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Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are beverages such as Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster. These drinks contain large doses of caffeine and other legal stimulants like guarana and ginseng.  One can of energy drink contains up to 62 grams of sugar in a 16-ounce can.  Typically, a 16-ounce serving of an energy drink is considered two servings.  The amount of caffeine in an energy drink can range from 75 milligrams to over 200 milligrams per serving.  A serving of Mountain Dew contains 55 milligrams of caffeine and a can of Coke has 34 milligrams. The amount of caffeine found in an energy drink is almost twice as much as a normal cup of coffee.  Energy drinks also have roughly twice the amount of sugar compared to a typical can of soda. 

According to a study published by Brown University, there are short term dangers to drinking energy drinks.  Individual reactions to caffeine vary per person, and energy drinks should be treated carefully because of how powerful they are.  The drinks’ stimulating properties can increase heart rate and blood pressure (sometimes to the point of palpitations), dehydrate the body, and prevent sleep.  Another study showed the link between energy drinks and cardiac arrest among teens. This particular study recommends teens consume no more than one 250 ml energy drink per day and not before or during sports or exercise.  Another study published in The Journal of American College Health showed that teens are more likely to take dangerous risks when high on caffeine.

Energy drinks should not be consumed by anyone while exercising, as the combination of fluid loss from sweating and the diuretic quality of the caffeine can leave someone severely dehydrated.  Too many energy drinks can also lead to severe headaches and migraines.  Caffeine withdrawal symptoms including frequent headaches, typically occur in users.  Because many energy drinks are also very high in sugar, they can wear out insulin producing cells of the pancreas which can lead to type 2 diabetes. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) found that 68 percent of the consumers of energy drinks are adolescents. The WHO released recommended guidelines regarding the dangers energy drinks pose, particularly to young people. 
 
  • Establish an upper caffeine limit on all products.
  • Enforce labeling requirements and sales restrictions to minors.
  • Enforce regulation of the industry to responsibly market their products.
  • Train health care workers to recognize and treat overdose from energy drinks.
  • Screen patients with a history of substance abuse for heavy consumption of energy drinks.
  • Educate the public about the dangers of mixing energy drinks with alcohol.
  • Continue researching the negative side effects energy drinks have on young people.
Instead of using energy drinks, people can use the following recommendations as healthy alternatives: 
 
  • Water - cold water can make you feel refreshed and help keep you hydrated throughout the day. Try adding fresh fruit to add some flavor.
  • Smoothies – smoothies can provide all the vitamins a person needs in order to keep their body running at peak performance.
  • Green Tea – green tea has a small amount of caffeine in it, however it contains far less sugar, which makes it a healthy alternative to energy drinks and coffee.
If you are someone who consistently feels fatigued or run-down, consider some healthier options to help boost energy: get adequate sleep, add exercise to your daily routine, and eat a healthy diet.  If these don’t seem to help, consult your doctor, as sometimes fatigue is a sign for an underlying medical condition.

Backpack Safety

A new school year is a great time to review backpack safety for parents and students. Backpacks can be incredibly handy, but if worn or used incorrectly, can cause muscle strain, joint pain, and back pain. Backpacks are a better choice for students when it comes to choosing a bag, as the strongest muscles in the body – the back and the abdominals – support the weight of the backpack compared to other options such as shoulder bags, messenger bags or purses. Dr. Jeff Krueger, Krueger Family Chiropractic in Oshkosh, states, “Improperly used or fitting backpacks can put undue stress on the body causing back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and even headaches.  In our practice, we commonly see middle and high school students develop back pain as a result of carrying all their books throughout the entire day.”

