30-Minutes to a Better Life

Photo credit: Victor Tondee [CC BY 2.0]

Stressed? You aren’t alone. The American Psychological Association released Stress in America: The State of our Nation in November 2017, finding that “a majority of adults (59 percent) said they consider this the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember…” Modern life, with the culture of multitasking and expectation to ‘do it all,’ continues to add more and more to our already packed schedules. Work demands, family obligations, and personal commitments all contribute. As stress levels rise, so too does hypertension and the risks of associated diseases and complications, like increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Approximately 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure. Of those, about 54% have their blood pressure under control.

While we are inundated with proof that exercise can lower stress, finding the time to exercise may feel impossible. Including even one more activity in your day may feel impossible, but taking the time to exercise makes other challenges seem surmountable. Walking and practicing yoga are two forms of exercise that are easy to fit into your life and have been shown reduce stress and blood pressure.

Walking is a low impact way to lower blood pressure. Proven to be as effective as running, the American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity for three to four days a week to benefit blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Too busy for 40 minutes? Try splitting it up into 10 to 15-minute increments, shown to be just as effective. Some ways to add more walking to your day are to take the stairs, park at the farthest end of the parking lot, walk your dog, or take a walk with your partner or family.

Like walking, links have been found between practicing yoga and improving blood pressure. A meta-analysis conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that “overall, yoga was associated with a modest but significant reduction in blood pressure in individuals with prehypertension and hypertension. It’s important to note that “…even small reductions in blood pressure have been shown to reduce risk for coronary heart disease and stroke,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

Many feel too intimidated to check out their local yoga studio. Misconceptions about yoga abound; while 75% of Americans agree “yoga is good for you,” 48% of all Americans say they are unlikely to try yoga, according to yogaalliance.org. It isn’t necessary to be hyper-flexible or in shape to practice yoga. As yoga continues to grow in popularity, it is becoming easier to find a studio that is the right fit for you. Alternatively, the internet provides a vast collection of free yoga videos to try at home. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube offers excellent options for beginners.

Roughly translated to yoke in English, yoga is the union between breath and movement. Both the physical practice (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) are beneficial because they stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Stress causes spikes in cortisol levels and triggers the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), our biological “fight or flight” response. The PNS is linked to our “rest and digest” response, slowing the heart and lowering blood pressure.

Some yoga poses are more beneficial than others. Supported forward folds, both standing and seated (Uttanasana and Pashchimottanasana) are considered cooling for the body and help to quiet the mind. Forward folds can be especially calming after a stressful day.

Yoga poses that are contraindicated for practitioners with hypertension are inversions, such as headstand and handstand (Shirshasana and Adho Mukha Vrksasana), and poses that compress the diaphragm, like bow pose (Dhanurasana). As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

As days speed by faster and faster, with more to do and less time to do it, taking a moment for mindfulness, spending 15 minutes walking through your neighborhood or focusing on a simple yoga flow, can allow some space between you and those daily agitations associated with everyday life. Reducing overall stress is one of the best ways to combat hypertension and lead a happy, healthy life.

 

Resources

American Psychological Association

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2017/state-nation.pdf

Centers of Disease Control

https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm

American Heart Association

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way-to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp#.WmqtFpM-fVr

American Heart Association

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-Infographic_UCM_450754_SubHomePage.jsp

National Institutes of Health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679769/

Yoga Alliance

https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

Yoga with Adriene on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ6NfFIr2jw&list=PLui6Eyny-UzzWwB4h9y7jAzLbeuCUczAl%5D and busy people

 

 

Yoga Journal

https://www.yogajournal.com/teach/the-scientific-basis-of-yoga-therapy

Yoga International

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-poses-to-reduce-hypertension

How to Exercise Proper Breath Control while Running

Those who run for fitness reasons and endurance practice know just how important it is to maintain proper breath control while running. Anyone who has exercised under the supervision of a trainer should be well aware of the strict instructions issued while working out and understand that it is a very important aspect of exercise. If you can learn to control your breath as instructed, you will glean maximum benefits from your workout or exercise program.

Controlling Your Breath while Running

Running is a common aspect of many exercise programs, since its reputation as an effective cardiovascular activity is suitable for all age groups and fitness levels. Exercising correct breath control will enable you, the runner, to run more, and to benefit more from an increased heart rate coupled with less fatigue. One of the simplest ways in which you can ensure that your body is getting enough oxygen into the lungs is by inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. Pay attention to your breathing and avoid rapid breathing, since that will prevent oxygen from getting deep into the lungs.

