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Healthy Living

Mealtime Swaps: Cauliflower Rice Recipes for Every Meal

Have you heard of cauliflower rice but not yet taken the plunge? This delicious and easy alternative to traditional white or brown rice is a great way to add some fibre, nutrients, and bulk to a meal without extra carbs or too many calories. Despite being called “rice,” this ingredient is simply cauliflower shredded or chopped into small rice-sized pieces! If you find the right recipes, cauliflower rice will complement your meal perfectly. We’ve rounded up some of the best cauliflower rice dishes for you to try today!

First Things First: Homemade vs. Frozen Cauliflower Rice

You may have seen bags of cauliflower rice in the freezer section at the grocery store, or you may be intimidated by the idea that you should make your own at home. The good news? For the most part, it doesn’t really matter. If you have a food processor or grater, making your own cauliflower rice is easy, quick, and will have slightly less moisture than thawing out a frozen version. With either kind, just make sure to cook or squeeze out the extra water before you use the cauliflower in any recipe where crispiness matters.

Pizza Crust

Who doesn’t love pizza? Who maybe doesn’t love all of the carbs and calories that come with pizza….? For a lower-carb option, try making cauliflower rice crust instead of traditional wheat flour dough. While this may sound difficult, the process is simple. The most important part is remembering to squeeze out excess moisture from the cauliflower so that the crust gets nice and crispy in the oven. This recipe ups the flavour and texture by adding some cheese to the crust mixture, as well. After topping with your favourite pizza goodies, you won’t even taste the cauliflower!

Soups and Stews

Any soup or stew that calls for a rice component can be lightened up by using cauliflower rice instead. If you love comforting homestyle flavours, try this chicken and cauliflower rice soup. Bursting with flavour from all of the sautéed vegetables and aromatics, this soup is great for indulging in comfort food without the carbs. By using cauliflower rice instead of traditional rice or noodles, you’ll feel full without the added calories. For a spicier twist, try a quick version of southern jambalaya. Not only does this recipe substitute cauliflower rice for a healthier dish, but by cooking all of the ingredients as a sheet-pan dinner, you can choose to add broth and simmer later (our favourite!) or just eat as a meal without the soup component. Easy, versatile, and low-carb? Sign us up!

Photo: lisegagne via gettyimages.com

Fried “Rice”/Stir Fry

One of the most obvious places to substitute cauliflower rice for traditional white or brown rice is in a stir fry or fried rice dish. This swap is even better because the cauliflower rice easily soaks up all of the delicious flavours in these bold dishes, so you end up with very little (if any) actual cauliflower taste. This stir fry recipe is quick and easy to adjust based on the other vegetables and ingredients you have. If fried rice is more your style, this recipe’s steps really layer the flavours to make sure that your cauliflower mixes well with the other bold, rich ingredients.

Breakfast

We don’t often think of vegetables or rice as breakfast foods, but one perk of using cauliflower rice is that it’s so versatile! By mixing it with some milk, you can turn the cauliflower into a creamier oatmeal-like consistency that’s healthy and inviting. This chocolate cauliflower oatmeal recipe is so delicious that even your family and friends will be happy to make the switch to cauliflower for breakfast. By using almond milk and selecting a more nutritious syrup, you can make this meal low-carb, high protein, and gluten- and dairy-free! If you’re craving eggs for breakfast, bulk up a traditional veggie bake or frittata with some cauliflower rice; you’ll get extra vitamins and fibre without having to add any carbs. This cauliflower rice and kale frittata recipe is easy to make and will start your day off right.

Sushi

If your favourite sushi places are shuttered due to COVID restrictions, now is the perfect time to learn how to make sushi at home! While it won’t be as fancy as the pros, investing in a bamboo rolling mat is the only tool you need to make some delicious sushi in your kitchen. Even better news? Cauliflower rice is a great substitute for the famous sticky rice traditionally used in sushi. This simple recipe will show you how to make your sushi rolls using freshly made cauliflower rice. All that’s left is to decide what fillings and flavours you’ll try!

Whether you’re looking to permanently ditch white rice or just add some extra vegetables to your weekly meals, these cauliflower rice recipes are all fun, easy, and delicious!

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Healthy Living

Freshen Up Your Fitness Routine with this Circuit Training Workout

Are you looking for fun ways to freshen up your workout? With a change of season around the corner, now is the perfect time to start spring cleaning your fitness routine.

