Stretching is often overlooked, but when done can lead to a better posture, fewer aches and pains, a more positive outlook on life and a better body.
Stretching can help blood circulation for a healthier body and sends oxygen to your brain allowing you to think clearer and brighten up your mood.
While both of these physically and mentally relieving forms of fitness provide therapeutic values, choosing whether yoga or Pilates fits you best typically depends on a number of factors. For starters, you should know what kind of health benefits you are striving for. Are you someone who is looking for more of a strength and flexibility training program, or are you searching for more mentally focused exercises that can work to relieve stress? Knowing which areas yoga and Pilates focus on as well as what their workouts entail are key when deciding which one will accommodate your fitness needs.
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.
Sleeping the recommended eight hours per night is essential for your health and well-being. Getting the proper amount of sleep can do a number of positive things for your health, including helping to improve memory, boost the immune system, lower stress, spur creativity, sharpen attention and even contribute to a healthier weight.
However, a good night's sleep is often hard to come by. Even if you get into bed at a decent hour, you still may find yourself counting sheep, unable to catch some Zzzs. Approximately 70 million Americans suffer from poor sleep every night. As a quick fix, about one in four Americans take some kind of sleep medication. However, what really helps you to fall asleep quickly is your brain. That means you have to feed it with the right fuel. You need to calm it down rather than stimulate it. About 90 minutes before you doze off, head to the kitchen for a snack that will help relax you and prepare you for a good night's sleep.
Look for foods with natural sedatives like tryptophan, an amino acid that makes up the raw material that the brain uses to build sleep-inducing substances like serotonin and melatonin. It's also important to add some carbs, which stimulate the release of insulin, to this amino acid. What this does is takes the competing amino acids and incorporates them into the muscle, leaving the tryptophan to make its way to the brain and cause you to get sleepy.
Snacks that promote shut eye:
- Whole-grain cereal with milk
- Banana and peanut butter
- A glass of warm milk with honey – warm milk isn't a myth after all! Milk contains tryptophan.
- Nonfat, flavored yogurt topped with 2 tablespoons of low-fat granola
- 3 cups low-fat popcorn, sprinkled only with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
- One slice of whole wheat toast with a small slice of low-fat cheese
- A small bowl of oatmeal
- A rice cake topped with turkey
While all of these will help you to fall asleep and stay asleep, there are also foods that you should avoid. The following snacks will only keep you up at night.
Snacks that interfere with a good night's sleep:
Caffeine: The obvious choices like coffee and soda should be avoided several hours before bedtime. This natural chemical activates your central nervous system and stimulates the brain, causing that jittery feeling. Just to be safe, you should avoid ingesting caffeine about eight hours before bed. Keep in mind that even healthy dark chocolate contains significant amounts of caffeine!
Alcohol: While it may seem that this substance puts you to sleep, the effects wear off fast, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep.
A big meal: If you're especially hungry right before bed, just stick to a small snack. If you're consuming too many calories, your digestive system may slow down, causing you to be uncomfortable and awake. Bedtime snacks should be no more than 200 calories. Generally, you should avoid high-fat meals.
Spicy foods: While these are delicious, they won't make catching Zzzs any easier. When you ingest this before bed, you may have reflux.
Yoga has been an important part of life across Eastern cultures for centuries, but in recent years, this holistic exercise has gained popularity here in the U.S. There are lots of reasons to do yoga: Whether you're looking for a new way to work out, trying to find time to relax or have been prescribed yoga as a physical therapy treatment, there are countless benefits to this popular activity.
Most of the health benefits of yoga – improved circulation, weight loss, reduced blood pressure, improved muscle tone and better mental focus – can be attributed to yoga's tendency to reduce stress. If you're looking for a little escape from the worries of everyday life, try these yoga poses in the comfort of your own home:
Balsana (Child's pose)
Child's Post is almost certainly everyone's favorite yoga pose. This resting pose is generally done in between asanas (sun salutations) in order to allow for a moment to refocus breathing and promote relaxation. Even if you aren't going all-out with an entire workout, a few deep breaths in balsana will help you recharge. As a bonus, Yoga Journal has recommended this comfortable pose for boosting immune system health!
