The SparkPeople Blog

9 Ways to Sit Safely & Comfortably at Your Work Desk

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/21/2018  12:00:00 AM   :  2 comments   :  12,092 views

You may have heard the phrase "sitting is the new smoking." Sure, that might seem a little extreme—after all, the impacts of smoking are a lot more blatant and widely broadcasted—but experts agree that too much extended chair time can add up to some undesirable, and uncomfortable, effects.

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7 Super Exercises for Shapely Shoulders

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/20/2018  12:00:00 AM   :  51 comments   :  32,080 views

Whether your goal is to rock that new sleeveless dress or just perform everyday activities with ease, training the shoulders is an important part of any well-rounded exercise routine. Defined shoulders are a sign of strength, help to improve posture and can boost self-confidence, but strong shoulders are about so much more than just appearance.

Most upper-body activities involve your shoulders to some extent. Every time you lift a heavy bag of groceries out of the car, pass a tray of food across the dinner table or put a box on the top shelf of the garage, you're engaging your shoulder muscles. In order to prevent injury and optimize functional ability, you need to train the shoulders for mobility, stability and strength.

The shoulder is comprised of four joints and can move in all three planes of motion. As a result, the shoulder is one of the most mobile but least stable joints in the body. This contradiction explains why shoulder injuries are so common and why focusing on developing and maintaining strong shoulders with proper mobility becomes so important. Years of poor posture, decreased range of motion as we age or even a simple fall can all lead to shoulder pain and chronic discomfort.

It's important to include a variety of shoulder exercises in your workout program to develop stability and mobility, while simultaneously getting you ready to show off your shapely arms in your favorite tank top. Add a few of these exercises to your full-body strength routine, using an amount of weight that's challenging but still allows you to complete the last repetition with proper form. Start with one to three sets of each exercise, eight to 12 repetitions per set, and after a few weeks, swap in a few different moves for variety and a continuous challenge.

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Discover How Jen Widerstrom's Health and Fitness Journey Led Her to Her Best Self

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By: , – By Jen Widerstrom
6/19/2018  2:00:00 PM   :  11,904 views

Only when I honored my true self was I able to change my relationship with food and fitness—for good.

Sports were always at the forefront of my life. As a kid, I did gymnastics for more than 10 years, and in high school, I participated in track and diving. In college, I was a walk-on member of the collegiate rowing team but soon switched over to track and field. By my senior year, I was a national-level competitor in the NCAA and the best female hammer thrower in school history.

If you had asked me who I was leading up to my college graduation, my answer was clear: I'm a Division I athlete in the Big 12 Conference pursuing a degree in sports administration. My identity was intact, and my list of projects and accomplishments made me feel worthy. But just one month after graduation, nothing made me feel like I mattered anymore.

Loss of ID, Gain of LBs

Oxygen

After college, I was bartending in my hometown. I felt such a loss of identity and of value. I didn't know what I had to offer and started to struggle with my relationship with food. Up to that point, I had never had to worry about how many calories I ate because I trained several hours a day. I'd eat whatever I wanted—burritos, pizza, bread and fries—and since I continued to eat that way at a fraction of the activity level, my weight shot up.

That extra 15 pounds happened so quickly, and I didn't feel good. I had no energy, no drive, no confidence. I had to take action, but I didn't know what to do. My life was a daily struggle with self-image and self-worth. I was following the exercise and nutrition plans that worked for others, but they weren't working for me.

Clarity and Reinvention

This struggle, while difficult, ultimately led to the biggest breakthrough of my life—that I needed to honor what was best for me to be successful. Why was I eating foods I hated and following a fitness routine that didn't jive with my life? I needed a plan customized just for me.

Once I took account of these things, I stopped trying to be like everyone else and began to do things my way. I made my breakfasts and dinners a week in advance instead of skipping the meals or eating cheese and crackers for dinner. I never left home without a snack in my purse and a big bottle of water to sustain me through long, unpredictable days. And I began training with a workout buddy to help motivate me and get me to the gym consistently. Suddenly, I was seeing results on the scale, and I was listening to myself versus looking to others for validation.

Soon, I found work as a fitness model and photos of me appeared in popular magazines like Oxygen. Then I was contacted by producers from the TV show "American Gladiators" asking me to audition. And somehow, among all the professional athletes, stunt people and longtime industry standouts, they chose me.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

"American Gladiators" will go down as one of my favorite experiences, filled with great people and a greater understanding of the television business. However, I quickly fell back into old mental patterns. I identified myself based on external qualities and accolades rather than continuing to develop my own identity within. When the show was canceled, I was once again lost and unsure.

