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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Fitness Test for Everyone



Test Your Fitness

This blog entry is going to show a short fitness test for us to give ourselves a fitness ranking in different areas! There are six different areas and the idea is that we perform each test and record our results. We can then analyse what our results mean. (Test taken from Men’s Health Magazine)

1)      Perform as many press-ups as you can in a row. Record the result.
2)      Stand up and see how many seconds you can balance on one leg.
3)      Now see how long you can hold the plank position for.
4)      Now stand by a wall and jump as high as you can to tap it. Record the height in cm.
5)      Now hang from a pull-up bar, keeping your arms straight. See how many seconds you can hang for.
6)      Finally, run 1K as fast as possible and record the time in minutes.

Analysing the results

The first test is one of strength-endurance. If you scored over 60, this is strong, 40-60 is good, 20-39 is average, and below 20 is weak.

The second test is of the stability of the core. For a strong rating you need to have scored over 120 seconds, good is 60-120 seconds, average is 30-59 seconds and less than 30 seconds is weak.

The third test is simply about the strength of your core. Over 120 seconds is considered a strong core, 60-120 is good, 30-59 is average and any less than this is weak.

The fourth test is about explosive power. To gain a strong rating you need to tap at over 50cm, 36-50cm is good, 25-35 is average, and less than this is weak.

The fifth test is all about the strength of our grip. To hold your grip, in this test, for over 120 seconds gains a strong rating, for 60-120 seconds is good, 30-59 seconds is average and anything below is weak.

The final test is all about cardiovascular fitness. In completing the run in less than 4 minutes is strong, 4.5-5mins is good, 5.5-7mins is average and any longer than 7 minutes is weak.


In completing this test and looking at the results it is important that we do not take them ratings too seriously. However, this can give us a good guide of our fitness levels and can also give us goals to try and achieve.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

B Vitamins



B vitamins were once considered as one, single vitamin as opposed to 8 distinct vitamins. This blog entry will look into B Vitamins as a whole.

What are B Vitamins?

B Vitamins are water soluble vitamins and play an important role in the metabolism of cells. In total there are 8 B Vitamins (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12) and each has its own name.

Health Benefits of B Vitamins

With there being different individual B Vitamins the health benefits are more widespread. Each one has different properties. However, as a whole, B Vitamins are important and there are a number of health benefits associated with them. Below is a list of some of the main health benefits associated with the consumption of B Vitamins:

  • Help to convert food into energy
  • Helps to maintain healthy skin, hear and muscle tone
  • Promotes the growth of cells
  • Help with red blood cells
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Can help to fight depression
  • Helps our immune system
  • Can reduce anemia

What are the sources of B Vitamins?

There are a number of natural sources of B Vitamins before we begin looking into supplements. Some of the best sources of B Vitamins are; animal products, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, potatoes, milk, eggs, yoghurt, nuts, fish and wholegrain rice and cereals.

So it is clear that we definitely need B Vitamins in our diet and luckily there are plenty of foods available that are high in B Vitamins so there is no excuse!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – Nottingham 2012



On Saturday the 13th of October 2012 I took part in Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest in Nottingham. Almost 4000 people took part. This blog entry will look into this amazing event.
 
What is Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest?

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest is a series of adventure runs that currently takes place in 5 cities across the United Kingdom; Nottingham, London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Each city hosts a 10km (haha, more like 12km) run with a wide range of obstacles placed along the way.

My Preperation for Men's Health Survival of the Fittest

As I exercise regularly, I did not change too much up. I continued with my pull ups, press ups and planks. I added walking lunges to my routine and also made sure I got out there running more.

I ate my normal balanced diet in preparation and on the morning of the run I ate bacon, eggs and toast with a coffee. I also ate a banana about an hour before.

My Run

I ran the event with my friend. We took part in the Nottingham event and we were in wave 5, which started at 11am. It was a chilly morning but this was soon forgotten as the race commenced. The course began and the first obstacle to stand in our way was the hay bales!

 We then ran alongside the river trent completing a variety of obstacles along the way, including an army assault course, a swim across a freezing cold river, cargo nets and a run up and down the stairs in Nottingham Forest's City Ground! 

But the worse was to come. The final challenge, known as the Wall of Fame, is where dreams are made or ended! Teamwork was required for me and my buddy to get over, but we managed it and claimed our medals! 





The results 

For the Nottingham event, 3,769 people finished the race with an average finishing time of 1 hour 36 minutes and 53 seconds. The fastest time completed was 52 minutes and 2 seconds, with the slowest time being 2 hours 47 minutes and 31 seconds. I completed the race in 1 hour 25 minutes and 48 seconds. I finished in the top 30% of finishers – not bad for a first try.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Baobab



Baobab – Superfruit

This blog entry will look into the superfruit – baobab (pronounced bay-oh-bab). It will discuss what baobab fruit is, where it comes from and the health benefits to consumption!

What is baobab?

