Top 30 Ways to Reduce Stress and Restore Balance

Top 30 Ways to Reduce Stress and Restore Balance

by Nea from Self Improvement Saga

If you’re a living and breathing human being, you’ve undoubtedly experienced stress.  It is a natural and unavoidable part of life.

Our body’s stress response is actually a benefit since it enables us to recognize and escape stressful situations. Prolonged or chronic stress, however, can be detrimental to our physical and emotional health.

If you don’t know how to effectively wind down after having a stressful day or facing a stressful situation, it’s time to get equipped with stress reducing self improvement techniques.

Below are 30 ways to quickly reduce stress, thereby restoring balance to your mind and body.   You may want to print this list and circle the stress busters that you will use.  Nothing beats stress like being prepared to deal with it!

1. Visualization
Close your eyes and enjoy the stress reducing benefits of visualizing.  Imagine yourself in the most relaxing place you can think of.  A quiet beach, a nature trail, a beautiful island.  See yourself there.  Feel every pleasing sensation of the environment—a cool breeze, sand between your toes.  Allow yourself to stay in this place for at least 10 minutes. You can run barefoot across the sand, relax in a hammock, or drink iced tea while lying in the sun.  When you’re ready, come back to the real world feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

2.    Diaphragm breathing
Stressful situations generally lead us to take short, shallow breaths; however, this exasperates the effects of stress on the body. By breathing in deeply, feeling the diaphragm as it expands, you may immediately reduce stress and its side effects.

3.    Comedy
There may be no better stress buster in the world than a good hearty laugh.  Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) and increases the level of endorphins.

4.    Relaxing massage
Treat yourself to a little pampering. It doesn’t matter if you opt for a professional massage or just have a friend to rub the tension from your neck and shoulders.  Either way, it’s unlikely you can remain stressed during the process.

5. Sexual Healing
Because sexual frustration is a major stressor, it’s healthy to have an active sex life.  If you’re not currently in a relationship that includes sex, masturbation is a great alternative. Orgasm dramatically increases the “happy chemicals” in your brain, so don’t hesitate to “get busy.”

6.    Rock-a-bye
If you’ve ever rocked a baby to sleep, you understand the comforting sensation of rocking back and forth.  If you don’t have a rocking chair, a swing in your local park may give the same stress-reducing effect.

7.    Pet Therapy
Few things compare to the unconditional love of a pet. Studies show that engaging in activities with pets is helpful for reducing stress and even controlling blood pressure spikes.

8.    Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps to prevent spikes in the stress hormone cortisol during stressful situations.   Fresh fruit is best, but a glass of orange juice is also a good option.

9.    Acupressure
Some of the best stress-reducing acupressure points are in the ears and forehead.  Try giving yourself an ear rub, starting by using slight pressure on the ear lobe with your thumb and index finger.  Move gently upward then downward to massage the entire ear.  A similar technique is to place your thumb directly between your eyebrows. Apply pressure for a few seconds and then slide the thumb across your forehead and over each brow.

10.    Lavender
This essential oil has an amazing calming effect.  A few drops in the bath tub may be all it takes to increase your level of feel-good brain chemicals and relieve stress.

11.    Affirmations
Telling yourself something positive is a wonderful way to take your mind off the things that are stressing you out. Use simple statements like, “All is well in my world” or “I deeply and completely love myself” to remind yourself that you are okay.

12.    Go to the gym
These days many gyms have group exercise and Olympic size swimming pools in addition to standard workout equipment.  Make use of it!  If you usually just get on the treadmill, consider trying for Pilates, Zumba, or water exercises instead.  Your stress level will subside as your body gets moving and your mind enjoys doing something new.

13.    Music
Studies show that certain types of music are great for relaxing tense muscles and winding down from stressful situations. Make sure to choose tunes that are soft, melodic and soothing. Classical guitar is a personal favorite.

14.    Hobbies
Gardening, collecting, fishing, and scrapbooking are a few of the many hobbies that aid in relaxation. The key is to find a hobby that’s enjoyable, thus your focus on it will naturally take your attention off your stress triggers.

