two women and a man working in a community garden

Health Benefits of Starting a Garden

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

OUTDOOR GARDENING OFFERS MANY BENEFITS BESIDES FRESH GARDEN VEGETABLES

Don’t you love it when something you’ve always believed to be true is actually proven by research? I’m one of those people who believes outdoor gardening is good for the mind, body, and soul. Now a growing body of evidence supports this notion, too.

I’m not just talking about planting garden vegetables so you can reap all of the nutritional benefits that go with them. Studies show starting a garden is good for you no matter what you grow, or where.

Gardening and Weight Control

The latest study to support my theory was published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers from the University of Utah found people who tended community gardens weighed less than their neighbors, siblings and spouses who didn’t.

Community gardens have already been shown to provide social benefits to those who till them and nutritional benefits to all who eat the harvest. This study confirms that those who get their hands dirty also have lower body mass indexes (BMI) and lower odds of being overweight or obese.

The study only looked at a small community in Utah, so cannot be interpreted to be true for the population at large, but I think we can expect to see similar results when a larger study is conducted.

Another thing the study does not answer is whether lower weight people are drawn to gardening, or whether gardening makes them lighter? What do you think?

Gardening and Mental Health

A study just published in Psychological Sciences, the journal of the Association for Psychological Sciences, made a strong case for the benefits of gardens, even if you don’t til them. It found people who live near parks, gardens or other green space report a greater sense of well-being than city dwellers who don’t get to see much outdoor greenery.

The researchers analyzed data collected from households in the United Kingdom and found individuals who lived in greener areas reported less mental distress and higher satisfaction with life. This more positive outlook held up even across differences in income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type.

This study did not prove that moving to a greener neighborhood will make you happier, but does support findings from other research that shows short bouts of time in green space can improve mood and cognitive functioning.

Since April is National Garden Month, I can’t think of a better time to get outside and do some gardening. Whether you plant vegetables, flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees or grass, starting garden is good for your health!

Psychological Benefits of Gardening

  • Nurture your natural instincts
  • Cultivate your sense of patience
  • Explore your creativity
  • Relieve your stress
  • Lessen your anxiety
  • Improve your mood

Physical Benefits of Gardening

  • Eat more fresh produce!
  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Burn some calories
  • Breathe in fresh air
  • Make vitamin D from sunshine
  • Sleep more soundly

What’s growing in your garden?

family riding bicycles together

Are You Making Tradeoffs for a Healthier Lifestyle?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

AMERICANS HAVE DIFFICULTY FINDING TIME FOR HEALTHY BEHAVIORS LIKE GOOD NUTRITION AND REGULAR EXERCISE

How do you keep track of what you and the rest of your family have to do each day? I know plenty of households that use a common wall calendar with big boxes for each day so all of their appointments and activities can be recorded. Other families I know share their daily schedules with one another on smart phones so they always know who’s going where, and when.

Still, it seems no matter how we do it, there are never enough hours in the day for all we have to do. And when we’re all so busy, how can you make time for a healthier lifestyle?

Must We Choose Between Cooking vs Working Out?

Results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America suggest many of us must make concessions when it comes to healthy behaviors. Using U.S. Census data from more than 112, 000 American adults, researchers at Ohio State University analyzed how much time was spend on meal preparation and exercise in a single day

What they found was, on average, we’re spending less than an hour a day combined for these time-consuming healthy behaviors and if we try to do them both in the same day we have to choose between one of the other.

Does that sound true for you?

It must be pointed out that the Census data only captures one day’s worth of activity, so the researchers could not tell if people cooked one day and exercised the next.

Making Time for a Healthier Lifestyle

I don’t think good nutrition and fitness have to be exclusive, no matter how jam-packed my calendar is. It all comes down to time management. Here’s what I have learned works:

Blocked out the time each day to make breakfast, pack lunches and cook dinner

Become more efficient at getting nutritious meals on the table fast by using quick cooking ideas that take the toil out of food preparation

Remove some items from the schedule, like watching every episode of the latest BBC series in one night, if it takes time away from the healthy behaviors you’re trying to establish

While everyone complains about how hard it is to get enough exercise, it is actually easier than eating right. All you really have to do is get up and move around more. In fact, standing instead of sitting is even beneficial! In addition to the dozens of things you can do standing, you can also incorporate 10 minute bursts of activity throughout your day without making a trip to the gym.

