Since the spring, gyms, recreation centers, and playgrounds have closed or operated in limited capacity, due to the need for social distancing. However, we can still be physically active while staying safe.
Walking, running, and biking with people in your household can be fun. Find a little-used trail in your neighborhood, an open park, or even a rural area and go exploring!
Avoid crowded parks and recreational areas. Consider canoeing or kayaking in an uncrowded waterway.
Try a workout video. On days when the weather is not right for being outdoors, visit free online videos that encourage physical activity. Visit the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. webpage, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video-category/physical-activity, for ideas.
Physical activity is important for all ages. Being active as a family can be fun and beneficial for everyone. The recommended amount of physical activity for adults is 2 1/2 hours per week; children need 60 minutes per day. Try these tips to make activity part of your day!
Set specific activity times—Look at your family calendar and schedule physical activity into your day when everyone is available.
Plan ahead and track your progress—Let the kids help plan the activities and log them on the family calendar.
Include work around the house—Yard work and chores around the house count too!
Use what is available—Many activities take little or no equipment or facilities such as walking, jogging, jumping rope, and dancing. Check out programs available at your community recreation center; they may even have childcare or activities available.
Plan for all weather conditions—Get outdoors when the weather is nice, but also plan activities that do not depend on the weather. Treasure hunts and hide-and-seek can be played indoors or outdoors.
Turn off the TV—Limit screen time to no more than two hours per day. This includes TV, video games, and the computer (except for schoolwork).
Start small—Start with an activity that everyone likes and add new ones when everyone is ready.
Include other families—Invite others to join the fun!
Treat the family with fun physical activity—To celebrate achievements, do something active as a family such as visit the zoo, try out a park, or go to the lake.
You probably know that regular physical activity helps both parents and children stay well. It strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones. But did you know that physical activity could strengthen families, too? Families that take walks, play sports, or do physically active chores together often notice these benefits: better communication and bonding, less stress and conflict, and more family fun!
Getting family members of all ages involved in the same physical activity at one time can be a challenge. Here are tips that may help:
Set regular, specific activity times. Determine times when the whole family is available.
Plan and track progress. Write plans on a family calendar.
Build new skills. Enroll yourself and the kids in exercise classes you will both enjoy.
Treat physical activity as a gift. Give presents that encourage physical activity, such as bikes, balls, jump ropes, and badminton sets.
Fewer than 50% of Americans meet the minimum guidelines for moderate physical activity. Walking is the easiest and most affordable way to correct this problem. Walking can be done anywhere; all you need is shoes. Walking can be done easily and has huge benefits. Walking can be done by taking short breaks during the day; it doesn’t have to be one long walk. For example, three 10-minute walks during the day will count as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for the day. Keep your pace brisk (3 miles per hour) to meet the moderate physical activity recommendations. Take your first step today!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.