Volunteer Your Way to a Healthier You!

‘Tis better to give than to receive, according to the old adage, but did you know giving your time can actually give you a longer lifespan. Studies show volunteering can reduce the risk of death by 25%, improving both physical and mental wellbeing.

Providing support for those who need it allows for a sense of purpose and meaning that may not be fulfilled by our regular jobs or relationships. Volunteering can offer new skill sets, exposure to different fields and the opportunity to forge new relationships. These experiences help to boost self-confidence and morale, which can lead to higher productivity at work.

This same sense of usefulness bolsters positive emotions and lowers stress levels that effect you on a physical level. A reduction in stress helps to boost immunity and stave off diseases. By donating time and engaging with others, you gain perspective and a larger world view, which reduces risk of depression and instills a sense of belonging.

As women, we statistically volunteer at a higher rate than men and, with benefits ranging from higher functionality to lower risk of heart disease, volunteering may just be one reason why we are outliving our male counterparts.

There’s no better time to give your time than now, so look up your favorite local charity (we can definitely think of a good one!) and see how you can help out .  You’ll be doing both them and you a favor!

Don’t Just Be a Soccer Mom, Be a Soccer Player!

Many of you may be proud soccer moms, but you might be surprised to hear that there are benefits to getting out there and kicking the ball around with your kids. Soccer is an easy sport to pick up, and most people have so much fun playing that it’s easy to forget you’re also working out.

Soccer is great for fitness and cardiovascular health. Its biggest health benefit comes from the fact that soccer forces you to keep moving. By forcing players to shift between walking, running, and standing still, soccer builds strength, flexibility and endurance. The sport is also known for lowering body fat, improving muscle tone, and increasing coordination. By simply grabbing a ball and kicking around with a friend in the park, you can easily start getting all the benefits of this fun sport.

Don’t be afraid of being inexperienced either, soccer is designed for all skill levels. In addition to the awesome benefits soccer provides for your body, the sport is also a great way to make some new friends. Soccer is all about teamwork. In fact, unless you chose to practice by yourself, the game itself requires you to work with others. It is a great way to meet people and exercise with friends.

Besides just a more toned body and new friends, women benefit from many other side effects of this great team sport. Soccer teaches its players to think on-the-go, a habit that is great both on the field and can easily be carried into the boardroom. While at first running and kicking the ball at the same time might bring out the clumsiness in all of us, don’t give up, you will also most likely see an increase in your concentration, persistence and self-discipline skills after only a few games. And don’t forget, like most physical activity, soccer provides an opportunity to increase your confidence and self-esteem. So join a game and let loose those weekly stresses from the office by scoring a few goals on the field.

Here are a few tips on how to get started:

 

  1. All you need is one piece of equipment: a ball! The soccer field can easily be substituted by backyards, streets, or beaches. So head to your local sporting goods store or Walmart and pick up a soccer ball to start practicing.

 

  1. A game of soccer doesn’t require a large number of people; it can be as simple as playing with a few friends. Or you can even practice your kicking skills all on your own!

 

  1. If you find that you love the game, most cities have free pick-up teams. Pick-up soccer is a great way to meet other individuals in your local community who enjoy the sport and the work out that comes with it. Can’t find a team in your town? Be bold and start one yourself!

Boost Your Productivity While on Your Lunch Break!

It’s 12:45 p.m. and you’ve worn out the refresh button on your email. It’s probably time to take a lunch break! Though most of us find time to scrounge up a sandwich and a cup of coffee in our allotted hour, we often spend the rest of the day waiting for the caffeine to kick in before we see 5 p.m. roll around, but with these handy tips below, you can now turn off the automatic timer on the coffee pot and take an actual lunch break that will boost your energy and productivity, naturally.

It’s Time to Make Time:

In order to maximize your lunch break, you must first take a break. The key is to actually schedule a time in your calendar to eat and refresh. If you set a time at the beginning of the day, you will be less likely to forego lunch when you get hit with an impromptu meeting or project. Skipping meals to be more productive will actually have the opposite effect. Not eating for several hours will cause your glucose levels to drop, which gives the body nothing to convert to fuel and leaves the brain running on empty.