The key is to be open to the opportunity. We can all do a better job of pushing those shopping carts back to the corral in the parking lot. How about walking to the school to meet your child so you can walk home together? I loved marching in place while waiting to pick up my teen from marching band practice.

Best of all, when we make good nutrition and physical activity a family affair, we only need to reserve one time slot on the calendar!

Other great ways to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle:

  • Quick Healthy Meals Begin with Pasta
  • Need Dinner Menu Ideas? Soup Makes Quick Easy Meals
  • Want a Quick Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Just Load Up Your Freezer
  • What To Do With Leftover Food? Create Makeover Meals
exercising and eating right are part of a healthy lifestyle

10 Ways to Improve Your Health

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

DID YOU KNOW THAT GOOD ORAL CARE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF OVERALL HEALTH? THAT’S JUST ONE OF OUR GREAT TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH NOW!

With all the talk about who should pay for healthcare we sometimes forget the most important way to lower healthcare costs is by taking good care of ourselves. While some illnesses are unavoidable, most are preventable. Use these 10 Ways to Improve Your Health as your premium payment for the best health insurance policy money can’t buy.

1. Curb Excesses – If you have an addiction or compulsive behavior, such as smoking or drinking excessively, it will deplete your physical condition and your bank account. Investing in professional help to treat them now will reap returns in improved health and wealth for the rest of your life.

2. Express Yourself – Everyone needs an emotional outlet to relieve the normal stresses of everyday life. Don’t be afraid to cry when you hurt or laugh out loud when something strikes you funny. Some people turn to writing their thoughts in a journal to express themselves, while others use creative outlets like music, art or even cooking.

3. Maintain Your Smile – Not brushing your teeth properly can be as damaging to your health as not brushing at all. Bacteria in the mouth that is not removed by good oral care may contribute to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. And since the health of your teeth is directly connected to the quality of your diet, the effort pays off in more ways than one.

4. Take Precautions – Accidents are the fifth major cause of death in the United States. Basic safety measures can prevent many of them and reduce the severity of the injuries that may occur. Make sure you always wear a seat belt, drive within the speed limit, wear sun glasses and sun screen when outdoors, use the right sports gear, and are careful around ladders and water.

5. Eat Well – Focusing on health instead of weight when making food choices pays big dividends with every bite since good nutrition is the best preventive medicine there is. Even if you can’t lose all the weight you should, it’s worth eating well to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including many types of cancer.

6. Make Face Time – Connecting with family and friends on Face Book and other social networks is fine, but should not replace face-to-face meetings. A small but close circle of people you can spend time with is more valuable to your quality of life than having hundreds of friends you never see or talk to.

7. Move More – Instead of thinking about all of the exercise you’re supposed to be doing, just try to get up out of your chair to stand, pace or put your body in motion whenever you can. The goal is to decrease the number of hours a day you spend sitting. Medical experts found women who sit more than six hours a day are 94% more likely to die than those who are not inactive for long periods of time.

8. Check-Up + Follow Up – Just like birthdays and anniversaries, routine dental and medical check-ups should be permanent dates on your calendar. If you keep these annual appointments with your primary care physician and dentist you will have fewer unscheduled visits to treat pain and problems that could have been prevented.

9. Stretch Often – The benefits of routine stretching include improved circulation, stress relief, more flexible joints, and better balance so fewer falls. A good time to do some total body stretches is before getting out of bed in the morning or after a shower when the muscles are warmed up.

10. Sleep Enough – Something as basic as sleep is difficult for the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lowered immune response, accidents, depression and early death. Treating sleep as a necessity, not a luxury, is an important way to prevent illness and prolong life.

Healthy living tips for the 50+ brought to by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.

