17 Science-Backed Ways to Totally Crush Cardio Workouts

Love it or hate it, cardio workouts, such as kickboxing or bodyweight routines, are essential to overall health and critical to athletic performance. A typical cardio workout elevates the heart rate, helps improve lung efficiency, and burns a whole lot of calories and fat. And guess what? There are things you can do to get even more out of it. In addition to the non-negotiables (read: proper workout nutrition and hydration, along with a solid warm-up and cool-down), here are 17 ways to get better results.

1. Think outside the treadmill.

There are plenty of ways to up the intensity and hit your aerobic zone without running. Try this: Use light weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, for a fast-paced strength-training session. That means minimal rest between sets (about 30 seconds) to boost your heart rate and metabolism.

2. Stop and start.

You’ve probably heard the seemingly endless list of interval training pros, so we won’t repeat them here. We’ll simply say that there are lots of ways to incorporate HIIT—whether that’s on a track, bike, or rowing machine. Whatever method or exact interval you pick, the idea remains the same: Give it your all, rest, and repeat.

3. Take time for Tabata.

Tabata is a high-intensity workout that was originally designed to last just four minutes. So-called Tabata classes at your local gym might be longer, but the idea is the same: 20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, which is repeated for a total of four minutes.

4. Mix and match.

Intervals have applications that go beyond running or cycling. Combining strength training and cardio into one workout (hello, Barry’s Bootcamp) will produce results in as little as eight minutes. (And while the subject has produced mixed results in studies, it probably doesn’t matter too much which you do first. ) Luckily, you don’t have to hit up a boutique gym to make this happen. Instead of sprinting and stopping, do a bodyweight exercise during your rest period.

5. Carry it.

This one works especially well at the grocery store. Rather than heading straight for the cart, carry all of your items in a basket as you walk the store. Sounds minor, but carrying any additional weight while walking or running has been shown to improve intensity, recovery, and recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Just be sure to keep an eye on mechanics—even a few extra pounds can change your form.

6. Add some speed.

Have a need for speed? Running on a treadmill may seem like a drag, but since the belt helps with leg turnover, there are few places you can go as fast. Plus it’s is a great tool for promoting consistency and pace per mile. (And yeah, sometimes proving you can run a lot faster than you thought you could.)

7. Up the incline.

As you’re cranking up the treadmill’s speed, don’t forget to adjust the incline. As the belt gets steeper, so will your heart rate, sending your calorie burn through the roof. Bumping up the incline to a 5.5 percent grade or higher can also strengthen the legs and core, not to mention improve running form and sprint speed (by lengthening stride and increasing the number of steps taken per second).

8. Let it go.

Of the handrail, that is. Holding onto the side or top of the treadmill does more harm than good. It’s a surefire way to sabotage a workout, decreasing energy output and oxygen consumption and significantly reducing the effectiveness of a workout. Go hands free then pump arms from waist to chest, not across the body (which can slow you down).

9. Run to the beat.

Pick something with a quick beat—we’re talking 120 to 140 beats per minute—to get the most out of your cardio workout. Matching your cadence to a beat has been shown to alleviate perceived physiological effort. In other words, the right music can make a tough workout feel easier. It’s also been shown to improve performance, increase motivation, and put distractions (like negative thoughts and fatigue) on pause.

10. Go off road.

If the treadmill isn’t getting the job done, head for the great outdoors. Trail running, mountain biking, or even open water swimming can add variety and immediately up the intensity. Plus there’s a growing body of research that indicates working out in nature can have serious mental health benefits. And if that’s not enough, navigating uneven ground, like sand or rocks, can up your athleticism and improve stabilization muscles.

11. Add some kettlebell work.

When it comes to cardio training, kettlebells are a better bet than traditional dumbbells. The all-mighty kettlebell swing has been shown to improve oxygen uptake, max heart rate, and functional performance.

12. Get around.

Create a circuit training workout that stacks up a fast-paced combination of bodyweight cardio exercises. By pairing resistance training with high-intensity aerobic moves back-to-back (think jump squats, burpees, and mountain climbers), the body will achieve results fast—including building muscle and burning fat.

13. Go high tech.

The trick to running a faster 5K or finding motivation to crush your next workout could be in an app. We love Motion Traxx, along with the 38 other fitness apps here. Had enough of your smartphone? Pick up a heart rate monitor or consider a GPS watch that will help track distance, pace, and the number of calories you burn while running.

14. Enjoy some coffee.

Fact: A pre-workout dose of caffeine can provide that needed pick-me-up, improve endurance, and even increase athletic power in the short-term. Just be careful not to overdo it: In most studies, subjects were given relatively low doses of caffeine (3-5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight). Depending on your size and the potency of your coffee, this translates to one cup or less.

