When one thinks about the different alternate therapies that are out there today, have you ever thought that the usage of healing crystals is one that many place right there at the top? For those less familiar with the concept, fossilized minerals -- or crystals -- are thought to contain several healing properties. From fighting depression to relaxing the mind, the list of benefits seems to be endless. Not only have crystals been used in ancient forms of medicine and by priests to align the body’s chakras (bodily focal points), but today, athletes tout their healing properties and celebrities vouch for their efficacy. In other words, crystals as a form of self-care is growing in popularity in all areas of life. But why? Is there any truth to their power? Do these little rocks actually help to treat medical conditions, promote healing, and boost energy? Let’s investigate.
The Science Behind Healing Crystals for Fitness, Energy, and Healing
We must admit: It’s a little strange to see the fitness community (which is usually focused on scientific research) embrace an undecidedly unproven trend like the healing powers of crystals. Like other types of alternative therapies, crystals reportedly focus on healing your body from the inside by channeling your energy levels. According to experts, crystals allow fruitful, positive energy to flow into the body while removing the toxic, negative energy. They emit uplifting, calming, energizing vibrations that help you achieve a revitalized physical state of being as well as a more peaceful mind. These vibrations are thought to arise from the special way the crystal’s molecules and atoms interact and move, which supposedly affects our human bodies -- and minds.
Keep in mind that humans have been using stones for energetic purposes and healing by many cultures for thousands of years -- which may be why people are so drawn to them. For example, sacred Indian texts explain the healing properties of crystals and how they can be used to treat illnesses; crystals were used by ancient Egyptians for protection and healing; crystals are often found in Chinese medicine; and ancient Romans and Greeks used crystals in medical treatment and for protection in battle. So, is it really that far-fetched that we are turning to their healing powers in modern days? Maybe, maybe not.
Any athlete knows that physical success -- whether it’s reducing body fat or cutting down your mile time -- requires you to be focused with your head in the game. Anything that can help athletes feel more confident, present, and calm is going to be a huge hit (and gain traction!) in the fitness community. We know that performance and sports are just as much mental as they are physical, which is why many athletes have set rituals or routines they do before stepping on the court or field. For some, crystals are simply a way to get their minds in the right place.
12 Crystals in Fitness for Healing and Energy
If you’re ready to check out the purported power of crystals for yourself, the first step is to think about your immediate fitness, wellness, or health needs and choose a crystal accordingly. After all, people use crystals in many different ways -- and for many different reasons. Some types of crystals are thought to be most powerful when carried with you throughout the day, while others are best used during deep breathing or meditation. From crystals that calm your race-day nerves to stones that send your energy into overdrive, below are 12 crystals (listed in alphabetical order) that every athlete needs in his or her collection.
- Amethyst (Positive Manifestations): Meditating with amethyst can help you to visualize your dreams -- and thus make them more likely to come true! In fact, many meditation techniques involve visualizing your end goal so that you increase the chance of it happening. If that isn’t enough, this crystal is also effective for healing and curbing negative habits, helping to see you through dark, tempting moments in order to make the right choice. It is also used to help counteract the harmful effects of radiation.
- Fluorite (Cleansing & Stabilizing): This crystal absorbs and neutralizes negative energies from the environment and is effective at spiritual body cleansing. Fluorite also increases your powers of concentration, self-confidence and helps in decision-making.
- Green Tourmaline (Increase Focus): If you’re looking to deepen your connection with nature, green tourmaline could be the key. Also known as the “Stone of Happiness and Joy” due to the positive feelings and energy it brings, this feel-good gem has been said to awaken the mind, body, and spirit. It may also help to prevent exhaustion and chronic fatigue as well as heal muscles. In fact, many trainers, professional athletes, and Olympians who use green tourmaline report significant increases in endurance, strength, speed, and self-confidence as well as better recovery times and greater mental focus.
- Howlite (Grounding, Focus & Calm): Howlite is said to be a fantastic stone for getting rid of negative feelings, emotional pain, and post-workout anxiety. Have pre-race jitters the night before you’re supposed to hit the pavement? Hold howlite in your hand to absorb its soothing qualities and calm your nerves. After all, self-doubt will almost certainly stop you from doing what you set out to do. So if you need to feel grounded, focused, calm, and confident, howlite may help in every aspect of your life -- not just fitness.
- Lepidolite (Clears & Strengthens): This crystal mops up EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) from the environment and is excellent when used with fluorite on computers and around cell phones. They can be worn together on a necklace or placed in a pocket when using or carrying your phone. It also helps strengthens the immune system, soothes the nervous system and can be used to restructure DNA. Lepidolite relieves exhaustion and aids in the relief of tension and related disorders.
- Malachite (Cleansing & Transformation): If you’ve ever had a lousy workout or ran a race that didn’t go the way you wanted it to, we’ve been there, too. The feelings after a less-than-stellar performance can linger for some time and perhaps make you question the point of all those logged miles and training hours. However, malachite -- known as the “Stone of Transformation” -- can help to relieve you of that self-doubt. In fact, this emerald green stone acts almost as a deep cleanser for your body, helping to not only alleviate those negative feelings but also get you in the right mindset to keep moving forward.
- Moss Agate (Immunity & Revitalization): A refreshing and cleansing stone, moss agate is known to boost the immune system for optimal health. Other stones to consider for this purpose include ametrine and larimar, which promote self-healing and energy, and rhodonite, which treats autoimmune diseases while balancing and regenerating cells. Many athletes find that labradorite can help to regulate their metabolism and treat infections, while carnelian can revitalize the body by improving the absorption of minerals and vitamins.
- Red Jasper (Endurance & Stamina): Also known as the “Stone of Endurance and Nurturing,” red jasper can be used to enhance mental and emotional stamina as well as physical endurance. It is beautifully aligned with the root chakra and boasts incredible grounding properties while bringing about courage, stamina, balance, and the inner strength of a true warrior. It’s also known for helping the body maintain a strong blood circulatory system.
- Shungite (Protection & Purifying): The glossy, black shungite stone (as well as hematite, pyrite, fluorite, amethyst, black obsidian, and lepidolite) is said to help neutralize energy that comes from the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) from cell phones and other electronic devices. While you can place the crystal near your workout equipment, on your desk or where you use the most technology, the simplest -- and most effective -- way is to wear a piece of jewelry with the stone or tuck it into the pocket of your athletic wear when exercising so that you’re always protected.
- Sodalite (Maintain Focus): Sodalite is arguably one of the most popular crystals for athletes. A powerful grounding stone, sodalite is fantastic for helping to release fears and maintaining focus. Athletes often use sodalite to boost their confidence and help them feel empowered to do what they originally set out to accomplish, whether that is a heart-pounding marathon or a mind-awakening yoga session.
- Super Seven (Combined Energies): It is a crystal made up of seven different gemstones that naturally occur together, Amethyst, Quartz, Smoky Quartz, Cacoxenite, Rutile, Goethite and Lepidocrocite. It is a stone invokes a lot of different feelings and covers many different powers combined, such as creativity, positive energy, stress and anxiety reduction, peace of mind, focus, joy, self-confidence and more. One of the best ways to use this stone is during meditation.
- Tiger’s Eye (Vitality & Action): Think of tiger’s eye as a life coach. It’s the crystal that will tell you to dream big -- and make that dream a reality. Adding a tiger’s eye crystal to your daily meditation may help you to realize a world of new possibilities and guide you through the best way of manifesting and taking action toward your goal. So go ahead -- set those dreams free and sign yourself up for that Ironman competition! With tiger’s eye in your pocket, nothing will stand in your way.
After deciding the type of crystal you wish to purchase, you’ll need to know what to look for when shopping. Knowing a crystal’s lineage is sort of like knowing where the food you eat comes from. Since everything has energy, you want to make sure you have only the most clear, clean, and positive energies in your crystal. Ask the store if they know any physical history about the stone you wish to buy, how they harvest the stones, and where they get them. Most importantly, experts agree that if a crystal is yours, then it will speak to you. Although some report feeling tingling or warmth in their hand, others say they just knew it was supposed to be theirs when they saw it.
How to Use or Wear Your Crystals
Once you have purchased your stones, you’ll want to make sure they’re charged -- regardless of which one you choose. Let it sit on a sunny windowsill or outside in direct sunlight (or even moonlight!) for at least four hours. By allowing it to soak up the light from the sun and moon, you are essentially helping your crystals to hold more energy. Then, in the same way that you need direction to be productive, so does the crystal. Set your intention and give the crystal a job, being as specific as possible. For example, think calming thoughts if you’re looking for more peace and less anxiety. Or, if you’re trying to boost your energy and fitness, visualize how that would feel and imagine what that would look like. Looking to win your next race? Feel your heart race as you see yourself bursting across the finish line!
Once you have your intention and/or goal in mind, sit in a quiet space, hold your chosen stone in your hands, and think about that goal. Don’t rush the process. Take your time. As your mind focuses on what you are looking to achieve with the crystal’s help, the stone is thought to absorb that energy, and it is now activated. You’re ready to go!
