It’s been said time and time again - exercising regularly just makes you feel better. Those who are hesitant on the benefits (aside from the obvious weight loss) of exercising should take a deeper look at what happens to your body when you hit the gym. Exercising makes you happier, and here’s why:
The Science - We won’t get too science-y on you, but there are a few chemicals that are activated during exercise. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are those feel-good neurochemicals that will have you on top of the world.
Love Yourself - This almost goes without saying, but self confidence from losing weight, toning muscle, or even just feeling healthier will have you marching proudly to the beat of your own drum before you know it.
Relieve the Stress - When you work out, you initiate low level stress on your body. Over time, this will actually help you feel less stressed out in your day-to-day life! Plus, there’s nothing quite like sweating out a hard day’s work.
Bye Bye Insomnia - Studies have shown that exercising regularly helps you catch some Z’s - particularly if you’re struggling with insomnia. Not only this, but being healthier will help you to get out of bed in the mornings and stay motivated! Waking up refreshed and relaxed is a foolproof way to improve your mood.
Boost Your Energy - Everyone who works out knows this one: no matter how tired you are, getting off your butt and going to the gym is actually going to make you more energized than you were before. And it’ll stay that way every day that you keep up the exercise! That’s worth a hundred years of happiness.
When we think about swimming, the first thing that comes to mind is not fitness. Swimming lessons, kids, and playing often occupy the space in our minds dedicated to pools and bodies of water. We are going to review swimming and look at reasons why it can actually be a great workout - as well as something your kids do.
Perfect for people struggling with arthritis, diabetes, and other conditions - Because it’s a great sport for lowering stress levels, swimming can help keep blood sugar levels under control. It also stretches your muscles and doesn’t put pressure on your joints. The lack of impact allows people with arthritis to get exercise without the pain that usually accompanies activity. Overall it’s a great way to stay fit regardless of physical limitations!
It’s a full body workout - On average, swimming at an average-slower pace burns 413 calories per hour for a person who weighs 130 pounds. The amount of calories burned only increases with pace and weight. Swimming uses essentially all of your muscles: from biceps to abs to hamstrings, so it’s a great way to have a full body workout that doesn’t use equipment.
It’s the perfect entry sport - Due to its extreme accessibility, swimming is a great way for people who would otherwise struggle with exercise to get into fitness. It provides a gateway not only to water sports and competitive swimming, but it increases confidence and puts you in the right mindset to open up to other types of exercise. Starting small just means throwing on your swimsuit and hopping in the pool.
It’s really hard to get injured - This is especially pertinent to people who have had struggles with previous sports or fitness related injuries. Getting into the pool is like entering a safe haven - unless you are involved in contact pool sports like water polo, the only thing that gets in your way is you!
You can do it with your kids - Many people struggle to find the time to squeeze in a workout when they have growing families with active, energetic kids. Swimming is one of the very few activities that is totally family friendly. You don’t have to sacrifice time with your kids to get a workout in! Bring your kids to the pool and tread water while they play, take turns watching them while a partner swims laps - there are tons of ways to incorporate family time into exercise time!
There are hundreds of myths out there about dieting, weight loss, and what’s really healthy for you. It can be very difficult to weed out truth from fiction, so we’ve gathered some info on 5 popular myths and done our research so you don’t have to!
I have to avoid carbs to lose weight - Cutting carbs is actually not the best thing you can do to your body, particularly when trying to lose weight. As long as you don’t have them in excess and try to consume whole grain, carbs can be a happy way to add to your meals.
Skipping meals will help me lose a few extra pounds - It’s often assumed that cutting meals and therefore lowering the amount you eat in a day is a good way to lose fat. The reality is that skipping meals can just leave you tired and decrease your general health - sometimes also leading you to eat extra at your next meal. Losing weight means lowering calorie intake overall (eating smaller portions each meal) and/or burning calories through exercise.
Snacking is always a bad idea - People who are overweight consume an excess of food at every meal. Snacking on can actually encourage you to eat less during meals - and if you replace the chips and high fat snacks with healthy veggies and fruits, you might find that snacking can help you in your weight loss journey.
No more fast food! - Fast food is arguably fully integrated into North American culture. Experts realize that cutting it out isn’t always an option, and there are options to choose healthier meals at fast food restaurants. Simply pay attention to the nutrition facts and stay away from unhealthy meal add-ons like french fries.
