Dissolved Resolve?

FitNotes

by Sherry Steinman

So, you’re about six weeks into your 2017 fitness plan. It’s time to assess how you’re doing … or maybe, IF you’re doing!

Are you getting some kind of regular exercise for at least 30 minutes three times each week? If not, remember that even 15 minutes of activity at two different times on the same day is almost as good as 30 consecutive minutes.  That could be 15 minutes of brisk walking in the morning and in the evening, or 15 minutes on a bike (stationary or touring) morning and evening – or whatever works for you.

Bad Company

That’s the key. If it doesn’t really work for you by now, you probably will not stick with it much longer.  Soon you’ll be in bad company with other New Year’s resolvers who are left with the dilemma of ‘dissolved resolve.’ You don’t want to be in bad company, do you?

To turn this around, take a look at what’s not working. Maybe you don’t enjoy exercising alone, or you want a moderate aerobic workout but don’t like the idea of exercising with a DVD in your living room. (The Licking County Library system has lots of good ones, though!) Joining a class at a fitness club or YMCA can seem daunting.  Will everyone in class be 20 years old wearing little thong leotards and thinking you’re too old to be there?

Generally, no. First of all you’ll find a lot of great workout wear that doesn’t reveal much under big loose tops and stretchy pants. Secondly, younger people usually think highly of older ones who are doing something to keep physically fit, and they can be quite welcoming. Third, there are several classes targeted especially to older enthusiasts, some of which are available at your local library.

Here is something else to consider. As part of your fitness plan, you might consider giving yourself a mental boost by getting rid of old clothes that never make you feel good when you wear them.  Keep only things that fit well NOW (not someday) and that you know make you look as good as you can NOW.  Tight or ill-fitting clothes are bad company too.

Good Shoes

By all means, if you are doing any kind of fitness activity that requires using your feet, wear shoes that fit well and still have good support and shape to them. This is easy to ignore!  Here I am, an aerobics instructor for decades, and one day I was wondering why my feet hurt for two days in a row and I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary.

I took a good look at my aerobics shoes and realized that they were about as worn down and mis-shapen as the ones I had relegated to the role of ‘yardwork shoes’ a year or so ago.  These were now to be their successors.  I just hadn’t paid any attention to them for a while (like more than six months!)

Be sure to lace up your shoes properly, keeping the laces pulled firmly from the toes to the bow, and be sure to wear good, thick socks too, Or, two thin pairs will do.  The idea is to keep your foot firmly in place within the shoe, and keep the moisture away from your skin.  Good shoes, good socks.  Your feet will feel nice and springy even if you are just casually walking.

For today, remember: Don’t get into bad company … wear good shoes, especially when you are more active. Energized? How about getting up now and doing something?!

In a Slump?

by Sherry Steinman

It’s quite likely that many of you at this moment are in a slump. I’m referring to the posture kind of slump – we’ll have to deal with any social or financial slumps in another column!

Since slumping is unhealthy, unattractive, and nearly unavoidable at least once in a while, here’s a little information to help set you on the straight and tall path.

Think Tall

Whether you’re on your feet working all day or facing a computer monitor several hours per day, standing and sitting with upright yet relaxed posture is a choice you make – or fail to make – every minute of your life. Body Alert! Right now, as I am typing this, I inadvertently have slumped back down from my original square-shouldered position just minutes a go! It’s so easy to do.

Whether consciously controlled or not, your sitting position creates its own momentum. If gravity gets a grip on your tilted head or drooping shoulders, your whole body starts to feel like a slow wave moving downhill. A little innocent slouching gradually becomes slumping, and the unhealthy posture takes over your body.

How you sit and stand has major consequences for the health of your spine and back. It makes scientific sense when you realize that slouching or hunching over in your chair creates ten to fifteen times as much pressure on your lower back than as does sitting up straight!  Why?  Because the architecture for your back was designed with optimal posture alignment in mind.  The engineering goes woefully out of whack when it’s not in correct alignment from the top down.

