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14 for 2014: Avenues to a healthy lifestyle in Harford County

Studies show a healthy lifestyle can prevent a number of illnesses and diseases, ranging from high blood pressure and high cholesterol to obesity and certain types of cancer. And in Harford County, achieving that lifestyle is easier than you might think. Here are 14 ways to keep your mind, body and soul healthy in 2014.

1. Try yoga on the water

Sure, yoga can reduce stress, reduce back pain, lower heart rate and blood pressure and help relieve anxiety and depression. But how about some fresh air and Susquehanna River views as you slowly move into mountain pose? The Havre de Grace Marine Center offers yoga on its barge, as well as on stand-up paddleboards (SUP) May through September. “It’s just a really peaceful setting,” says Lachelle Scarlato, co-owner of the center. “It’s a great yoga session and way to unwind.” Barge sessions are for beginners through advanced yoga practitioners, while SUP sessions are for more advanced practitioners, she says.

Cost: Yoga on the barge is $10 per class. SUP sessions are $40 a person and include paddleboard rental.
Where: Havre de Grace Marine Center, 723 Water St. in Havre de Grace.
When: Barge sessions Wednesdays 6 to 7 p.m. SUP 90-minute sessions by reservation.
Information: hdgmarinecenter.com or 410-939-2161

2. Shake your booty

Zumba, a fitness program that combines Latin music with dance moves, is an easy, fun way to burn 800 calories in just one hour, says Juan Alzamora, Zumba instructor at the Bel Air Armory. “You don’t realize you’re working out,” he says. “You’re just dancing to the music.” Like most cardiovascular workouts, Zumba can increase one’s stamina, aerobic threshold and bone density, as well as improve muscle tone and lower blood pressure. And don’t forget your core. “Your abs get a heck of a workout,” Alzamora says. Participants need not worry about their dancing skills, as choreography is simple, Alzamora says.

Cost: $5 a class, 5 classes for $20 or 10 classes for $40.
Where: Bel Air Armory, 41 N. Main St. in Bel Air.
When: Mondays at 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Information: belairzumba.com or 410-322-5117

3. Ditch the meat for a night

Going vegetarian and even vegan can be challenging for those who have eaten meat their whole lives. So why not try it just for a night? Your body may welcome the change. Plant-based diets, which focus on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts, are rich in fiber and vitamins. In general, vegetarians also eat fewer calories and less fat and have a lower risk of heart disease than meat-eaters do. Try turning Mondays into “Meatless Mondays” by serving a plant-based dish for dinner. Or visit a monthly potluck held by DineKind Harford, a group created in 2010 to educate the community about the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets. The first Friday of each month, participants each bring a meatless, plant-based meal to share with six to eight others. Dishes range from basic macaroni and cheese to quinoa salad with kale and cranberries. “It’s very casual,” says Jill Stankis, a DineKind Harford founder. “There’s no pressure. Everybody just sits around the table and eats.” Potluck dinners occasionally feature guest speakers, as well.

Cost: $5.
Where: McFaul Activity Center, 525 West MacPhail Road, Bel Air.
When: 6:30 to 9 p.m. first Friday of each month.
Information: dinekindharford.com or David’s Natural Market at 410-836-0808. In Havre de Grace, a similar plant-based potluck is held by the Havre de Grace Green Team on the fourth Friday of the month. Details are available on the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/HavredeGraceGreenTeam.

4. Sip some tea

According to the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, tea leaves contain a mix of substances including antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. These compounds might offer protection from cancer, cardiovascular disease, cavities and Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, green tea could help prevent gastric, pancreatic, bladder and ovarian cancers. Green tea also may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while both green and black tea are linked to a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. Tea also takes longer to prepare than coffee, forcing drinkers to slow down -- even if just for a few minutes, says Erin Bradley, co-owner of  Tea by Two in Bel Air. “Mentally, that whole process is sort of calming,” she says.

Cost: Tea, whether loose leaf or bagged, can range in price. At Tea by Two, a small pot costs $3.39.
Where: Tea by Two, 814 S. Main St. in Bel Air.
When: Tuesdays through Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last reservation at 3:30 p.m.
Information: teabytwo.com or 410-838-8611

5. Go to therapy

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year. The medical condition, which can include everything from anxiety disorders to schizophrenia, affects people of all ages, disrupting their thinking, feeling, mood and daily functioning. The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital (UM HMH) is a short-term group therapy program designed to support those battling mental illness. “Our goal is to provide a compassionate, person-centered environment where personal struggles and difficulties are transformed into opportunities for growth and healing,” says Pamela Llewellyn, manager of outpatient, social work and psychotherapy services. Participants attend group therapy sessions for three hours a day, three days a week.

Cost: Varies. The IOP accepts most commercial insurance.
Where: UM HMH, 501 S. Union Ave. in Havre de Grace.
Information: 443-843-8800

6. Shop with the farmers

Harford County has a series of farmers markets spring through fall that offer fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and baked goods. By buying locally, residents get food that is ripe and in-season. They also can experience new fruits and vegetables not easily found at chain supermarkets. And with access to all this fresh food, residents can easily squeeze in an extra serving of fruits and veggies a day.

When: Bel Air, Saturdays 7 to 11 a.m. Edgewood, Thursdays 3 to 6 p.m. Havre de Grace, Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon.
Where: Bel Air Farmers Market, 2 S. Bond St., Bel Air.
Edgewood Farmers Market, intersection of Edgewood and Old Edgewood roads.
Havre de Grace Farmers Market, Pennington Avenue between Washington Street and Union Avenue.
Information: belairfarmersmarket.com, harfordfarms.com, hdgtourism.com/farmer

7. Stroll with parents

Every weekday, parents from across Harford County meet to exercise with Stroller Strides, a stroller-based fitness program designed for parents with little ones. Workouts include power walking with kids in tow, and strength and toning exercises. “You’re definitely going to sweat,” says Melissa Jonczak, a certified fitness instructor who runs the program with fellow mom Jaclyn Parker. The group hopes to add evening and weekend classes this summer.

Cost: First class is free. Two-day a week membership is $59.99/month. Unlimited membership is $69.99/month. One-time registration fee $75.
When: 9:15 a.m. weekdays.
Where: Locations include Annie’s Playground, 864 Smith Lane, Fallston; Blake’s Venture, 1514 Melrose Ave., Forest Hill; and St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 1200 E. Churchville Road, Bel Air.
Information: harford.fit4mom.com

8. Play chess

Studies show mentally stimulating activities like chess may keep the brain healthy and prevent or minimize memory loss from aging. “Use it or lose it,” says Terence Coffee, president of the Aberdeen Chess Club, which meets weekly. “Chess players very seldom get Alzheimer’s.”

Cost: Free.
When: Thursdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Aberdeen Community Center, 34 N. Philadelphia Blvd., Aberdeen.
Information: 410-272-1815. Participants are encouraged to bring their own chess set.

9. Go for a run

Running burns calories, increases oxygen flow, gives your heart a workout and reduces anxiety. Regular running can even reduce the risk of some cancers. RASAC -- The Harford County Running Club -- hosts weekly runs for all ages and ability levels, as well as family-friendly races throughout the year. “Being a member of our club adds a social element to running and training, as most of our members have found friends to run with through the group, which helps when training for races,” club president Seth McElroy says. “It also provides a network of people to help with training programs, injury prevention suggestions and ideas for ideal routes to run, as well as a vast knowledge of the local trails.”

Cost: Annual membership $20/individual, $25/family.
When: Sundays at 8 a.m.
Where: Locations vary.
Information: runharford.com

10. Check your lungs

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in Maryland, and tobacco use is the cancer’s primary cause. University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (UM UCMC) offers a low-dose lung cancer screening program that can catch lung cancer in its early stages and reduce the risk of death by 20 percent, says Martha Mallonee, hospital spokeswoman. The painless screening is performed on a CT scanner, which can detect nodules or cancer more precisely than standard chest X-rays. Candidates should be between 55 and 79 years old, have no symptoms or history of lung cancer and currently smoke or have quit less than 15 years ago. In addition, candidates should have smoked for a total of 30 pack years -- the number of cigarette packs smoked per day multiplied by the total number of years smoking. UCMC specialists have found more than 25 cases of lung cancer through the screening program since it began in June 2013.

Cost: $100. A physician referral is required.
Where: UM UCMC, 500 Upper Chesapeake Drive in Bel Air.
Information: 443-843-LUNG or 855-800-LUNG

11. Meditate

Meditation can clear a cluttered mind and improve one’s mental health by increasing self-awareness and reducing negative emotions. “It’s a way to just reset yourself, focus and ground yourself for the day,” says Tianna Vanspriell, owner of Barely Used Consignments in Bel Air. The shop offers morning meditation sessions. For an hour, meditation leader Mary Perry uses guided imagery to help participants visualize relaxing scenes. “It helps you prioritize how your day is going to go,” Vanspriell says.

Cost: $15 a person.
When: Every other Monday
from 9 to 10 a.m.
Where: 8 N. Main St., Bel Air.
Information: 410-893-7460

12. Ride a bike

Bicycling keeps the heart healthy. It also tones muscles throughout the body and burns calories. And it boosts energy levels, says Missie Wakefield, owner of Bike Shop of Bel Air. “You get out and you feel so good afterward, after being in the fresh air,” she says. Throughout the year, the shop hosts group “no drop” rides across Harford County. That means regardless of your cycling ability, no cyclist is ever left behind, Wakefield says.

Cost: Free.
When: Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. Times vary depending on season.
Where: The Bike Shop of Bel Air, 2442 Churchville Road, Bel Air.
Information: bikeshopbelair.com or 410-734-6723

13. Explore nature with kids

Being outside can do wonders for a child’s health. According to the National Wildlife Federation, spending time outside can raise a child’s Vitamin D levels, increase fitness, improve distance vision, decrease stress levels and even improve school performance. Eden Mill Nature Center hosts events throughout the year to encourage children’s interest in nature, including Tiny Wonders and its Preschool Nature Series.

Cost: $8 for members, $10 for nonmembers for both Tiny Wonders and Preschool Nature Series. Adults are free.
When: Dates and times vary.
Where: Eden Mill Nature Center, 1617 Eden Mill Road, Pylesville.
Information: 410-836-3050

14. Age gracefully with fellow seniors

Harford County’s senior centers offer numerous exercise programs to keep seniors healthy, including Ageless Grace ­­-- a wellness program that focuses on longevity of the body and mind. The program includes techniques for joint mobility, spinal flexibility, core strength, balance and fall prevention. Skills are practiced in a chair while music is playing.

Cost: $25.
Where: Fallston Senior Activity Center, 1707 Fallston Road, Fallston, and McFaul Senior Activity Center, 525 W. MacPhail Road, Bel Air.
Information: harfordcountymd.gov/services/aging or 410-638-3025

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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