water

As the heat kicks into high gear it is harder to stay hydrated and more important to drink more water. Drink plenty of water before going outside and have plenty on-hand to stay hydrated. If you aren’t a fan of water, try one of our recipes for Cucumber Water—it makes a great party beverage for those hot days!

Cut Out the Night Cap

If one of your habits is having a drink before bed, or having a few at dinner, you may want to reconsider your next glass of merlot. Alcohol not only causes dehydration, but is also associated with sleep disorders, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. It is recommended that women limit themselves to one drink per day, and men up to two alcoholic beverages each day.

Check In for a Check Up

You may have chalked up some symptoms and illnesses to the winter blues, but now that it is spring, its time to get back to the doctor for a head-to-toe check up! A periodic well-exam for all ages is not just about good medical care, but it also gives you the opportunity to learn more about beneficial health habits, counseling and community support services as well as an overall view of the best ways to take care of yourself and your family for a lifetime. Your doctor will let you know how often they need to test for high blood pressure, diabetes, other diseases, and cancer screenings.

Protect Your Skin

It is going to get hot, the sun is shining, and your skin needs protection. Not only do men and women need to regularly moisturize their skin, but also protect it from the harsh rays of the sun. If you’re outside, make sure to use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays. It doesn’t hurt to throw on a pair of sunglasses and hat as well!

Renew Relationships

It’s time to get out of the house and visit with your friends and family. Research has shown that good, strong relationships benefit your overall health and happiness. Spend the day with people you love, and schedule regular outings to enjoy the great spring weather.

Being Happy Makes You Healthier

 



6 Proven Health Benefits of Happiness


1. Improved Heart Health

Studies have linked happiness with improved heart health and lower risk of heart disease by 13-26% 


2. Ability to Combat Stress More Effectively

Excess stress causes higher levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – which can lead to a number of health conditions. Individuals who are happier have consistently lower cortisol levels in their blood.


3. A Stronger Immune System

Some research has indicated that being happier can support a strong immune system, leading to greater health all round, and the ability to fight infections or disease more effectively.


4. Overall Healthier Lifestyle

Happiness has also been linked to several positive and highly beneficial health habits, that promote a greater sense of wellbeing. This includes eating a healthier diet, engaging in more physical activity, and overcome poor sleeping habits. 


5. Can Help Reduce Pain

Individuals who are happier, have a better perspective and are able to accept new thoughts easily, which can lead to a lower experience of pain especially connected to chronic conditions.


6. Increased Life Longevity

One of the most interesting finds from the research for health benefits of happiness is its connection with life longevity. Researchers believe that because of the impact happiness has on all of the above health benefits, it can ultimately help you live a longer life.


The Benefits of Happiness at Work

Until relatively recently, work and happiness weren’t really connected, but research is starting to show that there is a range of benefits for happy employees – for both the individual and the organization. Some of the benefits of happiness at work include:


1. Better Decision Making & Creative Problem Solving

Happiness at work has a range of benefits for how our brains work and think. When we’re happier, we tend not to focus on the negatives or stressors as much, allowing more room to think about how to positively get on with challenges.


2. Improved Individual and Team Productivity

In a study for the University of Warwick found that happier employees tended to be 12% more productive, whereas unhappy employees were up to 10% less productive.


3. Better Customer Service Satisfaction

Happier employees were more engaged, which resulted in improved customer relationships, and a 20% increase in sales. When we feel happy, we’re more likely to express ourselves positively and want to help those around us.


4. It Might Help You Earn More

A study found that feelings in life satisfaction were linked to higher salaries, however, this wasn’t consistent, and varied between genders. It’s also difficult to determine whether having a higher salary led to greater life satisfaction due to having fewer financial stressors.


5 Things You Can Do to Realize These Benefits in Your Life

Trying to feel happier in life might seem like a mammoth task to take on, but it doesn’t have to be. A few simple practices each day have been proven to help you realize and begin to reap the benefits of happiness:


1. Practice Gratitude

It’s easy to complain when things go wrong or you get stuck in the rut of thinking ‘why has this happened to me’ when you have a bad day, but practicing gratitude can help tackle that and improve feelings of happiness. Simply writing down three things you feel grateful for before bed can work wonders on your mindset.


