Keep Knees Safe During Exercise

Keep Knees Safe During Exercise

The knee is a complex and resilient joint that can absorb loads more than four times your body weight. Knees are used in almost every activity, which leaves them vulnerable to injury. This doesn't mean that avoiding activity is the best way to protect knees. Research shows that exercise helps prevent knee osteoarthritis by maintaining cartilage for healthy joints. The key is to keep knees safe during exercise to stay pain and injury-free.

Set things up.

Weight machines have adjustments so you can set the seat and levers according to your your height and the weight load according to your strength. Machines like the leg press, leg extension, and leg curl can stress the knee joint if not adjusted for your individual needs. Ask for an orientation on all gym equipment before getting started, and make a note of the settings so that you can adjust the equipment correctly yourself during each workout.

Use correct form.

Squats and lunges are notorious for causing knee pain when performed incorrectly. The general rule has always been to keep the knee from moving forward beyond the toes when squatting or lunging. According to the American Council on Exercise, new recommendations state that it’s more important to hinge the hips by pushing them backward before lowering into the exercise position. The knees should align over the second toe so that the knee moves in the same direction as your ankle joint. Depending on height and limb length, for some people this may cause the knee to appear to move forward beyond the toes. For these individuals, this is considered a safe movement because keeping the knee further in can increase stress on the lower back.

Be selective about surfaces.

Hard surfaces like concrete can add stress to the knee joint during running, walking, and jumping. Move your workouts to softer surfaces to protect the knees. Tracks, dirt trails, grass, asphalt, and the treadmill all provide better shock absorption.

Know what you can handle.

Experienced athletes can perform exercises, such as deep knee bends or squats, without adding unnecessary stress to the knee joints. Problems arise when you attempt these exercises before you understand correct form and before you have built the necessary strength to handle the movement. If your goal is to perform more advanced exercises, seek the advice of a trainer to guide you through a program that will teach you proper form and gradually build your strength to meet your goals.

Wear quality shoes.

A quality pair of athletic shoes with good arch support helps with shock absorption and alignment, which protects the knees during exercise. Pay attention to the age of your shoes. Minor knee pain could be an indication that you need a new pair. It’s recommended that athletic shoes be replaced every 300 to 500 miles or every 3 to 6 months.

How Laughter Improves Health

Laughter Improves Health

The physical effects of a good laugh provide instant relief for stress and anxiety. While researchers find it difficult to pinpoint exactly how laughter produces these results, there is evidence to suggest that a good chuckle improves health. Not only does laughter produce changes that are linked to a decreased risk for chronic disease, these changes also influence weight loss.

Laughter and Weight Loss

Research shows that laughter causes physical changes that are similar to those produced by a mini workout. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, which delivers oxygen to tissues throughout the body. A study conducted at Vanderbilt University estimated that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter can burn 50 calories.

Laughter alone won’t replace exercise as a tool for weight loss, but there are other benefits that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. After laughter produces the effects of a mini workout, muscle relaxation and a decrease in blood pressure follow, which can result in improved sleep. Adequate sleep influences the hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Leptin signals fullness. Sleep keeps these hormones in balance, helping you to better control appetite and reach weight loss goals.

Positive Attitude and Chronic Disease

Studies suggest that over time negative feelings such as stress, anger, fear, and anxiety can influence health so much that they increase risk for chronic disease. Regular laughter is related to positive thoughts that trigger the release of neuropeptides and decrease the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a result, laughter helps to fight stress and negative thoughts that can lead to disease. The influence of laughter on health was supported by a study from the University of Maryland Medical Center which concluded that regular laughter may help protect against heart disease.

Research shows that laughter also reduces pain. Laughing causes a release of feel-good hormones (endorphins) that act as natural painkillers. Reduced pain can lead to ease of movement and the motivation to be more physically active. Regular exercise helps to improve mood and attitude and reduces risk for chronic disease.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl Recipe

Start your morning right with lots of protein, fiber, and vitamins. This bowl is loaded with healthy ingredients that will keep you full of energy throughout your busy morning. To save time, cook the ingredients the night before and store them in separate containers in the refrigerator. The next morning they will be ready to quickly combine and reheat.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes


4 small sweet potatoes

½ tbsp olive oil

½ cup diced onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 (15 oz.) can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

¼ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

4 large whole eggs or 8 egg whites

1 tsp lime juice

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro, pickled jalapenos, salsa, Greek yogurt or sour cream


Pierce the flesh of the sweet potatoes in a few places with a fork. Microwave until tender according to the manufacturer’s instructions, about 10 minutes on high. Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes cook, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for 4 more minutes, until the vegetables soften.

Add the black beans and cook for 1 more minute, until heated through. Stir in the chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and all of the black pepper. Turn the heat to low and keep warm.

Whisk the eggs together in a medium bowl. Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium. Add the eggs and scramble until cooked, about 3 minutes.

