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Exercise, tips for healthy living, presented at the YWCA

The group laughed while learning how to do simple, yet effective, exercises in a chair, and listened intently while getting tips on nutrition, finances and seasonal affective disorder during a free workshop Thursday at the YWCA Bradford on West Corydon Street.

The inaugural event, titled “Find Your Balance in the New Year,” drew in a number of men and women from the community. The program, which included healthy snacks and beverages, was provided by four professionals: Mary Anne Polucci-Sherman, licensed psychologist at Behavioral Health Services and Bradford Regional Medical Center, who spoke about seasonal affective disorder (SAD); UPMC registered dietician Mariann Kahle who spoke about the importance of eating healthy foods and snacks; exercise science professional Natalie Marasco of the Bradford Family YMCA who demonstrated physical fitness; and Dan Minich, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial, who spoke about managing finances in one’s personal life.

“This is the first year we’ve done anything with this, to my recollection, and on a cold, wintery evening like this, the turnout is great,” said Vanessa Castano, YW executive director. “When you have a small (venue) like this it can be a little more intimate and people feel more comfortable asking questions and interacting.”

During her presentation, Polucci-Sherman said SAD affects a number of people and is a form of depression that occurs at the same time each year, usually in the winter. SAD mimics major depression, but is different because the symptoms leave in the spring and summer months. She said natural light is a good combatant of the disorder, and those with the illness should make sure they have plenty of sunshine in their homes, if possible. She said light therapy can also be effective, as well as making time for fun. Polucci-Sherman said going outside, even on cloudy days, is also important as it will provide some vitamin D and can lift moods. Exercise can also alleviate the symptoms.

In her presentation, Kahle spoke about the different extremes of eaters, from those who eat only when they’re hungry, or instinctively, to the overeater who talks and thinks about food all the time or is always on a diet. She noted the latter can lead to obesity, which so prevalent in the United States that bariatric surgery, which removes 80 percent of the stomach, is even conducted on adolescents.

Kahle said people can change their eating habits simply by pausing five seconds before ingesting something mindlessly, which at the end of the day can save 400 to 500 calories. Kahle said finding something to do with the hands, such as cleaning out a junk drawer instead of eating, or drinking a hot cup of tea, can also stave off food cravings which can go away in 20 to 30 minutes.

During her demonstration, Marasco showed participants how to exercise daily, even in the office or in front of the television.

“Make it a priority to take care of yourself,” Marasco told the group. “On average, we spend about 9.5 hours sitting. Compare that to the 7.5 hours of sleep we may get … and we’re doing a lot of sitting.”

Marasco said 30 minutes of exercise are recommended daily, but even 15 would be helpful by using several simple exercises. She then demonstrated with the group exercises that can be done while sitting or standing by a chair, such as interlacing the fingers and reaching toward the sky as high as possible and with the palms facing up hold the position five seconds. Other demonstrations included pulling bent knees to the chest, one at a time, and holding five to 10 seconds, as well as more advanced exercising such walking or jogging in place and doing squats by standing up and sitting down in a chair.

“A little activity throughout the day we can reverse inevitable weight gain and build our strength and endurance,” Marasco advised.

Minich was the final speaker and brought a laugh from the group when he opened his comments by noting the organizers “got the boring stuff out of the way” before his presentation on finances.

On a serious note, Minich said financial management takes three things.

“It takes awareness, it takes discipline and it takes sacrifice,” Minich said. “Just like the other talking points we heard tonight, it’s not going to come if we don’t put a little work into it.”

Minich said people should build a budget; create an emergency fund; downsize and substitute; review spending; eliminate unnecessary expenses; and keep a budget journal, among others to gain financial stability.  


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