Pioneering Healthier Communities

Our Mission: Influence and empower all families in Marshall County Iowa to choose healthier lifestyle.

The reason: overweight and under-activity have been identified as two of the county's most pressing health issues.

The consequences: there are elevated rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And more of it is being observed in children.

Move More


Reasons to Strength Train


  1. Strength training preserves muscle mass during weight loss.  According to a University of Michigan research study, at least 25% to 30% of weight lost by dieting alone is not fat but lean tissue, muscle, bone and water.  However, strength training helps dieters preserve muscle mass while still losing weight.
  2. Strength training elevates your metabolism.  Starting in their twenties, most people (especially women) lose half a pound of muscle every year if they aren’t strength training to preserve it.  After age 60, this rate of loss doubles.  But regular strength training can preserve muscle throughout the lifespan, and rebuild the muscle lost.
  3. Strength training helps you lose weight more easily (or eat more without gaining weight).  Since muscle is active tissue (unlike fat, which is inert), it requires energy to maintain.  The more muscle you have the more you can eat without gaining weight.  Strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate, which is helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control. 
  4. For every additional pound of muscle you gain, your body will burn about 50 more calories a day.  A study by Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, showed that a woman who strength trains two or three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 lbs. of muscle and loses 3.5 lbs. of fat. 
  5. And John Hopkins researchers found that while aerobic exercise burns more calories at the time you are exercising, your metabolism returns to normal about 30 minutes after you finish your workout.  Individuals who perform strength training, however, elevate their metabolisms (burn more calories) for two hours after their workouts end.

By:  Assistant Health and Wellness Director: Misty, Roelsgard

Happy New Year!

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown

It is here, the time of year for resolutions to begin.  Many people resolve to exercise more at the beginning of a new year.  The majority will fail by February 1st, which is a sad statistic.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Many of us have the wrong attitude about exercise making it nearly impossible to stick to a regime.  Do any of the following sound familiar?  “Exercise is a punishment for eating”; “I don’t have time to exercise”; “Exercise is painful”; “Working out is too time consuming”; “Exercise is monotonous and boring”.  With an attitude like this who would want to exercise?

Instead of thinking negatively about exercise consider substituting these thoughts instead: “Exercise is a break from a stressful day”; “This is the only time I make for myself and it is a chance for me to improve my quality of life immediately”; “Exercise is a way to boost my energy and my mood.”

Here are a few other facts about exercise and health that you should know:

  • Diets generally do not work.  Do not expect someone else’s meal plan to work for you.  Create a meal plan that will work into your everyday life. Find a plan that you can sustain for a lifetime.  That being said, if there is a diet plan that you like and can see yourself being able to maintain for a lifetime, by all means go for it!
  • You will not always want to exercise and eat right.  Even the “pros” have days when they just want to stay in bed!  The key is to be continually committed and strive to always work on it.  If you make one bad decision don’t let it derail your efforts to becoming a healthier individual.  Always make the next decision a healthy, mindful one.
  • Motivation does not magically occur.  What motivates you from day to day most often will change.  The key is to continually reassess your goals and find what motivates you on a given day.  Willpower alone will not always work.  Long-term success requires discipline, planning, and finding ways to keep yourself on track each and every day.  Stay focused on your goals. 
  • Find a friend to exercise with.  Even if the friend is your dog, they can help you from skipping your workout.  The most successful exercisers are not the ones with the most will power, they are the ones that have a workout buddy. 


Good luck and Happy New Year!



The start of a new year is a great time for a new beginning!  It is the time when adults and families make a pledge to improve something in their lives.  Often times their pledge is around health & wellness or creating closer family bonds or deepening their faith.  Making changes can be challenging and the odds can be stacked against us.  Consider the following:

• The current generation of American children could be the first to lead shorter lives than their parents, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

• In the last 10 years, obesity rates in the United States have increased 60%.

• More than 50% of U.S. adults do not get enough physical activity to make a difference in their health.

• Health problems related to obesity cost our country an estimated $117 billion a year due to direct health care costs, as well as the indirect economic costs of lost productivity.

When dealing with life’s daily demands, people need a place to go where they can feel supported. Adults need help finding balance in life and motivation in managing their health. Children need safe environments where they’re nurtured and inspired to reach their full potential. Seniors need a place where they can be active and find camaraderie. And, families need opportunities and places to connect and strengthen relationships with one another.  The Community Y can help!

As part of the Y’s involvement in the Marshalltown Blue Zones Project, we are looking at ways to help Y members and the citizens of Marshalltown improve their lives.  Blue Zones are areas in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives.  The Blue Zones approach is holistic and focuses on physical health, supportive relationships with others and deepening faith.  Rather than asking people to increase their will power, the Blue Zones Community model works to improve environments. Little changes to your home, work, school, social, physical, and policy environments can make healthy choices the easy choices so that well-being improves naturally.  The Blue Zones Community model coordinates strong existing programs, brings in experts to inspire, train and provide innovative best practices, and ultimately organizes programs to provide greater options for physical, emotional, and social health.

Marshalltown has the opportunity to apply to become one of 10 Iowa communities chosen as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites.  The communities chosen will demonstrate the greatest passion, interest and ability to bring their community together to receive assistance from national experts to develop and implement a blueprint for making permanent environment, policy and social network changes that transition people into healthier behaviors.  The Community Y is working with city government, businesses and many other community agencies to help make Marshalltown a Blue Zones Project demonstration site.  Find out more at and pledge your support for Marshalltown.  So, go ahead, and start living longer and better in 2012!

Article written by:  Carol Hibbs, CEO, Community Y of Marshalltown

Overcoming Barriers to Becoming Active

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director,

Community Y of Marshalltown

No time, no energy, no motivation? You’re not alone. When Americans are asked why they’re not active, a lack of time, energy, and motivation are the reasons they give most often. Yet many people manage to include activity in their busy lives. Let’s look at some ways to overcome barriers to being active.

There’s a lot we can do ourselves, but it’s easier to stay active when

  • family and friends are active with us or at least encourage us;
  • schools find ways to include physical activity throughout the day;
  • workplaces make it convenient to be active before, during, or after work;
  • communities have walking paths, parks, and facilities that invite us to be active.

You can increase the opportunities for being active where your family lives, plays, learns, and works. It takes a little patience and determination, but you can speak up for and get involved in encouraging your schools, workplaces, and communities to support active living.

No Time? It may feel as though we have no time. But, compared to our grandparents, we have a lot of leisure time. Statistics reports that in 2007 almost three in ten adults averaged 15 or more hours per week watching  TV. That's over 2 hours a day!

You need just 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week to experience health benefits. That’s not much time for what you’ll gain. You can make activity part of your day instead of trying to find time to add it on to an already full schedule. (See the tips below.)

No Energy? Many of us feel tired because we have so much to do each day. Active people know that the more you move the better you feel! Active living actually creates energy. So before you collapse on the couch after dinner, take a few minutes to get some fresh air. Play catch with your kids, or walk your dog. It will refresh you.

Activity doesn’t have to be hard to do your body good. If you’re planning to climb Mount Everest or complete a triathlon, you’ll have to put in quite an effort to prepare yourself. But you might be surprised at how small changes in your activity level can make a big difference to your health. Of course, the more you do the more you’ll gain.

No Motivation? Being active shouldn’t be a chore. You probably know some people who play sports or work out simply for the joy of moving their bodies and having fun with other people.

You don’t have to sweat it out at a gym if that doesn’t appeal to you. There are dozens of different kinds of activities you can try. If one doesn’t motivate you and make you feel good, try another. Maybe you don’t want to play volleyball, but you might like to go for long walks or take a dance class.

For you, does active living mean spending time with your family or friends? Do you want more energy to do all you want to do? You may enjoy nature or exploring Alberta’s outdoors. Perhaps you like music, or you like to try new experiences and learn new skills. Pick an activity with your personal interests and tastes in mind.

Tips for Staying Active

You can do it. These tips will help you stay active for a lifetime.

  • Remind yourself of what you get out of being active.
  • Set specific goals that you know you can achieve.
  • Keep track of what you have done, and reward yourself when you reach a goal.
  • Exercise with a friend or enrol in a class where you’ll meet other people with the same interests.
  • Expect to be thrown off schedule sometimes. Get back on track as soon as you can.
  • Be ready. Have your walking shoes or exercise clothes handy so you can head out the door on a moment’s notice.
  • Pick an activity you enjoy.
  • Schedule activity at a regular time of day and one that works for you. Not everyone wants to be at the gym at 6 am.

Sneak Activity into your Day

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park at the far end of the parking lot.
  • To catch up on news from a friend, suggest a walk instead of lunch or coffee.
  • Hold walking meetings to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Exercise while you watch television. Put your exercise bike or treadmill in front of the TV.

You’re more likely to stick with an activity you like. With a little planning and imagination, being active can be part of your daily life. Take every opportunity to sneak a little activity into your day. Little bits add up!

Can’t find the time for a one-hour class or a half-hour walk? Then plan several shorter activities (each at least 10 minutes long) during the day. Just try to reach a total of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity a day.

Find Your Groove

There are lots of things you can do to overcome barriers to being active and to create opportunities to be active in your neighbourhood, at school, and in the workplace. It’s important to make activity a regular part of your life every day. Let’s make active living the norm.


Hydrating for Exercise

(water versus sports drinks)

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown

If you’re exercising at a moderate intensity for an hour or less, water is the best choice for hydration before and during a workout. You’ll save money if you choose tap water instead of bottled water (25% of bottled water is repackaged tap water) or sports drinks. Drinking water rather than sports drinks also saves calories – water is calorie free, while sports drinks typically pack 50 to 60 calories (and sometimes more) into a serving, and a 16-ounce bottle is 2 to 3 servings.

Water, however, will only provide the hydration you need if you drink enough. Some people find the taste of water bland and this can make it hard to drink the amount needed to stay fully hydrated. People tend to consume a greater volume of liquid when drinking sports drinks because they prefer the taste to water, and this leads to better hydration.  

