How to Add Muscle and Healthy Weight

Consuming quality calories and nutrient dense foods is what you need to put into your body if you’re trying to gain healthy weight and lean muscle mass. This means you want to stay away from burgers and fried foods. They are filled with empty calories and lead to putting on unhealthy weight. Instead, follow these suggestions to add lean muscle mass and healthy weight.

Eat Often and Snack

What you put into your body and being consistent is critical to putting on healthy weight instead of fat. Eat every three to four hours, make sure the calorie count is reasonable, and consisting of nutrient rich foods.

For example, there are about 300 calories in 24 ounces of soda, which is similar to a cup of full-fat Greek yogurt, ½ cup of blueberries and two tablespoons of flaxseed. The number of calories is the only similarity between them with the latter being far better for you.

Our bodies thrive off energy and if we’re not properly fueling, it slows down and starts dipping into our muscle mass. The number of calories is going to vary and depend on the body type, but on average, 500 to 600 is a reasonable number.

Snacking is also important. Keep these between 100 to 200 calories. A good snack is almonds or fruit. These will keep your energy level up and provide a number of health benefits.

Drink your Food

Liquids aren’t as filling as solid food, but the right drinks are rich in nutrients and won’t leave you feeling full. Smoothies are a great way to get fruits, veggies and protein into your daily diet. Other options include 100% fruit juice, carrot juice, and organic skim milk or alternatives such as almond milk. Start enjoying these instead of soda, sports and energy drinks.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Fuel your body with a blend of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. A good balance is 50%-60% carbs, 15%-20% protein, and 25%-30% healthy fats. By incorporating food from each group into meals, you’re providing your body with a broader spectrum of nutrients.

The carbs you consume should be complex such as whole wheat, grain cereals and potatoes. Protein is great way to add muscle, but you don’t want to go overboard. Protein requires a lot of energy to digest and tends to be very filling.

For example, if your breakfast is a banana, this isn’t going to sustain you for very long. Add in a few eggs and cook them in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. This is a smaller meal that gives your body the energy it thrives on.

Incorporating these foods and drinks into your diet will not only help you add healthy weight, you’ll also feel better the more you consume them.



5 Tips for Working Out at Any Age

Let’s be honest. If you used to run three-hour marathons and you’re 65 today, you’re probably not running three-hour marathons anymore. Or maybe you are. In which case, well done! But if not, that’s OK too. You can still set ambitious goals and feel good about your fitness routine, no matter your age. It just may require some adjustments along the way, which can be rewarding. Keeps things fresh. Here are some suggestions on how to embrace exercise at every stage in your life.


 1.   Stay Flexible

One key to staying fit over the long haul is to incorporate flexibility training and non-impact aerobic activity into your routines. Something like yoga will get you well on your way to building more flexible joints. And non-impact aerobic activities like elliptical gliding can be great in maintaining cardio. These activities will help you burn calories and fat, build muscle, and strengthen bones, while protecting the joints from unnecessary pounding.


2. When Looking To Get Back Into Shape, Take It Slow

It can be tempting to just go back to what you were doing before your break. Resist that urge. It’s a good way to get injured. Start slowly. If you were a runner, return by starting with walking and building through a jog to a run. If you did weight training, reduce weights to around half of the weight you lifted before your break. Extend your warm-up and cool down to protect muscles and joints from injury. As your fitness builds, usually around the six-week mark, you can add more workouts per week and increase the time spent exercising.


3. Celebrate Small Victories

Reward yourself when you successfully complete a workout, reach a goal, or simply show up on a day when you didn’t feel like it. Jump in a whirlpool or have a decadent smoothie. You deserve it. Also, write down your activities. This not only holds you accountable but is a reminder of your accomplishments.


4. Check In With a Trainer

These days there are so many fitness options. It can get overwhelming. But a good way of bringing structure to your routines and clarifying your goals is to consult with a trainer, such as the professionals we have at Snap Fitness. Let them help you plan your workouts. You’ll feel better about how you’re spending your time.


