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The Importance of Exercise As We Age

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the role exercise can play in helping us age healthfully.

Exercise and Aging

Exercise is important at any age but can be especially beneficial for seniors. It can reduce the risks of chronic disease, improve mobility, reduce the risk of injuries and bone loss, boost mood, and help maintain cognitive function.

However, many older adults become more sedentary as they age, especially those age 60 and older. As you become less active, your fitness and strength levels decrease. With these changes, older adults can become less able to do activities they did when they were younger, so they may further reduce their activity and continue the cycle. This can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, which increases the risks of other diseases and early death.

The good news is that there is never an age when it’s too late to start exercising and reaping the benefits. Middle-aged and older adults can extend their life expectancies by becoming more physically active, no matter what their past activity levels were. Beginning an exercise program later in life can have the same benefits as participating in sports or vigorous exercise decades earlier.

Never too late to start
It may seem daunting to start exercising in middle age or later, but even as little as 20 minutes of walking per day can reduce your risks for early death by 20 percent over time. If you increase those 20 minutes to an hour or more, then you see a 35 percent reduction.

Other low-impact activities (such as yoga or Pilates) can also have benefits that can help with keeping muscles and bones strong and help with mobility as you age. Swimming or water aerobics are also good choices as they are gentle on your joints and can be helpful if you suffer from arthritis or other joint problems. The key is to find an activity you enjoy and are most likely to stick with on a regular basis.

Below are some of the benefits of exercising as you age for your health:

  • Disease prevention. Regular exercise can help reduce or delay the risk of developing diseases like cancer, stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Some research has also suggested that seniors who exercise at least three times per week have a 35 percent lower risk of developing dementia.
  • Improved balance, stability, and mobility. The most common injury for seniors is falls. Regular exercise can improve balance and stability to prevent falls, as well as improving mobility for day-to-day activities.
  • Maintaining muscle mass and preventing bone loss. Muscle mass begins to decline when we hit middle age and continues to decline with each decade of life. Maintaining muscle mass is critical to keeping strong and maintaining mobility, so you can remain independent as you age.
  • Improved quality of life. Exercising regularly improves your mood and can help ease symptoms of depression.

With exercise, remember, consistency is much more important than intensity. Find something you enjoy doing and start slowly, at a pace that is easy to sustain.

Nutrition Needs As We Age

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the roles nutrition can play in helping us age healthfully.

Changing nutrition needs as we age
You may have been a healthy eater in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, but as you hit middle age, your nutritional needs will change, and you may need to modify your diet to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs.

Aging causes a variety of changes in the body, including muscle loss, thinning skin, digestive changes, and bone mass loss. Some of these changes can lead to nutrient deficiencies or affect your quality of life. One major challenge in meeting your nutritional needs is that as you age, you need fewer calories. This creates a dilemma: you may need just as much, or more, of certain nutrients, but you’ll need to get them eating fewer calories. One way to deal with this dilemma is by eating a diet rich in whole foods and also by taking a nutritional supplement.

Fewer calories, more nutrients
Older adults may need fewer calories to maintain their weight since they tend to exercise and move less and have less muscle tone. One reason older adults tend to gain belly fat is because they continue to eat the same amount of calories as when they were younger, but they are less active. This is especially true for women post-menopause, as a drop in estrogen levels has been directly linked to fat storage in the midsection.

What can be difficult is that as you age, you need higher levels of certain nutrients than you did when you were younger. These nutrients include vitamin D, calcium, protein, and fiber. That is the reason it is important to eat a varied diet that contains lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish.

Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for bone health. Calcium helps maintain bone health, while vitamin D is essential in helping the body absorb the calcium. Eating enough dairy products and leafy, green vegetables can help you get enough calcium in your diet, but if you are deficient in Vitamin D, your body will not process the calcium correctly and could result in bone loss.

Many older adults are deficient in Vitamin D as skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin from foods and sunlight, so they may need additional Vitamin D supplementation. Talk with your doctor about your specific needs for these two important nutrients.

Protein
Even though you need fewer calories as you age, it’s important to still get enough protein. Protein is vital for tissue growth, repair, and maintenance. Most adults need between 45-60 mg of protein per day. Good choices for protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and legumes.

Fiber
Eating enough fiber is even more important as you age. Not only can it help keep you regular, it can also lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also good for your skin and can aid in weight loss. Women over 50 should get at least 21 grams of fiber each day, while men over 50 should aim for at least 30 grams per day.

