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More Evidence that Exercise is Key to Brain Health

By Karen Pallarito

TUESDAY, July 19, 2011 (Health.com) — Regular physical activity—even walking—may be key to maintaining a sharp mind as we get older, two new studies suggest.

While that’s not a new discovery, the studies plug critical gaps in the scientific literature and corroborate previous reports linking exercise to reduced rates of mental impairment in older adults.

The message is now clearer than ever: “If you stay physically active, you’re buying protection for your brain,” says Eric B. Larson, MD, the vice president for research at Group Health Cooperative, a nonprofit health-care system based in Seattle.

The studies appear in the July 25 print edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine and were published online today to coincide with the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease, taking place this week in Paris.

One of the studies included 2,809 women over the age of 65 who had a history of heart disease or stroke, or at least three risk factors for those conditions. That’s noteworthy because most previous studies on exercise and dementia have focused on healthy people, according to Dr. Larson, who wrote a commentary accompanying the new research.

Exercise may be particularly important for these women, since unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and other conditions that affect blood-vessel health have been linked to the memory and language problems known as cognitive decline, which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Researchers in Paris and at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, reanalyzed data from a study originally designed to examine the role of antioxidant vitamins in heart health.

Beginning in 1995, the women answered biennial surveys on how often they engaged in various types of exercise (such as jogging, swimming, walking, and climbing stairs). Several years later, the researchers then gave them a series of telephone-based cognitive and memory tests on four separate occasions spread out over a four- to six-year period.

The more active the women were, the better their performance on the test. And they didn’t have to be marathoners: The most active women, who were getting the equivalent of 30 minutes or more of brisk walking every day, experienced much slower cognitive decline than those who got little or no exercise. According to the researchers, the difference amounted to being 5 to 7 years younger, cognitively speaking.

The strong link between activity and a lower risk of cognitive decline was all the more notable given the “very crude” telephone tests used by the researchers, Dr. Larson says.

A second, smaller study addressed a common weakness of the existing research on exercise and dementia: the reliance on the participants’ own description of their exercise habits, which can be unreliable.

In addition to using surveys, researchers used various laboratory tests to gauge the total amount of energy expended by 197 men and women in their 70s over a two-week period. The tests involve drinking chemically altered water and measuring, via blood and urine samples, how quickly the body breaks down the chemicals.

Compared with more sedentary individuals, the people who expended the most energy over the two weeks had 90% lower odds of developing cognitive decline over the five- to seven-year follow-up period—a “really strong” reduction in risk, says the lead researcher, Laura E. Middleton, PhD, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario.

What’s more, the participants’ lab-tested energy expenditure was more closely linked with cognitive health than their subjective accounts of how much exercise they typically get, which suggests that everyday activity, and not just exercise, may help maintain brain health.

“It’s not only that type of purposeful physical activity that’s important; it’s also the less intense work…stuff like just standing up more often and walking more often,” Middleton says.

“It’s bad news for those of us, including myself, who sit at a desk all day,” she adds. “It means that we really need to find some way to get up and move.”

Go to the article on health.com

6 Must-Have Home Fitness Tools

Simple Ways to Burn Major Calories

You don’t need an expensive gym membership to get fit. Choosing the right at-home workout equipment will maximize your exercise routine so you get the weight loss, strength training, and fat burning results you want.

Here are 6 simple tools to get you started, recommended by Prevention fitness expert Chris Freytag – choose the ones that appeal to you. “Resist the temptation to pick up a few random items on sale,” Freytag says. “If the item is poorly constructed or doesn’t really interest you, it’s not a bargain.” Stick with these basics and you’ll have a home workout routine that gives you real results.

1. Resistance Bands

Exercise bands are useful for beginners and advanced exercisers alike. They come in different resistance levels, which are usually represented by different colors, so you can choose what you need depending on your ability and what type of moves you’re doing. Rubberized resistance helps you build muscle just like hand weights, and these bands are easy to store and handy for traveling.

To start, choose a medium-strength resistance band. Increase the resistance by folding it lengthwise or shortening the band by holding it closer to the anchor. Make it easier by attaching one end to an anchor point instead of folding it, and hold the other end in your hand. (An anchor point is a sturdy place that holds the center or one end of the band.) For a high anchor, simply put a tight knot in the band and close it securely in a door. For a low anchor, slide it under a heavy piece of furniture, like a couch. Be sure the band is taut when you begin a move.

