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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

In the ultimate test of man-versus-beast, Michael Phelps, the world’s most decorated Olympic champion, is about to swim a 100 meter race against a Great White shark. The event will be broadcast on the Discovery Channel on July 23.

The contest isn’t exactly fair. Great Whites can torpedo along at speeds exceeding 25 miles per hour, but Phelps tops out around six. So to avoid a mercy loss, Phelps will wear a monofin, a type of flipper that could boost his speed by a few miles per hour. (This kind of advantage isn’t unprecedented. In 1936, famed Olympic runner Jesse Owens raced a horse in a 100-yard dash and won thanks in part to a 40-yard handicap).

Why is Phelps swimming against a shark? The event kicks off Discovery’s annual Shark Week. But it also turns out that Great Whites make a decent racing representative for the overall aquatic world. Even seafaring species that have a reputation for being slow compared to others of their kin would leave human swimmers eating their bubbles.

Take the squid, for example, which gets around by gently pulsing through the water. It can put the pedal to the metal, particularly if it’s under attack. One recent measurement from Stanford University recorded a Humboldt squid moving at about 22 miles per hour. The Leatherback sea turtle, which lumbers across land weighing up to 1,000 lbs., has been clocked swimming at over 20 miles per hour, thanks to its enormous front flippers. And even penguins, which walk about as fast as a human toddler, are three times faster than Phelps in the water.

There aren’t many marine animals that would make for a tight race against Phelps. But one possible contender is the Right whale. (In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Phelps coincidentally expressed interest in swimming with whales, though he seems to have his heart set on Orcas.) Bulky and front-heavy, the Right whale was aggressively hunted in the 19th century in part because it can’t make a fast escape. Right whales have rarely been recorded moving more than five or six miles per hour, so Phelps might not have to wear a monofin to be a contender. But he would need to act soon, as there are fewer than 500 of the species left in the North Atlantic.

Video sources: New England Aquarium; Alaska SeaLife Center; NOAA; Falklands Conservation; Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station; Sea Turtle Conservancy; Manta Trust

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Cameron Spencer—Getty Images

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You know that not getting regular exercise can be bad for your health. But here’s a surprising twist: Apparently, just thinking that you’re not exercising as much as you should can be harmful, too. In a new study in the journal Health Psychology, people who thought they were less active than their peers had a greater chance of dying younger—even if their actual activity levels were the same.

The research suggests that the health perks of exercise may come not just from the physical movements, but also how people think and feel about them, as well. In other words, people who feel like slackers may not be getting all the benefits they should be from their workouts.

Lead author Octavia Zahrt, a Stanford PhD student in organizational behavior, based her research on a personal experience. “I am from Germany, and back there I felt really good about my activity level,” she says. “I biked to work, and went to the gym maybe once a week.”

When she moved to California, she was suddenly “surrounded by people who exercise all the time,” she says. “Compared to them I felt really inactive, and I developed what I know now was a really negative mindset about my physical activity.”

RELATED: 12 Ways to Burn Fat Without Setting Foot in the Gym

So Zahrt and her faculty advisor, Alia Crum, PhD, decided to study whether this attitude could have an effect on long-term health. To do so, they analyzed data from 61,141 adults who were surveyed between 1990 and 2006 and followed until 2011.

The adults only answered questions about their activity levels, and some also wore accelerometers to track their real-time activity for a week. In addition, all participants were asked, “Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about as active as other persons your age?”

After adjusting their sample to control for factors such as disability, general health status, and demographics, the researchers found that people who believed they were less active than others were 71% more likely to die during the study’s follow-up period—even when activity levels was controlled for, too. In fact, they found that people’s perceptions about their own physical activity levels frequently did not match up with reality.

“It can be easy to compare how much exercise we get with the people around us, as opposed to what’s recommended for everyone,” says Zahrt. “Plus, a lot of people think that exercise has to mean running or going to the gym, and they don’t give themselves credit for all of the other activity they do—cleaning their house, walking to the store, carrying their kids, those sorts of things.”

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People who shortchange themselves in this way could be unknowingly sabotaging their health, say the study authors. Meanwhile, those who feel good about their fitness level may benefit as much from their attitude as they do from the physical activity itself.

Crum, assistant professor of psychology and director of Stanford’s Mind and Body Lab, first studied the “placebo effect” of exercise back in 2007. “What’s surprising to me is how robust the accumulated evidence is on the power of mindset in shaping our health,” she says, “and yet people are still so shocked when they hear results like these.”

That’s not to say that exercise doesn’t have real physical health benefits, Crum is quick to point out. “This is not an excuse to just stop doing anything but believe you’re doing everything,” she says. “It’s a reminder that, yes, you should work to get active in your life—but you should also be mindful of those negative thoughts that can creep in and the effects they might have.”

“Just because you didn’t get to that Spin class or that fancy new fitness class, doesn’t mean you’re not as healthy as those who do,” Crum adds. Zahrt agrees: “If we can change our perceptions to view all activity as good activity,” she says, “we think that could be a first and really important step to improving our health.”

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If you’ve ever experienced an ear infection, then you know how uncomfortable and even painful it can be. Swimmer’s ear is a specific type of ear infection that also causes discomfort and pain in and around the outer ear canal. It typically starts out mild, with moderate itching and redness, and then can become tender and inflamed, potentially harming your ability to hear.

Despite its name, you don’t have to spend time at a beach or in a pool to pick up swimmer’s ear. This condition can happen after you take a shower or bath, or you simply clean your ears with cotton swabs. And while kids are more prone to swimmer’s ear because they have narrower ear canals, adults are very much at risk well.

RELATED: 4 Tips for a Healthier Summer

Here’s how to know if you have swimmer’s ear, and what you can do to ease the swelling and aching fast, and then prevent it from happening again.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear, also known by its medical name, otitis externa, usually occurs after water gets trapped inside the ear. This allows bacteria (and in some cases, a fungus) in your ear canal to start multiplying, leading to an infection near the opening of the ear, explains Ileana Showalter, MD, an ENT-otolaryngologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

True to the condition’s name, swimming, or just splashing around in a body of water, is a major cause. But swimmer’s ear can also arise from any situation where your ear traps a small amount of water, like after a shower or bath, or even time in a hot tub.

Sometimes swimmer’s ear develops not from trapped water but from a cut or scrape just inside the ear canal. Overly aggressive cleaning with cotton swabs tends to cause it; if the swab scratches the skin inside the ear, bacteria can thrive and trigger an infection. People with excessive ear wax or the chronic skin condition eczema, which causes itching and redness, are also more likely to develop swimmer’s ear, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

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Symptoms to watch for

Swimmer’s ear usually starts off with mild itching, redness, and swelling. As the infection progresses, the area becomes inflamed and painful, says Dr. Derek Lam, ENT-otolaryngologist at Oregon Health and Science University. 

A word about the pain: it can be severe; it’s typically worse than garden-variety middle-ear infection triggered by a cold. That’s because there are lots of nerves linking the base of the brain through the ear canal, the jaw, and down to the diaphragm, explains M. Jennifer Derebery, MD, clinical professor of otolaryngology at USC School of Medicine in Los Angeles. “Pain in one area of the nerve may refer to another area,” says Dr. Derebery. “That is why it is common to have jaw pain with swimmer’s ear as well.”

If left untreated, symptoms can intensify. You might notice discharge or fluid leaking out of your ear. Swollen lymph nodes around the neck and even a fever can also occur. In extreme cases, the skin can swell up and close over the ear, leading to muffled hearing. Luckily, any hearing loss you experience will go away once the infection is treated.

How to treat swimmer’s ear

If the discomfort doesn’t stop after a few days, or it becomes more severe over a short period of time, see a doctor. “If you leave the infection unattended, the pain can get excruciating,” says Dr. Showalter. “In fact, it’s one of the most severe pains we see in our specialty.”

If symptoms hit over the weekend or you’re unable to immediately see a doctor, Dr. Showalter advises taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or Tylenol. As soon as you can, however, get some face time with your primary-care provider, warns Dr. Lam, or head to an urgent care facility. Your doc will examine the ear and perhaps take a fluid simple. If it’s swimmer’s ear, you’ll likely go home with antibiotic ear drops. If these don’t clear the infection, an oral antibiotic might be the next defense. 

RELATED: 15 Big Benefits of Water

If symptoms don’t go away

Sometimes the antibiotic ear drops don’t work because swimmer’s ear has caused a buildup of debris or fluid in the ear canal, and the drops can’t get through. “An ear that hasn’t been cleaned will not respond to the treatment, so you have to get rid of the gunk so that the medicine can work,” Dr. Showalter says. Your doctor will clear the outer ear canal by using a vacuum-type apparatus that sucks out the debris. Then the antibiotics can do their job.

Another reason the infection might persist is because it’s not caused by bacteria after all. While the majority of cases of swimmer’s ear cases are bacterial in origin, there is a subset of patients who develop a fungal infection, which requires different treatment, Dr. Showalter says. If you’re eating lunch, put down the sandwich now: that type of infection looks the same as fungus growing in bread, and it’s often not easy to see because it can be obscured by wax.

If your symptoms linger and antibiotic drops don’t have any effect, tell your doc you suspect it might be a fungal infection. Fungus grows slowly, so the hallmark of this kind of infection is that it really never gets better. “You might find that your ear has been itching for months; and you’ve used several types of drops and it persists,” says Dr. Showalter. “That would be highly suspicious,” she says, of a fungal infection.

How to prevent swimmer’s ear 

No need to give up swimming or limit yourself to bodies of pristine, chemically treated water. While it seems logical to assume that a murky lake or river might promote an infection more than a crystal-clear pool, that’s not necessarily the case, says Dr. Lam. It’s the wetness trapped inside the ear, not the type of water you’re in, that causes the infection.

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To prevent water from getting caught in your ear canal, consider wearing ear plugs when you go for a dip, and make sure you dry your ears thoroughly after time in a pool or following a shower. Dabbing a few drops of rubbing alcohol or white vinegar just inside each ear can help dry them faster. A short blast of warm air from a hair dryer gets them dry quickly too.

