Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Increase Your Physical Activity Level with Tai Chi

January 26th, 2015

woman tai chi figureTai 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.

Sources: and

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Activity Trackers—Are They for You?

December 31st, 2014

activity fitness trackerExercising 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.

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A 10-Minute Run Does Your Heart Good

October 22nd, 2014

man and woman running outside fitnessYou 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 people say they don’t have time to exercise…but I think most everyone can find 5 to 10 minutes per day to run for the health benefits,” Lee said. For more about the study, watch the video at

Looking for other quick ways to get fit? Check out ISU Extension’s “Quick Fit,” a program of exercises you can complete in only 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week:

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Get Moving at Work

September 17th, 2014

man as desk exercise ballMost 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.


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Cool Off While Working Out!

July 23rd, 2014

fitness active pool water workoutStay 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.

Find more exercises you can perform in the water. Watch this video for other pool workout ideas

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Iowa Games – A great way to get moving this summer

June 25th, 2014

gold silver bronze medalWhat are the Iowa Games? The Iowa Games offer statewide competition in some 50 sports. The Iowa Games provide Iowans with recreational opportunities through Olympic-style events.

Who can compete? All Iowans! There are events for athletes of all ages and abilities! Athletes in all competitive events vie for Iowa Games gold, silver, and bronze medals with neck ribbons.

When and where are the Games? The Summer Games are scheduled the last three weekends in July. Events take place in central Iowa with most events in Ames.

How do I register? Go to:

Which sports are included? Whether you compete in golf, handball, fishing, Zumba, or any of the more than 50 events, you’ll find them described at:

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Be Active, No Matter Your Age!

May 28th, 2014

diverser mature group fitness activeExercise 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:

You can order a free video/DVD (Go4Life Everyday Exercises from the National Institute on Aging) from:

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:

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Get Motivated to Move

April 23rd, 2014

letsmoveGetting bored with your workout? Want new ideas on how to get active? Check out Let’s Move! at

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.

Be inspired to take your own physical activity up a notch by following Let’s Move! on Facebook and follow the Let’s Move! blog at

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The Kitchen Workout

March 26th, 2014

woman in kitchenAre you having a difficult time getting 30 minutes of physical activity in during the day? Did you know that your kitchen could be a great place for you to get some physical activity while your meal is cooking?
Warm Up: March in place or walk briskly for one minute while breathing deeply (IN through the nose and OUT through the mouth).
Side Arm Raises: Hold cans of fruit or vegetables at your sides with palms facing inward. Slowly breathe out as you raise both arms to the side, shoulder height. Hold the position for 1 second. Breathe in as you slowly lower arms to the sides. Build up until you can repeat 10 to 15 times. Rest; then repeat 10 to 15 more times.
Toe Stands: Stand at your kitchen counter, feet shoulder-width apart, holding on to the counter for balance. Breathe in slowly. Breathe out and slowly stand on tiptoes, as high as possible. Hold position for 1 second. Breathe in as you slowly lower heels to the floor. Build up until you can repeat 10 to 15 times. Rest; then repeat 10 to 15 more times.

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MARCH into Spring

March 5th, 2014

family eatingMARCH into spring armed with habits that help you become your healthiest self. Consider these tips:

Move every day – Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily for better blood pressure, stress reduction, and weight control. This can include three 10-minute bouts of physical activity throughout the day. Choose activities you enjoy, raise your heart rate, build strength, and increase flexibility. An activity buddy can help you stay faithful to your plan.

Avoid Skipping Meals – When making a shopping list and planning meals, consider MyPlate ( Include healthy snacks (e.g., low fat yogurt, vegetables with low fat dip, whole grain bread with peanut butter) to meet your family’s nutritional needs. Healthy snacks sustain energy levels between meals and help you stay on track with your health goals.

Read food labels – Aim high (20% or more) for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Aim low (5% or less) for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. For more information on how to read a food label, watch the “Label Reading for Health” video at

Choose foods carefully – Become a smart shopper by reducing the amount of convenience foods eaten, choosing fruit canned in juice, and buying no salt added canned vegetables. When you are choosing foods, make half your plate fruits and vegetables and watch portion sizes.

Have family meals – Make family meal time a priority. Research shows family meals promote healthier eating. Eat as a family a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime and turn off the TV, computers, and phones. Have all family members help in meal planning and cooking.

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