Make Exercise and Good Nutrition a Family Affair

Family exercising together.

Have you ever noticed that it’s much easier to stick to a exercise or diet plan if you have someone in the trenches with you? Have you ever been the person eating carrot sticks and celery while watching someone else eat fat-drenched carbs with sugar on top? Why not make exercise and good nutrition a family affair?

Get Rid of the Junk Food

Starting with food, which is often the most difficult part of the willpower bandwagon, if the whole family is working on eating healthy foods, you can just keep those sinful temptations out of the house. Consider avoiding the junk food aisle all together and purchasing healthy alternatives for snacks.

Whole grain crackers, pretzels, yogurt, string cheese, nuts, apples, carrots, celery, kale, berries, bananas and other fruits are healthy alternatives that often cost less in the long run and are chock-full of vitamins, dietary fiber and low in calories and fat. Experts recommend placing the healthy alternatives at eye-level in the cupboards or refrigerator so that the healthy items are the first thing a person sees when they look for a snack.

Look for Healthy Alternatives to Family Favorites

If your whole family is working on good nutrition, you can look for healthy alternatives to your favorite dishes. Enjoy baking? Often substituting pumpkin or applesauce for the butter or oil can work well in muffin, cake or brownie recipes. It replaces the fat, adds flavor and vitamins and is an easy swap.

Use cooking spray instead of high calorie oils in your cooking, and add more green leafy items, more vegetables and fruits to your meals, which can make a big difference as well. Does your family enjoy spaghetti dinners? Consider swapping the heavy pasta for lighter alternatives – spaghetti squash is a vitamin-rich alternative. Eight minutes in the microwave, top with your favorite marinara sauce and you’d hardly know the difference. Yet the difference between them is huge — 31 calories in spaghetti squash versus 158 in spaghetti per serving.

Family Fitness

Why head out to the gym on your own if you can bring the whole family? Often a gym will offer a substantial discount for a whole family membership, and many gyms even provide childcare and play rooms for smaller children. Older children will enjoy shooting baskets, running around the track, and your pre-teens and teens will enjoy learning to use the weight machines and free weights.

Exercise doesn’t have to stop at the gym. Gearing up for a 5K? Why not register the spouse and kids as well? They’re likely to be there to cheer you on anyway, but if you’re all in it together you can prep for it together and eat healthy in preparation together.

Maybe you’re not a runner. Family walks after dinner are a nice way to wind down and hear about each others day. Weekend hikes, skiing, biking or paddling trips are excellent ways to commune with nature and create memories your kids will have with them forever.

What is the best thing about involving the whole family in healthy eating and exercise? Making healthy choices now will make all of you healthier in the long run and will help to establish wonderful fitness and eating habits in your children that they will continue throughout their lives. Studies show that children who are active do better in school, have more confidence and even do better on some tests. With the multitude of benefits for everyone, why not get everyone involved?

 

Why You Need Back Exercises

Most of us these days have a desk job, where we sit and work at the computer for long periods of time, and the demanding schedule makes it very difficult to squeeze in regular exercise. Also, most of us are not in the habit of eating healthy, well-balanced meals. All these factors combined can result in a lot of physical problems, the most common of them being backaches. They start as an uncomfortable knot somewhere along the spine, which is mostly taken care of in the weekend massage appointments. However, ignoring back pains can be risky. Therefore, regular back exercises are advisable.

How to Exercise the Back

There are quite a few effective back strengthening exercises, but the exercises listed below will give you a great start.

Hip Bridge:  This exercise involves lying down on your back with your arms long at your side, your feet directly under your knees, and slightly closer than hip width apart. Next, try to lift your back while making a straight line from shoulder to knees and holding the position for a couple of seconds, and then repeat 8 – 10 times.

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Bird Dog: In this exercise, you have to get on your hands and knees on the floor; part your knees hip width and hands shoulder width. Maintaining the position, stretch the left leg and right hand out and hold the posture for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat with alternating pattern.

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Side Plank:  While lying on your side, use the support of your elbow to lift up your body weight. The upper leg should be directly on top of the lower leg and straighten knees and hips. Hold the position for roughly 30 seconds or longer, if you can. Repeat a few times on alternating sides.

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Lunge:  Keeping your upper body straight, shoulders back and relaxed with core engaged, step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at roughly a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should be directly above your ankle, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor. When you push back to the start position, keep your weight in your heels.  Repeat a few times on alternate legs.

 

 

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Benefits of Back Exercises

Back exercises not only help to strengthen your back, but also helps to release the excessive pressure the spine handles due to long hours of sitting on a chair. The stabilizing abdominal muscles and lower back muscles are strengthened, which also helps to improve the balance of muscles, their coordination and stability. A stronger abdomen helps to extend greater support to the spine.

While regular back exercises are definitely beneficial, try to avoid sitting too long by taking mini breaks throughout the day to stretch and take short walks to relieve stress and tension.

