Fitness Equipment Your Home Gym Needs

There are roughly 25.4 million home gyms in the U.S., according to statistics website Statista.com. Fitness enthusiasts have many reasons for working out at home. Saving money on a gym membership is one common incentive, as is convenience. Whatever motivates you, when putting together your personal fitness center, there are a few pieces of vital fitness equipment home gyms require. They can vary, depending on what your workout style and goals are but, overall, the same essential pieces show up on all the lists.

dumbbells

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Join the Resistance
No matter what your fitness goals are, whether they’re losing weight, gaining muscle or a combination of both, resistance fitness equipment for home gyms is essential. If you can afford commercial quality, there’s no reason not to buy it, especially if you’re a bodybuilder and need access to serious tools. For most people, though, the dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, benches and even kettlebells that BreakingMuscle.com lists as home gym essentials can be found at sporting goods stores and should suffice.

chin ups

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chin Up, Old Chap
Even people who pay for a health club membership include bodyweight exercises in their workout routines. They’re even more valuable in a home gym because they’ll give you variety without breaking your budget. Pull-up bars are Stack’s home gym essential equipment pick. Use a variety of grips to do pull-ups, or work your abs with hanging leg raises. If your pull-up bar is movable instead of permanently attached to your wall or ceiling, Stack says you should also be able to use it to do incline push-ups and dips.

guy using bands

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Band Together for a Dynamic Workout
“Lifestyle Medicine, Second Edition” recommends resistance bands as a controlled mode of resistance because they’re safer, easier on your joints and tendons and don’t require a spotter on hand to get you out of sticky situations. Make no mistake: the bands you’ll need for your home work out center aren’t flimsy, over-sized rubber bands. The bands you need are thick and substantial and come in a variety of lengths, widths and resistance capabilities, according to Bodybuilding.com .

Opt for the All-In-One
The one piece of fitness equipment home gyms can use for almost any exercise you can do at the health club is the TargitFit Trainer, and it uses bands for resistance. It comes with 220 pounds of resistance, but can be upgraded to over 400 pounds. It also includes all the accessories you need to perform over 115 club-quality exercises — including squats! It can even be used as an aerobic step, and everything packs neatly away into the Trainer itself for easy storage so you won’t have to give up significant square footage to create a useful home gym.

How Alcohol Affects Your Workout

05251701Even fitness-conscious people like to indulge in a happy hour now and then but, if you’re serious about building muscle or burning fat, those two-for-one well drinks will get in the way of your goals. While we’d like to tell you that boozing it up won’t affect your health and fitness goals, that would be a lie. Your body won’t perform optimally, and your workout attitude might not be in top form, either. That’s not to say that you should quit drinking altogether, but consider cutting back and strategizing when you imbibe.

Interferes With Muscle Building

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Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to synthesize protein and build muscle.

In order to build muscle, your body has to synthesize protein. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption has shown to mess that process up. In a study published on PLOS.org, researchers found that drinking reduced the rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis, even when subjects ate extra protein before and/or after working out. That means eating more protein to try to encourage muscle building can’t overcome the way alcohol negatively affects muscle building.

Fogs Your Brain

05251703The American Addiction Centers offers a short list of the ways the brain of even an occasional or moderate drinker can be affected by alcohol including short-term memory loss, impaired decision-making, and possible blackouts. While you might not feel drunk the day after, there’s no telling how long the effects of the night before will last. It’s different for everyone and depends on things like how much you drank, how often you drink in general, your age, your family history, your health, and more. That’s why you might not be able to work up the enthusiasm for a workout the day after partying it up.

Obstructs Recovery

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You need regenerative, restful sleep to build muscle and lose weight, something you won’t get a lot of after a snootful.

Everyone knows that muscle building takes place outside of the gym¾when you’re resting and not working out. The problem is that, even though a few glasses of wine or a beer or two might relax you, they don’t promote deep, restorative sleep. On top of that, the American Council on Exercise points out that alcohol consumption also strains your immune system, another vital link in the health chain that’s essential for building muscle.

Hinders Hydration

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Alcohol draws water out of your cells, so you’ll need to drink more water to replenish your body for a workout.

