It is hard to overestimate the profound effect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 has had on our lives. Home quarantine, travel bans, separation from loved ones and upheaval in our work environments all prevent us from doing many of the things we love, including fitness training.

However, our situation has also brought into sharp focus the importance of taking care of ourselves and doing all that we can to stay healthy. Part of that is keeping ourselves in shape by continuing our regular training regimen. It may also mean using the altered circumstances as an opportunity to improve our physical fitness if we’ve let things slide. 

Physical Activity Recommendations

How much physical activity do adults actually need?  Numerous national and international health organizations recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity ((e.g. brisk walking) for adults older than 18 years. 

Those who are able to participate in more vigorous physical activity, such as running, can aim for 75 minutes per week. It is recommended that you include specific muscle-strengthening exercises twice weekly, as well as balance exercises if you are older than 65 years. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted further information on these guidelines, as well as more detailed recommendations for specific age groups, on their website, which you can access here. If you haven’t been exercising much recently, it’s important to work up to this recommended level of activity gradually.  More on this later. 

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The challenge of fitness training in the age of COVID-19

In the current pandemic, navigating proper precautions, including social and physical distancing while exercising can be daunting. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a series of resources to guide you, which you can view here

The most important concepts are as follows:

  • Maintain an appropriate degree of physical distancing from anyone not in your immediate household (current recommendations are 6 feet)
  • Consider wearing a cloth face mask
  • Avoid group exercise activities
  • Don’t use shared equipment 

The American College of Sports Medicine Exercise is Medicine initiative (website here) also has a great list of activities for individuals of all ages and abilities. 

Additional COVID19 Content:  

Prioritize Steady Forward Progress in your fitness training

Whether you are adding a new fitness routine to your life or increasing your current level of fitness, it’s helpful to understand the process of becoming fit.

I discuss this in detail in a post on my blog, which you can access here. The take-home message is:

we need to balance our training with periods of recovery so our bodies have time to grow stronger from the training work we have done. 

Asking too much too soon is where we risk injury. So, adopting a long-term view of your training is the best route to success. 

Frequent, hard or long bouts of exercise without adequate recovery (especially if the activity is new, or if you haven’t done it in a while) will lead to injuries. This will often require time off for healing. 

Constant starting and stopping won’t lead to fitness, but it will lead to frustration, disappointment, and perhaps even depression. Aim for slow, steady forward progress and over time, you will achieve the fitness you are seeking and will have the strength, conditioning, and stamina to set new goals and continue to push forward. 

Take care of your own body

Whether you are getting back into an exercise program, exercising more frequently or more intensely than usual, or just maintaining your current level of fitness, it is also wise to adopt extra measures to keep yourself from getting injured during these times. 

Though many healthcare providers have transitioned to telemedicine or video virtual visits and can still provide care, in-person evaluations are limited to all but the most urgent complaints (which most overuse injuries are not). 

Additionally, studies like X-Rays and MRIs that are usually routine are currently hard to obtain, except in emergencies.  So, more than ever, prevention is key. 

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How to minimize your injury risk during fitness training

To help take care of your body and minimize your injury risk:

1. Work on your flexibility and mobility

This can include things like foam-rolling and other forms of self-massage, stretching when appropriate, dynamic or active warm-ups prior to vigorous exercise, and cool-down activities after vigorous exercise. Do these things every day, or as many days as you can.

2. Work on your strength 

Improving your core strength and the strength of your large, prime mover muscles (quads, glutes, etc.) will not only reduce your risk of injury but will also help you become better at your sport. Make sure you are performing exercises with the appropriate form, especially if you are going to be loading exercises with weights.

3. If your body talks to you, listen 

I have written about this in-depth in another blog post, which you can read here. The bottom line is: instead of ignoring your body’s pain messages, treat them as useful information.

If something hurts, try to figure out why it hurts.  Did you ask too much of yourself on that day?  Do you need to improve your strength, flexibility or some other imbalance that put a strain on a given tissue?  Thinking of training-related pain as information, instead of as an insult or an inconvenience.  This will help you to cultivate the resilient mindset needed for forward progress with your fitness. 

Becoming more physically fit is a process

Becoming more physically fit is a process. You will have triumphs and disappointments.  However, striving to improve your fitness, especially during these challenging times, is incredibly commendable. 

Set short-term, achievable goals and celebrate the small wins. Your patience and persistence will pay off.  And you’ll be back to getting after it when sports return to our lives in the way we are accustomed. 

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How the keto diet impacts workout recovery
Is ‘No Pain, No Gain’ Good or Bad When it Comes to Exercise
Looking for a Personal Trainer? 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring One

Additional COVID 19 Content: Greater Risk of Blood Clots in COVID-19 Patients

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During the end-of-the-year holidays, it’s easy to overstuff your gut and regret the results later. All that glorious comfort food begs to be eaten. What can you do to have a healthy holiday season this year?

You can still have your comfort food, but you also have to remember your health. It’s tempting to forget exercise routines, deny yourself sleep, and skip healthy food choices during the holidays.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to invest in and maintain healthy routines during this holiday season so full of temptations. Here are 10 of them.

10 Smart Ways to Enjoy a Healthy Holiday Season

1. Eat healthily, otherwise

The holidays are the worst time to start a diet because the overabundance of rich food will tempt you to binge eat. There will be endless banquets and potlucks in the near future to more than satiate you.

Related content: How to Make Healthy Eating Easy

Leading up to a holiday, make healthy food choices with a balanced diet. The key is balancing out your plate with protein and colorful sides, like leafy greens and carrots. Eat the rainbow. You’ll feel less guilty about treating yourself on the days full of holiday parties.

2. Compromise on holiday food choices

When the holidays come around, go halfsies. I am not saying you have to deny yourself favorite treats—just be realistic and practice smart portion control.

Whether it’s Auntie Rose’s pumpkin pie or Uncle Fred’s fried turkey, pick your guilty pleasure and serve yourself up a reasonable amount. Balance the rest of your plate with healthy choices. Skip the brown sugar on the sweet potatoes. Put more greens on your plate.

If you are attending a potluck, the one to bring the healthier option, do it. How about a fruit tray or hummus dip with cucumbers substituted for chips? Healthy appetizers are the best foods to fill up on before taking on mashed potatoes and gravy.

Related Content: 5 Heart Healthy Ways to Not End Up in the ER on Thanksgiving

3. Hydrate, and hydrate some more

Before you ingest food, drink one to two 8-ounce glasses of water and wait 15 minutes. Are you still hungry after drinking water? There is some evidence that drinking 2 cups of water before meals is associated with weight loss  Some say cold water also helps suppress appetite, although the magnitude of the effect has been shown to be quite small.

4. Take it easy on the alcohol

Some family gatherings encourage you to imbibe, either from all the drama or from the fact that your family members love their holiday toasts.

However, too much alcohol will encourage you to eat more due to its disinhibitory effects. It leads to an abandonment of restraint and a reduction in your ability to avoid temptation.

Remember, it is certainly OK to opt for water. Another approach is to pour yourself less wine or dilute it with ice cubes. 

When drinking, don’t mix your alcohols, and it’s reasonable to limit yourself to one or two drinks. Just make sure you drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you have. You don’t want to get pulled over by the police after the party. 

5. Get moving

Add movement to your day. Any kind of movement is an improvement.

Go for a walk after dinner. Do a few stretches before your morning coffee. Shake it all about—do the hokey pokey!

Related content: Rethinking Exercise to Counter the Epidemic of Physical Inactivity

Take dance lessons once a week. After all, dance has been shown to improve memory. It iss one of the most accessible ways to exercise and make new friends.

6. Yoga for stress

Yoga is a safe and effective way to reduce the effects of stress that have built up in your body (tight back neck and back muscles, clenched jaws, tension headaches).

Yoga has been shown to calm stress response systems, effectively lowering blood pressure, easing respiration, and improving heart rate as well as improving pain tolerance in patients with fibromyalgia.

Integrating yoga into your daily routine will help you cope with stress and become more present and mindful of the small things in life that bring great joy. You can think of your yoga practice as living medicine.

7. Quality shut-eye

The holidays are full of hustle and bustle as you try to complete your shopping list and arrive on time for family meals. It’s easy to sacrifice sleep for stuff on your to-do list.

However, sleep deprivation impacts your mood and enjoyment of the holiday season. Prolonged lack of sleep also affects your physical health, since you aren’t giving your body time to heal itself.

Get your seven to eight hours in, even if you have to break your sleep into two slots of four hours. Introducing a bedtime routine, such as reading or turning down the lights, helps cue your body into sleep mode.

8. Practice small acts of self-care

Who has time for themselves this holiday season? You do. You have to make time for yourself, or you’ll get stressed out trying to please everyone else.

Practice small acts of self-care and kindness. Take a long bath. Close your eyes for an extra 10 minutes of sleep. Stop for yoga class on the way home. Or take a long walk in the park. Write down your worries and what you are thankful for.

