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Great American Smokeout

The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event takes place every year on the third Thursday in November. Encourage someone you know to use this year’s date, November 17, to decide to quit, or plan and then quit smoking that day. According to the American Cancer Society, by quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) indicates about 40 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. While cigarette smoking rates have dropped over the last forty years, cigar, pipe, and hookah – other dangerous and addictive ways to smoke tobacco – are on the rise. Smoking kills people – there’s no “safe” way to smoke tobacco, per the American Cancer Society.

Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body and some of those effects are immediate.  Your brain becomes addicted; nicotine from cigarettes is as addictive as heroin and is hard to outdo because it changes your brain. When your brain stops getting the nicotine it has become addicted to, you develop withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiousness, and strong cravings.  Hearing loss may also occur when you smoke. Smoking reduces the oxygen supply to the inner ear which can result in permanent damage and mild to moderate hearing loss. Smoking causes changes to the eyes that can harm your eyesight, particularly for night vision.  It also increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Smokers develop many oral health problems like mouth sores, ulcers and gum disease. Smokers also have an increased risk of cancers of the mouth and throat. Smoking causes your skin to be dry and lose elasticity; a smoker’s skin tone may also become dull and grayish. Smoking raises your blood pressure, puts additional stress on your heart, and increases the risk of heart disease.  Smoking makes your blood become thick and sticky which causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels that increases risk for strokes and heart attacks.  Smoking can have many negative effects on a person’s lungs including inflammation in the small airways and tissues, chronic cough with mucus, emphysema, and increased risk of colds and respiratory infections.

Are you ready to quit? The first couple of days without cigarettes can be difficult. Be sure to tell your friends and family that you have decided to quit and ask them for support. Get the support your need by finding a quit program to help you. One of the main quit resources available is the Wisconsin Quit Line. The number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The Quit Line offers both free cessation medications and a quit coach to help make a quit attempt more successful.

Avoid smoking triggers such as people, places and things that trigger your urge to smoke. Throw away cigarettes, lighters and ash trays, drink water, hang out with non-smokers, go to places where smoking is not allowed, get plenty of sleep, and eat healthy. Reward yourself for every hour you are smoke free!

Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.  In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood stream drops to normal. Within three months, your circulation and lung function improves, and after nine months, you will cough less and breather easier.  After one year, your risk of coronary artery disease is cut in half. In five years, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half.  After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.

Consider using The Great American Smokeout as a day to help you quit smoking. For more resources and information about tobacco cessation visit the American Center Society at www.cancer.org and take the “Do you Need Help to Quit?” online quiz.  

National Diabetes Awareness Month

During National Diabetes Awareness Month, the Oshkosh Community YMCA is encouraging residents of Winnebago County to learn their risks for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and to take preventive steps to potentially reduce their chances of developing the disease. 
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than one in three Americans (86 million people) have prediabetes, up from 79 million in 2010. Prediabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood glucose is elevated, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Only 10 percent of those with prediabetes know they have it but with awareness and simple actions, people with prediabetes may prevent the onset of diabetes.
“As one of the leading community-based organizations committed to building a community of integrated health across the country, the Y wants residents of Oshkosh and Winnebago County to understand their risk for prediabetes and what steps they can take to prevent developing Type 2 diabetes,” said Dan Braun, Diabetes Prevention Program Manager at the Oshkosh YMCA. “Rising diabetes rates cost the nation $245 billion annually for a disease that is preventable with simple lifestyle changes like eating better and getting more physical activity.”
Individuals can assess their risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by taking a simple test at YMCA.net/diabetes. Through this assessment, visitors can also learn how lifestyle choices and family history help determine the ultimate risk for developing the disease. Several factors that could put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes include race, age, weight and activity level. If a person is at risk, a diabetes screening conducted by a physician can confirm a diabetes or prediabetes diagnosis.
The Oshkosh YMCA is helping to improve health through many health and wellness programs including the Diabetes Prevention Program.
Making some basic lifestyle changes that contribute to weight loss and healthy living can decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes. Among these are:
  • Eat fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Choose fish, lean meats and poultry without skin.
  • Aim for whole grains with every meal.
  • Be moderately active, getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
  • Choose water to drink instead of beverages with added sugar.
  • Speak to your doctor about your diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history or are overweight. 
To learn more about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, or to enroll if you think you might be at risk, contact Dan Braun at danbraun@oshkoshymca.org or 920.230.8915.  A program will start soon.

