Exercise

Some Like it Cold

Say it with us: winter is here. For some of us that means it’s time to hide inside until the days are a little longer and the flowers are in bloom. But did you know that spending time outside in the cold can be really, really good for your health? You do now.

Rethink Rural wrote about five reasons we should spend some time out in the cold during fall and winter.

Cold air helps us sleep better, boosting immunity

Nearly every doctor, scientist and health expert agrees, the best natural remedy for boosting immunity is NOT mega-doses of vitamin C or more Echinacea, it’s getting enough sleep. At least 8 hours a night to be exact. Sadly, Americans are chronically deprived of sleep, sleeping 30-45 minutes less per night than other nations. Though sleep aids and therapies may have their place, one of the best ways to ensure a quality night’s sleep is to open a window and let in the cool, fresh air. Why? Before it’s time to sleep, your body temperature naturally drops, signaling your sleep system. And, as this University of Pittsburg study concluded, cooler temperatures help your brain wind down to sleep.

 Cold temperatures can help you burn more fat and calories

As reported by the Endocrine Society, long-term exposure to mildly cooler temperatures can help your body produce more beneficial brown fat leading to enhanced metabolism. Brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue, is a beneficial type of fat that burns energy and glucose to produce heat. It is prevalent in babies and small animals, and helps protect from diabetes and obesity.

Cold temperatures can help reduce inflammation

Just like an ice pack helps soothe strained or sore muscles, science says cold temperatures can help reduce exercise-induced inflammation. Olympians have reported to use the extreme cooling technique known as cryotherapy to help them recover faster and alleviate soreness.

Cold fresh air supports a healthy respiratory system and encourages exercise

In the winter months pollen counts and pollution are naturally lower. If you have children who suffer from bronchial issues, the winter can be a perfect time for them to get outdoors more and breathe in all the benefits of fresher, cleaner air. Likewise, those who suffer from seasonal allergies (or just can’t take the summer heat) are more likely to benefit from outdoor exercise in the winter, when pollens and humidity are at their lowest. As we’ve written about before, outdoor exercise has numerous advantages compared to indoor exercise including enhanced calorie burning, stress-reduction and increased small tendon and muscle strengthening.

Acute exposure to cold has an immunostimulating effect

It seems counter-intuitive, but acute exposure to cold air actually revs up your body’s defenses. How the heck does this work? When your body gets hit with a blast of cold air, like during a brisk walk or outdoor playdate, it perceives this as a stress and temporarily increases its natural killer cells to compensate.”

So whether you’re hitting the slopes, going for a hike, or just taking the dog for a walk, getting outside during the cold winter months can have a seriously good impact on your health. How are you getting outside?


Essential WFH Workouts

For many of us, a workout has always been part of our daily routine. But now, those daily schedules are anything but routine. It’s unlikely that we’re in the gym on the way to work or getting together with a group to play basketball, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to stay in shape, all from the comforts of home.

Sharp Magazine put together eight exercises we can do while we work from home (or while we’re on the go, watching TV, almost any time). Here are our six favorites, we love them because you don’t need a single piece of equipment — besides your body.

“THE PUSHUP

You know it, you hate it, but there’s a reason it’s the first on our list. Pushups activate every muscle in your body. Start with your chest nearly touching the floor, then push upwards, keeping your head, glutes, and heels in a straight line. Fifty daily reps will go a long way.

THE LUNGE

Start in a standing position, take one huge step forward, then lower your upper body until your knee is at a 90-degree bend. Repeat with the opposite leg. Your glutes and calves will thank you later. 

THE SQUAT

High school teachers used to use wall squats as punishment, but they’re phenomenal for your thighs. With your back flat and your feet hip-width apart, lower yourself until your knees bend at 90 degrees. Hold it for a minute — if you can.

THE PLANK

If you could hold it for longer than a minute, you’re some kind of hero – but a minute will suffice in helping you work your way to a six-pack. The plank is a core strength exercise that strengthens your spine and abdominal muscles – it should be an essential part of your at-home workout routine. 

THE SIDE PLANK

A side plank is similar to a regular plank in terms of setup and benefits. In a side plank, form matters a little more. Make sure your hips are in line with the rest of your body for a more intense muscle stretch.

THE BURPEE

If you’re looking to burn fat, the burpee is your friend . A cardio-forward full-body exercise that’ll help you look #shredded without leaving your bedroom.”

If you’re looking to get some work in while working from home, you’ll do well to create a regimen using these bodyweight exercises. You’ll see results without ever leaving home.


Creating an Exercise Routine for Cancer Patients

Recently, the benefits of exercising both during and after cancer treatments has begun to be promoted by oncologists and their teams. Some studies have shown it can fight treatment-related fatigue and even help improve the chance at survival for some.

