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Dr. Steven Gundry, the former head of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center, gives advice and answers common questions about health, diet and lifestyle.
All of us experience stress at some time in our lives. And while stress can be a natural reaction to many of life’s challenges, prolonged periods of stress can impact your health and in some cases have serious consequences.
Studies have shown that the longer people suffer from work or interpersonal stress, the greater the chances of catching a cold or falling prey to other ailments. Research results also tell us that men who are highly stressed are more likely to have heart attacks or strokes.
And of course there is the toll on your personal relationships. Conflict can easily ensue as stress mounts. The risk of alienation becomes significant and can further exacerbate your stress.
Everyday, Ongoing Stress
A 1998 study by Carnegie Mellon psychologist Sheldon Cohen discovered that it’s not the big incidents like a death in the family or the loss of a job that cause the most stress. It’s the small, constant, everyday conflicts that increase the possibility of stress-related illness by 3 to 5 times.
You can reduce your stress level by taking a few small steps that will add up over time.
Get More Rest
Thousands of car accidents each year are caused by lack of sleep. On the other hand, a Rhode Island study demonstrated that students who got 35 more minutes of sleep than their peers, earned better grades. Adults need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night despite the fact that most of us only get about 6.7 hours.
One of the best ways to add sleep time is to go to bed earlier at night by about 10 to 15 minutes. Increase the time gradually by starting 5 minutes earlier at first and then adding another 5 minutes a week later and so on.
Do One Thing at a Time
Multi-tasking can be overrated. The more we try to squeeze in, the more frustrated we can become with unfinished business, the more mistakes we make and the less we really listen to each other. We’re so bound up in getting everything done that we lose sight of what’s important and rush down the path to burn out.
The best way to reduce stress and restore balance is to prioritize. Review what’s most important to you and put your physical and emotional energy into those activities. The rest will fall into place and in some cases, even fall off your list.
If quality time with your children ranks as a high priority, let your task list languish. The world will not crumble if you don’t make the bed today or get the vacuuming done. On the other hand you may have a great sense of satisfaction after an afternoon with your kids.
Are you stressed by a crowded work agenda? You might discover that reworking the schedule with your supervisor not only reduces your stress levels, but also improves the quality of your work.
Daily physical activity is the elixir of life. It reduces stress and helps us to sleep better. Exercise increases our energy and stamina while improving our self-esteem and outlook on life.
The National Institutes of Health recommend at least 30 minutes of activity each day. Note the key word “activity”. Just three 10-minute sessions of moderate activity a day will give you the same benefits as a 30-minute workout.
That means that taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the farthest point from your destination or dancing around the house all count towards stress reducing activity.
Whether you take the dog for a run, roller skate or mow the lawn, make sure you fit a total of 30 minutes exercise into each day. You’ll feel so much better.
Take Care of You
De-stress by reading a book, taking a walk, practicing deep breathing or by enjoying a warm bubble bath. Setting aside a little time each day for yourself can ease feelings of frustration, fatigue and stress. You’ll feel re-energized in as little as 15 minutes. But remember, there’s no need to rush it.
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Not every child yearns to join the neighborhood Little League or soccer team. And even though you may see your dreams of sitting in the bleachers, cheering your child on while they hit a home run or score a goal drifting away, it’s not a good idea to push your kids into playing sports if it’s just not their thing. But don’t give up hope! There are lots of other ways to get your kids up and moving and you can play an important role in making that happen.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that kids are 400 – 500% more likely to engage in active play if they have an appealing place to play in and are supervised by adults. You see? They do still need you after all! Consider this a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time with your family while getting the exercise that’s essential to your whole family’s health and well-being.
Keep Them Guessing
Adults 18 and over should do some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Children should be engaging in even more physical activity- at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week. This is where you come in. And the key to getting your kids to exercise is to keep them guessing, which means keep changing things around on them and don’t do the same thing too many times in a row. (This is different, of course, for younger children. Toddlers are perfectly happy dancing to the Hokey Pokey over and over and over…)
You might want to start by asking your kids what they do like to do. We’ve already established that they don’t like sports, but there’s got to be something they like to do. Find out what they enjoy and go with it. In the summer, you can enroll them in swimming classes at your local public pool or health club. Many college campuses also offer children’s swim classes, sometimes year-round. Studying a martial art, like tae kwon do, is a great way for kids to work on assertiveness and safety, while getting fit. Maybe your child has a gift for clowning around. Ask your child if they’d like to go to clown school. Many gymnasiums that offer gymnastics and trapeze classes also offer clown classes, which usually involve juggling, tumbling and acrobatics.