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, encouraging your body to flush fluids. You need those fluids, though, especially if you’re hitting the gym for an intense cardio or resistance workout. Plus, according to Women’s Health, drinking can also interfere with nutrient absorption as it irritates the lining of your stomach. That means even if you eat healthily and clean the day after drinking, your body still won’t get what it needs to build muscle.

Derails Fat Loss

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Alcohol itself carries extra calories that your body will burn before it uses other types of fuel. Plus, drinking usually comes with a side of extra food.

When you’re counting calories, drinking alcohol will send your daily tally through the roof. Mens’ Fitness says that a typical drink has roughly 100 to 165 calories, but that’s not including mixed drinks that are made with sugar-packed fruit juices or pre-made mixers. Plus, who stops with one drink at happy hour? What’s more, alcohol relaxes your inhibitions, so you’re likely to eat more and worry about it less, another way your diet gets derailed when you drink.

The Balancing Act

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Hit the gym first before meeting friends for happy hour. Image by Clare

There’s nothing wrong with drinking as long as you do it in moderation and time it with your workouts. In fact, alcohol can actually be beneficial to your health. Still, folks who are fond of the drink need to find a way to have their beer and drink it too. Muscle and Fitness advises starting with safeguarding your liver to keep your antioxidants up by supplementing with N-acetyl cysteine. You can also improve muscle building after a day of drinking by taking leucine. Alcohol tends to cancel the effects of this BCA, so taking extra the day after will help. Also, back to the research that showed alcohol consumption reduces protein synthesis, remember that particular result doesn’t happen for 24 hours after you’ve had your drinks. That means it’s better to exercise before joining your friends for happy hour on the same night rather than heading to the bar the evening after you’ve worked out.

The Fix For Fatigue

It's not just hardcore lifters who experience fatigue--it can happen to anyone.

It’s not just hardcore lifters who experience fatigue–it can happen to anyone.

When you get really serious about your workout, it’s easy to push yourself to the point of fatigue. It’s natural to experience occasional days of low energy, and your life outside the gym can compound the problem. When you’re working out full-bore on top of not eating optimally or getting enough rest, your body won’t be able to perform its best. There are times when a day off is called for, but there are things you can do before and after a workout to help ensure you have what it takes to make it through.

When To Take a Day Off

Chronic moodiness or depression can be signs of fatigue that signal you need a rest day from the gym.

Chronic moodiness or depression can be signs of fatigue that signal you need a rest day from the gym.

Before offering advice on pushing through fatigue to work out, let’s talk about how to know when you should take a day of rest instead. Sure, you might not want to take a day off, but you’ll do more harm than good if you go into a workout excessively fatigued. If you’ve been overly tired or depressed or moody for more than a day, that’s a reliable indication that you need an extra rest day. Yes, working out can actually help wake you up and even alleviate depression, but exercise as therapy for those issues will still work–likely better–if you give yourself a day off from working out first. Other signs to pay attention to include chronic muscle soreness and stiff joints, abnormal heart rate, and dehydration, according to Daily Burn.

Before a Workout

Fend off fatigue by eating a light meal of protein and carbs a couple of hours before working out.

Fend off fatigue by eating a light meal of protein and carbs a couple of hours before working out.

If you’ve noticed a pattern in which you feel good and ready for a workout before you hit the gym, but your energy drops fast, and you easily become exhausted, Bodybuilding.com says you can nip workout fatigue in the bud by preplanning. Since inadequate nutrition can be the cause of fatigue, their two-step solution is nutrition-based. The first piece of advice is to eat a light pre-workout meal comprised of protein and carbohydrates–and be sure to wash it down with at least 14 ounces of water to help with digestion and hydration.

The second step is a little more involved and specialized based on how you train and what type of diet you’re on. It branches into two protocols, but they’re both built on getting extra amino acids into your system an hour or less before exercise along with more water. The preferred forms of these pre-workout aminos would be free-form essential amino acids or whey protein hydrolysate with at least 50 percent (or more!) dipeptides and tripeptides to ensure quick absorption.

Outside Of the Gym

Prevention says deviled eggs made with hummus are a terrific and tasty post-workout snack.

Prevention says deviled eggs made with hummus are a terrific and tasty post-workout snack.

