Your Never Too Old to Start Exercising

If you think your glory days of sports and fitness are behind you, think again. Just ask Fauja Singh.

Singh, touted as the “world’s oldest marathoner”, ran his last race, a 10k, this past February. He retired at age 101. The most amazing part of Singh’s story, though, is that he didn’t start running until he was in his 80’s. He went on to run nine marathons, including his final one at age 100.Senior Couple

Benefits of fitness as you age

So what’s Singh’s secret? He simply had the motivation to start exercising. Singh turned to running as a way to get over the depression that followed the successive deaths of his wife and son.

It’s true that fitness can be used as an outlet to help with mental angst, but exercise does a body good in many other ways, too. Physical activity helps to:

·         Ward off diseases. Getting regular exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

·         Strengthen your bones and muscles. Doing muscle-strengthening exercises can offset the loss in bone density that comes with age.

·         Improve your ability to stay independent. Many older adults have trouble doing daily tasks – like grocery shopping or climbing the stairs. Being active can help you maintain or regain your ability to stay independent. Seniors who are fit also have a lower risk of falls.

·         Add years to your life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of dying early.

How to get started

Experts say older adults should be active for at least two hours and 30 minutes each week. Seniors should get four kinds of exercise: endurance, balance, strength and flexibility.

You can meet these recommendations by following this example schedule:

·         Monday: 30 minute brisk walk

·         Tuesday: An evening of heavy gardening

·         Wednesday: One hour Tai Chi class

·         Thursday: 30 minute brisk walk

·         Friday: One hour water aerobics class

·         Saturday: An afternoon of bike riding with your grandchildren

·         Sunday: Rest

Still, many seniors have health problems and physical limitations that can make exercising a challenge. Following these steps can help you find a safe fitness program that’s right for you:

1. Get the OK from your doctor. Let your doctor know you plan to start exercising, and ask him or her if there are any special precautions you should take. If you have diabetes, for instance, your doctor may suggest exercises that don’t put a lot of pressure on your feet, like swimming.

2. Take it slow. You may have big goals – maybe you want to run a mile or take a water aerobics class – but it’s important to ease into fitness. You may not be able to do much in the beginning and that’s OK. In time, you’ll be able to increase the length and intensity of your workout sessions.

3. Find something you enjoy. The secret to sticking with an exercise program is finding an activity you enjoy doing. Try tennis, golf, biking or yoga.

4. Watch for red flags. Stop exercising and seek immediate medical help at once if you have chest pain, dizziness, break out into a cold sweat or feel like your heart starts racing or beating irregularly. These symptoms could be warning signs of a health problem.

Sources

http://espn.go.com/sports/endurance/story/_/id/8979487/fauja-singh-oldest-marathon-runner-finishes-last-race-101

http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Dec2011/Feature2

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynrosenblatt/2013/01/09/youre-never-too-old-to-start-working-out/

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_fit_facts_content.aspx?itemid=14

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=743

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html

Is Exergaming Exercise?

Over the past 30 years, the incidence of obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. This trend has many health experts worried about the future adult population. This concern is warranted, too, because the Center for Disease Control reports that when children struggle with their weight early in life, they are more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and joint conditions as adults.

Of course, many studies have suggested that the increased time that children and teens now spend watching TV and playing video games is a large contributor to this national health problem. But the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, parked in front of a screen, don’t just affect children. Many adults are required to spend most of their days sitting at their jobs.

However, a new style of video games, called exergames, shows considerable promise in helping to encourage a more physical approach to gaming for both children and adults.

What Is Exergaming?

While traditional video games conjure up images of players sitting for hours in front of a TV, moving little but their fingers, exergames are changing that. Using new technology, exergaming provides a physically active gaming experience.

To achieve this, several approaches have been used including a pad which the user dances on (Dance Dance Revolution), pressing various large buttons with their feet, a balance board (Wii Fit) or even a form of motion tracking to make the character on-screen mimic your movements (Xbox Kinect). The games range from biking and dancing to even bowling.

