Mobility and Exercise

Explore your movable options.

Most of us can exercise without full physical mobility. Arthritis, chronic illness, severe weight problem or other ongoing physical or mental disability? Some level of regular exercise is possible when it’s personally suited to you. 

Regardless of your age or condition, staying active can help you feel stronger throughout the day. With the guidance of your health care provider, here are 3 key fitness pursuits to consider.

  1. Cardio strength: If you’re overweight or have arthritic knees, you can still exercise your heart and burn calories with soft workouts. Routine walking may be the best low-impact cardio workout if you keep a brisk pace; be sure to wear good supportive shoes. Or try elliptical and bike exercise. For upper body strengthening, consider body bands.
  2. Muscle health: Do you use a wheelchair? Focus on upper body strengthening with free-weight workouts; wheel yourself about outside daily. For chronic back pain or a shoulder injury, work your leg and core muscles.
  3. Stretching: Even with limited movement in your legs or back, you should enjoy better flexibility and comfort through daily stretching. And it may help prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.

Regular exercise can also have a powerful effect on your mental health, especially when coping with long-term physical challenges. During exercise, your body releases endorphins that energize mood and stamina, ease stress, boost your self-confidence and improve your outlook on life. 

Maybe you can’t move as well as you want to, but you have the same need to protect your health and future as people without disabilities. 

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Dealing with Negative People

Sooner or later, everyone interacts with negative people. Whether at work, home, or social situations, some folks seem to always look on the bleak side, finding fault and complaining. Unfortunately, even if you’re a natural optimist, dealing with negative people can impact your mood, too. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries.

Sure, it’s sometimes necessary to talk to people who are negative, and you don’t want to be rude or unpathetic. But instead of listening while they complain nonstop, try redirecting the conversation with positive input. Avoid overt criticism and ask how they can fix a problem or find appropriate help. Then, get on with your priorities.

Negative people often blame others for their woes, spreading gossip. Avoid this toxic situation with a simple “that’s none of my business” and walk away.

Remind yourself you can’t control negative people — but you can control your responses. Distance yourself from negativity when possible. 

If you can’t remove yourself from a situation, such as a constant complainer at work, psychologist and Psychology Today contributor Sherrie Bourg Carter advises taking a “happy break.” Do something to lift your spirits. For example, take a walk or seek a positive friend or colleague.

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Produce 3 Ways

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

There’s always nutrition research that’s up for debate — is saturated fat harmful or helpful? Is a low-fat or low-carb diet better? But the one thing all health professionals agree on is the importance of eating enough vegetables and fruit.

Filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants, vegetables and fruit are known to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Your best bet is to fill half your plate with colorful options at all of your meals, and anything goes. It does not matter if the vegetables are fresh, frozen or canned — what’s most important is that you eat them daily.

Go fresh: If you live in an area where fresh vegetables and fruits are economical and readily available all year round, stock up on your favorites and enjoy. Some hardy and affordable options are carrots, beets, squash, celery, pears, apples and broccoli. Buy berries in season and freeze them for later use. 

Rely on frozen: Studies that test the vitamin content of fresh vs. frozen vegetables show that both are quite nutritious, with frozen options often edging out the fresh options. Why? Because frozen vegetables are picked and packed at the height of their nutrient value, and freezing locks in the vitamins. However, the vitamins in fresh vegetables may degrade while they are shipped and stored. Both are still nutritious options — so choose what you prefer.

Stock cans: Canned vegetables and fruit are economical and convenient, and they have a long shelf life. If possible, choose those with no added salt or sugar. Rinse those that have added salt or sugar. 

Remember that canned and frozen vegetables are convenient and help reduce food waste because they last longer than fresh vegetables. They are all great choices.

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Coping With COVID-19

By Eric Endlich, PhD

Facing a pandemic such as COVID-19 can be stressful and scary. There are continuous news reports of outbreaks and other developments. How can you remain calm?

