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Your Workout Unplugged

Your smartphone goes everywhere with you, even to the gym. It’s such an integral part of your life that you’re probably unaware that the device could be hindering your fitness and weight loss goals. There’s a time and place for checking emails, social media, texting, and even using your cell for having an actual, spoken conversation with someone else. But the time will never coincide with your workout, and the place will rarely, if ever, be the gym.

Training Interference

When all your attention is on your smartphone, you can’t put much effort into your workout.

When your attention is on your phone’s screen, you can’t give your workout everything you’ve got. That’s not just an assumption. Research has proven it several times over in study after study. One Kent State study in particular found that the more time a person spends on their cell phone, the less fit they are likely to be. Those findings were in general, however, so the same researchers conducted another study to specifically determine how using a cell phone during exercise would affect intensity.

The results showed that, although talking and texting while working out made exercising more enjoyable, redirecting attention from the workout significantly reduced the intensity. If you can still carry on a conversation while working out, you’re not putting enough into exercising, and most people need to slow down considerably or stop physical exertion altogether in order to type out a text, Tweet, or Facebook post. The bottom line is that you won’t see the health, fitness, and weight loss benefits that you go to the gym for in the first place.

The Etiquette Issue

Smartphone use in the gym can interfere with everyone’s workout if you’re taking up space on equipment while your text or Tweet.

Aside from the fact that talking, texting, and Tweeting cancels out the positive results you might get from exercise, smartphone use in the gym can be a distraction to those around you, as well. It’s easy to get sidetracked entirely from working out and instead just take up space on equipment while you scroll through Facebook posts or peck out a text message. That amounts to poor gym etiquette when others are waiting to use the bench, machine, or space you’re in. Even your phone conversations can be annoying, especially if you’re speaking loudly or having a heated or personal conversation.

On the Upside

Accessing fitness apps is one of the few ways smartphones can be helpful during a workout.

It’s best to leave your smartphone in your gym locker while you work out, but the devices do have a feature that has shown to improve workouts. While talking, texting, and checking social media reduces workout intensity, using a smartphone to listen to music during a workout significantly increases the intensity of exercise. Music is a very motivating factor when it comes to working out. It distracts you from fatigue and keeps you flooded with strong emotions, both factors that enhance endurance so you’ll work out harder and longer, according to Scientific American. Additionally, downloading apps that enhance your workout such as ones that count steps, recommend workout routines, or show proper form for exercises are another positive way your smartphone can be used while exercising.

 

Healthy Hydration: Drink Up!

08181601Everyone from doctors to personal trainers to health and fitness blogs preach how vital it is to consume enough water every day. There are many formulas for calculating just how much water “enough” is. For example, one common formula is to multiply your weight by two-thirds and the answer is the number of ounces of water you should drink each day. Alternatively, you could reference the Recommended Nutrients table published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences. The advice you’ll find there is general, but based on scientific study. However, actual water requirements vary by individual and are subject to your metabolism, activity level, and environmental conditions. Your best bet for accurately figuring a personalized recommended water intake might be to use Bodybuilding.com’s Water Intake Calculator. At least it figures in your activity level.

Just knowing that you need water and how much of it you personally require is only half the battle. You have to actually consume the necessary fluid. If you’re among those who don’t particularly enjoy drinking the unexciting, flavorless liquid, there are alternative ways to ensure you stay hydrated, and many of them are quite tasty.

Fruit Juices

08181602Juicing essentially removes the water from fruit, with the included bonus of a delicious taste as well as a dose of nutrients, and who doesn’t appreciate a drink that multitasks? The vitamins and minerals you get from juice will depend on which kind of fruit it comes from, but you have plenty of choices out there from orange to apple to pomegranate. Even ades made from citrus fruits are terrific alternatives to water, but Health Status recommends using actual fruit to make lemonade or limeade instead of a drink mix. Just place the juice from six to eight limes or lemons in a pitcher and fill it with boiling water. You’ll want to be conservative at first and adjust the actual amount of the water to fit your taste. Take off the fruit’s bitter edge by sweetening with agave nectar. Chill, then serve your fruit-ade over ice.

