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.
When we think of superstar athletes, we normally tend to envision competitors with bulging biceps and endorsement deals. Vegetarianism is not commonly associated with jocks, but the fact of the matter is that more and more athletes are going vegan or vegetarian while seeing amazing results on the playing field. These athletic powerhouses get all the nutrition they need from tasty fruits, beans and protein powders. Here are just five great athletes who are also vegetarians:
Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles? Check. International Tennis Hall of Fame member? Check. Oh, and she is also a vocal supporter of animal rights and a vegetarian. The Czechoslovak tennis legend turned pro at the age of 19 in 1975 and dominated the field for more than 20 years. Navratilova has been very passionate about animal rights, appearing in numerous PETA advertisements throughout the years. She's been labeled by sports magazines as the greatest female tennis player of all time. All the while, Martina has been a vegetarian.
Crowned the "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated, track and field icon Carl Lewis credits his record breaking performance at the 1991 World Championships to his adoption of a vegan diet. Lewis has won ten Olympic medals, nine of them gold, which has him tied for second in all-time Olympic gold medals won by any athlete. Lewis's domination lasted for more than a decade: he conquered world records in sprinting and high jump, while being a vegan since 1990.
In 2008, NFL player Tony Gonzalez signed a new deal with the Kansas City Chiefs that made him the highest paid tight end in the entire league. He celebrated his payday by switching to an all-vegan diet, something that many men with his physique and physical demand could not fathom. The result was becoming the all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown receptions for a tight end in the NFL. Gonzalez proudly campaigns for animal rights with PETA and he is a great example of how you don't have to be beefed up to be brawny.
While he's known for being a physical menace and tyrant in the ring, mixed martial arts fighter Jake Shields has a soft spot for animals. The wrestling and MMA champion has been a lifelong vegetarian and proudly displayed his dietary habits on a poster for PETA that stated, "I'm living proof that you can run further, train harder and pack a meaner punch without eating animals."
Triathlete Dave Scott is living proof that you don't have to eat animals to be a true iron man. Scott is tied for the record of most Ironman Triathlon gold medals with six, and animals have not been part of his regimen throughout his long career of swimming, cycling and running. If you are unaware of what exactly the Ironman Triathlon consists of, it's a brutal 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run. No animals were harmed in the making of Scott's legendary gold medal run.
Benefits of a vegetarian athlete
Ditching the red meat in favor of savory veggies can still provide the proper nutrients and minerals you need to maintain your athleticism. Veggie burgers, tofu, beans and nuts are just a few of the foods that can offer a meal packed with protein. Vegetarian foods are abundant in complex carbohydrates, which are essential for nourishing your muscles with energy after a hard workout. According to the American Diabetic Association, becoming a vegetarian will lower your risk for the following:
- Weight gain
- Poor digestion
- High blood pressure
- Bad cholesterol
- Decreased energy
These athletes are living proof that cutting out the meat in your diet doesn't mean sacrificing results. Try going vegetarian today and start living healthier.
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.
To stay regular, fiber is the name of the game. Adding fiber to your morning shake or smoothie is easy and doesn't have to make your delicious breakfast smoothie bland. Here are some of our best ideas for adding fiber to your shakes, which will both lower cholesterol and help keep you regular:
- VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake has an excellent omega and fiber blend, with more than 6 grams of dietary fiber and 200 milligrams of omega-3s to support a healthy heart, brain and circulatory system.
- One cup of raw oats has a whopping 16 grams of dietary fiber. This is an easy and heart-healthy ingredient to add to a protein and fruit smoothie to give it more fiber and make it a more filling breakfast.
- Chia seeds have 5 grams of dietary fiber in just 1 tablespoon, as well as important minerals, antioxidants and even protein.
- Another great thing to do is to leave the peel on the fruits in your smoothies, such as apples and pears. The flesh has soluble fiber, but the peel is the highest source of fiber and is where you find most of the fruit's important vitamins.
- Nuts are also a good source of fiber. Consider adding a nut butter to your smoothie to give it an extra boost.
When you have children, it can be difficult to find the time to workout between making dinner and shuttling them to and from soccer practice and piano lessons. But you can prioritize an exercise routine by making it a fun family affair – something you and the kids schedule in a few times a week to get quality family time and some much-needed physical activity. Here are some of our best ideas for working out with the kids:
With babies or toddlers
If you have a baby at home, invest in a high-quality jogging stroller to get a great workout with the kids in tow. Bundle them up – during nap time may even work – and set out on a jog or brisk walk. Not only will you be getting great cardio exercise, but you'll also have the added strength-training required to push the little ones in the stroller as you go.
Many parents give their infants tummy time in order to strengthen their neck muscles. While your baby is doing time on his or her tummy, you can do the plank position, holding for 30 seconds at a time, to build and strengthen your core muscles.
Baby weight lunges
Many people strap their babies into chest carriers while doing the dishes, laundry or other household activities. It seems that simply carrying your baby can be a great workout. Add in some plies, lunges and squats for great toning exercises.
With grade school children
Day at the park
Spend a day at the park with your family. Before enjoying a healthy picnic lunch, organize games and contests for the kids, such as a children versus adults soccer match, a vigorous game of tag or a challenging obstacle course – anything that keeps everyone constantly moving!
Family fun run
Many festivals and fairs, especially in the summer, host family fun runs, with 5ks for adults and shorter distances for kids, depending on age range. Sign the family up, ordering matching t-shirts and make sure to practice together a few weeks beforehand by taking jogs around the neighborhood.