There are even lots of options for exercise at home. Throwing a Frisbee around, if you’ve got a back yard, is a great way to get some exercise. Break out the aerobics videos or find some other fitness videos that the boys may find more appealing. And when in doubt, try putting on some music, turning up the volume, and dancing until you drop. Don’t be afraid to be silly and don’t forget to have fun!
A Little Inspiration Goes a Long Way
Just because your kids don’t like playing sports, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t like watching sporting events. Try taking them to a game, match or competition. It might just inspire them to try it themselves.
Pick out a few books or magazines dedicated to sports you think your child might really like and read them together. Maybe there’s an outdoor activity magazine that might appeal to them. A surprise gift subscription might prove very rewarding if it inspires your child to get up and go check out the world beyond their room and TV.
Top 10 Tips to Keep Them Moving
- Take a walk together with a special destination in mind. Walk to the park for a picnic, walk across town to the movies, or maybe take a hike out to a lake or pool for a swim.
- Don’t forget to pack healthy, yummy snacks and water for your outing. Some fresh or dried fruit, a couple bottles of water, maybe a few cheese sticks- you’re good to go!
- If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with bike paths or smaller roads, try going on a bicycle-powered adventure. Lots of bike stores rent bikes as well, so if you’re bikeless, don’t give up! Try one for a day and see how you like it.
- Stairs are your friend. Hold a stair-climbing competition with your kids and see who can climb the fastest and who can climb the longest.
- Create your own at-home triathlon. Come up with three physical activities to do around the house and award prizes to those who accomplish them all in record time. Then see who can break those records.
- Visit an arcade but avoid the video games, instead, challenge your kids to a marathon of air hockey, skeeball and pool. See who winds up with the best combined score.
- Spend some time on the miniature golf course.
- In the summer, try swimming in a pool. If your kids don’t like doing laps try some fun pool games. If they don’t enjoy being in the water give gardening a try.
- In the winter, try sledding, ice-skating and of course, a vigorous snowball fight.
- When in doubt, add a few friends to the mix.
If you want to get fit fast, bicycling may be the best sport for you. Its intense cardiovascular workout will whip your body into great shape in no time. It’s also easy to learn, with most of us developing this simple skill years ago during our childhood. Bicycling is also a great way to get outdoors and see the sights in your neighborhood or in a nearby area. The intensity of your workout can be modified by changing your riding environment--if you want an easier and slow-paced workout try riding in a flat and even area; if it’s a fast-paced and intense workout that you crave, try riding in areas will hills and curves.
Obviously, to be able to go biking you first need a bike. If you don’t own one, you can easily rent one from a bike shop. For those who haven’t ridden a bike in awhile and want a little practice, using a stationary bike can help rebuild confidence without the worry of pedestrians and traffic on the road. Novices can ask a friend to teach them how to ride or take a clinic at a local bike shop. You should learn the rules of the road – like how to signal when making a turn and who gets the right of way – before hitting the streets.
Sitting on a bike for a long period of time can make you sore so you may want to invest in a padded seat or padded biking shorts. Also, if you lean too far forward on your seat, you may damage nerves and blood vessels in the genital area, which can lead to sexual dysfunction, especially in men. If you experience tingling or groin pain, stop biking and consult your doctor.
In addition to being a great cardiovascular workout that burns a lot of calories, biking also builds endurance and muscle strength, particularly in your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Because it is a low-impact sport that is gentle on your joints, you can ride often without a high risk of repetitive-use injury.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
At the beginning of your ride, go for about five to 10 minutes at an easy pace. This will warm your muscles and allow your heart rate to increase gradually. At the end of your ride, you should also bike for five to 10-minutes at an easy pace to let your heart rate decrease slowly.
Be sure to stretch your calves, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and upper and lower back before you start to bike and again after cooling down to avoid injury and soreness.
Downhill skiing is one of the ultimate winter sports. There are few things that compare to the rush of racing down the side of a mountain on a crisp, winter day. Because ski resorts offer beginner, intermediate, and expert trails, everyone can enjoy the sport, regardless of their experience.
If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to sign up for ski school (ski resorts usually offer group classes or one-on-one instruction). You’ll learn how to snowplow and make turns, which will help you master beginner slopes.
When starting out, you should choose skis that are no taller than your body – this will make it easier for you to learn basic techniques. Once you progress to intermediate slopes, you can look for skis that are longer. Since skiing requires you to be in snow, it follows that the location where you will be skiing will be cold. It’s a good idea to wear the proper clothing to keep yourself warm, including gloves, thick socks, and thermal underwear. Also, just because it’s cold don’t assume that you cannot get sunburn. Snow reflects about 90% of UV light, so if you’re out skiing on a sunny day, make sure to apply a sunscreen of at least spf 15 or higher on all exposed areas of your skin.
