Studies show a healthy lifestyle can prevent a number of illnesses and diseases, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and certain types of cancer. And in Howard County, achieving that lifestyle is easier than you might think. Here are 15 ways to keep your body, mind and even soul healthy in 2015.
1. Ride a bike
Bicycling keeps the heart healthy. It also tones muscles throughout the body and burns calories. “It’s one of the most friendly aerobic activities you can do because it’s non-weight-bearing and non-impact,” says Jonathan Posner, manager at Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City. Race Pace runs several “no drop” group rides out of its Ellicott City and Columbia locations throughout the year. “No drop” means no cyclist is ever left behind, regardless of speed or ability. If you’re not ready to hit the road yet or can’t bear frigid winter weather, Columbia Association’s new MyRide class takes cyclists on everything from mountains to city streets using giant high-definition, forward-motion video screens. Instructors encourage participants to adjust their stationary bike’s resistance to fit the terrain on the screen, says Megan Cooperman, assistant director of group fitness.
Where: Race Pace Bicycles
6925 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia
3258 Bethany Lane, Ellicott City.
Cost: Group rides are free.
When: Sundays at 9 a.m. Additional group rides are added in spring, summer and fall.
Columbia Association’s Supreme Sports Club
7080 Deepage Drive, Columbia
Cost: MyRide classes are part of a Columbia Association membership. Costs vary by membership level.
When: MyRide classes run for about an hour and are held every day.
2. Shop with the farmers
Howard County has a series of farmers’ markets starting in the spring and running through fall, offering fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and baked goods. By buying local, you’ll get food that’s ripe and in season, and you’ll find new fruits and vegetables that chain supermarkets are less likely to carry. Plus, access to all this fresh food makes it easy to squeeze in extra servings of fruits and veggies a day.
Howard County Farmers Market Association
Ellicott City Old Town Market
East Columbia Farmers’ Market
Visit websites for hours and locations.
When: Most markets are open May/June through October.
Meditation can clear a cluttered mind and improve one’s mental health by increasing self-awareness and reducing negative emotions. “Various studies have shown that meditation can reduce pain, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, maintain will power, as well as even decreasing depressed moods by increasing gray matter in the brain,” says Kristine Kim, instructor at Maum Meditation in Ellicott City. The meditation center offers guided meditation classes to help participants visualize relaxing scenes.
Where: Maum Meditation
4381 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City
Cost: First session is free. Membership costs vary.
When: Classes run throughout the day, seven days a week.
4. Stroll with parents
Four days a week, parents from across Howard County work out with their little ones in tow during Stroller Strides, a stroller-based fitness program. Workouts include power walking, sprints and a series of strength and toning exercises like push-ups. “It’s definitely not a walk in the park,” says Joy Emery, an Elkridge resident, certified fitness instructor and owner of the Fit4Mom franchise that offers the program.
Where: Centennial Park East (Pavilion H)
4800 Woodland Road, Ellicott City
Long Reach Village Center
8775 Cloudleap Court, Columbia
Cost: First class is free. Unlimited membership is $54 per month. A 10-class pass is $110.
When: Tuesdays through Fridays at 10 a.m.
5. Play chess
Studies show mentally stimulating activities like chess may keep the brain healthy and minimize memory loss from aging. For children, playing chess builds confidence and develops a higher degree of thoughtfulness, says Adam Weissbarth, founder of Silver Knights Chess. “They’re more mindful of consequences … and aware of how [their] actions impact things,” he says. Howard County senior centers like The Bain Center and the East Columbia 50+ Center offer chess games throughout the year, and several county elementary schools host before- and after-school chess clubs run by Silver Knights Chess.
Where: County elementary schools and senior centers
Cost: Free to $185, depending on the program.
When: Times vary.
6. Quit smoking
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. The Howard County Health Department’s Tobacco Cessation Program helps people quit tobacco use. Program services include physician evaluations, medication, acupuncture and support groups. “Our facilitators are trained tobacco treatment specialists and are available to provide ongoing support for participants to effectively quit smoking,” says Lisa deHernandez, department spokeswoman. Program leaders also invite guest speakers to provide education and share cessation techniques. Participants from Howard County and surrounding areas are welcome.
Where: Howard County Health Department
8930 Stanford Blvd., Columbia
410-313-6300 or hchealth.org
When: Group meetings are held Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
7. Ditch the meat for a night
Going full 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 that 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 are at lower risk for heart disease than meat-eaters. Try turning Mondays into “Meatless Mondays” by serving a plant-based dish for dinner. And if you need ideas, visit Whole Foods in Columbia for its Meatless Monday deal. For $8, shoppers can fill a to-go container with as many meat-free items from the salad and hot bars as they can, regardless of the container’s weight.
Where: Whole Foods
10275 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
When: Mondays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
8. Explore nature with the 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. Columbia Families in Nature, run by Chiara D’Amore of Columbia, provides free opportunities for families to enjoy nature together. Activities include scavenger hunts around local ponds, hiking at nearby state and county parks, strawberry picking and seed planting.
Where: Locations vary throughout Howard and Baltimore counties.
When: Two to three two-hour outings a month, usually on Fridays or Sundays.
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. The Howard County Striders running club sponsors group runs throughout the week for beginner to veteran runners of all ages. Saturday morning runs range from eight to 20 miles. The club also hosts races throughout the year.
Where: Columbia Swim Center parking lot
10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia
Cost: Annual membership costs are $20 for an individual, $35 for a family and $10 for a student.
When: An informal group run occurs every Saturday at 7 a.m.
10. Learn CPR
Learn to save a loved one’s life with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training. According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either don’t know how to administer CPR or their training has lapsed. Eighty-eight percent of cardiac arrests occur at home. Each month, Howard County General Hospital offers adult, child and infant CPR training to teach participants how to clear an airway, perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator.
Where: Howard County General Hospital
10710 Charter Drive, Suite 100, Columbia
410-740-7601 or hcgh.org
When: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Class dates vary.
11. Try yoga on the wall
Sure, yoga can reduce stress, reduce lower back pain, lower heart rate and blood pressure and help relieve anxiety and depression. But have you ever done yoga on a wall? Yoga Wall, offered at Columbia Association’s new Haven on the Lake wellness club, uses flush-mounted wall plates and attachments like yoga belts, handles and pelvic slings. The wall allows students to go deeper into postures without straining and makes greater spine strengthening possible, says Kelly Neylan, a Columbia Association group fitness team leader. It also gives people with injuries easier access to some poses, she says. “Once you have tried yoga on the wall, there is no going back,” Neylan says. “You will be hooked.”
Where: Haven on the Lake
10275 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
Cost: Club memberships vary from $89 to $245 per month.
When: Class times vary.
12. Get acupuncture
Studies indicate acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice using tiny needles, may do everything from easing chronic lower back pain and arthritis to reducing the frequency of tension headaches. “The most important thing acupuncture and a good practitioner can do is wake you up to the very wise signals your body is giving you,” says Jade Connelly-Duggan, acupuncturist and founder of WisdomWell, a family acupuncture and wellness center in Columbia. “When we hear our body’s signals as a request for something, the way we do a baby’s cry, and tend to that, we can heal in an optimal way.” Acupuncture practitioners can be found throughout Howard County.
8955 Guilford Road, Columbia
Haven on the Lake
10275 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
Cost: Cost varies by practitioner. At WisdomWell, treatments cost between $90 and $150, while at Haven on the Lake in Columbia they range from $109 to $165. Some health insurance companies cover treatments.
13. Sip some tea
According to the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, tea leaves contain antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. These compounds may offer protection from cancer, cardiovascular disease, cavities and Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, green tea may help prevent gastric, pancreatic, bladder and ovarian cancers. Green tea may also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while both green and black tea are linked to a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. “Sipping tea is a great way to relax,” says Angela Vogel, owner of Twisted Teahouse in Savage. “It is lower in caffeine than coffee and higher in antioxidants. Different types of teas have different benefits. … Ginger tea relieves nausea, and blueberry tea aides in anti-inflammatory relief.”
Where: Twisted Teahouse
Savage Mill — Spinning Building
8600 Foundry St., Savage
Cost: For $11, customers receive one teapot filled with their tea of choice, a cookie and a scone.
When: Open Thursday through Sunday. Call for hours.
14. Find your healthy weight
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 65 percent of Marylanders age 18 and older are overweight, as are more than 15 percent of Maryland teens in grades nine to 12. Research shows people who are overweight are at a higher risk for everything from heart disease, diabetes and stroke to high blood pressure, respiratory problems and sleep apnea. “So many people struggle with their weight and are looking for a quick fix,” says Cindi Miller, director of community health education for Howard County General Hospital. “What works is healthy eating and more exercise … a lifestyle change.” For adults, the hospital runs Healthy Weight Connection, an eight-week class that meets twice a week and includes one-on-one counseling with a dietician, gentle yoga and discussions about nutrition and healthy eating. For children, Columbia Association offers YouthFit, an eight-week, physician-referral program designed for ages 9 through 16. YouthFit includes physical activities, access to Columbia Association pools, a field trip to a local grocery store and discussions about nutrition and healthy eating for both children and parents. “Children learn they have a lot more healthy choices than they realize,” says Shawni Paraska, director of community health and sustainability.
Where: Healthy Weight Connection
Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center
10710 Charter Drive, Suite 100, Columbia. hcgh.org
When: Weeknights year-round.
6151 Day Long Lane, Clarksville
410-715-3128 or columbiaassociation.org
Cost: $250 or $350 per family, depending on residency.
When: Weeknights year-round.
15. Get vaccinated
Vaccines don’t end with childhood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone who comes in close contact with a baby should be up-to-date with whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination. Whooping cough can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The CDC also recommends adults age 60 and older receive a single dose of shingles vaccine, unless they have a weakened immune system or are allergic to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any component of the vaccine. Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. And don’t forget about the flu vaccine, says Lisa deHernandez, Howard County Health Department spokeswoman. About 25,000 people die and 200,000 people are hospitalized each year because of influenza viruses. “It’s not too late in January to get a flu shot,” she says. “Flu season runs through June.”
Where: The Howard County Health Department’s Columbia Health Center
7180 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia
410-313-7500 or hchealth.org
Cost: Costs vary. Some vaccinations are free, while others may be covered by health insurance.