14 Cheap but Fun Ideas for a Valentine (or Any Time!) Date Night

Love isn’t free…that is, if you are trying to prove your love with an extravagant Valentine’s Day gift. In fact a survey from the National Retail Foundation found that Americans are expected to spend a record amount on Valentine’s Day this year…an average of $161.96, which is up 13 percent from the average in 2018.

Think quick: Where did that money go last year? We bet you don’t even remember because it was probably either wasted on an overpriced, mediocre meal at a crowded restaurant or spent on a “meh” gift like a stuffed animal or chocolates. This year, instead of spending money on stuff you don’t want or need, why not create some real memories with an activity that is both frugal and fun. Here are 14 choices we love.

  1. Get physical. Come on; we’re talking exercise. There’s not much that’s more romantic than working out with your partner—think about it; you’re in close proximity, you’re dressed down, and you’re doing something that will help you live an even longer life together. A class like yoga or Pilates can be a good choice with its relaxing combination of mindfulness and stretching, but you could also take a romantic stroll or go ice skating or roller skating. Don’t forget to hold hands during couples skate. 
  2. Cook at home. This is a no brainer…cooking together doubles as an activity and a meal. Since Valentine’s Day is the second biggest restaurant day of the year (after Mother’s Day), there’s no reason to go out with the masses when you can cook a perfectly fabulous steak or other luscious delicacy at home. 
  3. Dine out for dessert.  If you really want to eat out, your best choice is a sweet treat…you’ll spend far less than you would forking out big bucks for overpriced pasta. Less money, far more fun. Find a bakery that has your favorite desserts or go to the nicest restaurant in town and eat something decadent a deux, with a price tag that’s pretty sweet. 
  4. Sing karaoke. If there’s ever a night that calls for a power ballad duet, it’s Valentine’s. Find a local hotspot and sing your heart out to your beloved. 
  5. Go window shopping. Honestly just looking and trying on is half the fun. Go to a posh boutique or specialty store and indulge your inner fashionista by trying on clothes and shoes you’d never buy—and maybe would never even wear outside the dressing room. Or go to a thrift store and pick out comical options for your partner.
  6. See a production at a local community theater. Seek out free or low-priced local shows to have a Broadway-style evening at an affordable price.
  7. Get your paint on. Whether painting a keepsake piece of pottery or attending a “wine and paint” night where an instructor helps you create a masterpiece, getting arty together makes for a fun evening—and you’ll get to bring a souvenir home.
  8. Visit a museum. Fun fact: Many libraries have culture passes that offer free or reduced admission to local museums. 
  9. Babysit for a friend or relative. This maybe doesn’t count as the most romantic night ever, but you’ll feel good letting them have an evening out—and you can see whether parenthood appeals.
  10. Plan your dream vacation. Get on your devices and research a place you’ve always wanted to visit—or that you think your partner has always wanted to visit—and create an itinerary. Dare to dream.   
  11. Have a scavenger hunt. Make clues based on special places the two of you have been and hide them around town. Or if the weather is bad, take it indoors to a mall. 
  12. Participate in a trivia night. Many restaurants and pubs host trivia nights; make it a double date or join with some others and make a team for an information-packed night out. 
  13. Find a bar with free music. Check out the local arts paper to find a place or two that offers free music. Don’t forget to tip the musicians, though. 
  14. Huddle in with board games or a movie. Light some candles, open a bottle of wine…what more would you need? 




Resolution Reboot: Ditch the February Funk and Recommit to Your Resolutions

When February rolls around, some of us fist pump the air. “Yay! A whole month with my resolution.” Others (a larger amount, by the way) think, “Ugh. I have already failed.” Here’s the thing: February is a great time to reboot your resolution. In fact, ANY TIME is a great time. There is nothing magical about January 1.

As author and behavioral scientist Daniel Pink shares in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, “imbuing an otherwise ordinary day with personal meaning generates the power to activate new beginnings.”

That means that while January 1 carries a weighty significance as a change catalyst, we really could choose any day as that ideal day for new beginnings. So, why not today?

Here are three common resolution fails, along with reasons why now is the perfect time to start back up.

 

  1. Your gym membership is already gathering dust.

If you were one of the hordes who enthusiastically joined a gym at the beginning of the year, you are far from alone. If you are one who quit going by February 1 (or earlier!), again, far from alone. In fact, one survey found that nearly half of Americans had given up their exercise resolution to hit the gym by the end of January. Some felt judged; others found a gym membership too pricey; and still others couldn’t find the time.

