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!

7 Pieces of Exercise Equipment Ideal for a Senior’s Home Gym

Maintaining workout routines as you age requires understanding your capabilities and knowing the safety concerns that most affect you. You will want to choose low-impact, efficient, and relatively safe equipment for people at an increased risk of injury. Thankfully, manufacturers and fitness enthusiasts have been aware of senior concerns for decades, meaning there are plenty of equipment and program options available for all those individuals who want to maintain a current habit or start anew.

1. Elliptical

Cardio is an excellent way to burn calories and maintain mobility. While many people use treadmills in their daily workouts, seniors should try an elliptical — a stationary cardio machine that mimics the movements of walking or cross-country skiing. The elliptical is low-impact and integrates safety mechanisms into the exercise with arm levers, adjustable resistance, and heart rate monitoring.

2. Recumbent Bike (Stationary or Standard) 

Cycling is and has always been an excellent cardiovascular exercise. While a traditional bicycle or stationary bike is a perfect option for people of all ages, some seniors may struggle to get on and off it without risking injury.  

A recumbent bike eliminates the typical obstacles of a traditional setup with a chair-like design, lower configuration, and fewer obstacles when getting on or off. Recumbents come in both stationary and standard models. Fixed options are the best for people with balance or confidence concerns. However, the standard mobile option comes in two and three-wheeled designs.

3. Lat Pull-Down Machine

Rounded posture, aches, and unaligned backs often occur among seniors because of weakening muscles and decreasing back strength. A lat pull-down machine is an excellent tool for strengthening the upper back muscles.  

The exercise requires the user to be seated. You place both hands on the bar and pull it down, either in front or behind you. The weight can be adjusted to suit your current fitness level.

4. Stability Ball

As people age, balance can become a significant concern. Core muscles are responsible for not only balance but also posture. A stability ball provides a unique and productive experience for those looking to build core strength. Because the ball is low to the ground, there is minimal risk of injury. Additionally, seniors can use the exercise tool for more than balancing routines; stretching is also great to increase flexibility.

5. Rowing Machine

Another excellent tool for building core strength is the rowing machine. Through resistance, posture, and movement, the device helps strengthen the core; it is also a low-impact form of exercise and entirely customizable. You can choose the set amount, repetition, and appropriate pressure for your current capabilities, all while increasing your endurance, working your muscles, and improving your flexibility through repetitive stretching.

6. Yoga Mat

No one said your home gym had to be expensive. Yoga is a beneficial and life-affirming exercise program incorporating flexibility, mobility, balance, breathing, and mindfulness. The only piece of equipment required is a yoga mat, which is also beneficial for other floor exercises. Another excellent program for seniors is Pilates, which is like yoga.

7. Wrist or Ankle Weights

Are you looking for more of a challenge when jogging, walking, or using the elliptical? If so, consider wrist or ankle weights. They are very light — only one to three pounds — and can be worn or carried. The best thing is the weights add just enough resistance to a low-impact workout without adding so much to become cumbersome or add stress to the joints. 

Any of the above equipment would be excellent additions to a senior's home gym. However, only you know your current abilities, so be safe.

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!

Overcoming Your Fear of the Weight Section at the Gym for a Healthier Stronger You

Walking into a gym is often intimidating, especially for a newb. To a beginner, there is nothing more frightening than the weight section, the place where all the muscled-up bods are flexing and grunting away, showing off their skill and physique. While this section of the gym can seem intimidating, it is also where you get lean and build muscle mass. In other words, it is the area of the gym that provides the most advantage to getting in the shape you want.

The weights section is not reserved for people with 0% body fat or who could win a Mr. or Ms. Universe pageant. It is an area for all gym members. Instead of fearing the section, embrace its potential. To embrace it, though, you need to understand where the fear comes from. For most people, the fear stems from believing they don’t belong or will make a mistake.

First, you absolutely belong; a gym is a space for all genders and body types. Second, you will probably do something wrong, but nothing bad is going to happen. You can’t expect to get everything right when trying something new. However, to help you minimize risks and optimize your odds of success, follow the straightforward four-step plan for overcoming your fear of the weight room.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

The key to squashing your fear is to remember that everyone started where you are now. Sure, they might look like professionals now, but think about where they were years ago. Additionally, despite the intimidating physiques, most people at the gym are friendly and willing to lend a hand to a fellow member in need.

If you are unsure how to do an exercise or which exercise is best for legs, chest, back, or whatever, ask someone in the weights area. Most people will happily offer advice. However, even if the first person you ask is not that friendly, try the next. No harm will come to you, promise.

