TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Tricks to Get More From Your Fitness Tracker

The Jawbone UP3, on sale in early 2015, will incorporate heart rate monitoring. Jawbone

You won't get healthier just by strapping on the new Jawbone. You need to learn how to game the system too

If you’re counting on using a new fitness tracker from Jawbone, Fitbit, Microsoft or the like to help get in shape for 2015, you may want to adjust your expectations: “We don’t know whether or not these devices really make people more active or healthier,” says Glenn Gaesser, an Arizona State University professor and Director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center. “There really is no evidence.” Still, even as some people complain of gaining unwanted weight after they started wearing a fitness tracker, many more say their gadgets are just what they need to move around more—and when you consider many Americans spend upwards of seven or eight hours a day on their tush, that’s a very good thing.

But since the devices are not a fast-track to fitness all on their own, we asked experts for tips on how to make the most of them—despite their shortcomings:

1. Assume at least a 10% margin of error for calories burned.

A recent Iowa State University study found that trackers’ calorie-burn estimates were off by 10-15%, on average. Anyone who wants to lose weight would be wise to assume that trackers are overestimating their efforts, suggests Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. “You only need to consume an extra 500 calories a day to gain a pound a week,” she warns, so it’s smart to err on the side of caution.

2. Realize that calorie-burn estimates can be completely off. Enter them yourself.

Unless your tracker includes a built-in heart-rate monitor (like the Microsoft Band, Jawbone UP3 and Basis Peak), it will grossly underestimate how many calories you burn during many activities, including biking, weight training and yoga, because its built-in accelerometer can’t as readily detect the movement. A 2013 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that trackers underestimate energy expenditure from cycling, for example, by up to 55%. “They don’t work as well on resistance exercises,” says the study’s co-author Ray Browning of Colorado State University. Even bands with heart rate monitors are imperfect because they don’t perfectly capture your radial pulse, especially during intense exercise when you are moving your wrist a lot.

3. The buddy system can be a double-edged sword.

Jawbone reports that its users who have at least 3 “teammates” with whom they share their activity data take 1,000 steps per day more than those who don’t. Fitbit, meanwhile, claims that users with at least one friend on their system take 27% more steps. Fitbit friends can also take challenges such as the “Work Week Hussle”—which tracks your steps for a week and awards a virtual trophy to the winner. But Colorado State researcher Browning points out that the motivating effect from being part of a group only works when you’re winning. As an alternative, consider setting short-term goals that build on your own baseline activity level instead. An increase of 20%, for example, is a good start.

4. It’s still on you to follow through.

An activity tracker can be fun to play around with for a few months. But it’s easy to get bored, take it off your wrist and never pick it up again. Ultimately, your motivation must come from within. “These devices get you thinking about [fitness], but in the end, it’s your decision,” says John Jakicic, Director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at University of Pittsburgh.

5. It’s not all about structured exercise.

Trackers may be the best way to quantify how much energy you spend on routine activities like puttering around the house or taking out the garbage—movement that can be as, or more, important for overall health than formal exercise. “Getting up and moving the rest of the day is better for you than just exercising once a day and being sedentary the rest of the time,” says University of Pittsburgh’s Jakicic. Do enough of these activities, and you may be surprised to see how it all adds up—no marathon-running required.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Introducing the One-Minute Workout

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You no longer have any excuses

We get it, you’re busy. But it turns out you don’t need very much time in the gym to improve your health. In fact, it might only take one—yes one—high intensity minute of exercise to do the trick.

New research published in the journal PLOS One shows sedentary men and women who did one minute of intense, all-out exercise as part of a full 10-minute workout three times a week for six weeks improved their endurance and lowered their blood pressure.

A total of 14 sedentary and overweight men and women agreed to have their muscles biopsied and their aerobic endurance and blood pressure and sugar levels measured by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. Then, they hopped on stationary bikes and warmed up for two minutes. After the warmup, the participants biked as hard as they possibly could for three 20 second intervals followed by two minutes of slow pedaling. They ended with a three minute cool-down, adding up to a total of 10 minutes. They did this three times a week, coming out to 30 minutes of exercise a week.

After six weeks, the participants were measured again, and the researchers discovered the they improved their endurance levels by about 12%, had better blood pressure levels, and improved muscle activity. The men in the group also had improved blood sugar levels.

MORE: Short bursts of exercise are better than exercising nonstop

This isn’t the first time researchers from McMaster University have touted the positive effects of short bursts of high-tensity exercise. Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, has spent years studying the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and whether it’s equally beneficial as moderate exercise over a longer period. In fact, high intensity interval training has become somewhat of a mainstay in the fitness circuit, many also crediting Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata for coming up with the The Tabata Protocol: 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of resting, repeated many times.

The problem with high intensity intervals is that, well, it can suck. It’s truly hard to really get your body to that level of intensity, especially if you’re not in tip top shape. Even proponents of the seven-minute workout say: “Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant.”

Critics of short spurt workouts—the seven-minute workout is a popular version—argue that while some exercise is better than no exercise, more is usually better and people who really need to exercise like the elderly and people who are overweight, might find it too difficult or even dangerous.

That’s why the researchers decided to investigate just how short they could cut the workout to and still get some of the same health benefits, The New York Times reports. As it turns out, you really can gain a fitness advantage from a short period of time. People will gain more or less from the workout based on their starting level of fitness, and most exercise enthusiasts recommend mixing up your routine over doing the same workout everyday to avoid injuries and work different muscles. But if you hit snooze one too many times, rest assured you can still get in a quality workout in less time than you may think.