“It is important that both shoulder straps of the pack be utilized and adjusted to fit properly on the back, which will reduce the amount of stress placed on the spine. A backpack slung over one shoulder disproportionately shifts all the weight to one side and cause muscle spasms and pain,” adds Dr. Krueger.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents look for the following when choosing the right backpack:
 
  • A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load (for example, even though leather packs look cool, they weigh more than traditional canvas backpacks).
  • The backpack should have two wide, padded shoulder straps; straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
  • A backpack with a padded back, which not only provides increased comfort, but also protects kids from being poked by sharp edges on objects (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
  • A backpack with a waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
  • Backpacks that have multiple compartments, which can help distribute the weight more evenly.
Although back pain is caused by a number of things, it can be caused by kids carrying too many things in their backpacks all day long.  Most doctors and physical therapists recommend kids carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight inside their backpack. When a backpack is too heavy, and incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight can pull the child backward.  To compensate, the child may bend forward at the hips or arch their back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally.  This can lead to shoulder, neck, and back pain.

The American Occupational Therapy Association gives the following suggestions for students when loading a backpack:
 
  • Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack).
  • Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  • If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside the pack.
  • If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.
According to Kids Health, here are some additional tips to help to help decrease injuries due to backpacks:
 
  • Encourage kids to use their locker or desk frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire days’ worth of books in the backpack.
  • Make sure kids don’t carry unnecessary items – laptops, cell phones, and video games can add extra pounds to the backpack.
  • Encourage kids to bring home only the books they need for homework or studying each night.
  • Ask about homework planning. A heavier pack on Fridays might mean that a child is procrastinating on homework until the weekend, making for unnecessarily heave backpacks.
  • Picking up the backpack the right way can also help kids avoid back injurie. As with any heavy weight, they should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting a backpack to the shoulders.
If your child has back pain or numbness in the arms or legs, consider talking to your doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor about treatment options. Dr. Krueger explains, “We encourage parents to talk to their children about ergonomic issues such as posture and backpacks. A child who is educated early in life on these issues will typically deal with less musculoskeletal problems later in life.”  Dr. Krueger adds, “We offer free backpack checks to students of all ages. Simple modifications to backpacks at the start of the school year can prevent extra stress that can cause unnecessary pain and problems over time.”


       

Heart Health and Depression

Heart health is important even when you are feeling down. Have you ever drown your sorrows in a big bowl of ice cream? When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to reach for your favorite comfort food. But thinking about your heart health is important, even when you’re not feeling too chipper.  That’s often easier said than done, said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. But it’s also important, because heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans.

“When people are stressed, anxious or feeling down, they’re not apt to make the healthy choice because they’re so overwhelmed by their situation,” Dr. Goldberg said. “A person’s mental health, in terms of their general health, is underestimated.”  Depression is reported in an estimated one in 10 Americans aged 18 and older, and the figure can be as high as 33 percent for heart attack patients. But just feeling down can lead to changes that can affect your health, and not just because you may fall into habits that are bad for your health, Dr. Goldberg said.

“Other physiological things are happening in the body, including increased stress hormones, higher levels of cortisol and higher glucose levels,” she said. “Taking care of your overall outlook and well-being is as important as taking care of your blood pressure and cholesterol.”  It’s not surprising if you find it hard to get plenty of exercise, eat heart-healthy foods, limit alcohol or kick a smoking habit. All those things can seem like “just one more thing to add to their list of things that is already causing stress,” Dr. Goldberg said. “People turn to things that give them comfort and aren’t thinking about whether those things are healthy or not.”

If you are struggling with stress or anxiety, Dr. Goldberg suggests three steps to help:
  1. Identify the cause of your stress or anxiety and address it. Seek therapy if necessary. “If you’re feeling down for a couple days, that’s okay, but if it goes on for weeks, you need to seek help,” Dr. Goldberg said.
  2. Choose healthy habits and don’t rush it. If you aren’t in the habit of exercising, start gradually rather than putting pressure on yourself to get back to a rigorous routine. “Something as simple as taking a walk, 30 minutes a day, even if you do only 10 minutes at a time, can help your heart,” Dr. Goldberg states. “Exercise improves your mood while you’re doing it, but long-term studies show that people who exercise report better quality of life overall.” Some people respond to stressful situations by eating because they’re so stressed out. If reaching for unhealthy foods has become a habit, try reaching for healthier snacks.
  3. Improve other unhealthy lifestyle habits one at a time instead of trying to “fix” everything at once. Ultimately, you have to take care of yourself to break the cycle of feeling down. That could be doing something structured , like a yoga class or tai chi practice, or something you can do anywhere, such as a few minutes of meditation, listening to music or reading a book. “Even taking a bath can help,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Just take some time and relax.”

