15 Ways for Success with Your Fitness Regimen

It’s now June… how many of you have kept with your New Year’s pledge to lose weight, perhaps turn your life around? If you’ve fallen off track, that’s no big deal (over 85% of Americans break their New Year’s pledges in under 45 days). In case any of you all need a refresher, or a plan to get over the hump (or just to stay the course), here is my list of 15 ways to have success with any fitness regimen. This is by no means a comprehensive list… but hopefully it will work for you. Now, the list.
There is no shortcut to ideal health (whatever that is for you), no magic pill that lets you hit your five-a-day target and no single exercise that gives you a shredded physique in minutes. It takes time, hard work and an educated approach to get in shape and stay in shape. Following these tips will make your fitness quest (and life) a whole lot easier.

1. Prepping for Success
The better path to a sound diet is found by using your weekends wisely. Use the extra time you have on your weekends to make large batches of healthy meals that you can portion up to cover at least a couple of midweek lunches and dinners, avoiding the certain death of your fitness goals via fast food.

2. Mix Up Your Exercise

Variety is – cliché alert! – the spice of life, and many sports and activities support each other in ways you won’t realise until you try it. For example, strength training for your legs and core will make you a better runner, while those addicted to dumbbells will find Pilates works muscles they’d never even considered.

3. Calibrate Your Fitness Technology
If you invest in a fitness tracker, don’t just sit back and assume that following the preset targets will lead you to glory. Adjust the steps, active minutes and calorie targets regularly to build on your progress, or make them more realistic if you never get close and have started to ignore them. If you don’t engage with your fitness tech, you’ll quickly discard it.

4. Add In Extra Activity
This one of the oldest tricks in the book: take the stairs not the escalator, or get off the bus a stop early and walk. Any activity is better than none, and will only encourage you to do more. And if you really want to up the ante, try sprinting up the stairs (safely) each time you take them – clinical studies found that short bursts of high-intensity stair-climbing can make a significant difference to your cardiorespiratory fitness.

5. Keep Tabs On Your Visceral Fat

You can be skinny on the outside (at least your arms and legs), but fat on the inside. Visceral fat is the type that builds up around your organs and often results in a pot belly. It’s linked with heart disease, several types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Check your waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) to see if you’re at risk. Grab a piece of string and use it to measure your height, then halve it. If it doesn’t fit around your waist, get exercising – visceral fat is the first type to go when you start a health regimen.

6. Value Your Rest Days
When you start on a fitness kick, it’s tempting to exercise every day while motivation is high. This is a bad move, and one that may see your motivation flame out within weeks, because you’re always exhausted and won’t see the massive improvements you expect for your efforts. Why? You’re not giving your muscles the time and rest they need to recover and grow.

7. Up The Intensity If You’re Short On Time
Health and wellness experts still promote the 150 minutes of moderate activity a week minimum, but now offer an alternative option of 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. That’s running or singles tennis, for example, rather than cycling or walking, which count as moderate. You can also mix the two, so 60 minutes of vigorous cardio plus 30 of moderate will do the trick also. Bear in mind the guidelines also demand strength exercises on two or more days a week alongside your aerobic activity.

8. Treat Your Body Right
Nothing derails a health kick as quickly as injury, as many serious injuries will start out as small ones- you may think it’s OK to push through. Scaling back the intensity for a few days is better than having to shut it down for a few months. If you have an urgent desire to hit the gym, target a different part of the body from the one that’s bothering you.

9. The Drive for Five
Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day should be at the cornerstone of your healthy diet plan. What’s not wise is getting in a rut and eating the same five every day, because different types of fruit and veg contain different vitamins and minerals. A good way to vary your five-a-day is to eat different colors, as the hue is a decent indication of the nutrients they contain.

10. Don’t Undervalue Your Sleep
There is tendency for people who sleep very little to brag about it, as if it’s an indication of their commitment to life. However, getting the full seven to eight hours is vital to a healthy lifestyle, as it provides the energy for your exercise and even influences dietary choices – a 2016 study found that in the day following a night of limited sleep, people ate an extra 385 calories on average. You don’t snooze, you lose.

11. Increase Your Cadence On Your Runs
If you are consistently picking up injuries when running, one change it’s definitely worth trying is to up your rate of strides per minute (your cadence). If you overstrike, thus taking fewer steps, you put extra pressure on your knee and hip joints. Try and take more steps, which means your feet will land more beneath your body, reducing the impact on your joints.

12. Give It Your All or Turn It Loose
The first time you try an exercise it’s very hard, but at least quite novel. The second time the novelty is gone, and it’s still hard, leading to the temptation to quit. Try it at least once more, as the third time is often the charm – when a sport or workout starts to become as enjoyable as it is tough.

13. Count Reps Backwards
This is a mental trick that might make resistance workouts a little easier. Counting down the reps means by the time it’s really hurting you’re at the 3,2,1 stage, which feels closer to the end than 8,9,10 or whatever target you’re going for. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

14. Make Full Use Of Your Street Furniture
Exercising outdoors is a great way to ensure you get your hit of vitamin D (if it’s sunny) as well as a good workout, and it doesn’t have to be all cardio. As well as the exercise machines that litter many parks, you can nearly always finds a bar or ledge for pull-ups, or a bench or wall to do dips on. Rarer treats can even include chains to use as ersatz TRX ropes.

