Scan the latest articles and data on health and wellness and you’ll find quite a lot of written about getting kids spending too much time on screens instead of engaging in active play.
While the World Health Organization has recently released new guidelines stating that kids under the age of 5 shouldn’t have access to ANY screen time, the reality is that technology is part of the fabric of life these days.
Whether you spend hours at a desk for work, staring at a computer screen, or you use a phone or tablet on the sofa after hours to binge watch the latest show while live Tweeting about it, adults aren’t in any way immune to the lure of the screen.
National Fitness Month is a great opportunity to break some bad habits and establish some new ones, including making sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals necessary to keep up your energy levels. Key among those is iron so whether you already work out semi-regularly, or if you are just starting out with a new routine, there are plenty of ways to put the screen down, build up your energy and get out there!
How to get exercise into an already busy day
The most common reason people say they don’t exercise enough is lack of time. But exercise doesn’t have to be long distance endurance running for hours at a time! Finding ways to incorporate physical fitness into your everyday routine is just a matter of making it a priority.
Put time exercise on your schedule — If you actually schedule it, lending it the same importance as other appointments and items on your things to do list, you are less likely to ignore it.
Get exercise in early — By the end of the day, it’s easy to claim to be too tired to exercise. And for a lot of people, exercise before bed can lead to them being wired and unable to sleep. Forego the extra two hits of the snooze button in the morning and get in a run, cycle or swim before the rest of your day begins!
Multitask exercise and errands — Are you a parent who has to pick up the kids at school? Can you walk / run to the school? Everyone will get in a little extra outdoor time and a little less screen time if you work your workout into the daily pick up routine. Pick up groceries with a backpack and you can carry them home: the extra weight will make your power walk a better workout. Whatever the errand is, if you can do it on foot, it’s an extra workout gained.
Workout while you wait — While the kids are at their extracurricular dance, soccer or karate class, get the walking shoes on and take a power walk around the neighborhood. You’ll feel more invigorated than if you just sit and look at your phone while your kids are doing their activities!
Workout while you watch — While this tip isn’t about ‘putting your screen down’, it does reflect with the reality of technology in our lives. It’s also the perfect reason to get an elliptical trainer, treadmill or stationary bike! You can binge watch in peace while you get in a workout.
Small steps — Even making a habit of taking the stairs to get to different floors of your office building, to get as close to 10,000 steps a day, instead of the elevator, makes a difference! If you commute to work or you’re taking a trip to the mall, park a little bit further away and walk a little more! It all helps.
Outdoor chores are a workout too — Lifting bags of raked up leaves, shoveling snow, hauling and digging earth to spread in your garden… every season has outdoor chores that take energy and give your muscles a workout that you’ll feel in the morning. Indoor chores like mopping the floor and scrubbing the tub can be a good workout too, if you really put your back into them.
Make it a group effort — Working out alone can be boring. If you need company, or just the motivation of someone holding you accountable if you miss a workout, find people to exercise with. Whether that’s a walking group in the evenings or a workout buddy at the gym, the time will fly and you’ll enjoy the social aspect more than you realize! It will become a habit you won’t want to break.
Be aware of your body’s needs: iron loss through exercise
Are you a runner or other high impact or endurance athlete? You might be losing more iron than you are taking in and not even realize it.
Active individuals experience some iron loss through sweat and high impact strikes. That is, every time your foot hits the ground, you are damaging a small amount of red blood cells. If you don’t have sufficient iron levels in your body to make more red blood cells, you can experience fatigue and other effects of iron deficiency.
- Your muscles use iron to produce energy that allow you to work out to your fullest potential;
- Iron transports oxygen throughout your body, including to all of your vital organs and muscles, allowing you to improve your aerobic capacity;
- Iron also contributes to the reduction of fatigue, the conservation of excellent cognitive function, maintaining normal immune function and in the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which your body requires.
A healthy diet helps
What you might not be aware of is that it’s not always possible to get all of your daily requirements of certain micronutrient vitamin and minerals from diet alone.
For one thing, there are two kinds of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is derived from animal based proteins, while non-heme can be obtained through vegetable / legume based proteins. The non-heme iron is absorbed by the body at a much lower rate, so an already low level of iron could be compounded for people who don’t eat meat, for example. That said, even the most enthusiastic carnivore would be hard pressed to get enough iron from diet alone. Most American adults only get about 10% of their daily iron requirement from diet, so if you plan to be more active, you might need to look beyond your healthy diet to a supplement.
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