TIME Exercise/Fitness

You Asked: Does Compression Gear Really Work?

Compression Clothing
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

It’s the latest craze in active wear. But so far the known benefits are iffy.

From shorts and socks to sleeves and tops, athletes everywhere—amateur and professional alike—are squeezing into super-tight “compression” garments in an effort to boost performance and recovery.

While pinpointing the start of a trend is tricky, the compression craze seemed to spark back in 2001, when NBA star Allen Iverson scored 51 points the first night he wore a long compression sleeve on his right arm. Iverson’s doctor had improvised the sleeve to treat Iverson’s swollen, bursitis-stricken elbow. But after seeing “AI” light it up, other players quickly adopted the accessory.

Many of today’s popular basketball players, including LeBron James, still wear compression sleeves or leggings. And the trend has spread to other sports. Along with Nike and Under Armour, upstarts like 2XU and Tommie Copper have blossomed as compression gear manufacturers.

By squeezing and compacting the flesh of your arms, legs, or torso, these garments supposedly increase blood circulation, which helps deliver more oxygen to your muscles while speeding the removal of acids and the other byproducts of physical activity. There are other purported mechanisms of action, all of which supercharge performance while speeding recovery. That’s the theory, at least. The only thing missing is the proof.

“So far there is little evidence to suggest that wearing compression garments during an event can improve performance,” says Dr. Mike Hamlin, an associate professor of exercise and sports science at New Zealand’s Lincoln University.

MORE: Fat Water Is Now A Thing

Hamlin has studied the effect of compression garments on short-term recovery. And while his research observed recovery improvements among rugby players who wore compression leggings, those improvements only came from donning the leggings for 24 hours straight following exercise. Other researchers have found similar benefits among weightlifters who slipped into compression body suits, but only when those suits were worn continuously for more than a day following exercise.

Hamlin mentions one 1996 study that found trained volleyball players were able to increase their average—but not maximum—leaping height when wearing compression shorts. But he says there’s “little evidence” that endurance athletes perform better while wearing compression tights and tops. A recent study from Indiana University looked into lower-leg compression among distance runners and failed to find meaningful gains.

Which takes us back to Allen Iverson and his sleeve. Iverson’s doctor improvised the arm compression as an aid for the player’s inflamed elbow—not to boost Iverson’s performance. And when it comes to medical conditions that involve swelling or poor blood flow, compression is still a “mainstay” of treatment and recovery, says Dr. Thomas Wakefield, a professor of vascular surgery with the University of Michigan Health System.

Particularly for lower body blood clotting and venous circulatory issues, Wakefield says compression garments are helpful either in place of or in addition to blood thinning drugs and other forms of treatment. There’s some evidence compression may help control muscle cramps and restless leg syndrome, though Wakefield says its unclear whether compression might be helpful.

MORE: How Exercise Helps Curb Alzheimer’s Symptoms

While mixed, there’s also some evidence that compression can provide a small performance benefit when it comes to explosive movements: a basketball player leaping repeatedly for a rebound, say, or a soccer player suddenly sprinting a few feet for a loose ball. But a 2013 review of the existing research on compression doesn’t rule out the possibility that the placebo effect may explain these performance gains. (You can’t really trick an athlete into thinking she’s wearing compression garments if she’s not, the authors of that review write.)

So here’s the compression gear story, compressed: there are certainly medical conditions for which compression clothing can be beneficial. And when worn for lengthy periods—a day or more following exercise—compression appears to help with muscle recovery.

But for now, the question of whether compression gear can amp up your athletic performance is still up in the air.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

14 Ways You Lie to Yourself About Your Weight

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Time to face the truth

Your bathroom scale doesn’t lie about your weight—but you might be fibbing to yourself. People tend to subtract a few pounds from their weight and add an inch or two of height in self-reported surveys, according to a 2013 Irish study from University College of Cork. It doesn’t end there. We also lie to ourselves about what it takes to drop pounds and keep them off. Being truthful to yourself can help you recognize the challenges you need to overcome in order to make real progress. Here are common weight loss lies you may be telling yourself—and how to face the facts.

I can’t afford to buy healthy food.

In reality, people prioritize and spend money on what’s important to them, says Amy Goodson, RD, co-author of Swim, Bike, Run—Eat ($17; amazon.com). “You may pay more for some healthy and organic food, but you are getting more nutrient quality for your dollar,” she says. Plus, there are plenty of ways to save. Seasonal, local produce costs less than fruits and veggies shipped from afar—and the more-frugal frozen stuff is just as nutritious as fresh. You can also buy lean meats in bulk when they’re on sale and freeze what you don’t use for later.

I just don’t like the taste of healthy food.

