Fitness & Nutrition Blog

Stay On Track During The Thanksgiving Holiday



Thanksgiving should be one day out of the year where you throw caution to the wind and enjoy whatever you want. But if you overdo it, you may feel tired, sluggish, and head down a slippery slope of overindulging until New Year's Day. You can enjoy your feast while also keeping on track with your goals. 

Here are eight tips for staying on track during Thanksgiving:

  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after your meals.
  • Prioritize protein and veggies.
  • Enjoy the seasonal stuff, but be picky with your indulgences.
  • Eat slowly and without distractions.  
  • Stop eating when you're full or when something is no longer enjoyable for you.
  • Be aware of grazing.
  • Use the extra energy to kill your next workout.  
  • Lastly, have a great week, and focus more on spending time with your loved ones rather than obsessing over your diet.

You should enjoy the stuffing and pumpkin pie, but you don't need to fill your plate with both; stick to moderate portion sizes to enjoy your food without going overboard. Same goes for grazing; it's easy to hang out in the kitchen and mindlessly munch on crackers, cheese, and other apps before you sit down to eat. Be mindful of what you put on your plate, and make sure you eat slowly and enjoy every bite.

Most of all, enjoy the holiday! You're bound to eat more than you typically do, which is fine; one day won't derail the rest of your year's worth of progress. If you do overdo it and feel sluggish, make sure you get right back to your healthy habits the next day.  

 

Practicing Gratitude Has Profound Health Benefits

 



Before the feast begins, everyone around the table shares something that makes them feel grateful. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in many U.S. families, but you might be surprised to learn that the simple exercise can have dramatic benefits.


For those who can resist diving into the turkey and mashed potatoes for a few minutes to share their thanks first, evidence indicates that gratitude can boost health and well-being.


Benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health. The limits to gratitude’s health benefits are really in how much you pay attention to feeling and practicing gratitude.


You might get a warm glow from expressing gratitude once a year at Thanksgiving. To truly derive long-lasting benefits, though, experts say you should make it a part of your daily or weekly routine. Scientific evidence from gratitude research backs up a few typical approaches, including saying thanks to people who don’t expect it and writing down a few things each day that make you grateful. It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get.  The more you practice, the easier it is to feel grateful when you need it.


Research has found links between gratitude and brain structures also tied to social bonding, reward and stress relief. Other studies have revealed connections between the tendency to feel grateful and a chemical called oxytocin that promotes social ties.


Research on gratitude has also found associations with other health benefits, including general well-being, better sleep, more generosity and less depression.  It makes sense that gratitude is beneficial from an evolutionary perspective. Gratitude is such a key function of our social lives and our evolution as a species. People who did not develop gratitude or grateful relationships with others, it’s very unlikely they would have survived in a social context.


There’s something wonderful about getting together with people and being thankful, so you may not be able to be with your family or loved ones, but it may be a time to be brave and ask other people to get together — it doesn’t have to be fancy — and talk about what you’re thankful for.


Gratitude can help people cope with stress and build stronger relationships

Taking a few moments to reflect on gratitude can broaden your perspective, helping you find meaning in small but enjoyable moments, like drinking a delicious cup of coffee or taking a hot shower. Finding those minor sources of joy can keep you from dwelling on what you don’t have, and instead help you think about what makes you happy.

Writing in a gratitude journal can build a reserve of positive feelings that you can draw on during rougher patches in life. And sharing thanks with people in your life who make you grateful can pay off with deeper connections.

People who are grateful get less triggered or angry, they have more positive feelings, and in some ways, that attracts other people. When you feel these positive emotions and relish good experiences with others, there’s a bonding in that, and it tends to build stronger relationships.


Whether spiritual or philosophical, gratitude has roots throughout human history

Gratitude is a common thread through many religions and philosophies. Cicero reportedly called it the “mother of all virtues.” Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” And Charles Dickens shared a similar sentiment with his oft-quoted phrase, “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”


Whether you embrace a spiritual, religious or secular approach to feeling grateful, practicing gratitude reflects a recognition that the positive things in life have a source beyond ourselves. To be grateful is to express a personal relationship with that source, whether understood as an anthropomorphic deity or as the cosmos, the universe or the greater world… That’s a profound thing.


Tips on practicing gratitude

So what are some proven techniques to becoming a more grateful person? Gratitude research has shown that some of the most effective approaches include maintaining a gratitude journal, writing personal thank-you notes and regularly expressing gratitude to others in person.  Keep a gratitude jar as a family, have them write on a piece of paper what they are grateful for every day and place it in the jar.  During dinner or leisure time, take a few of the notes out of the jar and enjoy reading one another’s thoughts.  


As for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday there’s no wrong way to practice gratitude. Going around the table to share thanks, writing positive messages to others or simply taking the time to connect with friends and family are all good ways to get started.

How Physical Activity Impacts Sleep



Exercise is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. Even small amounts of physical activity can improve your mood and cognitive function, alleviate anxiety, and decrease your risk of diseases and other medical conditions. Studies have also found that physical activity helps people sleep better. That said, how, how much, and when you exercise will affect your sleep in different ways.


Additionally, a good night’s sleep is important for those who exercise regularly. Sleep allows your body to recover from the previous day. Getting enough rest after a workout strengthens your muscle and tissues, which can help you avoid fatigue and exercise-related injuries. Conversely, poor sleep may lead to  lower physical activity levels during the day.

Does Physical Activity Help You Sleep Better?

Numerous studies have explored the link between exercise and sleep, and most conclude that certain types of physical activity improve sleep quality and duration. Interestingly, other forms of exercise can decrease sleep quality and prevent us from getting enough rest.

The best exercise to improve sleep largely depends on how old you are. For instance, some studies have found that moderate exercise training over the course of several weeks can improve sleep quality and duration for adolescents, whereas vigorous exercise during the same timespan has been shown to decrease sleep duration for some teens.

Regular exercise can help healthy adults sleep better. While acute physical activity can have a small effect on sleep quality and duration, regular, moderate exercise can extend sleep duration, improve sleep quality, and decrease sleep onset, or the time it takes to fall asleep.

For adults with sleep disorders, exercise needs may be a bit different. One study found that moderate resistance training and stretching exercises are beneficial to people with insomnia. Similarly, subjects who participated in moderate aerobic sessions reported decreased sleep onset, fewer waking episodes during the night, longer sleep duration, more sleep efficiency, and less overall anxiety.

Other Health Benefits of Physical Activity

In addition to helping you sleep better, regular exercise also provides the following benefits.

