Reducing Stress with Exercise

You know that exercise does your body good, but you’re too busy and stressed to fit it into your routine. Hold on a second! There’s good news when it comes to exercise. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to weightlifting, can act as a stress reliever. You can make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Discover the connection between exercise and stress relief and why exercise should be part of your life.
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. It is important to get a good night’s rest so you can be more productive and alert throughout your days.
Here are some tips for sticking with a new routine or reinvigorating a tired workout:
Walk before you run. Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury. Plus, if you begin your program slowly, chances are better you’ll stick with it. If you’re new to exercise, aim for about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise two to three days a week and increase gradually. It is also important to incorporate strength training exercises at least twice a week for an overall balanced fitness regime.

Do what you love, and love what you do. Don’t train for a marathon if you dislike running. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Examples include walking, stair climbing, jogging, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, gardening, weightlifting and swimming.

Pencil it in. Although your schedule may allow a morning workout one day and an evening activity the next, carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority.

Starting an exercise program is just the first step.
Set some goals. It’s always a good idea to begin or modify a workout program with a goal in mind. If your primary goal is to reduce stress in your life and recharge your batteries, your specific goals might include committing to walking during your lunch hour two to three times a week or, if needed, finding a baby sitter to watch your children so that you can slip away to attend a fitness class. The point is make time for you!
Find a friend. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or the park can be a powerful incentive. Working out with a friend, co-worker or family member often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts.

Change up your routine. If you’ve always been a competitive runner, take a look at other less competitive options that may help with stress reduction, such as Pilates or yoga classes. As an added bonus, these kinder, gentler workouts may enhance your running while also decreasing your stress.

Whatever you do, don’t think of exercise as just one more thing on your to-do list. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s an active tennis match or a meditative meander down to a local park and back, and make it part of your regular routine. Any form of physical activity can help you unwind and become an important part of your approach to easing stress in your daily life.

Staying Motivated and Fit During the Holidays

The busy holiday season leaves little time to focus on fitness. Taking it one step at a time and incorporating small amounts of exercise into each day will help you to maintain your fitness level and combat holiday weight gain. It is also a time of the year when many people have trouble staying on track with their fitness goals or if just getting started, finding the motivation to continue staying on task. Here are a few ideas that can help you avoid the plateau, stay motivated, and either continue towards your current goal or take the first step in discovering the New You!

Set a goal – Make this specific to what’s important to you. It could be saying to yourself, “I will start exercising 3-5 days a week” or “I want to get into a smaller size”. Whatever the goal is write it down and then get out and make it happen!

Positive influences – Surround yourself with people and tools that will add to your overall well being and are supportive of your health and fitness goals. Life is simply too short to have someone in your life that doesn’t believe in you or is not supportive of your goals. Whether we realize it or not, what we see and hear is a major influence on our psychological well being. Think positive and believe in yourself!

Add variety – Stagnation comes from lack of imagination and creation. Change your exercise, daily routine or simply change the environment you are working out in. Try a new exercise or class, vary your workouts with ranges of weight, go heavier or lighter, change the days or time of day you normally workout. Variety prevents boredom and helps keep things fresh!

So my #1 tip for staying fit and healthy this holiday season is to stay motivated in your head. Rather than looking at the season as an inevitable pound-packing month of holiday parties and craziness, be excited about your daily workout, even if it’s just 20 minutes, this is your gift to yourself. Make a great playlist, workout with a friend, try a new healthy recipe, whatever it is that helps invigorate you and puts a smile on your face. We can all do it; it’s just a matter of whether we choose to!
Cheers to the Beginning of the Best Holiday Season Yet!

Hidden Causes of Weight Gain

Several things should be considered if you are gaining weight while watching calories and being physically active. More than likely, it’s a variety of things working together that have resulted in the weight gain.

Here are four factors that can cause the scale to creep up when you least expect it:

1) You May Be Gaining Weight Because of Lack of Sleep

The body functions best when well rested. When you’re tired, you also don’t handle stress as well, so you may reach for food as a coping mechanism. Furthermore, you may be taking in extra calories from late-night snacking. Some people think eating might help them get back to sleep, but all it really does is add more calories to their daily total. When you develop good sleeping rituals and get regular exercise, you will eventually sleep better.

2) You May Be Gaining Weight Because of Stress

We live in a society that demands we do more, and achieve more. Stress moves us
forward and helps us cope with life’s demands, but is also affects our mood and
emotions. Many people reach for food to help ease the stress. But, of course, this doesn’t work in the long run. Food is a temporary fix because it does not deal with the real stressors that must be addressed in order to reduce the trigger for eating and
fix the problem. Try relaxation techniques as well as exercise, which also burns
calories and provides other health benefits.

