Tag: fitness

When Gain Makes Pain: 6 Ways Remove Lactic Acid Build-Up

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When we work out strenuously, our muscles compensate for lack of oxygen by producing lactate, a.k.a. lactic acid, which allows the muscles to utilize glucose for energy.

Once lactic acid is produced, it can remain in the muscles, causing pain and soreness that usually peaks between 24-72 hours after the vigorous workout. Unfortunately, anyone who has started working out again after a lapse in activity knows this feeling all too well.

But there are ways to clear lactic acid from the muscles faster, and below are 6 top recommended tips:

 

1. Wonderful Water—

Water is first on the list because it’s every athlete’s number one workout assistant. Not only will staying hydrated help anyone have a more energetic and productive workout, it will help all of the systems in the body designed to remove toxins work efficiently.

If you work out more than 60 minutes, consider adding electrolytes to your hydration regimen, because you’ll need to replace the sodium and potassium you’re losing as well.

Be sure to drink extra water the day after a rough workout to clear lactic acid from the system faster, and to help your body heal.

 

2. Top Temperature—

If you have the opportunity to warm up before you start exercising, this will help the muscles clear waste better during exertion.

Many people get on the treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike to heat up their body before moving onto more forceful or weight-bearing exercises.

In addition to preventing lactic acid build up, this can also reduce the chance of injury by preparing the muscles for pressure.

 

3. Nurturing Nutrition—

You made those muscles work hard and had a great training session, now pay them back for their performance with some healthy foods and nutrition.

You’ve got to give a powerful engine the fuel it needs to run strong, so eat vitamin-dense foods, amino acids and protein after you exercise, and go heavy on the Omega-3s, as this fatty acid has been found to help reduce inflammation.

 

4. Crucial Cooling—

Prevention is one of the best ways to avoid the next-day post-workout pain, and cooling down gently after a workout has been shown to help remove lactic acid from the muscles, allowing the exerciser to avoid this problem.

Cooling down can mean a casual stroll on the treadmill immediately after strength training, riding the stationary bike, or a mellow swimming session if your gym has a pool. Remember to take it slow, and allow your heart to gradually reach a resting rate.

 

5. Super Stretches—

After the post-workout cooling down exercise, it’s also a good idea to stretch to increase blood flow.

Stretching will help your body heal faster by increasing circulation, averting the pooling of blood and lactic acid in the muscles, and prevent the stiffening that can contribute to pain in the days to follow.

Stretching before a workout is also recommended to keep the body limber and prevent injuries caused by suddenly moving tight, cold muscles, and to prevent muscle waste build up.

 

6. Shocking Showers—

Although alternating between hot and cold showers seems like a system-shocking situation, many proponents of this approach swear it reduces the levels of lactic acid and prevents day-after muscle soreness.

To take a contrast shower, switch back and forth between cold for as long you can handle and then hot a few times.

 

Some fitness fans also swear by post-workout ice baths and massages, and some use the tips discussed above to avoid muscle pain and weakness. If lactic acid buildup is causing you discomfort, you might want to give these removal methods a try. You’ve got nothing to lose but muscle pain, and a faster recovery to potentially gain.

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Are Your Knees Being Naughty? Top Tips to Stop Knee Pain

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Knee pain can happen to anyone—old, young, fit, overweight, active, sedentary—knee pain doesn’t discriminate. Genetic factors may bring arthritis to the knees, and sometimes over-pronation, bodily misalignment or good old-fashioned exercise can cause knee soreness.

But no matter why the knees are hurting, the good news is that there are things anyone can do to lessen the aching. Below are some tips recommended by health and fitness experts, doctors and researchers to help stop knee pain.

 

1. Weighty Matters—

Nobody likes to hear this important tip, but it must be said that one of the most effective ways to lessen knee pain is to reduce the amount of weight the joints are supporting.

Many people use their bad knees as an excuse to avoid exercise, exacerbating the problem with weight gain, but this is actually not a legitimate excuse because there are knee-friendly exercises (see: next tip).

 

2. Do Gentle Knee-Friendly Exercises—

If you can walk, you can exercise, no matter how out-of-shape you may feel. But if even walking hurts your knees, consider swimming. Swimming builds the muscles around the knees to support them while placing no strain on the joints.

Another knee-friendly exercise is biking, especially on a stationary bike to reduce the potentially jarring effects of outdoor biking. Elliptical and rowing trainers can be helpful as well, and always remember to stretch first.

 

3. Comfort Trumps Fashion—

Don’t let vanity tighten your calf muscles and increase knee and foot pain. High-heeled shoes place extra pressure on the feet and knees, causing inflammation and permanent damage over time.

