Winter is on its way out and it's time to start toning those arms and flattening those abs! The arrival of spring is the perfect time to kickstart yourself into shape, and with tons of outdoor activities to choose from, you shouldn't have a problem finding the right fitness motivator for you. Here are some easy and fun recreational activities that tone muscles, strengthen immune health and don't require a membership.
Harvard University professor Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger once conducted a study that analyzed more than 10,000 people over a span of 20 years who played tennis three hours a week. His primary finding from his research was that just three hours of tennis per week will cut your risk of death, from any cause, in half. Sounds like a small price to pay for doubling your chances of life longevity. The start and stop quick aerobic motions of tennis help increase your heart rate and burn calories while also working out muscles in your arms, chest and legs. The hand-eye coordination and game strategy involved will also stimulate your brain. Try getting that from the treadmill.
While there's always indoor volleyball for those not near the beach, serving up shots and spiking balls on the sand is a great outdoor exercise that won't sacrifice leisure. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, participating in just 30 minutes of beach volleyball can burn more than 350 calories for a185-pound person. Beach volleyball is also a combination of improving balance, toning muscles and enhancing your reflexes. Plus, it's not a bad way to work on that post-winter sun tan.
It's time to ditch the stationary treadmill and strap on the helmet and kneepads! Rollerblading is a great way to move around outside while getting your workout on. According to the Mayo Clinic, one hour rollerblading for an 160-pound person will burn a whopping 550 calories, which is more than jogging or swimming. Rollerblading can increase flexibility and stamina. Also, it puts less stress on your knees and other joints so you won't be as sore the next day.
This is a game that's about as carefree as you can get, but it still provides good exercise. The rules of ultimate frisbee are similar to football, except no one gets tackled and winning isn't the main objective. Just 30 minutes of running around tossing a frisbee with your friends can burn 150 calories, not to mention it's a perfect way to spend a splendid spring day outside.
People are motivated to exercise in order to live longer, be healthier and look better. But let's face it: it can be downright difficult to find the spark to get up off the couch, sweat your face off and put your muscles to the test. The key to unlocking a sustainable and enjoyable exercise routine is to center your workout around activities you actually appreciate. So lace up your running shoes and gulp down the protein powders while perusing this list of tips to help make exercising a habit rather than a chore.
Competition is one of the ultimate motivators, and nothing sets the bar higher than exercising around your peers. Yoga classes are a perfect way to achieve flexibility, clear your mind and be surrounded by people who are determined to stay focused, which has a good chance of rubbing off on you. Hire a personal trainer to help you learn about successful exercising and dieting and also put you to the test during every session. Even lining up weekly jogs or sports games with your friends will allow you to chat and catch up while also getting a sufficient sweat in.
Do something you enjoy
Lifting weights and running on the treadmill are the obvious forms of exercise, but if you don't enjoy these activities, it will be difficult to stick to them. Try doing 30 minutes of recreational activity you'll actually take pleasure in each day, whether it's going for a bike ride, running with the dog or meeting up with friends for a pick-up basketball game. Another benefit of proper exercise is the therapeutic value of working out as a stress reliever to help get your mind off whatever stresses you.
Make exercise convenient
Sometimes the biggest problem of finding time to workout is the actual process of getting to the gym. There's no rule you have to pay for a membership to get in shape, so make your basement or backyard your ultimate exercise sanctuary. Set up a treadmill by your television and watch your favorite show while running a few miles. Listen to your band of choice while pumping out some dumbbell reps. If you have an errand to run, kill two birds with one stone and literally run to go get it done.
Give it some time
Experts say it normally takes up to six weeks for a routine to settle in and become a part of your everyday life. Give your new-found fondness of working out a chance before you give up on it. There's no need to overdo it and burn yourself out, so start off slow in your first week and pick up the pace the further along you go. Buy a calendar and cross off each day of exercising until the end of six weeks, and odds are you'll be aching for more muscle burn.
Make an investment
If you really want to put yourself to the test, make a few purchases that will force you to financially justify your need for exercise. Pick up some aerobic or free weight equipment to try out at home, because they will serve as a guilt trip reminder if you wind up leaving them useless on the floor. Buy some new workout clothes and gear to look sharp while you get your sweat on. Purchase supplements, like a testosterone booster or a VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake to help you feel better inside and look fit on the outside.
Whether it's napping off a pound of turkey after a Thanksgiving feast or staying up all night after a cookies and ice cream binge, there's no denying the effects food has on our psyches. But do we ever think about how it works the other way around? Do we choose to eat strawberries because we know they're packed with healthy antioxidants, or is our decision the result of unconscious temporary impulses unbeknownst to our minds? Recent research has delved into discovering why we let our emotions dictate what we put into our diet, putting a new perspective on the old phrase, "you are what you eat."