Rapid Breathing is Pointless and Unhealthy

If you are one of those runners who seem to be constantly out of breath and are unable to speak while on a run, it does not necessarily mean that you are out of shape; your breathing is likely the culprit. Following a deep and slow breathing process will enable you to not only get the required amount of oxygen into your lungs, but will prevent breathlessness. Contrary to what you may have imagined while watching a healthy runner getting out of breath, the rapid huffing and puffing indicates incorrect breath control. If you control your breath, you will be able to run and enunciate at the same time without much effort; the results will speak for themselves.

Proper Techniques take Time

Proper breathing techniques take a little time to inculcate into the system. It will take time, but if you pay attention to your breathing, you will notice how you are able to run longer distances and can control the levels of oxygen intake effectively. Controlling your breath matters a great deal, and it is guaranteed that you will notice results after being able to increase the distance covered by a few miles since you will have more energy to burn.

Mastering effective breath control techniques will give you the best out of your running experience. Breathing correctly will ensure an optimum cardiovascular workout, and will benefit other areas of your fitness program as well, such as swimming and yoga.

 

 

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.

The Plentiful Health Benefits of Goji Juice

Photo credit: Maukie (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The health benefits of goji juice are many, and its pleasant taste makes it one of the most popular drinks among health enthusiasts. The high concentration of Vitamin C in goji juice guarantees a stronger immune system that can fight infection and disease better and will also take away the need to consume additional vitamin supplements. This little red berry is packed with a number of essential vitamins and minerals, and there are even festivals in some parts of Asia that celebrate its existence and importance.

Weight Loss

The fact that a number of people who drink goji juice for health do it because it has weight loss benefits is an open secret. The health benefits of goji juice as an effective appetite suppressant and a valuable, vitamin-packed inclusion to a weight loss oriented diet has been promoted by celebrities and fitness gurus alike, and its other health benefits are a bonus.

Better Immunity

The health benefits of goji juice also include better immunity. Goji berries are packed with a number of vitamins, including Vitamins A and C. Goji is also one of the few fruits that contains Vitamin E, which contributes to its enhanced skin healing properties.

Senior citizens may get the most out of the many health benefits of goji juice with its ability to slow down the skin’s aging process. One can rest assured that a majority of consumers who consume goji juice for health will be slow to show the signs of aging on their skin and bodies.

Delicious and Healthy

Goji juice is one of the more delicious and healthy drinks, which also makes it one of the most popular. Goji juice is considered to be one of the best tasting healthy juices available, which adds to its popularity, unlike other healthy drinks that include ingredients such as prune, spirulina, spinach, and other things that most people think taste terrible. Goji juice is so delicious that one can drink it by itself or even mix it with a scoop of whey protein supplement for a vitamin-rich meal replacement drink.

Goji juice is healthy, delicious, and would make a valuable addition to any diet. In addition to goji juice, goji berries can be eaten alone and are safe for consumption by people of all ages. You can consume goji at least three times a week for a period of one month to reap the maximum health benefits.

 

10 Concrete Ways to Achieve Your Goals in Health and Wellness

Most people make New Year’s resolutions.  Most of these New Year’s resolutions are wishes for health, wealth and happiness.  There is something about a brand new year that makes people want to start right and so they make resolutions.

The word “resolution” comes from the verb “resolve,” which means to come to a solution or a decision over some puzzle or question.  Frankly, most New Year’s resolutions are mere wishes and not really resolutions because precious few of them ever become reality.

In order for resolutions to become reality they must be more than just mere wishes, but actual action plans with action steps. Since health and fitness directly impact our personal well-being and the well-being of our families, we must resolve to be fit and healthy.

But how?

Here are some ideas:

Know the state of your health. Go and see your doctor before starting any exercise or diet regimen. Get yourself checked out thoroughly and tell your doctor about your goal of weight loss and health. People often go on crash diets out of desperation that never have a happy ending. Make sure that you choose a healthy eating plan that will allow for long term success, so you don’t set yourself up for failure right at the start.