Be sure to wear the right shoes with good cushioning while exercising, or embrace the barefoot trend which has been shown to encourage proper muscle and tendon alignment.

 

4. Sample Some Supplements—

Recent studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements work for some people, making them worth a try.

Other supplements known for having anti-inflammatory effects are cherry juice, vitamin C, Omega-3s, turmeric, grape seed, ginger, oregano, coriander, flaxseed and yucca root.

Spinach, onions, walnuts and salmon are also great anti-inflammatory foods to include in your weekly diet, and avoiding inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates and sugar is always a good idea.

 

5. Build Your Buns—

When the sitting muscles weaken, this can have a domino effect down the legs. As rear end muscles drop, the pelvis lowers, throwing the thigh muscles out of alignment to strain knees and feet.

The solution is to start at the top by doing strength training exercises for the glutes and the quads, because strengthening all of these muscle groups will support the knee joints to reduce pressure.

And don’t forget to work the calf muscles while you’re at it, because weak calves can also contribute to knee pain.

 

6. More Core, Less Sore—

If you can strengthen your core, you will not only be doing your knees a huge favor; the rest of your body will benefit along with them. As the core grows stronger, it assists many of the muscles of the body, reducing pressure on the joints.

Another positive about strengthening core muscles is that it can be done via floor exercises and other forms of strength training that don’t involve the knees.

 

7. Use Ice and Be Nice—

Using ice on the knees post-exercise for 20 minutes can reduce inflammation, and elevating the legs while icing will increase the positive results.

Also, know your limits during workouts and be careful not to get caught up in the activity, pushing knees past what you know they can handle. If you do take it too far, be sure to allow knees adequate rest and healing before your next session.

When it comes to joints, pain doesn’t equal gain, and can actually set back your fitness goals.

 

People are different, so what might work in a study or anecdotally for one person may not work for somebody else, but maybe if you try some the tips and suggestions above, you’ll find the one that works for you. You’ve got nothing to lose but knee pain, after all.

Are You That Person? 8 Common Gym Etiquette Offenders

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Those who work out in a gym may recognize certain people who annoy others with rude or oblivious behavior. Discourteous actions can put a damper on a workout, making it a frustrating and irritating experience, rather than a positive one.

Read below about 8 common gym etiquette offenders anyone can avoid becoming with a little consideration for others.

 

1. The Slammer—

You may be startled this person’s weights crashing to the ground, or by their weight machine clanking deafeningly between repetitions.

Not only are these loud noises annoying for those near The Slammer, people with anxiety disorders such as PTSD can find them to be anxiety triggers, turning a trip to the gym from cathartic to stressful.

The Slammer is also known by anyone with knowledge of proper form as The Cheater, because not controlling weights on the way down doesn’t allow muscles to be fully used, and is lazy lifting.

 

2. The Super Soaker—

Yes, sweating at the gym is normal, but people should realize that excess sweat has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, the weight machines, bikes and benches are not made of sponge.

Most gyms have paper towels available and conveniently placed, hoping people will wipe up their own wetness. But if your gym doesn’t offer this feature, there is an amazing moisture-absorbing invention called a towel we can all use so the person after us won’t be forced to share our DNA.

 

3. The Machine Monopolizer—

Boy, you’d love to use that weight machine. And that one, too. But that person at your gym has decided to drape a towel over each one to “save” them while rotating, making it so nobody else can use the machines they’re monopolizing.

This is very rude, because by making people wait to use an empty machine, The Monopolizer is saying to everyone, “My time is more important than your time.”

Working different muscle groups is effective, but can be done without hogging machines.

 

4. The Slowpoke—

The Slowpoke is that person casually reading a book, or sitting for long stretches of time between sets on the same machine, not really working out hard enough to accomplish anything.

Usually only at the gym to placate their nagging doctor, or to feel like they’re “doing something for their health,” what The Slowpoke doesn’t realize is that if they aren’t going to actually work the muscles, they’re only wasting their time. And yours.

 

5. The Cardio Keeper—

The general rule in most gyms, whether posted or not, is that if the cardio machines are full, gym members should limit time to 30 minutes to allow other members a chance to warm up.

You’ll recognize The Cardio Keeper as that person who sees people waiting to use a cardio machine, but inconsiderately stays on for an hour.

 

6. The Weight Leaver—

The most perplexing of gym etiquette offenders, The Weight Leaver is an elusive and confusing creature.

You won’t see the weight leaver, but you will know them by their trail of weights. You know… the weights they came to the gym to lift, yet lazily left on every machine they used?