Control is key to maximizing toning and avoiding injury. Don’t let the band snap back once you’ve reached the top of the move; pause, then release slowly, resisting against the band’s pull.

2. Balance Ball

Exercise balls can be used alone for ab workouts and stretches, or used in conjunction with hand weights as a balance-challenging weight bench. When you sit on or lie across a stability ball, you engage all the muscles in your core to keep yourself supported.

A proper fit will help you work your way to a toned body with better posture, more-defined abs, and a healthy spine with less back pain. Here’s a guide:

Your Height/Proper Sizing

Under 4′ 6″ / 30-cm (12″) ball
5′ 1″ to 5’7″ / 55-cm (22″) ball
5′ 8″ to 6′ 2″ / 65-cm (26″) ball
Over 6′ 2″ / 75-cm (30″) ball

3. Yoga Mat

This is a home workout must. An exercise mat (they’re not just for yoga!) will cushion you from a hard floor and give more support than a carpet when doing ab workouts, floor exercises, and warmup stretches. Plus these rubbery, non-slip mats make it easier, safer, and more comfortable to do yoga or Pilates. Mats come in many colors and designs, so just pick one you’ll enjoy. Another use for a rolled-up yoga mat is as a lumbar support to lie over on the floor after a stressful day.

4. Dumbbells

Dumbbells, or hand weights, are great for building muscle and sculpting your body. One pair each of 3-pound and -5 pound weights will be enough to get you going on a beginning strength-training regimen. As your strength improves, add 8-pound and 10-pound weights.

5. Heart Rate Monitor

Monitoring your exertion level and keeping track of calorie burn helps you chart your fitness progress and feel in charge of your workouts. Exercising too hard can lead to injury, exhaustion or burn out. Not working hard enough can be ineffective and leave you seeing little to no results. Using a heart rate monitor with your at-home workouts will allow you to see exactly where you are at all times. You will learn which of your workouts are high intensity, and which workouts are focused on building strength and stamina for harder moves.

To keep your fat-burning fires stoked, you’ll want to maintain a heart rate between 80 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 200. Calculating 80 percent and 85 percent of this number provides you with your target heart-rate zone.

 

Get Flat Abs Fast (at Any Fitness Level)

Workout by Jessica Smith, creator of the 10 Minute Solution: Quick Tummy Toners DVD
Scissors pull-back
Want to rid yourself of belly flab and get bikini-ready abs once and for all? Try these abs exercises and get the sexy stomach you’ve been dreaming about, no matter what your fitness level.

Beginner: V-Sit Pull-Back

What you’ll need: A mat

Tip: Keep your neck relaxed while you crunch. Need help? Simply place your tongue on the roof of your mouth!

Targets: Abs and obliques

  • Sit with knees bent, legs together, arms at shoulder level in front of you.
  • Engage abs and lean back slightly.
  • Rotate torso to right and pull elbow back to tap mat.
  • Return to start. Switch sides; repeat.
  • Do 20 reps total, alternating sides.

Beginner: Plank-Up

Targets: Abs, back, hips, and glutes

  • Get into plank position (abs engaged, back straight, forearms on floor, legs extended).
  • Lift hips toward ceiling, keeping back and legs straight, abs engaged; hold for 2 counts.
  • Lower to plank.
  • Do 10 reps.

Wipe-away

Beginner: Wipe-Away

Targets: Abs, obliques, and hips

  • Lie faceup with arms out to sides at shoulder level, legs together, abs engaged.
  • Lift legs straight over hips.
  • Keeping upper body on mat, slowly lower legs 45 degrees to right.
  • Lift legs back over hips.
  • Repeat to left. Do 10 reps total, alternating sides.

Intermediate: Kneeling Heel Twist

Targets: Abs and obliques

  • Kneel on mat with hips above knees, abs engaged.
  • Place hands behind head, elbows out.
  • Keeping hips centered, rotate torso to right and reach right hand toward right ankle.
  • Return to start; repeat to left side.
  • Do 12 reps total, alternating sides.

 

Plank swipe

Intermediate: Plank Swipe

Targets: Abs, obliques, back, hips, and glutes

  • Get into plank position and stack left foot on top of right heel.
  • Keeping back and legs straight and abs engaged, lift left foot slightly, then kick left leg out to side.
  • Return to stacked position. Do 6 reps.
  • Switch legs; repeat.

