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Refugees And The Birth Of Empathy
In April 2015, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu met in Dharamsala for a historic conversation about joy. The Book of Joy (on sale now) chronicles the week-long discussion. Learn more at bookofjoy.org and on social media with hashtag #sharethejoy

"Many of us have become refugees," the Dalai Lama tried to explain, "and there are a lot of difficulties in my own country. When I look only at that," he said, cupping his hands into a small circle, "then I worry." He widened his hands, breaking the circle open. "But when I look at the world, there are a lot of problems, even within the People's Republic of China. For example, the Hui Muslim community in China has a lot of problems and suffering. And then outside China, there are many more problems and more suffering. When we see these things, we realize that not only do we suffer, but so do many of our human brothers and sisters. So when we look at the same event from a wider perspective, we will reduce the worrying and our own suffering."

I was struck by the simplicity and profundity of what the Dalai Lama was saying. This was far from "don't worry, be happy," as the popular Bobby McFerrin song says. This was not a denial of pain and suffering, but a shift in perspective--from oneself and toward others, from anguish to compassion--seeing that others are suffering as well. The remarkable thing about what the Dalai Lama was describing is that as we recognize others' suffering and realize that we are not alone, our pain is lessened.

Often we hear about another's tragedy, and it makes us feel better about our own situation. This is quite different from what the Dalai Lama was doing. He was not contrasting his situation with others, but uniting his situation with others, enlarging his identity and seeing that he and the Tibetan people were not alone in their suffering. This recognition that we are all connected--whether Tibetan Buddhists or Hui Muslims--is the birth of empathy and compassion.

I wondered how the Dalai Lama's ability to shift his perspective might relate to the adage "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." Was it truly possible to experience pain, whether the pain of an injury or an exile, without suffering? There is a Sutta, or teaching of the Buddha, called the Sallatha Sutta, that makes a similar distinction between our "feelings of pain" and "the suffering that comes as a result of our response" to the pain: "When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed, ordinary person sorrows, grieves, and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical and mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he feels the pain of two arrows." It seems that the Dalai Lama was suggesting that by shifting our perspective to a broader, more compassionate one, we can avoid the worry and suffering that is the second arrow.

"Then another thing," the Dalai Lama continued. "There are different aspects to any event. For example, we lost our own country and became refugees, but that same experience gave us new opportunities to see more things. For me personally, I had more opportunities to meet with different people, different spiritual practitioners, like you, and also scientists. This new opportunity arrived because I became a refugee. If I remained in the Potala in Lhasa, I would have stayed in what has often been described as a golden cage: the Lama, holy Dalai Lama." He was now sitting up stiffly as he once had to when he was the cloistered spiritual head of the Forbidden Kingdom.

"So, personally, I prefer the last five decades of refugee life. It's more useful, more opportunity to learn, to experience life. Therefore, if you look from one angle, you feel, oh how bad, how sad. But if you look from another angle at that same tragedy, that same event, you see that it gives me new opportunities. So, it's wonderful. That's the main reason that I'm not sad and morose. There's a Tibetan saying: 'Wherever you have friends that's your country, and wherever you receive love, that's your home.'"

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of two critical conferences at the UN on the Refugee and Migrant crisis: the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (Sept. 19th, a UN conference) and the Leaders Summit on Refugees (Sept. 20th, hosted by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, at the UN). To see all the posts in the series, visit here. To follow the conversation on Twitter, see #UN4RefugeesMigrants.

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Cage-Free, Free-Range, Pasture-Raised Or Organic Eggs: An Egg-ucation

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My son Alex and his girlfriend Natalie have been raising chickens in their backyard for the past five years. So I know that depending on the breed of the hen, the color of a farm (backyard) fresh egg can naturally be white, brown, blue or even green. Alex has also taught me the colors of the egg says a lot. Eggs that are the freshest and most full of nutrients will have a bright orange and plump yolk with perfectly clear whites, while those that are not will be a pale yellow with dull, speckled whites. With such inside information and access to the freshest eggs possible, you would think I wouldn't have needed the egg-ucation I received when my friend Charli and her adorable ten-month-old baby Vivien came to visit me.

We were in the kitchen, and I was preparing breakfast. At her direction, I carefully separated the yolk from the whites. Apparently, the newest research advises that a baby not eat the egg white until they are at least a year old. While the egg yolk is loaded with nutrients, the egg white is a source of allergens.

Charli has always been organically conscientious, but even more so as a new mom. So she asked me what kinds of eggs I was using. I told her that when not gifted with those my son brings me from his chickens; I generally bought organic free-range eggs. As I cooked, Charli proceeded to tell me why that was not as good a choice as it sounded. Here's what I learned:

Cage-free and free-range sound better than they are
Cage-free and free-range might sound like the hens are free to roam but that is not necessarily so. Instead of cages, many are kept in multi-level aviaries which might allow them to spread their wings but hardly roam free. This label also does not preclude the use of antibiotics in feeding. In addition, these types of houses are much more expensive - a cost that gets passed on to the consumer. The USDA defines free-range or free-roaming as, "Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside." Little information is provided about living conditions, (stocking density) and standard industry practices which keeps the consumer and chickens in the dark, literally.

Brown eggs are no healthier than any other color egg
Brown rice might be better for us than white rice, but not so with eggs. The color of the eggs, as I already knew, depends on the breed of the hen. How nutritious the egg depends on what the hens are fed and how they are raised.

Organic is open to interpretation
The USDA has created guidelines for Organic Certification so if a food product is not labeled as certified the word organic is open for interpretation. In the case of eggs, in order to meet the USDA Organic certification they must come "from uncaged hens, free to roam in their houses and have access to the outdoors." They should also be "fed an organic diet of feed produced without conventional pesticides or fertilizers." What I learned is that the tricky part here is how "access to the outdoors" is interpreted.

Pasture-raised at the grocery store is best
By the end of my egg-ucation, Charli had convinced me that the freshest, healthiest eggs came from hens raised in the most humane of conditions; such as from backyards like my son Alex and Natalie's, and local small farmers, but when those are not an option, reach for pasture-raised. According to a study by Mother Earth News, pasture-raised are the only truly free-range eggs available and also the most healthful with one-third less cholesterol, one-quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, twice as many omega-3 fatty acids, three times as much Vitamin E and seven times as much beta-carotene as commercial eggs!
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It's about more than reading labels
What I think is the most important part of the lessons Charli taught me about the best kinds of eggs to buy is that even when we are reading labels.

As I grew my company Greenopia, I became acquainted with the term LOHAS, which stands for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. This market which includes brands, products and services from organic food to fuel efficient cars is now estimated to be over $209 billion in the US alone. It's understandable that many people want to tap into that. I also learned of a rather deceptive practice known as greenwashing - in which a consumer will be led to think the product or service is truly green, but when you look deeper into it - as in the case of cage-free eggs - that is not the case.

Don't be greenwashed
So it's about more than reading labels. It's about being a conscious consumer and educating yourself, so you know what the labels mean - whether it's from some of my favorite resources like EWG, TreeHugger, and Mother Nature Network or good friends like Charli whose only vested interest is in raising a healthy, toxin free child. The key is always to be living with a green heart - especially in our own kitchen.
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Voodoo Medicine: Time To Stop
The world's most celebrated athlete standing on the podium in Rio in honor of receiving yet another gold medal has something important in common with your lazy uncle throwing back a cold one in his Barcalounger. Yes, swimming powerhouse Michael Phelps, purple-spotted from cupping therapy, and your slovenly relative with a beer gut both share a bond -- a weakness in succumbing to the allure of voodoo medicine. Modern-day snake oil salesmen hawking quick cures and TV doctors peddling the latest diet miracle with blatantly ridiculous claims are everywhere on the tube, social media, the supermarket and old-fashioned billboards. Anecdotes and celebrity testimonials have in many cases replaced evidence-based medicine in our popular culture. Diet, nutrition and medical claims are thrown together in an olio of nonsense of false promise and false hope.

