Health Benefits of Nuts

Easy to find in supermarkets (or in your own backyard!) and versatile enough to go in almost any meal, nuts are a superfood all their own.  Though tiny, they pack a powerful punch of health benefits!  Find out the health benefits that you can add to your diet by simply adding nuts to your meals and snacks!

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Almonds

Rich in Calcium and Vitamin E, these little nuts are a great addition to salads, yogurt, or oatmeal.  They make a great snack on their own, too!  Bonus points if you eat whole almonds with their skin, as the skin is full of heart-protecting flavanoids!

 

Brazil nuts

A great source of the mineral selenium, which helps produce the active thyroid hormone.  Selenium also helps wounds to heal and is great for people with thyroid problems.  Try adding it to your breakfast– you only need 3-4 brazil nuts per day to get all the selenium you need!

 

Cashews

High in protein and packed with iron, magnesium, and zinc, these guys make great toppings on salads and stirfrys, or can be made into a delcious nut butter.  The magnesium content in these nuts can help improve recall and mental delays, so pack them into your lunches, snacks, and dinners whenever you can! Because they contain so much good stuff, these nuts are ideal for people that follow a vegetarian diet!

 

Hazelnuts

A great source of folate, which is especially important for women!  Try hazelnuts in a nut spread or eat them whole or chopped in stirfrys and salads!

 

Macadamias

This nut has the highest fat content of all nuts, but it adds great texture and flavor to meals.  They supply a great level of the healthy type of fat (mono-unsaturated) and are rich in fiber, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.  You can stash these anywhere from cookies to salads to home-made bread or muffins.  They go great in salads and stirfrys too!

 

Pecans

These guys are packed with sterols, a compound that helps lower cholesterol.  That makes them super heart friendly, and because they’re rich in antioxidants, they can help prevent hardening of the arteries!  They are rich in oleic acid, which is also found in avocados and olive oil.  Because they are rich in Vitamin B3, these make a great snack to fight exhaustion.  They go well in salads, desserts, stirfrys and soup toppings, on top of fish, and even plain!

 

Pistachios

 

Rich in vitamin B6, these guys are great at keeping hormone levels regulated.  They contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute the eye health.  They also contain potassium and fiber, making them a great snack option.  These go great in salads and stirfrys as well, and like most other nuts, can be crushed and used as a pre-bake coating for fish or chicken!

 

Walnuts

These guys are packed with antioxidants, making them useful in the fight against cancer.  They also contain heart friendly fat and can help to lower LDL cholesterol.  They’re also rich in omega-3, so if you’re going a day without fish or avocados, try to sneak these guys in where you can!

What’s your favorite nut and how do you eat it?

 

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WELLNESS

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10 Minute Yoga Sequence For Relaxation & Stress Relief

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8 Healthy Things Every Child Should Learn From His/Her Mother

Healthy and unhealthy habits are learned at a young age.

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Health and unhealthy habits are formed at a young age. Whether positive or negative, most children learn these habits from their parents. Here are 8 Healthy Things Every Kid Can Learn From Their Mom to help them be healthy in the future.

1. How to enjoy healthy eating 

The foods we eat as children are closely related to the foods we eat as adults. Kids that grow up eating junk food on a regular basis can carry the habit into adulthood. They’re likely to pick up fast food and soda when there’s no time to make dinner.

A child with a bad diet is more likely to crave food with trans fats and added sugars as an adult. Processed ingredients can be as addictive as cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling. Refined sugars act like a drug. The more we eat, the more we crave.

A healthy diet starts early. One thing a child can learn from their parents is that fruits and vegetables are satisfying, flavorful parts of our diets. Fruits can be just as sweet as desserts, and seasoned vegetables can taste much better than greasy french fries.

2. Drinking water instead of soda

Sodas and most fruit juices are filled with addictive processed sugars. When sugar hides in our drinks, we often don’t realize how much we’re consuming! The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat no more than 25 to 37 grams of sugar in a day. A single 20 oz bottle of soda contains around 65 grams.

It’s easier to start avoiding soda at a young age than to reverse an addiction later on. Kids should learn the importance of drinking water. You can add slices of citrus or cucumber to water for a refreshing natural flavor.

3. The importance of breakfast 

Making breakfast a morning ritual raises the chance that your child will continue to have breakfast every day throughout college and adulthood.

Skipping breakfast has been linked to lower performance at school, weight gain, and higher junk food consumption. On the other hand, kids who eat a healthy breakfast tend to concentrate better, perform well at school, and have more energy for sports.

4. Love for the outdoors 

Television, laptops, tablets, cell phones: there’s no lack of indoor entertainment. But too much time inside can be bad for your kids. Staying indoors can result in vitamin D deficiency and a sedentary lifestyle that leaves people vulnerable to obesity and heart disease.

Kids should learn from their parents how to enjoy time outside. Children that spend all their free time in front of a screen will see this as the norm and likely continue this habit into adulthood. Children that lead a more active lifestyle are more likely to crave physical activity as adults. They’ll learn to enjoy things like hiking, running, and biking.

5. Reading 

The love of books grows from seeds planted early. The more a child reads, the better the child becomes at reading. The better a child is at reading, the more likely he or she is to enjoy books. Soon your kids will pick up books on their own, explore the genres that intrigue them, and learn all kinds of interesting things along the way.

6. The importance of family time 

Whether it’s nightly dinners or Sunday outings, family time is a tradition that will stay with your kids forever. Quality bonding time makes tons of great childhood memories and gives children the confidence to know that they have backup. Teaching your kids that there are people who will love them even when they make a mistake is a priceless gift.

7. How to say you’re sorry 

We all mess up at some point in our lives. We break things, forget important dates, and accidentally hurt the people who love us most. When we inevitably make mistakes, it’s important to know how to give a heartfelt apology. Oftentimes, there’s nothing we can do to fix what we’ve broken – but saying sorry can heal a lot of hurt. You can teach your children how to make amends at a young age.

8. How to dream big 

When you’re a child, imagination comes easy. There’s monsters hidden under the bed and fairies in the backyard. A broken broom can be anything from a galloping horse to an all-powerful magic wand. Nothing is impossible. But as we grow up, we lose the ability to see the fantastic in everyday life. There’s only dust bunnies under the bed and bugs in the backyard. A broken broomstick is only a broken broomstick.

Encourage your kids to dream big when they’re young, and the promise of possibility will stay with them forever.

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How to Dodge Afternoon Drowsiness

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Everyone has suffered from a post-lunch crash that makes you want to nod off into dreamland. Despite a productive morning, something sucks your energy away and drags you into an afternoon slump.

Your internal clock paired with fluctuating blood sugar levels are to blame for this normal PM response. Lucky for you, ways to combat afternoon drowsiness exist!

Bad foods and hurtful habits can have you dozing away at the office. We’ve gathered some tips and tricks that’ll help you avoid the two o-clock droop and keep your energy levels from spiraling.

1. Eat For Energy
High-glycemic foods like white bread and sugary cereal can cause the dreaded energy drop. Foods with refined carbs, especially processed foods, are digested quickly, triggering immediate blood sugar spikes followed by a dramatic plummet.

2. Get Some Sun
Take a quick break and change up the atmosphere! Removing yourself from your work for a few minutes can refresh and motivate you. Going outside to soak up a few rays will boost your mood and get you out of that stifling office. Exposure to bright light presses the reset button on your internal body rhythms and helps convince your system that it’s time to get a move on!

3. Do Some Cardio
Ironic as it might sound, squeezing in a little exercise when you feel a crash approaching will jumpstart your energy levels and wake you up. Short bursts of energy can promote blood flow to the brain and rev up your system. Anything to get your muscles moving and your heart pumping will increase mental clarity. Try these do-anywhere workouts for a quick cardio pick-me-up!

4. Hydrate
If you don’t drink enough water, dehydration can take a toll on your mood, ability to think, and, worst of all, your energy levels. Your body’s organs need water to function properly. Adequate hydration will improve your mental and physical performance. So drink up!

5. Sniff Citrus
Citrus scents stimulate alertness and revitalize your senses. Just one whiff of a grapefruit, orange, or lemon can boost your mood and kick-start your energy levels. Thanks to their high vitamin C content, these fabulous fruits eliminate irritability and fatigue while revving up your engine. For a quick energy fix, keep an orange at your desk or apply some citrus-scented lotion.

6. Go Easy on the Coffee
Coffee has its upsides, like helping you perk up quickly. Unfortunately, the beloved beverage comes with some extra baggage. The highly acidic substance acts as a diuretic, which can have a dehydrating effect on your system. The energy it gives you is only temporary. You might enjoy an initial state of alertness, but you’re bound to crash later. Limiting your coffee intake will also prevent carb cravings!

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5 Easy Changes for Better Sleep

5 small changes to better sleep!

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Nobody deserves to go through life tired, but we often yawn and rely on coffee to get us through the day. Many of us lack energy because of improper sleep. Sleep is necessary for your brain and body to recover from day-to-day activities. It’s the time when we regenerate brain cells and rebuild muscle.

Part of leading a healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. If you’re having sleeping problems, check out these 5 Small Changes for Better Sleep.

1. Eat dinner 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
A full stomach can disturb sleep. When you sleep, your body shuts down certain processes so it can focus on recovery. Digesting prevents your body from stopping certain metabolic processes and affects your quality of sleep. Likewise, going to bed with a rumbling stomach can be uncomfortable. You want to eat early enough to have digested most of your food, but not so early that you’re already hungry again. If you must, have a light snack before bed, but steer clear of anything with added sugars or high calorie content.

2. Don’t have caffeine in the evening.
Everyone’s body processes caffeine in different ways. Some people can drink a single cup of coffee and be up for hours, while others can sip espresso right before bed. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try stopping caffeine consumption in the early afternoon. Give your body enough time to process any caffeine you’ve consumed during the day and avoid having any more. This includes black and green tea, energy drinks, regular coffee, and even decaf coffee.

3. Read a book instead of browsing the internet.
The bright light from your laptop or cell phone screen fools your brain into thinking it’s earlier than it is. This makes it difficult for you to fall asleep. Try cutting yourself off from all tech devices about an hour before bed. Your body will relax and understand it’s time to rest. No more wasting time tossing and turning!

4. Keep a regular sleep routine.
Keeping an irregular sleep cycle can mess up your internal clock. If you go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, you’ll find that the habit becomes natural. You’ll be able to fall asleep on time every day.

5. Don’t keep clutter on your bed.
A cluttered bed is common among college students and other people who live alone. This clutter includes laundry that needs to be put away, books, school notebooks, electronics, or superfluous pillows. All of this limits the amount of space on your bed. You want your brain to associate bed with sleep, not chores or work. Keeping these items away from your bed will help you get better, more restful sleep.

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5 Secrets From Healthy People

Top tips to supercharge your immune system.

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No strategy can help every person stay healthy 100% of the time. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of falling prey to every illness-producing bug. You’ll notice that these changes are the same ones that help you lose weight and improve your overall well-being. If you’ve been putting off adopting a healthier lifestyle, you now have one more reason to join the club: fewer sniffles, sneezes, and heaves!

1. Healthier people manage stress.
Long-term stress produces high levels of cortisol and epinephrine, hormones that damage the body over time by weakening the immune system. You have plenty of options for managing stress. For example, research showed that people who meditated over eight weeks had significantly more flu-fighting antibodies than those who didn’t meditate [1]. Become one of those people who rarely gets sick by doing

2. Healthier people eat fewer processed foods.
Nutrition plays an important role in how well our bodies are able to fight off bacteria and viruses. Processed foods, like boxed dinners, are often stripped of the nutrients that support the immune system. Minimally-processed and whole foods offer all the nutritional goodness Mother Nature has to offer, from antioxidants to phytonutrients.

3. Healthier people move.
Exercise boosts immunity in several ways. It causes white blood cells, which fight off disease, to circulate more rapidly to kill bacteria and viruses. Working out also lowers levels of the stress-related hormones that trigger illnesses.

4. Healthier people get shut-eye.
Getting good quality sleep in the proper amounts is essential to staying healthy. During sleep, the body reboots the immune system so it’s better able to fight off invaders.

5. Healthier people connect with others.
People with social networks are less likely to suffer colds and the flu than those without social connections. Connected people have better survival rates when they do experience illnesses [2]. If you want to help prevent sickness, shut off the glowing screens and spend quality time with friends and/or family.

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8 Ways to Naturally Lower Anxiety

Relax the natural ways.

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A little anxiety can be good when it pushes us to make positive changes or perform better. However, too much anxiety can wreak havoc on our health and well-being. Sometimes anxiety triggers symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, moodiness, or sweating. It affects the body internally, raising blood sugar levels and triglycerides (unhealthy blood fats), as the body tries to make more fuel available for perceived threats.

These ways to lower anxiety will help you relax and restore your emotional well-being. If anxious thoughts regularly interfere with your ability to live the life you want, please talk with your family doctor or a mental health professional.

1. Choose good mood foods.
Bad carbohydrates, like packaged chips, crackers, and refined sugar, impact brain function and blood sugar. Give your brain and body the foundation it needs to operate at its peak by choosing healthy foods to support better moods — foods like Greek yogurt or dark chocolate.

2. Make ZZZs a priority.
The body reboots itself during sleep. Lacking in the shut-eye department can wreak serious havoc on your moods.

3. Make time for tea.
Tea time isn’t just a quaint custom you read about in books. Herbal teas have long been used to lower anxiety levels and improve moods. Research also suggests people who consume green tea have lower levels of depressive symptoms

4. Sweat it out.
Working out several times a week reduces stress hormones. If it’s been awhile since you’ve broken a sweat, get started!

5. Give yoga a go.
Yoga combines physical movement with controlled breathing exercises to naturally lower levels of stress hormones. One study suggests yoga can reduce emotional distress, including anxiety. What’s more, study participants reported better sleep, fewer headaches, and less back pain.

6. Limit alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories and, sometimes, refined sugar, but they also affect levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that play a role in mood.

7. Go alkaline.
Acidic foods don’t just trigger heartburn. They can raise the body’s pH enough to cause problems like weight gain and anxiety.

8. Spend time with friends.
Social support is one of our favorite ways to lower anxiety naturally. Numerous studies show that healthy social connections help people better cope with stress and anxiety [3]. Grab a pal or loved one and take a long walk.

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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Apple Cider Vinegar

Who Knew?

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Coined “mother nature’s perfect food”, apple cider vinegar is more than just regular vinegar flaunting an apple-themed profile. With its incredible health and beauty benefits, the vinegar’s powers are borderline magical, making the condiment a must in any pantry.

So where does the oh-so-wonderful apple cider vinegar come from? The super tart liquid comes from fermenting apple cider. The fermentation process exposes the apple’s natural sugar to bacteria and yeast, causing it to break down into alcohol, and then vinegar.

People trying to slim down swear by its weight loss affects, while beauty enthusiasts attribute their luscious hair and clear skin to the condiment. We’re here to give you the 4-1-1 on apple cider vinegar, and why it’s so much more than just a salad dressing!

1. Lose Weight with ACV
People swear by apple cider vinegar as a weight loss aid-no wonder it’s been widely admired and applauded for centuries. ACV will certainly lend a helping hand when you’re on the road towards a slimmer you! Its nutrients, enzymes and organic acids act as an appetite suppressant, controlling your cravings and giving you a feeling of fullness. At the same time, ACV speeds up your body’s metabolic rate and reduces water retention, all of which can accelerate the weight loss process!

2. Get Healthy, Gorgeous Hair with ACV
For beautiful, shiny hair, mix one cup of warm water with a tablespoon of vinegar and rinse hair with the solution after washing. Not only does the process make your hair silky smooth and glossy, it also clears grease build-up and soothes itchiness. This works because the vinegar balances the PH in your hair while sealing the cuticle. So if you’re longing for luscious locks, forget the beauty store- make a trip to your kitchen!

3.Relieve Aches and Muscle Pain with ACV
The acetic acid in Apple Cider Vinegar can help soothe sore muscles after that crazy intense workout or ski trip your friend mistakenly agreed to go on. Thanks to the acetic acid, ACV can provide temporary relief by penetrating and warming muscles. The vinegar aids in the electrical exchanges of the body, reducing the risk of cramping. At the same time, it regulates your body’s fluid levels, which maintains balance and reduces muscle cramp intensity. Simply mix with water and rub over affected areas, and you’ll let out that sigh of relief in no time!
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4. Clear Your Skin with ACV
If you desire clear, healthy skin, bust out that ACV for a simple solution that will blow you away. The vinegar balances the pH in your skin due to its natural antiseptic properties, making it an effective, refreshing facial toner. It also has antibacterial abilities, so dabbing the dressing on blemishes or pimples help will help remove them. At the same time, wave goodbye to those frustrating acne scars you waste loads of makeup trying to cover. ACV helps reduce inflammation and infection in the skin, so dilute some with water and dab over scars to see results!

