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.
Many of us who love getting in an intense workout often wonder – "Does more sweating equal more health benefit?" It sure does feel like it. Working up a great sweat during running, kickboxing, hot yoga or even giving the house a thorough deep clean feels even better than an intense workout where we don't sweat as much.
However, there's no evidence that sweating – in and of itself – is better for your health.
"There's this entrenched idea that it's good to 'sweat things out,'" said Dr. Oliver Jay, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Ottawa in Canada, in a recent New York Times article. In fact, said Jay – who is also the director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory – "sweating, per se, provides no health benefits."
More sweat is only beneficial to the body in that it equals more exercise. The reason we sweat more when the air is humid is because the perspiration doesn't evaporate from our bodies as it otherwise would, and evaporation is the mechanism that cools our bodies. Perspiring is how the body naturally regulates its temperature. Thus, in a humid situation, we sweat more, but it does not have extra health benefits over doing the same exact workout routine in a less humid environment.
And sometimes, more sweat can actually be dangerous if you don't stay hydrated. The more you sweat, the more water you should drink to stave off dehydration. Aside from during exercise, sweat is normal and common when people, are anxious, have low blood sugar, eat spicy foods or are in warmer environments.
If sweating can't be explained or is accompanied by chest pain, pressure, fever, rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath, make sure to see a doctor.
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.
Ever notice that no matter what you eat, you still seem to feel bloated? A potential explanation for living with this symptom could be an intolerance to gluten.
Often found in wheat, barley and rye, gluten can trigger autoimmune inefficiencies for those intolerant, which can also lead to a number of symptoms. Gluten disorders break down into three main categories: Allergic, autoimmune and immune medicated. Autoimmune is the most severe but rarest of the three, and side effects for allergic and immune medicated typically last for a few hours, but can increase over time if unregulated.
Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity, and are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions, making it hard to distinguish what justifies being gluten intolerant. Here are five primary indicators that gluten may be drastically affecting your health:
Bloating, gas and indigestion
Experiencing digestive problems is one of the main symptoms of gluten intolerance. When digesting gluten, swelling in the abdomen may develop over time, resulting in extreme discomfort and gas. Upset stomachs and constipation are other common side effects of a gluten intolerance and reports show that switching to a gluten-free diet can help get rid of indigestion problems.
Itchy Skin Rashes
Another signal of severe gluten sensitivity is a skin rash that also can prompt itching or blisters. These often develop anywhere on the elbows, knees, back or neck. Symptoms of hives and dandruff are also reported with gluten sensitivity.
Fatigue and headaches
If you're constantly feeling groggy or dealing with spontaneous headaches at least three times per month, it may be due to your gluten intake. Chronic fatigue may also be a result of of the headaches and leave you feeling sluggish, having difficulty with concentrating and impact your short term memory. These symptoms are generally associated with disruptions to immune health caused by gluten intolerance.
If you are experiencing difficulty with conception, perhaps it's due to your body's lack of acquiring proper nutrients that's often associated with an overabundance of gluten . While further research needs to be conducted to officially link gluten intolerance and infertility, it still remains a condition that is often reported with gluten sensitivity.
Sadness and anxiety
While many adults struggle with sudden mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and abrupt sadness, people who have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity have reported higher levels of these emotions and anxiety more than the general population. This could be due to a gluten intolerance that affects motor skills and mood swings.
Gluten allergies are susceptive to men and women of all ages and races, and the only known cure is establishing a gluten-free diet. If you're looking for a gluten alternative, try a soy meal replacement shake, packed with nutrients and antioxidants necessary to sustain a gluten-free lifestyle.
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.
This Valentine's Day, impress your vegan significant other with a number of home-cooked vegan friendly meals. Studies have shown that vegans have overall lower cholesterol levels than other dietary habits, normally due to the intake of fewer saturated fats and more fiber. Veganism is a type of diet that completely excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and any other animal-derived ingredients. If you're new to veganism, you should know that cutting meat from your diet doesn't translate to sacrificing taste. For those trying to be fit and flirty this February 14th, here's a list of vegan options perfect for a romantic full course dinner for two:
To set the mood properly, try sharing a creamy vegan mushroom fondue, perfect for dipping fresh bread or vegetables. Or spice things up with stuffed peppers and dairy-free feta cheese. No one will be able to resist snacking on oven-baked zucchini fries, coated with light breading and drizzled with ranch dressing. You could also try tempeh bacon-wrapped date palms. If you haven't heard of date palms, you probably should – they are widely recognized as a natural aphrodisiac.
How about getting in the Valentine's Day spirit with a heart-shaped ravioli and marinara pasta dish? You can also cut out heart-shaped tofu cubes and oven roast them with vegetables for a savory tofu skewer plate. There are plenty of vegan friendly pastas to choose from, including sun-dried tomato and pesto linguini and cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo. Go for a "heartier" meal with Almost Beef Wellington using a prepared mushroom mixture, faux steak strips and Madeira sauce, another way to appeal to any vegan skeptics.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a number of vegan friendly dessert options! Indulge your heart out with vegan pancake cookies, sprinkled with cinnamon and dripping with chocolate. Give into the temptation of raw vegan cherry cheesecake, substituting the cheese in favor of crushed cashews, which take on a creamy texture. Vegan peanut butter frosted cupcakes are a go-to classic, and you can even go Elvis style by topping with sliced banana and chopped up pretzels.
