Surprising Reasons You’re Gaining Weight

What’s With the Weight Gain?

If you started taking in more calories than usual or cutting back on exercise, you wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers on the scale crept higher. But what if you’re doing everything the same as you always do, and your weight still goes up? It’s time to delve a little deeper into what else might be going on.

Lack of Sleep

There are two issues at work with sleep and weight gain. First, if you’re up late, the odds are greater that you’re doing some late-night snacking, which means more calories. The other reason involves what’s going on in your body when you’re sleep-deprived. Changes in hormone levels increase hunger and appetite and also make you feel not as full after eating.

Stress

When life’s demands get too intense, our bodies go into survival mode. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is secreted, which causes an increase in appetite. And of course, we may reach for high-calorie comfort foods in times of stress as well. This combination is a perfect breeding ground for weight gain.

Antidepressants

An unfortunate side effect from some antidepressants is weight gain. Talk to your doctor about making changes to your treatment plan if you think your antidepressant is causing weight gain. But never stop or change your medication on your own. Realize that some people experience weight gain after beginning drug treatment simply because they’re feeling better, which leads to a better appetite. Also, depression itself can cause changes in weight.

Steroids

Anti-inflammatory steroid medications like prednisone are notorious for causing weight gain. Fluid retention and increased appetite are the main reasons. Some people may also see a temporary change in where their body holds fat while taking steroids — to places like the face, the belly, or the back of the neck. If you’ve taken steroids for more than a week, don’t stop them abruptly. That can lead to serious problems. Check with your doctor first.

Drugs That May Cause Weight Gain

Several other prescription drugs are linked to weight gain. The list includes antipsychotic drugs (used to treat disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), along with medications to treat migraines, seizures, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Work with your doctor to find a medication that treats your symptoms and lessens side effects.

Don’t Jump to Blame the Pill

Contrary to popular belief, combination birth control pills (estrogen and progestin) aren’t proven to cause lasting weight gain. It is thought that some women taking the combination pill may experience some weight gain related to fluid retention, but this is usually short-term. If you’re still concerned about possible weight gain, talk to your doctor.

Hypothyroidism

If your thyroid (the butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck) is not making enough thyroid hormone, you’re probably feeling tired, weak, and cold, and gaining weight. Without enough thyroid hormone, your metabolism slows, making weight gain more likely. Even a thyroid functioning at the lower end of the normal range might cause weight gain. Treating hypothyroidism with medication may reverse some of the weight gain.

Don’t Blame Menopause

Most women do gain some weight around the time of menopause, but hormones probably aren’t the only cause. Aging slows your metabolism, so you burn fewer calories. And changes in lifestyle (such as exercising less) play a role. But where you gain weight may be related to menopause, with fat accumulating around your waist more than your hips and thighs.

Cushing’s Syndrome

Weight gain is a common symptom of Cushing’s syndrome, a condition in which you are exposed to too much of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn causes weight gain and other abnormalities. You can get Cushing’s syndrome if you take steroids for asthma, arthritis, or lupus. It can also happen when your adrenal glands make too much cortisol, or it could be related to a tumor. The weight gain may be most prominent around the face, neck, upper back, or waist.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common hormonal problem in women of childbearing age. Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. The condition leads to hormone imbalances that affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and can lead to extra body hair and acne. Women with this condition are resistant to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar), so it may cause weight gain. The weight tends to collect around the belly, putting these women at greater risk for heart disease.

Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. When you quit, you may gain some weight, but perhaps less than you think. On average, people who stop smoking gain less than 10 pounds. You should stop feeling hungrier after several weeks, which will make it easier to help lose any weight you gained.

Rule 1: If You Do Gain Weight …

Don’t stop taking any medications without first consulting your doctor. Recognize the importance of the drug you’re taking. It may be critical to your health. Also, something else may be causing you to gain weight. Your doctor can help you figure out what’s going on.

Rule 2: If You Do Gain Weight …

Don’t compare yourself to other people taking the same drug. Not all people experience the same side effects on the same drug. Even if a drug caused someone else to lose weight, the same might not be true for you.

Rule 3: If You Do Gain Weight …

Remember that if the weight gain is just from water retention, it’s not permanent weight or fat. Once you’re done taking the drug or your condition is under control, the puffiness from fluid retention may ease. Stick to a lower-sodium diet in the meantime.

Rule 4: If You Do Gain Weight …

Check with your doctor about another drug you can take. In many cases, your doctor can switch you to another medication that might not have the same side effects.

Rule 5: If You Do Gain Weight …

Learn if the weight gain is from a decrease in metabolism — from either a medical condition or medication. And if so, take the time to participate in metabolism-raising activities. Get moving!

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10 Ways to Stop Stress Now

Put Stress in Its Place

How you handle stress makes a big difference in how you feel. It might even help your blood pressure, blood sugar level, and the rest of you.  Use these calming strategies to stop stress ASAP.

Break Out the Bubble Gum

Next time you’re at the end of your rope, unwrap a stick of gum. According to studies, chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. Some researchers think the rhythmic act of chewing may improve blood flow to your brain, while others believe the smell and taste help you relax.

hiker mountains

Get Outside

Spending time outdoors, even close to home, is linked to better well-being. You’re in a natural setting, and you’re usually doing something active, like walking or hiking. Even a few minutes can make a difference in how you feel.

happy man

Smile Like You Mean It

Don’t roll your eyes the next time someone advises you to “grin and bear it.”  In times of tension, keeping a smile on your face – especially a genuine smile that’s formed by the muscles around your eyes as well as your mouth – reduces your body’s stress responses, even if you don’t feel happy. Smiling also helps lower heart rates faster once your stressful situation ends.

woman lavender

Sniff Some Lavender

Certain scents like lavender may soothe. In one study, nurses who pinned small vials of lavender oil to their clothes felt their stress ease, while nurses who didn’t felt more stressed. Lavender may intensify the effect of some painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, so if you’re taking either, check with your doctor before use.

woman headphones

Tune In

Heading into a stressful situation? Music can help you calm down. In one study, people had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they listened to a recording of Latin choral music before doing something stressful (like doing math out loud or giving a speech) than when they listened to a recording of rippling water. (Wondering what that choral piece was, music fans? TryMiserere by Gregorio Allegri.)

woman yoga

Reboot Your Breath

Feeling less stressed is as close as your next breath. Focusing on your breath curbs your body’s “fight or flight” reaction to pressure or fear, and it pulls your attention away from negative thoughts. Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting your chest and lower belly rise and your abdomen expand. Breathe out just as slowly, repeating a word or phrase that helps you relax. To reap the most benefit, repeat for at least 10 minutes.

trying clothes

Be Kind to Yourself

We all have a constant stream of thoughts running through our heads, and sometimes what we tell ourselves isn’t so nice. Staying positive and using compassionate self-talk will help you calm down and get a better grip on the situation. Talk to yourself in the same gentle, encouraging way you’d help a friend in need. “Everything will be OK,” for instance, or “I’ll figure out how to handle this.”

handwriting

Write Your Stress Away

Jotting down your thoughts can be a great emotional outlet. Once they’re on paper, you can start working out a plan to resolve them. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer pen and notebook, a phone app, or a file on your laptop. The important thing is that you’re honest about your feelings.

men conversing

Tell a Friend

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out the company of a friend or loved one. Have a friend who’s dealing with the same worries as you? Even more reason to open up. You’ll both feel less alone.

cycling class

Get Moving

When you work up a sweat, you improve your mood, clear your head, and take a break from whatever is stressing you out. Whether you like a long walk or an intense workout at the gym, you’ll feel uplifted afterward.

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17 Must-Try Fitness Workouts

Super-Short Workouts

Heard of the 7-minute workout? How about Tabata? Both are just a few minutes. The trick is, you work harder than you thought possible, pushing yourself to the max. If you’re not in shape now, start with something more moderate.