But February is actually a fantastic time to give the gym one more shot—precisely because so many people have abandoned it, thus negating at least one of the reasons mentioned above. Of course a gym can feel intimidating when it’s overly crowded; you can feel as though you’re not getting your money’s worth when every station is in use or you’re turned away from class; and it can be extra hard to fit into your schedule when you have to wait to get a parking spot or time on the machines.

And remember, a gym isn’t the only place to get your sweat on. Temps are starting to climb from the polar freeze of January, and February is a great month to try snow shoeing or ice skating or even a walk outdoors to spot those crocuses pushing through. Or, you could commit to using your Netflix for something other than binge watching and find an exercise video to try.

 

  1. You gave up eating healthfully.

Here’s something that people don’t always realize: Winter fruits and vegetables aren’t always that exciting. In fact, it can be far easier to start a healthy eating plan as you head toward spring and the promise of berries and tomatoes. Alas, we’re not there yet, but you can still make strides in that direction, incorporating frozen fruits into smoothies, or trying a new recipe with a winter veggie, knowing that more choices are around the corner.

And remember that eating well doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even making small changes—forgoing that afternoon vending machine cookie or after-dinner ice cream—can add up to big results when done consistently, and is often far more palatable than making a drastic change that’s hard to sustain.

 

  1. The clutter has piled up—again.

Did you join the Marie Kondo bandwagon? The pressure to decide if your items “spark joy” can be intense. But what many would-be organizers don’t realize is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A better strategy if you want to keep your house a little more organized is to adopt some daily habits that keep clutter at bay. For example:

  • Handle the mail and recycle liberally every day so it doesn’t pile up. (Bonus: You’ll never get hit with a late fee if you take care of paying bills as soon as they come in.)
  • Create a system to deal with jackets, shoes, mittens, etc. You might be surprised at what the calming effect of a clutter-free entry. This change alone can make your house feel less disorganized.
  • Run your dishwashers every night and empty it every morning so dishes don’t pile up in the sink.

There! With these three small changes you’ll be back on track…and you can tackle those drawers and closets at your leisure.

(And if you want to feel a little better about not getting rid of everything in your house, consider this story of a mom who inadvertently gave away one of her son’s mugs, which unfortunately was crammed with cash. No joy there!)




Keeping Your Office Healthy: Five Ways to Keep Germs at Bay

It used to be that one sign of a good worker was just powering through the day, even if you felt crummy. Now, the opposite is true, as workplaces get wise to the fact that a sick employee isn’t likely to get much done—except potentially spreading their germs to the rest of the team.

In fact, those coughing, sneezing coworkers can be a health hazard to everyone around them—just by breathing. One study estimates that more than 60 percent of people with flu symptoms admitted to leaving their house—presumably many of them to head to work—while they were sick. And that’s a lot of germs being passed around, infecting even healthy people.

Here are some ways that the HR team can contribute to a healthier workplace.

 

  1. Offer sick days

 

Many employees come to work sick because they think it’s expected. But creating a relatively lenient sick day policy might actually save you money in the long run, if workers stay home and keep their germs to themselves. One study found that “presenteeism,” the lack of productivity in workers experiencing health problems, can cost U.S. companies up to $150 billion annually.

 

Sick days can help stem the tide of germ-sharing in the workplace, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Researchers found that flu cases dropped in cities that adopted paid sick-leave mandates.

The key is to make sure employees know the policy and the protocol for calling out sick (see below for more on helping them telecommute.) And be aware of the duration of the illness; you might need to touch base with an employee if a spate of sick days is stretching into a case for when short-term disability insurance should potentially kick in.

 

  1. Create work-at-home protocols.

 

When deadlines loom, many employees might feel that taking a sick day will just make things worse when they return. According to one study, more than 40 percent of employees said that was the reason they came to the office while sick—to avoid future work overload.

 

But the truth is that many employees can do key parts of their job remotely—even if it isn’t feasible all the time. However, that can raise the question of whether the employee has actually taken a “sick day” or not, which can impact their compensation. That’s why you might want to consider implementing a policy that covers some of those issues, such as how their time will be tracked and how many “work-at-home-while-sick” days each employee can take.

