- 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.
- 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.