9. Be thankful

Stop and smell the roses. Appreciate what you have going for yourself. You may not be able to afford a grand feast this year or you may feel you haven’t accomplished everything that you.

Instead of obsessing about what you don’t have or haven’t done, look at your situation in a new light. Your home is filled with love. You have amazing eyes. You worked your butt off and finally got the promotion you deserve. Go you!

10. Pay it forward

The point of the holiday season is love and goodwill unto others. One of the best ways to feel interconnected is to give back. Pay love forward with small acts of kindness.

Donate food to the food pantry, even if it’s a few cans from the dollar store. Hug a friend. Pay for a stranger’s food.

It’s incredibly easy to get stressed out and sacrifice your health during the holidays. It is also easy to give in to temptation and forget healthy routines you’ve established.

Instead, try to be kind to yourself, compromise on food choices, move your body a little at a time, and be thankful for what you have. When you have the chance, give back.

More by this author: 10 Tips for Sticking With Your New Year’s Resolutions All Year

May you have a happy and healthy holiday season!

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First published on 12/15/17, this article has been reviewed and updated, including adding new references for republication on 12/24,19.

What does the future of healthcare offer for chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease?  Having just come back from the Personalized Lifestyle Medical Institute functional medicine thought leaders conference (PLMI), I was curious to find out what HLTH had in store.

Although there were no sessions specifically focused on autoimmune patients, I was inspired nevertheless, when at every meal, the people on my right and left knew someone with an autoimmune disease. It’s clear that chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases are slowly increasing in industry awareness.

With 6200 attendees from all over the world attended this year’s HLTH conference: Create Health’s Future. It has quickly emerged as one of the healthcare industry’s leading gatherings.

The conference featured an impressive list of speakers from many sectors, including:

  • Payers
  • Providers
  • Big Tech
  • Biotech

It also attracted researchers and companies focused on a specific area, such as the microbiome, digital therapeutics, care coordination and so much more. This wide assortment of viewpoints with a shared goal of building the future of healthcare provided a rich networking environment for participants.

I attended the conference with my autoimmune patient hat on. I was seeking a sweet spot where consumer wellness and maximizing well-being for people with chronic disease overlap. I was pleased to find some amazing innovations that will be useful for patients with immune-mediated diseases.

Autoimmune patients are frustrated with the status quo

My conversations with autoimmune patients have revealed widespread frustration with the lack of care coordination and collaboration between and among their primary providers and various specialists (Rheumatology, Gastroenterology, Immunology, etc.). This is an obvious target for better technology.

Related Content:  
Why Collaboration is So Important in Autoimmune Disease
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Another source of frustration and sub-optimal quality of life is that most autoimmune patients struggle to find appropriate, supportive physical therapy and exercise modalities and programs.

Autoimmune patients are especially likely to suffer from intolerance at exercise levels normal people are comfortable with. Therefore, chronic immuno-inflammatory patients and their providers need more customized and personalized approaches to movement as therapy.

Bridge Connector helps put data around the patient

As shown below, Bridge Connector, an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) company, enables development, execution, and governance of workflows connecting any combination of on-premise and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations.

Speaking with Jason Raphael, The Chief Delivery Officer of Bridge Connector, “breaking down walls of connection while putting data around the patient. Their soon to be launched product, Destinations, is designed to enable the citizen integrator.  His descriptions left me hopeful that tech companies are finally identifying problems that are important to autoimmune patients. 

It is the first middleware without coding to create an Integration Platform as a Service.  Its customers include hospitals, post-acute facilities, behavioral health, specialty care, and new technology start-ups.

Photo from HLTH

Kaia helps chronic pain patients with home exercise and rehab

On a related note, many autoimmune patients could use better tech for home exercise and rehab. This is why Kaia’s AI home exercise coach, the Motion Coach ™  excited me. Interestingly, it started as a business-to-consumer model and has transitioned to a business-to-business model, selling to self-insured employers and health plans for chronic low back pain.

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As shown below, the Motion Coach acts similarly to a “virtual physical therapist” correcting and helping to mediate the patient’s home exercise program. An independent randomized clinical trial recently published in Nature found Kaia Health’s app-based exercise therapy for lower back pain (LBP) to be an effective treatment for patients. It could be more effective than a standard strategy of individual physiotherapy sessions paired with online education. More studies are underway to further explore these results, with even larger sample sizes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmsVmCHsXA

There are 3 components to the program, which is a digital version of multimodal pain therapy:

    • Education-using all types of digital media
    • Relaxation- includes meditation, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation
    • Physical exercises, which can be done with the help of Motion Coach to ensure proper execution- there are no sensors, just the phone

Photo from HLTH

Beyond remote exercise coaches, exciting future technology is the creation/discovery of digital biomarkers, which could track disease progression as well as record snapshots of users’ ability to perform ADL (activities of daily living). 

I would love to see Kaia expand to include other movement therapies such as Gyrotonic, Feldenkrais, and others.

ClassPass helps promote fearless experimentation

For those who prefer in-person exercise, perhaps ClassPass is a viable option to encourage fearless experimentation. ClassPass is a monthly membership program that allows users to attend classes from multiple studios, gyms, and wellness partners.

Like other aggregated marketplaces, it offers users discounted prices, but it’s different from an offering like Groupon because it is focused on habituation, with more variety in wellness choices.

Similar to Kaia’s business model transition, according to Jennie Aberle, the Strategic Accounts Director of ClassPass “exercise has become one component of the larger growing health and wellness trend, so that 2 years ago ClassPass went B2B in corporate wellness.”  She continued, “I love fitness and wellness and love the idea that HR leaders are looking for something that works.”

With 26,000 partners in 27 countries, ClassPass makes it easy to find a class either at home or when traveling. Over the years we learned that “location, convenience, variety, and cost are key to making it easy for people to participate in a fitness class.”  We would like to see ClassPass extended to an even more diverse selection of studios as well as other studios specializing in small, personalized exercise classes.

 

Photo by HTH

After interviewing Bridge Connector, Kaia and ClassPass, I remain hopeful that the emergence of consumer wellness as a trend, will become more relevant to those who manage chronic diseases in the future.

Brief sidebar: Consumer brands and healthcare

Before closing, I must include a brief sidebar on consumer brands and healthcare. One noteworthy session at the conference was a discussion of on-demand personalized health with Lyft, Mastercard, and Bose.

At another time I would have wondered what these consumer brands were doing at a healthcare conference, but with the entrance of Google, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway into healthcare, it is no longer surprising.

  • Lyft became the first on-demand transportation company to be designated as a covered option for eligible Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Bose Health is focusing on hearing loss (a growth industry for aging rock ‘n’ roll Boomers). 
  • Mastercard has launched an integrated healthcare product suite. It is basically smart cards for payments, flexible spending management as well as abuse, fraud, and waste reduction.

Going Forward

Next year at HLTH, it would be great to see some sessions specifically dedicated to improving care coordination and collaboration for those with immune-mediated diseases.  Thus creating customized exercise programs for those dealing with the chronic pain and fatigue associated with these diseases.

Other Articles by this author:
Millions with Autoimmune Disease Need a Better Solution
How Movement Therapy Can Help You Overcome Chronic Pain

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Much of the health care establishment operates under the assumption that the cure for physical inactivity is more physical activity. Yet, when you take a closer look at the effect inactivity is having on our physiology, the solution is not as simple as just moving more. The solution starts with rethinking exercise.

We are less active in today’s world because we are sitting more. However, the real problem is that we are sitting and stressed, not sitting and relaxed.

When we are stressed, our bodies are programmed to be ready to move, to fight or flee the threat. Blood glucose, blood lipids, and blood pressure increase. Inflammation in the whole body rises.

It’s the combination of being stressed and sitting still that is draining our health because our bodies are not able to get back to the ‘heal and repair’ mode of what Dr. Herbert Benson described as the relaxation response.

I believe that movement that is not stress-producing is the antidote to sitting and being stressed. 

How we respond to stress

Most of us don’t, however, choose to move more in response to stress. We are more likely to choose the socially acceptable ways to de-stress such as comfort food, social media, alcohol, and drugs. 

These are more readily available than movement and more guaranteed to make us feel better instantly. The catch is they only distract from the stress. We don’t end up in the heal and repair mode that can come from stress-free movement. Rather, we only end up with a mind distracted and a body that is more inflamed.

The problem with getting more steps

Often, we try to solve the problem of being still and stressed by doing stress-producing, not stress-reducing, activities. Step goals are a case in point: we multitask while walking, join competitions, and create challenges to make us get more steps.

These are not likely to put the body in heal and repair mode—quite the opposite. Given that the World Health Organization has now made burnout an official medical condition, do we really need to create more people feeling pressure to accomplish more in a day?

We are stressed about being sedentary

When we use terms like ‘sitting disease’ as a motivator to mend our sedentary ways, it certainly gets our attention. Fear is a great motivator, in the short term anyway.

In the long-term, though, we sacrifice the desire to improve public health for the short-lived, pseudo-solution of simply moving more. We have created a society that feels good when they meet their step goal, but more stressed if they don’t.

