Fitness & Wellness

Are Kettlebells A Cardio Workout

Are Kettlebells A Cardio Workout

I like to look at all types of workouts and different equipment. One that has always intrigued me are the use of kettlebells. Not only are kettlebells quite simple, they provide great strength training, a good flexibility workout, while also providing an exceptional cardio workout. Kettlebells provide a unique benefit because of their shape. They’re off center with a continual change in the center of gravity and force you to work your muscles more like they’d work in day-to-day activities. They’ve been around for a long time in the Russia, but have achieved popularity more recently in America.

Kettlebells provide a great cardio workout.

You’ll be swinging the kettlebell overhead using muscles that you use to help when you breathe. That means they can help you breathe when they’re in that position. The muscles specifically used for breathing will have to do more work and improve for better cardio-vascular fitness. Because of the imbalance of the kettlebell, it also does more for functional fitness. While you might think you’re in shape unless you’ve carried an unwieldy package with no handles or an awkward bundle of items while running to the car on a rainy day or to catch a train, you won’t understand just how much help it can be. Life’s grueling tasks aren’t often replicated in the gym, but kettlebell workouts prove different.

Kettlebell workouts are good for flexibility, while improving endurance and strength.

You don’t have to look any further for exercises and equipment to help improve your flexibility—range of motion. Kettlebells do that during a typical workout. You’re swinging the kettlebell and it not only adds to joint strength and flexibility in the upper body, it can also stretch your hamstrings. Simple kettlebell exercises can put your shoulders through a huge range of motion. For improving range of motion, starting with a lighter weight kettlebell is best to ensure you have the right form. It’s not the weight that improves flexibility, but the off-center nature of the kettlebell.

If a total body workout isn’t enough, consider how the kettlebell workout can burn loads of calories.

Just like strength training with weights is great for burning calories and building muscle density that also boosts your metabolism, working out with a kettlebell does the same. Because it is off-center, it also works the core muscles, to add to the workout and calorie burning benefits. It’s a whole-body complex exercise, so it stimulates the creation of HGH—human growth hormone.

  • Kettlebell workouts are fun. It may not seem like you’re working as hard, but you’ll get loads of benefits even with lighter weight kettlebells.
  • A workout with a kettlebell is safe for people of all ages and fitness level. You do have to make sure you have proper form and don’t smack yourself with the kettlebell while doing the workout.
  • Since your body is constantly adjusting to a changing center of gravity, working with a kettlebell can improve your balance.
  • A kettlebell workout builds more than muscles, it builds strength. It was created expressly for that.

How To Kick Soda For Good

How To Kick Soda For Good

You finally decided that one easy way to save calories is to stop drinking soft drinks, but found it was tougher than you thought. While I’ve never been a fan of soft drinks, some of my clients in Fairfax and Sterling, Va. Have. They provided a lot of suggestions on how to kick soda for good. It’s not easy, since soft drinks provide a quick sugar rush and sugar is super addictive. It’s the accepted drink when you’re munching on fast food and is associated with friends and good times. It’s more than just bad because of the sugar, the phosphorus in soft drinks plays a role, too. Too much soda is linked with tooth decay, diabetes and even may be bad for your bones.

Try taking it slow.

If the sugar in the soft drink doesn’t get you addicted, then the caffeine might! Rather than going cold turkey, wean yourself from the drink slowly. Depending on the amount you drink each day, how you go about it will vary. If you drink several bottles or cans each day, try splitting one can into two different servings to cut out one can a day at first. Split the second can into two servings and then replace one serving with water, instead of soda. Eventually work to one a day, then one every other day and finally, give it up entirely. Go as slowly as you need to make the change a habit.

Track the calories from soft drinks.

It will amaze you the number of calories you drink, when it comes to soda. Start tracking those calories every day. The exercise will make you more aware of just how many cans or bottles you drink. You also can equate it with other foods. If you’re drinking five cans a day, that’s at least 500 calories. Think of the amount of exercise it takes to burn those calories. By giving up soda, you could lose a pound a week with no additional effort. That should be incentive.

Find an unsweetened drink you like.

