If you’re a fan of the exercise machines at your gym, you might put more thought into how to time your visit so there’s actually one free than to what you do when you’re on it, or how it’s benefitting your body. The truth is, getting the most out of a machine takes strategy, and if you’re looking to maximize your time at the gym, some machines are better than others.If a low-resistance stationary bike session or leisurely elliptical hour feels easy, that’s probably because you’re not expending as much energy as you could be. There are plenty of benefits to going slow and steady—it’s great for cardiovascular health, and can help build your endurance and speed—but it’s not going to give you a hardcore calorie burn.Quick note here: If weight loss is your goal, burning calories through cardio work alone isn’t going to do it. You also need to build lean muscle through strength training, and most importantly focus on eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress.With all this in mind, here are the ultra-efficient, expert-approved exercise machines you should focus on if your goal is to hit the gym, hit it hard, and hit the road.1. Rowing MachineRowing machines have become gym-floor mainstays, and are excellent tools for raising your heart rate and strengthening your legs, arms, and core—all while sitting down! Not that it’s a walk (er, row?) in the park. “Because the entire body is working at once, energy expenditure is very high,” Jeff Halevy, CEO of Halevy Life in NYC, previously told SELF.“They challenge the user to be powerful and efficient,” adds Crunch master trainer Ariel Iasevoli. They work using wind or water resistance, so the more effort you put in, the harder it becomes (she recommends setting it at a level five to start).The key to the cardio and strength benefits, though, is making sure you’re using the machine the way it’s designed to be used. “Yes, you can hop on one and use it incorrectly and still get an OK workout, but learning the proper timing and technique will provide an even greater workout,” explains Iasevoli.Start seated near the front of the machine with your legs bent and holding the handles in your hands and with a slight lean forward.Push back powerfully with your legs then follow with your arms by bringing the bar to your ribs and lean back slightly. Pause here for a moment.Straighten your arms back out, then bend your knees to bring your body back to the starting position (repeat: legs, arms, arms, legs).It’s all about control and power—if you’re speeding through, you probably aren’t using proper form. “A great rower looks like they’re are going ‘slow.’ Every stroke is powerful, so they don’t need to rush,” says Iasevoli. This will help prevent you from getting exhausted too quickly.2. Stair ClimberUsing these machines (often known as StepMills or StairMasters) is like climbing a set of stairs that just never ends. It’s not pleasant, but it’s effective. “I like the stair climber because the user is standing the entire time, is time efficient, and it forces the user to keep moving the entire time,” says Iasevoli. It’s cardio on cardio on cardio.But you’re also strengthening your lower body, too. After a few flights you’re going to feel the burn in your quads, butt, and hamstrings. “Climbing stairs puts all of your body weight on a single leg at a time in a lunge pattern,” Halevy explains. “The large muscle groups of the legs are being worked, so energy expenditure is very high.”In addition to expending a ton of energy while you’re on the machine, having strong leg muscles is particularly great for increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR)—because these lower-body muscles are so big, they’re some of the most metabolically active muscles in your body (muscle mass requires more energy to maintain, so you burn more calories at rest). And when you’re climbing with proper posture your core is working to keep you upright and balanced, too.To get started, Iasevoli suggests doing minute-on, minute-off intervals for 10 to 20 minutes, alternating between a faster and a slower speed. (Make sure your entire foot hits the stair with each step.)The cardinal rule of stair climbing, according to Iasevoli and Halevy? No holding onto the arm rails for support. You can lightly rest your fingertips for balance, but for max benefits, don’t put weight into them.3. TreadmillLike the stair climber, “I like the treadmill because it forces the user to keep moving throughout the workout,” says Iasevoli. Two efficient ways to use it for heart-pumping cardio are high-intensity intervals and walking with the incline set high.Treadmills are one of the simplest ways to incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is an effective and efficient way to train. Because you’re “revving” your heart rate multiple times during a HIIT session, your body uses more energy to return to a resting state after the workout is over, burning more calories in the process. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or the “afterburn effect.” (Here are 10 treadmill interval workouts to try.)There’s no need to drive your heart rate through the roof during every workout session, though. It’s efficient for burning fat, but it puts a lot of stress on your body, so you don’t want to do it every day. Treadmills have an answer for that. Walking at a significant incline is an excellent way to burn fat without putting as much pressure on your joints. The afterburn effect isn’t as great, but because you’re keeping your heart rate in a moderate zone, you’ll still burn more calories from fat than from carbohydrates, explains Iasevoli.Iasevoli recommends, “Walk at a moderate speed and increase the incline every couple of minutes until you get to about 8. Stay at 8 for 5 to 10 minutes and work yourself back down. You may also do an entire workout at 5 to 7 grade, increasing and decreasing the speed (slow walk to speed walk) every other minute.” Here’s a low-impact, beginner-friendly walking interval workout you can follow along with.4. Fan BikeOne of the most challenging cardio machines out there is the fan bike (also referred to as the Assault Air or Airdyne bike). It looks similar to a stationary bike, but it has a large fan as a front wheel, and two handlebars that are higher than the seat. Unlike a stationary bike though, this equipment requires you to move your arms as well as your legs in order to peddle, and since you’re expending more energy to get it done, you’re burning more calories. Like rowing machines, the bikes use wind resistance to create work. “Wind resistance is exponential, so the harder you pedal, the more challenging the workout,” adds Iasevoli.Because this machine is so intense, Iasevoli recommends starting with 10 seconds of all-out work followed by 50 seconds of rest, and repeat that for a total of 10 minutes. As you get more advanced, you can decrease your ratio of work to rest.Ultimately, the machine you choose is up to personal preference. No matter what your goal is, the most effective and efficient machines are the ones you can be consistent with. So if you consider the treadmill the dreadmill, no sweat—try the rowing machine. And if you actually enjoy the elliptical, that’s cool, too. It’s all about making sure the intensity is there and putting in the work.You may also like: The Ultimate Fat-Burning, Butt-Lifting Workout You Can Do At Home
A Guide to Better Scalp Care
It is frequently easy to disregard the things that we cannot see. With scalp care, for instance, most people simply adopt the habit of shampooing their hair regularly. Some wash their scalps—and hair—daily while others prefer to do so every other day. Depending on your preference, you might even do the washing only once a week.
Nevertheless, beauty experts assert that it is essential to have a better scalp care routine. The scalp is a literal extension of your face and disregarding its condition can easily lead to several conditions including itching, dryness, and irritation—and dandruff. A dirty, uncared-for scalp can potentially become a breeding ground for unwanted parasites like lice, or even cause unnecessary hair loss.
But what does the scalp do for us and why do we need to take better care of it?
The scalp is not different from the skin in the body. Although it grows thicker and longer hair than all the other parts of the body, it is anatomically the same as all the other areas in the human body. The scalp, however, has more oil glands, 100,000 hair follicles, and five levels—or layers—of tissue.
The scalp’s sebaceous glands produce sebum or oil which, then, helps determine the condition of the hair and the scalp’s skin. The specific production of sebum is different from individual to individual. The scalp does not simply provide us with hair. It also protects our skull from infection and trauma. Regular scalp care, then, is important as this promotes both the healthy hair growth and scalp protection.
When questioned about the best scalp care routine, Michelle Henry, a dermatologist, says that a healthy scalp must not have any problems. “We shouldn’t see redness, we shouldn’t see irritation, and we shouldn’t see a lot of scales or buildup. It should not feel tender and it should not have an odor,” she shares. Henry adds that it is always best to consult a dermatologist if you experience any of these scalp conditions.
Scalp care is similar to the overall skin care regimen. The scalp must always be clean, replete of dirt, debris, and oil. Nonetheless, it is also essential to let it stay hydrated. Like with skin hydration, hydrating your scalp must be dependent on the type of scalp you have. For instance, if you have dry scalp, it is recommended that you avoid over-stripping it with scrubbing.
Shampoos and hair conditioners are dependent on the type of scalp you have. If you have an oily scalp, you can use sulfate-free shampoos. You can even purchase a shampoo that exfoliates your scalp. One with sea salt can work wonders. Those with dry scalps, however, must use a scalp toner which helps moisturize the scalp. A moisturizing shampoo and conditioner can also help.
Scalp care is as important as overall skin care. Longer and thicker hair can be achieved when the scalp is allowed to remain healthy, clean, and moisturized. Depending on the type of scalp you have, however, you should only choose products that are entirely right for you.
Sedentary Lifestyle Can Abruptly Damage Your Health
Having a sedentary lifestyle can quickly damage your health as it can lead to serious issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Massive and prolonged lockdown protocols in the US have forced many to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. The need to limit COVID-19 transmission led a lot of citizens to spend more time sitting at home and forego daily commutes. According to experts, most Americans are now spending a daily average of six (6) hours sitting as compared to the daily average of four (4) hours prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Most citizens, even the typically active ones, are now adhering to a more sedentary lifestyle with physical activity dropping to almost one-third of pre-pandemic times. Those who used to be sedentary became even more sedentary, as well, asserts a recent research published in the Psychiatry journal.