Coconut Water

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Drinking pure coconut water is a nutritional way to hydrate. Image by Vita Coco Coconut Water

Coconut water is another way to hydrate and get a few extra nutrients. According to Skinny Ms., pure coconut water is packed with more potassium than bananas, plus it contains five electrolytes essential for your health. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that coconut water was just as useful for re-hydrating after a workout as bottled water and sports drinks, proving that coconut water isn’t just a fad. It’s actually a valuable way to get part of your daily fluid intake.

Cuppa Joe

08181605Outdated studies are responsible for coffee’s reputation as a diuretic. Turns out that the data wasn’t complete. More recent studies such as the one published on PLOS|one showed that if you routinely consume caffeinated drinks, your body has essentially learned how to deal with caffeine and drinking it won’t negatively affect your level of hydration. We’ve gone on and on about the nutritional and health benefits of coffee such as reducing muscle pain after a workout, helping to burn fat, providing a load of antioxidants, and Home Grounds lists many more. Now you can add to those benefits the fact that your morning (or afternoon) cuppa can count toward your daily fluid intake.

DIY Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are useful for rehydrating after a workout. They’re tastier than water and replenish nutrients such as electrolytes that water doesn’t have.

Addicted to your sports drinks? That’s OK because they’re providing your body with electrolytes as well as hydration. They can get kinda spendy, though, and even though they’re supposed to be good for you, many contain sugar and additives that you might not want in a “healthy” drink. The Daily Burn‘s solution is to make your own sports drinks, using fresh ingredients and low glycemic sweeteners such as agave. One of our favorites is quick and easy to mix up. Just combine the juice from oranges and lemons with coconut water for a Gatorade-like beverage that is healthier than the original.

Eat Your Hydration

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Strawberries and watermelon are both more than 90% water, making them tasty and terrific ways to get more fluid in your diet.

Oh, did we forget to mention that water you get from the foods you eat can officially count toward your daily fluid intake? Develop Good Habits advises eating foods with high water content to increase how much fluid you get on average, which can typically be around 20 percent of the total amount you need. Cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, celery, strawberries, and, of course, watermelon are all foods that are more than 90 percent water, making them excellent alternatives to drinking water for staying hydrated.

Physical Therapy: Beyond Injuries

If you’ve ever had a sports-related injury or orthopedic surgery, physical therapy has probably been part of the deal. PTs specialize in evaluating your condition and developing a plan to help you recover while safely getting you back to your naturally active self. With the changes the medical and insurance climate has undergone over recent years, physical therapists have taken on a more prevalent role in healthcare. Now, in addition to helping out in rehab, PTs are stepping in to help prevent possible injuries, assist with weight loss, and, in some instances, physical therapy can make it possible to avoid surgery altogether.

Bypass-ing Surgery

Avoid going under the knife–unless there’s severe damage such as muscle or tendon tears, physical therapy can be an effective way to cure chronic pain.

Considering the cost and the physical pain, who wouldn’t rather go through a few weeks of physical therapy rather than go under the knife and end up in PT anyway? In her article for Fitness magazine, Maura Kelly talks about injuring the tendons in her knee, and having the orthopedic surgeon suggest physical therapy first to see if surgery could be avoided. Obviously, if Kelly’s tendons had been torn, an operation would have necessary. However, more and more doctors are prescribing physical therapy for treating less serious injuries and chronic pain instead of jumping to the surgery conclusion.

Physical therapists are trained to evaluate your physical condition and can pinpoint areas of weakness you might be compensating for, ultimately causing the chronic pain you’re experiencing. For example, if your left hip is weaker than your right hip, it won’t be able to stabilize your left knee properly, causing chronic knee pain and possible frequent injuries. Additionally, you’ll be compensating by leaning on your right, stronger hip, throwing your body out of alignment and likely causing lower back or shoulder pain, or both. You may not have noticed anything but the pain, but your PT will trace your symptoms to the root of your problem and can develop a program to stabilize and strengthen your left hip which will alleviate chronic pain without surgery.

