The SparkPeople Blog

The Natural Benefits of Ginger

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/28/2015  9:00:00 AM   :  8 comments   :  11,729 views

The next time you get an upset stomach, you might be relieved to know that you don't have to down spoonfuls of gross pink fluid or chew chalky tablets. In case of bellyache, stock your fridge with one thing: Ginger. Hundreds of years ago, people sailed all over the globe in search of this natural soother of upset bellies. Ginger has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting, even in chemotherapy patients. But that's not the only reason you should start consuming more of this spice. 

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3 Tips for Healthy Summer Hydration

By: , – Lisa Katic, RD
7/27/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  8,395 views

As the weather gets hot and steamy in the summer, you probably wear lighter clothing, shift what you eat and make sure to apply sunscreen frequently. What often gets overlooked is what to drink. Staying well-hydrated not only quenches your thirst, but it can also help keep you energized, control hunger and enable you to stay the course to lead a balanced, active life. To help you better hydrate this summer, here are three simple tips to keep in mind. 

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A 6-Step, Full-Body Barre Workout

By: , – Suzanne Bowen, Fitness Instructor
7/27/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  4 comments   :  14,825 views

Barre, the ballet-inspired workout that focuses on isometric strength training, continues to gain new fans around the country due to its quick results and unique, graceful movements. Get a taste of this increasingly popular way to work out with this routine developed by BarreAmped creator and fitness instructor Suzanne Bowen. The total-body barre workout can be done anywhere you have a ledge or some other support for balance. These six effective moves will have your muscles shaking and working. Grab your mat, some light hand weights and a stopwatch, then warm up for five minutes and try it for yourself!

Up & Back with Arm Sculpt 
To begin, hold on to something sturdy for balance and grip a light weight in your left hand. Extend left leg forward while keeping the right knee soft and hips squared. Take your left arm straight back behind rib cage as you feel your triceps contract.

On your inhale, hinge at the hips, bend your left leg and move the torso to face down as you reach the left leg straight back and your left arm forward. Exhale and return to start move. Continue for one minute.

Make it easier: Decrease range of motion, hand weight size or duration.

Make it harder: Increase time to 90 seconds and, with each move, pause and pulse arm and leg 10 times.

Troubleshoot: Be careful not to lock out the standing knee. Make sure that the leg is moving straight. When you hinge to move the leg back behind your body, bend the knee and press it back.

Works: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and triceps.

Fiddler with Rear Shoulder Lift 
From the last rep of "Up and Back" above, hold that hinge. Bend your elbow and face palm to the back, keeping the arm in line with your shoulder. Bend your left knee and point toes, then lift your right heel. Pulse left knee and elbow up in tiny moves up and down for one minute.

Make it easier: Drop right heel down, drop the weight and stay more upright.

Make it harder: Hinge more parallel to the floor, dip down a little lower in the right knee and increase duration to 90 seconds.

Troubleshoot: Keep hips square, right knee soft and core tight so that you don't move the lower back at all.

Works: Glutes, hamstrings, calves, rear deltoid, lower back.

Wide Second Middle Shoulder Lift 
Holding support with right hand and weight in left hand, which is in front of hips, step out into a wide plie position and raise heels up. Stand up, keeping your heels lifted and raise your left arm to shoulder height. Move down and up slowly within this full range of motion. Repeat for one minute.

Make it easier: Keep heels down, decrease duration.

Make it harder: At the end of the 60 seconds, keep arm lifted, bend knees to the lowest point and pulse for 30 more seconds.

Troubleshoot: Ensure that knees and feet are tracking by making sure not to turn your feet out too much. With the heels up, keep the weight on your big and second toes, and less on the pinky toes. Keep your heels below the knees.

Works: Quads, inner thighs, calves and middle deltoids.

Turn around and repeat the first three exercises on the other side.

Tabletop Bent Knee Lift 
On a mat, bring your hands below the shoulders and your knees underneath the hips. Place weight behind the front knee, securing it so it does not fall out. Tuck your back toes under and lift knee off mat as you raise the front of the leg up. Keep your core tight and pulse the front bent leg up for one minute.

Make it easier: Keep back knee down on the mat and/or do not use a weight behind the knee.

Make it harder: Move front knee in a full range of motion (all the way down and all the way back up) for 30 seconds, then pulse at the top for 30 seconds.

Works: Shoulders, arms, chest, glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs and lower back.

Troubleshoot: Keep everything in the upper body lifted and engaged. Do not let your neck or lower back sag. Core should be lifted to ensure that movement is in the leg lifting, not the lower back.

Repeat on the other side.

Single Straight Leg Stretch 
Lie face up on the mat, draw legs up, keeping them as straight as possible, and feel your abs lift. Raise shoulder carriage and keep your head in line with the spine as you gaze up and ahead. Inhale. On the exhale, lower your front leg down as your bring your back leg up, keeping both legs straight. Inhale and exhale to change legs. Repeat for one minute.

