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Explaining Fitness for Dummies

Fitness is one of those terms you can often hear just about anywhere: in the media, on the street, during a conversation with friends, and just about anywhere else. Even though it gets used and abused a lot, how much do we actually know about it? Can any one of us define what fitness really is?

Paraphrasing the National Federation of Professional Trainers Handbook, fitness is the ability to perform everyday activities with vigor, with some spare energy left to be able to react in case of an emergency. Body fat percentage should be around 18% for men, and 25% for women, and lungs, heart and body should be strong.

Then there is the medical perspective. I have a good friend who works as a Nurse Practitioner and runs a website called the Nurse Salary Guide. Her ideas on health and fitness are so far removed from my own. She talks about heart fitness and lung fitness more than what most trainers mean. But that’s another blog post!

fitness defined

If you were to really get into it, fitness could be broken down into four separate aspects, which are:

Cardio Respiratory Conditioning

Or simply put, your lungs and your trying to keep up with the pace set by your muscles during exercising. When you run out of breath while running, your cardio respiratory system can’t keep up with your muscles.

If you are in good shape, you have good cardio endurance, which will make you feel more energized. But, that’s not the only reason for doing cardio. You will also lose weight, reduce fat content inside your body and burn excess calories.

If you are keen on building your cardio respiratory endurance, here’s what you need to do:

Intensity: cardio workouts should be performed between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate if you want to achieve optimal results in a reasonable timeframe.

Activity: always pick an activity which engages large muscle groups, such as quads. The bigger the muscle, the more calories you will burn. Some examples of such workouts would be running, swimming, cycling, and many others.

Frequency: 3 to 5 times in a week.
Duration: no less than 15 minutes, and no more than 60 in a single day.

If follow this program, you will be able to see the results as soon as 6 to 8 weeks.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is categorized as your muscles’ ability to carry out contractions over long periods of time. For example, if you were to do exercises, such as crunches, for an hour, that low intensity performance would be called muscular endurance.

In order to improve muscular endurance, you need to do the following:

Intensity: use 40 to 60% of your weight capacity, perform sets of 20 to 25 reps.

Activity: perform three circuits of three different exercise such as pushing, pulling, squatting or pressing.

Muscular Strength

There are two different types of muscular strength: dynamic and static. Dynamic strength refers to your ability move a certain weight with your muscles. Dynamic strength comes into play while doing bench presses or curls.

Static strength, on the other hand, only takes into account the weight you are able to hold with your muscles without moving. Such exercises would be planking, or doing a bridge position. Both types are needed in everyday life, since you are bound to get stuck doing something physical sooner or later, so it’s better to be ready for it, instead of getting injured.

To avoid injuries, adhere to this program:

Intensity: 80 to 90% of your weight capacity, sets of 4 to 6 repetitions.

Activity: perform exercises where your muscles are contracting, but your body remains stationary, or dynamic workouts, such as push-ups. Also, try to choose exercises which require you to perform compound moves which require you to engage several muscle groups, not just individual muscles.

Frequency: two times a week tops, you should give your muscles a chance to recover.


Obsessed with cardio endurance and muscular strength, people often forget one of the most important segments of fitness. That segment is flexibility. Basically, flexibility is your ability to achieve a full range of movement with your joints and muscles, while feeling no pain in the process.

You can test yourself by touching your toes, while keeping your legs straight as you bend down. If you can’t do it, that means you are not flexible enough and you need to work on that. Flexibility is important, because it reduces the chance of injury, and because it will allow you to have a full range of motion even in your old age.

Some areas which you should target are your lower back and your hamstrings, since those two are the most prone to injuries.

Improving your flexibility starts with this:

Intensity: pull on your muscles gently, so you don’t feel any pain. If you start to feel discomfort, ease up and a bit, and try again. You can’t rush flexibility.

Activity: nothing more than your basic stretched for all the joints and muscles in your body.

Frequency: before and after your exercise routines.

Duration: you should stretch between 10 and 15 minutes. If you are working on improving your flexibility, you can stretch a bit longer.

The Perfect Fitness Routine

The National Federation of Professional Trainers recommend the following routine:

Warm Up: 5 to 10 minutes of stretching and low intensity activities such as walking or cycling.

Weight Training: 25 minutes, 3 sets of 20 to 25 reps. Consider the following types of exercises: pushing, pulling, leg pressing and squatting. Perform a total of 9 sets, or three circuits.

