Top 10 ways to change your health in 2012

Includes exercises & slimming recipes

CINCINNATI - Every year, most of us make a New Year's resolution or two. Many of those resolutions center around our health and changes we would like to make to feel better and live healthier lifestyles. Some things are obvious, like eating better and exercise but there are other important health changes you can make now that will get you on the right path in the New Year.

Certified personal trainer Krista Mayo of Driven Fitness Training breaks down the top 10 most important health changes you should make in 2012.

1. Create your own personal fitness area!

It doesn't have to cost you thousands of dollars to set up a fitness area at home. You may not necessarily need or want any fancy equipment. You just need to set up a specific place in your home where you go to exercise. Make sure it's an open space so you'll have room to move around. Start simple! Purchase a floor mat, get some 5-10 pound weights, resistance bands and a small medicine ball. You can keep building on your fitness area in the days ahead. If you have a TV in your bedroom or in another area of the house, move it to your new gym and break out those fitness DVDs that have been collecting dust. Don't forget the music! Your favorite tunes will help keep you moving . See a list of exercises at the end of this article!

2. Go to bed!

It might seem obvious, but skipping out on that hour or two of sleep can really affect your productivity and take a  toll on your energy levels. Getting eight hours of sleep every night is so important for your mind and your body. Do what you can to quit the daily chores at least a couple of hours before you go to sleep so you'll be ready to "hit the hay" at a decent time each night. While exercising is important, you'll want to avoid working out just before bedtime as well, so you don't confuse your body into thinking it's time to be full of energy – when really it's time to shut down.

3. Calm Down!

Stress is unavoidable in life, but finding time to de-stress should be part of your everyday health routine. You may think "Where will I find the time?" Work, household chores, kids, all of the extras that you take care of each day can amount to a mountain of stress. Exercise will help. Even a short walk, is a good way to clear your mind. You'll need some quiet "regrouping" time too. Meditation can be a great way to de-stress. Many people enjoy Yoga for its meditative benefits – but even finding a quiet place and just closing your eyes can be a refresher. Instead of coffee, try a cup of calming tea. Black tea, mint flavored, lavender, lemon verbena and ginseng are all soothing choices. Tea drinkers are known to have lower cortisol (stress) levels. Read a good book, take a soothing bath, or listen to music. Talk with a good friend and get a few good laughs in. When the work day is done, stop thinking about everything that you'll need to do for the next day and simply relax.  

4. Don't be too sweet!

Watch your sugar intake. Instead of that Snickers bar or doughnut, have a small piece of dark chocolate instead, or go for the dried fruit to calm that sugar craving. Do your best to cut preservatives out of your diet as well.

5. Cheers to Red Wine!

Indulge in a glass of red wine each night. Drinking a glass of wine has proven benefits for your heart and your skin. Red wine is packed with antioxidants, can help lower cholesterol and reduces inflammation. Dr. Oz described the benefits on a past show.

6. Stretch!

We're not talking boot camp here! Stretching is a quick and easy way to reduce tension and build strength. Before you get moving each day, stretch out your muscles. Just below you'll find benefits of stretching and the top five stretches.

Benefits of stretching:

• Increased movement
• Decreased risk of injury
• Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
• Increased neuromuscular coordination
• Decreased risk of low back pain
• Reduced muscular tension
• Improved balance and posture

Top 5 stretches:

Hamstring Stretch – Slowly bend at the waist and lower your upper body toward the floor. Reach for the floor with your hands and slowly return back to the starting position.

Shoulder Stretch – Use your left hand to gently pull your right arm across your arm toward your opposite shoulder. Switch arms and repeat.

Neck Rolls - Drop chin down to chest, then keeping chin close to the body, roll neck from shoulder to shoulder in a smooth controlled motion - side to side 10 times. This can be done in a sitting or standing position.

Upward Stretch - Place your palms together above your head, and extend your arms upward keeping your palms in contact. Then, with your back kept straight, move your arms slowly backwards until you feel a mild tension in your muscles. Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds and then slowly return to your original position and relax.

Lower back - Lie on your mat, on your back, and slowly bring your knees to your chest using the support of your arms to help you bring your knees closer to your chest.

7. Keep a

Fitness Journal

Write down your fitness goals in a journal. You can keep the journal online if you'd like. Set a list of reasonable goals to start. Record the exercises you do and the food you eat. Even writing down how you feel after exercising or after eating can reveal new things that will help you tailor your individual fitness plan.

8. Lean on Me!

Support is crucial. Find a workout buddy who is supportive and may have the same types of fitness goals that you do. Work out with a friend, child or spouse. Encourage each other to stay motivated. Maybe it's just walking around the mall or grabbing a friend for a short walk during the workday.

9. Play!

Remember how much energy you had as a kid? That's because you were always playing. It's time to play again! If you have gaming systems like the Wii or Xbox, don't just watch your kids have fun, participate! Wii Fit has a number of fitness programs that you might enjoy. Crank up the music and dance, it's a great workout. Find a sport you enjoy or a game that involves movement.  

10. Diet & Exercise:

We know this one's obvious, but in order to be fit you're going to have to eat right and exercise! That doesn't mean you can't have your favorite treats in moderation. Here are some tips:

Diet – It's obvious, but it's important to watch what you eat. Load up on fresh veggies and fruit, try organic foods and look for grass-fed chicken or beef. Make a list before you head to the grocery store so you're not dumping unhealthy foods in the cart.

Exercise – Don't choose exercises that you hate. You won't stick to the routine if you do this. There are so many fitness plans to choose from. Yoga and Pilates to high impact aerobics and kickboxing, find your happy medium and get moving!

For more information or to tailor your own personal fitness plan contact Driven Fitness Training at http://drivenft.com/

Driven Fitness also helps tailor fitness programs for people with health challenges or disabilities.

Here are some gym-free exercises that you can incorporate into your daily workout:

1. Squats

Squats are one of the best exercises you can do. Squats work your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves all at once. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes facing straight ahead or angled slightly outward. Slowly bend the knees and lower hips towards the floor, keeping your torso straight and abs pulled in tight. Keep your knees behind your toes; make sure everything's pointing in the same direction. Do not go lower than 90 degrees. You can also hold a medicine ball to increase intensity.

2. Push-Ups

You'll work your chest, shoulders, triceps, back and abs. How to Do It: Position yourself face down on the floor, balancing on your toes/knees and hands. Your hands should be wider than shoulders, body in a straight line from head to toe. Don't sag in the middle and don't stick your butt up in the air. Slowly bend your arms and lower your body to the floor, stopping when your elbows are at 90 degrees. Exhale and push back up. Variations include incline, decline, wall pushups or, for masochists, one-armed pushups.

3. Lunges

Lunges work most of the muscles in your legs including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

How to Do It:Stand in a split-stance (one leg forward, one leg back). Bend knees and lower body into a lunge position, keeping the front knee and back knee at 90 degree angles. Keeping the weight in your heels, push back up (slowly!) to starting position. Never lock your knees at the top and don't let your knee bend past your toes. Variations: front lunges, back lunges and side lunges.

4. The Plank

The plank is an isolation move and works the abs, back, arms and legs. The plank also targets your internal abdominal muscles.

How to Do It: Lie face down on mat with elbows resting on floor next to chest. Push your body off the floor in a pushup position with body resting on elbows or hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as many times as you can.

5. Sit Ups / Crunches– They work your abdominals.Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms across your chest and raise your body up to try

and meet your knees. This can cause strain on the back, so if you have a weak back it may be better to do a crunch instead

Cardio:

1- Interval Walking

Start with a warm-up (1-3 minutes), from there increase the pace for 30 seconds (eventually increasing to 2 minutes), and then return to a slower pace for 60 seconds. Try to aim to do this for 25 to 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. 

2- Jogging/ Running

Start with a warm up 1- 3 minutes, then begin jogging at a slow pace (take breaks if necessary, until stamina is built up.) Continue the light to moderate jog for 25 to 30 minutes 3-4 times a week.

3- Stair Running

Start with a warm up 1-3 minutes. Beginners should start with 10- to 15-second intervals, walking up one step at a time with your arms at your sides. Walk up and down stairs for 3 to 5 minutes

and then run up the stairs for 30 seconds and walk down the stairs for 30 seconds. Repeat the interval for 25- 30 minutes, take breaks as needed and be sure to cool down. 

4 - Jumping Jacks– Start with a warm up (light jog in place for 1-3 minutes). Begin jumping jacks by touching hands together over your head while jumping out and then returning arms to sides when feet return to starting position. Continue jumping jacks for 1 minute and resting for 30 seconds, eventually working up to 2 minutes straight.

5. Jumping Rope -Jump Ropes can be purchased at sporting good stores and are cheap.  Start with a warm up 1-3 minutes (walking / light jog in place). Begin jumping rope by swinging rope over head and when the rope reaches your feet jump over it landing with soft knees. Continue without stopping for 1-3 minutes with a 30 second break for desired time or 15-20 minutes. 

"SLIM-IT-DOWN" recipe tips:

  • Reduce Sugar - You can usually reduce sugar in a recipe by 1/4 to 1/3 in cookies, pies, and quick breads. 
  • Reduce Fat - Replace half of the fat in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt or prune puree. Use 1% or skim milk rather than whole milk.
  • Reduce Cholesterol - Use two egg whites in the place of one whole egg.
  • Reduce Salt – Try using spices, herbs, vinegar, flavoring extracts, fruit peal or your own blend of seasonings in replace of salts.
  • Replace Butter – Use olive oil. Unlike butter, olive oil is a monounsaturated — or "good" fat with benefits that include a reduced risk of heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis. Olive oil also increases the body's good HDL cholesterol levels.
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