041110-N-0413R-001The health and fitness industry is worth billions, and in the last decade the small, affordable gyms have been slowly eaten up by larger fitness franchises. So with more gyms under the control of a handful of people it’s no surprise that they all charge more from their customers simply because there is no competition. For more and more people the only affordable option is to get fit from home, but there is a huge variety of equipment to choose from so it’s a good idea to do lots of research before you part with any money. Here we will give a general overview of the four main types of cardio machines that you can use from the comfort of home.

Treadmills

Treadmills are the most popular machine out of the four, and you’ll see these at pretty much any commercial gym in various different sizes and capabilities. If you haven’t heard of them before they are basically just a moving surface that is used to run on (without actually going anywhere!), using and electric motor to power it and handrails with a computer console to control it.

Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes are also very popular simply because they are very simple to use and gives a low impact workout. It is basically just like riding a regular bike, except you can adjust the difficulty on the computer console. These come in two types: standard – which is similar to riding a normal bike with the pedals directly below you, and there is also recumbent – which has the seat lower and pedals are further in front of you, which is kinda like riding a trike.

Elliptical Machines

In my opinion, elliptical machines are a kind of exercise bike/treadmill hybrid but even better, I’ll explain why. Firstly, you are standing upright with two moving pedals below you and the motion is a bit like pedaling and running. The great thing about elliptical machines is they won’t put any impact stress on your knees and also will give a workout of your upper body too, unlike the exercise bike and treadmill.

Rowing Machines

Rowing machines are probably the least popular of the four, and I’m not really sure why; they give the best full body workout from the lot. Just look at the professional rowers in the Olympics and you will see highly toned upper and lower bodies, it’s not a machine for the casual user. Which is perhaps why it’s not as popular: it is much more difficult that the other machines, and you can’t sit there or lean on the handrail whilst watching tv.

Find the Right Machine for you

Now we have looked at the main types of exercise machines there are several things to consider before you buy: firstly, make sure you read reviews, so if you want to get a good treadmill read as many treadmill reviews as you can from other customers to make sure that you aren’t going to end up with a piece of junk. Secondly, make sure that you have enough space at home for the machine that you are getting, so if you buy the biggest machine available but don’t have anywhere to put it then that is a pretty big problem. Lastly, remember to set yourself achievable fitness goals, it helps to keep motivated and you’ll get the body you always wanted.

Spring is the perfect time to start planting your garden. As the weather gets warmer and you spend more in your garden, keep these 5 health and safety tips in mind:

1.      Know Your Limits

Gardening is a great way to get some fresh air and much-needed sunshine, but it’s important to understand what your limits are. Gardening in the summer heat can put you at risk for heat stroke and dehydration.

  • If you plan on staying outdoors for most of the day, make sure that you drink plenty of water. Avoid drinks that contain large amounts of sugar and alcohol as they actually cause you to lose even more fluid. Stick to plain water to stay hydrated.
  • Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you are feeling overheated, dizzy or nauseous, take a break indoors. A rapid pulse and headache may also be signs of a heat-related illness.
  • People over the age of 65, children and those who are overweight are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
  • Plan to do your gardening early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Peak heat hours are between 11AM and 3PM, so avoid gardening during this time if you can.
  • Wear a sunhat to protect your head from exposure to the sun.
  • Battle the heat by pouring some chilled water on a bandana and tying around your neck.

2.      Protect Yourself

Gardening exposes you to outdoor pests, chemicals, the sun’s rays and sharp equipment. Dressing for the part is an essential part of gardening safety.

  • Always wear gloves to prevent cuts, skin irritation and the risk of infection.
  • Use insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquitos and ticks. Make sure that the repellent you use contains DEET. Your clothing can also protect you from these pests. Wear long sleeves, pants and socks. Rubber boots are also recommended.
  • Never wear shorts when using a weed eater. Always wear safety goggles, pants and sturdy shoes, some of the best weed eaters will come with protective guards but you should still protect yourself.
  • Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sun exposure.

3.      Take Your Time

Avoid taking shortcuts while gardening and take your time. If you are working with chemicals, take the time to read the instructions carefully. Do not force yourself to continue working if you feel tired or overworked. It’s okay to take breaks if you need to. You don’t have to get all of the work done in one day. Pace yourself by gardening several times per week instead of exhausting an entire day. Gardening should be a pleasurable and rewarding experience – not a chore.