Maybe you’re not a coffee fan, perhaps tea is more your style. Green tea is especially healthy for you. Herbal tea comes in a variety of flavors and one of those might suit your taste, too. Search for an alternative that’s healthy and one you like that contains no sugar. I love water. In fact, I’m quite a connoisseur. Water from different sources offers different flavors. City water with chlorine or fluoride isn’t on my list! Try various bottled water to find one you like.

  • Diet soda may not have the sugar content, but studies show that drinking it can increase the size of your waist and may not even help you shed any weight.
  • You don’t have to switch entirely to water. Just keep a bottle of water handy. Drink the water first, then see if you want the soda. If you’re in a restaurant, don’t order soda, but ask for water. You can always order it later.
  • Switch to flavored water, then to plain water. Flavored water still provides a sugar boost and flavor, but not the carbonation.
  • Avoid the places that you normally drink soda. If it’s at a fast food restaurant, don’t go there while you’re giving up soda. Even if you’re eating a healthy salad, the soft drink will do you kill your healthy eating.

Exercise That Requires No Equipment

Exercise That Requires No Equipment

If you’re like most people, sometimes life gets in the way of your best laid plans to exercise. You may be working on a project around the house and all the hassle of getting dressed for the gym, driving there and home again would swallow up valuable time. Maybe a child is sick and you don’t want to leave them. There are many reasons this can happen, but it doesn’t have to stop you from working out. Choose exercise that requires no equipment and do it at home.

The good news about exercising at home is that you can break it up in sessions.

While it’s not always the best solution, you’ll still get a good workout even if you break it up into ten to fifteen minute sessions. That way you can work in between tasks or do the workout when you’re child is resting or you have a break. Bodyweight exercises are great exercises to do at home. You can work every muscle in your body and the only equipment you’ll need is you!

Some bodyweight exercises are better than others are.

Squats are probably the best lower body exercise that works your core, helps build endurance, burns fat and builds lower body strength. Squats are known as a functional fitness exercise, which means it helps get you fit for the tasks of life and help prevent injury. There are a number of different types of squats you can do and when combined with glute bridges first, gives a super workout for the lower body.

Work your core with planks and push-ups.

Planks may look simple, but they really aren’t. This tough exercise can be done almost anywhere and build core muscles while working all parts of the body. Planking helps build back muscles and reduces back pain by improving posture. Push-ups provide upper body workouts, a cardio workout, builds core strength and like all the other exercises mentioned, can be modified for difficulty and to work specific areas of the body.

  • Exercises where you hold a pose, such as a chair pose, tree pose or any that require balancing not only build strength in core muscles, they help flexibility and also improve posture.
  • Add lunges to your repertoire of lower body exercises. Like squats, lunges can be done a number of ways to work more muscles in the lower body. Think yoga poses and you’ll know what balancing poses are.
  • Bodyweight exercises do build strength, but if you want to do curls or other types of strength training, there’s no need for weights. Fill a milk jug with enough water to achieve the weight you want. Milk jugs with water have a similar imbalance to kettlebells, which also provide a great abdominal workout.
  • Want an endurance exercise? Put on fast music and dance. You can adjust the pace so you’re creating a musical version of HIIT.

Why Working Out Relieves Stress

Why Working Out Relieves Stress

If you already have an appointment with exercise, you know working out relieves stress. Most people go to the gym or start an exercise program to lose weight, get fitter and just stay younger and healthier. After a few sessions, they start to realize that all the problems and hassles of the day that were pent up inside don’t bother them nearly as much. That gnawing feeling in the pit of their stomach no longer was there. That’s because the workout left them feeling more relaxed and helped eliminate the side effects of stress.

The fight or flight response makes changes in the system.

When you’re under stress, your body is equipped to survive. Originally, the stress for caveman came from the danger of being attacked by a wild animal or enemy, so the response was suitable. Hormones like adrenaline, were released. Those made the heart beat faster, the flow of blood changed and went from the body surface to the muscles, brain, legs and arms, muscles tensed and pupils dialated to improve vision. Caveman was ready to take on whatever scared him or run like the wind. Today, the response isn’t appropriate for either action. Punching an angry boss is no more appropriate than running from a crying baby, so the hormones of stress are never burnt off and you remain in the constant state of arousal.

Burning off those stress hormones is important.

