How to Squeeze in Exercise -- Anywhere!

Once again, it’s the most wonderful -- and busy -- time of the year. With all of the cooking, hosting and shopping involved, it’s no wonder that nearly 70 percent of Americans complain of being short on time during the holidays, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association.

Unfortunately, workouts are often the first thing to get the pink slip during this hectic season. But making time to exercise is one of the most effective ways to keep stress in check. (Plus, you’ll burn off some of those cookies and eggnog.)

Still think you can’t squeeze it in? With my tips and on-the-go moves, fitting exercise is a breeze -- so you still have plenty of time to eat, drink and be merry. Consider it my gift to you!

1. Be realistic. Now’s probably not the ideal time to commit to working out an hour a day or shedding 15 pounds. Instead, worry less about fitness gains or weight loss and focus on moving more and keeping the scale steady.

2. Encourage family fitness. Spend quality time while you sneak in exercise! Consider planning a cross-country ski outing or pre-dinner hike. Bonus: A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reveals that exercising before a fatty meal helps to protect against some of the heart-harmful effects.

3. Give yourself some motivation. Whether it’s a slinky New Year’s Eve dress or post-holiday tropical vacation, having a goal down the road can serve as inspiration. Nothing keeps that fudge at bay like picturing yourself in a swimsuit.

Another way to stay active is to keep a list of exercises that don’t require much time or space. You can sneak in a 10- or 15-minute workout during commercials or a break from chores. Consider my list of effective and efficient moves:

  1. Push-ups. Keeping your torso in a straight line, begin on your knees or -- if you can -- toes. Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width on the ground. Lower your chest till it nearly touches the floor, keeping your abs and butt squeezed to engage your core. Press back to start and repeat; do as many as you can.
  2. Bicycle crunches. Lie on your back, pull your bellybutton to your spine and relax your shoulders. Place your hands behind your lifted head (for support only -- don’t pull yourself up) and lift your knees to a 45-degree angle. Bring your right elbow towards your left knee, and then bring your left elbow towards your right knee in a twisting motion. Repeat until muscle fatigue sets in. To increase the intensity, extend the opposite leg as far as possible.
  3. Squats. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lift arms slightly forward for balance and bend at the knees and hips to a sitting position, until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Rise to starting point and repeat until you’re tired.
  4. Wall sit. Rest your back against a wall and slide down, moving your feet forward. Keep your knees behind your toes, with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle.

Hold this position as long as possible.

  1. Leg Extension. While sitting up straight in your chair, extend your right leg until it is level with your hip. Hold as long as you’re able and then lower. Alternate sides. Repeat until you’re tired.
  2. Toe and calf raises. First, lift and lower your toes while keeping your heels firmly on the ground. (You can do this standing or seated.) Then, from a standing position, raise and lower your heels. For extra intensity, do these raises while balancing on the edge of a step for added intensity. (Hold onto a wall or piece of furniture to keep your balance.) Do as many reps as you can.

Like this article? Get more by following us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

A Beginner's Guide to Running

Now that it’s warmer out, you might be thinking about lacing up your sneakers. Running is a fantastic way to enjoy the season while conditioning your body. In fact, it’s one of the top calorie-burners around: You can torch 700 to 800 calories an hour, according to a study done in part by the Medical College of Wisconsin.

It’s also a terrific cardio workout for women, protecting against heart disease. And the benefits don’t stop there: Research shows that it eases stress, strengthens joint ligaments and even lowers cancer risk.

Don’t know where to begin? Start with the following advice. These tips will help you choose the best gear, prevent injuries and keep you running throughout the season -- and beyond. Ready, set, go!

