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  • Life on the Balance Beam

    By Michelene Cleary, for SparkPeople

    I've often watched the young female gymnasts in competition in a state of awe and wonder. How do they do all those jumps and twirls on the balance beam without falling off and make it look so easy in the process? The precision, the focus, the leap in the face of fear mentality - how do I get some of that?

    Maybe that routine on the balance beam is like the healthy lifestyle to you. Some days there seems to be no balance and you can't get all the things in order to make it work. You're juggling the job, the family, the pets, the bills, the laundry, the housework, the yard work, or some combination of all those things and more. How are you supposed to fit in exercise, healthy grocery shopping, time to prep and
    cook meals, plan meals for the next day or week? It's daunting, frustrating, and frankly you might just want to give up. Well don't.

    The thing about those gymnasts on TV is they didn't show up at the training facility yesterday and jump into

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  • Burn 100 Calories in 10 Minutes!

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    People often say that they don't have time to exercise
    , but I disagree. Everyone can spare 10 minutes a day to work out. One of my personal goals is to do something active every day, even if it's just for 10 minutes. So even on my busiest days, I won't make excuses. And I definitely won't convince myself that 10 minutes is too little to really matter. Ten minutes DOES matter-and it really does add up to big benefits for your body. If all you only did 10 minutes of exercise per day, that's 70 minutes and potentially 700+ calories that you could burn over the course of a week.

    So when you're short on time and can only muster a short workout, intensity is key. Work harder for the most benefit and the biggest calorie burn for your buck. Really make those minutes count! Here are tons of workouts that burn around 100 calories (or more) in just 10 minutes, while also strengthening your heart and lungs and helping your

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  • 3 High-Protein Breakfasts to Boost Weight Loss

    By Tanya Jolliffe, for SparkPeople

    You have most likely heard it said that breakfast
    is the most important meal of the day. Some research suggests breakfast is an important part of a healthy eating plan that can help you achieve and maintain your best weight. One study suggests that a protein-rich breakfast could also be a key to appetite control.

    The study, conducted by assistant professor from the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise and Physiology Heather Leidy and colleagues and funded by the National Pork Board and the American Egg Board-Egg Nutrition Center, found that a higher protein breakfast results in "improved daily satiety and evening appetite control."

    The study examined the effects of both dietary protein and eating frequency and the influence on appetite and satiety during weight loss. Surprisingly, in the overweight/obese men in this study, eating six times a day did not significantly influence hunger, fullness, or overall desire to eat compared to eating only three

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  • 3 Fat-Burning 'Don'ts'

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    Whether you're trying to lose or few pounds or maintain your current weight, most exercisers are interested in "burning fat" during their workouts. Of course, the fat-burning benefits of exercise vary based on when and what you last ate, what type of workout you're doing, how hard you're pushing-and countless other factors. On top of that, you've probably heard a lot of conflicting advice about what types of exercises burn the most fat. We're here to set the record straight!

    Here are three "techniques" you should avoid when you're trying to burn fat.

    1. DON'T "Exercise in the fat-burning zone." The fat-burning zone is-shockingly-still a very common workout mode on cardio machines. It is programmed to keep you working at a low heart-rate (intensity) level because at low-energy levels your body uses more fat as fuel. That's is true in theory, but in practice it doesn't work out so well. When it comes to weight
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  • Who's More Stressful: Your Spouse or Your Boss?

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    Jobs are a big source of stress for many people. It's hard when you're trying to balance tight deadlines, a demanding boss, competition with co-workers, etc. So you'd assume that a good way to unwind after a tough day and might be to go home and spend some time with loved ones. According to a new poll, you might want to rethink that decision. Spouses can end up creating more anxiety than your boss at the office.

    The poll, conducted by electronics and healthcare manufacturer Phillips, surveyed 3,000 British men and women. 58% said their spouse or partner was one of the people in their life that put them under pressure, but only 43% said the same about their boss. 18% of women (and 12% of men) said their spouse put them under "a lot" of pressure.

