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buzzgun 09-08-2005 06:10 PM

The Secret to Good Health
 
The Secret to Good Health
By Bharat Bhatia

My Background in Fitness and Nutrition

I have a lot of experience with exercise and nutrition. Prior to
seventh grade, I used to be obese, but I started taking martial arts
classes shortly after I became a teenager. Martial arts taught me the
joy of movement. I was 30% body fat in sixth grade, which is very
obese. In eight grade, I was 17% body fat, which is average for a 14
year old male. From ninth grade to twelfth grade, I participated in
cross-country and track. I also studied a little bit about nutrition
because I felt the need to optimize my athletic performance. Although
I did not participate in cross-country and track in college, I swam and
engaged in martial arts. I have also rock-climbed in college.
I did not study nutrition and fitness in depth until my junior year of
college. Ever since my junior year of college, I have read numerous
books about exercise and nutrition from several different perspectives.
I have read well-established sources such as books by the American
College of Sports Medicine and American Dietetic Association as well as
newer sources such as "The Okinawa Diet." During my junior year of
college, I have taught indoor studio cycling classes, and I became a
certified personal trainer, although I did find a job as a personal
trainer until my senior year of college. I would like to enlighten
people with my knowledge of health and fitness.
The Obesity Epidemic
Most people in this world have barely enough food to satisfy their
nutritional needs and must expend a lot of energy obtain that food.
Malnourishment is common problem in such nations. Most Americans do
very little physical work and have an overabundance of food. While
lack of nutrition leads to starvation and lower life expectancy,
consuming excessively high quantities of nutrients causes chronic
problem such as cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart
disease. Although many Americans have unhealthy dietary habits, they
also nearly idolize slender models. Millions of Americans follow
questionable dietary advice to become thin. I will the flaws of some
of these fad diets.
During the 1980s and 1990s, doctors told Americans to consume a
low-fat diet. Many food manufacturers created low fat and fat free
alternatives to foods such as ice cream to satisfy the demand for
reduced dietary fat. However, Americans still gained weight because
they increased their intake of refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup,
white bread, and other refined carbohydrates. Dr. Atkins and other
authors suggested that carbohydrates are the real cause of obesity
while fat has absolutely no affect in causing obesity. Although many
people initially lost weight on the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet, most
gained the weight back and became even more obese while also suffering
high blood pressure and high cholesterol, thus increasing risk of
cancer and heart disease. The Atkins diet is unhealthy for several
reasons. As I stated earlier, it is high in saturated fats and
cholesterol, which clog the arteries. Glucose is the body's main
source of fuel, thus insufficient carbohydrates lowers energy levels.
To compensate for the lowered glucose, the body must convert protein
into glucose, which is a very inefficient process. The body cannot
turn fat into glucose, and it cannot burn fat without utilizing
glucose. On low-carbohydrate diets, the body uses protein as a fuel
source rather than to build and repair bodily tissues such as muscle.
Carbohydrates are also necessary because they bind with water
molecules. Most people who consume a low-carbohydrate diet lose weight
from muscle and water rather than from fat. In other words, although
they are losing weight, they are increasing percent body fat. The
human body cannot tolerate water and glucose deficiency for very long,
thus most people on the Atkins' diet and other low-carbohydrate diets
revert to their normal dietary habits. Luckily, they regain much of
the weight from water and muscle, but they also gain after
re-incorporating carbohydrates with the fat that they consume on the
Atkins diet. In addition, Atkins' dieters who formerly exercise do
less exercise after adhering to the Atkins' diet because their bodies
experience so much fatigue and dizziness from low glucose levels.
The truth is that both carbohydrates and fat contribute to obesity.
Both nutrients are essential, but too much of either or both leads to
obesity, especially without physical activity. The low-fat and
low-carbohydrate diets failed because they ignored the fact that both
nutrients have Calories. The body uses Calories for every process that
occurs in the body. However, unused energy is stored as body fat. Our
physically active human ancestors used this feature to survive famines,
but most Americans have an overabundance of food and engage in very
little physical movement. Calorie reduction is important to lose
weight. Sedentary Americans should consume about 1400-1600 Calories
per day while moderately active Americans should consume about
1800-2000 Calories per day. Moderate physical activity is thirty to
forty minutes of exercise at about 60-75% of maximal heart rate, which
is the intensity of light to moderate jogging. Highly active Americans
should consume even more Calories depending on their duration and
intensity of exercise.
Other Dietary Problems
Excessive protein intake is another health problem in the United
States. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that
sedentary individuals consume 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram
body weight while physically active individuals consume 1.5 grams of
protein per kilogram body weight. This would be approximately 50 grams
of protein per day for a 110-pound individual. However, most Americans
consume a diet high in animal products and accumulate much more than
the recommended guideline for protein. Excessive protein intake causes
the body to remove calcium from the bones and into the bloodstream.
This is because the bloodstream has too high a concentration of amino
acids, thus causing the blood to be too acidic. A high-fat diet also
diminishes calcium absorption. The American Dietetic Association
recommends consume twenty to thirty percent of Calories from fat, but
most Americans consume forty percent of Calories from fat.
Caloric balance is not the only important dietary habit. Americans
should consume less refined foods. It may like a burden to keep up
with all of the different amounts of necessary nutrients that the body
needs. However, a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, and beans;
moderate in whole grains, nuts, and seeds; and low in animal products
reduces the need to worry about such precise guidelines. I have read
extensively about nutritional research, and I have concluded that the
healthiest diets are those that humans have consumed for thousands of
years. Rather than give new information about healthy dietary habits,
scientific research seems to reinforce the health benefits of the diet
that humans consumed during ancient times. No two cultures in the
world have the same diet, but there are general principles that most
humans have followed for most of human history. Most cultures subsist
on a diet consisting mostly of complex carbohydrates. Complex
carbohydrates come from whole grains and vegetables. Most societies in
the world also get their sugar mostly from fruit rather than table
sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other processed sweeteners. Such
societies also consume a limited amount of animal fat from milk, meat,
and other animal products. In other nations, people do not inject
hormones in their cattle, and they do not subject their cattle to
confined conditions that reduce physical activity. Animal products
from other nations are much healthier than factory-farmed milk and meat
in the US.
Dietary Controversies
Fish and other seafood are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which
send cholesterol from the body's cells to the liver to be broken down.
Flaxseeds are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The
Mediterraneans and East Asians (especially Okinawans) consume a diet
with moderate amounts of fish and live longer than the rest of the
world. Although it is likely that seafood contributes to their
longevity, it is possible that they live so long despite their
consumption of seafood and not because of it. Recently, I have looked
at the food labels of fish in various grocery stores and noticed that
one serving of fish usually contained 18% to 30% of the USRDA
recommendation for cholesterol. Eighteen percent fat is not that high,
but most of the fish approached 30% of the USRDA recommendation for
cholesterol, which is quite high. In addition, the meat, egg, and
dairy industry have a lot of control over the USRDA. The human body
does not need dietary cholesterol; it produces all of the cholesterol
that is necessary. Not only are people unaware that seafood is high in
cholesterol, but many people do not know that seafood increases the
risk of mercury poisoning. Mercury is a neurotoxin that causes brain
damage. The connection between brain damage and mercury poisoning from
fish was discovered in Japan.
In the Mediterranean and East Asia, other dietary choices may have more
to do with the people's longevity than fish consumption. In Okinawa,
people consume fish about three times per week and not on a daily
basis. Okinawans are generally lactose-intolerant and refrain from
dairy milk after infancy. Interestingly, Okinawans have lower rates of
osteoporosis than Americans do. In addition, the American Dietetic
Association states that vegetarians and vegans have lower rates of
osteoporosis than people who consume dairy milk and other animal
products. Vegetables are also rich in anti-oxidants, which prevent
oxygen from forming dangerous compounds, thus lowering the risk of
cancer and heart disease. Soy and other beans are rich in protein,
iron, calcium, and complex carbohydrates. The Okinawans also consume
seaweed, which is rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin B12.
The Mediterraneans consume more fish and meat than Okinawans. Although
they consume more fish than Americans do, it is likely that other
factors play a greater role than fish consumption. Mediterraneans
consume less red meat than Americans do, but the main dietary reason
for their longevity is that they consume relatively large amounts of
mono-unsaturated fats from olives and other vegetables. They also
consume large quantities of whole grains and chickpeas. Rice and beans
are staples in the diet of many Mediterranean nations. Of course, I
cannot refute that fish contribute to their long lives. However, whole
grains, beans, and vegetables probably have more to do with the
longevity of Mediterraneans than fish consumption does.
Although whole grains have protein, folic acid, complex carbohydrates,
fiber, and other nutrients, they are not necessarily a vital food
group. Humans did not consume grains until the agricultural
revolution. James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winner for discovering the
double helix, states that it is nearly impossible to avoid genetically
modified food because even grains are crossbreed grasses. Humans breed
grass several thousands of years ago to make wheat and other grains; it
does not come straight from nature. One of the main reasons that the
USRDA and other dietary authorities recommend 6-11 servings of grain is
that the grain industry has the strongest lobby in the USRDA. The
grain industry is even more powerful than the meat and dairy industry.
In fact, America feeds most of its grain to farm animals that produce
meat and dairy milk. The US also sells a lot of its grain to other
nations at low costs, or they donate it. The reason why America gives
so much grain for low prices or free to cattle and people of other
nations is to keep the price of American from being too low. Grains
are the easiest way to feed large amounts of people, but that is not