  • Improved Endurance: Certain aerobic activities can increase your heart and breathing rates, which is important for healthy cardiovascular, respiratory, and circulatory function. Endurance exercises include running or brisk walking, swimming, and cycling.
  • Stronger Bones and Muscles: Weightlifting and other strength-building exercises can increase your muscle mass. For older adults, physical activity also keeps bones and joints in good shape. This can counteract the loss of bone density, which naturally occurs with age, and decrease the risk of a hip fracture during a fall.
  • Increased Balance and Flexibility: Balancing exercises like tai chi make it easier for you to walk on uneven surfaces and reduce your risk of falling and injuring yourself. Yoga and other stretching exercises help your body remain limber.
  • Weight Management: Exercising allows you to burn the calories you consume from eating and drinking. The right amount of exercise depends on your body type, since some people require more physical activity to burn calories. However, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five times per week is recommended for most people.
  • Reduced Health Risks: Regular exercise can decrease your risk of a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Physical activity can also reduce your risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
  • Longer Lifespan: People who exercise for roughly 150 minutes per week are 33% more likely to outlive those who don’t exercise. Keep in mind that you don’t need to overdo it on physical activity in order to be healthy. Even small bursts of moderate to vigorous exercise can benefit your overall health.


When Should You Exercise?

The timing of your workout is crucial to sleep. Aerobic workouts in the early morning have been shown to improve sleep quality to a greater extent than the same workouts in the afternoon or evening. Exercising in the morning has also been linked to more time spent in slow-wave sleep. A daytime walk lasting 10 minutes or longer can also improve your sleep that night.


A good rule-of-thumb is to avoid strenuous exercise within three hours of your scheduled bedtime. Working out late in the day can raise your body temperature, which in turn may impact sleep onset and how well you sleep. Some studies have even concluded that high-intensity workouts within an hour of bedtime can negatively affect sleep time and sleep efficiency.


Yoga and other stretching exercises may be more suitable evening exercises, as they promote feelings of relaxation and can improve sleep quality. Alternatively, you can alleviate physical tension before bed using progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.  

 

The Connection Between Sleep and Weight

 



We need sleep for many reasons such as repairing the body, keeping the immune system strong, and enabling mental clarity and focus. Additionally, a good night’s sleep and the hormones it controls in our bodies can go a long way towards aiding weight loss.


THE HORMONAL CONNECTION BETWEEN SLEEP AND WEIGHT LOSS

When we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t just get cranky. The hormones that control our cravings and help us feel satisfied after eating are thrown out of whack making us more likely to crave unhealthy foods and indulge in mindless snacking. Feeling cranky and hangry is a recipe for disaster.

We’re taking a look at several key hormones that play a role in sleep and weight loss so we can take control of our energy levels, hunger levels, and moods.


GHRELIN AND LEPTIN

The two hormones that are responsible for our feelings of hunger and satiety can be strongly influenced by how much or how little sleep we are getting.

Ghrelin AKA the hunger hormone gives the brain a signal that we’re hungry and ready to eat. Leptin is the hormone that lets us know when we’ve had enough to eat and puts the brakes on our hunger.

Not getting a recommended seven hours of solid sleep per night has been shown to increase ghrelin and decrease leptin. One bad night can make us feel hungrier, have more cravings (especially for sweets and processed foods carbs), and are more likely to indulge in overeating.


CORTISOL

Along with throwing off our hunger hormones, studies have shown that just one night short of sleep can increase our levels of cortisol AKA the stress hormone. Excess cortisol has been linked to increased appetite and weight gain. If continued, chronic lack of sleep and excess cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat (especially around the belly), and ultimately increase the risk of obesity. Studies have shown that taking Omega 3s can reduce cortisol spikes and support balanced hormones and overall health.


INSULIN

Not only can lack of sleep increase our likelihood of eating sweets and refined carbs, but it also impairs our ability to handle these carbs and sugars properly.

Insulin is the hormone that helps move glucose (sugar) into our cells in order to feed our muscles and be used as energy. Inadequate sleep impairs this process and can cause insulin resistance leaving glucose in the bloodstream and stored as fat instead of being used for energy.


DIGESTION, ELIMINATION, SLEEP, AND WEIGHT LOSS

Many of us naturally feel the urge to have a bowel movement in the morning but have you ever wondered why? While we sleep, the liver is breaking down toxins and excess hormones to be eliminated. At the same time, the colon is busy forming solid waste so all these items have an easy exit out the body. When we wake up in the morning (or soon after), our body is ready to release that waste.

If we don’t get enough regular sleep, the elimination process can suffer leading quickly to constipation. Constipation is one of the main ways the weight loss process is held up.

While quality sleep is not the only factor that influences our weight and well-being, it plays a very important role in both. If you are working on your weight, we encourage you to pay close attention to your sleep cycle, try to make time for a full night’s sleep, and utilize some sleep tips such as avoiding blue lights from a tablet or phone before bed, writing a to-do list, and making sure your bedroom is a sanctuary left only for sleep.

All Calories Are Not Created Equal

 




When it comes to losing weight, the list of options seems to be endless—Atkins, Whole30, Paleo, and Ketogenic are just a few of the more popular diets today. Back in the 90s, low fat was all the rage, and now people seem to worry more about carbs and sugars than fats. But ask many diet skeptics, and they will tell you that “a calorie is a calorie, and you just need to worry about calories in versus calories out.”


But is that true? It certainly seems to make sense on the surface. And we all remember the professor who lost 27 pounds on the “Twinkie diet” in 2010. However, while a calorie’s energy value may be the same no matter what you eat, the fact is that your body responds quite differently to different types of calories. Here are just a few facts that explain why all calories are not created equal.


#1: Calories from whole foods provide more value than processed foods.

Yes, by definition, a calorie is the same no matter what you eat. As defined, a calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree C. so technically, 100 calories of cake offers the same amount of energy as 100 calories of kale. But, as we know, the value of a food goes beyond calories, including macronutrients like fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Whole foods give you a bigger “bang for your buck,” providing a better overall value for what you are eating, with more nutrients and fewer total calories.


#2: Not all sugars are the same.

While sugars tend to have the same chemical structure, they aren’t metabolized in the same way by the body. . Glucose and fructose are two simple sugars that are very common in our diets. Glucose can be metabolized by any tissue in your body; however, fructose must be converted in the liver before producing energy. Excess fructose is converted into cholesterol and triglycerides, increasing body fat and blood lipids.

Calories from fructose are much more harmful than glucose, and should be avoided as part of an organic diet.


#3: Different foods are absorbed differently by the body.

You may know that carbohydrates, fat, and protein have different caloric values per gram (4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein, and 9 calories per gram for fat), but they are also absorbed differently by the body. Protein is by far the most efficient, because it requires more energy to metabolize, which means that the body burns more calories when you eat protein compared to fat and carbs (if you read last week’s blog you should already know that ;))

Because protein is more efficient, 100 calories of lean chicken is more beneficial than 100 calories of bread. Keep the carbs low and protein high if you’re wanting to keep a healthy diet



#4: Some calories are more filling.

In the same way that protein is metabolically more efficient, it is more filling compared to fats and carbohydrates. Studies also show that people on high protein diets lose more weight without counting calories due to decreased appetites.

If you are wanting to lose weight, protein calories are much valuable than others. Eat more protein and stay full longer.


#5: Sugary, processed foods can increase cravings.

