Keeping Your Kids Active This Summer

Studies show that over the summer kids can lose much of what they learned during the school year. By planning activities for your kids this summer, you’re keeping them physically, mentally and socially strong. The added structure to their daily routine is a bonus for the entire family.

 

Staying Active

Federal guidelines show that kids aged 6-17 need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every single day. This includes a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises recommended at least three days per week.

  • Aerobic: hiking, walking, skateboarding, rollerblading, swimming
  • Muscle strengthening: climbing rope/trees/monkey bars, tug-of-war games
  • Bone strengthening: running, hopscotch, jump rope

 

Brain Training

Exercising their brain is also critical to a child’s development. Help keep their problem-solving and critical thinking skills strong, so they’ll be prepared come September.

  • Practice: Go through schoolwork packets together
  • Creative time: write and tell stories, draw pictures, build structures with LEGOs
  • New Skills: DIY projects, gardening, cooking—anything to keep kids thinking

 

Social Skills

Your children can still grow their social skills this summer even when social distancing. Being around their peers in a virtual environment will help them learn how to express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas.

  • Camp: If open and safe to attend, consider overnight or day camp which provides social skills, physical activity and brain training
  • Classes: are they interested in dancing, drama, or learning to code? Sign them up! There are many online and virtual classes available
  • Friends: a neighborhood party is a great way to be social and be active outside—just be sure to maintain proper social distancing and safety guidelines

 

Having a structure and routine will keep your kids learning, growing, and free of boredom. Planning activities that you know your kids will enjoy are key to keeping them physically, mentally, and socially active this summer.

 

 

Sleep Hygiene for Better Health

We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, but are we sleeping well? Sleep hygiene refers to the quality of sleep as well as lifestyle habits, sleeping routine and environment. When we focus on achieving more quality sleep, we start to see our physical, mental and emotional health benefit.

How much should I sleep each night?

Recommended sleep amounts vary for different stages of life. Newborns and babies should sleep for 14-17 hours, toddlers should average 12-14 hours, pre-teens should get 12 hours, and adults over the age of 18 should aim for 7-9 hours every night.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, it could show up as these symptoms:

  • Sleepy during the day
  • Being moody or irritable
  • Unable to focus or concentrate
  • Increased appetite
  • Skin becomes dull; dark circles form under eyes

The average person sleeps less than 7 hours per night.

Why is sleep so important?

Getting enough quality sleep affects your health in many ways. While we’re asleep, our bodies rest and repair themselves from soothing sore muscles, processing data in our brain and building up our immune system. Good sleep also:

  • Regulates hormones
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Aids in weight management
  • Reduces risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke


Getting quality sleep each night also benefits your emotional and mental health. In fact, consistent, quality sleep has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

What can I do to get more sleep?

When we think of getting quality sleep, we usually think of the actions we do right before bed. However, all the actions and decisions we make during the day affect our sleep. To help make sleep hygiene a priority to your health, consider the following lifestyle choices.

During the day

  • Wake up at the same time every morning
  • Exercise regularly; move your body every day
  • Drink plenty of water; eat nutritious foods

During the afternoon

  • Avoid taking naps
  • Limit caffeine and sugar intake
  • Get exposure to natural light (it helps regulate your circadian rhythm)

During the evening

  • Turn off electronics 1 hour before bed
  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol and other substances
  • Create a ritual that promotes relaxation

Your relaxation ritual can include anything that makes you feel less stressed and ready to fall asleep. This could be reading a book, a warm shower, yoga or stretching, journaling, or listening to soft music.



Takeaway: Your actions and behaviors during the day affect your sleep at night, which in turn affects your overall wellbeing and quality of life. Creating a lifestyle that supports healthy sleep hygiene is important to your short and long-term physical and mental health.

If you have issues with the amount or quality of your sleep, contact your healthcare provider. They can help to determine any potential sleep disorders or other lifestyle changes that will aid in your health.

Fresh Air for Your Health

The average American spends 90% of their time indoors. When we spend too much time inside, we tend to become more sedentary which puts us at risk for serious health concerns. Scientific studies have shown that regular time spent outdoors is beneficial to all aspects of our health. To keep your health top of mind and help prevent any potential health concerns, make it part of your daily routine to get outside.

Physical Health Benefits:

  • Reduces stress by lowering cortisol
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases energy with increased endorphins
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves sleep by balancing our natural circadian rhythms
  • Absorb Vitamin D for protecting bones, joints, and reducing inflammation

We get 90% of our Vitamin D levels from exposure to natural sunlight.

