10 easy at-work workouts

Next time you can’t bring yourself to stop at the gym on your way home from the office, don’t sweat it. You don’t need to force exercise after work, when there’s desk-ercise at work.

Here are eight covert ways to work your body and increase your step count while you work your job, without your boss ever knowing the difference.

1 Business as Usual
While seated in your chair, perform leg extensions. Lift your feet off the floor until your knees are completely straight and their muscles contracted. With enough repetitions (and maybe with the added weight resistance of a heavy pair of leather boots), your quads will tone before the end of the quarter. Best part? What happens under your desk, stays under your desk.

2 Regular Raises
Waiting in line at the copy machine? Don’t just stand there — climb onto those tippy-toes. If nobody is looking, lower and lift in sets of 30 repetitions. If you’re being watched, hold yourself up in the air. Shapely calves stabilize and empower — not to mention look sleek and sexy in a pair of heels.

3 Credit Crunch
The upright crunch is one of the most effective conditioning drills you have up your cardigan sleeve. While typing a report, keep your back straight, lift your knees above the chair, and hold them there until your contracted abdominal muscles can’t take any more.

4 Turn-Around Time
This exercise requires a swivel chair, and is only suitable in an empty office. Begin with the Credit Crunch, but kick it up a notch. After you elevate your legs, go for a spin. Jerk your knees for momentum and rotate. See how many revolutions you can make before exhausting your core. This one makes getting fit fun.

5 The Floor Trader
Instead of walking down the hall to the nearest restroom, extend your bathroom break by choosing a lavatory on a different floor. And don’t use the elevator! The extra stair ascending and descending each day will add up, and result in the positive kind of company loss.

6 Market Pull
Place your hands in your lap with one downturned palm resting on top of the upturned palm. Your arms should form a straight line from elbow to elbow. Start sliding your hands apart, curl your fingers, and lock them together. Now pull as hard as you can without breaking your grip. Rest and repeat. This isometric exercise works your traps, delts, triceps and biceps without you ever leaving your cubicle.

7 Push Production
Place your hands in your lap with palms kissing one another as if in prayer. Now push your hands together. Rest and repeat. This works your pecs, biceps and triceps. Gym membership? Who needs it? You’ll be sure to see a return on this investment.

8 Desk Assignment
To reap further benefits of isometric exercise, place your palms under the base of your desktop and push up against its resistance. Alternatively, lay your palms flat on the top of your desk and push down. If you’ve recently received a nasty memo, slip it under your press for additional motivation.

9 Binding Contract
While perched in your desk chair, tighten your gluteus muscles. Alternate between quick releases and longer holds. Either way, squeeze with all your might. Although, if you have a particularly observant coworker sitting behind you, you might want to opt for the longer, more discreet, holds.

10 Active Portfolio
Have a lunch hour? Instead of spending it reading 50 Shades of Grey in the break room, take the first 40 minutes and walk around the neighborhood, or in bad weather, the building. Then circle back to the office fridge, pick up your lunch and enjoy it for the remaining 20 minutes. You’ve earned it!

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The best and worst foods to eat when you’re sick

Even when you’ve done your best to fight off the winter blues and miserable flus, it’s almost inevitable you’ll get at least a mild sniffle at some point during cold and flu season. And even though being stuck at home with a fever does warm up our bodies — which may sound nice when the temperature outside is below zero — it’s not exactly as enjoyable as warming up in the sun on a gorgeous beach somewhere. With flu season peaking in February, it’s time to stock up on food and drinks that’ll get you back to tip-top shape in no time.

The Need-To-Know
When we’re sick, the body needs more calories to function normally. The body must work harder than normal when we are sick in order to fight infection, especially with fevers (when it’s battling higher body temperatures, too). To do this effectively, it needs to maintain higher energy levels (which can be tough when it’s already working so hard). This is why properly fueling a sick body is an essential part of getting better.

It’s important to stick to regular eating schedules when sick because consuming fewer calories than normal can restrict the body’s ability to heal. In fact, studies suggest reducing calorie intake when sick not only increases susceptibility to the flu, but also worsens symptoms and lengthens the duration of illness.

While a nasty cold or bad case of the flu might ruin your appetite, it’s important to stay well nourished and hydrated. Eating smaller portions of food more frequently (and listening to your body to determine when you’re actually hungry) makes it easier to steadily fuel ourselves through the recovery process. The best foods to eat will keep us hydrated and give our bodies extra energy and nutrients to stay strong (without aggravating upset tummies or clogged-up respiratory systems).

