In This Issue:
I am writing to you from the Pacific Northwest, where my family and I have recently returned after three years of living abroad. We had a wonderful time in Europe but it feels great to be home.
This weekend, I’ll be speaking at the Juice Plus Seattle Summit, where I’m going to talk about the Science of Juice Plus. In August, I’m planning to take a much needed vacation with my family. I have no scheduled appearances, but I can still be reached if you have questions or comments, or if you need to get in touch.
This issue of the newsletter is all about vitality, and my challenge to you is to take on an athletic or fitness goal. No matter your current fitness level, there’s always the next step to move you toward better health, so let’s all head outdoors and enjoy the sunny months ahead of us.
Here’s to your health,
Mitra Ray, Ph.D. and the From Here to Longevity Publishing Team
Advice about exercise seems as confusing as dietary advice, but the truth about what we need is quite straightforward. You can bet that I will be rather blunt here. Forget the oft-quoted recommendation to exercise three times a week. Your weekly exercise regime should start on Monday and end on Sunday. The absolute minimum recommendation for exercise is 30 minutes, seven days a week. Ideally, you want to exercise 60-to-90 minutes a day to reap the full benefits of an active lifestyle. If you have injuries, it is important to learn what modified exercises you can do, and to exercise the parts of your body that aren’t injured. When I hear someone say something like ,”My left leg is hurt,” I say, “Then, exercise your right leg and your left leg will benefit as well!”
We cannot underestimate the importance of physical movement for the optimal functioning of all systems in the body. Beyond giving us strong bones, lean muscles and cardiovascular health, physical activity also terrifically affects our immune system, our digestive system, our sleep patterns, and our ability to clean toxins out of our bodies. Perhaps the most overlooked benefit is that our very experience of life is affected by exercise. Physical activity replaces time in the day that would otherwise be filled with the normal stress of modern life, and here is the double emotional whammy: physical activity releases neurotransmitters that make you feel happy naturally.
We inherited this need to move the body from our not-so-distant ancestors who engaged in hard physical labor every day of their lives: whether it was farming, cleaning, or one of the hundreds of manual tasks that needed to be performed, the rigors of daily life were physically demanding. And our ancestors literally didn’t have the luxury of time to worry and become mentally stressed. I’m not saying that they didn’t ever worry, or have things to worry about. I’m saying that they didn’t have the time to dwell on their worries because they had to engage in time and labor intensive work for food and shelter.
The emotional and physiological benefits of a physically demanding existence have been replaced with a sedentary life, leaving lots of time for more mental activity, i.e. mental stress. So instead of gathering food or doing physically exhausting chores, we sit at our computers and worry about our mortgage payments or the guy who cut us off on the way to work. Most of us have jobs that keep us in desks for hours at a time, and as a result we have all sorts of serious aches, pains, and illnesses from nothing so much as leading a sedentary existence. And often, though we may feel exhausted, we sleep poorly from lack of vigorous activity during the day. Interestingly, we also send our elderly to “rest homes”, when rest is the last thing they need to do if they want to maintain strong bones and physical stamina. And again, proper sleep will come from a full day of physical activity, so an elderly person who exercises will still get all the “rest” that they need.
Given that the realities of modern life aren’t likely to change any time soon, there are things that we can do to change how our bodies respond to the environment. Consider that the minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day will go a long way toward keeping your heart and lungs working, and your mood elevated. Just about any aerobic activity will do it: walking, swimming, cycling, rowing, dancing, etc. It’s important to find activities you enjoy if you’re going to stick with it and experience optimum health. Also, cross-training with different activities is necessary to fire different muscles groups, otherwise your body gets lazy and uses the same muscles repeatedly. So while some muscles will stay strong, others will lose their capacity to fire as we age.
They key is to exercise hard enough that your body actually has to work. There are all sorts of ways to calculate optimum exertion levels. A heart-rate monitor is a great investment, but if you don’t have one you can still gauge how hard you’re working. If you can comfortably speak, but not sing loudly, you’re probably exercising well within your aerobic fitness zone. But a little huffing and puffing will also be necessary to push yourself each day. Of course, you’ll find that this zone is a moving target. Over time, you’ll have to go faster to achieve the same perceived level of exertion. Right now, walking may be all that you can do before you are huffing and puffing. That’s GREAT. Keep walking and if you push yourself just a bit, pretty soon you’ll find that your walk has become a lot more brisk, and it will not feel to you like you’re working any harder.
But you will be. Your heart is just like any other muscle in the body, and over time it gets bigger and stronger if it’s pushed to perform. When your heart is bigger, it pumps more blood with each heartbeat, whether or not you’re exercising. Your metabolism increases, meaning you need more energy, which means that you need (and get) to eat more food. Athletes have to eat so much more than the rest of us because their bodies are working harder all of the time.
But the non-athletes among us can radically alter our metabolic state by increasing our amount and level of exercise. 30-minutes of daily aerobic activity is what’s needed to stave off heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other common ailments. If you are serious about weight loss, you may need to do closer to 60-to-90 minutes a day of aerobic exercise. Most people have a few pounds they would like to shed, but often they aren’t told what is really needed to create results – so I’m telling you!
If 60-to-90 minutes seems intimidating, then start with 30 minutes of aerobic activity (and within that include 10 minutes of huffing and puffing activity), and see what it does for you. A month of exercising daily and you’ll feel as if you’re a new person. Your cells reproduce at an amazingly rapid rate, and when your body gets the nutrients, oxygen, and exercise that it needs, you’ll be making happy neurotransmitters that will give you a new outlook on life.
