6 Tips for Avoiding Back Pain in the Car

Back pain is a common problem for people who drive long distances. Sitting in the same position for so long tires out the muscles that are supposed to keep your spine aligned. When these muscles spasm, it feels like an electric current coursing through your back. Bad posture can put pressure on sensitive nerves, triggering sharp pain or persistent throbbing. Follow these six simple tips to enjoy your next road trip a lot more.

1. Rest Your Feet

The more comfortable your lower body, the better it is for your back muscles. When you’re driving down the highway, put on cruise control, put both feet on the floor evenly and let them rest. It’s OK to be alert and stretch your legs out at the same time.

2. Create a Slouch-Free Driver’s Seat

Avoiding slouching is easier than you think. Just customize the driver’s side, so it’s naturally good for your back:

  • Pick a good seat angle: A common misconception is that good posture means a completely vertical driver’s seat. In reality, the best seat angle for natural spine alignment is 100–110 degrees. That means you should lean your seat back a little.
  • Find a comfortable distance: If you normally sit too far away from the steering wheel, it’s tempting to slouch forward, which hurts your neck, shoulders and back. On the other hand, sitting too close to the pedals makes your knees feel squeezed in. At the right distance, your knees should comfortably rest at the same height as your hips, and you shouldn’t need to stretch forward to drive.
  • Nudge the seat with your lower back: Now that your seat angle and distance are right, the rest is easy. Let your seat do its job of supporting your spine by pressing your lower back against it.
  • Use the headrest correctly: Give your neck a rest. Position the headrest so the back of your head naturally hits the middle of it. Keep your looking straight ahead. You shouldn’t need to lay your head back.

3. Carry Your Wallet in Your Front Pocket

Do you remember the story of the princess and the pea? Anything in your back pocket can throw off the alignment of your spine and strain your muscles. Sitting on a thick wallet for hours is the worst.

4. Support Your Lower Back

Lumbar support encourages your spine to follow a healthy curvature. Some vehicle trims include front seats with great lumbar support. If yours doesn’t, it’s easy to improvise. Roll up a towel and place it behind your back at belt level.

5. Take More Driving Breaks

Drive-throughs aren’t your friends. If possible, stop for 15–20 minutes at least every two or three hours. Get out, use the bathroom, do some warmup stretches, walk around and eat something healthy. It may take an extra half-hour to reach your destination, but you’ll enjoy the whole trip a lot more.

6. Strengthen Your Core Muscles

One of the best ways to prevent lower back pain is to go on the offensive. Working out is good for your body for so many reasons, but fighting off back pain is a big one. When your abdominal muscles are in great shape, they give your spine more support.

Taking care of your lower back mostly involves giving those muscles a break. Without pain, life feels like an open road.

7 Advantages of a Workout Buddy

If you're looking for a way to reach your fitness goals and have a lot of fun along the way, you should find a fitness buddy. This can be a friend, family member or partner. You won't believe how many benefits it can have on your workouts.

1. Stay Motivated

When you have a fitness buddy, both you and your buddy can encourage each other to reach your goals. This keeps you motivated long term.

We all need someone to tell us that they’re proud of us from time to time. It feels really good when your friend tells you they can start to see those sculped abs peeking out.

2. Push Yourself Harder

You may notice your exercise buddy's legs, glutes or abs and think “I wish I looked like that.” They’re going to gaze upon your toned arms and think the same. Far from being a bad thing, a little friendly competition pushes you to reach your goals more quickly.

One study from Kansas State University found that people who worked out with a partner who was fitter than them exercised up to 200% longer and harder than someone working out alone. That’s almost triple the calories burned!

3. Have More Fun

The main reason I love having a workout buddy is that it’s more fun. Going to the gym with a friend is like spending time together at a coffee shop, except with tank tops and fitness watches. You can laugh, joke around, talk about the weather or gossip (gasp!) — all while lifting weights or cycling.

4. Stick To Your Exercise Commitment

You know your buddy is counting on you. This gives you another reason to push yourself. It’s a lot harder to hit the snooze button in the morning when you know a friend is waiting for you at the park.