But you might view these games with a certain amount of skepticism. Could they actually be an effective workout?

Is It A Valid Form of Exercise?

A growing body of research conducted by the American Council on Exercise, the University of Massachusetts Department of Exercise and Health Sciences and several other organizations continues to support the use of exergames. However, these games have to be used appropriately to really be able to offer a challenging, and therefore effective, workout.

For example, one popular exercise offers several different sports that range from burning 93 calories in 30 minutes to those burning an impressive 216 calories in the same stretch of time. When playing this game, then, your choice of sport makes a huge difference in just what you can expect from your workout. Along with type of game you pick, you should also adjust the difficulty level to a setting that physically challenges you.

Consider as well, the limitations when it comes to strength training. Since exergames primarily use your body as the fitness equipment, this would not be a viable option for someone looking for large gains of muscle and strength.

For people who have a difficult time motivating themselves to exercise, though, exergames might be a perfect fit. These games offer a clearly designed point system that will allow you to track your progress and compete with yourself and others. For example, Wii Bowling allows players to track their bowling scores.

And then, of course, there’s the boredom factor that can accompany traditional workouts. While exergames won’t give you the same intensity that going for a run will, they could provide a nice break from the usual routine or option to keep you moving on a rest day.

Exergames have also been shown to be an effective tool for improving the health of, not just children, but older adults. A study conducted by the American Council on Fitness found that adults aged 67 to 87 enjoyed both the activities found in exergames and the social aspects of the games. But the games also helped to build balance and coordination in a low-impact way that lowered the risk of injury.

Have you included exergames in your workouts? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Sources

http://children.webmd.com/news/20040702/video-games-tv-double-childhood-obesity-risk

http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1184/

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/exercise-lose-weight-with-exergaming

The Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Moving your workout inside, with climate-controlled predictability and even the chance of watching TV, can be an attractive prospect. And it has it’s place. During especially hot days or inclement weather, having the option to run or cycle inside will keep you moving without sending you outside in the rain. Also, if you suffer from an injury or are following an extremely structured program, having access to some quality equipment will give you more control over your workouts.

But exercising outside offers it’s own unique list of benefits as well. In what special ways can you profit from getting outside?

Why You Should Get Outside

The amount of evidence encouraging you to get out the door for your run is ever-growing and touches on a wide variety of factors.

Of primary interest is the fact that exercising outside tends to be more difficult, regardless whether your running or cycling. Changes in the terrain, even very subtle shifts in incline, that you experience while exercising outdoors can provide an added challenge and work different muscle groups. For example, people who run on the road will likely encounter downhill slopes which you wouldn’t be able to run on a treadmill.

Even wind resistance will add a new element to your workout. Even though you may not be fully aware of it, the wind can provide an extra force for you to work against and several studies have found that runners and cyclists burn more calories while outside than indoors.

Of course, many of the benefits of outdoor exercise come in the form of more personal, psychological effects. A review of 11 studies published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that when exercise was performed outside, in what they called “natural environments,” people enjoyed their experience more. While this may seem like a somewhat predictable and obvious conclusion it has a powerful significance. Because they subjects found their workout more enjoyable, they felt more energetic afterwards and reported a greater release of stress and anxiety. The subjects who exercised outdoors were also more willing to do it again then those who were inside for their workout.

Using the Information

So does this mean that you should get rid of your gym membership, scrap your treadmill and run outside with no regard for the weather? No, of course not.

As discussed at the outset, exercising indoors gives you greater control over your workout, regardless of what the weather is like. Very hot or humid days can put you at a greater risk for dehydration while cold weather can limit your performance. There is also the chance of injury when the roads are wet with snow or rain.

Consider as well that you may not want to go out for a run after work when it’s dark. Instead of skipping your workout altogether, access to a treadmill or other equipment will keep you on track.

Ultimately, it’s best to leave your options open. Use an outdoor run on a beautiful as a treat to supplement your regular routine but have a controlled, indoor environment ready to use.