15. Record Stats and Progress

Nothing builds motivation as efficiently as seeing signs of improvement, so make sure you keep some kind of record of your activity. It can be as simple as noting your record five-rep max or fastest 5K time, using either one of the many excellent fitness apps available or old-fashioned pen and paper.
In closing, these tips and tricks will help in your fitness goals. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is a fundamental building block in fitness and in life. Knowledge (alongside hard work and dedication) is the most essential of the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!

HOW TO GAIN STRENGTH- 5 RULES

HOW TO INCREASE STRENGTH- FIVE RULES

Strength is and always has been a goal for those who are avid fitness people. In today’s era, with the ever-increasing popularity of MMA-style training and CrossFit training, there has been a metamorphosis of the definition of strength. Gone are the days of 5’9″ 320-lb “strongmen” who could outlift you and OUTEAT you. Now it’s all about functionality combined with strength training. It is a huge win for the advocates of this type of training. It’s pretty evident that it works. It’s also a slam-dunk that it’s here to stay. Why not functional training? It is a more modern approach to training and it has the science to back it up.
On the other hand, there are some who will ask, “what about strength?” I am sure there are some of you out there who are looking to increase your strength without using steriods or any other PEDs let alone any sports nutrition products. Here are a few tips on how to increase strength without PEDs or changing your regimen or lifestyle.
When you are strength training, whichever day it is, always remember to take 30-45 seconds of rest between sets. Also in the same vein, slow the speed of the reps down. Let’s say your rep speed is on a 2-3 count. To gain strength, slow that down to about a 4-5 count. I must warn you to start at the weight your are currently using, then build up. No need to hurt yourself.
Another way to increase strength is to use supersets. if you have never heard of a superset, it is as follows: Let’s say you are working chest today. You’re doing cable crossovers at 30 lbs for 3 sets, 15-18 reps. To superset the exercise, you immediately do another exercise with no break… like wide-grip pushups at a similar rep speed and rep count. This way you will work all the muscle fibers and increase strength.

Another way to increase strength is to go all out. Challenging yourself with max reps at maximum intensity. This is an old-school technique that works. It is also very risky and the chances of injury are much higher than that of the aforementioned routines.
Lastly, use the science available to you. Learn your body. Know and learn what works best for you. Learn your limits. Fitness is not one size fits all. Strength is not one size fits all. Stay learning. Learning is a foundational component of increasing strength or anything else in life. Stay hungry. Never be satisfied with anything, if that’s your goal.

In closing, remember what I have laid out here:
1) Stay hungry
2) Be fearless, always try new things
3) Learn how your body works
4) Keep your goals in front of you.
5) Put the work in.

These five rules, as well as everything else I have given you will GUARANTEE success in your quest to gain strength. Not only will it guarantee success in your fitness goals, this will enhance your life in all other areas. It will make you a better person.

MIND-BODY CONNECTION

We have read stories about people recovering all due to the power of the mind. The mind-body connection is something to behold. The mind-body connection- means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are. The Mind-Body Connection is very real. Do you understand how it affects your health? From everything to “butterflies” in your stomach to the “fight or flight” reflex, the mind-body connection plays an important role in our lives. What we do with our bodies (work, exercise) often impacts our mental state. This is a very interesting relationship between body and mind.
To understand the mind-body connection, we must have the knowledge of what it is, and how it works. Here is some background information:

Awareness of the mind-body connection is by no means new. Until approximately 300 years ago, virtually every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole. But during the 17th century, the Western world started to see the mind and body as two distinct entities. In this view, the body was kind of like a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts, with no connection whatsoever to the mind.

This Western viewpoint had definite benefits, acting as the foundation for advances in surgery, trauma care, pharmaceuticals, and other areas of allopathic medicine. However, it also greatly reduced scientific inquiry into humans’ emotional and spiritual life, and downplayed their innate ability to heal.

In the 20th century, this view gradually started to change. Researchers began to study the mind-body connection and scientifically demonstrate complex links between the body and mind. Integrative psychiatrist James Lake, MD, of Stanford University, writes that “extensive research has confirmed the medical and mental benefits of meditation, mindfulness training, yoga, and other mind-body practices”.
Here are a few mind-body therapies that will help you:
1) Support groups
2) Cognitive-behavioral therapy
3) Meditation
4) Prayer
5) Creative arts therapies (art, music, or dance)
6) Yoga
7) Biofeedback
8) Tai chi
9) Qigong
10) Relaxation
11) Hypnosis
12) Guided imagery
What is the mind?
The mind is NOT the brain. Instead, in this definition, the mind consists of mental states such as thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and images. The brain is the hardware that allows us to experience these mental states.