Read next: 5 Fitness Trends to Try in 2015

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Moves to Work Your Abs From All Angles

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Try these five moves to shrink and sculpt your waistline

A perfectly toned tummy is reason enough to add more core moves to your workout routine. Additionally, a strong mid-section is the essential foundation you need in order to stabilize the spine and help prevent future injury. Crunches alone won’t get the job done. You need moves that will flex as well as stabilize the core. The stronger your core is, the stronger you’ll be in everything else you do.

Try these five moves to shrink and sculpt your waistline.

Walk the plank

The plank is the best example of an isometric exercise, where your muscles are contracting but you’re not moving the torso at all. In this position, you are working all of the muscles surrounding the core, including your rectus and transverse abdominals, internal and external obliques, and lower back. But we’re adding a challenge. Start with a traditional plank, with your legs glued together and your wrists right underneath your shoulders. By “walking” the plank, you simply come down to your forearms and then back up to your hands. Do 30 seconds on one side and then switch the direction of which arm comes down first for another 30.

Modification for beginners: Same movement but come down to a modified plank position on your knees.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

Plank jacks

Another way to switch up your regular plank is with a plank jack, where you move your feet like a regular jumping jack. This one targets the lower half of the torso, whereas the first exercise might work the upper half more. In a traditional plank position on the hands and feet, jump your feet away from each other and then jump them back to starting position. Try to keep your upper body from moving and aim for 20 reps.

Modification for beginners: Start in a plank. Move one leg at a time away from the center of your body, without moving the upper body. Do 20 on each side.

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Slippery plank

A third modified plank exercise is the slippery plank. Start in a push-up position with a towel (or other item which will allow you to slide your feet freely) placed under the ball of each foot, legs together. Bring your right knee in towards the right elbow, squeezing your abs. Then, re-straighten your right leg and perform the same movement with your left leg. Finally, draw both knees into your chest at the same time and then slide your legs back out to full plank. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Modification for beginners: Perform the same movements from a modified plank position, resting your weight on your forearms instead of your hands.

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Teaser ‘toe touches’

Start lying face up, legs extended out and arms overhead. At the same time, lift both arms and legs up together and reach for your toes, balancing on your tailbone for a moment before returning your arms and legs down to their original position. (Use a mat if you have hard floors.) Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Modification for beginners: Start with the legs at a 45-degree angle, extending the arms up overhead. Keep the legs where they are as you bring the upper body up to reach for the toes and then return the upper body down, maintaining the 45-degree angle with the legs.

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Corkscrew

Lie flat on your back on a mat with your arms held firmly at your sides. Squeeze your legs together tightly and bring them straight up so your toes point toward the ceiling. Inhale as you lift your legs overhead until you’re balancing in the middle of your shoulder blades. Exhale with control as you roll back down your spine, leaning your body slightly to the right. When your right glute touches the mat, circle your legs around to the left until you’ve made a full circle. Then scoop your abs in as you lift your legs and hips back up off the floor and reverse the movement, this time circling your legs to the right. Try and complete 5 each direction.

Modification for beginners: Make the circles, but without lifting your back off the mat. Once you feel strong enough, then you can try the advanced version.

Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, entrepreneur and best-selling author of the new book, Strong is the New Skinny. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants’ to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today Show, Extra, The Doctors and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and on Pinterest.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Obesity

The 10 Healthiest and 10 Least-Healthy States

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Here are the states that are doing it right—and those in real need of a checkup

In some ways, Americans today are healthier than they were in 1990, when the United Health Foundation first published America’s Health Rankings, an annual state-by-state assessment of our nation’s health. Cardiovascular and cancer deaths are down, and the smoking rate has decreased 36%. Plus, life expectancy is at an all-time high—78.7 years. “But although we’re living longer, we’re also living sicker, with preventable illness at an alarming level,” says Reed Tuckson, MD, external senior medical advisor to United Health Foundation. The number-one reason: Obesity. “Since 1990, the obesity rate went from 11.6% to 29.4%, a 153% increase,” Dr. Tuckson says. In the last year alone, it rose 7%. Physical inactivity is also at a new high: 23.5% of Americans do not exercise at all.

Read on for the states that are doing it right—and the 10 that have a lot more work to do to improve their health.

The 10 Most Healthy States

10. Nebraska

2013 Rank: 11
Change: +1

Nebraska is among the healthiest states in America in 2014, coming in at number 10 (a slight increase over last year). Nebraska has a low rate of drug deaths, high rate of high school graduation, and high immunization coverage among children.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of Salmonella
Large disparity in health status by education level

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9. North Dakota

2013 Rank: 9
Change: None

North Dakota is the ninth most-healthy state in the U.S. this year, thanks to its low rate of drug deaths, high immunization coverage among teens, and low prevalence of low birth weight. North Dakota also came in ninth in 2013.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High prevalence of obesity
High occupational fatalities rate

8. Colorado

2013 Rank: 8
Change: None

Colorado is known for its outdoor activities—hiking, skiing, biking—so it should come as no surprise that the state has the lowest rates for obesity and diabetes in the United States. It ranks eighth for the second year in a row.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High prevalence of low birth weight
Large disparity in health status by education level