Many people claim they don’t like “healthy food,” when the truth is they reject nutritious eats without even trying them, says Goodson. “It’s recommended you eat a food 10 times before you can determine if you really dislike it or not,” she says. To acquire a taste for healthy food, Goodson suggests you try mixing the food you don’t like with foods you do like. For instance, if you hate broccoli but like rice and cheese, trying making broccoli rice casserole with brown rice and 2% cheese. Gradually increase the amount of broccoli in the dish each time you make it.

My jeans don’t fit because they shrunk in the wash.

Sure, this might be true with some of your clothing, says Brian Quebbemann, MD, a bariatric surgeon in Newport Beach, Calif. “All my patients know, however, that normally clothes don’t tell lies. If you ask, ‘Have I gained weight?’ just put on that sleek dress, or Speedo from your swim team days, and you’ll have the honest answer.”

I worked out today, so I can have this bowl of ice cream.

No amount of exercise will overcome a high-calorie diet, says Dr. Quebbemann. Consider that walking for an hour at 4 mph (a very brisk pace) burns approximately 360 calories. A mere half-cup of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream contains 230 calories. A real-life serving of ice cream is typically double that, clocking in at 460 calories. That means you’d take in 100 calories more than you burned.

I eat healthy all week so I can indulge on the weekend.

No, you can’t follow a healthy diet during the workweek and then go hogwild on Saturday and Sunday without gaining weight. “Eating 2,000 extra calories over a weekend will increase your daily average by close to 300 calories, causing a gain of 20 pounds within a year,” says Dr. Quebbemann. If you do indulge during your downtime, then be sure to make up for it in the following days. A 2014 Cornell University study found that thin people are better at adjusting their calorie intake after a calorie-packed weekend than those who are overweight.

My mom’s fat, so no matter what I do, I’m always going to be overweight too.

Some research does show a genetic link to obesity, but in most cases, lifestyle trumps genetics. “The most common reason some families are overweight and some are not is because some parents have poor eating habits and teach their kids the same,” says Dr. Quebbemann. “It’s often a cultural inheritance more than a physical one.”

I can have another glass of wine—it’s healthy!

Moderate wine consumption has proven heart-health benefits, but the keyword here is “moderate,” says Lori Zanini, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having more than the recommended one-a-day for women or two-a-day for men cancels out the health benefits—and adds extra calories to your day to boot.

I skip breakfast, so I’m already cutting enough calories.

Skipping meals as a way to save calories won’t help you drop pounds, says Zanini, because you’ll make up for it—and then some—later in the day when you’re starving. A 2012 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that women who reported missing meals lost 8 fewer pounds than those who ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

I can’t lose weight because I have kids.

We get it—it can be tough to plan kid-friendly meals that are compatible with your diet goals, and you probably feel too busy carting the kiddos to and from school, soccer practice, and piano lessons to give your diet goals much thought. But the truth is, you can overcome these obstacles. If you find yourself eating your child’s leftovers or sharing a few licks of an ice cream several times a day, for example, then try to stop—this can easily add up to 300-plus extra calories, says Goodson.

Losing weight is impossible because I’m hungry all the time.

Your own poor eating choices are likely the reason you’re always hungry, says Dr. Quebbemann. High-carb, low-protein meals spike your blood sugar, which leaves your belly rumbling after it plummets back to earth. “This is the carb-hunger roller coaster many of my patients ride every day,” says Dr. Quebbemann. “When they tell me, ‘I’m hungry all the time,’ I respond, ‘I would be too, if I ate that way.'” Dehydration, stress, and certain meds may also cause an insatiable appetite.

I’m not eating that much and the scale’s not budging.

Chances are, you’re overestimating how hard you’re working out and underestimating how much food you’re taking in, says Jonathan Ross, senior advisor for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal showed that 23% of adults underestimated the number of calories in their fast food meal and, as a result are making uninformed choices.

I’m doing everything I can to lose weight and nothing’s working.

“This typically translates to, ‘I’m doing everything I’m willing to do,'” says Ross. “You need to ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I can do that I’m currently not willing to do?'” Take a look at your day-to-day habits for ways to add in more activity (get up from your desk more often, walk the stairs) or eat healthier (bring a lunch versus relying on last-minute choices from the vending machine). Track your food and exercise to pinpoint trouble spots.

I deserve a treat once in a while.

Many people “compartmentalize” what they eat, says Ross. “They’ll have a doughnut at a meeting, pizza for lunch, and go out with friends and have chicken wings and then say, ‘I only ate chicken wings twice this month,’ forgetting all the other treats they didn’t count.” These treats are the foods that take you further away from your goals, he says. Keep an accurate food journal to pinpoint all these treats you may otherwise forget.

I look better when I have more meat on my bones.

