Wellness: Life is a balancing act.
So I started thinking about wellness. What is wellness anyway?
It’s the absence of disease. If you are not sick you are well.
But it’s more than that isn’t it? It’s quality of life and for some it’s a balancing act; the balance of all things. I like this balance concept so I dug out one of my favorite balancing act tools:
Wellness Balancing Act Tool
The Mandala: the wheel of life. I wrote down all the types of wellness I could think of and ended up with 6 categories that I stuck on my Mandala to enable us to live well.
Here they are:
· Taking care of your body, eat right, exercise
· Visit your doctor regularly
· Keeping an open mind and trying to see other’s point of view
· Allowing your curiosity to take you to new places and learn new things.
· Trying to keep a positive state of mind
· Cultivating self esteem
· Reaching out to others for support
· Recognizing your beliefs.
· Allowing your core values to direct your actions.
· Developing positive inter-personal relationships at home and work
· Allowing yourself to give and receive love: to and from everyone that means that much to you including animals
· Participate in social situations; try not to stay on the sidelines.
· Making your home environment peaceful, pleasant, safe and comfortable.
· Choosing an occupation and a workplace that doesn’t drive you nuts.
· Try to have a positive impact on our natural environment.
Recycle more, pollute less.
When the wheel is in balance it spins evenly. When even one of these categories is out of whack, the whole wheel starts to wobble.
So as a certified health coach I respectfully suggest you get rolling, get your balancing act together so you can live well.
Now if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get back into shape and lose those unwanted pounds I’d like to give you a gentle reminder to get moving again if you want to “live long and prosper”. Here are some ideas to get you started and keep you on track.
EASE into the Best Shape of Your Life.
That’s right I said EASE! After all it is only January it’s never too late to do the right thing by your body. The reason most diets and exercise programs fail is people ask too much of themselves and expect to see results too soon. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. Well, this story is not a classic for nothing. A killer diet coupled with a killer workout is a resolution killer. It’ll never work. Over my thirty-year career, having seen hundreds of these types of programs, including my own, fail, I’ve developed a method that works for virtually anyone.
Of course, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning this or any fitness program.
First, weigh in. You don’t need to tell anybody how much you weigh, but you need to know. One pound = 3500 calories. So, to lose a pound you have to either not eat, or exercise off 3500 calories. The right way is to do a combination of both. But start slowly and build up at your own pace. You need to break your goals up into small chewable bites.
Say you want to lose 20 pounds. Break that up into 5-pound increments.
And don’t try to lose 5 pounds in a week or two. The first 5 pounds is the hardest, so give yourself a full six weeks to lose it, while easing into a fitness program. After that you can safely lose about 1 pound a week.
Here’s how it works.
Get a notebook and write down everything you put in your mouth for the first week. Get a calorie book and look up everything you ate every day. If you’re like most people, you’ll be shocked by how much food that is. Also look at your food labels. For instance, if your ingredients on your tomato sauce don’t look like this, you might want to consider switching brands.
You’ll be surprise how much sugar, saturated fat and just plain gunk you’ll find in unlikely food products like tomato sauce. Eat as much fresh food as you can.
Aerobic exercise carries tremendous health benefits. It also burns calories, boosts your metabolism and keeps you in a positive frame of mind. So, that first week, make it your business to do 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, every day.
The second week, eat everything you normally eat, but cut your portions in half.
Try to exercise 15 minutes a day. The week you first cut your portions down is usually the toughest. But it gets easier.
By week three you should be looking at the kinds of food you eat and trying to eliminate the empty calories; sugary soft drinks, salty snack foods, fat filled fast food etc. Start consuming smart calories .Try to substitute foods you actually like, foods with fewer calories that fill you up and have some nutritional value.
Try not to eat more than 1500 calories a day.
Gradually build up your aerobic exercise until you’re doing a half hour every day.
After six weeks you will be on a fitness program you can stick with and you’ll probably have lost your first five pounds.
You’ll be eating smarter, feel and look better, be healthier and more equipped to stick with it for the next 5 pounds and the next and the next.
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My inbox is trying to tell me something. I’ve gotten several versions of this question in the past week alone.
Q: I’m starting to feel that flabby arm anxiety again. Spring is coming and I don’t want to face my sleeveless blouses with these 54 old arms a year flabbier than they were last year. Is there anything short of surgery for me to do to fight upper arm flab?
A: Sedentary women in general and women at a certain age in particularly are faced with this problem every year when the weather gets warmer. And it does get worst, as you get older.
In fact we can lose up to 40% of our muscle cells by the time we hit 70. This is called sarcopenia. Weight resistance exercise can reverse this process and can help you regain some muscle you have lost.
Here are two easy site-specific exercises that target those problem areas in your upper arm and fight upper arm flab.