 

Having a clear policy can protect your company so you can verify that work is actually being done, while avoiding the risk of having employees spreading germs to others.

 

  1. Encourage your team to get flu shots.

 

Of course it’s best to get the flu shot earlier in the season, but it’s never too late to help prevent an office epidemic. In fact, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout flu season.” And since flu outbreaks happen at different times in different communities, you may still have time. If yours hasn’t hit yet, getting vaccinated pronto could help keep people safe from it.

 

  1. Kill workplace germs as fast as you can.

 

It’s amazing how fast a virus can move in an office,” says Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and coauthor of The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu. “If one person comes in with the cold or flu, he can infect as many as one-third of his fellow office mates within a day.”

 

Pay special attention to wiping down objects in community areas like the printer, copier, refrigerator handles, and door handles—and don’t forget the coffee pot. And encourage employees to wipe down their stations frequently also.

 

  1. Encourage healthy habits.

 

One of the best ways to build immunities that help stave off illness is to adopt healthy behaviors, such as getting adequate sleep, eating well and exercising regularly.

You can play a role by sharing articles with healthy tips (such as those found on this site) or by encouraging employees to sip water and munch on healthier choices, if your workplace offers snacks at meetings.

 

With these tips, a healthy office can be within reach.




8 Creative Ways to Enjoy Summer That Don’t Cost a Fortune

Ferris wheelIs everyone playing while you’re working? We get it: It can feel painful to sit at your desk when the weather warms. But there’s no reason to forfeit fun in the sun.

Here are eight ways to enjoy summer, without going into debt on a pricey vacation.

At work

1. Eat lunch al fresco: There’s nothing like an hour in the sun to recharge your batteries. But don’t waste money on an overpriced salad at the local café. Brown bag it to a park or even just a nearby bench, then take a stroll after you’ve eaten. At least one study has connected a lunchtime walk with increased enthusiasm and less fatigue and stress when workers returned to the office.

2. Ask about flexible hours: Something about a sunny summer morning makes you want to get out of bed with the birds (or the birds might just be waking you!). Some people prefer to get their day started and head straight into the office, then leave earlier to enjoy an extended late afternoon. See if your HR department will allow you to flex your hours at least part of the week and then take advantage of an early departure to enjoy an afternoon hike or a spin on the Ferris wheel at the local carnival when it’s less crowded. You can even finish your work at home later that evening if you need to.

3. Take the meeting outside: Everyone is feeling the same summer fever so be the hero and move from your boring conference room to an outdoor location. Even claiming a far corner of the parking lot can feel like a respite when you feel the sun on your face.

4. Take days off strategically: If you’re not able to plan an extended getaway, see if you can create your own mini trips. The trick is to take Fridays off so that you have three uninterrupted days to play. Plan short getaways to nearby towns, go camping or just be a tourist in your own town on a staycation. (Trust us: There’s nothing like taking in a matinee to really feel indulgent!) Try taking every other Friday off in July and August and see how much summer fun you can cram in without dealing with crowds and overpriced lodging and travel costs.

After work/ on the weekends

5. Find a festival: Art. Music. Food. Doesn’t matter. Nothing says summer like a festival. Beware of some that can be budget busters, especially if rides are involved, but many even allow you to browse for free or a nominal fee. Find samples to graze on or bring your own snacks. But do enjoy that elephant ear if you’ve been craving one!

6. Grow your own produce: A summer vegetable garden will get you outside and also help you eat healthier — while saving a bundle on weekly produce. If you’re not one for a green thumb or don’t have ample space, a farmer’s market is a great alternative to once again — be outside.

7. Streamline your errands: It can be brutal to spend a lovely afternoon running errands, but we all need to grocery shop and get the dry cleaning. Or, do we? Sometimes ordering online can actually save you money, even despite the nominal service or shipping fee, since you won’t be tempted to impulse buy, a habit that costs Americans a whopping $5,400 annually If you must do some errands in person, plan them efficiently, which not only saves time, but gas, as you avoid backtracking.

8. Use “nature’s gym:” Summer mornings are glorious times to go for a walk or bike ride, and even if you work full time, there’s still plenty of light to do the same in the afternoon — maybe even hit a nearby hiking trail or play an active game of tag with the kids. Bonus: You can probably put your health club membership on hold to save some cash. Many gyms allow a “freeze,” until it’s, well, freezing.




