Yoga: Health Benefits Beyond the Mat

The purpose of yoga is to build strength, flexibility, and awareness. The muscle stretching in yoga can lessen arthritis pain, backache, and headaches. Yoga has many benefits for your heart and lungs as well. It lowers your blood pressure and slows your heart rate. Yoga may also help increase muscle strength, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve breathing and energy.

Yoga mat

Aside from the physical benefits, yoga can help manage stress. Yoga involves paying attention to your breath, which can improve mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness. It relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, and sharpens concentration.

More than 100 different types of yoga exist. There is a form of yoga for everyone! Your size or fitness level does not matter. Every yoga pose can be modified. Beginner classes are available in every style. If you’re new to yoga, practice these 12 basic yoga poses to get started at WebMD (www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-yoga-pose-basics).

Sources:
Harvard Health (www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat)
American Osteopathic Association (www.osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga)

Any Movement Is Better Than No Movement!

Crunched for time? Any workout is better than no workout! It is recommended adults get at least 150 minutes of cardio training (i.e., walking, biking, swimming) a week and at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities (i.e., weight training) to promote living a healthy lifestyle. Working out and getting the blood pumping has many health benefits—including reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving sleep, enhancing mood, relieving stress—and it can be fun! At-home circuit workouts, biking, walking, gardening, jogging, and bodyweight exercises (strength-training exercises that use your own body weight to provide resistance against gravity) are some easy ways to incorporate extra movement into your busy day. To reach the goal of 150 minutes per week, spread out your workouts into 30 minutes a day and bring a family member or friend along too!

Visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/move-your-way-activity-planner) to find more ideas to increase your daily activity.

Make Waves for Your Health’s Sake

Swimming sign

As adults, we need two and a half hours (150 minutes) of aerobic physical activity per week. Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States. While you’re trying to cool off this summer, try to incorporate some water exercises.

When you hop in the water—whether a lake, river, or pool—try one of these “cool” exercises:

  • Walk forward, backward, and sideways in the water. Start slowly for 1–2 minutes in each direction and work up to 3–5 minutes. A water belt may be helpful to maintain buoyancy.
  • Water squats are a great strength exercise. Be sure your feet are on the bottom of the pool, lake, or river and you can wiggle your toes. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Grab a water noodle and use it as an oar. Begin to row as if you were in a boat, using the noodle as your oar in the water. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control
Unity Point

Get Your Family Moving!

You probably know that regular physical activity helps both parents and children stay well. It strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones. But did you know that physical activity could strengthen families, too? Families that take walks, play sports, or do physically active chores together often notice these benefits: better communication and bonding, less stress and conflict, and more family fun!

Getting family members of all ages involved in the same physical activity at one time can be a challenge. Here are tips that may help:Sports equipment

  • Set regular, specific activity times. Determine times when the whole family is available.
  • Plan and track progress. Write plans on a family calendar.
  • Build new skills. Enroll yourself and the kids in exercise classes you will both enjoy.
  • Treat physical activity as a gift. Give presents that encourage physical activity, such as bikes, balls, jump ropes, and badminton sets.

Both parents and children can treasure the times when the family is physically active together. Visit Choose MyPlate’s Ten Tips to Be an Active Family for additional information.

Sources: ChooseMyPlate.gov, WebMD

Stay Safe in the Summer

Temperature warning signThere are many outdoor summer activities to do in the sun, but it is important for your safety to know the proper precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 600 heat-related deaths each year. However, there are plenty of things you can do to beat the heat.

 

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Protect yourself against sunburn. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply every two hours.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Monitor the color of your urine; it should remain a pale, not dark, yellow.
  • Never leave individuals or animals in parked vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest time of the day (early to mid-afternoon). Schedule your exercise during cooler parts of the day such as early morning or evening.

 

Source: Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/symptoms-causes/syc-20373250)

Health Benefits of Walking

Fewer than 50% of Americans meet the minimum guidelines for moderate physical activity. Walking is the easiest and most affordable way to correct this problem. Walking can be done anywhere; all you need is shoes. Walking can be done easily and has huge benefits. Walking can be done by taking short breaks during the day; it doesn’t have to be one long walk. For example, three 10-minute walks during the day will count as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for the day. Keep your pace brisk (3 miles per hour) to meet the moderate physical activity recommendations. Take your first step today!

Visit the Healthiest State Initiative (iowahealthieststate.com/5210) for more information.

Take a Time Out for Flexibility

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.

Visit the American Heart Association for more stretches.

 

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 5K

Iowa 5KLive 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

Did Your Exercise Goals Take a Holiday?

Goal

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.

Source: eatright.org

Let’s Deskercise!

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:Less Sitting More Walking

  • 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

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