Monthly Archives: August 2012

The School Lunch Dilemma

To Buy or To Pack?

 

 
Its lunchtime at the office and you’re hungry. Your morning has been stressful, and your co-workers are pooling their money for some fried take-out from the local burger joint. You decline their invitation (even though comfort food sounds particularly comforting right now), and instead sit down with the healthy lunch you brought from home, complete with whole grains, lean proteins, raw vegetables, and lots of water. You know you have an afternoon full of meetings, phone calls, and errands, and the fiber and vitamins will carry you through your to-do list valiantly. Congratulations, you made a responsible adult decision, which will benefit your energy levels and probably your long-term health. Do you think you would have made the same decision in the lunch line in the third grade? 
 
Kids in school face complicated lunchtime decisions on a daily basis. The decision to buy or to pack is only the beginning. On the way to the lunchroom, the hallways are lined with vending machines selling soda, chips and candy. The kids in the lunchroom flock toward the a lá carte counter, where they can buy French fries, hot dogs, and sugary drinks. And don’t forget about self-consciousness and peer pressure, which complicate this decision even more. 
 
What a child eats for lunch at school not only influences their energy levels in math class but also sets the stage for adult eating habits. Too many wrong decisions can be a recipe for a nutritional disaster. But if you use lunchtime decision-making as a teachable moment, you can help your child learn to make nutritionally sensible decisions. Whether your child chooses to pack or to buy, here’s what you both need to know about lunchtime nutrition.
 
Buying Lunch
 
Current reports on the state of school lunches are disconcerting. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), “menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes”. PCRM states, “Major changes are needed to protect the health of our nation’s youth and to reverse the growing trends of obesity and chronic disease among children and teens.” To compound the problem, many schools operate school stores, where the students can buy fast food meals (shipped in daily from national fast-food chains), instant soup-in-a-cup (with a day’s worth of sodium at no extra charge), and of course, candy and chips. These stores act as competitors to the school lunch programs, offering even less healthy alternatives. 
 
The good news is that schools all over the country are modifying their menus voluntarily to include healthier options. In Madison County, Alabama, students returned from summer break to find many changes in the cafeteria, including smaller portions, more whole grains, and low fat milk options, all aimed at reducing the state’s growing obesity epidemic. In Berkeley, California, cafeterias are sourcing their ingredients from local organic farms, increasing the foods’ nutritional content as well as boosting the local economy and supporting sustainable agriculture. And in Crystal, Minnesota one school excluded fast food vendors from the school store. While reports like this are encouraging to parents, these trends vary state-by-state and school-by-school. 

Here’s what you can do to help your child choose a healthy lunch when they’re buying:

 
  1. Feed them breakfast. If their stomach is growling in homeroom, they’ll be more likely to load up at the vending machines. If you don’t have time to feed them a home cooked breakfast, try natural peanut butter on a whole wheat bagel and an apple, or a smoothie with soymilk, frozen bananas and peanut butter. 
     
  2. Talk to your child about vending machine, a lá carte, and school store choices. Help them to realize that it’s ok to like candy and fast food, but that doesn’t mean they should be an everyday treat.
     
  3. Lead by example. This may be the most effective way to teach anyone anything, albeit the most difficult. The next time you’re out to eat with your child, explain why you choose to order the garden burger instead of the hamburger with cheese, or the chicken salad instead of the fried chicken. Kids are sponges—use it to your (and their) advantage.
     
  4. Discuss the cafeteria menu with your child, preferably before you’re rushing out the door in the morning. You can help them learn which options are healthier, and talk about the importance of fruits and vegetables. If they don’t like what’s on the menu, then they’ll have time to pack instead. 
     
  5. If you are unhappy with your child’s school menu options, talk to the school lunch coordinator. Many cafeteria menu makeovers started with just one parent. If you’d like more information about healthy lunch activism, visit PCRM’s school lunch website at www.HealthySchoolLunches.org
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How to Start Eating Healthier

15 Simple Ways to Eat Better Today

 
Most people are creatures of habit. We go to the grocery store on the same day every week and fill our carts with the same stuff. If it’s Monday, chicken’s for dinner and Wednesday always means spaghetti. We are comforted with knowing what to expect—even if our meals aren’t that exciting, we know what we’re going to eat.That’s what makes eating healthier so scary sometimes. We are so used to eating a certain way that we rarely think about what we’re actually putting into our bodies. So to eat a healthier diet means actually waking up and paying attention to what’s on your plate.