While protein is more filling, some foods not only fail to leave you feeling full, but can actually cause more cravings. Sugary, processed foods flood the pleasure center of your brain with dopamine, which causes you to want more of that “boost.” Over time, a tolerance can build up, and your brain will require more sugar for your brain to win the same reward.

Some natural foods like fruits and vegetables have a high content of sugar. However, they also contain fiber and protein. Eating an apple is very different then drinking a glass of apple juice.  You typically only eat one apple. When you do so you also get all of the fiber, micro, and macronutrients as well. When you drink apple juice, you drink the sugar of several apples and none of the fiber. Drinking a glass of apple juice may have as much sugar as a glass of pop/soda; however, it is a step in the right direction as you get the benefits of some of the natural vitamins and minerals. The best option is to eat the whole fruit.

Not only do the calories from sugary, processed foods leave you with very little nutritional value, but they can also lead to eating more calories overall due to the rush of dopamine that is sent to the brain.


#6: It’s much harder to overeat some calories.

Think about a time you may have eaten a dessert or decadent meal and realized later that it contained hundreds of calories? A recent article in Time found that the average takeout meal contains 1,205 calories, and 92% of meals contained at least 570 calories. Have you tried to eat 570 calories of kale? If so, you’d be eating almost 18 cups, which would be nearly impossible!

Raw fruits and vegetables are not as dense with calories, giving you a higher volume of food to eat for fewer calories.

So while an individual calorie measures the same in a cookie or a salad, the value of a calorie goes beyond this very narrow definition. A diet of organic, whole foods with limited sugar and carbohydrates will lead to decreased appetites, lower calorie consumption, and better overall health.



What is the Thermic Effect of Food?

Different types of foods go through different metabolic pathways, and some pathways are much more efficient than others. Fat and carbs travel a very efficient metabolic pathway, which means that the majority of the energy you intake from the fat and carbs you eat is used for “work,” or important bodily processes. The pathway for protein is a whole lot less efficient, meaning many of the calories you consume from protein are lost as heat when that protein is metabolized by the body.


According to Healthline, “the thermic effect of food (TEF) is a measure of how much different foods increase energy expenditure, due to the energy required to digest, absorb and metabolize the nutrients.” In other words, TEF measures how different foods impact your metabolism by measuring the energy needed to process the nutrients from said foods.

Protein requires a lot more calories to digest compared to fat and carbs, with a portion of protein burning about 25-30% of the calories contained within itself compared to about 2% for fat and about 7% for carbs. 


How Can I Capitalize on TEF?

As we mentioned in the last section, eating more protein is the best way to utilize the TEF to your advantage. Not only does protein have the highest thermic effect of the three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), but it also has an anti-aging effect because it’s needed for muscle and tissue health.


Despite its importance, there’s a very good chance that you’re not eating enough protein. Recommended protein intake will be variable since we’re all different heights and weights and have vastly different activity levels. For example, given the demand they place on their muscles and tissues, an athlete will need more protein than the average person. 


A good rule of thumb is to consume at least 30g of protein at each meal, but ideally between 30-50g. To put that in perspective, 1 ounce of protein is about 7g. If your goal is 30g/meal, you’ll need to eat at least 4oz of protein at each meal. Did you know that one egg is only considered an ounce of protein? That means you’d need to eat at least 4 eggs with breakfast to hit your goal, not the 1-2 that you’re probably eating now.


The best, most bioavailable (easiest for your body to digest and absorb!) forms of protein will be from animal products, like eggs, dairy, meat, seafood, and more. You can also get protein from plant sources, with foods like beans and other legumes, organic soy, or nuts and seeds. Just keep in mind that since many of these are a mix of carbs and protein, they won’t have the same high TEF that animal-based protein sources have.


Not only does protein have the highest TEF and have an anti-aging effect, but it is also the most satiating macronutrient. That means it keeps you full for longer, helps balance your hunger hormones, and even reduces cravings. It’s so important to eat enough! If you’re interested in reading more, we talked recently on the blog about the importance of eating enough protein.  

 

Surprising Uses For Coconut Oil

 




Coconut oil is quickly becoming a new food obsession. And despite the fact that it was labeled as a big no no in the nutrition world several years back because it’s a saturated fat, it's come back has been huge.  And rightfully so. 

 

Other than the obvious use of cooking with it, here are some other super awesome, and maybe surprising excuses to dig into the stuff.

 

#1 Use it Externally As A Skin Tonic

 

As many of you may know, coconut oil has fabulous antimicrobial properties to help our bodies immune system deal with foreign invaders. So when we EAT it we gain all that awesomeness. 

 

We can also use it EXTERALLY for the same reasons. 

 

You can use it as an eye makeup remover, help prevent stretch marks, and use on dry skin or acne prone skin for a night cream. 

 

It can also help soothe eczema and psoriasis.

 

Try adding some essential oils to it and rubbing into irritated areas for a nice soothing scented oil.

 

#2 Coffee Creamer

 

This one is so amazing! You can put a dollop in your coffee and it emulsifies like a cream. And then you get all the deliciousness of the coconut and froth heaven without the dairy. 

 

And you get all the benefits from ingesting it like brain health, immune health and gut health. Win. Win. 

 

#3 Instant Chap Stick

 

Rub some on your lips and your good to go.
 

#4 Weight Loss

 

I know for many of you this is counterintuitive. Eat fat to lose fat? Yup. 

 

Studies have shown that the make up of this fatty acid has a direct affect on metabolism and thyroid health in that it helps BOOST it. 

 

Fat is also the thing that triggers the brain to tell you you’re FULL and you stop eating. So its super important to eat fats with every meal so you know when to put the fork down. 
 

#5 Oil Pulling

 

Many may ask about the legitimacy of oil pulling. For those who are unfamiliar here it is. 

 

So oil pulling is ancient remedy stemming from India. The idea is that you swish a tablespoon or so of oil (coconut) in your mouth for 15-20 min a day and it not only helps dramatically with gum and oral health it helps draw toxins out of the body. 

 

When you’re done swishing you spit the oil out and go on with your day. 


It works! You will see a dramatic difference in your teeth and gums.  They will be whiter and healthier in a matter of a week.  Who doesn’t want that?!


You might have to work your way up to 20 minutes.  Our cheeks might not be in shape just yet, but you’ll get there.  Don’t get frustrated if you need to spit at the 7 min mark.  Just like with exercise, it is a progression. 

   

Timing around this is key so work your way up if you have to. You’ll get there. 

 

So the how to?


1. Take a spoon and dig out about a TBS of organic coconut oil and put it in your mouth.  You can add a drop of either peppermint and/or tea tree essential oils too!


2. Swish around for 20 minutes. Your saliva will mix with the oil making it like an oily mouthwash. 


3. Spit the oil in your TRASH CAN. This doesn’t need to be going into your septic or the kitchen sink.


4. Rinse your mouth well with warm water.


5. Brush your teeth. 

 

Repeat the next day.