Intermediate: Air Circle

Targets: Abs, obliques, and hips

  • Lie faceup with legs together, arms extended straight up, abs engaged.
  • Keeping upper body on mat, lift legs straight over hips.
  • Draw a big circle on ceiling with legs.
  • Change directions; repeat.
  • Do 12 reps total, alternating directions.

Advanced: Scissors Pull-Back

Targets: Abs, obliques, and legs

  • Start in V-sit, feet lifted, shins parallel to floor.
  • Extend left leg as you rotate to right; tap elbow to mat.
  • Return to start. Switch sides; repeat.
  • Do 16 reps total, alternating sides.

Advanced: Plank Walk-Up

Targets: Arms, abs, back, and glutes

  • Get into plank position.
  • Keeping back straight, abs engaged, and legs together, “walk” hands into full push-up position (hands directly under shoulders, elbows slightly bent).
  • Gently walk hands back down to plank.
  • Do 5 reps without lowering to floor.
Side scissors crunch

Advanced: Side Scissors Crunch

Targets: Abs, hips, and legs

  • Lie faceup with legs together, arms overhead.
  • Engage abs and lift legs straight over hips.
  • Crunch up as you lower legs out to sides and reach hands through legs.
  • Lower upper body and bring legs back together.
  • Do 15 reps.

 

 

 

From: Fitness Magazine

The ultimate beginner’s running program

Ready to tie up your runners and hit the pavement? Become a bona fide runner in four months with this ultimate beginner’s running program

By Celia Milne

The ultimate beginner

This tried and tested four-month running schedule was developed by Jeremy Deere, past Canadian champion in the 5,000 metres and 10K distances, and owner of Strides Running Store in Calgary. It will help a non-runner gradually work up to running for 30 minutes straight. Plan to walk/run three times a week for up 
to 45 minutes, with days off in between.

What pace is good for you? To burn fat and reap heart benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you run at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Running plan: Month 1

• Week 1: Run one minute; walk two minutes. Repeat 10 times. Gradually increase the time of your runs by one minute.

• By week 4: Run three minutes; walk one minute. Repeat 10 times.

Running plan: Month 2

• Week 5: Run three minutes; walk one minute. Repeat 10 times. Again, gradually increase running times.

• By week 8:
Run seven minutes; walk one minute. Repeat four times.

Running plan: Month 3

• Week 9: Run seven minutes; walk one minute. Repeat four times. Gradually increase running times.

• By week 12:
Run 11 minutes; walk one minute. Repeat three times.

Running plan: Month 4

• Week 13: Run 11 minutes; walk one minute. Repeat three times.

• By week 16:
Run 20 minutes; walk two minutes. Repeat twice.

Congratulations! You are now ready to run for half an hour without stopping!

 

Workout & Exercise Log

Workout & Exercise Log

Date (Day/Month/Year): ____________________________

Start Time: ___________________

End Time: ___________________

 

Scale Weight:
Body Fat %:
Fitness Goal: Strength/Muscle Building/Fat Loss/Endurance/Other:
Sleep (HRS):

 

Name of Workout: _______________________________________________________

 

Body Parts Trained (Circle all that apply):

Whole Body | Chest | Back | Shoulders | Legs | Calves | Biceps | Triceps | Abs | Other: _________________________________________________

 

CARDIO/AEROBIC/CONDITIONING EXERCISE

EXERCISE TIME/DISTANCE/
INTENSITY/SPEED/CALORIES
NOTES

 

WEIGHT, STRENGTH & RESISTANCE TRAINING

 

EXERCISE WEIGHT SETS REPS REST NOTES

 

DIET & NUTRITION

 

MEAL FOODS EATEN/INGREDIENTS APPROXIMATE CALORIES
PRE-WORKOUT:
POST-WORKOUT:
DAILY SUPPLEMENTS:

 

OVERALL WORKOUT RATING (1-10) MIND/BODY/WORKOUT NOTES:

 

Copyright © 2008 by Answer Fitness®  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This exercise log may be distributed freely for non-commercial use provided you give credit and a link back to:  http://www.answerfitness.com

The Genius of Weights

Woman lifting weights.
Photo: Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

By Adam Campbell

Could lifting dumbbells actually make you smarter? Adam Campbell, fitness director of Women’s Health and author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises has 20 ways lifting can transform your life, body and mind.

“You don’t look like you lift weights.”

