Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Back in the saddle- for eating healthily, exercise and setting intentions

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Early September is the ideal time to set intentions for what you hope to accomplish in the year ahead. Even though it’s not New Year’s (unless you celebrate Rosh HaShanah), it feels like the beginning of a new stage. The start of school and return from vacations along with shorter days signals transition. It gives us the opportunity to step back, and think about what’s really important. My recent vacation on Martha’s Vineyard gave me a chance for that reflection. This year marks a major milestone for us as we have become empty-nesters. I want to enter this new stage with some real deliberation, instead of rushing into lots of new activities, which is my usual habit. I’m looking forward to restarting my exercise class schedule, and welcoming clients back from their vacation. As always, I’m excited to discover what’s new in fitness and nutrition research.

In the latest issue of Fitness Journal, our very own city of Cambridge is featured for its leadership in addressing our global food-related challenges. The Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health hosted the Menus of Change 2nd Annual Leadership Summit which focuses on improving the delivery of delicious, healthy, planet-sustaining food.
In a nutshell, here were some recommendations:
-Rethink the composition of your plate- use the Harvard Healthy eating plate as examples of how to proportion your meals. Use fruits and vegetables as half the dish with more veggies than fruit, with whole grains and protein taking about a quarter of the plate. I limit my grains to 2 servings or less per day to keep my weight in check.
-Proteins – focus on the many types, with emphasis on fish, shellfish, poultry, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, but lean grass fed beef and lamb are preferable to grain fed cattle
-Blend vegetables and plant based proteins into dishes that would typically be 100% meat. Chopped mushrooms are an excellent addition to burgers, meatballs, taco mixtures, etc.
-Limit meat usage as it’s been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (along with higher body weight) and also for the carbon footprint it leaves on our planet.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed my Jerusalem Cookbook, which has some excellent recipes with a focus on vegetables and healthy lean meat.

In terms of exercise, once again, the research points to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. As mentioned in previous blog posts, most people overestimate their intensity of exercise, as a study in Public Library of Science journal showed. There are a few different ways to discern your intensity of exercise including measuring your heart rate through an electronic monitor, FitBit or taking your pulse. You can also use the perceived level of exertion chart, a subjective measure that has you rating your exertion level on a scale of 1 -10, where 8-9 is your target level. Paying attention to your subjective rate of sweating, breathing and fatigue levels are also key.

Classes can help ensure that you push yourself to a higher exertion level, as many exercisers report they work harder in a group setting. Finding an exercise routine you’ll stick with and won’t dread is another essential part of keeping to a fitness regimen. Make it part of your every day routine. Cross training is an ideal way to challenge your muscles, while minimizing repetitive stress injuries such as tendinitis, soft tissue tears, and symptomatic osteoarthritis. Biking, walking, weight training, swimming, yoga and even gardening are just some activities that can keep your muscles strong without undue stress and strain on joints and muscles.

So what will you do to maximize your health this year? How will you eat more healthily, be kind to the planet, and exercise smarter and more consistently?
Take a moment to make your plan and stick to it, determining what habits and supports you need to make it happen. As Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world!”

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