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Happy National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition Month, which makes it a great time to review healthy eating habits for the entire family. The American Heart Association gives the following suggestions for families to eat better: Make it fun for kids to try new fruits and vegetables. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable in the grocery store each week, and figure out together how to cook or prepare it in a healthy way. Choose whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, rye bread, brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal and whole-grain cereal. Help your children develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. Be a good role model, make it fun, and involve the whole family in lifestyle changes.
Chicken, fish and beans are good choices for protein. Remove skin and visible fat from poultry. If you do eat red meat, limit it to one time per week, keep portion size small and choose the leanest cuts. Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and albacore tuna are good choices and high in protein. Try a meatless meal each week. Vegetables and beans can add protein, fiber, and other nutrients to a meal.
Cook at home with your family so you have more control over ingredients and portion sizes. For snack time, keep fresh fruit and pre-chopped or no-chop veggies on hand. Your family is more likely to grab fruits and vegetables over other items if they’re readily available. A small handful of nuts or seeds can be a satisfying and healthy snack. Look for unsalted or lightly salted nuts. Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are all good choices. Package your own healthy snacks; put cut-up veggies and fruits in portion-sized containers for easy, healthy snacking on the go, without the added sugars and sodium.
Read food labels  and pick healthy foods that provide nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber but limit sodium, added sugars, saturated fat, and trans-fat. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and typically low in calories and sodium. Eat the rainbow, it’s a fun and delicious way to make sure your family is eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat as many different colors as you can each day. Fresh, frozen, or canned produce can all be healthy choices, but compare food labels and choose wisely. 
Use fresh or dried herbs and spices or a salt-free seasoning blend in place of salt when cooking. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to add flavor to cooked foods. Cook vegetables in healthy ways that will help bring out their natural flavors, including roasting, grilling, steaming and baking.  Instead of frying foods – which can add a lot of extra calories and unhealthy fats– use cooking methods that add little or no solid fat, like roasting, grilling, baking or steaming.

Try sparkling water, unsweetened tea or sugar-free beverages instead of sugar-sweetened soda or tea. Add lemon, lime, or berries to beverages for extra flavor. Enjoy fruit for dessert most days and limit traditional desserts to special occasions. Try a delicious smoothie or a mixed berry and yogurt parfait for dessert instead. Watch out for added sugars. They add extra calories but no helpful nutrients. Sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks are the number one source of added sugars for most of us.

Grow fruits and veggies in your own garden. Kids are more likely to try something they’ve grown themselves. Schedule time each week to plan healthy meals. Encourage your kids to be active in the kitchen. They’ll be more excited about eating healthy foods when they’ve been involved. Give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step-stool handy. Keep your recipes, grocery list and coupons in the same place to make planning and budgeting easier. Eating healthy on a budget can seem difficult, but it can be done! Many fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas) cost less than one dollar per serving. 

Eating a healthy diet may lower the risk of your family developing many diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Use National Nutrition Month to review your family’s nutrition habits and create new healthy ones together.


Eating Disorders: It's Time To Talk About It!

This past week, February 26- March 4, was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. “It’s Time to Talk About It” was the theme. Eating disorders are real, complex, and potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person’s emotional and physical health. “They are not a fad, phase or lifestyle choice. People struggling with an eating disorder need to seek professional help,” states Kate Yonke, RD, CD, Tru-U dietitian for the Oshkosh YMCA. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, the earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.
The book, Epidemiology of Eating Disorders, states in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). It is likely that this number is even higher as many cases are never reported. To learn more visit The National Eating Disorder Association at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
“The cycle of self-starvation in Anorexia Nervosa denies the body essential nutrients needed to function normally. This will cause the body to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy and can result in abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure which means the heart muscle is weakening. Lack of nutrients will also cause a reduction in weight and bone density, severe dehydration which can affect the kidneys, overall muscle loss, and weakness just to name a few,” explains Yonke.  A review of nearly fifty years of research (Archives of General Psychiatry) confirms that Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
Yonke further explains, “The recurrent binge and purge cycle of bulimia can have a lasting effect on the entire digestive system and can lead to serious electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Bulimia can even cause a gastric rupture during periods of bingeing and while purging can tear the esophagus and cause major dental issues.”
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the US. In 2012 the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that binge eating disorders affect three percent of the population – that is 9.4 million people. "Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating, feeling out of control while binging, and feeling guilt and shame afterward. A binge can vary widely in the amount of food consumed. It could be large amounts for some or small amounts for others. Regardless of the amount the tell tale sign is feeling out of control while binging and guilt and shame afterward,” states Yonke.

