Friday, August 19, 2016

Diversify Your Workout

We know workout variety is good, but some of us love our everyday boot camp. How much variety do you really need to see results?

When you're trying to jump-start a workout routine, choose a couple of go-to workouts for cardio and strength and then up the variables.

For six weeks, play with upping the ante on things like the amount of weight you're lifting OR the number of sets or reps you're doing OR decrease the rest time between each exercise or interval. That helps you create a benchmark by which you can judge your progress and it also helps you master skills. Then pick one goal - lose weight, get stronger, build up your endurance - and spend six weeks gearing your workouts to that. It's important to choose ONE goal so that you can focus your work and see progress.

For the next phase, throw your body a curve-ball by taking two weeks or so off from your regular routine and doing just Pilates or yoga to work smaller muscles and try different types of movement patterns.

Workout variety allows you to take advantage of an unusual class, try a sport you used to do in high school or meet a new group of people. Diversifying your exercise also helps prevent injury caused by repetitive motion. Planning your workouts intentionally will allow you to see results that an auto-pilot workout might not deliver. Keep your body guessing, explore new movement and work to create muscle balance.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, August 12, 2016

Second Breakfast is a Good Thing!

If you are familiar with the books or movies based on The Lord of The Rings, you know that Hobbits not only have one breakfast but also Second Breakfast (and Elevenses and Lunch and...). It turns out that Second Breakfast is a great way to help maintain or lose weight. 

A recent study found that those who ate two breakfasts (one at home and one later in the morning) didn't gain more weight that those who ate just one. And the participants were less likely to be overweight than those who skipped the meal entirely.

Most adults don't need two full breakfasts (unlike Hobbits) but if you exercise in the morning or eat late lunches, a hearty mid-morning snack with produce and protein is a good idea. What does that look like? Your breakfast could be a slice of whole wheat toast, eggs scrambled with spinach, sliced tomatoes on the side. Then mid-morning you could have a banana and handful of walnuts.

More mid-morning snack ideas:
  • clementines and a latte
  • smoked salmon on cucumbers
  • plain Greek yogurt and blueberries
  • whole wheat English muffin and peanut butter
  • apple slices and cheddar cheese
  • lowfat cottage cheese on whole wheat crackers topped with salsa
  • pear slices sprinkled with cinnamon and a handful of almonds

Front-load your calories for the day and enjoy a lighter lunch and dinner.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, August 5, 2016

Menopause Weigth Gain is Not Your Fault!

As women enter menopause, their levels of physical activity decrease; for years scientists were unable to determine why. Now, researchers have found a connection between lack of ovarian hormones and changes in the brain's reward center for activity.

A study involved two groups of rats - one highly fit and one low fitness level. The highly fit group showed more activity in the brain's pleasure center with greater wheel running. After the loss of ovarian hormones, the highly fit rats saw a significant reduction in activity correlating to a significant reduction in their dopamine signaling levels. In both groups, the hormonal changes led to changes in the brain that translated to less physical activity. The findings confirm previous evidence in humans and rats that weight gain occurring after menopause is likely due to decreased overall physical activity rather than increased energy intake from diet.

Activation of brain receptors in that part of the brain may serve as a future treatment to improve motivation for physical activity in postmenopausal women. But until then, what coping methods do we have to combat this trend? Activate that reward center of your brain in these different ways.

Choose physical activity you enjoy
Play a sport. Take up a new one!
Run with the kids at the playground. Ditch the park bench.
Garden with manual tools - no power!
Hike in the outdoors - savor nature.
Swim in the ocean. Enjoy the salty breeze.

Choose to do something active daily
Make non-negotiable activity "appointments".
Create a habit that doesn't require daily choice.
Enjoy a different activity every day.

Choose activity with a partner or group
Meeting a friend keeps you accountable.
Talking while exercising makes it seem to fly by faster.
Join a class for accountability and social connection.

Understanding the physical interaction between our brains and our hormones can give us information to make meaningful changes as we journey through this season of life.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Flat Ab Secret

A couple of weeks ago, I exposed the myth that doing 100 crunches a day will practically guarantee flat abs. I noted that all the ab and core muscles need to be strengthened for a strong mid-section. But, regardless of how tight your ab muscles are, they can't erase belly fat that lies above (subcutaneous) or below them (visceral fat).

The best belly fat-melting method is Tabata intervals. You do any cardio move (running, swimming, cycling, etc) as fast as possible for 20 seconds, recover while moving slowly for 10 seconds then repeat the combo seven more times, for a total of four minutes.

Maximum effort cardio intervals like these raise your level of adrenaline which is the secret to burning fat. Higher adrenaline levels cause fat cells to release more fat more efficiently. Tabata releases more adrenaline throughout your body than typical cardio because of the high-intensity effort required. Not only do you burn more fat and calories during Tabata but your body also continues to burn more even after you finish.

To maximize the amount of belly fat you melt off, combine steady-state cardio and Tabata intervals. The steady-state segments (sustained tempo movement) insure that you burn calories and melt subcutaneous fat. The intense intervals do the same but also guarantee you'll work away at the deep stubborn visceral fat.