These alarming trends stipulate, then, that the average American has a more sedentary lifestyle at present as compared to any other period in history. “We have definitely seen instances of increased sedentary behavior, especially with more people at home during lockdowns, and more unemployment,” mentions Dr Richard Yoon, orthopedics chief at Jersey City Medical Center. “Not only the physical effects but also the mental challenges posed by the pandemic have taken their toll. And I have seen that some of my patients are less active and visiting the fridge more often because of the loss of their old routines,” Yoon adds.
An increased sedentary lifestyle leads to several health issues including heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, and even death. The prevalent trends of work-from-home (WFH) arrangements and distance learning schemes further exacerbate the problem.
“It definitely takes less time for an unhealthy lifestyle to take hold than an active, healthy one. Once you get into a routine of not doing much, you can start feeling the effects right away,” Yoon points out. “Muscle breakdown can start in as little as 24 hours, and aches and pains start to creep in,” he stresses.
Furthermore, sitting all day can even lead to an increased experience of back pain which, then, encourages people to perpetuate a more sedentary lifestyle. People who do not feel well tend to decrease their physical activities and the tempting idea of staying immobile takes hold.
“Sedentary behavior and lifestyle have a very strong link to the development of back pain,” asserts Dr Medhat Mikhael, a pain management specialist at the Spine Center of the MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center. “Weight gain that puts a load on the spine and weakened abdominal and back muscles together with weakened ligaments would lead to further load on the spine,” he continues. “All of these effects and changes would create a vicious circle of back pain and further physiological and mechanical deterioration of the spine.”
The vicious cycle that results from adopting a sedentary lifestyle gets further supported by the gradual appearance of different health issues as more and more Americans follow the lockdown protocols mandated to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, there is a need to exert some effort, even when remaining at home, so that this sedentary lifestyle does not take hold—and encourage the onset of several physical and mental issues.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle During the Holidays
It is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This becomes particularly difficult during the Christmas holidays when food becomes overflowing and simultaneous celebrations sway you toward overindulging your palate.
Experts stress that it is important to focus on having a healthy lifestyle during the upcoming holiday season. Harvard’s Medical School fellow, Dr Beth Frates, provides us with several tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the year-end celebrations.
Dr Frates mentions the necessity of maintaining your workout routine. She points out that people tend to forget their exercise routines during stressful situations. To halt such drastic decisions, however, she recommends integrating a new activity. People get easily stimulated when they are presented with new activities. She adds that it is also helpful to request for exercise-related gifts or even opt for holiday celebrations that allow you active participation. Playing a simple game with the family, for example, can provide you with the opportunity to physically exert yourself.
It helps to maintain your habits, as well. Dr Frates stresses the need to track your routine. A healthy lifestyle cannot be easily attainable without the conscious effort to control what you do. Hence, recording what you eat and drink during every meal is beneficial. Keeping a record of your daily exercise routine is essential, as well. She says that your logbook permits you to measure your efforts and also allows you to approximate the level of indulgence you can appropriate for yourself during the holidays.
Dr Frates also shares that it is crucial to have a proper mindset. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle cannot be done without changing your point of view. A positive outlook in life is essential. Thus, it is best to throw away all the negative thoughts and pursue only the good vibes that typically accompany the holiday celebrations. Spending time with your family and loved ones can provide you with this, as well.
Food, she says, is an integral part of the upcoming celebrations. However, we should not forget that Christmas and New Year are both centered on new beginnings, as well. Hence, focusing on beneficial modifications and resolutions should be looked into. Banishing undesirable habits, addictions, and even people can greatly help shape—and maintain—a healthy lifestyle. Infusing yourself with good thoughts and plans can further contribute, as well. Allow yourself to discover new things, as well. Find loved ones to do outdoor activities with.
Finally, Dr Frates points out that overindulging yourself during this holiday season can still be a possibility. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to your maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Allow yourself to enjoy. The Christmas season is a time of celebration which specifically allows you to relax and be with your loved ones. It is the moment when you get to let your hair down and simply be yourself. She stresses that slipping up on your exercise routine, for instance, shouldn’t be a cause for worry. You can always start again, she adds.
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