because they are the most important food group. Grains are simply the
cheapest foods to produce in large quantities, which is necessary
during wars or during times of food shortages.
I am not suggesting that fish and grains are unhealthy. However, they
have an undeserved reputation of being necessary. Just as white bread
and table sugar are refined carbohydrates, grains are refined
vegetables. Vegetables, except for potatoes, are healthier sources of
carbohydrates than grains. I would not recommend giving up grains
because vegetables are very low in protein and total Calories although
beans and chickpeas are high in complex carbohydrates. I do not
abstain from grains, but I usually consume three or less servings of
grains per day and get most of my carbohydrates from vegetables and
beans. I recommend that Americans limit but not eliminate grain
consumption. Likewise, I do not recommend giving up animal products
because very few plants have sufficient amounts of vitamin B12.
Although there are plant sources of vitamin B12, most Americans do not
have the extensive knowledge or dedication to consume an all-plant
diet.
A
Plant-Based Diet
The truth is that vitamin B12 neither comes from plants or animals but
rather from bacteria. Herbivorous animals get vitamin B12 from
bacteria that are absorbed in their liver. Plants sometimes absorb
vitamin B12 from bacteria that are absorbed in soil or from manure, but
they are still usually poor sources of vitamin B12. I recommend that
people who abstain from animal products consume vitamin B12 in
supplemented form. Although fortified soymilk and cereals as well as
multivitamins come to mind, you can also get vitamin B12 from bacteria
supplements. You can buy pro-biotics, which are healthy bacteria in
capsules. If you prefer to avoid capsules and consume bacteria in a
more natural form, you can buy yeast at almost any grocery store.
Many athletes consume a plant-based diet. Carl Lewis, the Olympic gold
medalist, and Dave Scott, the five-time winner of the Ironman
Triathlon, consumed vegan diets during their peak years. Bill Pearl,
the most successful bodybuilder in history, eliminated meat and fish
from his diet and still won Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia contests. He
participated in professional body building competitions during his
mid-fifties while Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped participating in such
competitions before reaching his forties. Arnold Schwarzenegger could
not maintain his professional level of fitness training while acting in
movies and participating in politics. However, he still engaged in a
large amount of weightlifting and consumed a similar diet while acting
in movies. Many people do not realize that he suffered from heart
problems and muscle tumors during training. This is actually common in
bodybuilders. Bill Pearl had a very high cholesterol level prior to
abstaining from meat and fish. Although steroids were the main cause
for Arnold Schwarzenegger's health problems, his high consumption of
animal protein also contributed to such his physical ailments.
Anthropological evidence suggests that a primarily plant-based diet is
natural for the human body. Humans are physiologically and genetically
very similar to chimps, apes, gorillas, monkeys, and other primates.
Primates consume an omnivorous diet but they get most of their
nutrients from plants. Humans share 98% of the same DNA as chimps and
about close to the same genetic similarity as other primates. Although
I do not consider this a legitimate reason to avoid animal products, I
still feel that animal products should not be a regular part of the
human diet. In addition to our genetic similarity to primates, our
bodies do not have the necessary features to consume large quantities
of animal products. Although we have incisors to chew meat, they may
be for nuts and other hard foods. Humans do not have claws like other
flesh-eating animals, thus humans did not eat flesh until developing
sharp tools and discovering fire.
The Australopithecus ramidus, the first species of humans, was an
herbivore and lived 5 million years ago. The Homo habilis, who arose
4.5 million years ago, is the first species of humans that consumed
meat. However, they did not hunt but rather scavenged for dead animals
that other animals hunted or partially ate. The Homo erectus first
started hunting about 2 million years ago. The Homo erectus is the
first species with a body frame that is similar to modern humans, or
Homo sapiens sapiens. Although the first humans did not hunt, perhaps
modern humans evolved from species that require some animal flesh.
Nonetheless, most of these species still consumed very small quantities
of animal flesh.
In 1978, to researchers named Hamilton and Busse did research on 21
species of primates. They found that animal consumption is inversely
proportional to size. In other words, smaller primates consume more
meat while larger primates consume very little meat. The smallest
primate weighed 65 g as an adult and consumed a diet of 70% animal
matter. However, the adult gorilla is the largest primate at 126 kg
and consumes a diet of 1%-2% animal matter. The adult orangutan, who
weighs an average of 58 kg, also consumes a diet of 1-2% animal matter.
Most adult humans weight roughly as much or slightly more than
orangutans, suggesting that the natural human diet is approximately
1-2% animal matter. However, despite our similarity to primates, these
facts cannot be used to confirm the optimal human diet. Unlike
primates, humans are much very much separated from the natural world,
and the most natural diet does not necessarily mean the same thing as
the healthiest diet.
The human digestive system is quite similar but not exactly like the
digestive system of herbivores. Humans have a trunk that is one-tenth
the length of their bowels. Herbivores have a trunk that is
one-fifteenth the length of their bowels. Carnivores have trunk that
are one-third the length of their bowels. The stomach is in the trunk.
Carnivores need a large trunk in proportion to their bowels because
flesh requires more effort to digest than plants. Herbivores have a
smaller trunk to bowel ratio because plants are not as difficult to
digest. Humans have a digestive tract similar to primates, who are
omnivorous. However, most primates mostly consume raw fruits and
vegetables (such as leaves); they only scavenge for animal flesh or
hunt small mammals occasionally.
Humans did not consume eggs until the agricultural revolution. Like
other mammals, humans consume dairy milk during infancy and early
childhood, but we did not consume milk past infancy and from another
species until the agricultural revolution. Prior to the agricultural
revolution, humans only consumed milk from their mothers, and they only
consumed milk during infancy and early childhood.
Although the human body seems to lack the mechanisms for consuming
animal products without equipment, this does not necessarily mean that
humans are naturally herbivores. Even chimps, which many people think
are herbivores, occasionally kill small mammals and scavenge for food.
In addition, many primates consume insects, which do not require
cooking or claws. Unlike humans, many primates eat their own feces;
feces contain vitamin B12, but the human digestive system does not have
the mechanical and biochemical attributes to digest feces. Prior to
the agricultural revolution, humans were not able to produce very large
quantities of food, so perhaps they needed to start consuming animal
products to sustain themselves. Maybe humans evolved to hunt and eat
meat because of the spread of glaciers during the Ice Age, which
destroyed a lot of plant life. Because we do not have any recorded
history of the human diet, we cannot be sure why humans evolved to
consume animal products. Although we have fossilized feces, these
fossils are small in amount, and they only tell what diets humans
consumed and not which diets were optimal for health.
Regardless of the evolution of humans and their diets, it is best to
limit consumption of animal products. It is possible for humans to
eliminate animal foods from their diet, but it is best that vegans
supplement their vitamin B12 with multi-vitamins, fortified foods, and
bacteria from yeast or pro-biotics.
A Natural Diet
Industrialized nations have a higher life expectancy than developing
nations. It is true that people in developing nations consume a more
natural diet than Americans, Europeans, the Japanese, and other people
in industrialized nations. People in agricultural and hunter-gatherer
societies do not die sooner because they consume a less nutritious
diet. They die sooner primarily because the sanitation and healthcare
system in such nations are poor compared to American and European
standards. In addition, dictators who control the food supplies and
cause famines rule many of these nations. People in such nations
suffer from tribal warfare, civil war, outbreaks of viruses and
parasitic insects, and other problems. However, the diet in such
nations is much healthier than the diet in most industrialized nations.
Interestingly, the longest-living people in the world are Okinawans,
who are mostly farmers. Okinawa is the poorest province of Japan, and
few Okinawans have modern conveniences such as air conditioning and
refrigeration. However, they consume a diet high in vegetables (7-13
servings per day) and low in animal products (three servings of fish
per week and virtually no meat, eggs, and dairy products). Vegetables
not only have a low Caloric-density (i.e. less Calories per given mass
of food), but they also have anti-oxidants, which are substances that
bind to oxygen to prevent oxygen from binding to other substances that
form dangerous compounds; such compounds increase the risk of cancer,
heart disease, and other chronic health problems.
It is best to consume a diet consisting mostly of raw foods. The
process of cooking usually reduces nutritional content because it
causes chemical reactions that alter some of the nutrients, although
there are a few nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes that absorb more
easily after cooking. I do not recommend abstaining from cooked
foods, but it is best to have as much raw food as possible to maximize
nutritional intake. Although most people, are used to eating beans
cooked, you can actually eat raw bean sprouts.
The Culture of the American Diet
Unfortunately, an unhealthy diet is very much a part of American
culture. We eat cakes during birthday parties and weddings. During
adolescence and adulthood, we celebrate many events with beer. For
lunch breaks, we go to fast food restaurants and gorge on burgers and
other junk food. When we go out and eat with friends or family, we
usually eat unhealthy foods such as steaks while drinking sodas or
alcoholic beverages. Teachers reward good behavior and attentiveness
with candy. Although there is nothing wrong with occasionally
consuming junk food, most Americans consume junk food everyday.
Although unhealthy eating can be difficult to avoid, there are healthy
alternatives to satisfy such cravings. Instead of candy and ice cream,
strawberries and other fruits are healthier desserts. I have made a
pie in which I made the crust from walnuts chopped in a blender while
making the filling from raw kiwi, strawberries, and mangoes. Many of
my friends say that this pie tasted great. Not only is this pie free
from the saturated fat and refined sugar from traditional pies, but it
is uncooked. Although I do not recommend eliminating cooked foods from
a diet, cooking slightly reduces nutritional content of foods,
especially protein. Instead of red meat, fish is a healthier
alternative. Beans, chickpeas, and soy products are also healthy
sources of protein. I make a very tasty curry made from soy yogurt,
tomato sauce, spices (curry powder, garlic, paprika, lemon pepper), and
vegetables (mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, and
carrots). I sometimes add tofu or beans to the curry. This curry is
healthy and delicious. When eating salads, humus is a healthier
alternative to salad dressing, which is usually high in saturated fat.