Mental states can be fully conscious or unconscious. We can have emotional reactions to situations without being aware of why we are reacting. Every mental state has a physiology associated with it—a positive or negative effect that is felt in the physical body. For example, the mental state of anxiety causes you to produce stress hormones.

Many mind-body therapies focus on becoming more conscious of mental states and using this increased awareness to guide our mental states in a better, less destructive direction.

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In closing, the mind-body connection is pretty strong. Understanding the WHY of how your body works is foundational. A strong foundation is the definition of the basics. Remember, Tthe basics always win.

8 Warning Signs of Depression and 10 Foods to Considered Helpful

 

8 Warning Signs Of Depression Plus 10 Foods Considered Helpful
Infographic © herbs-info.com. Image sources: see foot of page

Clinical depression is a mental health issue that is often disregarded in the medical community (and society in general!) There is a stigma surrounding mental health problems like depression that people don’t seek immediate treatment once they start noticing signs and symptoms in themselves and other people. However, the truth of the matter is that millions of people are affected by depression all over the world.


According to research done by Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects roughly 15 million adults in the US, with two out of three people with depression choosing not to seek medical treatment. The WHO estimates that 350 million people all over the world have depression, with 800,000 people dying each year because of suicide. The mental health burden is one every country should be aware of; just because an illness can’t be seen doesn’t mean the person affected isn’t suffering. Depression is just as real as heart disease or cancer. [1][2]

8 Warning Signs Of Depression: [3][4]


#1 – Feeling helpless or hopeless: Depression is often characterized in a pessimistic worldview – that nothing is going right or will ever go right. People who are depressed suffer from an overwhelming feeling (often fear-inducing) of hopelessness despite being in a world full of endless possibilities.

#2 – Losing interest in daily activities: Closely related to the first symptom, losing interest in daily activities is another warning sign of depression. Along with feelings of hopelessness and helpless is a sudden loss of interest in going to school or work – activities a person does on a day to day basis. Depressed individuals often think “Why bother?”

#3 – Changes in appetite: Feelings of depression can lead to appetite changes – your body may feel hungry but you just aren’t in the mood for anything. Not even favorite food items can improve your appetite. This is one of the main problems with depression – the physical effects it has on the body. Along with poor appetite is dramatic weight loss and compromised immune system.

#4 – Sleep pattern disturbances: People who are depressed often find themselves with a multitude of thoughts that prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep. They can toss and turn for hours but sleep will evade them.

#5 – Mood swings: Mood swings are a major characteristic of Bipolar disorder – which is characterized by periods of mania (extreme happiness) and depression. Chronic mood swings – from happiness to sadness, and even other emotions like anger can signify depression.


#6 – Lethargy: Lack of sleep and deteriorating physical health all add up to a feelings of lethargy – or very low energy. Being tired can be a sign that someone is going through emotional difficulties.

#7 – Behavioral changes: Acting out or being aggressive can also be a sign of depression. Teenagers and young adults who suffer from depression may act out and be aggressive towards others. People who are often described as “troublesome students” or “black sheep” maybe experiencing emotional or mental health problems.

#8 – Focusing and memory difficulties: You will notice that all the symptoms on this list are related to each other – and that most certainly includes this last item. Poor appetite, sleep disturbances, and low energy can lead to problems with memory and focus – resulting in poor school and work performance (which can be seen by others as “acting out”).

10 Foods For Fighting Depression

These foods have been extensively studied and can be helpful:

#1 – Chocolate: The best way to heal a broken heart is through chocolate! You will often hear girls saying that chocolate is a great way to curb sadness – and there is actually scientific evidence that supports that theory! Two different studies have found that chocolate can significantly improve a person’s mood, as well as alleviating chronic fatigue. [5][6]

#2 – Asparagus: You may find the presence of asparagus on this list to be strange but according to research it works! According to a published study by Singh, et. al. in 2009, asparagus has significant antidepressant activity, able to reduce stress and agitation in the test subjects. [7]

#3 – Green tea: Green tea is a great antioxidant – and a great antidepressant as well. Beyond tea’s relaxing properties, a study has shown that green tea was able to have a positive effect on people suffering from post-stroke depression, linked to green tea’s inherent antioxidant and phytochemical characteristics. The results of another study found that there was an inverse relationship between the prevalence of depression and green tea intake in the selected population. [8][9]

#4 – Avocado: It can be hard to find scientific studies that directly link avocados with a lower risk for depression but its omega-3 content has several. One of the most significant studies found that omega-3 fatty acids were an effective treatment for people suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and people with undiagnosed depression (but exhibit the warning signs). [10]

#5 – Oatmeal: Oatmeal has high folate or folic acid content, which has been linked to depression management caused by different factors or co-morbidities. In 2014, a study found that corticosterone treatment caused depression, depression that was significantly relieved by folic acid intake. Similar results were seen in a study in 2013 where folic acid was able to combat depression caused by stress and antioxidant imbalance in the brain. [11][12]

#6 – Strawberries: A study in 2012 found that strawberry intake was linked to a decreased rate of mental health decline with progressing age. The study estimated that strawberries were able to slow “mental aging” by two and a half years, attributed primarily to the high antioxidant content of the fruits. While the study didn’t focus on depression, advanced age and a decline in mental health has been linked to depression – something strawberries can apparently help manage. [13]

