The YMCA employs experts in the field of health & fitness. All of our locations have certified personal trainers, group exercise, and wellness center instructors, who are available to help guide, coach, support and inspire your journey to a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy these articles and wellness tips for a healthier and happier you.
Resolve to be Healthier
IS BEING HEALTHIER YOUR ANNUAL RESOLUTION?
It is human nature to perform your best when you are personally challenged and when you share your goals with others. So the Y is challenging all of our members to take a pledge to be more active and eat healthier.
YOU CAN DO IT!
TRY SOME OF THESE IDEAS:
- Commit to walk 3 times a week for 20 minutes each time
- Commit to eat one healthy cooked meal at home per day
- Commit to reduce processed, pre-packaged foods
- Commit to eat 5 servings a day of fruits and/or vegetables
- Commit to watch less television and spend less time on electronics
- Commit to be more active with your family, friends or pets
- Commit to drink more water each day and less soda or sugared drinks
- Commit to take the stairs more and the elevators less
- Commit to park farther away from the entrance to grocery and department stores
- Commit to eat out less at fast food restaurants
- Commit to pack healthy lunches for work and school
COMMIT TO BE FIT
If they’re part of your yearly tradition, you may already have some ideas in mind. If not, you probably want to make sure that you set some realistic resolutions, especially with regard to your diet and fitness goals since they’re sometimes the hardest to keep.
That said, here are five smart diet and fitness resolutions that you should consider adding to your list!
Make a small change every day
Creating a long list of New Year’s resolutions might seem like a good idea, but taking on too much at once can overwhelm you and discourage you if you can’t focus your motivation. If you really want to keep your resolution(s), it’s best to start off by making small changes every day to slowly work toward your ultimate goal. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, so keep things simple. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, try non-fat milk in your latte one day and the next day, try adding 15 minutes of free weights at the gym. The more of these little changes you make in your daily life, the more likely they’ll eventually stick as a healthy habit. It’s challenging enough to change a single behavior, so taking on less will likely give you a better chance to succeed.
Do efficient workouts
Who has time to work out for two hours a day? Working out for hours and hours each day is not only time-consuming, but also boring, which can zap your motivation and ultimately prevent you from achieving your goals. Instead of a long sweat session, do shorter, high-intensity, interval workouts, such as this treadmill workout or this CrossFit-inspired workout. You’ll actually torch more calories in a quickie session than doing long, drawn-out workouts.
Eat nutritiously 80% of the time
Many weight-loss experts recommend making 80% of the calories you consume healthy and nutritious and saving the remaining 20% for not-so-healthy-foods. This strategy makes changing your eating habits a lot more manageable because if you cut out all of your favorite foods, you’ll feel deprived and end up binging on them later. Eliminating indulgences may initially help you lose weight, but it’s not a realistic, long-term solution. If you eat well the majority of the time, a few treats here and there won’t hurt your overall weight loss efforts and your diet will feel a lot more balanced, so you’re able to stick to it.
Schedule your workouts each week
Think you don’t have time to exercise? Try this tactic: Look at your weekly calendar and find blocks of free time (even as little as 15 minutes) to schedule some workouts for the upcoming week. If you spend a little time scheduling your workouts for the week, just like you would do with your other obligations, they’ll become appointments that you can’t miss. Would you skip a dentist appointment or a dinner date with a friend? Of course not! Treat your workouts the exact same way. Plus, when you look at your calendar and see all of your appointments it helps you stick to your resolution.
Don’t get caught up in what the scale says
The scale is a good measure of overall weight loss, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story, especially when it comes to daily weigh-in. Obsessing over the scale every morning is not a healthy habit or an accurate gauge of your progress. Water retention and hormones can add a few pounds to the reading, and if your weight-loss plan includes strength training, you may even gain weight from increased muscle mass while still losing fat. Instead of getting caught up in what the scale says, measure your weight loss in inches and how your clothes fit. Be sure to look at the big picture when it comes to weight loss progress. The scale can be helpful, but remember there’s so much more to the story!
