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.

 

Beat the Winter Blues with Family-Friendly Indoor Fitness Activities

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During those freezing cold winter months when you aren’t able to get outside and it’s hard to muster up the motivation to get out and hit the gym, it can seem nearly impossible to get any exercise in. Activity levels fall to one step above couch potato and we often wonder where the excess weight is coming from. However, not all is lost. You do still have a chance to maintain some form of an exercise routine even when the snow is falling and temps are ridiculously low.

Get moving with video games – this is not a suggestion to sit on the couch and stare at the television all day with a controller in your hand. Systems such as the Wii offer games where you can be up and moving while you are playing. Bowling, tennis, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports are a few games that will not only get your whole family laughing, but also keep everyone active while the snow blows outside.

Create an indoor obstacle course – use your furniture and everyday items around the house to create a fun, unique obstacle course that you all can enjoy. Make it an event the whole family gets involved in, and time how long it takes each person to complete it. The winner gets a prize or gets to choose how the next course will be set up.   Use your imagination and be as creative as you want.

Crank up the music – This may be the one and only time that you don’t yell at the kids to turn the music down. Blast some tunes as loud as you want and make room for a dance floor in the living room. Your whole family will enjoy showing off their moves and will get a workout while they are at it. Step it up a level and have each person create their own unique dance that they perform in front of the whole family.

Indoor bowling competition – turn a hallway into a bowling alley with a few simple steps. Empty soda or water bottles make great pins, and any ball will do. Keep score and see who is the bowling champion. This type of bowling is cheaper AND you don’t have to wear those awful bowling shoes while you play.

Scavenger hunt craziness – This is a perfect indoor activity to keep the kids busy, and it’s a great way to be creative and keep the imaginative juices flowing. Hide a variety of items all through the house and leave clues that the kids have to follow to find them. Whoever finds all items gets to choose a prize or decide what the family will watch on television that night.

Just because it’s cold and nasty outside doesn’t mean you have to give up all forms of exercise. There are many creative ways to stay active indoors and make memorable moments with your family as well. It’s one way to get your family looking forward to those cold, winter days rather than dreading them.

 

 

Fun Family Activities That Get You Fit

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Summer is here and it’s time for holiday family gatherings and fun! Family vacations, weekend getaways or a day trip to the beach with the kids are great opportunities to enjoy family and get some exercise at the same time. Park the car and bike to the park. After the barbecue enjoy some fun games in the back yard with the whole family to burn off those extra calories. This Memorial Day weekend, get the whole family involved in fun fitness.

Have a hula-hoop contest! The kids will love the competition and you will love what hula-hooping does for your abdominal muscles and thighs. Hula-hooping engages your entire mid-section and  your legs. On the count of three everyone start hooping! The person who can hoop the longest wins. You can burn more than 100 calories in just 10 minutes of hula-hooping. Adults will find hula-hooping easier if they use a large hoop. A weighted hoop is even easier to use.

Jumping rope is another way the whole family can have fun and get fit. You and your kids can have a contest to see who can jump rope the longest or the fastest. Use two long ropes with one family member at each end throwing the rope and play double-dutch. Select two or three different types of jumping rope, such as jumping on one foot or double jumps. You kids will have fun and you will burn as many calories as running one mile.

Running is one of the best ways to get fit and burn calories. Why not make it a game? The whole family can play a game of tag on the beach, at the park or in the back yard. Freeze tag is a favorite among children. One person is “it” and chases the others trying to tag them. If you get tagged, you have to stop running, or “freeze,” until another player tags  you again. The child who is “it” wins the game when everyone is frozen. Make it a team sport by several “its” chasing and tagging others.

Staying home this holiday weekend? Play some one-on-one basketball or a game of HORSE in the driveway. Each player gets a shot from the free-throw line. Every time a player makes a basket, he or she gets one letter of the word HORSE. Keep score with sidewalk chalk. If you want a more vigorous workout, you can burn as many as 200 calories in a  half hour playing basketball. Basketball is a high-impact exercise that helps build bones and muscle too. Make sure you warm-up before and cool-down after the game to reduce your risk of a sprained ankle or pulled muscle. Cool off with fruit juice and water to re-energize your body after a vigorous game.

Taking long walks, swimming, biking and playing volleyball at the beach are great ways to spend a summer weekend or holiday while keeping fit. You will not only build muscle and strong bones, you’ll strengthen your relationship with your family and kids.

 

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.

 

Exercise Band Workouts for Your Hips and Thighs

The hips and thighs are difficult to slim and trim, second only to trimming belly fat. You can squat, lunge and extend and still have not get the results you want. Adding an elastic exercise band to your workout might be just the thing that helps improve your workout. Adding extra resistance to your exercise routine improves the effectiveness of your workout. To burn fat, you have to reduce your calories and do aerobic exercise, such as running, jogging, swimming or bicycling.  Do strength training exercises to improve your muscle tone and to add lean muscle mass while strengthening your muscles.