Your Action Plan

The best way to kick a cold is to drink plenty of fluids and eat immunity-boosting foods. Here are some of the best items out there:

Broth-Based Soup
It’s not just an old wives’ tale — chicken noodle soup can actually help soothe a cold: The chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, which helps thin mucus in the lungs, and the hot broth helps to keep nasal passages moist, prevent dehydration and fight inflammation in the throat. Plus, the other ingredients may help the body kick a cold by stopping congestion and inflammation in their tracks.

Hot Tea
Warm liquids can soothe a sore throat and alleviate congestion, so drinks like freshly-brewed green tea — which is rich in infection-fighting antioxidants and supports the immune system — or hot water with lemon are ideal for staying hydrated while helping out that stuffy nose.

Citrus Fruits
It’s a myth that vitamin C can cure the common cold, and there isn’t actually much scientific evidence behind the theory that it’ll reduce the length or severity of colds, either. However, while citrus fruits might not be a cure-all, the soft white layer of skin found on oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes does contain flavonoids, which can help boost the immune system and are great for speeding recovery.

Ice Pops
Staying properly hydrated while sick with a chest cold can keep mucus thin and help lessen congestion. While it’s generally better to eat fruit rather than drink it, ice pops are great as a different way to hydrate and are especially easy on the throat. Bonus points if they’re 100 percent fruit juice, or made from whole fruit!

Spicy Foods
Spicy foods can make our noses run and our eyes water, but they’re also effective natural decongestants. Eating chili peppers, wasabi or horseradish can help relieve the symptoms of congestion.

When it comes to stomach issues (which can accompany the flu), eating bland foods that are easy to digest and staying hydrated are the best defenses for a quick recovery. Here are a few of your best bets:

Crackers and Toast
Plain, unsalted or lightly-salted crackers and toast are simple, bland foods that are easy on the stomach. These high-starch foods won’t aggravate the stomach and can help stabilize digestion (which is especially helpful after vomiting).

Bananas are rich in potassium, which is often depleted during bouts of sweating, vomiting or diarrhea. They’re easier to digest (A+ for bland foods!), may help lower body temperature and can help replenish lost electrolytes.

Research has shown that ginger is incredibly effective at preventing and soothing nausea and other gastric ailments (such as constipation, bloating and vomiting). Drinking ginger tea or flat ginger ale (to avoid disrupting the stomach with carbonation) can help keep you hydrated while also soothing tummy troubles.

Foods to Avoid
Since the body’s more vulnerable during illness, it’s best to avoid any foods that put the body under excess stress. Certain foods can make the unpleasant experience of being sick even worse. Here are a few to steer clear of:

Spicy And Acidic Foods
While spicy foods might be good for nasal congestion, they can also be rough on the stomach and cause more pain and discomfort. Steer clear of them if you’re experiencing stomach upset.

Anything High In Sugar And Fat
High sugar intake can suppress the immune system and cause inflammation. Foods high in fat, on the other hand, can be more difficult to digest compared to carbs and protein, and can trigger stomach pains as a result.

Dairy (Maybe)
The jury’s still out on this one, but many people believe that consuming dairy can promote mucus production, which could worsen congestion when sick. However, current research indicates that this may actually be due to a placebo effect. But regardless of whether or not milk changes how much mucus we actually produce, drinking it can create the feeling of thicker mucus, so if that bothers you, it can’t hurt to avoid milk while sick.

Next time you’re feeling a little under the weather, be sure to get plenty of rest and lots of fluids and consider incorporating some of these awesome foods into your diet to experience a quicker — or at least more comfortable — recovery.

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What happens to your body after just one workout

To reap the full range of life-extending, heart-protecting, sleep-promoting, obesity-thwarting benefits of exercise, you’re going to have to get some regular activity. In fact, about two and a half hours a week of it.

Those hours should be moderate-intensity aerobic activity (think: brisk walking), according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. (More vigorous exercisers can cut back on time as they up the intensity, but everyone should also aim for a couple of strength-training sessions a week, according to the Guidelines.)

But exercise also happens to be one of those cases where something is most certainly better than nothing. While we can only encourage you to stick with it, you should be proud of yourself even just for a single sweat sessions, thanks in part to these pretty powerful perks of just one workout.

Your DNA can change.

In a 2012 study, Swedish researchers found that among healthy but inactive adults, mere minutes of exercise altered genetic material in muscle cells. Of course, we inherit our DNA from our parents, but lifestyle factors like exercise can play a part in expressing or “turning on” certain genes. In the instance of exercise, it appears to affect gene expression for strength and metabolism.

You’ll be in better spirits.

As you kick off your workout, your brain will start to release a number of different feel-good neurotransmitters, including endorphins, which are the most commonly cited explanation for the so-called “runner’s high” and serotonin, which is well known for its role in mood and depression.