Beginning to work out with cancer can be tricky, it’s not as simple as going for a run or lifting some weights. Cancer.net put together five tips for starting an exercise routine.

1. Learn about the physical activity recommendations.

For adults, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. The guidelines also recommend 2 days of full-body strength training.

2. Use a variety of exercises.

There are different types of exercise. An effective exercise plan will include a variety of types of exercise to have the best benefit for the whole body.  

  •   Aerobic training. Activities like walking and running are great aerobic exercise. But activities of daily living (ADLs), such as laundry, bathing, dressing, or cooking, may be your starting point.
  •   Resistance training. Although resistance training is one of the most important types of exercises during and after cancer treatment, it’s not done enough. Movements such as standing up from a chair or toilet, climbing stairs, and carrying grocery bags all require muscle. Resistance exercise, which can help reduce fatigue and improve body function, will make these tasks easier.
  •   Core training. Core training is the basis of movement. The muscles around the middle of your body, from just under the ribs to a few inches below where your hip bends, are your core. These muscles are used in every single movement your body makes, even rolling over in bed.

3. Train for your life by using functional fitness.

Think about the movements that you need to accomplish in your life and train for them. For example, if you need to bring laundry from one level of your home to the next, start by moving an empty laundry basket or small pile of towels multiple times to activate the needed muscles. If you find it difficult to carry groceries, train with a sack that has just a few small canned goods.

4. Remember to refuel your tank.

Hydration and food, especially protein, is key to recovery after exercise and resistance training. Exercise also has a powerful role in improving the quality of sleep, which also aids recovery. If your body cannot recover properly from new physical exertion, it can be harder to stick with your exercise program.

5. Find an accountability partner.

Another way to make your exercise program consistent is to tell someone close to you what your exercise plan is. Then, empower that person to encourage you by asking you about it regularly, or even join you. Share your goals and ask them what theirs are.”

These tips can make it easier to create and stick to a better-for-you exercise routine. The key is to find workouts that are relevant to the specific life and battle of each cancer patient and go from there.


Easy Resistance Band Exercises

Not everyone has the space and equipment required to set up a home gym. But that doesn't mean that everyone can’t create a gym-quality workout at home or on the go. All it takes is one simple little tool: the resistance band. These stretchy bands are low in price but high in impact and wildly versatile. Use them to stretch, stabilize and build muscles with a series of bodyweight workouts. 

Here are a few of our favorite resistance band exercises from the experts at Women’s Health.

“Overhead Squat

How to: Wrap a resistance band around your forearms, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms overhead. Sit your hips back, bend your knees, and lower down until your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor. Push through your heels and rise back to start. That's one rep.

Deadlift

How to: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Wrap a resistance band around your feet. Grab the top of the resistance band with both hands, and stand up straight. Hinge at your hips and lower down, with a slight bend in your knees, until your hands go just past your knees. Slowly return to start. That's one rep.

Standing Obliques

How to: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Wrap a resistance band around your right foot, then stand onthe other end with your left foot. Bend your arms and place your hands behind your head. Bend your right knee and lift it toward your right elbow. Slowly lower back down to start. That's one rep. Complete all reps on your right side before switching to the left.

Bicycle Crunch

How to: Lie flat on your back, wrap a resistance band around your feet, and place your hands on the sides of your body. Bring your left knee toward your chest as you extend the right. Then switch sides. Keep your lower back firmly planted on the ground. That's one rep.

Plank Row

How to: Get into a high plank position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Loop one end of a resistance band around your left thumb, and hold the other end in your right hand. Keeping your core tight and hips stable, pull your right hand to your shoulder. Slowly lower back down. That’s one rep. Complete all reps on one side before moving on to the next.

No home gym? No gym membership? No problem. A simple set of inexpensive resistance bands can set you up with a whole body workout regimen that’s easy to commit to and as versatile as it is effective.


More Exercise For a Happier You

As temperatures cool and the days get shorter, it’s especially important to think not only about our physical health, but our mental health. One way to take care of our bodies while also taking care of our minds is a new exercise routine. According to a study by Yale and Oxford Universities, “regardless of age, race, gender, income or education levels, people who exercise regularly have higher self-reported levels of happiness.”

How can exercise make people happier? Here are eight ways.

Release Endorphins for Improved Mood

During and after physical exertion, the brain releases endorphins. These feel-good hormones reduce our sense of pain and produce a feeling of euphoria. Studies have also found that the more intensely you exercise, the higher your endorphin release will be.

Feel More Energetic and Refreshed

Exercise boosts your circulation, ignites your cardiovascular system and stimulates your central nervous system. All of these effects lead to an increase in alertness and physical energy. 

Breathe in Fresh Air

Studies show that the longer we go without being outside, the more depressed we feel. By spending time outside we can interrupt negative emotions and relieve stress.