7. New Hampshire

2013 Rank: 5
Change: -2

New Hampshire comes in at number seven, and is just one of several New England states to rank in the top 10 for 2014. New Hampshire residents are more active than most Americans, enjoy a low rate of infectious disease, and have a low infant mortality rate. There is also high immunization coverage among teens.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of drug deaths
Low per capita public health funding

6. Minnesota

2013 Rank: 3
Change: -3

Minnesota is known for its bitterly cold winters, but that doesn’t stop residents of this snowy state from keeping active, which also helps the state have one of the lowest obesity and diabetes rates in the nation. Minnesota also has a low rate of drug deaths.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of pertussis
Low per capita health funding

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5. Utah

2013 Rank: 6
Change: +1

Fewer people smoke in Utah than in any other state. Utah also has the second-lowest diabetes rate, the fourth-lowest obesity rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Challenges:
High rate of drug deaths
Low immunization coverage among teens
Limited availability of primary care physicians

4. Connecticut

2013 Rank: 7
Change: +3

Connecticut, the 4th-healthiest state in the U.S. this year, has a low prevalence of smoking, high immunization coverage among children, and a low occupational fatalities rate.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of preventable hospitalizations
Large disparity in health status by education level

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3. Massachusetts

2013 Rank: 4
Change: +1

Massachusetts is the third-healthiest state in the nation in 2014. In the past two years, drug deaths have decreased by 9% and the rate of physical inactivity has decreased 11%. Massachusetts also has more residents with health insurance than any other state.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of preventable hospitalizations
Large disparity in health status by education level

2. Vermont

2013 Rank: 2
Change: None

The runner-up—and the healthiest state in the continental U.S.—is Vermont. Vermont has the highest high school graduation rate in the country, a low percentage of children in poverty, and a low violent crime rate. In the last year, binge drinking has decreased 11% (though it’s still a challenge), and in the last two years, smoking has declined by 13%.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
Low immunization coverage among children
Large disparity in health status by education level

1. Hawaii

2013 Rank: 1
Change: None

For the second year in a row, Hawaii earns the honor of healthiest state in America. Relatively few people in the Aloha State are obese, the cancer rate is low, and the state has the lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations in the country. Smoking has decreased by 21% in the last two years, and binge drinking has declined by 15%.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of infectious disease
Low immunization coverage among children

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The 10 Least Healthy States

41. Indiana

2013 Rank: 41
Change: None

With 31.8% of adults obese, 28.3% of adults never exercising, and a huge air pollution problem, Indiana comes in at number 41.

Strengths:
Low incidence of infectious disease
Low percentage of children in poverty
High immunization coverage among teens

42. South Carolina

2013 Rank: 43
Change: +1

Coming in at 42, South Carolina is struggling to keep its children healthy: it has a low rate of high school graduation, high prevalence of low birth weight, and ranks in the bottom half of the states for the immunization of children. It also has high rates of obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Low rate of preventable hospitalizations

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The 10 Least Healthy States

43. Alabama

2013 Rank: 47
Change: +4

Ranking 43rd overall, Alabama has the highest diabetes rate in the nation, at 13.8% of adults—a 17% increase over the last two years. The state also has a high prevalence of low birth weight and a limited availability of dentists.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High immunization coverage among children
Small disparity in health status by education level

44. West Virginia

2013 Rank: 46
Change: +2

With 27.3% of the adult population lighting up, West Virginia has the highest prevalence of smoking in America. It also has more drug deaths than any other state, as well as the second-highest obesity rate.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of infectious disease
High per capita health funding

45. Tennessee

2013 Rank: 42
Change: -3

Tennessee ranks 50th for violent crime, 49th for physical inactivity, 47th for obesity, and 45th overall.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Ready availability of primary care physicians

46. Oklahoma

2013 Rank: 44
Change: -2

Ranking 46th, the Sooner State has a high prevalence of physical inactivity, low immunization coverage among children, and a limited availability of primary care physicians. Since 1990, violent crime has increased 12%, while the nationwide rate dropped 37% during the same time period.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Low prevalence of low birth weight

47. Kentucky

2013 Rank: 45
Change: -2

While lots of people in Kentucky smoke, very few of them exercise, a combination that lands the Bluegrass State at number 47. Kentucky also suffers from a high percentage of children in poverty and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low violent crime rate
High immunization coverage among children

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48. Louisiana

2013 Rank: 48
Change: None

Louisiana ranks 48th in 2014 thanks to its high incidence of infectious disease, high prevalence of low birth weight, and high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Strengths:
Low incidence of pertussis
High immunization coverage among teens
Small disparity in health status by education level

49. Arkansas

2013 Rank: 49
Change: None

Coming in second to last—same as in 2013—Arkansas has a high incidence of infectious disease, a limited availability of dentists, and low immunization coverage among children. Additionally, obesity has increased 12% over the last two years.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High per capita public health funding
Small disparity in health status by education level

50. Mississippi

2013 Rank: 50
Change: None

For the third year in a row, the least-healthy state in the U.S. is Mississippi. Mississippi ranks last on six measures: physical inactivity, rate of infectious disease, low birthweight, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths, and premature deaths.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High immunization coverage among children
Small disparity in health status by education level

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Fitness Trends to Try in 2015

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The next big thing? Body weight training

Curious about what’s going to be hot in the wellness sphere next year? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We put our sneakers to the ground to find out what fitness trends could be making their way into your gym in 2015. Happy sweating.

