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Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

We’ve heard it all before…we should exercise every day.  We’ve heard the studies that say regular exercise will reduce our risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, etc.  No matter how much we want to exercise, we never follow through with the promises we make to ourselves to hit the gym or to make it to a yoga class.  Or maybe we do make it to a class or go for a jog but then we just can’t seem to stick with it – we can’t get into an exercise groove.  Our job, children, family and friends all need our attention, our money and/or our time.  We still think about exercise…mainly that we are not exercising…and this makes us feel guilty and stressed.  Our thoughts of all the exercise we should be doing, but aren’t, become overwhelming and we give up – sometimes before we start.  Is the thought of getting fit stressing you out and pushing you to inaction? 

But hold on a minute.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.  And you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all that you think you should be doing.  Instead, plan out what you can do in 15 minutes a day.  You can gain important health benefits in just 15 minutes of exercise each day.  Each time you complete a 15 minute session it will add up until you have hours of fitness under your belt.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Your 15 minutes of something will add up to 1 hour and 45 minutes of fitness each week or 4.5 hours of fitness each month.  That’s pretty impressive if you are doing less than that now.

So what could you do during your 15 minutes of fitness?  Consider alternating each day between an aerobic session and a strength training session. 

Week 1 walk for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  

Week 2 complete a strength training session on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

Don’t think for a second that you need to have a gym membership or own an expensive piece of equipment for this 15 minute fitness program.  One of the best aerobic activities you can do for your self is to walk.  Walking 15 minutes 3-4 times each week will provide you with a number of health benefits.  Check out One Activity that Can Change Your Life for more information about the vast health benefits of walking. 

It is possible to create a strength training program at home with no equipment.  Using your own body weight as resistance you can do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, core exercises, dips, etc.  Use your 15 minutes of strength training to complete some light stretches, 10 push-ups, 25 sit-ups, 20 squats and 6 dips.  In one month, this will add up to 150 push-ups, 375 sit-ups, 300 squats and 90 dips each month.  See how these small incremental efforts add up to big time numbers?  Check out this previous post on weight training if you want to incorporate free-weights or you are looking for some other strength training exercises.

No matter what your situation, a fitness program is within your reach.  Don’t become paralyzed by unrealistic expectations.  Just commit to 15 minutes a day and alternate between an aerobic program and a strength training program to start your fitness program.  The most important thing you can do for your health today is to commit to a daily routine that you complete everyday no matter what.  A 15 minute commitment is do-able for everyone.  No excuses.  Make your 15 minute fitness program a habit and you will reap the health benefits guaranteed.

Do you ever become overwhelmed with your fitness goals?  Have you ever stopped exercising because you felt like what you were doing didn’t make a difference?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

 Next Post:  Do You Have Lazy Habits?

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Back in February, we looked at whether a walking routine would meet the guidelines for moderate level intensity exercise set by the CDC’s 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans.  The studies we looked at reported that walking is considered a moderate level intensity exercise but only if you walk as fast as a 15 minute mile.  Other studies suggest that walking is beneficial even if you walk slower but emphasized that as you walk faster there is a corresponding increase in the health benefits that you will receive.  

But this is only half of the story… 

In addition to recommending 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of a moderate intensity aerobic activity, like walking, the CDC also recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.  While walking is great for your aerobic fitness, walking will not strengthen most of your major muscle groups. 

Do you have any idea what the word ‘sarcopenia’ means?  I didn’t either.  But, I learned that sarcopenia is a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.  We begin to lose muscle mass around age 40 and, if you don’t do anything to stop it, up to 33% of your muscle mass may be gone by age 80. 

Researchers are focusing on why we lose muscle mass as a part of aging and many think that it is related to a slow-down of blood flow to our muscles as we age which deprives our muscles of the nutrients and oxygen needed to rebuild and repair our muscles. 

