Most of us know that regular physical activity can help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of some cancers, help you maintain a healthy weight; strengthen muscles and bones and improve your mental health. Regardless, most of us do not get the exercise we need.
One way you can increase your activity level is by using your built environment, including sidewalks, stoplights, trails and parks. It may be appealing for those just beginning an exercise program to start by using the built environment because it’s close to home and doesn’t require the upfront costs of a gym membership. You just have to make time to use it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should aim for 30 or more minutes per day of moderate physical activity on five or more days of the week. Additionally, individuals need to engage in muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscles groups two or more days per week. These activities can be done in 10-minute intervals. Aerobic activity is anything that gets you breathing harder and your heart pumping faster.
Taking an evening walk on a walking trail or through your neighborhood can help you reach two and half hours a week, as long as you’re walking at a brisk pace. Bicycling or roller skating are also good forms of exercise that can be done in your built environment.
If you have a chronic condition or disability, you can still reap the benefits of physical activity, but you should check with your doctor before your start any exercise program. They will be able to give you suggestions for types of physical activities that may work best for you.
Most parents know children are like sponges, constantly absorbing our words and actions. By practicing healthy habits with your children, you can set them on the right course for a healthy life. One way to do this is to encourage family physical activity.
It’s not hard to be active. Simple activities, such as playing in the backyard or walking, can get family members moving and enjoying time together. Set aside a daily time to play with your children. An hour is ideal, but any amount of time you can devote would be beneficial to you and your children. Be sure to pick an activity that all or most family members enjoy doing. Change activities daily so everyone can do something they like. Creating your own ideas or games is part of the fun and will help create life-long memories.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate physical activities into family time:
— Mark off a hopscotch court on the driveway or sidewalk. Teach your children how to play and then do it together.
— Visit a farmer’s market. Walk and talk about the foods. Buy something to prepare at home with the children.
— Keep low-cost toys around the house that you can pick up at a moment’s notice. Flying discs, jump ropes and balls of various sizes give many choices of games to play.
— Make a kite out of items you have and go fly it. Figure out together how to make it work better if necessary.
— Plan a “wash day,” where you wash wagons, bikes, outdoor toys - and even the family dog.
— Turn up the music and dance.
— Work in a garden. Teach children how to start and take care of flowers or vegetables.
— Set limits on the amount and quality of television and video games you permit family members to watch.
— Teach your children activities you enjoyed as a child.
These are only a few ideas out of thousands of possibilities that can make your family closer and more active. Many physical activities provide an opportunity for family members to discuss their days and get to know each other better.
For more informative educational information, contact the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service located at 519 South Main Street in Harlan or call 573-4464.