Cold Tips: Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?

Search “cold remedies” online, and more than 35 million results pop up. But it turns out that one of the most effective ways to beat the sniffles is also the simplest: Get moving! According to a recent study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, people who walk for 40 minutes a day take half as many sick days as their sedentary counterparts. That’s because exercise bolsters the immune system, which helps you fight off viruses, say experts.

But when you finally succumb to those sneezes and coughs, is it smarter to soldier on or toss in the sweat towel? To help you decide, here’s what the experts have to say about staying healthy: 

Cold tip No. 1: Do a neck check.
If you have symptoms below the neck, such as chest congestion, diarrhea or body aches, or if you have a fever, stay home to rest. Your body needs all of its energy to recover.

But if you just have a head cold (runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat) and you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours, go ahead and exercise if you feel up for it. But dial down the intensity: Instead of your usual run or group cycling class, opt for yoga or a restorative walk. And stash a few tissues in your pocket in case you need to wipe your nose mid-workout.

Cold tip No. 2: Wipe down the gym equipment.
A study of fitness centers published in Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that 51 percent of aerobic machines and 73 percent of strength-training equipment were infected with cold viruses. Before you hop onto that elliptical or grab those dumbbells, wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe. Don’t have one on hand? Ask the gym staff to spritz some cleaner on a few tissues, and use a towel to cover benches and mats.

Also wash your hands thoroughly before and afterwards, and make a conscious effort to avoid touching your face during your workout.

Cold tip No. 3: Ease back into your routine.
Once you start feeling better, it’s tempting to try to make up for lost time at the gym. But working out full-force may lead to a relapse: Scientists from Canada’s McMaster University found that intense exercise can actually impair immune function, which can prolong your cold and leave you vulnerable to another one.

A smarter move: Start out with moderate workouts to give your body a chance to readjust. If you begin to feel worn down or tired again, stay home to fully recuperate – it could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

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Create an At-Home Gym: Essential Fitness Supplies

What’s keeping you from the gym? Whether it’s job or family obligations, there are plenty of things that can derail your exercise goals. To make workouts as convenient as possible -- and increase your chances of getting them in -- it’s helpful to have some basic and inexpensive exercise equipment on hand at home.

The Essentials
Remember that your workout should include both cardio and strength training. The key to an effective cardio workout is simply getting your heart rate up. Understandably, not everyone has it in their budget to spring for a treadmill or an elliptical machine. Some good options for getting a cardio workout without any major equipment include jogging, jump rope or an exercise video that provides a good cardio workout.

For at-home strength training, pick up these two practical tools:

At-home fitness tool No. 1: Dumbbells. You’ll want a set of heavier ones you can use when working larger muscle groups (like your legs during dead lifts or weighted squats or lunges) and some lighter weights for working smaller muscles (like your shoulders during an overhead press).

At-home fitness tool No. 2: Resistance bands. Look for a stretchy band with a handle at both ends, which can be looped around a secure point or placed beneath your feet. It can be used for a variety of toning exercises.

For example, to do an overhead should press, place one or both feet in the center of the band. Holding a handle in each hand, bring your hands up beside your shoulders and press up, straightening your arms. The amount of resistance you’re working against depends on the tightness of the band: he greater the tension, the harder the exercise.

At-home fitness tool No. 3: A mat. If your workout area isn’t carpeted, you’ll need a mat to provide cushioning for exercises that involve lying or kneeling on the floor, such as sit-ups, crunches and push-ups.

Bonus Equipment
Here are a few of my other favorite tools that can help you add variety to your workouts and challenge your muscles in new ways:

