TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Best Workout Move You’re Not Doing

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Doing this move may help you get more speed and power

Want to take your workout to the next level? Consider adding deadlifts to your strength routine.

A new study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that folks who performed the exercise twice weekly for 10 weeks experienced an uptick in torque capacities in both knee extensors and flexors, which were associated with improvements in vertical jump height. In other words, they got faster and had more power when performing explosive movements.

HEALTH.COM: 5 Fat-Burning Plyometric Exercises

What’s more, “improving maximal force output with large muscle mass exercises is likely to have carryover to other dynamic movements such as sprinting and box jumps,” explains study author Matt Stock, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health, Exercise & Sport Sciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock—which is great news if you’ve been working to master plyometric moves.

Performing a deadlift isn’t just good for putting some power behind your next sweat session. “It has huge allover benefits,” says Faheem Mujahid, owner and master trainer at Influence Atelier in Miami. “Not only does the majority of the exercise isolate and target the glutes and the hamstrings, but the quadriceps are involved as well, by helping to extend the knee joint. Plus, it is one of the few exercises that works the adductor magnus, which helps provide leg stability.”

HEALTH.COM: 24 Easy Ways to Flatten Your Belly

Stock adds: “It is particularly useful because it relies heavily on our often forgotten about muscles of the ‘posterior chain’—the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors. Ignoring these muscles within an exercise program has potentially dangerous consequences, particularly as we age and for knee health during sports.”

Effective as they may be, deadlifts can wreak havoc on your back if done incorrectly. The key to getting them right: Really working to engage the transverse abdominis muscles. “If that’s not happening, all the pressure will hit the spine, which is a big no-no,” says Mujahid. “When the transverse abs are engaged properly, it automatically engages the thoracic lumbar fascia [muscle in the lower spine] at the same time, which offers spine protection.”

HEALTH.COM: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

How do you know if you’ve got a handle on your core? Try this trick that Mujahid uses with his clients: “I tie a piece of yarn or a pair of shoelaces in a knot around my client’s waist. Whenever the core isn’t engaged, my client will feel pressure from the string,” he explains. “Feeling that contraction against the core gives them a little reminder to pull in that belly button.”

HEALTH.COM: 7 Moves for a Better Butt

This article originally appeared on Health.com.


This Is How Much Exercise Experts Really Think You Need

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Do your eyes glaze over when you hear how much exercise you should get each week? That looming 150-minute figure is the equivalent of 21 micro workouts a week—and it seems like nobody has time for that. This is the problem with our exercise recommendations, argues a new analysis published in The BMJ: They’re just set far too high to motivate the people who need them the most.

That’s the argument of Philipe de Souto Barreto, a researcher at University Hospital of Toulouse in France and author of the new paper. “Getting inactive people to do a little bit of physical activity, even if they don’t meet the recommendations, might provide greater population health gains,” he writes.

It’s not that the recommendations are off for optimal health. 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which the World Health Organization sets as its target, is a great goal that’s been shown to reduce risk for all kinds of diseases and death, Barreto says. But other data shows that gentler goals can also provide important health benefits.

One study of more than 250,000 older adults found that getting less than an hour of moderate physical activity each week was linked to a 15% drop in death. Barreto also cites a review of 254 articles looking at the link between exercise and disease reduction, which found that the relationship between the two is dose-dependent. In other words, it’s not an all or nothing affair: even minor shifts can help people who don’t get enough exercise. Another analysis of studies found that when people walk just 1-74 minutes a week, they have a 19% reduced risk of death, compared to the most sedentary people.

“Achieving target physical activity recommendations should remain as a goal but not the core public health message surrounding physical activity,” Barreto writes.

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

This Juice Is Good for Athletes—But Not for the Reason They Think

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Athletes are known to chug beet juice to give them an endurance boost. The root vegetables are a rich natural source of nitrates—which may help with blood flow—and they’re thought to give exercisers an edge by increasing flow to their limbs during workouts. Now, a new study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism shows that beet juice really is good for athletes—but maybe not for the reasons they believe.

In a small trial, 12 healthy men in their early twenties drank beet juice either with nitrates, or a placebo version with the nitrates removed. Three hours after drinking, researchers measured the size of their arteries and flow speed of their blood when they were at rest and during six different intensities of a hand grip exercise.

