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Monthly Archives: December 2012

  • Seven foods that are secretly adding to your waist

    Even if you're working to shed excess pounds in an ergonomically safe way with true treadmills, true ellipticals and true bikes, what you're putting into your body could be reversing your hard work. Some of the foods you're consuming could potentially be putting the pounds back on that you worked so hard to keep off. Be wary of what you're eating, even if it may seem healthy at first glance. Here are 10 foods you should stray from when trying to whittle down your middle:

    Artificial sweeteners
    Never opt for artificial sweeteners over regular sugar. Dumping these packets into your morning coffee everyday may set you back more than you realize.

    Artificial sweeteners, register as much sweeter than sugar to your taste buds, and can reset them to crave more sugary foods. "As a result, you end up eating more junk," Cosmopolitan magazine explained.

    If you settle for a reasonable amount of normal sugar, you'll find you won't be indulging on sweet treats later on. You may also find you have more energy if you cut little extra treats out of your diet.

    Frozen dinners
    Even though some frozen meals promise a healthy meal, many dinners may not be as healthy as you imagine. Many are packed with preservatives and a high amount of sodium. You can make a healthy meal just as quickly using fresh ingredients.Try grilling up some chicken with a few vegetables for the same meal with healthier rewards.

    Skim milk
    Dr. Mehmet Oz revealed a shocking twist regarding your dairy intake. Next time you're at the grocery store shopping for milk, you'll want to grab the 2 percent over the skim. Why? Even though there may be less calories in skim, there's more sugar. Therefore, it's actually more fattening than regular milk. So go ahead and enjoy that glass of 2 percent.

    Salad dressing
    You may be proud of yourself for opting for a nice green salad for lunch. However, what you're drizzling on your salad could make the difference between a healthy meal and hidden extra calories. The creamier dressings are the ones you should be aware of. According to Associates in Nutrition Therapy, restaurants usually drench your salad in a whopping eight tablespoons of dressing. The recommended amount is only two tablespoons. By asking for dressing on the side or choosing a lighter dressing, you'll be saving yourself tons of calories.

    Wheat bread
    Yes, wheat bread is great for you and has fiber to keep you full and energized. However, make sure to really examine the packaging before you buy what many companies call wheat bread. Self magazine warns that if the bread doesn't say "100 percent whole wheat," then it's probably not. Choose bread that has at least two grams of fiber so you know you're actually consuming a healthy grain.

    This high-in-calories alternative to butter may actually be worse for you than you thought. Cosmopolitan magazine said that margarine is filled with trans fats, which doesn't do any favors for your cholesterol level. Instead, use a small amount of butter or even olive oil. Land O'Lakes Margarine, for example, has two and a half more grams of trans fats than regular butter. That's more than one day's limit!

    Even when there are plenty of vegetables and protein-filled meats wrapped in a tortilla, you're not necessarily indulging in a healthy meal. Although they may seem harmless, don't be fooled. According to Shape magazine, a tortilla by itself can hold up to 800 calories! You're better off choosing whole wheat bread, or if you must, sharing the meal with a friend for half the calories.

  • How to properly use your stationary bike

    Stationary bikes have always been a great way to get in a cardiovascular workout without putting a large amount of stress on your joints. Both your legs and core can really benefit from what stationary bikes have to offer. In order to get the best workout possible on your stationary bike and avoid potential injury, it's important to know how to properly use your bike.

    Stationary bikes
    There are two types of home exercise bikes. One of them is the upright, stationary bike. Much like a traditional bicycle, you're sitting up straight while your legs extend down to the pedals. You can get the same workout you would outdoors on a normal bicycle, but lucky for you, there's no inclement winter weather to worry about!

    Recumbent exercise bike
    A recumbent exercise bike is similar to an upright bike, but is different in a few ways. Instead of pedaling straight down, the pedals are located out in front of you. You also have a chair-like seat which supports your back and creates a more relaxed and comfortable position. Active said this seat promotes better spinal posture and allows you to multi-task due to the hands-free environment.

    How to set up your bike
    It's vital to know how to set your bike up correctly, whether it's a recumbent exercise bike or a stationary bike. Doing so will help you to get the best workout possible out of the equipment and help to avoid injury.

    One of the best ways to make sure the bike is properly fitted is to adjust the height of the seat on an upright bike. Spark People suggested adjusting your seat based on the height of your hip. Once you sit on the bike, your legs should be fully extended, helping you to get the best leg workout. You should also make sure the height of the handlebar is in a comfortable position.