9 Ways to Stay Active in Hot Weather

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

USE THESE 9 TIPS TO STAY ACTIVE IN HOT WEATHER AND AVOID THE MIDDAY SUN

It’s important to stay active in hot weather, but a change in your workout may be needed to avoid the heat. Cooler conditions can be found early or late in the day, in parks and pools, and by staying indoors. Use these tips to find a way to remain active until the temperature drops.

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Stretch at Sunrise Step outside at dawn to stretch with the rising sun at the start of another new day.

Me-Seniors Photos by Michael Williamson NEG#201675 5/30/08:

Workout With Wii Plug in the video game console for a challenging workout in the air conditioned comfort of your own home.

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Jump Through Hoops Twirl your hips in a hula hoop to keep your body in motion and a smile on your face.

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Race the Clock Time yourself using the clock tower in the mall as you race past the food court and shoe stores for a brisk walk out of the sun.

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Kick Up a Storm Submerge yourself in a pool, lake, or ocean and use kick board to propel yourself across the surface.

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Walk in the Woods Find a shady foot path in the park or hiking trail under a canopy of trees to block the midday sun.

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Keep It Afloat Develop your paddle power to explore the inland waterways in a canoe, kayak, raft or rowboat.

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Pedal Around Town Use the bike lanes at dusk when the street lights are on and commuter traffic has slowed to a hush.

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Stroll Under the Stars Wait until dark to take a walk in the cool night air and gaze up at the stars.

Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat!

Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat This Holiday Season!

THE SHOES YOU WEAR CAN CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT GAIN WHEN TIME IS SHORT FOR EXERCISE

The holiday season is not only a challenge to your diet, it can also undermine exercise routine. If your workouts are being shortchanged by all the extra things you have to do this time of year, be prepared to move more while doing them! What you wear on your feet can make all the difference. Style is a luxury you can’t always afford when trying to stay in shape. Wear sensible shoes that let you keep moving to avoid holiday weight gain.

Pointy toes work for the Grinch, but won’t let you get through a day at work without a blister.

Pointy toes work for the Grinch, but won’t let you get through a day at work without a blister.

Untied sneakers are trendy at the Mall, but will keep you riding the escalator instead of taking the stairs.

Untied sneakers are trendy at the Mall, but will keep you riding the escalator instead of taking the stairs.

Cowboy boots are perfect if traveling by horseback, but not if you’re galloping to your subway stop.

Cowboy boots are perfect if traveling by horseback, but not if you’re galloping to your subway stop.

Rubber boots are great for puddles, not for climbing ladders to hang Christmas lights around the house.

Rubber boots are great for puddles, not for climbing ladders to hang Christmas lights around the house.

Flip Flips are fine when getting a pedicure, but won’t help you get your heart rate up walking from the parking lot.

Flip Flips are fine when getting a pedicure, but won’t help you get your heart rate up walking from the parking lot.

Plastic sandals make sense sitting by the pool, not when running a vacuum to clean up the cookie crumbs.

Plastic sandals make sense sitting by the pool, not when running a vacuum to clean up the cookie crumbs.

Strappy sandals show off your toes, but will probably get them stubbed if you try to do any last minute shopping.

Strappy sandals show off your toes, but will probably get them stubbed if you try to do any last minute shopping.

 

High heels are glamorous for a party, but will probably keep you in your seat instead of on the dance floor.

High heels are glamorous for a party, but will probably keep you in your seat instead of on the dance floor.

Lessons learned during weight loss hold key to success

Changing Lifestyle is Key to Successful Weight Control

Research shows losing weight and keeping it off requires changes in lifestyle

Losing weight is difficult, very difficult. No matter what diet program, product or procedure is used to shed excess pounds, people have tremendous resistance to changing their routines and doing something different. I could argue that no matter what the reasons are that people have gained weight, they all share the same reason for having trouble losing it. People hate change.