Sprint Triathlon

If you’ve got the guts for a triathlon, but not enough hours to train, try a shorter version. A sprint triathlon is a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, and 3-mile run. In a triathlon relay, team members work together to complete a regular triathlon. Get a checkup before any new workout if you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 55, or if you have health issues.

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Ballet Barre Class

These moves can strengthen your core, arms, and legs. One to try is the plié: Stand with your heels together, toes apart, and then bend your knees. Squeeze your inner thighs and glutes as you slowly go lower, keeping your knees over your toes, and then rise to standing. Studios offer classes, or you can follow a video at home. Some classes also include cardio.

Adventure Races

Only the fit and fearless can tackle this obstacle race. You do things like crawl through mud, climb walls, and swim in icy water. Train for at least 8 weeks with sprints, squats, pushups, and weights. Rest between short bursts of exercise.

Sports Leagues for Adults

Add some team spirit to your workout by joining a recreation league. You could play tennis, volleyball, soccer, basketball, flag football, or softball, for starters. There are also leagues for games you might have played way back in grade school, like kickball or dodgeball.

Elite Fitness: Muscle Confusion

Cross-training programs like P90X and Insanity aim for “muscle confusion.” They switch up exercises, add new moves, and often include jump training, also called plyometrics.

Indoor Cycling Class

This trend is here to stay. In some, you can compete against your classmates. Many programs also use upper-body weights. Some places combine cycling with yoga or Pilates.

Zumba: Dance Fitness

Zumba wants your workout to party! This high-energy dance fitness class moves to Latin and international beats instead of counting repetitions. It’s one of the most popular workouts, and it burns more calories than kickboxing or step aerobics. Zumba Step, a new type of Zumba to pump up the intensity, combines the dance moves of Zumba with a step for toning and strengthening legs and glutes.

CrossFit

You can burn about 15 calories per minute with this intense workout. Work to your max with squats, pushups, gymnastic rings, intense runs, and weightlifting. “Hero Workouts” are named in honor of soldiers who died serving the country. Be aware that the bursts of intense exercise can lead to injury. It’s important to work on your flexibility and learn to do the moves properly.

ViPR

ViPR sounds like a killer workout, but the true goal is strength and fitness for everyday life. You use a heavy rubber tube to lift, push, twist, and work your whole body. ViPR adds moves that boost your workout whether you’re just starting or you’re a top athlete. Choose the size and weight that fits your needs.

Kettlebells

A vigorous workout with a kettlebell — a cast iron ball with a handle — can burn 272 calories on average in just 20 minutes. Swinging the kettlebell works muscles in a way that weight machines and barbells can’t. Start with a light kettlebell — 8 to 15 pounds for women, and 15 to 25 pounds for men. Form is critical to prevent injury, so ask a trainer to show you how to use them properly.

Water Aerobics

Working out in water is easy on your joints. The resistance from the water helps make you stronger. You can make this workout as hard as you want, depending on how quickly you do the moves. Plus, being in the water just feels good to many people, so it can help you relax and feel better. If aerobics isn’t your thing, you could swim laps or walk in the water for a solo workout.

Boot Camp: Back to Basics

This is basic training without a drill sergeant sneering and shouting in your face. There’s no fancy equipment — just a series of pushups, squats, kicks, other calisthenics, and aerobic movements. You’ll burn about 10 calories a minute, or 600 an hour. The payback: total-body fitness.

Exergaming: Aerobic Play

Who said playing video games turns you into a couch potato? You can burn as many calories exergaming as working out at the gym — about 270 calories vigorously dancing, or 216 calories virtual boxing, in a half-hour. Exergaming is one way to get kids moving. And slower-paced activities can help older adults be less sedentary.

Boxing

Among exercises, boxing is a knockout — delivering agility, balance, muscle tone, strength, and cardio benefits. Sparring also improves hand-eye coordination and mental agility. You’ll be skipping, shadowboxing, kicking punching bags, and more. Be sure to protect your thumbs and knuckles, and consider wearing shin supports.

