Because simply knowing what you should do will only get you so far
There are a lot of voices shouting fitness tips from the rooftops, but not a lot of it is advice that we actually want to follow. Take, for example, the popular slogan among some fitness fanatics that says, "Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going." If one more person tries to tell us we just have to run a marathon or try their favorite CrossFit box or take up barre classes, maybe we will just puke, faint, or die.
And while fitness (and diet, nutrition, sleep—heck, health, for that matter) is incredibly personal, and definitely not "one-size-fits-all," there are some pieces of advice that really might work for most of us (and certainly won't result in blood loss). Here are seven recommendations we find pretty easy to accept.
You don't have to be a marathon runner—and thank goodness. Just 20 minutes of daily activity, while not as effective as 40 minutes of exercise, has been shown to lower body weight and fat, increase fitness, and lower potential markers for type 2 diabetes risk.
RELATED: 20-Minute, Fat-Blasting Workout
We're not saying slack off, but... yeah, okay, every once in a while, slack off! There are very good—and very scientific—reasons to take time off from training. Over-exercising can mess with everything from your muscles and joints to your menstrual and sleep cycles. Not to mention you could end up totally burnt out, seriously injured, or frustratingly stalled in your weight-loss efforts.
RELATED: 9 Reasons to Skip Your Workout
We repeat: You don't have to be a marathon runner! If there's one surefire way to continue dreading exercise, it's to force yourself to be active in a way that you don't enjoy. If you hate running or swimming or barre class or yoga, stop doing it! Shop around until you find something you truly enjoy, whether it's CrossFit or Zumba or Pilates or softball or gardening, and then make it a habit.
Let's settle this one once and for all: Crunches are not the path to six-pack abs. Research shows that we cannot spot reduce fat in the precise areas we'd like to (in this case, the stomach), no matter how many thousands of crunches we do. Not to mention, crunches are unnecessarily taxing on the spine. That doesn't mean ignore your abs: Core strength is essential to balance, stability, and power in your arms and legs. Just try something safer and more efficient, like a plank.
RELATED: 6 Standing Moves for a Six-Pack
If you've been torn by debates over the health effects of caffeine, consider this: That jolt can give your stamina and endurance a boost, "making a long run or ride feel easier," sports dietitian Molly Kimball told SHAPE in an earlier post. Whether you prefer coffee or tea is up to you. Just go easy on the sweeteners, as sugar may negate the pick-me-up from the caffeine.
It's a classic conundrum: Both exercise and sleep are crucial, but if you get a lousy night's rest, do you still get up for that a.m. workout you had planned? Research is on our (sleepy) side here: Skimping on sleep to exercise may actually put your health at risk. "If you're short on sleep, you experience higher levels of inflammation and a decrease in the hormones that help you lose fat and stabilize your appetite," Ben Greenfield told HuffPost in February.
Plus, we know from daylight saving time research that losing just one hour of sleep increases your likelihood of dangerous side effects like car accidents, heart attacks, and workplace injuries. Permission granted to stay under the covers and feel good about it.
We couldn't help but rejoice when we first heard the news that chocolate milk is a pretty solid combination of the carbs and protein your body needs while recovering from a workout. The sweet sip was long maligned for being high in sugar and fat, but recent research gives us permission to feel like a kid again. (In moderation, of course!)