Fight Upper Arm Flab: Two Exercises
Bicep Curl for the Front Arm: Grab a set up hand weights and stand erect with your feet about shoulder width apart. Weights down at your sides, palms forward. Remaining erect, bending only at your elbows bring the weights up towards you until they reach your shoulders.
Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 8-15 reps.
Pick a weight that will just barely allow you to complete the final rep in good form.
Triceps Extension for the Back of the Arm:
You will probably need a lighter weight for this exercise because those muscles are often weaker.
Stand erect, weights at your sides, palms in towards your thighs. Remaining erect step forward with one foot and slightly bend the knee. Keeping arms straight, bring both arms behind you just at or above waist height. You should feel the contraction on the back of your arms. Gently lower down to starting position.
Repeat 8-15 reps.
Do these exercises every other day. You should expect some soreness. It’s common when you are building muscle. Doing the exercises every other day gives your muscles a chance to recover and grow. You should see results in about 3-4
weeks. You will be on your way to fight upper arm flab.
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Aerobics May Improve Memory.
I became interested in exercise and memory several years ago when my older students began to tell me that their memories seemed to improve after they took my class.
I was teaching mostly dance-exercise in those days. I started with simple steps and built up to a pretty complex routine.
There has to be a connection I thought, between the physical movement, making your brain learn this routine, and improved memory.
I’m no scientist but I was curious. So I started to break it down.
What I was having people do is learn short phrases of movement and then link them together. The cardio dance routine required them to move forward and back, side to side, remember specific steps; and stay in rhythm.
This was a real challenge for many of my students who had never done anything like this before. As they got more proficient, the class became a social gathering; because of this shared experience.
My students felt energized afterwards, not exhausted. They told me that besides getting a good body workout they were getting a memory workout as well. They said they could actually remember things better.
I wondered if there was science to support our anecdotal experience.
I contacted a couple of local Alzheimer’s specialists (there was no internet back then) and they told me – you’re probably right but there weren’t any specific studies on this more than 20 years ago.
Even now the research is not conclusive. But, technology in the last 15 years has allowed science to discover a lot more about the brain.
Aerobics May Improve Memory.
Vascular memory loss has been linked to heart disease and cardio fitness is a major factor in preventing and managing that issue. Aerobic exercise increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain improving mental function. Cardio fitness has been shown to reduce loss of brain cells in older adults.
A study of 1,449 older adults shows those who in middle age exercised vigorously enough to perspire and breathe hard for 20 to 30 minutes at least twice a week reduced their risk of later developing Alzheimer’s disease by about 60 percent.*
But cardio is just part of the equation.
Aerobics May Improve memory because research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that certain types of dance, particularly with routines to learn and remember, may help prevent age-onset memory loss and diseases like Alzheimer’s. “…. cognitive activity may stave off dementia by increasing a person’s “cognitive reserve.” **
And a study conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says activities that combined mental and social as well as physical stimulation offered the greatest protection against dementia***
Activity is the active word. Be physically active, mentally active and socially active, preferably all at once. Taking a Cardio Dance class or getting together with friends to do a Cardio Dance DVD is a good place to start. And to this day, when I start my cardio dance class I say,
“It’s time to workout our hearts and minds!”
*Rovio, Suvi; Kareholt, Ingemar; Helkala, Eeva-Liisa; Viitanen, Matti; Winblad, Bengt; Tuomilehto, Jaakko; Soininen, Hilkka; Nissinen, Aulikki; and Kivipelto, Miia. “Leisure-time physical activity at midlife and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” The Lancet Neurology; published online Oct. 4, 2005.
** Dr Joe Verghese, lead author of study conducted at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, N Engl J Med, 2003; 348:2508-2516.
***Karp, Anita; Paillard-Borg, Stephanie; Wang, Hui-Xin; Silverstein, Merrill; Winblad, Bengt; and Fratiglioni, Laura. “Mental, Physical and Social Components in Common Leisure Activities in Old Age in Relation to Dementia: Findings from the Kungsholmen Project.” Presented at the Alzheimer’s Association 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, Philadelphia, Penn., July 17 – 22, 2004. Abstract published in Neurobiology of Aging, July 2004, Vol. 25, S2: p. S313.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761497/
Compared with the control group, the exercise group significantly improved in verbal fluency (p = 0.048), word list delayed recall (p = 0.038), word list recognition (p = 0.007), and total CERAD-K score (p = 0.037)
Metabolic syndrome (MS) is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
Aerobic exercise improves cognitive function in elderly people and contributes to the prevention of degenerative neurological disease and brain damage. Dance sport is a form of aerobic exercise that has the additional benefits of stimulating the emotions, promoting social interaction, and exposing subjects to acoustic stimulation and music.
