Tag Archives: healthy living

Exercise Your Way to Better Health in the Pool

People with certain physical limitations cannot participate in running, jogging, walking, biking, gym workouts, sports activities, and other high-impact exercise routines. However, there is still an option for them to maintain a healthy, physically active lifestyle.

Swimming is an ideal exercise for those with limitations as well as for healthy adults. It is a low-impact aerobic exercise that builds strength and improves cardio abilities and is a total body-strengthening workout since all parts of the body are used. Swimming helps your body to use oxygen more effectively, improving lung capacity and building endurance. And it decreases the risk of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. As for weight loss, Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor of medicine who studies the role of physical activity in disease prevention says “Recreational swimming will burn about the same calories as brisk walking.”

Besides swimming, there are other water-based exercises that are great options:

  • Water aerobics –These are simply mild exercise and movements done in an indoor or outdoor pool. Some might be apprehensive about water aerobics because they are not strong swimmers or do not swim at all, but these classes (which may be offered by YMCAs, private clubs, or sports clubs) do not involve actual swimming but other water exercises instead. They are led by an instructor who will guide participants and show them what to do. There are different levels that may be offered: beginning, medium, or advanced-level classes. These are usually held in the shallow part of a pool where members stand while doing the exercises, but deep-water exercises may be an option as well.  Accessories that may be used are items like kickboards, foam noodles, and water dumbbells (made of foam and plastic). Often, the classes are accompanied by recorded music and are done with a group, so participants can enjoy getting to know other participants.
  • Acquapole® – A newer water fitness exercise, pole dancing or Aquarobics, began in Italy in 2010 when water fitness instructor Monica Spagnuolo and Stefania Manfredi developed an apparatus consisting of a steel pole that fits into a red base and can be applied to the bottom of a swimming pool through a system of suction pads. This more intense water activity has spread to Australia and other countries and can be found in some US cities but is not yet widespread in the United States. With over 20 “holds” and 150 different exercises, Acquapole® Fitness offers participants a variety of training sessions that can work on all muscle bands: legs, arms, and core.
  • Silver Sneakers – offers water aerobics classes like Splash or Water in Motion for all skill levels—even non-swimmers. Splash involves  the use of signature splash-boards to increase movement and intensity options. (Silver Sneakers is fitness program for older adults  and is available at no cost under some supplement plans.

Whether swimming or participating in water aerobics, the buoyancy of the water reduces the amount of stress put on the weight-bearing joints of the legs and enables the participant to do a full range of movements and exercise that they might not be able to do on land.

The great thing about swimming and other water exercises is that they can be done by those of any age, weight, or body type.  And you can get the exercise without the sweat that goes along with gym workouts and other high-intensity exercises. If health conditions prevent you from participating in high-impact exercise activities, just grab a bathing suit and find a swimming pool.

The Benefits of Having Healthy Employees

According to statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services, less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Persistent job stress and inactivity of employees in most workplaces contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Large corporations first offered wellness programs to their employees as a benefit, but as the fitness trend has grown each year, many smaller businesses have implemented programs, devices, and equipment to help employees become healthier.

Adjustable sitting/standing desks, balance balls, desk treadmills, and other devices as well as wellness programs can now be found in many office environments to help promote the health and well-being of employees. Businesses are implementing employee wellness programs because they like the benefits of having healthier employees.