Problems with Western Medicine

Let's pause here a moment. Before ripping further into the obvious drawbacks of voodoo medicine, that is, any medical claims absent substantiating data, let's first emphasize that of course evidence-based medicine (often called western medicine) has its own set of serious problems and significant limitations. Clinical studies can be and have been tainted by pharmaceutical company sponsors or by doctors with financial interests in the outcome; negative data can be buried or manipulated; drugs shown to be safe in small trials can turn out to have significant or even deadly side effects in a broader population; treatment can lead to addiction; and interactions among different drugs can be hazardous. Biology is complex, and our understanding of disease incomplete, meaning that treatments are often hit or miss or luck of the draw rather than based on first principles. Perhaps the biggest flaw with modern western medicine, though, is that we have created a false expectation that our ills can be cured with a pill when it fact the cure more often lies in making difficult lifestyle changes. Smoking, lack of exercise and overeating come to mind. But these flaws in modern medicine are, in theory, amenable to improvement because the foundation is evidence-based. With scrutiny and reproducibility comes an accountability that will eventually expose weaknesses to be addressed. Or at least that possibility exists, which is not the case for claims that are made with no attempt at rigorous evaluation -- like cupping.

The Allure of False Hope

Cupping can be traced to ancient Chinese practices used ostensibly to treat a variety of ailments including arthritis and muscle soreness. There is no credible clinical evidence that cupping is anything more than a placebo -- or one big hickey -- with no medical benefit at all. And consider this question -- did you see any of the Chinese athletes doing cupping therapy? Think about it. Perhaps if this ancient Chinese treatment really worked over millennia we might see Chinese athletes partaking of its benefits?

Like their cousin cupping, faddish cryotherapy and chelation also offer an alternative to actual medicine. Chelation, which has a legitimate application in treating acute heavy metal poisoning, is sold instead as a cure or treatment for arthritis, hormone imbalances, and heart disease, which unscrupulous practitioners attribute to "heavy metal toxicity" or some other false claim about why chelation is beneficial. No scientific evidence supports this. All of these claims are unproven. The same applies to cryotherapy (or more faddishly whole body cryotherapy, or WBC), touted as a way to slow aging, improve sleep, enhance athletic performance and reduce various pains. There is not a shred of credible scientific support for these assertions. This list goes on and on: Ayurvedic medicine, aromatherapy, homeopathy, shamanism, naturopathy, Hopi Indian ear candling, Sekkotsu, Christian faith healing, stem cell therapy, probiotics, treatment for systemic "inflammation"...

These therapies and treatments all share the same fatal flaw; none has undergone rigorous clinical studies to determine safety and efficacy. In the absence of such trials, it cannot possibly be known if the drug or treatment is effective, if there will be serious side effects, if it will actually make the condition worse, or it will interfere with drugs or treatments that would otherwise help. Wishful thinking is not a viable treatment plan. In the absence of rigorous evaluation, you simply cannot know if your favorite treatment or supplement works no matter how many convincing testimonials you hear or how many anecdotes you may read. You or Grandma or Aunt Tilly or your best friend are just making it up based on lore and hearsay, no different than randomly going into a supermarket, picking out a package of peas and claiming that eating half a bag a day (but only if eaten at noon) will cure arthritis. The claim is convincing if the familiar face of a celebrity testifies that eating a bag of peas each day at noon will cure your ills or if an actor dressed as a doctor, removing a pair of glasses to simulate intimacy, solemnly attests to the benefits of pea eating. But testimonials and anecdotes do not make the claim any more valid. You might think chelating works because someone you trust told you so -- but you are doing nothing different than picking out that bag of peas.

Intersection of Voodoo Diet and Medicine

Claims surrounding nutrition are equally noxious. Of all the voodoo treatments mentioned, my personal favorites are those meant to address the curse of "inflammation" because these claims are the perfect confluence between voodoo medicine and diet. Here is a typical claim:

"Inflammation controls our lives. Have you or a loved one dealt with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer? If you answered yes to any of these disorders you are dealing with inflammation."


Well, no, inflammation does not control our lives. Like many others, this author claims inflammation is responsible for a huge range of maladies, ranging from Alzheimer's to lupus to stroke to fibromyalgia; I counted 30 on this site. This is nothing but cringe-worthy. Yes, inflammation is terribly important, and is associated with disease. But the oversimplification and weak link to biology that we find on sites like these are misdirection from understanding what is actually happening in our bodies. Such misunderstanding leads to odd nutritional or medical recommendations that are useless at best or dangerous at worst.

We are awash in a sea of these crazy and exaggerated claims about inflammation that have taken root in popular culture, as even a quick Google search reveals:

"Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious diseases." No it is not; it is an important step, but one of many, in the progression of diseases generally caused by bad habits.

"Inflammation is the cause of nearly all disease." Wrong at every level; there are many diseases not associated with inflammation, and it is not typically the cause of disease. Rather inflammation is a pathway to pathology shared across many diseases.

"Ginger and turmeric have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties." I love ginger and turmeric, but there is scant epidemiology to support the claim. It is just wishful thinking and the kind of bogus claim that distracts us from reality.

"Excess sugar intake will contribute to inflammation. It's not just the obvious sugar but also the hidden sugars." There is no such thing as hidden sugars; and sugar itself has nothing to do with inflammation, other than adding calories, which in excess we know can cause inflammation.

"Phytochemicals - natural chemicals found in plant foods... are also believed to help reduce inflammation." There is no evidence for this statement. Of course, eating plant rather than animal products would reduce saturated fat intake, which in excess can cause inflammation. Cyanide is a natural chemical found in plants so the endorsement here is not ringing.

"Inflammation has also been linked to unbalanced levels of certain hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. That's why chronic inflammation often inflicts menopausal women, causing conditions like osteoporosis, weight gain, and adult acne." This claim is not substantiated by any serious clinical research. None.

"Foods that combat inflammation include tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and nuts like almonds and walnuts." Well, no, that is not true at all. These foods simply do not promote inflammation, which is not the same as combatting it. Avoiding rotten food is not the same thing as treating food poisoning.

"Monica has done exhaustive research on the nutritional components of 1,600 common foods, and rated them according to scientifically validated factors related to inflammation." Well, scientists would be surprised by this since there are no "scientifically validated factors related to inflammation." Just foods with or without saturated fats, which we know in excess can lead to inflammation. This does not require "exhaustive research."

Voodoo Nutrition and the Curse of Supplements

Atkins, Dean Ornish, the Zone, South Beach, Glycemic Index... this list of fad diets too is nearly endless. Grocery stores sell magazines shouting out blatantly false claims that promise to help readers "lose weight like a teenager," "lose belly fat," "lose 11 lbs a week," and "fill up on fat-burning super foods." We are sold hormone supplements, told the benefits of "anti-inflammatory foods" and promised results if we only would take acetyl coenzyme A. These promises cannot be kept because they defy the simplest laws of biology and physics.

Dr. Oz has on his website a section entitled, "The Top 10 Fat-Burning Foods." This is what the FDA and nutritionists say about fat-burning foods: there is no such thing. Dr. Oz is conning you, feeding you pure nonsense, selling miracle cures no better than snake oil vendors of old. FDA says, "Consumers should know that there is no such thing as a fat-burning pill." Just to be clear, the FDA adds further about fat-burning foods that, "No substance has ever been shown to actually do this." It is a big lie, a scam.

People daily pop, drink and chow down on nutritional supplements with great abandon -- without the slightest evidence that any of them have any potential benefit. But things are worse than that; not only do you not know if the supplement you take has any health benefit at all, you actually don't know if you are taking the supplement you intend. You may well be taking something detrimental to health or something potentially healthy but in unsafe doses. This from an expose in the New York Times:

Among the attorney general's findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for "physical endurance and vitality," that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat -- despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free. Three out of six herbal products at Target -- ginkgo biloba, St. John's wort and valerian root, a sleep aid -- tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. And at GNC, the agency said, it found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies.


The Times is not alone in their summary findings, as we see from an article from Consumer Health Choices:

Supplement manufacturers routinely, and legally, sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective. Unlabeled ingredients found in many supplements are: bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe. The FDA has warned about at least eight of them, some as long ago as 1993. Of the more than 54,000 dietary supplement products in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, more than 40,000 have no level of safety and effectiveness supported by scientific evidence.


Next time you have an urge to take fish oil, ginger and ginkgo biloba, just pop some peas into your mouth; there is no evidence one is more healthful than the other.

There is no room here to debunk the ocean of nonsense we encounter daily; this small sample of crazy is not even the tip of the tip of the iceberg. The voodoo surrounding probiotics and hormone supplements for example is each in itself a blog, or book. But understand that unless you restrict your intake of drugs and supplements to those proven to be effective and safe through rigorous scientific evaluation, you are just randomly putting stuff in your mouth. You should stop doing that. And Michael Phelps should stop cupping; it is embarrassing.

