Calling All Kids: Get Outside and Get Active

by Jamie Hoover, YMCA Healthy Living Director

It is summertime in Wisconsin again! School is out and the weather that we dream about throughout the depths of winter is finally upon us. As a health and fitness professional as well as a lifelong Wisconsin resident, I am telling you now, create an environment for the kids to get outside and get active!

Kids ages six and older should be active for 60 minutes or more each day. Current trends show that kids ages eight to eighteen get an average of seven hours of screen time each day, which includes television, computer, smartphone, and video game usage.

The benefits of activity and exercise for children are vast and far reaching. A healthy diet, physical activity, and active play are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle for children as their bodies and brains are rapidly developing. Conversely, children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be obese as adults, which can raise the risk for health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and cancer just to name a few.1,2

An often overlooked benefit of physical activity for children is the impact it has on their mental health. Physical activity has been shown to stimulate brain growth and boost cognitive performance. Studies indicate that fit children tend to have greater brain volume in the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory,3 and that more active children have faster reaction times and accuracy,4 as well as showing more extensive information processing during tasks.5 In other words, results suggest that aerobic exercise can enhance focus and improve cognitive flexibility. Physical activity has also been correlated with both short- and long-term benefits in the classroom. A study, with replicated results, linked aerobic activity with improved math skills and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with executive function.6

There are also many physical benefits aside from risk prevention, and perhaps some much needed personal time for caretakers and chaperones. Examples of physical benefits include:

  • Maintains blood sugar levels
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps grow strong muscles and bones
  • Improves sleep
  • Can boost self-esteem
  • Can help relieve stress
  • Enhances athletic performance

What does all of this mean? It means that physical activity is a must, and not only for children, but for adults as well. A key component to being active and staying active is to individualize it to each and every person and child. Being active doesn’t need to be a complex or expensive endeavor. Eau Claire has been named a top “Small Town to Live” by numerous publications and was also ranked number 4 in a poll of the 16 best places to live in the United States by Outside Magazine for many active reasons, including our running and biking trails, our beautiful terrain of woods and water, and our many great parks! The Y also offers many great options such as youth sports leagues, Athletic Enhancement Camp, and the Kids of Steel Triathlon!

Whatever your physical activity preference is, make the most of your summer by getting out, getting active, and enjoying our city!

 

Sources:
1. Freedman, D. S., et al. “The relation of childhood BMI to adult adiposity: The Bogalusa Heart Study.” Pediatrics, 115(1): 22–27, 2005.
2. The Writing Group for the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, et al. “Incidence of diabetes in youth in the United States.” JAMA, 297(24):2716–2724, 2007.
3. Chaddock-Heyman, L., Hillman, C. H., Cohen, N. J., and Kramer, A. F. “The importance of physical activity and aerobic fitness for cognitive control and memory in children.” Monogr Soc Res Child Cev, 79(4): 25–50, 2014.
4. Hillman, C. H ., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Castelli, D. M., Hall, E. E., and Kramer, A. F. “The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children.” Neuroscience, 159(3): 1044–54, 2009.
5. Hillman, C. H., Castelli, D. M., and Buck, S. M. “Aerobic fitness and neurocognitive function in healthy preadolescent children.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 27(11): 1967–1974, 2005.
6. Davis, C. L., Tomporowski, P. D., McDowell, J. E., Austin, B. P., Miller, P. H., Yanasak, N. E., Allison, J. D., and Naglieri, J. A. “Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial.” Health Psychology, 30(1): 91–8, 2011.

Massage during Pregnancy: Great for You and for Baby!

By Danielle Wagner, licensed massage therapist, Refined Touch Massage

Massage Benefits during Pregnancy

Are you expecting? Experiencing any aches and pains? Massage during pregnancy can help greatly with pain relief during a time when most medications should be limited. It also encourages relaxation and increased circulation, which can help with reduction of swelling. Massage therapy also assists hormone regulation, helping with depression and anxiety (including post-partum depression). Massage therapy during pregnancy helps to address the inflamed nerves that often lead to sciatic nerve pain and tension in the low back and legs from increased uterine pressure.

Massage Is Good for Baby Too

Receiving massage during your pregnancy doesn’t just benefit you. Babies can sense and respond to the mother’s level of stress. Massage is great at lowering your stress level, and lowering the stress level in the mother also helps keep baby stress free. Massage therapy is a great way to take time for you and also connect with baby. Many mothers love to have their stomachs massaged. This is referred to as “baby’s first massage” and can be done during a massage session after you’ve completed your first trimester.

Massage Helps Prepare You for Delivery

The benefits of massage continue through your delivery, as having regular massage during pregnancy has been associated with lower complications during childbirth. Massage during pregnancy helps to prepare the body for childbirth by increasing range of motion and elasticity in joints and muscles used for delivery.

Pregnancy Massage Precautions

A pregnancy massage is a little different than a regular massage. When you receive a pregnancy massage, the therapist uses cushions or pillows to support the pregnant body. We use side lying positions to make sure that you are completely supported. Tables that provide a hole for the abdomen can cause uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments and should be avoided.

There are a few precautions to take into consideration. If yours is a high-risk pregnancy, you have experienced pre-term contractions, bleeding, preeclampsia, are experiencing severe swelling, severe headaches, or have had previous pre-term labor and pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), you should speak to your doctor before receiving a massage.

It is safe to receive massage during the first, second, and third trimester of pregnancy. Please remember that excellent communication is a must for any therapeutic massage to be effective.

To schedule a massage, contact Danielle today at refinedtouchmassage@gmail.com

Who Says Parenting Is Easy?

By Melinda Gardner, Executive Director of APPLE PCC

Someone recently showed me a book that really made me laugh. It’s called Parenting Is Easy: You’re Probably Just Doing It Wrong. It’s a book of stock photos of “perfect parents” and some funny captions about how “easy” parenting is.

Well–if you’re a parent, you KNOW that’s not true! Having a baby changes everything. It’s one of the most amazing experiences anyone can have. It can also be very overwhelming. We all need help and support and encouragement in raising our children.

The APPLE Pregnancy Care Center has been helping pregnant women and parents in the Chippewa Valley for over thirty-six years. We know that pregnancy can be an emotional time, and we all need support.

That is where our “Earn While You Learn” program comes in. We have an extensive curriculum to offer parents (women AND men) who want to learn about everything from pregnancy, nutrition, childbirth, parenting, and even life skills. Our moms and dads (and pregnant clients) can come in every week and chose what they want to learn. Each hour spent learning “earns” points to purchase diapers, formula, baby clothing, furniture, toys, and so much more.

The items you can earn are donated by individuals, churches, businesses, and organizations in the community. The Chippewa Valley is an amazing place, and we know it is full of people who love to give and help others.

Here’s what one of our moms says about her experiences here: “The staff are all super, caring, and helpful. I have felt very comfortable with them, and learning everything there is to know about having a baby is just amazing. I have gained a ton of knowledge about caring for an infant and what is going to happen when I have my baby. Getting diapers there has helped me out tremendously. I would recommend the center over and over again to anyone.”

If you’re pregnant and needing help and support, or are a new mom or dad who could use formula or diapers or much more, please don’t hesitate to call 715-834-7734 and make an appointment. We’re here for you. All of our services are free and confidential.

You’ll be glad you called.

Quality Eats Lead to Quality Zzzs

By Bethany Soderlund, dietetic intern, Festival Foods

Sleep is a key lifestyle factor that can positively or negatively affect our health. When it comes to sleep, the quantity and quality of those resting hours make all the difference. Whether you struggle to fall asleep every once in a while or it seems to be a chronic issue, finding a solution will greatly benefit your mood and ability to function throughout the day. Did you know food and nutrition can play a key role in the quality of your sleep?

The quantity, quality, and timing of meals can positively or negatively impact your sleep. First let’s look at how food can disrupt our sleep. Large meals, high fat or high protein meals, and spicy foods during the day, and especially before bed, may cause gastroesophageal reflux, or heartburn, which is a potential sleep disrupter. Many foods also contain substances that act as stimulants to the brain including alcohol, caffeine, and tyramine.

Alcohol before bed can cause frequent sleep disruptions, headaches, and less restful sleep, so it is best to avoid alcohol four to six hours before bedtime. For many Americans, caffeine is the life-sustaining liquid that flows through their veins. Whether a cup of coffee, energy drink, or soda, the high levels of caffeine consumed during the day can lead to a night of tossing and turning. For optimal sleep, avoid consuming caffeine four to six hours before bedtime. Another potentially problematic component is tyramine. It is a naturally occurring substance derived from the amino acid tyrosine that causes a brain-stimulating effect. Some of the tyramine-containing foods to minimize or avoid before bed include bacon, ham, pepperoni, raspberries, avocado, nuts, soy sauce, and red wine.

Fortunately, not all foods are sleep disrupters. In fact, some foods can actually be sleep promoters. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts to increase the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of deep sleep. Meat, dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, bananas, and honey are some of the sources of tryptophan. Carbohydrate foods help increase tryptophan’s access to the brain. What does this mean for your meal plan? In general, eating a balanced diet containing protein at each meal during the day and a small snack one to four hours before bed will promote this normal body physiology to increase the stages of deep sleep. Example bedtime snacks include yogurt and crackers, wheat toast and cheese, and cereal and milk. Just remember to keep your portion sizes small to help avoid sleep disturbances.

Sleep is a key element of a healthy lifestyle that can affect mood and productivity during the day. Our food choices and the timing of those food choices can be the difference between counting sheep and a deep restful night’s sleep. Whether you opt for two cups of coffee instead of three or switch your bedtime snack from hot wings to a glass of milk, small changes each day can get you on the right track to waking up energized and rejuvenated.

Bethany Soderlund is a dietetic intern with the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay and is currently working with the Mealtime Mentors at Festival Foods. Learn more about Festival’s registered dietitian team and their many resources and recipes at FestFoods.com/Mealtime.

What About Donating Half Your CSA Share to Help Fight Hunger Locally?

Who Is Rachel Keniston?
Rachel Keniston has been concerned about food insecurity in Eau Claire, working at the Community Table since 2008, becoming its director in 2010, and recently retiring from it. “Food is one of our most basic needs, regardless of our financial situation,” she says.

While she worked at Community Table, Keniston and her family were building a sustainable agriculture farm, Solheim Market Gardens, using permaculture principles, with the mission to grow clean, fresh local produce in ways that respect and build the soil with minimal mechanical cultivation, hoes and hands for weed control, crop rotation and row covers to minimize pest issues. To Keniston and her family, the farm too is part of community building. “We all need healthy food regardless of our income levels. Our community (country and world) also need more small local food producers. It is important that our food not be traveling from all ends of the world, that it not be sprayed with chemicals. The way we grow food is important.”

One of the goals with Solheim Market Gardens was to eventually have a community supported agriculture program. In studying CSA good practices, Keniston was given the advice to not put too much food in the weekly share box. “People feel guilty if they can’t use it all,” she says. “None of us likes to throw good food away. The up side of partnering with a farmer through CSA is that people do eat more vegetables! But too much waste is the number one reason people give for dropping a CSA share.” Keniston read about a farm in Monroe, Wisconsin, that is a nonprofit that grows produce specifically for Feeding America, which distributes produce to food banks. She explains, “Instead of providing shareholders with produce, they grow to give to the food bank. Shareholders can also make donations to help purchase seed, equipment, and labor.”

What Is Her New Idea to Fight Local Food Insecurity?
While pondering both her concern for those experiencing food insecurity and her CSA goals, a light went off in her head. “I started to wonder if it would be possible to offer shareholders the option of subscribing to half a share but then donating the other half to Feed My People Food Bank, which would welcome more produce to share with those in need.” She describes how this would work: “First, could the farmer grow a crop specifically to be donated to a food bank for the food insecure? Yes, of course, but most farmers producing at this level are barely making ends meet themselves. That donation from a farmer would be a little like the poor feeding the poor. My thought was if people are willing to partner with the farmer to help create an economically stable farm operation where members are assured the highest quality produce, then maybe they’d be willing to help the farmer and the food bank by subscribing to a full share but donating half to the food bank.” If thirty half boxes of produce were donated weekly, that would be a big help to Feed My People and to the people coming to the food bank. The farmer could plan ahead of time to grow a large bed of certain vegetables for just that purpose. She explains, “At the end of the season, shareholders who donated could be notified of the total weight of produce they donated and the monetary market value of that produce. This could be used for tax documentation.”

Keniston has high hopes for the project, saying, “If it works this growing season, we would like to expand the effort and encourage other local farmers to join in.”

For more information and to sign up to donate a half share, visit www.solheimwi.com or www.facebook.com/solheim.wi.