What are the benefits of offering wellness programs, installing fitness centers, or other health-related equipment in an office environment? Many benefits are not measurable, but the following are among the reasons a business might start a wellness program:

  • Lower healthcare costs – Healthcare professionals have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of healthcare spending is for problems of chronic disease associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices—improper nutrition, too little exercise, or smoking, which costs American businesses more than one trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. From 22 studies that examined the costs of wellness programs and healthcare costs, it was found that for every dollar spent on wellness programs $3.27 was saved because of reduced healthcare costs.
  • Fewer lost work days – Healthier workers miss fewer days from work due to illness.
  • Lower stress levels – Neck, back, wrist, and arm fatigue as well as eye strain from sitting and staring at a computer during work hours contributes to fatigue and stress on the job. Exercise during wellness programs helps to dissipate stress, ease muscle strain, and provide relaxing moments—promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Promotes teamwork – Employees participating together in a wellness program are more likely to develop a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork which enhances the company culture and causes the employee to value the company more. Workplace wellness programs show that companies value and appreciate their employees and the employees are more loyal to their company.
  • Improved work performance and longer retention of employees – Since exercise increases one’s ability to focus and provides more energy to perform daily activities, employees are more productive at work. Employees who have a greater sense of well-being and who feel valued by their employers are more likely to stay with their companies.

More recent studies of wellness programs in 2019 cast doubt on the benefits the programs actually produce, but many factors go into how wellness programs are initiated and supported by the businesses and corporations that started them.

There have been many studies which have examined the results and benefits of wellness programs. One study that looked at nearly 200,000 wellness program participants showed that 5 out of 7 health risks improved after one year.

One thing seems certain: Companies will end programs from which they derive no benefit for their employees or their “bottom line.” The benefits of a workplace wellness program outweigh the costs.

Airport Gyms and Fitness Vacations – Exercise On the Go Part 2!

Being away from home or traveling is not a reason to lose the gains you have made by starting an exercise/fitness routine. Here are more ways to continue to maintain your exercise goals.

At Airport Terminals

If you have a long layover at an airport, you can walk laps around the inside of the terminal (wear or pack walking shoes in your carry-on luggage). You can leave your luggage at the lost luggage counter (the most common place to leave it since they have the necessary storage space there), and the attendants will keep an eye on it for a daily fee. Many airports also have coin-operated luggage lockers.

If you are one of those people who aren’t motivated to exercise when traveling unless it is in a gym-type setting around others who are working out, you will find more options than you might expect. Fitness/workout centers are not as lucrative for airports as restaurants and stores, but that may be changing. These pioneers in US airport gyms are among the best available to work out while you wait for your flight:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – Features free 24-hour Yoga studio with free use of yoga mats and a looping DVD with instruction as well as a LiveWell Walking Path (measuring seven-tenths of a mile) and includes two 55-foot high staircases for an extra cardio challenge. (In Terminal D)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – The Westin WORKOUT Fitness studio in the Westin Hotel is connected to the World Gateway Terminal in the Delta hub. Non-hotel guests can use the gym for a modest fee and rent shoes, t-shirts, and shorts.
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport – Roam Fitness in the terminal (after security, between concourses D and E) – You can rent workout clothes and shoes, and you can shower after your workout. They have healthy meals and recovery drinks available as well.
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – They have a 1.4 mile walking path located at the Lindbergh Terminal (starting at the intersection of the C and D concourses.
  • San Francisco International Airport – Yoga room – This self-led practice studio is open 24 hours at no charge. Yoga mats are also available. (Located just past security in Terminal 2)

These gyms offer day passes to use their facilities at reasonable prices.

Leave Nothing to Chance

You can be sure to maintain your fitness routine if your travel vacation is paired with planned fitness activities. Fitness-themed vacations have grown in popularity in the last ten years. These are some of the travel sites offering fitness activities plus active tourist adventures.

  • Active Escapes – Offers fitness retreats to destinations such as Bali, Barbados, South Africa, Australia, Greece, and other exotic destinations. Professional trainers provide daily training sessions and activities designed for the location. All costs included in the trip price.
  • Fit and Fly Girl (for women) – Hosts fitness, wellness, and cultural retreats for women in locations around the world. Provides accommodations, fitness classes, healthy and delicious food, wellness activities, spa treatments, cultural excursions, entertainment, and time to care for oneself while creating new friendships with other women.
  • Jungle Bay Dominica Fitness Boot Camp – Enjoy fitness activities while also exploring the beaches and jungles of Dominica. Instructor-led fitness regimes, hikes, and yoga sessions as well as snorkeling, kayaking, cooking classes, etc.
  • Big Sky Yoga Retreats – In Montana where you will have yoga sessions, Nordic ski lessons, meditation, and wildlife watching. In winter, you can also enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides while you’re having your dinner!
  • Backroads – Active vacations with biking, hiking, multi-adventure tours. Trips are organized based on different levels and abilities, catering to singles, families, or private groups.

