5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight, 20 Minutes at a Time

Paige Smitha freelance health and lifestyle writer, editor and perpetual optimist from Southern California wrote for My Fitness Pal that committing to losing weight is a big enough challenge on its own, and even more challenging if you have a jam-packed schedule. You may think you need to block off a big chunk of time to hit the gym or cook meals from scratch, but that’s not the case. Even if you have just 20 minutes to spare, you can use that time to stay active, dial in your diet and make serious progress.

 

Try these five 20-minute activities to conquer your weight-loss goals.

1. DO A HIIT WORKOUT

If you only have 20 minutes a day to exercise, ACE-certified personal trainer Amanda Dalesays you should focus on HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. Add resistance by using weights, kettlebells or resistance bands.

“Working in high-intensity intervals burns fat faster than working at a steady-state intensity,” says Dale echoing many studies, “and the afterburn effect of working out at high intensity means you’ll burn more calories after the workout as well.”

2. STOCK UP ON HEALTHY STAPLES AT THE MARKET

A good grocery store haul can simplify your meal prep process and help you make smart food choices day in and day out.

Dietitian Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition at Miami’s Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa,recommends buying whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. “Stock up on fruits, veggies, whole grains [like] oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice, plant protein [such as] beans and lentils, egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and some salmon and chicken breast,” she says.

It’s also important to pick up easy, nutrient-rich snack foods to help manage your appetite throughout the day, according to dietitian Cara Harbstreet of Street Smart Nutrition. Think: fresh fruit, raw nuts and protein bars.


READ MORE > YOUR QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO CREATING A CALORIE DEFICIT


3. GO FOR A WALK AFTER LUNCH

Carve out an extra 20 minutes during your afternoon break to get moving. “Taking a walk after a meal won’t necessarily negate [your] calorie intake,” says Dale, “but it can [increase] the rate at which food moves through [your] stomach, resulting in lower blood sugar,” which, in turn, helps stabilize your appetite and reduce cravings.

4. PREP DINNER INGREDIENTS FOR THE WEEK

Planning your dinners in advance is a foolproof way to ensure you’re eating nutritious, satisfying meals each night. Harbstreet recommends preparing your main ingredients first, whether that means roasting veggies, cooking a batch of quinoa or making salad dressing. “Then, when it comes time to reheat and serve, I [just] add my favorite toppings, seasonings and spices so I can avoid boredom with the same foods,” she says. Check out our Beginners Guide to Meal Planning for more info.

5. ADD INTERVALS TO YOUR CARDIO

Your cardio workout doesn’t have to be a long slog to be effective, according to Dale. To get your heart rate up and simultaneously burn more fat, experiment with a progressive interval workout. “Instead of running 20 minutes at a 6.0 speed” for example, she says, “try running one minute at 9.0 and walking 30 seconds at 4.0, progressively adding 10 seconds to the running and recovery times until you’ve reached 20 minutes.” For more details, we recommend this short treadmill workout.

If running isn’t your favorite form of cardio, you can incorporate intervals like these into a cycling, swimming or jump-roping workout for the same effect.

 

The benefits of a healthy weight

The May edition of the Shaklee newsletter hared that making a commitment to achieve a healthy weight is one of the best health decisions you can make. Studies have shown health benefits start to occur at about a 5 percent reduction of initial body weight.1 For someone starting at 200 pounds, that means benefits could be seen with losing just 10 pounds! So let’s look at some specific benefits achievable with weight loss as documented in research publications:

HEART: Research has shown that a 5 to 10 percent loss of body weight can result in meaningful reductions in heart disease risk. One study of overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes found this amount of weight loss could lower blood pressure by as much as 5 mm Hg (systolic and diastolic). Blood lipids also improved along with a five-point increase in HDL cholesterol levels and a drop in triglycerides of as much as 40 mg/dL.2

BLOOD SUGAR: Many measures of blood sugar control improve with weight loss. In the same study just mentioned, a measurement of long-term blood sugar control called hemoglobin A1C may drop as much as a half point (normal is under 6.5).2 Insulin resistance also improves with modest weight loss in people without diabetes.2

INFLAMMATION: Fat cells produce inflammatory molecules called cytokines, and a 10 percent drop in body fat reduces levels of these substances. Losing those extra pounds has wide-ranging effects throughout your body as inflammation is associated with many chronic diseases.3

JOINTS: Every pound of weight lost reduces the stress on your knees by four times. So lose 10 pounds and take 40 pounds of stress off your knees, hips, and ankle joints.

