August 2019 Hometown Health Newsletter: Sleep Health 

Fun ideas to be a more active family


When it comes to physical activity, your family is:
A. Let’s go!
B. So-so.
C. No-show.

No matter where you’re starting, we have fun tips to help get everyone moving. See what seems doable to you — but don’t hesitate to try new things or ideas of your own. You might be surprised at what energizes you and yours.

Shake up your daily routine. The goal here: Up everyone’s activity during your hours together. No kids at home? You may find inspiration here for solo activities — or for whomever you want to bring along for the fun.

Have post-dinner dance parties. Get in some good giggles too — ask kids to teach you their favorite dance moves.

Turn off screens. Move things outside with a game of tag, soccer or touch football. Or engage imaginations as well as muscles by making up a new game, obstacle course or scavenger hunt.

Pitch in together. Active chores, like washing windows or helping in the yard, all count as physical activity.

Head out and about. Turn your town or neighborhood into a fitness center.

Make a playground pit stop. Swing by after school instead of coming straight home.

Hoof it. Go biking or hiking on nearby trails. And walk to places instead of driving, when possible — like the library or farmers market.

Don’t mind the weather. Embrace seasonal activities like swimming when it’s warm and cross-country skiing when the snow starts to fly. Depending on your climate, that might mean finding indoor activities on the hottest, coldest or rainiest days, such as bowling at the local alley or trying indoor rock climbing.

Get involved in the community.
Do good acts for others and your family at the same time:

Move for a cause. Sign up for a charity walk or run. It’ll help teach kids the importance of giving back — and getting out.

Be team players. Help organize active events that strengthen community or neighborhood ties. Think family field days, softball games or relay races.   

Join a local clean-up effort. Look for groups that need volunteers to help beautify nearby parks, trails or neighborhoods. 

Source: UHC

Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight


Regular physical activity is important for good health, and it’s especially important if you’re trying to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight.

  • When losing weight, more physical activity increases the number of calories your body uses for energy or “burns off.” The burning of calories through physical activity, combined with reducing the number of calories you eat, creates a “calorie deficit” that results in weight loss.
  • Most weight loss occurs because of decreased caloric intake. However, evidence shows the only way to maintain weight loss is to be engaged in regular physical activity.
  • Most importantly, physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond that produced by weight reduction alone.

Physical activity also helps to:

  • Maintain weight.
  • Reduce high blood pressure.
  • Reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and several forms of cancer.
  • Reduce arthritis pain and associated disability.
  • Reduce risk for osteoporosis and falls.
  • Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need. Here are some guidelines to follow:

To maintain your weight: Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week. Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity can help you maintain your weight over time. However, the exact amount of physical activity needed to do this is not clear since it varies greatly from person to person. It’s possible that you may need to do more than the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to maintain your weight.

To lose weight and keep it off: You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your diet and reduce the amount of calories you’re eating and drinking. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both regular physical activity and a healthy eating plan.

What do moderate- and vigorous-intensity mean?

Moderate: While performing the physical activity, if your breathing and heart rate is noticeably faster but you can still carry on a conversation — it’s probably moderately intense. Examples include—

  • Walking briskly (a 15-minute mile).
  • Light yard work (raking/bagging leaves or using a lawn mower).
  • Light snow shoveling.
  • Actively playing with children.
  • Biking at a casual pace.

Vigorous: Your heart rate is increased substantially and you are breathing too hard and fast to have a conversation, it’s probably vigorously intense. Examples include—

  • Jogging/running.
  • Swimming laps.
  • Rollerblading/inline skating at a brisk pace.
  • Cross-country skiing.
  • Most competitive sports (football, basketball, or soccer).
  • Jumping rope.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Three Steps for a Stronger Core: Simple Moves to Help Keep Your Back Healthy and Happy


When you strengthen your core muscles, you form a strong support system for your spine. Think of it as a built-in back support belt or girdle of sorts — but more comfortable.

In fact, it may help you prevent a sore lower back or help an achy one feel better.

Strong core muscles — those in your abdomen, hips, lower back and pelvis — may also:

  • Boost your overall fitness.
  • Make everyday activities easier, from vacuuming to toting groceries.
  • Improve your balance and reduce your risk of falls.

Time for crunches, right? Not necessarily.

Abdominal crunches are a go-to exercise for targeting the core. But you have options!

Here are three simple core-strength builders — no special equipment required. Make them part of a balanced exercise routine. You might start with a few repetitions of each. Add more as you get stronger.

1. Pelvic tilts — how to do them:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles as you flatten your back against the floor. Your pelvis should tilt up slightly toward your rib cage.
  • Hold for a few seconds.
  • Return to the start position. Repeat.

2. Bridges — how to do them:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent — with your legs about hip-width apart. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched or pressed onto the floor.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Raise your hips off the floor until your hips, shoulders and knees are aligned.
  • Hold while taking deep breaths.
  • Return to the start position. Repeat.

3. Side planks — how to do them:

  • Lie on your left side. Your left shoulder and elbow should be aligned. Rest your right arm on your side (as shown).
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles by raising your hip and upper body off the floor.
  • Hold while taking deep breaths.
  • Repeat on your right side.

Source: UHC

Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight


A healthy lifestyle involves many choices. Among them, choosing a balanced diet or healthy eating plan.

So how do you choose a healthy eating plan? Let’s begin by defining what a healthy eating plan is.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

Eat Healthfully and Enjoy It!

A healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If “healthy eating” makes you think about the foods you can’t have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat

  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits ― don’t think just apples or bananas. All fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great choices. Be sure to try some “exotic” fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit! When your favorite fresh fruits aren’t in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety of a fresh fruit you enjoy. One caution about canned fruits is that they may contain added sugars or syrups. Be sure and choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice.
  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables ― try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven’t tried like rosemary. You can sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish—just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
  • Calcium-rich foods ― you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone says “eat more dairy products.” But what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
  • A new twist on an old favorite ― if your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories ― you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

Do I Have to Give Up My Favorite Comfort Food?

No! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month. You’ll be cutting your calories because you’re not having the food as often.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size.
  • The point is, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention