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Swing Dancing

If you want a great workout while having lots of fun, look no further than swing dancing. The history of swing dates back to the 1920s, when people started dancing the Charleston and Lindy Hop to jazz and Big Band music. Harlem, New York is considered to be the birthplace of swing.

Swing dancing was named after its moves - the leading partner actually swings the other person from move to move, including swinging the partner overhead or under the leader's legs. The dance quickly spread across the country, with different regions developing their own unique styles. There are at least 15 different types of swing, including the Lindy Hop, Carolina Shag, Cajun Swing, and West Coast Swing.

Getting Started

You should have no problem finding a swing class at your health club, a dance studio, or even at a community college. It’s a good way to learn the basic steps and a great way to meet people. And don’t feel discouraged or avoid the sport if don’t have anyone to go with you to the class--in most classes, students go solo and dance with each other.

Body Benefits

Because you’re constantly in motion, swing dancing offers a great cardiovascular workout. It helps burn fat and tones your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hips. Swing dancing also builds endurance and stamina.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

You should allow yourself a five to 10-minute warm up before hitting the dance floor. Go for a brisk walk or dance slowly for the first few songs. This will allow your muscles to get warmed up and your heart rate to increase gradually.

At the end of your dance session, walk around the studio or dance floor for several minutes to allow your body to cool down.

Be sure to stretch your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps before and after dancing to prevent injury and reduce soreness.



Swimming

Swimming is one of the few sports that offer an intense aerobic workout while being gentle on the body. As such, it is a great activity for people of all fitness levels, particularly the elderly or people whose bodies cannot tolerate high-impact workouts. Swimming is also a good activity for pregnant women who want to strengthen their abdominal and back muscles.

Getting Started

You can learn to swim by yourself, but it may be worth your while to invest in a few lessons. There are several different strokes to master and learning to do them correctly will help you maximize your workout and avoid injury. If your health club does not have a pool, check with your local Y for information about group or private lessons.

Before jumping in the pool, it’s a good idea to invest in a bathing suit that fits properly and does not require a lot of adjusting. If your eyes tend to become irritated easily, you may want to purchase a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the chlorine in the water. If you’re swimming outdoors, make sure to wear a sunscreen of at least spf 15 or higher and reapply every few hours. If this is your first time in the water, it may help to use a kickboard (a light foam board that floats) to support your upper body and be sure to swim where there are lifeguards close by.

Body Benefits

Swimming is an intense aerobic exercise that works your arms, abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. It also tones the body and builds endurance. Because it is low-impact swimming has a lower risk of injury than many other sports.

Another added benefit of swimming is that it may help improve bone health. In a recent study, researchers found that swimming, even if started in adulthood, produces increased bone mineral content, which helps keep bones healthy and strong. Bone mineral content in swimmers was 12 percent higher than in non-swimmers.1

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Begin your workout with a five to 10-minute warm up. That may mean swimming a few laps slowly or going for a quick walk or jog beforehand to warm up your muscles and elevate your heart rate. Slow down the pace at the end of your workout to allow your heart rate to descend gradually.

Be sure to stretch your arms, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, before you start to swim and again after cooling down to avoid injury and soreness.



Spinning

Imagine being in a workout studio with rows and rows of stationary bikes. The light is dim, the music is pulsing, and your instructor is ordering you to push yourself to your physical edge. This is what a typical spinning class, also known as studio or indoor cycling, is like. Not for the faint of heart, these rigorous classes were originally designed to help train professional cyclists.

Getting Started

If you’re interested in taking a spinning class, head to your local health club. Keep in mind that these classes are challenging, so you should be in fairly good cardiovascular shape. If you’ve never taken a class before, get there a few minutes early to learn how to use the bike. You’ll need to learn how to adjust the seat and handlebars to fit your height, how to adjust the tension on the bike for varying degrees of difficulty, how to use the toe clip, and how to brake.

Bring a towel with you--you’ll need something to wipe your handlebars with once your sweat starts flowing. Women should wear a sports bra for extra support.

Body Benefits

Like regular outdoor biking, spinning gives you a great cardiovascular workout while building muscle tone and endurance. It works your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and stomach. It’s also one of the best calorie burners: you’ll expend up to 500 calories in a one-hour session.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Most classes begin with a warm-up, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you do your own before coming to class. Take a brisk walk or jog for five to 10 minutes to get your muscles warm and to elevate your heart rate.

