4 Healthy Habits to Help Manage Stress and Maintain Calm

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Stress, especially chronic stress, is an unhealthy disadvantage of living in this fast-paced, 24/7 world. We get so caught up in work, family, children’s activities, grocery store runs, and keeping the household running smoothly that we end up creating a daily routine of unhealthy habits. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. We have the ability to make better choices, beat the stress, and a live a life that allows us to breath and enjoy each minute. What are some healthy habits we can pick up that will help maintain a sense of calm and keep stress levels in check?

Get more sleep – This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s surprising how many people don’t allow themselves a good night’s sleep. If you deprive yourself of this time of rest, you will begin to let stress creep in and issues that come along will seem bigger than they really are. Remember to let yourself unwind a little bit before going to sleep. This will prevent you from lying in bed thinking about the events of the day, and, in turn, not being able to fall asleep easily.

Meditation – Begin the day with a meditation session. It doesn’t have to be extremely long, but even 10 minutes of quiet and calm will make a world of difference on how the day unfolds. Wake up a half hour earlier and make time to get in touch with your goals for the day and what you hope to accomplish. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be bothered, and take advantage of that time to focus on breathing and just being in the moment.

Write it down – Writing down your thoughts for the day can help to rid your mind and body of unwanted stressors that bog you down. Getting it all out of your head and down on paper has a calming effect that makes any situation seem better. You can do this in the morning or when you are winding down during the evening hours. Just pick a time that feels comfortable for you and make it a daily routine.

Read a good book – Read one of your favorite, uplifting books to help calm your mind from a long, demanding day and to prepare you for a restful nights sleep. If you’re not into reading that much, you can always choose the audio version of the book and listen while you relax. You can also get up early in the morning and choose this time to read, if that is what fits your schedule.

There are numerous ways to maintain a set of healthy habits in your daily routine. If you can find a way to carve out a little quiet, relaxing “you” time on a daily basis, not only will you make daily stresses more manageable, but also improve your productivity, concentration and overall health. You just need to plan ahead and take action to make your life as calm and stress free as you want it to be. Find out what activities fit your family life and schedule, and then set some goals for everyone involved. Your whole family can benefit from this, and you will see a noticeable difference in the stress level all around.



How Yoga Helps Burn Fat

Yoga is not as easy or simple and static as many think. It is actually physically demanding and after spending 30 to 60 minutes striking and locking different yoga poses, you will realize this. Not only that, but there are different forms of yoga that exist too – some are more intense than others.

What is more important in regards to achieving weight loss with yoga exercises is what particular positions you are performing.

Here are a few examples of some great fat burning yoga poses:

The Cobra

This is one of the easiest and most effective yoga poses that exist. It not only aids with weight loss, but it helps to tighten the abdominal and buttocks muscles as well. Tightening of the mid-section also contributes towards that thinner look that you may be shooting for.

Lie down with your face to the ground. Put your hands onto your shoulders with your palms facing down and spread your fingers apart from each other. Then, begin pressing through your hands, bringing your head up, and then let your chest and upper back follow. This lift will take your body off the mat. While performing this movement, you should be looking ahead and your shoulder blades should be kept low and back. You will then want to push the shoulders back and let the stretch transmit evenly all throughout your spine.

You just have to take a few deep breathes when performing this pose and then you can return to the beginning position, where you lie face down on the ground.

The Bow

This one is a bit harder to pull off, but it can seriously help with weight loss and it helps to tone the abs, arms, and legs.

Lie on your belly and create a bend in your knees while reaching past them and grabbing your feet. Breathe your stomach in and stretch the feet upward, while simultaneously lifting the upper part of your body. Make sure that while doing this your shoulder blades are kept low and back.

Lock this pose in and take some deep breathes before going back to your relaxed starting position.

Other Poses

These are just two of the many effective yoga poses that exist. Take a look at this list of yoga exercises to find out about more poses that will help you with losing weight and shrinking down your mid-section, as well as strengthening your body and mind.


Healthy Summer Smoothies That Taste Great

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You already know the delicious, frosty, sweetness of a fruit smoothie, but you pass it up because you don’t want to undo all the hard work you’ve done to lose weight and keep your calories under control. Healthy smoothies don’t always taste good. Wouldn’t it be great to have the best of both worlds? You can have a delicious smoothie that is also good for you if you mix the right ingredients. You can’t go wrong with fresh fruit, raw vegetables, and berries blended to a smooth, cold, refreshing drink. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your favorite healthy smoothie.