 

The Benefits of Kettlebell Training



Versatility

In one small piece of equipment, kettlebells boost your fitness in several aspects. The kettlebell is the most versatile fitness tool; you can use it to improve your strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance. A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) shows that kettlebell training improves strength gains, aerobic capacity, balance, and core stability.


High Calorie Burn

Kettlebells are well known for their calorie-burning potential. Kettlebells can be used during high-Intensity workouts to get a fantastic sweat on. Due to its circular nature and submaximal load for movements like the snatch or clean and jerk, you can work for higher longer and longer sets of 10 minutes or more.

During a kettlebell workout involving snatches, the calories burned were shown in an ACE study to be 13.6 calories per minute aerobically and 6.6 calories per minute anaerobically. A calorie burn at this level is similar to a six-minute mile running pace.


Improved Jump Height

Kettlebell exercises such as swings and snatches can improve jumping ability. What’s more, kettlebells can improve your athletic abilities in many ways by developing explosive power. 

According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the hip-hinging motion of swings and the quick reaction needed to swing the kettlebell builds explosive strength in as little as six weeks.


Improved Posture and Balance

Turkish get-ups, windmills, and armbars are some fantastic full-body movements that will increase your mobility, stability, and strength. Any tool that increases strength, stability, and mobility will help improve posture. 

Kettlebell exercises can improve postural reactions.  Postural reactions are movements that your body takes to help correct its position in space. Meaning, they keep your head, neck, and spine in the right place, helping prevent falls and poor posture.


Low-Impact Cardio

Since kettlebells are adept at helping you burn a high amount of calories by increasing your heart rate and using your whole body, they provide excellent cardio training while avoiding the pavement pounding impact of running. 

Improved Grip

Gripping onto the handle of the kettlebell helps increase grip strength. Keeping ahold of a heavy ball while swinging it through the air is a difficult task that requires strength in your hands and fingers.  Research shows that grip strength is a good indicator of overall health and quality of life, especially as we age.


A Stronger Core

Kettlebells help you build a stronger, more stable core. The nature of kettlebells changing your center of gravity forces you to brace your core, building functional strength and stability in the spine. Rotational movements are essential too, and easily done with a kettlebell. Try around-the-worlds, Russian twists, Turkish get-ups, and one-arm swings.


Convenience

Kettlebells are easily transportable. They have a built-in handle and can provide a full-body strength and cardio workout with one tool. You can keep one in your car and ensure that you always have a dynamic piece of equipment to get a good workout in.


Efficiency

Since kettlebells are so good at activating your muscle groups and burning calories, you can get both your cardio and strength training in one efficient workout session. You can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time and get a great workout in 20-30 movements. Try using some kettlebell movements in your next HIIT or Tabata training session.


Increased Shoulder Strength and Stability

Using a kettlebell for any pressing or overhead movements will challenge the shoulder in a unique way that a dumbbell or barbell won't, increasing your shoulder stability and strength. Shoulder strength and stability are vital since we reach and extend using our shoulders so frequently. Shoulders are easily injured, so keeping them fit should be a priority.


The Takeaway

Kettlebells provide a unique method of training that can add variety to your workouts. They are highly effective and easy to transport. Start by adding a few simple kettlebell exercises to your routine and build from there. Seek out instruction for proper form to keep yourself injury-free and performing well.

 

Ways To Move More At Work

 



NEAT helps keep your energy intake and output balanced, which is vital for maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that NEAT is responsible for 6 to 10% of the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) in sedentary individuals and 50% or greater in those who are very active throughout the day. It is clear that NEAT is a vital component of creating a healthy energy balance.


With sedentary jobs and lifestyles, NEAT is often greatly diminished. Even if you hit the gym a few times per week, you may not be moving enough to keep your weight in a healthy range. 

Ways to Work Movement Into Your Day

Adding more movement into your day doesn’t have to time consuming or difficult. Here are several ways to increase NEAT and planned activity during your workday.


Take Movement Breaks

Setting timers for breaks is a simple and highly effective method for increasing movement. Choose a length of time that you will work, such as 1 hour, and set timers for breaks lasting 5 to 10 minutes.


Getting up to move around, performing light stretches, or going for a walk around the office or your home can help combat the adverse effects of sitting, such as pain, stiffness, and muscular imbalances. It also can help increase your energy expenditure.

One study shows that even short, 3-minute movement breaks when taken every 30 minutes can combat the effects of sitting, including more stable blood sugar levels, reduced “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels, and improved fasting glucose. The blood flow boost that comes from getting out of your seat is the likely cause of these benefits, according to researchers.


Pace the Room

Whenever you have calls at work, try pacing the room instead of staying in your seat. Pacing not only increases your activity levels but may also help increase creativity—a win-win for your employer and your health.


Set Up a Movement Workstation

If you have the flexibility to switch out your regular desk set-up for a standing or walking workstation, you can increase your movement substantially. To reach 10,000 steps, for example, you only need to walk for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, or up to 2 hours, depending on your stride length and speed. 

Alternatively, try standing for part of the day. While standing doesn’t burn too many extra calories compared to sitting, they do add up. And there are other benefits, such as a reduced risk of diseases and mortality.


Use Your Lunch Hour Wisely

If you have extra time at lunch, consider heading outdoors for a walk. Walking after your meal can help control blood sugar levels, adding even more significant benefits to your extra activity.


Another reason to walk during your lunch hour is that it utilizes a habit-building method called habit stacking. Because eating lunch is something you do every day on auto-pilot, stacking a walk onto that ingrained habit will help anchor movement into your daily routine.


Do Desk Exercises

There are several types of exercises you can do at your desk. Plus, equipment such as an under-the-desk peddler can help keep you moving and burning calories during your workday.


According to research, these devices have been shown to be beneficial for overweight office workers, who increased daily calorie burn without discomfort. You can also keep resistance bands and dumbbells nearby to grab when you are on calls, listening to meetings from your desk, or during one of your breaks.

Try Walking Meetings

If you feel comfortable, try pitching the idea of walking meetings. Whenever a brainstorming session or one-on-one meeting takes place with co-workers, taking the meeting on the move might be an option everyone can benefit from. Not only will it potentially increase creativity, but you will be able to get more movement into your day as well.


Take Advantage Of the Stairs

If your building has stairs, skip the elevator and take the stairs whenever you can. This recommendation is a popular, well-known one for a reason. Plus, stair walking exercises breaks can increase your cardio fitness level, reduce the risk of disease, and boost your fitness level. 


Stair climbing can burn three times as many calories as standing or light walking, making it a NEAT champion.   Plus, stair walking exercises breaks can increase your cardio fitness level, reduce the risk of disease, and boost your fitness level. 


Create Opportunities to Walk

Look for creative ways to build more walking into your day. Have a memo that you need to send to a co-worker? Get up and walk it over instead of relying on messaging or email.


Bring a small water bottle to work and fill it up as soon as it is empty. Park further away in the parking lot to increase your steps to and from the building.


And, walk to pick up your lunch rather than having it delivered to the office. Little trips like these will add up to substantial steps over the day.