In keeping with the nutrition-for-fatigue line of thinking, eating after a workout is just as important as eating before you exercise. Workout website EXOS has done the homework on the research and says that recovery nutrition should begin within 15 to 60 minutes after a workout, and it should be a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 2:1. On top of that post-workout snack, eating a well-balanced meal of lean, healthy foods about 2 hours after you exercise will help your body continue to fight off fatigue. You’ll also need to start rehydrating immediately, drinking around 20 to 24 ounces for each pound of fluid you sweated off during your workout.

Rest is so vital for recovery and keeping fatigue at bay that three different types of rest make up half of the six top ways Men’s Fitness lists to guard against fatigue. They include

  • programming recovery workouts and entire weeks of downtime into your exercise schedule
  • taking sufficient time between workouts to allow for recovery
  • getting adequate amounts of sleep, even if it means taking a 30-minute power nap during the day

Hire a therapist or do self-massage with a roller--both are fabulous fatigue fighters.

Hire a therapist or do self-massage with a roller–both are fabulous fatigue fighters.

Massage therapy is another effective fatigue-fighter, whether you shell out $50 or more for a professional massage or spend some time after a workout with a foam roller. On top of feeling heavenly, a massage encourages relaxation which will help with the rest and recuperate part of your protocol plus it increases circulation while reducing stiffness in your muscles.

Souper Way to Lose Weight


We don’t always get a chance to address every diet and fitness fad that comes along because they come and go so quickly. For months we’ve been hearing about souping, but had a lengthy list of other topics to tackle. Still, we put it on the schedule and, what do you know? Souping is still going strong. While not everyone believes that soup is a meal, the truth of the matter is that it depends on the soup. Turns out, souping can be a healthy, effective way to tweak your diet and you might be surprised at how satisfied you feel after a bowl full of goodness.

Souping Concept

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The best soups are filled with whole veggies and fiber that make you feel satisfied longer.

When trying to pinpoint what event kicked off the souping craze, you might remember that Progresso ran a pretty successful ad campaign focusing on the weight loss benefits of their line of light soups–all 100 calories or less per serving. Right around that time, Soupure, a gourmet soup delivery service, was launched that focuses on health, hydration, and weight loss. No matter who gets the credit, the concept is the same: it’s soup-erior (yes, pun totally intended, no apologies) to juicing as a way to cleanse the body, increase energy, and kick-start fat loss. While juicing leaves substantial mounds of fiber in your juicer’s waste container, soup utilizes whole vegetables and sometimes fruits, and that includes the fiber content. Since fiber is typically digested slowly, that means a bowl of fiber-filled soup will keep you feeling fuller, longer than a smoothie. Soups are usually packed with those healthy veggies, too, so it’s a terrific way to eat better on top of feeling more satisfied while eating less. Your budget gets a bonus from souping, as well: it’s less expensive to cook up a big pot of soup that will feed you for several meals than it is to buy all the produce you need for one smoothie, according to Yoga Journal.

The Fiber Issue Is More Important Than You Think

Ditching the fiber when you juice doesn’t only sabotage hunger control. It essentially turns a healthy piece of fruit into the enemy. As Forbes points out, the fiber in whole fruit helps your body release the sugar from the fruit into your bloodstream at a slow pace that is easy to handle, so your pancreas doesn’t go into insulin overload. Gulp down the juice from about three oranges or apples (an average number to produce one glass of juice), and you get all the sugar, natural though it may be, and it gets dumped into your system forcing your body to kick out more insulin. You might as well go on an all-soda diet if your grand scheme to lose weight centers on juicing.

Don’t View It As a Cleanse

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Soup for lunch will get you through the day as well as reduce your overall caloric intake and help you eat healthier.

“Cleanses” sound ultra-healthy, but they’re intended to be short-term and not lifestyle-defining. You have to be realistic and understand that, regardless of whether you opt for juicing or souping or something entirely different, it’s not intended to be a lasting change. You’re supposed to do it for a day or two as a reset, then move on to the next phase of your diet. The thing about souping, however, is that it can be one of those small changes you make for the long haul. Instead of eating soup for every meal, use it as a meal replacement for one meal a daylunch, for instance. Even when you bookend your soup lunch with a full (but reasonable and healthy!) breakfast and dinner, you’ll be eating fewer calories overall and eating healthier, more wholesome foodsand that’s how you get on the right track to lasting weight loss. Think you’ll get bored with soup every day? Not likely when you have a variety of recipes to choose from. Start your collection with satisfying, delicious soups from Men’s Health and Yoga Journal.

