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7 Fun Ways to Burn BIG Calories this Spring


Do you love spring as much as I do? It's so energizing to wake up when the sun is shining, enjoy the outdoors without wearing a coat, and see the green grass and tiny flower buds flanking the streets. Every sunny day, I lament that I'm in the office instead of outdoors, which is why I get outside as much as possible after work and each weekend. When the scenery is beautiful and the temperature perfect, almost any activity—including exercise—seems more fun and enjoyable. Here are 7 worthwhile pastimes that can help you get fit, burn calories and enjoy the outdoors this spring!
Posted 5/17/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 87 comments   30,734 views
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Our Fastest Cardio Workouts


Do you ever feel like you don't have enough time to get a good workout in during the day? No need to fret because you can still get an effective cardio workout in just 10 minutes. I gave up the all-or-nothing thinking years ago and have done my best to commit to at least 10 minutes of exercise each day. It all really DOES add up! Even if you did just 10 minutes of exercise a day, that is 70 minutes of exercise for the week, which is better than not doing anything at all and you can still see the benefits from doing that.

Posted 5/3/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Denise Tausig : 36 comments   163,337 views
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The 10 Worst Cardio Crimes


Like many women, I love me some cardio. I like to get sweaty when I work out and feel like I really accomplished something, and almost nothing makes me feel that way like a tough Spinning class or long run can.

But as a trainer (and self-proclaimed cardio lover), I've seen my share of mistakes in and out of the gym.

Cardio does a body good, but if you're guilty of these common cardio crimes, you could be putting your body at risk and undermining your efforts.

Think you're a cardio saint, innocent of any and all offenses? Read on to see if you're guilty as charged!
Posted 4/17/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 128 comments   573,374 views
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Find Out How Many Calories You Burn After Exercise


We’ve always heard that the positive benefits of physical activity continue long after your workout session is over.  More energy, less stress and those “feel good” endorphins are some of the immediate effects.  But what about the mysterious “afterburn” that a lot of people talk about?  Do you really continue burning more calories after the workout, or is it really just during the workout that matters?  A new study finds that it’s possible to burn more calories throughout the day--in fact, up to 14 hours later.
 
The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, took 10 healthy males and examined their energy expenditure under two different sets of conditions.  “During the first session, participants were mostly inactive, but they stood and stretched for two minutes every hour. They could also perform everyday tasks, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth, as needed. During the second session, participants followed the same routine, but then cycled vigorously for 45 minutes.”
 
Researchers found that participants burned 190 additional calories while at rest throughout the day after vigorous exercise (defined in the study as a 73% max heart rate), compared to when they did no activity.  The increased calorie burn lasted for over 14 hours--and continued even into the first few hours of sleeping.  This is the first study to use a metabolic chamber (a highly controlled environment) to estimate calorie burned after vigorous physical activity.  
 
The number of calories each person burns during--and after--a workout will vary.  It depends on many factors:  gender, age, genetics, type of workout, etc.  But it’s something to keep in mind as you weigh the benefits of exercise, and whether or not the time and effort is worthwhile.  I think exercise is a key component of any healthy lifestyle, regardless of how much exercise you can do or how intense it is.  Previous studies have also shown that your body's metabolism stays revved after a workout and that generally, the more intense the workout is, the greater the post-workout "afterburn" will be. This study just gives one more reason to get off of the couch and get moving--no matter how much or how little time you have!
 
What do you think?
Posted 3/29/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 78 comments   179,389 views
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30-Minute Interval Workout for the Elliptical


I know plenty of people who love their elliptical trainers—and there is plenty of reason to. The elliptical mimics the motion of walking or running but with very little impact on the joints. That means it's more comfortable for you to get your heart rate up and get really sweaty. Whether you want to go easier, go harder, or something in between, a standard elliptical has plenty of options for you.
 
But following the same elliptical programs day in and day out can make your elliptical workout turn stale—and hurt your results. So I developed a fun interval-style workout that'll challenge you and help pass the time. With frequent changes in speed and resistance, your workout will fly by—and you'll reap the fat-burning, time-saving, calorie-torching benefits of interval training!
Posted 2/27/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 26 comments   115,033 views
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The 500-Calorie Treadmill Workout


It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of the treadmill. I love to run, hike and even walk with my pup, but I do it all outdoors all year round. Rain, snow, wind, heat—almost nothing can keep me from my outdoor workouts. For me, a treadmill is a "last resort" when I have no other option to get outside.
 
But I know that not everyone is as gung-ho about outdoor exercise as I am. Many people hate running in the cold or the heat. (Nothing wrong with that.) Others have no other option to work out, especially if they have to be at home with kids or don't live in a safe neighborhood for walking or running. And still some prefer the slightly cushioned surface of a treadmill, which takes away some of the impact of running, making it easier on the joints and even the spinal discs.
 