Turkey Trot 2016

The 9th Annual Festival Foods Turkey Trot will take place on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016. The Turkey Trot offers two events – a five mile run and a two mile walk – to accommodate participants of all ages and abilities. Attendees enjoy upbeat music, high quality long-sleeved t-shirts and free Festival Foods pumpkin pies at the finish line that they can take home and enjoy with their family.

The event also features a Dog Jog, in which four-legged family members are allowed to participate. The Dog Jog will start at the back of the 2-mile event and will follow the 2-mile route. No dogs are allowed on the 5-mile route. Please only bring dogs that are well-behaved and used to being around other dogs and people. The dog should be kept on a leash that is shorter than six feet, and no retractable leashes, which may be hazardous in a crowd. 

Registration is now open and available by visiting www.festivalfoodsturkeytrot.com. Early bird registration is going on now through October 31 for $20 per adult participant and $15 per child under the age of 18.  Regular registration begins on November 1 through November 20 for $25 per adult and $20 per child.  Race day registration on November 23 and 24 is $30 per adult and $25 per child. T-shirt sizes can only be guaranteed for those registered on or before November 20.

Shirts and bibs can be picked up at the Oshkosh Convention Center between 2-6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 23 and beginning at 6:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The Trot starts promptly at 8:00 a.m. and there are two different start lines. Be sure you are in the correct area to ensure you are on the right course. The 2-mile walk begins at the corner of Division Street and Pearl Ave and the 5-mile run begins at the corner of Division Street and Algoma Boulevard. 

The Turkey Trot benefits the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA in communities Festival Foods serves. Both organizations provide volunteers in return for monetary proceeds. Volunteer positions are available at the Convention Center on Wednesday before the race from 2-6 p.m. and on Thursday morning before the race from 6:00-8:30 a.m. Volunteers are also needed during the race along the route and also at the water station across from Oshkosh North High School.  To register for a volunteer position, people can log on to www.festivalfoodsturkeytrot.com and click on “Volunteer” under the Oshkosh location. In the past seven years, the Turkey Trot has donated more than $1,570,000 to participating communities.

Here are the top 10 reasons everyone should participate in the 2016 Festival Foods Turkey Trot:
  1. It’s Fun!
  2. You get to support two amazing charities in Oshkosh – the Oshkosh Boys & Girls Club and the Oshkosh Community YMCA!
  3. You receive a free Turkey Trot t-shirt for volunteering or participating!
  4. You receive a free Pumpkin Pie for participating in the 2-mile or 5-mile event!
  5. Even your dog can get some exercise in the “Dog Jog”!
  6. Start your day off right – with exercise! A 150 pound person will burn approximately 562 calories by running the 5-mile run and a 150 pound person will burn approximately 159 calories walking 3.0 miles per hour during the 2-mile walk.
  7. Relieve holiday stress!
  8. Celebrate your racing accomplishments with the most delicious post-race meal ever!
  9. Start a new, healthy family tradition!
  10. Give back to your community!

If you have questions specific to how you can get involved in Oshkosh, contact local race director, Molly Butz at mollybutz@oshkoshymca.org or Boys & Girls Club Charity Representative, Katie Huebner at katieh@bgcosh.org.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a disease of the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs and arms. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is caused by fatty buildups in the inner walls of the arteries and these buildups block normal blood flow. “PAD is a very common disease affecting eight to 10 million people,” states Dr. Gurjeet Kaleka, Vascular Surgeon with Aurora Health Care Oshkosh. “Fifty percent of people don’t know they have it because they are asymptomatic. The plaque buildup begins in the major arteries and the branches of the arteries supplying the legs and arms.