Mental Health Benefits:

  • Restores focus
  • Improves mood with increased dopamine
  • Lessens anxiety and depression
  • Enchances creativity
  • Relieves Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms

Surrounding yourself in “green spaces” will help to calm your mind.

Emotional Health Benefits:

  • Increases self-esteem
  • Improves social connections
  • Changes our perspective

What can I do to get outside more?

There are many things you can do to increase your time outdoors. These will depend on your location, the weather, and of course, your personal preferences. We’ve created a short list to get the ideas flowing:

  • Go for a walk around your neighborhood, the park, or a forest trail nearby
  • Take your workout outside
  • Have a work meeting outside
  • Enjoy your morning coffee or tea while sitting outside
  • Have a picnic in the park
  • Check out a farmer’s market
  • Listen to the birds, smell the ocean air, watch the wildlife

For time spent in direct sunlight start with 10-15 minutes a few times a week.


Be sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses and appropriate shoes when implementing more outdoor time into your routine. It’s also important to note what type of environment you’ll be in (ex. the beach or the mountains), the forecasted weather, and what type of clothing will be appropriate for the activities you’ll be doing.

How Do I Create a Health Goal?

We all have our own reasons for creating health goals. Perhaps you’ve hit a plateau in your exercise routine or weight management plan. Maybe you’ve been wanting to improve your mental and emotional health. But what do you do if you haven’t created a health goal before? We’re glad you asked! We’ve put together a checklist of simple steps for you to take in order to get started.

 

  1. Visit your doctor. This is to discuss the current state of your health. They may be able to help you prioritize health goals, such as smoking cessation.
  2. Brainstorm options. While any one health goal can have a domino effect on your overall wellbeing (quitting smoking improves lung health but may also improve sleep quality, for example), it may be best to start with one goal instead of overwhelming yourself with lots of options all at once.
  3. Define your “why.” Once you’ve decided on your goal, become crystal clear and specific as to why it matters to you. If it doesn’t matter that much to you, you won’t be nearly as invested, and you won’t stick with it.
  4. Make it reasonable. If your goal is unattainable, you may give up altogether or look to unhealthy tactics in order to achieve it. Make sure it’s realistic and follows the steps stated above.
  5. Be specific. Instead of saying, “This year I want to lose 40 pounds” break it down into specific and actionable steps. Try, “This week I’m going to drink more water and prepare more fruits and vegetables into my meals” or “I’m going to lose one pound this week.” When it seems achievable, you’ll be more empowered.
  6. Set a deadline. You’ll want your deadline to be like your goal—specific, reasonable and attainable. You want to be challenged to reach it, but you also want to set yourself up for success too.
  7. Ask for support. It’s okay to ask for help! Whether you’re looking for an accountability buddy or need medical guidance, asking for help takes courage and strength and shows how important your goal means to you.
  8. Be persistent. Even on the days when you don’t think you can do it, show up for yourself. You’ve created small, actionable steps and every day that you act on them, is a day you move closer to achieving your goal.
  9. Keep track. Whether you create a journal, a diary, a notepad or writing entries on your calendar, keep track of the actions you’re taking towards this goal.
  10. Reward success. Each time you reach a new portion of your goal—celebrate yourself! This reminds you of your “why” and will help keep you motivated.

 

If you’re having trouble defining a goal or the actions needed to attain it, reach out to your primary care provider. At DFD, your health is our number one goal.

Loving Your Heart at Every Age

When you make healthy choices, you’re giving yourself the opportunity for a longer and healthier life. Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to your heart and it’s never too early to learn about the importance of heart health. Let’s break down some basics and actions you can take at any age.

 

Teens: According to the CDC, tobacco product use primarily starts in adolescence. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 adults started smoking before the age of 18. Reasons why teens and young adults start smoking include:

  • Their parents smoke
  • They’re under peer pressure
  • They want to show their independence
  • Marketing companies use clever tactics to appeal to younger people

Try this: If you have young children, teach them the dangers of smoking and the long-term health effects. Let them know that smoking as little as 100 cigarettes could make them addicted and quitting can be tough. If you smoke, know that quitting greatly increases your cardiovascular health and sets a good example for young people.

 

20s: This is when most people are in their physical prime! Now is the time to discover the benefits—for your body and mind—of a regular exercise routine. Moving your body every day and doing strength training can establish a healthy routine to take with you as you age.

Try this: Try different forms of exercise to find those that you like. Your body will appreciate aerobic and strength training workouts both are wonderful for you heart health. Make sure to train smart, take rest days, and always strive to achieve your fitness goals. Your future self will thank you.