Physical Activity
Nutrition is only half the battle. We need to increase our levels of
physical activity. Most agencies such as the American College of
Sports Medicine and Center for Disease Control recommend twenty to
thirty minutes of physical activity three to five days per week. I
cannot blame them because it would be unrealistic to ask most Americans
to do more. However, even this recommendation is inadequate. I would
recommend that Americans gradually increase their level of physical
activity to approximately one hour per day. It is okay to do more than
one hour on some days and less than an hour on other days. Although
rest is necessary, light walking or other physical movement is
necessary to reduce muscle soreness. In addition, the nervous system
needs some stimulation to maintain strength in the muscles, lungs, and
heart. Unless an individual experiences an emergency health problem
requiring bed rest, total inactivity in an entire day weakens the body.
Although most Americans know the importance of physical activity, very
few people feel motivated to be physically active. Even as a personal
trainer and fitness expert, I relapse into physical inactivity from
time to time. The greatest motivating factor to stay physically active
is to engage in enjoyable physical activities. Many people play sports
such as basketball or ultimate Frisbee for enjoyment, although they
increase physical fitness in the process. Many athletes participate in
sports such as football and basketball for competition, yet most
athletes are very physically fit. People dance at parties and clubs
for enjoyment, but dancing is also a wonderful physical activity. My
twin brother and I enjoy martial arts training. I have incorporated
martial arts training with many of my clients when personal training.
One activity I like is shadowboxing, which involves holding dumbbells
in each hand while pretending to box somebody. Recently, I came-up
with some goofy exercises. One workout involves playing solo
volleyball with three balloons. To clarify, I use three balloons and
hit them in the air; the goal is to keep them in the air and away from
the ground. Twenty minutes of this activity with three balloons is
exhausting, but is very enjoyable. For lower-functioning individuals,
one or two balloons may be more appropriate. I also recently started
jumping like a child, bunny rabbit, or monkey. I have two rice bags
filled with a total of forty-five pounds together. Sometimes I may
jump while holding the bags, although I only do this for a minute at a
time. Another idea is to incorporate physical activity in daily
routines. For example, when cooking, I may jump or practice martial
arts while waiting for the food to cook. Other people may prefer
walking, jogging in place, dancing, or some other activity. It is a
good idea to do a little bit of physical activity whenever one is
experiencing down time or waiting for something, even if the wait is
brief. At the end of the day, this physical activity can add up.
Although many people consider me very fit, I am probably less fit than
most of the world's population. I barely do an hour of exercise per
day and sometimes do two hours of physical activity, although I usually
exercise at 75-85% of my maximum heart rate. Nonetheless, I engage in
less physical activity than most people in the world do. Farmers in
Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America spend ten to
twelve hours each day to obtain food and water. They have to walk
everywhere because they do not have automobiles. Because they do not
have television or videogames, they usually engage in physically active
leisure activities such as dancing or sports. Although people in such
nations live shorter lives than most Americans and Europeans, it is not
because of the long hours of physical activity. Oppressive rulers,
civil and tribal wars, artificial famines, inadequate healthcare, and
poor sanitation are the main reasons that these people live shorter
lives than people do in industrialized nations. Okinawa does not
suffer from oppressive leadership or massive violence, and it has a
healthcare system that integrates western medicine and traditional
Okinawan medicine. Okinawans still engage in roughly the same amount
of physical activity as people in other agricultural societies. Their
balance between modern healthcare and traditional lifestyle is probably
why they live longer than the rest of the world. Armenia, Cuba, and
Greece are some other third world nations that have a higher life
expectancy and lower infant mortality rate than the US.
It is not realistic for most Americans to engage in so much physical
activity, but we can gradually approach a level of physical activity
close to our agricultural counterparts. We can engage in numerous
short bursts of physical activity during idle time such as when we are
waiting for something. We can also reduce our participation in
watching television and other sedentary activities and replace them
with more active leisure choices. In addition, we can exercise while
watching television or cooking. Ultra-marathon runners and Ironman
Triathlon participants usually have occupations similar to most
Americans, yet they spend several hours training each day. This is a
healthy level of physical activity as long as we approach it gradually.
However, it is dangerous to engage in such high levels of physical
activity quickly. Because such training may be dull and monotonous for
most people, I recommend that individuals engage in physically
activities that they view as more enjoyable. I would never train for
an Ironman Triathlon or ultra-marathon, but I would like to engage in
such a level of exercise by doing activities like martial arts, balloon
ball, dancing, and jumping like a monkey or rabbit.
The Mind-Body Connection
A healthy mind is another important aspect of good health.
Some people smoke, consume an unhealthy diet, and engage in very little
physical activity yet still live until the age of 100 or older. There
are very few centenarians with unhealthy lifestyles, but such
"unhealthy centenarians" still exist. This is because both the
mind and lifestyle habits affect physiological health. The nervous
system regulates every organ of the body, thus the though process
affects physiologic functions. Nearly eighty percent of all doctor's
visits are related to stress. Mental stress directly affects the onset
of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, and
numerous other diseases, although other factors also play a role. A
healthy mind reduce blood pressure, secretion of stress hormones such
as cortical, and respiration rate. A healthy mind also strengthens the
immune system by increasing activity of immunoglobulin, T cells, and B
cells, which are the "soldiers" of the immune system. This lowers
the risk of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, ulcers, and other
conditions. However, the immune system's cells also fight against
the flu, tuberculosis, AIDS, and other infectious diseases.
Working Wellness
Bad health is a drain on the economy as well as the body. Each year,
corporations spend hundreds of billions of dollars on Medicaid,
Medicare, and other health insurance plans. Such health insurance
plans cover heart disease, cancer, back problems, depression, anxiety,
osteoporosis, arthritis, and several other health problems. In 1978,
American corporations lost $19.4 billion in production because of
premature coronary death; they paid an additional $15 billion for
employee sick leaves. In 1989, absenteeism from depression cost
employers $17 billion. In 1993, employers spent approximately $700
billion to replace employees who quit before reaching the official
retirement age because of coronary heart disease. Of course, the
corporations are not the only people with the financial burden. The
victims of the diseases and their families sometimes have to pay out of
their pockets. In addition, the corporations make their revenue from
customers, thus the money that corporations use to pay for health
insurance comes from employees of other agencies. In the end,
employees and employers pay for the burden of chronic mental and
physical health problems.
Corporate fitness and wellness programs are emerging to prevent the
expenses of compensation leave and health insurance. The Canada Life
Assurance Company and the North American Life Assurance Company found
that after instituting on-site exercise programs for managers,
productivity increased three percent and a twenty-two percent reduction
in absenteeism. In the US, Control Data reduced health care costs by
fifty-percent for employees that were not in corporate fitness
programs.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are wellness programs that treat
mental health. Some corporations are starting EAPs and have found that
they save a lot of money in the process. The Kimberly-Clark
Corporation reduced on-the-job accidents by seventy percent after
instituting an EAP. General Motors states that instituting an EAP
reduced their expenditures on employee sickness and accidents by sixty
percent. The success of EAPs may be why eighty percent of Fortune 500
companies have established EAPs within the last five to seven years.
Not everyone works for a company that has the resources to establish
an Employee Assistance Program. There are simple things that people of
all socio-economic statuses can do to reduce stress and increase mental
health. Slow, deep breathing from the diaphragm is a very effective
way to calm the mind and body. The diaphragm is just above the
abdomen. It is best to breathe through the diaphragm and have expand
the abdomen while breathing in while bring the abdomen back in when
breathing out. To simplify, think of a balloon. As you breathe air
into it, it expands. Likewise, expand your abdomen as you breathe air
into your body. As you let air out of the balloon, it shrinks.
Likewise, as you breathe air out of your body, your abdomen should
retract.
Although most people can practice breathing exercises to reduce
stress, changing the thought process is difficult. Life is very hectic
and stressful. However, we can still regulate our thought process.
Despite our stressful lifestyles, we all are lucky to have our family
and friends. Simply taking time to be mindful of our blessings has
great psychological and physiological benefits. It is good to thank
people and smile as much as possible. These few things take up very
little time but have drastic health benefits. We can also try to look
at the bright side of situations and even find humor in stress.
I hope that this essay is beneficial. To summarize, eating a diet
rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains and low in animal
products and refined carbohydrates followed by plenty of physical
exercise is essential. The easiest way to be physically active is to
participate in enjoyable activities. A healthy mindset is another
important aspect of good health. If we eat healthier, exercise more,
and think more positively, we will reduce a many physical ailments and
save billions of dollars each year. Most importantly, we will live
happier and longer lives.








