7 unusual ways to improve your fitness

Want to get a better workout? These surprising fitness tips can help

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barefoot yoga fitness

Go barefoot

If you refuse to wear shoes in the summer, you may enjoy better blood circulation, a happier mood, stronger bones and better posture. According to Barefoot in Toronto, a group that promotes a barefoot lifestyle, barefoot walking increases skin health, reduces foot calluses, builds arch strength and enhances sensory stimulation. Going barefoot also creates healthier toenails and reduces foot odour.

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rowing exercise fitness

Time your workout to your menstrual cycle

Don't tell your health club manager, but the next time he sees you climbing like mad on the StairMaster, it's because you're in the latter part of your menstrual cycle. A study from the University of Adelaide in Australia found that women who exercise during this time of the month, when levels of estrogen and progesterone are highest, burn more fat for energy, leading to less exercise-related fatigue.

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weight training

Yell and shout during exercise

IntenSati is "active meditation"-a fitness program that uses the voice and mind to intensify physical workouts. Participants say or shout empowering affirmations while kicking, jumping or lunging. For example, while punching, they yell, "I. Am. Strong. Now!" These motivational phrases boost confidence and distract participants from feeling fatigued, which increases the workout benefits. If you can't join the program, you may want to try this one in the privacy of your home gym.

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Summer fitness plan

Keep your palms cool to exercise longer

A study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 scientific sessions showed cooling the palms of obese women's hands while they exercised meant they could exercise longer. "The palmar surfaces of the hands and feet are the key radiator heaters of the body," says Stacy Sims, who is the study's lead researcher and an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at Stanford University. "By cooling blood through the palms, you're able to cool more blood returning to the heart."

Since the cooling device used in the study is costly and not yet widely available, Sims suggests holding a cold water bottle while exercising. She also notes hydration is important and suggests taking sips of cold water while working out.

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fitness class

Exercise with a group

"Exercising is tough work," says Toronto group fitness expert Eva Redpath. "Those who exercise in groups sustain greater motivation to train than those who work out alone."

For one thing, it seems that being in a group makes us tolerate pain better; a 2009 study  from the University of Oxford found that male rowers who trained together had double the pain threshold after exercising than they did when working out alone. Researchers theorize that even if you're performing at the same level, the added endorphin rush from participating in a group activity will be greater.

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woman drinking water while exercising

Boost your energy with water

Water is nature's magic elixir. It improves your oral health, promotes weight loss and energizes you. Ordinary water, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center found, raises alertness. The scientists discovered that water increases sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity. SNS is responsible for activating the body's responses under stress, raising blood pressure, energy use and alertness. Next time you need an energy boost, skip the caffeine and turn on the tap.

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fruit snack

Eat something right after your workout

Eating the right balance of foods shortly after a workout helps your body replenish energy stores, repair muscle tissue and recover from exercise, says a joint statement from major nutrition and athletic performance associations, including the Dietitians of Canada. All this helps you make the most of the workout you just did and gets you optimally ready for your next one.

 

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