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Workout Ideas for Couples

Hectic schedules can sometimes make it difficult to set aside enough time to dedicate to your fitness regimen and also spend enough quality time with your significant other. Relationships, much like fitness regimens, require lots of time and commitment, and at times it may seem hard to balance both. But these two priorities don't need to come in conflict - working out together can help you both achieve your fitness goals while spending quality time together.

Working out as a couple has several physical as well as emotional benefits. Men and women tend to focus on different types of exercise when working out; Men usually favor strength training, while women typically focus on cardio. Exercising together can help to balance out each of your workout programs to incorporate both cardio and strength training. Partners can also help to watch each other's form and serve as a spotter during difficult exercises. In addition, exercising as a couple gives you a common interest and allows partners to give each other motivation and support, which can help deepen your bond.

It can be tricky to start working out with a partner, particularly if you are at different fitness levels. Below are some suggestions that will help you get a good workout together.

  • Join a class together. Pick an activity you're both interested in trying; from kickboxing to yoga to swing dancing, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
  • When using cardio machines at the gym, work on machines that are next to each other. This will allow each of you to work at your own intensity level while still being close to each other.
  • Challenge your significant other to a high-energy game of basketball. Rouse up a little friendly competition and start burning calories!
  • Go for a power walk or jog outside. Walking at a brisk pace can be great exercise, plus you'll get to enjoy the scenery and outdoors together. Adding intervals to your walk or jog will help to accommodate both your fitness levels.
  • Stretch it out. Assisted stretching has been shown to help improve flexibility and feels good, so give your partner a gentle tug or push, just be careful and go slowly to ensure you don't overdo it.
  • Go play outside. Remember as a kid how you would spend endless hours playing outside? Recreate those childhood memories with your partner - play a game of tag, jump rope, or go for a bike ride.

The "Core" Essentials

Over the last few years, core training has become a staple of exercise routines, though it has been the focus of ancient practices such as yoga and tai chi for centuries. Yet many people don't have a good understanding of what exactly the core is, and the importance of core strength not only in your workout, but even in everyday activities such as walking or lifting groceries.

Many people mistakenly interchange the terms core and abs. Actually, your core runs the entire length of your body's trunk and torso, and includes the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis and hips. These muscles form the foundation for all your body's movement, your posture and your balance by helping to stabilize your spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. If your core is strong, you are more stable during movements, your posture is better, and you have greater strength and power during your activities. A weak core can result in poor posture, injury, and lower back pain.

So now that you understand the importance of a strong and stable core, how do you incorporate core training into your workout? A good core training program should target all the muscle groups that stabilize the spine and pelvis. Though there are several pieces of equipment such as stability balls, balance boards and kettle balls that can help with core training, you can build core strength without any equipment. The strength required to hold a pose, coupled with the gravitational pull of your body weight are enough to effectively work your core muscles. Push ups, squats, lunges and crunches are basic exercises that can help you get started on building core strength; pilates, yoga and tai chi classes also focus on exercises that develop your core, or consult with a trainer, who can help you develop a personalized core strengthening regimen.

Successful Weight Management

Having a weight management strategy benefits pretty much everyone-whether your goal is to maintain your weight or get better muscle definition. Make a plan and remember it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor about your weight goals and before making any significant changes in your diet or exercise routine. Here are some tips that may help you get a plan together.

We know the basics-to manage your weight you need to burn more calories than you're taking in and if you're eating more than you're burning you'll gain weight. The secret to making the jump from knowing how to change your weight to actually getting results is to make a commitment to a lifestyle that supports your goals. It may sound like a full time job, and there's no doubt that when you're starting out with a new plan, it takes a while to find what works for you.

When you're figuring out your strategy you should always keep a few questions in mind:

  • will your diet include plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein and foods from the other major food groups?
  • whatever the idea behind the diet, does it feature foods that you can afford and can find easily?
  • will you be eating foods that you like and will commit to eating for the long term, not just a set amount of time?
  • do you have the time to prepare these foods?
  • will you get enough nutrients and calories on this plan?

That takes care of the food, but you also have to be balancing your diet with exercise. If you have a personal trainer, ask what kinds of exercises are right for your body and your goals. Always speak with an expert before trying new techniques so as to avoid injuries.

Remember, though, that research shows whatever kind of exercising you're doing, it should be done regularly.

