How to Check Your Oil [Video]

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You Can Still Break a Sweat in Freezing Temps: 3 Tips for Getting Fit at Home

Resolutions for 2016 have many of us dusting off the ol’ running shoes to get going on our fitness goals and the whole “new year, new me” thing. But since the weather outside is frightful in many areas of the country (thanks, El Niño), outdoor activity isn’t a possibility for a lot of people.

Luckily, you don’t have to hit the gym — or even leave the house — to exercise during winter. In fact, using your own body weight and some items around the house can help you work up a sweat at home, despite freezing temps outside. (And, of course, always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program).

Here are a few ways to get moving.

1. First things first: stretch

Even if hitting the gym isn’t your thing, it’s still a good idea to incorporate basic stretching exercises into your daily routine. Not only does it feel good, but it also helps prevent injury as you go about your day (you don’t want to throw your back out while bending down to tie your shoelaces, for example).

It can also help increase your flexibility — which reduces your risk of injury even further. But it’s important to keep in mind that you can stretch too hard and strain or tear muscles, so don’t push yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

There are 2 types of stretching and it’s important to know when to do each type:

Dynamic flexibility

This type of stretching involves repetitively moving one or more joints or muscles, with control, in their full range of motion. Dynamic stretch exercises increase neural stimulation, prepping both your mind and body for your upcoming workout — which means you should do these types of stretches before you get active. Some examples of dynamic stretches include:

Arm circles. Extend your arms out to your sides so that your hands are in line with your shoulders. Then, slowly rotate your arms in small circles, moving up to bigger circles as you feel your joints and muscles start to warm up. Rotate your arms in both directions — both forward and backward. It’s also a good idea to rotate your wrists and ankles a few times in both directions.

Standing torso rotation. Turn your torso left and right while swinging your arms in the same direction you’re turning.

Static flexibility

Here’s the type of stretching you do after a workout since it reduces neural stimulation and helps your body relax and cool down after intense activity. Static stretch exercises involve stretching one muscle or joint and holding it for a duration of time — typically 30 seconds. Two static stretches you can do include:

Toe touch (or at least attempted toe touch). This one’s pretty self-explanatory. With your legs shoulder-width apart, slowly bend down with your arms extended toward your toes. If you can actually touch your toes, great! If you can’t, don’t push it. You’ll typically feel the stretch in the back of your legs and your lower back.

Kneeling hip flexor stretch. Start by kneeling on your right leg, placing your left leg in front of you, bent at 90 degrees. Shift your weight forward as far as you comfortably can and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Then switch legs. You’ll feel this stretch in your hip flexors.

If you’re not planning on squeezing a workout in between your dynamic and static stretches, that’s fine too. Just do the stretches in the same order mentioned above, since one type is meant to warm up your body and the other is meant to relax it.

2. Do some cardio

After all those holiday-season calories, it’s tempting to get outside for a run or hike to work up a sweat and drop those casserole-induced pounds. But when bad weather makes outdoor recreation a near impossibility, you don’t have to leave your house to get a decent cardio workout. In fact, even if you don’t own a treadmill or elliptical, you can still get your heart pumping in no time.

Jumping rope. Grab a jump rope (or something you can safely use as a makeshift one) and get to hopping. It helps to turn on your favorite TV show, put on a good playlist, or have a workout partner to keep you motivated. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 times per week.

Dance! Speaking of a good playlist, curate some tracks that make you feel like getting your groove on.

Jumping jacks. Doing enough of these almost becomes meditative, like running, after a while ( … almost). Regardless, you can certainly work up a sweat doing jumping jacks — whether you go hard and fast for a high-intensity workout or slower and longer for a low-intensity session.

Stair-climbing. Simply going up and down the stairs, if possible, is a great way to get your heart pumping.

Running in place. Maybe not the most exciting, but you can spruce up a quick jaunt on the treadmill by putting on some tunes or your favorite TV show.

3. Practice resistance

Many people think of weight racks or complicated-looking machines when it comes to resistance training, but there are plenty of alternatives for giving your muscles a great workout using your body weight alone. Here are a few examples:

Push-ups. This good, old-fashioned exercise works out your chest, shoulders, and arms — and even helps strengthen your abs.

Planks. On top of increasing flexibility and improving your posture, planks work out core muscle groups like your abs and back. Try doing side-planks to focus more on your obliques.

Squats. Though this exercise is often paired with weights, you can definitely feel the burn just by using your body weight alone if you do more repetitions. Squats primarily work your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

Leg lifts. Lying flat on your back on the ground, make sure your body is in a straight line. Tighten your abs, point your toes, and lift your legs into the air so that your body forms a 90-degree angle. Try doing 2 sets of 10 leg lifts — you’ll definitely be feeling it in your (often-neglected) lower abs the next day.

And when it comes to resistance exercises, good form is of utmost importance to avoid serious injury. Be sure to check with a reputable source, like a certified personal trainer, to learn proper form for resistance exercises or lifting weights.

Of course, no health regimen is complete without good health insurance. Some insurers even offer incentives for exercising regularly, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some physical activity into your everyday routine. Not only could it save you some cash, but you’ll feel better for it.

How to Avoid Panicking When Your Brakes Fail [Video]

There are few things more nerve-racking than the idea of your brakes failing. Luckily, it’s not a common occurrence. But if you want to prepare yourself just in case, watch our how-to video and learn how to navigate yourself to safety.

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The Surprising Link Between Extreme Weather and Electric Car Range

Driving an electric car has a lot of advantages — skipping the gas station and cutting air pollution being 2 of the most obvious. But electric vehicles (EVs) do present one major challenge: limited range. Electric-only cars can go an average of 60 to 100 miles between battery charges. This is not typically an issue, since the majority of American drivers travel less than 40 miles a day. But extreme temperatures can cause EV range to drop substantially.