3) You May Be Gaining Weight Because of Medications

Some prescription drugs may cause weight gain, from a modest amount to as much as 10 pounds. For example, some steroids, hormone replacement therapy, and even oral contraceptives may cause gradual weight gain. Even if your medications are the cause of your weight gain, you still need to be mindful of eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. If you think medication may be a cause of your weight gain it is a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider for options.

4) You May Be Gaining Weight Because of Menopause

Women reach menopause at a range of ages, most are in midlife and are often less physically active than when they were younger. Along with aging comes a natural slowing of metabolism. Because of this, fat is more likely to be deposited in the midsection. The key to avoiding this extra belly fat is to maintain and increase the amount of lean body mass, which will, in turn, increase your metabolism or calorie burning rate. Women need to understand how important weight lifting and strength training is to their health. Exercise also helps offset bone loss that can come with menopause. A combination of exercise and a healthy calorie-controlled eating regime is the answer to thwarting weight gain.

“People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success.”

Carol White, Personal Fitness Specialist

Fitness for a Lifetime

Fitness isn’t just about vanity – it’s a necessity for maintaining an active, independent lifestyle in one’s elder years. To maintain health and vitality, every individual should implement a plan of exercise. Specifically for elderly individuals, fitness can help prevent a variety of symptoms of aging, as it can help boost both physical and cognitive performance. A few hours dedicated to fitness a week can help senior citizens live healthier, longer lives. As muscles in the body strengthen, the body can move more easily. Since seniors often experience joint pain, problems with mobility and lack of general flexibility, exercise can be a welcome addition to their lifestyle. Working these muscles through a regular workout program can help prevent, abate, or even cure these issues.

Regular exercise can help individuals of all age groups providing seemingly endless benefits. Examples of these benefits include improvements in conditions such as osteoarthritis, blood pressure, diabetes, memory, balance, stress and osteoporosis. In order to engage in a beneficial fitness program, elderly individuals should strive to maintain a specific routine that includes three specific components:

Aerobic Exercise – Aerobic exercise includes activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking and optional cardiovascular exercises. Cardiovascular exercise helps make everyday tasks easier by building your endurance and stamina. To experience benefits, people should strive to engage in aerobic activities approximately three to five times a week.

Strength Training – To improve posture, bone density, muscle mass and stamina, strength training should be implemented into everyone’s exercise regime. Strength training can be achieved by lifting weights and/or working with resistance bands and machines. Strive for weights that allow you to feel challenged, but that also allow for a full range of motion, as this will help build muscle and strength safely and efficiently.

Balance and Flexibility – The focus on balance and flexibility will help individuals gain core strength with reduced pain and injury. Research shows that stretching helps boost flexibility as it simultaneously helps prevent specific exercise-related injuries. For guided help in this area of focus, one can also participate in a Yoga or Pilate’s class. Yoga focuses on teaching movements that incorporate fluid balance and core strength. Similar to Yoga, Pilates also focuses on balance, core strength, and flexibility.

Make fitness a life choice, no matter what age you are, it is never too late to start… So what are you waiting for?

Your Health… Your Investment

By now you know that exercise is good for you, and that you should do something on a regular basis. When is the best time to exercise? Anytime! Make time to stay healthy. Exercise is the best thing you can do for yourself. Is one time better than another to exercise? It’s really up to you. You can exercise in the morning, afternoon or evening. Lunch breaks offer an excellent opportunity to get out of the office and exercise. Use your coffee break to take a short walk around the office or outside around the block. Get rid of the day’s stress by fitting exercise in after work. Whatever time you chose, make sure you stick with it. For some people it is easier to stay with an exercise program when you do it with a friend, partner or co-worker. Accountability is very important!

Once you decide that exercise is an important time in you life, you need to figure out how to make it happen. An important part of maintaining a fitness program is to recognize that you can exercise anywhere and anytime.

Here are a few ways you can exercise without even knowing it:

1) Park your car farther away. The more steps you take during the day, the more exercise you’re getting.

2) Go dancing. You would be surprised how many calories dancing can burn.

3) Participate in a charity walk or bike ride. There are several here in the Black Hills and most cater to all fitness levels.

4) Play with your kids. Trying to keep up with them is sure to burn calories while having fun!

5) Take the stairs. If possible, walk up the stairs at work or your home.

6) Stretch. Take five to ten minutes a day to stretch. Stretching relieves stress and burns fat.

7) Do some chores. Shoveling snow, working in the garden, raking leaves, cleaning your car… these kinds of activities may not be vigorous exercise, but they can keep you moving while getting your life in order.

Finally – reap the benefits of making some time for fitness. Maintaining your fitness routine will allow you a bit of time for yourself. Even 20-30 minutes of exercise a day will help remind you that your health and well-being is important, and that YOU are important.

