Fitness & Nutrition Blog

It's Important To Workout With Consistency


Creating a Workout Plan to Achieve Consistency

Committing to a fitness regimen means mapping out a plan for an activity or a series of activities that can be done with consistency. For some people, it is common to become energized about working out and jump right in. In these cases, unless there is a long-term plan in place or some thought has gone into how the fitness activity will be sustained, there is often a drop off in enthusiasm, resulting in inconsistency.

A well thought out fitness plan will go a long way in helping you to reach your goals. To achieve consistency, you will want to think about the types of exercise that you can do on a regular basis. You will want to exercise at least three to four times per week for the best results. Getting a gym membership, purchasing home exercise equipment, investing in exercise DVDs or buying a bicycle may be some of the things you want or need to work out with consistency.

Scheduling Your Workout

Once you have decided on the type of exercise you want to engage in, creating consistency means being realistic about how much time you need to devote to your regular exercise regimen.  Create a workout schedule that involves at least a few minutes a day for a warm up, 20 minutes for a cardio activity and additional time for strength training and a cool down.  You might write down your schedule to solidify your commitment to your exercise plan.  

The Impact of Consistency on Physical Health

Working out with consistency is important for your physical health. Running for five miles on one day only to avoid exercising for the next two weeks will only leave you feeling sore. It is too straining for the body to experience sporadic spurts of strenuous exercise. For optimal results, you will want to build up to higher and higher levels of cardiovascular strength, flexibility and strength training. A gradual increase in intensity will allow your muscles, tendons and ligaments a chance to adjust to the strains and challenges of a fitness regimen.

Consistent Workouts and Mental Health

A consistent workout regimen reduces stress and increases your mental well being. When you work out regularly, your body releases endorphins that enhance your mood. You have probably experienced these positive feelings after finishing a cardiovascular workout. You might also find that when you go for days or weeks of not exercising, your energy level decreases and your mood is not as heightened.

Sticking to a regular exercise regimen will keep you feeling revived both physically and mentally. When you exercise with consistency, your muscles will develop gradually and your mind will experience reduced levels of stress and greater relaxation.

Breathing Techniques To Sooth The Soul


Breath is vital. When we are stressed, happy, or exercising, breath causes a feedback loop for that physical state. However, breathing can be either voluntary or involuntary—which means that we can affect our physical state. Being conscious and breathing in a particular way can lead to deep relaxation, decreased pain, and improved mental state. 

Abdominal breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, changes the oxygenation levels in your body as well as strengthening the diaphragm. Many people feel calmer and more centered afterwards, and it may help to reduce negative emotions. Since it can be practiced anytime, anywhere, for free, and has been associated with a host of positive physical effects, why not try it today? 

Get Started 

n Sit or lie down comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor. Put one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your abdomen, just under your ribcage. Feel yourself breathing and become aware of how deeply or shallowly you are breathing 

n Take a deep breath, feeling your abdomen rise as you breathe.Your upper hand should move very little, while your abdomen lifts your other hand. Imagine a feeling of warmth as the breath moves from your mouth, down your throat, into your lungs, and your diaphragm expands. 

n Hold the breath for a count of four. 

n Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of four. 

n Inhale slowly to a count of four, feeling the warmth of your breath and your abdomen rising.Try to keep your chest relatively still. Hold the breath for four, then exhale slowly, and repeat. 


n Consider how your body feels different from before practicing conscious breathing. Are your shoulders more relaxed? Do your thoughts feel any different? 


n Five minutes is a good amount of time to affect your physiology, decrease anxiety, and improve mental state. However, even one or two abdominal breaths can be helpful! Although best learned sitting or lying down, any time you can consciously breathe is an opportunity, including standing in line at the grocery store. 

As you become proficient in abdominal breathing, you may want to tense your abdomen slightly at the end of the exhale, to push out the remaining air. If lying down, you can also try putting a book on your abdomen and lifting it with your breath. 

Over time, you may not need to involve your hands. Some people use visualizations, for instance, a half circle that represents in the inhale and hold, and a semicircle finishing the loop for the exhale and hold. Other people repeat a word as a mantra, like peace or joy, letting that word center their thoughts. 

Practice whenever you can. Because of how abdominal breathing affects your mental state, it may be especially useful when you are stressed out, tired, frustrated, or confused. Abdominal breathing can help you to relax, reset, and refocus. 

The Amazing Health Benefits of House Plants

Allergy Relief

Researchers found that rooms with plants have less dust and mold than rooms without any foliage. Leaves and other parts of the plants act as natural filters to catch allergens and other airborne particles. Common low-light houseplants like Chinese evergreen or the peace lily can do the job. Violets and other plants with textured leaves might be even better trappers. Avoid plants with pollen or spores.

Happy Blooms

Plants not only can brighten up your surroundings, but they can lift your mood.  Employees who work in offices with plants tend to feel better about their jobs, worry less, and take fewer sick days. Flowers in particular are a good pick-me-up. So liven up your room with blooms, like a lipstick plant, or a fresh bouquet and see if your outlook improves.

Spider Plants for Moisture

Furnaces and air conditioners can sap humidity indoors, especially in the winter. That can raise your chances for catching a cold or the flu, or make your skin itch. Houseplants add moisture to the air. One study found a collection of spider plants boosted the relative humidity in a bedroom from 20% to a more comfortable 30%. 

Air Purifiers

Carpets, paint, cleaners, printer toners and inks, and many other indoor objects give off pollutants called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They can build up in the air and irritate your eyes and skin, worsen your asthma, or make it hard for you to breathe. Houseplants can soak up VOCs. Some good air-scrubbers are English ivy, asparagus fern, and dragon tree. 

Herbs for Better Digestion

Mint may help tamp down bloating, gas, and other problems after you eat. Common varieties you can grow in containers include peppermint and spearmint (essential in mint juleps). Basil, another herb for cooking, also can help calm your stomach. Try steeping the leaves in hot water.

Relaxing Lavender

This fragrant purple plant has been an important herbal medicine for centuries. You can inhale lavender oil or massage it on your scalp for aromatherapy. You can also boil the leaves for tea. Some studies suggest it may help calm you and help lower any anxiety. But more proof is needed.

Aloe for First Aid

Gel from this plant is a popular home remedy. It can treat sunburns and other minor burns. It can soothe your psoriasis and other skin conditions. Juice from the aloe plant can even help you poop if you’re constipated.

Restful Sleep

Plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. It’s how they turn sunlight into food, a process called photosynthesis. Some, like gerbera daisies, keep giving off oxygen even after the sun goes down. Put a few cheerful pots in your bedroom and the extra oxygen may help you sleep more soundly.

Stress Relief

Feeling the weight of daily pressures? Try and add a heart-leaf philodendron or a snake plant to your décor. It may help you relax. Several studies have measured people’s levels of blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormone cortisol while they handled a tough task or were under mental stress. Being around plants has a calming effect on people.

Sharper Focus

Plants may help raise your test scores, make it easier to concentrate on your tasks, and strengthen your memory. Students in classrooms with three potted plants performed better on math, spelling, reading, and science tests than kids in classrooms without any greens. Bring home a golden pothos or a bamboo palm and you just might clear that to-do list.

Faster Healing

Taking a bouquet of flowers or potted foliage to a loved one in the hospital can be more than just a thoughtful gesture. It may actually help them recover more quickly. Researchers found that people who had surgery got better faster if they had plants in their room or even a view of the nature from their window. They also tolerated pain better and needed fewer medications when surrounded by greenery. Try an orchid or a peace lily.

Better Mental and Emotional Health

Some therapists use gardening to help treat depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric conditions. Learning to nurture a living plant may help lower anxiety, improve attention, and lessen the severity of depression. Plants also might help people recovering from trauma, as well as those with dementia or who live in long-term care facilities


Fun Fall

The crisp, cool air and colorful, changing leaves mean autumn is officially here. But before you resort to months confined in a stuffy gym to stay active until spring, consider taking your workout outdoors. Chillier temps help keep you alert and make it harder for your body to become overheated. And, if you’re lucky enough to live near a park or wooded area, the scenery is more entertaining than TV or people-watching at the gym.

Bundle up and break free from the sound of clanging weights and pounding feet on treadmills with these fun, calorie-burning and muscle-toning outdoor activities:


Fall is a great tie to go hiking, with cool weather, no bugs and, of course, magnificent views.  Plus, hiking burns mega-calories as you increase your elevation and really work those legs.  Hiking works multiple areas of fitness, it focuses on strengthening your muscles by climbing but also increases your cardio endurance as well.  Hiking up an incline gets your heart rate up, helping you burn calories and get fit. You’ll also be working multiple muscle groups.  As you hike up and down even small inclines involve the glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, and feet.  Best of all hiking gets you outside, lets you get back to nature, clear your head and helps you remember there is a world outside.  

Touch football or soccer 

Got kids? If not, got friends? Gather a group and head outside for a game of flag football or soccer. Sports activities are a great way to blow off steam, have fun and work out without feeling like you’re exercising. An hour-long football game will get your heart pumping, work several different muscle groups and burn off about 400 calories. When you’re finished, celebrate the win by sipping a steaming mug of hot cocoa.

Mountain biking
Autumn is the perfect time for bike riding. Surrounded by nature’s beautiful colors and feeling the chilly breeze against your skin, you won’t even think about how much time you’ve clocked or how many calories you’re burning. But burn, you will. An hour-long ride will knock off 500 calories or more.

Horseback riding
So it’s not your typical workout. But heading out to the country and hopping on a horse feels so fall, and it’s a surprisingly good way to work your leg muscles. You’ll also burn 350 calories an hour. Bring the kids or a friend and make it a memorable day.

Stadium training Head over to a local high school or sports stadium for a mini personal bootcamp or training session. Jog or walk around the track, do lunges across the field, climb the stadium stairs and incorporate pushups and sit ups.

Run a trail
Instead of taking a hike or running on pavement, challenge yourself by blending the two. Combining these activities works both the muscles and cardio because of the uneven and continuously changing terrain. It’s a great, challenging workout, especially if you’re already a runner. This type of running burns about 10 percent more calories than regular running and also helps develop agility, core and balance.

Run or walk for a cause 

Are you passionate about a particular cause? Find a charity run and sign up! Whether you run or walk doesn’t matter. Just being there and participating is what counts, and you won’t even realize the calories you’re burning along the way.

Trainer tips:

• Be sure to stay hydrated before, during and after an outdoor workout. When the weather isn’t as warm you may not feel as thirsty and forget to hydrate. Always keep water handy in a reusable, BPA-free bottle. 

• Just because it’s cool outside doesn’t mean the sun’s rays aren’t strong. Apply sunscreen before heading outdoors.


Mental Health Benefits of Exercise


A Brief Review On The Importance Of Exercise

According to the National Institutes of Health, aerobic exercise and other forms of movement are linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety. Getting your body moving and engaging in exercise comes with a series of other health benefits.

While your mental health certainly reaps advantages, so does your emotional health and physical health. As you can imagine, different types of health are inherently tethered to one another. This means that your emotional and physical health can impact your mental health and vice versa. For these reasons, getting regular exercise can only help you.

If you are not used to exercising or are unsure of where to begin, don’t worry. The benefits of exercise are not mutually exclusive to an intense and rigorous movement. Light stretching, jogging in a park, or running for ten minutes on a treadmill a few times per week can work wonders. Exercise can work miracles at all levels; as you progress, you may find yourself feeling ready to take on more intense levels of physical activity, but if not, that’s OK too.

