Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The skinny on protein powder

Somewhere around age 30 we naturally begin lose muscle. In every decade that follows we lose an additional 3-8% drop in lean muscle mass. Fab, right? 

The most important thing we can do to build muscle is to participate in strength training (dumbbells, resistance bands, weight bearing machines, body weight, yoga) at least twice a week. 

Diet also plays a big role in developing and maintaining muscle mass. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adults get about .8 grams protein per 1 kilogram of weight, which converts to .37 grams per pound.  So, a 150 pound person should ingest about 55g of protein per day.

Protein powders are a common supplement and I am often asked about how to use them and what to look for. I have been thinking about posting about powders for a while now. So here we are.*

You don’t always get what you pay for.

Try not to fall for good marketing. Price ($$) does not always indicate quality, so make sure you are reading the nutrition label. The front label can be deceiving. 

“Sugar free”…but does it have sucralose or aspartame?
“Guaranteed to boost your energy levels” there caffeine in there?

Remember, nutrition companies are required to list ingredients in the order in which they appear in the product in quantity (the more of it there is, the closer to the beginning of the list).

If you order your protein online and they don’t offer access to the nutrition label I would avoid the purchase. The doesn’t mean it is bad, but why take your chances where there are so many available options?

More isn’t always better.

30g of protein is about all your body can process at one meal. Go too far past this threshold and you’re taking in extra calories but receiving no additional benefit. No need to double up on serving size or buy the product that boasts 50g of protein per serving. 25-30g should be enough to keep you satiated and in a healthy caloric range. 

Snack, Post-Workout or Meal Replacement

Protein powders a great option for workout recovery or even a meal replacement (though I never recommend replacing more than one meal a day with a shake on a regular basis).

Snack: It’s always best to have a whole food for your snack (this bananas, almonds, nut butters, etc.) but if you are in a pinch, mixing a scoop of protein with 8-10oz of water will keep you fuller longer than a bag of pretzels or another processed food from the vending machine.

Post-workout:  Protein supplementation has been shown to increase muscle fibers, particularly after a tough strength training session. 1 serving of powder and 8-10oz of water mixed in a blender bottle should be sufficient for recovery.

As a meal: You can increase the amount of nutrients, and calories, by adding fruits, veggies and grains to your shakes as you make them.  Refer to my post about How to Build a Green Smoothie or reference these Smoothie Recipes for other yummy ideas.

Shopping advice made simple

1. A short ingredient list. 

2. 20-25g protein per serving.  

3. Manageable calories and macronutrients - all of equal importance.
-moderate calories per serving (120-150)
-low fat (0-4g per serving) 
-low sugar (0-5g serving)

4. $1 - $3 cost per serving.

These guidelines are just that – guidelines - and are certainly not one-size fits all. We are all different and have different goals and lifestyles (vegan, vegetarian, fat loss, muscle gain etc.).

If you aren’t sure what type of protein you should be using or what the different types of proteins do, see my post about Types of Protein

* Disclaimer: The information presented is meant for those who are using protein as a dietary supplement and the active exerciser.  Professional or competitive athletes may have different needs and should consult with a sports nutrition professional in regards to diet.

Types of Protein

There are lots of protein terms being thrown around out there...but what do they  mean?  I'm only going to touch on a few of the more common choices. 

Whey proteins are the most popular - for good reason...whey protein has been show to help promote muscle growth and weight loss.  Whey is versatile and can be used pre- and post-workout due to the rapid absorption. It is also appropriate for breakfast shakes or a snack.  

There are 2 types of whey protein - isolate and concentrate.  Generally, it says right on the label whether or not the protein in question is a concentrate, an isolate or blended.

Whey concentrate is less expensive than other powders, is easy to find and is a great place to start.  But don't be surprised if you start to feel a little gassy and bloated - some people have a hard time digesting concentrate.

Whey isolate is more expensive and quicker absorbing.  Isolates are a purer form of protein, easier to digest and low in carbs and sugars. While not as expensive as some other types of powders, isolate is slightly more expensive than concentrate.

If you have a sensitive stomach or are following a low carb/low sugar diet, isolate is probably the best choice for you. A blended may even be ok; don’t be afraid to experiment.  