It’s important to accept yourself, love your shape, and feel comfortable in your own skin. But if your body mass index (BMI) indicates that you’re overweight or obese, think about whether you need to lose weight or at least eat healthier and exercise more. Of course, some people have more muscle than others (BMI is not a perfect measure), but the truth is, research shows that if you are obese, your risk rises for serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Maintaining a BMI over 30 or a having a waist circumference larger than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses, says Goodson. “Losing just 10% of your body weight can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure,” she says. And even if you don’t lose weight, exercise and healthy eating will help lower your risks for those conditions.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

How Coke Is Subtly Blaming You for Obesity

SEC Launches Investigation Into Coca-Cola's Earnings History
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Which is more important for weight loss: diet or exercise? While science has one answer, soda manufacturers have another

For years the message from medical experts to the increasingly hefty American population has been the same—watch what you eat, and exercise. But since everybody eats, but not every person is physically active, the focus has really been more on the former rather than the latter. Diet is an easier target, too, because the biggest culprits are simple to spot: fried favorites, calorie-dense fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods that pack a lot of fat-building carbohydrates and sugar. Eat less of these, the white-coat brigade keeps telling us, plus more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and it’ll be easier to control weight, avoid putting on extra pounds and bypass serious diseases like heart problems and diabetes. The problem is, the messaging hasn’t worked. Obesity rates have continued to climb in recent decades. (While they’ve started to level off, there still aren’t many signs that they are beginning to drop.) So some people are now changing the mantra: instead of focusing on what you put into your body, turn your attention to what you do with the energy, stored up in the form of fat, that you’ve packed away. Worry less about your diet, and get active so you can burn off the unwanted calories you consume to keep your weight in check.

MORE: Here’s the Amount of Exercise That Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

The sugar-sweetened beverage industry has hungrily adopted the message. Facing mounting pressure to improve their products, both when it comes to calories and overall nutrition, they’re eagerly shifting the attention—or blame—from their fare to the American public. It’s not us, they seem to be saying, but you. You’re just not moving enough to burn off all the calories you’re taking in. First, the makers of Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and Pepsi, along with the American Beverage Association, launched Mixify, a campaign that encourages young soda drinkers to “mixify” their balance of sugared drinks and exercise, giving license to indulge more if they’re more active. But the latest soda-backed program is the Global Energy Balance Network, a collaboration of leading medical experts with a mission to urge Americans to focus on finding a better balance between what they eat and what they burn off (which, for the mainly sedentary American population, is about getting more active.) The network is supported by Coca-Cola, though initial invitations to scientists failed to mention that.

MORE: This Is Your Brain on Exercise

What’s particularly insidious about this new spotlight on exercise and energy balance is that it’s good medical advice that’s being promoted in a misleading and potentially harmful way. There simply isn’t strong evidence to show that exercise alone, at least at the level that anyone other than a marathoner maintains, can actually help people to shed pounds. “The notion that we can exercise away a bad diet is absolutely unfounded,” says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center and professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Harvard, “and contradicted by many research studies.” Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor of family medicine at University of Ottawa, agrees. “The average person who sees me is definitely under the impression that the ticket to the weight loss express is exercise,” he says. “These are well-intentioned people who want to change their weight or health status predominantly through exercise without paying much attention to their intake, because they don’t believe their intake is an important or valuable contributor to their weight.” No doctor or public health official would argue with the soundness of getting more exercise. Loads of studies show the benefits of being physically active on the mind, heart, metabolism and more. But in these new campaigns, this scientifically solid advice is being tweaked to encourage the less scientifically valid idea that extra calories from processed foods or sugared drinks can be so easily worked off. “By grabbing onto causes that are beyond reproach and tough to argue with, like ‘exercise is good for you,’ Coca-Cola is getting involved in a way that isn’t in the best interest of public health,” says Freedhoff. The campaigns want us to believe that we can figure out how many calories we’re taking in, then exercise the appropriate amount to work off that additional input. But people are notoriously bad at measuring how many calories they consume and work off–and, even more significantly, our bodies don’t work that way. Calories that come in don’t simply turn into fat and sit inertly as a back-up source of energy if it’s not used. A body that gets exposed to a lot of excess sugar, such as from sodas or carbohydrate-rich processed foods, isn’t the same as one that only sees a smaller amount. Consistently high levels of sugar can change the way the body breaks it down. Like a car that’s repeatedly driven at high speeds and needs to rely on the brakes more often in order to stop, the biological metabolic brake system—in this case the insulin that processes sugar—starts to wear down and become less efficient. That’s the first step toward weight gain and diabetes.