5. Treat Acid Reflux with ACV
Countless people swear by apple cider vinegar’s ability to relieve acid reflux. It sounds ironic-relying on something so acidic to treat acid reflux; but hear us out. The natural remedy inhibits acid reflux by breaking down fats and improving digestion. At the same time, it has acetic acid, an acid weaker than the type your stomach produces, so it helps buffer the acidity level in your stomach and aid in acid production. To keep these symptoms of indigestion at bay, mix two tablespoons with a cup of water and drink up!

6. Boost Your Energy Levels with ACV
Forget coffee-put some pep in your step with ACV! The tart liquid will deliver a healthy boost of energy- minus the crash. Research claims that raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar improves stamina due to the combination of its incredible immune system benefits and the powerful alkalizing effects. So what are you waiting for? Turn that lazy afternoon into a productive, energy-driven day by mixing a couple tablespoons with water.

7. Fight Infection with ACV
When fighting off a frustrating cold or healing an infection, look no further than Apple Cider Vinegar! ACV knows what’s up when it comes to strengthening your immune system. It promotes your body’s production of friendly bacteria, which improves conditions in the body and enhances your overall immunity. At the same time, the presence of malic acid in ACV works as a powerful antiviral, which battles cold or flue-like symptoms. The golden liquid just keeps on giving!

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7 Foods That Tackle Stress

Gain control over your stress levels before they control you. It starts with what you eat.

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We all get stressed from time to time. Unfortunately, this powerful emotion can have destructive effects on your body. The anxiety from stress triggers your hormones to behave in different ways. Shoving your stress under the rug like it doesn’t exist will only make it worse. The good news is you can eat to beat stress! We don’t mean turning to comfort food and mindlessly guzzling down mac & cheese and brownies. Certain foods have calming properties and the ability to lower anxiety levels. They’re also highly nutritious.

1. Asparagus
Asparagus is rich, delicious, and helps you chill out on the days you’re feeling, well, the total opposite of chill. Green vegetables like asparagus boast countless health benefits, but the key to their calming capabilities lies in B vitamins. These nutrients are essential for regulating emotions, lowering anxiety, and fighting off depression. A serving of these fleshy green spears delivers a substantial amount of B vitamins, along with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

2. Blood Oranges
The name might have a spooky ring to it, but we promise that these tasty citrus fruits only have helpful qualities. Blood oranges are full of vitamin C, containing a higher amount of the essential vitamin than their bloodless counterparts. Foods with high doses of vitamin C lower blood pressure and reduce concentrations of cortisol, the stress hormone. Kick back, prop your feet up, and peel yourself one of these fabulous fruits..

3. Milk
A glass of milk is the perfect remedy when you’re feeling physically anxious and fidgety. Milk contains the protein lactium, which lowers blood pressure and has a calming effect on your system. It contains substantial amounts of potassium that can relieve stressed muscles and tension. Pour yourself a glass to ward off anxiety!

4. Almonds
Stress takes a toll on your immune system. Combat this by munching on a few almonds! Almonds are an ideal stress-relief snack because of their amazing health benefits. They contain high amounts of vitamin B2 and E, which lower anxiety levels. These nutritious nuts also boost your immune system.

5. Salmon
A little salmon on a stressful day might be all you need to reduce your anxiety levels. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that can completely reverse stress symptoms. These nutrients boost serotonin levels and lower anxiety hormones like cortisol. You’ll finally regain control of your emotions and return to your productive, stress-free self.

6. Oatmeal
A warm bowl of oatmeal soothes the soul, comforts the tummy, and induces feelings of tranquility. The timeless breakfast food stimulates production of serotonin thanks to its nutrient-rich complex carbs, which have a powerful calming effect on your system. Oats are a slow-digesting food that your body takes time to absorb. Because of this, their stress-fighting effects last longer.

7. Walnuts
There’s a host of reasons for you to befriend the wonderful walnut. One of them is its powerful ability to lower high blood pressure and keep your blood pressure levels stable. If you’re prone to stress, you might have higher levels of adrenaline and anxiety than others, which can wreak havoc over time. Avoid this by munching on some walnuts here and there. They’ll do your heart and system a favor.

 

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6 Ways to Beat the Bloat

Beat the bloat with these simple steps.

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We’ve all experienced a nasty belly bloat. Bloating makes you feel ginormous, and it’s not just in your head. Your tummy actually looks larger when you’re bloated. But fear not, because SkinnyMs. is here to help you bloat no more! We’re sharing 6 Ways to Beat Bloating.

Bloating has a number of causes. Some of them are medical, like stomach bugs or food allergies. However, many cases of bloating are trigged by how and what we eat. The good news is that making a few simple changes can reduce bloating and help you look and feel better.  These no-bloating tips will help you get started.
1. Drink more water.
When you’re dehydrated, your body conserves water by retaining it, leading to bloating. Avoid carbonated beverages and sugary sports drinks, and instead hydrate with H20.

2. Slow down while eating.
Take your time during meals and snacks. Eating too quickly can make you swallow excess air, which contributes to bloating. Another benefit to slow eating is that chewing starts the digestive process. Chewing food fully allows digestion to work more efficiently, which will help prevent bloating (and an upset stomach).

3. Eat 3 small meals and 2 healthy snacks each day.
Consuming too much at one sitting increases the risk of bloating. Instead of eating a traditional three large meals per day, eat three smaller meals and two nutritious snacks.

4. Pack in the probiotics.
Probiotics are natural bacteria that support healthy digestion and balance out bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Yogurt is a rich, versatile source of probiotics.
5. Boost potassium intake.
Potassium is a mineral that plays a role in regulating body fluids. Potassium also flushes out excess sodium, which increases water retention. (Sodium is a common ingredient in processed foods.) Potassium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, bananas, sweet potatoes, lentils, and salmon.

6. Add diuretic foods to your menu.
Diuretics are substances that cause the body to produce more urine. Eating these types of foods is a wonderful way to beat bloating because they help flush extra fluid from the body.

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Top 18 Motivational Quotes for Everyday Success

Check out these highly motivational quotes.

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These motivational quotes are a great way to reignite the spark in your health and wellness journey, and in other areas of your life, as well. Don’t just read them and click away, either. Bookmark these quotes or pin them to your Pinterest motivation board. Save an image and make it the background on your phone or tablet. You can even print out these motivational quotes and post them on your fridge or vision board, so that you can revisit these bits of wisdom when the path gets rough or steep.

  1. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem
  2. A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true. Steven Covey
  3. Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Tony Robbins
  4. People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily. Zig Ziglar
  5. I never dreamed about success. I worked for it. Estee Lauder
  6. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Arthur Ashe
  7. Invent your own next chapter. Seth Godin
  8. Nothing will work unless you do. Maya Angelou
  9. I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. Florence Nightingale
  10. Fall seven times and stand up eight. Japanese Proverb
  11. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. Dalai Lama
  12. Don’t make a habit out of choosing what feels good over what’s actually good for you. Eric Thomas
  13. Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. Oprah Winfrey
  14. When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful. Eric Thomas 
  15. I’m fearless, I don’t complain. Even when horrible things happen to me, I go on. Sofia Vergara 
  16. Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” Audrey Hepburn
  17. You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Zig Zigler
  18. It is our choices, far more than our abilities, that show what we truly are. J.K. Rowling.

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Tips to Heal and Prevent Stretch Marks

You do have options!

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Are stretch marks stretching your mouth into a frown? There’s no doubt about it, regardless of age or ethnicity, these unsightly marks afflict many women, including an estimated 9 out of 10 pregnant women. This is your guide to understanding stretch marks and how to prevent and heal them.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are actually a type of scar that occurs when the body grows faster than it can create new skin. The growth causes the elastic fibers beneath the top layer of skin to break, creating that familiar mark. Reasons for rapid growth include:

-Puberty
-Weight gain
-Pregnancy
-Fast muscle growth through intense bodybuilding

Initially, stretch marks appear purplish or reddish, but they often fade over time. Marks on women with lighter skin typically fade to light pink or a silvery color, while the scars on those with darker complexions may become a tone lighter than the surrounding skin.

Disheartening but true, stretch marks can appear virtually anywhere. The breasts and stomach are common problem areas, but marks can also pop up on the upper arms, hips, thighs, or butt.

Stretch Mark Prevention & Healing Tips

While total stretch mark prevention may not be possible, we can take steps to reduce our risk as well as help these marks heal better.

1. Stay hydrated.
Dry skin loses elasticity, so one way to help reduce the chance of developing stretch marks is to drink water regularly throughout the day. Another way to stay hydrated is to eat foods with a high water content, such as grapefruit, apricot, and cauliflower.

2. Keep skin moisturized.
A good moisturizer improves and hydrates skin, which may help prevent stretch marks. Lotions with vitamin C, in particular, may stimulate collagen production and help skin regain elasticity. Apply moisturizer once or twice a day, ideally following a shower or bath, while the skin is still damp.

3. Try a nourishing scrub.
Because they occur underneath the top layer of skin, it can be a challenge to treat stretch marks topically.  There’s a good variety of body scrubs designed for this purpose. Check them out online for largest selection.

4. Get up and move.
Regular exercise promotes blood circulation, allowing skin cells better nourishment and more efficient detoxification, which tones skin and reduces the appearance of stretch marks.

5. Consider using retinoid products.
If you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding, a retinoid product, like those used for anti-aging, may boost cell turnover and spark collagen growth. Over-the-counter retinols will take longer to work than the prescription retinoid called tretinoin. Always consult your doctor before using retinoid products on any part of your body. 

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TOP HEALTHY EATING TIPS

6 Simple Green Smoothies That Make Salad Taste Like Dessert!

 

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25 Foods High in Magnesium

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Magnesium has a history of being left in the dust, but the overlooked mineral deserves a place in the spotlight. Magnesium has numerous crucial functions. It’s one of the most important nutrients for your health!

Magnesium powers more than 300 chemical reactions in your body, some of which include maintaining a steady heart rhythm and regulating blood sugar levels. Coined the “miracle mineral”, this nutrient can also alleviate bloating and constipation while reducing fluid retention. Do you constantly feel sluggish and groggy? Are you suffering from an inability to relax? You might be dealing with a magnesium deficiency. As one of the developed world’s most common nutritional deficiencies, that certainly doesn’t make you a minority!

Here’a a compiled a list of simple, wholesome foods bursting with the magical mineral. By simply scribbling some foods down on your grocery list and squeezing them into your daily menu, you could notice a dramatic difference in your energy levels and overall state of health!

1. Bananas
Praised for its potassium-rich profile, a banana also offers a whopping 32 mg magnesium, serving as a wonderful grab-and-go energy booster!

2. Spinach
This vibrant superfood is bursting with health benefits and offers a great source of magnesium that’ll control inflammation and blood sugar levels.

3. Sunflower Seeds
Besides boasting a gloriously golden image, sunflowers also offer up incredibly healthy seeds. Bursting with antioxidants and vitamins, this powerful superfood also carries 80% of your recommended daily magnesium.

4. Plain non-fat Yogurt
Magnesium and calcium form a dynamic duo in the protein-filled milk product. The mineral allows for easier absorption and use of calcium in your body.

5. Lentils
Lentils make the perfect vegetarian dinner staple with a scrumptious nutty flavor. Their high magnesium levels are associated with improved blood flow and oxygen throughout the body, making them super heart-healthy legumes.

6. Dark Chocolate
Considered a “cheat” food by many, dark chocolate actually carries a bunch of healthy properties. In terms of magnesium, the tasty treat delivers roughly half your daily recommendation per 100g serving. Enjoy a small slice when you feel that afternoon crash creeping up.

7. Pumpkin Seeds
These nutritional powerhouses are small but mighty. Stuffed with plant compounds like free-radical scavenging antioxidants, the magnesium-rich superfood makes a portable, heart-healthy snack.

8. Collard Greens
This loose, cabbage-like veggie has been praised for centuries due to its calcium-rich and cholesterol-lowering properties. Chock-full of vital vitamins and incredible minerals, the leafy green staple tastes amazing in a variety of dishes, besides being great for your health.

9. Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole grains offer a healthy dose of magnesium. Unlike refined starches, the bran and germ component in whole grains stores the magical mineral. Whip up a wholesome, whole-wheat pasta dinner to get your fix!

10. Wild Salmon
Salmon offers a great deal of magnesium, clocking in at around 60 mg per half fillet. Besides tasting delicious, the decadent superfood is also an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s and beneficial fats.

11. Artichokes
One cup of artichokes offers about 71 mg of magnesium. Experts say that the unique vegetable can also aid digestion, strengthen your liver, and improve gall bladder function.

12. Dates
Dates offer massive health benefits, such as boosting nervous system health and improving your digestion system. Snacking on a date before a meal can prevent overeating. These delights are high in natural sugars, making them an effective energy booster on a sluggish day. Each dried fruit packs a healthy dose of magnesium, so grab one before heading out the door!

13. Oatmeal
Oatmeal reigns supreme on the list of healthiest foods out there. The hardy cereal grain gives you the stamina to carry you through a chaotic morning schedule and packs a great deal of filling fiber and slow-releasing carbs to keep you satisfied for hours. A cup of cooked oats clocks in at around 58 mg of magnesium, so dive into a bowl at breakfast!

14. Flaxseed
Flax is making a comeback! The powerful health food dubbed the “forgotten oil” was praised centuries ago due to its medicinal and nutritional properties, but its short shelf life made it expensive to produce and transport. Nowadays, the superfood is more obtainable, and nutritionists continue to name it a pantry must.

15. Soybeans
One serving of soybeans will meet about 20 percent of your daily magnesium needs, making them a great legume to add to your menu! Toss a few fiber-rich beans into your salad and stir-fries for added delicious texture along with a zap of protein and fiber.

16. Halibut
This deliciously tender fish is bursting with B vitamins and omega-3s, making it a high quality protein and an excellent source of magnesium. Health experts say halibut can improve the electrical properties of heart cells and lower the risk of stroke.

 17. Almonds
These fruit seeds might flaunt a high-fat nutritional profile, but don’t stress! Monounsaturated fats are dubbed “good fats” for a reason. They can stabilize blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels. Along with their magnesium abundance, these crunchy nuts contain high amounts of potassium. Grab a small handful for a healthy energy boost!

18. Brown Rice
With its low-glycemic index, brown rice makes a great energy-boosting starch to add to a meal. A cup of these whole grains contains 84 mg of magnesium. To crank up your meal’s magnesium levels, pair brown rice with black beans. Both wholesome ingredients provide all 9 essential amino acids when combined.

19. Peanut Butter
The savory spread delivers a healthy dose of magnesium. Oftentimes considered a guilt-ridden indulgence due to its caloric profile, peanut butter (enjoyed in moderation) can fight cravings and actually help with weight loss!

20. Tofu
These chewy, nutrient-rich blocks can serve as a base in countless dishes with their subtle flavor and firm texture. The low-calorie superfood boasts high amounts of protein and hooks you up with calcium, magnesium, and iron.

21. Broccoli
Along with adding scrumptious texture and flavor to your meals, broccoli has powerful detoxification properties that can flush contaminants. In addition to cancer-fighting properties, broccoli can also lower inflammation and improve your immune system.

22. Brazil Nuts
These delicious beauties are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, nutrients proved to help lower bad cholesterol in the blood. In addition to packing in high levels of magnesium, this exotic superfood offers a host of other miracle minerals like selenium, copper, potassium, iron, and zinc.

23. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans add a scrumptious chewy texture to any meal while offering a healthy dose of protein and fiber to keep you full for hours. A cup of kidneys weighs in at 70 mg of magnesium, so toss a few cans in your cart next time you’re grocery shopping!

24. Figs
Lusciously sweet with a chewy flesh and candied skin, dried figs are a no-brainer when it comes to getting your magnesium fix. Along with satisfying a sweet tooth and curbing cravings, figs offer a great source of dietary fiber, making them an effective weight loss snack!