Hulas: Whittle While You Work Out

If the last time you swung a hula hoop was in fourth grade, it’s time to give it another whirl. It’s easier to swing the new weighted hula hoops than the flimsy plastic ones. Hooping can burn more calories than step aerobics and raise your heart rate as much as cardio kickboxing. It works your waist and core muscles, and can tone your thighs and biceps.

Apps for Exercise

Fitness trackers such as the Fitbit and GoWear Fit measure your steps, calories burned, and calories eaten. They can even monitor your sleep. The information can be uploaded and tracked on your computer. There are also apps that show you exactly what to do in your workout and explain good form, so you do it right.

Finding a Good Trainer

A trainer can help you get more out of your workout. Choose a trainer with experience in the type of workout you want to try. Look for someone who is certified by an accreditation program, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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15 Pilates Moves That Get Results

Pilates for Beginners

What sets Pilates apart is its focus on toning the muscles with springs, bands, or your own body weight. Alycea Ungaro, author of 15 Minute Everyday Pilates, shares her routine for beginners. Some moves are shown using Pilates studio equipment, but you can do most moves at home. Check with a doctor first if you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 55, or if you have a medical condition.

Flat Abs: Pilates Hundred

This classic move helps flatten the tummy by using your abs efficiently. Hold on behind the knees, scoop the belly in, and curl down to the floor to get into position. Now curl the head and shoulders up slightly, lower back still pressed to the floor. Pump the arms up and down in small motions at your sides. Breathe in for five and out for five until you hit 50 pumps. Sit up and repeat for a total of 100 pumps.

Flat Abs: Hundred on the Reformer

In a studio, you can try the Pilates hundred on a reformer, a spring-based resistance machine. Lie on your back with your legs in table-top position or extended at a 45-degree angle. Pull the straps down next to your abdomen. Curl the head and shoulders up and pulse your arms up and down. Breathe in for five and out for five until you reach 100 pulses. If any move doesn’t feel right, check with a fitness professional.

Flat Abs: Roll-Up

Begin this starter sit-up with your legs straight in front of you. Extend your arms over your legs and lower your head between your arms. Curl backward, bending your knees, and stop halfway down. Raise your arms straight up and pull your abs in tightly. Exhale and lower your arms as you curl back up. Do 6-8 reps at a moderate pace. As you become more advanced, try lowering all the way to the floor.

Flat Abs: Neck Peel

If sit-ups give you a sore neck, try this alternative. Lie flat with the end of a resistance band or towel tucked under the center of your back. Bend your knees and grab the other end of the band above your head. Inhale and use your ab muscles to slowly peel your body up, letting your head rest against the band. Exhale and return to the starting position. Do five reps, making sure your abs do all the work.

Obliques: Twist and Reach

Keep that resistance band handy for this waist-toning move. Sit with your legs a little more than hip-distance apart. Hold the band between your hands and raise your arms overhead. Exhale as you turn to one side, using the muscles in your waist. Inhale as you reach the arms out and back, keeping the hips in place. Exhale and return to starting position. Alternate for a total of four sets on each side.

Lower Back: Shoulder Bridge, Part 1

As you strengthen your abs, it’s vital to tone the back of the body as well. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart. Keep your arms at your sides and raise your hips without arching your back. Tighten the muscles of your buttocks and hamstrings, and hold for five breaths. Lower down one vertebra at a time to the floor if you’re stopping here, or go on to the advanced posture.

Lower Back: Shoulder Bridge, Part 2

Keeping your hips raised, extend one leg straight up and point the foot. Kick the leg down and out, flexing the foot. Repeat, exhaling as you extend the leg up and inhaling as you kick it down. Keep your torso strong and your other foot firmly on the mat. Do five reps with each leg.

