Written on October 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm , by SparkPeople
When most women say that they want to “tone up,” what they usually mean is that they want to become leaner. Basically, they want to lose fat, and add a little muscle definition—but not so much muscle mass that they look like a bodybuilder. Here are some helpful guidelines for toning up without bulking up.
Myth #1: Lifting light weights will tone your body and lifting heavy weights will bulk you up.
The Truth: While there is some truth to the idea that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing the muscular endurance, lighter weights will not help you “tone” better than heavy weights. In fact, because heavier weights build the strength of your muscles–thereby helping to increase your metabolism and burn fat–lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (8 to 12 on average) and working until you’re fatigued is more effective at helping you reach your toning goals than lifting lighter weights.
Myth #2: Lifting light weights won’t help you get stronger.
The Truth: When it comes to lifting weights, the secret to really getting stronger isn’t about how much weight you’re lifting. Instead, it’s all about working your muscle to fatigue where you literally cannot lift the weight for another repetition. The August 2010 study from McMaster University that proved this found that even when subjects lifted lighter weights, they added as much muscle as those lifting heavy weights. However, the time it takes to reach fatigue with light weights is much longer than the time it takes to reach fatigue with heavier weights.
Myth #3: Certain forms of exercise build long, lean muscles.
The Truth: Many forms of exercise claim to lengthen the muscles or develop “lean” muscles, not bulky ones. But here’s a truth that may be shocking to some: To put it another way, no form of exercise makes muscles “longer” because your muscles do not—and will not—respond to exercise by getting longer. It’s just not how they work. Muscles are a certain length because they attach to your bones. A wide variety of movements and exercises can help you strengthen your muscles without necessarily making them bigger. In fact, you can develop a lot of muscular strength without your muscles ever increasing in size (girth).
That said, exercises such as yoga, Pilates, dance and barre classes can help to increase your flexibility (improving your range of motion at certain joints) and your posture, which can give you the illusion of feeling and looking longer or taller.
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Written on September 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm , by SparkPeople
We’ll admit it: Between the apparel, at-home equipment, and gadgets, you can spend a small fortune on working out. But—and this is a big but—you don’t have to! Follow these hard and fast rules for when you’re trying to decide if you can (or should) afford something or not.
Splurge: 5 Fitness Items Worth Spending More On
For many, money is tight. But when it comes to these items (assuming you’re in the market for them), skimping for a cheaper model might cost you more in the long run.
1. Shoes. If you’ve ever bought a pair of cheap sneakers and tried to run in them, you know a good pair of workout shoes is worth every cent. The proper footwear isn’t just a matter of comfort—it’s a matter of safety! Wearing shoes that don’t correctly support the activity you’re doing can lead to muscular imbalance, decreased performance and even injury or overuse.
2. Sports Bras. The difference between a cheap sports bra and a quality one is huge. Most department stores now have a sports section for bras, so try on a variety of options and find one that fully supports you and is comfortable.
3. Pedometer. Sure, you can buy a pedometer for $5, but it won’t be very accurate—and it will probably only work for a few months before you need to replace it. If you want to count your steps, plan to spend at least $25 on a more expensive pedometer that comes with instructions and requires calibration.
4. Gym Membership. Always ask for a 5- to 7-day trial membership first (which should be free). While some chains do have low rates that offer good-quality equipment, it’s best to shop around. From having old equipment that doesn’t get repaired, to not being clean to not being properly staffed, most of the time you pay for what you get. So pay for what you want.
5. Home Cardio Machines. Buying a good cardio machine the first time is far more cost effective than having to buy another model after the cheap one breaks down! And a high-quality model will last you for years and years to come, making its per-use cost much lower than a cheaper model. Do your online research, go to a fitness equipment store and try out a variety of models, and check out consumer reviews at ConsumerReports.org.
