Exercising is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. It aids in weight loss, boosts immune health and even helps relieve stress. Whether you choose to run outside, hop on the treadmill or bike your way to a healthier you, you're using lots of muscles and tendons in your body in order to do so. This is why you need to check something off of your list both before and after you've finished breaking a sweat: stretching. Your exercise regimen isn't complete without it. Here are a few reasons why you should schedule a few minutes to the beginning and end of your workout:
Before your workout
Stretching out your muscles helps to boost circulation and even improve the elasticity of the muscles. It will give you better range of motion, flexibility and muscle control. By stretching, you're increasing the flow of oxygen to your muscles, which prevents things like cramps, aches and pains that show up and slow down your workout. If you're someone who tends to not get through a workout without feeling a little bit of discomfort, try stretching for at least 15 minutes beforehand – this can lead to improvements in the flow of oxygen, helping to rid your body of those aches and pains.
You muscles also benefit a whole lot from a little bit of stretching before physical activity. This act not only alleviates tight muscles, giving you better range of motion throughout your workout and helping to prevent injury - it also nourishes your muscles. Stretching promotes circulation, and without proper circulation, your muscles may not be getting enough blood and oxygen.
A study by Arnold Nelson, an associate professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, found that stretching regularly before a workout does more than just increase range of motion – it may actually enhance performance, helping to make people stronger and even increase their endurance. Nelson explained that stretching affects muscles in a similar way that strength training does – it's believed to activate some of the same things in the cell that exercise activates.
After your workout
Your exercise regimen isn't quite complete before stretching out all your muscles. As you break a sweat, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, which is what causes you to feel sore the next day. By stretching after you're done, you can help alleviate that soreness and recover faster from an intense workout. And if you're not sore the next day, you're less likely to skip a workout!
Exercises to try out before and after your workout
People should try to stretch all the major muscle groups to prevent any potential injury. Here are a few stretches to try out:
The seated straddle: Sit with your feet outstretched in front of you in the shape of a V. Slide your arms down your left leg toward your ankle, keeping the leg straight. You should feel a stretch in your hamstring. Switch to the other side.
The butterfly: This exercise stretches out your hips and lower back. Sit upright with the bottom of your feet touching and your knees out to the side. Bend forward over your feet and stretch the arms out in front of you to feel a lengthening spine.
The bicep stretch: Sitting upright, bring one arm across your chest, pulling it in with your other arm. You should feel a stretch in your bicep. Switch to the other arm.
Whipping yourself into shape requires you to eat right and do a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training. But you don't always have time to get to the gym in order to use the weight training equipment. The good news is, using your own bodyweight, you can take your workout virtually anywhere. If you're at home, all you need is your living room floor for a great workout that will help you shed the pounds fast, boost your immune system and promote anti-aging. Here are some bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere:
Tuck jumps: Stand with your knees slightly bent and jump up in the air as high as you can while lifting your knees toward your chest. Arms should be extended straight out. Be sure to land with your knees slightly bent. Not only is this a great cardio exercise, but the act of bringing your knees toward your chest works those abs!
Plyometric pushup: Get into traditional pushup position on a well-padded surface. Hands should be directly below the shoulders with no arch in the back. Lower down to the ground, then push up hard enough to come off the floor for a second. Once your hands touch the ground again, go immediately into the next repetition. For an extra challenge, see if you can clap your hands while you're in the air!
Plank: This exercise is really great for your lower abs. Get into a pushup position with forearms, rather than your hands, on the floor. Then, keeping your back straight and core tight, hold the position for about 30 to 60 seconds.
Bodyweight lunge: Starting with your feet together, step one leg forward and slowly lower the body until your front knee is bent at about 90 degrees. Be sure not to let the knee go past the toe. Then push yourself back up to starting position as quickly as you can. After you're done with repetitions for that leg, switch to the other.
