Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category


If exercise were easy, everyone would do it. But in fact, only 60 percent of Americans exercise regularly— and that includes walks and other leisure activities. But there are ways to push through the invisible wall and squeeze every last drop out of a workout. Read on for tricks and tips, no matter the mindset (buff bodybuilders and yoga girls alike!).

1. Repeat after me. From the Little Engine’s “I think I can, I think I can,” to a basic “Ommmmmm,” mantras can be the necessary motivation to keep on truckin’.

2. Change pace. Circuit training, a killer combination of cardio and strength training, can help break the monotony of a long workout. Run five minutes, then drop and do some push-ups. Wash, rinse, repeat.

3. Picture this. Visualize cheering fans or crossing the finish line to bang out one more set or lap. Or just go mental: Imagine this workout is the equivalent of the Olympic trials (no big deal).

4. Work with a pro. Get on board with a personal trainer who will play the drill sergeant or the kind, motivational type (your choice!). Still want to slack when shelling out all that cash?

5. Break it down. Set mini-goals when the going gets tough. This isn’t a three-mile run— just six measly half-mile runs.

6. Look the part. Swing those arms and keep the eyes dead ahead when running. Shuffling those feet will naturally slow the pace (duh).

7. Get rewarded. Whether it’s a slow cool down after sprints or enjoying a superfood smoothie, dangle a metaphorical carrot on a stick when the pain starts to strike (isn’t victory sweet?).

8. Gather feedback. Monitor heart rate, pace, and exercise intensity to both distract yourself and serve as a reminder of just how far you’ve come.

9. Grab a pal. Work out with a fit pal who will hold you to a higher standard. Stuck going solo today? Imagine they’re still there. After all, who wants to wuss out in front of an audience?

10. Have a purpose. Running in circles with no goal in sight? There’s nothing motivating about that. Having something to run for (think, fitting into those skinny jeans or lowering blood pressure) can be a necessary kick in the butt [1].

11. Perform. The guy across the weight room is definitely jealous. Put on a show, focusing on excellent form and making those lifts look easy as pie— you might start to believe it yourself.

12. Get distracted. Reading on the treadmill might not improve pace, but if it keeps those legs moving, it’s OK by us [2]. Choose something inspiring for a little extra push (we can’t get enough of Born to Run).

13. Savor the pain. “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” the saying goes. Pain is also proof that this workout is tough. Clearly you’re doing something right, so why stop now? (Just know when pain is signaling something more serious.)

14. Hone in. When strength training, focus on the specific muscle targeted by each exercise. This can help maintain proper form, and remember, each lift will bring you one rep closer to that goal.

15. Put it in the bank. Think of time in the gym as deposits into the fitness bank. After saving up, cash out on a special treat (like new kicks or workout gear).

16. Build a resume. Is the promise of a better butt not enough? How about knowing those plyometrics will help kill it on the court? Instead of thinking of this as a workout, consider it a training session— gathering the skills to become a better athlete, parent, lover, you name it.

17. Who’s really getting cheated? Sure, no one else would know about skipping out on the last Chatarunga. But only one person loses in that situation (hint: it’s not the super-ripped chick sweating it out on the next mat).

18. Get real. If the gym just doesn’t cut it, make like Jack and hit the road. Head out for an outdoor run and actually go somewhere, or work on functional fitness in real-life situations.

19. Say “ahhh.” Imagining the post-workout pain is hardly motivational. Instead, get into a sore-muscle-relief routine. Knowing those thighs have foam rolling in their future could keep ‘em pedaling just a little further.

20. Tune in. Use music to zone out during the tough spots. Fast, heart-pumping tunes have been shown to bring cardio to the next level [3].

21. Count it out. When counting reps up from one, it’s more natural to push out one or two extra. On the other hand, some people push harder when it feels like a real countdown— try both to see what works best.

22. Compete. Whether comparing against the dude on the next treadmill over or your own time last training session, competition ups the ante and helps us forget about wanting to quit.

23. Remember the end. That post-workout high? Yeah, almost there. The struggle of that final set won’t last— and when the workout’s over, it’ll be replaced by a much better feeling: pride.

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JWOWW’s Fitness Goals



In my previous post, I talked about how the holiday season is often a time to slack on our workout routines.  Often, our fitness goals take a backseat to the holiday’s events.  The easiest way to overcome this is to set some new short term goals that will help you stay on track toward your ultimate goal.

I find that it’s easier for me to focus on the amount of workouts you complete rather than the type of workouts.  If you usually work out five times a week for an hour and a half, set a goal to get five workouts in during the holiday weeks.  Whether those are at the gym or at home, long or short, the point is to stay moving.  You’re also less likely to “pig-out” before or after a workout.  For a little motivation, reward yourself at the end of the week if you hit your goal.  Maybe have a few drinks or a couple extra cookies.  Remember, most people gain weight during the holiday’s, so simply maintaining your weight is a success in itself.