In the present study, dance exercise for a 6-month period improved cognitive function in older adults with MS. In particular, positive effects were observed in verbal fluency, word list delayed recall, word list recognition, and the total CERAD-K score.
Our data suggest that the implementation of dance exercise programs may be an effective means of prevention and treatment of cognitive disorders.
Workout? Spring has sprung and I’ve been getting those emails for a month or so asking for advice on how to get on and stay on an exercise program. I get questions about commitment, pushing one’s limits, pain, and quick results. I go a little crazy at this time of year because I’m at odds with a very vocal segment of my industry about how to get started on an exercise program. They’re sincere, well-educated trainers, but I don’t think they remember what it felt like to be de-conditioned. They expect beginners to do to much too soon. I’m beginning to think that over-vigorous exercise dulls one’s sense of empathy.
I’ve seen it time and time again: determined beginners pushing so hard and either getting hurt and quitting or just quitting because they couldn’t take it any more. If this sounds like you, don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. We’ve heard no pain no gain all our lives. We’ve watched contestants push themselves to the brink of disaster on television. We’re inundated with infomercial promises of big results in no time. It’s enough to make anyone think ” I’ve got to beat myself senseless immediately so I can hurry up, get fit, have the body of my dreams and live happily ever-after.”
By the way, I’m not against vigorous exercise. On the contrary, I love vigorous exercise. But I wouldn’t have loved it nor would I have been safe doing it as a beginner. In my experience, that approach only works for a few stoic types and sets the rest of us up to fail.
I believe in moderation, easing in, starting with a little and building up to a lot, staying in your comfort zone. You may get to super-vigorous exercise eventually, or maybe you’ll like moderate exercise better. And moderate may be just as good as vigorous, maybe better. Really.
Just so you know this isn’t some favorite rant of mine, there are people, scientists even, who actually agree with me. Here’s study conducted at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health
I think, the best way to get fit and make exercise a part of your life forever is to keep it pleasant. If you haven’t been exercising in a long time, don’t start lifting weights right away. Don’t try to jog or even walk for a half an hour right away. Do something easy. Do something pleasant. If you enjoy it today you’ll want to get up and do it again tomorrow. It’s the pleasure principal. I believe in it. This study published in the Journal of Health Psychology believes it, too
So, how do you get started? I suggest starting by standing up and doing about five minutes of gentle limbering movements. Do the same for a few days in a row. You may be surprised at how good this feels and what a wonderful state of mind these simple, natural movements put you in. You may find yourself exercising longer than five minutes after a few days because you like it. Don’t question it. Simply do it. You may find the more you do it the more you’ll want to do it, and the more you’ll do.
You may want to go for a little walk, then a brisk walk, then a half hour brisk walk. Don’t rush it. It doesn’t matter if it takes a couple of weeks, or a couple of months. Listen to you body. You’re on nobody’s schedule but your own.
Once you’re enjoying a half hour brisk walk most days of the week, try adding light weight training for your major muscle groups a couple of times a week. Increase the weight, number of reps and number of exercise days only when it feels too easy. Build up slowly to weight training about three days a week with a day off in between sessions.
Remember to keep it pleasant. If it’s too intense, it ceases to be fun and there’s a good chance you’ll quit. This approach takes longer. But I’ve found it to be much more sustainable than those quick fix pump you up methods. Most of those intense immersion exercise programs remind me of the guy who beats his head against a brick wall. When asked why on earth he does that, he says: “because it feels so good when I stop”
Ease-in. Invest in your body. It will pay you back in quality of life.
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Drinking enough water should have been the first thing on my mind because I was shooting an exercise video on the beach in 90-degree heat. I got on a roll and forgot about the time. Less than an hour in I started to swoon. Not a good shot on a fitness video. I realized immediately what had happened; I got so involved I forgot to drink water between takes. Dehydration causes so many summer exercise accidents because it creeps up on you just like it did me. So here’s my take on drinking enough water to keep yourself water safe in summer.
Drinking Enough Water
Our bodies are about 60 % water, and that water plays a role in just about every bodily function. We could go a month without food but we can only live a few days without water.
If you exercise outdoors, you may notice that as the weather gets hotter you have trouble keeping up your usual pace. Actually your body is telling you to slow down and you need to listen! Water helps to deliver oxygen to your muscles and prevents your cardiovascular system from becoming over-taxed.
It takes about 2 weeks to get used to exercising briskly in warmer weather. You need to acclimate slowly to higher temperatures. Here are a few pointers to help you do that.
When you exercise in the heat you can lose up to five cups of water per hour. So it’s important to drink water before, during, and after vigorous exercise. The rule of thumb is to drink 2 cups of water a couple of hours before you start exercising so you are fully hydrated. Then a cup of water every 15 minutes or so while you are exercising. Don’t wait till you’re thirsty. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Remember to bring that water bottle with you!