5. Have Fun!

Not every workout is going to be amazing. Some are going to be just hard work. But there are ways in which to keep it a fun activity, even if you didn’t have your best legs that day. Some ideas:


  • Listen to music or an audiobook while lifting weights.
  • Make plans with gym friends after working out.
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show while on the treadmill.
  • Try a new class.


How to Use a Staircase to Take Your Workout to the Next Level

Stairs are tough. Simply walking up them can make even the fittest person huff and puff. But we also know taking the stairs over an elevator is a super easy and realistic way to fit in more exercise throughout the day. So what if you took that notion to the next level and actually used a staircase in your next workout?

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Stairs add an extra element of intensity to an otherwise straightforward bodyweight workout, which is one of the reasons they’ve been a fitness go-to for decades (hello, step aerobics of the 90s). “Climbing stairs engages the body’s largest muscle groups to carry your own weight against gravity, which is far superior to exercising on a flat surface,” says Matty Maggiacomo, certified personal trainer and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. Plus, studies show that taking the stairs can increase your cardio capacity and even help you live longer.

So the next time you need a quick workout or a break from your usual neighborhood jog, shake things up with a staircase workout. You could use a set in your home or even a nearby park or stadium. Just make sure you stay safe, Maggiacomo says. “Choose a staircase that is level and wide, free of debris, and if in a public place, less-trafficked,” he says. Take them as slow as you need, and use the guide below to master the stairs.

How to Use This List

Create your own workout: Choose 2 moves from each section (upper body and core strength, lower-body strength, and cardio) for a total of 6 moves. Perform each exercise back-to-back for 60 seconds. At the end of the set, rest for 60 seconds. Repeat the full set 4 times for a workout that’s just under 30 minutes.

Try our workout: Scroll to the bottom to try Maggiacomo’s killer workout.

Upper-Body and Core Strength

Incline Push-Up

Face upstairs with knees on lower step and hands below shoulders on higher step. Engage core, keep spine straight, and bend elbows to lower chest to stair. Push back up to starting position. For more details on how to properly do a push-up, go here.

Make it harder: For an added challenge, start in a high plank position facing upstairs and do a classic push-up. Want even more of a challenge? Reverse your position to face downstairs and do a push-up as seen on left.

Triceps Dip

Sit on step facing decline with knees bent and feet flat on step below. Grip the edge of the step directly behind the small of your back. Bend elbows to lower butt to the step below, then press down to straighten arms and return to starting position.

Make it harder: Lift one leg straight up as you dip. Perform 10 reps keeping leg lifted throughout, then repeat on the other side.

Alligator Crawl

Start in high plank position parallel to steps. Step right arm and right leg toward incline step and allow left arm and left leg to follow. Climb steps keeping torso parallel to steps, hips level, core engaged. Continue to move up steps in plank position for 8 steps, then travel back down.

Lower-Body Strength

Staircase Sit Squat

Face downstairs with feet wider than shoulder width, hips stacked over knees, and knees over ankles. Squat by sending hips back, keeping chest upright, and bending knees. Lower as far as your mobility allows. (Bonus points if you can tap your butt to stair behind you). Straighten legs to return to starting position.

Staggered Squat

Start with right leg on upper step, left leg on lower step, and feet wider than shoulder width. Squat by sending hips back, keeping chest upright, and bending knees. Lower as far as your mobility allows, pressing into right heel. Return to starting position by straightening both legs. Do 10 reps then repeat on other side.

Make it harder: As you stand to starting position, sidestep feet to travel upstairs with each squat. Perform 10 reps, then repeat on the other side.

Upstairs Alternating Lunge

Face upstairs with feet hip width, hands on hips or clasped in front of chest. Step up onto stair with right foot and shift hips forward to lunge so knee forms a 90-degree angle. Press into right heel to push weight back and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating legs.