During the long winter months, it’s common to get into a workout rut, sticking with the same stale exercises every day. But over time, these predictable movement patterns cause your brain and body to become bored.

For fitness to flourish, you must satisfy your craving for change and challenge. One of the best ways to do this is by trying something new, such as circuit training. This method involves choosing five to eight exercises that, when put together, target multiple muscle groups. You practice each part with little rest in between exercises, then repeat the entire sequence two to three times.

Not only is this form of exercise more exciting, but it also can boost metabolism, enhance endurance, improve cardiovascular health, and yield greater physical gains. It’s a great way to ward off potential injuries, too, because you’re engaging a variety of muscle groups instead of the same ones constantly.

For the following total-body circuit, you will need a set of free weights that provides a good challenge. Try to keep rest breaks to 60 seconds or less so your heart rate is elevated from start to finish, but take more time if you need it. Once you complete the first round, rest for three minutes and repeat the entire circuit two more times.

Side plank squeeze

  • Rest on your right side, propping your weight up on your right forearm. The shoulder and elbow will be aligned and legs are stacked.
  • Engage your core as you push through your forearm, feet, and hips to elevate the body into a straight line from the head through the feet.
  • Once balanced, lift your left arm overhead. Bring the left elbow and left knee in until they almost touch. Squeeze the obliques, on the sides of your abdomen, for two counts. Release and repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Standing crunch

  • Stand in a staggered stance with the left leg in front and arms extended overhead. Both feet are pointed forward.
  • Lower the arms and lift the right knee to activate the abs. Hold this pose for two counts then release. Rapidly repeat this movement eight times, then switch sides. Make sure your grounded leg is stable. If you feel your knee wobbling as you move, slow down to regain balance.

Squat shoulder press

  • Stand tall with a weight in each hand. Feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bring the weights up to shoulder height, palms facing in.
  • With your weight in your heels, hinge back at the hips and lower into a squat. Hold for two counts.
  • Simultaneously push through the heels and extend the arms up. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times

Reverse lunge lift

  • Begin by standing with the feet hip-distance apart with your hands resting on your hips.
  • Take a step back with the right foot, keeping your body weight in your front heel as you lower into a lunge. The knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, the shoulders are over the hips, and your back knee is under your hip.
  • Hold for two counts, then push through your front heel to stand and drive your right knee up toward the torso. Keep the left foot in place as you perform seven more reps. When complete, switch sides.

Jumping jacks

  • Pump your arms and legs quickly, landing lightly on the balls of your feet, 15 times.
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Active Aging

8 Simple Activities To Enjoy With Your Grandkids

Spending quality time with your grandkids (and kids) adds joy and laughter to any given day. Just basking in a child’s boundless energy and carefree silliness can boost your mood and make you smile. But joining in the fun also keeps you physically and mentally active – and research shows that multigenerational interaction is good for older adults and kids.

If you’re looking for new things to try, here are some easy, engaging activities to do with your family!

Play Outdoor Games  

Playing outdoors is a terrific way to get some fresh air and physical exercise. Playing catch or frisbee is fun. LadderBall, Yard Yahtzee, and bean bag toss are also popular backyard games – along with good old-fashioned tag. You can also enjoy swings or the slide at a nearby park or playground. Or, go on a walk through the neighbourhood and play “I Spy,” noting people, places, and things you pass along your route.

Go On a Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt

Kids have curious minds and love adventures. To tap into this enthusiasm, lead them on a scavenger hunt to find a list of items in nature. The list can be as long or short as you want – and you can tailor it to suit your grandchild’s age.

For little ones, draw pictures or use stickers, or give verbal instructions for the items they must find. For older kids, write a list and even add more details. For example, you can write “leaf,” “flower,” and “rock” or “a red leaf with three points,” “a smooth, grey rock,” or “three different kinds of bugs.”

Set a time limit, search together, and then celebrate and talk about your finds when time is up. “Prizes” are optional and can be simple things like a colouring book and crayons or a scoop of ice cream.

DIY Crafts

Doing arts and crafts spurs imagination and creativity. Some simple ideas include: 

  1. Stamp colourful side-by-side “big and little” handprints on paper with finger paints. 
  2. Cut flower petals and stems out of construction paper and glue them together to form paper flowers. 
  3. Transform an empty milk carton into a birdhouse.
  4. Make a pretty jellyfish suncatcher out of tissue paper. 