Make Healthy eating a Habit
Eating healthier doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you want to adopt healthy habits that will last, then the easiest way to do it is by making small, gradual changes. Don’t expect too much from yourself too soon—it takes about a month for any new action to become habit.

Before you start making any changes to your diet, take a week or two to observe your current eating habits. Track everything that goes in your mouth, including drinks and treats, no matter how small. Keeping a food journal will really open your eyes—realizing that you ate 10 cookies over the course of the week might make you think twice before reaching into the cookie jar again tonight, for example. You might not realize how bad your present eating habits are until you see an unhealthy pattern right there in black and white. Once you see that some changes are in order, then you’re ready to take the next steps.

Small Changes Mean Big Rewards
If you can’t stand the taste of broccoli, then vowing to eat it more often is pretty unrealistic. But if increasing the number of vegetables you eat each day is one of your goals, start by finding a few different ones that you can painlessly work into your diet. Make sure you select a variety of colors (dark green, red, orange, etc.) to get the most nutrients per bite. Add some shredded carrots to your muffin batter or top your pizza with fresh tomatoes, for example.

If you know you need to eat more fruit, start by adding some sliced bananas to your cereal in the morning or bake an apple with a bit of brown sugar for a yummy, low-cal dessert. Fresh berries and yogurt make a nice, light breakfast or snack too.

As you adopt this new style of eating, you will find that your food preferences will gradually change—when you cut out high-sugar, high-fat goodies, your cravings will actually go away in time. Your body wants healthy food!

One of the biggest challenges to eating healthier is finding substitutions for existing foods in your diet. Here are some tips to make the transition easier:

  • Use mustard instead of mayo on your sandwiches. You’ll get lots of flavor with much fewer calories and fat.
  • Select whole wheat bread over white bread. Be sure to read the label to ensure you’re getting whole grains, not just colored white bread.
  • Eat the white meat of turkey or chicken, which is lower in fat than dark meat, red meat and pork. Animal fat is the number one dietary source of unhealthy saturated fat.
  • Start using lean ground beef, pork tenderloin or fish instead of high-fat cuts of meat.
  • Change your cooking methods. Bake, grill or broil your meals instead of frying. Use non-stick sprays—or better yet, non-stick pans—instead of oil.
  • Drink more water. Slowly reduce the amount of soda you drink and replace it with herbal tea or water. Aim for eight cups of pure water each day.
  • Don’t drink your calories. Eat a whole orange instead of drinking a glass of juice, for example. Real food is usually more filling and more nutritious than juices, fruit drinks, and other high-calorie beverages.
  • Serve sauces and dressings on the side. Dip your fork into the sauce, then dip your fork into the food. You’ll still have the flavor but with fewer calories.
  • Gradually switch to skim milk. Milk commonly comes in four varieties: whole (4% fat), 2%, 1% and skim (0% fat). Gradually wean yourself from the higher-fat varieties to the lower fat milk every two weeks. For example: continue drinking your normal 2% milk for two weeks, then move to 1% for two weeks, and then your palate will be ready for the consistency of skim milk.
  • Switch from full-fat cheeses to reduced-fat or fat-free cheeses the same way you would with milk (see tip above).
  • Order vegetables on the side instead of fries. Flavor them with lemon juice or herbs instead of butter.
  • Snack on fruit and nuts instead of sugary treats. The fiber, protein and healthy fats in this combo will sustain you to your next meal and you won’t have the energy slump that comes after eating candy.
  • Reduce your portion size. Most people will eat whatever amount of food is in front of them, so start putting your meals on smaller plates. You will be just as satisfied because your mind “sees” that you’re eating a full plate of food.

Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have to mean deprivation. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods completely—you just have to make a few changes. Treat yourself to a mini chocolate bar instead of a full-sized one, for example. By trying to eat the most nutritious foods possible, you are creating a healthy lifestyle that will help you reach your best weight. You deserve the very best!

