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Spring into fun and fitness

March 14, 2001

Spring into fun and fitness



It's not news that physical activity is good for what ails you.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine who lived from 460 to 377 B.C., wrote, "Walking is man's best medicine."

Modern science has confirmed this ancient wisdom. Health experts know physical activity is good for every part of the human body - from our brains to our bones. Being active can give you energy today and help prevent deadly diseases tomorrow.

The problem is that people aren't active enough. Our 24/7 lifestyles and the Information Age have us planted on our couches, at our computers and in our cars.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 60 percent of American adults, and about half their kids, do not meet basic recommendations for physical activity.

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The good news is that it's easier than most people think to get the activity they need. Research shows that even short bouts of physical activity can make a big difference in overall health.

You don't have to join a gym and start running marathons unless you want to. The main thing is to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day - or about 200 minutes a week. You don't even have to do the 30 minutes at one time. Something as simple as three 10-minute brisk walks can help control weight and fight heart disease.

March is the ideal time to spring into a regular fitness plan.

Temperatures are rising and days are growing longer - making it easier to be active and have outdoor fun. Be physically active each day.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Take a walk - or a hike. Walk around the house, around the neighborhood or around the mall. Walk to the grocery store, the post office or the park. Walk alone or with a friend. Just walk - every day.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Use the stairs to strengthen your legs. Forget the boredom of a stair machine. Pump up your leg muscles with the real thing. Skip elevators and escalators whenever you can - and add an extra flight or two during break time.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Stretch your body to energize your day. Use a towel to stretch your shoulders and upper body when you get out of the shower each morning. Take a minute or two to stretch your legs and back while sitting at your desk or watching TV.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Take advantage of phone time. Keep a small weight (two to five pounds) near the phone and do biceps curls while you talk with family, friends or colleagues. Wander around the house or the office while you talk on a cordless phone.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Play with kids - or just act like a kid. Hit a few balls, shoot some hoops, throw a flying disc, jump rope, play hopscotch, swing on a swing or go fly a kite. Make family time fitness time - and have a ton of fun together.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Dance more often. Take a class in salsa, swing or square dancing. Make a dance date instead of a dinner or movie date.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Turn up the stereo and rock around the house while you vacuum or sweep.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Build mini-walks into each day. Walk around the block when you go out to get the mail. Walk around the office or the building at work. Walk around the sidelines during your kids' sports practice or ball game.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Be more active by being less efficient. Take items up or down the stairs individually, instead of piling them up for one big trip.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Connect with people by walking to their office, instead of calling or sending e-mail.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Work in the yard whenever you can. Dig, hoe, mow, rake and shovel snow in the winter. The more work you do by hand, the fitter you will become - and the better your yard will look.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Just do it - be physically active each day. Do it alone or do it with a friend. Do it all at once or do it 10 minutes at a time. Do it inside or do it outside. Do it briskly or do it slowly. Do the same thing or do different things. Just do it!

For more tips on fun and fitness, check out:

Just Move: American Heart Association Fitness Center www.justmove.org/home.cfm

Physical Activity: It fits with life www.beactive.org

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/etext/000054.html

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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