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
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
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.
Strength training is just as important as aerobic exercise. Luckily, you don’t need to buy expensive fitness equipment or gym memberships. Here are some no-cost ways to increase your strength:
- Lift can or bottle weights. You can use unopened soup cans from your cupboard, or plastic milk, water, or detergent jugs filled with water or sand.
- Scoot on paper plates. Doing lunges on paper plates placed on a carpet helps sculpt the body.
- Do push-ups. Push-ups can be done anywhere, anytime. It’s helpful for beginners to use counter tops for assistance by placing both hands on the counter and placing the feet behind from an angle.
- Use old pantyhose as resistance bands. Anything you can do with resistance bands you can do with pantyhose (squats, curls, and other moves).
- Conquer the stairs. Skip escalators and elevators whenever you can. Stair climbing strengthens the legs and exercises the heart.
Visit www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/videos/ for how-to videos on muscle-strengthening exercises you can do at home.
Source: Move It Monday
Anyone can have a difficult time making exercise part of their routine. Often it comes down to motivation! Try these tricks to reach your fitness goals:
- Become an early bird. Many individuals get in their workouts in the morning, when willpower is at a maximum level and before it dwindles throughout the day.
- Get other people involved. Think of kid- friendly activities that your children will enjoy with you or find a friend who likes the same things you do, like running or spinning.
- Set smaller goals. It is much easier to fit ten minutes of movement into your day every few hours than to find a larger chunk of time in your schedule. Take one bag of groceries in at a time from the car, do sets of 10 squats or push-ups in between loads of laundry, or take stairs two at a time to get your heart rate up.
- Keep equipment front and center. Sometimes a simple thing, like putting your workout gear in your living room, can be key to feeling more motivated.
Winter months can be a challenge for daily physical activity because the need does not change in cold weather. Adults can ensure children (and they) are moving and developing their muscles by providing large muscle play opportunities. Action rhymes are a great way to get everyone moving. What are action rhymes? These are songs or poems set to motion that tell a story. Some classic action rhymes include “Row Your Boat,” “Ring Around the Rosy,” and “Head and Shoulder, Knees and Toes.”
When winter weather will allow, walking in the snow is a workout in itself; make it more interesting by searching for animal tracks. Pretending to be those animals when there is snow on the ground is a fun new game. Old-time favorite activities like creating a snow angel, dancing the “Hokey Pokey,” or playing the game “Duck, Duck Goose” are also a workout in the snow. Throwing snowballs at a target (a red circle in the snow made using food coloring) will satisfy the throwing urge and no one gets hurt. Following the leader or marching in a circle lifting those legs as high as they can go and swinging arms gets many muscles working.
Source: Posted on December 24, 2012, by Shannon Lindquist, Michigan State University Extension.
Fall is upon us. Out with the humid scorchers and in with the crisp fall air. Fall is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the weather with some fun seasonal activities. Being active increases your ability to prevent simple infections, just in time for cold and flu season! As you enjoy fall and prepare for winter, give these seasonal fitness activities a try.
• Plan a backyard holiday football game.
• Sign up for a 5k walk or run.
• Grab a friend or family member and go for a brisk walk.
Don’t like the cold? Explore some inside activity options like a spin (cycling) class or a new aerobics class at your local fitness center.
For more information, visit Healthy for Good.
What do you think about when you think of being physically active?
Did you know that thinking positively about physical activity can actually change the way you experience it? According to a study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, people tend to enjoy physical activity much more if they already believe that the exercise will make them feel better.
Start thinking of physical activity as a treat instead of a chore:
- Remind yourself of times when physical activity was fun! Recall how you felt playing softball or racing your bike as a kid.
- While engaging in physical activity, be mindful of the pleasant effects it’s having on your body. Think: “I’m breathing more deeply!” “It feels good to be using my muscles.”
- Enlist friends and family as cheerleaders. Celebrate your small successes on Facebook or Twitter—“Just walked two miles in 40 minutes. Not out of breath!”
- Pair physical activity with the things you already enjoy. If you’d like to spend more time with family or friends, take a group hike with them. If you’d like more time for yourself with a good mystery, get an audio version of the book and listen to it on the treadmill.
For more tips on indulging in the luxury of physical activity, visit food.unl.edu/fitness-indulgence.