Health and Wellness, Nutritionally Speaking

Nutritionally Speaking: Take a spring fitness challenge

Spring has sprung: Have you been noticing more of your neighbors out for walks, feeling the urge to go climb Mt. Pisgah or check out the falls at Bryce Creek? I sure have, and while we had a relatively mild winter, it always seems like it is dark and gloomy forever.
We now have even more reasons – while not the best for our health – to stay inside: our tablets, flat screens and other devices. Now is the time to get back outside and get moving. I challenge you all, even if it takes getting a new pair of walking/running or trail shoes; as the folks at Nike suggest – Just Do It!
The average American leads a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Have you been to the mall or a shopping center lately and seen someone circle around the parking lot a few times to get the closest space? Wait, maybe that was you seeking the shorter walk? It would have been faster to park further away and walk a few extra steps.
Regular exercise is as important (and some studies suggest even more important) for our health as eating healthy, minimally-processed and nutrient-dense food, along with getting that restful night’s sleep. Most people report feeling better on the days that they exercise, especially when they get outside. Their joints work better, they have fewer aches and pains, and best of all they boast of having more energy!
In years past I had a long driveway to walk, with a few challenging hills, but now enjoy a flatter route, and breaks every so often to visit with the neighbors.
When it comes to exercise, have you ever heard the phrase, ”No pain – no gain”? This common phrase may be what is keeping you from exercising. You might think, I can’t do strenuous exercise, so why bother! There is plenty of research that reports that a brisk, purposeful walk for 20 minutes at least three times a week can greatly improve your health, wellbeing and stamina. Some of the benefits the studies report are:
• Increased oxygen in the blood, which will improve your energy level and cognitive functions such as concentration and memory.
• More efficient detoxification down to the cellular level; as you walk, your lungs and sweat glands assist in toxin removal. Get that sludge out!
• As you walk or run, your lymph system is stimulated to remove harmful toxins from your body and strengthen your immune system. Try walking while holding/swinging two-pound hand weights to enhance this lymphatic function. Our lymph does not have a pump like our blood does, so movement is the only way to keep that lymph on the move!
• Moderate exercise supports weight loss and muscle toning. As we get older, it gets harder to maintain that muscle tone; it won’t happen sitting in that recliner.
• Do you frequently go to a chiropractor for adjustments? If you walk regularly your chiropractic adjustments will last longer. Try parking a couple of blocks away from your chiropractor’s office; walking after your adjustment will give you more for your money, a great way to stretch your healthcare dollar.
• Walk in your neighborhood; you may see some neighbors, friends, smell the flora growing around you… Look around and notice what you are passing; you will feel more relaxed and, in turn, energized! Grab a book from one of the Little Free Libraries around town!
Many fitness coaches recommend we do some simple stretching before and after we exercise. This helps to relax and lengthen our muscles and can help prevent injuries. A few of my favorite resources for stretching are ”Stretching, The 20th Anniversary Edition,” a classic guide to stretching written by Bob Anderson; ”The Great Physician’s Rx for Health and Wellness,” by Jordan Rubin, with a great section on stretching and exercise; and ”The Primal Blueprint,” by Mark Sisson. These are great resources and should be available at your local library.
Another key to optimal health is to get enough rest. I have so many things that I enjoy doing each day, often leaving rest as a lesser priority. Sound familiar? In the days before electricity, we had candle and oil lamps to illuminate our homes at night. In those days, people went to sleep when it was dark and awoke when the sun came up. We got more rest, were less stressed, our digestion worked better and we were generally healthier.
An example of the importance of resting is the way our heart functions. After each contraction of our heart, there is a rest period; our heart uses this time to rest and refill with blood. Our hearts have their contracting or pumping times, just as we have our time awake, and we need to rest and recharge just as the heart does. Without adequate rest, we cannot give our best or do our best.
If we are constantly on-the-go we find ourselves in a ”fight or flight” mode. How many of you are so busy, you do not even stop to eat? Some of you may eat lunch at your desk, or gulp down meals while driving… sound familiar? In this case the only ones that benefit are the drug companies that sell medications for the resulting reflux or indigestion symptoms you may experience.
Resting includes not eating on the run, while driving or doing other activities. Stop, sit, and take in the smells and tastes of what you are eating; chew your food thoroughly, and as a result you will be able to digest your food, and feel energized and relaxed to boot.
So, I’d like offer you this challenge: For the next 30 days, get at least a 20-minute walk with some stretching at least three times a week, make more nutritious choices for your meals, get the rest your body is sorely needing, and avoid ”multitasking” during meals. Let me know how much better and more vibrant you feel after this challenge!
We are all walking along the ”hallway of life,” which has two directions: towards optimal, vibrant health, or towards ”it”–whatever disease or illness that may be. Join me on the walk towards optimal health!
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s nutritional health coach, we offer free classes and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. View our store’s website and schedule of free classes at https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/.