By PATTY HAMMOND
Cornell University Cooperative Extension
Like many of us, did you make a New Year's resolution to become more physically active? Have you followed through on your plans?
Educators Alexandra Dominguez and Suheil Vega show the Dunkirk BOCES Adult Learning Center ESL class an easy and fun way to get some exercise using balloons and kitchen utensils.
Most of us know that increasing our activity level will improve our health, but did you realize fitness gains can last far beyond today? The benefits you'll reap from moving more now can last well into the future, making that future so much more pleasant for you. Yet most of us just don't spend nearly enough time being active.
So, what will work for you? Anything you do that involves moving your body counts as physical activity. It can be as simple as walking the dog or taking your baby for a stroll. However, more intense movement, such as you'd get playing an organized sport like basketball or soccer, will increase the health benefits you'll enjoy. Organized sports may not be right for you, but all of us need to find ways engage in some moderate to intense physical activity on a regular basis.
What's the difference between moderate and vigorous activity? When engaging in moderate activity you'll be able to talk while you're doing them, but you can't sing. If you can say only a few words without stopping to catch your breath, that activity counts as vigorous. .
So, exactly what qualifies as moderate activity? This time of year, if you enjoy being in the great outdoors, you might consider brisk walking (about 3.5 miles per hour), skiing, sledding, or snowshoeing. If you prefer staying indoors during cold weather, dancing, water aerobics, a yoga class or an active Wii game might be more your speed.
If you want the greater benefits derived from more intense activity you might consider running or jogging at five miles per hour or more. However, just walking very fast, at 4.5 miles per hour, also qualifies as intense activity. You could also go to a public pool and swim freestyle laps, take an aerobics class, or simply do some of those heavy household chores we so often put off. Think of the effort involved in cleaning out your attic or basement and all the time you'd spend running up and down your stairs. Scrubbing floors or walls also take a lot of effort and you'll have a sparkling house when you're done, in addition to reaping the health benefits.
Choose either moderate or vigorous activity, or do a mix of both every week. The point is, get off the couch or up and away from your computer.
Whatever you choose to do, just be sure it makes you breathe harder and your heart beats faster. Remember, more physical activity, and the more intense that physical activity is, the greater the health benefits you'll enjoy. Not only will you increase your chances of living a longer life, these benefits include everything from sleeping better at night to feeling better about yourself. You'll decrease the likelihood of becoming depressed and increase the likelihood of attaining and staying at a healthy weight, being able to move around more easily, and developing stronger bones and muscles.
Whatever activities you do, make sure they're fun. If you choose group activities, you're likely to find opportunities to spend more time with friends or to get out and meet new people. Just be sure to choose to do something you enjoy so you're more apt to stick with it.
You may also be wondering what's likely to happen if you aren't physically active. As we age our metabolism slows, so we need to find the right balance between the calories we eat and those we burn through activity. For most of us that means eating less and moving more. If we don't make these changes we're likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and we increase our chances for suffering a stroke. Good nutrition and physical activity work hand in hand.
It doesn't matter what shape or size you are now, or how able you feel, all of us can increase our activity levels. When we do, we're sure to feel better.
If you're looking for more ways to increase your physical activity level or other new ideas to help you live a healthier lifestyle, Cornell University Cooperative Extension's Eat Smart New York program may be just right for you. Interactive classes include fun activities and new ideas to help people incorporate exercise into their busy lives, improve their nutritional status, and save money. Classes can be scheduled at convenient times and locations throughout Chautauqua County and bilingual education is available. For more information call 664-9502, Ext. 217.
And if you're looking for a nutritious, soul-warming soup to savor during these cold winter days, try this recipe:
Chicken-Vegetable Soup with Kale
Makes 3 servings
Serving size: 1/3 of recipe
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup rice, cooked
1 cup kale, rinsed and chopped
3/4 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 cups water or chicken broth
1. Heat oil in medium sauce pan. Add onion and carrot. Stir until vegetables are tender, about 5-8 minutes.
2. Add thyme and garlic. Stir for 1 more minute.
3. Add cooked rice, kale, tomatoes and water or broth.
4. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Source: The Washington Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, Washington State University
Nutrition Facts: Serving Size 1/3 of recipe, 180 Calories, 45 Calories from Fat, 5g Total Fat, 25% Calories from Fat, 0.5 g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 40mg Cholesterol, 400mg Sodium, 15g Total Carbohydrate, 2g Dietary Fiber, 3g Sugars, 20g Protein, 150% Vitamin A, 6% Calcium, 70% Vitamin C, 15% Iron
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