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Archive for April, 2016

Want to stay in shape but don’t have a lot of time for your regular work-out routine? Then do a plank exercise!  Planks are one of the most effective exercises offering considerable results.  They take a short amount of time, no equipment, and offer many benefits including:

  • Not many exercises strengthen multiple muscles at the same time. There are movements that strengthen muscles in your arms or legs, but the plank exercise can help strengthen frontal upper and lower-body muscles and inner core strength, all at once.
  • Planks can also help improve mental strength. If you have a sedentary job, tension can build if you tend to slump forward. Doing planks can help stretch muscles that may become stiff during the day, contributing to stress. They may also help calm your brain, reducing stress.
  • Since plank exercises activate core muscles, they can help prevent swayback or flat back and improve your posture as a result.
  • Plank exercises can help increase flexibility in muscle groups, stretching and expanding your posterior muscles including the hamstrings and even the arches of your feet.

Plank Photo

Photo courtesy of Dana Dowling/Demand Media

How to do a Plank

A good plank requires proper alignment. Everything should be in a straight line, including your ears, shoulders, knees, hips, and ankles.  Here’s how to do a standard plank:

  1. Start on all fours, kneeling on your hands and knees. You can use a towel or blanket folded underneath your knees if you need padding. Make sure your hands align directly beneath your shoulders. Feet should be hip-width apart, toes can be curled under.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the floor. Your body weight should be on your forearms, not on your hands.
  3. Pull in your stomach, engaging your core muscles.
  4. Hold the position for 10 seconds, gradually adding time as you feel comfortable.

Sources: Women’s Health, 4 Secrets to the Perfect Plank, Roberts, A. October 28, 2014.

Huffington Post, Fix Your Form: How to do the Perfect Plank, June 5, 2012.

Livestrong.com, What Are the 4 Main Benefits of the Plank Exercise? March 21, 2016.

Written by: Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

Reviewed by:  Cheryl Spires, Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, Ohio State University Extension.

 

 

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When is the last time you had a really good laugh? You know, the kind that makes you lose your breath for a bit. That laughter is not only fun, there a many health benefits to a good belly laugh.

Laughter can

  • boost your immune system
  • exercise your heart
  • decrease pain
  • increase energy
  • lessen effects of stress
  • bring your mind and body into balance
  • help bond you with others.

Researchers have studied laughter and how it works in the body. Laughing causes you to take in more oxygen, which stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. When you laugh, your brain releases more endorphins, your body’s natural feel good chemicals. Endorphins can help to temporarily relieve pain.  Laughing initially activates the stress response in your body, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Almost magically, the relaxation response follows. Circulation increases and your muscles relax. This helps to reduce the effects of stress felt in your body.

Laughter brings about a number of mental health benefits as well. We tend to feel good when we laugh. That good feeling lasts well beyond the laughter. Laughter and humor can help us navigate difficult times in life and relieve anxiety and fear. Humor helps us approach situations with a light-hearted perspective. It’s almost impossible to feel angry or sad when you’re laughing. Laughter contributes to overall well-being and helps us to become more resilient.

The social benefits of laughter include connecting with others, increasing positive social bonds and strengthening relationships. Sharing a good laugh goes a long way to buffering against stress and conflict in a relationship. Laughter can bring people together through difficult situations.

laughter-775062_960_720

Helpguide.org offers tips to bring more laughter and humor into our lives:

  • Smile – the physical act of smiling can help our bodies and moods to improve. It’s the first step toward laughing.
  • Share a laugh – spend time with family and friends who make you laugh. Laughter can be quite contagious… and that’s a wonderful thing to get ‘infected’ with.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself – this will help you to be more light-hearted about your own situations. Watch your stress fade away.
  • Get a pet – they often entertain us with their silly antics and make us laugh. My daughter has daily peels of giggles and laughter at something silly that her guinea pigs have done.
  • Watch a situational comedy – the reason they are so funny is because we can picture ourselves in those situations. We’ve ‘been there, done that’ and it helps us to take life less seriously. When my daughter was healing from a disease last year, she watched a family comedy show frequently to distract herself from pain, and indulge in a little laughter.

