Whether you live in a city, in the mountains, at the beach or in a suburban neighborhood, biking can be a great way to get from place to place. In addition to being an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to get around, biking has numerous health benefits that can keep you fit while you're having fun. Here are ten reasons to grab life by the handlebars and take advantage of all your bicycle has to offer.
1. It's good for your heart
Because it gets your heart pumping and helps regulate breathing, bicycling can be good for cardiovascular health. Frequent biking can also help improve stamina and endurance.
2. Weight loss
Biking is a great way to burn calories and keep weight down, but it can also lead to a faster metabolism, meaning that you can stay fit even after your ride is over.
3. Benefits the immune system
Studies have shown that riding your bike can actually help strengthen your immune system, which may help keep you healthy year-round.
4. It's easy on joints
Unlike high-impact physical activities like running, biking gets you moving without putting too much stress on your joints. Knees, ankles and feet can all benefit from a low impact fitness routine like cycling, which makes it an especially great exercise for those who may want to stay active while recovering from an injury.
5. Strengthens and tones muscles
Because cycling primarily uses your largest muscle group – the legs – many cyclists see improved muscle tone in their thighs, calves and hips. And, because it's a low-impact activity, you'll build muscle gradually without risking a muscle strain or tear.
6. Improves coordination
It's a fairly common misconception that biking is a workout that only helps your legs, but it's actually a full-body workout! Bikers pedal with their legs, steer with their arms and keep their heads on a swivel to look for cars and pedestrians. This can lead to improved arm-to-leg, feet-to-hands and body-to-eye coordination.
7. Reduces stress
According to some psychotherapists, biking can actually be extremely effective in reducing stress. In fact, more general practitioners are actually recommending that their patients try biking when they feel overwhelmed.
8. Improves mental health
In addition to lessening stress, biking can improve general mental health. Neurologists have found that a spike in endorphins occurs after bike rides, leading cyclists to experience a "biker's high," similar to what joggers feel after a run.
9. Corrects posture
Many of the muscles you use on a bike ride are the same ones that can help improve posture. Cyclists need strong abdominal muscles to pedal without wobbling, and the back is a contributor to bike fitness as well, especially on longer rides.
10. You'll sleep better
Many cyclists know how well a good bike ride can wear you out, and it's true – biking can help you fall and stay asleep each night. Scientists have found that outdoor exercise like cycling helps helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which can in turn improve and regulate sleeping patterns. In addition, because stress hormones like cortisol can prevent deep sleep, cycling's stress-relieving ability means you'll snooze more soundly, too.
The beautiful weather of summer makes it easy to want to get outside and stay active. You no longer have to rely on the gym, nature provides some of the best fitness equipment around. Get ready to breathe in the fresh air and start breaking a sweat for a natural immunity booster among many other health benefits. Here are some of the best summer outdoor fitness activities for you to try out before the weather starts to get cool and crisp:
Walking/running on the beach
There is something very different about walking on a sidewalk or a treadmill and walking on the beach. Not only does the soft, warm sand feel great squishing between your toes, your body is also benefiting greatly. Walking or running on sand requires a much greater effort than walking on a flat surface. Your tendons and muscles have to work harder with each step. Your feet sink in and it takes more energy to lift it out to take another step. This summer exercise is also great for your joints – acting as a natural cushion each time you walk or run.
If you're lucky enough to be near a body of water sometime this summer, you may want to try out the latest fitness craze: paddleboarding. Participants stand or kneel on a paddleboard and use a paddle to push themselves along on the water. It offers an amazing full body workout, and is especially good for toning your arms, back, biceps and shoulders.
This fun summer sport requires a unique distribution of force throughout the body. You use a variety of muscle groups to maintain a stable and upright position. It's a great upper body workout and even works on your endurance so you can sustain long periods of concentration.
Whether you're playing on a beach or a park, Frisbee is a great way to stay active and tone your arms. Get a group of friends together and try your hand at Frisbee golf, where you have to throw the disc in certain baskets in a set amount of throws, much like golf.
Swimming is probably the most popular summer activity out there. Hop in a pool, lake or ocean and get your arms and legs moving to burn calories and work on your endurance. Swim laps or play fun pool games and you'll be slimming your waist without even knowing it.