Contrary to what they expected to find, researchers discovered that the beet juice had no effect on blood flow or artery size, either at rest or during activity. But they did find that it lowered pressure of blood vessels at rest.

The authors note that more research is needed to determine if the results would change under more strenuous exercise, or in an older, less healthy population. But other studies have shown beet’s positive effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular health—which could mean that far more of us than just elite athletes might want to give beets a chance.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

How Your Partner Can Help You Get Healthy

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When a partner achieves a health goal, you're inspired to do the same

If you want your healthy New Year’s resolutions to stick, get your partner to kickstart their health, too. According to a new study, men and women are more likely to make a healthy change if their partner also does it.

Researchers looked at data from 3,722 couples who were either married or living together and who were part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. They found that when one partner made a healthy change—quit smoking, lost weight or exercised more, for example—their partner was more likely to make the same change.

Interestingly, when one partner was initially unhealthy but then became healthier, they had a strong influence on their less healthy partner. The researchers found that smokers or sedentary people whose partners got healthier were more likely to quit their bad habits. Overweight people were less likely to lose weight if their partner was a normal weight—unless their partner had once been overweight, too, and had worked to shed pounds while they were together. Having that history together was linked to a three times greater likelihood that the other partner would lose weight, too.

The researchers say the reason one healthy partner often influences their less healthy half is that the pair might make decisions to get healthy together. If partners are equally ready to make a change, prior data shows they are more likely to be successful than if one partner was more motivated. They may also be inspired by each other’s success and feel more inclined to reach a health goal that someone close to them already has.

The findings can be useful for public health interventions, researchers say. Losing weight with a coach or buddy can keep dieters on track, but the same strategy could be used to enhance other health-related programs, too.

TIME Heart Disease

14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

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Insider advice to maintaining a strong, healthy heart

By now you know the basics of keeping your heart in shape: You’re all over the Mediterranean diet and you do that cardio. But thanks to conflicting headlines running amok, the details get confusing: Should I take aspirin? How hard do I really need to work out? That’s why we went to leading cardiologists and asked them to level with us about what heart-health habits women absolutely need. Check out their straight-up answers.

Skip food fads

“So many trends come and go. A gluten-free diet is not worth your time unless you have celiac disease or a real gluten sensitivity. If you’re considering Paleo, forget it! It’s not heart-healthy to bypass beans, legumes or whole grains (which are proven to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar).” — Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book

Eat better fish

“The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week, but that doesn’t mean just anything from the ocean. Fish like tilapia or orange roughy contain basically zero omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides and inflammation. And shrimp and lobster—they’re not even fish! Eat salmon, herring, tuna and anchovies. They have the highest levels of omega-3s.” — Leslie Cho, MD, director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Center at the Cleveland Clinic

Quit worrying about salt

“The long-standing salt limit is 1,500 milligrams a day, but some studies show that blood pressure rises only when salt intake tops 3,500 mg daily. If your kidneys are healthy, you probably don’t need to cut all added salt from your diet. Instead, avoid processed foods, which are real sodium bombs.” — Holly Andersen, MD, director of education and outreach for the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital

HEALTH.COM: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart

Pass on the Aspirin

“Despite all the studies about aspirin’s heart benefits, it’s not for everyone. The term baby aspirin makes it seem benign—like, “Babies take it!”—but one danger is bleeding. If you’re under 65 with no risk factors, daily aspirin is not helpful.” — Dr. Cho

Find your happy place

“Chronic daily stress ups blood pressure and can lead to depression and anxiety. Have dinner with your girlfriends or listen to music. I use apps: Happify, which has daily gratitude activities, is a good one.” — Stacey Rosen, MD, vice president of women’s health at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, North Shore-LIJ Health System

Say no to sugar

“We cardiologists pushed everyone to eat low-fat, and as a result, food manufacturers have added more sugar to things like crackers and cereals. When you eat too much sugar, your body may stop getting the message to feel full. Focus on protein and healthy fats instead of refined carbs.” — Dr. Andersen

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Pay attention to your pregnancies

“Most women don’t know this, but your pregnancies can tell you a lot about your future heart risk. Since your blood volume rises so much (blood flow just to the uterus increases eightfold), pregnancy is like a stress test. If you had pregnancy-related high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, you’re at greater risk as you age.” — Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, associate director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles

Build muscles

Strength training revs your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories at rest. This may keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels low and helps prevent metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart disease. Use weights or your own body: I have a 15-minute daily routine that includes planks, sit-ups and push-ups. ” — Dr. Steinbaum

Laugh it up

“Laughter is huge. Fifteen minutes of laughter is equivalent to 30 minutes of aerobic activity in terms of what it can do for cardiovascular health.” — Dr. Andersen

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Don’t go to bed angry

“Studies show that a healthy marriage decreases heart disease risk. When you have problems with your husband, that stress you feel is the inflammatory markers going up. The longer you let it bother you, the worse it gets for your heart. Maintaining a stable, happy relationship really matters.” — Dr. Steinbaum

Don’t turn to hormones

“It’s true that heart risk goes way up once estrogen starts to drop as women age; estrogen helps maintain the flexibility of our arteries and helps keep our LDL (bad) cholesterol low. But studies show that adding synthetic estrogen doesn’t work the same way. You can use hormone therapy in the short term to help with menopause symptoms — but it won’t protect your heart.” — Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at the NYU Langone Medical Center

Go nuts for nuts

“I snack on walnuts, almonds, pecans and more. They help increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and people who eat nuts seem to live longer with less disease. I proportion them in baggies (about a quarter-cup scoop each) so when I get hungry, I won’t eat the doughnuts people bring to the office.” — Dr. Andersen

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Just move already

“Whatever exercise you can do consistently is the best exercise for your heart. Have fun with it. Boosting intensity is always great, but work up to it or you may burn out or get hurt. ” — Dr. Cho

Put your job second

“Women who say their jobs are stressful are more likely to die of heart disease. But so much of the pressure we feel is actually self-imposed. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do well at work, but most people aren’t going to get fired for eating lunch away from their desks. So do it: Get out of the office to eat, take a break when you need one, go home on time. Don’t let your job steal your health.” — Dr. Andersen

Cheers to your heart

There’s no magic elixir for a healthy life, but that’s not to say that your drink can’t affect your ticker. Here’s your beverage update.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

Green tea: For every extra cup you sip a day, you may reduce your coronary artery disease risk by 10 percent, according to a recent review. Brew your own for best results.
Coffee: Jacking up your java by at least a cup a day may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes (which raises your heart risk), per a new study.

Energy drinks: A 2014 study linked guzzling energy drinks with angina (chest pain), irregular heartbeat and death. One can is OK, but why not choose espresso instead?
Soda: A 12-ounce can is your entire daily sugar limit—and then some! Overdoing it on sweets raises triglycerides and may reduce HDL (good) cholesterol.

It’s Complicated
Wine: Unwinding with a glass of red or white vino can protect against cardiovascular disease—but only if you also exercise, according to a 2014 Czech study. The wine-drinking participants who experienced a rise in levels of good cholesterol were those who worked their bodies at least two times a week.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Why You Should Start Forcing Your Coworkers to Take a Walk With You

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Take a hike for your health

A quick jaunt with coworkers could make you feel better all over, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the U.K. were looking for an easy yet effective way to get people to exercise. Turns out, simply telling people that exercise is good for them doesn’t work all that well. (A full 8% of people in England don’t walk continuously for more than five minutes, the team’s research has shown.)

MORE: Get Fitter (Much) Faster

They analyzed 42 studies on the subject across 14 countries and found that people who were part of walking groups showed significantly lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, cholesterol levels and even depression scores compared with their levels before they embarked on group walks. They also had better lung capacity — a good indicator of fitness — and were able to walk farther.

These weren’t hard and grueling hikes, either. The vast majority, 75%, weren’t even strenuous enough to count as moderate physical activity, yet the health effects were clear.

“It’s very small levels of exercise that people need to do,” says Hanson. “Increasingly we’re thinking, Look, let’s not overburden people by saying you need to do all these massive amounts of minutes of exercise. Let’s keep talking about 10 minute bouts of exercise.”

Those who were part of walking groups also had low levels of dropout — about three-quarters stuck with it — a finding Hanson credits to the presence of other people. Even if they don’t join to make friends, being able to clear your mind and follow the leader is enjoyable and fulfilling, she says.