Set Yourself Up for Success

Part of winning the battle with adding movement into your routine involves thinking things through or planning ahead. To set yourself up for success, use these tips to make movement more seamless and natural.


  • Schedule it: Schedule your breaks, lunch workouts, and movement into the day and stick to it.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: Either wear or bring comfortable, supportive shoes you can move easily in to increase your motivation and desire to move more.
  • Keep basic fitness equipment nearby: If you keep workout equipment within sight, you’ll be more likely to use it. Using an exercise ball or balance disc are also great options for increasing NEAT.
  • Use a headset for calls: Walking while on calls is much easier and better for your posture when you use a headset or earphones with a microphone.
  • Add comfortable flooring: If you plan on standing at your desk, you might want to invest in a padded mat for comfort.
  • Find a workout buddy: Social support can increase your motivation and accountability to stick to your movement plans. Find someone to join you on your lunch break walks.

Lets Talk About Inflammation

What is inflammation?

 

Let’s talk about acute inflammation. When you cut yourself, bacteria, viruses, and things from the outside world get in. To simplify, picture your immune system as a group of particular cells roaming around the body, bumping into things and asking the question, “Excuse me, are you “me”? Or are you “NOT me”?”


If it’s a “me”, they say, “Hi me!” and keep going on their merry way. If it’s a “NOT me”, (like a bacteria), your immune cells tag it, alerting the rest of the immune system to rid it from the body and anything else that looks like it. This acute inflammatory response looks like swelling, redness, puss, scabbing and eventually healing.

 

What about CHRONIC inflammation? 

 

Chronic inflammation is something that lasts longer than three months. Chronic inflammation is the SAME response of the acute injury, but the “acuteness” doesn’t go away. It just keeps happening. I am going to use food as an example. We know there are certain foods that cause an inflammatory response. What kinds of foods do that? Processed foods like gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, and alcohol.

 

I am going to pick on a donut here because it has gluten, dairy, sugar, and maybe even soy. Let’s say you eat a donut ONCE a year. Picture the donut situation as if you are basically taking a cheese-grater to your insides. If you do this ONCE a year, your body is like, “No problem, I got this!” But if you are eating donuts (or cereal, fast food, breads, pizza, noodles, etc.) every single day, this is what triggers the chronic inflammatory response over and over again. 

 

What happens over time is that inflammation becomes adaptive. Your body is adapting to its circumstances the best that it can. So, if you’re cheese-grating your body every day from food choices, then your body will work to create the inflammatory response every single time. 

 

And, if you cheese-grate your body enough, it begins to lose the game, and can't keep up with being able to get ahead of the injuries to HEAL.


This is when, eventually, disease will arise. But before disease arises, your body WILL give you a chance (or several chances) and clues as to what isn’t working. These chances or clues are called signs and symptoms. It's your body tapping you on the shoulder asking you to pay attention to the things that you're doing that are not working.

 

 

What do symptoms look like?


Diarrhea

Constipation

Headaches/migraines

Joint pain

Skin rashes/bumps/acne

Weight gain

Fatigue

Insomnia

Heart palpitations

Infertility/irregular menstrual cycles

Mood disorders (anxiety/depression)

The list is endless…

 

 

 

These are only some examples.

 

And most humans end up ignoring the symptoms or taking a drug (or drugs) to bandage it, all while they keep doing what they are doing (cheese-grating) and over time this will most likely lead to a diagnosis.

 

The root cause of disease is the CHRONIC inflammatory response. And please know, it’s not just food that causes the cheese-grater response to our bodies. Things like sleep disruption, blood sugar dysregulation, as well as our own thoughts (like re-living traumas daily) can continuously trigger our body's inflammatory response.

 

The good news? You can DO something about this.  There are some really great books like “Atomic Habits”, by James Clear, to help rewrite your health journey. Podcasts like “The Doctor's Farmacy” with Dr. Mark Hyman is another great place to start or continue your education on health. These resources are game-changers for shifting the conversation between your ears.

Ways To Make Exercise a Habit

 




Exercise is good for your heart, bones and muscles, weight, and sleep. Staying fit can even help you live a longer, healthier life.

You’ll get more benefits from exercise if you make it a regular habit rather than a once-in-a-while burst of heavy activity. Even small amounts can do your body some good: Just 10 minutes of aerobic activity each day can lower your risk of heart disease.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, don’t try to do too much at once.  You risk muscle pain or damage, or even a stress fracture. That could prevent you from working out again. Instead, start slowly. Steadily build up how long or hard you work out over time.

How do you motivate yourself to turn exercise into another part of your normal routine? Here are a few tricks to make exercise a healthy habit:

Find Something Fun

Choose exercises you like that are comfortable for you. You’re more likely to carve time out of your day for a workout, activity, or class if you enjoy it. If music pumps you up, try a Zumba or water exercise class. If you like fresh air and trees, plan bicycle rides through the park. If you’re competitive, join a local golf or tennis league.

Tips: Pick exercises that you look forward to, not something you have to force yourself to do just because it’s good for you. Enjoyable activities are more likely to become habits:

  • Think about how and where you like to exercise: indoors or
  • outdoors, alone or with a group, at a gym or at home.
  • You don’t have to do the latest fitness fad that you read about on social media if it isn’t right for you. If it suits you to just walk on a treadmill while you listen to a podcast, that’s great!
  • Do a variety of activities so you don’t get into a rut and quit altogether.

Make It Convenient

Exercise will become a habit when it fits into your normal schedule. If you tend to wake up early, plan to work out in the mornings before you shower. If you usually watch TV in the early evening, keep hand weights nearby so you can do some reps while you catch up on your favorite show.

Tips: Combine your workout with things that are already part of your daily life:

  • Take brisk walks with your dog.
  • Dance to pop music while you vacuum the house.
  • Climb a few flights of stairs instead taking the elevator.
  • Have a little extra time? Walk to the market or mall instead of driving.

Put It on Your Calendar

Schedule workouts just as you do other appointments. If you plan to do a morning walk or water exercise class three times a week, put that time into your schedule and let people know you’re booked.

Tips: Set up regular exercise appointments in your calendar:

  • Find a workout buddy so you’re more likely to show up and exercise.
  • Create a recurring appointment in your mobile phone or computer so it’s always blocked off as time when you’re busy.
  • Set up reminders or alerts that pop up on your phone screen ahead of your workouts.

Set Realistic Goals

You can’t form habits overnight. It’s a journey. Set realistic goals for exercises and you’re more likely to keep it up and make it a habit.

Tips: Create rewards to help you stick to a long-term workout routine:

  • Plan to do five 10-minute walks each week.
  • Write down your plan and include a reward for when you meet your goal.
  • Once you hit that goal, reward yourself. Book a massage. Download a new audiobook. Plan a picnic in the park.

Stay Flexible

Sometimes, your schedule changes. You get a new job. You have an injury. You move to a new home that’s far from your old gym. This can throw off your workout routine. Don’t give up. You can get back on track. Create new exercise habits if your old ones don’t work for you anymore.

