February 23, 2021 9:50:59 AM
Is this your year for reconditioning?
There's air conditioning, hair conditioning and, lately, err-conditioning. A new study in the journal Obesity found that in the past year, folks have become even more sedentary (in prepandemic years, 60 percent of Americans were inactive). Both intensity of and time spent doing exercise has decreased, and almost 28 percent of the study's participants fessed up to gaining weight.
As a remedy, a recent commentary in The Lancet suggests 2021 become the year of reconditioning. Echoing our POV, it says, "many of the changes previously blamed on disease or ageing are in fact due to inactivity and a loss of fitness." Clearly, this past year has prematurely aged people of all chronological ages. So here's your five-step reconditioning plan.
1. Set a monthly walking goal. For example, walk 3,000 steps daily in month one; add 1,000 steps monthly, up to 10,000 a day in month 10. That gives time to build endurance (you can always exceed your goals). To determine walking equivalents for cycling, swimming, etc., Google "Earlham Activity Conversion Chart."
2. Increase your exercise intensity using interval training. (See DoctorOZ.com, "9 HIIT Exercises to Get Fit."
3. Adopt a strength-building routine two to three days weekly. See DoctorOz.com, "10 Strength Training Moves for Beginners."
4. Stretch 20 minutes daily. Go to health.clevelandclinic.org; search for "stretching."
5. Keep workouts varied and flexible so you avoid injury and don't get bored.
Once you do that -- apologies to singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury -- it will blow your mind when you "see what condition your condition" has become!
When you talk to your plants, they talk back
The U.K.'s Royal Horticultural Society once conducted an experiment on how talking to plants affected their growth. Charles Darwin's great granddaughter -- one of 10 plant talkers who were recorded and then piped in one-to-a-tomato-plant -- saw her veggie grow 2 inches more than the plants who were listening to a male voice. The other female plant-talkers saw 1 inch more growth than the men's did. But even the guys saw more plant growth than on tomatoes left in silence.
Now it turns out that talking to plants is good for you too! A new study published in Urban Forestry and Urban Greening found that study participants who had no houseplants experienced "negative emotions" more frequently than folks with indoor greenery. And the more plants an indoor gardener had, the bigger the positive mood boost. Another study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology says "active interaction with indoor plants" can de-stress you and lower diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) measurably.
That's because caring for any living thing evokes calm, provides a sense of purpose, takes brain power and entertains you. So set up a garden with herbs, microgreens, tomatoes and ramps (garlic greens). Experiment with flowering begonias or narcissus bulbs, exotic croton plants, and easy-care ferns. And don't forget to rub plants' leaves as you talk to them. According to a study in BMC Plant Biology, that touch of kindness may make them less susceptible to disease, while it increases your sense of connection to them. Go green, get jolly.
Filling in the gaps in post-stroke rehab
Aaron Ulland, 41, was "stroke patient one" in a daring new study that tested -- successfully -- the possibility of restoring the brain-muscle connection using tiny electrodes implanted in his brain to move a brace worn on his immobile arm. Although this was preliminary, the fact that the technology worked offers hope that, down the road, damaged neural connections can be restored with implanted electrical devices to give stroke victims independent function in their limbs.
Until that day, there's an alternative for some stroke sufferers, according to a new pilot study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers found that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation --three 31- to 50-minute exercise sessions weekly for 12 weeks -- significantly improves walking speed, cardiovascular endurance, functional strength and emotional health.
The results indicated that exercise rehab should be done after post-stroke physical therapy (some participants had a stroke a year before they started the program). Many people could benefit. After all, an American has a stroke every 40 seconds, and 10 percent to 15 percent of stroke victims, like Aaron, are 18-49 years old.
Unfortunately, cardiac rehab for stroke patients is not generally covered by insurers in the U.S. (unbelievable!). So if you or a loved one has had a stroke, your best bet is to talk with your doctor, hospital and physical therapists about finding a program in your area that can offer physical -- and financial -- support for your participation in exercise-based cardio rehab. And lobby lawmakers to make it mandatory for insurance to cover it.
Squeezing optimal nutrition out of your veggie juice
When Jose Canseco's book "Juiced" hit the shelves in 2005, it rocked the baseball world with its tales of the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids. Juicing is never good in sports, and it can be just as unhealthy for your diet. For example, drinking filtered kale juice instead of eating whole leaves robs you of glucose-
controlling, gut-loving fiber. And bottled "veggie juices" may contain more water, fructose and artificial ingredients than anything found in the natural vegetable.
But smoothies and straight juices can be a healthy way to eat more veggies -- depending on how you juice things up. That's the conclusion of a new study. Researchers used three different at-home methods to liquefy organic and non-organic cauliflower, kale, turnips, radishes, beetroots and carrots of various colors and then measured the resulting levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
It turns out that blenders, high-speed centrifugal juicers and low-speed extractors produce different levels of health-promoting nutrients because of the different ways they expose vegetables' inner tissues to oxygen, light and heat, and how they release enzymes they contain.
Overall, the best bet for maximum nutrition resulted from low-speed juicing. In contrast, using the blender resulted in the lowest overall nutrient content, but it did deliver the highest fiber content and therefore the best blood sugar control. So if you're thinking about juicing, consider using one of the "low-speed juice extractors," unless blood sugar control is your overriding concern. For that, we say stick with whole veggies most of the time, using the blender only when necessary.
Sugar's secret hiding spots in everyday foods
When The Archies sang, "Oh, honey/Ah, sugar, sugar/You are my candy girl/And you got me wanting you," they could have been describing this country's sweet addiction. The average American eats more than 152 pounds of sugar annually!
Some of that is from sugar bombs like ice cream -- you're each eating 23 pounds a year! But a lot of what gets consumed is snuck into foods. Even if you're careful, you may not know you're getting a dose of the inflammation-causing additive that ups your risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, dementia and some cancers.
The best solution is to read nutrition labels (added sugars are listed) and restaurant postings. At the grocery store, keep an eye out for fruited yogurts (up to 25 grams of sugar in 6 to 7 ounces of some brands), breads (one brand's oatmeal bread has 8 grams added sugar in two slices), canned soups (5 grams added in 1 cup of butternut squash soup) and frozen vegetables with sauce (3 ounces of a sesame sauce with mixed veggies contains 6 grams of sugar from high fructose corn syrup and brown and plain sugar). In restaurants, sugar can pop up anywhere, from the dextrose coating Mickey D's French fries to a heart-stopping 40 grams of sugar in Wendy's apple pecan chicken salad.
The government's recommended intake of added sugar is 50 grams daily. We say that's way too much. To protect your brain, heart and sex life, dodge all added sugars and enjoy sweets from fruit and 70 percent cacao dark chocolate (1 ounce a day).
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
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