Love for your Body, Mind & Spirit

Warmer weather is nudging its way to us and getting outside on a regular basis will be a reality that I encourage to embrace.  The simple act of walking has so many health benefits that if the pharmaceutical companies could capture all the benefits and stuff them into a capsule they’d surely do it and charge several dollars for a single capsule.

Walking doesn’t require any special training. Most folks can do I and it doesn’t take any equipment other than a decent pair of shoes.  You can walk at the park, around town, around the block in your neighborhood, around the perimeter of your parking lot at work on your lunch break, around the inside of a large store or shopping mall (just don’t stop to shop – keep on walking! – then shop).   30 minutes of exercise per days does so many good things for our bodies, minds and spirits. Start at your fitness level.  Walking at a slow pace is fine if that is where you are; challenge yourself to increase the intensity so that you are eventually walking at a pace that talking is possible, but you can’t carry on a chatty conversation with someone.

Let’s list a few things that WALKING can do for you:

  • Strengthens your BONES
  • Strengthens your HEART
  • LOWERS disease risk
  • Keeps WEIGHT in check
  • Can help prevent DEMENTIA
  • Gives you ENERGY
  • It makes you HAPPY

WHOA!  Did you just read that?

Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) while increasing levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and keeps your blood pressure in check.   A walking habit can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and can keep insulin resistance in check. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and plays a role in many chronic health conditions.  Active walkers have around a 20% lowered risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and uterus.  30 minutes a day. That’s all you need to reap these benefits.

Walking uses calories – you are expending energy.  Walking is weight bearing so it stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density. This is especially important for women.  Post-Menopausal women are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Research shows that post-menopausal women who walk approximately 1 mile per day have higher bone density than women who don’t walk.   Walking helps maintain healthy joints and that is bad news for arthritis.  Walking strengthens and shapes your leg muscles, giving definition to calves, quads, and hamstrings and gives OOMPH to your glutes – especially if you add hills.  If you pay attention to your posture as you walk, your core muscles will get in on the benefits too.

Speed walking comes from your arms.  Hold them at a comfortable level at your waist, bent at the elbow, and swing them backwards and forwards as your walk.  Swing them faster and you’ll automatically speed up.  That movement is working the muscles of your arms, shoulders and upper back.  Using all those muscles challenges them and the more muscle we have and use, the more calories we burn, even at rest.

A brisk walk is one of the best natural energizers.  Walking boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in our bodies, helping us to feel more alert and alive.  Think about that the next time you find yourself plopped down on the couch watching TV bemoaning that you “never have time” or are “too tired” to exercise. Get up, lace up the shoes and walk for 15 minutes. I guarantee that you will feel better.   Those 15 minutes will become 20, then 30.   Walking can clear a cluttered mind.  Walking alleviates stress and symptoms of depression.  Exercise releases “feel good” endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.

Physical activity has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise can help us avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass.  Dementia affects one in 14 people over age 65 and one in 6 over age 80.   A study from Harvard a few years ago looked at walking and its many benefits.  That study found that later in life, walking becomes as much an INDICATOR of health as a PROMOTER of it.  After age 65, how fast you walk may predict how long you have to live. Researchers have found a consistent association between faster walking speed and a longer life.  Can you get your shoes on fast enough for a longer life with more memory?

In a nutshell:  Walking improves physical and mental function and it makes us feel GOOD.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

ZUCCHINI

Squash is plentiful right now and you may find yourself being gifted with loads of zucchini.  Local farmer’s markets will toss in extra in your bag when you aren’t looking.  You may be the victim of a hit and run: your neighbor hits up your doorstep with zucchini then runs.  What can you do with all that zucchini?  What are the health benefits?

1 medium squash has 33 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 2.4 grams of protein and provides the RDA of these vitamins and minerals:  Calcium 3%; Iron 3%; Vitamin C 58%; Vitamin A 7%; B6 15% and Magnesium 8%.  It also has a whopping 512 mg of potassium, which is great for keeping our blood pressure healthier.

How about reducing age-related macular degeneration?  Yep.  Zucchini has plenty of the carotenoids lutein & zeaxanthin which are powerhouses for eye health.  Manganese too, which aids in the production of collagen which is essential for wound healing and like Vitamin C, manganese is an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage from free radicals. Vitamin C, best known for protecting sailors against scurvy, is a water-soluble antioxidant that also helps our bodies metabolize cholesterol.  Squash in general has high water content which makes it a “high volume” food which means there is a LOT of good stuff for very few calories.

How can you add zucchini to your life?  Chop it up and add it to soup. Make a casserole with layered slices of zucchini, yellow squash, onion, green tomatoes and cheese.  Thinly slice it length-wise and use those slices instead of noodles in lasagna. Slice them in half, remove the “innards” and fill up the slices with marinara or meat sauce, sprinkle with cheese and bake.  Whip up a skillet of calabacitas.

Calabacitas is a traditional vegetable dish in New Mexico that my friend Carla introduced me to years ago. It is easy and delicious.  I always use a cast iron skillet.  Grab one and add a bit of olive oil and put the pan over medium heat; throw in some chopped zucchini along with some salt, pepper and garlic.  Stir it around a bit then add some fresh corn and some green chiles.  No recipe, it is a throw-it-together dish that takes just a couple of minutes to prepare.  Generally, I’d say 2 medium zucchini, 1 ear of corn, and half a can of diced green chiles.  Add to your taste; can’t really go wrong. Get out that skillet and whip up a batch.

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.