Fear-based motivation to move, and guilt when we don’t move, can compound the stress of this sedentary lifestyle problem. 

The bigger problem of being sedentary

The problem is not so much a lack of movement. It is the loss of strength, stamina, and mobility that comes from not moving the body in the specific ways that will help it maintain these qualities. Simply stated, inactivity results in deconditioning. It is one result of living in our sedentary society in a body that gets used to what little we give it.

Deconditioning is an under-recognized side effect of a sedentary lifestyle. This is a big deal because it contributes to a lot of medical conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, and pain.  Unfortunately, we often end up simply medicating these conditions instead of addressing the role that physical activity could play in ameliorating symptoms. For example, it is known that physical activity can delay the onset of disability related to arthritis. And, exercise can not only alleviate symptoms of depression, but it may also prevent it from occurring in the first place. 

The downward spiral of deconditioning causes an upward spiral of stress

 A body that is deconditioned is less comfortable to be in both when still and when moving. It feels stiff, weak, and tired. It does not sleep as well, digest as well, or heal as well. 

When we heed the message to move more, our deconditioned bodies feel more uncomfortable. We are embarrassed by the state of our body and that adds to the stress of trying to be healthy. This makes us less likely to move and more likely to lose strength, stamina, and mobility. The downward spiral of deconditioning has begun.

In a body that is deconditioned, it’s easy to do too much too soon when we try to get moving again. Doing too much may stress us out and raise, rather than lower, inflammation, further compounding the strain on our bodies.

More on exercise:
5 Simple Fitness Workouts That You Can Do From Home
Why Make Fitness a Habit? Because Willpower is Vastly Overrated

Culturally defined exercise

All too often, the word exercise is equated with sweat and soreness. Further, success is measured by athletic performance, calories burned, miles moved, or weight lifted. We have made the antidote to stress another contributor to stress.

When we need fitness challenges, tough trainers, insane fitness classes, and weight loss competitions to make us exercise so we ‘see results’, it is a sure sign we have strayed far from the true definition of exercise.

As a result, too many ‘exercisers’ are people who can keep up with this cultural definition. The others are left to wait until they lose weight or succumb to the idea that they ‘can’t exercise’. 

Adding to the confusion

Most people are unaware of the fact that the field of fitness is largely unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a fitness expert or trainer. This leaves us surrounded with exercise advice that is based more on personal experience than scientific facts.

Imagine if other professionals in the business of helping the body could do this. It would be complete mayhem! Yet that is the state of the fitness industry and the fitness consumer is paying the price, with their wallet and their body. 

Related Content:  Want to Know Why Exercise is So Good for Your Brain?

 The true definition of exercise

The word ‘exercise’ is defined in the dictionary as ‘something practiced to improve a skill or ability’. Physical exercise can be defined as ‘movements practiced to improve a skill or ability’. Exercise is a type of physical activity, but not all physical activity is exercise.  

We don’t just need to move more, we need to move in a specific way that will re-condition our bodies and reduce our stress all at the same time. Yet, the association with the word exercise is still powerfully off-putting for many people. Helping then rethink exercise can be the start of the solution. 

The difference is in how we practice

The word practice is key here. We know what is involved in quality practice for something like a musical instrument. You practice the specific instrument you want to learn, not a different instrument. You practice regularly, not sporadically. When you practice, you do not multitask because it takes full, focused attention to improve the skill or ability. The level of your practice is just challenging enough so you improve, and you progress only when your skills improve enough to move to the next level. If you stop practicing, you are not surprised that your skills fade.  When you start practicing again, your skills return. This process of practice is not questioned in any other area of life, except when it comes to exercise. 

How we ignore the concept of ‘good practice’

The concept of good practice is missing in culturally-defined exercise. We do exercises because they ‘worked’ for someone else. Exercises are largely designed for ‘sculpting’ or ‘targeting’ areas rather than practicing movements for daily life. 

We are drawn to ways to make faster progress. We tell ourselves pain is a sign of progress. We believe that when we lose weight we will function better, so we suffer through grueling workouts to burn more calories and melt more fat. 

In order to get through this discomfort, we use all kinds of strategies to distract us. We hire someone or join a competition to push us so we can stick with it until we see results. We are focused on getting to some future state where we will live ‘happily ever after’ and life will be easier. We skip over what science says about exercising to make life easier now. 

A modern-day definition of exercise

Considering the pace of our modern life, with stress as a major drain on our health, a more updated definition of exercise could be:

‘movement to reduce the stress and strains of daily life so you feel and function better, now and in the future’.

The distinction is essential because exercise, not physical activity helps with each fo the following:

  • Restores your ability to move for longer periods without getting tired (stamina),
  • Move your body and objects without strain or injury (strength),
  • Move your body freely and comfortably with control and balance in a wide range of ways (mobility).

Exercise is an opportunity to take a time-out, away from stress and truly restore wellbeing.  

The hidden answers

Hidden in the pages of every exercise physiology and biomechanics textbook are the answers to how to exercise and become re-conditioned for improving health and function in daily life, no matter what the state of your body.

When the principles of exercise training are followed, exercise reverses the spiral of deconditioning. Like other scientific principles, when you follow them, you get results that last.

Interestingly, these principles align perfectly with what we know about good practice. Therefore, we don’t need to learn anything new. We just need to rethink exercise so we can apply science to how we approach exercise. 

The principles of exercise training

The principles of exercise training can be summed up in one sentence:

Your body gets used to what you give it.

  1. SPECIFIC

The general guidelines that recommend getting ten thousand steps per day or 150 minutes of physical activity per week do not adequately take care of deconditioning. Getting more steps, or doing more of the same limited movements you do in daily life, will not help your body regain the strength, stamina, and mobility lost from physical inactivity. To gain the specific skills and abilities your body needs, you need to move it in those specific ways. Just like practicing the musical instrument you want to play better, you need to move your body in the ways that will improve the specific ability you want to regain. 

2. GRADUAL

If you give a plant too much water, it does not grow faster. It withers. Like a plant, your body has a natural growth rate. When you give your body just the right amount of exercise each time, it cannot help but grow stronger. It’s the same process as everything in nature: change takes time and there are no shortcuts. Just like practicing a musical instrument, gradual progression of the level of challenge is the way to keep your body learning, without it being overwhelming or boring. Like a plant, the only way to know is by paying attention to your own body. This brings us to the next principle.

3. UNIQUE

Your body responds differently from other people’s and responds differently day-to-day. The idea that there is one flat rate of movement in general, or that someone else can tell you how much is enough, is limiting. Relying on someone else to tell you how much is enough reduces your ability to listen to and trust your own body. You are more likely to ignore signs and symptoms of doing too much, too little, or the wrong kind of movement for your own body. Just as everyone learns a musical instrument at a different pace and capacity, your body adapts to exercise in a different way than the people around you. The only way to practice movements is to pay attention to your own body in the present moment. When exercise is done with this mindset of listening to your own body, taking care of it, in the present moment, you add the power of mindfulness to exercise. Mindful exercise improves the function of your mind and body! 

4. REVERSIBLE

Your body gets used to what you give it in both directions. Regular, specific, just-right-level practice leads to maintaining skills and ability. When you stop, stamina, strength, and mobility fade. When you start again, they return. This is true for exercise at every age and bodies of any size. 

The biggest problem is that when the first three principles are ignored, exercise doesn’t feel good. You may not stick with it and, then, the results won’t be as good not will they be lasting. 

 Why we are exercise-adverse

Habits are sometimes explained by neuroscientists in this simple way:  the brain is hardwired to repeat what feels good and avoid what feels bad. You can override this with willpower for a while, but in the end, lasting habits are formed when something makes us feel good right away. This explains why comfort food, social media, and alcohol are the go-to ways to reduce stress. They make us feel good quickly so that we keep coming back for more.

Unfortunately, moving more does not necessarily make us feel good right away. It does not reduce stress or re-condition instantly. Rather, these benefits accrue over time.

Imagine a different solution

  • Imagine a world where people take movement breaks to reduce the stress of daily life. When they return to what they were doing they feel relaxed, focused, and calm.
  • Imagine if those movement breaks were specifically designed to improve stamina, strength, and mobility at the just-right level for each person. 
  • Now, imagine that each person is aware of the way to move their own body well.
  • And that each of us feels capable and confident that we can go through daily life with more ease.
  • We know we can handle stressors as they arise and still have energy left over to enjoy life more fully. 

I believe if we can rethink exercise in this way, people live longer. They would also be healthier, happier, more satisfied with life, less stressed and inflamed.

We would be treating the root problem of inactivity rather than using a pseudo-solution like setting step goals. We would be living well in this modern life because we would exercise as a personal resource for reducing stress and functioning well, all at the same time. 

How can we get there?

  1. We need to rethink exercise

This means shifting away from movement that is painful, over-challenging, complicated, time-consuming and often dreaded toward getting the right amount and type of movement. This should be calibrated to reduce the stress of daily life so you feel better now. Over time, as deconditioning lessens, it will reduce strain because you now have enough stamina, strength, and mobility to do what you need and want to do in life.   