Professors from the University of Delaware set up experiments to help understand why people resort to junk food or excess eating when faced with levels of stress and disappointment. The researchers conducted various experiments that tested which foods people wanted to eat depending on what mood they were in. The researchers offered participants a bowl of raisins as "health" food or M&M's for "indulgent" food. The first test featured 211 subjects who self reported that they were very satisfied with their life and extremely goal orientated and found that they evaluated the raisins more favorably than those who self reported unsatisfactory perceptions of their lives. Those who were exhibiting signs of self-frustration expressed a preference toward the M&M's.
While the study failed to fully answer the question of why our emotions affect our impulses to eat healthy or not, the test did explore the concept of how our food decisions may depend on our perceptions of time. Meryl Gardner, a professor at the University of Delaware and author of the study, found the combination of mood and long or short term thinking was the real motivation for what we choose to eat.
"When you're in a good mood, you take a longer-term perspective," Gardner said in an interview with The Atlantic. "You see the forest, not the trees. When you're focused on the near term, when you're looking at what's in front of your nose, you respond with what's going to give you quick pleasure."
The relationship between what we eat and how we feel becomes more complex when focusing on how specific foods affect our emotions. Additionally, a 1983 study found that after a heavy carbohydrate meal, women tended to report a greater urge to sleep while men generally stated they experienced a sense of "calmness." Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can not only raise your cholesterol and blood pressure by 27 percent, according to a 2013 study from the Harvard School of Public Health, but also impact your morning energy levels and thus mood.
No matter what our dietary habits or eating impulses are, eating healthy regardless of your mood is the only way to cut calories and lower cholesterol. So next time you're feeling sour, stay away from the gummy worms calling your name and stick with the fruits and veggies, because if you eat healthy, odds are you'll be healthy.
Finding it difficult to choose a nutritious meal that is light on calories and even lighter on your wallet? It can be challenging to cook a nourishing dinner and not have to pay too much for healthy ingredients. But before you head out to the grocery store or pick up the phone to order a 15-dollar salad for delivery, check out this list of ideas for some well-balanced meals that won’t break the bank:
Spice up that plain bowl of granola cereal with some blueberries or sliced bananas, and switch out cow’s milk with nutritious almond milk that’s packed with Vitamin E, magnesium and riboflavin, while low on calories. Or, invest in the status quo of cheap and healthy breakfasts with a value-sized container of oatmeal that you can cook to a warm, gooey consistency. Since it can be a bit bland, think outside the oatmeal box and whip up something creative, like pumpkin pie oatmeal. Just add a little pumpkin puree, a dash of vanilla extract and some crumbled graham crackers to your hot morning cereal and you have a scrumptious, cheap and healthy concoction. For a heartier breakfast, bust out the skillet and cook up some sweet potato hash - a dish that’s full of antioxidants to enhance your metabolism. Plus, sweet potatoes are often on sale for less than a dollar a pound!
Brown-bagging it to work may not be the most glamorous lunch option, but no one can argue its economical impact. Rather than a turkey sandwich and chicken noodle soup, which may have graced your fifth-grade lunchbox, date it with a salmon salad sandwich on savory pumpernickel bread that’s chock full of lignans to help lower cholesterol. Pair it with a bowl of chickpea chili, which is a great source of fiber and economical, as chickpeas generally cost around four dollars per pound. Or, try an almond chicken salad, which is easy to make and essentially has all the basic food groups necessary for a well-balanced meal. You can also kick things up a notch with a zesty Mediterranean curry chicken wrap; though it sounds exotic, it only takes a few minutes to prepare.
There’s nothing more therapeutic than enjoying a delicious and easy dish you just created after coming home from a long day of work. The kitchen is your canvas, and you don’t need too much cash to construct a masterpiece. Make your dinner a fiesta with fajita-style quesadillas, using some household vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, folding them over in a flour tortilla and sprinkling some cheese over, melting the ingredients together for a supper with a kick. Whether you prefer penne, spaghetti or ziti, the pasta possibilities are infinite and inexpensive. Grill some chicken, boil some noodles and throw in some veggies and alfredo for a proper Italian dinner with plenty of leftovers. Linguini and shrimp can serve as an affordable entree that has all the features of pricey restaurant cuisine, minus the actual spending. You also can’t go wrong with some herb-grilled salmon and rice, an inexpensive combination that provides all the protein and amino acids you need.