6 Ways to Protect Your Lower Back From Injury

Man holding his backBack pain is one of the most widespread issues in modern American life. Experts estimate that eight out of ten Americans will experience back pain in their lives. 

According to the Integrated Benefits Institute’s Health and Productivity Benchmarking 2016, musculoskeletal disorders (aka pain in the back and joints — especially the hips, knees and shoulders) account for the biggest portion of long-term disability claims — a total of 29 percent in 2016. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) meanwhile writes that musculoskeletal disorders are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

Here are six ways you can protect your lower back against injury — and the negative effects such an injury could impact on your ability to work and earn an income: 

Exercise Your Core

There are many real-world benefits of building up well-balanced and resilient core muscles. There is a wide range of exercises you can do to strengthen your core, such as incorporating front planks and leg lowering. If you can’t see yourself doing front planks and want to start with something simple, aim to go out for more walks. A walk nourishes the spinal structure.

Watch Your Posture

All the tiny habits we engage in every day can lead to big effects down the line. If you work in an office, check your posture at your desk. Follow these steps from the Cleveland Clinic to make sure you’re sitting with an optimum posture. 

Next, analyze your chair. Is it designed for a six foot two soul but you’re five foot four? Do your feet even rest on the floor? Ergonomics means “fitting a job to a person”, and an ergonomic chair is designed to perfectly fit with your body. By using a chair that allows you to adjust your posture according to your exact height and particular desk setup, you’ll lessen muscle fatigue, increase your productivity, and be far more healthy. It’s worth the time to investigate and correct your posture.

Walk Frequently

Regardless of what sort of chair you sit in, make sure you build up a habit of getting up and moving about frequently. The Mayo Clinic writes that the impacts of movement at work are profound; even leisurely movement with frequent breaks from one’s seat has been proven to have great impacts. You’ll burn more calories by doing this, and as the Mayo Clinic writes: “The muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. When you’re standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.”

Travel With Care

If you drive a lot, tweak your posture while behind the wheel. A recent study in the U.K. found that a massive 75 percent of drivers were suffering from back pain caused by driving. A physiotherapist who worked on the study offered the following advice:

  • Keep the seat as close to the wheel as is comfortable, so you can easily reach the wheel with your elbows relaxed.
  • Adjust your backrest recline so it supports your spine without leaning too far back.
  • Ensure all mirrors are adjusted before you start your journey.
  • Build in rest stops every one-two hours for longer journeys, to stretch your legs.

Life Objects Carefully

Spend a moment to brush up on the best techniques for lifting heavy objects: keep your feet shoulder width apart, squat down rather than bending, and maintain a good posture with a straight back throughout. But don’t go too far, and avoid lifting all objects. Fiona Wilson, an Associate Professor and Chartered Physiotherapist at Trinity College Dublin recently argued that, “People are becoming less active and more overweight, which means they are becoming less fit and less able to tolerate the activity and loading for which we were designed. Recent expert advice highlights that the best way to prevent back pain is with exercise.”

Live Healthily

A healthy lifestyle, with a good diet, lots of water, and frequent exercise shores up your body’s strength and fitness. Watch your diet and try to keep the extra weight off — and be sure to get enough sleep. By building a preventative approach to your back’s health where you watch your posture and engage in healthy habits of exercise, eating, and rest, you’ll be able to build up your body’s best possible defenses against back pain.

That said, you won’t be able to prevent accidents that come out of the blue — so make sure you have an income protection plan in place in the event that you need to miss work for a prolonged period due to a back injury. A combination of health, exercise, and a solid financial plan will make you that much more ready to react to whatever life throws your way. 




4 Ways to Make Your Commute Healthier and Happier

Man driving car. Working Americans are spending a lot of time behind the wheel. The U.S. Census reports that in 2016 the average American commute was 26 minutes each way. That’s nearly an hour a day on the road, five hours a week, 20 hours a month. What effect does all this time in the driver’s seat have on your body and mind?

Studies show that commuting can be very challenging for your health from its physical toll to increased stress and anxiety. Here are four ways you can reduce the negative effects and build a more healthy and happy commute:

Exercise

Even though we may be moving at 70 miles an hour down fast-moving highways, driving is largely sedentary — and one of its biggest impacts is on our physical activity. Studies have shown that a longer commuting distance adversely affects people’s physical activity and makes them more likely to be overweight and have poor cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Overcome this by finding creative ways to infuse exercise into your daily life. Take a walk during lunch time or during a break. If you sit at a desk a lot during the day, get up every hour or so and walk around the office, stretching your legs and moving your muscles. Consider waking earlier to add some physical exercise into your routine. 

