SparkPeople Guest Blogger

9 Fun Family Fitness Activities

The family that gets active together, stays together. Bringing the family together for a day or an afternoon of movement is both fun and offers an opportunity to stay connected even when schedules are hectic. Plus, you’ll be instilling great health and fitness values in your children. Make a commitment to unleash your inner child and spend valuable quality time with those you love by trying some of these family-friendly activities.

Zoo Adventure Walk Lions and tigers and fitness, oh my! Consider taking your family to the zoo for an educational and fun way to get your move on. Track your steps and the distance covered during your zoo adventure by wearing a pedometer or using an app on your phone. Keep the kids engaged by encouraging them to count the number of steps between animal exhibits and the number of different animals they encounter. Plus, the fun doesn’t have to stop when you leave the zoo! Back at home, take turns acting out all the different animals.

Obstacle Course Earn the title of Parent (or Grandparent) of the Week by creating an obstacle course in the backyard or at a local park. All you need is outdoor chalk, a hula hoop, ball, bucket or trash can, cones and a towel to build a fun and challenging circuit. Do each station once, then repeat the entire circuit for a total of ten times through.

  • Jumping Jacks 10
  • Hula hoop Try to keep the hoop moving for one minute.
  • Push-Ups 10-15
  • Hopscotch Set up the classic game with chalk or tape.
  • Basketball Bounce the basketball 10 times before throwing it into an empty bucket or trash can.
  • Toe Touch Hops Reach to the sky, reach down to touch your toes, then swing arms up and jump hop to the sky. Do this 10 times.
  • Cone Drills With a set of at least five rubber cones, have everyone weave in and out of the cones before running back to the first cone. Repeat this 10 times. If you don’t have cones, be creative by using water bottles or washcloths.
  • Beatle Bug Sit-Ups Start on your back and then bring knees and upper body together like a bug. Stay in this position, then repeat 15 more times.
Bike Ride Hop on two wheels and go for a family bike ride around the neighborhood or local park.

Jump Rope Grab a jump rope and spend some time in the driveway as everyone takes turns jumping. Compete to see who can jump the most consecutive times and challenge each other to try new tricks.

DIY Slip and Slide Spray a large piece of tarp with water and a little baby oil, set the hose at the top of the tarp and you’re in business. Let everyone take turns running and sliding as far as they can along the tarp. (Note: If you live in an area with water usage concerns, use a low flow of water.)

Volleyball Set up your own volleyball fun using a clothesline and ball. Choose teams and play on!

Fire Fly Run Mason jars and a setting sun are all you need for this fun nighttime activity. Hit your local park or another open space where the fireflies will be out in numbers. Run around as everyone tries to spot and catch the fireflies—just remember to let them go after you catch them.

Flashlight Tag Arm everyone with a flashlight and head to the backyard to run around as you try to ‘’tag’’ people by shining a flashlight on them.

Dance Party Gather everyone outside or in the living room for a dance party. Play each family member’s favorite songs while you all do crazy moves and express yourself through dance.

How do you get your family moving? Share you favorite family activity in the comments!

About the Author
Kim Truman is an all-around trainer and nutrition coach based in Dallas, Texas. She is well-known for her enthusiastic and motivational coaching style, as well as her high-energy workout programs. Discover more about Kim and her mission at www.kimtrumanfitness.com

Posted 6/26/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   6,659 views

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5 Ways to Make Walking More Wonderful

Whether you have been walking for years or are just getting started with it, making your walking time more enjoyable can help you stay more motivated to stick with it over the long term, which is the key to lasting results!

Try these five simple tips to help you take your walk from good to great:

#1: Step in the right shoes.
This one may sound super obvious, but so many of us are walking around in shoes that are either the wrong size or aren't designed to support our unique needs. If your feet are in pain after you finish a walk, chances are you are in need of a sneaker makeover! The right footwear could be what's missing from your routine and could help turn your walking time into a more pleasurable experience that you'll actually look forward to.

