Home and Community Options is always exploring new ways to enrich the lives of the people in our organization. Several years ago, Healthy Lifestyles was established as a way to introduce individuals, families, and staff members to easy and fun ways to achieve good health through sensible eating habits, appropriate exercise, and other day-to-day activities.
Healthy Lifestyles is typically scheduled twice a month, from late afternoon to early evening. A planning committee coordinates activities for attendees and tries to organize the programs seasonally: a trip to an apple orchard is always popular in the fall, or super-soaker and water balloon fights at LaCanne Park in the summer. In the good weather months, the Healthy Lifestyles group tries to get people outside in the fresh air. They have had melon tastings, visited farmer’s markets (where they were able to learn how to cook the produce and thank the farmers for growing it), had kickball games, gone on hikes, and played games like musical chairs.
A hugely popular Healthy Lifestyles activity is chair yoga. The yoga teacher, Sara Nordgren, tells a story while demonstrating movements to illustrate the story. A story about trekking through a jungle with all its perils and fun – running from tigers and swinging from vines – was a real hit. Through chair yoga, people are moving without realizing they are getting some exercise.
Other favorites are crafts and cooking classes. To promote healthy eating, planning committee member, Rose Cyert, made steel-cut oatmeal with several options for toppings to provide ideas for different breakfast options that are easy to make. Another time, they made “cookie dough” from garbanzo beans and chose additions, such as peanut butter and chocolate chips.
HCO interns have come up with some great ideas for activities, as well. “Minute to Win It” proved popular, including such challenges as keeping a balloon in the air, piling apples on top of each other, and picking up cotton balls with Vaseline on your nose, and then shaking it off – no hands! They have made bird feeders from pine cones slathered with peanut butter and planted seeds in egg shells.
No matter how much planning goes in to Healthy Lifestyles activities, organizers and attendees both have to sometimes change directions on the spur of the moment. An outdoor event may need to move indoors (or change completely on occasion) because of bad weather. A recent clean-up of the bike path behind the old Kmart building turned into a scavenger hunt when they found little trash to pick up. Changes in plans can often bring positives, though: the scavenger hunt included both finding the items on the list (wild flowers, pinecones, clover leaves, a y-shaped twig or a hole in a tree, etc.), but also studying the colors of what they find, feeling them to discover their textures, listening to the sounds they make, or smelling them. This new opportunity gave participants the ability to exercise their bodies and minds at the same time!
Programs across the agency participate, and staff are encouraged not only to accompany HCO individuals to the events, but to join in and even help with planning. The program aims to give people a free, fun activity that is different from the usual eating out or going to a movie. It seems to have met its goal, because it has become so popular they are looking for a bigger space in which to meet when the fun is held indoors.
The Healthy Lifestyles Committee encourages everyone associated with HCO to join in on the fun, build camaraderie with other participants, and help establish healthy lifestyles habits for all!