Archive for February 2013

Social and Physical Activity Add Years to Life

Keep or make new friends and exercise, that’s the advice to increase longevity that comes from a new study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and discussed in a recent issue of the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter.

It’s not surprising to see that exercise made a difference, in fact it was the most important factor; but maintaining a rich social network was almost as important.

The Swedish study found that people over the age of 75 with a physically and socially active lifestyle lived an average of 5.4 years longer than their less active peers. Even at age 85 and older the “active” seniors lived an additional 4 years.

Deborah Rizzuto, one of the researchers commented, “Our research suggests that encouraging favorable lifestyle behaviors, even at advanced ages, may enhance life expectancy.” Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., Director of Tufts’ John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition  and Obesity Prevention, agrees pointing out that even well into your “golden years” exercise can extend your life and the greatest benefits occur in those who go from doing nothing to a little more than nothing.

If you look at the health of people along the whole spectrum, from very sedentary to athletes, the fitness graph isn’t a straight line. It turns out that the biggest jump comes from the bottom of the range; the less active you are now, the more benefit you get from adding even a small amount of exercise to life. The message is clear, it is never too late to exercise and anything is better than nothing.

While it may be challenging for some seniors to stay or become more physically active, staying socially active may pose even more of a challenge. Encouraging seniors to stay involved in church, community and family activities can help improve their health.



Adventures Through the Thai Market

I just returned from a three week backpacking trip in Thailand.  It is an incredibly beautiful country, from the mountains of the north to the limestone cliffs in the south. 

We participated in a number of excursions, but one of our favorites was taking a Thai cooking lesson in the city of Chiang Mai.   They picked us up from the hotel and had us choose six recipes we’d be preparing later that evening. 

We were then taken to the local farmers market and taught about the unique fruits, vegetables, spices, grains and noodles that we’d be using. 

Thai food is notoriously spicy, but remarkably flavorful.  I settled on preparing Pad Thai, Spring Rolls, Coconut Soup, Panang Red Curry, Minced Pork Stir Fry and Black Sticky Rice.  It was enough food to cover both lunch and dinner that day.  By far, my favorite was the Thai coconut soup.  Below I’ve included the recipe.  You’ll probably have to find an international grocery store near you for some of the ingredients.

Thai Coconut Soup Recipe



1 can coconut milk

2-3 cups chicken stock (homemade is best, then the stuff in cartons; boullion cubes are a last resort.)

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon palm sugar (You can substitute brown sugar)

2 stalks fresh lemongrass, washed and choppped in chunks (dried lemongrass is far inferior – punch it up with extra lime juice and zest at the end if you’re forced to go this route)

3 red shallots, peeled and chunked (You could substitute 3 smashed cloves of garlic plus a bit of onion)

2 coriander roots, scraped (substitute a pinch of whole coriander seed plus a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves)

2 chili peppers, halved (pick your favorite type, and modify number to suit your spice taste)

1.5 inch chunk of galanga root, chunked (ginger is in the same family, but tastes totally different – galanga TOTALLY makes the flavor of this dish.  If you can’t get this locally, travel to a nearby city and visit the asian markets or scour the internets, buy a pound, then freeze what you can’t use now.  It’s a floral flavor that you’ll definitely recognize if you’ve had tom kha gai before.)

3 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely chopped (You can substitute lime zest if necessary.  It just won’t be as fragrant and complex.)

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (optional, and kind of a cheat, but often good.)


1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to 1″ pieces (you can use breasts, but the thighs are moister and tastier)

1 cup chopped mushrooms (your choice – mix it up)

1-3 Tablespoons fish sauce (This stuff is pungent – if you’re not familiar, add incrementally and taste before increasing.  But don’t be turned off by the smell.  Definitely use some, as it’s a key flavor that softens when you add it to the soup.)

