Fitness Tips For Halfway Through the Year – Have You Met Your Healthy Living Goals?

It’s hard to believe that July is here already – wasn’t it just New Year’s? Many of us set some goals for better fitness/ health back in January. How are you coming with those? Have you fallen off the track? Here are my suggestions for taking advantage of summer weather while keeping up with your goals for a healthier you.

Walking is an exercise that just about everyone can do and it’s one of the best ways to prevent a whole range of diseases that can attack your body when it’s inactive. Whether you live at home or in Assisted Living, there are many opportunities to walk during the nice weather. You can get together with a few friends and walk to a local coffee shop, reward yourselves with a nice cup of green tea or some lemonade, then walk back, or if it’s too long a distance you can always take a cab or a bus back. And, if you’re going to walk, you may as well get the most benefit from your effort:

1. Breathe deeply when you walk. The combination of deep, full breaths and exercise will send fresh, oxygenated blood throughout your body making all the organs, glands and muscles healthier and happier. You will find it easier to walk with deep full breaths – inhale to the count of 5 or 6 and exhale to the count of 6 or 7. Many of us huff and puff when we walk and this shallow form of breathing gives our bodies less oxygen which then makes our muscles stiff and our organs have to work harder. Begin paying attention to your breathing and you’ll see a difference in how good you feel.

2. Another tip that makes walking easier is to take a minute before you start and raise your shoulders up toward your ears, then push them back and feel your chest expand as you inhale. Now relax your shoulders, but try to keep them back and relaxed with your chest expanded. This should make it easier to breathe deeply and at the same time it will allow your arms to swing freely at your sides. Take a few deep breaths with your shoulders back before you begin and then concentrate on your breathing while you walk. You’ll be surprised how much farther you’ll be able to walk this way.

3. Walking is an exercise that can tighten your Piriformis and hamstring muscles so I always recommend stretching before and after you walk. Sit on the floor or on your bed if it’s difficult for you to sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Some people find it easier to sit on a folded blanket on the floor. Sit tall, inhale and gently bring your left knee up toward your chest. Then rest it down toward the floor. If it doesn’t reach the floor, rest it on a pillow or blanket. Then inhale again, face your right leg and stretch your body down over the leg. Go only as far as you can comfortably go. You should feel the stretch, but not strain. Breathe deeply for 1 – 2 minutes and then release that knee and repeat on the other side.

You have heard me say this before, but I’m a fervent believer that laughter truly is the best medicine. Let’s get out and enjoy the many lovely parks, beaches and recreation areas in Massachusetts with our families and friends. Bring everyone together to walk, bike or drive until you find that perfect park bench or your favorite picnicking beach. Then you can read a funny story together, or each one can tell their favorite joke and everyone vote on which is the funniest, or bring a small boom box and listen to Bill Cosby, Robin Williams or anyone that you find particularly humorous.

Laughter is a gentle form of exercise. It enhances your core body work-out, and clears your breathing passages. It’s an exercise for your lungs. This is really important for people who don’t get regular aerobic exercise. When we laugh our bodies release endorphins (feel good hormones). These hormones can reduce stress, blood pressure, boost immunity and lift depression. Laughing just 10 minutes a day can decrease your risk of heart disease by 10%.

Endorphins are also released when you are enjoying time with family and friends, or when we have feelings of gratitude for the many gifts in our lives. Even spending time with a pet can release those endorphins. Aren’t we lucky to have so many ways to make ourselves healthier that are easy, fun, and don’t cost a penny?

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