How to get there

Weight loss in the 5-10% range is often achieved through changes to the diet, increased physical activity, and behavioral changes such as learning to self-monitor and how to manage situations that could result in poor diet & lifestyle choices. For this approach, you want a modest calorie restriction, one that will support about 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week. For many women, that means eating about 1200-1500 calories a day; for men, about 1500-1800 calories per day. The use of meal replacements (shakes or bars) has been shown to help improve weight loss outcomes.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: The basic activity recommendation is at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity most days, and resistance exercise twice a week. “Moderate intensity” for many people means brisk walking or something comparable; you should be able to talk but not sing during the activity. Check with your doctor if you have any reasons to be concerned about physical activity.

DIET: A higher protein intake plus exercise will help maintain muscle as you lose body fat; retaining muscle keeps your metabolism higher, in addition to making you fitter. Typically, some muscle is lost when people restrict calories to lose weight. However, in a recent study that combined meal replacements with aerobic and resistance exercise, the subjects actually gained muscle while losing weight.4

Key takeaways for you
  • Keep in mind you are doing more than changing your appearance—you are building your health! And studies suggest that for as long as people maintain most of their weight loss,the benefits last too.5
  • Think in terms of permanent change, not quick fix. Take your time, and make changes you think you will be able to stick with.
  • Many people find it helpful to track their behaviors and results. Take pictures when you start. Note how your clothes fit. Weigh in about once a week. Log your “winning streaks” of days in a row you get your brisk walk or gym visit in. Your new habits will dictate who you become.

Know when to ice or heat an injury

Bradley Dunlap, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute who has been treating elite-level hockey players since 2009 shared in the Daily Herald Newspaper that as an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, one of the questions I get asked the most is: “Should I use heat or ice to treat an injury?”

With warmer weather drawing bicyclists, runners and walkers outdoors, now is a good time to set the record straight. Understanding how heat and ice work on the body may serve as a useful guide as to which to use.

Ice is a potent vasoconstrictor. This means the blood vessels shrink in size and less blood flow reaches the injured area. Some studies have shown ice to be as effective as post-surgical medications for pain control. It should be used if the area is swollen or bruised. In the case of a joint injury, initially applying ice always is the answer. The initial swelling around joints related to an injury of our ligaments, tendons or cartilage not only hurts, but prolongs our feeling of stiffness and alters our gait. The ultimate time to return to full sport activity, therefore, will indirectly be related to the initial swelling.

When it comes to icing, it’s good to remember the helpful acronym R.I.C.E. — Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Stop doing activities that are causing you pain; ice in intervals of 10 to 20 minutes at least three times per day; wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage — tight but not too tight; and elevate whenever you can. Try this for two to three days after an injury — if you don’t notice an improvement, see a doctor as soon as you can. In cases where your knee or ankle immediately balloons up, seek orthopaedic attention.

Heat serves as a muscle relaxer. Heat vasodilates, or opens blood vessels in our muscles and soft tissues. The increased blood flow seems to promote a healing response. It can reduce tightness and help quell spasms and soreness while carrying oxygen and nutrients to the injury.

Heat, unlike ice, isn’t so cut and dry. Muscles are a different beast than joints, and there is less of a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly when it comes to necks and backs. Heat will generally penetrate to the deep muscles better than ice, but sometimes ice will also be beneficial for strains, sprains and tweaks.

