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Physical Activity on a Busy Schedule

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

Physical activity is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It can have a great impact on your health, wellness, and even your stress level! Physical activity is recommended as part of your daily routine as well as being important at any age or stage in life.

Some of the benefits of physical activity include preventing chronic diseases, controlling weight, increasing muscle strength, reducing fat, promoting strong bones, relieving stress, improving sleep, and many more.1

If physical activity has so many benefits, why do most of us not add it to our daily routine? Sometimes life gets in the way and it is completely understandable. Work, children, household chores, and social events all take time away from physical activity.

Without physical activity, many problems can occur. Your blood pressure and cholesterol can increase. You are at risk for stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 1

Physical activity is extremely important! If you’re busy, these tips can help you squeeze it into your daily routine.

  • For anyone with an hour of time to spare about 3 -4 times a week, join a gym. It’s a great place to find motivation and encouragement. Most gyms provide a free personal trainer session when you sign up, and you can learn some great tips.

For anyone with no time due to balancing work, children, household chores, and so much more, finding ways to exercise while doing any of these can really help.

  • If you sit at a desk all day, get up and walk around when you have a few minutes to spare. Stretch, walk in place, do some arm circles. Do something to get your body moving. Standing desks are a great option as well.
  • Take your children for a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood, or create a mini exercise class at home with them where you are the instructor and they are the students. Children love doing that! Also, play games outside with them like tag.
  • Get everyone in the house moving around together. This is a fun, family bonding experience.
  • When you are doing household chores such as cooking, cleaning, or organizing, put on some music and dance. It will help get you moving a little more and also elevate your mood.

Physical activity can be fun, and it is something families and friends are able to do together. It is essential to make physical activity an important part of your life!


  1. HHS Office, and Council on Sports. “Importance of Physical Activity.”, US Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Jan. 2017,

Ruchi Shah is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


Parenting Tips

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

The Family Health and Wellness Program is pleased to announce a new resource for busy parents on the go. “Parenting Tips” is a podcast series that provides current research-based information from Cornell University and other American land grant institutions. “Parenting Tips” supports parents and other caregivers by translating timely child development research into practical and helpful information to support family health and wellness. We currently have the following topics:

  • The benefits of family meals
  • Positive discipline
  • Temper tantrums
  • Children and sleep
  • Understanding temperament
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren

You can listen in on

November Is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans, and 79 million Americans are pre diabetic.

Diabetes Mellitus is characterized by high blood glucose concentrations resulting from a defect in insulin secretion, insulin action, or possibly both. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the cells in the pancreas and is necessary for the use/storage of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Diabetes can be divided into two groups: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that causes destruction of the pancreas beta cells, so the body does not produce insulin. It is usually diagnosed in children, but can be diagnosed up until age 30. Type 2 diabetes is a combination of insulin resistance and beta-cell failure. Most people with Type 2 diabetes are obese which can cause insulin resistance.

Risk factors include obesity, diet, genetics (family history), older age, decreased activity, race, and ethnicity.

Although genetics do play a factor in diabetes, there are certain choices one can make to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes:

    • Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle
    • Consume 3 balanced meals a day
    • Watch portion sizes
    • Make at least half your grains whole grain

 Diabetes can be controlled with medical nutrition therapy, exercise, monitoring blood sugars, medication, education, as well as support. Self checking blood sugars at home regularly is a great way to assess glycemic control. Checking blood sugar two hours after eating is a great way to see how your body is processing meals and carbohydrates. Hemoglobin A1c is a lab value used to average a person’s blood sugar over three months, and this is the primary test used for diabetes management.

Carbohydrate counting is a meal planning technique used to manage blood sugar levels. It allows the individual to keep track of how many carbohydrates they consume. Individuals with diabetes can benefit from eating three meals a day, with small healthy snacking in-between. This helps to achieve a consistent glucose level. Diabetics should always eat a protein or healthy fat with a carbohydrate as this allows for the carbohydrate to break down into sugar slowly, thus preventing a spike in glucose levels. Individuals with diabetes can benefit from meeting with a certified diabetes educator who is certified in diabetic diets and blood sugar control.

For more information on diabetes, visit:


Type 1 Diabetes. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Type 2. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Escott-Stump, S. (2015). Nutrition & Diagnosis-Related Care (18th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.


Learn How to Relax in Stressful Times

November is National Diabetes month. Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, with 19 million people diagnosed and 7 million undiagnosed. Another 79 million adults have pre-diabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing the disease.

