Stay Fit and Healthy
Buy groceries when you're not hungry or rushed. If you're hungry you are more likely to add a variety of unnecessary foods to the shopping cart. Grocery shopping when hungry makes tempting food look even more alluring, which can set the stage for unhealthy impulse buys. A Cornell University study found that hungry shoppers bought almost 19% more food, including 31% more high-calorie items, so eat a healthy snack beforehand!
When children eat, they pay attention to what their bodies are telling them. When they've had enough ice cream, cake or dinner to fill them up they want to go do other things. Adults, on the other hand, tend to continue to clean their plate even after they've had enough to eat. Start listening to your tummy and quit eating!
The Truth: All foods have calories and all calories, whether they're healthy or not, count and add up! You still need to practice portion control whether you're eating a salad or a burger.
Familiarize yourself with what healthy portions look like:
- 1 cup of yogurt, cereal, soup or pasta is equal to the size of a baseball
- 3 oz. of most cooked meat is equivalent to a deck of cards
- 1 sandwith on regular sliced bread is equal to 2 decks of cards
- 3 oz of cooked fish is equal to the size of a checkbook
- 1 cup of lettuce or cooked veggies is about the size of a wine glass
The number one reason most people say they don't exercise is lack of time. If you find it difficult to fit an hour of exercise into your schedule, keep in mind that short bouts of physical activity, like a few 10-minute segments, will help you achieve health benefits. Set realistic goals and take small steps to fit more movement into your daily life, the key is to start gradually and stay consistent.
Myth: Don't let your knees go past your toes while doing a squat or lunge.
Reality: Avoiding excessive forward movement on the knee during a squat or lunge is important. However, in everyday activities such as climbing stairs, the knee and torso naturally move forward slightly in parallel with each other for balance and to propel the body forward and upward. Restricting this movement when performing squats and lunges increases hip stress and could increase the load on your lower back.
While improving your balance may not be your highest priority, it's a nice side effect of many exercise routines and it may help you prevent falls and injuries. Here are some examples of balance-building activities:
- Tai chi: This ancient Chinese martial art focuses on a series of smooth movements that improve both range of motion and balance.
- Pilates: Pilates strengthens muscles in the body's core, including the abs and the lower back. A stronger core improves posture and balance.
- Yoga: This ancient Indian practice improves flexibility, balance and posture.
- Stability Balls: Popular for building core muscle strength, exercises using these inflatable balls also help improve balance.
- Aerobics: Dance-based exercise routines burn calories and improve coordination.
- Roller Blading: This fun recreational activity burns calories and challenges your balance.
- Bicycling: Taking your bike for a spin is a great workout option and balancing on two wheels builds steadiness.
As you can see, many exercise routines encourage better balance. Why not try one this week?
A client of mine had taken a bike ride with a friend a few weekends back and she told me that her friend was way ahead of her for the entire 25-mile ride. I told her that one of the most important things I've learned in my years of training is that it is human nature to want to avoid discomfort. In other words you can almost always go faster or farther than you think.
I considered this the next time I was on the treadmill, and I decided to increase my time and speed by just a little. Much to my surprise, I realized that I had been working out at a level well below my potential for months. I'd allowed myself to slip into a comfort zone that wasn't nearly enough of a challenge. Ever since then, I periodically ratchet up my incline, speed or time and after a few "this is killing me" workouts, I feel just fine.
I'm often asked whether it is better to exercise at a slower pace to burn more fat and my answer is this: Not if you want to lose weight. Here's why:
During exercise your body relies primarily on fat and carbohydrates for fuel. Vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, burns proportionately more carbs than fat, while the reverse is true for the same exercise done at a slower pace. So far this seems to make a case for ditching the running shoes and taking a liesurly stroll but that would be a mistake.
You see, when it comes to losing weight the only thing that matters is calories burned, no matter the source. So even though low intensity exercise burns a higher percentage of calories from fat than high intensity exercise, it doen't burn more total calories from fat. And, weight loss aside, high intensity aerobic exercise is better for overall cardiovascular health than low intensity exercise.
Rather than concerning yourself with where the calories you're burning are coming from, you're better off finding activities that you enjoy and will do on a regular basis because the key to weight loss (and weight maintenance) is consistency.
Here we go - ready to storm into 2011 with great fitness resolutions. Is your resolution to get fit? Lose weight? Feel more energetic?
In my many years of personal training experience, nothing sets a person up for failure as much as an open-ended, generic fitness resolution. Every resolution needs to have an action plan and a real goal you can celebrate reaching. I'm also not a big fan of lots of resolutions and goals. Having 1-3 resolutions focusing on fitness goals will bring greater results than a list of 10 that make you feel overwhelmed.
Limiting the resolutions, being focused and maintaining consistency is the key. I'm going to help you by providing 10 resolutions. All you have to do is pick 3, fill in the blanks where necessary or modify the resultion based on your fitness experience. Remember don't choose all of them. Just 1-3 resolutions is all it takes.