PAD is dangerous and most people with PAD have a higher risk of death from a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Kaleka explains, “There is no cure for PAD. A patient can stop the progression, but prevention is the key.” Early signs and symptoms of PAD include poor leg circulation and cramping, fatigue, discomfort and heaviness. “Typically a PAD patient will notice pain in the buttocks, thighs and calves while doing activity, particularly when walking. Once the activity stops, the symptoms will get better and they can walk again. This is known as intermittent claudication,” says Dr. Kaleka.  Patients with advanced stage of PAD will start getting pain in feet while sleeping or have non healing ulcers/discoloration of the toe, they have the highest risk of requiring limb amputation without intervention/surgery.

PAD can be treated with lifestyle changes, medications or both. Dr. Kaleka recommends patients stop smoking, control their diabetes, control blood pressure, increase physical activity and eat a diet low in saturated and trans fats. Other treatments for PAD can include antiplatelet agents to prevent blood clots, statin medication to control cholesterol, and medications to control blood pressure. If lifestyle changes and medications aren’t enough, then an angioplasty or bypass surgery may be needed.

PAD diagnosis begins with health history and a physical exam. The doctor will also do an Ankle Brachial index, which is where the blood pressure is taken in the arm and the ankle. The ratio of this test should be 1:1; however, if the ratio is below .9, PAD is evident. Other tests that may be done include a Doppler and duplex ultrasound imaging, magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), CT angiogram, or a regular angiogram.

“PAD is the most under recognized and under diagnosed condition by primary care physicians,” states Dr. Kaleka. If you have questions regarding PVD or PAD signs and symptoms, contact your primary care physician for a referral to the vascular surgeon. For more information on vascular surgery, contact Aurora Health Care Oshkosh at 303-8700.

Pickleball at the Oshkosh YMCA Tennis Center

According to co-inventors Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum, the mini-tennis game called Pickleball, was created in the summer of 1965 to provide a sport for the entire family to enjoy. Pickleball is a relatively new racquet sport that combine ping pong, tennis and badminton and played on a doubles badminton court. The net is similar to a tennis net, but two inches lower. The game is played with a hard paddle that is similar to table tennis and the ball is comparable to a Wiffle ball. It is said to be the fastest growing game in America and is very popular among tennis players and non-tennis players alike.  Pickleball is great for people of all ages and athletic abilities. Sheila Counts, YMCA Tennis Center Manager states, “Pickleball is a fast growing sport and it provides people with an opportunity to learn a new sport that targets a wider range of ages, athletic abilities and fitness levels.”

Pickleball has many health benefits as well such as increased mood and overall mental health, you burn calories, and fewer injuries occur due to the low impact nature of the game. Pickleball specifically works balance and agility, while offering the same benefits of other regular exercise such as reducing your risk of heart attack and chronic disease, toning your muscles and increasing your energy. “The best thing about Pickleball is that it provides socialization and activity at the same time,” adds Counts.

The Oshkosh YMCA Tennis Center now has Pickleball courts open to anyone! Participants do not need to have a Tennis Center or Y membership to play.  Pickleball courts are available for play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. with two open courts and two courts available for competitive play, Tuesdays 10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Fridays 1:00-3:00 p.m. and Sunday from 7:00-9:00 a.m.  Pickleball courts can be reserved during non-Pickleball times.  Regular Tennis Court fees and guest fees of non-Tennis Center members apply per Pickleball court. 

According to the USA Pickleball Association, participants should do the following before playing Pickleball:
  • Be sure to have the proper shoes, ones that support your feet and are designed for court sports.
  • Give any existing injury plenty of time and rest to heal before you resume play.
  • Know how to get help quickly if you or a co-player are hurt or develop a medical problem.  Is there a telephone, a first-aid kit and an automatic external defibrillator (AED) nearby?  Do you have the phone number available of someone to call in case of emergency?
  • Be aware of any obstacles in the area that you might run into or trip over, such as benches or gym equipment.
  • Never play on a wet court; they are extremely dangerous.  One way to check a damp court surface is to press your toe down firmly and make a twisting motion.  If you leave an obvious “wet” spot it’s too wet to play.
  • Check with your doctor regarding exercise and any physical conditions that exist or may have previously existed.
The Oshkosh YMCA Tennis Center will have Pickleball Open Houses on the following dates and times: October 20 from 7:00-9:00 p.m., October 21 from 1:00-5:00 p.m., and October 23 from 7:00-9:00 a.m. For more information about the program, fees or times, call the Oshkosh YMCA Tennis Center at 920-236-3400.

