Category Archives: Exercise

Bocce Ball and the Joy of Learning

My birthday was a little over a week ago, and my husband actually got away with setting up a surprise party for me.  I went to the party location under the guise that we were going to use a “Happy Birthday” coupon for a free dinner.  It was wonderful to see the many people who have meant, do mean, and always will mean something important to me (and the cake and dancing were great too)!

I want to mention one particular gift:  a bocce ball set.  I sent out all my gift “thank yous,” and when it came to the bocce ball set, I said something like “”Thank you so much for the bocce ball set.  I don’t know how to play it, but, heck, learning yet another sport is a great idea!  Ha ha ha!”

I added the “ha ha ha” because I hike, I play tennis and badminton, I shoot pool, do yoga, race a sailboat and work out…and do at least one of these daily.  But then I thought about my “joke” and realized it IS a very good idea to learn yet another “whatever” all the time.  Part of the joy of being alive (and a large part of what keeps your brain and body healthy and your mood positive) is having purpose in your life and learning something new all the time.

People who don’t continue to grow, be challenged, learn and be involved in activities tend to “contract,” have depression problems, and compromise the quality of their aging and actual life span.

So, while this blog is not an ad for bocce ball, it is a suggestion (and don’t forget who’s making it!) for you to constantly challenge yourself with everything from crossword puzzles to chasing butterflies.  The more you are invested in the opportunities of living, the more you will enjoy it and be alert and happy.

The Best Way To Make New Year’s Resolutions

I was asked the other day what New Year’s resolutions I’m making.  I couldn’t come up with any, not because I’m in denial about having to change anything about my life, but because it’s just that I live each week, much less each day, already making those changes that I choose. 

I like the idea of frequent “small course changes,” rather than abrupt, major alterations in one’s life.  I find that the latter kinds of changes are harder to keep, since they are such a divergence from normal reality and routine.

So, I’m not trying to talk you out of losing that 100 pounds, or finishing the roof on your house all by yourself.  I just believe that it’s unrealistic to put yourself in front of a 100-foot-tall pile of whatever with a spoon and told to “go at it.”

If it’s weight that you want to lose, forget about that, and just decide not to have salad dressing loaded with fat calories, and just decide to walk 1 mile with music in your ear – iPod-style.  When that gets too familiar (or starts to feel “old”), then decide that you have to eat smaller portions and ride your bike for 1 mile each day (but I recommend doing that without the iPod, in order for you to hear traffic). 

Get it?  Small things are easier to stay with, because you get instant gratification, which we all love.

The weight?  Don’t get on the scale more than twice a month.  Just revel in those small changes.  The weight will take care of itself.  And then, you can go shopping for new clothes (yay)!

Five Ways to Be Happier

At the beginning of the new year, people tend to make lists or resolutions.  I have five tips for you to help you be happier in the coming months.

1. You may have to recognize that you inherited some propensities which are counter to a happy attitude:  less emotional stability, less social activity, less physical activity than others.  However, you may have also grown up with people who “bounce” or “squish,” and you’ve learned to deal with life through parental example – good and bad.  So, some things you’ve learned might have to be “un-learned” or consciously worked against in order for you to be happy. 

2. After performing good deeds, people are happier.  That’s a fact.  And when many of you feel “mulchy,” you tend to withdraw from people or just get downright nasty.  That’s counter-productive at best.  Coming out of that dark place you’re in to bring light to someone else shines back on you.

3. Winston Churchill said that a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.  Attitude is everything.  I’ve taken people from “yuck” to giggles during three minute calls on my radio program just by using humor and getting them to “remember” a blessing or chuckle in their lives.  You can simmer on “negative” or try to replace that with something “wonderful.”  It’s your choice.

4. Physical activity diminishes cortisol (the adrenal gland hormone secreted by angry or scared people which also increases blood pressure) and increases endorphins (which are natural, free and legal mood elevators, and give you a natural “high”).

5. Maturity works in your favor.  As you spend more time on the face of the earth, you learn to endure and filter out the negatives, while focusing on what you truly enjoy.

Happiness takes some time and some work…and it is worth it.

Five Health Factors Could Prevent Millions of Deaths

It was a surprise to me to learn from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) that tackling just five health factors could prevent millions of premature deaths and increase life expectancy by almost 4 years!

Some of these factors (e.g., overeating) are totally within our personal, daily control.  While not having enough nutritious food is a big health risk for those in poorer countries, the BIGGER health risk in richer nations is being overweight or obese.  Obesity and overweight cause more deaths worldwide than being underweight!

The Geneva-based UN health agency listed the world’s top mortality risks as:

1. High blood pressure (which accounts for 13% of global deaths)
2. Smoking (9% of global deaths)
3. High blood glucose (6% of global deaths)
4. Physical inactivity (6%)
5. Being overweight or obese (5%)

The WHO added that if the risks in its report had not existed, life expectancy would, on average, have been almost a decade longer in 2004 for the entire global population.

