Day: February 13, 2016

Happy Hounds, Happy Humans: 7 Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Dog

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Most animal shelters in America are permanently packed full of dogs and cats in need of homes, due to irresponsible owners who don’t spay or neuter their pets, overpopulation, neglect and abuse.

Because there are so many pets looking for people to love them, anyone seeking a dog has a large selection from which to choose, with only a small adoption fee to pay that generally covers all shots, and sometimes even spay or neuter costs.

This means there is definitely a dog out there for everyone, and it is entirely possible to find the perfect pup to suit any lifestyle, family, work or living situation.

Below are 7 reasons to consider adopting from a shelter, and how to find the best pet for you.

 

1. Shelter Dogs May Be Potty Trained—

The frustrating housebreaking phase that has owners of new puppies cleaning up messes can be completely avoided by adopting an adult or “teenage” (older puppy) dog from the shelter.

Mature dogs often already know the rules and won’t make messes on your floors when you bring them home if they’ve been previously taught to go outside to do their business.

If you adopt a pre-trained dog, somebody else has already done the dirty work for you, and you get to take home your new pet knowing you won’t be needing to invest in extra carpet cleaner.

 

2. Shelter Dogs Are Grateful—

Purebred animals brought from a reputable breeder’s home have experienced socializing and bonding, which is great, but they will miss this family time when taken to a new home after purchase. This phenomenon can result in a puppy that cries at night, keeping the entire house awake, much like a new human baby.

Shelter dogs, on the other hand, have been living in less-than-stellar conditions, often alone in cages on concrete, and will repay you for the “lush” new environment by acting content and happy to finally be in a warm, comfortable place.

 

3. Shelter Dogs Can Be Purebreds—

In addition to rescue groups that focus on fostering and placing particular purebred pups with people who love a certain breed, it is estimated that 25-30% animals currently in shelters are purebreds. (Source: PetRescue.com.)

So if you have a certain type of dog you adore, consider saving a lot of money and rescuing an animal that may have not been lucky enough to find a home, all while getting exactly the breed you desire.

 

4. You Will Be a Hero—

When you adopt a shelter pet, you don’t just save one life, you save two: because not only will you be giving your new dog the home they’ve been hoping for, you’ll free up a spot for another animal.

Adopting a shelter pet is an extremely responsible and kind act you can feel good about as you help reduce the number of animals euthanized every year due to lack of space or funding.

 

5. Mutts Might Be Healthier—

Many purebred animals have certain health risks associated with their breeds, generally caused when unskilled breeders at some point in the breed’s lineage ignore weaknesses in bloodlines while trying to achieve particular physical qualities.

Because their DNA comes from a larger variety of animals, mixed-breed animals are statistically less likely to have many of the health issues present in certain purebreds, making them a hardy and potentially money-saving choice in the long run.

 

6. Shelter Pets Are Tested—

Animal shelters and rescue organizations generally have a vet on-call or on-site to test all animals brought in for diseases, internal and external parasites, hereditary or genetic problems, temperament or personality issues, and more.

Because they aren’t trying to make money off of the animals, you are more likely to get a thorough and honest assessment of any shelter animal you’re considering adding to your family.

Shelters will also often treat animals for any health problems before placing them up for adoption, saving you money.

 

7. You Can Choose a Perfect Fit—

Depending on your family size, living arrangements and lifestyle, there are many dogs in shelters that will likely work for you.

For example, if you live in a smaller home or apartment, you may want to consider a smaller, calmer dog that doesn’t need a lot of exercise. Or if you spend most of your days at home, you can adopt a higher-energy/higher-maintenance dog than someone who works outside of the home 8 hours a day.

 

No matter what personality type you require, there are so many different kinds of dogs waiting in shelters that you’ll be able to find exactly what you need—especially if you adopt an older dog to avoid the “personality surprises” puppies can develop as they age.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), around 10 million pets wait in shelters ever year for rescue, and because there are so many animals, some of them never find their forever home. If you have decided to add a dog to your family, saving a pet from a shelter or recuse organization can be a wonderful way to make your life—and a potentially-forgotten dog’s life—much, much happier.

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Rock the Walk! 7 Ways Walking Works for Weight Loss and Wellness

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Embarking on a fitness and weight loss program can be an intimidating new goal, especially for workout beginners and those who’ve been out of the exercise habit for a while. This is why walking is a wonderful way to gently ease anyone into a new, healthier lifestyle without a lot of stress or training. Because everybody knows how to walk, and even those with joint issues can build up muscles to eventually ease aches and pains if they take it very slowly.

Besides the health benefits that accompany the loss of excess weight, brisk walking and other types of cardiovascular exercise can prevent many other ailments and illnesses, making it important to do on a regular basis.

Most fitness experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio 4-5 days a week, but there’s nothing wrong with fitting some walking time into every day, as no healing period is required if muscles aren’t pushed too hard.