Avoid Injury
Studies show that 80 percent of runners suffer a moderate or severe injury, such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or runner’s knee. A few precautions can help you from being sidelined:

  • Have a plan. Work with a trainer to outline an appropriate-for-you routine or follow a professionally designed beginner’s workout, like Couch to 5K.
  • Warm up and cool down. Start with five minutes of brisk walking or slow jogging. Then, after your workout, stretch and use a foam roller to release tight muscles.
  • Mix things up. Cross-training can build endurance while giving your body a break from running. And don’t forget strength training, which shores up bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and core strength.
  • Don’t do too much, too soon. Try not to increase any aspect, such as speed or distance, by more than 10 percent per week. And designate at least one day each week. Bottom line: Listen to your body. You may step outside of your comfort zone while running, but don’t ignore any aches or pains.

Watch Your Form
You’ll run more efficiently and easily when you maintain proper form. Remember to:

  • Look ahead. As you fatigue, remember to stand tall instead of slouching. And gaze forward instead of down so that your head and neck are aligned. Also remember to keep your shoulders low and loose; resist the temptation to have them creep toward your ears.
  • Watch your arms and hands. Swing your arms forward instead of across the body. Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle and your hands should be loose, with your fists unclenched.

Gear Up
One of the best things about running is that you don’t need a lot to do it. What to look for:

  • The right shoe. A professional can help you find the best shoe for your foot shape and gait.
  • Synthetic socks. Running in a cotton pair is a surefire way to develop blisters. Synthetic fibers may cost more, but they’ll last longer and help keep your feet healthy.
  • A tissue or two. Running is an excellent way to clear your sinuses, and you may get sniffly during your run. Or as you heat up, you may want to blot your face with a tissue to stay beautiful.

Stay Motivated
Running is as emotional and mental as it is physical. Be sure that you: 

  • Stay positive. Stop thinking of it as “hard.” Instead, focus on the benefits, like how great you feel afterward. They don’t call it a “runner’s high” for nothing.
  • Put on some tunes: Energizing beats help keep you moving!
  • Stop thinking, start doing. It can be hard to wake up early to run at times … or do it after work. But don’t let your mind fashion excuses. Just lace up and go!


Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Like this article? Get more by following us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

Should You Work Out When You're Sick?

When you wake up feeling the symptoms of a cold or flu, most of the time you just want to stay in bed and rest. But if you're a fitness buff, it's not that simple. When you take a few days off, you risk losing your hard-earned momentum and might even fall short of your fitness goals.

It's a tough choice: When you're sick, can you still do your usual workout -- your power walk, gym class or exercise video?

The answer depends on your symptoms, says Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and the author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu.

Here's how to know if you should lace up your sneaks or stay in bed.

Skip your workout if: Your symptoms are below the neck.
“Coughing, body aches, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems and fever indicate a widespread infection -- one that needs rest and could be made worse by the stress of a workout," says Schachter. Even an easy bike ride or jog could fatigue you and slow down your immune system -- and make your symptoms last longer.

Do your workout if: Your symptoms are above the neck.
Mild to moderate exercise is usually fine if you have a cold -- marked by a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, watery eyes and a sore throat. And getting your heart pumping might even make you feel better."Activity can help mobilize secretions in your sinuses and relieve congestion, possibly shortening the duration of your symptoms," says Schachter.

But if you have enough energy to exercise, try not to overdo it by jumping right into your usual challenging routine. Follow these three rules:

Rule No. 1: Take your workout indoors.
Exercise at home or at the gym to avoid cold weather, which can aggravate your symptoms. Chilly temperatures kick congestion up a notch because your body pumps extra blood to the nose to help it warm the freezing air you breathe in. The tissues in your nasal passages swell, resulting in congestion. To make things worse, cold air triggers an increase in mucus production.

Frigid weather can also worsen a sore throat because you breathe through your mouth when congested."When cold, dry air hits your sore throat directly, it will make it more inflamed," says Schachter.

If you exercise in a gym, be considerate of other members and take care not to spread your germs. Be sure to sanitize and thoroughly wipe down any equipment you use. It's also a good idea to carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your gym bag to use after you cough or sneeze.

Rule No. 2: Go easy on yourself.
When you're under the weather, even just mildly, toxins circulating in your system make you weaker. So take your usual exercise regimen down a notch or you could make your cold worse. For example, if you typically take a daily 30-minute run, alternate jogging and walking instead.