The baobab fruit is a natural food source, and is naturally found in Africa and Australia. The baobab fruit looks a bit like a coconut and grows on baobab trees. Local people have used many parts of the baobab for centuries.

What are the health benefits of baobab fruit?

This is where the baobab earns a reputation and name as a super fruit. The health benefits of the baobab fruit are fantastic and appear to outweigh many other super fruits (such as the acai berry, for example).

Baobab is very high in vitamin C. It is said that it contains six times the amount of vitamin C than oranges!

It is high in antioxidants (something discussed here) and it is claimed that the baobab contains six times the amount of antioxidants as blueberries, and twice as many as gojiberries.

Although bananas are one of our favourite foods for getting potassium, baobab contains around six times the amount!

Baobab also contains a high level of calcium, around twice as much as milk.

Finally, baobab contains more iron than red meat.

Overall

Overall, the baobab fruit has many things going for it, and it does appear to be a genuine super fruit. It is important that, in our western society, we get this into our diet in the right way. It is vital that we get natural baobab, and reap the benefits!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Swimming for Health


Swimming

This blog entry is going to look into swimming for fitness, exercise and weight loss. Swimming is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing forms of exercise there is. There are a number of benefits associated with swimming, so let’s take a look.

Benefits of Swimming

As mentioned before, there are numerous benefits to swimming as a form of exercise.

1)      It is a low impact form of exercise. This is probably my favourite thing about swimming. This means that swimming puts very little strain on our body. This means that our knees and hips, for example, do not get the same stress as with other exercises such as running. This also means that swimming is a great exercise for fitness when recovering from an injury.

2)      Swimming is an excellent cardio-vascular exercise. This basically means that we work our hearts and lungs while exercising (as well as our body), and is as good as any exercise for that.

3)      Swimming can work most muscles in the body. This relies on doing a variety of different strokes, however, but any exercise where we are working more than one muscle is great. Swimming works the upper and lower body, and gives a great workout to each part of us.

4)      Swimming can be used for weight loss as well as fitness. Whilst swimming is a great exercise for developing our fitness levels, it is also a fantastic calorie burner, meaning it can be used, alongside a healthy diet, to promote healthy weight loss.

5)      Finally, swimming can be considered an excellent exercise for developing strength as well as flexibility. Alongside endurance and cardio-vascular benefits, swimming can help with our strength in our upper and lower body and contributes towards flexibility in these areas too.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Walking Lunges - A Great Exercise


This blog entry will look into an exercise known as walking lunges. It will identify what muscles are worked with the exercise, how to do walking lunges and the benefits of including them in our workout routine.

What are Walking Lunges?

Walking lunges are an exercise that can be performed with or without weights and they exercise our glutes, hamstrings and quads.

How to perform Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are a simple exercise to perform and they are super beneficial to our body. We can either perform this exercise with a dumbbell in each hand, or we can put our hands on our waist – whatever we feel comfortable at. To begin, we stand upright, with our feet together. We then take a step forward with one foot, lowering our hips to the floor and bending both our knees. We then push from the other foot back to the starting position for one rep.

Benefits of walking lunges

There are a number of benefits associated with performing walking lunges as part of our workouts.

First of all, walking lunges work a variety of muscles all in one go, which is a great thing! Basically, our complete lower body will get a workout if we perform walking lunges, particularly the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.

Secondly, we can perform them anywhere! The fact that they are so convenient is beneficial as there is no excuse to not include them a few times a week. We may look strange doing them down the street though.

Walking lunges are also fantastic because not only can they be considered a cardio-vascular exercise, they can also help to build and develop muscle as well.

Finally, walking lunges promote mobility, strength and flexibility in the joints. 


So, walking lunges are a fantastic exercise for us to include in our workouts. The exercise works the majority of the lower body and can help to keep us fit. Get them in your workout!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Improving Our Fitness

This blog entry will look into some tips for improving our fitness. We all want to be as fit and healthy as we can be (right?) and these tips will help us to achieve this. This list was adapted from an article in Men's Health.

Tips to Improve Fitness

1) Increase the intensity - this is a great tip, especially if we are short on time. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a fantastic style of exercise that can wield fantastic results, and can be done in a shorter amount of time.

2) Get a pet - ok, maybe not. However, dog owners are more likely to get the exercise they need. We can easily get out to take our dog for a nice long walk, we were going to walk them anyway.

3) Keep motivated - whatever it takes. It is vitally important to stay motivated to get the body and fitness level that we want. Find whatever it is that inspires us to keep up the interest and keep us achieving our goals.

4) Walk - walking is an easy exercise to do and it is great for our body. There is no reason for us not to get out walking, even if it just for a half hour on our lunch break.


Above are four simple tips to help to improve our fitness. Of course it is vitally important that we couple regular exercise with a good diet to get the best results.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Yo-Yo (Bleep) Tests

Yo-Yo Tests

The yo-yo test, also referred to as; yo-yo intermittent recovery tests, beep/bleep tests, and shuttle runs, is a test designed to examine the endurance and aerobic power of athletes in regards to running. These tests can be used by both men and women alike and are very simple to perform.

