Healthy and Happy Outdoors (H2O) is a new initiative designed to connect Iowans with the outdoors as a means to reduce stress and improve health.
The H2O website provides information on more than 30 types of outdoor activities at over 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas. Each time you complete an outdoor activity, you can have your name entered into a drawing for recreational prizes, including bikes, binoculars, and vacation getaways.
This is a great way for families to enjoy Iowa outdoors while being physically active.
fitness, healthy living
According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity-aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, OR 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging, every week. This may sound like a lot of time, but research shows that physical activity can still be beneficial if broken up into smaller chunks, as long as you are doing the activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes.
The chart below demonstrates the benefit of exercising at a moderate intensity for 10 minutes during lunch. Although preventing a 3 pound weight gain over the course of the year may sound minimal, this is the typical weight gain Americans experience annually that contributes to the 30 pound weight gain per decade of adult life.
The amount of calories burned is based on a 150-pound person.
Have the dance competition television shows inspired you to get up and move? You don’t have to be a professional dancer, a celebrity, or even someone who knows how to do any special dance moves to get health benefits from dance.
Dancing provides a workout for both the body and the mind. Researchers have learned that regular physical activity generally can help your body, including your brain, stay healthy as you age. Exercise increases the level of brain chemicals that encourage nerve cells to grow. And dancing that requires you to remember dance step sequences boosts brainpower by improving memory skills.
Research suggests that ballroom dancing at least twice a week made people less likely to develop dementia. It also has been shown that some people with Alzheimer’s disease are able to recall forgotten memories when they dance to music they used to know.
Other benefits of dance include:
- strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
- improve your posture and balance
- increase your stamina and flexibility
- reduce stress and tension
- burn calories (150-pound person burns 150 calories in 30 minutes)
So, tonight when you consider settling down for a little television, do a little boogie instead!
When the weather is too cold and the roads are snowy and icy, try indoor cycling. Many gyms and fitness clubs offer indoor cycling classes that are free with a gym membership or can be paid for per class. A benefit of indoor cycling is that, although you have an instructor guiding you through a workout, you can go at your own intensity and won’t be left behind. With indoor cycling you can keep the resistance low and go for an easy ride or increase the resistance and practice “climbing hills.”
If you like to work out at home, you can purchase a stationary bike or a bike trainer to set your road bike on to do indoor cycling. There are also indoor cycling DVD’s available that take you through workouts, just like at the gym.
For information on bike trainers and indoor cycling DVD’s, visit CycleOps or SPINeRVALS.
fitness, healthy living
Today we go everywhere by car and sit for hours in front of the TV or computer. This sedentary lifestyle has been tied to obesity and other health-related problems.
Family exercise can improve the health of your loved ones, be fun, and at the same time develop stronger connections among all of you. The goal is to get youth active with 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day; adults need 30 minutes every day.
So, how do you find a way to make it work for everyone?
- Combine exercise and household chores by having the entire family walk the dog, rake the lawn, or weed the garden.
- Engaging the entire family in household chores/activities makes the workload lighter for everyone and builds a sense of teamwork.
- Designate one evening as family fitness night and take turns designing the family workout you will all do together.
Eventually, all family members get to do their preferred workout activities and all will benefit from a workout that will never be dull. In the process, you’ll teach your children not only about health, but also family connection. Most importantly, make it fun for everyone!
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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.
fitness, healthy living