Again, try to focus on just getting a workout in when you normally would.  You may not have time for your normal workout, but I’m sure you can set aside even just 20 minutes to get a quick one in.

In-Home Workout

This simple body weight circuit only takes about 15 minutes.  Perform each exercise for 30 seconds with 15 seconds of rest in between.  Complete the circuit 3-4 times.

– 2 Point Plank – Start in a plank position, extend your right arm off the ground and lift up your opposite leg.  Alternate sides.  Focus on control, not speed.  Keep your hips from turning.

– Pushup Rotation – Perform a normal pushup followed by rotating and reaching one hand to the ceiling.  Alternate sides.

– Squat Thrusts/Burpees

– Squat Jumps

– V-Sit Ups

– Lunge Jumps

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Why does exercise make us happy and calm? Almost everyone agrees that it generally does, a conclusion supported by research. A survey by Norwegian researchers published this month, for instance, found that those who engaged in any exercise, even a small amount, reported improved mental health compared with Norwegians who, despite the tempting nearness of mountains and fjords, never got out and exercised. A separate study, presented last month at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, showed that six weeks of bicycle riding or weight training eased symptoms in women who’d received a diagnosis of anxiety disorder. The weight training was especially effective at reducing feelings of irritability, perhaps (and this is my own interpretation) because the women felt capable now of pounding whomever or whatever was irritating them.

But just how, at a deep, cellular level, exercise affects anxiety and other moods has been difficult to pin down. The brain is physically inaccessible and dauntingly complex. But a recent animal study from researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health provides some intriguing new clues into how exercise intertwines with emotions, along with the soothing message that it may not require much physical activity to provide lasting emotional resilience.

For the experiment, researchers at the institute gathered two types of male mice. Some were strong and aggressive; the others were less so. The alpha mice got private cages. Male mice in the wild are territorial loners. So when then the punier mice were later slipped into the same cages as the aggressive rodents, separated only by a clear partition, the big mice acted like thugs. They employed every animal intimidation technique and, during daily, five-minute periods when the partition was removed, had to be restrained from harming the smaller mice, which, in the face of such treatment, became predictably twitchy and submissive.

After two weeks of cohabitation, many of these weaker mice were nervous wrecks. When the researchers tested them in a series of stressful situations away from the cages, the mice responded with, as the scientists call it, “anxiety-like behavior.” They froze or ran for dark corners. Everything upset them. “We don’t use words like ‘depressed’ to describe the animals’ condition,” said Michael L. Lehmann, a postdoctoral fellow at the institute and lead author of the study. But in effect, those mice had responded to the repeated stress by becoming depressed.

But that was not true for a subgroup of mice that had been allowed access to running wheels and nifty, explorable tubes in their cages for several weeks before they were housed with the aggressive mice. These mice, although wisely submissive when confronted by the bullies, rallied nicely when away from them. They didn’t freeze or cling to dark spaces in unfamiliar situations. They explored. They appeared to be, Dr. Lehmann said, “stress-resistant.”

“In people, we know that repeated applications of stress can lead to anxiety disorders and depression,” Dr. Lehmann said. “But one of the mysteries” of mental illness “is why some people respond pathologically to stress and some seem to be stress-resistant.”

To discern what was different, physiologically, about the stress-resistant mice, the scientists looked at brain cells using stains and other techniques. They determined that neurons in part of the rodents’ medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in emotional processing in animals and people, had been firing often and rapidly in recent weeks, as had neurons in other, linked parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is known to handle feelings of fear and anxiety.

The animals that had not run before moving in with the mean mice showed much less neuronal activity in these portions of the brain.

Dr. Lehmann said that he believed that the running was key to the exercised animals’ ability to bounce back from their unpleasant housing conditions.

Of course, as we all know, mice are not people. But the scientists believe that this particular experiment is a fair representation of human interpersonal relations, Dr. Lehmann said. Hierarchies, marked by bullying and resulting stress,  are found among people all the time. Think of your own most dysfunctional office job. (Interestingly, the same experiment cannot be conducted on female mice, who like being housed together, Dr. Lehmann said, so he and his colleagues are testing a female-centric version, in which “cage mates are swapped out continuously,” to the consternation and grief of the female mice left behind.)

Perhaps best of all, Dr. Lehmann does not believe that hours of daily exercise are needed or desirable to achieve emotional resilience. The mice in his lab ran only when and for as long as they wished, over the course of several weeks. Other animal experiments have intimated that too much exercise could contribute to anxiety, and Dr. Lehmann agrees that that outcome is possible. Moderate levels of exercise seem to provide the most stress-relieving benefits, he said. Dr. Lehmann does not have a car and walks everywhere, and although he lives in Washington, a cauldron of stress induction, he describes himself as a “pretty calm guy.”