Plant-based proteins come in many forms (rice, hemp, pea) and tend to be easier on the digestive system that animal-based proteins. For vegans and vegetarians, these are an excellent source of protein and, despite what you might hear on the street, you can get all the nutrients and amino acids found in whey or casein proteins. Just don't be surprised if the taste is rather plant-like. You’re drinking a plant.

Soy protein specifically has been shown to speed up metabolism, supports healthy cholesterol and contains an amino acid, arginine, which helps muscles about nutrients quicker by helping to dilate the blood vessels.  

Casein protein is slower absorbing, averaging about 6 hours to fully absorb into your system. This allows your body to utilize protein for recovery and regeneration over longer periods of time - like while you are sleeping. It is also a good option if you know you will be going longer periods of time than usual between meals.

Hydrolysate/hydrolyzed protein is the fastest absorbing (and most expensive) of all the proteins.  It is primarily recommended for pre- or post-workout.  It is easier to digest than the concentrates mentioned above.

Egg protein/egg-white protein/egg albumin is just that - protein made from eggs. Generally it is in a liquid form that is great for cooking.  Eggs (just the whites or combined with the yoke) have been used to build lean muscle mass before powders were even a blip on anyone's radar.  I include it here because it can sometimes be used in blended protein powders - if you have an allergy or sensitivity to eggs you need to make sure you are aware of the use of these items.

Protein from Food Sources

I recommend limiting yourself to 1 protein shake per day and getting the rest of your protein from foods.  Some common foods and their protein levels as provided by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are below.

-1 large egg = 6 grams
-1 cup low-fat milk = 8 grams
-1 cup plain low-fat yogurt = 12 grams
-½ cup low-fat cottage cheese = 14 grams
-2 tablespoons peanut butter = 8 grams
-1 cup quinoa = 8 grams
-3 ounces of lean ground beef = 22 grams
-3 ounces skinless, baked chicken = 26 grams
-3 ounces grilled salmon = 21 grams

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recovering from a food bender

I did a post earlier in the season about handling holiday stress.  But how many of us still have emotional ups & downs through the holidays? Even if you manage stress well, or have applied some of the tips I shared, you can still have mood swings and not understand why.  Could it be your diet?

I can honestly say that my moods change with the season - I am more touchy during the month of December, more irritable and sometimes almost disengaged.  Sleep can take a backseat on my priority list as I juggle travel, work, holiday chores and parties, proper exercise and my annual sinus infection.  But even more than sleep, it is my diet that suffers most. 

On my recent weekend trip home I went on a 3-day roller coaster of oatmeal and fresh fruit breakfasts combined with pizza and hoagie dinners...and let's not forget that Smiley Face Cookie I enjoyed at Eat 'n Park.  Hey - when in Rome, right? 

I left that Monday feeling lethargic and a wee bit cranky. By Tuesday I was downright moody and over everyone and everything. Going on a bender like this one takes its toll on my body for days fact, the day it hits me is often the day I am back to "normal".

So, why I am sharing all this with you?
Nutrition and mental health has been a hot bed of research since the mid 2000s and I think they are onto something.  We've long known that a healthy diet high in whole foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains) and low in processed foods reduces risk for chronic diseases, and now there is also evidence that these diets are just as important to mental health.

In fact, a diet high in whole food and low in processed foods has also been directly linked to a reduced risk of depression.

An apple a day keeps the demons away?
Try 5.  Well, more specifically 5 servings of fruit and veggies.  A recent article in BioMed Central Psychiatry revealed that there is a statistically significant correlation between the recommendation to eat 5 fruits and veggies a day and psychosis.  Those who stick to the 5-a-day recommendation are less likely to report moderate distress levels.  *Note: fruit juice does not count as a fruit.

Getting back on track
There's nothing I can do to take back the damage done...and to be honest, I don't know that I want to. I mean, I had FUN this weekend with all my chronies and enjoyed all the Pennsylvania foods I miss.  But I also know that it's temporary and that getting back on track is the best way to prevent the snowball effect. 

1) I don't beat myself up.  Life goes on. It happens. In love and in health the key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should have been. 

2) I schedule my exercise. Get the feel-good hormones stimulated and let them run rampant in your system.  Monday I played 9 holes of golf, Wednesday & Friday is spin class, Thursday is a power pump class.  I get back on track as soon as I can and make it a priority. 

Whether this means taking a 30-minute walk, doing some yoga or going to a body conditioning class do what you do as soon as you can.

