5 Exercises To Help With Sciatica

People with sciatica often avoid exercising because they don't want to aggravate the condition. Unfortunately, avoidance makes the problem worse. Physical therapists recommend trying at least five exercises to improve mobility and reduce pain.

1. Pelvic Tilt

To perform the pelvic tilt, lie on your back. Bend your legs, bringing your feet toward your butt, and put your arms flat by your sides.

Before lifting your hips off the floor, tighten your core muscles. Putting pressure on your bike like you were pressing it into the floor, lift the pelvis and hips slightly and hold, remembering to breathe.

After a few seconds, release the hold, lowering your hips back to the floor. Repeat the exercise eight to 12 times.

2. Knee-to-Chest

The knee-to-chest exercise targets the upper thigh and lower buttocks. Again, lie on your back, legs bent and feet flat. Keeping one foot flat on the floor, lift the other, bringing the knee to your chest.

Your back should remain flat against the floor. Continue to hold the knee to your chest for about 30 seconds. After you release, do the same with the opposite leg. Repeat the exercise two to four times on each side.

You can increase the difficulty level by keeping one leg stretched and flat on the floor while lifting the other. Another version of the exercise requires lifting both knees to the chest simultaneously.

3. Glute Bridges

Glute muscles play a significant role in managing sciatic pain. If the muscles are too tight, they can press on the nerve. Glute bridges help to stretch and loosen the muscles.

Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms at your sides, relaxed. Pushing into your heels, lift your hips. Your body should make a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold the position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your hips to the floor. Do two to three sets with eight to 10 reps, and focus on form.

4. Standing Hamstring Stretch

Changing things up, you will need to stand for the hamstring stretch. Also, hold on to something to ensure balance and safety. This exercise is best used with a designated raised platform, like a stair step.

Stand tall with one foot on the step and the other on the floor. The toes on the step should point upward. Keep your back straight and lean forward slightly. You should feel tension or pulling in the hamstring area. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

Swap legs and repeat the exercise. Perform a minimum of two to three reps with each leg.

5. Deep Gluteal Stretch

The deep gluteal stretch might be a little challenging for those with limited flexibility. Like other exercises for sciatica, you will start on the floor with your legs bent. Raise your left ankle and rest it on your right knee.

With hands together and fingers laced behind your right thigh, pull the thigh toward your upper body. Your head and back should remain on the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing and repeating on the opposite side. Perform two or three reps per side.

If you have sciatica, give any of the above exercises a try. However, talk to your doctor first.

Possible Reasons the Weight Isn’t Coming Off Anymore

You’ve been steadily losing weight for the past few months when suddenly, the scale won’t budge by even half a pound. You cut back on a few calories and ramp up your exercise a bit to try to get back on track, but the scale still doesn’t move. In fact, it may go up a little! This type of scenario is all too common, and it’s enough to make even the sanest among us just a little bit crazy.

Though it may seem like a stroke of black magic, there’s usually a pretty reasonable explanation for why we stop losing weight. Once you realize the underlying cause, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do to push past your frustrating plateaus. So without further ado, here are some possible reasons the weight isn’t coming off anymore.

You’re Not Eating the Right Foods

The old adage “calories in, calories out” is a bunch of malarky in my opinion. And it turns out many nutritionists agree with me. If you’re not eating very many calories, but what you do eat is devoid of the nutrients your body needs to thrive, your body is more likely to hold onto weight.

Instead of limiting yourself to 1200 calories of whey protein shakes, sweetened granola bars and processed foods, make sure your food choices are better for your body. You need plenty of nutrients from whole foods like whole grains (not white flour!), fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats.

The nice thing about switching to a whole foods way of eating is that you can get a lot more food for your allotted number of daily calories! Don’t believe me? Just hop online and see how many calories are in a slice of pizza versus a cup of broccoli. You may be shocked to discover just how well you can eat and how satisfied you can feel when you choose better sources of calories.