Check out 7 ways walking can make you healthier and more physically fit below:

 

1. Walking Prevents Type 2 Diabetes—

Especially if type 2 diabetes runs in your family, a walking program can be an invaluable and simple step on the path to avoiding this disease.

The Diabetes Prevention Program has even determined that walking 150 minutes per week, and losing only 12-15 pounds can reduce a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58%. (Source: MedicineNet.com.)

GlobalFit.com also found that type 2 diabetics who walk at least 3-4 hours a week have a 54% lower death rate, proving that it’s never too late to change your future.

 

2. Walking Improves Mood—

When we walk, the body releases feel-good endorphins and brain chemicals that make us feel euphoric and happier inside. Multiple studies have shown that people who walk have lower stress levels than those who are sedentary. According to EverybodyWalk.org, the endorphins produced when walking can relieve stress and lower anger and fatigue levels within only 10 minutes.

Walking is also a great way to work off nervous energy and anxiety without straining the body, and has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression by as much as 47% when done regularly.

 

3. Walking Reduces Cancer—

Study after study has shown that walking can drastically reduce chances of colon and breast cancer when done consistently.

FitWalk.org has stated that walking reduces colon cancer for women by 31%, and can also alter the ratio of estrogen metabolites to lower the chances of developing breast cancer.

And even though many would assume that women with breast cancer should only rest while fighting the disease, walking 45 minutes a day can actually be beneficial for breast cancer patients.

 

4. Walking Improves Cardiovascular Health—

By increasing the blood flow throughout the body and raising the heart rate, walking makes the heart stronger and lowers cholesterol, too.

People who walk 3 hours a week can also reduce chances of heart disease and upper respiratory infections, making a daily walk a great way to stay healthy during flu season—or any season, for that matter.

 

5. Walking Lengthens Lifespan—

It has been estimated that walking can increase a person’s longevity by reducing inflammation in the body, which lessens arthritis, macular degeneration, and other immune response-related aging issues to allow for better health and quality of life.

Scientists have proven with studies that walking also keeps the brain young, reducing dementia by up to 54% and improving memory.

 

6. Walking Burns Calories—

Even if you change nothing else about your diet or lifestyle, it has been proven that 45 minutes of walking a day will initiate weight loss for most people.

If you’re serious about getting in shape, of course, you’ll try to consume healthier foods and less calories. But if you’re in a weight loss slump or plateau phase, it’s good to know you can use walking to move forward and achieve your goals.

 

7. Walking Gives Energy—

Especially if you walk in the morning, the improved blood circulation can really give the body and mind a boost in energy that will last throughout the day, and get your metabolism revved up as well.

Another way walking gives us energy is by allowing the body to receive enough daily exercise to sleep well at night, helping us feel more alert the next day after a good night’s sleep.

 

If you’d like to change (or possibly even save) your life by starting a walking regimen, go slowly at first, walking 10-15 minutes daily the first week and gradually building your time up to 30-60 minutes a session.

Walking is a wonderful way for anyone at any fitness level to enter the world of exercise to eventually work up to more intense workouts without injury, if desired. Or you can simply keep walking, as it’s already an excellent way to stay in shape. Hopefully the many benefits of walking listed above have motivated you to get moving and start walking today.

Want Leaner Legs? Top 6 Tips for Tight, Toned Thighs

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Many women complain that every extra pound they gain goes straight to their lower half, giving them the classic pear-shaped body that exemplifies everything estrogen, and allowed our ancestors to store the extra weight needed to support a pregnancy throughout a famine.

So that was helpful. It might even be why many of us are here, walking around on our big legs today. But now that famine isn’t something most of us have deal with, we don’t need this annoying ability to retain thigh fat anymore. Modern women don’t worry about carrying a baby over a rough winter: we worry about being able to fit into our skinny jeans, and then our cute shorts when spring arrives.

So how do we get the lean legs and thinner thighs we’d like? Fortunately, there are many ways to trim and tone these areas, 6 of which you can read about below:

 

1. Walk Everywhere—

If you want to slim down the legs, the first step, pun intended, is by walking every day, everywhere and every chance you get.

Park the car in the back of the lot and walk the distance to the store. Take the stairs every day at work instead of the elevator. Hit the treadmill at the gym every day. Walk 20 minutes a day on your lunch break. Just keep on walking!

Light resistance and repetition are key for slimming down any part of the body, and walking gives everyone an easy, accessible version of this type of exercise.

 

2. Ballet Away—

You don’t have to be a ballerina to employ the same leg-strengthening exercises professional dancers do, you just need to learn the different positions and practice them.

Similar to yoga and Pilates, ballet positions are done slowly and with precision. First and second positions in ballet are essentially graceful squats, and the arabesque position is a reverse leg lift similar to yoga’s warrior pose.

You can take a ballet class to learn some of the exercises that have kept the thighs of ballerinas toned for centuries; or if you’re disciplined, do Internet research, and teach yourself the moves.

 

3. Weight Training—

Many women worry about bulking up by lifting heavy weights, often scaring them away from this wonderful bone mineral density-building and metabolism-boosting exercise.

