Spring has sprung! Have you? One way to shake off those groggy winter hibernation feelings is to Put a Little Step In Your Spring.
Regular Brisk Walking
- Means you can talk but maybe not sing. You may be slightly out of breath.
- Improves overall health.
- Can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Prevents chronic health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Strengthens bones.
- “Boosts” or increases muscle power and endurance.
Ready to walk to the top (of Mt Vesuvius) Photo Source: Richard Waid
Strive for 10,000 Steps a Day
- Spring clean your house.
- Mow the lawn.
- Dance around your living room.
- Take the stairs.
- Park in the farthest spot in the parking lot from your destination.
- Wear a pedometer or electronic fitness device to measure how many steps you’ve gone.
- Try for at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t – break up your walking into smaller segments.
- Vary your intensity – speed up, slow down. Then repeat.
- Vary the view. Try different settings to walk – your neighborhood, the beach, or the woods.
Make It Social
- Let your dog take you for a walk. (Be sure to bring cleanup bags with you and have your best friend(s) on a leash.)
- Walk with friends.
- Make it a family routine.
- Join a walking club.
- Compete with a group to see who can get the most steps.
- Walk in the mall or a park. And say hello to people as you pass by.
- Mindful walk – notice the colors around you, how your feet feel as they step down on different surfaces, the variety of sounds you hear on your walk. Meet someone along the way. Learn their name…and remember it. For info on mindfulness, check out this UF/IFAS publication: Mindfulness: An Introduction.
Always remember to walk in a safe environment, wear comfortable walking shoes, and check with your medical provider for the best walking strategies for you.
So this spring, see how the flowers pop in color. Hear all the different sounds the birds make or enjoy some of your favorite music. Feel the wind and sun on your face. You can do all that and more when you Put a Little Step in Your Spring.
Do you know what the different types of cholesterol are in your body? Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Do you know why your numbers matter? Cholesterol can be a contributing factor to heart disease. It’s important to understand your numbers so you can take the best care of yourself. Making simple changes in your daily routine can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Talking to your doctor is the first step so he or she can request blood tests to help determine your risk. One of the tests the doctor may run is called a lipid profile, which checks your body’s cholesterol.
What should my cholesterol numbers be?
- Total cholesterol should be somewhere between 125 to 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol is called “bad” because it can block your arteries. The level should be less than 100 mg/dL. If it starts with “L”, aim for a lower number.
- HDL cholesterol is called “good” because it helps to clear out the LDL (bad) cholesterol. This number should be greater than 40 mg/dL for men and greater than 50 mg/dL for women. If it starts with “H”, aim for a higher number.
- Triglycerides are fat found in the blood. You want these numbers to be less than 150 mg/dL.
If you don’t understand what your numbers mean, be sure to talk with your health care provider. The more you know about your numbers, the more incentive you have to make any recommended changes.
What Can Cause Unhealthy Levels of Cholesterol?
- Habits like smoking, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy eating patterns.
- Genetics (family medical history)
- Some medications
Prepping for a healthy diet
Photo source: UF/IFAS
What Can You Do to Help Lower the “Bad” Cholesterol and Increase the “Good” Cholesterol?
You can make simple changes to your daily routine to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Eat more heart-healthy foods
- Eat foods like oatmeal, apples, and pears to give your body more soluble fiber.
- Add salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed to your diet. These are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eat less red meat and switch from whole or 2% milk to skim milk.
- The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week.
- Find out more about how to fit physical activity into your day
- There are many different resources available to help you or someone you know quit smoking.
- Check out how to quit for quitting tobacco tips from A to Z
Drop those extra pounds
- If you lose just 5% of your body weight, it can help your heart!
- See what a 5% weight loss can do for your health
By making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Change takes time and effort, so don’t get discouraged by trying to make all the changes at once! Pick one habit to work on, such as slowly switching from whole milk to 2% to 1% then finally to skim milk. Once drinking skim milk becomes part of your everyday routine, choose another habit to work on, such as getting more exercise. Adding a half hour walk in the morning or in the evening is a great way to get you moving. To make the walk even more enjoyable, take your dog with you – pets need exercise, too!
Your good health is why your numbers matter. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in improving your heart health. And since February is Heart Health Awareness month, now is a great time to start.
Contributing writer – UF Intern Jennifer Bryson
Be mindful and enjoy the moment.
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District
Now that the busy holiday season is over, it is time not only to reflect on the past, but to prepare and refocus for the New Year ahead. As we focus on the New Year, it is always refreshing to have a clean slate. As the year begins to unfold, there are tips to help you manage your day-to-day stress levels. It begins with mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” –Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)
Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity in and of itself. Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness.
