Cats do it, and it’s good for people, too! Stretching is good anytime, but especially…
- First thing in the morning—wake up your muscles
- After sitting or standing—relieve muscle tension and work out the kinks
- Before exercise—reduce the risk of joint and muscle injury
- After exercise—prevent muscle shortening and tightening; improve flexibility
- During or after driving—improve your alertness
- When you feel tense or stiff—relax your mind, reduce your stress level, and
promote circulation throughout the body
Remember these guidelines when stretching—focus on slow, smooth movements; remember to breathe; hold a stretch for 8 to 10 seconds; move only as far as you can without experiencing discomfort (stop if you feel pain). Bouncing to stretch farther can cause injury; remember that frequent stretching is more important than trying to stretch so far that it hurts.
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If you are looking for a good workout for the abdominal and back muscles in your mid-section, try an exercise ball. Exercise balls are large, vinyl balls with varying degrees of inflation.
Exercise balls work these core muscles in the body by introducing instability while doing an exercise, forcing a person to maintain balance and proper posture. Exercises done on the exercise ball can include:
- spine rotation exercises,
- mobility and stretching techniques, and
- pelvic isolation exercises.
Be aware when using an exercise ball:
- First time users should get expert help to learn how to properly use the ball.
- Individuals with issues related to a sudden, unexplained loss of balance should avoid using an exercise ball.
- Use the ball on a soft surface to prevent injuries from falling.
- Select a ball that is appropriate for your size. It should allow the hips and knees to relax at a 90-degree angle while sitting on the ball with the back in a neutral position.
- Progress gradually.
Adapted from Having A Ball with Exercise, WebMD fitness newsletter
Tennis has historically been called the sport for a lifetime. It is still one of the best sports anyone can choose to play, no matter what your age. Tennis has specific health benefits for both the body and mind, which gives it an edge over many other types of physical activity.
Recreational tennis constitutes moderate aerobic exercise, involving quick bursts of activity with intermittent resting, called interval training. Research shows that this type of training is beneficial for the heart and enhances muscle performance. Tennis works many muscle groups at the same time and improves balance, dexterity, mobility, and agility. It also challenges your mind as you must learn to plan rapidly and act while thinking tactically.
Other sports may provide excellent health benefits, as well as stimulate mental and emotional growth. But no other sport has received such acclaim for its great benefits physically, mentally, and emotionally. Tennis is a fun activity that everyone in the family can enjoy.
New research on physical activity supports the importance of Break Time— moving periodically throughout the day. Research done at Australia’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, suggests that sitting for long periods of time is associated with health risks, including cancer risks. This even applied to people who are regularly active.
The studies showed that biomarkers for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes such as waist circumference, insulin resistance, and inflammation can all be lowered with activity breaks as short as one to two minutes.
Practical tips for taking many movement breaks throughout the day:
- Set a timer on your computer or phone to remind you every 60 minutes it’s time to get up and move.
- “Walk with me.” Need to discuss something with a co-worker? Ask him or her to join you for a walk while you hash it out.
- Keep light weights or a strength band in your office to use while talking on the phone or reading e-mail.
- Use your office and/or office wall to do simple things like stretches, leg lifts, or marching in place.
Adapted from reports from the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference, 11/ 3/2011.
fitness, healthy living
You’re in good company if you made a New Year’s resolution to improve your health. That’s a great beginning! Now it’s time to take action. Focus on making small, positive behavior changes to achieve personal health goals. These can make a BIG difference over time. Small changes are always better than taking no action at all.
1. Get Fit
- The President’s Challenge Program includes an “Adult Fitness Test”, a tool to assess your level of fitness. You can complete testing activities, enter your data online, and receive an evaluation. This tool helps set goals to establish small, positive behavior changes. Completing this assessment on a monthly basis will highlight the progress and motivate you!
- Assessment components: Aerobic fitness—the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver blood to muscles. Muscular strength and endurance— whether you are strong enough to do normal activities easily and protect your lower back. Flexibility—the ability to move your joints through their proper range of motion. Body composition—whether you have too much body fat, especially around the waist.
2. Rethink Your Drink
Choosing healthy beverages is just one of those small, positive behavior changes to an overall healthy diet.
Individuals drinking soft drinks take in more calories than those who do not. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with weight gain, overweight, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. A 12-ounce can of soda has 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar. If these calories are added to the typical diet, without cutting back on something else, one soda a day could lead to a weight gain of 15 pounds in one year!
Sports drinks also contain calories and sugar, in amounts similar to soft drinks! Sports drinks average about 140 calories and 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle. Sports drinks offer little advantage over water for most youth. They are beneficial only for athletes who participate in high-intensity, aerobic exercise for at least 90 minutes.