Prehab to Avoid Rehab

Your physical therapist is trained to identify weak and problem areas and develop a plan for strengthening them so you can avoid injury.
Image via Roger Mommaerts/Flickr

Fitday points out that those PT evaluations that identify weakness and imbalances can not only help avoid surgery in some cases but can also help prevent injuries in the first place. No matter what lifestyle you live, from sedentary to super-athlete, you can benefit from a few sessions with a physical therapist. That’s because lifestyle activities such as long-haul driving, working at a computer all day, pushing wheelbarrows full of concrete, or lifting weights, for example, can result in limited mobility and/or muscle imbalances, which can eventually cause injuries that will send you to the physical therapist anyway. If a golfer, for instance, indulges in a few sessions of prehab and then keeps up the exercises her PT recommends such as knee to chest hip stretches, thoracic rotation, and T push-ups, she will build the strength and mobility necessary to avoid the lower back pain and injuries that many golfers experience.

Really? PT for Weight Loss?

Whatever your age or weight control history, a physical therapist can tailor a weight loss program to help get you in shape.

Yep, your friendly neighborhood physical therapist can  help with weight loss, even if losing weight has been difficult for you in the past. Their experience and knowledge are very similar to personal trainers’, but a PT might more quickly recognize mobility issues and other concerns that are common for those who are overweight. Taking all of the pertinent information into consideration, a physical therapist will design a workout program for you that includes exercises tailored to your abilities, range of motion, etc., and they’ll help you set realistic, achievable goals. What’s more, your PT can work with you on generalized goals such as overall fitness, health, and wellness, or can help you train for another goal, such as marathon running or improving your golf swing.

Top 5 Anti-Aging Activities That Don’t Cost a Thing

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative health article by Erika Long:

Aging is a natural process that none of us can avoid, but it can be a less severe decline when we practice good self-care. There are many expensive treatments and serums that help ward off the signs of aging. But treating our bodies with kindness and feeding our soul what it craves can give some of the best results available without spending a penny.

Eating nutritious foods, exercising consistently and even indulging from time-to-time, will all support health. Fortunately, there are anti-aging activities that won’t break the bank. By practicing these completely free activities, you’ll help yourself age more gracefully without hurting your wallet.

1) Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can make you age more quickly. Our skin, immune system, and metabolism all suffer when we are sleep deprived. Human growth hormone is produced when we sleep and cutting back on shut-eye will only leave you tired, grumpy and achy. Adults ages 18 to 64 should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep, while those 65 and older can thrive on 7-8 hours of sleep.

Here are a couple of tips to get more and better sleep:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Establish a nighttime routine where you shut off all screens and start winding down the hour before you sleep
  • Keep your room quiet and cool when you sleep
  • Go for a 30-45 minute walk in the morning sun to support the production of serotonin and cortisol

2) Time in Nature

Nature helps us unplug from the modern world and reconnect with a greater sense of the eternal. Fresh air, sunlight, and exercise are good for the body and soul. Whether it’s the woods, the beach or the desert, nature is easily accessible, even in big cities. Most cities have local parks nearby and, even in the winter, viewing pictures of nature will change your mood and how your brain functions.

3) Meditation

Meditation slows the aging process. Even taking as little as fifteen minutes a day to be present with your breath can help you to feel more at ease and allow you to think better. Normally, aging brings on a decrease in memory and cognition. However, dementia and Alzheimer’s may be prevented through practicing meditation as it helps with brain connectivity. Finally, highly productive and successful people take the time to meditate to help them see their goals and desires more clearly so they can accomplish more throughout the day.

4) Friendship

Having healthy friendships provides connection and companionship, which is crucial for our emotional and mental health. Nurturing friendships influence our habits and hobbies. Whether we stay active or sedentary, eat right or drink too often, depends on the people we associate with the most. Our closest friends affect our decisions and moods. They can provide help when we are in need and laughter when we are blue. To keep friendships healthy, it’s important to resolve conflict when it comes up. The stress and anxiety from being upset can lead to depression and a suppressed immune system, just to name a few problems.

5) Laughter

Laughter isn’t just fun but is also good for our bodies. It releases endorphins, a hormone that makes us feel good and relieves pain. It also decreases cortisol, a stress hormone, that can cause inflammation in the body. Less inflammation means less stress on our immune system, freeing it up to protect us from infection and disease. Laughter also promotes heart health as it lowers blood pressure, increases circulation and oxygen intake, and improves the function of blood vessels. Plus, studies have found that about 15 minutes of laughing can burn up to 40 calories. No, you won’t be able to shed excessive weight with a few hearty chuckles, but burning extra calories is always a bonus so don’t hold back. Yuck it up! =D

By incorporating these FREE activities into your life, you can experience more vibrant health as you grow older as well as aging with more grace and ease.