In addition to aerobic exercise, weight bearing or resistance exercise is also very important. Studies have shown that women who are aerobically active but do no resistance training are at nearly the same risk for osteoporosis as women who do not exercise at all. Their hearts and lungs are healthier, but in order for them to maintain bone strength and density, some form of resistance training is required. You should shoot for weight or resistance training two times per week. Any more than that is actually more than the non-athlete should do, unless you’re choosing to do isolated muscle groups, such as upper body workouts two days a week, and lower body workouts two days a week.
Balance and coordination activities, as well as weight bearing or resistance exercise, are also critical. Many people suffer from orthopedic injuries that slow them down. Although you can get professional help and temporary relief for something like lower back pain, until you practice balance and coordination exercises, the injury will not heal properly. So the next time you are on the phone or washing dishes, for instance, stand on one leg while you talk and then switch sides.
Stretching is another important component of exercise. You should take a few minutes at the end of an exercise session, when your muscles are warm, and gently stretch all of your major muscle groups. Stretching before going to bed, especially forward bends, will also help to relax the body and prepare for a proper rest.
This additional strength training and stretching are not included in that minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic activity, so be sure to find time to fit them into your schedule. In addition, I highly recommend Yoga as a way to not only get in shape, but also to find time in your day for calm focus. The attention paid to breathing and listening to your body does so much to increase your sense of well-being. And it feels good. There are wonderful yoga videos available, but I suggest taking at least one class a week with a certified instructor so that you become familiar with basic poses before trying it on your own at home. Also, it is important to get in a good hour-plus class each week to work out all the kinks. Developing a personal practice is also a great way to begin and/or end your day. I start everyday with a minimum of 20 minutes of yoga, or 16 rounds of sun-salutations.
Legal concerns dictate that I tell you to ask your doctor if it’s ok for you to start exercising regularly. However, since it’s that very admonition that keeps many people from starting, try this: start exercising tomorrow, and call your doctor in the next few days to let her know that’s what you’re doing. I’m pretty sure she’ll be on board.
One of the best things that you can do to improve overall health and to give yourself an energy boost is to drink water. Between perspiration, urination, and exhalation, we lose nearly 10 cups of water each day. And if we exercise vigorously, we lose even more than that. So replacing our body’s critical water levels is an easy, inexpensive, quick fix for many health woes.
One problem is that we are so out of touch with our bodies that we don’t recognize when we need water. Once we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated. Some of the symptoms of mild dehydration include fatigue, constipation, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and lethargy. And even mild dehydration puts an overly heavy burden on the lymphatic system and the kidneys, which both work to detoxify and dilute all of the toxins in our food and air. Water allows the body to flush all of those poisons out of the body.
Many people are unaware of how little water they actually drink because they regularly consume beverages such as soda, coffee, tea, and juice. None of these can take the place of water, and in the case of caffeinated or sugary beverages, they actually increase our need for water.
Drinking at least 8 – 10 cups of filtered water a day can improve any number of bodily functions, and result in overall better health. Start your morning with a large glass of room temperature water, even before you reach for the coffee. If you like, add a squeeze of lemon, which helps to awaken your digestive system for the day. You’ll be surprised to find that getting more water will help to perk you up.
If you want to drink more water but find that you often forget, and then feel the need to all 8 of your requisite glasses in the evening (not a great recipe for a restful night), here’s an easy trick: every time you go to the bathroom during the day, drink a glass of water after you wash your hands. Of course, you’ll likely have to go to the bathroom more often than usual, but that’s great, because then you’ll drink more water. 8 – 10 cups is the minimum recommendation, so anytime you think of it, bottoms’ up.
And always hydrate after exercise.
There’s no actual cream in this delicious, creamy sauce.
- Water or olive oil for sauteeing vegetables
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2.5 cups vegetable stock or low sodium vegetable broth
- 16 ounces frozen or fresh peas
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
- 1 pound fresh button or crimini mushrooms
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces egg-free pasta
In a nonstick skillet with lid, saute onion in 1 – 2 Tablespoons of water or olive oil. Stir often until soft, 3 – 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the broth, the peas, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered, 5 minutes. Using a food processor or blender, puree 1.5 cups of cooked pea and onion mixture, remaining broth, and basil. Transfer to a large bowl and add remaining pea and onion mixture.
In the skillet, saute mushrooms in 2 Tablespoons of water or olive oil over medium heat. Stir often for 4 – 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in the pea and onion mixture, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until heated throughout. Salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, in a stockpot, cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pot. Add all ingredients and toss well to combine. Serve at once.
Adapted from a recipe in Vegan Italiano, by Donna Klien
These yummy burgers are packed with healthy ingredients, and when loaded with tomatoes, mustard, pickle, onions, and the burger fixin’s of your choice, they make an easy summer meal.
- 3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 3/4 cup raw or lightly toasted walnuts
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 2 – 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 carrot, finely grated
- 2 T tomato sauce or organic ketchup
- 1 – 2 T cold pressed oil
- 4 whole grain hamburger buns
Grind nuts and seeds into a fine meal using a small grinder or food processor. Pour into a bowl and add cumin, oregano, cayenne, carrots, and garlic. Add brown rice and mix well to combine all ingredients. Stir in tomato sauce. Form mixture into patties with moist hands. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, if possible. In a nonstick skillet, brown patties on both sides. Serve on buns with all your favorite burger fixin’s.
Adapted from a recipe by Cynthia Lair
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