Stress Less with Mindful Movement
You may notice you feel better after you exercise. Most people experience increased energy and an improvement in overall well-being as physical activity becomes routine. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can help relieve depression and may even lower your risk of developing it.
If you are not the active type, are older or have physical limitations, you can still add healthy movement to your life.
For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes yoga, tai chi and qi gong as centuries-old, mind-body practices. They involve specific postures and movements combined with mental focus, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Even walking can be done mindfully as a form of meditation.
Some research studies have suggested that practicing these mindful movement activities may help:
- manage stress, depression and insomnia
- lower blood pressure
- improve balance and stability
- relieve chronic pain
- improve quality of life and mood in people with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses
- motivate you to exercise more and eat healthier
A recent study concluded that yoga may improve heart health, including body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. More research is needed.
But it’s clear that yoga is becoming more popular. In the last 10 years the number of Americans practicing yoga has nearly doubled. It’s now practiced by more than 21 million adults and more than 1.5 million children.
Yoga and other mindful practices can be gentle and may be done by just about anyone, anywhere, with no special equipment needed.*
Look for classes in your community or instructional videos, books and websites.
Whatever way you choose to get active, your heart will benefit. And you may find yourself feeling happier and more relaxed, too.
*There is a wide variety of yoga styles; not all are gentle. The NIH recommends that people with high blood pressure and women who are pregnant should modify or avoid some yoga poses. Talk with your healthcare provider and a qualified instructor if you have concerns.
Fun for the Whole Family
Would you rather spend your free time with your family than at the gym? Look for ways the whole family can get active together! You’ll all benefit, because regular physical activity can help:
- control weight
- build strong bones and prevent bone loss
- improve sleep
- relieve depression
- decrease risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure
- improve quality of life at all ages
It may sound impossible to add even one more thing into your busy family schedule. Try keeping a log of each family member’s daily activities for one week. You’ll get an idea of when you might be able to get everyone together for physical activity. It can also help you see which activities you can cut back on, like screen time.
As kids get older the appeal of the playground fades and the lure of electronic devices gets stronger. It can be hard for them to get an hour of physical activity each day if they don’t take part in P.E. or sports. While an hour each day might sound like a lot of time, there are many ways to build activity into your family routine. Even smaller blocks of 15 or 20 minutes will add up.
Here are some family activity ideas:
Enjoy the great outdoors. Take a walk or bike ride in your neighborhood. Put up a basketball hoop in the driveway or play catch in the yard. Head to the park with the dog or a soccer ball.
Rediscover your inner child. Play a family game of tag or hot potato. Try a pillow fight or squirt gun battle. Have a dance party and take turns playing DJ.
Replace screen time. Instead of heading right for the TV or computer after dinner, make that your active family time. Switch up movie night with bowling or miniature golf.
Make it a friendly competition. See who can hula hoop the longest. Race to the corner store. Have a jumping jack contest. Keep track of everyone’s physical activity for a month, and offer a prize to the family member who logs the most hours.
Plant a garden. Growing fruits and veggies gives your family a reason to get outside each day. It also encourages healthy eating habits.
Team up on chores. Rake leaves, shovel snow, do yardwork and tackle other home-maintenance projects as a family. In the end, you will have improved your home and your family’s health.
Park and walk. Make it a habit to park a bit further from school or church and walk the rest of the way.
Remember, active parents raise active children. Set an example and make fitness a priority for you and your family.
Get in the Game: Sports Fitness
Participating in sports can be a great way to get active or stay that way. Most sports require a combination of strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. They typically involve regular practice, which helps you stay active. And the goal of competing or improving performance can be a great motivator.
The amount of active training will vary with each sport. You would not train the same way for volleyball as for soccer. You might, however, cross train. Cross training includes a variety of fitness activities.
Some sports offer moderate levels of activity, and some are more vigorous. Moderate activity means you can usually talk or hold a conversation while you do it. Vigorous activity means you may only be able to say a few words before getting out of breath.
The weekly goal for adults is at least:
- 150 minutes of moderate exercise OR
- 75 minutes of vigorous exercise OR
- a combination of the two
Kids should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day.
Team and individual sports can be a fun way to meet some of your family’s activity goals. Look for opportunities through your workplace, school or community recreation center. Many cities have amateur leagues for kids and adults.
|Hunting & Fishing
|Table Tennis (ping pong)
|Boxing or Sparring
Choose sports and recreational activities that appeal to you. Do you prefer the continuous activity of soccer or basketball… or the precision of golf or archery? Do you enjoy the team atmosphere of volleyball or baseball… or the one-on-one competition of racquetball or boxing?
Whatever sport you choose, you’ll be getting active which will help keep your heart healthy.
Walk Your Way to a Healthier Life
You can get active in lots of ways, but walking is one of the easiest steps you can take to improve your health. It’s also one of the safest, least expensive and most sustainable forms of exercise. For such a simple activity, it has so many benefits!
Research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
- reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes
- improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels
- prevent weight gain and lower the risk of obesity
- improve your mental well-being
- increase your energy and stamina
- reduce your risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer and colon cancer
For every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
It’s not all or nothing; it’s step by step.
Maybe you haven’t been active for a while. No problem. Just get started, even if it’s only a few minutes a day at first.
Set a reachable goal just for today. Then you can work toward your overall goal of 150 minutes a week or more as you get in better shape. Gradually increase your time or distance each week.
If it’s easier on your body and your schedule, you can split up your walks into 10 or 15 minutes each. Every step counts!
Even if you’re already active, here are some ways you can add more steps into your day:
- Take the dog out for a walk.
- Take the kids to the park or playground.
- Park farther from the entrance to your workplace, school, grocery store, restaurants, etc.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator, even if just for one or two floors.
- Window shop at the mall or downtown.
- Walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch instead of driving.
- Catch up with a friend by walking around the block while you chat on the phone.
All you have to do is lace up with a comfortable pair of shoes and walk. It’s that easy!
Source: American Heart Association