MORE: Strenuous Exercise May Not Be That Bad for You After All

If weight were as simple as burning off the calories that come in, then foods that are high in calories, such as nuts, would be a “nightmare,” says Ludwig. Instead, study after study shows that people who eat more nuts, which are also brimming with protein, healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, tend to lose weight and weigh less than those who don’t consume them. The key, he says, is insulin. The more processed and refined a food is, such as baked goods and carb-heavy snacks like chips, the quicker the body digests it, and the more insulin the body pumps out to break down the food. The more insulin that circulates around, the more fat is sequestered away, since the excess calories far exceed what the body needs so it stores the fat away for future use. That’s why the idea of just working off the calories you eat doesn’t quite capture all the hormonal and metabolic changes that occur in the body when food comes in. “If you’re a toaster oven, then the calorie balance model is for you,” says Ludwig. “If you’re a human, it’s not helpful. By the calorie balance theory, we should cut back on everything. There should be no difference in cutting back on fruits and vegetables than from cutting back on soda. Instead, we all intuitively know that’s not the case. Eating too much fruit is not the road to obesity.” But there is a certain appeal to the notion of being able to compensate for that can of soda with a jog around the block. And the beverage makers know that, which explains why they’re backing the exercise message, similar to the way that the tobacco industry supported and ultimately biased results of studies claiming that light or low tar cigarettes were less harmful. In response to a recent New York Times article about Coke’s involvement in the network, the company released a statement: “At Coke, we believe that a balanced diet and regular exercise are two key ingredients for a healthy lifestyle and that is reflected in both our long-term and short-term business actions,” the company wrote. But the soda makers’ strategy of shifting responsibility onto consumers and making it their choice to work off what they eat or drink misses the point. Consumers do have choices to make, but Dr. David Katz, co-founder and director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, likens the American public to flood victims, caught in a dangerous current of sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food, calorie-dense but nutritionally barren options and forced to “swim” by adopting a healthier diet or becoming more physically active. But, notes Freedhoff, “Without a levy, even the best swimmers get tired.” Until the food environment in which Americans find themselves changes dramatically — such as with taxes on sugared sodas, bans on advertising sugared foods to children and stricter vetting of health claims, like the energy balance message being promoted now, Americans will continue to be carried along with the unhealthy tide toward obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. “If you want to live a healthful life and maintain a healthy body weight, you need to go out of your way to live abnormally in an environment where normal isn’t healthy,” says Freedhoff. “It should really be the other way around.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the affiliation of Yoni Freedhoff. He is at the University of Ottawa.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Is Just As Safe As Other Exercise, Study Finds

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

A large new study chips away at the myth that yoga is dangerous

If you’ve ever searched for an excuse not to do yoga, you likely have one article at the ready: “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” published by the New York Times in 2012. After reading descriptions of injuries like torn Achilles tendons, degenerated hip sockets and sudden stroke, you’d be inclined to think swearing off yoga was the healthier choice.

But is it? Dr. Holger Cramer, director of yoga research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, points out that the article “reported on some cases, but it was not systematical,” he says. But since no meta-analysis—a systematic review of other studies—yet existed on yoga injuries, Cramer decided to do one himself. His new study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that yoga was just as safe as exercise

MORE: You Asked: Is Hot Yoga Good For You?

For his analysis, Cramer looked only at randomized controlled trials—considered the highest quality clinical trial. Studies qualified if they compared any kind of yoga with no treatment, usual care or an active treatment, and if they reported on adverse events like injuries. In the end, 94 studies—which looked at a total of 8,430 people—made the cut.

“The risk of getting injured or experiencing other adverse events is the same in yoga as with other exercise,” Cramer says.

Only 2% of people who did yoga experienced any adverse events, and some of those who did already had severe diseases. The study didn’t look at the types of injuries, but other data suggests that the most common kinds of injuries are musculoskeletal, like back pain, Cramer says. Other adverse events include aggravation of glaucoma in patients with the disease, especially in headstand or shoulder stand poses.

Serious yoga injuries are rare, these findings suggest; they bolster survey data last year that found less than 1% of yoga practitioners in the U.S. stopped because of an injury. Much more common than injuries are the benefits, find Cramer’s other meta-analyses.

“We have really high-quality studies showing that yoga is effective for chronic low back pain in the short and long term,” he says. Other good evidence shows that yoga can ease depression and psychological distress in breast cancer patients, he says, and that yoga may be effective in lowering high blood pressure in people with hypertension and reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors in the general population and people at high risk. Of lesser quality, he says, are the data on yoga for diseases like multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia.

MORE: Yoga Helps With Depression and Anxiety

Cramer was surprised at the high number of randomized controlled trials about yoga, but says that more yoga studies should report adverse events (or a lack of them) to strengthen the evidence base. “If you look at a practice that involves physical activity and breathing techniques, you always also have to look on the safety side.”