Who said a little dessert ever hurt anyone? There are a number of tasty treats that won’t loosen your belt or your billfold. Try nonfat Greek yogurt - an excellent source of calcium, potassium and zinc – as a splendid topping on a muffin or cupcake. Drizzle some vanilla frosting and pistachios over a grilled pineapple for a taste of sweet perfection. Of course, there’s always a bowl of frozen yogurt, which tastes perfect when topped with strawberries and bananas.
You don’t have to whip out the credit card to have a taste of the healthy good life. These meals represent some of the many ways you can make something healthy and tasty without leaving the confines of your kitchen.
The office can be draining. Eight hours of typing, conference calls and watercooler conversation can make quite an impact on the mind. By the time five o'clock rolls around, exercise is the last thing on your mind, but sitting, typing and coffee drinking all day take a toll on the body as well. Remaining stationary at work can cause back pain, joint stiffness and weight gain.
Only 20 percent of American adults reach their daily requirement for exercise according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. But if you're looking for a way to kill two birds with one stone, try some simple and easy desk exercises. Here are five tips to help you exercise out while working:
The morning commute
Changing your route to the office may be all you need to cut a few calories and get a good cardiovascular workout before you clock in. If your office is relatively close, try walking or riding your bike to work. If you are taking a train or bus, get your blood pumping by getting off a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way. Standing for the entire commute can also help stretch out muscles. Even simple adjustments like taking the stairs over the elevator can increase your aerobic activity.
Magic carpet ride
Sitting down legs crossed while your feet are on your chair, grip the armrests with your hands and elevate your body, hovering a few inches above your seat cushion. Hold that position for at least ten seconds, and work in about five repetitions. This is a great way to strengthen your abdominal core as well as your biceps and forearms.
Under desk leg raises
Sit down straight at your desk and put your feet flat out on the floor. Squeeze your abs in, extend one leg out forward and in line with your hip. Hold your leg there for ten seconds, then alternate legs. Repeat between 10 and 15 times for a nice and simple workout on your calves and your abs.
Pack a healthy lunch
Statistics show that one in four Americans consume some type of fast food every day. Skip the fast food and provide yourself with a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables rich with antioxidants. Avoiding the burger and fries is also an easy way to lower cholesterol.
This exercise won't give you that six pack or pulsating biceps, but it might be the best for you in the long run. Those who type frequently at work are more than ten percent likely to develop severe wrist pain in their lifetimes. Stand at your desk, lay your palms down with your fingers facing your body and hold the stretch for a good 15 seconds. Do this multiple times per day to relieve potential carpal tunnel symptoms.
Healthy core muscles are essential in providing a link between your upper and lower body. Practically every motion your body goes through is conducted through your abdominal section due to the body’s need for stability and balance. Along with the intake of vitamins and antioxidants, a proper workout regime is the key component to losing the gut and sculpting perfect washboard abs.
When you think of improving your abs, typically simple crunches and sit-ups spring to mind. Though minor improvement can arise from these standard exercises, they’re often executed poorly, resulting in lower back pain as well as little progress in strengthening the muscles. Instead, here is a list of six quick and easy exercises to build your abs and see results.
This is a quick activity that requires no machinery. First lie flat on a mat, face up, with your hands behind the back of your head. Bring your right knee up to your chest while lifting your shoulder blades up, tilting them to the right side of your body. Do the same with your left leg while shifting your shoulders to the opposite side, and continue the process with your legs simulating a pedaling motion. Do 3 sets of 15 pedals to start to feel the burn.
Position an exercise ball under your lower back with both feet flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Cross your arms over your chest and raise your torso off the ball, dragging your ribs down to your hips. Descend back to the ball and repeat the motion. Speed isn’t a factor with this exercise, so take your time and work out multiple reps of 10 for a few minutes
Vertical leg crunches
Here’s another workout you can do in any location. Lie on your back and extend your legs vertically, crossing them at the ankles. With your hands supporting the back of your head, lift your shoulders up toward your feet, holding that position for a few seconds and then release your chest back to resting posture while keeping your legs raised. Repeat the exercise, completing 4 sets of 15 crunches.
If you have access to an Ab-roller machine, this is a great exercise to do. To start, sit on the seat and grab both handles. Rock back and forth, making sure to move your body by contracting your abs, rather than swinging your body for momentum. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Lie back on the floor, placing your hands at your waist. With your feet together, raise them in the air until your body is positioned at 90 degrees. Contract your abs as you lift your legs so your hips curl up a few inches from the floor. Avoid simply swinging your legs upwards and focus on the lifting aspect of the exercise. You’ll especially feel the burn in the lower section of your abs with this exercise. For a good conditioning, do three sets of 15.