Sub-clinical eating disorders can also vary widely and validate proper treatment. These are often referred to as disordered eating. Yonke says, “Many individuals struggle with disordered eating – it is thought to be driven by our cultures chronic state of dieting and the drive to be thin.” The National Eating Disorder Association lists startling statistics that tell the story of our cultures drive to be thin:
  • When American elementary school girls read magazines, 69 percent said the pictures influenced their concept of the ideal body shape. Forty-seven percent said the pictures make them want to lose weight.
  • In elementary school fewer than 25 percent of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively.
  • Even among clearly non-overweight girls, over one-third report dieting.
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
  • The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds. The average Miss America winner is 5’7” and weighs 121 pounds.
  • The average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from around 22 in the 1920’s to 16.9 in the 2000’s. The World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 and 24.9.
How do you know you have a problem? “One of the simplest and shortest methods to determine whether or not there is a problem is called the SCOFF questionnaire,” adds Yonke.  The questionnaire asks the following five questions (if you answer yes to any of them it might be a good idea to seek help):
  • Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  • Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?
  • Have you recently lost more than 15 lbs in a 3 month period?
  • Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?
  • Would you say that food dominates your life?
Yonke suggests adding that if thoughts about food, food patterns and behaviors, your weight, or body shape dominate greater than 20 percent of your day, you might want to consider reaching out for help. Where do you go for help? “There are numerous inpatient treatments centers across the United States and in Wisconsin. When it comes to outpatient help, Evolve is located right here in Appleton. Evolve is a state certified mental health facility that specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.  Help is literally just a phone call away. Call Evolve, your doctor, therapist or dietitian – these places and professionals can help you determine the best course of treatment,” states Yonke.

The National Eating Disorders Association states, “"It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care. It’s Time to Talk About It!"

How To Eat Your Vitamins

It wasn’t until the mid-1930’s that vitamin supplement tablets were sold. Up until then, vitamins were only obtained through food intake. Since the middle of the 20th century, vitamins have become inexpensive semisynthetic and synthetic-source dietary and food supplements and are easily available. 

A vitamin is defined as an organic substance essential to nutrition. Currently, 13 vitamins are universally recognized and are classified by their biological and chemical activity. Vitamins are essential for normal growth and development and healthy maintenance of cells, tissues and organs. They are classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. The four fat soluble vitamins include Vitamin A, D, E and K. Water-soluble vitamins are the eight B Vitamins and Vitamin C. Water-soluble means the vitamins dissolve easily in water and are generally excreted from the body, which means consistent intake of these vitamins is important because they are not readily stored in the body. The fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with help from lipids or fats. Fat-soluble vitamins are more likely than water-soluble vitamins to accumulate in the body.

Every vitamin has a unique job within the human body. Vitamin A, otherwise known as Beta-Carotene, helps with treatment of some eye-disorders, promotes bone growth, teeth development and reproduction. It also helps maintain healthy skin and hair. It is found in foods such as asparagus, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, eggs, kale, liver, milk and spinach. Vitamin K works in your body by regulating normal blood clotting, promoting growth and development and is essential for kidney function. Good sources of Vitamin K are dark leafy greens, oils from green plants and some dairy products. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin. It is used to absorb calcium and phosphorus to create bone. Vitamin D sources include fortified milk, liver, eggs and tuna. Vitamin E is required for proper function of many organs in the body, and is also an antioxidant, which means it assists in slowing down the process that damages cells.  

Vitamin B1, or Thiamine, is necessary for normal function of the nervous system and metabolism.  The best sources of Vitamin B1 are meat, whole grains, fish and nuts. Vitamin B2 is also known as Riboflavin and assists in energy generation, nerve development, blood cell development and hormone regulation. It can be found in bananas, dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals and mixed vegetables. Vitamin B3, Niacin, is like other B vitamins in which it is essential for metabolic cell activity, hormones, and nervous system function. Good sources are meat, fish and whole grains. 