Here’s where exercise plays an important role. Since running or fighting was what the response prepared humans for, it only seems right that going to the gym, running on your favorite path in the park or getting any type of rigorous exercise should solve the problem. It does that and even more.

Exercise also stimulates the body to create happy hormones.

If you’re running from a foe, a really big one, you don’t want to stop because your leg aches or you’ve twisted your ankle. Mother Nature had that handled, too. There’s no need to stop. In fact, even if the adrenaline wears off, you might not feel that pain. Exercise produces hormones like dopamine and endorphins that act similar to drugs like codeine and morphine, interacting with the opiate receptors in the brain. Not only does it reduce the awareness of pain, the hormones created by exercise also leave you with a feeling of well being.

  • Even though the effects of the endorphins from exercise last about 20 to 30 minutes, you sleep better at night and a good night’s sleep can help you cope with the next day’s stresses.
  • Exercise also is used as part of the therapy for depression, anxiety and phobias because of the feeling of well being that occurs.
  • The effects of exercise are so powerful, exercise is also part of drug and alcohol addiction recovery. It’s been shown to reduce relapse rates, improved mood, boosted the immune system and helped recovering addicts sleep better.
  • Exercise is a far better treatment for mild depression and stress than any medication. The only side effects it has is a great looking body and good health.

Are Fitness Trackers Worth Having

Are Fitness Trackers Worth Having

There are a number of different fitness trackers available to people who live in Sterling, VA. Some are simple apps for cell phones, while others are more intricate devices. Depending on the tracker and your situation, each one has value. If you aren’t sure what a fitness tracker is, it’s a device you wear that sends a message to your computer or cell phone app recording information, like heart rate, calories burned or steps taken.

You have to use them to get results.

If fitness trackers only played a victory song and shot out money like a slot machine when you hit your goal—the big one—maybe they’d get a warmer reception. But they don’t. They count your steps, record your heartbeat and most of the time, remain on your dresser. Studies show that if you purchase a fitness tracker, you’ll use it six months or less if you’re like a third of the people who buy them and forget you own them after six months if you’re like half the people that own them.

If you can tune out your doctor, your spouse and the results on the scales, there’s no reason a tracker should get your attention.

Yep, it’s true, people tend to ignore the trackers, even when they were excited to own them. A study published in The Lancet, under “Diabetes & Endocrinology” showed that after using a clip-on tracker for a year, there was no difference, good or bad in the test groups health or fitness. Part of the study group was even offered financial incentives to do well, but failed miserably when it came to improving. When that incentive was removed, however, their results went downhill. Another study showed that people who wore fitness trackers actually lost eight pounds more than the control group who didn’t.

It’s not all bad news.

Not all trackers are meant just to get you to the gym or keep you running and moving. Some have medical uses. People with coronary problems will find some trackers beneficial. They offer tools that can provide valuable information and keep the owner safer. Some have heart rate monitors or track blood pressure. Others monitor sleep. If you have a medical condition, they can be great tools to help you stay healthier and may even be lifesaving.

  • While the average person may not fully appreciate the benefits of a fitness tracker, people dedicated to fitness or athletes will find the tools beneficial.
  • Until tracking your health and activity becomes more of a game, trackers haven’t caught the hearts of the public yet.
  • Are trackers beneficial. Anything that helps you get healthy is beneficial. However, they really don’t make you accountable unless someone—another human—sees and reviews the results.
  • Just like gym memberships, trackers are only good if you use them.

The Truth About Static Stretching

The Truth About Static Stretching

If you’ve spent much time working out, you’re bound to hear some discussion on static stretching. Just what is static stretching? First, let me identify why you stretch. You need to get your muscles ready for vigorous activity by getting the blood flowing to the extremities. Trainers often use two types of exercises to do that. One is static stretching and the other is dynamic stretching or active warm-ups. Static stretching is becoming out of favor for a number of reasons.

Static stretching before performing may date you.

Most of us remember the PE classes where we sat on you bottoms with legs outstretched and reached for our toes. That’s a static stretch. It helps release the muscles and make them more flexible, so you don’t have as much potential for strains or pulls. Dynamic stretching is different. Dynamic stretching is an attempt to mirror the types of activities you’re about to do and moves your body will make, but in a controlled way. It works to warm up the body for constant flowing use, unlike static stretches, can be personalized for the activity and muscle groups used, aids with coordination and is a time for mental preparation.