15.    Volunteering
Many of us feel wonderful when we do volunteer work to help others.  As long as it doesn’t turn into an obsessive care-taking situation, helping other people or animals is a great way to reduce stress.

16.    Hypnosis
Hypnosis can help you to achieve a deeply relaxed state that you may not be able to reach under normal circumstances. It can also help you to focus on stress busting life goals that you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to apply. If you’re like most people you can’t pay thousands of dollars to have someone hypnotize you, but many do-it-yourself hypnosis programs guarantee instant success.

17.    Take a walk
Walking is a wonderful way to trigger the release of endorphins.  It’s also a great way to rid yourself of agitating pent up energy that’s left in the body as part of the stress response.

18. Yoga poses
yoga-reduce-stressYoga is a wonderful way to reduce stress; however, some of the poses are extremely difficult for beginners.  If you’re feeling stressed, opt for a pose such as the Child’s Pose or the Corpse.  These allow the body and mind to relax without the difficulty of stretching into an awkward position.

19.    Progressive Relaxation/Deep Muscle Relaxation
This method of reducing stress is one of the most powerful. To try it out, get completely comfortable.  Now draw in the toes on your right foot. Feel the tension and hold it for about 10 seconds. Slowly release the tension by 50%, then another 50% as you concentrate on the tension flowing away as you relax.  Do this one body part at a time with every muscle you can flex, from your feet and thighs to your neck and eyes.

20.    Positive journaling
Although writing all of your feelings may be helpful, journaling about the positive aspects of your life is an even more impressive stress reducer. Look back over the course of your day and jot down at least 1 thing that you have to be thankful for.  If you can, write 10 or even 20 statements of gratitude each day.

21.    Prayer/Spirituality
Even if you don’t believe in God or the concept of prayer, you can opt to relieve stress by turning to a power higher than yourself. A spiritual connection is a wonderful reminder that you aren’t alone to deal with your stressors.

22.    Puzzles
Sometimes the best way to relieve stress is to distract yourself. Puzzles are a wonderful way to do this. For the best results, pick a puzzle that has soothing colors or images that feel relaxing.

23.    Go for the herbs
Kava Kava, Chamomile, Passionflower and other calming herbs can be ingested in tea form. These should be available at your local health food store.

24.    Reduce caffeine
There’s nothing wrong with having a cup of coffee each day, but don’t overdo it.  Excessive caffeine can raise your blood pressure and cause undue stress.  Drinking water instead of a caffeinated beverage may quickly create a noticeable difference in your body’s stress level.

25.    Warm Soak or Bath
Water is one of the most soothing elements for many people. Take at least 15 minutes to simply soak in warm water. The de-stressing effect may be intensified by using scented candles to light the bathroom.

26.    Support system
When you’re so stressed out that you can’t seem to handle it by yourself, turn to your support system. This should include people who listen to you without judging and help without taking over.

27.    Manicure/Pedicure
Your mind will release it’s responses to stress when you take the time to treat your body nice, so invest in a pampering session.  If manicures and pedicures are too expensive in local spas, consider going to a beauty school for the relaxing treatment. By the way, this works wonders for both women and men.

28.    Meditation or Chanting
Meditation is one of the most well-known relaxation techniques.  If you find it difficult to stop your mind from wondering, guided meditation or chanting may be more effective.  Holothink Deep Zen Meditation is my personal favorite.

29.    Watch the sunset or gaze at the stars
Nature is something that everyone has access to, so it is a simple way to reduce stress.  As you look into the sky to marvel at the magnificence of our world, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a high level of stress.

30.    Arts and Crafts

Arts and Crafts may include coloring, drawing, painting, etc. The activity isn’t nearly as important as the time that you’re spending focused on something positive and non-stressful, so choose whatever you enjoy.

Although these 30 solutions provide some quick ways to reduce stress, it is also helpful to apply long term, self improvement techniques that prevent chronic stress.  Check out How to Escape the Chronic Stress Loop for tips on how to do just that.

Cooking with Natural Foods

From 101 Cookbooks

I do my best not to be preachy on this site, and I’m not going to start here. But I will attempt in this section to tell you why I’ve done my best over the past few years to shift from a fairly typical all-American way of eating, to one that is focused on minimally-processed, natural foods.

