Is anyone else besides me a bit obsessed with counting their steps? I have a Fitbit Blaze and before that had a Fitbit Zip. If you aren't familiar with the Fitbit, it is a brand of pedometer that counts your steps. Different types can track more things besides your steps, my Blaze also tracks my heartbeat, my sleep and certain types of exercise. I can also track my calories, water intake and use it as a timer or stopwatch. It also is a regular watch, which surprisingly is one of the things I love most about it.
Before I was a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I worked an office job and found it really challenging to get 10,000 steps a day recommended by the American Heart Association. I thought once I didn't have to sit at a desk all day it would be easy to get 10,000 steps a day. It's not! It really does depend on what you are doing. I can teach an hour long group exercise class and its only 2,000 steps. But did I get a great workout? Yes! I know that activity is what is most important, not necessarily steps. However, if you aren't doing any other workout, counting your steps is a great idea and can be a great motivator. It also is a great reminder to keep moving throughout the day. New studies show that you need to be active for at least an hour to counteract sitting for eight hours in a day. That isn't even considering the other benefits of being active, strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
I still strive for 10,000 steps a day no matter what I've done that day. That means some days I am going for a walk after teaching two group exercise classes or making sure I run a few miles on a day I might only be teaching one. I've even been known to walk in place in my living room while watching tv. Here are some ways to get more activity throughout the day (and add some more steps!):
1. Walk while you are on the phone or a conference call - pace back and forth if you don't have far to walk.
2. Make a habit of going for a walk after dinner. It's good for digestion too!
3. Park farther away from wherever you are going.
4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
5. If you can, walk to run errands instead of driving.
6. If you are at the store or a mall, do an extra lap around before you leave.
7. Have a dance party in your living room! And yes, it is still a dance party even if it is just you and one song!
When thinking about strengthening your abs, you should also think about working your other core muscles as well. The term core refers to the muscles in your middle back, lower back, abdomen and hip region. The rectus abdominis (or six-pack) is most talked about but all parts of the core should be focused on because the core serves as a stabilizer for complex movement. Strong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass down from the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.
Here is a quick core circuit you can do anywhere. Do each move for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds then repeat the circuit.
- Crunches -- lie on the mat with your knees bent, lower back on the mat, bring your shoulder blades up off the mat with your head remaining in line with your spine then come back down to the mat
- Bridges -- stay in the beginning crunch position, bring your hips up to make a diagonal line from your knees to your shoulders, shoulder blades stay on the mat. Hold for 2 counts then bring hips back down and repeat.
- Reverse Crunch -- extend both legs straight up, back remaining on the mat, use your abs to push your feet towards the ceiling causing your hips to come off the mat. Don't swing!
- Bicycles -- do a crunch then twist to bring your elbow to the opposite knee, alternate sides
- Vertical Toe Touches -- extend both legs straight up, bring your shoulder blades up off the mat and with straight arms reach toward your toes
- Russian Twist -- sit on the mat, knees bent, lean back about 45 degrees, touch both hands to the mat beside your ribs then twist to bring your hands to the other side
- Plank with Leg Lift -- lie on the mat on your forearms (with your elbows directly under your shoulders) and up on your toes creating a straight line from your head to your feet. Alternate lifting your legs up.
- Superman -- lie on your stomach, bring your legs and arms up off the mat, hold for 2 counts then bring back down to the mat
I have always loved the idea of fitness. When I was little I did the moves along with Body Electric on PBS in my living room, I had a plastic step and workout DVDs. I wasn't consistent with it though and I had asthma that flared when I exerted myself. In high school I was the last person to finish when we had to run the mile in gym class. I will always remember being out there walking to finish when everyone else had already gone back into the gym. But man did I want to run! I so wished I could but figured I just couldn't because it was so hard for me. It seemed so easy for everyone else.
Everyone has those days when you feel down, irritated, frustrated or grumpy. I know I do! Although it can be oh so tempting to lay in bed all day and eat a dozen cookies, this is when it may be more important than ever to keep up with your exercise and nutrition as they both can affect your mood.
Get moving! Exercise creates endorphins and endorphins make you happy! These chemicals go to your brain and give you that "runner's high" that you may have heard of or even experienced yourself. Even better, exercise outside. Research by Richard Ryan and colleagues shows that being in nature significantly increases our sense of vitality. Go for a walk or run, ride your bike, play outside with your kids, take an exercise class, have a dance party - whatever you like to do. It's tough getting started but remember how good you will feel after being active.
Watch what you are eating and drinking. Certain vitamins and nutrients can affect your mood. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish), Magnesium (found in some nuts and seeds) and turmeric have all been shown to reduce depression. Also Legumes (like lentils, chickpeas and beans) contain high levels of folate and zinc, both of which have been used as effective supplements for depression. These are just a few examples, check out this list for more information.
Bottom line, staying active and eating right are not only good for your physical health but can also help your emotional health.
I hope you are having a wonderful Holiday weekend! Today just a quick post to share some online reading I have found interesting and/or inspiring lately.
I LOVE Jillian Michaels' take on health and fitness. This post talks about the many benefits of exercise.
One of my favorite blogs, The Fitnessista, shares her thoughts on fitness for vanity. I agree with her stance and think it is so important to focus on some of the other important reasons to exercise - it's not just how you look.
This post from Beach Babe Fitness shares some great ways to exercise at your desk.
I'm making these No Bake Homemade Granola Bars this weekend. They look so good.
Happy 4th of July! Have a safe and active holiday!