How To Set Up Yo-Yo Tests

The basics of yo-yo tests is simple. First of all, a CD (or other recording) is required for these tests, but these are readily available. The CD contains a series of beeps, and the gap between this beeps decreases as the recording goes on. The second part of the set up involves setting up two markers, 20 metres apart. The test is now set up.

The Test

The basic idea of the test is to run from one marker to the other, arriving at the same time as the beep. We then turn around and run to the other marker. This continues, from one marker to the other until the test is over. As the gap between the beeps gets shorter as we progress, the difficulty increases. If we fail to make it to the marker before the beep, we lose a life. We get two lives so when we fail to reach the marker twice the test is over. We measure our total time for our final result.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Steps To Take When We Plateau


The Plateau

When we get into our training routine we begin to see the results we want. However, there comes a point in most, if not all, of our training programmes where we hit a wall, and the results seem to disappear – the dreaded plateau.

Can we combat the plateau?

Yes! Fortunately, there are a number of ideas that can be implemented in order to battle past our plateau and to help us to continue to see the results that we want.

Combating a Plateau

Higher reps – if we have been training with 6-8 reps while lifting weights, we should try increasing this number to 10-15 reps.

Increase sets – in a similar vain to increasing the number of reps per set, we can also change our workout by increase the number of sets that we do. Instead of completing 3 sets of 8 reps, we can try increasing to 5 sets of 8 reps.

Alter the exercises – there are many different exercises that work the same muscles. Therefore, there is nothing to say that we can mix things up by doing different exercises to what we are used to. Instead of doing pull ups, change to chins ups, for example. Something as simple as a hand grip/position can make a difference!

Rest – sometimes we overwork ourselves and we just need a little rest. We should try taking a couple of days off from exercising before getting back on it!

To conclude

Most of us will reach a point in our training program where we are not seeing the desired results, we plateau. This is not something that we need to worry about and there are number of things that we can try to get through this, for example increasing the number of repetitions we do. Essentially we must change something in our workout, though, and we will get through the plateau.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

High-Intensity Interval Training


HIIT Training

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that mixes the intensity of a workout. A typical HIIT workout will include warming up, moderate intensity exercise, high intensity exercise and a cool down. The number of times each of these sections is performed will vary between workouts. This type of training is generally associated with cardio exercises such as cycling and running.

Benefits of HIIT Training

There are a number of benefits associated with HIIT training.

First of all, HIIT can be used to save time. As it requires short bursts of high activity, the length of the workout is cut short. This means that HIIT can be used when we are short of time to still gain great results. Essentially, we can still get the same results as a longer, moderate workout in less time.

Secondly, HIIT has been shown to help to increase our resting metabolic rate, which basically means that we will be burning more calories during rest. If we are aiming to lose the flab then HIIT is certainly a method of training that can be used.

Another benefit of HIIT appears to be the suggestion that we will not lose muscle mass from exercising. When trying to lose weight, it is suggested that standard cardio exercise can contribute to the loss of muscle mass.

HIIT is a very challenging method of exercise. This is good because it can encourage us to workout when we have challenges to test ourselves.

There are, of course, other benefits associated with HIIT training, but these are some of the main advantages.

Example Workout

Here is an example (adapted from the Men’s Health Website) of HIIT training on an exercise bike.

1)      Cycle at a low resistance, low intensity for a brief warm-up of 3 minutes
2)      At this point we need to increase to a higher intensity for 30 seconds
3)      Again, increase the intensity of the workout and aim to increase every 30 seconds until we can no longer hold the intensity level
4)      After this we should rest for 3 minutes
5)      Repeat the workout for the desired number of times (1 for beginners, 3 for advanced)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Does Slow Lifting Build Huge Muscles?

This blog entry will be a short look into answering the question of whether lifting weights at a slow rate helps to build up huge muscle mass.

Recent studies have shown that slow lifting leads to a long workout - and that is about it! The study, from the University of Alabama had two sets of people completing 29 minute workouts. The first group exercised using a 5 second up phase followed by a 10 second down phase - essentially meaning that, during pull ups for example, they pulled up over 5 seconds and returned to the starting position over 10 seconds. The other group used a more traditional 1 second up, one second down method of exercising.

The results from the experiment showed better performance from the group that performed faster repititions. They burned 71% more calories than the slower group and ended up lifting 250% more weight than the slower group too.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A Great Test

This blog entry will look at a great test to see where we are at with our push-ups (press-ups if you prefer). First of all, we will quickly look at what the benefits of push-ups are.