Bike Helmet Safety

Stay safe and use your head.  Choosing the right helmet and wearing one every time is the smart choice.  Every year the estimated number of bicycle-related head injuries requiring hospitalization exceeds the number for all head injury cases related to baseball, football, skateboards, kick scooters, horseback riding, snowboarding, ice hockey, in-line skating, and lacrosse combined. But 85 percent of bicycle related head and brain injuries could have been prevented by wearing a helmet.

Think of a thumbtack. When thumbtacks are used correctly, it’s the wall that’s pierced and not the thumb. The flat of the thumbtack spreads the force over a broad area of thumb and the point concentrates that same force against a vanishing small area of wall. The smaller contact point results in greater force and easier penetration. The same physics rule works by using a helmet to supply more space to decrease the impact energy to the head.

A good bike helmet is made of dense crushable material that provides extra time and space to absorb impact energy in a crash. It is actually the sudden stop, not the fall,that causes most brain injuries. Imagine yourself in a moving bus that comes to a sudden stop. Without a seat belt, your body would keep moving forward until you hit the back of the seat in front of you or the bus windshield. A helmet acts like a good driver applying a braking force, a few taps on the brake to slow down the bus before the full stop, giving your head and brain inside the helmet a little more time to come to a gentler stop.

Here are some helpful helmet tips:
 
  • Try the helmet on before buying and make sure it fits your head size and shape.
  • Wear it low, over your forehead just above your eyebrows.
  • Adjust the chin straps one at a time independently, and make sure the side buckle is placed below the earlobe on the side jaw bone.
  • Buckle snugly under the chin, not over the throat, and allow only two fingers to slip through the buckled strap.
  • Wear the helmet every time you ride.
  • Replace your helmet at least every five years, or when it’s involved in a crash.

A helmet can help protect you or your child from a serious brain or head injury. Even with a helmet, it is important for you and your child to avoid hits to the head. Consider wearing a helmet for recommended activities.

Healthy Body Image

Healthy relationships with our bodies and food are important factors to our overall health. Often individuals will have a negative self-image because they strive to have the body of the model, athlete, or actor that they see on television. In order to put a stop to the comparison, it is important to know what a positive body image is and how to achieve it. Be cautious of social media, remember that comparison isn’t realistic and social media can be the main platform for you to engage in comparing yourself. Always remember how far doing something nice for you can go – take time to relax, go for a walk, read a book. Whatever makes you happy deserves time in your routine.
 
Equally as important as maintaining a positive body image is your physical health. Today we consume so many processed foods and mindlessly eat without considering what we are actually putting into our bodies. Eating healthy does not have to be hard or painful. Following a few simple rules can put you on the path to success:
 
  • Stress fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk products.
  • Include lean meats, poultry and fish – as well as beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Incorporate foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.
A healthy diet doesn’t have to be restrictive. Are you in love with pizza or do you always crave donuts? You don’t have to give up your comfort foods completely, just be aware and eat them less often and try smaller amounts. Take it one step at a time and you will have no problem keeping a positive body image and maintaining a healthy diet!
 
The National Eating Disorder Association recommends the following steps to Positive Body Image:
  1. Appreciate all that your body can do.  Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
  2. Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
  3. Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel.  Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
  4. Look at yourself as a whole person.  When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts.  See yourself as you want others to see you–as a whole person.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people.  It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
  6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones.  The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you. 
  7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
  8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message.
  9. Do something nice for yourself--something that lets your body know you appreciate it.  Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others.  Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.

