Best Arm Exercises to Do at Home

It’s sleeveless shirt season!  If you’re not ready to bare your arms, don’t worry. You can do a few easy arms exercises at home to tighten and tone your upper body.  And you’ll burn a few extra calories at the same time!  You don’t need fancy equipment to complete this workout and it only take about 10 minutes.  What have you got to lose?

Home Exercises to Tighten Your Arms

  • Push-up.  This tried and true exercise not only tightens your arms, but also strengthens your chest and your tummy.  And don’t worry, you don’t need to be in great shape to do a push-up.  Watch the video below to see how to perform variations for every fitness level.
  • Downward facing dog.  This popular yoga exercise builds strength and relaxation at the same time.  You’ll also get a stretch when you do a few repetitions of this exercise at home.
  • Triceps Kickbacks.  If you have a dumbbell, use it to complete this effective arm exercise.  But if not, you can get creative and find a substitute in your kitchen.  Grab a soup can, a full water bottle, or even a rolling pin.
  • Biceps curl.  Use your dumbbells or your kitchen substitute for this exercise.  You can perform it either in a seated or standing position.  Watch the video for complete instructions for this exercise and a few others that you can do at home.


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Are Calorie Counts on Exercise Machines Accurate?

How accurate are the numbers?

How accurate are the numbers?

Do you use exercise machines at the gym?  If you do, that’s great!  But if you rely too heavily on the data that the gym equipment provides, you may be in for a little surprise. The calorie counts on exercise machines are not always accurate.  But it may actually help you get a more enjoyable workout.  I’ll explain why.

Calorie Counts – Not Always Accurate

The number of calories that you burn during exercise depends on a number of factors including your gender, your weight, the speed/intensity of the workout and the time spent exercising.  In general, most exercise machines take these factors into account when they provide an estimated number of calories burned.  But most machines can’t assess your personal metabolic profile and your level of fitness. These factors can also play a role in the final calorie count.

In addition, there are mechanical issues that may affect your total calorie number.  In 2010, ABC News did a study to assess the accuracy of exercise machine calorie counts and found that in most cases, the numbers were too high.  According the their research, calorie counts were overestimated by 7 – 42% depending on the machine used.  Equipment manufacturers said that maintenance and wear and tear issues with machines can cause variations.

How Do I Evaluate My Workout?

I wouldn’t ignore the calorie counts entirely.  The data is helpful, but just like calorie counts for food products, they have a margin of error.  If you’ve always relied on the numbers to guide your workouts, this is a good opportunity to focus on other important benefits of exercise.

For example, if you go for a 30-minute uphill walk on the treadmill and you don’t burn as many calories as you hoped, you may be tempted to feel disappointed. But regardless of the number of calories burned, you still improved your heart health, decreased your risk of many diseases and chronic conditions, built strength in your lower body and improved your confidence and well being.  It’s important to give yourself credit for those accomplishments, regardless of what the numbers say.

Let the numbers guide you, but don’t take them too seriously.  The numbers that matter most are the ones that you find on the scale and in your doctors office.

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Count Calories? 3 Reasons Your Number Might Be Wrong

calculatorDo you count calories to lose weight?  Even though calorie counting gets some criticism from people who promote fad diets, most registered dietitians and legitimate weight loss experts still stand behind the tried and true method of weight loss.  For many reasons, knowing your daily caloric intake is important for good health, for weight loss and for long term weight maintenance.

But sometimes counting calories doesn’t work as well as it should.  One reason is that your calorie count number might be wrong.  There are a few reasons that even the most diligent calorie counter could end up with an inaccurate number at the end of the day.

3 Reasons Your Calorie Count Might Be Wrong

  1. Portion size and serving size don’t match. Do you know the difference between portion size and serving size? If you don’t it could be the cause of your inaccurate calorie counting numbers.  The Nutrition Facts Label provides a calorie count for a single serving of food. If your serving (your portion) doesn’t match the amount indicated on the label, then your caloric intake will differ from what you record.
  2. Nutrition Facts Label is not exact  The stated calorie counts on packages could be wrong.  In a recent interview with Catherine Lee, Ph.D., a food scientist at Proctor and Gamble,  she explained that  food products can contain as much as 20% more calories than what is printed on the label as allowed by the FDA.
  3. Snacks and nibbles get missed.  Even the most diligent calorie counter will miss a few snacks and nibbles every now and then.  But the calories in those nibbles can really add up.  In fact, best selling author and nutrition expert Elizabeth Somers once told me that each bite of food adds up to about 25 calories.  What if 10 bites of food go unrecorded each day?  That’s a difference of 250 calories!

Don’t Ditch Calorie Counting!

Of course these small inaccuracies don’t mean that you should dump your calorie counting completely.  It should just help you understand that the numbers have some wiggle room. Of course, there is nothing you can do about inaccurate food labels, but you can become more careful about measuring food portions and recording each bite of food.  These small efforts will help you reach your weight loss goals and keep the weight off for good.

How to Stop Emotional Eating

Attractive woman in painDo you eat when you are stressed?  Many people do.  In fact, many dieters find that they can’t lose weight because the diet itself causes stress and the stress then triggers them to overeat.  So how do you curb emotional eating?  The first step is to identify the pattern and the next step is to ask for help.

Identify Emotional Eating

One of the best ways to identify emotional eating is to keep a food journal.  If you’re dieting, a food journal is helpful for many reasons.  It helps you to evaluate food portions, total calorie intake and overall energy balance (calories in versus calories out).  But if you include notes about your feelings when you eat, it can also help you to identify emotional eating.

