Benefits of Walking

3 Easy Safety Tips to Start Your Spring Walking Program

3 Easy Safety Tips to Start Your Spring Walking Program

Spring is almost here! You won’t be confined to the indoors and you’re looking forward to the fresh air. Spring is a great time to try out a new walking regime. Don’t forget you’ll want to prepare for the transition from being indoors to heading outdoors the first few times. Safety might seem a no brainer but just in case you are a little rusty with where you should exercise or what are the normal precautions, here’s a few quick tips to keep in mind when making that indoor to outdoor transition with your new walking program.

Always tell someone where you are going. If you are going somewhere alone, let someone know. Chances are, everything will always be fine and no one will need to come looking for you. But, just in case, if you aren’t back in a reasonable amount of time, telling someone is a smart idea and allows people to find you much faster. Don’t forget that more populated areas like parks and public areas can be safer simply because there are more people around.

Don’t be predictable. Walking the same route at the same time every day is not only boring but can also let potential criminals on to the fact that you have a routine. Change your route. Choose different times of the day and even alternate directions (start at the opposite end) if you use the same path or trail several times week.

Watch the weather and keep contact information on your person.
Remember to check the weather. At the very least, you may want sunscreen and at the worst, you don’t want to be caught in a surprise thunderstorm. Be sure to carry contact information with you for emergencies. For example, if something goes wrong and  someone needs to help you,  they can call your family or a friend.

Spring is in the air and you should feel better knowing that you’re also taking care of your wellbeing in other ways just by following these tips.

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Women: All Sitting and No Exercise Leads to Aging Faster

Women: All Sitting and No Exercise Leads to Aging Faster

Scientists recently reported that older women sitting for at least 10 hours a day and who have little physical activity have cells that are older by eight years in comparison to women who are less sedentary.

The study, which can be found in January’s issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that elderly women who exercised less than 40 minutes a day (and were also sedentary for 10 or more hours) have shorter telomeres.  Telomeres are tiny regions of what are called nucleotides and they are at the end of each chromosome. If your eyes just started to glaze over and you aren’t a science person, like most of us, you are not alone. In everyday language, telomeres function like a cap that protects the chromosome from deterioration.

What you need to know is that telomeres naturally shorten and get frazzled as a cell gets older but there are factors that can increase the speed of that process, causing your cells to be older than your body. Some factors that are attributed to causing telomeres to shorten at an increased rate include diabetes, major cancers and cardiovascular disease. A sedentary lifestyle is also associated with many of these conditions, as well.

Aladdin Shadyab, PhD who co-authored the published study at the UC San Diego School of Medicine says “Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age.”

The research team says the study is the first to neutrally measure how sedentary time combined with low or lack of exercise can influence aging in a cellular way.

The study monitored 1,500 women, ages 64 to 95. The women were surveyed and answered questions via a questionnaire. For seven days, they also wore an accelerometer on their right hip. They were asked to wear the accelerometer while awake and asleep.

One important note here is that exercise and movement seems to play a part in how fast our cells age.

“We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline,” said Shadyab.

So, even though some of the women may have sat for many hours, it was found that if they exercised regularly, their telomeres were not shorter than the women who did not exercise.

In a way, we’ve just learned how we can prevent faster aging. This also drives home the point that we need to encourage ourselves and our children to keep exercise a routine part of their life, just as important as eating or drinking.

Hmmmm….. we think it’s time for a walk!

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Physical Activity Benefits Children and can also Help Kids Cope with Depression

children playing soccer at the park

Physical Activity Benefits Children and can also Help Kids Cope with Depression

Past studies indicate physically active adults are at lower risk of developing depression. Conversely, this same influence has not been studied in children until recently.

A recent new study showed children experience the same positive effects as adults who are physically active.  The research gave the word “active” a definition of “moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) that leaves kids sweaty or out of breath.”

Their findings? Physically active 6-year-olds and 8-year-olds showed fewer symptoms of depression when they were examined two years later.

Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and NTNU Social Research conducted the study by following hundreds of children over a period of four years. They were looking for a correlation between physical activity and depression symptoms.

Physically active children experienced fewer symptoms of depression.

Almost 800 children were examined at six years of age and approximately 700 of them also underwent follow-up examinations at eight and ten years old. The researchers measured physical activity using accelerometers, (a sensor that allows smart phones to perceive movement), and parents were asked questions about their child’s mental health.

“Being active, getting sweaty and roughhousing offers more than just physical health benefits. They also protect against depression,” says Tonje Zahl, a PhD candidate at NTNU. Zahl is the first author on the study’s conclusions recently published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Two years after the study began, the results of the study showed that six- and eight-year-olds who were physically active exhibited less symptoms of depression.

This is significant because it indicates that physical activity aids in inhibiting depression.

Another important observation was noted by Silje Steinsbekk, associate professor in NTNU’s Department of Psychology. He says “This is important to know, because it may suggest that physical activity can be used to prevent and treat depression already in childhood”

While physical activity was found to help prevent depressive symptoms, it was also noted that no correlation between depression and a sedentary lifestyle was found.

