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8 Surprising Perks You Get from Exercise

We all know it’s good for you, but here are eight more compelling reasons to move your body on a regular basis.

Even if you’ve never experienced the elusive runner’s high, you probably know exercise can make you happier. Scientific research has shown there are countless connections between mind and body; to simplify a complicated process: exercise boosts dopamine and other chemicals in the brain that make us feel happier. What’s more, many kinds of exercise can put us in a wonderful “flow” state, which is one of the hallmarks of well-being, according to positive psychology.Beyond happy chemicals, though, here are eight more surprising ways exercise makes us happier.

1. Leads to achievements

When we have a goal, we become more engaged with life and excited about the future. Whether it’s jogging your first mile without stopping or exercising three times a week, having a goal initially sparks enthusiasm, and then making progress toward that goal really fuels our commitment and makes us feel good. It may even motivate us to plan and accomplish other goals!

2. Creates “me” time

Picture your exercise time as a mini-retreat for some healthy “me” time. We often think of “me” time as sitting by a fire with a cup of tea or reading a book, but a good sweat session can help you let go of stress, increase your energy and think with clarity. Even on those days when you aren’t in the mood to move, you will always feel better after you exercise, because when you feel fully charged, it’s much easier to be happy.

3. Retains your quality of life as you age

Staying in good cardiovascular shape and using your muscles can help prevent injuries and illness as you age. It also can help you with everyday movements (functional fitness) that involve lifting, carrying, bending and stretching as you get older. Retaining your quality of life is an essential ingredient to your future happiness.

4. Pushes you beyond your normal limits

Whether it’s going to a spin class, signing up for your first 5K or doing yoga for the first time, exercise is an opportunity to challenges yourself—to do something that scares you simply for the sense of exhilaration you’ll feel. When you do something outside your comfort zone, you may just surprise yourself with your abilities and gain an incredible sense of satisfaction and pride.

5. Leads to social connections

Gym memberships, group fitness classes, races, and running groups are all opportunities to connect with others, which is big when it comes to happiness. Be a part of a healthy group of friends and watch your mood soar.

6. Inspires those around you

Let your actions speak for you. Lace up your sneakers, go to the gym or take a long bike ride. Your children will notice. Show your kids that physical activity is something you value and they will value it as well. Plus, you never know who else you might be inspiring, such as a parent or coworker.

7. Builds up your self-confidence

Doing what you set out to do and sticking with it is the fastest way to invest in your self-confidence. Savor the amazing feeling of making exercise a habit, getting stronger or enjoying clothes again. As your muscles grow stronger, so will your self-esteem.

8. Brings out the kid in you

Remember the days of running around outside for hours and coming in smelling of fresh air? Tap into that childhood freedom by finding an exercise that feels more like play, whether it’s a game of pick-up basketball or a joyful Zumba class. Added perk? You will sleep like a baby.

Source: LiveHappy.com

Love Your Family with These Heart Health Tips

February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving the Tri-State’s health, the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana offers the following tips to help families be heart healthy.

  1. Get Physical: Being physically active every day is fun and can improve the function of your heart. Plan and schedule opportunities for active play; for example, include a brisk 10-minute trip around the block after meals or a 10-minute walking break during the day. If your family enjoys active video games, select versions that require moving the body’s large muscle groups while playing.
  2. Take a Snooze: Lack of sleep can be associated with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults need at least seven, but no more than nine hours of sleep at night to aid with the prevention of heart disease. Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Develop bedtime routines for the whole family to assist with falling asleep faster and staying asleep.
  3. Shape Up Those Recipes: Makeover your family’s favorite recipes by reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat and substituting a lower fat food without sacrificing tastes. For example, use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream and skip the seasoning packet and use pepper and olive oil instead. Read food labels to learn more about what is in the package, select foods that have less than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving.
  4. Feeling the Pressure: Per the American Heart Association lowering or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Nearly 1 in 3 adults (about 80 million people) has high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control. Start self-monitoring your blood pressure and know the numbers. Discuss the results with you doctor if needed.
  5. Play Together: Spending time together as a family is a great way to reduce stress, which is important to heart health. Make homemade valentines for your children’s classmates or build a snow fort together in the yard or the park.