 

 

Staying Fit While Traveling – Exercise On the Go Part 1

Many things happen during the summer months that break or interfere with our usual routines: vacations, trips, weddings in different cities or locations, visiting relatives and friends, and unexpected events that require us to leave home. These things may be a welcome change, but all too often, they are used as an excuse to stop the diet and/or exercise routine we have so faithfully been following.

No Excuses 

Skip the excuses and admit that you can exercise and keep up your level of fitness with little or no equipment other than your own body. Some of the most effective workout exercises can be done using only your own body weight. You just need to choose exercises that use as many muscle groups at once as possible and expend the greatest amount of energy (rather than exercising one muscle at a time) as this takes less time overall and achieves maximum results. Some of those exercises are listed below, and they can be done in a hotel room or just about anywhere within a small amount of space:

Have just six minutes to get in your on-the-go exercise? Here is a six-minute, high intensity interval training(HIIT), full-body workout that seems guaranteed to keep your fitness level up.

As long as you have your cell phone with you, you have an unlimited source of free apps and YouTube exercise videos to choose from.

Plan Ahead

Prior to traveling to your destination, whether on business or for pleasure, check out scenic attractions in the area and see if there are walking tours that will take you by these attractions, or use a map to plan your own walking tour. It won’t feel like exercise because you are exploring a new location. Some cities have bike-share programs, so you could rent a bike for an hour or so and exercise while you explore a park or other scenic part of town.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article where we’ll talk about which airports have gyms in them and a few of our favorite fitness vacations!

 

 

 

How Our Nutrition Needs Change Over Time

Experiencing changes in our bodies as we get older is expected; some we dread and try to prevent, and others we wear as a badge of honor.

As we advance in years, we experience changes in the amount of sleep we need, how quickly we feel full when eating, how quickly we heal, and our ability to see, hear, and even taste. Our risk for injury goes up, and we have a decline in immune function. Some changes, we can’t control, but the good news is that some we can control and taking the initiative to educate ourselves and make the right choices can have a profound effect on our total health and wellness, and even our longevity.

Nutrition is a vital element of overall health and affects the entire process of aging. Nutritional status in older adults has become increasingly recognized for its connection with many morbid conditions such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer.  A great nutritional status can prevent some chronic and acute diseases and impacts the ability to heal.

Unfortunately, malnutrition is regularly diagnosed among older individuals in spite of the fact that it is often preventable. One common change many people undergo is a declining appetite, and when you consider that older adults have the same or greater nutritional requirements than they did when young, you begin to see the problem. The quality of the food we are eating is extremely important as we enter those golden years.

Physical changes older adults experience can result in nutrient deficiencies.  A decreasing quantity of stomach acid reduces the ability to absorb vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, and iron which further indicates the importance of getting enough of those nutrients.