In addition, when you’re slumped in your seat, your breathing is restricted and your circulation is impeded. Not to mention what happens to your digestion and related elimination processes!  It’s all rather disturbing, so you may as well concentrate on sitting and standing tall until it becomes your habit.

Five Second Head Lift

Great posture begins with your head and neck position, which strongly affects the placement of our shoulders, chest, neck, and back. Body Alert! I just noticed my shoulders have rounded and I have almost started slumping again!

OK — back to the spine. At the crest of your spine is a small muscle called the rectus capitus anterior. It flexes and rotates your head and is an often-overlooked key to maintaining good neck positioning and, therefore, good overall posture – since everything’s connected.

One of the simplest ways to tone this muscle is with a gentle ‘head nod’ exercise. Start in a comfortable sitting or standing position and place your hands on the base of your skull just behind and above your earlobes. Let your neck lengthen, gently extending upward, as if it’s being lifted by an imaginary cord attached to the top of your head. With your neck in this slightly-elevated position, nod your head as if in agreement and bring your forehead a little forward with your chin slightly tucked in. Repeat this nodding motion a few times each day to strengthen this area.

TIP: Use a pillow behind your lower back in your chair or car. See if it helps to support your improved posture all the way up your back.

Now you’re on your way to a stronger back and better posture. The rest of your body will thank you!

Sleep: Part of the Fitness Equation

Is it possible to sleep your way to fitness?

No.

Now, that was a short article, wasn’t it?

Of course sleep is an important part of the overall fitness equation, and it works right in there with exercise; eating healthfully; and, drinking plenty of water. Not to mention the usual reminders about not smoking; not doing drugs; and, not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

So, how does sleep fit in? Like a comfy pillow! Sleep works to refresh your body and mind, and keep the two in balance.

Open 24 Hours?

In our fast-paced society, we often feel we are missing something if we don’t stay up that extra hour to watch a TV program, finish a book, fold the laundry, and so on. It is tempting to cheat on sleep occasionally, but to make it a habit eventually wreaks havoc on your brain and body.

Your body is not a carry-out shop! Make sure it is not open 24 hours a day.

Sleep is a necessary part of the natural rhythm of life. Through sleep, the body and brain recharge, and in fact, your brain does a little housecleaning – shoring up connections, and retreating from the demands of waking life. Although some people may be able to fudge along on less sleep than average, they still need their personal quota – at least seven hours is recommended for a fairly active adult.

A person’s individual pattern of sleep may be disrupted temporarily for a variety of reasons. Stress, illness, and a change in work schedule are three common reasons. Such disruptions can cause a short-term or long-term sleep disorder that throws your body and brain out of synch.

Sleep Disorders

Almost everyone can have a sleep disorder at one time or another. This can range from common snoring to more significant disorders. It has been said that the effects of chronic sleepiness on life quality are as great as conditions such as arthritis and seizures!

One expert on sleep disorders states that we are, “Awash in a sea of ignorance about the importance of sleep.” It has been shown that sleep loss impacts every facet of today’s workplace – from attendance, to productivity, to quality. And since we have learned that lack of sleep leads to cognitive short-circuiting and poor judgement, it is clear that a sleep-deprived employee is unfit for a day of work.

Common sleep disorders include sleep apnea (extended breathing during sleep), insomnia (difficulty falling asleep even when tired) and narcolepsy (opposite of insomnia, it is the inability to stay awake). Those who are unable to follow a regular sleep schedule are most affected by these conditions.

Restless Legs and Mental Health

Other sleep-robbing possibilities include teeth-grinding , sleep-walking, and jet lag. They all take their toll on healthy sleep patterns, as does one of the most descriptively-named sleep disorders, “restless legs syndrome.”

It seems that when one has this problem, the person has trouble sleeping well because they constantly feel the need to move their legs. It is largely involuntary for many. As a result, their sleep quality is poor, and sufferers feel tired during waking hours. (This would also be a problem for anyone sleeping in the same bed!)