Weight training is one way to stop the process of losing muscle mass and increasing the blood flow to your muscles.  (Prevention –Feb 2010, pg. 73) In as little 15-30 minutes each day, you can perform all the weight training exercises you need to realize improvement in your muscle mass – no matter what your age!  

Weight training will help you reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass and prevent an increase in body fat as you maintain or increase your muscle mass.  Exercise helps the muscle cells get bigger and it also makes your muscles stronger.  Weight training will reduce body fat, increase your bone density, increase lean muscle, and help you control your weight as your body burns calories more efficiently.  If you are suffering from arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis, weight training can help reduce the symptoms of these chronic conditions.

It is easy to start a weight training program right at home.  All you need are free weights which you can find at any Target, Wal-Mart or sports store. You can try the weights out at the store to see what you should start with.  I have 3 lb., 5 lb., and 8 lb. weights that I use for my workouts.  Believe it or not these free weights coupled with exercises that use your own body weight for resistance is all that you need to start a weight training program. 

The most recent information on weight training indicates that aiming for 8-12 repetitions of the heaviest weight that you can lift is the most efficient way to work your muscles.  For instance, if you are a beginner to a weight training program and you are working your biceps, see if you can lift 3lbs for 8 repetitions.  Was it easy or were you struggling to make it to 8 reps?  If you were struggling, then you are using the correct weight, for now.  If it was easy to reach 12 reps then move up to the 5lbs. and so one until you find a weight that is challenging for you.  When your current weight is no longer a challenge, move up to the next weight. 

Your weight training routine should target your main muscle groups including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.  Right now I am following the Total Body Routine developed by Mark Fenton in his book The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss & Fitness.  For a comprehensive weight training routine, Fenton suggests building up to 2 sets of 12 reps for the following exercises:  push-ups, bent-over rows, lunge with bar or weights, full abdominal crunch, overhead press, pull-ups, squat with bar or weights, isometric side support, dips and biceps curl.  If your time for weight training is limited, he suggests completing exercises 1-6 from the list above on the 1st day and exercises 7-10 on the 2nd day.  You should alternate between the 1st workout and the 2nd workout 3 times per week allowing for 1 day of full rest.  Disclaimer:  I do not do pull-ups and I substitute ‘regular’ crunches in the sit-up position for the full abdominal crunch. 

If you are unfamiliar with any of the exercise above or you want to try different weight training routines, there are many resources that can help:

  • Check out Fenton’s book from your local library and learn about the Total Body Routine exercises and all of the other great walking information he discusses in his book
  • Go to the AARP website for video instruction on some of the exercises listed above
  • Go to the Prevention website for demonstrations of arm, back, butt, chest, and leg exercises
  • Check out weight training DVDs or books at the library
  • Hire a personal trainer for a session or two
  • Ask a friend who has experience weight lifting to give you some pointers
  • Download a weight lifting instructional application to your smart phone

Like all exercise programs, you should warm up your muscles before you jump into the main routine.  I do an ‘ultimate energy’ qigong stretching routine before I lift weights.  Check out this link if you want to learn more about qigong or you would like to see a step-by-step video presentation of this routine.  This routine gently stretches many of your main muscle groups and it is a good start to a weight lifting routine.  One more thing to remember is that you should never work the same muscles two days in a row – give those muscles a day off in between workouts.  

So keep walking everyday, but also think about starting a weight training program today to keep your muscles strong and healthy for a lifetime. 

Do you lift weights regularly?  Do you lift at home or at the gym?  Let me know with a comment.

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Routine – customary or regular course of procedure; habitual.

Routines give us predictability in our day, help us remember all of the things we need to accomplish and help us get things done more efficiently.  Take your morning routine for example.  As you start your work day you probably do the same things in the same way at about the same time every day.  This highly developed morning routine is necessary to get everyone out the door on time.  If you were forced to change up your routine every morning it would take a lot longer to get ready and you would probably forget something important like feeding the cat, giving your children their lunch money or letting the dog out.    

