Wednesday, 31 August 2016

First Look: The New Fitbit Charge 2 and Flex 2

For all of you tracker fanatics out there, I have great news: Fitbit just announced the second generation to their Charge and  Flex (Charge 2 and Flex 2 respectively) that is bound to make keeping tabs on your daily movement even easier. Lucky me, I got my hands on both wearables last week, ahead of their release, kicking off a week-long testing period with a 20-minute circuit workout from non other than former pro volleyball player Gabrielle “Gabby” Reece. (For the record, she was intense, and the workout was no joke!).  Soreness-inducing circuit aside, here is what you should know if you are in the market for a new activity monitor:

Fitbit Charge 2, $150 ($180 for the limited edition model);

The look: Right away, you'll notice that this model's display is four times larger than its predecessor (the easier to see you with my dear!). And you can choose from seven clock faces for a more customized look. Band wise, you can go classic with the rubber one or opt for the more stylish leather version-for a price, of course.

New standout features: GPS-enabled, this device not only has multi-sport modes, allowing for the ability to track up to 19 different activities (think running, biking, tennis, weight-lifting), but if you are engaging in one of these activities for 15 minutes (the default time, but you can change this), this wearable will automatically recognize that you are exercising. This is a pretty big deal considering I, like may others I suspect, often forget to put their current wearables into exercise mode. (And if you didn't track it, didn't it really happen?) Also handy: an interval timer will make HIIT lovers happy. And for the more mindful folks, or those who need an extra nudge to get grounded, there is a guided breathing functionality. Choose from two- or five-minute get-zen sessions.

The most intriguing feature for me is this tracker's ability to use your heart rate and exercise stats to give you a cardio fitness score (which you can view on the app). This score shows how you compare to others of your same gender and age range. (Mine said, I was average… I'm not buying that!)

The bottom line: The water-resistant Charge 2 has all of the features you know and love from the original Charge HR plus a few extra bells and whistles that the more tech savvy crowd (read: those who want to go beyond fitness tracking) will enjoy, such as call, text and calendar notifications on your wrist.

Fitbit Flex 2, $100;

The look: While the Charge 2 got bigger, the Flex 2 seems to have gotten much slimmer and sleeker. For those of you who like your wearables to be as discreet as possible, you can pop the tracker out of your classic rubber band (there are seven colors) and into one of the more luxe options: a silver, gold, or rose gold bangle or a silver or gold pendant.  Not to mention the designer collections-Tory Burch, Public School, and Vera Wang for Kohl's-which also offer much more modern takes on tracker holders.

New standout features: First of all the big win for this model, in my opinion, is that it is swim-proof up to 50 meters. And while I haven't jumped into the pool or ocean with it just yet, at the unveiling event, I did watch several synchronized swimmers sport the device while wading through a rather complicated water routine.  I was impressed-with how well the Flex 2 handled the water and how easy those women made synchronized swimming. (FYI: It's not, I tried it once). Like the Charge 2, the Flex 2 also has auto exercise notification (even for swimming!) as well as call and text notification, which you'll be alerted to by various color patterns on the LED display.

The bottom line: As someone who like to always wear a tracker, I appreciate the more stylish carriers for this version. Seriously, who wants to be the girl in a cocktail dress sporting an obvious fitness tracker? (I have been known to try and stuff one in my evening bag, so I can still rack up steps on the dance floor. Hey, leave no step behind!)

I do have a bit of bad news about the Flex 2: You'll have to wait until October to get your hands on it. I do, however, think it's worth the wait, especially for those of you who want a functional device with a bit of fashionable flair. You can preorder both now at at the links above. 

A New Survey Reveals the Most Popular Workouts in Major Cities 

If you find workout waitlists truly infuriating (do you want to wake up at 5 AM to check if you made a class?) and you happen to live in New York City, you may want to stay away from cycling. Why, you may ask? Well, it turns out that this is the most popular workout class in the Big Apple, according to new data from ClassPass which broke down the trendiest exercise routines in major cities.

