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Fitness on a Budget Part 1: Walking

The best exercise to meet the body's need for regular aerobic activity is walking, especially if you do it vigorously. I recommend daily walking as an excellent form of exercise because it requires no equipment, everyone knows how to do it, and it carries the lowest risk of injury.  Even a walk around your house is better than being completely sedentary. If you can, walk for 30-45 minutes a day, an average of five days a week, and try to include some stretches of uphill and fast walking to get your heart and respiratory rates into the zone where engaging in conversation becomes a bit difficult.

I enjoy taking walks in my labyrinth, a meditation device constructed at my personal ranch in Tucson, early 2005. When I walk the concentric circles of stones, I not only derive exercise benefits, but a centering sense of peace as well. What is your favorite place to walk?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Fitness on a Budget.


Tart Cherry Juice Could Help You Sleep

The trick is to drink it twice a day, not just at bedtime. A small study found that older adults who drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice morning and evening for two weeks had less trouble with insomnia and spent less time lying awake after they went to bed at night. First, the 15- person study participants drank the cherry juice twice a day for two weeks. Then, they consumed a comparable drink, containing no tart cherry juice for another two weeks. Their insomnia improved only during the time they drank the tart cherry juice, according to this very small study reported in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food. The researchers, from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and the VA Center of Canadaigua, said that the juice might have helped because tart cherries have a relatively high content of melatonin, a key neurotransmitter that regulates biorhythms and induces sleep. Tart cherry juice may not be the cure for everyone’s insomnia, but it could help, and the anthocyanins - antioxidants in the cherries - are good for you.

Although this study only looked at tart cherry juice and its effect on insomnia, there is no doubt that tart cherries are healthful in any form. Try this Tart Cherry-Apple Crunch for a healthy, fruit-filled dessert.


Massage Eases Tension Headaches

This not-so-surprising news comes from Spain's University of Granada, where researchers found that a 30-minute massage could relieve tension headaches, as well as reduce associated stress and anxiety. The type of massage tested by the Spanish investigators targeted cervical trigger points, which are believed to be one of the main contributors to tension headaches. The trigger point massage apparently works by improving autonomic nervous system regulation, the researchers said. Within 24 hours of the massage, patients reported significant relief from headache pain, less stress and reduced anxiety. The research team suggested that massage might directly reduce pain caused by trigger points, which would explain both the physical and psychological improvements seen. Previous studies have found that massage can relieve chronic back pain, lessen the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, reduce headache frequency, relieve arthritis pain, reduce blood pressure, and improve immune function among other benefits. Overall, massage has proven efficacy for reducing pain, anxiety, stress, and depression in patients with a wide range of medical problems.

Four massage tips to get you started.


Frosted Orange Ginger Fruit Salad

For the same reasons this fruit salad makes a great breakfast, it also makes a great snack. It is light, naturally sweetened, and smothered in a smooth yogurt and ginger topping. Often, we find ourselves so busy that we quickly grab less-healthy foods to satisfy us. Make this ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator, or take it to work in a covered container.


2 cups washed and sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups grapes
1 cup washed, cored, and diced apples
3 oranges, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from the 3 peeled, seeded, and cubed oranges)
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt (optional)
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons honey

12 sprigs mint


1. Toss all the fruit together in a medium bowl.

2. Whisk the orange juice, yogurt, ginger, and honey in a separate bowl. Pour the dressing over the fruit. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to marry the flavors.

3. Spoon the coated fruit into 12 small dessert dishes or parfait glasses. Garnish each with a sprig of mint.

Not a fan of ginger, or want something a little heartier? Take a look at the 50+ healthy breakfast ideas contributed by my creative community of Facebook fans!


Go Green: Simple Water Saver

For most of the United States, and especially in the desert states, there is only so much water to go around. You can help lower your water bills and conserve water for future use with this one, simple step: Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. This can save hundreds of gallons per month, with no sacrifice required. A simple step to a healthier planet!

Take a look back at another way to go green: pulling the plug.

Additionally, I encourage you to bring reusable bags to the supermarket; just make sure they're clean!


Why You Shouldn't Wear High Heels

If you habitually wear heels, you're likely to find that it is uncomfortable - if not painful - to walk in flat shoes. According to new research from England, wearing heels shortens the bundle of muscle fibers in the calf and increases stiffness in the Achilles' tendon that connects the heels to the calf muscles. This shortening reduces the active range of motion of the ankle. A research team at Manchester Metropolitan University reported these effects after studying the feet and legs of 11 women who wear heels and nine who don't. The investigators first scanned the women's calf muscle composition with an MRI and saw no apparent difference between each group of women. But in a follow up examination using ultrasound imaging they saw that the muscle fibers were 13 per cent shorter in women who wore high heels. And when they scanned the tendons in and around the feet they found that the women who wore heels had significantly thicker Achilles' tendons. The study was published on line on July 16, 2010, by the Journal of Experimental Biology.

My take? I'm not surprised by these findings. They're not the first to show that wearing high heels is bad for the feet and legs. The shoes can cause bunions, hammertoes and other foot problems, and some evidence suggests that wearing high heels is at least partly responsible for the fact that women are twice as likely as men to develop osteoarthritis in their knees. A few years ago, researchers at Harvard found that wearing two inch heels increases the strain on the inner side of the knee by 23 percent. This disproportionate stress (compared to wearing flats) forces the knees and, to a lesser extent, the hips to absorb the stress involved in keeping women stable and moving forward.

As long as you are lessening your use of high heels, I also recommend that you do the same for flip flops, which can cause foot/leg pain.


Video: The Depression Epidemic

Changes in diet and lifestyle, along with natural herbs, supplements, and even new philosophies of psychology, can all help relieve or reverse the depressive symptoms that the modern age seems to have multiplied.

Another tip to keep the blues away: don't forget to sip your daily green tea.


Choosing Olive Oil

Olive oil, once used in the U.S. mostly by immigrants from Mediterranean countries and adventurous gourmets, is now mainstream. In 2007, Americans consumed over 70 million gallons; a nearly ten-fold increase since 1982.

This is good news, as olive oil has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil, and quality brands contain abundant antioxidants, substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.

When choosing olive oil, I recommend buying small bottles of certified organic extra-virgin olive oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, and that of another organic certification body such as the USDA's green-and-white ORGANIC logo. Quality extra-virgin olive oil should have a natural peppery finish and a deep, "green" aroma of grass and artichoke. Such oils are not cheap, because they rely on careful cultivation that preserves olive oils legendary taste and health benefits. But the reward is more than worth it.

Once you've purchased a quality olive oil, why don't you try it out in this Lemon Olive Oil Cake - from my True Food Kitchen restaurant - in which its rich and fruity flavor is perfectly balance by the lightness of lemons.