Core/Ab Workout: 10 minutes. Any exercise that engages these muscles will do.

Aerobic Activity: 20 minutes. Choose aerobic exercises which will raise your rate up to 70% percent of its maximum, such as jogging, running, swimming, and so on.

Cooling Down: 5 to 10 minutes. Stretch out, especially those muscles which were targeted during this routine.

Now, this routine is pretty flexible, and you can choose between the following exercises to come up with the best combo for yourself: chest press, triceps extensions, pull downs, rows, curls, squats, leg extensions, and leg curls, among others.

Now you know … don’t you?

Healthy Eating Habits for a Stronger Body and Soul

If you have decided to start out on the road toward a healthier  habits  changing the way you eat is one vehicle to take you there. Here are some useful tips to bear in mind as you become more aware of what your body needs to function effectively.

These will help you develop healthier eating habits that will not just benefit your body, but also your mind and your outlook on life.

Apply a Dose of Moderation

As you strive to change your unhealthy eating habits into smarter traits the most important factor to ensure success is ‘moderation’. It would be unwise for you to abruptly cut out all processed foods and soda. Likewise, jumping into a strict daily 30-minute exercise program is also ill-advised. Instead, aim for attainable weekly goals that will gently ease you into the lifestyle you are aiming for. This will make the new routines feel more like a part of you and you will be more inclined to stick to them.

You could think about aiming for less processed foods and soda in the first week. For week two try to take a few minutes to plan a grocery list that supports your new healthy eating practices. Week three might find you making a conscious effort to drink more water healthy_waterand exercise at least twice.

Keep making these small changes weekly and you may find that you develop the confidence to make bigger changes or to make more than one change within a given week.

You should also apply moderation to the quantity of food you consume at a given time. This means that at the end of a meal you should not feel stuffed but just full. Moderation suggests that you are not required to cut out all of your guilty pleasure foods, just have less of them.

After all, quitting your bacon cheese sandwich abruptly may leave you craving it more and this could drive you completely off your healthy eating track.

Moderation tells you not to fall into the trap of thinking that one nutrient is more important than the others. Your body needs a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals (plus exercise) in order for it to be healthy and strong.

How, When, Where and Why You Eat

The ultimate goal is to achieve a pattern of healthy eating that fits seamlessly into your daily routines. This means you will need to focus on aspects of your eating habits other than what it is that you eat. The ‘why’ you eat should be for nourishment and care of your body and not just to stop your stomach from grumbling while you rush through a busy day. This will help you to select healthy choices as much as possible rather than bulky, empty calories.

The ‘where’ you eat has to do with both location and company and is closely related to the ‘when’ you eat. There are many social and emotional benefits to dining with company, especially if they are on the same nutritional track as you are. Before you get up to grab a snack, ask yourself if you are really hungry, you may be mistaking a need for water for a need for food. Have a glass of water and see.

It is recommended that your last meal of the day should be 14-16 hours before breakfast. This gives your digestive system a chance to better regulate itself, a key ingredient to controlling your weight. And since you have waited so long, do not skip breakfast. Your metabolic rate will enjoy the healthy boost a good breakfast provides and you can keep that rate up during the day by having several small healthy meals, instead of a huge lunch and dinner.

The ‘how’ you eat takes in the physical act of eating. Ensure that you chew your food properly before swallowing. This not only aids the digestion process but help to slow down your food intake. It may lead you to enjoying the meal more since you spend time savoring each bite and appreciating the blend of textures and flavors in the meal.

Remember, it only takes a few minutes for the brain to get the message from the stomach that you are full! Therefore, you should stop eating just before you get that feeling of fullness.

Minimize Processed Foods and Stop Drinking Soda

The label ‘processed foods’,will be used here to discuss foods that have been put through a number of multifaceted processing steps. A good reason to avoid these foods is that; during processing chemical agents such as additives, artificial coloring and preservatives are added.

When purchasing packaged foods go for those labeled as organic and stating they contain no additives, artificial colors or flavors. Also keep an eye out for those with no added sugar or preservatives. Be sure to check the label when purchasing meat and eggs. It should say Free Range, Cage Free, Wild Caught, or Hormone Free. Steer clear of refined grains and sugar, as these generally provide empty calories.healthy_balance_12

Eliminate soda from your diet if at all possible, or try to cut it down to a bare minimum. They are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, unsafe chemicals and preservatives.

They provide little if any nutritional value and according to most sources, they will weaken your bones. Reach instead for probiotic drinks, herbal teas, natural fruit juices or some kombucha.

Don’t worry, as you go through each week changing out the unhealthy habits for healthier ones you will find you naturally gravitate to healthier choices. Before you know it you’ll be consuming far less processed foods and soda than you thought possible.

Don’t Overdo Caffeine, Sugar or Salt

While it’s quite easy to become hooked on any of the three, actively trying to reduce them in your diet is another matter. You may be able to limit yourself to: two caffeinated drinks a day (perhaps a coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon); sweets only at desert; and a small salty snack a day. You will still find, however, that they are hidden ingredients in some of the other things you consume.

Many canned and processed food have high sugar and salt content. One smart move is to opt for fresh or frozen foods instead. Also advisable, is to sweeten your food yourself since manufacturers tend to add a lot of sugar to attract your sweet tooth. Go for unsweetened, plain, or unflavored options for your food, and then add naturally sweet fruit for healthy sugar and flavor. Choose low-salt or reduced sodium options when available; take your gravy on the side when dining out; and ask for low-sodium dishes.

Your caffeine, sugar and salt intake will naturally be reduced as you consciously decide on what is best for you to eat and fall into the habit of making healthy choices.

Build Your Meals Around Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. You can optimize your intake of these by going for as many different colors of fruits and vegetables as you can. In order to ensure that you meet your daily required fruits and vegetables intake, it is best to plan your meals with fruits and vegetables making up the bulk of what you eat.

Doing so will help you to reduce the amount of calories you consume per meal. At the same time it will be bumping up your nutrient intake. Who knows, while you are at it, you may find yourself trying out (and liking) some new ones.healthy_fruits_12

Green vegetables are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Satisfy your sweet tooth with sweet potatoes and yams, corn, and squash.

Fiber and water are necessary for a balanced diet and fruit is a tasty way of adding these to yours.Fruits are also great source of vitamins and antioxidants (which help fight cancer).

A healthy lifestyle begins with healthy eating habits. Today our diets are lacking in several areas, we rely on the experience of others rather than our own desire to live a healthy life. As a result, we are easily influenced to adapt new habits but are usually quick to drop them after a trial period of a few days.

Your goal should be to set your own objectives based on your personal desire to live healthier. In doing so, you are one step closer to achieve your goals.

5 Sure Ways to Kickstart Your Metabolism

Metabolism is a term that encompasses several different processes, including elimination of waste matters from one’s body, production of energy and bodily growth. Your metabolism is influenced by numerous factors such as genetic heritage which is beyond your control and nutrition as well as the environment which you can influence, up to certain point. This means there are things you can do to give your metabolism a boost.

The Basics

Since there are so many factors that come into play when determining one’s metabolism, there are several different ways in which you can change it. Keep in mind that there are no shortcuts and magical pills but rather some slight changes which will turn your metabolism around and burn calories faster.boost metabolism

Now if do this right you may find yourself becoming hungrier which is sort of the opposite of what you want because more food means more weight but larger appetite means that your metabolism is kicking it up a notch.

You know those people that seem to eat all the time, yet they never gain any weight. That means that their metabolism is speedy, and that they can consume more calories yet never get fat.

However if you manage to kickstart your metabolism it does not mean you are going to obtain a lean figure overnight but you will have a good foundation which combined with proper nutrition and exercise will help you maintain proper weight for which your body is built. Here are some of the things you should adopt as habits:

Never Miss Breakfast

The most common mistake people make is to skip breakfast. There is a reason why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your body needs a pretty heavy dose of nutrients and energy to get itself going, as well as to function all throughout the day which is why breakfast is essential.

You may be fond of those extra 30 minutes of sleep but trust us if you sacrifice them in order to make yourself a healthy breakfast it will start paying off soon. Try getting up and making a smoothie. It’s quick and easy to make and you can chop up your favorite fruit and mix it with protein powder, oats, bran, or seeds, for a healthy and balanced meal.

Never Take the Elevator

Any chance you get, use the stairs. In fact implement that same approach just about anywhere you can. You can read the morning paper or surf the internet by standing up at a counter instead of sitting down. Instead of taking the car or a bus to work try riding a bicycle or walk if it’s not too far away.

Don’t worry, these activities will not wear you out and they will keep you feeling energized and fresh during the day as well as boost your metabolism and burn calories.

