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HEALTH MINDED   .    .    .


Whether you enjoy the challenge of exercising outside in the summer sun or simply appreciate an outdoor stroll when the weather is nice, planning outdoor exercise sessions can be a great way to stay motivated and avoid lapses and subsequent relapses. At this time, it’s also likely a safer option to exercising indoors, particularly for older adults and others in higher-risk categories. If older adults are are interested in staying active, here are eight ideas to help get outside and explore creative ways to get adequate amounts of physical activity.

Agility Drills

Agility drills, such side shuffles and skips, can be considered a combination of dynamic balance and vertical core training that prepare the body to rapidly move its center of mass over a changing base of support. Grab some space at a park, mark off a distance of 10 yards and instruct your client to travel in one direction while performing a variety of movements and then walk back. Complete 2-4 repetitions of each of the following moves: high knee jog, heel-kicker jogging, lateral shuffle, back pedal, forward skips, lateral skips and backward skips.


Exploring your regional parks while following all appropriate health and safety guidelines can be a great option for hiking, running and bike riding. Plan an outdoor hike with a friend as a way to be physically active and also connect in-person while keeping responsible distance from one another.

Walking the Dog (and Playing Fetch)

Taking the family pet for frequent walks is a great way to achieve some additional movement time. However, for health benefits, remind your clients to maintain a good walking pace. As a rule, if you are walking at a pace that allows you to talk but not sing, you are working at a moderate intensity.  Taking a canine companion to a dog park to play fetch is another way to get some extra activity.

Cycling on Rail Trails

From quick rides for work commutes to a weekend training ride to exploring a new region during a multiday cycling and camping trip, bicycle paths built on old railroad rights-of-way provide numerous options for those who love to travel via two wheels. Rail trails provide numerous options for cycling, walking or running they are a great outdoor exercise resource that many people often overlook.

Mountain Biking

Although members of Generation X (born 1965-1980) are largely credited with inventing outdoor adventure sports such as mountain biking, there is no age limit on who can enjoy exercising outdoors on a bike. The degree of challenge can vary widely, depending on the terrain—rocks and steep inclines can significantly add to the challenge and intensity, while flatter, wider trails are relatively easy to navigate. One of the important safety benefits of mountain biking is that it doesn’t require riding on city roads and competing for space with distracted drivers.

Playground Workout

Local parks and playgrounds generally offer everything needed for a great workout. When looking for space at a park or playground, have your clients think about using the space, not just the equipment. The space is where they can run sprints or agility drills; park features such as low walls or benches turn into great platforms for step-up or jumping exercises (use a height lower than the knee for safety). Here’s a quick and effective workout your clients can do while  walking through a local park: 10 step-ups in each direction on a low wall; 10 split-squats; 6 jumps and 15 triceps dips on a bench. Once your clients see the park as their own fitness dojo, they will start developing a lot of ideas about how to move in the space.

HIIT Workout

A local park or playground is also a great place to do a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout.  Even a 10-minute workout (not including a full warm-up and cool-down can be really effective. Have your clients download a Tabata timer on to their smartphones and perform this body-weight Tabata style workout: jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place and mountain climbers; perform each exercise as fast as you can, with good technique, for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds after each exercise. Complete each exercise two times before moving on to the next exercise.

Stand-up Paddle Boarding

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a great option at a time when physical distancing is essential to staying healthy. The balance required to stay standing on an unstable surface combined with the strength needed to paddle make SUP an excellent outdoor fitness activity.

Going outside for a workout is a great way to provide a different physical challenge to the body, but it’s also important to have a change of scenery or to try to learn a new form of exercise. Learning a new exercise offers a unique way to move the body, and learning new skills helps to strengthen the brain as well.



Same Steps For Fighting Ongoing Virus Attacks


Airline attendants say it well: if the plane hits turbulence and the oxygen masks come down, place a mask on yourself first before turning to help others. This is absolutely critical. If we don’t, we may not be able to help anyone.

Well, we’ve all hit the same turbulence, folks, and we all need to take good care of ourselves, our bodies, and our minds.

Healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic absolutely have to be functioning well in order to do their jobs well. At such a stressful time, with so much change and uncertainty, combined with the pressures of patient care during this pandemic, it almost seems like too much. How are people like doctors holding it together? Could we all learn from their tips on coping?

This week, I reached out to my colleagues in the Massachusetts General Hospital Healthy Lifestyle Program to find out. We’re all primary care physicians within the Division of General Internal Medicine who have been urgently redeployed to new and different jobs, such as staffing our makeshift COVID-19 surge clinics, learning new technology to provide much-needed telehealth, and creating serious illness plans with our most at-risk patients.

Online Nutrition Management

Developed by Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, this is a practical, skill-based course for clinicians treating patients with cardiometabolic disease. Harvard faculty will provide the latest scientific information supporting current guidelines, practical recommendations, and controversies in the field of medical nutrition management for people living with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular and renal diseases. Register by Monday, February 28, 2022 for our early registration discounted price.During a period when stress and fear are running high, these six strategies from my colleagues can help.

Acknowledge the turbulence

Ben Crocker, MD, is the medical director of a large primary care practice and a healthy lifestyle advocate. “Social distancing and the loss of work and/or routine are tremendous pressures, both physically and psychologically,” he says. “At the same time, our society tends to specifically reward heroic efforts that show that we can continue to perform at the same level, all while keeping a brave face. Many people are struggling to work full-time remotely while simultaneously caring full-time for their family at home. Those who continue to work on the front lines may feel the need to overload their schedules or commit to too much.”

His advice on this is relevant to everyone, not just front-line providers. Check in, he urges. Mourn your losses. And check out, too.