Why Does Mental Health Matter?

Understanding the leading mental health benefits of exercise is all well and good. However, for this information to stick, it’s equally critical to know why mental health is so important. Having a complete understanding of how much mental health impacts your life can be a motivational factor as you seek to reap applicable benefits from exercise.

Psychology Today explains that the presence of a healthy mind allows human beings to understand life experiences, stay in touch with their emotions, and more. High quality of mental health allows you to process things clearly and move through the world productively. Being a mentally healthy individual impact the way you feel about yourself, how you interact with others, and so much more.

By exercising regularly, you can actively take steps to improve your mental health. Believe it or not, every little bit counts, even if you are not consciously aware of the benefits that each session of exercise has on your mental health.

The Leading Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise

Science, psychology, and other studies have documented the positive impacts that aerobic exercise and other forms of physical movement have on mental health. Since the importance of exercise and mental health have been individually covered, it’s not imperative to note the top six mental health benefits of exercise.

No matter who you are, what your lifestyle is like, or what challenges you may be facing, there is always room for regular exercise to help your mental wellbeing. With that in mind, you deserve to know about the following six mental health benefits.

Stress Reduction

Cutting back on stress is one of the most important mental health benefits that you can get from aerobic exercise and other forms of physical activity. The American Psychology Association explains that 44% of adults engage in walking or other forms of exercise to cope with stress.

The reduction of stress can only positively improve the quality of your life and mental health. This is why regular exercise can improve your interpersonal relationships, manner of processing information, and your ability to deal with challenges. Each of these factors impacts your ability to move through the world and productively carry yourself. Exercise helps in many ways, but the reduction of stress most certainly takes the cake.

Clearer Thoughts And Memories

Another of several mental health benefits of getting in exercise includes clearer thoughts and memories. When you get your body moving, endorphins are released. Now, while these endorphins make you feel better physically, they also improve concentration skills and help foster new brain cell growth. Having clearer thoughts and memories is both great for your mental health, but also helpful for combating certain declines linked to aging.

Better Sleep At Night

Getting a high-quality, proper night’s rest is another one of the benefits of exercise. Because regular exercise increases the physical temperature of your body, your brain can have an easier time winding down when you want to sleep at night.

Additionally, another one of the sleep-related health benefits of exercise includes circadian rhythm regulation. Each person’s circadian rhythm determines when they feel sleepy and awake. In the long run, getting a consistently great night’s rest can benefit not only your mental health but also your emotional and physical health.

Allows For Connections With Other People

Interpersonal relationships — or lack thereof — play a vital role in the mental health of any individual. Thankfully, exercise paves the way for you to connect with other human beings, if this is something you’re interested in.

Granted, some people do choose to exercise alone, but there are several ways to get your body moving with others. Taking workout classes regularly or signing up for a gym membership can help you connect with other human beings. In the long run, these positive relationships can pave the way to better social skills or connections that you previously didn’t have. As you can imagine, all of this can impact the quality of your mental health and how you see the world.

Helps You Learn More About Yourself

Being in touch with who you are playing a vital role in your mental health. If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, then you will certainly want to partake in regular exercise.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, not all forms of exercise are the same. Some people prefer light exercise or aerobic exercise. Others find that getting in more intensive exercise such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more beneficial for them. No type of exercise is inherently “better” than the other. The type of regular exercise that you choose to engage in is up to you; however, it can help you learn more about yourself and your interests.

In the long run, this information can be good for gaining a stronger sense of self-awareness, something which greatly impacts mental health.

Reduces Your Likelihood Of Physical Health Issues

As previously stated, all forms of your health — whether physical, emotional, or mental — are interconnected with one another. This is why a reduced likelihood of suffering from physical health issues is listed as a top mental health benefit of exercise.

Physical health issues can play a very real role in the quality of someone’s mental health. People with concerns about their ability to function, provide for themselves and/or their loved ones, etc. can suffer from mental health issues like depression or anxiety. However, getting your body moving regularly can reduce the likelihood of dealing with subsequent mental health problems.

Sometimes, prevention can be one of the greatest benefits of all. Taking care of your physical health can ultimately help you afford the luxury of bypassing certain mental health issues. Taking care of yourself always pays off, even if you are not immediately or consciously aware of its benefits.

A Final Word On Exercise And Mental Health

The benefits of exercise on mental health are undeniable; however, getting your body moving regularly does not automatically mean that you’ll never deal with any challenges in life. Left unchecked, these challenges can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Exercise certainly plays a very powerful role in the quality of mental health; however, it is not the only determining factor or end-all.

Stability Core Exercises


Developing core strength is essential for everyday health and well-being, as a strong core protects the spine, reduces back pain, enhances movement patterns, and improves balance, stability and posture.

There are many methods for developing core strength, as well as various pieces of equipment that assist in that development. However, there are plenty of exercises that require only body weight or basic equipment. The most important thing to remember when training the core is to avoid using momentum and instead perform each exercise with awareness so that the core is actually braced or engaged.

The following seven core stability exercises can be added to your current workout routine. If some of these exercises feel too challenging, try the regressed version given in italics. If the featured equipment is not available, use your own body weight. 

BOSU Bird Dog

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Set your right knee on the center of the dome and place both hands on the floor underneath the shoulders. Extend the left leg behind you to hip height; keep the foot flexed. Raise the right arm to shoulder height with your thumb facing the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides.
Regression: Perform the exercise on the floor.

Supine Toe Taps

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and place your arms by your sides. Engage the abdominals and draw the navel toward your spine. Lift the knees to 90 degrees. On a two-count, lower your right foot to touch the floor, and on a two-count, return it back to 90 degrees. Perform the same movement with your left leg and continue to alternate tapping the right and then the left foot onto the floor. Perform 10 reps on each leg.
Regression: Keep your feet on the floor, and slide your heel on the mat, alternating legs.

Marching Hip Bridge

Focus: Lumbo-pelvic stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and place your hands by your sides. Lift the hips and hold a hip bridge. Lift the right foot off the floor to 90 degrees at the hip and knee. Return the foot onto the floor and then lift the left foot to 90 degrees; return to center. Keep the hips lifted and maintain a neutral pelvis as you alternate leg lifts for 20 repetitions.
Regression: Hold a static hip bridge, keeping both feet on the floor for 30 or more seconds.

Stability Ball Deadbugs

Focus: Core stability
How to Perform: Lie on your back and lift your knees to 90 degrees. Place a stability ball between your lower legs (near the knees) and press your hands and legs into the stability ball. Engage the core and draw the navel toward the spine. Extend the arms and legs—the straighter the limbs, the more challenging the pose. Make sure the knees stay at 90-degrees when returning back to center (the calves touching the hamstrings makes the exercise easier). Complete 10 reps on each side.
Regression: Perform the exercise without a stability ball, and keep your knees at 90 degrees as you lower. It’s similar to toe taps, but with the addition of the arms.

Forearm Plank With Toe Taps

Focus: Core stability and hip strength
How to Perform: Position the body into a forearm plank with the feet touching. Begin alternating lateral toe taps, where the right foot pushes away from the body, touches the floor and then returns to center. Repeat with the left leg. Complete a set of 10 reps on each leg. Use a BOSU to make the exercise more challenging.
Regression: Perform a static forearm plank with feet hip-distance apart.

Side Plank With Torso Rotation

Focus: Core strength and shoulder stability
How to Perform: Position the body into a forearm side plank. Both legs should be extended. Lift the top arm over the chest and then rotate with your rib cage to draw the hand underneath the ribs. Repeat this motion for 10 to 12 repetitions and then perform on the other side.
Regression: Perform the exercise in modified side plank with your bottom shin on the floor.

Single-Legged Deadlift

Focus: Posterior strength
How to Perform: Hold a set a dumbbells and stand tall with feet hip-distance apart. Lift the right foot off the floor; hinge the pelvis to glide over the top of the left leg. The head and the foot should counterbalance each other. The lowest hinging point should be when the body is parallel to the floor. Keep the pelvis as neutral as possible. Complete 12 repetitions on each leg.
Regression: Perform the exercise without dumbbells or complete a deadlift with both feet on the floor.

Walking Has Many Benefits


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. For a general estimate, you can also refer to this chart. 

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 19 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. Boos your energy

Going for a walk when you’re tired may be 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.  Studies show it can help reduce 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. Researchers 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.

How to get started

To get started walking, all you’ll need is a pair of sturdy walking shoes. Choose a walking route near your home. Or look for a scenic place to walk in your area, such as a trail or on the beach. You can also recruit a friend or family member to walk with you and hold you accountable. Alternatively, you can add walking into your daily routine. Here are some ideas:

If you commute, get off your bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work.

Park farther away from your office than usual and walk to and from your car.

Consider walking instead of driving when you run errands. You can complete your tasks and fit in                     exercise at the same time.

The takeaway

Walking can fulfill daily recommended exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels. Consider getting a pedometer or other fitness tracker to keep track of your daily steps.  Choose a walking route and daily step goal that’s appropriate for your age and fitness level. Warm and cool down before walking to avoid injury. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.

Heart Rate Recovery Is A Sign of Fitness


Most people are familiar with heart rate (sometimes called your pulse) — the measure of how fast your heart is beating. 

For a typical adult a normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.  Throughout the day, your heart rate is changing for all sorts of reasons.

- During exercise

- A stressful presentation 

- While taking a nap

- After taking certain medications

- After drinking a cup of coffee

What many people might not be familiar with is just how much information about health and fitness your heart rate can tell you. One incredibly useful and easy way to measure your general fitness and heart health is your Heart Rate Recovery (HHR.)

HHR is a measure of how quickly your heart rate goes down after intense exercise, usually measured at one-, two-, or three- minutes. To get a good measure of heart rate recovery, people go through something called a peak exercise test, often on a treadmill or stationary bike, where they exercise as hard and as fast as they can until they’re too tired to push any further. The heart rate is then logged at the end of the test, and after one-, two-, and three-minutes of rest.

Interested in your heart rate recovery but don’t feel like measuring it the old fashioned way by feeling your pulse at your wrist or your neck after busting your butt? Me neither….Fortunately, a lot of smartwatches and fitness trackers like the Apple Watch, Whoop, Fitbit and Garmin to name a few will automatically measure your heart rate recovery for you. If you use a heart rate monitor, popular apps like Strava can also provide measures of your heart rate recovery.

It is important to note that performing a peak exercise test to measure your heart rate recovery is not safe for everyone! If you are concerned about getting started with an exercise program, aren’t showing a heart rate recovery you are happy with, or just want some help getting healthier and stronger - Let us know! 

But how do we know what a good heart rate recovery is? Fortunately, there is a lot of solid science to give us an idea. 

A research article from the New England Journal of Medicine found that a HHR of 15-20 beats per minute after one minute of rest was considered about average for heart health and anything faster than that was considered to be good heart health.

A 2017 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association pooled together a ton of studies on heart rate recovery (this is called a meta-analysis) and found a strong enough relationship between heart rate recovery and cardiovascular health to recommend it as something that should be looked at when gauging risk of things like heart disease.

Heart rate recovery can also be a pretty good measure of fitness and performance!

 A 2017 study of elite athletes found: 

The average one-minute heart rate recovery to be: 23 beats per minute

Two-minute heart rate recovery to be: 58 beats per minute

Three-minute heart rate recovery to be: 82 beats per minute.