If you suspect that vigorous ear-cleaning led to your infection, lay off the cotton swabs and clean your ears with a washcloth. “Generally we advise people to avoid cotton swabs because everyone’s ears are different, and there are some subset of people who will have trouble because the wax tends to be dry or the canal is small—so they are pushing the wax [further inside],” says Dr. Showalter. 

That said, she is okay with people cleaning with swabs within reason, for example, by being very gentle and sticking to the outer ear. If you use them to go deeper into the ear canal, you might end up pushing the tip of the swab inside.That packs the wax so it builds up, or it removes too much wax, so dirt and debris (and bacteria) can enter. Both set up the ideal conditions for swimmer’s ear—which you really want to avoid.

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Hiroyuki Ito

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Crossfit may have just been one-upped as the most intense workout of all time. The new pain-inducing fitness trend? Taking hits straight to the abdomen.

Earlier this week, Joe Jonas shared an Instagram video of the workout he’s doing while on tour in Tokyo. In the clip, Jonas does a series of leg lifts beside a personal trainer wearing boxing gloves. At the end of each rep, she clocks him right in the gut. (Ouch, right?)

The DNCE frontman isn’t the only celeb getting punched as part of a training tactic. Mia Kang, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and pro Muy Thai fighter, also posted a video of herself being socked in the stomach: every time she extends her legs while doing squats, fighters on each side of her kick her in the belly.

What’s the point of voluntarily taking a beating? Here’s one payoff: Boxers, MMA fighters, and other martial arts athletes do it during training because getting walloped is part of their job, and they need to practice absorbing the blow, says exercise physiologist and personal trainer Tom Holland.

That explains why Kang was enduring those kicks. As for Jonas, he might simply be trying to strengthen his abs. While an external hit to muscle won’t make it tighter or stronger (“if this worked, we’d punch our biceps and our leg muscles,” Holland says), contracting your abs just before a punch or kick hits the stomach can create stronger muscle fibers.

RELATED: Firm Your Belly Ab Routine

“When I used to teach, I would cue clients by telling them to imagine that their child is getting ready to hit them in the stomach,” says Holland. “It teaches people to better engage in ab exercises and use the core muscles throughout.” The internal muscle contraction, not the outer trauma of a punch, is what helps create an enviable six-pack. 

Of course, a blow to this sensitive area can be seriously harmful for average Joes (that includes you, Joe Jonas). Since this area of the body contains many vital organs, a punch or kick can result in bruising and internal damage, adds Holland.

RELATED: 4 Muscles You Should Never Ignore

Regular gym-goers can take advantage of this (while avoiding a trip to the ER) by having a partner perform the punch or kick motion and stop short; you’ll reflexively tighten your core as you see it coming. Or during crunches, start each crunch by visualizing someone about to punch your midsection or drop a medicine ball on your abs, recommends Holland. Your natural reaction will be to pull in your ab muscles as you complete a rep.

Holland also suggests breathing through your ab exercises for the best results. “It’s a real challenge, but breathing while doing pretty much any ab exercise engages the core even further,” he says.

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

You may not encounter any dragons or need to fight off sword-wielding attackers in your daily life, but you can still train for it with this Game of Thrones-themed workout.

The next time you settle in for an hour (or ten hours if you’re binging, no judgment) of feuding families, fit in a little leg burn with this cone-based circuit workout that trainer Luis Badillo Jr. put together for Reebok.

“If you’re sitting on the couch for hours you’re not doing anything to improve yourself,” Badillo tells Reebok. “I’m always active, on my feet, up and about and doing something. You don’t need that much space at all to do a fun workout.”

Before you hit play on the next episode (or while you wait out that inevitable HBOGo delay), grab a set of four cones (or four small objects to mark the space) and clear out room in front of the TV for this heart-pumping workout.

“These exercises will help with speed, agility and total body strength,” Badillo says. “Make sure to stay on your toes, pump your arms and keep your body relaxed to move around the cones as fast as possible.”

For the entire length of the opening credits, do the Plant and Loop

Set up two cones about four feet apart. Plant your outside foot and loop around one cone, turning back toward the other. Continue to loop around the cones.

Every time there is a death by sword, do the Two-Step Weave

Set up three cones in a line, with two feet between each. Zigzag through the cones laterally 10 times, bringing both feet to the outside of each cone before moving on to the next one.

Every time you see a dragon, do the Plant and Go

Set up three cones in a line. Plant your left foot and take an explosive step through the gaps between the cones, repeating through the line of cones 10 times.

Every time someone takes off or puts on a fur coat, do the Up and Back

Set up four cones in a line, with each cone about two feet apart. Move laterally through the line 10 times, stepping in front of and then behind each cone.

Every time someone has a glass of wine, do the Figure 8

Set up two cones two feet apart and run in a figure 8 pattern around them 10 times.

Every time someone gives you a spoiler, do the In and Out

Set up four cones in a row about two feet apart. Step each foot through the gaps and back, one foot at a time, for 10 repetitions.

We can’t promise that you’ll be able to crush skulls like “The Mountain” after this workout, but that’s probably a good thing.

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A Montana mom proved to be a real-life Wonder Woman earlier this month when she crossed the finish line of a marathon in Missoula with three of her kids in tow. Theresa Marie Pitts, 38, ran the 26.2 miler while pushing a triple stroller in under 4 hours and 30 minutes, breaking a Guinness World Record in the process. Her official race time: 4:25:37. 

What makes Pitts’ feat all the more amazing is that this was her first marathon. Though she has always loved running, the mother of eight didn’t begin training regularly until a few years ago, just after the birth of her sixth child. “I was in a depressive slump,” she explained in an email to Health. “[I] was searching for a healthy way to get back on track mentally, physically, and spiritually.”

Her first race was a sprint triathlon. Then two years ago she ran a 5K while pushing a double stroller. “I loved the idea then that I might be able to set a positive example of whole health and wellness, and share my message of hope and healing to those who struggle with mental illness and related disorders,” she says.

RELATED: 7 Tips for Running Your First Race

Pitts began training for the marathon (as well as a half-marathon in June) while she was pregnant with her eighth child. “It was winter so most of my runs were done on a treadmill,” she says. But once her newborn daughter was five weeks old, she started “serious training” on long-distance runs with her three youngest kids in the triple stroller, with “lots of padding and head support.”

Come marathon day, with the stroller, supplies, and children (ages 4, 2, and 5 months), Pitts was pushing 150 pounds. But all her prep work paid off. She only had to pause twice during the race: once at mile 6, when her two-year-old son’s seatbelt got unbuckled; and again at mile 8, when the baby was crying and needed to be comforted.

Around mile 20, her pace began to slow, Piits says. She felt sick, exhausted, and in pain. But she thought to herself, “‘You’ve gotta dig deep here ’cause the 4:30 pacers are passing you up!'” That mindset helped her push to the finish line.

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Pitts says that one of the reasons she runs these races is to set an example of “mental toughness” for her kids, and to “help them develop the attitude of, ‘No excuses, I can do hard things!'”

But she also wants to show there’s hope for anyone who may be struggling with their mental health like she once did. Or as Pitts puts it, she wants  to “inspire someone else to create an awesome ending to their own story.”

What’s up next for the supermom? “I am already planning on running another half-marathon in September with my littles,” she says. And yes, she’ll be pushing her three youngest kids for all 13.1 miles of that race too.

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Theresa Marie Pitts

Just get through mile one. This is what I tell myself whenever I head off on a run and feel tempted to turn right back around. The Jedi mind trick of it all is that after the first mile, I’ve found my groove and will just keep going. But as winter settled into New England last year, I noticed my little mantra was becoming an everyday necessity.

That’s when opportunity knocked, in the form of an invite to Jamaica’s Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. It came from a publicist friend who was working with the island’s tourist board and knew that I often write about running. “Come for the run, stay for the fun,” read the tagline. How could I worry about Mile One when surrounded by sun, sand, and surf?

Plus, this was my chance to experience a “runcation” (a vacay built around a race). The travel trend, which lets you simultaneously check a destination off your bucket list and fulfill a personal goal by crossing the finish line, has been growing steadily in recent years. And women in particular are embracing this double-duty getaway. The turnout at Destination Races—a series of half marathons held in wine regions in the U.S. and Canada—is “70 to 75 percent female,” reports Matt Dockstader, the president of the organization. More than half the runners headed to the Reggae Marathon were women, too.

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Girl power getaway

A runcation is a way to take your girls’ weekend to the next level, explains Sarah Bowen Shea, cofounder of the popular online community Another Mother Runner. “If I want to meet up with my sorority sisters or the moms from my birthing class who now live in different parts of the country, it can be a challenge,” she says. But when you organize your meet-up around a race, it becomes more doable.

It’s also a perfect activity for friends who share a passion for running, says Gina Imperato, who helps put on the Montclair Bread Co.’s 5K Doughnut Run and Baker’s Dozen 13.1 in New Jersey (and takes an annual runcation with her high school buddies). “Women get their strength from leveraging their community,” she says. “Sure, we can race alone, but why, when it’s so much more fun in a group?” 

And it’s not just the long weekend you get to spend with your homegirls—you also experience weeks or months of bonding while training. “You can use apps like Strava, Dailymile, or even Facebook to encourage each other remotely,” says Shea. It’s about having a shared goal, one that could strengthen the connection you already have.

Or, in my case, creating a brand-new connection. During the winding, nearly two-hour van ride from Sangster International Airport to the Cliff Hotel in Negril, I started chatting with a fellow journalist from Toronto. We kept the confab going through the entire trip, bonding over everything from our favorite Sean Paul song to dealing with the rigors of running outdoors year-round. I even told her about my Mile One mantra and the rut I feared I was slipping into, and her knowing nods felt instantly reassuring.

