It can be tough to exercise when your joints are aching from arthritis. Find out how working out in water can strengthen muscles without stressing joints.
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When it comes to seasons, I'm more of a spring and fall guy. I don't like extreme cold or heat and I'm not partial to wintery snow or summer's mosquitoes. But if you like to exercise outdoors, you really can't beat summer for its long light, consistent weather and abundance of activities.
Plus, it's the perfect season to change up your routine and work out some new muscles. Here are 5 ways to celebrate summer through exercise:
Sign up for a run ... walk or ride. Research shows that when people set a goal like taking part in an organized run, walk or bicycle ride, they stick to their exercise routine better. Although marathons are traditionally run in spring and fall, shorter runs, walks and rides abound during the summer.
Get out of the pool ... and into a lake, river or ocean. I love swimming, but I hate doing laps. I prefer swimming loops in a lake. Summer is the perfect time to move out of an indoor pool and into a body of water. Just remember swimming in open water can be more dangerous than swimming at your local pool. Be aware of your surroundings and know your limitations.
Play kickball ... or badminton. Most major cities have adult kickball leagues. You'll be surprised at how many calories a child's game can burn. Or play badminton with your family. Chasing a shuttlecock for 45 minutes will burn 230 calories.
Take a hike ... at a National Park. There are more than 360 national parks, many with easily accessible hiking trails, so chances are good you live near one. They're an inexpensive way to spend a day burning calories and enjoying natural and historical sites. You can enter any national park for free June 21, the first day of summer. Just remember to pack sunscreen and bug repellent.
Pick up a racquet ... or a baseball bat. It's no surprise that all four tennis majors take place in the summer (technically, it's summer down under when the Australian Open takes place). And you don't have to be Rafael Nadal to have a good time or burn some calories. Or join a baseball or softball league and take part in the national pastime.
For the last few months, I've been using an smartphone app called RunKeeper. It's a great tool to keep track of runs, walks, hikes and bike rides. The app plots routes with the phone's GPS and tracks details like pace, time doing an activity and distance.
There are literally dozens of applications for the iPhone that do similar things--cycling apps, couch-to-5k apps, weight-loss diaries. They do something else, too--allow you to share details of your activities on Facebook and Twitter.
For some people, this level of sharing is a bit too much. Letting RunKeeper take over my Facebook status to announce that I just ran 3.2 miles, telling people how much I weigh today or tweeting that I just rode 80 miles on my bicycle rubs some of my social media friends the wrong way.
For them, the updates remind them of the thin woman who is always moaning about needing to lose weight or the guy who frequently mentions how much weight he can bench.
Others find exercise and dieting updates on social media sites to be inspirational when others do it--and use the same tools for accountability in their own efforts.
I have to confess, I'm stuck square in the middle. I'm excited when I hear about someone else reaching a milestone--losing weight, running a marathon or getting off the couch for the first time. And I like the feedback I receive when I mention a long ride or share a funny moment from a run.
But I'm a little annoyed with automated updates that sometimes resemble Farmville and Mafia Wars requests on Facebook and sponsored messages on Twitter.
There's no official etiquette for Facebook or Twitter, although there are conventions for both. Here are some suggestions from my social media friends that will allow you to share your milestones without drawing the ire of others:
• Post updates when you're seeking motivation, but don't brag.
• Workout updates, like game requests, shouldn't be your only contributions to social media. People aren't interested in only that part of your life.
• Turn off the automatic updates on your exercise apps; tell people in your own words what you did.
• Add a unique fact or share something funny. I use my iPhone to snap photos on my runs and bicycle rides.
• Create a Facebook group of willing friends with which to share your weight loss and exercise milestones. Then post to the wall of that group instead of using your status updates to tell everyone about what you just did. The group function is handy: You can use it to coordinate exercise activities with others or for moral support.
• On Twitter, use hash-tag conventions. For example, I tweet my exercise updates under #sweatbetes, a tag which helps other people with diabetes keep me honest about workouts.
Finally, look at the application you use to track your exercise or dieting successes. Some of them have great communities on their websites where it's appropriate -- expected -- to share exercise and diet information. RunKeeper, for example, allows you to create "Street Teamates," who see your activities when they log into their page. When I'm there, I don't mind sharing and I don't mind others telling me what they've done.
About a year ago, I hit a weight milestone. At 215 pounds, I was the heaviest I had been in more than 12 years. I knew I was there without looking at a scale. None of my dress shirts or suits fit anymore and I was getting winded walking the hills on my farm. It was time to lose weight.
As an active person, I have always been able to take off weight through exercise without really dieting. Of course, in previous attempts I was in better shape and I was younger. I began slogging unenthusiastically through three or four 30-minute jogs a week. I ran my worst personal time in a 5k and generally saw the needle on my scale remain fixed at 215.
Dissatisfied with my progress, I began considering past weight-loss attempts. What was different besides my age and general physical condition? In short, I used to devote a lot more time to exercise.
Ten years ago, I had gotten back to my high school weight by working our four days a week for an hour at a time--and frequently burned additional calories by playing sports. I was working out six or seven hours a week.
But now I was only working out two hours a week. I assumed that adding some exercise would help me lose weight. All I really did was stop the weight gain.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, most people need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity just to prevent weight gain. That's 30 minutes a day, seven days a week.
If you want to lose weight, you'll need to do a lot more--at least 250 minutes a week of activity. It doesn't all have to be done in a gym or on a track. Here are five ways to squeeze in extra activities.
With that in mind, I began focusing less on the activity and more on the amount of time doing it. For example, instead of trying to jog through a three-mile route, I started running and walking for an hour or more at a time. I also started cycling, riding up to eight hours a week. And any time I get 30 additional minutes, I try to hit the elliptical in our basement.
I've seen modest improvement. I weigh a little over 200 pounds and I'm no longer winded climbing the driveway. Plus, I can see my goal--185 pounds--approaching.
With two small kids, it's not easy to devote this much time to exercise. But losing weight and getting exercise will help insure I'm around to spend time with them.
It started out as a fun, 50-mile ride with several lengthy climbs. If you're not a cyclist, riding 50 miles probably doesn't sound like much fun. Climbing hills on a bicycle probably sounds like torture.
In some respects, that's exactly what my training ride turned into. On the third serious climb of the afternoon, I began to cramp, my quadriceps pulsating like a Miami night club. As I lay on the side of the road writhing in pain and watching other cyclists pedal by, I wondered what I had done--or not done--to cause these muscle cramps.
Surprisingly, we don't quite know what causes muscle cramps. We have excellent theories. Chief among them: Hot weather, dehydration and loss of electrolytes like sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium.
To some extent, these factors work together: Heat leads to dehydration, dehydration brings about the electrolyte imbalance. Conditioning may also play a role, especially since exercise-induced muscle cramps tend to occur during endurance tests--long runs, rides or swims. My cycling condition certainly wasn't up to par for this ride.
Another theory: Muscles misfire because either nerves aren't functioning properly (called altered neuromuscular control) or because they don't fully extend during exercise and lose their ability to bounce back.
Whatever the causes, here's how to reduce the risks of getting cramps and how to treat them if they do occur:
When I cycle, I carry several liters of water with me. That sounds like a lot of water, but I sweat a lot. That's one of several variables that go into how much fluid we should drink when we exercise. Temperature, length of workout, even altitude can affect how much you should drink. The American College of Sports Medicine [.PDF] recommends drinking enough before, during and after exercise to prevent water loss greater than 2 percent of your body weight.
But don't over-hydrate. Just as dehydration can cause a dangerous fluid imbalance in your body, so can too much water, which can dilute the concentration of sodium in your body..
Sports drinks are okay, but only during rigorous or lengthy exercise programs. Most sports drinks contain the electrolytes you lose when you sweat. They also have carbohydrates, which can help maintain your energy. But they're overkill for shorter, less intense workouts. For those routines stick with water.
Eat a balanced diet
If you have problems with cramps, focus on foods that are rich in key electrolytes like potassium, sodium and calcium. Most of us already get plenty of sodium in our diet, but if you're ramping up exercise, you might want to add food sources for potassium and calcium. For potassium, eat bananas, raisins, potatoes, and spinach. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, but you can also get it through oily fish, soy products and some dark leafy greens.
Avoid extreme heat
On hot days, cut back the length of exercise, move indoors or shift your workout to the morning or evening when the day is cooler. You can also cramp in extreme cold weather.
Finally, if you do cramp up, stop doing the activity that triggered the cramps. Gently stretch and massage the muscle, holding it in stretched position until the cramp stops. Later, you can apply heat to tight muscles--and cold to sore ones.
Taking therapy off the couch and into the gym makes for a physical—and mental – workout.
Shimmy and shake your way to a healthier body with this modern fitness twist on an ancient Middle Eastern dance.
This high-flying exercise program on the trapeze combines gymnastics, balance and adventure.
This self-defense-based fitness program is not only good for weight loss, muscle building and coordination, it’s also a real kick.