 

Photo credit:

Hip bridge exercise from workoutlabs.com

Bird-dog exercise image from  workoutlabs.com

Side plank exercise image from workoutlabs.com

Lunge exercise image from workoutlabs.com

 

 

Live Longer and Age Gracefully

Photo credit: National Cancer Institute [Public domain]

As you grow older, it is very important to understand the changes your body is going through and how to care for it well. The process of aging often involves a number of concerns about how to live longer and age gracefully. Learning useful health tips for 50+ will help you make informed choices as you grow older, so read on to live a healthy life!

Make Healthy Eating a Priority

Aging brings with it a number of potential health problems such as blood sugar irregularities and heart conditions. While some of these problems are genetic and are therefore not possible to avoid completely, it is possible to prevent them from worsening by eating conscientiously. It is important to prioritize healthy eating as you grow older, and maintaining a balanced diet is imperative if one wishes to live longer.

Eat foods that are rich in minerals (especially calcium & magnesium), vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. Focus on vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and lean meats to ensure that your body is well-balanced nutritionally.

Some of the vegetables that you should include in your daily diet are kale, collard greens, squash, spinach, cabbage, and broccoli. Fruits that you should consume include mixed berries, apples, oranges, peaches, pears, cherries, watermelon and grapes.

You should also try to consume more whole grain foods, such as whole wheat, oatmeal and brown rice. Whole grains are known to have very low fat content, and they contain good amounts of protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins that can benefit your health in numerous ways. Other healthy food choices include eggs, cheeses, and yogurts, as these foods can help control hypertension and improve bone health.

When you are over 50, you should eat lean meats, such as turkey and chicken, and fresh fish because they contain less cholesterol and fat. Also, choose heart-friendly oils, such as olive oil, to do your cooking, and be sure to drink plenty of water every day to keep your body well-hydrated.

Exercise will Keep Aging Bones and Joints Healthy

A number of people tend to avoid exercise as they age, as the desire to look fit diminishes. However, the need to incorporate exercise is among the most important health tips for 50+, regardless of whether one wishes to look healthy or not. What is important to keep in mind if one wishes to live longer, is the fact that bones and joints will lose their strength as age catches up, which is why it is important to exercise them on a daily basis.

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout; water aerobics, low-impact strength and cardio workouts, such as Pilates or Yoga, or maybe try a simple 30-minute power walk, which is also a fun and refreshing way to stay fit as you age.

Supplements Keep Signs of Aging at Bay

Increasing one’s intake of certain supplements, especially those abundant in antioxidants, will ensure that wrinkles, crow’s feet, and sagging skin will be limited in appearance. Eating healthy and incorporating supplements into one’s diet will ensure that your daily nutritional needs are being adequately met.

Before you choose supplements for yourself, consult your doctor or a nutritionist to find out which kinds of supplements you need and the proper dosage for your body.

Enjoy Rejuvenating Body Therapies

The various little aches and pains that an aging body experiences can be kept at bay thanks to a vast range of therapies, which are available at spas and special centers. A number of treatments are available which increase the skin’s elasticity and restore its natural balance, while others focus on tackling issues pertaining to back, shoulder, and joint problems. One has the option to choose from yoga or aromatherapy based treatments based on personal need. It is a good idea to indulge in these treatments at least once a week in order to reap the full benefit of the processes.

Aging with grace can be an enjoyable experience thanks to the incorporation of a disciplined lifestyle, a balanced diet, the incorporation of healthy supplements, and relaxing therapeutic processes.

 

Top 4 Health Benefits of Mud Runs and Obstacle Courses

My first obstacle mud run, the Makahiki Challenge.

If you enjoy taking on new challenges and pushing your mental and physical capabilities to the next level, then you have to try an obstacle course or a mud run at least one time! Your stamina, agility and heart will be put to the test, as these obstacle mud runs are far from ordinary. While you’re having a blast splashing in A LOT of mud, you will also have many hurdles to overcome like climbing over slippery walls, hauling sand bags, crawling through barriers, pulling heavy tires, and swinging from ropes. Some of the most popular mud runs and obstacle courses are the Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, and the Makahiki Challenge in Hawaii. You can participate in these obstacle challenges alone, with family or friends, or with a team. Just be ready to step out of your comfort zone and muttle through lots of filthy fun obstacles.

Here are some of the top health benefits of running in obstacle courses:

Shape up or ship out! If you’re up for the challenge, these obstacle mud runs will get you in the best shape of your life. You’ll improve your strength, endurance, balance, flexibility and burn a ton of calories! Running on different terrain, lifting, pulling, climbing, crawling, jumping, and swinging through obstacles will definitely improve your overall fitness, and exercise will never be boring again! The key is to never give up and keep challenging yourself. When you’re ready, take it to the next level. Staying fit mentally and physically will impact your life in so many positive ways, plus you’ll have loads of fun along the way.

Get stronger, faster, and go longer. Climbing 12 ft. walls, carrying heavy objects, crawling under barb wires, traversing muddy waters, and holding onto ropes will absolutely test your physical limits, especially your strength and endurance abilities. The more obstacle races you do, the better you’ll get. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to go faster and farther than the previous race. Before you know it, you’ll be an avid obstacle course racer and reaching a level of fitness you never thought was possible.