Unchain the Desk:

Pulling some left over oyster crackers from your side drawer and snacking while continuing to research does not constitute a lunch break, nor will it help you concentrate when you hit afternoon crunch time. Around 2/3 of all workers eat at their desks or skip lunch all together. This makes you more likely to snack all day on sugary, high fat foods that provide a quick spike in energy, but ultimately leave you unsatisfied and lethargic throughout the day.

Step Away from the Screens:

Stepping out of your office and away from your computer to eat will help stimulate new thoughts through a change of scenery.  But in the age of smart phones, most of us have our computer by our side at all times. We are constantly stimulated and straining our eyes to see small images on a screen. This sensory overflow can cause headaches, lack of concentration and a shorter attention span. In order to actually feel the effects of a break, try to resist the urge to surf the internet or check social media during lunch, this will allow your system to recharge and you’ll return to work more alert.

Get Physical & Get Outdoors:

We know getting to the gym during your lunch break can be daunting, so it’s a good thing taking a walk outside not only has the same effect, but is actually more beneficial. Walking increases creativity, and a walk in the park can reduce stress, improve concentration and encourage a positive attitude. The scent of flowers and foliage has a calming effect and being surrounded by Mother Nature allows you to feel an innate sense of protection and therefore relaxation—and you get a nice dose of Vitamin D, which will help lift your spirits.  A 20-minute walk is even said to provide the energy equivalent to a cup of coffee!  Summer won’t be here forever, so make the most of it while you can!

Take a Mental Vacation with This Simple Trick!

The Power Walk for Dress for Success is taking place in more than 30 cities throughout five countries this month, so we’ve clearly had health & wellness on our minds!  But when most of us think about being healthy and about being well, we tend to focus solely on the body, when we should also be focusing on the mind.

So we tapped into the insight of  Alexa Fischer to see what she does when she feels like she might be getting a little overwhelmed– and finding a way to recharge might be easier than you think! Watch her video here to hear about the simple trick she found on how to take a mental vacation without totally checking out!

 
Alexa Fischer uses the skills she learned at The Yale School of Drama and on countless primetime television shows to help people speak with confidence and calm in any situation. Versatile and useful, her methods can be applied to boardroom pitches, public speaking, promotional videos,  even cocktail small talk. Alexa is honored to have worked with Fortune 500 companies like Trader Joe’s and SONY and smaller, philanthropic organizations like the Step Up Women’s Network and Dress for Success. She works with clients in group workshops, through online classes, and one-on-one, helping each person polish their speaking and presentation skills while tapping into their own greatness. Grab her free video course, Public Speaking 101 at alexafischer.com.

Staying Fit, One Step at a Time

One of our main goals in the Fun, Fit & Free column of our blog is to help you find low cost to no cost ways to live an active lifestyle. When money is low, gym membership fees can feel especially high. But with a creative look to the world around you, you might discover that opportunities to exercise are all around!

This month, since we are focusing on work and labor, we encourage you to really work it, and trade in elevators and escalators for good ole’ fashioned stairs.

Opting for the stairs over more modern means of height climbing can be a time-saving and calorie-burning exercise that you can easily incorporate into your life. In today’s busy world, who has time to wait on crowded elevators to finally reach your floor and carry you off to your  destination? The stairs are always waiting and willing to help you get to the top!

As far as the health benefits go, you don’t have to take our word for it. A study by Preventive Medicine found that taking the stairs regularly  for  12 consecutive weeks yielded the following the health benefits:

  • Increased their stamina
  • Reduced waist circumferences by approximately 2%
  • Lowered weights by almost 1 %
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered “bad” LDL-cholesterol

So go ahead, climb your way to the top.  Because after all, there are no shortcuts to success, you have to take the stairs!

Yoga: Transform Your Workout with the Exercise That Swept the World!

In the spirit of our focus on travel this month, Dress for Success is exploring a fitness routine that’s not only a vacation from the typical workout, but also a vacation for the mind: yoga!

Long before The Beatles took America by storm in The British Invasion and hippies painted the world a psychedelic rainbow, yoga became the universal symbol of harmony and peace. Originating in ancient India, the practice of yoga has since traveled across the globe. Now, in almost every city, you can find a welcoming yoga studio encouraging you to get your “zen” on and bring out your inner yogi.