Broadly speaking, there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the ingredients found in the average American pantry – the building blocks of your home cooking. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but I encourage you to start (or continue) the journey away from commercially raised fruits and vegetables of dubious origin, industrially produced cooking oils, highly refined sugars, and nutritionally barren flours. Before these products made their way into your house or apartment, many were showered with agricultural chemicals, treated with chemical solvents, and stripped of most of their vitamins, minerals, fiber, and flavor. Bad for you, bad for your family, bad for the environment. The good news is that the “processed-pantry” can be replaced by delicious, nutritious alternatives.

The term natural is open to interpretation, but here is what it means to me: Natural ingredients are whole—straight from the plant or animal—or they are made from whole ingredients, with a little processing and as few added flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives as possible, thus keeping nutrients and original flavors intact; for example, tomatoes crushed into tomato sauce, cream paddled into butter, olives pressed into olive oil, or wheat berries ground into flour. For me, focusing on natural ingredients also means avoiding genetically modified and chemically fertilized crops, as well as dairy products that come from cows treated with growth hormones. Take these natural foods with their super nutritional profiles, their unique and complex flavors, and their lighter impact on the environment and you have an expansive and exciting realm to explore.

I need to add that I’m not super strict, or judgy, or neurotic about this, but over time I did make a conscious effort to shift my everyday habits. I certainly enjoy the occasional croissant, or frozen veggie burger patty, but more often than not I’m making, or reaching for, or craving something au natural.

First steps – One of the first steps for me was discarding all the white flour and white sugar from my pantry. It forced me to simply cut them out of my cooking palette. More than anything, getting rid of the white stuff was a gesture that cleared space on my shelves for a new exciting flavors and nutritionally rich ingredients – new flours, pastas, grains, and heirloom beans. It was great, and I never felt compelled to look back. Once you have the swing of it, shopping for and cooking with these ingredients isn’t any harder and doesn’t have to take more time than what you are already used to. I promise, it’s getting easier each day to find sources for whole foods, and for me, part of the fun and excitement is in the discovery. There are still a few recipes in the archives here in need of an overhaul, but I’ve decided to leave them and move forward for now – part of the evolution of the site, and me I suppose.

A few steps in the right direction:

1. Cook at home as much as possible using fresh, local, seasonal, and sustainably grown ingredients.
2. Try out a new ingredient every other week or so.
3. Get to know the “bins” at your grocery store – they are packed with nutritional (and affordable!) whole grains, pulses, and the like.
4. Drink water or sparkling water in place of soda.
5. Get rid of your “all-white” staples, start exploring new “whole” foods and ingredients.
6. Rethink your plate – is it balanced nutritionally? Lots of color, veggies, protein, whole grains? Good.
7. Shop at a local farmers market, or sign-up for a local C.S.A.

As I mentioned in Super Natural Cooking, this can be a complicated (and sometimes frustrating) realm to navigate, and during those times when my brain goes to mush browsing the fourteen different flours in front of me, or I’m confused by a new oil that just hit the market, I’ve found that I can typically figure out what fits into my definition of a natural ingredient by asking myself two questions: If pressed, could I make this in my own kitchen? And can I explain how this is made to an eight-year-old? I’m looking for two yes answers here.

This is as good a place as any to also mention that I’m vegetarian. When I was in my twenties, over the course of a few years, I began to phase meat out of my diet. My only regret is not doing it sooner. I feel great, and am happy to do what I can to leave a lighter environmental footprint on our planet. That being said, it’s every individual’s personal journey to figure out a way of eating that works for them. Many people seem to be looking for ways to incorporate more meatless meals into their repertoire for a host host of reasons, and I’m happy to try to provide a bit of inspiration. Many of the recipes, particularly the main dishes welcome substitutions, and I know based on e-mails that many of you use some of the ideas here as starting points, and go from there based on what is available in your area, or what your family likes to eat. Great! I’m just happy to know you are sourcing your own ingredients, cooking, and enjoying cooking at home for yourself, your friends, and your families.