15. Get social.

Building a workout routine around team sports, group activities, or fitness classes can boost performance during aerobic exercise. Even if you can’t get to a class, a workout partner can make the entire gym experience more enjoyable—with an extra boost of accountability. Not sure what to do? Check out our 29 kick-ass partner exercise ideas.

16. Play the right mind games.

Mental fatigue can be the downfall of any workout. Studies have shown that if the brain is tired, performance also suffers. Reenergize yourself with a new running route, fitness class, or workout routine. Or try one of these other options for breaking through a fitness plateau.

17. Time it right.

Research suggests that working out first thing in the morning is best for creating and sticking to an exercise habit. However, not everyone is a morning person (though there are ways to become one). The good news is that when it comes to killing a cardio workout, any time is better than never (in fact, there are even surprising benefits of working out at night).

source: http://greatist.com/fitness/scientifically-backed-cardio-tips-hacks

The 15-Minute Low-Impact Workout to Strengthen Your Butt

Newsflash: You don’t need to put yourself through a soul-crushing workout to see changes in your body. And this 15-minute, low-impact workout from Grokker proves just that.


These bodyweight-only moves can be done at the gym or on your living room floor. When you hit play, you’ll follow trainer Le Jon Guillory through a series of kickboxing-inspired moves, all performed on your knees, that will burn out your bum and build serious strength in your glutes. Plus, the trainer’s high-energy style and sense of humor will keep you motivated (and maybe even smiling) ’til the end.


5 Mind-Body Exercises for a Healthier Heart

There are a myriad of factors that affect heart health. From regular exercise to smoking cessation to eating a nutritious diet, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your heart. But did you know that the mind-body connection can also be a strong ally in reducing your risk of heart disease?

While many of us think of physical health when it comes to heart health, research shows that your mood, outlook, and stress levels strongly affect the body—and the heart. This means that heart disease prevention isn’t just a matter of eating better or exercising; engaging in stress-reducing exercises and mind-body practices can significantly improve the health of your heart, too. As a bonus, these activities have other body and mind benefits, too, like boosting your mood, helping you focus, improving your fitness, and increasing your overall life satisfaction. Talk about a win-win!

Here are five mind-body activities you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle to help your mind, body—and heart!

Yoga is probably best known for its flexibility benefits, along with its ability to help you sleep better, feel better about yourself and promote mindfulness. But, yoga has also been shown to be a powerful contributor of heart health. In fact, according to November 2009 research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, those who practice yoga have higher heart rate variability (a sign of a healthy heart) than those who do not regularly practice yoga. In addition, the study found that regular yogis had stronger parasympathetic control, which indicates better autonomic control over heart rate—a sign of a healthier heart.

Another recent study by Ohio State University researchers, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. IL-6 is part of the body’s inflammatory response and has been correlated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related chronic diseases, making it a key marker in heart-health research. The women doing yoga also showed smaller increases in IL-6 in their blood after stressful experiences than women who were the same age and weight but who were not practicing yoga. Scientists believe that this indicates that yoga may also help people respond more calmly to stress in their everyday lives, which is a boon to heart health.

Although researchers can’t exactly pinpoint which part of yoga—the breathing, stretching, relaxation or meditation—is responsible for the positive results, it’s encouraging to say the least!

How to incorporate yoga in your life: Reap the heart-healthy benefits of yoga with just 20 minutes of yoga three times a week. Be sure to read our beginner’s guide to yoga to get you started!

There is ample research on how meditation can help reduce stress, which helps the heart stay healthy. But the most impressive study came from researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. After following about 200 patients for an average of five years, researchers found that high-risk patients who practiced Transcendental Meditation (where you sit quietly and silently repeat a mantra) cut their risk of heart attack, stroke and death from all causes almost in half compared to a group of similar patients who did not meditate. In addition, the group that meditated tended to remain disease-free longer, reduced their blood pressure and had lower stress levels. Researchers hypothesize that some of the benefits of meditation come from stress reduction, which causes a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and dampens the inflammatory processes associated with atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries.

How to incorporate meditation in your life: While the research focuses on Transcendental Meditation, there are a variety of ways to meditate including walking meditation, guided meditation via a CD or simply sitting and listening to the sounds around you. Starting out with just five minutes a day of quiet time with your thoughts can yield big results. For seven ways to get your zen on, click here.

Pilates is a great form of exercise. Its mat-based moves have been shown to increase flexibility, build core strength, improve posture and alleviate lower-back pain. But did you also know that it can help prevent heart disease by improving the fitness of your heart? According to a 2005 report from the American College of Sports Medicine, a beginner Pilates workout counts as low- to moderate-intensity exercise, which is comparable to active stretching. Intermediate Pilates workouts are the cardio equivalent of working at a moderate-intensity level, such as speed walking at a rate of 4 to 4.5 mph on the treadmill. Advanced Pilates workouts provide the most cardiovascular benefit with a moderately high intensity, similar to basic stepping on a six-inch platform, according to the report. All Pilates workouts have also shown to improve circulation.

