Get Fit: Great Exercises Your Family Can Enjoy Together

Friday, January 17, 2014 10:00 AM comments (0)

family fitnessGet 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?

 

The Height of the Season: Flu Myths vs. Facts

Monday, January 13, 2014 2:30 PM comments (0)

flu seasonWorried about catching the flu this season? There are many things you can do to prevent the spread of the flu—washing your hands regularly, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine—but one of the best is to make sure you get vaccinated. 

Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, addresses some of the pervasive myths surrounding the flu and the flu shot to give you your best shot for dodging the bug this season:

Myth: I got the flu shot and got the flu right away.
Fact: The flu shot is not 100 percent effective but it is effective. The vaccine reduces a person’s risk of developing significant symptoms by 60%.

Myth: The flu shot is effective immediately.
Fact: It takes a period of two weeks for the flu shot to take effect.

Myth: Only the elderly and young children are affected by the flu.
Fact: The elderly and children younger than two (as well as people with other underlying medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, cerebral palsy, COPD, diabetes, kidney or liver disease) are at highest risk for flu complications. Those with compromised immune systems are also at especially high risk. But, the flu can strike anyone.  Some of the most serious cases can occur in people who were previously healthy.

Myth: People suffering from the flu should always go to the hospital.
Fact: Healthy people should take care of themselves at home: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take Tylenol or Advil. Be watchful of other health issues though. If you are suffering from labored breathing or dehydration, you should go to the emergency room.

Myth: You should feed a cold and starve a fever.
Fact: Maintaining nutrition and staying hydrated is important when you are sick with the flu, so the answer is feed and feed.

Myth: Getting the flu shot once per season is always adequate.
Fact: One flu shot per season is adequate for almost everyone, with the exception of children under nine years old who should get two doses of flu vaccine (separated by  four weeks) during the first flu season they are immunized.

Myth: Flu and cold symptoms are the same.
Fact: Flu symptoms include a fever, cough, congestion, chills, fatigue, body aches, and often sore throat and headache. Cold symptoms are fewer in number, much milder and last just a few days.

Myth: The flu lasts 24 hours.
Fact: Children are typically ill 7-10 days but can shed the virus a few days before their symptoms begin and up to 2 weeks after the start of symptoms. Adults are typically ill 5-7 days but shed the virus 1 day before symptoms begin and usually up to 5 days after the start of symptoms. Some symptoms like fatigue may last for several weeks in kids and adults. 

Myth: There is no way to protect yourself from the flu.
Fact: The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu and to reduce the risk of its complications. Also, thorough and frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces, getting adequate sleep, nutrition and hydration all reduce a person’s flu risks. Being watchful of complications and seeing your doctor if serious symptoms arise (like difficulty breathing and dehydration) reduce your risks of harm. Staying home when ill with the flu and covering your mouth when coughing also reduces the risks of spread in the community. 

It’s not too late to get vaccinated this flu season. Have you had your flu shot?

Winter Safety Tips

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 1:20 PM comments (0)

Winter SaferyWinter has arrived--with a venegence. Shovels and snow plows are out of storage for the season, and there's probably a layer of frost covering the windows. Winter can be quite beautiful from the safety of your home, but it can be dangerous as soon as you step out the front door, from an increased risk of frostbite and slip-and-fall injuries to impaired road conditions.

With proper preparation and attentiveness to potential hazardous seasonal conditions, many of the risks of winter can be greatly reduced or avoided altogether.

Timothy Sanborn, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, offers the following winter safety tips:

  • Take your time when shoveling. While you may want to get the job done fast, it’s important not to overexert yourself. If you start to feel pressure in your chest or experience shortness of breath, take a break and slow down. If symptoms last more than five minutes, you may need to seek medical attention.
  • Be careful of icy sidewalks. Common winter injuries, especially to the ankles and wrists, can be the result of slipping or falling on slick surfaces. For minor injuries, be sure to stretch the area and maintain flexibility for 2-3 days. If you fall and are in severe pain, and notice swelling around the joints, be sure to go to the hospital. You should also go to the hospital if you’ve hit your head and are suffering from a severe headache, vomiting or confusion.
  • Use salt on sidewalks and driveways. The more steps you can employ to reduce your risk of injury, the better. Before a big storm, try to salt heavily trafficked area to help limit your chances of accidents.
  • Stay inside in inclement weather. If you know a big storm is coming, postpone going out to run errands. Stay off the roads as much as possible. If you are elderly or have problems with your balance, get help with shoveling and daily routines.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite. Keep skin covered at all times. Signs of frostbite include: pain (stinging, throbbing, burning), numbness, blistering of the skin or discoloration.