Frozen or canned fruits/veggies are less healthy for you than fresh - This is a very common misconception - we assume that because it’s fresh it’s better. This also feeds the myth that healthy eating is too expensive. As long as you rinse excess salt from canned veggies, they are just as nutrient-packed (sometimes more!) than fresh.
Hot5 Fitness - This app gives you the option to connect with real personal trainers and get customized advice that fits your needs. It also has descriptive videos that you can choose to work out to - everything from yoga to jogging to full body workouts.
Pact - If money is an incentive that keeps you motivated, this is the app for you. For every workout and healthy meal verified by GPS and photo evidence, you get money that’s given by members who didn’t reach their goals. You control how much money is on the line, but if you fail to keep up, be warned - it’ll cost you more than a lost workout.
Workout Trainer - Having a personal trainer that guides you step by step through different exercises and workouts can help many people reach their goals faster. This app gives you that opportunity, minus the dent in your wallet. It has options for in the gym or at home workouts, making it ideal for those who don’t have the time or money to spend at the gym.
JETFIT - One of the most popular fitness apps, and for good reason, Jetfit covers all the bases. It provides customisable workouts, community driven motivation, and a tracker that shows your progress. It’s flexible and free to use, making it worth the download.
Charity Miles - Walking, running, or biking - every mile you exercise earns money for charities. Ranging from 10 cents/mile for bikers and 25 cents/mile for runners, this app is one of a kind. It doesn’t offer any unique workout features, but it does help you contribute to charity in a way that only costs you a workout.
Cyclemeter - Claiming to be the most comprehensive app for cyclists out there, Cyclemeter offers a huge database of “maps, graphs, splits, intervals, laps, announcements, zones, training plans, and more”, and with the rave reviews it’s clearly worth checking out.
Pocket Yoga - Designed by yoga instructors, this app is great for yogis of all experience levels. With a comprehensive library of yoga poses and fun illustrations, Pocket Yoga is perfect for those who prefer at home yoga time without being forced to stop to remember different poses and transitions.
MyFitnessPal - Food focused and featured as the #1 Health and Fitness app for 4 years running, MyFitnessPal lives up to expectations. It holds a huge database of foods and diets and has a simple tracker that claims to be the fastest and easiest out there. Over 45,000 near-5 star ratings speak to the validity of these claims.
RockMyRun - Regardless of musical taste, this app has something for everyone. RockMyRun matches BPM (beats per minute) with your pace, improving enjoyment and motivation by up to a whopping 35%. Instead of standing around trying to find great workout songs, this app does the work for you and puts together great playlists for you to access with a quick tap.
Zombies, Run! - One of the more amusing apps, this is exactly what it sounds like. Make your run more interesting by immersing yourself in the zombie apocalypse. It could be a great motivator to run just a little bit faster than your average pace.
This is your guide on the why, how, and when of foam rolling. If you’ve ever had doubts, look no further: foam rolling is a painful but necessary part of your fitness routine. Check out our thoughts and experiences below:
So what is a foam roller actually for?
Foam rollers are a variation of a massaging tool. They are used to help reduce soreness and tension, and are particularly helpful for people who need to visit massage therapists regularly. While they aren’t a replacement to the expertise and value of a professional therapist, they can be an aid and even space out visits to reduce cost. Rollers are also fantastic for distance runners (many swear they couldn’t run a marathon without one!), hardcore fitness buffs, and even people who work long hours on their feet.
How does it work?
Without getting too science-y, the most common explanations follow these lines: Muscles are coated by a tissue called fascia, which can be scarred by various injuries. Scarring causes the fascia to stick to the muscle, causing a lack of movement which then results in pain. Foam rolling claims to release this sticking which leaves your muscles loose and pain-free!
Is it Worth it?
Now, while a foam roller is more of an investment item - the average price kicking in at around $50 for a piece of foam with bumps on it - the price is well worth the cash. We all dread the morning after a hard workout where your muscles are so sore you don’t feel like getting out of bed and end up hobbling your way through the day. Foam rolling after your workout is the magical solution: review after review says that the day-after-workout soreness was reduced by huge proportions.
With very minimal effort in the actual process of foam rolling, it’s easily done for a wide variety of people. From the person who struggles with sore legs after an 8 hour shift to the person who just ran a half marathon - foam rolling is for everyone! You can do it watching TV, listening to music, even playing with your kids. It’s not a total substitute for a professional massage, but it functions well for post-workout or ‘it’s been a long day’ soreness.
