Physical Activity for Life

Official exercise guidelines are updated as we’re learning more about how physical fitness and exercise affect our health and longevity. New evidence-based studies show we can fight many of our most common chronic health problems simply by staying physically active.

Key Recommendations:

Ages 3 to 5 (new):Get at least 3 hours per day of active play (light, moderate or vigorous) to enhance growth and development.

Ages 6 to 17 (no change): Get 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity for healthy heart, muscle and bone development.

Adults (no change): Get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week; add muscle strengthening 2 to 3 days a week.

Just move more and sit less. There is no minimum exercise time requirement now. The new guidelines suggest any amount of physical activity has health benefits, including better sleep, stress relief and improved blood pressure and mental health. Over time, staying physical helps manage many ongoing health conditions including obesity, osteoarthritis, diabetes and dementia.

May is Physical Fitness and Sports Month, a good time to learn more at Move Your Way at

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Take the Pressure Off

High blood pressure silently damages blood vessels and leads to serious health problems, including stroke. In fact, it’s the major risk factor for stroke. Reducing high blood pressure can help prevent stroke, a major cause of death and disability.

First, discuss your blood pressure with your health care provider. If it’s too high, or borderline high, work with your health care provider to lower it. 

Taking prescribed medication, if needed, is important. But there’s much you can do to help:

Research has shown the heart-healthy DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains and low in salt, can lower high blood pressure. 

Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure. (Get your provider’s okay if you are new to exercise.)

Control stress. Research shows techniques such as yoga and meditation can effectively soothe stress, lowering blood pressure in many people.

Get serious about weight control. Even losing just 3% to 5% of excess weight can improve blood pressure readings.

If you smoke, get help quitting. Call the National Cancer Institute’s free
Smoking Quitline at 1-877-448-7848.

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Signs You Need Medical Care

By Elizabeth Smoots, MD, FAAFP

Worrisome health symptoms can show up unexpectedly.

When you’re concerned but unsure the problem warrants a health care visit, call your health care provider’s office and ask about it. Many medical offices have staff available to answer these calls.

Generally, we see our primary care providers (PCP) for non-emergency symptoms and preventive care. Your PCP knows you best, including your health history, what has been effective for you in the past, and other health concerns — and can provide continuous care. Examples of non-emergency conditions: persistent symptoms such as urination or bowel changes, unintentional weight loss, emotional changes, joint pain, congestion or coughing.

For urgent problems after office hours, learn the procedure recommended by your provider’s office. You may be able to reach the provider on call. But if you can’t see your provider or don’t have one, here are some general guidelines on when and where to seek medical care:

1. Call 9-1-1: For life-threatening conditions such as severe chest pain or stroke, calling 9-1-1 helps ensure emergency response. And inside the aid car, paramedics can deliver treatment on the way to the hospital. Serious conditions include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • A possible heart attack: chest pain, which may radiate to an arm or jaw, with sweating, vomiting or dizziness.
  • A possible stroke: facial drooping; weakness or numbness on 1 side of the body; sudden trouble with walking, talking or vision; sudden severe headache; or loss of consciousness.
  • An injury that threatens life or limb.

2. Go to the hospital emergency room: For serious medical problems that may require rapid or advanced treatments in a hospital, emergency rooms are usually open 24/7. Following are some reasons to use an ER. Have someone drive you or call 9-1-1 if you have:

  • Heart attack or stroke signs (noted above).
  • Sudden confusion or a change in mental status.
  • Serious burns or a fever with rash.
  • A head injury or concussion; an eye injury.
  • Fainting or seizures.
  • Severe cuts that may need sutures; facial lacerations.
  • Fractures or dislocated joints.
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms.
  • Bleeding during pregnancy.
  • Severe abdominal pain with or without vomiting.

3. Consider an urgent care center: Nearly 8,000 urgent care centers in the U.S. offer services after hours and beyond a typical primary care office. They may stay open evenings and weekends and are generally less expensive than emergency rooms. Learn the location and hours of the clinic nearest you in advance of needing it. (Check your health care plan for benefit details.)

Illnesses or injuries that are not life threatening, but can’t wait until the next day, can be treated at an urgent care center. When to go? Examples include fever without a rash; severe or persistent abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, trouble breathing, flu symptoms, strains and sprains, or small cuts that may need stitches.

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Kidney Stones 101

Anyone can get a kidney stone, but some people are more likely than others to have them. Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. There are several kinds of kidney stones, with many causes, that can affect your urinary tract from kidneys to bladder.

Factors that may produce kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration; abnormal urinary chemical levels; and urinary tract infections.
  • Medical conditions (e.g., obesity, hyperparathyroidism, and when the kidneys fail to properly acidify the urine).
  • A buildup of calcium oxalate due to diet, metabolic disorders, excess vitamin D or intestinal bypass surgery.
  • A diet high in protein, sugar and/or sodium.

Passing a kidney stone often causes pain in the lower abdomen and groin as it moves through your urinary tract. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe pain with fever or bloody urine. Treatment often involves medication and staying hydrated. Surgery is sometimes required if stones become lodged in the urinary tract.