In much the same way that your morning tasks are easier under the framework of your morning routine, meeting your exercise goals is also easier if you assign a place for exercise in your daily routine.

Without a daily exercise routine:

  • You can forget to exercise
  • You exercise only for the time you have left rather than for the time you plan
  • You can lose sight of your fitness goals
  • It is easy to go down the slippery slope that starts with skipping a day ends with skipping every day. 

If you haven’t been successful keeping up with your exercise goals, could it be that you have not established exercise into your daily routine? 

Try giving exercise a priority status in your day like you (should) do for sleeping, eating, working, and spending time with your family.

Take it slow.  As you work to establish your new exercise routine it is more important that you exercise every day than it is for you to exercise a long time every day.  Commit to your exercise routine at the same time everyday for a minimum of 10 -15 minutes.  Nothing too strenuous.  Keep your new routine manageable as your body and your schedule adapt to the new routine.  You will have plenty of time to commit even more time and effort once your new routine is established.

I’ve been using this approach recently as I try to incorporate meditation into my daily routine.  Like most of you I need fewer things to do in the morning not more…. and that is why I rarely have time to meditate for more than 6 minutes each morning.  The important thing is that I have meditated every morning for the past two weeks.  I look forward to these precious minutes of quiet and solitude.  At some point in the future I may find a way to increase the time I meditate but I’m not worried about that now – the important thing is that I am giving meditation a place in my routine every morning.

It can also be helpful if you use a prompt in your day that will push you to exercise at that time.  I have 4 prompts in my work day that push me to walk:

  • After I park my car I walk 7 minutes to the office
  • At the start of my lunch break I walk for 20 minutes
  • At the end of my work day I walk another 7 minutes back to my car
  • When I get home from work my son and I walk my dog for 20 minutes 

Because my prompts for walking are so specific it is nearly impossible for me to forget to walk.  I have developed such strong habits for walking at these times that it is truly a part of my day as much as eating or sleeping.  As you work on developing your exercise routine try to work prompts into your day so that exercise will become an important part of your day.

Checklist for starting an exercise routine:

  • Give exercise priority status in your daily schedule
  • Find a way to exercise every day; use prompts in your day that will push you to exercise
  • Focus on the daily habit.  Don’t try to do too much too soon.
  • Keep at it even when you don’t want to – you will love yourself if you do
  • Try not to miss a day for at least the first 10 days
  • Do it for you.  Tell yourself frequently why you want to exercise every day
  • Make it real – tell your family and friends about your new exercise routine or write about it in your journal;
  • Find support in a friend, an exercise group or Walk Today

One last thought…If the thought of starting an exercise routine now, in the dead of winter, leaves you feeling blah don’t feel bad.  It can be very hard to motivate ourselves to start a fitness routine when it is cold and gray outside – maybe that is one reason our New Year’s fitness goals don’t always work out so well.  Spring will be here soon so now is the perfect time to start planning an exercise routine that you can start once the snow melts and the temperatures rise.  I hope these pictures will remind you of the warm days ahead and will inspire you to start planning a spring exercise routine today.

Chicago, IL

Henderson, KY

Gordonsville, TN

Fall Creek Falls State Park, TN

Tell me how you plan to start or change your exercise routine?  Will your routine change when Spring comes?  Does your routine change from workday to weekend?

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Drink Water at One Meal Per Day

Do you drink water with your meals?  It is a great habit to develop.  Not only is water a healthy and necessary requirement for your body but it has zero calories. 

Try this at home:  drink a glass of water with one of your daily meals instead of the beverage you would normally drink.  As long as you don’t sneak in a replacement drink later in the day, you will consume fewer calories each day.

For example, drinking a glass of water with dinner instead of an 8oz. glass of cranberry juice cocktail will save you 137 calories per day, 959 calories per week and a whopping 49,868 calories per year.  If it takes 3,500 calories to equal a pound then 49,868 calories equals 14.24 lbs. over a year’s time.  That’s 14 lbs. that you can control with one small change in your daily routine.

