Are You Sabotaging Your Fitness Goals?

Are You Sabotaging Your Fitness Goals?

Do you want to feel better, sleep better, have more energy and possibly even enjoy a longer life? It’s all possible with regular physical exercise—no matter your age, sex or experience level. Even fitness beginners can reap benefits including weight control, reduced risk of chronic disease and improved mood from as little as 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Of course, to make the most of your time in the gym or on the road in pursuit of those fitness goals, it’s important to avoid these common workout mistakes.

Your only focus is cardio

If your main fitness goal is to lose weight, you may be tempted to pack every exercise session with heart-pumping cardio. However, while running on the treadmill or the elliptical for hours on end will certainly torch calories, it will also stress your bones and joints, potentially leading to injuries. Additionally, cardio rarely encourages the building of muscle. While muscle may increase your body’s weight, it’s essential to efficient calorie burning. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body will use the fuel you consume—and this can eventually lead to weight loss.

Your only focus is weightlifting

As mentioned previously, building muscle will help your body use more calories—an important benefit of strength training whether you’re interested in weight loss or weight maintenance. However, bench presses, back squats and presses will do less to improve your cardiovascular fitness than a brisk jog or sweat-inducing bicycle ride. A healthy cardiovascular system has a lower risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Fortunately, you can shorten your weightlifting workout—making room for a cardio session—by lifting heavier weights. Experts recommend using a weight at which you can complete no more than 10 reps with perfect form. One to three sets at that weight will be significantly more beneficial in terms of toning and building muscle than 10 to 12 sets at a lower weight.

You skip workouts when you’re short on time

While a solid hour for exercise will allow you to spend time focusing on cardio and weight training independent of one another, skipping a workout when less time is available is certain to sabotage your fitness goals. High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, will allow you to combine both cardio and resistance exercises into an equally beneficial 20-minute workout. A simple Google search will yield hundreds of HIIT workouts you can do at the gym or at home. You can also make up your own—just remember to alternate vigorous movements (like running) with less strenuous movements (like dumbbell presses) to allow for short periods of recovery.

You don’t have a plan

A plan is essential if you want to make the most of your workout time, whether you exercise at a gym or in your own home. If you’re not yet doing so, write down each day’s fitness session in advance, noting the type and duration of cardiovascular exercise you intend to complete and your strength-training movements, weights, reps and sets. Get in the habit of planning and you will avoid overtraining and wasting valuable workout time wondering what you should do next.

Five Reasons to Drink that Cup of Joe

Five Reasons to Drink that Cup of Joe

If you usually start your morning with a mug or two of coffee, you’re not alone. At least 54 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 18 do so as well. And according to a multitude of research studies, you’re all doing something good for your health. From heart disease prevention to improved cognitive function, here are five great reasons to indulge in a cup of Joe.

  1. Coffee improves heart health. A recent study in published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that consuming three to five cups of coffee per day could reduce an individual’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by as much as 21 percent. The scientists attributed this to coffee’s anti-inflammatory properties and the antioxidants found within it.
  1. Coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, participants who upped their daily coffee intake lowered their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 11 percent. Those who decreased their coffee intake increased their risks by 17 percent. The researchers speculated that the antioxidants in coffee may influence metabolic pathways, specifically glucose metabolism.
  1. Coffee improves kidney and liver health. The caffeine in coffee increases urinary flow—thus all those late-morning trips to the bathroom. While this can be moderately inconvenient, it decreases your risk of developing kidney stones. It also balances liver enzyme levels. According to one study, participants who drank three cups of coffee a day were 25 percent less likely to have abnormal liver enzyme levels than were those who abstained.
  1. Coffee reduces the risk of some cancers. Both regular and decaf coffees appear to be beneficial in preventing certain cancers. A study published in Breast Cancer Research found that women who drink at least five cups of coffee each day are 57 percent less likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer than women who drink a mere cup or less a day. For men, another study found that four or more cups of coffee per day could reduce prostate cancer recurrence or progression by 59 percent.
  1. Coffee improves cognitive function. Caffeine may help you feel more focused during the early hours of the day, but coffee consumption can have even greater effects on long-term cognition. Scientists speculate that it prevents the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. These buildups of protein are indicators of Alzheimer’s disease but can be combated by coffee’s free radical-destroying antioxidants. In fact, one study found that adults over the age of 65 who were already experiencing memory problems were able to delay onset of the disease by two to four years, just by drinking three cups of coffee each day.