7 Ways to Work Out on a Budget

You don’t need a state-of-the art gym or expensive equipment to get a good workout. Paying out the nose for a locker, towel service, steam room, and other amenities you rarely use is just plain wasteful. With a little creativity and a keen eye for bargains, you can exercise for nearly nothing and have more wiggle room for cool things, like a new pair of running shoes. Here are seven ways to work out on a budget:

  1. Go to public parks:

    Your local park is bound to have the same, if not better, workout potential as a stuffy, expensive gym. Best of all, it’s free! Run or bike along the trails, do sit-ups on a bench, and hang on a pull-up bar. The workout options are endless in a public park, but you definitely have to be a little creative.

  2. Work out at home:

    No matter how big or small your house is, you can turn just about any room into a fully functional gym. Move your furniture aside or incorporate it into your workouts. Lift your bed up and down for a great back and arm workout, or do tricep dips using the edge of a sturdy chair or table. Even the contents of your kitchen can double as weights.

  3. Buy exercise videos:

    Exercise videos are a convenient, inexpensive way to work out on a budget. Check out used bookstores, online stores, and sporting goods stores for discounted exercise videos that you will want to pop in again and again. When you grow tired of the videos, sell them back or trade with friends to mix up your workout regimen.

  4. Watch YouTube videos:

    Believe it or not, YouTube actually has a lot of great exercise videos for viewers who want to shake up their workout routine and learn new moves. You can rewind, fast forward, pause, or stop the videos whenever you need to, and, best of all, it’s always free.

  5. Buy a few basic pieces of equipment:

    It is completely possible to get a great workout by using just a few basic pieces of equipment. Make it cheaper and buy second-hand equipment or clearance items. For example, you might want to start off by getting a jump rope for cardio, a set of dumbbells for strength training, and a stability ball or yoga mat for stretching and core workouts.

  6. Maximize your everyday activities:

    You don’t have to be dressed in gym wear or use special equipment to sneak in a good workout every day. Everyday activities like playing with your kids or doing household chores can be maximized with a little extra effort and speed. Don’t just watch your kids play; join in by chasing them around the backyard. You can also work up a pretty mean sweat by scrubbing the floors or washing the dishes with a little extra elbow grease.

  7. Look for discounts and coupons:

    If you need a little variety in your workouts, check out deal-of-the-day websites and your local gyms to see what specials are available. Websites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Daily Deals offer boot camps, yoga classes, personal training sessions, and other workouts at a discounted rate.

7 Tips for Improving Your Memory as You Age

Where are your keys? Did you shut the garage door? What’s that guy’s name again? Everyone has some memory lapses, but as you age, it seems like they get more frequent and take longer to snap out of. While there’s no way to keep your brain (or your body, for that matter) young forever, you can keep your brain as sharp as possible by using some of these tricks. It may not be a steel trap exactly, but your memory will definitely be better.

  1. Take care of your body:

    Not only will you look and feel a lot better if you exercise regularly, but your brain will feel the effects too. Exercising increases the blood flow to your brain, particularly in the area that controls memory, and may even help the formation of new brain cells. Even people who aren’t fit can start to reap the benefits in a few months or less. Just another reason to dust off your old tennis shoes and hit the gym!

  2. Eat smart:

    Of course you have to maintain a healthy diet to get the nutrients your body needs and keep your weight down, but you should also consider your brain’s health when meals or snack times roll around. Many foods can protect your brain and improve how it functions. Try incorporating Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet by eating more salmon, tuna, walnuts, and eggs. Also try some antioxidants, like blueberries, broccoli, and carrots. Remembering to eat your vegetables won’t be so hard with your improved memory.

  3. Take supplements:

    It can be hard to eat everything you’re supposed to on a regular basis, so if you find your pantry lacking in the good foods you just read about, you can add a memory-boosting supplement to your daily routine. Fish oil supplements contain the Omega-3 fatty acids you can get from food, Vitamin E can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, and Asian ginseng may benefit memory. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about adding these to your diet.

  4. Eliminate stress:

    Studies have shown that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can make your memory foggy. The good news is that you typically have to be stressed out for several days in a row for the effect to be significant, and your memory should bounce back after you’ve de-stressed for a week. You may not be able to get rid of every stressful situation in your life, but eating smart, cutting out unnecessary commitments, and even learning to meditate can help reduce your stress significantly. Remember to give yourself some time to unwind or you could be hurting your chances for success.