If you regularly experience pain or tenderness in your feet, you may have issues with plantar fasciitis, overpronation (your feet rolling inward as you step), flat feet or even high arches that need to be addressed by either a specific type of shoe and/or orthopedics. Depending on what kind of issues you are experiencing, you may need the expertise of a podiatrist or orthopedist to best advise you on what type of shoe or orthopedics you should be wearing. Please don't wait until the pain is unbearable to make an appointment - do it today! 

It's also important to find the right fit. Your sneaker size is typically (though not always) a half to one full size larger than your formal shoe size. If you aren't sure what your specific sneaker size is, take the time to get fitted properly in an athletic store. And don't forget that even the perfect sneakers wear out over time and mileage, so be sure to replace them as needed (like when you start to notice the support or tread wearing out in your shoes) to keep a spring in your step over the long term.
 

Posted 6/25/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   10,716 views

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9 Ways to Get Healthy Fats Into Your Diet

Life is full of ambiguity and challenges. Few challenges in life can be as complex as proper nutrition. Your body is your greatest possession. You owe it to yourself to find out all you can about staying healthy. Most diets imply giving up something. However, the diet we will discuss is about taking advantage of something. You will learn how to take advantage of fats by incorporating healthy fats in your eating habits. By making small changes, lasting results will come.

Don’t Throw Out the Sweets

This sounds counter-productive, but throwing out all the unhealthy food is the first step to failure. Humans have an affinity for sugar, which causes those pesky sugar cravings. When you can’t get to sugar, your body craves the most-caloric foods: fat. If you snack on candy or other concentrated sweets now and then, it’s okay. Just limit yourself to one or two high-sugar items a week.

Don't Go Fat-Free

Your body needs fat to survive. Fats are used by the body in many different chemical processes, which are required to survive. For example, your skin contains fats to help prevent bacteria and elements from entering the body.  

Reduce Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature, as well as a few tropical oils. When you cook, use fats that exist as a liquid at room temperature. This includes olive, vegetable, canola, and peanut oil. These make excellent bases for creating a home-made dressing, which can be used on salads, breads, pasta, or anything else you eat.

Snack on Nuts

Nuts are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which promote heart health. Nuts contain huge amounts of proteins as well. This gives your body a source of energy without the high caloric values of common snacks. However, avoid purchasing nuts processed with additives, such as salt, sugars, or even electrolytes.

Have Fish Once a Week

Fish contains high levels of beneficial Omega-3s and other healthy fats. Furthermore, the Omage-3s reduce low-density lipids and triglycerides—bad forms of cholesterol. Some fish lack high values of these nutrients, so stick to Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Mackerel, and Lake Trout. Also, do not deep fry your fish. What’s the point of eating healthier foods if it’s swimming in pure fat?

Travel South of the Border

Mexican food contains many antioxidants in addition to being lower in unhealthy fats. Avocados, pinto beans, and fresh fruit and vegetables all promote healthy fats in your body. You can even purchase avocado oil for much of your cooking.

Make Specialty Butters

When you use butter for your food, you are actually using an unhealthy fat. However, you can reduce the amount of unhealthy fat by making home-made specialty butters. Take a typical stick of butter, add some seasonings to it, and let it set in the fridge for a few days. The flavor imparted in the butter will be pronounced, which results in using less butter for your foods.

Ditch Boxed Food

Processed foods contain an extraordinary amount of substitutes, fats, and preservatives. These substances encourage and reinforce cravings for unhealthy foods. When you shop for food, avoid going down the center aisles of the store. Fresh food is kept on the store’s perimeter for freshness, and fresh food has more healthy fats than processed items.

Eat  Your Eggs

You have heard of the dangers of egg yolks for cholesterol. However, whole eggs are very beneficial when eaten whole and in moderation. Try to limit yourself to less than six eggs per week. This will actually give you some of the healthy fats from the eggs without worrying about the excess cholesterol caused by overindulgence.

