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Small Steps to Get Fit and Health for 2014

February 2014

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

It’s a New Year…. Are You Ready for a New Start?
Everyone knows the New Year means promises for new activity and healthier eating. The bottom line is that all Americans---young and old need to participate in plenty of physical activity all year long. Everyone’s health improves and you are less likely to get sick or contract a serious disease. Improving activity levels may mean you may need fewer medications. Also, workers may perform better at their job and students at school. Physical activity will make you feel better and improve your mood. Here are some suggestions to get moving and improve your health.

Exercise together with friends. Try some aerobic exercise each day that stimulates your heart to beat faster. Try fast paced walking, biking, jogging, dancing, or games like basketball, soccer, baseball, or tennis. Try joining a community sports team or your local YMCA. For good health, adults need at least 30-60 minutes a day. Decide which activities to engage in and make them enjoyable. Spend time with active friends for extra fun and support!

Try weights to strengthen your muscles. Getting stronger at all ages is important for muscles and body health. Adults in later life can still build muscles which will help them with balance, lifting, and everyday activities. A good pair of walking shoes and some simple equipment like stretch bands or cans of food for weights can assist with exercising various muscle groups in your arms, legs, and torso.

Pump homemade hand weights made of water bottles filled with sand or water. Or use your own body weight to engage in push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches, and lunges. For more ideas, check out this guide for exercises that will help with muscular strength and endurance.

Keep flexible to stay healthy. Flexibility helps to prevent injury and makes you look and feel great. Some simple stretches while watching TV or sitting at your desk at work, will help your muscles to stay strong. Look for classes locally like yoga, tai chi and Pilates. These classes will help you to practice flexibility.

Balance activities to strengthen your body core. It is important to have strong/flexible muscles in your stomach and back which may prevent back pain. A strong core helps you stand taller and look better. Balancing your fitness activities will improve your body health and core.

Play and exercise go together. Getting fit means listening to your inner child and focusing on play and fun activities. Try throwing a Frisbee flyer or jumping rope. Organize a dance party with friends. Try walking your neighbor's dog or hike a nearby trail. Let 2014 be your “active” year. Take these small steps to make it the healthiest ever!