Strawberries and bananas always go well together. The sweet tangy flavor of the strawberry is complimented by the delicious smoothness of the banana. You won’t have to add any sugar to enjoy a sweet treat if you combine these two fruits. Fill your blender with one banana, one cup of ice, a cup of 1 percent or low-fat milk, half a dozen sliced strawberries and top it off with a few tablespoons of low-fat plain yogurt. Blend until all the ingredients are mixed to a smooth texture. Pour it in a tall glass and enjoy!

Berry lovers will really enjoy a mixed berry smoothie made from blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Blend with ice, low-fat yogurt, some spinach leaves and 1 percent milk for a low-calorie, high fiber, vitamin packed super drink. Mix different berries and try different combinations of berries until you find just the right combination to stimulate your taste buds and satisfy your berry craving.

If you are concerned about getting enough protein from your smoothie, you may consider adding a spoonful of peanut butter, almond butter, or your favorite protein or whole food powder to your smoothie mixture. Use all natural or organic peanut or almond butter, if you can find it. Of course, if you have nut allergies, you should not use any product that contains peanuts. Opt instead for fruits and vegetables that are higher in protein, such as watercress or apricots, currants or prunes. These fruits and vegetables add additional fiber to your diet as well as protein.

A healthy smoothie made with fresh fruits and low-fat yogurt is delicious as is, or you can add a few of your favorite veggies to punch up the vitamins and minerals. Add the juice of some raw carrots and celery for extra fiber and vitamins without adding too many calories. Carrots, spinach leaves, and celery will enhance the flavor of the fruits without overpowering them.



4 Fun Ways You Can Burn More Calories

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The truth of the matter is that everything we do, from walking up and down the stairs to house cleaning, burns calories. While we can think of many different ways to expend more calories, the fact remains that burning more calories than we consume is the key to weight loss. Most of us associate burning those calories with painful and dreaded methods in doing so. That does not mean, however, that we cannot have fun while losing weight and getting in great shape. Here then are four fun ways to burn more calories.

Sleep It Off

Although you may find it difficult to shut your mind off at night, did you know that getting a solid eight hours of sleep every night can burn well over 350 calories a night. It pays to get into a sleep-inducing routine every evening. By setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep about an hour or two before settling in, not only do you get a healthy body, mind, and spirit, you also have the opportunity to burn calories without moving a muscle. Now, that is a win-win situation.

Grow a Garden

Even if you do not have a green thumb, the benefits of growing a garden are numerous. You will have the benefit of trying something new and no matter how big or small, you’re sure to achieve success. Gardening gives you the bonus of seeing something through from beginning to end. Whether you grow flowers or vegetables, you get to see the birth of something new and gardening has the potential to help you burn up to 300 calories per hour. Getting outside in the fresh air and being creative also clarifies the mind.

Power Walking

If you enjoy going for a leisurely stroll, why not take it up a notch. Power walking is not only fun, but also can be a great excuse to meet up with neighbors. Reach out to someone who is likely to be interested in walking but is at the same level as you. So if you are a beginner walker, do not get together with someone who is an avid runner or power walker. Begin with a beginner. As you go along, you will see that you are able to navigate hills and walk for longer time periods. All types of walking are ideal for the mind, body, soul, and for burning calories while having a fun conversation with your neighbor.

Skip the Car Wash

Rather than running the car through the car wash, gather your family around and make it a family affair. Not only will you save money by washing the car yourself, you will also burn calories and spend time with your family. Washing your car can be fun, especially at the end when everyone gets the opportunity to wet each other with the hose – and you have the possibility of burning more than 100 calories.


The Top 5 Teas for Good Health

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Tea is hot, healthy and refreshing. Not only is it loaded with beneficial nutrients but it also contains very little, if any, calories which means you can enjoy multiple cups each day without gaining weight. Plus, there are plenty of varieties to choose from, so there’ll definitely be a tea out there that matches your taste buds. In this article, I’ll be listing five of the healthiest teas you should try.

1. Black Tea

Black tea has a strong, distinctive flavor and can be enjoyed hot or cold and drank with or without milk. There are two main reasons why black tea is so good for you. First, it contains powerful antioxidants that can help decrease the risk of many different cancers. . Second, it contains high levels of flavan-3-ols (a group of powerful phytonutrients that are also referred to as catechins or flavanols), which can help lower several risk factors that contribute to heart disease. To reap the health benefits of black tea, look for varieties such as Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Darjeeling.

