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YMCA Afterschool Care

A new school year is filled with potential—a chance to start new routines and habits, build new friendships and discover new possibilities and interests. It’s an exciting time for many kids, however—at the end of the school day, 11.3 million kids head to homes where they are unsupervised form 3 to 6 p.m. according to Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness organization. As children transition from summer to fall, the Oshkosh Community YMCA is offering programs to school-aged children throughout the Oshkosh Area School District to keep youth active, busy and engaged during out-of-school time. Through a well-rounded approach to youth development, the Y’s program offers activities in a caring and safe environment during the critical hours after school. Whether through sports, mentorship, or academic support, the Y nurture the potential of youth throughout the school year.

 “One in five children do not have someone to care for them after school, an essential time to help increase children’s success in school,” said Erin Baranek, School Age Director at the Oshkosh Community YMCA. “Afterschool at the Y is an opportunity for families to ensure their kids are receiving additional support, continued learning and a chance to participate in meaningful activities that can inspire children’s motivations and abilities to succeed.”

The Y is a leading nonprofit committed to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, supporting their social-emotional, cognitive and physical development from birth to career. In the Oshkosh YMCA’s  afterschool program youth receive help with homework and can also explore music, art, outside physical activity, group games, science and nature. Financial assistance is available to those in need, to ensure every child and teen has the opportunity to learn and grow at the Y.

The Oshkosh YMCA employs Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in our afterschool programs that help build a healthier future for our nation’s children by encouraging healthy eating habits, limiting screen time and providing physical activity to keep every child healthy.

For more information about the Oshkosh YMCA’s afterschool program, please contact Erin Baranek at erinbaranek@oshkoshymca.org or call 920-236-3380.

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Why do healthier foods always seem to cost more? Is it possible to maintain a nutritious diet on a reasonable budget? The short answer….it is! Here are a few tips to help you stay health conscious and on budget.

Buy and cook in bulk. At warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco, you can buy many items in bulk for much less. After buying in bulk, separate and freeze if needed. Spend a little time cooking dishes on the weekends that you can eat during the week, or freeze and use at a later date. A big bowl of bean soup or chili can be dinner as well as lunch for the next day or two. This saves on expensive frozen dinners, trips to the cafeteria, and last-minute detours to the drive-thru.

Manage meat options by looking for healthy meat, poultry and fish on sale and freeze for later use to reduce waste. Also, consider swapping more expensive meats for other sources of protein, like beans, tofu, or eggs.

Be season-savvy by using seasonal fruits and vegetables, as they taste the best and are often much less pricey than imported out-of-season varieties. You can also look for lower-priced produce in the supermarket. It is usually one a day or two old, but much less expensive. Try visiting local farmer’s markets, where produce is often cheap and fresh.

Don’t be afraid to go generic. Sometimes generic or private label store brands have the same ingredients that the big brand name products have, but because they aren’t paying the high advertising costs the big brands are, they can charge less. In some cases, the same manufacturers produce both the generic products and the brand name.

Menu planning can help reduce perishable product waste. Head to the store with a good idea of the meals you want to make for the week. Research shows that shoppers without a list tend to buy more food, especially snacks and impulse items.

Try to limit junk food. Junk food and prepared frozen foods can often add up to be the most expensive things in your cart. Trade the money you normally would spend on these items for fresh produce or healthy snacks. And try to avoid going to the store hungry, when it’s more difficult to resist temptation.

You can eat healthy without breaking the bank, it just takes a game plan and a little creativity.  

Breastfeeding Awareness Month

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. A mother’s breast milk has numerous health benefits for both mom and baby. To begin with, it’s naturally produced to be the perfect nutrition for your baby, with disease-fighting antibodies. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life, and then combining breast milk with the introduction of complimentary foods until baby is at least 12 months. The World Health Organization recommends even longer – through at least the age of two. Rachel Juckem RN, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant at Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh states, “Breastfeeding has many benefits. It helps protect babies against asthma, childhood obesity, diarrhea, respiratory infections, ear infections, SIDS, and some childhood cancers.”