You’re Working Out Too Hard

I know, it can be tempting to step things up a notch when your weight loss slows down or stops altogether. But overtraining is counterproductive and can make things worse. It’s especially important to limit the cardio you do each day. Too much cardio can slowly eat away at your lean muscle mass, which will cause your metabolism to dip and you’ll lose fewer calories throughout the day.

To make sure you don’t run into this common problem, limit your cardio to a few days per week and make sure your sessions don’t go any longer than 60 minutes most days. You can still work out every day, but switch things up by adding strength training sessions. These will help build up your muscle mass so you boost your metabolism and burn more calories without even trying. That sounds like a win/win situation to me!

You Have Too Much Stress in Your Life

If you’re dealing with more stress than your body can handle, it will respond by pumping out a lot of cortisol. This stress hormone is an important one, but when it’s present at excessively high levels, it signals to your body that it should hold onto fat. High levels of cortisol are also associated with belly fat. So if you have a spare tire around your middle, it’s time to try meditation, yoga, or anything else that will help you manage your stress levels.

These are just a few of the most common reasons for weight loss plateaus. If you have stopped losing weight despite your best efforts, try addressing the above possible causes. Once you do, you’ll hopefully start to see the scale respond in a positive way once again.

Health Benefits of Getting a Pet

Pets can make life more enjoyable and fulfilling, but they’re also a lot of work. When you’re a little more “mature” like I am, you may wonder if you have the energy to look after an energetic little animal. If you’re on the fence about whether to go adopt a furry family member, science says the investment of your time and money is well worth it. I have learned that there are so many health benefits you can enjoy when you have a pet in your life. Here are some of my favorites.

Reduced Stress Levels

Stress is just a regular part of life for many people, but too much stress can cause a lot of health problems. Here are just a few of the dangerous health conditions linked to chronic stress:

  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle pain and tension
  • Headaches
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

Yikes! That’s a pretty ugly list if you ask me. It can be hard to reduce your stress naturally, but science shows that owning a pet lowers stress and improves heart health. If you have any doubt about that, all you need to do is snuggle with a cuddly puppy or play with a mischievous kitten and notice how your stress seems to melt away.

Increased Physical Activity

When you own pets, you’re responsible for making sure they get enough exercise for good health. This means that you’ll need to get out and exercise, too! Walking a dog is a great way to boost your physical health and make sure your cardiovascular system is always being tested and improved.

Even if you have a cat and you don’t take it for walks, you can still get in some exercise by playing with it. Try pulling a string around the house for your cat to chase. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can work up a sweat just trying to keep the string out of your cat’s reach!

Improved Mental Health

Poor mental health is a growing problem these days. Anxiety and depression rates are skyrocketing, and it’s easy to become the next statistic. But having a pet can help reduce your likelihood of developing a mental health disorder. If you already have a mental health disorder, a pet may help you manage it.

Being around pets can lower stress hormones that contribute to anxiety. Research shows that veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder often feel an improved sense of well-being and better mental health when they have a service dog by their side.

Dogs have a sixth sense and know when you’re feeling down. That’s why they often come up and lick your face or curl up next to you when you’re sad or worried about something. If you want to have the longest, happiest life possible, the key may be to add a furry family member to the mix.

Decreased Loneliness

Many older adults live alone. A life of solitude can become very lonely. A loving pet provides an important sense of companionship. Pets are extremely loyal and make excellent companions for those who have lost a spouse or who have never married. Even empty nesters who have each other but no longer have children in the home can benefit from the companionship of one or more pets.

Having a pet can also make it easier to make friends with other pet owners in the neighborhood. Try taking your dog to local dog parks to become acquainted with other people in your area.

It’s easy to see why so many people choose to welcome pets into their homes. Even though they require time and money to care for, pets give back so much more to us.