Eating is a habit, which is one reason it’s so hard to change, but another is that it’s part of a lifestyle. And your lifestyle is shaped by where you live and work, how much money you have, who you spend your time with, and what you know, like, believe. If you want to change what and how much you eat and how often you exercise, it is going to require major changes in your lifestyle.

Knowing what needs to be done to lose weight is rarely the problem. All of my clients are able to tell me what they need to do differently. They say they know they should eat breakfast, take smaller portions, limit their snacks, exercise more, double-up on vegetables and switch to low fat, but they have a hard time sticking to those suggestions. Even just one.

That is because, for example, to eat breakfast every day you have to shop regularly to be sure you have food in the house, get up a little earlier, be able to prepare something you like and is good for you, make your own coffee, and clean up after yourself. Getting up earlier is a big enough hurdle for most people; making sure you have cereal, milk and a banana can be insurmountable!

Why, then, is it possible for some people to change their lifestyle and lose weight? The answers can be found in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR).

First a few words about the Registry, my favorite source of inspiration. It is a voluntary group made up of over 5000 people who have lost anywhere from 30 -300 pounds and kept it off for five years or more. That’s all it takes to be a member.

Several common traits have been identified among the NWCR participants to help us understand what has worked for them and might help others. They are listed below.

The one thing you won’t find on the list is what made them do it. Cultural anthropologist Inga Treitler, Ph.D. conducted extensive interviews with ten of the registrants to see if she could figure that out. What she found is they all experienced an inner transformation which resulted in their abandoning their former lifestyles and being “reborn” into a new one. In essence, they found a reason to change that made living in their new lifestyle easier than the old.

It all begins with the right reason.

TOP TEN TRAITS FROM WEIGHT CONTROL REGISTRY45% lost the weight on their own

10. 55% lost the weight with the help of a program

9. 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week

8. 74% weigh themselves at least once a week

7. 78% eat breakfast every day

6. 80% are women, 20% are men

5. 90% exercise an average of 1 hour a day

4. 94% increased their physical activity, walking was the most common activity

2. 98% modified their food intake in some way, most by controlling calories and fat

1. 100% found a reason to change their lifestyle

Here’s what has helped me keep my weight in control for the past 40 years.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Getting your body in motion is all it takes to exercise

Exercise Can Be Fun!

Do what you like to take the work out of workouts

I don’t have a problem getting enough exercise. I spend at least one hour a day doing something most people would call exercise, then sneak in lots of other mini workouts just for the fun of it. I live at the beach so take long walks along the ocean shoreline or on the board walk that extends for miles alongside it. I cultivate a big vegetable garden that is 99% weed free and 100% herbicide free. When out listening to live music, I always dance.

Those activities don’t feel like exercise to me because I enjoy doing them so much. Sometimes I have to time myself to stop weeding after 30 minutes so I can get back to doing the real work I’m supposed to do, like writing these blogs. But that’s a whole lot better than having to force myself to lift weights for half an hour.

Don’t ask me to swim laps in a pool or pedal endlessly on a stationary bike, either. I don’t like to do those things and will surely find a way not to. My goal is to get a workout without it feeling like work.

So while other people check the morning weather to decide if they’ll need an umbrella to get where they’re going, I check it to see if the skies will be clear enough to go outside and play. And if I can’t, I feel cheated out of doing the thing I look forward to most each day.

Anything you enjoy doing that involves some form of movement can count as part of your required physical activity. Yes, there are important guidelines that tell us we should vary our exercise routines to develop strength, stamina and flexibility, but the most important recommendation of all is to put the time in. By doing something that’s fun, you’ll spend more time doing it and reap far more benefits than procrastinating about what someone else thinks you should be doing.

This enlightened approach to exercise will work wonders on your mental health, too. When all the guilt over what you’re not doing is replaced by the pleasure of doing what you want, you attitude improves immeasurably. Exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting and it shouldn’t hurt. It should simply put your body into motion for an extended period of time with a smile on your face.

So what would you do if you could ignore all of your other obligations for the day and just spend it doing an activity you love? Now how are you going to get that activity back into your life on a regular basis? Answering those questions is one exercise you should complete without procrastinating!