Gym etiquette experts have yet to figure out why anyone would come to a gym to use their muscles, but then be lazy about doing exactly that.

Perhaps someday the mystery of The Weight Leaver will be solved, but until then, the rest of us will have to rack the weights these slothful mammals leave behind.

 

7. The Expert—

That’s funny – you don’t recall hiring a personal trainer. Yet looming over you while you work out, giving you “pro-tips” is a complete stranger who has decided to boost their ego by telling you what you’re doing wrong.

If nobody asked, there’s a reason for that, but The Expert seems to have no clue. The best way to avoid The Expert is by ignoring them until they go away.

 

8. The Yapper—

This person has a cell phone, and they’re not afraid to use it – loudly – and usually while you’re trapped next to them, trying to get some cardio.

Try as you might to outpace their conversation, it will race along beside you, forcing you to be an unwitting participant in a complete stranger’s relationship with another human.

When faced with The Yapper, feel free to hum loudly, or even join in on the fascinating discussion about what their co-worker said today and what they’re making for dinner.

 

It really isn’t difficult to be a considerate gym member or human. By trying to avoid the behaviors above, and having respect for the people around us, we can all have a great gym workout every time.

Fueling the Engine: What to Eat Before and After Exercising

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Knowing what to eat before and after exercising can drastically amplify the results achieved by a consistent workout routine. Although many fitness fans believe fat is burned faster by exercising on an empty stomach, most experts warn against this potentially metabolism-lowering practice.

Studies have shown that eating small meals before and after exercising can dramatically improve performance by keeping blood glucose levels stable—but it’s important to eat the right types of food at the right times.

Below are some useful fueling tips to enhance any fitness program:

 

1. Water Works Well—

The number one rule of effective exercise and recovery is proper hydration. We need fluids before, during and after workouts to keep all systems running smoothly and body temperature cool.

Plain water, coconut water, herbal teas or other types of non-caffeinated beverages are highly recommended, and be especially sure to hydrate 1-2 hours before exercising.

Well-timed pre-hydration will prepare the body for exercise without causing the sloshing, stomach-cramping feeling that drinking liquid too close to a workout can create.

 

2. Post-Exercise Hydration Helps—

Post-workout liquids are a great way to replace lost fluids, and including protein in these drinks can help muscles heal.

Protein shakes are a favorite recovery drink because they’re easy to make and contain helpful amino acids, but chocolate milk also offers similar benefits.

No matter what, your recovery drink should contain protein; and if you’ve worked out for a long time or in excessive heat, consider adding electrolytes as well.

 

3. Meal Timing is Important—

It is recommended that all foods be eaten at least 1-2 hours before exercise to avoid cramping, indigestion and other gastrointestinal issues that working out after meals may cause.

Because the stomach is busy digesting food, the body has less energy to dedicate to the workout, making exercise after a meal more difficult.

If your schedule doesn’t allow time for proper digestion, try to eat the smallest snack possible for your energy needs.

 

4. Food Type is Important—

Because carbohydrates give the body the most readily available energy source, they are the top pre-workout choice of food for many.

Especially recommended for shorter workouts involving intense training, carbohydrates keep the body’s engine running strong with less chance for stomach issues, such as those caused by fatty or excessively fibrous foods.

Protein is a good pre-exercise food for those exercising multiple hours in a row, as the carbohydrates will be burned first, with protein providing energy later when carb reserves are depleted.

 

5. Get on a Schedule—

Use a journal and take notes if it helps you figure out which foods give you the most effective workout, and try to stick to an eating/hydrating/exercising schedule if you can.

Everybody’s different, so what works for others may or may not work for you, but by staying conscious of your choices and schedule, you will find it easier to give your body exactly what it needs, allowing for better results.

Keeping a food and exercise journal can also help those who are dieting remain aware of the calories consumed and burned for weight loss progress.

 

6. Make Wise Food Choices—

In addition to knowing when to eat carbs or protein, it’s also important to choose healthy versions of these foods. For example: fried chicken is mostly protein, but it comes with excessive fat and simple carbs in the breading that might upset an exercising stomach.

Some popular pre-workout meals include whole grain cereals, breads or pastas because whole grains are high in fiber, causing them to be digested and absorbed slowly.

Examples of complex carbohydrates with a bit of protein for great pre-workout energy might be: peanut butter on whole grain toast, yogurt mixed with whole grain cereal, oatmeal with nuts, apple slices with a handful of almonds, or eggs scrambled with vegetables.

 

Smart hydration, fueling and recovery selections can greatly increase the benefits and effectiveness of any workout regimen. Use the tips above to remember when and what to eat before and after a workout to give your body the most efficient exercising experience possible.

