All Posts tagged fitness tips

Ways to Exercise While Working

Stiff neck, back and wrist pain, poor circulation – these are just some of the health hazards that can come with having an office job.  Sitting for long stretches of time every day, especially at a computer, can take a toll on your body. Add to that poor posture, stress, and a work station that doesn’t work for you, and it’s no wonder you’re feeling aches and pains at the end of the day.  Human bodies are made to move.   That’s why it’s important to take advantage of times during the day when you can get some exercise while at work.  There are simple exercises you can do at work that don’t take much time and also help you stay fit.   There are also simple things throughout the day that you can modify so you’re actually getting some exercise while working.  So why not de-stress, re-energize, jumpstart your brain, and work the kinks out of your body, each and every day? Here’s some suggestions:

1. Make the most out of your commute.  Walk or bike to work.  If you take public transportation, get off a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way.  If you drive to work, park at the far end of the parking lot so you can walk into and out of the building.

2. Look for opportunities to stand – You’ll burn more calories standing than sitting.  Stand while talking on the phone.  Eat lunch standing up.  Trade instant messaging and phone calls in for walks to other desks or offices.

3. Take fitness breaks

–       Strength train. You can easily store water bottles, a resistance band, or small hand weights in your desk or office and do a few sets between meetings or telephone calls.

–       Do some quick cardio. Squeeze in a few rounds of jump rope or 10 quick pushups or sit ups. You also can climb stairs during your workday and take brisk walks in or outside your building during lunch. Every little bit helps.

–        Lift and rotate. Try some simple leg lifts, even while you’re on the phone or reading emails or memos. Keep one foot planted on the floor and raise the opposite leg several inches off the ground. Gently pulse the leg upward a few inches 10 or 20 times and repeat on the opposite leg. You also can rotate each foot around in small circles (in both directions). Do the same with your arms: hold your arms out straight on each side of your body and make small circles with your hands.

–        Breathe and meditate. Close and rest your eyes while breathing deeply, meditating for five minutes or picturing yourself in a favorite place, like the beach or mountains.

–       Stretch. Stretching can relieve stress and make you feel better all over. You can stretch right in your desk chair, or close your office door and sit on the floor or use the wall. Why not start by getting out of your chair and touching your toes?

–       Yoga.  Web sites and books can show you yoga moves and poses to do at your desk or on the floor in your office. Instead of a snack or coffee break, take a yoga break!

4. Trade your office chair in for a fitness ball.  A firmly inflated fitness or stability ball can make a good chair. You’ll improve your balance and tone your core muscles while sitting at your desk. You can even use the ball for wall squats or other exercises during the day.

5. Get social.  Organize a lunchtime walking group. You might be surrounded by people who are ready to lace up their walking shoes—and hold each other accountable for regular exercise. Enjoy the camaraderie and offer encouragement to one another when the going gets tough.

6. Conduct meetings on the go.  When it’s practical, schedule walking meetings or brainstorming sessions. Do laps inside your building or, if the weather cooperates, take your walking meetings outdoors.

7. Pick up the pace.  If your job involves walking, do it faster. Keep your chin up and your shoulders slightly back—and remember to breathe freely while you walk.

8. If you travel for work, plan ahead.  If you’re stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a brisk walk. Choose a hotel that has fitness facilities—such as treadmills, weight machines or a pool—or bring your equipment with you. Jump-ropes and resistance bands are easy to sneak into a suitcase. Of course, you can do jumping jacks, crunches and other simple exercises without any equipment at all.

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Is Exercising in the Evenings Healthy?

In our busy lives with work, kids, and other responsibilities we often discover that doing things for ourselves, such as exercising, is put off to the end of the day when we actually have some time to devote to ourselves.  The question this leads to is whether exercising in the evenings will affect our sleep cycles.  It seems logical to assume that if you rev your body up at a time when it’s naturally starting to wind down, you may find it hard to get to sleep. But there are many factors that can affect how your body reacts.  These factors include how much sleep you’ve been getting over the past weeks (in other words, are you sleep deprived or well rested); how hard and how long your exercise sessions are; and how late in the evening is your workout.  Your personal response may vary.  People respond differently to stimulus – some people can’t have any coffee or soda in the late afternoon or evening claiming that it will keep them up at night whereas others down Grande Mochas right before going to bed and claim no disrupted sleep whatsoever.

Sleep research is a relatively new science and there’s still much to learn. The body operates on a 24-hour clock, and every cell in every physiological system is guided by what are known as circadian rhythms. As the sun goes down, certain systems in the body (such as digestion) tend to slow down, while those processes that occur during the resting hours (such as cell repair) tend to ramp up. Certain triggers can throw off the body’s clock. Stimuli such as electric lights and TV can keep the body aroused and cause changes in circadian rhythms that may make it harder to get to sleep.