1 can baby corn, drained and chopped to 1/2″ chunks (optional)


1 Tablespoon lime juice (more if compensating – see notes above)

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup grape tomatoes halved, or 2 plum tomatoes coarsely chopped (optional)


  • Combine all broth ingredients (coconut milk, stock, salt, sugar, shallots/garlic, coriander, galanga, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili sauce), bring to a low boil, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  • Pour through a sieve/strainer to remove chunks, and return the broth to your big pot. You can rescue a few items from the strainer, mince them, and return them to the pot if you like – I usually don’t bother. 
  • You can usually smoosh more tasty liquid out of the chunks if you try, so give them a stiff squeeze.
  • Chop chicken, mushrooms, and baby corn and add to pot with broth.  Add fish sauce, and lime zest if using.  Simmer lightly until chicken is cooked.




Positivity Key to Happiness at Work

How do you measure happiness at work? Many of us follow this simple equation:

         work hard + work harder = success; success = happiness!

The only problem with that is it’s pretty difficult to remain or obtain happiness when our work goals are consistently changing. For example, let’s say you’ve been performing so well that you are promoted to a new position. Once in that position, you now have to prove that you can perform the responsibilities of that position. Based on the way we measure happiness, if you felt happy about the promotion at one point, odds are it lasted only as long as it took you to dive into the new, more daunting workload.

Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think, Inc. and professor at Harvard University, lectures on this thing called ‘positive psychology’. According to Achor we can improve happiness at work by simply changing the way we think.

“[It’s] the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

In his studies, Achor found that 75% of job success is predicted by optimism levels, social support and your ability to see success as a challenge instead of a threat. Having a positive mindset will actually lead to improved intelligence, creativity and energy.

So how do we foster this positivity? Achor encourages us to perform positive acts each day including:

  • Random acts of kindness
  • Keeping Gratitude journal
  • Exercising regularly
  • and Meditating

Take twelve minutes out of your day to watch Achor’s hilarious and informative TedTalk below. It may just put a little (or a big) smile on your face.  



Healthy Recipes: Mustard Barbecue Sauce

2.5 cups Dijon mustard
2 cups Apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup Molasses
1 teaspoon Liquid smoke
1/2 cup Brown sugar
4 cups Water
3 tablespoons Onion powder
3 tablespoons Garlic powder
1 tablespoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper


  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pot.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with roasted turkey or grilled chicken breast to make a delicious sandwich.

Chef’s Note: This recipe makes a large batch. Freeze your leftover barbecue sauce in small containers. The sauce will be ready and waiting for your upcoming BBQ parties and everyday meals. The sauce will stay good in the freezer for up to three months.

Serves: Approx. 48
Serving Size: 1 ½ ounces
Calories: 35
Fat: 0 grams



Finding The Best Workout

So here we are. It’s almost the end of February and two of the biggest ‘food holidays’ are behind us (literally!) Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukah. We also have one of the ‘candy’ holidays under our expanding belts. And, of course, who can forget the Super Bowl. Most of us don’t even care who is playing, but we have made it the second biggest food consumption day of the year! Now it’s time to get our butts in gear! I believe most instructors would agree that the most common question we get is ‘what is the best workout’? This is really the million-dollar question in the fitness industry.

Maybe you made a New Year’s Resolution to get dust off your gym membership, or maybe you are just beginning to analyze the fitness class options available to help you construct a plan, but can’t quite figure out where to start. After all, looking at the types of classes being offered these days is enough to scare anyone back under the covers. Names like Kempo, Tabada, H.I.I.T., Iron Yoga can be intimidating even to a well-seasoned gym rat!

Maybe you are longing for some of those workouts from days gone by. Let’s step into our time machine and reminisce! Anyone remember as far back as the days of Jack LaLane, a true pioneer of fitness, and his Saturday afternoon television exercise show in black and white in the 60’? Remember when we went ‘jogging’ around the neighborhood in the 70’s! Or how about those Jane Fonda style workouts in the 80’s, where we jumped as high as we could, landed as hard as we could, wore the wrong shoes, worked out on all the wrong surfaces and wore leg warmers, belts and shimmery spandex leotards with the thong on the ‘outside’! We thought we were so cool! Or how about those step aerobics classes where the instructor gracefully traversed the entire length of the step like a gazelle while you stumbled off the edge of yours! Remember working out lots of frustration while you were kicking and punching your way through a Tae Bo class in the 90’s with Billy Blanks and his perfect male physique? Anyone still have their Thigh Master? Feeling totally uncoordinated in that Jazzercise class? Who really needs to be reminded that they have no rhythm? Are you still watching ‘Gilad’ – he’s been around longer than all of us and hasn’t aged a bit!