Skiing can be a very rigorous workout. It not only builds muscle strength and endurance, but also improves balance and coordination. Skiing is particularly good for toning the hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, as well as the abdominals, calves and arms. On longer runs, you’ll get a great aerobic workout.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Carrying your skis from your car to the mountain should be a sufficient warm up – if you’ve broken a sweat, your body is ready to go full throttle. If not, walk around the base of the slopes for five to 10 minutes to warm your muscles and to elevate your heart rate. Opt for an easy trail on your first trip down the mountain.
On your last run of the day your body will be tired, so choose a slope that is not difficult to get down. Ski slowly to avoid wiping out (and getting injured) and to allow your body to cool down.
Be sure to stretch your arms, calves, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and arms before and after skiing to prevent injury and soreness.
Golf may be one of the most frustrating games around, but with the mental challenge it provides and the beautiful courses to play on, it’s no wonder that millions of people are hooked. It is a low-impact sport that can be enjoyed throughout your life.
The best way to learn to play golf is to take lessons. One-on-one instruction with a professional golfer will go a long way in teaching you how to swing, what clubs to use, and how to control where the ball goes. There also many instructional videos on the market that will teach you the basics of the game . You don’t have to own a set of golf clubs to start playing; generally, you can rent them from sporting stores or pro shops.
After your lessons, you’ll want to practice the techniques you’ve learned. Finding a place to play shouldn’t be difficult: there are hundreds of golf courses and driving ranges all over the world.
On the course, you’ll learn the rules of the game as well as the etiquette. For example, it is polite to let faster golfers play through. To avoid slowing down other people’s games, you may want to play in the middle of the week when courses generally tend to be less crowded.
Golf is not the most aerobic of all activities, however it does offer some physical benefits, especially if you walk the course and carry your own clubs. Most golf courses are several miles, so walking the entire distance can definitely give you a good, low impact workout. Golfing helps to build upper body strength, tone your leg muscles, and improve your hand-eye coordination.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
It’s a good idea to warm up before playing a round of golf. You can take a brisk walk or gently stretch your muscles to warm them up. You should stretch your neck, back, and arms to prepare your body for the swings of the club. After playing, you generally don’t need a cool down, but you should stretch your arms, shoulders, and back to avoid injury and reduce soreness.
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the wonders of nature while boosting your level of physical fitness. It’s a great sport for exercisers of all levels – beginners can start on gentler, flat terrain while experienced hikers can set out on steep trails up the mountain.
You don’t need to live in the country to find a place to hike; most towns have parks and nature preserves with plenty of trails to explore.
To go for a hike, all you need is a pair of sturdy sneakers or hiking boots and a park or nature preserve. Since you can hike in a variety of areas, your experience will depend on the environment and trail that you choose to explore. It’s a good idea to do some research on the hiking areas you want to try so you can pick a trail that meets your needs. Many hiking areas offer a variety of terrain, magnificent views, and spectacular sights of nature along the way. You should also find out the distance of the trail and approximate time to complete before you begin.
Hiking is a great group activity, although many people enjoy hiking on their own. If you do go solo, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return in case you get lost or injured. Whether hiking solo or with a group, it is a good idea to bring water to keep hydrated. Also, check the forecast and prepare for the worst weather - bring a heavy coat if the temperature is expected to dip or a slicker if there is a chance of rain. Whether you go on a two hour, two day, or two week hike—have fun, bring a guidebook or map, explore the area, and enjoy nature.
Hiking is a great way to burn fat while toning your body. It helps improve muscle strength in your calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes, and also is a great exercise for building endurance. For an extra challenge, carry a backpack with water and snacks; this will help you burn off more calories.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
For the first five to 10 minutes of your hike, walk at a slow pace to allow your muscles to warm up and your heart rate to increase gradually. Once you’ve broken a sweat, you can increase your pace. At the end of your hike, slow down your pace for several minutes to let your body cool down.
Be sure to stretch your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps before your hike and again after your cool down to prevent injury and reduce soreness.
You don’t have to be a professional ice hockey player or know how to do a triple axle to enjoy the sport of ice-skating. For most people, putting on their skates and doing laps around a rink is an enjoyable way to have fun while getting a moderate aerobic workout.