Make it harder: Do a lunge as noted above but instead of returning to start, travel up the stairs as you lunge. If you’d like an extra challenge, lunge forward with right leg then press into right heel and use lower abs to drive left knee up to chest. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side, or continue to travel upstairs while lunging.

Alternating Reverse Lunge

Start facing upstairs with both feet hip width on upper step, heels in line with edge. Carefully lunge backward by stepping right foot back to lower step and bending left knee to form a 90-degree angle. Press into left heel to lift weight back up to top step. Repeat on the other side, and continue to alternate.

Calf Raise

Stand facing upstairs with left toes on step and heel hanging off. Lift right leg and place right hand on railing or wall for support. Slowly lower heel below edge of step to feel a stretch in calf muscle, then press into ball of foot to lift as high as ankle flexibility allows. Do 10 reps, and then repeat on the other side.


Skater Step

Stand with feet hip width on lower step, with right side nearest to upper step. Hop right foot onto upper step as you swing left arm across body and sweep left leg behind you until toes touch upper step. Bend right knee to curtsy lunge and touch left fingertips to right toes. Reverse the movement by hopping down step with left foot and swinging right arm across body as you sweep right leg behind you, coming into a curtsy lunge on the other side. Once you get going, this move feels pretty natural, like you’re speed skating across ice.

High Knees

Start at bottom stair facing upstairs with feet hip width. Keeping head up and shoulders back, jog upstairs, using core muscles to draw knees up toward chest with each step. Scale stairs one by one for length of staircase keeping knees high. Take your time and focus on each step to avoid tripping.

Make it harder: Increase your speed as you get better.

Bear Climb

Start facing upstairs on all fours with hands below shoulders and knees bent under hips. Lift knees so you’re on toes and crawl forward with right arm and left leg, then left arm and right leg. Keep core braced throughout.

Make it harder: At the top, turn around and crawl downstairs to the bottom.

Mountain Climber

Begin facing upstairs in a high plank, hands below shoulders on upper step, abs engaged, hips level, and feet on lower step. Bring right knee toward chest then quickly return right foot to starting position as you bring left knee to chest. Continue to alternate as quickly as possible.

Make it harder: If your steps are wide enough like the ones shown above, start in decline position facing downstairs with hands on lower step and feet on upper step. Drive alternate knees to chest one at a time.



Exercising With Physical Limitations

Don’t let physical limitations get in the way of cardio fitness.


As Dom Lassonde felt the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis creep into his body, the 40-year-old Vancouver Islander knew he needed a different way to stay fit. The autoimmune disease inflamed his synovial membranes—a connective tissue in joints that produces lubricating fluid for smooth movement—so much it felt like shards of glass were lining his joints. Ultimate Frisbee and hockey, two of his regular activities, were no longer feasible.

After beginning a new medication regime about a year after his diagnosis, Lassonde could cycle and swim—activities that put less stress on his joints. He was right to keep moving: according to the American College of Rheumatology, regular aerobic exercise, especially when combined with strength training, can reduce joint pain.

Lassonde is one of many Canadians living with a physical limitation that makes exercise difficult. Two common issues, chronic pain and heart disease—which affect 3.9 million and 1.3 million Can­adians, respectively—make it challenging for individuals to achieve the 150 minutes of weekly moderate aer­obic exercise, or cardio, recommended by the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (CPAG).

But the benefits of regular exercise are too important to pass up. Aerobics—any continuous activity that raises your heart rate and has you breathing rapidly—can lead to a longer life and prevention of Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Physical limitations needn’t prevent you from working out regularly—it’s just a matter of knowing which exercises to do.

Pushing back against pain

Approach new exercise regimes cautiously. “People should never use mobility impairment as a reason not to participate, but they should def­initely seek guidance from a professional to make sure they’re doing it safely,” says Audrey Hicks, a professor of kinesiology at Hamilton’s McMaster University. She advises those experiencing chronic pain to seek out certified physiologists and personal trainers before beginning a new fitness routine.