Souping Tips

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Decadent, creamy soups get a reduction in fat and calories and a nutritional boost from healthy cream alternatives.

Healthy Women reminds readers that not all soups are healthy simply by virtue of being soup. Decadent, creamy soups are usually jam-packed with fat which kicks up the calorie count. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid cream-based soups; you just have to be creative when cooking them. For example, a head of cooked cauliflower that’s been pureed is a tasty way to create a thick and creamy texture in soup without using cream, and the cauliflower will increase the nutrition of the soup at the same time. Pureed navy beans are another healthful alternative to adding cream to soup, one that increases the protein content as well.

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Chunks of lean meat make your favorite soups even heartier while delivering all-important protein.

And speaking of protein, one of the best things about a good, hearty soup that fills you up is the chunks of lean meat in it. What’s more, you can customize practically any soup recipe to make it vegetarian or pack it with protein from sliced or shredded chicken breast, cubes of steak, or delicate flakes of fish.

Strengthen Those Calves

John Nakamura Remy

Building the muscles that make up your calves can help alleviate foot pain as well as give your legs some nice shape. Image by John Nakamura Remy

Last week we recommended strengthening your calves as a way to alleviate plantar fascia pain so this week’s blog is dedicated to giving a little more direction on how you can go about doing that. The good news is that it doesn’t take a ton of time to work your calves–only about 15 minutes a day at least three days a week, according to Muscle and Fitness. While some experts say you can work your calves up to five times a week, we say you’ll get better results if you keep it between one and three times a week. Calf muscles notoriously recover fast but over-training any muscle group won’t give it enough time to rest, and it’s during rest periods when you’re not working the muscle that it will strengthen and grow. Bodybuilding.com says that means giving your calves 48 to 72 hours between workouts, and that averages out to barely three to four workouts in each week even if you go with the minimum rest period.

They’re Called “Calves” For a Reason

Qasim Zafar

Image by Qasim Zafar

 

The reason “calves” is plural isn’t that you’ve got two legs. It’s because there are actually three muscles that make up the entire calf muscle group. In listing the anatomy of the legs, Fitness Magazine says those muscles are the gastrocnemius, the soleus, and the tibialis anterior. Technically, the tibialis anterior runs down the front of your shin, but all three muscles work together to move your foot up and down at the ankle joint, so it’s essential to work them all as part of a calves-strengthening regimen.

So Many Exercises to Choose From

05041701Movements that get you on your toes or drop your heel to flex your toes upward are the ones that will strengthen your calves. Considering that those are only two actions, you might be surprised at the extensive list of exercises ExRx.net has for strengthening the calves. They’ve thoughtfully grouped them into exercises that work each of the muscles that make up the lower legs but, once you get to studying them, you’ll see that they’re all different versions of two basic exercises: calf raises and calf presses. There are standing versions, seated versions, versions that use weights for resistance and ones that rely solely on your bodyweight.

It’s useful to note that if you perform seated leg curls with your feet flexed (toes pointing up), you’ll target your calves as much as your hamstrings. Actually, the position of your feet as you perform all calves exercises tweaks the angle at which your muscles get worked and will help build lower-leg muscles faster. Joe Wuebben of Muscle and Fitness1 recommends doing each exercise three times with your feet positioned differently each time: toes pointed outward, toes pointed forward, and toes pointed inward.

Also interesting is that ExRx.net includes a small fourth muscle in the calves group: the popliteus. It’s the muscle in the back of your knee that connects your hamstrings to the muscles in the lower part of your leg, so it’s important not to ignore it when strengthening your calves. The exercise website recommends hamstring exercises that involve knee flexion movements to target this small but significant muscle.

Sample Calf Workout

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Using bands for your calves workout is a safe way to add resistance for building muscle and they won’t tax your joints.

With a ton of calf exercises to pick from, you can do a different routine every time you work your calves. To make it easy, pick one exercise from each group and do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps of each on calves day. For example, you could do standing barbell calf raises, seated lever plate-loaded calf raises, and reverse calf presses done off the top of the platform on the hip sled. Once you’ve mastered those or hit a plateau, then try out the other types of raises and presses. In addition to building stronger lower-leg muscles and easing your foot pain, you’ll get some nice definition in your calves–just the kind you want with swimsuit and shorts season coming up!