In addition to improving the cardiovascular system, similar to yoga, Pilates also links movement to breath, enhancing your mind-body connection, and thereby reducing stress and lowering the heart rate.

How to incorporate Pilates in your life: If you’re ready to try Pilates, try this short lower body Pilates workout. You can add this on to the end of your usual cardio workout or do it first thing in the morning before heading to work. For best results, try to get in a short 10- to 20-minute Pilates workout three times a week.

Also known as moving meditation, Tai Chi combines mental concentration with slow, controlled movements to focus the mind, challenge the body, and improve the flow of what the Chinese call “chi,” or life energy. If you’ve ever seen someone doing Tai Chi, it looks like a slow and graceful low-impact dance.

But Tai Chi isn’t just slow dancing; it has serious health benefits, including improving heart function and decreasing blood pressure and stress reduction. In fact, a May 2010 systematic review in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi was effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increasing self-esteem.

How to incorporate Tai Chi in your life: Sign up at your local health club or community center for a series of Tai Chi classes with an experienced instructor. Practicing formally in class each week will give you the skills to practice Tai Chi on your own!

Deep Breathing
What do most of the above mind-body practices listed above have in common? That’s right: deep, slow and controlled breathing! While not really an “exercise,” the simple act of sitting and focusing on your breathing can do wonders for your heart. While there isn’t much research on how deep breathing affects the heart, you can feel the results for yourself when you simply sit and take five big deep breaths, focusing on a deep inhale and exhale. You can almost instantaneously feel your body release stress and your mind calm down.

Because it helps fuel your body and its cells with nutrient-rich oxygen, deep breathing has been shown to slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure, making it the perfect heart-healthy activity when you’re short on time and need a quick way to relieve some stress.

How to incorporate deep breathing in your life: Try to take a few deep breaths at multiple times throughout the day. Making a habit to take three deep breaths upon waking, at lunch and when sitting in traffic can greatly benefit your heart health without disrupting your busy schedule. And, of course, when you’re really feeling stressed, excuse yourself to the restroom for some deep breathing. They don’t call it a “restroom” for nothing!

Mind-body exercises are a powerful way to boost your heart health and keep your ticker ticking stronger and longer, so be sure to incorporate one or more of these mind-body exercises in your heart-healthy lifestyle.

This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople fitness experts and certified personal trainers, Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols.

American College of Sports Medicine. “Pilates Research Offers New Information on Popular Technique,” accessed March 2011. www.acsm.org.

Associated Press. Breath Deep to Lower Blood Pressure, Doc Says,” accessed March 2011. www.msnbc.msn.com.

Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. “Effects of Stress Reduction on Clinical Events in African Americans With Coronary Heart Disease,” accessed March 2011. www.circ.ahajournals.org.

Cleveland Clinic. “Heart and Vascular Health Prevention: Pilates,” accessed March 2011. www.my.clevelandclinic.org.

Framson et al. Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009; 109 (8): 1439 DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.006

Sarnataro, Barbara Russi. “Tai Chi Exercises Both Mind and Body,” accessed March 2011. www.webmd.com.

Science Daily. “Tai Chi Gets Cautious Thumbs Up for Psychological Health,” accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com.

ScienceDaily. “Yoga Boosts Heart Health, New Research Finds,” accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com.

ScienceDaily. “Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows,” accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. text

Smith, Rebecca. “Meditation ‘cuts risk of heart attack by half’,” accessed March 2011. www.telegraph.co.uk.

The 13 Best Abs Exercises

We often get questions about the best abs exercises—after all, who doesn’t want to tone their tummy in the least amount of time? There are countless exercises that target the abs, including fitness DVDs (Does “8 Minute Abs” ring a bell?) and even pricey machines that you often see on infomercials. But do you need a video or specialized piece of equipment to get the abs of your dreams?

A study conducted at San Diego State University’s Biomechanics Lab (and published by ACE, the American Council on Exercise) says no. Their research revealed that the best exercises for your abs don’t require any gizmos, and are surprisingly easy to fit into your day.

Researchers looked at the effectiveness of 13 common abdominal exercises—everything from crunches to the “Ab Roller”  machine. Using EMG (electromyography), researchers measured the muscle activity of the participants to determine which exercises best targeted the abs and the obliques, while also limiting the activity of the hips and thighs (because when an abdominal exercise is executed poorly, the hips and thighs engage to “help out” the abs).

Overall, researchers said that all of these exercises are “relatively effective” ways to train the abs—but some are more effective than others.

Check out their ranking of abs exercises (from best to worst) below:

1. Bicycle Crunches 2. Knee Lifts on Captain’s Chair 3. Crunches on Ball

Click here for a demo.

Click here for a demo.

Click here for a demo.