Using fabric scraps, buttons, yarn, or things you already have on hand is eco-friendly and inexpensive.

Photo: Morsa Images via gettyimages.com

Host a Board Game Night

Board games bring families of all sizes around the table – and the classics never get old. Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders are preschool favourites. Monopoly, Clue, and Scrabble require more skill and complex thinking – though some “junior” editions exist. To engage your mind, share some laughs, and enjoy friendly competition, host a family game night, have the kids bring their favourite games, and share some of your own.

Build Legos or Do Jigsaw Puzzles

Legos have been entertaining kids of all ages for decades! Building Lego sets together exercises hand coordination and fine motor skills, engages focus and concentration. From Harry Potter to a model plane – there’s a project size and scheme to please everyone.

Jigsaw puzzles are another timeless pastime that engages memory and reasoning skills. Putting a puzzle together requires concentration and problem-solving skills. Working together makes the project more fun and gives you a chance to share high-fives and “aha” moments when the pieces finally lock into place.

Bake or Cook

Teaching your grandchild or child how to bake melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies or passing down and making “secret family recipes” help create unforgettable memories and life lessons kids can take with them to college, their first homes, and their own families.

From measuring ingredients and whisking them together to learning how to set an oven timer and checking if a cake is “done,” kids will learn valuable kitchen skills, and you can both enjoy the yummy fruits of your labour when you’re done.

Perform a Song or Skit

You can encourage creativity and help foster a love of the arts by singing or performing skits with a child. Put on a Disney soundtrack, like “Frozen,” and belt “Let It Go.” Or sing classic childhood tunes with hand motions like “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Play Mate,” or “Hokey Pokey.”

You can also put on a skit with hand puppets, sock puppets, or just act out parts! Make up lines as you go along and coach the kids to do the same to advance the story until your final bow.

Read Aloud Together

Reading books out loud sweeps both the reader and listener away to the story world and introduces children to all kinds of fascinating fictional characters. Using different voices for different characters engages and entertains kids. It also helps spark their imagination! Reading to children from a young age can help foster a lifelong love of reading. As they grow, ask the kids to read to you.

Overall, any time and activities you share with your grandkids or kids will create lasting memories for all!

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Active Aging

Recipe Swaps: 6 Healthier Versions of Classic Cakes

Incorporating healthier meal choices into our daily lives is a great way to stay committed to overall wellness. These healthy options aren’t only available for your main course – desserts like indulgent cakes can easily retain all of the flavours while focusing on healthy ingredients. If you’re eager to swap some traditional ingredients like refined sugar and flour, fats, and added fillers for healthier options full of fibre and vitamins, then try these six cake recipes that are sure to impress everyone at your table.

Streuseled Zucchini Bundt Cake

Bundt cakes are a wonderful centrepiece for family meals and gatherings, and many recipes lend themselves to this whimsical shape, including this healthy twist on a streusel cake using zucchini! The moisture and fibre from the zucchini and yogurt mean that you’ll add less fat and filler than your typical cake. By including traditional spice-cake flavours like cinnamon and allspice, you’ll offset any hint of zucchini flavour. Drizzle the top with a simple frosting, or just add a little fruit glaze for a fresh summer option!

Cranberry Coffee Cake

Weekend mornings often call for a slice of coffee cake while you relax and read the paper. Fortunately, you don’t have to abandon this tradition just to stay true to your nutritional goals. This cranberry coffee cake recipe is a great way to indulge on weekend mornings without all of the refined sugars and fats. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to the traditional butter, while ground oats replace refined flour – sweetened with honey, and you’ve made the perfect healthy coffee cake. The added cranberries provide additional sweetness with just the right amount of tart bursts. You won’t be missing any of your usual coffee flavours when you swap to this healthier recipe!

Keto Chocolate Brownies

Not many people can resist a good brownie, so set yourself up for success by making these keto brownies that are gluten-free, sugar-free, and low carb! And if that’s not enough to convince you, then the fact that everything can be mixed up in only one bowl should push this recipe into your “yes!” pile. Using flax meal and coconut flour, you’ll add fibre and whole grains to the brownies, while stevia acts as a healthier sweetener. For added crunch, mix in your favourite nuts to increase the protein! Not only will you love these brownies, but your family won’t ever be able to tell that they’re a healthier alternative to traditional recipes.

