Walk Like the Amish

Building barns might be their equivalent of a rocking house party and most of them dress like extras from Little House on the Prairie. However, we can learn a lot from the Amish when it comes to healthy living.  According to Dr. James Hill, Executive Director of the Anschutz Health & Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, Amish men and women move at three times the levels of the rest of the population.

During his presentation on “The Importance of Evidence Based Approaches to Health & Wellness” at the 2012 Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference, Dr. Hill explained than Amish men and women typically took 18,000 and 14,000 steps per day respectively, compared to 5,940 steps for U.S. men and 5,276 steps for U.S. women. If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, consider that’s a difference of burning an additional 603 calories/day for men and 436 calories for women – which equates to losing about a pound per week.

Most of what I knew about the Amish before this presentation consisted of watching Harrison Ford’s 1985 action flick Witness or occasional news reports about their simpler life habits. So I decided to dig a little deeper and learn more about their eating habits too. According to this fact sheet from Ohio State University, many Amish focus on foods they have grown on their farms or personal gardens. Typically devoid of many pre-packaged or processed foods, their diets are not low in fats or carbs. But incidents of obesity in the Amish population are much lower than for the rest of the country.

Interesting food for thought, right? In these fast-paced times where speed and convenience often triumphs healthy living, perhaps we can all take a page from these Pennsylvania Dutch.

How have you incorporated more movement or cleaner eating habits into your daily routine? What kind of a difference did it make?

Five Ways to Make Your Wellness Well-Rounded

Think healthy living is just about eating carrot sticks and getting your downward dog on in Yoga class? While those elements can help, my experience at the 2012 Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Denver over the past few days reminded me there’s a whole lot more to the equation. In the spirit of sharing and caring, here are five ways to make your wellness more well-rounded:

1)      Eat wisely.  According to MarketData Enterprises, the number of American dieters is going to soar to 108 million in 2012; yet 95% of those individuals will regain lost pounds and then some. A big reason is deprivation eating: people taking in a ridiculously low amount of daily calories or other extreme practices until they snap like a rubber band and eat all sour cream and onion potato chips within a two mile radius. Most nutrition experts I’ve spoken with advise aiming for a 90/10 balance of healthy eating choices with occasional spikes of planned treats. I’m happy to report that the Conference managed to serve foods that lovingly blended both attributes. Hungry when the trade show started, I immediately darted to the Refuel With Chocolate Milk booth to chug a yummy low fat sample for a protein boost before becoming obsessed with snack squares from goodness knows.  Other delicious, nutritious treats included portion-controlled dried cherry packets and anytime maple energy squares.  Sure beats the stale Danish rolls served at the corporate conferences I’ve attended in the past!

2)      Move often.  I’m not talking about renting a U-Haul and plying friends with beer to cart furniture around. You’ve got to move your own body to enjoy prime health.  As wellness rock star Dr. James Hill said during the conference, “Exercise is the one proven thing you can do to fight aging.” The conference provided us with access to the state-of-the-art  Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and instructor-led stretching breaks between sessions.   How can you add more movement to your daily life?

3)      Connect. My favorite part of this experience was the camaraderie.  Spending time with lovely, like-minded souls in person nourished my spirit and mind. Instead of constantly pushing yourself to stay late at work or schedule an extra run, it may do you even more good to spend quality time with a friend. Kymberly from Fun and Fit and Tamara from fitknitchick blew off the evening exercise sessions yesterday so we could shoot the breeze and it was a blast.

4)      Share. Lots of friends from the healthy living community wanted to attend the conference and couldn’t make it this year. So our group decided to make this experience as inclusive as possible by tweeting frequently with the #FHBC12 hashtag. Yesterday morning, our conference was one of the top trending topics on Twitter. Make sure you share any tidbits of wisdom collected in your personal healthy living journey with others who would appreciate it.

5)      Rest. I bombed out on this last point Stayed up way past my normal bedtime talking to new friends while the early-riser internal body clock kept waking me up before the butt-crack of dawn.  With so many interesting things to experience and learn, I didn’t have a moment of downtime during the days either. Yet true wellness is also about knowing when to rest and recharge. So my next big priority is SLEEP.

Disclosure: ReFuel With Chocolate Milk provided me with a scholarship to attend the 2012 Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference. However, all opinions are my own!

How can you make your wellness more rounded? Have you implemented any changes or new practices  recently to bolster your healthy living journey?

Defining the Limits of Fitness Casual

Back in the seventh grade, a time when conformity was king, I would call my best buddies to discuss apparel choices for the next day. Usually the conversation dragged on for hours about plaid skirts versus pleated wool numbers or what kind of Candies shoes looked best with a certain pair of khaki pants. You know, an earth-shattering debate on the level of world peace or defeating  third world hunger. But I guess some old habits die-hard. Because as I prepare to leave for the 2012 Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Denver tomorrow, what to wear has been at the top of my mind.

I tweeted about this with some of the super cool bloggers attending the event. Between identical twins Alexandra and Kymberly at Fun and Fit, Tamara at fitknitchick,  Kasey at PowerCakes, Christie at Average Moms Wear Capes and Carissa at Fit2Flex, the consensus came back that “fitness casual” would rule the day. Can you hear my sigh of happiness? Personally, I think yoga pants are the best thing since sliced bread – or wait, let’s make that a bowl of quinoa in the spirit of healthy living.

But then, just like the first time I dealt with “business casual” back when it  hit corporate America in the 90’s, my mind started to reel. The sea of black yoga pants and fitted workout tops that already live in my closet all looked kind of blah. Most of the conferences I have attended for my PR practice over the years involve “suiting up” or buying a new power dress to impress. Would all of the cool chicks attending the conference be decked out in fitness casual ensembles straight from the fashion runway? Is everybody going to look like Heidi Klum, except with even better abs?  (I know Suzanne from Workout Nirvana does, but she’s awesome and gets a total pass.)

This morning, my grown-up self kicked  in and I realized that it didn’t really matter. The conference is about camaraderie and learning about the latest news and developments in wellness, fitness and healthy living.  I don’t wear spandex tights and leg warmers  circa Jane Fonda’s first video to my gym at home – like a fifty-something woman I saw last year at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Arizona who also wore her hair in pigtails, no joke – so the chances of being mocked are miniscule.   Plus that prAna fitness top and sassy skort I purchased after my lunch time spin class perked my spirits up too.

What does fitness casual mean to you?  Do you feel the athletic garb donned for workouts can improve your confidence and performance, or doesn’t matter at all?