Mindful awareness has three key features:
Purpose – mindfulness involves intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
Presence – mindfulness involves being fully engaged with and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognized simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
Acceptance – mindfulness involves being nonjudgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. This means that sensations, thoughts, and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening,” and observed until they eventually pass (Naik, Harris, and Forthun 2016).
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Over time, mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you slow down and observe the processes of your mind (Black 2010). The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is for you to take advantage of this space so you can make more intentional decisions – to wake up from living life on autopilot, based on unproductive habits of mind (Black 2010; Walach et al. 2007).
According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes 2011):
Increased awareness of one’s mind
Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions
Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)
Increased mental flexibility and focus
More working memory
Decreased distracting thoughts
Decreased emotional reactivity
Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors
Increased empathy, compassion and conscientiousness of others’ emotions
Enhanced immune system functioning
Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning
Lowered blood pressure
Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)
Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease
Increased self-insight and self-acceptance
Increased acceptance of others
Increased compassion and empathy
Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change
Increased control over automatic behaviors
The question is: how many of us would like to benefit from mindfulness if it provides these positive benefits? All of us should strive to lower our stress level and enjoy our daily lives with a more positive attitude and more attentiveness. So, how can we incorporate this into our lives? The majority of this practice is about familiarizing yourself with what it feels like to be mindful, and getting better at “remembering” to maintain mindful awareness.
Experiment with creating your own mindfulness practices throughout your day. Being mindful of the sensation on the soles of your feet as you walk to your car or the taste and texture of your morning coffee can transform routine moments into deeply satisfying practices. However, having a ritualized and structured practice can be beneficial. To find out more about practicing mindfulness and how to incorporate a more structured practice in your life visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu, Publication # FCS2335 – Mindfulness: An Introduction.
Source: Mindfulness: An Introduction. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Publication # FCS2335.
January 24th is Global Belly Laugh Day!
Make health and wellness a part of your calendar and daily routine.
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District
Each year, we celebrate many holidays, but there are also many observances and commemorations scheduled throughout the calendar year. Some are odd, like National Science Fiction Day, Word Nerd Day, and even National Dinosaur Day. Others serve as a good opportunity to raise awareness about important health topics and remind us to take control of our health.
Celebrating the new year means leaving the past behind, making positive changes, and the continuation of success and happiness. National observances such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Family Health History Day, and World AIDS Day help us come together to spread awareness and show support for each other.
Organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Association have created nationwide awareness month campaigns to draw attention to some of the leading causes of death in America. Other observances, such as Take a Loved One to the Doctor Month from the Florida Department of Health, encourage people to take charge of their own health and to urge their loved ones to do the same.
So, as you are looking forward to the new year, make health and wellness a part of your calendar and daily routine.
UF/IFAS Extension wishes you and your family a year fully loaded with happiness, prosperity, and health.
To learn more about health observances and how to encourage your loved ones to take control of their health, contact Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Gadsden County, (850) 875-7255, or email@example.com
Photo source: Dorothy Lee
Tis the Season Merry and Bright:
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve there are greater incidences of stress and tension related headaches and migraines. Family stresses, long shopping lines, and unrealistic expectations are enough to trigger tension headaches even in people who are not headache prone. To avoid these aches and pains a strategic plan may be necessary.
Planning is crucial not only at the holidays but throughout the year. Having a plan and being organized makes everything easier and more manageable. The key is to start early and don’t wait until December. This is where Christmas in July becomes useful thinking.
The following are some tips to help avoid stress during the holiday season. Make a schedule that includes all tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each task needs to be completed. This is why Santa makes a list and checks it twice.
- Start shopping early to reduce time wasted in long lines with early-bird hour sales
- To avoid long period of times wrapping, shop in stores where gift wrap is free
- Shop on-line while drinking your coffee in your pajamas
- Track your purchases in a notebook or in note section of your cell phone
- Prioritize your social events and don’t spread yourself too thin
- Use your computer for online postal mailing to avoid lines at the post office
- Instead of mailing gifts, order gifts on-line, and have gifts directly sent to gift recipient
- Practice relaxation and stretching to reduce stress
- Establish a spending limit and stick to it
Be realistic about how much you can do as nobody likes a cranky Santa. By following these tips, you will be as jolly as old Saint Nick.
Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends as it is the greatest gift you can give yourself. And remember, laugher is the best medicine for stress!