Mountain climber: Start on your hands and knees in the pushup position. Then bring your left foot forward directly under the chest while straightening the right leg. Keep your hands on the ground and switch legs quickly, as if you're climbing a mountain. You should feel it in your core and your legs.
Burpees: Get yourself into a squatting position with your hands on the floor. Next, kick both of your feet back at the same time, jumping into a pushup position. Complete one pushup then return to the squatted position as fast as you can. Repeat this exercise for multiple repetitions.
Whether you're a vegetarian or a meat-eater going straight to the vegan lifestyle, there are things you need to know in order to make the transition a smooth one. It's important to know what you're getting yourself into and what to expect if you're going to succeed in this diet and lifestyle choice. Here are some of the most vital things to consider before you make the jump to becoming a vegan:
What does a vegan diet include?
Vegans exclude all animal products, even dairy and eggs. This means that vegans largely rely on fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. There are also plenty of protein powders out there like Naturade's Pea Protein powder that are vegan-friendly and allow dieters to enjoy a cool, sweet and tasty shake.
Vegan doesn't always mean healthy
Many people assume that making the switch to a vegan diet means that they will be on a strict regimen of healthy foods only, which will help them to shed the pounds. However, there are a lot of processed vegan foods out there that are filled with unhealthy ingredients. You'll be able to maintain a healthy diet as long as you stick with simple, whole foods.
Don't get down on yourself
When making this diet and lifestyle change, you can't expect to adapt easily and right away. There are going to be certain things that you'll have to get used to and plenty of bumps along the road. Sometimes, it can take as long as several years to go vegan, whether it's due to lack of knowledge or not having the right ingredients to whip up dinner. Megan Salisbury, a 33-year-old social work student in Phoenix, told the New York Times that she prefers a vegan diet but can only really manage it about 75 percent of the time. Things like limited options in the cafeteria and pricey food choices tend to hold her back.
You'll have to learn to alter cooking techniques
Vegan ingredients and cooking techniques are different than those for meals. Substitutions like oil-based spreads, chia seed eggs or nutritional yeast can deliver an unexpected nutty or cheesy flavor to the dish that you didn't expect. It takes time to learn what ingredients and substitutions work best and which should be left out.
Support is everywhere
There are so many individuals who are making the jump into veganism, and the web is filled with individuals who are willing to support you and hold your hand on this journey to a new diet and lifestyle. Thanks to everything from books, movies and online forums that share delicious vegan dishes, it's easy to find a helping hand wherever you go.
There is no better feeling than collapsing into your bed after a long morning or afternoon for a short, yet extremely satisfying cat nap. Remember the scheduled naps you used to take in kindergarten or preschool? If it were up to most of us, those naps would be implemented in offices everywhere. These naps don't just help you to feel more well rested and alert, they offer several benefits that many are unaware of. In fact, they may be more productive than we think. Even well-known men like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and George W. Bush have been known to value a solid afternoon nap. There are even different types of napping: planned, emergency and habitual napping. But whichever you choose, you're sure to feel more alert and awake when you wake up. Next time you lay down for a nap, here are all of the health benefits you're getting out of it:
Helps you stay alert
Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits of napping is that it can help keep you alert for the rest of the day. Even just 20 minutes of sleep has been shown to have a positive affect in perking up office workers. According to a NASA study, pilots who took a 40-minute nap showed much higher levels of alertness than those who didn't nap.
Do you have a lot of things you need to get done by the end of the day but don't feel you can quite tackle them? Lay down and take a nap. While this may feel slightly counterproductive, trust us, you're doing yourself a favor. A short power nap can be the perfect pick-me-up, maybe even proving to be more effective than your average cup of coffee.
A nap is quite relaxing and can take your mind off of any stressful occurrences that may be happening during your day. By relieving stress, you can help boost your body's immune system and feel more ready to tackle whatever the day brings. In other words, think of your nap as a little mini-vacation. You may not be on a beach, but you'll certainly be relaxed.