25. Cashews
These oily nuts offer a wealth of monounsaturated fats, healthy nutrients that stabilize insulin levels and battle stubborn belly fat! Like its fellow tree nuts, cashews are packed with antioxidants. They also offer an excellent dose of magnesium, along with other key minerals like copper.

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9 Best Brain  Diet Foods

Your brain needs the right nutrients to perform at top level.

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Eating the right foods can help you look, feel, and think better. That’s right. Research proves that certain foods enhance your everyday brain skills. Besides making you sharper, a diet comprised of the right nutrients can protect your brain against degeneration, warding off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Eating brain food also nourishes your neurons and boosts your brain’s production of neurotransmitters.

If you’re wondering which brain diet foods you should go after, we’ve rounded up our top picks of foods that’ll boost your brainpower. These wholesome, uber-nutritious noms are bursting with key nutrients to enhance your memory, attention, and learning abilities. Who knew your diet could make you smarter?

1. Walnuts
Take a good look at a walnut. It looks suspiciously like the human brain! It’s no surprise these miracle nuts make the ultimate brain food. Replete with omega-3s, fatty acids crucial for normal brain functioning, walnuts are also known to raise melatonin levels. This helps you ward off sleeplessness and sluggish brain activity. Grab a few before dashing out the door!

2. Salmon
You might’ve been told to eat salmon before a big test, and the advice has some validity. Deep water fish like salmon are chock-full of omega-3s, which boost the synapses in your brain associated with memory. We’re not saying a salmon dinner will have you acing tests left and right. With the fish’s memory-jogging properties, however, it could help!

3. Lentils
Sharpen up with some lentils! Lentils deliver a steady dose of glucose to the brain. Glucose serves as the major source of energy for cells in the body and powers up brain cells. The fiber in lentils monitors and stabilizes the release of glucose, so your brain cells can use them optimally. Fiber also has a satiating effect, helping curb cravings.

4. Pomegranate Juice
Just as your body feeds off the nutrients from your food, so does your brain! Uber-nutritious pomegranate juice offers a feast of incredible brain-boosting nutrients. With its soaring concentration of antioxidants, pomegranate juice prevents free radicals from damaging brain cells. Its antioxidants repel radicals from your heart. Science shows people with healthy hearts tend to have better memories.

5. Spinach
Spinach offers an infinite spectrum of health benefits. It’s no wonder the superfood literally supercharges your brain. Spinach contains a bunch of vital enzymes and nutrients that strengthen synapses and release healthy levels of neurotransmitters. You can’t go wrong by following in Popeye’s footsteps and squeezing more spinach into your diet!

6. Blueberries
These deep blue beauties taste great and are miraculous for the mind! When it comes to studying and test-taking, the fabulous fruits are a no-brainer. Research shows that blueberries activate neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells, in a region of the brain responsible for memory. They also enhance mental speed and cognition. Munch on a handful and feed your brain!

7. Beets
These ruby-red vegetables are full of fiber and low in calories, making them perfect for weight management. But that’s not all! They offer a bunch of brain-boosting properties as well. Beets contain a hefty dose of natural nitrates, which your body converts to nitric oxide. This nitric oxide causes the walls with blood vessels to swell, allowing your brain more oxygen, nutrients, and energy.

8. Eggs
These protein-packed superfoods deliver a great source of choline, a vital nutrient that often falls in the category of B vitamins. Your mind benefits from choline, thanks to the nutrient’s ability to maintain the structure of brain cell membranes. It also helps relay messages from the brain to your nerves and muscles. Cheap, versatile, and delicious, eggs are your foolproof go-to when it comes to healthy brain food.

9. Oats
Oats are nature’s medicine for the mind. Bursting with iron, zinc, potassium and B vitamins, oats keep your brain functioning at its full capacity thanks to these nutrients. The versatile superfood also contains glucose, which delivers energy to your brain cells. Its high-fiber profile allows for a steady release of this glucose while warding off cravings and keeping hunger at bay.

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7 Underrated Foods That Do Wonders for Your Health

These 7 foods are tasty and great for your health

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We tend to shower a certain host of superfoods with attention. As a result, we often ignore less trendy health fare. By giving unpopular foods the cold shoulder, you’re doing your body a disservice! We’re shining the spotlight on 7 Underrated Foods that do Wonders for your Health. With each item offering its own list of health benefits, they’re a must on any nutrient expert’s grocery list. These top picks are widely available and super familiar. It’s easy to enhance recipes with their distinctive, delicious flavors.

1. Egg yolks

The whites get all the hype, but what about the yolks? These sunny egg centers are often dismissed for their fat and cholesterol content, but don’t let those numbers scare you away! With their fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, egg yolks contain most of the superfood’s nutrients. They’re one of the richest sources of the vitamin choline, a B-complex vitamin associated with improved brain function and reduced inflammation.

2. Garlic

Garlic is your knight in shining armor when you feel a bug creeping up. Garlic fights viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, steers away congestion, and prevents heart disease. Its funky scent comes from an oozy liquid that inhibits the growth of bad bacteria

 3. Shrimp

This fruit of the sea is a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Its high-protein, low-calorie profile sets it apart from other fabulously healthy fish. Shrimp fills you up and curbs cravings without the excess calories present in fattier fish. It makes a delectable appetizer at any get-together or dinner party.

4. Cashews

Don’t let almonds get all the attention! Cashews are downright delicious and offer a ton of health benefits. A small handful of these nuts can boost your energy levels, improve your mood, and prevent heart disease. They deliver a good source of protein and fiber to ward off cravings and keep you full. Just make sure to opt for raw, unsalted cashews over the fried and flavored versions that reverse all their positive effects!

5. Seaweed

Nutrition experts swear by certain vegetables, and seaweed is no exception. Don’t let its slimy appearance scare you! Seaweed contains alginate, a natural fiber that improves digestion and reduces fat absorption. It’s a good source of iodine, an essential mineral critical for healthy thyroid function. If that weren’t enough, the super sea veggie also delivers a boatload of calcium and vitamin B12.

6. Hard Cheeses

It’s not every day you hear “cheese” and “healthy” in the same sentence. But we’re not referring to overly-processed American cheese or fatty, calorie-laden soft cheeses. We’re talking about hard cheeses aged over a considerable length of time. Parmesan and Asiago offer a significant source of vitamin K2, which protects against cancer and heart disease. Despite being high in calories, cheese requires your body’s energy to digest (which actually burns calories!) and its high protein content will keep you full for hours.

7. Sauerkraut

There’s more to less-than-approachable foods than meets the eye. Exhibit A: Sauerkraut. Although a tad pungent, the fermented vegetable is one of the healthiest foods available. Sauerkraut delivers a boatload of healthy bacteria to the gut. These nutritious microbes aid digestion and nutrient absorption. A healthy gut sets the stage for an all-around healthy self. With its ability to boost energy levels and strengthen your immune system, the sour cabbage brings more than improved digestive health to the table. Sneak the superfood into your diet by adding a spoonful to your salad or layer on a sandwich.

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5 Best and Worst Salad Toppings

Do’s and don’ts for Topping Those Greens

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Green crunchy goodness! There’s so much about the humble salad that shouts good health and weight loss…until it comes to toppings. Salad toppings can make or break your journey to shed pounds. Learn the 5 best and 5 worst salad toppings so you can stay on track to a slimmer, healthier you.

Salads have long been a go-to food on healthy meal plans. While fresh greens and vegetables are smart food choices for anyone who wants to lose or maintain weight, many women end up adding unnecessary fat and calories by choosing the wrong toppings. Even toppings labeledhealthy can be hidden sodium or sugar traps that will wreck your weight loss journey. Find out which salad toppings are dos and which are don’ts.

5 Best Salad Toppings

1. Homemade Salad Dressings
DIY dressing recipes give you complete control over taste and ingredients. By using clean eating ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, lemon, honey, and more, you benefit from all the flavor and none of the ingredients that add bulk to your waistline.

2. Seeds
From chia to flax to pumpkin, seeds punch up the nutritional factor–and the crunch factor!–in any salad. Chia and flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, magnesium, and tryptophan (the “sleep” amino acid found in turkey), plus they offer anti-inflammatory benefits.

3. Greek Yogurt-Based Dressings
Non-fat Greek yogurt is a healthier alternative to calorie-bomb creamy dressings. It delivers protein and a heaping helping of probiotics, which boost gut health. Try this homemade

4. Legumes & Other Plant-Based Proteins
Get a meaty fix by using chickpeas, beans, or tempeh (a cake-like food made from soybeans). These ingredients provide a plant-based protein source that will recharge your mind and body, making them a smart choice for refueling at lunchtime.

5. Eggs
Boost protein power the healthy way by adding one hard-boiled egg to your salad. Recent research suggests that adding an egg to your salad improves the body’s ability to absorb inflammation-fighting nutrients from the vegetables [1]. Many women can safely consume one egg each day, but if heart health is a concern, stick to a hard-boiled egg white.

5 Worst Salad Toppings

1. Creamy dressings
Processed cream-based dressings are easily among the worst salad toppings. Creamy dressings labeled light aren’t necessarily healthy either. What you lose in fat or calories you gain in sodium, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Fat-free creamy dressings are also notorious for incorporating high fructose corn syrup.

2. Whole Cheese
Some fats, like those found in olive oil, can be healthy additions to the menu; however, consuming too many fat-rich, whole dairy products, like cheese, can weigh down your weight loss efforts. Limit cheese toppings for salads to a light sprinkling of low-fat feta or shredded mozzarella. If you’re eating takeout or dining at a restaurant, ask the server to put the cheese on the side so you can control how much you consume.

3. Processed Meats
From bits of salami to slices of bacon, processed meats are a go-to salad topping for some. Research has linked processed meats, including bacon, to an increased risk of cancer. Some experts argue that regularly eating processed meats is in the same cancer-risk category as smoking. Do your body a favor and pass on these worst salad toppings!

4. Fried Chicken or Shrimp
Salads can be a way to boost healthy protein intake – unless you’re mixing in fried chicken or shrimp. The excess fat and calories will virtually negate any of the good stuff found in your greens.

5. Dried Cranberries
I know—they’re tasty. And they make a salad look pretty too! The problem is that dried cranberries are high in calories—up to 123 in a ⅓ cup serving. That same serving size contains…wait for it…a whopping 26 grams of sugar, or the equivalent of half a can of soda. Yikes!

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7 Cold and Flu Fighting Foods

Prevent and relieve symptoms naturally

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Nutrition plays a big role in supporting the immune system, which is charged with protecting your body from invaders that range from the simple cold to complex cancer. Nutrients like vitamins and minerals give the immune system the ammunition it needs to do its job well. A healthy diet can’t prevent every disease, but it can ensure your immune system has the tools to fight as well as it can.

Processed foods are stripped of the vitamins and minerals that support the immune system. By choosing a clean-eating lifestyle—one that focuses on minimally-processed or whole foods—you give your body what it needs to support an immune system less vulnerable to bacteria, viruses, and disease-causing processes. The foods that fight colds below are a smart way to start.

1. Banana
Bananas are a tummy-soothing winner. They’re easy on the stomach, making them a natural for nursing the body through diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

2. Garlic
Garlic is packed with antiviral and antibacterial properties that support a healthy immune system.

3. Green or Black Tea
Tea is a natural cold and flu fighter because it offers high levels of antioxidants like L-theanine, a known immune booster. Avoid processed tea drinks and reach for unsweetened tea or tea that’s lightly sweetened with a natural sweetener like honey. (Bonus: honey is rich in antioxidants for added immune support.)

4. Mushrooms
Mushrooms probably aren’t the first cold-fighting flu to come to mind, but they’re a major source of zinc, which bolsters the immune system to help battle the sniffles. Shitake mushrooms in particular may have antiviral properties [1]. Add mushrooms to an omelet with fellow cold-fighter garlic to give sniffles a one-two punch.

5. Red or Pink Grapefruit
The rosier varieties of grapefruit are rich in compounds called bioflavonoids that boost the body’s natural immune reaction. Grapefruits are also high in vitamin C, which may help fight colds.

6. Soup
Grandma was right. Broth-based soup, particularly chicken soup, contains cysteine, an amino acid that thins mucus. Soup hydrates the body, which is a critical part of the healing process.

7. Spicy Foods
Whether it’s chili peppers or ginger, spicy foods are natural decongestants that help unclog a stuffy nose by temporarily shrinking blood vessels.

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50 Ways to Eat Clean

Try these foods to clean up your diet.

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It’s unhealthy to have an all-or-nothing mentality. Eating clean is not about being perfect; it’s about making the best choice as often as possible and working to be healthier and stronger every day. Getting all your nutrients will fill you with vigor and energy, improving your body, mind, and mood. Below, we have compiled the 50 Ways to Eat Clean, plus included clean recipes throughout. These tips are meant to be a guide to help you become a little healthier and a bit stronger each day.

1. Start your day with a glass of water.
The first thing we consume in the morning awakens our metabolism and starts our digestive system. For many of us, this means coffee. If our coffee comes in the form of a sugary blended drink, our digestive track will be hit with a full dose of sugar before it’s fully revved up. A glass of water will wake up your body without any excess sugar or fats.

2. Eat breakfast.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all. A balanced breakfast will kickstart your metabolism and provide all-day energy. Recent research has found that people who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat throughout the day. Not to mention it’s easier to get out of bed when you know you have a delicious meal waiting for you!

3. Work sugars out of breakfast.
For the same reason that a sugary coffee is detrimental in the morning, a sugar-filled breakfast can leave you feeling slow and groggy. Avoid putting too much sugar in your oatmeal and save starchy breakfasts such as pancakes for special occasions.

4. Make your breakfast larger and your dinners smaller.
Many of us think of breakfast as the smallest meal of the day, with dinner being the largest. Our bodies actually work better in reverse. A hearty breakfast with lean proteins, healthy fats, and slow-digesting carbs will give you energy throughout the day and work to fend off cravings. A large dinner can lead to restless sleep or interrupted digestive processes.

5. Train yourself to use less sweetener.
Even if you use a natural sweetener like honey, too much sugar has a negative effect on your health. Processed or unprocessed, sugar quickly makes its way into your bloodstream, causing spikes and weight gain. Train yourself to use less sweetener by slowly decreasing the amount you put in your coffee and oatmeal.

6. Focus on incorporating more healthy foods.
If your main focus is to stay away from chocolate, a healthy diet can seem restrictive. Instead of eliminating your favorite foods, try incorporating more fruits and vegetables each day. Your body will be satisfied by the healthy items, leaving less room for sweets and junk foods. Remember that there’s always room for a treat as long as it’s enjoyed in moderation.

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30 Day Gluten Free Challenge

These easy tips and tricks will help you determine if gluten free is right for you.

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Do you feel bloated, drained, and sluggish? Gluten could be contributing to these blah symptoms. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, gives foods like bread and dough their chewy texture. Unfortunately, those who are gluten sensitive can experience increased inflammation in the body, especially the gut. Gluten sneaks past the gut barrier and enters the immune system. This throws your immune system into full gear, causing it to develop antibodies to attack gluten which can, in turn, attack the body.

Going gluten-free has been a trend among celebrities and health enthusiasts for years. But why? Experts claim that ditching wheat can wash away pounds, enhance physical performance, decrease belly fat, and boost energy levels. If that doesn’t convince you, supporters attribute improved digestion, less bloating, and clearer skin to their gluten-free diet. Wheat plays a prominent role in the American diet. It’s tough to cut the chemical out entirely. But don’t stress – SkinnyMs. is here to help!

Jump on this 30-day challenge and cut gluten from your diet for one month. These tips and tricks will help you ditch the detrimental protein and make you feel lighter, happier, and more energized.

1. Stock Up On Produce

Lucky for you, all fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten-free, providing you with an infinite list of potential recipes under your belt.

2. Give Your Kitchen A Makeover

Going gluten free will have you preparing your own meals, since there’s a shortage of premade gluten-free options. Ease the transition by making your kitchen gluten-free-friendly and removing all gluten items.

Having trouble parting with scrumptious, carb-filled snacks? Don’t fret. There are plenty of gluten-free alternatives that’ll satisfy those taste buds.

3. Start Fresh

Cut out gluten completely and avoid contact with all ingredients containing gluten. For example, if you make a salad with croutons for your family, don’t simply remove them from your plate and call the dish gluten-free. Make your dishes gluten-free from the start without any modifications.

4. Befriend Other Whole Grains

Instead of mourning the absence of gluten-stuffed foods like pizza and pasta, stock up on healthy whole grains that don’t contain the protein. Brown rice, corn, and quinoa are excellent options.