Get a Better Night’s Sleep

A regular moderate exercise routine can help people to fall asleep and stay asleep, and even achieve deeper sleep for longer.

Socialize With Your Workout Buddies

Having someone else as committed to fitness as you are helps maintain accountability, and it can be fun too. 

Boost Your Confidence

As you begin a new exercise routine, you may start to notice physical changes in your appearance and your stamina. Whether you’re losing weight, gaining strength or developing your coordination, becoming a better version of you is always a confidence booster.

Enjoy Deeper Intimacy

As you improve your physical health, you might also start to enjoy deeper intimacy with your partner. You’ll have higher energy levels and be in better physical shape. 

Get Away From Daily Stressors

Going to the gym, heading to spin class or running track are all ways to de-stress and make more time for yourself. The more time you make for your personal health, the more energy and focus you’ll have to tackle your to-do lists. 

So as the seasons continue to change and, perhaps, our moods along with them, keep in mind that an easy way to remedy our mental health (and to feel healthier, fitter and stronger) is a little exercise.


Recovery on Water

Every once in a while we discover an organization that truly inspires us. Recovery on Water (ROW) is one of those organizations. ROW is more than a group fundraising for a cause or supporting a mission, ROW is a team. To be more specific, Recovery on Water is a rowing team for breast cancer survivors.

Founded in 2007, ROW harnesses the power of sport to help breast cancer patients and survivors across the country take on their post-diagnosis life and reclaim their bodies, get fit and support one another.

Their values say it all:

“We believe in the power of sport.

It is a valuable tool, capable of improving fitness and quality of life for patients and survivors of breast cancer. Rowing is a low-impact sport that utilizes the whole body and is accessible to all, regardless of fitness level.

We value teamwork.

While we know that a boat is made up of many individuals, we come together and row as one.

We put the team first. Through partnership and relationships, we will create stronger, healthier communities with our boathouse partners, our Bridgeport neighbors, and the greater South Side area.

We celebrate diversity.

Our team and board are ethnically and socioeconomically diverse. We believe this makes us stronger, more open minded, more empathetic and most capable of changing lives. We value all survivors, those who come to us as athletes and those who do not.

We aim for quality.

We are thoughtful stewards, results oriented and data driven. We are constantly evolving our impact based on the needs of those we serve.

We value commitment in all the forms it takes.

Showing up and working hard is essential. For some, commitment is attending practices regularly, for others it is fundraising or volunteerism. All are necessary and equally appreciated.

We aim to build a sustainable organization.

We want ROW to serve patients and survivors for years to come. We achieve this through the leadership of the board, creating a diverse funding pool, and establishing ongoing relationships with breast cancer treatment centers.”

Survivors and patients can get involved with ROW from anywhere, too. VirtuROW offers digital programs and an app that provide access to live-streamed classes, fitness tracking and community groups. Whether you want to join or donate, check out ROW and discover how you can get involved.


Goal Season: Run a Virtual Race

Earlier this month, we told you a little about how to get into a running routine. If you’ve been running, just started or want to start, one of the best ways to get or stay motivated is by signing up for a race. Of course this year things are a bit different, but that doesn’t mean you can’t register for something virtual to keep yourself motivated and get yourself moving.

According to Outside, virtual races can be unexpectedly rewarding and fun.

Know Your Why

As with traditional races, setting a personal goal is step one. “There are so many reasons to do a virtual race right now,” says Morgon Latimore, a North Carolina–based running coach. “Whether you’re doing it for health, to obtain a PR, or to relieve stress, you need to know what that is if you’re going to prepare for it properly.” There’s no right or wrong “why,” stresses Latimore, but you’ll get more out of the experience if you nail that down first.

Take It Seriously—But Have Fun

Whatever your goal might be, it’s helpful to go after it the same way you would if you were lining up with hundreds of others. That means having a training plan, mapping out a course, and planning your race-day shoes and kit. In addition to the planning and training, says Latimore, the way you talk about virtual racing is every bit as important. “Avoid using the word just—as in: It’s just a virtual race. Paint the picture around what you want from the day and then line up what you need to support that.”

While your goal might be personal, everything is more fun with friends—and tapping into your own community can really enhance the experience.

Use It As a Learning Opportunity

According to Latimore, there’s no better venue for working on your mindset than a virtual event. “Use this opportunity to educate yourself as an athlete and prepare for returning to live competition,” he says. “Rarely are you all by yourself in a race environment, so work on your strategies while you have the chance.”

Celebrate!

A handful of cheering friends along your virtual route is just the start. If you’ve completed in-person races in the past, try to replicate the celebrations the best you can. If you’re running a sponsored virtual race, you can likely print a bib, make a finisher’s certificate, and maybe even earn a race shirt, just like normal. Snap a photo and post it to social, have a socially distanced beer and burger with a friend, or frame your bib. 

Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon (and whether you’re running or walking), Fall is the perfect time to jump into a race and accomplish something you can be proud of. So, there’s only one thing left to say: Ready, set, go!


How to Start Running

Anyone can be a runner. Say it with us: “Anyone can be a runner!” Whether you’ve been an athlete for years or you simply want to start moving a little more, the right routine can help anyone start a consistent running regimen that makes a difference. 

Runners World broke down how anyone can start running today:

“Get good gear: Resist the lure of the old trainers languishing in your wardrobe – even for walking. Worn-out or ill-fitting shoes are a recipe for injury. Go to a specialist running shop to get a pair with the fit and support you need. ‘There’s no magical shoe that makes running easier, but a bad shoe will ruin your running,’ says physiotherapist Bruce Wilk. Also, invest in socks made from technical sweat-wicking fabric to avoid getting nasty blisters.

Sneak in activity: Take 15 minutes of your lunch break to walk the office corridors; set an alarm every hour to remind you to get up. A study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found taking a five-minute walk break once an hour burns 132kcal over an eight-hour day.

Find your place: Map out a few safe, scenic, traffic-free routes that you can cover in various weather conditions and times of day.

Find your pace: When you first start running, the trick is to be consistent enough to build strength and endurance, but slow enough that you don’t get injured. So, do all of your training at an easy pace. Get into a rhythm that feels like you could maintain it for ever. ‘A lot of runners try to run too fast, because they feel like they’re not a runner unless they go at X pace,’ says coach Jeff Gaudette. ‘Your pace needs to be comfortable. If you run faster than you should, it’s going to hurt all the time and you’ll never get to a point where you can do it for 30 minutes.’ Develop the endurance; speed will come later.

Stay flexible: It is OK to split workouts into two or three sessions at first. Studies have shown that three 10-minute exercise sessions deliver the same health boost as a single 30-minute workout, says Blair.

Log your miles: Use a trusty notebook and pencil, or go tech with a GPS – either way you’ll draw confidence from watching the miles rack up. The Garmin Forerunner 45 is affordable and has a run-walk timer.

Practice patience: Many of the positive changes that are happening to your body won’t yet be visible in the mirror or on the scales, but don’t panic. ‘Trust that the weight loss will come, and be aware that it takes time to condition your muscles, ligaments and tendons,’ says Paul.”

To get into a running routine, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other — literally. So grab your running shoes, pick your route and get out there today for a brisk walk or an easy jog. Are you ready to get started?


Five Stretches for Staying Injury Free

Olympian and Cross Fit legend Tia-Clair Toomey knows a thing or two about staying healthy while working to get fit. “The Fittest Woman on Earth,” Toomey has made a career out of weightlifting and exercise, and she’s also proactive about stretching as a means to stay injury free and mentally balanced.

Her daily stretching routine is made for anyone, not just world-class athletes, and was featured in Men’s Health.

“The first three stretches work the lower body, starting with a seated straddle. Toomey sits with her legs placed as wide as is comfortable. "As I slowly breathe into the stretch, I slowly get a little deeper, I can take legs wider," she says. "This really hits my adductors, and I feel like whenever I get lower back pain, this is a really great stretch to do and takes a lot of that pressure away."

The second stretch is a single-leg forward fold. From a seated position, Toomey stretches one leg out in front of her, tucks the other inward towards her body, and then leans forward onto the extended leg, holding for 3 to 4 minutes. "This one really hits the hamstrings, it's one I do if my back, my glutes or even my hamstrings are blowing up throughout a workout, or just sore in general," she says. "Having tight hamstrings can put a lot of pressure on the glutes, which will then tighten up and put a lot of pressure on the lower back."

Next up is a lunge, which targets the hip flexors and quads. "You want to make sure your knee and your shin is nice and lined, you don't want your knee going over your toes or behind your foot," she says. Then Toomey twists back and grabs her other foot with the opposite hand.

Moving onto the upper body, Toomey sits with her hands facing backwards behind her, and slides forward to place a stretch on her chest, biceps and forearms, holding for 3 to 4 minutes.

The fifth and final stretch is one which Toomey recommends for anyone who has been spending even more time than usual with their shoulders hunched inwards over a computer or phone over the last several months.”

Stretching is great for our bodies, but it’s also great for our minds. "Within our really busy lives, we tend to forget and we don't actually understand the importance of stretching," Toomey says. "It doesn't matter whether you're young and you're active, or you're a little older, I think spending at least 10 to 15 minutes a day stretching your muscles and taking that little bit of time for yourself, focusing on your breathing, is so crucial to having a really nice balanced mental state in order to get on with your day."