And I don't know about you, but when I am exercising consistently I want to eat better.  It's completely mental, but who wants to undo all that hard work with a piece of fried chicken?

3) I eat extra-healthy for 5 days.  While I am not a fan of deprivation, I am a fan of resetting your body for a few days to eliminate the unhealthy things you crave.

For me, this means no added sugars and limited processed foods/drinks for a few days. I stick with little variety, just because it is easier for me.

Breakfast: Oatmeal & Fresh Fruit, coffee
Lunch: Large spinach salad topped with veggies, protein (chicken or salmon) and croutons
Dinner:  turkey chili, grilled salmon with veggies and rice, baked chicken with sweet potatoes & green veggies, grilled chicken stir-fry (in no particular order)
Snacks: plain Greek yogurt with berries, banana with nut butter, carrots with hummus, dark chocolate square and almonds
Hydration: 64oz water, 4oz red wine

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

If there is no struggle, there is no progress ~Frederick Douglas

Con-tin-gen-cy [kuh n-tin-juh n-see]: a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain. 

A contingency plan is a course of action designed to help respond effectively to a significant future event or situation that may or may not happen. 

We often associate a contingency plan with the “big” things…building a house, planning a vacation, or launching a new initiative at work.  But what about a contingency plan for our healthy lifestyle goals? 

Your health should be your number one priority. These tips can help you navigate some of the most common obstacles cited when I asked clients what keeps them from maintaining regular schedule, despite their goal to do so.

1. Break your plan down weekly.  Birthday parties, business dinners, project deadlines and doctor’s appointments can all derail your exercise plans.  Look at your week in advance to see where you need to make adjustments. 
2. Reschedule immediately.  Whether you have a month's notice or a minutes notice, make a plan immediately.  Will you miss your regular Monday spin class? Plan a replacement time and/or activity, or adjust your “off” day, as soon as you know it's needed.
3.  Pack your gym bag the night before.  Even if it’s as simple as tossing shorts and a t-shirt into a bag.  Bonus points for going ahead and putting the bag in your car. No excuses for sleeping in or walking right by without grabbing it. You are also more likely to remember the smaller items like socks and hair ties when packing isn’t so rushed in the morning.
4. If you are an evening exerciser, stop at the gym on the way home from work.  You are less likely to get caught up in household chores or other crisis that tend to meet us at the door.  Prefer a morning workout?  Check out the locker room facilities and get ready at the gym – it eliminates extra travel time and minimizes distractions. Bonus: Because my outfit for the day has already been picked out and I can't make any last minute adjustments I actually get out the door quicker!
5. Don’t force it. Do you have a standing book club at 6:00 each Thursday evening?  Then don’t plan on the 5:00 boot camp class.  Accepting your limitations eliminates feelings of failure and helps with achievable goal setting.

6. Figure out what kind of activities you have access to and be flexible.  If there is only one rowing machine at your gym, don’t give up if someone else is on it at the time you would like to be. Try a new cardio class, hop on the stair stepper or give the elliptical a whirl.

7. Keep an extra pair of walking shoes and a pair of socks at your desk. If an after-work appointment pops up, you can use your lunch break to take a brisk walk or do some light yoga.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fitness Trends for 2016

If you didn't catch it, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) revealed the predictions for the Top 20 Fitness Trends of 2016

Notice the term trend (potential of becoming a long-term influence on the future of a market), which is different than a fad (short-term event).

I am a long-time fan of #1, and am honestly surprised to find that it took this long to surge to the top of the list.  It did not even appear in the top 25 of 2015.

FitBit is the #1 seller of wearable technology; I'm on my 4th one (I've lost 2 FitBit Ones, returned a ChargeHR & was gifted a One to replace the lost). I'm going on 2 years of constant tracking and love every minute of it. I also have an original Garmin Forerunner 405 (circa 2011) and am getting a Garmin Vivofit this year from my parents.

The lead author of the survey, Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D. believes that wearable technology rocketed to number 1 in it's first year on the list as a result of our technology-driven society. "Tech devices are now central to our daily lives and have changed the way we plan and manage our workouts. Wearable devices also provides immediate feedback." said Thompson.

So, are you one of the 21% of Americans that own a tracking device or one of the 10% of American that still use it daily?  PwC has some interesting statistics and information on the future of wearable technology and the unprecedented adaptation by Americans here.