Mind, Body and Soul: 8 Great Ways Martial Arts Benefit Kids

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Martial arts training is a wonderful way to give kids who aren’t into team sports an opportunity to get some exercise and feel like a part of a social group.  No matter which practice you select, the general philosophy is one of non-violence, despite the fierceness often displayed by karate movies.

The true goal of self-defense training is to teach students to automatically respond to the threat of physical harm in a calm, controlled manner to keep violence from escalating. Teaching children martial arts can help them learn how to protect themselves from bullies, as well as giving them self-confidence.

Below are 8 great ways martial arts benefit kids:

 

1. Martial Arts Promote Physical Fitness—

Some kids simply aren’t team sports-minded, but all kids need to keep moving to stay healthy, making martial arts training an excellent form of exercise.

If you’ve tried soccer, baseball, football, or any other team sport, and your child didn’t seem to click with the concept of playing with a team, an activity like martial arts can give them the opportunity to work towards a goal without the pressure of a group setting.

 

2. Martial Arts Train Kids to Focus—

Kids with trouble concentrating will find that martial arts is extremely conducive to focus, as there are choreographed forms such as kicks, punches and intricate movements they will need to practice and perfect.

For this reason, kids with ADHD often greatly benefit from the structured concentration training necessary for this type of exercise, because it motivates them to pay attention, stand still awaiting the next instruction, and eliminates the distractibility factor of sports that move quickly.

 

3. Martial Arts Provides Catharsis—

Being a kid can be tough, and there’s something extremely cleansing about the emotional release to be found in kicking and punching.

While the main motivation of this practice is the avoidance of violence, there’s nothing wrong with using the kicking and punching parts to work out feelings of anger.

If your child had a tough day at school, they might be able to get the frustration out of their system at martial arts practice and sleep better that night, the same way adults use the gym to purge stress.

 

4. Martial Arts Boosts Self-Esteem—

Generally using a system of testing and differently-colored belts to reward kids for progression in the practice, martial arts can give kids the self-confidence that comes from working towards and achieving goals.

It is also empowering for kids to be able to physically defend themselves, and the knowledge that if a bully comes calling, they will be able to hold their own can give a child a sense of personal safety.

 

5. Martial Arts Makes Kids More Respectful—

Showing reverence to your instructor is king in every dojo, with kids expected to address him or her with a bow of honor.

Many parents will notice a change in the demeanor of their kids after a few weeks of practice, as kids learn to respect themselves and others, and to treat people as they would like to be treated.

 

6. Martial Arts Increases Flexibility—

This form of exercise involves kicks, punches, blocks and turns, all of which promote flexibility and range of motion, as well as balance and coordination.

Being limber can also prevent kids from getting hurt as often in the other activities or sports in which they engage every day.

 

7. Martial Arts Provides Socialization—

Many kids who don’t gravitate towards team sports find it hard to make friends without the group setting and multiple opportunities of such activities.

Martial arts allows for bonding and friendship with a smaller group, so children who are shy or easily overwhelmed by noise and crowds will find this quieter setting much more favorable to forming relationships.

 

8. Martial Arts is a Safe Exercise—

With more data constantly emerging about how head injuries sustained in school sports such as football and soccer can negatively affect kids, martial arts offers a safer way for children to get some exercise.

As they progress in certain martial arts practices, there may be sparring involved, which can increase the chance of injury, but there is no pressure to engage in physical contact if it isn’t wanted.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 as a good age to start kids in karate or martial arts classes, because at this age they have the muscle control to turn and punch safely. But it’s never too late for anyone to give this self-esteem, discipline and strength-building practice a try. Consider giving your kids—or even yourself—the many mind, body and soul benefits of martial arts training today.

Slow and Low: 6 Reasons Low-Intensity Exercise is the Way to Go

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“No pain, no gain!”

“Extreme workouts equal extreme results!” 

 “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re wasting your time!”

These are the kinds of exclamations you may hear at the gym and read about in fitness magazines. But some people have tendon and joint issues that prevent intense exercising.

And beginners often aren’t at a level of fitness where pushing muscles hard will be helpful. In fact, for many, starting off too tough can lead to injury, derailing a brand new workout program completely.

This means that starting slow and low may actually be the best way to go, especially for older folks who don’t heal as quickly as they used to, or those who haven’t worked out in a long time.

Below are 6 benefits of low-intensity exercise.

 

1. Weight Loss—

Yes, it is entirely possible to lose weight with a low-intensity regimen. This is because when you’re doing an exercise gentle enough to allow a longer workout, you’re giving your body the opportunity to use up more calories.