But as long as 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions of every weight are possible, there will be no bulky muscle building, only tone-giving tightening, and tightening is what makes legs smaller in circumference.

So don’t fear the weight machines, or any other sort of strength training, such as elastic bands or free weights, because the more muscle mass you create, the faster your resting metabolism, and that’s a great way to thinner everything.

 

4. Yoga and Pilates, Please—

Both of these exercises are performed slowly to stretch and lengthen the muscles and body, giving it a longer, leaner line.

The increased flexibility yoga and Pilates develops can firm legs while keeping them limber and less prone to injury, making both practices an invaluable part of any weight loss and toning program.

 

5. Run It Off—

If you don’t have joint issues and can handle the greater intensity of running, this can be an incredibly slimming form of exercise.

Because it involves endurance, running is a top notch aerobic workout, and will tone and trim without adding bulk.

To start off, mix short bursts of jogging into your brisk walking sessions, adding more and more running to your time until you are officially a runner.

And if you feel sharp pain beyond the dull ache of a well-worked muscle, stop immediately. There’s nothing more frustrating than an injury that sets your whole workout regimen back to square one.

 

6. Biking Burns—

Cycling is a really great way to replace wobbly, wiggly thighs and calves with firmness and muscle definition. Challenge yourself with hills for a great burn, or go the distance with longer, less intense bike rides.

Spinning classes have become popular because although participants ride on stationary bikes, there is an instructor to keep the class motivated and moving for major results.

 

Daily lunges are another thigh-tightening favorite of fitness buffs everywhere, as are scissor kicks and squats. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water and eat enough protein for muscles to use for growth, with lean versions like chicken, fish, and beans being the healthiest choices.

If you’d like thinner thighs and toned legs, try one of the exercise ideas above to get back into your favorite pair of pants and feel great.

Expecting Exercise: 5 Workouts for a Fit and Fabulous Pregnancy

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It was once believed the only exercise acceptable for expecting women was gentle walking, which is wonderful exercise, but certainly not the only activity safe for pregnant women. There are actually many different forms of prenatal exercise that are extremely beneficial when done in moderation.

The main difference between pregnancy and non-pregnancy exercise is that expecting moms need to listen to their bodies even more than usual, prepare to be off-balance occasionally (as the body grows suddenly), and adjust accordingly.

Special care should also be taken to prevent the body temperature from becoming too elevated, as this is not good for the baby.

Below are 5 pregnancy-safe exercises for expecting mothers:

 

1. Prenatal Yoga—

Yoga is a wonderful way to stay limber and strong no matter what, but when your belly’s growing at an alarming rate, staying flexible and toned can actually help alleviate or even prevent the aches and pains that can come with sudden physical changes.

Tree pose is a wonderful way to build leg muscles and enhance balance during a time when you may feel occasionally off-kilter, and downward facing dog feels amazing when it allows the baby bump to hang freely, giving your back a much-needed rest.

Prenatal yoga can help in the delivery room by keeping women agile and strong, offering deep-breathing techniques to energize and soothe. Just be careful not to lie flat on the back after the 20th week of pregnancy, or do any yoga involving squats after the 34th week, as this can prematurely induce labor.

 

2. Swimming for Soon-to-Be Moms—

Especially in the last trimester of pregnancy when you’re starting to feel heavier and possibly experience the back and leg pains that can come with carrying an ever-expanding belly, swimming can bring relief.

Swimming takes all of the weight off the body, allowing women to float and stretch sore muscles without resistance or gravity that can make loose ligaments and joint stress worse. Swimming is also a favorite because it can be done comfortably and safely right up until the due date.

If you’ve ever considered joining a gym with a pool, pregnancy is a perfect time to make it happen, because swimming is quite possibly the most soothing and gentle exercise available.

 

3. Walking Will Work Wonders—

A daily walk during pregnancy has been shown to help women perform more efficiently in the delivery room, but most importantly, it gets positive, feel-good endorphins flowing through the body, which is great for mom and baby.

It is safe to walk as often as you please, as long as overheating or exhaustion are not issues, with a minimum of 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes being what most fitness experts recommend during maternity.

If you don’t have a safe or smog-free place to walk outdoors, a treadmill can work just as well, but be sure to keep it at a low pace to start out, and hold onto the hand rails to maintain balance.

 

4. Stationary Cycling—

Riding a bicycle outdoors can subject women to the potential risk of falling, jarring bumps, or moving objects such as inattentive drivers, making the stationary bike a much safer version of this exercise.

Cycling on a stationary bike takes the pressure off joints and allows tired pregnant ladies to sit while they increase circulation and move leg muscles, making it an exercise nearly everyone can do.

If your pregnancy is bringing with it back pain, find a recumbent stationary bike that will allow you to lean back and relax while still exercising the legs.

