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.
Both parents and children can treasure the times when the family is physically active together. Visit Choose MyPlate’s Ten Tips to Be an Active Family for additional information.
Sources: ChooseMyPlate.gov, WebMD
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!
Visit the Healthiest State Initiative (iowahealthieststate.com/5210) for more information.
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.