Put yourself into a pushup position, resting on your forearms. Push off the floor with your toes, resting on your elbows and hold that posture for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep your back flat and don’t let your rear tilt up in the air. Do three to five reps.
These are a number of quick and simple workouts constructed to strengthen your inner core muscles. Sturdy abdominal muscles are the secret to making all those hours bending over at work or at home much more comfortable. Merely doing a few of these exercises every day will provide the toning you need to finally attain that six-pack you’ve been dreaming of.
Have you tried just about every weight loss method in the book and still aren't seeing the results you desire? Still struggling to find that secret formula to lower cholesterol and stay fit? Sure, everyone knows that exercising and healthy eating habits are the backbone of any good diet plan. But perhaps simply writing down everything you eat in a day can help you monitor your calorie intake.
Studies conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research have found healthy dietary routines and maintaining a food diary to be a successful combination for losing weight. In one study, nearly 1,700 participants were instructed to turn in weekly food journals, get a moderate amount of exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables. After six months of this routine, the participants lost an average of 13 pounds, with two-thirds reporting they lost at least 9 pounds in the process.
Lead author Jack Hollis asserted that food journals can motivate people to lose weight:
"The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost," Hollis said. "Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories."
By simply monitoring what we eat on a daily basis, we can recognize flaws in our dietary habits. Here are five tips to help you keep a successful food journal and get on the right track for weight loss.
It's easy to scrawl out a bunch of meals you had in a notebook, but making sure everything is in order will help ensure an easy way to catalog your dietary intake. Create proper columns that indicate the date, time, place, food consumed and overall quantity of food during the meal. When referring to quantity, try to be as specific as you can, like using proper measurements such as teaspoons or grams. It's important to include every single item of food you eat and beverage you drink to help detect destructive eating patterns.
Record your feelings
This also includes mentioning how hungry you felt prior to eating. Writing down simple feelings you experience during your meals, such as happy, tired or angry can help distinguish why you eat certain foods. If you're consuming foods because of feelings other than hunger, this might be what's setting you back on your weight loss goal.
Write down the place you're eating
Monitoring the location you eat at is another important step in understanding your dietary habits. If you notice you've been eating in bed or in your car frequently, you might be able to find more active environments to dine and help stimulate metabolism.
Record your weekly physical activity
This can serve as a blatant reminder of how active you're staying throughout the week. If you start noticing vacant spaces where your daily exercises should be scribbled down, it's time to pencil in an appointment to the gym.
Analyze your journal
At the end of the week, sit down and look over everything you've recorded. Calculate your portions of meat and dairy compared to those of fruit and vegetables. Observe any frequent or occasional drive-thru stops at fast food restaurants. The more you can understand your dietary flaws, the quicker you can correct them and maintain a healthy living.
Eggs have always been perceived as a hearty morning staple. Whether it was Rocky gulping down a raw yolk smoothie before a fight or Cool Hand Luke eating 50 of them in an hour, eggs are seen as a perfect high protein way to start your day. Then somewhere along the way, eggs became seen as a danger to health and one's attempts to lower cholesterol.
Here's a few facts about eggs to debunk all the health myths. Containing just 70 calories, consuming one egg a day fulfills your daily cholesterol requirements, so monitor your intake carefully. One egg can also provide 10 percent of your daily Vitamin D intake, and each egg contains six grams of protein, which is 12 percent of your daily regiment. The yolk makes up 90 percent of all the vitamins and minerals in eggs, and is also an essential source of choline, which aids cardiovascular health and brain function.
It's important to understand where your eggs come from and their nutritional value, which will help you evaluate which choices can provide the healthiest breakfast possible. Another key factor in determining the best egg for you is knowing the farming process and living conditions of the chickens hatching the eggs. Here's a list of healthier egg alternatives:
A lot goes into ensuring that hens laying organic eggs are truly producing the freshest commodity available. First off, to be determined organic by the USDA means that the hens must have frequent outdoor access, cannot ingest any unnatural antibiotics or vaccines and the grains provided for the hens must be void of pesticides of any kind. Genetically altered crops intended for the birds are not allowed, and hormones or other drugs must never be injected into the hen. This provides an all-natural egg that delivers you essential protein and nutrients.
These types of eggs are laid by hens living in open barns who are never subjected to steel confinements. While it's not a total lap of luxury, it's a change of pace compared to the normal 90 percent of chickens forced to lay eggs behind wire cages packed with other birds. While the core nutritional value of cage-free eggs is the same as those produced by wire-caged hens, research reveals that you're 25 times more likely to contract salmonella from wire-caged eggs than cage-free ones.