Instead of jogging, Hicks recommends that people with joint pain or injuries try swimming or water aerobics, or use recumbent elliptical trainers—activities that reduce strain on joints. “You don’t want to do anything that’s going to make your pain worse,” she says.

Exercising with caution

Those living with heart disease should be especially prudent in their efforts to meet the national CPAG recommendations.

The guidelines weren’t designed for people with chronic medical conditions, says Dr. Darren Warburton, a specialist in cardiology and exercise rehabilitation at University of British Columbia. Warburton was one of the creators of the guidelines. “We never prescribe 150 minutes of physical activity to someone who has just had a heart attack,” he says.

Warburton doesn’t restrict himself to a “magic number” or a certain type of exercise when prescribing fitness routines. “We advocate that individuals start early on at a very light to moderate intensity and progress toward higher levels of activity,” he says.

This might mean beginning with two weekly 20-minute sessions, doing activities like gardening or brisk walking. To be effective, your workout should reach a moderate level of intensity—that is, you should be able to feel your heart rate increase and have enough breath to talk, but not sing. This, of course, should only be done after consultation with a health professional.

Don’t deprive yourself of the benefits of the small efforts. McMaster University research has shown that short intervals of physician-monitored high-intensity workouts are just as effective as longer sessions of moderate-intensity workouts for the rehabilitation of patients with coronary artery disease.



6 Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

Seeking relief from back pain?

If you suffer from back pain you know that even the tiniest movement can hurt a lot. Here are some beginner-level exercises to stretch and strengthen your back that can be performed on a daily basis. If any move hurts, stop immediately. Once these exercises become easy, ask your doctor or a physiotherapist for more advanced exercises.

1. Pelvic tilt

Lie on your back with your knees bent but touching and your feet flat on the floor. Flatten your lower back against the floor, tilting your pelvis down. Hold for 20 to 40 seconds while breathing slowly and deeply, then release. Repeat this exercise twice. This stretch uses small movements, unlike a traditional workout, to reduce tension and ease back pain.

2. Lumbar stretch

Sit up tall on a chair and slowly, one vertebra at a time, roll your head, neck, chest and low back forward until your head is between your knees (or as far as you can comfortably go). Hold for three deep breaths, then slowly roll back up to a sitting position. Repeat twice.

3. Cat

Kneel on all fours with your knees hip-width apart. Keeping your stomach muscles tensed, arch your back like a cat and hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat. Now let your stomach drop a bit toward the floor. Hold for five seconds, then repeat. Finally, sit back on your heels and reach your arms in front of you on the floor and hold.

4. Curl-ups

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head. Tense your stomach muscles, then lift your head and shoulders and upper back off the floor. Don’t pull with your hands. Repeat 10 times if you can. Curl-ups are used to strengthen your back, eventually leading to less back pain.

5. Dry swimming

To do this exercise, begin by lying on your stomach with a rolled-up towel under your belly for back support. Tighten your buttocks and simultaneously raise one arm and the opposite leg, then switch. Repeat for up to two minutes.

6. Leg lift
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Press your lower back into the floor. Now straighten one leg, keeping your knees aligned. Bend your leg to return to starting position, then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 10 times if you can.



These Workouts Will Challenge Your Body and Your Mind

They push you both physically and mentally, so you get even more mileage from your sweat sesh.

You know how important it is to move your body. And you’ve probably heard that mental stimulation is good for the brain. So why not kill two birds with one stone, and exercise your noggin while you’re breaking a sweat? Here, five workouts that will help you do just that.


This workout has been growing rapidly in popularity, and for good reason. Jabbing and kicking isn’t just a great way to burn calories and build strength; complex boxing sequences give your mind a solid workout, too. If boxing gloves aren’t your thing, many gyms offer classes that use light dumbbells instead.