It’s hard to keep tabs on all of the diets out there, along with which ones work and which ones don’t. There’s South Beach, Atkins, detox and more … who wouldn’t be overwhelmed? We’re here to inform you of all the ins and outs of one diet: the Paleo Diet.
What is the Paleo Diet?
This diet revolves around the idea of eating foods that existed when the cavemen roamed the earth, prior to the agricultural revolution, like animal proteins and plants. This means steering clear of dairy, refined sugar, legumes and grains. Instead, you’ll be filling your plate primarily with poultry, fish, meat, veggies and fruits. Those following this eating pattern hope to live a healthier and more fit life. By eating animal protein, fruits and vegetables, you’ll be getting beneficial nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, phytochemicals, omega-3s, soluble fiber, monounsaturated fats and low-glycemic carbohydrates.
What are the benefits of this diet?
Following a strict diet filled with unlimited amounts of fruits and veggies could cause slow and limited rises in your blood sugar, and the omega-3s will help to reduce inflammation. While there is no significant evidence that the Paleo Diet causes weight loss, if you build a “calorie deficit” into your diet plan, where you’re eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max, you may slim your waist. And because fresh produce is essentially sodium-free, your salt intake will be significantly lower, warding off bloating and other poor health issues.
You’ll never get bored with the Paleo Diet, because there is such a wide variety of ways you can cook up different animal protein and fruits and veggies. Here’s a Paleo Diet recipe from Men’s Fitness to try out at home: Paleo Diet Asian Pepper Shrimp: Serves 4
You may have seen a kettlebell or two lying around your gym – they're weights with handles and resemble a basketball with a suitcase handle. People use kettlebells to really amp up their workout and build muscle.
These weights were invented in Russia and used by strongmen for decades. But how are kettlebells different from your typical dumbbell? Kettlebells offer individuals a wider range of motion than they would get from a standard dumbbell. They also work the whole body at one time without putting unnecessary strain on your joints. According to Jason C. Brown, owner of Kettlebell Athletics in Philadelphia, a kettlebell's center of gravity shifts throughout the exercise, rather than giving you that lopsided feel of a dumbbell. Users can flow easily from one exercise to the other without putting the weight down, making their workout more effective. And unlike a dumbbell, you only use one kettlebell, not two.
With these popular weights being available in a variety of sizes, they are accommodating to any fitness level. Try out this ultimate kettlebell workout from Men's and Women's Health magazines to burn calories and fat and build muscle. But keep in mind that you should complete each exercise back-to-back without resting. Once you're done with the circuit, rest for one to two minutes, then repeat for about two or three circuits.
Leg raise swing
Grab your kettlebell of choice with both hands, starting in a half squat. Hold the weight between your knees, keeping your arms straight and chest up. Swing the weight overhead, arms straight and as you do so, raise your right leg straight out to one side. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Do 15 reps.
Lateral lunge with bicep curl
Holding the weight in your right hand, step to the left and lower into a side lunge. Raise the weight up to your left shoulder and reverse the move to return to standing. Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Kettlebell single-arm snatch
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell in your right hand. Let the weight swing between your legs, and in one fluid motion, pull it forward and up. Once it reaches heart level, flip it behind your forearm and punch it overhead. It may take some practice, but once you train your body to do it all in one move, it's very effective.
Single-arm shoulder press
Stand with the weight just outside your shoulder, palm facing forward. Push the kettlebell straight overhead, then slowly lower it back down to the original position. Make sure to keep your elbow close to your side to maintain proper form.
Finish off your workout with a protein shake using Naturade Total Soy protein powder to help build muscle.
It's never good to start a work out on an empty stomach. With no food in your system, you'll have no energy to get you through the duration of your exercise. However, everyone works out at different times in the day. Some are early risers, while others are night owls and enjoy breaking a sweat in the later portion of the evening. The time you work out can help dictate what you should be eating before each workout.
If you're the kind of person that likes to roll out of bed and immediately slip into some running shoes, it's important you hit the kitchen first. But stray from a big meal of pancakes, sausage and eggs. Eating a full breakfast isn't ideal. Stick to a very light snack filled with protein and easily digestible carbs. Meal replacement smoothies are a great way to get some energy without being overly full. Try this protein meal adjusted from FitSugar for a delicious breakfast that won't slow you down during your workout:
Vanilla Almond Smoothie
Ingredients: 1/2 banana, 1/2 vanilla almond milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 scoop Naturade Total Soy Vanilla, ice, a dash of cinnamon and 1-2 drops of stevia.