Watch Your Posture

Another major negative side effect of regular driving is neck and back pain. One Gallup survey in 2010 showed that one in three employees with a commute of 90 minutes or more reported neck or back pain. A more recent study by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) showed that 14 percent of drivers experienced neck or back pain. Musculoskeletal issues are the leading cause of disability insurance claims in the U.S., and a bad driving posture can contribute to your risk of this. 

Your best line of defense is to actively check how you are sitting in the vehicle, and shift to the best possible posture. The BCA report includes a list of great recommendations on how to reduce neck pain while driving, such as aligning your steering wheel, mirrors, and adapting your back posture. There are also various subtle exercises you can do while you drive (butt clenches anyone?) Although adapting your posture and the way you hold the wheel can feel distinctly uncomfortable at first, keep practicing and it’ll soon start to feel perfectly normal. Your future body will thank you. 

Explore Flexible Hours

There is a psychological impact to our commute — and not just the road rage that flares up. A large-scale 2017 study in the United Kingdom by VitalityHealth, the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, found that those with longer commuting distances were 33 percent more likely to suffer from depression, and 12 percent more likely to report multiple aspects of work-related stress. 

A lot of this is arising from something called “time pressure”. This is when we feel that we don’t have enough time to get things done — for example, the commuting time is eating into family time or exercise time. Address this by talking to your employer about options for flexible work hours. Can you come in and leave a little later to miss the morning and evening rush hours? Or can some of your time be spent working remotely from home to allow more yoga, exercise or family time? Show them the data: 2.7 million more Americans were doing this in 2017 than they were a decade ago. 

Change Your Perspective

If there’s nothing you can do about shifting the time of your commute, consider transforming the very way that you view that time spent in the car. Could you use it as an opportunity for self-improvement? Perhaps you can practice mindfulness during the commute, or listen to audiobooks or podcasts to educate yourself. Maybe you can start to treat it as valuable time for you to unwind and think through work problems, so that when you arrive at home, you’ll be ready to focus on your family or just relax.

Finding a way to make your commute as comfortable and enjoyable as possible will help to improve your long-term health. You’ll also enjoy those 20 hours a lot more. 




How To Start an Exercise Habit—And Stick With It

Runner puts on shoes.Just under half of all adult Americans do not meet the physical exercise guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of these people, you probably already know that you should be exercising. You’ve heard all the benefits of frequent exercise: how it can control your weight, build resilience against disease and illness, increase your energy, lift your mood, and help you sleep. But you’re still not doing it. Why?

Often it’s because we’re not very good at building the habit itself. We book ourselves into a yoga studio, join a gym, decide to run everyday, or find a tribe of fellow cyclists — but we don’t know how to commit to a regular rhythm of engaging in that practice. We decide we’ll exercise when we feel like it, which means we rarely do it. To succeed at this, you need to focus on building the habit itself.

Here are a few ways to make it work for the long-haul:

Start Small

Instead of taking on the Boston Marathon, what if you were to walk around the block once a day at work for a week. Clearly, this isn’t a huge aerobic workout — and it probably doesn’t hit the CDC’s guidelines. However, because it’s so manageable you’ll be that much more likely to do it. And through the very act of doing it — walking, moving your legs, breathing in that fresh air, and successfully accomplishing the goal for a week — your confidence will scale up. So set yourself a tiny, totally achievable goal — and just enjoy seeing it through. 

Try a 30-Day Challenge

When you’ve identified the form of exercise you’ll be doing, set up a goal for a month. Don’t commit to something for the rest of your life — that’s too easy to fail at, then feel bad. But by committing to something for a certain stretch of time, it’s that much easier to succeed. Perhaps you decide you’ll go for a run two mornings a week for 30 days. If you make it through to the end of your challenge, congratulate yourself, perhaps have a few days off to celebrate and laze about in glory, then commit once again.