Lack of sleep affects people in many ways, ranging from mild irritability to clinical depression. In fact, mental health and sleep are closely related.  Professional treatment for sleep disorders is increasingly available, and there is a growing body of knowledge on the subject.  The need for treatment must first be recognized, and then a host of life variables can be investigated.

The library has many books and other resources on the subject of sleep!

Tips and Tricks

Just how much sleep is necessary for good health? Some people can get by nicely with five or six hours nightly, while others need ten. The average requirement is seven to eight hours, according to the experts.

Some say that if you need an alarm clock to wake you, you’re not finished sleeping. It’s just as if you were pulled away from the table before you were finished eating.  Very unsatisfying!

As our knowledge of sleep increases, and treatment for disorders improves, today’s unsatisfied sleepers will have a better promise of sweet dreams. A few reminders to improve your chances of enjoying quality sleep follow:

  • Get up at the same time every day;
  • Go to bed only when sleepy;
  • Exercise regularly;
  • Maintain a regular schedule;
  • Avoid caffeine within four hours of bedtime;
  • Create a restful sleep area (no TV in the area is a good start);
  • Think of something pleasant (do not try to solve all your problems when your eyes close!)

Sweet dreams.

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It’s Only Fitting

It’s only fitting when it’s not tight. That’s right. If you were less active this past year than planned, you may find that – seemingly overnight – your pants are tight and your shirts don’t button right.  Don’t sigh and surrender – put up a fight!

As a new year begins, think back to how last year’s fitness plans may have gone awry, and what new things you can try.  Did you vow to swim laps several times a week at the YMCA pool, but ended up only paddling around a few times a month? Did you buy a new bike rack and gear, and then drive right by the bike trails on the way to the ice cream stand? And about that walking plan … how long did that last? Let’s take steps now to see that it happens in 2017.

Glide and Button

It’s only fitting to re-evaluate today what you can do to glide back into those pants and easily button up those shirts again, come spring. Last year may have been a little too long on Chocolate Surprise and a little short on exercise.  If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone.  Take action!  Call a similarly well-meaning friend, and get started on a new plan of action together.

Winter classes at local fitness centers all over Licking County are gearing up now for winter sessions, and featuring New Year packages – just to lure you into fitness. Be lured!  Call and ask for a tour, and see which place fits your fitness objectives.  Then, spend some money on yourself and pledge to make it a worthwhile investment.

If you’re not into the fitness center concept, check out a small class at a church or school. Some of these are good, but be sure to ask if the instructor has fitness training certification, and if not – keep looking!  Untrained instructors may, unknowingly, do more harm than good.  The key is to find something or someone to help motivate you to get your choice of exercise regularly.

How Often? What Kind?

Regularly is at least three times per week, and it doesn’t have to be all the same thing. In fact, it’s good to mix it up a bit. Two long walks and one basic strength workout at home or in an organized class setting will do for starters. There are also many gadgets and programs that can track your steps and your calorie burn/ exertion rate – some of which are available on SmartPhone apps.

Consider ‘interval training’ as an option. It might sound kind of intimidating, but the concept really isn’t.  Interval training simply means that you vary the levels of activity and intensity within a workout to accommodate aerobic and strength activities, working harder off and on.

As always, before beginning any new activity, check with your health care professional and be sure you have a physical check-up if you are older than 50 years old and haven’t had one for more than two years. In addition, there are many good fitness resources including books and DVDs to be found at the local public library. After all, it’s only fitting to do this right if you’re going to do it at all!

You are going to do it, now aren’t you?”

-Sherry Steinman

 

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100 Wellness Achievement Points Earned!

Congratulations to the following for earning 100 wellness achievement points within the past month by participating in the wellness program!!!

Linda Wilkins

Rhonda Adams

Doug Stout

To see points, go to the “My Points” tab, enter the password “wellness” and click on the document, “wellness- points”

Once you earn 100 points, you can keep accumulating them for prizes in higher categories or use in the 100 points category.

 

Americans Are Urged to Cut Sugar Intake

Experts recommend far fewer teaspoons a day than average person now consumes

Most American women should not consume more than 100 calories of added sugar a day, while men should limit their intake to no more than 150 calories, according to a new recommendation from the American Heart Association.