Benefits of Push-ups

There are a number of benefits to doing push-ups on a regular basis. First of all they work a number of different muscles. The main muscle groups worked doing push-ups are the triceps, the chest and the shoulders. Secondly, regular push-upping(!) can increase our general fitness levels. Another great advantage to doing push-ups is that they are very convenient. No weights are needed so we can complete push-ups everywhere and anywhere, meaning there are no excuses to not be exercising. Push-ups can also be used to increase our strength. There are a number of other benefits associated with doing the exercise too!

The Test of the Push-ups

This test is designed to see how good we are at push-ups and it is very easy to do. All we need is a stop watch/timer. The idea is to complete as many push-ups as possible in 3 minutes. We can stop as many times as we like during this 3 minutes to rest, but we must keep the timer going. 55 push-ups is considered average and we need to be hitting 70+ to be considered good!

Completing this test can be beneficial in a couple of ways. First of all it allows us to have a 'rating' of sorts as to how good we are at push-ups. More importantly, it allows us to develop targets so that we can improve and develop with our push-ups. For example, if we complete this test 3 times a week, it gives us targets and goals to aim for each time, in order to try and improve upon our last result.

Post a comment letting me know what your record is!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Our Arms


The Arms

Today’s blog entry will look into the arms. It will examine the different muscles in the arms and see how they work and what they do for us. Find out all about the arms here!

What we want

Many of us want bigger arms. The rest of us want toned arms. Either way, exercise is the key to achieving these goals. However, it is important to know all about the arms to know how to develop them and achieve the goal that we want to achieve.

Our arms consist of various different muscles; the biceps, the triceps and the forearm muscles.

The Biceps

The biceps are the muscles found at the front of the upper arm and are responsible for moving the arm at the elbow joint. The biceps work in tandem with our rear shoulder and middle back muscles on exercises such as pull ups, but work alone for curls. Working the bicep muscles will give us strength and power for various daily lifting and climbing.

The Triceps

The triceps are three-headed muscles that are located at the back of our upper arms. The triceps are responsible for straightening the arms. There are many different exercises that target the triceps; the bench press, triceps extension, press-ups and the shoulder press are all exercises that will work our triceps.

The Forearm Muscles

The forearm muscles consist of the groups of small muscles that are found in our lower arm. The flexors, the extensors and the larger brachiordialis are all found in the forearms. These muscles are worked with many of the biceps exercises, such as pull ups and bicep curls.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Milk Vs Antioxidants


Antioxidants

This blog has looked into the benefits of antioxidants and why they are so important to us. Today, we will look into what affect milk has on our antioxidant consumption and find out whether it is a good idea or not.

Why We Want Antioxidants

Basically, we want antioxidants. Essentially, antioxidants fight free radicals in the body and stop the negative impact that these free radicals have on our body. For more detailed information on antioxidants, try this page.

Milk versus Antioxidants

So while we want antioxidants, it appears that milk may have a negative affect on all the good work that antioxidants can do. Vegetables, berries, tea and chocolate are some of the major foods that contain antioxidants. Studies show, however, that the benefits enjoyed from consumption of these foods are heightened when eaten alone, or as part of a meal with other foods.

Experts have also found that consuming these products alongside milk can have a damaging affect on the antioxidant activity – decreasing it essentially. Drinking a black tea, for example, can have fantastic antioxidant activity. Adding milk to this tea, however, will decrease the benefits of the antioxidants in the tea.

Why does Milk have a Negative Affect on Antioxidants?

Research appears to suggest that some proteins found in milk consumption limit the absorption of antioxidant molecules into our system, rendering them useless!


So, it is vitally important for our health that we consume foods with antioxidants but we must be careful not to associate these with milk to get the most out of them.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Bodyweight Workouts

Bodyweight Exercises

When we think of working out and getting fit, we generally picture a gym or health club, packed with different machines and weights. However, it does not have to be like this. There are many reasons for wanting to use bodyweight workouts, whether this is just to aid with weight workouts or to use them as our sole method of exercise.

Benefits of Bodyweight Workouts
1) Convenience - weight free workouts require little to no equipment so can be done anywhere, at anytime and by anyone! Excuses suggesting that we have no time to go to the gym don’t apply here as we can workout anywhere. 

2) Core and Balance - research suggests that working out without weights, doing activities such as Yoga and Pilates, can help to strengthen the core and improve our balance, posture and form. 

3) Target All Muscle Groups - obviously, when we are working out we want to exercise our whole body. With bodyweight exercises this can still be achieved and each muscle group can be targeted for exercise. 

Classic Bodyweight Exercises


There are so many bodyweight exercises out there but the following list will identify some of the most common and basic bodyweight exercises that should be part of everybody’s workouts!

1. Push-Ups
2. Pull-Ups
3. Squats
4. Lunges
5. Sit-ups/Crunches
6. The Plank
7. Tricep Dips
8. Walking/Running/Jogging

Bodyweight exercises can form part of anyone’s exercise regime. They can form the whole workout, or be used to supplement other workouts that we may be doing. As with all exercise programmes, though, it is important that we warm up, stretch before and after, and practice good form while exercising. This way we will be safe and get the most from our workouts.