    "Raising the handlebars higher will alleviate lower back stress that occurs when you lean forward. You should be able to reach the handlebars easily, keeping your elbows slightly bent." explained Spark People.

    If you're using a recumbent exercise bike, you can choose to move the seat forward and back. Much like an upright bike, your legs should be almost fully extended out in front of you to give you a full pedal stroke. You can also choose to adjust the degree in which your seat leans back. However, it's important to remember not to tilt the seat too far back. According to Spine Health, this can potentially hyperextend the back and strain the muscles.

    For either a recumbent exercise bike or a stationary bike, you should adjust the foot straps so your foot fits snug and won't fall out while pedaling.

  • How to live a longer and healthier life

    Although many wish to live a long and healthy life, sometimes things like greasy fast food, busy schedules and guilty pleasures get in the way. What you may not know is that there are simple ways throughout your day to increase your health and may even help you to live a longer life! Check out these lifestyle tips below and be on your way to living a healthier life:

    Exercise! Even though this may be the most obvious beneficial act you can do to improve your health, its importance should be restated. Fitness treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals are all simple pieces of equipment that offer easy ways to get in your daily dose of exercise. Dr. Mehmet Oz explained to Good Morning America that instead of fitting in an intense 30-minute workout everyday, you should be working on incorporating more frequent physical activity into your everyday life. For example, Dr. Oz suggested pedaling on a stationary bike while watching TV or taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Either way, exercise should be considered a vital element in your day-to-day life.

    Grab a mint According to Rodale, peppermint has the power to increase exercise performance.

    "Researchers say that the scent of mint alters your perception of how hard you're exercising. which can make workouts seem less strenuous so you don't mind exercising longer," explained Rodale.

    A delicious way to be tricked into a better workout? We'll take it!

    Eat breakfast You know what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! And for good reason. Not only does it boost your metabolism, according to AARP, this morning meal has the power to make you look younger as well! However, make sure you're not opting for a sugary breakfast. Although Pop-Tarts may satisfy your taste buds, they're not doing your body any favors. Try oatmeal instead for its high fiber and low-glycemic index, which may help to ward off wrinkles. You can even add your favorite fruits like strawberries or blueberries to add a touch of sweetness to your oatmeal, while still keeping your morning meal healthy.

    Stretch Activities requiring stretching, like yoga, have been proven to reduce stress by relaxing the blood vessels. Rodale suggested starting off your morning with a simple cat stretch. This can relieve tension in the body while promoting blood flow and healthier posture. You can also fit stretching into your day by using TV commercial breaks as an easy opportunity to loosen up your muscles.

    Catch more z's By heading to bed earlier, you could be lengthening your life. Getting a good night's sleep can help significantly increase brain power and cognitive function.

    "Sleep regenerates neurons that enable the brain to function optimally," explained Jane Ferrie, senior researcher at University College London Medical School.

    According to AARP, those who received less shut-eye over a five-year span showed decreased mental function, which was equal to 4 to 7 years of aging. So, do yourself a favor and get a good nights sleep. Your refreshed body will be sure to thank you in the morning.

    Drink plenty of water The benefits water provides for your body are truly endless. Getting more H2O into your day can help give you healthier skin and hair, protects your joints and even aids in digestion. A good way to see if your body is fully hydrated is to check your urine.

    "You should drink enough water that your urine looks like pale lemonade," said Chris Mohr, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant to the Cincinnati Bengals.

    So, drink up! After all, your brain is made up of 80 percent water.

  • Six simple ways to cut calories

    Shedding pounds is usually not an easy task for anyone. It seems no matter how many diets we put ourselves through, nothing seems to make a difference. However, there are easy ways to cut calories throughout your day that won't leave your stomach grumbling the way many diets can. Try out a few of these methods below to cut excess calories and help yourself become a healthier you!

    Exercise Of course one of the most efficient way to cut calories is by exercising. Getting in cardio workouts on fitness treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical machines can be a great way to build endurance and burn calories fast.

    Skip the whip As tempting as whipped cream may sound on a hot chocolate or latte, it's best to skip it. Why? Even though it's light and airy feel may seem harmless, don't let that fool you. According to Self Nutrition Data, whipped cream from some coffee chains can add up to 100 more calories to your drink order.

    Sleep There could not possibly be an easier way to burn calories than to sleep them off.

    "Insufficient shut-eye appears to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates appetite," explained Health magazine.

    High levels of cortisol make you more likely to indulge. Lack of sleep also keeps your body from burning off carbohydrates. If they're not burned off while sleeping, they're then stored as fat. So, go to bed!