Fiber is best when consumed naturally from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It can also be taken as a supplement, which can be helpful if you suffer from constipation, which is common as you age and your digestive system changes. Talk with your doctor about your specific fiber needs.

A word about water
Older adults can become more prone to dehydration because their sense of thirst is not as acute. Drinking enough water every day is also important to reduce your risks of urinary tract infections (which can be more common as you age) as well as reducing risks for constipation and confusion.

To stay hydrated, you don’t have to stick to plain water. Beverages like seltzers, non-caffeinated herbal teas, and juices can count toward your daily water intake; just be careful of extra calories, especially in fruit juices. You can also get water from fruits and vegetables especially watermelon, berries, cucumbers, and lettuce.

Eating a healthy diet that focuses on getting these important nutrients, as well as drinking enough water, can help you stay healthy as you get older.

 

 

Low-Impact vs. High-Impact Exercise: Which is Better?

When you think of high-impact exercise, activities like running or aerobics may come to mind, while exercises like walking or cycling are considered low-impact activities. The difference is that low-impact exercise is easier on your joints than high-impact activities. Both types of exercise are important to overall fitness, but determining which one is better is really a matter of your personal needs and abilities as well as your fitness goals.

Low-Impact Exercise
Any types of exercise or activities that are gentle on your joints and involve more fluid movement and keeping one foot always on the ground or on equipment are considered low impact. Examples include walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates, and using an elliptical machine.

Low-impact exercises are great for beginners, those with joint problems or arthritis, and for athletes who are recovering from an injury. Some people like to participate in low-impact exercise on days when they’re taking an “easy” workout day to aid in recovery from harder, higher-impact workout days.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you can still burn fat with low-impact exercise just as you can with higher-impact exercise. The key is to perform low-intensity activity for a prolonged period of time. As opposed to high-impact exercise that burns fat in short, intense sessions, to get the same benefits from low-impact exercise, you’ll need to do longer sessions. Working out a steady pace at 70-80 percent of your maximum heart rate for 30 to 60 minutes will get you into a fat-burning zone with low-impact workouts.

High-Impact Exercise
High-impact exercise is harder on your joints and involves both feet leaving the floor at the same time. Examples include running, jumping rope, and plyometrics (exercise that involves repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles ). High-impact exercise is one of the best ways to burn fat—your heart rate is naturally up because you’re jumping around more, which gets your body into fat-burning mode faster.

This type of exercise also improves fitness levels, strengthens your heart and lungs, and strengthens bones. However, it can also lead to injuries more easily or be painful for people with joint problems or arthritis. High-impact exercise may also be harder for people who are overweight or obese.

If you are trying to lose weight, high-impact exercise will yield faster results than low-impact training, but it’s not for everyone. Some people don’t enjoy the jarring nature of running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and some people’s joints cannot handle that much impact.

Which is Best?
Deciding whether low-impact exercise or high-impact exercise is best for you is a matter of personal preference as well as your fitness levels and any health issues you may have. Those new to exercise should definitely start more slowly with lower-impact workouts until fitness levels improve to reduce the risks of injury, as well as to make it more enjoyable and sustainable.

Once you’ve been exercising for a while, working in some days of high-intensity activities will likely produce better weight loss results if that is your goal. It will also improve your fitness level. Alternating days of low-impact and high-impact activities can be a good way to vary your workouts and reduce not only your risk for injury but also reduce boredom, which will make you more likely to stick with a regular exercise routine long term.

The Pros and Cons of Using Body Mass Index (BMI)

Anytime you go to the doctor, one of the first things you do is to step on the scale. Your body weight and height is then calculated to determine your Body Mass Index (BMI), which has long been considered the gold standard in determining if you are at a healthy weight or if you may be at risk for potential health problems.

BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening to determine excess weight that may lead to health problems. However, many doctors and scientists have questioned the usefulness of the BMI and its accuracy in determining overall health risks.

According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing, BMI is still a useful starting point in predicting a person’s risk for certain health conditions that are more likely to occur when a person is overweight or obese. But it’s also important to know there are limitations to BMI.

How is BMI used?
BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems in adults. However, to determine if excess weight is a health risk, a doctor would need to use the BMI along with further testing such as skinfold-thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family medical history, and other health screenings.

How is BMI calculated?
BMI is calculated (using a mathematical formula) by dividing an individual’s weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.

Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5” (65″)
Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)²] x 703 = BMI = 24.96

There are many on-line calculators that will calculate BMI by simply plugging in your height and weight.

What do the BMI numbers mean?
For adults 20 years old and older, BMI is explained using standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages and for both men and women.

The standard weight categories associated with BMI ranges for adults: a normal BMI is between18.5 and 25; a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight; and a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A person is considered underweight if the BMI is less than 18.5.

Someone with a BMI of 26-27 is about 20 percent overweight, which is generally believed to carry moderate health risks. The higher the BMI, the greater the risk of developing additional health problems.

For adults, what are the health consequences of being overweight or obese? 
Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)

What are the limitations of using BMI?
BMI on its own is not a measurement of health or a measurement of a physiological state (such as taking your blood pressure) that shows the presence or absence of disease.

There are people who have a high BMI who are healthy, and there are those with a normal BMI that are unhealthy. For example, someone with a low BMI who smokes and has a strong family risk of heart disease or cancer may have a higher risk of early death than someone with a higher BMI who does not smoke and is physically fit.

Just as blood pressure or cholesterol numbers should not be used as a single measure of overall health, neither should BMI be used solely to identify cardiovascular disease or other illnesses. BMI is just part of a bigger picture your doctor can use when assessing your health and disease risk.

Smarter Lunch Choices

Liven Up Your Lunch

Are you stuck in a lunch rut? Do you tend to eat the same lunch day after day or rotate between just a few types of meals? Whether you are currently working in an office and regularly bring your lunch from home or currently working from home, coming up with healthy and easy lunch ideas can sometimes be challenging, especially if you’re pressed for time. Nutritious and delicious lunches that are easy to make are possible. It just takes a little preplanning and creativity.

Sandwiches and soups are go-to lunch choices, especially if you’re taking your lunch from home to the office, and they are quick and easy to make. Liven up your lunch routine with some of these healthy and satisfying recipes.

Sandwiches

Sandwiches are a classic lunchtime staple. They’re easy, quick, and filling. But there are only so many ham and cheese sandwiches that you can eat! Up your sandwich-making game with these nutritious alternatives:

Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad Sandwich
This variation of plain chicken salad uses rotisserie chicken combined with tangy cranberries, walnuts, and celery on pumpernickel bread.

Prosciutto, Arugula, and Tomato Sandwich
An Italian version of the BLT uses prosciutto in place of bacon and vitamin-packed arugula instead of boring iceberg lettuce. Top with a juicy tomato and serve it on ciabatta bread.

Peanut Butter, Strawberry, and Honey Sandwich
A twist on the classic PB&J, this sandwich uses fresh strawberries in place of jelly with a sprinkle of honey and hint of mint. Serve it on 100 percent whole wheat bread for a complete healthy meal.

Roast Beef Sandwich
Make your own version of a deli favorite with roast beef, pickles, cucumbers, and mayo on a Kaiser roll.

Soup

Soup is also an easy lunchtime choice. You can buy premade soups, but there are many healthy soups that can be made at home and taken to work in a plastic container to heat up in your office microwave. As we head into fall and the weather begins to cool,  soups can be appealing as a lunch option. Be prepared by experimenting with some of these nutritious and hearty soup recipes:

Chickpea and Potato Soup
A protein-packed soup with potatoes, spinach, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Pasta Fagioli Soup
A combination of fresh spinach, sausage, beans, and pasta make a filling meal. 

Italian Vegetable Beef Soup
A variation on the classic comfort food, this veggie soup features beef, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. You can add in any vegetables you choose, either fresh or frozen. 

South-of-the-Border Chicken Soup
This thick, hearty chicken soup mixes mashed and diced potatoes, seasoned with fresh lime juice, and topped with avocado.

Broccoli-Chicken Parmesan Soup
This healthy soup can be made with chicken for a protein-rich meal or made vegetarian-friendly by leaving out the chicken, using veggie broth, and adding more spinach.

The Importance of Routines in Times of Uncertainty

Beginning with the nationwide lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more people have found themselves working from home and will likely be doing so for the foreseeable future. And with many schools around the country announcing plans to begin the school year with online learning, more families will find themselves still stuck at home this fall.

All of the disruptions the pandemic has caused have drastically changed many people’s daily routines, which can make it even more difficult to deal with the extreme stress and anxiety this crisis has created. Hours and days start to blend together, and before you know it, all you’ve accomplished is binging a full season of your favorite show on Netflix or scrolling through social media on your phone.