Saturday, 23 June 2012

SuperSets!


More Muscle – Less Time

This blog entry will look at ‘Supersets’, which is a concept designed to increase the rate in which we build muscle. The basic idea involves building more muscle in a shorter period of time.

What are supersets?

Supersets basically involve working the same muscles with two different exercises without a rest in between. An example would be doing a set of bench presses followed by a set of push ups.

How do we get bigger muscles?

With little rest in between each set, a workout that takes half an hour can now take 20-25 minutes. Using the example above, we would do 10 repetitions of the bench press and then immediately complete 20 repetitions of push ups. This works similar muscle groups without rest. We can then move on to the next muscle groups and complete, for example, chin ups followed by lat pull downs. We continue the exercises and repeat the routine. Two or three supersets will be sufficient!

We may find that we enjoy doing supersets, and we may find that they are simply not for us. As with any exercise regime it is always better to be comfortable and so we should only complete supersets in a controlled and safe manner!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Essential Vitamins for the Overweight


Often our diet is not good enough, or we have off days. At times like this we can supplement our diet with vitamin tablets. However, if we are carrying a few extra kilograms that we don’t want then there are certain vitamins that we must ensure we are getting enough of, whether this is through food or supplements.

Vitamins C, D and E are essential vitamins in this scenario. With extra weight, our bones take more load making them weaker. This is where vitamin D is vital. Vitamin D is a bone strengthening vitamin and can help to counter the extra weight being put on the bones.

Being overweight also increases the chances of developing diabetes. Vitamins C and E come in here. Both this vitamins help to protect blood vessels and to control blood sugar levels.

So, while we may just think that any extra weight will look bad, there are other issues that can arise and it is important that we are aware of them and combat them.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Goals


Identifying Our Goals

When we first decide to start exercising again we often rush to the gym and get a membership or buy a new piece of home exercise equipment – we do not even think about what our goals are. When exercising and working out there is always a reason behind it, and usually we have a goal that we are aiming for as well. To get the most from our workout it is definitely important for us to identify our goals.

Why do we need to identify our goals?

When we give ourselves goals and targets to aim for, we are far more likely to achieve it. However, it is important to be specific. Saying that we want to lose weight and get fit is not specific enough. Instead, we should say that we want to lose 5kg and be able to run for 10 minutes.

Making plans

It is also vitally important that we make plans in order for us to achieve our goals. This will vary depending on our goal but it is essential. We need to look at both exercise and diet when making our plans and change these factors accordingly.

To conclude

Identifying what we want to achieve from our exercise regime is vitally important as we are far more likely to achieve our goals, but it is important that we are specific on what we set out to do and plan our diet and training regime around the specific plans that we make.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Are We Taking More Risks With Our Food?

According to the BBC, we are taking more risks with the food we are eating. A survey suggests that risks are being taken with our food due to money constraints. It is suggested that we are trying to make more of our food, trying to stretch it further. There are a number of points to address with these issues.

First of all, money constraints. This is a clearly an issue for many people, and it is vitally important that we are careful with our money and use it wisely, even on food. However, we should always be careful of what we eat. I truly believe that we can control our spending and still eat healthily and safely. There is no need to go past 'use-by' dates.

Secondly, we need to sensible about things. Just because food is passed a 'sell-by' date does not mean that it is dangerous. A 'use-by' date is a different matter as this suggests potential harm. But a sell-by date is not something we should panic about. If it looks and smells bad, then we should not use it. Sensible! Let's not forget, we have not always had to rely on these dates on our food!

It is also important to note that we can always look to the freezer to preserve our food. If we know we are not going to use something then why not freeze it. This will give it some extra life and we can still enjoy it!



Sunday, 10 June 2012

Free Gyms

Free Gyms

I have seen mentioned, many times, free gyms in parks. I assumed that this was an American tradition, and something that has passed us by in England. However, I thought it was a surperb idea and certainly one that should be used in England. The more I read, however, the more it seemed that this idea was apparently being utilised in England too. However, I had never seen one of these gyms before in my life. It was a great pleasure, therefore, when I saw a brand new one installed in a park not far from where I live.

As Good As a Real Gym?

Now, obviously, these park gyms are not as good or advanced as a professional sports gym or fitness club, and the equipment is nowhere near as good. However, it is more the fact that these are a way for ANYBODY to have a chance to use some equipment and exercise a few muscles.  I truly believe that initiatives like this should be encouraged further, and installed in more parks for everyone to use.

I am totally aware, though, of the dangers of abuse and vandelism, but a lot of good may come from them too. I am hoping these will continue to be installed.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Finding Inspiration

What is Your Inspiration?

This is only going to be a short post today, however, it is still an important one. One of the most important aspects of health and fitness is finding an inspiration. This, ultimately, is what makes get up and go. There can be many different places from which inspiration can derive and it is important that we find ours.