With the above steps in mind, you can incorporate more healthy fats into your diet. Don't feel like you have to use all of these tips at once--start with slow changes to allow for natural integration of healthy fats into your diet.

Posted 6/25/2015  9:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   8,865 views

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4 Essential Walking Posture Tips

Did you know that simple things like standing taller, engaging your abs and even walking sideways can help you walk further and faster, all while helping you burn more calories?

Here are a few walking posture tips to help you make the most of every step (think of the word P.A.C.E. to help you remember these!) 

Posted 6/4/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   29,122 views

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The 1-Mile Indoor Power Walking Workout

This one-mile indoor power walking workout will help you stick with your walking routine no matter what time of day or night it is--or what the weather is like outside! 
We'll use a mix of moves that can be done easily in a small space to help you prevent joint strain. We're keeping it simple to help you squeeze in some extra steps anytime, anywhere. Just a heads up, we'll be jumping right into this walk to make this mile short and sweet, so please be sure you are warmed up first. And be sure to stick around for the cool-down to find out more about our upcoming #5MileChallenge with SparkPeople and brand new DVD, "Walk On: 5 Fat Burning Miles".
 

Posted 5/24/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   31,310 views

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The 6 Best Foods for Runners

Running is a fantastic activity to help maintain a healthy heart and weight. But the real magic happens when you refuel after your run! To get the most out of running, it's crucial that you eat healthy foods filled with vitamins, healthy fats, plus carbs and proteins that aid in muscle repair and development. Incorporate the following foods into your diet to reap maximum running rewards. 

Posted 5/19/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   20,303 views

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Kick Off Summer with a Fun Fitness Challenge

Editor's Note: We are thrilled to be teaming up with Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer and YouTube fitness star, to bring you the #5MileChallenge! Read on for Jessica's explanation of the challenge, and get ready to lace up your walking shoes on June 1st. See you on the road (or track, or trail, or even in your living room with a walking DVD!).

Whether you are just starting to build your fitness habit or are a more advanced exerciser, a regular walking program offers so many incredible health and fitness benefits. That's why I am so excited to be teaming up with SparkPeople to bring you this fun #5MileChallenge! 
 
Our goal is to help you stay more active when you are not already working out, or to get you moving more often to spark up a new exercise habit. Even if you have been exercising routinely for years, it may not be enough to combat the ill effects of hours of sitting, which is why adding more steps to your day is beneficial for everyone (just check out these scary sitting stats!).

Posted 5/15/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 630 comments   47,748 views

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The 6 Best Foods for Glowy Skin

When it comes to healthy, glowing skin, what you put into your body can be even more important than what you put on it. "Everything you eat becomes a part of not only your inner being, but the outer fabric of your body as well. The healthier the foods are that you consume, the better your skin will look," says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center in New York. While there are many nutritious foods available, the following list will give you the maximum skin benefits for your bite. 

Posted 5/13/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   12,733 views

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5 Essential Moves for a Stronger Run

It happens to the best of us…perhaps you set a goal to run a 5K, resolved to get back to running, or were coerced into signing up for some crazy race by your adventurous best friend (it sounded like a good idea at the time!). Feeling motivated, you do what most people do--just get out there and start pounding the pavement--and that's when it happens… your body begins to complain.  It usually starts as a quiet whisper, some lingering stiffness or low-grade soreness, and before you know it, the whispers become screams.
 
As you curse your body in a fit of frustration, you recall running pain-free for hours as a child. What changed? We grew up and got desk jobs with long commutes, that’s what. Sadly, our bodies have become tight, hunched, and ill-equipped to handle the motion of running due, in large part, to our lifestyles. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 
 
Luckily, there's a workout that can help you become a more efficient runner. Designed by Coach Alison Heilig, Fit Blogger for AcaciaTV and RRCA-Certified Running Coach at Miles To Go Athletics, the following routine is designed to help you start running longer and stronger in no time. Add it to your running regimen three days per week to up your running game! 