RELATED: The Hottest Workouts in New York City

Curious what other types of classes were booking the fastest across the country? Well, in Miami, barre happens to be the most popular class. This sunshine-y destination was also dubbed "the most spontaneous city," with 57 percent of classes booked on the same day. Serious props to those of you who can fit gym clothes in your handbag. 

Turns out, barre is getting some serious lovin' across the U.S., as the workout is also the number one class in Seattle, Atlanta, and Baltimore. The California cities apparently have a thing for Pilates-the brand's research showed it's the buzziest workout in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego! 

And if you're ever in Austin, you might want to bust out those LuLu leggings, as yoga tops the charts. 

Another interesting tidbit, ClassPass found that Tuesday is the most popular day of the week to workout, and while the Southeast prefers early morning exercise (early bird gets the worm?), people in the Northeast workout the latest in the evening-around 6:30 pm. 




This article originally appeared on

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Worst Push-Up Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Many people find push-ups difficult to master. Watch this video with Sarah Wingo from Pure Barre to learn how to do the perfect push-up for stronger arms. She'll also show you how to correct three of the most common push-up mistakes.

5-Minute Hotel Room Workout for Arms, Shoulders, and Back

Lower your odds of pulling a muscle.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Total-Body Exercise That Keeps Gabrielle Reece in Killer Shape

Looking at Gabrielle “Gabby” Reece, 46, you might find it hard to believe that the six-foot-three phenom is no longer a pro volleyball player. The way her body moves is still strikingly strong. In fact the only hint of physical aging is the knee replacement surgery she mentioned she had four months earlier. 

That clearly hasn't stopped her though. And we are pretty sure part of the reason is her commitment to staying fit. “I do a lot of squatting and lunging-those basic, functional movements we as human beings do that help us live our everyday lives, play sports, and get from point A to point B,” says Reece, who created the HIGHX training program. The aesthetics come when your body is moving right, she says, and you're fueling up with the good stuff.

“It's also about understanding that whatever I am doing, I am working in the right movement patterns,” Reece adds. In other words, make sure you form is on point!

RELATED: Gabrielle Reece on Her Most Embarrassing Moment, Biggest Weakness, and Best Fitness Tip

Another secret to Reece's fountain-of-youth frame: the clean and jerk. “It is a dynamic, ballistic movement that is fundamental. And if done correctly, it is beautiful,” says Reece of this classic Olympic lift that helps develop total-body power, as well as boost sports performance.

How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with a barbell on the ground in front of you. With weight in heels, squat down and grip the bar so that your hands are just outside of the legs. In one explosive movement, driving through your hips and legs, bring the bar up to your chin. Rotate hands underneath the bar, bend knees, and then catch the bar on the top of your shoulders. Jump legs out into a lunge position and then press the bar overhead, locking out elbows. Step feet back together to come to standing. This is one rep.

Gabby's tip: Use dumbbells to start. “This way, both sides are working independently and you don't develop imbalances,” she says.

Watch Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, winner of the 2014 CrossFit Games, execute the clean and jerk in this video. (Needless to say, she's using a lot more weight than the average person would!)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Monday, 22 August 2016

These Workout and Diet Mistakes May Not Be as Bad As You Think

You skipped stretching, skimped on water, slammed a sugary smoothie. Are these mini workout "offenses" really a huge deal? The answers may surprise you.

Friday, 19 August 2016

How Snowboarder Hannah Teter Stays Fit In The Offseason 

Snowboarder Hannah Teter has literally done it all: she's won Olympic medals in halfpipe-gold in 2006 and silver in 2010-modeled for SI's swimsuit issue and even had an ice cream named after her (Ben & Jerry's “Maple Blondie”). But there's one thing that still bugs her about her career: she didn't make the podium at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, finishing fourth.

“That didn't turn out in my favor,” she said. “I wouldn't call it 'out for revenge,' but I definitely want to end everything with a podium finish.”

So before Teter, 29, pulls the curtain on her competitive career to ride powder into the sunset, she wants to make her fourth Olympic team and end it on the top three steps. To get there, her training includes perfecting her “corks”-inverted, spinning aerials considered the sport's most difficult tricks-to the trampoline to training that will protect her body from injury. And to do the latter, Teter uses a combination of gym work and cross training like mountain biking and standup paddling.