Carry or place the crystal however you wish -- hold it in your hand during meditation to help with calm, carry it in a pocket with you to help keep you going or to help win that race, place it near your heart by wearing it in a necklace or tucked safely in your bra, add it to an shelf or altar space in your home, use it during your yoga practice, place it on the windowsill or on your desk... whatever works for you!
Keep in mind that there is no scientific research that says crystals can cure diseases and heal medical conditions, mainly because illnesses are not caused by specific wavelengths or negative energy. However, crystals could have some mental (and maybe even physical!) benefits, thanks to the so-called placebo effect, or belief in that treatment. Much in the way that we put faith in our religious beliefs and in the power of prayer, placing hope in crystals and their healing powers might not be so crazy.
The placebo effect and its benefits are strongly supported by research, and the power of positive thinking - whether it’s because of possibly-powerful stones or not -- has been shown to have a great effect on the health outcomes due to mindfulness. Whether or not you believe in the science of the idea, adding gems into your daily life to increase your confidence and positive energy really can’t hurt.
Like anything related to your wellness and health -- from meditation to yoga to green juice -- crystals can be a helpful addition to your routine, but they are not an end-all, be-all solution nor a substitute for doctor’s orders. Whether you are seeking better recovery after a workout, looking for more energy to take on your newest fitness goals, or simply working toward maintaining your current health and wellness routine, consider whether you may benefit from adding crystals to your life.
Additional Reading & Resources:
- How to Use Meditation for Mental Clarity & Decreased Stress
- FAQs on Breathing Techniques & How Breathing Exercises Can Improve Your Health
- 10 Do-At-Home Brain Exercises That Boost Memory & Mental Health
All SportPort™ activewear garments are unique, signature designs, all Made in the USA. Our passion for excellence is what drives our brand! When you wear SportPort™ activewear, you know you are wearing an original, one of a kind garment engineered to perfection.
If you’re even remotely familiar with the Mediterranean diet, you know that olive oil is king. And that's not just because olive oil can add even more flavor to oven-baked foods or because it’s essential for crafting delicious salad dressings. Olive oil is also fantastic for your health! Keep reading to learn more about “olive the benefits” of this superfood and start incorporating it into your diet this 2021 year... making it a resolution gift to yourself!
Olive Oil Benefits
While there are many controversial opinions surrounding the health effects of dietary fat, including debates about seed oils, animal fats, and everything in between, most experts agree that olive oil -- particularly extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) -- is great for you and incredibly healthy.
In fact, studies show that the antioxidants and fatty acids in olive oil offer several powerful health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease… and many other reasons why you should consider adding olive oil to your diet include:
- Olive oil is a powerful antioxidant.
- It can help reduce inflammation due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
- It may reduce the risk of other chronic diseases caused by chronic inflammation, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and even obesity.
- It can help protect your blood cholesterol from oxidation.
- It has several cardio-protective effects, making it very heart-helpful.
- It is high in vitamins E and K.
- It can be a source of monounsaturated fat which is known to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Several large studies have found that those who consume olive oil have a lower risk of suffering a stroke.
- Extra-virgin olive oil has numerous heart-healthy benefits, including the ability to lower blood pressure, protect “bad” LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, and improve the function of blood vessels.
- It puts less strain on the liver and kidneys than other saturated fatty oils like coconut oil.
- Consuming olive oil won’t increase your risk of gaining weight, and moderate consumption may even improve your weight loss efforts.
- It can help reduce joint pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis, and the benefits are greatly increased when combined with fish oil.
- Known to contain a number of antibacterial properties, olive oil may also have the ability to shield the body from Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacterium that can cause stomach cancer and stomach ulcers.
- It can be great for all types of cooking and is resistant to high heat, but it has more health benefits when not exposed to high heat.
Olive Oil Shopping Tips
Now that we’ve covered many reasons why you should think about adding olive oil into your daily diet, let’s talk about how to make that happen! When shopping for the first time, look for cold-pressed (like EVOO) or cold-extracted olive oil in a dark or covered glass bottle. Consider how you will consume the oil since oils other than EVOO are better as cooking oils, while EVOO is best for drizzling on foods or salads. Olive oils that are certified by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) are tested to meet standards set by the International Olive Council, indicating that the product has been tested for both authenticity and quality.
Once you have decided on a product, check the bottle for the harvest date and purchase within 15 months of that date. After opening, olive oil is best-used within 30 days; use cooking oils within three months. Since olive oil does not get better with age, look on the label for the stated shelf life date, which should be no more than two years from bottling. Also, consider buying smaller bottles of olive oil at a time. That way, you can taste different products and perhaps find a favorite -- plus, you’ll be able to consume them within the recommended time period and keep them from losing their health benefits by sitting too long. Make sure you keep the olive oil away from heat and seal tightly, storing it in a cool, dry place.
Keep in mind that EVOO is unrefined and chemical-free, making it the best (and healthiest!) type of oil you can buy. Additionally, the fresher the olive oil, the more polyphenol content and, therefore, the more health benefits. Like wine, expensive olive oil isn’t always the best for taste. If nothing else, trust your taste buds rather than the price tag.
How to Become Your Own Master Olive Oil Taster
Believe it or not, but olive oil experts, like sommeliers, do exist! They’re called “master tasters,” and they know everything there is to know about all things olive oil. You, too, can earn this distinction -- and it’s all going to come down to your own taste buds and personal taste preferences.
Begin by tasting a plain, non-EVOO olive oil so you can see the difference in taste. The olive oil should taste more oily and without a lot of scent or taste. On the other hand, EVOO should hold a nuttier taste with peppery undertones and aromas -- almost like you can taste the tree the olive came from! Keep in mind that the undertones and aromas will also vary depending on many factors such as the brand, location, and price of the product.
For instance, you might find distinct differences in olive oil tastes that use the same olives but that are harvested at different times. Other variations in taste can come from the degree of ripeness and pressing methods. Some more expensive olive oils are priced higher because of the extra care and attention made to these types of variables.
If you have the option to try different EVOOs, do so with only a teaspoon amount and consume them straight. No bread. No veggies. Just the olive oil on its own. If you wish, you can clear your palate with a little bread afterwards before the next taste. Don’t forget to sniff the olive oil for the aroma before tasting!
Finally, certification on bottles of olive oil indicates that these products have been thoroughly tested, so make note of that as you taste each product. Some of our favorites here in the SportPort family come from Croatia, Greece, and mostly other Mediterranean areas like Italy and Spain. But overall, we just love any good olive oil!
How to Cook With Olive Oil
Olive oil satisfies the appetite, provides a generally pleasing texture in the mouth, and helps to carry the flavor of spices and foods. And, as we’ve seen, using it liberally will also enhance both sweet and savory dishes without feeling guilty, thanks to its incredible health-boosting properties. Virgin and extra-virgin olive oils are best used either uncooked or cooked at low to medium temperatures below 375 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the higher heat breaks down and destroys the compounds in the oil that offer health benefits. Olive oil grade oils and refined oils are the better choices for high-heat uses like frying.
Although virgin and extra-virgin olive oils can take a little bit of heat, they also lose their flavor in the process, so it’s best to use them for uncooked dishes. Use them to add body and depth, to build and enhance flavors, and to harmonize the spices in a dish. Olive oil can also balance the acidity in certain foods like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, and tomatoes. Overall, treat your oils as you do your wines -- carefully pairing the taste of each oil with the flavors in the other dishes you are preparing. Here are some ideas for cooking with olive oil to get your creative juices flowing:
- Drizzle over vegetables or cooked pasta.
- Add right before the end of cooking for a quick burst of flavor.
- Mix it into salad dressing or drizzle it over salad.
- Use instead of margarine or butter for a heart-healthy dip for bread. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for an extra oomph and visual appeal.
- Use in sauces or marinades for vegetables, poultry, fish, and meat.
- Make a healthy, tasty dip by mixing olive oil, garlic, and cooked white beans in a food processor. Add your favorite herbs and season to taste.
- Use in place of butter on baked potatoes or in mashed potatoes. Whip together olive oil, roasted garlic, and cooked potatoes for the ultimate mashed side dish.
- Prepare a delicious appetizer within minutes by toasting baguette slices, rubbing them with a little fresh garlic, and adding a drizzle of your favorite olive oil.
- Replace other ingredients in your sauces with olive oil -- whisk to help blend, or emulsify, the watery ingredients with the oil.
Keep in mind that the most versatile version, virgin olive oil, is the ideal choice when you’re looking for quality and flavor without a strong olive taste. Sprinkle it on brown rice, drizzle over toast, or add to eggs. Brush it on meats before broiling or grilling to seal in the juices and meat flavor and create a crispy outside texture.
As you can see, olive oil has the potential to enhance the flavor of almost any dish. And due to its many health benefits, including powerful antioxidants that help your joints, brain, heart, and more, this superfood may just be the healthiest fat in the world.
All SportPort™ activewear garments are unique, signature designs, all Made in the USA. Our passion for excellence is what drives our brand! When you wear SportPort™ activewear, you know you are wearing an original, one of a kind garment engineered to perfection.