How do you prepare for winter weather?

New Year and New You: Clean Eating

Monday, January 06, 2014 2:03 PM comments (0)

clean eating

Jeni Panicko, RD, LDN at NorthShore, shares her tips and suggestions for making clean eating part of your 2014.

Have you made a New Year's resolution to lose weight each year for as long as you can remember? Make a change this year. Instead of vowing to lose weight and beating yourself up when you come up short, change the way you think about food by changing the way you eat. This year, practice clean eating.

When you eat “clean,” it means you focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, dairy, whole grains and heart healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. Clean eating also involves avoiding many of the pitfalls of dieting, like skipping meals and replacing healthy whole, unprocessed foods with diet foods that may contain high levels of sodium and sugar.

Do you try to eat "clean" in your family?

Four Healthy Changes You Should Make This Year

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 8:00 AM comments (0)

healthy changesDo you make a New Year’s resolution every year? How long does this resolution stick around on your to-do list? Many of us start the year with the best intentions only to fall back into our old, unhealthy habits by February or March. This year, make healthy positive changes instead of resolutions and look forward to a healthier year ahead. 

Richard S. Katz, MD, Internal Medicine at NorthShore, shares some healthy changes he would tell all his patients to make this year:

  • Exercise more. Don’t just make a resolution to lose weight again this year. Broaden your overall focus to include a bigger, better change. Implementing a regular exercise routine into your day-to-day life is the single best thing you can do for your health. It boosts your immune system and mood, reduces stress levels, improves heart health and, as a result, you’ll probably lose weight as well.  Your exercise routine should consist of a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise, plus strength training and stretching.  For example, three days a week of indoor cycling and two days of yoga.
  • Change the way you eat. Don’t try to cut out sweets altogether because you’ll likely overindulge a month or two into the New Year. Instead, focus your attention on your overall diet by eating healthy, well-balanced meals as often as possible. With a healthier overall diet, you won’t have to beat yourself up if you indulge in something sweet every now and then. Make fruits and vegetables the center of your diet instead of meat-based protein. Remember: If it walks on four or more legs, then include it in no more than two meals per week. And, always make sure you keep your portion sizes under control. 
  • Get a yearly physical. Are you seeing your primary care physician every year? You should be. Take the time to make that yearly appointment and do your homework before you get there. Write down any health complaints, research your family history and assemble questions ahead of time. Your doctor can help you better understand what you’re doing right and what you need to improve.
  • Find a way to de-stress. Identify what has your stress levels soaring and find a way to address it. Chronic stress can increase blood pressure, risk of infection and cause headaches, insomnia and more. Finding a way to reduce stress levels can improve both your physical and mental health. Exercise is a great stress reducer and finding a quiet place to sit and breathe can work wonders. Determine something that works for you and make plenty of time for it in your schedule.  In order to handle stress well, we all need seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

What healthy changes do you plan to make this year?

Keeping the Roads Safe on New Year’s Eve

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 10:28 AM comments (0)

Designated DriverHoliday schedules fill up quickly with special events and gatherings of friends and family that often involve the consumption of alcohol.  Many people drink more often and consume more in these weeks than at any other time during the year and are not used to assessing their own ability to drive, particularly on winter’s sometimes more dangerous roads.  This all adds up to conditions in which drunk or impaired driving is not only possible but likely, which is why December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that DUI arrests peak between Thanksgiving and the end of December, and that the average daily death rate caused by drunk/drugged drivers increases from 36 to between 45 and 54 on Christmas and New Years Eve respectively.  In addition, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 25,000 people will experience injuries during the same period as a result of accidents in which the driver is impaired.  These numbers reflect a decline over previous decades, but each incident represents a family devastated, a son, daughter, husband, wife or friend not returning home. 