When she does go to the gym, she uses circuit training to keep things fresh, moving from station to station at a high-octane pace. “I've been circuit training since I was 13 years old,” she said. “It's is so good for athletes. It's really fast paced for the body and mind and you have to give it all you have at each station so training doesn't' become monotonous.”

Teter hits the gym twice a week and does six stations. Following a 10-minute warm-up on the bike, she'll usually do each station four times, sometimes three, depending on her energy level on that particular day. She'll change up her stations to keep things interesting, but here's a look at one of Teter's favorite circuit workouts:

1. Burpee or burpee variation

I'll use a bosu ball when I go down to do the pushup to create a more difficult pushup, then as I come up, I raise the bosu ball overhead to get extension, then go back down. I usually do around 10 of those before moving to the next station.

2. Weighted sled pull

Seated or standing, put as much weight as you can handle and then pull it across the room towards you. Depending on how heavy it is, I'll do that a couple of times. It usually takes about 20 seconds each time.

3. One-legged split squat

In the third station, three, I set up a one-legged split squat. Using a 20-pound dumbbell, with my back foot on a bench or box, I squat down with one leg, knee parallel or behind ankle line. You don't want the knee to go over the ankle line because it could strain that joint. I feel that this exercise really tones the leg. I do both sides, about 10-15 reps on each leg.

4. TRX pike push-up    

For the fourth exercise I integrate the TRX strap-a strap that hangs with stirrups on each side-and do tight pushups. I set the TRX low to ground, both feet in it, then do the push up and go straight into pike-arching the body into an a-frame position to extend the pushup. I do at least 20 of these. Using the TRX strap and going into pike really helps stabilize and strengthen every part of your upper body.

5. TRX assisted jump

For the fifth part of the circuit I stick with the TRX strap for a TRX-assisted jump. I lengthen the strap to shoulder line. Holding on to it, squat down so your rear is touching the ground. Then jump up-you really want to send it-and then squat as you land, as low as you can go. I do around 15-20 reps of these.

6. Medicine ball work

For the last station, I love doing weighted squats or throws or side throws. Using a 10-pound medicine ball, get in squat position. Squat down low and on the way up, toss the ball against the wall, catch it then squat back down. I do 10-15 of those. As you come up from your squat, you want to throw it straight in front of you. I don't throw it too hard, just enough to intensify the squat.

After completing her rotations through her circuit, Teter likes to finish up her workout by attacking her core with a vengeance.

“All these exercises target the core but I usually give it full, undivided attention with crunches, reaches, cherry pickers or wall climbers," she says. "When you're finished, you should really be worked.”

This article originally appeared on SI Edge. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How to Conquer 3 of the Toughest Yoga Poses

It's never too late to learn headstand. Or Crow pose. Or side plank with extension. These are all power poses, ones that require superior strength and a serious dose of chutzpah. Kristin McGee, yoga instructor and Health's contributing yoga and wellness editor, says that (almost) anyone can eventually achieve them, so (assuming you don't have injuries) challenge yourself to try one or more of these moves-and feel your confidence soar!

Illustration by Jess Levinson

Side Plank Extension

Why do it: While a simple side plank is easy enough to master-and a great way to strengthen your trunk-adding a toe bind will up the intensity factor while increasing strength in your entire body.

How-to: Lie on one side with legs stacked; place palm beneath shoulder and lift hips. Extend top arms up. Bend top leg, pressing sole of bottom foot into the mat. Bring top food and top hand together, grasping big toe. Hold here for a few slow, even breaths before lowering back down to start.

Modify it: Do a regular side plank with legs together, or just lift top leg. You can also bring the top foot to the floor to modify further.

RELATED: 8 Tips for Leaving Yoga Class Totally Blissed-Out

Illustration by Jess Levinson


Why do it: This move makes you feel like a legit yogi, and it improves balance and core strength.

How-to: Begin with knees bent, palms flat on the floor about shoulder-distance apart and about 12 inches in front of feet; spread fingers wide. With arms as straight as possible, get onto balls of feet and place knees in armpits. Slowly shift weight forward onto hands with head lifted. Lift one foot off the floor at a time, keeping knees in place. To return to start, shift weight backward and lower feet to floor.