Folic Acid, or Vitamin B9, is very important for the growth and reproduction of all body cells, including red blood cells. The best source of Folic acid is liver and dark green leafy vegetables. 
Vitamin B12 serves as a coenzyme for creation of DNA material, promotes growth and cell development. Vitamin B12 is not found in plants, but good sources are meats, fish, eggs and dairy. This vitamin is also important for fat, carbohydrates and protein to be metabolized in the body.  Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins in your body because it is vital for a healthy immune and nervous system. Vitamin C helps connective tissue, otherwise known as collagen, to remain the defense mechanism against disease and infection. Vitamin C produces antibodies during seasonal colds or when the body is being overworked. It can be found in fruits, tomatoes, vegetables, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, spinach and kale.

The best way to ensure your body is getting the vitamins it needs is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, with a variety of color, whole grains and low-fat protein. If you believe you don’t get enough vitamins through food, and feel vitamin supplementation would be beneficial, talk with your health care provider. For recommended daily intakes, visit the Food and Drug Administration website at www.fda.gov.

What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Per medical research, millions of Americans suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, one out of every five people, to be exact. Yet for most, the disease goes unidentified and untreated. Pelvic floor dysfunction is a wide range of problems that occur when the muscles of the pelvic floor are weak, tight, or there is an impairment of the sacroiliac joint, low back, coccyx or hip joint. Katie Van Scyoc, physical therapist with Aurora Health Care states, “Research shows that 83 percent of women who have had two or more children will have some form of urinary incontinence. The issue is common, but not normal.” Van Scyoc adds, “However, a lot of women aren’t aware that physical therapy is often a very successful treatment option and covered by most insurances.”

Types of pelvic floor dysfunction include urinary dysfunction such as urgency, frequency, incontinence, and incomplete emptying; pelvic pain; and bowel dysfunction such as constipation, fecal urgency/diarrhea, or IBS. Van Scyoc explains, “The reason this falls under physical therapy is it’s dealing with muscles and the pelvis.  The same physiological principles apply to the pelvis muscles as any other muscles in the body. It’s the job of the physical therapist to teach the patient how to control it.” Research shows these problems affect people from their teens through geriatrics. The pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles that attach to the front, back, and sides of the pelvic bone and sacrum (the large bone at the bottom of the spine above the tailbone). These muscles support the organs in the pelvis, including the bladder, uterus or prostate, and rectum, like a sling or hammock. Coordinated contracting and relaxing of these muscles controls bowel and bladder functions.

The physical therapist will test pelvic muscle strength, often via an internal exam and biofeedback.  A questionnaire will be filled out regarding patient symptoms as well. Based on information received from the questionnaire and muscle strength test, a customized home exercise program is established. Types of exercises typically given include exercises to be done standing, sitting, and laying down, not just Kegel exercises, sometimes involving thera-bands and various breathing techniques. “The goal of physical therapy for the patient is to relax the muscles and avoid stressing them,” adds Van Scyoc. Self-care methods of treatment include avoiding pushing or straining while urinating, relaxing the muscles in the pelvic floor area, using warm baths for pain reduction, stretching, and other techniques such as yoga are beneficial to avoid tightening and spasms in the pelvic muscles.

For more information on how physical therapy can help you with your pelvic floor dysfunction, contact the Aurora Health Care physical therapy department at 920.303-8700.

Misuse and Abuse: Prescriptions Drugs

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports an estimated 48 million people have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime.  Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in prescription drug misuse or abuse.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse identifies the three prescription drugs that are most commonly abused:
  • Opioids used to treat pain
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
  • Stimulants such as amphetamine and dextroamphetamine
Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Typically, the initial decision to take prescription drugs in voluntary, but over time, it changes the brain and affects a person’s self-control and ability to make decisions.