Upper Back: Pulling Straps

Toning the upper back is the fast track to better posture. This move uses the reformer with an accessory called a long box. Lie on your stomach with your chest just past the edge of the long box. Grab the straps in front of you with straight arms. Lift the head and chest as you pull the straps down toward your hips. The long box will slide forward, with you on top. Release the arms back to the starting position. Do five reps.

Upper Back: Letter ‘T’

Want to target the upper back without a reformer? Lie face down on a mat with your feet together. Raise your head and chest slightly, and extend your arms perpendicular to your body, palms down. Exhale and sweep the arms back as you lift your chin and chest higher. Keep your waist on the mat and use your upper back muscles to bring your arms closer to your body. Return to starting position. Do five reps.

Upper Body: Tendon Stretch

This powerful upper-body toner can be done on a mat, reformer, or Wunda chair. If using a mat, sit with your legs straight in front of you, feet together and flexed. Press your hands flat on the mat, look down, and use your upper body strength to lift your backside and upper legs. Swing yourself forward and backward before lowering slowly to the mat. Do five reps.

Upper Body: Sparklers

A pair of small hand-weights adds punch to a Pilates workout at home. For this move, imagine you are twirling the weights like sparklers on the Fourth of July. Stand with the weights held at your thighs. Turn them slightly in to face each other and make eight small circles. Each circle should be a little higher until the hands are overhead. Make eight circles in the opposite direction as you lower the arms. Repeat 2-3 times.

Lower Body: Kneeling Knee Stretches

This reformer exercise is an efficient way to work the entire lower body.  Kneel on the reformer and round the back, keeping the arms straight. Use the butt muscles and thighs to push and pull your lower body back and forth. The platform will slide a few inches with each movement. Do five reps. As you get more advanced, do another five reps with the back arched.

Lower Body: Kneeling Side Kicks

Here’s a way to tone the thighs and butt without a reformer. Begin by kneeling. Lean to the left, placing your left hand on the mat under the shoulder and your right hand behind the head with the elbow pointing up. Raise your right leg until it is parallel to the floor. Holding the torso steady, kick the leg to the front and then to the back, knee straight. Do five reps on each side.

Lower Body: Leg Swings

This move sculpts the legs while getting your heart rate up. Stand with your arms crossed in front of you at shoulder height. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and lift your right knee up toward the right elbow. Lower the leg quickly and repeat on the other side. Keep switching sides for a total of 10 swings with each leg.

Stamina: Wall Chair

Besides toning the muscles, Pilates is known for boosting endurance. A wall and small hand-weights are the only necessities for this highly effective exercise. Stand with your back against the wall and feet hip-width apart. Walk the feet out a little, bend the knees, and slide down as if sitting in a chair. The upper legs should be parallel to the floor. Raise the arms to shoulder height and hold for 30 seconds. Do two reps.

Cardio: Standing Jumps

While the focus of Pilates is strength training, you’ll get some cardio in with moves like this. Stand with your belly pulled in and your arms overhead. Exhale and lower your head, bending the knees and swinging the arms back. Inhale and jump up with straight legs, reaching the arms overhead. Land with the knees slightly bent and return quickly to starting position. Do 8-10 reps at a rapid pace. You should be out of breath when you finish.

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Best Workouts for Toning Your Body

Tone Up Your Arms With Tennis

Michelle Obama’s sculpted arms may be due to her tennis game. It makes sense: Slamming or lobbing a ball over a net works your arms. Your forehand swing is also good for your chest, and your backhand for your shoulders. Tennis has another advantage: While not primarily aerobic, it can still help burn calories along with fat. Less fat gets your muscles noticed, no matter what activity you do.

Swim for a Strong Upper Body

Swimming laps is good for everything above your waist. Pulling against the water provides resistance for your arms. Doing freestyle, backstroke, or butterfly uses the deltoids in your shoulders and pectoral muscles in your chest. Swimming is less helpful for the legs simply because people tend not to kick very hard. So if you want to work your legs harder, use a kickboard.