Works Cited
Balady, Gary; Berra, Kathy; Godling, Lawrence A; Gordon, Neil F,
Mahler, Donald A;
Myers, Jonathan N; and Sheldahl, Lois M (2000). ACSM's Guidelines
For
Exercise Testing and Prescription. American College of Sports
Medicine:
pp. 4, 5, 63, 151, 153

O' Hara Ph.D, Valerie (1995). Wellness 9 to 5: Managing Stress at
Work. MJF Books,
New York: pp. 178, 198, 206

Duyff, Roberta Larson (1998). The American Dietetic Association's
Complete Food &
Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing: pp. 2, 4, 8, 23, 27, 35-39,
42-44, 145,
559-561, 563, 565

Humphries, Bronwen (1994). "The Diet of Early Humans: What did our
first ancestors
eat?" http://www.ivu.org/history/early/ancestors.html

Lewis, Carl. "Carl Lewis on Being Vegan." Excerpt from Carl
Lewis' introduction to
Very Vegetarian. http://www.earthsave.org/lifestyle/carllewis.htm

Saul, Bradley (2005). "Vegan Athletes Flex Their Muscles."
Medical News Today.
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=26480&nfid=rssfeeds

Suzuki MD, Makato; Willcox MD, Bradley; and Willcox Ph.D, Craig.
"The Okinawa
Centenarian Study." http://okinawaprogram.com/study.html

Weis, Dennis B. "Bill Pearl's Super Nutrition Seminar."
http://www.dennisbweis.com/Articles/...trategies.html


Beach Runner 09-08-2005 07:11 PM


Thank you for your article. As we all know , vegan is not enough,
exercise is probably the fountain of youth. Or at least essential to
better living in later years. I 'vet seen this a lot in the retirees
in Florida.