1Wuebben, Joe. “The Level Up Series: Calves.” Muscle & Fitness. May 2017: 127

The Pain In Your Foot: Plantar Fasciitis

04271702It’s bad enough to have tired, aching feet at the end of the day, but it’s even worse to wake up with foot pain. People who find it painful to walk after getting out of bed first thing in the morning typically suffer from plantar fasciitis and, according to WebMD, although walking around may initially alleviate the morning pain, the soreness and discomfort usually returns with a vengeance later on, especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet throughout the day. You can find a lot of information on plantar fasciitis, but that’s because it’s a condition that’s not fully understood. That has led the experts to cover their bases and behinds by mentioning everything that could be the cause as well as numerous solutions that might help but, in the end, the actual causes and effective treatments can depend on individual circumstances.

We’re not claiming to know all the answers or have the final word in plantar fasciitis, but we have done a little digging around and want to share the information we’ve found. Depending on your physical health and lifestyle, you may find it useful.

It’s Not What They Say

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The plantar fascia is the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, from heel to toes. Image by mmarchin

The plantar fascia is the band of tissues that runs along the bottom of your foot from heel bone to toes. Many people compare it to an archery bow because it’s naturally taut, though flexible, and supports the arch in your foot. If you’ve done any research on your own, you’ve probably seen authoritative resources refer to it as a tendon, but that’s not completely true. The plantar fascia tissue is closer to being a ligament because it connects bone to bone, rather than connecting muscle to bone.

That misclassification isn’t the only misleading thing about conventional plantar fasciitis information. The pain is typically attributed to inflammation, thus the “itis” at the end of the name. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association found that tissue inflammation is not typically present with the true cases of the condition, and that it is actually a case of tissue degeneration. Sometimes degenerative issues can develop as you age and sometimes they are genetic.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis-osis?

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Running–or even standing or walking–on hard surfaces can result in plantar fascia pain.

No one has been able to really pinpoint one, conclusive cause of plantar fascia pain, but many educated theories are floating around out there. Some common reasons give include

  • *obesity
  • *improperly fitting shoes
  • *over pronation–rolling your feet inward as you walk
  • *standing, walking, or running on hard surfaces for extended periods of time
  • *high arches
  • *no arches–flat feet

Notice how those last two seem to conflict with each other? Having arches can cause pain, but so can not having them?

In some cases, the way your foot is shaped can cause you to develop plantar fascia pain. Sometimes that can be caused by an injury like if you break your foot and it heals screwy, but you can also be born with an abnormality, like science writer Paul Ingram. He was born with a slight deformity of his foot bones that interferes with his arch and has caused chronic problems with his plantar fascia.

Probably the most accurate description of plantar fascia pain that isn’t an inherited condition or due to the shape of your foot is that it is a repetitive use injury, kind of like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or runner’s knee.

Pain Treatments and Management

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A foot massage will feel good and may temporarily alleviate plantar fascia pain, but it’s only a temporary fix.

There are a number of ways medical professionals have for treating plantar fascia pain, and many times the plan of attack is to use a combination of methods, according to Sports Injury Clinic. That is likely due to the fact that the cause is difficult to pinpoint, so your healthcare provider will cast a wide net to increase the odds of addressing what’s really at the root of your problem. In severe cases when more conservative treatment doesn’t help, steroid injections or surgery might be recommended. However, in the study mentioned above, the researchers concluded that steroid injections weren’t necessarily the best treatment for the condition because they cannot stop or reverse tissue degeneration and have the potential to cause further damage to the plantar fascia.

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Weighted calf raises are just one resistance exercise that will strengthen your calf muscles for a longer-term solution for your foot pain.

Managing the pain through therapies and lifestyle changes may be your best bet. Over the counter painkillers can help, and you can try over the counter orthotic inserts in your shoes or have your doctor prescribe custom-made ones. Physical therapists have seen some improvement in patients who wear special splints at night that stretch the plantar fascia as well as the Achilles tendon during sleep. Physical therapists also recommend calf stretches for plantar fascia pain, but you shouldn’t stop with simple stretching. Strengthening your calf and other lower-leg muscles is a proven way to effectively combat the pain. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that people who participated in high-load strength training experienced faster plantar fascia pain reduction and improved function than those who only performed stretches.