Mix It Up on the Elliptical Trainer

By fusing the motions of stair climbing and cross-country skiing, the elliptical trainer gives your thigh and gluteus (butt) muscles a rock-solid workout. Hold on to the push-pull resistance handles and you’ll also strengthen your upper body, including your back and arms. The gliding motion is much easier on your joints than running even while it burns fat. Best of all, you can do it inside, rain or shine.

Pedal for Fit Legs

Biking is great for your leg muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. You can make the workout more intense by using toe clips, which let you pull the pedal up, as well as push it down, which gives you some extra resistance. If you’re a beginner, skip the toe clip on a moving bike, as it can make it tricky to get your foot out of the pedal. Or challenge yourself on a stationary bike by adjusting the resistance.

Run for Your Whole Body

Like biking, running and jogging are good for your calves and thighs. Because they’re weight-bearing exercises, they strengthen bones to help protect against osteoporosis. They are high-impact activities, so they may be jarring on your joints. So start off slow, especially if you’re overweight. It’s fine to switch between walking and jogging, too. That’s easier on your joints, and varying your pace (interval training) is a good challenge.

Walk for Your Joints

Walking is the kinder, gentler cousin of running and jogging. It gives you many of the same benefits, including building strength in the leg muscles and stronger bones. At the same time, it puts less stress on your joints. Whether your goal is to run a mile or a marathon, walking is a good start.

Pilates and Yoga for Core Strength

These popular total-body workouts help you strengthen your “core,” the area through your back and abdomen. These muscles are needed for many activities. Some yoga poses can also benefit your leg muscles and upper body.

Dance for Core, Hips, and Legs

Most types of dancing strengthen your core and hips. From ballet to belly dancing, waltz to disco, any type of dance you enjoy is a good choice.

Team Sports for Legs

Soccer keeps you moving and is great for your glutes and legs. Sprinting and kicking make them even stronger. Basketball also builds your strength and speed, plus your shoulders benefit when you shoot hoops. Or run the bases on the baseball diamond to work your glutes and legs.

Bowling for Arms

Bowling can make you stronger. Many bowlers see their forearm muscles develop; bowling balls weigh up to 16 pounds. It can also work your shoulder and leg muscles. You should also do a total-body workout so you exercise the side of your body you don’t bowl with.

Golf for Longevity?

Playing on the links is walking with benefits, if you ditch the electric cart. Depending on the course, you could be climbing up and down hills while racking up miles. You may even live longer. In one study, golfers’ average life expectancy was 5 years longer than other people’s.

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The 30-Minute Workout Routine

The 30–Minute Fitness Blitz

Think you don’t have time to work out? You do. It’s the intensity of your workout that’s key. A short–burst, high–intensity workout boosts your metabolism and tones muscles. Get moving with this 30–minute “quickie” routine that includes cardio and resistance training.

If you’re new to exercise, a man over 45 or woman over 55, or have a health problem, check with your doctor before starting a fitness program.

Beginner Squats: For Thighs

If you’re new at this, get started with a beginner version of squats using an exercise ball. Stand against a wall with the ball at your lower back, feet hip–width apart and out in front. Keeping your body upright, slowly lower your body by bending at the hips and knees, dropping glutes toward the floor; slowly move back to the starting position. Your knees should remain over your heels. Do 10 times.

Squats: For Thighs

Once you’re ready, try squats without an exercise ball. For good form: Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Bend your knees and lower your rear as if you were sitting down, keeping your knees over your ankles. In the “wrong” picture, notice how the knees are too far forward. To target more muscle groups in less time, add an overhead press at the same time. With a dumbbell in each hand, rise from the squat position and push weights overhead, palms out. Do 10 times.

Forward Lunge: For Thighs

Standing with feet hip–width apart, take a big step forward with one leg, then lower your body toward the floor, front knee aligned with ankle, back knee pointing to the floor. Return to the starting position, and repeat by stepping forward with the other leg. For more challenge, hold a free weight in both hands and complete the lunge with a rotation in the torso, twisting the body toward the forward leg. Do 10 times on each side.