4. Crunches with Vertical Legs: This exercise is just like a traditional crunch (see #11 below), but with your legs extended up into the air, in line with the hips.
5. Torso Track Machine
6. Crunches with Arms Extended: This exercise is just like a traditional crunch (see #11 below), but you extend your arms overhead, squeezing your upper arms by your ears as your crunch up and lower down.
7. Reverse Crunches: Click here for a demo.
8. Crunches with Heel Push: This exercise is just like the Crunches with Vertical Legs (see #4 above), except that as you crunch up you also slightly lift your hips off the ground (feet towards the ceiling).
9. Ab Roller Machine
10. Plank: Click here for a demo.
11. Traditional Crunches: Click here for a demo.
12. Exercise Tubing Pull
13. Ab Rocker Machine

To view the entire study report from ACE, click here. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download this PDF.)

Action Sparked: It’s important to remember that every individual performs exercises differently, and even in this study, an exercise that proved effective for one person was sometimes ineffective or uncomfortable for another person. Especially for people with back, spine or disc issues, it can be tricky to find exercises that don’t aggravate your problems. So listen to your body and work at a level that is comfortable for you, and never perform an exercise that causes pain.

The big thing you can take from this study is that you really don’t need to buy anything special to train your abs—traditional exercises prove to be better. But if you are going to invest in one piece of exercise equipment, a simple and inexpensive stability ball is the way to go. Not only are crunches on the ball ranked as #3 above, but the ball is extremely versatile for all types of exercises.

Remember that your abs are just like any other muscles in your body, so train them accordingly. That means 1-3 sessions per week, and 1-2 days of rest in between abs workouts. Also, be sure to avoid the top 10 abs training mistakes.


Source: www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=191

Nutrition Tips and Supplements for Insomnia

Dietary Changes for a Better Night’s Sleep

Is a good night’s sleep eluding you?
Tossing and turning the whole night through,
Drowsiness, fatigue, a lack of sleep,
There is more help than just counting sheep.

There are many factors that can cause sleep problems, and even more potential solutions. The steps you take to improve your sleeping patterns will be individual, based on the cause of your insomnia and the treatment plan laid out by your health care provider. In addition to the many lifestyle changes that can help you sleep better, the following nutrition tips and supplements may also help improve the quality and quantity of your shut-eye:

Stop eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. If your body is trying to digest food, you won’t be able to fully relax, fall asleep or stay asleep.

Limit: fried and fatty foods, refined carbohydrates (such as white rice, breads, pasta, and sugars), and spicy foods (especially if you are prone to heartburn), especially before bedtime. The effects of these foods can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Enjoy a light snack approximately two hours before bedtime, as falling and staying asleep can be difficult if you are hungry. A healthy snack can help take the edge off of your hunger and help you sleep through the night. Your snack should contain mostly carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. This combination may help increase the availability of tryptophan (an amino acid that helps induce sleep) to your brain. A few pre-bedtime snack ideas include:

  • A small bowl of oatmeal
  • Cereal with low-fat milk
  • Yogurt with granola sprinkled on top
  • Half of a bagel topped with peanut butter
  • A piece of whole wheat bread with one slice of deli turkey
  • Six whole-grain crackers with one ounce cheese
  • Sliced apple with one ounce cheese or peanut butter

Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep quickly, but it can disrupt your normal sleep patterns and leave you feeling un-rested the next morning.

Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods during the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate that can delay your sleep or cause you to wake up during the night. You may want to avoid caffeine entirely and see if your sleep improves.

Limit the consumption of liquids in the evening, to decrease the urge to go to the bathroom during the night.

Along with these lifestyle measures, you may wish to consider a natural sleep aid supplement. Supplements should NEVER be taken together or with other sedative drugs. Discuss the appropriateness of these supplements with your doctor first, as well as dosage and the risk of physical and psychological dependency. The two best-researched, most effective supplemental sleep aids are valerian root and melatonin.

  • Valerian root (valeriana officinalis) is a sedative herb that has been used for centuries. Several small studies have suggested that valerian helps people fall asleep and stay asleep. It may take up to four weeks (or more) of usage to notice improvements in sleep, and this herb can leave some people feeling “fuzzy” the next morning. A typical dosage of valerian root is 300-600 milligrams of valerian extract in tablet or capsule form, 30 minutes before bedtime. Always discuss valerian root with your doctor before trying it.
  • Melatonin is a hormone (made in the brain of humans but also produced by animals and plants) that appears to play a critical role in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. So far, the effects of melatonin are complex and poorly-understood, but research shows that it is “possibly effective” in decreasing sleep disturbances caused by jetlag, as well as “likely effective” in easing sleep disorders in blind children and adults, and people with mental retardation, autism, or other central nervous system disorders. There is not enough research to conclude anything about melatonin’s effectiveness for other sleep disturbances. Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter, but always discuss melatonin use with your doctor before trying it.

