Feeling less than inspired when it' time to hustle over to the gym for your Yoga-lates class? We're betting these three newly discovered exercise benefits will fire up your motivation.
1. Working out counterbalances salty slip-ups. If you've indulged in a giant, salt-studded soft pretzel, a big tub of movie popcorn or any other salt bomb, it's time for some make-up movement. Regular exercise cuts your risk for raised blood pressure due to sodium by as much as 38 percent. Reason: You sweat out the salt.
2. It's like bodybuilding for your heart. One of the side effects of more candles on your birthday cake is that your heart's muscle mass can decrease by 50 percent (yes, half!) between your early 30s and your late 60s, leading to stiffness and weakness. Good news: Aerobic and resistance exercises (you know, a brisk walk, a jazzercise class, pool laps, time on your bike and weight lifting) can prevent or reverse this loss. All it takes: 30 minutes a day of cardio, four to five days a week, and 10 minutes with weights three times a week. We do it every day!
3. It keeps your ticker rock-steady. Out-of-rhythm heartbeats cause 15 percent to 20 percent of all strokes that prove fatal. If you have these flutters, skips and syncopated palpitations (atrial fibrillation), that's a huge incentive for you to try one of our favorite exercises: yoga. Why? Yoga encourages your ticker to maintain a steady tempo. Practicing the slow breathing and relaxing body movements three times a week can reduce your episodes of off-beat heart rhythms by a snazzy 44 percent. It can ease anxiety and depression, too.
Wheezing? Coughing? 3 steps to breathe free again
If you routinely steer clear of tobacco-puffing buddies, nasty fumes (from bus exhaust to strong cleaning sprays) and clouds of dust, you're already being kind to your lungs. Now take any wheezing, frequent coughing spells and shortness of breath seriously. Very seriously. One in 12 adults and kids today has asthma. Do you have it, but don't realize it yet?
Go on asthma alert if you have trouble breathing or cough frequently when you exercise, do vigorous chores, go out in cold weather, spend time around pets or get caught in situations where the air's dusty, pollen-filled, fumey, smoky or heavily scented. Ditto if breathing problems wake you up at night or have ever sent you to the doctor's office or emergency room.
Why knowing matters. While asthma can't be cured, you can keep it under control so that attacks are almost as rare as sightings of all the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" sober at one time. Ignore asthma, however, and it can turn on you. Asthma sends millions to the ER and kills thousands each year. But just waiting it out (a favorite male tactic) can lead to lung inflammation that makes you less active later in life.
Boss it around. If you do have asthma, you and your doc can come up with a written control plan for ruling your airways. You'll figure out daily treatments, which meds work for you, when to take them, what to do for everyday lung health, how to handle a breathing emergency and which triggers (from springtime pollen to cousin Carol's cat) to avoid. So you can breathe free again.
Want to lose weight? Bet money on it
Want to succeed at losing weight? Make like you're in Vegas, and bet money on it.
Yep, bet on yourself. You're more likely to hit your goals if cash is on the line. There's been evidence of this before, and now there's more. First, dieters offered a cash incentive lost 13 to 14 pounds over the course of 16 weeks; dieters who got zilch lost only three. Then a group of losers who bet on themselves to win dropped 8.7 pounds; non-betters lost only 1.2.
Want betting to stay in Vegas? No problem! Pick a reward you like better than cash (not food!). Indulge yourself in whatever it is ... maybe a day of doing absolutely no housework, or a spree at iTunes downloading great new "Glee" tracks. Then reinforce your rewards with these other big-loser tips:
* Get real. Don't make crazy bets. Aim to shed 1-2 pounds a week, or 5 percent to 10 percent of your total weight. Both are doable, and pay big health benefits.
* Be specific. "Eat better" is too vague. Try, "Eat three vegetable servings and two fruits every day this week, then four and three next week."
* Up your activity. Set clear goals (betcha know what comes next): "Walk 30 minutes every day." Reward yourself with a high-tech pedometer. It makes counting steps and miles fun.
* Write it down. Keeping a food and exercise journal helps you keep at it.
* Be patient. Changing behavior takes time. Allow at least 18 days, and maybe two months, to make a new habit stick. After that, bet on it. Double win!
Leave a legacy: Play around
Feeling just a little bit guilty because you're having so much fun with your grandkids, maybe more than you had with your own kids? All the joy and none of the daily grind, right?
Forget the guilt! Keep on playing with those little munchkins as they grow up. Because you're doing a lot more than just having a blast. Turns out doing simple things together like gardening, cooking, shopping and taking a "stay-cation" reaps big health and happiness benefits for the whole family. Among them:
* Feelings of self-worth, self-esteem and life satisfaction rise faster than that loaf of bread you bake together.
* Understanding and communication improve, too. Kids see that grandparents aren't just geezers; they have skills and know-how to share...
... and grandparents see what whiz-kids their grandchildren are (start with their uncanny grasp of high-tech gadgets). When grandkids realize they can teach grown-ups a thing or two ("Hit the Escape button"), it helps the youngsters to forge ahead in a brave new world.
* Playing around with the young set also satisfies that need to leave a legacy and impart what you've learned. Besides, since you're probably gonna live a lot longer than your grandparents did (thanks to healthy eating and exercise, right?), you'll have more time to bond across generations.
Best of all, you'll put a new spin on an old cliche: The family that plays together stays together. Have fun doing it.