After your workout, if your instructor has not included a cool-down period, take a few minutes to ride slowly or walk around the studio. This will help your heart rate descend gradually.

Be sure to stretch your hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and glutes at the start of class and again after cooling down to avoid injury and soreness.



Softball and Baseball

Looking for something to do that is fun, social, and gets you moving? Pick up a bat and glove and head out to a baseball field. Whether you choose baseball or softball – a gentler version of the game that uses larger-size balls, smaller diamonds, and underhand pitches – you are sure to have a fun-filled outdoor experience.

Getting Started

The good news about softball and baseball is you don’t have to be in great shape to get started. The brief periods of running, sliding, throwing, and catching are broken up with periods of waiting your turn to bat, which makes this an ideal sport for those wanting a slow-paced workout. But although there are periods of rest, this sport requires a lot of skill and practice to improve your game.

The only things you need to play are a glove, bat, and access to a park. For more intense play, it’s a good idea to wear a batting helmet and the proper shoes to prevent injuries.

If you can’t muster up enough people to form a team, many towns and businesses offer amateur leagues, with games once a week. When buying a glove, start off with an outfielder glove – its larger size will help you catch the ball more easily. Choose a bat that is heavy, but that you can swing easily (heavier bats make the ball go farther and faster).

To play, you need to know the rules, which are easy to pick up by just watching a game of baseball – the rules for the two sports are very similar. To boost your skills, head to a batting cage with ball machines or go to the park with a friend and practice throwing, hitting, and catching.

Body Benefits

Baseball and softball are not the most rigorous of all sports, but they do help improve flexibility, strength, and coordination.

Warming-Up and Cooling-Down

It’s important to warm up before playing in order to loosen your muscles and elevate your heart rate. Jogging or a brisk walk around the field should be sufficient. After the game, walk around the field or diamond for a few minutes to cool down. Stretching before and after playing will prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness.



Running

Countless people have made running their exercise of choice and it’s not difficult to imagine why. It can be done anytime, anywhere, and at a relatively low cost. If the outdoor elements are not in your favor on a particular day, you can always try running on a treadmill indoors at home or in the gym. On top of that, running provides an incredible aerobic workout – few other sports burn fat and calories as efficiently. Many people also find that running reduces tension and boosts their energy and sense of well-being. Whether you’re running a few blocks or a few miles you're guaranteed to have fun and get a great aerobic workout.

Getting Started

The best advice for beginners is to start slowly. Many new runners try to do too much too soon, but in order to maintain your enthusiasm and avoid injury, try walking and running a short distance for the first few weeks. You may also want to break up spurts of running with periods of walking to relax your muscles and catch your breath. Remember that you should always be able to maintain a conversation while running; if you are unable to do this, your pace is too fast.

New runners also tend to be eager to lace up their running shoes everyday. When starting out, however, it is generally advisable to limit your runs to every other day to allow your body to recuperate in between workouts. As you get more experienced, you can increase the amount of runs to five or six a week.

Although you may feel like you are ready for longer runs, it is a good idea not to increase your distance by more than three miles a week. This will help prevent injury. As you increase your distance, you will be increasing your endurance, stamina, and overall fitness level. More experienced runners may strive to run a marathon (26.2 miles) which requires intense mental as well physical strength but can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience.

Body Benefits

Running is one of the best ways to burn calories: a 30-minute run at a moderate pace can burn about 300 calories. It also improves endurance and muscle strength, particularly in the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. A word of warning: running is a high-impact sport and if overdone, can easily lead to injury.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Start your run at a slow pace for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and increase your heart rate gradually. At the end of your workout, be sure to cool down by slowing your pace for a few minutes.

Stretching before and after a run is a key way to prevent injury and reduce soreness. The main areas you’ll want to focus on are your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

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Rock Climbing

There are few sports that test your mental and physical endurance like rock climbing. Although it is a challenging sport, the payoffs are numerous: incredible views from terrain that might otherwise be inaccessible, the gratification of knowing you overcame challenges to make it to the top, and the incredible shape your body gets in.

Getting Started

Rock-climbing gyms are cropping up all over the country, so it is easy for beginners to build their skills and confidence before heading outdoors. It’s a good idea to take lessons to learn the basics of climbing techniques and safety, including how to tie your rope and how to belay your partner. Indoor and outdoor routes are graded according to difficulty level, which means wherever you climb there should be something for everyone, from novice climbers to the most experienced.