Related Content:  Is ‘No Pain, No Gain’ Good or Bad When It Comes to Exercise?

2. Provide education on healthy exercise

The goal is for each person knows how their own body is designed to move well. The exercise information they would access is based on the science of exercise for health and well-being. It is not built on the need to sell products or drastically improve athletic performance. Each person would understand how to keep their body conditioned at any age, any size, and any level of fitness. 

3. Inner Trainer training

Each person will have the skill of listening to their own body, trusting it as the best guide for moving well and improving function.  

When exercise is considered a break, rather than a task, to rid the body of stress while re-building the skills needed to move with more ease, exercise will truly be the medicine for our modern world.

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Sources:

Brewer, J. (2017). The Craving Mind; From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits (1st Edition). Yale University Press

Ding, D, Lawson, KD, Kolbe-Alexander, TL, Finkelstein, EA, Katzmarzyk, PT, van Mechelen, W.  The economic burden of physical inactivity: a global analysis of major non-communicable diseases. The Lancet. Vol. 388, Issue 10051, p1311-1324, Sept. 24, 2016  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30383-X

Mcardle, WD, Katch, FI, Katch VL.  Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance 8th Edition. LWW; 8th edition (March 4, 2014). Lippencott, Williams and Wilkins

Nada Sallam, N and Laher, I , Exercise Modulates Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Aging and Cardiovascular Diseases. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016.   10.1155/2016/7239639

 

 

 

A 2016 Yoga Journal study shows that 36.7 million Americans practice yoga. This is a massive jump from just over 20 million people in 2012. Almost three-quarters of these people have been practicing for less than 5 years. To help them out, we have compiled some simple tips for beginners to avoid common mistakes that people make in yoga.

Yoga through the ages has been more of a way of life than a simple teaching method. With a philosophy strongly centered around your health and well-being, when you fully embrace yoga, you go beyond simple meditation techniques.

Yoga can extend to healthy, clean eating habits, and even the way you bathe. You can even apply yoga to social or business interactions. Quite simply there are many health benefits of yoga.

Read on and get the very most out of your yoga sessions.

10 Common Mistakes People Make in Yoga

1. Overdoing it

Yoga is a much more delicate discipline than a punishing cardio or weights session.

In many other sports, the old cliché, “No pain, no gain” is fairly accurate. You need to push your limits in order to experience the many benefits of exercise.

In the past, some believed that delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be a sign that you’ve trained well. However, we no know that it actually represents a form of mild muscle damage.

With yoga, you should not experience pain. This is not to say you shouldn’t be putting in any effort, just don’t overdo it. If things start to twinge, ease off or stop.

Focus more on the therapeutic benefits of yoga rather than treating it like other forms of exercise and hitting it too hard.

2. Being out of place: Choose your spot in yoga class wisely

Yoga’s a bit like going to the movie theater…

Your position can mean the difference between a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a sore neck from sitting too close to the screen.

A common error is to place too much importance on being front and center. Sure, you’ll get a great view some of the time. The reality, though, is that the instructor spends a lot of time wandering around. The moment they move, there goes your view.

The optimum spot is the second-to-last row. The majority of the time, you’ll have a clear line of sight on the instructor. On the occasions when you need to conduct moves facing the back of the room, you’ll still have someone to follow.

Not all spots are equal so choose wisely.

3. Not interacting enough

If you choose to attend a yoga class, make sure you don’t just passively go through the motions. For standardized courses with no personal touch, it’s easy enough to get DVDs or watch videos online.

When you pay for a class, take advantage of your instructor and interact. Whether you’re pregnant or injured, communicate so you are not unwittingly directed to poses that might do more harm than good.

The whole idea of heading to an organized class is to enjoy a program specifically tailored to your personal requirements. The easy way to achieve this is to overcome any shyness or reluctance and make yourself heard!

4. Choosing the wrong type of yoga class

Don’t fall into the trap of imagining that all yoga classes are roughly the same.

With a vast array of styles, from the freeform Anusara to “furniture yoga” (or Iyengar). Not all yoga is equal.

If you’re looking for a very gentle session, booking a hardcore Bikram class with postures performed in 100°F heat and 40% humidity is not your best bet.

Take the time to read about the different yoga styles at your disposal. Be honest about your requirements and desired outcome. If you do your research and don’t rush headlong into the first class you see advertised, you can find something in line with your needs and ability.

5. To eat or not to eat?

While eating before exercise fuels your body, you don’t want to leave this until minutes before yoga class.

The last thing you want is for your muscles to lose out because your blood supply is busy processing your food. Also, many yoga positions could feel outright painful with a bloated stomach.

You should sidestep food for 1-2 hours before practicing yoga.

If you’re stuck for ideas, check out some suitable snacks here. Whether it’s peanut butter smeared on a banana or some chicken, the key is to eat a small portion and to do so well in advance of the class.

By eating smartly and at the right time, you can make your yoga experience far more comfortable.

6. Running before you can walk

Don’t get carried away and immediately aim for advanced poses without mastering the basics.

Getting to grips with some foundational postures will ensure that you’re ready when it comes to more sophisticated positions.

If you try to take a short cut, it’s unlikely you’ll have the balance, flexibility, and strength to master advanced moves right off the bat.

Yoga is about the journey, not the destination. Don’t rush and short change yourself.

7. Improper Form

Whether you’re practicing yoga at home in front of the mirror or in a formal class, form really is crucial.

If you run into any problems, try chatting with your instructor before or after class to work out what’s wrong with your posture.

Here’s how not to do a few common yoga poses.

Yoga is meant to be a healing art. Don’t use poor form and end up injuring yourself instead.

8. Obsessing about perfect form: Just do it instead!

The keyword here is perfect.

While we’ve just made it clear that you need to focus on correct and proper form, hankering after perfection at the cost of any kind of progress is equally bad.

Like with many things in life, it’s all about balance.

Rather than thinking about the perfect pose, think about the perfect pose for you. If you’re struggling with a part of a posture, get your instructor to break it down and give you a variation you can handle.

9. Failing to breathe

Breathing is central to yoga.

It’s funny that such a natural action can seem challenging at times.

Here’s a detailed look at the importance of proper breathing.

Learning to breathe correctly is another learning curve so embrace it if you’re practicing yoga. Failing to do so can lead to impaired performance and possibly even a fall if you get things wrong.

10. Cutting corners by skipping your warm-up and warm-down

Everyone is busy these days. Even fitting in time for a yoga class can be difficult. It’s tempting to try to save time by skipping your warm-up and warm-down but this is really not advisable.

Here’s a very easy yoga warm-up to get you ready for class. This video walks you through a warm-down so you can minimize the chance of any injuries and relax your way into the rest of your day.

Wrap-up

If you’re just starting out with yoga, we hope you’ve found some useful tips here on what not to do. Take things slowly, embrace all aspects of this versatile discipline and you can reap many health benefits from yoga.

Now go and hit the mats!

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First published on July 17, 2019, it has been updated for republication.

When most adults think of exercise, it usually involves working out in a gym, going to a class or lifting weights at home. For kids, however, getting exercise means being physically active while playing and having fun. Children love outside activities like running around playing tag, jumping rope with their friends, and going for walks with their parents.

Today, children and teenagers are, unfortunately, spending more sedentary time indoors than ever before. And, most of this time is spent in front of a screen. This sedentary lifestyle may contribute to childhood obesity and other lifelong health issues. Helping children internalize the importance of physical activity as a path to lifelong health and fitness is extremely important.

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So, how do you make sure your child is spending a healthy amount of time outside being physically active? Below are some fun activities that both children and parents can enjoy together!

games children

This graphic is very clever but also a bit misleading. Most sources recommend having 10 instead of 9 squares in a game of hopscotch! (see below). Graphic source: Adobe Stock Photos

Hopscotch

Children all over the world have played this simple game, or something very similar to it, for decades! To play this game, draw a traditional hopscotch diagram like the one shown below, using sidewalk chalk or washable paint.

Number the squares from one to ten. Throw a pebble, twig or bean bag into the Outside Activities for Childrenfirst square. If this lands on a line, or outside of the intended square, you lose your turn. If this happens, pass the marker to the next player. Hop on one foot into the first empty space, and then each next numbered space, making sure to skip the number that the marker is on. At the 4-5, 7-8 and 10 markers, jump with both of your feet! When you get to the end, head back toward the start, pick up the marker- still on one foot!- and complete the course.

If you finish the course without making any mistakes you pass the marker to the next player. On your next turn, throw the marker to the next number. If you fall, jump outside the lines, miss a square with the marker or skip a number, you lose your turn and must repeat the same number on your next turn. Whoever reaches 10 first, wins!

“Red Light, Green Light

With enough room, this is the perfect game to play outside. To play this game, pick one person to be the “traffic light” at one end of the playing field. All the other players are sent to the opposite end. The traffic light turns their back on the rest of the group. When they yell “RED light” everyone must freeze where they are. When “GREEN light” is yelled, everyone in the group runs as fast as they can to reach the end of the field, before the traffic light yells to stop again. If anyone is spotted moving after the red light is called, they are sent back to the starting place. The first person to tag the traffic light wins, and gets to be the next traffic light.

Dodge Ball

Any game that involves throwing a ball at opponents, and being the smart one by dodging incoming objects, certainly screams “Teenage fun!” The objective of this game is to eliminate all players on the opposite team by hitting them below the waist with the ball. If you are tagged, or if a ball you threw is caught, you are “out.” You are then are sent to the sidelines. You can also be tagged “out” when you step into a designated dead-zone. Or, if you step over the boundary line between the two teams. You win when all the opposite team members are eliminated. You can also win if you have more players than the opposing team at the end of a timed 2-minute game.

Freeze Tag

This is a variation of original Tag where if the person who is “it” tags you, you must freeze in place. Another participant can tag you to unfreeze you, but they do so at the risk of being tagged themselves! This game can be played for hours and everyone involved has a good chance of being “it” at least once.

Scavenger Hunts

You can find all sorts of backyard scavenger hunt checklists online. However, making your own has several benefits. If you create your own, you can customize it to your own backyard and make it so that all ages can play. You are teaching the children to be creative and learn how to problem-solve.

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Other simple and free ways to keep children active

  • Skipping rocks at a nearby lake or pond
  • Rolling down a grassy hill
  • Finding the perfect climbing tree
  • Swimming or just playing in the water
  • Jumping rope
  • Riding a bike
  • Studying the ecosystem under a stepping stone
  • Setting up the game of Twister outside
  • Having a contest to see who can Hula Hoop the longest
  • Checking out your local Frisbee park
  • Walking the dog or riding a horse
  • Hiking with parents or friends
  • Playing sports with friends (soccer, softball)

This list could go on and on. There are so many different ways for kids to be active while having fun.

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At least an hour a day

In the United States, both the C.D.C. and the American Heart Association recommend that healthy children participate in at least an hour of vigorous activity every day, preferably outside.

This can work to prevent heart disease, cancer, chronic disease, and obesity. Getting your children to play outside isn’t just for fun, it’s good for their growing bodies and minds.

By encouraging your children to spend time outside every day, moving and staying active, you are cultivating a love of exercise that will hopefully carry them well into their teenage years, as well as into adulthood!

 For more helpful tips and ideas to get your children active, check out this Ultimate Guide to Exercise for Children in School and at Home from Maryville University.


This previously published post has been updated and reformatted for republication.


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Just because you’ve got your driver’s license doesn’t mean that you should forget about biking. Sure, there are scenarios where having a car does come in handy, but for everything else, cycling is the way to go.

After all, there are certain benefits of riding a bike that driving a car could never live up to – some are quite obvious, like the health benefits of biking, and others not so much.

Whether you’re looking to include some physical activity into your daily life, or want to do something good for the environment, this article will give you plenty of reasons why hopping on your bike could be the best thing you did in a while!

Health Benefits Of Biking: 5 Ways It Boosts Your Health

Your health comes first, which is why I wanted to start this article with a round-up of some of the most important health benefits you’ll experience as soon as you get in the habit of cycling instead of driving!

1. Cycling exercises the most important muscle – your heart

Photo Source: Pixabay

Sure, your thigh muscles and your glutes might be the first ones to come to mind.  But, when you think about getting a good workout, here’s the thing:

By getting your heart rate up cycling strengthens your heart muscles. It also reduces your risk of developing several cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.

Moreover, compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, those who participate in physical activities such as biking can experience an overall improvement in cardiovascular function, too.

And while I don’t recommend ditching your blood pressure meds just yet, there’s a reason to believe that including cycling into your daily routine might have a positive impact on your blood pressure. It can almost be as effective as prescription medication. If you’re a poor Paintballer like me, you may notice your bruises healing faster too!

In short, if you want to do something beneficial for your heart, ride your bike!

2. Your Risk Of Getting Cancer May Drop – Significantly

Besides the evident impact it has on your cardiovascular health, cycling also lowers your risk of cancer. Now, I know that might seem too good to be true. But the link between moderate levels of physical activity and cancer has been the subject of several studies, and so far, the results seem promising:

  • Incorporating physical activity, such as opting for riding a bike as a means of commuting, into a sedentary lifestyle, can reduce your risk of cancer significantly.
  • Moreover, according to a study that involved nearly 14,000 men, maintaining a higher level of physical activity as you approach middle age could potentially lower your risk of colorectal, prostate, as well as lung cancer. Furthermore, it can improve the survival rates of patients following a cancer diagnosis.

3. And The Same Goes For Your Risk Of Getting Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has become a serious public health concern. Given that the two primary factors that help lower the risk of developing this condition are as simple as maintaining a “normal” weight and eating a healthy diet, seeing the rates continue to rise is quite shocking.

Considering the high number of diabetes-related complications, I don’t have to tell you how vital it is to keep this condition under control.

And, as a recent study suggests, cycling might be the way to lower glucose levels.  The study examined the link between commuting and recreational cycling habits and their risk of type 2 diabetes. They found a link does exist – the more time you spend cycling, the lower your risk of developing this disease.

4. You’ll Lose Weight – Without Even Trying

While the exact number might be hard to pinpoint, as it depends on a lot of factors, including your weight, speed, and resistance, to name a few, one thing’s certain:

Cycling burns a lot of calories!

Now, when I say „a lot,“ I mean something along the lines of 240 to 355 calories per half an hour of moderate-speed biking.

I’m stating the obvious here, but riding a bike involves a lot of pedaling.  The repetitive motion causes large muscles in the lower body to contract and expand continuously.  It makes it a perfect example of isotonic exercise.

Moreover, even though it seems like your lower body is doing all the work, your core, as well as your arms are engaged, too. This is especially true for all the adrenaline junkies who do trail-biking, but if you venture off the beaten road, get a mountain bike.

Photo Source: Pexels

5. Your Immune System Might Experience A Boost, Too

Last, but not least, there’s a reason to believe that all these health-promoting effects that cycling has on your body – such as preserving muscle mass, maintaining a healthy weight, and stable cholesterol levels – might have an „anti-aging“ effect on your immune system, too.

As we age, our thymus gland begins to shrink, which affects its capability to produce new T-cells, and, as a result, we become more susceptible to all sorts of new threats, including infections and immune disorders. By the time we reach the age of 65, we’re left pretty vulnerable.

That’s where cycling comes in:

New research shows that the thymuses of “senior” cyclists maintained their functionality, producing as many T-cells as the glands of much younger individuals. In short, thanks to cycling, these seniors had immune systems that could rival those of healthy 20-year-olds!

More Reasons Why Cycling Is Way Better Than Driving

Now, besides the apparent health benefits of biking, there are a few more reasons why choosing your bike over a car might be the best commuting-related decision you’ve made in a long time.

So, if improving your overall health isn’t a reason enough for you, let’s take a look at how biking can affect other aspects of your life, as well!

  1. Cycling can make you a better lover, because, as it turns out, being physically active can be almost as good of a cure for erectile dysfunction as Viagra. Plus, you’re going to feel much better about yourself, which will ultimately boost your self-esteem, too!
  2. It’s cheaper than driving a car, as any car owner out there can tell you. The costs keep piling up – maintenance, gas, insurance, registration, it all eats away at your budget. So, when you ditch that vehicle in favor of a bicycle, you’re doing your wallet a huge favor, too!
  3. You’ll be doing something highly beneficial for the environment, and at this day and age, we should all be looking into ways to “go green.“ Opting for a pollution-free means of transportation could be a simple, yet effective way for you to make a positive environmental impact!

That said, if you’re seriously thinking of retiring your car for good, you might want to look into electric bikes – because we all have days when we don’t feel like pedaling.

Pedaling Is The Way To Go

Before you ride off into the sunset, here’s what I’d like you to remember:

There is such thing as “too much of a good thing.”

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It’s better to start small and give your body some time to adjust, especially if you haven’t been the most physically active person in the past. And don’t worry; you won’t miss out on any of the health benefits of biking if you choose to take it slow.

Oh, and one last thing:

Don’t let me catch you riding around without a helmet!

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Once upon a time, parents would yell out to the back yard for their children to come inside for dinner. It would have been unfathomable to imagine that one day the tables would be turned and parents would be yelling for their children to go outside once in a while.

But here we are. In a day and age where technology rules almost every aspect of our lives, adults and children alike are spending less and less time with nature and more time under the spell of blue light emitted from every device under the sun (or, quite frankly, not under the sun).

Things have gotten so bad that the term Nature Deficit Disorder has been applied to what we experience when we are lacking enough contact with mother earth. Though not a term you’ll find in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) yet, many scientists believe that it will be soon.

What exactly is Nature Deficit Disorder?

In 2005, author Richard Louv coined the phrase in his best selling book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” As you’ll find on Wikipedia, Nature Deficit Order is the belief that people, especially children, are spending so little time with nature that it is acutely affecting their behavior in negative ways making them unable them to achieve a peaceful mind and happiness.

It’s not meant to be a medical diagnosis (yet). Instead, Richard Louv has said that the term should

“encompass a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world”.

Framing the problem in this way forces us to look at the fact that we and our children are suffering because of our lack of exposure to nature.

What causes Nature Deficit Disorder

Is it because of the smartphones parents are handing out like candy these days?  Or is it due to extended workday hours confined to small office cubicles? Perhaps these and more?

Louv suggests that there are many contributing factors including, but not limited to:

  • The decrease in open spaces for children and adults to play
  • Increased traffic
  • Parental fear for children (and themselves) due to the increasingly negative news
  • Less appreciation of the natural word in private and public education
  • The tremendous increase of screen and electronic communications

We have become so reliant on technology for our day to day endeavors that nature has become a luxury. It is something we have to schedule in on the weekends IF we’re lucky enough to have the time.

Is Nature Deficit Disorder Harmful?

Robert Louv says yes. And there are many scientists and studies to back him up.  The Children And Nature Network states that:

“An expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to

      • diminished use of the senses,
      • attention difficulties,
      • conditions of obesity,
      • and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.

Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the ‘epidemic of inactivity,’ and to a devaluing of independent play.”

Children and adults are taking ADHD medications at an alarmingly high rate. In addition, behavioral problems in schools have sky-rocketed over the past couple of decades.

Psychiatric News published an article last year questioning why the use of antidepressants, especially in our youth, is soaring. This is because most of us think that we can’t overcome depression without medication. But nothing could be more wrong than that!

Though we seemingly have everything, we are missing the very thing that feeds our bodies and souls as nothing else can. That thing is Nature.

How do I know if I have Nature Deficit Disorder?

While this disorder undeniably seems like a grim issue, the first step in treating it is being able to realize if you’re struggling with it.

To identify whether you are struggling with this very real and widespread disorder, take a look at these telltale signs:

1. You spend very little time spent outside.

If you are constantly indoors and find yourself moving from one indoor space to the other without taking time to be outside in nature, you may be nature deficient. Whether in adults or children, this can happen because of a lack of appreciation, understanding, or connection with the natural world.

2. You just don’t feel right

For example, you might find yourself feeling unwell on more days than not. You can’t put your finger on it, you just don’t feel right. Your doctor wasn’t able to find anything wrong. But you notice you feel better after a walk in the woods.

Parents of children who are nature-deficient may have made multiple trips to their pediatrician trying to pinpoint what is causing their unwell feelings. Blood tests come back negative and medications don’t help. Perhaps they just need to spend more time in nature.

3. Loss of interest in things and activities outside of electronics

This telltale sign is often easy to pinpoint in children who would rather be playing Fortnite than hide-and-seek outside. But can you spot it in yourself?

  • Are you spending your lunch break playing games on your computer instead of enjoying lunch on a bench outside?
  • Do you come from a day spent in front of the computer at work only to log back in as soon as you walk through your door?

These types of behaviors can point to a decreased interest in nature, a hallmark of Nature Deficit Disorder.

What can we do overcome Nature Deficit Disorder?

The only way to overcome Nature Deficit Disorder is to spend more time outside. Literally.

Psychology Today outlines studies and programs that have been aimed over the past few years at helping people overcome this bleak disorder. They all have the same things in common:

Reconnecting with nature.

Breaking ourselves and our children away from the addictions of electronic devices can help return us to the natural world that we thrive in best. The world that provides us with water, sun, and the nutrients that we need to survive is the world that we should be immersing ourselves in regularly.

National back-to-nature initiatives

An outstanding example of the national push to reconnect with nature is the Children and Nature Network’s campaign. They have already implemented over 50 regional and statewide initiatives to move people back outdoors.

Organizations such as the National Wildlife Foundation, Trust for Public Land and the Conservation Fund are also working to help every state support environmental education in the hopes that we will get ourselves and our children back outdoors.

Though we have a long way to go, every little step counts. Foregoing a movie in place of a hike, replacing screen time with time spent on a bench swing or walk outside. All of these things will help move you in the right direction.

Our Future is Bright

The great thing about being a human is the ability to identify that something is wrong, figure out what it is, and then fix it. If you find that you are indeed struggling with Nature Deficit Disorder, don’t wallow. Of all the things that can be detrimental to your health, this may possibly be the easiest to fix.

With a few easy lifestyle changes, you can create more time to spend with nature. And once you do, you will feel its positive effects pretty immediately.

In Louv’s later book, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age,” he asked perhaps one of the most important questions of our time,

“What could our lives and our children’s lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology?”

There’s no time like the present to find out.

 

You could throw in the towel and blame everything on your gene pool, or you could take the time to learn what it is that separates the slim folks from the rest.

The truth is, there are some habits of people who always stay fit that you should incorporate into your daily routine. They go well beyond transforming your body:

They’re about embracing a whole new way of life.

1. They Start Their Days Early

Early bird gets the worm – or, in this case, a fit body.

Early risers tend to be more proactive!

habits stay fit

Photo Source: Unsplash

Instead of letting sleep inertia get the best of them, they use the extra time each morning to exercise, meditate, and have a healthy breakfast, among other things. And, more importantly, they stick to it during the weekend, as well!

The number one habit you need to work on is changing your sleep pattern.

But before you set your alarm one hour earlier than usual, be sure that you move your bedtime, as well. You should still aim to get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Stick around to find out why!

2. They Don’t Skip Breakfast

I know I risk sounding like your mom here, but:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Photo Source: Unsplash

And while there are plenty of reasons why you should never skip breakfast. These include a reduced risk of heart disease, enhanced cognitive functions, and a reduced risk of diabetes. But I’ll focus on the one that probably interests you the most:

It helps keep the weight off for good.

However, eating breakfast isn’t a magic weight management solution – your food choices still play a significant role:

Aim to have a healthy, wholesome meal consisting of proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, and fiber, first thing in the morning.

3. They Don’t Shy Away from Routine

Whether you admit it or not, humans are creatures of habit.

I’m not talking about fully scheduled days, of course, but bringing a little structure and organization to your daily life couldn’t hurt.

Starting your day with a plan means you’re planning on getting things done and accomplishing something.  This automatically leads to a more positive outlook on life. It is an often overlooked, but important factor for improving your health and wellness.

And just like any other chain reaction, the more happy and optimistic you feel, the more likely you are to engage in healthful habits.

4. They Truly Enjoy Exercise

Most fit people don’t fall into the category of die-hard fitness fanatics.  However, they still make an effort to include exercise into their daily life – and you should, too.

Seriously, if there’s one habit you should pick up, it’s this one.

Whether it’s yoga, running, or hitting the gym for a resistance training session, the trick is in finding something that you truly enjoy. And don’t mind doing – even if it’s Sunday, even if you’re on vacation, even if your favorite show is on.

Continue reading, and you’ll see what I mean.

5. They’re Active Outside the Gym, Too

habits stay fit

Photo Source: Unsplash

Generally speaking, fit people choose to spend their free time doing something, rather than doing nothing. They do this because they respect their body and its needs more than anything else. They think of movement as a way of life, not a means to an end.

You’ll rarely catch a fit person spending their free time slouching in front of the TV.

They’re too busy having fun outside, be it by going on a hike, riding a bike, or simply walking around the park, and enjoying the fresh air.

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6. They Eat “Real Foods”

Sure, it’s nice to order some take-out or go to a restaurant every once in a while, but as it turns out, one of the many habits of people who always stay fit is that they generally prefer a home-cooked, whole-foods meal over anything else.

That said, two things should be on your daily menu are:

Protein, which reduces hunger, increases feelings of fullness and helps you consume fewer calories throughout the day.

Fiber, and viscous fiber in particular, which helps you feel fuller for longer by forming a gel, increasing nutrient absorption time, and slowing down the emptying of the stomach at the same time.

7. They Know Better Than To Make Unrealistic Diet Changes

In a perfect world, you’d eat a 100-percent clean diet. You’d also stick to it at all times. But we both know that’s not how the real world works.

Fit people know that staying slim isn’t about drastically restricting their calorie intake or cutting specific food groups out of their diet. It’s about finding what works in the long run, and embracing the right mindset:

Eat everything in moderation.

8. They Drink Plenty of Water

Heart and lung function, digestion, body temperature regulation, joint lubrication, and anything else that goes on inside your body requires one vital nutrient – water.

After all, it’s common knowledge that the human body is around 60 percent water.

But did you know that drinking more water throughout the day – and especially before a meal – affects not only your hydration levels but your weight, as well?

More importantly, when it comes to water-drinking habits of people who always stay fit, it seems that they’re more likely to swap calorie-packed drinks for water, too.

9. They Don’t Need a Reason to Get In Shape

One of the habits of people who always stay fit is that they tend to prioritize their health and fitness – even when it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Unfortunately, though, most of us only remember to watch our diets or hit the gym when we have an important event coming up in a few weeks.

You shouldn’t need a date on the calendar to motivate you to take care of yourself – the fact that you only have one body should be a reason enough!