Cooking up a full course vegan meal at home is the perfect way to shake things up this Valentine's Day and try something new with that special someone. Check out PETA's other vegan friendly recipes you can easily serve for a unique and intimate vegan dining experience that is also heart healthy!
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.
Curling has long been a sport of obscurity for most of the world. For some reason, the sight of burly men buffing sheets of ice to slide 42 pound stones at rings never gained widespread appeal. But over the last few decades of Winter Olympic games, curling has climbed out from the ranks of anonymity and captured the curiosity of viewers worldwide. With more recognition came more responsibility for the curlers, and there eventually came a time for the pioneers of the sport to put down the pale ales and cut down on sausage in exchange for protein powders and vitamins.
Curling takes muscle
While curling has long been referred to as "chess on ice," the sport has transformed into more of a finesse game than just a mental exercise. For starters, it takes a lot of muscle to swiftly maneuver the brooms back and forth across the curling sheet to create a smooth path for the stone- or the rock, to glide towards the house – or the goal. Have you ever felt a little sore after shoveling the driveway or mopping the floor? Well those sweeping motions are constantly being used by curlers. Curlers attribute their sweeping stamina to plenty of push-ups and bench presses during training.
Another favorite exercise for curlers are lunges. It's hard to remember that at the end of the day, everything that curlers do depends on their ability to maintain balance on the ice. This means they need to have stability in their legs, which can easily be provided through lunging exercises. Lunges target your legs, quads and glutes. A simple exercise is to stand with one foot flat on the ground in front of you, while you stand on the ball of your other foot on the ground behind you. Slowly drop to one knee, bringing it as close to the ground as possible, then walk forward, rotating each leg until you've reached a wall. This exercise is the most essential for any curler.
Fitness isn't just a fad for these curlers. Veteran curler and Canadian Olympic medalist John Morris is the author of "Fit to Curl", a book that focuses on his intense workout plan to maintain his elite athletic status. In his book, Morris attributed the change in curlers' attitudes toward exercise to that of golfers:
"Tiger Woods credits his fitness levels for some of his extraordinary success, and most professional golfers are no longer strangers to the weight room," Morris said. "I believe that fit curlers can enjoy an even bigger edge over less fit players than golfers do."
You can get a good look at how these curlers' training impacts their 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics performance beginning Friday, February 7th.
Many people think that wearing high heels frequently is worth the discomfort due to the excellent workout it provides. In fact, some gyms and studios have jumped on this idea by offering exercise classes where participants wear heels to tone and shape up. It's true that stilettos can make people look leaner by lengthening the legs and accentuating the calves, but the benefits of wearing heels to get fit are only surface-deep.
In fact, high heels seem to be more detrimental than good to the body! Here are multitudinous alarming things to know about wearing high heels frequently:
- A 2011 Danish study found that people who wore heels frequently were at higher risk of osteoarthritis in the future. One likely site for arthritis is the knees: The strain of walking with knees slightly bent, which iswhat we do when we wear heels, wears away cartilage in the knees.
- The height of this footwear puts strain on the shin muscles, potentially causing painful shin splints.
- Wearing high heels frequently causes tighter quads. Typically when people wear heels, their bodies are tipped forward due to arching their backs and bending their knees. This makes the quads work harder and puts a lot of stress on the stabilizing tendons in the knees.
- Calve muscles are one of the biggest casualties of high heel-wearing. When donning heels, our calf muscles are forced into a shortened position. Very frequent wearers sometimes have permanently shortened calves, which can cause a great deal of pain.
- The forward-leaning of wearing these shoes causes the Achilles tendon to shorten as well, leading to foot pain and putting stress on the biggest toe and the ball of the foot.
- Some health experts also suggest that, as high heels make people walk more slowly (and potentially less), they might actually burn fewer calories and gain weight in the long run.
Exercises and stretches for high heel wearing
So, it seems like there are plenty of reasons to ditch the heels in favor of something more comfortable and, frankly, healthier. But if you want to or need to wear stilettos, remember that moderation is key. Here are some stretches and exercises to do to relieve the pain caused by this footwear and prepare for heel-wearing:
- Stretch your Achilles tendons, which attach your calf muscles to your heels. You can get Achilles tendonitis by switching abruptly from regular high heel-wearing to wearing flats. But you can do some strengthening stretches to make this less likely. One good option is standing on a curb or step with your heels hanging over the edge. Rise up and down on your toes, holding for a count of two when rising up, to get a good stretch.
- If you're walking on especially small stiletto heels, you might be prone to a fall. But you can strengthen your ankles by doing lateral hops and using a resistance band to flex your feet.
- You already know how tired, strained and tight your calves can feel after wearing towering shoes. Make sure to stretch before and after to prep your calves and give them relief. Downward dog is a good stretch because it lengthens the calves.
- Work on building your core muscles, including those in your lower back. Wearing heels requires many muscles to engage to help you maintain balance. If your core muscles are weak, this puts a lot of strain on others as well as your lower back, which can exacerbate current back problems. Do some yoga moves to gain a better sense of balance and strong core muscles, like the one-legged tree pose. Another is to trace the letters of the alphabet with one foot, toe-pointed, while balancing on the other leg. This challenging and fun exercise strengthens the abs and the muscles around the ankles.
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.