RELATED: How to Train Yourself to Run Faster

Finish strong

When race day arrived, I actually sprang out of bed, raring to go, despite my 3:30 a.m. wake-up call and the oppressive humidity that hit my face like a brick in the predawn darkness. And not once did I mutter anything about getting through the first mile as I gathered with the more than 2,300 other runners behind the starting line or when we all took off down the flat road. I was focused on running my own race.

As I passed the 10K course’s midway point, I started to tune in to my surroundings and told myself to take it easy. There were Bob Marley songs blaring from giant speakers and onlookers cheering from the sidelines. Members of running teams, wearing matching shirts, tried to keep one another’s spirits high. We were all feeling the steaminess of the weather, but also the camaraderie.

When I looked around at the thinned-out crowd of runners nearby, it was heartening to see such a range of people pounding the pavement (and sweating profusely) alongside me. Women, men, young high school track stars, older folks just keeping their own pace—everyone set on getting to the finish line.

All three of the races ended at the oatmeal-colored sands of Seven Mile Beach. When I finally made it, I kicked off my running shoes, peeled off my socks, and plopped down by the shore, soaking up every detail of the blissful moment. When I caught my breath, I found my new running-writer friend, and we hung out, dancing to the music from the main stage and toasting our finish with coconut water sipped straight from its freshly chopped source.

The trip boosted not only my running spirit but also my mood. I felt lighter and at ease, ready to step back into my life at home refreshed. The sun, the sea, the runcation experience in a vibrant country—it all helped me run my way out of a rut and discover a new way of seeing the world, one race at a time. My next destination: a half marathon in Nova Scotia this fall.

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Photo: Ryan Kelly / DB10

With 10 minutes on the clock, holding plank after plank can feel like a lifetime. But this ab-blasting plank series from Daily Burn’s new DB10 program is designed to distract your body and mind. Think: creative combinations like the push-up to plank punch, or plyometric variations like plank jacks and plank-ups.

“The idea behind these combo moves is to pair dynamic movement with traditional planks to offer core strengthening with cardio benefits,” says Dara Theodore, one of the lead trainers for the DB10 program.

Borrowing moves from  Theodore and CeCe Marizu’s 10-minute DB10 workouts, these ab exercises work every angle of your core — from your obliques to your traverse abdominis to your lower lats. (And they won’t skimp on your shoulders, arms and legs, either!)

Whether you’re running miles or doing deadlifts, engaging your core is the foundation for most workouts, after all. “Your core provides balance, stability and power in any workout as well as in daily activity,” Theodore says. Do these planks in one continuous flow, and you’ve got yourself a true ab burner that’ll also make you break a sweat. “Being aware of proper plank form and building core strength will allow you to reap the benefits of the dynamic movement, as you will be able to move faster and more fluidly,” Theodore adds.

TRY IT NOW: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program

5 Plank Exercises for a 10-Minute Ab Workout

As with all of our DB10 workouts, aim to complete as many rounds as possible of the following exercises/reps in 10 minutes. When you move continuously through each exercise at a quickened pace, you’ll ramp up your heart rate and burn more calories. For the ultimate core finisher, we hold a side plank for 30 seconds.

1. Plank to Push-Up to Inchworm

How to: Get into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands beneath them. Engage your abdominals to avoid arching your back and lowering your hips (a). Perform two push-ups, letting your elbows flare slightly out to your sides at about 45 degrees. Squeeze your glutes and core throughout the entire movement, and maintain a straight line from head to toes (b). Walk your hands back towards your feet and come up to stand (c). Hop your feet forward and then hop them back out to a high plank. This is one rep (d). Do five reps.

2. Push-Up to Plank Jack

How to: Get into a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands. Squeezing your glutes and core, lower your body down to the ground and press it back up. This is one push-up. Do one more (a). Next, bring your feet together and do four plank jacks, jumping your feet wide to each side and then hopping them back together. Avoid raising your butt (d). Do six reps.

3. Plank-Up with Diagonal Hops

How to: From the high plank position, bring your right elbow down to the floor and then your left elbow down to the floor for a forearm plank (a). Get back into a high plank by lifting your right forearm up and then your left forearm (b). Next, bring your feet together in a high plank and hop them diagonally to your right side. Hop them back out to high plank before hopping them diagonally to your left side (c). Do five reps.

GIVE ME ACCESS: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program

4. Push-Up to Plank Punch

How to: Get into a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands. You can keep your feet a little wider apart to help you stabilize when doing the plank punch (a). Lower your body down to the ground, keeping your body in alignment and your elbows flaring slightly out to your sides (b). As you press back up, make a fist with your right hand and punch it out in front of you (c). Perform another push-up before making a fist with your left hand and punching it out (d). Do six reps.

SIGN ME UP: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program

5. Side Planks

How to: Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the ground. Engaging your core, raise your body up into a side plank, creating a straight line from your head to your toes (a). If you can, raise your left hand up towards the ceiling, gazing toward your hand. If you can’t, keep your left hand resting on your left hip (b). Hold the plank for 40 seconds and rest 20 seconds before switching sides.

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

A jump rope feels decidedly old-school: something you played with as a kid but that most adults, except for boxers, leave behind.

That’s a shame, because jumping rope offers a combination of benefits to bone, balance and muscles that most types of exercise can’t match.

“If you’ve done it lately, you know how much it can get your heart pumping,” says Tim Church, a professor at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “But one of the nice things about it is the intensity can really be as high as you want it to be.”

While slow-paced rope jumping is a great warm-up exercise, rapid jumping or “double-unders”—where the rope passes under your feet twice before you land—will leave you panting after just a minute or two.

MORE: The TIME Guide To Exercise

The whole-body synchronization required to successfully jump rope is another major selling point. “Boxers do it because the precise timing it requires between the feet and hands helps connect the upper and lower body with the brain,” Church explains.

Like a group of musicians unaccustomed to playing with one another, your brain and major muscle groups can struggle to stay in sync—especially as you age. Jumping rope helps them perform in concert, which can lower your risk for slips and awkward falls.

“When I teach kids who are struggling with coordination or complex movements, I have them jump rope,” Church says. One study of young soccer players found that compared to kids who only practiced their soccer drills, those who incorporated a jump-rope routine better improved their balance and motor coordination.

MORE: Jumping Up and Down Is Ridiculously Good Exercise

Surprisingly, jumping rope is also a good way to activate and sculpt your upper body. “It can seem like all the rope spinning is coming from the wrists and hands, but there’s actually an amazing amount of work required from your upper arms and shoulders and back to control and stabilize the rope,” says Michele Olson, an adjunct professor of sports science at Huntingdon College. “Especially compared to running or other forms of cardio, it’s moreso a total-body workout.”

Those benefits extend to your bones. “Anything that has some impact to it or that places a load on your bones will increase their density,” Olson says. “Jumping rope certainly has that aspect to it.” A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that young women who jumped as high as they could just 10 times, three times a week for six months, increased bone mineral density in their legs and the lower half of their spines.

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“The other nice thing is the impact goes through the ball of the foot instead of the heel, which is what causes so many problems in runners,” Olson says.

Remember the barefoot running craze? A lot of its benefits boil down to the way it forces a shorter stride and fore- or mid-foot takeoffs and landings, as opposed to the heel-jarring longer strides made possible by padded running shoes. Like barefoot running, jumping rope is mostly done on your toes and the balls of your feet, so it may be less likely to cause the knee and hip injuries associated with some other forms of impact cardio.

Be warned. Though it may look easy, it can be a tough workout. “Depending on how intensely you’re doing it, it can be on the vigorous end of the exercise spectrum,” Olson says. “If you’re 50 pounds overweight and haven’t been exercising, this isn’t how I’d start,” Church adds.

But if you’re in decent shape and not carrying a lot of extra weight, Church recommends adding a short jump rope portion—maybe five minutes—to your usual workout routine. “You could theoretically do 30 minutes of it a few times a week, and have that be your cardio, but it’s probably better to work it into your regimen,” he says. “A little goes a long way.”

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Bethan Mooney for TIME

Photo: Twenty20

This article originally appeared on Life by Daily Burn.

If you’re one of those runners who sprints away from a warm-up and cool-down as fast as you do a finish line, you’re missing out on some great benefits. Plus, you could be putting yourself at risk for injury.

According to Lauren Loberg, doctor of physical therapy and board certified clinical orthopedic specialist with TRIA Orthopaedic Center, an effective warm-up will prime your muscles for the run, therefore helping to prevent muscle strain and joint pain. Similarly, letting your body find its cool post-run allows your heart rate to drop back to normal, and is a great way to prevent muscle soreness.

Get into the habit of spending just a few extra minutes pre- and post-jog to stretch it out with the following moves. These running stretches are so quick and easy, you really have no excuse not to do them.

RELATED: 50 Running Resources for Speed, Strength and Nutrition

3 Before-You-Go Running Stretches to Loosen Up

Flow through the following three stretches to get blood moving to common problem areas — like knees, hips and ankles — prior to your run. “Increased blood flow and warmth will make your tissue more pliable and your muscles ready to perform,” Loberg explains. Keep in mind: You don’t want to stick to a static hold with these stretches. (Save that for post-workout!) Instead, continuously move back and forth between sides.

1. Groin Stretch

How to: Stand with legs a few steps wider than shoulder-width apart (a). Shift to your weight to your right side, bending your knee to sink into a lateral lunge. Make sure the toes and the knee of your bent leg points straight ahead (b). Hold for 10-20 seconds before shifting to the other side. Repeat 3-4 times.

RELATED: Got Tight Hip Flexors? How To Stretch and Strengthen Them

2. Hamstring Stretch

How to: Begin standing with your feet together (a). Step one foot back about two feet. Hinge forward from the hips, keeping your back flat and both legs straight (b). Hold for 10-20 seconds before stepping the back leg through to the front and alternating sides. Repeat 3-4 times.