Best Summer Recipes!

Healthy, Light and Guilt-Free

 

 
Don’t let summer parties and cookouts derail your plans to eat healthier! You can keep the flavor and cut the excess calories by trying one of these healthy summer recipes.

Grilled Sweet ‘n Sour Chicken
541 calories, 4g fat, 62g carbs, 3g fiber, 59g proteinMore ideas to liven up grilled chicken
 
Light Coleslaw
72 calories, 5g fat, 8g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g proteinMore healthy takes on coleslaw
 
Patriotic Pudding Pie
192 calories, 8g fat, 16g carbs, 1g fiber, 6g proteinMore desserts with berries
 
Summery Salmon with Corn Salsa
253 calories, 10g fat, 11g carbs, 3g fiber, 31g proteinMore salmon recipes
 
Perfectly Healthy Pasta Salad
163 calories, 2g fat, 28g carbs, 5g fiber, 9g proteinMore pasta-salad recipes with fewer than 200 calories
 
Tropical Fruit & Quinoa Salad
111 calories, 4g fat, 18g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g proteinMore summer fruit salads
 
Pico de Gallo
22.5 calories, 0g fat, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g proteinMore salsa recipes
 
Roasted Summer Veggies
121 calories, 7g fat, 15g carbs, 5g fiber, 4g proteinMore cookout ideas for vegetarians

More Healthy Recipes for Summer!

What’s Really Making Your Back Hurt?

6 Myths and Facts about Back Pain

 
This morning, you probably didn’t think twice about slinging a work tote over your shoulder or picking your sneakers up off the floor. But there may come a time when one of those simple motions will trigger a backache bad enough to cause you to call in sick, see a doctor, or at the very least, take a few painkillers. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, four out of five women will develop a back injury at some point in their lives. But with a few simple changes, you can prevent yourself from becoming a statistic. The trick, says Douglas Chang, M.D., chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, is separating the misconceptions from the facts. We asked Chang and other experts to set the record straight on how to best prevent and heal aches and pains.MYTH #1 Lifting heavy objects will strain your back.
FACT Most injuries are caused not by what you pick up, but how you do it. The proper form: Squat, keeping your back straight. Grab the object, bring it close to your body, then stand; your thigh and butt muscles should do the lifting.

Just grabbing a pen off the floor? It’s still important to be careful, because simply twisting the wrong way can harm your back. “One of the worst moves is bending over to the side while staying seated with your feet planted on the floor,” says Rahul Shah, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon in Winter Park, Florida. “Twisting your back in two directions at once may strain the disks that cushion your spinal vertebrae.” This repetitive trauma builds up over the years and can weaken your spine. “If your back is already vulnerable,” says Shah, “the wrong movement could easily trigger an injury.”

MYTH #2 Sitting up straight keeps your spine in line.
FACT While your mom was right to stop you from hunching, holding yourself too erectly isn’t as good for your back as you think. “It puts a lot of stress on your disks, especially when you do it for long periods of time,” says Santhosh Thomas, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health in Westlake, Ohio. In fact, researchers at Woodend Hospital in Scotland found that people who sat at a 90-degree angle strained their spines more than those who reclined at 135 degrees.

What’s a woman to do? Adjust your posture a few times a day, recommends Shah. “Lean back in your chair with your feet on the ground and make sure there’s a slight curve in your lower back.” That way, he explains, you’ll distribute your body weight more evenly, as your shoulders and upper back muscles will take some of the pressure off your spine. If you often find yourself slouching at your desk at the end of the workday, consider using a cushion to support your lower back and keep your spine in alignment.

What may be even more important than sitting correctly is taking frequent breaks from your desk throughout the day. To boost circulation in your back muscles and lessen fatigue, stand up every half hour and take a five-minute stroll or stretch every hour. Do some of your work while standing up to give your spine a little reprieve. Take a phone call on your feet, or place a report on top of a waist-high filing cabinet so you can stand and read it.