Whatever your reason, we've all turned to the treadmill from time to time. And the best way to prevent boredom and get great results from your treadmill workout is to incorporate intervals. Here's a simple workout I developed to help you torch calories with your trusty treadmill.
Posted 1/16/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 97 comments   362,102 views
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Rise and Stride: Walk Off Up to 10 Pounds in 28 Days


When's the best time of day to exercise? First thing in the morning of course! Morning exercisers tend to stick with their workouts because nothing else (besides sleep) has a chance to get in the way. So I designed this progressive four-week walking program specifically for morning walkers who might meet up with friends to keep their workouts social and motivating.
 
You can, of course, do these workouts solo, on a treadmill or outdoors, or any time of day. Each one burns about 300 calories. Coupled with a reduced-calorie diet (try SparkPeople's free calorie tracker to find out how much you should eat to lose weight), this plan can help jump-start your weight loss in just one month! 
Posted 1/1/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 41 comments   450,925 views
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Does Yoga Count as Cardio?


Yoga has seen a steady rise in popularity over the past few years.  According to a 2008 report released by Yoga Journal, 15.8 million American adults were practicing yoga.  In 2010, that number grew to 21.9 million.  The majority reported that they practice yoga for a number of health benefits, stress reduction and relaxation.  Yoga is a great complement to a well-rounded exercise routine, no matter what your fitness level.   It offers a variety of modifications (as needed), styles and intensities, giving it a wide appeal among exercisers of all fitness levels and goals.
 
But one of the questions I get most about yoga isn't whether I recommend it (I do), but whether it counts as a cardio workout. Could yoga replace one or more of your weekly treadmill or elliptical dates? 
Posted 11/19/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 19 comments   28,484 views
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The Truth about the 'Fat-Burning Zone' and Weight Loss


The information on cardio machines can be deceiving. The "fat burning zone" is a myth that is based on a fact, but taken out of context. 

It's true that higher intensity exercise uses more glucose and glycogen (the form of energy your body gets from foods) in proportion to fat, but remember that "high intensity" in this context means exercise that you can only maintain for a couple of minutes before becoming exhausted (i.e. anaerobic exercise). It’s also true that low intensity exercise uses more fat as fuel; moderate intensity exercise that you can maintain for 20 minutes or more is aerobic exercise, and will burn both fat and glucose. 

You're better off exercising in the aerobic zone as much as you can because exercising at higher intensities burns more total calories. The "fat burning zone" business is very misleading. You will burn a larger percentage of fat in relation to glucose when you are working at a lower intensity, but you will also burn fewer total calories and less total fat. 

Bottom line: The relative percentage of fat burned has nothing to do with weight loss—it's the total amount calories burned that counts. So just ignore the machine and continue to exercise aerobically. As a bonus, aerobic exercise also strengthens your heart and cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels
Posted 11/8/2012  12:00:00 AM By: Dean Anderson : 1 comments   4,098 views
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Will Adjusting Form Make You a Better Runner?


Whenever friends or family see me running around our neighborhood, they know it’s me right away.  I have a very distinct run, or as I like to joke, a distinct “shuffle”.  Over the years I’ve tried to adjust the way I run, because I think it could help me get faster.  So far, that has been totally unsuccessful.  I blame my dad for the problem because he runs exactly the same way I do.  It must be genetic.

My problem is that all of the movement in my legs comes from the knee down.  My feet don’t come very far off the ground and I don’t have any lift in my knees.  I know if I could get my knees up and my quads working a little more, I’d have additional power and potentially, additional speed.  I’ve worked with a running coach to try and correct the issue, but at this point, it’s hard to change something I’ve been doing for so long.  Perhaps if I would have tried much earlier in my running career, I would have had more success.  A new study proposes that people naturally become better runners, just by running more.  Although I can’t say the same applied in my case, the results are pretty interesting.

The study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, followed 10 women on a 10-week, self-paced program for new runners.  Each woman visited a lab before started the program to have their aerobic capacity, running form and running economy assessed.  “Running economy, also known as running efficiency, is a measure of how much oxygen a person uses to run at a particular pace — in essence, how hard it is to run at that speed. Efficiency is considered one of the determinants of running success.  A more economical runner requires less energy than others and presumably should be able to run farther or faster.”  It’s no surprise that the new runners were not very economical in the beginning, but that improved as the 10-week training program progressed. 

Additional tests over the 10-weeks found that the women improved their speed and endurance, and also improved their running economy (their ability to use oxygen increased by about 8.5%.)  There were also changes in running stride which ended up making running easier.  For example, their legs became more flexed as they left the ground which allows for a quicker turnover and increased speed.  They also increased stability in their feet as they struck the ground, which indicates becoming more comfortable with the movement of running. 