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Here's What's Keeping College Students From Getting The Sleep They Need

Late last month, I visited the California offices of Chegg, a higher education company that specializes in helping college students with everything from affordable textbook rentals to online tutoring. Lately, Chegg has committed to gaining a deeper understanding of another subject central to college students' lives: sleep. And as Chegg's CEO Dan Rosensweig and I began a conversation with an audience of Chegg employees, Dan shared the results of a new Chegg survey on the sleep habits of college students.



The survey's findings bring valuable data to a familiar problem: for an alarming number of students, college has been turned into one long training ground for burnout. The motto "sleep, grades, social life: pick two," or some version of this, can be heard on campuses across the country. The combination of academic pressures, social opportunities -- and for many, newfound freedoms and the resulting challenge of time management -- creates an environment where sleep doesn't get the respect it deserves.



So as thousands of young people across the country prepare to head off to college, here are a few findings from the Chegg study -- which surveyed 473 students from a mix of public and private colleges -- that I found most illuminating.



Most students know there is a link between sleeping and academic performance.



Over half of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that students who do better in school probably get more sleep. (They're right, of course. A 2014 study by the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota showed that the effect of sleep deprivation on grades is roughly equivalent to binge drinking and drug use.)



And the vast majority of students want to get the sleep they need.



Fully 84 percent said 8 or more hours would be "ideal" on a school night.



But very few are meeting that goal.



Only 16 percent usually get 8 or more hours on a school night, with far more (79 percent) sleeping 5 to 7 hours a night.



Today's college students are constantly connected.



Students overwhelmingly cited time spent online and with electronic devices as significant obstacles to sleep. Asked to name the reasons that keep them from sleeping, 51 percent cited too much time online doing non-school related activities -- second only to having too much homework.



Even in bed.



A whopping 86 percent said they take their devices to bed with them -- for email, texting and other non-school activities. And 90 percent leave their phones on when they go to sleep.



The good news?



Chegg's survey found that most college students have plenty of free time each day (much of it, for better or worse, is spent online). So there's an opportunity for students to set aside some of that time for sleep, whether that means going to bed 30 minutes earlier or finding time during the day for a nap.



And the fact that so many students know how much sleep they should be getting, and are aware of how tethered they are to their devices, is at least a first step in changing habits. As more studies like this emerge -- and as I was researching The Sleep Revolution, I was struck by the sheer number of new studies adding to our understanding of sleep's vital role in every aspect of our lives -- people will be more equipped to make changes, even small ones, to help them get the sleep they need.



That's why HuffPost launched the Sleep Revolution College Tour, and why we continue to tell stories around sleep's impact on our lives -- everything from the military's rediscovery of sleep as an essential tool of judgment to the ways athletes increasingly view it as the ultimate performance enhancer. As we approach the start of another academic year, with all its possibilities, there's no better time than now to renew our relationship with sleep and savor all the benefits it brings.

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How I Empowered Myself To Kick My Own Butt Into Shape
Setting time aside each day for yourself is so important. Whether it's a few minutes of meditation, a workout, or a walk around the block during lunch time, investing in time that directly benefits your physical, emotional and mental being sets the tone for how you go about your day, and ultimately for how you live your life.

But in our culture where it's acceptable to work 80 hours a week and keep your phones by your bed in case the boss calls, it's no surprise we have also accepted that taking care of ourselves is the last priority.

Twelve months ago, that was me. I was a graphic designer, working seven days a week, totally exhausted, and my health was at an all-time low. Treating myself right meant binge-watching TV on the couch.

Fast-forward a year. I still enjoy occasional TV breaks, but I am now a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and a spin instructor-in-training.

Yes, I'm talking about the same person. And no, there was no magic trick involved. I had just finally come around to the fact that I needed to make a change.

I'm not suggesting that people need to quit their current jobs and become fitness nuts like I did to be happy. However, by doing that for myself, I learned a valuable lesson - which everyone should heed - about how important it is to make yourself a priority, specifically through movement, sweat and relaxation. So let's back up for a second and talk about what the heck happened in the span of a year that took me from miserable to pretty darn happy, and how anyone can have the same breakthrough.


I kept myself accountable.
Last April, after going through a few tough months in my personal life, I woke up one Saturday morning and, with a swift determination that came out of left field, I decided to head to the gym to start a 12-week workout program that I'd discovered through Instagram. That same day, I decided to create a fitness Instagram account, @workoutbean, in order to hold myself accountable to this new lifestyle that I hadn't even spent 24 hours living yet.

I soaked up the awesomeness. Over the next few weeks, a few crazy things happened. I started to feel good about myself both physically and emotionally; by continuing to exercise and by sticking to the routine that I had created for myself, I felt a noticeable difference in my mood. I started making friends -- thanks to Instagram, which has a tight-knit community of girls in fitness. I started to post and interact through my account, building genuine relationships with girls around the world. (Shout-out to my beloved #girlgang!) And lastly, I started to realize that lil ol' me was having a positive impact on other people's lives. I would get comments and messages telling me that my post motivated them to get out of bed that morning, or that after scrolling through my account, they too decided to start incorporating exercise into their life.

I reassessed my snacking habits. I've always been a big snacker -- I am head over heels in love with food. However, before I revamped my health routine, I had zero willpower and indulged in sweets way too often. But when I started exercising consistently and becoming healthier, it changed my perspective. Though I've never restricted myself or counted calories, I now try to flex my willpower muscle. I still eat treats, but as a conscious choice, not just because they're placed in front of me. When I need a quick snack, I usually go for yogurt, a banana with almond butter, or a protein shake.

I've come to learn that when I treat my body with respect, I feel good both inside and out. Though I'm certainly not an expert in nutrition, I know that by taking the time to choose food that is wholesome and healthy, I feel properly fueled and ready to take on the day.

I took permanent action. Living a healthy life and positively affecting other people soon became my passion. And when it hit me -- like a brick wall -- that this is what I needed to be doing in my life, I quit my desk job and went freelance so that I could focus on figuring out how to make fitness my full-time job.


So with my story in mind, here is how you can apply my approach to your own life and get moving right now.


Shift your perspective on what it means to work out.
Treat exercise not like a chore, but instead, a privilege. It's the opportunity to do something that benefits you physically, mentally, and emotionally. For many of us, it's the only time during the day that we can focus purely on ourselves in the present moment.

Get dedicated. Where does one look for that fleeting thing we call motivation? Start by making a promise to yourself that you'll create a routine and stick to it, while simultaneously understanding that most of the time, you will, in fact ... not feel motivated. But once you come to peace with it and continue to push through, you'll start to become addicted to your own dedication, regardless of motivation.

Get out of bed -- it's half the battle. When I first started going to the gym, I would lay my gym clothes out the night before, set my alarm out of reach so that I had to physically get out of bed to turn it off, and get my butt to the gym by 6 a.m. before heading to the office.

Enjoying how you move is crucial. Breaking a sweat does not mean limiting yourself to a dreary treadmill five days a week. Running outside, yoga, cycling, lifting weights, rock climbing ... there is something for everyone. I personally thrive in group exercise classes, but others feel their best putting an emphasis on solo workouts at the gym. Find what you love doing, and you'll barely think twice about it being work.

Make friends who motivate you.
It's really hard to make new friends as adults. So open yourself up to the idea that exercising can be a way to form new relationships. And here's a secret for you -- finding friends who enjoy working out is one of the best ways to ensure that you maintain your healthy routine. Before my fitness commitment, I was in a funk; I didn't have many girlfriends. By starting this new journey, I threw open a door that has led to so many wonderful new friendships -- wonderful not only because they've held me accountable, but also because they've pushed me to realize my true potential.

Create time to unwind. Rest days and relaxation are essential. Taking a day or two off from working out allows your body to reset, and treating yourself fuels the mind and the spirit. Whether it's a hot bubble bath, a pedicure, or a really delicious nap on a Sunday afternoon, finding a way to unwind is just as important as getting in a sweaty gym session.


The best part of all this: you'll see results everywhere. Put effort into yourself, be it through sweat or physical challenges. Push yourself out of the comfort zone. Exercise sets off a chain reaction, improving not just your own physical body, but all elements within your life: your relationships with others, your relationship with yourself, your career and your family. Start to take care of yourself, and you'll see that something magical happens -- but I promise you, it ain't no magic trick.


The best experiences pack a punch of flavor into your everyday life, just like in Odwalla smoothies, protein shakes and bars, where you can enjoy great-tasting nutrition through a wide variety of the season's most delicious bounty!