2. Incorporate Some Movement

Exercise releases endorphins, which have a direct impact on our mood – in a good way! Adding in some aerobic exercise is proven to be effective in increasing feelings of happiness. This doesn’t have to be hitting the gym, it could be as simple as putting on your favorite music and dancing in the living room.


3. Get Back in Touch with Nature

Combine your aerobic exercise with nature and you’ll be onto something good. Spending time outdoors has been proven to aid our mood. A good walk or run in a local park or woods or some gardening can spark some wonderful benefits.


4. Practice Mindfulness

Incorporating mindfulness can help you create better awareness for your everyday feelings, and let go of negative experiences, allowing for more room to appreciate positive experiences and emotions.


5. Spend Time with Loved Ones

Socializing with friends and loved ones have many health benefits, including feelings of well-being and happiness. Making time for coffee with friends, or quality time with family members is a great way to realize the benefits of happiness.


A Take Home Message

Research shows that feeling happier is beneficial for our health, but not if forcing yourself to be happy or seek out happiness ends up causing you more stress. Take your time and enjoy the process of identifying areas of life where you could potentially let some more happiness in.

Benefits of HIIT Training

 



Here are eight reasons why you can spend less time exercising with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and still get great results:


1. Anaerobic interval training uses the body’s reserves of energy and, after a workout, metabolism stays elevated and continues to burn calories for hours after the workout. This is due to something called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect. With HIIT, you not only burn a lot of calories during the workout, but because of the high intensity you will continue to burn calories as your body replaces energy and repairs muscle proteins damaged during exercise.


2. Not only does your body metabolize fat for fuel during the workout, during the post-exercise recovery period after HIIT exercise the body will tap into fat stores for the energy required to restore it to its normal resting state.


3. Your body burns calories at a rate of 5 calories per liter of oxygen consumed. In general, using exercise to increase the oxygen demands on your body will increase total caloric expenditure both during and after the workout. Short intervals of extremely high-intensity exercise involving a lot of muscle mass require a tremendous amount of oxygen, during both the work interval and the recovery periods.


4. HIIT produces a significant amount of metabolic waste, including hydrogen ions and lactic acid. The major reason for an active recovery interval is to remove these waste products to allow the involved muscles to perform the next high-intensity bout. As a result, HIIT workouts train your body to tolerate and quickly recover from periods of high-intensity exercise.


5. HIIT can promote a number of physiological benefits, such as increased mitochondrial density, improved stroke volume, improved oxidative capacity of muscle and enhanced aerobic efficiency, which was previously thought to occur only as a result of long, slow distance (LSD) training protocols.


6. HIIT places a significant amount of metabolic stress on muscle tissue. As part of the repair process, the body will produce elevated levels of human growth hormone, testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-1 to repair damaged muscle proteins, which lead to increases in muscle volume and definition.


7. Many health clubs and workout studios are applying this science to develop group fitness programs that feature HIIT workouts in formats that are 30 minutes or less. These formats enable you to do more work and receive numerous health benefits in less time.


8. Exercise intensity can be measured with a scale of perceived exertion, where 1 is low intensity and 10 is the highest intensity you can tolerate. For the greatest benefits, HIIT should be performed at an eight or higher for periods lasting 30 seconds or less (or to the point of breathlessness). Recovery intervals should be as long or slightly longer than the work interval (or until breathing is quick, but under control). An effective workout should have a five- to seven-minute warm-up period to elevate heart rate, a minimum of five high-intensity work intervals and a four- to six-minute cool-down period to help start the recovery process.


One of the most common misperceptions about exercise that it is necessary to spend hours busting your butt and sweating buckets to obtain benefits like weight loss, muscle growth and improved overall health and well-being. Instead of working longer, work smarter by using short intervals of extremely high-intensity exercise. HIIT is extremely effective, but it can place a tremendous amount of stress on the body. Therefore, it should only be performed two to three times a week with at least 48 hours between exercise sessions to allow a full replenishment of energy stores and to repair of involved muscle tissue. It is still possible to exercise the day after a HIIT session, but it should be a low- to moderate-intensity activity and use different muscle groups or movement patterns than those used in the high-intensity workout.