Manage your media exposure. Staying current on important changes (e.g., travel bans) is appropriate, but it’s not necessary to check news outlets multiple times a day.

Stay connected with friends and loved ones. Try to discuss various topics, not just the current crisis. Schedule regular video chats or phone calls.

Maintain routines when possible. If your old routines (e.g., leaving for work) aren’t possible, establish new ones such as daily walks or exercise.

Seek out meaningful, productive activities. Make something creative, clean out an overstuffed closet or take an interesting course online.

Many of these strategies apply to helping children cope, too. Additional steps to support them include:

  • Correcting any misinformation. Encourage precautionary measures, but provide appropriate positive information as well. They should know, for example, that even if family members get sick, most likely they will recover.
  • Allowing them to express their feelings. Show that you understand what they feel by mirroring their communication (“sounds like you’re pretty worried”) without disputing it. Let them know that being frightened is perfectly normal.
  • Providing verbal and physical comfort. Reassure them, but avoid false promises.
  • Instructing them on ways to stay healthy. These steps include good hygiene (especially handwashing), nutrition, rest and exercise.
  • Remaining patient. They look to you as an example for how to cope. Know that the situation, while challenging for everyone, is temporary.
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Types of Asthma

It’s the peak season for pollen — a trigger for asthma symptoms. That’s why the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) declared May Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

More than 25 million Americans have this chronic condition. Asthma causes intermittent narrowing of airways, resulting in wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath. The symptoms can happen rarely or every day and, if acute, produce an asthma attack which may need emergency care. 

The AAFA lists 4 types of asthma:

  • Intermittent asthma means you have symptoms less than twice a week and wake up fewer than 2 nights a month with symptoms.
  • Mild persistent asthma is diagnosed if you experience symptoms
  • 2 or more days a week and symptoms wake you up 3 to 4 nights a month.
  • Moderate persistent asthma indicates symptoms occur at least daily and wake you up 1 or more nights a week.
  • Severe persistent asthma is marked by symptoms during the day and nightly awakenings.

Good news: Working with an allergist to identify and treat allergies can help reduce or prevent asthma symptoms. Note: Not all asthma types are caused by allergies. To learn more, search for asthma triggers at aafa.org.

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What causes anxiety?

While most of us experience anxiety on occasion, when it becomes severe or prolonged we may become concerned about its origin. Possible causes of anxiety include:

  • Genetic predisposition: Conditions such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder seem to run in families.
  • Medical factors: Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, asthma and other diseases can produce anxiety-like reactions.
  • Drug reactions: Withdrawal from alcohol or anti-anxiety medications, for example, can trigger symptoms. Other medications also cause anxiety. Talk to your pharmacist to see if you are taking any of them.
  • Personality or other mental disorders: Other conditions such as depression,
  • or traits such as pessimism (expecting the worst), may make you more prone to anxiety.

Anxiety can be treated effectively with psychotherapy and medication. When the underlying cause is a medical condition or drug reaction, treating that issue is often the first priority. If you don’t know what’s causing your anxiety, see your health care provider, who can help you find the right treatment.

— Eric Endlich, PhD

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The Mediterranean Table

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

The Mediterranean Diet has been popularized by the foods that are abundant in the countries along the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy and Morocco. But you can replicate the same dietary pattern with foods from your local grocery store.

Your Mediterranean table should be brimming with vegetables and fruits, which should fill half your plate at meals. Choose from every hue of the rainbow, including leafy greens, sweet peppers, oranges and berries, to reap the benefits of the different antioxidants and vitamins they contain. Fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits are equally nutritious.

Include other plant-based foods at meals, too, such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and whole grains. Make olive oil your preferred choice for salad dressing and light cooking.

While many of the foods in the Mediterranean Diet come from plants, you don’t need to exclude animal foods, such as chicken, dairy and meat; just slightly reduce the quantity. Rather than eating meat daily, you can replace it with tofu, chickpeas or peanut butter more often. Fish is recommended twice a week.