Rock climbing

Conquering a climbing workout requires both mental and physical strength because your brain is responsible for mapping your route, while your body gets you from point A to B. Some people shy away from climbing because they worry it’s too challenging for beginners. But climbing gyms typicall have walls with varying levels of difficulty, which makes it a great workout for all fit levels.

Batting practice

Hitting a batting cage is a fun activity to do with friends. The hand-eye coordination required to connect with the ball stimulates your mind and body at the same time. Just be sure to start out with a pitching machine set at a slower speed. Once you get the hang of it, you can move up to faster speeds.

Yoga boot camp

One of the hottest new fitness trends, this high-octane hybrid class not only tones your body, it also forces your brain to keep up with fact-paced circuits that incorporate cardio, strength-training, and stretching.


Hip-hop dance

No matter how experienced a dancer you are, hip-hop is a super fun way to work your bod and brain. In any class, you’ll be memorizing sequences and likely learning new moves, so your brain will be firing the entire time.



Tighten Your Core in 21 Days With This Plank Challenge

Take the classic strength move from short and static to minutes-long and dynamic with this three-week plan.


The plank is the ultimate full-body pose for toning your abs, back, legs, arms, and butt, all while improving your posture and stability. Another reason it eclipses other strength exercises? It’s super versatile—you can modify it to add extra movement and get your heart rate up faster.

Your action plan: Each week, start with the first challenge and repeat it until you have it down pat. Then proceed to the next one. Practice at your own pace and skill level, but be sure to put in some work each day so you can complete the progression by the end of the week.


Week 1

Fix your form: “With planks, your form either makes or breaks the exercise,” says New York City celebrity trainer David Kirsch. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.

Begin by standing: Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart. Now have someone try to gently knock you off balance. Pay attention to the muscles you need to engage to stay centered: “That’s exactly how you should feel when you’re in plank,” says trainer Jonathan Ross, a senior adviser to the American Council on Exercise.

Perfect your position: Lying on your belly, plant your forearms (or hands, if you prefer) directly under your shoulders. Come onto your toes and squeeze your glutes. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

Start the timer: Hold your plank for 20 to 30 seconds or longer. If you need to rest, lower your knees to the floor for a few seconds.


Week 2

Boost endurance: If you feel any shoulder or lower back pain as you start to hold your static plank for longer, or if your butt creeps toward the ceiling, stop and reset.

Master 30: Hold your plank for half a minute without resting.

Add 15: Hold your 30-second plank, then rest in a Downward Dog position for five seconds, suggests Kirsch. Return to plank and hold for another 15 seconds or more.

Hit the minute mark: Hold a 45-second plank, followed by a Downward Dog and another 15- to 30-second plank.

Go for 90: Hold your plank for at least one minute. Rest in Downward Dog if you need to, then hold another 30-second plank.


Week 3

Switch it up: Get the hang of the following variations individually (do each for a minute). Then tack them onto each other, aiming to eventually finish all three back to back.

Move the center of mass: From a forearm plank, drop your right hip so your right thigh grazes the floor. Return to the starting position and drop your left hip. Repeat. (If you’re on your hands, your thighs may not reach the floor.)

Test your balance: Extend your right arm straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor, without disturbing your form. Return to center, then extend your left arm. Repeat with your right and left legs.

Change levels: Start in a plank on your forearms. Press up onto your right hand, then your left, so you come into a high plank. Return to your right forearm, then your left. Repeat the pattern, alternating the starting arm.


5 Signs Your Workout Is Too Easy for You

Breezing through your routine without breaking a sweat? It may be time to take it up a notch.

