A Walk a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

 

shoe

Opportunities to get “well” are all around us. They are shouted from billboards advertising gyms, hidden in community education catalogues, and “sold in a store near you.” It’s exhausting.

 

In my role at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I manage a group of wellness programs called the Healthy Communities Partnership. Every day, I hear many, many messages about wellness, and I’m constantly working with my team to come up with messages and strategies to help people find the information they need.

 

But maybe we’re over-thinking this. Is it possible that there is a simple answer? A recent video by Dr. Mike Evans promotes a single therapy that has been clinically proven to:

 

  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • reduce progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes
  • reduce hip fractures in post-menopausal women
  • reduce overall risk of death
  • reduce fatigue
  • increase quality of life.

What is this miracle drug? Walking. Walking 30 minutes during the day has been proven to accomplish all of those things.

 

I like this idea because almost anyone can do it without spending a lot of money or dramatically changing their lifestyles. The problem with most of the wellness strategies I hear about is that they just don’t fit my life. I can do anything for a few weeks, but I’ve got a son to raise, a job to do, a house to maintain and a television to watch! I’ve got priorities! But I can walk. All I need is a pair of sneakers and a few minutes.

 

We recently competed in an internal walking challenge here at the Penny George Institute. It wasn’t complicated. We divided into four teams, and the team with the most steps at the end of six weeks wins. We measured our steps with high-tech pedometers called Fit Bits.

 

During those six weeks, I figured out how to walk 10,000 steps a day without compromising other parts of my life. I walked my dog every day, something I wanted to do anyway. I worked in short walks during the day. We had some walking meetings. I took the stairs more. And I felt better!

 

You can take or leave the pedometer. I found it useful, personally, and you can get simple ones for less than $10. But the goal is to walk. It’s the easiest way I know to dramatically improve your health.

 

Guest Blogger:

Nathan Kreps, Healthy Communities Partnership Program Manager/ Live Well Blog Writer

Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

11 Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Daily Life

stressEveryday can be My Mental Health Day. Of course we have responsibilities, work, and other chores to take care of but it’s important to take time for ourselves each day, even if it is only a moment or two. Why? Because our ability to reduce stress, prevent anxiety, and live life in a way that makes us happy depends on supporting our mental health. And, the best way to do that is to take time for ourselves doing the things we love. Our days are so jammed-pack with everything we NEED to do that taking a break for a mere five minutes can seem easier said than done.

So start with the little things: drink a cup of your favorite tea while you are typing away on the computer or sing along to your favorite song while driving home from work. Even though you are accomplishing what you NEED to do, you are still giving yourself a little mental health moment by doing something for you at the same time.

There are several proven ways to support your mental health. Make taking care of yourself a habit by participating in one of the following each day.

  • Connect with others: Call an old friend or go on a date with your significant other.
  • Create joy and satisfaction: Tell a silly joke or take your kids for ice cream cones.
  • Manage hard times: Read a magazine, listen to music, reach out to family for comfort—whatever it may be that helps you through the rough parts of your day.
  • Help Others: Help a friend move across town or volunteer at your local animal shelter.
  • Do a hobby or relax: Paint a picture, play baseball, knit, or take music lessons.
  • Eat well: Junk food can cause stress and sleepiness. Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay positive: Although times may be hard, focus on what you have rather than what went wrong. Try keeping a gratitude log and remember to tell people how much they mean to you.
  • Get physically active: Take care of your physical wellness by exercising (yoga, biking, running).
  • Take care of your spirit: Meditate or pray, whatever makes you feel more at peace.
  • Get enough sleep: You’re a lot more relaxed and even productive when you don’t skip out on the sleep your mind and body require.
  • Get professional help when needed: Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings or needs. Reach out for help. No one can do everything by themselves.

How do you support your mental health? Share your ideas with us on Facebook and help others find something that may work for them. Go, play, and enjoy the day because today is your “My Mental Health Day!”

The Healthy Benefits of Gardening

By: First Lady Katie O’Malley

garden KOM

The American botanist Luther Burbank said “Flowers always make people better,
happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”

 

April is National Gardening Month and at Government House in Annapolis, we’re preparing for our fifth annual food garden. As we enjoy warmer weather, budding plants, and emerging wildlife, we encourage you to plant a food garden at your own home.