Directions: Combine all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. This recipe makes one serving.
Some like to take their lunch break to work out at the office or head on over to the gym for a half hour or so. If you fall into this group, start by drinking plenty of water throughout the morning. This will keep you hydrated and full so that you're not tempted to eat a large lunch before working out. Keep it small and simple, like a whole-wheat bagel with jam, which is easy to digest and a great way to fuel your workout. It's best to eat 45 minutes to an hour before working out. If you exercise on a full stomach, you may feel sluggish and not get the results you're looking for.
Days can be busy, which leaves only the evening for you to get your workout in. This means you'll be breaking a sweat around dinner time. Dinner is often the largest meal, but if you're planning on exercising afterwards, make sure you don't overeat. One of the best dinners to have before a workout is brown rice with chicken. It's a simple dish that sits well in the stomach and has plenty of carbs and protein. Beans and lentils are also a good pre-workout snack and a great source of energy. Just remember to keep your portions small.
There are always plenty of new fitness crazes to try out these days, but not all of them are created equal. One trend that has been sweeping the nation is CrossFit.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is an exercise program which allows users to perform a mix of strength and conditioning exercises, as well as cardio. The program includes different exercises like running, jump rope, rowing, weight lifting, rope climbing and more. It enhances physical qualities including flexibility, power, speed, agility, coordination, endurance, stamina, strength, balance and accuracy. The intensity of the program aims to burn a high number of calories in a short period of time, while simultaneously improving aerobic fitness.
The history of CrossFit
While this exercise trend is fairly new, the general ideas behind the physical activity have been around for much longer. In the 1970s, former gymnast Greg Glassman started a concept that closely resembled CrossFit. It began in a Santa Cruz, California, garage in 1995. He discovered that through the use of dumbbells and a barbell, he could tone his muscles more accurately than any other gymnast he knew who was working with bodyweight only. In that same year, he was hired to train the Santa Cruz Police Department, which is when CrossFit was born. It was formally established in 2000 and by the year 2012, there would be 3,400 CrossFit affiliates worldwide. In 2007, the United States Marine Corps even started shifting their focus from a traditional training program to more of a CrossFit-oriented exercise regimen.
How to get involved
CrossFit isn't for everyone, due to the high-intensity exercises it involves. It's not recommended for those just starting to exercise or returning after a fairly long hiatus. It's a good idea to first work with a personal trainer to develop the necessary strength, skills and mobility needed for CrossFit.
If you find that CrossFit is something you would like to try, the good news is that you don't need to join a CrossFit affiliate gym in order to participate in the training program. If you choose to work out on your own, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- For those with little to no gymnastics or weightlifting skills, try to learn the movements for a month or two until you can perform the common exercise.
- Don't hesitate to substitute exercises to meet your fitness level – knowing how and when to substitute is an art of sorts, and as you practice, you'll become more familiar with the moves and which ones need perfecting.
- Follow the workouts of the day, otherwise known as WODs. However, before actually taking part in them, just watch them to get a good idea of what you'll be expected to do. Read the comments people are making on the CrossFit website and the substitutions they may have to make the workout more suitable to their fitness level.
- If you don't attend a CrossFit gym, here are a few of the equipment items you'll want to think about getting: power-lifting barbell, rowing machine, set of dumbbells, lifting rack and bench, plyo-boxes, ab mat and medicine balls.
- Maintain a diet which builds lean body mass. You need to be able to maintain and recover from frequent CrossFit workouts, which means having a healthy diet. Protein meals are essential for building muscle and giving the body the proper energy to continue with CrossFit.
Being in the midst of beach season, everyone is working on tightening up their core. But in between work, family, friends and other obligations, our abs fall pretty far down our list of things to do. Heading to the gym can be an ordeal that not many have the time or energy for, resulting in abdominals that need some work. But worry no more, you only need a few minutes in your living room or office to get to that stomach that you've always dreamed of. And you don't need any weights, balls or other equipment to get there. Here are some easy ab exercises you can do on the go:
Laying on the floor on your back with your arms and legs extended straight out on the ground, lift your arms overhead and begin to curl your body off of the floor. Breathe out when you're halfway up and continue to roll forward to reach your toes. Inhale and reverse the exercise, exhaling halfway down, and returning to the start. The key to this exercise is to move slowly – that's what really works your abdominals.