5. Swap Starches

Trouble reconciling your love for baking with your gluten-free plan? Don’t sweat it. Plenty of safe flours exist that make perfect alternatives. These include brown rice flour, millet flour, and quinoa flour. Opt for high-protein, non-grain flours like almond flour and hazelnut flour to pack a protein punch in your recipes.

6. Add Texture and Flavor

A gluten-free diet shouldn’t have you munching on cardboard. The challenge doesn’t mean giving up savory foods. Adding chopped nuts, dried fruit, or shaved coconut can do wonders for your food’s texture. Opting for applesauce, Greek yogurt, or brown sugar will boost moisture levels.

7. On the Go? Don’t Give Up!

We understand that hectic days have you running around like crazy and leave no time for at-home meal prep. That’s why it’s important to keep stashes of travel-sized gluten-free snacks around. This will minimize the temptation to cheat and spoil your goals.

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5 Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee

It’s alright to indulge in your favorite morning beverage!

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Black coffee may be bitter, but its health benefits are sweet. Coffee is full of nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that improve overall health, brain function, and may even help prevent diseases. Many of these health benefits are due to caffeine, a natural stimulant. Read on to learn our favorite 5 Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee!

Note: These perks apply to pure, black coffee. Artificial sweeteners and syrups destroy coffee’s natural health benefits.

1. Black coffee raises energy levels and brain activity.
Caffeine is a stimulant that allows your brain to increase dopamine levels. Because of this, coffee improves all cognitive functions. Drink on and work productively.

2. Black coffee helps you lose weight.
Caffeine’s stimulant effects don’t stop in the brain. It also boosts your metabolic rate, which means your body burns fat faster with caffeine’s assistance.

3. Black coffee is full of nutrients.
Antioxidants, vitamins, minerals – coffee has it all. Though the percentages of vitamins and nutrients in coffee are small, they add up over a few cups. Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee. Antioxidants play a large part in reduced cancer risk.

4. Black coffee may lower the risk of certain diseases.
Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, depression, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and cancer are just a few of the diseases that cancer protects against.

5. Black coffee is a natural pain reliever.
Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, which allows temporary pain relief. Though this is a wonderful health benefit, you shouldn’t rely on caffeine as a long-term pain reliever. Over time, you will become dependent on the substance, which will cause pain rather than relieve it.

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7 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

There really are no excuses.

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Health should not be a privilege. Your access to healthy meals shouldn’t depend on your income. Sometimes it seems like in order to buy the latest health products or to eat organic, you need to empty your bank account. Many specialty health stores are known for their outrageous prices, while bargain supermarkets seem to carry only junk food and processed snacks.

It’s not impossible to eat healthy on a budget. Whole, nutrient-packed foods don’t need to come from expensive specialty stores. From frozen fruit to bulk grains, you can get nutrition without breaking the bank. Check out our top 7 tips for eating healthy on a budget.

1. Check out the frozen produce.
Many of us prefer fresh fruit and veggies because they’re full of color and flavor. Unfortunately, fresh also means they don’t keep for very long. Consider frozen fruits and vegetables a healthy, budget-conscious alternative. You won’t waste any money on food that goes bad before you eat it.

Buying frozen also means you can buy in bulk. Many wholesale retailers carry large bags of mixed veggies that are perfect for stir-frys. Another benefit to buying frozen is that your fruit is smoothie ready! No more adding ice that waters down your green smoothies.

2. Buy frozen chicken.
You can save money by purchasing large bags of lean frozen chicken. Look for chicken breast without the skin to keep things extra-healthy. Chicken is a protein-packed ingredient that you can use in every meal. It’s also much more economical than other protein sources.

3. Go crazy for legumes.

Beans and lentils are packed with hunger-quenching fiber and muscle-building protein. They also happen to be super cheap! A bag of beans is an inexpensive investment that will last a long time. Beans are incredibly versatile, meaning this one ingredient can be used in a variety of healthy recipes.

4. Plan your meals.
A little bit of meal planning can make a huge difference. When you know exactly what dishes you will be preparing, it’s easy to keep yourself from buying food that will rot. Meal planning is also essential when switching to a healthier diet. Having a set meal plan keeps you from resorting to fast food and quick microwavable meals.

Before grocery day, make a rough outline of the meals you will be preparing that week. This also gives you time to check for items you already own.

5. Pack your lunch.

If you spend $5 on lunch five days a week, it comes out to over $100 per month. For five dollars, you can buy a bag of mixed greens with some healthy vinaigrette, or a loaf of whole grain bread and some deli meat that will feed you for several days. Whenever possible, pack lunch instead of eating out. This will save both money and calories.

6. Shop at the Farmer’s Market
While this isn’t true for all cities, some farmer’s markets offer better deals on fresh produce. Check out your local farmer’s market to compare prices and learn about all the fruits and vegetables grown in your area.

7. Stay away from brand names.
Just as with clothes, you often pay more for recognizable names in the grocery store. Many brands go out of their way to make their product seem the most natural and healthy. This isn’t always true. Many stores carry generic products that are just as good and just as healthy as the big names.

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7 Ways to Eat Clean on the Road

Hit the road the healthy way.

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Does traveling trip up your healthy eating habits? Hitting the road doesn’t need to widen your waistline! Check out these 7 ways to eat clean on the road.

Whether you’re conferencing or sightseeing, traveling can seem like a healthy eating trap. Sometimes you’re tempted by tasty local fare that looks too good to pass up. Other times you might find yourself too busy to grab a bite – and then you overeat when you finally do get the chance.

But you don’t need to fall prey to the traps that have tripped you up in the past. We’re sharing no-hassle ways to eat clean, no matter where you are or what’s on the agenda.

1. Eat 4-6 small meals each day.
Travel can be hectic. It’s not uncommon to skip meals while you’re on the road. Don’t do that to yourself! Eating regularly throughout the day maintains a steady blood sugar level so you’re less likely to overeat at meals. If you don’t have time to stop for a meal, check out the next step for ways to eat clean while you’re on the move.

2. Pack a snack stash.
Bringing your own clean-eating snacks helps you avoid convenience stores, fast food places, and other unhealthy eating traps. Pack fresh fruit and vegetables, if possible. Bananas and apples travel relatively well for short periods, as do sugar snap peas, sliced peppers, and baby carrots. Single-serve bags of unsalted nuts, like walnuts and almonds, are smart eating choices too.

3. Hydrate often.
Few things are as dehydrating as travel. Crazy schedules, dry hotel air, and other factors can make you feel like a dried-out husk. Always keep water on hand and sip it throughout the day. If you tend to forget to drink water, set an alarm on your smartphone to remind yourself to drink every 20-30 minutes.

4. Keep tabs on alcohol consumption.
Whether you’re indulging in cocktails before the keynote or Mai Tais by the pool, drink alcohol, a major source of empty calories, in moderation. Reduce your consumption by drinking one full glass of water between each alcoholic beverage

5. Visit food markets instead of eating at restaurants.
Another way to eat clean while traveling is to take advantage of local food supermarkets, which often provide healthier options than typical restaurant fare. If there’s a fridge in your hotel or rental, stock it with healthy market foods like nonfat plain Greek yogurt, minimally-processed hummus, veggies, and fruit. Toss whole grain crackers or pretzels in your basket, too. You’ll save yourself calories, fat, and sugar. Your wallet will be happier, too!

6. Indulge occasionally.
Truth: some treats are meant to be savored. Don’t be afraid to let yourself indulge in local tastiness, whether it’s a cappuccino in Italy or shoofly pie in Amish country. The key is to stick to small portions. Dessert time is a fantastic time to share if you’ve got travel companions.

7. Eat smart when you eat out.
It can be tricky to completely avoid restaurants while traveling, so check out these basic guidelines for smart eating while you’re out-and-about.

  • Order the smallest portion available.
  • Choose dishes that are baked, roasted, steamed, broiled, or grilled.
  • Ask for vinegar, lemon, or extra virgin olive oil to dress salads.
  • Request that heavy sauces be served on the side to better control your intake. 

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TOP HEALTH TIPS

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Top 30 Flat Tummy Tips of All Time

Try these lasting weight loss tips from top experts & you WILL love your results!

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Stay consistent with these tips. Research shows it takes 21 days for the human body to form a habit. These tips will give you quick results, but should also be a part of your healthy lifestyle. Enjoy your journey!

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Natural Highly Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Cellulite Fast

Try these healthy, quick, painless, & free methods to rid your body of that dreadful cottage cheese!

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12 Minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout For Bad Knees

Bad knees but want to burn massive calories & tone up in only 12 minutes? You will love this workout!

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Perform this workout for most days of the week and you will get amazing results in no time! Keep it up and you will transform your body with no more knee pain!

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Beginners 5K Training Plan: From The Couch To 5K In Just 8 Weeks

If you’re determined to start running but are struggling, then this is the perfect plan for you!

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 24 Best Workout Tips of All Time

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Want to know the secrets to getting trim and toned in record time? Here’s the best advice from personal trainers, exercise physiologists and fitness instructors for the ultimate moves and motivation tricks to kick your fitness routine into high gear. Put a few of these 13 Best Workout Tips into action each week, and you’re guaranteed to see faster results!

1. Chart your progress.  What a great way to stay motivated. Set goals and grade yourself A through F at least four times a year. When you see how much you’ve improved, you’ll want to stat in good shape. Photos are a great way to track your progress as well.

2. Tone up on the treadmill. Save time at the gym with 8-15 minute cadio/sculpt sessions. Hop on a treadmill while holding a 3-5 pound dumbell in each hand, then set the speed to a brisk walk. Do a one minute set each of bicep curls, shoulder presses, triceps extensions, or anything you can think of. Be creative. It’s a great upper body challenge which also gets your heart pumping. Try this 2-3 times per week. As you improve, work up to doing higher minute sets.

3. Break out the shovel. Why pay someone money to clear snow from your driveway? On top of torching 400 calories per hour, shoveling snow develops muscular endurance and power. Plus, it works different muscles in which you aren’t used to using which is always a plus.  Be safe though. Don’t lift staining amounts and be sure not to lift with your back, use your knees and hips instead.  You can try power cleaning your house or any household chore.

4. Trade steady-state cardio for interval training. The journey to a leaner body isn’t a long, slow march. It’s bursts of high intensity effort paired with slower, recovery efforts. 15-20 minutes of interval training performed like this can burn as many calories as an hour of traditional, steady state cardio. Plus, unlike the slow stuff, intervals can keep your body burning long after the workout ends.

5. Explode through each rep. The slow lifting trend should be confined to the eccentric, or easier portion of any exercise. During the eccentric portion, where you push, pull, jump or press, move the weight quickly it will turn on fast- twitch muscle fibers, which will make your body more athletic and train it to burn fat for fuel.

6. Use multiple joints with every move. Single joint exercises like bicep curls and triceps extensions will build build your muscles, but slowly. Unless your a bodybuilder and spend hours in the gym, get more done in less time. Switch these inefficient moves for exercises that work multiple muscles and joints. Squats will build your legs and back, a bent over row will build your biceps and your back, and a narrow- grip bench press will train your triceps while it sculpts your chest.

7. Mix your grip to do more reps. If your hands and forearms give out before your back or legs when doing dead lifts, chin ups, bent over barbell rows, or inverted rows, mix your grip while working with the hand the opposite way, meaning your back and legs will determine when you’re through with the set.

8. Lift, then do cardio. If you perform your strength training before cardio, you’ll burn more fat while you do your cardio session. It is said that weight training burns the glycogen in your muscles (carbs turn into glycogen, then is stored in the muscles). So when you perform your cardio, your body must burn body fat for energy.

9. Get explosive to add more strength.  Explosive exercises involve flight- your body leaving the ground (as in a jump) or the weight flying out of your hands, as in a bench press throw. These moves also increase strength significantly. In a study, men who inclined explosive chest exercises benched five percent more than those who performed a similar routine without the ballistic moves.

10. Reduce soreness with active recovery. Resting isn’t always the best prescription for sore muscles– you’ll actually reduce pain with little activity. Metabolites in your sore areas that cause pain are dispersed and diffused by activity, and blood flow is increased to the muscle tissue, speeding recovery by up to 40 percent. Play a light game of  soccer, clean the house, or go on a walk the day after the workout.

11. Sweat to your favorite workout beats. Rocking out to your favorite workout songs help you power through a challenging workout. Research shows that singing, humming, or whistling may be just as beneficial. A Belgian and German study found that making music- and not just listening to it- could impact exercise performance. People who worked out on machines designed to create music based on their efforts exerted more energy (and didn’t even know it) compared to others who used traditional equipment. Sweating to your own tune may help make physical activities less exhausting, researchers say.

12. Love your trainer.  It’s very important to have an instructor who motivates you to get out the door – they’ll be your best advocate. If you look forward to seeing your favorite Pilates instructor, you’ll be more likely to hit the gym more often. Same goes for videos.

13. Muscle over mind. If you normally head to the gym after work, take notice: Mental exhaustion can make you feel physically exhausted, even when you have plenty of energy. Next time you doubt if you can push out those last 10 minutes on the stair stepper, remember you can!

14. Having proper footwear. Proper footwear is essential for any workout, especially for hitting the pavement.  When the cushions get worn out it creates a harder impact.

15. Be consistent. Every bit of effort all adds up. Just be patient and consistent, and confident you’ll see positive results.

16. Set realistic goals.  You shouldn’t strive for perfection or an improbable goal that can’t be met. Don’t worry if you can’t run a 5K just yet. Make a habit of jogging 15 minutes a day, and add time, distance, and speed from there.

17. Have fun. Be sure to pick an activity you enjoy doing. Swimming, walking, sports. You don’t have to dread getting fit, you should be happy.

18. Watch the clock.  Your body clock, that is.  Try working out at the time you have the most energy. If you’re a morning person, schedule your fitness activities early in the day; If you liven up as the day goes on, plan your activities later.  Working out when you have the most energy will create better results.

19.Get inspired. A great tip to get motivated is to read blogs or web sites that show how others have been successful.

20. Go to the gym with a plan.  It’s so often that people go to the gym without a plan and wind up standing around, deciding what to do next. Planning ahead can make your workouts more effective. Having a plan before heading off to the gym can make your workouts shorter and more effective.

21. Make your workouts more challenging. In order to get visible results, your workouts need to be challenging. This means as your fitness level increases, your workouts should become more intense too.

One weay to challenge yourself is to set small goals. You can use these as milestones to guide yourself as you improve. Reward yourself with a spa day or a new outfit you’ve  been wanting.

22. Having the right pre and post workout snack. It’s tough to workout if your belly is full and bloated, and is also difficult if you’re starving.

Having the right pre workout snack can help you avoid these moments. Aim to eat something that’s light on your stomach, but still provides you with plenty of energy for lifting, running, and jumping. Fruits and snacks made with unrefined sugars are ideal. Combine with lean protein or a protein shake is a great idea.

23. Be realistic about the calories you’ve burned. Many people treat themselves to high calorie foods after a workout because they believe they’r just replacing the calories they’ve just burned. The truth is that it’s very difficult to burn off a 500 calorie ice cream sundae in a 1 hour workout. Find other ways to reward yourself than with food.

24. Wear the right clothes. Getting good gym clothes is a good investment. They don’t have to be costly though. Just nothing restraining. Stretching ability is key. Also, clothes that don’t chafe, ride up, or prevent your skin from breathing may help you have a more enjoyable workout as well. Additionally, the proper shoes can help to avoid injuries, especially when doing cardio.

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Steps to Heal a Pulled Muscle

No excuses. Get back on track fast!

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Pushing yourself to the limit at the gym is great, but if you’re pushing yourself too much to where it hurts isn’t good. Some people experience pain after a workout, mainly due to minimal stretching, poor stance, lack of education, among other factors. You should listen to your body and differentiate pain from soreness. When you feel pain, you need to take certain steps to heal the injured area. For instance, a pulled muscle, also called a muscle strain, occurs when the muscle is stretched too far and small tears occur within the muscle. In oreder to feel better after this type of injury, you need to take specific precautions. Here’s some great simple steps to heal a pulled muscle so you can feel better and get back to the gym!

1. Rest. Rest is the first priority when treating a pulled muscle. The resting period depends on the severity of the injury, but can typically last 1-5 days.

2. Identify the level of severity the pulled muscle is.

a. Grade I: Mild discomfort

b. Grade II: Moderate discomfort

c. Grade III: Significant discomfort

3. Anti-inflammatory medications. Anti- inflammatory medications may help reduce swelling and relieve painful symptoms. These include Ibuprofen, Adivil, Aleve, or Asprin.

