5 Ways Family-Friendly Ways to Stay Active this Fall

The end of Summer doesn’t have to mean the end of outside activities. There’s still plenty of things you can do to stay active as family. Getting outside is also an excellent way to help transition your sleep cycle from one season to the next. Check out the list below for some ideas!

Go on a scavenger hunt

This one takes a little preparation but it’s worth the pay off! Kids wills exercise their mind and body as they figure out clues and search for the next object. You can keep it cost effective by using household items (e.g. plastic cup, shoe, washcloth) and making the “prize” for the winner an activity rather than a material thing. For example, the winner of the scavenger hunt could be allowed to pick out a healthy dinner for the whole family to eat.

Join a family fitness class

Family fitness activities are often offered at your local gym (e.g. the YMCA) or community center. Some ideas are mom/baby yoga, family yoga, and stroller jogging clubs. Charity 5Ks, such as Turkey Trots, are often family-friendly and offer age-appropriate events (e.g. 1-mile fun run/walk). If you don’t have a gym membership or local community center, just make your own class! Find a local park and pick up a game of volleyball or basketball or go on a family walk/run together.

Family Olympics

This is a fun one that exercises your creative side as well as your body! You can include extended family and make it a big event or you can easily keep it small and just include your immediate family. Either way, set aside some time to brainstorm events. Think wheelbarrow race, sack race, water balloon toss, and many other events, which are inexpensive or don’t require props at all. Family Olympics are a great example of how to make physical activity fun. Check out this blog for more ideas.

Rake leaves (to jump in…of course!)

This is a win-win for parents. The kids have fun racking leaves and jumping into them…and the parents get rid of all the leaves in their yard! All the while everyone is getting their heart rate up and having a good time. You can take it a step further and buy trash bags which look like jack-o-lanterns, and voila, you now have fall decorations.

Take an after-dinner walk

Taking a walk after dinner is one of the best ways to help digest your food, lower your blood sugar, and spend time together as family. If your kid(s) isn’t fond of walking, let them ride their bike or scooter while the adults walk. This is also a great opportunity to ask your children about their day. Many parents find that their children are more likely to open up and share their feelings if you ask them about their day while they are engaged in an activity (e.g. walking).

Juicing/Detoxing: Do This Instead

We previously wrote about the pitfalls of juicing/detoxing.  Although it may not cause any harm (unless you are pregnant, have diabetes, etc.), it won’t exactly “detox” your system or help you lose weight (and keep it off) either. Thankfully, your liver takes care of all the detoxing you need to do. If you are still looking for a way to eat healthier or maybe lose some weight, here’s what do to instead.

Eat more whole foods

A better way to think about eating healthier is to focus on more whole foods, versus other things, like “detoxing” or “eating clean” (all of which imply something extreme). Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible. In other words, whole foods are as close to their natural state as possible. 

Processed Food

Whole Food

Apple sauce

Whole apple

Sweet potato fries

Whole sweet potato

Strawberry fruit by the foot

Whole strawberries

Frozen chicken patty

Whole roasted chicken

Chocolate covered almonds

Raw almonds

Coffee creamer

Half and half

Tortilla shell

Brown rice

Flavored oatmeal

Plain oatmeal with fresh fruit

 

Whole foods are naturally lower in sugar, fat, and sodium and higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A diet consisting primarily of whole foods will help you to feel more energized and less lethargic. The Mediterranean style of eating is a great “diet” to follow. It is primarily whole foods based and is supported by research in reducing risk of heart disease, diabetes, and overweight/obesity. 

Eat less (way less) processed foods

As mentioned above, processed foods are higher in sugar, fat, and sodium than whole foods. Additionally, they are also usually full of additives, preservatives, and unnatural ingredients. Some processed foods are sneakier than you think when it comes to “hidden” ingredients. For example, it is nearly impossible to find a spaghetti sauce without sugar added to it. Instead, try shopping at a health food store such as Trader Joe’s, but always read the nutrition label, as these types of stores also carry high sugar foods as well.  Or, you can make your own homemade sauce using canned or fresh tomatoes and fresh ingredients. Eating a diet high in processed foods is, therefore, more likely to contribute to weight gain and associated diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Drink more water and less sugary beverages

Most of us know by now the importance of drinking enough water. The problem is that more and more Americans are substituting water with sugary beverages such as sodas, sport drinks, fruit juices, and coffee drinks. Did you know that a typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar? That’s almost 240 calories just from sugar. According to the new nutrition guidelines, Americans should aim for less than 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. It’s easy to see how only 1 soda or juice puts you over the limit for the whole day. The problem with eating too much sugar is that it is linked with overweight/obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few.