Find the Right Balance of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat

While each person is unique sticking to a ratio of 50 percent of protein, 35 percent of carbs and 15 percent fat in your diet should give a decent idea of how your diet should look like. You don’t have to get it exactly right, just remember to have a meal which contains protein, carbs, and fat.

Green Juice Is Your Friend

Substances found in leafy veggies like chard, kale, or spinach are awesome metabolism boosters. They will solve most of your digestion problems, elevate your energy levels and help release toxins from your body. The best thing about greens is that there are so many to choose from.

Try including beet, amla (Indian Gooseberry), dandelion or collard greens in your diet. Spice up your drinks with herbs like rosemary and peppermint. Apart from providing the intense flavor, they are also very healthy.green_juice_help_32

There are several different ways through which you can get a hold of green juice. You can visit your local health food store and buy some cold-pressed, raw green juice. You can also blend your veggies with some water, and drink it that way.

The ratio is totally up to you, just remember to keep it thick enough so that you consume some fiber in the process. The best way, and the most time-consuming and expensive one, would be to make your own freshly-squeezed green juice and mix it with carrots and apple for example.

Introduce Resistance Training into Your Exercise

Following your regular exercise routine and doing stuff like cycling, running, or walking is a good way of keeping yourself in shape but it produces results up to certain point because your body becomes used to it. A good way of breaking up that routine and boosting your metabolism would be to introduce some exercises like lunges, squats or push-ups. Once you becomes used to these, introduce some resistance into the equation. The goal is to keep your body guessing and your metabolism on its toes.

Another great tip would be to perform exercises that engage your entire body, instead of a single muscle group. For example you can combine a squat and a shoulder press into a single exercise, all the while using a weight. This will engage your legs and glutes, as well as your arms and shoulders at the same time.

The Summary

Now, if you scroll back to the beginning, you will also see that we mention genetics as one of the factors that plays a large role in how your metabolism functions. Some people will need to do more to kick into high gear while others will need to do very little.

You can’t change your genetic makeup but you can choose not to give up, stick to your routine, and wait for the results to come which they will. Like we said there are no shortcuts. Following these few simple rules requires very little work on your part and the pay-off is well worth the effort.

A Comprehensive Guide to Bread – The Healthy and the Not So Healthy

Contrary to what you may have heard or have been lead to believe, white bread is actually a very unhealthy and unwholesome part of your daily “balanced” diet. This is not speculation, it is a scientifically proven fact and a hard truth to swallow, especially since bread – specifically white bread – is one of the most popular foods in the US and many other parts of the world.

The Process of Creating White Bread

To create this white bread the manufacturers have to literally remove virtually all of the fiber and other nutrients from the wheat grain. Furthermore, it is then subjected to bleaching techniques that utilize compounds such as organic benzoyl peroxide and toxic chlorine dioxide. If this was not enough, the now overly ‘refined’ product is further treated with composite chemicals, such as: ammonium chloride and azocarbonamide..

After all this is done, the now chemically and nutritionally unrecognizable flour is now deemed to be guide to breadsatisfactory enough to be manufactured into the white bread that we are so familiar with. In actual fact, this wheat grain is not even treated as such by our bodies; it is instead handled in the same manner as run-of-the-mill table sugar.

Carbohydrates that have been refined – such as white bread – are adverse, since consuming large amounts of them stimulates the subsequent production of excessive amounts of insulin. In this scenario, insulin transports any and all of the sugars that had just been swiftly absorbed out of the circulatory system; because if by some means they do remain within your body they pose a serious health risk. They are then changed into glycogen and subsequently into triglycerides to facilitate easy storage in fat cells.

While it is obviously true that some fats that are consumed will also be stored, it is really white bread and similarly other foods that are considered to be “high glycemic” that actually produce the most optimum circumstances for weight gain via fat storage.

Possibly the most underhanded and laughable thing that these producers of white bread will do is try to place a handful of essential compounds – vitamins, minerals, etc. – back into the bread. It is ironic because these “vitamins and minerals” are actually lab created (i.e. synthetic) and as a result, most individuals cannot fully utilize them in their bodies. If this was not enough – and it really seems as if way too much has been done to a simple slice of bread – they then have the gall to imply (or outright claim) that their white bread is in fact “enriched” or “fortified”. While they simply neglect or ‘forget’ to mention the chemical beating that the bread before you has undergone.