 4. Ice. Icing teh injured area will help reduce swelling, bruising, and overall pain. Don’t exceed over 15 minutes a session.

5. Stretching. Slowly stretch the injured muscle. Including stretching in your workouts helps prevent future muscle strain injuries.

6. Strengthening. Make sure to strengthen your muscle before returning to physical activities. By regaining strength, you lessen the chances of you re- injuring your muscle.

7. Avoid muscle fatigue. Be aware of your muscles. Don’t exceed your limit when they become tires and shaky. Fatigued muscles are more prone to injury.

8. Warm up. By properly warming up, you allow your muscles to loosen up and prevent injuries.

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The 10 Exercise Commandments

Make working out easier and get more out of each session!

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Want to make working out easier and get more out of each session? Follow these top tips ‘n’ tricks to better your results.

 1. Don’t lock out. It’s best if you keep your elbows and knees slightly soft, even when doing full extensions. It’s not only better for joint health, but also making your workouts more effective. Not locking out when lifting weights will prevent joint deterioration and reduce your chance of joint related injuries.

2. Give yourself a lift.  Squats have long been popular. But a lot of people struggle to perfect the technique and are missing out on maximum results. For most, squatting with your heels raised will improve your range of motion. If you have tight calves, you tend to lean forwards during a squat and unnecessarily load the lower back, so by raising your heels, you allow a greater activation of the glutes, quads and hamstrings, increasing the effectiveness of the move while reducing the risk of strain to the lower back.

3. Eat light. You likely know that eating heavy meals before a workout doesn’t sit well. You probably won’t feel so well working out on a bloated belly, likely because the blood flow is directed to the muscles that are working. This means there’s limited flow to the digestive system, plus it’s often tiring.

4. Have a break. You do need rest days, especially between strength training sessions, or sessions that target the same muscles again. You’re compromising your safety by over doing it with not enough rest time.

5. Perfect your posture.  Having good body alignment can boost your progress by helping you perform exercises with better form, so working on your posture outside the gym is also important. You should put in the time after your workouts to stretch, and avoid slouching when you sit down.

6. Practise your turn out.  Pointing your toes out just slightly while performing resistance exercises gives you an extra sense of stability that can make all the difference.

7. Engage your core. Engaging your core Might be one of the first rules you learned when you first started working out. Engaging the core almost goes without saying these days, right? But it really  is at the center of everything and ensures your upper and lower body work in synergy, taking the strain away from the lower back and enabling you to lift heavier weights, which means better results.

8. Drink enough water. This is important regardless of how often you exercise- after all, the body’s mostly made of water. Even minor dehydration can effect your endurance and blood flow.

9. Refuel post workout. Those who go hard in the gym need to pay extra attention to mealtimes.After a workout, the muscles are primed to absorb protein, so you want to take advantage of this. Make sure you go for a protein heavy meal after the gym.

10. Prepare and recover properly. Warming up efficiently before a workout can make the workout easier. Stretching pre workout, in similar movement patterns to those you’re about to perform, means your muscles will be more elastic and the blood will already be pumping.

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Best Ways to Become More Active

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Exercise doesn’t have to mean daily gym visits. There’s many ways to raise your fitness levels in everyday life too. There really are no excuses when it comes to living a more fit life.

1. Skip the elevator. Quit taking the elevator and take the stairs instead. It’ll get your heart rate pumping and whole body moving to build your fitness levels. Plus, climbing stairs requires you to burn calf and thigh muscles, helping tone your legs and rear.

2. Choose the furthest corner. Instead of wasting time and stressing to fight for parking spots, park far away as possible. This gives you the opportunity to walk further, for longer, and avoid car door dings!

3. Get pedalling. Cycle to and from work to boost your fitness level. It’s a great way to get two cardio workouts into your day without having to take time out for exercise. Cycling is also a great way to burn calories and tone your lower body.

4. Walk the last step. If you commute to work by bus, jump off one stop early– or even two! to increase the distance you walk. This won’t only add in some extra cardio to your day, but it’ll burn a few extra calories too.

5. Leave your car at home. Walk your kids to school instead of driving, if it’s close enough that is. You’ll also encourage your kids to be more active. If walking isn’t an option, try taking them to the park after school. Try running around as much as your kids do.

6. Use your lunch hour. Instead of staying glued to your computer screen, use your lunch hour to walk around the park, or around the block, or do some squats.

7. Be a tourist. Instead of the usual coffee shop or diner, try arranging a jog around the park with a friend instead. Shopping is also very active.

8. Stand up more. While talking on the phone, at home or the office, get off your chair and stand up or pace up and down. This can have real benefits for your health. Standing an additional three hours a day will burn around 140 extra calories. Over one year, that adds up to about 30,000 calories and 8 pounds of fat.

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Top Facts About Exercise In the Cold

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Here’s what you should know about your winter workouts….

1. Be sure to wear good shoes, less likely to slip.

2. Stay dry. If you run in the winter and you sweat into cotton, it will stay wet because it dries slowly. So your body struggles to heat up since the cotton is wet. Wear dry fit material which will dry quickly as you exercise.

3. Avoid over dressing. Many people wrap up in warm clothes when they exercise outside. You risk excessive sweating which can cause dehydration and use more energy. It’s alright to start a run cold, since you will warm up and your body will regulate your temperature.

4. Protect your hands and feet. Heat loss tends to come from hands, feet, and heads. Therefore, wear gloves, a hat, and good socks. It’s about protecting the places heat escapes from.

5. In evolutionary theory, humans tend to store more fat in winter to keep ourselves warm and with that, comes weight gain, so working out in the winter is actually more relevant for that reason.

6. We drink a lot more in summer. In the winter, we’re not as aware that we’re dehydrated. It’s dangerous if you reach this point, when the body loses it’s ability to regulate temperature, so hydrating in winter is important too.

7. Burning more calories in the cold is really a myth. The body actually uses more energy to cool down in the heat, then it does in the cold.

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How To Avoid Post Workout Pitfalls

Avoid these common mistakes and get the most out of your workout

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If you’re not seeing the results, you could be sabotaging your workout efforts with these silly mistakes….

Pitfall 1: You chug sports drinks. Staying hydrated during and after a workout is a no-brainer, but you don’t want to be chugging down high sugar drinks. Or any for that matter. The average sports drink contains about as much sugar as a candy bar. Try naturally sweet coconut water instead, which will replace your electrolytes as well.

Pitfall 2: You don’t think ahead. If you don’t stick to a workout schedule, it’s easier to skip gym or prioritize other plans.  If you book your session while you’re high on the endorphins of your last workout, you’ll make the positive mental connection when you’re thinking about the next one.

Pitfall 3: You weigh yourself too often. Keeping your eyes on the scales is important if losing pounds is the goal. Weighing yourself too often can be counterproductive and leave you feeling less motivated if you aren’t seeing constant results. Since healthy weight loss is slow, you’re not likely to see a noticeable difference in the number on the scales after a single training session. Try finding a time once a week when it’s best to weigh yourself. First thing in the morning before eating and drinking is the most accurate.

Pitfall 4: You can’t resist the treats.  Indulging too much post workout will derail all your hard work. If you find it difficult to refuse a sweet tooth, try something more waistline friendly such as fruit, or low sugar yogurt with berries.

Pitfall 5: You’re a night person. Research has shown that lack of sleep after a fitness session can impair recovery from exercise. Sleep deprivation throws off your hormones, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and reducing muscle protein synthesis. It also causes a drop in the production of the growth hormone that promotes fat loss and minimizes fat storage. So make sure to get your zzzzz’s!

Pitfall 6: You skip the steam room.  As a stretching session makes up for part of a good cool down, so should a quick stint in the sauna or steam room. Headin’ for the heat after a workout provides relief for sore muscles and helps flush toxins from your body. Avoid dehydration by limiting your sessions to no more than 10-15 minutes and drink plenty of water.

Pitfall 7: You forget to eat good post workout snacks.  Eating after a workout is essential for repairing and building muscle tissue.  To ensure you reap the rewards of all your hard work, aim for a combo of carbs and protein to boost energy levels- a protein shake made with a scoop of whey protein, water and a banana will efficiently replenish energy levels.

Pitfall 8: You stay in the same clothes. Sweaty, damp clothes are a breeding ground for bacteria which leads to infections. When you work out, you create body heat and moisture through sweat in those places where bacteria loves to hang out. While exercising, the body naturally sweats out water, and also chemical compounds that eventually break down into bacteria which makes your clothes smell. If you can’t shower, take some sweat-proofing precautions instead. Ditch cotton, which takes a long time to dry, and opt for sweat wicking that repels moisture to keep you cool and dry. Always have a stash of antibacterial wet wipes for a quick wipe down.

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Top 6 Ways To Squeeze in a Workout

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You can fit fitness in- no matter what!

1. A social affair.  We love out social plans with out friends and family, so why not make your social events exercise related? You could go for a run together, try a new class, or hit the gym.

2. Make life harder. Yes, harder. Do exactly what you would normally, but make it harder. The elevator should be forgotten and the stairs a new friend. Walk to do errands instead of drive, or do your own yard work. Each one of these swaps will get you burning calories throughout your regular day and will all add up.

3. Keep it at home. Wake up, work out, get ready and go. There’s plenty of ways to work out at home. Squeeze in a quick, intense body weight workout before you take your morning shower. You’ll barely notice the dent in your day, plus you’ll already have it off your checklist.

4. Make your commute count. If your taking the car or bus to work, get yourself a good pair of shoes or a bike, and run or cycle instead.You’ll have your workout off your checklist before even starting the day.

5. Cardio, meet strength.  For the next few weeks, forget about separating cardio and strength days.  Creating a cardio workout using resistance exercises with little rest between sets means you’ll kick both boxes, so get moving with jumping lunges, mountain climbers, and box jumps for now.

6. Fast classes.  Health clubs and gyms know what we’re dealing with- balancing a hundred things at once and barely having time for a lunch break some days. That’s why they often run fast classes: group exercise classes that last no longer than half an hour while promising to give you a workout that feels much longer.

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The Best Reasons to Work Out

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Losing weight shouldn’t be your only motivation for headin’ to the gym. Regular sessions benefit your entire body.

1. Bones.  Bone thinning–osteoporosis now effects about one in three women in the U.S. Taking part in a 45 minute aerobics class three times a week, will help boost bone density, especially for your spine, heels, and legs. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also reports that heavy resistance training may increase bone mass, as it places strain on the bones.

2. Brain. Staying active cuts your risk of dementia and age related memory loss by increasing the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that makes memories. A Norwegian study found that those who engage in regular activity of any intensity are less likely to develop symptoms of depression.

3. Breasts. Brisk walking for even twenty minutes a day can help reduce estrogen levels in the body, which may lower your breast cancer risk by 18 percent!

4. Appetite. Intense exercise can reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite, while raising levels of the peptide YY, which lowers appetite. A study in the journal Appetite also found that a brisk 20 minute walk decreased chocolate cravings by 12 percent!

5. Heart. Not only will exercise add about four years to your life, it can also lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number that measures your blood pressure while the heart is beating) by as much as five to 10mmHg (millimetres of mercury). This is as good as some blood pressure medications. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

6. Pancreas. Lifting weights and upping your lean muscle mass could lower your insulin resistance, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. For every 10 per cent increase in muscle mass, the risk of pre-diabetes should drop by 12 per cent.

7. Gut. Three to five weekly workouts of 20-60 minutes of vigorous activity is an effective treatment for IBS, according to a Swedish study. Demanding workouts improve bowel movements, and relieve gas and constipation.

8. Sex drive. Around 20 minutes of cardio exercise gets your body aroused faster and more intensely for a bit of rough and tumble. Not only that, lifting weights can also cause testosterone surges, and women with more testosterone tend to be more aroused and enjoy sex.

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5 Ways to Stay Motivated to Exercise

Here’s some effective tips to help you stay on track and motivated to keep up your exercise goals.

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Staying motivated is essential for your exercise goals, and there are simple changes you can make to keep moving forwards. Stuck for ideas? We’ve got a few to get you started.
1. Find a workout buddy
Exercising with a friend who has similar goals to you can be more fun and motivating for the both of you. Working out together will help push you both in the right direction to reach your shared goals.
2. Create your own workout playlist
Whether it’s on iTunes, Spotify or another music programme, creating the perfect playlist will give you the motivation to get up and get moving while listening to it. Listening to the right upbeat music while working out has also been suggested to increase the length of your workout!
3. New workout gear
You don’t have to spend loads of money, but treating yourself to some new workout kit is an exciting prospect and will spur you on to get them on as soon as possible and to have yourself a confident workout! Plus, you’ll look good doing it.4. Change it up
We all need change and variety to keep ourselves motivated, so whether it’s taking on a new workout class, joining a sports group or a change of scenery when outdoor exercising, do something different and new that you will thank yourself for later.
5. Reward yourself
Find something you’d like to work towards so you can strive to achieve just that, such as fitting into a pair of jeans you’ve bought yourself. Maybe even treating yourself to something new each month to enjoy and reward yourself for your exercise.

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How To Fit Running Into You Busy Schedule

Want to take up running this year, but aren’t sure where you’l find the time? Get help from the experts.

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Life’s unexpected curveballs can easily scupper your training plans. In fact, research shows one-in-five people blame lack of time (and lethargy!) for not exercising at all. We’ve asked a panel of experts how you can stay on top of your goals when life is crying out for you to let them slide.

The Hurdle: Family Commitments

If you’re struggling to squeeze a run into your busy family life, it’s time to think outside of the box.

Train Together

Data from Bupa shows that running moms spend more quality time with their children. And not only that, 65 per cent of running moms find it easier to juggle everyday tasks compared to 43 per cent of non-active moms. ‘Use family as a positive by getting your partner or children involved, and encouraging them to train together,’ suggests Tom Coates, personal trainer.

Book in Runs

Research in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology shows people who diarise their training sessions are more likely to stick to their programme. ‘Those of us who record runs tend to exercise more frequently than those who don’t, so are far more likely to see results.

Run to School

Ditch the car and encourage your children to get fit by scooting or cycling to school. ‘That way you can run alongside them at a leisurely pace (or faster if you’re running late) and then run back home, too,’ adds Alison Beadle, pre- and post-natal fitness author.

Buddy Up

A recent poll by the British Heart Foundation confirms that women would rather run as part of a group, with almost half confirming that group running is preferable to jogging alone. ‘Consider joining a mummy running club, in which people run with buggies,’ suggests Beadle.

The Hurdle: A Demanding Job

Don’t let your job define your fitness levels. With these nifty notions, you’ll clock that training session, whatever the agenda.

Club Together

Two-thirds of British workers take less than 20 minutes for lunch. Not only is this not good for your health, but it’s also bad for your productivity. ‘Running in your lunch hour provides a change of scenery from the office that can help you de-stress and re-focus,’ points out Brook Fenton, Proskins running expert.

Run To Work

Try running to and from work. Park the car a few miles away from work or get off the train a stop earlier and run into the office. Not only will you save money and keep fit, but research from the University of East Anglia shows that active commuters are better able to concentrate than workers who travel by car.

Train Fast

Even if you’re training for an endurance race, speed sessions are worthwhile workouts, too. ‘With interval training, it’s easy to fit in a shorter run if need be,’ says Coates. Try squeezing in a run by doing three lots of one-, two- and three-minute efforts, with 30 seconds’ recovery between intervals.

Stick Up Reminders

If you’re still struggling to swap work for miles, try hanging a medal from your computer says Hodgkin. ‘Even keeping a spare pair of trainers in the back of your car, so that you see them every time you open the boot, can be quite persuasive.’

The Hurdle: A Busy Social Life

One of the benefits of running is that it’s a solo sport but swapping days out for miles on the road can be a bit lonely.

Get ’Appy

Running doesn’t have to be a lonely activity. Social training apps such as Sprinter, Garmin Connect or Strava are a fantastic way to connect with other runners. ‘With 100,000 new members signing up to Strava each week, athletes of all abilities are joining the community so that they can track and compare their activities to help motivate them,’ explains Gareth Nettleton, director of international marketing at Strava.

Run with Friends

Far from detaching you from your social group, running could be a great way to bring you together. ‘Research shows that training with a friend leads to greater adherence to your workout schedule,’ explains Hodgkin.