Phrase your resolution as a principle. Let your resolution be the guiding principle that will define all the food and activity choices you will make for the whole year.  If you can, articulate it as a theme or a motivating phrase.  The catchier and shorter it is, the easier to remember and the easier to use to discipline yourself and to rally your forces against inactivity and surplus weight.For example, if you use “Thin is in in 2017” — it’s catchy, but it isn’t very precise. A spaghetti noodle is thin, but so is a flagpole. But if you phrase it as a command, “Lose 52 pounds in 2017.”  It is not a wish or a desire anymore, it’s both a goal and a command.

Break it down into small tasks. 52 pounds is a big figure. But, then again, you have 12 months or roughly 52 weeks lose those 52 pounds, which translates to about 4 and a quarter pounds each month of the year or 1 pound each week. So, there you go.  You can revise your resolution: “One pound a week in fifty-two weeks makes fifty-two pounds lost in 2017.” One pound a week is not only a healthy weight loss pace, it is also a very doable goal.

Think of particular plans of action. Answer the question: how do you intend to lose one pound each week? Here is where you have to do a lot of thinking.

  • You can’t starve yourself because starving will boomerang into binges.
  • You can’t deprive yourself because deprivation may mean malnutrition.
  • You can’t abstain from all your favorite food because you will be frustrated.

Think in terms of what you can do instead of what you can’t do.

  • Choose unsweetened plain tea instead of soda.
  • Replace your chips and fattening dip with vegetable sticks and a low-calorie dip. (You can find plenty of healthy dip recipes online.)
  • Eat fish and chicken instead of pork or beef.
  • Bake, boil or poach instead of fry.
  • Grill instead of sautee.
  • Squeeze lemon juice and a little olive oil over lettuce instead of using cream dressings.
  • Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk or bike to the market instead of taking the car.
  • Begin a cardio and strength regimen or join a fitness class.

Find a workout buddy. It’s a lot easier to jog or walk when you are with a friend – the mile goes more quickly because of the companionship and conversation. Make sure your workout buddy is a person who knows you well enough to be a drill sergeant when you’re feeling lazy and need one; and a cheerleader when you’re feeling run-down and can use a helping hand.

Continuously challenge yourself. Take baby steps at first, but when you get stronger and more confident, lengthen your stride. If you tell yourself that at the start you will walk around the block before breakfast, do this until it becomes part of your routine (about a week or two) and when you are no longer panting when you circle the block, walk to the next block and back.Gradually increase the length of time that you walk or walk more times around the block or go farther and farther until you build up stamina and strength. Once you get bored with just walking, try jogging.  And then running. Up your game to keep things interesting.

Find ways to measure your progress. Keep a log on your refrigerator door and note down how many blocks you walked today. If you use a pedometer, note the number of steps you took every day. The feeling of accomplishment will fuel further resolve to stick to your workout or physical activity routine. Also monitor weight loss and inches, this is more positive reinforcement that will keep you going.

Designate a weighin day. If you weigh yourself every day, chances are, you will have an emotional roller-coaster experience as the reading on the bathroom scale is often impacted by your daily toilet habits, the outfit you’re wearing, how much fluid you took, etc. Instead of going on a roller-coaster experience, give yourself breathing space and weigh yourself once every week or once every two weeks.

Reward yourself. If you lose 5 pounds, treat yourself to a movie or a massage. Surely a 20 pound loss deserves your favorite bottle of perfume or a new gadget? Whatever the reward, remember to choose something with meaning. Rewards reinforce behavior, which can keep you going for the long term straight to your goal!

Be kind, loving and patient toward yourself. Be your own cheerleader and your own drill sergeant. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel disappointed at not having reached a milestone. Tomorrow is a new day. Give yourself good advice and talk yourself out of giving up.  Encourage yourself to get back on track.

6 Tips to Help You Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions

friendsWe all desire to be healthier and every year we make a resolution to do just that, but making a resolution is much easier than keeping it.

Have you recently made a resolution to be healthier?

Would you like some great tips to help you reach your New Year’s resolution goals?

Well, if you do, then you have come to the right place to do just that! The more you know, the easier it will be to stay focused and consistent, so you can become a healthier you for the long term.

Resolution

The key to keeping your resolution is to start with goals that you can keep. Start with a small resolution and work your way up to bigger ones.

Instead of deciding to workout every day, resolve to work out two times a week. After you accomplish that, then you can add another day to your workout routine.

Each time you keep a resolution, you will gain momentum to help you accomplish your next goal. Before you realize it, working out on a regular basis will come naturally to you.

Rewards

Set up a rewards system to help you stick to your health resolutions. If you have something to look forward to, it is much easier to stay focused on what you want.