The 51 fastest fat burners

( — Erase extra flab with these super-effective tricks.


1. Catch the running bug. You’ll continue to burn fat after your jog: People who run for at least four hours a week melt more calories than non-runners, even when they’re not running, a Yale University School of Medicine study reports.

2. Crank it up early. Working out harder during the first half of your workout and taking it easier during the second burns up to 23 percent more fat than doing the opposite, according to a study from The College of New Jersey.

3 & 4. Go hard — and make it quick. Staying at 80 percent of your max heart rate for 40 minutes can amp your metabolism for 19 hours afterward, research published in Obesity notes. And doing a shorter workout at 75 percent of your max aerobic capacity will give you a greater metabolic boost than sweating longer at 50 percent, a Colorado State University reveals. 10-minute ab workout

5 to 7. Lift dumbbells … slowly. More muscle equals mega metabolism boost. Strength training can help you trim major fat, research reveals — and doing super-slow (versus normal speed) reps increases strength by 50 percent.

Plus, using dumbbells activates more muscle fibers than using machines, explains Gregory Haff, Ph.D., an associate professor in the exercise physiology department at West Virginia University.

8. Speed up, slow down. Alternating bouts of high-intensity and low-intensity cardio has been shown to torch pounds.

9. Put on weight (literally). Wearing a weighted vest (about 10 percent of your body weight) while walking can boost your calorie burn by 8 percent.

10. Download Rihanna, not Brahms. Listening to up-tempo songs actually makes you run faster and harder than listening to slower-paced music, British scientists say.

11. Let kettlebells ring. Not only does working out with kettlebells build muscle, but doing it for 20 minutes burns as many calories as running at a 6-minute-mile pace for the same amount of time. Get gorgeous arms

12. Keep it up. As few as 80 minutes a week of aerobic or weight training helps keep you from regaining belly fat after losing weight, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

13. Add poles. Use Nordic poles while you walk, and you’ll burn 20 percent more calories, says research from The Cooper Institute in Dallas.

14 & 15. Lift first, nix the rest. Doing strength training before cardio can torch more fat than cardio alone. And if you do one move after another without pausing, “you’ll see more gains in strength and muscle mass,” says Dr. Pierre Manfroy, M.D., consultant for the book “100 Ways to Supercharge Your Metabolism.”

16. Add pounds. Lift heavier weights for fewer reps to make your workout more intense — and burn more fat — Manfroy says.

17. Try aromatherapy. Exercisers who inhaled strawberry and buttered-popcorn scents torched more calories than those who sniffed neutral odors, according to research from the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Aromatherapy massages: touch and scents can vaporize stress

18. Box yourself in. Wii boxing knocks out nearly twice as many calories as some other games, like Wii golf.

19. Kick it. Playing soccer not only torches more fat and builds more muscle than jogging, but it feels less tiring, Danish research reveals.

20. Stay in shape. Fit people have more fat-burning metabolites in their blood than couch potatoes do, scientists say.


22. Get more protein. Eating a protein-packed breakfast and lunch helps you burn more post-meal fat than if you eat lower-protein meals, according to Australian research.

23 & 24. Guzzle green tea — or coffee. Downing five 5-ounce cups of green tea a day boosts metabolism, says Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., author of “Fire Up Your Metabolism.” Two cups of coffee will also do the trick, one study shows. Is coffee healthier than you think?

25. Have an omelet. Eating two eggs for breakfast while dieting will help you trim more weight and body fat than if you ate the same amount of calories noshing on a bagel, scientists say.

26. Stay above 1,200 calories… “The average person’s body goes into starvation mode if she eats fewer than 1,200 calories a day,” says Eric Berg, author of “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning.” “That’s stress, and stress creates more belly fat.”

27. … and cut calories gradually. If you diet, don’t trim more than 250 calories a day. Cutting calories too quickly slows your metabolism down, Dr. Manfroy says.

28 to 33. Munch on these. Almonds, cherries, yogurt, grapefruit, whole grains, and spicy foods have all been shown to torch fat. 7 foods that fight fat

34. Fuel up right. Eating a low-glycemic-index breakfast (such as muesli and peaches) will help you burn more fat during a subsequent workout than eating a high-glycemic-index meal (like waffles), researchers from the University of Nottingham reveal.