At a basic level, inspiration to exercise and eat right should come from the fact that it can contribute to a long and healthy life. However, there are other things that we can use for inspiration too. I remember when I first started lifting weights, for example, it was to impress girls! When I was overweight, I still played football and other sports, and this inspired me to get back in shape as I was not performing to a decent enough level and was simply not fit enough.

Basically, it is important that we find our inspiration, in whatever it might be, and use this to motivate us to reach our fitness and health goals.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Is Chocolate Good For You?


We all want chocolate to be good for us right? Well, this blog will examine what, if any, health benefits we can get from consuming chocolate.

Is chocolate good for you?

It has been strongly suggested that the answer to this question is yes. There are, according to research, health benefits associated with eating chocolate, particularly dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains the most amount of cocoa and this is where the good stuff is found.

What are the health benefits of dark chocolate? Why is dark chocolate good for you?

Research indicates that there may be a number of health benefits to consuming dark chocolate. It is good for our heart; eating dark chocolate two or three times a week can help to lower blood pressure and in turn will help our heart! It can also impact our brain; research indicates that a healthy blood flow, helped by consuming dark chocolate, can improve cognitive function. Dark chocolate can help to control our blood sugar level and this can help to prevent type 2 diabetes. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals in the body. It can help with tooth enamel as it contains theobramine and this has been shown to harden our tooth enamel. Finally, it contains high levels of vitamins and minerals; potassium, copper, magnesium and iron in particular.

Avoid Milk

Research suggests that drinking milk with our chocolate may neutralise some of the health benefits that we can gain from consuming chocolate.

Can I Eat Lots of Chocolate?

Unfortunately, this does not mean that we can just eat endless amounts of chocolate. There are still calories to think about! However, we can certainly eat chocolate, relatively guilt free as part of our calorie intake for the day.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

An Essential Exercise - The Lunge

Lunges

This blog entry is going to look into an exercise that is often overlooked, but is a very effective bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. We will look into how to do lunges as well as the advantages and benefits of doing lunges. This is an exercise that is still used in the military today, so it is clearly a vital exercise.

How to do Lunges

Lunges are a simple exercise to do and can be done anywhere, making them a useful exercise to utilize. To perform a lunge we begin with our feet shoulder width apart. From here, we step forward with one foot so that it is in front of us. As we step we bend at the knee and hip so that our rear leg is almost in contact with the floor. We then bring ourselves back to the starting position. It is important that when we are performing lunges that we keep our head and shoulders relaxed and brace our abdomen.

What are the benefits of lunges?

Lunges are designed to strengthen the thigh muscles and the glute, as well as other muscles. This is a benefit in itself, any exercise that targets more than one muscle is a good thing! Lunges also help to develop and improve our balance, provide a core workout and are good for the spine.

What muscles do lunges work?

As mentioned earlier, lunges work a variety of muscles. They primarily work the quadriceps but also hit a number of other muscles. The glutes, the hamstrings, the core muscles and the soleus. On top of working these muscles lunges are good for the spine!
 

Friday, 1 June 2012

A Weight Free Workout


A bodyweight exercise programme

Many of us cannot afford the time or cost of a gym membership. On top of that, many of us struggle to get any training in at all. However, there should be no real excuse not to exercise. Reading around the internet I happened to come across another weight free workout that is very effective. For this workout we only need two pieces of equipment; a Swiss ball and a Pull Up bar. This workout is known as the Bodyweight 200, as it requires 200 repetitions in total!

How Often to do the Workout?

This workout is designed to be completed 3 times a week, and the source suggests Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, it is more important to fit it in to our own schedule, so any combination will be sufficient.

The Workout

It is important that the workout is completed in one go, with only short rests in between the exercises.

1. 30 repetitions of Prisoner Squats
2. 30 push-ups
3. 10 jumps
4. 10 Swiss-ball leg curls
5. 10 Swiss-ball pikes
6. 20 step ups
7. 5 pull ups or chin ups
8. 30 forward lunges
9. 20 tucked-elbow push-ups
10. 15 inverted rows
11. 15 prisoner squats
12. 5 pull ups or chin ups

If this is too easy then repeat the workout with only a short rest. This workout will work the entire body, can be done at home and requires very little equipment.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Aerobic Workouts - Let's Mix It Up

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is important for many reasons, depending on what our goals are. Weight control, heart health and general fitness are just a few reasons as to why aerobic exercise is vital. There are many ways in which we can get an aerobic workout. Running, jogging, skipping, swimming, cycling and walking are all examples of aerobic exercise. However, as with any exercise regime, it is vital that we avoid getting stuck in a rut. It is important, therefore, to mix things up.

Short Blasts of Aerobic Activity

To change things up a bit, and make some great gains in the process, we can try the following with our aerobic routine.