That means that the quality and quantity of our lives are in our hands – in our control –  and are, largely, a matter of choice.  Keep that in mind when you eat foods high in salt or sugar, or eat too much and don’t get rest, or don’t get daily exercise, or smoke that cigarette…

When you do things that hurt you and you don’t take time to smell the roses, the roses will be planted over your premature remains.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

“Stupid is as stupid does.”  Those are sage words from the fictional Forrest Gump.

And stupid does some interesting things in America.  Here are two great recent examples of stupidity:

Before I tell you the first story, I want to preface it with a memory from my middle school years.  We Long Island neighborhood children took the bus to school.  I walked two blocks to the bus stop.  In the winter, it was freezing, but fortunately, one of the kids I went to school with lived in that corner house right where the bus picked us up.  The mom would leave the garage door open (the cars were already gone) so we could all huddle out of the wind and chill until the bus came.  It was very kind of her.

Now, to today’s story:  A mom in Michigan allows the kids from three families to hang out before school at her house for about 1 hour before the school bus comes.  She’s not getting paid, although I sure hope she’s getting appreciation from the families who have to go to work before they can get their kids off to school. 

Believe it or not, she receives a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continues, she’d be violating a law aimed at the operation of unlicensed day-care centers.  She’s not getting paid!!  And she’s doing the neighbors a favor!!

This law says no one may care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed day-care providers.  The Department of Human Services warned her without even finding out the facts.  This is stupid.  Never mind that these kids, if left by themselves for an hour without adult supervision could be food for predators.  It seems also that this stupid stretch would preclude regular baby-sitting when parents go out to dinner and the movies.

There is good news here, though.  After the news media got hold of this story (and embarrassed the heck out of the state of Michigan), Governor Jennifer Granholm instructed the agency’s director to work with the state legislature to change the law. 

Since when is simply being a good neighbor a criminal activity?  Some neighbor (and we’ve all had this kind of neighbor) made a complaint, and started this non-common sense ball rolling.

The second stupid story is from Saratoga Springs.  Adam Marino, a 12 year old in seventh grade, and his mother are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School.  The school has a rule that kids can’t walk or ride a bike to school.  Adam’s mom and other parents want their kids to be less sedentary and to get exercise by walking or riding to school as a fitness activity. 

After Adam’s mom thought she had an understanding with the school board on this issue, she rode a bike with her kid to school, only to be met by a state trooper and school administrators.  You’d think she had been beating her kid or helping him play hooky.  Sheesh!

In reaction to this, other parents joined them in riding and walking their kids to school.  Once again, this got the attention of the news media, and the Board of Education is going to vote to amend this policy this week.

These arbitrary rules are just stupid, and frankly, ignoring the bigger picture of neighborhood safety and exercise for children.  Fortunately, however, thanks to the media spotlight, it’s all going to change.

“Dance Your Ass Off” is Right On!

Last Monday, I stayed up late to watch “Dance Your Ass Off,” a new reality series on Oxygen.  I’ve said many times (and I stand by it), I loathe even the concept of what has been called “reality TV.”  I find it generally exploitive, humiliating, demeaning, mean, stupid and guilty of lowering the American consciousness to sub-basement levels.  People are embarrassed, made fun of, attacked, and dismissed with a cavalier attitude of so-called judges or peered out.  These shows make it to air, because they’re cheap to produce and because there seems to be no end to the appetite of some of the American public to lick their lips when others are behaving badly or grossly, or when people are being “thrown to the lions.”

When I heard there was a new TV show in which overweight people would compete in dancing, I thought this would be seriously sickening.  What a scenario for making fun of people!  “Dance Your Ass Off ” has some of the elements of the typically disgusting reality format:  judges who have “not too judicious” comments, and someone who gets thrown out after some weeks.  But there is much more to this show in particular (in spite of the spicy title). 

The scores are not only for their dancing (they’re trained and choreographed by a professional dancer), but for how much weight they lose.  They all have access to a nutritionist who guides them in cooking and food choices and portion sizes.  So at the end of the Olympics-like scoring from 1 to 10 for the quality of their dancing that week, the percentage of weight lost that week is added to their individual score.  Therefore, a person could have been graded poorly for their dance program, but if they lost 5% of their body weight, they potentially could win the whole night!

I like that this is just not a typical exploitation of people small or too big.  It’s a real challenge for these people to get fit, lose weight, practice dancing, and perform.  The most significant part of the entire program that I appreciated was that there was no competition between these folks.  They all support each other in losing weight and doing their best.  There are no mean manipulations in order to throw somebody off the island or forced fights just for entertainment’s sake.  These people work hard, and become quite committed to being fit.

It’s funny.  I thought this would be an utterly disgusting display, and it turns out it’s one which is quite benevolent and fun to watch.  Seeing these folks working very hard in spite of their extra weight and lack of fitness is admirable and not something to giggle about.  Most of the time, the contestants behave quite respectfully when the judges are not that complimentary (and I think the judges are often out of order making demands of non-dancers who are overweight).  Nonetheless, overall, this show is quite supportive of the right behaviors.