5. Get Better Results

A workout buddy can improve your exercise performance and results. The other person can see things you can’t. They can correct positioning errors and help you avoid hurting yourself.

A classic example is pushups. From your point of view, you’re acing them! That’s when your workout buddy tells you your butt is jutting out and you’re not actually doing a pushup. With some good-natured nudging, you’re going to burn way more calories.

6. Watch Time Fly

When you exercise alone, your mind is completely focused on the burn. You feel all the aches, you count every sit-up and you have way too much free time to think. It’s so boring!

Things are different when you hang out with your workout buddy. Those 30–45 minutes zip by and you have a blast.

7. Mix Business and Pleasure

Couples can enjoy an added benefit when working out together. Some studies suggest that all the sweating and adrenaline and closeness can lead to more romance. Whether it’s just a quick smooch or something a little more playful, this relaxing time together is good for your heart on many levels.

Choose a Workout Buddy You Like Spending Time With

The best workout buddy is someone positive that makes you feel comfortable and happy. You can tell you made the right choice if you look forward to your sessions together.

Can't find a suitable human just yet? An energetic dog can also be an exercise buddy!

The Benefits of Pilates for Seniors

I feel like I maintain my health pretty well for a gal of my age, but lately, I’ve been discovering that the workouts I used to do are a little too … vigorous for me. All that jumping around I used to do is no longer possible (unless I want to risk breaking a hip or dislocating a knee).

At first, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t do my favorite high-impact exercise routines anymore. I was under the impression that without jumping around like a maniac, I wouldn’t be able to achieve a high calorie burn. Boy was I ever wrong! I’ve discovered a new workout that gets my sweat dripping without my feet ever leaving the ground at the same time. It’s called Pilates.

I know, I know, Pilates is nothing new. But it’s one of those classic workouts that many of us have abandoned because we somehow thought it was old-fashioned or less effective than doing 50 burpees within a 10-minute time span. Thankfully, I have rediscovered why Pilates is so great and so effective for those of us with “advanced age.” Here are some of the top benefits of Pilates for seniors.

It Increases Flexibility and Strength

Try bending down and touching your toes. If this is hard for you to do, or if you only get as far as your knees, you could benefit from Pilates. With an emphasis on controlled movements and small ranges of motion, Pilates is very effective at increasing flexibility while also boosting your strength.

It Improves Mobility

Mobility is a little bit different from flexibility. Mobility primarily involves the major joints you use to get around and perform everyday actions. If you’re anything like me, you probably feel a little stiff in the hips, back, and knees.

Unfortunately, when you’re struggling with mobility, the tendency is to want to restrict your movements as much as possible because it hurts to move. But being sedentary will only make mobility issues worse. Pilates, on the other hand, gently guides your body through a variety of movements that can help improve mobility and get blood flow to key joints that might otherwise remain stiff.

It Is Gentle and Easy to Modify

Unlike high-impact workouts or HIIT routines, Pilates is gentle on the body and won’t tax your joints. It’s also easy to modify Pilates movements to fit your unique fitness and flexibility levels. One of the things I love most about Pilates is that it has virtually no impact. It’s also appropriate for individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and other conditions commonly experienced by seniors.

It Helps Prevents Falls

If you’re prone to falling, don’t underestimate the importance of a good Pilates routine. Pilates improves core strength, posture, and balance so you’re less likely to fall. It can also strengthen the core and legs so you’re steadier on your feet and have the muscular strength to hold yourself upright.

It Makes You Feel Good!

One of my favorite Pilates benefits is the way I feel after a workout. Once I learned that exercise doesn’t have to be painful, it became much easier for me to stay active and maintain my physical health into my senior years. Exercising releases feel-good hormones, including endorphins that give us energy and help us avoid depression and mood swings.

If you aren’t yet convinced that Pilates is right for you, give it a try! You have nothing to lose and a new favorite workout to gain. Try finding a Pilates class at a gym near you or simply turn on your TV and find a Pilates class on YouTube that you can complete in the comfort of your own home. Your body will thank you!