3. Ankle Circles 

How to: Stand tall. Shift your weight to your right side and lift your left foot off the floor a few inches (a). Roll the ankle of your raised foot in a circular motion, making sure to roll in both directions (b). Alternate feet after 10-20 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

RELATED: How to Score Perfect Running Form Like the Pros

3 Stretches to Bring Down Body Heat Post-Run

Loberg recommends these staple yoga moves to stretch out all the areas you taxed during your run — namely your hamstrings, calves, hips and quads. Move swiftly from one pose to the next, or reset in between each. For extra TLC after these stretches, use a foam roller to screen for areas that are especially tender. Spend three minutes rolling each leg, focusing on the sore spots.

1. Downward Dog

How to: Begin in a high plank position. Palms should be flat on the ground directly under the shoulders, with the arms straight (a). Press through your hands as you bring your hips up toward the ceiling. Press your heels toward the floor (b). Keep knees straight as you direct your sit bones toward the ceiling to intensify the stretch (c). Hold for 30 seconds.

RELATED: 35 Resources to Step Up Your Yoga Game

2. Low Lunge

How to: Begin in high plank (a). Step your right foot forward between your hands (b). Lower softly onto your left knee and place the top of your left foot on the ground. Keep your right knee stacked directly over the ankle (c). To get a deeper stretch, gradually inch your right foot forward. Make sure to keep your tailbone tucked under to avoid arching your low back. If comfortable, bring your hands off floor, raise your torso, and reach overhead (d). Hold for 30 seconds before repeating with the opposite leg.

3. Triangle Pose

How to: Start standing and step your legs approximately 3-4 feet apart (a). Turn your right toes 90 degrees to the right, and your left toes slightly inwards. Raise both arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down (b). Press your hips to the left while extending your torso to the right (c). Rotate the torso to the left to open up your chest and bend at the hips to rest your right hand on your right shin, ankle or the floor outside your right foot (d). Stretch the left arm toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

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Taking 10,000 steps a day is considered a healthy goal if you want to be reasonably fit and give your overall wellness a boost. But how often do you actually hit that number?

If you’re like many Americans, you’re falling short, according to new research from Stanford University, which found that people in the U.S. took an average of just 4,774 step daily. That’s below the worldwide average of 4,961 steps per day and lands America at number 30 out of the 46 countries evaluated by the study authors.

RELATED: 9 Little Tweaks That Make Walking Workouts More Effective

Where did people take the most steps? Hong Kong came in at the top of the list, with an average of 6,880 steps every day. Indonesia ranked last, with residents there only walking 3,513 daily. To get those numbers, the researchers used an app that works with the step-tracking chips in smartphones. They obtained and then analyzed data from more than 693,000 people.

As obesity rates in the U.S. continue to rise (albeit more slowly than in years past—a small win!), our sedentary ways are more than a little concerning. Physical inactivity leads to an estimated 5 million deaths worldwide every year, according to the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.

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Our average daily step count isn’t the only way the researchers measured how inactive Americans are. The study team also took a look at something called “activity inequality,” or the difference between people who walk a lot and people who don’t. The bigger the gap between a country’s walkers and its couch-surfers, the more that country struggled with obesity, says lead study author Tim Althoff, a PhD candidate in computer science at Stanford.

“Just like economists can measure how much richer are the rich compared to the poor, we similarly looked at the ‘activity rich,’” explains Althoff. Out of the 46 countries studied, the U.S. ranked a dismal 42 for activity inequality, which makes Americans nearly 200% more likely to be obese than someone living in Hong Kong, China, or Sweden, the countries with the least activity inequality.

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The researchers also examined the link between activity rates and where a person lived—such as a neighborhood designed for walking rather than driving. The conclusion: residing in a more walkable area helped people take more steps. “How active you are is not only your personal decision,” Althoff says. “It’s really quite significantly impacted by where you live and how easy your environment makes it for you to be active.”

Of course, you’re not about to relocate just to walk more (although if you are up for a move, these are the most walkable cities). But you can aim to work in more movement during your day, Althoff says. You’ve heard it before, but tips like these are worth repeating: stroll down the hall to speak with your co-worker instead of drafting another email, and park at the far end of a parking lot or garage so you have to do a little walking to get to your office or the store.

RELATED: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Those extra steps can add up fast, and you don’t necessarily need to make 10,000 your ultimate goal. Judging by our national average of 4,774 daily steps, 10,000 might be too ambitious. When a goal feels unreachable, it could actual discourage you from trying any harder, Althoff says. Plus, it doesn’t take into account age and your overall health.

“A young healthy person should have a different goal than an older or less healthy person with conditions that don’t enable them to be that active,” he says. Researchers are still crunching the numbers on what the exact right step count might be for different types of walkers, but in the meantime, “shoot for small but sustained increases,” he says.

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Rob Culpepper/Getty Images

Time Inc

This article originally appeared on People.com.

She’s a fitness fanatic and he’s an NBA player, so there’s no better time (or place) for Khloé Kardashian and boyfriend Tristan Thompson to spend quality time together than working out together.

The reality star made a date with her shirtless exercise partner on Tuesday morning, as seen on her Instagram and Snapchat. Kardashian, 33, swapped out sisters Kourtney and Kim for Thompson, 26, who regularly works out with Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Lebron James, as the couple broke a sweat in her garage.

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The youngest Kardashian sister has previously posted a slew of different exercises she takes on daily — ranging from weighted squat jumps to bear crawls.

Though Khloé doesn’t need a reason to train (she works out every day), the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star explained, “Because we got taco Tuesday tonight!”

Thompson, who’s spending his off-season in Calabasas, has been joining his girlfriend’s intense endorphin-raising activities as of late.

One thing Kardashian recommends to lose weight is to switch-up workouts.

“Our bodies are seriously smart. After only a few weeks of repeating the same exercise routine, the body will acclimate and adjust by figuring out how to use less energy and calories to accomplish the same thing,” she explained on her app and website. “This means you’re working just as hard as you were before but burning less fat. You don’t have to work out MORE, necessarily, but you do have to workout SMARTER by always keeping your muscles guessing.”

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Although a few select deals were announced earlier on Monday, the third annual Amazon Prime Day officially kicks off on Monday night—and the discounts are almost too good to be true. Starting at 6PM PT/9 PM ET on July 10, Amazon Prime members will be able to score huge savings on everything from fitness trackers to kitchen necessities, with new deals rolling out every five minutes for 30 hours. Not a Prime subscriber? New customers who sign up for the service on or before July 11 are eligible for Prime Day deals.

Ready to shop? We’ve rounded up the best healthy discounts the sale has to offer. 

Prices are subject to change.

Workout gear

Sporting gear

Home and electronics

Kitchen

Beauty and fashion

Add these items to your shopping cart and take advantage of these prices before they’re gone!

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Philippa York, a cycling hero previously known as Robert Millar, has announced that she is a transgender woman. In a statement on CyclingNews.com, York, 58, opened up about the gender transition process she began in the early 2000s: “The outcome of that journey has meant that for a considerable time now I have lived as Philippa,” she wrote.

York—who won the King of the Mountains prize in the the 1984 Tour de France, and finished fourth overall that year—is considered one of Britain’s best cyclists ever. And she’s now the first high-profile cyclist to speak out about transitioning. In her statement York credited society’s changing attitude as part of her decision to do so: “There’s a much better acceptance and understanding” of transgender people now than when she first started down this road, she wrote.

In an interview with The Guardian, York said she’s known she was “different” since she was five years old. “[W]hat that difference was and how to deal with it has taken a fairly long time to come to terms with.” She went on to explain that she didn’t feel “trapped” in the wrong body, “rather it was more a case of the life I was living wasn’t the one I felt I ought to be having.”

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RELATED: The 50 Best Bike Rides in America, State by State

While York is now living as her true self, she acknowledged in her statement how challenging the medical transitioning procedures can be: “Although the end result is seen as a happier, more stable place, the emotions encountered to get there make for some very vulnerable periods.”

One of the reasons York chose to introduce her new identity to the public now has to do with her return to the racing world, after a nearly two-decade hiatus. At this year’s Tour de France, she will appear as a commentator for British television station ITV4.

“I really am delighted to have accepted this new challenge with ITV4,” York wrote. “I’m looking forward to the racing immensely and in terms of my personal and professional development I think this is the right time to return to a more active role in cycling too—the sport I’ve always loved.”

Welcome back, Philippa.

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Philippa York

Phillip Faraone

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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

The more tired you feel, the harder exercise can be. That’s why coaches of elite athletes have long known that a shot of caffeine before a training session or competition can improve performance by making it easier to exercise more vigorously with less pain and fatigue.

But for an average Joe, does drinking java really give your workout an edge? While the science isn’t solid yet on caffeine’s role as a training aid, the research so far is encouraging.

Caffeine’s main effect on the body is to increase alertness and arousal, which can make workouts seem not so bad. It also may help the muscles burn more fat. Here’s the theory: Muscles use glycogen, a stored version of glucose, for energy, and when glycogen stores run out, muscles get weaker and less efficient, leading to exhaustion. But muscles can also burn fat, and when they do, muscles don’t tire as easily. Caffeine can shift muscles to burn fat more quickly, which can preserve glycogen stores and give muscles more time before they wear out. This leads to a longer and less painful workout. Some researchers also believe that caffeine may work directly on muscle by improving its efficiency in generating power.

MORE: The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

But caffeine may take some time to work. The benefits are more obvious in longer bouts of endurance exercise rather than short-term kinds of exercise, since muscles turn to glycogen first. It’s not yet conclusive how long you have to exercise for caffeine to trigger the shift to fat-burning, but most studies have tested caffeine’s effect on muscles after about two hours. Caffeine’s energizing effects start to peak about an hour after ingestion and can last from three to six hours.

It’s also unclear how much coffee you need to get the exercise benefits. Until recently, the thinking has been that since the body can become tolerant to caffeine, regular coffee drinkers would need an extra cup to get the exercise benefits. But in a recent study conducted by researchers in Brazil, even regular caffeine drinkers—including those who downed about three cups of coffee every day—were able to pedal faster and longer on a stationary bike after taking a caffeine pill, which contained the caffeine equivalent of four cups of coffee, compared to when they hadn’t taken the pill.