If you haven’t been able to lose weight and your stress level is usually high, try this exercise to evaluate the relationship between food and anxiety.  Keep a small paper journal in your handbag or briefcase.  Try to keep it with you at all times.  Any time that you eat – even when you grab a little nibble – jot down 3-5 words that describe how you felt before you eat.  For example, you might use any of these words:

  • Worried
  • Bored
  • Hungry
  • Annoyed
  • Frustrated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Entitled (i.e. “I deserve this”)

Don’t think too much about the words, just write down whatever pops into your head.  After a week, evaluate the journal.  If you find that you eat, snack or binge during times when you are experiencing negative emotions, you might be an emotional eater.

Get Help for Emotional Eating

The easiest way to eliminate emotional eating is to decrease your stress level throughout the day. You might be able to do this on your own by finding a comforting habit to replace food when you are feeling frustrated or anxious.  For example, some people use deep breathing techniques.  Others may go for a brief walk or use positive thinking to counteract negativity.

But don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t feel that you can manage the stress on your own.  Your primary care provider may be able to refer you to a behavioral health specialist who is trained to provide support for these issues.

Short Exercise Sessions Provide Health Benefits

Time to get moving (source: alal/morguefile)

Time to get moving (source: alal/morguefile)

Don’t have time to exercise?  If you’re like many Americans, you can’t find hour-long blocks of time to go to the gym, go for a jog, or hop on your bike. But I’ll bet you can find ten minutes.  A new study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that a short exercise segments lasting ten minutes or less might do the trick to improve your heart health.

How Long Should I Exercise?

The current recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association is that you get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.  That’s about four 40-minutes sessions per week.  But many people skip exercise altogether because it’s too hard to find that amount of time.

The new study examined the effects of using short bursts of moderate to vigorous activity to meet the weekly activity requirement.  Researchers examined a large segment of middle aged exercisers and found that those who used short exercise sessions shared the same heart health benefits as the people who participated in longer sessions.

Should I Stop Doing Long Exercise Sessions?

This single study doesn’t mean that you should change your current exercise plan if you already get your 150 minutes of physical activity each week. But it does help busy people find small windows of time when they can improve their health.  If you can’t schedule a full hour or a 40 minutes session, try one of these mini workouts to get the job done.

Are you ready to start an exercise program?  Use our Exercise Time Finder and other resources at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  Then find us on Facebook and Twitter to get daily tips and inspiration.

Are All Calories Equal When You’re Dieting?

scaleNew dieters often have questions about different weight loss plans.  Some diet plans suggest that you eat more protein calories, some suggest that you eat more calories from carbohydrates and some diet plans limit the amount of calories from fat. The confusion leads many dieters to ask: are all calories the same when you’re trying to lose weight?  Or are some calories worse than others?

What are Calories?

Calories provide fuel for your body to function. There are different types of calories in your food.  Carbohydrates like bread, pasta and fruit and contain 4 calories per gram, protein from meat, dairy and some vegetables contains 4 calories per gram, and fat from sources like butter and oil contains 9 calories per gram.

If weight loss is your goal, what matters most is the number of calories you consume.  The best way to find out how many calories to eat is to work with a registered dietitian.  An R.D. will take your lifestyle, your activity level, and your health concerns into account to come up with the right number of calories for you.  If you can’t meet with an R.D. you can also get a general estimate of your caloric needs along with a daily food plan at

Different Types of Calories

Depending on your goals and your health status, there may be certain types of calories that your registered dietitian may recommend.  For example, people with type 2 diabetes need to monitor their carbohydrate calories during meals and snacks.  Older adults should be mindful that they eat enough protein as they age to maintain healthy bones and muscle.

Instead of trying to decode the many diet books and fads. make an appointment with your primary care provider to get a referral to see a registered dietitian.  You’ll get a plan designed specifically for you and your specific needs.

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4 Common Weight Loss Myths – Busted!

magnifying glassIt’s time to debunk a few popular weight loss myths.  These common “rules” are often seen in newspaper headlines, online, and sprinkled into diet advertisements.  But that doesn’t make them true.  Here are four myths about dieting – exposed.

4 Common Weight Loss Myths

“You don’t have to count calories”  The best way to monitor your food intake is to count calories.  Of course, there are other ways to decrease the amount of food you consume, but counting calories is still the best method.   If you want to lose weight, monitor your daily caloric intake with a smartphone app, a website, or with an old fashioned pen and paper journal.

“You should never eat dessert.”  Sweet treats can be part of a healthy weight loss plan.  In fact, if you love dessert, it should be part of a healthy weight loss plan.  But if weight loss is your goal, you may have to eat dessert less often, choose a smaller portion or create a lower calorie alternative.  For example, instead of having a large bowl of ice cream with fudge sauce every night,  enjoy one half cup of ice cream with berries 2-3 nights each week.

“You’ll gain weight if you eat after 7pm.”  The timing of your meals matters less than the total number of calories you consume.  Late night calories don’t magically turn into extra pounds on your body.  But calories that you consume in the evening frequently come from episodes of mindless snacking in front of the television.  If you want to lose weight, plan meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day.  If you end up eating a reasonable meal later in the evening, don’t panic.  It won’t necessarily cause weight gain.

“Skip snacks to lose weight.”  Healthy snacking can help to curb hunger throughout the day and prevent overeating at mealtime.  But the snacks you choose will play a big role in your weight loss success.  Skip the starchy, high calorie snack foods that you find in vending machines and convenience stores.  Plan ahead and prepare healthy snacks instead.

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