Have you enjoyed the added perks of exercising outside? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sources

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102947t

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/the-benefits-of-exercising-outdoors/

Fitness for Seniors

The retirement years are often thought of as a time for rest and relaxation. While this break is well deserved, it’s critical that seniors make time for physical activity, too.

Why You Need to Be Active in Your Golden Years

Exercise is a must for everyone because it keeps you physically and mentally healthy. Regular physical activity:

·         Helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re at your goal weight, don’t think you don’t need to exercise. One study found that fit, overweight people had fewer health risks than thin, sedentary individuals.

·         Lowers your risk of dangerous health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. If you already have certain conditions, exercise can help you better manage or cope with them.

·         Strengthens your bones and muscles, and eases pain associated with arthritis.

·         Helps you maintain your independence. Exercise lowers your risk of falls and helps you keep the ability to do everyday tasks, like climbing the stairs or playing with your grandchildren.

·         Reduces stress levels and helps treat anxiety and depression. Studies show that exercise can be just as effective as medication in treating depression in some people.

·         Keeps you mentally sharp. Research shows that being active can boost your memory, improve your ability to do complex tasks and keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay.

·         Adds years to your life. People who work out for about seven hours each week have a 40 percent lower chance of dying early than adults who are active for fewer than 30 minutes each week.

senior man with tennis racketGetting Started: Safety First

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say healthy older adults should strive to do moderate-intensity aerobic exercise — like biking or water aerobics — for at least 150 minutes per week. That breaks down to five, 30 minute sessions. Seniors should also do muscle-strengthening activities — such as yoga or weight lifting — two or more days each week.

If you are over age 65, fit and have no medical conditions, you can slowly get started with exercise. However, if you haven’t been physically active in years and/or you have health challenges — like high blood pressure, arthritis or diabetes — talk to your doctor first before starting an exercise program. Your doctor will still likely recommend you exercise, but you may need to take precautions or avoid certain activities.

Follow these tips to get started with a fitness program:

·         Ease into it. Start slowly and gradually increase the length of your workouts. Keep in mind that any exercise is better than none at all. So even if you can only be active for 10 minutes at a time, you’re still helping your health.

·         Rethink what exercise is. You don’t have to work up a sweat in a gym or run miles for it to be considered exercise. Any activity that gets your heart pumping is exercise. Walking your dog, gardening and playing golf all count.

·         Do activities that you enjoy. This will make fitness more enjoyable and help you stick with an exercise program over the long haul. Round up your friends and take a Tai Chi class or play a tennis match.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 is Senior Health & Fitness Day! The goal for this day is to get older Americans healthy and fit. What activities will you do to meet this goal?

Sources

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/14/active-seniors-enjoy-life-more/

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/olderadults.html

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/3182/fitness-for-older-adults-frequently/

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/getactive/olderadults.html

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html

http://www.fitnessday.com/senior/index.htm

Eat To Reduce Inflammation

All athletes struggle with the pain of inflammation. The swelling you experience after can leave you crawling to the medicine cabinet for the ibuprofen or soaking in a tub of ice. And this is on top of the inflammation you endure during your regular training schedule. In fact, many athletes have simply learned to schedule time to recover from inflammation during their training.

But why does your body put you through that pain and discomfort? What is the purpose of inflammation and what can you do about it? Should you go the traditional route of downing medication to mask the symptoms?

Many experts, with a mounting body of evidence to support them, say that you should let inflammation run its course. Interestingly, they also say that food could be your medicine.

Purpose for the Pain

Inflammation is part of your body’s immune system and also plays a vital role in the maintenance of bodily tissues. When you experience injury or illness, your body responds by quarantining the area to prevent the damage from spreading. Once the problem is walled off, specialized white blood cells called neutrophils, macrophages and monocytes act to kill of any invaders. These cells also remove and replace the damaged tissue, as well as cleaning up any waste left in the affected region of your body.

Although you may not always think about it, exercise wreaks havoc on your body. For example, when you run your knees and ankles are expected to repeatedly and rapidly absorb the impact from your body weight hitting the ground. The muscles of your legs are then asked to lift you into the area and push you forward as fast as they can over an extended period of time.