You’ve been a regular at the gym, local running path, or super popular boutique fitness class for some time now. At first each workout presented a huge challenge: You struggled to complete reps. You prayed to the fitness gods to speed up time so you wouldn’t have to trot on the treadmill for another second. And you thought burpee was code for baby burps. These days, though, you can bang out those bicep curls (and burpees!), or climb for hours on the stairmaster without even breaking a sweat. What gives? It’s called adaptation. And now that your body is accustomed to your workout, chances are your sweat sesh is a little too easy for you. You know what that means—you’ve got to push even harder to make those gains (but that’s a good thing). Here, five cues that confirm your exercise routine needs an overhaul.

You do multiple workouts a day

If you have the energy to run 10 miles, spin, hit the weights, and then attend Bikram yoga, you might want to re-evaluate the effort and exertion levels you’re putting into each workout. Plus, multiple daily sweat sessions without proper recovery can put you at risk for injury. Now, if for some reason a single workout just isn’t enough, double up on ones that complement each other. For example, pair high-intensity interval training (like this 10-minute HIIT workout) with a yoga sequence (such as this routine for flexibility).

You can’t recall the last time you were out of breath

Granted, everyone’s endurance levels are different, but heavy breathing or being out of breath for a short period of time is a good indicator that you’re really putting in some work. Another: the talk (or sing) test. If you are training at a high enough intensity, you shouldn’t be able to carry on a comfortable convo (or belt out the lyrics to your favorite Bey song).


You always work out at the same intensity level

Because your body is constantly adapting to your routine, it won’t be challenged enough if you do the same thing over and over (and over) again. This could also explain why you’ve stopped noticing physical changes. Try venturing into the anaerobic/maximum effort zone. Workouts that can get you there (such as this HITT treadmill routine and these fat-burning plyometric moves) don’t last as long, but you fatigue faster because your cardiovascular system can’t supply enough oxygen to your muscles to create the energy you need. I have nothing against steady-steady cardio. But you can also meet your “cardio” levels in this way too.

Your environment has become a distraction

If you spend more time selecting a playlist, finding the perfect angle for that sweaty selfie, or channel surfing on your machine’s TV than getting your heart rate up, something’s got to give. Now there’s nothing wrong with changing the playlist to suit your mood, or capturing a memory of the moment you hit a squat PR, but if you’re more focused on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, it’s time to refocus ASAP.

You no longer feel accomplished after working out

No matter the style of training, when you call time on your session, you should feel a sense of accomplishment, whether it’s because you were able to hold every pose in yoga class or because you finally bench-pressed 40 pounds. When that feeling disappears, try pushing harder.


Best heart rate monitors and HRM watches

Want to get fit, fast and strong? Just listen to your heart

Strapping on a good heart rate monitor is an easy way to supercharge your training. It not only makes your stats more accurate, but it also enables you to start heart rate training in specific zones, which can make your regime more efficient.

Increasingly, companies are starting to add heart rate monitors into running watches and fitness trackers, which use optical sensors to detect the blood racing through your veins. But as we’ve recently found out, while these new optical sensors are a great way to ditch the chest strap and get beginners thinking about their heart rate, if you’re serious about accuracy, you need to stick to the chest strap for the foreseeable future.


The bottom line is this: if you want pinpoint accuracy, get a chest strap. If you’re just after more colour in your workout, and aren’t interested in spending your sessions at specific bpms, a wrist-based monitor will do.

Read on for our recommendations.


Best heart rate training chest straps

MyZone MZ-3

The MyZone MZ-3 offers a whole lot more than simple bpm (beats per minute) recordings. You get your heart going with the strap on – whether that be running, rowing, swimming, cycling or a session in the gym – and earn points based on your bpm. Rather than simply scoring highly based on a big heart rate reading, the MyZone studies your effort over time and handicaps your levels.

Like the Tickr X, the MZ-3 has storage for 16 hours of data, so you don’t always have to carry your smartphone while exercising.


Wahoo Tickr X

While we’ve seen the chest strap take a back seat in recent months, making way for more tech-filled watches and fitness bands, Wahoo knows it’s not dead yet. And the Tickr X is the highest scoring heart rate monitoring device on Wareable right now with a very impressive four and a half stars out of five in our review.