    Log your calories You truly don't know how much you're eating until you start writing down everything you eat. This allows you to become more aware of what you're putting in your body and you feel accountable for the things you write down. If you're not logging your calories, you're making it easier to brush off that extra piece of cake after dinner. It's also a good idea to take your food diary with you everywhere you go, as to not lose track of what you've eaten after a long day.

    Switch hands When snacking, try switching over to the hand you're less comfortable using.

    "People who snacked using their nondominant hands reduced about 30 percent of their total intake, compared with those using their dominant hands," reported CNN.

    Next time you sit down on the couch with a bag of popcorn or chips, be wary of which hand you're using!

    Increase your protein Having a diet rich in protein helps to build up muscle. Studies have shown that women who eat more protein lose more fat and maintain more muscle than those who don't. Health magazine recommended adding the amino acid leucine into your diet. Conveniently, this amino acid is readily available in many types of eggs, fish, poultry, dairy and beef. Try Greek yogurt for a creamy and delicious way to add more protein into your diet.

  • How to stay healthy while dining out

    When the weekend rolls around, chances are you may be eating at a restaurant at least once. If you're dieting or trying to stay healthy, dining out may put your plan to a halt even when you're exercising on cardio equipment like fitness treadmills and stationary bikes. However, there are several ways to go out to eat while maintaining your trim figure at the same time. Keep the following tips in mind for next time you're at a restaurant:

    Skip the bread basket
    Some restaurants provide their guests with a basket of bread to snack on before their meal arrives. As tempting as this might be, it's better to skip it. We all know how hard it is to only eat one slice when you have an entire basket in front of you. If you don't think you have the willpower, don't hesitate to ask your waiter to take the basket away. With the bread basket out of sight, you won't be tempted to indulge.

    Share a meal
    Most often, the portion sizes prepared by restaurant chefs are much more than you actually need. Even though you may be full, it's easy to overeat when you have that much food in front of you. One simple way to cut calories would be to share a meal. If you're opting to dine by yourself, Prevention magazine suggested asking your server to give you a half-portion instead.

    Grab a to-go box
    Another easy way to decrease your calorie count would be to ask for a to-go box when your meal arrives.

    "Restaurant portions have ballooned in recent years, and many of us don't know when to stop eating," Discovery Fit & Health explained.

    By opting for a to-go box right away, you can put half of the dish in the doggie bag and save it for later, before you overindulge.

    Opt for a lighter salad dressing
    Choosing a lighter dressing allows you to still have a flavorful salad, but without the heavy, mayonnaise-based topping that weighs down you and your meal. Dressings like Ranch and Thousand Island will pack more calories per bite than a vinaigrette.

    If you can't part with the creamy dressings, Prevention suggested asking for the dressing on the side. This way, the salad won't be drenched and you can enjoy its flavor without the extra calories.

    Substitute your side
    If the meal you ordered comes with fries, ask your server for healthier alternatives like steamed vegetables or fresh fruit. These options will provide you with the energy your body needs without the saturated fat. Although turning away fries is not the easiest task, your body will thank you later.

  • How to tone your abs on a stationary bike

    Many don't realize that using stationary bikes can be one of the best ways to tone their abs! Sure, they are perfect for toning your back, arms and legs, but there are stomach exercises that can be done while riding any piece of exercise bike equipment. Here are a few core-strengthening moves you can do at home on your bike:

    Keep your abs tight
    Throughout your workout, it's important to keep your abdominals contracted to help tone your midsection. Although you may not be doing sit-ups or any specific exercise, simply tightening your abs could make a world of difference for your core. However, it's easy to forget about keeping them tightened throughout your entire workout. Fox News recommended focusing solely on contracting the abdominal muscle you feel when you cough.

    Try it one-handed
    Fox News suggested only using one hand for balance on your bike instead of two. By doing this exercise, you can take your fitness regimen to the next level.

    "Keep your abs contracted as you lift one arm off your handlebars and place it behind you. Switch arms after one minute," Fox News explained.

    This switching of hands will not only help to tone your arms, it will give you a quick ab workout without even realizing it!

    Sit up straight!
    Simply having good posture while working out on your stationary bike can make a world of difference. Colorado Adventure credited correct posture with helping to tone the right muscle groups.

    Making a habit of sitting up straight throughout your workout rather than slouching helps your abs look more defined and gives you a better workout.

    Opt for a recumbent exercise bike
    If you wish to give your abs an even more intense workout, try a recumbent exercise bike rather than an upright one.