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Stress Literally Shrinks Your Brain (7 Ways To Reverse This Effect)
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We all know that living under stressful conditions has serious emotional, even physical, consequences. So why do we have so much trouble taking action to reduce our stress levels and improve our lives?

Researchers at Yale University finally have the answer. They found that stress reduces the volume of grey matter in the areas of the brain responsible for self-control.

So experiencing stress actually makes it more difficult to deal with future stress because it diminishes your ability to take control of the situation, manage your stress and keep things from getting out of control.

A vicious cycle if there ever was one.

But don't be disheartened. It's not impossible to reduce your stress levels; you just need to make managing stress a higher priority if you want to reverse this effect. The sooner you start managing your stress effectively, the easier it will be to keep unexpected stress from causing damage in the future.

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." -William James


Luckily, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold, change, and rebuild damaged areas as you practice new behaviors. So implementing healthy stress-relieving techniques can train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects from stress in the future.

Here are seven strategies to help you fix your brain and keep your stress under control:

1. Say No

Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. "No" is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it's time to say no, avoid phrases such as "I don't think I can" or "I'm not certain." Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

2. Disconnect

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment.

Taking regular time off the grid helps you to keep your stress under control and to live in the moment. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even--gulp!--turning off your phone gives your body and mind a break. Studies have shown that something as simple as a weekend e-mail break can lower stress levels.

If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you will cut the cord and go offline. You'll be amazed by how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule.

If you are worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, try first doing it at times you are unlikely to be contacted--maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with this, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

3. Neutralize Toxic People

Dealing with difficult people is frustrating, exhausting, and highly stressful for most. You can control your interactions with toxic people by keeping your feelings in check. When you need to confront a toxic person, approach the situation rationally. Identify your own emotions and don't allow anger or frustration to fuel the chaos. Also, consider the difficult person's standpoint and perspective so that you can find solutions and common ground. Even when things completely derail, you can take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring you down.

4. Don't Hold Grudges

The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. When the threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when the threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you're holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Letting go of a grudge not only makes you feel better now but can also improve your health.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a simple, research-supported form of meditation that is an effective way to gain control of unruly thoughts and behaviors. People who practice mindfulness regularly are more focused, even when they are not meditating. It is an excellent technique to help reduce stress because it allows you to reduce the feeling of being out of control. Essentially, mindfulness helps you stop jumping from one thought to the next, which keeps you from ruminating on negative thoughts. Practicing mindfulness might even increase your score on an emotional intelligence test. Overall, it's a great way to make it through your busy day in a calm and productive manner.

6. Put Things In Perspective

Our worries often come from our own skewed perception of events. So before you spend too much time dwelling on what your boss said during the last staff meeting, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren't sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you are thinking in broad sweeping statements like "Everything is going wrong" or "Nothing will work out" then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just one or two things--not everything. The key to keeping your cool is to remember that your feelings are exaggerating the situation and the scope of the stressor is much more limited than it might appear.

7. Use Your Support System

It's tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed.

Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insights and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can't because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your anxiety and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.

Bringing It All Together

As simple as these strategies may seem, they are difficult to implement when your mind is clouded with stress. Force yourself to attempt them the next time your head is spinning, and you'll reap the benefits that come with disciplined stress management.

How do you manage stress? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

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How Low Should You Squat? (And How To Improve It)
By Jessica Migala for Life by Daily Burn

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

It's a tried-and-true move for a reason: It hits the spot when you're looking for a workout to quite literally kick your butt. We're talking about the functional, no-frills squat. The multi-joint move works your glutes and quads and can strengthen your hamstrings, too.

But there's just one problem — most people are doing it wrong.

For starters, squatting down far enough (aka scoring good squat depth) is key. "If you don't get a lot of hip flexion during the squat, you won't use your glutes. Depth of squat matters a great deal in terms of improving your glutes and hamstrings," says Mike Boyle, co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning and author of New Functional Training for Sports.

Daily Burn: The 7 Best Strength Moves You're Not Doing

Squat Science: The Right Technique

To fire up your muscles in all the right places, here is Boyle's breakdown of the squat, from the ground up.

Your lower body: Standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips and with your toes turned out, squat down to a point where your femur (thigh bone) is parallel to the floor. Your kneecap should be almost directly over your big toe at the bottom of the squat. And, as you squat, your knees should get progressively further apart. That's a sign that the right muscles are doing their job as you descend, he says. (So as you stand at the top of the squat, your knees might be 12 inches apart, but at the bottom of the squat they might expand to 18 inches apart.) Your weight should be distributed across your mid-foot to your heel. If you're on your toes? Sit further back into your squat to shift your weight to your heels.

Your upper body: "Some people squat like a melting candle — everything sort of falls," he says. It should go without saying that that's not the right form. While it's impossible to squat straight up, your body should lean forward about 45 degrees, Boyle says. If you're dropping forward more than that, you might not have the mobility to do a full-depth squat in the first place. Do not pass go, do revisit some of the mobility work below.

Daily Burn: Is Your Mobility Holding You Back? 5 Tests to Find Out

Fine-Tuning Your Squat

To squat well — and safely — follow these guidelines from Boyle.

Practice mobility. Sitting in a squat position is Boyle's number one recommendation to improve your mobility. Hold onto a door jam or rack in the gym and sit in a deep squat. While descending, try to really arch your back. "You won't be able to, but attempting to arch will help you maintain a more neutral spinal position," says Boyle. When you're in the squat, gently rock back and forth and side to side. "For true mobility, you have to rock that joint in multiple directions," he says.

Count breaths, not reps. When you're doing the mobility exercise above, you're going to think about breathing. This will encourage you to relax more during the exercise, says Boyle. Inhale through your nose for three counts, then exhale for five. Repeat 3-4 times for 20-30 seconds total.

Daily Burn: 7 Ways to Improve Your Squat

Then, add weight. As physical therapist Gray Cook puts it, there's no sense in "adding strength to dysfunction." However, once you've successfully mastered squat mechanics it's time to add resistance. Why? "If you want your muscles to make adaptations and get stronger, you have to force them to do that," says Boyle. That is, he adds, unless you're happy with where you're at now and don't want to improve. (Anyone?) A good starting point is doing goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

Or, take it up a notch. Once you can comfortably squat your bodyweight 20 times, Boyle suggests moving on to single-leg variations. "Life is a game played on one foot. We go up the stairs one foot at a time, and everything we do in sports is one foot at a time," he says. Start off with split squats (a "stationary" lunge where one foot is in front of the other and you drop down to a lunge position and press back up).

Want more ways to drop it low? Check out these six squat variations to build size and strength.

More from Life by Daily Burn

Got Workout Burnout? 4 Tricks to Bounce Back

12 Brilliant Meal Prep Ideas to Free Up Your Time

How to Kettlebell Swing Like the Pros

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Why Your Personal Trainer Will Not Change Your Life
Today, being a fitness instructor or personal trainer is not only about guiding workouts, but also about keeping your Instagram flowing (with perfectly edited snapshots of meals, tons of before and afters, and loads of "fitspo"). It seems like anyone who is involved in the fitness world is also heavily dedicated to their social media account. Although there are some trainers that share valuable material and positive messages on social media, the strong connection that has been forged between the fitness industry and social media has also caused many Americans to forget what exercise and fitness is really all about.

As a fitness instructor, I am concerned by how our jobs are portrayed on social media. Over-produced workout tutorials, super-polished before and after photos, and ever-present ads for expensive active wear have added a bunch of unnecessary glamor to working out. This has distracted many people from the main goal of being a fitness instructor: to promote an active lifestyle. It has also cultivated three major myths about fitness instructors:

Myth #1: We'll help you lose weight.
Many fitness-focused social media accounts are bombarded by before and after pictures, which emphasize dramatic weight loss. This promotes an erroneous notion that fitness instructors are in the business of weight management, when truth is that fitness instructors are in the business of stress management. Exercise definitely helps people to live longer and happier lives by decreasing stress, improving mood, enhancing focus, and increasing overall stamina. But exercise is not likely to directly cause weight loss. In fact, one of the best ways to improve your metabolism is by doing exercises that help you build muscle...meaning you will actually GAIN weight from exercising. Fitness instructors do not directly help people lose weight. They give people the means to be more active. This has a plethora of other benefits, and may eventually come with the side effect of weight loss...but it might not. An article I saw published a few weeks ago (here) captures the essence of what a lot of social media is failing to reveal about the fitness industry:

By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world's best drug - better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we'll also continue to short-change the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise...
-- Yoni Freedhoff


Myth #2: We all have perfect bodies.
Recently, a gym member asked me if I feel "super pressured" to have a six-pack, thigh gap, and perfect perky butt. I think she was shocked to learn that my answer was no. Although there was certainly a point in my life when I began to think that being in shape wasn't good enough if I didn't look completely shaped, I soon took a step back and realized that being flawlessly toned does not do much for my health. Detaching fitness from Instagram for a moment revealed that my primary goal as fitness instructor should not be to inspire people to have a perfect body; it should be to inspire people to have a healthy body. The best way to achieve this goal is not by sharing pictures of my six-pack, but by being there, in their face, telling my students that they're awesome...and then showing them through example how much vitality and energy exercise has given to me. Basically, I don't know many people who would "kill" to have my body, but I do know many who wish they had my energy level. And that's what I want my students to be motivated by. I want them to see my determination, positive attitude, and robust stamina...and make that their goal of working out.