 

30s: During middle age, we start to see changes in our physical, emotional and mental health and we see the short- and long-term effects of our decisions. Setting routines, boundaries and committing to healthy choices now sets you up for success later in life.

Try this: Attend annual exams and screenings with your primary care provider. Together you can use your family history, blood pressure, cholesterol counts, and other vital factors to set up a baseline of your current health. Knowledge is power!

 

40s: Generally, people in their 40s are well into their careers and maybe even raising a family. Self-care and their personal health may fall to the wayside. Know that stress and burnout can contribute negatively to your health both in the short and long-term.

Try this: Make sure to get quality sleep every night. This is when your body rests and repairs itself. Manage your stress as best as you can. Try breathwork, journaling, or quick walks around the block when you notice that you’re stressed. Having high stress levels puts you in fight or flight mode and depletes your body of the energy and resources it needs to thrive.

 

50s: According to heart.org, this is a time when people tend to put on more weight. Our body may not be as efficient at “working off” those donuts as it was in our 20s and 30s as our metabolism has slowed down. Maintaining a healthy weight can increase your chances of avoiding heart disease.

Try this:
Add more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fatty fish to your diet. Branch out and try more plant-based meals. Eat seasonal and local produce whenever possible. It’s not about depriving your body of food but adding more nutritious foods to your plate.

 

60s: It’s a myth that people become too old to workout. In fact, when you’re more sedentary it becomes more difficult to maintain regular movement and that is what will hinder your exercise routine.

Try this:
Speak with your primary care provider, physical therapist or training coach to help you modify your favorite physical activities to help protect your joints and prevent injury. Keep moving safely!

 

70s and beyond: As we age, our bodies may require more maintenance—that’s okay! It’s normal for our bodies to change and need more support, but we can adapt and still follow a healthy lifestyle.

Try this:
Continue to attend your appointments, take your medications and follow the health plan that you and your primary care provider have created.

 

 

No matter your age, taking any or all of these actions will dramatically decrease your chances of developing heart disease, chronic health issues, cancer and stroke. If you need help figuring out where to start, please reach out to us. At DFD, your health is at the heart of what we do.

 

 

Source: cdc.gov, heart.org, lung.org

 

 

 

Staying Healthy When Dealing With Stress

In times of high stress and uncertainty, it’s easy to let our routines and healthy habits fall to the wayside. But if we let anxiety and stress overwhelm us, our health could suffer. This is the opposite of what your body and mind need! Let’s talk about some easy ways to focus on nutrition and mental health during overwhelming times or a crisis.

 

Healthy Eating

It may be tempting to stock up and binge on non-perishables such as chips, cookies and crackers, but these are mostly void of nutritional value. A consistently nutritious diet (with a few treats here and there) is critical for maintaining bodyweight, avoiding illness, and minimizing stress. Here are some food choices to focus on:

  • Healthy fats: avocados, eggs, nuts for satiety and mood regulation
  • Lean proteins: help to balance and boost serotonin levels
  • Bananas: rich in B vitamins for nervous system function
  • Citrus fruits: shown to decrease stress; Vitamin C boosts immunity
  • Dark, leafy greens: regulate cortisol and blood pressure

If you’re spending more time at home with your family, now is a great time to try new foods and recipes. Coming together to create a meal is a perfect way to bond and stay connected.

 

Exercise

If your local gym, fitness center, or group class isn’t accessible, you don’t need to forfeit your physical activity efforts. When you keep with your exercise routine—even if the activity looks different—you’re helping your body and mind. If you don’t have access to your favorite instructors or equipment, try these at home:

  • Take daily walks around your house or neighborhood
  • Use trails for hiking and safe roads for running
  • Strength train using bodyweight or items around the house
  • Take advantage of streaming apps or social media for home workouts

Keeping your body moving lowers stress and risk of illnesses and maintains your bodyweight, all of which are essential to your health. Don’t forget that yard work and other household chores also get your body moving!

 

Mental Health

A healthy diet and exercise are essential, but your mental health is just as important especially in times of unease. If you’re having anxious thoughts and feelings, reacting to stress in a negative way, and are having trouble sleeping, then your mental health may need your attention.

Try some of the following when you’re stressed or anxious:

  • Step outside: fresh air and Vitamin D are good for boosting mood
  • Deep breathing: focused, mindful breathing eases anxiety and stress
  • Meditation: consistent practice can keep your mind calm and centered
  • Stretching: loosens muscles and brings awareness to any tension

There are many ways to address your mental health, some may work for you and some may not. This is okay! Find what works and adopt them into your routine.

