4 Benefits of Training with a Stability Ball

The stability ball is an effective tool for mastering balance, control, core stability, and strength. Stability balls, also known as exercise balls or fit balls, are used in home gyms, weight rooms, and fitness classes. Using a stability ball on a regular basis will provide many benefits and make any exercise more challenging.

Spine and Back Health

According to a study published in the May 2006 edition of “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,” using an exercise/stability ball may decrease the risk of back pain in sedentary individuals and improve stability of the spine. The study found that when the stability ball is used on a regular basis, spinal stability and core strength improved. Researchers concluded that individuals who are prone to back pain or spend a lot of time sitting could definitely benefit from frequent use of the stability ball.

Muscle Balance

Muscle imbalance is caused when one muscle group is stronger than its opposing muscle group. For example, your quadriceps (front of thigh) and hamstrings (back of thigh) need to work together to perform a certain task, as do your triceps and biceps. Your anterior muscles (front of body) are naturally stronger than your posterior muscles (back of body), because they are used more frequently throughout the day. Also, most people tend to neglect their posterior muscles and over-train their anterior muscles, which can lead to additional imbalances and bad posture. The ball is an ideal choice for correcting these imbalances because it strengthens the posterior muscles and supports the lower back.

Aids in Sports Performance

The soft, unstable surface of the exercise ball stimulates all of your core muscles, and improves proprioception, balance, posture and coordination. Not only will these skills help protect you from injury, but also improve your sports and fitness performance.

Core Stability

Your core plays a critical role in stabilizing and supporting all your movements. The abdominal muscles or “midsection” consists of deep core and back muscles that work to balance your entire body. The deep muscles in the abdominal wall, such as the lumbar multifidus and transverse abdominis, form a belt around the vertebrae to help control breathing and support posture. These muscles work together to help with everyday activities, such as throwing, reaching, lifting, running and bending, so keeping them in good shape is very important. Otherwise, you risk injury and simple movements like walking, pulling, and running go unsupported when the stabilizer muscles are not well conditioned. Three great exercises for stabilizing the core include the Plank, Prone Cobra and Floor Bridge. When you perform these exercises, focus on slow, controlled movements. For best results, perform at least 2 sets of these three exercises at least three days a week, non-consecutively, for 4 to 6 weeks.

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References

Flax Seed Uses and Health Benefits

Photo credit: Dvortygirl CC-BY-SA-3.0

Flax seed has been a widely grown crop for thousands of years, and it is believed that it was one of the first plants that humans domesticated and farmed. The flax plant is one of the most versatile in the world, capable of being made into fabrics (especially linen), paints, fishing nets, dyes, soap, medicine, and all sorts of other things. The seeds produce an oil known as linseed oil or flaxseed oil.

Linseed oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils. In addition to being used in food, it has also been used as a finish and polish for wood and painted surfaces, in putty and caulk, and perhaps most notably in linoleum, which many people wrongly believe is made from man-made materials. Linoleum is actually wood or cork dust on canvas, overlaid with solidified linseed oil, making an all-natural floor covering that is especially suitable for people with allergies. Wood is also treated with linseed oil when making bats for some sports, including cricket.

The popularity of linseed oil for food preparation has been steadily growing again, because people have been paying more attention to the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seed contains an abundance of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-derived omega-3 essential fatty acid. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ALA may help reduce systemic inflammation that often leads to various chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure. Flax seed also contains fiber-rich lignans, which have antioxidant and phytoestrogenic properties in the body. Lignans possess anti-cancer properties as well.

References:

University of Maryland Medical Center

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/alphalinolenic-acid

 

 

4 Great Reasons Why You Should Be Using Coconut Oil

Photo credit: Tom Woodward CC BY-SA 2.0

There is a widespread misconception that coconut oil is bad for you because it contains saturated fat. However, people all over the world are reaping the health benefits of coconut oil, and it’s truly one of the healthiest oils you can consume. Here are 4 reasons why you should use coconut oil as an alternative to other traditional cooking oils.

1.  Coconut oil boosts your metabolism.

Not only is coconut oil easily converted to energy by your body, it also increases your metabolism and promotes weight loss. Because it boosts your metabolism, it helps your body burn fat more effectively.

Coconut oil may triple your calorie burn. Since coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), it is converted to energy so quickly that it creates a lot of heat. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, MCT’s burn three times more calories for six hours after a meal than LCT’s.

The February 15, 2005 issue of Woman’s World magazine stated that coconut oil is the “underground high-metabolism secret.”

This is great news for people who have thyroid problems, since coconut oil improves sluggish thyroids by stimulating the production of extra thyroid hormones. Most other common oils, like vegetable (soy) and corn have been shown to inhibit thyroid function.

2.  Coconut oil can improve skin and hair health

Coconut oil one of the best things you can apply directly on your skin and hair, as it helps to alleviate skin problems such as rashes, dry skin and eczema. You can also use this oil to help heal and restore skin to a younger appearance, or even use it as a makeup remover.

Not only does it soften and smooth your skin, coconut oil has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage. Coconut oil makes excellent massage oil, too.

3.  Coconut oil vs. other oils

Coconut oil has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects when both consumed and used topically on the skin.

Most oils oxidize and turn rancid very quickly causing free radical damage in our bodies. Coconut oil is not easily oxidized and does not cause harmful free radical damage like polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Free radical damage is thought to be responsible for many ailments in our body from arthritis to increased susceptibility to cancers.

Coconut oil also helps our bodies absorb other nutrients more effectively, such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K.

4.  Coconut oil is one of the best oils you can use for cooking.

Coconut oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which means it can take higher temperatures better. There are several healthy omega-3 oils we can choose to consume, such as flax and olive oil, but they don’t do well under the high heat we use for cooking. Therefore, coconut oil is really the best choice when cooking at higher temperatures.

It’s harder for coconut oil to go rancid, unlike other cooking oils, which are usually rancid long before you even bring them home. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is stable for over a year at room temperature.

I’ve only mentioned four reasons why you should be using coconut oil, but there are many additional uses and health benefits. So, go ahead and blend a little coconut oil into your favorite smoothie, or add it to bitter greens like kale. It also makes a nutritious addition to oatmeal or your favorite baked veggie recipes. Be as creative as you want and enjoy the incredible health benefits of this tropical oil.

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7 Ways to Help Your Overweight Child Lose Weight Safely

Photo credit: Public Domain

If you’re trying to help your overweight child lose weight safely, begin by making gradual lifestyle changes and avoid the popular fad diets. Changes to diet and lifestyle will take time and patience, so take it one step at a time and get the whole family involved in making healthier choices.  Also, you should first talk to your child’s physician or see a nutritionist to obtain guidance or goals on a target weight.

Here is a quick list of 7 healthy suggestions to help your family conquer obesity:

  1. Be a healthy role model. Children will generally pay closer attention to your actions rather than your words, so the very best thing you can do is set a good example by practicing healthy lifestyle habits yourself. Your health and weight directly affect your child’s health and weight. In fact, according to Stanford News, if both parents are overweight the risk of becoming an overweight adult jumps to nearly 50 percent. You can set your kids up for success by lining your refrigerator and pantry with plenty of quick and easy healthy snacks, such as whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese; apple wedges with yogurt; high-fiber granola bars with oats, nuts & seeds; carrots and celery with peanut butter and raisins.
  1. Keep it positive. No one enjoys receiving negative feedback. Talk to your child with compassion and encouragement. Avoid saying negative phrases like ‘you need to lose weight’. Instead, say ‘Let’s be healthy and start taking care of our bodies’. Focus on the foods you can eat, not the foods you should be limiting or cutting out. Avoid saying, ‘don’t eat that.’ Instead, use positive language by saying something like ‘Let’s go pick out fruits and make a fruit salad, and then we can go for a family bike ride.’ This way you are making healthy eating and exercise something that is fun to do.
  1. Make healthy eating a family affair. Try to schedule at least one meal a day that is unhurried and involves the whole family. Don’t make a special ‘diet’ meal for the person who is overweight. Everyone in the family can benefit from eating healthy meals, regardless of weight, and a family that eats together, eats better, according to a recent study in the journal Archives of Family Medicine. Children who report having regular family dinners have healthier diets than their peers who don’t, the study showed.
  1. Eat a well-balanced breakfast. A healthy breakfast should include a carbohydrate, a protein and a little fat, which will keep your children more alert during school. Carbs provide immediate energy, whereas protein and fat help you feel fuller, longer. So, instead of choosing sugary cereals and pastries, have a bowl of high-fiber oatmeal with blueberries & almonds (or almond milk), or whip up some scrambled eggs with a slice of whole-wheat toast. If you’re really running late, grab a yogurt or a bagel with peanut butter or low fat cream cheese. Do not skip breakfast. Studies have shown that weight loss is much more difficult in people who skip breakfast.
  1. Make time for physical activity. Make physical activity a family event. Every night after dinner in the summer, go for a half-hour walk or bike ride, and make it an activity that kids look forward to. If you can afford it, enroll your kids in their favorite dancing or sporting activity. Make exercise fun, not a chore or something they HAVE to do. If your kids are young, they may enjoy hide-and-seek or hopscotch. Kick a soccer ball or play some football with older children.
  1. Watch your portions.  When serving the food, try to portion out meals on dishes and avoid buffet-type or family-style eating. Resist the first temptation to have seconds, then check in with yourself to see if you are really hungry. ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great resource for learning more about portion control for kids.
  1. Don’t say diet. If you put your child on any diet, you might be setting them up for an eating disorder – whether binge eating or closet eating or another type of disorder. Instead, focus on forming healthy lifestyle habits that will eventually result in long-term weight loss and better overall health.

 

 

10 Ways to Achieve Fitness Success

Exercise and Nutrition for the VegetarianHow many of you struggle to stay consistent with a workout program? Do you tend to throw in the towel within the first 3 months? Well, you’re not alone by any means. Unfortunately, what many people don’t realize is that had they stuck it out a little longer, they would have succeeded. Make exercise a lifelong habit, and choose activities that you enjoy doing. If exercise becomes a chore, then you will lose interest and give up.

Incorporating positive lifestyle changes will require time and patience. There is no quick fix. If you make exercise and eating right a habit, then usually by the 3rd or 4th month you will start to see some light at the end of the tunnel. So, don’t give up! Stick with it, and you will see results!

Here are 10 simple ways to achieve fitness success.

  • Get up and move! Make a decision to engage in a variety of physical activities on a consistent basis that will develop cardiovascular capacity, strength, balance, and flexibility.
  • Rev the engine. Participate in physical activities that involve the large muscle groups of the body, such as biking, swimming, running, skiing and jumping rope, just to name a few.
  • Get stronger. Resistance training is a must for toning, strengthening, and sculpting the body. This is especially important for those trying to lose weight. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. You will burn more calories, even when you’re not working out! You should do strength training exercises at least 2 non-consecutive days a week, and a minimum of 20 minutes per session.
  • Get flexible. Always stretch before, during, and after exercise to help improve physical performance, increase joint range of motion, and prevent injury. Remember to move your muscles through their full range of motion on a regular basis.
  • Win the losing game. Strive to keep your weight at an appropriate level. If you need to lose weight, a general rule to follow is to eat less and exercise more (both in moderation).
  • You are what you eat. Make a goal to eat healthy at least 75 to 80 percent of the time. You can easily out-eat any exercise program, so choose quality over quantity. Stick to whole foods whenever possible, and greatly reduce your consumption of processed foods. Sugar is one of the biggest no-no’s, and it’s a major metabolic disruptor. So, begin by staying away from sugar and you’ll make a huge dent in your weight loss efforts and dramatically improve your overall health.
  • Go easy. Try to keep matters of your life in proper perspective. Know what factors you can and cannot control in your life. Don’t stress out over those things beyond your control. See change as an opportunity, not a threat.
  • Get your Zzzz’s on. Most people need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep to feel refreshed, alert and in relative good spirits the next day. Sleep helps to rest and restore your body both physically and mentally.
  • Focus on the task at hand. Make time to exercise on a regular basis. Consistency gets results. Focus on the muscles that you are training. Don’t just go through the motions. When you get discouraged, remember your “why” for choosing to live a healthier lifestyle. Are you doing it for your kids? To live a better quality of life? To live long enough to see your grandkids?
  • Persistence and hard work pays off. Commit to sound lifestyle choices and you will achieve your health goals. For example, I will quit smoking or stop eating fast foods. Maintain an appropriate level of body fat. Avoid the latest fitness and diet fads, magic potions and exercise gadgets that seem too good to be true (they always are).

Are you ready to achieve fitness success? If yes, then click on the banner below.