  5. Get organized:

    This tip applies to all areas of your life, from your home to your schedule. While organization doesn’t improve brain function directly, it can help you cope with memory lapses and give you fewer things to commit to pure memory. An organized home or office will keep you from losing things and let you rely on logic if you don’t remember putting something away. Making lists and writing down plans will help you stay on track in your daily activities without wasting time or forgetting something important.

  6. Use all your senses:

    When you’re learning something new or even just trying to record in your mind where you parked, try engaging as many senses as possible. You form stronger memories when you use more senses. Look around, take a deep breath, and listen to the ambient sounds. Touch something or have a taste if it’s appropriate. Taking a moment to use more than one sense will help you recall this memory more easily as you will have involved more areas of your brain.

  7. Socialize:

    Keeping your memory sharp doesn’t have to mean sitting in a quiet room studying, reading, and doing crossword puzzles as you age. In fact, people with active social lives tend to have delayed memory loss. Engaging in society by interacting with friends, family, or civic organizations can offset the risk of mental decline, especially in those who have had less formal education. So join that bingo club or start volunteering to make your community better. You could be improving yourself at the same time.

How to Help When Your Spouse Loses a Parent

The death of a parent is one of the hardest losses in life, and most of us will experience this pain during our lifetimes. When it’s a spouse who has to cope with the grief of losing one of the most important people in his or her life, it can be hard to know how to help. Though the grieving process may last months or even years, these tips will help you comfort your spouse and bring the two of you closer together.

  1. Make the arrangements

    Immediately after your mother- or father-in-law dies, your spouse will likely be in shock or overwhelmed with emotions. Unfortunately, during this tough time, arrangements for your in-law’s funeral have to be made. Volunteer to help in any way possible. If the responsibility is on your spouse as the next-of-kin, consider taking over all of the planning so he or she can have more time to grieve, but make sure to consult your spouse on any sentimental aspects of the service. If your in-law was sick for a long time, most of the arrangements may already be settled, but volunteering to tie up any loose ends can be a huge help.

  2. Avoid clichés

    It can be hard to find the right words to say to someone going through grief. Many people worry about offending the person or making them cry. As your spouse’s support system, though, you have to avoid the clichés that are so often used but end up making the grieving person feel worse or more isolated. Cut these overused phrases out of your vocabulary:”I know how you feel.””Everything happens for a reason.”

    “It was just his time.”

    “Time heals all wounds.”

  3. Be there for your spouse

    Being there for your spouse may be easier said than done since they may react in a way you don’t completely understand. Since everyone deals with their grief differently, your spouse may unexpectedly act out in anger or sadness or pull away emotionally when you think he or she should be opening up. The best thing you can do is let him know that you are there for him, and then let him come to you if he wants to talk. Provide a listening ear, but don’t try to offer advice or push him to move on before he’s ready.

  4. Follow your spouse’s lead

    This tip ties into the previous one, as being supportive means taking things at your spouse’s pace and not forcing the grieving process to fit into any certain time frame. Some emotional phases might take months while others take a few days or are skipped over completely. Just be aware of how your spouse is dealing with the loss at any certain time and tailor your reaction to how they are feeling.

  5. Take over household responsibilities

    Sometimes, just handling the grief is all your spouse will be able to deal with. During these times, the best thing you can do is to offer practical help by taking care of some of the day-to-day responsibilities he normally handles. This could be anything from childcare to taking out the trash to running errands. Taking away some of the stress of daily chaos can keep your spouse from becoming overwhelmed and provide the necessary time to grieve. Just remember, if your spouse really wants to do one of the chores, be agreeable, as it might take his or her mind off of things.

  6. Talk about the parent

    You may feel you should avoid talking about your spouse’s parent since doing so may be painful and upsetting. But recounting fond memories of and actively grieving for your in-law can help your spouse to move on. Don’t push your spouse to discuss their parent before he or she is ready, but keep in mind that avoiding the subject can delay the acceptance of the loss. The memories may be bittersweet for your spouse, but talking about them will let him or her know you are thinking about your in-law too.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?