 

5. Light Weightlifting—

Pregnancy is not generally a good time to begin a weightlifting program, but if you normally lift free weights, use the weight machines, or any other form of resistance strength training, you don’t have to sit back in dismay for 9 months and watch the results of all your hard work atrophy.

But you do have to take it easier than usual; meaning no major straining—only maintaining. This is not the time to try to build muscle or move up to a new level.

If anything, you should dial it back until your body feels only invigorated after a session, rather than your pre-pregnancy “no pain, no gain” workouts.

 

The goal of maternity exercise should be to energize the body and stay in shape, without pushing to extremes or trying to build muscles. The pregnant body is already adding weight naturally, and changing very quickly, so consider maintenance your goal until the baby is born, rather than progress. You’ll have plenty of time to focus on pushing yourself to get back into shape once the baby is born.

If you’d like to embark on a fitness program or modify your existing routine to cater to your growing, beautiful new shape, get clearance from your doctor, and try some of the pregnancy-safe exercises discussed above.

Let’s Get Metaphysical: 7 Ways Exercise Tones Body and Soul

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In addition to giving us better health and a fit body, exercise is a natural anti-depressant that can boost our spirits and provide peace in an often hectic world.

It’s easy to get caught up in the transformational aspects of working out because we all want to look our best.  But more important than looking good is feeling good, no matter what our airbrushed, celebrity-filled media promotes. Rather than focusing on which workout will get you into those skinny jeans, it might be wiser to find the fitness regimen that will make you happier inside.

Below are 7 soul-satisfying ways exercise can balance the body, and get the spirit into shape:

 

1. Start Stretching—

Stretching the muscles releases dopamine, an important brain chemical that makes us feel more positive and keeps the mind sharp by improving concentration.

One college study found that when elderly people consistently stretched on a regular basis, they experienced a boost in self-esteem, well-being and satisfaction with life. (Source: American Health Foundation and Academic Press.)

Stretching moves blood through the muscles, waking them up and lessening our chances for injury, and a regular stretching routine has also been shown to help us sleep more soundly.

 

2. Walk the Worry Away—

If your exercise routine has become something you dread, stop counting miles or calories and just take a walk with no agenda or goals.

Walk because it feels good to move your body, rather than because you’re trying to diet or lose weight. Take the pressure off yourself to achieve and simply enjoy the scenery – or some fun music, television or reading if you’re a treadmill walker.

By changing your motivational mindset and walking for fun and stress relief, it will begin to feel more like pleasure than punishment, eventually giving you the results you want without negative associations.

 

3. Sports Stop Stress—

Are you a team player? If you’re an outgoing and extroverted person who feels energized by interactions with others, consider finding a sport you enjoy for fitness that doesn’t feel like work.

Some people enjoy golfing, some like jogging with groups in running clubs, while others enjoy faster team sports such as soccer, softball, football, tennis, racquetball, and rugby.

No matter what sport you seek, chances are good there are like-minded teams in your area. Ask friends and coworkers about local leagues, or check out community centers to find a group activity that suits you.

 

4. Say Yes to Yoga—

Yoga involves stretching in established positions, which we already know benefits mind and body. This is often done in class or group form, which is helpful for motivation, support and guidance.

A proven anxiety-buster, yoga relaxes both body and mind, mixing gentle, slow movements with a relaxing and extremely effective workout.

If you’re too shy for classes, try a beginner’s yoga DVD at home to see if this is the exercise you’ve been seeking to soothe your soul.

 

5. Weight of the World—

Lifting weights can be surprisingly comforting. This form of exercise gives some people a sense of peace as they count repetitions and repeat an established routine. Weightlifting offers organization to those who thrive on structure, and can effectively eliminate feelings of edgy restlessness.

In addition to building bone mineral density and raising metabolism as muscle mass is increased, strength training can be extremely cathartic. With every lift and release, the body burns off nervous energy and replaces it with a euphoric endorphin rush for the brain.

 

6. Play with a Pet—

If you have a cat or dog, you’ve done your mind and body a huge favor by decreasing anxiety, lessening depression and lowering your blood pressure.

Multiple studies have shown that animal companions make humans feel better in every way. Dogs also give us an excuse to take a daily walk, which is great for our cardiovascular health.

If you’re in a stable place in your life and able to provide a pet with the attention they need, consider adopting a cat or dog to brighten your days.

 

7. Funny Fitness—

The power of laughter is officially recognized in the world of science, as researchers realize the effects of laughter and exercise are both effective at burning calories and releasing oxygen into the blood.

Laughing on a regular basis can boost the immune system, lower blood sugar and help promote relaxation, making it physically important to find things to keep ourselves chuckling. Because it’s beneficial both psychologically and physically, laughter yoga has been gaining in popularity, with classes being offered in many cities.

 

Life is short, and spending precious time doing things we don’t enjoy or trying to be something we’re not is a pretty frustrating existence. Instead, focus on how strong and healthy you can make the body you’ve been given, so you can truly appreciate it.

