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.
Children are extremely impressionable. If you go outside and go for a run, they're going to want to do the same. If you yell at the football game on TV, they're going to want to do the same. And if you reach for a big piece of cake to snack on, they're going to want a piece as well. All of these habits stick with children well into adulthood, so it's important to get your children on a path to eating healthy while they're young. But that isn't always an easy task. Here are a few ways to promote healthy eating to your little one:
Bring them along to the store
Have your child be your little shopping assistant. Shop around the produce department and have them pick out fruits and vegetables that they would like to try out. They may be interested in certain item due to its name, color or shape. This way, they're going to want to try it when they get home.
Let them help out at home
When you're making dinner, encourage your children to help you out. Even the youngest of children can help wash vegetables or peel potatoes. If they're the ones making the food, they're going to be excited to try out what they created, including new foods as well as fruits and vegetables containing lots of antioxidants, helping them to eat healthier without even realizing it.
If you have to whip something up really quick, it's likely you're going to reach for food that can easily be microwaved. However, those are the foods that often aren't the best when it comes to nutritional content. Instead, try to plan dinners ahead so they're all well-balanced and include a variety of food groups, such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
Offer a fun dip
Vegetables alone won't look appealing to kids. But when you pair it with hummus or some ranch salad dressing, those vegetables look much more appetizing. When you offer these dips to children, they'll have fun dipping and munching their healthy treat.
When you work an eight-hour workday, there's not much time (or energy) left at the end of the day for a workout. Packing up and making a trip to the gym is sometimes just not an option. But what if the office was your gym? You may not be able to hop on the treadmill while you're on a conference call, but there are plenty of other ways to sneak in a workout at the office.
Take the stairs
You may be used to just grabbing your coffee and heading straight for the elevator in the morning, but you may want to think about taking the stairs instead. A little cardio can even boost the immune system. It may not seem like much, but that little bit of exercise everyday can really add up. Every stair is a quarter-calorie burn. If you come into work a little earlier than usual, go up and down the stairs a few times to burn even more calories and get those leg muscles toned. You could even do squats right on the stairs. Stand sideways on a stair and do half-legged squats on each leg – you'd be surprised how difficult they are!
Squeeze at your seat
Sitting in a chair for eight hours can be rough on the body. Keep yourself moving right at your desk by squeezing your buttocks for five to 10 seconds, then release. You could also try squeezing a pen and focusing on your forearm muscles. You'll be burning calories while just sitting there doing your work – and you won't even have to get out of your chair.
While sitting at your desk, straighten either one or both legs and hold them off the ground for five or more seconds. Then lower them back toward the ground without letting the feet touch the floor. If you want even more of a challenge, try putting a book or a briefcase on top of your feet for added weight.
To work your core, hold onto your desk and lift your feet off the ground. Use your abs to swivel the chair from side to side for about 15 reps – you'll be on your way to a more toned core.
While many have the goal to shed pounds, there are also those who wish to bulk up a bit and raise the number they see on that scale every day. Whether you wish to gain weight to achieve a more muscular and toned body or for health reasons, here are a few tips that are going to help speed up the process and get you to your goal weight:
Work on gaining muscle
Strength training is essential for speeding up your weight gain. Muscle weighs more than fat, helping you to get that much closer to packing on the pounds. Next time you hit the gym, try to do a combination of cardio and strength training to not only help you build muscle, but to stimulate your appetite as well. Work all muscle groups, doing exercises like squats, bicep curls, planks, seated rows, chin ups and more. As a general rule, lifting fewer reps with larger weights will help you gain bulky muscle, while lifting a greater amount of lighter weights will promote leaner muscle gain.
Consume lots of protein
Gaining weight fast means eating more calories. However, this doesn't mean that you can fill up on greasy fast food all the time. Instead, look for items that are packed with protein to help promote muscle growth. A meal replacement shake is the perfect way to consume more calories without all of the added fat. Reach for a protein powder like Naturade Weight Gain. It's packed with protein, carbohydrates and calories to enhance your weight training routine. Put a few scoops into your favorite shake and drink it for a post-workout meal that will feed your muscles.