With a new year comes thoughts of resolutions, and the areas of doing better with your health, wellness and exercise are no exception in those thoughts for new starts. Even amidst a global pandemic when people need to social distance and stay at least six feet apart, many are looking for safe ways to push their pandemic weight off and just stay in shape. After all, any exercise is better than no exercise! But what if your gym is still closed or you’re too nervous to even go because of record-reaching coronavirus numbers in your area? What if you simply lack the motivation to get up off the couch at all?
Ways to Make Yourself Look Forward to Exercising
“It’s cold and wet outside.”
“I’m too stressed.”
“I’m so tired.”
“The couch is so comfy.”
“I don’t want to be around people.”
“Coronavirus cases are surging.”
Sound familiar? We know it’s tough to get started in a normal year, let alone during a pandemic. Our inner couch potato is our own worst enemy, and we waste a lot of energy trying to motivate ourselves to exercise. If you find yourself struggling to get moving, check out these following tips that are sure to help you break those mental barriers and get your sweat on. Keep in mind that since gatherings and group sessions really aren’t safe to do yet, these tips can apply to you whether you choose to work out at home or in a public gym setting that is following CDC safety guidelines.
- Rethink positive thinking.
Studies show that exercising the brain can help promote mental motivation, allowing us to think more positively about working out as a whole. In fact, visualizing the benefits of a behavior is one of the best motivational strategies you can do. For instance, when you are deciding whether or not to take that early morning run, it might help to picture the rising sun and how it will feel on your face. Consider how you’ll feel and what it will look like when you start to lose the weight and develop new muscles. Remember, though, that positive thinking is half the battle -- it’s up to you to make it an action item.
- Remember why you started.
The key to finding the motivation to get up and out there is to find your “why” -- the reason you want to even do this in the first place -- and then remind yourself of it whenever you feel that motivation slipping. Whether it’s because you want to look fantastic in shorts or because you’re looking to improve your overall health, ask yourself if you want to start from the beginning again just because you didn’t feel like working out that day.
- Plan your schedule ahead of time...
...and put these dates on your calendar! Thinking of your workout days just like any other important appointment essentially transforms them from “optional” activities into “mandatory” obligations. However, allow yourself a couple of days as buffers in case there’s an emergency or something else unexpected happens that forces you to reschedule your workout. Keep in mind that “reschedule” is the key word here -- not “cancel”! Need helping getting started with a personalized schedule? Check out our calendar of various free exercise routines!
- Put on your workout clothes.
Getting dressed in the right workout clothes is one of the best ways to boost your motivation to wanting to exercise. Think about it: How silly would you feel plopping yourself on the couch after putting on your sports bra, leggings and running shoes? Yes, we know everyone is wearing their comfy, stretchy yoga pants everywhere now, but… if you find something that is specifically designed for exercising and workouts, fits your body size and shape nicely, and that also makes you feel good when you wear it, you might find yourself moving, running or dancing around whether you want to or not!
- Wear a fitness tracker.
Gone are the days of $1,000 exercise devices. Today, there are many more affordable options for wearable workout technology -- many of which include hourly or daily reminders to hit the mat or take those steps! Some come with food, water, and exercise trackers as well as challenges that allow you to compete against your friends during the work week. From smartphone apps, traditional pedometers, and wearable watch-like devices, fitness trackers can help boost your motivation and increase your steps per day, especially if you have a heart-smart daily goal in place!
- Develop a safe buddy system.
If coronavirus has shut down your gym or you don’t feel comfortable working out in public spaces near others, you can still find a support system, whether that be an online community or a safe close relative or friend. Connecting with someone else -- even if you don’t actually workout together -- can be a great way to boost your motivation. Tip: Create a private fitness board on Pinterest and update it for each other for extra support! Checking this board can be super-motivating, especially if you workout alone, because someone is there with you, keeping you accountable.
- Base your workouts on your mood.
The key here is variety! By basing your workouts on your mood, you essentially get a more therapeutic experience that is sure to keep you motivated. For example, if you’ve been stuck inside the house all day (thanks, COVID!), you might do an outdoor run or focus on cardio. If you had a late night and have zero energy, plan a relaxing session that focuses on foam rolling and stretching with some easier mat-based flexibility moves tossed in. If you’re in beast mode, try strength training or heavy plyometrics. Whatever you do, make sure it either puts you in a good mood or keeps you there!
- Surround yourself with motivation.
Hang up motivational photos on your mirrors, whether they are exercise-specific phrases or just phrases that make you feel good. Label Post-its or sticky notes with positive messages about the benefits of exercising. Also write your goal down everywhere -- on your calendar, refrigerator, alarm clock, computer, car mirror -- so that you have a constant reminder of what you’re working toward.
- Designate a space.
Creating an area in your apartment or house that is dedicated solely to exercise can help minimize distractions that could be motivation killers, allowing you to get in the right mindset to burn those calories. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to involve expensive gym equipment. Basements, spare bedrooms, or even sectioning off a corner of the living room will provide you a sacred space to bust out a round of burpees or practice yoga.
- Make whatever you do your favorite thing.
Let’s face it: The more we dislike something, the less we want to do it. So, if you find an activity or sport you love that gives you happiness and confidence, you might never need to motivate yourself again! For instance, if you enjoy getting out on a bike, you can turn cycling into a favorite workout and even set things up so that you can do it indoors or out. With something you actually like doing, even at a basic or simple level, you might notice your body changing without any extra effort at all.
Sure, we already looked at the best ways for staying motivated while exercising at home just a couple of months ago. But we also know that 2020 was a difficult year, so we are taking the opportunity to once again touch on these awesome motivational tips for helping you to keep your body -- and mind -- in tip-top shape as we move forward into 2021!
All SportPort™ activewear garments are unique, signature designs, all Made in the USA. Our passion for excellence is what drives our brand! When you wear SportPort™ activewear, you know you are wearing an original, one of a kind garment engineered to perfection.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been ingrained in our daily lives for nearly a year now and seems to be here for a bit longer. In the midst of its impact on the lives of everyone and the health of many, the way we think and act around food and food safety continues to change.
According to the 2020 Food and Health Survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, as many as 85% of Americans made changes in how they prepare food as well as changes to the food they eat as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But are these changes positive or negative? Turns out, they’re a bit of both.
COVID-19 Changes Eating Habits in 2020
The survey, conducted online from April 8, to April 16, 2020, included a nationally-representative sample of 1,011 Americans between the ages of 18 and 80. According to the results, cooking more at home saw the most significant change (60%), but Americans are also snacking more (32%), washing produce more than they did before the pandemic (30%), and thinking more about food in general (27%). Consumers under the age of 35, women, and parents are the most likely to have made changes due to COVID, both in terms of less healthy and healthier choices.
Cooking at home: It makes sense that the biggest change is more Americans are cooking at home, especially considering that restaurants across the country are limited or shut down. However, consumers are torn between healthy and less healthy eating. According to the survey, 14% of Americans said they’re eating less healthy than they did before the pandemic, and approximately 22% said they’re eating healthier than usual. Overall, those who cook at home are typically healthier and consume fewer calories, less fat, less sugar, and fewer carbohydrates than those who eat out.
Another survey found that some Americans are making healthier choices, while others aren’t. Specifically, 30% of respondents are eating more protein now than before COVID, 42% are eating more veggies, and 43% are eating more fruits. On the other hand, 19% are eating less protein, 21% are eating fewer fruits, 24% are eating fewer veggies, and 47% are eating more sweets. These findings aren’t surprising; research has found that when levels of cortisol -- the body’s stress hormone -- increase, even non-stressed, healthy adults will eat more junk foods and snacks.
Snack attacks: According to the survey, approximately one-third of consumers are snacking more often now than they did before the pandemic. Fewer than 10% of respondents reported snacking less. However, snacking habits differ by age, with more than 40% of younger consumers under the age of 25 snacking more, compared to 26% of consumers over the age of 50. Parents are also snacking more to relieve coronavirus-induced stress, with 29% of adults without children under 18 snacking less, compared to 41% of adults with children. The type of snack also plays an important role as to whether these changes are positive since snacks can be healthy (like nuts and fruits) or they can be unhealthy (like donuts and Fritos).
Since early March, when Americans began to change what they were buying due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, national sales data shows that salty snacks have been the top food item. In fact, sales of savory and salty snacks have increased more than 15% in the last eight weeks, online snack sales have risen 44% since March 1, and cookie sales have soared 147% during the pandemic.
Health improvements: Despite the fact that sales of snacks and cookies are booming, Americans are trying to be healthier, the survey found. For instance, 43% of respondents reported that they’re following a diet in 2020, compared to 38% in 2019 and 36% in 2018. The most common diet followed is intermittent fasting, kicking last year’s top competitor -- clean eating -- down to second place. However, the survey didn’t come out and say why Americans are dieting now nor why they’re placing more of an emphasis on their weight and overall health.
