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May 5, 2017 • Sticky Post

Exercise: A Healthy Habit

How much exercise do I need?

Talk to your family doctor about how much exercise is right for you. A good goal for many people is to work up to exercising 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. If 30 to 60 minutes at a time sounds difficult to fit into a busy schedule, you can split up your physical activity into smaller chunks of time. Try exercising for 10 minutes at a time throughout your day. Remember: exercise has so many health benefits that any amount is better than none.

How do I get started?

First, talk to your family doctor. This is especially important if you haven’t been active, if you have any health problems, if you’re pregnant, or if you’re an older adult.

Start out slowly and work up to your goal. Begin with a 5- to 10-minute period of light exercise or a brisk walk. Gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your activity.

How can I stick with an exercise program?

The following are some tips that will help you stick with an exercise program:

  • Choose an activity you like to do. Make sure it suits you physically, too. For example, if you have arthritic joints, swimming might be a good option.
  • Get a partner. Exercising with a friend or relative can make it more fun. An exercise partner can offer support and encouragement. Also, you will be less likely to skip a day of exercise if someone else is counting on you.
  • Vary your routine. You are less likely to get bored or injured if you have some variety in your exercise routine. Walk one day. Ride your bicycle the next. Consider activities like dancing and racquet sports, and even chores like vacuuming or mowing the lawn.
  • Choose a comfortable time of day. Don’t work out too soon after eating or when it’s very hot or cold outside. If you’re too stiff to exercise in the morning, wait until later in the day.
  • Don’t get discouraged. It can take weeks or months before you notice some of the benefits of exercise, such as weight loss.
  • Forget “no pain, no gain.” While a little soreness is normal after you first start exercising, pain isn’t. Take a break if you are in pain or if you are injured.
  • Make exercise fun. Read, listen to music, or watch TV while you ride a stationary bicycle, for example. Find fun activities, like taking a walk through the zoo. Go dancing. Learn how to play a sport you enjoy.

How can I prevent injuries?

To avoid injuring yourself during exercise, don’t try to do too much too soon. Start with an activity that is fairly easy for you, such as walking. Do it for a few minutes a day, several times a day. Slowly increase the amount of time and the intensity of the activity. For example, increase your walking time and speed over several weeks.

Start every workout with a warm-up. This will make your muscles and joints more flexible. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some light stretching exercises and brisk walking. Do the same thing when you’re done exercising until your heart rate returns to normal.

Pay attention to your body. Stop exercising if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, faint, or nauseous, or if you feel pain. Talk with your family doctor if you have questions or think you have injured yourself seriously.

What is a target heart rate?

Measuring your heart rate (beats per minute) can tell you how hard your heart is working during an activity. You can check your heart rate by lightly pressing the tips of your first 2 fingers on the inside of your wrist to take your pulse. Count your pulse for 15 seconds, and multiply the number of beats by 4. To time the 15 seconds, use the timer function on your smartphone or a watch or clock with a second hand.

Most people will get the greatest benefit and lower their risks if they keep their heart rate between 50% and 85% of their maximum heart rate when exercising. To figure out your maximum heart rate, subtract your age (in years) from 220. This number is your maximum heart rate. To figure out your target heart rate range, multiply that number by 0.50 and 0.85.

For example, if you are 40 years of age, subtract 40 from 220 to get your maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute (220 – 40 = 180). Then, multiply 180 by 0.50 and 0.85 to get your target heart rate range of 90 to 153 beats per minute (180 x 0.50 = 90 and 180 x 0.85 = 153).When you first start an exercise program, aim for the lower end of your target heart rate range. As your exercise program progresses, you can gradually build up to a higher target heart rate.

If you are taking medicine to treat high blood pressure or you have a heart condition, talk to your family doctor to find out what your target heart rate should be.

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise is the type that moves large muscle groups. It causes you to breathe more deeply and makes your heart work harder to pump blood. It is also called “cardio exercise.” It improves the health of your heart and lungs.

Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, hiking, running, aerobic dance, biking, rowing, swimming, and cross-country skiing.

What is weight-bearing exercise?

The term “weight-bearing” is used to describe exercises that work against the force of gravity. Weight-bearing exercise is important for building strong bones. Having strong bones helps prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.

Examples of weight-bearing exercise include walking, yoga, hiking, climbing stairs, playing tennis, dancing, and strength training.