If you expect to gain weight, you have to consume more calories than you expend. This means eating five to six times per day, at least. When you eat, your metabolic rate increases, helping muscle to grow. Stick to reasonable portions to avoid that overly full feeling. You can have three to four meals with snacks in between. Make sure you're eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein sources like beans, dairy, nuts, and meat or fish. It's not about simply packing your stomach, it's about what you put in it.
Have snacks on the go
Instead of reaching for a donut when you're running out the door, have protein-packed snacks ready to go. Foods like trail mix, peanut butter, dried fruit, veggies and dip, smoothies and sunflower seeds are perfect for getting extra calories without the added fat.
As we get older, exercise becomes a little tougher on our joints. Suddenly rigorous activities like running start to wear down the knees, hips and ankles. But if you're experiencing joint issues during exercise, the solution isn't to stop physical activity. In fact, not staying active can actually be worse for your joints. Limiting your movements can weaken muscles, affect your posture and even damage joints further. The good news is, there are ways of exercising that will keep you active and can help you maintain comfortable and healthy joints. It's all about knowing your limitations and taking part in physical activity that is easy on the joints. Here are a few workouts you can add to your exercise regiment that won't leave your joints in poor health:
If you love running but your joints simply can't stand the impact that comes from running on a city street, try the elliptical instead. This machine allows you to get a great cardio workout while still being gentle on the joints. You don't lift up your feet as you would on a treadmill, making it easier on the knees, back and hips.
Hop in the pool to swim a few laps. Not only is this a great cardiovascular workout, but it's super easy on the joints. Swimming works your whole body all at once, improving muscle strength, cardiovascular conditioning, endurance, flexibility and posture all at the same time. While you're in the water, you are non-weight bearing, putting almost no pressure on your joints.
Ease your stress by taking part in yoga. These breathing and stretching exercises work wonders for your body and joints. Yoga improves mood, boosts the immune system, promotes better sleep and reduces stress. Even NFL football players Tom Brady, Tony Romo and LaDainian Tomlinson turn to yoga to help them with conditioning and range of motion.
If you're lucky enough to live in an area with great hiking, you have an exercise opportunity right in your backyard. Not only does this enable you to breathe nature's fresh air, it works to tone the legs while keeping the impact at a minimum.
When you think exercise, golf probably isn't one of the first things you think of. However, this sport actually provides a bevy of ways to keep moving. According to Greatist.com, golfers take an average of 10,000 steps, or about five miles, in a typical round. All that walking can really add up and it's gentle on the joints.
BMI, otherwise known as Body Mass Index, is the number you get when you calculate a person's weight and height in relation to what is normal and healthy. This number is used to determine if an individual has a healthy amount of body fat, helping adults identify possible weight loss problems. On average, women tend to have more body fat than men, and older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults. This is both easy to calculate and can help one get on the way to a better and healthier lifestyle. Here's how to find out your very own BMI:
In kilograms and meters (or centimeters): Weight (kg) / [height (m)]2
1. First, convert your weight from pounds to kilograms:
Your weight (in pounds) divided by 2.2 equals your weight in kilograms.
2. Second, convert your height from inches to meters:
Your height (in inches) divided by 39.37 equals your height in meters.
3. Calculate your BMI:
Your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in meters) multiplied by your height (in meters) equals your total BMI.
In pounds and inches: Weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703
1. Calculate your BMI by dividing your weight (in pounds) by height (in inches) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.
If you don't want to calculate your BMI manually, the Bowflex BMI/Daily Calorie Scale is perfect for not only keeping an eye on your BMI, but for determining the number of calories you have to burn per day in order to maintain your current weight. All you have to do is step on!
What is considered a healthy BMI?
Once you figure out that number, it's important to know what to do with it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anything below a BMI of 18.5 for adults is considered underweight. A normal BMI should be anywhere between 18.5 and 24.9. An overweight individual would have a BMI in the range of 25 and 29.9, while an obese adult would have a number showing 30 or above. For example, for someone who has a height of about 5'9" and weighs 124 pounds or less, with a BMI of 18.5, they would be considered underweight.