I’ve heard this phrase more than once in my life, and it’s always delivered by a burly guy in a sleeveless shirt who most certainly does look like he lifts weights. And who’s no doubt basing his observation on the standards of a typical musclehead.

That’s just it, though: Like most of you, I’ve never aspired to be a musclehead. Or a powerlifter. Or a strongman competitor. (All of which are fine pursuits, for sure.) So do I look like any of those? Of course not.

But do I look like I lift weights? Absolutely. I’m lean and fit, and my muscles are well-defined, even if they’re not busting out of my shirt.

You see, lifting weights isn’t just about building 20-inch biceps. In fact, for most women, it’s not about that at all, since resistance training may be the single most effective way to lose fat and look great in a swimsuit. What’s more, the benefits of lifting extend into nearly every aspect of your health and well-being. So much so that after nearly 12 years of reporting in the field of health and fitness, I’ve come to one rock-solid conclusion: You’d have to be crazy not to lift weights—even if bigger biceps are the last thing you want. And that’s why I wrote The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises.

The truth is, lifting weights gives every woman an edge. Over belly fat. Over stress. Over heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Lifting even makes you smarter and happier.

Want proof? Here are 20 reasons you shouldn’t live another day without lifting.

1. You’ll Lose 40 Percent More Fat
This might be the biggest secret in fat loss. While you’ve no doubt been told that aerobic exercise is the key to losing belly flab, weight training is actually far more valuable. Case in point: Penn State University researchers put overweight people on a reduced-calorie diet, and divided them into three groups—one that didn’t exercise, another that performed aerobic exercise 3 days a week, and a third that did both aerobic exercise and weight training 3 days a week.

The results: Each of the groups lost nearly the same amount of weight—about 21 pounds. But the lifters shed about 6 more pounds of fat than did those who didn’t pump iron. Why? Because their weight loss was almost pure fat, while the other two groups lost just 15 pounds of lard, along with several pounds of muscle. Do the math and you’ll see that weights led to 40 percent greater fat loss.

This isn’t a one-time finding. Research on non-lifting dieters shows that, on average, 75 percent of their weight loss is from fat, and 25 percent is muscle. That 25 percent may reduce your scale weight, but it doesn’t do a lot for your reflection in the mirror. It also 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 instead.

Think of it in terms of liposuction: The whole point is to simply remove unattractive flab, right? That’s exactly what you should demand from your workout.

5. You’ll Build Stronger Bones
Just like muscle, you lose bone mass as you age, too. This increases the likelihood you’ll one day suffer a debilitating fracture in your hips or vertebrae. That’s even worse than it sounds, since U.K. researchers found that among older women who break a hip during a fall, more than 50 percent will never walk again. In addition, significant bone loss in your spine can result in the dreaded “Dowager’s hump,” a condition that leaves you with a hunchback. The good news: A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that 16 weeks of resistance training increased subjects’ hip bone density, and elevated their blood levels of osteocalcin—a marker of bone growth—by 19 percent.

Another bone-related benefit: Researchers in Georgia found that osteoarthritis sufferers who performed leg exercises through a full range of motion three times a week reduced knee pain by up to 58 percent.

6. You’ll Be More Flexible
Over time, your flexibility can decrease by up to 50 percent. This makes it harder to squat down, bend over, and reach behind you. But in a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists found that three full-body workouts a week for 16 weeks increased flexibility of the hips and shoulders, while improving sit-and-reach test scores by 11 percent. Not convinced that weight training doesn’t leave you “muscle-bound?” Research shows that Olympic weightlifters rate only second to gymnasts in overall flexibility.

7. Your Heart Will Be Healthier
Pumping iron really does get your blood flowing. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who performed three total-body weight workouts per 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 risk of a heart attack by 15 percent.

8. You’ll Derail Diabetes
Call it muscle medication. In a 4-month study, Austrian scientists found that people with type 2 diabetes who started strength training significantly lowered their blood sugar levels, improving their condition. Just as important, lifting may be one of the best ways to prevent diabetes in the first place. That’s because it not only fights the fat that puts you at an increased risk for the disease, it also improves your sensitivity to the hormone insulin. The end result: Your body has an easier time moving sugar from your blood stream into your muscles cells. This helps keep your blood sugar under control, reducing the likelihood you’ll develop diabetes.

