Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eat ... Play ... Rest ... REPEAT

I was lucky enough to spend New Year's Day 2012 on Treasure Cay beach in the Bahamas - starting with a long barefoot walk in the sand. It gave me lots of time to think about the futility of most resolutions and the simplicity of living healthfully. For me, it all comes down to three steps: Eat, play, rest ... repeat.  Thus, a new look, a new theme, and a new focus on the simple things for lifelong health ... 

Enjoy a mindful eating style – built on a foundation of balanced, regular meals and snacks. Any nutrient-rich plate starts with healthy servings of colorful fruits and/or vegetables, adds the goodness of whole grains, and includes the power of protein. Eating well deserves really refreshing beverages – drink ice-cold milk with meals and refreshing water with snacks.

The key to getting active and staying active at any age is enjoyment. When you play hard and have fun, you are more likely to make physical activity an everyday habit. Both children and adults need plenty of active ‘playtime,’ at least 30 to 60 minutes a day of walking, dancing, biking, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, or your favorite ball game.

Surveys show that most of us do not get enough sleep, which can contribute to both physical and emotional stress. Getting enough sleep (7 to 8 hours for adults, more for kids) improves overall health and better mental performance at work and/or school. For a positive outlook and a balanced lifestyle, make a good night’s sleep, as well as daytime down time (meditation, yoga, etc.), a top priority every day. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Simple Ways to Be Active - and Give a Gift TOO!

In our busy, stressful lives, two things can be in short supply (especially at the holidays) - time and money. We don’t have time to go to the gym or stick to a fitness routine. And, we don’t have money for all the presents we want to give or all the donations we want to make. These simple, active solutions solve both problems at once!

1. Walk someone’s dog.

Both dogs and their walkers get real health benefits. For older folks or those with disabilities, getting a dog out and about can be difficult. Offer to regularly walk a friend or neighbor’s dog and everyone wins. You’ve given someone a real gift, plus both you and the dog will be in better shape. Shelter dogs also need walking, which can be your donation to the facility. To give equal time to both my grand-puppies, this is Lilli who lives in Philly on a walk to the local dog park with me this fall.

2. Play with someone’s kids.

Children nearly always have more energy than busy parents, especially single parents. And, most American kids aren’t getting anywhere near the 60 minutes of daily activity they need. Set up a regular playdate for sledding, biking, Frisbee® or shooting hoops - and you will give your nieces, nephews, or neighbors (and their parents) a precious gift.

3. Remove someone’s snow.

In Montana and many other states, getting rid of snow can be a regular fitness activity for several months of the year. Helping a relative, friend, or neighbor keep their sidewalks and driveway clear can be a real gift to them - and outdoor physical activity for you! (To be safe and injury-free, make sure to wear hat and gloves; warm up before starting; and shovel small amounts carefully.)

4. Help with someone’s yard work.

All across the country, yard work is a year-round activity (which can be very expensive to pay for). If working outside is something you enjoy, give a neighbor, friend, or relative the gift of your time and energy. Better yet, offer to share yard time with someone: By working together in each other’s yards, you’ll have someone to talk to and the time will go faster.

5. Introduce someone to your favorite fitness activity.

If you belong to a fitness center or gym - or take regular dance or yoga classes, invite a friend to go with you. Most businesses offer free passes to potential new members and many offer a two-for-one package, especially around the holidays. While there may be a small price-tag for this gift, you can offer courtesy ‘chauffeur’ services to get them there and back.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Furry Treadmills, Virtual Trainers, and other Green Fitness Tips

Green fitness is a way to improve your health while minimizing your environmental impact. These tips combine green principles with frugality: saving money, getting strong, and reducing waste - all at the same time.

1. Think of your dog as a treadmill with fur.

This is definitely my favorite form of green activity, especially during the winter when my “grandpuppy” Rok stays with me. How could anyone resist that adorable snowy face! We walk 2-3 hours every day in every kind of Montana winter weather. I keep a wide selection of warm outwear and boots near the door – ready for his wagging tail and “please-take-me-out” eyes. Going out for a dog walk is definitely the highlight of his day – and mine! It’s even better when we each have a friend with us to walk-and-talk.