Modify it: Using a block under feet can help your liftoff; prep moves like Downward Dog and plank help increase the core strength needed here.

RELATED: Improve Your Balance With This Squat-to-Calf Raise Move

Illustration by Jess Levinson


Why do it: Inversions like the headstand help improve circulation, increase energy, and build ab and shoulder strength. 

How-to: Place the short end of your mat about a foot away from a wall. Place forearms on mat. Interlace fingers, pinkies touching the floor, and bring top of head into space between wrists. Keeping shoulders above elbows, walk feet toward torso, legs straight, lifting hips above torso. Bring legs toward the wall. Stay here, or try to bring one or both legs off the wall. Reverse motion to come back to the floor.

Modify it: Prep by practicing Dolphin pose (it's like Downward Dog, but on forearms). 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

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

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).

RELATED: 17 Ways to Lose Weight When You Have No Time

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.



RELATED: 6 Ways to Get MORE Out of a Push-Up

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.



RELATED: 7 No-Crunch Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

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.



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

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.

Friday, 12 August 2016

What Makes Simone Biles Unlike Any Other Gymnast in the World

It's hard to imagine now, just days after she led the U.S. women to their second-straight Olympics gymnastics team gold, but Simone Biles once got a zero on vault. Actually two zeros. The three-time world champion and practical shoo-in for the Olympic all-around gold on Thursday completely flubbed the event in which she now performs the world's most difficult move.

Both naught scores were at the same event, and it wasn't because Biles got nervous or hadn't trained hard enough. The first time, she messed up because she was laughing so hard that she couldn't even launch herself off the vault table and ended up sliding off into a giggling heap onto the mat. Her teammates had entered the arena just before her turn, and as she was running down the vault runway, they yelled “Run like a man!” Biles says couldn't help herself. It was too funny.

RELATED: Simone Biles is Taking Her Sport to New Heights

She tried again, but to no avail. Still stifling the giggles, this time she bounced off the springboard in front of the vault and did her required twists and turns, but sprung so high that she never even touched the table. That's an automatic zero.

Was Biles upset at her friends, or upset at her scores? “I didn't care. I made it over the table and I didn't know there was a deduction if my hands didn't touch,” she says.

The stakes, of course, are much higher in Rio, but Biles' attitude isn't that different. Undeniably the world's best gymnast, and arguably the most talented ever, she is also among the most outgoing athlete to ever grace the mats. While gymnasts are known for their stoic game faces and robot-like concentration, Biles can turn her focus on and off like a switch (well, save for those two vault flubs). In between rotations, as she's waiting her turn to compete, she often waves to people in crowd and laughs with her teammates.

RELATED: How U.S. Women Became the World's Best Gymnasts

“Simone brings a bubbly personality,” says the steely U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi. “In order to get to this level of gymnastics, not everything works out. Sometimes we have difficulty, but we have to push through. If you have a positive outlook, a bubbly personality like Simone, it is always a great contribution.”

In the individual all-around Thursday, Biles, 19, will likely compete as she has for the last three years-practically uncontested. Her routines are built with such difficult skills, and she performs them with such consistency, that she spends most of her competitions at least one point, if not several, ahead of the field. Her closest competition should come from teammate Aly Raisman, who qualified second and is hoping to capture the medal that she felt was taken from her when she missed a bronze at the 2012 Games when a tie breaker went against her. The last time the U.S. had two gymnasts on the podium in the event was in 2008, when Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson won gold and silver.

Biles at Home

At her house in Spring, Tex., the world's best gymnast is just another member of the family. Her maternal grandfather Ron and his wife, Nellie, adopted Biles and her younger sister, Adria, when Biles was five after her mother's drug and alcohol addiction put the girls in foster care.

“To me it's normal,” Biles says of her family. “When I was younger, I thought every kid was adopted because that's all I've known. I have everything I need, so I never felt the need to have answers for what happened.”

