Balance Basics

Balance exercises can help you maintain your balance and confidence at any age. Nearly any activity that keeps you on your feet and moving, such as walking, can help you maintain good balance. You can also try balancing on one foot while waiting in line or stand up and sit down without using your hands.

There are two main types of balance. Static balance is your ability to control your posture while standing still. Dynamic balance describes how well you can hold your posture when your body moves. If you’re an older adult, balance exercises are especially important because they can help you prevent falls and maintain your independence. Problems with balance can affect the athletic performance of younger people, too.

You can improve your balance by doing progressively more difficult balance exercises at least twice a week. Tai chi has been shown to be helpful for improving balance. Standing on a balance pillow, foam square, balance disc or half of a stability ball can help improve balance.

If you have severe balance problems or an orthopedic condition, get your doctor’s OK before doing balance exercises.

Is cardio your favorite?

In a nutshell, the term aerobic means “with oxygen.” Aerobic exercise and activities are also called cardio, short for “cardiovascular.” During aerobic activity, you repeatedly move large muscles in your arms, legs and hips. Your heart rate increases, and you breathe faster and more deeply. This maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood and ultimately helps you use oxygen more efficiently.

How well you use oxygen is called your aerobic capacity. When your aerobic capacity is high, your heart, lungs and blood vessels efficiently deliver large amounts of oxygen throughout your body. As a result, you feel more energized and don’t tire as quickly.

If you are a beginner to exercise, start with low to moderately intense cardio activities, so you can do them for long periods of time and gain many health benefits. Common examples include walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing and water aerobics, but don’t limit yourself: You can choose any activities you enjoy, such as canoeing, in-line skating, golfing or martial arts.

If you haven’t gotten enough aerobic exercise, you may use your entire aerobic capacity while walking up a flight of stairs. You’ll realize this when you get to the top and feel out of breath. But if you’re fit, you’ll have no problem because your aerobic capacity is greater. That’s just one example of how you can benefit from cardio exercise. Other benefits of cardio include:

  • Strengthen your heart and muscles
  • Burn calories
  • Help control your appetite
  • Boost your mood through the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals released by your brain
  • Help you sleep better at night

No matter what your age, aerobic exercise will help you in your daily activities and increase your stamina and endurance.

Start slowly

If you’re a beginner, start slowly. You might walk five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Gradually add a few minutes to each session and then pick up the pace a bit. Soon you could be walking briskly for 30 minutes a day. Also consider any other activities that increases your breathing and heart rate.

Always include these elements in your workout:

  • Warm-up.Before each session, warm up for five to 10 minutes to gradually rev up your cardiovascular system and increase blood flow to your muscles. Try a low-intensity version of your planned activity. For example, if you plan to take a brisk walk, warm up by walking slowly.
  • At your own pace, work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio a day to develop your aerobic capacity by increasing your heart rate, depth of breathing and muscle endurance.
  • Cool-down.After each session, cool down for five to 10 minutes. Stretch your calf muscles, quadriceps (upper thighs), hamstrings, lower back and chest. This after workout stretch allows your heart rate and muscles to return to normal.

Moderate activity should cause you to breathe faster and feel like you’re working. But if you experience unusual pain or alarming symptoms during exercise, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

How well do you know your natural energy sources?

Food  supplies micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which don’t provide calories but help the body with chemical reactions. In addition, food is a source of water, fiber and other essential substances. Read on to learn more about the nutrients that your body needs to stay energized.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars found in fruits, honey, milk and milk products. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed quickly for energy.

Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, are found primarily in whole grains, pasta, potatoes, beans and vegetables. Digestion is required to change complex carbohydrates into simple sugars.

Complex carbohydrates contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. During processing, however, complex carbohydrates may be refined, removing many important nutrients — along with their benefits.

Fats

Fats are a natural component of various foods, and they come in different forms. The oils used in cooking are a form of fat. Fats are also found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, dairy, poultry and fish, and in such common foods as avocados, nuts and olives. Fats are a major source of energy and also help your body absorb some vitamins.