Here are just a few benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby:
  • Colostrum is like liquid gold. Colostrum is the thick yellow breast milk that is made during pregnancy and shortly after birth. It’s extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies to help protect your baby and build his or her immune system.
  • Breast milk provides the perfect nutrition.  A mother’s body naturally produces the perfect proportions of fat, carbohydrates, and protein every time your baby nurses. It even changes with your growing baby’s needs. Breast milk also provides crucial antibodies that can actually fight disease and lower the risk of your baby developing all kinds of diseases and chronic illnesses later in life.
  • Breast feeding satisfies a baby’s emotional needs.  The closeness of breastfeeding your baby promotes crucial bonding and skin-to-skin contact which is important for emotional and social development. Plus, it releases endorphins, which act as a natural soother and pain suppressant for baby.
  • Breastfeeding is associated with a higher IQ.  The latest study to support this was done in New Zealand, where an 18-year longitudinal study found that children who were breastfed had better intelligence and greater academic achievement.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of post-partum depression and stimulates healing.  It was reported in a study published in the journal Maternal and Child Health that breastfeeding can cut the risk of post-partum depression in half.  Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body. Often known as the “feel good” hormone, oxytocin also stimulates contractions, which cause the uterus to shrink more quickly to its pre-pregnancy size. This also shuts off the maternal blood-vessels that formerly fed the baby and discourages excessive bleeding.
  • Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower type of Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation – resulting in a lower risk of these tissues becoming cancerous. 
  • Breastfeeding costs less and is more convenient.  Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year, depending on how much your baby eats. Breastfed babies are also sick less often, resulting in fewer missed days at work and lower health care costs.
Unfortunately, America is the one of the few developed countries without a law ensuring new mothers receive paid maternity leave. For some women, returning to work is often cited as the reason why they choose not to breastfeed, or to only breastfeed for a short time.

Through the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), large employers (more than 50 employees) are now required to provide moms and babies younger than 12 months with a reasonable break time for pumping, and a private place to pump, other than a bathroom. Another result of the law was for most benefits plans to provide pregnant or post-partum women with comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider, during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period. 

Gone Golfing

It’s summer time in Wisconsin which means many of us will be enjoying the beautiful local golf courses. There are actually many health benefits to the game of golf. Playing golf regularly can help a person stay fit, improve muscle tone and endurance, and lose weight and body fat. But, the game of golf also has some additional health benefits. Playing a round of golf has been proven to release endorphins, a powerful, natural, mood enhancer from our brain. Studies also show that golf delays the onset of dementia by stimulating blood circulation in the brain along with improving connections between nerve cells. Golf also challenges the mind in terms of strategy, coordination and concentration. 

A Swedish study on the health benefits of golf found that people who play the game on a regular basis have a 40 percent lower mortality rate among their peers, which equals a five year increase in life expectancy. Getting regular daytime activity generally means a person will fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night. Golf is a great way of staying active during the day. 

A typical game of golf, if the course is walked, can average walking about six miles, which means a person can burn approximately 1400 calories during a round. Socialization is also a large health benefit to the game of golf. As they say, a bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at work!  Research shows that people who maintain their social network and support systems do better under stress, and cholesterol levels decrease with human companionship. Golf provides opportunities to meet new people and helps develop a sense of community connectedness. 

Golf is typically a leisure sport, however, just like any other sport, common injuries can occur.  Causes of injury generally include overuse, incorrect technique and aggravation of a previous injury.  Here are some tips to avoid golf injuries:
  • Warm and stretch before playing. Pay particular attention to the back, shoulders and arms. 
  • Take lessons. Good technique is the best defense against injury.
  • Use good equipment. Wear appropriate clothing such as shoes, socks and gloves.
  • Consider having golf equipment professionally fitted before purchase.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your game.
  • Lift and carry clubs safely.
  • Stop playing if an injury occurs.
Like any other sport, a tailored exercise program that focuses on muscles most utilized by the golfer can be very beneficial. For golf, attention should be given to core strength and flexibility, and flexibility training for the hips and thoracic spine to increase range of motion. Examples of beneficial exercises include standing wood chop, lunges, front plank and side planks. Just like any other fitness program, consistency with the exercises is key. Begin to incorporate a regular-regimen of these sport specific exercises and flexibility exercises into your daily workout routine and you should begin to see performance improvements shortly.

Summer Safety

It’s important to stay healthy and safe during the summer months. It’s a great time to be enjoying outdoor activities, therefore, taking simple precautions will guarantee a safe and fun-filled summer. 

Protect your skin from too much sun exposure by applying sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also limit midday sun exposure from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. when the sun is its strongest. Consider wearing loose fitting, light colored clothing when outside during peak sun times and a hat, wear sunglasses with a high UV rating as well.

Hiking, camping, and gardening are great ways to be outside and get exercise at the same time, however people must be aware of poisonous plants such as Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac, as well as ticks and other bugs.  People should learn how to identify these poisonous plants and bugs so they can avoid them. Risk of them touching the skin can be decreased by wearing protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeves, and gloves.