Benefits of Spending Time Alone



Benefits of Seeking Solitude


1. Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind. Constantly being "on" doesn't give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself. Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. It's an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.


2. Solitude helps to improve concentration and increase productivity. When you remove as many distractions and interruptions as you can from your day, you are better able to concentrate, which will help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time.


3. Solitude gives you an opportunity to discover yourself and find your own voice. When you're part of a group, you're more likely to go along with what the group is doing or thinking, which aren't always the actions you would take or the decisions you would make if you were on your own.


4. Solitude provides time for you to think deeply. Day-to-day responsibilities and commitments can make your to-do list seem as if it has no end. This constant motion prevents you from engaging in deep thought, which inhibits creativity and lessens productivity.


5. Solitude helps you work through problems more effectively. It's hard to think of effective solutions to problems when you're distracted by incoming information, regardless of whether the source is electronic or human. 


6. Solitude can enhance the quality of your relationships with others. By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you're more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around. You also may come to appreciate your relationships more after you've spent some time alone.


Despite knowing these benefits, it can be a challenge to find time alone in a world that seems to never sleep. Here are a few ideas to help you find more time to spend with yourself.


Disconnect. Set aside some time each day to unplug from all the ways you connect with others. Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your Internet. Turn off your TV. If you use your computer to create, such as by writing, then write without all the bells, dings, and beeps that come along with being connected to the Internet. You'll be amazed at how much more you can get done when you're not distracted.


Get up or Get in Early. Wake up a half hour or an hour earlier than everyone else in your house, and use that time to create, produce, problem solve, meditate, or whatever makes you happy. This strategy also works if you can get to work before everyone else arrives, and before the phones begin to ring.


Close Your Door. It's simple, but can be very effective. A client who owns a community-based magazine puts a sign on her door when she wants alone time. The sign reads "I'm editing or writing. If the police are here, the office is on fire, or George Clooney calls or stops by, you can interrupt me. If not, please hold all questions until my door opens." She said that she decided to put up the sign after she realized that her presence in the office was a stimulus for questions. "Whenever I was in the office," she said, "it seemed like there was one question after the next. I was constantly getting interrupted, and it was hard to get my work done. Then I noticed that on the days I was working on a story outside the office, my phone hardly ever rang, even if I was out the whole day. Apparently, whatever questions came up somehow got handled without me. It made me realize that just by being in the office, I was a magnet for questions. So I put up the sign, and it works like a charm."


Use Your Lunchtime. Don't spend your lunchtime working at your desk. Don't spend it running errands. And if you regularly go out to lunch, don't think that it always has to be with others. Once a week, or even just a couple of times a month, commit to spending lunch with yourself. Walk. Sit in the sun outside. Go to a park and eat. Enjoy the time you have alone.


Schedule solitude. Literally. Mark off time in your day planner or calendar for spending alone with yourself. If you can make time for all the little extras you fit into your day, like stopping at Starbucks or picking up something at the mall, you can schedule time in your calendar for solitude. It doesn't have to be long. Any time that you can spend alone with yourself to reboot, meditate, focus, relax, create, produce, and/or think deeply is better than no time.

 

What is Brown Fat? Can It Help With Weight Loss?

 



If you are among the millions of Americans trying to become healthier and shed unwanted pounds, you probably aren’t wondering if one type of body fat is better than another. But many studies show that brown fat in your body might be a secret weapon for weight loss.


Brown fat, also called brown adipose tissue, is a special kind of body fat that helps you produce heat when you get cold. It’s why you normally don’t freeze to death when playing in the snow or walking in an icy wind.


What makes brown fat special is that it contains many more mitochondria than white fat. These mitochondria are the "engines" in brown fat that burn calories to produce heat. Numerous studies have shown that cold exposure increases the amount of brown fat that is present in the body, thereby potentially increasing the number of calories a body burns.