The YMCA is here to help! The Y offers a huge variety of exercise classes on land and in water, sports programs for youth and adults and, with the help of ActivTrax, we can customize a path for you to gain strength, flexibility, and balance through guided workouts and activity tracking as well as better diet with nutrition and meal-planning tools. We are always available to help you stay committed to your health.
How many of these ideas can you incorporate into your daily routine? What other ways can you think of to add physical activity to your day?
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park farther away from the door in parking lots at work, school, church, stores and the Y
- Walk during lunchtime or breaks at work or school
- Take your dog or children to a park and play active games like tag or Frisbee
- Go to a local school track and walk around it four times (one mile)
- Join a neighborhood sports team (basketball, softball, etc.)
- Buy a pedometer, wear it every day and try to walk 10,000 steps (five miles) a day. Have a competition with a friend, co-workers, family members to see who can walk the farthest each day
- Walk around your community instead of driving or take the bus
- Do stretching exercises while watching TV
- For every half hour of TV you watch, get up and be active for 15 minutes
HEALTHY EATING TIPS
- Drink water instead of soda. Flavor water with a slice of lime, lemon, cucumber, or orange
- Carry a water bottle and drink 64 oz. of water daily
- Serve fresh fruits for dessert
- Use smaller plates, bowls and cups
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables
- Steam, bake, broil, or grill instead of frying
- Cook with oils instead of fats
- Place snacks in small containers instead of eating out of the bag
- Plan and cook meals in advance
- Bring lunch and healthy snacks to work and school
The YMCA employs experts in the field of health & fitness. All of our locations have certified personal trainers, group exercise, and wellness center instructors, all of which who are available to help guide, coach, support and inspire your journey to a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy these articles and wellness tips for a healthier and happier you.
Reduce Stress in December
Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.
You know that exercise does your body good, but you’re too busy and stressed to fit it into your routine. Hold on a second — there’s good news when it comes to exercise and stress.
Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Discover the connection between exercise and stress relief — and why exercise should be part of your stress management plan.
Exercise and stress relief
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.
- It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
- It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.
As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
- It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
Put exercise and stress relief to work for you
A successful exercise program begins with a few simple steps.
- Consult with your doctor. If you haven’t exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
- Walk before you run. Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running). You also can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
Also, incorporate strength training exercises at least twice a week.
- Do what you love. Virtually any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy. Examples include walking, stair climbing, jogging, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, gardening, weightlifting and swimming.
- Pencil it in. Although your schedule may necessitate a morning workout one day and an evening activity the next, carving out some time to move every day helps you make your exercise program an ongoing priority.
Stick with it
Starting an exercise program is just the first step. Here are some tips for sticking with a new routine or reinvigorating a tired workout:
- Set SMART goals. Write down SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited goals.
If your primary goal is to reduce stress in your life and recharge your batteries, your specific goals might include committing to walking during your lunch hour three times a week or, if needed, finding a baby sitter to watch your children so that you can slip away to attend a cycling class.
- Find a friend. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up at the gym or the park can be a powerful incentive. Working out with a friend, co-worker or family member often brings a new level of motivation and commitment to your workouts.
- Change up your routine. If you’ve always been a competitive runner, take a look at other less competitive options that may help with stress reduction, such as Pilates or yoga classes. As an added bonus, these kinder, gentler workouts may enhance your running while also decreasing your stress.
- Exercise in increments. Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. Interval training, which entails brief (60 to 90 seconds) bursts of intense activity at almost full effort, is being shown to be a safe, effective and efficient way of gaining many of the benefits of longer duration exercise. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.
Whatever you do, don’t think of exercise as just one more thing on your to-do list. Find an activity you enjoy — whether it’s an active tennis match or a meditative meander down to a local park and back — and make it part of your regular routine. Any form of physical activity can help you unwind and become an important part of your approach to easing stress.
GAUGE YOUR STRESS LEVEL
• Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
• Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control
• Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
• Feeling lonely, worthless, or depressed, having low self-esteem
• Avoiding others
• Low energy
• Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea
• Aches, pains, and tense muscles
• Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
• Frequent colds and infections
• Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
• Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
• Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
• Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
• Constant worrying
• Racing thoughts
• Forgetfulness, disorganization, inability to focus
• Poor judgment
• Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
• Changes in appetite – either not eating or eating too much
• Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
• Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
• Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting and fidgeting
FIGHT HOLIDAY STRESS AT THE YMCA!