Even if fitness trackers aren't your thing, use this survey to find new things to incorporate into your fitness routine. Variety is the spice of life; or so they say.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Memories

The Monday before Thanksgiving should be it's own holiday. I mean, this is when the anticipation begins.  It's ALMOST THANKSGIVING!!!! Thaw the bird, prepare the stuffing, don't forget the cranberries and extra pie crust, stock the wine fridge...

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday - I don't know if it's the crisp air that also represents my favorite season, the vibrant colors, the hope for snow flurries to follow or the time with family.

Just this morning I thought of the very first Thanksgiving I hosted- my grandma, my bub & pap and my dad & step-mom were there. I was so proud. It was my first adult dinner.

All the women hovered in the kitchen and kept the snacks filled for my dad and my pap (his ex-father-in-law), who were watching TV in the other room. It was one of the most stereotypical - and best - Thanksgiving Day's that I have in my memory bank.

For many years after that I hosted Thanksgiving for my family, giving up the tradition when I moved away from the east coast and out of reasonable driving distance for most everyone.

So much has changed in the past 12 years. My grandma, my bub & my pap are all gone now; this will be my 2nd Thanksgiving without my bub and pap - my 8th without my grandma. It's hard to believe all that time has passed since we stood in the kitchen of my townhouse and they laughed at me while I attempted to prep a bird while nursing the mother of all hangovers.

There is one thing hasn't changed: Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. I am now guest more than host, but I still get to spend the time with the family I've made. It's no longer just a day, it's extended into a entire weekend of celebrating - what could be better than that?

Cue happy dance.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

In case your curious: last year I had a chance to take Michael back home to experience his first weekend-after-Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh - complete with snow and a few 20° days and a Saints vs. Steelers game. This year we'll be staying in Little Rock, with hopes of warmer temperatures and maybe a hint of snow flurries over the weekend. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Put Stress in it's Place

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), the most common sources of stress during the last 2 months of the year are money concerns & chaotic sched-ules. Women, you might relate more than men—not implying that we all can’t benefit from a little stress relief.

In addition to reporting higher levels of stress, another study found that women are more likely to take on a greater workload: cooking for family, buying last minute gifts, organizing a get-together and cleaning (sigh, my judgmental mother is coming for a week…).

What is stress? 

Stress is your body’s way of responding to a demand. This isn’t always bad; we feel stress when we travel to a new place, fall in love, make a big change or start something new. But in all of these the payoff to the stressful situation is often a wonderful experience. High risk = high reward. 

Sometimes stress gets the best of us - deadlines at work, a spouse or a child who is sick, arguments with friends - and the feeling can be overwhelming. 

Picture found on
Put stress in it’s place 
First your heart starts racing, and then before you know it your sweaty palms are making it impossi-ble to get the lid off of the antacid you need to calm your upset stomach. Stress is making it’s grand entrance, and you need to get it under control. 

The stress of the holidays is not about the holidays - it’s about YOU. David Levingston, LMFT has been quoted as saying "Stress and distress are often related to worrying about the future or fret-ting about the past." Live in the here and now; enjoy the moment and stress will melt away. 

Give gifts that matter.
Will it stress you out more if I tell you that approximately 49 million people get gifts they don’t enjoy? It shouldn’t. By approaching gift giving with the intended in mind you are pleasing 2 people - giver & receiver. Would a cup of coffee together mean more to them than a $20 tumbler? If the answer is yes, offer up an IOU coupon - or better yet, schedule the date in advance. 

Skeptical about this approach? When was the last time you dismissed a gift you enjoyed be-cause it didn’t cost enough? Compare that with how many times you’ve opened a gift from a chronic bad-gift-giver and stressed over masking your knee-jerk response.

Laugh out loud, and often 
Laughing just makes you feel good! It also relaxes your entire body - relieving physical tension and stress for up to 45 minutes. It’s also releases endorphins...the body’s natural "feel good" chemical. 

Get active 
Walking, jogging, biking...anything that gets you active will dis-tract you from whatever is on your mind, or allow you to relieve any tension and release any pent up energy. When you find yourself stressing out about an impromptu party, take a deep breath and walk around a little bit. 