The first thing you need to do before buying a life insurance policy, is determine how much life insurance you actually need. We’re going to assume you’re between the age of 30 and 50 and considering a traditional, term life insurance policy which is inexpensive and provides your beneficiaries with a lump sum payment upon your death. Investment policies such as whole life, universal life, and variable life policies, are more complex, and often peddled by shady salespeople more interested in a hefty commission than the well-being of your beneficiaries. Here are some things you should consider when calculating how much term life insurance you’ll need. Keep in mind that other investments and savings can also help pay for some of these costs and that you will probably renew your policy more than once in your lifetime. So tweak your numbers accordingly.

  1. Funeral expenses:

    Your beneficiaries will most likely be able to get money from your insurance company before they get anything from your estate. Consider then working in an estimated cost for your funeral, which of course has to happen relatively soon after you die, into your insurance policy. Funeral and other burial costs generally total between $7,000 and $10,000, but research those numbers since costs will vary depending on where you live in the U.S.

  2. Mortgage:

    If you’re paying down a mortgage, include the amount of those payments in your insurance policy. Your spouse or family has the option of selling your home after you’ve passed of course, but they shouldn’t be forced to do so due to lack of planning on your part.

  3. Other outstanding debts:

    Are you paying off a school loan (or two or three)? Do you have pending payments on a car? How about credit card debt? A term life insurance policy can help take care of these costs, which otherwise will be paid for by your estate if it is solvent at the time you die. If you have children, consider possible upcoming expenses like college tuition, keeping in mind tuition costs will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

  4. Income replacement:

    If you account for the expenses above, then your spouse and family probably won’t have to entirely replace your income. Consider then calculating half of your annual income times how many years there are before your retirement. Tweak this figure if your spouse holds down a well-paying job or if you are close to retirement and are anticipating a pension, social security, or other retirement benefits.

  5. Your employer benefits:

    Beginning in 2014, U.S. Health Care Reform will affect the kind of health insurance many employers offer their employees and some employers may choose not to offer any health care benefits at all. People without employer health insurance will receive subsidies to help with the out-of-pocket health costs. When calculating how much life insurance you need, take into account this changing landscape of health care coverage and the expenses your spouse and family may incur without your employer’s health benefits plan.

6 Tips to Get Your Child to Eat Healthier

It’s dinnertime and you’re preparing yourself for another battle. “Three more bites and you can go play. No, that doesn’t count as a bite! Just eat your vegetables!” Kids are notoriously picky eaters, and it can be tough to get them to eat all the nutrients they need and teach them healthy eating habits. If you’re out of ideas and your child still won’t eat anything green or fresh, try some of these tips. With any luck, you’ll be setting your kid up for a lifetime of smart eating.

  1. Set a good example:

    When it comes to eating well, you’ve got to practice what you preach. Kids watch their parents for an example of what’s OK to eat now and what they can eat when they grow up. A Michigan State University study found that mothers who have healthy eating habits themselves are more effective in getting kids to eat well than those who used rewards and punishments to get children to eat vegetables. It’s especially important not to eat foods in front of your children that you won’t allow them to eat, as it can lead to unhealthy habits later. So put down that cheeseburger and pick up a carrot. Little eyes are watching!

  2. Let them help cook:

    Part of teaching a child to eat healthy is helping them understand how food is prepared. Even helping with small tasks, like peeling, can go a long way when it comes to a child’s willingness to eat fruits and vegetables. A study by the University of Alberta found that fifth graders who helped with the cooking chose fruits and veggies more often than their non-cooking peers. Cooking’s fun and also gives the child a sense of ownership of the food. Letting kids help choose recipes and ingredients at the store can also give them more pride in the meal, which will make them want to eat it.

  3. Start a garden:

    In the same vein as getting kids to cook meals is the idea that children who help grow vegetables in a garden will be more likely to try the fruits of their labor. Having a backyard garden, joining a community garden, or even just taking regular trips to a local farm can help children get a hands-on experience with healthy foods. A survey by gardening company W. Atlee Burpee revealed that people whose children help them in the garden find their children eating more vegetables.

  4. Limit TV time:

    Not only is it incredibly easy to mindlessly overeat while watching TV, but it also leaves children susceptible to ads geared toward getting them to crave sugary, processed foods. Marketers are shameless in advertising to children, so the more time a kid sits in front of the boob tube, the more likely he is to want junk food. In fact, for every hour of TV children watch, they are 18% more likely to eat candy, 16% more likely to eat fast food, and have an 8% smaller likelihood of eating fruit every day. During the time that your child does watch TV, make sure to have healthy snacks on hand so they won’t reach for the unhealthy munchies.