Improves memory and learning
While a longer nap may leave you more groggy than you intended, your brain may be benefiting from it. Brain activity remains higher in nappers all day when compared to people who don't take a moment to catch some zzz's. A 90-minute nap could help mental fatigue vanish.
Tips for getting the best nap:
- Keep the nap around 20 to 30 minutes, which provides you with the best benefits for improved alertness and performance without leaving you groggy and even more tired than you were.
- Find a restful place with little noise and light. Also make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable to help you fall asleep.
- Choose the proper time – if it's too late in the day, you may not be able to fall asleep at bedtime, but if it's too early, your body may not be prepared for more sleep.
Without stress we wouldn't know relaxation. In fact, sometimes just a little bit of stress can be a good thing – it keeps us aware of what's going on. However, too much stress can lead to health problems, including throwing the immune system out of whack. And frankly, being stressed out isn't a feeling many chase after. Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy ways to naturally bring down your stress levels to feel more relaxed and at ease.
When you break a sweat, your body releases feel-good endorphins, also known as the body's natural pain killers, which help to boost your mood and calm you down. Exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.
The best part about meditation is that it can be done virtually anywhere – at work, the gym, at the store or at home. It only takes about 15 to 30 minutes per day, making it easy to ward off stress even on a busy schedule. Find a quiet place and let your thoughts run free, just focusing on breathing in and out.
Filling up on junk food can actually tend to make people depressed. Calorie-packed foods momentarily relieve the stress, but too much can contribute to an unhealthy weight and only leave us coming back for more shortly after. Eating healthy, however, can help you to manage stress. Fruits, veggies, antioxidants and vitamins fuel the body to keep it strong for the entire day, helping you to maintain both physical and mental health.
Much of the stress we experience during the day comes from our phones and computers. Set aside some time each day to disconnect from all of your electronics. By doing so, you can block some of the causes of stress and allow you to really take in the moment.
Listen to music
Pop in some headphones and let the music do the rest. This is an effective way to reduce stress by lowering heart rate and blood pressure. According to Greatist.com, music may also help to calm down those who are visiting the dentist or the doctor.
Laugh it off
You know that euphoric feeling when you laugh really, really hard at something? Well, not only is that feeling unbeatable, it may help lower your stress levels. Laughter increases blood flow and even boosts the immune system by increasing levels of interferon gamma-1b, a key compound in the fight against infection. According to a study in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, mirthful laughter has been linked to lower blood levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. So if you're stressed, take a moment and watch that funny YouTube video or talk to a friend who can always get a laugh out of you.
Get lost in a book
Next time you find yourself a little worse for wear, crack open a book. Even just six minutes of reading is enough to bring down those stress levels. Have a book with you if you have some down time at work or on your commute home for a bit of relaxation.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle means exercising and eating right. But sometimes, the vitamins and minerals your body needs aren't as easy to get through diet and exercise. In fact, we need certain nutrients that our bodies don't make, but require to function properly. Many women turn to supplements to complete what their bodies need to stay healthy. But with all of the pills on the market, how are we supposed to know which one to take? Here is a guide to the best supplements and vitamins for women:
A lack of iron in the diet can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath and even a weakened immune system. Iron carries oxygen in the body and helps to produce red blood cells, support immune health and regulate body temperature. Iron can be found in foods like red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, cereals, whole grains, dark leafy green vegetables and beans. However, if you're a vegetarian or don't get enough iron in your diet, consider opting for a supplement as well.
Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight, is great for strengthening bones and promoting joint health. Without it, your bones can become thin or brittle. You can find this powerful vitamin in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and fish liver oil. There is a smaller concentration found in vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice, beef liver and cheese.
Also found in fish are omega-3s. These are fatty acids that promote heart health, ward off memory loss and strengthen bones. They're found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed. However, one of the best sources of omega-3s are fish oil supplements. Women's Health Magazine suggested taking less than three grams per day because fish oil can thin your blood.