This November ask yourself if you are at risk for diabetes and what you can do to help lower your risk, including reading this helpful post from one of our Certified Diabetes Educators.

By Kathy Sinkin, RN, CDE

Stress is a natural part of life.  But when it becomes chronic, it can wear you down and may add to a range of health problems such as anxiety, depression, headaches, backaches, digestive difficulties, high blood pressure and less resistance of infection.  Diabetes and certain types of cancers can be adversely affected by stress.

Everyone has stress, and no one will ever get rid of it.  Stress can give you focus and energy to complete a task, but chronic stress can affect your overall health.  The good news is that most people can learn how to manage their stress more effectively.

Relaxation techniques can help.  They probably won’t hurt and may make you feel less tense and more at peace.  Here are three techniques taught by Kathy Sinkin, RN, CDE, Nurse/Diabetic Educator with Cornell University Cooperative Extension and Suffolk County Department of Health Diabetes Program.  Relaxation techniques can help you roll with the punches and cope better when stress tries to get the best of you.

One method may prove more effective or more natural than another.  You may feel more comfortable combining some or all of them.  The best technique is the one that works for you.

Take long, deep breaths.  Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes.  Place one hand on your belly, just below your navel and notice your breathing.  Now take a deep breath, inhaling through your nose to a count of three and exhaling out through your mouth for a count of five.  Feel your hand rise slightly with each breath in, and feel it fall with each breath out.  Focus on the rising and falling motion for several seconds until you get a comfortable breathing rhythm going.  Do this for several minutes.  Practice this deep, relaxation breathing for one to five minutes each time you feel yourself becoming stressed to help you calm down enough to address the stressor directly.

Meditation  All forms of meditation basically use  a mental focusing device such as a repeated word, sound, or phrase, while tuning out other thoughts.  Pick a focus word or short phrase such as “peace,” “let go,” or “be happy.”  Find a quiet place, sit or lie in a comfortable position, and close your eyes.  Try to relax your muscles and start noticing your breathing.  Repeat your focus word or phrase to yourself as you breathe out.  Try to tune out other thoughts that may flood your mind.  Continue for 10-20 minutes.  Meditate once or twice a day if possible.

Imagery Exercises are those in which you focus on sights, sounds, smells, or tastes.  Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes.  Relax with some deep abdominal breathing.  Try to imagine a happier time in your life.  It may be a time in your childhood such as breathing the cold air while sleigh riding in the winter, the smell of grandma’s cooking, or the sound of a favorite pet or song.  While imagining, try relaxing your body one area at a time, starting with your head and neck.  Continue down to your feet and toes.  Do this over a period of 15-20 minutes.  The incredible power of imagination will help you reduce stress and deepen your relaxation.

Kathy Sinkin is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program.

PreDiabetes; ProActive Health

November is National Diabetes month. Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, with 19 million people diagnosed and 7 million undiagnosed. Another 79 million adults have pre-diabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing the disease.

This November ask yourself if you are at risk for diabetes and what you can do to help lower your risk, including reading this helpful post from one of our Diabetes Educators.

By Kim Mendel, RD CDN

A visit to the doctor today may mean getting blood test results that reveal prediabetes, once called borderline diabetes. Prediabetes is having blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Many people usually have prediabetes before a diabetes diagnosis and are just unaware. They may or may not have symptoms. Prediabetes does not mean you will necessarily develop type 2 diabetes. About 25% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes within 3 to 5 years (The Art and Science of Diabetes Self-Management 2011), therefore it is important for people to educate themselves on preventive measures.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with prediabetes are not only at risk for diabetes but also cardiovascular disease. Moderate weight loss of 5-10% of your body weight, along with changes or modifications to dietary intake to promote heart healthier eating, have been proven effective in reducing your risk of going from prediabetes to diabetes.

Physical activity should be discussed with your doctor to determine what is right for you but can be as simple as starting with 5 to 10 minutes a day of walking or light jogging or dancing with a goal to work your way up to 30 minutes 5 days per week. Even splitting up your activity into 10 minute intervals throughout the day has been proven effective and a great way to start out.

Healthy eating is a term that is widely used, but for most people it can be confusing or challenging. It doesn’t have to be and a good place to start is the plate method. This way of eating is where you draw imaginary lines on your plate: you fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean healthy cooked protein (like baked, grilled or broiled chicken, turkey or fish) and a quarter with starch or complex carbohydrate (like brown rice, lentils or sweet potato). This method is great for all family members because it is not a diet but a lifestyle and many of the foods that you normally eat can fit into the plate method. You may need to change your cooking methods and increase your vegetables but you eat regular foods just in healthier portions and cooked in a healthier way.

To learn more about the plate method visit or the American Diabetes Association ( and speak with your health care provider about screening for prediabetes. Be proactive!

Kim Mendel is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program.

November is National Diabetes Month

By Alysa Ferguson, RD, CDE

Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, with 19 million people diagnosed and 7 million undiagnosed. Another 79 million adults have pre-diabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing the disease.

This November ask yourself if you are at risk for diabetes and what you can do to help lower your risk.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include having a family history, being overweight, being over 45 years old, having had gestational diabetes (or giving birth to a baby over 9 pounds) and being inactive. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. If you feel you are at risk, ask your doctor to check your A1C. Having an A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 indicates a high risk for diabetes.

Most importantly, take steps to reduce your risk for diabetes now and in the future.

Studies have shown the powerful impact lifestyle changes can make. If overweight, losing 5 to 7% of body weight has been shown to cut diabetes risk in half; that is 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. This is best accomplished by making practical, realistic changes to your eating habits. Physical activity is also a powerful tool for prevention. With 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, you can reduce your risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases. An example of this would be to walk for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. Grab a family member or friend and get moving!

If you are ready to learn more about diabetes prevention or management, visit

If you live in Suffolk County and are interested in attending classes about diabetes prevention or diabetes self-management, contact Anastasia Loper at (631) 727-7850 Ext. 340 or for more information.

Alysa Ferguson is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Family Health Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 342 or at

Halloween Tricks and Treats to Keep Your Family on Track

By Alysa Ferguson, RD, CDE

The pumpkin is carved, the costumes are ready, it’s time to trick-or-treat! If your family is like most, this can mean a month or more of candy laying around everywhere. While candy and treats can and should be a part of Halloween for children (yes, even children with diabetes), there are some things families can keep in mind to keep it from getting out of hand.

Shop late and selectively  
If you’re concerned about beginning the candy fest before October 31st, don’t buy it so far in advance that you or your family will be tempted to dig in. When you do finally buy the candy, consider buying options that won’t be particularly tempting, and consider keeping it out of sight. You may even want to consider giving something other than candy: mini bags of pretzels, small toys, pencils, or stickers.

Start new traditions
Think creatively about other ways to celebrate the holiday. Host a costume party where kids can bob for apples and paint their faces like ghosts and goblins. Of course you can serve festive snacks, but this can teach young children that the holiday is about dressing up and enjoying time with friends and family.

Smart Treats
Mix 1-2 tablespoons of pureed pumpkin into oatmeal for breakfast, toast pumpkin seeds for snack time, or dip apples in caramel and peanuts for dessert. Halloween is a great opportunity to get creative with your children in the kitchen. For more healthy ideas, click on the links below.

Setting limits
As with anything in nutrition, moderation is key. While the day of Halloween may be a free-for-all, make sure your kids at least eat dinner so they are not eating out of hunger. After Halloween, set a rule as to how many pieces of candy your child can eat each day, and stick to it. This rule should apply to all children, as no child should be singled out for a weight or health problem. It should apply to the adults as well – never underestimate the power of role modeling!

Share, Trade, Donate
Some parents allow their kids to trade in their candy for toys or games. Another idea might be to let your children donate their candy or send it to troops overseas (check out “Operation Gratitude” below). After your children have enjoyed some candy treats, they can enjoy the feeling of giving to others!

Additional Resources:
Healthy Halloween Treats

Feeding Preschoolers – Healthy Halloween Treats

Operation Gratitude – Halloween Candy Program

Alysa Ferguson is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Family Health Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 342 or at

Thrills Without chills

By Tim Jahn, M.ED

Want to know what’s really scary at Halloween?  Pre-teens and teens roaming the streets unsupervised after dark armed with shaving cream, silly string and raw eggs, that’s what.   Halloween mischief making is sometimes harmless, just a few smashed pumpkins, trees wrapped in toilet paper and kids covered in flour.  But there are lots of times when things get out of hand and someone gets hurt or property vandalized.  Some teens will prey on younger school-agers, committing “candy muggings” and prank beatings. Homeowners who have been targeted by Halloween high jinks may call the police and press charges; worse, some may take matters into their own hands and threaten violence. And when paintball or bb guns or firecrackers replace eggs, Halloween truly becomes terrifying.

Many pre-teens still want to dress up and go trick-or-treating with their friends.  They may not even care that Mom’s nearby, monitoring everything from a distance.  But some pre-teens and many teens care less about the treats and are more interested in the tricks.  It’s the risk, danger and masquerade they relish. They want to go out after dark without adults around and hang with their friends.  It’s a recipe for potential trouble on most nights, let alone Halloween. So, how do you handle Halloween without coming across as monster mom or demon dad?

If you decide to let your pre-teen prowl around with his friends, establish firm guidelines.  Stay together. No vandalism. No bullying younger children. Stay within 2-3 blocks of home.  Bring a cell phone and call at first sign of trouble.  Be home by 8 p.m. (or earlier). If he balks at these rules, tell him he can help you hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. Or you can offer to:

  •  Plan a Halloween party together in someone’s home or a community location.  Better yet, help him and his friends plan a party for younger kids in the neighborhood.
  • Turn your yard and driveway into a haunted house where your child and her friends can play live creatures and characters (though not too scary for very young children).
  • Take her and her friends to a haunted house, followed by ice cream.
  • Do something inspiring, not spine-chilling.  Many nonprofit groups have Halloween fund-raisers and need volunteers. Visit shut-ins and share songs, ghost stories and treats.  Or raise your own money for a good cause with your haunted house or by trick-or-treating.

You can search the Internet for Halloween party ideas, recipes, homemade haunted house decorations, community service projects and more.

Additional Resources:

SC Healthy Halloween parties and meals

CDC Halloween health and safety tips

NE Have a healthier Halloween

Tim Jahn is a Human Ecology Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. He can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 331 or at

Importance of Physical Activity

By Maryann Birmingham

Being physically active is important for good health. Most people of all ages need to be more active; being active means moving your body! Regular physical activity helps keep the heart, lungs, muscles, bones and joints healthy. It’s recommended that adults should be active for at least 30 minutes every day. For children and teens it’s recommended for them to get 60 minutes of physical activity daily.

Safety first while being active: be careful to prevent injuries. The most common injuries are to the bones, joints, tendons and muscles. Most injuries can be avoided by warming up before and cooling down after being physically active. People with heart disease or those that have had a heart attack, stroke or heart surgery should talk to a healthcare provider before participating in any type of physical activity.

Suggestions for some physical activities: walk, cycle, jog, skate, etc. to work, school or the store; park the car further away from your destination; take the stairs instead of the elevator; play with your children or pets; take fitness breaks to go for a walk-instead of taking cigarette or coffee breaks; work in the garden; dance or walk while doing errands. The options to add more physical activity to your daily routine are endless!

The benefits of being active are: Reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes; helps maintain a healthy body weight; keeps bones strong; increases energy; improves sleep and mood.

There are 1,440 minutes in every day… Schedule 30 of them for being active!

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition

Maryann Birmingham is a Community Nutrition Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 356 or at

Colder Weather Workout Tips

By Nicolette Casano

Summer has ended and Fall is upon us. You’ve become accustomed to your outside exercise routine in the nice weather of the summer, but now you are worried about exercising during the colder months. What’s your plan? How are you going to fend off the cold? Below are a few tips that will come in handy while exercising in the cold.

Dress in layers! Earmuffs, gloves, and warm socks will keep warm areas on your body that tend to get cold rather quickly. For those really cold days, wear a scarf around your neck and around your nose and mouth. The scarf will provide your lungs with warm air so breathing will be easier.

Map out your routine; the time and the place. Exercising in the afternoon is a great idea because the sun is the warmest around noon, and the sun supplies vitamin D to the body and helps fight off depression. Avoid areas that are open and near the water because these areas tend to have stronger winds. Pick places surrounded by trees or tall buildings that will block the wind.

Warming up and cooling down are a must. Warm up indoors for about 5 minutes by walking or jogging in place. Once outside, start with a slow pace and take a few breaks every couple of minutes to adjust to the colder weather. Cool down by slowing your pace before entering your home. Once inside, adjust to the warmer environment before taking a shower.

Did you know your body works harder while exercising in the cold? Start off with a simpler workout and increase the length of time or intensity if you feel your body is up to it. It is also important to be flexible. If the weather is too cold or rainy, choose days to go outside that are sunny and clear. Your schedule may constantly change, but all that matters is that you are putting in the effort to get out there and exercise!

Additional Resources:

Holiday Placemat from Washington State

Tips for Cold and Wet Weather Physical Activity from Oregon State

Nicolette Casano is an intern with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk Country’s Family Health and Wellness Program during the Fall of 2013 and is currently a Dietetic Intern at LIU Post. She is also studying for her Master’s in Nutrition at LIU Post. She grew up on Long Island and received her BS in Nutrition from LIU Post in September 2013.

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