New studies show that static stretching may actually damage muscle tissues.

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that doing static stretching before doing squats actually impeded performances by reducing stability and strength in the lower body. Various other studies showed the same thing. In fact, one mega study concluded that avoiding static stretching before a workout is important because it can hamper explosive performance, impede strength and power. So if you don’t do static stretching before a workout, what do you do? Going in cold is not an option.

Muscle tightness occurs because of muscle weakness.

When you have a muscle or group of muscles that aren’t ready for the challenge, other muscles compensate and work harder to complete the task. If all your muscles are performing at peak, the problem with injury is far less. As long as there’s no injury or short muscles, range of motion should be unlimited. The stretching doesn’t elongate the muscles, but helps to release the tension that keeps them contracted. Dynamic stretching helps warms the whole body by boosting joint flexibility, increasing elasticity and increasing body temperature.

  • Holding static stretches for less than 30 seconds does not have the same effect as holding the position longer. It does no harm.
  • Use dynamic stretches like squats, calf-raises and knee hugs to move the body like you’d move it when you’re working out.
  • Warming up first with a ten minute aerobic workout before doing dynamic stretches is important.
  • Static stretches can prove beneficial after the workout. They help with muscle relaxation, while decreasing muscle tension.

Eating Healthy On A Budget

Eating Healthy On A Budget

If you’re in the dark about how to start eating healthy on a budget, there’s good news. It’s not that hard if you plan ahead and actually can be a lot of fun. I’m sure you’ve all seen those coupon ladies that leave the grocery store with shopping carts full of groceries (emphasis on the word carts) and only pay a few dollars, if that. Eating on a budget won’t be that cheap, but it actually could lower your grocery bill if you plan right. You may even find it’s not only challenging, but a fun type of challenge where you try to improve constantly—just like those couponers do.

Plan meals ahead and use the weekly ads to do it.

If you’re like most people, you often shop with only a few items planned and the rest of them in your cart are simply inspiration. That can lead to tons of items you don’t need for healthy meals. Lots of them have to do with snacking! Create a menu ahead of time and try to use many of the same fresh ingredients in them. For instance, if you make a cauliflower salad on Monday, you’re bound to have some left over. Try using it up in soup, steamed cauliflower or other dish in your weekly planning to avoid waste. Use sale items to guide you in your planning and coupons if you have them.

Use in-season fruits and vegetables.

When you’re buying fresh, don’t buy asparagus in the middle of summer and sweet corn in the middle of winter. You’ll spend more than you need to spend. The summer is the best time for most fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are exceptions, like asparagus and citrus fruits. You can use a seasonal food guide to help, but just watching the prices in ads will do a better job. Find a local grower or look for a roadside stand that you can frequent without driving too far. In many cases, the price is far better at these and You-Pick places.

Buy in bulk and freeze or can.

I remember growing up knowing that if all the food ran out in the grocery, my mother would still have loads of it in the freezer. Right along with buying in-season is storing those in-season treasures. You can freeze about everything and if you’re up to the job, can it too. I’m a fan of freezing tomatoes, since we have a small garden with a few plants that tend to produce more than we can eat. Wash them, core them and freeze them whole, then just run warm water over the skin to remove it when you’re ready to use the tomatoes. It comes off easily. Frozen vegetables need to be cooked after thawing, as freezing leaves them limp and not good to eat uncooked.

  • Stretch your budget with filling bean recipes and whole grains.
  • Save time and money by cooking in bulk and freezing meals for another time. Don’t forget, you can freeze nuts also! It’s a huge savings when you get them on sale or in bulk.
  • Create savory soups from the leftovers at least once every two weeks. If you don’t have enough leftover produce in the refrigerator, prepare for freezing what you have and keep it in the freezer until you do have enough. Those leftover cooked veggies can also go into soup.
  • Use less expensive cuts of meat or alternate protein sources. I have vegetarian clients that continuously amaze me with some of the sources of protein they use. Those portabella grilled burgers are delicious.