Remember: Your health is truly priceless…so don’t stop investing in it!

Revving up your Metabolism

Boosting your metabolism is the secret to losing more weight. What exactly is metabolism? It’s the amount of energy in the form of calories that we burn during the day. Here are some tips to trick your body into burning calories more efficiently and give you a stronger, healthier, leaner new body.

Tip #1: Build muscle mass. As we get older we tend to lose muscle and gain body fat, and our metabolism slows down as a result. One way to combat this metabolic slowdown is with regular strength or resistance training. When you increase your muscle mass, you boost your resting metabolism and that makes your body burn more calories. That’s why I recommend adding strength training to your exercise program. Some examples are using free weights, using weight machines at the gym, and even doing specific calisthenics like push-ups and abdominal exercises. If you’re building strength, you are losing weight.

Tip #2: Get plenty of cardiovascular exercise. There is no getting around it; the biggest burn comes from cardiovascular exercise. That means jogging, hiking, walking, cycling, aerobic classes, jump roping, kickboxing, dancing or using cardio equipment at the gym. Anything to get your heart rate up. Choose whichever you prefer. One is not better than the other.

Tip #3: Snack right. Snacking can help ignite your energy by giving your body a fuel boost. Eating healthy snacks, in palm-sized portions, can help you avoid the overeating syndrome that often leads to weight gain and can leave you feeling lethargic. Be sure to include healthy carbs and proteins in each snack, such as organic peanut butter and banana, hummus and carrots, or an apple with low-fat cheese. The protein/carbohydrate combination will help regulate blood sugar and energy levels and you will feel content.

Tip #4: Always eat breakfast. Want to increase your metabolism? Eat breakfast. Eating breakfast increases your resting metabolism by at least 10 percent and reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes. Make sure it’s a healthy morning with foods such as whole-grain cereal, fruit, egg whites, stone-ground toast, organic peanut butter, fat-free yogurt or granola.

Tip #5: Stop slashing calories. Depriving your body of fuel is a surefire way to slow down your metabolism. When you slash calories, the calories burned by eating are greatly diminished and so is the metabolic rate. Restricting calories also signals the body that there is no food available. The best way to keep your metabolism revved is to eat three small meals with healthy snacks in between to give your body a constant supply of healthy fuel.

If you have a GOAL in life that takes a lot of energy, that requires a lot of work, that incurs a great deal of interest and that is a challenge to you, you will always look forward to waking up to see what the NEW day brings.

Carol A. White, Personal Fitness Specialist

Mixing and Moving it UP!

Circuit training is a workout routine that combines fitness and resistance training. The purpose of circuit training is to keep you moving by only allowing you to take minimal breaks in between exercises. Since you are constantly progressing through the workout, you will keep your heart rate up, therefore reaping the benefits of burning calories and burning off that unwanted body fat.

What are the benefits of circuit training?

• Injury Prevention. By combining different exercises, you prevent the same bones, muscle groups and joints from getting overstressed. As a result, circuit training tends to reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries caused by exercising too much.

• Exercise plan adherence. Circuit training has also been shown in a number of studies to increase an individual’s long-term adherence to exercise programs. Because circuit training relieves some of the monotony of exercise, a person won’t become bored with his or her program as quickly, and circuit training provides an efficient way to reap the benefits in half the time.

• Rehabilitation. When an injury does occur, circuit training comes to the rescue in two ways. First, it helps you maintain fitness despite being forced to forgo your normal exercise plan. Second, it corrects the cause of the injury. For example, if you injure your shoulder, you probably can’t go swimming, but you could continue your cardiovascular training by using a hands-free elliptical, treadmill or leg machine.

When developing a circuit training routine, a wide variety of exercises and fitness equipment can be utilized. Much of the equipment is relatively inexpensive. Examples include jump rope, dumbbells, medicine balls, body bands, weight training machines, or even your own body weight. A circuit can consist of as few as five stations to as many as 15 stations based on the goals and training levels of the participant.

The key to lifetime fitness is FUN!

Partners in Fitness

They say the couple who plays together, stays together. Working out with your spouse or partner can promote a healthier lifestyle overall. Couples spend most of their time apart due to careers and other responsibilities. One-on-one time is important to any relationship, so what are you waiting for? Workouts can be a new way to share time together and connect.

Before you embark on your new fitness regime together, take some time to consider these questions:

• Are you both willing to make this commitment? If both partners aren’t ready to commit to fitness, then workouts will soon become a sore spot in the relationship. You cannot drag someone into fitness; they have to go willingly. You both have to want it; otherwise, one person is bound to miss workouts, and the other person is bound to feel resentful.

