Fuel Your Workout…Naturally!

A woman holding a Pilates ring on the floor during a Pilates gym classBefore you commit to workout programs that depend on massive electricity usage, automotive transportation and new gear, wait. There’s a more eco-friendly way to go about your daily grind of staying fit.

If you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle there’s no reason you should forgo your eco-consciousness. There are several items made from sustainable materials that also provide impressive alternatives to traditional work out equipment. From shoes to water bottles, there’s always an earth friendly choice. And what’s more convenient, private or difficult to avoid than your own living room?

Here are a few environment-conscious ways to maintain excitement and motivation for healthy living.

Burn Calories, Not Gasoline

Bike, ride a scooter, or walk to work, the store, or the gym. In fact, you could skip the gym and bike or walk for your workout. Riding at a moderate pace for 30 minutes burns about 220 calories. A brisk, 20-minute walk knocks off about 90. Cutting car time also reduces pollution so you — and everyone else — can breathe easier.

Soothe Sore Muscles

Treat yourself to a massage: It relaxes muscles, helps your body release natural painkillers, and may boost your immune system. Other natural remedies include heat, stretching, and rest.

Stay Home

Doing yoga, Pilates, or other exercises at home is convenient, inexpensive, and easy on the environment. Be creative about fitting activity into your routine: Try exercising while watching a favorite TV show, play tag with your children, garden, mow the lawn, or put on some music and dance while you clean house.

Reuse Water Bottles

Have your fill of water without filling up a landfill. Shop smart: The potentially harmful chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can leach into the water from some hard plastic bottles. Instead, look for plastics marked BPA-free. Reusable stainless steel or aluminum bottles (with BPA-free linings) are good options, too. Or find a water fountain. While some bottled water may be safer or cleaner than tap water, much of it is not.

Skip the Energy Food and Drinks

Sugary energy drinks, gels, bars, and sports candies — you don’t need them for your workout, and often they aren’t the healthiest choices. Instead of filling up on processed foods, fuel your workout with snacks like organic dried fruits, nuts, granola, yogurt, bananas, grapes, and water. Or eat an organic energy bar made with fruit, nuts, fiber, and protein.

Your Clothes Should Breathe Too!

Natural breathable fabrics such as 100% organic cotton jersey or natural fleece absorb moisture and draw heat away from your skin.

Other options: Bamboo clothing, which is also soft and dries faster. And it’s a renewable resource. Soy fabric is warm, biodegradable, and resists bacteria.

Recycle Old Shoes

Through shoe recycling programs, used athletic and running shoes can live a new life as part of a playground or sports surface. Some charities take shoe donations and give them to the homeless or people in need overseas. Buying shoes made from recycled materials is another green option.

Exercise for a Good Cause

Need motivation? Sign up for a charity run or walk that draws attention to an earth-friendly cause. Or volunteer to clean a park or beach, plant trees, or tend to a community garden. National parks offer great active volunteer opportunities such as leading hikes; serving on bike, horseback, or ski patrols; and building or maintaining hiking, walking, or biking trails.

Pain Relief…The Yoga Way

A woman standing near a river with her hands in prayer positionWondering how to relieve pain? Yoga may be an effective pain alternative. But which poses are the most beneficial?

A review of 20 years worth of studies conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that yoga is effective in the treatment of chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

In the studies reviewed, patients saw significant reductions in joint pain, muscle stiffness, and overall physical discomfort while greatly improving their flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength.

Why Yoga?

Performed correctly, yoga’s fluid movements allow swollen or otherwise painful joints to glide smoothly over one another, increasing mobility and strength without excess wear and tear, says Cynthia Maltenfort, a yoga instructor at Sun and Moon Studios in Virginia.

“Yoga is a safe alternative to weight-bearing exercises that could worsen weak joints because it strengthens the muscles around them, which reduces tension and increases mobility,” she explains.

Of course, before performing any of the below pain-relieving poses, be sure to talk with your doctor first to make sure your pain isn’t due to a serious condition or injury, and use props such as blocks for support as needed.

Yoga Pose: Cobra
For: Back pain

Lie face-down, forehead resting on floor. Place hands on either side, at middle of ribcage. Draw legs together, pressing tops of feet into floor. Reach back through toes, lengthening legs, and press evenly through hands as you draw elbows close to ribcage. Using strength of back (not arms), lift head and chest, sliding shoulder blades down back. Take 5 to 10 deep breaths before gently releasing to floor, turning head to one side.

Yoga Pose: Supported Warrior
For: Knee Pain

Stand tall and place hands against a wall at shoulder height. Step right foot forward so toes touch the wall and bend elbows as though you’re trying to push the wall away. Step left foot about 1 to 3 feet behind you, slightly bending left knee toward floor. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths. Slowly straighten left leg while bending right knee, ensuring knee does not extend past ankle. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths before stepping left foot forward to meet right and switching leg positions.

Yoga Pose: Butterfly
For: Hip Pain

Sitting on blanket on floor, bring soles of feet together, knees wide so legs form a diamond. Keep entire back straight and shoulders relaxed as you breathe and gently drop weight of legs, slowly allowing knees to lower toward floor. For gentler relief, place blocks or pillows beneath outer knees for support.

Yoga Pose: Rear Arm Lift with Strap
For: Shoulder Pain

This stretch is also known as “Standing Yoga Mudra” pose. Stand tall, feet hip-width apart, holding strap in one hand. Sweep both arms behind back and pull shoulders in to grasp strap with both hands in a comfortable position. Walk hands toward each other, creating an opening in chest as shoulder blades move toward one another. Breathe as you adjust shoulders, easing or increasing tension.

Yoga Pose: Wall Plank
For: Elbow and Shoulder Pain

Stand facing wall with feet hip-width apart. Place palms against wall, arms extended, and slowly lean forward, letting body rest on hands. Keep arms in and body in a straight line as you slowly bend elbows, inching closer. When nose touches wall (or you feel discomfort), slowly push back to standing.