Build Triggers Into Your Schedule

According to a fascinating study published in the journal Health Psychology, some of the most successful people build exercise routines based on “instigation habits”, where an environmental or internal trigger tells them it’s time to exercise. This might be an simple as setting an alarm on your phone, deciding to put on your running shoes as soon as you wake up in the mornings, or deciding that at 5:30pm every Tuesday and Thursday, you’ll go to the gym. By making it an automatic trigger, all ambiguity goes out the window. It’s not about whether or not you feel like doing it, it’s on your calendar. 

In order to build long-term habits, you need to set yourself up for success by defining and setting manageable goals. Then focus on seeing through those goals. Once you do this in a sustained manner over time, you’ll start to feel all those benefits of exercise kicking in. You’ll be feeling stronger, looking better, boosting your natural serotonin levels and sleeping more peacefully. You’ll have created a virtuous cycle, where to not exercise actually feels bad. At this point, the habit is so ingrained, it’s become a part of you. 




Sleep Helps Regulate Your Metabolism and Weight

Jan-sleep-imageMost people use exercise and a healthy diet to maintain their weight. While those are two key factors, many people forget one more important contributor—sleep. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night to maintain optimum health. Sleep deprivation sends your body into survival mode, which increases your appetite and food cravings, leaving you with unwanted weight gain.

Your Brain and Sleep

The body performs important functions while it sleeps. Much of your body’s restoration and repair work takes place while you’re unconscious. It’s during these quiet hours that you have spare energy that can be used for these important functions. Your brain, too, uses that downtime to reset, repair, and get ready for the day.

Sleep deprivation actually slows down your neurons, those cells that send signals in the brain. In an attempt to get the sleep it needs, your brain slows reaction times, reasoning, and problem-solving in the hopes you will drift off to sleep. At the same time, the brain starts changing the amount of hormones released for controlling the appetite and metabolism.

Sleep Deprivation and Appetite Control

Have you noticed how much hungrier you are when you’re tired? That’s because the brain releases the hormones that control hunger in different amounts when you’re sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation boosts your hunger. While your body is slower to send out and recognize the hormone that signals satiety.

Not only that, the kind of foods you crave when you’re tired changes too. You’re more likely to reach for chips, cookies, and other high-fat, sugary foods when sleep deprived. With an increase in your food intake and the desire to reach for unhealthy foods, it’s no wonder that getting a full seven hours of shut-eye is critical to regulating your metabolism and weight.

How to Get More Sleep

Getting the high-quality sleep you need starts long before you lay down at night. What you eat and your daily habits affect your ability to get a good night’s rest. A few ways to set yourself up for success include:

  • Regular Exercise Early in the Day: Exercise helps maintain your weight but it also helps establish the right conditions for better sleep. You’re more tired at night if you’ve done 30 minutes of vigorous exercise earlier. Avoid exercising within four hours of bedtime as the release of endorphins and rise in body temperature may keep you awake.

  • Avoid Stimulants: Caffeine and alcohol can both disturb sleep patterns. Caffeine can keep you awake while alcohol interrupts your sleep during the night. Stop drinking caffeine in the early afternoon. If you can, stop drinking alcohol within four hours of your bedtime.

  • Create the Right Environment: A quiet, soothing bedroom helps you relax and relieve stress. Keep your bedroom temperature between 60-68 degrees at night. Reduce light and sound as much as possible.

  • Establish a Consistent Bedtime: Your brain helps regulate your circadian rhythms, those processes your body cycles through every day. A consistent bedtime helps to solidify the release of the hormones that make you tired. Along those same lines, try to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends to your brain and body on schedule.




Put Muscle Into Your Metabolism

Jan-BuildMuscle-imageHow’s your metabolism these days? If your body isn’t looking or feeling the way you’d like it to, maybe it’s time to take a closer look.
As we get older, especially in our 40s, our metabolism tends to slow down. Even for people who jog or cycle a few times a week and maintain an average weight, their metabolism can continue to decline. What’s going on?

 

The basics of your metabolism are simple. You eat food, most of it becomes glucose (sugar), insulin delivers the glucose to cells, and how well all of this happens is your metabolic rate.

 

For too many Americans, diet is the primary cause for a slowing metabolism. Consuming too much sugar or carbohydrates can lead to more stored body fat that sets off a chain of problems involving blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

 

Faster at Any Age

How to speed up you metabolism is simple, but first there are some misconceptions to get past. Getting older doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about your metabolic rate. In fact, with some important changes, an older person’s metabolism can outperform that of a 20 something. Being thinner isn’t necessarily an advantage for having a faster metabolism. And regular exercise such as running, cycling or walking is all you need to help manage your metabolism.