10 Survival Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

The air is getting crisp and the leaves are changing colors in the Midwest, and that means holiday season is here! With all of the traditional holiday meals, treats, and parties this time of year, the holiday eating season can wreak havoc on our health. Avoid holiday weight gain with these savvy strategies for healthy holiday eating:

  • Plan Ahead – Visualize what you will do at the event or party before you arrive and focus more on good conversation instead of eating.
  • Don’t Starve Yourself – Eat a healthy snack or meal before an occasion involving food to help curb hunger so that you don’t binge on less healthy options.
  • Bring Your Own – Offer to bring an appetizer or healthy dish to serve so that you know there is something “safe” you can enjoy without the guilt.
  • Buddy Up – Make a goal with a friend so that you’re accountable to someone other than yourself!
  • Exercise – Sign up for a 5K, a fitness walk, or other fitness event to keep you motivated on exercise and to keep your body moving.
  • Limit Leftovers – Make your home a safe haven and send your guests home with the unhealthier leftovers to help limit temptations after entertaining.
  • Make Smart Substitutions – Practice healthier versions of your favorite dishes by cutting the sugar in recipes or replacing unhealthy vegetable oils and refined flours with healthier alternatives.
  • Choose Beverages Wisely – Limit alcohol, which is high in calories and is often combined with added sugar in the forms of fruit punch, juice, and egg nog.
  • Maintain Perspective – A single day of unhealthy choices doesn’t need to be a slippery slope of holiday overindulgence. If you overindulge, put it behind you and make better choices the next day.
  • Celebrate the True Meaning of Each Holiday – Focus more on friends and family, and celebrating the true spirit of this season than on the foods that are served.

Stress: Understanding the Cause Minimizing the Effects

Tense shoulders, lingering headaches, sheer exhaustion, comfort food cravings…every one of us has feelings of stress occasionally. For many, these are some of the most common symptoms. But as bad as these may be, the effect that long-term stress can have on our health goes far deeper. In fact, according to a recent study by researchers at Harvard Business School and Stanford University, workplace stress is as bad for your health as secondhand smoke!

EFFECTS ON THE BODY

When we’re stressed, our muscles tend to tense up, which is how we often feel it first in our shoulders and neck. It’s also why tension-related headaches and migraines are common.

Our brains also signal the nervous system to start producing epinephrine and cortisol. When these hormones are released, the liver produces more glucose – a blood sugar that provides the energy needed to react in a true emergency. But when stress is long-term, our bodies don’t use all that extra energy so the glucose gets stored in the liver and skeletal muscles as glycogen. When our glycogen stores are at capacity, all that leftover glucose ends up stored as fat in the body. This is part of the reason why it’s common to gain weight when we’re stressed for long periods of time.

As if that weren’t enough, long-term stress can also mean long-term damage to your heart. Momentary stress triggers an increased heart rate as part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response – a crucial function when our reaction is needed for survival. but when you body is stressed continuously for a long period, a faster heart rate and elevated levels of stress hormones can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.

FACTORS THAT HELP MANAGE STRESS

We all experience varying levels of potential stressors. Your ability to tolerate each one without long-term stress depends on many factors including:

  • Your Support Network: A strong network of supportive friends and family can be an enormous buffer. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
  • Your Sense of Control: It may be easier to take stress in strife if you have confidences in your ability to influence events and perserveres through challenges. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.
  • Your Attitude & Outlook: optimistic people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, and accept that change is part of life.
  • Your Ability to Deal with Emotions: You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by a situation. The ability to bring emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity.
  • Your Knowledge & Preparation: The more you know about a stressful situations, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you are expecting to bounce back immediately.