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You probably read headlines this year that screamed: “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin!” Those stories were based on a controversial Public Library of Science study that showed women who exercised regularly for six months were no more likely to lose weight than women who didn’t work out at all.

How could that be? We all know that exercise burns calories; an hour on the treadmill torches 300 to 500.

Here’s the deal: Much of what was written about the study was misleading, says its lead author, Timothy Church, MD, director of preventive research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The study didn’t focus on calories; all participants followed their regular diets.

What the study showed, Dr. Church says, is that exercise alone, especially if you eat poorly, may not help you lose weight. “Exercise doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat whatever you want,” he says. “People think an hour on a treadmill burns off a whole chocolate cake. In reality, it’s half a slice.”

It’s true that exercising without dieting—or worse, piling on calorie-rich food just because you worked up a sweat—won’t lead to weight-loss success, agrees Susan Roberts, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts Univer-sity. But dieting without exercise isn’t the answer, either.

In fact, The National Weight Control Registry, a group that follows how 6,000 people have lost weight and kept it off, found that the most successful participants work out at least 30 minutes every day. The truth: Combining smart dieting and regular exercise offers the best chance to reach your weight-loss goals.

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When you work out and the pounds still don’t come off, it can be incredibly frustrating. But what you may not know is that certain habits and physical changes can undermine even the most scientifically proven weight loss strategies, especially after you reach age 40. When Australian and UK researchers reviewed nearly 100 studies on exercise and weight loss, they discovered why those extra pounds won’t budge despite your best efforts. These four targeted fat-fighting tips are the key to turning the tide–so your body will finally shed the weight.

1. Make some extra muscle

Simple Strategies

Lift weights three times a week It’s the fastest way to build muscle and get results when the scale is stuck. “Research shows that regular strength-training can increase your resting metabolic rate by up to 8%,” says Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness researcher in Quincy, MA, and author of Get Stronger, Feel Younger. In one 8-week study, women and men who did only cardio exercise lost 4 pounds but gained no muscle, while those who did half the amount of cardio and an equal amount of strength-training shed 10 pounds of fat and added 2 pounds of muscle.

Rest less If you already strength-train, shorten the time you linger between sets. “Taking a brief, 20-second break after each set burns extra calories and accelerates metabolism more than waiting the standard 60 to 90 seconds, studies show,” says Westcott.

Do double-duty moves Trade exercises that isolate a single muscle, such as biceps curls, for multijoint, multimuscle moves like chest presses and squats. “The more muscles you engage at once, the more calories you’ll burn,” he says.

Break up your meals If you’re losing weight (and therefore muscle) by cutting calories, eating five small meals instead of three large ones helps keep metabolism high. Spreading calories throughout the day “keeps blood sugar levels even and controls the release of insulin that can cause your body to store more calories as fat,” says Leslie Bonci, RD, MPH, director of sports medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “And every time you eat, your metabolism speeds up to digest the food.”

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2. Outsmart a plateau

It’s a common scenario: The first 10 or 20 pounds come off easily, but then the scale won’t budge. Plateaus can happen in as little as 3 weeks, find Drexel University researchers. As you drop weight, your body doesn’t have to work as hard simply because there’s less of you to move around, says Michele Kettles, MD, medical director of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. That means your workouts produce a smaller calorie burn For example, if you weigh 180 pounds and lose 35, you’ll melt about 100 fewer calories in an hour-long cardio class–which can slow down further weight loss. And as you get older, injuries or arthritis can make it difficult to do vigorous, high-impact activities that help compensate for this calorie deficit.

Simple Strategies

Get your heart rate up Watching TV or reading while you exercise can lower your workout intensity–and your calorie burn. Instead, pay attention to your pulse, suggests Kettles. For best results, stay between 60 and 80% of your maximum heart rate. To estimate your MHR, subtract your age from 220. Then multiply your MHR by 0.6 for the lower end of your target heart rate zone and by 0.8 for the upper end. For example, if you’re 40, aim for 108 to 144 beats per minute. (For easier tracking, invest in a heart rate monitor.)

Diversify The more comfortable you become with a routine, exercise class, or fitness DVD, the less effective it gets. To continue to lose weight, you need to challenge your body in new ways. “Even replacing one exercise can create enough of a surprise to keep results coming,” says Kettles. Try this: The first week of every month, do a new upper-body exercise; the second week, a new lower-body one; the third, a new abs move; and the fourth, a different type of cardio (cycling instead of walking, for example).

3. Be a stealth calorie burner

It may happen subconsciously, but studies show that some people move less after they begin an exercise regimen. When women and men, average age 59, started to work out twice a week, their everyday activity decreased by 22%, according to research from the Netherlands. The reason for the slowdown, experts speculate, may be postworkout fatigue or the perception that if you exercise, you can afford to skimp on the small stuff. Wrong! Little activities such as standing instead of sitting, fidgeting, and walking more throughout the day can add up to an extra 350 calories burned per day, according to Mayo Clinic studies. Other research shows that a decrease in these everyday actions may shut down an enzyme that controls fat metabolism, making weight loss tougher. And even daily half-hour to hour-long workouts aren’t enough to turn it back on.