One strategy that is more popular now than in decades past that is helping consumers to make healthier choices is the use of fitness trackers. The survey found that 18%, or nearly 1 in 5 Americans, are using a mobile health monitoring app or device, and 66%, or two-thirds, of those using them say it’s caused them to make healthy changes that they wouldn’t have made otherwise.
Consumers Report Concerns Over Food Safety and Preparation
Worrying about the coronavirus has also led to significant changes in how Americans view food safety. While Americans’ confidence in the country’s food supply remains virtually unchanged (68% in 2019 and 67% in 2020), food preparation and handling related to the risk of contracting COVID are now at the top of the list of food safety concerns. Approximately 24% of Americans reported COVID as the top food safety issue, while the top four concerns from 2019 -- pesticides/pesticide residues, carcinogens in food, chemicals in food, and foodborne illness -- declined.
Where consumers eat and purchase their food also influence how they feel about food safety and COVID. According to the survey, 49% of Americans are somewhat concerned about food preparation outside of their homes such as delivery or takeout. Similarly, 46% of consumers are concerned when they eat in restaurants or establishments outside of their homes. Trailing behind are individuals who worry about food safety when grocery shopping online (42%), those who shop in-store for groceries (36%), and those who prepare meals at home (30%).
2020 Diet Myths: Debunked
Amid the ongoing pandemic and the change in eating habits, 2020 was also full of diet myths and poor nutrition advice. As people tried to find the best diet to reduce their risk of contracting the coronavirus, nutrition advice took on a new urgency. In 2020, research has begun to question the legitimacy of claims about celebrity diets, fat-loss teas, and immune-boosting superfoods, while new research has also shed a new light on previous “hot topics” like vegan diets, intermittent fasting, and whether coffee is good for you.
Myth: You can lower your risk of contracting COVID-19 or prevent it completely by changing your diet.
Truth: Not even a truck full of oranges will stop you from getting sick if you are exposed to the coronavirus or another contagious illness. While it’s no surprise that diet fads have focused on ways we can boost our disease defenses, cutting out sugar and processed food won’t boost your immune system. Sure, these foods can cause health issues over time, but eating a slice of pizza is not going to increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. The bottom line is that there are no super-diets or superfoods that will prevent (or cure!) a contagious disease. Instead, your best shot at staying healthy is to eat a balanced, nutritious diet which will, in the long run, reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease.
Myth: Intermittent fasting is the best way to shed unwanted pounds.
Truth: Studies have suggested that intermittent fasting (IF), or only eating within a certain window of time, offers many benefits for weight loss, metabolism, and longevity. Researchers theorize that IF provides some type of health boost, perhaps by allowing your digestive system to take a break. However, the truth is that fasting doesn’t seem to make a difference and that possibly the health benefits are a result of the fewer calories one eats throughout the day. Again, there’s no one magic diet solution for health -- as much as we want to believe there is.
Myth: You should avoid coffee to lose weight and get healthy.
Truth: Many fad diets prohibit coffee, but emerging evidence shows that your morning cup of coffee is not as bad as it seems. In fact, coffee has recently been linked to health benefits like better cognitive and mental health, stronger bones, and a lower risk of chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and a few types of cancer. While we don’t know what exactly is in coffee that provides these benefits (as it’s made up of more than 1,000 different compounds) and consuming it in excess can certainly be detrimental, it is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols -- plant-based micronutrients known for increasing friendly bacteria in the gut and lowering inflammation levels.
It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Americans to make major changes in their lives, including how they eat and diet. So, we’re faced with the question of: Will a few -- or all -- of our healthy behaviors and attitudes take the place of the unhealthy ones and stick around in the long run? We can only wait and see what happens when this pandemic is over. And hopefully your body and choices haven’t been terribly affected by the “Quarantine 15” pound weight problem too!
Be Healthy. Stay safe. Welcome 2021!
References & Additional Resources:
2020 Food and Health Survey - explores new topics, such as how food and health behaviors have changed in the past decade (2010-2020) and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our eating habits.
SportPort Healthy Recipes & Meal Swaps – offering comfort food and holiday menu recipe standards as well as alternatives (great for vegans or vegetarians).
SportPort blog: Add These To Your Grocery List: Some Foods to Help Boost Your Immune System – find 10 foods that may help to supercharge your body and also boost your immune system and try to avoid any sickness that might come your way.
2020 isn’t over yet, and COVID is still here -- just in time to add anxiety and tension to the normal holiday stress that comes every year. Between the gift shopping and wrapping, the meal preparing and cooking, and a long list of to-dos, the weeks leading up to 2021 are likely feeling overwhelming, especially given the ongoing pandemic. With new travel restrictions, a heated election, extra financial challenges, health concerns, and the general dumpster fire that has been 2020 thus far, we’re all feeling a little more exposed and raw than in a “normal” holiday season. Where’s Clark Griswold and his holiday cheer when we need him?
If you’re looking for ways to ease the stress in your life, it’s a known fact that exercise can help by releasing endorphins that act as feel-good neurotransmitters to the brain! But if you’re not a gym rat or you simply can’t (or don’t want to) get moving, what else can you do to relieve holiday stress and actually enjoy this time of year? Let’s take a look.
- Be social. It’s human nature to want to be a part of a group or fit in with like-minded people, so spending time with others is important for remaining healthy. However, interactions really should be done remotely rather than physically since things are a little different this year. Make a phone call or plan a Zoom meeting to talk to family and friends while still staying as safe as possible. Conversations and socializing can help to reduce stress by calming your nervous system, allowing you to feel supported, and giving you a moment to be mentally alert.
- Limit social media. One of the most important tips we can provide this holiday season is this: Stay away from social media if you’re feeling stressed. Just. Stay. Away. Those picture-perfect Pinterest and Instagram feeds won’t do anything but force you to compare yourself to what you see -- which is not entirely accurate anyway. Those images don’t show the family arguments, the burned turkeys, or the insurmountable mountain of credit card debt. Instead, spend your time looking into eyes, not screens. Hold hands, not phones or gaming controllers. Choose laughter, joy, and human connection over retweets and “likes.”
- Give back. It’s easy to focus on our own thoughts as well as material things during the holidays. But these feelings often lead to more anxiety as we try to figure out how to keep up with the Joneses. Instead of agonizing over what you have (or don’t have), why not give back to those less fortunate? Donate money to a non-profit organization, donate warm clothing to the homeless or toys to underprivileged children, or volunteer your time and serve food at the community shelter. Helping others will hopefully help you appreciate what you have and lead to feelings of connectedness -- both of which can lower stress levels.
- Just breathe. Let’s talk about breathing exercises! Oops! Did we say “exercise”? Well, this one can be done anytime, anywhere! It’s also more for clearing the mind or simply for mindfulness instead of stressfulness. When you breathe, you take in fresh oxygen into your bloodstream, which ultimately feeds your body’s organs such as the central nervous system and the brain. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, inhale deep breaths into your nose and exhale through your mouth. Yoga can also be a helpful activity (that’s not quite as strenuous as a traditional workout) to lower stress levels by focusing on breath control.
- Smile more. Not only does smiling bring joy to others, but it’s been suggested that smiling can also reduce your body’s response to stress and lower your heart rate in tense situations. Studies and research also linked smiling to decreased blood pressure and suggested that smiling may lead to longevity. It doesn’t matter whether your smile is genuine or forced -- your brain still sees the activity and assumes that humor is happening, meaning that things are okay! Pretty wild, right? Did you know that smiling can actually be an exercise, too? To work that smile (and your facial muscles), check out these exercises designed to make you happy and keep you healthy.
- Get enough sleep. One of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal to fight holiday stress and anxiety is sleep. Instead of pulling another all-nighter while binging those much-anticipated Hallmark Christmas movies, put your sleep first. Not only will getting at least seven and a half hours of shut-eye keep your anxiety and stress under control, but it will also give your immune system a boost -- which is now more important than ever. Washing your hands, getting outside, staying active, and resting will all help you feel healthy, peaceful, and strong. Avoid burning your candle at both ends by getting up early and staying up late. Get enough sleep.
- Meditate. Stress can come in many forms: depression, weight gain, sleeplessness, brain fog, irritability, and anxiety, to name a few. If you’re experiencing one or more of these, it’s understandable to want to clear some headspace, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Enter meditation. Did you know that meditating can fight stress, decrease anxiety, boost your mood, and even curb unhealthy cravings? There are many different ways to practice meditation, but it’s often recommended to start slow and simple and build to more complex techniques as you progress.
- Eat healthy. It goes without saying that you’ll need as much energy as you can get to make it through the busiest time of the year, so cook wholesome meals with nourishing ingredients and make eating healthy a priority. We’re not saying you have to pass on eating Grandma’s famous sugar cookies or watching “A Christmas Story” with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, but consuming too much sugar disrupts your brain’s neurotransmitters, your insulin and blood sugar levels, and your natural hormone responses. Combine that with a packed schedule and a lack of sleep from too much caffeine, and you’ve got a recipe for a rush of stress and anxiety. Opt for these 10 healthy foods to reduce stress and boost your immune system.