Save: 5 Fitness Items Worth Buying on the Cheap
There’s no point spending extra money if you don’t have to. Look for deals on the following fitness items; you won’t go wrong, but will save a lot! Read more
Written on September 22, 2011 at 9:02 am , by SparkPeople
We’ve all done it, and sometimes we don’t even realize when it’s happening: We have all eaten something when we weren’t actually hungry. And while that’s OK from time to time, too much eating without thinking can really hurt your weight-loss goals (and possibly your health).
Take a look at these 10 situations that encourage you to eat when you’re not hungry…and how to solve them!
1. To Cope
Happy? You might eat a treat to celebrate. Sad? You might eat to soothe yourself. It may help to track your eating habits in a journal, noting your emotional state when you headed for that snack. Writing it down may help you make a connection you hadn’t seen before, like the fact that you eat when you’re lonely or angry.
2. Out of Boredom
For many people, eating seems like a good solution when there’s nothing better to do–whether you graze at home on the weekends or entertain yourself with lavish dinners out. If you know boredom is a trigger for your eating, have a list of strategies in place to keep yourself busy: Catch up with an old friend, write an old-fashioned snail-mail letter, write in your blog, read, or workout! Eating won’t seem as appealing if you have a fun alternative to keep yourself occupied!
3. Because Other People Are Eating
It’s easy to indulge when others around you are eating, too. Research shows that our habits mimic our companions’ actions in situations like these. You don’t have to swear off happy hour with friends to watch your weight though. When your dining companions devour a second basket of bread or chips, or order dessert, don’t automatically follow suit. Check in with your hunger level to see if you really need it to be satisfied with the fun conversation.
4. Because Food is There
Whether it’s party food or an office candy jar, when food is in plain sight, it can be too easy to grab. If you’re unable to nix the trigger food altogether, move the treats out of sight—you’ll be less likely to grab a handful. So if you buy a bag of Oreos, put them on a high shelf in a cabinet—not on the counter. Instead of a clear candy jar, try an opaque one or move it to another location. When you’re already full and food is out at a party, stand with your back to the table or in another room.
Written on September 20, 2011 at 9:00 am , by SparkPeople
How often have you found yourself thinking or saying the following?
- “I wish I had more time for myself.”
- “I’m so busy! I don’t have a moment to breathe.”
- “I need more hours in the day.”
- “I don’t have time for that.”
We lead crazy, busy lives. And the one thing we never seem to have time for is ourselves. This problem seems even more pervasive as we work harder to meet the challenges of this new economy.
Creating more personal time tops the list of goals many people want to accomplish. Here are a few ways you can make “me” time a reality:
1. First, decide that you deserve some time to yourself each day. Stop feeling guilty for taking time out for you, and realize in the long run, it’s a win-win for everyone. When you are tired, stressed out and pulled in too many directions, it is hard to give your best to all you must accomplish. Remember, self-time is not selfish—it’s a necessary dimension of self-care!
2. Decide how best to spend “me” time. How each of us chooses to spend free time is as individualized as we all are. If you had an extra 15 minutes, a half hour, an afternoon or an entire day, what would you do to make yourself feel rejuvenated, relaxed and happy? Write a list and keep it handy when you begin scheduling time into your calendar.
3. Evaluate the things that are wasting your time each day. Do you check your emails constantly and end up spending more time on your computer than you planned? Run to the supermarket daily to pick up dinner rather than plan in advance and shop once? If this sounds like you, you must take the time to organize your responsibilities, and you will gain more free time.
4. Learn to say “no” to requests to do things that you don’t really want to do, don’t value, or don’t bring you satisfaction and joy.
5. Ask for help with chores that don’t necessarily have to be completed by you alone.
6. At the beginning of each week, take a few minutes to designate specific time slots for all that must be accomplished—including “me” time. Treat your personal time like you would any other appointment and make it non-negotiable.
7. Commit to a minimum of 15-20 minutes of “me” time every day. Do something (or nothing) that completely lets go of responsibilities and releases your mind, allowing you to be alone with your thoughts.
8. Create a daily ritual. This can be a bath, listening to music, taking a walk or meditating. You will find yourself looking forward to this time!