This study was done on a very small, specific group of people.  The results won’t necessarily translate to all runners, but the study’s author feels it can lead to some important takeaways:   “You can optimize your gait naturally,” she says, “by becoming more conscious of your running movement and how it feels.” Your body, at least in the early stages of becoming a runner, can be a fine and knowledgeable coach.”

My advice is to stick with what feels comfortable.  I know I’ll never have the long stride and leg lift of an Olympic sprinter.  But as long as I can stay injury-free and enjoy what I’m doing, that’s what is most important to me.
 
Have you considered becoming a runner but don’t know where to begin?  Check out SparkPeople’s Running Center, where you can find articles, training programs, virtual races to join and much more!
 
What do you think?
Posted 10/30/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 21 comments   10,762 views
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Video: Simple 6-Minute Cardio Workout


You don't need any fancy equipment to get a good work out. You don't even need a lot of space!
 
I teamed up with my friend Cassey from Blogilates.com to create this simple cardio workout to help you burn lots of calories in just a few minutes. As an added bonus, it's super quiet! You can do this if you have sleeping kiddos at home or even if you're trying to be quiet for your downstairs neighbors.
 
Are you ready to try it?
Posted 10/19/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 46 comments   67,586 views
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Take a Break to Torch the Calories


Having a job that requires sitting most or all of the day doesn't mean that you can't fit in extra calorie burning activities throughout the day. For me, I work from home and am on the computer a lot of the day, however, I take breaks as often as I can to get up and walk around to stretch my legs, which also gives my eyes a rest from the computer screen. Some of my favorite exercise breaks include walking around the house at a fast pace, walking up and down the stairs, dancing around the living room  (my dogs really love this!), or taking the dogs for a quick walk around the neighborhood.  Before working from home though, I worked in a conventional office and would do everything I could to get up and move. I would walk to my co-worker's office/cubicle rather than email them,  take the stairs as much as possible and go for walks during my lunch hour. Even though I'm not in a conventional office now, I still make sure to work in ways to burn extra calories (in addition to my formal exercise) throughout the day.
 
Posted 9/20/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Denise Tausig : 42 comments   16,360 views
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Creative Cardio Workout: The Machine Mixer


We all have our own cardio personalities. Some swear by sweating in the great outdoors. Others prefer the air conditioning. You might prefer exercising solo, while your best friend lives for the contagious energy in a Spinning class.

Whether you're a diehard gym-goer, or (like me) only set foot in the gym when the weather hits unbearable extremes, we all have a few things in common:
 
We want our workouts to be more fun than boring. We want to get the best possible results for our efforts. And we want to feel like the time is speeding by—not dragging.
 
Well, good news! This simple workout technique will help you reach all three goals above, whether you love cardio machines or only use them as a last resort.
Posted 8/24/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 56 comments   29,507 views
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Poll: How Did You Learn to Love Cardio?


When I first set out to lose weight, I didn't know much about exercise. I had spent most of my teen years and early 20s finding ways to avoid exercise, instead choosing to control my weight by restricting calories and other, unhealthy methods. I thought sweating was gross, running made my lungs burn, and I didn't like sports.

So I walked. At first just the two miles home from work, then to work, then longer routes… it felt good to move, then time outside allowed me to clear my mind, and the weight did start to come off. Eventually I joined a gym and started integrating different cardio into my workouts, usually the elliptical. Cardio back then was just something I did to burn calories, not something I particularly enjoyed.

It wasn't until I joined SparkPeople as a member and an employee that I found my two primary forms of cardio: running and Spinning. I love challenging myself in a tough Spinning class, adding resistance until my legs burn and pushing myself to complete the sprints, jumps, and other killer moves. (That Coach Nicole is one tough Spinning teacher! She loves jumps on the bike!) And running gives me time to think, or not think. It's a moving meditation for me, and it allows me to shed stress while getting a great workout.
Posted 8/21/2012  4:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 48 comments   10,524 views
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We Tried It: A Personal Trainer in Your Pocket--for $10


If you attend workout classes regularly, then you probably know how a good instructor can help you get a really great workout. One of the things I love about fitness classes is that I tend to work harder, try more things and get a better workout than I would if I was working out on my own. I've always thought that way about Spinning, for example. I love to teach it (and take it), but if I had to make myself exercise on a stationary bike in the middle of the gym for an hour, I'd lose interest and probably wouldn't push myself very hard. On top of that, I'd probably find a way to cut my workout short out of boredom.
 
But what if you can't always make it to a class? Or you just don't feel comfortable in that group environment? What about the times when you're in a rut with your elliptical or treadmill routine and just need a little boost?
 
That's where MotionTraxx comes in. What started as a free music podcast (available on iTunes) has expanded to feature some expert-created workouts that you can listen to while you work out. These trainers have created workouts for the treadmill, elliptical, bike—and even your own body (no equipment needed). MotionTraxx recently shared a few of these workouts with us. Find out what they're like—and whether they're right for you.
Posted 8/10/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 24 comments   25,460 views
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