Myth #3: We'll change your life.
In a lot of ways, social media portrays fitness instructors as figureheads, celebrities, and saviors. And that's not what they should be. As a fitness instructor, I do not change people's lives; I give them the space to challenge themselves, so that they can change their own lives. As I mentioned, the main goal of the fitness industry is to promote an active lifestyle. The best way for fitness instructors to achieve this goal is not to promote themselves, but to promote physical activity. Lives change ultimately because of fitness, not because of fitness instructors.

Social media has proven a powerful influence. And this is why overdone workout videos, weight loss photoshoots, and extra fancy active wear have successfully shifted our focus away from the most important goals of going to the gym. But it is not too late to change this.

Changing our ideas about fitness will not be about decreasing our use of social media, but about changing the type of influences that we interact with on social media. Let's promote accounts that highlight the actual, direct benefits of participating in group fitness, which are way more valuable to our health than rapid weight loss. Let's promote the trainers that don't only use their extra toned bodies to attract clients. Let's promote the trainers that acknowledge that it is YOU who changes your life through fitness, not them. Below are just a few of my favorite Instagram accounts that seem to have achieved this. Leave a comment below if you have any of your own favorites!:

@fitqueenirene
@blogilates
@nolatrees
@yoga_girl
@shauna_harrison
@xogingy

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The Non-Runner's Guide To Running: 5 Tips For Getting Started
Congratulations on your decision to become a runner! There is no cheaper, no purer, and no more accessible form of exercise than this. Plus, it's free. So let's get you started.

Despite seeming very simple, running can incorporate an amazing amount of variables - shoe firmness; heel strike patterns; stride length, cadence and speed; proper posture and biomechanics; different running surfaces; etc. As a new runner, you don't have to worry about all that (yet). The 3 main variables you will want to play around with are going to be: 1) Time, 2) Distance, and 3) Intensity.

TIME: This will be the easiest way to measure your progress. It's simple: the longer you are able to run, the better your endurance. Before you rush out the door targeting a 30-minute run, you must first build a foundation. Our bodies are amazing at adjusting to the pressures we put on them, but in order to elicit the physiological responses we want and need, we must stress our system carefully and slowly. When we run, the heart beats faster to supply our active muscles with more blood, our lungs work harder to take in oxygen, and our bones take on more force with every step. In order to tolerate the increased physiological demands resulting from exercise, we must be patient with our body. Prepare it as best you can by starting with short runs and gradually increasing the duration. Little by little, you will learn to play with your times - whether it's your split time (how long it takes you to run 1 mile), your total workout time, or how long you can run before you feel like you need to stop. But when you're starting out, accept the shorter workouts and know you can build up from there.

DISTANCE: We've all heard some running distances thrown out there: 1 mile, 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon... To start, focus more on time than distance. As you progress, running a certain distance can help motivate and inspire longer duration runs. Eventually, you will probably have a target distance. Perhaps you want to run a 5k? As you build that foundation of endurance, you can start to look at how far you are traveling over a certain amount of time. Having a target distance during a run could help you learn how to pace yourself and give you a chance to monitor your intensity - a slightly harder to measure variable.

INTENSITY: What is intensity? In physics, intensity equals power divided by area, with power being rate of work and area being an imagined surface that is perpendicular to the direction of energy propagation. (Did I lose you yet?) In simple terms, intensity is how much effort you are putting into the work you're doing. You can run 10 minutes or 1 mile and it will feel completely different based on how intensely you are working. The easiest way to adjust intensity is to increase/decrease the rate of work - or, put simply, run faster or slower. There is a learning curve to adjusting intensity, but you will feel the difference between a higher and a lower intensity workout. Use time and distance to help understand your intensity.

Now, five tips:

1. Start low and slow.
By low, I mean don't try and run three miles the first time you get out there. By slow, this is different for every person, but you want to be able to still have a conversation while you run. If you can't, you're probably running too fast.

2. Find a running buddy.
Not only can you test out that conversation factor mentioned above, but it will also make you accountable. Running can be a very private experience, or it can be a fun social activity. See what works best for you. If you prefer to run with a group, there are plenty of beginner runner groups in NYC. Why not get fit, and make some friends along the way?

3. Strengthen before you run, stretch after you run.
Two words: damage control. While there is currently some controversy surrounding the benefits of stretching, there is really no argument against strengthening before you begin running. Running will increase the demands you usually put on your musculoskeletal system. The best way to prevent injuries is to strengthen the muscles you're going to be using most. These muscles are responsible for keeping your bones in optimal alignment to protect your joints. Focus on exercises that strengthen the hips, core, and legs -- and if you begin to feel tightness, add some gentle stretching into your pre-post workouts.

4. Use an app.
There are many (free) apps out there. Ask your runner friends which ones they use, and give one a try. An app will help you get some baseline numbers for time, pace (splits), and distance. It will save your workouts so you can keep track of your progress.

5. Be patient.
It's ok if running doesn't feel blissful right away - you'll get there. The first few runs might feel uncomfortable, exhausting, and even awkward. Hang in there. One day, you'll be running and you'll have that feeling every runner gets at some point when you are approaching the end of your target run time/distance and you think Hey, I feel pretty good...I could keep going! When you get there - and you will - I think it's safe to say you're officially a runner.

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3 Ways To Shape Up (For People Who Don't Have Time To Exercise)
Lack of time is a common reason for not exercising. But logging too many hours at the office or having too many balls in the air doesn't excuse you from taking care of yourself. (Though I guess juggling could count as exercise, right?)

If you're starved for time try these simple tips to help shape-up:

1. Eat better

Contrary to popular opinion, about 80 percent of being in shape is about what you put in your body. Not about how you move your body. So if fitness isn't your thing, focus on food instead. You'll get more bang for your buck anyhow, plus eating is something you have to do no matter how busy you are.

Start by making small upgrades. There's no need to totally overhaul your eating lifestyle or suddenly swear off anything that can't be hunted or gathered. When you prepare your meals or eat out, focus on adding more whole foods into your diet, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Be mindful of your portions, too. You don't need to bust out a scale and start weighing your food like Jenny Craig installed a spy-cam in your kitchen. Just consume reasonable quantities and give your body ample time to recognize it's full before going back for seconds. Or if it works better for you, eat several smaller meals throughout the day. And whatever you do, resist the urge to skip meals because you don't have time. That won't help you shape up at all.

2. Change your mindset

A lot of people associate fitness with a sweaty run or grunt-filled weight-lifting session. But anything that gets your heart rate going counts as exercise.

Stop thinking of it as exercise. Instead, think of it as movement and do some sort of physical activity every day. If the thought of the StairMaster or Elliptical Trainer makes you get all pukey, try something different. Better yet, aerobic activity can include things you are already planning on doing, such as mowing the lawn, getting walked by the dog, wrestling your kids or cleaning the house. The ultimate key to staying fit and healthy is to find movement that you enjoy, and then do it consistently.
Be sure to bring the fun, too! Incorporate movement that's more recreational and makes you forget you're working out--like dancing, geocaching with the kids, or playing a game of flag football. Other fun ideas that will make you forget you're trying to be fit include biking, belly dancing, boxing, roller skating, ice skating, golfing, paddle boarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, surfing, swimming and beating the pants off of your partner in a Wii sports game.

3. Make time work for you

There's a common misconception that you need to sweat buckets for at least 30 consecutive minutes to get any health benefit. But the truth is, as long as it adds up to half an hour or more of moderate activity a day, that's what counts.