Proteins

Proteins build and repair body structures, produce body chemicals, carry nutrients to your cells and help regulate body processes. Excess proteins also provide calories. Proteins are composed of basic elements called amino acids. There are two types of amino acids: those your body can generate, known as nonessential amino acids, and those that can only be obtained from the food you eat, known as essential amino acids.

Vitamins

Many foods contain vitamins, such as A, B complex, C, D, E and K. Vitamins help your body use carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They also help produce blood cells, hormones, genetic material and chemicals for the nervous system. Deficiencies of these vitamins lead to various diseases.

During processing, foods can lose nutrients. Manufacturers sometimes enrich or fortify the processed food and add back nutrients. Fresh, natural foods, though, contain vitamins in their preferred natural state.

Minerals

Minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are important to the health of your bones and teeth. Sodium, potassium and chloride, commonly referred to as electrolytes, help regulate the balance of water and chemicals in your body. Your body needs smaller amounts of minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, copper, fluoride, selenium and manganese, commonly referred to as trace minerals.

Water

It’s easy to take water for granted, but it’s a vital nutritional requirement. Many foods, especially fruits, contain a lot of water. Water plays a role in nearly every major body function. It regulates body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen cells via the bloodstream and helps carry away waste. Water also helps cushion joints and protects organs and tissues.

 

Fiber

Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body doesn’t absorb. The two main types are soluble and insoluble, and fiber-rich foods usually contain both.

Foods high in soluble fiber include citrus fruits, apples, pears, plums and prunes, oatmeal and oat bran, and barley. Legumes, such as dried beans and peas, are also high in soluble fiber. This type of fiber helps lower blood cholesterol, slows the rise in blood sugar and adds bulk to stools.

Insoluble fiber is found in many vegetables, wheat bran, and whole-grain breads, pasta and cereals. Insoluble fiber also adds bulk to stool, stimulates the gastrointestinal tract, and helps prevent constipation.

 

 

How to get a better night’s sleep.

Sleep is a remarkably productive and critical part of life; it’s the time when the brain and body recharge for another day. Yet, most of us simply aren’t getting enough sleep. Stress, everyday demands and your smartphone are likely culprits negatively impacting your sleep.

Either too little or too much sleep can make it tough to function at your best. Sleep better and wake up feeling more rested with this advice.

  • Eat dinner at the same time each day and at least two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Limit naps to 30 minutes at least six to eight hours before bedtime.
  • Stay active. Any activity is good. For best results, get moving 20 to 30 minutes most days, at least four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Limit your caffeine intake and avoid it after noon. Also avoid stimulants such as decongestants and nicotine.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and get up about the same time every morning even on weekends.
  • A healthy amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours a night.
  • If self-care techniques don’t help, talk to your health care provider.

Balance basics: How to stay fit and active.

Balance exercises can help you maintain your balance and confidence at any age. Nearly any activity that keeps you on your feet and moving, such as walking, can help you maintain good balance. You can also try balancing on one foot while waiting in line, or stand up and sit down without using your hands. Read on for more about what you should know about improving your balance:

  • There are two main types of balance. Static balance is your ability to control your posture while standing still. Dynamic balance describes how well you can hold your posture when your body moves.
  • If you’re an older adult, balance exercises are especially important because they can help you prevent falls and maintain your independence.
  • Problems with balance can affect the athletic performance of younger people, too.
  • You can improve your balance by doing progressively more difficult balance exercises at least twice a week. Tai chi has been shown to be helpful for improving balance.
  • Standing on a balance pillow, foam square, balance disc or half of a stability ball can help improve balance.

If you have severe balance problems or an orthopedic condition, get your doctor’s OK before doing balance exercises.

5 easy ways to eat more fruits and veggies.

There is a plethora of produce available in the United States, and yet most adults don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, dietary intake of several nutrients found in fruits and vegetables — including potassium and dietary fiber — is low enough to be a public-health concern for both adults and children.