Before Exercise:

  • Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water 2 hours before a workout
  • another 8 to 16 ounces 30 minutes before exercising

Working out more than 30 minutes:

  • drink another 3 to 6 ounces of liquid every 15 to 20 minutes
  • if at a high intensity, you may need 6 to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes

Working out more than 60 minutes:

  • sports drinks provide both carbohydrates and electrolytes
    • carbohydrates help delay muscle fatigue
    • electrolytes help move fluids quickly into the bloodstream and replace some of the sodium lost in sweat

Fruit juices contain too much carbohydrate in the form of fructose, or fruit sugar, which can reduce the rate of water absorbed by cells. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, such as soda and coffee. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it pulls water from the bloodstream.

The body loses a significant amount of fluid during exercise and staying adequately hydrated is important for both performance and safety. Mild dehydration can cause dry mouth, headaches, weakness, fatigue and cramps. People who become severely dehydrated need immediate medical attention. Extreme thirst, no urine output, fainting or dizziness, a rapid heart rate, low blood pressure and confusion are symptoms of severe dehydration.

To prevent dehydration it’s important to drink before you become thirsty. That’s why you need to load up on liquid before a workout. Once you start to lose fluid it can hard to take in enough liquid to stay hydrated. Water and sports drinks are your best choices for hydration, so drink up!




How can we be more active as a family this summer?

Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown

An active family is a healthy family. When all members of the family help plan, prepare, and participate in making healthy choices, you can develop a lifestyle that is equally healthy and fun. Families are often very busy with work, school, and extracurricular activities but it is important to have some family time to connect and be active together.

Make a list of activities that your family enjoys and that everyone can do. Try to choose at least one to two activities per week. You may even put the activities in a jar and pick them randomly. It is recommended that every person get at least 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. Activities do not have to be costly to be enjoyed.

Your family may enjoy the following activities:

  • Going for a walk
  • Going for a hike
  • Bike ride
  • Swim at your local pool
  • Playing basketball
  • Tossing a Frisbee
  • Playing catch
  • Jumping rope
  • Going on a scavenger hunt
  • Tossing a football
  • Creating an obstacle course
  • Fly a kite
  • Plant a garden
  • Host a family dance
  • Have a hula hoop contest
  • Jump hopscotch

Being active is an important way of life. Camping can also be fun; you can go away from home or set up a tent in your backyard. Take in some of the cultural events in your area. Limit the amount of television viewing. Set limits on internet and electronic use. Spending time as family creates many memories for years to come.



Try Group Cycling Class for the Ultimate Workout!

Burns Calories
For those of you out there who are trying desperately to achieve weight loss, this is the perfect way to do it. Doing a 30 minute group cycling workout
will burn as much as 500-550 calories! It is probably the highest amount in comparison with any other exercise form, and that too in a short 30 minutes.

At Your Own Pace

I am sure many people have felt out of rhythm during an aerobic class. 

I know I have.   Once you miss a step, you spend the next five minutes trying to catch up with everyone else.   With group cycling, this will not happen.   That is because you determine your own pace and no one knows about what that pace is.  The instructor will lead you and tell you what speed or tension to go, but if you decide you can not quite keep

up that speed or tension, no one will ever no.  You will still be able to get a good work out and not feel lost for the rest of the class.

Low Impact Workout
For those of you suffering from knee and joint pain or arthritis, this is the perfect workout for you. One of the group cycling class benefits is that it does not put any pressure on the knees and joints and therefore, allows you to not only work hard but also does not stress you out due to the pain.

Cardiovascular Workout
Group Cycling class benefits extend to the fact that it provides a great cardiovascular workout and therefore, promotes good health. Basically, group cycling is anaerobic exercise. This means that it takes energy from the reserves of the body to build muscular endurance over time. It lowers our heart rate; add to that fact that group cycling class also helps in endurance building and you've got yourself a great workout. Not only does it build your heart rate and lung capacity, but also helps to promote and maintain controlled breathing,


Shape Those Legs
Not only does group cycling help in losing overall weight, but it is also responsible for shaping legs in particular. Spinning uses large muscle groups in the legs and therefore, over time you will notice your thighs, calves, hamstrings getting into perfect shape.

Releases Endorphins
When you cross your breaking point, that is, the point at which you feel the workout, the body will release endorphins. These endorphins lead to an overall state of happiness and contentment. This will last you throughout the day and ultimately promote your productivity.

Other Advantages
Group cycling class helps relieve boredom. If one has ever used the treadmill, one can say that it is not the most stimulating of exercises. Group cycling is not like that. It demands your attention and makes you focus.

The kind of benefits that group cycling class promises are very difficult to find in many exercise routines. So, you know what to do if you really want a good workout. Go join a class today!

Article submitted by Sue Fehrmann, Fitness Floor Coordinator, Community Y of Marshalltown


10 Ways to Move Beyond a Weight Loss Plateau - Experts share tips on how to get your weight loss program back on track.


 Hit a weight loss plateau? It's hard to fathom that for weeks your weight loss program was taking the pounds off. Then, suddenly, the scales won't budge another ounce.Take heart. A weight loss plateau is normal. No matter how diligent you are in following your good health regimen, from time to time you'll fall off the wagon or experience periods of no progress. The key to getting back on the program or off the weight plateau, experts say, is to acquire the skills and self-knowledge that will enable you to recover after a relapse and/or initiate continued success. Start Losing Again - 10 plateau-busting strategies for you to try right now. 1. Imagine You: Healthy and Vibrant Have a vision of success. According to Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Diet Simple, the mind is a strong tool -- use it to achieve what you want."Visualize yourself dancing at an upcoming celebration in a fabulous black dress," Tallmadge tells WebMD, "and then apply that vision every day to stay motivated."While you're imagining, remind yourself of reality: excess weight is unhealthy, as is yo-yo dieting. Make sure this is a lifetime commitment for optimal health instead of a temporary plan to drop 10 pounds before bathing suit season -- which you may regain again once you stop your program.To stay compliant to your weight loss or wellness program, Tallmadge suggests keeping only healthy foods in the refrigerator, so you're less likely to stop and grab something greasy on the way home from work. "Even if your family isn't dieting, you can still keep tempting foods out of the kitchen.” 2. Understand Your Weight Loss Personality According to Thomas R. Przybeck, PhD, personality plays a role in our attitude towards food. As an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Przybeck recommends that you know your tendencies and tailor your plan to conquer the unproductive inclinations. Impulsive. "If you have a tendency to be impulsive, you might see a pint of Ben & Jerry's in the freezer and go for it," Przybeck says. Clearly, you are a dieter who needs to remove those temptations. Oblivious. If you tend to not pay attention when you eat -- maybe you're a TV snacker? -- you need to avoid such situations if you want to control portions. Uptight. "If you are highly anxious, you will probably have more difficulty," Przybeck says. "Those who are anxious, nervous, and depressed might eat to feel better."Tenacious. Certain personalities don't find it that difficult losing weight. "If you are highly self-directed,cooperative, and have a lot of stick-to-it-ive-ness, you are going to have an easier time," Przybeck says. 

Sociable. Przybeck also found that if you tend to monitor your food intake better than others, you may be more sociable.

 3. Record Every Food Morsel You Eat, Taste, or LickUnderestimating just how much food you've eaten is a common mistake, one that can lead to a weight loss plateau or weight gain. Yet keeping a diary of your daily food intake (every bite, taste, or lick) can help you see where you're going wrong. Try these food diary tips:

  • Track the time of day and your feelings when you eat to discover problem times and emotions that cause you to binge eat. Recognize your eating triggers and find healthier foods to satisfy your hunger or better alternatives than food to cope with your emotions.
  • Monitor your progress, track your new behaviors, and reward yourself with a manicure or movie for all your hard work.

4. Beware of 'Calorie Creep'A key reason for a weight loss plateau is eating more than you think. It's easy for portion sizes to creep up, and before you know it, you end up eating more than your plan prescribes. That's why it's important to weigh and measure your food to understand proper portions. Try cutting your daily calorie intake by 100 or 200 to move beyond the weight loss plateau. Here's how:  

  • Eat a high-fiber breakfast that will help reduce the quantity of food eaten at lunch. Use mustard or low-fat mayonnaise on your sandwich instead of regular mayonnaise. Have a piece of fresh fruit instead of cookies or chips. Drink diet soda instead of regular soda. Choose sherbet or sorbet over super-premium ice cream. Use 2 tablespoons of light whipped butter or margarine instead of regular. Top your favorite pasta with a red sauce instead of a cream sauce. Eat a snack-sized chocolate bar instead of a whole candy bar. And choose heart-healthy dark chocolate. Order your pizza with veggies instead of high-fat meat toppings. Order your sandwich on whole-grain bread instead of a croissant or bagel.
  • Try an open-faced sandwich with only one slice of bread.

5. Watch Restaurant OvereatingAt restaurants, rich foods and supersized portions can sway even the most determined dieter. Especially if you eat out often, look at restaurant eating as a chance to practice good portion control.According to Tallmadge, there isn't a law that says you must order an entree every time you eat out. "Pay attention to your appetite, and order a dinner salad or appetizer instead of a main dish," Tallmadge says, "or take half home in a doggie bag." 



 6. Eat Low-Fat Protein to Manage Hunger Pangs

New findings show that a high protein diet can help squelch hunger. Protein foods work by suppressing ghrelin, a hormone secreted by the stomach that stimulates appetite (yes, it triggers hunger!). In a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that foods high in fat actually raised levels of ghrelin and increased hunger. Carbohydrates soon made people even hungrier than they were before they had eaten. But it was the protein foods that lowered levels of ghrelin substantially, helping to keep hunger pangs in check.

Researchers concluded that the findings suggest possible mechanisms contributing to the effects of high-protein/low-carb diets to promote weight loss, and high-fat diets to promote weight gain.

7. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Fill up on produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan.

The U.S. government's dietary guidelines suggest that we get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Make sure you stock your kitchen with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and add a few servings at each meal. In doing so, you'll boost your intake of healthful vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber. In addition, if you fill up on low-calorie, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, you'll be less likely to binge on highly processed snacks.

8. Push the Envelope Past That Plateau

Hitting the treadmill every day for a 30-minute walk or doing the neighborhood loop with your buddies gets your body into a groove. After a while, your muscles get used to the routine and become very efficient at doing the task at hand.

To keep your muscles guessing -- and performing the ultimate calorie burn -- vary your physical activity. And push the envelope to power past that plateau!

For example, during your 30-minute treadmill session, include a few intervals at higher speed or at a higher incline (climb hills if you're walking outside). Sustain this higher intensity for a few minutes, and then return to your comfort level. After you recover, do it again -- and again. This will help you burn more calories and blast through the plateau.

Also make sure your routine includes strength-training exercises (like weight lifting), which help counteract muscle loss due to aging. Building and preserving muscle mass is a key factor in reaching a healthy weight, as muscle requires more calories to maintain than fat.

9. Wear a Pedometer or Heart Rate monitor

Wearing a pedometer each day and having a daily step goal can boost your activity level and burn more calories. Wearing a pedometer may also help decrease blood pressure.

Put the pedometer on first thing in the morning. Then make it a point to be more active: pace while you talk on the phone, take the dog out for an extra walk, and march in place during television commercials. Each 2,000 steps burn roughly 100 more calories, so aim for 10,000 steps daily for weight loss.

If you thrive on feedback and praise, buy a talking pedometer that rewards you by reporting aloud (and loudly!) the number of steps you've walked.

A Heart rate monitor is nice to offer feedback as far as calories burned, time in Target Heart Rate Zone, average heart rate zone, and time spent exercising.  The heart rate monitor is a record keeper and coach all in one and worth the investment. 

10. Try Yoga to Avoid Stress Eating

Stress eating is bingeing on food -- homemade chocolate chip cookies, salty chips, a handful of this, a fistful of that -- to soothe your inner emotional turmoil, not your real hunger.  Studies show that yoga lowers levels of stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity -- a signal to your body to burn food as fuel rather than store it as fat.

Britt Berg, MS, research manager and therapist at Emory University Medical School, recommends the "child's pose" to clients who want to avoid stress eating.

Start by kneeling on the floor on your hands and knees, making sure that your hands are under the shoulders and your knees under the hips, with toes touching. Stretch your neck forward and lengthen your spine through the tailbone. Gently rock the weight of your body back toward your feet, allowing your hips to stretch farther back as you continue to lengthen and stretch your spine.

Now, stretch your arms forward and walk your fingertips as far forward as they will go on the floor or rug, lengthening your arms fully. Extend your hips back until they come toward your heels. If you're very flexible, you may be able to rest your hips on your heels and your forehead on the floor.

Berg recommends putting your forehead on the rug or pillow to calm your mind. Do the "child's pose" any time you feel the urge to binge on high-calorie snacks.

This article was adapted with changes from an article available on WebMD. The original article “10 Ways to Move Beyond a Weight Loss Plateau” was written by Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD, WebMD Feature, Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD prior to adaptations.



 Article Submitted by Misty Roelsgard, Health and Wellness Assistant Director, Community Y of Marshalltown


The Importance of Warm-up and Cool-down

Some people question weather it is important to warm-up and cool-down as part of their workout routine.   Well, imagine your muscles as a frozen rubber band.  If you take that rubber band right out of the freezer and try to pull on it, it will snap.  Now imagine that rubber band is your muscle.  Without the proper warm-up your muscle has a much higher chance of injury.

Warming-up gets the body ready for activity.  It gradually gets your cardiovascular system going, increases blood flow to your muscles and raises your body temperature. Jumping into a workout without preparing your body could lead to such problems as muscle strain or injury.

It's just as important to cool-down after exercise to prevent injury. Cool-down allows your heart rate to fall gradually and slowly; stopping suddenly could make you light-headed or faint.  When your heart continues to pump moderately for a few minutes, it circulates blood through the muscles, flushing out the toxins that cause soreness and cramps.

So, what is the proper way to warm-up and cool-down?   You should warm-up for about 5-10 minutes just before starting your normal workout routine.   If you are at the gym you can get on a bike, treadmill or elliptical.  Start at a slow speed/resistance and slowly increase your speed/resistance to a point to where you are almost to the intensity of your normal workout.  If you are doing an activity outside, warm-up by walking slowly, gradually increasing the speed or start you activity at a low intensity and work you way up to your full intensity.  For the cool-down you would want to do the same, just in reverse.  Start at your normal workout intensity and gradually slow down.

By:  Sue Fehrmann, Fitness Floor Coordinator

Community Y of Marshalltown


Elements of a Fitness Program:

Frequency of Exercise:

Refers to the number of exercise sessions per week. To improve both cardiovascular fitness and to decrease body fat or maintain body fat at optimum levels, you should exercise (cardiovascularly) at least three days a week. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends three to five days a week for most cardiovascular programs. Those of you who are very out of shape and/or who are overweight and doing weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise such as an aerobics class or jogging, might want to have at least 36 to 48 hours of rest between workouts to prevent an injury and to promote adequate bone and joint stress recovery.

Duration of Exercise:

Refers to the time you've spent exercising. The cardiovascular session, not including the warm-up and cool-down, should vary from 20-60 minutes to gain significant cardio respiratory and fat burning-benefits. The longer you go, the more calories and fat you'll "burn" and the better you'll condition your cardiovascular system. As you get in better shape, you can gradually increase the duration of time you exercise.

Mode of Exercise:                                                                                                                                                       A rhythmical aerobic activity that uses large muscle groups. The exercise should also allow the intensity to be sustained for long periods. Activities that fulfill these criteria include aerobic dance, cycling, jogging, cross-country skiing, rowing, swimming, and walking. According to a survey by the National Sporting Goods Association, the most popular mode of exercise in the USA is walking (64.4 million participants), with swimming ranked second (61.4 million).

Intensity of Exercise:

There are three main ways to measure your exercise intensity: Target Heart Rate (THR), Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and The Talk Test.  Choose the method that works best for you.

Target Heart Rate (THR)

A common and easy formula to find you estimated Target Heart Rate is Maximum Heart Rate (MHR=220-age) multiplied by the percentage (intensity) at which you want to be working at.

Guide to determine intensity level:

              Beginner or low fitness level: 50% - 60%

              Intermediate or average fitness level: 60%-70%

              Advanced or high fitness level: 75% - 85%

For an intermediate to advanced exerciser age 40 would be:

              220-40=180(Max Heart Rate)

              60% of 180 = 108 bpm

              80% of 180 = 144 bpm

              For a Target Heart Rate range of 108-144 beats per minute

A heart rate monitor will calculate and keep track of ranges for you.


Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Some medications, such as beta-blockers, can affect your heart rate during exercise so even while working at a high intensity the actual heart rate may never reach the target range.  In this instance Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) would be a better choice to determine intensity.  The following scale is an example of a 1 – 10 RPE chart:


Maximum exertion


Extremely hard


Very hard


Hard (heavy)




Somewhat hard


Fairly light




Very light



An RPE between 5 and 7 is recommended for most adults.  This means that at the height of your workout, you should feel you are working “somewhat hard” to “hard”.

The Talk Test

The final method for measuring exercise intensity is the Talk Test.  Like the RPE, the talk test is subjective and quite useful in determining your aerobic intensity, especially if you are just beginning an exercise program.  The goal is to work at a level where you can answer a question, but not comfortably carry on a conversation.  If you have to take a breath between every work you say, you are working out too hard.  Conversely, if you could sing the chorus of a song without breathing hard, you would be exercising at too light an intensity.

By:  Misty Roelsgard, Assistant Health & Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown


A Day Off- The Importance of Rest in an Exercise Program

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director, Community Y of


When a person starts an exercise program they typically set goals and set a workout schedule.   When setting a schedule, people often think that the more I work out; the faster I will see results.  That is not necessarily true when it comes to exercise.   Including rest days in your workout routine, is just as important as the workout itself.  That may sound too good to be true, but with adequate rest, your body’s performance will actually improve.    People who do not give themselves enough rest may become injured or burn out and stop their workout program all together.

So, why is it so important to get rest?  Exercise causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores as well as fluid loss.  Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.  Without enough time to repair, the body will continue to breakdown from exercise and you will not get the result you want.

How much rest is enough?  For cardiovascular exercise one or two days off a week should be enough.  For strength training, you should give at least 24 hours between training days.  Why so long?  Lifting weights strains and slightly tears the muscles' fibers. A rest period of 24 to 48 hours lets the muscles rebuild.  Allowing yourself this much rest will actually make your muscles stronger.

Article written and submitted by:  Sue Fehrmann, Heath & Wellness Department Coordinator, Community Y of Marshallltown

Meditation: Just the Basics  (Taken from IDEA’s website)

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown

Today, 10 million Americans—more than twice as many as a decade ago—practice some form of meditation, according to TIME magazine. And with contemporary medical experts claiming that regular practice of this ancient activity improves well-being and health, the trend may well continue.

Would meditation help you? Discover what meditation is, the benefits of doing it and a few examples of meditation styles below from Shirley Archer, JD, MA, IDEA’s mind-body spokesperson, a health and wellness educator based at Stanford University School of Medicine and author of books such as Pilates Fusion: Well-Being for Body, Mind, and Spirit.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is an ap-proach to training the mind. A person with an untrained mind may think the power that his thoughts and emotions wield over his life is inevitable, rather than seeing it as something that can change through meditation. Long-term meditators come to see that thoughts and emotions are drifting by, much like clouds in the sky. And little by little, as practitioners become less invested in their mindless chatter, they can live with a more open awareness of present experience. With this awareness, they tend to react less impulsively to life’s pressures and are able to respond to them with greater equanimity.

Benefits of Meditation

While relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often one result of it. Back in the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term the relaxation response after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:

  • lower blood pressure
  • improved blood circulation
  • lower heart rate
  • less perspiration
  • slower respiratory rate
  • less anxiety
  • lower blood cortisol levels
  • feelings of well-being
  • less stress
  • improved deep relaxation

Multiple Methods of Meditation

Many methods of meditation exist. A concentrative practice involves focusing on a single point. This could entail observing the breath (see sidebar), repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong or counting beads on a rosary. Since focusing the mind is challenging, as a beginner you might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations. In this form of meditation, you refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

Mindfulness meditation, in contrast, encourages you to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises. Through this process, you see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you become more familiar with the impermanence of emotional states and with the human tendency to quickly judge experience as “good” or “bad” (“pleasant” or “unpleasant”). With practice, an inner balance develops.

Observing the Breath

This exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.

1. Sit or lie comfortably.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.

4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath. Maintain this practice for 2–3 minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 2, Number 10

November 2005


Exercise and Knee Health

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown

I get a lot of questions about exercising and if it is bad for knees.  This article was just released on the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) website.  It answers many questions about knee health.  See below.

For immediate release
Mar. 1, 2011

Ashley Crockett-Lohr (317) 637-9200, ext. 133 (
Dan Henkel (317) 637-9200, ext. 127 (
Megan Gidley +61 3 9903 4843 (

Examining impact on individual parts of the knee shows physical activity is beneficial to joint health

INDIANAPOLIS – For years, studies have offered conflicting opinions on whether exercise is good for knees. A new report released today by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) provides strong evidence that exercise is, in fact, good for the knees.

The report, titled “What is the Effect of Physical Activity on the Knee Joint? A Systematic Review,” was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, ACSM’s official scientific journal. A research study led by Donna Urquhart, Ph.D., and Flavia Cicuttini, Ph.D., examined the effects of physical activity on individual parts of the knee.

“Several studies have already examined the impact of physical activity on the knee as a whole, but none have looked at the effect of physical activity on individual parts of the knee,” said Dr. Cicuttini, head of the musculoskeletal unit in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia. “As it turns out, exercise affects each part of the knee differently, which helps explain why there have been conflicting reports for so long.”

According to the team’s findings, while exercise was linked to osteophytes, or bony spurs, there were no detrimental changes to joint space, the place where cartilage is housed. There were beneficial effects on cartilage integrity, with evidence of greater volumes and fewer defects.

“These findings are significant, as they suggest that osteophytes, in the absence of cartilage damage, may just be a functional adaptation to mechanical stimuli,” said Dr. Urquhart.

The report comprised data from 28 studies, representing 9,737 participants from all parts of the world. All included studies examined the relationship between physical activity and knee osteoarthritis and also included MRI evidence of osteoarthritic knees when investigating disease progression or healthy knees when investigating disease incidence. 

Osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease that attacks cartilage and underlying bone and often preys on knees, hips and hands – affects nearly 27 million Americans and is the leading cause of disability in noninstitutionalized adults.

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

Monash University is Australia’s largest university and one of its most prestigious. Possessing an international reputation for the high quality of research and teaching, Monash is a member of the esteemed Group of Eight, a coalition of high-quality Australian research universities and encompasses eight campuses and one education centre across four continents. 

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 43, No. 3, pages 432-442) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 133 or 127.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.


Combine Cardio and Resistance exercises to ramp up your weight loss and fat burning.


Einstein had many theories, but the one that is quoted by most of us unscientific types, is “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  Many of us do this in many facets of our life, but the one covered here will be doing either just cardio or resistance exercise and then wondering why we are not achieving the desired weight/fat loss.

You have seen them, or maybe you are one of those that only lift weights or do cardio exercise.  There seems to be an invisible wall between the cardio equipment and the weight training area for those people.  For those that don’t traverse that wall they are destined to reach a plateau of weight/fat loss, but for those that breach that invisible wall the desired fat and weight loss can be achieved.

Obviously resistance and cardio exercise are different.  Cardio is an aerobic exercise that uses large amounts of oxygen supplied to the muscles over a long period of time while weight training is an anaerobic exercise which exceeds the muscles requirement for oxygen over a shorter period.  Cardio taxes your heart and lungs to supply the needed oxygen to the muscles being used where as resistance exercises burn stored muscle and blood sugars creating the metabolic product lactate.

Like anything we humans do, we adapt fairly quickly.  Therefore, if all we do is tax our bodies aerobically or anerobically we adapt rather easily.  One may lose weight quickly when starting a regimen of either cardio or resistance exercise, but just as quickly our body adapts and becomes efficient at what we are doing thus reaching that dreaded plateau. As a society we multitask everything else we do, why not our exercise?

There are different camps on whether to do cardio or weight training exercise first, and both have good arguments, but that’s not nearly as important as incorporating both in your fitness regimen.  Doesn’t it just make sense that if we tax our bodies in multiple ways we will achieve better results?  Try cardio first for a while then weight lifting first.  Mix it up, keep your body guessing and it will work for you and your workouts.

So break down that wall and tear down that plateau.  It worked for me, I have currently lost 70 pounds, and while you are at it give a Warrior Workout a try- taxing your body aerobically, anaerobically and metabolically.  It's all rolled into a neat little one-hour package on Mondays at 8:30am, or Saturdays at 8am at the Community Y.

Submitted by Rob Kerwood


Move More Article

4 Things All Women Should Do For Exercise

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director,

Community Y of Marshalltown

Women come to me frustrated all of the time.  “I work out every day – why am I not seeing results?”  My response:  “What does your workout routine consist of?”  Reply “lifting light weights and 30 minutes of cardio.”  Sorry to say this – but the above work out routine is not going to deliver results.

Here are four things women tend to skip that can deliver serious results.

1. High-intensity training

All that time spent on a treadmill or elliptical barely breaking a sweat has probably not done your body much good.  In fact, the biggest mistake women make in their training is not exercising with enough intensity.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is typically a 10- to 20-minute workout that alternates short, intense bursts of activity with moderate-exertion recovery periods.  High-intensity Interval training is one of the best ways to boost metabolism, burn fat, and stimulate hormones for a stronger physique.

So – How do you tell if you are training hard enough?  Listen to your body.  You should be sweating, breathing hard, and feeling fatigue or even a slight burning in your muscles.   Moderate muscle soreness for up to a few days post-workout is also a good sign. If you feel nothing after a workout – it is probably a good sign that you didn’t work out hard enough.

2. Heavier lifting

For most women, a typical weight-training session equals light dumbbell exercises.  But doing fewer reps with more weight—say, 8 reps per set with a 15-pound dumbbell, instead of 15 reps with an 8-pound one—will burn more fat, he says. Lifting heavier will also increase your strength and muscle definition.

Start by swapping out your normal weights for slightly heavier ones, and gradually work your way up.

3. Upper body workouts

Women tend to store body fat around the waist, hips, and thighs, so that’s where they typically focus their exercise efforts—neglecting their upper bodies.

But you can’t spot-reduce fat, and sticking with what’s easy can stunt your progress. For most women – upper body workouts are very difficult, and they feel very week.  It is beneficial to do the upper body at the beginning of the work, when you are still fresh.

Focusing on underdeveloped muscles will improve the contours of your body.

4. Training with a barbell

Think barbells are synonymous with back-breaking chest presses? Not so. You can get a great total body workout just using a barbell.   If you’re holding a bar rather than using two separate weights, it forces you to get your body  in sync.

Barbells are great for both upper- and lower-body exercises. Balancing one across your shoulders while doing squats, lunges, or walking lunges helps develop posture and balance.

If you’re flirting with a barbell for the first time, go as light as you need to. Even 10 pounds is a good start.

Bonus tip:

Worried about gaining too much muscle?  Consider your body type.  Women usually fall into two different categories.  Those who gain muscle easily, and those who are slow to gain muscle.  If you gain muscle easily – focus more on high intensity training.  If you gain muscle slowly, focus more on heavy lifting.



The Benefits of Early Morning Workouts

By:  Angie Paxson:  Health & Wellness Director,

Community Y of Marshalltown

Workout in the morning? Ugh! I have a hard enough time getting up and making my way to the coffee pot. How will I ever make it to the gym? This is a struggle that many people have. There are many benefits to a morning workout all of which will help you to accomplish your fitness goals.

First and foremost a morning workout will guarantee that you will actually get it done. No more excuses that come up so easily after a long day of work. It may be difficult at first training your body to get up and get to the gym, but once at the gym you will wake up faster, be mentally alert and ready for whatever your day has in store for you.

How many times have you dragged yourself into the office dreading the day ahead? By working out in the morning you start with a sense of accomplishment that will follow you throughout your day. People have also reported they find it easier to watch what they eat and stay away from the unhealthy greasy food.

I have read that people who exercise in the morning have better sleep patterns. Getting up earlier means getting to bed at a reasonable hour. If you have ever tried an evening workout you may have noticed the increase energy which comes from the adrenaline rush created by your workout. If you have ever watched a scary movie before bed then you know what this adrenaline rush feels like.

When I workout in the morning I feel better mentally and physically throughout the day. My mood is better and I can approach my day with a more positive outlook.

Will you burn more fat by exercising in the morning?

Absolutely! Working out in the morning kicks your metabolism into gear and continues to burn fat throughout your day. I have read so much conflicting information on whether to eat or not eat before a morning workout.

Some theories try to show that a morning workout on an empty stomach will increase your metabolic rate all day long and some theories recommend eating a small amount of carbohydrates prior to a workout.

If you are doing aerobic training it can be beneficial to drink 2-3 cups of coffee prior to your workout. This forces your body to dip into the fat and protein that is stored up in your body.

When strength training it is recommended that you eat carbohydrates prior to your workout. This provides you with more energy and strength for a longer workout.

I use both of these workouts and have found that I have energy after both. I do recommend that you eat a normal breakfast after each workout. The combination of eating habits and workouts will help keep your metabolism elevated throughout the day.

I am by no means saying that the morning workout is the only way to go. We all have different schedules and responsibilities that affect our daily life. The important thing is that you take the time to take care of yourself mentally and physically.

Stretching 101

By:  Angie Paxson, Health and Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown

How many times have you heard the advice "Don't forget to stretch?" But when it comes to stretching, there are so many mixed messages from when you're supposed to stretch (before exercise? after? before and after?), to how long to hold a stretch,  to the best ways to stretch and why is it so important in the first place. Here's a primer to help you get to the bottom of all those claims and unanswered questions.

Why stretch?

A systematic review of studies that addressed the impact of stretching on sports injury risk published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise notes that the jury is still out on whether or not stretching can prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes. However, flexibility exercises when done after a workout or at least after a brief cardio warm-up do help to maintain circulation around the joints, keeping muscles healthy where they're most apt to get injured.

Stretching allows the body to move more efficiently and perform at its peak. During the course of a workout, muscles begin to shorten as they fatigue. This impedes the ability to generate speed and power and leads to a less efficient, shorter, more shuffling stride. Stretching keeps muscles elongated, reducing this tendency.

It can make you stronger. Some research shows that stretching the muscle group you just worked between sets can increase strength gains by 19 percent.

It's an incredibly soothing way to connect your mind and body, and it simply feels great!

When to stretch

You can stretch anytime you feel like, or you can do so in conjunction with other activities. Just remember after any type of physical activity, (cardio, strength training, or sports training) to stretch every muscle group you used, holding each for 30 seconds.  Muscles are warmer and more pliable then, making them easier to lengthen. Vigorous stretching before exercise, when muscles are cold and less pliable, will produce less benefit and may leave tendons more susceptible to injury. A good rule of thumb is to start your workout with a five-minute cardio warm-up, stretch gently, follow your usual routine, then do more serious stretching after.

Mistakes to avoid

Don't bounce. Using momentum to increase your stretch can activate the body's protective reflex, causing the muscles to contract instead of stretch, which can lead to small tears.

Don't stretch to the point of pain. While you may experience a little discomfort in an area that is tight, actual pain is your body’s  way of letting you know something is wrong.

Don't forget to breathe. Not only is oxygen exchange necessary for the muscle to respond in a beneficial way to a stretch, but holding your breath may temporarily increase blood pressure. Focus on inhaling as you get in position for the stretch and exhaling as you move into it. Keep your breathing slow and regular.

Stretching should be relaxing.  If you feel yourself becoming tense when you are stretching, back off of the stretch.  Make sure you are able to take nice deep relaxing breathes while you stretch.  If you are unable to do so - you are pushing the stretch too far. 



The Beauty of Strength Training

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown

A lot of people who come to the Y only like to do cardio workouts.  They are leaving out a very important aspect of exercise; strength training.  I decided to put together some of the benefits of strength training.  Enjoy!


1. Strength training preserves muscle mass during weight loss.
According to a University of Michigan research study, at least 25% to 30% of weight lost by dieting alone is not fat but lean tissue, muscle, bone and water. However, strength training helps dieters preserve muscle mass while still losing weight.

2. Strength training elevates your metabolism.

Starting in their twenties, most people (especially women) lose half a pound of muscle every year if they aren't strength training to preserve it. After age 60, this rate of loss doubles. But regular strength training can preserve muscle throughout the lifespan, and rebuild the muscle lost.

3. Strength training helps you lose weight more easily (or eat more without gaining weight).

Since muscle is active tissue (unlike fat, which is inert), it requires energy to maintain. The more muscle you have, the more you can eat without gaining weight. Strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate, which is helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control.

For every additional pound of muscle you gain, your body will burn about 50 more calories each day. A study by Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, showed that a woman who strength trains two or three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 lbs of muscle and loses 3.5 lbs of fat.

And John Hopkins researchers found that while aerobic exercise burns more calories at the time you are exercising, your metabolism returns to normal about 30 minutes after you finish your workout. Individuals who perform strength training, however, elevate their metabolisms (burn more calories) for two hours after their workouts end.


4. Strength training increases bone density.
A study conducted by Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D. of Tufts University found that strength training increases both muscle mass and bone density. Dr. Nelson’s research showed that women who lifted weights did not lose any bone density throughout the study, and actually gained an average of 1% more bone mass in the hip and spine. Non-exercising women lost 2% to 2.5% of bone mass during the same period of time.

Another University of Arizona study showed a 3% increase in spine and hip bone mineral density after an 18-month strength training program among women, ages 28 to 39.

5. Strength training counteracts depression.
In a study of 32 men and women who suffered from chronic depression, Nalin Singh, M.D. and Tufts University associates divided the individuals into two groups. They directed half to perform strength training while the other half received health information. After three months, 14 of the 16 members who lifted weights felt better and no longer met the criteria for depression.

A Harvard study also showed that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling alone.

6. Strength training reduces sleep difficulties.

Ten people in Dr. Singh’s strength training group (see reason 5, above) also reported sleep difficulties at the start of the study. After 12 weeks, six of the 10 reported they no longer had trouble sleeping—they fell asleep more quickly, slept more deeply, awakened less often and slept longer.

7. Strength training reduces your risk of diabetes.

Adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes is a growing problem, with over 14 million Americans suffering from the condition. Research shows that strength training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23% in just four months. As muscles contract and relax during exercise, they use sugar for energy. To meet this energy need, your body uses sugar supplies in your blood, reducing your blood sugar levels.

8. Strength training lowers your blood pressure.

The University of Arizona study (see reason 4, above) also showed resting blood pressure (RBP) levels were impacted by strength training. Strength training participants shifted from the high-normal RBP category to normal RBP levels. Regular exercise, including strength training, strengthens the heart, allowing it to pump more blood with less effort. The less your heart has to work, the less force (or pressure) is exerted on your arteries.


9. Strength training helps you age more gracefully.
As you age, muscle mass decreases (if you're not working to preserve it), which can cause skin to sag in not-so-pretty ways. By strength training, you can fight age-related muscle loss and maintain a more youthful physique.

10. Strength training improves your quality of life.

Building muscle allows you to get more out of life. Everyday activities, such as lifting children (or grandchildren), carrying groceries, and working in the yard are much easier when you’re not struggling with the effort. Being in shape also makes you more confident, helps you stand taller and makes you feel great about yourself. And what’s better than that?



Common Myths

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director,

Community Y of Marshalltown

I put together the most common myths that people ask me about here at the Y.  There are a lot of misconceptions out there. 

Myth #1: You can take weight off of specific body parts by doing exercises that target those areas.

This concept is called "spot training" and unfortunately, it doesn’t burn fat. When you lose weight, you are unable to choose the area in which the reduction will occur. Your body predetermines which fat stores it will use. For example, doing sit-ups will strengthen you abs but will not take the fat off of your stomach. Similarly, an activity like running burns fat all over your body, not just your legs. You can, however, compliment a balanced exercise program with a selection of weight training exercises to gradually lose weight and tone the body.

Myth #2: Women who lift weights will bulk up.

While on a weight lifting program, the right hormones (testosterone) are necessary in order to bulk up. Women’s testosterone levels are much lower than men’s, so in most cases, they are not capable of building large muscles. In fact, since muscle takes up less room than fat, women tend to lose inches when they strength train. So in addition to the physical benefits (increased metabolism, decreased risk of osteoporosis, increased strength), strength training will help you slim down too!

Myth #3: If you can’t exercise hard and often, there’s really no point.

Even moderate activity is shown to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t have 30 minutes in your day to exercise, try splitting it up into 10-minute segments instead. Everyone can find 10 minutes to spare sometime during the day! There are simple things you can do to increase your activity without having to go to the gym: take the stairs instead of the elevator, jump rope or do body weight exercises (push ups, crunches) at commercial breaks, take a short walk after lunch. Remember that any exercise is better than none!

Myth #4: Performing abdominal exercises will give you a flat stomach.

This is similar to Myth #1 above. The fact is, the only way to get a flat stomach is to strip away the fat around the midsection. This is accomplished by doing cardio/aerobic exercise (to burn calories), strength training (to increase metabolism) and following a proper diet. Abdominal exercises will help to build muscle in your midsection, but you will never see the muscle definition unless the fat in this area is stripped away.

Myth #5: You will burn more fat if you exercise longer at a lower intensity.

The most important factor in exercise and weight control is not the percentage of fat calories burned, but the total calories burned during the activity. The faster you walk, bike or swim, for example, the more calories you use per minute. Although you will be burning fewer "fat calories", you will be burning more total calories, and in turn, will lose more weight.

Myth #6: No pain, no gain!

Exercise should not be painful! At the height of your workout, you should be sweating and breathing hard. You should not be so out of breath that you cannot answer a question, but should not be so comfortable that you can carry on a full conversation. That’s how you know you are working at a good level. It’s important to distinguish between muscle fatigue (feeling "the burn") and muscle/joint pain (sharp and uncomfortable pain during movement). Pain is your body’s way of telling you that you’re doing something wrong. Listen to your body. If it’s painful, stop!

There’s a lot of fitness information out there- some reliable, some not. The important thing is to ask questions. If you don’t understand something or question the source, ask a qualified fitness professional for their advice. Sticking to the truths of these myths will keep you healthy, injury-free, and on track to meeting your fitness goals.



S. M. A. R. T. Goals

Angie Paxson:  Health & Wellness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown


We are told to set goals in about every aspect of our lives – career, school, weight-loss, exercise, etc.  This can be a very daunting task if one is not sure HOW to set goals that are appropriate and attainable.  The following acranym for goal setting can be used for just about any kind of goal: S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific

If weight loss is the goal, it should be more than “I want to lose weight”.  The goal needs to be more specific.  How much weight would you like to lose?  A more appropriate goal would read, “I want to lose 15 pounds”.

M – Measurable

“I want to get stronger biceps”.  This goal needs to have some way to be measurable.  Does “stronger” mean able to lift 15 more pounds or 100 more pounds?  A measurable goal would be, “Right now I am able to lift 20 pounds in a bicep curl.  I would like to be able to lift 50 pounds.”

A – Attainable

Is the goal able to be achieved?  For a 5’11” woman to say they want to get down to a size 0 is probably NOT going to be attainable.  This woman would end up in the hospital for malnutrition a long time before this goal is close to being met.  Know what limitations really need to be taken into account when setting goals; be it financial, physical, mental, or environmental.

R- Realistic

It can be argued that “realistic” and “attainable” are the same thing, but there are some factors that can be attainable, but still not realistic.  A man who currently weighs 250 pounds, by standardized charts, should weigh 180 pounds at 5’10”, but has never weighed less than 200 in his entire adult life.  He has always been athletic and has quite a bit of lean muscle tissue, but in recent years put on weight due to more inactivity.  His realistic goal should be to get back to close to 200 pounds and feel good about it!

T- Time

Goals should have some sort of timeline involved to help keep motivation strong.  Goals can also be broken down into smaller parts of an overall goal.  Here is an example of both an overall, and a “piece” goal:  A person wants to be able to participate in a triathalon in 18 months (overall goal).  Within 6 months, this person wants to be able to ride 50 miles non-stop on their bike (piece 1).  Within another 6 months he wants to ride the 50 miles and then run 5 miles directly following the ride (piece 2).  And so on and so on; staying motivated throughout the 18 months by attaining the smaller pieces that will lead to the overall goal.

Written by:  Misty Roelsgard, Asst. Health & Welness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown


How to Avoid Exercise Burn Out

Angie Paxson:  Health and Wellnes Director,

Community Y of  Marshalltown

Two of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to exercise more and to get in better shape.  Most people start off strong at the beginning of the year getting to the gym three, four or even five times a week.  Yet by March, they are struggling to make it one time a week if at all.   So, how do you avoid this exercise burn out?

Start off slow.   Everybody thinks that more is better, but in the case of exercise this is not always true.   If you are new to exercising or just have not exercised in a number of years, throwing yourself into a five – six day a week exercise routine is not going to work.  Chances are, by the end of the first week you are going to be so tired and sore you will not want to get out of bed.  So, start off slow.  Pick two or three days a week and add 30 to 60 minutes of exercise into your daily routine.  Also, don’t go for the hard core aerobics class as your 30 to 60 minutes of exercise.  Start with the treadmill or bike or maybe some strength training.   Once you get more comfortable with exercise, start adding more time per session or more days per week along with more intense exercise sessions.

Find a buddy.  A gym can be a very scary place for some people.   Some people may never walk into a gym on their own, but if they have a friend to go with them the gym seems a lot less scary.   Also, a friend can keep you motivated.  Maybe one day you really do not feel like working out, but you know your friend is there waiting for you and will be disappointed if you don’t show up.  Just knowing that your friend is waiting there for you will get you to the gym.  If you don’t have a friend who will workout with you, try a personal trainer.   A personal trainer will put a workout routine together for you as well as be there when you need a little extra motivation.

Mix it up.  Once you are set in your workout routine, you should try adding new exercises to your program.  If you started out with 20 minutes on the treadmill try adding a stationary bike or elliptical to your cardiovascular program.  If you have not yet added strength training to your routine, add a few strength exercises.   If you have done all that, now may be the time to try an exercise class.  Exercise classes can be a great way to change up your routine.  If you have already tried an aerobics class and you did not like it, try a cycling class.  The nice thing about group fitness is that there is a lot a variety for every fitness level. 

What ever you do, don’t give up.  Even if you miss a day or two get right back into your routine and get going again.

Article written by Sue Fehrmann, Community Y of Marshalltown


Excuse Busters!

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director, 

Community Y of Marshalltown

This is the time of year when everyone wants to start exercising again.  This is also the time of year where I hear all sorts of excuses to why people just can’t get to the gym.  Here are some suggestions to get your workout in!

#1:  I’m too busy to work out.  I just can’t find the time.

Excuse Buster:  Try circuit training.  Circuit training is a routine that alternates cardiovascular training and strength training all into one workout.  Circuit training, when done right, can burn a ton of calories and also help to increase your resting metabolic rate.  One example of circuit training is jogging or running to warm up, then do push ups for one minute.  Then go back to jogging or running for 2 minutes, then do squats for a minute.  Go back to jogging or running, then do crunches for a minute.  Any cardio activity can be substituted for jogging or running, ie jumping jacks or running in place.

#2:  I just don’t have enough energy to workout.

Excuse Buster:  Flow Yoga:  Flow yoga starts out gently so that you can ease into the workout.  Flow yoga is a serious muscle – strengthening class where your own body weight serves as the resistance.  Can’t make it to the gym?  Check out  There are plenty of yoga routines and even videos to try.  All for free.

#3:  Exercise bores me.

Excuse Buster:  Work out with a friend.  Anything is more fun with a friend.  And – you will help keep each other accountable.  Whether it be going for a walk, lifting weights, or trying that new spinning class – you are more apt to show up if you know your friend is there waiting for you. 

Another option is to try group fitness classes.  The instructor comes up with the workout so that you don’t have to.  Group fitness classes offer a fun atmosphere and the group works harder than the individuals working alone. 

Can’t get to the gym?  Try renting exercise videos and have friends come over and try them together.  Or – once again, get on and look up exercise videos.

#4:  I just can’t make myself stick with an exercise program.

Excuse Buster:  Sign up for a walk or run.  That way – you will have a goal to work for.  Better yet, register for an event with a workout partner.  That way you will be able to train together and be accountable to each other.  Then when event time comes – you won’t have to do it alone.  Sign up for a charity event.  Raise money for a good cause – it will help you stay focused on your mission of both exercise and the mission of the charity event.



Success Stories Inspire Us All

Angie Paxson:  Health & Wellness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown

This is the time of year when New Years Resolutions are in full force and many have included exercise and/or weight loss on their list of resolutions.  It is motivating to break old habits when you have success stories to inspire you.  There are many success stories out there, but it is always good to hear from those in our own community.

If you've successfully lost weight and kept it off, we'd like to hear from you and possibly include your story on this website and at the Community Y.

Please e-mail us with the excuse you had for not losing weight and exercising regularly and how you changed your mindset to trim down. Send a short paragraph about yourself, including your name, age, location and the keys to your success. If possible, please attach before and after photos.



4 Fun Ways To Move More

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director

Community Y of Marshalltown

Information from:

Enjoy 10-minute aerobic activities.

One easy way to get 10 minutes of aerobic activity is to always have a comfortable pair of shoes nearby. This way you are ready to walk around the building where you work, the mall or the neighborhood whenever you have a few extra minutes. You don't like walking? How about dancing to a few of your favorite tunes? Take 10 to rock around your house while vacuuming. Twirl around with a child—they usually like being silly to music!


Enjoy 10-minute strength activities.

Do you think that a gym filled with machines and huge weight lifters is the only way to build muscle strength? Think again. To make strength activities easier, keep a small pair of hand weights (5 to 10 pounds) near the telephone at work or home.  This way you can strengthen your upper body while you are talking on the phone. A set of resistance bands also makes strength activities convenient at home, at work or on the road.


Enjoy 10-minute stretching activities.

Yoga is another activity that does not need a special time or place. You can stretch from the convenience of your chair. You can reduce stress and prevent repetitive injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. My Daily Yoga www.will has free online demos of easy-to-do yoga. This is perfect for a 10 minute stretch break anytime, anywhere you have a computer. There is no pain and always plenty to gain from a serious stretch.

Not into yoga?  Try some simple 10 minute stretching routines. offers 10 minute stretching routines.  Try one today.  You will be amazed at how much better you feel. 


Enjoy 10-minute balance activities.

Many yoga moves, as well as Pilates and Tai Chi, help work the core muscles in the back, belly and pelvis. These give you stability for everyday balance. A low-cost stability ball (a.k.a. Swiss or Swedish therapy ball) is a fun way to add balance, stretching and strength activities to your down time. Keep one in front of your TV. You can turn couch potato time into an activity opportunity. Most balls come with simple instructions and tips for safe use.

Make a Splash With Water Fitness

By:  Angie Paxson, Health & Wellness Director,

Community Y of Marshalltown

Are you looking for a different type of workout?  Are you prohibited from exercising because of joint pain?  How about trying water exercise? Also known as aquatics, water exercise is one of the best non-impact fitness activities around and just about anybody can participate. Pregnant women, the elderly or overweight, individuals with arthritis or those recovering from an injury can all benefit from the wide variety of aquatics classes currently available.

Here are the facts: The buoyancy of water reduces the “weight” of a person by about 90%, which means that the stress on weight bearing joints, bones and muscles is similarly reduced. For this reason, it is unlikely that a water workout will result in injury or leave you with sore muscles. That’s why the pool is such a great place for people with arthritis or back problems to exercise. It is also great for those who are new to exercise.

But don’t get the idea that just because it doesn’t hurt, you can’t get a great workout in the pool. Water exercise can encompass all of the components of fitness: cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. And, when done regularly, water exercise can help reduce body fat.

Works Your Heart

Aerobic workouts in the pool are perfect for those who find certain movements on land—running, striding, kicking, leaping and even dancing—too jarring or painful.

Water Adds Resistance

The resistance of water is perfect for a strength-training workout; instead of weights, the water itself provides the resistance. One of the easiest ways to create resistance in the water is to cup your hands and push or pull the water away from you.

Other devices, such as hand-held paddles and water chutes can increase the resistance to provide a more intense workout.

The Flexible Benefits of Water

One of the greatest benefits of water exercise is its effect on flexibility. Water is a welcome environment for performing stretches that might otherwise be difficult on land.

Because the effects of gravity are lessened, you can move your joints through a wider range of motion and achieve long-term flexibility.


Why Pilates

First a little background…

The discipline was created by German-born Joseph H. Pilates about a century ago.  A sickly child plagued with asthma and rickets, he grew up to be obsessed about the perfect body.  He sought a discipline to combine the physique of the ancient Greeks with the meditative strength of the East. 

The result was a system of exercises he called “contrology”, requiring intense concentration and centered on a strong abdomen, deep stretching, and focused breathing.  It worked for him.  Joseph Pilates became a boxer, diver, skier, gymnast, yoga devotee and an incredible physical testament to his method.

Pilates taught his method to wounded English soldiers during World War I, using springs he removed from their hospital beds to assist them as he developed techniques to increase their range of motion.  It was from these crude devices that he developed the equipment still used today, including the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Ladder Barrel, and Spine Corrector.

Pilates emigrated to the U.S. in 1926, teaching his method first to boxers and later ballet dancers until the rest of the world caught on.*

Many types of people, at many levels of fitness, who have begun doing Pilates exercises say they’ve seen improvements in range of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture, and abdominal strength as well as a decrease in back, neck and joint pain.

Pilates requires attention while doing the exercises that changes your awareness even after class; awareness of how one sits or stands, how the body moves and being able to relate those habits to the aches, pains and injuries suffered in the past.

Some 50% of adults experience back pain at some time in their lives.  At any given time, 25% of adults have acute or chronic back pain, says Jupiter, Florida physical therapist Michael L. Reed, DPT.  The focus of Pilates on building a strong core can have a significant impact on reducing or eliminating the causes of that pain.  More than touting the benefits of Pilates for flat abs, the real benefits of this discipline is in a stronger, healthy back and body.  It should be noted; however, that without a diagnosis for a person’s back pain from a physician or health care professional, Pilates could do more harm than good.

The top 10 reasons for adding Pilates to an exercise regimen (though certainly not the only reasons) are:

-Pilates is whole-body fitness

-Adaptable to many fitness levels and needs

-Creates strength without bulk

-Increases flexibility

-Develops core strength

-Improves posture

-Increases energy

-Promotes weight loss and long, lean appearance

-Increases awareness; “mind-body connection”

-Many ways to learn Pilates; studio or gym training on mat and/or apparatus, home   DVD’s, private trainers…

Celebrity Pilates teacher Siri Dharma Galliano says that Pilates – when performed correctly and with proper supervision – can do all these things and more.  “When you start getting control of your body, it gives you a great degree of satisfaction.”

*Barbara Russi Sarnataro for WebMD

Article written by:  Misty Roelsgard, Assistant Health and Wellness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown


Get a “Jump” on Activity

Our days at the playground or playing hopscotch may be over, unless that is if you have kids, but jumping rope could still be a part of your everyday activity.  Jumping rope is a great cardiovascular activity, and it also helps strengthen legs and ankles while promoting body awareness and coordination.

To get started:

All you really need to get started jumping rope is a good pair of shoes and a jump rope.  The best shoes for jumping rope are cross trainers or court shoes.  These shoes have a good lateral support and cushion in the ball of the foot. 

There are many different types of jump ropes out there.  Some jump ropes have weighted handles – or the rope itself is weighted.  These types of ropes are typically not recommended since the user’s shoulders and arms usually fatigue before the heart rate is elevated.  For a cardio work out, chose a light weight rope with handles that rotate so that it doesn’t tangle. 

To chose the right length of rope for you do the following:  Step on the rope with both feet.  Pull the handles up so the rope is tight.  The rope should come up between your hips and your chest.  (the better you become the shorter the rope will be)

To start jumping rope – grip the handles close to the rope.  Keep your shoulders relaxed and turn the rope from your wrists.  Keep a smooth semi circle shape as the rope passes over your head.  Your elbows should be tucked in close to your ribcage.  Make sure to keep your head up and just jump high enough for the rope to pass under your feet.  (less than 2 inches off the ground)  This helps avoid undue impact on knees and ankles.

One of the easiest ways to stay motivated while jumping rope is to listen to some music.  Something with a catchy sound and upbeat tempo will work.  Try varying the speeds of music and notice the difference in the intensity of the work out.  Add in some foot work to avoid getting bored.  Examples include: feet apart and together, forward and back, can cans (knee up, then kick) etc. 

There are many different ways to jump rope.  The key is to stick with it.  You will improve over time.  Have fun and keep jumping.


The Benefits of Yoga

Most people are aware yoga is helpful for flexibility, but there are many more benefits to adding yoga to your exercise routine than one may realize.


Beginning with the obvious benefit of flexibility, yoga increases the range of motion in joints, muscles and the lubrication in the joins, ligaments and tendons creating a sense of ease and fluidity throughout the body.  According to one study, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga; the greatest gains being in the shoulders and torso.  The good news is that you’re never too old or too “inflexible” to improve over time and with continued practice.


There are many different styles of yoga; Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Flow Yoga, Lyengar, etc. and some are more rigorous than others.  Regardless of the style you practice, the focus on precise alignment in poses and the use of your own body weight will help to improve muscle tone, strengthen shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, low back and abdominal muscles.  When practiced correctly, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.


With the increased flexibility and core strength from both standing and seated poses comes better posture.  Due to the increased “body awareness” that comes from practicing proper alignment within poses, you are more likely to notice when you’re slouching or slumping so you can self-adjust your posture.


Yoga practice involves deep, mindful breathing throughout the poses which, in turn, improves lung capacity.  This increased lung capacity can improve sports performance and endurance.  Most forms of yoga emphasize lengthening and deepening your breath which stimulates the relaxation response – the opposite of the fight-or-flight adrenaline boost of the stress response.  This mindful breathing can quiet the “mind chatter” that often underlies stress.  When this happens, your mind becomes calm and the body feels more relaxed.

Concentration and Mood:

The ability to focus mentally is a common benefit you’ll hear yoga students talk about.  Most students will also tell you they feel happier and more contented after class.  Researchers have begun exploring the effects of yoga on depression due to the boost of oxygen levels to the brain.  It is even being studied as an adjunct therapy to relieve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Heart Benefits and Effects on Other Medical Conditions:

Already research has shown a health benefit of yoga is its effect on heart disease by lowering blood pressure and slowing the heart rate.  A slower heart rate can benefit people with hypertension, heart disease and stroke.   Different forms of yoga can also be used as therapy for chronic conditions such as asthma, back pain, arthritis, insomnia and multiple sclerosis.

These are a handful of the reasons to consider adding yoga into your routine at any age or fitness level.  Check out a class for yourself to see what yoga can do for you.

Article submitted by: Misty Roelsgard, Assistant Health and Wellness Director, Community Y of Marshalltown


Interval Training

Lack of time is the number one reason people give me for not exercising. And lack of results once they do start exercising isn’t far behind. Interval training is a great solution for both of these common problems.

Interval training is alternating between a high intensity activity and a low intensity activity.  For instance, sprinting for a short burst and then jogging.  The low intensity activity is also called active recovery. 

Advantages of Intervals

Interval training utilizes the body’s two energy-producing systems: the aerobic and the anaerobic. The aerobic system is the one that allows you to perform a given task for an extended length of time and uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates from various sources throughout the body into energy.  Walking or running are examples of your body using the aerobic system.

The anaerobic system, on the other hand, draws energy from carbohydrates stored in the muscles (in the form of glycogen) for short bursts of activity such as sprinting, jumping or lifting heavy objects. This system does not require oxygen, nor does it provide enough energy for more than the briefest of activities. 

Interval Basics

Interval training allows you to enjoy the benefits of anaerobic activities without having to endure those burning muscles. In its most basic form, interval training might involve walking for two minutes, running for two, and alternating this pattern throughout the duration of a workout.

The intensity (or lack thereof) of each interval is up to how you feel and what you are trying to achieve. The same is true for the length of each interval. For example, if it is your habit to walk two miles per day in 30 minutes, you can easily increase the intensity of your walk (as well as up its calorie-burning potential) by picking up the pace every few minutes and then returning to your usual speed.

A way to interval train outside is to pick an object (i.e. telephone pole, blue car, etc.) in the distance and sprint, run, or walk faster than normal to that object.  Once you reach that object, slow to your active recovery pace (lower intensity) and pick another object in the distance.  Once you reach that object you speed up until you reach the next object.

When you first start interval training, each interval can be a negotiation with yourself depending on how strong or energetic you happen to feel during that particular workout. This helps to break up the boredom and drudgery that often comes from doing the same thing day after day.


Stuck In An Exercise Rut?

Just about every other day I have someone come up to me and complain that they are in an exercise rut.  This statement can have several meanings.  Maybe they are just bored with their exercise routine.  Maybe they are not seeing the results that they did in the beginning.  Maybe they are experiencing pain and discomfort from overuse injuries.  Being in a rut usually means not enough variety, and the body and mind are telling the person to mix it up. 

I usually recommend to people that they introduce cross-training into their routine.  Cross-training is simply adding variation to the workout routine.  There are different ways to cross-train.  One of the easiest ways to cross-train is doing different activities from day to day.  For example, walk one day and swim or bike the next day.  Or, do a combination of different activities on the same day (i.e. walk for 10 minutes, hop on a bike and cycle for 10 minutes and then swim for 10 minutes).  The possibilities of this type of training are endless.  It doesn’t matter if you are an exercise rookie or a seasoned veteran, the nuts and bolts of cross training are the same.  You can either switch up your exercise routine from day to day, or add a new component to your existing routine.

There are so many benefits to cross-training.  It reduces the risk of injury because the same muscles, bones and joints are not continuously subjected to the stresses of the same activity.  Cross-training also adds variety to your workouts, making your routine more interesting and easier to stick with. For the athlete, it provides a break from the rigors and stresses of single-sport training. Cross-training will improve your overall fitness and, over an extended period of time, may ultimately lead to improved performance.

For those looking to increase their endurance level, try adding in high intensity segments to the workout.  For instance, jog for ten minutes then bike at a sprint pace for 5 minutes.  Try to increase the time of the higher intensity training and decrease the time of the less intense training to challenge your body. 

Don’t underestimate yoga, pilates, core exercises, etc.  These types of exercise modalities are excellent for injury prevention and make for a physically and mentally well rounded person.

As with any exercise routine, it is always very important to cool down and finish off with some flexibility training. 



Walking for Your Health

Walking is a low risk exercise and is easy to start, and has proved its health benefits in numerous studies. A classic eight-year study of 13,000 people conducted at the Institute for Aerobics Research under the direction of Dr. Steven Blair found that those who walked the equivalent of 30 minutes a day had a significantly lower risk of premature death than those who rarely exercised. 

A regular walking program can help:

  • Reduce blood cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase cardiovascular endurance
  • Boost bone strength
  • Burn calories and keep weight down

Getting started in a walking program is very easy to do. All that is needed is comfortable clothes and a sturdy pair of walking shoes. 

The Warm Up

Begin with a warm up that consists of walking around the house or block, or marching in place.  Then, gently stretch the muscles in the legs before beginning.  Stretching the muscles in the arms, neck, and back are also helpful in reducing tension.

The Work out

Workouts can be modified to any fitness level by adjusting the length of time spent walking, the incline of the walk, and the pace of the walk.

  • Start out walking short distances—Begin with a five-minute stroll and gradually increase distance.   Or, start out walking one time around the block.  Once this becomes easy, try for two times around the block.
  • The pace of the walk- start out at a leisurely pace.  To increase the intensity and bring the heart rate up, try to walk faster for 10 seconds, then slow down for 20 seconds.  Then increase the time spent walking faster for 20 seconds.  Keep increasing the faster walking pace.
  • Arms should swing  naturally—Breathe deeply. If shortness of breath occurs, slow down or avoid hills.
  • Be sure that you can talk while walking—If you can’t converse, you are walking too fast.

Walking is one fitness activity that allows you numerous options. Once you have reached a point where you can walk a few miles with relative ease, you can start to vary the intensity.

Walking hills, in addition to increasing your cardiovascular endurance, is a great way to tone the legs. Concentrate on lengthening your stride or increasing your speed.

The cooldown

When the work out portion of the walk it over it is important to cool down.  Slow down the walking pace and take deep breaths.  Finish with leg stretches such as the standing quadriceps and hamstring stretch.

Tips to maximize the walk.

Listening to lively music while you walk is also a great way to energize your workout. But if you wear headphones, keep the volume down and watch out for traffic that you may not hear.

Keep track of your progress. Many experts recommend that you walk a minimum of 30 minutes a day, but there are no hard and fast rules. Fit walking into your schedule whenever you can. That may mean three 10-minute walks each day, or even hour-long walks two to three times a week. The best schedule is one that keeps you walking and keeps you fit!


Article 3  (of a three part series on Blue Zones)

A summary of the book – The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

Buettner, Dan, 2008.  The Blue Zones: Lessons for Livng Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, p.277.


Tips to get moving in your Blue Zone:  Directly quoted from the book:

Inconvenience Yourself.

By making life a little tougher, you can easily add more activity to your days.  Little things, like getting up to change the channel or taking the stairs, can add up to a more active lifestyle.  Get rid of as many of the following as possible:  TV remote, garage door opener, electric can opener, electric blender, snow blower, and power lawn mower.  Be ready to use as many of these as possible: bicycle, walking shoes, rake, broom, snow shovel.

Have fun.  Keep Moving.

Make a list of physical activities you enjoy. Rather than exercising for the sake of exercising, make your lifestyle active.  Ride a bike instead of driving.  Walk to the store.  At work, take a walking break instead of a coffee and donut break.  Build activity into your routine and lifestyle.  Do what you enjoy.  Forget the gym if you don’t it – you are not likely to go there if it is a chore.  Don’t force yourself to do things you dislike.


This is the one activity that all successful centenarians did – and do – almost daily.  It’s free, easier on the joints than running, always accessible, invites company, and if you’re walking briskly, may have the same cardiovascular benefits as running.  After a hard day, a walk can relieve stress; after a meal, it can aid digestion.

Make a date.

Getting out and about can be more fun with other people.  Make a list of people to walk with; combining walking and socializing may be the best strategy for setting yourself up for the habit.  Knowing someone else is counting on you may motivate you to keep a walking date.  A good place to start is to think, whose company do I enjoy?  Who do I like to spend time with?  Who has about the same level of physical activity?

Plant a garden.

Working in a garden requires frequent, low-intensity, full-range-of-motion activity.  You dig to plant, bend to weed, and carry to harvest.  Gardening can relieve stress.  And you emerge from the season with fresh vegetables- a Blue Zones trifecta! 

Enroll in a yoga class.

Be sure to practice it at least twice weekly.


Article 2 (of three part series reviewing book, The Blue Zones)
by Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones: Lessons for Livng Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, p.277.

Blue Zones are areas of the world where people are known to live late into life leading active and healthy lifestyles.  It is not uncommon for a person living in a blue zone area to live to be 100 years of age.  This article will discuss ways to “bring the blue zone” into an everyday lifestyle.  An ideal routine (which should be discussed with a physician) should consist of a combination of aerobic, balance, and muscular strength activities, as well as stretching. 

Having balance conditioning as part of your routine is very important because falls are a common cause of injuries and death in seniors 65 and older.  The following are some simple ways to improve balance that can be worked into an everyday routine:  Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth or taking a shower, or perhaps while talking on the phone or making dinner   All of the above can also be done on tiptoes as well to make the activity more challenging.   


Flexibility is also important because being flexible helps protect joints and muscles in the event of a fall.  Being flexible also keeps ligament, joints, tendons, and muscles more pliable throughout life.  One of the best ways to help maintain flexibility is with the practice of yoga.  Yoga increases blood flow to muscles, joints, and tendons, and increases joint range of motion. 

Regular, low intensity exercise will help with aerobic conditioning and muscle strengthening.  Ways to bring low intensity exercise into everyday life is to walk more.  Consider walking to and from work, park farther away and walk when shopping, or plant a garden and work in it daily.  Doing body weight exercises is also a great way to increase the heart rate and improve muscular strength at the same time.  Try pushups, crunches, and lunges and squats, which are all excellent body weight exercises. 

Above all – keep moving.  Moving doesn’t have to mean running marathons. 



Article 1 (of three part series reviewing book, The Blue Zones)
by Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones: Lessons for Livng Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, p.277.

Scientist and author Dan Buettner, whose work for the information in The Blue Zones was funded by the National Geographic and National Institutes on Aging, identified and studied areas around the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives.  The areas of the world that Dan studied were, Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California (Seventh Day Adventists), and Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.  There were 9 common denominators that all of these communities shared.  These were identified and categorized in the following subsets; “move naturally,” “eat wisely”, “right outlook”, “right tribe”. 

For the Move More tab of this website, move naturally will be the focus of this article.  Move naturally, meaning to be active without having to think about it.  Those who live a healthy life late into life typically are not running marathons or are weekend warriors.  Instead, they engage in regular low intensity activity on a daily basis.  Often this activity is part of a daily work routine.  Males of Sardinia work most of their lives as shepherds, hiking miles every day.  Okinawans spend hours a day gardening providing food for their tables.  Those types of activities are what the experts say will keep people healthy for life.  “The data suggests that a moderate level of exercise that is sustained is quite helpful,” says Dr. Robert Kane. 

In part two of this three part series will be ways to bring activity to one’s daily life as it pertains to the Blue Zones.


In an article I recently read, called Exercise Can Override “Fat Genes,” Study Finds, by Nanci Hellmich, USA Today, August 31, 2010, I noted the following information, which is promising for those with a family history of obesity.  Researchers in Great Britain studied 12 genetic variants known to increase the risk of obesity and tracked the physical activity levels of 20,430 people.  Using the genetic variants the researchers quantified the participants risk of obesity.  Then they examined whether an active lifestyle could reduce the genetic influence to become obese.  The results:  Physical activity can reduce the genetic tendency toward obesity by 40%.  This challenges the popular myth that obesity is unavoidable if it runs in the family.  The article states that one can reap the benefits of exercise without running marathons.  Being active about 30 minutes a day is a good start in reducing the effects of the genes.  You can walk the dog, ride your bike to work, or take the stairs.  The study also strengthens the data on the importance of exercise for weight control.  “This is more evidence that behavior can modify genetic predisposition,” says Tim Church, Director of Preventive Medicine Research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.  The article went on to feature the latest government findings for exercise recommendations.

The governments latest findings for exercise recommend:

  • Keep track by the week. Adults need at least 2 hours of moderate-intensity activity each week, such as brisk walking, or 1 hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types. These activities should be done in at least 10-minute bouts and can be spread throughout the week.
  • Get more ambitious. For even more health benefits, engage in 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week or 2 hours of vigorous activity.
  • Strengthen those muscles. Adults should do muscle-strengthening activities at a moderate- or high-intensity level for all major muscle groups two or more days a week, including exercises for the chest, back, shoulders, upper legs, hips, abdomen and lower legs. The exercises can be done with free weights or machines, resistance bands, calisthenics that use body weight for resistance (push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups, for instance) or carrying heavy loads or doing heavy gardening such as digging or hoeing.
  • Don't use age as an excuse. Older Americans should follow the guidelines recommended for other adults if they are able. If not, they should try to be as active as their physical condition allows. Those who are at risk of falling should do exercises that improve balance.
  • Kids can make it fun. Children and adolescents should engage in an hour or more of moderate-intensity to vigorous aerobic physical activity each day. That should include vigorous activity at least three days a week, and it should involve bone-strengthening activities such as running, jumping rope, skipping and hopscotch, and muscle-strengthening activities such as tug of war, modified sit-ups and push-ups.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released updated physical activity guidelines in 2007. These guidelines outline exercise recommendations for healthy adults.

Guidelines for healthy adults under age 65


Basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA:
Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week
Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.
Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. It should be noted that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average healthy adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
Examples of moderate-intensity activity:
Fast paced walking
Riding a bike
Cross country skiing
Golfing (walking / carrying clubs)