What is strength training?

Strength training builds strength and muscles. It is also called “weight training.” Lifting weights is a strength-training exercise. Exercise machines can provide strength training. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and leg squats are also strength-training exercises. If you have high blood pressure or other health problems, talk to your family doctor before beginning strength training.

What is the best type of exercise?

The best type of exercise is one that you will do on a regular basis. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it’s easy, safe, and inexpensive. Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but it is less likely to cause injuries than running or jogging. Walking doesn’t require training or special equipment, except for appropriate shoes. In addition, walking is an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, so it is good for your heart and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Sneak exercise into your day

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Go for a walk during your coffee break or lunch.
  • Walk part or all of the way to work.
  • Do housework at a brisk pace.
  • Work in your yard or garden.

Make exercise a habit

  • Ask your doctor to write a “prescription” for your exercise program that describes what type of exercise to do, how often to exercise, and for how long.
  • Stick to a regular time every day.
  • Sign a contract committing yourself to exercise.
  • Put “exercise appointments” on your calendar.
  • Keep a daily log or diary of your exercise activities.
  • Check your progress. Can you walk a certain distance faster now? Are you at your target heart rate?
  • Think about joining a health club or community center. The cost might give you an incentive to exercise on a regular basis.

Benefits of regular exercise

  • Reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity
  • Keeps joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible, which makes it easier to move around
  • Reduces some effects of aging, especially the discomfort of osteoarthritis
  • Contributes to mental well-being
  • Helps relieve depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Increases your energy and endurance
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Helps you maintain a normal weight by increasing your metabolism (the rate you burn calories)

Last Updated: December 2014

This article was contributed by: familydoctor.org editorial staff

Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


May 5, 2017 • Sticky Post

Health Guides: Health is a State of Mind and Body

Benefits of Investing in You

Take charge of your life and feel good about the choices you make.

Gain energy and feel more fit.

Experience improved physical health.

Gain a positive outlook and find more enjoyment in your life.

Be a role model for your family and friends.

Keep in mind that any lifestyle change is a “work in progress” and lasting changes take time

Set small goals that are easy to add to your daily life and that YOU can take charge of.

Wellness and fitness involve being aware and making choices like being active, eating healthy and improving your emotional well being. This is the most important investment you can make in your life. Strive for the best health you can have in all areas of your life by making mindful, healthy choices.

Don’t Let Stress Get You Down

We all feel stressed at times. How you react to stress will determine its effect on you. Take steps to prevent stress when you can and manage it when you can’t.

Taking Care of You

It is important to be mindful of the choices you make for your personal health and well being. Nothing is more important than taking care of yourself. Set aside time every day for YOU—be active, enjoy hobbies and share time with your family and friends.

  • Strive for balance in both your personal and work life.
  • Make time for important relationships in your life.
  • Ask for help whenever you need support from others.
  • Find ways to relieve stress, like physical activity and relaxation techniques.
  • Be open-minded to try something new, like a hobby or activity.
  • Talk to your family doctor, who can provide resources and advice when you need it.

Family Matters

  • Parents are the most important role models. As parents, you set examples by being active, eating healthy and living a balanced lifestyle.
  • Commit to making healthy choices and involve your kids. Ask them what your family can do to make healthy changes in your lives.
  • Playtime for all ages is part of a healthy life. Take time out to have fun and connect with each other.
  • Have a positive attitude. Show your kids how great it feels to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Ways to Make It A Family Matter

Smart, Healthy Meals

  • Make an effort to have more home-cooked meals. This can help encourage healthy eating and also promote more family time.
  • Let your kids help plan what to eat. Kids love to help make meals and snacks.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand to help kids make good choices. Have more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and fewer chips and sweets.
  • Teach kids to eat when they’re hungry, not when they’re bored, sad or angry. Respect their ability to know when they feel full.
  • Breakfast helps jump start the day. It provides fuel for an active lifestyle and gives you and your child the energy to think faster and more clearly.
  • Play “Put the Fork Down” at meals. Put your forks down between bites and take turns sharing your day.

Family Playtime

  • Limit screen time (TV, computer and video games). Suggest other options like reading, board games and playing outside.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Go to the park, ride bikes, swim or enjoy a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Encourage participation in sports as a way to build coordination, skills and confidence.

