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.
Need a way to strengthen your core muscles? Try planks. They hit all major abdominal muscles while also working the muscles of your back, chest, shoulders, glutes, and quads. Planks help to improve posture, increase flexibility, and improve balance. They can be easily modified based on your fitness level and abilities.
- Lay stomach-down on the ground and press your chest up until your shoulders are directly over your elbows.
- Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Engage your core muscles to maintain this position.
Plank for beginners:
If you are new to exercise, try these modifications that will allow you to build up to achieving the traditional plank. Rather than placing your hands on the floor, you can hold on to a variety of objects, such as a bench or a platform. The further away your upper body is from the ground, the easier the exercise. Your elbows and shoulders should be in a line with each other. Make sure you engage your core to keep your hips and shoulders from dipping.
Plank for people who use a wheelchair:
Transfer onto a low bench, table, or platform. Your toes, knees, or hips can be supported by the bench depending on your level of function. This is called the pivot point. Your body should form a straight line from your head to the pivot point. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.
Source: Planks 101, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, http://www.nchpad.org/1391/6235/Planks~101
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) promotes eating smart, moving more, and being at a healthy weight as the three top ways to reduce cancer risk. Cancer prevention research says that you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day and avoid sedentary habits like too much sitting, TV watching, or screen time.
Survey respondents said the biggest barrier toward meeting this recommendation is TIME! A key strategy to overcome this barrier is to start adding it in your schedule in small increments and slowly build up to 30 minutes daily.
- Take a 5-minute walking break: After every hour of sitting, get up and walk around. Walk down the street, down the hall, up and down the stairs; just move for 3 – 5 minutes, building up to 10 minutes for every 60 minutes of sitting.
- Make it a family affair: Create family activity challenges. Craziest dance moves, most jumping jacks in a minute, fastest running in place—whatever your family would find fun. Let the kids take turns leading an exercise break.
- Try a new activity or get back to that thing you used to do: Maybe you used to bike, hike, or play tennis. Find a like-minded friend(s), join a class, and make it a social occasion.
Source: AICR’s eNews, February 4, 2016.
The relationship between diet and physical activity contributes to calorie balance and managing body weight. A key recommendation of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines is to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which help promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease. Remember the following:
- Regular physical activity offers health benefits for everyone!
- Some physical activity is better than none.
- Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. You can get this amount in by being active 30 minutes 5 days a week.
- For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.
- Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.
Need some motivation? Not sure where to start? The free online USDA Physical Activity Tracker may be a good way to get new ideas for being physically active and help you track your movement. This is available at https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/physicalactivitytracker.aspx.
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
Being physically active is important, and the right clothes and shoes can help reduce injury and make physical activity more comfortable. It’s all about the fabric and fit with clothing, so you don’t have to worry about the labels or latest fashions.
Fabric: Choose fabrics that pull sweat away from the skin and dry quickly. Most of these fabrics are made of polyester or polypropylene. These fabrics don’t soak the clothing. Look for terms such as Dri-fit, moisture-wicking, Coolmax, or Supplex. Cotton, on the other hand, absorbs sweat and leaves you feeling sweaty and uncomfortable.
Fit: Choose the fit that is most comfortable to you while not getting in the way of your activity. Loose clothing is fine for activities like running, basketball, and strength training. Form-fitting clothing works best for activities where clothing can get caught, like biking.
Shoes: Just as with clothing, your shoes should match the activity. Walking shoes are stiff, while running shoes are more flexible. For strength training, choose shoes that have good support. If you have issues with your feet or are unsure of the type of shoe you need, a store specializing in fitting shoes would be recommended. They are trained to determine the best shoe for you based upon your activity, gait, and feet.
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!
October is a glorious month of the year to enjoy outdoor activities in Iowa. The cool, crisp air is ideal for invigorating hikes or bike rides. The trees are ablaze with orange, red, and yellow leaves. You can spot hawks gathering in the sky for migration. And there are no mosquitos!
Adults should have 30 minutes of moderate activity five days weekly and youth should have 60 minutes daily. When was the last time you visited your local state park?
Most Iowa state parks offer miles of scenic trails for hiking, birding, and mountain biking through woodlands and prairies or along river bluffs.
Visit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks site to plan your next fall outing. Here you can download trail maps and read about the scenic delights and wildlife each park has to offer.
New research on physical activity supports the importance of Break Time— moving periodically throughout the day. Research done at Australia’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, suggests that sitting for long periods of time is associated with health risks, including cancer risks. This even applied to people who are regularly active.
The studies showed that biomarkers for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes such as waist circumference, insulin resistance, and inflammation can all be lowered with activity breaks as short as one to two minutes.
Practical tips for taking many movement breaks throughout the day:
- Set a timer on your computer or phone to remind you every 60 minutes it’s time to get up and move.
- “Walk with me.” Need to discuss something with a co-worker? Ask him or her to join you for a walk while you hash it out.
- Keep light weights or a strength band in your office to use while talking on the phone or reading e-mail.
- Use your office and/or office wall to do simple things like stretches, leg lifts, or marching in place.
Adapted from reports from the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference, 11/ 3/2011.
You’re in good company if you made a New Year’s resolution to improve your health. That’s a great beginning! Now it’s time to take action. Focus on making small, positive behavior changes to achieve personal health goals. These can make a BIG difference over time. Small changes are always better than taking no action at all.
1. Get Fit
- The President’s Challenge Program includes an “Adult Fitness Test”, a tool to assess your level of fitness. You can complete testing activities, enter your data online, and receive an evaluation. This tool helps set goals to establish small, positive behavior changes. Completing this assessment on a monthly basis will highlight the progress and motivate you!
- Assessment components: Aerobic fitness—the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver blood to muscles. Muscular strength and endurance— whether you are strong enough to do normal activities easily and protect your lower back. Flexibility—the ability to move your joints through their proper range of motion. Body composition—whether you have too much body fat, especially around the waist.
2. Rethink Your Drink
Choosing healthy beverages is just one of those small, positive behavior changes to an overall healthy diet.
Individuals drinking soft drinks take in more calories than those who do not. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with weight gain, overweight, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. A 12-ounce can of soda has 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar. If these calories are added to the typical diet, without cutting back on something else, one soda a day could lead to a weight gain of 15 pounds in one year!
Sports drinks also contain calories and sugar, in amounts similar to soft drinks! Sports drinks average about 140 calories and 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle. Sports drinks offer little advantage over water for most youth. They are beneficial only for athletes who participate in high-intensity, aerobic exercise for at least 90 minutes.
Help children learn to enjoy water as the thirst quencher of choice. Make sugar-sweetened drinks a “sometimes” beverage to be enjoyed in moderate amounts. Remember that soft drinks include fruit drinks, lemonade, energy drinks, sweet tea, and sports drinks. Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator for easy access. Add lemon, lime, other fruit, or a splash of juice for variety in flavor.
3. Try new foods!
MyPlate recommends eating a variety of foods at a meal to ensure adequate intakes of nutrient-rich foods. Many get into the habit of eating the same foods week to week. There are a variety of ways to taste new foods: exchange recipes with friends or have a cooking day with friends during which you prepare large amounts of foods to share.