Get moving

Besides eating healthier, exercise is another crucial component of living a healthier lifestyle. Although exercising won’t directly detox your body, it will help the kidneys and colon get rid of waste, which is really the end goal for most people who are interested in “detoxing”. Exercise also helps fight off some of the diseases mentioned above (heart disease, diabetes, overweight/obesity). Additionally, it will help you to feel more energized and sleep better at night. Having more muscle also means having more lean body mass and less fat mass.

In summary, instead of jumping on the next “detox” fad, adopt a healthier diet and incorporate some exercise and your body will naturally take care of itself. Your liver detoxes everything for you, and there’s no magical tea that replace the liver’s function. Stick to more whole food and less processed foods and you will likely experience the benefits you were hoping for while on a “detox” diet.  

What is considered physical activity and how much do I need?

The importance of physical activity is something that most of us are familiar with.  Getting enough physical activity is linked with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, overweight/obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few.  Additionally, being physically active is linked with increased longevity and mental happiness.  All of this may leave you wondering, “What is considered physical activity?”, and “How much do I need to do in order to receive the associated health benefits?” 

Recommendations for Physical Activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. The CDC breaks down physical activity recommendations into two different categories: aerobic and muscle strengthening.  Adults 18-64 years old need to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week and complete muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days of the week.

 

Aerobic Activity

Aerobic activity is what you would probably think of as “cardio”.  It is anything that makes you breathe harder and makes your heart beat faster. This can be anything from taking the stairs at work, to running on a treadmill. The key is to make sure that you are exercising at the recommended intensity.  One way to know which level of intensity you are exercising at is to think of the talk/sing test.

Moderate Intensity

When you are exercising moderately, you should be able to talk, but not sing.  You should also be breaking a sweat.  Examples of moderate physical activity are walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike with a few hills, and pushing a lawnmower.

Vigorous Intensity

When you are exercising vigorously, you should not be able to sing at all and speaking should be very difficult.  You should be breathing hard, sweating more, and generally feel out of breath. Examples of vigorous physical activity include jogging or running, swimming laps, riding a bike fast or on hills, and playing basketball.

Another good cardiovascular workout is high intensity interval training (HIIT), which interspaces quick movements with short breaks. The movement portion is performed at a high intensity (all-out effort). To learn more about HIIT, check out this article from the American College of Sports Medicine.

 

 

 

 

Why it’s good for your health

The heart needs physical activity, just like any other muscle in the body and aerobic activity is great for giving it a workout.  When your heart beats faster, you are pumping blood which carries oxygen to all parts of your body.  This will provide an energy burst not only for your physical self, but for your mental health since the blood is also transported to the brain.  Regular aerobic physical activity helps to keep arteries and other blood vessels flexible, ensuring good blood flow and normal blood pressure.

Muscle Strengthening

So what counts as muscle strengthening activities?  These activities include things like weight training, resistance bands, yoga, and some body weight training.  The key is that you want to work all your major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms).  Slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions you do will give you even more benefits, no matter your age.

Intensity

Just as with aerobic activity, it is important to make sure that you are maintaining the proper level of intensity throughout strength training.  The CDC recommends that you train so that it is difficult to complete another repetition without help.  Remember, muscle strengthening activities do not count toward your cardiovascular physical activity, unless you are doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). 

Why it’s good for your health

Muscle-strengthening activities can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength. Additionally, it is good for bone health.  Muscle strength training helps bones maintain their density which can help reduce arthritis, hip fractures, and joint injuries, to name a few.

Take home point

For optimal health benefits, it is important to do the recommended amount of both aerobic (“cardio”) physical activity and muscle strengthening activity.  It is also important to maintain the proper level of intensity while exercising.