  5. Don’t use food as rewards:

    It’s tempting to reward a child with dessert or candy for eating his vegetables or other less palatable but healthy foods, but this strategy doesn’t work in the long run. Your kids will begrudgingly eat their vegetables now, but in the future, they will think of sweets as good, comfort foods and vegetables as bad, punishment foods. A 2003 study found that adults whose parents had used food as bribes for good behavior were more likely to use restrictive eating habits, like diets, and binge eat. Avoid using food as rewards and prepare your child for a lifetime of consistently healthy eating habits.

  6. Trick your kid:

    Yep, we said trick your sweet, innocent child. You’re already telling tiny lies in other areas anyway (Santa Clause is real, writing in cursive is useful, we sent the dog to a farm), so if your kids aren’t on board with the other tips here, just sneak the good stuff into your recipes. They will never know the difference. Put pureed carrots in pasta sauce, bits of spinach in your mac and cheese, and zucchini in desserts. Search online for recipes or buy a cookbook like Deceptively Delicious or The Sneaky Chef.

How Your Commute Affects Your Health

If you’ve got a long drive to work, you may come home every day and exclaim that your commute is killing you. You could be closer to the truth than you think. Commuting helps you get to work and put food on your table, but it could actually be harming your health in a number of ways. Any chance your boss will let you work from home? After reading these health effects, you’ll probably want to double-check.

  1. You get less sleep:

    If you’ve got a long commute, you have to wake up earlier than you would if you lived closer to work. You’ll also get home later, which means you probably won’t want to go to bed as early as you would otherwise. A Brown University study found that people who commute an hour every day get 30.6% less time for sleep on average. This means you’re missing out on an activity that can help prevent heart attacks, improve brain performance, and potentially stave off cancer.

  2. You have less time for healthy habits:

    The same Brown University study found that commuting 30 minutes each way gives you less time for healthy activities. Commuters on average have 16.1% less time for exercise and 4.1% less time to prepare food, a lethal combination for maintaining a healthy weight. Hour-long commutes also take away from time spent eating with your family, which could affect your relationships and overall mental health.

  3. You get fatter:

    A study in two Texas metropolitan areas found that people with long commutes tend to have higher BMIs (an indicator of body fatness) and larger waist circumferences. This may be caused by the lack of physical exercise and healthy foods discussed above. Obesity can put you at a higher risk for gallstones, diabetes, heart disease, and many other conditions. Are you sure you can’t bike to work?

  4. Your blood pressure rises:

    Related to your weight is your blood pressure. High blood pressure can contribute to heart disease or failure, kidney problems, or a stroke. The study of commuters in Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, found that longer commutes were correlated with higher blood pressure, regardless of how much physical activity a person engaged in. If your work is flexible about when you arrive and leave, try driving at off-peak hours so you aren’t in the car longer because of rush hour traffic.

  5. Your back and neck are more likely to hurt:

    Sitting in a car isn’t exactly comfortable. You can’t stretch your legs, the support’s not great, and you’re likely a little tense as other commuters weave in and out of lanes. This can have an effect on your neck and back. Gallup found that one in three people with commutes of 90 minutes or more have a neck or back condition that causes them pain.

  6. You’re more stressed:

    Who does that jerk think he is, cutting in front of you like that? How are you possibly going to make it to your kid’s school play with that accident shutting down three lanes? Can you believe you have to do this all again tomorrow morning? Commuting can make your stress levels skyrocket; more than half of participants in an IBM commuter study said that they had anger and sleep problems caused by the stress of traffic. And some drivers have stress levels similar to those of a fighter pilot or riot police officer, according to an International Stress Management Association study. Stress can cause headaches, muscle and chest pain, stomach troubles, and even a change in your sex drive. So the next time you’re fighting the 5 o’clock rush, take a deep breath, put on some music, and relax if you can.

7 Surprising Benefits of Drinking Alcohol

First of all, if you’re not sure what the word “moderation” means, we can wait while you look it up in a dictionary. OK, got it? Great. So here we go: believe it or not, drinking alcohol in moderation has genuine, medically researched health benefits. If you’re an alcoholic, you need to find some other way to help fight cholesterol or boost your brainpower. But if you are an adult and enjoy having an evening glass of pinot noir, check out these seven surprising benefits of drinking alcohol.

