5 Ways Exercise Improves Your Emotional Health and Quality of Life

Many people may suffer from mood swings, whether it is from stress, or negative feelings about life and life situations, or possibly sadness from mild depression.

Negative changes in mood can also be a side effect of prescription medication, chronic pain, or even insomnia. If you are someone that needs help with your mood, and wants to feel better, an ideal way to accomplish this is through exercise.

What Exercise Can Do For You

Exercise can help improve your mood because of the changes it causes in your body, self-image, and your mind. How exercise can start to improve your mood will differ depending on what was making you feel not your best.

Here is a list of ways that regular physical activity can work to help you feel more positive about yourself and your life.

  1. If you are depressed: Exercise releases endorphins, which produce feelings of euphoria, well-being, and happiness. Other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, also helps to elevate mood. When you commit to working out on a regular basis, it provides structure to our days and distracts us from negative thoughts. Sometimes all you need is a good 30-minute run or walk in nature to lift your spirits.
  2. If you have poor body image: Regular exercise can offer up results that make you feel like you have accomplished something, instead of being stuck in a sedentary lifestyle. After a while, you may also see changes in your body, which can help your self-esteem and self-worth soar.
  3. If you have too much stress: When you’re fully engaged in a workout, you tend to focus on how your body feels, such as the movement of your muscles, your effort, your pacing, getting air in your lungs, etc. Thus, exercise helps to divert your attention from the stressful thoughts and concerns of the day and is redirected to the present moment. The physical movement gives your stressed out mind a break. Your brain has a chance to clean out all the cluttered thoughts, so you can concentrate on one task. At the end of your workout, you may feel like you’ve been through a meditation session with renewed energy and increased clarity.
  4. If you have trouble sleeping: If you work hard during your exercise session, then it should wear you out enough to allow your body a good night’s rest. You will often find that working up a good sweat can also reduce insomnia by decreasing anxiety, arousal, and stressful thought patterns. Examples of aerobic exercises that are good for sleep include walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, and cycling.
  5. If you have chronic pain: The right type of exercise can help with some of the agony you experience day to day and could alleviate symptoms in some situations. For instance, low-impact exercises, such as yoga, and weight training can be great for people that have joint pain.

How Much Exercise to Do

There is no dispute that exercising is a great thing to do for too many reasons to count, but it isn’t completely obvious how much should be done for best results.

Experts recommend that the average person complete 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week. This means you should be doing a 30 minute workout of medium intensity to maximum intensity. Of course, you don’t have to start with 30 minutes.

If you are new to the game, start with 10 minutes of exercising at a time, and keep pushing yourself until you can do the full half hour.

What Types of Exercises Work?

Studies show that lifting weights and aerobic activities help the most when trying to get the full benefits of working out.

Here are some examples:

  • Running or jogging
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Elliptical machines
  • Cycling
  • Fitness classes
  • Step aerobics
  • HIIT
  • Tabata
  • Circuit Training
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Swimming
  • Martial arts
  • Hiking or walking
  • Household chores
  • Any rigorous activity that elevates your heart rate

Once you know the benefits and what to do, exercising doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Even the busiest people should be able to find half an hour a day to devote to their mental health, and as a bonus incentive, regular exercise can help you live a longer and happier life.

Total-Body Toning Workouts

Toning your whole body doesn’t mean you have to spend hours each week in the gym pumping iron or running for miles every day. Good toning exercise routines work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Bodyweight Exercises

You can design bodyweight routines to work your whole body. Combine individual exercises to work your upper body, core and lower body. Select 3 exercises for each muscle group and then do 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. After a brief, 10-minute warm-up consisting of aerobic exercise, such as jogging in place, do 3 each of squats, lunges and standing calf raises to work your lower body. Work your core by doing crunches, planks and push-ups. Push-ups are a total body exercise because you work your arms, back, core, glutes and legs. Finish your whole body, bodyweight routine by doing pull-ups followed by bodyweight rows. Do bodyweight rows by lying on your back underneath a barbell bar. Grasp the bar and lift your upper body off the floor toward the bar. Repeat the entire circuit 2 to 3 times once you increase your strength.