Body weight training

According to an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) survey of more than 3,000 fitness professionals worldwide, body weight training is predicted to be the next big thing. “Expect to see it continue to expand in all movement experiences including both group and personal training,” says Carol Espel, Senior Director, Group Fitness and Pilates at Equinox. “Look for the comprehensive incorporation of gymnastics, adult jungle gyms, workout spaces that are uncluttered with weight machines and open for training, greater suspension training options, primal movements, and more programming that is less focused on standard weight lifting protocols.” In other words, those tried and true exercises that don’t require equipment—like lunges, squats, push-ups, and burpees—are here to stay, so embrace them.

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High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

OK, HIIT (think P90X) did take a hit over the past year dropping from the number one spot on the 2013 ACSM survey to number two this year. But we assure you that this technique, which alternates intense bursts of exercise with short, sometimes active, recovery periods, isn’t going anywhere. The reason: It’s super effective. “People are exercising in shorter bursts and they are still seeing results,” notes Donna Cyrus, Senior Vice President of Programming at Crunch. This should be no surprise, though. After all, who wants to slave away at the gym for hours each day when you can blast fat in as little as 20 minutes? Exactly.

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Treadmill training

Boutique studios that specialize in one specific fitness genre—be it underwater cycling or trampoline workouts—will continue to rise in popularity. However, within this group fitness sector, indoor group running has been steadily gaining momentum. From big gym chains like Equinox and Crunch to smaller studios like Mile High Run Club, treadmill-based training is poised to become the new “it” workout. Yes, many view this piece of machinery as a torture device (I know I’ve called it a dreadmill on more than one occasion), but these classes are truly beneficial, helping to improve your running through speed, incline, and interval-based drills.

“There is a trend in fitness to return to simplicity, and running is the oldest form of exercise,” explains Andia Winslow, a fitness expert and coach at Mile High Running Club. “With indoor treadmill training, participants are in a controlled and yet challenging environment where they can, regardless of fitness level, keep up with class while running on industry elite commercial equipment. With less strain on bones, joints and tendons, runners can focus instead on form, specialized and programmed intensity and being wholly engaged with their runs.” Even better: You will never have to worry about it being too cold or raining too hard to log those miles.

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Recovery efforts

Don’t you just love a super intense workout? The way it pushes you to your limits, leaving behind a reminder (read: sore muscles) of all the hard work you put in. Here’s the deal, though, too much intense training can throw your body out of whack, leaving it open for potential injuries, which is why recovery is essential. “A balanced body is key, which means all of your muscles are working correctly, not just some of them,” says David Reavy, PT, owner of React Physical Therapy and creator of the Reavy Method. “Weak muscles will fatigue quickly, and you over train muscles that are already strong. The compensation and overuse of muscles and not the work brings the need for recovery.” This is why “we will continue to see the rapid expansion of group formats that include self-care protocols for self myofascial release (SMR), such as foam rolling and therapy balls, core strengthening and dynamic stretching, full recovery days and clear focus on sleep as an integral part of one’s fitness regimen,” says Espel. “And of course restorative yoga formats will continue to become a much more prevalent part of programming.”

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Digital engagement

In our tech-obsessed world, this one seems like a no-brainer. Just take Nike, for example: I learned at their Women’s Summit last month that 9 million women have downloaded the Nike Running app and 16 million women have downloaded the Nike Training (NTC) app. And that’s just one company—think about all of the other fitness apps and cool trackers out there that put a wealth of health info at our fingertips. The reason we’re still obsessed with these modalities is because “they provide inspiration, guidance and coaching,” explained Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport for Nike at the summit. Not to mention the social factor. Adds Espel: “We will continue so see an even greater level of engagement of the use of multiple devices to track and log movement, nutrition, sleep and all aspects of activity,” she says. “The challenge for all will be determining what data is pertinent and then how providers and health care experts take the most relevant information and make it continually meaningful to users.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

How to Burn Off 24 Holiday Foods

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Here's just how much exercise you'd need to burn off your favorite foods

The average adult gains 1 to 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but think about it: if you pack on 2 pounds annually on fattening holiday foods, then you’ll be up 10 pounds by year five.

This year, prepare for 6 weeks of temptation by familiarizing yourself with just how much activity you’d need to burn off your favorite foods. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people were less likely to buy a 20-ounce bottle of soda when they learned that they’d have to run for 50 minutes to burn it off. Note: calorie counts for these dishes vary widely by recipe, and exercise calculations are based on a 150-pound person.