Getting Rid of a Bad Habit

This week, TargitFit is pleased to offer some healthy living advice courtesy of guest blogger, Henry Moore:

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Photo Credit: SnapwireSnaps, Pixabay

Getting rid of a bad habit may seem like something that’s easier said than done, but there are ways to go about it that aren’t as difficult as you may think. From binge snacking to overspending to smoking cigarettes, many people have a bad habit they’d like to get rid of. When you’ve decided it’s time to kick your bad habit, start by considering why you should stop partaking and then think about ways to reverse it. Each bad habit brings its own dangers, and solutions vary depending on the specific habit. Below are three bad habits and how to kick them. 

 

Bad Habits That Are Health-Dangers

Spending too much time on the couch watching TV is a double whammy. First, the more TV you watch, the less physical activity you’re getting. A lack of exercise increases your odds of being overweight. Second, if you’re sitting around watching TV, you’re more likely to drink too many beers or sugary sodas or binge-snack, and those snacks are typically high-fat, high-calorie, processed snack foods.

Leading a stressful life is a bad habit that can be easy to overlook, but having an unhappy lifestyle releases large amounts of stress hormones that lower immunity, slow digestion, and increase your blood pressure and blood sugar. “Nature intended stress to be a short-lived fight-or-flight response to a threat, but modern life can lead to chronic stress and to far-reaching impacts on your health,” warns Reader’s Digest.

You may not think of sunbathing as a bad habit either, but skipping sunblock accelerates the aging of your skin. The sun destroys the elastic fibers in your skin, so instead of looking firm and smooth, you will have wrinkles, blotches, freckles, and discolorations. More importantly, sunburns are a huge contributor to cancers of the skin. Don’t forget tanning salons, which raise your risk for skin cancer and wrinkles.

Breaking the Habit 

When watching TV, follow the 2/30 rule, which states that 2 hours is the maximum anyone should spend watching the tube in one day, and you should definitely participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise. Mindlessly surfing channels increases the time you spend watching, so only turn the TV on when you have something specific to watch. Make a point not to eat while watching TV. If you’re going to watch TV for two hours, you might as well exercise while you watch by walking in place or performing sit-ups and pushups.

Practice the art of refraining from getting stressed so easily. Your reaction to triggers determines your stress level. Next time you feel a stressful situation developing, make the conscious decision to manage it and stay calm, rather than letting the situation manage you. It helps to learn a formal stress-relief process, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. Pessimism is a learned behavior, so counter it by rediscovering optimism. It can keep stress at bay and help you regain your happiness. Diet and exercise play major roles in stress levels, so make healthy eating and working out part of your daily routine. Also, experiment with letting loose sometimes. Being an adult doesn’t mean having to suppress fun. Remember to enjoy yourself.

Take back your skin health. Start by scheduling an annual checkup with a dermatologist. Educate yourself on the danger signs of skin cancers and always wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors, even if it’s cloudy or in the winter. If you’re forgetful, keep a bottle near the door of your house and in the car. It only takes a minute or two to apply sunscreen, and that’s two minutes that could save your life. For prolonged sun exposure, don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen. Stay in the shade when you can, and wear a hat and sunglasses. If you’re after the glow from the sun, use a lotion with a self-tanner.

Be a Better You

All of these changes above require a level of self-discipline, whether it’s remembering your sunscreen or getting off the couch during commercial breaks. It doesn’t matter what your bad habit is, you will need self-discipline to break it and re-train yourself with good habits. It may be hard at first, but the healthy changes doing so brings to your mind and body are worth it.

 

About the Author:

Henry Moore enjoys travel, running, cooking, baking, and reading. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. He believes travel can change you, and good health preserves you. He combines both in his work on FitWellTraveler.

The Skinny on Fat and Muscle, Part IV

In this, the final installment in our four-part series on muscle and fat myths, we’ll set the facts straight on muscle weighing more than fat. It is a misconception that you’ve likely heard or read before–maybe even here on these very blog pages. It’s never our intention to mislead, but the reason this myth gets passed on and repeated so often is that it is almost true–clearing up the inaccuracy lies in comparing volume rather than actual weight.