But that family almost didn't happen. While Ron says the decision to take in the girls was obvious-“we could not leave them in foster care” - it wasn't easy. Before the adoption, the girls came to live with the Biles' for about two years, and the stress of suddenly having to care for two young children pushed Nellie, who was working full time as a nurse, to the breaking point. Both of their sons had graduated from high school, and she and Ron were looking forward to being empty nesters when they suddenly started all over again. With their lives turned upside down by the demands of keeping up with youngsters day and night, Nellie broke down in the kitchen one night a few months after the girls arrived. “I was crying because I wanted to run away, and just leave everybody and just go,” she says. “I remember wanting to just really disappear from that family, because I was so stressed; everybody needed me.”

RELATED: Behind TIME's Simone Biles Cover

Ron was also torn: in order to adopt the girls, his daughter had to give up her parental rights. The Biles' say that night was a turning point for them, when they realized that their lives would change, but for the better for both the girls and themselves.

Several years later, after the new family came back from the courthouse to make the adoption official, Biles called Nellie “mom” for the first time. “Before that, it was hammom, instead of grandmom,” she says. “And she said, 'Hammom, can I call you mom?' I'll never forget that.” And in typical Biles fashion, she tried it out and started giggling. “She thought it was the funniest thing ever to call me mom.”

Now Biles is returning the favor. The night before the team competition in Rio, Nellie says she was more anxious than her daughter. “She comforted me,” Nellie says.

Once Biles leaves the gym, her family makes sure her life is as normal as possible. “After Simone won her first world championship, and she was getting all this recognition, she was getting a little big in the head because she was about that age,” says older brother Adam, one of Ron and Nellie's grown children. “My mom told her, 'we're your family, not your fans; you don't get any special treatment here.' As her family, we're her biggest supporters but we don't goo goo ga ga over her like fans do. She still does the dishes and takes care of the dogs.”

They also encourage her to 'Be Simone.' It's their way of minimizing the stress and pressure that's been creeping like a fog into Biles' life in the run-up to the Olympics. Allowing their daughter to be herself has proven to be the best way for her to manage the anxiety. Karolyi had to learn that the hard way since she'd never seen a gymnast as gregarious as Biles before. “She told me, 'Simone, you're looking all over the place and you need to stay focused so you don't get distracted,'” says Biles. “She was like, 'Tone it down a bit.' I don't think she knew that was me in my zone.”

RELATED: The Olympic Gymnast Who Overcame a Drug-Addicted Mother

Biles in the Gym

The soundtrack to training sessions at the suburban Houston gym that her parents own is Biles providing a running commentary on what's going on in her life. Her longtime coach Aimee Boorman knows that when the chatting stops, something is wrong. “If she is not sharing story with me, or showing me a video, or talking about something in social media, then I know something is weighing on her mind,” says Boorman.

Boorman has been Biles' only coach since she was eight years old, after her mother, also a gymnastics coach, spotted the then-six-year old's power and called her daughter over to see. Boorman took Biles on two years later, and the pair have learned together what it takes to be an elite gymnast.

It helps that Biles is also just an hour away from the Karolyi ranch, which doubles as the U.S. team's national training center. That proximity proved critical three years ago, when Biles was struggling to make the leap to the top tier of gymnastics. In 2013, Boorman had to pull Biles out of her first senior level meet because Biles was so overwhelmed that she fell on every event. Karolyi invited Biles, then 16, to the training center, and gave her a dose of tough love. The message was simple: focus on your talent, not your failures.

Biles hasn't lost an all-around competition since. Don't expect that streak to end in Rio.


This article originally appeared on

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Weight Loss Success Story: "Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide Helped Me Lose 34 Pounds”

Samantha McRoberts, 25, 5'5", from Los Angeles

Before: 170 lb., size 14

After: 138 lb., size 6

Total pounds lost: 34

Total sizes lost: 4

I was raised in a home where the focus was on filling my plate with tasty comfort food-not healthy eats. That's probably why, by middle school, I hit 168 pounds, a weight that stuck for the next 12 years. I tried several diet and fitness regimens over the years, but I just couldn't commit long enough to get lasting results. Even when something started to work, one binge session was all it took to knock me completely off track. My self-esteem hit an all-time low while I was in graduate school, when I realized my size XL shirts were suddenly becoming snug. 