High-impact, extreme exercises may burn more calories in direct comparison, but intense activity can only be done for a short period of time. Once you’re exhausted, the workout is over… and so is the calorie burning.

 

2. Less Injury—

You’re into your new regimen, you’re working out consistently, and then… BOOM. You push yourself too hard and injure a muscle or tendon. Now you’re sidelined, watching all your progress disappear – and nothing demotivates like having to wait weeks for the body to heal.

With low-intensity exercise, you can avoid this frustrating and discouraging scenario. By starting slowly and giving muscles a chance to build at a safe pace, you reduce the chance of physical setbacks, helping you stick with the plan.

 

3. More Motivation—

Consistency is one of the most important factors for getting results from exercise, yet one of the hardest to maintain; and it’s difficult to look forward to a particularly grueling routine.

For this reason, finding an enjoyable, less strenuous form of exercise can keep us motivated by alleviating stress without unpleasant physical exertion.

An hour of brisk walking on a nature trail feels better than straining to lift heavy things or doing sprints to the point of fatigue, making us more likely to look forward to the activity, rather than dreading it.

 

4. Extra Endurance—

Are you a tortoise, or are you a hare?

High-intensity exercises are a faster way to build muscle mass, obviously, but low-intensity exercise can be done for a much longer time, building endurance, heart and lung strength.

This means the elderly gentleman who can walk quickly on the treadmill for an hour may actually be in better cardiovascular shape than the young muscular fellow who can bench press large amounts of weight.

 

5. Less Inflammation—

If you have joint pain or certain tendons and muscles that are easily ruptured, high-intensity exercise is not your friend. The more pressure and impact you put on the body, the more you’ll pay the next day.

While there are natural anti-inflammatories like Omega-3 fatty acids and good old ibuprofen, the best way to reduce inflammation is to avoid inflicting it on the body in the first place.

By choosing a low-impact, mild form of exercise such as yoga, walking, swimming, or cycling, you can obtain the calorie burning and health benefits of regular exercise without hurting your body.

 

6. Less Health Problems—

In addition to lessening inflammation and increasing endurance, low-intensity exercise has been proven to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, as well as reducing the risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Longer, easier exercise sessions have also been shown to reduce appetite by decreasing hunger hormones released by more demanding forms of exercise.

 

Research has shown that it is entirely possible to get excellent results from a low-intensity workout regimen.

In one study, participants did only stretching and gentle exercises for 90 days, with positive effects such as weight loss, reduction of stress, better sleep, lower blood pressure and more. (Source: University of Queensland in Australia.)

Another study found that simply not being sedentary (i.e. standing, moving around rather than sitting) improved lipid and insulin levels better than an hour of intense daily exercise. (Source: Hans Savelberg and colleagues, Maastricht University.)

If you are a beginner, have back, joint or tendon issues, or simply seek a gentle workout routine, don’t listen to those who tell you low-intensity exercises can’t get you in shape. Find the fitness regimen that’s right for you, and enjoy your easy exercise.

Weight Loss Plateau? Oh, No! 5 Tips to Get the Scale Moving

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When you’re watching what you eat, exercising regularly, and doing all of the things that are supposed to promote weight loss, but the scale won’t seem to move, you may have reached what fitness experts call a weight loss plateau.

This frustrating phenomenon can demotivate even the most disciplined person, because when we feel like nothing we try matters, it’s natural to stop caring about what we do. What’s the point of all the work if you have nothing to show for it, right?

But before you throw in the towel, head for the couch, and grab the Ben & Jerry’s, you might try some of the techniques recommended to move past a weight loss plateau. With a little patience and determination, there are ways to move past this annoying phase of weight loss limbo — and working out consistently is still good for your health, regardless of what the scale says.

Read about 5 ways to move past a weight loss plateau below:

 

1. Strength Training to Boost Metabolism—

Lifting weights, using weight machines, resistance bands and other forms of exercise that get you out of your comfort zone are great ways to build muscle mass, and muscle mass burns more calories.

This means that even in a state of rest, your body will be using more calories than before, and this might be just the push you need to get the scale moving again.

If you’re already incorporating strength training into your workout, consider increasing the weight and or/reps you’ve been doing. You may have fallen into a weightlifting routine rut that no longer stresses muscle fibers enough to build mass, holding you steady at your current weight.

 

2. Check Your Chewing—

If you don’t keep a food diary, this might be a good time to start. Information is the first step in solving most problems, and if you’re going to get your weight loss program back on track, you’ll need to know exactly what’s going on.