How To Assess Outdoor Air Quality — and Why You Should

Before heading outside for a workout or enjoying the fresh air, you may take several steps to prepare for the outing. From checking the weather to putting on sunscreen to donning appropriate attire, there are several measures you may go through to ensure your comfort and safety while away. Yet, like so many others, you may overlook one crucial factor: air quality.

Most people automatically assume they enter a world of “fresh air" when they step outside. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Several regions throughout the U.S. are affected by high pollution levels, which drastically reduce air quality. Air quality can still be poor in places not traditionally affected by pollution when certain environmental factors are present. Regardless of where you live, it’s important to know the air quality level in your region that day, as polluted air can adversely affect your health.

How Outdoor Air Quality Affects Your Health

Outdoor air — which is the air that flows from the ground level to miles above the earth’s surface — is a valuable commodity that provides life-sustaining gases and shields the earth from harmful radiation. However, when pollutants contaminate the air, they interfere with those essential gases and hinder its ability to protect the planet and its occupants. As a result, instead of breathing in healthy gases, humans and animals in polluted areas breathe in pollutants. These pollutants can compromise not just environmental health but also human health.

The effects of polluted air on human and environmental health are well documented. Below are just a few examples of how air pollution affects life on earth:

  • It has been linked to several human health effects, including asthma attacks, heart attacks, bronchitis, restricted activity days, respiratory symptoms, missed work and school days, and premature mortality.
  • It damages essential crops and reduces visibility.
  • It has been linked to increased incidences of acid rain.
  • It weakens the planet’s protective ozone layer, contributing to climate change.

Though only the first point demonstrates a direct effect on human health, the remaining points all indirectly affect you, your loved ones and your community.

How To Check Outdoor Air Quality

Checking outdoor air quality is as simple as checking indoor air quality. However, whereas with your indoor air quality, you can simply refer to your thermostat, you would refer to the air quality index with outdoor air quality. You can do this via an app, such as the FiltreteÔ Smart App, or a website, such as IQAir.

Regardless of which source you use, the index should give you a number between 0 and 500. This number refers to the level of air pollution present that day. A score of “0” means there is no pollution, while a score of “500” means the air poses an immediate danger to life. If air pollution is present, the index should identify what the pollutant is and how much of it is present.

Finally, the index should provide a five-color grading scale, with green meaning “clean” and red or maroon meaning “heavily polluted.” Each color code comes with specific advice for being outdoors.

Checking air quality levels before heading outside is simple yet can have a profound impact on your health. Prioritize your health and well-being, and take 30 seconds out of your day to check the air quality in your area before heading outdoors.

4 Easy Stretches To Relieve Lower Back Pain

If you live with lower back pain, you are not alone. According to the data, as many as four out of five individuals develop lower back pain at some point in their lives. Though certain risk factors — such as age, weight and occupation — may increase a person’s risk of developing pain in the lumbar region of the spine, the numbers suggest that almost everyone will experience it at some point.

Lower back pain can damper your quality of life, making it difficult for you to walk, much less enjoy the activities you love. The good news is that you can find relief with a few simple, at-home stretches. Below are four stretches that are effective at loosening up and strengthening the muscles in the lumbar region of your spine.

1. Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is one of the easiest and most effective stretches for relieving pain in the lower back. To perform the child’s pose, get on your hands and knees, with your palms flat on the floor. From there, extend your hands forward and slowly bring your head to your chest while dropping your hips to your heels. At this point, the inside of your elbows should be touching your ears. Lay in this position for anywhere from 20 seconds to one minute at a time.

Place a pillow beneath your belly if the position causes too much pain. In this way, you can still open up your lower back muscles but without causing too much strain on them.

2. Supine Twist

Whereas the child’s pose opens up the entire lower back for stretching, the supine twist focuses on one half of the back at a time. It also helps to stretch the glutes, which, if tight, may be contributing to your lower back pain.

To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor. Extend your arms into a “T” position and one leg outward. Then, keeping your shoulders on the ground, slowly twist your raised knee, touching the floor on the other side of the other leg. Lay there for 20 to 30 seconds, then rotate. Repeat two to three times.