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Written on September 9, 2011 at 11:46 am , by SparkPeople
When it comes to losing weight or making healthy choices, you probably think that it takes hours at a gym, plus long nights preparing and planning nutritious meals. But guess what? Quick and easy changes can also really improve your immediate health and wellness too!
So just how quick is quick? One minute—that’s it! Try any one of these 60-second activities to easily reap the healthy benefits.:
1. Drink a tall glass of water. We all know the many health benefits of drinking water, but did you also know that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue? So, the next time you feel your energy waning, grab a glass of water and guzzle it down!
2. Twist it out. So many of us spend every weekday seated in front of a computer. Not only can sitting all day wreak havoc on your posture, but it can also compress your spine and exaggerate its curvature. A simple twist can help undo this. As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. If you have the space to sit on the floor, try this torso twist stretch.
3. Take a deep breath. How often do you think about breathing? If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it often enough. For a quick pick-me-up, simply take five deep breaths. Slowly inhale for at least five seconds and exhale for 10 seconds each time.
4. Put on a favorite song. There’s nothing quite like your favorite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins. Bonus points if you dance along!
5. Sit up straighter. Did you know that bad posture can put unnecessary stress on your low back? Take a minute to focus on sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back.
6. Do 10 pushups. Being strong is important, but having functional strength is even more important because it makes everyday activities easier to accomplish. A push-up is a great, quick exercise for building functional strength. Drop down and give me 10—or as many as you can do in 1 minute.
7. Encourage someone. Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to feel better after helping someone else feel better? Whether you post a supportive comment on a friend’s profile page or write a few kind words in a card or an email, it can quickly boost your mood too.
8. Wash your hands. It seems like cold and flu season is always in full force (or just around the corner). One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay well year round is to wash your hands…or just grab your waterless hand sanitizer.
9. Try aromatherapy. A number of different smells can have a positive effect on your mind and body. For example, peppermint can energize you through a workout and jasmine has been shown to reduce anxiety.
10. Give yourself a mini-massage. Massage has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and speeding muscle repair. While you may not be able to spend the time or money getting one at a spa, pampering yourself with just 1 minute of self-massage by rubbing your own hands, feet or shoulders can do wonders.
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Written on September 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm , by SparkPeople
The idea that alcohol may be good for your heart has been around for a while. (But while moderate drinking may offer health benefits, drinking more can cause a host of health problems.) Here’s what you need to know…
Research on Alcohol and Heart Disease
As research on this topic has continued to expand, researchers recently conducted another systematic review of 63 studies that examined adults without known cardiovascular disease before and after alcohol use. This latest meta-analysis was published in a 2011 issue of the British Medical Journal.
The analysis of these numerous studies suggests that moderate alcohol consumption (defined below) helps to protect against heart disease by:
- Raising HDL “good” cholesterol
- Increasing apolipoprotein A1, a protein that has a specific role in lipid (fat) metabolism and is a major component of HDL “good” cholesterol
- Decreasing fibrinogen, a soluble plasma glycoprotein that is a part of blood clot formation
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing plaque accumulation in the arteries
- Decreasing the clumping of platelets and the formation of blood clots
However, these studies did not show any relationship between moderate alcohol intake and total cholesterol level or LDL “bad” cholesterol. And while some studies associated alcohol intake to increased triglycerides, the most recent analysis of moderate alcohol intake in healthy adults showed no such relationship.
What’s the Definition of “Moderate” Alcohol Consumption?
A moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. One drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol and is defined as:
- 12 fl. oz. of regular beer (5% alcohol)
- 4-5 fl. oz. of wine (12% alcohol)
- 1.5 fl. oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
- 1 fl. oz. of 100-proof distilled spirits (50% alcohol)
Are Certain Types of Alcohol Better Than Others?
While a few research studies suggest that wine maybe more beneficial than beer or sprits in the prevention of heart disease, most studies do not support an association between type of alcoholic beverage and the prevention of heart disease. At present time, drinking wine for its antioxidant content to prevent heart disease is an unproven strategy. It still remains unclear whether red wine offers any heart-protecting advantage over white wine or other types of alcoholic beverages.
