Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sit less and walk more for good health

Many people have jobs requiring them to sit for a long time, up to 8 hours or more a day.  The latest research indicates that you can help reverse the damage sitting does to your health by going on an hour-long walk.   This week, WTOP reported on:  To reverse damage of sitting, take a brisk, hour-long walk.

What are the health risks of sitting for long periods?
Norwegian scientists studied over  1 million people who sat for at least 8 hours a day.   According to the researchers, this much sitting is as harmful to your health as obesity or even smoking.  A number of studies have shown that prolonged sitting can increase your risk of heart disease, various types of cancer and even an earlier death.
But it isn’t just sitting at the job.  A new trend is binge TV watching, such as watching an entire Season of a show on Netflix.   Sitting for 5 hours or more watching TV is also bad for your health.  Add the sitting at work to coming home and sitting in front of the TV for hours on end, and even a 1 hour walk isn’t enough to reverse the health damage. 

What can be done to reverse the damage of sitting?
Exercise, exercise, exercise.   Sitting at work, then walk an hour at lunch.   Jog or walk before or after work.  The goal is at least an hour of exercise to reverse the health damage of sitting for 8 hours.   For years, I had a desk job that involved a lot of sitting all day.   But at lunch, I faithfully walked with 2 walking partners and we walked for an hour each day.   I knew this was a healthy habit but didn’t know at the time that this would actually reverse the health damage of a desk job. 
WTOP quoted one of the Norwegian researchers as saying, We cannot stress enough the importance of exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work.

How much exercise is needed?
To help erase the effects of sitting for eight hours a day, researchers found that 60-75 minutes of exercise is needed and brisk exercise like a brisk walk.  For those who sit at desk jobs during the day and then go home and sit in front of the TV, even more exercise is needed to reverse the damage. The study authors noted that the World Health Organization recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.  But this would not be enough to reverse the damage of sitting for 8 or more hours a day.
Another interesting quote from the article was from Lars Bo Andersen who co-authored a commentary about the study.  He stated, If you are walking and can feel yourself getting a little warm and your breathing is a little heavier, that’s enough.  You don’t have to be sweaty and out of breath to get the benefits. 

Going to the gym is great. But even if you aren’t working out at the gym, you can still reverse the health damage of sitting by taking a brisk walk.  So this week, take your dog out for a brisk walk before or after work.  Find some friends to start walking with at lunch or after work. 
This article notes how you can walk yourself to better health.

Source:  To reverse damage of sitting, take a brisk, hour-long walk  Image Source:  walking
Walk more to reverse the damage of sitting

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ice water to stay cool

Hot weather is upon us.  How can one stay cooler in these hot temperatures?  How do you get in your outdoor exercise and stay hydrated?  A few weeks ago we went on a morning bike ride in Sonoma County, California.  Morning temps are cooler but by noon the temperature was in the 90’s.   The bicycle shop gave us a frozen water bottle and a thermal pouch to put it in.   Why was this ice water such a great idea for the hot temperatures?  What are other ways to try to stay cool when the outside temp is sizzling? The Berkeley Wellness Letter has a great article on Exercising Safely in the Heat.   A summary of their tips are noted below.
Cooling your body from the inside:

  • Ice water:  This morning when I bicycled, I filled up my water bottle with ice and water.  Cold or icy beverages have been proven to cool you down internally.  Cold beverages are helpful, but what works best is an icy drink as it has more cooling power.  But drinking too much, too fast can lead to abdominal problems or the “brain freeze” headache.  I usually just drink some icy water throughout the hour long bike ride to stay cool and to rehydrate.  You can also do what the bike shop did, and freeze a bottle of water to have to take with you on your walk or bike ride.

Cooling from the outside
1.  Icy cold cloths, towels – research has shown that applying a cold towel to your arms, neck, thighs, face for a few minutes (5-20 minutes) before exercising can cool down your body externally.  Take a small towel, dunk it in some ice water, or put a dampened towel in the freezer for a bit to get it nice and cold.  Before you run, walk or bike, apply the cold towel to your neck, arms, head. 
2.  Cold water – Just putting your hands and arms in cool or icy water can help you cool down externally.  But not too cold, about 50-68 degrees is fine.  Do this for about 10 minutes and you can help your body cool down.  Or, the Wellness Letter suggests “carrying a bottle of cold water in each hand.”  But not a real practical suggestion. 
3.   Choose loose-fitting, lightweight clothing – yoga pants may be in style for women but not the best choice when exercising in the heat outside.  Light colors are better than dark colors for staying cool as dark colors absorb heat.  Your choice as to fiber type.  I prefer cotton for staying cooler well other prefer the polyester that supposedly whisks away the sweat.  To me the polyester fabrics are like a heater as they don’t “breathe” but what every works for you.
4.   Wear a hat – when bicycling I wear the helmet.  Choosing a light color helmet with air vents can help you stay cooler.   When walking, I always wear a hat.   You want a 4 inch brim to keep the sun off of your face and neck.  If you can, dampen the hat with ice water or cool water.  The Wellness Letter noted, “a hat made of polyester in a twill weave trapped the best heat and humidity in people exercising under hot weather conditions.”  Choose a light colored hat that you will wear.

