Exercise Outdoors to Increase Exercise Adherence

A recent article in the New York Times cited a new study out of Austria that examined the effect of exercise on your mood when exercising in different settings. Generally speaking, many people who do workout consistently do not necessarily “enjoy” exercise, but see it rather as a chore or do it as motivation to stay healthy. Lengthy workout durations and high intensities of exercise are a few of the common reasons why some may not view exercise as enjoyable.

In recent years, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been identified as one of the most popular and most effective ways on improving physical fitness in relatively short periods of time (10-30 mins. per workout). For those who use “lack of time” as their main excuse not to exercise, workouts that utilize HIIT protocols have shown to be a convenient and time efficient way of keeping in shape. However, for those who don’t enjoy the high intensity aspect of exercise, HIIT does not really offer a viable solution with regards to improving exercise adherence.

The researchers took a group of healthy men and women, and had them take a lengthy (~3 hours) mountainous hike during one session. They recorded heart rates and took questionnaires on their moods. On a separate day, the same group took a lengthy (~3 hours) walk indoors on a treadmill, with the incline cranked up to try and simulate their mountainous hike from the previous session. Heart rates and mood data was recorded. For the control session, they took the same group and had them sit in a room with couches and computers, chatting with each other, and recorded data on their moods. The results found that nearly the entire group reported more positive mood scores during the mountainous hike, despite the fact that the recorded heart rate data showed that the hike was more intense than the treadmill walk. The subjects actually reported that walking indoors felt harder than the outdoor hike. Almost all the subjects reported more positive moods after partaking in either exercise bout, as opposed to after the control session.

These findings show that exercising outdoors can improve your mood and outlook towards exercise, regardless of the intensity of the exercise. And when trying to increase exercise adherence, enjoying it goes a long way!

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Five Common Strength Training Mistakes to Avoid

Strength training is a critical component in any fitness regimen for both men and women, and will help aid in weight loss, improve body composition, and promote bone health, energy balance and disease management/prevention. Whether you are already following a program or just getting started, check out these five common strength training mistakes and how to fix them so you can avoid injury and get the most out of your workouts!

  1. Skipping a dynamic warm up. Jumping right into high intensity exercise when your muscles are stiff and cold is a recipe for disaster. Instead, consider adding 3-5 minutes of aerobic exercise followed by muscle activation drills or corrective exercises to improve circulation and joint range of motion. It is also a good idea to perform 1-2 sets of a lighter weight for any particular exercise before performing your 2-4 “working sets”. Remember, injury prevention is a major key to success!
  2. Performing heavy cardio before strength training.  Aerobic exercise can definitely be utilized as part of an effective warm up or integrated within your resistance training workouts to put emphasis on metabolic conditioning, however, strenuous bouts of aerobic exercise should be avoided prior to your strength training. Doing so will pre-exhaust your muscles, which will compromise your ability to maintain proper form on exercises, and thus, increase your injury risk. Aerobic exercise should be performed AFTER your resistance training and should be kept at a relatively light to moderate intensity when doing so. Try to keep your resistance training days and your heavier cardio days separate.
  3. Avoiding exercises that you perceive as difficult.  Whether we want to increase lean muscle mass, improve body composition, lose weight, or combat osteopenia/osteoporosis, proper exercise selection is key in helping you achieve the results you desire. We need to put emphasis on multi-joint compound movements that target large muscle groups to increase overall caloric output and yield the greatest training effect. Some of the best compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges are perceived as difficult, therefore, many exercisers shy away from them and settle for machines or single-joint exercises that are perceived to be “easier”. There are modifications for virtually every exercise and ways to work around your limitations. Make sure to ask a trainer if you need assistance.
  4. Neglecting certain muscle groups. There’s nothing wrong with doing pushups and bench pressing to build massive pecs and bicep curls for bulging biceps, however, what about the rest of your body? Many of our routines tend to be very anterior-dominated, and we neglect working the muscles of the posterior chain, which include the traps, rhomboids, rotator cuff, glutes, and hamstrings. By neglecting certain muscle groups, we create muscular imbalances, which over time, can lead to poor posture (rounded shoulders, forward head, and anterior pelvic tilt) and injury (impinged/torn rotator cuffs, lower back and knee issues, just to name a few). This is why it is advised to partake in full body resistance training workouts as opposed to isolated body part splits. We need to achieve optimal muscle balance to promote longevity.
  5. Only using machines vs. free weights: Although machines can make a great complement to your resistance training program, and may be a convenient way for beginners to become acquainted with resistance training, they should not be the ONLY form of resistance training equipment that you use. Using machines for the bulk of your exercise selection prevents you from utilizing all of the multi-directional movement planes during training, and limits us from using full range of motion during certain movements. Instead, try using a combination of machine, cables, body weight or free weight exercises, and consult with a trainer to make sure you are demonstrating proper form.
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Just Tri A Little Harder

“Curls for the girls” is one of the most common saying in the gym world, or at least it used to be. We are constantly in elbow flexion as we hold our phones up to our face, sit in the car and drive an hour to work, and sit at our desks typing for hours a day. And then some people will go to the gym do a few push up and bicep curls and call it a day. Those curls may not be doing the best for you, although they may look good.

Putting more emphasis on the triceps don’t only help improve your push ups but can also help improve shoulder health and posture. The long head (one of the three heads of the triceps) originates on the scapulae. When active, the triceps extend the shoulder and elbow. Which are opposite movements then the static position we are in most of our day so it can help improve our posture, decrease some of the pesky shoulder discomfort and decrease a little of that turkey giggle many women complain about.

The following exercises are some of my favorites:

Dumbbell Lying Extensions AKA Skull Crushers

Cable Triceps Push Down

Cable Rope Extension

Machine Triceps Push Down

Note: I didn’t put any over pulls because you need to make sure your shoulders and posture are set to avoid injury!

 

 

 

 

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Mastering Low Back Strength and Mobility – Can you Pelvic Tilt?

Low Back Discomfort and/or Pain is more common than sliced bread. It effects more than 80% of adults sometime in their lifetime and the most common cause of job related disability. For employers and businesses, low back pain causes lost wages and productivity, increased sick days, poor performance, employee depression and chronic fatigue (while at work),  employee reduced satisfaction with the employer, increasing turnover rate, reduced creativity and new ideas in the workplace, and reduced  effectiveness of customer service.

There are many ways to treat Low Back Pain however often those treatment and preventive strategies miss the actual movement and function that aids in keeping the low back healthy and mobile. For optimal spinal support, the core muscles have to engage. So starting deep is an important assessment. The core muscles include the abdominal muscles, especially obliques and transverse abdominal, the back (erector spinae and deeper), pelvis, hips and gluteals.

So, can you or Do You Pelvic Tilt? The Pelvic Tilt is a lower abdominal strengthening exercise performed lying on your back. Maintaining a pelvic tilt increases spinal stabilization. In addition, the ability to engage the core muscles during exercise regardless of exercise position is key to optimal performance on the field and more importantly in life!

Keep in mind that while the exercise trains the pelvic floor muscles to engage, it is not simply, reducing the space at the waist but the ability to do it while breathing normally as well as maintaining the position while moving.

Performing and practicing the pelvic tilt to strengthen the pelvic floor.

  1. Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent. Slide your hands under the small of your back. This is normal curvature.
  2. Tilt your pelvis back to flatten the small of your back towards the floor by tightening your stomach (abdominal) muscles.
  3. Keep the back flat. Maintain this position, keeping your shoulders and head relaxed and breathing normally as you continue this progression.
  4. Level 1:
    • Lift one leg off the floor bringing your knee toward your chest. Keep thigh vertical and hip at 90 degrees.
    • Lift the other leg to the same position.
    • Lower one leg at a time to the starting position.
    • Complete 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
  5. Level 2: Can you maintain the position with greater movement.
    • With both legs up, thighs vertical and hip 90 degrees…
    • Keep one leg up and lower the other leg, sliding heel down so that the knee is moving towards straight.
    • Slide it back to starting position.
    • Repeat with the other leg.
  6. Level 3 and more?: Are you maintaining the position and BREATHING evenly?
    • Bring knees and feet back to starting position.
    • Can you do Level 2 keeping heel slightly above floor?
    • Can you slide both heels?
    • Can you extend both legs with heels above floor?

Progression: Don’t move on to the next level until you are successful with the first position.

Mastering and incorporating this movement pattern into your exercise routine will make your execution more meaningful and more effective toward your goals. The following exercises incorporate this pelvic stability training above. Try these again with correct form.

  • Modified Crunch
  • Stability Ball Pass
  • Dead Bug
  • Pilates Flow
  • Plank and Side Plank
  • V-Ups

 

 

 

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“On the Grill” Mediterranean Pizza

Turn pizza night into BBQ night (or BBQ night into pizza night!) with this tasty and healthy pizza recipe!
Makes two 10″ pizzas that serve 4

3.5 oz jar of roasted red bell peppers
¼ cup crumbled feta (about 1 oz)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 c marinated artichoke hearts
10-15 thin lemon slices
2 10″ whole wheat pizza crusts
1 c packed fresh baby spinach
8 quartered pitted kalamata olives
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper

1. Turn your grill on medium-high heat
2. Drain the roasted red bell peppers & puree in a blender with the feta and red wine vinegar
3. Drain the marinated artichoke hearts
4. Lightly coat 1 side of each pizza crust with olive oil spray
5. Put crusts oil side down on the grill and heat about 2 minutes
6. Flip the crusts over and spread evenly with red-pepper sauce
7. Sprinkle spinach, kalamata olives, artichokes & lemon slices evenly on each crust
8. Grill about 2 minutes and remove from the grill
9. Top pizzas with olive oil and black pepper
10. Cut each pizza into 4 slices and serve warm

Nutrition Information per 2-slice serving: 217 calories, 7 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 9 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 581 mg sodium

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Think outside the box with Stair Climbing

No equipment – no problem. Stair climbing is another all in one exercises with outstanding benefits. You’ll work your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and core.