For those of us not considered elite athletes, like us… a 2014 study that looked at physically active men and found:

The average one-minute heart rate recovery to be: 15 beats per minute

Three-minute heart rate recovery to be: 64 beats per minute.

In general, it’s a good idea to think the faster the heart rate recovery, the better the fitness.

And just like heart rate can be affected by many things, hour to hour, day to day — so too can heart rate recovery. One measurement can be helpful, but it’s multiple measurements over time that give the best info.

How Can I Improve My Heart Rate Recovery?


In the long term, the same things you might do to improve your overall fitness level will also benefit your heart rate recovery, like regular exercise, proper nutrition and maintaining your body’s natural circadian rhythm. 

On a daily basis, optimizing the quality and quantity of your sleep, sufficiently hydrating, practicing meditation or breath work to relieve stress, and avoiding alcohol can all give a boost to your HRR.


Essential Oils For Muscles


Essential Oils for Muscles

Muscular inflammation from injury: Wintergreen, German Chamomile, Nutmeg, Palo Santo, Peppermint, Lavender, Myrrh & Clove

Muscle Spasms/ Cramps/ Charley Horse: Idaho Blue Fir, Wintergreen, Basil, Rosemary, Fennel, Copaiba & Marjoram

Muscle Weakness: Idaho Balsam Fir, Nutmeg, Lemongrass & Juniper

Muscle Soreness: Rosemary, Wintergreen, Black Pepper, Ginger, Peppermint & Lemongrass, Clove

What do These Oils do?

Basil: Antispasmodic, antiviral, antibacterial, muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory

-Great for: Migraines, throat/lung infections and insect bites

Black Pepper: Analgesic, stimulates metabolism, and antifungal

-Great for: Obesity, arthritis, digestive problems, fatigue, muscle and nerve pain

Clove: Anti-aging, antitumoral, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and bone preservation

-Great for: Diabetes, anti-aging, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis

Copaiba: Anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anticancer, antiulcer, and kidney stone prevention

-Great for: Pain relief, cancer, skin disorders, anxiety, and arthritis

Fennel: Anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, increases metabolism, anti-tumoral

-Great for: Diabetes, cancer, obesity, arthritis, UTI, fluid retention, PMS, digestive                     problems

German Chamomile: Antioxidant, relaxant, anti-inflammatory, promotes digestion, liver & gallbladder health

-Great for: Fatty liver, arteriosclerosis, insomnia, nervous tension, carpal tunnel,                     arthritis and scar tissue

Ginger: Anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anticoagulant, and aids in digestion

-Great for: digestive disorders, arthritis, muscular aches and pains

Idaho Balsam Fir: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, and anti-tumoral

-Great for: Fatigue, UTI, scoliosis/lumbago/sciatica

Juniper: Detoxifying, antiseptic, digestive cleanser/ stimulant, increases circulation throughout the kidneys, excretes toxins, and promotes nerve regeneration

-Great for: liver problems, UTI, bladder infections, and fluid retention

Lavender: Antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, relaxant, and reduces blood/fat/cholesterol

-Great for: High blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, menstrual problems, PMS, nervous                 tension, anxiety, depression, scarring and stretch marks

Lemongrass: Antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, regenerates connective tissue/ ligaments, dilates blood vessels, improves circulation, and promotes lymph flow

-Great for: Bladder infection, respiratory infection, digestive problems, torn muscles/ligaments, fluid retention and varicose veins

Marjoram: Muscle soothing properties, removes muscle and joint pain, aides in bodily discomfort, general relaxant, lowers blood pressure, anti-fungal, and promotes intestinal health

-Great for: Muscle/nerve paint, arthritis, headache, circulatory disorders, respiratory             infections, PMS, fungal infections, shingles, sores and spasms

Myrrh: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-parasitic, analgesic/anesthetic, and antiviral

-Great for: Diabetes, cancer, fungal infections, hepatitis, and stretch marks

Nutmeg: Anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antiseptic, liver protectant, prevents stomach ulcers, circulatory stimulant, adrenal stimulant, muscle relaxant, increases growth hormone, and melatonin

-Great for: Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hepatitis, ulcers, digestive disorders,             nerve pain, fatigue, neuropathy and arthritis

Palo Santo: Anticancer, antiblastic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral

-Great for: Inflammation, regrowth of knee cartilage, gout, arthritis, respiratory                         problems, and airborne contaminants when diffused

Peppermint: Anti-inflammatory, anti-tumoral, anti-parasitic, antiviral, antibacterial, antigua, gallbladder/digestive stimulant, pain relieving and curbs appetite

-Great for: Respiratory infections, obesity, viral infections, headache, nausea, digestive             problems, muscle pain and muscle soreness

Rosemary: Liver protecting, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumoral, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, antidepressant, hypertension, enhances mental clarity

-Great for: Liver conditions, infectious diseases, high blood pressure, depression and                 anxiety

Wintergreen: Anticoagulant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory

-Great for: hypertension, arthritis, muscle and nerve pain

Sleep More Soundly; Take a Shower Before Bed

Lowers Your Core Body Temperature

Here’s a fun fact: our bodies are controlled by a 24 hour master clock called a circadian rhythm.  This clock tells us when it’s time to wake up, time for bed, and even when to eat. It’s responsible for hormone levels, bodily functions, and more. At night, it sends signals to our body that it’s time for bed. One way it does this is by lowering our core temperature by about a degree.

So, how does this relate to showering? When you take a warm bath or shower, you’ll aid in the process of regulating the ideal temperature for sleep. While you may get a temporary spike when you’re in the warm water, your body will cool down as soon as you leave the water and towel off. If your shower was too hot though, you might need to give yourself about 60 to 90 minutes to cool down after.

For all you overachievers out there, you may think that a cold shower will speed along the process of cooling down, and that can be true up to a point. Cold showers have a stimulating effect, so reserve your ice baths for the morning hours. However, if you opt for a water temperature on the cooler end of the spectrum, and you’ll still get the benefits.

Relaxes the Body and Mind

Other than getting a massage or enjoying intimate time with a partner, there’s nothing more relaxing than a warm bath at night. It relaxes sore muscles, eases the pain in joints, and improves oxygen and blood flow.

Plus, there’s a psychological benefit to washing off all the stress and trouble of the day and crawling into bed with crisp sheets and a clean body.

Benefits of a Cold Shower Before Bed

Stimulates Immune System

When immersed in cold water, the body naturally tries to warm up. This process speeds up the metabolism, which activates the immune system. The result is a spike in white blood cell count. White blood cells are what our body uses to fight off bacterial and viral attacks, so having more of these will help!

Promotes Alertness

As you can imagine, dousing yourself in cold water makes you alert! Though this may seem like a counterintuitive thing to do before bed, it could be helpful if you need a last burst of energy to power through some final items on your to-do list. Then, when your head hits the pillow, you’ll be stress-free, knowing that you’ve accomplished the biggest tasks on your agenda.

Prevents Colds

Because you’ve triggered your immune system, you’re better prepared to fight off anything that comes your way. An isolated cold shower helps you battle what you’ve already got, and when done daily, you’ll be better equipped to handle future infections.

Stimulates Anti-Depression Hormones

While the thought of being cold sounds depressing, it can have the opposite effect in the shower. It activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. The result is a flood of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline to the brain, which has a natural and drug-free antidepressant effect.

Accelerates Metabolism 

Most of us have a couple of extra pounds in we’d be happy to shed. By bathing in cold water, the body adapts by creating brown fat cells for warmth. These cells burn extra energy and encourage a slimming effect.

Frees the Mind

When you’re under a stream of freezing water, you’re probably not thinking of Sally at work who sent that passive aggressive email or Susan, the professional mom-shamer. It’s more likely that you’re thinking about your chattering teeth and looking forward to wrapping yourself up in a warm towel.

You’ll also likely find that as you’re toweling off, you feel accomplished and invigorated. You just did a fantastic feat!

Tightens the Skin

The effect of cold water on the skin is twofold: 

1. It constricts blood vessels and tightens pores. The result is a noticeable decrease in puffiness and redness.

2. It boosts circulation, which provides a radiant, healthy glow.

Reduces Hair Loss

Unless you’ve got a mop on the top of your head, you’re probably all ears when it comes to reducing hair loss! Cold showers work to lock in moisture, flatten out the cuticles and prevent breakage. So, not only does it help prevent hair loss, the hair you keep will be shinier and healthier, too!

Benefits of Hot Showers

Relaxes Muscles

Keep the water temperature between 96 and 105 degrees and let the water flow over areas of your body that are stiff and sore. If you don’t have specific soreness, enjoy the stream and try some neck and shoulder rolls to loosen up all over.

Lowers Body Tension

The warmth and steam naturally lower body tension. If there’s one area, in particular, that feels tense, allow the water to hit there the longest.

Alleviates Migraines

If you have pressure building up in your head, a warm bath may be exactly what you need. Not only does it relax you and improve circulation, if you’ve taken anything for the pain, then the increase in blood flow can allow it to take effect quicker.

Reduces Swelling

Just five minutes in hot water can reduce inflammation and stimulate healing. Again, it comes down to the overall circulatory benefits of the warmth.

Reduces Anxiety

Have you ever noticed that you solve problems and come up with creative solutions while bathing? Showering and bathing are ideal for relieving anxiety and coming up with ways to fix challenges that might have seemed insurmountable.

Nasal Decongestant

The heat and steam will clear out your sinuses and make breathing a whole lot easier!

Removes Skin Toxins

If you’ve ever tried washing greasy dishes with cold water, you probably noticed that the grease didn’t budge. It’s the same with your skin. The hot water helps to cleanse away impurities that won’t go away with cold water alone.

Opens and Cleanse Pores

Hot water and steam work to open up your pores, so it’s easier to clean out all the dirt from your day. When you’re done washing your face and body, switch the temperature to cool for a brief rinse to close the pores afterward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Showers often have an invigorating effect the moment you’re finished, so make sure you take a few minutes afterward to enjoy a nighttime ritual like a cup of tea, a chapter from a good book or a skincare routine to prepare yourself for bed.

Can it benefit insomnia sufferers?

Yes, definitely!  For people suffering from insomnia, a shower or bath can benefit by allowing them to relax and prepare the mind and body for bed. Try adding lavender essential oils to your bathing routine, which are proven to put you in a relaxed state and help you fall asleep. Or, get a diffuser and use the lavender for aromatherapy. 

Ways To Recharge Your Mind, Body and Soul

Recharge yourself physically

Taking good care of your body can make it easier to recharge your mind. Being stressed can take a toll on your body, even if you don’t have a very physical job. You can help recharge your body with the following activities:

Take a warm bath

A warm bath can be relaxing. Try using Epsom salt in your bath. Epsom salt contains chemicals that are believed to remove toxins, improve muscle function, and reduce inflammation linked to stress.

Use an exfoliating scrub

Exfoliating scrubs can help recharge your body by improving blood circulation. Look for scrubs containing natural ingredients, such as oats or salt. Gently rub them onto wet skin and rinse off with warm water. Good circulation can help reduce your stress levels, boost your energy, and keep your body healthy.

Change your diet

Your energy levels are greatly impacted by your diet. Experts recommend a mix of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables, with lean proteins and healthy fat at each meal.

It’s possible to cook and eat nutritious meals, even if you have a busy schedule. If you need some help or inspiration, talk to your trainer, try looking at online sources  find a registered dietitian.


