Studies show that individuals are more physically active if the environment provides them with opportunities to do so. Examine your neighborhood, workplace, or school to identify ways to make your surroundings more inviting for walking or exercise. Here are four ideas to consider:
- Start a walking group in your neighborhood or at your workplace.
- Make the streets safe for exercise by driving the speed limit and yielding to people who walk, run, or bike.
- Participate in local planning efforts to develop a walking or bike path in your community.
- Share your ideas for improvement with your neighbors or local leaders.
Source: Opportunities Abound for Moving Around, May 2015, newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/May2015/Feature1
Most adults spend half their waking day sitting behind a desk, in front of a computer or TV, or riding in a car. Sitting is linked to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Research shows a 14 percent higher risk of these chronic diseases among those who sit for eight or more hours daily. Everyone who engages in prolonged sitting can be at risk, even those who are physically active each day. Prolonged sitting is a lifestyle risk factor that can be addressed by changing lifestyle habits. See the list below for ways to get more activity into your day.
Source: American College of Cardiology; Study Bolsters Link between Heart Disease, Excessive Sitting; March 2015
3 Ways to Move More:
1. Sit less. Notice the time you spend sitting and break up long stretches with movement. Pace while talking on the phone. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a walk during lunch.
2. Engage in aerobic exercise about 30 minutes each day. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (activity that causes your heart rate to increase).
3. Do resistance training at least two days a week. This type of exercise challenges major muscle groups to near exhaustion in 8–12 repetitions.
Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new physical activity routines.
Walk Your Way to Fitness
This publication includes a sample walking program, a “talk test,” and tips on comfortable clothing.
Download at: store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/PM1929/
Everyone age 2 years and older should be physically active. However, sometimes our activity is restricted by physical limitations. The key is to focus on what you can do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that if a disability is limiting your ability to achieve 150 minutes of weekly activity, take part in any regular physical activity as you are able. It’s important to avoid inactivity.
There are many ways to be physically active, so finding an activity you enjoy even with a disability is possible.
Water sports offer a weightless, low-impact option for those with knee, back, or foot problems. Examples include swimming laps, water aerobics, water jogging, or water walking.
Use alternative machines that mimic sports but remove the physical barrier. For example, if you love riding a bike but can’t due to paralysis or a leg injury, try a hand cycle. For runners with leg, hip, feet, or back issues, try a weightless treadmill. Local physical therapy offices or hospitals may have these machines available for use.
Chair exercises are another great option if you have difficulty standing. The National Institute on Aging has a free chair exercise DVD you can order
(go4life.nia.nih.gov/exercise-dvd) or try this free online 5-5-5 Chair Workout video (www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/2887/5-5-5-chair-workout/).
Always consult your health care provider before beginning any physical activity routines.
Fitting activity into a daily routine can be as easy as walking the dog after work or adding a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. Choose activities you enjoy and mix it up.
- Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall.
- Get the whole family involved—enjoy an afternoon bike ride with your kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids.
- Push the baby in a stroller.
- Clean the house or wash the car.
- Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.
- Mow the lawn with a push mower.
- Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.
- Walk, jog, skate, or cycle.
- Swim or do water aerobics.
- Take a nature walk.
- Most important—have fun while being active!
Bicycling increases one’s physical activity and can reduce weight. In addition, cycling has been shown to have a positive effect on emotional health. It can improve levels of well-being, self-confidence, and stress while reducing tiredness and sleep difficulties. As the weather continues to improve, enjoy the outdoors on your bike. The Iowa DOT’s “Bikes HomePage” provides an interactive map showing the surface type and length of various bike trails at http://bit.ly/1PHCj9B.
If you want to know how many calories you burned on your bike ride, check out the “MapMyRide” calculator or find out information on how to download the “MapMyRide” app at www.mapmyride.com/improve/calorie_calculator/.
Boost your activity level, burn some extra calories and lower stress by gardening. Gardening activities are great ways to boost physical activity. Experts recommend a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of physical activity per week.
Reference: William D McArdle, Frank Katch, Victor L. Katch, Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) (2001); taken from eXtension.org
Don’t have a garden yourself? Offer to help a neighbor or volunteer in a community garden. Go dig in the dirt and enjoy the healthful benefits of gardening!
To learn more about gardening, contact your local county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the online ISU Extension store at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ to check out these and other gardening publications:
PM 870B—Container Vegetable Gardening
PM 819—Planting a Home Vegetable Garden
PM 534—Planting and Harvesting Times for Garden Vegetables
Yoga is a good way to be physically active because it promotes increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone, as well as improved respiration, energy, and vitality. Yoga can also help with weight reduction and circulatory health. There are more than 20 different types of yoga! One variation gaining in popularity is Bikram yoga, often referred to as “hot yoga” because this style specializes in using a heated environment.
Bikram yoga is 90 minutes long and consists of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises, and takes place in a room 104 degrees with 40% humidity. The caution with hot yoga is the room temperature and the potential health risks it poses. Hot yoga may increase the risk of heat exhaustion if your body is no longer able to regulate its usual temperature. Heat exhaustion can lead to heavy sweating, dehydration, decreased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. These effects on your body may make you feel weak, dizzy, or nauseated.
Before starting hot yoga, or any physical activity program, it’s always a good idea to consult your health care provider to make sure it is safe for you to do so, especially if you are pregnant or have a serious health condition. For more information, visit http://www.berkeleywellness.com/fitness/injury-prevention/exercise/article/hot-yoga-scary-or-good-you.
The American College of Sports Medicine has named bodyweight training as the top fitness trend for 2015. Dr. Walter Thompson states, “These kinds of exercises provide the benefit of requiring little to no equipment and are incorporated into many fitness programs that are currently popular.”
Bodyweight training involves exercises where the body is used as resistance. This type of training uses little equipment, making it a very affordable option! Below are some bodyweight training exercises you can try at home. Click on the highlighted ones for instructional videos or visit http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness_programs_exercise_library_list.aspx?equipment=10.
Push-up, Plank, Pull-up, Squat, Single leg stand, Wall sit, Mountain climber
Tai 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: www.extension.org/pages/32340/tai-chi:-movment-for-health-benefits/print/ and http://nccam.nih.gov/health/taichi/introduction.htm
Exercising 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.