• What are your individual goals? Each person must determine what his or her goals are and then design a mutual workout routine around them. A couple can do cardio and strength training together, even if their exercise goals differ. For instance, she may want to focus on toning her lower body while he wants to bulk up his upper body. In this case, they might start with cardio, then work on their trouble spots individually, and finally reunite for the rest of their strength training.

• How do you motivate one another? Are you a couple that offers praise and encouragement, or do you thrive on a spirit of healthy competition? To stay on track without nagging, you need to know what makes each other tick. Maybe encourage each other by setting goals and then competing to see who can reach their goal faster.

Remember that you may be in the gym together, but you still have different ways of working things out. Each person has their own way of learning things and different ways of processing information, and couples just have to be aware of that and set boundaries. Listening to your partner and keeping the lines of communication open are the keys to a successful workout partnership.

Keeping Fit in the Winter

Winter can be a very gloomy and tiresome time of the year. Most people feel the need to hibernate, while others put off activities and procrastinate heavily. For those who exercise, winter can be a season of dread.
→However, there are many ways to stay motivated when it comes to exercising in the winter months. Find something heavy, warm and comfortable to get you through those chilly months.
→Work out during the lighter hours. You won’t want to go running when the sun goes down. Most people will find the sunlight naturally keeps them motivated. Find a time that works for you, and stick to it.
→Join a fitness studio or a workout class. You may not want to go outdoors during the cold months. This is the perfect opportunity for you to find a new type of fitness regime, such as a personal training, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing or a dance class.
→Find friends to work out with. What better way to get your mind off the cold weather than to work out with a friend or a group f people you get along with? The more the merrier, after all.
→Always keep the long-term benefits on your mind. After winter comes spring and summer. You’ll have a new body and renewed energy, and you can look forward to buying a new wardrobe in a new size (smaller) for the warmer weather to come. Keep in the back of your mind and it will be one of the most powerful thoughts to keep you motivated.
→Try new winter sports. Whether it is skiing, snowshoeing, hiking or ice skating, thin of the fun you can experience with friends and family – remember the child in you. We live in a beautiful state – enjoy all that it has to offer in every season. “Daily adjustment means daily growth!”

Fitting in Fitness for the Holidays

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be easy for your fitness routine to fall off track. Though exercise may seem less of a priority, squeezing it in can actually help you feel more energized and better cope with the stress of the season.

The holiday season is undoubtedly a time for rejoicing. Unfortunately, the average adult often does a little too much celebrating, which inevitably leads to extra baggage when the New Year rings in. Indulging in extra helpings, snacking on seasonal treats, increased alcohol consumption, and little to no workout time all contribute to an increase of dieters in January. This year, enjoy your holidays without the weight gain and save your resolutions for something else!

Here are few suggestions to prevent weight gain while still enjoying the holiday season:

1. Incorporate activity into holiday celebrations. Park and walk to view neighborhood lighting displays instead of riding in the car. Start a tradition of ice skating, sledding, or skiing as part of the planned holiday tradition.
2. Give yourself the gift of planned physical activity. Make it a priority by scheduling daily activity into your routine. Physical activity is an effective method for preventing weight gain during the holidays by burning calories, suppressing appetite, and helping deal with stress.
3. Never skip meals before or after a big celebration. This practice creates a feast-famine cycle. To prevent overeating at holiday celebrations, drink a large glass of water beforehand, try to avoid socializing near the food, place food on a plate rather that eating straight from the buffet, and don’t eat while standing.
4. Spend less time in the kitchen. Do you really need to make dozens of different cookies, candies and breads? If so, consider modifying recipes for baked products by reducing the fat and sugar.
5. Rethink the food gifts you give. Consider replacing your usual box of homemade candies for your neighbors with an assortment of fresh or dried fruits and nuts or a freshly-baked loaf of whole grain bread.
6. Go to the back of the line. Let others go before you in serving and buffet lines; tempting items may be gone by the time you go through. Practice being a slow eater. Give your brain 20 minutes to tell your stomach that you are satisfied before going back for seconds.
7. Get adequate sleep. Sleep loss may affect various components of metabolism that influence hunger and weight gain. Being tired also affects your mental ability to resist temptations.
8. Plan Ahead. Schedule time for yourself and physical activity on a daily basis. Prioritize holiday celebrations to attend, schedule weekly family activities, be adventurous and try some new healthy food recipes.

Moderation is the key to achieving a fun but also healthy holiday season. With a moderate approach both to what you eat and how much you exercise, you can avoid packing on the weight and still partake in all the fun activities this time of year. So, this season, get a head start on the New Year instead of starting with extra pounds to lose in January.

“Celebration is the Movement of Life.”

Carol A. White