Gear Up for Biking

Bicycling is a great way to be physically active and improve mental health. Health benefits include stronger muscles, better coordination and mobility, reduced body fat, and lower stress. Bicycling is a lower-impact activity compared to running and causes less stress to feet, knees, and hips.

Bicycling is versatile. It can be enjoyed alone, with a small group, or as part of big bicycling events like RAGBRAI. Bicycling can be a way to save money on gasoline costs, as a fun way to enjoy an adventure, or as a thrilling way to enjoy competitions such as the Iowa Games or Special Olympics.

Be safe when biking. Always wear a helmet. Use bike paths and lanes when available. Obey traffic rules. Be careful around cars. Do not let distractions like loud music or alcohol put you in danger.

Stay safe, have fun, and get pedaling!

For more information on the health benefits of bicycling, visit the Harvard School of Public Health, www.hsph.harvard.edu, and for more information about bicycling in Iowa, visit the Iowa Department of Transportation website, iowadot.gov/iowabikes.

Chronic Conditions? Stay Active

Being active is helpful for people with chronic health conditions. It can help people with arthritis by making their joints less stiff and reducing bone loss for those with osteoporosis. And if you have diabetes, it can even help lower blood-sugar levels.

Due to your health condition, you may be unable to do 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity five days a week or muscle-strengthening exercise at least twice a week. Try your best to stay active by doing what you can. The key is to keep moving.

Do you enjoy walking? Check out the Walk with Ease program, www.walkwitheaseisu.org. The program was developed by the Arthritis Foundation for people over 60 with arthritis. Those with other chronic conditions will find it helpful also.

Talk with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise. They can help you select a safe activity and identify necessary changes or precautions.

Women walking

Sources: Exercise and Chronic Disease: Get the Facts, www.mayoclinic.org

Smartphone Apps and Fitness Trackers May Be Helpful Ways to Increase Physical Activity

If you are looking for ways to be more active, you may want to consider using an app or fitness tracker.

  • Look at different apps and decide if there is one best suited for the activity you enjoy. Consider asking a friend to join you in using the same app.
  • If you are competitive, a physical activity app might be effective at getting you moving and staying on track. Many apps include exercise role-playing games that use competition and exercise challenges to encourage and motivate users.
  • Social support can have a positive impact on increasing physical activity levels. Sharing your activity on social media platforms and receiving feedback from friends and followers can be encouraging.
Man with yoga mat

Forbes Health shares the following 2023 Best Apps:

  • Best Free App: Nike Training Club
  • Best Live Classes: FitOn
  • Best for Working Out Solo: GymShark Training
  • Best Personalized Training Plans: Adidas Training
  • Best for Modifications: Workout for Women
  • Best HIIT Workouts Freeletics: HIIT Fitness Coach
  • Best for Daily Challenges: 30 Day Fitness at Home
  • Best for Strength Training: Jefit
  • Best for Quick Workouts: Daily Workouts—Home Trainer

Source: British Medical Journal, www.bmj.com/company/

February Is American Heart Month

Meter on wrist showing heart rate

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One out of every four deaths each year is caused by heart disease. Heart attacks occur when the flow of blood to the heart is severely reduced or blocked. Men are more likely to develop heart disease after age 45. Women have a higher risk after age 55 or following menopause.

Consider the following steps you can take to help protect your heart.

  1. Know your numbers: High blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight can increase your risk of heart disease. Talk to your provider about ways to improve your numbers.
  2. Stop smoking: To quit, contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  3. Model your plate using the DASH Eating Plan, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/education/dash-eating-plan: Choose more plant foods including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Eat lean dairy and proteins including fish, skinless poultry, and beans. Use heart healthy fats such as canola and olive or vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Limit sodium, sugar-sweetened drinks, and desserts.
  4. Physical activity: Set a goal of at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Sitting less can help control weight, decrease stress, and improve sleep quality.
  5. Prioritize sleep: Adults need 7–9 hours of sleep a night.
  6. For more information, download the resource 28 Days Toward a Healthy Heart, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/resources/28-days-towards-healthy-heart.