Tips: Adjust your workout habits to fit your new normal:

  • Find a gym, park, or walking path near your new home.
  • Sign up for an exercise class that fits into your new work schedule.
  • If you’re getting over an injury or illness, start to exercise again at your new pace or fitness level. Slowly build up your stamina and strength.


Benefits of Farmer Carries

 



How to Do a Farmer's Carry

Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms resting at your sides. Place a set of dumbbells or kettlebells on the floor, one next to each foot.

  1. Squat down and grab a weight in each hand.
  2. Engage the core and pull your shoulder blades down and back while standing back up, returning to an upright posture.
  3. Step forward and begin walking. Keep your head up, shoulders back, and core muscles engaged.
  4. Continue walking for your desired time or distance.

You can perform a farmer’s carry for time or distance.  Either way, make sure you have enough space to walk as far or as long as you intend. 


Benefits of Farmer's Carry

The farmer’s carry targets your entire body. It strengthens the muscles in your biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, lower back, obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis. If you use a heavy weight, you may feel the burn in your chest as well.


Since you carry the weights for a distance, this move is a good pick for improving grip strength in the hands and wrists. Grip strength is essential for performing daily activities like lifting and carrying grocery bags.


The farmer’s carry also helps strengthen your core. This may lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk.


Other Variations of the Farmer's Carry

You can vary this exercise to better meet your fitness level and goals.


Reduce Time or Distance for Beginners

If the workout you’re following calls for walking 40 yards but this is too far for you, cut the distance in half. You can also reduce time and weight. If you find that either is too much, put the weight down and rest before finishing the exercise.


Increase Load

To add resistance to the farmer’s carry, increases the weight. Just make sure you don’t compromise form and remember that a little bit goes a long way. There’s no need to make significant jumps in weight. Sometimes even five pounds makes a big difference.


Increase Distance or Time

You can also add to the distance or time when doing a farmer's carry if you want to boost its intensity. Challenge yourself during each workout session by increasing your distance by 10 yards or adding 15 seconds to the exercise. 


Walk a Straight Line

Work on balance by following a straight line. To do this, find a line or the edge of a surface you can follow for the prescribed time or distance. Try to take each step on this line without falling to either side.


Use Heavy and Light Weights Simultaneously

If you really want to challenge yourself, grasp a heavier weight in one hand and a lighter weight in the other. Hold the lighter weight overhead while walking and keep the heavier weight by your side. Change sides at the halfway point.


Common Mistakes

To keep the move safe and effective, avoid making any of these common mistakes. 


Using the Wrong Weight

While you shouldn’t be afraid to use a heavier weight, if your form is being compromised, that weight is too much. Keep the weight heavier when going shorter distances and lighter if you’re carrying for a longer distance, such as 40 to 60 meters.


Not Keeping the Core Engaged

Any time you are upright and moving, you’re engaging the muscles in your core. The power, stability, and support generated from these muscles will help you move quicker and protect your lower back from injury.


Leaning Forward at the Waist

Performing the farmer’s carry bent over at the waist causes pain and discomfort in the lower back. This can happen when you get fatigued and your technique begins to suffer. To properly perform this move, brace your core, stand tall, and look straight ahead for the duration of the exercise.


Raising the Shoulders

During this exercise, the shoulders should be pulled down and back. This can be a challenge for people who have a tendency to walk (or do another type of activity) with their shoulders hunched up toward the ears.

Walking with a hunched posture while holding dumbbells or kettlebells creates discomfort in the neck and shoulders. You will know if you’re doing this move correctly if it feels like you’re pushing the kettlebell or dumbbell toward the ground.


Safety and Precautions

Generally speaking, the farmer’s carry is a safe move for most fitness levels, especially since you can adjust the resistance and modify distance or time. However, if you have any health conditions that limit your ability to perform cardiovascular exercise, you should talk with your doctor before trying this move.

If you experience any discomfort while doing the farmer's carry, stop and take a break. Rest for at least two to five minutes before resuming the activity.

To prevent injury, start with lighter weights (10 to 15 pounds) and go shorter distances (10 to 20 yards). Once you've developed some endurance and this exercise starts to feel easier, start by increasing the weight you carry, then increase how far or long you walk.

How To Boost Your Kids Immunity Going Into The School Year

 



The best foods for immunity-boosting in kids

Knowing the best foods that can help boost immunity can help you meal-plan for your child, whether that’s mealtime or an afterschool snack. Here are some important foods to cycle in.

Zinc, the immunity linchpin

One of the most important minerals that can help a kid’s immune system is zinc.  It’s typically found in protein-based foods. So oysters, red meat and poultry are some of the best sources.

Beans and nuts are also a good source for zinc, though the animal-based foods will deliver more of the mineral. 

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the recommended daily intake of zinc for kids is:

  • Birth to 6 months: 2 mg
  • Infants 7–12 months: 3 mg
  • Children 1–3 years: 3 mg
  • Children 4–8 years: 5 mg
  • Children 9–13 years: 8 mg
  • Teens 14–18 years (boys): 11 mg
  • Teens 14–18 years (girls): 9 mg

But be careful; the NIH also notes it’s possible to have too much zinc, which can result in nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. According to the NIH, the upper limits of daily zinc intake are: 

  • Birth to 6 months: 4 mg
  • Infants 7–12 months: 5 mg
  • Children 1–3 years: 7 mg
  • Children 4–8 years: 12 mg
  • Children 9–13 years: 23 mg
  • Teens 14–18 years: 34 mg

Probiotics and prebiotics for a gut-check

It’s also important, to give kids a good source of probiotics. Our gut harnesses a tremendous amount of bacteria. Some are healthy and some are not and probiotics help create a better balance of that healthy versus unhealthy bacteria.

Not only do a lot of yogurts contain probiotics, but that’s a popular food with kids.  Just make sure the sugar content is below 6grams. 

Fermented foods, are also a good source, including, kefir, sauerkraut and pickles. Also, apple cider vinegar is a good way to work in probiotics into a diet. 

Additionally, you should be sure to get your kids prebiotics. Prebiotics are plant fibers that stimulate the growth of good bacteria. Excellent sources of prebiotics are green bananas or plantains, Jicama root, yams and asparagus

Nuts and seeds, a power-packed snack

Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and ground flaxseeds all provide alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to fight illness.

Nuts and seeds are power foods for the multitude of nutrients they provide. Just to name a few, they source protein, fiber, “good” fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fats, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and vitamins E, B6, B12 and A.

Fruits and vegetables

This might sound pretty general, but these are always good standbys. Fruits and veggies provide various antioxidants which protect cells from damage and disease. Foods rich in antioxidants include berries and green vegetables such as broccoli and dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens.

These power foods pack a punch when it comes to vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, B2, B6, K, potassium, folate, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

And, of course, vitamin C is key to boosting immunity, and available in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Strawberries are great sources for vitamin C, too.

What about supplements?