Successful Weight Maintenance

You committed yourself to eating healthy and exercising regularly, and with time and dedication, you have achieved your weight loss goals. Congratulations! Now it's time to shift your focus to weight management.

But that doesn't mean you can just give up the dietary and lifestyle changes that helped you to take it off in the first place. Reverting to old, unhealthy habits can bring all those lost pounds back, plus a few more. So while you'll need to adjust your diet and fitness regimen to maintain your current weight as opposed to creating a calorie deficit, it is important that you stick with the healthy habits you've developed.

According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a database of over 5,000 individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained their weight loss for a minimum of one year, there are many common factors among people who are successful at keeping the weight off. We've shared some of these common behaviors here to help you maintain your weight.

The most prevalent pattern among people who have successfully maintained their weight is that most of them continued to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and continued engaging in high levels of activity.

The key to maintaining these behaviors is consistency. Stick to a healthy eating plan, and plan ahead for holidays to stay on course with your eating. And don't skip breakfast. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and NWCR participants agree - 78% report eating breakfast every day. It's also important to remain consistent with your exercise regimen. 90% of the participants in the NWCR exercise an average of one hour every day. You don't need to exercise for a full hour at one time; you can break your activity up into 20 to 30 minute blocks.

Another common characteristic among people who have successfully maintained a healthy weight is that they weigh themselves regularly. Consistently monitoring your weight can serve as an early warning system to alert you when you've gained a few pounds so that you can implement strategies to prevent further weight gain.

You may want to consider keeping a journal logging your food intake, exercise and weight, another technique used by those who have successfully maintained their weight. This will help you to identify any patterns that may be leading you off course and create a plan to avoid falling into these patterns in the future.

Drop Pounds By Making Smart Choices

Little things mean a lot—whether you're trying to sculpt and tone or improve your health, making small changes in your day can help you drop a few pounds with very little extra effort. Take a look at the tips below for some ideas.

1. Cut out the empty calories. Find some empty calories in your daily routine that you can eliminate. For example, if you cut out one can of cola a day, you'll knock off about 136 calories per day.

2. Drink water. It may help you eat less and burn more calories. Drinking a glass or two of water before a meal will fill you up and can help you eat less. And researchers are now reporting that water consumption may increase the rate at which people burn calories.

3. Lighten up your omelet. It's an easy way to cut out over 100 calories a serving. By using ½ cup of egg whites in your omelets instead of ½ cup of whole eggs, you can cut out 120 calories.

4. Team up. People who exercise together are more likely to stay motivated. Find a friend and put together a realistic exercise plan, even if it's just a 20 minute walk during your lunch time.

5. Slim down your poultry. Thinking of using chicken thighs? Think again. By switching to white meat and removing the skin, you take an eight ounce serving from 560 calories to 375 calories and cut out 24 grams of fat.

6. Get your Z's. Sleep deprivation may be packing pounds onto your waistline. Research shows that a lack of sleep may make weight loss and weight control more of a challenge because it alters metabolism by increasing the production of cortisol (a stress hormone). Also, you're more likely to eat more if you're feeling fatigued.

7. Only have 15 minutes? You don't have to commit hours a day to make a difference. Add a brisk 15 minute walk to your day and burn extra calories. If you want to challenge yourself and pick up the pace - switch to a 15 minute run and burn even more calories.

8. Get portions under control. Cut your poultry or meat portion from eight ounces to five ounces just once a day and you'll eliminate around 138 calories.

9. Eat several small meals a day. Frequent, small meals will actually increase your metabolism. Eating small meals every few hours during the day can help keep your metabolism revved up and that means you'll burn more calories overall.

10. Choose whole grain products. This is an easy way to reduce your caloric intake significantly. A small muffin made with white flour contains about 259 calories. If you were to replace it with an oat bran muffin of the same size, you'd cut out about 81 calories.

Tips on Dining Out

You watch what you eat and make smart choices about how to fuel your body. Don’t let a meal out mess with your good diet strategies.