Ah, fitness through the ages! And yet I have to admit I have done it all and actually enjoyed it – although I only remember Jack LaLane and his juicer!

So to get back to the big question – what is the best workout? The real question should be what is the ‘right’ workout for you! The best workout is the one that you will do and stick to. The right workout depends on several factors. With the overwhelming volume of information out there and the endless array of classes available, how do you know where to begin? Let’s try to make some sense out of the madness.

Your workout should include a combination of cardio, strength, flexibility and core exercises. Today’s fitness trends, as scary as some of the names might sound, are not all that different than what you may have done ‘back in the day’. We have just figured out ways to take a one-hour workout and condense it into as little as 4 minutes, in some cases. But remember, some of these programs are just that – trends. And just because something is trendy doesn’t mean is right for you. Here are some things to consider when planning your personal fitness program:

  1. If you belong to a gym or are considering joining one, look over the fitness class options carefully. Try them all, if you can. At the very least maybe you can observe the classes and decide if they are appropriate for you.
  2. Do what you like, not what is trendy. The adherence rate for participants in fitness classes is substantially higher for people who enjoy the classes they are taking. They will attend more frequently, work harder and improve their fitness levels much quicker than people who are doing it because it’s what everyone else is doing.
  3. Know the difference between impact and intensity. Impact is the amount of force applied to the body during a particular exercise. High impact exercises are movements where both feet leave the ground simultaneously. Examples include, running, box jumps, plyometrics, and jumping jacks. These movements can effectively put more stress on the knees, hips, ankles, feet and back. Low impact exercises are ones where one foot stays in contact with the ground at all times. Examples include, walking, biking, low impact aerobics, and dancing. Swimming is another excellent low impact exercises. Intensity is refers to the level of difficulty or level of power you apply to a movement. Basically, how hard you are working. Intensity comes from using your muscles to create power and increase your heart rate. The important thing to remember is that low-impact does not mean low intensity. You can get an excellent workout doing low impact exercises, by keeping your intensity level up. This can be achieved by taking bigger or wider steps, lifting your knees higher, using your arms more and lifting them over your heart, adding light weights or using weighted gloves or just moving faster.
  4. Form is everything! Make sure you are doing exercises in the proper form at all times. You will avoid injury by paying attention to form. Always consult your instructor or trainer when in doubt about proper technique or if any exercise feels stressful on your body. Ask for modifications for exercises when you feel it is necessary. As you get stronger you may find you need to rely less on modifications.
  5. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right stop doing it and evaluate what you are doing. Your body will let you know if something isn’t right. Know the difference between pushing yourself to a point of challenge and a point of pain. Progress slowly and build up to the next level of challenge safely. Your body will thank you for it!
  6. Know your limitations and respect them! If you have orthopedic issues or health issues that put limitations on your participation in particular fitness options, work with your doctor, physical therapist or trainer to help you modify the workout or possibly prepare an alternate but equally challenging option.

Hold on to those good intentions. It’s not too late. It’s never too late to take care of YOU! Now put on some spandex and GO!



Heart Healthy Cooking Oils

As you are doing your normal grocery shopping you may notice a new trend catching on– heart healthy cooking oils. It may not be advertised as such, but oils other than olive and canola are becoming much more popular. I am talking about Avocado Oil, Walnut Oil, Almond Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Sesame Oil and more. Thankfully, they have a well-deserved place in your kitchen.