The Genius of Weights
By Adam Campbell
Original Content | April 23, 2010
|   Print

9. You’ll Cut Your Cancer Risk
Don’t settle for an ounce of prevention; weights may offer it by the pound. A University of Florida study found that people who performed three resistance training workouts three times a week for 6 months experienced significantly less oxidative cell damage than nonlifters. That’s important since damaged cells can lead to cancer and other diseases. And in a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise scientists discovered that resistance training speeds the rate at which food is moved through your large intestine by up to 56 percent, an effect that’s thought to reduce the risk for colon cancer.

10. Your Diet Will Improve
Lifting weights provides a double dose of fat-loss fuel: On top of burning calories, exercise helps your brain stick to a diet. University of Pittsburgh researchers studied 169 overweight adults for 2 years and found that the participants who didn’t follow a 3-hour-a-week training plan ate more than their allotted 1,500 calories per day. The reverse was also true—sneaking snacks sabotaged their workouts. The study authors say that it’s likely both actions act as a reminder to stay on track, reinforcing your weight-loss goal and drive.

11. You’ll Handle Stress Better
Break a sweat in the weight room and you’ll stay cool under pressure. Texas A&M University scientists determined that the fittest people exhibited lower levels of stress hormones than those who were the least fit. And in another study, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia found that the blood pressure levels of people with the most muscle returned to normal the fastest after a stressful situation, compared to those who had the least muscle.

12. You’ll Shrug Off Jet Lag
Next time you travel overseas, hit the hotel gym before you unpack. When researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California at San Francisco studied muscle biopsies from people who had performed resistance exercise, they discovered changes in the proteins that regulate circadian rhythms. The researchers’ conclusion? Strength training helps your body adjust faster to a change in time zones or work shifts.

13. You’ll Be Happier
Yoga isn’t the only exercise that’s soothing. Researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham discovered that people who performed three weight workouts a week for six months significantly improved their scores on measures of anger and overall mood.

14. You’ll Sleep Better
Lifting hard helps you rest easier. Australian researchers observed that patients who performed three total-body weight workouts a week for 8 weeks experienced a 23 percent improvement in sleep quality. In fact, the study participants were able to fall asleep faster and slept longer than before they started lifting weights.

15. You’ll Get in Shape Faster
The term “cardio” shouldn’t just describe aerobic exercise. A study at the University of Hawaii found that circuit training with weights raises your heart rate 15 beats per minute higher than running at about 60 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. According to the researchers, this approach not only strengthens your muscles, it provides cardiovascular benefits similar to those of aerobic exercise. So you save time without sacrificing results.

16. You’ll Lift Your Spirits
Squats may be the new Prozac. Scientists at the University of Sydney found that regularly lifting weights significantly reduces symptoms of major depression. In fact, the researchers report that a meaningful improvement was seen in 60 percent of clinically diagnosed patients, similar to the response rate from antidepressants—but without the negative side effects.

17. You’ll Be More Productive
Invest in dumbbells—it could help you land a raise. U.K. researchers found that workers were 15 percent more productive on the days they made time to exercise compared to days they skipped their workout. They were also 15 percent more tolerant of their co-workers. Now consider for a moment what these numbers mean to you: On days you exercise, you can—theoretically at least—accomplish in an eight-hour day what normally would take you nine hours and 12 minutes. Or you’d still work nine hours, but get more done, leaving you feeling less stressed and happier with your job, another perk that the workers reported on the days they exercised. Think a busy schedule is a good excuse not to lift? Think again.

18. You’ll Add Years to Your Life
Get strong to live long. University of South Carolina researchers determined that total-body strength was linked to lower risks of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes. Similarly, University of Hawaii scientists found that being strong at middle age was associated with “exceptional survival”—defined as living until 85 years of age without developing a major disease.

19. You’ll Stay Sharp
Never forget how important it is to pump iron. University of Virginia scientists discovered that when men and women lifted weights 3 times a week for 6 months, the study participants significantly decreased their blood levels of homoscysteine, a protein that’s linked to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

20. You’ll Even Be Smarter
Talk about a mind-muscle connection: Brazilian researchers found that 6 months of resistance training enhanced lifters’ cognitive function. In fact, the workouts resulted in better short- and long-term memory, improved verbal reasoning, and a longer attention span.