Slit the sweet potatoes and transfer the flesh to a medium bowl. Add the lime juice and the remaining 1/8 tsp salt. Mash and stir the ingredients together.

To assemble, divide the sweet potatoes, black beans and eggs into 4 portions. Add a portion of each to 4 serving bowls. Add optional toppings if desired and serve.

Nutrition information for 1 serving (with egg whites): Calories 324; Total Fat 2.2 g; Saturated Fat 0.3 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 438 mg; Carbohydrate 59.3 g; Fiber 11.1 g; Sugar 14.8 g; Protein 17.5 g

4 Reasons for a Shorter, More Intense Workout

Shorter, More Intense Workout

You want a challenge.

By alternating high-intensity intervals with short recovery periods, you can get health benefits in less time while challenging your fitness. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the high intensity intervals are performed at 80 to 90 percent of your max heart rate, followed by a rest session working at 40 to 50 percent. The intervals can last anywhere from five seconds to eight minutes each and total as few as 20 minutes for a complete workout. These short workouts have been found to improve fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity.

You are easily distracted.

An hour spent on a cardio machine can leave you bored and unmotivated. This quickly leads to little things that lower your intensity and calories burned. You might stop to change your playlist, pause to flip through television channels, or slow down so you can read or send a few text messages. Short, high-intensity interval workouts allow no time for distraction. Moving rapidly from one exercise to the next, whether you are doing cardio or strength training, will capture and hold your attention. The time will pass quickly and you will have no need to distract yourself from a long and boring workout.

You skip workouts because you don’t have time.

Lack of time is the number one barrier to exercise. If you find that you skip exercise because you can’t commit a full 30 to 60 minutes, stop using time as an excuse and take advantage of shorter workouts. A 20-minute session is much easier to fit in over the lunch hour or to squeeze in first thing in the morning. Focus on reducing time and increasing intensity to make exercise a regular part of your daily routine.

You want to lose weight.

High-intensity interval training has been found to reduce abdominal fat and total body weight while helping you to maintain muscle mass. According to the American Council on Exercise, one study analyzed men and women who performed shorter bouts of high-intensity exercise lasting fewer than 10 minutes. Results showed that each daily minute of higher intensity activity lowered the odds for obesity by five percent for women and two percent for men. This result led researchers to conclude that it may be the intensity of an activity that is more important than duration when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Not only did these shorter bouts appear to reduce risk of obesity, but exercisers were more likely to reach the recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise each week when focusing on shorter, more intense sessions.

Drinking Tea for Health

Drinking Tea for Health

Tea leaves are full of phytonutrients that protect against disease. When freshly brewed and sipped regularly, tea is not only a part of a daily ritual that can calm you and reduce stress, it provides unique plant chemicals that can change your health for the better.

Health Benefits

  • Beneficial flavonoids and antioxidants in tea have been found to protect against cancer and heart disease, reduce blood cholesterol levels, and reduce risk of stroke.

  • Polyphenols in tea may increase insulin activity improving insulin sensitivity, a characteristic that is especially beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes.

  • Some studies show that drinking tea can boost calories burned contributing to an increased metabolism and weight loss.

  • The polyphenols in tea may help strengthen bones, reducing risk for fractures.

  • Research shows that drinking tea can improve mood, alertness, relaxation, and concentration.

  • Tea provides a healthy alternative to high-calorie, high-sugar beverages.

What to Drink

When choosing a tea, look for green, black, white, oolong, or pu-erh (a pressed black tea) as they are all well recognized for their ability to improve health. Processing tea reduces the content of beneficial plant nutrients like polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids. As a result, bottled teas and instant tea powders will give you very little, if any, nutritional benefit when compared to a cup of freshly brewed hot tea.

Removing the caffeine from tea is also a form of processing and it leaves decaffeinated teas with fewer polyphenols that caffeinated varieties. Freshly brewed tea chilled in the refrigerator does provide some benefit, but because iced tea is often made in larger quantities with fewer tea bags, it’s phytonutrient content is less concentrated. Fermentation slightly reduces the phytochemicals in black and oolong teas to levels below that of green tea, but fermented teas still maintain plenty of health benefit.

Flavored and herbal teas can be a good drink option, but check labels carefully. Be sure that green, black, white, or oolong tea appears in the ingredient list. Some herbal teas contain no actual tea leaves and some flavored teas contain artificial ingredients and added sweeteners.

How to Prepare It

Everyone has their preferred way of brewing tea to bring out what they feel is the best flavor, but studies suggest a few guidelines for obtaining the most health benefit. Researchers have analyzed green tea and found that small, loose leaf tea leaves may be the best for extracting the most phytonutrients. Contrary to tips for brewing tea for flavor, boiling water has been found to help extract more polyphenols than water at cooler temperatures. The tea should also be steeped for two to five minutes. The longer the tea steeps, the higher the polyphenol content of the drink. - Calorie counting made easy
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