Deadlift: For Hamstrings

To do a deadlift holding a bar or free weights, stand up straight with feet hip–width apart. Bend at your hips, moving the hips backward as you lower your upper body parallel to the floor. Keep your legs straight without locking the knees, and keep the back level and the spine in neutral. Lower the weight to just below your knees, then slowly return to the starting position. Do 10 times.

Bridge: For Glutes

The bridge works the glutes (butt), hamstrings, and core. Lying on your back with knees bent and feet hip-width apart, peel your spine off the floor, starting at the tailbone, forming a diagonal line from knees down to shoulders. Slowly return to the starting position. For an extra challenge: Target your triceps by holding light weights, lifting your arms toward the ceiling as you raise your hips. Bend your elbows to lower the weights towards the floor. Do 10 times.

Push-Ups: For Chest and Core

Let’s move to the upper body. Push-ups strengthen the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. Starting on all fours, place hands a bit wider than your shoulders. Place toes on the floor, creating a smooth line from shoulders to feet. Keeping core muscles engaged, lower and lift your body by bending and straightening your elbows. Too hard? Place knees on the floor instead of toes. To boost the workout, add an exercise ball under the hips, knees, or feet. Do 10 times.

 

Chest Press: For the Chest

Instead of push-ups you can try the chest press with weights. Lie face-up on a bench, with knees bent or feet on the floor, spine relaxed. Press a bar or dumbbells from your chest toward the ceiling. Extend your arms but don’t lock the elbows, and move slowly in both directions, keeping shoulder blades on the bench. For an extra challenge, do the chest press with your head and upper back on an exercise ball. Do 10 times.

Bent-Over Row: For Back and Biceps

The bent-over row works all the major muscles of the upper back as well as the biceps. Begin the exercise in a bent-over position with your back flat, one knee and one hand on the same side of the body braced on a bench. Hold a free weight in the other hand with arm extended. Lift the weight toward the hip until the upper arm is just beyond horizontal, see right. Then slowly lower weight to the starting position. Do 10 times.

Shoulder Press: For Shoulders

A shoulder press works the shoulder muscles and can be performed standing or seated. For extra back support, use a bench with a back rest. Begin with elbows bent and weights at shoulders. Slowly reach toward the ceiling, keeping the elbows under the hands and the shoulders away from the ears; slowly lower back to the starting position. Do 10 times.

Cable Pull Down: For Upper Back

For the last upper body exercise, do the cable pull down, which works the upper back. Using a cable machine, sitting straight with a neutral spine, grasp the bar with arms extended. Slowly pull the bar down past the face and toward the chest. Only go as far as you can without leaning back, and control the weight on the way back up. Do 10 times.

Bicycle Crunch: For Core & Abdominals

Lying on your back on the floor, fold knees toward the chest and curl the upper body off the floor. With hands behind head, slowly rotate upper body to the right while drawing the right knee in and reaching the left leg out. Then rotate left and pull the left knee in and extend right leg out. Focus on bringing the shoulder toward the hip (rather than the elbow to the knee), and keep the opposite shoulder off the floor. Do 10 times.

Side Plank: For Core or Abdominals

For another abdominal alternative, lie on your side with a bent elbow directly under your shoulder, and use your torso muscles to lift the body up into a side plank. Then lift the hips higher, then back to the plank, then lower. Do as many as you can with proper form, then repeat on the other side.

Go For 20 Minutes

Before moving on to the cardio portion of the workout, be sure you’ve completed 20 minutes of resistance training. If you have, now’s a good time for a water break to keep your body well-hydrated. If you haven’t, go back and start the circuit over again until you reach the 20 minute goal.

See how to properly perform seven exercises including squats, lunges, crunches, and the bend-over row. Good technique is a must for effective and safe workouts.:

Cardiovascular Training

Vary the intensity during your cardio workout. Use intervals, taking about a minute to get from moderate speed to intense. Whether you’re on the stair-stepper, the elliptical trainer, or the treadmill, do:

  • 30 seconds of the highest speed you can tolerate, then 30 seconds of normal speed.
  • Then 30 seconds of the stiffest resistance you can handle, then 30 seconds of normal.