Let's start with a contract. Yes, that's right; you have to make a written commitment:
I (place your name here) hereby resolve to implement the following fitness resolutions:
- I will lose 4 pounds per month for a total of __ pounds by (place date here).
- I will work out 3 times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes for the months of January to March. If my schedule allows, I will add a 4th day in April. (If 2 times per week is more realistic, then go with that. The key is consistency and what's realistic is based on your lifestyle.)
- I will increase my endurance by 2 minutes per week so that I can power-walk an additional 16 minutes per workout session by March 1. (you can choose any form of cardio, but there must be a realistic time increase and a time frame goal).
- I will perform resistance exercise 2 times per week for 20 minutes using a whole-body workout routine.
- I will find an exercise DVD or video game that I find fun and will do it 2 times per week for the months of January and February. This resolution provides a fun element and a short-term goal. I'm sure you'll want to continue after February, but the short-term goal takes some pressure off. (Since my daughter doesn't live close enough to train with me, I gave her a Kinect for Christmas and she says she has been getting quite a workout and having lots of fun.)
- I will find a group exercise class such as spinning, zumba, bootcamp, or my Body Design class (I teach at the Santa Monica YMCA) and I will commit to 2 days per week for 30 days.
- I will increase my flexibility by stretching 3 days per week for 7-10 minutes (flexibility is important and it doesn't take all that much to improve.)
- I will go for 2 15-minute walks per day from Monday to Friday. One walk will be at lunch time and one walk will be after dinner.
- In early January, I will find a Yoga or Pilates class and attend 2 times per week to improve my posture, balance and range of motion.
- In early January I will hire a personal trainer (I think I would be a good choice) for 2 sessions per week for a total of 20 sessions. (For obvious reasons, I highly recommend this resolution and I probably should have made it #1.) This is a good one for those people that need a good push, some teaching and some motivation - which pretty much describes everyone.
Remember only choose 3 resolutions and I know you can do this.
Want to know a secret about how you can look better instantly? It's simple: Straighten up! Proper posture truly does affect the way you look and feel. Unfortunately, many of us walk with less-than-upright posture and it's even worse when we sit. Ever find yourself hunched over your computer at work? Yep, most of us do. It's a matter of training your body to sit or stand up nice and tall.
First, assess your current posture; then make improvements. Imagine balancing your head squarely over your sholders; realign your shoulders so they are neither in front of your chest nor behind it. By perking up your posture, you'll dramatically improve your appearance and look pounds lighter - and feel more confident too. Focus on how amazing your body feels and try to make your body memorize the position.
To help hold the position in the future, stretch the front of your body and work the muscles in your upper back. Most of us bend over to stretch our lower back but never bend backwards to stretch the front of our bodies, this results in tight chest muscles that hold us hunched over. If we build up our back muscles and stretch our front, we will stand taller.
The most recent guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise 5 days a week or 20 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise 3 days per week to maintain good health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
The Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
- Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase your confidence, emotional stability, memory and brain function.
- Besides strengthening your heart and lungs, aerobic exercise can help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve your immune function and lower your blood pressure.
- Aerobic exercise can help you shed excess weight, tones your muscles and improves your posture.
- Aerobic exercise increases your stamina, giving you more energy for both work and play. You will sleep better and handle stress better.
Studies show that strength training can benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your bones and help you lose weight. Strength training is not just about bodybuilders lifting weights in the gym, it can benefit people of all ages and may be particularly important for people with health issues such as arthritis or a heart condition.
- Strength training protects bone health and muscle mass. After puberty, whether you are a man or a woman, you begin to lose about 1% of bone and muscle strength every year. One of the best ways to stop, prevent and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your workout.
- Strength training makes you stronger and fitter.
- Strength training helps you develop better body mechanics. Your balance and coordination will improve as will your posture. More importantly, if you have poor flexibility and balance, strength training can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40%, a crucial benefit as you get older.
- Strength training plays a role in disease prevention. Strength training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain,. it can help post-menopausal women increase their bone density and, along with other healthy lifestyle changes, it can help improve glucose control for people with type 2 diabetes.
- Strength training boosts energy levels and improves your mood, it has been shown to be a great antidepressant, to help you sleep better and to improve your overall quality of life.
- Strenth training translates to more calories burned. You burn calories during strength training and your body continues to burn calories after. More calories are used to make and maintain muscle than fat and, in fact, strength training can boost your metabolism by 15%.
Don't limit yourself to thinking that lifting weights, expensive machines or a gym membership is the only way to do strength training. Pushups, squats, lunges, etc. are all examples of exercises that provide strength training.