Look for the humor in life – and you’ll find some. Enjoy the benefits of laughing… your body will thank you and others will want to catch what you’ve got.

“Laugh, and the world laughs with you…” ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Joanna Fifner, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Medina County

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Plant a TreeDo you remember planting a tree for Arbor Day?  Do you know the meaning of Arbor Day?  This day was set aside for tree planting back in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton. He was a pioneer who traveled from Detroit, Michigan to Nebraska. The pioneers missed their trees and decided to set aside a day for tree planting.  The trees were important for fuel, to keep soil in place, for wind breaks, for building supplies and to offer shade from the hot sun. Want to learn more & see pictures of this historical day? Check out this brief online book.  Arbor Day History

As a young child I remember watching our principal plant a tree in the school yard in honor of Arbor Day.  Every year a new tree was planted and a little ceremony held discussing the importance of trees. Check out this interactive map and find out when your state celebrates Arbor Day.

Did you know that Earth Day started in 1970 to raise awareness of environmental issues such as clean air, climate change and clean water? In four years, we will celebrate the 50th Earth Day. Both of these special days encourage us to increase our awareness of our environment and to honor and nurture a wonderful natural resource, trees.

What can you do to honor our Earth?

  • Plant a tree
  • Plant a garden
  • Plant herbs
  • Teach a child about Earth Day
  • Take a hike in nature
  • Take a few moments to enjoy the beauty of spring
  • Pick up trash along the roadways
  • Plan an excursion to a National or State park
  • Read a story about planting trees
  • Schedule a tree planting in your neighborhood
  • Organize a tree identification hike
  • Teach a child about Arbor Day
  • Volunteer with a local tree planting organization
  • Find out the state tree for your state. Hint: Ohio’s state tree is the Buckeye.

Arbor Day

Did you know that college campuses can meet standards to become a Tree Campus? I was happy to see that Ohio State University met the standards to be a Tree Campus.

Does your favorite university honor Arbor Day? 

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Carol Chandler, Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension, chandler.4@osu.edu

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Did you know restaurants follow some tricks to encourage you to eat more?  Accasian-1239311__180ording to Deborah Cohen, a physician and senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation , a nonprofit research organization, restaurants follow these advertising tricks to get us to order and eat more.

  • They serve us bigger servings. When we see food, we usually eat all of it even if we are not hungry for that size portion.
  • We do not tend to rely on how much we have eaten during the day, or how hungry we are, when deciding quantities later in the day.
  • Combo meals portray a better value and are easy to order.  But just two items would be satisfying to many people, if they knew they could save money and calories.menu-512197_960_720
  • The “sweet spot” on the menu is in the upper right-hand corner.  More people choose items in that area of the menu.  Restaurants also know we are likely to choose items that appear first or last in a section of the menu.  Highlighted or boxed items are also chosen more often.
  • The more people you eat with, the more food you are likely to consume.
  • We tend to mimic the people we are with, it seems to be part of socializing or fitting in.
  • The more variety the more we are likely to eat. One study gave people only one type of pasta and another group three different types of pasta.  All of the pasta cookie-1125527_960_720tasted the same.  However, the group getting the three different types of pasta ate more than the one getting only one type.   The same thing happens with cookies, crackers or snack foods.
  • Showing you the desserts will get you to order dessert more often.

Will knowing this information influence our choices or actions the next time we eat out?  With restaurant meals usually 2-3 times what we should be eating remembering the tips above could help us to reduce the calories we eat at restaurants.  Since most of us eat out often, is it any wonder our society gains weight each year?

I am going to start looking at the whole menu carefully, limit combo meals, and cut portions in half putting the rest in a box for home before I start eating. What strategies are you going to use?