Can brown fat help you lose weight?

Brown fat has generated much interest among researchers because it appears to use regular body fat as fuel. This is especially true if a person is doing physical activity, because studies show exercise stimulates the hormones that activate brown fat to work its magic.


While research is ongoing, and we still need more understanding of how brown fat is activated to burn calories, scientists are hopeful. In the future it's possible that harnessing the calorie-burning power of brown fat, as well as developing medications that trigger the body’s creation of more brown fat, will be promising options for new, innovative weight-loss therapies.


But fat is fat, right?

Not exactly. Most of us have both white fat and brown fat in our bodies. Very simply, white fat stores energy and calories while brown fat burns energy and calories.

Because brown fat burns calories to generate heat, it is often referred to as the “good” fat. Infants have a lot of brown fat, but the levels of brown fat decrease as we become adults. Adults who have comparatively more brown fat tend to be younger and slender and have normal blood sugar levels.


But white fat isn’t all bad. As mentioned, it stores calories we need, helps protect our internal organs by providing a cushion, and (like brown fat) it secretes beneficial hormones (more on that below). But an excess of white fat, especially in the belly area, can cause health problems that lead to an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and other diseases.


Hormones and fat

Far from simply storing calories and releasing energy, both white fat and brown fat play an important part in endocrine function by producing certain hormones that help regulate glucose, cholesterol and metabolism.


There have been many studies in the recent past (mostly on mice) and more are underway (on people, too) that examine several types of hormones that are secreted by, or work closely with, fat cells — especially brown fat. Many of these hormones play key roles in maintaining health or causing disease. Here is just a sampling of some of the research.


In a study of morbidly obese mice from the mid-1990’s, researchers discovered the mice didn’t have a hormone called leptin, which is secreted by fat cells. Without leptin to regulate their appetite, the animals were always famished and grew to nearly twice as large as control mice.

A 2012 study found that hormones produced by the heart, called cardiac natriuretic peptides, caused regular energy-storing white fat cells to turn into energy-burning brown fat in mice. When the mice were put into a cold environment, they created more of the heart hormone, which turned on the brown fat, causing it to burn more calories.

A study from 2016 showed that exercise may aid in weight control and fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise. Research think irisin may help turn ordinary white fat tissue into much more metabolically active brown fat; irisin essentially helps white fat mimic brown fat’s positive effects.

In 2018, researchers from Germany and Finland found that brown fat interacts with a gut hormone called secretin that tells the brain the body is full during a meal, which helps control food intake. Basically, when brown fat and secretin work together, the brain stops feeling hungry.


If ongoing studies show the same results in humans, fat tissue and hormones may hold a very important key to effective weight loss.


Do we know yet how to activate brown fat in humans?

While numerous studies have shown cold exposure increases the amount of brown fat that is present in the body, which translates into the body burning more calories, it’s still unclear how much cold a person has to be exposed to in order to increase his or her body’s levels of beneficial brown fat.


It might be another decade before there is concrete research showing how to increase and activate our brown fat stores with cold, but in the interim, researchers already know one thing: exercise is most likely key. If you want to start activating your own brown calorie-burning machine, start by sticking to an exercise routine.

Is Your Water Safe?


Surprisingly high levels of PFAS chemicals have been found in several popular brands of bottled water in the United States, according to a Consumer Reports Investigation. Though none of the brands tested exceeded the levels for tap water suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many experts and state regulators claim that limit is not acceptable.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalky substances,  are compound chemicals often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down and there is no known way to destroy them. They are found in many consumer products, including food packaging, nonstick materials (like Teflon), paints, and cleaning products.  

Of the nearly 50 brands of bottled water tested for four heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury) and 30 PFAS chemicals, it was the sparkling water where higher levels of PFAS were detected. All had traces of heavy metals well below the legal limit, but only two of the 35 non-carbonated waters had PFAS that exceeded 1 part per trillion (ppt) compared to seven of the 12 carbonated waters testing over 1 ppt.