Per the FDA, guidelines for using prescription medication are:
  • Always follow the prescription medication directions carefully.
  • Don’t increase or decrease medication doses without talking to your doctor first.
  • Never stop taking medication on your own.
  • Don’t crush or break pills (especially important if the pills are time-released).
  • Be clear about the drug’s effects on driving and other daily tasks.
  • Learn about possible interactions of the prescription medicine with alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
  • Talk honestly with your doctor about any history of substance abuse.
  • Never allow other people to use your prescription medications and don’t take theirs.
Prescription drug addiction can be treated.  Successful treatment usually incorporates several components such as detoxification, counseling, and medications, when available. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, multiple courses of treatment may be needed for a full recovery. 

Misusing prescription medication can have serious risks such as:

Health problems - changes in mood, decreased cognitive function, interruptions in the menstrual cycle, infertility and slowed breathing, cardiovascular problems and fatal seizures. 

Addiction - becoming addicted to a drug means that you’re physically dependent on it, and you develop an uncontrollable craving for it. Discontinuing the drug results in withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaking, sweating and nervousness.

Poor performance - some take medication to boost school performance or ease anxiety, but it ends up having the opposite effect.

Legal trouble – using prescription medication that isn’t prescribed to you or misusing your own medication is illegal. If you’re caught, you can face fines and jail time.

If you believe that you or someone you care about it misusing prescription drugs, talk with your health care professional. Health care professionals can recommend drug treatment programs in your community.  

Heart Healthy for American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and as a leading nonprofit dedicated to improving the nation’s health, the Oshkosh Community YMCA offers the following tips to help families in Oshkosh be heart healthy.

  1. Get Physical: Being physically active every day is fun and can improve the function of your heart. Plan and schedule opportunities for active play; for example, include a brisk 10-minute trip around the block after meals or a 10-minute walking break during the day. If your family enjoys active video games, select versions that require moving the body’s large muscle groups while playing.
  2. Take a Snooze: Lack of sleep can be associated with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults need at least seven, but no more than nine hours of sleep at night to aid with the prevention of heart disease. Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Develop bedtime routines for the whole family to assist with falling asleep faster and staying asleep.
  3. Shape Up Those Recipes: Makeover your family’s favorite recipes by reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat and substituting a lower fat food without sacrificing tastes. For example, use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream and skip the seasoning packet use pepper and olive oil instead. Read food labels to learn more about what is in the package, select foods that have less than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving.
  4. Feeling the Pressure: According to the American Heart Association lowering or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Nearly 1 in 3 adults (about 78 million people) have high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control. Start self-monitoring your blood pressure and know the numbers. Discuss the results with your doctor if needed.
  5. Play Together: Spending time together as a family is a great way to reduce stress, which is important to heart health. Make homemade valentines for your children’s classmates or build a snow fort together in the yard or park. The Oshkosh YMCA offers many  ways for families to get involved and play together including: Wiggles and Giggles, open swim, Dive-In Movie Night, Family Night, Mother-Son Dances, Father-Daughter Dances, Family Bingo and much more!
For more information on how your family can live a healthy, active life, visit the Oshkosh Community YMCA at www.oshkoshymca.org or visit either Oshkosh Y location at 324 Washington Avenue, or 3303 W. 20th Avenue, Oshkosh. We look forward to seeing you at the Y!

Fighting Stress

When stress grips your body, you know it. Your heart starts pounding, your muscles tense, your stomach feels tied in knots. Sometimes this response can be a good thing; it may help you escape from an attacker or win your tennis game. However, continued stress can have negative effects throughout your body on both your physical and mental health.

It can affect:
  • Digestion. Stress hormones slow the release of stomach acid and interfere with how well the stomach can empty itself. This can cause stomachaches. These same hormones cause the colon to work faster and may lead to diarrhea.
  • Heart and blood vessels. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, increase your heart rate and your blood pressure. Cortisol can also raise your cholesterol levels. These factors raise your risk for heart attacks and stroke.
  • Immune system. Normally, your immune system responds to infections by releasing chemicals that aid in the healing process. The stress response weakens your immune system by reducing the release of chemicals, slowing wound healing and making you more likely to get colds and infections.
  • Weight. Cortisol makes you crave foods that can cause you to gain weight. Cortisol also makes you more likely to put weight in your abdominal area. Weight gain in this area raises your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Mental health. Being bombarded with stress hormones creates a constant state of tension and anxiety. Over time this can set you up for depression, headaches, or other problems – especially if they run in the family. Also, because your body is in a heightened state of arousal, you may have trouble sleeping.
If stress has taken over your life, it’s time to regain some control. Your health depends on it. Here are some ideas:
  • Make time for regular, moderate exercise.
  • Spend some time doing things you enjoy. Go to a funny movie, take your kids fishing, or have dinner with a friend.
  • Learn some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Treat yourself well. Make time for healthy meals and getting enough sleep.
Stress can have far-ranging negative effects on your health.  Take time to learn strategies to help you cope with stress and live healthy this year.