  • Select any type of aerobic exercise (our favourite) to complete 3 times a week
  • Warm up at a steady pace for a few minutes
  • Increase the pace, but remain comfortable
  • For 15 seconds go at our maximum speed
  • Return to a comfortable pace and keep this pace for a minute and a half
  • Repeat the 15 second blast!
  • Complete around 5-10 intervals in the same manner
  • Ensure we have a cool down of a few minutes at a very relaxed pace

Changing our aerobic routine will help us to continue seeing the results that we want, preventing any chance of a plateau (if there is such a thing).

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Full Body Stretch

Full Body Stretch

This blog has already discussed the importance of stretching (look it up!). This particular entry, however, will discuss a full body stretch that can be used to end any workout, leaving us flexible and ready for the next day.


To do this full body stretch we sit on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of us. We place the foot of the other leg touching the inner thigh of the stretched out leg, making the shape of a '4' with our legs. Stretch both arms out, attempting to touch the toe of the outstretched leg. This will stretch many parts of our body. The calf, achilles, hamstring, hip, knee, lower back, glutes, shoulder and wrists will all be stretched in this move. Aim to hold for 20-30 seconds and then swap legs.


This is simply a great way of ending a workout to ensure that the body remains flexible and supple. It will help our muscles to recover properly, allowing them to develop and grow. However, it is best that we still combine this stretch with other stretches to get the most from it.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Trans Fat and Why It Should Be Avoided


What is Trans Fat?

Small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in certain foods, such as beef and lamb. However, most trans fats are processed. They are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils in order to solidify them. They are also, often, referred to as partially hydrogenated fats. These are, generally, considered to be the worst form of fats for our health.

What is trans fat found in?

Trans fat is found in a variety of food that we consume. Some common sources of trans fat include; margarine, crisps (or chips for Americans) and bakery products. Food labels often show ‘partially hydrogenated’ and this is a synthesised trans fat.

Why We Should Avoid Trans Fats

It appears that there are a number of reasons as to why we should look to avoid trans fats:
  • They can raise the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while lowering the good cholesterol levels.
  • It is also suggested that consuming trans fats increases the risk of us developing heart disease and stroke.
  • There also appears to be a link between the consumption of trans fat and the development of type 2 diabetes
  • There is some evidence that shows that trans fats contribute more to cardio-vascular disease than other fats.


So, it is important to be aware of what we are eating and aim to keep our consumption of trans fats to a minimum due to the potential health risks associated with them.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Should We Take Dietary Supplements?


Should we supplement?

This blog entry will look into whether we should use supplements or not. It will look into exactly what supplements are and identify whether or not they are actually beneficial to us or not.

What are supplements?

A dietary supplement is just what it sounds like it is – something that we take to provide things that are missing from our diet. Typically, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids are commonly taken as supplements. Generally, dietary supplements come in pill or tablet form but there are other varieties too.

What do supplements do?

Supplements are designed to help us ‘fill the gaps’ that are in our diet. So, for example, many people take omega-3 capsules as they do not get enough omega-3 in their diet. In essence, the aim is to get things into the body that it needs to function properly. They are used in everyday life but are also common in sports and rehabilitation as well.

Should we supplement?

In an ideal world we would consume everything we need from the food and drink we take. A balanced diet should provide all the micro and macro nutrients that we need to live a healthy life with the body functioning correctly. However, there are a number of reasons why we may not be getting the right amounts of something into our body and so supplements can certainly be useful. The ultimate answer to this is that, no we should not supplement our diet if possible. However, if we must use supplements then if is better than losing out completely. We must be wary of what we purchase, though, and do our research before buying to ensure we get quality.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Why Diet and Nutrition is so important - Part 2


Why Diet and Nutrition is so important

This is the second part of the blog entry examining why diet and nutrition is so important to us, and why we must be aware of what we are consuming. This entry will look at water, vitamins and minerals in particular. 

Water

Water is crucial to our body functioning correctly. When we are even slightly dehydrated our body is not working as it should be. Water carries oxygen and nutrients around the body, allowing the body to function. It also clears out waste and dissipates body heat. It is important to note that we should not wait until we feel thirsty to drink water, as by then we are already slightly dehydrated.

Vitamins

We should aim to get our vitamins from food, not pills. This is something that a lot of research appears to agree on. Vitamins are vital for the body to function correctly, as they ensure that a lot of complicated actions happen. Vitamins help to allow the body to make energy from other nutrients, help the bones and muscles to grow, help with our cells and many other functions that we need just to live!

Minerals

As with vitamins it is important that we get our minerals from food rather than a tablet. We do not actually need large amounts of minerals but they are still vital for our body. Bone structure, heartbeat and cell activity are all impacted by our mineral intake.

Another thought

An important point to remember is that our diet plan will vary on what our goals are. For example, if we want to bulk up then it is important to increase the number of calories we consume during the day, focussing on increases in protein and carbohydrates.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Why Diet and Nutrition is so important - Part 1


Why diet and nutrition is so important

Not only is the food and drink we intake important for fuelling our workout it is vital in the way we look. If we want our perfect body then our diet will have a massive say in achieving it. This post is the first of two parts that will examine why what we eat is so important to us.