Biking can also be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get exercise during the summer months.  It is not only a very fun, family-friendly activity, but it is environmentally friendly as well. Be sure to always ride smart and obey basic rules such as always wearing a helmet, wear reflective clothing and use a headlight and rear reflector when riding in low light, children should always ride on sidewalks or paths until they are at least 10 years old, and bikers should always ride with traffic on the right side of the road while obeying all traffic signs and signals and using hand directionals to turn. To protect the brain and head for all summer activities, be sure to wear a helmet when participating in activities that involve wheels, concrete or asphalt. A helmet that fits properly will sit directly on the head above the eyebrows and will buckle tightly around the chin. 

Water activities can be a highlight to any family’s summer fun, but being safe around the water is extremely important. Many summer accidents and injuries occur in or around water. When swimming at a pool or lake, always obey all posted rules and regulations and never swim alone.  People of all ages should learn how to swim; learning simple, basic swimming skills can save your life. Never dive in shallow water or water that you can’t see the bottom. Be sure to have a pulse on the weather, never swim in bad weather. When visiting local water parks, be sure those you are with know how to swim. Always read all the signs before going on a water ride and beware of other riders. When boating or doing water sports like jet skiing, always wear a life jacket regardless of swimming ability and always obey the local and state boating rules. Stay alert to other boaters, know the weather forecast, and inform family and friends that you are out on the water and when you expect to return. A cell phone is a great thing to have on a boat. 

Summer can be a fun time for everyone as long as safety comes first. Enjoy the great outdoors and stay safe!

Keep Your Brain Healthy

Keeping your mind sharp is just as important as keeping your body in good shape. Your brain is vital to good health, and although we may not care for it specifically, there’s growing evidence that daily habits can help maintain its function. It’s never too late to start incorporating these habits for better health.

Eat food that is rich in nutrients such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unsalted nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in brain health. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, walnuts and flaxseed oil. 

Aerobic activity, that gets your heart pumping, send more nourishing blood throughout your body, including to your head. This has been proven to benefit brain cells and help preserve our thoughts as we age. Healthy conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugars may also raise risk of dementia. Know your numbers – talk with your doctor about what your numbers should be and a safe way to get there.

Quitting smoking is also one of the best things you can do for brain health. People who smoke more than two packs a day have twice the rate of dementia and even the lowest level of smoker has a thirty-seven percent greater chance of developing dementia than a non-smoker. However, studies show that people who used to smoke but stop, had no increased risk of dementia, and had normal brain functioning into old age. 

Regularly challenging your brain provides short and long-term benefits.Become a lifelong learner. Consider enrolling in classes at a community college, learn a new language, engage in a new art or craft skill, challenge your mind with crosswords or jigsaw puzzles. Social interaction also helps improve brain function and fight off cognitive decline. Volunteer and join groups such as a book club or walking group. New friends and old friends are beneficial to brain health.

Sleep gives your body and brain the time to repair and restore itself. Not getting enough sleep messes with your memory and thinking skills. You should always wake up feeling refreshed, if you are not, talk to your doctor about your sleep. 

Always protect your head.  A brain injury increases the risk of dementia.  Always buckle up, wear a helmet for cycling and contact sports, and take the necessary steps to prevent falls.

Avoid mental aging by making small changes to keep your brain healthy and happy.

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

According to the Arthritis Foundation, Juvenile arthritis affects almost 300,000 children in the United States. July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. Juvenile arthritis, also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, is the term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16.

There are many types of Juvenile arthritis. 
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is considered the most common form of arthritis, and includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
  • Juvenile dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
  • Juvenile lupus is an autoimmune disease and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.
  • Juvenile scleroderma, which means “hard skin”, describes a group of conditions that causes the skin to tighten and harden.
  • Kawasaki disease causes blood-vessel inflammation that can lead to heart complications.
  • Mixed connective tissue disease is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
  • Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome and causes stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms.
There is currently no known cause for most forms of juvenile arthritis. There is also no known evidence that suggests toxins, foods or allergens causes children to develop Juvenile arthritis. To properly treat Juvenile arthritis, an accurate diagnosis is necessary. The diagnostic process is typically very long and detailed. All children will receive a thorough physical exam and a detailed medical history. There is no cure for Juvenile arthritis at this time. Treatment goals are to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve the child’s quality of life and typically include a combination of medication, physical activity, eye care and healthy eating.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease suggests parents do the following to best care for their child with Juvenile arthritis:
  • Get the best care possible.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s disease and its treatment.
  • Consider joining a support group.
  • Treat your child as normally as possible.
  • Encourage exercise and physical therapy for your child.
  • Work closely with your child’s school.
  • Talk with your child.
  • Work with therapists or social workers.
An important part of any child’s treatment plan is teaching them how to follow a treatment plan and addressing the emotional and social effects of the disease. Self-care is valuable for children at any age and teaches them how to make good choices every day to live well and stay healthy and happy.  

