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.
1 medium pepper, red, bell cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup onion, red finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon pepper, black ground
1/2 cup dressing, Italian, reduced-fat
parsley, fresh chopped, or basil, for garnish (optional)
*Follow preparation instructions on the package for cooking couscous. Instant couscous may simply be prepared by pouring boiling water over it, while traditional couscous requires longer cooking.
When couscous is cooked, fluff with fork. Mix in zucchini, bell pepper, onion, cumin and black pepper. Pour Italian dressing over the mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for eight hours before serving.
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.
Increases flexibility, which makes daily tasks easier
Improves range of motion of your joints, which helps keep you mobile
Promotes better posture
Helps relieve stress by relaxing tense muscles
Helps prevent injury, especially if your muscles or joints are tight
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.
Sign up for a yoga or tai chi class. You’re more likely to stick with a program if you’re registered for a class.
What you should know before you stretch
You can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work or when you’re traveling. But if you have a chronic condition or an injury, you may need to alter your approach. For example, if you have a strained muscle, stretching it as you usually do may cause further harm. Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist about the best way for you to stretch.
Has the same number on the scale been popping up week after week? That’s common. Being stuck at a weight-loss plateau eventually happens to most people trying to lose weight, despite continuing with the same exercise routine and healthy-eating habits.
Try these solutions:
Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven’t loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.
Cut more calories. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories — provided this doesn’t put you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from feeling hungry all the time, which increases your risk of overeating. In addition, this reduced calorie intake should be sustainable. If not, you’ll regain the weight you’ve lost and more.
Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise if you feel that’s possible. Additional exercise will cause you to burn more calories. Consider adding resistance or muscle-building exercises. Increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more calories.
Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yard work or vigorous spring cleaning.
Focus on your weight-loss victories, and recognize that plateaus are just part of the journey. Continue your healthy eating and exercise habits, knowing that will help you sustain the success you’ve had.
All of us approach the process of personal change a little differently. But anyone can take a cue from these key principles as you work to adopt new habits.
Build confidence. Focus on strategies that play to your strengths and your skills. Consider how you have succeeded in the past, and build your plan from there. Past experiences — good or bad — are learning opportunities and should be seen as a useful tool in tackling new goals with optimism.
Create a routine. An eating or activity schedule can create a better sense of control. Make sure your schedule is one that truly works for your life and not one you can follow only for the short term. That’s why it’s important to set realistic goals — the more successful you are, the easier it will be to stay motivated.
Focus on what you’re adding to your life. Try not to fixate on what you’re giving up, whether it’s certain foods, habits or a little extra TV time. Focus on things like the delicious, healthy meals you are eating and how energized you feel after a workout. Celebrate success as you notice even the smallest positive changes in how you look and feel; it will give you the momentum you need to keep going.
Make your program your own. Take a day off from exercise, or enjoy one of your favorite foods once in a while. The more you make your program work for you, the less likely you are to rebel against it. Figure out what it takes — within reason — to make your healthy lifestyle pleasurable and sustainable.
By following these principles, you can enjoy a lifetime of healthier living — and a healthy weight!
Chances are you eat lots of grains already. But are they the healthiest kind? If you’re like most people, you’re not getting enough whole grains in your diet. Aim to choose whole grains for at least half of all the grains you eat. Read on to learn about the different types and why you should skip refined and enriched grains.
Types of grains
Also called cereals, grains and whole grains are the seeds of grasses cultivated for food. They come in many shapes and sizes, from large kernels of popcorn to small quinoa seeds.
Whole grains. These unrefined grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling; therefore, all of the nutrients remain intact. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as buckwheat in pancakes or whole wheat in bread.
Refined grains. In contrast to whole grains, refined grains are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and longer shelf life. The refining process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, white bread and degermed cornflower. Many breads, cereals, crackers, desserts and pastries are made with refined grains, too. These processed foods will not keep your blood sugar levels steady, which is why you will be hungry again soon after consumption.
Enriched grains. Enriched means that some or many of the nutrients that are lost during processing are added back in later.
Most refined grains are enriched, and many enriched grains are also fortified — meaning nutrients that don’t occur naturally in the food are added — with other vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and iron. Enriched grains lack fiber and are not an optimal choice because while they have traces of nutrition, many important vitamins and nutrients are lost during processing.