Oprah.com

8 Pilates Exercises for a Tighter Tummy

By Jen Ator
Women’s Health

You’ve probably read about celebs extolling the virtues of Pilates (lean legs, a supertaut tummy), or maybe even heard the hype from mat-class-obsessed friends. If you’re still skeptical, keep reading: “Pilates puts your muscles—especially the smaller, stabilizing ones—under constant tension over a large range of motion to create that enviable long, lean look,” says Lauren Piskin, owner of Physicalmind Studio in New York City. What’s more, one study found that women who swapped their usual routines for two 60-minute Pilates sessions a week saw significant increases in abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility, and upper-body muscular endurance.

Problem is, these perks often come with a hefty price tag: A few sessions a week (typically using a bed-size contraption called a Reformer) can set you back hundreds of dollars. So Piskin created this at-home total-body workout, which gives your abs some extra love without damaging your bottom line. All you need is a Pilates ball. “The ball mimics the resistance of the machine to challenge your muscles as you move through fluid movements,” says Piskin. Do the following sequence two or three times a week. Starting with the first move, do eight to 10 reps of each exercise with little to no rest between exercises.
.

Mermaid with Ball

Sit with the ball at your left side, and bend your left leg in front of you, your right leg behind you. Place your left hand on the ball, elbow slightly bent, and extend your right arm out to your side at shoulder level (a). Brace your core and roll the ball out to the left as far as you can while reaching your right arm over your head (b). Hold for two or three seconds, then roll the ball back toward your body and return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Finish all reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Rollover

Lie faceup on the floor or an exercise mat with your arms at your sides, palms down, legs straight. Lift your legs until they’re perpendicular to the floor, feet flexed (a). Keeping your shoulders relaxed and legs straight, brace your core and raise your hips, slowly reaching your legs behind your head as far as you possibly can and pointing your toes behind you (b). Slowly reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.

Footwork on Ball

Lie faceup, arms by your sides, palms facing down. Bend your knees and place the balls of your feet on top of the ball, heels together and toes pointing slightly outward in a small V shape (a). Engage your core and contract your glutes to lift your hips an inch off the floor, then roll the ball away from you until your heels are on the ball (b). Pause, then bend your knees to roll the ball back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Swan on Ball

Lie facedown with your legs extended shoulder-width apart behind you. Position the ball under your chest and rest your forearms on the floor, palms down, elbows close to your body (a). Bring your shoulder blades back and down, press your palms lightly on the floor, and slowly lift your head and chest as you lengthen your spine (b). Hold for two or three seconds (imagine trying to create as much space between your ears and toes as possible), then return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Back Arm Rowing

Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Extend your arms straight in front of you, palms up. Your back should be straight, your chest up (a). Brace your core, curl your tailbone under, and slowly lower your upper body to a 45-degree angle. At the same time, bend your arms to bring your elbows close to your body, closing your hands into fists and pulling them toward your shoulders at eye level (b). Pause, then reverse the motion to return to start. That’s one rep.

Mermaid with Twist

Sit on your left hip with your left leg flat on the floor, knee bent 90 degrees, and your left palm on the floor. Bend your right knee toward the ceiling and place your right foot flat on the floor in front of your left foot; rest your right arm on your right knee (a). Shift your weight onto your left arm and straighten both legs to raise your hips toward the ceiling while extending your right arm directly over your head (b). From this position, twist your torso down and to the left, reaching your right arm underneath your body (c). Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Finish all reps on that side, then switch sides and repeat.

Roll Back and Up

Sit with your legs extended straight out in front of you, feet flexed. Hold the ball in front of you at shoulder level, arms straight. Keep your chest up and back straight (a). Contract your core and glutes, then slowly roll back until your back is flat on the floor and the ball is directly overhead (b). From that position, bring your chin to your chest and slowly roll back up to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Coordination with Ball

Lie faceup with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees; hold the ball with both hands, arms straight. Bend your elbows and lower the ball toward your chest, pressing your hands firmly against the ball (a). Brace your abs, extend your arms in front of you, curl your shoulders off the floor, and straighten your legs (b). Hold for one or two seconds, then reverse to return to start. That’s one rep.

Pump It Up: Eleven Tips for Exercising Regularly

Exercise is one of the keys to happiness. Research shows that people who exercise are healthier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. They get relief from anxiety and mild depression, comparable to medication and therapy. They perform better at work.

Also, although it’s tempting to flop down on the couch when you’re feeling exhausted, exercise is actually a great way to boost energy levels. Feeling tired is a reason to exercise, not a reason to skip exercise.

