Yoga is a good way to be physically active because it promotes increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone, as well as improved respiration, energy, and vitality. Yoga can also help with weight reduction and circulatory health. There are more than 20 different types of yoga! One variation gaining in popularity is Bikram yoga, often referred to as “hot yoga” because this style specializes in using a heated environment.
Bikram yoga is 90 minutes long and consists of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises, and takes place in a room 104 degrees with 40% humidity. The caution with hot yoga is the room temperature and the potential health risks it poses. Hot yoga may increase the risk of heat exhaustion if your body is no longer able to regulate its usual temperature. Heat exhaustion can lead to heavy sweating, dehydration, decreased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. These effects on your body may make you feel weak, dizzy, or nauseated.
The American College of Sports Medicine has named bodyweight training as the top fitness trend for 2015. Dr. Walter Thompson states, “These kinds of exercises provide the benefit of requiring little to no equipment and are incorporated into many fitness programs that are currently popular.”
Tai chi is a martial art developed in ancient China that is now practiced for health improvement. Tai chi combines slow, graceful movements flowing into the next with focused mental concentration.
Tai chi requires very little in terms of equipment or props. This slow and gentle movement of body weight and deep breathing requires nothing more than comfortable clothes and flat, flexible shoes. It is suitable for all ages and can be done indoors or outdoors, alone or with a group. The whole family can learn and practice tai chi together.
People who practice tai chi several times weekly may experience several health benefits such as improved balance (which helps to reduce risk of falling), flexibility, strengthened muscles, stress relief, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, and improved sense of well-being, to name a few.
Before beginning tai chi, as with any exercise program, consult your physician if you have a chronic health condition.
Exercising can be hard, but tracking your progress doesn’t have to be. A fitness tracker counts your steps and provides motivation to exercise more throughout your day without drastic lifestyle changes or fad diets. By simplifying the process of monitoring with a fitness device, you will increase the likelihood of reaching a healthier weight and improving your overall health.
Fitness trackers are lightweight and wearable, and they can track steps, distance, heart rate, and calories used. Some even monitor sleep. The best activity trackers monitor your activity and display information about your daily routine on your smartphone or on the screen of the device itself.
Look for ones that will calculate your total minutes of activity, steps taken, heart rate, and goals for you. Some may even remind you to get up and move when you have been sitting for too long. Choose one that works with your lifestyle and habits. PC magazine has a good review of features and costs for some of the more popular wearable activity trackers.
You don’t have to be a marathoner to reap the health benefits of running. A recent Iowa State University study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that running for just 5 or 10 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Researchers followed more than 55,000 adults for 15 years to measure the benefits of running, according to DC (Duck-chul) Lee, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. Lee stated “runners were 45 percent less likely to die from heart disease or stroke than non-runners, regardless of their running distance, duration or speed.”
Most Iowans (about 82%) are not meeting the recommended levels of physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly. You do not have to attend an exercise class to get your physical activity. Physical activity is the movement of the body that uses energy and may include activities you perform every day like climbing stairs, walking to and from your car, walking the dog, etc.
“Desk jobs” may be contributing to our low levels of physical activity. Making small changes to incorporate physical activity into your workday could add up and help you reach the recommended daily physical activity goal. Try incorporating these physical activity-boosting strategies into your workday.
• Walk to work if possible or park away from the main entrance or use an entrance that is further away from your office. By doing so, you’ll be able to get more steps in daily, helping you reach the recommended 10,000 steps daily, which is about five miles.
• Plan short fitness breaks (3–5 minutes) every hour. This will give you 24–40 minutes of physical activity by the end of your workday. Try these short fitness break ideas:
o Walk up and down the stairs or hallway.
o Take a short walk on your lunch break.
o Do some chair squats, jumping jacks or jog-in-place in your office.
o See if your employer offers a worksite wellness program.
Stay cool in the summer, yet still break a sweat! There’s more to do in a pool than swim laps. You burn as many calories walking or jogging in the water as you do on land if you move your arms and legs at the same pace. You also can burn calories in shoulder deep water while using a kickboard or while performing push/pull movements with a pool noodle. The water resistance exercises your muscles but reduces stress on your joints.
Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. No matter your health and physical abilities, you can gain a lot by staying active. Go4Life was designed to help adults 50 and older incorporate more exercise and physical activity into their daily lives. Learn about this exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging by visiting their Go4Life® website at: http://go4life.nia.nih.gov/
Designed for older adults, the DVD features strength, balance, and flexibility exercises that can be done at home, at work, at the gym—almost anywhere. The video is a companion to the popular exercise book, Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging, available in English and Spanish. This 120-page book can be ordered free by going to: https://order.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/order/BK004
Getting bored with your workout? Want new ideas on how to get active? Check out Let’s Move! at http://www.letsmove.gov/.
February 2014 marked the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move!, an initiative to inspire families and communities to help children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the anniversary by encouraging people of all ages to show her how they move (through an everyday fitness routine, by making better food choices, or by moving their community toward a new norm) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc., using #LetsMove.