Try yoga. 
Yoga has been used as a mind-body balance technique for thousands of years. Yoga uses physical and mental focus to help you relax and manage stress. It can be done on your own or in group setting. Even as little as 5 minutes can help you get centered and re-focused. Just be sure to visit a studio or talk with a certified Yoga instructor if you have not done yoga before.

If you aren’t a yogi-at-heart try meditation. Focusing on certain breathing patterns can help you take your mind off the freight train of thoughts running through your head or keep you from losing your cool in the grocery store line. There are techniques for full relaxation (in as little as 5 minutes) and techniques to keep you calm in the moment. 

Try this if you need a quick reliever: 
Inhale for 4 counts, hold 7 counts, exhale 8 counts. 
All breathing should be done through the nose. 

Other effective techniques can be found here

Rest up 
Your body and your brain both need sleep to recharge. "You need your beauty sleep" isn’t a wives tale. Averaging 7-8 hours a night can improve your mood and boost your energy level.

Friday, November 6, 2015

How much do we really need to work out?

I've been working on a lot of educational material for the classes I teach at work regarding exercise and activity.   Here is a charts I made this week. 

For heart health ACSM and the CDC recommend that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (push mowing the grass, brisk walking, water aerobics, cycling) per week.  75 minutes of vigorous (jogging or running, intense cycling, kickboxing). 

In addition, we need two (2) 20-40 minute strength training sessions (yoga, free weights, resistance bands) on non-consecutive days and about 10-15 minutes per day of flexibility (stretching).  All this, just to maintain your heart health. 

150 minutes might seem like a lot of time, but hte good news is that it can be broken down into 10 minute increments through the day.  And when you look at an entire week, it really is just a tiny sliver of your time.  1.4% to be exact.

Where did I get these percentages?

1 week = 168 hours
7.5 hours sleep per night = 52.5 hours (31.25%)
30 minutes strength training/2 days per week = 1 hour (0.5%)
150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week = 2.5 hours (1.5%)
15 minutes of stretching/flexibility per day = 1.75 (1.0%)

So...what are you telling me, Kristen?

That saying "there's just no time" isn't really an excuse.  We have 110.5 hours in our week for LIFE - work, family, relaxation...that's 77% of our time.  For LIFE.  If you still feel pressed for time, make exercise time family time.

I'm not saying that I'm not immune to the "I just don't feel like it bug".  But I could find the time if I wanted to.   Sometimes it's not a matter of time, it's what I (we) choose to do with the time.

I work with many people who take advantage of their kids soccer games by walking the sidelines or using practice time to do laps around the park; they change to the school when it's basketball or volleyball season and use the track during football practice.

And when you think about how much time you spent waiting in the lobby during your last doctor's appointment, doesn't spending 3% of you week on exercise seem like nothing in comparison?

**Note:  This chart represents time spent improving or maintaining heart heath only.  If you are on a weight loss program or training for a sport-specific event, the percentage of time spent on exercise may need to increase.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Save some dough - healthy choices when you're on the run

It's that time of year again.....
"Money is tight."  "The holidays are just around the corner." "I only like blueberries and they are so expensive this time of year!"

"I refuse to spend a lot of money on fruits and veggies so I just eat out every day - it's cheaper."....wait, what was that now? 

I had this conversation with a friend last week.  Or I should say I heard these words come out of a friends mouth and stared open mouthed in their general direction. I may also have mentioned the $8 grilled cheese sandwich they had for lunch.  The grilled cheese didn't offend me - I am a grilled cheese fanatic!  The thought that $8 for a grilled cheese was acceptable while $1.50 for a bunch of bananas was expensive is where I got lost. 

In my friend's defense, she also has a long commute and extra-curricular's that often have her searching for quick dinners to make in the evenings. 

I've posted about the cost of eating healthy in the past, but this time I did an out and out comparison - my friend's day to mine.  Sure, I have lunch out once in a while, we have steak for dinner some nights (more expensive than the $2.53 bag salad I buy at Sam's), etc. etc.

My friend and I both agreed, though, that the comparison below represents a typical workday eating pattern. 

Post-comparison, I added a 3rd category - what choices to make if you still are convinced that eating out is the only option.  So be sure to scroll to the end if you need some ideas for healthy eating on the go.