- Keep a journal. There are many reasons one might keep a journal. From prayer journals and gratitude journals to dream journals and travel journals, we keep daily writings for many different aspects of our lives. Recording the day’s events and making observations is important for understanding our world. In fact, without diarists like Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank, we wouldn’t have nearly the amount of historical knowledge that we do. Try your hand at journaling by writing down three positive things that happened to you each day, no matter how small or meaningless they may seem. Describe these bright spots as best you can and make note of the role you played in each one. You’ll boost your mindfulness and be more aware of how much control you have over the happy moments in your life.
- Take a shower. Don’t underestimate the healing powers of a shower -- and a locked door. Hydrotherapy is the use of water, both externally and internally, at different temperatures for health purposes. For instance, the steam in hot showers acts as a natural decongestant that can break up stuffiness, while cold showers are known to improve blood circulation, increase endorphins, and decrease cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone. Also, a chilly shower may temporarily take your mind off of your stress since you’re more likely to focus on the temperature of the water itself. This mindful practice keeps you in the moment rather than worried about things that you can’t control. Consider adding a eucalyptus plant in the shower or room to make the space all the more rejuvenating and relaxing.
- Create a relaxing environment. After all, your home should be a tranquil retreat. The last thing you want to do after a long, busy day is return to a chaotic and hectic house, which can ultimately exacerbate feelings of anxiety and stress. To create a positive space, decorate quickly and simply by choosing one item like bows, miniature trees in various sizes, or ornaments in decorative bowls. Use that item in abundance instead of trying to pair different items together. Looking for soft lighting? Set up some aromatherapy candles designed to calm and relax. We also love using tea lights across a mantle or along windowsills. Finally, add easy ambiance with some holiday carols or soft, jazzy music -- whatever eases your stress and puts you in the holiday spirit.
- Engage in safe sex. If you have a partner living with you safely in your home, don’t forget the value of intimacy and sex on stress. Not only does it feel good, but sex can also alleviate pain, bolster your immune system, and make you happy -- all things necessary for getting us through the go-go-go of the holidays. Keep in mind that stress can also have a hand in low libido, particularly during this busy season, but even simple acts like hugging and touching can boost your self-esteem and happiness, too.
- Stay at home. Most of us would love to travel to visit our family and friends during this holiday season. After all, 2020 has been a roller coaster of a year for everyone, and there’s nothing we’d love more than to relish the companionship of our loved ones. Unfortunately, taking a trip just isn’t the safest thing to do in a pandemic -- but that might not stop others from asking you to visit. If you’re feeling guilty about staying home, there are nice ways to say “no” to visits, trips, or social gatherings. To take the stress out of declining a social gathering, suggest an alternative way to hang out, keep your response honest, make your answer short and sweet, and be positive. Remember: It’s absolutely okay to say “no.”
Regular exercise has many benefits for your overall health -- mentally, physically, and emotionally. It can help to increase your focus, energy, and self-confidence while lowering your anxiety and stress levels. However, exercise is not the only way to reduce your stress levels this holiday season. If you’re feeling worried or anxious because your holiday plans look different during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not the only one. But with some practical tips and helpful advice, you can minimize the stress that usually accompanies the holidays and instead find some peace and joy. You might even end up enjoying this season more than you expected.
Is COVID-fatigue bringing on exercise-fatigue? Is your gym not able to open yet due to restrictions in your area or have you recently been informed that it will shut its doors yet again? Is it starting to get too cold to be outside? Well, we know life in general hasn’t been easy over the past several months, but keeping your distance and staying at home is still the safest thing you can do. To help chip away at the cabin fever you might be feeling, here are some practical and fun ideas for staying motivated to remain at home and either start -- or keep -- exercising.
10 Tips to Stay Motivated and Workout at Home
We get it. It’s not easy to stay motivated while working out at home -- especially if you live by yourself. While it’s certainly tempting to cozy up on the couch and binge your favorite Netflix series rather than hit the mat for that dreaded workout routine, don’t throw in the motivational towel just yet. Below are 10 tips or tricks to try that will hopefully make it much easier (and more exciting!) for you to exercise without stepping foot outside your house.
- Make a plan.
The first thing to do when trying to stay more motivated is to create a clear plan with milestones for the coming weeks and months. Focus on actionable, small goals like “I want to work out five days a week” instead of dwelling on the big picture like “I want to lose 50 pounds.” While a variety of exercises like stretching, cardio, and strength training works best, every “body” is different. Make it a point to check in with your plan from time to time to make sure you’re staying the course.
- Create a dedicated space.
If possible, try to find a room or safe area in your home to do your workout without risking injury, and make sure it’s also a spot you actually enjoy being in! While you certainly don’t need to go crazy and buy the latest, fanciest home exercise equipment to create your own personal gym, having one room solely for working out can make exercising more of a reality and less of a chore. If you don’t have the space for an entire room, even something as simple as the corner of your living room where you keep some free weights and a treadmill can be just as effective.
- Schedule your routine.
Think about how many days you want or need to work out and physically schedule these dates on your calendar -- just like you would a doctor’s visit or dentist appointment. It might seem pointless and unnecessary at first, but when you plan your workouts ahead of time, you are essentially moving them from the “optional” category to the “must-do” category. Make sure to leave a day or two open as a buffer in case something unexpected comes up and you need to reschedule your workout that day.
- Use our calendar of free, different exercise routines to create your own personalized schedule.
- Keep a workout log.
Whether it’s a file in your phone’s Notes app or a physical book, tracking body fat percentage and measurements like weight as well as the progress you make after every workout will keep you motivated more than analyzing yourself in the mirror every morning will. Being able to see on the screen -- or in print -- that your hard work is paying off can be exactly what you need to stick to your workout routine.
- Find a partner or community.
Just because you’re not going to the gym doesn’t mean you’re in this alone. Whether it’s an online community, a close friend or relative, or a few people you invite into your home (safely, of course!) every week or even once a month to exercise, finding real-life support and friendly competition can be a huge motivational boost. You might also consider meeting other fitness-oriented people on social media or organizing a group workout on Zoom -- whatever it takes to motivate you to keep exercising regularly.
- Turn your workout into a game.
If you find your workouts are getting dull and repetitive and you’re often lacking the motivation to do them at all, why not turn exercise into a game? Boasting more than 200 missions and 1 million participants, Zombies, Run! is just one popular downloadable fitness game. This app turns what would otherwise be a boring run into a survival adventure as you collect supplies to dodge zombies, build a town, and explore with each mile you run. Zombies not your thing? Try RockMyRun, an app designed for music lovers that plays music with tempos based on your steps per minute or heart rate. Check out some of these other fun at-home activities that are more like a game than a workout!
- Set (realistic) goals.
You must create goals for yourself, especially if you are working out without anyone to push you. Your goals can be large or small -- whatever works for you. For example, you might have a goal of doing 10 pushups in a row without putting your knees to the floor or a goal of holding a squat for 30 seconds. Signing up for some type of event or race -- if done with proper precautions, of course -- can also be an excellent goal and motivator. Whatever you choose, make sure you are working toward something tangible instead of simply exercising just because you should.
- Reward yourself.
No, we don’t mean that you should grab a Snickers every time you successfully complete a workout, but rewarding yourself with something tangible when you accomplish your goals can be a wonderful motivator. This could be a new piece of exercise equipment for your home, a nice dinner out with your significant other, or that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. The important thing is to make sure that you really, really want that reward so that you are truly motivated. In other words, that kale smoothie is probably not going to cut it.
- Switch up your routine.
It goes without saying that doing the same workout day in and day out will get pretty boring pretty fast, particularly because your body adapts to repetitions. When you switch things up, you’ll be more likely to stick to your regimen and thus avoid mental boredom. To make your workout routines more interesting and less monotonous, try to spice things up by setting up stations with kettlebells, exercise bands, jump ropes, and weights. Get outdoors on nice days and go for a run or walk laps around your yard and home. Run up and down your stairs in between your weightlifting sessions. When you find your body is sore at the end of the week, try Zumba, Pilates, or Yoga as a reward.
- Get new workout clothes.
If you’ve been living in your yoga pants (and you’re definitely not the only one!), try to set aside a good pair of leggings just for when you exercise. Sure, you won’t be heading to the gym, but you’ll want to have your gym shoes and clothes within reach. Some studies have found that what you wear during your workout can have a direct impact on your performance -- a psychological phenomenon known as enclothed cognition*. Plus, buying a new workout outfit, leggings, or sports bra can be an awesome treat or reward when you meet your fitness goals!
While the country is still finding ways to navigate a “new normal” amid the coronavirus pandemic, you might be finding it hard to stick to your regular workout routine -- or even feel motivated to exercise at all. However, engaging in routine physical activity on a regular basis will not only benefit your physical health in the long run but also help to take away some of the stress and anxiety you might be experiencing. Sure, working out can be hard and downright miserable at times, but Stephen Hawking says it best: “half the battle is just showing up.” Let's get going and get there!