Swimming

Swimming is a genuine total body toning exercise. It’s easy to do but gives you a vigorous workout in a short amount of time. Swimming strokes, such as the freestyle, back stroke and butterfly, work most every muscle in your body when performed correctly. Water provides not only support for your whole body, but also provides additional resistance you can’t get when you exercise on dry land. You can firm and tone your whole body in a swimming pool, even if you don’t know how to swim. Walk or run back and forth across the pool in waist-deep water to tone your lower body and core. Use hand paddles to push and pull water as you walk or run to tone your upper body at the same time.

High-Intensity Cardio

High-intensity cardio burns calories and tones your entire body. Running, jogging and brisk walking firm and tone your legs, thighs, buttocks and core. Tone your arms by vigorously pumping your arms as you run or jog while holding a couple of 2- to 5-pound dumbbells. Turn your walking, running or jogging workout into a high-intensity interval workout by sprinting at top speed for 30 seconds followed by 2 minutes of running, jogging or walking at a slower pace. Step aerobics while holding dumbbells also works your whole body, firming your arms, chest, core, buttocks and legs. Cardio exercises, including jumping jacks, jumping rope and squat jumps can be incorporated into any high-intensity cardio routine to firm and tone.

Toning Supersets

Toning supersets work your whole body in one exercise session. These exercises are easy to do and effective for full body toning. After your warm-up by doing some light aerobic exercise and stretches, do 3 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise. Rest for 30 seconds between exercises. Repeat each set 2 to 3 times. Tone your upper body, core and thighs by doing crunches on a stability ball while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Follow crunches with 10 scissors to firm and tone your thighs, buttocks and core. Do lunges on each side, 10 repetitions leading with your right leg and another set of 10 repetitions leading with your left leg. If you have access to a leg press machine, start with 20 pounds of weight and do 10 repetitions on the machine. Rest for 30 seconds and do the entire set again.

 

Best Exercises for People with Arthritis

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Arthritis can strike any joint in the body. Often the joints in the hands, knees and ankles are affected, which may limit your mobility and seriously impact your quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, it doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. Regular exercise can help alleviate joint pain, increase flexibility and range of motion, and strengthen your bones and muscles. See your rheumatologist for a thorough check-up and personal direction. Your doctor can advise you about specific exercises that can help improve mobility and reduce pain while avoiding damage to your joints. Avoid high-impact activities like running, jogging and sports such as tennis and basketball. Walking, swimming and low-impact aerobics can help keep you fit and lessen joint pain. Pilates, tai chi, yoga and other stretching-type exercises can help increase your range of motion and strengthen muscles.

Range of Motion Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises stretch your muscles and lessen joint stiffness. Stiff fingers can be exercised by making a fist and then stretching the fingers as far apart as you can and then repeating the exercise. Make a fist and then rotate your wrists in to the right and then reverse and rotate your wrists to the left. Repeat the exercise with your fingers extended. Increase your elbow flexibility by raising and lowering your elbows. Sit at a table and place your elbows on the table with your palms turned up toward the ceiling. Turn your hands over palms down on the table while keeping your elbows in contact with the table surface. Turn your hands back over. Repeat this exercise 10 times. Try stretching your arms in front of your body and turning your palms up and back down. While you are sitting at the table, exercise your knees. Raise and lower your feet by bending your knees up and down to increase knee flexibility. Next, point your toes and then relax your foot several times. Rotate your ankles clockwise 10 times and the counter-clockwise 10 times.

Resistance Training

Resistance training exercise strengthens muscles, which can help relieve pressure on joints and reduce joint pain. Ask your doctor which strength training exercises are safe for you before beginning a weight lifting program. Perform some biceps curls with light weight hand-held dumbbells. Do some leg lifts while wearing ankle weights to help strengthen the leg muscles. Isometric exercises help strengthen muscles with little or no impact on the joints. Stand with your back straight against a wall and drop your shoulders slightly. Look straight ahead and slide down the wall until your knees are bent and your body is in a “seated” position. Slide back up the wall and then repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times. Strengthen your thighs and hips by sitting on a chair and squeezing a medium-size exercise ball between your knees. Squeeze and relax repeatedly for about 10 repetitions. Increase repetitions until you can do at least 20.

