If you practice a good habit for 30 days straight, you are more likely to follow it for a long time. So start this month off right by making exercise part of your daily routine. Here’s how to get started:
Check with your doctor. Talk your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Why? Your doctor can tell you what types of exercise are best for you based on your personal health history or possible disease risk factors.
Make fitness fun. Are you a social butterfly? Then walking by yourself through the neighborhood probably isn’t for you. Hate crowds? Then you might not have fun in a fitness class. Find a workout you will enjoy – it will go a long way towards helping you stay inspired to keep exercising.
Ease into exercise. The best way to burn out is to try to do too much, too fast. Ease into a your workout routine gradually. Aim for 20 to 45 minutes of cardio three to five times a week. If you can only do 10 minutes of walking at a stretch, start there and gradually increase your time each day. Add strength training into your routine twice a week. Use weights that are hard for you to lift, but not so hard that you cannot do eight repetitions of a given exercise. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down when exercising.
Skip the scale. Avoid dwelling on the changes you aren’t seeing yet – such as a drop in your weight. Focus on the benefits you are noticing, such as your increased energy level from exercising.
Bring a buddy. Get friends, family or coworkers to join in. It’s harder to skip your workout when you know someone else is counting on you to show up.
Does an elliptical machine burn more calories than running on a treadmill if set at similar levels? While it is hard to determine how many calories are burned on machines, experts believe running on a treadmill burns more calories than doing the elliptical machine, if they are on similar settings. However, burning fewer calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since 30 minutes on the elliptical works both your arms and legs and is gentler on the joints (calculations based on a 130-pound woman).
The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium (salt) a day – more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association. Eating too many salty foods can create all sorts of health problems, including high blood pressure.
The following six foods are the main sources of sodium in your diet:
Bread and rolls. One piece of bread can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. That’s 15 percent of your recommended daily allowance. Although each serving may not sound like much, it can quickly add up throughout the day, with toast at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and a roll at dinner. Check the labels to find lower-sodium varieties.
Cold cuts and cured meats. Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. Salt is also added to most cooked meats to prevent spoiling. Look for lower-sodium varieties.
Pizza. One slice with several toppings can contain more than 50 percent of your recommended daily allowance of sodium. Limit the amount of pizza you eat.
Poultry. The common belief is that chicken is not bad for you. However, sodium levels found in poultry are always different, depending on how it is prepared. For example, 3 ounces of frozen and breaded chicken nuggets can have up to 600 milligrams of sodium. Stay with grilled, lean or skinless chicken. Check labels to be sure you are selecting lower sodium versions.
Soup. This cold-weather favorite can contain a day’s worth of sodium in a single bowl. One cup of canned tomato soup can have up to 1,260 milligrams of sodium. Look for lower sodium options that taste just as great.
Sandwiches. Breads and cured meats are already high in salt. Add salty condiments such as ketchup and mustard and you can have more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium in a single sandwich. Try half a sandwich with a side salad instead.
Running is a great way to exercise and stay in shape. But it’s also a really good way to get hurt if you’re doing it wrong. To prevent running injuries, follow these six simple steps:
Avoid the terrible too’s. Many running injuries are a result of doing too much – too much intensity, too many miles, too soon. Be careful when adding mileage or intensity to your training. Avoid increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent each week.
Treat your feet right. Be sure that your shoes aren’t worn out and that you have the right model for your feet and running style. Go to a running shop for a gait analysis (you run on a treadmill to determine your specific needs). Buy properly fitted shoes and replace them every 300 to 400 miles.
Switch surfaces. Vary your running surfaces to improve your strength and balance. Do some trail running. Run on asphalt or at a track. Avoid concrete surfaces if possible. If you frequently run the same route on a road, reverse your direction every other run to adjust for any slant in the road.
Be sure to stretch. Before your run, warm up and gently stretch for 5-10 minutes to increase blood flow to your muscles. After your run, cool down and stretch for 5-10 minutes. This will reduce soreness by removing lactic acid from your muscles.
Move more muscles. Mix up your fitness routine. Try swimming, biking or some other activity. This will help prevent overuse injuries that commonly occur when you do the same type of exercise over and over again.
Remember rest days. The repetitive nature of running results in pounding on the joints of your ankles, knees and hips with each stride. Allow a few days off during the week to give your joints the rest they need to heal from the repetitive pounding.
Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program. It’s also important to see your doctor if you’re injured and still feeling pain after a week of rest.
It is estimated that up to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu each year – that’s more than six million people. If you don’t want to be one of them, get a flu shot (ideally by October). It’s your best protection during flu season, which runs from October 1st until March 1st of next year.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot each year. It is especially important for those at high risk for flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
In addition to getting a flu shot, there are some other steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting the flu:
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands.