Stair climbing can help prevent osteoporosis by developing denser, stronger bones. As your muscles pull against the bones of your hips and spine, the bones gradually increase in size, slowing the gradual rate of bone loss that occurs with old age. Other benefits of stair climbing include positively impacting health, improves cardiovascular system and the “good” cholesterol, tones thighs and hips, and improves muscular endurance.

Add stair climbing to your workout and build flights into your day. It requires no skill or special clothing or equipment, it is cheap, effective, and a time efficient activity.

Try these to add more stairs into your day.

  • Make a point to climb 8 flights of stairs each day.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible
  • Avoid holding on the the railing, pump your arms to increase intensity
  • Taking stairs more often burns more calories in your day
  • Incorporate climbing at work
  • Create step challenges to get co-workers healthier too!!
  • Incorporate other functional exercises into your workout such as push-ups, dips, squats and/or lunges.

Stair climbing workout

  1. Climb up
  2. 10 squats at top
  3. Walk down
  4. Assisted Reverse lunges holding onto railing
  5. Climb up and walk down
  6. Complete Push-ups on 2nd or 3rd step
  7. Climb up
  8. Perform a plank for 20-30 seconds
  9. Walk down
  10. Step jumps – Hop up on first step and step down for 10 repetitions.

 

 

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“The Sandy 7” Beach Workout

The summer has finally arrived and many of us head down to our favorite beach town for a getaway weekend or lengthy family vacation.  The problem is we often leave our fitness programs behind at home when we need them the most! When you realize that your caloric intake can as much as triple during your stay at the beach with eating 3 meals a day at restaurants, you might want to second guess your decision to not exercise.  Those pounds you were so worried about losing leading up to swimsuit season can be packed back on during your vacation.

Here are 7 exercises that will be sure to keep you looking beach ready…and a bit sandy afterwards! Warm-up with some jumping jacks or a light jog for about 2-3 minutes. Perform 1-3 sets of the following exercises in a circuit format with minimal rest (but feel free to take as much rest as you need!)

  1. Shuttle Runs—Draw three marker lines in the sand five yards apart from each other. Straddle the middle line in a three-point stance. You can start by moving to the right or left direction. For example, at the start the person turns and runs five yards to the right side and touches the line with his right hand. He then runs 10 yards to his left and touches the far left line with his left hand, then finally turns and finishes by running back through the start/finish line (middle line). Depending on your fitness level, you may be able to repeat the shuttle run up to 3 times with a 10-30 second rest between each one.
  2. Push ups—traditional, modified with knees on the ground, triangle push-ups with pointer fingers and thumbs touching with hands on the ground, etc.  Perform as many as you can with a stable core (draw your abs towards your spine) until you reach fatigue.
  3. Prisoner Squats—Hands at your ears for prisoner position…spread your feet shoulder width apart and progress squat as far as you can while keeping your hips/knees aligned, keeping weight back and distributed on mid feet and heels flat. Perform 10-20 reps.
  4. Walking Lunges—With you hands on your hips, step forward, drop back knee a few inches from the sand and keep front knee over your front ankle so that both knees are close to 90 degree angles before returning to standing position and alternate between legs. Perform 10-15 reps with each leg.
  5. Bear Crawls—To do the bear crawl, drop onto all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders, then rise up onto your feet. You can move forward, backward or sideways and you’ll work every major muscle group in the process. Start with 10 reps in any direction and feel free to increase the reps or vary the direction if needed in order to reach a fatigue response.
  6. Planks—Assume a push up position and hold the position as long as you can with a stable core to protect your lower back.  If this seems easy and you are ready to progress to the next level, lower your forearms onto the sand with your elbows under your shoulders and try holding this position with a stable core and flat back. Hold the position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes to reach fatigue and do not hold your breath.
  7. Crab Walks—Get a feel for the exercise by sitting with your legs spread out in front of you about shoulder’s width apart and feet flat on the ground. Bring your arms behind you with your palms flat and gently raise your backside off the ground tightening your gluteus muscles. Practice holding this position until it feels comfortable then begin taking 10 step forwards and then backwards while in the crab position.
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