But even when you admit that you’d feel better if you exercised, it can be very hard to adopt the habit. My idea of fun has always been to lie in bed and read, preferably while also eating a snack, but I’ve managed to keep myself exercising by using all these tricks on myself:

1. Always exercise on Monday. This sets the psychological pattern for the week. Along those lines …

2. If at all possible, exercise first thing in the morning. As the day wears on, you’ll find more excuses to skip exercising. Get it checked off your list, first thing.

3. Never skip exercising two days in a row. You can skip a day, but the next day, you must exercise, no matter how inconvenient.

4. Give yourself credit for the smallest effort. My father always said that all he had to do was put on his running shoes and close the door behind him. Many times, by promising myself I could quit ten minutes after I’d started, I got myself to start—and then found that I didn’t want to quit, after all.

5. Think about context. I thought I disliked weight training, but in fact, I dislike the guys who hang out in the weight-training area. Are you distressed about the grubby showers in your gym? Do you try to run in the mornings, but recoil from going out in the cold? Examine the factors that might be discouraging you from exercising.

6. Exercise several times a week. If your idea of exercise is to join games of pick-up basketball, you should be playing practically every day. Twice a month isn’t enough.

7. If you don’t have time to both exercise and take a shower, find a way to exercise that doesn’t require you to shower afterward. Twice a week, I have a very challenging weight-training session, but the format I follow doesn’t make me sweat. (Some of you are saying, “It can’t be challenging if you don’t sweat!” Oh yes, believe me, it is.)

8. Look for affordable ways to make exercising more pleasant or satisfying. Could you upgrade to a nicer or more convenient gym? Buy yourself a new iPod? Work with a trainer? Get a pedometer to keep track of your walking distances? Exercise is a high life priority, so this a worthwhile place to spend some money if that helps.

9. Think of exercise as part of your essential preparation for times you want to be in especially fine form—whether in performance (to be sharp for an important presentation) or appearance (to look good for a wedding) or mood (to deal with a stressful situation). Studies show that exercise does help.

10. Remember one of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood, courtesy of Voltaire: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t decide it’s only worth exercising if you can run five miles or if you can bike for an hour. I have a friend who scorns exercise unless she’s training for a marathon—so she never exercises. Even going for a ten-minute walk is worthwhile. Do what you can.

11. Don’t kid yourself. Belonging to a gym doesn’t mean you go to the gym. Having been in shape in high school or college doesn’t mean you’re in shape now. Saying that you don’t have time to exercise doesn’t make it true.

People often ask me, “So if I want to be happier, what should I be doing?” and I always say, “The first thing to do is to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and plenty of exercise.”

I know that answer doesn’t sound properly transcendent and high-minded on the subject of happiness, but research shows that you’d be wise to start there. And I’ve found that if I’m feeling energetic and well rested, it’s much easier to follow all my other happiness-inducing resolutions.

Originally published on The Happiness Project

Workout Routines: How to Get a Flat Stomach Fast

How to Get a Flat Stomach Fast

By Jeanine Detz

Want to know how to get a flat stomach fast? Try this ab workout:

Core exercises like the ones here firm the front, sides and back of your torso (not just your abs), making control-tops obsolete. But belly flattening is just one benefit of these workout routines. Your core muscles protect your spine, and the better they are at doing it, the comfier your body gets with coordinating movements (like hitting a tennis ball, rowing a kayak, and even running). In fact, a strong core can improve your endurance, make you a stronger athlete, and prevent injuries. Follow these fitness tips and your body will function as fabulously as it looks.

How to get a Flat Stomach Fast: Anatomy lesson

Your core includes muscles from your upper back to your pelvis, but the primary spine stabilizers are your rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis (together called your “abs”), and rector spinae. Your abs flex your spine, rotate your body, and pull in your belly. Your erector spinae, along your vertebrae extends the spine and helps support your torso.

How to get a Flat Stomach Fast: Ab Workout Details

You’ll need a 5- to 7-pound dumbbell, a 6- to 10-pound kettleball, and a Kinesis One (or cable) machine. At home use a dumbbell and two handled resistance tubes (find gear at spri.com). Twice a week, do 2 sets of each move in order.

How to get a Flat Stomach Fast: Trainer’s Strategy

“Nearly every woman will suffer from back pain, but a strong core can prevent it,” says Dorcey Porter, a trainer at Equinox Fitness in Hawthorne, California, who designed this plan. “To get the most benefit from these exercises, focus on your posture during every rep.”