 

 

Erika Long loves corgis, curry and comedy. Always searching for the next great snuggle, flavor or laugh, she inspires people to live their best life now. When not writing, Erika can be found at her local brewery dominating Harry Potter trivia night.

Maximizing Cardio Equipment Workouts

So weights aren’t your thing, and you prefer to do all of your workouts in the cardio center. You should keep in mind that there are numerous benefits to resistance training, including stronger bones, enhanced fat burning, and a healthier heart, to name a few. Doing all cardio is a better option than no exercise at all, but there are little tweaks you can make to get the most out of your cardio-centered workouts.

Optimizing Your Stair Stepper Routine

Stair mill-style steppers allow you to perform different types of step patterns to optimize your stair stepper routine. Image via Annabelle Hayes/YouTube

When the monotony of the stair machine has you feeling like you’re climbing to nowhere, try making one small change to your workout each week. For example, if the step machine you use is a stair mill, like a StairMaster, which has an actual rotating staircase, try skipping a step instead of stepping on every stair. According to GarageGymBuilder, skipping stairs is a great way to target your hamstrings and glutes. Alternatively, try standing sideways on your step mill and performing crossover steps, crossing your outside leg over the inside one to step onto the next stair. Turn around halfway through your workout so you can do crossover steps with the other leg.

If you don’t have access to a stair mill or prefer using the kind of stepper that has two foot pedals instead of a rotating staircase, you won’t be able to do as many alternative step patterns, but you can incorporate leg lifts into your workout. When you are stepping with your right leg and the right pedal is descending, kick back your left leg and hold it until the right pedal is at the bottom and it’s time to step on the left pedal with your left foot. Then, kick back your right leg as you step with your left foot.

Making the Most of the Treadmill

Raising the incline is how most people bump up their treadmill workout, but there are other ways to get more out of a treadmill session. PopSugar suggests pumping your arms as you jog or run instead of holding onto the handles. You could also perform walking lunges to include a little leg toning work with your cardio. You’ll have to use a slower setting, but the intensity of the move will make up for the slower pace. Additionally, you could wear ankle weights or a weighted vest as another alternative to enhance your treadmill workout. They can also be worn while using an elliptical trainer to increase intensity along with calorie burn.

Raising the Bar on the Rowing Machine

Alternating intervals of varying speeds is just one way to raise the bar when working out with a rowing machine. Image by Clay Manley

If you think adjusting your speed is the only way to change up a rowing machine workout, you got another thing comin’. DailyBurn offers up a handful of ways to make the rowing machine more effective and interesting by alternating short rests with various intensity rowing. For instance, when you pyramid row, you’ll increase each rowing and rest interval by 60 seconds until you’re up to 4 minutes, then decrease resting and rowing until you’re back down to 1 minute each. Leapfrog rowing involves alternating 1-minute sprint and rest intervals, but you’ll also alternate your rowing speed during sprint intervals between moderate and maximum effort.

Increase Benefits With Intervals

Naturally, high-intensity intervals are another way to chase the blahs away and rev up cardio equipment workouts no matter what type of equipment you’re using. HIIT training is an excellent workout technique that can breathe new life into your same-old-same-old routine and help you get over a plateau. The easy way to convert your cardio equipment workout into HIIT is to simply alternate 30 to 45-second intervals of maximum effort with 10 to 15-second intervals of slower-paced rest periods. Self offers up a quick and intense alternative stair stepper HIIT that involves doing double steps for a minute, leg lifts for a minute, and single steps for a minute, all at various resistance levels. You get a 60-second recovery interval every 6 minutes to keep you going.

And remember to always include a warm-up and cool-down with your workouts!

Does Sweating During a Summer Workout Mean Extra Calorie Burn?