Scroll below to see the calorie content for some of your favorite beverages.

Beverage / Calories                                                   

Cola, 8 oz.  /  112 calories

Cranberry Juice Cocktail, 8 oz.  /  137 calories

Grape Drink, 8oz.  /  143 calories

Iced Tea-Sweetened, 12 oz.  /  120 calories

Kool-Aid,* 8 oz.  /  96 calories

Lemon-lime Soda, 8oz.  /  98 calories

Light Beer, 12 oz.  /  103 calories

Milk-2%, 8 oz.  /  122 calories

Orange Juice, 8 oz.  /  112 calories

Soy Milk, 8 oz.  /  125 calories

Wine-Red, 6 oz.  /  150 calories

Wine-White, 6 oz.  /  147 calories

*mix 1 cup sugar per 2 quarts water 

Source:  www.ahealthyme.com and www.caloriecount.about.com

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“It’s not the work that’s hard – it’s the discipline.”

                                    -Anonymous

There are times when I don’t want to walk.  

Sometimes when it is really hot or cold or raining or my backpack is really heavy with work stuff, I resent having to walk up the long hill to work.  I dream of a parking space right next to the door of my office building. 

Sometimes I don’t want to walk during lunch – I’d rather read a magazine or talk with my co-workers while enjoying a leisurely lunch. 

Sometimes on the drive home from work I dread the thought of changing clothes and going right back out the door to walk my dog. 

We all have those days. 

The question is how do we motivate ourselves to get up, skip the work shuttle, spend part of our lunch hour walking and walk the dog when it’s really the last thing we want to do?  

I always have a list of reasons that I want to walk in the back of my mind that I think about whenever I’m tempted to skip a walk.  Something on this motivational list almost always gets me out the door to walk even when I rather do something else or nothing at all.  Here is my list:

  1. I know I’ll feel guilty if I skip my walk. 
  2. I know I will have more energy after I walk then before I walked.
  3. My walk during lunch will be my only ‘me time’ I have.  Why skip that?
  4. I can’t disappoint my dog.  She has waited all day for this walk.
  5. I know I will be in a better mood after I walk than I was before I walked.
  6. If I skip my walk eventually my jeans won’t fit – I hate trying on jeans.
  7. I love to walk on a sunny day in winter and a cloudy day in summer.
  8. I know if I don’t feel like walking then that means I need a walk.
  9. I’ve never finished walking and thought “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
  10. If I walk then I can eat chocolate guilt free. 

My list gets me walking about 99% of the time even on the days when I have no motivation to walk.  Are there days that you don’t want to walk?  How do you motivate yourself when you get the urge to skip a walk?  What’s on your list?

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Do you get 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week?  No.  Why not?  Study after study suggests that as little as 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week can give you a healthier, happier and longer life. 

If there is a little voice inside of you saying it’s time to be more active then try walking.  Walking is an activity that almost everyone can do any place or time.  If you choose to walk you’ll find that the excuses you’ve used in the past to avoid exercise won’t be a barrier anymore.  

You might identify with some of the most common reasons below that people say they don’t exercise.  Scroll down to find the most common reasons that you don’t exercise.  Then learn how walking will be the excuse buster allowing you to focus on accomplishing fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise.  

No Confidence

  • I don’t know what to do – I feel stupid;
  • I don’t think I can do it – I am afraid;
  • I’m embarrassed;
  • I’m too big.

You already know how to walk.  You’ve had a lot of practice walking and you are well trained for this fitness activity.  You don’t have to learn how to work tricky equipment or remember the steps to a fitness routine.  All you have to do is walk.

If you are uncomfortable walking in your neighborhood, find a local park for walking. You will blend in with all of the other walkers – young and old and of all sizes. 