Depression and Social Media

Are you feeling sad, blue or under the weather lately? Could your time spent on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media accounts be the reason? Research shows that yes, social media could be contributing to those feelings of depression.
 
In a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, participants who spent 60 minutes or more per day on social media and visited various accounts upwards of 30 times per week had “high” indicators of depression. Why might this be? Social media shows a “highly idealized” version of friends’ lives and evokes feelings of jealousy and a belief that others are living “happier, more successful lives.” It can also bring about feelings of anxiety, stress, and loneliness.
               
How can you fight this “Social Media Depression?” Take a break from social media – if you find yourself constantly checking for the newest updates, start finding ways to wean yourself off. Remember that not everything you see on social media is real – think the “greener grass” scenario. The more you check Social Media, the more opportunity you have to get entangled in some kind of drama. Be realistic – keep in mind how easy it is to get upset over something you’ve seen on social media. Remember some of those common scenarios: misinterpretation, accidents, oversharing, etc. If a friend disses you on the internet, think to yourself, “Would they do this in real life?” If not, there may be a perfectly rational explanation, so don’t let some social media anomaly ruin your day.
 
Though social media has been linked to depression in studies, there has also been research that shows people who struggle with social anxiety can find social media to be a positive outlook. Here are some ways to know if social media is helping or hurting you:
 
  • Why are you using it? Remember, it shouldn’t be used as a comparison tool but more as a way to stay connected or to network.
  • Limit your time.
  • Do you feel disconnected or depressed? If so, lower your social media usage and spend the time interacting with others instead.

Social Media doesn’t have to be a bad thing but it also shouldn’t take away from your real world life. Be aware of how your online interactions are making you feel and know yourself well enough to know when you have had enough.
 
Other studies indicate that social media sites can be positive for people struggling with social anxiety and depression.
 
1. Ask yourself why you are using social networking sites. Is it to build relationships, for professional networking purposes, to connect to old friends or to stay connected to those that live far away? Once you determine what you are looking for you can then set realistic goals. 
2. Limit your time on social networking sites. This will help with controlling the amount of time you are spending in the virtual world.  
3. If social networking sites cause you to feel disconnected, depressed or lonely, consider “upping” your interactions with people by sending them a private message or even a text message. This level of virtual communication is more personal and intimate than communicating in an open forum.
4. Make sure to schedule time to see your friends and family beyond the virtual world. Having positive, secure relationships is strongly associated with high levels of self-esteem, resiliency while fostering feelings of connectedness and decreasing depression and anxiety.
 
Encourage yourself and family members to find new interests and activities outside of social media. Your mind, body and spirit will thank you for it.  

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with one million people in the United States diagnosed each year with some type of the cancer. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. The first two are non-melanoma skin cancers. The majority of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas, and while they are malignant, they are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. A small but significant number of skin cancers are malignant melanomas, which is a highly aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other parts of the body. If not treated early, this type of cancer can be fatal.  Recent research shows the number of skin cancer cases in the United States growing at an alarming rate.

According to Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor, Plastic Surgeon with BayCare Clinic Plastic Surgery, the most common cause of skin cancer is from UVA (ultraviolet A) or UVB (ultraviolet B) exposure. Other causes of skin cancer include: use of tanning beds; immunosuppression, or impairment of the immune system, which normally repairs damage; exposure to high levels of radiation; and contact with certain chemicals. “Some people experience a skin cancer diagnosis after a transplant, as the drugs after make them more susceptible to skin cancer, and they reduce the body’s ability to repair the skin damage,” states Dr. O’Connor. 

The following people are greatest risk for developing skin cancer: people with fair skin, people with light hair and blue or green eyes, people with certain genetic disorders that deplete skin pigment, people who have already been treated to skin cancer, people with numerous moles or unusual moles, people with close family members with skin cancer, and people who have had at least one severe sunburn early in life. Dr. O’Connor explains, “If a person has had more the five severe sunburns in their life, their risk of skin cancer goes up 50 percent or more.”