How temperature affects electric car range

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, electric cars consume more energy on extremely hot or cold days, which can reduce EV range by as much as 40 percent. Drivers are also more likely to crank up the heater or air conditioner when its freezing or scorching out, which can drain the battery even faster. So if someone is used to going 100 miles between charges, they may find themselves running out of power after just 60 miles instead.

Drivers in regions known for very high or low temperatures, such as Phoenix or Minneapolis, can expect an overall reduction in vehicle range. But extreme temperatures have become more common throughout the U.S., due in part to the El Niño weather system that’s brought severe floods to the Midwest and contributed to the East Coast’s balmy Christmas. El Niños happen about every 2 to 7 years, and this one is particularly strong. It already helped to make 2015 the hottest year ever recorded — and it may make 2016 hotter still.

Well, at least we won’t be freezing our electrodes off, right? Not necessarily. Despite the overall warmer temperatures, El Niños can also bring colder-than-average winter weather to the South.

So what’s an electric car driver to do? Lowering your air conditioner can help. So can using your seat warmers instead of your car’s heater. Keep an eye on the weather and watch for extreme high or low temperatures. Drive at a moderate speed (the higher your mph, the faster your battery drains) and take a moment to find the charging stations along your route before you start your trip.

Related link: Discover more ways to increase your EV’s range

New advancements in electric vehicle batteries

The 60-to-100-mile average range limit may be a thing of the past soon (well, soon-ish). Universities and companies around the world have been working hard to create a battery that offers higher capacity without increased size, weight, or expense. In September, the Bosch technology company unveiled their new solid-state, lithium-ion concept battery, which they claim will offer double the range at a reduced cost. They aim to have a production-ready version available in less than 5 years.

Meanwhile, chemists at Cambridge University made a breakthrough in lithium-air battery technology, potentially leading to the development of a super battery with 5 times the energy capacity of current batteries. (They feel another 10 years of work will be needed before the system is commercially viable for cars, however.)

Researchers at 2 U.S. universities have also been developing wireless, in-road charging stations that recharge vehicles as the cars pass over them. (In August of last year, the UK announced plans to test one such system.)

In the meantime, EV drivers who are turning down their heater to expand their car’s range can be warmed by the knowledge that their ride is good for the environment as well as their wallet.

Whatever type of vehicle you drive, make sure it’s covered by top-notch car insurance — especially during this year of crazy weather. And check out our El Niño Survival Guide for useful tips on handling any storm.

4 Wild Ways Technology Is Personalizing Homes

When I was a kid, I was certain we’d all be living in space-age homes by the time I grew up. But here I am, a bona-fide adult, still using the stairs instead of sliding down a spiral tube. And why doesn’t my front door scan my face or slide open automatically as promised by every sci-fi movie?

Well, the truth is, while I’ve been unlocking doors with a jagged piece of metal and climbing stairs with my old-fashioned legs, amazing high-tech developments have been changing science-fiction to science-fact. Here are 4 exciting new advancements for homes.

1. Your house might soon recognize you

Most home tech is designed to make life a little easier. Appliances, thermostats, pool pumps, sprinklers, and security cameras can now be controlled from anywhere, and some systems will even alert you if there’s a water leak. I know what you’re saying — all this sounds pretty standard these days. But what if your home were smart enough to distinguish between you and your guests? A Paris-based company, Netatmo, recently launched a security system that can now recognize the people in your home. You simply register the people you live with and if the system’s facial-recognition technology doesn’t recognize anyone in your home, you’ll be instantly notified on your mobile device.

2. The loo could care for you

Science can tell a lot about our health from our bodily waste. But with breakthroughs in electronic analysis, we may have a new (and slightly less uncomfortable way) of finding harmful bacteria and nutrient imbalances in our bodies. Gone will be the days when we’d have to bring doctors little specimen containers for a diagnosis. Imagine your humble toilet quietly checking your blood cell count, heart rate, and dietary balances, or even detecting the early signs of preventable disease.

Well, imagine no more. Toto, Japan’s largest toilet manufacturer, has released the “Intelligent Toilet” system that not only checks your vitals, but transfers the results to a health network for further analysis. If the “Intelligent Toilet” does find something that needs further examination, it can even share those details with a local doctor.

3. Going seriously green

The technology we use to power our homes recently went through some exciting changes. One of the latest comes from those electric maestros at Tesla: Powerwall. In a nutshell, Powerwall is a battery that charges itself using solar panels during the day so it can power your home by night. But, unlike the hulking generators of the past, Powerwall is energy efficient, compact, and easy to install. Each one has 7 kWh of storage capacity — enough to power most homes for an evening.

4. Robots on the rise

Of course, no high-tech home is complete without a friendly and helpful house robot. Every vision of the future I imagined growing up included a fun, freewheeling machine to help around the house. Sure, we’ve all seen the “robotic” vacuum that drunkenly bumps against furniture as it roams around cleaning up, but that’s about it … or so I thought.

High-tech, humanoid, multi-use robots are now being developed by some of the world’s largest consumer product companies. Honda recently unveiled their amazing “Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility,” or “ASIMO” for short, and a German company has introduced a bartending robot that stiffly shakes martinis to order. They may be multi-million dollar prototypes right now, but it shows that tech companies are rapidly progressing robot technology for all sorts of purposes.

The future is here

There’s no doubt that we’re in a wonderful time of technological advancement, and much of it will determine how we live in the future.  But while only some of these futuristic inventions are available to the public, you can experience the modern world with Esurance and get a personalized homeowners quote that’s right for you.