Stress.Â We all have it, none of us wants it, and most of us have trouble managing it. For some, stress is but a bump in the road. For others, it is constant, and crippling. What stresses you out? Juggling your kidâ€™s schedules, driving in heavy traffic, a poor health diagnosis, perhaps, or maybe you are facing a job loss? No matter the reason, stress can have profound and lasting effects on your health, and managing stress costs billions.
It is estimated that Americans currently spend about $14 billion per year on products and services that help them reduce their stress levels. Stress-related health expenses, absenteeism, employee turnover, and so on, cost U.S. businesses roughly $300 billion per year. (American Institute of Stress). If you, like many Americans, have recentlyÂ lost your job, then stress may cost you more money, and it can cost you your health.
The good news? The solution could be in your sneakers. Recent studies show that regular exercise not only improves physical health, it can bring out the mental sunshine. Even better, make some of your exercise time â€śoutdoorâ€ť exercise time. Research conducted at the University of Essex showed that outside exercise has benefits that extend beyond the expected calorie-burning effect. It turns out that surrounding yourself with nature stimulates spiritual feelings and your senses, and gives you an escape from modern life. This shouldnâ€™t be a surprise, but exercising outdoors also lowers stress levels, improves concentration and positively impacts health and well-being.
Exercise on the cheap.Maybe a gym membership isnâ€™t in the budget right now, but that doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t turn down time into exercise time. Play with your kids. Youâ€™ll earn your smoothie after an afternoon game of tag, kickball, flag football or catch with your kids. As an added bonus, children who have active parents typically grow up to be active adults, so youâ€™ll be setting a good example.
Use your surroundings to boost calorie burn. If you live in a metropolitan area that has little green space, fear not â€“ there are still plenty of opportunities here for exercising outdoors. Take your elastic tubing and tie it around you waste, then head to the nearest set of stairs (think Rocky in Balboa here). Go for a jog, run up the stairs, use the railing as an anchor for your tubing, then knock out a set of squats. If there is a hill nearby, try walking lunges up the hill. No railing in sight? Use a tree, or even a parking meter. Be creative â€“ that is half the fun!
Build your network of support. Enlist the help of friends, neighbors, grandparents, and your spouse and tell them what your plans are for getting fit and reducing stress, and ask them to help support you along the way. Your support system will help propel you forward rather than hold you back. (Read: Reaching your fitness goals: Build your network of support)
Make it a family affair.Â Include the entire family in your fitness adventures. Bike rides, walks in the park, a game of kickball, catch, or Frisbeeâ€¦really any activity that includes fun, fresh air, and exercise will do everyone some good.
Get fit with friends. Exercising with a group of people who have similar interests and goals can provide both the structure and incentive you need to stay committed. As an added bonus, studies also show that people with strong social networks have less stress and a more positive outlook on life.
Learn something new. Tennis, basketball, swimming, cycling, kayaking, horse back riding and rock climbing are just a few activities you can to try. Attempting something out of your comfort zone is a great way to boost self-confidence.Â Youâ€™ll surely meet new people, and you never know â€“ you might discover an inner athlete in you that you didnâ€™t know existed, or make a connection that leads to a new job prospect.
Think big. Have you ever dreamed of running a marathon, or completing a triathlon? While having time on your hands may not be what you want right now, maybe you can use the time to achieve a life-long goal, and who knows, you may learn something profound about yourself in the process.
If you suffer from diabetes, you well know that exercise can and should be a part of the comprehensive treatment of both type I and type II diabetes. However, the potential for complications associated with diabetes often means that exercise is neglected, leading to inactivity. Inactivity, in turn, can further affect the complications of diabetes.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, relatively healthy persons with diabetes can engage in walking, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing, and similar forms of aerobic activity for 20-60 minutes on 3-5 days per week, with exercise intensity ranging between 60-90% of max heart rate.Â Recent research also indicates that regular resistance training may be beneficial for patients with diabetes. Therefore, including both cardiovascular and strength training exercise into a weekly fitness regimen may be beneficial for diabetes sufferers.
It is important to note that the possible glucose-altering effects of exercise make close monitoring of blood sugar before, during, and after exercise very important.Â Because exercise makes the body more sensitive to the way the body responds to insulin, use of an insulin pump for individuals with type I diabetes is recommended in order to closely monitor blood sugar levels.
Before you begin an exercise program, it is important to get the okay from your physician and/or diabetes specialist.Â Then, follow these tips to ensure that your exercise sessions are safe and effective.
[Sources: ACSMâ€™s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 4th ed, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001.
