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Let’s Shape Up By Johanna Hicks

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Let’s Shape Up, Hopkins County!

With spring in full bloom, many thoughts are turning to summer, vacations, travel…and swimming!  Ugh – the dreaded swimsuit!  We probably all need to build in a little (or a lot) more physical activity to get our bodies in better shape.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be boring or difficult.  Recommendations by the American Diabetes Association and other agencies, indicate that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week (working up to 60 minutes daily) can have optimum benefits, as described below.  Remember the ABC’s of physical activity:  Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity; Break it up into 10 minutes segments to fit your lifestyle; Cool down with gentle stretching.

There are two basic types of physical activity: aerobic and resistance.  Most people can do some degree of aerobic activity, but some might be instructed by a physician to avoid resistance activity.  Examples of aerobic are walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing, gardening, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn (but not on a riding mower!), and running.  Aerobic activity helps your heart work better by making the heart muscle more effective.  Aerobic activity is also the type of exercise that most helps to get rid of fat in the abdominal area.  Abdominal fat is also thought of as toxic fat because it is harmful.

Benefits of aerobic activity include: improved blood glucose levels, stronger more effective heart muscle, reduction in abdominal fat, reduction in stress and depression, increase in good cholesterol (HDL), improved blood pressure, and increased energy.

If your physician says it’s ok, you could also benefit from resistance or strength-building physical activity.  This includes the use of weights or elastic bands, push-ups and pull-ups.  Start by using ½-pound to 3-pound weights to work your arms and legs while standing or sitting.  Do not carry weights when walking, because it could cause strain on your hip and knee joints.  Do resistance activity 2 to 3 days each week, with eight to ten different exercises each time.  Do 10 – 15 repetitions for each exercise.

Benefits of resistance/strength-building activity include: building muscles (it requires more calories to maintain muscle than does fat); improved strength and therefore better balance; increased stability which decreases the probability of injury from falling.  If you have eye problems, your doctor will probably advise you to limit lifting weights.

Increase your chances to continue being active by starting slowly.  Have a friend or spouse to be your partner.  It is more difficult to quit when you have an accountability partner, plus it increases safety.  Choose an activity and time that works best for you.  If you are not the type of person who will go to a fitness center, do not choose that option.  Don’t pay for a year at a fitness center without a trial membership period.  If you would rather be outdoors, a park is a great place to walk.  Sulphur Springs has two great parks to walk.  There are also some indoor options for those who enjoy more stable climates.  The mall and the ROC both offer indoor options and you don’t have to worry about rain, heat, cold, or snow!  If you have foot problems such as neuropathy or poor circulation, you should not use a treadmill, take long walks, or jog unless your doctor approves.

Choose the best time for you.  If you are not a morning person (I can relate to that!), choose later in the day.  So, whether it is first thing in the morning, lunch, afternoon, or early evening, choose what works best for you!  Add activities to your day, such as parking farther away from stores, taking the stairs instead of the elevator when given a choice, take “walk breaks” at work, or participate in Extension’s Walk Across Texas (  That is a fun, motivating program that can be accomplished by yourself or with teams of up to 8 people.  Side note:  I see employees from our local banks walking during their lunch breaks.  Many of them took part in Walk Across Texas in 2016 and they are still going!  Good for you!

Be sure to stay hydrated when doing any type of physical activity.  Avoid alcohol, because it actually increases risk of dehydration.  Also, be sure to have the correct foot wear.  Shop late in the day to get the best fit.  Take a test walk in the store.  If they don’t feel good in the store, chances are they won’t feel good at home, either! Be sure to have a shoe with plenty of room in the toe box and no slipping on the heal. Remember that running shoes are okay for walking, but walking shoes are not okay for running.  If you can’t walk, you might try water aerobics, swimming, or chair exercises.  I have a DVD called “Sit and Be Fit” for anyone who would like to check it out.

Keep in mind the main points:  Start slowly, try to achieve 30 minutes most days of the week (increasing to 60 minutes when possible), choose the time that is best for you, and try to build in extra physical activity throughout the day.  Let’s shape up, Hopkins County!


Upcoming Events

  • 4-H Paper Clover Campaign will take place at Tractor Supply, Inc., April 26 thru May 7.  Please consider giving $1 extra at check-out to benefit the local 4-H program.
  • Twogether in Texas marriage education workshop: Saturday, May 20, 8:30 a.m., call the Extension Office at 903-885-3443 for details or to sign up
  • Kids’ Camp: Fun, Food, Fitness registration will be available to Sulphur Springs students in grades 1 thru 4.  Forms will be delivered to the appropriate schools on May 10 for distribution to students.  Parents, watch your child’s backpack next month!
  • “Dinner Tonight: Cooking with the Chef” will take place on Tuesday, June 6, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at Hidden Lakes Hunting Lodge in Yantis.  Watch for details to come, but save the date!  This is going to be a great event for both men and women!
  • Deadline to turn in registration to the Extension Office for 4-H Multi-county camp is Wednesday, May 31.  Forms will go out in the next 4-H Gazette newsletter.


Closing Thought

If taking vitamins doesn’t keep you healthy enough, try more laughter.  The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed – Nicolas-Sebastien Chamfort

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone
903-439-4909 – Fax
[email protected]

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Author: Staff Reporter

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