The presence of substantial bruising in a fresh muscle injury may indicate an active bleed, and in this scenario it is helpful to initially ice to minimize the amount of bleeding in the injured area.

Similar to icing, heating should be done in intervals of 10 to 20 minutes at least three times per day. This typically is done for two to three days following a mild muscle injury. As the injury feels better, it often is helpful to apply heat to the area before stretching. If the injury persists, seek medical care immediately.

No study conclusively has shown superiority of ice versus heat. If you seek medical attention, remember to ask your doctor which modality applies best to your injury. It’s important to listen to your body both during and after application of ice and/or heat. No one knows what is helping and what is potentially hurting better than you.

4 Major Walking Mistakes

Jodi Helmer, who writes about health and wellness for publications like WebMD, AARP, Shape, Woman’s Day, Arthritis Today and Costco Connection among others shared that walking is great exercise. It burns calories, strengthens muscles and bones, improves balance, boosts mood and helps prevent health problems ranging from heart disease to Type 2 diabetes. But walking is about more than putting one foot in front of the other.

To reap all of the health benefits — and avoid injuries — it’s important to avoid making these four common walking mistakes:

1. SKIPPING THE WARMUP

Warmups aren’t just for marathoners and professional athletes. In fact, Kathy Kaehler, author, celebrity trainer and host of the “Fit and Sexy For Life” podcast, believes the more often you skip the warmup, the more likely you are to get injured.

For a proper warmup, Kaehler suggests walking at a comfortable pace for five minutes and then stopping to stretch all the major muscle groups from head to toe, including shoulder rolls, side stretches, hip circles, quad stretches and ankle rotations. Once your muscles are warm and stretched, proceed with your walk.

2. WALKING THE SAME ROUTE AT THE SAME SPEED

It’s OK to have a favorite walking route and a comfortable pace, but refusing to change things up could be bad for your body. “You want variation of terrain so your body can also have different muscular reactions and challenges with varied routes, inclines and steps,” says Ashley Borden, Los Angeles-based master trainer whose celebrity clients have included Reese Witherspoon and Mandy Moore.

To mix it up, Borden suggests incorporating intervals into your walk, switching speeds every block. A few times per week, try a different route. Adding variety to your workout will prevent burnout and keep you from hitting a plateau.

3. GOING TOO HARD, TOO SOON

When you start a new workout, even if it’s “only” a walk, it’s important to ease into it. “Your muscles need to be developed and strengthened for flexibility and endurance and that doesn’t happen the first week out,” says Kaehler. “You need to focus on progression rather than going all out right away.”

Doing too much too soon can leave you with sore muscles and, potentially, injuries. Instead, work up to faster speeds and longer distances.

4. IGNORING YOUR POSTURE

Taking pounding steps while staring at the ground might get you from point A to point B but poor walking posture takes its toll on your body. “Posture is so critical,” Kaehler says. “When your form is bad, you’ve got muscles doing jobs they are not qualified for and, over time, that creates muscle imbalance that leads to injuries.”

For the best walking posture, Borden suggests imagining a string lifting you from your breastbone toward the sky to keep the hunch out of your back; keep your eyes on the horizon, engage your glutes and abdominals and pump your arms.

Walking is a safe and effective workout if you take the time to prepare and avoid making these common mistakes.

Five Secrets for Steadier Workouts

Rachel Bachman wrote in the May 22, 2017 edition of the Wall Street Journal that many of us vow to get to the gym—then life intervenes. But 21% of U.S. adults do manage to get enough exercise, and these people have some common traits and habits. They are consistent but not rigid. They have open minds about what defines “exercise.” And they have different motivations than the weary conscripts who enroll at the gym on New Year’s Day.

Here are some habits of those who exercise frequently that just might help the rest of us:

They work out at the same time most days. – A study published in April in the British Journal of Health Psychology examined 181 people who exercised an average of 300 minutes a week—twice the federally recommended minimum.

Most of those people picked a regular time to work out and stuck with it.