Older adults should ask their doctors if vitamin supplements might be necessary to help prevent dietary deficiencies. Also, to increase these critical vitamins, consider eating these foods that will boost B12, calcium, magnesium, and iron:

Foods Rich in Vitamin B12

  • Eggs
  • Beef, chicken, and liver
  • Fish and shellfish – salmon, tuna fish, trout, and clams
  • Fortified breakfast cereal

Foods Rich in Calcium

  • Cheese (Parmesan is very high in calcium)
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Sardines and canned salmon
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards)
  • Fortified food and drinks

Foods Rich in Magnesium

  • Avocados
  • Legumes (chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils, soybeans, black and white beans, kidney beans, peanuts)
  • Bananas
  • Seed (pumpkin seed, chia, sunflower seed, flax seed)
  • Nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios,)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Fatty fish (salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, halibut)
  • Tofu
  • Whole grains

Foods Rich in Iron

  • Beans (kidney, lima, navy)
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Molasses
  • Spinach
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Brown rice
  • Dark chocolate

To ensure that older adults are eating well-rounded diets, it is vital for them to choose a variety of whole foods that are rich in nutrients rather than high in calories. Lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy foods, whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables should be chosen over foods like white bread, biscuits, and desserts such as pie, cookies, cake, and candy.

Consumption of sweet tea and fruit juices, as well as soft drinks, also needs to be minimized. Older adults may be less able to recognize hunger and thirst which can lead to dehydration and unintentional weight loss. Adult children can help by monitoring or helping their aging parent(s) to track how much they are eating and drinking each day.

Getting older does require more attention to our choices and overall lifestyle, but by staying informed and taking the right steps for our bodies, we can enjoy optimum health at any age.

Ideas to Make Your BBQ Dishes Healthier!

With the start of summer, people are prepping their grills in anticipation of neighborhood get-togethers and fantastic food. Sometimes those classic backyard party foods spell disaster for your diet. While potato salad and fried chicken are tempting, there are so many tantalizing alternatives.

Kerry Neville, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, suggests switching out the more traditional but unhealthy options for healthier ones, adjusting recipes to make those classics lower calorie or more nutritious, or simply limiting portions of your favorites if you simply must have a taste.

Whether you are attending a potluck or hosting a backyard bash of your own, you can create healthy dishes that are sure to be a big hit. Neville says, “Try using broccoli slaw instead of coleslaw, toss in some shredded carrots, and toss with a light, low-fat poppy seed or yogurt dressing for a great salad that will be still be crunchy and delicious and lower in calories than the typical coleslaw.”

Summer brings a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be incorporated into your menu plan. If there will be grilling at your outing, provide some fresh zucchini and squash, mushrooms, onions, and peppers to toss on the grill.

The author of the Sonoma Diet, Connie Guttersen, RD, says, “Vegetable salads (excluding lettuces) prepared ahead of time will taste even better the next day after their flavors have had time together.” As a dipping option, she also recommends that you try one of the many whole-grain crisps options available such as oat crisps and whole-grain rice chips instead of high-fat chips.”

Hummus, fat-free bean dip, and salsa are great options that are not deal-breakers for your diet. Consider bringing a simple platter of cut veggies or fruit with a healthy low-fat dip, and celery stuffed with peanut butter or low-fat cheese.

Bring on the Burgers

If burgers are an essential component of your party, consider using lean meat patties or even turkey burgers. The fat content will be much lower. Veggie burgers are also quite tasty and give vegetarians more options at a cookout. Likewise, chicken or turkey hot dogs are also available as are meatballs if you are so inclined.

Most burgers are about 6 ounces, with a payload of 460 calories and 11 grams of saturated fat. And when you count the cheese, bun, and condiments, the typical picnic burger can top upwards of 780 calories! By simply cutting out a couple of ounces to make smaller patties, and using 90% lean meat, you can cut out 231 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat. A turkey burger, even at the larger 6-ounce portion, has a calorie content that is much lower at 289 with only 2.7 grams of saturated fat.

With veggie burgers, it is difficult to provide an accurate calorie content because there are so many different ways and ingredients used to make the patties. However, most veggie burgers without the bun will range from 70-250 calories—still much lower than either lean beef or turkey.

An alternative to burgers and hot dogs is grilled chicken breasts or fish fillets. These are healthy options that taste great and have such versatility when used with marinades and seasonings. One 6-ounce boneless and skinless chicken breast, grilled, will total around 276 calories. Grill a 6-ounce portion of fish and save even more calories with about a 185-calorie total.