Better balance and coordination.  Whether you’re scaling up and over walls or trying not to sprain an ankle while carrying a heavy object in the slippery mud, you will find yourself constantly struggling to maintain balance and coordination. Your entire body, including your brain, muscles, and senses are working overtime to make sure you stay on your feet.

Make things happen! When you cross the finish line, it will give you a great sense of accomplishment and inspire you to become a better athlete. Overcoming difficult physical and mental challenges will also give you the confidence to tackle anything that comes your way. You can  participate in training programs for obstacle runs to get you physically and mentally prepared for the next race.  So, challenge yourself to continually improve your overall health and fitness, but don’t forget to have FUN.

 

 

Stay Fit Even When You’re Busy with 10 Minute Fitness Tips

Photo credit: Parker Michael Knight [CC BY 2.0]

During our days filled with work, family, and stress, if there is something that we lack, then that is time. The 24 hours allotted to us by the universe usually do not even allow us enough time to look after ourselves and achieve the life of our dreams. However, our dreams can only be achieved if we look after ourselves well enough. Something as little as 10 minutes a day can help to turn a person into a healthy individual capable of living life to the fullest. Here are a few 10 minute fitness tips that can help busy bodies remain healthy without compromising work time.

10 Minutes to a Beautiful Body – The Truant’s Way

The following tips especially cater to the exercise shy crowd.

  • Belly Dance: Yes, the image of exotic dancers is pleasuring your mind’s eye. A fun way to lose calories, belly dance is highly recommended if one wants to get rid of the belly fat and also increase flexibility.
  • Skipping: Easy workouts are high in demand. The humble skipping rope of childhood comes to the rescue. Among the most economic 10 minute fitness tips, skipping non-stop for 600 seconds gives one a full body workout at a single go.
  • Climb stairs: 600 seconds of climbing and coming down stairs, not leisurely but briskly. Pack in as many rounds of climbing as possible and increase it regularly. It may sound like one of those easy workouts, but it can reduce your weight in days.

10 Minutes to a Beautiful Body – The Fitness Freak’s Way:

If you are no stranger to exercise, then the following 10 minute fitness tips are for you.

  • Push-ups: With numerous variations available, push-ups are excellent for building muscles and increasing strength. Try a variety of push-ups in the 10 minute exercise regimen to break the monotony. With time, increase the number of push-ups per minute.
  • Pull ups: Using one’s own body mass as weight and a fixed horizontal bar above the head, pull ups can be very efficient exercise to build muscle mass and increase strength.
  • Sit ups: Like push-ups, sit ups also boast of variations. It is an ideal way of doing away with the belly fat and strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Increasing workload and sedentary lifestyle make it all the more necessary to exercise regularly to increase blood flow, regulate breathing and reduce weight. Therefore, the slightest chance of 10 minutes should be used as efficiently for exercises as possible.

 

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.

 

 

 

Enjoy Exercising with 4 Simple Changes

Photo credit: RadioKAOS [CC-BY-SA 3.0]

If you are like the majority of people, the mere thought of exercising is enough to have your mind make up all kinds of reasons why you should not, could not, and perhaps will not exercise. However, once you begin to exercise on a regular basis, you will be amazed at how exercise can transform the way you look, feel and think. The key is to make exercise fun and something that you look forward to doing.

Here are a few ideas to help you create a fitness routine that is interesting and enjoyable, so you can make it a lasting part of your life.

 

Find a Workout Partner

Often times we may view exercise regimens as solitary confinement – like a sentence we have to endure all on our own. Guaranteed you have a pal or co-worker who feels exactly the same way. The old adage that misery loves company would apply in this situation. However, once you get together with a friend to exercise and actually go to the gym or take that power walk or a Zumba class, you will begin to see how much fun it really is and begin to enjoy exercising.

Change Your Perception of Exercise

Only you have the ability to change how you perceive something. Only when you have associated positive thoughts and feelings with exercise will you begin to override the negative connotations with exercising. You will find that excuses, such as being tired or not having enough time, will be outweighed by feelings of accomplishment, such as recognition that you burned 500 calories that night or even the simple fact that you feel energized and were glad you went.

Focus on the positive results and feelings you get the first time you go to exercise and bring that feeling back up to the forefront of your mind the next time you are heading out to exercise.

Spice It Up!

Be creative with your exercise routines and regimens. You do not have to think about gigantic machinery that you are unfamiliar with or a gym full of strangers. Find something you love to do and incorporate that into exercise. For some, that is walking briskly and for others it is dancing your heart out. Dance is not only a creative outlet, it is also one that will burn hundreds of calories. Even if you are not a professional dancer, taking a swing class or a jazz class is only the beginning to discovering one of the secrets to enjoying exercise.

Make It a Date

If you leave exercising to a chance date or time, you will more than likely set yourself up for failure. Make a specific date and time for exercise, whether you go out to the gym or do it at home. Write in on your calendar, put it on your to do list and commit to it. After you are done, you will be glad you did.