“When things become predictable you don’t need to invest in much thought,” says the study’s lead author, Navin Kaushal, a postdoctoral fellow in preventive medicine at the Montreal Heart Institute, University of Montreal.

Being in a certain environment at a certain time of day “brings up a mental script of the behaviors and you go into autopilot.”


They have a streamlined pre-exercise routine with visual cues. In another study published in 2017 and led by Dr. Kaushal, new gym members were asked to create cues to prompt them to exercise. A cue might be running clothes, shoes and headphones laid out on a dresser. The plan is that when a runner wakes up, he sees the cues, dresses and dashes out the door.

After eight weeks, members of the study’s experimental group were 1.7 times more likely to meet physical-activity guidelines than those in a control group.


 

They’re more flexible than infrequent exercisers about how long or vigorously they exercise.  Active people are less likely to have all-or-nothing definitions of physical activity, according to a study soon to be published in BMC Public Health. The study looked at 40 women, 11 of whom said they exercised at least three times or two hours a week.

“The old-school belief was, you set a goal, it’s a bull’s-eye. You hit it or you miss it,” says the study’s lead author, Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center. “But life is messy. When you’re more flexible, you’re able to shift your position, your stance, do something less. It removes the psychological punishment of ‘Oh, I failed.’ ”

If a frequent exerciser’s workday spills into her hourlong spin class, for instance, she might still hit the gym to pedal 20 minutes on her own.


 

An increasing number of active people are widening their definition of exercise.

Many people think exercise has to last at least 30 minutes and make you sweaty and exhausted. Dr. Segar’s ongoing research suggests that frequent exercisers increasingly view things like walking meetings and family bike rides as things that “count” as exercise.

Steve Rabinowitz, a 41-year-old government analyst in Greenbelt, Md., has been working out about five days a week since he turned 40. He mostly does high-intensity interval training workouts using a free site called Fitness Blender, but recently tried Pilates and ballet-inspired barre workouts and enjoys them.

“I push myself when I feel like I can, but when I can’t, that’s OK too,” he says. “I really try to listen to my body.”

During a recent work training he attended, Mr. Rabinowitz climbed five floors of stairs to a meeting room eight times over two days—sometimes sprinting, sometimes walking. He says he enjoys exercise more since he’s expanded his options.


 

They’re more likely to exercise for pleasure than for weight loss or other long-term health goals.

A study published in 2016 in the Journal of Consumer Research recruited 61 gymgoers at a University of Chicago weight room. Researchers randomly sorted them into two groups and gave each group six exercise options, such as biceps curls or dead lifts.

People in one group were told to choose the exercise they most enjoyed, while the people in the other group were told to choose the exercise most useful for their health goals. Both groups were instructed to do as many sets of their selected exercise as they could.

People who chose an exercise for enjoyment completed an average of 29 reps, compared with 19 reps for those who chose the exercise they thought would help them with health goals. That was true even though the two groups chose similar exercises with similar amounts of weight.

“If I really care about having a healthy heart, that’s what gets me to the gym,” says Kaitlin Woolley, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. “But that’s not what keeps me there.”

The best brain-boosting foods for final exam season

Compared with the rest of the body, the brain expends an enormous amount of energy and requires ample fuel for that energy, especially during heavy-hitter exam time. A healthy human brain can process information as fast as 268 mph, can make trillions of connections to other cells and can think nearly 60,000 thoughts a day. These thoughts are being generated by the brain’s 100 billion neurons. Boy, the brain is busy.

Despite being engrossed by these facts, my boys still questioned whether healthy foods could in fact support their brainpower for exams. It worked wonders to refer them to research studies by neuroscientist, distinguished fellow and New York Times best-selling author Daniel G. Amen, who has worked with 135 active and retired NFL players. Amen put professional athletes on a special diet that included increased lean proteins and vegetables, regular exercise and adequate sleep, as well as nutritional supplements such as fish oil and vitamins. Within six months, the players showed significant increases in cognitive scores, blood flow to the brain, self-reported better moods, memory and motivation. Many athletes had 50 percent boosts in attention, information processing speed and accuracy on tests. Seems worth a try, boys.