LEARNING HOW TO MANAGE STRESS

Unfortunately, some of the common ways people deal with stress can only compound the long-term damage. Healthy stress management involves either changing the stressful situation when you can, or changing your reaction when you can’t.

Healthy ways to manage your stress:

  • Get moving
  • Engage socially
  • Set aside relaxation time
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of sleep

 

Understanding what is actually causing your stress can also be a huge step towards managing it. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, said, “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ and wanting to be ‘there’.”

Take a minute for that to sink in. A lot of the stress that many of us regularly face can be tied to the desire for something that we don’t currently have; more money, better job, improved relationship, the pressure for perfection, more time, etc.

The answer isn’t necessarily to stop striving for things that are important to you, but rather to take regular pauses throughout the day to appreciate the right here, right now. What parts of your life are you grateful for right now?  How are you lucky or blessed?

STRESS QUIZ

How well do you handle the stress in your life?

  1. I have people I confide in when I’m feeling under pressure who make me feel better.
  2. I feel comfortable expressing how I feel when something is bothering me.
  3. in general, I feel in control of my life & confident in my ability to handle what comes my way.
  4. I find reasons to laugh & feel grateful, even when going through difficulties.
  5. No matter how busy I am, I make it a priority to sleep, exercise, and eat right.
  6. I’m able to calm myself down when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Each “yes” answer represents an important stress coping skill. Each “no” represents an area to work on to become more resilient.

Solving Childhood Obesity Is a Family Affair

Y USA 2011-1180_hrSeptember is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their children’s habits with the ultimate goal of improving health. That’s why the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana — a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health—wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in children and adolescents over the past 30 years. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for a number of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers.  Here in Indiana, over 13% of all children are considered overweight or obese, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity into your daily family routine:

  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice (supplemented by age-appropriate servings of low-fat milk) and make it easy for everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. Feel free to mix and match fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables to provide variety. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water.
  • Play Every Day/Go Outside: Kids should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, keep a chart, go for a walk after a meal).
  • Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; go to bed and rise from bed within 1 hour of the same time every day. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

What Healthier Kids Do Differently

The YMCA embraces a holistic approach to positive youth development. Our staff are professional role models who nurture the potential of each child on their unique journeys from birth to career. But the Y cannot do this work alone. Families and caretakers play a critical role in the development of youth.MemberEnews_Aug16_Family

As we head into the school year, the Y encourages families to adopt new health habits to help children and teens achieve success in all aspects of their lives. Here are three simple ways to get started:

  1. Be A Positive Role Model: Encourage health habits in your home with friendly competition and family challenges. Come up with your own challenges such as keeping track of who drinks more water, walks the most steps, or reads books more often.
  2. Reduce Screen Time: Children younger than 2 should have no exposure to TV, cell phones, or other digital devices. For children old than 2, the recommended screentime is less than one hour per day. Replace screentime with creative projects or at-home STEM activities.
  3. Encourage Choosing Water: When it comes to beverages, make water the primary option for yourself and your children. Unflavored low-fat or nonfat milk are also healthy choices. Limiting unhealthy beverage choices increases the likelihood that children will choose these options and develop healthier thirst-quenching habits.
DID YOU KNOW? By the time children turn 10, every extra hour of screentime they absorbed as toddlers translates into lower academic performance, reduced physical activity, and victimization by middle school peers.

Helping Men Make Health a Priority

Web-Men-Working-OutFather’s Day provide an opportunity to honor the important men in our lives. One way we can do this is by supporting their efforts to make their health a priority.