    Why would home life be so stressful? I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but here are a few guesses: Your partner is likely the person you unload a lot of things on, including stress about your job, finances,

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  • Is Agave Nectar Really a Healthier Option?

    By Tanya Jolliffe, for SparkPeople

    Agave syrup has become a a popular natural sweetener,
    especially by vegans as a honey alternative. More and more people are becoming drawn to it because of the claims that it is "diabetic friendly" because of the low glycemic impact.

    Here is some information that may help you see beyond the marketing hype as we debunk the agave myth.

    Sugars from table sugar to honey contain a combination of fructose and glucose. Table sugar is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose while HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. When it comes to agave nectar, it is 90 percent fructose.

    The Blue Agave is found in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico and is widely used to make tequila. To make agave nectar, the Blue Agave plant grows for 7 - 10 years and then sap, with its high carbohydrate content, is extracted from the core of the plant. The sap is filtered and heated at low temperatures to break down the carbohydrates into

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  • 5 Ab Training Mistakes

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    Want toned abs and a flatter stomach? If all the DVDs, workout gizmos
    and "belly-fat-burning" pills, books, and diets out there are any indication, we're obsessed with slimming down our midsections, and for good reason. A flat stomach not only looks great; it's also a boon to your health-especially when compared to abdominal obesity, which is correlated with several health risks).

    But are all these abs-training products really getting us any closer to the abs of our dreams? If not, it's probably no fault of your own. So much inaccurate information has been circulating for so many years, that there are few muscles more misunderstood than the abs. I've seen so many mistakes firsthand that I figured it was time to clear up the confusion.

    When it comes to training your abs, there is a right way and wrong way to do it. Are you guilty of any of these top abs-training mistakes? Find out!

    #1: Over-Crunching
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  • Find Out How Many Calories You Burn After Exercise

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    We've always heard that the positive benefits of physical activity continue long after your workout
    session is over. More energy, less stress and those "feel good" endorphins are some of the immediate effects. But what about the mysterious "afterburn" that a lot of people talk about? Do you really continue burning more calories after the workout, or is it really just during the workout that matters? A new study finds that it's possible to burn more calories throughout the day--in fact, up to 14 hours later.

    The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, took 10 healthy males and examined their energy expenditure under two different sets of conditions. "During the first session, participants were mostly inactive, but they stood and stretched for two minutes every hour. They could also perform everyday tasks, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth, as needed. During the second session, participants followed

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  • 5 Stretches for Healthy Hips

    By Nancy Howard, for SparkPeople

    If you are like me, you spend a large portion of your day sitting. And because of this, it isn't too uncommon for many of us to have tight hip
    flexors-the muscles responsible for flexing the hip or drawing the knees to your chest, as well as moving your legs front to back and side to side.

    Your hip flexors are not a single muscle, but are actually a group of muscles which are comprised of the iliopsoas, the thigh muscles including the rectus femoris and sartorius, as well as the tensor fasciae latae, the inner thigh muscles including the adductor longus and brevis and finally the pectineus and gracilis.

    Tight hip flexors are a common complaint amongst runners, too, due to the small, repetitive movement when running which can bring on injury if the muscles remain tight. If you suffer from tight hip flexors this may lead not only to hip pain, but lower back pain as well. Therefore, by doing stretches and exercises to help release the tension of the

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  • Can People Really Be Addicted to Food?

    By Dean Anderson, for SparkPeople

    Do you ever feel like you just can't stop yourself from overeating? Are there some foods that are extremely hard for you to resist even when you aren't hungry? Is it very hard to stop eating once you've started, even though your intention is to have just a small amount?

    If so, you're definitely not alone. But what's going on here? Is it possible you might be addicted to food?

    Not long ago, most experts would have said "no." The prevailing wisdom was that people with the right biological susceptibility might get addicted to drugs or alcohol, but food was just not an addictive substance in the same league with, say, alcohol, crack cocaine or meth. After all, people don't get addicted to broccoli, oatmeal, or chicken breasts. Even though eating certain foods (usually refined sugars and/or fatty, salty foods) is known to increase appetite in some people and/or turn off the satiety signals that normally would tell them when to stop eating, and even though

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