Posted 5/12/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   9,835 views

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5 Ways Your Mirror Can Boost Your Self-Confidence

Most Americans will try to lose weight four to five times every year, according to ABC News. It’s only April, and I’ve already tried twice. How about you?
 
Every time we fail at losing weight, we decide that we’re not good enough and begin the negative self-talk. I call this my inner critic, and she’s a witch. We all have one, and for some reason we listen to them—no matter how mean they are. It’s time to silence that inner critic and love ourselves. Let’s tell that inner critic to get lost, and we’re going to use a mirror to do it.
 
If you’re unhappy with your looks, you might go to extremes to avoid mirrors. But the truth is, your mirror can be your best friend, helping you gain self-confidence whether you need to shed some pounds or just want to work on loving your inner self.
 
Read on for five ways to use your mirror to your advantage. 

Posted 5/4/2015  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   9,521 views

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Get a Great Workout in 8 Minutes

AMwhat? You might have heard the term "AMRAP" floating around on fitness blogs in recent years as CrossFit has surged in popularity. AMRAP is an acronym for "as many rounds as possible" and is a component of many CrossFit workouts in gyms (or "boxes") around the world. In an AMRAP, you are given a circuit of exercises to do, and you must complete as many rounds of those exercises within a given time frame. It's a time-efficient way to work up a sweat, and it can be done virtually anywhere with minimal equipment! 

Posted 4/21/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   52,013 views

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How to Stay in the Game When You're Under the Weather

You wake up feeling a bit less than your best: Achy, fatigued, sniffly nose--the works. Yep, seems like you're getting sick (ugh!). But you've got a workout already planned for today, and you took a rest day yesterday. Should you push through your planned workout or take it easy?
 
When you're sick and are debating a workout, the first general rule of thumb is simple. When you're deciding whether to head to the gym or stay home and cozy up to that bottle of DayQuil, consider "the neck rule" first. If your symptoms are exhibited above the neck (i.e. runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat), then it is safe for you to head to the gym (but bring some tissues!). If your symptoms fall below your neck (i.e. chest congestion, coughing, or if you have a fever and are taking medications to control your symptoms), you might want to use that gym bag as a pillow instead. Having to press pause on your weekly workout routine can be a motivation killer, but a fully functioning body is your best weapon to stay healthy and fit. 

Posted 4/17/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   14,714 views

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Strengthen Your Core Without Wrecking Your Back

The muscles of your core work together to support posture, protect the spine and improve agility, balance and power, making core strength training an important part of any fitness routine. Unfortunately, for many people, core strength training and back pain or discomfort go hand in hand. Often resulting from weak muscles and poor form, back pain is no reason to avoid core strength training, though. In fact, properly performed core exercises can simultaneously help protect your back and strengthen the abs at the same time.

Decrease the probability of injury with these back-friendly core strength exercises. 

Posted 4/8/2015  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 12 comments   88,365 views

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6 Must-Try Isometric Moves

Strength training is an important part of any good exercise regimen. Not only do you build muscle (which burns fat), but strength training also helps to speed up the metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories for longer periods of time. Looking for new ways to strength train without having to move around too much? Here are six static positions that require very little movement while still building muscular endurance and strength. 

Posted 4/4/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   91,012 views

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5 Must-Learn Yoga Poses for Beginners

Did you know that there are well over 300 yoga poses in the physical yoga practice? If that number seems overwhelming to you, don't worry! Learning the following five yoga postures is a great way for you to get acquainted with the practice as a beginner. Once you have a good understanding of these postures, you can start to feel more comfortable in a class or practicing on your own at home. If you do each one of these for 5 to 8 breaths, it also creates a great beginner’s yoga program for you to do every day. 

Posted 3/23/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 14 comments   32,979 views

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