This powerful supplement aids in digestion and even keeps keep reproductive health in check. It can be found in yogurt and other dairy products. But if you're not into dairy, Naturade Probiotics 30 B CFU naturally supports your body's defenses and helps to restore and maintain intestinal flora.
This antioxidant is great for protecting the skin against damaging UV rays and can even promote heart health, boost memory and help the immune system. While you can find vitamin E supplements, it's also found in almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, wheat germ, safflower oil and spinach.
Magnesium helps to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps the heart rhythm steady and even supports a healthy immune system. It can be found in supplements as well as green vegetables like okra and beans, nuts, seeds and unrefined whole grains.
Now that summer is almost here, your travel plans are nearing as well. Whether you're headed to the beaches of Florida or are exploring the streets of Rome, you'll want to make sure that you arrive to your destination healthy and stay feeling great throughout your trip.
Traveling can take a toll on the immune system, whether it's from the stressors of getting to your destination or staying up late and taking part in more social engagements. Here are a few tips to keep your immune system in tip-top shape so you can enjoy your summer vacation without the sniffles:
Drinking lots of water can ward off dehydration – which is one of the most common contributors to summer sickness. You're sweating more, which means you're losing moisture. Replace the water you've lost by amping up your fluid intake. This doesn't have to mean just chugging water, however. Fruits like cantaloupe and watermelon have high H2O content to keep you full and hydrated.
Consume more vitamin C and D
Both of these vitamins ensure that your immune system is ready to go prior to your trip. Think of vitamins C and D as the guardians standing at the front gate of your immune system. Without them, bacteria and unwanted substances are more likely to get into your body and wreak havoc on your summer vacation. Vitamin C and D can be found in many foods as well as in supplement form. Also found in supplement form is Naturade's Symbiotics Colostrum Plus which further helps to produce a balanced immune response.
Opt for fresh air
While hot and humid summer days may prompt you to spend all day enjoying the air conditioning in your hotel, this may not be helping your chances for warding the summer sniffles. Recycled air can give unwanted substances a chance to flourish and spread. Air conditioning also removes moisture from the air, causing dryness. Take the time to enjoy the great outdoors and breathe in some fresh air.
If you know you're leaving for vacation in a week or so, get an ample amount of sleep beforehand to prepare your immune system. Sleep deprivation can weaken the system and make it more susceptible to developing an illness. Sleep produces more natural levels of melatonin, restoring the immune system.
Maintain good oral health
While your oral health may be an afterthought when it comes to preventing a cold, it can play a big role in your overall health. Brush and floss and use antiseptic mouthwash before and after your trip to keep bacteria away.
Wash your hands
The cardinal rule of staying healthy has always been to wash your hands – and that is no different when you're on the road.
It's often hard to find the motivation to get out of bed in the morning and head straight for the gym. In fact, simply making yourself exercise is often more difficult than the physical activity itself! But working out improves the immune system and may even lower cholesterol among many other health benefits, so it's important to schedule a workout into your calendar. One thing that may help to increase your motivation and get you on your way to exercising to the best of your ability is music.
According to a study conducted by the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, music can indeed have a profound effect on a workout. In the study, 12 healthy male college students were asked to ride stationary bikes while listening to music of various tempos popular among the undergraduate population. The results showed that when the tempo decreased, their pedaling did too, along with their heart rate and mileage. On the other hand, when they listened to more upbeat tunes, they produced more power per pedal and covered more miles in the same period of time. A faster tempo often forces the body to move in time with the rhythm of the music.
While these fast-beat songs didn't seem to take away from the toughness of the workout, participants of the study did notice that they seemed to be more motivated to push themselves.
As many may already know, working out isn't always the most mentally stimulating activity. It often gets boring and we need a way to keep that motivation going throughout the duration of the exercise. Listening to music is a way of keeping your mind busy so you're not as focused on how hard you're working. It may not be that music directly motivates you – it's a combination of your body responding to the music even before your mind realizes it and your heart rate increasing in correspondence with tempo.