We really encourage food, not supplements. There are times, though, when supplements make sense. Maybe you’re dealing with a picky eater or you’re struggling with a kid’s diet to get them the nutrients. In those cases, supplements can help.

One good example is Vitamin D. While your kids can get Vitamin D by soaking up sunshine, that’s harder to do when using sunscreen, during the cooler months and during the school year. 

Although foods can provide Vitamin D, you can’t obtain enough through just your diet so, in many cases, a supplement is suggested.

The amount of vitamin D you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts for kids and adolescents are listed below in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU): I

  • Birth to 12 months: 10 mcg (400 IU)
  • Children 1–12 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)
  • Teens 13–19 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)

Non-food tips

It’s not just food that can help your kids stay healthy throughout the school year. In fact, good sleep habits are essential for kids. 

Good, restful sleep is crucial for kids. Sleep is when our bodies rest, regenerate and heal. It’s an essential part of keeping our immune systems functioning as best they can.

Exercise is also important because physical activity can help keep your body resilient and more likely to fight off infections. Make sure your kids keep their bodies moving.

And one more way to help kids healthy is minimizing stress and anxiety, an admittedly tall task given the ongoing pandemic and the effects it has on kids. From concerns about getting sick to the stress of being separated from friends, it’s a tough time for kids and mindfulness can help. 

Deep breathing, meditation and communication can help pinpoint sources of anxiety and stress. Talk to your kids about ways that you can work together to minimize any negative feelings they may be having during these uncertain times.


Healthy Activities For The Whole Family

 


Make it a priority. There are many priorities in life—physical activity should be one of them. If you make fitness a priority, your kids are more likely to do the same. Carve out 30 minutes on several days of the week for “fun fitness time.” Take an after-dinner stroll or engage in a Saturday afternoon game of soccer in the park. Take turns choosing the “activity” days and contribute ideas for what to do.

Play. A child’s natural language is play. If you have younger children who aren’t ready for organized sports or other activities requiring more advanced motor skills, engage in active play. Take a trip to the park, go swimming, plant a garden, play tag or chase your toddler around the yard (or the house if the weather is unfriendly).

Make yard work a game. Not every chore has to be just that—a chore. Turn a mundane job into a game of “who can finish their task first.” Fall is the perfect time to rake leaves (and jump into the pile), mow the lawn and prune the landscaping. The same strategy can be applied to winter tasks such as shoveling the sidewalk or driveway—encourage kids to build a snow tunnel or fort.

Go on a scavenger hunt. This is great for older children. Create a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Make a list of items to find or collect, pair up and see who can collect all the items the fastest. Have a small family? Invite some friends to join in the fun.

Take a nature discovery walk. With all the technology in our lives, many of us don’t spend nearly enough time outside. Taking a nature walk with your family allows you to get some fresh air, explore the surroundings and learn something new. Invest in a book about the local trees, flowers or birds in your area and take a walk on a trail or walking path to see what you can discover.

Schedule a weekly game or sport night. This is great if your kids enjoy organized activities. Set aside an evening that is devoted to a family-friendly game of volleyball, soccer, football or other activity of choice. Take turns as a family deciding which game or sport to play each week.

Train for an event together. Training for an upcoming event such as a 5K or cycling race is a fantastic way to get fit together and provide a source of motivation for your family members.

Dance. Who doesn’t love music? And what’s better than moving to the music? Have a family dance party. You can introduce your kids to some of your favorite tunes and they can do the same for you.

Regardless of how you choose to encourage family-centered fitness, the goal is twofold. First, to spend quality time together as a family. Second, to teach your family that fitness isn’t to be perceived as a chore, but rather a path to a healthy lifestyle that can be traveled together.

Stay Hydrated During The Summer Heat



Know the Signs of Dehydration

The human body is made up of mostly water. In fact, as much as 60 percent of an adult human is water. It’s an essential life source and responsible for many bodily functions, from crying and spitting to flushing waste and regulating body temperature.


Dehydration sets in when your body doesn’t have enough water. Some of the signs of dehydration include:

  • Dark yellow urine
  • Lack of sweating
  • Dry skin
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Dizziness

You don’t want to get caught in the heat without enough water in your system.


7 Tips to Stay Hydrated in Summer


Get a big water bottle.

If you invest in a refillable water bottle, you’ll always be able to take water with you wherever you go. You can find bottles with time markers on the side to help you keep track of your daily water intake. You can fill it up and head out for the day and not have to worry about stopping to buy water or another drink. You’ll always have it on hand whether you’re going to the gym or jogging around town.


Eat more fruits and veggies.

You don’t always have to drink water to stay hydrated. Fruits and certain vegetables contain a lot of water and will keep you hydrated while you’re in the sun. Watermelon, lettuce, grapes and other fruits and nonstarchy veggies are good choices to keep dehydration from sneaking up on you in the summer. Eat more of these foods every day while also drinking plenty of fluids to keep your hydration at an optimum level.


Sip on fruit smoothies.

Maybe you don’t want to eat a bunch of fruit and vegetables every day. That’s okay – drink them instead. Making fruit and green smoothies is a great way to get your daily allowance of vitamins and minerals while also increasing your hydration levels. Not only are you adding hydrating fruits to the smoothie but also plenty of ice. Not only will the smoothie taste great and hydrate you, it will also regulate your body temperature. If you’re worn out from being in the sun all day, a fruit smoothie will help you to feel like a normal person again.


Drink plain coconut water.

Coconuts contain a lot of potassium and electrolytes to help keep you hydrated. It’s good for relieving muscle aches and cramps and doesn’t contain any fat. It does, however, contain a lot of calories, so you might not want to substitute coconut water for regular water. If you plan to drink coconut water, buy the plain kind. Some coconut waters come with additional flavoring or sugar added. The plain coconut water tastes great as-is and will work wonders for replenishing your body in the summer.


Watch your coffee and beer intake.

You probably already know that drinking coffee makes you pee. That’s because it contains caffeine and causes a diuretic effect. There’s no real evidence that caffeine increases your risk for dehydration. However, if you’re peeing a lot and not drinking enough water to replace it, it could have negative side effects.

Alcohol also has a diuretic effect and is known to cause dehydration. It messes with the antidiuretic hormone in the body, making it harder to absorb water. If you drink a lot of alcohol while in the sun, you’ll lose more fluids and not be able to replace them quickly enough.

Drink alcohol in moderation, and accompany it with a few glasses of water. If you’re spending a day on the lake and drinking alcohol, spend some time in the shade, and make sure to bring water and other hydrating fluids and foods with you.


Eat oatmeal for breakfast.

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? It is when you start the day with a bowl of oatmeal. Oats expand as they absorb water, so you’re not only getting a good meal but also plenty of fluids. If you add blueberries or strawberries, you’ll get even more water just by eating your oatmeal. Don’t like fruit in your oatmeal? Try chia seeds. They also soak up water and will help to keep you full until lunch.


Stay Hydrated in the Summer Sun

You can get water without having to drink it from a bottle. Sip on smoothies, eat some watermelon or crack open a can of coconut water. Just make sure to drink plenty of hydrating fluids each day and to carry water or a sports drink with you when you work or play under the hot summer sun.