If you are low on time, try breaking up your physical activity into bursts of 10 minutes that are spread out over the day.  Always try to reach your goals, but remember that something is better than nothing.

 

 

Tired of running on a treadmill? Switch it up!

When most people think of “cardio” they probably think of running. But for people who don’t like to run or cannot run, there’s some good news. Cardiovascular exercise includes any activity that strengthens your heart and improves the function of your cardiovascular system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise each week in order to help prevent cardiovascular disease. When you break it down, that amounts to 30 minutes per day for 5 days per week. Unless you really love to run, you’ll probably want to switch up exercises that you do in order to reach 150 minutes of cardio each week.

Additionally, cardio is not the only type of exercise that health experts recommend in order to receive optimal health benefits.  The CDC also recommends that adults do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

What’s considered moderate to vigorous?

·         Increased heart rate

·         Increased breathing rate

·         Increased sweating

·         Muscle fatigue

 

These are all examples of what exercising at a moderate to vigorous level usually feels like. Some people also use perceived exertion and/or target heart rate ranges to determine if they are exercising at a moderate to vigorous level to receive the associated health benefits. 

 

Alternatives to running

At the Gym

If you’re looking for some non-running alternatives while you’re at the gym, you might consider trying some of the other machines, such as the elliptical, stair stepper, and rowing machine. There are many ways you can switch it up, such as changing the intensity level or doing timed intervals.  

 

Home

If you’re looking for something outside, at home, or a little less traditional, you might enjoy hiking or biking. Ask a friend to join you or turn it into a family event. Many gyms and groups also do exercise in the park. Zumba, a Latin inspired dance fitness class, is in part so popular because of the social aspect of it. When you exercise with friends, it feels less like exercise and more like hanging out. Just make sure that you are focused on exercising and not talking the whole time.

 

No matter which exercise you choose, getting your blood pumping at a moderate to vigorous level for at least 150 minutes per week and also performing strength training exercises at least 2 days per week, can have a lasting, positive impact on your health. Adding some variety to your routine will not only decrease boredom and, therefore, increase the likelihood of you sticking with it, it will also diversify the specific muscle groups that you are working with. Trying different cardio routines can be a fun and exploratory experience, and the more fun you have, the more likely you will keep doing it. 

 

5 Reasons Why We Love Body Weight Workouts

 

It’s free

Body weight training is a great option for those who want to supplement their regular gym membership with a little something extra, without having to pay for it. It is also good for those who can’t afford or don’t want to buy a gym membership at all. The next time someone tells you that they can’t afford to exercise due to the high cost of a gym membership, make sure to recommend body weight training!

It can be done anywhere

Since body weight training doesn’t require any equipment (although, you can add it if you like), and often times you only need a very small space, it can be done almost anywhere. Body weight training is about as convenient as it comes regarding workouts. You can do a body weight session at the park on a beautiful day. Or in your hotel room while on a business trip. If you didn’t have time to make it to the gym, you can do body weight training at home. The opportunities are limitless.

No equipment needed

Body weight training relies on gravity and the weight of your own body to build endurance and strength. Anyone who has ever done it can tell you that it’s far from easy. Since equipment is not involved, it is easy to transition from movement to movement quickly, which keeps your heart rate elevated. Movements are performed quickly and then inter-spaced with short breaks, this is known as high intensity interval training (HIIT). 

It’s modifiable

Body weight training can be performed at a variety of different strength levels. This makes it a great choice for beginners all the way through experts. It’s easy to increase the difficulty level as you gain strength and balance. This versatility also makes it a great option for those who are working through an injury. Body weight training is easily modified so that it can decrease the stress on an injury or it can be modified to be a lower overall impact.

The health benefits

Research shows that body weight training can increase endurance as well as fitness. One variation of body weight training, high intensity interval training (HIIT), has also been linked with improved cardiovascular performance and metabolism. This makes HIIT an excellent choice for those who are overweight, have diabetes, or are prone to cardiovascular disease. Body weight training also aids in preventing osteoporosis by helping build and maintain the mass and density of bones.

Body weight training is a convenient, modifiable, and well-rounded way to exercise. It can be done anywhere, anytime. For ideas on how to get started or how to switch up your current body weight training routine, check out the scientifically supported 7-minute workout and the advanced 7-minute workout.