Here are some upbeat songs that may pump up your workout and take it to the next level:
- "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes
- "Harlem Shake" by Baauer
- "Wolfmother" by Joker and the Thief
- "Troublemaker" by Olly Murs & Flo Rida
- "Take A Walk" by Passion Pit
- "Here It Goes Again" by OK Go
- "Please Don't Stop the Music" by Rihanna
- "Shake It Out" by Florence & The Machine
- "Come & Get It" by Selena Gomez
- "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk & Pharrell
When you're trying to drop the pounds, a snack doesn't have to consist of one cracker and then starving yourself until your next meal. In fact, snacking on the right foods will keep your metabolism going so that you burn more calories, even when you're sitting! Following a few general snacking rules can help keep you on track.
- Stick to a 100-200 calorie snack
- The best time to snack is three hours after breakfast and another three hours after lunch
- Mix it up – go for foods containing fiber, protein and nutrients
- Go with small portions
When you open up your kitchen cabinets or your fridge, however, it's not always easy to find a snack that pleases your palate that is also healthy. Snacking doesn't have to be boring. Here are a few snacks to keep you full in between meals and help you stay on track to losing weight:
Now that summertime is almost here, tomatoes are about to be at their peak of flavor. There's nothing better than a fresh tomato on a summer day. Slice one up and top it with a bit of olive oil and feta cheese for a quick snack that won't leave you overly full.
Next time you hit the couch and are craving a snack, make yourself a bowl of popcorn sans butter and tons of salt. You can eat four whole cups of the stuff and get healthy grains, fiber and even a little protein.
Pick up a few cantaloupes at the supermarket and when you get hungry, grab a spoon and dig in. This super sweet fruit isn't only delicious, it contains beta-carotene and lots of water to keep you hydrated (and full).
Brush corn tortillas cut into wedges with 1 tablespoon melted low-fat butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and you have crispy chips to dip into cool nonfat vanilla yogurt that will completely transform snack time.
Strawberries and cool whip
If you have quite the sweet tooth, satisfy your craving without overindulging with some strawberries and 3 tablespoons of nonfat cool whip. You'll be getting antioxidants while still filling up on sweetness.
As you're running out the door, whip up a chocolate or vanilla meal replacement shake to keep you full. Add in a few scoops of Naturade Total Soy protein powder and enjoy a cool snack filled with protein, fiber and amazing taste.
Maintaining a healthy heart throughout your life is essential for keeping a healthy body and improving factors like flexibility, endurance and strength. While eating a balanced diet is a key part of keeping a healthy heart, exercise is the other vital component. Here are some exercises that are going to benefit your ticker:
Finding your Zen could mean improved heart health. Yoga has been shown to decrease stress, which helps to lower blood pressure and put less impact on the heart. It also increases lung capacity, improves respiratory function, heart rate and immune health, and boosts circulation and muscle tone.
This aquatic activity is not only great for the joints, it works wonders for the heart as well. Due to the resistance from moving in the water, your muscles have to work harder to move, helping to improve your muscle strength and tone. Swimming works the heart and lungs and trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently, which often results in a decline of the resting heart rate.
If running is too hard on your joints, walking at a particularly brisk pace is great for improving your fitness and helping your heart to stay healthy. In fact, a brisk walk wards off poor heart health just as much as running does.
Interval training includes combining high intensity exercise with a normal speed and switching off between the two. If you're walking, you might walk at a faster pace for about a minute, then go back down to your normal speed for three minutes, then repeat the process. By doing so, your heart has to work harder to continuously lower and raise your heart rate. This burns calories, improves cardiovascular function and essentially makes the body better at getting fat and sugar out of the blood. You can do the same with strength training exercises by doing more reps or moving to a higher weight.