45 Best Body Secrets

Get your best body ever with 45 of our best health secrets and tips.

January 20, 2009 1:07 AM
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Health Tips

Pressed for time? Combine two moves into one. For instance, do a squat with an overhead shoulder press, or a reverse lunge with a bicep curl. This is great for a more intense workout or if you're really crunched for time.

Don't do the same old thing week after week. Cut your chances of boredom and improve results with these six strategies.

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Health Tips

If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. Drink an extra 400 to 600 milliliters of water for short bouts of exercise. During long bouts of intense exercise, it's best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat. Continue to replace fluids after you're finished exercising!

Read up on why you shouldn’t use thirst as a guide for how often you should be drinking water.

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Health Tips

Log off to get a better night's rest. The brightness of your computer screen stimulates the brain. Plus, it's difficult for your mind to stop fretting about your digital to-do list, even once you've logged off. Avoid late-night surfing and shut down your computer. Give yourself time to wind down without any electronics.

An estimated 65% of Americans said they encounter sleep problems a few nights each week — keep reading for more tips on getting the most out of your beauty rest.

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Health Tips

Slim and tone your thighs with the Power Plié: Start with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and plié into a seated position, pulsing down 30 to 60 times. Next, take your arms above your head, shimmying your hips side to side, pressing down hard into your heel. Then put your hands on your hips and continue pulsing, staying down low while lifting your right heel and then your left.

Get your best legs yet with our step-by-step fitness videos.

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Health Tips

Can stress make you fat? The link has been tough to prove, but after a recent study at Emory University involving the eating habits of female rhesus monkeys, Mark Wilson, Ph.D., concluded that chronic stress could wreak havoc on appetite-control systems, either by dampening levels of leptin, the satiety hormone, or upping levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

We tell you why manicurists and librarians have some of the most stressful jobs.

Health Tips

Take a rest from Facebook-stalking your ex, and try your hand at Bejeweled 2 instead: A recent survey by PopCap Games found that 90 percent of female gamers considered puzzles and online word games a stress-reliever.

Blow off some steam with a game of solitaire, backgammon, or sudoku.

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Brown grain products aren’t necessarily whole grain products. Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain, and try to get three-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Why you might not need eight glasses of water a day, and other nutrition myths.

Health Tips

Strength-train before doing any cardiovascular work, says Ken Fitzgerald, owner of Lift Gym in New York. Why? It takes the body about 15 minutes to warm up and start burning fat. So, a 30-minute bike ride is really only burning fat for the last 15 minutes of your workout. But, if you lift weights first, your body is warmed up by the time you hit the bike, and you'll burn fat throughout the entire ride.

Why slouching over the stationary bike slows down fat burn and other tips for shedding the pounds fast.

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Marty Munson shows us how to build up to 20 "real" push-ups fast: Get into the plank position and lower yourself to the floor (keep head in line with spine). If you can't push back up, stay an inch off the floor for as long as you can. Drop, get into plank again, and repeat eight times (three times a week). Once you can do one full push-up, add another every week.

We show you how to build beautiful biceps and a strong back.

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Research has shown that people who eat nut butters often weigh less than those who shun them. It's likely that the combination of protein, fat, and fiber keeps you full, so you'll eat less overall. Whole nuts are effective, too: Purdue University researchers found that people who added peanuts to their diet for 19 weeks boosted the amount of calories they burned at rest by 11 percent. Why? The unsaturated fat in peanuts and nut butters burns faster than other fats.

The ideal amount of nut butters in your diet and how to incorporate them in your meals.

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The rower isn't a wimpy workout if you know how to use it right. Maximize the least-used machine at the gym and get sculpted arms, abs, and back muscles. The trick: After you pull the handle toward you, straighten your arms before you bend your knees.

Workout star Jackie Warner's tips for a smarter workout.

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"Vitamins, color, herbs, protein, and all the other additions to water - those are a marketing ploy," says Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition studies at New York University. Enhanced waters usually contain sugars and artificial flavorings to sweeten the deal and can pack more calories than diet soda. When it comes to providing fluoride, tap water usually wins, though that element is increasingly being added to bottled waters.

Why bottled water isn’t any better than tap water, and other water myths.

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After the age of 30, your metabolic rate slows down and you lose bone density. This exercise can help reverse the effects of aging: Lay your forearm down on a countertop or other flat surface, and bring one leg up behind you, squeezing in your abdominals. Do 30 leg lifts to the side, and then 30 to the back.

Learn how to get your best butt yet with this simple and fun exercise.

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Make the most of your workout: Have about 100 calories at least 15 minutes before your workout (try a banana or half of an energy bar). Then have a good breakfast afterward, making sure you get protein, carbs, and fat. (Good combos: fruit and cottage cheese; toast and peanut butter; protein-rich cereal with milk.) The key is not to eat more than usual, but to redistribute more calories to the early part of the day.

Celebrity trainer Tracey Anderson tells you the foods that will help you lose weight.

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Aim for 4 to 6 ounces (about the size of your fist) of lean protein, such as chicken, fish, or egg whites, at every meal, says trainer David Kirsch. (He's the one who whipped Heidi Klum back into shape within eight weeks of giving birth.) In one study, people who got 30 percent of their day's calories from protein ate 441 fewer calories than people who ate a 15 percent protein diet.

Learn some strategies that will effectively improve your body for good.

Health Tips

If you can stand the outfit changes, divide exercise into two sessions: cardio in the morning and weights in the evening (or vice versa). You're elevating your metabolism twice, which means you're burning more calories than if you'd done both in the same session.

The plan that can make real changes in your body in just two weeks.

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Pro athletes are using cherry juice to reduce muscle soreness and recovery time after exercise (it won't get you into a steroid scandal, either). They're swilling stuff from cherrypharm.com (132 calories per serving) that was found to be surprisingly effective in a 2006 study by Declan Connolly, Ph.D., at the University of Vermont.

Can healthy foods make you fat? We tell you the right — and wrong — healthy foods to fill up with.

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A wobbly surface like a stability ball makes you recruit more muscle, so you get more from your crunches. With your back on the ball, keep feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Place your hands behind your head. Contract your abs, lifting your shoulder blades and upper back off the ball. DO: Two sets of 20 repetitions, two to three times a week.

A flat stomach is as much about having a low percentage of body fat as it is about having lots of muscle tone. These five moves help you achieve both.

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Bacon won't ever win any health prizes — in fact, nutritionists consider it a fat (and not a healthy fat!), as opposed to a meat. But it's not as bad as you might think. One slice, about 1 1/2 tablespoons crumbled, has about the same amount of fat as 2 tablespoons of feta or shredded cheese or 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds.

It's not just the bacon. Many diet nightmares can be traced to the seemingly virtuous salad.

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"Your body can interpret excessive exercise as stress, causing you to retain fluid and become constipated," says Diana Taylor, R.N., Ph.D., at the University of California-San Francisco Center for Reproductive Health. But moderate exercise, such as yoga or walking, can speed things through your system and help nix the problem.

A flat stomach can be yours: Our four-part guide to what to eat, drink, and do will have you bikini-ready in no time.

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People who wear casual shoes burn more calories in a day than people who dress up, according to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise. Wearing comfortable shoes daily could burn an extra 6500 calories a year, thanks to the extra walking you'll do, says study author Katie Zahour, M.S., a clinical exercise psychologist at the Southwest Florida Heart Group.

Two more surprising things that make you fat.

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Health Tips

A heart-rate monitor eliminates "junk workouts," as heart-rate guru Sally Edwards calls them. Once you know your own personal maximum heart rate (everyone's is different), you can give a purpose to every workout. Some workouts will be about teaching your body to burn fat (essential if you're doing endurance events); others will be about teaching it to sustain a high heart rate for a few minutes (helpful for breaking away from the pack or running from a dog or bee in your neighborhood).

Why you should get addicted to a heart-rate monitor.

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To firm up the muscles beneath your love handles — known as the external obliques — try the Pilates "100s." This exercise was found to challenge more overall muscle in one shot (specifically, the muscles spanning the waist) than traditional crunches. To do the 100s, sit on a mat and make a V with your body (your butt forms the bottom of the V). Reach your hands past your knees, arms parallel to the floor. Pump your arms up and down 100 times, inhaling and exhaling every five counts.

Nine more shortcuts to sexy abs.

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Colorful, all-vegetable salads offer good-for-you phytonutrients that aren't available in greens. For instance, powerful antioxidants (anthocyanins) in purplish vegetables such as eggplant help reduce heart-disease risk and improve brain function. Radishes offer cancer-fighting indoles; red tomatoes are the ultimate in lycopene, linked to lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

Is your salad less healthy than you think? Keep reading to find out if your salad needs a slimdown.