Grill Safety

Summer is everyone’s favorite time to be outdoors and cook outdoors. Grilling is one of the most popular ways to cook food in the summer months. July is a peak month for grill fires, roughly half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns. According to the National Fire Protection Association, gas grills are involved in an annual average of 7,200 home fires. Charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were responsible for an annual average of 1,400 home fires. A grill placed too close to anything that can burn is a fire hazard. Grills can be very hot, causing severe burn injuries.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends the following safety tips when grilling:
  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
Safety tips for Charcoal grills include:
  • There are several ways to get charcoal ready for use, chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electrical charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
Safety tips for Propane grills include:
  • Always check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
  • Apply light soap and water solution to the hose, a propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If it doesn’t stop, call your local fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
  • If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least five minutes before re-lighting it.
Summer is a great time to enjoy grilling outdoors with friends and family. Be sure to review safety procedures and make sure your grill is working properly. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.  PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event.

Some causes of PTSD include:
  • Combat and other military experiences  
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Learning about the violent or accidental death or injury of a loved one
  •  Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Serious accidents, like a car wreck  
  • Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake  
  • Terrorist attacks
According to the National Center for PTSD, symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but may not appear until months or years later. Signs of PTSD are symptoms lasting longer than four weeks, symptoms causing great distress, or symptoms interfering with your work or home life.
There are four types of symptoms of PTSD:
  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms).  Bad memories, nightmares and feeling like you're going through the event again are common and called flashbacks.
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. PTSD victims may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event and may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  • Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way they think about themselves and others may change because of the trauma, they may feel guilt or shame, or may not be interested in activities they used to enjoy. They might find it difficult to feel happy.
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). A person with PTSD may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger, or may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. They may become angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly).
PTSD can be treated and there are many treatment options available.  Some of those treatment options are:
  • Talk therapy
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
  • Medication
It is never too late to receive treatment for PTSD regardless of how long ago the traumatic event took place. Talk to someone you trust such as your family doctor, a mental health professional, your local VA facility or Vet Center, if you are a Veteran, a close friend or family member who can support you while finding help, a clergy member or fill out a PTSD questionnaire or screen yourself for signs and symptoms. If you feel you are in crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.  Other options include calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or contacting the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255.

Relax This Summer

Rest and relaxation are important to health. Everyone should relax every day to rid their body of tension and stress. This summer, consider taking time to relax, play, recharge, and reenergize. The Mayo Clinic recommends people take the necessary time to nurture their mind and body. High levels of stress over a long period of time can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Taking time to relax every day can help balance your stress levels.

Everyone has stress and everyone handles stress differently. Physical reactions to stress include tight muscles, headaches, increased heart rate and faster breathing. Emotional reactions to stress include anxiety, frustration, anger, and depression. Sometimes people are stressed so often they no longer recognize the physical or emotional signs of stress.

Real relaxation should not only happen when you are stressed, it’s deeper than that. Real relaxation calms and improves health of the body and the brain, bringing a better balance to your life. Being more relaxed helps people feel better and have a better outlook on life.

The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips for relaxing:
  • Make yourself a priority. You have permission. It’s key to your physical and emotional health and wellness.
  • Be resilient. Remember that there are many things in life you can’t control. Take action on what is within your control, and learn to let go of the rest.
  • Think about three ways you can recharge. Physically – stretch, walk, run, do yoga. Socially – connect with friends, go dancing, join an organization you believe in. Time for self – make yourself a priority, think about what will help you relax and rest as needed. How are you going to choose to recharge?
  • Make a plan. Note how you will relax when you only have five to 10 minutes. What can you do when you have 30 to 60 minutes? What about your regular, daily relaxation efforts? Consider contacting the YMCA, life coach, church or community education program for ideas and helping in learning how to relax. Schedule time for yourself – you deserve it!
Take time to discover meaning and purpose in your life as well.  What gives you joy and make you feel good? What is important to you? Take time to think about whether you spend time on activities that bring you joy and support your values or do you spend time on activities that are not important to you? When you know how to spend your time, you choose activities that make you feel good in mind, body and spirit.  Typically, these choices will make you happier overall.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends taking SMART steps for better health:
  • Specific – What are you going to do?
  • Measurable – How will you track your progress?
  • Achievable – What steps will you take to make this happen?
  • Relevant – Is this important enough to make you want to do it?
  • Time-framed – When will you do this?
Take the necessary time you need for yourself this summer to find things you enjoy and relax and rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.
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