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie is actually one of the healthier desserts you can eat during the holidays—the gourd is an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, and a slice racks up fewer calories than other seasonal favorites. Just be sure to limit yourself to one-eighth slice of a pie.
Calories: 323 per slice
Burn it off: Ice skate for 41 minutes

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Apple pie

The main ingredient in apple pie is, of course, apples. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the sweet treat is a nutritious food. One slice contains 14 grams of fat, with 5 grams of saturated fat. Still, it’s one of the safer bets on the holiday dessert table.
Calories: 296 per slice
Burn it off: Build a snowman for 53 minutes

Pecan pie

From the best, we segue to the worst. Pecan pie is notoriously high in fat and calories. Why? The main ingredients are butter, sugar, corn syrup, eggs, and pecans. One slice racks up 41% of your daily allowance of total fat, with 27 grams (5 saturated).
Calories: 503 per slice
Burn it off: Shovel snow for an hour and 15 minutes

Sweet potato pie

If you must have sweet potato pie over the holidays, at least follow a recipe that excludes the traditional meringue topping. The mixture of well-beaten egg whites and sugar adds about 125 calories to your slice.
Calories: 510 per slice
Burn it off: Go snowboarding for an hour and 11 minutes

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Turkey leg

A giant turkey leg supplies a day’s worth of fat (54 grams) and enough calories for two large meals. Why not have a serving of turkey breast instead, and pair it with just a small portion of the dark meat? You’ll save over 800 calories.
Calories: 1,135 per leg
Burn it off: Run a Turkey Trot 5K race—and then run it three more times

Store-bought stuffing

Don’t let the relatively low calorie count fool you: bread stuffing is still a dieter’s disaster. This type of stuffing is no more than seasoned white bread cut into small hunks and soaked with melted butter. This year, try making your own stuffing.
Calories: 150 per 1/2 cup
Burn it off: Run for 15 minutes

Eggnog

Having a cup of eggnog is like drinking a small meal. The sugar, whipping cream, eggs, and your choice of brandy, rum, or bourbon add up to 11 grams of fat (7 saturated), 150 milligrams of cholesterol—half a day’s worth!—and 20 grams of sugar.
Calories: 223 per cup
Burn it off: Cross-country ski for 25 minutes

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Pot roast

A braised pot roast will be one of the healthier options at your holiday dinner table. Pot roast is made with chuck, a leaner beef cut, and is usually cooked slowly either in the oven or in a slow cooker along with carrots and potatoes.
Calories: 280 per 3-ounce serving
Burn it off: Showshoe for 34 minutes

Fruitcake

The main ingredients in fruitcake are dried fruit and nuts. That’s not so bad, right? Wrong: dried fruit is a sneaky diet saboteur. Since dried fruit is just regular fruit with the water taken out (and sometimes with more sugar added in), a cup of dried fruit packs five to eight times more calories and sugar than a cup of the fresh stuff. And although nuts are filled with good-for-you fats, they need to be consumed in moderation.
Calories: 410 per slice
Burn it off: Chop firewood for 1 hour

Cranberry sauce (canned)

Though canned cranberry sauce doesn’t rack up as many calories as many of the other dishes on this list, you’d be better off making one of our delicious and healthy cranberry recipes instead. Why? Many cranberry jellies are made with high fructose corn syrup, which some studies show contributes to obesity more than regular sugar. (Besides, do you really want to eat something in the shape of a can?)
Calories: 110 per 1/4 cup
Burn it off: Go sledding for 15 minutes

HEALTH.COM: 24 Mouthwatering Cranberry Recipes

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping

Oh, sweet potatoes. The sweet spud packs 438% of your daily value of vitamin A and 37% of your vitamin C, and they’re also a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber. Too bad mixing them with scoops of brown sugar and topping them with marshmallows pretty much cancels out those benefits.
Calories: About 250 per scoop
Burn it off: Downhill ski for 35 minutes

Mashed potatoes with gravy

A typical mashed potato recipe features cream, salt, and lots of butter. You know what that means: calories and unhealthy fats. Cut the calorie count of your recipe in half by skipping the gravy altogether, limiting the butter to 1 tablespoon per potato, using naturally creamy Yukon Gold potatoes, and swapping in reduced-fat milk for the cream.
Calories: 230 per 3/4 cup
Burn it off: Do jumping jacks for 23 minutes

Candy cane

A candy cane is one holiday sweet we can endorse. Sure, they’re made from sugar and…not much else, but at 60 calories, having one (just one) won’t wreck your diet. It also takes a while to eat one, which will make you more satisfied in the end.
Calories: 60
Burn it off: Walk up and down stairs for 7 minutes

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Glazed ham

Nothing says Christmas dinner quite like a juicy glazed ham. Lucky for you, a serving of the traditional dish only sets you back 120 calories. A 3-ounce slice also supplies 16 grams of protein, which will help fill you up (and with any luck eat less off the dessert table). Just be sure to choose a low-sodium piece of pork.
Calories: 120 calories per 3-ounce slice
Burn it off: Go hiking for 15 minutes

Chocolate orange

The good news: dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and has been shown to reduce blood pressure, protect the heart and brain, and curb cravings. The bad news: a chocolate orange is made with milk chocolate, which doesn’t boast the same benefits and contains a lot more sugar. Indulge in a couple squares of 70% cacao dark chocolate with an actual orange instead.
Calories: 230 per 5-slice serving
Burn it off: Sing Christmas carols door-to-door for 77 minutes

Mulled wine

Having a glass of red wine a day may boost heart health, but that may not be the case when it comes to mulled wine. Served warm and mixed with cinnamon, cloves, and orange, some mulled wine recipes also call for added sugar. Make your own healthy indulgence by nixing the sugar altogether by intensifying the spices.
Calories: 183 per glass
Burn it off: Walk up hill carrying a 10-pound turkey for 22 minutes

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Cutout sugar cookie

Cutout cookies in the shape of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and reindeer may be the ultimate comfort food. Not only do they taste delicious; they also bring back fun childhood memories. As long as you have just one, they’re a relatively guilt-free treat. Try a healthier spin on the classic recipe with this whole-wheat version.
Calories: 126 per cookie
Burn it off: Stand for 1 hour

