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Family Living Focus: Opportunities abound for moving around

You know that physical activity can help you live a longer, healthier life. But did you know you do not need to join a gym or use costly equipment to be physically active? No matter where you live, work, or go to school, you can find ways to move more and sit less throughout your day. In addition to helping your health, you might have fun without spending a lot of money.

Moving more and sitting less can reduce your risk for many serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain kinds of cancer. Some studies suggest that physical activity can have mental benefits as well, helping to relieve depression and maintain thinking abilities as you age. Healthful physical activity includes exercise as well as many everyday activities, such as doing active chores around the house, yard work, or walking the dog.

Activities that cause you to breathe harder are called aerobic activities. These make your heart and blood vessels healthier. Aerobic activities include brisk walking, dancing, swimming, and playing basketball. Strengthening activities, like push-ups and lifting weights, help make your muscles and bones stronger and can also improve your balance.

Even though many of us know that physical activity is a good thing, most adults nationwide do not meet even the minimum recommended amounts of physical activity. The minimum re4commended amount is at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate activity, 5 days a week.

Why aren’t we more active? Lack of time is a common reason for not exercising. Another important factor is location. Have safe places to walk and engage in different activities. That can mean having sidewalks, public parks with well-lit walking paths, a shopping mall where you can walk, or other features that can make activity inviting and easy to do.

Your environment – where you live, work, or go to school can have a big impact on how much you move and even how much you weigh. Some communities do not have safe playgrounds or sidewalks, so kids tend to spend their free time indoors. Sitting instead of moving makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight. Many adults sit behind the wheel driving to work and then sit most of the day at a computer, taking few breaks to stand up and move around. In suburban neighborhoods, people often have to drive rather than walk to get to grocery stores, shops, and even public transportation.

Our environments have become less friendly to being active. Studies show that people will walk more if the environment provides them with opportunities to do so. How close are you to a library? Can you walk to a store? Is there a safe path for walking to school? All of these factors affect how active we are each day.

Having places to walk and have fun can help more people get moving and active. If a neighborhood has someplace nice to walk to with desirable destinations like a book store, grocery store, coffee shop, a place to eat or meet, it can have a healthful effect on how much people weigh and how much they walk.

Having opportunities to connect with others can also have a positive effect. Many people are more likely to walk if they have got one or more buddies to walk with. Take a look around your neighborhood, your workplace, or your school. Can you think of changes that might make the surroundings more inviting for walking or exercise?

Although your environment can affect how active you are, you can still look for new ways to use the world around you to add some movement to your day. If you are at work, try climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator and get up from your chair and move around at least once an hour. Stand up and walk to a colleague’s office instead of sending an email. Try standing instead of sitting when you are on the phone or have “walking” meetings with co-workers instead of sitting in a conference room. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break to get some activity in.

It is not really necessary to engage in vigorous physical activity like running to have beneficial health effects. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking most days, in at least 10-minute segments, can have a positive effect.

We have to look for opportunities to fit physical activity into our days. Some people love to put on their sneakers and to go to the gym, and that is great for them, but it is not the only way to get active.

Get Active in Your

Community

• Start a walking group with friends, neighbors, or co-workers.

• Make the streets safer for walking by driving the speed limit and yielding to people who walk.

• Consider joining a low- or no-cost exercise group or an office sports team such as softball or kickball and enroll kids in community sports teams or lessons.

• Participate in local planning efforts to develop walking paths, sidewalks, and bike paths.

• Work with parents and schools to encourage kids to safely walk or ride bikes to school.

• Join other parents to ask for more physical activity at school.

Try different activities to find the ones you really enjoy and have fun while being active!

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Information adapted from article in NIH News in Health, May 2015.

If you would like more information on “Opportunities for Moving Around” contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus University of Minnesota at waldn001@umn.edu. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.

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