MYTH #3 Most exercise is hard on your back.
FACT Researchers from Samsung Medical Center in Korea found that working out at least three times a week actually reduced the risk for developing chronic back pain by 43 percent. Exercise strengthens your back muscles and increases blood flow to the disks, helping them withstand daily strain. Hitting the gym regularly also keeps your waistline in check, which has a huge payoff for your back: A study in the journal Spine revealed that overweight people were nearly three times as likely to go to the hospital with a back injury than those at a healthy weight. Even as little as 5 or 10 extra pounds can put stress on your spine, increasing your risk of injury. Opt for low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or using the elliptical machine, to strengthen your back without putting excess pressure on your disks or joints.

Still, it’s important not to do too much. Overexerting yourself—by lifting too-heavy weights or stretching past the point of comfort—is a surefire way to injure your back. To protect yourself while working out: Warm up with at least 15 minutes of light cardio to increase blood flow to back muscles. Next, observe your form in the mirror when lifting weights. Your back should always be straight, whether you’re working your biceps or your legs. Finally, avoid overstretching or bouncing; those movements jar the spine and muscles.

MYTH #4 Back pain is always caused by an injury.
FACT Between juggling a huge work deadline and planning your sister’s bridal shower, taking a time-out may seem like a luxury. But when it comes to caring for your back, it’s essential. According to a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, women who feel overwhelmed at home or work are more than twice as likely as their calmer counterparts to have lower back pain. “Mental stress causes the smallest units of the muscle, the fibers, to tighten,” says Ulf Lundberg, Ph.D., a professor of biological psychology at Sweden’s Stockholm University. Over time, clenched muscle fibers wear down, upping the risk for injury. And to make matters worse, your body’s natural response—an increase in muscle tension—can aggravate existing back problems.

So the next time you feel the pressure rising, make a point to work at least half an hour of relaxation into your day no matter how frenzied you feel. A hot bath or shower is one of the best ways to decompress, because heat can relax your back muscle fibers. To boost the benefits even more, use lavender-scented bath beads or soap: In a Japanese study, people who sniffed the calming scent had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Your back already in knots? Get a massage. Find a massage therapist near you through the American Massage Therapy Association.

MYTH #5 Alternative treatments don’t work.
FACT Nearly one in six Americans has tried some form of alternative therapy to ease an aching back, according to the National Institutes of Health. And for good reason: Studies suggest these treatments may be more effective than conventional physical therapy and medications in some cases. In fact, in a recent German study, half of the lower back patients who received two weekly acupuncture sessions over six months reported a significant reduction in pain. The needles may stimulate the release of pain-relieving brain chemicals, say experts. Find a licensed practitioner from the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Research also shows that seeing a chiropractor may help you feel better faster. These practitioners believe back pain is caused by dislocations in the vertebrae. During an “adjustment,” gentle force is applied to your spine to stretch your joints and realign them. To find a licensed chiropractor near you, consult the American Chiropractic Association.

MYTH #6 A super firm mattress is best for your back.
FACT Actually, it might be the source of your pain. Trying to find a back-friendly bed is like playing Goldilocks: A too-soft mattress doesn’t offer enough support, while a rock-hard one can increase pressure on the spine. A study in the journal Lancet found that those who snoozed on a medium-firm mattress experienced less back pain—and popped fewer pain relievers—than those who slept on a harder one. Can’t afford a brand-new bed? Consider buying a pad such as those from Therapedic (from $30; bedbathbeyond.com) to cushion an extra-firm mattress. If your bed is too soft, place a bed board, like one by Duro-Med ($35; drugstore.com), beneath the mattress to prevent it from sagging

Healthy Inspiration

Motivational Quote - The body achieves what the mind believes.

In order to do something, you have to first believe that you can do it! Once you believe in yourself, so many doors will open up for you. Take that first step today by doing something outside your comfort zone.

Plan the Perfect Girls Day Out

Think Outside the Box to Make Lifelong Memories

 
Friendships seem to be front and center throughout childhood and early adulthood, but once careers get into full swing and families start to grow, female friendships often take a back seat to other priorities. Nurturing good friendships is hugely important throughout your life. Friendships are said to increase your sense of belonging, boost your happiness and improve your self-worth. Experts say they’re also great for reducing stress—and can be important for support when you cope with tough life situations such as illness or divorce.
 