When you make room at your table for more plant-based foods, such as vegetables and beans, you’ll naturally reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods, such as baked goods, chips and fast food. This dietary transition helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, as well as helping maintain brain health as you age.

The Mediterranean Diet is also about balanced living. Include family and friends at the dining table for the joy and laughter of shared meals, and include physical activity daily as part of your healthy lifestyle.

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Take the Pressure Off

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month.

Normal healthy blood pressure is under 120 systolic and under 80 diastolic. Elevated blood pressure (EBP) is 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. People with EBP are likely to develop high blood pressure unless they act to prevent it. 

Untreated, a 20-point higher systolic or a 10-point higher diastolic number can double your risk of death from a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure numbers:

Stage 1 HBP is 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic. 

Stage 2 HBP is 140 systolic or higher or 90 diastolic or higher. 

If you reach either stage, your health care provider will likely recommend lifestyle changes, maybe medication (depending on cardiovascular risks or family history), and regular follow-ups until your BP is controlled.

You have a 90% chance of developing HBP. This number has increased recently, partly because more Americans are overweight and living longer. Younger people are being impacted the most, as hypertension has tripled among adults under age 45.

If you are diagnosed with HBP, work with your provider to:

1. Learn how you can self-monitor your BP levels day to day. Get a home monitor approved by your provider, and learn the best times for checking your BP, and when not to check it (e.g., within 30 minutes of smoking, drinking coffee or exercising). Have your medical clinic check your home blood pressure monitor for accuracy. To learn more, search for blood pressure at home at heart.org.

2. Learn to control your BP with positive daily choices. Adopting a diet-and-lifestyle approach is the recommended first-line treatment for people with stage 1 hypertension who are at low risk for developing heart disease. What works: a diet high in fruits and vegetables (search for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH at www.nhlbi.nih.gov).

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Q: What is occupational therapy?

By Elizabeth Smoots, MD

A: OT is a licensed profession that uses everyday activities, or occupations, to help people perform everyday functions they want and need to do. Occupational therapists determine and design customized therapeutic programs of daily activities to help patients reach their personal goals at home and at work. OT’s science-based treatments have been shown to increase the capacity for patient self-care and independence and reduce health care costs.

Specifically, OT can help people regain function after an illness, injury or limitation makes it difficult to engage in daily activities. The therapy can aid injury recovery, stroke or cancer rehabilitation, speech or swallowing technique, and arthritis or disability retraining. In addition, diabetes or obesity management, support for older adults with physical or cognitive impairments, and accommodations for children with disabilities may benefit from the expertise of an occupational therapist.

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Interruptions Wrecking Your Work?

What’s keeping you from being at your productive best? The most common distractions on the job are using personal phones for texting, online searches and social media. According to a Gallup poll, more than 50% of U.S. smartphone owners admit to checking their phones at work a few times an hour.

Another typical time-waster involves coworkers dropping by frequently to chat and the background noise they create. Another big culprit: unnecessary meetings.

Key to working better is avoiding interruptions,most of which are under your control just by being aware of them. While people are part of working, they can also break the focus and momentum of your work tasks. If you can, set aside specific no-interruption periods and post them via email, or escape to a quiet area to work undisturbed.

Quit burning time online. The more information you have pouring in — email, news stories, social media — the more you may feel like you’re doing something. But in reality, you’re losing focus and working less. Switch off your phone and, when possible, skip checking email during valuable work time.

To meet or not? Always weigh the options before calling a meeting. If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off emailing it. But if brainstorming or an in-depth discussion is needed, an in-person meeting might be best.

One positive interruption— take a 30-second personal pause. Standing up, stretching or deep breathing can instantly recharge your productivity, especially when you’re working at a computer.

While working well depends on your specific job and work environment, watch for ways that you and your coworkers can avoid interruptions and work smarter — maybe suggest a contest?

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