But you’re not done yet. You need to drink another 2 cups over a two-hour period after exercise.
Sounds like a lot of water. It’s not. It’s just making up for the water you lose when you exercise in the heat.
Give yourself a break. Try exercising if you can when it’s cooler, early mornings or late afternoons when the sun is less direct. Try finding shady areas.
Instead of keeping up your brisk pace for the whole workout, break it up. Go at normal pace for a bit, do a short light interval and then pick up your speed again.
Wear light colored, comfortable fitting clothes. Avoid tightly woven fabrics that don’t breathe. And don’t forget the sports sunscreen.
This week’s Fashion Flash host is Deb Chase from the No-Nonsense Beauty Blog. Anyone can say no-nonsense but Deb really walks the walk. Her research is through, sometimes trying stuff on herself, her insights are keen and her writing is pithy and straight up. Click in for the real deal on beauty, health and aging for women over 40.
While you’re at it, have a look at the latest summer ideas we Fashion Flashers have put together for you.
As for me, I’m on a project in Florida where it’s hot with a capital H! I’ve given up on trying to run or bike. I’ve taken my workouts to the pool where it’s cool.
I’m getting my cardio by swimming as fast as I can for 3 laps. Then doing 1 slow one.
I’ve built up to 60 laps now. Try it yourself. Remember to ease in, stop when you are tired and build up at your own pace. It’s a terrific workout to maintain health for women over 40.
For me, maintaining my proper weight is a constant struggle but it is one I embrace and so can you. Remember, the real reason for food is to keep us alive and well. It is not the enemy.
The key elements of maintaining a proper weight are learning to control portion size, eating a balanced diet, getting in touch with your hunger and exercising on a regular basis. Though exercise has always helped to burn calories, lose body fat and keep muscle tone, exercise alone will not keep your weight in check. Eating only when you are truly hungry can help you stay on track. Many of us engage in emotional eating: we eat when bored, depressed angry or even happy. To curb this tendency we must reckon with our inner selves. This can be getting on a scale, putting on a pair of pants that used to fit, and writing down what we are putting into our mouths.
Choosing healthful foods is integral to feeling good and possibly preventing diabetes, cancer and heart disease and numerous other health problems. Between fast food and vending machines, it’s often a challenge to eat basic foods that are not prepared or processed with too much salt, sugar and preservatives. Yet a wealth of fresh vegetables, fruits, dried beans, whole grains and nuts are available if you just know what to look for and make time to prepare nutritious meals.
As we age, our immune systems become more vulnerable – especially if we are recovering from illness. The food and agriculture industries are allowed by the FDA to use a multitude of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and even insect-based dyes to produce as much food as cheaply, and therefore profitably, as possible.
The movement toward organic foods and support for local farming in the U.S. has grown as more people become aware and concerned about the untested and unlabeled additives in our food supply. Although organic foods are often more expensive, the cost can be balanced by avoiding non-nutritious prepared foods – such as snack items, candy, sugary sodas and frozen meals – while choosing fresh produce, dried beans, whole grains and a limited amount of low fat dairy and lean meat and poultry.
Here is an important meal tip; eat a healthy breakfast. Why? It will give you energy to last through the morning so that you are not ravenous and prone to overeating at lunch. For the longest-lasting energy, balance three types of food in your breakfast: A serving of whole grains (a piece of whole wheat toast, a half-cup of oatmeal or a serving of whole-grain cereal per size listed on the package); two servings of fruits (which can include a glass of 100 percent juice) and a bit of low fat protein – such as yogurt, an egg, reduced-fat cheese, or skim milk on whole grain cereal. In calories and nutrition, it will beat a sugary, fatty pastry any day. Studies show that women who eat a healthy breakfast each day have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight.
Informative food-related web sites are:
I love to get out and walk outdoors. Even if you haven’t done much over the winter, the green smell of plants and flowers in the air and switching on to daylight savings time are great motivators.
Start with a duration you’re comfortable with and work your way up. I do some standing pushups and a couple of stretches at the end of my walk to round out the workout. No equipment necessary, just your favorite tree. Here is what I do:
Standing Pushups: Stand facing your tree and stretch arms in from of you, chest level and place hands on the tree a few inches apart. Keeping your body straight, slowly bend elbows until your chest is close to the tree and push back with a single thrust.
Work up to 20 reps. Works chest, and arms.
Back Extention: Stand facing your tree and stretch arms in front of you slightly below chest level.
Place hands on the tree a few inches apart. Keep arms stretched as you bend back lifting your head chin up while contracting your abs. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Stretches back.
Front Thigh Stretch: Stand facing your tree and hold on with your left hand. Grab your right ankle and gently pull heel towards buttocks. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Then switch legs.Stretches the front thigh muscles.