 

Change Behavior; Reach Your Goals

 



If turning your health and fitness goals into reality feels overwhelming, you’re not alone.

Reaching any goal requires you to make changes. And asking yourself to alter habits or behaviors that you have cultivated over your lifetime, whether intentionally or subconsciously through repetition, is a tall order.

Health professionals and researchers have long been trying to unlock the mystery of behavior change to help people improve their health and fitness, and they have uncovered several methods of behavior change you can use to take small, achievable steps that will lead you to success.

A common misconception about behavior change is that the process is going to be difficult, but the results will come quickly. In reality, the success lies in making small, achievable changes over a long period of time, creating healthy habits that last.

To adopt healthy behaviors—eat healthy, exercise daily, sleep well and manage stress—you must have patience and do what you can to make it fun.

3 Easy Ways to Start Changing Your Behavior

Positive Psychology

“Positive psychology,” explain researchers, “is the scientific study of valued subjective experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism (for the future); and flow and happiness (in the present).” This behavior-change method encourages you to focus on your strengths rather than on your deficits. Look for opportunities to create a strengths-based, forward-looking, and supportive environment that helps enrich a meaningful behavior change journey rather than trying to fix what is wrong with you. This method has a lot to do with mindset, which is a significant component of any behavior-change effort. You cannot separate your brain from your body, so doing the mental work is equally as important as physically moving your body.

Try this: Start a gratitude journal.

Quite possibly one of the most effective forms of positive psychology is gratitude journaling, which is simply appreciating what you have. In the morning before you get on your phone or turn on the news, sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write down three things you are grateful for. This can be anything from clean air or a sunny day to the cup of coffee you’re drinking as you write. You could also take a mindful walk through nature, stopping to appreciate the sights and sounds.

Self-Determination Theory

Also known as the theory of human motivation, this method focuses on your potential and desire as a human to grow and connect. Of all the things that will help you change your health- and exercise-related behaviors, community might be the most powerful. Competence (feeling like you’ve done a good job), autonomy (owning your changes) and relatedness (the power of community and connecting with others) are the bedrocks of this theory.

Try this: Find a workout buddy. Join a walking club or get a family member or friend to join you in your efforts to be more active. on this mission of making positive changes. See how the accountability of another person increases your motivation and determination.

SMART Goals

Having a goal is important, but making sure it is a SMART goal—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound—has been shown to lead to greater success.

Try this: Create a SMART Goal. If you want to become a faster, fitter walker, for example, consider signing up for a walking event. This goal is specific (how many miles you’ll walk), attainable (start with a realistic mileage, depending on your current fitness level), relevant (walking is something most people find enjoyable, and training for this event will help make progress toward the goal) and time-bound (the date of the event gives you a set target to aim for when training). This same process can be used with a wide range of goals, including losing weight, increasing strength or improving your diet. The key is to make sure that your goal includes all the elements of a SMART goal so you end up with a specific plan rather than a vague idea of what you need to do to achieve it.

Change is not easy and it takes time. Don’t underestimate the power of a good mindset, be curious about this process and have fun with your journey.




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

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

1. Consume Adequate Energy (food is fuel)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Periodize Nutrition

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

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

4. Practice Safe Supplementation

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

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

5. Follow the Guidance of USA Nutrition Team

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

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

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

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

 



1. Burn calories 

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

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

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

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


2. Strengthen the heart 

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


3. Can help lower your blood sugar 

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

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

More research is needed to confirm these findings, though.

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


4. Eases joint pain

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

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


5. Boosts immune function 

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

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

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

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


6. Boost your energy 

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

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


7. Improve your mood 

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

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


8. Extend your life

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

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


9. Tone your legs 

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

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


10. Creative thinking 

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

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

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

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


Tips for staying safe while walking 

To ensure your safety while walking, follow these tips:

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


 

Benefits of Balance Exercises

 



WHY ARE BALANCE EXERCISES IMPORTANT?

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

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

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

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


THE BENEFITS OF BALANCE DRILLS

#1. REVERSING AGE-RELATED LOSS OF BALANCE

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

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

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

#2. PREVENTING FALLS

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

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

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

#3. BUILDING BETTER POSTURE

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

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


#4. ALLOWING FASTER RECOVERY FROM INJURY

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

#5. IMPROVING COORDINATION

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

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

#6. MAXIMIZING YOUR WORKOUT TIME

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

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


#7. IMPROVING YOUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE

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

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

#8. INCREASING YOUR MUSCULAR POWER

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

Fun Activities To Add To Your Summer Workout Routine




Gardening

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


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


Swimming

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

Hiking

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

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

Yard yoga

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

Paddle boarding

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


Kayaking


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

Disc golf

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

Cycling

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

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

Toss a ball

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

Meditation

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

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

 

Ways To Stay Healthy This 4th of July

 




Kick off your holiday with some exercise

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

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


Stay hydrated

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


Put a healthy twist on your patriotic dish

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


Remember that moderation is key

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

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

Simple Ways To Destress Your LIfe

 




1. Exercise

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

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

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

There are a few reasons behind this:

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

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


2. Consider supplements

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

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

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


3. Light a candle

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

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

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

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


4. Reduce your caffeine intake

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

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

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

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


5. Write it down

One way to handle stress is to write things down.

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

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


6. Chew gum

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

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

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

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


7. Spend time with friends and family

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

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

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

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

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


8. Laugh

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

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

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

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

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


9. Learn to say no

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

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

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

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

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


10. Learn to avoid procrastination

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

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

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

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


11. Take a yoga class

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

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

Yoga primarily does this by increasing body and breath awareness.

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

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

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

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


12. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment.

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

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

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


13. Cuddle

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

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

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


14. Listen to soothing music

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

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

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

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


15. Deep breathing

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

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

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

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

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

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


16. Spend time with your pet

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

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

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


Hydration Packets: Helpful or Hype?

 



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

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

Adequate hydration yields health benefits including:

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


HOW CAN I GET ENOUGH WATER?

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

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


DO HYDRATION PACKETS HELP?

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

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

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


ARE HYDRATION PACKETS EVER HARMFUL?

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

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



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

 



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

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

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

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

It will strengthen your lungs

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

It improves your concentration

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

It strengthens your bones

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

Walking 10,000 steps a day builds muscle

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

It helps stabilize your blood sugar

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

It can help lower blood pressure

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

It improves flexibility

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

It boosts your energy levels

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

It improves your mood

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

What You Need To Know About Muscle Strains




What are muscle strains?

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

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

Symptoms of muscle strains

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

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

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

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

Causes of muscle strains

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

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

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

An acute strain can happen when you:

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

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

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

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

First aid for muscle strains

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

Rest

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

Ice

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

Compression

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

Elevation

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

Other self-care methods include the following:

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

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

When to see a doctor

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

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

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

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

How to prevent muscle strains

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the outlook for someone with muscle strain?

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

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