Or instead of cardio, practice yoga. "Certain poses can improve breathing, which can be very helpful when you're congested," says Schachter. One basic move to try is the Downward-facing Dog:

1.      Start on your hands and knees, with feet hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart (fingers spread out).

2.      Curl toes under and push back, raising the hips and straightening your legs.

3.      Let your head hang, keeping shoulder blades away from the ears.

Rule No. 3: Know when to stop.
Listen to your body and accept your limitations. If you feel tired or if your symptoms start to worsen, it's time to end your workout. Here are a few specific red-flag symptoms that signal you should call it quits:

  • You start to cough.
  • You feel exhausted.
  • You experience shortness of breath.

Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash

Like this article? Get more by following us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

Stress-busting Walking Workout

Walking is a step in the right direction for your health -- and it's the perfect form of exercise for busy moms. You can walk anywhere, anytime: Just put on your sneakers and head out the door."When you walk at a brisk pace, the body produces feel-good hormones called endorphins. This automatically improves your mood and decreases stress," says Toronto-based personal trainer Barb Gormley.

With all the time you spend caring for your whole family, taking less than a half-hour of fresh-air care for yourself will help you clear your mind so you can tackle your day. Read on to find out how every step you take improves your health and then try our easy, four-week walking workout plan to beat stress.

Walking Benefit: A Healthier Heart
According to a recent study of over 39,000 women published by the American Heart Association, those who walked for two or more hours per week had a 30 percent reduced risk of stroke than those who did not walk at all.

Walking Benefit: Better Memory
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that older men who walked less than 1/4 mile each day had almost twice the risk of dementia compared to those who walked more than 2 miles.

Walking Benefit: A Slim Waistline
In one new study of over 18,400 premenopausal women, researchers from Harvard School of Public Heath found that those who made even small increases in the amount of time they spend walking briskly or biking every day decreased their risk of gaining weight.

Walking Benefit: A Better Mood
Anyone who regularly hits the treadmill will report a boost of good feelings post-workout, but a recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise uses science to prove it. Researchers monitored participants diagnosed with depression as they either walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes or sat and rested quietly. Those who walked reported more feelings of well-being and more energy than those who rested.

Easy 4-week Walking Plan
Our easy walking plan will improve your health and help you feel less frazzled -- in just a few minutes per day."The key to improving your fitness level, burning calories and zapping stress is to walk regularly and to include one rest day per week," says Gormley.

Walk each day for the length of time suggested below. Keep your chest lifted, and look toward the horizon (not down at your feet). Pump or briskly swing your arms at your sides to boost your calorie burn. "You'll know you've walked at the right intensity if you feel energized, not exhausted, a few minutes after you complete your workout," says Gormley. Grab a friend, your dog or your MP3 player to keep motivated and step to it!

Week 1: Build a habit.
The first week is all about getting used to exercising regularly, so consistency is key.

Monday: 10 minutes
Tuesday: 15 minutes
Wednesday: 10 minutes
Thursday: 15 minutes
Friday: 10 minutes
Saturday: 20 minutes
Sunday: rest day

Weekly total: 80 minutes

Week 2: Walk for longer.
Keep up the good work! This week, you'll increase the length of time you walk by five or 10 minutes per day.

Monday: 15 minutes
Tuesday: 20 minutes
Wednesday: 15 minutes
Thursday: 20 minutes
Friday: 15 minutes
Saturday: 30 minutes
Sunday: rest day

Weekly total: 115 minutes

Week 3: Boost calorie burn.
Now you're a regular walker. Increase your pace slightly to blast more calories.

Monday: 20 minutes
Tuesday: 25 minutes
Wednesday: 20 minutes
Thursday: 25 minutes
Friday: 20 minutes
Saturday: 35 minutes
Sunday: rest day

Weekly total: 145 minutes

Week 4: Hit some hills.
Maintain the slightly faster pace, and include two hill workouts to build muscle and burn even more calories.

