Get them when they’re young! Exercise is important for every single member of the family, even the small ones. Physically
active kids are more likely to grow up into physically active adults, which could ultimately reduce their risk for heart disease, obesity and many other health issues. In addition to the long-term and obvious physical benefits, children that are physically
active have better concentration at school, higher self esteem, improved ability to handle stress and greater social acceptance than those who are not active.
Help your kids make a lifetime commitment to health and fitness by making that commitment as a family. Show your kids the way it’s done and you could set them on a path for a healthier future.
Ideally, all children over the age of two should be physically active for at least one hour per day. For toddlers and preschoolers, much of that will be unstructured play, but it’s important, nonetheless. If a child or family is not currently active at
all and one hour per day seems intimidating or unrealistic, it’s perfectly fine to set smaller goals (i.e., 15-20 minutes per day) and build from there.
Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares some ideas for family fitness that will get everyone moving and, most
importantly, having fun:
Hiking. A moderately difficult hike can burn approximately 400 calories per hour. If you don’t happen to be near a hike-friendly area, simply go for a brisk walk as a family. It’s a great safe way for the family to catch up, explore the
outdoors and get fit together.
Ice-Skating. Cold weather doesn’t mean the entire family should hibernate. There are many calorie-burning activities that embrace the season and feel more like fun than exercise, including ice-skating, which can burn over 400 calories per
hour. Make sure everyone stays safe by keeping ice-skating confined to skating rinks and not lakes or ponds.
Yoga. The family that does yoga together reduces stress levels together. There is a yoga type for every age and every fitness level. When introducing beginners and children to yoga, help prevent injury by using a certified yoga instructor.
Biking. When roads aren’t icy or snowy, break out the helmets and hit the road. Make sure everyone is up-to-date on safety and the rules of the road before heading out. Biking is a great way to explore as a family, and, it could potentially
awaken a lifetime passion for fitness for your kids.
Dancing. Nothing could be simpler or more fun than turning on some tunes and dancing as a family. If a fitness craze like Zumba can work magic for adults, a little dancing could do wonders for kids too. Dance games for the Wii, Xbox or other
gaming consoles are also a great way to get the family dancing at home during the cold months. Parents and kids, alike, love a little bit of friendly competition when everyone is laughing and grooving together.
How do you stay fit as a family?
Stress is our body’s reaction to something which upsets the normal balance of life, something more than our
usual day-to-day duties and obligations. Stress often triggers a “fight or flight” response. During stressful events, the adrenal glands release adrenalin, a hormone that activates the body’s defense mechanisms, causing the heart rate and blood pressure to
increase, muscles to tense, digestion to slow and pupils to dilate. These physiological responses give us the strength and focus to escape or to fight when faced with an acute threat. This once ensured the survival of our species when predators were a true
Today, when many think of “stress,” they think of something negative. Stress is not a pure evil though. The world we live in now may be filled with less literal predators, yes, but the “fight or flight” response to stress can still be useful. It can help
us make good, productive decisions when faced with a deadline at work or school, and we often experience cognitive and emotional growth as a result of some stressful experiences as well.
Some are better equipped to handle stress though. Temperament plays a role in how susceptible people are to stress. Most parents have probably observed that one child might be especially fussy by nature and need extra soothing, compared to another who is
calmer and can more easily accept and feel comfort. If one does not handle stress well, it can manifest in a variety of ways physically, including headaches, stomach pain, sleep issues, regular illnesses, anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can trigger
a secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can cause heart disease, obesity and the suppression of one’s immune system. That’s why it’s imperative to find ways to both harness the power of stress and find ways to cope with and reduce stress levels when
they become too high.
The holidays can be an especially stressful time for many people, from holiday shopping that becomes too much to handle, to travel that makes the holidays feel far from festive.
Zahava Davidson, Head of the Division of Individual and Relational Psychotherapy at NorthShore, shares some ways to manage your
stress levels during the holidays and beyond:
Regular exercise. Often the holidays become an excuse for letting a regular exercise routine fall by the wayside. Don’t do that again this year. You might have less time during the holidays, but make time for exercise. It’s a great stress-reducer
and even a short walk each day can do wonders.
