Walktober Comes to Maryland

Despite the recent weather, October is the perfect time to get outside and celebrate Maryland’s official state exercise — walking! Officially, yesterday was Walk Maryland Day with events planned across the state, but all month offers opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fall.

Walking offers many health benefits, and among them getting out in nature can improve your mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time outdoors can lead to improved attention, lowered stress, better moods, and even increased empathy and cooperation.

Maryland offers ample places to get out and spend time in nature, from state parks to local trails, and we’ve collected a list of localities where everyone can work on improving their physical, mental and emotional health, just by taking a walk amongst the trees.

To find the list of walking trails by county, go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/walktober and click on “County Walking Opportunities.” Also find more information about Walktober, how you can become a walk leader, or join in next year’s celebration.

Walks Through the Neighborhood

Walktober is just around the corner; Governor Hogan’s month-long celebration of Maryland’s official exercise — walking.

When I was a kid, my mom used to take me on walks through our neighborhood, to the library, the ice cream shop, or the public pool, and sometimes just around the block. As a parent, I wanted to recreate that experience for my own kids.

When they were little, it was easy to get them to go for walks with me, but as they’ve grown, the call of electronics is like a siren song to my pubescent boys. So I’ve tried to get a little creative in encouraging them to go for walks with me. Wanting something that involved their phones, I found Pokemon GO, a game app based on the popular television shows and movies.

The point of the game is to walk around and catch the Pokemon characters on your phone as you encounter them, battle opponents at virtual gyms, and collect items necessary for in-game play. The best part is that kids must walk around to play the game; some goals can only be accomplished by walking certain distances.

So while I’m cognizant of how much screen time my kids are getting, sharing these walks where we hunt down Pokemon and battle rivals together is quality time I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Pokemon GO, developed by Niantic, is downloadable on iPhone and Android. The app is free, although it does offer in-app purchases, not necessary for game play. To learn more about Pokemon Go, go to https://pokemongolive.com/en/. To learn more about how to participate in Walktober, go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/walktober.

Fun Ways to Hydrate

I’ll be honest, my kids do not like drinking water. It’s always a challenge to keep them hydrated in the summertime and I’ve had to be a little creative in finding flavored waters and alternatives that don’t have a lot of sugar. So because today is National Hydration Day, I’m sharing a few ways I’ve learned to keep my children (and myself!) hydrated.

Watermelon Pops

Ingredients

  • 3 cups watermelon, washed, chopped, seeds removed
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed
  • Freezer Pop Molds

Directions

  1. Blend watermelon, lime juice and sugar in a blender until smooth.
  2. Divide blueberries among freezer pop molds.
  3. Pour watermelon mixture in each pop mold. Leave a little room at the top.
  4. Insert the sticks and freeze until firm, about 6 hours. Dip the molds briefly in warm water before serving.

Fizzy & Fruity Water

Ingredients

  • 2 ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice
  • 3/4 cup sparkling water

Directions

  1. Put two ice cubes into one serving cup.
  2. Add orange juice.
  3. Add sparkling water.
  4. Stir and enjoy.

My tricks come from the University of Maryland SNAP-Ed Eat Smart program, which provides full recipes and a blog. Follow them for more kid-friendly recipes!

The Dimensions of Wellness

At the beginning of February, Breathing Room special guest writer Alex Chan, Mental Health Specialist with the University of Maryland Extension, offered some reasons why we have trouble keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Even after acknowledging the pitfalls in goal-setting, it may still be difficult to set a reasonable goal and an accompanying step-by-step process to get there. By understanding the dimensions of personal wellness, you may be able to identify the areas affecting your ability to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Creating A Healthier Life, A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration identifies the eight dimensions of wellness as:

Physical – the area that encompasses physical health and all that it includes. Things like sleep, exercise, and eating well all contribute to the physical dimension of wellness.

Emotional – this dimension of wellness is about maintaining emotional health. Stress management, coping skills, and therapy are activities relevant to this area.

Social – maintaining social wellness includes aspects like having a support system, setting boundaries, and interactions with social media.

Spiritual – this includes spending time alone, prayer, or even spending time in nature to care for yourself.

Intellectual (Personal) – spending time partaking in hobbies, following goals, and validating your identity all factor into your personal wellbeing.

Environmental (Space) – ensuring and maintaining a safe, stable, and healthy environment contributes to your environmental or special wellness.

Financial – taking control of your money so it doesn’t take control of you.

Occupational (Work) – taking breaks and managing time at work are tasks that help maintain occupational wellness

Each of the dimensions interact and affect one another, creating multifaceted obstacles to creating a path to your wellness goals. Do the following activity for each of your wellness goals to begin outlining your personal step-by-step guide to self care. Once you have your plan, set a reminder to review your plan after 2-3 weeks and see if any unforeseen obstacles have emerged.

1. Define one wellness goal that you’d like to achieve.

2. Which dimensions of wellness are involved?

3. What small step can you take towards reaching that goal?

4. When you will take the action described in #3?

5. Are there any barriers to taking your first step? How will you deal with them?

For more information, or to request a training in self care and stress management, contact Alex Chan at alexchan@umd.edu.

DASH to Heart Health

Almost half of the American population has hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and having high blood pressure puts you at risk for things like a stroke, heart disease, or even death. Not only are the numbers high, the CDC says only 1 in 4 of those people who have hypertension, have their condition under control.

The University of Maryland Extension health and wellness team are working to help remedy that issue by offering online classes to learn the DASH-Plus high blood pressure management program. DASH-Plus: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – Plus Physical Activities is a community-based education program designed for adults over 55 years old who are managing high blood pressure with or without medication.

The full program includes eight 1-hour sessions, presented online for easy learning from home. Classes include subjects relating to healthy eating habits and incorporating physical exercise into your everyday routine. Learn about salt solutions, dairy, the benefits of fruits and vegetables, and even grocery shopping and budgeting tips to create the healthiest diet plan for your heart.

DASH-Plus classes, led by dietitians and trained University of Maryland Extension Educators, are happening now with a new session beginning Sept. 9, 2021. Interested participants can sign up for all eight classes, or choose the individual workshops that fit your needs.

Go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/dash-plus-september-session to find more information, a class list and registration information for each class.