To get into balsana, begin in a kneeling position. Sit back until your hips are resting comfortably on top of your ankles. Keeping your back straight, lower your upper body until your forehead is gently resting on the floor. You can either rest your hands at your side or stretch them out over your head.
Ananda Balsana (Happy baby pose)
Are you noticing the child theme? Many of yoga's most relaxing positions are inspired by happy children. Happy baby pose is a great option for those who want to improve their flexibility while relaxing at the same time.
Start by lying on your back with your eyes fixed above you. Keeping your knees bent, bring your legs up so that the bottoms of your feet are parallel to the ceiling. Grab the insides of your feet with your hands, keeping your arms on the inside of your legs. Use your hands to pull your feet towards you, breathing deeply.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing dog pose)
You know that cute little stretch your dog does after he wakes up from a nap? Our canine companions sure can teach us a thing or two about happiness! Take a breather and improve your immune system health with downward-facing dog.
It's easiest to get into downward-facing dog directly from balsana. Stretch your hands out in front of your head and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Push back, lifting your body off of the floor until your legs and arms are as straight as possible. If you're working to improve your flexibility, create a constant tension with your arms and legs as you push your head toward your knees.
With these and all other yoga poses, the most important tool for relaxation is your own breath. Focus on your breathing pattern, and dismiss all thoughts that come into your brain without judgment.
Sleep isn’t the easiest thing to come by these days. There are often nights when you toss and turn for hours upon end, nights when you’re up late doing work, and days when it seems your bedtime is pushed back later and later. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience poor sleep at night. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults reported an average of less than six hours of sleep per day between 2005 and 2007. The National Sleep Foundation suggested that adults need to get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Getting the proper amount of sleep is imperative for your health. Sleep has an effect on learning and memory. It helps the mind commit new information through a process called memory and consolidation. Therefore, if you have a test to take, it’s best to get to sleep rather than pulling an all-nighter. Metabolism is also impacted by a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep affects the way your body processes and stores carbohydrates and alters levels of hormones that affect the appetite. Sleep loss can also lead to irritability and an inability to concentrate during the day, and may even be an immunity booster, helping your body to stay healthy. Believe it or not, decreased amounts of sleep have been linked to poor heart health. How’s that for a reason to get some shut-eye? However, it’s understood that it’s simply difficult for some to fall asleep at night. Here are some bedtime behaviors that may make it a bit easier to catch some z’s and all the benefits that come with a proper amount of sleep:
Turn down the lights
Your environment has a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. If a room is too hot or too cold, too noisy or too bright, your sleep can be affected. When bedtime begins to roll around, your body releases melatonin, which helps to make you sleepy. But if you’re in a brightly lit room, your head isn’t getting the right hints to hit the hay. Therefore, start to dim the lights around nine or 10 to get your mind ready for sleep.
Take a sleep aid
Naturade SlumberAid is a natural solution to help you not only fall asleep, but to stay asleep and wake up feeling rested and energized. This sleep aid is packed with a full range of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and melatonin, you helping you get on your way to a more peaceful night’s sleep.
Have a bedtime routine
By establishing a nightly routine, your brain will recognize that it’s time to go to bed and shift to that mindset. Whether it’s laying out your clothes for the next day, reading a book, brushing your hair or writing, these are habits that may help you sleep at night.
Skip the coffee after noon
You’d be surprised as to how long that cup of joe can stay in your system. It reaches a peak level in your blood within 30 to 60 minutes of drinking it and the effects can last from eight to 14 hours. Therefore, you should think twice before grabbing that second or third cup of coffee at lunchtime. Instead, try other ways to naturally boost your energy throughout the day, such as exercising, laughing, splashing cold water on your face or cranking up the air conditioning.