Be Your Own Expert

A Real Approach to Eating

  • Balance – Balance what you eat to meet your need for nutrition and enjoyment.
  • Variety – Enjoy all kinds of foods while keeping the key food groups in mind (like fruits & vegetables, lean sources of protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains).
  • Moderation – Focus on feeling comfortable instead of being too full after you eat. Use moderation when choosing less nutritious foods.

Think about…using a food & activity journal to help you understand your eating patterns and find ways to make some simple, healthy changes. Ask your family doctor about how to get started.

People sometimes turn to popular diets to achieve quick weight loss. However, for lasting changes, there are some simple keys to eating healthy.

It is helpful to learn more about eating healthy to give your body what it needs. Visit the USDA’s web site: http://www.mypyramid.gov

All Foods Fit…

Diets usually tell you WHAT you should or should not eat. Instead, focus on understanding WHY you eat in the first place.

  • Questions to ask when you feel like eating: Are you really hungry? Are you reacting to a mood (stress, boredom, anger)? Is there something else causing your urge to eat?
  • Rather than trying to follow “the rules” of a diet, BE IN CHARGE of making the best choices for you.
  • No foods are off limits. Instead of looking at foods as good or bad, take a non-diet approach and remember that all foods fit when you use the keys of balance, variety and moderation.
  • Talk to your family doctor to help make the best choices and create an approach that works for you.

Am I Hungry?

Hunger signals your body when it needs to be nourished. Let hunger guide when you need to eat and how much to eat.

True Hunger Signals

  • Hunger pangs, gnawing, growling or rumbling in your stomach
  • Weakness or loss of energy
  • Slight headache or trouble concentrating
  • Irritability or crankiness

False Hunger Signals

  • Thirst may cause you to think you are hungry—try drinking a glass of water
  • Cravings or urges don’t always mean you are hungry
  • Emotions like anger, sadness or feeling lonely may trigger an urge to eat
  • External cues like mealtimes or social events may create an urge to eat

Let Your Instincts Be Your Guide

  • Relearn to listen to your hunger signals so you can determine when to eat and how much food is right for you.
  • Make mindful decisions about eating by paying attention to how you feel.
  • Don’t use diet “rules” to restrict what, when and how much you eat. Instead, learn to trust your body to tell you when it needs food.

I Am Hungry, So What Now?

When you are hungry and decide to eat, think about these simple questions:

  • What do I want? When you are hungry something may come to mind—a certain food, flavor or texture. As you listen to your true hunger signals, you may realize what type of food or taste will satisfy you.
  • What do I need? As you decide what to eat, think about what your body may need. Think of food that may be both healthy and enjoyable—instead of what is “good” or “bad.” Keep in mind balance, variety and moderation.
  • What do I have? Plan ahead to have a variety of foods available as you learn to let hunger guide your choices. This way you can enjoy foods that are both satisfying and healthy.
  • How much do I need? Eat enough to satisfy your hunger and stop eating before you feel too full. There is no need to clean your plate. The goal is to feel energetic and comfortable after eating.

Find Joy in Being Active

Move every day. Being active is key to a healthy lifestyle and preventing chronic problems like heart disease and diabetes. Before you increase your activity level, be sure to talk to your family doctor.

Watch energy balance. Your weight is determined by the balance between the energy you take in (what you eat and drink) and the energy you use (physical activity).

Every step counts. Studies have shown that every step you take helps you manage your weight and improve your overall health. You may want to track your steps with a step counter (pedometer) to encourage you to increase your daily activity. The more steps per day, the better.

Stay Positive and Motivated

Change is never easy. But with a little planning, patience and a positive attitude, your lifestyle can become a little healthier every day.

Some ideas:

  • Choose to do something you enjoy. Many people prefer walking—you can walk outdoors, at home on a treadmill, alone, or with friends and family.
  • Make it fun. Listen to music or books on tape while you walk or jog. Watch TV or a video while you exercise.
  • Keep it interesting. Try different activities like tennis, swimming, dancing, biking, team sports or yoga.
  • Write it down. Schedule time to be active just as you would for any other important appointment.
  • Give yourself credit. Set short-term goals and plan rewards for yourself all along the way.
  • Be flexible. Life will sometimes get in the way of your plans. Stay flexible and get back on track right away.

