April is National Garden Month, and if you garden, you probably have experienced many of the benefits. Gardening not only provides nutritious food, it also provides a great cardio and strengthening workout. Spending time connecting with nature can also relieve stress. The regular physical activity gardening provides helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The strength gained (think carrying watering cans full of water or pushing a wheelbarrow) helps prevent osteoporosis as well. As with any physical activity, it is important to check with your doctor if you have concerns. Consider starting a garden this year. It does not have to be big, even a window box or a few containers provide many benefits. Learn more about the benefits of growing your own produce.
Source: University of Illinois Extension
Sitting is the new smoking. Long periods of sitting, even if you get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity in during the day, can be harmful to your health. If you have a sedentary desk job, you may find it difficult to move throughout the work day.
Try to “deskercise,” which refers to exercise that can be done during the workday right at your desk. The National Center for Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has a deskercise poster you can download at no cost. Choose two exercises on the poster and do them twice a day. The exercises include cardio, strength, and flexibility. Challenge your coworkers as well to get active at their desks. Here is the link to download the poster: www.nchpad.org/fppics/deskercise%20poster_updated.pdf.
Winter weather can discourage even the most dedicated exercisers. Use these tips for beating those chilly winter days:
Listen for the weather report, especially the wind chill. The current temperature and wind, along with the amount of time you’ll be outside, are essential factors in having a safe outdoor workout.
Layer it on, from head to toe. Dress in such a way to remove layers as soon as you start to sweat and then redress as needed. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, which draws sweat away from your body. Next, layer fleece or wool for insulation. Top with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
Drink your liquids. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids when exercising, whether it is in the cold weather or warm weather. Be sure to hydrate before, during, and after your workout. Get in the habit of drinking water, even if you aren’t feeling thirsty.
Keeping these tips in mind can help you safely enjoy your time outside, in spite of the winter weather.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Looking for a fun activity to try this winter? These top outdoor activities are good for burning calories:
Glide along the trail, taking in the fresh winter air and looking for wildlife. Search for parks with groomed trails. With moderate effort, you’ll burn 700 calories an hour, or 500 with light effort.
In areas where it’s permitted and ice conditions allow, ice skating is a great way to get active outdoors in the winter. In one hour of skating, you’ll burn 550 calories.
Sledding and tobogganing
You might ask how many calories you can burn while flying down a hill. Well, don’t forget the repeated walks up that hill, and you’ll rack up 550 calories burned in an hour.
Yes, you can still fish a stream in waders in the winter—look to the trout streams of northeast Iowa, which rarely freeze. In an hour of angling, you’ll burn 460 calories. Not wanting to get in the water? You can still burn 300 calories in an hour by fishing and walking along the bank.
All calories burned are calculated for a 170-pound person per hour. Those weighing less will burn fewer calories, while those weighing more will burn a greater amount of calories.
Search state and county parks by available activities with the Iowa DNR interactive Healthy and Happy Outdoors map.
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
The American Heart Association says that a 30-minute walk a day can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, and Type-2 diabetes.
The following tips can help you start walking with maximum safety and the most success.
- Talk to your doctor. Consult a health care professional before starting a workout routine if you are not physically active.
- Wear appropriate attire. This includes supportive shoes, good socks, breathable active wear, and a hat or cap to shield you from the sun or keep your head warm.
- Remember to stretch. Avoid sore muscles and injury by stretching before and after you walk.
- Start slow. Progressively increase the intensity and length of your walking regimen over time.
- Plan a route. Use www.mapmywalk.com or another similar website to plan a walking route. There are also many free online walking videos that can be used indoors with no equipment other than shoes such as START! Walking at Home American Heart Association 3 Mile Walk (www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYuw4f1c4xs).
Sources: American Heart Association, “Why Walking?” www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Why-Walking_UCM_461770_Article.jsp; eXtension Network, www.extension.org
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.
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