We’d highly recommend trying one of these versatile rollers out! It may not seem like much from first impressions but it can truly make a difference in your day-to-day fitness.
Not everyone enjoys having the same old shake before their workout, and not everyone can stomach that shake at any time in the day. We’ve compiled our favourite pre-workout meals that don’t sacrifice flavour and will keep you running - no matter what time of the day it is.
The Breakfast Workout
Whole Grain Toast with Eggs - Mix two great breakfast items to make your own, healthier version of a breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s. Add cheese, tomato, and low sodium cold cuts to add a little extra protein and Vitamin C to this dish.
Oatmeal - You can’t go wrong with oatmeal. The slow burning fuel will keep you running for your entire workout. Add fruit for an extra kick and to keep your fluids up!
Greek Yogurt with Granola - Yogurt is easy on the stomach, for those who struggle to eat breakfast early in the morning. Nuts and seeds from granola provide healthy sugars that keep your motor running all morning long.
The Lunch Workout
Smoothie - Opt for a smoothie if you prefer a lighter pre-workout meal. The best part about smoothies is that you can hide all sorts of healthy things within sweet and fresh tasting fruits. Find a smoothie that works for you - we suggest starting with fruit, greek yogurt, and granola for a kicker combination.
Whole Grain Sandwich with Peanut Butter and Bananas - Add a protein punch to your pre-workout with the tasty peanut butter and banana combo. Having this sandwich on whole grain bread is an added healthy option.
Salad with Veggies and Egg - Try adding spinach and egg into your salad mix for an extra boost of iron and protein! Veggies can add all sorts of valuable nutrients to help keep energy levels up without feeling bloated.
The Dinner Workout
Chicken and Pasta - Pack a punch with a light dinner of chicken and pasta. Adding carbs is a great way to keep you running, especially if you work out later in the day. Keep the amount of chicken to the size of your palm to avoid overeating.
Beef and Squash - Having a limited amount of roast beef and butternut squash can be a great pre-workout meal. Be careful to limit your intake so you don’t get bloated and feel too heavy to work out!
Chicken Hash - Combine diced chicken, squash, and apple to create a delicious meal that can be put in whole grain wrap, on a pita, or in a sandwich for variety. Add in extra veggies to change it up!
The Snack Workout
Pita and Hummus - This snack features quick-to-digest carbs in a small, tasty package that will give you an extra bounce in your step.
Almond Butter and Rice Cake (with optional Jam) - A twist on the classic PB & J, rice cakes are a lighter option and almond butter is arguably healthier than its sweeter cousin.
Apple and Cheese (with optional peanut butter) - A great way to inject some healthy sugars into your diet (with bonus calcium or protein), this is a great snack that you can take on the go.
Unlike the popular belief that protein is the most important thing to have after a workout, experts say that fluids and carbs are what your body need the most. Be sure to drink lots of water - and if you’re sweating excessively try to get a drink with electrolytes in it. People work out at different times in the day and unfortunately not everyone can stomach a tuna sandwich for breakfast, so we’ve split up our list into sections based on breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time! Here are a few of our top post-workout foods:
The Breakfast Workout
Healthy Granola with Nuts - High in protein and carbohydrates, granola with added nuts is a perfect breakfast post-workout meal. It’s perfect for the person who hates eating breakfast - a small amount can be sufficient!
Protein Packed Omelette - If eggs are your thing, try throwing some veggies in your omelette! It helps to vary the consistency and taste of your breakfast each day. Plus, we all know eggs are packed with protein!
The Lunch Workout
Wrap it up - Having a whole grain wrap filled with chicken and bean salad is a great option that fills you up without getting bloated. The wrap provides that boost of carbs your body needs to refill on after a tough workout and beans are a great source of many nutrients. Plus it’s portable if you’re heading back to the office!
The Classic Tuna - Whole grain bread and fish is a perfect light lunch; tuna is low in calories but high in protein! Add tomatoes, spinach, and hummus for the full package. Try toasting the bread if you’re packing it for later - it helps to keep the sogginess away!
The Dinner Workout
Roasted Chicken and Veg - Chicken is lean, delicious, and a great post workout meal. Add in some veg lightly tossed in olive oil and roasted for extra flavour and variety (they’re pretty good for your heart, too!).
Salmon and Rice - Studies have shown that salmon regulates insulin levels… in addition to the expected protein punch! Add some whole grain rice or veg (we like roasted sweet potatoes) to liven the dish up and add a few more carbs.