When it comes to treating insomnia, there is insufficient evidence or limited research to support the following supplements:

  • Hops
  • Indian snakeroot
  • Kava
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Passionflower

While nutritional changes and supplements alone are possibilities for curing your insomnia, it’s best to take a comprehensive approach. Work with your doctor to find potential underlying causes to your sleeping problems, and create a treatment plan that encompasses lifestyle, diet and exercise changes to help you sleep better.


Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=876&page=1

Fitting Healthy Habits Into Your Hectic Life

13 Tips to Get More Nutrition and Fitness into Your Day

We often get questions about the best abs exercises—after all, who doesn’t want to tone their tummy in the least amount of time? There are countless exercises that target the abs, including fitness DVDs (Does “8 Minute Abs” ring a bell?) and even pricey machines that you often see on infomercials. But do you need a video or specialized piece of equipment to get the abs of your dreams?

A study conducted at San Diego State University’s Biomechanics Lab (and published by ACE, the American Council on Exercise) says no. Their research revealed that the best exercises for your abs don’t require any gizmos, and are surprisingly easy to fit into your day.

Researchers looked at the effectiveness of 13 common abdominal exercises—everything from crunches to the “Ab Roller”  machine. Using EMG (electromyography), researchers measured the muscle activity of the participants to determine which exercises best targeted the abs and the obliques, while also limiting the activity of the hips and thighs (because when an abdominal exercise is executed poorly, the hips and thighs engage to “help out” the abs).

Overall, researchers said that all of these exercises are “relatively effective” ways to train the abs—but some are more effective than others.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do. And it can feel like an added stressor when you are trying to integrate healthy habits into your already hectic schedule. But if you make time for healthy habits, you’ll find yourself with extra reserves of energy that will lower your stress and help you get through life’s challenges.

Here are a few things you can start doing right now to make healthy habits a relatively painless part of your routine:

1. Drink water throughout the day. You don’t hear this nearly enough: water is an all-purpose wonder-substance. It’s great for your skin, your digestive system, and circulatory system, and aids in weight loss and cellulite reduction. If you feel fatigued during the day, it’s often because you aren’t hydrated properly. Drink water throughout the day, sipping from a large bottle or glass. If you have it nearby, it’s easy to remember. If you don’t like the “taste” of water, keep a supply of lemon so that you can add a slice to your water – it cuts any bitterness, adds a bit of vitamin C and makes it taste more festive!

2. Cut back on the amount of soda and coffee you drink. Sugar and caffeine dehydrate you and create energy rushes followed by crashes, which are ultimately energy-depleting. Substitute with drinks like green tea or 100% fruit juice.

3. Replace high-sugar foods with low-sugar versions. Cutting back on the amount of refined sugar you consume helps reduce calories and weight gain and also helps you avoid the energy slumps that come from sugar withdrawal. Items high in refined sugar include most soft drinks, cereals, baked goods, and of course, candy and ice cream. Look for low-sugar or no-sugar versions of these, or simply opt for healthy snacks instead.

4. Stock up on healthy, portable snacks. When you are grocery shopping, pick up bags of baby carrots, string cheese, nuts, fresh and dried fruit, single serving packs of applesauce, yogurt, wholegrain crackers, peanut butter, turkey jerky, etc. Having healthy portable snacks around will help you avoid bad vending-machine, convenience store and fast-food options. Read some more portable snack ideas.

5. Take the time to plan healthy meals for the week. Spend 15 minutes or so to map out your meals. Keep it simple. Then, when you shop for groceries, make your purchases based on the meals you will make during the week. This will help you avoid relying on less healthy take-out or fast food choices.

6. Purchase frozen, ready-to-cook ingredients. Frozen fruits and vegetables have high vitamin and mineral content because they don’t sit around losing these nutrients for long before they are preserved. Although you’ll want to keep plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables around, it’s great to have frozen produce available for quick meal additions and smaller servings. Also, some grocery stores offer frozen boneless chicken breasts and a wide variety of seafood items in re-sealable packages. These are great for quick, healthy meals.

7. Pack your lunch the night before. You’ll have given yourself the gift of extra time in the morning and you will assure that you have a healthy meal during the day. Don’t forget to pack snack items so you can avoid the vending machine.

8. Cook double batches of whatever you’re cooking. When you prepare dinner, especially on weekends, cook extra and freeze to use for another dinner or lunch. Then, you’ll have a healthy meal ready to go when you are.

9. Give yourself some slack. If you are stressed out about preparing healthy meals every day, use what some experts call the “80/20” rule in your eating. If 80 percent of what you eat is healthy, then allow yourself to take it a little easier for the remaining 20 percent. You and your diet will survive.