Dr. O’Connor suggests people follow the “ABCD” guideline when identifying skin care symptoms.  A is for asymmetric, one side of the lesion does not look like the other. B is for border irregularity, margins of the area are irregular.  C is for color, melanomas are often a mixture of black, tan, brown, blue, red or white.  D is for diameter. Cancerous lesions typically have a diameter of 6mm or more. “People need to check for new or changing lesions on the skin. Beware of itching or scaling of something that has been there before. Also beware if the area starts to bleed,” explains Dr. O’Connor.

People should have their primary health care provider or dermatologist check any moles or spots that concern them.  “If you see anything new or changing, have a skin check.  For people who have had cancer before, they need to be checked more frequently,” states Dr. O’Connor.   “A physician will be able to examine any moles or areas of concern and send anything suspicious to the lab.”  Dr. O’Connor adds, “Often pre-cancerous lesions can be treated with topical creams, the rest have to be removed surgically. These cancers can be easily treated with removal, however, if left too long, they can invade deeper and become a problem.”

To reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, Dr. O’Connor recommends the following: limit sun exposure, apply sunscreen every day, use a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, reapply sunscreen every two hours, use SPF clothing and hats, avoid tanning beds, and conduct self-exams.

"Nothing has demonstrated that sunscreen is harmful, but there is a definite association between childhood sunburn and cancer,” states Dr. O’Connor.

When treated properly, the cure rate for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is almost 95 percent. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself from skin cancer. For more information on skin cancer, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org.

Grilling 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. 

Rest and Relaxation

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.

Summer Walking

Summer is here and now is a great time to start thinking about getting active outside. How about starting a walking program?  Walking is the wonder of the world. The main attraction of walking is its simplicity. It’s easy, it’s fun, you can do it by yourself or with a friend (your dog can join you), and it’s a great way to get exercise. If done a regular basis, walking can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, lower total cholesterol, raise healthy HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Walking also helps maintain healthy bones and muscles, stabilize blood sugar, improve immunity, and reduce stress. Walking can also decrease back pain and boost energy levels. The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research states, “Walking at least half an hour, six days a week, can cut mortality rates from heart disease in half.”  If you are just beginning an exercise program, take if slow, and gradually build up time, distance, pace and intensity.

As with any exercise program, consult your doctor before starting.  Be sure to have the proper fitting shoes for your activity. Set realistic goals for yourself.  Find a friend to walk with. Support is very important and it makes the activity more enjoyable. 

The Women’s Heart Foundation recommends the following guidelines for comfortable and safe walking:
  • Take long strides using your gluteal muscles (the muscles in your buttocks) to move your forward.
  • Bend your arms slightly, swinging them as you walk.
  • Stand up straight with your abdominal muscles tucked in.
  • Maintain a pace at which you are breathing deeply but can still carry on a conversation, although you would prefer not to.
  • If your breathing becomes labored and conversation difficult, you are working out too hard. Anytime you feel out of breath or have any pain, slow down or take a break. If these problems persist, consult your doctor.

Here is an example to get you started, keep building each week.

Week 1: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 5 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 15 minutes of walking.

Week 2: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 8 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 18 minutes of walking.

Week 3: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 11 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 21 minutes of walking.

Week 4: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 14 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 24 minutes of walking.

Week 5: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 17 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 27 minutes of walking.

Week 6: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 20 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 30 minutes of walking.

Week 7: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 23 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 33 minutes of walking.

Week 8: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 26 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 36 minutes of walking.

Week 9: Walk slowly for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 30 minutes, walk slowly for 5 minutes for a total of 40 minutes of walking.

To stay motivated, try wearing a pedometer to increase your daily steps.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.  Try keeping a journal of your walks, it serves as a motivator and allows you to see your progress.  Consider signing up for a race or charity walk which gives you a goal to strive for. Summer is a great time to find many fun or competitive walks and runs in the area. And most importantly, make it fun.  If it’s fun, you’ll be more likely to stick to your program and reap the long-term benefits of walking.
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