While I don't believe in eating meat, the advice the author gives is good.

Just eat lot of fresh veggies, legumes, and exercise and you are 90% there.

Seaweed btw has huge quantities of minerals. It is an acquired taste i
admit.

Thanks. That's the purpose of the group, how to live a healthy lightly.




buzzgun wrote:

The Secret to Good Health
By Bharat Bhatia

My Background in Fitness and Nutrition

I have a lot of experience with exercise and nutrition. Prior to
seventh grade, I used to be obese, but I started taking martial arts
classes shortly after I became a teenager. Martial arts taught me the
joy of movement. I was 30% body fat in sixth grade, which is very
obese. In eight grade, I was 17% body fat, which is average for a 14
year old male. From ninth grade to twelfth grade, I participated in
cross-country and track. I also studied a little bit about nutrition
because I felt the need to optimize my athletic performance. Although
I did not participate in cross-country and track in college, I swam and
engaged in martial arts. I have also rock-climbed in college.
I did not study nutrition and fitness in depth until my junior year of
college. Ever since my junior year of college, I have read numerous
books about exercise and nutrition from several different perspectives.
I have read well-established sources such as books by the American
College of Sports Medicine and American Dietetic Association as well as
newer sources such as "The Okinawa Diet." During my junior year of
college, I have taught indoor studio cycling classes, and I became a
certified personal trainer, although I did find a job as a personal
trainer until my senior year of college. I would like to enlighten
people with my knowledge of health and fitness.
The Obesity Epidemic
Most people in this world have barely enough food to satisfy their
nutritional needs and must expend a lot of energy obtain that food.
Malnourishment is common problem in such nations. Most Americans do
very little physical work and have an overabundance of food. While
lack of nutrition leads to starvation and lower life expectancy,
consuming excessively high quantities of nutrients causes chronic
problem such as cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart
disease. Although many Americans have unhealthy dietary habits, they
also nearly idolize slender models. Millions of Americans follow
questionable dietary advice to become thin. I will the flaws of some
of these fad diets.
During the 1980s and 1990s, doctors told Americans to consume a
low-fat diet. Many food manufacturers created low fat and fat free
alternatives to foods such as ice cream to satisfy the demand for
reduced dietary fat. However, Americans still gained weight because
they increased their intake of refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup,
white bread, and other refined carbohydrates. Dr. Atkins and other
authors suggested that carbohydrates are the real cause of obesity
while fat has absolutely no affect in causing obesity. Although many
people initially lost weight on the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet, most
gained the weight back and became even more obese while also suffering
high blood pressure and high cholesterol, thus increasing risk of
cancer and heart disease. The Atkins diet is unhealthy for several
reasons. As I stated earlier, it is high in saturated fats and
cholesterol, which clog the arteries. Glucose is the body's main
source of fuel, thus insufficient carbohydrates lowers energy levels.
To compensate for the lowered glucose, the body must convert protein
into glucose, which is a very inefficient process. The body cannot
turn fat into glucose, and it cannot burn fat without utilizing
glucose. On low-carbohydrate diets, the body uses protein as a fuel
source rather than to build and repair bodily tissues such as muscle.
Carbohydrates are also necessary because they bind with water
molecules. Most people who consume a low-carbohydrate diet lose weight
from muscle and water rather than from fat. In other words, although
they are losing weight, they are increasing percent body fat. The
human body cannot tolerate water and glucose deficiency for very long,
thus most people on the Atkins' diet and other low-carbohydrate diets
revert to their normal dietary habits. Luckily, they regain much of
the weight from water and muscle, but they also gain after
re-incorporating carbohydrates with the fat that they consume on the
Atkins diet. In addition, Atkins' dieters who formerly exercise do
less exercise after adhering to the Atkins' diet because their bodies
experience so much fatigue and dizziness from low glucose levels.
The truth is that both carbohydrates and fat contribute to obesity.
Both nutrients are essential, but too much of either or both leads to
obesity, especially without physical activity. The low-fat and
low-carbohydrate diets failed because they ignored the fact that both
nutrients have Calories. The body uses Calories for every process that
occurs in the body. However, unused energy is stored as body fat. Our
physically active human ancestors used this feature to survive famines,
but most Americans have an overabundance of food and engage in very
little physical movement. Calorie reduction is important to lose
weight. Sedentary Americans should consume about 1400-1600 Calories
per day while moderately active Americans should consume about
1800-2000 Calories per day. Moderate physical activity is thirty to
forty minutes of exercise at about 60-75% of maximal heart rate, which
is the intensity of light to moderate jogging. Highly active Americans
should consume even more Calories depending on their duration and
intensity of exercise.
Other Dietary Problems
Excessive protein intake is another health problem in the United
States. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that
sedentary individuals consume 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram
body weight while physically active individuals consume 1.5 grams of
protein per kilogram body weight. This would be approximately 50 grams
of protein per day for a 110-pound individual. However, most Americans
consume a diet high in animal products and accumulate much more than
the recommended guideline for protein. Excessive protein intake causes
the body to remove calcium from the bones and into the bloodstream.
This is because the bloodstream has too high a concentration of amino
acids, thus causing the blood to be too acidic. A high-fat diet also
diminishes calcium absorption. The American Dietetic Association
recommends consume twenty to thirty percent of Calories from fat, but
most Americans consume forty percent of Calories from fat.
Caloric balance is not the only important dietary habit. Americans
should consume less refined foods. It may like a burden to keep up
with all of the different amounts of necessary nutrients that the body
needs. However, a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, and beans;
moderate in whole grains, nuts, and seeds; and low in animal products
reduces the need to worry about such precise guidelines. I have read
extensively about nutritional research, and I have concluded that the
healthiest diets are those that humans have consumed for thousands of
years. Rather than give new information about healthy dietary habits,
scientific research seems to reinforce the health benefits of the diet
that humans consumed during ancient times. No two cultures in the
world have the same diet, but there are general principles that most
humans have followed for most of human history. Most cultures subsist
on a diet consisting mostly of complex carbohydrates. Complex
carbohydrates come from whole grains and vegetables. Most societies in
the world also get their sugar mostly from fruit rather than table
sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other processed sweeteners. Such
societies also consume a limited amount of animal fat from milk, meat,
and other animal products. In other nations, people do not inject
hormones in their cattle, and they do not subject their cattle to
confined conditions that reduce physical activity. Animal products
from other nations are much healthier than factory-farmed milk and meat
in the US.
Dietary Controversies
Fish and other seafood are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which
send cholesterol from the body's cells to the liver to be broken down.
Flaxseeds are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The
Mediterraneans and East Asians (especially Okinawans) consume a diet
with moderate amounts of fish and live longer than the rest of the
world. Although it is likely that seafood contributes to their
longevity, it is possible that they live so long despite their
consumption of seafood and not because of it. Recently, I have looked
at the food labels of fish in various grocery stores and noticed that
one serving of fish usually contained 18% to 30% of the USRDA
recommendation for cholesterol. Eighteen percent fat is not that high,
but most of the fish approached 30% of the USRDA recommendation for
cholesterol, which is quite high. In addition, the meat, egg, and
dairy industry have a lot of control over the USRDA. The human body
does not need dietary cholesterol; it produces all of the cholesterol
that is necessary. Not only are people unaware that seafood is high in
cholesterol, but many people do not know that seafood increases the
risk of mercury poisoning. Mercury is a neurotoxin that causes brain
damage. The connection between brain damage and mercury poisoning from
fish was discovered in Japan.
In the Mediterranean and East Asia, other dietary choices may have more
to do with the people's longevity than fish consumption. In Okinawa,
people consume fish about three times per week and not on a daily
basis. Okinawans are generally lactose-intolerant and refrain from
dairy milk after infancy. Interestingly, Okinawans have lower rates of
osteoporosis than Americans do. In addition, the American Dietetic
Association states that vegetarians and vegans have lower rates of
osteoporosis than people who consume dairy milk and other animal
products. Vegetables are also rich in anti-oxidants, which prevent
oxygen from forming dangerous compounds, thus lowering the risk of
cancer and heart disease. Soy and other beans are rich in protein,
iron, calcium, and complex carbohydrates. The Okinawans also consume
seaweed, which is rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin B12.
The Mediterraneans consume more fish and meat than Okinawans. Although
they consume more fish than Americans do, it is likely that other
factors play a greater role than fish consumption. Mediterraneans
consume less red meat than Americans do, but the main dietary reason
for their longevity is that they consume relatively large amounts of
mono-unsaturated fats from olives and other vegetables. They also
consume large quantities of whole grains and chickpeas. Rice and beans
are staples in the diet of many Mediterranean nations. Of course, I
cannot refute that fish contribute to their long lives. However, whole
grains, beans, and vegetables probably have more to do with the
longevity of Mediterraneans than fish consumption does.
Although whole grains have protein, folic acid, complex carbohydrates,
fiber, and other nutrients, they are not necessarily a vital food
group. Humans did not consume grains until the agricultural
revolution. James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winner for discovering the
double helix, states that it is nearly impossible to avoid genetically
modified food because even grains are crossbreed grasses. Humans breed
grass several thousands of years ago to make wheat and other grains; it
does not come straight from nature. One of the main reasons that the
USRDA and other dietary authorities recommend 6-11 servings of grain is
that the grain industry has the strongest lobby in the USRDA. The
grain industry is even more powerful than the meat and dairy industry.
In fact, America feeds most of its grain to farm animals that produce
meat and dairy milk. The US also sells a lot of its grain to other
nations at low costs, or they donate it. The reason why America gives
so much grain for low prices or free to cattle and people of other
nations is to keep the price of American from being too low. Grains
are the easiest way to feed large amounts of people, but that is not
because they are the most important food group. Grains are simply the
cheapest foods to produce in large quantities, which is necessary
during wars or during times of food shortages.
I am not suggesting that fish and grains are unhealthy. However, they
have an undeserved reputation of being necessary. Just as white bread
and table sugar are refined carbohydrates, grains are refined
vegetables. Vegetables, except for potatoes, are healthier sources of
carbohydrates than grains. I would not recommend giving up grains
because vegetables are very low in protein and total Calories although
beans and chickpeas are high in complex carbohydrates. I do not
abstain from grains, but I usually consume three or less servings of
grains per day and get most of my carbohydrates from vegetables and
beans. I recommend that Americans limit but not eliminate grain
consumption. Likewise, I do not recommend giving up animal products
because very few plants have sufficient amounts of vitamin B12.
Although there are plant sources of vitamin B12, most Americans do not
have the extensive knowledge or dedication to consume an all-plant
diet.
A
Plant-Based Diet
The truth is that vitamin B12 neither comes from plants or animals but
rather from bacteria. Herbivorous animals get vitamin B12 from
bacteria that are absorbed in their liver. Plants sometimes absorb
vitamin B12 from bacteria that are absorbed in soil or from manure, but
they are still usually poor sources of vitamin B12. I recommend that
people who abstain from animal products consume vitamin B12 in
supplemented form. Although fortified soymilk and cereals as well as
multivitamins come to mind, you can also get vitamin B12 from bacteria
supplements. You can buy pro-biotics, which are healthy bacteria in
capsules. If you prefer to avoid capsules and consume bacteria in a
more natural form, you can buy yeast at almost any grocery store.
Many athletes consume a plant-based diet. Carl Lewis, the Olympic gold
medalist, and Dave Scott, the five-time winner of the Ironman
Triathlon, consumed vegan diets during their peak years. Bill Pearl,
the most successful bodybuilder in history, eliminated meat and fish
from his diet and still won Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia contests. He
participated in professional body building competitions during his
mid-fifties while Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped participating in such
competitions before reaching his forties. Arnold Schwarzenegger could
not maintain his professional level of fitness training while acting in
movies and participating in politics. However, he still engaged in a
large amount of weightlifting and consumed a similar diet while acting
in movies. Many people do not realize that he suffered from heart
problems and muscle tumors during training. This is actually common in
bodybuilders. Bill Pearl had a very high cholesterol level prior to
abstaining from meat and fish. Although steroids were the main cause
for Arnold Schwarzenegger's health problems, his high consumption of
animal protein also contributed to such his physical ailments.
Anthropological evidence suggests that a primarily plant-based diet is
natural for the human body. Humans are physiologically and genetically
very similar to chimps, apes, gorillas, monkeys, and other primates.
Primates consume an omnivorous diet but they get most of their
nutrients from plants. Humans share 98% of the same DNA as chimps and
about close to the same genetic similarity as other primates. Although
I do not consider this a legitimate reason to avoid animal products, I
still feel that animal products should not be a regular part of the
human diet. In addition to our genetic similarity to primates, our
bodies do not have the necessary features to consume large quantities
of animal products. Although we have incisors to chew meat, they may
be for nuts and other hard foods. Humans do not have claws like other
flesh-eating animals, thus humans did not eat flesh until developing
sharp tools and discovering fire.
The Australopithecus ramidus, the first species of humans, was an
herbivore and lived 5 million years ago. The Homo habilis, who arose
4.5 million years ago, is the first species of humans that consumed
meat. However, they did not hunt but rather scavenged for dead animals
that other animals hunted or partially ate. The Homo erectus first
started hunting about 2 million years ago. The Homo erectus is the
first species with a body frame that is similar to modern humans, or
Homo sapiens sapiens. Although the first humans did not hunt, perhaps
modern humans evolved from species that require some animal flesh.
Nonetheless, most of these species still consumed very small quantities
of animal flesh.
In 1978, to researchers named Hamilton and Busse did research on 21
species of primates. They found that animal consumption is inversely
proportional to size. In other words, smaller primates consume more
meat while larger primates consume very little meat. The smallest
primate weighed 65 g as an adult and consumed a diet of 70% animal
matter. However, the adult gorilla is the largest primate at 126 kg
and consumes a diet of 1%-2% animal matter. The adult orangutan, who
weighs an average of 58 kg, also consumes a diet of 1-2% animal matter.
Most adult humans weight roughly as much or slightly more than
orangutans, suggesting that the natural human diet is approximately
1-2% animal matter. However, despite our similarity to primates, these
facts cannot be used to confirm the optimal human diet. Unlike
primates, humans are much very much separated from the natural world,
and the most natural diet does not necessarily mean the same thing as
the healthiest diet.
The human digestive system is quite similar but not exactly like the
digestive system of herbivores. Humans have a trunk that is one-tenth
the length of their bowels. Herbivores have a trunk that is
one-fifteenth the length of their bowels. Carnivores have trunk that
are one-third the length of their bowels. The stomach is in the trunk.
Carnivores need a large trunk in proportion to their bowels because
flesh requires more effort to digest than plants. Herbivores have a
smaller trunk to bowel ratio because plants are not as difficult to
digest. Humans have a digestive tract similar to primates, who are
omnivorous. However, most primates mostly consume raw fruits and
vegetables (such as leaves); they only scavenge for animal flesh or
hunt small mammals occasionally.
Humans did not consume eggs until the agricultural revolution. Like
other mammals, humans consume dairy milk during infancy and early
childhood, but we did not consume milk past infancy and from another
species until the agricultural revolution. Prior to the agricultural
revolution, humans only consumed milk from their mothers, and they only
consumed milk during infancy and early childhood.
Although the human body seems to lack the mechanisms for consuming
animal products without equipment, this does not necessarily mean that
humans are naturally herbivores. Even chimps, which many people think
are herbivores, occasionally kill small mammals and scavenge for food.
In addition, many primates consume insects, which do not require
cooking or claws. Unlike humans, many primates eat their own feces;
feces contain vitamin B12, but the human digestive system does not have
the mechanical and biochemical attributes to digest feces. Prior to
the agricultural revolution, humans were not able to produce very large
quantities of food, so perhaps they needed to start consuming animal
products to sustain themselves. Maybe humans evolved to hunt and eat
meat because of the spread of glaciers during the Ice Age, which
destroyed a lot of plant life. Because we do not have any recorded
history of the human diet, we cannot be sure why humans evolved to
consume animal products. Although we have fossilized feces, these
fossils are small in amount, and they only tell what diets humans
consumed and not which diets were optimal for health.
Regardless of the evolution of humans and their diets, it is best to
limit consumption of animal products. It is possible for humans to
eliminate animal foods from their diet, but it is best that vegans
supplement their vitamin B12 with multi-vitamins, fortified foods, and
bacteria from yeast or pro-biotics.
A Natural Diet
Industrialized nations have a higher life expectancy than developing
nations. It is true that people in developing nations consume a more
natural diet than Americans, Europeans, the Japanese, and other people
in industrialized nations. People in agricultural and hunter-gatherer
societies do not die sooner because they consume a less nutritious
diet. They die sooner primarily because the sanitation and healthcare
system in such nations are poor compared to American and European
standards. In addition, dictators who control the food supplies and
cause famines rule many of these nations. People in such nations
suffer from tribal warfare, civil war, outbreaks of viruses and
parasitic insects, and other problems. However, the diet in such
nations is much healthier than the diet in most industrialized nations.
Interestingly, the longest-living people in the world are Okinawans,
who are mostly farmers. Okinawa is the poorest province of Japan, and
few Okinawans have modern conveniences such as air conditioning and
refrigeration. However, they consume a diet high in vegetables (7-13
servings per day) and low in animal products (three servings of fish
per week and virtually no meat, eggs, and dairy products). Vegetables
not only have a low Caloric-density (i.e. less Calories per given mass
of food), but they also have anti-oxidants, which are substances that
bind to oxygen to prevent oxygen from binding to other substances that
form dangerous compounds; such compounds increase the risk of cancer,
heart disease, and other chronic health problems.
It is best to consume a diet consisting mostly of raw foods. The
process of cooking usually reduces nutritional content because it
causes chemical reactions that alter some of the nutrients, although
there are a few nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes that absorb more
easily after cooking. I do not recommend abstaining from cooked
foods, but it is best to have as much raw food as possible to maximize
nutritional intake. Although most people, are used to eating beans
cooked, you can actually eat raw bean sprouts.
The Culture of the American Diet
Unfortunately, an unhealthy diet is very much a part of American
culture. We eat cakes during birthday parties and weddings. During
adolescence and adulthood, we celebrate many events with beer. For
lunch breaks, we go to fast food restaurants and gorge on burgers and
other junk food. When we go out and eat with friends or family, we
usually eat unhealthy foods such as steaks while drinking sodas or
alcoholic beverages. Teachers reward good behavior and attentiveness
with candy. Although there is nothing wrong with occasionally
consuming junk food, most Americans consume junk food everyday.
Although unhealthy eating can be difficult to avoid, there are healthy
alternatives to satisfy such cravings. Instead of candy and ice cream,
strawberries and other fruits are healthier desserts. I have made a
pie in which I made the crust from walnuts chopped in a blender while
making the filling from raw kiwi, strawberries, and mangoes. Many of
my friends say that this pie tasted great. Not only is this pie free
from the saturated fat and refined sugar from traditional pies, but it
is uncooked. Although I do not recommend eliminating cooked foods from
a diet, cooking slightly reduces nutritional content of foods,
especially protein. Instead of red meat, fish is a healthier
alternative. Beans, chickpeas, and soy products are also healthy
sources of protein. I make a very tasty curry made from soy yogurt,
tomato sauce, spices (curry powder, garlic, paprika, lemon pepper), and
vegetables (mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, and
carrots). I sometimes add tofu or beans to the curry. This curry is
healthy and delicious. When eating salads, humus is a healthier
alternative to salad dressing, which is usually high in saturated fat.