10. They Understand the Importance of a Good Night’s Rest

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You can embrace a clean diet and an active lifestyle, but if you fail to keep your sleeping pattern in check, all your efforts go straight through the window.

There’s a quite intimate relationship between sleeping comfortably and fitness:

When you’re sleep deprived (and more than a third of adults are), your hormone levels take a severe blow. This includes those vital for keeping your body fit and healthy – hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, growth hormone, and insulin.

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Final Thoughts about Staying Fit

If getting to the end of this list of habits of people who always stay fit left you feeling a bit overwhelmed, take a deep breath and relax – no one expects you to start implementing all these new habits at once.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Tackle one aspect of your daily life at a time, ditch the fad diet mentality, and take as much time as you need:

You’re building life-long habits here – and that’s a journey, not a race.

A widely held belief is that we absolutely need carbohydrates for successful workout recovery. The reasoning behind this is that carbohydrates help replenish glycogen. They also spike insulin which supports muscle protein synthesis. If that is the case, does that mean that low carb diets like the keto diet are detrimental to workout success?

Why carbohydrates are recommended?

After a tough workout, your glycogen stores become depleted. In case you are not familiar: glycogen is carbohydrate stored in muscle tissue. It fuels much of your workouts.

Traditional sports nutrition advice says we need to replenish that lost glycogen as soon as possible. Failing to do so is bound to slow down your recovery.

More specifically, taking carbohydrates within a couple of hours after vigorous training is believed to:

  • Replenish muscle glycogen
  • Spike insulin which is an important anabolic hormone
  • Increase water content within muscle tissue
  • Lower levels of cortisol, a catabolic hormone

However, many of these claims are now being questioned. And some are really not all important for the average person.

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If you’re someone who works out three times a week, for example, there’s no need for you to speed up the rate at which your muscle glycogen gets replenished. As long as you’re eating some carbohydrates, your glycogen stores will get back to normal within two days.

Besides that, studies have found that protein, especially the amino acid leucine, spike insulin just as much as carbohydrates. Studies also found that taking carbs together with protein was no more effective than a placebo when it comes to workout recovery.

The keto diet and workout recovery

The ketogenic (keto) diet is controversial in regard to sports nutrition. Because carbs are considered essential for performance and post-workout recovery, a diet deficient in carbs seems like a recipe for disaster. But the human body is complex and able to adapt to things we think impossible.

So, what does the science say about keto diets
and workout recovery?

Dr. Jeff Volek, a renowned low-carb researcher led a study that was published in a 2016 issue of Metabolism. The study revealed that 10 ultra-endurance athletes who had been following a keto diet for at least 6 months showed a higher fat oxidation rate and a lower carbohydrate oxidation rate during exercise. They also showed similar muscle glycogen levels at rest as the control group.

The study also found that glycogen levels recovered at the same rate in the keto group as well as the control group. This was despite the fact that the keto group consumed a diet containing 5% carbohydrates while the control group diet had 50% carbohydrates.

This study concluded that endurance athletes could maintain normal muscle glycogen content, utilization, and recovery after long-term adaptation to a ketogenic diet.

This study shows that adapting to a low-carb diet like keto makes the body use fat for energy during workouts while sparing muscle glycogen. With less glycogen lost, you need fewer carbs to recover. However, it takes several months to truly adapt to low-carb diets, so performance and recovery may suffer in the meantime. This has been confirmed by short-term studies.

Another thing to keep in mind is that ketosis, which is the primary goal of the ketogenic diet, is not the end goal of this diet. Instead, it is keto-adaptation (after long-term ketosis) that matters, especially for athletic types. 

Some limitations of the keto diet

There is a caveat to using keto for workouts. Researchers agree that workouts that heavily rely on anaerobic metabolisms, like strength training, will not work on a fat-fueled diet. That’s because ketones and fat cannot be metabolized anaerobically.

But this may apply only to athletes. Common folk may actually do quite well on a low-carb diet where strength training and other anaerobic-heavy workouts are concerned.

A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that the keto diet combined with resistance training reduces body fat without affecting muscle mass in untrained overweight women. So, there was no major impairment.

Central Fatigue

Another problem with the keto diet when it comes to workout recovery is how it affects central fatigue, meaning feelings of tiredness caused by changes in brain chemicals.

There’s evidence that when you’re burning more fat, the brain takes up more tryptophan – a precursor to the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes you feel tired.

Eating too much protein on this diet, which isn’t uncommon in people who regularly exercise, can also lead to elevated ammonia production during workouts. Ammonia alters energy metabolism in the brain and also communication between nerve cells, all of which leads to feelings of fatigue.

However, most of this evidence is based on short-term research, and longer studies on keto-adapted subjects are needed to check if keto truly does make you feel tired after workouts.

What else you need to consider

A major benefit of the keto diet is that it enhances fat burning. Most people follow this diet for this very reason. Even athletes may use it to shed pounds before major events.

What’s best about keto is that it is proven to burn fat while sparing muscle – something not found with most other weight-loss programs. The keto diet also does not affect resting metabolic rate (RMR) even after it leads to major weight loss.

And while you can definitely use this diet to burn fat, there are things you need to consider if you’re someone who’s an athlete or very active:

1. Increasing sodium intake

Another pioneering expert in keto sports nutrition, Dr. Stephen Phinney, recommends consuming more sodium on a keto diet. Between 3,000 and 5,000 mg of this important electrolyte is necessary to maintain normal metabolism and hydration levels, especially if you’re athletic. Besides sodium, Dr. Phinney recommends consuming 3,000 to 4,000 mg of potassium and 300-500mg of magnesium.

2. Carb cycling

The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) involves cycling between the standard keto diet and a high-carb diet. Usually, dieters will eat low-carb for 5-6 days of the week and do a carb refeed on days 6 and/or 7.

On carb-refeed days, you will be temporarily kicked out of ketosis. This helps restore muscle glycogen to greater levels than you could achieve by maintaining ketosis. This approach seems to work better for athletes than standard keto.

3. Targeting carb intake

Another option is to target your carbohydrate intake around your workouts. This is called the targeted ketogenic (TKD). This nutritional approach was developed to help athletic types fuel their workouts and improve post-exercise recovery.

If you’re someone who takes part in vigorous anaerobic activity, this method may be best for you.

Conclusion

Post-workout recovery is an essential aspect of all types of training. Resting is one part of the process, proper nutrition is another.

Usually, you will hear that carbohydrates are essential for proper workout recovery. And, that low-carb diets like keto cannot help with this process. However, this is simply not true.

The keto diet does not impair post-workout recovery in most cases. But it isn’t perfect, and whether you should consider it for your exercise regime boils down to personal choice. The reason? We don’t know everything about sports nutrition.   

So the question of whether carbs are necessary for
workout recovery or if ketones can suffice remains open.

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What You Need to Know About the Keto Diet

Everyone tries to squeeze more time out of their 24-hour days. We put in extra hours at work, delay bedtime, or rise at the crack of dawn. But no matter what, there are only so many hours each day. So, we need to get our priorities right. We should not let our hectic lifestyles push our health needs into the background. 

If this is happening to you, it may be time to take action and invest in your health now. While it can seem daunting, taking steps toward a healthier, happier lifestyle is easier than you think.

Beyond eating the right foods, there are plenty of things you can do to invest in your future health today. The following nine expenses are worth it for a healthier life.

1. Join a gym

Do you have an exercise plan? If not, now is the time to make one. It’s proven that regular exercise offers health benefits such as improving mood, boosting energy or preventing high blood pressure. Exercise also promotes good circulation and contributes to a healthy immune system. It is, in general, good for your overall health.

If exercise is new to your routine, you don’t have to jump in with both feet. Take it slow.  Add just a few minutes of physical activity to your day.

Joining a gym is a great way to stay motivated and surround yourself with like-minded people. Some gyms have dietitians and personal trainers on staff, available to answer any questions you have about your health.

2. Talk to a therapist

Having a balance between mental and physical health is necessary. When considering expenses, don’t overlook the benefits of speaking with a therapist.

While therapists can help with emotional issues, they also offer support for a range of concerns. Perhaps you have a strained relationship with food or tend to binge-eat. A therapist is a great person to confide in. Maybe you have health goals in mind, but find it hard to stay focused. A therapist can help you create a plan and stick to it.

3. Take vitamins 

Vitamins and nutrients are essential for proper body function. Most people can get their recommended daily dose by eating a well-balanced diet. However, some diets are deficient in vitamins and other nutrients. And, aging as well as certain chronic medical conditions can interfere with the absorption of vitamins from the gut.

Capsule with fruits and veggies 750 x 750

{hoto source: iStock Photo

Vitamin supplements can help fill these gaps. Popular supplements include fish oil, folic acid, iron, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin A. Before you head off to the drugstore to buy these medications, talk with your doctor to ensure the supplements will not interfere with your medical care

4. Consider Probiotics

It’s no secret that probiotics are a popular way to balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system. But growing evidence also suggests probiotics can treat and prevent illnesses, with helpful gut bacteria keeping harmful pathogens at bay.