Sources: NHLBI, go.iastate.edu/MAGKP8

Win with Workplace Wellness

One way to improve our overall health is to be physically active on a regular basis. It is crucial for healthy aging, reduces risk of chronic diseases, improves mental health, and strengthens bones and muscles. Most Americans who work full-time are spending at least eight hours a day at their worksite, and most of that time is spent at a computer or desk. Here are five tips for increasing physical activity during the workday:

  • Take short 3- to 5-minute breaks every hour to get up and walk around your worksite.
  • Find your favorite exercise video from Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, before or after lunch.
  • Invest in a standing desk or “treadmill desk” to increase standing or walking throughout the day.
  • Try stretches while sitting at your desk—such as chair squats, arm and elbow stretches, sit up and stretches, and overhead presses.
  • Find a colleague to walk with during your lunch hour. This can improve social and physical well-being.

Sources:
CDC, www.cdc.gov
New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, njaes.rutgers.edu
Harvard Health Publishing, www.health.harvard.edu

Find Your Movement Motivation

Walking on path

Starting a physical activity routine and sticking to it can be challenging. Finding the motivation to stay active is key.

Most results of exercise are not instantaneous, so set realistic goals. Start small and gradually increase to 30 minutes of exercise five days per week. People keep exercising because they have found something they enjoy. If exercise feels like a chore, it can hold you back from accomplishing your exercise goals.

People who are physically active tend to live longer, healthier lives. Research shows moderate physical activity—such as 30 minutes a day of brisk walking—significantly contributes to longevity. Always consult with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

Source:
American College of Sports Medicine, go.iastate.edu/M4SDGB

Workout Videos to Keep You Motivated!

Online workout videos give you the flexibility to choose what you do and when you do it. A variety of physical activity options can help you get out of a rut and be active in the comfort of your own home.

For free, easy-to-use videos, go to
Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video-category/physical-activity/. Workout options include cardio, stretching, and strength training. Low impact and chair workouts are also included.

Being physically active improves your mood, helps manage weight, reduces risk of disease, improves brain health, and strengthens bones and muscles. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/physicalactivity/
Spend Smart. Eat Smart., go.iastate.edu/Q6EUYK

Plan Your Move

The health benefits of regular physical activity are well known, but many of us do not make it a part of our daily routine. Are you active for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week, or 150 minutes a week? Do you engage in muscle strengthening activity 2 days each week? If not, check out these tips:

  • Keep track! Schedule time on your calendar for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days each week. Find activities you enjoy like taking a walk outside or going for a swim.
  • Ask for a partner to join you. Enjoy time with friends and family when you are active. Find an exercise partner to support you and hold you accountable.
  • Join a fitness class. Joining a class can help you stick with it.
  • Find activities you can do all year. Find an indoor place to walk like the grocery store or Walmart or watch an online exercise video when it isn’t nice outside.
Two people walking

Resources to Help You Move More

Getting regular exercise and physical activity benefits everyone, including those with Parkinson’s disease. Being physically active can improve your mood, help you focus, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Adults need a mix of aerobic (such as walking or biking) and muscle-strengthening activity to stay healthy. Aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week and muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. Move Your Way®, health.gov/moveyourway, provides tools and resources to make your personalized activity plan.

Physical Activity at Your Fingertips

Physical activity apps allow people to work out at home while still following guided workouts and being motivated by a trainer or instructor. Here are some factors to consider before downloading:

  1. Credible instructors. For safety purposes and best results, choose an app with workouts that are created or led by certified fitness experts.
  2. Fitness goals. Select an app that caters to your exercise needs
  3. Budget. While some are totally free, most apps require a monthly subscription cost.
  4. Equipment needed. Most apps offer classes that require some equipment, like yoga blocks, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Look for an app with classes that are compatible with your current home gym setup.
  5. User reviews. Reading what other users think can be valuable as you decide whether a workout app will be the right fit for you.

There’s nothing wrong with trying out a few fitness apps before settling on one—the most important thing is that it helps you reach your goals safely and effectively. One such app is Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu. In addition to recipes, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app has a variety of physical activity videos. There are seated and standing workouts, and minimal equipment is needed. Workouts are 20 minutes or less.

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