Physical Activity Primer

Putting on tennis shoes

Feeling tired, slow, and sluggish? People often don’t feel their best when they are not getting enough physical activity. But how much is enough? Experts say, for most of us, at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week promotes health and well-being. For the best results, aim for a combination of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and flexibility activities each week.

Ideally, we need 150 minutes of aerobic activities weekly. Aerobic activities increase your breathing and heart rate and improve heart and lung fitness. Jogging, brisk walking, biking, and swimming are examples.

Muscle-strengthening activities build and maintain both muscles and bones. Lifting weights, using a resistance band, or doing weight-bearing activities such as push-ups, squats, or yoga are all examples. Aim to do these twice weekly, in addition to your aerobic activity.

Flexibility activities help joints to move through their full range of motion. You should enjoy stretching exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi two to three times weekly.

Source: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/physical-activity/.

No Excuses to Moving More

Many people say they don’t have the time, energy, or resources needed to be active. Here are ways to overcome these barriers:

Workout equipment
  • Lack of time. Find two or three time slots of 10–15 minutes each day to schedule short bursts of activity, such as going for a walk. You can even find time to get active while you are at your desk. Try Desk Fit, 20 Essential Desk
  • Exercises, nasa.gov.
  • Motivation. Make activity a social event. Ask friends or family to join an activity. Encourage each other! This will benefit everyone, both physically and emotionally.
  • Low energy. Many people feel tired after work or doing household chores. Consider being active at the start of your day. This will keep other things from crowding out the opportunity later in the day. Moving your body first will improve your ability to manage whatever daily tasks you have ahead of you.
  • Fear of injury. Visit your health care provider to make sure activity is safe. Look for activities with low risk, such as walking or riding a stationary bicycle. SpendSmart. EatSmart has a chair workout, strength training, and stretching videos to use at home. See Physical Activity Videos, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.
  • Cost. Look for outdoor fitness equipment and recreation trails in your community. Libraries may offer exercise DVDs. Senior centers sometimes have free programs or equipment.

Source: Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity, cdc.gov.

Creek Walking

Creek with water and rocks

Looking for a way to keep cool this summer? Try creek walking! It’s a great way to enjoy nature with family and friends, get a little exercise, and experience the outdoors. You don’t need much equipment to creek walk, just a pair of dirty tennis shoes or water socks to protect your feet.

Walking in the creek allows you to explore wildlife and native plants; find a fossil, bone, or antler; and leave the video games at home. Any stream can be unpredictable at times, so walk in the water when you can see the stream floor. Pack drinking water and snacks if you plan to walk a longer stretch. Towels and a change of clothes will provide a dry ride home. If walking alone, let someone know where and when you are going.

Find walking trails at Iowa Walking Trails and Maps, www.traillink.com.

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, www.iowadnr.gov.

Take a Walk in the Park

Did you know Iowa has more than 70 state parks? Iowa State Parks celebrated their centennial in 2020. Didn’t make it to the celebration? That’s okay! The Iowa Department of Natural Resources still has “20 Walks in 2020” mapped routes, www.iowadnr.gov, to help you explore 20 of Iowa’s state parks. These routes are ideal for one or a small group or family.

Iowa By Trail is an app providing interactive maps for 2,000+ miles of Iowa trails. Users can fnd the closest trail to their current position. The app also provides other points of interest along the route, including museums, natural resources, and local restaurants.

What are you waiting for? Get out and walk or bike the trails this summer! You can also enjoy these other activities in Iowa parks:

  • Horseback riding
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Fishing

Sources: 20 Walks in 2020, iowadnr.gov; Iowa by Trail, inhf.org

Walk Abouts

We have heard a lot about the benefits of walking, but sometimes it seems boring to walk the same route all the time. There are ways to make it more interesting for everyone. Examples include the following:

  • Research community history and explore it on a walk.
  • Have you wondered about an interesting house or building in your community? Check with your local public library; they may have information about community history.
  • Another idea is to listen to a podcast or an audiobook on your walk. There are many interesting podcasts—some are educational, inspiring, or entertaining. Audiobooks are also available through most public library apps, including Libby and Overdrive, as well as paid services.

Keep these safety tips in mind when walking:

  • Let someone know where you are going.
  • Take a cell phone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Take a walking buddy for companionship.
  • Keep the volume of your headphones at a reasonable level so you can hear others, cars, etc.

Need a Workout Partner? Check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Physical Activity Videos.

Exercise mat and tennis shoes

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website has new physical activity videos. These are a great way to learn some new exercises. They can even serve as your virtual workout partner. They allow you to explore several types of workouts.

Like any good workout partner, these videos will also supply you with motivational tips to keep you going!

Go to Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video-category/physical-activity/, to check them out.

High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Runner

Have you heard about HIIT workouts? High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) alternates bursts of high-intensity effort with short recovery periods. It improves overall fitness, heart health, and body fat. People of all fitness levels can try this type of training. You can use it in cycling, walking, swimming, and group exercise classes. Workouts are generally shorter. They also burn more calories in the two hours after the workout.

Visit the American College of Sports Medicine, www.acsm.org, for more information on finding an HIIT program that is right for you.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine Fitness Trends, www.acsm.org

Moving More = Better Health

Our bodies are built to move. There are many benefits to being active throughout the day. Moving your body for just 3–5 minutes every 30–60 minutes improves nearly every system in the body.

Studies show that moving for a few minutes every 30 minutes or so

  • Improves digestion,
  • Increases energy levels,
  • Enhances mood,
  • Promotes better blood flow,
  • Improves posture, and
  • Increases focus.

Get your body moving by taking a stroll away from your work area. Stretch muscles that feel tense. Shake your arms and legs or do simple exercises in your workspace. For example, you could do wall push-ups, repeatedly standing from your chair.

Print this useful infographic on desk exercises, bit.ly/36X4kte!

Source: Time to Move, hr.umich.edu/benefits-wellness/health-well-being/ mhealthy/faculty-staff-well-being/physical-activity/time-move.

Apps to Get You Back on Your Feet

Woman working at computer and looking at watch

If you sit more than 30 minutes at a time for more than six hours a day, you are at higher risk of death from all causes. Even an hour of physical activity daily cannot undo the damage caused by too much sitting.

You can lower your health risk by standing up for only a few minutes every half hour. One way to make sure you do this is to get a free reminder app for your laptop or smart phone. With a reminder app, you decide how often you want to take a break from work to stand, stretch, walk around, or do some aerobic or resistance exercises.

Visit Whole Family Living, www.wholefamilyliving.com/apps-to-helpyou-
move-more-at-work/, for a review of the many reminder apps available.

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404815/

Geocaching—A treasure hunt around the corner

Geocaching device on a rock

Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt. It takes people to places they otherwise may have never gone. It’s a low-cost way for the whole family to stay active. You can enjoy outdoor adventures year-round. In fact, winter can be the best time to geocache—no bugs and fewer people!

To get started, set up a free account at Geocaching (geocaching.com/play). Download the app to your smartphone or purchase a GPS unit. In the app, you will see a map of all the caches. You can either choose to search for caches near you or browse for other locations you want to explore.

What you will find may be a very small pill container or a larger plastic container. Some will be harder to find than others, but they are never buried. Inside will be a log to sign. There might also be “swag” like geodes, stickers, patches, pins, marbles, keychains, lanyards, and geocoins. Visit geocaching.com for success tips and discover what is hiding near you!

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