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Cohen, D. (2016) It’s Hard to Eat Less When There is Too Much on Your Plate.  RAND Corporation. Available at http://www.rand.org/blog/2016/02/its-hard-to-eat-less-w hen-there-is-too-much-on-your.html

Liebman, B. (2016).  Under the Radar What made you buy (and eat) that.  Interview with Deborah Cohen, Author of A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Influences Behind the Obesity Epidemic – and How We Can End It (new York: Nation Books).  Nutrition Action Health Letter, Center for Science in the Public Interest March 2016. 43(2) 1,3-5.

 

 

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I’m already late for work and now I’m in the middle of a traffic jam?  How am I going to get the kids to gymnastics, soccer and tee ball practices at the same time?  Everyone’s coming home at a different time tonight and we’re supposed to have supper together?  Make sure and schedule quality time for myself?  Really?  You’ve got to be kidding me!

Stress Management:  Rules for the Weary    stress taming

  • Stress is part of life.
  • Not all stress is bad.
  • Only you can prevent stress disorders.
  • Stress management is a lifestyle, not a technique.
  • As in life, success requires certain skills.
  • With practice and guidance, skills can be learned.

Coping with Minor Stressors

Research at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, Ohio State’s internationally recognized center for the study of body-mind interaction, has resulted in key findings related to how stressors in marriage and care-giving impact health; how stress can lessen vaccine effectiveness; how stress can aggravate allergies and asthma; and the development of interventions that can lessen the effects of stress and promote health.

Try some of the following to help cope with stress:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Use meditation, relaxation exercises or breathing techniques.
  • Look at situations from a variety of perceptions.
  • Talk and share with friends.
  • Journal and clarify why things bother you.

Name it, Tame it and Bust that Stress!

  • List Priorities: Write down what is most important for you to do and then number from 1 to? With 1 being the most important for you to accomplish.
  • Plan Rest Periods: Schedule for “taking a break” in your daily activities.
  • Perfection: There is no perfect “anything”. Do the best you can and congratulate and reward yourself for it.
  • Exercise: (I think we talked about this earlier!) Try to exercise in your usual manner.  Or, start to exercise.
  • Childlike: Have FUN! Engage in playful activities.  Watch children play to remind yourself about “how to play”.
  • Spending: Be mindful of your spending.
  • Emotional Health: Talk with supportive people. Listen with empathy.  Use non-judgmental approaches.  Say “No” to avoid overdoing.
  • Gratitude: Be grateful for what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have.

One final thought about Taming Stress

In the words of Somerset Maugham, “It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”

Remember to always choose the “Best” for yourself!

stress taming 2

 

Written by:  Janet Wasko Myers, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

Sources:

Lisa M. Borelli LISW-S, Counselor, Ohio State Employee Assistance Program, The Ohio State University Health Plan, Columbus, Ohio.  Stress Taming.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  Improving Your Health Through Stress Reduction.  http://wexnermedical.osu.edu/patient-care/healthcare-services/improving-your-health-through-stress-reduction

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  Mindfulness Practices – Mindfulness practices can reduce anxiety, chronic pain, depression, insomnia and stress.  http://go.osu.edu/wexnermindful

onCampus.  February 11, 2016, 16th Annual Health and Wellness Guide, Wellness is a journey, Pages 7-18.  http://go.osu.edu/HealthWellnessGuide

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shoes

When you put on your shoes, do you ever pause for a moment to think about where those shoes have been? Every time you walk, your shoes pick up a multitude of unwanted substances.  A recent study found nine different species of bacteria on the bottom of people’s shoes.  And what’s even scarier, the study found that bacteria live longer on shoes than many other hard surfaces.

Specific examples found on shoe soles included E coli, tetanus, strep, hepatitis, and C difficile. Researchers also discovered viruses, parasites, fungi, allergens and toxic substances.  Eeuuw.