While binge-watching is a great stress reliever, you don’t want to fill all of your days being a couch potato. Maintaining a regular daily routine can help you feel more in control during this time when all other aspects of our world feel so uncertain.

Benefits of structure and routine
Sticking to a daily routine can have great benefits for mental health. Not only can routines help you better manage stress and anxiety, but they can also lower stress levels and have a calming effect, help you maintain good daily habits, encourage you to take care of your health, and help you feel more focused and productive. Having a daily routine allows you to complete necessary tasks, such as work or home duties so that you can then find time for exercise and other leisure activities. A routine can help to make your situation feel more predictable and controllable.

Creating a routine
Your daily routine may look very different right now if you’re working from home or temporarily unemployed, or if you have children at home. Create a routine that adds structure and a sense of predictability to your day. Your routine might vary on different days, but sticking to a basic schedule of when you sleep, wake up, eat, work, exercise, and do other activities will help you manage stress and feel that you have accomplished more day to day.

An easy way to create a schedule is to make a list of all the things you must get done during the day. Write down everything from work to household chores to childcare. Once you have identified all of the basic tasks that you need to get done, you can make an outline of a schedule that would work for you.

In addition to all of the tasks and chores, you must accomplish daily, remember to include time for activities that you enjoy so you have something to look forward to every day. Things such as reading, watching TV, taking a hot bath, calling a friend, or playing with your kids can help you stay positive while you’re completing the essential tasks of your day.

A routine that works for you
It’s important to be flexible and find a routine that works for you and your family. Some people may thrive with a structured routine that is basically the same every day, while others may do better making a daily to-do list and prioritizing that list each day. If you have young or school-age children at home, it’s very important for them to have structure to their day, especially if they are participating in online schooling.

Routines are even more important during times of stress and chaos, such as what the U.S. is experiencing right now. Daily rituals can offer you some control and some certainty in a situation that has neither.

 

 

10 Summer Salads to Keep You Cool and Satisfied

When it’s hot outside, having a heavy, hot meal doesn’t always sound appealing. Salads can be a refreshing, filling, and nutritious choice for lunch or dinner on sweltering summer days. There are so many delicious options for salads that go beyond basic iceberg lettuce!

Below you will find recipes for fresh summer salads that take advantage of seasonal vegetables and fruits and are easy to make. Serve salads as a side to your main dish or add a protein such as grilled chicken, shrimp, tofu, or steak to any salad to make it a main course.

Tomato, Peach, and Basil Salad
Use seasonal peaches and nectarines combined with feta cheese to create a sweet and savory salad.

Charred Shrimp and Avocado Salad
This light salad has a tropical taste with pineapple, shrimp, and avocado mixed with cucumber and watercress.

New Greek Salad
A twist on the traditional summer salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and feta cheese, combined with Kalamata olives and croutons made from olive bread.

Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken
Another summer favorite, this Cobb salad includes avocado, tomatoes, feta cheese, and crumbled bacon. Add grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken for an even quicker meal.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Steak and Tomatoes
Watermelon is a summer staple that when grilled with steak creates a juicy flavor and satisfying meal.

Arugula, Melon, and Prosciutto Salad
A sweet and salty salad with cantaloupe, arugula, and prosciutto served with a red wine vinaigrette.

Grilled Chicken Mango Salad
Grilled chicken is cooked in mango cilantro dressing and combined with avocado, cucumbers, peppers, and romaine lettuce—finished off by more mango cilantro dressing.

Garbanzo Bean Salad with Dill Dressing
Protein from chickpeas and fiber-rich beans and veggies make this salad a filling meal.

Strawberry Summer Salad
A refreshing blend of spinach, strawberries, sliced red onion, chopped nuts, and feta drizzled with strawberry vinaigrette dressing.

Summer Caprese Salad
This summer classic is made with fresh summer tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil seasoned with olive oil.

Meatless Meat and More!

There’s More than “Meats” the Eye!

Veganism and plant-based diets have become a popular trend in recent years. Whether you are trying to go vegan or vegetarian, or you are just trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, finding alternatives for meat that taste good and provide enough protein and other nutrients can involve a little trial and error.

Meatless options have come a long way from just plain veggie or tofu burgers. There are now many options available that are easy to find—some even mimic the taste of real meat. The two most popular meatless products right now are the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, which both taste the closest to real beef than any of their predecessor veggie burgers. There are differences between these two meat alternatives, as well as other options, so read on to learn more about tasty ways you can go meatless.

