February 1, 2011 [Volume 5, Issue 3]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Time to Put Health in Motion
How to Avoid the Dreaded Rut
Eat Those Fruits and Veggies!


Time to Put Health in Motion

Too many people (are you one?) believe intense exercise is the only way to make a difference in their health. Eventually, that path becomes frustrating, exhausting and draining, and we end up doing nothing at all. So, the key issue is not really the type or intensity of exercise, but why you need to start moving. It's a simple issue of motion versus no motion. It's shocking to realize how many health problems are caused by not doing anything.

Whenever we hear about someone close to us getting cancer, we pray that it doesn't happen to us. As a result, we may change our diet, try to alter an unhealthy behavior (e.g., quit smoking), reduce our stress levels, etc.; however, one thing we don't change often enough is our activity level. It's shocking to truly grasp how much of an impact being sedentary has on our health. In fact, being inactive is more dangerous to your health than smoking!

In one study, one in five deaths in people 35 years or older was attributed to a lack of physical activity. The risk of developing cancer increased 45 percent for men who didn't include any physical activity in their life and 28 percent for women who were inactive. Risk of dying from respiratory diseases was 92 percent higher for inactive men and 75 percent higher for inactive women. Risk of heart disease was 52 percent higher for inactive men and 28 percent higher for inactive women.

Cardio Movements: If your goal is to establish some form of motion and activity, the minimum recommendations are 30 minutes a day. This 30 minutes does not have to be done at once. You can break it up into three 10-minute sessions. Heading to work or the mall? Park a few minutes away and walk the rest of the way. Going for lunch at work? Take the stairs after you finish. Or simply walk over to a fellow worker's office instead of phoning them. If you are home most of the time, walk while you talk on the phone. You'd be surprised how much activity you can get doing this. In short, there are literally thousands of ways to move throughout even the busiest day.

Strength Training Movements: Strength training does not mean joining the muscle guys at Venice Beach. Simple strength exercises with your body weight can be beneficial. The general recommendation is to do eight to 10 strength-training exercises with 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, two to three times per week. If you don't have weights, you can use your body weight. Simply do squats against the wall, or do a push-up against the edge of a table. Remember, the key is to start off small and work your way up.

Research is actually showing that high-repetition exercises with lower-weight loads can be as good, if not better, than heavy lifting. A recent study from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, revealed that an exercise program using a low weight load, but high volume of exercise, produced better results than lifting heavier weights.

The goal is not to run a marathon (unless that's your goal), but rather to introduce new ways to get up and move every day. The health benefits are just too great to overlook the power of movement. Your doctor can tell you more - much more - about the value of movement as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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How to Avoid the Dreaded Rut

Rut [ruht]: noun, a fixed or established mode of procedure or course of life, usually dull or unpromising. Does this sound like your life? Are stuck in a rut, desperate to find a way to break free of your boring routine? Well, it's time to start adding some much-needed spice to your life.

Many of the things you want to do, but are hesitant to do, lie just outside your comfort zone. We grow when we feel uncomfortable and challenged. Status quo may be safe, but it is also boring! The ability to take risks and open up your mind to new possibilities can be the most empowering combination for change you will ever learn. No risk, no nothing! Here are a simple, powerful ways to kiss that rut goodbye. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Feed Fitness: The mind-body connection is undeniable. How you feel is directly related to how well you take care of your body. If you are not currently exercising, check out a local fitness club. The very act of joining and spending just 30 minutes or so four times a week, investing in yourself, will suppress that rut. If you are exercising on a regular basis, change up your routine by doing exercises you have never done before. Take a kick-boxing class, yoga, Pilates, weight-lifting, or begin training with a workout partner.

Try a Change of Taste: The simple act of changing your food selections can bust your rut. Do you always order the same thing off a menu? Well, stop doing that! Go for something completely different and make a 180-degree turn in your choices. Try eating ethnic foods for a change of taste. Visit an ethnic restaurant and experience the flavor of other cultures. Visit the worlds of Greece, Thailand, India, Middle East, Europe, China and Mexico, to name a few. Wake up those taste buds and spice up your palate.

Volunteer: How often do you sit in front of the television every week? The average American watches three hours of television per day! What a waste. Invest that time in helping others. Search for a national or local organization and discover how you can become involved, even if it's only for one hour a week. Transform yourself and improve the world in the process. Can there be any greater gift than that?

Control the Clock: Change your normal routine of going to bed and waking up. Choose to stay up longer or wake up earlier to invest time in yourself. Take some much needed me time, free from interruptions of family, friends, roommates, television and the overall white noise of daily living. Take this opportunity to read a good book, listen to music, write in a journal, focus on your goals and map out your activities for the day.

Make Your Own Map: Do you ever find yourself sitting in your car at your final destination and wondering how in the world you got there? Normal routines get ingrained in your brain, to the point that every stop and turn is mindless. This is the epitome of ritual rut! You go from home to work and then work to home, making ceremonial stops along the way. How about changing up that boredom and choosing an alternate route? Make a left instead of a right, take a different highway, choose a more scenic route, go straight instead of turning, be creative and become your own GPS.

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Eat Those Fruits and Veggies!

What's the best reason to eat your fruits and vegetables? They may help you live longer, pure and simple. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, consumption of fruits and vegetables containing alpha-carotene - an antioxidant carotenoid found in many red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as some green ones - may help defend cells from attack.

Researchers discovered that people with higher blood levels of alpha-carotene were less likely to suffer serious illness (particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease) and death over the 14-year study period compared with people whose blood levels of alpha-carotene were lower. The study evaluated 15,318 U.S. adults ages 20 and older as part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-Up Study.

If you're not familiar with alpha-carotene, perhaps its antioxidant cousin rings a bell: beta-carotene, known for its presence in carrots, among other fruits and vegetables. Both alpha- and beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A by the body. While the study authors do not know precisely why alpha-carotene may help protect against disease or if it acts in conjunction with other nutrients, they emphasize that their findings were not attributable to participants' lifestyle habits, health risk factors or demographic characteristics.

So eat your fruits and veggies! Whether packed with alpha- or beta-carotene, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, magnesium or any of a host of other nutrients, fruits and vegetables provide the nutrition your body needs. Your doctor can tell you more about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and help outline a nutritional strategy that's right for you.

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