It appears that exercise can affect circadian rhythms, too. One study tracked changes in the levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s sleeping and waking cycles, which normally peak at night. Published in the American Journal of Physiology–Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, the 2003 study found that young adults (ages 20-32) and older adults (ages 55-73) both experienced delays in rising melatonin levels following late-night exercise. In this study, subjects performed three hours of light-to-moderate intensity cycling, and they didn’t begin the exercise until quite late at night—around 10:30 p.m. Subjects were then allowed to sleep for only six hours the next day. Subjects were monitored for only a three-day period, and the researchers did not track their ability to go to sleep the night after the study ended (when they were feeling the effects from having had only six hours of rest).

This raises a question: If they exercised again the following evening, would they be so tired that the subsequent exercise wouldn’t have much of an effect on their ability to fall asleep? As with many studies, there are still many unanswered questions, and it’s unclear what the longer-term effects might be from following a late-night exercise schedule. Of course, if you’re doing a 45-minute walk at 8 p.m., the effects may be much less noticeable (though everyone is different).

A considerable amount of research on jet lag and people who work night shifts has looked at the different triggers for disrupting and resetting a person’s body clock. A review of the research in a 2007 issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology noted that exercise is associated with small phase delays in body rhythms. But the researchers noted that there was still much to learn about exactly how much exercise or what intensity of exercise might affect different people. There is some evidence that regular, moderate exercise may even help synchronize people, including those who travel between time zones or work night shifts. But this may also depend upon the time of day that the exercise is performed, and other variables may play a role, too.

From a practical perspective, getting adequate exercise and sufficient sleep are both vitally important to your health. If the only time you have to exercise is in the evening, and if you also find that you toss and turn in bed after a workout, then experiment with different times, durations and intensities of your workouts to see if you can find a regimen that doesn’t keep you up at night.

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The Many Benefits of Pilates Exercise

Pilates is the exercise of choice for dancers, gymnasts, and a host of famous Hollywood celebrities, and now it finds itself firmly entrenched in the mainstream.  So why is Pilates so popular?  Pilates’ incredible popularity can be traced to the fact that it provides its faithful practitioners with benefits that you simply can’t get through traditional aerobics/strength training format.  So I have come up with a list of top 10 reasons why you may want to consider pilates as your exercise program of choice.

A Top 10 List of Reasons to Do Pilates

1. Pilates is Whole-Body Fitness

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates’ workouts promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints.

Attention to core support and full-body fitness provides a level of integrative fitness that is hard to find elsewhere. Pilates also teaches you how to become efficient with your body. Very few exercises can help your body become more efficient in its movement.  Being efficient means that your body moves in a way, that is smoother, safer, and less prone to injury. By practicing pilates on a regular basis, you can train your body more to move in a much safer and more efficient manner.

 2. Adaptable to Many Fitness Levels and Needs

Whether you are a senior just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.

As a result, the benefits of pilates have been particularly noted in older adults.  Even adults undergoing serious rehabilitation therapy can use Pilates to increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength.

Consult your medical professional if you have any doubts about your pilates program. If you are suffering from severe degeneration or physical pain, you should take extra care before beginning a pilates program.  You should never feel pain while practicing pilates. If you do, you know that there is something wrong. Don’t be afraid to pull back if you feel overwhelmed.

3. Creates Strength Without Bulk

Long, lean muscles without the bulk but with all of the strength are one of the main benefits of pilates.  In Pilates, the goal is to build toned muscles that work perfectly within the context of the body as a whole, and the functional fitness needs of a person as they move through life.

Most conventional workouts tend to create bulky muscle.  This is because in most workouts, the emphasis is placed on repetition and building strong muscles.  This causes already-strong (or big) muscles to get even stronger, and thus bigger. Pilates does not rely on frequent repetition, and thus no overgrown muscles.

4. Increases Flexibility

Pilates works toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. You won’t find quite as much stretching in Pilates as you might in yoga, but a body that can stretch and bend to meet the flow of life is a very realistic goal.

5. Develops Core Strength

The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. When the core is strong, the frame of the body is supported. This means the neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs. A nice side benefit is that the core training promotes the flat abs that we all wish for.   The proper breathing control that is stressed in pilates also helps contribute to the core strength

6. Improves Posture

Good posture is a reflection of good alignment supported by a strong core. It is a position from which one can move freely. Pilates increases the strength of the spinal stabilizing muscles that may not be commonly worked out in a standard exercise program.  Strengthening these muscles allows you to have proper posture

7. Increases Energy

It might seem like a paradox, but the more you exercise, the more energy you have and the more you feel like doing (to a point, of course). Pilates gets the breath and circulation moving, stimulates the spine and muscles, and floods the body with the good feelings one gets from exercising the whole body.

8. Promotes Weight Loss and Long, Lean Appearance

If you practice Pilates regularly, it will change your body. Known for creating long, strong muscles and a leaner look; Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports beautiful posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace. All of these things will make you look and feel very fit.

If you want to lose weight, the formula for weight loss remains the same: Burn more calories than you take in. As a full-body fitness method, Pilates help will help you do that. Combined with aerobic activity, Pilates becomes a prime weight loss and body toning tool.