“Check in with yourself,” says Dr. Crocker. With so much news and instructions flying around about what to do and how to do it, take time to listen to what your body and mind need.

During such frantic times we may tend to ignore acknowledging the loss of “the way things were.” We forget to mourn, or grieve, or simply express our sadness about not being able to socialize, see a close friend, attend a favorite exercise class, interact with neighbors and family, or worship collectively. Grant yourself the time and space to acknowledge your loss. This can help you stay grounded with the current state of life.

“And allow yourself to physically, mentally, emotionally check out on a regular basis,” he adds. “Intentionally create ‘shutdown’ time in your schedule. This can be healthy time alone, for meditation and quietude.”

Fuel your body with healthy food

Helen Delichatsios, MD, has a degree in nutrition and runs healthy cooking classes for her patients.

“In times such as these, nutrition and healthy eating can easily fall to the wayside,” she says. “However, if anything, it is more important than ever to appropriately fuel our bodies and to do so in a mindful way. We have increased physical and mental stress, and healthy eating is vital in supporting our immune system to stave off illness and recuperate faster if we fall ill.”

Anne Thorndike, MD, usually works in the cardiometabolic center, helping people at high risk for heart disease change the way they eat and live. “We’re all eating at home more,” she notes. “This is a great time to explore new recipes you’ve been meaning to try. Be creative with what you have stocked in the house. Plan your grocery list so you have the basics on hand for healthy meals. Frozen vegetables and fruits are a great option when you can’t buy fresh produce on a regular basis.”

Amy Wheeler, MD, is also certified in obesity medicine and runs healthy lifestyle sessions for patients. At home, she’s been adapting healthy recipes she usually makes with fresh ingredients by using simple substitutes. Try her easy, adaptable recipe for Quarantine Chili for a family of five:

“Last night, I diced an onion and potato, then added one chicken breast cut in chunks, 1/2 small can diced green chilies, 1/4 cup salsa, 3 to 4 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin, a sprinkle of cheese, some leftover rice, 1 can yellow corn, and 1 can tomatoes. Once the chicken is cooked, try a dollop of Greek yogurt on top instead of sour cream.”

Use fresh ingredients if you have them, or canned or frozen if you don’t. Goes nicely with tortillas, but it’s also great right out of a bowl.

Move your body

“We are all spending less time commuting, driving our kids around, and doing errands,” says Dr. Thorndike. “Use the extra time to take a walk or do some exercise at home. Even housework can be a way to be physically active!”

Dr. Wheeler finds it helps to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed. These are by definition small steps that are easy to achieve, and thus fuel motivation.

“I have been making little SMART goals for myself,” she says. “Daily goals like ‘I will take a 20-minute walk outside at 10 am today, while wearing my mask and performing social distancing.’ Or ‘I will find three flowers with different colors on my walk.’ Helps me get out of my PJs, off the laptop, and appreciating nature — very relaxing!”

Prioritize sleep

Our bodies need sufficient sleep in order to function. Me, I’ve been working hard to keep a schedule, setting my alarm for my usual early morning time, and going to bed just after my kids. This helps to ensure I get a solid eight hours of sleep, so that I’ll be at my best when I’m called into clinic.

It can help to see the light — and dark (literally). “Spend time outside in nature,” Dr. Crocker suggests. “Exposure to the visible diurnal rhythms of the day/night is an added benefit.” For additional tips on getting the rest you need, see this blog on sleep strategies for uncertain times.

Find ways to connect socially

Dr. Delichatsios loves to cook at home and has been having virtual dinner parties.

“Why don’t you invite some people over for dinner?” she suggests “In our family, we call them FaceTime Dinners, Zoom Dinners, or Skype Dinners. These platforms have allowed us to ‘go out to dinner’ and connect with many friends and families, when before we were often too busy to meet up in person.”

Dr. Crocker has a great suggestion that can be a win-win for working parents and their relatives. “With school out, if you have kids and any extended family, invite the relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle) to teach an online lesson once a week on the same topic or a rotating topic. Allow that special bonding time between your child and their relative to unburden your time.”

He also found a way to continue choir singing from home. “Try a different way of connecting with friends and colleagues — a chat room, or Zoom meeting over a meal. I joined a 20-voice choir that I’ve never physically sung with and sang in a recorded five-part arrangement — all from my home!”

Find ways to ease stress

Everything you’ve read to this point can help you manage stress and anxiety. Eating healthy, being active, and getting enough sleep all help us to mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety on our bodies. One more technique is positive thinking.

Remembering and acknowledging the good in our lives is a powerfully positive action. “Practicing gratitude for what we still have — our health, our families, our homes, food, whatever it may be — rather than rehearsing the daily ‘loss’ of life and routine as we know it, is an important health practice,” notes Dr. Crocker.

In our household, we take turns saying grace before we eat dinner. One part of grace is to state something we’re grateful for, and usually it ends up being a bunch of things, sometimes silly ones like our cats cuddling with us, or the sun shining. But it always makes us smile!

For information about the coronavirus or COVID-19, see the Harvard Health Publishing Coronavirus Resource Center and podcasts.  Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor



The Finest in Independent Living


Without the hassles of mundane chores, you’re free to enjoy the things you really want to do. At Vista del Monte, you’ll have time to engage in what’s most meaningful to you: pick up a new skill or hobby, travel, discover an interesting sport, or make more time to socialize. Whatever it is, we can help. With our Independent Living services, we take care of all the practical tasks, including transportation, housekeeping, and maintenance. Our culinary staff prepares delicious meals, handles all the day-to-day chores, and your wellbeing needs are attended to—all in one place. For information visit: www.vistadelmonte.org. Vista Del Monte – Santa Barbara, California – 805-687-0793


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