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Every move matters for healthy bodies

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Many of us spend a large portion of our waking day sitting behind a desk, in front of a computer, or behind the wheel. Opportunities to be physically active in our daily routines have diminished over the years. We drive, rather than walk or bicycle. Our homes and workplaces are automated. We have labor-saving devices at work and home and we spend a lot of time in sedentary activities, such as computer and television use. Children, too, are less active.

The Walk Kansas program has 294 Bourbon County participants tracking their physical activity and some of their healthy food choices. Statewide, 3,265 teams, or over 19,000 individuals are taking part in the eight-week program.

After three weeks of the program, teams are making good progress. Some teams chose to take the challenge of logging the distance across the state east to west. To achieve this goal, each team member would need to log 150 minutes of activity per week. Others chose the challenge of collectively walking 1,200 miles, or the distance around the perimeter of the state of Kansas. This would require each team member to log six hours of activity per week. Team progress for Bourbon County teams, as well as teams across the state, can be found at www.walkkansas.org.

Physical activity is important for everyone. New evidence suggests that prolonged sitting is not good -- even for those who are otherwise very active. Standing or walking for even a few minutes every hour has health benefits.

There are easy ways to weave a few minutes of activity into each hour and break up time spent sitting. Here are a few ideas to try, but think creatively and add a few of your own.

* Stand while talking on the phone.

* Park further from your workplace or the grocery store.

* Take a three-minute movement break every hour. Need a reminder? Set a timer on your computer or clock.

* Stand a few minutes an hour. Swing your arms and stretch.

* Deliver messages in person, rather than by email.

* Keep a resistance band nearby and use it to exercise.

* Use a standing desk for part of the day.

* Trade your office chair for a fitness ball.

* Use the restroom on another floor and take the stairs.

* Watching TV? Get up and move during every commercial.

To increase muscle strength, free weights and body weight exercises are easy to do. Free weights or dumbbells are classic tools to strengthen the upper body. Start with 2-, 3-, or 5-pound weights and gradually increase. Or, make weights using items you have at home. Milk jugs filled with water or sand will work. Secure the tops with duct tape and weigh the jug on a household scale. Adjust the weight as your fitness level changes. Canned food products can serve as hand weights, so pull something the appropriate weight from your cupboard.

Body weight exercises require little or no equipment since they use your body weight for resistance. Try push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.

You can achieve better balance by strengthening abdominal muscles, also called "core" muscles. Engage core muscles by incorporating an unstable surface into activities.

Start with something simple, such as balancing on one foot, then the other, while brushing your teeth. Adjusting to an unstable surface forces you to use abdominal muscles. Another simple exercise uses a stability ball. Sit on the ball and raise your right arm and left knee; hold for 12 seconds. Do the same with your left arm and right knee.

Video demonstrations of strengthening options can be seen at www.walkkansas.org.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at 620-223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

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Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.