You can find exercise bands in most sporting goods stores or even at your local gym.  They are generally inexpensive, compared to other exercise equipment, and come in a variety of strengths. Beginners should start using bands that offer the least resistance and gradually move to more resistant bands as your strength increases. You can find bands that have handles or no handles. You can attach them to a door frame or a permanent wall anchor. Circular bands that wrap around your ankles or thighs are great for working your lower body while leaving your hands free.

Wrap a circular band around your ankles and lie down on the floor to do band leg extensions. Lie on your back with your legs extended. Squeeze your abs and lift one leg straight up toward the ceiling, stretching the band as you lift your leg. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds and then lower your leg back to the floor. Do 10 to 15 repetitions on each side. As your legs grow stronger, hold the lift up to 10 seconds or do more repetitions. Increase the resistance or the number of repetitions when you can do 12 repetitions without experiencing muscle failure.

Increase the effectiveness of your regular set of squats by adding a medium resistance exercise band. You can use two bands, one secured to each leg, or stand on one long band and hold each end in your hands. Move to your squat position and hold the handles of the exercise band with your palms up (or wrap the band around your hands) until there is slight tension on the bands. Push yourself up from the squat but keep your hands about waist level with your elbows bent and your palms upward. This exercise will not only add resistance to your lower body workout, it is also a great way to strengthen your arms and shoulders. Do 10 to 15 repetitions and then rest for one minute before doing another set of 10 to 15 squats.

Have a seat for this next exercise that will work your inner and outer thighs. Sit in a sturdy chair without arms and wrap an exercise band around your legs just above your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Spread your knees apart pushing against the resistance band. Hold the position for 2 seconds and then relax. Repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions.

Stay Cool & Hydrated During Summer Workouts

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The summer heat is sizzling but you can still enjoy outdoor exercise if you take a few precautions. When it’s hot outside your body sweats to help you cool off and stay cool by evaporating and taking heat away as your sweat evaporates. High humidity can prevent your sweat from evaporating. That’s one of the reasons you feel so miserable on high humidity days. Make sure that you drink enough water to stay hydrated. You can’t rely on how thirsty you feel to stay hydrated, so make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.

Drink 2 eight ounce cups of water before you start exercising outdoors on hot days. Drink another 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Carry a bottle of water if you are biking, walking, jogging or running. When you finish your outdoor workout, drink another 8 ounces of water. You can drink other types of fluids if you get bored with water. Dilute some fruit juice with water or try a sports drink in your favorite flavor. Juice and sports drinks can not only keep you hydrated but also replenish carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes. Many sports drinks increase your blood sugar which can become depleted during exercise. Avoid energy drinks that contain caffeine as these can actually increase dehydration and increase your heart rate.

Don’t push yourself too hard when the temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Exercise indoors in an air conditioned gym if the weather is too hot or humid. Learn the warning signs of heat illness. Muscle cramps, headache, dizziness and fatigue may be signs of serious heat illness. Stop exercising, rest and re-hydrate your body. See a doctor if symptoms persist.

Is Weight Training For You?

Maybe you watch people at the gym, huffing, puffing, grunting and sweating at the weight machines or free weights and think, “No way I want to do that!” You’re not sure you would benefit from lifting weights, especially since you have no desire to look like a body builder.

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You can benefit from lifting weights even if you do it only a couple of times each week. Weight training can help improve your muscle tone, build lean muscle mass and help you lose weight. No matter how old or young you are, weight training is good for you.

As we age, we lose muscle mass. Lost muscle will be replaced by flabby fat if you don’t do something to rebuild lost muscle. Muscle tissue requires more energy to function than other tissues, therefore it uses more calories. Your metabolism will increase slightly as you gain muscle and burn fat. Increased muscle mass also means your endurance will improve. You will be able to work your muscles harder for a longer period of time. Weight training stresses your muscles causing them to adapt, which makes them grow stronger.

Start with a weight that you can lift, but tires your muscles after 10 to 12 repetitions. Beginners should start with one set of 8 to 10 repetitions of any lifting exercise. You should be barely able to lift the weight on the last repetition.  When you can do 12 repetitions without fatigue, increase the weight by adding 2 to 5 pounds.

Learn proper lifting technique before you grab the dumbbells. A fitness trainer can help you learn the correct way to lift so that you enjoy the benefits of weight training while reducing your risk of injury. Don’t forget to warm-up before lifting. Do some light exercise, such as brisk walking or calisthenics.

Rest one full day between weight training workouts. Your muscles need at least one full day to repair and recover. You can work your core, legs and thighs one day, and then your arms, chest, shoulders and upper back on the next day. Your workout can be as long as you feel comfortable exercising. You can exercise for 15 minutes, 20 minutes or longer. Adjust your workout to suit your strength, overall level of fitness and your time schedule.