We all know the classic girls night out (think dinner, drinks and dancing). But sometimes that night out at a loud bar doesn’t make for the best conversation or bonding experience. Instead of burning the midnight oil, swap night for a full day of friendly fun. Friends can spur you to change or avoid unhealthy habits, experts say, and many of these ideas for a girls day out incorporate a health boost! Mix and match these ideas to plan a day of bonding and adventure with a girlfriend or your whole group of pals. What could be more fun than a day of fun, fashion, food, friendship, and fitness?
 

Fun
 

Host a moviethon. Whether it’s a Gossip Girl marathon session or watching all of the Twilight movies, pick a group favorite, whip up some popcorn and enjoy relaxation and chatting. With just the cost of a few rentals and snacks, this fun-filled day is super affordable at less than $30!
 
Throw a theme party. Whether you love Wild, Wild West, Star Wars or Sex and the City, invite your friends over for a theme party. Get creative with dressing for the part and provide healthy foods that fit the theme. Depending on how elaborate you are with food, drinks, decorations, and costumes, you can throw a themed party for as little as $50.
 
Take a bartending class. Learn to whip up cocktails with your friends! With hands-on expertise from a real bartender ($25 and up per person), you can ask specifically about how to make low-cal drink options.
 
Plan a fit movie day. Watch classic movies that incorporate fitness for inspiration. Love dance? Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Footloose and Flashdance are all great options! Are you all team players? A League of Their Own and Bend It Like Beckham fit the bill. 
 
Have a game day. Whether you play Charades, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or Cranium, games have a way of opening up the conversation and creating lasting memories. And it’s free if you have the game on hand!
 
Go out to the ball game. Head to a ball game with the gals, be it a hockey game, minor league baseball game or a pro basketball game. Whether you’re actually interested in the sport or the team doesn’t matter—it’s a fun change of pace from the mall! And with prices all over the map, it can be an affordable day out with the girls.
 
 

Fashion
 

Shop the thrift stores. Hit up thrift stores and consignment shops for great clothing deals and one-of-a-kind items. Browsing and playing dress up is fun at any age! Plus, it’s free to look.
 
Get fitted. Need a new pair of running shoes? Head to a running store to get fitted for shoes with your fit friends. Never been measured for a bra? Make sure you’re wearing the right size, available free in the intimates departments of most department stores!

Splurge on a new workout outfit. If your workout wardrobe is getting stale, go shopping with your healthy pals for new fitness wear that flatters and motivates you to move.
 
Get a mall makeover. Never stopped in that department store for a professional makeup application? Do it in the morning and you’ll look fab all day! It’s free, although you’ll likely purchase a product or two.
 
Book a personal shopper. Make an appointment with a personal shopper who can give you and your friends tips on the latest trends and classics to add to your wardrobe. It’s typically free, although, like the makeup department, you’ll likely buy!
 
 

Food

Hit a wine tasting. Whether you make a day of going to a winery or simply head to an upscale liquor store for a wine tasting, trying various wines is a great way for you and your friends to find new favorites. Wine tastings can range from about $5 to $20 per person, but oftentimes a tasting fee is waived if you make a purchase.
 
Host a healthy potluck and recipe swap. Have your girlfriends over for a potluck lunch, with everyone bringing their favorite healthy dish. Make recipe cards a requirement and everyone will leave with healthy meal ideas!
 
Cook a new recipe. If you’re not brave in the kitchen, there is safety in numbers! You and your girlfriends can pitch in to whip up a new healthy dish you’re too scared to make on your own.
 
Attend a cooking class. Take a group cooking class to learn new skills in the kitchen. Prices vary, but expect to pay about $50 and up per person for a private class.
 
Dine at a healthy restaurant. Know of a restaurant that uses only locally-sourced foods? Has a vegan restaurant opened up in your neighborhood? Hold the typical bar food and have a nourishing dining experience with your friends.
 
Peruse the farmers market. Head to a local farmers market to check out the fruits, vegetables and other local vendors. Then use your purchases to whip up a healthy lunch!
 
Have a smoothie-making party. Like your fruit in liquid form? Assign your friends smoothie ingredients to bring over—yogurt, juice, bananas, frozen fruits, spinach—and get creative with a smoothie-tasting party. Award the best-tasting smoothie maker with a fun prize!
 