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Warm Mushroom Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup peeled fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (use a variety, such as shiitake, oyster, cremini, button)
  • 6 cups mixed salad greens

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium. Once hot, add ginger sticks. Stir-fry for 6 minutes or until crunchy. Remove, drain on paper towel and set aside for garnishing. Pour remaining warm oil into small bowl and allow oil to cool. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to make vinaigrette. Add 1 tbsp of vinaigrette to a large skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic and minced ginger and sauté 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until soft, about 7 minutes; remove mixture from heat and allow to cool slightly (very hot mushrooms will wilt the greens). Put greens on a platter and top with warm mushrooms. Add remaining vinaigrette and garnish with crunchy ginger sticks.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 173 calories | 3g protein | 14g total fat | 2g saturated fat | 10g mono fat | 2g poly fat | 12g carbohydrate | 2g sugar | 3g fiber | 160mg sodium


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Eating Plan for Life

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Before you try another fad diet that’s likely to fail, consider a better option: The best approach for improved health and weight control is to develop a personal plan — one you can stick with and enjoy. Diets that are too restrictive, unaffordable or boring won’t work for you long term.

The right eating plan for you should match your taste buds, daily schedule, finances and health needs. That’s a lot to think about. Consider these 5 factors to help you find the best plan for you:

  1. Does it include foods you love? Restricting your favorite foods may leave you unhappy and is not sustainable for long. Make sure you love what you eat.
  2. Does it allow you to socialize? Some diet plans are so limited that it’s difficult to travel or dine with friends and family. If your diet is keeping you isolated, you need to rethink it.
  3. Is it simple and affordable? A sign of failure is spending too much time sourcing ingredients and too much money on them. The plan needs to fit your lifestyle.
  4. Does it support physical activity? Eating well is only part of the equation. Regular exercise is important for reducing disease risk, maintaining a healthy weight and improving your mood.
  5. Does it provide the nutrition that your body needs? It’s important that the food you choose is both enjoyable and nourishing. Restricting food can lead to nutrient deficiencies. See a dietitian to ensure your nutrient needs are being met.
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Traveling Smart

If you’re a woman traveling alone, there are special precautions to take. First, realize that in certain countries, women traveling alone is not a common practice. Prepare for and study your destination’s customs and attitudes toward women to help you navigate your stay.

For example, in some countries just eye contact can trigger aggressive behavior. Some other tips:

  • Register with your local embassy if traveling abroad.
  • Don’t specify where you are staying and don’t announce it publicly.
  • Never leave your drink alone. Take it with you or finish it before you leave.
  • Stay at a reputable hotel with desk clerks or security in a well-lit, safe part of town.
  • Avoid walking outside after dark.
  • Carry a safety whistle.
  • Leave a do-not-disturb sign on your door when you are away from it. Never meet with anyone in your room.
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3 Exercise Claims You Can Ignore

Regular exercise is 1 of the best things you can do for your health. So don’t let these common exercise myths sabotage your workout goals.

Myth: There’s no point in exercising if you don’t have time for a full workout.

Fact: You need about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. Pushed for time? The NIH says simply working in brief, 10-minute exercise spurts (e.g., fast walking) 3 times a day, 5 days a week, meets the recommended exercise goal.

Myth: Skip weight lifting because you’ll bulk up and gain weight.

Fact: Lifting weights 2 or 3 days a week won’t build bulk — but will help build strong muscles. It takes intense strength training combined with certain genes, to build large muscles. If you don’t like weight lifting, resistance bands, sit-ups, push-ups and some kinds of yoga also can strengthen muscles, according to the NIH.

Myth: Have chubby thighs or a spare tire around the middle? Just target those areas with specific exercises to lose the fat.

Fact: You can’t spot-reduce fat, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Genes and lifestyle factors determine where we carry flab — and a healthy diet without excess calories and regular exercise are the most effective ways to reduce fat all over.

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Tricks for Better Eating

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Do you want to eat better? These strategies can help make good nutrition a bit easier to achieve.

Make vegetables and fruit convenient. If you open the fridge and the first thing you see are carrot and cucumber sticks, there’s a good chance those are the snacks you will choose. And if you have a cookie jar on your counter, replace it with a bowl of fruit. It’s better to pick an apple or banana instead of cookies, and that’s more likely if fruit is the first thing you see.

Always shop on a full stomach. Why? If you shop hungry, you’re more likely to grab something convenient to munch on, such as ultra-processed chips or a chocolate bar. And you’re also more likely to make more impulse purchases (food you don’t need, but crave in the moment) and spend more money than you planned. Instead, shop with a grocery list and try to stick to it.

Skip the distractions. People tend to eat more when paying attention to a computer, TV screen or tablet, instead of focusing on food. Dine without electronics and pay attention to every delicious bite. Focusing just on your food is also linked to being less hungry later on, because your memory reminds you of your previous meal.

Set realistic expectations. While pictures of beautiful food and glamorous people on social media can be aspirational, they can also make us feel inadequate. Instead of inspiration from models and chefs, fill your social media feeds with more realistic lifestyles. It’s better for your self-esteem.

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Springtime Frittata

  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup water or milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • ⅛ tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped asparagus
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, water or milk, chives, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to an oven-proof pan or cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Add asparagus and red pepper and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add egg mixture to pan. Cook 5 to 7 minutes until eggs begin to set. Top with cheese and place in oven for 15 to 17 minutes or until eggs are set. Cut into wedges and serve with salad.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 166 calories | 12g protein | 12g total fat | 4g saturated fat | 5g mono fat | 3g poly fat | 3g carbohydrate | 1g sugar | 1g fiber | 205mg sodium

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