My clients usually start their program by asking "How much exercise do I need?" My answer is always "How much exercise do you need to accomplish what?" Before you make a decision on how much exercise you need, you should have a good idea of your exercise goal or goals, i.e.:
- Physical fitness
- Weight control
- Stress management
- Increase endurance
- Improve sports performance
- Improve health, i.e. lower blood pressure or improve cardiovascular fitness
Once your goals are clear, then we will be able to determine the necessary amount and type of exercise needed to achieve those goals.
If weight loss is your goal, success depends on moving and sensible eating. To accomplish this it helps to put together a "weight loss kit". This kit requires a small investment for big results. Here's what you need:
- A good calorie counter book or computer program to keep track of the calories you eat.
- A food scale to measure helpings and help you learn proper portion size.
- A food and exercise journal to track calories in and calories burned along with a way to track improvement and keep yourself accountable.
- A pedometer to track movement. A good goal is 10,000 steps per day, this translates to about 3 1/2 miles of walking per day.
- A good pair of walking and/or running shoes.
Once you put together your kit, use it every day.
It's been proven: To succeed at losing weight, you have to pay attention to what you eat. Writing down what you put in your mouth will help keep you from overeating. The National Weight Control Registry, a well-regarded, long-term weight-loss study, found that journaling is one of the most powerful tools used by people who have lost weight and kept it off because:
- They were more aware of their snacking.
- They discovered their diet detours and were able to avoid them going forward.
- They were able to track their progress to a healthier diet.
Keeping up with an exercise routine can be as hard as starting out in the first place. How do you keep exercising without getting bored and losing motivation? These methods can help you stay focused and inerested in your exercise routine:
- Find a buddy or a trainer who will exercise with you and won't let you back out of your workout dates.
- Set goals and a schedule times and dates for exercise on your calendar.
- Push yourself to go a little harder or a little longer and you'll feel great afterward.
- Pump yourself up with some favorite music: high-energy, fast-paced songs can give the boost you need to get through your exercise routine.
- Come up with different options, i.e. walk one day, run another, go for a bike ride and try different aerobic and weight machines. You're more likely to lose motivation if you stick to the same workout routine.
- Your environment can have a big impact on how well you focus on your exercise routine. If you prefer being outside, schedule a program with outdoor activities. If you get too distracted by other people in the health club, try investing in videos or exercise equipment and do your workout at home.
- Don't exercise on an empty stomach. Have a light, healthy snack before a scheduled workout so that you don't feel hungry.
Just keep your end goal in mind - better health, fitness and happiness - and find ways to enjoy your workout.
Here's why you should get ballin':
- A stability ball works your abs way more than regular crunches do. Plus, use it in place of a bench for strength moves and your core gets a workout too - you'll engage your deep obliques and lower-back muscles to stay in place.
- It's adaptable to every fitness level.
- It helps banish back pain. Physical therapists love the ball because it strengthens the deep muscles of the spine.
- Choose the right ball for your height: 5' = 45 cm ball; 5'1"-5'7" = 55 cm ball; 5'8"+ = 65 cm ball.
- Inflate the ball enough so that when you sit on it with your feet on the floor your knees are even with or just above your hips.
- To make the exercises more difficult, add more air to the ball. The firmer the ball, the greater the challenge.
Diet can have a large impact on your metabolism, but only if you keep eating. Cutting back the amount of food you eat with a fad diet or skipping meals can send your body into fat-storing starvation mode, slowing down your metabolism and hindering your attempts for lasting weight loss.
To keep your metabolic rate up, you should:
- Eat breakfast, which gives your body an early energy boost and deters it from fat storage.
- Eat many small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep our metabolism busy burning fuel all day long.
- Increase the amount of lean protein you eat. Your body burns more calories when it is digesting proteins, compared with carbs or fats.
Now that it's bathing suit season, everyone wants to get that flat belly. Although how your body looks is important, there are other important reasons to work on those abs. The core, abdominals and lower back muscles, make up the primary stabilizer muscles in the body. These muscles maintain the stability and alignment of the body (posture) while other muscles perform the exercise or movement. Stabilizers are prone to weakness and laxity over time if they are not strengthened with regular exercise. If stabilizers are weak, the body develops compensatory patterns that increase the risk of injury and premature aging. So...let's get going on those crunches.
Aging is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and only you can decide the kind of person you'll become. While the aging process is something we all go through, we have unfortunately come to think that aging means physical and mental deterioration. This doesn't need to be true. The biological changes attributed to aging closely resemble the effects of physical inactivity. Both lists include:
- decreased cardiovascular fitness
- decreased muscle mass
- increased body fat
- decreased strength and flexibility
- decreased bone mass
- decreased metabolic rate
- poor sleep habits
- decreased sexual performance
- decreased mental performance
The human body depends on utilizing oxygen for the production of energy. The body's ability to transport oxygen efficiently improves with physical training, whether you are young or old. Studies have shown that a fit seventy-year-old has the same capacity to transport and utilize oxygen as an unfit thirty-year-old. This suggests that the decrease in oxygen may be less a function of age than of inactivity.