The most important brain food is probably the omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy brains are about 60 percent structural fat, with omega-3 fatty acids and specifically DHA the most prevalent. These fats help reduce brain inflammation, build and repair cell membranes, aid with stress management, and have been shown to be fundamental to brain development in children (the reason there is so much DHA in breast milk and infant formula). The best sources of omega-3s and DHA are wild salmon, sardines, mackerel and fish oil supplements.

Brain-friendly foods:

• Protein builds new and repairs damaged tissue in our bodies and brains. Amino acids (parts of proteins) ignite certain neurotransmitters in the brain. For instance, eating the amino acid tyrosine, found in salmon, eggs, turkey and red meat, helps the body produce norepinephrine and dopamine, which promote brain alertness and activity. Other brain-boosting proteins include avocados, chicken, beans, and raw nuts and seeds.

• Antioxidants found in fresh foods such as blueberries, carrots and leafy greens strengthen the blood vessel walls in the brain. There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain, so that is no small job. Vitamin C, found in citrus and green vegetables, is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the brain and helps control spikes in cortisol, leading to more stable energy levels.

• B vitamins are essential for blood and nerve health, which are important for the brain. These vitamins also provide long-lasting energy needed for exam time. Feed on spinach, avocados, beans and nuts.

• Water keeps the blood viscous and moving, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Knowing that three soda cans’ worth of blood travels through the brain every minute, it seems right to keep it moving.

Brain-unfriendly:

• The brain is vulnerable to oxidative damage from free radicals that are released in our modern-day world and also created when our body breaks down certain foods.

• Caffeine and sugar can make it harder for a child to focus and increases stress levels.

• Trans fats and hydrogenated oils have been shown to contribute to diminished cognitive function.

Oh, and let’s not forget breakfast. If you want to increase your chances of focusing during exams, don’t even think about skipping breakfast. Test scores of children who miss breakfast are generally worse than those who eat a well-balanced meal. Children who eat breakfast show better academic performance, longer attention spans and reduced hyperactivity in class.

Even though the secret to success and good grades is not as simple as baked salmon, it clearly can’t hurt to enter exam time with a well-fed brain. So our grocery cart this month will include plenty of that brain-boosting salmon, plus leafy greens, blueberries, eggs and avocados, and we will be putting a premium on healthy breakfasts. Perhaps I’ll start sounding a little smarter this month, too.

• Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a nutrition education company, and co-author of “Super Food Cards,” a collection of healthful recipes and advice.

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Study shows acupuncture can lower blood pressure

Patrick B. Massey M. D. shares that one might imagine that if someone were sticking needles in your body that your blood pressure would go up. But, a recent study on the effects of acupuncture and high blood pressure demonstrated that the exact opposite can happen.

Indeed, acupuncture needles placed in the right points on the body can significantly lower blood pressure and these results persist over time.

Acupuncture is a very old medical therapy and has been a part of traditional Oriental medicine for thousands of years. It involves the placement of small, very thin needles into specific points throughout the body.

Specific locations of these acupuncture points have been well described for many different illnesses. In traditional Oriental medicine all illness is the result of improper energy flow. There is either not enough energy, too much energy or the energy isn’t moving. It is stagnating.

Inserting needles at various acupuncture points and leaving them there for a period of time stimulates the proper flow of energy. Where the energy is flowing well, illness cannot exist. Read more

Got 10 Minutes? Use this Go4Life® Video to Help Make Your Legs Stronger!

If you want to build muscle in your legs, it’s important to do lower body strength exercises. Climbing stairs, getting up from a chair, and even preventing a fall are everyday functions that can improve when your legs are stronger. Do the 4 lower body strength exercises in this Go4Life video consistently and see the positive impact it can have on your leg strength!