No Time

  • Exercise takes too long;
  • It gets in the way of other obligations;
  • It’s inconvenient;
  • I have to care for my children and/or other family members.

Walking is always available if you have appropriate shoes.  You can fit 10 minutes of walking into your day pretty effortlessly.  Be creative.  Walk around the block or parking lot before and after work, walk for the first 15 minutes of your lunch break, walk while your child is at baseball practice or dance class. 

Keep a comfy pair of shoes in the car or at work so you will always be prepared to squeeze in 10 minutes of walking.  To start, set a goal to walk at least 10 minutes every day.

Remember that your children will get older and your family obligations will change.  By developing a walking habit now you will have more energy today for your many obligations.  Take care of yourself now so that you can take care of others in your life. 

Health Concerns

  • I’m out of shape;
  • I’m too old to exercise;
  • I don’t want to get injured.

Almost everyone who doesn’t have a chronic or limiting health condition can walk safely at any age.  Start off slow aiming for a 5 to 10 minute walk each day and gradually build up to 30 minutes. 

No Motivation

  • Exercise is boring – no fun;
  • I can’t commit – I keep quitting;
  • I keep procrastinating.

What do you like to do?  Do you like talking with a friend, listening to music, feeling the sun on your face, having more ‘me time,’ spending more time with your family or spending time in natural settings?  You can do all of these things and more while walking.  Call a friend to walk or recruit some friends for a walking group, enjoy nature while walking at the park or greenway, get more ‘me time’ by walking solo or have more family time by planning family walks.  When you choose to walk, it is easy to include some of your favorite people, places and things with walking to keep it fun and to keep you motivated.  

No Results

  • Exercise isn’t changing my body;
  • Why should I bother to exercise;
  • Exercise is all for nothing.

A proud sense of accomplishment is one of the first results you will notice after walking.  You will start to feel stress melt away within minutes after you start walking.  You will notice increased energy and alertness.  You will almost always feel better after walking than you did before you walked.

No Money

  • I can’t afford a gym membership or exercise classes;
  • I don’t have the right exercise equipment;
  • I don’t have proper exercise apparel.

Walking is basically FREE.  All  you need are shoes.

If you walk, you don’t have to join a gym, pay for classes or buy special equipment. 

Look around and you will see that most walkers wear whatever is comfortable and weather appropriate…we walkers aren’t into flashy and we seldom worry about what to wear when we walk. 

No Effort

  • Exercise zaps my energy;
  • Exercise is too hard;
  • Exercise hurts;
  • I’m too tired to exercise.

Walking is one of the easiest fitness activities you can do.  Your body is made specifically to walk.  Your body should not hurt during or after walking if you start off slow and gradually increase your time and intensity.

If you feel tired, take a walk.  You will feel alert and energized after walking. 

External

  • It’s too nice to be inside exercising.
  • It’s too hot, cold, rainy or snowy to exercise outside.

When the weather is bad you can walk inside at the mall, community center, or indoor track.  If the weather is nice then take advantage of a beautiful day by walking outside at the park, in your neighborhood, on the greenway, or investigating your own town on foot.  No matter what the weather is outside, walking can work for you.

Have You Walked Today?

Have you ever let any of these excuses stop you from being more active despite your best intentions?  Are you convinced yet that walking can be your excuse buster and let you achieve your fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise? 

Don’t let one more day pass without walking.  Start today, no excuses.

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Imagine stepping out your door, the sun is shining, big billowy clouds are casting playful shadows, a slight breeze blows and the temperature is a perfect 72.  On a day like this it’s not hard to get motivated to go outside and walk.  Once outside in the perfect sunshine your walk is effortless and enjoyable and you walk longer than you planned. 

Back to reality….like last week’s record breaking cold snap which submersed half of the country into bitter cold.  At my house last weekend the high temperature averaged 23 degrees.  Since the average high in January is a bearable 45 degrees, a high of 23 degrees is COLD!  Despite the cold and despite my threats to the contrary I managed to forego the shuttle and walk 8 minutes uphill from the parking lot to the office and, of course, I walked the dog – she even got an extra long walk on Sunday when it warmed up to a balmy 27 degrees.