Photo: BakiBG via gettyimages.com

Upside-Down Pineapple-Ginger Carrot Cake

A staple of summer, the typical pineapple upside-down cake is delicious – but packed with refined sugar and flour, it can quickly derail your healthy eating habits. If you’d like to make this cake a more regular part of your healthy diet, try this alternative recipe that uses carrots and whole wheat flour to add some nutritional density. The added ginger also boosts the flavour of this cake and gives it the perfect amount of spice. You can also think of this cake as a substitute for the traditional cream cheese topped carrot cake; fresh pineapple slices are a healthier choice and make the cake lighter and brighter!

Black Tie Cake

Always a decadent dessert to serve for guests (or keep all to yourself!), a chocolate mousse cake is sure to feel indulgent. This recipe doesn’t skimp on the flavour or texture, but because you’re making the mousse yourself, you can choose to use fat-free dairy and less refined sugar than commercially prepared versions. By topping with a white chocolate mousse (and perhaps some berries?), you’ll produce a beautiful black tie cake that doesn’t overindulge while delivering flavour and class.

Yogurt Cake

For a healthy take on a basic cake that you can dress up for various occasions, this yogurt cake takes, well, the cake. Not only is this recipe healthy, but you can prepare the entire thing in one bowl for under about $5 – minimal cleanup and budget-friendly are always a bonus! Because the moisture and some sweetness come from yogurt, you can significantly reduce the amount of refined sugar and fat in this cake. After baking, glaze the top with a little bit of fruit jam if you’d like to infuse additional flavour; choose something that complements other items in your meal or use seasonal fruits for the freshest summer cakes! You’ll be making this yogurt cake on regular rotation in no time.

Whether you love chocolate or fruit, complex or simple, these healthier cake recipes are sure to become favourites at your family table for years to come!

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Active Aging

Take Care of Your Mental Health: How Journaling Can Help

Maintaining your mental and emotional well-being is just as important as staying in good physical shape – especially if you’re 55 and over. You might never miss an annual physical and always go to the doctor when you’re sick – but what do you do to take care of your mental health?

Dealing with chronic illness, mobility limitations, pain, cognitive decline, grief, and isolation can affect your quality of life and cause depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. Anxiety and depression, in turn, can adversely affect your physical health and create a vicious negative cycle. That’s why it’s essential to be aware of any changes in your emotional and mental state.

Keeping a journal is a great way to express and understand your emotions and be proactive about your mental health. Research shows that writing down your thoughts and feelings has multiple mental health benefits. Hopefully, learning more about how journaling can help will inspire you to get started.

Global Mental Health Status of Older Adults

The mental health status of older adults has become an area of global and national focus in recent years. According to the World Health Organization, the global population aged 60 and over will increase from 12 percent to 22 percent between 2015 and 2050. Data also shows that 20 percent of adults over 60 live with a mental or neurological disorder. Dementia and depression are the most common issues for this age group, and five to seven percent of the world’s aging population live with these disorders.

Fortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health issues has decreased as more people are willing to share their struggles with others. Thankfully, mental disorders are treatable for people of all ages.

How Keeping a Journal Can Help

Expressing your emotions and putting your thoughts and feelings on paper can help you purge negative emotions. Transferring fear or negative thoughts out of your head and onto a page can clear your mind and help you let them go! Ultimately, when anxiety, fear, and negativity occupy space in your journal instead of your mind, you can find peace and even sleep better. Keeping a journal also relieves stress. Setting aside some time and writing in a quiet place offers a break from obligations and pressures – and gives you some invaluable “me time” to look forward to. It also allows you to organize your thoughts and reflect on an upsetting situation with a fresh perspective. Creating a list of positive affirmations – such as things you like about yourself or achievements you are proud of – can boost your self-esteem. Enjoying these kinds of mental health benefits is well worth the effort.

Photo: Xsandra via gettyimages.com

Additional Benefits to Journaling

Journaling is beneficial in so many ways – but did you know it can help sharpen your mind? By remembering and then recounting events and subsequently writing them down, you’re concentrating and documenting important experiences, which will help you recall them more clearly. Noting as many details as possible about an event – including who you were with, the time, day, and place, the words you exchanged with someone, the smell of a room – exercises different parts of your brain.