The bottom line: It’s important to encourage physical activity, allowing children to get their heart rates up. Encourage outdoor running, playing and jumping. Let them go for bike rides and run on the playground. Simply decreasing online or  “screen time” is not sufficient. Kids should increase their physical activity.

*See more at the NTNU published findings titled Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Symptoms of Major Depression in Middle Childhood

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Challenge: Be “More Present” in 2017

Challenge: Be “More Present” in 2017

What does it mean to be “more present” and how can it assist you in your own personal and wellness goals?

Being present is the conscious practice of being engaged not only mentally but also emotionally.  Engaged in what, exactly, you ask?  The answer is going to be different for each person but is generally whatever is going on around you. It also means consciously paying attention to what you are doing.

One way to explain the difference between being present and not being present is to look at how much time you are spending “in your head” as opposed to experiencing life. One of the ways you can determine if you are present (or have not been present) is to recognize when you’ve lost track of time. Sometimes, this also feels like you weren’t aware of things that were going on around you for a period of time. For example, many of us can relate to “spacing out” while we are on a treadmill.  Music might be playing in our ear buds but we didn’t hear it because our thoughts were elsewhere. We might have an audio book playing in our ears or be sitting in church but later we realize we didn’t hear a word because we weren’t being present.

Can you think of other ways you aren’t fully present? Ever sat down to watch a movie and halfway into it realize you somehow ate a family size bag of chips?  What about while you are driving somewhere familiar or on a long stretch of road? We all tend to “zone out” and go into auto-pilot. Before we know it, we are at our destination and we can’t recall each moment of the drive home or to work.

Zoning out on the way home isn’t all bad. The important point here is considering what is going on in your mind while you are zoned out. What kind of “chatter” is taking place that is keeping you from completely being in the moment?

How can our Bodies Benefit from Being Present?

We can improve our physical well-being by being more present. When you are more fully aware and present, your body tends to relax. The reason for this is rather simple. When we are not present, we are usually worrying, planning or remembering things we need to do, things we forgot to do, issues that stress us out or possibly dreading something in the future. Your body is physically in the present. Therefore, even your past thoughts, memories or future concerns are felt by your body as something that is happening in that moment. As you can imagine, this is part of the way that stress and tension develop.

If you can increase the amount of time that you are mentally present, your physical body and well-being will benefit because you’ll be letting go of excess tension and stress.

Other benefits of being more aware and present in your daily environment include being more confident, having more energy, sleeping better and having better memory. All of these benefits lead to a more healthy, happy YOU.

When you make the conscious decision to switch from not present to being present, it’s a definite switch with purpose and intention. For most of us, it doesn’t come naturally and it takes practice. There are many ways to be more present. For some of us, it’s a matter of walking away from digital devices, spending more time away from Facebook and other forms of social media. For still others, it can be a simple matter of breathing deeply, wiggling your toes or just taking the time to intentionally notice the texture of your clothing, the colors in your office or the sounds you can hear at this very moment. (Just run “ways to be more present” into a search engine for great ideas. We found this one called 12 Simple Ways to Be Present.)

Experts say that as we keep practicing at being more present, it will eventually come naturally without our thinking about it so much. But make no mistake, it will take an intentional effort on your part to become more present daily. The pay offs include better relationships, lasting marriages, career fulfillment and promotions, physical fitness, more energy, better sleep and so much more.

So, take a few moments and practice being more mentally engaged with your surroundings and those around you. It’ll make 2017 your best year yet.

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Tiny Tips to Help You Reach Big Goals

Tiny Tips to Help You Reach Big Goals

Here’s four “tiny tips” that might make the difference for you when you’re feeling a bit sluggish after family get-togethers and holiday parties with delicious dishes and irresistible desserts. Motivation may be the last thing on your mind but a few reminders in the right places at the right time can make all the difference.

Surround yourself with positive visuals. If that means printing out your favorite quotes and posting them in your bathroom, on the refrigerator, around your desk at work and even in your car, then start printing. If you are planning to reward yourself when you achieve a goal, then post a picture of your reward in strategic places to help you focus on what you’re working towards.

Selfie shots. Are you working towards a fitness goal that means losing weight, toning up and/or adding muscle?  If so, take your own “before” shots and save them on your phone where you can refer to them in private – knowing that you’ll be taking “after” shots soon.

Ignore the urge to compare yourself. Remember everyone is different and we all have our own starting line. If you haven’t worked out or been active in quite some time, you’re starting line may look very simple. It may mean a 15-minute walk around the block with five minutes of stretching.  For someone else, the starting line might be a brisk 30-minute walk or a light jog along a favorite trail.

Eliminate “wasteful” thoughts. Often, we talk negatively to ourselves. Whether it’s thinking how awful you look when you wake up or calling yourself an idiot for taking a wrong exit off the freeway, these thoughts are not only toxic to your mental health but they are a waste of your time.  They serve no purpose other than to slow you down in life. They derail physical progress and mental motivation. Imagine how productive you could be if you focused only on productive healthy thoughts and immediately tossed out unhelpful personal insults or derogatory thoughts? Where would that energy and those thoughts go? More physical exercise? More fun projects around the house?

The choice is yours. It’s your world. Make it the best year ever.

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