Simple Strategies

Track nonexercise activity Record your daily step counts with a pedometer on a couple of days when you don’t work out. Then calculate your average (add up your daily totals and divide by the number of days tracked). If you don’t maintain at least this level of activity every day, your fat-burning ability will decline. For instance, if you normally log 5,000 steps a day but skip half of them on days you work out, it could slow weight loss by up to 50%–even though you’re exercising.

Post reminders One study showed that signs encouraging people to take the stairs increased usage by 200%. To motivate yourself, stick notes on your bathroom mirror, microwave, TV remote, steering wheel, and computer that simply say: Move more!

Set up weekly physical outings You’ll be less likely to blow it off if you make a commitment to someone else. Plan a hike or bike ride with your family, help clean out a friend’s garage, or volunteer to walk your neighbor’s dog.

4. Halt hunger hormones

When 35 overweight women and men started exercising, researchers found that some of them compensated for their workouts by eating as much as 270 extra calories a day–negating more than half of the calories they burned, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. “Some research shows that exercising regularly can trigger the release of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone meant to protect the body from losing weight too quickly,” says Bonci. To make matters worse, appetite also appears to increase as you approach menopause because of declining estrogen levels, according to animal studies.

Simple Strategies

Snack before you sweat “Exercising on an empty stomach lowers blood sugar, which can increase your appetite and set you up to overeat afterward,” says Bonci. To ward off postexercise hunger, have a light (about 100 calories), carbohydrate-rich snack, such as 4 ounces of yogurt or a banana, 20 to 30 minutes before you work out.

Write before you eat Keeping a food diary is a proven weight loss tool, but don’t wait until after your meal. “When my clients record what they’re going to eat, it puts their dietary habits on pause long enough to decide if their food choices are really worth it,” says Bonci. Time your meals If possible, schedule your workouts before a meal. In studies where meals were served 15 to 30 minutes after exercise, participants ate less than those who had to wait an hour or more to eat.

Sip often People who drink water regularly eat nearly 200 fewer calories daily than those who only consume tea, coffee, or soda, reports a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study. Bonus: Make it ice-cold water. German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day raised metabolism by about 50 calories daily–possibly because of the work it takes to warm the fluid up to body temperature. And every little bit helps!

Good luck healthy girl!

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Lindsay is the founder and CEO of Kaeng Raeng natural detox.

For years I struggled to become a “good” runner.  I felt like no matter how many times I jumped on that treadmill or went for a run, I was breathless after 10 minutes.  I knew my body was so much stronger and I was more capable.  I could easily do hours on a bike – why was running so difficult?  After I was diagnosed with asthma while in college (and again in my mid-20’s after I stubbornly ignored it for 5 years), it became clear that I needed to re-examine my fitness goals.

Today, I’m still not a “good” runner despite trying 4-5 times/week.  I run with my boyfriend and he can literally run laps around me.  Some of us were born to run, others not so much.

If you’re someone with asthma who would still like to enjoy a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, particularly running, there are ways to manage your asthma and still get a great workout.  I have found over time a few simple steps to continue running.  Please do not take my advice if a doctor has not cleared you for exercise – each person’s exercise needs and abilities are different.

What is asthma?

You may hear the term thrown around a lot, or seen advertisements on TV for various asthma-related medications, but perhaps you’re not even sure what it really is.  Asthma  is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.  It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  A diagnosis of asthma is common among top athletes. One survey of participants in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., showed that 15% had been diagnosed with asthma, and that 10% were on asthma medication.

Many people with asthma manage it with a basic non-steroid inhaler which helps to open the lungs before or after an asthma attack trigger.  Avoiding allergens is another way people manage asthma (but may not be practical given normal constraints).

Where to Exercise

One of the best ways to exercise with asthma is indoors in a controlled setting like a gym, on a treadmill.  In the event of an asthma attack or medical emergency, being around other people, fresh water, and an inhaler can help prevent serious injury.  Being in a climate controlled setting (like in air conditioning in a hot climate) also helps your lungs recover after bouts of exertion.  Other great places include the pool (the moisture in the air from swimming is great for the lungs), any moist or humid setting, and places with warm (but not blazing hot) weather.

Types of Exercise

While this article is mostly about running, there are plenty of other great forms of exercise that don’t include running that may be more suitable for people with asthma.  These include swimming, biking or spinning, walking, climbing stairs, elliptical, rowing, pilates, or yoga.   Sports that allow for intervals of rest are also great including volleyball, tennis, softball, and gymnastics.