If this were a medicine with such pronounced health benefits, “then people would buy it by the bucketful,” Hanson says. “But it’s free, and we don’t really realize how good some of these things are for us.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Lack of Exercise Is a Bigger Risk Factor Than Obesity in Premature Death

A short daily walk could literally save your life

A brisk 20-minute walk a day may be enough to reduce an individual’s risk of early death by up to 30 percent, according to a new report published this week.

In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on Wednesday, researchers claim that at least twice as many deaths may be attributable to a lack of physical activity when compared with the number of deaths linked to obesity.

According to their research, which was based on data from 334,161 European men and women, a 20-minute daily walk or a comparable exercise, in which at least 90 to 110 calories are burned, will reduce the risk of premature death by between 16 and 30 percent.

“This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive,” said Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.

[Science Daily]

TIME Exercise/Fitness

15 Things Nobody Tells You About Losing Weight

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All the weird, wonderful, and sometimes frustrating ways that dropping pounds changes your life

Losing weight does more than give you an excuse to buy new clothes. Dropping just 5 to 10% of your body weight can improve your overall health and reduce your risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. But shedding unwanted pounds can also have less-obvious effects, and not always for the better, says Adam Tsai, MD, a physician at Kaiser Permanente Colorado and a spokesperson for the Obesity Society. Here are the good things—and the bad—that you don’t normally hear about losing weight.

Your energy levels will skyrocket

A big energy boost is often the first thing people notice when they start dropping weight. Why? When you’re carrying around fewer pounds, you use less energy to simply go about your day, says Dr. Tsai. Weight loss also improves oxygen efficiency, so you won’t find yourself out of breath so easily when climbing stairs or hustling to catch the bus.

Your memory may improve

In a 2013 Swedish study, older women scored better on memory tests after six months of following a weight-loss plan. Brain scans showed more activity during the encoding process (when memories are formed) and less activity during memory retrieval, suggesting greater recall efficiency. “The altered brain activity after weight loss suggests that the brain becomes more active while storing new memories and therefore needs fewer brain resources to recollect stored information,” said study author Andreas Pettersson, MD, in a press release. Previous research has also linked obesity to poor memory, especially in pear-shaped women who carry extra pounds around their hips.

Your relationship will be tested

Losing weight can make you feel sexier, but your slimmed-down body—and that newfound confidence—won’t necessarily strengthen your bond with your spouse. In a 2013 study from North Carolina State University, researchers found that although dropping 60 pounds or more in two years or less usually improved couples’ relationships, occasionally a dieter’s partner felt jealous or threatened. Why? Your body transformation may force your significant other to consider his or her own health choices, says Gail Saltz, MD, Health‘s contributing psychology editor. Another problem: Your partner may worry about how your personality might change. “You feeling great, sexy, or confident could shift the balance of the relationship,” Dr. Saltz says. “They fear losing the identity of the more confident one or losing the upper hand.” Many of these challenges could apply to friendships, too.

HEALTH.COM: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Your risk of cancer will be lower

You know that smoking, sun exposure, and radiation can cause cancer, but obesity has been linked to several types of cancers as well, says Dr. Tsai. Being overweight causes inflammation that triggers cell changes within the body. Dangerous levels of inflammation can be lowered, however, by losing just 5% of your body weight, according to a 2012 study on post-menopausal women published in the journal Cancer Research. And a 2014 study published in Obesity Research found that morbidly obese men who underwent bariatric surgery reduced their cancer risk over the following years to roughly that of normal-weight people.

If you were depressed before, that may not change

Does being overweight make you depressed—or does being depressed lead to weight gain? It’s not always possible to tell what comes first, says Dr. Tsai. And while most people feel happier after they’ve lost weight, it’s not a cure-all. “For a smaller percentage of people, mood will not improve even after they lose 100 pounds,” he says. That may be because weight loss doesn’t address any underlying problems you may have, says Dr. Saltz.

Foods may taste different

Losing a lot of weight in a small amount of time may alter your taste buds. A recent Stanford University study revealed that after bariatric surgery, 87% of patients reported a change in their sense of taste. About half said food tasted sharper, while the other half said food tasted duller. The upshot: those who tasted food less intensely after surgery lost 20% more weight over three months than those who said foods tasted stronger. The study authors say more research is needed to determine why the change in taste occurs, but another recent study did have similar findings. The study, from Leicester Royal Infirmary in the United Kingdom, found that three quarters of weight loss surgery patients developed a dislike for certain foods after their operations, most often meat and dairy products.