Green bean casserole

Take a can of green beans, a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, some fried onions, and what do you get? A total sodium bomb. Sure, it’ll only cost you 120 calories, but canned foods are notoriously high in salt. One tiny scoop contains 550 milligrams, or about a quarter of what you’re supposed to consume in an entire day.
Calories: 120 per scoop
Burn it off: Volunteer at a soup kitchen for 27 minutes

Popcorn ball

Popcorn is a healthy whole-grain snack—when you eat it plain. Rolling the kernels into balls with sugar, corn syrup, and salt probably negates any of the nutritional benefits. For a healthier holiday treat, sprinkle your popcorn with cinnamon.
Calories: 170 per 3-inch ball
Burn it off: Walk through snow for 30 minutes

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Apple cider

With potassium, iron, and no added sugar, apple cider is a relatively smart sipper. Try this recipe for Spiced Apple Cider, which is spiked with your choice of Calvados or applejack.
Calories: 100 per cup plain; 173 per cup spiced
Burn it off: Do 15 minutes of body weight exercises in your living room

Champagne

If losing weight is one of your new year’s resolutions, then you’ll want to cut back on booze. But go ahead and ring in the new year with a champagne toast. You’ll easily burn off the bubbly when you get back on the dance floor.
Calories: 90 per 4-ounce glass
Burn it off: Hit the dance floor for 18 minutes

Gingerbread man

Be sure your gingerbread recipe contains real ginger. In addition to adding flavor to your cookies, the multitasking spice also soothes achy muscles and improves blood flow and circulation.
Calories: 158 per cookie
Burn it off: Go holiday shopping for 1 hour

Mixed nuts

As long as you stick to one handful, the nut bowl serves up a healthy holiday snack. Nuts are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Remember, unsalted nuts are best.
Calories: 172 per ounce
Burn it off: Rake leaves for 34 minutes

Prime rib

Pile a few sides on your plate along with your slice of prime rib, and you’ve consumed enough calories to last you an entire day. Eating a lot of red meat has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and a shortened lifespan, but an occasional indulgence in a lower-fat cut, like tenderloin, is OK.
Calories: 1,035 per slice
Burn it off: Play touch football for 2 hours

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Your Lungs: A User’s Manual

lung xray
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Better workouts, less coughing and wheezing, even a longer life? Yep. Here's your guide to open airways

Inhale. Exhale. You take 15 to 20 breaths a minute—more than 20,000 breaths a day. With each one, oxygen travels through your bloodstream, fueling your body’s cells. Trouble is, we bombard our lungs with pollutants and irritants such as secondhand smoke and fumes from household cleaning supplies. “Still, lungs are resilient,” says Ravi Kalhan, MD, director of the Asthma/COPD Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Keep them healthy and they will protect you into old age.” Read on, and start breathing easy.

GET FIT
While exercise doesn’t increase lung capacity per se, “it strengthens heart muscles so your heart is better able to pump oxygenated blood through your body,” says Doreen Addrizzo-Harris, MD, associate professor of pulmonology at the NYU Medical Center. “Your lungs then don’t have to work as hard.” You’ll exercise more efficiently and feel less winded.

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Exercise can also trim belly fat, which is linked to a higher risk of asthma. “We think the excess fat associated with obesity increases inflammation in the body, which affects the lungs,” says Neil Schachter, MD, a pulmonologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. To see results, you need consistent exercise, raising your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week, says Jason Turowski, MD, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. If you’ve got asthma, it might be hard to maintain an intense workout, but lower-key activities may help reduce airway inflammation. In one study, asthmatic adults who walked for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week at a moderate pace reported improvement in their symptoms. Swimming is another option, especially during the frigid winter months. The warm, moist air at an indoor pool is asthma-friendly. (But don’t swim in a pool that’s strongly chlorinated; irritation from the fumes can counteract the benefits.)

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EAT SMART

“An anti-inflammatory diet helps decrease airway inflammation, which has been linked to respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma,” notes Melissa Young, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. Fill up with these foods:

Fruits and veggies: They’re packed with antioxidants, which can help repair damage from air pollution. It doesn’t matter what kind, as long as you eat plenty of them.

HEALTH.COM: 13 Veggies You Only Think You Don’t Like

Flaxseeds: They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to be connected to a lower risk of asthma.

White wine: Vino drinkers—especially those who sip white—have healthier lungs. (Researchers theorize it’s due to wine’s high antioxidant capacity.)

Olive oil: It has monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation, and alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E associated with better lung function.

A cup of joe: Caffeine has a similar effect as the drug therophyllin, which opens up the airways,” Dr. Turowski says.

Tomato sauce: Research suggests that lycopene—the antioxidant famously found in tomatoes—may protect you against exercise-induced asthma.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

CLEAR THE AIR

Air pollution claims more than 3.2 million lives worldwide every year, according to the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study. Why? The tiny particles penetrate the lungs, causing cancer and other respiratory illnesses. We don’t expect you to flee L.A. for Idaho, but there are precautions that everyone should take.

Check the forecast: You can find the Air Quality Index (AQI) at airnow.gov. On days that the AQI in your area is high (over 150 if you have no lung issues, over 100 if you’ve got a breathing problem), consider taking your workout indoors. If you do exercise outdoors, avoid routes near traffic.