Visit a local farm. Head out of town and visit a local farm. You’ll find fresh produce and maybe even be inspired to eat more local foods.
 

Friendship
 

Go for manis and pedis. Ah, the classic girlie endeavor: head to a salon and get your fingernails and toenails shaped up and painted by the pros! From a simple fingernail polish change on the cheap to a full out spa pedicure, prices for services can range from $10 to $50.
 
Get massages. Tack on a massage to your spa day for the ultimate in relaxation ($70 and up for an hour-long massage).
 
See a chick flick. Nothing says girls’ day more than hitting the movies to watch the latest romantic comedy. A good laugh, a good cry—it’s all worth the price of admission ($8 to $15 for movie tickets).
 
Check out your local art museum. If you and your friends are artsy types, soak up some culture and bond over your love of aesthetics at the latest exhibit in your town. It’s a great way to relax and get a fresh perspective! Some art museums have free admission, but others, especially those with specialty exhibits, can vary in price.
 
Take a road trip. Oftentimes, a road trip with your girlfriends is all you need for a boost of mental health. Make a fun playlist with songs that you and your friends love and go for a drive—whether it be across town or across the country! The price you pay is up to you, depending on how far you go and whether you choose to stop and see the sights along the way, but you should budget for at least a full tank of gas ($30-$50).
 
Make your own scrapbooks. For an instant happiness boost, get your friends together to make scrapbooks of all the good times you’ve had together. Have everyone bring in pictures, stickers, magazines, and glue and share your favorite memories and inside jokes while you work. Depending on how crafty you want to get, this project can be virtually free. But if you want to make your scrapbooks look a little more professional, you can drop a few extra bucks on supplies from the craft store ($10 or more).
 
 

Fitness
 

Attend a yoga class. Take a yoga class (up to $20/person although your first class is usually free). Stretch, destress and bond while downward-dogging with your gal pals. Whether you’re brand new to yoga or a self-proclaimed yogini, this ancient practice turned fitness trend is something that women of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels can enjoy.
 
Take a hike. Whether you head to a local walking path or tackle a trail you’ve had your eye on, this is a free and fun endeavor for you and your friends.
 
Hit the driving range. Head to the driving range, get a bucket of balls and see who can hit a golf ball the farthest! For $10 and up for a bucket of balls, you and your girlfriends can practice your skills at a low cost without committing to eight or more hours on the course.
 
Go horseback riding. It may seem like the horse is doing the work, but horseback riding is an active endeavor for you, too! Prices and rides can vary widely, ranging from an hour to all-day adventures ($30 and up to over $100 for longer trips).
 
Run a 5K. Sign up for, train and compete in a 5K. Whether you run with your friends or walk, it’s always a great time to get up at the crack of dawn and exercise with friends! Entrance fees typically run $20-$35 per person.
 
Go bowling. It may be old school, but you’re guaranteed a laugh watching your girlfriends throw their balls right in the gutter—and get the occasional strike. It’s a low-intensity active endeavor that will easily kill a couple of hours and give you great memories! It’s also fairly affordable— $5 to $10 per game, plus the cost of shoe rental ($3 to $5).
 
Try a new fitness class. Whether it’s a Zumba class you’ve always wanted to try, salsa dancing, or pole dancing, get your groove on! With prices ranging from $10 per class to $50, pick your price and your poison!
 
 
Think outside the box when it comes to getting your girlfriends together. There’s no need to do the standard coffee date when there are so many options out there for good food, fitness, and fun!

60-Second Health and Fitness Boosters

Simple Ways to Improve Your Health–Almost Instantly!

— By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor

 
When it comes to losing weight or making healthy choices, you probably think that it takes hours at a gym plus long nights preparing and planning nutritious meals. What you may not realize is that quick and easy changes can really improve your immediate health and wellness.

So just how quick is quick? One minute—that’s it! Try any one of these 60-second activities to easily reap the healthy benefits.

1. Drink a tall glass of water. We all know the many health benefits of drinking water, but did you also know that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue? So, the next time you feel your energy waning, grab a glass of cold water and guzzle it down!