MORE: How Your Morning Coffee Might Slow Down Aging

This existing research suggests that caffeine could be an effective addition to a workout regimen, as long as you add it carefully. (Caffeine comes with some downsides, including headaches, a spike in blood pressure and potential stomach ulcers.) Exercise experts suggest drinking a cup of coffee an hour or so before a workout and seeing if the buzz helps you power through more easily and with less fatigue.

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Bethan Mooney for TIME

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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body, a growing body of research is showing. And one kind in particular—aerobic exercise—appears to be king.

“Back in the day, the majority of exercise studies focused on the parts of the body from the neck down, like the heart and lungs,” says Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “But now we are finding that we need to go north, to the brain, to show the true benefits of a physically active lifestyle on an individual.”

Exercise might be a simple way for people to cut down their risk for memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, even for those who are genetically at risk for the disease. In a June study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Okonkwo followed 93 adults who had at least one parent with Alzheimer’s disease, at least one gene linked to Alzheimer’s, or both. People in the study who spent at least 68 minutes a day doing moderate physical activity had better glucose metabolism—which signals a healthy brain—compared to people who did less.

The brain benefits of exercise go beyond disease prevention. Okonkwo has also shown that people who exercise have greater brain volume in areas of the brain associated with reasoning and executive function. “We’ve done a series of studies showing that increased aerobic capacity boosts brain structure, function and cognition,” he says, “Other people have found exercise can improve mood.” Okonkwo’s research has also shown that exercise can diminish the impact of brain changes on cognition, not just prevent it. “Exercise is the full package,” he says.

TIME Health NewsletterGet the latest health and science news, plus: burning questions and expert tips. View Sample

Exercise likely improves brain health through a variety of ways. It makes the heart beat faster, which increases blood flow to the brain. This blood delivers oxygen—a good thing, since the brain is the biggest consumer of oxygen in the body. Physical activity also increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is known to help repair and protect brain cells from degeneration as well as help grow new brain cells and neurons, says Okonkwo.

In one study. Joe Northey, a PhD candidate at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise in Australia, showed that when people ride a stationary bike, they experience increased blood flow to the brain, and within that blood are a range of growth factors that are responsible for cell growth and associated with improved brain function. “Considering exercise can also reduce the risks associated with common lifestyle diseases that impact the brain, such as high blood sugar and hypertension, it is further motivation to try to incorporate exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Northey.

MORE: The Simple Reason Exercise Enhances Your Brain

Aerobic exercise, like running and swimming, appears to be best for brain health. That’s because it increases a person’s heart rate, “which means the body pumps more blood to the brain,” says Okonkwo. But strength training, like weight lifting, may also bring benefits to the brain by increasing heart rate. The link between resistance training and better brain health is not as established, but research in the area is growing.

For now, Northey recommends a combination of the two. “Combining both is ideal,” he says, for all of the other benefits exercise bestows on the body. “In addition to improving your brain function, you should expect to see improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength, as well as reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension amongst other diseases.”

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Bethan Mooney for TIME

If you love podcasts, you know there’s no better way to get through a long run or your daily commute. And the best podcasts leave you craving more. But there are so many shows so many to choose from, it can be tough to find exactly what you’re looking for. So we went to the pros: Here, a group of health and wellness experts—including doctors, nutritionists, a nurse, and a trainer—share the shows they’ve always got queued up.

Modern Love

Recommended by: Christine Johnston, MD, an internist at Medical Center of the Rockies

The details: Actors like Minnie Driver and Molly Ringwald read aloud essays from The New York Times column about love, heartbreak, and whatever comes in between.

Why she likes it:  “As a hospitalist, I interact with patients during an acute illness but miss the ongoing relationships,” she says. “These stories remind me that everyone has a story inside them, and as humans, we are amazingly complex and resilient.”

RadioLab

Recommended by: Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor

The details: RadioLab is described as “a show about curiosity.” Every episode investigates a new scientific question or historic moment, giving listeners an hour of easy-to-digest education.

Why she likes it: “Each time it tackles a different topic, and it kind of delves into the history of things and provides what I consider to be a pretty fascinating explanation,” Sass says. “It’s often science and technology-related or history-related. They did one about how humans figured out how digestion works. Of course as a nutritionist, that was especially fascinating to me.”

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Off-Camera with Sam Jones

Recommended by: Megan Roosevelt, RDN, a Los Angeles-based dietitian and founder of Healthy Grocery Girl

The details: Director and photographer Jones hosts interviews with artists, actors, and musicians on the air. Notable interviewees include Jack Black, Cindy Crawford, and Matt Damon.

Why she likes it: “This podcast is not health related, yet it is incredibly inspiring. I love the long-form conversational interviews and hearing the real-life trials and struggles Sam’s guests share, and what it truly takes to follow your passions and dreams.”

The Tim Ferriss Show

Recommended by: Shelli Sanson-Brown, RN, a nurse at Sutter Health in Sacramento, Calif.

The details: Ferriss has written three New York Times bestsellers on how to maximize your productivity (at work, in the gym, and in the kitchen). On his podcast, Ferriss broadcasts long-form interviews with the uber-successful—from David Blaine and Vince Vaughn to celebrated doctors and athletes.

Why she likes it: “The Tim Ferriss Show is the podcast I yearn for most, and also most commonly referred to as the coveted audio file amongst my professional colleagues,” says Sanson-Brown. “On his show Tim dialogues with experts in the fields of wellness, health, fitness, and nutrition. He dives deep with each pundit to highlight accurate and relevant information for the listener.”

RELATED: The Best Low-Impact Workouts for Weight Loss

The Marie Forleo Podcast 

Recommended by: Keri Glassman, RD, nutritionist and author of The New You and Improved Diet

The details: A self-described “multi-passionate entrepreneur,” Forleo encourages listeners to be confident in their dreams and be unafraid to break rules. She and her guests discuss strategies for squeezing more out of life.

Why she likes it: “Marie is such an inspiring thought leader,” Glassman says. “I listen to her podcasts for inspiration on anything from business to creativity to love.”

Waking Up with Sam Harris

Recommended by: Nina Shapiro, MD, a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor at the Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in Los Angeles

The details: Harris, who has a degree in philosophy and a PhD in neuroscience, explores controversial questions with his expert guests on everything from vaccines to religion to current events.

Why she likes it: “What I like about his work is that Sam’s background is as a scientist, but also he has a philosophical background as well. He interviews scientists from an ethical dilemma and philosophical angle. It’s not highly technical. It’s very accessible.”

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Hidden Brain 

Recommended by: Elliot Abemayor, MD, a professor of head and neck surgery at UCLA

The details: NPR’s Shankar Vedantam applies social science research to a wide range of real-life topics, such as the use of free speech in rap, for example, and the paradoxical way recycling can lead people to waste more.

Why he likes it: “He talks about new findings in social science, new and interesting things that people ordinarily wouldn’t know about.”

Intelligence Squared

Recommended by: Roger McIntyre, MD, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto

The details: This debate-style show delves into topics through a variety of perspectives. Recent topics include whether tech companies can keep users’ personal data from the law, and whether Wal-Mart is good for America.

Why he likes it: “I’ve found that, at least in the political space or economic or business news, there’s something about the podcast that is more reflective, cerebral, introspective,” Dr. McIntyre says. “I think for people who are really wanting to have thoughtful contemplative dialogue—thoughtful intellectual discourse—it’s increasingly hard to find that on cable TV. I think the podcast is one of those bastions that allows that to take place.”

Mike & Mike

Recommended by: Chris Winter, MD, a sleep doctor and neurologist and author of The Sleep Solution

The details: Mike & Mike is a no-frills ESPN sports podcast where Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic casually talk sports news and drama with a comedic edge.

Why he likes it: “I work a lot with athletes, and it’s not something I typically follow,” says Dr. Winter. “If a team is doing really well or really poorly, I want to know about it.”

Brute Strength

Recommended by: Dennys Lozada, a personal trainer at The Fhitting Room in New York City

The details: Michael Cazayoux, CEO of Los Angeles fitness club Brute Strength, interviews fitness experts and professionals about their personal experiences and their advice for athletes.

Why he likes it: “As a trainer you have to be on top of your education, keeping your mind sharp and up to task. That’s the reason why I listen to podcasts,” Lozada says. “It makes me feel really sharp.”

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Your Attitude About Exercise May Be Just as Important as How Much You Actually Get

You know that not getting regular exercise can be bad for your health. But here’s a surprising twist: Apparently, just thinking that you’re not exercising as much as you should can be harmful, too. In a new study in the journal Health Psychology, people who thought they were less active than their peers had a greater chance of dying younger—even if their actual activity levels were the same.

The research suggests that the health perks of exercise may come not just from the physical movements, but also how people think and feel about them, as well. In other words, people who feel like slackers may not be getting all the benefits they should be from their workouts.

Lead author Octavia Zahrt, a Stanford PhD student in organizational behavior, based her research on a personal experience. “I am from Germany, and back there I felt really good about my activity level,” she says. “I biked to work, and went to the gym maybe once a week.”

When she moved to California, she was suddenly “surrounded by people who exercise all the time,” she says. “Compared to them I felt really inactive, and I developed what I know now was a really negative mindset about my physical activity.”

RELATED: 12 Ways to Burn Fat Without Setting Foot in the Gym

So Zahrt and her faculty advisor, Alia Crum, PhD, decided to study whether this attitude could have an effect on long-term health. To do so, they analyzed data from 61,141 adults who were surveyed between 1990 and 2006 and followed until 2011.

The adults only answered questions about their activity levels, and some also wore accelerometers to track their real-time activity for a week. In addition, all participants were asked, “Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about as active as other persons your age?”

After adjusting their sample to control for factors such as disability, general health status, and demographics, the researchers found that people who believed they were less active than others were 71% more likely to die during the study’s follow-up period—even when activity levels was controlled for, too. In fact, they found that people’s perceptions about their own physical activity levels frequently did not match up with reality.