4.      Protect Your Posture

Most gardening tasks require you to be hunched over with your hands and face close to the dirt. Bending over while standing will put a tremendous strain on your back. Kneeling is the best option. Invest in a waterproof kneeling pad that you can comfortably kneel on. Kneepads are another great option that allow you to be more mobile. If your gardening activities require you to stand, make sure that you use tools with long handles and padding that is easy to grip.

5.      Put Safety First

Gardening often requires the use of tools and chemicals. No matter whether the tools are powered or unpowered, serious injury is always a risk. Limit your distractions while using these tools and make sure that you are using chemicals properly.

woman swimming in a poolSwimming is one of the best ways to get fit, lose weight, and can give you a valuable ability that could potentially save your life, or help to save someone else’s in the future. This is why we have created this guide for new swimmers and those people who don’t swim regularly, to allow them to get back into the water prepared and informed.

New Swimmers

If you have never been swimming before, it is very important to learn how, not only for your own safety, but for the safety of others as explained later. This is nothing to be embarrassed about, and is relatively common, especially if you don’t live near the coast or any large bodies of water like a lake or perhaps just haven’t got access to many pools. However the best place to learn is at your local public pool where you can attend basic swimming lessons to allow you to get confident in the pool and comfortable swimming the various styles.

Saving Lives

Not only is swimming great for your overall health, but is possibly one of the best skills to have after basic CPR training for potentially saving someone’s life. A shocking number of people drown every year worldwide simply because they don’t know how to swim, making this is a vitally important skill that everyone should have and would help to drastically reduce the number of deaths.

Returning Swimmers

If you already know how to swim, then congratulations, you are in quite a privileged position given that most people in the world don’t know how to swim. However if you are one of the many people who know how to swim but rarely actually do it then fear not, you are not alone, and hopefully we can give you the  motivation to get back in the pool regularly.

In terms of cardiovascular exercise, swimming has huge potential for burning calories and improving your stamina, simply because it requires the use of your whole body.

Getting Back Into The Pool

For those of you who haven’t been swimming in a long time then there are several ways you can ease yourself back and regain your confidence in the pool. The best way in my opinion is to purchase your own pool, don’t worry I’m not talking about the in-ground pools that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but an above ground pool that is a fraction of the price. Just look at some above ground pool reviews to find the best one for swimming and fits your budget.

The other advantage of having your own pool, especially for getting back into shape is that you won’t feel self-conscious about your body, which can be a major barrier for people  who don’t like swimming in public, the same way many people can feel intimidated when trying to lose weight at the gym.

Finding A Good Swimming Pool

For those of you who may be looking for your own above ground pool for swimming, there are generally two options available, first you can get a large rectangular pool that is deep enough to swim lengths, or you could get a smaller pool like the Fitmax iPool and swim with the use of a harness.

There is absolutely nothing quite like hitting the rowing machine a few times a week to absolutely transform your physique, your strength, and your endurance – provided that you know exactly what you’re supposed to do.

Rowing machines, for whatever reason, are considered to be one of the more “intimidating” pieces of gym equipment you’re going to find. People avoid trying to get started with rowing machines for any different number of reasons, but the overwhelming majority of folks avoid this somewhat complicated piece of equivalent simply because they’re not sure how to get started. For anyone looking to get started with their own rowing machine check out some rowing machine reviews for some great starter models.

Because it can be almost too easy to “go off the rails” while using a rowing machine, here are just a few tips, tricks, and tactics you’re going to want to rely on when leveraging the rowing machine.

Rowing machines are all about proper posture

Though there are any different number of things that you’ll want to focus on to get the very most out of your rowing machine exercise, the truth of the matter is you’re going to be able to get at least 80% of your results just by perfecting the posture that you use moving forward.

Too terribly many people try to bend forward and almost yank the rowing machine act towards them – bending at their lower back and trying to pull everything back at you.

This is 100% incorrect, and will not only lead to limited results, but could also potentially lead to absolutely terrible back pain, stress and strain all over your body, and even some pretty serious injuries if you are doing this for longer periods of time.

