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!
fitness, healthy living
You’ve probably heard it before: Eat more fiber! Do you know why fiber is so good for your health? Eating an adequate amount of fiber will lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and constipation. What a package deal!
Current recommendations suggest that we consume at least 20 grams of dietary fiber per day from food, not supplements. The more calories you eat each day, the more fiber you need; teens and men may require 30 to 35 grams per day or more. Eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits will usually provide most of the fiber you’ll need.
Here are some tips for choosing high fiber foods:
- Go with whole. Whole fruits are packed with more fiber and a lot fewer calories than their juice counterparts. Choose whole grains, such as whole wheat or whole oats. Select grain products that have a whole grain listed as the first ingredient–typically found just below the nutrition facts panel. Breads, cereals, crackers, and other grain foods should have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
- Break the fast with fruit. Get off to a great start by adding fruit, like berries or melon, to your breakfast every day.
- Eat more dried beans. It’s easy to forget about beans, but they’re a great tasting, inexpensive source of fiber that also provides protein and other important nutrients.
- Try a new dish. Test new recipes that use whole grains, like tabouli, cooked barley, dried beans, or lentils.
healthy living, nutrition
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.
fitness, healthy living
“Be Safe — Don’t Cross-Contaminate” is the theme for Food Safety month.
Cross-contamination is the physical movement or transfer of harmful bacteria from one person, object, or place to another. Preventing cross-contamination is a key factor in preventing foodborne illness. Be sure to follow a game plan for food safety when you tailgate this fall:
- Before handling food, wash hands and utensils thoroughly with hot soapy water.
- When packing the cooler, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating
ready-to-eat food. Have separate coolers; keep beverages separate from food.
- When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.
Remember—“Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart.”
food safety, healthy living
Nutrition plays an important role in assuring your child has a successful school year. Many children do not eat breakfast every day; others grab a soda and high-fat, high sugar pastry—definitely not a “breakfast of champions” relative to cost or nutrition.
Studies have shown that those who eat a morning meal perform better in school;
- they have higher test scores,
- higher attendance,
- less tardiness,
- better concentration,
- and more muscle coordination.
Also, children who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.
If your child doesn’t like traditional breakfast foods, don’t worry—breakfast can be most any food, even a slice of pizza. If your child claims not to be hungry, offer 100 percent juice and toast. If the school has a midmorning snack time, pack healthy snacks like yogurt, cheese stick, or bagel. Remember to use an ice pack and insulated lunch bag to keep foods at a safe temperature.
As for lunch, school meal regulations are new this year and have improved the nutritional quality of lunch. School meals have always supplied one-third of a child’s nutrition needs; however, tighter regulations mean lower fat and sodium limits and a greater variety of fruits and vegetables (including fresh). If you choose to pack your child’s lunch, let your child help plan and prepare the lunch. Include meals that are easy to prepare and fun to eat as well as nutritious. A few examples are sandwiches, raw veggies, crackers, string cheese, whole fruit, and yogurt.
food preparation, healthy living, nutrition
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley,malts, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and rye. Foods that typically contain gluten include bread, pasta, crackers, cereal,candies, brown-colored soda, beer, and gravy. Manufacturers now produce gluten-free products labeled “gluten-free” indicating products do not include ingredients containing gluten.
Examples of gluten-free foods: rice, corn, potato, soy, buckwheat, most dairy products, eggs, meats, beans, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
Approximately one percent of Americans have Celiac Disease and are prescribed a gluten-free diet. When people with this disease eat gluten, they are likely to become ill, have stomach pain and diarrhea, because their small intestines become inflamed and damaged. After multiple exposures to gluten, the intestines lose their ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Some people may experience weight loss when they initially begin this diet, partially due to the limited number of gluten-free products. There is recent interest in using a gluten-free diet for weight loss, though gluten-free diets are not recommended as a long-term solution. There is no evidence showing that a gluten-free diet will lead to weight loss. Gluten-free products contain a similar number of calories and may have increased sugar and fat to make them palatable.
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
February is Heart Month and one aspect of healthy eating for the heart is limiting salt and sodium intake. Salt plays a role in high blood pressure, which affects about one in three American adults. Everyone, including children, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age, and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.
One easy way to track sodium intake (and so much more) is the new, free, online tool, SuperTracker, released December 2011 by the USDA. Foods eaten are entered and compared to a general nutritional recommendation (based on 2,000 calories per day) or can be personalized for the user. To personalize, the user enters his or her age, gender, weight, height and physical activity level; this generates personalized nutrition and physical activity recommendations for that user.
Five goals can be set in the categories of:
- Weight management
- Physical activity
- Food groups
For example, a goal of consuming 1,500 mg of sodium per day can be set by someone with high blood pressure. Weekly coaching messages related to goals are generated to help people move in the right direction. SuperTracker is a tool that can help users see what they are really eating, how much activity they are really getting, and help them set goals and track progress to improve their health.
healthy living, nutrition
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
Too busy to exercise? Too cold to go outside? You can multi-task while food is cooking by doing kitchen calisthenics!
Warm up by marching in place or walking briskly for one minute. Breathe deeply during exercising (IN through the nose and OUT through the mouth).
- Quick arm exercise. Start with a can of beans or fruit in your right hand. Bend at the elbow and lift the can to shoulder height 15 times. Switch hands and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 for each arm.
- Countertop pushups. Stand about three feet from the counter. Place hands firmly on the counter top edge. Keep your back straight and slowly bend your elbows until your chest almost touches the counter. Slowly push back to an arms-straight position. Start with 5 and increase the number daily to 10.
- Ankle twists. Stand near a counter and place one hand on the counter for stability. Extend one leg forward with foot off the floor and rotate ankle to the left and right 3 to 5 times. Then point toes downward and hold for 30 seconds; extend toes up toward your nose and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other ankle. For a greater challenge, hold your hand just above the counter and close your eyes.
- Soft squats. Face the kitchen counter, with both hands flat on the counter and feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly squat, bending your knees only to your comfort level. Slowly return to standing.