Chunk your time. If you don't have a solid block of 30 minutes, try breaking your activity up into 10-minute chunks at different times during the day, such as morning, afternoon and evening.

Kill two birds. The next time you have a meeting, instead of heading to your favorite coffeeshop again, hit the local walking trail or go on a hike for a change of pace. Or try combining exercise with a sedentary activity so you can be more efficient. Hop on the treadmill while catching up on your favorite sitcom or while chatting up your old college bestie.

Keep it convenient. Going to the gym is great for some people. But unless you happen to have a gym at your office, getting there and back eats up precious time that could be used for other activities, and this often becomes an excuse not to exercise at all. Try using "at home" workout equipment like stairs, stationary equipment, a jump rope or a fitness video.

Work out in quick bursts. Interval training allows you to burn more calories in less time and improve your aerobic capacity. Just a couple of 30-minute sessions per week can supercharge your endurance and fitness. Or try a Tabata workout--each one is only 4 minutes, but it's liable to feel a lot longer!

See, there's really no excuse. If you know how to use your time wisely you can shape-up no matter how busy you are.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



Why I Quit My Job To Couch Surf The World
You and I have something in common. We both have a dream.

For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to travel the world. And also for as long as I can remember, society has told me that uprooting my life to do so would stray me from the path of success. So I settled for the responsible path to adulthood: attend a good college, get a decently paying full-time job, and build a stable, comfortable life.

Fast forward three years post-college, and I've had it with this path. I quit. I'm pausing my career, putting my belongings in storage, moving out of New York City, and leaping into the world with nothing but a carry-on and my integrity. I am doing exactly what I want to do: circumnavigating the globe by couch surfing via my social network to see how far human connection can take me.

Dreaming Is Easy -- The Hard Part Is Jumping

We walk through our lives seeking purpose. How many of us actually find it? More importantly, how many of us muster the courage to ignore our fears, forgo comfort and security, and take a complete leap of faith to pursue a dream? The truth is, going after our dream is terrifying. It is not for the faint of heart. But it is absolutely essential to finding our true purpose in life.

I've spent the past few years forcing myself into the flow of corporate life. I worked for clients that I don't believe in, in an industry that feeds off consumerism and is largely disinterested in pushing society forward. What really lights me up inside -- traveling, connecting with people, and writing about my adventures -- was reserved for the few precious moments I had leftover after work.

Dissatisfaction can be a powerful catalyst for change when we learn to listen to it. "Walk away," it whispered. "There is more." Months trickled by, and the pestering intensified. Before I knew it, I found myself at a standstill: I completely lost interest in my career, had no enthusiasm for the jobs I was interviewing for, and was tired of trying to "make it" in New York City. I was done living without purpose; I needed to drastically change my life.

Sometimes, we reach a point when we are standing on the edge of a cliff, our present life safely tucked beneath our feet. Ahead of us, beyond the edge, is a gaping abyss. We don't know what's on the other side. All we know is: If we jump, life as we know it will change. So we have a choice.

Do we jump?

Paralyzed by our insecurities, we usually don't. The fear of unfamiliarity is just too overpowering. After all, we have responsibilities: bills and debt to pay, a job to show up to, maybe mouths to feed.

When I decided I would leave my old life behind to follow my dream, I was hit with the cold reality of the demands I would have to meet to make it happen: including saving enough money to sustain myself, quitting my job, giving up many of my belongings, accepting instability, and so on. There were infinite reasons why I couldn't do this. Rather than listing why I couldn't, however, I began to ask myself how I could.

Why I Am Taking A Leap Of Faith

Imagine that every single person in your life is a thread. Each one of us has access to dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of threads. As I asked myself how I could jump into the unknown and travel the world, I wondered whether it was possible to weave these threads together to create a safety net of human connection strong enough to support anyone within its folds. If we stood at the edge of that cliff and knew that there was an entire network of people willing to catch us... Would that diminish the fear of taking a leap?

I believe yes. And I plan on testing this theory myself.

That is why I decided to circumnavigate the globe via couch surfing. The caveat is, it has to be through my social network: every person that I stay with must be connected to me somehow. Why? One of the most valuable lessons that travel has taught me is that regardless of who we are or where we come from, we are all intricately connected. I want to challenge myself to see how far human connection can literally take me.

There is another catch -- for every person that pitches in to help me live my dream, I will find a way to help them live theirs. While an act of kindness from an individual may feel small, when scaled across a network of people, these acts can cumulatively change someone's life.

Jump, And The Net Will Appear

I want you to know that I don't have everything figured out. I don't have a trust fund. Sometimes I get scared when I think about what I am doing. I am just like you -- I am someone with a dream.

What I do know, however, is enough: I'm taking back control of how I want my life to shape out, and I'm doing what I'm passionate about. The rest, I'll figure out as I go.

And so, I invite you to follow along on this journey. I will be writing about it in my blog, The Nomad's Oasis, taking photos on Instagram, and vlogging every step of the way. While I'm taking this time to focus on my dream, I hope that I can provide inspiration and guidance to help you with yours.

For the first time in my life, I can say that I truly, wholeheartedly believe in myself. I'm jumping, because I know the net will appear.




-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



Your First 50-Mile Ultramarathon: Race Day Tips
Anxious and Nervous

You have trained for your first 50-mile ultramarathon. You have been visualizing your run. But you might be a bit anxious and nervous. Doubt is creeping into your psyche. You even had a nightmare that you missed the start of the race. This is perfectly natural. To ease your anxieties, calm your nerves, diminish any doubt, and get you pumped, consider the following tips and what to expect. They are based on my eleven years of ultrarunning and finishing 13 ultras, including seven 50-mile ultras.

What to Pack

The night before you travel to the race site, make a list of everything you need to bring. Pin together what you will wear on race day. Pack two or three pairs of running shoes and at least four pairs of socks in case the race becomes wet and muddy. Pack a rain jacket, especially if the forecast calls for rain. Pack a hydration bottle/belt/backpack, and a cap to protect you from the rain and the sun. I pack a second set of clothes. I like to change my sweaty running clothes after the first 25 miles.

Pack a small transparent storage container to help you and your crew easily locate the following essentials: petroleum jelly, body glide, zinc oxide, toenail clippers, tweezers, scissors, ibuprofen, Neosporin, Tiger Balm, bandages, athletic tape, athletic bandages, wipes, tissues, sunscreen, headlamp, flashlight, sunglasses, bug spray, lip balm, Benadryl, vitamins, and duct tape.

2016-06-16-1466110106-2887972-Containerofrunningessentials.jpg
©Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

I also tuck in my running waist pack scripture passages, runner's prayers, including the Ultrarunner's Prayer, inspirational quotes from ultrarunners, and a copy of the course and aid stations. Don't forget your smartphone. Use your smartphone to capture nature's beauty during your 50-mile journey. Although the aid stations are stocked, pack a big cooler with water, sport drinks, soft drinks, fruit, and food that you want your crew to feed you through out the 12 - 13 hour race day.

What to Expect The Night Before The Race

1. What to Eat - Some races offer a pasta dinner the night before for a fee. I usually have sausage pizza, a salad, and ice cream at a local restaurant. I also bring homemade food to heat in the hotel's microwave. Eat what you are accustomed to eating and what works for you.

2. Lay Out Your Running Clothes - Shorts, running tights, skort, top/tank, sport bra, underwear, socks, running shoes, jacket, rain gear, etc.

3. Set Your Alarm - Everyone staying with you should set his/her cellphone alarm. Sometimes this might not always work. The morning before one ultra, my husband, teenage children, and I overslept even after we all heard the alarms go off. We sped to the start in our mini-van and got pulled over by a cop. We made it 15 minutes before the start.

4. You Might Not Sleep - I can never sleep the night before an ultra. I toss and turn. I worry the alarm won't go off and that I will oversleep.

5. Listen to Music - The night before my first ultra, I couldn't sleep. I listened to music on my iPod and sang along aloud. My husband and teenage children patiently suffered and got no sleep either. Singing didn't help me sleep but it helped to calm my nerves and to visualize my race.

What to Expect The Morning of The Race

1. Prepare Your Body - Clip your toenails. Smear generous amounts of petroleum jelly, body glide, and zinc oxide around your toes, feet, nipples (guys), below your sport bra (gals), and through out parts of your body that will chafe. Rub Tiger Balm on your hips, knees, and across the soles of your feet. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

2. Dress - Strap on your running watch or other gadget. Dress appropriately for race day weather. If you're running on a cold day, dress in layers.