Host a family room dance party
Kids need a break from homework, and one good way to do it is to have a 10-minute dance party in the living room. Make it a weeknight thing, and let each family member take a turn choosing the music. It's much better to let kids get their energy out and take a break from doing homework by dancing up a storm, rather than hunkering down on the couch with video game in hand.
Use commercial breaks wisely
If you and the kids are watching TV together, use commercial breaks to challenge each other to a sit-up or pushup contest, or to see who has the best dance moves!
With older kids
Have a Wii competition
If you have the Wii video game system, this is a great way to get older kids to exercise with you. Challenge them to a boxing match, dance-off, baseball game, volleyball match or anything else athletic for a great time and connecting with junior high or high school kids, which isn't always easy.
Train for a triathlon
There are mini-triathlons or marathons for pre-teens and teens. You and your kids can connect over exercising by biking, jogging and swimming and tracking your goals together.
Older kids are more suited for longer hikes or bike rides. Take a family trip where hiking is on the agenda. Not only will you be spending excellent quality time together, but you'll get great exercise and also likely see some amazing sights.
If you think fad diets have been popping up left and right in the past two decades, you're right. The irony, of course, is that per their nature, fad diets come and go, it seems that the "fad" of having these diets has been hanging around for far too long.
In fact, one of the first known fad diets was the "vinegar and water" diet made popular in 1820 by Lord Byron. And in fact, the low-carbohydrate diet we associate with Atkins actually originated in 1825 in a piece called "The Physiology of Taste" by Jean Brillat-Savarin, and in 1863 was again popularized with Banting's Low Carbohydrate diet.
Here are some other interesting and – frankly – weird fad diets starting in the early 20th century:
- 1903: Horace Fletcher introduces "fletcherizing," or chewing food 32 times
- 1917: Counting calories is born in Lulu Hunt Peters' book on dieting and health
- 1925: One cigarette brand promoted smoking when one had the urge to eat sweets in order to lose weight
- 1930: Dr. Stoll's Diet Aid is the first liquid diet drink
- 1934: The bananas and skim milk diet, which is unsurprisingly promoted by the United Fruit Company
- 1950: The grapefruit (Hollywood) diet and cabbage soup diet are born
- 1976: Sleeping Beauty Diet, whereby individuals remained heavily sedated for many days
- 1981: Beverly Hills Diet involves eating only fruit – in unlimited quantities – for the first 10 days of the diet
- 1985: Caveman diet emerges as the first incarnation of the Paleo diet
- 1986: Rotation diet means eating a different number of calories each week
- 1994: Dr. Atkins' ever-present high protein, low carbohydrate diet is introduced
- 1996: The blood type diet first emerges, which involves eating particular foods based on your blood type
- 1999: Juicing, fasting and detoxification are promoted
- 2006: Maple syrup diet, with a syrup and lemon drink
- 2008: Banana diet, with room temperature water and a banana for breakfast
- 2010: Baby food diet – 14 jars of baby food per day, with an optional normal adult dinner
Why fad diets never work
Though many use compelling language and ideas, most nutritionists and experts agree that fad diets just don't work. In fact, many can be downright dangerous. Here's why:
- They often restrict consumption of a particular type of food that is essential to nutrition, and over-promote others, meaning your diet is lacking in essential nutrients. This can have negative effects on immune health.
- Most fad diets operate by severely restricting calories. This causes your body to shut down and the metabolism to slow in order to conserve energy and resources.
- Fad diets are a temporary food plan. They are usually completely unsustainable for the long term. Additionally, they can complicate one's relationship with food, taking all of the pleasure out of eating.
- If you do not get enough protein from your diet, you can have muscle loss, low energy and hair loss.
- Fad diets can interfere with one's metabolism because of their strict schedules.
How to spot a fad diet
There are many characteristics in common between fad diets, including:
- Not recommending or including physical activity in the diet plan.
- Encouraging unlimited consumption of particular foods.
- Severely limiting carbohydrates or fat to unhealthy levels.
- Promising rapid weight loss – more than 2 pounds per week, which is both unhealthy and unrealistic.
- Promising a quick fix, like taking a pill, which requires little effort.
- Requiring the purchase of a particular product.
- Avoiding the mention of portion control.
- The combination of particular foods in each meal.
- It sounds too good to be true.
A balanced and healthy eating plan, complemented by daily cardio exercise, is always the best way to manage your weight and be healthy. If you have questions, contact your doctor, who can help you plan or refer you to a registered dietician.
By the looks of it, this winter is not going away any time soon. If you're lucky enough to live in the Midwest, on the East Coast or anywhere else that experienced an abundance of snow this winter, you might be saying "Enough already!" But why not have a little fun in the snow while getting an excellent cardio workout to boot?
Grab an old-school toboggan, a plastic saucer or an ultra-slick tube and venture to your local sledding hill for some family fun racing down the hill. Naturally, you'll want to go down again and again, but that will require climbing the hill over and over as well. However, this is actually an excellent aerobic workout and a great way to tone your leg muscles. In fact, if you're on a medium-height and sled and climb for just 30 minutes, you'll burn between 200 and 300 calories.
Take a break from the sledding to build a snow fort or have a snowball fight before heading home to warm up with hot cocoa. Who says you can't get excellent cardio exercise in the winter?