The Wahoo Tickr X has internal memory that’ll store 16 hours of your heart rate data and additional motion analytics that track your cycles too. You can workout without your smartphone, and then transfer all the data back when you’re home and showered.

$99.99, | Amazon

Garmin HRM Tri

best heart rate monitor strap

A real pro tool for Triathletes, this ultra-small and light (a mere 49g) heart rate strap adds considerable bike and running smarts to some of the pool functions of the HRM Swim.

With an built-in accelerometer that’ll deliver cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time data (like Garmin’s HRM Run) while on two legs, and HR stat storage while actually underwater, this is one of the most rounded tools for the three disciplines there is out there. Garmin has also ensured there are no exposed seams and all edges are soft and rounded to prevent rubbing or any wetsuit-doffing difficulties.

$130, | Amazon

Suunto Smart Sensor

best heart rate monitors

Suunto claims the Smart Sensor is the world’s smallest Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor, and it’s probably right; it’s unfeasibly tiny. The size of a quarter, this little marvel has tiny studs that clip into Suunto’s colour-coded belts, as well as compatible Movesense clothing. It’ll store heart rate data underwater, but won’t send updates in real time, while on land it’ll track heart rate and calories burned.

It’s Bluetooth Smart, so it’ll pair direct with Suunto’s Movescount app on your Android or iOS phone, as well as with Ambit devices. At 40g, it’s no heavyweight, and it’s waterproof to 30m.

$79, | Amazon

Best running watches with built-in HRM

TomTom Spark

best heart rate monitor

The TomTom Spark follows a series of well-received HR and sports trackers from TomTom, adding an integrated music player into the mix. The 3GB storage gives you more than 500 power ballads at your disposal and there’s even a super-charged ‘Running Trax’ option, a bespoke mix of dance anthems via the Ministry of Sound.

The built-in heart rate monitor means there’s no need for a traditional HR strap, and combines with GPS and activity tracking tools to make this an all-in-one fitness device par-excellence. The Spark is available now in a series of bundles including Bluetooth headphones.

$200, | Amazon

Garmin Forerunner 235

The 235 is the Garmin watch with its own bespoke optical HR tech built in. It features full GPS tracking tech, a water resistant build and, more importantly, the brilliantly detailed and useful Garmin Connect software. While the HR feedback from running isn’t exactly bang on the money, the data is usable for steady run sessions. What’s more, the Forerunner 235 will keep track of your resting heart rate and steps when worn all day, making it a great companion for hardcore fitness types.

Check out our full Garmin Forerunner 225 review.

$299.99, | Amazon

Mio Alpha 2

Best heart rate monitor and HRM watches

The Mio Alpha 2 takes an EKG-accurate heart rate reading right from your wrist. Heart rate zones can be configurable, with an LED flashing light alerting you to your current zone, and it works with lots of different fitness apps. The onboard memory can hold 25 hours of workout data, with all the distance, pace, speed and calories data coming from the accelerometer.

One big caveat – the Mio does heart rate tracking well, but in our Alpha 2review we found that it isn’t enough of an all-rounder for the price.

$199.99, | Amazon

Fitbit Surge

Best heart rate monitor and HRM watches

Fitbit’s Surge boasts an optical heart rate sensor and PurePulse tech that’ll automatically monitor your stats every few seconds, using the data to maximise your training and accurately track calorie burn.

You can set a target heart rate zone, ensuring you’re pushing yourself enough but not overtraining, and then beam all the data back to the fantastic companion apps. These apps have a nifty trick up their sleeve too – the ability to plot all of your heart rate readings on a graph and review all the data from many weeks in one go. In our Fitbit Surge review, though, what we didn’t like was the price, the uninspiring design and display and the very basic smartphone notifications.