Me: All food bought at the local grocery store
Coffee ($.18)
1 slice of whole grain toast ($.40)
1 TBSP all-natural peanut butter ($.11)
1 6oz plain Greek yogurt ($1.00)
5 large strawberries ($.16)
8oz organic 2% milk ($.57)

2/3 cup tri-colored cheese tortellini ($1.00)
1/2 cup organic meat sauce (homemade) ($1.24)

Afternoon snack:
10 large grapes ($.66)
1/2 cup blueberries ($.80)
5 large strawberries ($.16)

Salmon Kale Caesar Salad with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar ($1.93)
5 oz red wine ($2.25)

Total cost:  $10.46
Nutrition breakdown:  1,537 calories, 51g fat, 171g carbs, 82g protein, 1,735mg sodium

My friend: Breakfast, lunch & snacks on-the-go; dinner items bought at same grocer
Sausage Burrito ($1.00)
Coffee ($1.00)

Morning Snack: 
Lo-Fat Strawberry Yogurt ($1.00)

Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup ($7.99)

Afternoon snack:
Think Thin Nutrition Bar from cafe ($2.59)

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers  ($3.59)

Total cost:  $17.17
Nutrition breakdown:  1707 calories, 77g fat, 175g carbs, 78g protein 4,523g Sodium <-- say what?!

Seems to me that I had a lot more food for a lot less money.  Not to mention the fact that I also had less than 40% of the sodium that my friend did - and a glass of wine. 

If you enjoy eating out , there is a way to be frugal AND healthy.  

By bringing snacks from home and making some different menu choices, my friend could have made the same stops during the day and saved money, reduced her sodium intake and met the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

McDonald's Oatmeal with Brown Sugar, Diced Apples & Dried Fruit ($1.99)
Coffee ($1.00)

Morning Snack:
Strawberry Whipped Greek Yogurt ($1.00*)

Small Salmon Salad & Cup of Tomato Bisque Soup ($4.95)

Afternoon Snack (from home):
Apple ($.50*)
String Cheese ($.35*)

1 cup of long grain brown rice - the 90sec variety ($.66)
1 cup of frozen steam in bag broccoli ($.72)
1 Morning Star black bean burger patty ($.92)

Total cost:  $11.00
Nutrition breakdown: 1,597 calories, 47g fat, 218g carbs, 89g protein, 1,923mg sodium
Items marked with an asterisk (*) were brought from home instead of purchased in the cafe

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Walk this Way

Daylight savings time is coming to an end soon, and with it goes our extended hours of daylight. Safety when walking is more than just having a buddy or carry pepper spray. There are several things that you can do to ensure you are safe while walking, any time of the day.

Wear a headlamp or carry a small hand light to signal oncoming traffic that you are in front of them. This also applies for shared bike/walking trails that do not permit cars.

Four-legged friends need color, too. This might be a flashing red light on their collar, a bright jacket or reflective saddle.

Protect your back side. The reflective tabs on your shoes are not enough to keep you visible, particularly from a distance. Wear a reflective vest or belt, or you can put reflective tape on your back and your calves.

Channel the ‘80s. Invest in bright colored (neon) tops and/or hats so that you do not blend in during daylight walks.

Be a defensive walker. A sidewalk is not always a safe zone. Remember to stay alert to your surroundings and walk facing traffic at all times. Not every driver is aware of the “pedestrian right-of-way”. Stay alert at intersections and when crossing the road.

Leave the jewels at home. All you need is a watch or your preferred fitness tracking mechanism.

Be one with nature. As tempting as it is, leave the music at home—especially when walking on the street. You can miss footsteps coming up behind you, a dog on the run or other obstacles that might come into your path.  Plus, some of the world's best leaders say that long walks are where they find their best ideas.

Always carry ID. A RoadID® bracelet is an easy, convenient way to make sure you are easily identified in the case of an emergency.

Wear sunscreen. While some sun exposure if good for Vitamin D levels, the Vitamin D Council suggests that as little as 15 minutes can be enough. Stay on the safe side and lather on a layer if you are going to be out in the elements for longer than that. No matter what time of year.

Vary your route. Elevation and scenery changes are promote cardiovascular health and can keep boredom at bay. Changing your route can also deter any would-be muggers who might be looking for a regular routine, which can also cause the walker to let their guard down—making them an easy target.

Let someone know where you are going. If you aren't going with a friend, let one know where you will be and your expected timeframe for exercise. 

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