“It can be easy to compare how much exercise we get with the people around us, as opposed to what’s recommended for everyone,” says Zahrt. “Plus, a lot of people think that exercise has to mean running or going to the gym, and they don’t give themselves credit for all of the other activity they do—cleaning their house, walking to the store, carrying their kids, those sorts of things.”

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People who shortchange themselves in this way could be unknowingly sabotaging their health, say the study authors. Meanwhile, those who feel good about their fitness level may benefit as much from their attitude as they do from the physical activity itself.

Crum, assistant professor of psychology and director of Stanford’s Mind and Body Lab, first studied the “placebo effect” of exercise back in 2007. “What’s surprising to me is how robust the accumulated evidence is on the power of mindset in shaping our health,” she says, “and yet people are still so shocked when they hear results like these.”

That’s not to say that exercise doesn’t have real physical health benefits, Crum is quick to point out. “This is not an excuse to just stop doing anything but believe you’re doing everything,” she says. “It’s a reminder that, yes, you should work to get active in your life—but you should also be mindful of those negative thoughts that can creep in and the effects they might have.”

“Just because you didn’t get to that Spin class or that fancy new fitness class, doesn’t mean you’re not as healthy as those who do,” Crum adds. Zahrt agrees: “If we can change our perceptions to view all activity as good activity,” she says, “we think that could be a first and really important step to improving our health.”

Foods 6 Fitness Stars Wish Were Healthy

Do you ever wish your favorite indulgence was actually totally good for you? Yeah, so do we. And as it turns out, your favorite fitness stars aren’t immune to junk food cravings either. Watch this video to learn which foods these fit icons wish were totally healthy. Jessamyn Stanley and Misty Copeland are fans of savory fare like mac n’ cheese and Taco Bell. Katie Austin is a French fry fiend, while her mom, Denise Anderson, and Tracy Anderson go for sweeter treats like ice cream and brownies

WATCH THE VIDEO: A Super Simple Postpartum Exercise To Tighten Up Your Abs and Pelvic Floor 

Of course, it doesn’t hurt hurt to dig into fries or chocolate ice cream every once in a while (everything in moderation, right?). But if you’re looking for healthier version of those classic crave-worthy treats, check out the recipes below. 

Dairy-Free Chocolate Banana Nice Cream

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dairy free milk of choice
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced and frozen
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. raw cacao
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and very thick. Thin with more nut milk, if needed. Transfer to a bowl and freeze.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Tracy Anderson’s Top Arm-Sculpting Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

  • 3 small sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation: Peel sweet potatoes; cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes and remaining ingredients; toss well to coat. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake potatoes at 450° for 30 minutes or until soft and lightly browned, turning wedges after the first 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Joe Jonas’ Core Workout Includes Getting Punched in the Abs, but Does It Really Work?

Crossfit may have just been one-upped as the most intense workout of all time. The new pain-inducing fitness trend? Taking hits straight to the abdomen.

Earlier this week, Joe Jonas shared an Instagram video of the workout he’s doing while on tour in Tokyo. In the clip, Jonas does a series of leg lifts beside a personal trainer wearing boxing gloves. At the end of each rep, she clocks him right in the gut. (Ouch, right?)

The DNCE frontman isn’t the only celeb getting punched as part of a training tactic. Mia Kang, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and pro Muy Thai fighter, also posted a video of herself being socked in the stomach: every time she extends her legs while doing squats, fighters on each side of her kick her in the belly.

What’s the point of voluntarily taking a beating? Here’s one payoff: Boxers, MMA fighters, and other martial arts athletes do it during training because getting walloped is part of their job, and they need to practice absorbing the blow, says exercise physiologist and personal trainer Tom Holland.

That explains why Kang was enduring those kicks. As for Jonas, he might simply be trying to strengthen his abs. While an external hit to muscle won’t make it tighter or stronger (“if this worked, we’d punch our biceps and our leg muscles,” Holland says), contracting your abs just before a punch or kick hits the stomach can create stronger muscle fibers.

RELATED: Firm Your Belly Ab Routine

“When I used to teach, I would cue clients by telling them to imagine that their child is getting ready to hit them in the stomach,” says Holland. “It teaches people to better engage in ab exercises and use the core muscles throughout.” The internal muscle contraction, not the outer trauma of a punch, is what helps create an enviable six-pack. 

Of course, a blow to this sensitive area can be seriously harmful for average Joes (that includes you, Joe Jonas). Since this area of the body contains many vital organs, a punch or kick can result in bruising and internal damage, adds Holland.

RELATED: 4 Muscles You Should Never Ignore

Regular gym-goers can take advantage of this (while avoiding a trip to the ER) by having a partner perform the punch or kick motion and stop short; you’ll reflexively tighten your core as you see it coming. Or during crunches, start each crunch by visualizing someone about to punch your midsection or drop a medicine ball on your abs, recommends Holland. Your natural reaction will be to pull in your ab muscles as you complete a rep.

Holland also suggests breathing through your ab exercises for the best results. “It’s a real challenge, but breathing while doing pretty much any ab exercise engages the core even further,” he says.

Train Like a Stark with This 'Game of Cones' Workout as You Watch Game of Thrones

This article originally appeared on People.com.

You may not encounter any dragons or need to fight off sword-wielding attackers in your daily life, but you can still train for it with this Game of Thrones-themed workout.

The next time you settle in for an hour (or ten hours if you’re binging, no judgment) of feuding families, fit in a little leg burn with this cone-based circuit workout that trainer Luis Badillo Jr. put together for Reebok.

“If you’re sitting on the couch for hours you’re not doing anything to improve yourself,” Badillo tells Reebok. “I’m always active, on my feet, up and about and doing something. You don’t need that much space at all to do a fun workout.”

Before you hit play on the next episode (or while you wait out that inevitable HBOGo delay), grab a set of four cones (or four small objects to mark the space) and clear out room in front of the TV for this heart-pumping workout.

“These exercises will help with speed, agility and total body strength,” Badillo says. “Make sure to stay on your toes, pump your arms and keep your body relaxed to move around the cones as fast as possible.”

For the entire length of the opening credits, do the Plant and Loop

Set up two cones about four feet apart. Plant your outside foot and loop around one cone, turning back toward the other. Continue to loop around the cones.

Every time there is a death by sword, do the Two-Step Weave

Set up three cones in a line, with two feet between each. Zigzag through the cones laterally 10 times, bringing both feet to the outside of each cone before moving on to the next one.

Every time you see a dragon, do the Plant and Go

Set up three cones in a line. Plant your left foot and take an explosive step through the gaps between the cones, repeating through the line of cones 10 times.

Every time someone takes off or puts on a fur coat, do the Up and Back

Set up four cones in a line, with each cone about two feet apart. Move laterally through the line 10 times, stepping in front of and then behind each cone.

Every time someone has a glass of wine, do the Figure 8

Set up two cones two feet apart and run in a figure 8 pattern around them 10 times.

Every time someone gives you a spoiler, do the In and Out

Set up four cones in a row about two feet apart. Step each foot through the gaps and back, one foot at a time, for 10 repetitions.

We can’t promise that you’ll be able to crush skulls like “The Mountain” after this workout, but that’s probably a good thing.

Meet the Mom Who Ran a 4:25 Marathon While Pushing a Triple Stroller

A Montana mom proved to be a real-life Wonder Woman earlier this month when she crossed the finish line of a marathon in Missoula with three of her kids in tow. Theresa Marie Pitts, 38, ran the 26.2 miler while pushing a triple stroller in under 4 hours and 30 minutes, setting at Guinness World Record in the process. Her official race time: 4:25:37. 

What makes Pitts’ feat all the more more amazing is that this was her first marathon. Though she had always loved running, the mother of eight didn’t begin training regularly until a few years ago, just after the birth of her sixth child. “I was in a depressive slump,” she explained in an email to Health. “[I] was searching for a healthy way to get back on track mentally, physically, and spiritually.”

Her first race was a sprint triathlon. Then two years ago, she ran a 5K while pushing two of her kids in a double stroller. “I loved the idea then that I might be able to set a positive example of whole health and wellness, and share my message of hope and healing to those who struggle with mental illness and related disorders,” she says.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1540809835943978&set=pcb.1540810222610606&type=3&theater

RELATED: 7 Tips for Running Your First Race

Pitts began training for the marathon (as well as a half-marathon in June) while she was pregnant with her eighth child. “It was winter so most of my runs were done on a treadmill,” she says. But once her newborn was five weeks old, she began “serious training” on long-distance runs with her three youngest kiddos in the stroller, with “lots of padding and head support.”

Come marathon day, with the stroller, supplies, and children (ages 4, 2, and 5 months), Pitts was pushing 150 pounds. But all her prep paid off. Pitts only had to pause twice during the race, once at mile 6 when her two-year-old’s seatbelt got unbuckled; and again at mile 8, when the baby was crying and needed to be comforted.

Around mile 20, her pace began to slow, she says. She felt sick, exhausted, and in pain. But she thought to herself, “‘You’ve gotta dig deep here ’cause the 4:30 pacers are passing you up!'” That mindset helped her push to the finish line.

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Pitts says that one of the reasons she runs these races is to set an example of “mental toughness” for her kids, and to “help them develop the attitude of, ‘No excuses, I can do hard things!'”

But she also wants to show there’s hope for anyone who may be struggling like she once did—or as she puts it, “inspire someone else to create an awesome ending to their own story.”

Up next for Pitts? “I am already planning on running another half-marathon in September with my littles,” she says. And yes, she’ll be pushing her three youngest kids for all 13.1 miles of that race too.

How a Runcation Helped Me Get Out of a Workout Rut

Just get through mile one. This is what I tell myself whenever I head off on a run and feel tempted to turn right back around. The Jedi mind trick of it all is that after the first mile, I’ve found my groove and will just keep going. But as winter settled into New England last year, I noticed my little mantra was becoming an everyday necessity.

That’s when opportunity knocked, in the form of an invite to Jamaica’s Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. It came from a publicist friend who was working with the island’s tourist board and knew that I often write about running. “Come for the run, stay for the fun,” read the tagline. How could I worry about Mile One when surrounded by sun, sand, and surf?