Keep moving back and forth between speed and resistance until you’ve completed 10 minutes.

How Often?

Do this 30-minute workout routine every other day, or do it two days in a row if that’s better for your schedule. These are not hard-core exercises where you need more rest to recover.

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Fitness Tips for Beginner Athletes

Take the First Step

Maybe you’re not going to be a superstar athlete. But you can still set a big fitness goal for yourself, even if you’ve never tried a sport before. Examples of fitness goals could be a century ride (a 100-mile bike ride in less than a day). Or you could train for a triathlon (a series of three endurance events, often swimming, cycling, and running), or join a sports league.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

First, consider the possibilities. There are lots of activities you could try, and you might discover you like something you never thought you’d do. Want to train for something really tough and out of your comfort zone? Check out race events like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. They’re rugged obstacle courses where you slog through mud and water, scale walls, and combat-crawl through tunnels.

Start With Small Goals

You might have a big goal you want to reach one day, like a marathon. The best way to get there is to set a series of smaller goals that lead to your big goal. For example, before you sign up for a marathon, set goals to do a few 5K races first. And before that, work up to running a mile. Fitness apps can help you keep track of each great thing you do on your way to your big goal.

Mix Things Up

You may get bored doing the same workout every day. And after you do the same activity all the time for 6 to 8 weeks, your muscles adapt to it. You burn fewer calories and build less muscle. Try interval training: Step up your pace for a minute, then slow down, and repeat. Try strength training and cardio activities like swimming, indoor cycling, and kickboxing.

Get Your Doctor’s OK

If you’re not active now, talk to your doctor before you start exercising if you’re over 45 (men) or 55 (women). It’s also a good idea to get a doctor’s OK if you have a health problem or take regular medication. To avoid injuries and burnout, start working out slowly: 3 days a week for 10-15 minutes. Then gradually add time and intensity.

Eat and Drink for Fuel

Exercise burns extra calories and raises your metabolism. So eat every couple of hours — three meals plus healthy snacks. Before a workout, snack on carbs (juice, fruit, or yogurt) for fast energy. After a long, tough workout, replenish with a carb/protein mix, like a peanut butter sandwich or a smoothie. Otherwise, keep your meals and snacks light: Try an apple and peanut butter, yogurt and nuts, or an egg on whole wheat toast.

Drink Enough Water

Unless your workout is really long or tough, you don’t need a special sports drink with electrolytes. Water works just fine. Drink plenty: If you’re dehydrated, your muscles may cramp, and you raise your risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Two hours before you exercise, drink about 2 to 3 cups of water. During your routine, drink about 1 cup every 10-20 minutes. Keep drinking after you’re done exercising, too.

 

Do Strength Training

Even  if your goal — a marathon, for example — might center on cardio, you should practice strength or resistance training, too. Strong muscles burn more calories, help prevent injuries, and build stronger bones. Work muscles on weight machines, with hand-held equipment like free weights, kettlebells, or resistance bands, or by doing exercises like push-ups. Rest each muscle group, such as biceps and triceps, at least 2 days between strength workouts.

Dress for Comfort

You need the right clothes and shoes when you work out. It’s not about looking good (although that can’t hurt) — it’s about feeling comfortable. It’s no fun to walk, run, or bike if you have flapping sleeves or flimsy shoes. Ask the experts at a sporting goods store for help. Look for fabrics that draw moisture away from your body — not sweat-absorbing cotton. In cool temperatures, wear layers that you can peel off as you warm up.

Learn Proper Form

Whether you’re running or weightlifting, it’s easy to get hurt if your form or technique is wrong. Don’t assume you’re exercising the right way. If your gym has trainers or fitness staff, they may be able to watch you exercise and give you advice on improving your technique. Or you can read fitness magazines or find online videos that show correct techniques.

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