You’re not going to be stuck with a green salad and plain baked potato if you just get a little creative. Here are some ideas to get you started:

-Stay away from cream-based soups and sauces- they have more fat and calories than most other options.
-When available, choose whole wheat pasta or brown rice- complex carbohydrates fill you up faster and absorb into your body more slowly so your blood sugar won’t spike.
-Drink water with your meal- again, you’ll fill up faster and you’ll avoid the empty calories in soda, juice or alcohol.
-Order your salad with the dressing on the side- this way you’ll be able to control how much you add while you eat.
-Avoid all-you-can-eat places- they’ll make you want to eat more to get your money’s worth. Stick to an a la carte menu whenever you can.
-Choose lean cuts of meat- skinless chicken breasts and turkey sausages or burgers are usually a safe bet, as is fish, depending on how the dishes are prepared.
-Select foods that are steamed, baked, grilled or broiled- usually they have less fat and fewer calories.
-Get the side of salad, not fries- most restaurants will make the substitution even if it’s not listed on the menu.
-If you want dessert, share it- or if you’re not feeling generous, order a dessert lower in calories and fat like fresh fruit or sorbet.

If you’re attending a party or wedding where you don’t have the option of making the kind of choices outlined above, just be smart about portions- leave some food on the plate and skip dessert.

How To Stay Motivated

How many times have you been gung ho about starting a new workout program, only to lose motivation and quit after you start getting bored with your routine or don’t see fast results? Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges to sticking with a workout routine. Below are some helpful tips to keep you motivated and on track towards achieving your fitness goals.

Set clear, realistic goals. Start with short-term goals, such as jogging for 20 minutes three times a week, or taking a walk during your lunch hour. The key is to make your goals realistic and achievable for you. Unrealistic goals can sabotage your efforts, leaving you feeling discouraged and unmotivated to continue if you don’t achieve them. Once you begin achieving your short-term goals, start setting long-term goals, such as dropping 10% of your body weight, or completing a 10k run.

Keep a journal. Track your progress by logging your goals, details of each workout, and how you feel after each workout. A visual reminder of how much effort you’ve put in and how far you’ve come towards reaching your goals will encourage you to stay on track.

Reward yourself. Be proud of your accomplishments, and reward yourself when you achieve one of your long-term goals. Your reward can be something fitness related such as a new exercise outfit or sneakers, or just something fun, like a new book or cd.

Make it fun. Select activities you enjoy when working out. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t keep at it. It’s that simple.

Add variety. Going through the same workout routine can get boring and tedious very quickly. Spice up your fitness regimen by alternating different activities. Also try switching up your workout environment — if you usually use the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym, try running or biking outside when the weather is nice.

Buddy up. Working out with a partner or group can be a great source of encouragement and motivation. A little friendly competition can also help you push yourself harder. The social interaction will make exercising less tedious, and make the time go by faster. And you’re more likely to show up to your workout if you know someone else is expecting you.

Shout it from the rooftops. Tell all your family and friends that you’ve started an exercise program, and tell them what your goals are. It will give you a sense of accountability as people ask you how your workout regimen is going.

Remind yourself how great you feel after a workout. In addition to the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from sticking with your fitness plan, remember that you are also improving your health. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which can help to improve your mood!

Just show up. They say that 80% of success is just showing up. Even if you’re tired, sore, or just not in the mood to exercise, showing up and doing even a little bit of exercise is better than doing nothing.

Always remember that before you begin any diet or exercise program you should consult your physician.

Dr. Greene’s Top 8 Parenting Dos and Don’ts

By Alan Greene, MD, FAAP

Each day I see parents trying their best to do what’s right for their families, but no one has the perfect guidebook that tells parents what to do. Here are the top eight solvable problems that I advise parents to remedy today.

Do… Have confidence in your parenting style.
Don’t… Worry about what your parents or the neighbors or your child's teacher thinks about your parenting style.
Create a parenting style that makes you comfortable and relax.

Do… Create an exercise program for yourself.
Don’t… Skip it because you don’t have the time.
Kids follow our example. If we're not exercising, they won't learn to either. So take care of yourself and teach your kids to do the same.

Do… Take the time to create healthy love foods for your family.
Don’t… Settle routinely for food that isn't helping them build a strong body and mind.
What children eat is vitally important and the foods they learn to love when young will often be their favorites as adults. You can create healthy love foods for them by what you feed them now and give them a life-long gift.

Do… Give your kids a good multi-vitamin each day.
Don’t… Trust that your kids will get all the nutrients they need from their diet alone.
Most kids don't eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. Kids need a good multi-vitamin each day as a safety net to help them round out their nutritional needs.

Do… Stay consistent with your rules.
Don’t… Let whining wear you down.
If you want a child to sleep in her own bed, then letting her sleep in your bed “just this once” is going to make it much harder later.

Do… Think about the things that matter.
Don’t… Pick the wrong things to worry about.
You need to pay close attention to some things, like your kids’ safety. But don't sweat the small stuff even if it means your kids sleep in their street clothes instead of pajamas.