You may be protected from diabetes.

Like with the subtle changes to DNA, small changes to how fat is metabolized in muscle also occur after just one sweat session. In a 2007 study, University of Michigan researchers found that a single cardio workout increased storage of fat in muscle, which actually improved insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity, often called insulin resistance, can lead to diabetes.

You’ll become more focused.

The surge of blood to the brain when you start huffing and puffing kicks brain cells into high gear, leaving you feeling more alert during your workout and more focused immediately after. In a 2012 review of the research on the mental effects of exercise, researchers noted improvement in focus and concentration from bouts of activity as short as just 10 minutes, the Boston Globe reported.

Stress will fade.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that about 14 percent of people turn to exercise to mitigate stress. And even though pounding the pavement is, by definition, a stress response (cortisol increases, heart rate quickens), it really can ease some of the negativity — even when exercise itself stresses you out. It’s likely a combination of factors, including the influx of extra blood to the brain and the rush of mood-boosting endorphins out of it.

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10 smart food swaps for a healthy heart

February marks the 50th anniversary of American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer in Americans. For the good news, however, following a heart healthy diet and lifestyle can make a big difference in helping to prevent heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends choosing a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and to include nuts and seeds, fatty fish and heart-healthy fats. It also recommends limiting foods high in trans fats, saturated fats and sodium.

Nutritionist Dr. Lisa Young counsels clients on heart health. Rather than advise her clients just on what foods to avoid, she likes to empower them by offering healthy food choices and substitutions to make.

Below are 10 smart food swaps which can make a huge difference to the health of your heart. These are simple tweaks to your diet that can boost your nutrition and they also taste great.

1. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of cream of wheat.
Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains the minerals magnesium and potassium also good for the heart.

2. Top your oatmeal with blueberries instead of sugar.
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and they contribute to health, including heart health. With only 80 calories per cup and low in fat, these tasty blue gems are packed with fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and an excellent source of the mineral manganese. Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to heart health and a reduction of other chronic diseases. You can also include them in your diet all year long: they can be purchased fresh and are also available frozen throughout the year.

3. Eat a bean-based veggie burger instead of a hamburger for lunch.
Bean and legumes are a great plant based protein while also contributing to heart health. They are rich in soluble fiber, devoid of saturated fat, and fairly low in calories. Hamburgers on the other hand, are high in unhealthy saturated fats which have been shown to elevate “bad” LDL cholesterol.

4. Top your burger with lettuce and tomato instead of cheese.
Lettuce and tomato are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and contains few calories and virtually no fat. They contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.

5. Snack on walnuts instead of chips.
Hungry for a snack? Adding walnuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids’s that can benefit the heart, brain and skin. These tasty nuts also contain the antioxidant vitamin E.

6. Start your dinner with a colorful salad instead of fried mozzarella sticks.
Starting your meal with a colorful salad is a terrific way to boost heart healthy nutrients in your diet. Salads and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. The different colors provide different nutrients so throw in romaine lettuce rich in the B vitamin folate, red cherry tomatoes rich in lycopene and carrots which are full of beta carotene.

7. Top your salad with avocado instead of croutons.
Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, a good fat which may contribute to heart health. Avocados are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E. Not only is this green fruit (yes, it is a fruit) good for the heart, it tastes great and adds a zest of flavor.

8. Choose olive oil instead of butter.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, also known as a heart-healthy fat. Diets rich in olive oil have been associated with heart health. This oil is is also rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Next time you visit your favorite restaurant, dip your bread in olive oil instead of butter.

9. Choose grilled salmon instead of fried flounder.
We hear that fish is good for the heart. In particular, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are chock full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that have been shown to benefit the heart as well as the brain.

10. Drink a glass of red wine instead of a soda.
Moderate amounts of alcohol (one drink for women and two for men) have been shown to contribute to heart health and may improve good HDL cholesterol levels. For an added boost, red wine in particular, contains polyphenols, including resveratrol, which have been associated with an increase in good cholesterol and a decrease in inflammation.

Let’s toast to a healthy heart. We would love to hear any heart-healthy food swaps you have made.

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Be my buddy Valentine!

Spread the heart-healthy love this Valentine’s Day by adding your co-workers and friends as buddies.

We love the extra motivation our buddies give us, like on the days we know we “should” take an after dinner stroll but would rather catch up on a little television. Knowing our buddies can see our daily activity (and will certainly mention our decreased steps at the office the next day) gives us that extra push to get up and get walking. Trust us, that competitive spirit will set in.

Convinced? Start inviting buddies through this page.

What else do you do to stay motivated and achieve your step goals? Let us know in the comments below!

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