Avoid rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth. Resist the urge. Germs are often spread when you touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Use antibacterial wipes. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects, such as countertops, doorknobs and telephones that may be contaminated with germs. Wipe down shopping cart handles, the gas pump and the ATM at your bank.
Avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Check with your doctor before receiving a flu shot if you’re allergic to eggs or you had a severe reaction to a previous flu shot.
With the change of season comes a new set of skin care challenges. Here are some fall skin care tips for fabulous, healthy skin:
Skip certain soaps. Don’t use just any bar or soap – they’re not all the same. A harsh soap can strip your skin’s natural moisture barrier. Use a mild, fragrance-free soap or gel that moisturizes as it cleanses. Choose one that’s specially made for dry skin.
Keep showers short. A long, hot shower can soothe your body, but it won’t do your skin any favors. Dial down the shower temperature and keep showers short.
Move to an oil-based moisturizer. Select one that comes in an ointment form and contains 80 percent oils. Creams and lotions tend to dry out your skin rather than keep it moisturized and soft. Apply your moisturizer right after you’ve dried off from your shower or bath. This will seal in the moisture that’s already been absorbed into your skin.
Erase with an exfoliant. A good body scrub and facial exfoliant can help remove dead skin cells. Add this to your cleansing routine once a week.
Stay with sunscreen. Don’t say so long to your sunscreen just because summer is over. Apply a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or more before you head outdoors.
Ditch the dryer. Heated air can dry out your scalp and can irritate your skin. Towel-dry your hair or let it dry naturally.
Hydrate with H2O. Hydrate your skin from within by drinking lots of water. Carry a bottle with you wherever you go.
Look after your lips. Your lips lose moisture faster than any other exposed area of your body. Use chapstick or lip balm to keep them moisturized.
Help your hands. Between the change in temperature and washing your hands often to protect against the flu, your hands can become dry and cracked. Apply a generous amount of hand cream and wear gloves to bed to seal in the moisture overnight.
Watching your waistline? These five fall favorites can really pack on the pounds:
Macaroni and cheese. One cup can have 300 to 400 calories. If you must indulge, modify the recipe by using a low-fat cheese and skim milk.
Cream soups and hearty stews. They may seem like perfect treats for cooler temperatures, but beware. Warm soups and stews that are loaded with cream, cheese or meat are also loaded with calories. If you’re a fan of soups and stews, try broth-based and vegetable-based choices to fill you up with fewer calories.
Seasonal beverages. Fall drinks such as hot chocolate, pumpkin-spice lattes and eggnog, are a quick and easy way to add lots of extra calories. A cup of homemade hot chocolate (without whipped cream) has 190 calories. A 20-ounce (Venti) pumpkin spice latte with whole milk from Starbucks has 440 calories. One 8-ounce cup of eggnog packs 340 calories. Instead, try a hot cup of green or flavored tea, rich with antioxidants and calorie-free.
Mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s nothing like your mother’s mashed potatoes and gravy. But all that butter, cream and whole milk add up to about 240 calories into one cup. Pour on 1/4 cup of gravy and you’re up to 300 calories in a side dish. To reduce calories, limit your serving to 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes, without gravy. Try new, low-fat recipes for mashed potatoes.
Pumpkin desserts. Pumpkins are very low in calories and full of antioxidants and vitamins, namely vitamin A. However, when you add tons of cream and sugar to make pumpkin pie, you negate the health benefits. Substitute low-fat ingredients when baking. Try low-fat pumpkin custard. Make low-fat pumpkin muffins. Roast pumpkin seeds for a tasty, magnesium-rich snack.
Everyone knows the obvious sign of a heart attack: crushing chest pain. But are you aware of small warning signs that could mean trouble is just a heartbeat away?
Snoring. Snoring itself doesn’t indicate heart trouble, but it can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where you frequently stop breathing while sleeping. Sleep apnea causes your blood oxygen levels to drop, which increases your heart’s workload. Left untreated, it can lead to a variety of heart conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart attack. Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of sleep apnea. Maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking. Cut back on caffeine. Keep regular sleep routines. Avoid sleeping on your back.
Bleeding gums. Swollen, red or bleeding gums as well as bad breath are warning signs of gum disease. Gum disease can cause bacteria to enter your bloodstream where it attaches to the fatty deposits in heart blood vessels. This condition can cause blood clots and lead to a heart attack. To prevent gum disease, brush and floss often and see your dentist for regular checkups.
Swelling. Swelling (called edema) caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues, can be a warning sign of heart failure. When your heart weakens, it pumps blood less efficiently. This causes fluid to build up, especially in the areas furthest from your heart (hands, feet and ankles). To control edema, reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Look for changes in your fluid status by weighing yourself daily.
Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can be a sign that your heart is calling for help. You may notice this most when you are active (doing your normal daily activities) or when you lie down flat in bed. To strengthen your heart as well as your lungs, get plenty of exercise (talk to your doctor before starting). If you smoke, give up the cigarettes. If shortness of breath is sudden and intense, call 911.