A stressed, exhausted body is more prone to injury than one that’s relaxed and healthy. You can help recharge by stretching your muscles for just five minutes every few days. Better yet, take a yoga class once or twice a week for a thorough stretch.


When you’re very exhausted, it can be tempting to just sit in front of the TV after a long day. But that usually just makes you feel more tired.

Instead of sitting down to recharge, try getting up and moving around. Walking or biking — even just for 20 minutes — can leave you feeling energized for hours.


Scents such as lavender and sage are believed to be particularly relaxing to those under stress. Some aromatherapy essential oils can be mixed with a carrier oil and massaged directly onto the body, rubbed on the wrists or diffused into the air.

Get more sleep

Sleep is the ultimate body recharger. Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night for healthy adults ages 26 to 64. Getting fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout at work.

Set up a healthy sleep schedule by going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day and following other healthy sleep habits. 

Get regular rest

In between sleep and activity, it’s important to allow your body to rest. According to experts, 60 to 90 minute naps can be a great energy booster. If you feel yourself getting too busy, schedule a nap into your day to help you recharge.

Recharge mentally

When it comes to recharging your personal battery, it’s important to pay attention to your mind. Thinking about the things that stress us out often makes it harder to recharge. Here are some things you can do to soothe and energize your mind:

Make a list of your accomplishments

It’s common to feel like you can’t keep up or are not doing enough. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down and jot down a short list of your accomplishments. This can give you motivation and energy to move forward.

Let go of past mistakes

A common source of stress comes from focusing on past mistakes. Help let go of the past by focusing on your goals for the future.

Do something fun

Having fun is an important part of staying mentally healthy. Taking a weekend trip, seeing old friends, or going out can help.

Take breaks from things and people that bring you down

If certain people or situations have you feeling down, take a break from them. This could mean putting certain relationships on hold until you have the energy to deal with them.

Spend time with close friends and family

Good people tend to radiate good energy. Recharge by spending more time with people who boost you up as opposed to those who bring you down.

Meditate or pray

Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that meditation or prayer can help people find purpose in their lives if they feel down or stressed.

Avoid multitasking

Multitasking is a quick way to get stressed out. Instead of multitasking, which also makes you more prone to mistakes, try focusing on finishing one task at a time. Making a checklist can help you stay focused and keep track of what you’ve accomplished.

Take a break from technology

Others’ lives often seem “perfect” on social media, but they rarely are. Feeling like you have to live up to a certain expectation can be draining. Put social media on pause.

Do something artsy

Art is an excellent way to help soothe an exhausted mind. Take out some art supplies and draw or paint. Many bookstores also carry coloring books with complex patterns designed specifically as a stress reducer.

Write in a journal

Keeping a journal is a great way to help reduce stress by expressing your feelings. Try to write for at least five minutes a day, at the start or end of each day. Doing so can also help you sort through any problems you might be facing.

Why people feel drained sometimes

In most cases, exhaustion is caused by a busy or demanding lifestyle. Less often, exhaustion is caused by preexisting medical conditions that require treatment.

Most likely, your exhaustion is probably linked to:

too much or too little physical activity

jetlag or something else that confuses your circadian rhythm 

insomnia or lack of sleep

medications such as antihistamines and cough medicine

poor eating habits



drug or alcohol use

If you’ve tried the methods above but still feel exhausted all the time, you may want to consider seeing a doctor. They can check for any underlying medical conditions that could be making you feel drained.


Making small adjustments to your lifestyle can translate to significant reductions in your stress levels. Recharge your personal battery by taking care of yourself physically and mentally. See a doctor if you still feel drained after taking steps to recharge.

Massage Therapy To Help With Stress

Here are just a few of the reasons massage therapy is so effective at melting away stress:

1. Stress affects more than just your mind. Research has found that stress affects every part of your body – when you carry too much tension, it seems natural that it can lead to muscle stiffness and pain. But what you might not realize is that, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s also linked to headaches, fatigue, stomach problems, and difficulty sleeping. When you enjoy a relaxing massage session at our clinic, you’ll be doing your stressed-out body a favor.

2. Massage is the perfect way to lift your mood. Think about it – during times of high stress, do you ever find yourself feeling anxious or depressed? Do you have trouble relaxing and getting the rest you need? Is it hard to focus or get things done? Maybe you feel overwhelmed, or just unusually irritable. Whatever effect stress has on your mood, a massage is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to let your daily stress simply disappear.

3. Relieving stress can make it easier to meet your other goals for the year. Did you know that a startling 90% of people don’t end up keeping their resolutions each year? Part of the reason for that is that daily stress makes it hard for people to control their behavior. The Mayo Clinic has linked stress to overeating, drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use and social withdrawal – it’s even a major reason people tend to slack on their exercise plan. Keeping your stress in check is one of the best ways to stay on track to meet your goals.

4. Have a chronic illness or injury? Massage therapy may help. Preliminary research has shown that massage therapy can even help patients manage the pain and stress of chronic health issues, including joint pain, sports injuries, soft tissue injuries, digestive disorders, and even hard-to-manage conditions like fibromyalgia. When combined with a treatment program from your regular physician, it can do wonders!

5. Massage therapy leads to a healthier heart. Research has shown that regular
massage therapy helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the strain on your heart and helping you maintain a healthier circulatory system. Whether you’re working to be healthier, or trying to stay in shape, massage is a powerful tool to help you reach your fitness goals.

Benefits and Tips for Cardio

In a nutshell, the term aerobic means "with oxygen." Aerobic exercise and activities are also called cardio, short for "cardiovascular." During aerobic activity, you repeatedly move large muscles in your arms, legs and hips. Your heart rate increases and you breathe faster and more deeply. This maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood and ultimately helps you use oxygen more efficiently.

How well you use oxygen is called your aerobic capacity. When your aerobic capacity is high, your heart, lungs and blood vessels efficiently deliver large amounts of oxygen throughout your body. As a result, you feel more energized and don't tire as quickly.
If you are a beginner to exercise, start with low to moderately intense cardio activities, so you can do them for long periods of time and gain many health benefits. Common examples include walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing and water aerobics, but don’t limit yourself: You can choose any activities you enjoy, such as canoeing, in-line skating, golfing or martial arts.

If you haven’t gotten enough aerobic exercise, you may use your entire aerobic capacity while walking up a flight of stairs. You'll realize this when you get to the top and feel out of breath. But if you're fit, you'll have no problem because your aerobic capacity is greater. That’s just one example of how you can benefit from cardio exercise.

Cardio exercise and activities can also:
- Strengthen your heart and muscles
- Burn calories
- Help control your appetite
- Boost your mood through the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals released by your brain
- Help you sleep better at night
- Reduce arthritis pain and stiffness through joint movement
- Help prevent or manage high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes

No matter what your age, aerobic exercise will help you in your daily activities and increase your stamina and endurance.

Start slowly
If you're a beginner, start slowly. You might walk five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Gradually add a few minutes to each session and then pick up the pace a bit. Soon you could be walking briskly for 30 minutes a day. Also consider hiking, cycling, jogging, rowing, elliptical training — any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate.

Take a three-pronged approach
Include three elements in your workout:

Warm-up. Before each session, warm up for five to 10 minutes to gradually rev up your cardiovascular system and increase blood flow to your muscles. Try a low-intensity version of your planned activity. For example, if you plan to take a brisk walk, warm up by walking slowly.

Conditioning. At your own pace, work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio a day to develop your aerobic capacity by increasing your heart rate, depth of breathing and muscle endurance.

Cool-down. After each session, cool down for five to 10 minutes. Stretch your calf muscles, quadriceps (upper thighs), hamstrings, lower back and chest. This after-workout stretch allows your heart rate and muscles to return to normal.

Moderate activity should cause you to breathe faster and feel like you're working. But if you experience unusual pain or alarming symptoms during exercise, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

Best Foods For Lung Health

1. Beets and beet greens
The vibrantly colored root and greens of the beetroot plant contain compounds that optimize lung function.
Beetroot and beet greens are rich in nitrates, which have been shown to benefit lung function. Nitrates help relax blood vessels, reduce blood pressure, and optimize oxygen uptake.
Beetroot supplements have been shown to improve physical performance and lung function in people with lung conditions, including COPD and pulmonary hypertension, a disease that causes high blood pressure in the lungs.
Additionally, beet greens are packed with magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and carotenoid antioxidants — all of which are essential to lung health.

2. Peppers
Peppers are amongst the richest sources of vitamin C, a water-soluble nutrient that acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body. Getting enough vitamin C is especially important for those who smoke.
In fact, due to the damaging effects of cigarette smoke on your body’s antioxidant stores, it’s recommended that people who smoke consume an extra 35 mg of vitamin C per day.
However, many studies show that smokers may benefit from higher doses of vitamin C and that smokers with high vitamin C intake have better lung function than those with lower vitamin C intake.
Consuming just one medium-sized (119-gram) sweet red pepper delivers 169% of the recommended intake for vitamin C.

3. Apples
Research has shown that regularly eating apples may help promote lung function.
For example, studies show that apple intake is associated with a slower decline in lung function in ex-smokers. Additionally, consuming five or more apples per week is associated with greater lung function and a reduced risk of developing COPD.
Apple intake has also been linked to a lower risk of asthma and lung cancer. This may be due to the high concentration of antioxidants in apples, including flavonoids and vitamin C.

4. Pumpkin
The brightly colored flesh of pumpkins contains a variety of lung-health-promoting plant compounds. They’re especially rich in carotenoids, including beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin — all of which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies show that having higher blood levels of carotenoids is associated with better lung function in both older and younger populations.
People who smoke may significantly benefit from consuming more carotenoid-rich foods like pumpkin.
Evidence suggests that smokers may have 25% lower concentrations of carotenoid antioxidants than nonsmokers, which can harm lung health.

5. Turmeric
Turmeric is often used to promote overall health due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin, the main active component in turmeric, may be especially beneficial for supporting lung function.
A study in 2,478 people found that curcumin intake was associated with improved lung function. Plus, the lung function of smokers who had the highest intake of curcumin was significantly greater than smokers who had low curcumin intake.
In fact, high curcumin intake in smokers was associated with 9.2% greater lung function, compared with smokers who did not consume curcumin.

6. Tomato and tomato products 
Tomatoes and tomato products are among the richest dietary sources of lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that has been associated with improved lung health.
Consuming tomato products has been shown to reduce airway inflammation in people with asthma and improve lung function in people with COPD.
A 2019 study in 105 people with asthma demonstrated that a diet rich in tomatoes was associated with a lower prevalence of poorly controlled asthma. Plus, tomato intake is also associated with a slower decline in lung function in ex-smokers.

7. Blueberries 
Blueberries are loaded with nutrients, and their consumption has been associated with a number of health benefits, including protecting and preserving lung function.
Blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, including malvidin, cyanidin, peonidin, delphinidin, and petunidin.
Anthocyanins are powerful pigments that have been shown to protect lung tissue from oxidative damage.
A study in 839 veterans found that blueberry intake was associated with the slowest rate of decline in lung function and that consuming 2 or more servings of blueberries per week slowed lung function decline by up to 38%, compared with low or no blueberry intake.

8. Green tea
Green tea is a beverage that has impressive effects on health. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a catechin concentrated in green tea. It boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to inhibit fibrosis or scarring of tissues.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease characterized by progressive, lung-function-compromising scarring of lung tissue. Some research shows that EGCG may help treat this disease.
A small 2020 study in 20 people with pulmonary fibrosis found that treatment with EGCG extract for 2 weeks reduced markers of fibrosis, compared with a control group.