Tofu
Tofu has been a staple of vegetarian diets for decades, as well as a foundation of Asian cuisine. Tofu is made from curdled soybeans. On its own, tofu lacks flavor, but when added to other foods, it will take on the flavors of other ingredients in the dish.

Tofu can be grilled, baked, or fried and can be used with various sauces, grains, and vegetables. It is great for stir-fry or as a replacement for eggs or cheese in some recipes.

Tempeh 
Tempeh gets easily confused with tofu, but it is not the same. Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans and is a complete protein and high in calcium. The fermentation process is also beneficial for gut bacteria, and tempeh is high in fiber, which also helps regulate digestion. Tempeh can be used as a meat substitute in sandwiches, salads, or cooked in a pan.

Seitan
Unlike tofu and tempeh, seitan is not soy-based, but rather made from wheat gluten. It is high in protein and is a good alternative for people with soy allergies or those who cannot eat soy-based products for other health reasons. The only downside to seitan is that it is not considered a complete protein, so it needs to be paired with others protein sources like beans or lentils. Seitan is a good choice for sandwiches or as a pizza topping, and it can be found in store-bought products such as meatless sausages or jerky. Just be mindful of reading labels as some seitan products can contain a lot of preservatives and sodium.

Pea Protein
Products made with pea protein are some of the newest foods on the market that you’ve probably been hearing a lot about. Products like Beyond Meat (e.g., Beyond Burgers, Smart Dogs, etc.) are popular products sold in many grocery stores.

These meat alternatives are some of the closest to real meat as far as taste and texture, and many fans claim it tastes just like ground beef. Pea protein products are gluten-free, soy-free, GMO-free, and packed with protein. However, some products are highly processed and contain food coloring and other additives, so it should not be eaten as a daily meat substitute, but indulging in a Beyond Burger once or twice a week is fine.

The Impossible Burger vs. Beyond Burger

Currently, the top meatless products on the market are the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. Both taste almost like a real burger and have become popular due to their similarity in taste and texture to real beef. Both products are completely vegan, containing no animal products or by-products.

However, there are some differences between the two. Impossible Meat is a soy-based product while Beyond Meat is made from pea protein. Other than their main protein base, the two products’ other ingredients are pretty similar. The Beyond Burger does have a red color, similar to real beef, that comes from beet extract, while the Impossible Burger’s red tint gets its color from the heme from the leghemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying hemeprotein, found in root nodules of leguminous plants and which turns the older root nodule a pink or reddish color).

The Impossible Burger is made from mostly organic ingredients while the Beyond Burger is not. Beyond Meat makes more than just burgers, including sausage and meat crumbles. Beyond Meat or Impossible Meat can be substituted for ground beef in most recipes.

Impossible Burgers are now available at many popular restaurant chains including Burger King, Red Robin, Q’doba, and White Castle and can be bought in many grocery stores. Beyond Meat can be found at many national grocery store chains as well as at Carl’s Jr., TGI Friday’s, and Del Taco.

So which is better? The Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger? You may need to try both to see which you prefer. It should be noted that all Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers are not going to be identical, as each restaurant will prepare their meatless burgers differently.

 

 

Taking Vacation Time Is More Important Now Than Ever

Americans work more than any other nation, take fewer vacation days, work longer hours, and retire at a later age. Many people feel that they cannot take time off and get their jobs done, or they have fears about job security. However, studies have shown that taking a vacation has much-needed physical and mental health benefits and that taking time off from work has never been more important than right now during the global coronavirus pandemic that has added even more stress to already over-taxed employees.

Business closures due to the pandemic have resulted in wage cuts and job losses for many workers. Many people are still working from home or furloughed. As a result, taking a week off or even a day off may seem like a huge burden to employees when the pressure to perform already feels greater, and vacation doesn’t seem like a priority. But taking care of your mental health during such stressful and uncertain times matters now more than ever.

Preventing burnout
Vacation time, and even time off on weekends, is crucial for employees to maintain productivity, creativity, and prevent burnout, according to Simmy Grover, an organizational psychology instructor at University College London.

Burnout is inevitable if you never take a break from work, and that means not only taking vacation days but also mentally detaching from work on the weekend and during evenings at home. Taking time off should be viewed as a time to recharge and de-stress in order to be a better employee, make better decisions, and be more productive at work. Time off will allow you to manage your stress and maintain a sense of well-being.