Those who are highly trained athletes may have a high BMI. This is due to the increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness. Muscle weighs more than fat. It's important to remember that BMI is not a direct measurement of body fatness. Rather, it's calculated from an individual's weight, which takes into consideration both fat and muscle. Maintaining a healthy weight can help to boost immune system health and even lower cholesterol.
When you're expecting, you want to do absolutely everything you can to improve not only your health, but your little one's as well. While diet is vital for providing you and your child with the nutrients you both need, supplements can offer vitamins and minerals you may not get from food to help give you everything you need for healthy development. It's important to keep an eye on the type of supplement you're ingesting, however. Some supplements may not be as safe as they would seem. The following supplements are safe to take during pregnancy, however, it's important to talk with your doctor before ingesting anything:
This acid, a member of the B-vitamin family, can be found in green leafy vegetables, brown rice, breads, margarines and some breakfast cereals. The synthetic form is often more easily absorbed by the body than the natural form, however. According to Dr. Eric Levens, a board-certified reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist in Annandale, Va., folic acid has been shown to decrease the incidence of a specific birth defect by as much as 36 percent. Folic acid also helps to support the rapid growth of both the placenta and fetus. It aids in DNA production as well as cell division and fetal growth.
While this vitamin can come from sunshine, taking a supplement can give a pregnant woman and her child an adequate amount. Exposure to sunlight during pregnancy intensifies pigment changes that cause irregular skin darkening, so it's best to stay protected from the sun. Vitamin D is essential for regulating the amount of phosphate and calcium found in the body – both of which are needed to keep teeth and bones healthy. This vitamin can be found in fatty fish, fish liver oil, fortified milk, eggs and cereal products.
This vitamin, found in fruit and vegetables, protects cells and keeps to keep the immune system healthy – working to fight off infection. It's also essential for tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and skin health. You and your baby can benefit from vitamin C because it helps make collagen – a protein that's vital to cartilage, bones, skin and tendons. It can also help absorb iron.
Iron can come from red meat, legumes, vegetables and grains. This supplement makes hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to other cells. Iron also helps to form myoglobin – a protein that supplies oxygen to the muscles. And just like vitamin C, iron helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
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.
More and more individuals are pursuing a vegetarian diet – a diet that excludes animal protein and instead is replaced with plant-based protein. According to the Vegetarian Times, approximately 7.3 million Americans are vegetarians and an additional 22.8 million follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.
Vegetarianism goes back to the sixth century B.C. in India, Greece and the Greek civilization in southern Italy. This way of life was strongly linked with a desire to not harm animals. Peace toward animals in India is known as ahimsa, and was a common lifestyle among religious people and philosophers. People today choose to be vegetarians for many reasons, among them concern for personal health and the environment, compassion for animals, belief in nonviolence, spiritual reasons and food preferences.
This diet, although free of animal protein, serves many benefits to those who follow this lifestyle. Here are just a few benefits that come from being a vegetarian:
A lower body weight
Those who stick to plant protein are more likely to have a lower body weight than their meat-eating counterparts. In fact, according to a study, those who consume meat will continue to put on more weight over a five-year period than those who switched over to the vegetarian lifestyle.
Lower cholesterol levels
A vegetarian diet can help promote positive heart health. Over 100 million Americans have cholesterol levels that exceed the recommended total and 20 percent of Americans have levels that are considered too high. Products like dairy, meat, butter, cheese, poultry and luncheon meats all contain saturated fat, which can contribute to poor heart health. By eliminating these items from your diet and replacing them with whole grains, your good cholesterol levels may rise.
A better mood
Turns out, embracing a vegetarian lifestyle can make you happier and less stressed. High levels of arachidonic acid, or AA, have been linked to mood-disturbing brain changes. Animal products like meat and fish are higher in AA than plant-based products. Omnivores reported significantly worse moods than vegetarians due to the elevated levels of AA.
Helps the environment
What you put into your body every day has a significant effect on our environment. Switching from a standard American diet to a vegan or vegetarian diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching to a hybrid car, according to PETA. More greenhouse-gas emissions are produced in the feeding and raising, production, and transporting of livestock than in crop cultivation.
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.