It’s very common for people to forget what they’ve eaten in a day, or to discount the little things, but the little things add up. Record every liquid, snack, dressing and bite that goes into your mouth for a week to see if you might be forgetting about some sneaky saboteur somewhere in your daily diet.

Also: If you’ve lost a decent amount of weight, your daily caloric requirements might have lessened with your body fat content, so you may need to adjust accordingly.

 

3. What You Eat Matters—

While you’re recording your diet, pay attention to the types of foods you prefer, because even though caloric intake versus what you burn in a day is the most important factor for weight loss, there are foods you can eat to speed up the process.

Refined sugars and simple carbs, for example, are highly conducive to weight gain and don’t offer the body much in the way of nutrition. But healthier choices like whole grains and vegetables will fill you up with less calories, thanks to their high fiber content.

Also consider increasing your daily protein intake, as this is needed to build the metabolism-boosting muscle mentioned above, and will keep you feeling satisfied for a longer time than carbohydrates.

 

4. Many Mini-Meals—

Because jobs and life can make it difficult to eat often, most people have the standard 3 squares a day with occasional snacks in-between. But if you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau, a great way to “shock” your system back into losing weight is to switch to 6 mini-meals a day.

It requires more forethought and planning, and you’ll need to make sure your required caloric intake stays the same, but this method of eating has helped many lose weight.

Another benefit of multiple small meals throughout the day is that it curbs appetite, as the body receives small amounts of food before hunger has time to set in.

 

5. Change or Challenge Your Routine—

Sometimes we get set in our comfortable exercise regimens, as we hop on our favorite cardio machine, or do the same type of exercise for every workout. While this can be comforting psychologically, the body can also lapse into a comfort zone that slows fitness progress.

The answer to this, of course, is to mix it up. If you consistently do a certain form of cardio, for example, try a different type. If you are a leisurely trail or treadmill jogger, consider adding sprints to push the metabolism into high-gear.

Or take a completely different approach, slow down and try a more relaxing, enjoyable form of exercise, like yoga, hiking or swimming. Sometimes change of any kind can shake the body out of a plateau and back into progress.

 

Be sure to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, keep stress levels low, and be patient with yourself. Everyone experiences occasional setbacks and slowdowns with their weight loss programs, so try some of the tips above and stick with it: you’ll be back on track in no time!

 

Why Water is Wonderful: The Beautiful Benefits of Hydration

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Fitness experts often talk about recovery drinks and the best beverages to help our bodies perform to the max. We discuss the potential healing properties our sugary sports drinks have to offer, and ponder which one is best. To electrolyte or not to electrolyte? That is the question.

But in a world full of protein shakes, coconut water, vitamin-infused rainbow-colored liquids and other thirst-quenching choices, we often neglect to include enough of the best form of hydration nature has to offer: good old-fashioned water.

You remember water, right? That liquid that makes up 50-60% of our bodies? Yes, we know we’re supposed to be drinking a minimum of 8 glasses per day, but many of us still substitute caffeinated beverages, forgetting they have a diuretic effect, or choose liquids loaded with sugar we don’t need.

To remember why it’s important to choose the clear, chemical-free stuff for the majority of our daily drinking, below is a list of the health benefits proper hydration with water has to offer:

 

1. Delightful Detoxification—

Consider skipping the latest juice cleanse, and instead make it a point to drink extra water every day if you’d like to detoxify your system. Call it a water cleanse, if you’d like.

Even juice and other natural foods must be run through the kidneys, and in order for the kidneys to be efficient body-cleansing machines, they need plenty of water to remove waste, toxins, excess nutrients, sodium and electrolytes. And the cleaner your system is, the fresher you’ll feel.

 

2. Better Joint and Bone Function—

Staying hydrated lessens the shock on bones and joints by lubricating and protecting them from unnecessary shock.

When you drink enough water, it can actually cushion your spinal cord, brain and eyes from damage during jarring or rough exercise, so don’t forget to put on your “water helmet” for safety before you start any activity. (Source: University of Nebraska.)

 

3. Muscle Maintenance—

According to the European Hydration Institute, approximately 70-75% of our muscles are made up of water, and if we want them to perform well, we need to give them lots of it.

Many of us remember the protein known for building muscle mass, but forget the most important part of all: the water that keeps muscles working smoothly.

Electrolyte-filled drinks are fine and do hydrate the body, but contain sugar, chemicals and food dyes that tax the kidneys. So unless you’re working out for extremely long periods of time, water is the best choice.

 

4. Improved Digestion—

Talk to any gastroenterologist and she or he will tell you that the number one cause of poor digestion and/or constipation is dehydration.