It’s important to take good care of our mind as well as our muscles, and exercise done right can enhance the quality of our lives in all ways. Use the tips above – or use your amazing brain to think up some ideas of your own – and mix fitness with pleasure for the good of your body and soul.

Goodbye to the Glorification of Gaunt: 5 Reasons Strong is Superior to Skinny

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“Strong is the new skinny” is a trendy phrase traveling around the Internet via personal blogs, fitness site articles and even Pinterest pins.

To be clear: There’s absolutely nothing wrong having a naturally thin body type. But if starving and obsessively over-exercising is the only way you can attain a lanky physique, it might be time to change your body image ideal. Because that’s a really hard way to live, and you deserve better.

You do. Think about it. Maybe you can work on being strong, and be happy about having muscles showing, rather than ribs. Maybe you can stop obsessing about every calorie you put in your mouth, and instead focus on eating healthfully. Maybe your particular body wasn’t designed to be willowy and ultra-lean.

And maybe that’s okay. Really… it is. Relax. Not everybody is supposed to look the same, and our differences are what make us interesting and beautiful, so why do we try so hard to become the same tired “runway model” archetype? Haven’t we evolved past this mentality of physical conformation?

It’s hard to change years of media brainwashing and negative self-talk, but focusing on having a healthy body rather than reaching a certain number on the scale is a great way to start.

Below are 5 reasons being strong is smarter than starving:

 

1. Because Muscle Mass Raises Metabolism—

That’s right! The more muscle you have, the more you can eat while maintaining a healthy weight. And the more you can eat, the more opportunities you have to give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your immune system strong, and everything else working well.

Muscle also weighs much more than fat, so ignore the scale, pay attention to how your clothes fit, and trust the mirror to reflect your progress.

 

2. Because You Can Be a Good Influence—

Women look up to other females who are self-assured, and being proud of your body is a great way to make a positive impact on others; especially young girls.

By embracing your physical appearance and focusing on making it stronger and healthier, rather than putting emphasis on changing the way you look, you’ll set a great example for everyone around you.

And really, self-confidence is an incredibly attractive quality, so be proud of who you are no matter what shape you’re currently taking.

 

3. Because You Will Live Longer—

Cardio exercise is wonderful for your health, and even 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week will decrease your risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. But because so many studies have proven the benefits of strength training, doctors now recommend a blend of both types of exercise for maximum health.

Increased longevity is a benefit of strengthening your body, and better quality of life will carry you into your older years, so be sure to add some form of resistance to all workouts.

 

4. Because Superhero Bones Trump Bird Bones—

Increased bone mineral density is the top benefit strength training has to offer over all other types of exercise, as resistance lightly breaks down collagen in bones so they build themselves back up stronger than before during healing, similar to the way muscles form.

Because we lose bone mineral density at a much higher rate as we age, some form of weightlifting or resistance training is especially recommended for anyone over 40.

 

5. Because It’s No Fun to Get Hurt—

People who strength train as a part of a regular exercise program are less likely to get injured because they’ve got stronger bones and a layer of protective muscle built up around themselves.

If you’re in an accident, your additional muscle and bone density may be the difference between minor versus major injuries; but even on a daily basis, extra strength will prevent muscle and tendon strains and give you better balance.

 

It’s difficult to find self-acceptance when our culture constantly glorifies underweight women in magazines and on television. Women are taught to believe fat is the enemy, and being thin is the pinnacle of perfection – often developing eating disorders when they can’t achieve such unrealistic beauty ideals.

Because the average woman is not skinny, this cultural obsession with thinness can also lead to feelings of inadequacy, failure, and a sense of “never being enough” sadly residing where self-confidence should live.

It’s time to stop the cycle of idolizing weakness and frailty, and start teaching girls that whether they are naturally thin, average, curvy, or voluptuous, the sexiest thing any woman can be is strong, both inside and out.

The Early Riser Catches the Burn: 6 Beautiful Benefits of Morning Exercise

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If you’re fortunate enough to be a naturally early riser, you already know the benefits of being able to wake up faster and be more productive in the morning than the night owls among us. You’re ready to work out 15 minutes after jumping out of bed, and annoyingly chipper to the non-morning people in your midst at work. (Don’t take it personally. They’re just tired, and that makes people grumpy.)

But if you’re not a morning person by nature, it might be a good idea to give it a try if you’d like to achieve faster results with your exercise program. It may sound like a nightmare to move your body so soon after sunrise, but if you have a perky morning pal around to pour you a cup of coffee or 3, you’ll possibly be happy you got into an early routine.

Below are some reasons why exercising in the morning is a great idea:

 

1. More Metabolism—

When you get muscles working and the heart pumping blood early in the day, you’re effectively starting the engine for your whole body to get all systems moving, and your metabolism begins burning fuel.

Exercise has also been shown to elevate the metabolism for hours afterward, which means the sooner you get it going, the more time you’ll spend in this higher-calorie burning mode.

So wake up that metabolism, make it get to work early, and reap the benefits for the rest of the day.