Help children learn to enjoy water as the thirst quencher of choice. Make sugar-sweetened drinks a “sometimes” beverage to be enjoyed in moderate amounts. Remember that soft drinks include fruit drinks, lemonade, energy drinks, sweet tea, and sports drinks. Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator for easy access. Add lemon, lime, other fruit, or a splash of juice for variety in flavor.
3. Try new foods!
MyPlate recommends eating a variety of foods at a meal to ensure adequate intakes of nutrient-rich foods. Many get into the habit of eating the same foods week to week. There are a variety of ways to taste new foods: exchange recipes with friends or have a cooking day with friends during which you prepare large amounts of foods to share.
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Healthiest Iowa Initiative – we’re number 19, heading toward number 1. It’s a bold and unprecedented goal to jump 18 ranks up the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® in just five years, but if anyone can do it, Iowans can. Together, we can change Iowa and be part of a groundbreaking community movement that has never been attempted on a statewide basis.
Start Somewhere…choose your goals for healthier activity and nutrition – then just get started…somewhere! Not sure where to start with wellness goals? Check out the healthiest state initiative for ideas to get you started. Look under Resources > Statistics and Reports for a list of wellness tools and resources.
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Walking is a great way to meet the 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. But going for a walk in cold and snowy weather brings special challenges. Ensure a safe outdoor walk with these tips:
- Be aware of the wind chill factor before starting your walk. When it’s windy, think about whether you want to walk into the wind when you are returning and warmed up from exercise or when you begin and are warm from your home.
- Select a route with no snow or ice when possible.
- Dress warmly in several layers of loosefitting, tightly woven clothing. Wear a waterproof coat, hat, gloves, a scarf, or knit mask to cover your face, and waterproof boots. Be careful you aren’t so bundled up that you can’t hear or see what is going on around you!
- Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher before going outdoors and reapply as needed. Protecting your skin from the sun is important in the winter even if the air and wind are brutally cold.
- Share your planned route with family or friends in case of an emergency and carry a cell phone, if you have one.
- Take a break when you begin to feel fatigue. Watch for signs of cold weather health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite.
- Walk with a friend! It will help keep you motivated.
Roller skating or blading is a fun activity and can improve your heart and lung health as
well as muscular endurance. It requires relatively good balance and coordination, but if you want to glide gracefully, you will need a lot of practice. Beginning skating does not have to be an expensive trip to the sporting goods store. Try it out at your local skating rink or check the local parks and recreation office or fitness center to see if they rent roller skates or rollerblades.
If you decide you like skating, get skates designed with a high roller skate boot for maximum ankle support. Skating is a great workout, so try it. Be sure to wear protective gear, including helmet, knee and elbow pads, and gloves before strapping on those skates.
fitness, healthy living
Early fall is a great time for hiking. Hiking can offer hours of enjoyment, a lifetime of personal fitness, and is a great stress reliever. If it is a family hike, stronger bodies and wonderful memories can be a joint outcome. Don’t forget when choosing a trail to keep in mind the ages and abilities of the family members who will be taking part. Length of the hike and type of terrain are important to consider. Remember hats, sunglasses, and safe drinking water. Use a sunscreen and follow directions for reapplying. Sturdy, well-fitting shoes keep feet happy and injury-free. Don’t forget to include healthy trail snacks to provide fuel to keep everyone going strong. Enjoy!
If the hustle and bustle of work, home, or life in general leaves you feeling tense and stressed out, try relaxing with yoga. Yoga is a type of exercise that uses different postures with deep breathing exercises and meditation. Many who have tried yoga share that it leaves them feeling calm and rejuvenated. Yoga was developed more than 5,000 years ago in India for those who wanted to experience spiritual uplifting.
Today, thousands of people still find yoga to be uplifting. However, research has shown that yoga has additional health benefits. Yoga improves muscle strength and flexibility, reduces stress, decreases body fat, improves circulation, stimulates the immune system, and boosts concentration as well as creativity. It also helps you burn calories. A 150-pound person can burn approximately 130 calories in 30 minutes of yoga.
With all these benefits, why not try it? Proper instruction from professionals is strongly recommended to avoid injury. Check out your local library for a yoga video or the local gym for yoga classes. If you have never tried yoga before, here are some tips:
- Start slow — it is better to go slow and take breaks when needed than to wear yourself out too quickly. If you feel tired, take a timeout and drink some water.
- Block out all distractions; focus on correct posture and positioning by following the instructions given on the video or by the instructor.
- Remain focused on posture — this will help increase your yoga stamina.
- If you are taking a yoga class, always ask for extra guidance from the instructor when needed.
Remember to consult your physician before trying any new exercise.
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