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises

Low-impact aerobic exercise like swimming, biking and walking can strengthen all of your muscles, work all of your joints and improve your heart health. Try to walk, swim or ride a bicycle for at least 30 minutes every day. If you can’t set aside a full half-hour block of exercise time, get your 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics in 10 minute increments throughout the day. Swim 10 to 15 before breakfast or after work. Walk for 10 minutes in the afternoon and ride a bicycle for 10 minutes in the evening.

5 Key Components of a Full Body Transformation

When you begin a new diet and exercise routine, your goal is to see a full body transformation. However, for most people, this just isn’t the reality. They find themselves unable to reach their goals, and then they end up giving up and reverting to their old habits.

The reason that so many people struggle to reach their goals is that they are missing one of the five key components to reaching a full body transformation. Read on to find what the five key components are and how you can make them work best for you.

Diet

Perhaps the most important part of any body transformation is the diet that you are eating. A simple internet search is going to find you a wide range of options. Ultimately, you are going to want to select a diet that doesn’t cut anything out of your diet completely.

When you cut something out in its entirety, you are more likely to cheat because you are going to miss that food. Instead, focus on getting a healthy number of calories and ensure that those calories are coming from healthy food sources.

Find out what number of calories you are going to need to consume on a daily basis to meet your goals and work out where you are going to get those calories from. Remember to consider how much sugar, carbohydrates, fibers, and protein you are getting from your dietary choices, as well as the rest of your vitamins and nutrients.

Exercise

Like with diet, you are going to be able to find a wide variety of exercise routines and options by doing a little bit of research. Choose an exercise plan that you are going to be able to stick to. Start with small changes and work your way up.

If you aren’t exercising at all, walking for even fifteen minutes a day is going to help you to see results. Try to choose exercises that are going to work your entire body in a rotation, focusing on different muscle groups on different days of the week.

It is also important that you don’t forget about your cardio exercises. Remember to make exercising fun. Look for classes that appeal to you to make it easier to stick to.

Mindset

Your mindset is going to make the biggest impact on whether you are successful with your body transformation. If you are of the mindset that you aren’t going to be able to reach your goals, then you aren’t going to reach them. Telling yourself things like “I don’t have time to work out” or “I don’t know how to eat healthy” are going to sabotage your chances of success.

Instead, tell yourself that you are important enough to make time for and that you can learn how to make healthier food options. Then, follow through and prove to yourself that you can do it.

Motivation

What is your motivation to transform your body? Perhaps you are going on a trip, and you want to drop some extra weight, or maybe someone close to you was just diagnosed with a health disorder, and you don’t want to be next.

Your motivation is personal to you, and there is no right or wrong to what can motivate you to want to be healthier. Whatever your motivation is, remind yourself of it on a regular basis. Put up motivational pictures where you are going to see them or use motivational quotes.

If you can find someone who understands your motivation, that is a great person to rely on for support and to remind you of that motivation.

Support

You aren’t going to be successful if you don’t have some form of support during your journey to a body transformation. Changing your diet and exercise routines takes a lot of work, and it is easy to get discouraged. You might not have anyone who you know personally that would be a good support for you, but that is okay.

You don’t need to have someone who is physically present to support you. There are many online forums that are full of people who are taking the same journey as you and are going to be more than willing to support you.

When you have a bad day and eat something that you shouldn’t, and a day that you don’t work out the way that you meant to, having a support person to encourage you and help you through the bad days is going to be the difference between your success and failure.

Reaching your goal of a full body transformation isn’t going to be easy. However, there are some key components to ensuring that you are successful.

With a good diet and exercise plan in place, as well as good motivation and support, you are going to ensure that you are in the right mindset to achieve your goals and do everything necessary to meet them.

Is There a Connection Between the Stress Hormone Cortisol and Belly Fat?

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The Connection Between The Stress Hormone Cortisol And Belly Fat

Did you know that there’s a connection between the stress hormone, cortisol, and belly fat?

Belly fat is the fat hanging over your waistline above a pair of jeans that are too tight. It just isn’t attractive but more importantly it can shorten your lifespan, as visceral fat is the most dangerous type of fat that wraps itself around your internal organs.