Modified leg extension
For this exercise, all you need is a chair, whether it's in your office or living room. Sit on the edge of the chair with your arms behind you, holding onto the sides for support. Then slowly pull your knees into your chest, so you're in a tucked position. Then straighten your legs out in front of you, slowly, not letting them touch the ground – only hovering. Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders all the way to your toes. Then, bring your knees back to your chest to complete one rep. Try to do about 15 of them.
In order to have toned abdominals, you have to work your obliques, which are the sides of your stomach. One of the best ways to do this is with the side crunch. Lay down on the ground in a typical sit-up position and let your knees fall to one side, with your chest, chin and torso still facing the ceiling. Bend your arms, placing them gently behind your head, and lift your upper body and shoulders off of the ground as high as you can. Don't let your knees come off the ground at any point during the exercise. Do about 15 repetitions then switch to the other side.
Using the weight of your own legs is a great way to work those lower abs – especially with this exercise. Lying on your back, straighten both legs and extend them up toward the ceiling. Breathe in and tighten your abs, then exhale and slowly lower your legs toward the ground, until they're about four inches away. Be careful to not let the small of your back come off of the ground. Breathe out as you lift your legs back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. For the beginner, try putting your hands underneath your bottom for extra support.
Now that you're done with your workout, whip up a quick post-workout shake with Naturade Total Soy protein powder to help tone your muscles and get you one step closer to your goal.
Your phone may not be a protein meal, but it can be more helpful than you know when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. Here are some of the best fitness smartphone apps:
1. Nike Training Club
Select your goal and your level and choose from a list of workouts that fit your fitness abilities. A Nike professional trainer guides you through each step of the workouts that you choose. After you've finished breaking a sweat, review a short summary of your training to discover how many calories you burned and how close you are to reaching your ultimate goal.
2. Lose It!
This free app allows you to create a personalized weight loss plan. Enter your goal weight and the app will calculate how many calories you need to consume and how many you should be burning off. You can log the food you've eaten during the day straight onto the app and see how much progress you've made.
Track your workouts whether you're outside or in the gym. The GPS system will track anything you do outside, whether it's hiking, running or biking. The app also alerts you of your progress via their audio system as you workout.
This app helps beginners looking to stick to a strength training and conditioning regimen. Type in your fitness goals and level and it will generate an effective series for you to try out.
When you head out for a run, this app calculates how many calories you burned and even measures the length and time of your run. When you're done exercising, sync your data with your web-based profile and take a look at charts from your past workouts to see how you've improved.
This app brings a little friendly competition into your life. If you're the type who needs motivation from others to get going, this app is perfect for you. You can join virtual teams and compete in challenges, all while tracking your fitness goals and progress. It takes your workout from solo to social!
This app builds customizable workouts for each user's specific needs. Start with your goal, whether it's to lose weight, gain weight or just be healthier in general. Enter in the equipment you have to work with, like a chair or a table, and you'll receive a customizable workout just for you.
8. Fitness Buddy
Featuring more than 1,700 exercises and more than 45 full-length workouts, this app is different in that it allows you to listen to music while you exercise. Just enter in your body weight, reps and the weight you used for each exercise, and the app will track your progress for you.
9. CountEat Calories
A healthier body starts in the kitchen. If your goal is to lose weight, you need to be expending more calories than you're taking in. This app helps you to estimate how many calories you consume for each meal and allows you to find a range for how much you should be eating.
This app, despite the name, allows you to track walks, runs, biking and other activities. It collects significant data like calories burned, distance, speed, average speed and time remaining to allow you to track your workouts.