Many dogs can use an activity upgrade as much as their owners! Getting serious about dog walks will be good for you and good for your pet. If you are both out of the shape you would like to become, start slowly and take it easy. A couple of shorter, vigorous walks (20-30 minutes) may be more effective and easier to fit into your day. No dog at home? No problem! Walk a friend’s furry little treadmill – or contact your local animal shelter or pet rescue group about walking their dogs.

2. Become a regular library patron.

No, reading is not a fitness activity (unless you read while pedaling a stationary bike). However, libraries are an incredible resource for information that gets used over and over again (a great way to reduce waste). Check out your local library for fitness information – DVDs, CDs, tapes, books, and magazines – which are all free (a great way to save money). To turn any library visit into a serious strength builder, walk or bike to the library with your books and other items in a backpack.

3. Turn your home into a thrifty gym.

It’s no fitness myth: You can get strong at home without fancy equipment or expensive club memberships. All it takes is a minimal investment (hand weights, a mat, and maybe a stability ball – remember to check garage sales) and some items around the house, such as chairs and a couple of stairs. For simple instructions, check out a book from your local library or use a no-charge, online virtual fitness trainer, like the one at Strong Women. Minimal cost, maximum strength!

4. Get good with a resistance band.

Resistance bands are probably the most versatile, flexible, and portable fitness equipment on earth. They take up minimal storage place and use no electricity (making them more environmentally-friendly than exercise machines). Best of all, they are cheap: less than $10 for one band or under $20 for a set with several sizes. Most bands come with simple instructions – and you can find dozens of videos for strengthening every part of your body online.

You may want to consider other possibilities that are not quite as cheap or as green, such as buying used equipment. Most in-home fitness stuff (treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, gym sets, etc.) is never used again after the first six months, so it ends up in garage sales, online classified sites, and second-hand sports stores. Look for good quality items (read consumer reviews first) and test them carefully to make certain they are still in working order.

Monday, December 5, 2011

5 Nutrient-Rich Ways to Make Meaningful Food Donations

During this time of holiday giving for those in need, most food banks/pantries prefer cash donations, so that they can maximize their purchase of most-needed items. When you do donate food, focus on the nutrient-rich options listed below. Most locations will refuse perishable items, homemade products, unlabeled cans, home canned foods, and any open packages.

1. Donate protein foods.

These more expensive items are usually very welcome donations for hungry families. Options include canned tuna, salmon, and chicken. Canned meals - such as beef stew, chili, or hearty soups - are also good choices. Other shelf stable proteins include nuts, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter, as well as canned beans, peas, and lentils.

2. Donate whole grain foods.

Grain staples are important foods for every family. Maximize the nutritional value of your food donations by choosing whole grain options whenever possible. Meaningful options include whole grain pastas, quick cooking brown rice, and breakfast cereals that are lower in sugar and higher in fiber (ex. oatmeal, Cheerios®, and Chex®).

3. Donate canned/dried fruits and 100% juices.

Fruit and 100% juice are good sources of vitamin C (and sometimes vitamin A), as well as potassium. Excellent shelf-staple options include fruits canned in juice (pineapple, peaches, apricots, etc.), as well as applesauce and dried fruit (without added sugar, if possible). Purchase 100% fruit juice or juice mixtures in cans, boxes, or plastic bottles.

4. Donate canned vegetables and 100% juice.

Reduced-sodium veggies are also important sources of vitamins, potassium, and fiber, while veggie juice can be an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Tomato products - such as tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, prepared spaghetti sauce, and 100% tomato juice - are especially nutritious and versatile items to donate.

5. Donate shelf-stable dairy foods.

Dairy foods are important for families, especially growing children. Cash donations to food banks can help to purchase low-fat fluid milk, cheese, and yogurt. You can also make direct donations of shelf-stable products, including dehydrated milk powder instant breakfast, and evaporated canned milk.