Training For Older Clients

Training For Older Clients

There’s a lot of talk about fitness, but many people still don’t understand that it’s meant for everyone. Training for older clients isn’t always at the same pace as it is for those younger. Although I’ve had my share of seniors who could put some young people to shame. In some cases, the ravages of time and inactivity have taken hold and there’s a long road ahead to fitness with some detours. Bad knees, back problems and even thinning bones create an even greater need for a well-thought-out program. It’s doable, but doesn’t happen overnight. It’s extremely important to have a complete assessment, which includes identifying any limitations and the person’s level of fitness, no matter what age he or she is.

Strength training doesn’t mean you have to use weights.

While many of my older adults are quite at home using weights, some who have been inactive most of their lives face problems of muscle atrophy, bone loss and even heart issues that can interfere. Strength training is extremely important for seniors. It helps rebuild muscle tissue, boosts development of bone mass, reduces blood pressure, helps shed fat and aids in the prevention or control of serious conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Resistance bands is one way to begin strength training. Not only are the bands easy to use, they’re easy to carry and store. A personal trainer will create a program that’s right for each individual and changes as the fitness level improves. Strength training, such as training with the kettlebells or weights, can also provide cardio and flexibility training.

Flexibility training should be part of everyone’s workout.

Even if you’re in your twenties and a body builder, if you don’t include flexibility training—range of motion exercises—you’re asking for injury. Exercises that are as simple as stretching is a start. You’d be amazed at how limber people become after just a few weeks of working out. Often back pain reduces, since much of it comes from weaker, tighter muscles. Stretching not only eases back pain, it helps lower the risk of falling, increase circulation and reduces the pain from arthritis. Unlike strength training, flexibility training can be done every day and should be. There are simple exercises everyone, not just seniors, can do at home that will improve their flexibility and quality of life.

If you’re a senior and you don’t take walks, start now!

No matter what age, cardiovascular training is important. It can be as simple as walking for 30 to 50 minutes a day. I love new technology, especially the pedometers that keep people honest. People who get no other exercise, but walk 10,000 steps a day, actually get the same workout as doing 30 minutes of strenuous activity. If you’re recovering from a heart condition, make sure you always consult your health care provider. Most of my clients who have had coronary events first work with a rehab specialist. I then continue to build on that program, slowly easing individuals to do more and more. Doctors normally Always remember, the more you move, the better off you are. However, trying to do too much, too soon is also a mistake. Work within comfortable perimeters, which will expand as you get fitter.

  • No matter what the condition, it doesn’t have to be a “normal” part of aging. Weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, aches and pains, osteoporosis and muscle atrophy, as well as other conditions, can be delayed or even improved with regular exercise.
  • If you sit as part of your job or even part of your avocation, getting up every 50 minutes and walking a few minutes can improve your overall health. This is good advice regardless of age.
  • When you’re walking somewhere, move a little faster to boost your heart rate. You don’t have to do it continuously, walk your normal pace some of the time, then speed it up for a minute or two and back down to normal.

Achieve Your Goals By Doing Less

Achieve Your Goals By Doing Less

I’ve always said there are no shortcuts in life, you have to work hard to get what you want. It’s a belief that I share with most people who live in Sterling. However, you can achieve your goals faster by being smarter and doing less. That may sound contradictory, but it’s not. Doing less doesn’t mean you’re not working hard. It does mean you’re achieving your goals in the smartest way possible and doing the activities in the least amount of time. Working smarter makes all the difference in the world.

Use HIIT to achieve goals without taking much time from your day.

HIIT—High Intensity Interval Training—takes far less time than traditional training to achieve the results you want. It provides a maximum benefit in a minimum amount of time. Of course, it’s really intense (note the name—high intensity). One study showed that just 90 minutes of HIIT every week can bring health benefits for the heart that are the same as working out for five hours a week. HIIT exercises have you work toward maximum intensity for a specified time—such as 30 seconds—then, slow your pace and do a longer recovery period of moderate to low intensity for a longer period, such as 4 minutes. Repeat that for 30 minutes three times a week.