HEALTH.COM: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Working out will be more fun

When you’re carrying around extra pounds, exercising can make your joints hurt and lungs burn more than someone who’s at a normal weight, says Dr. Tsai. Once you start to slim down, exercise will start to feel less like a chore and more like the fun, energizing experience that it should be. Plus, being lighter can also make you faster and stronger. Take running, for example: It’s generally believed that for every pound lost, an athlete can shave two seconds off the time it takes to run a mile.

Your bones may change

Ever heard that losing weight weakens your bones? While it’s true that weight loss is associated with bone loss, it’s only a big concern if you become underweight or follow an unhealthy diet, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation says that the benefits of weight loss usually outweigh the risks. Extra weight can make your bones stronger (they have to be, to carry the extra pounds) but it also damages joints. And new research suggests that visceral fat around the belly is particularly bad for bones, for both men and women. Losing weight can help, as well as reduce arthritis symptoms, according to a 2013 review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

You’ll probably spend less on health care

Normal-weight people spend less money on medical bills and expenses than their overweight peers, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Health Affairs. Specifically, researchers found obese people spent $1,429 more—that’s 42% higher—than their normal-weight peers, most of which went toward prescription medications needed to manage chronic conditions. And a 2014 report on Michigan residents found that annual health care costs for people who were extremely obese were a whopping 90% higher than those of normal-weight individuals.

In related sad-but-true news, you might notice something else when you lose weight, as well: Doctors (whose bias against obese patients has been well documented) may treat you better, too.

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You may get a raise

It’s not just doctors who may treat you better after losing weight; your employer might, too. Studies have shown that obese people make less money than normal-weight workers, especially among women. In fact, a 2004 study published in Health Economics found that the average paycheck for an obese worker was about 2.5% lower than that of a thinner employee. Dropping down to a healthy weight may also get you more job offers, according to a 2014 British study.

You may be able to toss your meds

Maintaining a healthy weight can protect you against diabetes and heart disease—but what if you’re already overweight and suffering from these conditions? Good news: Slimming down can still help. “These conditions won’t necessarily go away, but you may be able to reduce your symptoms and the amount of medication you take,” says Dr. Tsai.

You may be able to take less blood pressure or cholesterol medication, for example, or learn to manage your type 2 diabetes without giving yourself daily injections. Studies also show that losing weight may allow you control chronic conditions like asthma and heartburn without (or with less) medication, as well. In related sad-but-true news, you might notice something else when you lose weight, as well: Doctors (whose bias against obese patients has been well documented) may treat you better, too.

Your skin may sag

One thing many people aren’t prepared for after a dramatic weight loss is the loose, sagging skin. It won’t go away overnight—or perhaps ever—and it may leave you feeling disappointed with your new body. Some opt for body contouring procedures like a facelift, breast lift, or tummy tuck, but any surgery carries risks, and in most cases insurance will not cover these cosmetic surgeries.

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You’ll catch more zzz’s

People who lost at least 5% of their body weight over a six-month period slept an average of 22 minutes longer than they had previously in a 2014 University of Pennsylvania study. And earlier in the year, Finnish researchers reported that modest weight loss significantly improved symptoms of sleep apnea.

“Losing weight usually means there’s less there to physically constrict your breathing and less soft tissue to block the upper airways,” says Dr. Tsai. Better sleep also helps your body burn fat more efficiently, so getting a good night’s sleep means you’ll be more likely to keep those pounds off.

You could boost your chances of having a baby

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, losing a few pounds may help. A 2009 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that obesity in women is associated with infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome, and that the younger a woman is when she becomes obese, the harder it could be for her to get pregnant.

Slimming down can also help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, since a mom’s weight during (and even before) has been linked to all sorts of health outcomes for her kids.

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Your eye health will improve

Matthew McConaughey told interviewers that his rapid weight-loss in preparation for his role as an AIDS victim in Dallas Buyers Club caused him to start losing his eyesight. That may be the result of extreme calorie restriction or nutritional deficiencies—but for most people, weight loss can actually protect their vision from obesity-related conditions like type 2 diabetes.