  1. Lowers bad cholesterol:

    Nutritionists, physicians, and Americans who love pastries have all pondered why there is a low level of coronary heart disease in France, even though the French diet is high in saturated fats. Aside from the fact that the French take vacations while Americans run themselves into the ground, research indicates the antioxidants in red wine, a staple of French meals, promote good cholesterol while reducing bad cholesterol, which helps to prevent clogged arteries. To enjoy this benefit, women should have just one glass of wine a day, while men can have two. (And everyone should take more time off!)

  2. Reduces the risk of diabetes:

    Physicians want people to keep in mind that you can get the same health benefits that come with moderate alcohol consumption from other food items. That said, a recent study indicates that with women, alcohol may stimulate the body to release insulin and other substances, preventing sudden increases in blood sugar which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Previous research made this same connection, but more detailed studies need to be done to determine more precisely how alcohol helps to control spikes in blood sugar.

  3. Builds brain power:

    Wine creates good cholesterol, which in turn improves blood flow to the brain. Researchers believe that moderate drinking may also dilate vessels in your brain, creating cerebral blood flow, and fight against toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. It’s also believed that alcohol creates a manageable amount of stress on brain cells, which helps them to cope with more significant stress that can lead to dementia.

  4. Prevents gallstones:

    Gallstones, ouch! If you’ve ever had them, you probably know that cholesterol is one of the main ingredients in a gallstone. The antioxidants in wine help promote good cholesterol throughout your body, including your gall bladder, reducing your risk of developing gallstones. If you’re overweight, you run a higher risk of gallstones, and as we’ll see in the next item, moderate alcohol consumption can help you maintain a healthy weight.

  5. Controls weight:

    So, if I want to lose weight, drink a six-pack or two a night? No, not exactly. There is evidence that over time, the body of a moderate drinker, two drinks a day for a man, one for a woman, is able to metabolize alcohol without excess weight gain. And five to seven drinks a week can help control snacking, late-night meals, and overeating in general. A single light beer can fill you up without the excessive calories, and thus help you control your appetite.

  6. Reduce tumors:

    Resveratrol is found in red grape skins and is attributed to preventing the accumulation of fat, reducing insulin resistance, and lowering your risk for diabetes. Some researchers also believe that resveratrol can prevent the development of blood vessels needed to feed a tumor, and even stop breast cancer cells from growing by blocking the growth effects of estrogen. However, there are recent studies that indicate the opposite, that the risk for women predisposed to breast cancer increases with their intake of alcohol. It is true that resveratrol, which is also sold as a supplement, has many health benefits. But if you drink, and especially if there is a history of any kind of cancer in your family, we strongly suggest you talk with your doctor about the connection between alcohol consumption and cancer.

  7. Strengthens bones:

    The next time you’re having cereal for breakfast, instead of milk, try pouring a Pale Ale over your Corn Flakes. Many beers, especially Pale Ale, contain high amounts of silicon, which, like calcium in milk, aids in bone density and health and fights osteoporosis. A study at Tufts University showed that men and women who drank beer or wine daily had higher bone density. The same study showed, however, that drinking in excess of more than two beers or glasses of wine a day actually weakened bones and increased the risk of fractures.

9 Ways Science Is Trying to Stop Death

Science loves you, and here’s the proof. It’s trying to keep you alive forever. Scientific and medicinal breakthroughs direct our healthcare choices and can influence our life span. Not to mention that science brings us products that can keep us looking forever young. From sci-fi to the singularity, here are nine ways that science is trying to stop death.

  1. By downloading your brain to a computer:

    When technological advancement outpaces our ability to process it, that’s the singularity … and just about the time when we’ll be able to download our consciousness into computers. If it sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, it’s not — there are people working on this project as we speak. It starts with whole brain emulation, and it ends with a complete digital record of human consciousness. The future is now.

  2. By making you a cyborg:

    Although heart transplant surgery has only been around since 1967, Science is already trying to one-up itself. Organs can be created in labs, and artifical organs (read: pacemakers) can theoretically keep your heart ticking forever. These may be baby steps, but they’re baby cyborg steps.

  3. By creating viruses that eat cancer:

    In late 2011, there was lots of talk and some clinical trials regarding a virus that eats cancer cells. Not only is it cool that scientists are trying to keep us alive, it’s amazing that they’re doing it by eating up cancer. Way to go, Science!