35. Think before you drink. Sipping as few as 90 calories’ worth of vodka can slow your metabolism by 73 percent, one study shows.

36. Graze. Women who go without eating for long periods are more likely to have higher body-fat percentages than women who nosh more regularly, one study notes.

37. Dine like a Greek. Eating a diet rich in monounsaturated fat (think olive oil, avocados) can help trim both weight and fat, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows.

38. Stop gorging. Your body can only handle so much food at a time, so stick to 600 calories or less per meal to maximize fat-burning, says Leslie Cooper, co-author of “Flip the Switch: Proven Strategies to Fuel Your Metabolism and Burn Fat 24 Hours a Day.”

39. Skip juice. Reaching for an apple instead of apple juice is not only better calorie-wise, but it’ll also do a better job of boosting your metabolism, Dr. Manfroy explains. The best ways to boost your metabolism


41 & 42. Get C and D. Vitamin C can help you burn more fat, and D may help you lose fat, research notes. Aim for 400 to 500 mg of C and 800 mg of D a day.

43 & 44. Walk more (in denim). Researchers found that fitness-friendly offices (think treadmill desks, mobile headsets) helped people trim pounds and fat, as did wearing jeans to work, since dressing casual encourages you to move more. Wear comfy clothes when you can, pace while on the phone, and stand while chatting with co-workers.

45. Add fish oil (And work out). Taking 6 grams of fish oil per day and hitting the gym three times a week can help nix body fat, an Australian study reveals.

46. Work the day shift. Keeping nontraditional hours lowers levels of hormones that trigger satiety, increases blood glucose and insulin levels, and raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which can drive you to eat more), scientists say.

47. Nix the boob tube. Cut your TV time in half, and you’ll burn more calories each day, research from the University of Vermont suggests. Too much TV linked to earlier death

48. Go mental. People who visualized themselves training a specific muscle boosted the strength in that muscle group, researchers found.

49. Eat a smaller dinner. Your body may not digest food — and burn fat — as efficiently if you down a huge meal right before bedtime, especially because your metabolism is slower while you sleep, Dr. Manfroy says.

50. Jump-start your morning. Wake up your metabolism — and get fat-burning started — by doing some sort of exercise within the first few hours of being awake, Cooper suggests.

51. Get your snooze on. Sleep for a solid 81D 2 hours instead of 51D 2, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and you’ll lose more fat. Sweet dreams!

Five-Grain Muffins

From: Healthy Home Recipes
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup barley flour
1/3 cup oat bran
1/3 cup wheat bran
1 cup brown sugar firmly packed
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbl baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup lowfat ricotta cheese
1 lrg egg plus 1 large egg white
2 tbl canola oil
1 tbl vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups and lightly coat them the vegetable or canola oil spray.

In a large mixing bowl combine all the flours and brans, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate mixing bowl combine all remaining ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Pour into dry ingredients and mix just until all ingredients are moist.

Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling to the rims, and bake for approximately 20 mins. Muffins should be light golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.

Cool muffins in pan for 10 mins before removing to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Couple’s Spring Workout

By: Modern Mom

Who doesn’t like to fall in love? There’s nothing like it. But, as moms can attest, over time, couples start packing on the pounds. You’re taking care of the kids, working, and in short, running the entire universe. With so little time, it’s hard to squeeze in exercise, much less find time to work out with your significant other. Whether we like it or not, Spring is right around the corner, and bathing suit season is inching ever closer. That means it’s time to put down that stale box of Valentine’s Day chocolates and do something good for each other and for your family…Get cut not comfortable with the one you love.

I’ve created a routine that’s designed to be done twice each time you hit the gym and four times a week. It will have loved ones back to their pre-relationship bodies in no time. After all a couple that sweats together, stays together.