When you do reward yourself, remember to make it a non-food reward! Choose something that will inspire you like donating all your too-big clothes to charity, or go for a relaxing spa session.

Your reward can be almost anything as long as it doesn’t undermine your efforts and motivates you to accomplish your health and fitness goals. Your reward should also fit into your budget.

Friends

A goal is always easier to accomplish with help from your friends. When we stumble and fall, our friends will be there to help us back up. Find other like-minded people that also want to be healthy and start a group so that you can all support each other.

Join a group workout class. Classes are an ideal way to stay motivated and healthy. With the right support, you will find that keeping your resolution is much easier!

Reaffirm Your Resolution

Stay focused on your goals. Set aside time each day to contemplate and to reaffirm your resolution.

Ask yourself… What can I do today to reach and keep my health and fitness goals?

The more you think about your goals, the more likely you are to keep those goals. You can even create a vision board dedicated to your resolution to be healthy.

Take a poster board and fill it with images that remind will remind you of being healthy. Hang it where you will see it every day and be reminded to stay focused on your goals.

Lifestyle Choices

Being healthy is a lifestyle choice. We make choices every day that impact our life and our health. Keeping your resolution to be healthy will be influenced by those choices.

Examine your choices carefully and ask yourself if this will hinder you or help you in keeping your goals.

When you become more aware of your choices, you will find it easier to stay focused on keeping your resolution to be healthy.

Accountability

Keep yourself accountable for your actions.

Before you skip your workout or eat that slice of pie, ask yourself…Will I regret this decision? Will your decision leave you feeling guilty?

Deep inside, you know if what you are doing is healthy or not. Thinking about the consequences may help you make the right decision. Exercise and eating right is a choice, not a jail sentence. Healthy lifestyle changes should be fun, not a chore! YOU are in charge of your life. No one can do it for you.

Stay focused on what you want and don’t let anything stop you from getting it. When you truly decide that you will keep your resolution to be healthy, then you will.

Another way to become accountable is by telling someone or multiple important people in your life about the resolution you have made. Ask them for help in checking in with you as to its progress. This can help you because you will be anticipating having to discuss your progress with another person.

 

 

Enjoy an Active Holiday Season

Holiday Season Snowshoeing

Now that there is snow on the ground and you are in a holiday mood, it does not mean that it’s time for you to give up on your exercise routine or plan. You might find it hard to eat healthily and still get a chance to work out with all the family gatherings and parties. But, you can still do it. You need to prioritize your health more during this challenging time.

First, you have to change your mindset. You can use the additional family time to bond with relatives and also work out in group settings. Below are some ideas to assist you, and your family or relatives, stay active and healthy during the holiday season.

Make a plan earlier

If you plan on traveling to another state or city, be sure to do some research online. Find out if you can be an ‘add-on’ to any of your relative’s existing memberships, or if you can get a temporary gym membership.

If you happen to be traveling somewhere warm and you prefer to be outdoors, try to look up hiking trails and running routes in the area. You will get many resources online to help you make that big step.

Make family time

Usually, the holiday season is all about spending time with your loved ones. It’s the perfect time to drink, eat and be merry with everyone. Why not consider exercising together or playing fun games that will help everyone to exercise by the end of the day?

A game like hide-and-seek or tag is ideal to play with young nephews or nieces. There are many games you can find, even for adults, once you Google search. You can even inspire your loved ones to take a walk with you around the neighborhood. The walk will help all of you to burn calories and bond with the family. This is a perfect light workout for everyone and will take you away from that pumpkin pie, even for a while.

Take part in holiday-themed runs

Most towns and cities offer various runs during the holiday season. Preparing for a walk, run or obstacle course race helps you stay motivated to exercise. Ensure that you invite all your loved ones so that you can motivate each other and show up for the event.

Bring your own equipment

If you will be traveling and you are sure that you will not access a gym, consider bringing some portable fitness equipment like a TRX suspension trainer, tubing or Valslides. These simple solutions will fit in your carry-on bag or suitcase.

Go out in the snow

Most people who work out a lot consider snow to be ideal “fitness equipment.” So, if you will be surrounded by snow the entire holiday season, make sure that you take advantage of it. You can go snowboarding, ice-skating, skiing or snowshoeing. Maybe you can take part in a friendly snowball fight, too.

All these simple solutions will help you beat the weight-gain battle and stay healthy during the holiday season.