Childhood Obesity

The Centers for Disease Control reports that childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. The Office of the Surgeon General states that overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance” – too few calories expended for the number of calories consumed.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following risk factors for childhood obesity:
  • Diet – regularly eating high-calorie foods, fast foods, baked goods and snacks. Candy and desserts can also cause weight gain, and more evidence points toward sugary drinks and fruit juices.
  • Lack of exercise – children who don’t exercise don’t burn as many calories, therefore causing them to gain weight. Children spend too much time doing sedentary activities such as watching television or playing video games.
  • Family factors – if the child comes from an overweight family, they are more likely to be overweight.  This is particularly true for homes where high-calorie foods are available and physical activity is not encouraged.
  • Psychological factors – Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child’s risk of obesity. Some children overeat to cope with problems or to deal with emotions, such as stress or to fight boredom. Their parents may have similar tendencies.
  • Socioeconomic factors – People in some communities have limited resources and limited access to supermarkets and may opt for convenience foods such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies.  Typically, people who live in lower income neighborhoods might not have access to a safe place to exercise.
Childhood obesity can have complications on a child’s physical, social, and emotional well-being including an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol and blood pressure, asthma, sleep disorders, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 

According to the most recent Community Health Improvement Plan, Winnebago County leaders envision a community that seeks to reverse the trend of increasing obesity. The obesity rate in Winnebago County is currently at 28 percent, and the mortality rate of diabetes in this county is 31.9 percent, more than seven percent greater than the rate of state deaths caused by diabetes. The Town of Algoma is committed to building Jones Park, to encourage residents of Winnebago County to come out and play and to build a community that promotes health and progress. In 2012, the Town of Algoma received a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to assist with land acquisition to build a “passive” neighborhood park; one that will encourage healthy lifestyle choices. The Jones Park project helps to achieve community priority health goals:
  • Goal 1: Promote wellness and prevention activities to assure Winnebago County residents have an opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Goal 2: Increase participation of Winnebago County residents in exercise and physical activity to improve their general health.
  • Goal 3: Reduce the incidence of obesity/overweight to improve health outcomes for Winnebago County residents.
  • Goal 4: Provide and promote healthy and safe recreational opportunities that are affordable and accessible for Winnebago County residents.
Jones Park's fitness design compliments Winnebago County health plan goals and is intended to move people. Children's play area equipment, for instance, is the fusion of traditional and active fitness-based play. The design encourages movement in various forms that will improve physical fitness rather than result in simple play. Equipment was selected for physical movement and to ignite cognitive, social, emotional, and imaginative skill development in children of all abilities.

Check out the progressive Jones Park design and how you might become part of its development at www.townofalgoma.org.

Personal Wellness

Wellness is a personal journey and is different for everyone. It is a healthy combination of body, mind, and spirit. Wellness can be divided into three groups: physical health, mental health, and spiritual health.

The Wellness Councils of America has reported these 21st Century Wellness Statistics:
  • The typical person spends 95 percent of his/her day indoors.
  • As many as one-third of Americans are prescribed anti-depressants.
  • Over 50 percent of Americans claim to get a poor night’s sleep.
  • The typical American eats one or more meals outside their home.
  • The average person consumes their body weight in refined sugar each year.
  • On average, people receive 50 to 100 emails a day and countless text messages.
  • An ever-increasing number of Americans are considered either overweight or obese.
Components of physical health include: eating a variety of healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, exercising every day, getting enough rest, and not smoking. Eating a varied, well-balanced diet means eating a variety of foods from each food groups daily, in the recommended amounts. It is also important to choose a variety of foods from within each food group because different foods provide different types and amounts of key nutrients. Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and every system in your body depends on water as it flushes toxins out of vital organs and carries nutrients to your cells. Everyone should drink enough water so they rarely feel thirsty and enough to urinate every two hours. Adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week and two or more days of muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups per week. Children and teens need 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day.  Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. How much sleep and your quality of sleep play a key role in hormonal activity tied to your appetite.  Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body and is highly addictive. Consider researching programs to help you quit smoking if you do.