One of the best ways to run with asthma is with interval trainingInterval training is a type of physical training that involves bursts of high intensity work. This high intensity work is alternated with periods of recovery (which may involve complete rest and/or lower intensity activity).  This type of training is great for people with asthma because it can give you time to catch your breath while keeping your heart rate up.  I typically do interval sprinting 30 seconds running at 8.5 mph or higher and then resting for 30 seconds, on and off for 10-20 minutes.  During the “resting” period, my heart rate typically stays within 10 beats/second from my cardio rate.  I love interval training because of the feeling of accomplishment I get when I’ve finished a set.  It gets your heart rate up, your metabolism boosted, and the time flies by!

Types of Exercise To Avoid

It probably goes without saying, but any long-term endurance cardio can be a challenge for people with asthma.  Avoid cross country running, sports like basketball and soccer, and cold weather activities like skating or skiing.  Don’t feel like you’re out of shape just because you can’t finish a marathon.  Asthma is a serious condition – respect your body’s limitations.  If you have seasonal allergies that exacerbate your asthma, avoid running outdoors altogether.  If you live in a heavily polluted area, you may want to avoid running outdoors.  High altitude areas can also increase the risk of an asthma attack.

Simple Tips for Success

I always take two hits from my inhaler, 10 seconds apart, before I start any cardio.  I notice a difference immediately.  If I’ve forgotten to use my inhaler, I barely can last 5 minutes without getting out of breath.  With my inhaler, I can run for much longer.  Visit a doctor if you feel like you might have exercise-induced asthma.  They will have you blow into a tube that measures your air flow.  Most people with asthma regularly use an HFA inhaler.  Some people with more serious cases use a steroid inhaler – your doctor will know which one is best.

Always have plenty of water readily available.  Oxygen is a key component of water, so drinking it while out of breath can help to improve air flow in your lungs.

Use a heart rate monitor.   Your heart rate is important during exercise.  Most people try to stay within a “target zone” that’s also known as the “fat burning zone,” that’s an efficiency point for burning calories while still having energy for your body to endure.  I regularly check my heart rate to make sure I am within my goal zones so I am less focused on the distance I have gone, but more so how long and how hard my workout has been.

Always warm up and cool down.  Your body is like an instrument that needs a little tuning.  Start with some stretching and walking before running to avoid injury.  Warming up your lungs to exercise will help lower the chances of an asthma attack.  Also remember to cool down.  Jumping off a treadmill with your heart rate at 185 can make you dizzy.  Stay safe by easing out of your workout with walking, light jogging, biking, or using the elliptical.

Have a positive mind frame.  So much of running, I believe, is mental.  As soon as you start to doubt yourself and your body, the running will become a painful chore rather than an enjoyable form of exercise.  Stay positive!  Use upbeat music, run with a friend, or repeat to yourself that you’re doing great while running.  Don’t let having asthma disable you – it’s a manageable condition that does not have to stop you from getting a great sweat!

Good luck, healthy girl.

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Sugar is getting a bad reputation. A cover article in The New York Times Magazine several weeks ago persuasively reported that our national overindulgence in fructose and other sugars is driving the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses. But that much-discussed article, by the writer Gary Taubes, focused on how sugars like fructose affect the body in general. It had little opportunity to examine the related issue of how sugar affects the body in motion. Do sweeteners like fructose — the sweetest of the simple sugars, found abundantly in fruits and honey — have the same effect on active people as on the slothful?

A cluster of new studies suggests that people who regularly work out don’t need to worry unduly about consuming fructose or other sugars. In certain circumstances, they may even find the sweet stuff beneficial.

The unique role that the various sugars play in exercise is well illustrated by a new study published in March in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. It involved a group of highly trained cyclists and their livers. For the experiment, Swiss and British researchers directed the cyclists, all men, to ride to exhaustion on several different occasions. After each ride, they swallowed drinks sweetened with fructose or glucose, another simple sugar often identified as dextrose on ingredient labels. (Some also drank a milk-sugar sweetener.)

The liver is often overlooked when we consider organs integral to exercise, but it is an important reservoir of glycogen, the body’s stored form of glucose. All sugars, including sucrose, or table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup, which usually consists of almost equal portions of glucose and fructose, are converted into glucose, and stored as glycogen, in the body. Strenuous exercise diminishes or exhausts this liver glycogen, and until those stores are replenished, the body isn’t fully ready for another exercise bout.

In this study, the scientists used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the size of each rider’s liver, before and after the rides. All of the cyclists lost liver volume during their workouts, a sign their livers were depleted of glycogen. But those who afterward drank fructose replaced the lost volume rapidly, showing a 9 percent gain in volume after six-and-a-half hours versus a 2 percent gain among the riders drinking glucose-sweetened drinks. Over all, the researchers concluded, fructose-sweetened drinks were twice as effective as the glucose-sweetened drinks in stimulating the liver to recover.