Recording happy times can bring you joy, and creating a historical account of your life is a gift you can give to your loved ones. Plus, the physical act of holding a pen and filling pages with words activates different areas of your brain, exercises fine motor skills, and engages your senses – hearing the pen scratch against the page, smelling fresh ink, and more.

You can also fill your journal with drawings and doodles, set goals, track your progress, list your dreams, or write a short story. The creative and practical benefits of journaling are endless!

Getting Started

Starting a journal is simple. Just choose the one you like and put pen or pencil to paper. Leather-bound journals are nice, but a standard spiral notebook works fine. If you kept a diary in your teens, you already know what it’s like to let your written feelings flow. If you’re new to the process, rest assured that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to create entries. It’s your journal, so write what you want. If the blank page is daunting, you can buy a journal that gives you daily writing prompts like “What are you grateful for today?” or “Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.”

Setting a regular time each day to write can help you establish a routine. You should also be flexible and write when the mood strikes. Above all, once you have your book and pen in hand – just start writing – and the good fruits of your effort will follow!

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Active Aging

Try These Hobbies To Keep Your Brain Active As You Age

No matter how old you get, you never stop learning, and your brain needs new challenges to stay fit. It’s never too late to start a new hobby – it can be as easy as choosing an item to cross off your bucket list! Have you always wanted to write a novel or learn how to paint? Maybe you’ve dreamed about making furniture or learning how to dance but never pursued it. There’s no better time to challenge yourself and follow your heart than now!

If you need a nudge, here are some great reasons to start a new hobby, along with a few suggestions.

Why Should You Start a New Hobby?

Picking up a new hobby later in life has multiple benefits – top among them is that learning something mentally challenging is good for aging cognitive health. Furthermore, attending a class (even if it’s just virtual!), joining a club, or volunteering at a local nonprofit allows you to meet new people. Research suggests that “sustained engagement in cognitively demanding, novel activities enhances memory function in older adulthood.” Over three months, study participants learned quilt making and photography, along with editing digital photos. The more complex the task, the more their memory function improved.

Pursuing a new interest also relieves stress, boosts self-confidence, delivers a sense of accomplishment, and might uncover a new passion. Hobbies should be fun, make you happy, and help you stay active! To increase the cognitive benefits, you should tackle a hobby that stretches your mind. For example, if you already love to garden, joining a horticulture club to socialize and swap seeds with other gardeners may be fun but won’t challenge you. However, taking a landscape design class might teach you some valuable skills you wouldn’t have had otherwise!

If you’d like to try a new hobby but don’t know where to start, consider trying any – or all – of these suggestions.

Learn a New Language

Learning a foreign language expands your cultural awareness, and you don’t have to be young to acquire this valuable skill. Research shows that bilingualism engages the executive function in the brain. According to The Washington Post, this vital cognitive operation allows you “to control, direct, and manage your attention.” It also activates your memory. Local colleges or community centers frequently offer in-person and online classes, or you can learn multiple languages online via programs like Rosetta Stone.

Play an Instrument

Many hospitals have music therapy programs to help patients cope with severe illness, and research shows that Alzheimer’s patients retain musical memories and gain emotional benefits by listening to music or singing songs themselves. Similarly, learning to play an instrument later in life stimulates your brain and can improve your memory. Plus, the sense of pride you’ll feel after mastering an instrument and the joy you bring to others playing it is a priceless intrinsic reward.

Photo: petesphotography via gettyimages.com

Go Geocaching

Geocaching combines hiking with treasure-seeking and requires a GPS and app to uncover hidden objects. One of the best things about it is that families spanning generations can do this popular outdoor activity together. Older players benefit from physical exercise, learn new technology, and flex mental muscles during the quest.

Take Dancing Lessons

Thanks to reality TV competitions like “Dancing with the Stars,” people of all ages have developed an interest in learning to waltz or do the jive in recent years. Dancing gives you a physical and mental workout. First, you learn (and memorize) step sequences. Then you glide across the dance floor to perform them. To meet new people, you can join a local dance class or dance club. Or you can learn routines from an online instructor or by following a YouTube video.

Join a Photography Class

Photography is a multifaceted hobby that many people enjoy by simply snapping pictures on a smartphone. In a photography class, you learn to use more complex equipment, including various lenses and filters, tripods, and lamps. You’ll also learn how to compose shots, work in a dark room, find interesting subjects, and more. Travelling to other cities or even hiking around your hometown to take pictures also gives you plenty of physical exercise.

Ultimately, there are hundreds of hobbies for you to explore – you just need to get out there and start one!

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Active Aging

Old School Puzzles And Games To Promote Active Aging Brain Health

Just as weightlifting builds muscles, many experts agree that doing brain exercises helps strengthen your mind as you age. But beware – digital diversions are everywhere – even for older adults. Research shows that Canadians ages 60 and over have increased screen time by nearly 30 minutes a day over the past decade.

While scrolling through news feeds and playing mobile games might be mentally stimulating, spending hours falling down a digital rabbit hole can disrupt sleep, cause headaches and eye strain, and other physical problems. Shutting down your smartphone, tablet, and computer to do old-school puzzles and games is an easy trade-off that curbs screen time and helps boost your brainpower. Follow these ideas to get started!

Crossword Puzzles, Sudoku, and Word Finds

Playing mobile word games is undeniably fun, but traditional newspaper subscribers may argue that there’s something special about the look, smell, and feel of actual newsprint. Sitting down with a pencil or pen to do the local paper’s daily or weekly crossword puzzle engages multiple senses, cuts screen time, and gives your brain a workout.

A Harvard Health report suggests that brain-stimulating challenges like crosswords “may help sharpen certain thinking skills that tend to wane with age, such as processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making, and short-term memory.” Likewise, doing number puzzles like Sudoku flexes memory functions, engages logical reasoning skills, and helps increase concentration.

If you don’t get the paper, you can buy crossword, word finds, Sudoku, or Variety books with hundreds of different puzzles at a newsstand, supermarket, or bookstore. Tackling new mental challenges is also good for brain health, so be sure to try several and mix up puzzles you love with ones you’ve never tried!

See the Big Picture with Jigsaw Puzzles

Doing a jigsaw puzzle engages multiple cognitive functions. To put pieces in their proper place and reveal the final big picture, you must recognize patterns, discern colours and shapes, use your memory and even “rotate” pieces in your mind to determine where they do and don’t fit. The more complex a picture is and the more pieces a puzzle has, the more your brain will work to solve it. Plus, putting a puzzle together with family and friends is a fun way to connect! Doing puzzles related to your hobbies and interests – like Disney characters, fields filled with colourful flowers, different breeds of dogs, or anything else you like – can make the project visually stimulating and more fun.

Photo: MartinPrescott via gettyimages.com

Beat Boredom with Board Games

There’s no better way to beat the digital doldrums than having a game night with family and friends – virtual game nights count, too! Classic games like Checkers, Dominos, and Chess involve strategic thinking to defeat your opponent. Word-related board games like Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords, and Dabble help stimulate memory, sharpen focus, and promote learning new vocabulary. Whether you’re using deductive reasoning to guess whodunit in Clue or attempting to broker a property trade in Monopoly, the wide array of game night options can provide hours of fun social interactions while you exercise multiple parts of your brain.

Play Your Cards Wisely

Playing card games like Poker, Bridge, Pinochle, Euchre, and Rummy have brought players together around a table to shuffle, cut, deal, and hope for a favourable hand for decades. Games like these require strategy, math skills, reasoning, logic, decision-making, and more! If you’re not feeling up for a virtual card game with others, Solitaire will forever be a tried and true favourite. 

Overall, staying mentally fit is an essential part of a healthy, active aging lifestyle. Any of these suggestions offer a fun way to take a break from electronic devices and give your brain the workout it needs!

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Active Aging

Why Stretching Is Important As You Age

Maintaining flexibility is an important part of a healthy, active aging lifestyle. Bone density and muscle mass naturally decline over time, leading to taking shorter steps, hunching, and fractures. Nagging hip, knee, and back pain can also make simple tasks like bending or squatting to tie a shoe difficult.

The good news is, adding stretches to your regular exercise routine can help improve flexibility at any age! Here are some tips to help you get started.

Benefits of Staying Limber

Staying limber has lots of benefits – especially as you age. Moving smoothly enables you to do things like reach up to change a lightbulb or bend down to pull on your boots, easier. Being flexible also helps prevent injuries, improve balance and posture, increase range of motion, and so much more.

Moving More Makes a Difference

Sitting more and moving less can stiffen and tighten your joints. Increasing movement in any way helps combat these issues! Starting small is best – especially if you haven’t previously followed any exercise routine. To break up long periods of inactivity, stand up, walk, or move around every 30 minutes. Move your arms and legs for five minutes while sitting in a chair. Walk up and down the hall a few times or walk around the yard to get some fresh air.

Every person has different physical capabilities. As you start to become more active, work within your unique boundaries. Remember, it’s essential to consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting or adjusting any exercise routines. It’s also important to be patient with yourself, stick with it, and be confident that moving around will help you become more limber and healthier.

Seek Advice, Start Small, and Be Gentle

Starting a stretching routine shouldn’t be complicated or feel overwhelming. Your doctor or therapist can likely give you a list of stretches to try. In today’s digital age, a plethora of online advice is also right at your fingertips. Search for items like “best hamstring stretches” or “10 simple at-home stretches” to get going.

Keep stretch times short to start. Pick a few to do for just five to 10 minutes total. You should also be gentle – stretching too hard might be painful, so just ease into it! Instead of reaching for your toes, start by going just below your knee while sitting or standing. Breathe slowly and hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. Try to do at least five repetitions of each kind, and pay attention to your body – if something hurts, don’t push it! 

If mobility issues prevent you from moving and stretching certain joints on your own, using stretch bands – aka resistance bands – is a wonderful option. Cleveland Clinic offers some easy leg and upper body stretch band instructions here.

Photo: Tassii via gettyimages.com

Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

There are two common types of stretching: 

  1. Static stretching is moving your joints – such as your hip – as far as you can and holding it there for 30 to 90 seconds. 
  2. Dynamic stretching is actively moving your joints with specific motions and multiple repetitions. This type of stretching targets specific muscle groups.

Range of motion gradually increases during dynamic stretching, such as doing shoulder circles, and is an effective way to limber up before an exercise routine. Static stretching is often used to cool down after activity. 

Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and Pilates are two different activities that involve stretching and enhance flexibility. In addition to its physical benefits, yoga also focuses on mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Pilates incorporates low-impact exercise with light stretches to improve strength and flexibility. Both workouts are available in live class instruction, or you can follow along with online videos or classes from home.

Swim, Dance, or Zumba

Why not have some fun while you stretch? Swimming, dancing, and Zumba combine stretching with physical exercise. Since you’re weightless in water, stretching is generally easier while swimming. Doing different strokes also lengthens multiple muscle groups with low joints impact. Another fun way to improve your flexibility is dancing. You can take a class, watch a video, or put on your favourite music at home and dance your heart out! A bonus – remembering and performing a sequence of dance steps is good for your mind. Finally, Zumba combines dance and fitness routines, and there are many types of live or at-home classes to suit every age group.

These are just a few ideas to help you stay limber. Whatever activity you choose, doing regular routines to improve flexibility will lead to a healthier you!

Categories
Active Aging

Boost Your Brainpower with These Free Online Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are not only a longtime, beloved pastime, but they also have neurological benefits that keep your mind young and sharp. 

In fact, a study from researchers at the University of Exeter found that older adults who complete word and number puzzles have sharper minds compared to those who don’t. And luckily, crossword puzzles are more convenient (and environmentally friendly) than ever as they’re now accessible and readily available on your smartphone or computer.

Below is a list of some of the best crossword puzzles of 2022, which include something for everyone!

New York Times

If you’re one for the classic crossword, The New York Times makes its crosswords available both through its website and its free app. Both are fully equipped with carefully crafted puzzles at progressing levels of difficulty to ensure there is a puzzle for you! The puzzles are updated every day so you can play the same ones that are printed in the physical paper. Plus, the New York Times offers a handful of other mind-stimulating games that are just as challenging to subscribers. These include Spelling Bee (a game in which the player must make as many words as they can from seven letters), Mini Crossword (a crossword that is perfect for time-crunches), and more. Playing these puzzles and games is an excellent way to keep your mind fresh and on its toes!