Your goal is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Aim for a whole rainbow of colors, including dark green, red, orange, purple and white. Variety is vital to get all the different nutrients and their health benefits.

Try to buy fresh whole fruits and vegetables in season — they will be at their peak in flavor and at their lowest in price. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be healthy choices, too. Reach for low-sodium canned vegetables or canned fruits packed in their own juice or water, and avoid frozen vegetables with sauces, frozen fruits with added sugar and canned fruits packed in heavy syrup.

Make fruits and veggies the star of your daily diet with these ideas:

  1. Snack smart. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Or reach for vegetables that require little preparation, such as baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter. Just be sure to limit your intake of dried fruits because they’re not as filling as whole fruits and they have a lot more calories in a smaller volume of food. For example, 1⁄4 cup of raisins has the same number of calories — about 100 — as almost 2 cups of grapes.
  2. Experiment with new combinations. Try mango or peach slices on whole-wheat toast with a little peanut butter and honey. Toss some mandarin orange or peach slices into a salad.
  3. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as a main ingredient. Try pineapple-chicken stir-fry, tomato-basil pizza or vegetarian chili.
  4. Start your day with a fruit or vegetable. Sprinkle a handful of blueberries on your morning cereal or oatmeal. Saute red peppers, tomatoes or spinach into your scrambled eggs.
  5. Drink your fruits and vegetables. But don’t reach for prepared fruit juice! Instead, turn whole fruits and vegetables into a refreshing drink. Make a smoothie with plain low-fat yogurt and your favorite frozen fruits. Or puree together banana, berries, lemon, mint, ice and 2 cups of fresh raw baby spinach — this green concoction may look odd, but it tastes delicious!

As you can see from these suggestions, sneaking more fruits and veggies into your diet can be easy, convenient — and fun!

By Mayo Clinic Staff .

Did your weight loss journey hit a plateau?

Sure, you want to lose weight, but are you in the right mindset to make it happen? Stop sabotaging your efforts with a self-defeating outlook and stay motivated to reach your goals with these effective techniques.

Negative beliefs and self-talk

The internal dialogue you have with yourself influences your actions. Thoughts such as “I’ll never lose weight” or “I’m no good at exercising” can weaken your self-esteem and stall your progress. Replace these thoughts with positive statements. Instead of: “I can’t stick with an exercise program,” tell yourself: “I can meet one realistic goal today.”

Unrealistic expectations

Many people imagine that losing weight will solve all their problems. Your life will likely change with weight loss — but probably not in all the ways you imagine. Losing weight doesn’t guarantee a better social life or more satisfying job. Keep your expectations focused on those very real benefits like more energy and higher self-esteem.

Inflexibility

Words such as always, never or must place undue pressure on you. Telling yourself you’ll never eat chocolate again or you must walk two miles a day can lead to guilt-ridden lapses. Instead, treat yourself now and then in ways that make sense — when you’re out to dinner with friends, not when you’re feeling sad.

All-or-nothing thinking

One setback doesn’t mean failure. If you eat too much one day, you haven’t blown your plan. Counteract this kind of thinking with moderation — no “good” and “bad” foods, for example, and it’s OK to have dessert once in a while. Remind yourself you can get back on track tomorrow.

Be flexible on your weight-loss journey. Don’t expect perfection. If you have a slip-up, learn from it and move on.

Tired? Ready to feel more energized? Start with these tips.

Most people can use an energy boost during the day. But instead of downing another cup of coffee, your best bet might be to get moving. Think there’s no way that moving more can do anything but leave you even more tired? Think again, researchers say. By being physically active instead of sitting and resting, you may cut your risk of feeling tired nearly in half. You may feel a bit fatigued after physical activity, but in a good way! Overall, regular exercise or just moving your body gives you more energy throughout the day, helps you feel focused and able to complete tasks more efficiently.

Another important benefit is that physical activity is a mood-booster. Exercise helps your body produce more endorphins, your brain’s feel-good chemicals. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, other types of physical activity besides running can give you this feeling, too. Physical activity can also improve how well you sleep, yet another benefit that will give you more energy during the day.