Cupid Crunches – Targets the Obliques. Man and Woman are on tandem machines. Each person sits on the right outer thigh extending the left leg out. Hook leg under “X” strap. Holding the body bar, extend arms straight above the head lengthening the upper body, focusing on keeping the core engaged and chest open. Slowly extend arms and torso out. Hold for five seconds. Slowly contract and return to starting position. Perform 10 crunches. Alternate sides, doing 10 more crunches. Man and Woman alternate body positioning so they appear to form a T shape.

Lover’s Limbo Crunch – Works the Abs and Quadriceps. Each person sits facing forward on the rear platform of their respective machines keeping the tailbone tucked underneath for lower back support. Hook both feet under the S strap with knees bent towards the chest. Extend arms directly out from the shoulders holding the body bar. Arms should be shoulder width apart, palms facing down. (This is the starting position.) Keeping abs engaged, slowly release the carriage away from the body, keeping the body bar directly in line with the shoulders. and Crunch knees into chest, lifting the upper body to meet the knees. As the upper body returns to the starting position, arms press up above the shoulders reaching towards the ceiling. Focus on keeping the pelvis tucked underneath, protecting the lower back and neutral spine.

Tag Team Tease Him – Works the core with a focus on the Obliques. Woman places hands on the foot bar. Her shoulders are square to the bar. Cross the right foot in front of the left, heel to toe. While slowly releasing the carriage away from the body, keep the pelvis open facing outwards, legs straight, and the spine neutral. Extend legs out to a full side plank position engaging just the right oblique. Continue to keep pelvis open and spine long. Engage triceps to stabilize the upper body. Slowly contract the right oblique, keeping the pelvis open, and raise the hips towards the ceiling folding in half. Perform 10 reps. Alternate sides, placing left foot in front of the right. (This exercise is compatible with all Pilates machines.)

Tag Team Tease Her – Works the Obliques. The Real Ryder has a unique, articulating frame that allows it to steer, turn, and feel like a road bike. That side-to-side motion requires constant shifts of balance – continuous adjustments and corrections that correspond to a rider’s movements on the road while encountering wind shifts, obstacles, and banked and curving surfaces. While the woman is on the Megaformer, the man is on the Real Ryder Bike (or other stationary bicycle). If using a Real Ryder, he will steer and cycle to the right, holding that position for one minute. After one minute, he will repeat, steering and cycling to the left. Cadence should be between 80-110 rpms, using moderate resistance. After a total of six minutes (three minutes on each side), man and woman tag team and switch exercises. If a Real Ryder is not available, each person should ride for a total of six minutes using moderate resistance and at a speed of 80-110rpms.

Love in an Elevator Lunge -Works the Glutes and the Hamstrings. Woman places right foot on platform and left foot approximately six inches from the front of the carriage. Keeping the left leg straight, push the carriage back by bending the right leg, keeping the knee over the ankle and the knee stationary throughout the exercise. Bring the carriage back in by pressing through the right heel engaging the right glute and hamstring as the body returns to its starting position. Throughout the move focus on keeping the core engaged, the upper body tall, and the chest open, stabilizing the upper body. For a more intense exercise, the woman can hold 4lbs dumbbell weights giving the option to perform a variety of exercises like bicep curls, upright rows, shoulder presses, or lateral raises. Alternate legs. Perform 10 reps on each side.

Simultaneously, the man stands at the rear of the machine facing forward with 8-10lb dumbbells in each hand. As the woman lunges back on the carriage, the man stands with feet shoulder width apart and steps forward with the right leg. He bends the right knee in a lunge position at the same time the woman is lunging (cheek to cheek). He then presses through the right heel, engaging the right glute, hamstring, and quadriceps, right leg pressing back and returns to starting position. Alternate legs. Perform 10 reps on each side.

Couples Spoon with Tricep Dips – Works the Triceps and lower Abs. The man and women are on tandem machines. Each person puts their hands on the bars on either side of their respective machines. Both start with legs straight out in front of them. Each of them presses up off the bar, squeezing the shoulder blades, and keeping the chest open. Lift hips up into a pike position, using the lower abs and triceps for stabilization. Slowly release from pike position, keeping the legs tight, bending the elbows into 90 degree angles while keeping the shoulder blades squeezed together and chest open. Hold for four seconds. Press up for four seconds back into pike position. Repeat 10 times.