Rock climbing is a mental sport as well as a physical sport. Climbers must carefully plan each move to successfully maneuver up the mountain. And since no two climbs are the same, each time you engage in the sport you’ll experience a unique mental and physical challenge.

Body Benefits

Rock climbing provides a great overall body workout. Not only do you use your arms and shoulders to pull you up to the next hold, but you also rely on leg strength to propel you. Abdominal strength is also needed to keep your body balanced. The sport also improves flexibility and coordination as you maneuver up the wall.

It is important to keep breathing while you are scaling a route. Although this may sound obvious, many beginner climbers hold their breath during difficult moves, which saps their body of vital strength and energy.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

It’s a good idea to warm up before getting on the wall. Five to 10 minutes spent walking or jogging will warm up your muscles and elevate your heart rate. Start with easier climbs and gradually work your way up to more difficult routes.

Stretching before and after climbing is critical. Give extra attention to your back, arms, chest, shoulders, and quads when stretching to prevent injury and to reduce soreness.




Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Kayaking

Imagine a sport that lets you paddle through spectacular fjords, navigate hair-raising rapids, or get near a migrating whale. These are just a few trips you can take if you are on a kayak, a small and maneuverable boat that is appropriate for just about every type of marine environment. And depending on the adventure and workout you’re seeking, you can change the environment to meet you needs-calm waters for a slow, easier, and less intense ride or fast flowing rivers for an intense workout and thrilling experience.

The sport provides a great physical workout and being on the water can help reduce stress and relieve tension. It’s also a sport that you can do alone or with a group of friends-although if you’re beginner you should go with other people the first few times.

Getting Started

When it comes to kayaking, you will definitely want to take lessons before getting out on the water. Most outfitters offer lessons before you rent a boat from them, but it may be worth your while to sign up for a class, especially if you plan on kayaking frequently. There you’ll learn kayaking basics like getting in and out of your boat, stroke and paddling techniques, and how to maneuver your boat when it gets knocked over. If you’re kayaking on a sunny day, make sure to apply a sunscreen of at least spf 15 or higher to all exposed areas of your skin.

Body Benefits

Kayaking is a great sport for building endurance and toning muscles, especially in the arms, shoulders and abs. It also provides an intense aerobic workout that can burn several hundred calories per hour. Considering you may be out on the water for several hours at a time, one kayak trip can burn more than 1,000 calories.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

It’s a good idea to warm up before you put the boat in the water. Go for a walk or light jog for about 5 to 10 minutes to allow your muscles to warm up and your heart rate to increase gradually. When you do get in the boat, take a few minutes to paddle slowly before going full force.

At the end of your ride, slow down your pace to cool down. If your workout was especially rigorous, you may want to walk around the shore for a few minutes after you’ve gotten out of the kayak.

Be sure to stretch your arms, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps before and after paddling to prevent injury and reduce soreness.



In-Line Skating

If you enjoy ice skating but want to try it off the ice, or if you enjoy roller skating but want to increase your speed and mobility, then in-line skating may be the perfect sport for you. Also, if you’re tired of running and biking and are looking for a new activity to do outdoors, you may want to try in-line skating. It’s a fun, convenient, and affordable sport that gives you an intense workout.

Getting Started

Before you put on your skates, make sure you have plenty of padding to protect your body in case you wipe out. That means getting a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. You can rent or buy the gear, as well as skates, from a skate shop. Make sure your skates fit snugly on your feet and provide good ankle support.

Although you can learn in-line skating by watching others, it is a good idea to take a lesson or two with an experienced instructor who can teach you the basic techniques, including how to stop. Check with a skate store to find out about lessons.

Beginners should look for smooth and flat surfaces to state on. When skating, your knees should be bent slightly with your upper body tilting forward. Don’t be discouraged if you fall the first few times—it takes a little patience and practice to perfect your skating and feel comfortable. But within a few times, you will become comfortable with the skates on your feet and will be able to glide almost effortlessly across the ground below. As you gain more experience you can try skating on different types of pavement, but in general, a smooth and flat surface without hills works best.

Body Benefits

Studies have shown that in-line skating offers a comparable, if not better, workout than running. In fact, in one study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in-line skaters scored higher on aerobic capacity and endurance tests than runners. Another study at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse showed that inline skaters burned up to 19 calories per minute.