9. Red cabbage 
Red cabbage is an affordable and rich source of anthocyanins. These plant pigments give red cabbage its vivid color. Anthocyanin intake has been linked to a reduced decline in lung function.
What’s more, cabbage is packed with fiber. Studies show that people who consume more fiber have better lung function than those who consume low amounts of fiber.

10. Edamame
Edamame beans contain compounds called isoflavones. Diets rich in isoflavones have been associated with a reduced risk of numerous diseases, including COPD.
A study in 618 Japanese adults found that people with COPD had much lower intakes of dietary isoflavones, compared with healthy control groups. What’s more, isoflavone intake was significantly associated with better lung function and reduced shortness of breath.

11. Olive oil
Consuming olive oil may help protect against respiratory conditions like asthma. Olive oil is a concentrated source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, including polyphenols and vitamin E, which are responsible for its powerful health benefits.
For example, a study that included 871 people found that those who had high olive oil intake had a reduced risk of asthma.
What’s more, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, has been shown to benefit lung function in smokers, as well as people with COPD and asthma.

12. Oysters
Oysters are loaded with nutrients that are essential to lung health, including zinc, selenium, B vitamins, and copper.
Studies show that people with higher blood levels of selenium and copper have greater lung function, compared with those with lower levels of these nutrients.
Additionally, oysters are an excellent source of B vitamins and zinc, nutrients that are especially important for people who smoke.
Smoking depletes certain B vitamins, including vitamin B12, which is concentrated in oysters. What’s more, studies show that higher zinc intake may help protect smokers from developing COPD.

13. Yogurt
Yogurt is rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium. According to research, these nutrients may help boost lung function and protect against COPD risk.
A study in Japanese adults found that higher intakes of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium were associated with increased lung function markers, and those with the highest calcium intake had a 35% reduced risk of COPD.

14. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are amongst the richest sources of selenium that you can eat. A single Brazil nut may contain over 150% of the recommended intake for this important nutrient, though concentrations vary significantly depending on growing conditions.
Studies show that a high selenium intake may help protect against lung cancer, improve respiratory function in people with asthma, and enhance antioxidant defenses and immune function, which may help improve lung health.
Because Brazil nuts are such a concentrated source of selenium, it’s recommended to keep your intake to just one or two nuts per day.

15. Coffee
In addition to boosting your energy levels, your morning cup of joe may help protect your lungs. Coffee is packed with caffeine and antioxidants, which may be beneficial for lung health.
Research shows that coffee intake may help improve lung function and protect against respiratory diseases. For example, caffeine acts as a vasodilator, meaning it helps open blood vessels, and it may help reduce symptoms in people with asthma, at least in the short term.
Additionally, a review of 15 studies found that long-term coffee intake was associated with positive effects on lung function and a reduced risk of asthma.

16. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a dark leafy green that’s high in magnesium. Magnesium helps protect against inflammation, and it helps bronchioles — tiny airways inside your lungs — stay relaxed, preventing airway restriction.
Higher magnesium intake has been associated with better lung function in a number of studies. What’s more, low magnesium levels are associated with worsening symptoms in people with COPD.
Additionally, many studies have linked greater intake of leafy green vegetables like Swiss chard to a reduced risk of lung cancer and COPD.

17. Barley
Barley is a nutritious whole grain that’s high in fiber. High fiber diets rich in whole grains have been shown to have a protective effect on lung function and may reduce the risk of mortality from lung-related diseases.
The antioxidants found in whole grains like flavonoids and vitamin E also promote lung health and protect against cellular damage.

18. Anchovies
Anchovies are tiny fish that are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, as well as other lung-health-promoting nutrients like selenium, calcium, and iron.
Eating omega-3-rich fish like anchovies may be particularly beneficial for people with inflammatory lung diseases like COPD. A 2020 study found that a higher intake of omega-3 fats was associated with reduced COPD symptoms and improved lung function.
What’s more, consuming an omega-3-rich diet may help reduce symptoms in people with asthma.

19. Lentils 
Lentils are high in many nutrients that help support lung function, including magnesium, iron, copper, and potassium.
The Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with promoting lung health, is high in legumes like lentils.
Research has shown that following a Mediterranean dietary pattern can preserve lung function in people who smoke. Plus, eating fiber-rich lentils may help protect against lung cancer and COPD.

20. Cocoa
Cocoa and cacao products like dark chocolate are high in flavonoid antioxidants and contain a compound called theobromine, which helps relax the airways in the lungs.
Cocoa intake has been associated with a lower risk of allergic respiratory symptoms and may help protect against lung cancer.
Additionally, a study that included 55,000 people found that those with higher flavonoid consumption from foods, including chocolate products, had better lung function than people who had diets low in flavonoids.

The bottom line
Consuming a diet high in nutritious foods and beverages is a smart way to support and protect lung health.  
Coffee, dark leafy greens, fatty fish, peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, oysters, blueberries, and pumpkin are just some examples of foods and drinks that have been shown to benefit lung function.
Try incorporating a few of the foods and beverages listed above into your diet to help support the health of your lungs.

Eat Fiber For A Happier Gut

Get fierce with fiber
It’s easy to get caught up in counting calories and grams of added sugars, fats, proteins, and carbs when you’re trying to eat well. But there’s one nutrient that too often gets thrown to the wayside: dietary fiber.

Scientists have long known that eating fiber is good for health. Decades ago, Irish physician (and fiber enthusiast) Denis Burkitt proclaimed, “America is a constipated nation… if you pass small stools, you have to have large hospitals.” And yet, years later, many of us are still ignoring our fiber intake.

American adults are only eating an average of 15 grams of fiber on any given day, despite the daily recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics being:
25 grams for women, or 21 grams if over 50 years old
38 grams for men, or 30 grams if over 50

Recently, however, fiber has popped up in headlines thanks to people like journalist Megyn Kelly and model Molly Sims, who have both credited their physiques on mainlining roughage. And more importantly, new research has been shedding more light on how fiber helps our bodies. This nutrient has been linked to fending off disease and reducing the risk of a range of conditions, including type 2 diabetes, food allergies and even knee arthritis. 

Star-studded endorsements aside, it’s not about eating a “high-fiber” diet as much as it’s simply this: Eat more fiber. Fiber does more than contributing to weight loss and reducing the risk of disease.

Losing out on those recommended fiber grams per day may significantly change the way your gut functions. It could even make a difference between weight loss or none, and longer life or not.

What we know about fiber today
Many studies have strongly linked high-fiber diets with longer and healthier lives. For example, Dr. Burkitt, as mentioned above, found in the 1960s that Ugandans who ate high-fiber vegetable diets avoided many of the common diseases of Europeans and Americans. In addition, studies in the late ’80s found that long-living rural Japanese populations ate high-fiber diets, as opposed to urban dwellers with lower fiber intakes.

But only recently have we gained a deeper understanding of why fiber is so vital to our well-being.

A 2017 study found that the importance of fiber is intimately tied with the importance of our gut microbes. A proper fiber diet literally feeds and makes these bacteria thrive. In turn, they increase in number and kind. The more microbes we have in our intestines, the thicker the mucus wall and the better the barrier between our body and our busy bacteria population. While the mucus barrier lowers inflammation throughout the body, the bacteria aid in digestion, creating a dual benefit.

A living, walking example of the great connection between fiber, intestinal bacteria, and health are the Hazda, a Tanzanian tribe that’s one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer communities in the world. They eat a spectacular 100 grams of fiber a day, all from food sources that are seasonally available. As a result, their gut biome is packed with diverse populations of bacteria, which ebb and flow with the changing of the seasons and the changes in their diet.

Your biome can change by the season, by the week, or even by the meal. And if you eat a large array of fresh fruits, grains, and vegetables, your gut health will reflect that. Eating low-fiber foods,  or eating only a few types of fiber — such as the same fiber supplement every day — can harm your intestinal biome and the health of your protective mucus wall.

However, eating too much fiber can cause digestive distress, gas, and intestinal blockages. The good news is that it’s hard to get too much fiber, especially since most people don’t get enough. Slowly ramping up your fiber intake can help you avoid some of the above problems. Not overdoing it will help you avoid the rest.

How to eat fiber like they do in Yuzurihara and Tanzania
So how can we ditch our constipated ways and eat more in line with how our bodies have evolved to function alongside our gut biomes? While there are two types of fiber —  soluble fiber and insoluble fiber — high-fiber enthusiasts are all about both types. Each kind has its own functions and benefits. Getting both is key to getting the most out of this nutrient.

Here are some quick tips to build a thriving and diverse gut biome and reap the long-term benefits of a fiber-friendly diet:
Fruits and vegetables are always your friend
Fiber is naturally found in all fruits and vegetables. You can’t really go wrong by adding these components to your daily regime. In fact, one study found that simply eating an apple before every meal had significant health benefits.

Eat what’s in season
The Hazda have a diverse gut in part by eating seasonally. Always check out your grocery store’s fresh, in-season fruits and veggies. Not only are they great for you, but they also often taste better and are less expensive than what’s out of season.

Processed foods usually mean less fiber
Refined foods that don’t contain whole grains or whole wheat are also lower in fiber. This includes white bread and regular pasta. Juicing is also processed in a sense, since it removes the insoluble fiber from your food. The result is that you lose fiber’s benefits — especially its important job of regulating digestion and keeping blood sugar from spiking.

Be thoughtful at restaurants
Restaurants, especially fast-food joints, often skimp on fruits and veggies because they’re expensive. When looking at the menu, be sure to pick something rich in fruit, veggies, and beans or legumes that will help you meet your fiber goals for the day.

Toss a high-fiber component into your meal
Next time you have a piece of pizza, make sure to munch on a handful of snap peas on the side, or add some multigrain crackers if you’re eating soup for lunch. Eating a high-fiber snack  before your meal can also mean eating fewer calories altogether, because you’ll feel more full.

Don’t forget beans, peas, and lentils
We often remember to eat our fruits and veggies, but legumes are a wonderful and delicious source of fiber. Try a recipe that puts legumes in the spotlight, like a three-bean vegetarian chili or a lentil salad.

Make sure fiber starts at breakfast
Most traditional breakfast foods, like eggs and bacon, lack fiber. Integrate fiber into the first meal of your day by eating oatmeal or a whole-grain cereal. You can also simply add a piece of fruit to your regular fare. Eating yogurt for breakfast? Add sliced fruit and nuts.

Explore the world of whole grains
Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some amaranth, bulgur, pearl barley, or wheat berries and start exploring. Other good high-fiber choices are quinoa (a seed) or whole-wheat couscous (a pasta).

Skip the fiber supplements
Fiber supplements can give you a small boost, but the benefits of getting your fiber from whole foods are much greater. What’s more, people taking fiber supplements might not be pairing them with high-nutrient foods. This causes rather than solves health issues.

Too much of a good thing
Just like most things, fiber isn’t great in extremely high quantities. Focusing too much on one aspect of your nutrient intake is neither sustainable nor healthy, either. Try tracking your fiber intake for a few weeks to see if you’re getting enough, then tinker with your intake to see if eating a little more improves how you feel.

Fiber is fabulous without the fad
At this point, there’s enough science out there to strongly suggest something you’ve likely heard before: Eating a robust variety of minimally processed fruits and veggies along with other plant-based foods is a great way to stay healthy and control your weight — and the fiber in these foods is likely a central reason why they’re so great for our bodies. So go forth and repopulate more varieties of bacteria in your gut!

How To Keep Your Balance As You Age

Before your mid-sixties, most people don’t think much about their balance, but this lack of attention could be harmful. Every year, one in three people over age 65 fall; and in 2009, more than 20,000 people in that age group died from falls. In fact, balance begins to decline progressively in your twenties unless steps are taken to prevent it.
The good news is, working on your balance as you age can pay major dividends in the long run. Just like cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart, your body needs exercises to practice balance. Otherwise, you’ll slowly lose the ability to balance. Fortunately, some of these exercises are so simple you can practice them while you brush your teeth.
One-foot balance
When was the last time you stood on one foot for more than two seconds? Try it for ten seconds then switch to the next foot. You can do this for several rotations in a two-minute tooth-brushing session.
Sit and stand
Besides helping with balance, this acts as a leg strengthener as well. Sit upright in a chair with your knees bent in a 90-degree angle. Fold your arms in front of you, and slowly stand up without the help of your hands. Sit down gradually again and repeat this several times.
Walk the balance beam
Walk heel to toe across the floor like you are walking along a balance beam. You may feel silly, but this simple exercise can go a long way.
With your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart, step forward on one leg. As you do so, bend both knees until the front thigh is parallel to the floor and the lower leg is bent 90 degrees. Walk around the room doing this.
Learn Tai Chi
Originally a Chinese martial art, this ancient practice involves slow, balanced, low-impact movements done in sequences; it builds confidence, coordination, muscle strength and all-around fitness.  The International Taoist Tai Chi Society can help you find instruc­tors and classes in your area.
Like Tai Chi, Yoga is a gentle way to practice balance. It also has huge benefits in strength training and flexibility: all health benefits that are extremely important as the body ages. 
Mini trampoline
If you’re particularly unstable, this is not the best exercise to start with, but some studies show jumping on a mini trampoline increased the ability to regain footing in a forward fall for older individuals.
There are some aspects of aging that can’t be avoided, but by practicing these habits, maintaining balance is one you can proactively fight.   

What Is The Fat Burning Zone?

What Is the Fat-Burning Zone?
When it comes to exercise, particularly cardio exercise, there are different heart-rate zones that equate to different levels of intensity. These levels actually determine which energy systems your body uses during exercise, and that often directly affects how many calories you burn.

There are four different training zones and each is a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR), the maximum number of times your heart can beat in a minute:

Low intensity, also known as the "fat-burning zone," is 50% to 70% of your MHR. It's usually considered light cardio or a warm-up level.

Moderate intensity is 70% to 80% of your MHR. At this level, you'll be working out but still be able to talk. 

High intensity is 80% to 90% of your MHR. This usually puts you well out of your comfort zone and pushes you to your anaerobic threshold,  which is when your cardiovascular system can't deliver oxygen to your muscles fast enough. 

Maximum effort is 90% to 100% of your MHR, something that even the most highly trained athletes can't maintain for more than a few minutes.  

The Truth About Your Fat-Burning Zone
From these numbers, you can see that the fat-burning zone is the lowest intensity. So why is it called the fat-burning zone? Because the body relies on more stored fat (versus carbs) as its primary fuel source when you work at a lower intensity compared to a higher intensity.

Some people have translated this to mean that you actually burn more fat when you work at a lower intensity, but that's a bit of a misconception. In reality, picking up the pace will torch more total calories—and ultimately more fat—in less time. And it's the number of calories you burn overall that leads to the most weight (and fat) loss.

To give you an example, the chart below details both the total calories and the fat calories expended by a 130-pound woman during cardio exercise.
As you'll see, the woman burns more total calories and more fat calories when working out at a higher intensity.

Low Intensity (60 percent to 65 percent MHR)High Intensity (80 percent to 85 percent MHR)
Total calories expended per minute4.866.86
Fat calories expended per minute2.432.7
Total calories expended in 30 minutes146206
Total fat calories expended in 30 minutes7382
Percentage of fat calories burned50%39.85%

While lower-intensity workouts are great for beginners and for building endurance, you need to work harder during some workouts if you really want to burn fat and lose weight.

The Case for Low-Intensity Exercise
Now, this isn't to say that low-intensity exercise doesn't have its place, especially if you're just starting out and can't sustain a faster pace. If you go slower, you may be able to exercise a lot longer, so you'll end up burning more calories and fat that way. 

Even for more advanced exercisers, endurance workouts should be a staple of a complete fitness program along with shorter, higher-intensity workouts or interval workouts.  A type of training in which you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods, intervals are proven to increase fitness and burn more calories than you would when doing the same thing during your whole workout.

Structuring Your Cardio Workouts
If you want to lose weight, a general cardio schedule would include workouts at a variety of intensities within your target heart rate zone.  If you're doing five cardio workouts a week, you might have one high-intensity workout, one lower-intensity workout, and three somewhere in the middle.

Sample Cardio Workout Program for Beginners
A beginner cardio program lets you slowly build endurance while getting you a bit out of your comfort zone. That way you don't have to spend an entire workout miserable, yet you'll still challenge yourself, which will burn more calories.

Below is a sample program that will help get you started. 

MondayBeginner-Interval WorkoutUp to 21 minutes
TuesdayLow-Intensity Walking10 to 20 minutes
ThursdayCardio-Endurance WorkoutUp to 35 minutes
SaturdayInterval Training Level 2Up to 25 minutes
SundayLow-Intensity Walking10 to 20 minutes

The key is to start with what you can handle and slowly build from there. If you're just getting started, don't worry too much about how hard you're working. Focus more on making exercise a habit you can manage on a regular basis.

Exercise Changes You At A Molecular Level

Exercise is good for you, this we know. It helps build muscle, burn fat and make us all into happier, healthier people. But long before you start looking the way you want, there are other hidden, more immediate, molecular and immunological changes taking place inside your cells. Changes which could be responsible for protecting us from heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes – and even steve off old age and cancer. 

You may think that “molecular” changes may not be that much of a big deal. Surely it is fat loss and muscle gain that are the best outcomes of exercise? Actually molecular changes affect the way genes and proteins are controlled inside cells. Genes can become more or less active, while proteins can be rapidly modified to function differently and carry out tasks such as moving glucose into cells more efficiently, or protect cells from harmful toxins.

Type 2 diabetes causes all kinds of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage, and may lead to limb amputation. The underlying cause is the development of a heightened inflammatory state in the body’s tissue and cells. This damages cells and can eventually lead to insulin resistance and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes.

The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. However, we have found that even low intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, can increase the body’s insulin sensitivity. This means that people at risk of developing diabetes become less prone because they are able to metabolize glucose more efficiently.

In our study, we asked 20 sedentary people who were at risk of developing diabetes to walk briskly for 45 minutes, three times a week, for eight weeks. Although there was no change in their weight, blood pressure or cholesterol level, on average each participant lost a significant six centimeters from their waist circumference. And, more importantly, there was a reduction in their diabetic risk.

Immune system benefits
Interestingly, there were also exercise-induced changes in the participants’ monocytes – an important immune cell that circulates in the bloodstream. This led to a reduction in the body’s inflammatory state, one of the main risks for type 2 diabetes.

When our body is under attack from foreign invaders such as microbes, immune cells such as monocytes change into “microbe-eating” macrophages. Their main function is to fight infection in our tissues and lungs. There are two main types of macrophages, M1 and M2. M1 macrophages are associated with pro-inflammatory responses and are necessary for aggressively fighting off infections. However, in obese people who do not exercise, these cells become active even in the absence of infection. This can lead to an unwanted, heightened inflammatory condition which may “trigger” diabetes.

On the other hand, M2 macrophages play a role in “switching-off” inflammation and are instrumental in "damping-down" the more aggressive M1s. So a healthy balance of M1 and M2 macrophages is crucial to maintain an optimal immune response for fighting infections – and it may help prevent the heightened inflammatory condition which comes from lack of exercise and obesity too.

Other studies have also shown that exercise has a beneficial impact on tissues’ immune cell function and can reduce unnecessary inflammation. Exercise training in obese individuals has been found to reduce the level of tissue inflammation specifically because there are less macrophage cells present in fat tissue.

In addition, researchers have found a significant link between exercise and the balance of M1 and M2 macrophages. It has been shown that acute exercise in obese rats resulted in a shift from the “aggressive” M1 macrophages to the more “passive” M2 – and that this reduction in the inflammatory state correlated with an improvement in insulin resistance.

Time to move
There is no definitive answer as to how much and what intensity of exercise is necessary to protect us from diabetes. Though some researchers have shown that while higher-intensity exercise improves overall fitness, there is little difference  between high and low-intensity exercise in improving insulin sensitivity.

However, a new study has found that all forms of aerobic exercise – in particular high-intensity interval training such as cycling and running – can effectively stop aging at the cellular level. The exercise caused cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes. Researchers also observed that these “molecular” changes occurring at the gene and protein levels happened very quickly after exercise and that the effects prevented damage to important proteins in the cells and improve the way in which insulin functions.

Although you might not see the changes you want immediately, even gentle exercise can make a big difference to the way the body’s cells behave. This means that exercise could have far-reaching health benefits for other inflammatory associated diseases and possibly protect us against aging and cancer too.

Why Do We Need Water Filters

Sediment Removal
Mechanical filters are used to remove leaves and other debris from water, along with dirt, silt and clay particles in water. Mechanical filters may be made from metal screens, fabric, ceramic or paper. These impurities, called sediment, can cause an unpleasant taste but aren't usually a health risk. Most home water filtration units use replaceable paper filters that screen out fine sediment.

Reducing Minerals
Iron and other minerals, such as calcium and manganese, are not hazardous to human health, but they can cause drinking water to taste metallic or just unpleasant. Iron or manganese can cause clothing stains on when wash water contains these elements, and they can even discolor porcelain and other dishes washed in the mineral-rich water. These minerals can build up in water pipes, gradually clogging them and reducing water pressure, possibly causing plumbing problems.

Pathogen Removal
Filtering water is essential to keep harmful bacteria and parasites from drinking water. Giardiasis is a type of illness that causes diarrhea and can last as long as six weeks. The microscopic parasite that causes the disease is Giardia intenstinalis, an organism that can survive in the environment for many months. It can be ingested from water that has become contaminated with animal or human feces. Another parasite that can cause similar symptoms is cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine and must be filtered out with mechanical filters. These pathogens are effectively removed by passing water through filters listed as micro-, ultra- and nano-filters.

Lowering Chlorine
Most municipal water utility companies use chlorine to treat drinking water because it's inexpensive, easy to use and highly effective at killing many of the bacteria found in water. It can also eliminate some viruses. While it's a good disinfectant, chlorine can make drinking water smell and taste unpleasant, and it can also react with some metals to form hazardous compounds. An activated carbon filter removes the chlorine smell and taste from water.

Removing Dangerous Lead
Lead is toxic when ingested, and it's essential to remove it from drinking water. Lead commonly gets into drinking water when it seeps into the water supply from old plumbing pipes or the solder used to join them together. It can be removed from water through reverse osmosis filters, distillation and carbon filters designed specifically to remove the metal. If you rely on well water, health agencies recommend that you have your well tested at least once a year for lead and other contaminants.

Pesticide and Chemical Removal
Before the 1940s most common pesticides contained heavy metals that did not readily dissolve in water, but today pesticide residue in drinking water may be on the rise because modern organic pesticides dissolve in water and can easily get into the water supply. Activated carbon filters can remove pesticides and volatile organic compounds from drinking water.

Benefits and Safety Tips For Stretching

1. Increases your flexibility
Regular stretching can help increase your flexibility, which is crucial for your overall health. Not only can improved flexibility help you to perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also help delay the reduced mobility that can come with aging.

2. Increases your range of motion
Being able to move a joint through its full range of motion gives you more freedom of movement. Stretching on a regular basis can help increase your range of motion.
One study found that both static and dynamic stretching are effective when it comes to increasing range of motion, although proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation PNF - type stretching, where you stretch a muscle to its limit, may be more effective for immediate gains.

3. Improves your performance in physical activities
Performing dynamic stretches prior to physical activities has been shown to help prepare your muscles for the activity. It may also help improve your performance in an athletic event or exercise.

4. Increases blood flow to your muscles
Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulation. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness (also known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS).

5. Improves your posture
Muscle imbalances are common and can lead to poor posture. One study found that a combination of strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups can reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment. That, in turn, may help improve your posture.

6. Helps to heal and prevent back pain
Tight muscles can lead to a decrease in your range of motion. When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining the muscles in your back. Stretching can help heal an existing back injury by stretching the muscles.
A regular stretching routine can also help prevent future back pain by strengthening your back muscles and reducing your risk for muscle strain.

7. Is great for stress relief
When you’re experiencing stress, there’s a good chance your muscles are tense. That’s because your muscles tend to tighten up in response to physical and emotional stress. Focus on areas of your body where you tend to hold your stress, such as your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

8. Can calm your mind
Participating in a regular stretching program not only helps increase your flexibility, but it can also calm your mind. While you stretch, focus on mindfulness and meditation exercises, which give your mind a mental break.

9. Helps decrease tension headaches
Tension and stress headaches can interfere with your daily life. In addition to a proper diet, adequate hydration, and plenty of rest, stretching may help reduce the tension you feel from headaches.
Stretching techniques
There are several types of stretching techniques, including:
active stretching

The most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic:

Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for a period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial after you exercise.

Dynamic stretches are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. These stretches are usually done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement.

Use dynamic stretches before exercise to prepare your muscles.
Use static stretches after exercise to reduce your risk for injury.

How to start a stretching routine
If you’re new to a regular stretching routine, take it slow. Just like other forms of physical activity, your body needs time to get used to the stretches you’re performing.
You also need a solid grasp of proper form and technique. Otherwise, you risk getting injured.

You can stretch any time during the day. On days you exercise:
aim for 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to your activity
do another 5 to 10 minutes of static or PNF stretching after your workout
On days when you aren’t exercising, still plan to schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes of time for stretching. This can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness and pain.

When stretching, focus on the major areas of your body that help with mobility, such as your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. For upper-body relief, try moves that stretch the shoulders, neck, and lower back.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and avoid bouncing.
You can stretch after each workout or athletic event, or daily after your muscles are warmed up. 

Risks and safety tips
Stretching may not always be safe:
If you have an acute or existing injury, only perform stretches recommended by your doctor.
If you have a chronic or nagging injury, consider talking with a sports medicine specialist or physical therapist to design a stretching protocol that fits your needs.
If you have any physical limitations that prevent you from properly performing a stretching exercise, consult your doctor for alternative exercises that can help increase your flexibility.

Regardless of your fitness level, there are a few standard safety tips for stretching that you should follow:
Don’t bounce. Years ago, ballistic stretching was thought to be the best way to increase flexibility. Now, experts suggest you avoid bouncing unless these types of stretches have been recommended to you by a doctor or physical therapist.
Don’t stretch beyond the point of comfort. While it’s normal to feel some tension when stretching a muscle, you should never feel pain. If the area you are stretching starts to hurt, back off the stretch until you don’t feel any discomfort.
Don’t overdo it. Like other forms of exercise, stretching puts stress on your body. 

If you’re stretching the same muscle groups multiple times a day, you risk over-stretching and causing damage.

Don’t go into your stretches cold. Cold muscles are not as pliable, which makes stretching a lot more difficult. The best time to stretch is after you work out, but if you’re not exercising before performing your stretches, consider warming up for 5 to 10 minutes with some light cardio, such as walking or jogging.

The takeaway:
Whether you're new to exercise or a seasoned athlete, you can benefit from a regular stretching routine.  By incorporating 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic and static stretches into your daily workout, you can increase your range of motion, improve posture, and ease your mind. 

How To Get Started On A Plant Based Diet

Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.

Mediterranean and vegetarian diets
What is the evidence that plant-based eating patterns are healthy? Much nutrition research has examined plant-based eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods; it also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week, with meats and sweets less often.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown in both large population studies and randomized clinical trials to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.

Vegetarian diets have also been shown to support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity.

Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients. However, some vegans may need to add a supplement (specifically vitamin B12) to ensure they receive all the nutrients required.

Vegetarian diet variety
Vegetarian diets come in lots of shapes and sizes, and you should choose the version that works best for you.
Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian includes eggs, dairy foods, and occasionally meat, poultry, fish, and seafood.
Pescatarian includes eggs, dairy foods, fish, and seafood, but no meat or poultry.
Vegetarian (sometimes referred to as lacto-ovo vegetarian) includes eggs and dairy foods, but no meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
Vegan includes no animal foods.

8 ways to get started with a plant-based diet
Here are some tips to help you get started on a plant-based diet.
1. Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colors in choosing your vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
2. Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
3. Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices.
4. Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
5. Include whole grains for breakfast. Start with oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley. Then add some nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit.
6. Go for greens. Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens each day. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to preserve their flavor and nutrients.
7. Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach, Bibb, or red leafy greens. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
8. Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
Inspiration for plant-based eating throughout the day.

Over time, eating a plant-based diet will become second nature. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Rolled oats with walnuts, banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Breakfast wrap: Fill a whole-wheat tortilla with scrambled egg, black beans, peppers, onions, Monterey jack cheese, and a splash of hot sauce or salsa.
Whole-wheat English muffin topped with fresh tomato and avocado slices, and blueberries.

Greek salad: Chopped mixed greens with fresh tomato, Kalamata olives, fresh parsley, crumbled feta cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Whole-wheat pita on the side, fresh melon for dessert.
Tomato basil soup, whole-grain crackers with tabbouleh, and an apple.
Vegetarian pizza topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers, and mushroom. Fresh strawberries for dessert.

Grilled vegetable kabobs with grilled tofu, and a quinoa and spinach salad.
Whole-wheat pasta with cannellini beans and peas, and a romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Vegetarian chili with a spinach-orzo salad.

Healthy Morning Habits

Developing healthy habits is on everyone’s agenda but following through with our good intentions is harder than it seems, especially when you’re busy. The good news is that the less time intensive and complicated a habit is, the more likely we are to stick to it. Research shows that people maintain healthy habits when these are small and manageable changes to one’s lifestyle.

1. Stretch
Our feline friends do it naturally after waking up from slumber but the practice isn’t common enough in humans, which is a shame! A simple stretch in the morning can  improve  your posture,  reduce chronic back pain, increase blood flow to your brain for better focus, and energize you all at once. Plus, stretching right after you roll out of bed gives you time to reconnect to yourself and wake up gently.
Experts from the American College of Sports Medicine suggest focusing on hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and chest muscles as these are the most commonly tight and stiff muscles. Hold each stretch 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times on each side of your body. As a rule of thumb, you should feel a slight pull, being careful not to stretch to a painful point.
If starting a stretching routine sounds intimidating, don’t fret! The key is to do what feels right to you. Less than five minutes is more than enough to start reaping benefits from working on your flexibility every day.

2. Have a Cup of Tea
Whether you enjoy green tea, a classic English Breakfast tea, or the trendy chai, forming the habit of having a cup every morning is a good idea. Packed with antioxidants named Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) or catechins, tea leaves hold healing power. They fight free-radicals in our bodies to relieve inflammation, prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and neurological decline.
Drinking tea as part of your morning rituals is also a good way to wake up gently as it promotes mental alertness without giving you a headache later on. Tea helps with digestive issues as well, and will get things moving so you can start your day feeling light and energized.

3. Get Some Sunshine
Getting a good dose of sunshine right when you wake up — whether by going outside for a short walk or having breakfast in a room with an east-facing window — is one of the easiest and most rewarding morning habits to get into.
Natural light is beneficial to regulate our circadian rhythms especially in the morning hours. It promotes wakefulness by stimulating the neurotransmitters involved with arousal in our brain. Exposure to light is also important to the production of melatonin an hormone essential to proper and restful sleep. How well you sleep at night can be determined as soon as you wake up!

4. Get Creative
Using our imagination and taking the time for creative pursuits is not something most of us are eager to do when we’re fighting with the snooze button but research says that early mornings are actually the best time to give our brains a bit of a workout.
Think of it this way: the demands put upon us during our day require us to make choices, use our willpower, and exercise our focus, all of which are tiring and weaken our ability to be creative. Getting our creative juices flowing not long after we wake up is a good way to seize upon those brain sources before our energies are depleted.
It also turns out this time of day is when our prefrontal cortex is most active. This brain area is closely related to artistic creativity and divergent thinking, or finding new ideas to solve problems.
Instead of scrolling through social media in the morning, why not try stream-of-consciousness journaling or mindlessly doodling for a few minutes while eating breakfast?

5. Eat a Piece of Fruit
Want to have a strong immune system, fight inflammation, get restful sleep, be full of energy, and have good skin?  Consuming fruit on a daily basis can help with all of that!
As the most important meal of the day, breakfast is the perfect time to incorporate at least one of our ‘5 a day’, especially as research shows that our ability to make healthy food choices weakens as the day goes on. Eating a good breakfast with the inclusion of at least one piece of fruit is an easy way to make sure that you get the necessary nutrients and antioxidants your body needs to thrive.

6. Add Chia Seeds to Your Breakfast
These seeds may be tiny, but their health benefits are not. Packed with omega-3s, fiber, a ton of micronutrients (potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and manganese), and antioxidants, chia seeds are good for digestion, regulating blood glucose, and preventing major diseases.

7. Take Your Vitamin B12
Whether you eat a plant-based diet or not, supplementing with vitamin B12 is a good idea. Far from being a vegan issue, it is estimated that up to 30% of the population is deficient in this vitamin.
Essential for maintaining the insulation of our nerve cells to protect our neurological and cognitive functions, vitamin B12 is also responsible for breaking down amino acids and fatty acids to supply our bodies with energy.

While You Are Sleeping

Sleep is essential for good health. In fact, we need sleep to survive — just like we need food and water. So, it’s no wonder that we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping.
Many biological processes happen during sleep:

- The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste.
- Nerve cells communicate and reorganize, which supports healthy brain function.
- The body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins.

These processes are critical for overall health. Without them, your body can’t function correctly.
Let’s take a closer look at why you sleep, along with what happens if you don’t get enough.

Why do you need to sleep?
A lot is still unknown about the purpose of sleep. However, it’s widely accepted that there isn’t just one explanation for why we need to sleep. It’s likely necessary for many biological reasons.
To date, scientists have found that sleep helps the body in several ways. The most prominent theories and reasons are outlined below.

Energy conservation
According to the energy conservation theory, we need sleep to save energy. This concept is backed by the way our metabolic rate drops during sleep.
It’s also said this happens because the body needs less energy at night, when it’s inconvenient to find food.

Cellular restoration
Another theory, called the restorative theory, says the body needs sleep to restore itself.
The idea is that sleep allows cells to repair and regrow. This is supported by many important processes that happen during sleep, including:

- muscle repair
- protein synthesis
- tissue growth
- hormone release

Brain function
The brain plasticity theory, says sleep is required for brain function. Specifically, it allows your neurons, or nerve cells, to reorganize.

When you sleep, your brain’s glymphatic (waste clearance) system clears out waste from the central nervous system. It removes toxic byproducts from your brain, which build up throughout the day. This allows your brain to work well when you wake up.

Sleep affects many aspects of brain function, including:
- learning
- memory
- problem solving skills
- creativity
- decision-making
- focus
-       concentration

Emotional well-being
Similarly, sleep is necessary for emotional health. During sleep, brain activity increases in areas that regulate emotions, including the:
- striatum
- amygdala
- hyppocampus
- insula
- medial prefrontal cortex

This change in activity supports proper brain function and emotional stability.
For example, the amygdala is in charge of the fear response. It’s what controls your reaction when you face a perceived threat, like a stressful situation.

When you get enough sleep, the amygdala can respond in a more adaptive way. But if you’re sleep deprived, the amygdala is more likely to overreact.

Weight maintenance
Sleep affects your weight by controlling hunger hormoes. This includes ghrelin, which increases appetite, and leptin, which increases satiety.
During sleep, ghrelin decreases because you’re using less energy than when you’re awake.
Lack of sleep, however, elevates ghrelin and suppresses leptin. This imbalance makes you hungrier, which may increase the risk of weight gain.

Proper insulin function
Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells use glucose for energy. But in insulin reistance, your cells don’t respond properly to insulin. This can lead to high blood glucose levels and, eventually, type 2 diabetes.
Sleep may protect against insulin resistance. It keeps your cells healthy so they can easily take up glucose.
The brain also uses less glucose during sleep, which helps the body regulate overall blood glucose.

A healthy and strong immune system depends on sleep.
When you sleep, your body makes cytokines, which are proteins that fight infection and inflammation. It also produces certain antibodies and immune cells. Together, these molecules prevent sickness by destroying harmful germs.
That’s why sleep is so important when you’re sick or stressed. During these times, the body needs even more immune cells and proteins.

Heart health
While the exact causes aren’t clear, scientists think sleep supports heart health. This stems from the link between heart disease and poor sleep.

Lack of sleep is associated with risk factors for heart disease, including:
- increased sympathetic nervous system activity
- high blood pressure
- increased inflammation
- elevated cortisol levels 
- weight gain
- insulin resistance

What happens when you sleep?
Your body cycles through four stages of sleep. The pattern typically repeats every 90 minutes. This means the stages will repeat about 4 to 6 times during a 7- to 9- hour sleep period.
The pattern includes three phases of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and one phase of REM sleep.

The NREM sleep stages used to be divided into stages 1, 2, 3, and 4, followed by REM sleep. The National Sleep Foundation now classifies them as follows:

N1 non-REM sleep (formerly stage 1)
Stage 1 occurs when you first fall asleep. As your body enters light sleep, your brain waves, heart rate, and eye movements slow down.
This phase lasts for about 7 minutes.

N2 non-REM sleep (formerly stage 2)
This stage involves the light sleep just before deep sleep.
Your body temperature decreases, your eye movements stop, and your heart rate and muscles continue to relax. Your brain waves briefly spike then slow down.
During a night of sleep, you spend the most time in stage 2.

N3 non-REM sleep (formerly stages 3 and 4)
In stages 3 and 4, deep sleep begins. Your eyes and muscles don’t move, and your brain waves slow down even further.

Deep sleep is restorative. Your body replenishes its energy and repairs cells, tissues, and muscles. You need this phase to feel awake and refreshed the next day.
REM sleep
This stage first happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. It can last for about an hour.
In REM sleep, your brain waves and eye movements increase. Your heart rate and breathing also speed up.
Dreaming often happens during REM sleep. Your brain also processes information during this stage, making it important for learning and memory.

How much sleep do you need?
The recommended amount of sleep depends on your age. It also varies from person to person, but the National Sleep Foundation suggests the following durations:
- Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
- 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
- 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Without enough sleep, your body has a hard time functioning properly.
Possible consequences of sleep deprivation include:
- mood swings
- anxiety
- depression
- poor memory
- poor focus and concentration
- poor motor function
- fatigue
- weakened immune system 
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- insulin resistance
- chronic diseases (like diabetes and heart disease)
- early mortality

The bottom line
Sleep keeps us healthy and functioning well. It lets your body and brain repair, restore, and reenergize.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you might experience side effects like poor memory and focus, weakened immunity, and mood swings.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to a doctor or sleep specialist. They can determine the underlying cause and help improve the quality of your sleep.

Stand up paddle boarding
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 350 

Stand up paddle boarding (aka ‘SUP’) might look intimidating, but the way the board is designed makes it easy for anyone to do.  SUP is done on a large surfboard, which provides a wider area to stand on and balance. And while this activity can be almost meditative, you’ll still be strengthening your upper back, legs, glutes and abs while developing balance and coordination, too. 

To help maximize your workout—and minimize your chances of falling off, stand with feet hip width apart on the board, maintaining good posture and starting your paddle strokes on your dominant side (right if you're right handed) to help to find your rhythm, balance and strengthen your connection to both the board and the water. Once you're steady, start alternating sides after every third stroke. 

Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 375 

Not only does hiking offer a physical challenge, it gets you out into nature, which can boost your mood. And the beautiful scenery and changing terrain shifts your focus to your movement and surroundings, taking your mind off exercising (unlike the boring repetition of a treadmill). Hiking is one workout you can't help but fall in love with. 

Hiking is a great cardio workout that challenges all of your muscles as the terrain shifts, going uphill and stepping over rocks.  The pace of your hike will influence the intensity of your workout and how many calories you burn, so pick a trail that meets both your fitness level and goals. 

Never go hiking alone—if you get lost or stuck you need a buddy -- and plan out a route in advance. 

Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 400 

It may have been years since you last rode your bike, but it’s never too late to get back in the saddle! Riding a bike outdoors offers even more benefits than a stationary bike since you’ll have to balance, steer your bike and respond to changing terrain as you pedal. Cycling works your glutes, thighs and hamstrings as well as your core.  

She recommends trying a pedal stroke interval to amp up your calorie burn and improve your cardiovascular fitness: Pedal as fast as you can for 60 seconds, then slow down and recover for 20, repeat five times in total. Make it a cardio and mental game knowing you're getting stronger with each pedal stroke. Wear clothing that is easy to pedal in (such as bike shorts) and stiff-soled or bike shoes. 

Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 425 

Want a total body workout that’s easy on your joints but still a great calorie burner? Try swimming! Swimming challenges your muscles because of the density of the water. Your own body weight is your resistance and you are working much harder than you will feel in the moment.  Swimming develops strong, lean muscles as well as strengthening your core and low back to help protect your spine and improve posture, she notes. 

Focus on your form and breathing with each stroke -- if you are new to swimming, just get comfortable with moving in the water. The faster your pace and the shorter your rest time in between laps, the more intense your workout (and calorie burn) will be. 

Beach volleyball
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 500

Turn exercising into a fun game with volleyball—you'll get both a strength-training and cardio session. Volleyball is a fabulous total body workout; it’s interval training at its best. You work hard, using the legs and butt to get under the ball, core to maintain your balance, and upper body to power through, followed by a period of rest, but you never know how long.  Playing in the soft, uneven terrain of sand on the beach means you’ll be working even harder (translation: burning up extra calories) than on a flat, indoor court every time you go to spike that ball. If you're not near a beach start a game of pool volleyball – it's just as challenging (and fun). 

Yoga in the park
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 175 

Summer’s warmer weather makes it the perfect time of year to try an outdoor yoga, which is often offered in local parks as a sunrise or sunset group class. Most outdoor yoga classes are for all levels (check with your instructor first to be sure), making it easy for beginners to join in without any prior experience. Depending on the type of yoga, you might experience the benefits of flexibility, strength and/or cardiovascular training. Plus, you’ll have the most amazing backdrop, as you see the sun rise or set around you.

Come prepared for class in an outfit that you’ll feel comfortable wearing in both standing and floor postures. Most classes are BYM (bring your own mat) and toting a towel can be helpful if sweat and dirt start to show up on your mat. 

Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 250 

If you've never planted a garden, you may not think of gardening as exercise, but it's a great full body workout! If you are doing some serious gardening, such as digging holes, planting and weeding, you will exert a significant workload, which can sometimes work the body harder than most typical exercise. From raking, lifting, pushing, pulling and shoveling, gardening is a complete body workout for the butt, legs, back, chest, arms and abs.

Take breaks every hour from that forward, hunched over position by standing up and walking around. Try a few standing back extensions to help relieve any stiffness. Get inspired to dig into the dirt with these amazing garden designs for spaces and landscapes of all shapes and sizes. 

Benefits of Using Resistance Training Bands During Your Workout

Resistance bands are great for those who want to exercise at home, or who like to take their workouts along when they travel, but their value doesn't end there. There are many benefits to these simple exercise tools, including versatility, convenience, safety, and effectiveness. The more you learn about the advantages of resistance band exercises, the more you'll be motivated to add them to your own home gym.

These inexpensive exercise tools are a convenient option for people of any age or fitness level. But don't let their simplicity fool you. Resistance band exercises are surprisingly effective and offer many benefits over traditional free weights.

Whether you buy them individually or as a set, resistance bands are an inexpensive addition to your home gym equipment. Some resistance bands are even are sold with a guided exercise DVD.

Resistance bands come in multiple resistance levels, usually light, medium or heavy. You can further adjust the amount of resistance during exercise just by giving more or less slack on the band, as well as by combining multiple resistance bands to increase the challenge.

Resistance band exercises are often based on familiar strength-training moves. For example, if you stand on one end of the cord and curl your arm up while holding the other end, you've replaced your standard dumbbell bicep curl.

Many resistance band kits come with suggested exercises for nearly every major muscle group in your body. Stepping on one end of a resistance band or looping it around a stationary object, for example, opens up many exercise possibilities.

When you don't have a lot of room for a home gym, resistance bands are a great option that store in very little space. You can hang them on a hook after you exercise, or coil them up to store in a box or drawer.

Because they are so small and portable, resistance bands are a great way to take your workout with you when you travel. There are many resistance band exercises that can easily be done in the small space of a hotel room.

Over time, your muscles adapt to any new exercise routine. It's a good idea to mix it up by cross-training with free weights, machines and resistance band exercises. Each will work your muscles in a slightly different way.

Resistance bands offer strength-training without the risk of dropping a heavy weight on your foot or crushing your fingers between weight plates. That makes them ideal for working out when you don't have a personal trainer or exercise partner to spot you.

While resistance bands work great on their own, they can also be combined with other exercise equipment. Performing bicep curls with both a resistance band and a dumbbell will give you the combined benefits of each type of equipment.

Although there are differences between free weight and resistance band exercises, both are effective. Picture the arc motion your arm makes while doing a bicep curl. Free weights will feel heaviest at the beginning of that arc, while resistance bands make your muscles work harder at the end of the arc (when the band is most taut). Either way, your body is moving against resistance, and that will give your muscles an effective workout.