Make it easier: Lower your shoulder carriage and your head down to the mat. Keep knees soft or slightly bent and decrease the range of motion. 

Make it harder: Speed up the leg motions while maintaining control and stability through the core.

Troubleshoot: This move requires flexibility in the hamstrings and strength in the abdominal muslces. If you feel a strain in your neck, try pulling the abs in more. If your neck is still straining, lower your head and shoulders to the mat, but stay very connected to your core. As you build strength, attempt to lift the upper torso and head back up. Also, try not to tuck your chin, but instead keep your head in line with the spine.

Works: Abdominal wall and hip flexors. Stretches hamstrings.

Mermaid Bridge with Chest Lift 
Lying face-up on the mat, bring your knees together and your feet apart, keeping your feet close to the hips. Holding a light weight in each hand, bring your arms straight above the chest with palms facing knees. Inhale. On the exhale, press your hips up and lower arms down to either side of the shoulders. Inhale as you lower the hips back down and lift your arms. Repeat this move for one minute. 

Make it easier: Rather than creating the mermaid shape with the legs and feet, keep legs parallel and hip-distance and keep your heels down. 

Make it harder: At the end of the minute, keep hips up, then lower and lift the arms for an additional 30 seconds.

Troubleshoot: It will be tempting to lift the lower body so high that the upper back begins to leave the mat. To avoid this pressure on your neck, be careful to keep you upper back in contact with the mat throughout the move. Also, as you lift your heels to create the mermaid shape, make sure that you are not turning your ankles out too much. In barre exercises, always consider alignment.

Works: Chest, lower back, inner thights and glutes. 

About the Author
Classically trained at the prestigious Lotte Berk Method in NYC, Suzanne Bowen is the creator of Suzanne Bowen Fitness #SBF, an efficient mind-body technique that combines cutting-edge cardio, intelligent strengthening and dynamic stretching. Students flock to Suzanne because of her encouraging, no nonsense, straightforward teaching approach that provides targeted and overall results while guiding people to be the best they can be. From her training in modern and classical dance, Pilates, yoga and deep stretching, Suzanne has also developed the highly successful BarreAmped program that is licensed to over 50 studios worldwide and continues to grow under her tutelage. ''BarreAmped'' (Classic Barre) and ''BarreAmped Boot Camp,'' her newest DVDs, epitomize the best of her Barre targeted workouts and are available on Amazon and  

9 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Dancing Queen

By: , – Alicia Capetillo
7/25/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  1 comments   :  6,309 views

Shakira didn’t get those world famous abs without dance, which, on its own, is enough to sell us on dancing our way to fitness. Whether it’s Zumba, belly dance or just getting down at a wedding, dancing is a legitimate aerobic exercise that burns major calories. You’ll work muscles you didn’t know you had and get your blood flowing, while simultaneously reducing stress and improving your posture. Still on the fence? Consider this:
  • A dance step counts toward your daily step count
  • Dancing is good for your heart
  • You could burn as many calories as popular forms of exercise, including swimming or riding a bicycle.
To get you started and to celebrate National Dance Day (the last Saturday in July), we've compiled some of our favorite articles and videos that showcase the benefits of adding dancing to your workout schedule. Put on some Britney, Beyoncé, a Bollywood beat, Blondie or whatever it is that gets you moving, and start dancing your way to a healthier you today.

The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Burning Fat Before you get started, educate yourself on the many benefits of kicking up your dancing shoes. You might be surprised by how much your body appreciates a good dance party.
14-Minute Cardio Dance Workout If your only taste of Bollywood and Indian dance is the credits sequence of Slumdog Millionaire, you are truly missing out on a colorful and fun tradition. Familiarize yourself with the high-energy dance form with this intense—but so fun!—cardio workout.
16-Minute Bollywood Cardio Workout If every form of exercise was this much fun, we would have no problem working out every day! Work your hips, abs and more in this enjoyable workout led by fitness star Hemalayaa.
All About Zumba For many people, Zumba, the popular Latin-inspired exercise class, put dance fitness on the map. Your muscles aren’t the only thing that will be sore after hitting a Zumba class—chances are your cheeks will get a workout from smiling as you dance the hour away.
5 Dance Moves Anyone Can Do Even if you swear you’ve been cursed with two left feet, you’ll still be able to master these dance moves. Get an introduction to the vibrancy of Cuban Mambo as internationally acclaimed choreographer Kimberly Miguel Mullen leads you through five basic moves.
Proof You Can Be a Talented Dancer at Any Size If the thought of dancing makes you cringe with embarrassment, here’s a fun reminder that you don’t have to be a stick-thin principal ballet dancer to twirl your way around the dance floor.