Finally–the hot weather is here! With the ambient temperature already heated, it’s easy to work up a sweat when you exercise during the summer. Heck, just the exertion of your warm up could get a good sweat going. When it’s streaming from every pore in your body at the end of your workout, you may be inclined to think that you burned a ton of calories. It’s true that your body expends extra energy to keep itself cool, so exercising in warm temperatures can result in extra calorie burn, but it may not be as much as you think.

It’s a Matter of Perception

Don’t back off the intensity just because you’re sweating–push just as hard as ever to burn extra calories.

Getting a good sweat during a summer workout increases perceived effort, but decreases your performance, according to the American Council on Exercise. Apparently, when you’re sweating a lot, you think you’re really working hard, so you don’t put as much effort into your workout. However, people tend to have more endurance in warmer temperatures, so they can work out longer. Whether it’s because they aren’t putting their all into exercising, or they are more comfortable in a warmer environment, understanding that and staying mindful of it can work to your advantage. ACE also reviewed research on exercising in different temperatures, and the results of two studies found that working out in warmer temperatures is best for burning fat and more calories in general. Just don’t let your mind play tricks and fool you into backing off the intensity. Go for the burn and use the increased endurance you get in warmer temps to claim those extra calories you thought you were burning all along.

The Dehydration Dilemma

Drink water throughout the day as well as extra during your workout to stay hydrated and keep your body burning calories.

So, yes, a hot summer workout can burn more calories, but you have to be careful to stay hydrated. Not doing so puts your health at risk and actually shuts down calorie burning. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that not providing the body with enough water slowed the metabolism and impaired insulin sensitivity, two issues that make it harder to lose weight. If you’re confident you’re drinking enough water throughout the day and during your workout, you might want to think again. Shape magazine reveals that just being in a warmer climate can cause a person to sweat out between 2 and 3 liters of fluid each hour–add that to the extra water you lose during an intense workout and there’s part of the answer to why you exercise really hard but can’t seem to lose weight.

Water bottles with infusing baskets let you make refreshing flavored water that can contain up to 20% of the vitamin content of the fruit you’re using without adding calories.

The solution is simple: drink more water. Fill a gallon jug or pitcher with water each morning and keep it close by to remind you to drink during the day. Take a large water bottle along when you work out and drink 6 to 8 ounces about every 15 to 20 minutes while you’re exercising, then consume another 16 ounces when you’re done to replenish. If you’re fond of sports drinks, consider drinking them in addition to rather than instead of water during a workout. The electrolytes they provide are useful, but many of those drinks are calorie-heavy and can cancel out some of the extra calories you’re trying to burn. Water is always a great choice because it’s thirst-quenching, has zero calories, and is just what your body is craving. Miss the flavor of fruit juice or your favorite sport drink? Get a sports bottle with an infusing basket and flavor the water with fruit slices, cucumber, basil, or mint for a refreshing calorie-free treat.

Do Pushup Stands Really Work?

Take a look around the gym in any health club and you will see several different pieces of equipment that are all designed to work the same muscles. Pushups are just one example. First there were bars and stands devised for enhancing pushups. A more recent version is wedge-shaped and padded for comfort, but they aren’t much more effective than their predecessors. They do work but aren’t necessarily vital for performing pushups.

Purpose of the Stands

Team Next Level explains that, in general, pushup stands are used to improve the results you get by providing a deeper pushup than you’d get from performing them in the traditional manner. They give you a larger range of motion when you’re at the bottom of the exercise, enhancing the workout your pectorals get.

Using Pushup Stands

There are no tricks to using pushup stands–just make sure you use proper form to get the most benefits from the exercise and avoid injury.
Image via stroopsmma/flickr

The best pushup stands are lightweight and have a slip-resistant material on the bottom to keep them in place while you work out. The wedge-shaped ones are designed for comfort and to distribute your weight more evenly than if you were doing traditional pushups with your hands on the floor. To use pushup stands, place them just a little wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of you. Get in a typical plank position facing the floor with your legs straight. Extend your arms and grasp a pushup stand in each hand. Keeping your back and legs straight and your gaze on the floor, bend your arms to lower your body down past the stands and to the floor. Straighten your arms out, pushing up to lift your body off the floor, and come back to the starting position.