Mental health factors include: stress reduction, keeping your mind active, learning new things, thinking positively, and surrounding yourself with encouraging people. When not handled properly, stress can have negative effects on your body including: increase heartbeat, headaches, still neck and/or tight shoulders, back pain, fast breathing, increased sweating, and upset stomach. Stress is a normal part of life and many things happen to us daily that put stress on our body and mind.  So, it is up to us to make sure we are reacting to the stress in the best way possible and that we are also healthy in mind, body and spirit to be better prepared for the stress that comes along each and every day. Keep your mind active and learn new things such as reading, writing, working crossword puzzles and other puzzles. Stay curious and involved — commit yourself to lifelong learning. Attend lectures and plays, enroll in courses at your local community center or community college, play games and garden. Choose to surround yourself with positive people who give you encouragement and don’t bring you down.

Spiritual health involves the following: experiencing the joy of living, pursuing meaning in your life, relaxing and finding peace, finding others who share your belief, and celebrating life and healthy living. Everyone should take time to explore their own sense of meaning and purpose which may involve thinking through ways we receive meaning in our life, or talking through your purpose with important family or friends. Some people use practices that allow them to focus on the meaning in their lives that include meditation, prayer, or yoga. Celebrating personal success and healthy living is also beneficial to keeping us motivated to live our best life possible.

Wellness is a journey to help us establish peace and harmony in our life. Consider creating your own personal wellness plan this year for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Parents and Exercise

Finding time to exercise is hard for anyone, but finding time to exercise when you are a parent can be an even bigger challenge. No matter what phase of parenting you are in, making exercise a priority is often very difficult. However, experts claim that when you abandon physical activity, you are not just hurting yourself, but your children too. 

WebMD has come up with some great tips for parents to incorporate exercise into their daily life:
  1. Be Active All Day. Move around all day by walking to a neighbor’s house, taking the stairs, parking farther away, and remaining active while at home.
  2. Defy the Myth of Time. Exercise in small time frames, you don’t need to work out for hours at a time. Aim for 30-45 minutes per day, but keep in mind those can be broken up into 10-15 minute segments. A 15-20 weight workout can have big benefits.
  3. Define Your Priorities. Use exercise as “you” time, substitute the long-term goal of exercise and health for something short-term like going for coffee or shopping.
  4. Cultivate Social Support. Have someone you trust watch the kids while you exercise. Consider putting together a network of friends to trade off child care with.
  5. Establish Family Fitness. Exercise with your kids! Go to the park, go on bike rides, hike, swim, ski, or sled together. If you have younger children who still nap during the day, consider fitting in fitness while they sleep – do lunges, squats, push-ups and crunches.
  6. Set Goals. Set realistic, short-term goals for yourself. Experts say the very first step to staying fit or regaining fitness is to want it.
  7. Put In The Effort. Fitness does not happen overnight, there is no quick fix. Exercise eventually gives you the additional energy you need to complete your parenting tasks at home.
  8. Be a Role Model. Pass a positive trait to your children. Kids tend to emulate their parents’ behaviors.
Here are some easy ways to burn 100 calories around your home:

40 minutes:
  • Iron clothes
  • Unload the dryer and fold the laundry
35 minutes:
  • Dust the house (102 calories)
  • Set the table and prepare a meal
  • Play catch with your kid(s)
  • Clear the table and wash the pots, pans, and dishes
30 minutes:
  • Wallpaper or paint a room (102 calories)
  • Sweep the floors
25 minutes:
  • Vacuum the rugs or carpet (119 calories)
  • Mop the kitchen or bathroom(s)
  • Refinish a piece of furniture
20 minutes:
  • Turn up the music and dance around the room (104 calories)
  • Ice- Skate
15 minutes:
  • Climb up and down your stairs (102 calories)
  • Sled in the park with the kids

Consider becoming healthier and more active this year for the benefit of your entire family.
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