Like us, our friends at Acacia are also dance fitness advocates and have the high-energy workouts to prove it. Check out some of their online exercise videos and DVDs for more dancing that will challenge your muscles and your stamina.
AcaciaTV Everyone can be a part of National Dance Day, right in their own living room, thanks to AcaciaTV’s large selection of dance workouts. For a fun sweat that will never be boring, check out the Dance and Be Fit series, which includes Latin-inspired moves, hip hop cardio and more.
Shazzy Fitness DVDs Inspirational music fuses with hip-hop beats in two new DVDs from Shazzy Fitness, A Time to Dance and In the Beginning. Led by professional dancers, including two former NBA Atlanta Hawks A-Town Dancers, the DVDs include multiple 10-minute workouts that allow you to mix and match each day. Stream the workouts at home for a family-friendly dance workout that will energize the body and elevate the spirit.
Suzanne Bowen Fitness Fitness and lifestyle expert Suzanne Bowen takes the ballet-inspired barre workout to the next level with her BarreAmped DVD series. Combining dance, Pilates, yoga and her own training methods, Suzanne’s unique style and challenging sequences offer a full-body workout for anyone, including pregnant moms. In addition to BarreAmped Sleek & Toned Prenatal Workout for pre- and post-natal fitness, dance fans can also purchase BarreAmped BOOT CAMP, the original BarreAmped, BarreAmped Cardio Fat Burn or stream workouts online.
Feeling ready to get down? Tell us: Which dance exercise do you love? Or, which ones would you like to try?

AcaciaTV is a leading subscription-based streaming fitness service easily accessible on a variety of platforms/devices. Members have complete access to more than 100 workouts in a diverse range of disciplines which they can stream anywhere at any time. AcaciaTV now features new themed 20-minute workouts each month from trainers Kristin McGeeAmanda YoungDeazie GibsonGerren Liles and Liz LeFrois. Consumers can visit Acacia TV at US.Acacia.TV and easily try out the service with its 10-day free trial. The channel is for all fitness levels, offering workouts from beginners through advanced. Subscription to the service includes access to AcaciaTV’s Facebook fitness community which offers additional support and a group forum for all members.SparkPeople members can receive 25% off any membership for a year with the code ACACIASPARK. 

Breakfast, the Most Important Meal (for Weight Loss)

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/24/2015  10:00:00 AM   :  0 comments   :  6,243 views

You might want to lose weight for a variety of reasons: to feel better, look better, or maybe because your doctor told you that it will benefit your overall health. One thing to keep in mind is that, like every other thing you put in your mouth, breakfast (or lack of breakfast) can really make or break your weight-loss efforts.

Mix It Up

It's important to have protein, whole grain carbs, and fruit at every breakfast, both to keep yourself from getting bored and to ensure you get a good balance of nutrients. This balance not only helps stave off hunger for a longer period of time, but the whole grains won’t make your blood sugar spike. When blood sugar spikes, eventually it crashes, and then you’ll be hungry and more likely to feel tired. A balanced mixture of foods is not only important in helping you lose or maintain weight, but it also keeps you from foraging for more food before lunch.

Tea, Please!

Is coffee not your cup of tea? Green tea can give you the morning pick-me-up you need while providing healthy antioxidants and aiding in satiety.

Make Your Own

Many storebought products come with added preservatives or other ingredients for the sole purpose of expanding the shelf-life of those foods. Although a longer shelf-life is great for convenience and food storage, some of these additives aren't exactly the healthiest things you can put in your body. But you don't have to rely on the storebought stuff! It's plenty easy to make your own wholesome granola. Give this homemade granola a spin and see what you think! 

Get Your Fiber

You've probably heard over and over again how important it is to get your fiber. But what does fiber actually do for you? First of all, fiber keeps you full and helps you eat less overall, which will obviously help with weight loss. It also cleans out your insides, which sounds gross, but is necessary for a healthy colon and body. For breakfast, eat an apple, some berries, or a couple slices of whole-grain bread. Try to get 25-30 grams of fiber every day, starting with your morning meal.

To Yogurt or Not to Yogurt?

Yogurt has been getting a bad rap lately. That is because flavored yogurt often has sugary preserved fruit or other flavors added. These additions to plain yogurt give the otherwise good-for-you food unnecessary sugars. Get plain yogurt and add your own homemade granola, some fresh berries, or just a touch of honey. It doesn’t take much to turn this otherwise sneaky sugar bomb into a healthy choice!

Don’t skip breakfast. We’ve all heard it for years. Now you have a legitimate reason to not skip the meal. Take advantage of ensuring that what you put in your mouth is healthy and you’ll be better off for it.

Simple Tweaks for Summer Weight Loss

By: , – Birdie Varnedore, MD
7/17/2015  12:00:00 AM   :  10,828 views

Losing weight and keeping it off can be a challenge, especially in the summer months when travel, outdoor barbecues and other social events are in full swing. But it’s not impossible.
I know this because not long ago, I was nearly twice my current weight. As a neurologist, busy wife and mom of five kids, I realize how hard it can be to lead a balanced lifestyle. The key to my 140-pound weight loss was making smart choices.

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