In addition to burning fat, in-line skating also strengthens the lower body and improves coordination and balance.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

When you first set out, skate at a slow pace for about five to 10 minutes. This will allow your muscles to warm up and your heart rate to increase gradually. At the end of your workout, slow down your pace for a few minutes 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.



Busting Through A Strength Training Plateau

Plateaus are a common obstacle in strength training. In fact, unless you continuously re-evaluate and update your fitness program, it is likely that you will hit a plateau after about six months, once the strength gains you’ve achieved in the first few months of training begin to level off. The good news is, with a little bit of effort, you can overcome, or even prevent yourself from hitting a strength training plateau in the first place.

They say that variety is the spice of life. It is also the key ingredient to overcoming or avoiding a plateau. After performing the same exercise routine for several months, your muscles become efficient at performing those movements, and you no longer continue to progress as you did when you first began your workout regimen.

Varying the intensity of your workout by making your muscles work harder, as opposed to longer, is one of the most effective ways to break through a strength plateau. If you’re able to do 10-15 reps at your current weight using proper form, try increasing the weight by 5 to 10%. You may need to decrease the number of reps at first and work up to a full set.

Another way to add variety to your workout is to cross-train. Cross-training will not only help to keep your workout interesting, but will also work your muscles in a different way. If you usually use weight machines at the gym, try using free weights or resistance tubing. You can also combine exercises, such as using free weights while doing squats.

Changing the sequence of exercises in your existing routine can also help to add variety to your workout. Additionally, it will cause your muscles to fatigue in a different order, forcing them to adapt to the change and allow for a variation in your strength gains.

Though sometimes it may be enough to simply change the sequence of exercises in your fitness routine, it’s a good idea to periodically re-evaluate your routine. You may find that you need to replace some or all of the exercises, particularly those that you’ve outgrown or that are redundant. Look at the muscle group being used in each exercise, and replace it with an exercise that targets the same muscles.

Some final thoughts:

  • Sometimes hitting a plateau may be a result of overtraining, which may also make you more susceptible to injury. Make sure that you give your muscles an adequate amount of time to recover between workouts. During the recovery period, your body adapts to the training you are engaging in, making rest an essential factor in your progress.
  • Good nutrition is key to a successful fitness program; the nutrients you consume will help to fuel your workouts and to help your muscles recover afterwards. (Check out our article, Foods To Keep You Energized and Motivated to learn more.)




Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Summer Fitness Safety

Summer is a great time to bring your workout outdoors. The extra hours of sunlight and warm weather are a wonderful opportunity to engage in all your favorite outdoor activities. But working out in the heat requires that you take certain precautions to avoid overheating and dehydration. The following tips can help you stay safe and healthy during summer workouts:

Drink up. Staying hydrated is key when exercising in the summer. Your body can lose up to a quart of water an hour exercising in the heat, so drink water before, during and after your workout.

Avoid exercising during “peak” hours. Heat, humidity, smog levels and pollution levels are at their highest between 10 a.m. and 4p.m. Additionally, very humid weather interferes with perspiration’s ability to cool your body. Either work out indoors during these hours, or try exercising in the morning or evening.

Go for a dip. Swimming is great exercise, and will help keep you cool during hot weather. Don’t worry if you’re not a strong swimmer, you can still do the backstroke, doggie paddle, or even run laps in the pool (the water adds resistance for an added bonus).

Slather on the sunscreen. Don’t forget to take care of your skin when exercising outdoors. Apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 half an hour before your workout.

Dress appropriately. Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing to allow more air to circulate over your body and promote sweat evaporation. Avoid darker colored clothing, which absorbs heat; light colored clothing reflects sunlight. Opt for synthetic fabrics with a meshlike weave, which will help draw moisture and sweat away from the skin.

Start out slow. It takes your body 1-2 weeks to adapt to hotter weather, so take it easy at first and slowly increase the length and intensity of your workouts.

Be aware of the signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body loses the ability to regulate its own temperature and get rid of excess heat. Symptoms, which appear quickly, include: very hot and dry skin, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and unconsciousness. A person affected by heat stroke should be moved to a cool area, or set in a cool bath to lower body temperature. Medical attention should be sought immediately, as heat stroke can be fatal.



Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.