For Wrist Pain

Not practicing proper form when doing pushups can result in wrist pain and possible injury.
Image via Injurymap/flickr

When you do a traditional pushup, your wrists not only bear most of your bodyweight, but they also bend in an unnatural angle if you don’t practice flawless form. Stands that don’t cause your wrists to bend as extremely as they do during normal pushups could allow you to do a more effective pushup while alleviating wrist pain. That’s because they distribute your weight more evenly, taking the pressure off your wrists and recruiting your entire forearm to pitch in and help support your weight.

Are They Necessary?

Instead of flat-palm pushups, try doing them on your knuckles for an added challenge and to avoid wrist pain. Image via that’s good money/YouTube

Specialized pushup stands may alleviate wrist pain and enhance your workout, but they aren’t vital for performing pushups. The wrist discomfort problem can be resolved without any accessories at all if you focus on keeping your weight on the outsides of your hands when they’re on the floor, according to HitchFit. Alternatively, Men’s Health advises doing pushups on your knuckles instead of with your palms flat on the ground. Make a fist with each hand and position them on the floor, knuckles to the ground and palms facing in. For those just starting out, a traditional pushup will challenge you enough, but if you’ve plateaued and feel like you want to take your workout up a notch, any pushup stand will increase your range of motion for a more demanding workout.

 

 

Fighting Cancer With Exercise

The more research that is done, the more we’re learning how seriously important exercise is for health. Serious as a heart attack? Yep, you’ve already heard how working out positively affects the cardiovascular system. However, new studies are prompting us to say serious as cancer, and the effects are extensive as well as extraordinary.

Reports are frequently published, each one touting the benefits of exercise in reducing the risk of one cancer or another. Fox News did us the favor of compiling a list of 13 cancers for which risk was reduced with exercise. Among them were the top three most common cancers: breast, colorectal, and bladder. Fox’s report focuses on working out to avoid developing cancer, but exercise has even shown to be beneficial for people who are already fighting the disease.

Exercising Cancer Patients

When the diagnosis is “cancer,” patients want to do whatever it takes to beat it. What treatments, medications, and protocols will give them the best prognosis for survival? One study showed that mice who spent increased time running saw up to 50 percent reduction in the size of cancerous tumors than mice who weren’t as active. The really good news is that doctors are finding that exercise combats cancer in humans, too. Dr. Lee Jones of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has long been including workouts as part of the prescription for cancer treatment, and his patients are seeing better survival and fewer instances of recurrence.

How Does Working Out Fight Cancer?

Dr. Marc Siegel, Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, says that the emotional component to exercise is a huge benefit. No matter what level your health is at, exercising releases hormones that improve your mood and make you feel good which is a plus when you’re trying to recover from cancer. However, Dr. Siegel also points out that working out improves your immune system to help your body fight off the disease. Additionally, exercise regulates insulin, which causes tumors to grow. So, exercising helps fight cancer to by decreasing insulin and strengthening your immune system.

Adrenaline hormones, aka epinephrine, direct NK cells to tumor sites where they attack and kill cancer cells.

Yet, there is an even more specific component to exercising for cancer patients, and that is adrenaline. An article on Science Daily details how the surge of adrenaline that comes from a vigorous workout more effectively transports natural killer cells, known as NK cells. Plus, it doesn’t matter where the tumor is–liver, lungs, skin, or elsewhere–the adrenaline rush will recruit the NK cells and mobilize them to attack the cancerous cells wherever they are.

Exercising to Fight Cancer

TargitFit class.2

High Intensity Interval Training is practically tailor-made for fighting cancer–you get the adrenaline surge of cardio while benefitting from resistance training, all in the same workout.

Even if you’ve been fortunate enough never to have had cancer, you’re likely to know someone who has, so pretty much everyone knows how much radiation treatments and chemotherapy can take out of a person. It’s hard to imagine wanting to engage in a vigorous workout when you’re nauseated and fatigued from treatment. That’s why, though an intense workout is what has been found to be the most beneficial for fighting cancer, each patient has to plan their exercise around what they can do on any given day.

Some of the best exercises for cancer patients are aerobic exercise and strength training. The cardio provides that epinephrine surge that recruits NK cells, and the strength training helps maintain bone density and muscle mass that can suffer during cancer treatment. Combining cardio and strength workouts in High Intensity Interval-Training sessions with the TargitFit Trainer is an ideal way to get both at the same time. Balance exercises and stretching are useful, as well.