Ina Sherman, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor at  NorthShore’s Doreen E. Chapman Center, shares her suggestions for helping to ensure that everyone out on the roads reaches their holiday destinations safe and sound:

  • Designate a driver. The most important thing you can do is ensure there is a designated driver. Designated drivers have saved thousands of lives over the years. Make a plan before you leave for a party that includes a designated driver.  And remember, a designed driver always has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.00. That means no drinking at all.
  • Have non-alcoholic options available. The drink you have in your hand doesn’t need to be alcoholic and maybe it wouldn’t be if there were other options available. Make sure to have non-alcoholic beverages available for those who don’t want to drink or would like to switch to something non-alcoholic later in the evening. Consider including one or two mock-tail recipes on your drink menu. 
  • Use extra caution on the roads. You have designated a driver, but there might be others on the road who haven’t. Make sure to be extra vigilant out on the roads during the holidays. Keep your eyes on the road and if you see anyone driving erratically, be sure to report them and their location to the authorities!

Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year. 

Kid-Friendly Home Remedies for the Common Cold

Monday, December 23, 2013 9:00 AM comments (0)

common cold

It’s cold and flu season. There’s no way around it. If it hasn’t happened already, it won’t be long before the common cold and the flu start making the rounds at your child’s school. And kids in school are particularly susceptible because regular hand-washing probably isn’t at the top of their to-do lists. 

Parents, it’s the perfect time to prepare for the sick days ahead. Susan Roth, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares some effective home remedies for parents with little ones stuck at home with a bad cold.

What home remedies have worked for you?

Celebrate a Healthier Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 3:25 PM comments (0)

holiday eatingAre your waistbands a little tighter each year when January arrives? It’s not just your imagination. Studies show that the average American gains between one and two pounds during the holiday season, and up to 14% of Americans gain five pounds or more. This fairly small gain tends to increase body fat percentage, which may partially explain why we often have the illusion of a more significant increase around the holidays. 

Holiday parties, rich holiday food, the cold weather keeping you indoors and holiday stress can all contribute to this seasonal weight gain.  And, though the gain may be modest, for many it could stick around for the rest of the year.

Weight loss doesn’t have to be a New Year’s resolution this year. Start your year off right with these simple tips from Jeni Panicko, RD, LDN at NorthShore, and enjoy the holiday season full of health and zero regrets:

Focus on maintenance not weight loss. Enjoy the holidays! If you start out trying to deny yourself the food that you enjoy, you’re likely to overindulge eventually. Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays; try to maintain your weight. The holidays can be stressful enough without the added pressure of a diet. 

Have a healthy snack before you head out the door. Holiday parties are a great time to catch up with friends and family, but they aren’t the best place to find healthy snacks. When your favorite high-fat holiday fare is on offer, it’s not easy to practice moderation, especially if you show up hungry. Eat a healthy snack before you hit the buffet line to avoid overindulging. If you don’t have time to eat beforehand, grab a small plate and ensure most of it is filled with healthy fruits and veggies. 

Keep moving! The weather outside might be frightful, but don’t let that keep you from staying active during the holiday season. There are many outdoor activities that not only embrace the cold but are big calorie-burners for the entire family, like ice-skating and cross-country skiing (no hills required). Make these family activities and you’ve started a new healthy holiday tradition. Keep it simple, layer up and go for a walk; take the stairs at work before your holiday days off instead of the elevator; do your holiday shopping at the store instead of online. 

Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables. Seasonal fruits and veggies aren’t just a summer thing. Apples, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks and pumpkin are all in season during the colder months of the year, and they can be prepared in a multitude of healthy and delicious ways. Fill your plate and don’t regret it.

Make some small substitutions that make a big difference. Healthy substitutions can make a huge difference when it comes to calories and fat. Use lower-fat ingredients in your holiday cooking to create healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods.  Consider substituting skim milk for whole. In many baked goods, applesauce can replace oil. And the best thing about making these healthy substitutions is that, in terms of taste, you won’t notice a thing. 

How to you maintain your weight during the holidays?

Keep the Season Bright: 12 Holiday Health and Safety Tips [Infographic]

Friday, December 13, 2013 9:53 AM comments (0)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so don’t let an illness, injury or accident keep you from celebrating a happy, healthy holiday season with your family and friends.  Whether you’re outside shoveling snow or inside preparing your favorite seasonal dishes, our 12 holiday health and safety tips are sure to help keep the season bright.

This year, share our holiday safety infographic with your friends and family to spread holiday health tips as well as cheer. Click on the image below to see our full holiday safety infographic

holiday infographic

Don’t Stress the Holidays

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 4:13 PM comments (0)

holiday stressStress 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 threat. 

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?

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