If you have any of these symptoms or conditions – especially two or more of them – see your doctor immediately.
September is the most common birthday month in the U.S. Here are some simple (and healthy) gift ideas:
Yoga mat. People should replace their yoga mats more often than they do. Yoga mats are available in a wide variety of styles and colors. Choose a fun mat that fits the personality of the person you are buying it for. Offer to go to a yoga class as part of the birthday celebration.
Blender. Many health-conscious people enjoy making smoothies using fruits, vegetables and protein powder. That’s why a blender makes a perfect gift. Make sure you purchase one that is easy to use so the recipient doesn’t get frustrated when they try to make a protein shake.
Noise-cancelling headphones. Listening to music during a workout is a must for most people. Noise-cancelling headphones block out surrounding sounds, allowing the listener to lower volumes levels. This reduces the risk of hearing loss. Combine the headphones with an iTunes gift card and make their special day even better.
Food thermometer. Does your birthday guy or gal love to cook? Get a food thermometer to help them prepare safer meals by showing when meat has been cooked enough to kill disease-causing salmonella, E. coli and other bugs.
Eye pillow. An eye pillow can help anyone relax and fall asleep. Package it with some scented soaps or lotions for a spa retreat at home.
Fitness tracker. Worn 24 hours a day, these devices can track activities (such as running, bicycling and climbing stairs), estimate how many calories are burned and give a better picture of a person’s overall health. Buy one that comes with a companion iOS or Android app to help make sense of the data.
Have your cake and eat it, too. Just skip the frosting. Frosting alone can add anywhere from 150 to 400 calories to one slice of cake.
This year, the last of the baby-boomers will turn age 50. Millions of generation X-ers will reach the milestone in 2015. Here are five health tips for anyone turning age 50 (and for those who are already there):
Schedule screenings. Beginning at age 50, your risk of developing many illnesses increases. Some – such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes – can go unnoticed until something catastrophic happens. Preventative screenings help diagnose problems early, when treatment can be most effective. Schedule a doctor’s appointment today. Discuss which screenings are right for you. Get any vaccines you may need, such as those for the flu, pneumonia, shingles or tetanus.
Make diet decisions. Pay more attention to your diet. Cut back on the amount sodium (salt) you consume. Limit foods that are high in unhealthy fat and load up on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats (omega 3s), whole grains and fiber each day.
Energize with exercise. Beginning at age 50, you lose muscle mass at the rate of about half a pound per year – especially if you don’t exercise to retain it. Get at least 30 – 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week, including aerobic exercise for heart health and weight-bearing exercise to lower your risk for osteoporosis. Find activities you enjoy – you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
Boost your brain. Being mentally strong is another way to stay healthy for years to come. Learn a new computer skill. Try thinking games such as chess and Scrabble. Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Find a walking partner, study a topic and discuss it on your walks.
Reinvigorate with rest. Sleeping patterns often change as you get older, but good sleep is important for good health – at any age. Adjust your bedtime to match when you feel tired, even if that’s earlier than it used to be. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and cool. Aim for at least eight hours a night.
Americans are eating less fast food on a daily basis. That’s the good news. The bad news is that eight in 10 Americans still report eating at fast-food restaurants at least monthly, with almost half saying they eat fast food on a weekly basis.
If you’re in a rush and fast food is your only choice, steer clear of choices high in calories and fat. Here’s how:
Look for the ‘light’ menu. Most fast-food restaurants offer ‘light’ menus and low-fat selections. If the nutritional information isn’t on the menu, ask your server about healthy choices. Or check out their website and look up the nutritional content online.
Stick to smaller sizes. Smaller is always going to be better when it comes to fast food. Select the smallest size of sandwiches, burgers and sides. Skip the shame and order from the kid’s menu.
Cut back on condiments.A single tablespoon of regular mayonnaise contains about 9 grams of fat and 100 calories. Ketchup contains added sugar. Have your burger plain or use mustard to add flavor.
Go for grilled. While fish and chicken entrees sound nutritionally safe, the fried versions of either food put them in the same class as burgers. Order your fish or chicken sandwiches grilled or baked.
Forget the fries. If your meal doesn’t seem complete without fries, choose the smallest size (which can be 400 calories less than a large serving).
Dip your dressing. If you order a salad, keep your salad dressing on the side. Dip your fork in it before you scoop up the greens. You’ll still get the taste, but eat fewer calories. Choose low-fat or fat-free dressings. Avoid adding extra cheese, croutons and bacon to your salad.
Skip the soda. Soda is a huge source of hidden calories. An average large soda packs around 300 calories. Order water, diet soda or unsweetened tea.
Share servings. Portion sizes at fast-food restaurants have increased over the past 20 years and continue to get larger. Share your meal with a co-worker, friend or family member.