9. Increases Awareness – Body/Mind Connection

Another benefit of Pilates is that it engages the mind and enhances body awareness.  Joseph H. Pilates studied yoga, martial arts, and other ancient mind-body activities and included a strong philosophical foundation into the practice of Pilates.  He was adamant that Pilates, or contrology as he called it, was about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” With Pilates exercises you are to practice each movement with total attention.

The smooth, precise and flowing movements of Pilates are designed to make you more mindful of your body.  Breath movement is also emphasized to put you in touch with how breath moves through your body. Pilates has been demonstrated to reduce stress, anxiety, and helps lift depression. The mind-body connection is fundamental to the study and practice of pilates.

10. Prevents You from Future Injuries

Pilates strengthens your body and helps prevent future injuries. The fact that Pilates helps to condition the whole body and not just certain muscles helps to balance the muscle and strength of the body. Since no set of muscles is ever over or under trained, there is less risk for injury. The body becomes more fluid and supple, protecting against injury.

Other Benefits of Pilates
Create a stronger, more flexible spine.
Increase joint range of motion.
Improve circulation.
Heighten neuromuscular coordination.
Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.
Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury.
Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.
Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.
Improve the way your body looks and feels.

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Basic Principles of a Good Fitness Program

Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a “weekend warrior”, there are basic principles of exercise that apply to everyone at all levels of physical training.  Adherence to these principles is important for developing an effective fitness program.

Basic Principles of Exercise

  1.  Regularity – To achieve good results from your training, you must exercise often.  You should exercise each of the first four components of fitness at least three times a week.  Infrequent exercise can do more harm than good.  Regularity is also important in resting, sleeping, and following a sensible diet.
  2. Progression – The intensity and duration of exercise must gradually increase to improve the level of fitness.  I usually recommend to my patients to increase repetitions or duration of their exercises before they increase the intensity in order to prevent injury.
  3. Balance – To be effective, a fitness program should include activities that address all the components of fitness.  Overemphasizing one of the components over the others will eventually hurt the other components.
  4. Variety – Providing a variety of activities reduces boredom and increases motivation and progress.
  5. Specificity – Training must be geared toward specific goals.  For example, people become better basketball players if their training emphasizes playing basketball.  Although swimming is great exercise, it doesn’t improve your free-throw as much as practicing basketball does.
  6. Recovery – A hard day of training for a given component of fitness should be followed by an easier training day or rest day for that component and/or muscle group to help permit recovery.  Another way to allow recovery is to alternate the muscle groups exercised every other day, especially when training for strength and muscle endurance.
  7. Overload – The work load of each exercise session must exceed the normal demands placed on the body in order to bring about a training effect.

I hope these principles help you develop the best fitness program for you.  The most important thing is find something that you enjoy doing and it will never become a “chore” to workout.

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Essential Components of a Good Fitness Program

As we start the beginning of a new year, most of us are looking for ways to take off those extra pounds we put on over the holidays, or maybe throughout the entire year.   As you look at different exercise or fitness programs, you want to make sure the one that you choose has all the components of physical fitness so that you will have the best overall health.   A fitness program without all of the necessary components will not enable you to be functionally fit.  For example, a weight lifter can have a lot of muscular strength, but still have poor cardiovascular fitness and too much body fat.  In addition, I’m sure we all know runners who have excellent cardiovascular health and low body fat, but very little muscular strength.

Therefore, when you look into a fitness program you want it to have these components:

  1.  Cardiovascular endurance or fitness – The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and the blood vessels. It’s the system that supplies oxygen and blood throughout the body. Cardiovascular fitness is the efficiency with which the body supplies oxygen and blood to the working muscles during any extended activity.  Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular fitness.
  2. Muscular strength – Muscle strength is defined as the greatest amount of force a muscle or muscle group can exert in a single effort.  Anaerobic exercise is what you want to improve muscular strength.
  3. Muscular endurance – Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to repeat a movement many times or to hold a particular position for an extended period of time.  Both aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise improve muscular endurance.
  4. Flexibility – Flexibility is the ability to move the joints through an entire, normal range of motion.  Flexibility is determined by the degree to which an individual muscle will lengthen.  Stretching improves flexibility.
  5. Body composition – Body composition is the percentage of body fat a person has in comparison to his or her total body mass.   Improving the first three components of fitness listed above will have a positive impact on body composition and will result in less fat.  Excessive body fat detracts from the other fitness components, reduces performance, detracts from appearance, and negatively affects your health.

Other factors such as speed, agility, balance, coordination, reaction time, and power are classified as components of “motor” fitness.  These factors most affect your athletic ability.  Appropriate training can improve these factors within the limits of your potential.  A sensible weight loss and fitness program seeks to improve or maintain all the components of physical and motor fitness through sound, progressive, mission-specific physical training.

I hope this helps you in choosing the correct fitness program for you.  If you’re interested in more information about diet, nutrition, and fitness to start this new year off on the right foot, stay tuned for future posts that will cover those topics.

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