Plus, this was my chance to experience a “runcation” (a vacay built around a race). The travel trend, which lets you simultaneously check a destination off your bucket list and fulfill a personal goal by crossing the finish line, has been growing steadily in recent years. And women in particular are embracing this double-duty getaway. The turnout at Destination Races—a series of half marathons held in wine regions in the U.S. and Canada—is “70 to 75 percent female,” reports Matt Dockstader, the president of the organization. More than half the runners headed to the Reggae Marathon were women, too.

Girl power getaway

A runcation is a way to take your girls’ weekend to the next level, explains Sarah Bowen Shea, cofounder of the popular online community Another Mother Runner. “If I want to meet up with my sorority sisters or the moms from my birthing class who now live in different parts of the country, it can be a challenge,” she says. But when you organize your meet-up around a race, it becomes more doable.

It’s also a perfect activity for friends who share a passion for running, says Gina Imperato, who helps put on the Montclair Bread Co.’s 5K Doughnut Run and Baker’s Dozen 13.1 in New Jersey (and takes an annual runcation with her high school buddies). “Women get their strength from leveraging their community,” she says. “Sure, we can race alone, but why, when it’s so much more fun in a group?” 

And it’s not just the long weekend you get to spend with your homegirls—you also experience weeks or months of bonding while training. “You can use apps like Strava, Dailymile, or even Facebook to encourage each other remotely,” says Shea. It’s about having a shared goal, one that could strengthen the connection you already have.

Or, in my case, creating a brand-new connection. During the winding, nearly two-hour van ride from Sangster International Airport to the Cliff Hotel in Negril, I started chatting with a fellow journalist from Toronto. We kept the confab going through the entire trip, bonding over everything from our favorite Sean Paul song to dealing with the rigors of running outdoors year-round. I even told her about my Mile One mantra and the rut I feared I was slipping into, and her knowing nods felt instantly reassuring.

RELATED: How to Train Yourself to Run Faster

Finish strong

When race day arrived, I actually sprang out of bed, raring to go, despite my 3:30 a.m. wake-up call and the oppressive humidity that hit my face like a brick in the predawn darkness. And not once did I mutter anything about getting through the first mile as I gathered with the more than 2,300 other runners behind the starting line or when we all took off down the flat road. I was focused on running my own race.

As I passed the 10K course’s midway point, I started to tune in to my surroundings and told myself to take it easy. There were Bob Marley songs blaring from giant speakers and onlookers cheering from the sidelines. Members of running teams, wearing matching shirts, tried to keep one another’s spirits high. We were all feeling the steaminess of the weather, but also the camaraderie.

When I looked around at the thinned-out crowd of runners nearby, it was heartening to see such a range of people pounding the pavement (and sweating profusely) alongside me. Women, men, young high school track stars, older folks just keeping their own pace—everyone set on getting to the finish line.

All three of the races ended at the oatmeal-colored sands of Seven Mile Beach. When I finally made it, I kicked off my running shoes, peeled off my socks, and plopped down by the shore, soaking up every detail of the blissful moment. When I caught my breath, I found my new running-writer friend, and we hung out, dancing to the music from the main stage and toasting our finish with coconut water sipped straight from its freshly chopped source.

The trip boosted not only my running spirit but also my mood. I felt lighter and at ease, ready to step back into my life at home refreshed. The sun, the sea, the runcation experience in a vibrant country—it all helped me run my way out of a rut and discover a new way of seeing the world, one race at a time. My next destination: a half marathon in Nova Scotia this fall.

This Plank Circuit Is the Ultimate Ab Workout (And Only Takes 10 Minutes!)

Photo: Ryan Kelly / DB10

With 10 minutes on the clock, holding plank after plank can feel like a lifetime. But this ab-blasting plank series from Daily Burn’s new DB10 program is designed to distract your body and mind. Think: creative combinations like the push-up to plank punch, or plyometric variations like plank jacks and plank-ups.

“The idea behind these combo moves is to pair dynamic movement with traditional planks to offer core strengthening with cardio benefits,” says Dara Theodore, one of the lead trainers for the DB10 program.

Borrowing moves from  Theodore and CeCe Marizu’s 10-minute DB10 workouts, these ab exercises work every angle of your core — from your obliques to your traverse abdominis to your lower lats. (And they won’t skimp on your shoulders, arms and legs, either!)

Whether you’re running miles or doing deadlifts, engaging your core is the foundation for most workouts, after all. “Your core provides balance, stability and power in any workout as well as in daily activity,” Theodore says. Do these planks in one continuous flow, and you’ve got yourself a true ab burner that’ll also make you break a sweat. “Being aware of proper plank form and building core strength will allow you to reap the benefits of the dynamic movement, as you will be able to move faster and more fluidly,” Theodore adds.

TRY IT NOW: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program

5 Plank Exercises for a 10-Minute Ab Workout

As with all of our DB10 workouts, aim to complete as many rounds as possible of the following exercises/reps in 10 minutes. When you move continuously through each exercise at a quickened pace, you’ll ramp up your heart rate and burn more calories. For the ultimate core finisher, we hold a side plank for 30 seconds.

1. Plank to Push-Up to Inchworm

How to: Get into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands beneath them. Engage your abdominals to avoid arching your back and lowering your hips (a). Perform two push-ups, letting your elbows flare slightly out to your sides at about 45 degrees. Squeeze your glutes and core throughout the entire movement, and maintain a straight line from head to toes (b). Walk your hands back towards your feet and come up to stand (c). Hop your feet forward and then hop them back out to a high plank. This is one rep (d). Do five reps.

2. Push-Up to Plank Jack

How to: Get into a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands. Squeezing your glutes and core, lower your body down to the ground and press it back up. This is one push-up. Do one more (a). Next, bring your feet together and do four plank jacks, jumping your feet wide to each side and then hopping them back together. Avoid raising your butt (d). Do six reps.

3. Plank-Up with Diagonal Hops

How to: From the high plank position, bring your right elbow down to the floor and then your left elbow down to the floor for a forearm plank (a). Get back into a high plank by lifting your right forearm up and then your left forearm (b). Next, bring your feet together in a high plank and hop them diagonally to your right side. Hop them back out to high plank before hopping them diagonally to your left side (c). Do five reps.

GIVE ME ACCESS: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program

4. Push-Up to Plank Punch

How to: Get into a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your shoulders directly in line with your hands. You can keep your feet a little wider apart to help you stabilize when doing the plank punch (a). Lower your body down to the ground, keeping your body in alignment and your elbows flaring slightly out to your sides (b). As you press back up, make a fist with your right hand and punch it out in front of you (c). Perform another push-up before making a fist with your left hand and punching it out (d). Do six reps.

SIGN ME UP: Daily Burn’s DB10 Program

5. Side Planks

How to: Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the ground. Engaging your core, raise your body up into a side plank, creating a straight line from your head to your toes (a). If you can, raise your left hand up towards the ceiling, gazing toward your hand. If you can’t, keep your left hand resting on your left hip (b). Hold the plank for 40 seconds and rest 20 seconds before switching sides.

Why Jumping Rope Is a Shockingly Good Workout

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

A jump rope feels decidedly old-school: something you played with as a kid but that most adults, except for boxers, leave behind.

That’s a shame, because jumping rope offers a combination of benefits to bone, balance and muscles that most types of exercise can’t match.

“If you’ve done it lately, you know how much it can get your heart pumping,” says Tim Church, a professor at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “But one of the nice things about it is the intensity can really be as high as you want it to be.”

While slow-paced rope jumping is a great warm-up exercise, rapid jumping or “double-unders”—where the rope passes under your feet twice before you land—will leave you panting after just a minute or two.

MORE: The TIME Guide To Exercise

The whole-body synchronization required to successfully jump rope is another major selling point. “Boxers do it because the precise timing it requires between the feet and hands helps connect the upper and lower body with the brain,” Church explains.

Like a group of musicians unaccustomed to playing with one another, your brain and major muscle groups can struggle to stay in sync—especially as you age. Jumping rope helps them perform in concert, which can lower your risk for slips and awkward falls.

“When I teach kids who are struggling with coordination or complex movements, I have them jump rope,” Church says. One study of young soccer players found that compared to kids who only practiced their soccer drills, those who incorporated a jump-rope routine better improved their balance and motor coordination.

MORE: Jumping Up and Down Is Ridiculously Good Exercise

Surprisingly, jumping rope is also a good way to activate and sculpt your upper body. “It can seem like all the rope spinning is coming from the wrists and hands, but there’s actually an amazing amount of work required from your upper arms and shoulders and back to control and stabilize the rope,” says Michele Olson, an adjunct professor of sports science at Huntingdon College. “Especially compared to running or other forms of cardio, it’s moreso a total-body workout.”

Those benefits extend to your bones. “Anything that has some impact to it or that places a load on your bones will increase their density,” Olson says. “Jumping rope certainly has that aspect to it.” A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that young women who jumped as high as they could just 10 times, three times a week for six months, increased bone mineral density in their legs and the lower half of their spines.

“The other nice thing is the impact goes through the ball of the foot instead of the heel, which is what causes so many problems in runners,” Olson says.

Remember the barefoot running craze? A lot of its benefits boil down to the way it forces a shorter stride and fore- or mid-foot takeoffs and landings, as opposed to the heel-jarring longer strides made possible by padded running shoes. Like barefoot running, jumping rope is mostly done on your toes and the balls of your feet, so it may be less likely to cause the knee and hip injuries associated with some other forms of impact cardio.

Be warned. Though it may look easy, it can be a tough workout. “Depending on how intensely you’re doing it, it can be on the vigorous end of the exercise spectrum,” Olson says. “If you’re 50 pounds overweight and haven’t been exercising, this isn’t how I’d start,” Church adds.