Even though it is easier and certainly warmer to take a shuttle or to stay inside on a cold winter’s day, the next time you are tempted to avoid winter’s cold, grab your walking shoes instead and you will be rewarded.  Believe it or not, winter is one of the best times to walk outdoors. 

Winter Walking 

Why is winter one of the best times to walk outdoors? 

Walking outside in winter is peaceful.  There are so fewer people on the trails, sidewalks and public spaces that you often feel like you have the space all to yourself.   It is quiet.  You will notice the quiet in the park, in your neighborhood, on the sidewalks, almost everywhere…so many people avoid going outside that it offers the ones who do a tranquility that is missing during the rest of the year.  

Walking outside in winter gives you a different perspective on nature.  You will see a very different view of the landscape now that the trees are free from leaves and the ground is free from brush and sometimes covered with snow.  You will notice that on a sunny day the sunshine is brilliant and the sky is a deeper shade of blue.  If you are lucky enough to walk at dawn or dusk you will see the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets showcasing beautiful shades of pinks, purples, oranges and reds.  Amazing. 

Walking outside in winter gives you a breath of fresh air.  We stay cooped up during the winter with our windows shut tight.  Oftentimes the only fresh air we get is walking from the parking lot to a store or office.  Walking in winter will give you a big dose of fresh air and this winter air is healthier for you than the stagnant, ozone-laced air of summer.  Take in a deep breath and breathe.

Walking outside during winter keeps you away from the crowded track at the gym or community center.  Many of us start or renew our fitness goals with the New Year – we shouldn’t let weather be a barrier to reaching our goals.  A lot of daily walkers will tell you that walking outside on a cold winter’s day can be done almost every day.

Walking outside during winter will expose you to sunlight and that can help if you are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year – most frequently in the fall and winter months when we are exposed to less sunlight.  Experts recommend treatments such as going outside and exercising as much as possible during fall and winter if your symptoms are not severe. 

Keep a Routine

It’s not always easy to motivate yourself to go outside in the cold, and sometimes dark, to walk.  One way to tackle this is to keep a routine from which you rarely deviate.  For instance, walk before work with a neighborhood friend, walk outside during your lunch break or walk as soon as you get home from work before you do anything else.  On those days when your motivation is low just tell yourself you will walk for at least 10 minutes and then you can stop whenever you want.  Most of the time you will continue to walk through your normal routine even though you have given yourself permission to stop early.

Another idea is to establish a shorter outside walking routine during the dead of winter…maybe 15- 30 minutes depending on the temperature….sometimes the most important thing is to just keep up the routine and get out there even if it is for a shorter amount of time.  Be sure to take advantage of warmer days, especially during the weekend, when you can schedule a longer walk to help make up for your shorter daily routine. 

Be Careful

You should be especially careful walking outside during the cold months of the year. 

  • Cold is relative.  Don’t try to walk outside if it is dangerously cold for you.
  • Wear a hat, gloves, scarf, wool socks and extra layers designed for cold weather.  You can always take items off if you warm up. 
  • Wear appropriate footwear for snow and ice.
  • If you walk in the dark or low light, walk in lighted areas, wear a reflective piece and keep a small flashlight in your pocket.
  • Walk in familiar and safe areas.  Stay aware of your surroundings.  Bring your cell phone.
  • Always drink water to stay hydrated.           

Give it a Try 

If you are tempted to let the cold keep you inside, bundle up instead and give winter walking a try.  Discover how enjoyable winter walking can be.  If you start an outside walking routine now, you will feel a remarkable sense of accomplishment and personal triumph every day that you conquer winter’s cold.  And just think how easy it will be to walk outside in a few short months when the weather is perfect.

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