But the current research, this study shows, reveals that the dangers of yoga are small. “Generally I’d say there are a lot of conditions where it’s more beneficial than risky,” Cramer says.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

4 Calorie-Torching Moves That Tone Your Legs and Butt

These moves can be done anywhere without any equipment

A strong, toned lower half not only turns heads, but it also boosts your performance in nearly every activity, from running errands to running marathons.

This four-move plyometrics workout for your legs and butt is designed to be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment.

But wait. What’s plyometrics again?

Plyometrics is a style of exercise based on the idea that explosive movements performed in short intervals of time can add up to big gains in terms of speed and strength. It also helps you burn a ton of calories in a short period of timeso in other words, this workout is great for those days when you don’t have much time.

Perform each exercise for six reps, make each move as explosive as possible. Perform 5 sets of the entire routine. Rest for 30 seconds in between sets. Complete the workout three times per week.

It’s important to give yourself time to recover and rebuild the muscles worked, so don’t overdo it. Performing the routine three times per week is plenty to see results, trust me.

Knee Tuck Jumps

Nora Tobin

Stand with feet hip-width and parallel. Deeply bend both knees, shift hips back and lower down until thighs are close to parallel with the floor. Swing arms back by your sides. Jump off the ground, driving knees up toward chest. Land softly with knees bent. Repeat the movement, driving off the ground with power. Keep chest up and core engaged the entire time.

Squat Jumps

Nora Tobin

Stand with feet hip-width and parallel. Deeply bend both knees, shift hips back and lower down until thighs are parallel with the ground. Staying low, jump off the ground a few inches. Land with knees bent and repeat the movement.

Split Jumps

Nora Tobin

Stand with left foot forward and right foot back. Deeply bend both knees until left knee is directly over ankle. Explosively drive of the ground, jumping as high as possible into the air. Switch legs and land with right foot forward and left foot back. Deeply bend both knees and repeat the movement. Keep your chest up and swing arms for momentum. Perform 6 reps each side.

Skaters

Nora Tobin

Place all the weight on your right foot. Deeply bend right knee, shift hips back and drive off the ball of your foot. Jump as far as you can to the left. Land with left knee bent and chest up. Repeat the movement, jumping as far as possible to the right. Continue to jump back and forth covering as much distance as possible. Perform 6 reps in each direction.

After your workout, be sure to refuel with a meal that combines complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to help you rebuild muscle.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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3 Kettlebell Moves for Beginners

Improper technique can cause ineffective and even dangerous workout sessions

One of the greatest and most versatile pieces of exercise equipment is also one of the most ignored and improperly used pieces of equipment. It has been around for centuries and can quickly take your fitness to a whole new level. Whether you want to work on strength, cardio, or a combination of the two, this piece of equipment can do just about anything.

So what is this mysterious device I speak of? It’s the kettlebell, of course.

You may have seen these around your gym and just thought they were another one of those “gimmicky” pieces that seem to pop up out of nowhere. But in fact, the kettlebell has been used all over the world for years as a tool to increase strength, cardiovascular health, power, and mobility.

While more and more gyms are starting to carry kettlebells, most people don’t know how to use them. And swinging one around without proper technique can not only be ineffective, but it’s also dangerous.

First, some form tips

Before we get to the moves, you need to know some basic things about form.

Your hips are the main “movers” in many kettlebell exercises. For example, while a Kettlebell swing may look like your arms are the main driving force, it is actually the hips. In fact, when you’re performing kettle bell swings properly, your arms should not be doing any work aside from holding on to the kettlebell.

Your wrists should always be in a neutral position during kettlebell movements; they should never bend backwards or forwards.

Your grip should always be loose. You want to hold on to it, definitely, but at no point should you have a death grip on the kettlebell.

Find your rhythm. Kettlebell movements are largely based on momentum, so it’s important to find your own rhythm and pace, which will keep you safe and offer the benefits.

3 Movements to Get Started

The basic swing

Start with your feet hip width apart with both hands on the handle. Your grip should be loose but stable (no flying kettlebells, please). From here, hinge your hips backwards as far as you can, while bending your knees slightly. Swing the kettlebell between your legs and then swiftly push through your hips to straighten your legs and swing the kettlebell up to chin height. This takes practice, so start with a light kettlebell until you get the hang of it. Repeat this 10-15 times.

kettle-bell-swing2
Jennifer Cohen

The kettlebell push press

Start with the kettlebell in your right hand at your chest with your hand in a neutral grip position (also known as the rack position). Lower into a squat, bending your knees to 90 degrees (not shown). From here, straighten your legs, press your right arm overhead and rotate your wrist to palm forward. Your legs are used to create momentum, so this movement will be a quick one. Make sure you keep a neutral wrist throughout the entire movement. Repeat this 6-8 times before switching to the left hand.