These demands damage both the connective tissue in your joints and the fibers of your muscles. To recover, your body starts the inflammatory response. But, it’s during that pesky inflammation that your muscles grow and are strengthened. So, are you doing yourself any favors by fighting it?

The Tricky Part

According to Ross Tucker, Ph.D., and Jonathan Dugas, Ph.D. in their book The Runner’s Body, most common anti-inflammatory measures could be doing more harm then good when it comes to athletes. As mentioned previously, the inflammatory process is vital to the strengthen and conditioning of muscles. Interrupting this process could then slow your athletic progress.

While speaking with Runner’s World, Dugas even cited one study that found that people who took anti-inflammatory medications did not adapt to training as well as those who did not take the medication.

But all athletes know the danger of training through severe muscle pain, which can cause chronic injury and put you down permanently. So, where is the balance? Dugas argues that most people have appropriate rest periods built into their training routine.

But an increasing amount of research also shows your lifestyle, especially your diet can help you keep your inflammation to a tolerable level.

What to Eat

Simple carbs, like white bread, can disrupt the balance of insulin and glucose in your blood which will cause increased inflammation. However, complex carbs like whole grains, oats and beans will give you the fuel you need to perform without upsetting your system and contributing to inflammation.

Saturated and trans fats, like those found in fried foods, meats and dairy products, will also make your struggle with inflammation more difficult. Conversely, healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, have been shown to reduce inflammation. Stick to olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fatty fish to receive these helpful fats.

Studies also suggest that foods that are rich in antioxidants can be powerful weapons against inflammation. Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables and tomatoes are all good sources of bio-available antioxidants that can have anti-inflammatory effects.

Have you been able to control inflammation without turning to medication? Please share your tips with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130322154027.htm

http://www.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/fight-inflammation-food?page=single

http://www.runnersworld.com/masters-training/inflammation-friend-or-foe

The Truth About Stretching

Man StretchingTo stretch or not to stretch? That is the question that many athletes and gym goers ask themselves on a regular basis.

Some people avoid stretching because they’ve heard somewhere that it can lead to injury. Others don’t see the point of it and rush out of fitness classes before the cool down. But then there are the yogis — fit people who devote a large portion of their workout to stretching.

So who is right? Is stretching good or bad for you?

Why You Need to Stretch

According to experts from the American Council on Exercise and guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine, stretching is a must because it keeps our bodies limber. Flexibility training can also:

·         Improve posture

·         Increase muscular strength

·         Maintain joint range of motion

·         Ease muscle soreness

·         Reduce the risk of injury

·         Promote relaxation

·         Relieve stress

·         Help circulation

·         Decrease the risk of low back pain

Stretching sometimes gets a bad rap because if you hold a stretch too long or stretch before warming up, you could pull a muscle. Also, some studies show that stretching before activity can hinder athletic performance. However, as long as you stretch properly, the health benefits of stretching usually outweigh the risks.

The Dos and Don’ts of Stretching

Do:

·         Commit to flexibility training. Experts recommend that adults stretch at least two or three days per week. Consider taking a regular flexibility class — like yoga or tai chi — to help make stretching a habit.

·         Ease into a stretch. Going deeper into a stretch at a slow pace will lower your chance of injury.

·         Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Then repeat the stretch two to four times.

·         Be patient. Some people are naturally flexible, and flexibility declines with age. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not as flexible as others — or even as flexible as you once were. With time and practice, your flexibility will improve.

·         Take stretch breaks throughout the day. There’s a reason why we automatically stretch when we wake up in the morning: it feels good and our bodies need if after lying down all night. Likewise, if you sit at a desk all day, regular stretching breaks are good for your body. After sitting for an hour, take a couple of minute to reverse your desk posture. Stand up, slightly bend your knees, lean over and rest the palms of your hands on top of your quads. Slowly round your back while bringing your shoulders to your ears, then slowly arch your back while pulling your shoulders away from your ears, and repeat.

Don’t:

·         Don’t stretch without warming up first. Unless you’re just doing light stretches, like the desk example, it’s important to warm-up before stretching. Stretching “cold” muscles could lead to injury, so warm-up for five to 10 minutes before you stretch. Better yet, save stretching for the end of your exercise session. Stretching for just five minutes post-workout can help prevent muscle soreness later on.

·         Don’t hold your breath while stretching. Just breathe like you normally do.

·         Don’t stretch to the point of pain. Stretching shouldn’t be comfortable, but it shouldn’t feel painful either. Back off the stretch if it hurts.

·         Don’t bounce. Bouncing during a stretch isn’t as effective as holding it, plus it can up your risk of injury.

Do you stretch? At the end of every run, I love bending down and touching my toes. It feels so good on my hamstrings.

Sources:                                                            

http://www.acefitness.org/pressroom/325/ace-lists-top-ten-reasons-to-stretch

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/2610/flexible-benefits/

http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/how-to-stretch

How Accurate is BMI?

Being able to measure the results of your fitness program is an obvious plus in your healthier lifestyle. You can record your lifts to see improvements in strength or your mile times to be sure that your speed is increasing. When it comes to weight loss, however, this can be tricky. The scale doesn’t always give a true impression of your progress since you could also be gaining muscle while losing fat. In an effort to find an accurate and reliable way to monitor weight loss, several techniques have been purposed. Among them is the Body Mass Index (BMI). This method is easily accessible and so is widely used but, how accurate is it? What does the BMI really show you and how can you use it to help you reach your fitness goals?

What It Is

The original BMI formula was created in the 1830s by a Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician and sociologist. The formula was designed to use simple math, since calculators weren’t available at the time. Essentially, BMI measured how much space you take up by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.

The resulting number is then compared to a chart where a BMI of 18.5 to 24.99 means you are of normal weight, BMI of 25 to 29.99 puts you in the overweight category, and a BMI of 30+ indicates obesity.

How Accurate Is It?

Although BMI is widely used, its accuracy has long been called into question. According to the BMI system actors George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are all considered obese. This is because the original formula doesn’t account for tall or very muscular individuals, since there is also no consideration for fat versus lean mass.

A New Approach

Because of these issues, mathematics professor Nick Trefethen designed a new BMI formula in January 2013. The new approach is slightly more complex but theoretically shows more consideration for height.

The new formula is:

1.3 x weight(kg) / height(m)^2.5 = 5734 x weight(lb)/height(in)^2.5

Scared? Don’t be. To simplify things, a calculator is available here.

Other Measurements

While the BMI is still a helpful tool for setting basic weight weight loss goals, as stated, it doesn’t allow you to measure your actually body fat percentage. This is an important number when you start to gain muscle mass. To accurately measure your body fat percentage, consider investing in a pair of calipers to measure skin folds.

The waist-to-height ratio is also a useful fitness measurement. This tool asks you to compare your height in inches to the circumference of your waist. At a healthy range, your waist should be about half of your height. According to researchers at the British Nutrition Foundation, the waist-to-height ratio is a more accurate predictor of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Have you used the new BMI formula? Please sure your results with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/255712.php

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/new-bmi-formula-fatter-article-1.1244317

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6040156.stm

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245328.php

Activity vs Exercise

Chances are, you’re moving a lot more than just when you’re working out.

Throughout your day, you may be walking the dog, playing with the kids, doing chores around the house or yard and all of that in addition to the physical demands of your job. Often, though, people don’t think about the physical value of these activities.

In truth, what you do during your normal daily routine can be counted as a vital part of your healthy lifestyle. How do these seemingly mundane activities benefit us and how do they compare with our regular exercise routine?

Give Yourself Credit

Anything physically demanding that you do during the day goes toward making you a more active, healthier person. Getting down on yourself because you don’t work out every day will only discourage you and doesn’t present a realistic view of the positive changes that you’re making.

Try wearing a pedometer to get a clear measure of how much you walk as you go about your day. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 10,000 steps each day.

The Benefits of an Active Lifestyle

Thinking in terms of activity instead of exercise can be helpful for a number of reasons. First, an active lifestyle is easy to maintain, since you do most of these chores already. Unlike finding time to get to the gym, you need to walk the dog everyday anyway. So walk a little further. You need to buy groceries; park in the far reaches of the parking lot and walk in.

This increased amount of activity will build and strengthen good habits like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or gardening. It’s also possible that this approach will help you to save money since you’ll be doing many things, like washing your car, yourself.

All of this moving around will also compliment your regular workout routine, by giving you functional strength and mobility. Because your body will be used to these light, but demanding tasks, you’ll have a lower risk of injury when you exercise.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that several brief bursts of activity, lasting less than 10 minutes were just as effective at making healthy changes to your body as one long bout of exercise.

Exercise in its Proper Place

This information isn’t meant to suggest that exercise is somehow invalid or useless as long as you live an active life. Depending on your goals, these everyday activities may not be challenging enough to get you to where you’d like to be. But these simple steps can help to keep you healthy, preventing heart disease and other complications that arise from a sedentary lifestyle.

For example, walking your dog for 20 minutes every day won’t get you ready to run a marathon. It will, however, stimulate your heart and lungs to give you useful endurance and reduce your risk of heart disease. (And your dog will be happy too).

To reach major fitness and weight loss goals, specially designed workouts or home equipment like a treadmill or elliptical may be necessary. Take a look at these AFG exercise equipment reviews to find the best equipment for you. Be sure to complement your routine with activities that you enjoy, like gardening, on days that you’re resting from exercising to maximize the benefits from your routine.

To reach major fitness and weight loss goals, specially designed workouts are necessary. However, planning a certain activity, like yard work, on days that you’re resting from exercising will help you maximize the benefits from your routine.

Sources

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130129100118.htm

http://ajhpcontents.org/doi/abs/10.4278/ajhp.110916-QUAN-348

Increasing Your Willpower

Anyone who has ever exercised has done so against their will at some point or another. Even people who’ve been following an exercise routine for years have times when they just don’t want to work out. But how you handle these lapses in motivation can be defining moments.

In addition to all the other benefits that come along with exercising, even when you really don’t feel like it, new research suggests that forcing yourself to get up and get moving can help build a valuable life-skill: willpower.

The Research

The findings are based on the results of a pair of studies conducted by researchers at The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Rhode Island. The first study put 40 people through an in-depth, 6-month-long weight loss intervention program which included everything from dietary and behavioral training to a personalized fitness routine. At the end of the program, the participants’ self-control was measured by using a hand-grip test which requires them to squeeze a hand-grip for as long as possible at a certain intensity.

The second study was designed to build on the findings of the first. The only real difference was that, in the second study, the hand-grip test was administered both before and after the weight loss program.

In both studies, a greater amount of self-control when it came to the grip-test had a direct correlation with the amount of weight lost. This isn’t really surprising, though, since one would expect people with stronger willpower in some areas to be able to translate that determination to weight loss. What was surprising was that participants in the second study who showed more willpower after than before also lost more weight and exercised for longer periods of time.

These studies, particularly the second one, show that willpower can be increased by using it, much like a muscle.

Put It Into Practice

Although it’s good to know that forcing yourself to exercise or eat better will make it easier to stay on the right track, that doesn’t necessarily make that first step any less challenging.

To help get you started on the path to a more powerful will, begin by setting a realistic and specific goal. Rather than saying “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to lose 20 pounds by May 15.” This will not only give you something achievable to work toward, but you’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. Make sure that your goal is something you can actually reach, though, since a goal that’s too difficult may do nothing but leave you discouraged.

Making a physical list of the reasons you want to achieve your goal can also be a powerful motivator. Review your list at least once a day, maybe more on days that you’re finding it especially difficult to exercise.

Think about the consequences of not exercising as well. Although this may seem a little dark, or even a scare-tactic, taking a realistic view of how you’ll feel if you don’t work out will help you to get back on your treadmill.