Make a list. Finding a better way to manage your time could help you avoid those skyrocketing stress levels altogether. Prioritize your schedule. Chances are, the big things are stressing you out. Which are most important? Which will take
the most time? Acknowledge they need to be done, get them out of the way and then enjoy the holidays with your family.
Eat a balanced diet. It’s all about taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. If your stress levels are high, you are more susceptible to illnesses, so you need to keep your body healthy too. Try to eat a balanced diet. Yes,
this is important even during the holidays. Also consider limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption.
Sleep! Start each day off right. Getting enough sleep each night makes handling stress much easier. When you’re tired, you are more likely to lose your temper or become easily agitated. When you’re well rested, you can better handle whatever
the holidays might throw at you, and maybe even enjoy it.
Ask for help. You don’t have to do everything on your own. You might be hosting the big meal or you might be hosting family at your house for the week, but that doesn’t mean you have to do all the work. Those who have a strong network of
family and friends are better able to handle stress. Let your family and friends take some of the weight off your shoulders.
Try meditation and mindfulness. The holidays can leave some with the feeling that they don’t even have time to think. You do. Or you should make time for it. Find time to be alone with your thoughts. For an extra boost of stress relief,
consider combining this time with a massage, aromatherapy, yoga or acupuncture to relax your body as well.
Acknowledge that holidays can trigger depression. If your family has recently lost a loved one, or certain relatives and friends will be out-of-town, realize that it’s normal to feel grief during the holidays. Allow yourself to feel those
emotions, and seek support from community, religious or healthcare resources.
Stick to your budget. The cost of food, gifts, travel and entertaining during the holidays can create a financial burden that greatly adds to stress. Plan in advance how much money you can afford to spend, then stay committed to your budget.
If your budget is small, create more affordable ways to celebrate such as exchanging homemade gifts or asking guests to bring a potluck dish.
How do you cope with the stress of the holidays?
Cooler temperatures are no excuse to let your health and wellness fall by the wayside. In fact, fall is the perfect time to take advantage of some of the highlights of the season, from incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables into your diet to kicking
your fitness routine up a notch with fall-friendly activities.
NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic filled with fall health tips and creative fall fitness suggestions. Click on the image to see our full
Fall into Wellness infographic.
You’ve come all this way. You’ve spent months training and run hundreds of miles to prepare for race day. Don’t let a preventable
injury keep you from crossing that finish line or ruin the prospects of running marathon number two in the near future.
From mile one to the final stretch, stay injury-free with these tips from
Carrie Jaworski, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at NorthShore:
Wishing Chicago Marathon runners, old and new, a happy and successful race day from NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Intrigued by yoga but not sure where to start? For beginners, yoga’s many styles and moves might be a bit overwhelming but don’t
be deterred. Yoga is a great exercise for people of all ages, activity levels and body types; it’s just a matter of finding the one or combination of styles that’s right for you.
Finding the right style of yoga comes down to assessing your current level of fitness/ability and determining what you hope to achieve by adding yoga to your fitness routine. Some styles are better suited to athletes looking to increase flexibility and
stamina, while other more gentle styles are ideal for those with injuries or chronic medical conditions. But no matter the style, all yoga increases strength, flexibility and balance, while also releasing tension and calming the mind. After all, the goal of
yoga is to create a bond between the mind and the body.
Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor and Licensed Massage Therapist, highlights some popular styles of yoga and discusses the health benefits and required fitness levels of each:
Hatha yoga focuses on breathing exercises and basic poses. Its more basic approach makes it an ideal style for beginners who need to accustom themselves to yoga’s poses and relaxation techniques.
Benefits: Hatha reduces stress, increases concentration and promotes a feeling of overall relaxation. It’s also great for the core.
Who can do it? Anyone, regardless of age or ability, can do Hatha!
Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha yoga that focuses on alignment and precision during movement. Often straps, blankets and blocks are used to enable beginners and those with injuries to achieve the correct positioning without putting excess
stress on muscles and joints.
Benefits: Like all styles of yoga, Iyengar is a mind and body exercise. It promotes balance, builds muscle and can help with recovery after an injury.