3 Unhealthy Habits that are Holding You Back

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões CC-BY-2.0

Throughout life we will make choices that will form good or bad habits in our daily routine. Those bad habits are the ones that will potentially put us on a path to an unhealthy, stressful life. Once we recognize what these bad habits are, it’s easier to form a plan of action to eliminate them altogether. It will take some effort and discipline in order to maintain a new way of life, but it is doable. We tend to stand in our own way most of the time and that is what holds us back from change. What are these habits that hold us back from a successful, happy life?

Nobody is Perfect! – Feeling the need to be perfect all of the time will not only do harm to any progress you could make, but it also does something to your self-confidence. You will constantly feel like you come up short if you are always striving to be perfect. Let’s face it, no one is perfect and you don’t need to be. Success doesn’t depend on perfection, but rather depends on your ability to take action and follow through with the goals you set. You can’t be truly happy if you are always reaching for something that will never happen. Understanding this about yourself is the first step in overcoming it. Make a plan, take action, and put it out there. If it’s not perfect at first, don’t stress about it. There is always time to make changes and improvements.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others – This is one of the biggest mistakes we can make as humans. We are all different in a way that is unique to each and every one of us. We damage our own self-worth by comparing our life with someone else’s, because we always come up short feeling like we are not good enough. Every person, every situation, and every life is unique. There are circumstances in one person’s life that brought them to where they are today. You can’t compare your journey to theirs simply because of that. It’s important to value yourself and what you have to offer because it is enough.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! – Some people spend so much time worrying about the outcome of a situation that no action is taken. This means nothing gets accomplished and any goals they’ve set will fall by the wayside. Worrying is a useless emotion, and it does nothing but torment us into conjuring up scenarios that will never come to be. No one knows what the future holds, so what is the point of worrying about it? Worrying that a business venture will fail or a product launch will fall flat are just one of those things that can happen on the road to success. Whatever will be, will be. There is no sense in ruining your day and stressing over issues that may or may not happen.

We have a way of backing ourselves into a corner with some of these unhealthy habits. They not only keep us from achieving the success we deserve, but also messes with our confidence and self-esteem. We can overcome these habits through discipline and consistency. Focus on the habits you have and take the steps to get past them. Read books, do research, and be persistent when it comes reaching your goals and creating a healthy, less stressful life.

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Hiking and Biking: Get Out and Get Some Fresh Air

Photo credit: Robin Reichert

In this fast paced life, we don’t often stop to smell the roses or pause to reflect on how beautiful this world really is.  There are many benefits to getting outside, breathing in some fresh air, and taking in the nature around us. This is especially true for busy families who barely have time to eat dinner together.

Two activities that can pull a family together and get them moving are hiking and biking. Not only will you get some great exercise, but also you will be able to connect with your family again and strengthen those relationships. Not only that, but both hiking and biking have some fantastic benefits.

Great cardio – We all know how important it is to incorporate exercise into a daily/weekly routine, but this is sometimes hard to stick to, especially for busy families.  However, both hiking and biking are wonderful ways to get that important workout without having to visit a gym every night. Both are wonderful for your cardiovascular system. Your blood gets pumping and all those unused muscles are put to work helping to build strength and muscle tone.

Low/No Cost – Hiking and biking have a huge advantage over many other workouts. They are both totally free to enjoy whenever you choose. Of course, you will need bicycles and possibly some good hiking boots, but other than that you are free and clear to enjoy these activities without worrying about them impacting your bank account.

Stress reduction – It has been proven that outdoor activities, fresh air, and sunshine can help reduce stress or worry in your life.  Getting outside with your family and connecting with them in a different way can do a world of good on any worrisome issues that are plaguing you. Without the weight of the world pushing down on your shoulders, it will be easier to enjoy your family time together, laughing and bonding in a way you wouldn’t otherwise.

Variety – Both of these activities provide variety in your workout. When you hit the gym, it can often become monotonous and boring to stare at a television screen while on the treadmill or stationary bike. When you get outdoors and take a bike ride or hike one of the trails, you get to take in different scenery every time you go. Keep each member of the family involved and give everyone a chance to pick where they want to go one of the times you are out and about.

There are benefits to just about any outdoor activity you choose. Hiking and biking are wonderful simply because they allow you and your family to get back to the basics and take in all the wonders nature has to offer. It’s a great way to connect with your family and take in some beautiful scenery at the same time. The fresh air, cool breeze, and quiet calm can make you see things from a different perspective and enjoy your family time and what really matters in life.

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