Well Workplace Learning Circles

Research continues to show that poor lifestyle habits increase medical expenses and reduce productivity for American business. A study done by Tufts University reports every obese employee costs an average of $1400 more per year in medical expenses and every smoker increases spending by $579 a year in medical expenses and 7.6 percent loss of productivity. Eliminating three health risk factors – poor diet, inactivity, and smoking - would prevent 80 percent of heart disease and stroke incidents, 80 percent of type 2 diabetes cases, and 40 percent of cancers. Larry Chapman of Chapman Institute reports that implementing a workforce health program could improve employee health and reduce absenteeism by as much as 28 percent.

According to the Wellness Councils of America, a Well Workplace is an organization that fully embraces its responsibility for maximizing the health and well-being of its employees.  Well Workplaces prove that employee wellness is part of their overall business strategy and strive and enhancing the health and well-being of each and every employee.  This strategy becomes a part of the organization’s vision and daily operation, not an extraneous and peripheral part of the everyday business function.

There are four designations of Well Workplace Awards to achieve – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Criteria for each of these awards are based upon the development of the wellness program and implementation of the onsite wellness initiatives set forth by the individual organization. 

There are seven benchmarks a company must complete to achieve well workplace. Those seven benchmarks are:
  1. Capture CEO support.
  2. Create a cohesive wellness team.
  3. Collect data to drive health efforts.
  4. Carefully craft an operating plan.
  5. Choose appropriate interventions.
  6. Create a supportive environment for wellness.
  7. Carefully evaluate outcomes.
In 2014, the City of Oshkosh and its employers earned the prestigious designation of a Well City USA. After the designation, the Well Oshkosh board of directors formed the non-profit Oshkosh Area Businesses Focused on Health (OABFOH). OABFOH encourages and assists Oshkosh area employers to enhance the well-being of their workforce, better manage health care costs, and improve community health. OABFOH will be hosting a Learning Circle for all businesses interested in learning more about implementing wellness programs in the workplace. The Learning Circle will be held at the Oshkosh YMCA 20th Ave on Friday, October 21 from 7:30-9:00 a.m. The topic will be “Engaging Employees in Wellness Efforts.”  This is a free event. Interested participants are encouraged to RSVP to Molly Butz, OABFOH Board President, no later than Wednesday, October 19 at mollybutz@oshkoshymca.org

For questions on Well Workplace designation, visit the Wellness Council of Wisconsin at www.wellnesscouncilwi.org.  

Mental Illness Awareness Week

 In 1990, the United States Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in recognition of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Mental Illness Awareness Week reminds people to be “stigma free”. Being stigma free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues.

A mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. This condition may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis, although everyone’s experience with mental illness is different. A mental health condition is typically not the result of one event, research suggests multiple, interlinking causes. 

One in five adults in the United States, approximately 43.7 million, experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 25 adults, about 13.6 million, will experience a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Current research reveals that only 41 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Research also suggests that half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three quarters by age 24, and despite effective treatment options available, there are generally long delays – sometimes decades – between the onset of symptoms and treatment.

According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. The Department of Health and Human Services states mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the United States for both youth and adults aged 18-44. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the third leading cause for people aged 10-24 and the second leading cause for people aged 15-24. Ninety percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition and each day an estimated 18 to 22 veterans die by suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives these common warning signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents:
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating or learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty perceiving reality
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol and drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious cause such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and on-going aches and pains.
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems or stress
Unlike other diseases, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness, however, knowing the warning signs can help determine if someone needs to seek professional help. Treatment options for mental illness vary and can include medication, counseling or therapy, social support, and education. To learn more about Mental Illness Awareness Week, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website at www.nami.org.


Vision Therapy

Vision therapy is a type of physical therapy for the eyes and brain. It is a highly effective non-surgical treatment for many common vision problems such as lazy eye, crossed eye, double vision, and some reading and learning disabilities. Dr. Sandra Verhaeghe, Aurora Health Care Oshkosh, offers vision therapy for interested patients in her Fond du Lac office. Dr. Verhaeghe states, “Vision therapy uses activities and exercises to train the eyes to function more comfortably and accurately.  The therapy is used for eye problems that can’t be fixed with eye glasses or contacts.”  Vision therapy is performed under a doctor’s supervision and is individualized to fit the visual needs of each patient.  Vision therapy is prescribed to help patients develop or improve fundamental visual skills and abilities, improve visual efficiency, and change how a patient interprets or processes visual information.