Exercise Physiology, 5th ed, McArdle, Katch, and Katch, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001
IDEA Fitness Journal, Peggy Kraus, MA,Â â€śWorking with Diabetic Clients,â€ť Nov-Dec 2007]
I have an aunt who, throughout my adolescence,Â was kind enough to remind me repeatedly to stand up straight. True, it may have been annoying at the time, but I now appreciate the advice. I would also like to thank my yoga instructors who, over the years, have helped reinforce this mantra. Truth be told, the spine can only handle poor posture for so long. Over time, the rest of the body will adapt to an odd curve as “normal,” and oh, the money you’ll spend to fix your aches and pains later. Again, SO thankful for my repetitive aunt
Quickly, let’s review what good, standing posture is:
knees over ankles, hips over knees (knees slightly bent, ankles slightly dorsiflexed), tail bone pointed slightly down, pelvis tilted slightly back (think of the pelvis as a bowl – tilted forward you’d spill you soup), core engaged (lower pelvic floor tight, lower abdominals engaged, and mid-lumbar relaxed), shoulders even (not pulled up to your ears) and rolled down and back, as though you are tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets.
And good, sitting posture is:
both feet on the floor, weight of the body squarely over the sitting bones, core engaged as above, lower back slightly tensed and mid-back relaxed, and head and neck in a straight line extending from tailbone to skull. True, this is not practical for many scenarios, but it gives you something to think about while driving a car and sitting at your desk. Also, try to keep your butt relaxed. Out of habit, we tend to tense everything, and there is almost never a good reason to do so. So relax your butt, and often the rest of your muscles will follow the lead.
If you have been practicing poor posture for many years, correcting it will take some time, but you will eventually learn what “normal” feels like and your body will prefer this position.
Brush up on posture basics with these “best of” Blue Sky Gym blog posts:
As you might guess from my lack of presence on this block, summer is a very busy time, and I know this is true for just about everyone (and you’re all nodding, “yes, my kids over-run my schedule too!”), so my â€śthemeâ€ť for the week is all about making â€śhealthy choices in a snap.â€ť
It is super easy to slack off during the summer. Câ€™mon, you know what I meanâ€¦the pool is more enticing than a trip to the gym, the longer days (often filled with kid-focused activities, which, less face it, suck the life right out of even the most energetic mom, and if you are like me and work from home, it is difficult to get any work done, much less a â€śwork-out.â€ť) Enter moi â€“ also known as your kick in the butt.
You CAN still fit healthy activities and healthy foods into your busy days, it just takes a little more creativity.
Try these tips:
1. Include the kids. Outdoor games, family walks and bike rides,
2. Include your pet. Your dog needs a daily walk, right? Follow these tips for exercising outdoors with your dog.
3. Carve out small bits of time for exercise. You can accomplish a lot in just 10 minutes â€“ seriously, you can!
4. Travel with fitness in mind. With a little planning, there isnâ€™t any reason you canâ€™t exercise while vacationing. I know, you might not want to, but it can be done.
5. Canâ€™t get to the gym? Work out at home. Follow these tips for stocking your home gym with all of the basics.
Easy Peasy Recipes for summer
There, that should get you started. And also remember that you donâ€™t have to take the â€śall or nothingâ€ť approach. Set out to do something that serves as exercise, and try to make healthy food choices â€“ save the strict nutrition regimen and long, tough workouts for the fall when you have a bit more time for you! Summer is meant to be enjoyed, so go â€“ enjoy.
The biggest key to my success has got to be the high degree of accountability Iâ€™ve placed upon myself. When I finally decided that it was time to lose weight and get fit, I told everyone I knew.”
This recent comment really got me thinking…when only you know what your goals are, then the failure to achieve them falls completely on you, and if you tell no one, then does it even really count?
The study of human behavior as it relates to health choices has been studied to the N-th degree. Still, scientists and scholars don’t completely understand what enables one person to succeed at changing his/her health behavior and another to fall short, but many experts do agree that the role of “social support” is crucial to lasting health behavior change. In other words, don’t go it alone!
Without your cheerleaders, you will be less likely to succeed, plain and simple. The larger your support-network, the better. Your support group will keep you up when you feel down (and not to be negative, but there will be times when you will feel like giving up), they will remind you of your goal(s); hopefully will tell you that you can succeed; and will build up your self-esteem. Donâ€™t include people in your support group who canâ€™t fulfill these needs (and you know who these people are)!
When youâ€™ve decided on your goal(s) for the year, tell your family, friends, neighbors, spouses and whoever will listen what your plans are and ask them to help support you along the way. You may even want to give them a copy of your written goals and ask them to check in with you regularly for a progress report. While this might seem a little scary (there is no going back once youâ€™ve handed your list of goals to someone else), remember that a support system will help propel you forward rather than hold you back.
The support you receive could take many forms. Here is one example:
Problem: Your goal is to take a walk everyday, but the temptation to procrastinate because other items on your â€śto doâ€ť list, such as cleaning the house, seem more important.
Solution: Delegate. Perhaps hiring a sitter to watch the kids for an hour, or trading babysitting with a neighbor are other possible solutions. Get creative here â€“ if your changes are to be lasting ones, there will be many obstacles to work around. Developing the confidence that you can navigate obstacles will go a long way toward improving your odds of success.
Your situation will be unique, so invest some time thinking through various obstacles you foresee, and make a list.
Now, having done that, how can you enlist the help of your support network to overcome these obstacles?
Do you have an obstacle that you were able to surmount, thanks to the help of your support network? Please share…I’d love to hear about it.