Belly fat is much more of a problem than simply how you look.

Excess belly fat has been associated with stress, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. 

When you are suffering from stress, your adrenal glands release epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine, which are the “fight or flight” hormones that cause your body to raise its blood pressure, increase your heart rate, increase blood glucose levels, and cause belly fat. When you are under stress, these hormones go into action.

Norepinephrine influences the body to stop making insulin so that you can have a large amount of quickly acting glucose available. Epinephrine will cause relaxation of the muscles in your intestines and stomach, and can decrease blood flow to your organs.

After the stressor has gone away, your body’s cortisol will tell the body to quit making these hormones and to go back to regularly digesting your food.

Normally, your cortisol levels go up and down during the day, but when you are stressed, the cortisol levels increase and remain there.

When your cortisol levels are elevated, the body resists losing weight. Your body believes that you are suffering from hard times and that you may starve. For this reason, your body holds onto the fat you eat or already have in your body.

Cortisol takes fat from the healthier areas of your body, such as your hips and butt, and moves it to your stomach, which has more receptors for cortisol. The cortisol acts on your body to create belly fat.

This process turns fat that was once peripheral fat and turns it into unhealthy visceral fat, which is the kind of fat that goes around your organs. It increases the insulin levels that, in turn, increase inflammation.

This belly fat then increases the cortisol level because it has a higher concentration of an enzyme that turns inactive cortisol into active cortisol. The more belly fat you have on your body, the more the active cortisol increases. This is another vicious cycle created by belly fat.

Here are some ways you can decrease belly fat:

  • Try to eat more protein. Your body spends a great deal of energy trying to digest protein. This means that if you eat snacks and meals containing protein, you give your metabolism a boost. In addition, protein is digested slowly, which helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time. You are less likely to overeat. In addition, protein is crucial for maintaining healthy muscle tissue, which is your body’s calorie and fat-burning machine. If you eat plenty of protein in your diet, your metabolism will keep going strong. Some good protein options include lentils, peas, beans, tofu, egg whites, fish, lean beef, white turkey, or white chicken.
  • Strength training. Your muscles continue to burn calories even while you are resting. The more you tone your muscles, the more calories you have to burn. For each pound of muscle you put on, you will burn at least 35-50 calories per day. If you are attempting to lose weight, you need to stay focused on your workouts, or on strengthening exercises, like using resistance bands, barbells, free weights, squats, abdominal crunches, and pushups.
  • Eat the entire day. You should never skip meals, believing that the calories you are saving will help you lose weight. The truth is that if you deprive the body of needed calories and necessary nutrients, it will conserve energy and store fat by decreasing your metabolism. This is why crash dieting that restricts your food intake doesn’t work over the long haul. Try to stick with regular mealtimes, and eat snacks and meals that combine fiber and lean protein, often found in many vegetables and fruits. Your best option is to eat a small meal every 3 hours. 
  • Reduce stress. Learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and breathing exercises.
  • Drink green tea. When you drink green tea, you are consuming catechins, which are substances known to increase your metabolism. In a recent research study, people who drank 2-4 cups of green tea on the days they were more active burned more calories than those who didn’t drink green tea. Research also indicates that the catechins found in green tea will help you break down fat.
  • Remain hydrated. Dehydration can result in hunger, leading you to eat more food when all you really need is to drink some water. Drinking water before meals and during meals fills your stomach and maximizes a feeling of fullness, leaving you satisfied without eating too much. Research has shown that when you drink cold water, you may increase your metabolism.

Dancing is a Fun and Exciting Way to Lose Weight

Lose weight dancing!

Lose weight dancing! Doesn’t it sound fun? Dancing is beneficial for many more reasons than one. It’s not only a fast way to lose weight, but it’s fun and allows you to learn a new skill that will simply catapult your social quotient. Dancing as a form of exercise is also much less monotonous than boring gym routines.

Dance is not just a seductive movement of the body aimed to charm a room full of people, or merely an art form designed to express oneself. Dance is so much more; it’s a way of life, and a way of attaining perfection in the body and the soul.