What About Wraps?

Another favorite is sandwich wraps. Many people choose a tortilla instead of two slices of bread, thinking they are making a healthier choice. This is actually not true in most cases. Wraps are more condensed than bread and contain a higher fat and calorie content. Two slices of bread contain on average between 70-150 calories, depending on bread type. A tortilla is typically 170-200 calories. So, skip the wraps and just use whole-grain bread instead. You could set out a sandwich construction station where people build their own sandwiches using healthy sandwich stuffers and toppings.

Beverages

Picnics and potlucks usually have lots of soft drinks, sweet tea, and other high-sugar beverage options. Steer clear of those calorie busters, and opt for sparkling, flavored zero-calorie water, unsweetened iced tea, fresh ice water, or other low calorie beverages. Ice water with fresh lemon juice and a little no-calorie sweetener makes a lovely lemonade. If you are providing alcohol, choose spritzers and low-calorie options in lieu of calorie-heavy beer and mixed drinks.

Desserts

Many of us make it through a backyard party congratulating ourselves for our healthy food choices, right up until we see the dessert table. Then it all goes to naught. By choosing guilt-free desserts, you can still satisfy your sweet tooth without regretting it later. How about dishes of berries or peaches with light whipped topping or juicy slices of watermelon? One cup of peaches contains 61 calories. A cup of watermelon has only 47. One cup of strawberries has 49 calories.

If baked goods are a must, go with light angel food cake topped with berries or light whipped topping. One slice of angel food cake (1/12th of 10” diameter) has only 129 calories. By contrast, chocolate cake has 352 calories per slice (1/12th of 9” diameter), and one slice of pecan pie (1/8th of a 9”diameter) packs a punch with 503 calories.

A simple fruit platter with cantaloupe and different types of melons offers a cooling dessert for those wanting to make healthy choices. For a tropical twist, include mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and coconut on your dessert platter.

Think a fruit platter isn’t exciting enough? What better way to cool off on a hot day than with popsicles? Just freeze blended fruit with Greek yogurt and honey in popsicle molds to produce a delicious low-calorie dessert that will cool everyone off and definitely won’t be ordinary!

Bringing healthy food to a potluck or providing those options at your own party is always appreciated, and it is something you can feel good about. You are helping yourself and others as well in your journey to better health.

Alternative Low-Impact Exercise Options

Maybe you are bored with the same old exercise routine and want to try something different. Perhaps you are limited in your exercise choices for health reasons. Whatever the cause, here are some ideas for alternative exercise that might be perfect for a change of pace.

Yoga

Originating in ancient India, yoga has become a popular form of exercise in the modern world. Yoga is widely appealing because just about anyone can do it. This low-impact exercise is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. You may have images of people contorted into strange positions when you think of yoga. The basics in yoga are that you move your body into very specific postures, while focusing on breathing and energy. There is a strong focus on meditation, and many people around the world use yoga as a form of meditation.

The positions, or asanas, vary in complexity and can help develop flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, improve posture, increase core muscle strength, and release tension. Many proponents also claim it can ease pain, improve sleep, enhance mood, prevent cartilage and joint breakdown, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, increase immunity, and help regulate adrenal gland function.

There are many different styles of yoga for every lifestyle. Some classes may be done in a darkened candle-lit room as is sometimes done in Vinyasa yoga. Some rooms where yoga is practiced may be brightly lit with music pumping in the background, as in Power yoga. Other yoga classes may be conducted in a heated room with raised humidity, such as hot yoga and Bikram yoga. Contact your local fitness center to inquire about which types of yoga classes are offered, and they can help you determine which style would best suit your lifestyle and goals. Whatever style you choose to practice, wear non-restrictive clothing to sessions, and bring a towel and some water.

