9 Ways to Exercise … When You Don’t Have the Time

Think you have no time to exercise? These strategies will help you get fit in just minutes a day. 

We all know exercise can help us improve our health and lose weight. Yet, 25 percent of adults don’t exercise at all, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Hectic schedules may be to blame. Who has the time to exercise when juggling work, school, family and more? It’s worth squeezing it in, though, because regular exercise can relieve daily stress and lift your mood. At the same time, you can reduce your risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes most days, but it’s okay to start slowly. Find activities that you enjoy. You only need to find a few minutes a day to start getting the health benefits. First, check with your doctor before you start or increase your activity level.

Tips for fitting in fitness

  • Wake up a little earlier. Start by setting your alarm clock just 5 minutes earlier. Do stretches and jumping jacks before getting in the shower, or follow a short exercise DVD.
  • Find a workout buddy. Exercising with a friend is more fun than working out alone and a good motivator. Ask a coworker to go for a walk during lunch or see if a neighbor wants to shoot hoops.
  • Change into exercise clothes before leaving work. You’ll be ready for a short walk as soon as you get home.
  • Schedule your fitness activities. If you put exercise on your calendar like other appointments, you’re more likely to do it.
  • Acknowledge your successes. Keep a log of all the times you make a healthy choice to move more, such as by taking the stairs instead of an elevator. After the first week, reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or a cool new water bottle.
  • Create a home (or desk) gym. If you have equipment always at the ready, it will be easy to steal five minutes to use it. A jump rope, a stability ball, exercise bands and dumbbells don’t cost much or take up much room.
  • Move while you watch TV. Don’t sit idly – or worse, get a snack – during commercials. Do sit-ups or jog in place instead.
  • Play games with your kids. Don’t just watch while your kids play outside – join in their fun. Play tag or Duck Duck Goose, or just toss a ball back and forth. If your kids love video games, think about swapping their console for the Nintendo Wii. The whole family will break a sweat using special controllers to compete at boxing, tennis, golf and bowling.
  • Exercise while you work. Raise your activity level and productivity with neck rolls or arm raises (push hands out to the side and then up toward the ceiling). Or do a few modified push-ups on the edge of your desk.

Stepping it up
After you’ve built short periods of activity into your day, think about times when you could lengthen each burst by a few minutes. The key is to start small and ramp up gradually.

Even if you’re worn out from a busy day, try to make time for fitness. Regular exercise actually boosts your energy level. Exercise, along with restricting calories, is also important for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.

Next time you look for an excuse to skip exercise, remind yourself of the benefits. You’re helping yourself feel good, look better and live longer. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare

6 Soothing Ways to Ease Stress

Feeling stressed out? Learn ways to calm the stress in your life.

Feeling stressed out? Most Americans do.

Not all stress is bad. A certain amount of stress enables executives to perform at their peak.But too much stress can be harmful. Stress is linked to such chronic conditions such as heart disease and depression.

The trick is to manage or control stress to keep it within healthy limits. If your stress meter is soaring, learn to relax. Here are some soothing ways to handle the stress in your life.

1. Breathe
You’ve heard the expression, “take a breather”? Sometimes just five minutes of deep breathing is enough to ban stress.

Most people take shallow breaths that fill only part of the lungs. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into the lungs and can help calm the brain. Try these steps:

  • Sit or lie with one hand on your belly.
  • Breathe in through your nose, filling your lungs. Focus on making the hand on your belly rise.
  • Breathe out through your mouth, trying to empty your lungs as much as you can. The hand on your belly should move in as your muscles tighten.
  • Continue these deep, slow breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth, making your belly rise and fall.

This simple but powerful exercise can be done almost anywhere. It can be combined with meditation or muscle relaxation.

2. Relax your muscles
Progressive muscle relaxation is another simple way to ease stress. Practicing it can help you become aware of when you are holding stress in your body. Relaxing your muscles can help your mind relax.

  • Lie down in a quiet place. Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and deeply.
  • When you feel relaxed, start with your right foot. Squeeze the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold while you count to 10.
  • Relax your right foot. Take a few deep breaths.
  • Next, squeeze the muscles in your left foot while you count to 10.
  • Relax and breathe.
  • Slowly work your way up your body (legs, belly, back, chest, arms, neck, face), squeezing and relaxing each group of muscles.

3. Say yes to yoga
Yoga is a system of exercises (called asanas) for gaining bodily or mental control and well-being. The philosophy is that the breath, the mind and the body are so closely linked that whatever you do to one will affect the other. In addition to easing stress, yoga can improve strength, balance and flexibility.