Complete your Tabata workout three times per week. Start with 10 minutes of moderately hard, steady-state cardio of your choice (power walk, run, bike, swim, elliptical trainer) then do a four-minute Tabata round. Complete that steady state cardio/ Tabata combo three times for a total of 42 minutes.

Your strong ab muscles will be more visible very soon!

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tennis For Fitness

I've started taking tennis lessons! I have been wanting to learn tennis skills for a couple of years but have always found a reason to say I was too busy to add in another activity. Finally I bought a tennis outfit. That motivated me to sign up!

The best active sports are the ones that you can enjoy your entire life. According to a meta-analysis published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, tennis is a good fitness fit for almost anyone because of its wide range of health benefits across the age spectrum. Perhaps most interesting were the conclusions reached based on a study of more than 1,000 students in medical school between 1948 and 1964. At the start, the students were asked to rate their ability in tennis, golf, football, baseball and basketball. Researchers assessed these students again 22 years later and then again 40 years later and found that tennis was the only sport in which a greater ability during medical school was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers credit this benefit to the fact that tennis was the sport played most often through midlife.

Playing tennis regularly can:

Boost your heart and lung function
Exercise-related oxygen use and capacity diminish with advancing age, but tennis appears to decrease the rate of this age-related decline. Even moderate-intensity tennis players 30 to 74 showed better overall lung function. Tennis players also proved metabolically more fit, with improved lipid metabolism and lower incidence of hyperlipidemia (the single most meaningful predictor of coronary heart disease). Tennis players older than 55 sported significantly better blood-cholesterol profiles.

Rev up fat-burning
Exercise performance physician Massimo Testa lists tennis as a good choice for moderate aerobic exercise, but his new research takes it up a notch. It notes that singles tennis can provide a vigorous workout, and ranks it among the top five activities in terms of energy expenditure — higher than swimming, rowing, weightlifting, Jazzercise, hiking or golf. 

Strengthen your bones.
In study after study, tennis was found to bolster bone strength in both genders and in all ages. Those who started playing at a young age showed a stronger correlation than those who started at an older age, but healthier bones were maintained even after players decreased their participation.

Streamline coordination
In an analysis of the impact of aging on coordination using tennis players and non-players 20 to 80, non-players showed an increasing decline in their ability to respond with advancing age, while tennis players showed no decline in response at different ages. Researchers cited evidence that in honing focus, tennis outperforms golf, running, weight lifting, inline skating and downhill skiing.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Play Tennis

Friday, July 15, 2016

Unexpected Ways To Eat Less

We are all striving to keep active and clean up our diets. Vague statements like, "I should cut back." won't get us the results we are looking for. Here are four small specific changes that can help us eat less.

Distract Yourself
One study showed that people who played Tetris for three minutes found their desire to eat diminished. We tend to visualize cravings; mind-stimulating activities stop is from picturing that brownie.

Go to Sleep Earlier
Sleep-deprived people consumed an extra 549 calories per day compared with those who were well-rested. Get seven hours of sleep a night.

Choose Your Plate Carefully
When food contrasts with the color of the plate, people tend to eat less. Spaghetti in red sauce on a red plate makes it hard to determine portion size. Additionally, a smaller plate makes a moderate portion look bigger. Choose to use the salad plate for your meal instead of the dinner plate.

Turn Off the TV
Seeing commercials for food while watching TV can trigger people to snack. DVR the show and skip the commercials, choose Netflix, or open a book.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Common Fitness Myths

It can be hard to separate fitness fact from fiction, especially when you're just starting out. Misinformation from unreliable sources and the internet creates confusion. Top experts, Neal Pire of the American College of Sports Medicine, and Michele Olson, professor of exercise science at Auburn University, check in regarding the following fitness myths and confirm facts we can count on.

Doing 100 crunches a day practically guarantees flat abs
Crunches improve one abdominal muscles' strength and endurance (if you do a lot of them) But ultimately, your body fat level dictates whether or not your abs are flat. For well-rounded fitness and balance, you should work all the muscles in your abs, core and back. Planks are one exercise that can target a range of ab muscles.

Skip weights and do only cardio if weight loss is your goal.
Weight training is a must if you want to lose body fat and keep it off. Resistance training helps preserve lean muscle tissue during calorie deficits, which you have to achieve if you are going to lose fat over any length of time. Since muscle burns more calories at rest, weight training also boosts calorie burning even when you're not working out.

If you don't sweat a lot you didn't work out hard enough
How much you sweat depends on the type of workout and your training goal rather than how hard you're working. Power lifters tend not to sweat as much at those who do a high-intensity interval workout. Your environment influences how much you'll sweat. Cooler temperatures and lower humidity result in less sweating. Plus, some people simply sweat more than others.

You should be sore the next day after a good workout
Soreness occurs when you are first starting a program, changing a workout or increasing the amount of weight or number of exercises you are doing. You don't have to feel sore each time you work out in order to train properly. Also, you're not likely allowing yourself enough recovery time if you're sore on a regular basis.  

Exercising smarter makes your limited workout time more productive and safer. Ditch the myths and keep the facts.

  Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food