Even if making your way around the rink without falling is your only goal, taking a lesson or two may be a good idea. You should be able to sign up for lessons at any indoor ice-skating rink. During a skating lesson you’ll learn basic techniques like how to stop and how to skate backwards, skills that will come in handy when you’re on your own in the rink. Before you step out on the ice, make sure your ice skates fit snuggly and support your ankles. Since you’ll be skating on ice, it’ll probably be cold so make sure to wear warm and comfortable clothing.
There many areas where you can enjoy the sport of ice skating—on outdoor frozen ponds and lakes or on indoor or outdoor skating rinks. If skating on natural bodies of water, watch for cracks, holes, or objects on the ice since these areas do not have Zambonis smoothing out the ice.
You don’t have to be physically fit to take up ice-skating, but keep in mind that as a beginner, you will probably take many spills on the hard ice.
How much benefit you reap from ice-skating depends largely on how much effort you put into it. The better and faster you are, the more of a cardiovascular workout you will get. Keeping your body upright on the ice helps strengthen your abdominals, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Skating also improves balance and coordination.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
After lacing up your skates, take five to 10 minutes to skate around the rink slowly. This will allow your muscles to warm up and your heart rate to increase gradually. Before you call it a day, slow down your pace for a few minutes before stepping off the ice to give your body time to cool down.
Be sure to stretch your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps before and after skating to prevent injury and reduce soreness.
Do the minutes creep by when you’re exercising, because you’d rather be on the golf course? Do you long for your snowboard or skis when you’re jogging in the dead of summer? Instead of sticking to a run-of-the-(tread)mill workout, why not try getting in shape to improve your game, whatever it may be? Engaging in a workout with a purpose can give you the motivation to stay fit and avoid burnout.
On the other hand, maybe you’d just really like to be able to keep up with your kids and not get quite so out of breath when you shoot hoops. Perhaps your swing isn’t what it could be and you’d like to be able to really take a good whack at that ball. If you find yourself vowing to improve your game, the secret to success goes beyond basic practice – you’ve got to get in shape to be good at your game. And if you find a good sports conditioning workout, you’ll not only find yourself hitting a home run, you may just save yourself from a few sports-related injuries.
It’s All About You: Personalizing Your Workout
Once you’ve identified the sport you’re working out for, you’ll find a wealth of workouts waiting for you. If you’re into ball sports like basketball, soccer, baseball or volleyball, it’s a good idea to build up your core muscles via weight and strength training or even through the practice of more whole-body forms of fitness training, such as Pilates or yoga. You’ll also need to work on your cardiovascular fitness so you can run around the court or up and down the field.
There are many fitness programs available that target training for a specific sport. Most gyms have some form of core muscle strengthening program and the personal trainers should be able to help you find the particular focus areas you need to work on for your sport. If joining a gym is not in your plans, you still have lots of choices. Conditioning workouts for specific sports are available almost anywhere. Check out the workout videos at your local video store, favorite online store, or even at your local library. You can also simply search for specific conditioning workouts online via any search engine. Many web sites offer workout suggestions and even detailed programs for a variety of sports. Check out your local library and bookstores for books on sports conditioning and training for specific sports. Last but not least, if you’re in school, ask your physical education instructor for tips and check in with your friends who enjoy the same sports.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball: 10 Ways to Stay Focused
- Remind yourself that your workout has a purpose. You are improving your game (serve, balance, etc.) and reducing your risk of injury.
- Work out with a friend or family member. Find someone who likes to play the same game and get fit together so you can form a killer team.
- Find some images or photos that inspire you. Stick them on the fridge or your bedroom walls or make them your new screen saver on your computer.
- Set specific, realistic goals for yourself. If your sport requires cardiovascular fitness like basketball or soccer, set a goal of running a certain distance in a specific amount of time.
- Instead of one huge goal, set many smaller goals.
- Reward yourself when you reach a goal. Give yourself a pat on the back and share your successes with others. They’ll be proud of you, too. And if you reach a real milestone, instead of treating yourself to a sweet, treat yourself to a new soccer ball or other piece of equipment that you’ve been wishing for.
- Be patient. Your body won’t change overnight.
- Track your progress in a fitness journal. Write down your goals, how you plan to achieve them, and create a fitness chart to track your workouts (how often you exercise, what you do for each workout, how you felt).
- Make it convenient. If you have to drive an hour every time you want to work out, you’re defeating the purpose.
- Make sure you’re eating a balanced, healthy diet. You’ll feel better and you’ll have more energy for your workout if you stay away from sugar and saturated fats. Whole grains, veggies and lean meats and fish will help your body build muscle and shed fat.
They say variety is the spice of life – and variety is just the ticket for an exercise routine that has become dull and boring.
Perk up your program and get back on track to fitness with new and different exercise options. Today’s popular trends include high intensity workouts in Spinning and Tae-Bo, lower impact aerobics with Steps and stress-reducing activities like Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi.
Explore the possibilities and you are bound to find an activity that enlivens your exercise program and refreshes your mind, body and spirit.
Loud, thumping music and enthusiastic instructors will definitely wake you up for this intense workout. Also known as Studio or Indoor Cycling, Spinning offers you the opportunity to burn as many as 900 calories in a one-hour class, depending on your weight.
You can follow the instructor’s energetic directions and pedal to the beat of the music on your stationary bike or tailor your ride to the intensity level of your choice.
The bikes are designed to simulate real life bike rides, so you can modify the difficulty of pedaling to reflect mild to steep slopes or moderate to speedy pedaling.
The instructor’s routines may include sitting or standing in various positions in order to work the different muscle groups. And just in case you need some distraction while working up a sweat, some bikes even have video screens.
Millions of people enjoy this low impact form of exercise. Much easier on your joints than running, Step Aerobics offers similar cardiovascular benefits without the need for expensive equipment or a lot of space.
All you need is a flat surface, a box or platform to step up on and over and a good pair of lightweight sneakers.
Basically you start out by just stepping up on the platform and stepping back down again. As you progress you can intensify your routine by increasing your speed or raising the platform and then by adding arm movements.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, take a look at the multitude of choreographed step patterns available. Give them a try and spice up your workout while you go for the gold!
Yoga has become a popular and widely accessible form of exercise. It can be practiced by people of all ages and is readily adaptable for people who have disabilities or special needs.
Slow, gentle stretches and postures are paired with deep, steady breathing that enhances your blood circulation, soothes your nerves and increases your vitality. It is a great way to improve flexibility and strength, reduce stress and relax both your body and mind.
If you still yearn for a sweat producing workout, Power or Ashtanga Yoga adds a cardiovascular element to the classic yoga tradition.
Pilates is a regimen designed to improve flexibility and strength through a variety of stretching and balancing movements accompanied by resistance exercises and deep breathing.
Pilates focuses on the muscles of the lower abdomen, lower back, buttocks and pelvic floor. By strengthening this “powerhouse” of muscles, you can prevent injury, improve posture, increase flexibility and strengthen and shape the body.
These gentle exercises are recommended for strengthening the back and spine, and reducing stiffness in the muscles. The deep breathing and focus on the movements can help relieve stress and anxiety. Many practitioners feel that it helps to open and expand the mind as well.
If you follow a Pilates regimen you can expect to enjoy better posture, increased mobility in your joints, a flatter stomach, thinner waist and thighs, improved circulation and a sense of calm and well-being.
Like Yoga and Pilates, Tai Chi is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. This ancient Chinese martial art seeks to cultivate and increase the circulation of “chi” or life energy.
Composed of a series of graceful motions that flow smoothly into one another, Tai Chi is practiced while the body is held straight and upright. Every part of the body is exercised equally and all the movements are performed with meditative concentration.
As you progress in Tai Chi the movements become more demanding. The controlled motions require a strong posture and plenty of muscle strength.
Tai Chi is not for the impatient. It takes time and practice. A “form” or sequence of continuous movements can include up to 60 positions and take up to six months to learn.
However, the rewards are many. Tai Chi develops your ability to concentrate, reduces stress, increases your muscular endurance and improves your posture, balance, coordination and flexibility.
New Trends to Watch
In addition to the popular activities listed above that can spice up your fitness routine and refresh your mind and body, there are also some new trends making their way into your city or local gym. Check out some of these alternatives to give your exercise program a new twist.
We all know that dancing is a great and fun aerobic exercise. Well, now you can find dance exercise classes popping up everywhere.
There’s everything from Belly Dancing to Hip Hop with a wide array in between. Take a Rhythm and Motion class, check out African dancing or go with Latin Rhythms. Spice up your exercise program with a little salsa and watch your mind and body perk right up!
The 30-minute program
Some clubs now offer quick and condensed workouts that can fit into your busy lifestyle. These programs are designed to be full-body workouts that incorporate both aerobic and strength training into one quick and simple program. Exercise machines are designed to be used in a particular order to strengthen your muscles while also incorporating the necessary elements of warm-up, stretching and cool-down.
Targeted fitness programs
In addition to the quick and simple 30-minute circuit training programs, there are also many new fitness classes and programs designed for people of all ages and fitness levels. Many gyms now offer classes designed for older adults with an emphasis on conditioning exercises for the bones and joints while also incorporating relaxation techniques. You can also find classes and clubs that cater to women, teenagers and pregnant women.