Archive for February, 2010

What’s Your Fitness Challenge?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Pat Conlin, friend and fellow board member of the Chelsea Wellness Foundation, has challenged all of the CWF board members to select a fitness challenge to work toward.  You know, it is easy to talk the talk, but to actually do it – take steps to achieve a new level of health and wellness – takes commitment, energy, and a little risk if we are willing to go on record with our goal.

OK, Pat, I’m stepping up to the plate. 

Before announcing my goal, however, I might as well do a little explaining.  After all, this is a blog, right?!

I’m not a naturally athletic person, and my level of activity is generally  the result of the movement of  daily living.  Over the years I have  ventured into exercise – generally in the form of sports (paddleball,  coaching soccer, minimal hiking and walking.)   My body stayed fit because of my healthy genes.  But as the years pile on, I have found it takes more effort to be fit.  I love to walk, and will happily do it on a regular basis – preferring walks in town than in nature.  A year and a half ago I discovered that I was developing chronic discomfort in my lower back.  This had been exasperated by caring for my mother after her stroke.  Bottom line, my joints were tight, my flexibility was limited, and I realized I needed to do something different if I wanted to be able to sit cross-legged on the floor with my grandchildren.

Enter Pilates.  My doctor, Diane Howlin, suggested I explore Pilates at the Wellness Center.  For the past year and a half I have been attending the Pilates Classes at the Wellness Center and working faithfully “one on one” with Elaine Economou, my pilates instructor.  I am amazed at the difference in my flexibility, core strength, control of my abs, and reduction of low back discomfort.  I continue to be challenged, which is how it should be and my current challenge – and thus my goal – is to be able to do the Pilates rollover.  I can only describe it – lying flat on my back, legs extended, arms flat and by my side, lifting my legs up and over my torso, extended above and over my head.  Think of a backwards C, with my head and shoulders the lower line of the C and my legs the upper line of the C.  I’d show you in a picture, if I could do the movement.

I will report my progress as I move towards the goal.  How about you, do you have a goal you’d like to share?

Making Tracks

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

We dodged the storm–our annual winter pilgrimage to my parents in Florida was, to many, timed perfectly.  Literally as our plane left DTW the first true storm of the winter was rolling into our area.  But to be honest I was bummed—I have not lost that excitement of a big snow, and here I was on my way to a much anticipated vacation but missing out on the storm.  When we returned 6 days later I was a bit embarrassed by the lack of footprints around our house.  It was proof positive, a sign to others, of a missed opportunity. 

But I am proud to say that at the time of this writing it would be hard to find untrampled snow in our yard.  We have had downhill events, cross country events and simulated speed skating events.  We have chased the dogs, and the dogs have chased us.  

The importance of being active in February is developing kids that are active not just during soccer season but in all seasons.  It teaches kids to look for the fun whatever the conditions.  Simply getting outside in the winter translates into activity, because you have to keep moving to be able to enjoy it.  And there is fun that can be had in February that you cannot have in July. 

We have seen a doubling of our obesity rates in kids since my childhood.  And although it is likely multifactorial, one of the reasons is that the sedentary child has become the norm.  The average amount of screen time outside of school related computer use is 5.5 hours a day.  That is a far cry from the 1-2 hours the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests for kids older then 2 years, (for children less than 2 years they suggest none–zippo). 

After heading out to one of the state parks for a family walk, I notice a closeness within my family.  We are not going on any monster walks; we’re out there for 30-60 minutes, but we are outside with no electronic equipment, just family chatter.  I always notice a nice grounding effect on all of us–not just during but for the rest of the day.  We get along better; we’re more attuned to each other. I know that sounds amorphous and vague and is obviously subjective, but it turns out there is evidence out there to support this feeling of mine.  A growing body of research shows that there are definite mental health benefits from outdoor activity. 

So I say go down to Aberdeen, get some warm clothes and head out to the parks, hills and your own backyard. We have fresh snow on the ground, so get out there and make some tracks of your own.

Mastering selective neglect of our children

Friday, February 19th, 2010

A father told me this story:

Last Sunday his 15-year-old son was signed up to help @ church.  They live 4 blocks from their church, so at the appointed time the son pulled on his jacket & left, without hat or mitts. Thirty seconds later he came back in & said…

“It’s cold out.  Will you give me a ride?”

His parents burst out laughing.  So, the son grabbed a hat & gloves & walked to church.

Let’s give them Parents of the Week status.

Fava Beans and Ice Cream

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

I wonder how many of you have read The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (  It’s about four groups of people who live in 4 very different places on earth, who consistently live into their 100s.  I confess I haven’t read the book & promise to do so.

I made a list of the things believed to contribute to their longevity.

1st Level Longevity Secrets (common in three communities)

  1. Family
  2. No smoking
  3. Plant based diet
  4. Constant moderate physical activity
  5. Social engagement
  6. Legumes (peas & beans)

2nd Level of Longevity Secrets (common in two communities)

  1. Whole grains
  2. Culturally isolated
  3. High soy consumption
  4. No alcohol
  5. Faith
  6. Empowered women (& men)
  7. Sunshine
  8. Gardening

3rd Level of Longevity Secrets (one community)

  1. No sense of time urgency
  2. Turmeric (spice)
  3. Healthy social circle
  4. Eating nuts
  5. Eating fava beans
  6. High polyphenol wine

We don’t have to draw any conclusions from this if we don’t want to.  My ice cream loving family won’t want to embrace fava beans, I’m sure.  But the list does call attention to something we don’t talk about too much: the social aspect of health. Note all three levels of longevity secrets include psycho-social behaviors. 

It’s more food for thought.  I am finding so much to think about!

Keeping Cheerful

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I have a mug with a poem on the side.  It’s titled “Keeping Cheerful.”  I looked it up on the internet & can’t determine the author.  But I love the verse. 

If it’s snowing or it’s hailing,
Or late winter checks the spring –
If the northern wind is wailing,
Still this heart of mine will sing.
This poem speaks to me because I grew up on Grand Traverse Bay where wailing wind was a pretty consistent phenomenon.  So is snow and cold.  Yet, I don’t remember feeling cooped up or thinking winter was distasteful.  Perhaps that’s because we didn’t allow ourselves to be cooped up; therefore winter wasn’t distasteful.  (More accurately, our Mother didn’t allow us to be cooped up.)
Winter in Michigan can be a challenge for those who prefer to be cozy and warm or eat a tomato that didn’t come from a hot house.  On the other hand, winter is at least 5 months of our Michigan calendar.  Do we want to allow a little cold to keep us cooped up for almost half the year?  Do we want to abandon fruits and vegetables five months out of 12?
Right now winter wellness is a discussion on the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation’s Facebook page .  Log in, learn from your neighbors and share your ideas on how to embrace healthful living from mid November until April in our 5 Healthy Towns.