Avocado Oil: This oil, pressed from avocados, contains about 50% of its fat from monounsaturated fatty acids—a diet rich in monounsaturated fat has shown to improve cholesterol levels and may help improve blood sugar control. Avocado can withstand higher heat so you can use this oil to sauté sweet potatoes or simple sear chicken breast.

Walnut Oil: Rich in the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, walnut oil has some great heart cardio-protective benefits. In 2004, the FDA stated that “supportive research states that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Walnut oil doesn’t withstand extremely high cooking temperatures so it in cold sauces, salad dressings, tossed in pasta or complete your grilled vegetables by adding a tsp. of walnut oil.

Almond Oil: This nut is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium and more (all heart healthy nutrients). Almond oil can be used in salad dressings, roasted vegetables or stir-fries. Make sure to buy your almond oil in the same aisle as the other cooking oils as bitter almond oil can be hazardous to your health.

Pumpkin Seed Oil: This oil, like other nut and seed oils, is rich in heart healthy fats as well as Vitamin E and Vitamin K. Pumpkin seed oil can be used to finish your roasted butternut squash, incorporated into a Pumpkin and Honey Dijon salad dressing atop a spinach salad or lightly drizzle onto grilled pears.

Sesame Oil: Use this as a key component in numerous sauces, dressings, and Asian inspired dishes. Try our Watermelon & Spinach Salad as Chef Jen incorporates sesame oil into H3’s Mirin Flax Splash.



Friday Fitness: Go From Couch to 5K with H3

Today is my last day working full time at Hilton Head Health and my last blog post as well! I decided to focus my last Fitness Friday on my passion, which is running. I have been running since kindergarten and have since completed 9 marathons, a 50K and numerous half’s, 10Ks and 5Ks. One of my favorite things to do here at H3 is to introduce or reintroduce running to guests. Many people like the idea of running but do not know where to begin, or believe that running is just miserable and hard to do. The thing about running is that it is all about progression. You can’t always walk out the door and run a 5K or even a mile the first time around. It is an activity that requires investment and patience. (Hope I didn’t lose you there!) It can also be such an accomplishment and fun!

While at H3, I developed a Couch to 5K lecture and here are the highlights:

Proper shoes are essential for running; they support and bring stability to the foot as it moves through the running cycle. Here is a check list for picking out proper shoes:

  • Find out your arch – go to a running shop where they can measure your foot and find the best shoe to support your stride.
  • Shop late – our feet tend to swell over the course of the day. They also tend to swell at the onset of activity, make sure your shoes are not too tight.
  • Bring old shoes – by looking at the wear on the bottom of old shoes, a recommendation can be made on what will support you the most where you need it.
  • Forget fashion – try your best not to select shoes on colors and fashion. In the long run, you want what fits the best. Add color though some bring workout clothes.
  • Date shoes – replace every 6 months or 500 miles

Running form does matter! Forget the voice of your gym teacher in the back of your head yelling “heel, toe, heel, toe”. Check out this list and videos on how to create proper running form to run strong and injury free.

    • Head
      • Look ahead naturally
    • Shoulders
      • Low and relaxed
    • Arms
      • 90 degrees and by your side
    • Torso
      • Upright to promote good oxygen consumption
    • Legs
      • Slight knee lift, quick leg turnover, and short stride. Foot should land underneath body
    • Feet
      • Hit the ground lightly, between heel and midfoot.

        Check out Jeff’s videos on proper running form.




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Injury prevention should always be part of a fitness routine, a key part of that is stretching. Check out this video on stretching for runners.

Download this PDF for the plan I created for the Couch to 5K class. The workouts are based on intervals of running and walking. There are 3 workouts a week, lasting between 20 and 30 minutes. Always make sure that you include a warm up. The important thing is to progress with the program. If there was a challenging week, repeat it before moving on. Trying to do too much too soon could lead to injury or at least a miserable experience! Take the time to build up and enjoy the open road ahead!

Try out these intervals and consider adding a few speed bursts into your normal workout. Have fun and run relaxed!