This finding concurs with a large body of earlier research suggesting that fructose is particularly useful for avid athletes. During long, hard workouts, they can burn through almost all of their stored glycogen and fade. But drink or eat something sugary, and the muscles can keep working.

Interestingly, absorption seems to be best if the sweetener contains both glucose and fructose. A 2008 study of cyclists found that if they downed a sports drink sweetened with glucose during a two-hour bout of moderate pedaling, they rode faster during a subsequent time trial than riders who had drunk only water. But if the sports drink contained both glucose and fructose (in a two-to-one ratio), the riders were 8 percent faster in the time trial than those drinking glucose-sweetened fluids alone. (Most bottled sports drinks on the American market are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, so contain glucose and fructose in a closer to one-to-one ratio.)

Does this suggest that those of us who regularly but moderately work out might want to consider sugar loading? Alas, the answer is no. Large amounts of sweetened sports drinks, gels and bars are recommended only for the “serious athlete” who works out for more than two hours at a time, Asker Jeukendrup, director of the human performance lab at the University of Birmingham in England and co-author of both studies, said in an e-mail. “If someone goes for a 30-minute walk, the duration and intensity will be too short” for sugar to make a difference in terms of performance, he said.

But that half-hour stroll could affect how your body responds to sugar, other new science suggests. You may not need Skittles to fuel the walk, but the walk will affect how your body metabolizes the candy, if you do indulge. Activity can “significantly reduce the health risks associated with fructose and other forms of sugar,” said Dr. Robert J. Johnson, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, who has long studied fructose metabolism and was an author of a review article last year about fructose and exercise.

Consider, again, the liver. In sedentary people, ingesting large amounts of fructose, which is mostly metabolized in the liver, has been associated with the development of a disorder known as fatty liver. That condition can reduce the body’s ability to respond to insulin, the hormone that helps to control blood sugar. A person with a fatty liver often develops resistance to insulin, becomes less able to control levels of glucose in the blood, and drifts almost inexorably toward Type 2 diabetes.

But exercise can derail this process. A review of recent studies, published in December, concluded that beginning an exercise program could significantly lessen the amount of fat in someone’s liver, even if that person didn’t lose weight during the program.

Moderate exercise — about 30 minutes a day five times a week — also aids in the control of blood sugar levels if a person has developed Type 2 diabetes, according to a comprehensive review published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Over all, Dr. Johnson said, the “current science suggests that exercise exerts a positive physiological influence” on some of the same metabolic pathways that sugar harms. “Exercise may make you resistant to the undesirable effects of sugar,” he said.

Not that any of us should live on sweets. “Sugar is not all bad,” Dr. Johnson concluded, “but it’s hardly nutritionally good, either.” The best sweet option, he added, is fruit, which comes prepackaged with a small but satiating dose of all-natural fructose.

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From Prevention.com

Lose stubborn belly flab and tone up all over with this fast, easy plan


Yoga is a known stress buster, but it’s also one of the most effective workouts for fighting stubborn fat stores, especially the ones that crop up after age 40. The reason: Studies show that yoga lowers levels of stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity–a signal to your body to burn food as fuel rather than store it as fat. The following yoga workout for weight loss will do just that while firming up your arms, legs, butt, and abs. Start now to see weight loss results in as little as 3 weeks.

Workout at a glance

What you need: A yoga mat or carpeted space

How to do it: Follow this routine at least 3 times a week, holding each move 1 time for 3 to 5 deep breaths, unless otherwise noted. Start with the Main Move for each exercise. If it’s too difficult, do the Make It Easier variation. If it’s not challenging enough, try the Make It Harder option. For faster results: Hold each pose for 5 to 8 breaths and increase repetitions (where noted) by 2 or 3.

MAIN MOVE: Crescent [Firms abs, hips, and thighs]
Stand with feet together, toes forward, and arms at sides. Inhale and raise arms overhead, reaching fingertips toward ceiling. Exhale, and bend forward from hips, bringing hands to floor (it’s okay to bend knees). Inhale, and as you exhale, step right leg back into a lunge (left knee bent about 90 degrees, knee over ankle; right leg extended and on ball of foot). Inhale and raise arms overhead; gaze forward. Hold, then return to standing and repeat, stepping left leg back.

Make it Harder: From end position, inhale and arch torso, arms, and head backward, gazing at fingertips.

Make it Easier: Lower right knee to touch floor as you step back into a lunge, and rest hands on left thigh.

MAIN MOVE: Willow [Firms sides of abs]
Stand with feet together, arms at sides. Place sole of left foot on inside of right thigh, knee bent to side. Touch palms in front of chest for 2 breaths. On third inhale, extend arms up, fingertips toward ceiling. Exhale, and on the inhale, bend torso to left. Inhale and straighten. Repeat 3 to 5 times, pressing foot into thigh; switch sides.

Make it Easier: Keep left foot on calf or touch toes to floor for balance.

Make it Harder: Close eyes as you balance and bend.

MAIN MOVE: Rocking Boat [Firms abs and back]

Sit with knees bent, feet on floor, hands on thighs. With torso straight and head in line with body, lean back about 45 degrees, raising feet so calves are parallel to floor, toes pointed. On an inhale, extend arms and legs, keeping legs together. Exhale, and as you inhale, lower torso and legs 3 to 4 inches so body forms a wider V shape. Exhale and raise torso and legs. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Make it Easier: Hold backs of thighs with hands and keep legs bent. Lower torso only.

Make it Harder: Once in the wider V position, extend arms overhead.

MAIN MOVE: Hover [Firms shoulders, arms, abs, and back]
Begin in push-up position on toes with arms straight, hands below shoulders, and body in line from head to heels. On an exhale, lower chest toward floor, bending elbows back, arms close to body, abs tight. Hold a few inches above floor.

Make it Easier: Begin on hands and knees and walk hands forward until body is in line from head to knees.

Make it Harder: While holding the hover, lift left leg 6 to 12 inches, pause, and lower. Do 3 to 5 times, then switch legs.

MAIN MOVE: Chair [Firms butt and thighs]
Stand with feet together, toes forward, arms at sides. Inhale and raise arms overhead, palms facing each other. Exhale and sit back about 45 degrees, keeping knees behind toes and abs tight to support back; gaze forward.

Make it Easier: Do the move with feet hip-distance apart, hands on thighs, and bend only about 30 degrees.

Make it Harder: After you sit back, lift heels off floor, balancing on balls of feet (knees will be in front of toes); gaze up at fingertips.

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By Rachel Sturtz

Dance is hot! More than 24 million people tune in weekly to shows like Dancing with the Stars. Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance workout, attracts 10 million-plus participants weekly. Last year, even Congress got into the act, officially recognizing July 31 as National Dance Day.

All the attention isn’t surprising when you consider that a good beat can get just about everyone tapping their feet or swinging their hips. Moving to the music subtracts stress and adds joy. You’re not counting reps or watching the clock. You’re out meeting people; it’s entertainment.

But dance is also a total-body workout that has all the benefits of a long run or a session on the elliptical–and then some. In a 1-hour class, you can burn as many as 400 calories. Do that 3 times a week and you could drop nearly 20 pounds in a year without dieting. You’ll also tone nearly every muscle in your body, improve balance, and boost brainpower.

You’ve seen what dance can do–some DWTS contestants have lost more than 40 pounds, all while having a great time (See our interview with DWTS judge Carrie Ann Inaba ). You can do it too, even if you have two left feet or achy joints. Most adult beginner classes are gentler than ones for traditional types of exercise. You just need to find the right dance style for you, says Deborah Vogel, dancer and director of the dance education Web site The Body Series. Here, our guide to help you shimmy into your best body ever.


Learning curve
4 out of 5

* The level of difficulty is based on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 1 equivalent to slow dancing at the high school prom and 5 a Cirque du Soleil routine.

The dance at a glance
While ballet is so graceful and fluid it appears almost effortless, it actually requires tremendous power and control. Though it doesn’t have to entirely consume you as it did Nina in Black Swan, ballet does demand a good deal of commitment.

You’ll love it if…
You dressed up in tutus as a child or prefer methodical exercise, like Pilates. Ballet requires more discipline than any other dance, and the steps call for total-body precision, including how you position your fingers, toes, and head. If you like rules, then this style is for you.

Why it’s healthy
Ballet increases flexibility from head to toe more than other dance styles. And the focus on posture will have you standing taller and moving more gracefully even off the dance floor. A study from England showed that ballet dancers outscored swimmers on 7 out of 10 fitness tests such as strength.

Do-at-home DVD
New York City Ballet Workouts ($19; collagevideo.com)


Learning curve
3 out of 5

The dance at a glance
Quick, sharp steps, lots of hip action, and a fiery attitude set Latin dances like salsa, merengue, and cha-cha apart from the rest. Most require a partner, but there are solo options like Zumba.

Why it’s healthy
Abs–from transverse to obliques–and the muscles that support your spine get a 360-degree workout from the twisting, pulling, and constant back-and-forth movement. A stronger core improves posture and helps prevent lower-back pain.

You’ll love it if?
You have a sexy wiggle in your walk and aren’t afraid to use it. Latin dances are set to a fast beat (160 to 210 beats per minute) ensuring a higher-than-average calorie burn and plenty of body heat between partners.