Choosing whole grains
Eat whole grains rather than refined grains as often as possible. Examples of whole grains include:
Bulgur (cracked wheat)
Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
It’s not always easy to tell which grains are in a particular product, especially bread. For instance, a brown bread isn’t necessarily whole wheat — the color may come from added coloring. If you’re not sure something has whole grains, check the product label or the Nutrition Facts panel. Look for the word “whole” on the package, and make sure whole grains appear among the first items in the ingredient list.
How to enjoy more whole grains in your diet
Try these tips to add more whole grains to your meals and snacks:
Enjoy breakfasts that include whole-grain cereals, such as bran flakes, shredded wheat or oatmeal.
Substitute whole-wheat toast or whole-grain bagels for plain. Substitute low-fat bran muffins for pastries.
Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads or rolls. Swap out white-flour tortillas with whole-wheat versions.
Replace white rice with kasha, brown rice, wild rice or bulgur.
Feature wild rice or barley in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
Add whole grains, such as cooked brown rice or whole-grain bread crumbs, to ground meat or poultry for extra body.
Use rolled oats or crushed bran cereal in recipes instead of dry bread crumbs.
Eating a variety of whole grains not only ensures that you get more health-promoting nutrients but also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.
Bringing your lunch to work is a breeze with these quick and simple strategies.
How often do you just grab whatever’s available when you’re hungry, even relying on a vending machine to supply your midday meal? Reinvigorate your lunch, save money and eat healthier with the following packing tips:
Pick foods from a range of food groups to maximize your energy. Choose fruits; vegetables; low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese; whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta or brown rice; and lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs or beans for your lunches.
Think beyond the typical sandwich and chips. Stuff whole-grain pita bread with sliced chicken, cucumbers, red onion, low-fat feta cheese and a dash of light dressing. Make kebabs with cut-up fruits and pair with low-fat yogurt as a dip. Replace peanut-butter sandwiches with another nut or seed spread like sunflower-seed butter.
No microwave? No problem. Keep hot foods hot with an insulated vacuum container such as a thermos. Fill with hot stew, chili, vegetable soup or leftovers for a satisfying meal on a cold day.
Have easy brown-bag options handy. Pair low-fat cheese sticks and smoked turkey slices with whole-grain crackers, crunchy raw vegetables and a handful of grapes, or try whole-grain pasta salad — made with chicken, vegetables and shredded Parmesan cheese — with low-fat pudding and a crisp apple. Another option: Layer hummus, sliced tomatoes and reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese over whole-grain bread for a taste-tempting sandwich. Add a handful of baked potato chips and a fresh pear for a satisfying meal.
Revive leftovers. Don’t let food from the day before go to waste — turn it into a tasty lunch! Pasta dishes can be enhanced with vegetables, such as a serving of broccoli or a handful of baby spinach. Bring salads to life by adding your favorite raw veggies or protein, such as a boiled egg, chicken or tofu.
Packing lunches can be challenging if you aren’t already in the habit. Look within yourself to find barriers to success and plan solutions that work for you…and save money while you’re at it!
A better understanding of these potential food triggers will help you stay on track.
Have you noticed that when food temptations strike, it often has more to do with your mood than when you last ate? You may crave food to relax, relieve stress or boredom, soothe anger, or cope with loneliness, sadness or anxiety. Indulging in cravings during these emotional times may lead you to eat too many high-calorie, sweet, fatty foods.
Everyone has a food craving at times — and yes, chocolate is at the top of most people’s list. The first step to managing your cravings is being able to identify when you’re truly hungry. Learn how to recognize the difference between a craving and hunger.
Are usually for comfort foods, such as chocolate, sweets and fatty foods
Are often caused by negative feelings
Lead to eating that makes you feel good at first, but then guilty
Increase during a woman’s pregnancy and menstrual cycle
May be stronger when you’re dieting, especially if you’re giving up your favorite foods
Can occur even after you’ve recently eaten
Pass with time
Usually occurs when you haven’t eaten for a few hours or more
Results in a rumbling stomach, headache or feeling of weakness
Doesn’t pass with time
Isn’t just for one specific food
Can be satisfied by a healthy snack or meal
If you have a craving, distract yourself. Try calling a friend, listening to music, taking a walk or bike ride, reading, or writing. If a negative feeling is causing your craving, use positive self-talk, exercise or a fun activity to improve your mood.
Don’t like to cook? Can’t resist junk food? Use practical strategies to overcome your biggest healthy-eating challenges.