Wordscapes

Do you get tired of the classic, black and white crossword but still love solving them? This game is the perfect mix of the New York Times Spelling Bee game and the regular crossword. Wordscapes begins players on level one, giving you approximately four letters to use in different variations to complete the crossword. As you complete the levels, the difficulty and amount of letters increases, keeping you engaged and constantly coming up with new, creative solutions. This exciting game boasts a five-star rating from over 671,000 people, so it’s worth a try.

Photo: SDI Productions via gettyimages.com

Daily Themed Crossword Puzzles

This game hones in specifically on your unique interests. Do you want to be quizzed on your favourite 80s movies? How about singers? History? Sports? Daily Crossword Puzzles has it all. All you have to do is punch in your favourite trivia genre, and this website will create dozens of difficulty levels to meet you at your crossword skill level, all while keeping you up to date on your favourite subjects. While you hone your skills in your area of expertise, you might even learn a few things in a subject you weren’t previously familiar with—did someone say win-win?

Crosswords with Friends

A little competition never hurt anyone! This free game allows you to connect with your friends and family as you learn and improve your crossword skills. Crosswords with Friends allows you to choose the category of your crossword and play simultaneously or asynchronously with your competitors. Your names line up on the leaderboard according to who has accumulated the highest number of correct answers. For every crossword you complete, the player is given a certain number of stars based on the puzzle’s difficulty. The puzzles are updated frequently, so not only will you challenge your loved ones, but you will be kept up to date on pop culture, sports, and interesting fun facts! Plus, your competitors might keep you accountable for completing at least one puzzle per day. On your mark…get set…go!

No matter which crossword website you choose, you will end up sharper and more scholarly after each puzzle!

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Active Aging

Date Night Ideas for the Perfect Valentine’s Celebration

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and couples everywhere are eager to celebrate their love and affection. If you’d like to make the evening extra special, go beyond basic wine and cheese by planning one of these four exciting dates. 

Whether you’re an adventurous couple or a pair that likes to relax at home, these date ideas are sure to highlight everything special about your bond.

Snuggle Under the Stars

For the more adventurous couple that loves to get outside, try an evening of stargazing. While February is chilly in most of the country, you can still enjoy being outside at night with a bit of careful planning. Pack a picnic for your sweetheart, complete with favourite snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate or cider. Then load up the blankets, camp chairs, and winter clothing and take off for the hills—the farther outside of town you get, the brighter the stars will appear! Cozy up together and gaze at the night sky. You can use an interactive star map to identify everything you see. If you’re headed to an area where campfires are allowed, pack some wood to stay toasty even longer.

Learn a New Skill

One of the best ways to celebrate your connection with someone is to learn a new skill together. Shared hobbies and interests give you another way to bond, and starting fresh with a new activity means one partner won’t automatically take the lead. For a romantic lesson together on Valentine’s Day, try a virtual cooking class. You can make a meal together and then celebrate over candlelight as you enjoy your creation! If you’d like to venture outside the house, find a paint night event in your area. These sessions are usually held in a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar and feature an easy-to-follow painting lesson. Many offer “couples’ paintings” where you each paint one half of the finished piece!

Photo: xavierarnau via gettyimages.com

Create a Signature Cocktail and Menu

Sharing dinner with your beloved is a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration, but if you want to take things up a notch, create a signature cocktail and menu based on your partner! Choose events from their past that hold special meaning and are associated with food. For example, make an appetizer they had on their first trip abroad, recreate a favourite childhood entrée, and choose a dessert they’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet. A signature cocktail should include:

  • Their preferred spirit.
  • A flavour profile that matches the tone of your evening (spicy? decadent? whimsical?).
  • A presentation that’s memorable (think fancy glassware and garnishes). 

You can use a fillable template to print your menu and make the evening even fancier!

Relationship Treasure Hunt

If you share years of special memories with your sweetheart, turn those moments into clues for a romantic treasure hunt! The prize at the end can be a gift, meal, or even a destination for your evening date. As you make your clues, reference sentimental items in your home (the framed picture from your wedding, a souvenir from that special trip, a dent in the wall from the time your kids went a little crazy), and hide the next clue there. You can also allude to special memories in riddles and provide the next clue when your partner answers successfully: “What were we eating when you first said ‘I love you?’”. Even wrong answers during the treasure hunt will lead to plenty of laughter and reminiscing, so have fun reliving some special moments together.

Create a Valentine’s Day celebration that’s as special as your relationship with one of these exciting ideas.