Yoga is gentle form of exercise that is safe for most people when it’s practiced correctly. Consult a trained yoga teacher. Make sure you ask your doctor before you start any new activity.

4. Try tai chi
Tai chi is a series of postures that flow into one another through connecting transition moves. These slow, graceful and precise body movements are said to improve body awareness and enhance strength and coordination. At the same time, they are supposed to help the practitioner achieve inner peace. Like yoga, it is designed to enhance both physical and emotional well-being.

Tai chi is a low-impact aerobic activity, so you can chill out and burn some calories at the same time. Another advantage to tai chi is its low risk of injury.

Take a tai chi class or buy a book or instructional video. Once you learn how to do tai chi, you can practice almost anywhere.

5. Meditate
Meditation is a centuries-old practice spiritual practice that is also a powerful stress-buster. Here, you learn to relax while focusing on a word, a sound or your own breathing. It can have a deeply calming effect.

There are many different types of meditation. One type is mindfulness meditation. You can practice mindfulness while sitting in a quiet place or while walking. The key is to keep bringing your focus back to your breathing or your steps. When distractions come into your mind, observe them without judging and let them go. The technique is simple, but achieving the desired result takes practice.

6. Get a massage
In massage therapy, the hands (or sometimes forearms, elbows and feet) are used to manipulate the soft body tissues. A good massage is not only relaxing, but it may also have some real healing benefits. Some studies have shown that the kneading and pressing of muscles slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, relaxes muscles and helps reduce stress levels.

If you can’t fit in or afford a visit to a spa, ask your partner or friend for a neck, back or foot rub. Trading massages can be a relaxing way to reconnect after a stressful day.

 

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare

 

Don’t Get Burned! How to Protect Your Body From Sun Damage

Sunburn doesn’t just cause pain and redness. It can also have immediate dangers and long-term effects. Learn the risks and find out how to protect yourself.

Between the beach, the pool and the weekend cookouts, you may be having too much fun to worry about sunburn – until that telltale stinging and redness set in. Sunburn isn’t just painful – it’s also bad for your health.

The dangers of sunburn
The sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet A (UVA) causes tanning, aging skin and wrinkles. Ultraviolet B (UVB) causes sunburn. Both can cause skin cancer. You can burn on sunny days, cloudy days and cold days. The white sand on the beach and the white snow of winter both reflect the sun’s rays. You can burn whether you’re skiing on water or snow.

Signs of sunburn are redness and pain. You may also have swelling and blistering. Get medical attention right away if you have a severe burn that covers your body, or if you have chills, vomiting, an upset stomach or confusion.

Long-term effects
Every time you tan or burn, DNA damage builds up in the deeper levels of your skin. Having five or more burns over a lifetime – even in childhood – doubles your chances of getting skin cancer.

Other side effects of tanning and burning include premature wrinkles and age (pigment) spots. Over time the sun can age your skin, making it tough and leathery.

Remember that your eyes can burn, too. Too much sun can burn your corneas and lead to various eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It can even cause blindness.

The truth about sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen doesn’t always keep you from burning. No sunscreen can completely protect you from UV rays.

A sunscreen labeled “waterproof” or “water resistant” will not protect you all day. When you swim or sweat, reapply your sunscreen. Waterproof sunscreens last about 80 minutes in the water. Those labeled “water resistant” last about 40 minutes.

The UV index
Your local news may broadcast daily heat index reports. The higher the index, the less time it will take to burn. Here is your risk for overexposure to the damaging UV rays. The number indicates the daily UV index, followed by the degree of risk. The higher the index on a given day, the greater the need to protect yourself.

  • 0-2: low
  • 3-4: moderate
  • 5-6: high
  • 7-10: very high
  • 11+: extreme

Preventing sunburn
Follow these prevention tips:

  • Use only water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen. It should protect against both UVA and UVB rays and have an SPF of at least 15. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing when possible. Always include a hat and sunglasses.
  • Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when UV rays are strongest. If your shadow is shorter than you are, get out of the sun.
  • Keep children in the shade and in protective clothing. If shade or protective clothing are not available, apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 to small areas like the cheeks and backs of the hands. If a child under age 1 gets sunburn, apply cool compresses and call your pediatrician right away. Also call if an older child has a sunburn with fever, blistering, severe pain or lethargy.
  • Be aware that water, snow and sand all reflect UV raysand increase your chances for sunburn.

Treatment
Cool wet compresses, lotions and baths may help relieve sunburn pain. For serious burns, call your doctor. Medication may prevent infection and help with the swelling and pain.

 

 

© UnitedHealthcare