10. Fit in exercise whenever you can. Experts recommend that adults exercise a minimum of 30 minutes three times per week. Aim for this amount, but don’t kick yourself if you can’t meet this goal. Any amount of exercise is better than none. No time to go to a gym? Build a stock of exercise tapes – many have routines that you can complete in 20-40 minutes. Use hand weights or do crunches, leg-lifts and lunges while watching television. Or invest in an exercise bike – you can pedal while catching up on your reading. Think of what would be most interesting to you and what best fits your schedule

11. Take a walk break during the day. Even 20 minutes can make a difference in your energy level, plus it gives you time to clear your head. If you walk with a friend or colleague, it also gives you time to socialize.

12. Whenever possible, walk. Increase the amount of time you can walk, versus sit or drive. It doesn’t take that much extra time to park a bit farther from the store entrance, or to make a personal visit to a colleague rather than phoning, instant messaging or e-mailing.

13. Get enough sleep. Even if you gain more time in your day by cutting back on sleep, you will be less effective throughout the day, as your energy level and cognitive functioning will be reduced. Insufficient sleep also makes you more susceptible to illness. By getting enough sleep, you become more efficient during the time you are awake.

Begin integrating some or all of these habits today. Make them part of your normal routine. You’ll be surprised at how little time is involved and how much better you’ll feel!


Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=186&page=1

5 Ways to Say Goodbye to Dark Circles and Puffy Eyes

Celebrities—they’re just like us. Their skin isn’t perfect. They’re often just as sleep-deprived (try 4 a.m. call times) and they, too, are faced with puffy eyes and dark circles as a result. So what’s the star secret to looking wide-eyed and gorgeous when going from red eye to red carpet? Eye masks. The single-use patches blanket the contours under the eye to deliver potent ingredients faster and deeper than your standard eye cream. Here, five of our favorites that smooth and soothe. (They make for a great Instagram post, too.)

Herbal remedy


Photo: courtesy of Sephora.com

Sephora Green Tea Eye Mask ($5 a pair; sephora.com)
Inside: Two silky sheets (one for each eye) infused with antioxidant-rich green tea to ease puffiness and reduce the appearance of dark circles, plus soothing aloe vera leaf extract. They’re comfortable to wear and won’t slide down your face, so pop on a pair for fifteen minutes while you blow-dry your hair or pick out an outfit to fake awake fast.

Quick fix


Photo: courtesy of Amazon.com

Patchology FlashPatch Eye Gels ($50 for 60 sets; amazon.com)
These wonderfully cooling gels offer instant relief—okay, near to, requiring only five minutes. Packed with hyaluronic acid to amp up hydration and hydrolyzed collagen to improve elasticity and lessen the look of lines, they’re choice for prepping the eye area before makeup or in lieu of your morning eye cream. Keep them in the refrigerator for an extra-cooling sensation.



Photo: courtesy of Sephora.com

Karuna Renewal + Eye Mask ($36 for 4 sets; amazon.com)
Stash a set of these individually sealed masks at your desk or in your car for on-the-go application. Each sheet is saturated in hydrating hyaluronic acid, calming chamomile, plumping peptides and brightening Chinese licorice–which means you get a mask that hydrates, depuffs, and reduces fine lines all in one tiny package. Leave them on for ten minutes, then massage any leftover serum into skin for noticeably revived eyes.

The detoxifier


Photo: courtesy of Sephora.com

Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches ($21 for 7 sets; sephora.com)
Made with cornflower, which is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, these soothing patches are a must after a long night of drinking or a super-salty dinner (sushi and saké, anyone?). Apply for 20 minutes to eliminate puffiness.

At-home facial


Photo: courtesy of Ultra.com

Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Eye Mask ($54 for 4 sets; ulta.com)
We consider these the next best thing to spa-like experience. The concentrated oxygen helps deliver brightening vitamin C and calming cucumber deeper in the skin to quickly alleviate puff and shadows. To apply, start by pressing the liquid chamber until it releases the fluid into the pad. Once saturated, place one under each eye and relax for 15 to 30 minutes.


Source: http://news.health.com/2015/11/06/5-ways-to-say-goodbye-to-dark-circles-and-puffy-eyes/

Why You Might Not Need Your Antibiotics

About 30% of antibiotics that are prescribed in doctor’s offices, clinics and emergency rooms are unnecessary, according to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers looked at medical care survey data from 2010-2011 to analyze rates of prescriptions for oral antibiotics. The study authors looked for cases where the medication prescribed was “inappropriate”, meaning it wasn’t necessary, or when the wrong antibiotic was chosen, the dosage wasn’t right or the drug was used for too long or too short a time.

More than 12% of the 180,000-plus visits in the study ended with an antibiotic prescription, often for cases that didn’t meet clinical standards for the condition. Sinus infections were the most common conditions to get antibiotics; ear infections and sore throat were also common. During the study period, the estimated yearly antibiotic prescription rate was 506 per 1,000 people, but only 353 of the prescriptions were deemed appropriate for the condition.