#7 – Cashews: Cashews are an excellent source of tryptophan – an amino acid that is synthesized by the body into serotonin, a neurotransmitter whose low levels has been linked to depression. A study actually found that people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder had low levels of tryptophan. By boosting your tryptophan intake, you can help reduce your risk for depression. [14]

#8 – Walnuts: A Polish study published last year in 2015 listed walnuts as a significant food item that could help in the management of depression. Walnuts, like avocados, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and can be included in the diet for risk reduction in terms of depression. [15]

#9 – Oranges: Oranges are one of the highest vitamin-C- containing fruits, known for its immune-boosting capabilities. However, ascorbic acid or vitamin C is able to help with depression as well, seen in a study published in 2015. The study found that treatment with ascorbic acid was able to reduce depressive symptoms caused by high levels of tumor necrosis factor. [16]

#10 – Blueberries: A recent study in 2015 by Tan, et. al. concluded that blueberry extracts were able to have positive effects on neuronal and mental health. The researchers discovered that blueberry extracts improved memory and hippocampal expression; the hippocampus being one of the areas of the brain that control emotions. These results suggest that blueberries can also help with the management of depression, which has been strongly linked to cognitive decline. [17]

References:

[1] Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Depression statistics. http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_statistics_depression

[2] WHO. Depression Fact Sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/

[3] Mayo Clinic. Depression (major depressive disorder). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/symptoms/con-20032977

[4] National Health Services. Clinical depression – symptoms. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

[5] Sathyapalan, T., et. al. (2010). High cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21092175

[6] Scholey, A. & Owen, L. (2013). Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24117885

[7] Singh, G., et. al. (2009). Antidepressant activity of Asparagus racemosus in rodent models. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18692086

[8] Di Lorenzo, A., et. al. (2016). Antidepressive-like effects and antioxidant activity of green tea and GABA green tea in a mouse model of post-stroke depression. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26626862

[9] Pham, N., et. al. (2014). Green tea and coffee consumption is inversely associated with depressive symptoms in a Japanese working population. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23453038

[10] Grosso, G., et. al. (2014). Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depressive disorders: a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24805797

[11] Rosa, P., et. al. (2014). Folic acid prevents depressive-like behavior induced by chronic corticosterone treatment in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25316305

[12] Budni, J., et. al. (2013). Folic acid prevents depressive-like behavior and hippocampal antioxidant imbalance induced by restraint stress in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23142187

[13] Devore, E., et. al. (2012). Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3582325/

[14] Ogawa, S., et. al. (2014). Plasma L-tryptophan concentration in major depressive disorder: new data and meta-analysis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25295433

[15] Muszynska, B., et. al. (2015). Natural products of relevance in the prevention and supportive treatment of depression. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26276913

[16] Moretti, M., et. al. (2015). TNF-α-induced depressive-like phenotype and p38(MAPK) activation are abolished by ascorbic acid treatment. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25836357

[17] Tan, L., et. al. (2014). Cyanidin-3-O-galactoside and blueberry extracts supplementation improves spatial memory and regulates hippocampal ERK expression in senescence-accelerated mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24709099

FDA Warns: ‘Don’t Use Spray Sunscreen on Children’

A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has indicated that global temperatures are continuing to rise and the world will experience a hotter than normal summer this year. [1] This is why it’s important to protect our skin from the harmful sun damage that the sunny months may bring, especially our children’s delicate skin.There are many sunscreens available in the market today in varying forms, such as lotion, gel, powder, and spray. However, Consumer Reports has advised to discontinue the use of spray sunscreens on children due to the risk of inhalation – based on a statement from the FDA that they have not yet evaluated their safety in comparison to other sunscreens. [2]

Sunscreens often contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which are the highly reflective white components of the sunscreen – however these could be inhaled or swallowed by children while they are being sprayed. These chemicals may contain nanoparticles – which several studies have linked to development issues and reproductive problems for females. [3][4][5]


The International Agency for Research on Cancer also classified titanium dioxide as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ which could cause overloading of lung clearance, chronic inflammation, and lung tumors. [6]

Toxic Soup – All Over You

However these are not the only potentially unhealthy components of sunscreens. The “soup” of potentially toxic chemicals found in consumer brand sunscreens has come under harsh criticism from campaigners such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Chemicals such as benzophenone, benzophenone-3, avobenzone, oxybenzone, diethanolamine, triethanolamine (DEA, TEA), padimate-o, octyl dimethyl PABA, benzophenone, oxybenzone, homosalate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), salicylates, and parabens are common in sunscreens and many of these are suspected carcinogens or hormone disrupters that can be absorbed by the skin and enter the body. [7]

The FDA is still investigating on the potential risks of spray sunscreens, and until the results are out, Consumer Reports strongly urges parents to discontinue the use of these and try other formulations instead.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also warned consumers about marketing strategies by these companies that advertise false efficiency about their products. [8] In their 2015 sunscreen guide, 80% of the SPF products that they reviewed did not deliver the superior sun protection that they promised on the packaging. [9] This means that the sunscreen you’re using could actually do more harm to your health instead of protecting it.