Life is filled with things to be happy about: relationships, great hair days, positive reinforcement at work, family and more! Stress, unfortunately, is sometimes a part of those everyday joys. Luckily, there are steps you can take to relax and manage this unwanted and unneeded stress. Try these tips and tricks to be on your way to a more stress-free lifestyle:
Ward off stress with a supplement
Help manage your stress levels with Symbiotics TryptoZen. This supplement is nature's way to a relaxed state of being and works to replenish your mental clarity. With just one capsule, you may be on your way to lower stress levels and increased relaxation.
Break a sweat
Exercise isn't just for slimming down. It can also boost your mood and help to fight stress. According to NIH Medline Plus, exercise can improve your mood and change how your body reacts to stress. You don't need to take part in intense workouts to reap the benefits either. Even walking a few times a day will help you reap the benefits.
Eat the right foods
What you put into your body could potentially have an effect on your stress levels. According to UF&Shands Communication, a handful of walnuts may lower resting blood pressure and improve responses to stress. These nuts also contain other health benefits, like better cardiovascular health and high levels of protein. Oranges, according to a German study in Psychopharmacology, may aid in reducing stress and returning blood pressure to normal levels after a particularly stressful situation. They are also filled with antioxidants to boost the immune system.
Spend time with family and friends
A fun afternoon spending time with family or friends could be just what the doctor ordered. Share your feelings, hopes and joys with those closest in your life to exchange insight and maybe even a few laughs. Laughing triggers the body's release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in the brain. Having a few laughs also helps relax muscles and stimulate circulation, both of which are symptoms of stress.
Don't sweat the small stuff
It won't be the end of the world if you didn't get to cleaning the kitchen or you haven't mowed the grass yet. Focus on the things that really matter in life, whether that be spending time with family, getting work done or simply taking time out in your day to relax.
At some point in your life, you’ve probably become well aware of how difficult it is to get a good night’s sleep when there are deadlines, work, relationships and other priorities to think about. Tossing and turning, unfortunately, only seems to make things worse. According to Brown University, experts estimate that about 100 million Americans maintain serious sleep debt. Although anxiety and stress may be part of our everyday lives, sleepless nights don’t have to be. Thankfully, there are steps you can take that will improve your sleep and even help you get to sleep faster. Here are a few tricks to try:
Take your vitamins
One of the best ways to get a restful night’s sleep is to take your vitamins! Studies have shown that a range of B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium and melatonin may work to calm your nerves and induce sleep. And other studies have shown that these vitamins will help to boost immune system health! SlumberAid is a natural supplement containing these vitamins to give you a better night’s sleep. Aside from being found in supplements, these vitamins are naturally found in a host of healthy foods.
B-vitamins can be found in a variety of foods ranging from egg yolks, peanuts, fish and poultry to whole grain cereals and leafy green vegetables. As for calcium, don’t forget to drink your orange juice. Magnesium levels are high in rice, dried herbs and cocoa powder. This means you can snack on a bit of dark chocolate before bed! However, be careful to not eat too much before bed, as this can make you uncomfortable, making catching z’s even more difficult.
Have a consistent bedtime
Get on a schedule that allows you to go to bed (and wake up) at the same time every day. According to Brown University, staying on a consistent sleep pattern can help you get more shut eye. If you go to sleep at 1 a.m. Monday night and then wish to catch up on some sleep Tuesday night at about 10 p.m., you may find you’re having trouble sleeping because your body’s sleep-wake rhythm has been disturbed.
Part of having a consistent bedtime is creating a routine around your sleep patterns. This could mean winding down before bed by reading a book, watching TV or looking over your schedule for the next day. Either way, relaxing a bit before bed might be able to help you get into the proper mindset for sleep.
Manage your stress
This is definitely easier said than done. However, studies have shown that taking a milk peptide supplement like Symbiotics TryptoZen may actually bring you to a more relaxed state of being, helping you to fall and stay asleep. If common relaxation methods like yoga, reading or meditating do the trick, this may be helpful to add to your bedtime routine.
Take shorter naps
If you’re exhausted during the day because of a poor night’s sleep, you’re going to want to take a nap. But the trick is to keep your naps nice and short, as difficult as that may seem. Brown University said that your naps shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes. You only need 15-20 minutes to increase alertness, productivity and creativity.