  • Stability Ball: These inflatable balls are great for strengthening your abs and core muscles. You can use them to make basic core exercises, like crunches and planks more challenging because of the instability: Try holding a plank with your forearms on top of the ball and extend your legs straight out behind you. Challenge your core muscles to stabilize you while you work your shoulders by sitting on the ball and doing an overhead press with dumbbells.
  • Sponge Ball: Like a mini stability ball, these smaller inflatable balls are about nine inches in diameter. Want to tighten and tone your inner thighs? Place the ball between your thighs just above your knees and squeeze it tightly as you do squats. For extra burn, hold the squat and pulse your knees together.
  • Medicine Ball: Available in a variety of weights, medicine balls can be used to add resistance to body weight exercises, like weighted sit-ups or lunges with torso rotation. You can also use them to build upper body power and strength by throwing and catching them -- either straight up in the air or back and forth with a partner.
  • Foam Roller: Like getting massages? This is a much cheaper alternative that provides similar benefits for your muscles. Place this firm foam cylinder underneath a tight muscle or muscle group (like your hamstrings), placing as much of your weight on the roller as possible to add as much pressure as you can tolerate. Roll back and forth over the cylinder to work out knots within tight muscles.
  • TRX: If you’re looking to splurge, this suspension training system costs around $200 and consists of two long straps that you attach to a stable surface, like a doorframe. Using your own body weight and gravity as resistance, you can do hundreds of different exercises by holding the handles or placing your feet in the foot cradles. These exercises work your entire body and great for building strength (especially in your core) and improving balance and flexibility.

Don’t have any equipment at home right now? Try this quick and effective equipment-free workout.

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6 New Fun Exercise Trends to Try Now

When it comes to getting fit, there are two things I believe in: taking classes and trying new things. This was exactly the approach I took to get -- and stay -- in white-dress shape for my wedding. In the six months leading up to my big day, I tried as many different classes as I could. I had a ton of fun, and it kept me incredibly active.

What about you? Need a time out from the treadmill? Are you tired of that spin bike? Introducing a new type of exercise to your usual routine can kick-start your resolve. Consider the following classes, which are taking studios and gyms by storm, and prepare to get excited to sweat again!

1. If you like ... competition
Try … CrossFit

What it is: In a word: Intense! CrossFit workouts are fast-paced --you continuously move from one high-intensity exercise to the next. The exercises mostly involve fundamental actions, like running (more like sprinting!), throwing, jumping, squatting, pushing, pulling and swinging. There’s a variety of equipment, including barbells, kettlebells and sandbags. The goal is to complete a certain number of reps of each exercise within a given amount of time. In many classes, participants compete against one another. Because of its high intensity, you’re sure to torch a ton of calories!

One warning: Because of the explosive nature of many CrossFit exercises, it’s crucial to have good form before ramping up the intensity, to avoid injury. If you’re just starting to get in shape, jumping right in may not be your best option. Consider working with a personal trainer to learn the basics first.

Check it out: Watch these videos for demos of CrossFit exercises and click here to find CrossFit facilities in your area.

2. If you like … bodyweight exercises
Try … TRX

What it is: This suspension-training system contains two long straps that attach to a stable surface, like a door frame, weight rack or tree. Using your own body weight and gravity as resistance, you can do hundreds of different exercises by holding the handles or placing your feet in the foot cradles.

Instead of isolating a specific area, these exercises work your entire body. It’s great for building strength (particularly the core), and improving balance and flexibility.

Check it out: Find a trainer or a facility in your area that offers TRX training. You can also purchase your own suspension training system to use at home.

3. If you like … dance parties
Try … Zumba

What it is: The Zumba brand calls itself "a calorie-burning dance-fitness party." I’d say that’s about right. This high-energy workout incorporates dance moves and fun music. In addition to the standard Zumba fitness classes, several other courses are available, including Zumba Toning, which incorporates resistance training using special toning sticks, and Aqua Zumba (a pool party workout!).

Check it out: Click here to find a class near you or consider buying a workout DVD to do at home.

4. If you like … ballet
Try … The Bar Method

What it is:
This non-impact workout is dance conditioning with a variety of exercises -- some done with free weights, some at the bar and some on a mat -- to tighten and tone your entire body.

It also involves lots of stretching to help elongate muscles and improve posture. Many of the exercises are isometric, which involves holding a position and making small range-of-motion movements (say, pulsing up and down in a squat). 

Check it out: Find a studio location near you, see examples of exercises or check out these DVDs you can do at home. Pure Barre and Fluidity are different but similar brands of ballet-inspired fitness you could also check out.