3. Cat/Cow Stretch

The cat/cow pose may seem simple enough, but it’s a dynamic stretch that pulls the lower back muscles in two different directions. Doing so helps to lengthen the muscles along the lower spine and, in the process, alleviate soreness.

To perform this pose, start in the tabletop position with your spine parallel to the ground. Then, pull your back up so it’s rounded, like a cat arching its back. Hold for five to 10 seconds, then pull your back in so it’s arched toward the ground. Hold again for five to 10 seconds. Repeat as many times as needed.

4. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

As with the other stretches on this list, the knee-to-chest stretch lengthens the muscles along the lower back. To perform this stretch, lie on your back and pull your bent knees to your chest. If you need to feel more of a burn, try rocking your hips side to side or pulling your hips downward while you hold your knees to your chest. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then lower your legs back to the ground and repeat.

If you experience lower back pain, give these four stretches a try. If the issue is minor, you should experience relief almost immediately.

5 Simple Ways to Enhance Your Posture

Remember when your teacher constantly shouted, "no slouching" in school? At the time, you may have thought it was no big deal. After all, everyone slouches, right? So what harm can it really do?

As it turns out, bad posture doesn't only affect how you look. It can also harm the health of your back by putting strain on the muscles around your spine. That might explain why you experience those bothersome aches and pains so frequently.

The good news is that there are many effective methods for improving your posture and decreasing your back pain. Here are a few you can try immediately!

1. Wear the Right Shoes

While high heeled shoes look amazing, they're not the greatest for your body. High heels throw off your balance and make it harder to maintain good posture while standing. They also put stress on your feet, ankles, and knees, which may lead to joint dysfunction down the line.

You don't have to give up heels forever, but you should limit them to special occasions. Instead, look for comfortable, supportive shoes that also offer style and visual appeal. What a great excuse to go shoe shopping!

2. Start an Exercise Regimen

Building up your core muscles makes it easier to maintain good posture, as your spine will be supported appropriately. Exercise can also improve joint flexibility, help you maintain a healthy weight, and provide ample energy.

Core exercises include sit ups and crunches, but planks are also beneficial. You can also look into joining a yoga class at your local gym to enhance flexibility. If you currently experience joint issues, swimming offers a full body workout without inflaming your joints.

3. Sit Correctly at Your Desk

For office workers, seated posture is a major concern. Sitting for many hours a day can wreak havoc on the health of your spine, which will lead to a wide range of back problems and dysfunction.

The first step is to modify your workstation for maximum health. Your computer and keyboard should be easily accessible from your chair, so no straining is necessary. Additionally, the monitor or screen must be at eye level to keep your neck straight.

When it comes to your chair, be sure to sit up straight so your shoulders are firmly against the back. Your feet should be flat on the ground with your knees bent. Don't cross your legs, as this creates an imbalance in your body. Chairs with neck and lumbar support are also preferred.

4. Reduce Use of Mobile Devices

Have you ever heard of "text neck"? Think about how you usually look at your phone when checking out your favorite social media sites or reading the news. Chances are that your neck is probably bent over the screen as you scroll.

This posture can put a major strain on the neck and spine, especially when it's a regular habit. Accordingly, try to limit your use of a mobile device to two hours a day or less. And when looking at your smartphone, keep your head elevated and your neck straight.

5. Be Mindful of How You Sleep

Sleeping posture is another important factor to consider. The way you sleep can contribute to back pain during your waking hours. This is particularly true if you regularly sleep on your back, which can create a lot of stress on the lower spine.

Instead, try sleeping on your side. If you need a little extra support, place a pillow between your legs to keep the spine in proper alignment. And if your mattress has seen better days, consider an upgrade.

The hidden benefit of good posture is a more confident, in-command demeanor. As you build strength and adjust your habits, you'll also experience a surge of self-esteem and good feelings!

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.