Steven K. Malin Ph.D., FACSM – Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health, School of Arts and Sciences; Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Institute of Translational Medicine and Science – Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
How can local communities encourage and facilitate active lifestyles among residents?
Building sidewalks or bike lanes when feasible would be great. Also, posting signs to raise awareness of sharing the road is important for safety. In parks, having trails or equipment would provide an opportunity to engage.
What tips do you have for someone looking to maintain an active lifestyle on a budget?
Just move. Being active does not mean one has to have expensive gadgets or equipment. A decent pair of running/cross-trainers can go a long way to support building up steps throughout the day – a good target is 7500/day. A practical way to build up to these step goals would be taking light to brisk walks for just 10-15 min after each main meal (e.g., breakfast lunch or dinner). Another thought would be to make “exercise snacks” a part of your day. Many of us get older, we sit for most of the working day given our jobs. But if people can get up and walk around for 1-5 min an hour, that would help too. In line with low-budget activity would be to do bodyweight exercises, including body squats, jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups, or planks for 1 to 5 minutes an hour, this could go a long way in curbing blood glucose, blood pressure, and lipid levels to even improving cognition throughout the day not to mention mental well-being. Another idea could be to purchase resistance bands that help mix up the type of weight lifting one does. These are portable and easy to take to work or hotels when traveling. A jump rope too in addition is a great buy for a low cost that provides tremendous cardiovascular workouts. If inclined, one can buy a stability ball and use this as a chair. It would help build strength in core muscles and support low back pain.
How can parents encourage children to be active in order to combat obesity?
Play! Structured exercise is great and getting kids involved I n sports they enjoy is fantastic. Physical education is important as the evidence clearly shows that activity promotes cognition and healthier bodies. This said we do not need formal sports per se. At home or in classes there are lots of ways to consider moving around. For instance, just playing games outside, going for walks, hikes, or bike rides as a family could all be ways to promote movement. At school, standing vs. sitting or breaking up sitting with “dance-offs” or “jump around” could be great ways to break up sedentary behavior. Other thoughts could be making cleaning the house a game by dividing up chores and doing the items as a family. A key theme is to make movement a part of life and fun. If we can model movement as a joyful act vs. something focused on burning calories to offset food will enable activity lifestyles to be a lifelong behavior. The accumulated movement throughout the day is as important, if not more important than just doing 60 min of activity per recommendations. Also, helping kids move their bodies (e.g., squats, push-ups, jumping, sprinting, etc.) is equally important. Building strong bones and muscles will help children as they age minimize some of the various issues that plague adults into old age. Lastly, perhaps the best way parents can engage kids, is by moving with them! A family thee moves together is more likely to sustain active lifestyles than if parents are not engaged.
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