push-press-kettle-bell
Jennifer Cohen

The kettlebell clean

Start with your feet hip width apart, holding the kettlebell in front of you with your right hand. Your palm should be facing you. Lean down and lower the kettlebell below your knees. In one motion, stand up straight again and curl the kettlebell to your chest, back into the rack position. You don’t want the kettlebell to hit your wrists. You’ll probably have to try a few times to find your rhythm so that the kettlebell with settles nicely into your wrist, so be gentle. And don’t give up. Repeat this 6-8 times before switching to the left side.

kettle-bell-clean
Jennifer Cohen

Want to find more ways to stay fit? Here are 5 Fitness Trends That Are Having a Moment

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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Here’s How You Should Really Choose Your Running Shoes

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It's less complicated than you may think

Anyone who has ever been on the market for running shoes knows that a trip to a sports retailer can get complicated fast. To find the shoe most likely to help you prevent injury, you may have been asked to consider factors such as “foot pronation” or “impact factor.”

Now, new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that the best running shoe to prevent injury may just be the shoe that’s most comfortable.

“Comfort is difficult to define and to quantify,” researchers wrote in the study. “However, it seems that shoe comfort is important for running injuries as well as running performance.”

Many runners believe foot pronation, the roll of the foot wall while moving, and impact force while exercising determine which shoes best fit a particular runner. But researchers looked at decades of research on connections between sports shoes and injuries and found no meaningful association between those factors.

‘Two variables that were thought to be the prime predictors of running injuries are not valid,” the said in the study.

The study authors wrote that many runners have likely avoided injury in the past by selecting shoes they find comfortable.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Running Mistakes Beginners Always Make

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Wearing the wrong shoes can cost you more than just a few blisters

Summertime is the perfect season to start a running program. With the sun shining, there’s simply no reason to not lace up your sneaks and hit the road. But before you get started, learn the five mistakes every beginning runner makes. And skip them!

Starting too fast

The most common mistake new runners make: going too hard, too fast. By not easing into it, you end up exhausted much sooner than expected, and the tail end of your run becomes a wind-sucking session. This can make running seem too hard, which can lead you to quit your program all together.

Solution: The key is pacing yourself; running is a sport in which progress is especially slow and gradual. If you’re running outside, downloading a pacing app like RunKeeper (free, iTunes and Google Play) can help you keep track of your speed. Start off at a moderate pace, and gradually increase throughout your run. This will make for not only a more enjoyable run, but it’s also the key to building endurance.

Wearing the wrong shoes

Maybe you’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating. You may think because your feet feel okay, and you’re not getting blisters, you’re in the clear. But poor-fitting shoes can cause all sorts of unexpected problems: ankle pain, hip pain, even shoulder pain, and so on. This is why I think of the wrong shoes as the “silent killer” of running programs.

Solution: The best advice is to sidestep this from the get-go. Hit your local running store and have them fit you for the proper shoes. They will look at your gait and see what areas of your feet take on the most pressure while you walk and run. The right shoe will take your runs to a whole new level.

Setting unrealistic goals

It’s very easy to get caught up in what others are doing and try to match up with them, especially when it comes to running. But remember: the only person you should be competing against is yourself. If you’re a brand new runner, trying to run a 5k straight through right off the bat is likely going to leave you feeling discouraged. It’s okayeven recommendedto start with an even smaller goal, like running a mile. And then move forward from there.

Solution: Start with a realistic program that will help you build the strength and endurance to reach your running goal. For example, start with a run/walk program that allows you to take rests in between each set of running. Over time, you’ll build the endurance to run all the way through with no breaks.

Fueling improperly

A car can’t run without gas, right? It also probably won’t run very well if you fill it with water. This is exactly the way you should be thinking about fueling yourself for a run. New runners often find that one day, they feel like a million bucks on their run, but then the next, it feels like all progress has gone out the window. Often the difference is proper food and water.

Solution: Everybody is different, so you’ll have to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you, but there are some tried and true solutions that work for most.

If you have 1 hour or less before your run, eat a small mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This could be a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut or almond butter spread on top.

If you have 2 hours, eat a meal that includes larger portions of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This could be eggs, bacon, and a slice of whole wheat toast.

If you’re going on a longer run, you can bring some energy gels (GU Energy Gels are a popular option) for the road, but I find it easier and healthier to just snag a pack of your kid’s fruit snacks. My kids and I love Fruigees since they’re a natural, organic option and made with only fruits and veggies. This is a super efficient snack that will give you that quick punch of natural sugar to help you keep going, without upsetting your stomach.

Heel Striking

You may have heard the term, but many people don’t know what this is or how to fix it. By overstriding (landing on your heel first), you are opening yourself up to injury, such as shin splints.
Solution: Aim to land mid-sole. Your stride may have to shorten up to achieve this, but you’ll be happy you did in the long run (pun intended)!