For most common conditions, clinicians generally know if antibiotics are needed or not,” says study author Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Often, clinicians are worried about patient satisfaction. They think that a patient wants antibiotics, and they want the patient to be satisfied with their care, sometimes leading them to prescribe when they shouldn’t.”

Two million Americans get infections that are resistant to antibiotics each year, which lead to about 23,000 deaths. Antibiotic resistance is a national priority, and the goal of the White House National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria is to reduce outpatient antibiotic use by 50% and inpatient use by 20% by the year 2020.

The good news is that the majority of patients trust clinicians to recommend the right treatment,” says Fleming-Dutra. “Clinicians can address patient satisfaction by communicating effectively when antibiotics are needed, and when they aren’t.”



Source:  This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Think You’re Healthy? Think Again

Less than 3 percent of Americans live healthy lifestyles, but joining their ranks isn’t out of reach.

Despite the billions of dollars Americans spend on gym memberships, diet programs and low-fat food options, less than 3 percent of us meet the definition of a healthy lifestyle – or so says a recent paper out of the Mayo Clinic. But before throwing in the (sweaty) towel on achieving optimal health, let’s explore how the researchers defined a healthy lifestyle – and how you can move into that elite 3 percent.

For the study, researchers evaluated survey data of 4,745 American adults to find out how many people are sufficiently active, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke and have a recommended percentage of body fat. Here’s what they found:

  • 71.5 percent did not smoke
  • 37.9 percent consumed a healthy diet
  • 9.6 percent had a normal body fat percentage
  • 46.5 percent were sufficiently active
  • 2.7 percent had all four characteristics
  • 11.1 percent had none of the four characteristics

While many people accomplished multiple lifestyle goals (16 percent had three characteristics, for instance, and 37 percent had two), it’s surprising how few met all four – and how many met none! So, the researchers also examined the association between having different combinations of these characteristics and several biomarkers for cardiovascular disease. For example, they asked: What is the disease risk for someone who exercises enough and is a nonsmoker, but who also eats poorly and has excess body fat?

While the complete breakdown of these findings is complex, it’s important to note that the data are not a series of arbitrary numbers and dividing lines between categories, but instead represent the difference between good overall health and elevated disease risk. The researchers concluded that, while attaining multiple healthy lifestyle characteristics is important, you should talk to your doctor about which improvements will have the most meaningful impact on your personal health.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do to meet these goals and mitigate your chances of suffering from cardiovascular disease:

1. Stop smoking.

This is the most clear-cut behavior change you can make: If you smoke, stop. Of course, this is easier said than done. But, there are countless smoking-cessation programs available, so talk to your doctor about the best choice for you.

2. Get moving.

The research team defined “sufficient activity” as performing 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week. This recommendation is in line with the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. It’s important to note how attainable this goal really is. A 30-minute walk during lunch or after dinner each weekday does the trick. If your schedule doesn’t allow for 30-minute activity bouts, you can break this down into three 10-minute walks each day. Remember, the study was not looking for athletes or even fitness enthusiasts, but rather everyday folks who reached a baseline of activity each week. Set up a personal plan to reach this baseline, and then put it on your calendar so it becomes routine.

3. Eat a balanced diet.

To determine whether people were eating healthfully, the research team looked at what people reported eating over 24 hours periods. The data were then used to compute a “Healthy Eating Index” score, and people who scored in the top 40 percent were determined to be adhering to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

While nutrition is a complex and ever-changing science, it is pretty simple to find out where you stand in terms of your eating habits. Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s online SuperTracker, you can enter your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity level to get an individualized eating plan to meet your caloric needs. Within seconds, the SuperTracker gives you a good estimate of how many calories a day you need and how many servings you should eat from each of the five food groups. The tool also allows you to track your nutrition intake and compare it to recommendations, track your physical activity, monitor your goals and look up nutrition information for thousands of foods. SuperTracker is also available as an app.

4. Get your body fat in check.

In this study, a “normal” body fat percentage was defined as being between 5 and 20 percent for men and between 8 and 30 percent for women. Given that only 9.6 percent of those surveyed had this recommended body composition, this measure is clearly a very challenging lifestyle goal to meet. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy level of body fat isn’t about short-term dietary changes; it’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses.


Americans are constantly receiving advice about their health from doctors, friends and magazine articles. The value in this study is that it provides concrete goals to improve your health. No one is saying it’s easy – if it was, more than 2.7 percent of us would meet all four metrics of health. That said, small improvements matter and the results can accumulate and make a meaningful difference rather quickly.

Of course, the more healthy lifestyle goals you achieve, the lower your disease risk. But making improvements below the defined thresholds is also valuable. While you may not eat perfectly, eating better is an important step in the right direction. And, speaking of steps, even if you don’t reach 150 minutes of activity each and every week, adding more steps to your day and finding new and creative ways to become, and then stay, active can be life-changing – and perhaps even life-saving.