Probiotics have already been shown to aid with problems like:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Urinary Tract Infections

You can start by picking up a probiotic supplement at your local supermarket. Or, start adding probiotic goods to your diet, with foods like cottage cheese, greek yogurt or sauerkraut.

Related Content: The Gut-Brain Connection: How Probiotics Can Improve Mood

5. Cut High-Risk Behavior

High-risk behaviors include any behaviors that can result in severe consequences to your health. One common high-risk behavior is not wearing a seat belt when driving. This simple action can save your life or, at the very least, prevent painful injury. A related risk is driving while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.

One high-risk behavior whose consequences don’t manifest until years later is smoking. While it can be easy to ignore negative health benefits that don’t occur immediately, in the long run, smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease, and a whole host of other diseases. 

By cutting out these high-risk behaviors, you help your future self avoid the hassles that come along with sickness and injury.

6. Get regular checkups

No one likes going to the doctor. It takes time out of your busy schedule and feels like a hassle. But not visiting your doctor regularly, at least once a year, could mean missing import health signals. Major health conditions have a higher rate of being treated or cured when caught in the early stages.

Most health insurance plans offer preventative care. It’s important to visit your doctor regularly to make sure your body is functioning properly. Regular visits are also the perfect time to ask questions, like if it’s normal to get a headache every day.

7. Use a Health Savings Account

A health savings account (HSA) lets you set money aside for future health care. With this type of account, you can contribute money on a pre-tax basis and deduct your contributions during tax season. Later, when you need to withdraw money, you don’t need to pay taxes as long you use the money on healthcare expenses.

Not only does a health savings account provide plenty of valuable tax benefits, but it also creates peace of mind that you’ll have financial security should a health emergency arise.

8. Shop for life insurance

You never know when the unthinkable will happen. With the average funeral price around $8,000, life insurance is a great way to provide financial assistance to your surviving dependents.

It can,

  • Provide an inheritance
  • Replace lost income
  • Pay estate taxes
  • Make charitable donations

Many policies also offer an optional provision that lets you accelerate the death benefit while still living, providing money for any reason, such as treatment of a chronic or permanent illness.

Final expense policies, which are small life insurance policies for funeral expenses, can also offer coverage for people who may not otherwise qualify for traditional insurance.

9. Write a living will

A living will is nothing like the wills people use to designate who gets what property upon their death. A living will is a directive to medical personnel on how you wish to receive medical care if you’re unable to communicate your decisions.

Related article: Advance Directives Should Be Clinical, Not Legal Documents

Many living wills also allow you to choose a power of attorney, a person who carries out your wishes concerning end-of-life treatment.

The bottom line

Your body is a complex and beautiful organism. But it needs proper care.and maintenance. While you may not be passionate about eating organic food or joining a yoga class, there are still steps you can take for a healthier tomorrow. Remember:

Investing in your health is the best investment you will ever make.

I doubt anyone would argue with me if I were to say that exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve your overall quality of life. Not only does it give you more energy and a stronger, healthier body, it also helps with your mental state.

Together, these positive influences can go a long way in affecting other aspects of your life, such as your social interactions. To put it simply, there’s an abundance of reasons why you should start exercising if you’re not already, and really, there’s no reason not to.

Good Pain

Now that we’ve got that established, it’s important to understand the risks of exercise.  More specifically, the significant risk of a specific phrase which we’ve all heard before, and that is, ‘no pain, no gain.’

Although it’s not inherently wrong—in fact, it has an element of truth to it—the issue with this statement is that most people, especially those starting out in fitness, don’t really know what the ‘pain’ part is referring to.  

Surely, pain is a bad thing? We’ve lived our whole lives avoiding it! Well, yes and no; to an extent, this line of thinking is actually correct and the very reason I dislike the expression, ‘no pain, no gain’— it’s vague.

Some discomfort is part and parcel of a good workout. The body is an efficient machine.  So if we didn’t place any stress on the muscles, they wouldn’t grow.   Sol, why waste energy building something up which isn’t needed? There would be neither weight loss nor strength gain. So feeling mild discomfort when exercising is exactly what we want and could be termed ‘good pain’.

What Causes Good Pain?

Aerobic vs. anaerobic respiration

In order to contract the muscles, the body, of course, needs energy. This is generated via the breakdown of glucose (a sugar molecule) in a process which, under normal conditions, requires oxygen and is hence termed aerobic respiration.

However, during particularly intensive bouts of exercise, there may be insufficient amounts of oxygen for the increased energy requirements of the body, and so an alternate method is utilised—anaerobic respiration.

While this pathway does indeed provide you with the necessary energy for those last few reps or that last half mile, it also results in an uncomfortable buildup of lactic acid. It’s the cause of what people mean when they talk about how you should ‘feel the burn’ when working out.

Fortunately, the discomfort caused by lactic acid build-up is short-lived and should usually go away soon after finishing your exercise, when the body goes back to using oxygen to break down glucose.

Better still is the fact that the more you exercise, the more efficient your lactic acid clearance will get. In other words, as you get fitter, your lactate threshold (essentially the point beyond which lactic acid begins to build up) will also increase.   The burning sensation will begin much later on in your exercise. When it does occur, you’ll also be able to withstand it for longer.

Delayed onset muscle soreness

So that’s ‘good pain’ during the workout itself. But what about the ache you sometimes feel in your muscles a day or two after a session? Usually, that’s also fine.

This pain, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), will generally happen to you for one of two reasons. First, you’ve recently started exercising again after a long period of inactivity, or second, you’ve incorporated a new activity into your routine. DOMS comes about as a result of numerous microscopic tears in the muscles which occur during the eccentric (lengthening) portion of an exercise, such as running downhill or crouching down for a squat.

Fortunately, the DOMS should ease off over the next few days, but to speed up the process, you should go ahead and do some light exercise, such as taking a walk or going for a swim. It’s important that it is just light exercise, though. Anything more intense could lead to further damage in the muscles, prolonging the soreness, and in extreme scenarios can even lead to permanent muscular damage. Don’t worry, though, this is very rare.

Bad Pain

Without fail, this ‘good pain’ can quickly take a nasty turn if you’re not careful. Drs Edward McFarland and Andrew Cosgarea of Johns Hopkins Medicine say ‘bad pain’ occurs when the muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, or bones in the body are exposed to excessive amounts of stress.

In some cases, these stresses might happen during a short period, such as a single workout. For example, trying to lift too much weight with the incorrect form might leave you with an aching back for days, weeks, months, or even years. Trust me, I’ve been there.

In other cases, the excess strain placed on the body is a result of an accumulation of stresses over time, i.e. exercising over and over again without giving your body time to recuperate. Despite what many gym enthusiasts swear by, overtraining does exist and can have some serious physiological and even psychological repercussions.

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How to Recognise and Avoid Bad Pain?

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a single, sure-fire way to confirm whether what you’re feeling is ‘good pain’ or something more serious.

Training regularly will help you learn about your body and enable you to distinguish real injury from harmless, short-term discomfort. That doesn’t really help you if you’re just starting out though.

So, for beginners, it’s recommended to start out slowly and gradually increase the intensity of the exercises as you progress. A good rule of thumb is that a slight burn that goes away a while after the muscles stop working is probably perfectly fine. A lingering ache is a sign that you’ve overdone it and you should immediately stop what you’re doing to prevent worsening the injury.

Another thing to bear in mind is that ‘good pain’ should never affect your joints. If you’re jogging, for example, and feel pain in your knees, don’t push through it. It’s better to cut your run short and be fit enough to run again the next day rather than to keep running and spend the next two weeks healing.

Treating Bad Pain

Luckily, most injuries arising from exercise aren’t severe and should heal fully without the use of any special methods. The first and most important thing to do is cut back on the exercise for a while.

Depending on the severity of the injury, this could simply mean decreasing the intensity or even stopping altogether. Note that this doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to the way of the couch potato for the next few days.

On the contrary, keeping the blood flowing to an injury by moving and stretching it helps speed up the healing process. In the case of a hurt joint, movement prevents it from stiffening up.

Another thing you could do is apply ice—for how long and how often depends on the injury. However, about 15 minutes repeated every hour for a day or so is common practice. With all that said, these are just loose guidelines and tips. It’s vital that you seek out professional help if you feel like what you’re experiencing isn’t normal. There’s no substitute for a professional’s advice.

Related Article:  5 Natural Ways to Speed Up Muscle Recovery After a Workout

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pain are two sides of the same coin. Differentiating between them, however, can be easier said than done.

My advice to you, at the risk of sounding cliché, is to remember that exercise isn’t a competition. It is a way for you to get healthier and happier with your life. Don’t fall victim to your ego and keep pressing on with an exercise that’s causing you pain.

The reason you’re exercising in the first place is to get healthier, after all. If you’re suffering; stop, rest, and start again on another day. Eventually, you’ll learn what your body can handle and how to avoid hurting yourself, but this takes time, so meanwhile take it slow, don’t rush it, and just enjoy yourself!