Do a nitric oxide dump

This exercise group boosts your mitochondrial health, helping your cardiovascular system and immune system. This group of exercises can take as little as three to four minutes to do AND you can do it anywhere. It’s composed of four exercises of 10-20 repetitions each. You do three to four sets, three times a day. One important rule is to make sure the sets are at least two hours apart. I’ve done these in the airport bathroom on a layover. Yes, I did get some strange looks, but felt great at the end of a long journey. The exercises are deep knee squats, tin soldier, jumping jacks with no jumping and finally a set of shoulder presses. Tin soldier is just alternating the arms and paddling one straight out in front of you with the other pointing directly down to a 90 degree angle to your body, lowering it and raising the other at the same time. Half jumping jacks the arm movements of jumping jacks with feet stationary.

Break up your workout to three ten minute or fifteen minute sets.

One way to manage a workout is to do it in shorter spurts. If you don’t have time for a thirty minute walk, walk to lunch at a location 10 minutes away and walk back. When you get off work, take a quick ten minute walk and you’re done. Breaking up your exercise time into manageable ten minute sessions makes it easier. Stand while you’re watching TV and do intense workouts during commercials with moderate paced walking in place during the program.

  • Include resistance training in your workout. When you workout with weights, you burn more calories and get more for your exercise time.
  • Do full body workouts. Burpees, step ups, pull ups, push ups and dips are a few examples of exercises that will give you more bang for your exercise time.
  • Eat healthier. No matter how much you exercise, if your diet is fast foods and processed foods, you won’t get the results you want. Include a healthier diet in your regimen.
  • Make your home chores a time to get fitter, too. Move fast, move slow. Create a HIIT with your chores. Move as fast as you can scrubbing the tub and then moderately clean the sink. Push that hand mower with speed and then move slower. Find ways to get a twofer—getting exercise while you get other tasks done.

Should Potatoes And Rice Be Part Of Your Diet?

Should Potatoes And Rice Be Part Of Your Diet?

When you’re talking about the best foods for a healthy diet and foods to help you lose weight, potatoes and rice are often hotly debated as to whether they should be part of that diet. The debate is worldwide, not just in Sterling. In fact, there’s a famous debate online between a doctor, Dr Ron Rosedale, MD and an astrophysicist from MIT and Berkley, Paul Jaminet, PhD, author of the book, Perfect Health Diet, as to whether potatoes and rice should be eaten. Rosendale believes that not only sugar, but all foods that ultimately convert to sugar should be avoided. Jaminet disagrees and says glucose has useful functions in the body, if it’s depleted, it can stress systems in the body that need glucose to perform.

What’s the answer?

Most people won’t follow either type of diet. Since Rosedale advocates complete elimination of sugar and all foods that convert to sugar and Jaminet suggests people should lower their carbohydrate calories to 20 or 30 percent of the diet. That’s because most people consume about 50 percent carbohydrates. There is a case for reducing carbohydrates and sugar from the diet and scientific data to back it. Every individual has unique intestinal flora and what you eat either feeds it or starves it. Some people need more glucose for that reason. To add to the debate is the paleo diet where rice is the evil food. It’s counted along with grains, both brown and white rice. According to the Paleo diet, rice contains natural compounds to protect the rice. They contain a natural insect repellent, mold deterrent and sunscreen.

What’s the answer?

Somewhere in the information on the hotly debated foods, you’ll find the answer. The answer is simple. It all comes down to your body. The GAPS diet, created for a number of specific health issues, includes a small amount of calories from carbohydrates. There’s been research on longevity to see what increases the FGF21—fibroblast growth factor 21. Low protein, high carbs did in this study. Another animals study showed that a high fat/low carb diet increased lifespan by 13 percent. The answer is to cut out processed food, eat healthy, limit sugar and keep starchy carbohydrates lower until you find your own perfect diet.

  • If you have a health issue, work with a doctor to see if changing your diet can improve your health, while you’re using medicine and other techniques. Often physicians use an elimination diet to find if certain foods affect your overall health.
  • No matter what your basic makeup, consuming higher amounts of grains, sugar and starches can lead to insulin resistance of varying levels. That ultimately can lead to diabetes and leptin resistance.
  • Changing your diet to eliminate processed foods can be the first step to eating healthier.
  • While lowering the amount of calories from carbohydrates to about 30 percent may sound difficult, consider how few calories fresh fruit and vegetables have. If you’re on a 1500 calorie diet, you can eat a lot before reaching 500 calories.