Life doesn’t follow a perfectly smooth course. You will inevitably run into obstacles on the journey to healthy eating. It’s how you respond that makes the difference. For long-term success, you’ll need strategies in place to solve problems as they arise. The first step is to identify and define potential roadblocks and brainstorm solutions. Identify the barriers most likely to get in your way and plan ahead how you’ll face those challenges.
Roadblock: “I don’t have time to make healthy meals.”
Healthy detours: If you use smart cooking strategies, creating a healthy meal doesn’t have to take too much time. Planning ahead is a great time-saver.
For example, shop for several meals at one time, or prepare foods over the weekend and then freeze meal-sized portions to reheat during the week. You can also keep it simple with a fresh salad and low-calorie dressing, a whole-grain roll and a piece of fruit, or a healthy sandwich, soup or entree from a deli or grocery store.
Roadblock: “I don’t like vegetables and fruits.”
Healthy detours: You don’t need to like all fresh vegetables and fruits. Just find some that you enjoy. Experiment by sampling produce you’ve never eaten before. Add fruits or veggies to your favorite recipes, or replace meat with vegetables when possible. Experiment with new ways to prepare produce, such as grilling pineapple or lightly cooking vegetables if you don’t like them raw.
Roadblock: “I don’t like to cook.”
Healthy detours: Not interested in becoming a gourmet chef? No problem. Many cookbooks offer recipes for quick and easy healthy meals. Or you can use creative shortcuts that don’t require a lot of cooking, such as prepackaged vegetables and lean meats. Also, remember that cooking is a skill: The more you practice, the better you will become.
Roadblock: “My family doesn’t like to try new things, and it’s too much work to make two different meals.”
Healthy detours: You’re right — you don’t want to fall into the trap of making the “good” food for the family and the “diet” food for yourself. So instead, ask for your family’s input — and help — on healthy foods they’d like to try, which may make them more willing to experiment.
Take it slow, and make a few small changes each week. You may be able to make some dishes healthier and tastier and your family won’t even realize it. If you have a favorite dish that you don’t want to abandon, prepare it with a different cooking method, such as baking rather than frying.
Roadblock: “I can’t resist junk food!”
Healthy detours: As you prepare your healthy-eating plan, ask yourself how you can fit the occasional treat into the plan without derailing your overall weight-loss efforts. If you give up all your favorite foods, you’ll feel deprived, which decreases your chances of successful weight management. Give yourself permission to eat them on occasion and in moderation. Find a happy medium for high-calorie foods. Could you take the kids out for ice-cream cones once a week or buy a small bag of chips for the Sunday-afternoon football game? That’s better than buying a gallon of ice cream for your freezer, where it causes constant temptation.
You can also try healthier versions of your favorite snack foods, such as baked, rather than regular, potato chips. In addition, eat healthy foods before having your treat. It can help you eat less of your favorite treats.
Roadblock: “When eating out, I like to eat large portions of my favorite foods, not something healthy.”
Healthy detours: It’s OK to occasionally have your favorite foods if you do it healthfully. For example, when at a restaurant, eat half of your favorite meal and save the other half for the next day. Or, if you know you’ll be eating extra calories, increase your exercise for the day. Explore ways to make your favorite dish healthier. If your meal contains a rich sauce, for instance, ask for it on the side so that you can control how much of it you eat. If you dine out often, however, it’s best to make healthy choices part of your routine. You don’t want a large indulgence to cancel out all your good efforts.
Roadblock: “I don’t eat breakfast because I’m not hungry in the morning.”
Healthy detours: Research shows that eating breakfast helps people better manage their weight, in part because it helps keep them from feeling ravenous and overeating later in the day. So, even if you’re not hungry, try to eat a little something in the morning. Start gradually by planning to have breakfast twice a week and then work toward eating breakfast every day. Keep foods on hand that you can take with you on busy days, such as apples, bananas, whole-grain bagels and yogurt in single-serving containers.
Roadblock: “Keeping food records — measuring food, keeping track and figuring out calories — takes too much work.”
Healthy detours: Losing weight does take time and effort. That will gradually lessen as you get used to knowing what serving sizes should look like and how many calories you should have each day. But, initially, keeping detailed records will help you work toward your main goal: reaching a healthy weight. Make these initial steps easier on yourself by keeping your food record and serving-sizes chart handy and logging your entries after each meal instead of at day’s end.
By Mayo Clinic Staff…
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