White Vs Brown

Most, if not all, of the white bread that is manufactured from wheat flour that has been refined actually give negligible benefits to your health and body. It is so harmful, that it not only needs a greater amount of enzymes to break down, it also needs more nutrients from other foods (since it has virtually none) to fuel these processes as well. All of these factors combined only reinforce white bread’s status as one of the principal foods in your pantry that causes weight gain.

Now after hearing all of this you are most likely seriously thinking about running down to your local supermarket to make the seemingly sensible shift from white bread to brown bread. Sadly this is not a much better recourse since greedy manufacturing tricks and ploys have enforced their hold on a good deal of the ‘brown’ bread that we see today. True to their name, these breads are little more than – surprise, surprise – the same white bread that we previously discussed with the added bonus of a latent dose of caramel or brown coloring. So much for being healthier, right?

So now you might be saying, “Well at least I can feel safe with my multigrain and wholemeal breads.” Multigrain bread is just the same refined wheat flour with a number of softened grains strewn throughout; while wholemeal bread is simply the same white bread that has been endowed with a little wheat germ that has been chemically treated.

The sad truth is that most of the various types of bread that we see on our shelves from these companies are actually just the same refined wheat flour template with minor inconsequential deviations here and there. Whether it be a dash of coloring or some other trivial addition, underneath it all it is still the same overly processed bread.

Now enough of the negatives – hope you haven’t been scared away – if you would still like to get your daily allowance of bread but maintain proper health and lose weight as well, you can empty your cupboards of all of what we have just gone through and look towards the future. What should you include in your future diet you may ask? Here are some more beneficial choices.

But Wait Is Whole Wheat Bad Too?

If you can manage to locate real whole wheat bread that is rich in fiber and not some cheap imitation – see my above rant on “brown” bread – then by all means it should be superior to refined wheat bread. The beneficial bran and wheat germ can still be found in whole wheat bread and with any luck the brand that you choose to buy has not be subjected to detrimental processing and has not been bombarded with various harmful additives.

With all of that said, it is still being questioned whether or not whole wheat bread is really as beneficial as it seems. The real issue it seems is the actual wheat that is used to manufacture the bread.

Rye Bread

In a country that is so dominated and in love with processed wheat bread simultaneously, it is a little more than a walk in the park to locate rye bread at the local supermarket. However, if you do chose to go the extra mile and seek out rye bread you will undoubtedly realize that it is not only less refined but also  healthier and better for weight loss. Even whole wheat bread pales in comparison to the amount of beneficial fiber that rye bread has to offer and it is also much more filling as well.rye bread for health

Studies have shown that over the course of just a three month period, participants were at 40% less risk of emergent diabetic conditions. Not only that, individuals who were already diabetic exhibited far less symptoms and were much healthier (and happier) overall. The main reason for this was highlighted by the study to be the less significant influence that rye bread had on blood sugar levels.

Spelt Bread

While spelt grain does share some similarities with its distant relative wheat, they should not be placed in the same boat. Spelt grain not only has a pleasantly nutty flavor that many people (myself included) find heavenly, it also has a generally healthier and nutritionally superior array of nutrients.

To echo what was said before about rye bread; spelt bread is a better source of fiber – both in quantity and quality – when compared to good old wheat bread. As an added bonus, spelt bread is also a good source of essential vitamins such as thiamine, niacin and folate; as well as beneficial minerals like copper, phosphorus and manganese.

For people who find it hard to kick their wheat bread addiction, spelt bread might just be the answer to their problems since it is one of the alternatives that is most analogous to it in the way it tastes and feels.

Wheat-Free Bread

If while shopping for healthier alternatives you happen upon breads that are classed as being “wheat-free”, you should know that these are most likely simply an amalgam of healthy grains like oats and barley with possibly even some quinoa and amaranth mixed in. Still, it is always safe to be even a little bit skeptical and scrutinize these breads to make sure that there are little to no harmful additives.

All things considered, this type of bread has been proven to be a good choice for individuals who are looking to lose some weight, increase their overall energy and foster the improvement of their health.

Less Bread Could Be the Answer

Even though you have been provided with a few reasonably healthier alternatives to the white bread that you have been eating, it is also worth noting that at times the best thing to realize is that “less is more”. Yes, spelt and rye are very healthy; however, as with all parts of a balanced diet, moderation is key. All breads serve our bodies and health better when we consume them during the earlier half of the day and even then, consumption should not be overly frequent.

I hope you have found this article useful and informative. Make healthier choices now when buying bread and you will see and feel the benefits.