Even during the summer months, we are all susceptible to bacteria which could cause us to fall prey to the common cold or other frequent illnesses. This is why it's important to maintain proper immune system health. Aside from eating healthy, washing your hands and exercising, there is another way to boost your immune health: colostrum.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is nature's perfect first food. It supplies immune and growth factors along with a perfect combination of vitamins and minerals to insure the health, vitality, and growth of the newborn. Colostrum has applications for every generation and it is never too late to start gaining the benefits of life's precious first food. Colostrum is the pre-milk substance produced from all mammals at birth. True bovine colostrum is the pre-milk in the udder when the calf is born. This true colostrum can be collected during the first milking within 16 hours after birth. After this it becomes transitional milk and after 5 days after birth it is milk. It is estimated that colostrum triggers at least fifty processes in the newborn, including transferring the immune factors and the memory from the mother's own immune system. The most important components of colostrum can be broken down into three major categories: Immune System Factors, Growth Factors, and Nutritional Components.
Benefits of colostrum for the immune system
Colostrum balances the immune system and is a natural source of many vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids. Supplementation of colostrum enhances the efficiency of amino acid and carbohydrate fuel uptake by the intestine, making more nutrients are made available for muscle cells and other vital tissues and organs.
Colostrum has been especially helpful to endurance athletes who have long and hard workouts. Such a workout can make them more susceptible to contracting the common cold, which can obviously affect the quality of their training and performance. According to a research review published in the journal Medicine and Sport Science, bovine colostrum is effective at supporting the immune system of endurance athletes during intense training. Some athletes use bovine colostrum to burn fat, build lean muscle and even increase stamina and vitality.
How to get colostrum in your diet
One of the easiest and best ways to get colostrum into your system is through an immune boosting supplement. Symbiotics Colostrum is a supplement which is great for those who experience physical stress or athletes training intensely. It is packed with immune factors which help to promote healthy intestinal flora.
Colostrum is also best consumed when mixed into a drink or combined with yogurt. Symbiotics Proline-Rich Polypeptides with Colostrum PLUS comes in powder form and helps to restore balance to the immune system, stimulates an underactive immune system, and is safe and effective for all ages.
Most of us celebrate the good ol' U.S. of A the best way we know how: with food, flag colors and fun in the sun. But if you're like the average American, one day – or hey, four days – of salty dips, rich desserts and carb-loaded drinks can leave you feeling pretty bloated.
Bloating generally happens for two reasons: increased salt intake and gas. Sodium-heavy foods, which are prevalent on the Fourth of July, cause the body to retain water. Bloat can also be caused by gas-producing foods, such as cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage) dairy products and grains like barley and wheat, as well as foods high in fat and sugar. Even things as simple as taking in more air by drinking through a straw, chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages or eating too quickly can cause bloat.
Luckily, there are many excellent (and delicious!) natural ways to beat bloat:
These good bacteria – microorganisms, to be precise – help with digestion and keep harmful bacteria away. Greek yogurt, kefir or low-fat yogurt are good foods to eat if you're feeling bloated because they are rich in probiotics. They also have a high water content, which helps reduce bloat as well. However, yogurt might not be the best option if you have even a slight level of lactose intolerance. Yogurts packed with sugar should also be avoided because sugar can cause bloat, according to Kristi King, a registered dietician at Texas Children's Hospital:
"What actually happens with the sugar is, one, you're fueling the bacteria in your gut to start eating those sugars that are being digested, so they may produce more gas," King said.
A probiotic supplement is an excellent option to help regulate your digestive system and reduce bloat. Try one like Naturade Probiotics 30 B CFU to help you stay regulated and bloat-free.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but drinking more water is an excellent way to help you body out – water is a natural diuretic and helps to get things moving in your system.
Another good idea is to snack on water rich foods like watermelon, cucumbers and pineapples. Watermelon are – unsurprisingly – made up of 90 percent water. Cucumbers are water-filled too, and are also rich in sulfur, which stimulates the kidneys. Pineapples – made up of 85 percent water – have the enzyme bromelain, which promotes digestion and helps break down certain proteins in the gut. Oranges and grapefruit are excellent choices too, as are bananas – they're packed with potassium, a good antidote to sodium.
Certain herbs and spices are good for belly-flattening as well. Try ginger, peppermint or chamomile tea, or trying sucking on a peppermint candy. They reduce gas, stimulate the digestive system and have other health benefits, too. Make a broth (with low amounts of sodium) that incorporates things like turmeric, rosemary, garlic and parsley.
And last but not least, remember to exercise. Even if your bloated belly is telling you no – carry on. Thirty minutes a day is good to keep the digestive tract moving efficiently.