For more running tips like this, check out The Pros and Cons of Running On the Treadmill

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

13 Fun Ways to Work Out With Your Dog

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The versatile furry friends can do anything from running to yoga to boot camp with you

Dogs make the best workout buddies. They never complain about hills or cancel on you last-minute. And they’re always stoked to follow you out the door. That energy can be contagious: research from Michigan State University found that canine owners were 34% more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week than folks who didn’t have a dog. Even if you’re just taking your pup for a walk, that counts. (Move at a brisk clip and you can burn as many as 170 calories in half an hour.) But there are lots of other activities you and Fido can do together—all while strengthening your bond.

Check out these fun ways to get fit with your furry pal.

Running

Because dogs are creatures of habit, they can help you keep up your weekly mileage: Once your pup gets into the routine of a morning run, she won’t let you wimp out if it’s drizzling, or you’re just feeling bleh, explains J.T. Clough, author of 5K Training Guide: Running with Dogs($8; amazon.com). “She’ll wait by your sneakers, tongue out, tail wagging,” says Clough, who runs a dog-training business on Maui. “Her excitement can be enough to change your attitude.”Concerned your little pooch won’t keep up? No need to worry, says Clough: “The truth is most small dogs have more energy than the big breeds.” Just be careful in the heat and humidity, since dogs don’t sweat like we do. And if you have a flat-faced breed (think pugs and Boston terriers), keep your runs under five miles, Clough suggests, since these dogs have a harder time taking in air.

Stand-up paddleboarding

It’s almost as if stand-up paddleboards were designed for canine co-pilots: Dogs of all sizes can ride on the nose (while you get a killer ab workout). Pick an ultra-calm day on a lake or bay for your first excursion together, so your pup can develop his sea legs. If you’re struggling to balance the board, try paddling on your knees, which lowers your center of gravity, until your dog is comfortable. Still, odds are you’ll both take a dip, which is why Clough recommends outfitting your dog with a life preserver. It’ll make it easier for you to lift him back onto the board, too: Most doggie vests have an easy-to-grab handle, like the NRS CFD (from $35; amazon.com).

Is your dog a born swimmer? Bring a stick or throw toy and play fetch once you’ve paddled out.

Kayaking

You can also take your dog out for a spin in a sit-on-top kayak. Smaller breeds may perch up front, while larger dogs might feel safer closer to your feet. Teach your buddy to get in and out of the kayak on land first; then practice in the shallow water close to shore. (If he seems nervous about sliding around, you could lay down a small mat or piece of carpet so his paws can get some traction.) The trick is to keep the first few outings relaxed and fun (read: brings treats!). Stick to inlets and slow-moving rivers without too much boat traffic. You can let your dog paddle alongside you if he wants to swim. If not, that’s okay too: “He’s getting lots of stimulation just by riding in the boat,” says Clough—all while you ton your arms and core and burn hundreds of calories.

Cycling

Is your dog so exuberant on walks you worry she might one day pull your arm off? If so, try letting her keep up with you as you pedal: “Biking is perfect for dogs with tons of energy,” says Clough. “They are totally psyched to flat-out run.” Meanwhile, you’re getting a great workout (cycling can torch 500-plus calories per hour) and building your leg muscles.

If your girl likes chasing squirrels and skateboards, consider using a device called the Springer. It attaches the leash to your bike’s frame or seat stem and absorbs much of the force of sudden tugs ($130; amazon.com).

Biking with your dog may actually help with any behavioral issues she has, Clough adds. “The biggest problem I see with dogs is that they’re not getting enough exercise.” Indeed, veterinarians at Tufts University’s Animal Behavior Clinic say aerobic exercise stimulates the brain to make serotonin, a hormone that helps dogs, especially those who are anxious or aggressive, to relax.

Rollerblading

This is another great way to burn off a dog’s excess energy—as long as you’re an expert inline skater, that is. If not, “it can be disastrous,” warns Clough. “Your dog will be like ‘Woohoo!’ and you’ll be like, ‘Where’s the break?!” But even if you’re super confident on wheels, she suggest rollerblading in an area free of traffic, like a park or boardwalk, so you can enjoy the excursion as much as your pal. Chances are, you’ll have so much fun you’ll forget you’re seriously working your core.

Dog-friendly boot camp

Fitness classes designed for people and pups—like Leash Your Fitness in San Diego and K9 Fit Club in Chicago —are becoming more and more popular. In a typical class, you’ll run through high-intensity moves for strength, balance and cardio while your four-legged companion practices obedience drills. “I recommend that people at least try out a class,” says Clough, who helped launch Leash Your Fitness. “The focus is more on the person’s workout than the dog’s,” she explains, but your dog is learning to feel comfortable in a distracting environment—and that will make it easier to take him along on other fitness adventures.