2. Twist it out. So many of us spend every weekday seated in front of a computer. Not only can sitting all day wreak havoc on your posture, but it can also compress your spine and exaggerate its curvature. Not fun. A simple twist can help undo this. As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. If you have the space to sit on the floor, try this torso twist stretch. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better!

3. Take a deep breath. How often do you think about breathing? If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it often enough. For a quick pick-me-up, simply take five deep breaths. Slowly inhale for at least five seconds and exhale for 10 seconds each time. Your body will thank you for the extra oxygen.

4. Do 20 jumping jacks. Research has shown that long periods of sitting can be detrimental to the body and our overall health. So get up out of that chair and jack it out! Just one minute of jumping jacks is an easy way to get your heart pumping and blood flowing.

5. Smile. Smiling can actually make you happier. So go ahead—smile!

6. Go outside. You’ve probably heard the health buzz about vitamin D lately. Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, supports heart health, can help normalize blood pressure and promotes healthy aging. Vitamin D has also been linked to improved mood. If you have a minute to spare, step out into the sunshine!

7. Put on a favorite song. There’s nothing quite like your favorite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins. Bonus points if you dance along!

8. Sit up straighter. Did you know that bad posture can put unnecessary stress on your low back? Take a minute to focus on sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back. Don’t you feel better already?

9. Be grateful. Write down five things you’re grateful for, no matter how large or small (your hair, your family, your morning cup of Joe—whatever). Do you feel more thankful, generous and overall happier after? Funny how a little reminder of what we have can turn a frown into a smile.

10. Tell a joke. Awake your inner child and tell a silly joke—whether it’s a knock-knock joke or even a funny line from a movie. Anything that gets you laughing is enough to get your happy endorphins flowing!

11. Do 10 pushups. Being strong is important, but having functional strength is even more important because it makes everyday activities easier to accomplish. A push-up is a great, quick exercise for building functional strength. Drop down and give me 10—or as many as you can do in 1 minute.

12. Encourage someone. Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to feel better after helping someone else feel better? Whether you post a supportive comment on a SparkFriend’s page or write a few kind words in a card or an email, taking a minute out to help someone can quickly boost your mood.

13. Set a goal for the day. Fact: People who set goals have more success than people who don’t. So why not take a few seconds and write down what you want to do today? Then, just commit to making it happen!

14. Focus on one thing you love about yourself. At times, we put so much effort in focusing on what we don’t like about ourselves that we fail to see the good. Take 60 seconds to think about what you like about you. Is it your eyes? Your strong legs? Your giving nature? Thinking about how great you are will instantly increase self-confidence.

15. Wash your hands. It seems like cold and flu season is always in full force (or just around the corner).  One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay well year round is to wash your hands. All you need is warm water, soap and 20 seconds of rubbing to rid your hands of unwanted germs.

16. Compliment a stranger. What better way to make yourself feel good than to unexpectedly brighten someone else’s day? The next time you admire someone’s clothes, positive attitude or eyes—say so!

17. Try aromatherapy. A number of different smells can have a positive effect on your mind and body. For example, peppermint is known to calm the stomach while its smell can energize you through a workout. And the scent of jasmine has been shown to reduce anxiety. To benefit, grab some scented lotion and either take a whiff from the bottle or rub some on your hands.

18. Salute the sun. Sun salutations are a well-known set of yoga poses that are said to warm up the body and increase blood flow and flexibility. So grab your mat and do one or two sets—rain or shine!

19. Give yourself a mini-massage. Massage has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and speeding muscle repair. While you may not be able to spend the time or money getting one at a spa, pampering yourself with just 1 minute of self-massage by rubbing your own hands, feet or shoulders can do wonders.

20. Be absolutely present. When we are wrapped up with work, to-do lists, and just getting by, sometimes we can forget to focus on what we are doing in the here and now. Try spending a minute just being. Focus on sounds, smells and whatever else is going on around you; instead of thinking ahead to what you’ll do next, think about what you’re doing right now. You’ll be amazed at how peaceful you feel. Just be!

See? In the quest to be healthier, you don’t have to spend a lot of time. Even if all you have is a few spare seconds here and there, you can make a positive difference in your overall health!

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