NO ONE wants to hear about health stuff this month. Save that for January! We want our “once-a-year-foods”, so stay out of the way or we’ll squash you like a grape! And why not? Food that’s around once a year should be eaten and enjoyed. I’ll even join you.
But holidays can be challenging. There are always more things to do than time in which to do them: buying gifts, heading to social occasions, hosting them, cooking foods you have only once a year (how did I cook that last year?), and on. All on top of the usual stuff called “life.”
Your “Dream Drug”
If you could invent a drug for this time of year, you’d probably want it to:
- Burn excess calories
- Act like a statin to lower your cholesterol
- Improve your heart’s health
- Lower your fasting blood glucose
- Help you cut stress
- Give you a “mood lift”
- Improve your sleep
- Add some lean muscle
- Help you think more clearly
If you could patent this drug and market it, you’d be richer than Jeff Bezos, who would be begging you to sell it on Amazon.
This “drug” isn’t in a bottle. It’s in your shoes: physical activity. It does ALL the things listed above and you can get all those benefits.
Registered dietitian nutritionist, Leslie Bonci, should know, as the owner/founder of www.activeeatingadvice.com, she says, “Exercise is the gift that gives your body the lift it needs during the holidays.” This isn’t just an opinion, either. Read on.
Hot Off the Research Press: Thinking Won’t Help You Exercise, But Exercise Helps You Think
This study, just out, looked at the cognitive outcomes of four older adult groups: those who did moderate physical activity three days a week (walking or biking), ate a DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), those who did both and a control group that received only dietary education.
Best neurocognitive improvement at 1 year? The group that did BOTH aerobic activity and the DASH eating style. Second best was the aerobics-only group. No surprise to Bonci. “Getting moving helps to circulate blood to the brain,” she says.
Why I Love This Study
- The participants were at least 55 years old. If these folks can do it, it can be done by most people.
- The activity wasn’t extreme. No marathons, no sweating until exhaustion, just walking or stationary biking for 35 minutes, thrice weekly. Just move, then move on.
- DASH eating style? Also easy-peasy: It’s 2½ cups of fruits and veggies and two servings of dairy foods – what we should be doing anyway!
Baby steps here. Registered dietitian Liz Ward’s philosophy says it all. “My mantra is that any movement is better than none to relieve tension and help you sleep better.” Even her website is called “BetterIsTheNewPerfect“!
No time to do that walk? Try doing it for half your lunch hour, so it doesn’t use any valuable “off” time. FYI: a “brisk walk” is about 100 steps a minute.
This time of year, Ward admits her workouts may be shorter or even less frequent, but she knows the benefits go way beyond calorie-burning. “I try to exercise as much as my schedule allows because physical activity is a huge stress-buster for me.”
Getting those 2½ cups (total) of fruits and veggies and two servings of dairy is easier than you think. No specific fruits or vegetables here, and it’s cooked or raw, so choices are up to you. For dairy, even some cheese is fine (an ounce per serving), but mix it up. Examples:
- Dairy: a cup of REAL milk on your cereal
- Greek yogurt at breakfast, lunch, or for a snack or even dessert (with some of that fruit!).
- Fill a pint plastic container (the kind that holds the won-ton soup form Chinese take-out) with any combo of fruits and veggies – that’s 4 servings right there – so you’re almost done for the day.
Cut to the Chase Bonus: Start now and you’re (literally) miles ahead of everyone else come New Years!