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Don’t idle your car: It releases as much pollution as a moving vehicle, and you’re in the middle of the mist. Turn off the ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds, and warm up your engine by driving. (Your car and its engine warm up faster when you drive.)

Make a P.M. pit stop: As you fill your tank, gas emissions evaporate and form ozone, a component of smog. Hit the pump after dark to keep the sun from turning those gases into pollutants.

REHAB YOUR HOME
Air pollution in your house may be worse than what’s festering outdoors. Here’s how to clear the air, stat.

Go electric: Your home heating and AC system should ideally operate on electricity, not oil, since the latter releases more particulates. Most homes built after 2000 do, but if you’re living in an older home that uses oil, consider installing a home air-filtration system for a few thousand dollars.

HEALTH.COM: 9 Ways to Detox Your Home

Get tested: Every two years, your home should be tested for radon—an odorless natural gas that’s found in one in every 15 homes in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You can hire a certified company to do it, or buy a test kit for $15 to $25 at a hardware store or throughsosradon.org/test-kits. If radon concentrations exceed 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), you’ll need to install a radon reduction system (up to $1,500).

Keep humidity low: A too-damp environment is a breeding ground for mold, a common allergen. The EPA recommends keeping humidity under 60% in the summer and between 25 and 40% in winter. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer ($20 to $40 at a hardware store). If the air is too dry, use a humidifier. It it’s too wet, try a dehumidifier.

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Trade in your fireplace: The particulate matter in wood smoke can damage your heart and lungs. Switch to a cleaner-burning gas or wood stove certified by the EPA, or put in an electronic fireplace or gas insert (about $1,000 to $3,000) for fewer emissions. To learn more, go to epa.gov/burnwise.

STAY SAFE FROM THIRDHAND SMOKE
You know not to smoke and to keep away from secondhand smoke. But there’s something called thirdhand smoke—residual tobacco fumes that adhere to walls and furniture and then off-gas slowly into the indoor environment. This stuff isn’t just smelly: It reacts with indoor pollutants, such as ozone and nitrous acid, creating compounds that lock onto your cells’ DNA and cause potentially cancer-causing damage, according to research presented at the American Chemical Society’s 2014 meeting. While the risk is higher for babies and toddlers (as they crawl around the house, they may stir up and inhale these compounds), pretty much anyone is susceptible.

HEALTH.COM: 30-Day Countdown to Quit Smoking

When traveling, insist on smoke-free hotel rooms, and avoid homes of friends who smoke (even if they’re not lighting up in front of you, their furniture can reek). If you inherit the home of a smoker, remove affected items like sofas and carpets, repaint and bring in a professional to thoroughly clean the air-ventilation system.

DID YOUR DUVET GIVE YOU ASTHMA?
You’ve never had asthma before, but lately you’re constantly short of breath. What gives? “It’s not uncommon for a 40-something woman to suddenly complain of asthmalike symptoms,” Dr. Addrizzo-Harris says. A typical trigger: being exposed to an allergen you haven’t faced in years, such as feather bedding or mold. “I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a patient who reports symptoms starting as soon as she moves into a new house,” Dr. Turowski says. “Usually a moldy basement is the culprit.”

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Stop Allergies

A WOMAN’S PROBLEM?
How the three P’s of womanhood can mess with your breathing.

You’re about to get your period: Up to 40% of women with asthma report that their symptoms worsen immediately before their period. “During this time, estrogen levels drop, and we think that these fluctuations somehow activate an inflammatory response in a woman’s airways,” Dr. Kalhan says. As a result, you’re more likely to cough, feel short of breath and wheeze. Talk to your doc about increasing asthma meds on these days; research also suggests that taking birth control pills (to ward off hormone rises and dips) may help.

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You’re pregnant: In the first few weeks of pregnancy, an increase in the hormone progesterone causes you to breathe more often, which may make you feel like you’re short of breath when you really aren’t. (The hormone expands your lung capacity, allowing your blood to carry large quantities of oxygen to your baby.) This sensation disappears, then re-emerges around your third trimester, when your uterus begins to press on your diaphragm, making it harder for your lungs to fully expand. But there’s relief soon: During the final month of pregnancy, your baby will “drop” into your pelvis, taking pressure off your lungs.

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You’re going through perimenopause: As you approach menopause, estrogen levels ride a veritable roller coaster, and those dramatic peaks and drops can trigger inflammation that sets off an asthma attack. Research has shown that menopausal women are twice as prone to severe asthma as similarly aged men. If you notice your wheezing getting worse, talk to your gyno about going on the pill or using hormone therapy to help ease you through the transition. The good news is that once your ovaries have closed up shop, your asthma should improve.

This piece originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Why Running May Really Be The Fountain of Youth

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Charriau Pierre—Getty Images

Elderly people who run show similar fitness to 20-year-olds

Older people who run several times a week actually expend the same amount of energy when they walk as a 20-year-old, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University picked 30 healthy older volunteer adults around age 69 who either walked or ran regularly for exercise. The participants walked on a treadmill at the speeds 1.6 mph, 2.8 mph, and 3.9 mph while their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production were measured.

People who were runners had similar energy intake to a group of young adults in their 20s from a prior study. However, those elderly men and women who regularly walked did not see that same benefit, and expended up to 22% more energy than the younger crowd.