RELATED: 9 Weight Loss Success Stories You're Going to Want to See

Clicking with Kayla Itsines

Still, it wasn't until after graduation that I decided to finally take control of my health. I purchased and downloaded Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (BBG), a 12-week fitness program, timing the plan to end on Christmas day. My first workout was a real struggle; I had to modify every single move and could do only about a third of the recommended reps. I was frustrated, but I kept telling myself that it was just 28 minutes a day. When December 25 arrived, I had lost 16 pounds! 


In January, I began another Itsines program. I didn't see much progress in the first few weeks, so I turned to other Instagrammers on the plan. Their posts of healthy recipes, such as avocado toast and smoothie bowls, gave me the extra motivation I needed to clean up my eating habits. In fact, this online crew was so inspiring that I began attending monthly BBG meetups. The sessions really pushed me while keeping me accountable. Now I'm at my lowest weight-138 pounds. Best of all, I've met some of my closest friends through this empowering fitness community.

RELATED: Kayla Itsines' Top Exercises for Legs, Arms, and Abs

Steal Samantha's “like”-worthy tips 

What helps Samantha keep up the great work? Check out her secret weapons. 

Reward yourself: Whenever I meet one of my goals, I give myself a healthy gift, like cute new workout clothes or SoulCycle classes. It's always something I truly enjoy, but it also keeps me in a fit frame of mind.

Zest up your hydration: I'm obsessed with my Citrus Zinger water bottle ($16;, and I carry it everywhere. I typically add a lemon or orange wedge to the bottom to bring a little life to basic water. The hint of citrus is super refreshing.

Share your sweat sessions: I am always posting my workouts on Snapchat and Instagram. It may sound silly, but constantly posting actually makes me stay focused-plus, I can't really have a lazy day without all my followers knowing.

Samantha's wearing gear from MPG Sport: Halogen Jacket ($100), Agami Sports Bra ($54), and Mantra Tight ($58). 


As told to Lindsey Murray

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

East Coast Bike Path Will Cover 3,000 Miles From Florida to Maine

The East Coast Greenway has been in development since 1991. Twenty-five years may seem like a long time to wait for a project, but some things are worth taking your time for.

When finished, the mega-project will connect all of the Eastern seaboard from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida. Serious bikers will be able to take the whole thing 3,000 miles from North to South.

RELATED: Where to Go Pumpkin Picking in Long Island

Currently, 850 miles of trail-about 30%-are already completed. But the project recently gained steam due to a blitz of media attention and increased funding. The Eastern Coast Greenway Association's budget has doubled over the past six years and now by 2020, officials hope to add another 200 miles to the path.

The ECGA will rely on local governments' support for much of the project. A lot of the Greenway will be made of already-existent bike routes. The project will link them all together and, when completed, it will pass through 450 towns in 15 different states.

RELATED: The 12 Best Place to See Fall Foliage in Vermont

Once it's ready, it will be possible to complete the entire path in one month by biking 100 miles per day. However, that's not the intent, according to its founders. The project hopes to encourage people to slow down and experience all that the Eastern seaboard has to offer by stopping to visit some of the sites and cities along the way.

“It's about seeing America at the right speed, where you can take in all of the culture around you,” Dennis Markatos-Soriano, the executive director of ECGA, told City Lab.“And you don't have a windshield between yourself and the community.”

RELATED: The Very Best Pumpkin Beers for Fall

Nobody's quite certain when all 3,000 miles of the project will be ready, although officials theorize that the entire Greenway will be traffic-free by the 2030s. Those eager to get started can already bike large portions of the path and follow its progress on an interactive map.


This article originally appeared on

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How Much Exercise Do You Really Need to Protect Against Disease?

There's a strong connection between physical activity and the risk of five common diseases, according to a study published today in The BMJ. The catch? To really reap the benefits, we need to move much more than global health experts currently recommend.

It's no surprise that an active lifestyle may protect against a variety of health problems. But exactly how much and what type of activity is best is still up for debate, say the authors of the new study.