5. If you like … high-intensity classes
Try … boot camp

What it is: Boot camp workouts aren’t brand-new type of exercise, but their growing popularity has led to more options and offerings. Inspired by military workouts, these high-intensity classes involve both cardio and strength training. They often move quickly, without a lot of rest, and incorporate interval training and explosive plyometric moves (like burpees).

Check it out: Depending on the season, you may be able to find outdoor classes offered in your area. (I think the fresh-air ramps up those endorphins even more!) You can also check out local gyms for boot-camp-style classes. Barry’s Bootcamp is a popular chain that has facilities in select cities and DVDs you can do at home.

6. If you like … yoga
Try … aerial yoga

What it is: Want to kick your yoga up a notch? In an aerial yoga class, you do many traditional poses ... in a special fabric hammock that hangs a few feet off of the floor. Depending on the pose, the hammock supports some or all of your weight. This may help you achieve more advanced poses and deepen your stretches. Just make sure to listen to your body during your first class. Most of us aren’t used to being upside down very often (or for any length of time), so you may need to take more breaks. I know I did!

How to check it out: Unnata Aerial Yoga has studio locations around the country but not in all states. You may also be able to find a class in your area at a facility that offers acrobatics classes.

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Strength Training for Women: 5 Exercises to Look Lean & Toned

You’ve done the cardio and counted calories, but you still haven’t seen the results you want. What gives? It may be a lack of iron -- that is, of the dumbbell variety. As it turns out, dieting and cardio alone won’t change your shape. Chances are you’ll lose muscle, slowing down your metabolism. That’s why strength training for women is so important.

When you gain muscle, you gain a lot -- more benefits, that is. Not only does hitting the weight room fend off flab, but it also protects against a variety of diseases, like heart disease and osteoporosis. And just 30 minutes of lifting of day can slash the risk of diabetes by as much as 34 percent, according to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Other added bonuses include decreased blood pressure, improved sleep and enhanced balance and coordination.

More muscle mass also translates into a faster resting metabolism (the baseline number of calories you burn throughout the day). So even at rest, you’re incinerating extra fat.

In spite all of the benefits, many women still avoid weight room. Intimidated or not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered. The following basic, effective routine is simple and easy to learn. Plus, it only takes 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish.

Worried about getting too pumped? Don’t be. Women lack the testosterone levels necessary for building bulky muscles. Instead, look forward to looking toned and lean.

Strength Training for Women: The Workout

After warming up with five to 10 minutes of light cardio, do 10 to 12 reps of each exercise -- this counts as one set. Rest for 30 seconds, and repeat for a second set. Aim to do the workout two or three times a week.

I recommend using 5- to 8-pound dumbbells. (If that’s too hard, use just your body weight to start.) Reach for heavier weights as you get stronger.

1. Step Up
Start: With dumbbells in hand and arms at the side of your body, face a bench or step.

Movement: Lift your right knee and place your foot on the bench. Push your body up. Your left leg will hang straight behind you and won’t touch the bench. Pause at the top while squeezing your glutes. Lower down to starting position. Finish your reps before switching to your left leg.

2. Forward Lunge
Start: With dumbbells in hand and arms at the side of your body, stand with feet hip-width apart.

Movement: Step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body until your right knee is bent at least 90 degrees. Be careful not to let your right knee extend past your toes. Push back to starting. Complete all reps and then repeat with the left leg.

3. Dumbbell Row
Start: Hold dumbbells with your arms in front of your body, palms facing toward you. With feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, bend forward at your hips and lower your torso until it's nearly parallel to the floor. Allow your arms to hang from your shoulders, palms facing your legs.

Movement: Bend your elbows and pull the weights up toward the sides of your torso. Pause and pull your shoulder blades together. Lower the weights back to start and repeat for all reps.

4. Dumbbell Chest Press

Start: Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor (or on the bench if you can’t reach). Hold a dumbbell in each hand on either side of your chest. Keep your elbows out to the side and upper arms parallel to the floor.

Movement: Push the weight up till arms are extended. Pause and lower back to start.

5. Plank
Start: Starting from a pushup position, bend your elbows and lower down until you are resting on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line.