While FDA’s investigation on spray sunscreens is still ongoing, experts are recommending consumers to avoid using these as much as possible.

Here are a few tips to help you protect your skin from sunburn, premature aging, and increased risk on skin cancer caused by heavy sun exposure. [10]

1. Stay in the shade. If possible, avoid direct sun exposure from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M., when the sun is at its highest in the sky and the heat is more intense.
2. Cover up. Wear clothes that cover up most of your body such as long shirts, shorts, wide-brimmed hats, pants and parasols to shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays.
3. Use sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation.
4. Pay attention to how your skin feels and looks. If your skin looks red, has blistered, and feels sore, it means you have been exposed to the sun for too long.
5. Check the UV index before going outdoors so you’ll know what proper measures to take to avoid sun overexposure.
6. Natural sunscreen. Here’s our page that links to a simple, more natural sunscreen formula that skips many of the harsh ingredients: http://www.herbs-info.com/blog/how-to-make-amazing-natural-homemade-sunscreen/

References:

[1] Ferris, R. 2016. NOAA climate outlook: Hot summer for most of US
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/25/noaa-climate-outlook-hot-summer-for-most-of-us.html

[2] “Don’t use spray sunscreens on children”
http://complete-health-and-happiness.com/fda-says-dont-use-spray-sunscreens-children/

[3] Sun, J. et al. 2013. Effects of Nanotoxicity on Female Reproductivity and Fetal Development in Animal Models
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676785/

[4] Ovarian dysfunction and gene-expressed characteristics of female mice caused by long-term exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles. (Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23131501

[5] Silica and titanium dioxide nanoparticles cause pregnancy complications in mice. (Nature Nanotechnology, 2011) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21460826

[6] Kuempel, E., Ruder, A. Titanium Dioxide (IARC Monograph) https://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Publications/techrep42/TR42-4.pdf

[7] Healthy Holistic Living – Home Made Sunscreen Formula http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/homemade-sunscreen.html

[7] Sifferlin, A. 2015. 80% of Sunscreens Don’t Really Work or Have ‘Worrisome’ Ingredients http://time.com/3883293/sunscreen-spf/

[8] 10th Annual EWG Sunscreen Guide https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/10th-annual/

[9] TIPS: Sunscreen Should Be Your Last Resort https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Why Lifting Matters

When it comes to fitness in America today, there is a unspoken predisposed allegiance to cardio and functional training. While there’s nothing wrong with that, but resistance training has value. Maybe you’re convinced you shouldn’t lift weights because you prefer not looking like The Hulk. Maybe you figure you just wouldn’t like it, since you’re not one of those CrossFit types.

Though I don’t want to be confrontational about it… you’re wrong. Strength training not only builds muscle but can prevent disease, relieves stress and will definitely help you lose weight.

Here are 13 great reasons to include a little work with the weights into your fitness repertoire.

1. You’ll live longer.
While most forms of regular exercise can add years to your life, strength training in particular has big benefits. As we get older, the more muscle mass we have, the less likely we are to die prematurely, according to 2014 research from UCLA. “In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” study co-author Arun Karlamangla, M.D., said in a statement. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.” And what better way to maximize those muscles than by pumping iron?
2. For better sleep.
Regular exercisers — especially those who truly push themselves — report the best sleep, and weightlifting is no exception. In a small 2012 study in older men, researchers found that resistance training reduced the number of times the study participants woke up during the night, as compared to a control group who performed no exercise.

3. Your progress is so noticeable.
There’s nothing that feels quite as rewarding as setting a goal and crushing it. If you’re new to strength work, you’ll find that a weight you once thought was impossible to lift starts to feel easy sooner than you might imagine. Add to that, you’ll feel like a conqueror.

4. To protect your bones.
Weight-bearing exercise and particularly strength training is thought to increase bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and breaks among older adults.

5. To boost your balance.
Of course, one major cause of bone breaks as we age is falling. Some of weightlifting’s benefit in protecting against osteoporosis may be improved strength and balance, resulting in fewer falls. Indeed, research suggests that various resistance routines can reduce an older person’s rate of falling by around 30 percent.

6. It can make you happier.
Like many forms of physical activity, a little lifting can work wonders for your mental health. Strength training has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms as well as improved self-esteem, and it may even give your brainpower a boost.

7. To look better in your clothes.
Now, we don’t suggest you lift weights (or do any exercise, for that matter) solely for appearance — there are just so many other benefits! — but when it comes to slimming down, endless hours on the elliptical may not be getting you any closer to the results you desperately seek. In fact, building muscle may help you lose fat more effectively than simply doing cardio. “If you’re looking to lose fat, go with strength training,” trainer Nick Tumminello, author of Strength Training for Fat Loss told Business Insider. “Watch your diet to reveal your shape, and strength train to improve that shape.”
8. To burn more calories.
Simply having more muscle on your frame helps your body burn up extra calories — even when you’re sitting completely still.