 

Muscle for Metabolism

To create a healthy metabolic rate, building muscle is the answer. More muscle burns more sugar for fuel. And the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolic furnace runs. Strength training – yes, working with weights – is absolutely essential to ward off useless fat. You don’t have to be a gym rat to change your metabolism. Simple resistance training even at home can start to build more muscle mass.

 

With a focus on strength training, you’re engaging the most important metabolic tissue in your body. A pound of muscle burns far more calories than a pound of fat. Unlike cardio training that is important for the heart and lungs, weight training consumes more sugar and delivers more strength. All you need to do is to start resistance work on the muscles you have. You can start at sixty and older and still get great results.

 

Getting Started

If you haven’t done resistance training before or it’s been a long time since you last did, here are few suggestions to get started. Like anything new, start slowly to avoid burnout or injury. If you have any concerns about lifting weights or using weight machines in a gym, be sure to consult with your physician. Begin with light weights and work on good form. You’re looking for a complete range of motion with good posture and alignment. You can start a program at home, but to really get results, visit a nearby gym and seek the advice of a good trainer. Just spending two–three days per week doing resistance training will start putting good muscle into your metabolism.

 




Tiredness or Fatigue, What’s the Difference?

Dec-fatigue-imageWe all know what it is to feel tired. Maybe it’s from a long day at work, or staying out late to catch up with an old friend, or your three year old who decided 5:00am was a good time to wake you. Whatever the reason, we’ve all suffered through a day or two while sleep deprived.

Fortunately, tiredness can typically be cured with a good night’s sleep; and a little coffee will help you get through the day. Lasting fatigue, however, is a different issue and should not be passed off as simply being tired.

 

What is Fatigue?

While tiredness is generally short term and easily relieved, true fatigue is long lasting and can ultimately interfere with one’s ability to lead a normal life. People suffering from fatigue often describe feelings of lethargy and exhaustion, often accompanied by depression and sometimes physical ailments.

In most cases, fatigue is a symptom of a larger underlying issue. Mild cases often accompany an illness, such as a flu or cold, and generally go away when the illness does.

Stress can also lead to temporary fatigue. A heavy workload, financial difficulties, and other common stresses are often cause fatigue. The fatigue tends to compound the feelings of stress, which leads to more fatigue, and on and on. But, as with illness, alleviating the stress will also alleviate the fatigue.

 

Other Conditions that Can Cause Fatigue

When eliminating stress factors and catching up on sleep don’t help, it’s time to investigate other possibilities. Fatigue that lasts more than two weeks, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms, such as unexplained changes in weight or shortness of breath, may be a sign of something more serious and should be treated by a doctor. Some of the most common causes of fatigue include:

  • Coronary artery disease. When simple daily activities wear you out, it may be that your heart isn’t performing at its best.
  • Diabetes. This disease impacts your body’s ability to properly process sugars and preventing the conversion of food into energy.
  • Thyroid problems. This is the gland that controls metabolism, and therefore your energy levels. Fatigue is often the result of an under-active thyroid.
  • Anxiety and depression. Depression is a leading cause of missed work, and can even lead to a disability diagnosis. It’s much more than an emotional slump, and often contributes to physical symptoms, including fatigue.
  • Not enough sleep. Consistent sleep deprivation can lead to all sorts of problems, including lack of concentration, weight loss, memory failures, and fatigue.
  • Sleep apnea. Breathing pauses or interruptions while sleeping prevents those who suffer with sleep apnea from getting the deep sleep necessary to feel rested.
  • Poor diet. An imbalanced diet may result in too much or too little blood sugar, either of which can ultimately contribute to feelings of fatigue.

 

Treatment

Many underlying causes of fatigue are easily treated with supplements, dietary changes, exercise programs, or sending the three year old to live with grandma for a few weeks. But fatigue caused by more serious underlying medical issues will often need to be managed with prescription medications and physician assistance. These include:

 

Unlike occasional tiredness, fatigue interferes with a person’s quality of life, their mental health, and their ability to handle manage daily activities. It’s even recognized as a significant reason for early retirement. If feelings of tiredness persist for a couple of weeks, seek medical assistance. The solution may be simpler than you think.