A 2013 University of Georgia study, for example, found that higher body fat percentage was associated with lower levels of the antioxidants lutien and zeaxanthin in retinal tissue. “The results indicate that adiposity may affect the nutritional state of the retina,” the authors wrote. “Such links may be one of the reasons that obesity promotes age-related degenerative conditions.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

6 Signs You’re Not Working Out Hard Enough

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If you're not sore or tired, it might be time to up the intensity

Although any kind of physical activity is better than nothing, some workout plans are better than others in terms of overall effectiveness. While you may think you’re getting a good workout by spending an hour reading a magazine on the stationary bike, the truth is, if you’re leaving the gym with your make-up still perfectly intact, you’re probably not working hard enough.

But a fresh face isn’t the only way to tell you aren’t getting in a good gym session. If your workout isn’t working any more, one of these five reasons could be to blame.

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You’re not monitoring your heart rate

Whether you’re on a cardio machine or doing some high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your heart rate should fluctuate between 75% of your maximum when you’re just starting out, eventually building to 100%. (To roughly determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.) An easy way to track this is by using a heart-rate monitor that will let you know, in real time, where your heart is at. Some people mistake sweating to be the only indicator of working out hard enough, when in reality some people may just be more prone to sweating than others. A heart-rate monitor is simply the most effective way to gauge your intensity level. These days they’re easy to come by and definitely worth the investment. But if you don’t have one, go old school and stop to check your pulse halfway through your workout.

You can hold a conversation

A leisurely stroll with a friend is a nice way to pass the time, but not if you expect that activity to help you lose weight. To put it simply, if you can hold a conversation during your workout, you’re just not working hard enough. Short phrases, perhaps, but if you’re able to belt out Taylor Swift while jogging, you need to reassess your workout plan (and maybe your level of shamelessness).

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You’re not even a little sore the next day

No pain, no gain. A good way to tell how hard you worked out is to wait 24 hours and see how you feel. When you exercise, you cause microscopic damage to your muscles. The muscles then adapt, repair themselves, and grow stronger. Basically, you should feel moderate soreness after a workout; if not, you probably didn’t stimulate your muscle enough to get results. (But not so sore that you can’t go about your regular routine.) Give yourself a day in between to rest and rebuild those sore muscle groups while you work another, alternating days so you don’t overwork one particular group.

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You work out at the same intensity all the time

Once you’ve been on a workout plan for a while and aren’t becoming as sore or tired, it might be time to up the intensity. If you want to gain lean muscle mass and definition, start adding more weight; if you’re using lighter weights to tone up, add some extra repetitions (Instead of 10-15 reps, try 25.) If you’re doing cardio, try going a little faster or start incorporating more interval training into the mix. Because your body is constantly adapting, if you do the same thing over and over again, your body won’t be challenged enough to make a change. Be mindful that the more you work out, the more effort you’ll have to expend to keep making progress.

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You’re not cross-training

Not only do you need to change the intensity of your workout, but also the variety of what you’re doing. Get creative. Fit people don’t stick to one regimen: they cross train. If you’re doing the same set of squats and bicep curls day in and day out, you’re probably creating imbalances in your body (not to mention it’s just plain boring). Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Force yourself to be uncomfortable. If you’re a runner, add some free weights. If you only lift weights, try adding some yoga or Pilates into your routine to balance out your body’s ratio of strength and flexibility. You don’t have to do everything all at once, but start by challenging your body to do something it’s not used to doing.

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You’re not seeing physical changes

That’s not to say if you don’t see results after a week you should give up. After all, how long did it take for your body to get to where it is now? But if you’ve been consistently working out and eating healthfully for more than a few months and you haven’t noticed even a slight physical change—be it a number on the scale or inches lost depending on your fitness goals—then you might need to reassess your routine. It should be a slow progression if you’re doing it the right way, but a progression nonetheless.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: The 10 Best Foods and Drinks for Exercising

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TIME health

The 10 Best Foods and Drinks for Exercising

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Get the 411 on what to eat and drink before, during, and after exercise

You know exercise is key if you want to stay fit. But did you know that what you eat and drink can help you reach your fitness goals faster? By feeding your body the right nutrients, you can ensure it’s getting the raw materials it needs to help you power through your workout and build and repair muscle afterward. Jumpstart your exercise program with these 10 essential food and drinks.