Pilates

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s to help injured athletes return to physical activity safely. At first glance, Pilates may seem similar to yoga because it is also low-impact, and there is a strong focus on different body positions. There is no spiritual aspect to Pilates, and the attention is solely on strengthening muscles, improving flexibility and postural alignment. Most Pilates movements target the core, although a full Pilates workout will work all areas of the body.

The benefits you may see from doing Pilates are improved posture and balance, flexibility and muscle strength, stronger core muscles, relaxation, and lower anxiety, among other things.

Typical Pilates workouts are 45-90 minutes long and may be done on thick mats (thicker than traditional yoga mats) or on machines called “reformers.” Reformers have a large frame with sliding platforms and a stationary footboard. There are straps or cords with springs and pulleys to provide resistance.

When you go to your first class, you may hear some terms that are unfamiliar such as “powerhouse,” which refers to the center of the body where all the power originates to perform movements. Another term, “peel through your spine,” describes slow movement within the spine from vertebra to vertebra. As with yoga, it is a good idea to wear non-restrictive clothing that will facilitate stretching and bring a towel and water.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts that has evolved into a non-competitive, slow series of focused and graceful movements that flow from one to the next. This type of exercise involves a lot of stretching while focusing on breathing deeply. As with yoga, there is a meditative aspect to Tai Chi. It is different from yoga in that your body is in constant but gentle motion. There are different styles of Tai Chi; some are more focused on health improvement and maintenance, while others focus more on the martial arts aspect of Tai Chi.

Because it is low-impact, Tai Chi puts minimal stress on muscles and joints—making it a safe form of exercise for any age or fitness level. Many people who are unable to exercise in traditional ways due to injury or physical limitations find that Tai Chi is an excellent alternative that allows them to stay fit and improve balance, flexibility, energy, agility, and stamina. Tai Chi is also practiced as a way to improve muscle strength and definition, to improve mood and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression.

Five Reasons You Need a Workout Buddy.

If you have started a new exercise regimen and are trying to make healthy changes in your lifestyle, kudos to you! Did you know that in addition to a set of earbuds, fit-bit or pedometer, favorite playlist, perhaps new shoes and workout clothes, you are missing something important? That would be your workout buddy. Even if you are a loner who prefers to exercise by yourself, you should really give serious consideration to finding another person to share your workout.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. The obvious reason most people find a workout buddy is motivation. On those days when you aren’t quite feeling it, and you don’t want to go to the gym or face whatever fitness challenges await you,  a workout buddy can hold you accountable and keep you from slacking off. It’s important that you choose someone who will push you and not let your laziness convince him/her to also skip the workout. Make sure your workout buddy has a schedule that is compatible with your own, or it’s doomed from the start.
  2. Your workout will be safer with a partner. If you are working out in the gym, your buddy can help you avoid injury. He/she can spot you when bench-pressing, and keep an eye on your form. Even the most experienced can lose focus and fall into improper form when attention is on completing repetitions. Having someone with you is an important way to avoid that and prevent potential injuries. Even if you are exercising outside the gym, doing it with a workout buddy is always safer in case you run into trouble.
  3. The competition will keep you running at full force, giving it your all. Many of us have a competitive streak, and working out with a partner helps to keep you at the top of your game because we don’t want to be the “weakest” link. There is actually a term for this; it’s called the Köhler Effect, and there have been studies  about it. They proved that when people work out with a partner who is in better shape than they are, they tend to perform better. So, choosing a buddy who is fitter than you will also motivate you to work out harder and longer than you might on your own.
  4. Most of us are creatures of habit. We tend to fall into the same routine, and after a while, it can get boring. Your workout buddy can introduce you to new exercises and new paths if you are into running, cycling,  walking, and other things that keep your workout fresh and interesting. Sharing what you know with each other can introduce variety into your exercise and make it more fun.
  5. Last, but not least, working out with a buddy is like a free therapy session. More than likely, you will eventually begin to share stories about things that happen at work or home,  and it’s a chance to get things off your chest and hear another person’s perspective on the situations you are dealing with. Even if you don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information, just having someone to chat with and share a few laughs while you exercise keeps you socially engaged, boosts your immune system, and decreases stress hormones.