2. Ginger Tea

Ginger tea is an herbal infusion that uses the power of ginger to boost your health. It has a warm, spicy flavor and is an excellent choice if you want to clear your throat. Since it contains ginger, this herbal infusion has no flavan-3-ols but does supply your body with lots of copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.  Drinking ginger tea offers numerous health benefits, some of which include improving digestion, alleviating nausea, enhancing circulation, and reducing pain and inflammation. Add a little honey or sliced lemon for a more pleasant flavor.

3. Green Tea

Green tea is probably the most popular tea in health and fitness circles and is regularly praised for its strong antioxidant content, cancer fighting properties and weight loss benefits. In fact, according to Medical News Today, one study shows that subjects who consumed green tea and caffeine lost an average of 2.9 pounds over 12 weeks, all while maintaining their normal diet. Green tea also has a light vegetal taste, which is both unique and refreshing. Like black tea, green tea is very hydrating and is also packed full of flavan-3-ols.

4. Rooibos Tea

Rooibos is an herbal infusion that tastes similar to black tea but is slightly sweeter. It contains zero calories and because of this, it’s a great choice just before bed. In terms of nutrition, rooibos tea contains large amounts of flavan-3-ols, phenolic compounds and the antioxidants aspalathin and nothofagin.

5. White Tea

White tea is a lesser known tea that is slowly gaining popularity in the Western world. It has a mild but fruity flavor and is a satisfying alternative to green tea. White tea comes from the same plant as black tea and green tea and contains the highest concentration of flavan-3-ols of all three.

By drinking these five teas on a regular basis, you can enjoy a wide range of health benefits which include cancer prevention, enhanced energy levels, a healthy heart, reduced stress levels, stronger bones and teeth and much more. So get the kettle on, brew up and start hydrating with tea today.

4 Healthy Holiday Fitness Tips

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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.


Prevent & Treat Common Workout Injuries

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Whether you are in top shape or a beginner, a workout injury can happen to anyone. You can experience an injury even when you are walking. A sprained joint or injured muscle can side-line you for days or even weeks. You can and should take steps to help reduce your risk of injury before and after every workout. The most common types of workout injuries include:

  • strained muscles
  • sprained ankles or other joints
  • knee injuries
  • wrist and shoulder injuries
  • tendinitis

Warm-up your muscles and joints before exercise and a cool-down after your workout can greatly reduce your risk of muscle and joint injury. Cool-down by doing light exercise until your heart rate and respiration return to normal. Stretch your muscles and joints again. Stretching after a workout helps to reduce the levels of lactic acid and other metabolic waste in your muscle cells, which is thought to contribute to post-exercise muscle soreness.

Don’t push yourself too hard during a workout. Know your body and  your limits. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workout by working harder, longer or increasing repetitions. Soon your strength and endurance will increase which can also help reduce your risk of injury.

Cross training is another good way to increase muscle strength, improve endurance and reduce your risk of injury. Shin splints and tendinitis are injuries that usually result from repetitive motions and over-use of one muscle or muscle group. Always rest at least 24 hours between workouts to give your muscles time to heal. For example, if you run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, try some light weight lifting on Tuesday and Thursday. Vary your workout so that all of your major muscle groups get a workout, but no single muscle or muscle group is over-worked.

If you do suffer an injury, remember R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate. Rest your injured muscle. Don’t work it until the injury is completely healed. You can still work your other muscles or engage in exercise that does not stress your injury. For example, if you injure your shoulder lifting weights, switch your workout to leg presses or walk and jog until your shoulder is fully healed. Apply ice to the injured area to reduce swelling. Applying a compression bandage to the affected joint or muscle also helps reduce swelling. Elevate injured limbs to further help reduce swelling. Use a mild over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication if necessary. Most exercise injuries will heal in a few weeks or even in a few days. See your doctor if your injury does not heal, pain increases or does not subside, or if there is swelling and bruising around the injured area.


Core Strengthening with a Fitness Ball

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Your core muscles are important for stabilization of your body, especially your lower back and pelvis. Your core muscles help maintain proper posture which can help prevent back pain and fatigue. A strong core helps improve your overall fitness and endurance. If you have a strong core, everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, walking long distances or sitting for hours at a desk, becomes easier to tolerate. Incorporate an exercise ball into your abdominal strength training exercises to improve the effectiveness of your workout and add some variety.

Crunches are the bread and butter of abdominal exercises. You can do crunches on an exercise ball by sitting on the ball. Place your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Your thighs should be parallel with the floor. Lean back and then pull your body to return to a sitting position using your ab muscles. Cross your arms over your chest to help maintain your balance.