Who can do it? Iyengar yoga is a gradual yoga. By including props and allowing one to progress slowly from one move to the next, it’s great for just about anyone, especially those with less mobility after an injury.
Vinyasa yoga seeks to synchronize movement with breath. The key to Vinyasa is to flow smoothly from one movement to the next, which is why it is also frequently referred to as Vinyasa Flow.
Benefits: Vinyasa gets you moving more than Hatha so there’s the added cardiovascular benefit. It also builds lean muscle, improves strength and flexibility, and tones abdominal muscles.
Who can do it? It’s a bit more physically demanding and fast-paced than Hatha, but Vinyasa is still great for beginners and those looking to move from beginner to intermediate level.
Ashtanga yoga is a form of power yoga that is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups. The six-move sequence flows rapidly from one strenuous pose to the next and is paired with Vinyasa-style breathing.
Benefits: Like with any style of yoga, Ashtanga reduces stress and improves coordination and balance. It’s quite a workout too, which means the added benefit of potential weight loss and full-body toning.
Who can do it? Ashtanga yoga is best for fit people who wish to maintain or increase their strength and stamina. It would be helpful to be familiar with the six basic poses in the Ashtanga sequence before jumping into an Ashtanga class.
Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, is practiced in a humid room with temperatures kept at 95 - 100 degrees. All Bikram sessions are 90 minutes and consist of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises.
Benefits: The heat of Bikram facilitates a deeper stretch, and increased perspiration helps flush and cleanse toxins from the body. It’s a gently intense workout with weight-loss possibilities.
Who can do it? The heat might make it a bit of a stretch (no pun intended) for beginners but after you’ve gotten the hang of the heat and the poses, it’s a good yoga style for intermediates looking to push themselves to new levels.
Have you tried yoga? Do you have a favorite style?
Schedules fill up quickly, days are busy and sometimes it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day
to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. And, unfortunately, it’s often our exercise regimens that are the first to fall by the wayside. But don’t give up! Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being.
Thomas Hudgins, MD, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at NorthShore, shares some effective ways to maximize the time you have for exercise:
What is your go-to workout plan when you’re short on time?
Frequent exercise is an important part of keeping your kids happy, healthy and fit. Starting a fitness routine early can be a great way to teach your children how to live healthier lives for years to come. Whether your child is an athlete or just starting
out, preventing injury is the key to keeping fitness safe and fun.
Adam Bennett, Family and Sports Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of his suggestions for getting your kids interested in fitness and
keeping exercise novices and young athletes safe and injury free.
What are some good ways to motivate children to exercise if they are not naturally athletic or have not expressed
an interest in participating in team sports?
Getting kids to exercise is often a tough challenge. Having your child choose a sport, no matter how obscure, may help encourage them to stay active—anything from fencing to yoga to bowling is worth a try. Other parents have had success by allowing their inactive
kids to earn TV or video game time by spending time exercising. That said, most kids like doing what their friends are doing, so consider finding out if their friends play sports and encourage them to participate. Lastly, children learn by example. If you
exercise, your child just might want to join you.
If a child has been fairly inactive, how should exercise be introduced to avoid injury?
It’s best to error on the side of a gradual transition. Kids of all shapes and sizes who have not exercised regularly are at risk for overuse injuries if they rush into activity too quickly. Exercising every other day is a great way to give your muscles,
tendons and bones enough time to recover and prevent injury. Altering the type of activity might also be helpful, with perhaps one day of swimming followed by a game of basketball or a bike ride the next.
How much water should children drink during exercise in the summer? Is water better than electrolyte replacement fluid?
Avoiding dehydration in the summer is very important. If your child is an athlete who will be at outdoor practice regularly during the summer, one easy way to avoid it is to weigh your child before and after exercise, especially during two-a-days. Athletes
need to make sure they are drinking enough water to recover their pre-activity weight. If they haven’t, they might be dehydrated. Athletes should also be told to watch the color of their urine. A light yellow or clearer means they aren’t dehydrated.