9. You can do it in under 30 minutes.
Adding strength work to your regular exercise routine doesn’t have to eat up the tiny bit of free time you had left in the day. In fact, lifting is one area where more is not always better — around 30 to 60 minutes a week, total, is plenty, according to Runner’s Times.

10. And you don’t even have to go to the gym.
We’re using the term “lifting weights,” but the world of strength and resistance training includes a whole host of options outside of what you’d find at the gym. You can “lift weights” with cans and jars you find in your kitchen. You can “lift weights” using only your body. You can buy a pair of five-pound dumbbells and lift along with a DVD in the comfort of your own living room, where the only person checking you out in the mirror is you. In fact, if you’re new to strength training, many moves are safer if performed with just your bodyweight until you can get the hang of perfect form. Plus, many of those machines at the gym aren’t adjustable enough for the wide range of bodies that use them.

11. To run faster (really!)
Or swim longer or bike harder or get better at just about any other athletic endeavor you fancy. Why? Because you’ll be cultivating stronger, more powerful muscles to then put to good use. Also, strength training can help prevent injuries in other athletic pursuits, by helping correct muscle imbalances that in turn throw your form — even just while sitting or standing — out of whack.

12. Aids in heart health.
Despite the name, cardio isn’t the only form of exercise with cardiovascular benefits. A resistance training routine has been shown to lower blood pressure, in some cases as effectively as taking medication. The American Heart Association recommends adults aim for at least two strength training sessions a week.

13. Because then you can wear shirts like this

You can’t ban these guns - Men's Muscle T-Shirt

In closing, this is not a end-all, be-all list. This is another list, a tool to help you meet and exceed your fitness goals.

 

 

Cardio-Friendly Foods

Here at the Halcyon Fitness Group, we are always thinking of new ways to equip you, the reader. Recipes are another way. This article is all about cardio-friendly foods. Or simply put, food that won’t weigh you down after killing it for 10-15 miles

Everyone needs carbohydrates, the body’s preferred energy source. If you get regular cardiovascular exercise or train for an endurance sport, you need more daily carbs to fuel your workouts and replenish your energy stores. Remember: all carbs are not created equal. Grains, fruit, vegetables (nutrient-rich choices) as well as candy and sweets (empty calories) are all sources of carbohydrate. Some foods, like dairy and legumes, combine carbohydrate and protein, which helps restore muscles. The best carbs to choose are ones that contribute plenty of other nutrients such as protein, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

Whole grain oats are delicious and easy to digest before or after a workout. As an added bonus, the soluble fiber in oatmeal may help lower cholesterol. Opt for plain oats instead of the sugary flavored varieties and create your own delicious concoction by adding nutritious (and tasty) ingredients. Sprinkle in your favorite nuts and dried fruit to add natural sweetness as well as fiber and iron. Save time by cooking the oats ahead and warming them up in the microwave.

Yogurt and fruit make a winning carbohydrate combination. Yogurt adds protein and some calcium to this drink while fruit contributes natural sweetness and vitamin C for tired, sore muscles. Drink this shake before a cardio session to fuel your workout, or within the ideal recovery window―between 30 and 60 minutes after exercise―when your body is best able to repair itself and replenish the energy you’ve spent.

Carbohydrate plus protein is a winning combination that helps repair muscles and refuel your tank. Remember that pasta doesn’t have to come from wheat. Rice noodles are a gluten-free alternative with a tender texture and mild flavor that works well with all types of sauces. Pork is higher in B vitamins than other meats, providing a metabolism boost and extra energy-producing power. Toss in your favorite fresh vegetables for texture, color, extra vitamins, and fiber. Pork Strips with Peanut Sauce and Rice Noodles

Muffins can be a nutritional boon or a bust, depending on what’s in them. Those gigantic bakeshop muffins can contain over 500 calories and 20 grams fat. Smarter choice: Home-baked muffins bursting with antioxidant-rich dried fruits and fiber from whole wheat flour and wheat germ. Wheat germ is also high in the mineral zinc, which contributes to healthy skin and a strong immune system. Add a boost of antioxidants by adding the freshest berries of the season.

Mixed-grain salads deliver a satisfying combination of flavors and textures as well as folate and vitamin E for a strong and healthy heart―very important for those cardio workouts! Adding beans to grains creates the key combination of protein and carbs that helps muscles repair and refuel themselves. Enjoy this salad for lunch, or pair it with lean protein like chicken or fish for a powerhouse dinner.

Sweet potatoes are a true super-food. In addition to being a great source of energy producing carbohydrate, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potato contains 20 percent of your daily potassium needs, plus energy-boosting vitamin B6 and more than 700 percent of your daily vitamin A needs (mostly in the form of the antioxidant beta-carotene). This salad also combines iron-rich spinach with vitamin C from oranges, which helps increase iron absorption.

In closing, this list is not conclusive. Hopefully, you will use this as a baseline- tweak this list and make your own. Everyone is different. Make this your own..