* enclothed cognition: a term that relates to the effect which clothing has upon a person’s mental process and the way they think, feel, and function, in areas like attention, confidence, or abstract thinking.
Would you believe us if we said that sitting like your ancestors could save your health? You’d probably be at least a little skeptical. After all, the science surrounding our health is often boiled down to the idea of eating healthy, sleeping well, getting on your feet and exercising regularly, and our bodies will be in tip-top shape. Rarely do we hear anything suggesting that the things we sit on and the way we sit might be impacting our bodies. But is there truth in this? Are we missing a crucial part of our workouts?
Some experts maintain sitting in chairs and on sofas all day, every day destroys the quality of our connective tissues, movements, and overall health. More importantly, we’re neglecting to use “archetypal resting positions” that have been in place and utilized by humans for hundreds of thousands of years. To put it simply, sitting on sofas and chairs isn’t great for our bodies, but what’s even worse is that we’re not taking advantage of the handful of ancestral floor positions that could actually help us.
Wait, What’s Wrong With Chairs?
Once a luxury item reserved only for the upper classes, chairs are now common-place in our lives. The typical Neolithic humans sat on benches, chests, or the ground until the time came when chairs were readily available and affordable for everyone. But paleolithic posteriors weren’t designed with chairs in mind; humans were meant to squat, kneel, and rest upon stumps and logs and rocks when they needed to take a break.
Sitting in chairs pushes weight on our glutes incorrectly, making them weak, loose, and inactive since, over time, most of us have forgotten how to activate our butt muscles. Sitting also keeps our hip flexors in a contracted, tight, short position for long periods of time. The result? Full hip extension and possibly even the hunched over position that we often see in older folks. Plus, there’s an extensive (and growing!) amount of literature that shows how sitting for too long increases degenerative disease and mortality. Scary, right?
What’s even more frightening is that sitting in a chair doesn’t allow us to rest in a full squat position -- something we know how to do when we’re born but forget how to do as we get older. Sitting becomes a passive act, where we’re slumped over with rounded shoulders and our feet twisted up. Rather than depending on a chair to support our weight, we should be relying on our muscles and skeletal system to support ourselves. So, are there any benefits to going back in time? Did our ancestors have it correct from the very beginning?
What are the Benefits of Archetypal Resting Positions?
Where we sit, and the way we do it, changes the way our bodies function. In countries where floor living and squatting are woven throughout everyday life, people are still able to retain mobility and function well into their golden years. Unfortunately, here in Western countries, where we stop floor living around four or five years of age, we might never quite reach that point -- but we can do much better than we are right now.
In fact, by hanging out on the floor more, we may begin to notice improved glucose tolerance and enhanced recovery from workouts as well as increased range of motion, more muscle activity, and increased flexibility. Prolonged chair-sitting can make your hips feel stiff and tight, but sitting on the floor allows you to easily stretch those hip flexors. Ultimately, these archetypal sitting positions encourage natural stability since, without the support of a sofa or chair, sitting on the floor forces your body to engage its core for stabilization.
Sitting Stiffness, Aches & Pains
Feeling stiff or aches and pain after sitting for long periods of time? Your muscles might not be to blame. While basic stretching can increase your range of motion, it does little to boost your flexibility. In other words, your range of motion is how well your muscles can elongate, while flexibility is how well you move in all directions, including lengthening, torsion, and contraction. The key to boosting flexibility? Engaging the fascia tissue in your body.
What is Fascia Tissue?
Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that almost resembles a spider’s web. Fascia surrounds and keeps every muscle, nerve fiber, blood vessel, and organ in place. This tissue does more than simply provide structure to our internal bodies; it also has tiny nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. The key to increasing your flexibility and range of motion is to find as many different ways to contact the ground as you can and use gravity to stretch your fascia in as many positions as you are comfortable.
6 Archetypal Resting Positions You Can Incorporate Easily Today
Ready to get back to Earth with some ancient habits that can actually renew and rejuvenate the body? Below we’ve outlined some easy, no-impact, ground-based resting workouts that you can do inside on the floor or outside on the ground -- wherever you feel most comfortable!
- Full Squat: This is one of the most ancient default sitting or resting positions before the invention of chairs. Start by standing with your feet planted on the floor and hip-width apart. Slowly lower your butt until its just inches above the floor. Although it might be easier to rest on the balls of your feet, the goal here is to get (and keep!) your heels on the ground. This position stretches the back, glutes, quads, and calves.
- Side Sit: Also known as the “z-sit,” begin by sitting with your butt flat on the ground. Lower your knees to the left and position them on the floor. Rest the bottom of your left foot against the front of your right thigh. Make sure you keep your spine neutral by ensuring both hips are on the floor. Repeat in the opposite direction. This position stretches the inner thighs as well as the external and internal hip rotators.
- Long Sit: A sitting position that comes easier to some people than others, the long sit involves sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight ahead of you. Flex your toes and point them upward, making sure your belly is positioned over your hips. This position stretches the quad muscles and hamstrings. From the long sit, you can also transition into a straddle sit by moving your legs wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Low Kneel: Kneeling is a common position with several variations, including a high and a low kneel. The low kneel involves sitting with your knees on the floor and your butt on your heels. In Japanese culture, this position is called “seiza.” You can choose to point your toes either up or back -- whichever feels more comfortable! This position stretches the quads, Achilles tendon, and fascia in the feet.
- Half Kneel: Similar to the low kneel, the half kneel involves keeping one leg flat and perpendicular to the floor and bending the other knee so that the foot is planted flat on the floor. This position is great for reducing pressure on your knees and is helpful for stretching the quads, Achilles tendon, and fascia in the feet.
- Cross-Legged Sit: A common yoga position and one of the more natural ways to sit, the cross-legged sit involves sitting on the ground with your legs crossed in front of you -- either with your feet flat against each other or at the calves or ankles. Try decreasing pressure on your hips by placing cushions beneath or knees or sitting on the edge of a folded blanket. This move is beneficial for those looking to stretch the hip adductors and rotators.
- Make Up Your Own! Our limbs are bendy, funny things, and we have the ability to contort ourselves into many different positions. As long as you’re on the floor, able to support your own weight, and feel comfortable doing it, it’s hard to hurt yourself. Our bodies are great at letting us know when something’s about to go really wrong. So, if your toes go tingly or your arm begins to get numb, switch it up! Come up with your own variation for sitting on the floor or ground and report back!
There’s no need to feel lazy on the sofa while watching TV or sitting still behind a desk at work all day! Toss the chair aside and plop yourself on the floor, propping your TV or computer screen up on a low-sitting table or shelf. Keep in mind that there is no right way to do this. There is no wrong way to do this. There is no perfect amount of time to spend in each position. Simply listen to your body and change positions to get more comfortable… and healthy!
Looking for free at-home online exercises, meditations, health & fitness workout ideas?
We’ve put together a great selection of totally FREE (no trials, no credit cards) events, classes and instructions in a monthly Calendar form to cover you for each and every day, and for any day you choose. We’ve made sure to include an “add to calendar” option so you can pick your favorites to create your own personalized workout schedule.
Have another favorite virtual workout or event that’s online, free, and can be done at-home? Let us know and we will share it for all our workout friends to see, access and do… together!
Let’s stay fit. Let’s do it at home!
For many women, the words “breast cancer” are scary and can cause panic and worry, but they’re hard not to think about sometimes. Many people know a friend or loved one who has been touched by the disease, and there are many concerns about the causes of it. You might find yourself wondering if there’s anything you can do to be more proactive and help reduce your risk. The answer is “yes”. You can make some lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
To understand a bit of the current statistics, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. It is considered the second most common cancer among U.S. women, behind skin cancer. Breast cancer occurs more often in women who are 50 years old or older, but men can also develop the disease. Although scientists have identified many risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer, they do not yet know what causes normal cells to become cancerous. Experts tend to agree that breast cancer is caused by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors.
10 Things You Can Do to Help Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer prevention begins with identifying causes and maintaining healthy habits. While there is no surefire way to completely prevent the disease, there are a number of things you can do to help lower your risk of getting it.
Exercise more often. Engaging in regular exercise can help boost your body’s immune system, maintain a healthy weight, and possibly even lower your estrogen levels, thus decreasing the chance that you’ll get breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society(1), adults should engage in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity every week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week to lower your risk of developing cancer -- that’s a minimum of just 20 minutes per day! And, if you have daughters, statistics have shown that women who exercised or played sports more than seven hours a week during ages 5-19 had lower risk of breast cancer as adults.
You can find some helpful, regularly updated, at-home exercise routines in our Monthly Calendar of Free Online Exercise, Health & Fitness Events.
- Maintain a healthy weight. According to research(2), women who gain at least 55 pounds after 18 years of age are 45% more likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer. The more fat tissue you have in your body, the more estrogen your body has the potential to produce. It’s this excess estrogen that puts women at an increased risk for both breast and uterine cancers. Also, overweight women tend to have higher insulin levels, which have also been linked to breast cancer. Practicing portion control, making necessary dietary shifts, and regular physical activity are all components of a successful weight loss/management effort and can help protect against breast cancer.