 

Benefits of Dancing for Weight Loss

There are many ways in which dancing promotes weight loss. Here are a few of them:

  • A lot of people stop exercising because it becomes monotonous and boring. With dancing, that does not really happen and many people are able to stay on track and achieve their weight loss goals.
  • While we lose weight dancing, we also acquire a new skill that helps us to gain greater self-confidence and self-worth.
  • Some people may find traditional workouts like sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups strenuous and hard on the muscles. Dancing, on the other hand, is relaxing and helps burn a lot of calories.
  • Apart from losing weight, dancing also helps develop concentration, patience and relieves stress.

Types of Dance Workouts

These popular dance workouts can be done at home with videos or taken with a group of friends at a fitness class.

  • Fusion dance is for those who are not biased to any particular form of dance. This dance form takes the good parts of many other dance forms, along with their own innovative steps and makes your workout time worthwhile. Highly recommended for people who get bored quickly.
  • Piloxing is a blend of Pilates, boxing and dance. Ideal for those looking to burn calories fast, as well as build and tone muscles. Recommended for the sporty individual.
  • Ballet is an art and fitness routine fused together. Apart from sculpting a svelte figure, it increases flexibility like no other forms of exercise. It also helps in personality development by promoting gracefulness.
  • Zumba is a high energetic Latin inspired dance routine that includes cardio workouts in its routine.

The benefits of dancing for weight loss are endless. Most gyms nowadays offer variety of packages to help you lose weight dancing. Research the form of dance that you like and select a package accordingly, or you can simply tune into the home dance videos and dance your calories away.

 

Can a 10 Minute Workout Be Effective?

Many people find it very difficult to find time to work out, especially for 30 to 60 minutes or more. If this describes you, then you will be pleased to know that you can break up your exercise sessions into 10-minute segments and still receive the same or even greater health benefits than a longer, moderate session.

To achieve optimal results from a shorter workout, you need to increase your exercise intensity. Many studies have shown that shorter, higher intensity workouts are actually better than long, slow endurance exercises at the gym because you can burn more total calories in less time, according to the American Council on Exercise. However, shorter exercise sessions of 20 minutes or less are only more effective than longer workouts when the intensity is high enough. Meaning, your maximum heart rate is equal to or greater than 70 percent during high intensity exercise.

Ideally, you should try to squeeze in at least two to three 10 minute workouts every day. For example, you could workout 10 minutes before work, one on your lunch break and one after work. Or, you might be able to take 10 minutes off to do your routine during your work day and possibly squeeze in two separate sessions or more if time permits.

Your 10-minute workouts should be based on your health goals. Some people may start with one or two cardio-based workouts, such as jogging for 10 minutes in the middle of the day for a mental boost and then maybe do a 10-minute invisible jump rope session in your office in the afternoon when you are running low on energy.

To burn even more calories in less time, add in some interval training. A 10 minute interval workout might look something like this: jog for one minute, push-ups for one minute, jump rope for one minute, squats for one minute, plank for one minute, burpees for one minute, alternating lunges for one minute, chair dips for one minute, jumping jacks for one minute, and then finish with bicycle crunches for one minute. Above all, make sure you do a thorough warm-up and cool-down to avoid injury and improve flexibility.

Now if your health goal is to develop firmer abs or to tone up your whole body, then starting with one or two sessions of muscle toning work would be ideal. You may choose to use an exercise band or do simple, yet challenging body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, planks, squats, lunges and tricep dips. Throwing in your favorite 10 to 20 minute workout video is another good option. The key is to keep your workouts intense and fun to eliminate boredom and get better results.

The only way to know for sure if working out for 10 minutes, up to three times a day, will work for you is to try it for 30 days consistently and see how it affects you. You should also keep a journal and write down how you feel, as well as your eating habits and how your body is changing. For instance, make a note of how you feel mentally, emotionally and energetically after roughly two weeks of doing these workouts. Also, keep track of how fast you get out of breath. Do you find that you can push yourself further over time? Do you feel like you’re getting healthier, and are your clothes fitting better? After 30 days, check your weight to see what these 10 minute workouts have done for you. More than likely, you’ll find that it was a success.