 All around the world, yoga is known as an exercise that gets the mind and body in tip top shape. The endurance required to maintain any classic yoga pose is a great way to work on strength-training, while yoga’s repetitive motions offer aerobic exercise without putting too much strain on the body. That back pain you feel getting tighter every day? Just a few yoga classes can work out all those spinal kinks, thanks to yoga’s focus on alignment and posture. Yoga is also a proven stress reliever and women who practice yoga tend to leave their workout feeling calm, refreshed, and confident.

And the sense of community built around yoga is just as strong as the sound mind and body it promises to provide. Most women have found not only that yoga has helped them make new friends, but that the people they practice with serve as a source of encouragement when they push themselves to reach new goals in the yoga studio and in life. The perks of being a yogi don’t stop there. Besides new friends, a relaxed mind and a toned body, one of the best benefits of yoga is something every woman on the path to success needs more of in her life—a good night’s sleep.

Still not sold on why you should start incorporating yoga into your workout regimen? Here is one more reason why yoga has stood the test of time: it is very cost-effective. Yoga only requires one piece of equipment: a mat! Budget-friendly yoga mats can be found at discount stores like TJ Maxx or Walmart for less than $10. Not ready to commit to a yoga mat purchase before your first class? No problem! Many studios provide their yogis with free mats when they sign up for a session, or many have rental mats for just a few dollars.

 When it comes to finding a place to practice, there are many affordable options. If you prefer group workouts, studios across the country like Yoga to the People offer donation-based classes with a typical contribution of around just five bucks.  You can even try giving your community center a call, and find free outdoor classes in the summer at your local public park! Yoga DVDs and even good ole YouTube are other inexpensive options that will allow you to reach your yogi goals right in your living room.

With all of these benefits and affordable ways to practice, there’s no reason not to give yoga a try. But if you need a little extra motivation to get started, here are a few tips:

 1. Get back to basics. Start by taking deep, patterned breaths for 15 minutes each morning. Focused breathing is a key component of yoga and by making this step a part of your morning routine you will already be on your way to becoming a regular yogi.

 2. Don’t give up! Remember that yoga is a continuous practice and a growth process. It’s okay to be challenged at first. You will get there.

3. Bring a friend! Yoga is all about community and what better way to try something new than with your best bud!

Power Walking: Striving for Success One Step at a Time

Just because walking is something you do throughout the day everyday, don’t underestimate the benefits of what a little walking can do. Whether you’re rushing to pick up the kids on time, hurrying between meetings at work, or strutting your stuff in your favorite shopping mall, a brisk walk can give you that extra boost of energy you need to take on the rest of your day with a positive attitude and a sharp mind.

According to the American Heart Association, walking for at least 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer. Walking can also improve your blood pressure and help you maintain a healthy body weight.

Walking even provides more benefits outside of your personal health. In today’s environmentally conscious world, more and more people are choosing to decrease their carbon footprint by leaving their car in the driveway and walking to get where they need to go. You can power walk around your neighborhood, take the scenic route in your local park, hop on the treadmill for a quick workout, or call your girls and start a walking club!

Next month, Dress for Success is walking to empower success-driven women to become healthy in all aspects of their lives, and we’re inviting you to walk with us! The Power Walk for Dress for Success is the nation’s only 5k walk dedicated to celebrating women on their way to economic independence and, this year, it’s happening in more than 35 cities in six countries around the world. Haven’t signed up yet? No worries! Just visit the Power Walk website and register today!

The Power Walk is a great opportunity to start walking, but how do we motivate ourselves to keep going when there’s not a cheering crowd waiting for us at the finish line? We have to remind ourselves why we got going in the first place!

1. Walking is free. You don’t need an expensive gym membership to get exercise. You can walk just about anywhere, anytime, and get a great work out in without spending a dime.

2. Walking is easy. Anyone can walk! Choose the rhythm and pace that’s right for you. Walking is the perfect exercise for those of us who may not consider ourselves the athletic type.

3. Walking is a great stress reliever. Taking a walk by yourself is a great time to take some deep breaths, think out loud, and clear your head.

Choose to walk because when we make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle, we make a commitment to create a better self.