Tag Archives: walking

Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Safety First for National Safety Month

National Safety Month 2016

It’s National Safety Month, and we have some topics and tips to help you stay safe! Learn more now.

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Reaching New Heights through Change

Long View: One Small Change for Better Health

Some friends and I made a New Year’s resolution to climb a mountain in Colorado and circled a date in July on the calendar. To prepare, one friend decided to change one thing – just one.

As a hospital nurse practitioner, she decided to take only the stairs throughout the day. She climbed to the 5th floor for daily rounds, down to her office, back up to the 3rd floor for clinics. You get the idea. When July rolled around, her legs were toned and her lungs were strengthened to the point that she climbed that mountain and lived to tell about it. One simple change was all it took – pretty impressive.

Many people set ambitious nutrition and fitness goals for the New Year. If you’re anything like me, those ambitious goals are scrapped by Super Bowl Sunday. What if we all committed to making just one change for the coming year? What if we circled a date on the calendar (January 2 doesn’t count) and stuck to it? Would the cumulative effect make us healthier?

Some small changes you could make to your eating and fitness habits:

  • Start by switching out your afternoon vending machine snack with a piece of fruit and some nuts one day a week.
  • Is lunch a fast food adventure? Switch those large fries with a small order of fries, and get water instead of soda. Better yet, trade your fast food meal with a lunch you packed yourself once a week.
  • Walking more is one thing we all can add to our daily lives, and it can be easier than you think. Try taking one full lap around your local big-box store before you start shopping. Chances are you’ll add an extra quarter of a mile to your daily mileage.
  • Tai Chi is a wonderful exercise to add. Chris Cady-Jones coordinates Tai Chi for Balance in our Omaha market. She says, “Tai Chi is a low impact exercise gaining popularity due to its positive effects on social and mental well-being, improved balance, and physical functioning. It also reduces your risk for falls.”

We won’t all climb a real mountain in 2016. But by making just one small change in our everyday lives, we might climb our own personal mountain toward a healthier and more active New Year.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of two terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Fighting for Fitness with Exercise

My Healthy Journey: Time to Sweat

I’ve changed my diet, organized my life, and made healthier choices, so the last and biggest thing on the list is exercise.

I don’t like to exercise, as I think a lot of us don’t. I’m competitive, so I liked playing sports as a kid, but as an adult, exercising by myself is boring and hard work. If I had a gym membership and could read on a treadmill, it might be different. But as it is, it’s hard to make myself do it.

But if I can (for the most part) give up candy, completely abandon soda, and stop drinking coffee for a month, I can handle anything!

I started by doing a muscle-strengthening yoga routine every day, which was a great way to start for me. It wasn’t too intense, it was calming, and it really helped me regain some flexibility and balance I’d lost over the years.

Now, I’ve been doing P90X. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it used to have infomercials on TV, which automatically makes me suspicious. But I actually know a number of people who have done it, and my goal is less to get a killer six-pack and more to get in better shape, so I don’t really need it to live up to all its TV promises.

I borrowed the DVDs from a friend, so I didn’t spend all of the money they’re talking about. I’m also not following all of their meal plans or the exact exercise plan. Each day you’re supposed to do a different workout for a different part of your body, and they’re each about an hour and a half long with warmups and cool downs.

I usually can’t make it through the whole thing yet; they’re really difficult! I also do them more like every other day because I’m so sore the day after. They make you pour sweat, and they make you want to lie on the ground in your own sweat puddle to catch your breath.

But I can already see some improvements! And that’s really satisfying. Am I out running yet? No (it’s been so rainy!). But I am getting cardio and strengthening done, in my own bedroom no less.

Plus, I’ve found some new interests by doing them. For instance, there’s a kickboxing workout that I love, so maybe in the future, I might try kickboxing classes!

Do I think I’ll stick with this level of workout forever? Definitely no! Eventually, I’d like to mix things like this up with other activities, like yoga, runs, and more simple workouts. Once it’s a habit, it will really be more about doing something every day.

It’s all about finding the things that will keep you interested, engaged, and MOVING.

There are so many reasons (and studies on) why you should  exercise. Mayo Clinic breaks it down perfectly: Exercise controls weight, fights health conditions and diseases, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you sleep.

And Rally, our wellness tool, knows how important it is, too. It has tons of great missions to get you moving, like exercise 30 minutes every day, work up a sweat 3x a week, swim 30 minutes, and work your core, as well as weightlifting and walking missions.

So to help you get on a great fitness track that will entertain you and doesn’t require an expensive package, I’ve rounded up some activities for you to try for some of these missions.

Exercise 30 Minutes Every Day

43 Workouts That Allow You to Watch An Ungodly Amount of Television
100 No-Equipment Workouts

Work Up a Sweat 3x a Week

PopSugar Workout Music
Top 100 Running Songs

Run 30 Minutes

7 Easy Ways to Become a Runner
Beginner’s Running Guide
3 Methods to Run Faster

Swim 30 Minutes

The Ultimate Pool Workout
6 Tips to Improve Your Swimming Right Now
Make A Splash Infographic

Swimming's Benefits Infographic
Image via MyMedicalForum

Work Your Core

10-Minute Core-Blasting Pilates Workout

Quick Workout for a Powerful Core
Image via Buzzfeed’s 9 Quick Total Body Workouts

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Women's Health and Taking Control

National Women’s Health Week

Next week is National Women’s Health Week, so had more info on the subject each day this week.

Are you wondering what steps you should be taking for better health? It’s different for every age. Find out what you should be doing.

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Did you know your annual well-woman visit is covered by your insurance? Don’t let anything stand in the way for getting screened. Things to know about your visit:

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Get active! You can reduce your risk of many diseases by exercising for just 30 minutes a day. So skip that Friends rerun and get busy:

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Your mental health and stress can hurt your physical health, and women are more likely to have anxiety and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)sm. Tips to take care of your brain too:

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Risky actions are unhealthy for you, and your family. Protect them by making smart choices:

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What you put in your body matters, and you have to make those decisions 200 times a day! Make smart ones for better health:

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Take the National Women’s Health Week pledge to join women across the nation who are coming together to take a step towards better health.

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The Scope of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis Education Month

March is also Multiple Sclerosis Education Month, so as we wrapped the month up, we gave you info about the disease.

MS is a disease of the central nervous system, which interferes with communication between the brain and the body, and anyone can get it.

MS affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide, but the disease isn’t consistently tracked and reported in the U.S.

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MS causes pain, extreme fatigue, and hurts vision, balance, walking. memory, concentration, and mood, and can cause problems as serious as paralysis.

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There are medications shown to slow MS, but no cure. There isn’t even a one course of diagnosis, like a lab test.

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This is a pivotal time in MS that shows how far research has come. Learn more about the disease’s history.

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Make a donation, find an event, and advocate for change and make a difference in the fight against MS.

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Are you currently fighting MS? Get support and help by finding a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Chapter near you.

You'll never be without support

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Don't Fall with Tai Chi

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Prevention

Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?

Truth in Numbers

No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.

Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.

In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.

They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.

What Causes A Fall

Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.

Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.

Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.

And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.

A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.

Year-Round Protection

There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:

Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.

Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.

Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.

Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.

Get tested for osteoporosis.

Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.

Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.

  • Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
  • Try walking outside with friends or family.
  • Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
  • Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
  • Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
  • We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have access to the SilverSneakers® fitness program to help you get fit at a gym or in your home.  Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.

All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).