Thursday, June 21, 2012

Exercise Outdoors this Summer

Try something new this year... especially, before it gets too hot outside. Many of us are stuck on the idea that exercise can be done indoors. This means sharing sweaty machines or being confined to small spaces. All the while, there are so many activities outdoors that can supplement your workout regimen and keep it interesting. 

Below are a few examples:

  • Bike ride around the lake, at the park, or step up the intensity and ride through trails. This is an excellent cardiovascular and leg workout.

  • Horseback riding: unbeknownst to many of us, there are facilities close by that provide horseback riding lessons and excursions. There's something about horses that make you feel connected to nature. This targets back and legs.

  • Kayaking/canoeing: You can make this a family event. Kayaks/ Canoes are sold at most sports stores and can be rented if you aren’t sure you want to purchase one. This activity targets the upper body.

  • Rollerblading: through the neighborhood and around the lake... this exercise covers all the bases, providing a total body workout. And If you are really into skating, you can even join a skate club!

  • Stand up paddle-boarding: originating from Hawaii, this provides a great core workout and is great for those of you who enjoy cross-training.

These are just a few outdoor activities that can shake up the monotonous routine. Grab a friend and make a day out of it. Why not plan for a workout and then relax with a picnic! And if you prefer solitude, all of these exercises are fun solo too!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yoga Offers Many Benefits For Body and Mind

In today’s fast-paced world we’re always rushing around and working against the clock. We brag about getting by on little sleep and pride ourselves on how much we can achieve in a 24-hour period.

But living like this takes a toll on our bodies. Stress builds up, our energy level plummets and we feel tired all the time. Concentration and memory can suffer. Blood pressure can jump. We may be easily irritated or feel depressed. Even our sex drive can be affected.

Yoga just may be the perfect antidote to a busy, stressful lifestyle. Some people say yoga feeds the body and mind. But what exactly does this mean? Here are 6 key benefits of yoga:

  1. Yoga can improve your lung capacity. A vital component of yoga is learning how to breathe properly. Breathing is something we do automatically. We rarely give it much thought. But rising stress levels can make your breathing more shallow, which reduces the amount of oxygen you take in. Yoga can reverse this. Almost every yoga instructor begins the class with a short series of deep breathing exercises to slow the heart rate and calm the mind. Learning how to pay attention to your breath and to breathe more deeply creates more energy in the body and delivers more oxygen to the tissues. Building lung capacity can boost your performance and endurance in sports. It also encourages your body to let go of stress.
  2. Release muscle tension.
    Studies show that gradual, slow stretching allows the muscles, ligaments, tendons to relax, which allows the release of lactic acid that has built up in the tissues. As everyone who has ever participated in sports knows, lactic acid can contribute to that uncomfortable feeling of stiffness, soreness and fatigue you feel after a strenuous workout. Yoga can also counter the effect of spending too much time on the computer – muscle tension in the neck, upper back and shoulders. Learning how to safely stretch and release these muscles will reduce the common aches and pains you experience after a hard day at work.
  3. Gain a fit, toned, flexible body.
    Yoga improves flexibility by stretching and lengthening just about every muscle in the body. Being limber, fit and flexible can reduce your risk of injury when performing any physical activity. It can also help your body remain in proper alignment, improve your balance and reduce strain on your lower back. Your joints may benefit, too. Regular yoga practice has been shown to improve range of motion by lubricating the joints, especially in the hips and shoulders.
  4. Build core strength.
    Everyone is talking about core strength these days. Core strength focuses on the abdominal region of the body. Yoga poses help tighten and tone the abs, making them stronger. Tighter abs makes you stand up straighter, which improves your posture – and your appearance. But yoga doesn’t just build core strength, it builds and sculpts your entire body.
  5. Calmer mind, better focus.
    Over time, yoga can help improve your concentration and remind you to be more present and in the moment, rather than anxious or worried about your “to-do” list. One yoga instructor I know reminds participants, especially busy executives, to leave all concerns at the door while they give themselves the gift of 30, 56 or 60 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time. Many people find that a regular yoga practice makes them think more clearly and feel calmer. As this happens, a biochemical change may take place. The mind no longer feels the need to continually flood the body with “stress” hormones – those produced by the adrenal glands in response to threats and danger. You may even experience an increase in oxytocin, a natural hormone that’s been associated with feelings of contentment, trust and happiness.
  6. Benefit your heart. Even Harvard Medical School suggests that yoga may help improve your cardiovascular health. Gently exercising and stretching the muscles is good for the heart and blood vessels. Deep breathing slows the rate of respiration, which can lower blood pressure. Yoga may even reduce heart palpitations, lower cholesterol levels and help regulate blood sugar. There’s a reason why yoga has been practiced for thousands of years: it works. Adding yoga to your regular fitness routine can offer numerous benefits for your health and well being.