What you’re going to want to do is instead try to “lock” your lower back without actually locking it up, pulling the machine with your arms, your shoulders, and your legs all driving you back instead of yanking your upper body towards you. This is going to make a world of difference.

Secondly, make sure that you’re using the right amount of resistance

The next thing that you’re going to want to tackle is making sure that you are using the right amount of resistance. Too many people see the machine as a bit of a challenge to blow through, rather than a piece of equipment that can help you get your fitness level through the roof with relative ease – if you allow it to.

What you’re going to want to do is create just enough resistance that allows you to grow quickly, smoothly, and with picture-perfect technique (there are YouTube videos out there that can show you the exact technique you should be working with like this one) – literally just enough to slow you down without making you feel as though you are going to blow a gasket at any moment.

Other tips and tricks you need to be aware of

There are other tips that you should keep top of mind when you use a rowing machine, and here are some of the very best.

  • Slow and steady in the early stages, trying to perfect technique and create fluid movements
  • Always – ALWAYS – keep your elbows in close to your body
  • Never – NEVER – “round” your back
  • Use your legs to drive

Getting regular workouts is essential to your health and can give you a body that you are proud and confident about. How you exercise is mostly down to personal preference with some people preferring to cycle, swim or row to get fit, however for many people running is their favorite way of working out.

If you are in the latter group then you are probably limited to the two options of running outside or by using a treadmill inside. While running outside can be good for getting fresh air and has better views, running on a treadmill has many benefits in comparison. One of the main benefits is the fact that bad weather is no longer an issue when using a treadmill indoors, which for anyone who has been brave enough to run outside during harsh winter months and the heat of the summer knows can have a big impact on your workouts and motivation.

With regards to performance I believe that you can get much more control over your workout using a treadmill than running outdoors. For example the fact that you can change incline at the touch of a button on a treadmill would not be possible outside. Also there can be other external factors outside that may cause problems for your workout such as traffic delaying you along your route as you wait to cross a road for example. As a result you can generally get more consistency with your running workouts too on a treadmill.

The other benefit to working out on a treadmill is that you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to use one. There are a wide range of treadmills designed for home use, such as the ProForm 505 CST Treadmill which is designed to compete with commercial treadmills that you would find in a gym, or the Confidence Power Plus Treadmill which is one of the cheapest on the market.

It’s worth remembering also that gym memberships can be very expensive in the long run, especially if you lose motivation to keep going regularly. However with a good treadmill in your home, even though it will cost more in the short term it won’t take long to pay for itself and you can still sell it if things don’t work out, which is a much better scenario than joining a gym.

Getting into mountain biking may seem too expensive for many people but the reality is that it is now easier than ever to get a decent mountain bike and have fun. The main point to remember for beginners is that everyone has to start somewhere so don’t expect to be riding the foothills of the Himalayas straight away or competing in a slalom.

The first thing you need to do is set your goals and budget, after this you can then set about finding the best bike that will do all the things you require without breaking your wallet. A good site that I stumbled upon for some top notch bikes and where to get them is thecliftonbikeshop.com.

Before you purchase any bike make sure to join an online bike forum where you can normally get some great tips and advice if you introduce yourself and ask for advice on what makes a good beginners bike, sites like MTB Forum beginners corner is a good place to start.

One of my recommendations would be the Diamondback Overdrive V, which normally sells for under $550 and comes equipped with some quality components in all the important areas like wheels, suspension, gears and has a sturdy frame that should take a beating.

Once you have chosen your bike I would advise that you purchase it online and then have it properly tuned and calibrated at your local bike shop. Even though your local bike shop would prefer it if you purchased it directly from them you would expect to pay significantly more for your bike for no extra gain, however if you follow this tip you will have a great starter bike without paying a lot more.

Where To Start?

The ideal place to get the feel for your new bike would be a local park or dirt track where you can gauge how well you can tackle minor terrain such as potholes, bumps gravel and even the odd stone. Once you get a few hours under your belt you should feel more confident and could target some longer rides at the weekends.

Once you have your bike and a good helmet you can really get out and enjoy mountain biking, and if you follow the advice given here and from the resources given above then you can expect some great riding.