PRIMARY MUSCLES TARGETED WITH THIS AB WORKOUT

  1. rectus abdominis
  2. external obliques
  3. internal obliques
  4. transverse abdominis
  5. erector spinae

7 Waist-Slimming Ab Exercises

Workout by Elisabeth Halfpapp

Fitness Magazine

Get an amazing ab rehab stat. This routine from better-belly specialist Elisabeth Halfpapp, a founder of Exhale Mind Body Spa in New York City, combines seven exercises that will work your midsection, including the transversus abdominis, 360 degrees — “which is the key for slimming your waist.” Both our testers experienced roomier waistbands (our apple-shaped tester lost an inch; our new mom lost two) after a month by doing three-times-a-week sessions. Now it’s your turn to be firm, flat, fab!

Side Plank-Up

Targets: Rectus and transversus abdominis, obliques, and inner thighs

  • Lie on left side on floor with legs stacked and a rolled-up towel between thighs, propping torso on left elbow so that left forearm is perpendicular to torso. Make it easier: Stagger feet so that side of right foot is on floor in front of left foot for a wider base of support.
  • Lift hips so that body forms a straight line from head to toe and squeeze towel between thighs. Hold for 1 count, then lower.
  • Do 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

Round Back

Targets: Rectus and transversus abdominis

  • Sit on a folded towel on floor with shoulder blades against a wall and knees bent, feet flat; make sure back is rounded. Place hands on floor near hips, fingertips pressed into floor.
  • Squeeze abs and lift feet off floor, bring knees toward chest, then straighten legs so toes point toward ceiling. Do 10 pulses: Bring legs 1 inch closer to wall, then move them back 1 inch. Make it easier: Keep left foot on floor and bring extended right leg toward you by grasping right calf with both hands. Hold for 30 seconds; switch legs and repeat.
  • Do 3 sets.

Fly Up

Target: Rectus abdominis

  • Sit on a folded towel on floor, lean back to rest on elbows and place feet together on a wall in front of you so that knees are bent about 90 degrees.
  • Extend legs up, keeping feet against wall, then press rounded lower back into floor and squeeze abs as you lift arms to reach toward feet, elbows soft. Make it harder: Press feet into wall as you reach.
  • Do 20 pulses: Curl torso up 1 inch, then lower 1 inch.
  • Do 3 sets, hugging knees to chest to rest between sets.

Pelvic Scoop

Targets: Lower back, rectus and transversus abdominis, obliques, and butt

  • Lie faceup on floor with back resting on folded towel, knees bent and feet flat on floor, arms by sides.
  • Cross right ankle onto left thigh just above knee so bent right knee points out to side; flex left foot so only heel rests on floor.
  • Rounding lower back and squeezing abs, lift hips off floor so pelvis tilts up toward ribs. Curl pelvis as far as you can without arching back; pull abs in to lift rather than press through left heel. Lower to floor.
  • Do 10 reps, holding the lift for 10 seconds on the final one. Switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

C-Curve

Targets: Rectus and transversus abdominis, quads, inner thighs, and calves

  • Stand facing a wall with legs together, squeezing rolled-up towel between thighs.
  • With knees slightly bent, hinge forward at hips to place palms on wall, arms extended, so that back is nearly parallel to floor.
  • Squeeze abs and towel as you rise onto toes, then do 20 pulses: Lower hips 1 inch, then raise them 1 inch. Make it harder: Start with knees bent 90 degrees so that hips are closer to knee level, then pulse.
  • Do 3 sets.

Flat Back

Targets: Rectus and transversus abdominis

  • Sit on floor with lower back against a wall, knees slightly bent and feet planted wider than shoulder-width apart. Place hands on floor between legs and squeeze abs.
  • Press into floor with fingertips and lift feet about 6 inches. Make it easier: Lift and lower left foot; then repeat with right to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps.

Twisted Curl

Targets: Rectus and transversus abdominis and obliques

  • Sit on a folded towel on floor with knees bent and feet flat on floor, then lean back to rest on elbows.
  • Press rounded lower back into floor, squeeze abs and curl torso up toward left, lifting arms so that both hands grasp outside of left thigh.
  • Maintaining curl, release hands so that both hover to outside of thigh and do 20 pulses: Curl torso up toward left by 1 inch, then lower 1 inch. Make it easier: Keep hands on thigh for pulses. Make it harder: Raise arms overhead for pulses.
  • Switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

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