2. YouTube Is Good for More Than Cat Videos

If you want to get serious about lifting weights, check out YouTube for instructional videos. Many channels are dedicated to beginners, showing the proper form and techniques of several popular free-weight exercises. Many YouTube instructors will even talk about variations of specific exercises so you can focus on building the fundamentals before getting into heavyweights. However, make sure you check out the person’s qualifications to avoid bad advice.

3. Work With a Trainer

A personal trainer is an investment. Some people cannot afford a trainer right away, or they can’t justify the expense. However, when you can afford one, it is money well-spent. A trainer or teacher can help you develop a comfort level with the weight room. They will also help you design a routine for your body and capabilities. Remember, you do not have to keep a trainer forever; it is a temporary expense.

4. Remember, Your Experience Is a Shared Experience

Every bodybuilder, weightlifter, or average lean Joe started where you are starting. You cannot build muscle and a healthy exercise habit without embracing the weight room. Instead of shying away from the weights, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you belong. Sometimes, a bit of self-motivation can go a long way.

The weight room is an intimidating place for most newbies, but you can get over your fear with practice, preparation, and knowledge. How did you overcome your fear of the weight room?

The Health Benefits of Speed-walking: Why You Should Try It

Speed-walking or racewalking is an Olympic sport. This year, it is gaining some attention as Mexico continues to show its power as a competitor and champion in the endurance activity. While you might not follow the Olympics and might not care who is the reigning speed-walking champion, you might be interested in the health benefits from the activity. Speed-walking is a low-impact, moderate aerobic activity that can improve overall health and mobility. Additionally, it can benefit weight loss goals.

Why Speed-Walking Is Healthy

Although the activity is associated with intense cardio, speed-walking is likely more related to moderate levels of oxygen and blood flow. That means it can help with circulation, allowing your heart to beat at a slower pace and helping you avoid the shortness of breath that can be common with vigorous cardio workouts.

As opposed to high-intensity cardio workouts, speed-walking offers lower levels of oxygen intake that help the heart and blood vessels do their jobs. The low intensity of the exercise means you can sustain the activity for a longer period without becoming winded or fatigued. Therefore, speed-walking ultimately provides a longer duration exercise at sustained levels, which is beneficial to weight loss, balance, and mobility.

How Does Speed-Walking Compare to Other Exercises?

Categorized in the same class of low-impact aerobic activities like walking, jogging, and running, speed-walking is an interval-type workout that can help you build strength and endurance in your muscles, work on your balance, improve your mood, and improve your sleep. In addition, it can help you burn calories and reduce stress.

While speed-walking is an easy and enjoyable exercise for any age and fitness level, you should still be cautious and do the proper research, ensuring you are physically ready for the activity. Like a long-distance run, speed-walking can help build stamina and endurance but can also lead to injuries if you are not properly trained and are not mindful of your body. Before starting any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor to determine if it is a good fit.

The Benefits of Speed-Walking

There are many benefits to this physical activity, and it does not need to take up a lot of time to reap the rewards: 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes per week. While the exercise is an endurance workout, it has several benefits beyond stamina. Researchers have found that speed-walking can reduce the risks associated with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis by strengthening the bones and muscles in the legs. Additionally, walking has been shown to boost heart rate and increase blood flow to muscles, aiding in cardiovascular fitness. Walking can also improve insulin sensitivity and aid weight loss efforts.

Speed-walking might be experiencing some added interest from Olympic coverage, but it will always be an efficient form of exercise. The simple truth is that walking is more accessible than running, and it is less dreaded than other forms of aerobic activity. If you are interested in burning calories and improving cardiovascular health while increasing your stamina, speed-walking is for you.

What are some other unique exercises you have heard of and want to try?

Exercise Your Way to a Healthier Immune System!

Exercising is good for your heart, your muscles and your mood. Did you know it’s also amazing for your immune system? Recently, scientists discovered that working out boosts your defenses against infections.

Why Is Exercise Important for a Strong Immune System?

There are several reasons why exercise is good for your immune system. When you put them all together, you feel happy, healthy and energized.

1. Physical Activity Reduces Stress Levels

Anxiety weakens your immune system. When you’re not sleeping at night and you feel stressed all day, your body is vulnerable to illness. Exercise to the rescue! Any kind of physical activity can lower stress hormones and get your immune system back on track. Even something as simple as getting some fresh air and going for a walk helps!

2. Exercise Strengthens Your White Blood Cells

White blood cells are the most important part of a healthy immune system. They detect and destroy viruses, bacteria and toxins. When you exercise, your body produces more white blood cells and it speeds up your blood circulation so these defenders act quickly. When your immune system catches harmful invaders right away, you don’t get sick.