These 5 Holiday Gifts Can Put You on a Healthy Track

Every year I go through the same cycle. I start the year out strong, with loads of determination and healthy eating goals that I follow religiously for a few months. By the time summer rolls around, I start to get a little lax because of vacations, family barbeques, and other fun events. When the holidays arrive, I’ve usually gone up a size in clothing, but I’m jolly because I’m enjoying great food and great company. But once the holidays are over, I’m ready to get back into my healthy habits once again.

Does this cycle sound familiar to anyone else? Well, here we are at the end of the year again, and it’s time to get serious about healthy living. Fortunately, you can hint to your family members that you’re ready for some healthy holiday gifts that can help you reach your fitness and wellness goals. Here are five holiday gift ideas that can put you on a healthy track for the new year.

1. Wireless Earbuds

I want to do more outdoor exercising this year. Studies show that working out in the sunshine can not only boost your physical health, but your mental health as well! You can thank your body’s increased production of vitamin D for that.

To make exercising in the great outdoors more enjoyable, I’ve decided I need a quality pair of wireless earbuds. Though they’re expensive, they have great durability and can last up to 20 hours on a single charge. If you don’t own a pair yet, add wireless earbuds to your Christmas list.

2. Fitness Tracker

I used to think fitness trackers were unnecessary, but after seeing how informative they can be, I’ve decided they’re essential for tracking my healthy living goals. If you want to know how many calories you burn in a day versus many calories you consume, a fitness tracker should definitely be underneath your tree or in your stocking this Christmas! Some models will even track your sleep quality so you can make changes as needed.

3. Weight Set

Weights are cumbersome and can take up a lot of room, but they’re so helpful for building muscle strength and boosting bone density. I don’t have much room in my home for a big weight set, so I put one of those nifty compact weight sets on my Christmas list. They’re almost like nesting dolls, but in weight form so they take up minimal room and can easily be adjusted to get the perfect weight for each workout.

4. Yoga Mat

If you’re anything like me, floor work tends to put too much pressure on your knees, wrists, and back. That’s why I’m hoping someone in my family gifts me a nice, thick yoga mat this year. A yoga mat adds just enough padding to keep aching joints well-cushioned during floor workouts. Some mats come with their own holders so you can easily roll them up and take them to a designated storage location once you’re finished with them.

5. Foam Roller

After all your workouts, you’ll need a way to help your muscles recover. A quality foam roller is a great investment because it can minimize your post-workout recovery time and help you avoid excessive soreness. Foam rollers help break up knots in your muscles and facilitate better blood flow so you’re less prone to exercise-related injuries.

Not a bad wish list, if I say so myself! Feel free to steal some or all of these items for your own gift list this year. Most of the items on this list are much more affordable than a treadmill or other expensive piece of workout equipment. But they’re perfect for encouraging a healthier lifestyle and can help you meet your fitness goals.

6 Exercises To Alleviate Knee Pain

Are you among the 25% of American adults who struggle with chronic knee pain according to the Administration for Community Living? Often, this issue results from arthritis, overuse, injury, or stress on the joint.

Physical activities that stretch and strengthen the knee often alleviate stiffness and discomfort. You can also build surrounding muscles to remove pressure from the joint. Educate yourself on these six exercises for knee pain that can potentially provide relief. Always warm up with 15 to 20 minutes of walking, cycling or another type of low-impact cardio before you start.

Calf Raises

For this basic leg-strengthening exercise:

  • Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Shift your weight to the balls of your feet, raising both heels off the ground.
  • Lower your heels back to the ground slowly in a controlled motion.
  • Repeat for three sets of 10 reps each.

Hamstring Curls

Bolster these muscles behind the thigh with this simple stretching exercise:

  • Lay face-down on a yoga mat or blanket. 
  • Bend your heels toward your backside and hold as long as you can.
  • Perform three sets, each with 15 reps.

If the hamstring curl starts to feel too easy, try adding light ankle weights to (gently) amp up the intensity.

Leg Lifts

For this exercise, lay flat on your back with a blanket or yoga mat for comfort, then follow these steps:

  • Bend the right leg at the knee, moving your heel toward your rear and keeping your left leg straight.
  • Draw in your abs by pretending an invisible string running from the floor is pulling your belly straight down. Your lower back should be flush with the floor.
  • Slowly lift the left leg off the ground, still straight. Keep the foot flexed. Stop at about 12 inches and hold the pose for 5 seconds. 
  • Lower the leg back to the floor with a slow, controlled movement. 
  • Repeat twice more with the left leg, then do the same with the right leg.

Quadriceps Stretch

This standing stretch benefits the knee joint. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, then:

  • Bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your rear just as you did with the hamstring curls.
  • Clasp your right ankle with your right hand.
  • Hold the stretch for a count of 10 before gently releasing your foot.
  • Repeat on the left side, then do 15 to 20 more reps. 
  • You can increase the intensity by using a yoga strap to carefully deepen the stretch.

Step-Ups

You can use a staircase in your home or an exercise step to work out your glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and quadriceps:

  • Step up with your right foot, letting your left foot fall behind the stair.
  • Shift your weight to your right foot and hold for about 5 seconds.
  • Lower the left foot back down to the floor, followed by the right.
  • Repeat with the left foot and then complete 10 to 15 sets of both legs.

Wall Squats

For this move, place your back against a wall and feet in alignment with your shoulders, then follow these steps:

  • Bend your knees slowly while keeping your pelvis and back flush with the wall.
  • Hold the squat for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Repeat, holding a bit longer each time.
  • Stop or relax if you feel discomfort or pressure in the knee joint.

Some sources of knee pain won't resolve with exercise alone. See your healthcare provider if you experience joint pain accompanied by a fever, redness and swelling around the joint, pain that doesn't get better with exercise and self-care, or pain that wakes you at night or worsens with activity.

The Fitness and Diet Routine of Jennifer Lopez: Motivation for Everyone, Especially Mature Women

Jennifer Lopez is an icon and a natural beauty. It is hard to believe that this mother of two is 52 years old and still rocking a six-pack. How does she find the time to balance her unbelievably busy schedule with exercise and a healthy diet when most people struggle to do one or the other? If you ask her and her trainers, it is a matter of dedication and perseverance — it also doesn’t hurt having access to some of the best personal trainers in the business.

Still, getting healthy and fit is attainable, but it requires discipline. Jennifer's routine and diet plan is something worth examining, but you also need to remember her routine is not your routine. It is an advanced fitness and health regimen designed for a world-class performer and entertainer. Do not beat yourself up if you find her routine unrealistic for your life and current fitness level.

Jennifer’s Exercise Routine

When it comes to exercise, J. Lo works out four to five days per week. Each workout day incorporates about an hour of her time, and it focuses on different body parts each session.

For session one, J. Lo might focus on abs. She’ll perform three sets of a combination of ab workouts:

  • 50 Rope crunches

  • 50 Hanging ab raises

  • 50 incline sit-ups with a 45-pound plate

In sets two and three, J. Lo performs fewer reps. Set two includes 35 reps and set three is 21.

Session two will include several lower body exercises. Some of the performers favorite go-to exercises include:

  • Supported lunges

  • Weighted leg presses

  • Single dumbbell sumo squats

  • Weighted hip thrusts into calf raises

  • Single leg extensions into weighted leg curls

  • Platypus walk

Finally, session three focuses on arms. Unfortunately, there is not much information on her arm workout, but her trainer has explained that Spiderman push-ups have been a part of her routine in the past.

J. Lo’s Diet

While J. Lo’s workout routine might seem overwhelming, her diet is also fairly strict. Her diet is built on high protein and fresh, whole foods. Her diet is nutrient-dense and does not leave a lot of room for treats. However, she does allow herself a cheat day once per week.

There are times when the star’s diet is hyper-regimented. When she is being super strict, she does not allow herself to eat sugar. She also avoids caffeine and alcohol, choosing to drink lots and lots of water instead.

Should You Try Jennifer Lopez’s Diet?

While everyone should strive to be as committed to health and fitness as J. Lo, her specific routine is not for everyone. If you are just starting your fitness journey, focus on the basics before diving into rigorous and demanding exercises.

One of the problems with jumping right into a celebrity routine is that you might not be ready for such a commitment, which can be counterproductive. Part of getting fit and staying healthy is staying motivated. If you try to join a routine that is too advanced, you might become discouraged.

Instead of focusing on celebrity routines, consider focusing on the basics of nutrition and making small life changes. By building habits over time, you are more likely to stay committed to healthy changes.

With all that said, if you feel up to a challenge and your doctor believes it is safe, go ahead and give J. Lo’s routine a shot. Keep in mind that J. Lo’s body is a result of years of dedication, and it will take time for you to see positive results from a similar workout.

What do you think? Will you give Jennifer Lopez’s routine a try, or will you start with something more manageable? Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.

Amplify your fitness routine with these 7 free apps

If you're like me, your smartphone serves as your source of news, your morning wake-up call, and your connection to friends and loved ones. With these seven amazing free apps, your device can also become your guide as you embark on your fitness journey.

Strava

Those who jog, swim or bike can find the motivation to push workouts to the next level with this competitive app. Strava uses GPS to track your route, speed and distance and analyzes your performance for each segment of your course. You can compare each workout to your history to see your progress or compete against friends on the app. Strava gets high marks from new users and serious trainers alike.

All-Out Studio App

With this free app, you can access hundreds of exclusive workouts from sources such as Prevention Magazine, Runner's World and Women's Health. All-Out Studio App allows you to sort by skill level with instruction from professional trainers. Learn new strategies and techniques whether you're a novice or simply looking to shake up your routine. 

Map My Run

Despite the name, you don't have to be a runner to take advantage of the features of this highly-rated app. With Map My Run, previously known as Map My Fitness, you can log more than 600 different types of physical exercises from cross-training to cycling and beyond. Robust data import and analysis features connect with more than 400 different devices, so chances are it supports your smartwatch of choice.

My Fitness Pal

If you want to keep track of both diet and physical activity, My Fitness Pal can help you organize your data in one easy-to-use interface. You can stream more than 350 different workouts and log more than 11 million food items, as well as create and track your progress toward custom fitness goals. You can integrate My Fitness Pal with dozens of other apps and devices. It even allows you to log meals at your favorite restaurants! Set a goal to lose, gain or maintain your weight and then take advantage of the available tools for success. You'll see why this choice has more than a million positive reviews on Apple's App Store.

7 Minute Workout

Do you feel like you never have time to squeeze in a workout? This ingenious app by Johnson & Johnson circuit programs that last just seven minutes and range from high to low intensity depending on your preference and goals. The workouts have been developed and tested by exercise physiologists to thoroughly work each of your muscle groups in the allotted time. With clear instructional videos, 7 Minute Workout is a smart choice for exercise beginners

Charity Miles

If you run, walk or bike, you can feel even better about your workouts when you use the Charity Miles app. Every time you log a workout, the app makes a donation to the charitable organization of your choice, with options such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the Wounded Warrior Project. You can also create your own pledge drives to raise even more money for a worthy cause. 

MyZone Workout App

Do you want to keep track of your heart rate during your workouts? If so, strap on your heart-rate enabled smartwatch or monitor and download the MyZone Workout App. You can track the percentage of maximum effort you use during your workout, the number of calories you burn, your beats per minute and other statistics. If you're the competitive type, you can also share your workout data with friends on social media. 

Harness the power of technology when you take these top 2021 workout apps for a spin. 

Maintaining Your Fitness Levels While on Vacation

People tend to view vacations as a time of relaxation, meaning limited activity and stress. Unfortunately, depending on the length of your vacation, your fitness levels can quickly degrade if you ignore exercise and most physical activity. Some reports suggest a decline in aerobic power between 5% and 10% in only three weeks. Additionally, most studies imply the fitter you are, the quicker the reductions can occur. While taking a week off to rest and enjoy might not make much of a difference, you should include some form of exercise to maintain your current fitness levels if you plan on vacationing for longer.

Incorporate Aerobic Exercise Into Your Vacation

Exercise does not have to be torture or consist of miles on a treadmill. You can have fun while incorporating aerobic exercise into your vacation; to demonstrate, consider playing beach volleyball, walking along the shoreline, taking a hike, or going on a leisurely bike ride. People tend to overthink exercise, assuming it has to include strict routines and methods. Still, as long as you can maintain moderate aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes a day, you are good.

A Simple Body Weight Exercise for the Hotel Room

If your hotel has a gym, by all means, take 20 to 30 minutes to do your typical workout. However, if you do not feel like venturing through the lobby in your workout gear, consider doing a simple hotel room workout. The activity relies on body weight, balance, endurance, and your luggage. To increase your heart rate, set a timer for 15 to 20 and see how many circuits you can complete.

You want to start with bodyweight squats. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. With your back straight and your arms fully extended in front of you, squat down slowly into a sumo-like pose. To complete the squat, return to a standing position, keeping your arms in front of you. You will want to do 20 reps before moving onto the next exercise.

Without hesitating, transition into an incline pushup position. Place your hands, palms down, on the edge of the bed or a desk, with your feet on the floor. With your body angled out, approximately 45 degrees, push down then up slowly. Perform 15 reps before moving onto the third exercise.

For the third exercise, grab a piece of luggage. You will be performing one-arm luggage rows. Stand with one leg extended behind you and the opposite leg bent slightly in front. Bend slightly at the waist, keeping your back straight. Whatever leg is extended back, you want to use the same side arm to slowly pick up and then lower the bag, keeping your back straight. Perform 10 reps before moving onto the fourth and final exercise.

For the last exercise, lay flat on the floor with your legs bent, forming a pyramid. Keep your arms extended at your sides with palms on the floor. To perform a reverse crunch, you will use your abs to lift your legs, keeping them bent. Bring your knees above your chest and then bring them back down, being sure to engage your core the entire time. Perform 10 reps to complete the circuit. Then, repeat all four exercises and keep repeating until your timer sounds.

While a vacation is a time to relax, there is no reason you can’t maintain your fitness goals. How do you exercise on vacation? Leave a comment to keep the conversation going.

5 Reasons Restrictive Diets Will Never Work

A restrictive diet is one where you lose weight by giving up certain foods. Sometimes, this is a healthy choice, such as avoiding junk food. But most of these diets tell you to cut out entire food groups, such as carbs. Some force you to carefully measure the amount of calories you take in. The big question is, do restrictive diets work?

Why Don't Restrictive Diets Work?

According to expert nutritionists, any diet that is restrictive is practically doomed to fail from the very beginning. Why?

  1. Old habits: As I think most of know from personal experience, restrictive diets tend to be a temporary thing. No one really wants to eat cabbage soup every day or give up on chocolate for good. After 3–6 months, most people go back to eating how they used to, which adds on all those pounds again.

  2. Cheating: Let’s face it, denying yourself things that taste good is hard work. It feels like you’re punishing yourself. That opens up the door to “cheating,” weekend splurges that undo a whole week’s worth of progress.

  3. Unrealistic expectations: Any diet that sets your caloric intake really low is never going to work long term for most people. When you start to experience extreme hunger, nausea, headaches, dizziness and other symptoms, you’re probably going to give in to what your body is telling you: “I need more energy!”

  4. Changes in metabolism: You can try to fight your body with restrictive diets, but it’s a losing battle. Your metabolism starts to work against you. Burning calories takes longer because your energy production slows down. It’s like your body is saying: “You think you can starve me? Think again!”

  5. Band-Aid “fixes”: Restrictive diets don’t work because they’re superficial. They only focus on food, completely overlooking other causes of weight gain: stress, sleep problems and low activity levels. Ignoring these underlying issues makes weight come back sooner rather than later.

Overall, eating tasty, nutritious foods is good for you. It makes you happy, and it should. This healthy feeling goes against the rules of restrictive diets, so it’s always going to be hard to follow this type of diet.

How Can You Lose Weight for Good?

If you really want to lose weight, you need to focus on making long-term changes, not following short-term fad diets. It’s absolutely possible to stay slim, love your body and feel happy at the same time.:

  • Choose a balanced diet that you can realistically live with: Make sure you have a wide range of healthy options for meals. Then, stick with this type of eating.

  • Eat food that's naturally good for you: Include more fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, probiotics and lean proteins.

  • Get more physical activity: This is one of the biggest keys to long-term weight loss. It’s better to burn up those 2,000–2,500 calories by exercising for 15 minutes a day than to eat an unrealistic 1,000-calorie diet.

  • Drink plenty of water: Many people feel hungry when they’re actually thirsty. Avoid weight gain by drinking a full eight glasses of water a day. That’s good for your kidneys and heart anyway.

  • Use healthy proteins to calm the munchies: The next time you have the munchies, don’t say "no." Say "yes," but eat filling protein instead of junk food. Grab some almonds, pistachios, Greek yogurt, cheese, hard-boiled eggs or smoked salmon.

One diet did work great long term in studies. The Mediterranean diet. It helps you stay slim because it’s focused on heart-healthy, natural foods.

4 Ways To Maintain Good Colon Health

Let’s cut to the chase: It can be awkward — downright embarrassing even — to talk about colon health. No one enjoys discussing such sophisticated topics as fiber intake, constipation or what it’s like to get a colonoscopy.

The thing is, your colon’s health is crucial to your overall well-being. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer in the United States. One in 24 women will face a colorectal cancer diagnosis in her lifetime. That number’s not much better for men, either. One in 22 men is diagnosed with this type of cancer.

If that’s not enough motivation to make you long for the healthiest colon this side of the Mississippi, know that your colon is a major player in your digestive system. The better shape it’s in, the better shape your entire body is in. Here’s how to take good care of your colon.

1. Eat Lots of Fiber

You likely know that a diet that’s high in fiber helps you stay “regular.” What you may not realize is that simply keeping things moving down there is one of the best ways to prevent diseases affecting the colon.

Most people should shoot for 25-35 grams of fiber each day. Some of my favorite fiber-rich foods to nosh on include:

  • Whole grain bread
  • Lentils
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli

These are some of fiber’s heaviest hitters. Generally speaking, however, a diet that’s full of virtually any fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a tremendous way to boost your daily fiber intake. What’s more, individuals who eat a healthy, colorful diet tend to weigh less, which also decreases the risk of colorectal disease.

Still not convinced that it’s time to swap out those potato chips for carrot sticks? The antioxidants and nutrients present in most fruits and veggies have been linked to a lower risk of colorectal illness, too.

2. Exercise Regularly

Another great way to move your bowels is to move your body. Whether you take a fitness class at your local gym or simply take regular walks after dinner, that boost to your blood flow and overall circulation helps your digestive tract become more efficient.

3. Drink Up

Is there no limit to the wonders that drinking enough water can do? When it comes to your colon, quenching your thirst helps flush waste and other toxic materials out of your body, lowering your risk of disease.

If you struggle to squeeze your eight glasses of H2O in each day, consider using a water tracking app on your phone or charting it the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper.


4. Don’t Skip That Colonoscopy

Colorectal cancers may be common, but they’re also very treatable if caught early. That’s why regular colonoscopies are crucial to your health.

What constitutes a “regular” colonoscopy depends on your age and various risk factors, which include not only your personal and family history with colorectal cancer but also other digestive issues such as IBS. The average person, for example, should likely have the procedure done once every 10 years, starting at age 50. (If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk with your doctor about how much earlier you should start.) During the procedure, your doc will not only check for signs of cancer but also remove any polyps or other abnormal growths that may develop into cancer or otherwise cause harm if left unchecked.

Being proactive about your colorectal health is critical to your overall health. Sure, it often means having an indelicate chat with your physician, but remember: It’s his or her job to talk about that stuff! More to the point, your doc talks about bowel movements as often as you do Real Housewives and your grandkids. Don’t let the potential for an awkward moment prevent you from taking the best care of yourself that you can.