If you’re not digesting your food well by allowing water to break down the nutrients for absorption into the bloodstream, your body can’t process what it needs to stay healthy.

And if you’re constipated, you’re holding onto toxins for longer than the body would like, essentially poisoning your system.

Extra water will help move everything through the intestines as intended, making you feel better and look less bloated.

 

5. Body Temperature Regulation—

Your body has a set temperature it will try to maintain at all times, but it can’t do this without enough water.

When we get too hot during warm weather or a workout, the body maintains homeostasis (i.e. regulation) by making us sweat. The sweat then cools our skin by evaporating, lowering core temperature back to desired levels.

So what happens when we don’t have enough extra water inside to produce sweat? We overheat, of course, which can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. So drink up to cool down if you’re going to get hot!

 

6. Water Makes You Smarter—

As with every other organ in the body, the brain requires enough water to function well. Consistently hydrated water drinkers are more alert because their brain cells are receiving the oxygen they need, thanks to the other bodily systems running at their full potential.

Without adequate water, we can experience brain fog, memory problems and processing impairment, making it important for everyone, exercising or not, to remember to drink water all day long.

 

7. A Super Strong System—

Water is mandatory for proper cardiac function, and dehydration can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Because the circulatory system delivers oxygen to the entire body, it is extremely important for heart health to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Water also lubricates the lymphatic parts of the circulatory system, allowing the body to better fight off illness and contagious viruses, making the immune system of water drinkers stronger than the dehydrated weaklings among us.

In addition to all of the above health benefits, water can help us maintain or even lose weight in a more efficient manner, by moving broken down fat out of the body faster, and keeping all of the metabolism-regulating bodily functions running at top speed.

 

If you’ve fallen into the trap of drinking sports drinks, soda or other beverages that contain unneeded extra calories or additives, try adding more water to your diet to gradually eliminate the liquids. Your body will thank you by feeling, looking and performing better than ever.

Fitting in Fitness: 5 Top Tips to Take Time for Post-Baby Exercise

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Once you’ve adjusted to life with your new baby, if you’re like most women, your next goal will likely involve trying to reclaim your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. But you now have a little cutie in your life who makes it harder to find the time to work out. Long gone are the leisurely “I’ll get to it later” days, because with an infant to care for, things put off until later are less likely get done at all.

So how can a new mom find the time for exercise? Don’t worry; with some planning and dedication, it can be done. Below are 5 top tips from fitness experts to help new moms fit in regular workouts and get back into shape.

 

1. Assess the Schedule—

It’s time to take a long look at your weekly schedule, and try to find any blank spots into which you might fit a workout. Most of us feel busier than we actually are, with chunks of time during our days we forget about, so figure out where every hour is going.

If you can find 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, no matter where they may happen, grab them for your fitness time and don’t let go.

Also: Get a daily planner with an hourly breakdown, and write the workouts into their designated time slots. This will help you remember your exercise plans, as well as giving you a sense of satisfaction when you check them off as “Done!” afterward.

 

2. Solicit Support—

If you prefer running or gym workouts and need babysitting, sit down and have a talk about your fitness scheduling needs with your significant other, babysitter, family members such as grandparents, or even a friend who also has kids and might be willing to swap babysitting.

Don’t discount the accountability power of a workout buddy, either. Working toward your fitness goals together with a friend can help both of you stay better motivated.

By discussing your fitness goals with others and setting up concrete plans to fit in exercise, you will be more motivated to stick with it, which is how we get results.

 

3. Get Exercise When You Can—

There will be days when the universe seems to be conspiring against your goals, and the best laid plans will fall to pieces, like so many cellulite dimples. This is when you have to stand up to the universe, say, “You can’t stop me,” and take whatever you can get.

This may mean that when the babysitter you had scheduled for a reasonable hour is sick, you work out very early in the morning before your significant other goes to work, or you find another form of exercise to replace the planned trip to the gym, such as a long walk or workout DVD.

Whatever you do, don’t give up—at least find a way to work some movement into your day, even if it’s only 20 minutes.

 

4. Make Fitness a Priority—

Yes, it’s more fun sometimes to browse social media sites for hours, but if you want those pre-baby clothes back, consistent exercise is going to have to happen, and clicking a mouse doesn’t burn many calories.

This means showing television time and the Internet who’s the boss by turning them off and sticking to your workout schedule.

Social media can become quite addictive, so if this is an issue for you, try going cold turkey for a week of online hiatus, or consider only using the Internet on the weekends.

Some people may even need to have a trusted friend change the passwords to any social media accounts they can’t stay away from to completely take away the option and break the addiction.