3. Working Out Gives You a Mini Fever

Viruses don’t like it hot. That’s why your body triggers a fever when you have an infection: it kills off the invaders. Exercise has a similar effect. As your heart rate increases, so does your core body temperature. That may help destroy viruses before they have a chance to attack.

4. Staying Active Alleviates Inflammation

Regular exercise can lower inflammation all around your body — from sore muscles to tender joints. When your body is fighting a war against chronic inflammation, it has to use a lot of “soldiers.” That can leave your body’s defenses wide open for invaders. By reducing inflammation, exercise lets your immune system deploy “troops” to protect you against viruses instead.

The science doesn’t lie! According to one study, people who exercise at least three times a week are 25% less likely to get a cold.

What Are the Best Exercises for Your Immune System?

The goal with exercise is to boost your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. I like to do a blend of cardio workouts and whole-body strength training.

Excellent Cardio Exercises

What I love about cardio is that it gives you a chance to recharge emotionally while you’re increasing your heart rate. If you have the chance, do these exercises outdoors and watch the stress melt away (and fat, too)!

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Mountain biking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Jumping rope
  • Fitness dancing (like Zumba)

My Favorite Strength Training

These are some simple exercises anyone can do at home. Buying a resistance band or free weights isn’t necessary, but they do help with your results. For an extra boost to your strength training exercises, hold each position for a few seconds:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Planks (like push-ups but holding the position using your elbows)
  • Arm raises
  • Leg raises
  • Side leg raises

You should feel the burn, but you don’t want pain. If lunges make your knees hurt, for example, do leg raises on your back instead.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Any level of physical activity has benefits for your immune system, but you should aim for moderate- or high-intensity exercises. Start by exercising for 15–30 minutes, three to five days a week. This slims your tummy and helps your body feel great at the same time!

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.

The 5 Easiest Ways To Strength Train and Diet To Keep Muscle Mass as You Age

As people age, one of the things they tend to find most concerning is the loss of strength and mobility. While some muscular decline is natural and expected, too much muscle loss can lead to significant problems, especially relating to independence.

Thankfully, there are ways to maintain and promote muscle mass. However, it should be stressed that some muscle loss is natural and unavoidable. The key is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, using both diet and exercise to promote mobility and muscle development.

1. Start Resistance Training

Resistance training is among the better fitness routines for older individuals. This style of strength training amounts to less risk of injury, and with varying difficulties, the equipment meets users where they currently are physically.

For a fitness routine to effectively build muscle, you need to commit to it and challenge yourself during it. Older individuals should aim for two to three sessions per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each. You should also consult with your physician before starting any new fitness regimen.

2. Walk

Have you ever been driving down the street and witnessed someone who looks like they are running but at a walking pace? People often undervalue the benefits of simply walking.

Pretending to run or convincing yourself you are running can stress your system because your brain reacts to what it thinks your body is doing. Walking can be just as beneficial as running when done right.

Not only will frequent walks increase your mobility, but they can also speed up recovery time and build and maintain muscle mass. Also, you do not have to take one long walk to experience the benefits; you can break your 30-minute exercise allotment down into ten-minute increments, allowing for multiple breaks throughout the day.

3. Eat Protein

Beyond exercising, you will also need to focus on your diet. Protein is one of the best things you can consume to improve muscle mass.

The body needs amino acids to build muscle, and it converts or breaks down protein-rich foods into these necessary compounds. You can have a diverse diet when focusing on protein. Some popular protein-rich options include:

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Lean red meat
  • Beans
  • Yogurt

4. Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As people age, they tend to have more problems with inflammation. Unfortunately, inflammation can cause muscles to break down.

To reduce the risk of muscle loss because of inflammation, you will want to include anti-inflammatories in your diet. The most potent anti-inflammatories come from omega-3 fatty acids.

You can take omega-3 supplements, but it is best to get them from a food source. While walnuts and flaxseeds contain these essential nutrients, fatty fish like salmon is the best source.

5. Take a Vitamin D Supplement

People under the age of 60 can usually get enough vitamin D from sun exposure. Unfortunately, for people over 60, it takes approximately four times longer to receive the vitamin from the sun.

Since vitamin D is vital to muscle protein synthesis, it is necessary to find another way to ingest the vitamin. The best way to maintain vitamin D levels is with a supplement. However, before you start any supplements, talk to your doctor.

There are many ways to maintain muscle mass and promote strength as you age. However, you must get comfortable with some loss.

What tips or techniques do you have for older people looking to build or maintain muscle and mobility?

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.