Rise Early

If you’re finding it difficult to balance weekend runs with social events, get into the habit of running before the day starts. ‘Waking up earlier for a run is tough at first but, by training in the morning, you’re giving yourself the rest of the day for other commitments – not to mention starting the day in a positive way,’ says Coates.

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How To Become a Better Runner

Think you’ve got the hang of running? Run further and faster with these expert tips.

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Here’s something you already know: running is a simple sport. In the early stages, there’s little more to it than putting on a pair of trainers and running for as long as your legs will carry you. But at some point you’ll want to get faster, run farther and feel fitter. Regular runners ask our panel of running coaches and performance experts to spill the beans on how to go up a gear.

What sort of exercise should I do between training programs?

‘If you’ve just completed a focal race and have a few weeks before your next training program starts, you’ve got a great opportunity to plug some of the gaps in your fitness. If you’re lacking speed, do shorter, faster sessions because these will make a big difference to your pace. If a lack of strength is your problem, hit the hills and work on conditioning your body for tougher terrain. If you lose posture and form towards the end of a run work on core strength in the gym and do running drills to improve your technique.

How do I forefoot run? I’ve read that elite runners do it and it’s better for avoiding injury.

Dr Mick Wilkinson, sport, exercise and rehabilitation scientist, says:

‘You don’t. Elite runners tend to forefoot strike because they’re running so fast and adopt the landing pattern to deal with the forces resulting from their speed. Barefoot runners also tend to adopt a forefoot or midfoot strike when running on a hard surface, as it allows a gentle absorption of their body weight and is therefore more comfortable than running with a heel-strike pattern. However, get a barefoot runner to train at a moderate pace on a softer surface and they often heel strike. As you run your brain will select the most appropriate footfall for the surface and speed you’re training on.’

I want to improve my running ability. How far should I run each week?

Mike Trees, elite running coach and Newton Running advisor, says:

‘I would recommend 30-50 miles per week for non-elite runners but it depends on your age and your sports background. What we need to do in our teens is different from what we need to do in our 40s or 50s. If you’re an ex-swimmer who has trained in the pool at a high level for over 10 years, I wouldn’t recommend you do much long, slow running because your aerobic system will already be highly developed. I would, however, advocate hill training and running drills to build up the necessary running muscles.

Should I lift weights to improve my running?

Dr Mick Wilkinson, sport, exercise and rehabilitation scientist, says:

‘This largely depends on your current running skill and experience. If you’re a beginner or fair-weather runner, first learn how to control your own body weight when doing running-specific drills (such as high-knees) before adding any additional load.

‘Many experienced runners don’t have the skill or single-leg strength to control the force of steady running. My advice is to work on plyometric body weight work by perfecting basic alternate-leg skipping with a rhythm of around 180 skips per minute. When you can do this, progress to single-leg jumps and don’t even consider adding additional load with weights. Very few traditional weight-lifting exercises have any relevance to running and offer minimal benefits.’

When and what should I eat before racing?

Mike Trees, elite running coach, says:

‘I’ve noticed that older athletes need longer to digest food before racing or hard interval running. So, I suggest that veteran runners leave at least four hours between eating and running. Comparatively, some teenagers can eat up to two hours before racing. The trick is to experiment in training and less important races to find your optimum time.

‘I always suggest eating simple sugars on race day to ensure that your bowels are not full of fat and fiber. For me, a bowl of cornflakes eaten six hours before I run, or toast and jam, is sufficient. Whatever food you choose, all you usually need to eat on race day is 600 calories because your body will struggle to digest more. But it’s important to eat the right things the day before a race. Ensure you consume carbohydrate foods and any other important nutrition the day before.

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 Boost Your Willpower!

Seem difficult to achieve your fitness goals? Train your brain to resist temptation at every turn.

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Imagine resisting those afternoon snacks, that second mini-cupcake or that sugary morning latte with ease – without feeling you’re missing out or being deprived. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Well, it is possible. Don’t believe it?  Well, that’s where top psychologist Walter Mischel comes in.

All about marshmallows

At a Stanford University nursery back in the ’60s, Mischel began a series of tests, which looked at the ability of pre-school children to delay instant gratification in return for a bigger reward. In other words, forgo a treat now, for two treats later. 

The tests themselves were centered on actual treats, from cookies to cakes, earning the study the nickname ‘The Marshmallow Test’. The children were left in a room on their own and given two choices: ring the bell, the supervisor will return and you can eat one marshmallow; or wait until the supervisor comes back of their own accord (around 20 minutes later) and you can have two marshmallows. 

The choice was entirely theirs: immediate satisfaction with one yummy treat? Or exercising that willpower for a little longer to get double the reward? Which would you choose?

Surprising results

While the children all had different reactions to the test – some diving in for the first marshmallow straight away and some waiting patiently for the two marshmallows – what was really fascinating was that their reactions to this simple test actually determined their success in later life. Yup, really!

The children who had been able to resist the temptation of those marshmallows were, as teenagers, able to show better self-control in frustrating situations and ‘yield less to temptation’, as well as being less easily distracted, more intelligent, confident and self-reliant. A pretty impressive skill set, we’re sure you agree. And these positive traits continued into adulthood, where they reached higher levels of education, achieved more of their goals and had a lower body mass index, among other desirable qualities. So being able to resist temptation and having strong willpower was shown to have a whole host of positives in the long run.

What is willpower?

Some people are better than others at resisting temptation. But the idea that willpower is an innate quality is simply not true, according to Mischel. He states that willpower is often ‘mischaracterised as something other than a skill’. Willpower is often thought of as an elusive quality. But this research shows that willpower is, in fact, a skill, which you can develop and then choose to use. 

Mischel reiterates that ‘no matter how good we are at self-control “naturally” we can improve our self-control skills’. Wonder how your running buddy always makes it out for that 6am run, while you lounge in bed? Or how your bestie always manages to forgo dessert? Well, it’s not magic – you can do it, too!

Putting it into action

But willpower isn’t just about being really determined to do something; it’s about using strategies to ensure you avoid temptation and get the long-term reward you’re really after. Mischel uses the concept of hot and cold systems to show our reactions to high-temptation situations. The hot system – when you love it and cave in – is geared towards the present moment and, when it takes over, can cause you to forget those long term goals. For example, eating a large slice of cake for elevenses rather than resisting, which will help you achieve your goal of losing half a stone. To remedy this we need to reverse these processes. In Mischel’s words, we need to start ‘cooling the present and heating the future’.

The real world

So, what does all this mean for you? Well, Walter Mischel’s experiments reveal a great deal about what willpower is and how it can be fine-tuned to help you reach those elusive goals – whether that’s losing half a stone, running a marathon or staying away from the cookie jar. Ready to get started?
Here are some of his top techniques to help you boost your willpower – for good!

The technique: Push the temptation away

One of the key ways you can ‘cool’ the temptation is to physically and mentally push it away from you. And bring your long-term goals closer.

Use it: Work buddies offering around the choccy? First up, make sure that choc box is as far away from your desk as possible. Then Google some pictures of your upcoming holiday destination or do a bit of bikini shopping online to keep your mind focused on that longer-term goal.  

The technique: If, then

According to Mischel, one of the best techniques for honing that willpower is to employ the ‘if, then’ strategy. First you identify your ‘if’ trigger point – feeling too tired to exercise, feeling hungry mid-afternoon, canapés being handed around at an event – then you come up with a ‘then’ distraction strategy that will get you out of bed to exercise, away from the chocolate snacks or on the other side of the room from the canapé tray. 

Use it: Want to steer clear of tempting party treats or make sure you stick to that exercise routine? Try this: If the canapé tray comes around, then I’ll go and get a glass of water. Or if I feel too tired to exercise, then I’ll walk home instead of getting the bus instead. Simple, huh?

The technique: Think visually

Another weapon in your willpower arsenal is the ability to visualise the negative consequences of giving into temptation. The example Mischel gives is of a smoker wanting a cigarette – he recommends that you ‘visualise your lungs with cancer on an X-ray the doctor is showing you as he gives you the bad news’. It may seem a bit extreme, but imagining the future in the present moment can be a powerful tool for resisting temptation.

Use it: Lost a lot of weight? Keep a pic of the old you on your desk or near the fridge to remind you of the consequences of sacking off the healthy diet or exercise regime. Or find a picture of someone with a figure you crave and put it in the kitchen to stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks!

The technique: Be the third person

Another great technique suggested by Mischel is to imagine yourself as a fly on the wall in the situation. It’s a good way to remove yourself from the ‘hot’ impulses and give yourself the space to think calmly and rationally. 

Use it: Done a gruelling workout, but now gagging for a sweet treat? Take five minutes to sit down, imagine yourself as a fly on the wall and think rationally about the situation.

The technique: Enjoy the rewards

One of the best bits about exercising your willpower is that when you start to succeed, the benefits – a smaller waistline or a new PB – provide such a great reward that it makes your new behaviours easier to maintain. But Mischel emphasises the fact that, as with learning any new skill, ‘practice,’ is key.

Use it: Record each triumph! Every achievement on the road to your long-term goal deserves a little celebration, so keep a journal dedicated to recording your results – whether that’s the distance you’ve run, the inches you’ve lost or the number of pull-ups you can now do.

Motivational magic

It’s worth remembering that the key to willpower is actually wanting to achieve your goals. If you don’t want to do something or you’re not that bothered, it will be hard to conjure up any sort of willpower. As Mischel says, ‘you have to want to change, with the emphasis on want to’. So, before you take on a big goal, ensure that it’s something you really want.

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What’s Your Exercise Excuse?

Step up your fitness routine and get your body back in gear with these stay on track solutions.

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While we may take out expensive gym memberships and splash the cash on new workout gear in a bid to feel healthier and slimmer, sticking to an exercise regime for the long haul is another thing altogether. Here’s the most common excuses with simple solutions to stay on track:

Excuse 1: I don’t have time to exercise

Workouts don’t necessarily have to be lengthy or laborious if you’re looking to lose weight or get healthier. A short, sharp sweat sesh will see you bid farewell to hundreds of calories while targeting a whole range of different muscle groups. ‘Three to four times per week is ideal – this still leaves another three to four days a week when you don’t have to exercise. High-intensity interval training sessions could be as short as 10 minutes, and the best way to ensure that it gets done is to prioritise and diarise. And if you think you don’t have time, try keeping a log of how you spend your time and re-evaluate what’s important,’ says Joanne.

Excuse 2: I live too far away from the gym

Brrrr! When it’s freezing cold and chucking it down outside you’d probably prefer a date with your duvet over dragging yourself all the way to the gym – especially if it involves an epic commute. We get it. Even those of us with the loftiest intentions can falter when inconvenience thwarts our fitness plans. ‘There’s no point in joining a flash new gym if it’s a 15-minute drive away, which you might not fancy after a long day at work. Much better to join the more basic gym at the end of your road. Then you’ve only got to find time for the workout, not the workout and a journey,’ says Joanne. Gym still not near enough? Try out a range of fitness DVDs and apps that fit easily into your lifestyle.

Excuse 3: I’ve lost my fitness mojo

Having a dip in motivation every so often is normal and if that means you miss a few sessions, so be it – but don’t let that derail your efforts to get back on track. ‘If you do skip a few workouts, remember that the longer you leave it the harder it’s going to feel when you go back. And consider how far you’ve already come – do you really want to waste the effort you’ve already put in? Capitalize on the progress you’ve made so far and stick with it,’ advises Joanne.

Excuse 4: I find exercise boring

Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult and unpleasant. Ease yourself into it and up the ante when you’re ready. ‘Find something you enjoy. This is an obvious one, but so many people treat exercise as a form of punishment, as something to be endured not enjoyed. But there are dozens of different forms of exercise which you might find more fun, from dancing to rock climbing,’ says Joanne. And, if you get bored of your routine, switch things up a notch by trying new classes, working out different body parts and varying the intensity of your workout.

Excuse 5: I’m not seeing results

Let’s be realistic; you won’t see results overnight, but the more dedicated you become, the faster you’ll see improvements in your overall fitness and your figure. ‘Be patient, give it some time, and remember that exercise has long-term, ongoing health benefits beyond body shape,’ says Joanne. Try keeping a workout journal so you can chart your progress, writing down small achievements after every session, whether it’s going for two minutes longer on the treadmill or reaching a press-up PB.

Achieve your best-ever results

Try Joanne’s shortcuts to help you stay on track

1

If you treat exercise as an afterthought, and put it at the bottom of your list after checking Facebook and work drinks, you’ll run out of time every day.  But, if you schedule a workout into your day and plan your activities around it, it will get done.

2

People give up because they are looking for a quick fix, and when they don’t get one, they become disillusioned. You’re not going to undo years of unhealthiness or change your shape in a month. But be patient and you will see results.

3

If you have a specific goal, and you’re going to invest a lot of time and effort in exercising, make sure that your time and effort is well spent. Consider carefully exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Be honest with yourself and then, if necessary, get some good advice on what sort of training would be most effective. For example, if you want to get rid of bingo wings, try resistance training rather than going running every day. And it you want a flat tum remember it’s fat-burning workouts, not crunches, that will make a difference.

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Perk Up Your Indoor Workouts

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If heading outdoors to work out doesn’t appeal to you, then make sure you keep your gym sessions fun and challenging to bust that boredom.

Plan a gym session with a friend – get competitive and act as spotter or buddy for each other as you do your resistance session. Then relax in the sauna or hot tub afterwards.

Move into uncharted territory and try some new equipment, such as kettle bells. Ask one of the gym staff to advise you.

Spice up your treadmill, bike or rowing machine routine with some interval sessions – after a good warm-up, work very hard for one minute, then easy for one minute, and repeat.

Ask for some guidance – book a health assessment or a couple of top-up sessions with a personal trainer. Review your program after a couple of months and set yourself some new goals.

Relight your competitive fire. Enter a gym challenge – most gyms run competitions for members. Or try an intense class, such as circuits, kickboxing or Spinning.

Warm up for longer than you usually do, taking around 10–15 minutes. This will ensure your muscles are thoroughly warm given the colder weather and will get you more in the mood for working out.

Set easy-to-achieve workout targets, write them in your diary and monitor your progress. Seeing your improvements written down will motivate you to stick to your workout regime.

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Waist Exercises For Women

Slim and tone your sides with these waist sculpting moves.

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V SITS

REPS: 12
BENEFITS: These help elongate your torso and flatten your tummy. Control your muscles throughout for best results.
Lie on your back on the floor with arms and legs stretched out so your body’s in a line. In one movement, lift your torso and legs up as if you’re trying to touch your toes. Keep your legs straight throughout. Pause, then lower back slowly to the starting position.

BICYCLE CRUNCHES

REPS: 15
BENEFITS: This move will tighten up the full length of your core, while targeting the muscles at the sides of your torso (the love handles!).
Lie on the floor with your arms bent and fingers touching the sides of your head. Lift your shoulders using your abdominal muscles and twist your body so your left elbow meets your right knee. Switch sides, bringing your right elbow towards your left knee.

PLANK TOUCHES 

REPS: 20 (10 on each side)
BENEFITS: Helps stabilize your spine and protects your lower back while working your entire core.
Start in a press-up position, forming a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Bring your right knee towards your right elbow. Pause, then straighten the right knee so you’re back in the start position. Repeat, bringing your left knee to your left arm, and continue alternating.

GYM BALL CRUNCHES WITH BALL REPS:
BENEFITS: Targets your upper abdominals and obliques (at the15 sides of your abdominals).
Sit on a gym ball and hold a medicine ball straight above your head with both hands. Walk your feet out and roll the ball beneath you until your torso is supported on the ball at a slight incline. Keeping your arms by your ears, contract your abdominals and curl your head, neck and shoulder blades up. Pause, then slowly lower to the starting position.

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The Ultimate Good Squat Guide

What exactly is a good squat?