Balance your diet. It’s never too late to start improving your diet. Choose whole grains, opt for lots of fresh fiber-rich vegetables and colorful fruits, eat smaller portions, and limit sugar and processed foods to reduce weight gain and lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Specifically, experts suggest eating a range of cruciferous veggies like kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli that contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Eating lean poultry like fish instead of red meat and adding other foods like nuts, salmon, and olive oil may also help lower your cancer risk.
Taking your vitamins can help too. Postmenopausal women who had higher levels of vitamin D in their blood or who reported taking vitamin D supplements at least four times a week had lower rates of breast cancer.
Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, right? We get it: Sleep is a luxury and an afterthought for many women, particularly new mothers. However, it’s important to try to get between six and nine hours of sleep every night. A 2017 study(3) found an increased risk of breast cancer among women who had higher exposures to nighttime light, thus supporting the idea that disrupted circadian rhythms -- or the 24-hour cycle of day and night or wake and sleep -- are part of the equation.
And, try to find ways for consistency in your night’s sleep. An association was found between having trouble sleeping four or more nights per week with increased breast cancer risk.
- Limit alcohol. Compared to women who drink no alcohol at all, women who consume three alcoholic beverages per week are 15% more likely to develop breast cancer(4). Experts estimate that for each drink you have each day, your risk of developing breast cancer increases 10%. According to the American Cancer Society, women should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day(5), which is the equivalent of 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of regular beer.
- Don’t smoke. We all know that smoking is unhealthy. But on top of causing wrinkles, bad teeth, and a smelly breath, smoking also lowers your quality of life and increases the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and at least 15 different types of cancer -- including breast cancer. The age when you started smoking, how much you smoke, and how long you continue to smoke all affect your likelihood of developing the disease. Now, that’s motivation to work to get smoke-free or stay smoke-free!
- Breastfeed your littles -- if you can. Not only does breastfeeding have great health benefits for your child, but studies also show that breastfeeding for at least 12 months can reduce the risk of breast cancer(6). This can be attributed to the fact that women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles and, therefore, lower estrogen levels. These women may also be more likely to lead healthier lifestyles and eat more nutritious food while breastfeeding.
- Think twice about HRT. According to the American Cancer Society, the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause can increase the risk of breast cancer(7). While post-menopausal HRTs that use a combination of progestin and estrogen can help to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and osteoporosis, experts recommend that women only take HRT for the shortest time possible -- and only if absolutely necessary. You may be able to manage your systems with estrogen-only hormone therapy or non-hormonal medications and therapies instead. If you’re considering HRT, be sure to talk to your doctor about the associated risks and whether HRT is right for you.
- Know your family’s health history. Women who have a family history of cancer -- about 5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary -- can take steps to lower their risk, so it’s important information to know. If you aren’t sure, now is the time to reach out to family members who may be able to help. You may be at high risk of developing breast cancer if you have a sister or mother who developed ovarian or breast cancer or if you have several family members -- including males -- who developed prostate, ovarian, or breast cancer. A genetic counselor or doctor can help you understand the disease as well as your family history.
- Schedule your mammogram. Despite some controversy, studies show that getting yearly mammograms can save lives, particularly because mammograms detect malignant tumors and other abnormalities that are often missed in a self-exam. While screening doesn’t prevent cancer per se, it can help your doctor detect cancer in its early stages -- when it’s most treatable. Although most women can begin getting regular mammograms as early as age 40, specific recommendations can vary by risk and age. For instance, mammograms are recommended every year for women between the ages of 45 and 54 and every other year -- or yearly, if desired -- for those 55 years of age and older.
Environmental Factors that Can Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer
While we’ve covered just 10 things that are in your control, it’s just as important to be on the lookout for other potential risk factors that might be associated with environmental factors or toxins. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has an informative report on Breast Cancer Risk and Environmental Factors.
This report includes concerns for environmental exposures from things like chemicals found in common household and personal care products, pesticides, or other chemicals we come into contact with through foods and beverages, creams or lotions we use on our skin or the air we breathe and more.
Is There a Link Between Cell Phones and (Breast) Cancer?
In short, we don’t fully know, but we do know that more research is needed. 5G technology is here now, and there are increasing concerns about the effects that this new technology -- and its cell phone towers and stations -- will have on our bodies and overall health. While some experts believe that 5G produces radiofrequency radiation that can disrupt cell metabolism, can damage DNA, cause oxidative damage that results in premature aging, cause cancer, and possibly paves the way for other diseases by way of stress protein generation, others aren’t convinced. So, what can we do?
We can continue to take a proactive approach by making sure we’re keeping the recommended safe distance between our phones and our bodies, reserving the amount of time we’re on our phones, using hands-free technology like wired headsets whenever we can, and incorporating other, safer phone use options.
It’s also why we’ve developed our patented cell phone pocket for those times when we absolutely have to keep our phones on us -- and close to our bodies! This pocket is designed to keep your phone working while also helping to protect the body’s soft tissue, like breast tissue, from potentially harmful EMF that might cause bodily cellular disruption. You can currently find these protective phone carrying pockets in many of our sport tops & sports bras, with more designs coming soon!
While we should be able to trust that scientists will do everything they can to keep us safe, for now, we can remain diligent, proactive, and protect ourselves in as many ways possible. Ultimately, when it comes to breast cancer, it’s important to be informed, particularly because there’s a wealth of incorrect information out there about the disease.
To address some common myths(8):
- Wearing a bra, underwire or not, does not affect your chance of developing breast cancer in any way.
- Consuming a lot sugar in our diet will not put you at risk for breast cancer, however, it can put you at risk for other health issues like diabetes or heart disease.
- You will not increase your risk of getting breast cancer if you use antiperspirants or shave your underarms, but the safety of some antiperspirants is still being studied.
While October brings about pink ribbons, awareness of the disease, and fundraising for breast cancer research, it’s important to be proactive about your overall health and, specifically, breast health all year round.
References & Additional Reading:
(1) American Cancer Society – Fitting in Fitness
(2) Susan G. Komen - Factors that Affect Breast Cancer – Body Weight & Weight Gain
(3) Environmental Health Perspectives - Outdoor Light at Night and Breast Cancer Incidence in the Nurses’ Health Study II
(4) Breastcancer,org – Drinking Alcohol
(5) American Cancer Society – Alcohol Use and Cancer
(6) Susan G. Komen – Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer Risk
(7) American Cancer Society – Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer Risk
(8) Breastcancer,org – Breast Cancer Myths vs. Facts
~ Updated Sept 2020
How close is safe for you to carry your cell phone? Is this a question you even knew you needed to ask? If the answer is no, then you are not alone. Many consumers don’t realize there are explicit safety warnings typed in the fine-print within the safety manuals that come along with their cell phones.
This safe-distance concern provided the motivation behind the founding of SportPort in that there was a need to protect active cell phone users from the potentially harmful electromagnetic frequency and radiofrequency (EMF-RF) radiation emitted from their phones.
Storing cell phones in sports bras or on-body sport accessories while working out is common-place for people who want to keep their device with them. However, chances are most of these fitness-minded people haven’t read their cell phone manual detailing the recommended safe distance to carry their phone away from their body.
What is the Recommended EMF Safe-Distance for Your Cell Phone?
The recommended safe carrying distance is based on mandatory government testing and can vary per phone with most more commonly at 5mm away from the body to as much as 15mm away. See our "safe distance" graphic to know that it takes 25 sports bra layers to cover a 5mm distance and 75 sports bra layers to cover 15mm, while it takes only one SportPort sports bra because of it's patented EMF protective phone pocket design built-in!
Finding the EMF information, which is denoted in terms of SAR values (specific absorption rate values), can be confusing and hard to locate depending on the make and model of your cell phone. In an effort to aid this barrier, SportPort has created two separate guides to help both iPhone & Android cell phone users and allows for a quick, easy option to determine the recommended distance considered safe to carry your phone:
The significance of SportPort’s foresight on this important health matter was detailed in a 2017 press release, New Safe Distance Concerns for Cell Phone RF Exposure Credits SportPort Sportswear for Solutions.
Still wondering why this exposure should concern you? As described in a recent CBC article, “Radiofrequency radiation is waves generated by an electromagnetic field that transmit cell phone, radio and other signals. It has enough energy to set atoms vibrating and generate heat in fluids or body tissue but not as much as higher-energy radiation such as X-rays or UV light.” This physical reaction occurs whether you are aware of it or not and the fact that it is potentially harmful to your health should be enough to prompt you to take the cell phone out of your pocket.
Raising awareness on cell phone dangers is central to what drives SportPort, just as is providing a functional alternative for active cell phone storage. In line with this focus, SportPort is recognized as the first luxury athletic apparel company to design products with accessible pockets that offer a properly protective barrier between the user’s body and their cell phone. Not just any blocking or shielding pocket, SportPort products are designed effectively and have undergone Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) testing by an independent, accredited lab to ensure that their garments minimize the body’s exposure to RF radiation while allowing the phone to function when the phone is stored in the patented pocket. For an athlete who needs safe cell phone storage close to their body, as well as high quality compression and performance fabrics, they now have options thanks to the SportPort product line of athletic sports bras and tops.