When it comes to priming your muscles for a workout, carbs are your best friend. They provide glucose, the fuel your muscles run on. But, like different grades of gasoline, not all carbohydrates are created equally. Slowly-digested, complex carbs from whole grains deliver a sustained blood sugar release that energizes you throughout your workout. And oatmeal is a winning choice. It’s rich in beta-glucan, a fiber that slows digestion and keeps blood sugar on an even keel. For maximum results, choose whole oats. They’re digested more slowly than quick cooking or instant oatmeal.


If you’re a java junkie we have happy news for you. Downing 12 ounces of coffee an hour before you hit the gym or track can help you workout longer and boost your endurance. It can also ease exercise-related aches and pains. A 2009 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study found that men who received a jolt of caffeine an hour before bicycling intensely reported less muscle pain during their workout than a similar group of cyclists who went caffeine free. Worried that cup of Joe will dehydrate you? Don’t be. The American College of Sports Medicine states that caffeine isn’t an issue when it comes to hydration.


These mollusks are loaded with iron, needed to build hemoglobin, which delivers oxygen throughout your body. Skimp on this crucial mineral and you might not have the energy to drag yourself to the gym. Or, when you do, you’ll feel it. When working muscles don’t get the oxygen they need, they pump out lactic acid causing you to tire quickly. Just six medium oysters supply 20 percent of the iron a woman needs and half the iron a man requires in a day.


It may sound counterintuitive, but the more intensely you exercise the more damaging free radicals your body produces. Enter almonds. They’re a top source of antioxidants like flavonoids, phenolic acids, and vitamin E—all of which protect against harmful free radicals. In fact, cyclists who ate 60 almonds a day before meals for four weeks boosted their antioxidant capacity by 43 percent according to a study presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. They also increased their trial time distance by 5 percent too.


Skip the energy bar and fuel up with a small box of raisins instead. They’re just as portable as an energy bar, yet deliver so much more, like energy-boosting carbs and potassium, one of the most underrated sports nutrients around. Potassium naturally maintains fluid balance, helping to prevent dehydration as well as muscle cramps. But when you work up a sweat, you loose it. Conveniently, a small box of raisins provides more than 300 milligrams of this mighty mineral, nearly as much as you’d get from a small banana.


Think you need a sports drink during or after exercise? Not if you’re hoofing it for less than 60 minutes according to the American Dietetic Association’s Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Dietetic Practice Group. Unless you work out an hour or more—or are an extremely heavy sweater—good old H2O is the perfect hydration drink. The best way to make sure you’re getting enough fluids: weigh yourself before and after exercise. Then drink two and a half cups of fluid for every pound you’ve lost.

Low Fat Ricotta with Honey

After hitting the weight room, your muscles are hungry for protein to help them repair and rebuild. Whey protein, used to make ricotta cheese, is a top pick. Whey is rich in B-lactoglobulin, a protein that’s especially effective in stimulating muscle resynthesis according to a 2010 Nutrition & Metabolism study. Adding some quickly digested carbs—like a drizzle of honey—to this post-exercise snack encourages your muscles soak up that protein even faster.


If you’re pumping iron salmon could make you stronger. With 22 grams of high quality protein per three ounces, this smart catch provides the building blocks your body needs to re- synthesize muscle tissue after a tough workout. And that’s not all. Salmon is also nature’s number one source of vitamin D, a nutrient that many of us don’t get enough of. That can make it harder to build muscle according to a 2010 Osteoporosis International study which links low vitamin D levels to decreased muscle strength.

Tomato Juice

If you bike or run an hour or more, you’re not just losing fluids. You’re also sweating out electrolytes like sodium and potassium. You could replace them with a sports drink or you could chase down some water with a glass of tomato juice. It’s filled with potassium and sodium. One eight-ounce glass delivers six-and-a-half times the sodium and 15 times the potassium you’d get from your standard sports drink.


Does your workout leave you aching? Instead heading to the medicine cabinet for a couple of aspirin, make a b-line to the kitchen for some ginger. According to a 2010 Journal of Pain study this potent anti-inflammatory root eases post exercise muscle pain. It’s also been shown to reduce joint stiffness and swelling too. Try fresh ginger in Carrot, Apple, and Ginger Refresher as an after-workout snack or Curry Ginger Butternut Squash Soup for a soothing supper.

This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com

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