Additionally, getting proper sleep is vital to your overall health. When we are asleep, our body is restoring muscles from exercise, digesting the meals we’ve enjoyed, and improving our memory and cognition.

Adapting to a new routine in a time of stress may take some time. Be consistent and patient with yourself. Keeping your body and mind healthy are the best things you can do in a time of uncertainty.

If stress or anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life, reach out to a medical professional right away.

Is Stress Harming Your Health?

Not only is stress a nuisance, it’s harmful to your health. Let’s talk about some common causes and treatments so you can be more present for the important things in your life.

What is Stress?

Stress is a natural response made by our central nervous system. Our brain tells our adrenal glands to supply our body with cortisol and sends us into “fight or flight” mode. This response once helped humans evolve and escape danger, but these days it’s causing an epidemic of chronic stress.

 

Did you know? A reported 77% of people experience stress symptoms every day.

 

Is Stress That Bad?

Short answer: yes. Some stress is good say, when you’re taking an exam or public speaking. But chronic stress, stress that is persistent, can exacerbate any present health conditions and potentially cause new ones such as:

  • Breathing conditions like asthma
  • Increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Upset the digestive system
  • Tighten muscles, particularly shoulders and back causing pain

 

If you don’t treat your stress symptoms, it will begin to harm your health. Constant stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental or emotional conditions such as anxiety and depression.

 

What causes stress?

There are different causes to stress: routine stress (work, family, relationships, money) sudden changes (loss of job, having to move, divorce, illness) and traumatic events (natural disasters, war/PTSD, serious accidents).

Everyone’s relationship to stress is different. What is stressful for you may not be to someone else. Trust your feelings and if you’re feeling stressed, seek help.

 

How can I treat stress?

As there are many causes to stress and potential outcomes if untreated, there are many ways it can be treated:

  • Recognize your triggers
  • Take time to truly relax
  • Get active and stay active
  • Eat a nutritious diet consistently
  • Talk with friends or professionals
  • Yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques will lower your heart rate

 

Stress is different for everyone and everyone manages differently. If you need help navigating your life through stress, reach out to your DFD primary care provider to discuss a treatment plan.

5 Tips for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

It’s officially the holiday season, meant for celebration, unity, and joy. And yet, it can also bring stress and exhaustion, compromising your physical and mental health. Here are five tips for staying healthy and happy during the holidays.

Keep Moving
You may be too tired from all the shopping or traveling, but it’s important to keep active! Science proves that exercising actually gives us energy by increasing blood flow, improving metabolism and releasing endorphins. If you’re feeling run down, take a walk to see the Christmas lights in your neighborhood, have a dance party while cooking, build a snowman—anything to keep moving. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also stay on track to meet your fitness goals.

Prevent Illness
This time of year, we come into contact with lots of people—and lots of germs. In order to stay free from the flu and other illnesses, wash your hands, get a flu vaccine, and stay home if you’re feeling unwell. If anyone you’re visiting is sick, stay away! You don’t want to ruin your holiday celebrations by getting sick.

Eat Well
With all the sweet treats around it’s hard not to indulge. But here’s the thing—it’s okay as long as you don’t overdo it. If you go into the season forbidding yourself to eat anything decadent, you’re bound to give in and over-indulge. Stay hydrated, eat balanced meals (vegetables, fruit, clean proteins and grains), and give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite indulges in moderation.

Pro Tip: Don’t show up to a party hungry! You’ll end up eating more and probably not the healthy stuff.

Lower Stress
By visiting all your loved ones, attending celebrations, and meeting everyone else’s needs, taking care of yourself falls to the wayside. Our mental health is incredibly important and determines how we relate to others, make healthy choices, and handle our emotions. Meditation and breathing exercises are great for immediately reducing the feelings of stress, but any way that you choose to practice self-care will help keep your stress low.

Sleep More
You may be staying up late decorating or wrapping presents but don’t sacrifice a decent night’s sleep just to get things done. A lack of sleep can interfere with blood sugar levels and make you crave high-carb, high-sugar food choices that will derail your healthy eating and exercise routine. Sleep helps your body’s immune system to function properly, fending off germs and illnesses and keeps you well rested to better deal with the tasks ahead.

 

By keeping your health top of mind during this busy time of year, you can truly be present and enjoy spending time with your loved ones. Try to incorporate some—or all—of these lifestyle tips into your routine to stay happy and healthy during the holidays.