3. Consume Calories - Eat a bagel, banana, or what you normally consume before your training runs.

4. Butterflies and Diarrhea - It's an exciting day and you're a tad nervous. Experiencing butterflies and diarrhea is not uncommon at the start of any race. Make use of the porta potty at the race site.

5. Pack Your Car - Don't forget your bib number, timing chip, extra running gear, cooler, and the container with the essentials.

During The Run

1. Start Slow - An ultra is an endurance run, not a sprint! Slow and steady finishes the race.

2. Bask in Nature's Beauty - Enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, and the bright rainbow that adorns the sky after a rainfall.

3. Hydrate - Always have a full bottle and replenish calories at the aid stations.

4. Eat and Run - Take small bites and keep moving your feet.

5. Take Care of Blisters - Have your crew drain them. Use a toenail clipper to pop and drain blisters. Apply Neosporin to the area and bandage with duct tape.

6. You Might Take a Tumble - If you trip over a tree root, a rock, or slip on a switchback or in a creek, dust yourself off and carry on! Scissors, gauze pads, athletic tape, and athletic bandages will come in handy if you take a tumble, twist your ankle, and scrape and bruise your knees, elbows, hands, and head.

7. Carry Wipes and Tissues - Depending on the course, there will be moments when the woods are your only porta potty. Be neat. Be mindful of poison ivy.

8. Thank The Aid Station Volunteers, Race Directors, Crew and Pacers - "Thank you for all you do!"

9. Give Thanks for Each Mile Conquered - "Thank you God! Only 49 more to go!"

You Are A Rare Breed

Earth is home to over 7 billion people. According to the Ultra Marathon Statistics website, a little over 716, 000 of them are ultrarunners representing 170 nations. On the day you run your first 50-mile ultra, you will join this rare breed. May you run many more!

"Run with endurance...." - Hebrews 12:1

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The Hardest Muscles To Build And How To See Results
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The hardest muscles to isolate and build mass.

Everyone has that specific set of muscles that infuriates them. That one spot where no matter how hard you train -- no matter how hard you push yourself, you just don't see the results you want.

But if you ask around the gym you'd probably find that there are some muscles most people agree to have a problem with. Those universal complaints that most bodybuilders have even after years of hitting the gym.

As always, we are happy to help by breaking down these tricky muscles and hopefully providing you with a better way to deal with them -- leading you on a more pleasant path towards maximizing your over all muscle gain.

First thing's first though, there is something to be said about genetics. As in, some people just have a harder time with certain muscles because of the DNA coursing through their body. It can't be helped and sometimes that just means you have to work harder than the person next to you.

Also, proper form is key for all of these muscle groups. It's key for any workout really - but part of what makes these specific ones so hard is because most people do not use correct form. So keep that in mind as you move forward with isolating these muscles. Whatever you are doing, you always want your spine to be properly aligned and make sure that you perform the full range of motion for the muscles you are working out.

CALVES

These are big ones. Calves are often either the most complained about muscle to build mass or the most overlooked. Either way they often pose more of a problem compared to other muscle sets. And there's an actually a reason behind why they are so challenging. The anatomical configuration of the calf muscles resists the act of hypertrophy. Aka -- by nature they literally resist muscle synthesis.

What is often the problem is that most people treat calves as an extra at the end of a workout - but because the calves are so much harder to develop they actually need to be focused on intensely. They key is to not make your calves an afterthought.

Here's a breakdown on the three major muscles that make up the calves:

1. The gastrocnemius muscle (this is what gives the calf its curved shape).
2. The soleus (the long flat muscle underneath).
3. The Tibialis Anterior (this is the large frontal muscle).

That third one, the Tibialis Anterior might have surprised you. That's because it is often overlooked when it comes to building those calves - which in turn makes the calves such a challenge for most people.

You must create a well structured workout routine that focuses on all three of these muscles in order to actually see growth. If you can focus on those then you will start to see some changes coming your way.

Here are a few examples of exercises you can do to pinpoint those calf muscles.

1. Barbell Seated Calf Raises
2. Reverse Calf Raises (These will hit those oft overlooked Tibialis Anteriors!)
3. Standing Barbell Calf Raises

LATS

The Latissimus Dorsi is another muscle that can be a real stinger in your workout routine if you don't know the best ways to isolate and use correct technique. The main problem is that it is almost impossible to truly isolate the lats. What's most important is to cut back on the amount of weight in order to perform the reps at a full range of motion (remember?). This will build the foundation for your lats leading to building actual mass in that area.

Surprisingly chin ups and pull ups are very effective in building your lats. Often experienced bodybuilders will be able to perform these with such ease that they use a dip belt with extra weight to push themselves even further. Elbow position is one of the most important aspects behind this. If your elbows are out wide you'll trigger your upper lats. If your elbows are in tight you'll be hitting up those lower muscles. Keep this in mind when performing your workout routine.

Also make sure to keep your hands facing away or down in order to maximize the amount of lat involvement.

Here are a few other suggestions to help build those back muscles.

1. Straight-Arm Pulldown
2. Close-grip front lat pull downs
3. Kneeling high pully rows
4. One-arm standing cable rows

There you have it. Everyone may be different -- but hopefully you now have a better understanding on how to handle two of the more challenging muscles over all.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



10 Beliefs That Keep You Stuck When You Want To Eat Healthier
Maybe you'll say these are excuses.

I prefer to call them beliefs. Because excuses can easily become more ingrained beliefs, and a belief can keep you stuck forever.

1. I don't have time to eat healthy.

Even when you make the decision that eating healthy is your priority, you probably still have a job, kids, household work, social life, and 8 hours of sleep to squeeze into a 24-hour day.

However, the belief itself is what keeps you stuck, not the lack of time. When you switch your belief to "I can perfectly make at least a few hours time to shop for food and prep meals every week", things can start changing for the better.

2. Nutrition is too complicated.

Lots of people make nutrition a lot more complicated than it really is. While I personally do need a degree and high-level nutrition knowledge to be able to serve my clients and help them solve their health and weight loss puzzle, you don't.

Trust your common sense: it's probably telling you to reduce sugar and coffee, drink more water, and eat more fresh produce. Here's where to start: make your next drink or your next meal a healthier one.

3. Cooking is a chore.

Sure, if you believe that cooking is a chore, it can be hard to stick to a healthy eating lifestyle. Maybe we could turn this belief on its head and think differently.

Cooking healthy meals is an act of care and love; love of yourself and of the people you cook for. It's a wonderful gift to you and your family. And when you decide that self-care and love are strong values in your life, you'll start to enjoy cooking and you'll probably also find more time for it (see #1).

4. I am addicted to sugar.

This belief can keep you stuck forever in unhealthy eating patterns. Many people who eat lots of foods high in sugar believe they are addicted to sugar and they can't do anything about it. While sugar addiction has been shown by studies to be a reality, it has also been shown that we can train our brain to prefer healthy food.

Start to envision that this sugar addiction can be reversed, and start to add to your diet a fair amount of the vegetables you like, every single day. You will probably gradually become "addicted" to these servings of vegetables, and you'll have a much easier time getting off sugary foods and drinks.

5. Eating healthy is too expensive.

This is an inherently subjective topic depending on revenue, country, city, and more. Now, if this is one of your beliefs, let's consider this research from Harvard School of Public Health, which found "the healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets" (that's $45 a month for one person).

If your own diet is not the least healthy at all and your aim is not to have the healthiest diet, either, that could mean a difference of much less than that. Maybe eating healthy is not that much more expensive for you, after all.

6. Eating healthy is too hard.

Once you've got the habit of eating healthy, it's easy. What can be hard is to catch the habit, especially when you've been eating processed foods for a long time, or you're used to hitting the drive-through after a long day of work.

To make eating healthy a habit, you need to get started, and to do so, you may need to first eliminate other beliefs that get in your way (#1 above for example).

7. No one supports me.

People around you may love their fast food meals or fizzy drinks, they may have no interest whatsoever in improving their health or their weight, and they may even sabotage you just because you're triggering their own stuff. But all this is about them, not about you.

You can't wait for others to be supportive and drive the change that you want to see in yourself. If you'd love some support, try to find a group, a friend, or someone who's done it already. But don't let this belief that no one supports you prevent you from eating healthier.

8. I can't be consistent with a healthy diet.

You may have this belief if you think you won't have the willpower to stick to a healthy eating plan and you also want to be perfect and eat healthy 100% of the time.

