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As mentioned elsewhere on this website, my writings feature a holistic perspective. I’ve included many mental and emotional exercises in Grow Up Your Ego, but today I’m thinking about the numerous ways we can exercise our bodies. While we all know that walking is a low impact and simple exercise, we tend to forget the profound health benefits it provides. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking lowers blood pressure, helps manage weight, lowers bad cholesterol, reduces the risk or manages Type II diabetes, and improves one’s mood. To obtain maximum health benefits, one should walk 30 to 60 minutes a day most days of the week. It’s best to warm up by walking slowly the first five minutes. Walking slowly the last five minutes of the walk is recommended as well. If you aren’t a regular walker, at first only walk as far as is comfortable, for example 5 to 10 minutes. Then gradually build up to 15 minutes, and so on. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of walking is that it can be done with others, which includes walking with one’s children. When I’m walking the trails close to where I live, I frequently observe parents who either have infants cradled in back packs or who are pushing them in strollers.

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Water workouts also are relatively simple and can be very enjoyable. According to a study published in the April 2012 American Journal of Cardiology, three or four days a week of swimming laps for 15 to 45 minutes leads to significant improvement of vascular function. Did you know that, in addition to reducing stress and the risk of cardiovascular disease, swimming burns about the same number of calories as jogging, with less stress on your joints?

Overall, research concludes that regular exercise routines contribute to healthier lives, reduced stress, and improved interactions with others—which by extension includes a more positively energized approach in relating to infants and children.

Your submitted comments posted here would be of help to everyone. Share your experiences with consistent daily/weekly exercise and the affirmative effects on yours relationships. Tell us what helps you stick with the commitment to regular routines, or what obstacles stand in your way.

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What about discipline? How can parents effectively handle unacceptable and even perilous behaviors that children sometimes demonstrate? For example, when parents forbid a toddler to run out in the street, play with knives, or turn the knob on the stove, Mom and Dad shout or they physically remove the child from imminent disaster. The child feels shame. But wait. Aren’t we supposed to keep children from feeling shame?

Surprisingly enough, research suggests that the disciplining experience when properly handled helps the frontal lobe of the brain develop an internal adaptation to negativity. Just as the child can call on a positive memory to self-soothe, he can bring to mind the memory of Mom’s reaction to forbidden behaviors. He can then curb his impulsive behaviors by anticipating his caregivers’ reactions to them. This is a necessary move toward social adaptation–it’s time for the toddler to learn the world is not always his oyster. Not only are there dangers out there, other people have needs and feelings as well.

But this is only half of the story. When researchers speak about the proper handling of shaming experiences, they have something very specific in mind. Stretching of the brain into an adaptive pattern means that soon after feeling shame the child has a reconnecting experience with his caretaker. Here’s how it works: the caretaker reinitiates eye contact and engaging behaviors after a misattunement, temper tantrum, or other disrupting event. These repeated “reunion experiences” of talking, hugging, and soothing ease the overwhelming isolation surrounding shame and allow reconnection. In other words, the child learns that while risky activities and emotional fracases, may result in disconnection, the disconnection is not permanent. The links he had with others are supple, allowing for the humanness of emotion and frailties of behavior.

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