The Snack Workout
Fun Fruit Salad - Aside from being renowned for their anti-oxidants and enzymes, did you know fruits are loaded with carbs? Just one more thing to add to the huge list of the health benefits of fruit. Fruits are also light enough that they won’t spoil your next meal!
Chocolate Milk (yes, you read that right!) - Chocolate milk is the latest craze in post-workout foodies… and for good reason! It has the perfect split of carbs, protein, and fluids to revitalize your body after a hard workout. Plus, it’s delicious ;)
Whether you’re a parent who can’t find a sitter or you work from home and don’t have the time for the gym, these great exercises will keep you in shape. No weights or equipment required - and depending on the time you allot, you can increase reps for a longer workout or decrease for something as short as 10 minutes. Its flexibility makes this the perfect workout for anyone at home. Modify as needed for the time you have and the intensity you want to build towards!
Squats - Keeping your feet about hip-distance apart, lean slightly forward and bend at the knee. Make sure your knees don’t go over your toes! If you’re having troubles getting it right, try starting with a “sitting” motion with a chair underneath you. Don’t actually sit down, simply tap the chair and stand back up again. Start off with 10-12 reps and build towards 20.
Bicycle Crunches - Start in the typical crunch position, then alternating legs bring one at a time up towards your chest and then stretch out to a straight position. If your right leg is towards your chest your left leg should be stretched out, parallel to the floor (but don’t touch the ground!) As you bring your right leg up to your chest, crunch across your body and touch your left elbow to your right knee. As your right leg stretches out, bring your left leg up and crunch you right elbow towards your left knee. Start with 10-12 reps and build towards 20.
Push-Ups - Lie on your stomach with your arms bent and tucked in towards your chest. Push up, making sure your body is flat (avoid slumping towards the ground!) and come back down so that your body is almost touching the ground. Repeat. If you struggle with push-ups, try doing the modified version - the same position, but simply drop your knees to the ground and push-up from there. Try 10 reps, build to 15-20.
Step-Ups - Using stairs or a solid raised surface, bring your right foot up to rest on the stair. Step up with your left leg so that both feet are on the same surface, then step down with your right leg and follow suit with your left. Try for 15 reps, build to 30 (or 15 with weights).
Jumping Squats - Start in a squat position, and jump into the air. Land in the same squat position. For increased intensity, try to jump as high as possible in the air with each rep. Start out with 10 reps, build to 20.
Plank - Finish off with a plank - get into a push-up position, but lean on your forearms with your elbows tucked in. This will work your core strength to the max! Start off with 30 seconds and build towards 1 minute. Really push yourself and go for as long as possible! If you find yourself letting go at 35 seconds, don’t let yourself relax until you hit 40.
The issue with making a list about the best high intensity sports is that that same ones always dominate - hockey, football, and basketball. We set out to create a list that didn’t include these extra popular sports but still held true to the title. Here are our top 5 contact sports:
Rugby - This one almost made our ‘too popular to include’ list but it managed to sneak off to the main list - it’s just not as popular globally as the others. Rugby is one of the world’s most violent team sports - many compare the physical intensity to football but without the padding. This sport is for you if you don’t mind the odd broken bone or bloody nose and if you like building companionship and loyalty with your teammates.
Dodgeball - Often viewed more of a game than a sport (argue with the National Amateur Dodgeball Association if you believe that), dodgeball is all about anticipation and fast reflexes. Try dodging a ball that’s being thrown at you at a speed of 128 km/h and see if you have what it takes to play in the big leagues.
Field Hockey - While it is like its more popular cousin, field hockey is a sport on its own. Using small, rounded sticks players hustle the tiny ball into the opposing team’s net. The great thing about this sport is that it can be played year round - and it’s a welcome change for some from the ice.
Wrestling - You can’t get more contact than wrestling! It’s not a common go-to for many sports fanatics outside of WWE but it is a sport to experience for yourself. If you enjoy other martial arts, you are sure to enjoy this variation. Be prepared to get a little beaten up if it’s your first time playing - it’s also very intense to spectate!
Rodeo - Bet you didn’t see this one coming! While rodeos are much more common in certain areas of North America, there’s a surprising amount of indoor simulators to try your hand at. It’s exhilarating and highly dangerous, even if you manage to outlast your animal opponent. How long can you stay on a 2,000+ pound bucking bull?