There are so many things we gain when we get our hands a little dirty and plant a garden in our backyard, in containers or in a lot down the street, including:

  1. Eating Healthy: Fruits, herbs, and vegetables are fresh, nutritious, and readily available. They can easily be incorporated into favorite recipes. ChopChop Maryland offers seasonal recipes to make with your family.
  2. Exercising More: Gardening encourages us to get outside and be active. From watering plants to pulling weeds, the work helps you and your plants stay healthy.
  3. Connecting with Nature: Gardening at home gives us the opportunity think about the source of our food, as well as the importance of eating healthy, well-balanced meals.
  4. Spending Time Together: Gardening provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with friends and family. It encourages conversation and observation for children of all ages.
  5. Supporting Family Farms: Families who grow their own garden often choose to supplement their homegrown food with fresh produce from farmers’ markets, strengthening our local economy and supporting our family farms. Learn more about the benefits of eating locally-sourced foods.

Planting a garden at home is a great way for Marylanders to improve their physical and mental well-being. From patio containers to sprawling acres, we hope you will join us in getting outside and getting active.

Follow the progress of the Government House garden online at governor.maryland.gov/firstlady/.

 

My Mental Health Day Thanks:
First Lady Katie O’Malley
http://www.governor.maryland.gov/firstlady/

Avoid Thanksgiving Day Stress

Thanksgiving can be one of the most fun and fulfilling holidays of the season, but it can also be filled with stress. Here are some tips to reduce that stress, and make the most of Turkey Day!

1. If There is Still Time, Make this Year a Thanksgiving Potluck

One of the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving is the dinner—Thanksgiving’s focal point. If you are hosting the family dinner, you often have several dishes to prepare–mashed potatoes for Susie, Sweet potatoes for Maria, yams for Trey. This year, be forthcoming about what you need each guest to contribute in order to ease your own workload.

2.  Recognize Your limits

Because the holidays are best spent with family, the “responsibility” to make time for everyone can easily cause unwarranted stress. Limit your holidays to as few family visits as possible.  Consider hosting holiday parties at “off” times in the year or around the holidays but not on actual holiday days.

3. Assign Seating

We all have those certain relatives that never get along. This year, don’t leave your seating assignments to chance. You can make simple nametags and make sure that certain individuals sit as far away from each other as possible. This will help everyone at the dinner table enjoy the meal better and save you from having to play referee during the conversation.

4. Prioritize Your Cleaning

In preparation for the holiday, we all want our house to be spotless for our guests. Clean the clutter before anything else. Your goal is to clean the areas that are most likely to be used and noticed by your guests.

5. Prepare Ahead of Time

Thanksgiving Day is the busiest time of the holiday. A long to-do list can cause a great amount of stress. Therefore, try to do as much as possible the day before (Today). Certain tasks can be done ahead of the Holiday to save you time: set the table; bake dessert; make a plan for Thanksgiving Day concerning what foods need to go in the oven first, which can be microwaved, and what can be cooked together without losing flavor.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is especially important during the holiday season, because we get so worn down during the day with extra duties. Take note of the fact that you’re performing double or even triple duty. Sleep lets us recover from our hard work, is essential to maintaining an even keel when things get rough, and helps gives us needed energy to get through the holidays!

7. Stay Healthier

Holiday stress can weaken your immune system. Getting enough sleep (see above) is one important tip, others  include drinking a glass of orange juice each day, washing your hands as often as possible, and covering your mouth up when going outside into cold weather. Taking a walk (dress warmly if you live in a cold environment) can help you clear your mind, reduce stress, and help you get exercise.

8.  Help Others, If You Can

The holidays can be both a joyous and stressful time, we hope these tips will help.  Let’s also remember that the holidays can be an even harder time for those who are facing economic challenges (maybe donate warm clothes or toys), those who are isolated and lonely (maybe visit an elderly neighbor or double a recipe and bring one tray to the staff at a local hospital) and those who are missing family at this time of year (offer to help friends to send a care-package to a deployed military family member).  Helping others will brighten their holidays and make you feel good too!

For people who may need even more support, encourage them to call a local hotline just to talk, to get information about services or to get help with a crisis.  MHA runs the Montgomery County Hotline (here in Montgomery County, MD) at (301) 738 –CALL (2255).  Folks can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK

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