Controlling Anxiety Without Meds

Anxiety is real. In America today, according to the National Institutes of Health, anxiety disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). Anxiety is a contributing factor of many health disorders (high blood pressure, obesity, heart attacks, mental fatigue). Many Americans are on medications for these disorders (that is/can be a case of the cure being worse than the disease). A viable alternative to risky prescription medication is a natural or holistic approach to treating anxiety.

Here are 6 tips for managing anxiety naturally:

1. Maintain Stable Blood Sugar
“It isn’t disrespectful to the complexity of existence to point out that despair is, often, just low blood sugar and exhaustion.” – Alain de Botton
The American diet promotes a blood sugar roller coaster, and every time we’re on the ride down, we can feel anxious.
When our blood sugar crashes, our body responds with a stress response. We secrete stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which tell our liver to make more blood sugar to keep us alive. The good news: We stay alive. The bad news: This hormonal stress response feels identical to anxiety.
By stabilizing blood sugar, you can avoid this stress response and decrease your anxiety.
Here’s how to maintain stable blood sugar:

Eat more protein and healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil, butter and ghee from pasture-raised animals).
Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks daily; don’t skip meals.
Take a spoonful of coconut oil upon waking, in the afternoon and right before bed; this will serve as a blood sugar safety net throughout the day.
Always have a snack handy (e.g., nuts, hard-boiled egg, dark chocolate, almond butter or jerky).

2. Get Off Caffeine (for a while)

Don’t underestimate the relationship between caffeine and anxiety.
Think of it like this: When we’re caffeinated, our nervous system is ready for a fight. Introduce a stressor- you are on Defcon 5 regarding anxiety.
If you suffer from anxiety, do yourself a favor and get off caffeine!!!!
I know, I know, the idea of going off caffeine might be giving you anxiety right now. If you reduce your intake gradually (coffee -> half-caf -> black tea -> green tea -> herbal tea) over the course of a week or two, you’ll avoid withdrawal symptoms. After a few weeks, you may be surprised to see that your anxiety has decreased, your sleep has improved, your energy is stabilized, and you even tolerate stress better.
If you had a successful trial off caffeine, but you want to go back to having that morning ritual, consider making green tea your go-to beverage, rather than a “Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte.”
3. Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest is your best bet against anxiety.
There’s a 2-way street between anxiety and sleep–anxiety causes insomnia and sleep deprivation makes us vulnerable to anxiety.
The best way to address this is to set ourselves up for better sleep. Conveniently, the way to do this overlaps with the overall approach to anxiety.

Here’s how:
Reduce or eliminate caffeine
Even if you have no trouble falling asleep, caffeine decreases sleep quality.
Maintain stable blood sugar
Blood sugar fluctuations disrupt your sleep, causing middle of the night awakening.
Be strategic about light:
Let your eyes see bright light in the morning and dim light at night.
If your room isn’t completely dark when you sleep, wear an eye mask or get blackout curtains.
Wind down and unplug before bed

4. Treat the Gut

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the recent articles about the relationship between gut flora and mood.
The bugs in our digestive tract have a profound impact on how we feel and play an integral role in anxiety disorders.
Here’s how to promote healthy gut flora and heal the gut:
Avoid what irritates the gut:
Food: Gluten, sugar, industrial vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, alcohol.
Certain medications: Antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives (only make changes under close supervision from your doctor).
Add in what soothes the gut:
Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, miso paste, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, kefir (if you tolerate dairy).
Starchy tubers: Sweet potatoes, white potatoes, plantain, taro, yucca.
Bone broth:
Purchase Wise Choice Market Bone Broth.
Make your own bone broth.
Supplements:
Take a probiotic.

Consider supplementing with glutamine and collagen.
Create the conditions for the gut to heal:
Squatty Potty can be life-changing.
Get enough sleep.
Manage stress with yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, unplugging, acupuncture, being in nature.
Treat gut infections. If you suspect you may have a chronic gut infection, get evaluated by an integrative or functional medicine practitioner.
5. Exercise
Exercise is the best anti-anxiety medicine.
If you struggle to exercise regularly, forget the boot camps and triathlons. Get in the habit of mini workouts. Do small amounts of exercise in your living room or take a brief walk outside. Sustainability is key.
In general, stand more, sit less, walk whenever possible, and treat your body right with exercise.
Yoga and Tai Qi are particularly beneficial for anxiety, but the most important thing is to find something you enjoy.
6. Magnesium

Magnesium: Nature’s Xanax
Many of us are deficient in magnesium, since our food is grown in magnesium-depleted soil.
You can supplement with magnesium in a few different ways:
Take an Epsom salt bath.
Take a chelated magnesium supplement (e.g., magnesium glycinate).
Try a topical magnesium gel.

Anxiety has a significant impact on quality of life. Maintaining stable blood sugar, reducing caffeine, getting enough sleep, healing the gut, getting some exercise and filling the body with magnesium are safe tactics that go a long way toward reducing anxiety. If your anxiety does not respond to these lifestyle hacks, go see your healthcare provider.
In closing, you only have one life. Life is too short to let it slip away in anxiety and fear.
Living life free from anxiety is another way THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN.