 

2. Less Appetite—

In addition to boosting your metabolism so you burn calories at a faster rate, exercise has been shown to reduce appetite by releasing brain chemicals and endorphins that tamp feelings of hunger.

This means the earlier in the day you get your workout on, the less likely you’ll be to overeat later, which can make a huge difference in the progress of your fitness.

Some people also find that starting their day with exercise reminds them they’re trying to improve their health, leading to smarter food choices for the rest of the day.

 

3. More Sleep—

If you’re a late to bed/late to rise person normally, it might be hard to fall asleep early in preparation for morning exercise at first. But if you can stick with it long enough to readjust your circadian rhythms, you will get better quality of sleep and more of it once you’re on the new schedule.

Late-day exercise can have the unwanted effect of waking people up and keeping them up later than they’d like because of the accompanying metabolism boost and rush of endorphins.

Studies have shown that those who exercise in the morning sleep better, so if you have insomnia, getting into a consistently early exercise program can be especially beneficial. (Source: WebMD.com.)

 

4. More Brain Power—

Working out early can improve your mental acuity and clarity for the rest of the day, thanks to a combination of alertness-giving oxygen and the positive endorphins released during physical exertion.

Many morning workout fans also report increased daily productivity, as the early exercise time allows them to plan the day’s tasks, goals and to-do list while they simultaneously move the body and enjoy a productivity-enhancing mental meditation.

 

5. More Consistency—

Most adults realize the best laid plans often become the universe having a good laugh at our expense, which can really throw a wrench in the consistency factor of a fitness program. This means that if you plan your workout for later in the day, there’s more of a chance that something will pop up and usurp the time you’ve set aside.

While it’s entirely possible to stick to a later-in-the-day regimen by giving daily workouts the priority they deserve (because your health is obviously high-priority), if you get the exercise over with first thing upon waking, there will be less opportunities for unforeseen issues to cause you to skip it.

 

6. More Relaxation—

If you’re the type of person who showers or puts on make-up before going to the gym out of a sense of self-consciousness about appearance, morning exercise might be just the thing you need to skip pointless “prep time” and stick with your workouts.

In the early morning, nobody is expected to look well-put-together, and there is an added casualness to the atmosphere of any club. Everybody just got out of bed and came straight to the gym – this is an accepted fact – and that means less concern for hair and clothes.

 

If you’re having trouble consistently working out, or feel that late-day exercise might be causing sleep issues by revving you up when you should be winding down, consider the benefits of earlier exercise above and give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out you’re a morning person after all.

Zen and the Art of Physical Maintenance: Which Workout Suits Your Spirit?

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Everybody’s different, and one of the major factors involved with working out regularly is finding an exercise program you enjoy. If you can find a form of exercise you like to do – or at the very least, don’t dread – you’re going to be much more likely to stick with it. And as we all know, consistency is the only way to get results from any fitness regimen.

So how do we figure out which type of exercise is the one for us? There’s no magic formula, and there may be a bit of trial and error involved – but if you’re willing to hang in there and stay open-minded, you will definitely find a workout that suits your lifestyle and fitness level.

Below are some different exercise ideas to help anyone find a perfect form of fitness for their personality.

 

1. Naturally Fit—

Are you happiest when outdoors? Do you find peace in nature? If you’re a fan of all things outdoorsy, you may get into your exercise zen-groove via physical activities such as cycling, hiking, walking, running and rollerblading. Other ideas might be: snowboarding, swimming, skiing, golfing, or outdoor team sports such as soccer, softball or football.

In regions with temperate climates, there are even outdoor yoga classes, and daily fitness boot camps, generally led by professional trainers.

If you love any excuse for fresh air (as do many people who work in a stuffy office setting all day), find an activity you like that’s performed outdoors and give it a shot. If it’s not your thing, try another and keep seeking until you find some type of open-air movement that makes you feel happy.

 

2. Slightly Shy—

Many people who are beginners, out of shape, or new to the fitness world feel self-conscious at first, which can keep them from stepping out to try new activities. This is absolutely normal, so if this is your current state of mind, don’t be embarrassed: there are plenty of things you can do to get fit all by yourself, and things that will help you work up the nerve to eventually join other people.

There are DVD workouts for every type of exercise imaginable, but if you’d like to try before you buy, hop on YouTube and search for free versions of the workouts you’re considering and give them a test drive. There are also many free shows on cable television you can record and try, such as daily yoga sessions.

If you like the idea of team sports or something more extreme, but feel too intimidated to join a crowd of strangers, Wii Fit games can be a fun alternative that simulates the competitive experience of playing against people in the comfort of your living room.

 

3. Social Butterfly—

If you love meeting new people and are energized by social activities, some type of team sport or group class might be the perfect way for you to satisfy your need for conversation and mental stimulation with the bonus of a fitter body.

There are indoor and outdoor versions of soccer, running clubs, hiking clubs, fitness boot camps, and different types of aerobic-type classes (Zumba, step, cycling, dance, etc.) available through many gyms if these sound appealing.

If you’re looking for a more mellow exercise experience, Pilates and yoga are also a great way to connect with people while benefitting from the motivation group workouts can offer.

 

4. Dance Fever—

If you’re the type of person who dislikes exercise that feels like exercise, you might consider taking a dance class, perhaps through a local gym, community center, or dance academy to “trick” yourself into fitness while having fun.

Zumba is a popular type of dance with a workout feel, but more traditional dance classes such as ballroom, hip-hop, modern, ballet, jazz, or country-style dancing will give you the exercise you seek, and new skills to show off on the dance floor at the next wedding you attend.

 

5. Structure Seeker—

Some people love the structure of a set workout and feel uneasy about trying new things or stepping outside of the box – and that’s okay. If you’re a “Type A” who thrives on routine and consistency, and find this is keeping you from finding a workout for your style, you might consider strength training.

Weight machines offer a set amount of weight to lift and a concrete number of repetitions per set, which can soothe people who like to feel in charge, with the added benefit of fast, noticeable results that will motivate the easily discouraged.

If structure makes you feel safe and might encourage you to work out consistently, grab a notebook and pencil to record your numbers, and head to the gym for a form of exercise you can completely control.

 

There are endless activities to try, and multiple ways to stay fit, leaving none of with us any excuse to be sluggish. So if you’re in a fitness slump, don’t give up; use the tips above to find the workout that suits your spirit, and get moving!

Perfectly Posed: 7 Quick Tips for Top Workout Form

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Any fitness expert will tell you that 5 repetitions of any exercise done with the proper form is better than doing 15 reps the wrong way. This is because working out incorrectly can cause injuries, and get you into dangerous habits that can be hard to break.

For these reasons, it’s crucial to research the right way to do any type of exercise before you start, or to ask a professional trainer to guide you as you learn it until you can safely move forward on your own.

Below are 7 basic tips for proper workout form to help anyone avoid making these common exercise mistakes:

 

1. Don’t Forget to Breathe—

This may seem obvious, but many beginners to the exercise game tend to hold their breath during the difficult parts, which can lead to dizziness, headaches and achy muscles deprived of the oxygen they need for a satisfying workout.

Remember to breathe in through your nose during the resting phase of a move, and blow air out through the mouth during the highest point of exertion for maximum benefit.

 

2. Lift with the Legs—

If you’ve ever worked a job involving lifting and carrying heavy objects, you’re already familiar with this mantra, but it applies to exercise as well: lift with the legs, and not the back. This requires awareness and concentration because most of us instinctively bend at the waist to pick something up, rather than squatting.

Especially if an activity that involves weights, a kettlebell or any type of lifting is required, rather than bending at the waist, bend at the knees and let the big muscles of the thighs do the work.

Also: Activate the abdominal and core muscles for support when you lift. Your back will thank you.

 

3. Keep the Spine Aligned—

While doing any type of exercise, it’s important to keep the spine in the proper position to build the correct muscles and avoid injury.

This good posture can be achieved by holding the head up straight, keeping the shoulders back, and knees slightly bent. By working out in this good form, you will reinforce your excellent posture by building up the muscles that keep you standing tall.

 

4. Don’t Lock the Joints—

Locked- up joints during exercise end up taking the pressure off the muscles, which are what you’re trying to strengthen, and can make the bones hurt or even cause injury.

When doing standing exercises of any type, keep the knees slightly bent at all times to force the muscles to do the work and prevent knee pain.

When exercise involves the upper body, be sure to keep elbows slightly bent, even during arm extensions. Remember that by locking your joints you’re only causing unnecessary joint strain and cheating the muscles.

 

5. Take It Slow—

This advice applies to all exercises, whether strength training by nature or cardiovascular. If you push yourself too fast too quickly, you’re not making progress, you’re risking a pointless injury that might set back your workout program for weeks.

When lifting weights, or doing any other type of controlled movement, be sure to go slowly, avoid rapid or jerky motions, and control all exercises on the way down as well as on the way up.

It’s common to want to drop the heavy weight quickly once you hit the peak of a repetition, but if you do this you’re missing out on valuable progress made when the muscle has to maintain control on the way down. This is lazy lifting, and laziness has no place in the world of fitness.

 

6. Squat a Lot—

One of the best things to learn for proper form is how to squat correctly when needed. Many different types of activities require squatting, and for the well-being of the knees and back, it’s something everyone should know.

Fitness trainers will often tell you to pretend you’re sitting down in a chair, which is a great start, but it’s also important to remember to keep the thighs even, and push out the rear end as you sit down in your invisible chair.

When you look down mid-squat, your knees should be just over the toes, with the body still leaning back. And don’t go so low you reach the point of no return, as this can cause loss of balance and knee joint disorders.

 

7. Don’t Lift with the Neck—

The neck is a surprisingly delicate part of the body, considering it holds up our heads for a living. But there are many small and easily-tweaked little muscles and tendons residing in the neck, making it important to avoid straining. Those who’ve pulled a neck muscle are well aware of what a huge inconvenience this can be, as we try driving without being able to turn the head to either side, and spend the day dreaming of the moment we can finally lay our suddenly too-heavy head down on a pillow.

Neck strain commonly happens during crunches, sit-ups, and other ab/core work, but can be easily avoided by engaging the proper muscles during such exercises.

Be sure to lead with the upper body rather than the head, and when doing any type of torso lift, pretend there’s an apple between the chin and chest to avoid injuries caused by tucking in the chin.

 

The above are only a few of the most common tips on proper form, so if you’re considering a new type of exercise, be sure to ask those already in the know how you can work out safely without injury. By working out smarter and not rushing through activities haphazardly, you’ll see better results and less setbacks on your way to achieving your fitness goals.

The Power of Positive: What Laughter Yoga Is and How It Helps

Laughter Yoga (2)

 

There are plenty of positive graphics floating around the Internet, generally consisting of tranquil nature scenes with inner-peace inspiring quotes pasted on top. Many of these images tout the advantages, both spiritually and physically, of remembering to be grateful and focus on happiness. And while these messages are lovely and make us feel warm inside, they don’t really put the positive movement into action unless the viewer decides to make it so.

Laughter yoga, however, provides a concrete way to bring the power of positivity to life with a very real and fun form of exercise. Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria is generally given credit for starting the first Laughter Club, after he discovered in studies that laughter offers humans physical benefits on nearly equal par with exercise.

Because fake laughter produces the same physiological effects as genuine laughter, there’s no need to start renting funny movies and watching comedians while you practice this version of yoga. Laughter yoga involves exactly what the name implies – laughing while you do yoga – and it doesn’t matter if it’s forced or not.

So what are the benefits of laughter yoga, and how does one begin practicing this playful activity?

 

The benefits of laughter yoga include:

* A cathartic reduction in stress and anxiety that can lead to faster healing, a stronger immune system, and lowered blood pressure.

* Less of the stress hormones that cause anxiety and weight gain, such as epinephrine and cortisol.

* Regulation of blood sugar and less risk for diabetes.

* A boost of oxygen throughout the body, leading to mental alertness and the release of happiness-inducing endorphins.

* Increased lung/respiratory health resulting from deep, strong breathing during laughter.

* Increased abdominal strength and toning from using stomach muscles to laugh while performing yoga.

* The strengthening of facial muscles, which can minimize wrinkles and help tone the under-chin and neck area.

 

The laughter yoga practice can be done at home if you choose to teach yourself, or with a group if you can find a local laughter yoga class or club. Below are the steps to help anyone learn laughter yoga:

 

1. Open Your Mind—

You are about to laugh for no apparent reason, and many find this makes them feel a bit silly, even if completely alone. This means the first step to practicing laughter yoga is to let go of all feelings of self-consciousness.

To do this, remember you’re doing a positive thing for your health. Plus, you might also find that once you start laughing, it will become real as the giggles take hold.

 

2. Applaud Yourself—

To start, clap your hands together in front of your heart and let out the biggest laugh you can muster, focusing on the stomach and heart areas.

If you’re having trouble faking laughter, some laughter yogis suggest making the actual sounds, “Ha, ha, ha, ha,” as you concentrate on the heart, and the sounds, “Ho, ho, ho, ho,” while engaging the abdominal area. This simulated mirth will often lead to actual laughter if you stick with it.

 

3. Take It Down to the Ground—

After mastering the chest and belly laugh, you can now send joy into the lower part of the body by stamping your feet and chanting, “Hee, hee, hee, hee,” until the laughter becomes genuine.

Adding a yoga move such as standing forward-fold pose or downward-facing dog while continuing to laugh can combine the benefits of exercise and happiness.

 

4. Bring It Up to the Sky—

The laughter wave is another popular move that combines the upper and lower parts of the body during laughter yoga.

To perform the laughter wave, bend at the waist in a bow, face hands down to the ground and lower them, and then raise them palms-up to the sky, laughing heartily.

 

5. Keep a Clear Head—

If you feel tension mounting inside of your mind at any point during the day, place the hands upon each side of the head, and laugh inside to yourself with a big smile on your face for an amazing release of pent-up anxiety.

This can be performed in a private office at work, or even a bathroom stall if you have no other options and really need to let go of stress.

If you’re performing this move at home or in a laughter yoga class, of course, be sure to laugh out loud for maximum health benefits.

 

It may sound like a slightly odd combination – mixing laughter with the usually silent, solemn practice of yoga – but the benefits of both activities combined have given laughter yoga large amounts of respect among fitness experts and spiritually-minded people.

With an estimated 6,000+ laughter yoga clubs and classes worldwide, laughter yoga has moved from an interestingly odd trend to a legitimate, accepted and highly effective type of exercise. Consider trying some of the laughter yoga tips above at home, or try a class in your area to reap the physiological benefits of this fun exercise… and find your happy place today.