Monday: 20 minutes (include a short, gentle hill)
Tuesday: 25 minutes
Wednesday: 20 minutes (include a short, gentle hill)
Thursday: 25 minutes
Friday: 20 minutes
Saturday: 35 minutes
Sunday: rest day

Weekly total: 145 minutes

Congrats! You've nearly doubled your weekly walking time in just four weeks. Do your best to keep it up: You've reached a routine daily activity level that will help you to maintain a healthier heart, slimmer waistline, improved memory and an upbeat mood.

Photo by Dániel Göndör on Unsplash

Like this article? Get more by following us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

5 Fitness Dilemmas -- Solved!

Most people’s schedules don’t allow them to spend hours in the gym. So when you only have time to squeeze in a quick sweat session, don’t spend even a second debating whether you should hit the free weights or take a cycling or toning class. To help you clock in an effective workout, we asked the experts to help us take the guesswork out of getting fit. Read on to learn the five gym moves to make when you’re in a rush but still want to see results.

Dilemma No. 1: Free weights versus machine
Winner: Free weights

While machines are a good option for fitness novices, they only allow you to focus on one muscle group at a time. Free weights, on the other hand, liberate you to incorporate full-body moves into your workout routine. “Try grabbing a pair of dumbbells and alternating overhead presses with squats,” says Geralyn Coopersmith, the national director of The Equinox Training Institute. “You’ll strengthen your core and glutes in addition to your arms and shoulders.”

By turning your lifting session into a total-body workout, you’re also targeting the muscle combos that you use in everyday life. This will come in handy, say, the next time you’re carrying a heavy bag of groceries to your car or your three-year-old up a flight of stairs.

Dilemma No. 2: Cycling versus weight lifting class
Winner: Weight lifting class (with cardio)

“You can get a lot of bang for your buck by finding a weight lifting class that incorporates cardio,” says Kristi Molinaro, a fitness expert and founder of 30/60/90, a high-intensity interval training program in New York City. “You’ll burn fat while building muscle.”

To reap the most benefits, don’t scrimp on the weights. “A few biceps curls with a set of five-pound dumbbells won’t do you much good,” says Molinaro. “You’ve got to push yourself past what is easy and comfortable to make the most of every workout.” One rule of thumb: You should need to wipe your brow with facial tissues by the end of your sweat session.

Dilemma No. 3: Steady cardio versus interval training
Winner: Interval training

If you’re crunched for time, interval training is the way to go. “A combo of fast-paced, high-intensity moves mixed with longer, lighter recovery phases pushes you into an anaerobic zone,” says Molinari. That’s when you burn serious fat while increasing your fitness level.

Examples of intervals include running or biking sprints, lifting weights or jumping rope -- any exercise where you amp up to the pace. You shouldn’t be able to maintain the intensity for longer than 30 seconds.

Dilemma No. 4: Treadmill versus elliptical trainer
Winner: Draw

Running on a treadmill is a high-impact activity, while using an elliptical machine is low-impact. “To reduce the risk of injury workout boredom and plateaus, alternate between the two,” says Coopersmith.

That being said, if you’re running short on time, the treadmill will put you on the fast track to fit. Increase your speed, do intervals or add an incline to get your heart rate up and burn mega-calories.

Then, at your next gym visit, switch gears by hopping on the elliptical. It’s easier on your knees, and the built-in programs are aimed to burn fat. Plus, the swinging upper-body grips can strengthen your arms with every stride. (Just remember to wipe down the grips with an antibacterial wipe or a facial tissue sprayed with cleaner before you hop on.)

Dilemma No. 5. Taking a class versus going it alone
Winner: Taking a class

“Group classes are great because you have a fitness professional cramming in as much as he or she can into a limited amount of time,” says Molinaro. “A good instructor will also help you with your form and push you to work harder than if you were on your own.” When checking out the options on your gym’s schedule, Molinaro advises pushing yourself with a high-intensity interval training class.

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

Like this article? Get more by following us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.