I moved to Los Angeles, but even though I was modeling, training and teaching fitness classes, I was living the opposite of a healthy life. For instance, when I booked a modeling gig, I felt important and valuable, but to prepare I would crash-diet and cut my fluids in order to look smaller and leaner. After a shoot, I would binge eat on pizza, sweets and cocktails. These unhealthy habits evolved into a very distorted self-image, and even though I was in good shape, I was never "small enough" in my own eyes. At each meal and in front of every mirror, I was tearing myself down.

My lowest point came when I contemplated purging the foods I had just binged on, and this scared the crap out of me. An eating disorder? How could I let this go so far? This was another huge turning point for me, and I decided to use health and fitness as a way to mentally get healthy again. I started to put my best self forward, and my training business began to thrive. The momentum continued, and I appeared in more magazines and ultimately landed on "The Biggest Loser."

Looking back, I can see that the problem was never with my workouts or the meals I prepared. It was with me and my understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be. I transformed my critical tendencies and began acknowledging and celebrating my successes versus beating myself up for some stray, imperfect action. I stopped the one-size-fits-all mentality and focused less on what everyone else was doing and more on reaching my own goals. I created a routine of healthy eating and exercise that made sense for me. And as a result, I didn't just look good on the outside, but I was also happier, healthier and more successful in all areas of my life.

Now It's Your Turn

On "The Biggest Loser," my approach was not one of tough love, though I set a tough standard: eat highly nourishing foods, exercise right and—most of all—believe in yourself. Both seasons I was on, my team took home the prize, and that's exactly what I want for you—to win by overcoming your challenges and achieving your best body and your healthiest life.

With The Oxygen Challenge 4, I share all my secrets for success with you and will teach you how to believe in and learn to use the power within yourself. Together, we will bolster your strengths, work through your problems, and enable you to live in a positive and vibrant way.

The choice is yours. Let's commit to this journey—and succeed—together!

Oxygen

The Oxygen Challenge 4 (OC4) begins July 16, 2018.
Join #TEAMJEN today!

6 Kettlebell Abs Moves That Are Better Than Crunches

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By: , – Amanda Perkins with Kettlebell Kings
6/19/2018  12:00:00 AM   :  17 comments   :  4,549 views

Arguably no area of the body garners more attention in the fitness world than the abdominal muscles. Having a chiseled six-pack is the ultimate goal for many fitness enthusiasts. Although the term "core" has become more popular than "six-pack" in recent years, the goal of attaining a sculpted midsection has endured.
 
Many people incorrectly presume that the core and abdominal muscles are the same. The truth is, the abs are just one of the many muscle groups that make up the core. The muscles that show up as a six-pack are the rectus abdominis muscles, a pair of vertical muscles that run the length of the abdomen whose primary job is to flex the spine. Also included in the core musculature are the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominus, the erector spinae and the pectoralis major. Despite these other muscle groups, though, the rectus abdominis invariably gets all the attention.
 
While all these core muscle groups have their own specific and individual functions, they are collectively responsible for moving, supporting and stabilizing the spine. A vast majority of this moving, supporting and stabilizing occurs while you are in an upright position, and yet, a majority of the most common abs exercises are performed lying on your back.

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Spark Spotlight: Patty (POHOUSE99)

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/18/2018  12:00:00 AM   :  12 comments   :  2,907 views

At SparkPeople, we love helping people accomplish big goals—but we believe it's equally important to celebrate the small successes along the way. Each week in the Spark Spotlight, we'll check in with a featured member about his or her proudest moments, biggest challenges and advice for others on living, thinking and feeling healthier. We hope these quick snapshots will help motivate you to keep moving steadily toward your own goals, week by week.

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25 Hot-off-the-Grill Recipes for Carefree Outdoor Cooking

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By: , – Denise Tausig
6/14/2018  12:00:00 AM   :  30 comments   :  49,966 views

While there's no reason grilling can't be a year-round activity, there's just something about summer—balmy air, extended daylight, backyard BBQs—that has us reaching for the tongs and charcoal (or propane, depending on your grilling style) more often than usual. Whether you’re making a meal for the family or entertaining a large group of guests, grilling is a fun and easy way to prepare flavorful, healthy fare in the great outdoors. As an added bonus, the crumbs stay outside and there's no kitchen clean up!
 
If you’re searching for something beyond the same old burgers and brats, consider grabbing  some of these ideas and get grilling!

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