So they looked at the results from 174 previous studies that examined the association between total physical activity and at least one of five chronic diseases: breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In these cases, physical activity meant all forms of movement-including exercise, housework and gardening, and active transportation like walking and cycling.

As suspected, they found that people who got the most total weekly physical activity were the least likely to develop all five of these conditions.

RELATED: Sit All Day? An Hour of Exercise Can Cancel Out the Health Risks

But while the World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends a minimum of 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes a week across different “domains” of daily life, the study found that the most significant risk reductions occurred at levels much higher-around 3,000 to 4,000 MET minutes a week.

Yes, that's a big difference. But don't freak out just yet, the authors say. MET minutes aren't equivalent to actual minutes; it's a calculation that takes into account the intensity of the activity you're doing. Jogging has a MET value of 7, for example, while walking the dog has a value of 3. A half hour of jogging, therefore, is equal to 210 MET minutes (7 x 30), while a half hour stroll with Fido (30 x 3) is only about 90.

So getting 3,000 MET minutes a week is easier than it sounds, especially if you incorporate different types of activity into your routine. For example, a typical day might include climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for 25 minutes.

In other words, move for an hour or two each day and you'll be well on your way. “Getting 3,000 to 4,000 MET minutes a week may seem like quite a bit, but it is achievable when you focus on total activity across all domains of life,” says study co-author Hmwe Kyu, PhD, acting assistant professor of global health at the University of Washington. “If you are just more active by doing housework, taking the stairs, gardening, taking active transportation-these are things that are doable for most people, even if you can't do intense exercise or go to the gym.”

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The study looked at observational results, which means it cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship between physical activity and better health. And because it only considered total MET minutes, it wasn't able to tell whether there were specific advantages to shorter, more intense workouts or longer, more moderate activity.

But the findings still have several important implications, according to the authors. First, the WHO's recommendation for physical activity needs to be several times higher than it is currently, in order to see larger reductions in these five common diseases.

And second, they say, future research should pay more attention to total weekly activity-and not just leisure-time exercise, as many studies have done-to provide a better picture of how people can meet healthy activity goals in real-life settings. 

What Is Cupping, and Why Are Olympians Doing It?

At the summer games in Rio, Olympians are decorating themselves with medals, Swarovski crystals, and ... circular bruises? Yep, those round purple marks on the bodies of many competitors (including swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Alex Naddour) are the result of cupping therapy, an ancient Eastern medicine practice that's used to treat all sorts of ailments, from muscle soreness to blood diseases and arthritis.

The large dots are created by heated glass cups placed on the skin, usually on the back, says Rachel Vreeman, MD, director of research at the Indiana University Center for Global Health and co-author of a series of books on medical myths (most recently, Don't Put That in There! And 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked). "As the air trapped between the heated glass and the skin begins to cool, it creates suction against the skin," she explains. The sucking causes small blood vessels under the skin to break, and a cup-shaped bruise to form.

The therapy can also be done using a mechanical device to create suction between the skin and the cup, Dr. Vreeman adds. Cupping may sound painful, but it's not really, she says. "Basically, it feels like getting a hickey."

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While athletes use cupping as a recovery tool (the therapy is thought to stimulate blood flow), Dr. Vreeman points out that there's little research behind it: "There are no health benefits to cupping documented in the scientific literature," she says. "The only study I have seen ... with any impact related to cupping is one that rigorously examined various therapies for back pain, and suggested that any impact from cupping was likely related to a placebo effect."

That placebo effect could help explain why Olympians swear by the practice, says Dr. Vreeman. (Naddour called the DIY cupping kit he bought on Amazon his "secret" to staying healthy: "It's been better than any money I've spent on anything else.") Our brains are very powerful, Dr. Vreeman explains. "If we think that something is going to work, it may help us focus or compete better."

The marks cupping leaves behind may play a role as well: "I would guess that [they] provide a tangible reminder to the athlete of this therapy, reinforcing the placebo effect."

Curious about giving the treatment a try? Before you make an appointment, you should know it's not entirely risk-free. "Cupping usually does not cause any harm beyond the temporary bruising, but occasionally it can cause a skin ulceration when done repeatedly," Dr. Vreeman warns.