Push-Ups – Works the Big Muscle Groups: the back, core, glutes, chest, and quads. Get into Plank position holding bars with arms out to 90 degree angles. Keeping core engaged and spine neutral, slowly bend elbows lifting body up and down. Perform 10 reps.

Ahh…ain’t love grand?

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Ellen DeGeneres’s Secrets For Staying Healthy and Happy

From Fit Sugar

You would never know that Ellen DeGeneres turned 53 this year. The talk show queen, who is a loving wife to Portia DeGeneres and also one of the faces of CoverGirl, says her new healthy lifestyle — which consists of daily yoga and veganism — keeps her looking and feeling her best. Here are five key pieces to Ellen’s radiant glow and overall wellness. Talk about being a role model!

If You’re Going to Push It, You Better Pull It

By Fit Sugar

I love push-ups. Dropping and doing 20 makes me feel strong and tough. But as Lauren my Equinox trainer reminded me, it’s important to offset all the pushing with some pulling. Although the glorious push-up feels like a full body exercise (it certainly works your core), it primarily works your chest and arms. When the pecs get too tight, they pull your shoulders forward, which is not only unattractive but puts the shoulder joint in a compromised position and can lead to injury. Ouch. To maintain balance in your upper body, be sure to mix it up. Here are a few push-to-pull workout combination to add to your fitness life:

In my experience the muscles on the front of the body, the ones that pull you into the fetal position, are much stronger than the muscles on your back. Be sure to work that pulling motion to strengthen your upper back, especially the rhomboids. Remember, if it’s an exercise you tend to avoid, it’s probably one your body needs the most.

A Better Brew: The FITNESS Light Beer Taste Test

We gathered our editors and 10 low-cal beers for a blind taste test. Find out which low-calorie brews we prefer — and tell us your light beer of choice!

Our Light Beer Winner

Bud Light (110 calories)

This all-American classic beat out every other bottle with a smooth crispness. Fashion assistant Melissa summed it up perfectly: “It’s what a beer should taste like.”

Do you agree? Post your own review in the comments section below.

First Runner-Up

Sam Adams Light (119 calories)

We loved the nutty, complex flavor. Nutrition editor Sara was thrilled to find a beer that’s light on calories but heavy on hops.

Do you agree? Post your own review in the comments section below.

Second Runner-Up

Coors Light (102 calories)

It’s sweet, with a hint of apple. “Fizzy and refreshing,” says intern Danielle. Perfect for a hot day.

Do you agree? Post your own review in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contenders: Beck’s Light

Beck’s Light (64 calories)

This light beer didn’t make our top 3 picks. What do you think? Post your own review in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contender: Corona Light

Corona Light (105 calories)

Tell us what you think about Corona Light in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contender: Heineken Light

Heineken Light (99 calories)

Tell us what you think about Heineken Light in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contender: Miller Lite

Miller Lite (96 calories)

Tell us what you think about Miller Lite in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contender: MGD 64

MGD 64 (64 calories)

Tell us what you think about MGD 64 in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contender: Bud Select

Bud Select (99 calories)

Tell us what you think about Bud Select in the comments section below.

Light Beer Contender: Michelob Ultra

Michelob Ultra (95 calories)

Tell us what you think about Michelob Ultra in the comments section below.

Originally published on, September 2009.

Lose Your Fear of Weight Lifting

Just because you’re not vying for 20-inch biceps or thunderously strong thighs like the muscle heads in the gym doesn’t mean you should shun the weight room. Lifting weights gives you an edge over belly fat, stress, heart disease, and cancer—and it’s also the single most effective way to look hot in a bikini. Yet somehow women are still hesitant: Only about a fifth of females strength train two or more times a week.

Here are 12 reasons you shouldn’t live another day without hitting the weights.

You’ll Lose 40 Percent More Fat

If you think cardio is the key to blasting belly fat, keep reading: When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn’t pump iron. Why? The lifters’ loss was almost pure fat; the others lost fat and muscle.