Dog yoga

Yep, “doga” is a thing, and it turns out pooches are naturals at this ancient practice. Can’t picture it? Think about your girl’s morning stretches: She probably does a perfect cobra, right? In a doga class, you’ll help her try more poses—and she’ll (hopefully) act as a prop for your own poses. But really doga is all about the pet-human bond. There’s often some doggy massage and acupressure involved. And while you’re in such close contact, you’ll have the opportunity to do a regular health check, feeling for any lumps beneath her fur.

Active fetch

You throw the ball and your pup goes bounding after it. But who says you have to just stand there? While he’s retrieving, bust out some muscle-building moves like crunches, lunges, squats, and more—until you’re both panting and worn out. Better yet, race him for the ball and squeeze in some sprints. Fetch can be a game you play, too.

Soccer

Believe it or not, some dogs love soccer—especially herding breeds like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. Pet brands sell soccer-style balls (resistant to sharp teeth) in different sizes, like the 5-inch Orbee-Tuff ball from Planet Dog ($20; amazon.com). Once your boy learns to “kick” or “dribble” with his nose or paws, get your heart rates up with keep-away, or by punting the ball and racing for it.

Not a soccer fan? Try engaging him with other toys (like rope tugs) and activities (such as hide-and-seek). “Put yourself into kid mood, come up with a game, and show him,” Clough suggests. “He’ll most likely play it with you.”

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Cold weather doesn’t mean you have to leave your dog cooped up. Some breeds—like Huskies and St. Bernards—have snow in their DNA, but many dogs enjoy a good romp in the white stuff. And whether you’re on snowshoes or skis, you’ll get in a low-impact, total-body workout. But the best part comes later, when you both curl up for a snooze by the fire.

If your dog gets chronic snow build-up between the pads on her paws, you can outfit her with booties. Brands like Ultra Paws (from $32; amazon.com). and Ruffwear ($90; amazon.com) make rugged footwear for winter walks.

Stair-running

Thanks to the vertical element, climbing stairs (or bleachers) makes your quads, hamstrings, and glutes work extra hard. You’ll tighten up your lower half, while Spot burns off the biscuits.

Join a canine charity race

You have the perfect training buddy. Why not work toward the goal of finishing a dog-friendly race? Events for four-pawed runners and their owners—such as the Fast and the Furry 8K in St. Paul, Minn. and the Rescue Me 5K9 in Irvine, Calif. —are held all over the country.

Don’t have a dog?

You can still work out with one. Call a local animal shelter and volunteer to take dogs out for walks or runs. Pound puppies are often desperate for exercise and attention, and your commitment to your new furry pal is great motivation to stick with a fitness routine. Best of all, as an anxious or unruly dog learns to walk on a leash and behave in public, you’ll be improving his chances of finding a forever home.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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This No-Gym Workout Gets the Job Done in 10 Minutes

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High-intensity interval training (HIIT) gets results in less time

Can’t get to the gym? No problem!

There’s a notion out there that you need to belong to a gym in order to maintain a fitness routine, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with leaving your house to get your sweat on, it’s also completely possible to get a great workout in the comfort of your own living room.

This HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout is the perfect fat-burning addition to any exercise program you’re currently doing. The best part? It will only take you 10 minutes, you can do it in front of the TV, and the only equipment you need is a stopwatch (or the timer on your phone).

Perform each move below for 20 seconds, trying to get as many reps in as you can, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Do two full sets (meaning 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest, then repeat once) of each exercise before moving on to the next. Let’s HIIT it!

Squat jumps

Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Squat down, keeping the weight in your heels, until you have reached the bottom of a squat. From here, jump straight up into the air as high as you can. Land softly on your toes and repeat.

Push-ups

Get into a standard plank position, with your arms slightly wider than your shoulders and your feet just a few inches apart. Slowly lower yourself down, getting as close to the ground as possible. From here, push back up through your chest and arms to starting position. Keep your core tight throughout the entire movement and fight the urge to allow your mid-section to either arch up or sag.

Jumping lunges

Start in a lunge position with your right foot in front and left foot behind you with your left knee about an inch from the floor. From here, explode straight up out of the lunge, switching your legs mid-air and landing softly on your toes. You will now have your left leg in front and right leg behind you. Remember to keep your front knee at a 90 degree angle and try not to let it go past your toes.

Sit-ups

Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands behind your head. While keeping your chin angled towards the sky, use your core to sit up until your elbows touch your knees. Lower back down to the ground and repeat.

Burpees

Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down to the floor and place your hands on the ground in front of you. From here, jump back into a pushup position. Jump your feet forward until you are at the bottom of a squat again, then jump straight into the air.

Want more moves like this? Check out 6 Moves That Burn More Fat in Less Time

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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