While most people associate anxiety with an emotional response to stress, a major factor in stress and anxiety is the physical response to external stimulus. The stress response in the brain sends signals to the body to prepare us to handle a perceived danger or threat, and this induces a physical state of tension that can add to the emotional reaction to problem situations. As the body stores tension over time, a state of chronic anxiety can occur. Proper diet and regular exercise can help alleviate the physical tension associated with stress and help lower anxiety levels.
Eating a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and meats can help strengthen the body’s resistance to stress. These foods contain nutrients that are essential for healthy body function. Combining complex carbohydrates available from sweet potatoes, rice, or whole oats with protein helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, avoiding the stress of the sugar crashing cycle that can add to physical stress. Drinking plenty of water helps, too, as dehydration is just added stress to the body.
Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine also helps to reduce stress. Stimulants put the body in a constant state of heightened agitation and can facilitate a kind of false stress response when no stress is present. Refined sugar also creates stress as the body feels a rush of energy and then a crash in blood sugar. Processed foods should be avoided in favor of whole foods as they don’t contain the nutrients needed for strengthening the body’s ability to handle stress.
Exercise also helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. It does this in several ways. Engaging in physical activity increases the flow of oxygen through the body and stimulates the nervous system, and this can help to release the tension held in the body and induce a relaxed state of calm, making it easier to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Hormones such as endorphins are released during exercise, and these hormones help to alleviate pain and create a mental state of well-being. Exercise also helps to create a more positive self-image, provides a distraction from worries, and facilitates a sense of motivation and positive direction.
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or exhausting to provide benefits against anxiety. Just 10 minutes of moderate exercise a day can create a more positive outlook. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Try becoming a member of a group to provide the added benefit of social interaction and fun. To see benefit, make sure to move at least 3 to 4 times a week, and remember to start small and build slowly based on your level of fitness. Overdoing it too soon can cause problems and make it hard to keep up the routine.
Adopting a more physically healthy lifestyle based on balance is the key to a healthy emotional outlook and reduction in problems such as anxiety. Wellness can be looked at as a lifestyle choice, and making good decisions about diet and exercise is one way to improve the quality of life.
The YMCA is here to help! The Y offers a huge variety of exercise classes on land and in water, sports programs for youth and adults and, with the help of ActivTrax, we can customize a path for you to gain strength, flexibility, and balance through guided workouts and activity tracking as well as better diet with nutrition and meal planning tools.
STOP STRESS EATING
Are you a stress-eater? Many of us are and find it can have catastrophic effects on our weight and health. Certain foods inherently help reduce stress so if you munch on them regularly, you may find that your stress level has been naturally reduced. If you reach for the cupcakes or ice cream when you get stressed, you’ll want to read more!
- Rich and creamy avocados are a great source of vitamins and nutrients that have been shown to naturally boost your mood as well as block certain fats. Avocados are even great as a dessert food and better for you than that cupcake or ice cream to satisfy that craving for sweets.
- Cashews are high in zinc, which has been shown to lower depression and anxiety. They are high in protein too, helping keep you feeling full longer. It’s easy to grab a handful when you get stressed and snack on them instead. They are perfect to eat by themselves or add to a salad or main dish.
- Oranges are a great souce of vitamin C that helps you feel energetic and the sweetness can help fight off sugar cravings. Since oranges are such grab-and-go snacks, they are perfect to reach for whenever stress makes you want something sweet.
- Garlic is great for warding off illness and boosting our immune system. Because stress weakens our immunity, eating plenty of garlic in your diet can help keep your immune system strong.
- Broccoli is loaded with folic acid which has been directly linked with stress reduction. While it’s not an instant treatment for stress, eating plenty of garlic regularly can help lower your stress level.
- Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants that help lower stress. Just be sure to make it dark chocolate and don’t overdo it!
- Salmon is loaded with omega-3s that help with brain function. Improved brain function can help you deal with stress more effectively.
- Water is good for so many things! Drinking a cold glass of water and taking a brisk walk for a few minutes is a great way to get those endorphins going and easy your stress.