Source: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2016-04-20/think-youre-healthy-think-again

7 Genius Ways to Keep Your Hunger in Check

Research reveals what’s really sending your hunger levels into overdrive. But you can take control.

Hunger isn’t the enemy that fad diets make it out to be. On the contrary, it’s your body’s built-in food-tracking app.

“Listening to your hunger cues is essential for regulating energy throughout the day,” says Bridget Murphy, a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. It tells you when you need to fuel your body, when you should put down the fork and, ideally, keeps you at your happy weight.

But, unfortunately, modern life has sent our perfectly healthy hunger response haywire. Everything from our hectic, always-on-the-go schedules to the foods we eat while we’re driving to work hack our bodies’ hormones so that “hungry” feels like a 24/7 state, she says. And, generally, the foods we crave have anything but a healthy reputation.

Get your hunger back on track though, and you’ll make a huge step toward developing a healthier relationship with food, losing weight and reducing your risk of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Here are seven science-approved ways to do just that:

1. Prioritize Sleep

It doesn’t matter if a steady drip of coffee can keep you awake at your desk throughout the day – poor sleep sets off a chemical cascade designed to keep you eating. While science has long known that sleep quality influences levels of satiety regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, a 2016 study from the University of Chicago found that sleep deprivation also raises your body’s levels of endocannabinoids, the same molecules that are to blame for the marijuana munchies. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night for optimal health.

2. Sit Down to Eat Your Breakfast

Sure, you’ve heard this “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” stuff since elementary school, but it turns out that the cereal bar you eat on the way out the door won’t cut it. In one 2015 University of Surrey study, dieters who ate a cereal bar while walking ended up eating considerably more food (including five times more chocolate!) later on compared to those who ate their cereal bar while sitting. Researchers explain that when you eat while distracted – whether it’s by getting dressed and styling your hair or by traffic on the road – your brain isn’t fully able to register the amount of food you’ve consumed. The result: You don’t feel full and eat more later. To make sure your brain fully registers any calories consumed, it helps to make your meals mindful ones. Sit down, stop multitasking and pay attention to every fork-to-mouth maneuver.

3. Perform Interval Workouts

Any workout will help you get fit. But when it comes to building a healthy hunger habit, interval workouts may be the way to go. In one 2014 International Journal of Obesity study, about an hour after working out, men who completed 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, ate up to 170 fewer calories than those who performed moderate, steady-state exercise for the same amount of time. Researchers believe HIIT may reduce post-workout munchies by modulating levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and increasing levels of blood lactate and blood glucose, both of which help keep your hunger levels in check. For the best results, Murphy recommends working out in the morning, since a.m. sweat sessions have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and healthier hunger responses.

4. Avoid Overeating at Mealtime

This one might feel a little bit like a chicken-and-egg scenario. After all, if your hunger levels aren’t out of control, the less likely you are to overeat. But it turns out, if you don’t overeat, the less likely your hunger levels are to get out of control. “Constant overeating exposes the body to higher and higher levels of circulating leptin, a hormone that lets your body know that it’s full and satiated,” Murphy explains. “This high exposure can actually damage the hypothalamus, the gland responsible for secretion of our hunger and satiety hormones. As a result, our hypothalamus isn’t as sensitive to the leptin anymore, so we end up having trouble registering that we’re full!”

5. Eat Every 3 to 4 Hours

“One of the most important things I advise my patients to do is to eat frequently throughout the day,” Murphy says. “When you eat small, frequent meals every three to four hours, your body is better able to manage the information that it’s taking in to properly signal hunger.” The International Society of Sports Nutrition has even issued an official position stand, stating that increasing meal frequency improves insulin levels as well as hunger and appetite control. Still, it’s important that you make your meals mini-ones. If you eat a restaurant-sized meal every three to four hours, all of the overeating is just going to throw off your leptin levels like we just discussed.

6. Cut Down on Processed Foods

Besides the fact that processed foods are often devoid of fiber, reducing their staying power in your stomach, they are also a prime source of added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. What’s more, research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that HFCS consumption significantly decreases levels of circulating insulin and leptin while increasing ghrelin concentrations, triggering hunger and overeating. Unfortunately, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 75 percent of Americans eat too much added sugar, with HFCS and other refined sugars providing more than 10 percent of their daily calories.

7. Snack on Pistachios

While 2015 research published in The FASEB Journal show that pistachios’ combination of healthy fats, fiber and other vitamins and minerals decrease hunger, a pile of pistachio shells on your desk serves as a visual stimulus to increase your brain’s recognition of any food consumed, Murphy says. Basically, they forbid you from eating mindlessly. So when you snack, whether it’s on nuts or chocolate candies, leave the remnants out where you can see them, and you’ll feel full when you actually should.


Source: http://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-04-22/7-genius-ways-to-keep-your-hunger-in-check