You’ll Burn More Calories

Lifting increases the number of calories you burn while your butt is parked on the couch. That’s because after each strength workout, your muscles need energy to repair their fibers. In fact, researchers found that when people did a total-body workout with just three big-muscle moves, their metabolisms were raised for 39 hours afterward. They also burned a greater percentage of calories from fat compared with those who didn’t lift.

Lifting gives you a better burn during exercise too: Doing a circuit of eight moves (which takes about eight minutes) can expend 159 to 231 calories. That’s about what you’d burn if you ran at a 10-mile-per-hour pace for the same duration.

Other research on dieters who don’t lift shows that, on average, 75 percent of their weight loss is from fat, while 25 percent is from muscle. Muscle loss may drop your scale weight, but it doesn’t improve your reflection in the mirror and it makes you more likely to gain back the flab you lost. However, if you weight train as you diet, you’ll protect your hard-earned muscle and burn more fat.

Your Clothes Will Fit Better

Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 50, you’ll likely lose 10 percent of your body’s total muscle. Worse yet, it’s likely to be replaced by fat over time, says a study. And that increases your waist size, because one pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space than one pound of muscle.

Your Diet Will Improve

Exercise helps your brain stick to a diet plan. University of Pittsburgh researchers studied 169 overweight adults and found that those who didn’t follow a three-hours-a-week training regimen ate more than their allotted 1,500 calories a day. The reverse was also true—sneaking snacks sabotaged their workouts. The study authors say both diet and exercise likely remind you to stay on track, aiding your weight-loss goals.

You’ll Handle Stress Better

Break a sweat in the weight room and you’ll stay cool under pressure. Scientists determined that the fittest people exhibited lower levels of stress hormones than those who were the least fit. Another study found that after a stressful situation, the blood pressure levels of people with the most muscle returned to normal faster than the levels of those with the least muscle.

You’ll Be Happier

Yoga isn’t the only Zen-inducing kind of exercise. Researchers found that people who performed three weight workouts a week for six months significantly improved their scores on measures of anger and overall mood.

You’ll Build Stronger Bones

As you age, bone mass goes to pot, which increases your likelihood of one day suffering a debilitating fracture. The good news: A study found that 16 weeks of resistance training increased hip bone density and elevated blood levels of osteocalcin—a marker of bone growth—by 19 percent.

You’ll Get into Shape Faster

The term cardio shouldn’t describe only aerobic exercise: A study found that circuit training with weights raises your heart rate 15 beats per minute higher than if you ran at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate. This approach strengthens muscles and provides cardiovascular benefits similar to those of aerobic exercise—so you save time without sacrificing results.

Your Heart Will Be Healthier

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who did three total-body weight workouts a week for two months decreased their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of eight points. That’s enough to reduce the risk of a stroke by 40 percent and the chance of a heart attack by 15 percent.

You’ll Be Way More Productive

Lifting could result in a raise (or at least a pat on the back from your boss). Researchers found that workers were 15 percent more productive on days they exercised compared with days they didn’t. So on days you work out, you can (theoretically) finish in eight hours what would normally take nine hours and 12 minutes. Or you’d still work for nine hours but get more done, leaving you feeling less stressed and happier with your job—another perk reported on days workers exercised.

You’ll Live Longer

University of South Carolina researchers determined that total-body strength is linked to lower risks of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Similarly, other scientists found that being strong during middle age is associated with “exceptional survival,” defined as living to the age of 85 without developing a major disease.

You’ll Be Even Smarter

Muscles strengthen your body and mind: Brazilian researchers found that six months of resistance training enhanced lifters’ cognitive function. In fact, the sweat sessions resulted in better short- and long-term memory, improved verbal reasoning, and a longer attention span.

Veggie Burger Rice and Beans Recipe

Fitness Magazine

Veggie Burger Rice and Beans

Cook 1 veggie burger according to package directions; cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon minced onion, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to low-sodium chicken stock and use it in place of water to cook 1/4 cup brown rice according to package directions.

Mix cooked rice with 1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained, and 1/4 cup thawed frozen corn. Top with chopped veggie burger, 1 tablespoon diced avocado, and 3 tablespoons salsa.

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