“Typically, a patient is referred for vision therapy by a parent or teacher.  A typical patient is usually in the first or second grade.  A good candidate for vision therapy will show eye tracking problems, have dyslexia or letter reversal concerns, or exhibit certain eye weakness,” explains Dr. Verhaeghe.  The first step is a referral, as explained by Dr. Verhaeghe. After that, a patient will receive an eye exam and an evaluation to see if vision therapy is a good fit.  A typical vision therapy course will go eight weeks, with the doctor and patient meeting one time per week.  “A typical therapy session is 45 minutes in length.  About four to six activities are conducted during the session, depending on how quickly the child completes each task.  Additionally, homework is given to be done several times each week,” adds Dr. Verhaeghe.  At the end of the eight-week session, a progress evaluation is completed to see if the therapy goal has been achieved or if more therapy is needed.

Studies show that vision therapy can correct vision problems that interfere with reading and writing in school children. It can also help reduce eye strain experienced by school aged children. Problems vision therapy can correct include:
  • Amblyopia – or “lazy eye”, a vision development problem where the eye fails to attain normal visual acuity.
  • Strabismus – a visual problem in which the eyes are not aligned properly and point in different directions.
  • Eye movement disorders – a condition that causes involuntary or rapid movement of one or both eyes.
Other vision problems that vision therapy may be effective are visual-perceptual disorders, vision problems associated with developmental disabilities and vision problems associated with acquired brain injury. “I would encourage parents to talk with their child’s teacher and ask if there seems to be any vision problems that are affecting their learning.  Start with an eye exam and then talk with the doctor about a need for vision therapy,” explains Dr. Verhaeghe. 

Dr. Verhaeghe states, “I have seen a lot of improvement in the eye tracking disorders with my vision therapy patients.  Visual activity has improved in my amblyopia patients as well.”  For more information on Vision therapy, contact the Aurora Health Care Vision Center at 920-456-2000.

Don't Forget Your Fruit and Veggies

Most people know that eating fruits and vegetables is important for good health, but most of us still aren’t getting enough. This September, the Oshkosh Community YMCA is proud to participate in Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month.

Eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you:
  • Lower your risk for heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Maintain or reach a healthy weight
  • Keep your body strong and active
Fruits and vegetables offer a magnitude of health benefits including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Research also suggests that fruits and vegetables contain compounds that play a role in preventing certain cancers as well as heart disease and stroke. By eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, a person will receive the most all-around health benefits. 

Red fruits and vegetables contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid, Quercetin, and Hesperidin. These nutrients reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol levels and support joint tissue. Common red fruits and vegetables include beets, cherries, cranberries, radishes, raspberries, red grapes, red potatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon.   

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce age-related macular generation and the risk of prostate cancer, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones. Yellow and orange favorites include butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, grapefruit, organs, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pumpkin, and sweet corn. 
Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and Beta-carotene.  These nutrients reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, normalize digestion time, support retinal health and vision, and boost the immune system. Green fruits and vegetables include asparagus, avocados, broccoli, green grapes, lettuce, peas, spinach, kiwifruit, peas, and zucchini.

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain nutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid and quercetin.  These nutrients support retinal health, lower LDL cholesterol, boost the immune system, support healthy digestion, fight inflammation, reduce tumor growth, and improve calcium and other mineral absorption. Familiar blue and purple fruits and vegetables are blackberries, eggplant, grapes, plums, pomegranates, purple cabbage and blueberries.  

White fruits and vegetables contain nutrients such as beta-glucans and liganans that provide immune boosting activity. These nutrients activate natural killer B and T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels. White fruits and vegetables include bananas, cauliflower, dates, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, and onions.