What Weighs More: a Pound of Feathers or a Pound of Iron?

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Image by Next TwentyEight

Ever come up against this brain teaser? The initial response from anyone who doesn’t take about 3 seconds to think it through is that feathers are lighter than iron, but a pound is a pound, no matter what you’re weighing. According to Shape magazine, it’s simply that muscle tissue is denser than bulky fat tissue, so a pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle. To be fair, if you’re comparing the same mass amount of muscle and fat, yes, the muscle will weigh more. However, comparing the volume of a pound of muscle to a pound of fat, it’s not like comparing apples and oranges. It’s more like grapefruits and tangerines. American Council on Exercise Professional Trainer Jason Greenspan says a pound of fat is grapefruit-sized and a pound of muscle is approximately as big as a tangerine.

The Type of Tissue Makes a Difference, Too

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Muscles are active even when you aren’t, so they’ll still be burning fat and calories long after you’re done working out.

Muscle and fat tissue are almost opposites when it comes to tissue type. While muscle is an active tissue that burns more fuel–i.e.: calories and fat–than other types of tissue, fat is considered adipose tissue, according to Science Daily. Even within adipose tissues, there are sub-types of fat, but the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science says fat tissue is less active metabolically speaking, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot whether you have mostly white fat or brown fat. If you are carrying more fat than muscle, most of that tissue is sitting there doing pretty much nothing for your metabolism.

The Scale is a Liar

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Though you can’t necessarily trust the scale to tell you how lean you are, the tape measure will never lie to you.

These facts about fat and muscle mean you can’t count on the scale to accurately measure how you’re doing on your weight loss goal, especially if you are following the best weight loss advice which is to incorporate cardio and resistance training with diet modification. The exercise will build muscle while the entire program will simultaneously help reduce fat, resulting in the number on the scale staying at the starting point for awhile or even going up a bit, even as you’re seeing yourself slimming down. Many times, the pounds you see on the scale could undermine your confidence and resolve, so it’s best to track your progress in other ways. Use a tape measure to assess your problem areas such as your waist, hips, and thighs. Pay close attention to how your clothes fit, and don’t be afraid to look in the mirror–naked. Once you start seeing more muscle definition and less jiggly bits, you might say “goodbye” to the scale forever.

 

The Skinny on Fat and Muscle, Part III

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Many people want to get rid of fat in certain areas of their bodies, but you can’t target specific spots for fat loss. Image by Debra Roby

It’s Week Three of our four-week series, and this time around we’re re-visiting a topic that has been touched on in the past. This one merits review because it is a stubborn myth that just won’t die: spot-reducing fat. From ab rockers to electric belly belts to balance boards that have you twisting the night away–the flood of workout equipment that targets fat deposits on specific areas of the body confirms that, no matter what research and reality proves, people desperately want to believe they can burn fat from their “problem” areas. That doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of the excess baggage around your midsection or the ample acreage in your back 40. You just need to understand what works best to reduce fat, but it helps to have patience, too. 

Not To Bust Your Bubble…

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If you’ve got time and the energy to do crunches for 2 hours, you might be able to lose a miniscule amount of belly fat.

If you’ve been desperately searching for proof that you really can spot-reduce, you may have come across the study published in the American Journal of Physiology which found that, in certain cases and with specific exercises, spot reduction of fat can occur. HOWEVER, the loss was minimal–Train Magazine compared it to trying to reduce the amount of sand on a beach by removing a few grains. The part of the research to latch on to is that increasing blood flow seemed to be the key to kicking up fat burning in certain spots. In the study, researchers did that by having the subjects perform one exercise for 2 hours. Don’t have that kind of time or willpower? We have a solution for you in just a second… 

How Your Body Burns Fat

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When you kick into fat-burning mode, your brain will pull fat resources from all over your body rather than one specific spot.

The liver is your body’s go-to source for energy, according to Bodybuilding.com. It stores glucose which it dispenses into your blood stream throughout the day to supply the energy your body needs to function and to perform every physical activity you do. When you burn more energy than your liver has stored, your body has to tap into excess energy that has been stockpiled elsewhere, i.e.: fat deposited on various parts of your body. Yale Scientific points out that you can’t control where your body takes that fat from. Rather than burning fat from your abs, if you’re doing 100+ crunches for instance, your brain will flood your bloodstream with hormones that will tell fat cells all over your body to release a bit of what they’re holding, kind of like passing the hat for contributions. 

An Effective Fat-Burning Plan

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Include resistance training as part of your “spot reducing” plan–the muscles you build will encourage fat loss from your entire body and they’ll look great once the layer of fat is gone.

Earlier we stated that you can reduce fat from your problem areas if you have patience and a plan, so here it is: cardio, sculpt, and adjust your eating habits. Cardio exercises–particularly ones performed in high-intensity intervals–are an effective way of increasing the amount of energy your body burns, and fine-tuning how and what you eat will help ensure you burn more calories than you take in to perpetuate the process. You don’t even have to go on a crash diet, especially if that type of plan hasn’t worked for you in the past. Start with small adjustments like ditching soda and drinking more water, switching to skim milk, and eating more fresh vegetables and fewer pre-packaged foods, then continue to adjust from there. 

As for sculpting, the Huffington Post points out that resistance training will tone the muscles beneath the fat you want to get rid of, so they’ll be strong and sculpted even before the fat comes off. However, resistance training serves another purpose, too. According to WebMD, muscle burns more calories than fat does, even while you sleep, so your body will become more efficient as you build your muscles in preparation for bringing them out from beneath the fat.

 

The Skinny on Fat and Muscle, Part II

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Eating any type of calories–fat as well as others–will only make you fat if you eat more than you burn. Image by Tony Alter

It’s week two of our four-week series debunking fat and muscle myths, and the falsehood we’re looking at this week is that eating fat makes you fat. One of the first dietary changes everyone from everyday people to bodybuilders make is to cut the fat but, as with most health and fitness issues, you need to be smart about it, paying attention to how much and which fats you cut. The advice that you need to eat fat comes from many experts, including the American Heart Association, a surprising source. It points out that fat

That means that even competing bodybuilders should only reduce fat, not drop it from their meals altogether, according to FitnessHealth101. And if it’s useful for competitive athletes, then no one should cut fat from their diets entirely. Of course, the key to eating fat–or any type of calories–without getting fat is to burn more than you consume. Plus, the right kind of fat could be the secret you’ve been searching for to weight loss success.

Get Lean Eating Healthy Fat

Okay, read the title of this section again and concentrate on the word “healthy.” Not just any fat will help you lean-up, but the right kind can. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that eating certain fats helped people lose weight. It turns out unsaturated fats cause the small intestine to produce oleoylethanolamide, a compound that sends a message to your brain that you’re full. Eating these fats help you lose weight by making your feel satisfied, so you’ll eat less overall. Plus, they provide energy for your body in addition to all the other benefits listed above.

Where to Get the Good Fat

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Avocados and salmon are just two examples of foods that contain healthy fats.

There are a number of different kinds of fat, but only two types of unsaturated fats–monounsaturated and polyunsaturated–and they’re both good for you. They tend to remain in liquid form at room temperature, but can solidify when cooled. You should definitely be a label reader, and keep an eye out for either or both of them in foods you eat. It’s useful to know going in what foods are sources for these healthy fats. According to Harvard Health, the best sources of unsaturated fats include avocados, peanut oil and most types of nuts, olive and canola oils, corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. What’s more, Harvard Health also recommends omega-3’s as another type of healthy fat. You can always get them by taking omega-3 supplements, but many foods are naturally high in this healthy fat such as

  • walnuts
  • flaxseeds
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • soybean oil (not the hydrogenated type)

More Good Health News on the Fat-Front

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Olive oil is a fat that is not only vital for maintaining healthy, but can actually reduce your risk of issues such as heart disease and high cholesterol.

Many people have a mind-block against fats because they associate eating any type of fat with high cholesterol and heart disease as well as gaining weight. The truth is, not only can monounsaturated fats help you lose weight, but they can also help lower your risk of several health issues including cholesterol and heart problems. In fact, a study by Lukas Schwingshackl and Georg Hoffmann found that when several fats including animal and vegetable fats were compared, only olive oil was found to reduce risk of cardiovascular issues including strokes and death. So, healthy fats can help you live leaner and longer, too.