Do-at-home DVD
Partner Dancing 101: The Latin Dances ($15; gaiam.com)
Dance Off the Inches: Sizzling Salsa ($9; collage video.com)

Masala Bhangra

Learning curve
2.5 out of 5

The dance at a glance
The Masala Bhangra is India’s Electric Slide–it’s the dance American audiences loved in Slumdog Millionaire. But no need to don a sari to partake. In Masala Bhangra, your arms do a lot of the dancing–one move has your arms in a U shape while you turn your wrists like you’re screwing in lightbulbs–making it ideal for any level of exerciser.

You’ll love it if?
Your tastes run to the exotic and you love to swing your hips. Because the style isn’t as rigid as other types of dance, it’s a low-pressure workout to try solo or with girlfriends.

Why it’s healthy
All the upper-body action shapes sexy shoulders, arms, and back. It also strengthens the small, easily injured rotator cuff muscles in your shoulders.

Note: All the over-head action raises your heart rate. If it feels too intense or your arms ache, simply lower your hands below your heart while still dancing.

Do-at-home DVD
Hemalayaa: Bollywood Dance Blast ($15; acacialifestyle.com)


Learning curve
3 out of 5

The dance at a glance
If Latin is hot, then jazz is cool. Moves are a blend of sharp kicks and sultry slides, all performed with a “look at me now” attitude–think Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago. The goal is to create a striking silhouette.

You’ll love it if…
You’re a Broadway-musical fan and have a big personality. Form is important, but so is self-expression. Classes are typically high-energy affairs involving large, dynamic moves that use the entire body.

Why it’s healthy
The fat-blasting combo of cardio, strength, and power moves boosts your metabolism for faster weight loss. It improves agility and gait for better balance, studies show. And all the torso bending and rotating help tone your midsection.

Do-at-home DVD
Musical Theatre Dance ($40; bobrizzo.com)


Learning curve
2 out of 5

The dance at a glance
In tap, you wear shoes that have metal plates attached to the heel and forefoot; these make a percussive sound when you rhythmically touch or stomp on the floor. Compared with other dance styles, there’s less coordination between your arms and legs and only a little hip action, so tap dancing is actually easier than it looks.

You’ll love it if…
You’re the finger-snapping, rhythm-keeping type. And being clumsy’s okay, because the style hides a lack of grace.

Why it’s healthy
Even in a beginner’s class, you’ll be doing enough small hops and jumps to strengthen bones. And, according to a study in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, tap dancing has less impact than running, making it a joint-friendly activity. Tap also increases the foot’s range of motion and strengthens fast-twitch muscles (the ones required for actions such as jumping). Off the dance floor, these improvements help you to be surer on your feet and protect you from injuries like ankle sprains.

Do-at-home DVD
Tap Dance Made Easy, Vol. 1 ($25; bobrizzo.com)

Good luck, healthy girl!

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OK, so you’re getting sick of your workout routine, and so is your body.  When you started exercising, you lost 5 pounds no problem.  Then nothing.  Hmph.

Our bodies, thanks to evolution, adjust to new patterns of behavior pretty quickly, which can lead to less than desired results with the same amount of effort.  Love to run?  Good for you – but maybe jogging on a treadmill for 20 minutes just isn’t doing the trick anymore.

It’s always a good idea to switch up your workout – add new types of cardio like swimming, biking, trail running, jump roping, dance, or kick boxing.  But maybe you don’t have the luxury of a full athletic center or a ton of time – we hear you!

An easy way to bust out of that weight loss plateau and fitness funk is to crank it up – the treadmill, that is.  Running at an incline is obviously much more difficult but requires little more than a push of a button.  You can still sweat for the same amount of time, run the same speed, and get a much harder workout without having to switch equipment.

It’s easy to understand why: Running on an incline is harder, even though your pace is slower than on a flat surface. But that extra effort is the driving force of a more efficient workout. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that uphill running activates 9 percent more muscle each stride compared with exercising at the same relative intensity on level ground.

Other benefits of using the incline:

  • By increasing the incline level on the treadmill, you will increase the number of calories burned during your workouts.
  • Incline training works the leg muscles differently and more efficiently than training on a level surface.
  • Incline training provides a great cardiovascular workout without having to increase speed.
  • The lower impact workouts on a treadmill decrease the likelihood of injury or strain to knees, hips, back, and ankles.
  • Incline workouts on a treadmill really stretch the calves and help you build long, lean calf muscles.
  • The incline feature allows for variation and helps prevent boredom during exercise sessions.

Start by warming up walking at an incline, such as a speed of 3.5 on an incline of 6.  Do that for 3 minutes.  Lower the treadmill to an incline of 1 and pick up your pace to a jog, between 4.5 – 5.5.  Stay there for 30 seconds and slowly increase your incline every 30 seconds until you’re jogging at an incline of 6.  Bring it back down and start over, only this time increase your speed to 6-7 and take it up to an incline of 10.  Stay up at a 10 incline for 30 seconds, then come back down in 30 second 1 incline increments.  You’ll be sweating in no time!

Good luck, healthy girl!

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