4 Healthy Holiday Fitness Tips

Photo credit: Kham Tran CC-BY-SA-3.0

The holiday season can wreak havoc on your waistline, but the average holiday weight gain isn’t quite as bad as you think. Many believe that 7 pounds is the average holiday weight gain, but according to the National Institutes of Health report, Americans put on roughly one pound over the holidays. However, even a pound a year can add up over time and lead to obesity and other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. Making exercise a priority during the hectic and stressful holiday season can seem virtually impossible, but with a little forethought, you can reap the benefits of a fit, healthy holiday season.

Tip #1 – Plan realistic workouts and healthy meals BEFORE the holidays begin. Cooking make-ahead nutritious meals and designing shorter, daily workouts will help to save time, reduce stress and promote well-being. Even a 10-minute workout is better than not exercising at all.

Tip #2 – Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your exercise routine. HIIT training can be a godsend over the holidays, because it burns maximum calories in the least amount of time. So, next time you get on the treadmill, bike or step machine, choose the interval program option to burn more fat in less time. If you don’t have access to a gym, then pick up a jump rope and alternate bursts of quick activity with a slower pace, or do some jumping jacks or speed play (e.g. 30 second sprint followed by a 90 second recovery jog).

Tip #3 – Do some multitasking; combine holiday tasks and errands with physical activities. For instance, walk fast while shopping or park farther away from the mall entrance, or try taking a 5-minute break from cooking and do some calisthenics to burn those excess calories and reduce stress. Shoveling your own snow can burn a ton of calories, too. When family or friends come to town, take a tour of the neighborhood on foot to see the Christmas lights, or throw an ice-skating party. During TV commercial breaks, do some lunges, jumping jacks, squats, pushups and sit-ups.

Tip #4 – Avoid overeating at holiday parties by eating normally during the day. In other words, don’t starve yourself all day and then eat like a horse at the party. Eat as you normally would during the day, then go to the holiday party and focus on eating low-calorie foods first, such as celery sticks, carrots, fruits and leans meats. Put your snacks on a small plate and then sit down to enjoy it; don’t snack straight from the buffet. After you consume the healthier, fiber-rich, low-calorie foods, then by all means treat yourself to a small, rich and satisfying treat. Chew slowly and enjoy every morsel of it. Occasionally indulging in a tasty treat, without guilt, will help you to avoid overeating. If you do overeat, don’t let the guilt from one mistake destroy the rest of your healthy holiday plans.

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5 Tips to Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness

Improving your cardiovascular fitness offers many health benefits, such as better circulation, increased metabolic rate, more energy, greater strength and endurance, protection against chronic disease and much more. Therefore, my goal here is to help you enjoy all these benefits and more by providing you with five tips to improve your cardio fitness.

Play A Sport

Sports are an excellent way to boost your cardiovascular fitness for a number of reasons. They’re a lot of fun, they allow you to socialize with your friends and meet new friends and they generally have a regular schedule, which guarantees that you get consistent cardiovascular exercise. Furthermore, the nature of sports means that you’ll have periods where you’re working at an all-out intensity and periods where you’re exercising at an easier, slower pace. This kind of variety will give your cardiovascular fitness an enormous boost.

Participate is a High Intensity Exercise Class

High intensity exercise classes are another very beneficial way to increase your cardiovascular fitness. Your instructor will not only help you to stay on track, but also make sure that you put in your best effort and not give up. Also, when you participate in a high-intensity exercise group, you will see everyone else working hard and encourage you to do the same. Following a weekly class schedule can also help you to work on your cardiovascular fitness on a regular basis.

Do Cardio Whenever You Can

While it’s a good idea to have scheduled cardiovascular activities such as exercise classes or sports in your routine, you should also look for opportunities during the day where you can spontaneously do some extra cardio.

Walking is probably the easiest way to fit extra cardio into your day and by taking the stairs or leaving the car at home, you can easily add lots of additional walking to your routine. However, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can go beyond walking and do sprints, jumping jacks, burpees or more whenever you have some time to spare.

Do High Intensity Cardio Intervals

No matter what form of cardio you choose to do, you should try to add in some high- intensity intervals into your workout routine. Exercising at high intensity will test your current cardiovascular fitness to its limits and build up your lungs and heart in the process, which results in improved cardiovascular fitness every time you work out. In addition, you will burn more calories than fat, which means that you will expend more calories for greater fat loss down the road.

In a nutshell, you’ll end up in better physical condition with less body fat and better overall health. All very good reasons to add high intensity training into your exercise sessions.

Consistency Is Key

The four tips above are all tremendous ways to develop your cardiovascular fitness. However, if you’re not consistent with your cardio training, they’ll yield limited results. Therefore, to get the most out of these tips, make sure you’re doing some scheduled cardio training at least three to four times per week and including spontaneous cardio exercises into your routine every day.

So, if you find yourself having to catch your breath after walking up the stairs or rushing to catch a bus, now is the time to give your cardiovascular fitness a kick. Simply implement the five top tips from this article and you’ll start to see your cardiovascular fitness rapidly increase and enjoy all its health benefits.

How Interval Training Can Improve Your Fitness

Photo Credit: Mike Baird CC-BY-2.0 2007
If you have reached a fitness plateau with your regular workout routine and you would like to get more from each workout, begin interval training. Interval training is alternating light intensity exercise with high intensity exercise. For example, if you regularly walk 30 minutes or more every other day, try walking for 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes of jogging or running and then 10 minutes of walking. Stretching and isometric exercises can be followed by a short burst of high intensity strength training like weight lifting. You can vary your exercise routine in any way that is comfortable for you. You may want to start off by including 20 to 30 seconds of high intensity exercises followed by 5 minutes of less strenuous activity. Interval training can take your fitness to the next level.
People who exercise using an interval training regime burn more calories than steady low to medium intensity exercise for the same length of time. You will lose weight faster or maintain your ideal weight better by burning  more calories during your regular workout. Interval training also improves cardiovascular health and capacity. Start off slowly and build up your strength over time until you can do equal intervals of low to medium intensity exercise and high intensity exercises. 

Intense exercise alone can cause muscle soreness. When you alternate your regular exercise with short periods of intense exercise, your muscle tissue stores less of the toxins and waste products that can cause you to feel sore. You will also have more energy by following an intense period of exercise with a period to cool down while still exercising your muscles. A personal trainer can help you design an interval training regime to help you meet specific goals, such as increasing your stamina or losing belly fat. Interval training can also be combined with functional training to improve athletic performance or strengthen and tone a specific muscle group.