Other suggestions for exercising in the heat.  Acclimate yourself.  It can take up to two weeks to get your body used to the hotter weather.  So start off with less time outside and add more time as your body adjusts.  Exercise in early morning when it is cooler.  For more details on how to stay cool in hot weather, read the article, Exercising Safely in the Heat.  To prevent heat exhaustion see this short video at WebMD, The Basics:  Heat Exhaustion.

water on ice

Drink Ice water to stay cool in hot weather.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

How can you get kids to eat more vegetables and fruit?

How can you get your kids to eat more vegetables and fruit?   It is easy to get kids to eat junk food but when it comes to vegetables, it can be quite a struggle. So what can a parent or child care provider do?  Apparently, the same marketing techniques fast food and junk food advertiser’s use, can be used to get kids to eat more vegetables and more fruit.   A recent study in Pediatrics, Marketing Vegetables in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake, looked at 10 elementary schools and tried different approaches to get kids to eat more veggies.
  1. A banner with vegetable characters displayed on the salad bar
  2. TV spots of vegetable characters talking about health education
  3. Both the vegetable characters displayed on the salad bar and the TV spots of vegetable characters

The researchers studied the number of elementary students taking vegetables from the salad bar over a 6 week period.  So what worked the best?  The banner pictures of vegetable characters increased vegetable consumption a lot, 90.5% more kids chose veggies from the salad bar when they saw pictures of vegetable characters.  But worked really well was both the vegetable characters and the TV spots of veggie characters with 239.2% more kids choosing the salad bar. 

Putting up banners is one thing schools and child care centers can do.  What are other easy ways for parents, school and child care centers to get kids to eat more fruit and veggies? Another study by Cornell University (Branding Veggies for Kids), put a sticker of a kid’s familiar character such as Elmo, on an apple or other fruit.  Day One of the study: at the end of the lunch line, kids could choose a cookie or piece of fruit with no sticker.  Then the researchers put stickers on the cookie or fruit.  They found that twice as many kids would chose the apple if it had a familiar sticker on it, like Elmo. 

Going out for Fast Food?  Is there a fun way to get your child to make healthier choices at Fast Food places?  Cornell also studied how using super heroes as role models could get kids to make healthier Fast Food choices in What would Batman eat?   Parents can ask kids who their favorite super-hero is.  For example, if it’s Batman, the parent can say Batman would choose apple slices not French Fries with his Happy Meal as Batman wants to be healthy.   Try it, it may work with your kid to help them make healthier choices when eating at Fast Food places.  If you are worried about a child eating a paper sticker on a piece of fruit, you can buy Edible Stickers to encourage kids to eat more fruits and veggies. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Healthy Eating for a Healthier Brain

Can you eat to delay aging and have a healthier brain?  You can.  There are many foods that protect brain health.  In fact, there is a diet plan called the MIND diet. Besides eating healthy, exercising regularly also promotes a healthier brain.

What is the MIND diet? 
It is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.  The Mediterranean Diet is a good diet for overall health and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was designed to lower blood pressure. 

What is your MIND score?   To score your MIND Diet, assign one point for each of the following components (adapted from the MIND Diet and Keep Active to Protect Your Brain).  Those with the highest MIND score are 53% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and have been shown to have a slower rate of decline in cognitive health. 
Foods to Eat More of:
 How often?
Score one point for each item
Whole grains
at least 3 servings/day

Green Leafy Vegetables
at least 6 servings/week

Other vegetables
at least 1 serving/day

at least 2 servings/week

at least 1 serving/week

at least 2 servings/week

at least 3 servings/week

At least 5 servings/week

Olive Oil
Your primary oil

Foods to Eat Less of:

Red Meats
Fewer than 4 servings/week

Fast/Fried food
Less than 1 serving/week

Less than 1 T. per day

Less than 1 serving/week

Less than 5 servings/week

1 serving/day (not excess)

Your Total Points =

I agree with most of the list, except the cheese.  I consume cheese every day but aim for cheese lower in saturated fat such as cheese made with 2% milk or 1% milk.  Cheese is a good contributor of calcium, protein and other nutrients.  So how did you do?  Was your score near 15?  If not, what small changes could you make in your weekly diet?  Pack a lunch and skip the Fast Food for a few days a week?  Pack some nuts as a snack.  Put some Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your cupboard for cooking.  Now that summer is here, go to your local Farmer’s Market for berries, green leafy vegetables.  Read more about the MIND Diet here. 
Fresh Greens

Sources:   MIND Diet,  Keep Active to Protect Your Brain,  Image Source:  Fresh Greens