Omega-3-enriched eggs come from hens that were fed extensive amounts of omega-3-rich flaxseeds. This essential fatty acid is not produced by the body, and adding Omega-3 to your diet can reduce your blood pressure and inflammation throughout the body. Omega-3 has also been noted to help with arthritis and lower symptoms of depression. The hens fed with flaxseed are normally given outdoor access as well.
Eggs are an excellent source of beneficial vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron and vitamins A, D and E. It's suggested that only consuming up to three eggs per day will not increase your risk of heart disease, nor your ability to achieve lower cholesterol levels. The science that goes into how eggs are produced affects its overall nutrition, so it's important to be aware of not only what's inside your eggs, but where they came from.
Finding yourself tossing and turning all night? Can't sleep because your mind won't shut off? One recent survey by The Better Sleep Council found that almost fifty percent of Americans admit they don't get enough sleep but don't take any action about it.
One thing to consider is that the source of your restlessness in bed may have less to do with your daily stressors and more to do with what foods you're consuming during the day. The antioxidants you ingest may be a big factor in determining how many hours of sleep you get every night. Here's a list of five foods packed with the antioxidants needed to have you counting sheep in no time:
Normally associated with breakfast, oatmeal isn't just a nutritional way to wake up in the morning. It's packed with nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, and can be just what the doctor ordered for a peaceful slumber. Be sure to avoid mixing with sweeteners and sugar before bed, however.
Cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, a hormone in the body that produces sleepiness, monitors sleep regulation and stimulates dreams. Eating just a handful of these delicious fruits an hour before going to bed might help you achieve that solid eight hours you're looking for. While cherries are often out of season, drinking a glass of cherry juice can produce the same effects.
Peel yourself a fulfilling night's rest with a banana, an amazing source of potassium and magnesium. These two nutrients work as natural muscle relaxants. Bananas are also packed with tryptophan, which is a sleep-inducing amino acid that eventually is transformed by the body into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts relaxation. Tryptophan typically takes an hour to reach your brain, so keep that in mind when considering a bedtime snack.
Protein is another source of tryptophan, and almonds are a great way to reach your protein requirement without overeating. Spreading almond butter on a slice of toast is a light protein snack that's filled with enough carbohydrates necessary to catch the sleep you need.
According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a bowl of Jasmine rice four hours before your normal bedtime will significantly reduce your chances of sleep disturbance. Foods such as Jasmine rice have a high glycemic-index that helps measure a food's impact on blood sugar levels, and also provide healthy doses of tryptophan and serotonin.
The philosophy behind the Paleo Diet sounds too good to be true. Often referred to as the "Stone Age" diet, the Paleo Diet is a high-protein meal plan that gets its name after the hunter-gatherer eating methods our extended Neanderthal family survived on during the Paleolithic Era over 10,000 years ago.
Essentially, the diet stresses the substitution of processed foods, wheat and dairy, in favor of fresh meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Those touting the Paleo Diet want you to eat the same way your ancestors ate: chowing down on a juicy home cooked steak or indulging in freshly prepared salmon. Cooking from scratch is emphasized, and the diet's main enemies include salt, refined sugar and boxed or canned goods.
Free range meats such as beef, pork and poultry are the suggested main entrees for the Paleo Diet. Avocados and macadamia nuts are good choices to pair with high protein meals and can be drizzled with healthy olive or coconut oils for added taste.
Though there is contention about whether the Paleo Diet is healthy, in a recent U.S. News article, Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar," advocated for the diet and insisted that this method is not only a great way to lose some pounds, but will also increase mental activity. Perlmutter alluded to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic that concluded people consuming the high-fat, low-carb diet reduced risks of dementia by up to 65 percent. He railed against gluten, referring to the substance as, "the main culprit of obesity and why people suffer from brain diseases." Perlmutter also suggested that even cutting out the usual morning orange juice can help sustain proper blood sugar needed throughout the day.
What makes the Paleo Diet a realistic weight loss opportunity is the overall low level of effort involved. There's no need to monitor your calories as long as you're eating the recommended foods provided. The Paleo plan also allows for a slight bending of the rules, suggesting that new users can consume "open meals" that may include grains or processed foods up to three times per week. Exercise is not required for participating in the diet, but is encouraged.
Our caveman predecessors stayed fit by physically hunting down their food, so keep that in mind if you choose to pursue this ancient diet! Also, it's best to consult your physician before starting a diet plan to ensure it's the right one for you.