The substances listed above were picked up from streets, sidewalks, and the floors of office buildings. Included in this toxic mix were:

  • Remnants of feces from dogs, cats, rodents, birds and other wildlife, and humans
  • Urine from the same sources
  • Remains from insects and rodents
  • Remnants of garbage including food waste and toxic cleaning products
  • Excretions such as saliva, mucus, sweat, blood or vomit
  • Residue from insecticides, gasoline, oils and grease
  • Urine and germs from restroom floors
  • Soil contaminated with lead, pesticides, lawn chemicals and/or toxic wood preservatives from lawns and parks

The reason shoes can harbor such a motley assortment of “ick” is because most shoe soles are made from leather, rubber or other porous materials that allow for the absorption of microscopic substances. Once inside your home, contaminated shoes can become a source of disease; spreading germs to carpets and floors.

Tiled floors may be a substantial source of bacteria (90% of floors surveyed found unwanted substances), but are fortunately easy to sanitize. Unfortunately, when you walk on any of your home floors in your bare feet, germs may attach to the bottom of your feet and subsequently end up on furniture and beds.  Children playing on the floor can be exposed to germs through their hands, clothing, and/or mouth.  And pets have the potential to pick up and spread these germs as well.

Takeaway?

The best practice you can institute is to ask everyone to remove their shoes before entering the house to reduce the risk of bringing contaminants into the home.  Clean shoes with a sanitizing shoe mat, sanitizer wipes or a sanitizer sprayed on the bottom of your shoes.   Most importantly, leave your shoes at the door!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Sources: http://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-015-0082-9

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carrots

The Easter Bunny came to visit a couple of weeks ago, and while he was here he ate some nice, healthy carrots. We need to follow his example, because his favorite food is actually one awesome vegetable.

A 10-year study recently completed in the Netherlands shows that carrot intake can greatly reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). We all remember our moms telling us to eat carrots to protect our eyes, but our heart? Not so much. So this study is really eye-opening (excuse the pun, I couldn’t resist).

Research participants were asked to eat fruits and vegetables from four main color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Of the four categories, orange/yellow was found to be the most protective against cardiovascular disease (especially foods with deeper shades of orange).

Participants who ate at least one-fourth cup of carrots (about 2-3 baby carrots) per day had a lessened risk for CVD, and participants who ate the most (one-half to three-fourths cup per day) had a significantly lowered risk.

Carrots have always been known as a good source of antioxidants in terms of their beta-carotene content. But they also contain phytonutrients called polyacetylenes, which help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. Cancer, eye, and heart protection—who knew the humble carrot had all that going on?

Planting

If you are putting in a garden this summer and have never tried growing carrots, this might be the summer to give them a spin. Carrots are easy to grow from seed, so the initial expense is minimal. For your first effort, consider miniature carrots.  They have small, shallow roots that are quite sweet and grow well in soils with some clay content (that’s us, folks).

You can begin planting carrots in mid-April. Start by loosening the soil in the planting bed at least 8- 12 inches deep, rake smooth, and then sow seeds about a quarter inch deep. Seeds should be spaced approximately two inches apart. You don’t need to plant all the seeds at once; judge how many to plant by your family size. For a continuous supply of young carrots, start a new row of seeds approximately every three weeks.

Harvesting

Pull carrots when mature in size and color. Twist off the long green tops to prevent moisture loss, and use a dry vegetable brush to remove any clumps of soil. At this point, there are two rules of thumb you can follow when it comes to carrot storage.

Some “dry camp” followers say to seal the unwashed carrots tightly in a plastic bag in the coolest part refrigerator and wash just before using. The “wet camp” followers believe carrots should be washed and placed in a container with water (which should be refreshed every 4-5 days). Your choice, but just make sure they are covered because carrots begin to go limp when exposed to air.  Most varieties keep for a month in the fridge if stored properly.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Sources:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013609

http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scenea765.html

 

 

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