Here are some ideas to help you and your family fit more fruits and vegetables into your day:
  • Keep a bowl of fruit handy where the whole family can see it.
  • Cut up fruits and veggies ahead of time so they’re ready for quick, healthy snacks.
  • Challenge your family to try a new veggie or fruit every week.
Remember, eating more fruits and veggies can be fun – and it’s worth it!


Active Aging Week 2016

The Oshkosh YMCA will be hosting a number of activities to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle during Active Aging Week 2016, scheduled for Monday, September 26 through Friday, September 30. The event gives older adults opportunities to experience diverse activities and exercise in a safe, friendly and fun atmosphere.  Active Aging Week is organized by the International Council on Active Aging, the association that supports professionals who develop wellness and fitness facilities and services for adults over 50.  The Oshkosh YMCA has chosen activities such as group exercise classes, health education, demonstrations and more, that are free and fun for older adults. Active Aging Week is an opportunity for organizations like the Oshkosh YMCA to promote and publicize our efforts to reach older adults with the key message of staying active, healthy and engaged.

It is the hope of the Oshkosh YMCA that older adults will come away with the following after participating in our Active Aging Week events: they will choose a healthy lifestyle for life, they will spend at least 30 minutes each day in physical activity, and they will discover one new activity that brings them value. It is important for older adults to remember that small changes work. Lowering daily salt intake or walking more throughout the day can bring big benefits. Social support is also an important part of behavior change and the Oshkosh YMCA already has groups and leaders in place to encourage and support the new behavior for our members.

The Active Aging Week theme of “Explore the Possibilities” opens the door for older adults to explore new places and activities, make new friends, and find new ways to contribute to communities. The International Council on Active Aging states, “Active aging describes individuals and populations who live life as fully as possible within the seven dimensions of wellness (emotional, vocational, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental). The concept of active aging can be summed up in the phrase ‘engaged in life.’”

Why is “active aging” so valuable to our seniors? American Medical Association President, Dr. Ronald M. Davis says, "If we had a pill that contained all of the benefits of exercise, it would be the most widely prescribed drug in the world."  Including physical activity into your daily routine has numerous benefits including lowering risk of Type 2 diabetes, decreasing blood pressure, decreasing cholesterol levels, decreasing risk of coronary heart disease, decreasing risk of stroke, decreasing risk of musculoskeletal disorders, decreasing sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and decreasing certain risks of cancer. According to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, residents in a nursing home aged 72-98 who completed a 10-week strength training program saw an increase of 113 percent in strength. Dr. Timothy Wallace, Family Physician with Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh states, “If you’re going to do only one thing to help your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar; reduce stress; improve your mood; enhance circulation; and reduce your risk for all-cause mortality, then let it be EXERCISE!” Research continues to show that physical activity staves off a physical decline with aging, and that activity does not have to be intensive or exhausting in order to produce health benefits. “The YMCA provides opportunities for lifelong wellness for people in our community. We offer programs specifically designed with the needs of older adults in mind. Active Aging Week is a great opportunity for this group to come to our YMCA and get healthy, continue to stay fit, learn a new skill, and meet new friends,” states Dan Braun, Active Aging & Special Initiatives Manager for the Oshkosh YMCA.

This year’s events will once again take place at both the 20th Avenue and Downtown YMCA’s in Oshkosh.  They include flu shot clinics, skin cancer screenings, blood pressure screenings, hearing screenings, vein screenings, safety presentation, a new class demonstration and the highlight of the week – Live Learn & Play presented by Valley VNA and Affinity VNA on Friday Sep 30 at the 20th Ave YMCA.  This year’s Live Learn & Play event will feature a vendor & resource fair and will be followed by a free lunch and concert.

Due to the new building project at Downtown, most events will be held at 20th Ave this year. Each day will offer a variety of exercise classes and workshops for active older adults to try and enjoy. Pre-registration is required for Friday’s lunch and is strongly suggested for all screenings including the flu shot clinics at both YMCAs. Register for lunch and screenings at either YMCA front desk or by calling the YMCA at 920-236-3380 or 920-230-8439. If you have questions about the week’s programming, contact Active Aging Manager Dan Braun at danbraun@oshkoshymca.org. A detailed schedule of events will be available at each Oshkosh YMCA location and also on the website at www.oshkoshymca.org.
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