Why eat right?

If we are eating right our body runs much more efficiently; with our muscles being fuelled better, bulked faster and repaired easier. Basically, eating right will lead to us getting stronger and more resilient. There are a variety of classes of nutrients that are important to us; carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals. Each type of nutrient is important for different reasons.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (like fats) get a bad press and there is often anti-carbohydrate press out there. The Atkins diet has been a big fad over recent years, which involves eating very few carbohydrates. Carbs do not deserve this bad reputation. Sure, sugar and other sweeteners should not be over consumer. However, fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain carbohydrates that are vital to our health. Generally, carbohydrates should make up around 30-50% of our diet.

Protein

Protein is pretty much the building block of muscle. If we want to build muscle then protein is vital. Studies have shown that protein from animals builds muscle much better than protein from soya and vegetables. The most widely accepted pieces of research would lead us to believe that we should aim to eat between 0.27 to 0.37 grams of protein per kilo of body weight daily.

Fats

Like carbohydrates fats have a really bad press. The nutritional value of some fats has been seriously underrated, whilst the drawbacks have been grossly exaggerated. Basically, we need fat. We should aim to avoid trans fats, and saturated fats to a degree, but should aim to get the other fats into our diet.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Weight Loss Tips - Let's See Our Muscles


Some basics for losing the gut

Everyone reading (or writing!) this wants to see their muscles. In order for us to see our muscles, we must remove what is hiding them. This is often makes for a hard thing to do, as we know we need to eat less to lose the gut, but eating too little will mean we lose muscle. Therefore, it is vital that still eat enough to preserve our muscle, but not so much that the fat builds up. Here are a few tips that will help us achieve this.

1)      Aim to avoid ‘dry’ carbohydrates after 4p.m. Eating carbs is vital to our body, but on an evening aim to eat brown rice or wholegrain pasta and of course our vegetable rather than other carbs!

2)      Ensure that we eat good fats. Cutting fats from our diet is ridiculous, it is essential to our body. We must make sure, however, that we are eating the right fats.

3)      We should try to fill up on protein and vegetables. Eating good levels of protein will help us to feel fuller, for longer. This will help us to avoid overeating.

4)      We should aim to eat a good amount of fibre. It will help our body deal with dietary fat.

These are just some basic tips when we are aiming to lose our belly and still maintain the muscles that we already have.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Push-Up Variation


Three-Point Push-Up

Push-ups are an exercise that should form some part of everybody’s basic workout regime. They are a fantastic exercise for keeping fit and healthy as well as strengthening the muscles of the chest, core, shoulders and arms. But, after a while, it is important to mix things up. This blog post is going to discuss a variation of the press up known as the three-point push-up.

How to do a three-point push-up

A three-point push-up is simple to do if we already know how to do a normal push-up. We get into the normal push-up position, but instead of having both feet on the floor we place one on top of the other, meaning our weight is distributed to three points as opposed to four. We then, as with basic push-ups, slowly lower ourselves to the floor, pause, and then return to the starting position for one rep. We should swap feet halfway through the set.

Why bother with a three point push-up?

This exercise works the same muscles as a basic push-up (the triceps, chest, core and shoulders) but these muscles get worked more intensely because our weight is distributed on three points rather than four. A basic push-up is one of the best exercises that there is - but a three-point push-up is even better!

For more information on push-ups in general, visit this fantastic webpage: Why Push-Up?

Friday, 11 May 2012

A Piece of Equipment we Should All Have


A piece of equipment we should all have

I am someone who mainly works out at home, although I do go to the gym now and then. I use very little equipment for my workouts and use a lot of bodyweight exercises to keep fit and strong. To be fair, I am not someone who is keen on developing huge mass so I do not need the biggest weights money can by. However, there is one piece of equipment that I swear by, because it is so versatile. I am referring to a doorway pull up bar (or wall bar).

What is a pull up bar?

A doorway pull up bar is, obviously, a bar that can be used for pull ups. They are a piece of home equipment that fit into (most) doorways so that we can do our pull up exercises from home. However, pull ups are not the only exercise that can be done with this piece of equipment and that is why they are so valuable to us.

What exercises can be done?

There are so many exercises that can be done, as well as variants of the basic forms of exercises too. There is of course the pull up and chin up, with the many variants that come with them, such as one-handed versions of these exercises. We can also use a door bar to do hanging knee raises, which is a very tough abdominal exercise. Hanging leg raise is another exercise, quite similar to the knee raise. A hanging hip knee raise is fantastic for our abdominals too! Simple put, the number of exercises we can do with one piece of equipment is fantastic.

Why should we all have a door bar?

As well as all the exercises that we can do with them, door bars are really convenient to use. Many fit to any door, and they are generally very easy to store. If we travel they are also pretty easy to take to hotels and use too.