Also, recognize that each workout has immediate benefits. Even though you won’t see physical changes, every time you go work out you’re strengthening that healthy habit and building up your willpower.

Have you strengthened your willpower and experienced the benefits? Please share your tips with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130124123545.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-s-beck-phd/how-to-increase-your-will_b_772645.html

4 Fitness Myths You Probably Believe

Although modern publications and trainers have far more rigid standards than the snake-oil days of decades past, it’s still all too easy for an “expert” to publish bad advice just to make a buck. This has led to a variety of fitness myths that otherwise well-informed people sometimes still believe. Here are four of the worst offenders.

Myth #1: Spot Reduction

The Myth: Exercising a specific body area will burn fat off that area. For example, crunches will reduce a beer belly, or you can burn off thigh fat with lunges.

Why We Believe It: If you do a lot of crunches, your tummy will look tighter in the mirror. Immediately as you work out, the muscles in that zone swell with blood and become more defined — which makes the region look more muscular. As you develop those muscles in the medium term you will create a harder, tighter and more attractive frame for the fat to hang on. When the fat does burn off as part of your whole-body weight loss, the muscle it reveals becomes apparent sooner.

The Truth: When you burn fat, it’s a whole-body caloric equation. It comes off of pretty much anywhere no matter what body part you’re exercising at the time. You cannot target any particular area for localized weight loss without the help of a surgeon.

Bottom Line: You can make an area more attractive with targeted exercise, but it won’t actually target fat burn from that spot.

Myth #2: Weight Loss Teas

The Myth: Secret (often “ancient” or “traditional”) herbal teas can burn fat off your body while you sit around the house.

Why We Believe It: Because it’s technically true. Most weight loss teas have stimulants and diuretics as their main ingredients. Stimulants, like caffeine, make you more active and suppress your appetite. Diuretics make you urinate, which does pull off a few pounds of water weight.

The Truth: The stimulants and diuretics will make a difference when you get on the scale, but it’s not a lasting difference. The water weight you urinate away will come back once you return to a normal hydration level. The stimulants aren’t good for you, and do nothing to help you change the habits that made you want to lose weight in the first place.

Bottom Line: Stick with drinking a glass of water before your meal. It will help you reduce the amount you eat.

Myth #3: Always Eat Breakfast

The Myth: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and eating a good breakfast will boost your metabolism and jump-start the calorie burning in your day.

Why We Believe It: Repetition and the “it stands to reason” phenomenon. We’ve heard this concept so often we take it as truth, particularly since most of us feel the need to jump-start ourselves in the morning. Why wouldn’t our weight loss efforts require the same treatment?

The Truth: Calories don’t work that way. Unless you’re a performance athlete, when you eat isn’t important from a metabolic standpoint. When it comes to weight loss, only your total calorie intake and outgo matter.

Bottom Line: Eat when you’re hungry, preferably in small enough amounts to stick with your weight-loss goals. Also worth noting that eating breakfast at home is usually the best plan, since your breakfast options at or near work aren’t as diet-friendly.

Myth #4: The Fat Burn Zone

The Myth: As you increase the intensity of your workout, you reach a point where going harder actually reduces how effectively you burn fat.

Why We Believe It: We see it on some fitness websites, in the owner’s manual of our stationary bike, and on the panel of the treadmill at the gym. There’s that little chart that says if you want to burn fat, you have to stay above one level of intensity — but below another.

The Truth: Working out at lower intensity doesn’t guarantee you’ll burn more calories. In fact, you’ll burn more calories with a more intense workout. However, there is a point of diminishing returns at which a workout becomes so intense you can’t carry it out long enough to get a good burn.

Bottom Line: You burn more calories the harder you go, but you’ll reach a point where working too hard makes you stop early.  That moderate pace might let you burn more calories in total by extending your workout — but staying in the fat zone for 20 minutes burns fewer calories than 20 minutes at a faster pace.

Sources

http://www.truestarhealth.com/members/cm_archives11ML3P1A2.html

http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/training-day/201212/greatest-weight-loss-myth-ever-told