When shopping for new running shoes take your old pair with you so that a knowledgeable salesperson can evaluate the wear pattern to help you choose a suitable shoe. Wear the socks you normally run in and run around in the store after putting on the new shoes. Before you buy an exercise shoe, try to bend it. The shoe should bend where the foot bends—at the ball; if it bends at midfoot it will offer little support. It shouldn’t bend too easily or be too stiff. Exercise against aging. Regular exercise inhibits or even reverses many of the declines commonly associated with aging. A longterm regimen of three to five brisk 30minute walks each week, for instance, may not only add years to your life but also life to your years.
To prevent saddle soreness, use a gel filled or sheepskin saddle or pad on your bike. The hard, narrow seats on racing bikes can be particularly uncomfortable for women, who tend to have more widely spaced “sit bones” than men. Special anatomically designed saddles are easy to install.
If you play golf, you can reap fitness rewards by walking instead of riding a cart. (Try to avoid courses where carts are required.) And if you carry your bag, you’ll get an even more strenuous workout. Playing an 18hole course you cover about five miles and burn an estimated 500 calories. To get the most from a stairclimbing machine, don’t lean on the rails or front monitor since that reduces your energy expenditure. Hold the rails lightly—just enough to avoid losing your balance.
For a better walking workout on the treadmill, swing your arms. That way your movement is similar to cross country skiing, one of the best calorie burners around. One study found that treadmill walkers, by adding vigorous arm motion, could boost their caloric expenditures by about 50%—from 10 calories per minute up to 15. This will also improve upper body strength. Walk hills to burn more calories. It’s not surprising that you burn more calories when you walk uphill than on the level ground. But, in fact, walking downhill also uses significantly more energy than walking on flat terrain.
Try not to run straight down a steep hill: instead, run down in a zigzag pattern, leaning slightly forward and keeping your knees bent. Or walk down it. Running downhill puts much more stress on joints and muscles in your feet and legs than running uphill. As you go down a hill, you speed up, your stride lengthens, and thus your impact with the ground increases. There’s also an increased risk of muscle soreness the next day. When exercising, use the “talk test” to make sure you aren’t working out too strenuously. If you can just respond to conversation, your exercise intensity is just about right. If you can’t talk, slow down. This test can be as accurate as heart rate monitors in gauging exercise intensity.
To reduce your risk of stroke, take a walk. A Yale University study of more than 9,000 white male veterans, aged 50 to 60, showed that those who reported inactive lifestyles were nearly seven times more likely to suffer a stroke than men who were moderately or very active. A daily walk of just one mile was found to be the minimum activity for reducing stroke risk.
Take the stairs. Several worksite studies have found that people who simply began using staircases (instead of elevators) improved their overall physical fitness by 10 to 15%. A person climbing stairs at the rate of two steps per second uses, on average, 18 calories per minute, or 360 calories in just 20 minutes.
If you play a sport and sometimes have low back pain, try to correct muscle imbalances by becoming a little ambidextrous. Constantly rotating your lower back and hips in the same direction can produce recurrent muscle strain. So if you play golf, practice occasionally with an opposite handed swing. In tennis warmups, try a few weaker side forehands and backhand strokes. In baseball, try a few weaker side pitches between batters.
Replace worn exercise shoes. They typically lose about one-third of their ability to absorb shock after 500 miles of use and may wear unevenly. Loss of cushioning in the shock absorbent midsole occurs long before the outer sole or upper shoe shows wear.
Once the hot weather starts, build up your tolerance to outdoor exercise slowly. During the first week or two, your body will adjust by enlarging sweat glands and tiny blood vessels near the skin’s surface.
Walk on sand or soft dirt to boost your energy expenditure by a third. It also exercises more of the muscles in the foot, especially if you walk barefoot.
To boost immunity, exercise regularly and moderately. Though long and intense exercise may actually depress immunity, moderate exercise may boost the body’s ability to fight off colds and other illness.
Try crosscountry skiing. In terms of allaround aerobic benefits, it’s the frontrunner. Using muscles in the shoulders, back, chest, abdomen, buttocks, and legs, cross country skiers can burn as many as 600 to 900 calories per hour. Cross country skiing also spares your body the impact that running inflicts.
Drink, drink, drink. You can easily sweat away more than a quart of water during an hour of strenuous exercise, especially in hot weather. Dehydration can impair your performance, causing lethargy, nausea, and cramps, or even heat exhaustion. Drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. For optimal hydration during strenuous endurance exercise, drink at least 16 to 20 ounces of fluid two hours before exercising and another 8 ounces 15 to 30 minutes before. While exercising, sip 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes.
After exercising, replace the fluid you’ve sweated off. Weigh yourself before and after your workout; drink, one point for each pound lost. Make your own sports drink. For most exercises, water is an ideal fluid replacement. But during a strenuous endurance event lasting more than an hour, slightly sugared beverages may help your body conserve its carbohydrate stores, maintain normal blood sugar levels, and thus delay fatigue. Special “sports drinks” supply the optimal amount of carbohydrates—4 to 8% concentration—for endurance exercise, plus small amounts of sodium and potassium. But, in fact, these drinks are nutritionally similar to diluted juice or soft drinks.
For the best situps, keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, and come up to no more than a 30° angle. Skip those oldfashioned straight leg situps; these can make you overarch and thus strain your lower back.