But if you’re in decent shape and not carrying a lot of extra weight, Church recommends adding a short jump rope portion—maybe five minutes—to your usual workout routine. “You could theoretically do 30 minutes of it a few times a week, and have that be your cardio, but it’s probably better to work it into your regimen,” he says. “A little goes a long way.”

6 Running Stretches That Are Too Easy to Skip

Photo: Twenty20

This article originally appeared on Life by Daily Burn.

If you’re one of those runners who sprints away from a warm-up and cool-down as fast as you do a finish line, you’re missing out on some great benefits. Plus, you could be putting yourself at risk for injury.

According to Lauren Loberg, doctor of physical therapy and board certified clinical orthopedic specialist with TRIA Orthopaedic Center, an effective warm-up will prime your muscles for the run, therefore helping to prevent muscle strain and joint pain. Similarly, letting your body find its cool post-run allows your heart rate to drop back to normal, and is a great way to prevent muscle soreness.

Get into the habit of spending just a few extra minutes pre- and post-jog to stretch it out with the following moves. These running stretches are so quick and easy, you really have no excuse not to do them.

RELATED: 50 Running Resources for Speed, Strength and Nutrition

3 Before-You-Go Running Stretches to Loosen Up

Flow through the following three stretches to get blood moving to common problem areas — like knees, hips and ankles — prior to your run. “Increased blood flow and warmth will make your tissue more pliable and your muscles ready to perform,” Loberg explains. Keep in mind: You don’t want to stick to a static hold with these stretches. (Save that for post-workout!) Instead, continuously move back and forth between sides.

1. Groin Stretch

How to: Stand with legs a few steps wider than shoulder-width apart (a). Shift to your weight to your right side, bending your knee to sink into a lateral lunge. Make sure the toes and the knee of your bent leg points straight ahead (b). Hold for 10-20 seconds before shifting to the other side. Repeat 3-4 times.

RELATED: Got Tight Hip Flexors? How To Stretch and Strengthen Them

2. Hamstring Stretch

How to: Begin standing with your feet together (a). Step one foot back about two feet. Hinge forward from the hips, keeping your back flat and both legs straight (b). Hold for 10-20 seconds before stepping the back leg through to the front and alternating sides. Repeat 3-4 times.

3. Ankle Circles 

How to: Stand tall. Shift your weight to your right side and lift your left foot off the floor a few inches (a). Roll the ankle of your raised foot in a circular motion, making sure to roll in both directions (b). Alternate feet after 10-20 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

RELATED: How to Score Perfect Running Form Like the Pros

3 Stretches to Bring Down Body Heat Post-Run

Loberg recommends these staple yoga moves to stretch out all the areas you taxed during your run — namely your hamstrings, calves, hips and quads. Move swiftly from one pose to the next, or reset in between each. For extra TLC after these stretches, use a foam roller to screen for areas that are especially tender. Spend three minutes rolling each leg, focusing on the sore spots.

1. Downward Dog

How to: Begin in a high plank position. Palms should be flat on the ground directly under the shoulders, with the arms straight (a). Press through your hands as you bring your hips up toward the ceiling. Press your heels toward the floor (b). Keep knees straight as you direct your sit bones toward the ceiling to intensify the stretch (c). Hold for 30 seconds.

RELATED: 35 Resources to Step Up Your Yoga Game

2. Low Lunge

How to: Begin in high plank (a). Step your right foot forward between your hands (b). Lower softly onto your left knee and place the top of your left foot on the ground. Keep your right knee stacked directly over the ankle (c). To get a deeper stretch, gradually inch your right foot forward. Make sure to keep your tailbone tucked under to avoid arching your low back. If comfortable, bring your hands off floor, raise your torso, and reach overhead (d). Hold for 30 seconds before repeating with the opposite leg.

3. Triangle Pose

How to: Start standing and step your legs approximately 3-4 feet apart (a). Turn your right toes 90 degrees to the right, and your left toes slightly inwards. Raise both arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down (b). Press your hips to the left while extending your torso to the right (c). Rotate the torso to the left to open up your chest and bend at the hips to rest your right hand on your right shin, ankle or the floor outside your right foot (d). Stretch the left arm toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

26 Simple Ways to Shape Up This Summer

Sweat more in less time

Move through three or four rounds of this full-body circuit from Davis to get the most burn for your buck.

Push-Up Tuck Jump (top left): Perform a normal push-up (A). From plank position, “jump” knees toward elbows without touching feet to the floor (B), then jut feet back out. Do 10 reps.

Glute Bridge Crunch (top right): Lie on your back, arms at sides, feet planted. Raise hips so they align with knees (A). Lower hips and lift shoulders to do a crunch (B). Return to starting position and repeat for 20 reps.

Side-Plank Booty Tap (lower left): Start in a side plank on left forearm (A). Lower bottom hip to the floor (B), lift hip back up, and rotate torso while weaving right arm under torso (C). Do 10 reps, then switch sides.

Hip Thrust to Y Squat (lower right): Start in a plank (A). Jump feet forward so they land on either side of hands. Stay in a low squat; lift arms into a V next to ears (B). Drop hands to the floor and jump feet back to plank. Repeat for 10 reps.

12 Little Things That Will Improve Your Health in Just One Minute

Check the bowl

After you go number one or two, give a little glance—your pee and poop can tell you a lot about your health, says Michael S. Langan, MD, an internal medicine doctor at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. If your urine is dark yellow, that’s a signal to drink more H2O (the ideal: pee that’s clear or very light yellow). Pinkish or reddish pee could signal a urinary tract infection or other health problem—see your doctor.

RELATED: What the Color of Your Pee REALLY Means

Take clues from your poo, too. “Stool that’s hard, pellet-like, or difficult to pass is an indication of constipation,” says Dr. Langan. Staying hydrated and eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day (fill up on fruit, vegetables, and whole grains) will promote regularity. If your BMs are routinely very loose, watery, or mucusy, talk to your doc, who will want to rule out underlying conditions such as IBS. Black or tarry stools may indicate GI bleeding, another reason to make an appointment with your doctor right away.

The Surprising Number of Steps Americans Really Take Each Day

Taking 10,000 steps a day is considered a healthy goal if you want to be reasonably fit and give your overall wellness a boost. But how often do you actually hit that number?

If you’re like many Americans, you’re falling short, according to new research from Stanford University, which found that people in the U.S. took an average of just 4,774 step daily. That’s below the worldwide average of 4,961 steps per day and lands America at number 30 out of the 46 countries evaluated by the study authors.

RELATED: 9 Little Tweaks That Make Walking Workouts More Effective

Where did people take the most steps? Hong Kong came in at the top of the list, with an average of 6,880 steps every day. Indonesia ranked last, with residents there only walking 3,513 daily. To get those numbers, the researchers used an app that works with the step-tracking chips in smartphones. They obtained and then analyzed data from more than 693,000 people.

As obesity rates in the U.S. continue to rise (albeit more slowly than in years past—a small win!), our sedentary ways are more than a little concerning. Physical inactivity leads to an estimated 5 million deaths worldwide every year, according to the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.

Our average daily step count isn’t the only way the researchers measured how inactive Americans are. The study team also took a look at something called “activity inequality,” or the difference between people who walk a lot and people who don’t. The bigger the gap between a country’s walkers and its couch-surfers, the more that country struggled with obesity, says lead study author Tim Althoff, a PhD candidate in computer science at Stanford.

“Just like economists can measure how much richer are the rich compared to the poor, we similarly looked at the ‘activity rich,’” explains Althoff. Out of the 46 countries studied, the U.S. ranked a dismal 42 for activity inequality, which makes Americans nearly 200% more likely to be obese than someone living in Hong Kong, China, or Sweden, the countries with the least activity inequality.

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The researchers also examined the link between activity rates and where a person lived—such as a neighborhood designed for walking rather than driving. The conclusion: residing in a more walkable area helped people take more steps. “How active you are is not only your personal decision,” Althoff says. “It’s really quite significantly impacted by where you live and how easy your environment makes it for you to be active.”

Of course, you’re not about to relocate just to walk more (although if you are up for a move, these are the most walkable cities). But you can aim to work in more movement during your day, Althoff says. You’ve heard it before, but tips like these are worth repeating: stroll down the hall to speak with your co-worker instead of drafting another email, and park at the far end of a parking lot or garage so you have to do a little walking to get to your office or the store.

RELATED: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Those extra steps can add up fast, and you don’t necessarily need to make 10,000 your ultimate goal. Judging by our national average of 4,774 daily steps, 10,000 might be too ambitious. When a goal feels unreachable, it could actual discourage you from trying any harder, Althoff says. Plus, it doesn’t take into account age and your overall health.

“A young healthy person should have a different goal than an older or less healthy person with conditions that don’t enable them to be that active,” he says. Researchers are still crunching the numbers on what the exact right step count might be for different types of walkers, but in the meantime, “shoot for small but sustained increases,” he says.

6 Fitness Stars Share When They Feel Most Beautiful

Fact: Beauty is about so much more than appearance. If you picture a time when you felt most beautiful, it probably wasn’t when your makeup was flawless, or when you were rocking a hot new outfit. Chances are, you felt optimally gorgeous while doing something that made you feel strong and confident, or while spending time with people you love the most

That’s when fitness stars like Tracy Anderson and Misty Copeland feel their best, too. Watch this video for quotes on true beauty from six of your favorite gurus. And if you don’t have time to watch the whole video, we’ve included their inspirational words below:

“When I’m covered in sweat and I’m so tired but I’m feeling powerful and I’m feeling strong.” —Jessamyn Stanley

“I gained so much confidence, and energy and positivity from working out, and that definitely makes me feel beautiful.” —Katie Austin

“My yoga practice.” —Kristin McGee

WATCH THE VIDEO: 5 Fitness Stars’ Top Advice on How to Start Working Out

“I feel the most beautiful around my children because they’re judging me purely from my heart and who I am, and not at all what I look like.” —Tracy Anderson

“I think when I’m in a place where I feel really at peace with myself and who I am, and just content with my life, that’s when I feel the most powerful and in control and beautiful.” —Misty Copeland