Everyone’s health and treatment are different, though, so each workout plan should be customized to the individual patient and approved by his or her doctor. Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to your body and be aware of how your treatments are affecting you. On days when you’re completely fatigued, it’s better to give yourself a break and take a rest day. On the other hand, if the fatigue is light to moderate, you’ll likely feel better after a workout. When you can manage it, even light exercise is better than no exercise at all.

Addition to, Not Replacement for, Cancer Treatment

Talk to your doctor about including exercise as part of a cancer treatment plan.

When doctors learn about this type of research, many of them rush to emphasize that exercise isn’t a substitute for treating cancer. While it’s true you shouldn’t put yourself at risk by foregoing all treatments to spend all your time and energy at the gym, it’s also true that you should do everything you can to improve your chances of recovery and survival. That means not only undergoing chemotherapy or other prescribed medical treatment, but also modifying your diet to include healthier foods, and definitely working out. When it comes to cancer, your life depends on it.

Indulge to Improve Your Health

Last week’s blog post provided you with reasons not to avoid some things you may have come to consider guilty pleasures. With permission to drink leaded coffee and nosh on dark chocolate, we boldly but jokingly announced that this week’s post would address the benefits of alcoholic beverages … but then we thought, “Why not?” After just a little bit of research turned up tons of reasons to raise a glass, it was no longer a joke. You might be abstaining for health reasons and, if it’s by doctor’s orders then, please, do stay on the wagon. However, if there are no medical issues involved, then getting off the wagon could improve your health.

No More Tears Over Beer

If you crave one of these bad boys after a workout, drink up! It will replenish your system and rehydrate it, too.

Beer’s reputation for being a bottleful of empty calories isn’t entirely deserved. It’s actually more nutritious than you’ve been told. Not only does it contain protein and vitamin B but it’s also a source of antioxidants and other vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, fiber, and phosphates, according to the Huffington Post. Too much alcohol of any kind is associated with memory impairment, but women who drink one beer a day have been proven to have less decline and impairment in cognitive function as they age than women who don’t drink any alcohol at all, so says a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The calcium in beer can contribute to stronger bones, but so can the silicon, a nutrient that is hard to find in many foods or drinks. Beer has it, though, and a Tufts University study found that indulging in a couple of beers a day resulted in greater bone density. Men’s Health reports on a handful of other health benefits of beer including lowered risk of heart disease, faster recovery after exercise (beer has shown to rehydrate better than water!), lowering blood pressure, and preventing cataracts. Also, apparently the specter of the beer belly is a myth. It’s not beer that can cause your middle to spill over the waistband of your pants. It’s the increased snacking that often accompanies beer drinking that puts the spare tire around your waist.

Why Wine is Just Fine

The resveratrol in red wine is an effective anti-aging agent for your skin, eyes, and heart, among other things.

There was much celebration when wine was given the green light for improving digestion, but it’s good for so much more than that. Wine has been shown to raise omega-3 fatty acid levels in moderate drinkers, which helps protect against coronary disease. Speaking of heart health, red wine, in particular, has an almost magical ingredient that the Mayo Clinic says prevents blood vessel damage, can help prevent blood clots, and reduced bad cholesterol. The “magic” of resveratrol is that it’s not just good for your heart; it improves lung function, can help repair damage after a stroke, improves insulin sensitivity, and is good for eye health and can help prevent Alzheimer’s, according to Prevention. Also, drinking wine can diminish the damaging effects that UV rays can have on your skin.

 

Mas Tequila!

Quality tequila has natural sugars that are healthier for you and won’t cause a hangover.

It’s not just the more mild-mannered alcoholic beverages that are actually good for you. The hard stuff can be healthy, too. MeMD says that agave tequila can decrease blood glucose levels and act as an appetite suppressant which can help with weight loss–yes, you read it right: tequila for weight loss! Tequila contains fructans which can protect medications from breaking down in your stomach before you’re able to absorb them, making medications more effective. It also has prebiotic and probiotic properties to help balance the bacteria in your digestive tract as well as helping to strengthen your immune system. Like most liquor, tequila helps you relax but, unlike other alcoholic beverages which tend to prevent deep restorative sleep, tequila helps you sleep more soundly. Possibly the most important benefit tequila offers is that drinking it won’t result in a hangover. The catch is that you have to drink the good stuff. Cheap tequila has the added alcoholic sugars that cause the headache, bed spins, and nausea that most liquor is known for, so stick to 100 percent agave tequila.

