Feel yourself being pulled in a million directions and losing track of what’s really important? The meditative practice called mindfulness can help you get centered and re-focus on what’s meaningful to you. And it doesn’t take time that’s already in short supply on your busy schedule. You can reap the benefits in less time than it takes for a coffee break. Mindfulness shows you how to block out distractions and replace stress and other negative emotions with a sense of well-being. You accomplish this by focusing on the here-and-now — your present thoughts and feelings, not past concerns or future worries. You also learn to accept these thoughts and feelings without passing judgment on them, such as labeling them as good or bad, right or wrong. Practicing mindfulness is easier than you might think. At the start of each day, you might take 10 minutes to do a few yoga stretches — yoga incorporates mindfulness because it teaches you to focus on your breathing as you move through poses. Or spend 10 minutes at lunch or anytime during your workday to do a head-to-toe de-stress. Breathe in and out as you zero in on each part of your body, going from toes to the top of your head. To unwind at night, consider more formal “guided” mindfulness, maybe with a podcast you can listen to…  read on >

Developing lean muscle mass is important for everyone — it can keep you active and independent throughout your life. But to maximize the benefits of strength training, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes. Mistake number 1: Letting momentum drive your workout. If you power through repetitions at a rapid clip, chances are that you’re using momentum rather than controlled muscle movement to do those reps. To get the most out of each rep, take two to three seconds to lift the weight and three to four seconds to return to the starting position. Mistake number 2: Not moving through a complete range of motion. You’re shortchanging yourself if you’re also rushing through reps without carefully moving from your starting position to a full extension, no matter what the exercise. If you’re unable to do this, chances are you’re lifting too heavy a weight for your current ability. Mistake number 3: Not lifting enough weight. Some women still incorrectly believe that they’ll develop manly muscle mass if they lift more than a few pounds. But female hormones typically won’t allow that to happen. To get the benefits of strength training, you have to challenge yourself, and that means lifting the most weight you can while still maintaining proper form. Mistake number 4: Changing your routine too often. This can actually set you back because…  read on >

There’s no shortage of creative excuses people come up with to stay stuck on the sofa, but three of them top the list. Here’s how to hurdle the obstacles standing between you and getting in shape. “I’m too tired to exercise.” Being too tired to work out is a common theme among procrastinators. And while it sounds counter-intuitive, exercise gives you more energy — it feeds on itself in a good way. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that healthy but sedentary adults who did as little as 20 minutes of low-to-moderate cardio (think brisk walking) three days a week felt more energized after just a few weeks. “I don’t have time to exercise.” Who doesn’t feel squeezed by a busy schedule? And yes, driving back and forth to the gym can double the time you need to allot to a workout. So skip the trip and invest in home equipment. But still can’t find a 30-minute block of time? Break up your workout into a few short segments a day. Steal 10 to 15 minutes before the kids wake up and another 15 after they go to sleep. “I’m too out of shape to exercise.” Being out of shape is no reason to sit on the sidelines and stay out of shape. Fitness can start with just one step. If you’re unhappy with…  read on >

Many studies have pointed to the serious health threats of long periods of uninterrupted sitting at home or at work. Even if you get in a 30-minute exercise session a day, that may not be enough to undo all the damage of sitting. An overall sedentary lifestyle has been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and premature death. Compounding the problem, not enough people are even meeting that basic goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. In North America and Europe, between 70 percent and 95 percent of people are classified as inactive. What’s the answer? According to a panel of British health experts, sedentary office workers must find ways to get off their rears during every workday. The ideal is to stand, move or do light activity for at least 4 hours daily. To make it easier, they suggest starting off with a goal of 2 hours, or about 15 minutes per hour of the average workday, and working up from there. One way to achieve this is with an adjustable workstation that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing. If it’s not possible to get a desk that lifts, investigate getting a desktop device that raises and lowers your computer. More ideas to get you moving: Twice a day, stand up and do a series of stretches targeting the…  read on >

Staying hydrated is a mantra not only when exercising, but throughout the day for optimal health. Yet it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. In recent years, a number of athletes have died from a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia, or EAH, which results from overwhelming the kidneys with excess fluid and upsetting the body’s natural balance of sodium. One high school football player died after consuming four gallons of liquids during a practice session. EAH has happened to athletes during endurance events like triathlons, but it can occur with any type of activity, even yoga. That’s why it’s important to balance fluid intake with individual needs. According to an EAH conference report, smaller people and those who exercise at a slower pace tend to drink more than they lose through sweat. The American College of Sports Medicine has hydration guidelines for before, during and after exercise, and suggests weighing yourself before and after to see if you’re losing weight and truly need to replace fluids. When extra liquids are in order, knowing quantity limits can help keep you safe. Before exercise: Have 16 to 20 ounces of water or a sports beverage at least 4 hours in advance. Have 8 to 12 ounces of water 10 to 15 minutes in advance. During exercise: For workouts under one hour, 3 to 8 ounces…  read on >

Ace hitters like Barry Bonds and Derek Jeter probably can confirm this: Baseball players with faster hand-eye coordination are better batters, a new study finds. This is especially true when it comes to measures of “plate discipline,” like drawing walks and swinging at pitches in the strike zone, researchers said. “Batters with better eye-hand visual motor reaction time appear to be more discerning in deciding to swing at pitches as compared [to those with] poorer visual-motor reaction time,” wrote study leader Dr. Daniel Laby and colleagues. Laby is with the State University of New York College of Optometry. Their findings from tests of 450 professional baseball players appear in the July issue of the journal Optometry and Vision Science. They found that players with the fastest hand-eye coordination drew walks 22 percent more often than those with the slowest hand-eye coordination — an average of one walk per 10 times at bat, compared with one walk per 13 times at bat, respectively. Players with the fastest hand-eye coordination were also 6 to 7 percent more likely to swing at pitches in the strike zone and to swing at fastballs in the strike zone, rather than curveballs or other off-speed pitches, the researchers found. “One could hypothesize that faster eye-hand reaction time allows the batter an opportunity to be selective in which pitches he ultimately decides…  read on >