So, start thinking about who would make a good workout buddy, and go ask him or her to meet up for your next workout!

Gardeners Rejoice!

How Gardening is Good For You

This is the time of year when yards come alive and we gardeners once again plan our gardens and begin selecting the beautiful flowers and vegetables that will fill our outdoor spaces. But the rewards we reap are not only colorful yards and tasty food that we have grown ourselves. Gardening is also wonderful for your health. It’s a great way to get that vitamin D which our bodies create when we spend time in the sun. By gardening, you can boost your endurance and strength, as well as flexibility.

benefits of gardening

Another terrific aspect of gardening is that you can burn a lot of calories as you are preparing the soil, tilling and hoeing, digging and planting, and weeding and pruning. These activities are a great way to work some good cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine.

Jeff Restuccio who wrote Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way says it’s a good idea to alternate the more physically challenging gardening activities with the lighter work for a more structured exercise workout. He suggests, for example, raking for a while, then digging holes, then pruning.

As you do your “gardening exercise,” concentrate on deep breathing, and for a real boost in calorie burning, exaggerate your movements to increase the range of motion. For example, while raking or digging, stretch further than you usually would. This can increase your calorie burning from 100-200 per hour up to 500 per hour according to Restuccio. The actual number of calories burned varies with age, weight, and how much muscle you have. The heavier you are, the more calories you will burn. The younger you are, the more calories you’ll burn. Also, muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you have a more muscular build, you will also burn more calories.

In addition, try switching back and forth between hands when raking. Rake with your right hand 15 times, then do 15 times with your left hand. This will ensure both sides of your body are getting an equal work out.

For people who don’t consider gardening a real workout, Restuccio says, “If you think double digging (going down a foot, turning the soil over, then down another foot, bringing that soil to the top) isn’t exercise, you haven’t tried it.”

One of the best things about working in the garden, aside from the actual harvest, is that you can do it with the whole family. Get the kids and the grandparents out in the garden and let everyone participate. Make it a bonding activity that all can share, and in the process, everyone can get healthier too!

Some gardening safety tips:

  • Remember to stretch before you begin; gardening is exercise, and you can just as easily injure a muscle gardening as you can working out in the gym.
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated and use sunscreen.
  • To avoid hurting your back or knees, use a cushion when working close to the ground.
  • Instead of sitting on your heels, try to keep your back straight and be sure to stand and stretch every 10 minutes or so.
  • When choosing your shovel or spade, look for one that is lightweight and has a long handle.
  • Don’t overload your shovel when digging, and remember to bend at the knee, stepping forward when you raise and dump each shovel full of dirt.
  • While bending to pick up tools or heavy bags, bend at the knees and hips to avoid back strain.

What to Know if You Want to Start Cycling

Have you been thinking of investing in a new bike and getting your exercise on two wheels? It’s a great workout that is less jarring on joints than running or aerobics and may provide an excellent alternative. This sport has become so popular that nearly every city has plentiful routes for biking that will give you the chance to enjoy a scenic ride while you burn calories and build coordination and muscle strength.

how to get started cycling

Before you buy that new bike, here are some good things to know:

BUY LOCAL
You can save a lot of money buying through your local bike shop. Its employees will fit your bike to you to ensure it is a good match for you considering frame size and seat height. More than likely, they will also throw in a free service period for you, answer your questions, and provide information about local bike routes and cycling clubs in your area.

COMFORT NOT COST
Test ride the bike before you buy, and go for the best fit, not the best deal. Though it might seem counterintuitive, you don’t want a cushy soft saddle. Your weight will eventually settle down through it, leaving your rump resting on the hard piece below. It’s wiser to select a saddle that is firm and narrow which offers better support. You can wear padded spandex leggings that offer comfort. Although you may be a little sore that first week or two, you will acclimate to the seat and the discomfort will subside.