Ready to feel more energized? Start with these tips.

  • Make it a daily habit to move more. If you’re not currently active, start gradually by taking a walk around the block.
  • If you already have an exercise routine, think of ways to make it a little more challenging. Simply taking a short jog or bike ride at a low or moderate intensity can affect how you feel and perform.
  • At work, set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up from your desk every hour and touch your toes, stretch your arms, legs and back. March in place for a minute. Make it a point to take short breaks when you can to go outside, or walk the stairwell up and down a few floors even if you have only a couple minutes. Small, consistent efforts like these will help you feel rejuvenated and focused.

Remember these tips when find yourself sitting too much throughout the day or tempted to skip a workout. Exercise doesn’t have to be all or nothing just start moving more and you’ll instantly feel the benefits physically and mentally!

Stretch your way to better health.

You might be thinking that it’s hard to carve out time in your schedule for exercise, let alone stretching. But most cardio and strength-training programs cause your muscles to tighten. That’s why it’s important to stretch regularly to keep your body functioning well.

Regular stretching:

  • Increases flexibility, which makes daily tasks easier
  • Improves range of motion of your joints, which helps keep you mobile
  • Improves circulation
  • Promotes better posture
  • Helps relieve stress by relaxing tense muscles
  • Helps prevent injury, especially if your muscles or joints are tight

 

Stretching essentials

Keep these key points in mind:

  • Target major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play.
  • Warm up first. Stretching muscles when they’re cold increases your risk of injury, including pulled muscles. Warm up by walking while gently pumping your arms, or do a favorite exercise at low intensity for five minutes. If you only have time to stretch once, do it after you exercise — when your muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching. And when you do stretch, start slowly.
  • Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. It takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds — and up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area. Then repeat the stretch on the other side. For most muscle groups, a single stretch is usually sufficient.
  • Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch repeatedly gets your muscles out of the stretch position and doesn’t allow them to relax, making you less flexible and more prone to pain.
  • Focus on a pain-free stretch. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching. If it hurts, you’ve gone too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  • Relax and breathe freely.
  • Don’t hold your breath while you’re stretching.

 

Fit stretching into your schedule

As a general rule, stretch whenever you exercise. If you don’t exercise regularly, you may want to stretch at least three times a week to maintain flexibility. If you have a problem area, such as tightness in the back of your leg, you may want to stretch every day or even twice a day.

Think about ways you can fit stretching into your daily schedule. For example:

  • Do some stretches after your morning shower or bath. That way, you can shorten your warm-up routine because the warm water will raise muscle temperature and prepare your muscles for stretching.
  • Stretch before getting out of bed. Try a few gentle head-to-toe stretches by reaching your arms above your head and pointing your toes.

How to stay motivated this Holiday Season .

To be successful at losing weight, you need to figure out what will give you an ongoing, burning desire to succeed. You need to tap your inner motivation. By understanding what motivates you, you’ll be better able to follow through with your eating and fitness plan.

Consider the benefits of losing weight and staying fit listed below. Rank your top three reasons, with 1 as your most important. Rank more than three if you want, and add your own reasons if they’re not on the list. Post the list where you’ll see it often.

  • Look better
  • Feel better
  • Feel comfortable in my clothes
  • Improve my physical stamina
  • Improve my self-image and self-confidence
  • Improve my outlook on life
  • Increase my energy
  • Be a role model for my family
  • Manage high blood pressure
  • Improve my cholesterol
  • Prevent or manage diabetes
  • Reduce joint pain
  • Prevent or reduce lower-back pain
  • Improve my sleep
  • Improve my quality of life
  • Increase my life expectancy

Sometimes temptation to indulge in certain foods or skipping a workout will be greater than your desire to lose weight. During these difficult moments, reflect on the top reasons why you are making healthy lifestyle changes. It won’t always be easy, but keep in mind the important fact that you will never regret making good decisions!