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WHY SQUAT?
It’s a compound exercise (uses two or more different joints) that uses multiple, large muscle groups.
Great for… targeting glutes, quads, quadriceps and hamstrings!
Strengthens bones, ligaments and tendons.
And you’ll burn calories.
WHAT MAKES A BAD SQUAT?
An arched lower back or rounded upper back.
Bending from the knee rather than the hips.
Weight forward, not back.
Heels raised off of the floor.
Gaze is down and closed chest.
IMPROVE YOUR SQUAT BY:
Feet hip width apart – facing forward.
Flex at the hip first (not knees) by sticking your bottom back and down.
Keep looking forwards while pinching your shoulder blades together.
Keep your knees over your toes.
Drive back through heels.
Keep chest lifted.
Using a wall for guidance sit in an imaginary chair (90 degrees – knee, shin and ankle alignment).
ONCE YOU’VE MASTERED IT, MAKE IT MORE DYNAMIC:
Try jumping vertically – being sure to maintain your squat stance when you land.
Travel side to side – jump squat travel right, jumps squat travel left.
Use a resistance band and ‘crab walk’ sideways (don’t allow the knees to roll in).
Accelerate forward with a long jump (think like an Olympic Long Jumper).
Add weights, squat to shoulder press.
Squat to bicep curls.
4 min  Squat workout.  20 seconds of work (push hard). 10 seconds of rest x8 (20.10 x 8)
Jump squats 20 x secs, REST x 10 sec
Side to side jump squats 20 x sec,  REST 10 x sec
Forward long jump squats 20 x secs, REST 10 x sec
Low squat pulse (hips and knees in line and tiny up and down pulse)
Repeat whole sequence again.

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Avoid Mistakes at the Gym

Take these expert tips to avoid mistakes and get the best out of your workout.

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Dodge a fitness faux-pas and maximize your workout with these handy expert tips

Weights – should we go for low weight higher reps or vice versa – how many reps would you need to be doing if using lower weights?“                                                                                                                 If you are looking to ’Tone and Shape’ your muscles then you want to go for low weights, high reps. Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps per exercise. That way you tire the muscles out so that encourages them to change shape but not build muscle.”

“If you are looking to build muscle (look bigger) then you want to use heavier weights and lower reps, Aiming for 2 to 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps per exercise.”

“It is worth noting that its quite hard for women to ‘bulk up’ as we don’t have a lot of natural Testosterone in our bodies, and it this hormone that helps to bulk muscles as well as a planned high protein diet.”

What about speed? Do fast reps count or should people be slowing down?

“Don’t be tempted to go too fast, or the muscles don’t have time to react to the exercise in the correct way. Every time you use your muscles your brain sends the signal to allow the movement, if this happens before your brain has a chance to acknowledge the weight that is being lifted, pushed or pulled, it follows that it doesn’t have time to acknowledge that it needs to  tell the muscle to be stronger to cope with that weight.”

“By the end of your last set of exercises the last 3 to 4 reps should be hard work, if you reach that point you then know that you have exhausted the muscles and that then encourages all the correct body changes to develop the muscles.”

Is there a point at which you should just stop – does your body stop building/burning?

“Yes! Assuming you are following a programme that includes aerobic ( CV – Cardiovascular) and Resistance (Weights) then by the end of that programme you should be hot, sweaty and tired. At this point if you carry on you will be putting yourself at risk of injury.”

Are there people wasting their time doing two hours cardio when they could be doing 45 minutes resistance?

“Yes. As above, again assuming you are following an inclusive programme, there is no need to be in the gym for hours and hours. You will work a lot more efficiently if you follow a programme and ensure you are giving everything your full effort and attention, 45 minutes to an hour is plenty, ideally at least 3 times a week. Think of your effort levels on a scale of 1 – 1. 1 you are not doing anything to 10 you simply couldn’t work any harder. Each workout you want to finish between an 8 to 9.”

Are there mistakes people make, focusing on fat burn rather than muscle build?

“This all depends on what you want to achieve with your workouts. I would always recommend that you have a plan on what you are trying to achieve and set yourself some goals, however, small, so that you know what you are working for and towards. This will also help you to focus on what exercises you need to do during your workouts and which equipment or classes to use.”

What about protein shakes – are people over using them? How much do you have to do to really need them?

“Protein shakes are expensive, can be full of unnecessary added sugars and for the majority of us don’t really enhance our workouts. Unless you are specifically strength training then you can get all the protein you need to help repair and build muscles from a balanced diet and a good night’s sleep.”

Any other mistakes?

“Lot of people think that they don’t need to warm up or cool down and stretch after a workout, but you do. A warm up, which need to be no more than 3-6 minutes, allows your brain and body to prepare for the workout to come. By warming your body up slowly your brain releases extra hormones into your muscles and joints to help prevent injury.”

“A cool down and stretch at the end of your workout enables your body temperature and heart rate to return to normal as well as reducing the rate at which blood is pumped round your body steadily as well as encouraging any lactic acid (It’s lactic acid that gives that ‘burning’ feeling in your muscles) that has developed to be flushed out of the system. If you simply just stop, you risk the blood that is moving very fast round your body to go drain away from your heart towards your legs and this can make you feel unwell to say the least and your muscles to feel sore the next day.

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Are You Pushing Yourself Hard Enough?

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If you’ve been hitting the gym, but don’t feel you’re seeing real results, the answer may be simple. The workouts you’re doing may not be very effective, or you may not be working hard enough! But don’t worry, if you think you’re guilty of taking your foot off the gas, we’ve got four sure-fire ways to give your workouts the boost they’ve been waiting for!

Up the intensity While a 30-minute steady-state run has long been the fall back of many a fitness fan, research is now stacking up to show that these sorts of workouts are considerably less effective than those of a higherintensity and shorter length.

Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a bike with about a minute’s rest between, three times a week, is as effective at building muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously, according to research conducted by scientists at McMaster University in Canada. So ditching your slow and steady sessions on the treadmill, cross trainer or pavement for a shorter workout of sprints and rests should help you see results in no time.

Get a personal trainer
Sometimes there’s nothing like a scary ex-marine shouting at you from across the park to get your backside in gear. We’re all guilty of giving ourselves an easy ride now and again, so getting a personal trainer could be your route to the body you’ve always wanted.

Sometimes we simply underestimate our own physical ability and it can take an outside with an objective viewpoint to make us see what we’re capable of. ‘A personal trainer will mix up your routine with a variety of exercises and challenge your body in new ways, which should kick-start your metabolism. Having someone else pushing you to achieve will also increase the intensity of your workout, helping you to overcome the plateau,’ says London-based personal trainer Mollie Millington. ‘Be sure to let your trainer know what your goals are so they can tailor the workout accordingly.’
If you’re going to get a trainer, find someone who you can afford to train with at least once a week so you can really get the most from them.
Get a heart rate monitor
Getting feedback about how hard you’ve pushed yourself in a session is a great way to monitor your progress and identify where you’re doing well and where you might be slacking. Heart rate monitors, usually comprising of a belt and a watch, are a great way of doing this.
MYZONE  monitors are the next generation of this and can display your effort levels live in real time, when used in a class, or store your effort levels (in the memory of the belt) when you’re working out independently. This information can then be wirelessly uploaded and accessed by an online user account, letting you check out how you did post-workout.
H2 Bike Run  offer spin classes using a heart rate monitor, which allows you (and the rest of the class) to see your effort levels projected onto a wall at the front throughout the class in the form of a coloured square with a percentage in it.
MYZONE effort points are awarded for each minute that you spend within each heart rate zone so, under 50 per cent of your maximum heart rate equals 0.5 points, 50-60 per cent of your maximum heart rate equals 1 point, 60-70 per cent of your maximum heart rate equals 1.5 points 80-100 per cent equals 2 points and so on.
As your effort increases, your square changes color from blue to green to yellow and finally red, so everyone in the class (and your instructor!) can see if you’re really putting the work in! You wouldn’t want to be lagging behind with your square lit up in blue if the rest of the class are powering ahead with their squares on red!
Lift heavier weights
There’s a common misconception that if women use heavy weightsthey will end up looking bulky, but doing fewer reps with a heavier weight could actually be the key to seeing real results from your workouts, particularly for weight loss.
‘Lifting heavy weights will not make you huge! You simply don’t have the testosterone levels in your body to build big muscles!’ says Rory James Manning, personal trainer.  Rory says this is one of things he has most difficulty getting female clients to understand.
‘Lifting light weights will not get you nearly as toned as lifting heavy weights and there is no such thing as toned or un-toned muscle, muscle is muscle.  It can be big or small, but not “toned”. The best way to appear lean or “toned” is to have as much muscle as possible, while having the lowest body-fat percentage possible,’ says Rory.If you’re doing lots of reps with light weights, it’s time to change up your game plan. ‘Are you guilty of going too light? If you are completing 15 reps or more you almost certainly are, as this won’t be heavy enough to split the muscle fibers! And you won’t see the same kind of fat loss you would if you increased your weight!’ says Rory.And having more muscle will burn more fat. ‘A pound of muscle burns about 20 calories a day while a pound of fat burns less than five calories. Therefore the more muscle you build, the more fat you burn!’ says Rory.

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10 Ways to Beat Your Gym Plateau

Not getting the results you want? Don’t lose motivation–tweak your workout!

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Let’s bust through that plateau!

1) Mix it up If you suspect that your body has become accustomed to your regular exercises, try variations. Swap lunges for jumping lunges, press-ups for explosive press-ups and planks for one-legged planks.
2) Same muscle, different move Make sure your muscles don’t get too comfy by working them with different exercises. If you’re used to pumping your pecs with a press-up, try switching to a bench press.
3) Get into intervals
If your cardiovascular workouts consist of interval training, you’re onto something good. But there’s no point in keeping the intervals the same forever. Make sure that you’re constantly upping the ante by shortening the periods of rest and increasing the intensity when it comes to sprints.
4) Time for change If you’re a lunchtime gym bunny, set your alarm for early morning workouts, and vice versa. Disrupting your body clock will give your muscles a wake-up call to get working again.
5) Stick it in reverse Too busy to devise a whole new plan? Just do everything that you do already… but in reverse order. It’ll make a nice change for both your body and your motivation.
6) Give it a rest
If you don’t give your muscles time to recover, they’ll reach a catabolic state, in which the tissue breaks down. This slows your metabolism and stops you losing weight and building muscle.
7) Drink up Glugging plenty of water is important. It’s good for the metabolism and helps transport oxygen around the body, assisting muscle recovery. Gym bunnies should drink an extra litre per workout.
8) Count on it
To rouse your muscles, perform as many reps as you can in a certain amount of time. For instance, instead of a set of 12 biceps curls, try as many biceps curls as possible in 30 seconds.
9) Ommm…
Stretching is essential – but yoga is one better. It boosts circulation, draws oxygen to the muscles, removes lactic acid and melts away the stress that causes muscle depletion and fat storage.
10)Eat up If you’re wondering why, despite being strict with your diet, you’re not shifting those extra pounds, it might be because you’re not eating enough. Your body is very clever, and when you’re not eating enough – particularly if you exercise – it will slow the metabolism right down. So eat a rich and varied diet every day.

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Best Summer Fitness Tips

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Stay in shape this summer and retain your fitness A- game with these expert tips.

1.  TEAM WORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK: With a rise in popularity of team sports such as Netball and Women’s Football, we are seeing an increased emphasis on the importance of teamwork. Group classes are always in demand, with members telling us that the supportive environment of sessions like fast-paced body weight training class where participants high-five and shout encouragement to each other, have a positive effect on how they feel about their workout.

There are many benefits of working out in a group, as explained by Hugh Hanley, National Personal Training Manager:

– Training with a friend or in a group will help push your training even further and will also help keep your training interesting and intense

– You will skip fewer workouts as you will have to deal with the guilt of letting your training buddy down and potentially spoiling their workout

– Once at the gym with your workout partner they will help push you further and to the best of your ability.

– When you and your gym buddy have got in a groove you can start to try new exercises and make the workouts more interesting

– If you need a spotter they are right there with you

– Time flies when you’re having fun, so keeping the workouts sociable yet intense passes the time and you may even start to work out longer

2.  TRAIN HARD INSIDE TO PLAY HARD OUTSIDE

When the sun is shining during the summer months there’s no better time to sign up for an outdoor challenge or to pick up your favorite outdoor activities. Whether you’re training for a half marathon or feeling inspired by the likes of Wimbledon and the Tour De France, Virgin Active has the kit  and innovative classes you need to get fighting fit and ready to compete, whatever the event.

– Cycling: When the commute gets hot and sticky in the summer and public transport is your worst nightmare, cycling is great alternative to help you get from A to B.
– Swimming: With so many outdoor swimming ponds opening up in the UK, and the inevitable dip in the sea while at the beach, it’s important to be a confident swimmer. Whether it’s recreational or competitive swimming you’re into, there are multiple benefits to be gained from a few laps in the pool. Swimming is low impact exercise (so perfect for coming back after injury or if you have stiff joints), and it gives a full-body workout, working almost every muscle in the body without putting it under stress. It’s also a great cardiovascular workout that helps build strength in the legs, arms and torso.
For people who are just discovering the benefits of swimming, Virgin Active recommends Aqua Aerobic classes, like Aqua Zumba, that will build water confidence whilst giving a full body workout. The class uses cardio fitness using low impact moves against the resistance and inertia of the water all to great latin music! By attending classes regularly, participants can expect to gain lean muscle tissue and tone as a result of working-out against the resistance of the water and burn up to 400 calories in a 45 minute class.
– Tennis: If you’re new to the court or you’ve been playing tennis for years, it is important to vary your gym workout to get the most out of your tennis game. Strength training and cardiovascular exercise will both help to give you an edge over an opponent. Strong legs are key to being king or queen of the court, with so much space to cover and with so many changes of direction.
– Rowing: Whether you want to take advantage of the UK’s stunning waterways or put your body to the test on the machines in the gym, using a rower provides a full body workout using all the muscles in the back, glutes (butt) and legs. Rowing will also help build upper body strength while improving cardiovascular endurance.
An example of a rowing workout is 30 seconds at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds recovery rowing – repeat this sequence for 10 minutes to get the heart rate up and work every major muscle group in the body.
Virgin Active clubs have water rowers, which use water as resistance. This natural element increases resistance the harder the cable is pulled. Catering to all levels of fitness and experience, no settings are necessary beyond switching on the monitor and positioning your feet in the foot straps- Running: Training for a 5K, 10K or a Marathon? The benefits to running are endless, it’s a great cardio workout that’s good for the heart and lungs, and also strengthens the bones and tendons. It’s also been found to increase brain power, alleviate stress and boost overall energy levels.

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Make Exercise a Habit

Turn your fitness routine into a habit by staying on track with these easy solutions.

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Need some motivation to recharge your get-up-and-go? Here’s top easy-to-follow advice and smart tips to stick with exercise long enough to see  great results.

Excuse 1: I don’t have time to exercise

Workouts don’t necessarily have to be lengthy or laborious if you’re looking to lose weight or get healthier. A short, sharp sweat sesh will see you bid farewell to hundreds of calories while targeting a whole range of different muscle groups. ‘Three to four times per week is ideal – this still leaves another three to four days a week when you don’t have to exercise.

Excuse 2: I live too far away from the gym

Brrrr! When it’s freezing cold and chucking it down outside you’d probably prefer a date with your duet over dragging yourself all the way to the gym – especially if it involves a long commute. We get it. Even those of us with the best intentions can falter when inconvenience prevails over our fitness plans.

Excuse 3: I’ve lost my fitness mojo

Having motivational dips every so often is normal, and if that means you miss a few sessions, so be it – but don’t let that derail you getting back on track. ‘If you do skip a few workouts, remember that the longer you leave it the harder it’s going to feel when you go back. And consider how far you’ve already come – do you really want to waste the effort you’ve already put in? Capitalize on the progress you’ve made so far and stick with it,’ advises Joanne.

Excuse 4: I find exercise boring

Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult and unpleasant. Ease yourself into it and up the ante when you’re ready. ‘Find something you enjoy. This is an obvious one, but so many people treat exercise as a form of punishment, as something to be endured not enjoyed. But there are dozens of different forms of exercise which you might find more fun, from dancing to rock climbing,’ says Joanne. And if you get bored of your routine, switch things up a notch by trying new classes, working out different body parts and varying the intensity of your workout.

Excuse 5: I’m not seeing results

Let’s be realistic; you won’t see results overnight, but the more dedicated you become, the faster you’ll see improvements in your overall fitness /and/ your figure. ‘Be patient, give it some time, and remember that exercise has long-term, ongoing health benefits beyond body shape,’ says Joanne. Try keeping a workout journal so you can chart your progress, writing down small achievements after every session, whether it’s going for two minutes longer on the treadmill or reaching your PB in press-ups.

1 Make exercise a priority

If you treat exercise as an afterthought, and put it at the bottom of your list after checking Facebook, drinks after work and binge-watching a box set, you’ll run out of time every day.  However, if you schedule a workout into your day and plan your other activities around it, it /will/ get done.