$249, | Amazon

Best fitness trackers with HRM

Garmin Vivosmart HR

With HR on the wrist, the Garmin Vivosmart HR is a little less intrusive that wearing one of the companies GPS watches all day long – and with top 24/7 HR monitoring, all day wear is advised. However, there are some problems. There’s no GPS built in, which makes it far less appealing to runners, accuracy dwindles at high intensity and excessive wrist flex during weight sessions.

Take a look out our full Garmin Vivosmart HR review.

$149.99, | Amazon

Fitbit Blaze

Like any wrist-based HR monitor, the Blaze suffers big problems at high intensity where it succumbs to a fairly hefty lag time and motion noise. However, it’s still good enough to colour workouts in the gym and on the road if you’re not too worried about pinpoint accuracy? On the plus side, the resting heart rate tracking is up there with the best, and if you’re put off by the technical graphs of its competitors, Fitbit’s app is one of the most accessible ways to track your workouts.

$249.99, | Amazon

Jawbone UP3 and UP4

The UP3 and UP4 are almost identical apart from the NFC payment feature available on the UP4. Advance bioimpedance sensors on both bands automatically keep an eye on your resting heart rate, using the data to let you know how to take better care of yourself. A new update adds passive heart rate monitoring too.

The band can determine what activity you’re doing and automatically adjust, while the Smart Coach is like a personal trainer on your wrist, giving you encouragement when you need it most. Take a look at our Jawbone UP3 review.

$179.99, | Amazon

Headphones with heart rate monitoring

Jabra Sport Pulse

Best heart rate monitor and HRM watches

The Pulse takes a rather unique approach, taking your heart rate from your ears instead. These wireless in-ear headphones banish the need for chest straps or watches, taking the reading from your lug holes and sending that data to your smartphone via Bluetooth, with spoken feedback as you go.

Another high scorer in its Wareable review, we gave the Sport Pulse four starsfor its features, comfortable fit and neat audio options. That said, some heart rate readings were dubious and again, it is an expensive wearable.

$199.99, | Amazon



4 Reasons to Try Underwater Spinning

If you thought spinning was trendy, get ready for the next big thing: underwater spinning. It’s just what it sounds like, which means it involves even more water than most sweat-drenched spin classes. Yes, you heard that right: you can now cycle in the pool, combining the low-impact nature of swimming with the hardcore exercise of a spinning class.

If you love spinning but feel like you’ve mastered the traditional version, then it might be time for you to give this new trend a try.

The concept of underwater spinning is really simple: it’s a static bike class, with the exception that the bikes are located in a swimming pool. Your legs and hips are submerged in the water throughout the class, while your head and shoulders are kept safely above water level. Underwater spinning classes might be popping up at a studio near you soon, so here are four reasons why you might want to give this new trend a try.

Burn Hundreds of Calories Every Hour

If you thought spinning was good for keeping off the pounds, then get ready to take it to a whole new level. The resistance of the water means that you have to work even harder to keep the pedals turning. Underwater spinning studios claim that it is possible to burn up to 800 calories an hour in one of these classes. If that claim is true, then this is one form of exercise that could really make excess weight melt away when combined with a healthy diet.

Protect Your Joints

Exercises that are done in water have much less impact on the joints than exercising on land does. The water supports the weight of your body, protecting your joints from harm while you work out. If you have problems with joint pain, are recovering from an injury, or are overweight or pregnant, then this low-impact form of exercise could help you to burn calories while minimizing the risk of hurting yourself.

Get a Massage 

As you cycle, the water moves over your legs and glutes, effectively massaging the muscles and other tissues. Aqua Studio, which offers aqua cycling classes in NYC, claims that this water massage can reduce cellulite and improve skin tone.

Work Your Core

When cycling in water, the amount of weight pressing into the pedals, handlebars, and seat is reduced. Rather than putting pressure on your legs, underwater spinning focuses more on working your core. Want to get killer abs? This could be a good place to start.

Have you tried an underwater spinning class? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!