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Written on August 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm , by SparkPeople
A self-described foodie, Ashley goes weak in the knees for pricey items like avocados, coconut oil, fresh mozzarella, raw nuts, and Nutella. “We love to eat. What can I say?” admits Ashley, who blogs at (Never Home)maker with her husband, Stephen. But grocery bills in the $75 to $110 range forced the couple to re-evaluate their spending habits. By sticking to a budget, baking their own bread, and planning meals, they were able to save more than $120 in a month.
As Ashley, Stephen, and the following food bloggers demonstrate, it’s possible to spend less on groceries without sacrificing taste or quality. All that’s required is a little planning, knowledge, and creativity. Sink your teeth into these great tips:
Enjoy Meatless Meals: “I buy a lot of canned beans and use them as my main protein because they are cheap, healthy, and delicious! You can use cannellini beans to bulk up a pasta dish; top your salads with kidney or black beans to add flavor and texture; and mix beans in with brown rice and veggies and top with marinara sauce for an economical and delicious meal. You can even make a spread for a sandwich by mashing chickpeas and adding a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice!” (Anne from fANNEtastic Food)
Avoid Temptation by Having Your Groceries Delivered: “I make weekly meal plans, so I know exactly what food I need for the week. However, my money downfall is picking up all the ‘special offers’ and sweet treats I see on the shelves around me. So, I looked into getting what I need delivered. There is a small delivery charge, but I save more than that by avoiding the store.” (Rachel from Suburban Yogini)
Scour the Discount Produce Bins: “Shop the reduced produce area to find deals of fresh produce. I buy almost-brown bananas and freeze them. They work great in smoothies!” (Tina from Carrots ‘N Cake)
Buy Seeds: “Grow your own herbs! A plant that lasts all summer (or year) costs the same as a single herb package.” (Matt from No Meat Athlete)
$ocial Media: “Follow your favorite companies on Twitter and Facebook – you’ll be alerted to sales and giveaways! This past week, So Delicious let me know where So Delicious Kefir was on sale!” (Molly from Fuel Her Up)
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Written on August 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm , by SparkPeople
Eighty percent of women report having at least a little cellulite. And even though it isn’t harmful, it’s not exactly welcomed. Here’s a round-up of some healthy lifestyle habits that have been shown to help reduce the appearance of cellulite. They seem obvious, but if you commit yourself to them they might help you see results…
- Lose weight. Although you may not be able to get rid of cellulite completely, when you lose body fat by exercising and eating a healthy diet, you can greatly improve the appearance of dimpled skin because you’ll have less fat pushing up against your skin.
- Resistance train. There is no such thing as spot training (losing fat in a specific body area by exercising it), but by strengthening and building your muscles—particularly in areas where you carry cellulite—you can give your skin a more even texture and tone.
- Do cardio. Aerobic exercise is a fantastic way to burn calories and burn fat, thereby reducing the size of fat cells under the skin.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains can give your body the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to properly burn fat and keep your skin and tissues healthy. In fact, healthy proteins from nuts, beans and fish, and antioxidant-rich green tea, berries and garlic can help build up collagen—a connective tissue that helps plump up the skin and makes the signature peaks and valleys of cellulite less extreme. A healthy diet full of vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids can also improve skin texture.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is an easy way to improve the texture of your skin. It seems counterintuitive, but by drinking more fluid, your body actually releases excess fluid that you may have been holding onto (including in your cellulite-prone areas).
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Written on August 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm , by SparkPeople
So you’ve joined the ranks of your friends on Facebook and are planning a wedding, too? Congrats! But we know the planning can at times wreak havoc on your mental health, so check out this post from our buddies at SparkPeople…
It’s a gross understatement to say that planning a wedding is stressful. With all of the coordination, timing and numerous things to prepare for (not to mention family politics!), it’s no wonder that nice, normal people turn into grumpy grooms and bridezillas. However, you don’t have to become a stressed-out stereotype on your big day. In fact, it is possible to plan a wedding and keep your healthy cool—no matter the situation.