    "The semi-reclined position on a recumbent requires you to use your ab muscles as you pedal, especially the lower abs and obliques," said AZ Central.

    Stand up
    Complete intervals of lifting your bottom of off the seat and pedaling then sitting back down to bump up your workout to the next level. This exercise really works on your balance and forces your core to kick into gear.

    Yes, it's possible to complete a variation of crunches while on a bike! Simply pedal while contracting your abs inwards. Do this for one minute or so, then continue with regular pedaling. This is an easy way to tone your core while getting a great cardio workout at the same time.

  • How to maintain your exercise motivation

    With the busy schedules we all have to maintain, by the end of the day, we're usually exhausted and working out is the last thing we're thinking about. However, there are ways to keep up your motivation and jump on those stationary bikes or fitness treadmills to fit in a workout.

    Turn to social media If you're struggling to find a reason to workout, fire up Pinterest. The health and wellness category is filled with motivational quotes, quick workouts and before and after pictures of people who have had success with exercise. Seeing someone in good shape can give you the inspiration you need to get up and get moving. Try searching for a role model of yours on Pinterest that, in your eyes, has the perfect body. That image will stick with you and give you constant motivation to reach your goals.

    Have your workout materials ready Sometimes, the most exhausting part of working out is actually getting everything ready. If you plan to sneak in a morning workout, have your clothes and anything else you may need all packed and ready to go to the gym. This way, you can just grab everything and go!

    Kick out negative thoughts Thoughts like, "this workout won't make a difference anyway" or "I never workout well in the morning" can really halt your motivation. Try turning these thoughts around by instead saying or thinking something along the lines of "this workout is a step in the right direction."

    Greg Dale, professor of Sport Psychology and Sport Ethics, told Runner's World, "It's important to acknowledge negative thoughts, then to rationalize them with thoughts that are positive, truthful, and relevant to you."

    Grab a friend Having a buddy to always workout with is one of the best ways to get yourself moving. Chances are, one of the friends is going to hold the other one accountable. You're much less likely to skip a workout if you have someone insisting you workout with them. Having someone there with you can also make exercising more fun!

    Explore what works best Maybe you discover you workout best in the mornings or when you're listening to music. Either way, find what keeps you motivated, and stick to it.

    "Find out what works, then feed it," sports psychologist Alison Arnold told Runner's World. "Once you figure out which positive thoughts fuel your best performance, feed them with breathing, music and continued positive self-talk."

  • Five ways to jet-set your treadmill workout

    If you've ever been to the gym, chances are you've spent at least a little time on a fitness treadmill. These classic cardio machines are a regular source of exercise, yet if you've felt your routine go flat on one of these bad boys, you could probably use a boost. By utilizing the following tips, you'll get the best workout you can out of home treadmills:

    Switch up your pace
    Altering the speed at which you run or walk on the treadmill is one of the best ways to ensure a successful workout. Start with a brisk walk for the first few minutes of your workout, then build up to a run. This will help your body gradually build up endurance so you can run for a longer period of time without getting fatigued.

    "When you chug along at a comfortable pace (as most people do), your body gets energy easily from the oxygen you inhale," journalist Liz Plosser wrote in her recent Women's Health article. "But once you switch into high gear, your muscles start working harder to process that O2, so they expend extra energy recruiting other chemicals in the body (adenosine-triphosphate and phosphocreatine, in case you're interested) to get the job done."

    Utilize the incline
    Even if you're only at a slower walking pace, having the treadmill on an incline can increase the intensity of your workout. Chris Lundstrom, a marathoner training for Boston, noted that changing the elevation makes your workout less of a drag.

    "Just like the trees and rocks, speed and incline add variety," Lundstrom told Runner's World.

    Figure out a plan before you start running to decide when and how often to alter the elevation to keep your workout interesting.

    Try out different programs
    Many fitness treadmills have set programs built into the machine to make your workout a bit easier and more fun! Experiment with different workouts until you find the one that best fits your style.

    Use weights
    To intensify your workout even more, grab a pair of ankle weights or dumbbells to use while you're on the treadmill. These extra pounds will significantly bump up the resistance level, helping you to burn more calories per workout. Weights will also help tone your body while building up endurance.

    Grab an iPod
    Treadmill workouts can sometimes become a bit monotonous. However, incorporating music or television into your exercise plan can really help to alleviate boredom. Create a workout playlist on your iPod of songs that pump you up and get you excited about working out! If you're located near a TV, put on your favorite TV show or movie. This makes the time on the treadmill go by quickly, you won't even realize you worked out!

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