Steps to healthy holidays

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By The Staff

Have you ever used the excuse you are too busy to exercise?  During the winter holidays we often eat more and are stressed.  Both of these can be helped with exercise.  The New Year is the perfect time to get in the exercise habit, so you will see its benefits before Spring. 

    The new USDA MyPyramid urges individuals as well as families to gradually increase their physical activity up to 30 minutes most days of the week.  Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes daily, or most days.  Anyone planning on beginning a vigorous exercise routine should first check with their doctor.

What Can Exercise Do for You?

    • Strengthen your heart and lungs, and improve circulation.

    • Prevent heart attacks and strokes.

    • Reduce obesity and high blood pressure.

    • Boost your metabolic rate.

Favorably alter your cholesterol.

    • Improve muscle tone

    • Reduce stress and tension.

    • Reduce arthritis pain; stop bone tissue decay.

    • Improve insulin response

Make you look and feel better

Exercising properly includes three stages:

    1. Warm Up

2.Working out to your target heart rate

    3. Cool down

    Warm up should last about 5 or 6 minutes.  Stretching your muscles gently prepares your muscles and joints for activity.  Walking or exercising slowly allows your heart rate and breathing to increase gradually.

Target Heart Rate: 

    For the first few weeks of an exercise program, you should aim for the lowest part of your target heart rate (50 percent).  Then you should gradually build up to the higher part of your target heart rate (75 percent).

Cool Down:

    Gradually slow down your exercising pace.  Do not stop abruptly.  Take your pulse.  Gently stretch to loosen your muscles.  Your cool down should last approximately 5 to 6 minutes.  Walking slowly at the completion of your exercise allows your heart rate to return to its resting level.

Common Misconceptions:

    • If you are not going to work out hard and often, why bother?

    Research shows that any exercise is better than none.  For instance, regular walking or gardening for as little as one hour per week has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.   Also, you don’t have to do all your physical activity at one time.  A little bit of activity throughout the day is just as beneficial as thirty minutes at one time.

    • All forms of exercise give you the same benefits

    Regular, brisk, sustained aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, or swimming, strengthens your heart and lungs, helps to maintain bone density, burns extra calories and provides many other benefits.  Weight training builds lean body mass, strengthens muscles and benefits health and overall fitness.  Stretching helps increase flexibility and improves our overall mobility.  All forms of exercise are important

    • No Pain, No Gain.

    Never ignore pain during exercise.  Pain is a strong indicator that something is wrong.  Muscle pain can indicate that it is necessary to stop and stretch.  Working through such pain can result in pulling muscles, straining muscles, and even tearing muscles.  Exercise does not have to hurt to be beneficial.

    • Home workouts are fine, but going to the gym is the Best way to get fit. 

    Research shows that some people find it easier to stick to a home-based fitness program.  It takes 10 to 12 weeks of regular exercise to become “fit”, that is, to improve your performance on a treadmill, so the “BEST” program for you is the one that you will do consistently, regardless of whether it is at home or at the gym.

Activity Ideas: 

    • When shopping, park your car in the back of the lot, not by the door, and walk.

    • Always take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.

    • As a gift, give a friend a month at a fitness center or aerobics class and join them when they use the gift.

    • Do labor by hand instead of always using a machine.

    • Lift small weights while watching television or talking on the phone.

    For more information on Foods, Nutrition and Health, Agriculture, or 4-H, contact the Bedford Extension Office at (540)586-7675.