For 45% of us, it is the great ritual we do once a year – set our New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, only 8% of us will actually attain our goal for the New Year. Historically, gyms experience about a 25% increase in membership in January. However, by mid-February attendance is back to normal. For most, it was a “flash-in-the-pan” idea they soon tired of.
However, there are some simple things you can do to keep to your resolution. Here are 5 of the more popular habits people use for success:
Make your fitness goal realistic
One sure way to abandon a resolution is if your fitness goal is too ambitious. Those 20 pounds you want to take off did not come on overnight, but many people have the expectation to take it off that fast. When it doesn’t happen according to their unrealistic schedule, they give up (and usually end up gaining more weight.) Make sure you set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Exercise with a buddy
Research has shown that it depends on the type of cold you have as to whether you should exercise or not. If your symptoms are no more than having a runny nose and sneezing, then it is probably O.K. to exercise in moderation.
In one study 24 men and 21 women, ages 18 to 29 with varying levels of fitness, were deliberately infected with the rhinovirus, the common strain responsible for about 1/3 of all colds. All caught head colds and two days later when symptoms were at their worst, they were evaluated while running on treadmills at varying intensities. The results showed no impaired lung function or ability to exercise even though the participants reported feeling tired.
Does exercising speed recovery from having a cold?
To answer this questions, we have to once again to turn to research. In one study on cold symptoms and duration, 34 young men and women infected with the rhinovirus were split into two groups. One group exercised on treadmills every other day for 40 minutes at 70% of their maximum heart rates; the other half rested. At the end of the study, researchers did not find any appreciable difference in symptoms nor was there any difference in how long symptoms lasted.
With winter coming on, many people are afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) commonly called the “winter blues”. Thought to be caused by a decrease in the hours of sunlight, typical symptoms of this mood disorder include a lack of energy, sleeping more, overeating, depression and a general overall lethargic feeling. If you are one that suffers from SAD, you have to take control of it or it will take control of you. Otherwise all the hard work you put into looking and feeling good across the other three seasons will be for naught with a gain in weight as a result. Exercising works at beating the winter blues for these reasons…
Increased blood flow
When exercising, your heart rate increases thus pumping more blood throughout your circulatory system. More blood over a given time means more oxygen going into the cells and more wastes coming out.
Any exercise increases the rate at which your body burns calories, but cardio training tends to burn more than strength training. Because people afflicted with SAD tend to crave carbohydrates more in the winter, it is important to do exercises that give you the most calories burn per minute of exercise. However be sure to include at least a couple days per week (but not in a row) of strength training for toning and definition.
Increased oxygen to the brain
Exercising not only increases blood flow to your muscles, but also to the brain. As a result of the additional oxygen, brain function increases making you more alert and cognitive.
When the weather turns cold and blustery, it is hard to force yourself to go to the gym, but you don’t have to. You can still get a great workout in the comfort of your home. Here are some cardio, strength training, core exercises and exercise routine suggestions that you can do with simple (if any) equipment.
If you have stairs in your house (or even if you don’t) stepping will get your heart pumping. Go up and down at a rate where it makes carrying on a conversation hard. If you don’t have stairs, you can substitute by using the fireplace ledge or putting a couple of thick hard cover books on the floor and stepping up and down on them while watching television, or buy a stepper from Amazon or your favorite fitness store for less than $25.00 USD.
Another simple cardio exercise is jumping rope. While it doesn’t work well on carpeting, if you have any type of smooth floor, it works great. If you don’t have any smooth floors, substitute jumping jacks for jumping rope.
Strength training can range from something as simple as doing bicep curls with a filled water bottle in each hand to having a small weight bench and a few dumbbells. Weights and a bench don’t take up much room and gives you the ability to do 18 different exercises. If you outgrow dumbbells, you can move up to barbells.
The problem with the concept of simply counting calories is, calories can be deceiving and are not the basis for determining what’s healthy. Counting calories isn’t a practice that means we are actually eating healthy foods. For instance, an apple with almond butter may have more calories than a 100-calorie snack pack from a factory, but which snack is going to keep your body fueled and satisfied longer? Which one will provide your body with more nutrients?
Don't get me wrong, if you consistently overeat, whether it is good food or bad food, you will gain weight. So, calories do matter but it's the quality that matters most!
I’ve adopted the concept of ‘Healthy L.E.A.N. (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, Nutrition) Habits for life’. I’ve found that when I focus on fueling my body with more nutrient-rich whole foods, and eat mindfully, listening to my body and being respectful of when it is full, not only does my body naturally settle into a more comfortable weight, I also feel better physically, emotionally and psychologically. It’s important to focus on nutrients, appreciating the delicious flavors you can consume in fresh, natural foods.
Exercise makes you pay attention to its sensations, such as breathing faster, and the things around you. It also helps you disengage from worry. In one study, by Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD, professor of psychology at UT; he found that exercise slashed anxiety in half! Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects
Yoga sessions three times a week improved people's mood and anxiety levels after 12 weeks in one study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine. The level of GABA, an amino acid in the brain, is lower in people who report anxiety. Among study participants who took a yoga class, GABA levels increased and reports of anxiety decreased after the session. Yoga's deep breathing "stimulated the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the ability to relax, says Chris C. Streeter, MD.
Norwegian researchers discovered that sleep-deprived people are more likely to be anxious. Here's why: "Sleep loss activates areas of the brain that are also activated during anxiety," says Jack B. Nitschke, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison. To ward off the willies, aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It is also suggested to refrain/step away from electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime and jotting your worries down on paper.
In anxious people, researchers have seen a deactivation in areas of the brain that govern thought, enabling worries to spiral out of control. Mindfulness meditation helps stop the cycle of worry. Studies have shown that anxiety levels of meditators eased up to to 39%
This heavenly therapy slows the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which are linked to anxiety. Research by the University of Miami School of Medicine found that a month of weekly 20-minute massages lowers cortisol levels by 31%. Massage also causes a relaxation response, which eases anxiety.
Taking Kava for 6 weeks eased anxiety for 26% of people with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) in a 2013 study. Research shows that it's effective for up to 6 months. Kava is available in capsules and liquid tinctures; follow label directions
Andrea Stewart Roa, M.S.
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