The Stressor: You and Your Fiancé Want Different Types of Weddings
One of the biggest wedding stressors occurs when you and your fiancé have very different ideas of what your special day should be like. Traditional and in a church? A tropical destination wedding? The options are limitless and stress can be high from the get-go, if the soon-to-be-wed couple can’t agree on what kind of ceremony to have.
How to de-stress: Before you plan any wedding details, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of the top three things that are important to each of you as far as the ceremony and reception are concerned. Then, calmly and patiently compare lists to see where you can compromise. If he wants a small wedding but you want a big one, you can always hold a small ceremony and then a big after-party. Marriage is all about give and take!
The Stressor: Overbearing Family Members or Friends
Almost every bride and groom deals with at least one or two overbearing (yet well-meaning) family members or friends while planning a wedding. Whether it’s a future in-law, your own parents, or even a bossy friend, everyone seems to have an opinion.
How to de-stress: Remember that this is your wedding—not everyone else’s. It may be hard to tell your loved ones “no”, but if you want your wedding day to be truly special and unique, you must stand your ground. Politely and firmly state your decisions with the support of your partner. Think of it as if others are trying to derail or sabotage your diet—it’s really none of their business!
The Stressor: Fear that Your Dress Won’t Fit
Of course you want to feel confident and healthy on your wedding day…but stress only hurts your weight-loss efforts.
How to de-stress: First, make sure that you aren’t being unrealistic about your body image on the big day. Your wedding weight-loss goals must be realistic, especially since planning takes a lot of time and you may not have as much time as you think to exercise and cook healthfully. Second, be sure to drink enough water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and get that beauty rest. These three things will really give you that wedding-day glow. Lastly, visualize yourself walking down the aisle with confidence on the big day. Picturing yourself in a positive light helps squash stress and can give you the energy to plan, plan, plan!
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Written on August 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm , by SparkPeople
There are tons of fun, active ways you can torch calories and get a workout during a beach escape, without even realizing it. Check it out:
1. Building a sandcastle: 100 calories/hour
Indulge the kid in you! If you dig sand and carry it, and place your castle further away from the water, you’ll make multiple trips to and from your castle/water using your legs, core and arm strength to heave full buckets. That’ll burn 2-3 x the calories and give you an “interval” type workout. Boost the burn: Add some isometric holds or try a few biceps curls when your buckets are full or sand or water to work your muscles!
2. Playing Frisbee: 175 calories/hour
Frisbee is a fun activity that engages your shoulders and arms while improving hand-eye coordination. Boost the burn: Add some running or jump up to catch the Frisbee. For a real challenge, try tossing the Frisbee with your non-dominant hand. That’ll get your partner running like crazy to catch it, assuming your aim isn’t as good as your dominant hand.
3. Boogie boarding: 200-250 calories/hour
Boogie boarding uses your whole body, much like swimming does, but unlike surfing or paddle boarding, you don’t need as much skill, coordination or balance to do it. Plus it’s FUN and it gets your heart rate up high enough to count as a cardio workout. Boost the burn: Keep on kicking with your arms and legs as long as possible. Stays moving instead of letting waves passively pull you, and you’ll blast even more fat.
4. Jumping waves: 300 calories/hour
Perhaps one of the most fun things about the beach, jumping in the waves uses all the major muscles of your lower body, helping you build explosive speed and power. Plus, that water acts as additional resistance for an ever greater calorie burn and toning factor than jumping on land. Boost the burn: In addition to jumping when the waves come, mix in a little water jogging and you’ll burn 400-500 calories per hour!
5. Beach volleyball: 500 calories/hour
Beach volleyball calls on your hips and legs for running and jumping and your upper body for striking the ball — it also builds team spirit among all participants. Boost the burn: The fewer people on your team, the better your workout. When you have to cover more of the court, you’ll be running around and working up a sweat—but having fun while doing it!
*Calories burned estimates based on a 150-pound female.
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