Cell phone safety continues to be in the news with science studies unable to keep up with the speedy manufacturing of new, upgraded phones or phone service providers (eg: 5G cell service now). The hope is that this focus of concern will continue to raise awareness so people will start handling their devices in safer accordance to the FCC safety standards. To stay updated on the ongoing research and studies linked to cell phone safety, sign up for the SportPort newsletter.
Find new & more safety phone apps: Safety APPs for Runners - 2020 Update - Free or Low-Cost
Safety for runners, particularly women, is a growing concern. Many women who enjoy running off the beaten path or during the dark hours of the night or early morning might find themselves worrying about the risks associated with being alone while out running. However, there are many things runners can do to help protect themselves and reduce the risk of danger while running, including choosing different routes, running with a group of people, staying focused on their surroundings, running in high-traffic areas, and taking advantage of running apps.
A few years ago, runners were limited to bulky tools or difficult to handle or manage devices, but technology has since evolved, allowing us to carry lightweight, handy smart phones that we can easily port in our sportswear or sports bras with built-in pockets. Here are five highly rated phone apps for both iOS and Android phone users that can help to ensure a safer run for those who enjoy pounding the pavement on their own.
5 Phone Apps That Keep Runners Safe
1. ROAD iD
The ROAD iD app gives a nod to the story of Hansel and Gretel as it allows you to leave “eCrumbs” for up to five chosen friend or family contacts. These contacts can track your running route via text or email, and they receive an alert when you stop moving. The app refreshes itself every 30 seconds, so it communicates your location in real-time. Not only is the alert fantastic for motivation since it ultimately means you can’t take a long rest break, but it’s also a good way to keep friends and family in the loop should something happen to you.
Available for iOS and Android Phones
StaySafe is another app centered around location-based tracking. If you fail to check in when the timer goes off, the app automatically notifies your contacts and sends your location via SMS or email — even if your phone is damaged, turned off, or if the battery dies. The app also features an auto-inform service, which lets your contacts know when you manually stop your run, as well as two PIN numbers: one for canceling alerts and alarms and another for duress or life-threatening situations. For instance, if someone is forcing you to enter a PIN to cancel the alert, the app will appear to shut down, but using the duress PIN will still allow your emergency contacts to receive a message with your GPS location.
Available for iOS and Android Phones
Similar to Bugle, RunRaegis notifies your contacts when you set out on your run, and it tracks you as you go. If you don’t come back in the pre-set time, the app will set up smart alerts to notify your contacts. Female runners may also appreciate the panic button feature which, when activated, alerts your contacts, connects them to 911, and sends a blast to all runners on the RunRaegis network who are at or near your last known location.
Available for iOS and Android Phones
Think of bSafe as an Uber tracking system for runners. It not only follows you as you go, but it also features an alarm that, when activated, triggers your network and sends a message with your location and a 10-second video that starts to record as soon as you activated the alarm. Thanks to the app’s GPS tracking feature, friends and family can also follow you — virtually, of course — as you go.
Available for iOS and Android Phones
Similar to bSafe, friends and family do not need the Glympse app in order to view your location in real-time. Although Glympse can be used for a variety of situations such as driving home from work, finding out when a late colleague will arrive, and letting friends and family know you’re on your way, it is becoming increasingly popular among runners. With Glympse, you can share your location for up to four hours. Simply select a contact, set the expected duration of your run, and hit the pavement.
Available for iOS and Android Phones
These days, many women runners are turning to technology to help improve their sense of security. However, in addition to these technology advancements, it’s also important that you remain aware of your surroundings, let people know where you’re going, stay in high-traffic areas, and know your routes. Combining common sense with the latest phone safety apps will hopefully allow you to enjoy your run with as little worry as possible.
With tons of running apps to help you get started or find a good path or trail, we like focusing on the apps that are either designed for safety or include an added safety option for you. Here are some of our favorite free or low-cost runner’s APPs that bring a safety feature for you on your run. Of course all of these can be used to track or trace you wherever you go and not just for running, jogging or exercising.
SportPort activewear features a patent protected phone pocket that shields your body from EMF and designed into many of its sports bras and sport tops for you to safely and securely carry your cell phone while you exercise or on a run.
5+ Phone Apps That Help Keep Runners Safe
1) Road iD
Remains on our list of top safety apps for runners. You can allow friends and family to track you in real time using the eCrumb feature which follows you much like Hansel & Gretel used in their story to help trace and find their way home. The app creates an "electronic breadcrumb" trail for your designated friends and family to follow along via a map link sent through email or SMS.
If you prefer, Road iD also uses physical wearables, bracelets and tags, that have been helping keep runners (and pets) safe for years.
In addition, the app can also set up an In Case of Emergency card with your emergency contacts, as well as health information like blood type and allergies that you can use as a lock-screen wallpaper.
Free, extra for accessories and wearables: https://www.roadid.com/
Available for iOS and Android Phones
2) Strava Beacon
The free Strava app is a running tracker and has a variety of training features. The app can record your running speed, distance traveled, time and course taken for metrics and tracking, but can also combine all that with leaderboards, achievements and challenges as you race against your friends.
You’ll have to upgrade to a paid monthly subscription to get access to advanced safety features like Beacon. Strava Beacon allows you to share your location and route details in real time with three designated friends or family safety contacts.
Strava supports a variety of smartwatches and fitness devices such as the Apple Watch and Wear OS devices.
Free, or $5 per month for the Beacon extras: https://www.strava.com/
Available for iOS and Android Phones
3) Runkeeper Go
This is another app that you’ll need to upgrade to get the premium safety Runkeeper Go option. The upgraded option will give you live tracking, premium training plans, weather insights, and more. But the main safety option allows you to select friends and family who will be able to see your races or runs in real time from their phone or desktop.
Runkeeper basic allows you to use your phone's GPS to track your running, cycling, hiking and other distance activities. The app records your pace, distance, total exercise time, calories burned and other useful metrics, while delivering a variety of training plans, complete with reminders and gamified challenges. Users can go freeform or download and follow popular running routes. You can measure your progress and workout history, as well as sync with numerous other apps and services and receive detailed reports of your tracked activity.
Runkeeper supports a variety of smartwatches and fitness devices such as the Apple Watch and Wear OS devices.
Free, or $10 per month or $40 per year for the premium Go options: https://runkeeper.com
Available for iOS and Android Phones
Kitestring is an online service, and technically not an APP. The service allows you to activate a safety plan for the times when you’re headed into a potentially unsafe situation like a late night run or a just out late or alone.
Visit the Kitestring site to enter your emergency contacts. Then, when you’re ready to go out or on your nighttime run, let Kitestring know, and ask the service to check in with you via text in 15 minutes, 45 minutes, 2 hours, 5 hours or even 12 hours. If you don’t respond to their text message within a specific window of time (for example in five minutes), Kitestring will automatically notify your emergency contacts.
Free, or $3 per month for unlimited trips: https://www.kitestring.io/
Available on any device.
RunGo, a run tracker and navigation aid, allows users to discover new running, jogging or walking routes, complete with voice navigation to help guide them through unfamiliar locales. So if you are new to a neighborhood or you are just starting out as a runner, this can help you past the tough task to find a good and safe jogging route in an unfamiliar or new area.
You can download routes for offline use, start routes halfway or create their own within the app. Coolest of all, premium subscribers can access "guided tours" — verified routes created by local runners through safe and scenic areas, with the app announcing points of interest and other information.
Free, or $1.99 per month for the subscription extras: https://www.rungoapp.com/
Available for iOS and Android Phones
+1) Extra Stay-Safe-At-Home App: Zwift
While the Zwift APP doesn’t hold a specific safety feature, staying at home in itself can! So… If you find yourself doing a lot of exercising at home these days, Zwift can help you change up your surroundings while you shelter in place. And the mobile app even adds a little gamification to your runs as part of the bargain.
With Zwift, you can take your runs through virtual courses, while staying on your treadmill. Along with the different courses, you can run alongside other people, using their times for encouragement or competition.
You'll need a compatible treadmill and footpod, supported watch, smart shoes or treadmill sensor to make Zwift work. But the run aspect of Zwift is free to use. (Zwift also works with cycling, but after a 7-day trial, rides require a $15 monthly membership.) If you've got the right equipment, Zwift offers a unique way to get more out of your at-home runs.
Free for Runners: https://www.zwift.com/
Available for iOS and Android Phones
Additional Safety Phone APP Resources:
Other safety APPs to check out from our 2018 list of 5 Phone Apps that Keep Runners Safe:
- Road iD - https://www.roadid.com/
- StaySafe - https://staysafeapp.com/
- RunRaegis – this one has been removed from the APP store
- bSafe - https://getbsafe.com/
- Glympse - https://glympse.com/