That could be because runners have better muscle efficiency compared to walkers, or because more vigorous exercise may better train the body. But it doesn’t mean that walking doesn’t have its share of health perks. Walkers still experienced a lower risk for ailments like heart disease and depression.

The researchers say more studies should look at the link between exercise and the effects of age on the body. The authors write that it’s unknown whether there is “an intensity threshold of aerobic exercise that is needed to prevent the decline in walking economy.” But that knowledge could be useful in preventing some of the degenerative side effects of old age.

TIME Obesity

You Exercise Less When You Think Life Isn’t Fair

The 'why try' effect gets in the way of weight loss

People who have been the target of weight discrimination—and who believe the practice is widespread—are more likely to give up on exercise than to try to lose weight, according to a new study published in Health Psychology.

The online study of more than 800 Americans specifically looked at whether participants believed in “a just world,” or in this case, the belief that their positive actions will lead to good results. People who experienced weight bias in the past and didn’t believe in a just world were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise than those who did believe the world is just. In a separate part of the study, participants primed with anecdotes designed to suggest that the world is unjust were more likely to say they didn’t plan to exercise.

Experiencing discrimination leads some people to adopt a pessimistic view of the world, and they accept negative stereotypes about themselves, including the belief that they’re lazy, said study author Rebecca Pearl. “When someone feels bad about themselves and is applying negative stereotypes to themselves, they give up on their goals,” said Pearl, a researcher at Yale University, referring to a phenomenon known as the “why try” effect.

It’s an area of conflicting research. Some previous studies found that weight discrimination leads to weight loss, while others concluded that weight discrimination discourages exercise. Belief in a just world may be the factor that distinguishes between the two, Pearl said. People who think their exercise will pay off are more likely to try.

Because believing in a just world is key to losing weight, Pearl said that legislation and other public policy efforts could act as a “buffer against loss of sense of fairness.”

“It’s important for doctors to be aware of what people are experiencing, to know that these experiences might have real effects on people’s confidence,” Pearl said.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Most Surprising Tool for Transforming Your Body

Mind body soul
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Mindset is the greatest fitness motivator

Want to know one of the best workout secrets I’ve learned? Attitude is everything. You’re either mentally in the game or you may as well be sitting on the sidelines. Not only does your attitude help motivate you, it’s the only tool that guarantees lasting results.

Ask any professional athlete: So much of their training is mental preparation. If pro athletes are not mentally pumped and focused on winning, they’re almost guaranteed to lose. But for those of us who aren’t pro athletes, no amount of encouragement from a trainer—or even an upcoming high school reunion—will help you achieve long-lasting results. But your attitude can.

Attitude, along with a motto, helps maintain a focus that is everlasting. It’s a simple theme that translates from pro sports to even the simplest children’s book. For example, in The Little Engine That Could, a long train gets stuck up a mountain only to be rescued by a much smaller engine who continuously repeats, “I think I can, I think I can.” Yes, the train was small, but mental prowess saved the day.

Here are 6 ways to improve your attitude and help you get in shape and stay there.

Get a motto and use it

Mindset is a powerful tool that can motivate and encourage big changes, along with lasting results. With the aid of a motivating motto, that little train did something none of the larger engines could achieve. The power of words can drive a person to completely change herself.

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Value your mistakes

Altering your outlook will guarantee results if you stick with it. And if you get derailed from your goals of eating healthy and regularly working out (like many of us do), shrug it off and learn from your mistakes. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a close friend. You’re human, cut yourself some slack—no one is perfect. If you happen to skip a workout or end up eating more pizza than you planned, dust yourself off and start fresh. Tomorrow is a new day.

Celebrate your victories

Remember that it’s important to set realistic goals when beginning a new workout regime. Celebrate the minor triumphs; one day they will become big ones. In my book, Strong Is The New Skinny, I encourage people to start a brag box where you can stash mementos and reminders of your greatest accomplishments (i.e. your first 5K race number). Your very own personalized brag box will be your greatest asset on days when you’re feeling unmotivated or like you’ve fallen off the wagon.

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Invest in yourself

No one will take care of you like you. So take care of yourself. Imagine the best version of yourself: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Keep that image alive in your mind as you continue to pursue your fitness goals.

Update your strategy

Just because you think of yourself as Xena, Princess Warrior once, won’t mean that every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see a powerful warrior glancing back. Sometimes you need to shake things up and re-strategize. Back in 2013, shortly after having a baby, I received a great opportunity to create and appear in a new Weight Watchers fitness DVD series–an experience I could not pass up. The only problem was I had just had a baby five months prior. I needed to motivate and fast! What did I do? I instantly took action. Besides eating wholesome foods, I changed my outlook, confident I could achieve my goal. The idea is to fake it till you make it, genuinely feeling strong and powerful until you ultimately get there.

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Visualize the new you

Take a minute and imagine how you’d look, move, and feel if you already had the strong, fit body you’ve always wanted. Stand tall, walk, run, or dance with assurance. Adopting a posture that suggests confidence can literally change our feelings, our behavior, and even our hormone levels, according to the research of Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy.

Not only did I improve my posture, but I also posted pre-baby photos all around my house in an effort to motivate myself back into shape. Everywhere I looked, I had visual reminders reaffirming that I, just like the Little Engine that could, was going to make it.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

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