Averages for Americans, 1960-2010

It’s no secret that Americans are, well, fat. Upwards of 71%-79% of all Americans are overweight, with 80% of those being clinically obese. You’ve heard the rants, the opinings, the pleas before. Here is a graph chronicling this.

 

Image result for Average height weight American men 1977

 

In 2010, the CDC found that the average weight for American women is the same as American men in the 1960s.

Average height of American men: 5’9 1/2″

Average height of American women: 5’4 1/4″

Overall, women have slightly gained more weight than men since 1960 (18.7% women) to 17.6% for men. Both sexes are about an inch taller.

Average weight of American men: 195.3 lbs

Average weight of American women: 168.3 lbs

In comparison, the average American is 33 pounds heavier than the average Frenchman, 40 pounds heavier than the average Japanese man… and 70 pounds heavier on average than the average Bangladesh male.

In closing, we Americans are big. We must do better. The alternative is grim. But it can be done. It must be done.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Bicep Exercises for Size and Strength

It’s now May, and the sun is out. Pretty soon, most of us will be out at the beach trying to show off our bodies. For those of you who are “gym rats” and are concerned about breaking plateaus in your training routines…. never fear. I have my Top 5 list of the Best Exercises to increase bicep size. NOTE: This list is a primer for those who are getting into lifting and a refresher for the veterans of the gym who need a new routine to spice things up at the local gymnasium. As always, listen to your body, use your best judgment. See your doctor for injuries and advice. This article, this column and this site is not a substitute for sound health advice by a doctor (primarily your primary care provider). Use at your own risk. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!!
Now, the list:

1) Barbell Curl. This exercise often separates the men from the boys. Using proper form (more on that in a minute), this exercise will stretch the tape.
Standing straight and erect, have the barbell at the starting position, which is usually mid thigh level. Then, slowly, but surely, curl the barbell up to shoulder height. Use a weight you can safely handle to prevent injury. A good set should be between 6-8 repetitions with about a 30-45 second rest period in between. You should feel a slight, but good burn. As for form: Stand up straight. Use your arms to control the weight. Do not use your back under any circumstances. The reason is the risk of injury. Also, if you cheat that exercise, you are sabotaging your bicep development. Use your arms, not your back, legs, hips or anything else (some stand against a wall or pillar in the gym to prevent cheating).

2) Incline Dumbbell Curl. For this exercise, you need to be on an incline bench or an adjustible seat. Your form is still straight up, though seated, heels on the floor, chest slightly poked out and shoulders back. Using the same form to control the weight from the barbell curl exercise, perform the exercise. Again, use a challenging yet comfortable weight. Have at least three sets of 6-8 repetitions with a 30-45 second rest break in between sets. A truism that is said in the military holds true for these exercises: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Control the weight, don’t let it control you. Feel the burn. There is a mental link that you can use: visualization. Visualize your biceps getting bigger and stronger with each set and every rep. Be strict with your form and you will see results.

3) Standing Biceps Cable Curl. This variation of the barbell curl yields great returns. If done correctly, as some have found, is the linchpin for a great biceps routine that can be a great part of your weight training regimen. Your form is still standing up straight, head centered, eyes forward, chest slightly poked out and shoulders back. Some use a variation that puts the dominant foot (if you’re right-handed, you will use your right leg/foot as the front leg and your left leg as your support/rear leg) exactly center of the cable and its attachment for a more intense block of bicep curls. The movement? Same as always. Control the weight, don’t let it control you. The ideal rep speed is a one-count on the up, one second to hold the weight at the top of the repetition, and a one-count to lower the weight for a total of three seconds. This is the basic rule of thumb for repetition speed. Continue to be cognizant of your form, to protct your back and your body from injury.

4) Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row. The Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row is all about SIZE, POWER AND BRUTE STRENGTH. If this doesn’t put size on your biceps, nothing will. Your starting position is, bent over. Bent over, back straight, head facing up to the ceiling. You need to get full extension of the exercise to reap the rewards of it. Keep your back straight, control the weight. The top of the repetition will be least nipple level on the chest. No sudden starts and stops. Those herky-jerky movements gets people injured. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Do not try to set powerlifting records on the first day you try them. Good form beats heavy poundages every time. Good form also beats using your insurance deductable up on needless injuries.

5) Concentration Curl. The final exercise on the list is absolutely fantastic for bicep development. Concentration curls are simply that, the movement is concentrated to a small range of movement. The procedure: You are seated, the “off-hand”, or arm you’re not using, will be the arm you place on your thigh. The arm you are using will be between your legs. Your legs are spaced exactly shoulder width apart, back straight. Your head will be facing down towards the exercise. You will want to watch/visualize the movement. Use the aforementioned speed in regards to the repetitions. Use the aforementioned rest periods for this exercise. More importantly, stretch before and after this exercise as the concentration curl is a direct attack on the bicep (moreso than the others). Remember slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

In closing, these exercises will give you that look of greatness. They will also teach you discipline and hard work. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!!!!