The Power of Words

I have always been a believer in the power of thoughts and words. Every thought you think creates your future and your reality can be spoken into existence with the articulated word. Melissa Dahl, of NBC News, helps to confirm my beliefs in a recent article she wrote entitled, Stop Calling Yourself Old, Says a New Study. The study she refers to was published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, and finds that women of all ages complain about being old. The research links so called “old talk” to greater levels of body dissatisfaction, which can in turn lead to higher rates of eating disorders, anxiety, depression and more physical and mental health problems. In essence, calling yourself old can make you feel as bad about your body as calling yourself fat.

The truth is, the power of words to affect your emotions and actions are well demonstrated in science. For example, scientists have found that just hearing sentences about elderly people led research subjects to walk more slowly. In other research, individuals read words of ‘loving kindness’ showed increases in self-compassion, improved mood and reduced anxiety.

It’s important to listen to your self-talk and change the negative messages. Words have the power to transform you in either positive or negative ways, but you have both the ability and authority to choose. You are the author of your life and the words you use to tell your story will shape your reality. Self-deprecating humor, destructive comments about your body, and referring to your age in a negative way are counterproductive to your health and success. Change the tape!

Here are a few people who share my fascination for words:

“…of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent, the most terrible-and the most powerful-was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood; arrows could be seen at a distance. Poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues.”
― Paulo Coelho

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.”
― Confucius

“There exists, for everyone, a sentence – a series of words – that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you’re lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first.”
― Philip K. Dick, VALIS

“It doesn’t matter if you and everyone else in the room are thinking it. You don’t say the words. Words are weapons. They blast big bloody holes in the world. And words are bricks. Say something out loud and it starts turning solid. Say it loud enough and it becomes a wall you can’t get through.”
― Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead



Stability Ball Improves More than just Posture

The students in one elementary school in West Chester, PA, have the right idea when it comes to incorporating fitness into the day. Robbi Giuliano, a fifth grade school teacher, has her students complete their assignments while sitting on a stability ball and not a stationary chair. Not only are the children working their core and balance as they learn, they are also experiencing better productivity.

John Kilbourne, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, is studying the link between physical activity and better learning. He believes that physical activity aids with concentration and alertness. The ball has also helped children who suffer from attention disorders or autism by allowing them to move more freely without disrupting class.

Stability balls are traditionally used in Yoga and Pilates. You may have seen a stability ball workout or stretch here on H3Daily or used one during a core class at H3. We also encourage those who sit behind a desk for long periods to work from a stability ball instead of a chair to help keep the muscles active throughout the day. Stability balls promote better posture, engage the core, strengthen back muscles, improve balance and are just plain fun.

We may be able to learn something from Ms. Giullano’s fifth graders. Invest in a sturdy stability and you might just see your work improve as you exercise your core too!



From the H3 Vault: Top 5 Habits that Harm Your Heart

February is Heart Month!  Cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, is the nation’s #1 killer.  A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to prevent becoming part of that number.  Review this list of the top 5 habits that harm your heart.

Top 5 habits that harm your heart

  1. Smoking – if you smoke, quitting is the biggest gift of health you can give yourself. Secondhand smoke is also toxic, so avoid it whenever possible.
  2. Being inactive – get moving!  Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise most (at least 5) days per week. 
  3. Being overweight or obese – carrying extra pounds, especially around the belly, strains the heart and tips you toward diabetes. If you are overweight, losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar.
  4. Eating poorly – add fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fat, good protein (from beans, nuts, fish, and poultry), and herbs and spices. Subtract processed foods, salt, rapidly digested carbohydrates (from white bread, white rice, potatoes, and the like), red meat, and soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  5. Drinking too much alcohol – if you drink alcohol, limit your intake — one to two drinks a day for men, no more than one a day for women.

In a study from Harvard Medical – more than two-thirds of all cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, pad, aortic aneurysm, or heart failure) could be chalked up to smoking, excess weight, poor diet, and drinking too much.

So show your heart some love by using some of the healthy lifestyle tips you learned at H3 and right here on H3Daily!



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