Water is fine for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less, but supplementation with water, electrolytes and sugar is essential for optimal performance and recovery when exercising for longer than 20 minutes, especially if the exercise involves intense exertion.
Are two-a-day practices safe for kids?
It’s not an ideal schedule to avoid overuse injuries and dehydration. If there is no pain or sign of injury, it’s a safe schedule, especially if children and coaches are vigilant about preventing dehydration. Most coaches are knowledgeable about proper conditioning
and training programs and choose a program that gets their players fit without causing harm.
What can you do to prevent injury in young athletes?
Soreness that resolves itself after a day or two is common; however, pain that seems to be getting worse with each practice may be a sign of an overuse injury. Any swelling of joints, catching or locking of joints might also indicate a more serious injury.
To prevent injury, a day of rest between workouts is wise. If the young athlete is a runner, mixing things up and trying some biking or swimming to cross train will give joints a break.
If a young athlete is already suffering from some overuse injuries, like tendonitis, how can he or she prevent more serious injury? Can training continue?
Overuse injuries can be a real problem in children who play multiple sports during the same season. During a sports season, dedicated days off from activity will help avoid further injury. In the summer or during off-season, regular exercise that is
similar to the sport played may help avoid overuse injuries once their season starts up again. If injuries persist, physical therapy may be required.
Is a marathon safe for a younger runner?
If he or she is comfortable running long distances and distances are gradually increased during a supervised running program; there is no pain during training and there are days off to recover, it’s likely safe for a younger runner to participate in
a marathon. Keep in mind, however, that a marathon is an intense endeavor which puts the body through unnatural stress. As such, a 10k or even a half marathon may a good alternative for younger runners before undertaking a marathon.
Summer has arrived. Ice cold glasses of lemonade and cookouts are among the many perks of the warmer weather. But don’t forget to add the
delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs in season during the summer to that list. Sure, it’s easy to find produce at your local grocery store, but when you grow it yourself, you reap both the nutritional and physical benefits of your harvest.
Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, Integrative and Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of the benefits gardening can have on your overall
What is your favorite fruit, vegetable or herb to grow in the summertime?
To see more on the health benefits of gardening, check out this video from Lake County's recent community gardening event, Dig Day.
I am going to work out for an hour every day. I will lose 20 pounds in the next three months. I’ll be back down to
my weight in high school by the end of the year. Do any of these goals sound like your own for the year?
If so, and you have a thoughtful plan on making it a reality – good for you! If you tend to say the same thing every year and don’t see the progress you’d like, this year try to set an attainable goal with key milestones to keep you on track and motivated.
Thomas Hudgins, MD, a physician at NorthShore and a triathlete, gives the following suggestions for setting health and weight goals you can stick to this year:
What goals do you have this year? How do you plan to stick to them?
Author: April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist
Eating before you exercise is like fueling up your gas tank to get you from Point A to Point B. It allows you to get through
your workout from start to finish with enough energy. A pre-exercise meal serves a variety of purposes, including:
What to Eat Before Working Out
What you should eat prior to working out will vary from person to person. It will be trial and error to determine what works for you and your routine. As a rule of thumb, you should look for foods that are easily digestible, and often high in carbohydrates
and low in fat, such as: toast, bananas, dried cereal, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and/or small servings of peanut butter, jam or honey.
What to Avoid Eating Before Working Out
There are many foods that should be avoided before you exercise. You will want to limit high-fat sources of protein, such as greasy foods like fries and cheeseburgers. Instead, choose smaller portions of turkey, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat milk. Be careful
with sugary foods and beverages as they can give you a sugar high prior to exercise and may leave you without the necessary energy to finish your routine. Stay away from anything that is high in fiber, as this type of food could cause gastric upset during
What to Eat After Working Out
Eating after you exercise can help you recover faster from your workouts. Chocolate milk or yogurt is a perfect post-workout option because each contains carbohydrates and protein. The protein will help build and repair muscle, and the carbohydrates will help
replenish glycogen stores that were used in your workouts. Some other options to help refuel your tank could include: fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk and a handful of pretzels, juice with string cheese and some crackers, or bowl of your favorite
cereal and a banana.
What are some of your favorite snacks for before and after workouts?