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Published January 24, 2014, 09:35 AM

Prairie Fare: Be inspired to get out of your easy chair this winter

“Mom, you look like the little old lady rabbit in ‘Good Night, Moon’,” my 10-year-old daughter said with a laugh. I was sitting in my comfortable chair covered with a blanket while attempting to knit.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Mom, you look like the little old lady rabbit in ‘Good Night, Moon’,” my 10-year-old daughter said with a laugh.

I was sitting in my comfortable chair covered with a blanket while attempting to knit. I was reminding her of the character from the classic children’s book who sat knitting quietly as she waited for the little bunny to fall asleep. I probably read the book to my daughter 300 times when she was a toddler.

All I needed was a pair of bunny slippers.

Like most people, I have remained warm and content staying indoors as much as possible during our unusually cold winter. After her comment, I briefly left my easy chair to get a cup of hot tea. I hadn’t moved in a couple of hours.

We all need to stay physically active in all seasons because physical activity has so many benefits. Regular physical activity can help maintain our blood pressure and blood cholesterol at normal levels, which can reduce our risk of heart disease. Regular physical activity may help reduce our risk of diabetes and some cancers.

Regular activity can strengthen our bones and muscles. Having strong muscles and bones can help prevent falls as we age. Regular physical activity can improve our mood, our ability to sleep and our overall mental health. Physical activity may help prevent dementia in the long run.

As I thought about all these benefits, I pondered my lack of motivation to move out of my comfortable chair now that I was settled in again with my warm blanket and beverage. Maybe I needed to get an uncomfortable wooden chair.

Doing any amount of physical activity has health benefits. For significant health benefits, fitness experts recommend 150 minutes per week. That equates to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The physical activity can be accumulated in 10- or 15-minute segments.

We do not have to leave our homes to exercise. All we need is a radio or CD player so we can put on some music and dance. Consider renting, borrowing or buying an exercise DVD. They are available at levels ranging from beginner to advanced, including exercises you can do while seated.

If possible, leave your home and check out community-based indoor fitness opportunities, such as open gyms at schools or faith communities. Go for a walk at a shopping mall, go swimming at a community fitness facility, or enjoy bowling, ping pong or indoor golfing.

Weather permitting, brave the cold and try winter outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or sledding.

Remember that household tasks count as fitness, too. Vigorous vacuuming burns calories and takes care of dust bunnies. And for many of us, snow removal allows us to get out our front door. Be aware of these snow-removal tips:

E Before shoveling, drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine or nicotine, which are stimulants that may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict.

E Dress in several layers. If you get too warm, you can remove a layer.

E Warm your muscles by stretching before you begin shoveling.

E Pick the right shovel for you. A shovel with a smaller blade will require you to lift less snow and put less strain on your body.

E Start at a slow pace, and stop if you feel pain.

Check out www.ndsu.edu/boomers for information about staying active. The “muscles” section has links to free online videos and workout guides.

Moving our bodies regularly needs to be a health priority regardless of the season. I need to be more like the rabbits hopping around in my backyard all winter and less like the little old lady rabbit sitting and knitting.

If you like coffee-type beverages, here’s a tasty mixture certain to perk up a cold day.

French Vanilla Coffee Mix

1/3 cup instant coffee (decaffeinated or caffeinated)

1 cup instant skim milk powder

½ cup powdered nondairy coffee creamer

1/3 cup white sugar

¼ cup French vanilla instant pudding mix

Add the ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly mixed and you have a smooth powder. Store mixture in an airtight, pint-sized container, such as a glass jar or air-tight container. For each serving, place ¾ cup of boiling water in a mug and stir in 2 heaping teaspoons of mix.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has about 50 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 10 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of protein and 65 milligrams of sodium.

Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professior in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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