Topo Chico topped this leaderboard with a PFAS level of 9.76, followed by Polar at 6.41, and Bubly at 2.24 with Canada Dry, Perrier, La Croix, and Polar Spring all coming in just over 1ppt. Only one brand came in at concerning levels of arsenic: Whole Foods’ Starkey Spring Water at 9.53 ppb.

There are currently no federal limits for PFAS in drinking water, but some states require routine testing and have set their own limits. The EPA’s current guidelines state that PFAS levels should be below 70 ppt, but scientists and environmental groups say this is too high and 1 ppt is a more safe level for humans. While the EPA says it is working on proposals for regulating bottled water, according to Ryan Felton, an investigative journalist who worked on the CR report, it could take years before this becomes law.

Currently, it is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is responsible for regulating bottled water, and though it is investigating the exposure of people to PFAS through food and drink, it does not currently offer any guidelines or advice for a limit in bottled water.

PFAS have been linked to adverse health effects in humans, from increased cholesterol and different cancers such as kidney, testicular, pancreatic, liver and bladder to name a few.  It also affects infant birth weights and the immune system, according to the EPA. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences includes “altered metabolism, fertility, reduced fetal growth, and reduced ability of the immune system to fight infections.”

The Customer Reports investigative team heard back from all the companies with bottled water that tested above 1 ppt – except Bubly. Although most made the point their products did in fact fall well under current requirements, and La Croix and Polar challenged how CR arrived at their findings and multiple other companies including Coca-Cola (Topo Chico) and Nestle (Polar Spring and Perrier) said they supported efforts for federal limits.  

The CR report states that the level of PFAS found in some sparkling water shows the need for science-based federal limits in both tap and bottled water. 

“The fact that so many brands had total PFAS below 1 ppt shows it is feasible to get to more protective levels,” Brian Ronholm, CR’s director of food policy, said.  

Foods Rich in Magnesium

 




1. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is a great source of magnesium, offering about 226 mg of magnesium per 100 grams or one small chocolate bar. Dark chocolate also provides iron, antioxidants, manganese, copper, and prebiotic fiber, nutrients good for the gut and heart. Of course, eat dark chocolate only in moderation as it has a lot of sugar. Be sure to choose varieties with at least 70% cocoa -- otherwise, it's just candy.


2. Avocados

A medium-sized avocado delivers approximately 58 mg or 15% of the daily amount of magnesium. This creamy fruit is also a rich source of vitamin K, B vitamins, and potassium, along with tons of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and fiber. Eating avocados can improve cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and increase feelings of fullness, which can help with weight loss.


3. Nuts

Cashews, Brazil nuts, and almonds are rich in magnesium. Cashews alone have 82 mg in a one-ounce serving or 20% of the recommended daily intake. These nuts are also high in selenium, fiber, and monounsaturated fats, which regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Nuts make a great healthy snack that can improve heart health thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, be careful not to eat too many nuts, as they are quite high in fat.


4. Legumes

Legumes such as lentils, black beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans are also high in magnesium. One cup of black beans has a whopping 120 mg of magnesium or 30% of the RDI. They are an excellent source of potassium and iron, as well as an essential protein source for plant-based diets. Legumes are also rich in fiber. All these benefits combined make them a great option for improving blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and reducing the risk of heart disease.


5. Tofu

Tofu is high in protein and magnesium. Also known as bean curd, tofu comes from soybean milk that is pressed into small white curds. A 3.5-ounce serving has 13% of the recommended daily intake or 53 mg of magnesium. Tofu is also packed with calcium, iron, selenium, and manganese. Soy products like tofu may be contraindicated in certain hormone-related illnesses. Also, soy contains a few anti-nutrients that can decrease the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc.


6. Seeds

Take your pick: pumpkin, flax, and chia seeds are all healthy. Pumpkin seeds contain an incredible 150 mg of magnesium in a one-ounce serving (about 40-50% RDI). One tablespoon of flax or chia seeds contain approximately 40 mg of magnesium or 15% RDI and, like other foods on this list, they also have plenty of iron, antioxidants, fiber, and monounsaturated fats. Seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, too.