Vacation during the pandemic
Like most everything else, your vacation plans may have been canceled due to the pandemic. Even if you can’t take that European trip or visit Disney World, time away from work is so important right now, even if you just stay at home. Experts say the benefits of being away from work are basically the same whether you leave town or not.

You may not be able to go to many places right now, or you may not feel safe about going anywhere, but research into “staycations” shows that they have the same mental health benefits that destination vacations have.

Safe vacation ideas
If you do crave time away from home, there are some safe ways to take a vacation during the ongoing pandemic. Many people are staying closer to home and avoiding air travel, so consider exploring areas in your state that are within driving distance. A beach, lake, or mountain getaway can provide a much-needed change of scenery, and if you forgo staying at a hotel and opt for a private home rental, you can get away safely and engage in activities that still maintain social distance.

Being outdoors (while still socially distanced from others) is one of the safest places to be right now, so look into ways you can get away and participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, or even just lying on an uncrowded beach. Camping is another great option that is naturally socially distanced; just be sure to check with campgrounds on what facilities are open and whether they have any restrictions.

Pack your own food, and plan to cook and eat at your rental or get takeout from local restaurants instead of dining out. Minimize your family’s risk of infection by following all of the recommended guidelines including washing your hands frequently, cleaning surfaces often, maintaining social distance from others, and wearing a mask when in public. If you follow all of these recommendations, you and your family can still have a memorable vacation, and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to work when you return.

If getting away is not an option for you, taking a day off or even a week off to just stay at home and recharge will only help your mental health in dealing with work stress and the strain of the pandemic.

 

Get Outdoors and Get Moving!

Family Fitness During Covid-19

With many parents still working from home, most gyms and public pools remain closed, and more kids are stuck at home rather than attending traditional summer camps. Getting up and moving has never been more important but also never more challenging. Exercise is essential not only for our bodies but also for our well-being as Americans deal with the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are creative ways you can get your family moving while still maintaining social distance and staying safe.

As many states have moved into Phase 1 and Phase 2 reopenings, the good news is that many local parks and trails have reopened, and there are many opportunities to get outdoors and get active while still maintaining social distance. Your own backyard and neighborhood are the safest places to exercise right now because you can easily keep your distance from others. Plus, getting outside during the summer is essential for kids. Your stress levels will also be lowered with daily outdoor activity.

Here are some ideas for activities you can do with the whole family, including younger children, that will get everyone outside and moving.

Explore hiking trails.
Now is a great time to explore areas you’ve never been to in your city or to take day trips to areas nearby. Most hiking trails are open, but always be sure to check before you go as every state has different guidelines right now. Pack a picnic lunch and head out to explore local rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and mountains. There are many easy trails for younger children, or if you have older teens, they might be ready to tackle some more challenging trails. Research hiking trails near you and plan several day trips throughout the summer. If you plan to go to an area that may be more crowded, you will want to wear masks when on busy trails where maintaining a six-foot distance is harder.

Turn your backyard into a water wonderland.
Public pools may be closed, but you can still have water fun in your own backyard. Remember running through the sprinkler when you were a kid? Do you remember how much fun that simple activity was? Your kids will love it too. You may also want to invest in some fun water toys like a Slip-n-slide (or create your own), a wading pool, or inflatable waterslide. Having a water balloon fight can get the entire family involved and moving and keeping cool on hot summer days.

Get cycling!
Break out the bikes and start cycling as a family. Ride together in your neighborhood or find local bike paths to explore. Younger children can ride with training wheels, or you can get special seats for toddlers to ride on parents’ bikes, or even be pulled behind in a bike trailer. Just make sure everyone in the family has a proper-fitting bike helmet. Find tips for cycling with kids here.

Take a nature walk.
Taking a daily family walk, especially if you have a dog, is an easy way to stay active and connect as a family. You can change up your routes and create scavenger hunts for the kids by trying to find different types of trees, flowers, birds, or other wildlife on your walks. Find other ideas for nature walks with kids here.

Game time!
Introduce your kids to games from your childhood like kick-the-can, hide-and-seek, or jump rope in your yard or surrounding neighborhood. Organize a family kickball or soccer game. Set up a net and play badminton or volleyball in the backyard.

Plant a garden.
There is no better time than now to start a garden. Involve the kids in picking what to grow, and have everyone help with digging and planting as well as maintaining the garden. Older kids can also help with yardwork; teach them to use the lawnmower safely, and have them help with landscaping. Click here to learn more about gardening with children.