‘Added sugar’ refers to sugars added to foods during processing, during cooking or when a food is consumed.

The recommendation works out to about six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and about nine teaspoons for men. In the United States, people take in more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar (355 calories) on average, each day, according to the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Excess intake of added sugars has been linked to numerous health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The Heart Association said that soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the major source of added sugar in Americans’ diets. Its new recommendations are in a scientific statement issued Aug. 24.

One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about eight teaspoons of sugar and 130 calories, noted the statement’s lead author, Rachel K. Johnson, associate provost and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

‘Sugar has no nutritional value other than to provide calories,’ Johnson said in a news release from the Heart Association. ‘Consuming foods and beverages with excessive amounts of added sugars displaces more nutritious foods and beverages for many people.’

The statement, published in the Aug. 24 issue of Circulation, also recommends that added sugars should account for no more than half of a person’s daily discretionary calorie allowance.

People should eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish, the association says.

 

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare

Can Exercise Keep You Mentally Sharp?

As you get older, are you having more and more ”senior moments?” Although forgetfulness seems to come hand-in-hand with aging, could it be that that something as simple as exercise could help enhance your memory?

Exercise may be the best wonder drug of them all – maintaining not just your body, but your mind as well.

Scientists are finding that exercise actually may help prevent mental decline as we age. Regular exercise may enhance memory, planning and organization skills, as well as the ability to juggle mental tasks.

Researchers believe regular exercise – for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week – can help keep your brain sharp. Exercise improves how well the body can pump blood to the brain, helping it perform better. Scientists speculate that activity stimulates the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory.

Another positive effect deals with lowering blood pressure. This is important to most adults, particularly as they age. In fact, most elderly people do have high blood pressure. Those with uncontrolled high blood pressure are more likely to have trouble thinking, remembering and learning.

Activity can also help with depression, a common problem among the elderly. Depression can affect memory and concentration. Exercise helps relieve feelings of depression by increasing blood flow and improving how the brain handles the chemicals that are responsible for mood.

You can’t beat exercise. Not only can it help your brain, it can also keep your muscles and joints strong – all important for helping prevent falls, dealing with arthritis, strengthening your heart, improving your energy levels, and warding off health problems such as diabetes and certain cancers. Even if you have lived a sedentary life up until now, you can still limber up to help keep your brain – and your body – in shape.

First, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise. Together, you can choose a routine that is safe for you.

  • Get at least 30 minutes of activity – most or all days of the week – that makes you breathe harder. You can break up those 30 minutes throughout your day by taking a 10- or 15-minute walk in the morning, another at lunch and a third in the evening. To tell if you aren’t working hard enough, give yourself the “talk test.” If you can talk without any effort, you aren’t working out hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, you are pushing too hard.
  • Don’t neglect your muscles. If you don’t use them, you’ll lose them. Strong muscles help you with numerous everyday tasks such as grocery-carrying and having the ability to get out of your chair on your own.
  • Work on your balance. Stand on one foot, then the other. If you’re able, try not to hold onto anything for support. Stand up from sitting in a chair without using your hands or arms. Every now and then, walk heel-to-toe.
  • Be sure to stretch as part of a well rounded routine of strength and conditioning exercises. This can help prevent back pain and helps you remain limber. Never stretch so far that it hurts.

 

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare

Eating Well On the Road

Map out a healthy-food plan before leaving on vacation, nutritionist advises

Don’t let the road to a summer vacation put you on a crash course with an unhealthy, fast-food diet.

‘Nowadays, you can eat a healthy, balanced, calorie-appropriate meal no matter where you travel,’ Duke University’s Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director of the North Carolina school’s diet and fitness center, said in a news release.

