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.

Define: Hunger

by Corbin Burkard, Head Trainer, Burn Boot Camp – Eau Claire

Ever feel hungry? Of course you have. Feeling hungry is our body’s natural way of letting us know it is time to eat. What is often misconstrued is understanding how truly “hungry” we actually are. As a trainer who is dealing with nutrition questions on a daily basis, one of the first questions I ask people is, “Do you feel hungry during the day?” Often the answer I receive is, “No.” For many people this is simply because we are undereating and need to gradually increase calories in order to boost our metabolism so we can actually burn MORE calories by putting better food into our bodies on a more consistent basis.

On the other end of the spectrum are those of us that eat a sufficient amount (or too many) of calories on a regular basis. If we are eating enough calories during the day, odds are we feel hungry, or at least we certainly would if we missed snack time! Some foods make you hungrier without actually doing anything for you, like sugars and refined carbs. Whereas foods high in fiber, healthy fats, and proteins can assist to not only increase your metabolism and nourish your body, but can also help so you aren’t hungry constantly. From here, I put “hungry” into six different categories to help explain what type of hunger we are actually experiencing, and how to combat those types of hunger!

  1. Starving – The feeling that you could “eat a horse.” At this point you are more than likely shaky, lightheaded, and possibly sick feeling.
  2. Pretty Hungry – This is go time! Time to definitely be eating some food. You are maybe even a little past the point of when you should have last eaten. Right now there are some pretty empty sounds coming from your stomach, and this feeling more than likely came on gradually.
  3. You Could Eat – This is my typical response when I am not all that hungry, but know I will be within an hour. At this point there is no reason to be eating. Drink some water, see how you feel, and then start to plan or prepare for your next meal.
  4. Content – If you are not hungry, and also not full, why would you need to eat? This is one that gets a lot of people late at night. You have had dinner, you are going to bed in an hour, and there is no reason to eat! Don’t feel bad though, this is a common, learned, habitual movement (my favorite suggestion is to do air popped popcorn with light olive oil!). Typically I tell people to either drink some water or substitute something with essentially no caloric value to wean themselves away from late night snacks.
  5. Full – Stop! Slow down, put that fork down between bites, eat slower, take a drink between each bite, use a smaller plate, put the rest of the food away in containers for tomorrow! Going beyond this point is usually what makes us sick, wastes our money, and keeps our waistband tight.
  6. Overfull – Typically overeating happens often when we waited to eat until we were starving. You get all excited to eat again and start to cram anything and everything we can into your face too quickly! Afterward you feel sluggish, slow, tired, and sometimes quite uncomfortable. This can be easily avoided by trying to stay between numbers 2 and 5 at all times!

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.