The Common Sense Fine Print

As with EVERYTHING on God’s green earth, you must practice moderation to reap the healthy benefits of beer, wine, and tequila. The little-is-good-so-more-must-be-better logic does not apply!

Indulge to Improve Your Workout

Cheer up–coffee and chocolate are officially on the good-for-you list!

If constantly being told to avoid your favorite treats has you discouraged, take heart. Newer research has shown that some of the most common vices are not only OK to indulge in, but they actually have health benefits including improving performance during exercise. Today we’ll look at two items many people have a weakness for, but it turns out that these weaknesses can be sources of strength.

 

Give in to the Dark (Chocolate) Side

Though all types of chocolate have shown to be beneficial for heart health, dark chocolate is the type that enhances exercise.

Often people jokingly refer to chocolate as their drug of choice, acknowledging that they “know” it’s bad for them, but it just makes them feel so good. That’s understandable, considering that dark chocolate produces feel-good chemicals in the brain that result in pleasurable feelings. Plus, it also contains a natural anti-depressant. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that dark chocolate consumption improves athletic performance. Specifically, a test group of cyclists who ate 40 grams of the dark treat ended up being able to bike 17 percent farther overall than test subjects who didn’t.

Dark chocolate before a workout can increase endurance and improve performance.

Sure, that’s terrific news for chocoholics but, more than that, some of the details of the study are very interesting. For instance, it was found that, when putting forth a moderate effort, the cyclists used less oxygen, making their workout more efficient. And, when pedaling at a flat-out pace for two minutes, the distances covered were increased when chocolate had been consumed beforehand. Additionally, Science Daily points out that chocolate contains epicatechin, a flavanol that encourages increased production of nitric oxide, essential for overall health but also beneficial for burning body fat and building muscle.

Do these studies green-light all types of chocolate? Well, you should definitely stick with dark chocolate, as the lower the cocoa content goes, the higher the sugar content gets, defeating the purpose. Go for 70 percent cocoa content, and eat about 1 1/2 ounces, or just over 37 grams, as part of your pre-workout snack.

Get a Workout Boost With a Coffee Buzz

For all the negative press, coffee has more health benefits than drawbacks, plus it can improve your workout by almost 40%!

Caffeine is considered a drug and, yes Virginia, it is addictive. As a stimulant, it can interfere with getting sufficient sleep. Plus, it is also a diuretic, so it can cause dehydration if you don’t make it a priority to drink enough water throughout the day as well as during your workout. All those reasons and more has landed coffee on the taboo list for many. However, there are actually many health benefits to drinking coffee. Beginning with your workout, Prevention recently reported on research that showed that drinking a caffeinated beverage such as coffee about an hour before exercising improved the workout. The specific type of workout was strength training, and the coffee and other caffeine-laden drinks allowed the participants to do 38 percent more reps on average, not too shabby when you’re trying to push past a plateau.

Coffee offers anti-aging benefits to help you retain and maintain muscle mass that would otherwise be lost as you grow older.

Researchers have all sorts of theories as to how coffee can improve a workout. Some say it limits the build-up of a naturally occurring exercise inhibiting molecule in the muscle cells. Others say it improves endurance by altering how much exertion you perceive you’re putting forth. Caffeine in coffee also acts as a pain-killer. One study found that subjects who consumed two to three cups of coffee prior to exercise (or the equivalent caffeine supplement amount) felt less muscle pain, so they were able to push themselves harder during the workout. What’s more, soreness after exercising was decreased by up to 48 percent–even better pain relief than aspirin and other OTC painkillers provide, according to Dr. Mercola. Just as important, coffee releases a growth factor in the body that benefits your brain as well as your muscles, acting as kind of an anti-aging agent. That means drinking coffee can inhibit age-related muscle atrophy and strength loss.

Next week we’ll look at the health benefits of a few favorite alcoholic beverages…can cake and ice cream be far behind?