  4. One word: telomerase:

    It’s an enzyme that, in large quantities, could theoretically keep your cells alive forever. Scientists have done studies on the protein using mice, and believe it could elongate life by fortifying the caps of chromosomes.

  5. With cryonics:

    While cryopreservation only goes one way right now, scientists are continually working to be able to thaw us out. When that happens, we’ll be (theoretically) able to cryogenically freeze ourselves into immortality. Also interesting is neuropreservation, which is the saving of only the brain.

  6. By regeneration:

    This one has even been a TED talk. Alan Russell, a surgery professor, believes that we need to reconceptualize how we think of sickness and the body, and as such he’s the director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. And the lab is doing amazing things, including tissue engineering, and generally doing its best to keep us all alive.

  7. By making it impossible to age:

    We only have science to thank for cosmetic surgery and the Botox fad. Anti-aging procedures such as face lifts have been practiced for years, but it’s scientists who made the breakthroughs that have given us the appearance of eternal youth. Chemical peels, Botox injections, liposuction, and butt lifts all come from one place: a laboratory.

  8. By continuing the conversation:

    Jason Silva is a gonzo journalist that made a film called The Immortalists, where he explores how truly close we are to “curing” the “problem” of death. One way that science is keeping us alive is by keeping our mortality on the forefront, and encouraging subfields to explore methods to prevent death.

  9. By genetically engineering our kids:

    Your genes can live on, and they can be even better than before. Genetic enhancement a la Gattaca is on the horizon, and it’s a hot button issue. Everyone has an opinion on genetic engineering, but what everyone agrees on is this: Science is rapidly creating new tools in the fight against mortality.

6 Common Exercises That Are Actually Bad for You

No matter what some money-grubbing, greased-up, meathead trainer may tell you, there are, in fact, exercises that are bad for your body. But in our society, pain equals gain, and if you already have issues with your looks and constantly compare your physique with thoroughly Photoshopped swimsuit models, be they male or female, you might be tempted to do some really stupid and physically harmful exercises. Talk to a reputable trainer about how to exercise correctly, and if something hurts, stop. Here are six common exercises that you should avoid, if only because there are many healthy alternatives out there that will give you better results and won’t take a toll on your body.

  1. Sit-ups:

    Who was the idiot that invented the sit-up? The flat legged sit-up, or any sit-up done with an incorrect posture, has the potential to create or aggravate existing problems in your lower back, as well as compress your spine, strain and tear muscles, and damage cervical ligaments. Even when performed correctly, sit-ups and supposedly more benign crunches still create an unhealthy amount of pressure in your abdomen and skull while straining your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

  2. Behind-the-neck presses:

    Need a quick way to experience a herniated spinal disk? Just do some behind-neck-presses with something incredibly heavy, like barbells or a small car. Once you’ve tasted the strain and pain of breaking your spinal alignment, you can look forward to the feeling of your spinal column being crushed. Overextending your shoulders and wrists, as well as awkwardly projecting your head forward since what you’re lifting is both heavy as hell and inflexible, throws your spine out of alignment and increases your chance of sustaining a serious injury.

  3. Jogging:

    Jogging on a hard surface, like, you know, the ground, will strain and damage the cartilage in your knees, possibly leading to stress fractures and even tendonitis. Most people need to be taught how to run properly, but even then, the physical damage sustained over time from jogging outweighs its benefits. Consider instead hiking, swimming, walking, or biking, all of which are equally beneficial forms of outdoor exercise.

  4. Upright rows:

    Why on earth do you need stronger wrists? If you’re a pianist, guitarist, or perhaps a professional juggler, wrist strength might be something you strive for. Upright rows, a weightlifting exercise where you pick up a pair of barbells with your palms facing your body are supposed to “strengthen the deltoid and upper trapezius muscles.” What upper rows actually do is place an insane amount of stress on your wrists and shoulders, causing serious damage to (you guessed it) your wrists and shoulders. Whoever invented this exercise must have thought sit-ups weren’t causing people enough agony.

  5. Seated leg extensions:

    More weight-lifting madness: seated leg extensions. Why is it so many of these exercises are so brutal on the knees? This form of torture is designed to strengthen the muscles in front of your thighs by putting an enormous amount of unnatural stress on your knees, especially as you bring them toward you to lower the weight. Free weight and split squats are a safer alternative for toning those forward thigh muscles.