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For strong biceps and a beautiful back, try this: Grab a pair of 5- or 8-pound weights. Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and your abs pulled in. Start bringing the weights up to your shoulder and then slowly lower them down. Do these biceps curls for 30 to 60 seconds, until you feel an intense burn. Then stand with feet a little wider apart than hips, bend your knees, and bring your torso down toward the floor about 45 degrees. Bring weights all the way to your rib cage, and then extend forward, for 30 to 60 reps.

Learn more moves for a strong and beautiful upper body with our step-by-step fitness videos.

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Abs need rest and recovery: It's only during rest that your muscles build. "Three to five days a week of consistent, dedicated abdominal training should get you strong, sleek abs," says Kathy Kaehler, trainer and author of Kathy Kaehler's Celebrity Workouts.

Last-minute pre-party tricks from top celebrity trainers.

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Slow down at dinner — the longer you take to eat, the sooner you'll feel full. And focus on whole grains. It takes more white rice than brown to make you feel just as satisfied. That's because white rice contains no fiber, a food component that helps you feel full.

Swap out your sugar-free hot chocolate and 1 percent cottage cheese for these healthier picks instead.

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On its own, your body is naturally conservative when you ask it to do something. If you lift a weight, your body recruits just enough muscle to do it safely, but not necessarily heroically. So when you want to outperform yourself, "you have to fool the body into recruiting more muscle," says Bobby McGee, a sports psychologist and running coach, which you can do with your mind. If you think you can't run a seven-minute mile, for instance, your body begins to switch off muscle, leaving you weak and fatigued. But if you think positively, your body will recruit more muscle to do it.

Your body won't stay strong and lean unless your mind tells it to. Our three-part plan puts all the pieces together.

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Health Tips

Get enough z's: Too little sleep is bad for your health and your image; it can make you ineffective (it impairs performance, judgment, and the ability to pay attention), sick (it weakens your immune system), and overweight. In fact, women who slept five hours or less a night were a third more likely to gain 33 pounds or more over 16 years than women who slept seven hours, according to a Harvard Nurses' Health Study.

The real reason you can't get out of bed may be that you don't know the facts about sleep. Stay up and read this tonight (you'll thank us in the morning!).

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Health Tips

All lettuce is not created equal. Arugula and watercress are superstars, loaded with cancer-fighting compounds. Spinach is another hero because of its cache of lutein, thought to protect against cancer and blindness. And baby versions of kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens are less sharp, tough, and bitter than the grown-ups but are outfitted with the same cancer-fighters. Dark-leaf, mild-tasting greens, including romaine, red-leaf lettuce, and many mesclun mixes, don't have a wealth of phytonutrients but have respectable levels of beta-carotene. Light greens, like iceberg and endive, are pretty much nutrition duds.

Fine-tune your food plan so that you also maximize your energy, mental clarity, and muscle mass.

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Health Tips

To take yourself from 20 or 30 minutes on the treadmill to the finish line of a charity 5K (3.1 miles), follow this plan from running coach Jason Karp: Instead of running two miles three times a week, run different distances each day. Go two miles on Monday, one on Wednesday, and three on Friday. Each week, increase each run by five to 10 minutes (so a 2/1/3 pattern becomes 2.5/1.5/3.5 the next week, 3/2/4 the following week, etc.). Try to get your longer run up to at least five miles.

Three simple things to remember or try when it's pouring rain and you want to run.

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Health Tips

Drink less to eat less. People who quaff sugar-free soft drinks are 41 percent more likely to gain weight than people who drink regular sodas, according to a University of Texas study. Experts speculate the body isn't fooled by zero-calorie sweets and that it actually searches for sugary foods to make up for calories it expected to get from a faux-sugar beverage.

Supercharge your weight-loss efforts with these strategies.

Health Tips

The easiest 10 pounds you'll drop this year: If you have an "appointment" with two half-hour sitcoms every week, start doing nonstop sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, and squats (with breaks only during commercials) while you watch. You'll burn: an extra 100 calories a day or 36,500 calories a year (20 minutes of strength exercises twice a week ramps up the average woman's resting metabolic rate).
Is calorie-counting or working out the key to weight loss? The answer may surprise you.

Health Tips

It may be the social lubricant of choice for awkward family or work events, but alcohol is rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Skip sweet cocktails and go for champagne, dry wine, or drinks straight up.