 

5. Don’t Play the Guilt Game—

“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

This is a funny saying, but it’s also absolutely true. In order to take good care of everyone else, your family needs you to be feeling good inside and out, and exercise is definitely a way to achieve this.

Remember that by finding time for fitness, you aren’t being selfish; you’re making sure you’re healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in order to be the best mother you can be.

Every workout is an investment in your good health, and that’s an investment in your family’s future, so don’t feel guilty: feel proud of yourself.

 

If you’re having trouble finding the time to work out, don’t forget that taking a stroller walk with your baby or doing workout DVDs at home both count as exercise, and that many yoga classes will allow moms to incorporate their babies into workouts to keep them entertained. Many gyms also offer daycare, so explore that option if you’re having trouble finding childcare support at home.

No matter what, you can get back into a healthy regime post-baby that will allow you to stay fit and feel great!

Belly Bulge, Be Gone! 6 Top Exercise Tips to Tone Abdominal Muscles

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Belly bulge is a troubling problem for many people, making us self-conscious and uncomfortable in our clothing with form-fitting waistlines that can feel too-tight. Considering that abdominal fat can surround the internal organs, contributing to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer and heart disease, flattening the stomach is more than a vanity issue: it’s a valid health concern.

Fortunately there are many tips from fitness experts and exercises recommended to help tone the midsection. Below are 6 top things everyone can do to reduce belly fat and strengthen the abdominal muscles.

 

1. Get Your Heart Going—

The number one step shown to reduce extra pounds around the middle is regular, consistent cardiovascular exercise. Doing 30 to 60 minutes of cardio per day has been shown to cause weight loss, and that includes the tummy area. (Source: Harvard Medical School.)

Brisk walking counts as cardio, so shrinking your waistline could be as simple as working a 30 minute walk into your lunch break, or watching a television show while you treadmill every day after work.

Consistency is the key, so find your favorite type of cardio and stick with it to see results.

 

2. Carve Out a Spot—

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercises involving “abdominal hollowing” movements are especially helpful for building core muscles and strengthening the deeper stomach muscles.

This exercise (often called Cat-Cow Pose in yoga) is performed on the hands and knees, by inhaling with a relaxed belly. Next, the abdominal muscles are pulled in on an exhale while lifting the navel up as close to the spine as possible.

When this exercise is performed a minimum of 10 times daily (especially when combined with daily cardio), it will eventually tighten the midsection from within, slimming and toning the stomach area.

 

3. Become a Biker—

While riding the stationary bicycle is a great way to get cardio for weight loss, this particular bike exercise known for tightening the core muscles is done on the back, with the legs in the air.

When lying on your back, keep the arms behind the head to support neck muscles, and try to touch the each elbow to the opposite knee as you air pedal to increase the cellulite burning and abdominal toning properties of this classic exercise.

  

4. Mix It Up—

Fitness trainers recommend doing a variety of abdominal exercises to work the assorted muscles because only working one section can actually cause that muscle group to bulge out, creating the opposite of the smoothing effect you’re seeking.

So if you’re only doing crunches, for example, consider adding other variations like knee raises, side twists, plank and abdominal machine reps, or using the exercise ball to force different core sections to join in on the fun.

 

5. Lift Weights to Lose Weight—

If you have a belly bulge, you have weight on your body to lose—you already know this. And one of the best ways to increase weight loss results is to build muscle, because resting muscle burns more calories than resting fat, speeding up metabolism.

Consider adding some form of strength training such as weight machines or weightlifting to your weekly workout a few days a week. This extra muscle mass might be just the thing your body needs to burn off that belly fat for good.

 

6. Flutter to Fitness—

A popular core-strengthening exercise is the scissor-style exercise mat move referred to as doing “flutter kicks.”

Flutter kicks are done by lying on the back with arms at the sides, with the heels raised 6 inches off the ground. Engage the abdominal muscles and hold them tight while moving the legs up and down in the air. Be careful to keep the back and neck muscles relaxed, and focus on only using the stomach.

When done consistently, flutter kicks are another excellent belly fat buster because they strengthen abdominal muscles from the inside out.

 

In addition to adding extra exercise, don’t forget about the fat-fighting friend we have in water. Water assists with digestion and reduces bloating and constipation, both of which can contribute to a bigger-looking belly. Water also clears the body of toxins, and the cleaner our system, the faster we lose weight, so be sure to drink at least 8-10 glasses a day.

By using the fitness trainer tried-and-tested tips above, anyone can eliminate annoying tummy fat and build a flatter, firmer stomach. Get started today, and kiss that belly bulge bye-bye!