To eat better on the road, Politi suggests:

  • Take healthy snacks with you. Stock a cooler with cheese, pre-cut vegetables, yogurt and other good foods to munch on while in transit. Pack a bag with individual portions of low-fat popcorn, trail mix, energy bars, nuts or dried fruit.
  • Drink more water. Avoid the sugar of soda and other soft drinks that add empty calories. Don’t think that diet sodas and artificial sweeteners are any better because some studies find they may actually increase appetite. If you crave a sweet drink, try a little low-fat chocolate milk.
  • Pick healthy menu items. Opt for lighter fare like salads, grilled sandwiches and wraps when possible, an option easier to do now that many restaurants either post or can provide their food’s nutritional information. If you must indulge, choose small portions or share larger ones to help limit intake.
  • Eat a good breakfast. Always start a travel day with a healthy meal to help balance out what may come later. If your overnight hotel room has a refrigerator, load it the night before with cereal, low-fat milk, yogurt and fruit so you can start the day right.

 

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about choosing healthy fast foods.

Preventing Heat-related Illness: When the Heat is Too Hot to Handle

Kids and the elderly are at highest risk for heat related illnesses.

How hot is it? It’s so hot that your antiperspirant is on strike. Your clothes stick to you. The air conditioner and water cooler are your best friends.

With hot summer weather, you probably feel lethargic and sweaty, but still cope. Yet, when a heat wave hits, it’s harder to cool off.

Overheating is a serious danger, and soaring temperatures take their toll.

Who’s at risk?
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness. Young and old are at the greatest risk. This includes infants and children up to 4 years of age and people 65 years of age and older. Also at risk are those who are overweight, and people who are ill or on certain medications.

The bottom line is this: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures or problems with your your body’s cooling system raises your risk for a heat-related illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

How our natural cooling system works
Normally, heat escapes through the skin as sweat is evaporated (perspiration). This helps cool the skin, and more importantly, the body core. But in humid weather, sweating doesn’t work as well. The air around you is already warm and heavy with humidity. It can’t absorb extra heat and sweat from your body. So your body warms up. When your body can’t compensate for the heat, you may suffer a heat-related illness.

Tips to stay cool in extreme heat

  • Take it easy. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Stay indoors. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of direct sunlight. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Open windows at night.
  • Dress light and loose. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect the sun’s energy. Natural fibers like cotton may help you feel more comfortable.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you do not feel thirsty. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Make sure your pets get plenty of fresh water as well.
  • Eat light but often. Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
  • Check the heat index chart. Knowing the temperature alone is not enough. The heat index gives you the temperature of what it “feels like” by taking into account both temperature and humidity.
  • Ease into it. If you are not accustomed to warm weather, let your body acclimatize to the new environment over several days.
  • Take a cool bath or shower. This will help cool your body.

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoking

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is commonly called secondhand smoke. Smoke from the burning end of cigarettes, pipes or cigars and smoke exhaled from smokers contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans and animals. It is classified as a Group A carcinogen by the EPA, a rating used for substances proven to cause cancer in humans. (Group A carcinogens also include radon and asbestos.)

Exposure to secondhand smoke, also called involuntary smoking or passive smoking, is concentrated indoors where ETS is often the most significant pollutant. Indoor levels of the particles you may inhale (the “tars” in the cigarettes) from ETS often exceed the national air quality standard established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for outdoor air.

According to the American Cancer Society, ETS causes about 3,400 lung cancer deaths and about 46,000 deaths from heart disease each year in healthy nonsmokers who live with smokers. Nonsmokers living in the household are also more likely to get asthma and other respiratory problems, eye irritation and headaches.

Special risks for infants, children and pregnant women

Infants and young children whose parents smoke are among the most seriously affected by exposure to secondhand smoke. They are more likely to suffer from asthma pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, coughing, wheezing, and increased mucus production.

In infants and children under 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). This results in 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations in that age group each year.

Babies living with parents who smoke also have a greater chance of dying of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The ALA estimates that secondhand smoke causes 1,900 to 2,700 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the U.S. annually.

Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights.

Minimizing exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Don’t smoke in your home or permit others to do so.
  • If a family member smokes indoors, increase ventilation in the area by opening windows or using exhaust fans.

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare