archives

walking

This tag is associated with 2 posts

Passport to Health: Greece

health secrets of GreeceThe people of Greece have figured a lot of things out when it comes to knowing how to live a happy, healthy life. It makes sense–Greece is the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine.

Have you ever been to Greece? My husband and I went many years ago, in the BC years (Before Children, of course). We started in Athens and then spent a week island-hopping. And if you’ve never been–go. It’s absolutely gorgeous: sun-washed, distinctive architecture, sparkling sea, incredibly laid-back culture, fabulous food. If it isn’t paradise…well, it comes pretty close.

That said, if a trip to Greece isn’t on the horizon for you anytime soon, the least you can do is steal their secrets for a life well-lived. (It’s not like we haven’t done it before…read this, and this, and this for previous Passport to Health posts.)

So what are the Greek secrets to a healthy life? Some fairly simple stuff, as it turns out. One of the most interesting is this: napping!

Napping for health

In Greece (like many Mediterranean and warm-weather countries, like Spain, Egypt, and Italy), it’s a common thing to take a mid-afternoon siesta. To their benefit.

Researchers have cottoned on to this health habit. In a study of over 23,000 Greek men & women between ages 20 and 86, over the course of 6 years, they found that people who took a 30-minute siesta at least 3 times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death. Other studies have corroborated this: countries where siestas are common tend to have lower levels of heart disease.

One theory why napping helps keep your heart healthy? A regular nap may help you relax more and have lower stress levels.  Or, perhaps nappers are generally getting more rest, more sleep…and there’s plenty of research to now show that getting sufficient sleep is associated with lowered blood pressure, lower rates of obesity, and improved brain health.

“Let your food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.”

Sounds like a mantra for the explosive trend toward organic food, food cures, and holisitic nutrition, right? But that quote belongs to Hippocrates. 4th century BC, baby. Western medicine, you guys.

The Greeks have long practiced this principle, and now the research in favor of the Mediterranean diet is huge. Much of it surrounds the impressive benefit to our hearts. A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Medicine analyzed the results of several studies that pitted the Mediterranean diet and low-fat diets head-to-head. They found that the Mediterranean diet was more effective for weight loss than a low-fat diet, and brought greater improvements to blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to protect against the “big C”: many studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to reduce cancer risk.

So what, exactly, do you eat if you’re trying to go Mediterranean? Read this.

Then there’s all that walking…

Like many European cultures, walking is a way of life. When my husband and I visited the island of Santorini, we rented a Vespa one day. (Sidebar–this was so fun, I can’t even tell you. Zipping around a sun-bleached island, making pit stops at little cafes and beaches…). But when we started on the steep hill up to a famous archaeological site, which involved some rather sharp switchbacks…well, people were walking at a faster pace than we were motoring up. They were passing us on the switchbacks. This might have been a little embarrassing. Just maybe.

Anyway, the walking thing is a big deal in Greece. And I think we all know this is a good idea. Here’s how to incorporate more walking in your life.

For more Passport to Health articles, read these next:

Passport to Health: French Paradox

Passport to Slim: Weight Loss Secrets from Around The World

Passport to Health Part Deux

Passport to Health: Norway

One Simple Trick To Boost Your Activity Level

Squeezing exercise into a busy life is challenging. I know. Trust me. So, I’m always on the lookout for easy ways to boost activity. Here’s one: clip on a pedometer.

A recent study in New Zealand showed that making this one little change–just the simple act of wearing a pedometer–almost doubled walking rates in the 300+ subjects they observed. All study subjects were encouraged to walk more, but they were then separated into two groups: half were given a pedometer, and half weren’t. Over the course of a year, the pedometer people boosted their average weekly walking time by almost twice as much as the non-pedometer people.

I like this a lot–because it’s cheap, easy, and pretty much mindless. And the more things you can automate in your life, the better. I think I’m going to start writing “prescriptions” for pedometers. And get one for myself, while I’m at it.

Walking is excellent exercise. It’s easy on your joints, it’s fun, and especially if you’re outdoors, it’s a great way to clear your head and soothe your soul. And it’s the perfect exercise to do in small time slots–which makes it easy to accumulate those activity minutes (more on why this particular strategy works, here.)

Now, if you’re counting steps, how many are you aiming for? Well, 10,000 steps per day seems to be the magic number. This figure can be traced back to Japanese walking clubs dating 30+ years ago, and recent studies have shown that it makes sense. Less than 5,000 steps per day is a marker for a “sedentary” lifestyle. (A person who is basically a couch potato and only makes their way around the house all day clocks about 3,000 steps daily). Between 5000-10,000 steps is considered “low-active” or “somewhat-active”. But people who are averaging 10,000 steps a day are maintaining an “active lifestyle”, and are thus healthier and less obese.

So…anyone tried a pedometer? What did you think?

Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

Enter your email address to follow my blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,218 other followers

Follow DrKimFoster on Twitter

My brand spanking new Facebook Page…

Blog Stats

  • 83,705 views
I Blog @ YMC
Proud Member of the EmpowHER Blogger Network

Disclaimer

The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. It is not a substitute for seeking medical advice or counseling. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should seek medical attention before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program described on this website.