Here's the truth: even with the strongest willpower in the world, you won't eat healthy every single time, simply because life happens. But you can perfectly be consistent with a healthy eating plan once you give up the idea of being perfect.

9. I love my high-calorie comfort foods too much.

You may experience this as true; and that's ok. You can perfectly like comfort foods. This doesn't have to prevent you from getting started to eat healthier meals. Your attachment to these foods is often synonymous with a need for comfort in your life.

While you keep some of these foods on the menu and start eating healthier at the same time, ask yourself how you could get more of these feelings of comfort in your life. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you don't love those foods that much after all.

10. I don't like to exercise.

Many people don't eat a healthy diet just because they think this won't help them if they don't also go to the gym at the same time. And the fact they don't like to exercise stops them in their tracks.

I'm here to tell you: even if you don't like or you don't have time to exercise, you can perfectly start adopting a healthier diet today.

Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women eat more real food and solve their health and weight loss puzzle. You can join her tribe and get personalized tips at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



The Only Arm Workout You Need This Summer
By Jordan Shakeshaft for Life by Daily Burn

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

We all have that friend. The one with the Michelle Obama arms that photograph well from every angle. And if you've ever met NYC-based trainer Dara Theodore, she is that friend. Lucky for us, the Daily Burn 365 trainer and walking gun show (lovingly referred to as "Armageddon") is spilling a few of her best-kept strength secrets. Scroll down to also snag the 15-minute arm workout she swears by -- no equipment necessary.

Daily Burn: THIS Is How to Do the Perfect Push-Up

The Better Way to Work Your Arms

If your upper body routine currently consists of curls on curls on curls, Theodore suggests rethinking your plan. "Bicep curls are fine as a single-joint exercise, but let's face it -- we're all busy. I like to spend my time doing multi-joint, compound exercises so I get more accomplished in less time." That's why Theodore opts for full-body workouts whenever she can. "When performing push-ups or renegade rows properly, your whole body should be working from arms down to legs. Yes, the focus is on upper body. But if you properly engage your legs, glutes and core, they will get a workout as well!"

And the results speak for themselves: More definition, greater strength and, if you keep at it, a higher percentage of lean muscle mass (hello, increased calorie burn!). "Maintaining a strong upper body not only makes the necessary activities easier, but it also ensures we are doing them properly (i.e. using the right muscles) so we don't injure ourselves," Theodore says. And let's not forget: "At any age, we need strong muscles to support our bones," she adds. "Its never too early to start strength training."

Daily Burn: 19 Reasons to Work Out (Beyond the Perfect Body)

Yet, the 44-year-old mom wasn't always flaunting her killer arms. "As a younger woman, I had a hard time embracing my muscular physique. In my 20s, the waif-like look was in style, and I have to admit I was a bit insecure and didn't consider my look 'feminine' enough," Theodore recalls. "Thank goodness I got older and grew up a little, and got over that nonsense! Today, I'm really proud of my muscles and work hard to make sure they work really well," she says. "I have so much admiration for strong women, women who can lift heavy weights and support the weight of their own bodies -- both are equally strong in my opinion!" Amen.

Dara's 15-Minute Arm Workout

Don't be fooled -- this bodyweight workout packs a serious punch, especially since the exercises are performed as a circuit, with little to no rest between moves. To make sure your form is on point, Theodore recommends taking a video of yourself doing the move. "It's a great opportunity for self-critique and progress."

Ready? We thought so. Complete moves 1 through 5 (pictured below) in quick succession. Rest 60 seconds at the end of the circuit and repeat for three rounds.

Daily Burn: 5 Crazy-Effective Crunch Variations

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

1. Narrow Grip Push-Up (10 reps)
Also known as the tricep push-up (see complete push-up tutorial here), this move targets the triceps, shoulders, chest and core. Not bad for one badass bodyweight move! "Think of the body as a moving plank with the glutes, quads and core super engaged," Theodore says. Also be sure to draw the shoulder blades down the back and keep elbows close to body. Need to modify? Add some incline, placing the hands on a box or bench.

2016-06-14-1465911376-3690759-RenegadeRow1.gif
Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

2. Renegade Row (10 reps)
Channel your inner GI Joe or Jane for this complex movement. Holding a high plank, keep the shoulders in line with one another and allow elbow to graze the rib cage as it moves toward the ceiling. Pro tip: "Try to keep hips from rocking by separating the feet and keeping glutes and quads engaged," Theodore advises. Once you've got that down, you can add dumbbells for extra resistance.

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

3. Prone Y and T (10 reps)
If you have a tendency to neglect your backside, this move has you covered. The secret: "Keep glutes engaged and hip bones and feet on the ground," Theodore says. "Think of lifting from the arms more than from the chest but do engage the upper back, and keep a nice long neutral neck." Though you can progress to very light weights, don't be surprised if you're feeling this move using bodyweight-only after just a few reps.

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

4. Side Lying Tricep Press (10 reps)
We give you permission to skip the scary dip machine. This side-lying push-up will tone the triceps, biceps and obliques in just one equipment-free move. Be sure to press firmly into the floor, firing the triceps and core on your way up. Timing your breathing with help, too. Exhale as you press your body off the floor, and inhale as you return to the start position.

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

5. Half Get-Up (10 reps)
If this move doesn't make you feel strong, we don't know what will. Holding a book, a dumbbell or nothing at all (recommended for beginners), the half Turkish get-up works everything from your shoulders, arms, hips, back and core. To get the most out of the move, "Make sure to drive through the heel of the bent leg as opposed to coming to toes, and keep an eye on the extended hand or weight to maintain proper shoulder position," Theodore says.

Want a new, no-equipment workout every day? Head to DailyBurn.com/365 to join -- free for 30 days.

More from Life by Daily Burn:

5 Standing Desk Stretches to Relieve Stress Now

15 Tricks to Actually Stick to Your Workout

5 Signs It's Time to Take a Rest Day

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



MapMyFitness

4 Training Tips for Obstacle Course Racing

If you’re looking to spice up your race schedule, look no further than an obstacle race. With the growth of obstacle races — including Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior more »

The post 4 Training Tips for Obstacle Course Racing appeared first on MapMyFitness.



5 Tips for Fitting Training Rides into a Busy Day

Going out on regular bike rides is a major time commitment that can be hard to squeeze into a busy life. Even the most avid cyclist will have days, or more »

The post 5 Tips for Fitting Training Rides into a Busy Day appeared first on MapMyFitness.



How to Prevent (and Recover from) Patellar Tendonitis

Given the high-impact nature of running, it’s no secret that knee injuries are prevalent in the community. Along with runner’s knee and IT band syndrome, patellar tendonitis is one of more »

The post How to Prevent (and Recover from) Patellar Tendonitis appeared first on MapMyFitness.



How to Recover From an Interval Run

Speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. This may sound like a typical drive home in rush-hour traffic, but we’re actually referring to running intervals, a workout most runners more »

The post How to Recover From an Interval Run appeared first on MapMyFitness.



2016 Fall Gear Picks for Road Cyclists

Fall is an ideal time to be on the bike, as summer’s high temperatures start to drop and the leaves begin to change color. Whether you’re suiting up for a more »

The post 2016 Fall Gear Picks for Road Cyclists appeared first on MapMyFitness.



8 Best Walkable Cities Around the World

While there are official rankings listing the walkability of various cities, they are largely based on how easy it is to get around to run daily errands. This is certainly more »

The post 8 Best Walkable Cities Around the World appeared first on MapMyFitness.



8 Iconic Fall Bike Rides

Moderate temperatures and the changing leaves make fall the ideal season for exploring the countryside by bike. Here are eight rides around the country that properly bookend an epic season more »

The post 8 Iconic Fall Bike Rides appeared first on MapMyFitness.



How to Prevent (and Recover from) Blisters

No matter how minor or how tiny they are, blisters can be a major annoyance. Just one is enough to make you want to avoid dealing with them, let alone more »

The post How to Prevent (and Recover from) Blisters appeared first on MapMyFitness.



The Beginners Guide to Fueling for a Half-Marathon

You’ve been running for a little while now, and things are going well. You’ve increased your mileage, maybe even run a 5K and actually enjoyed it. Now you’ve officially been more »

The post The Beginners Guide to Fueling for a Half-Marathon appeared first on MapMyFitness.



So You Want to Start…Fitness Walking

Starting a walking routine makes you the smartest person in the room because it’s one of the most rewarding lifelong activities you can choose. The benefits begin with your first more »

The post So You Want to Start…Fitness Walking appeared first on MapMyFitness.



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