Follow a set of crunches with the bridge exercise on a fitness ball. Lie on your back and rest your calves on top of the exercise ball. Keep your feet together. Squeeze your abs tight and then lift your buttocks off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then relax. Try to do 10 repetitions of this exercise. Make this exercise more effective by resting only your heels on the ball.

Choose a ball that is big enough so that when you sit on it your thighs are parallel with the floor. You can reduce the air pressure to more fully engage all of your ab muscles.


Cool-Down and Get Fit with Water Aerobics

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Swimming is a fun way to get a good workout for your whole body and improve your strength and endurance. You can strengthen and tone all the muscles in your body, increase your flexibility and improve your posture. Swimming is also virtually no impact so even if you have arthritis or an injury, you can do water exercises, with your doctor’s approval. Water aerobics is a good choice for people who have joint problems and overweight people because the water supports your weight.

You don’t have to know how to swim to enjoy the benefits of water aerobics. Swimming alone is an aerobic exercise that helps to improve your cardiovascular health, burns calories which contributes to weight loss, and firms and tones muscles in your whole body. Aerobic activity, such as water aerobics, can help reduce your risk of a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), sater-based exercise is good for people who suffer from arthritis because movement lessens the pain. The water supports your body while you exercise which virtually eliminates stress on the joints.

Resistance exercises will help firm and tone your muscles, but if your taunt muscles are hidden under a layer of fat, no one can see them. Water aerobics is a great way to burn calories for weight loss while you firm and tone your muscles. According to the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.com), a 160 pound person can burn more than 400 calories per hour doing water aerobics. A 240 pound person can burn as much as 600 calories during 1 hour of water aerobics. If you do nothing but tread water you can burn 11 calories per minute. Resistance exercise is a good way to strengthen your muscles and build muscle. Water-based exercise is not only aerobic for fat burning, it is also a form of resistance exercise that can build muscle. The water pushes back against your body even as it supports your weight. When doing water aerobics you can use devices, such as hand paddles, water dumbbells and flotation devices to help add more resistance to your exercise routine.

There is a very low risk of injury when you do water aerobics. The buoyancy of the water protects and supports your bones and joints. You don’t have to worry about impact as water aerobics, and water-based exercise generally, causes virtually no impact on your bones. If you are pregnant or if you suffer from any chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or osteoporosis, see your doctor before you begin any exercise program.


Hangover Help

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Hangover prevention and cures are basically myths, yet they persist. If you plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a pint, or two, remember to drink in moderation! There is little you can do to prevent a hangover except to drink in moderation. Once you’ve over-indulged and wake up the next morning with a hangover, rest, fluids and mild pain relievers are your best hope for feeling better. Some hangover remedies are not only ineffective, they may also be harmful. Think before you drink and enjoy your celebration with moderation.

Why does alcohol cause such misery? Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it removes fluids from your body which can lead to dehydration. Re-hydrating your body with water and sports drinks can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of a hangover. Your upset stomach may also be a result of drinking too much. Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach, which leads to nausea.  Drink a glass of water between alcohol drinks to help prevent dehydration. Drinking a glass of water between alcohol drinks also slows you down so you don’t over-indulge.

One hangover cure that won’t go away is to treat a hangover with hair of the dog.  The worst thing you can do to alleviate your hangover symptoms is to drink more alcohol. A drink in the morning might help you feel better for a little while, but soon your symptoms can return worse than before you took that drink. Drink water to re-hydrate your body or have a glass of orange juice or tomato juice — without the vodka.

Another myth that won’t go away is eat a heavy, greasy breakfast to cure a hangover. There is no medical evidence to support the claim that greasy foods, such as sausage and bacon, help cure a hangover. In fact, heavy, greasy foods or spicy sausage might irritate your already upset stomach and make you feel worse. Despite your miserable symptoms you need to re-hydrate and fuel your body after a night of partying. Eat a light breakfast of oatmeal, cereal, banana or toast.

Strong coffee won’t cure a hangover or help sober you up. If you wake up with a hangover, you might want to skip the coffee. The caffeine in coffee causes your blood vessels to constrict, which can exacerbate your headache. Regular coffee drinkers might suffer withdrawal, which can make a hangover headache worse. Drink one cup of coffee to get your morning fix and then drink water. Wait about 1 hour and if you feel okay, maybe have a second cup of coffee but no more.

Avoid a hangover completely by drinking in moderation. You may feel like laying on the sofa or staying in bed all day if you have a hangover, and that is exactly what you should do. Rest, water and time are the only things that cure a hangover.