Friday, April 3, 2015

Fun, Fit, and Frugal!

I recently saw a clinic patient of mine who is a morbidly obese 11-year-old girl, and I spent the entire follow-up visit trying to find what would motivate her and make her find ways to stay active. I felt sure that if we could find something she liked and wanted to do, then we could get her feeling better about herself and also help her make healthier eating choices...only to find out later that what she really likes doing is playing and running outside with her friends, but she doesn't get to do this because her mother who is a single parent of 3, does not get home until very late each night, and doesn't want her children outside by themselves. I had the mom leave the room, so I could talk to my patient about body image and ask if she had ever felt like hurting herself because of the way she feels about how she looks. She had. My heart went out to her. 

I really connected with this particular patient who I have followed during my residency training at Jacobi. But, sadly, this is not an uncommon story in the Bronx, where finding ways to stay active and healthy are made more difficult by living in neighborhoods where it may not be safe to go outside for a walk or run, by having parents who may or may not be involved or supportive, by having family medical problems that put children at risk for early-onset diabetes and high cholesterol, and by having low income and poor access to healthy foods. Fast foods and junk foods are just cheaper and easier for these families.

So, in honor of my patient, a short blog on ways to stay fit that are fun and frugal. I think we could all take a little away from this, and it's my hope that all of us who are more fortunate and have money but not the time or time but not the money, can be thankful for what we have and use those 20-30 minutes each day that we don't think are enough and do something healthy for ourselves and for our families.

1. FAMILY FITNESS -    Maybe your gym doesn't allow you to bring your kids. I had a parent tell me this this week. She was going to the gym after work while her child was staying home, inside, doing nothing, and the excuse was the gym didn't let children under age 18 enter. Well, my advise to you - Find another gym! YMCAs are great examples of places that prioritize family fitness and have classes and sports just for kids. Other gyms may even have childcare for your younger kids, so they can play while the rest of the family gets their workout on. Don't live near these places? Then find a freaking park. Yesterday I finished clinic early enough to go for a run, but I also really wanted to go see Violet. I thought about going for a jogging stroller run with her (an update on that later!), but instead, my husband and I went for a walk with her. Maybe only in the Northeast can you appreciate the first real day that feels like spring and how wonderful it is to go for a family walk, but I'm telling you, even walking in the snow with this girl this winter was so much fun. The least expensive fit thing you can do as a family is go for a walk. A run is even better, but walking is for everyone! A brisk walk lifts your mood, helps you add more active minutes to your day, and the endorphins from that may even make you happier later and make healthier eating choices. Voila Bon appetit.
snow walk with my girl!

2. FAD FITNESS – I usually don’t condone fad fitness stuff, but, hey, if this is what you need to stay active, go for it! Zumba, Piloga, Crossfit, you name it, do your thing. Can’t afford fancy fitness watches or heart rate monitors? You don’t need them. If tracking steps is your thing, buy a cheap pedometer and write down your total steps at the end of each day. It’s a great way to see how active (or not active) you are and use that to motivate yourself to go for that walk or run at the end of the day when you feel like you don’t have time or energy or whatever other excuse you want to make for yourself. Your phone might even have a pedometer app. Samsung Health is one example. There are also these really cute and inexpensive fitness watches for kids – check out Leapfrog. Marketed for pre-school age, it has games for kids and fun ways to stay active. There are also inexpensive versions of Fitbit.

3. FEELING GOOD – Do what makes you happy. Dance, jumping jacks, soccer, cycling, swimming (you’re right, you do need a body of water for that
Buying a soccer ball is really
not that expensive if you think
about the opportunities it gives
you to stay fit! (start early)
one), walking, push-ups, weights. Your child only wants to play video games? Great! Check out Dance Dance Revolution and other Wii Fit games. There is definitely something out there for you, and the more you like doing it, the more likely you are to keep up with your 

4. FREE ONLINE PROGRAMS – Popular fitness trainer workouts on YouTube

Better U  - from the American Heart Association, this program is a 12-week educational program about health, nutrition, and exercise, and it’s free! They also have healthy recipes on their website.

LoseIt and Myfitnesspal – free online calorie and exercise tracking – more about fitness but there are nutrition tips too, also a good workout online tracker

Dailyburn – costs money after 30 days but has workouts from kettle bells to dance to yoga and – I always recommend these to my pre-adolescent and adolescent patients. There is an exercise and nutrition section among other health and medical topics of interest to teens.

There are a million more. Google is your friend, folks.

5. FREE AT HOME – Sometimes the oldies but goodies are the least expensive and provide the easiest accessibility. Jump rope, hula-hoop, dance videos, exercise videos. These are all things you can do in your home with very little equipment. Even a 20-minute exercise video, if you can do it each day, is a step in the right direction. Don’t like any of these, I stand by my tried and true stay-active method – DANCE. Ask anyone, I have the least rhythm and coordination of any athlete on the planet, but dancing with my daughter in our apartment makes us both SO happy. Find your music, find a friend or find 30 minutes and get down with your silly jazzy self. There’s no way you won’t feel better and no way you won’t burn more calories than you would sitting on the couch with a sleeve of Oreos. Too lazy or don’t have time to make your own playlist? Try Spotify and use other people’s playlists or again your friend, YouTube for a 30-minute aerobic dance workout

On deck:
Jogging stroller update!