2 Don’t expect miraculous results

One of the reasons people go so hard at first and then give up so quickly is that they are looking for a quick fix, and when they don’t get one, they become disillusioned. In fact, you’re not going to undo months or years of unhealthy living with a month of exercise, nor are you going to dramatically change your body shape in that time. But be patient, give it some time, and you will see results.

3 Make sure you’re doing it right

If you have a specific goal, and you’re going to invest time and effort in exercising, make sure that time and effort is well spent. What is it you want to achieve?  Be honest with yourself and then, if necessary, get some advice on what would be most effective (e.g. if you want to tone up your bingo wings, target that area with resistance training rather than going running).

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Walking and Weight Loss

Walk this way!

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Working out in the gym is ideal for some but what’s the best way to prepare you for a strenuous outdoor walk? Personal trainer Anne-Marie Lategan has six moves to get you walking fit.

Being outdoors is a great way to get fit and burn calories. It is rewarding and can lead to a feeling of wellbeing. It also offers variety and makes you less likely to look at your watch while you’re doing it. With over 13 500 walks across England, you are bound to find a walk that will suit your taste and fitness level.

Plan your walk in advance and ensure that everyone in your walking group is fit enough to do the walk. If you think that you can walk 30 miles a day, then go for a 20- mile walk. Adding a backpack with food and water, the weather and the terrain will make it much harder and burn a lot more calories, draining your energy.

This is one reason why it’s important to be prepared and have the strength and stamina needed to keep going, especially when tough weather conditions strike. By strengthening your body, you will also reduce your risk of injury and help prevent stiffness afterwards. Walking not only uses your leg muscles but also your upper body, back, stomach and core. The exercises here will strengthen your whole body ensuring an enjoyable walk. Depending on the amount of walking you plan to do, try to complete these exercises at least four times per week for eight weeks, leading to your walk.

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Best Running Tips For Women

Ace your next race with these top tips

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Going for a run is probably one of the most popular ways to get your workout on, whether it’s hitting the roads or jumping on a treadmill when the weather’s gross outside. If you sometimes find running a little tedious, why not challenge yourself to go faster or further?
Here are our top tips to smash your run.

To the gym

Weight training could make you a better runner. A Norwegian study found that resistance training three times a week for eight weeks significantly improved running efficiency and endurance in well-trained, long-distance runners.

Uphill battle

Want to conquer the hills? To race uphill, run with a short stride while pushing off the balls of your feet and pumping your arms. Then relax your arms and use a longer stride to go downhill.

Ready, set, splash!

Getting wet could make you a better runner. Swimming increases your upper body strength, making your runs more efficient, while aqua jogging mimics your usual movement sans impact – reducing the risk of injury.

Bright idea

‘Watch your stance when running,’ tips Fitness First trainer Andy Hall. ‘Leaping forward and striding too far will drain your energy fast. Instead, make sure you stand tall and lean slightly forward, so when you feel like you’re going to fall, you step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride.’

Take five

Listen to your body! If you’re feeling under the weather or if your body is sore and ready for a rest, take a recovery day. Only you know if those aches and pains are from a good run or the sign you need to rest.

Sand storm

Here’s a good excuse to book a beach getaway – running on sand can improve your speed and muscle tone. A study from St Luke’s University Clinic in Belgium found that pounding the sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on pavements as your body has to work harder to deal with the soft, unstable surface. That adds up to more defined muscles and a swifter run when you get back to solid ground. Neat!

Drink up

Hydration is key for runners, but plain old water is best if you’re only doing short runs. Upgrade to a sports drink if you’re running for longer than an hour to help shuttle glucose to your muscles and combat fatigue.

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Double Your Fat Burn

Boost your results!

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Could you hit the gym twice a day? The truth is, you probably could. People do two-a-days all the time. Busy commuters cycle to and from work. Body builders split their daily weightlifting routine into two smaller workouts. Active mommies walk the dog in the morning and then head to bootcamp with friends. Your body is capable of doing more than one sweat session if you really want it to. But the question is – is it worth it?

For some exercisers, two-a-days are a no-brainer; numerous studies show that, when planned correctly, doing two workouts in one day is a very effective training method for those wanting to build muscle, race ultra-distances or compete in multi-discipline events. But the jury is out on whether working out once or twice a day is most beneficial for weight loss. In fact, when it comes to losing weight, a plethora of scientific literature confirms our bodies respond better to intensity of exercise than duration. The take-home message? Weight-loss fans should split one long workout into two parts and then perform at least one part at near maximum effort (think: 75-85 per cent of heart rate max) to reap results.Staying on target

But what if working out twice in one day did mean exercising more? Turns out doubling up on the amount of daily exercise you do is a great way to hit weight-loss activity targets. The current guidelines for activity among the general community state that adults should clock 30 minutes of exercise – whether gym-going, running or gardening – five days per week. Sounds doable, right? Well, for long-term weight loss, you need to up the ante. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), fat-loss fans should aim to do 250-300 minutes of moderately intense exercise (in other words, challenging exercise) each week. That’s a whopping four to five hours of tough exercise each week – and a stroll with the dog doesn’t count!

Of course, you could aim to perform four to five gruelling sessions, but research shows that motivation drops after the 30-minute mark. So long workouts aren’t the best strategy for long-term results. ‘Exercise needs to suit the individual, otherwise you won’t stick to it,’ agrees Hayley. ‘Finding time to train isn’t easy but you must /make/ time for exercise. Get up an hour early and do a 30-minute cardio session. Then do another 30 minutes of strength work in the evening.’ Put like that, it certainly sounds more achievable, right?

Potential pitfalls

It’s clear that exercising twice a day does boast weight-loss benefits, but it’s not without its problems. Crucially, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re physically capable of. ‘It takes a certain level of fitness to start this style of training,’ warns Hayley. ‘You need to get the go-ahead from your doctor beforehand, and then start slowly. For some people, a brisk 30-minute walk is tough enough.’ Don’t be misled by the super-fit looking folk who seem to live in the gym, either.  Chances are they’re not fit because they train often; they train often because they’re fit enough to do so. Every exerciser has to start somewhere, and the best place to begin is with the basics before progressing on to two-a-days.

It’s also important to consider why you want to exercise twice a day – is it a logical way to reach your weight-loss goal or are you simply addicted to working out? According to research from the University of Southern California, exercise addiction affects three per cent of us, and it increases the risk of injury or illness. Clocking up extra workout hours doesn’t signal a problem, but if it’s accompanied by withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or irritability, you should consider cutting back rather than doing more. ‘Rest between double-workout days is crucial,’ adds Hayley, ‘Exercise twice a day every day and you’ll fatigue pretty quickly, not to mention increase your risk of burn-out.’  The right amount of recovery – not only between exercise days, but also between exercise sessions – is key. ‘You need to leave a minimum of four to six hours between sessions to recover fully,’ warns Jéan, ‘and the dedicated approach to your health needs to apply to all aspects of your weight-loss journey, which includes staying on top of your nutritional needs and getting adequate amounts of sleep.’ So the harder you work out, the longer you’ll need to recover.

Choosing your workouts

Think exercising twice daily is the best approach for you? That’s great news. Unfortunately, any old workout won’t do – working the same muscle group twice, for instance, will only wear you down. Here’s how to make your AM and PM sessions work well together.

1. Do different workouts in the morning and evening. Unless you’re training for a specific sport, doing the same discipline or working the same body part twice in one day will only result in fatigue.

2. Find a balance between high and low intensity. Don’t do two vigorous cardio or two heavy weights sessions in a row. Mix high, moderate and low intensities to keep muscles guessing and stay enthused.

3. Separate your schedule into cardio and strength training. Perform a cardio session in the morning when you have bundles of energy and your strength session in the evening when you’re feeling focused.

4. Choose activities that you enjoy – hiking, cycling, team or club sports. The more you can minimise the psychological stress of exercising, the better it is for your body. When it comes to weight loss, anything that gets your heart pumping works.

5. Following a strength program. Split it into two sessions. Target the large muscle groups in the morning with compound moves like burpees. In the evening, focus on small muscle groups with isolation exercises like bicep curls.

6. Rest, rest, rest. This approach is not about doing as much activity as possible, but about performing at the best of your ability. Rest is key to staying healthy and maintaining exercise quality. Have one to two days off scheduled activity each week.

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Top Workouts for Better Sex

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Want to improve the quality of your sex life—or just have better luck getting in the mood? Start with fitness! Our experts share the moves they recommend most for ramping things up in the bedroom.

Squats

You already know this move as a terrific leg and butt toner, but did you know that it can also get the blood flowing to the places that may energize your libido? “Sometimes your heart might be there, but you don’t feel anything in the ‘southern hemisphere,'” explains Debbie Mandel, MA, a stress and fitness expert and the author ofAddicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. “Many women need a little physical help with arousal to get blood flowing to the genitalia.” She suggests squats. With your feet spread shoulder-width apart, “make sure your heels stay on the floor as you ‘sit’ on an imaginary chair,” she explains. “The lower you squat, the more you recruit your glutes and reap the benefits. Push off from your heels and hold your abdominals in tightly [as you return to standing position].” Do them slowly, aiming for 15 to 30 reps. Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images

Happy Baby Pose

Limberness goes hand in hand with great sex—after all, who wants to deal with aching legs or a stiff lower back while in the heat of the moment? That’s why Marta Montenegro, MF, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, a fitness expert and the creator of the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method, suggests certain stretches to prepare you for agility between the sheets. “One of the most common reasons for lower back pain is tight hamstrings and hip flexors,” she says. “Also, after spending eight hours asleep, there is a natural inflammation of the spinal discs due to the increase of the homeostatic pressure.”

The happy baby pose to the rescue! “It will stretch the spine while loosening up the adductor muscles and the hamstrings, which are heavily compromised in traditional positions such as the missionary,” she says. Lie on your back with your knees bent toward your chest. Grasp the outside of each foot with your hands, allowing the knees to drop down toward the floor. Align your ankles with your knees so that the shins are perpendicular to the floor. Apply downward pressure with your hands to encourage deeper opening. You can allow the tailbone to curl up off the floor slightly to decompress the lower back. Hold the pose for three to five minutes.

Pelvic Tilts

Want a move that will strengthen the muscles you use most during intercourse? Try the pelvic tilt. “Women tend to suffer from lower back pain, and this sometimes affects sexual positions as well as desire,” says Mandel. “Pelvic tilts give you a bonus of core strength and strengthening the lower back.” Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Raise your pelvic region in a straight line like a bridge. Hold your abdominals in while you tighten your glutes and push your inner thighs toward each other. Slowly lower to the floor and repeat, 20 to 25 reps, if possible.

Kegel Exercises

When it comes to fitness, Kegels count too! These pelvic-floor-strengthening exercises that your ob-gyn is always encouraging you to do can have big payoffs when it comes to sexual satisfaction. “Kegels consist of contracting and relaxing the muscles in your pelvic floor,” she explains. “Improving the strength of these vaginal muscles is beneficial for greater sexual satisfaction and stronger orgasms, as well as preventing urinary or bowel incontinence and pelvic prolapse in women.” To do a proper Kegel, tighten your pelvic muscles (the ones that control the start and stop of urine). Hold for about 5 seconds, relax and then repeat. Dawn recommends doing Kegels for at least 5 minutes every day. (Psst! You can do them anywhere—even right now—and no one will know but you!)

Ab Rolls

The core is compromised of more than 20 muscles, and working them “will give you the strength to support your man’s weight without hyperextending your back,” says Montenegro. “A great exercise that works both the core and the muscles of the upper body is the roll-in, roll-out on a stability ball.” Start with your hands fully extended on the floor in a push-up-like position. Place your shins on a stability ball, keeping your back straight. Roll the ball in toward your chest and back out, using the abdominals to drag your knees toward your chest and to push your feet back out. Keep your back flat and hips tight, and don’t move your upper body. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Plank Pose

Is there one move that can make you more sexually confident, daring and strong? Yes: the plank, a core-building exercise popular in yoga, says Madeleine Castellanos, MD, a psychiatrist who specializes in sexual medicine and sex therapy in New York City. “This exercise works upper arms, abdominals, obliques, thighs and buttocks,” she says. “These are important muscles that help stabilize you when you are engaged in intercourse on all fours, any position where the woman is on top, or in transition from one position to another while maintaining close genital contact with your partner.” Lay facedown with the palms of your hands flat on the floor on each side of your shoulders. In this position, your forearms should also be flat on the floor and will act as your support when you raise your body. Push your weight to the balls of your feet as you push up onto your forearms and palms so that your entire body is suspended in the air. Be careful to keep your body as straight and flat as possible, and avoid lifting your hips in the air. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax for a few seconds before repeating; do three sets of 10 reps.

Bridge Pose

Another yoga pose that can improve your sexual enjoyment is the bridge pose. “This exercise helps strengthen the lower back, gluteus muscles and hamstrings,” says Dr. Castellanos. “It helps enhance a woman’s sexual experience because it increases her strength and endurance in these muscles, which are used to create resistance during a man’s thrusting, thereby increasing the intensity of the thrust.” Start out lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lay your arms to the side of your body, lift your hips up in the air and squeeze your gluteus muscles. Continue to press upward until just your upper back/shoulders, arms and feet are touching the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly lower back down to the floor and relax for a few seconds before repeating again. Aim for three sets of 10 reps each.

Seated Leg Extensions

Do your thighs quiver during and after sex—but not in a good way? “The large muscles of the thighs are often used during sex and can get fatigued quickly since they are such a large muscle group,” says Dr. Castellanos. The solution: seated leg extensions. “Find a stable chair in which you can sit up straight and have your knees bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor,” she says. “While keeping your thigh and knee as steady as possible, lift one foot up to straighten your leg slowly, then bring it back down to the floor. Do three sets of 10 reps for each leg.

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Best and Worse Exercises for Bad Knees

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Exercise may be the best medicine for chronic achy knees.”Strengthening the muscles around the joint protects you from injury by decreasing stress on the knee,” says Willibald Nagler, MD, chairman of rehabilitation medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell Campus in New York City.But you must use good form and technique.

The First Commandment

Never bend your legs to a point where your knees stick out past your toes. That puts a lot of pressure under the kneecap. This not only applies to the following exercises but also when you’re stretching or doing aerobic activities such as step aerobics.

Except where stated, do 10 to 12 repetitions of each of the following, two or three times a week.

Best Exercises to Do

Partial Squats

Stand about 12 inches away from the front of a chair with your feet about hip width apart and your toes forward. Bending at the hips, slowly lower yourself halfway down to the chair. Keep your abs tight, and check that your knees stay behind your toes.

Step-ups

Using an aerobic step bench or a staircase, step up onto the step with your right foot. Tap your left foot on the top of the step, and then lower. As you step up, your knee should be directly over your ankle. Repeat with your left foot.

Side-lying Leg Lifts

Wearing ankle weights above the knee, lie on your left side, legs straight and together, with your left arm supporting your head. Keeping your right foot flexed and your body straight, slowly lift your right leg to about shoulder height, then slowly lower. Repeat with your left leg.

Inner-thigh Leg LiftsWearing ankle weights above the knee, lie on your left side, slightly back on your butt. Bend your right leg and place it behind your left leg with your right foot flat on the floor and your left leg straight. Support your head with your left arm. Slowly lift your left leg about 3 to 5 inches, then lower. Repeat with your right leg.Calf RaisesUsing a chair or wall for balance, stand with your feet about hip width apart, toes straight ahead. Slowly lift your heels off the floor, rising up onto your toes. Hold, then slowly lower.Straight-Leg RaisesSit with your back against a wall, left leg straight and right leg bent with your foot flat on the floor. Slowly raise your left leg straight up about 12 inches off the floor. Hold, then slowly lower. Repeat with your right leg.Short-Arc Knee ExtensionsIn the same starting position as the straight-leg raises, put a ball (about the size of a basketball) under your left knee so that your leg is bent. Slowly straighten your leg. Hold, then slowly lower. Repeat with your right leg.Hamstring StretchLie on your back with your left leg flat on the floor. Loop a towel or rope around your right foot and pull your leg as far as comfortable toward your chest, while keeping a slight bend at the knee. Keep your back pressed to the floor throughout the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and then release. Repeat three or four times with each leg. Do this stretch five or six times a week.

Worst Exercises—Avoid These

A few of the following exercises can be done safely if you have chronic knee problems; they’re on this list because they’re more likely to be done improperly. The exercises above are safer, while still giving you similar results.

  • Full-arc knee extensions
  • Lunges
  • Deep squats
  • Hurdler’s stretches
  • Quads extensions
  • Jumping

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