CONSIDER PURPOSE
Buy a bike with the gearing you will need for the type of riding you plan to do. While the off-road mountain trails can be very appealing, most new cyclists opt for street cycling, as it is the most accessible form of cycling and the most common. The bikes are lighter weight with skinny tires.

ESSENTIAL GEAR
Helmet: You should always wear a helmet when riding no matter what. Helmets have a shelf-life, so rather than dragging that old one out of the closet, it’s safer to buy a new one. There are safety standards set by the government, and the newer helmets will meet those standards. Try them all on to see which style you prefer, and which fits your head best.

Kit: The term for the typical “outfit” cyclists wear is called a “kit.”It consists of a jersey, matching padded bike shorts or bib shorts, and socks. These clothes are aerodynamic and help regulate body temperature. In addition, they will wick away sweat to avoid chafing. They come in an endless assortment of colors and styles.

Shoes: Athletic shoes are fine for a beginning cyclist, but with time, you may opt to switch to cycling shoes with clipless pedals. It takes some getting used to, so it is best to practice when you make this transition; as your pedals have a small catch to receive the cleat of your shoe, holding it in place so your feet can’t slide around or off the pedals. These specialized, stiff-soled shoes increase the efficiency of your pedaling by maximizing the transfer of energy from your legs to the pedal, especially during the upstroke. Your hamstrings assist with the stroke as your foot remains attached to the pedal when pulling up.

Gloves: If you haven’t ridden a bike in a while, you may not remember how blistered your hands can get from the pressure of holding on to the handlebar. Gloves are great for protecting your hands not only from blisters but also if you should have a fall.

Glasses: While protecting your eyes not only from the sun but also from bugs, dust, and debris, glasses will also make the ride much more enjoyable.

Take-alongs: Some important items that savvy cyclists bring with them are spare tubes, a mini pump, tire levers, and a multi-tool. Getting a flat out in the middle of nowhere is no fun,  and knowing how to switch out a tube is essential. There are plenty of how-to videos available online, and you can also ask your local cycle shop to show you how.

If you will be riding in an area with the likelihood of encountering pedestrians, get a bell for your bike, so you can alert people to your approach and prevent accidents. It’s always a good idea to bring one or two bottles of water along to stay hydrated. You might want to invest in a saddlebag to hold all these items.

Once you have your bike and all your gear, and you’re all suited up and ready to go, here are some important things to remember:

  • Start soft. You have nothing to prove. This should be enjoyable, and if you overdo it your first time out, you might lose the drive to keep it going. Start with a low mileage goal of 5-8 miles per ride, and each week add on just a little bit more.
  • Try to ride a few times per week instead of once a week. This will help you adjust to the new bike and gradually increase your fitness and stamina.
  • For the first month or so, try to plan routes that avoid steep hills or are too difficult. Keep it easy and fun.
  • Give yourself time to recuperate between rides. Just as your muscles need time to rest between workouts at the gym, the same is true with cycling. It is important to allow your body to rest and recuperate after a ride. Don’t go two days in a row.
  • Keep a cycling journal to chart your routes, highlights, and challenges and your feelings and experiences along the way. Tracking your progress is important.
  • Check out local cycling groups or see if a friend or co-worker would like to ride with you. It makes the experience even more enjoyable when you share it, and he/she can help you stay motivated on those days you just want to crawl back under the covers.  Lots of cities now host “no-drop” group rides, intended to help beginner cyclists learn group cycling etiquette and showcase local routes.

This sport is remarkably social and enjoyed by supportive enthusiasts who are eager to share their knowledge. Take your time getting to know as much as you can about cycling and the culture that has developed around it. On this journey, you are sure to get healthier and find many new friends along the way.