While watching your favorite teams compete in March Madness, take a time out during commercial breaks to stretch. Flexibility is an overlooked component of exercise that improves your range of motion, which increases your ability to engage in all different types of physical activity. You do not need to go to yoga to improve your flexibility. The most recent physical activity recommendations suggest stretching as an easy and effective means to increase flexibility.
Follow these simple stretching tips to minimize injury and maximize flexibility benefits:
- Relax by taking a few deep breaths during stretches.
- Make smooth/slow movements instead of jerky/quick motions.
- Stretch until feeling a gentle pull; if you feel any sharp pain or discomfort, you have stretched too far.
- Hold stretches for a total of 15–30 seconds.
To get started, try these simple stretches as you wait for the basketball games to resume:
- Forward Bend—When sitting/standing, reach your hands toward your toes. Hold for 15–30 seconds.
- Wall Push—Stand 12–18 inches away from a wall; lean forward, pushing against the wall with your hands and keeping heels flat on the floor. Hold for 15 seconds; repeat 1–2 times.
- Hip Flexor Stretch—With both knees on the floor, bring one leg forward placing your foot flat on the floor and your knee at a 90-degree angle. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your front thigh, near the groin. Keep your torso upright and front knee behind your toes. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each leg.
Sources: American Heart Association, Stretches for exercise and flexibility; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Active adults. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
Live Healthy Iowa, sponsored by the Iowa Sports Foundation, is a partner in the Healthiest State Initiative. Live Healthy Iowa offers many challenges and events throughout the year for individuals and communities to get involved in their health. Registration opened on January 14 for the Live Healthy Iowa 5K, scheduled for April 13 this year. The idea of completing a 5K might sound daunting, but it’s easier to do if you approach it slowly. Try a couch to 5K training plan. View a sample plan. There is also a C25K app for your phone for a personalized training plan.
Source: Live Healthy Iowa 5K
The holiday season is a busy time of year, which may make it hard to get in the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. Even when these recommendations are met, there is an increased risk for chronic disease when you are sitting for a prolonged period of time. There are plenty of ways to get moving, though. For instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the hallways at work on breaks, stand while you’re on the phone, or stretch a couple minutes for every hour of prolonged sitting. At home, complete floor exercises during commercial breaks or march in place while you’re cooking in the kitchen. These are small steps to reduce sedentary time and increase activity.
You can even enjoy the winter weather while getting in some exercise. Activities like ice skating, snowball fights, sledding, and making snow angels count toward your daily physical activity minutes.
Do you sit at a desk for prolonged periods during the day? If so, try deskercising to reduce the harmful effects of sitting for long periods of time. Deskercise includes 20 short bouts of cardiovascular, strength, and stretching exercises that can be performed at your desk throughout the day. To download a free poster—Deskercise! 20 Ways to Get Moving While You Work—from The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD).
Other ways to get moving at work include the following:
- Take a quick walk around the office every time you need a refill of coffee or water.
- Instead of emailing your coworker a few offices down, get up and go converse in person.
- Pace while on long conference calls.
- Have a walking/pushing meeting.
- Take the long route to the restroom.
- Swap your office chair for a stability ball.
Source: Desker-what?, NCHPAD
Not a big fan of warm or hot yoga? Don’t sweat it! A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Physiology showed that participants who worked up a sweat in hot yoga got the same heart health benefits as those who did yoga at room temperature.
Bikram (hot) yoga has been increasing in popularity. It consists of 26 yoga poses done in a room heated to 105oF. Researchers compared adults who took three 90-minute yoga classes a week (either hot or at room temperature) over 12 weeks. These adults were also compared with a control group of people who did no yoga at all. The hot-yoga group did decrease their body fat more than the room-temperature yoga or control groups. However, people in both yoga groups showed improved heart health. So, if health and vitality are your goals, you can choose either form of yoga.
Source: Hunter SD, Laosiripisan J, Elmenshawy A, Tanaka H. Effects of yoga interventions practiced in heated and thermoneutral conditions on endothelium-dependent vasodilation: The Bikram yoga heart study. Experimental Physiology. 2018;103:391–396.
One of the joys of fall is walking, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors among the beautiful fall foliage. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, fall color peaks progressively later the farther south you go in Iowa. In general, the northern third of the state typically peaks the last week of September through the second week of October. The central third has peak foliage color the first through third weeks of October, and the southern third of the state peaks in color the second through fourth weeks in October.
For specific 2018 information on Iowa fall colors, call the Iowa Fall Statewide Conditions (515-233-4110) or access the Weekly Fall Color Report from the Iowa DNR.
Sarcopenia is the decline of skeletal muscle tissue, or muscle mass, as we age. The loss of this muscle progressively impairs the strength and balance of older adults until they can no longer perform daily activities independently.
You can prevent or reverse sarcopenia by staying physically active, particularly with resistance training and weight-bearing exercises. Resistance training (using resistance bands or lifting weights) has shown the best results for building and maintaining muscle. However, other weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, dancing, or tennis, are beneficial as well.
The more we use our muscles, the bigger they grow! It’s never too early—or too late—to start strengthening our muscles to stay independent for life. To find out more, download “Stay Independent, Prevent Sarcopenia”.
Each year, Iowans celebrate RAGBRAI in July. Iowa cities and towns hold mini festivals for the bicycle riders—complete with food stands, entertainment, and displays of Iowa culture. However, the focus is still on the cyclists.
Live longer by bicycling. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity daily contributes to longevity. By making physical activity a regular habit, one can greatly reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, and prevent sarcopenia (muscle wasting) in older age.
Bicycling is ideal for any fitness level, and there are different types of bikes to fit one’s style (road, mountain, and hybrid). Has it been several years since you enjoyed this activity? The American College of Sports Medicine provides recommendations for beginning a bicycling routine. You can also order a map of bike trails through the Iowa DOT.
The Cardio Pyramid, created by Colorado State University, is a fun, upbeat workout that you can do at home. Instructional videos are available that break down each move in the pyramid, including warm-up and strength-building exercises, into simple steps so that you can learn the proper form necessary to complete each move.
To do the Cardio Pyramid, do the exercises in this order:
- March in place, 2 counts of 8
- Step touch, 2 counts of 8
- Hamstring curls, 2 counts of 8
- V-step, 2 counts of 8
- High knees, 2 counts of 8
- March in place, 3 counts of 8
Then repeat the exercises in the opposite order. To access the instructional videos to learn how to do each exercise, go to this eating smart being active website.
The claims sound believable, so it can be tempting to try the latest diet you hear about. While a diet plan may sound tempting, an eating plan should be the goal. To manage your weight and maintain a healthy nutritional status, it would be wise to consider these questions:
QUESTION: Does the plan promise weight loss without exercise?
For most healthy adults, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends the following exercise guidelines:
- Aerobic activity – Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity.
- Muscle-strengthening exercises – Two or more days per week.
Keep activity exciting by doing different things you enjoy.
QUESTION: Are there particular foods, or food groups, excluded or consumed excessively?
Use MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov) to guide your food intake. All food groups are important.
QUESTION: Does the plan require you to purchase pills, bars, or shakes?
A sustainable eating pattern is based on food readily available in grocery stores and farmers markets.
QUESTION: Does the plan promise weight loss of more than 1–2 pounds per week?
Losing 1–2 pounds or less a week is gradual, healthy weight loss. Weight lost more rapidly than this tends to be regained even faster.
QUESTION: Does the plan sound too good to be true?
If it does, it probably is.