Ways to go from Thanksgiving through New Year's without gaining a pound (or a guilty conscience).

Health Tips

Sleep keeps important weight-loss hormones in balance (without it, ghrelin rises, so you're hungrier, and leptin is suppressed, so you're not as satisfied by what you do eat). If you don't have enough time to sleep at night, try to schedule at least a short power nap during the day. If anxiety is keeping you up, practice relaxation techniques before bed: Organize a to-do list for the next day so you know you have everything covered. And don't stay up watching back-to-back episodes of Entourage. Try getting calm by reading instead.

Setbacks? They're nothing that can't be reversed.

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Health Tips

Both skinny and obese people have higher risks of premature death than people who are considered "overweight," according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Overweight," according to this study, means a body-mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9: For a 5'6" woman, that's between 155 and 185 pounds.

Here are four reasons to stop stressing about your weight.

Health Tips

Stick your butt out on the elliptical machine. This shifts the focus to your butt, hamstrings, outer thighs, and quadriceps. (If you stand up too straight — a common mistake — you work only your quads.)

A little effort brings a big payoff with these exercises.

Health Tips

Foods with natural fat-burning properties, such as cayenne, ginger, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, green tea, hot peppers, citrus fruits (especially lemon), and apple cider vinegar, can really help take — and keep — those pounds off when eaten on a regular daily basis.

Green tea, eggs, and other foods that'll kick your metabolism into high gear.

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Health Tips

Get your digestive system going before you even start eating by giving your earlobes a quick 30-second rub. It will stimulate the brain, relieve stress, and lower your appetite, all while sitting at the table!

Before you liberally pour gravy on those mashed potatoes, put the utensils down and test your holiday eating IQ.

Health Tips

Looking for a full-body workout in one move? Try the curtsy: Start by standing with your feet together in a small V position, and then put one leg behind. Staying on the ball of your back foot, bend both knees, and take your hands and lace them behind your back. Then pulse both legs and pull your abs in. Do 30 to 60 repetitions on each leg.

Get rock-hard abs that Fergie would be jealous of with these simple moves.

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Health Tips

For sexy, strong abs, try the Marine Crunch. Lie on your back with your legs raised straight above your hips and your arms reaching to the ceiling. Simultaneously reach your fingertips toward your toes and press your feet toward the ceiling to lift your tailbone off the floor. Beginner tip: Instead of lifting your feet and hands together, alternate between lifting the upper body and the hips.

Get a sexy, sleek, and healthy stomach with the best gut-strengtheners of all time.

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Health Tips

Want Jennifer Aniston's bod? Celeb trainer Kathy Kaehler says:

1. Eat! Severely cutting calories slows your metabolism and makes you feel deprived.

2. But, eat slowly. After each bite, put down your fork and count to 10. This allows your brain to tell your stomach, "Enough."

3. Try this must-do move to target your thighs: Place 10 playing cards on the floor. Squat, pick up one card, and shuffle four paces to the right. Squat; put the card down. Shuffle back to the pile, pick another card, and repeat until all 10 cards have been moved to the right.

At last! Trainers behind beautiful-bodied Halle, Heidi, and Jennifers A. and L. reveal how their clients got their shapes and how you can too.

Health Tips

Want slimmer legs and a trimmer waist? Do the Rockette: Start by laying on your back with your hands laced behind your head and your legs straight up, perpendicular to your waist. Pull your abs down toward the floor and lift your head and shoulders up toward the ceiling. Then lower one leg down and bring your opposite shoulder toward that thigh. Alternate for 20 to 40 reps and you'll slip right into your skinny jeans!

These mental mantras are as essential to your dream body as your diet and workout.

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Want Jennifer Lopez's hot body? Quit quick-stepping on the stairclimber! This works fewer muscles and burns fewer calories than long, deep steps. Also, sit still for no more than three minutes between weight-lifting sets. Waiting longer allows your muscles to cool down, weakening the benefits of the exercise.

Try Jennifer's must-do move, straight from the lips of her trainer.

Health Tips

You'll get the body you want faster by doing 10 slow repetitions of crunches instead of 20 fast ones. Moving slowly — two counts up and two counts down — allows you to use more precise form, which can stimulate your muscles better and make them stronger, says Rodney Corn of the National Academy of Sports Medicine. (The faster you go, the more likely you are to use momentum instead of your abs.) Your muscles should feel tired in 15 reps.

Why you should slow down for a better ab workout.


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