Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't Make These 5 Fitness Mistakes

Even when they have the best intentions, exercisers often make mistakes that keep them from getting the most out of their workouts, and in some cases, do them harm. Here are a few of the most common mistakes, and how you can avoid them yourself.

1.  Walking with hand weights. Carrying dumbbells while you walk may seem like a smart way to add strength training to your cardio workout, but it compromises your posture and can lead to injury. Best to keep your cardio and strength training separate, so each can get your full attention.

2.  Focusing only on cardio. Though cardio workouts are great for you, we start losing muscle as early as 30, which can significantly slow your metabolism and leave you vulnerable to injury. Even a few days of strength training per week can increase bone density, and help you burn more calories, even while at rest!

3.  Skipping the stretch. Stretching at the end of your workout (when your body is nice and warm) can significantly decrease aches and pains, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, and prevent overuse injuries. Plus, stretching is your body's reward for all that hard work!

4.  Seeking a quick fix. We all want to see results fast, but don't let crash diets and overly-intense exercise programs lure you into false expectations: the best (and lasting) results come from making changes you can see yourself doing for life. Embracing an extreme program for a few weeks to lose weight fast only sets you up to gain the weight back (and then some later), and wreaks havoc on your thyroid. Instead, figure it will take at least as long to lose the weight as it took you to gain it.

5.  Letting social media be your trainer. It's one thing to collect inspirational quotes and healthy recipes on your social media pages, but don't mistake fitness memes for sound advice. 30-Day Push-up (or Squat) Challenges tend to overuse the same muscles day after day, and can lead to injuries and poor posture. Better to find a qualified trainer to help create a program that works best for you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Beat Stressful School Daze

Missing those lazy days of summer already? With school back in session, children and parents alike are feeling the heat – in the form of stress – as they transition to daily homework deadlines, after-school activities and seemingly constant "drop me off here, pick me up there" needs.

What are families to do? Consider these strategies for relieving school stress this fall – and all school year round:

Put it on the calendar: There's nothing better than a calendar of events to keep children and parents reminded of the when, where, why and how of their busy week. Think it adds stress by "regimenting" your day? Consider the alternative: essentially running around with your collective heads cut off from event to event, task to task, hoping you can remember it all. For kids, it's particularly important that they have a clear sense of what they have to do and when they need to do it. It helps them understand what's on their plate for the day – and have a sense of accomplishment as they complete each task.

Give yourself extra time: Early to bed and early to rise is the success mantra when trying to minimize stress during the school year. You've got too much to do and too little time as it is; don't make it worse with perpetual lateness. Wake up early, get the kids up on time, enjoy a healthy family breakfast, and then get them off to school with time to spare. At night, set reasonable bedtimes so they – and you – can get adequate sleep that will leave everyone refreshed and ready for the next productive day.

One part work, one part fun: Stress builds when there's no release opportunity, so make sure you build breaks into your daily routine. Whether that's a 5-minute break for every 15-30 minutes of homework, 15 minutes of free / play time no matter how busy the schedule, or 15 minutes of television at night (yes, 15 minutes is OK), give your kids the chance to blow off some steam and not worry about what's next on their to-do list. And by the way, that free time for your kids should mean free time for you to relax and unwind, even if for only a few minutes.

Prep for the week: An hour of effort on Sunday can save you hours of time – and stress – throughout the week. Prep the components of a few staple dinners so all you have to do is reheat during the week. Make sure laundry is done so you're not washing, drying, sorting and folding at 10:00 on a Tuesday or Wednesday night while you're trying to help the kids finish their homework. A little work Sunday can make Monday to Friday a whole lot easier on everyone.

Laugh it off: There's no better way to keep stress levels low than to laugh about it – or laugh it off – instead of letting stress build up day after day. Come up with the "joke of the day" at the dinner table and have each family member offer their best joke. Wind down in the evening with a board game the whole family can enjoy – and usually have a good laugh about while playing. Most important, as a parent, turn negatives into positives by teaching your children to laugh in the face of stress; to turn mountains into mole hills; and to appreciate that life is much more than what you do every day – it's about how you feel doing it. Help your family feel a little stressed today and every day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What To Eat To Relieve Back Pain

We all know that eating healthy is good for our overall health, but what if it could help with pain? Conservative treatment can be as easy as eating right. Eating less processed food, more vegetables and healthy fats can go a long way toward relieving spine pain. Here are four ways that better nutrition can help reduce neck and back pain.

Anti-inflammatory benefits are sure to follow when eating more fruits, nuts and vegetables. By eating walnuts, almonds, fish and olive oil, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and lesser known omega-9 fatty acids, can help reduce inflammation. Inflammation causes swelling of joints and can eventually wear down supportive tissue between vertebrae. Chronic inflammation can occur from eating poorly, but an anti-inflammatory diet can help ease pain.

Keep bones strong and support muscle condition with increased calcium intake from healthy eating. Most children can tell you that dairy is a good source of calcium, but did you know it’s also found in dark green leafy veggies and salmon? Try some Greek yogurt for breakfast or baked salmon with lemon for dinner.

Eliminate a cause of inflammation; cut out sugars. Many modern diets contain a surplus of sugar, not only leaving your body to process the sugar, but also often taking up calories that should come from food containing nutrients. Sugar, along with food that breaks down quickly into sugar, like white flour, causes inflammatory reactions in our bodies. Just cutting out soda or sugary drinks can go a long way in creating a healthy diet. A safe sweet is one that contains fiber to slow down the breakdown of sugar, so reach for fruit.

Weight loss often occurs by eating a healthy, less processed diet. Excess weight places pressure on the spine, which can make back pain worse and speed up the degeneration of discs. Pain is lessened when the spine does not have to support excess weight.  Read about the "4 Secret Steps to Weight Loss" here.

Adding anti-inflammatory foods and calcium, and reducing sugar and weight, are all relatively easy changes to make. Eating well can greatly lessen neck and back pain and has other positive side effects in one’s general health.

Lastly, quit smoking as it's been linked to arthritis, a common cause of back pain.