Movement: Engage your abs (think of pulling your belly button towards the ceiling) and hold your body in a straight line for 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t allow your hips to drop or your butt to rise up. Rest and then repeat for a second set.

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The Ultimate Total-body Cardio Workout Routine for Women

Time is a precious resource, and sometimes there isn’t much of it left in the day for working out. That’s why I’m a big fan of circuit training cardio workout routines. The go-go-go approach involves minimal rest between exercises, allowing you to pack in as much calorie-burning, muscle-toning work as possible in a short amount of time.

Below is a 20-minute cardio workout routine I created for women that packs a variety of total-body strength training moves and cardio intervals to get your heart rate up and keep your calorie burn high as you tone up from head to toe. A few things you’ll need:

· A mat

· A chair

· One set of medium-weight dumbbells (5 to 8 pounds)

· A medium-weight medicine ball or single dumbbell (5 to 8 pounds)

· One heavier set of dumbbells (8 to 10 pounds)

· A watch (so you can keep an eye on the time)

Take the first two minutes of the workout to warm up:

· Minute 1: Jog in place, gradually increasing your pace

· Minute 2: Do jumping jacks

The Circuit
As soon as you’re warmed up, get started with the first exercise. Do each exercise for 45 seconds, taking just 10 seconds to transition from one exercise to the next.

Complete this total-body cardio workout circuit twice and you’re done!

Walking Lunges: Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Take a step forward with your right leg, lowering down into a lunge until your right knee is bent at about 90 degrees. Keep your knee in line with your ankle. Push up, bringing your left leg forward as you stand up and step forward into a lunge with your left leg. Continue stepping forward and lunging, alternating legs.


Push Ups: Place your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your back flat and your core muscles tight. Bend your elbows and lower down until your chest is a few inches from the floor and push back up.


Mountain Climbers: Hold a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe. With your core muscles tight and your back flat, bend your right knee, pulling it in towards your chest. Extend it back out, lower your foot to the floor and switch legs, pulling your left knee toward your chest. Keep going, switching legs as quickly as possible while maintaining good form and keeping your back flat.


Dead Lifts: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in your knees, holding your heavier set of dumbbells in front of your thighs. Bend forward from the hips, keeping the weights in front of your legs as you lower your torso so it's almost parallel with the floor and then lift back up.


Tricep Dips: Sit on the edge of a chair with your hands by your sides, palms facing down, holding the edge of the chair. Keeping your arms straight, shift your weight forward scooting your hips and butt off the seat so they are just in front of it. Bending at your elbows, lower down trying to get a 90-degree bend and then push back up.


Jump Rope: You don’t even need a real rope -- just mimic the motion with your arms. Jump fast and land softly each time, trying to get that heart rate as high as you can.


Lunge Hold With Shoulder Press: Holding a set of medium dumbbells in your hands, assume a wide, split-stance with your right leg forward, left leg back. Lower down into a lunge, keeping your front knee over your ankle. Holding the lunge position, bring your hands to just above your shoulders, palms facing forward. Raise the dumbbells straight up overhead and lower back down to just above your shoulder.


Hay Bailers: Holding a medium-weight medicine ball or dumbbell (5 to 10 pounds), bring the ball (or weight) down beside your right hip without rotating your torso. Keeping your chest and hips facing forward, engage your core muscles as you raise the ball up and across your body to above your left shoulder. Hold for a couple seconds, and then lower it back down by your right hip. Your second time through the circuit, switch sides, lifting the weight from your left hip to above your right shoulder.



Jump Squats: Sink down into a squat, and push off into a jump. Land softly and push your hips back as you return to the squat, keeping your core muscles engaged.



Weighted Sit Ups: Lie down on your mat with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Keeping your abs tight and your back flat against the mat, extend your arms straight out in front of your chest, holding a single dumbbell or medicine ball (5 to 8 pounds) in both hands. Squeeze your abs as you sit all the way up and as you lower back down to the mat with control, keeping the weight lifted straight up toward the ceiling the whole time.


If you push through these exercises and make it a routine, you’ll definitely feel the results of this weights-and-cardio workout!

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