  6. Inner and outer thigh machine exercises:

    This exercise seems harmless enough. You just sit in a machine and open and close your thighs until the cows come home. Goodbye cellulite, right? The problem is your inner and outer thighs are there to support weight, not to lift it. Exercising the inner and outer thighs in this way can lead to unhealthy muscle strains and aggravate or damage your back and hips. But hey, at least your knees will be OK!

7 Myths About Getting Old

Our country is getting grayer. The number of senior citizens in the U.S. has increased in the past decade to the point where baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — now account for a quarter of the population. And life expectancy, along with what doctors describe as our “active lifespan,” is predicted to increase by another two years in the next decade. There are also more seniors in the workforce as boomers elect to continue working past retirement age, although this is due in part to the recent economic downturn, as well as the financial shortcomings of Social Security. The welcome presence and valuable contributions of elderly Americans is helping to debunk some common myths regarding seniors and the aging process. Here are seven such myths that have been disproved.

  1. Old people are either cranky or depressed:

    The grumpy old man is a caricature we can’t help but laugh at, even as we ourselves continue to grow older and turn into that man. But interestingly, the age group that is most prone to stress and depression is the 20-something demographic, whereas many studies confirm that people actually become happier as they age. Older adults understand how much less stressful life is when you “don’t sweat the small stuff” and are adept at letting go of disappointment and regret. As people age, they also often make a conscious effort to participate in life-affirming activities and to be among people who lift their spirits.

  2. Growing old means getting sick:

    The human body does slow down as it ages. However, sickness, especially serious sickness, is not part of the aging process. In fact, a recent study of a group of seniors by the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center showed that more than 40% of those who lived to be 100 did not suffer from age-related sicknesses until they reached the age of 80. And 15% of those studied had no age-related illnesses at all by the time they hit 100.

  3. Senility is inevitable:

    Senility is a broad, ultimately unhelpful term used to stereotype the behavior of senior citizens. At best, it may describe the symptoms of dementia, a non-specific syndrome that actually affects people of all ages. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that predominantly, but not exclusively, develops in old age. After the age of 65, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. However, dementia is often misdiagnosed as part of the aging process, when in fact symptoms of dementia can be caused by medications, malnutrition, alcohol abuse, and thyroid, kidney, and liver disorders. While it is true that one in eight older Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia is not an inevitable result of getting old.

  4. Old folks don’t have sex:

    Well, OK. After the age of 75, you’re going to slow down just a bit, no matter what Hugh Hefner would have you believe. But getting older doesn’t mean you stop having sex entirely. Seniors can have healthy sexual relations as long as they wish. Given the fact that regular exercise and a healthy diet benefits the libido, and in turn, sexual relations make for a healthier, less stressful life, shouldn’t folks interested in (ahem) longevity make every effort to keep getting it on in their golden years?

  5. Seniors are incapable of learning anything new:

    When it comes to experience, seniors are a great learning resource for younger people. And thankfully, there’s nothing about the aging process that impairs a senior-aged person’s ability to learn something new as well. The brain is not wired to retire, but to instead welcome new challenges and explore new ideas. The number of senior-aged entrepreneurs in the workforce attests to this, as well as the number of innovative leaders over the age of 55 in the worlds of business, technology, and especially the creative arts.

  6. Older workers are less productive and can’t keep up:

    There is a stereotype that exists in the business world that pegs older workers as being slower, less productive, and unable to keep up with their younger co-workers. But older workers are often more efficient with their time, and have higher standards and a stronger work ethic in place than some of their younger counterparts. Add to that a willingness to embrace and become comfortable with developing technologies, as well as listen and learn, and a senior can be a formidable member of any business’s team.

  7. Memory loss is inevitable:

    How many times have you listened to a grandparent recount, in great detail and entirely from memory, an incident from their childhood, something that occurred 50 or 60 years ago? Growing older does not cause memory loss. However, physiological changes can affect the speed with which memories are retrieved. And just like any other muscle, the aging brain does need regular exercise in order to stay healthy. Brain exercises, like crosswords and Sudoku, as well as physical exercise, a good diet, and a lively social life, including visits from and interactions with the grandchildren, will help keep the aging mind fit.