Celebrate National Men’s Health Week, June 13-19, by encouraging father, grandfathers, or other male role models to take a step each day to improve their health. Share these seven suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and PRvention:

  1. Sleep – Getting less than seven to nine hours of sleep a night can contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
  2. Quit Smoking – Doing so improves your health immediately and lowers your risk for cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
  3. Move – Adults need 2-1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week in addition to muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week that target all major muscle groups.
  4. Healthy Eating – For nutritious meals that stay within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods – including fruits, vegetables, and fish – in recommended serving sizes.
  5. Limit Stress – Avoid using drugs and alcohol to combat stress. instead, stay active and socially connected.
  6. Get Checkups – Doctor visits help identify diseases that may not show clear symptoms. Chest pain, shortness of breath or excessive thirst should be checked out right away.
  7. Track Numbers – Keep track of results for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, body mass index and other tests. If your numbers are out of the acceptable range, your health care provider can suggest ways to get them back to normal.

As a member of the Y, you are part of a diverse organization of men, women, and children joined together by a shared commitment to strengthening our community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Three Ways Dad Influence a Child’s Development

Web-Dad-and-DaughtersThere are an estimated 70.1 million fathers across the U.S. As we prepare to celebrate dads, it is also a key moment for understanding the lasting and powerful influence a father has in the life of his child. Here are three critical ways dads impact youth development:

  • SOCIAL-EMOTIONALLY: Children with more involved fathers experience fewer behavioral problems and score higher on reading and achievement.*
  • COGNITIVELY: A father’s involvement in his child’s school is associated with higher likelihood of that child getting mostly A’s.*
  • PHYSICALLY: The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.

 

Yet, not all children have the loving nurturing support of a father. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live without their biological fathers at home.

At the YMCA, we recognize that a young person’s development journey is negatively impacted when they do not receive the proper holistic support needed to reach their full potential. Through our youth development programs, we partner with families to ensure all children and teens have an opportunity to develop new skills, build strong friendships, and find their sense of belonging.

By supporting the socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of all youth, we support their success in school and life.

*Source: Fatherhood.org

Three Ways Dad Influence a Child's Development

Web-Dad-and-DaughtersThere are an estimated 70.1 million fathers across the U.S. As we prepare to celebrate dads, it is also a key moment for understanding the lasting and powerful influence a father has in the life of his child. Here are three critical ways dads impact youth development:

  • SOCIAL-EMOTIONALLY: Children with more involved fathers experience fewer behavioral problems and score higher on reading and achievement.*
  • COGNITIVELY: A father’s involvement in his child’s school is associated with higher likelihood of that child getting mostly A’s.*
  • PHYSICALLY: The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.

 

Yet, not all children have the loving nurturing support of a father. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live without their biological fathers at home.

At the YMCA, we recognize that a young person’s development journey is negatively impacted when they do not receive the proper holistic support needed to reach their full potential. Through our youth development programs, we partner with families to ensure all children and teens have an opportunity to develop new skills, build strong friendships, and find their sense of belonging.

By supporting the socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of all youth, we support their success in school and life.

*Source: Fatherhood.org

Conquer Your Fear

Les Bryan Swimming at the YMCALes Bryan was 10-years old when he discovered his fear of water.  He didn’t really tell anyone and pushed his fears deep inside and avoided going near water.  Later in life, he realized that his fear of the water was hindering aspects of his life so he finally got the courage to take swimming lessons as an adult at the Dunigan YMCA.

When he first came to the Y, he was petrified. He was stiff and didn’t know how to move in the water.  After many prayers and time, a quiet confidence in the water started to emerge.  When Les would accomplish a goal, the pride he had was obvious. Soon, he began to swim well enough to learn a new stroke. After about 20 lessons, he had gone from terrified to accomplished swimmer. This was solidified when another swimmer took notice by asking, “How long will it take me to get that good?”  We had the swimmer repeat his question to Les himself, and the look on this face was priceless because Les too finally realized how far he had come.

When it comes to fear, it’s wonderful to see someone rise above what has kept them in a dark, negative mindset for so long. Les’ determination and drive allowed him to overcome many fears that were hidden for 40 years.  We are so privileged to see an adult transform into someone who is confident and strong, and we are so thankful we could be a part of Les’ journey.

It’s never too late to learn something new, achieve a goal, or conquer a fear!