How to be More Active Every Day

At home

  • Plant a garden
  • Wash your car
  • Walk to the mailbox
  • Visit a neighbor
  • Turn off the TV, turn on some music and dance

At work

  • Walk or bike to work
  • Do stretches at your desk
  • Take the stairs
  • Use lunch time to take a walk
  • Get up and move around often

At play

  • Play golf or shoot hoops with your kids
  • Take “active” vacations
  • Go hiking or bike riding
  • Talk a walk alone or with a friend

Enjoying Special Events

Special events like trips and parties can be a challenge for people trying to be active and eat healthy.

  • Think of special occasions as a chance to practice your new skills.
  • Choose foods that will both satisfy your hunger and fuel your body.
  • Remember balance, variety and moderation.
  • Eat when you are hungry and stop before you feel too full.
  • Continue to be active whenever you can. For example, go dancing or take a walk after dinner.
  • Take time out to enjoy yourself and have fun.

Tips to Stay on Track

When You Travel for Work or Pleasure

  • Pack a lunch or bring healthy snacks in the car or on the plane so you can stay in charge of what you eat.
  • Be mindful of your food choices as you enjoy eating out and trying new foods.
  • Wear your pedometer to encourage yourself to stay active.
  • Take advantage of the hotel’s fitness room or pool when they are available. Don’t forget to take the stairs.
  • Ask about walking routes, walking tours and nearby hiking trails and parks.

Special Events (Parties, Holidays)

  • It’s ok to change your routine to make room for special events and new experiences. Just keep energy balance in mind.
  • Remember the reason for the occasion—slow down and savor the atmosphere, the company and the food for optimal enjoyment.
  • Pay attention to your hunger signals. Eat in moderation— there is no need to ruin a great meal by feeling stuffed afterward.
  • Get up and dance, walk around to meet new people and talk to your friends and family.


Adapted with permission from “Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work.” Michelle May, M.D., with Lisa Galper, Psy.D., and Janet Carr, M.S., R.D. Nourish Publishing. Copyright 2005 Michelle May, M.D.

Last Updated: October 2016

This article was contributed by: familydoctor.org editorial staff

Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

May 5, 2017 • Sticky Post

Nourish Your Brain

What is cognitive decline?

Cognitive decline is when your brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. For example, a person who is experiencing cognitive decline may have trouble learning, using language, or remembering things.

Some cognitive decline is a normal part of growing older. Cognitive decline that happens quickly or that affects day-to-day activities is called dementia. A head injury, a stroke, or disease (for example, Alzheimer’s disease) can damage brain cells and lead to dementia.

Can I prevent cognitive decline?

As your body gets older, so does your brain. You can’t stop normal cognitive decline, just as you can’t stop other parts of normal aging. However, you can maintain your body and brain health by making healthy choices about your lifestyle, diet, and exercise. Healthy choices can also help prevent disease.

Is there such a thing as a “brain-healthy” diet?

Although there isn’t one specific diet that is best for brain health, eating a healthy diet is important for your overall health. Choosing foods that nourish your body and brain can help prevent or delay health problems, including conditions that increase your risks for dementia.

What else can I do to maintain my brain health?

You can stay active physically, socially, and mentally. Physical activity helps prevent disease and maintain blood flow to the brain. If you don’t already exercise, try to work up to 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 times a week. Moderate activities include anything that gets your heart rate up. Walking, hiking, bicycling, and swimming are all good options. Choose something you enjoy doing like.

Any activity you do with other people helps to stimulate your brain. A social activity can be as simple as having lunch with a friend or walking around the block with a neighbor. Volunteer opportunities in your community or church are good ways to be social. Another option is finding a club or social group that focuses on a sport, hobby, or topic you enjoy.

To keep your brain cells strong and active, it’s important to stay mentally active. Challenge yourself to learn something new. Read to stay informed and for fun. Enroll in a class at a local community college or adult education center. Or, challenge yourself in a different way by playing games, completing puzzles, or trying memory exercises.

This content was developed with general underwriting support from Nature Made®.

Tips to nourish your body and brain

Foods that are high in saturated fats (for example, red meat) can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Over time, high cholesterol can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. When you eat red meat, reduce your portion size. Choose poultry and fish more often.

You can also avoid unhealthy fats by using olive oil or canola oil when you are sautéing foods. Bake, broil, or roast your foods instead of frying it.


  • Alzheimer’s Association. http://www.alz.org/brain-health/brain_health_overview.asp.
  • This article was contributed by: familydoctor.org

Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.