Do… Take advantage of today.
Don’t… Wait until tomorrow to build life-long memories.
Time flies. Plan something every season that your kids will look forward to year after year.

Do… Pay attention to both your perspective and your child's.
Don't… Lose sight of your needs or theirs.

If we focus too much on whatever children want, or too much on what we want, they miss out on learning both to give and receive.

Magnesium: The Muscle Mineral

What separates the average Joe six-pack (muscle, not beer) from professional body builders? Other than genetics, and lifting heavier weights, it is probably not your workout. The differences lie in the fine details; really warming up before a workout, weighing food, counting calories, planning meals and understanding muscle nutrition.

While there are many minerals that are important for muscle growth and metabolism, perhaps the most important is magnesium.* Magnesium is an electrolyte that is critical to cellular energy, vitality and membrane integrity.* Magnesium is also a cofactor in more than 300 biochemical reactions. There is a strong link between magnesium levels and the stress hormones cortisol.1

So what does magnesium do for muscles?

Magnesium plays a critical role in anaerobic and aerobic energy production. Specifically, the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) relies on magnesium dependant enzymes (ATPases). ATP is the ‘energy currency’ of the body and fuels all muscle contractions. Extra magnesium can improve athletic performance if you are below optimal levels. 2,3,4

There are studies carried out on resistant trained and physically active people that would argue against the need to supplement magnesium5,6. However, these studies assume no deficiency in serum magnesium levels. Even when the quality of food is high and the diet is balanced, athletes often struggle to meet magnesium needs so supplementing to RDI levels (400 mg) is advisable.

Sources of magnesium include halibut, whole grains, cereals, green leafy vegetables, nuts and supplements.

1. Br J Nutr 100(5):1038-45 (2008)
2. J Nutr 132:930-935 (2002)
3. Endocrinol Metab Clin N Am 22:377-395 (1993)
4. Med Exerc Nutr Health 4:230-233 (1995)
5. Med Sci Sports Exerc 33: 493-498 (2001)
6. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 1:12-20 (2004)

Sleep and Exercise

By Thane Slagowski, Vice President, Product Development & Quality for Twinlab.

I am a great believer in the power of exercise to help you sleep better; the better you sleep the more energy you will have for exercise.

You can learn a lot about energy and sleep by observing nature. I have a hyperactive puppy (a French bulldog named Yoda) who loves to chew on socks and is often caught stealing flip flops. To protect my family’s shoes and socks from doggy slobber, we take him on a walk each day. After the walk, Yoda is mellow and goes out like a light. In parallel, I doubt construction workers have a hard time falling asleep. Why not apply this same principle to your sleep and exercise routines?

Sleep can be the perfect supplement to your exercise routine. Research shows that the release of growth hormones peaks during deep sleep, while at the same time blood flow to muscles increases and your metabolic rate slows. All this is the perfect formula for the repair and growth of muscle tissue. 1

From personal experience, you’ve probably seen many of the other benefits of a good sleep routine, including mood stabilization and increased learning and memory functions. Leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone, is also directly influenced by your sleep routine. You may have a bigger appetite if you don’t get enough sleep, because leptin levels drop and increase appetite.2

Suffer from insomnia? Studies indicate that exercise—especially morning exercise—will help you sleep better.3 An hour of stretching and walking daily can help relieve many sleep problems that often stem from the stresses of regular life.

Exercise at least four hours a week and remember that any exercise is better than none, regardless of the time of day. You should note, though, that exercising right before heading to bed can lead to difficulty sleeping. It is recommended that you exercise at least three hours before going to bed, to give your body enough time to cool off. A lowered body temperature is needed for sleep onset. In order to support vigorous exercise, a positive energy balance from sleep is critical.4

So remember, to help your mind and body regenerate, reduce stress, be more alert and reach your fitness goals, get at least six to seven hours of sleep each night.

1. McManus, Mark. “How to Sleep Your Way to Big Muscles.” Retrieved December 10, 2008, from http://www.musclehack.com/how-to-sleep-your-way-to-big-muscles/
2. Plotnick, Rachel. “Diet, Exercise, Sleep! The Path to a Healthier Lifestyle.” National Sleep Association. Retrieved December 10, 2008, from http://sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep
3. American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2008, June 12). Moderate Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality Of Insomnia Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 4, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611071129.htm
4. Ibid.