7. Whole Grains

Wheat, oats, and barley are whole grains. Buckwheat and quinoa are pseudocereals, which are also whole grains. These complex carbohydrates, some of which are gluten-free, are high in protein and antioxidants, and a one-ounce serving of buckwheat contains 65 mg of magnesium, while one cup of oatmeal contains 226mg (which is about 70% RDI) of magnesium. Whole grains can also lower the chance of heart disease.


8. Fatty Fish

Fish that are high in magnesium include salmon, mackerel, and halibut. Half a salmon fillet (about 180 grams) has 13% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium. That fillet also contains 39 grams of protein, not to mention B vitamins, selenium, and potassium. Omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, are also in salmon.


9. Bananas

This yellow fruit is rich in numerous vitamins and nutrients. Bananas are known for their high potassium content, but they also boast around 37 mg of magnesium each. Add manganese, fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, and it's no wonder this fruit is so popular. Ripe bananas contain more carbohydrates and sugar, whereas unripe ones are considered a resistant starch. This means that the starch remains intact until it gets to the large intestine where it's broken down by the bacteria in the gut. This makes it a great prebiotic to help improve gut health.


10. Leafy Greens

It's not secret leafy greens have countless health benefits. They are a rich source of iron, manganese, vitamin A, C, and K, and some also contain generous servings of magnesium. For instance, there is almost 40% of the RDI of magnesium in one cup of cooked spinach. Kale is another excellent choice, along with collards, turnips, and mustard greens. Plant compounds found in leafy greens are beneficial to the body's cells and help protect against cancer and other diseases.


11. Tamarind

One ounce of raw tamarind provides 26 mg of magnesium or 6% of the daily value. It also contains copious amounts of iron and potassium, which are essential for proper energy metabolism and fluid balance. Tamarind is a popular ingredient in Asian, Indian, and Mexican cuisine. One of the most popular ways to enjoy this fruit is as a tangy but sweet tamarind chutney.


12. Okra

Cooked okra contains 57 mg or 14% DV of magnesium per cup. Popular in Southern cuisine, especially in gumbos, this pod vegetable packs loads of antioxidants, calcium, thiamin, folic acid, zinc, and dietary fiber. These nutrients help fight diabetes, heart disease, digestive conditions, and some cancers. Okra's protein efficiency ratio exceeds that of soybeans, and its mucilage — the film it develops when cooked — can promote easier elimination of cholesterol and toxins from the liver and waste from the gastrointestinal tract.


13. Oysters

Just a three-ounce serving of cooked oysters carries 37 mg of magnesium or 9% DV. The shellfish boasts an illustrious nutritional profile that includes cardioprotective omega-3 fatty acids and highly bioavailable protein. Three ounces also provides over 188% DV of zinc, 114% DV of copper, and small quantities of vitamin D. These nutrients are crucial for protein and DNA synthesis, maintaining healthy bones and tissues, cognitive health, and combating inflammation-driving diseases.


14. Baked Potatoes with the Skin

A medium baked potato with the skin provides up to 48 mg or 12% DV of magnesium. Despite often being written off as empty starches, potatoes are veritable nutritional powerhouses high in fiber, easily digestible carbohydrates, and various vitamins and minerals. However, the carbohydrates in potatoes are rapidly absorbed and may cause a sharp rise in blood sugar in people with diabetes. Potatoes are also a rich source of vitamins B and C, iron, copper, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese. Most of the nutrients lie just under the skin, so it is best to eat the skin as well as the flesh of this tuber.


15. Raisins

A tiny 1.5-ounce serving of raisins provides about 14 mg or 3.5% DV of magnesium. The little dried grapes concentrate a host of bioavailable nutrients including vitamin B6, potassium, iron, and fiber. While satisfying a sweet tooth, raisins carry antioxidants and antimicrobial polyphenols that can suppress the growth of oral bacteria that cause dental caries and gum disease. These tiny morsels may also lower blood pressure with daily consumption, due to their potassium content. Don't forget each raisin has the sugar of a whole grape, though, so stick to moderate consumption.