Physical Activity
Nutrition is only half the battle. We need to increase our levels of
physical activity. Most agencies such as the American College of
Sports Medicine and Center for Disease Control recommend twenty to
thirty minutes of physical activity three to five days per week. I
cannot blame them because it would be unrealistic to ask most Americans
to do more. However, even this recommendation is inadequate. I would
recommend that Americans gradually increase their level of physical
activity to approximately one hour per day. It is okay to do more than
one hour on some days and less than an hour on other days. Although
rest is necessary, light walking or other physical movement is
necessary to reduce muscle soreness. In addition, the nervous system
needs some stimulation to maintain strength in the muscles, lungs, and
heart. Unless an individual experiences an emergency health problem
requiring bed rest, total inactivity in an entire day weakens the body.
Although most Americans know the importance of physical activity, very
few people feel motivated to be physically active. Even as a personal
trainer and fitness expert, I relapse into physical inactivity from
time to time. The greatest motivating factor to stay physically active
is to engage in enjoyable physical activities. Many people play sports
such as basketball or ultimate Frisbee for enjoyment, although they
increase physical fitness in the process. Many athletes participate in
sports such as football and basketball for competition, yet most
athletes are very physically fit. People dance at parties and clubs
for enjoyment, but dancing is also a wonderful physical activity. My
twin brother and I enjoy martial arts training. I have incorporated
martial arts training with many of my clients when personal training.
One activity I like is shadowboxing, which involves holding dumbbells
in each hand while pretending to box somebody. Recently, I came-up
with some goofy exercises. One workout involves playing solo
volleyball with three balloons. To clarify, I use three balloons and
hit them in the air; the goal is to keep them in the air and away from
the ground. Twenty minutes of this activity with three balloons is
exhausting, but is very enjoyable. For lower-functioning individuals,
one or two balloons may be more appropriate. I also recently started
jumping like a child, bunny rabbit, or monkey. I have two rice bags
filled with a total of forty-five pounds together. Sometimes I may
jump while holding the bags, although I only do this for a minute at a
time. Another idea is to incorporate physical activity in daily
routines. For example, when cooking, I may jump or practice martial
arts while waiting for the food to cook. Other people may prefer
walking, jogging in place, dancing, or some other activity. It is a
good idea to do a little bit of physical activity whenever one is
experiencing down time or waiting for something, even if the wait is
brief. At the end of the day, this physical activity can add up.
Although many people consider me very fit, I am probably less fit than
most of the world's population. I barely do an hour of exercise per
day and sometimes do two hours of physical activity, although I usually
exercise at 75-85% of my maximum heart rate. Nonetheless, I engage in
less physical activity than most people in the world do. Farmers in
Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America spend ten to
twelve hours each day to obtain food and water. They have to walk
everywhere because they do not have automobiles. Because they do not
have television or videogames, they usually engage in physically active
leisure activities such as dancing or sports. Although people in such
nations live shorter lives than most Americans and Europeans, it is not
because of the long hours of physical activity. Oppressive rulers,
civil and tribal wars, artificial famines, inadequate healthcare, and
poor sanitation are the main reasons that these people live shorter
lives than people do in industrialized nations. Okinawa does not
suffer from oppressive leadership or massive violence, and it has a
healthcare system that integrates western medicine and traditional
Okinawan medicine. Okinawans still engage in roughly the same amount
of physical activity as people in other agricultural societies. Their
balance between modern healthcare and traditional lifestyle is probably
why they live longer than the rest of the world. Armenia, Cuba, and
Greece are some other third world nations that have a higher life
expectancy and lower infant mortality rate than the US.
It is not realistic for most Americans to engage in so much physical
activity, but we can gradually approach a level of physical activity
close to our agricultural counterparts. We can engage in numerous
short bursts of physical activity during idle time such as when we are
waiting for something. We can also reduce our participation in
watching television and other sedentary activities and replace them
with more active leisure choices. In addition, we can exercise while
watching television or cooking. Ultra-marathon runners and Ironman
Triathlon participants usually have occupations similar to most
Americans, yet they spend several hours training each day. This is a
healthy level of physical activity as long as we approach it gradually.
However, it is dangerous to engage in such high levels of physical
activity quickly. Because such training may be dull and monotonous for
most people, I recommend that individuals engage in physically
activities that they view as more enjoyable. I would never train for
an Ironman Triathlon or ultra-marathon, but I would like to engage in
such a level of exercise by doing activities like martial arts, balloon
ball, dancing, and jumping like a monkey or rabbit.
The Mind-Body Connection
A healthy mind is another important aspect of good health.
Some people smoke, consume an unhealthy diet, and engage in very little
physical activity yet still live until the age of 100 or older. There
are very few centenarians with unhealthy lifestyles, but such
"unhealthy centenarians" still exist. This is because both the
mind and lifestyle habits affect physiological health. The nervous
system regulates every organ of the body, thus the though process
affects physiologic functions. Nearly eighty percent of all doctor's
visits are related to stress. Mental stress directly affects the onset
of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, and
numerous other diseases, although other factors also play a role. A
healthy mind reduce blood pressure, secretion of stress hormones such
as cortical, and respiration rate. A healthy mind also strengthens the
immune system by increasing activity of immunoglobulin, T cells, and B
cells, which are the "soldiers" of the immune system. This lowers
the risk of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, ulcers, and other
conditions. However, the immune system's cells also fight against
the flu, tuberculosis, AIDS, and other infectious diseases.
Working Wellness
Bad health is a drain on the economy as well as the body. Each year,
corporations spend hundreds of billions of dollars on Medicaid,
Medicare, and other health insurance plans. Such health insurance
plans cover heart disease, cancer, back problems, depression, anxiety,
osteoporosis, arthritis, and several other health problems. In 1978,
American corporations lost $19.4 billion in production because of
premature coronary death; they paid an additional $15 billion for
employee sick leaves. In 1989, absenteeism from depression cost
employers $17 billion. In 1993, employers spent approximately $700
billion to replace employees who quit before reaching the official
retirement age because of coronary heart disease. Of course, the
corporations are not the only people with the financial burden. The
victims of the diseases and their families sometimes have to pay out of
their pockets. In addition, the corporations make their revenue from
customers, thus the money that corporations use to pay for health
insurance comes from employees of other agencies. In the end,
employees and employers pay for the burden of chronic mental and
physical health problems.
Corporate fitness and wellness programs are emerging to prevent the
expenses of compensation leave and health insurance. The Canada Life
Assurance Company and the North American Life Assurance Company found
that after instituting on-site exercise programs for managers,
productivity increased three percent and a twenty-two percent reduction
in absenteeism. In the US, Control Data reduced health care costs by
fifty-percent for employees that were not in corporate fitness
programs.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are wellness programs that treat
mental health. Some corporations are starting EAPs and have found that
they save a lot of money in the process. The Kimberly-Clark
Corporation reduced on-the-job accidents by seventy percent after
instituting an EAP. General Motors states that instituting an EAP
reduced their expenditures on employee sickness and accidents by sixty
percent. The success of EAPs may be why eighty percent of Fortune 500
companies have established EAPs within the last five to seven years.
Not everyone works for a company that has the resources to establish
an Employee Assistance Program. There are simple things that people of
all socio-economic statuses can do to reduce stress and increase mental
health. Slow, deep breathing from the diaphragm is a very effective
way to calm the mind and body. The diaphragm is just above the
abdomen. It is best to breathe through the diaphragm and have expand
the abdomen while breathing in while bring the abdomen back in when
breathing out. To simplify, think of a balloon. As you breathe air
into it, it expands. Likewise, expand your abdomen as you breathe air
into your body. As you let air out of the balloon, it shrinks.
Likewise, as you breathe air out of your body, your abdomen should
retract.
Although most people can practice breathing exercises to reduce
stress, changing the thought process is difficult. Life is very hectic
and stressful. However, we can still regulate our thought process.
Despite our stressful lifestyles, we all are lucky to have our family
and friends. Simply taking time to be mindful of our blessings has
great psychological and physiological benefits. It is good to thank
people and smile as much as possible. These few things take up very
little time but have drastic health benefits. We can also try to look
at the bright side of situations and even find humor in stress.
I hope that this essay is beneficial. To summarize, eating a diet
rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains and low in animal
products and refined carbohydrates followed by plenty of physical
exercise is essential. The easiest way to be physically active is to
participate in enjoyable activities. A healthy mindset is another
important aspect of good health. If we eat healthier, exercise more,
and think more positively, we will reduce a many physical ailments and
save billions of dollars each year. Most importantly, we will live
happier and longer lives.








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O' Hara Ph.D, Valerie (1995). Wellness 9 to 5: Managing Stress at
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New York: pp. 178, 198, 206

Duyff, Roberta Larson (1998). The American Dietetic Association's
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Humphries, Bronwen (1994). "The Diet of Early Humans: What did our
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Saul, Bradley (2005). "Vegan Athletes Flex Their Muscles."
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http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=26480&nfid=rssfeeds

Suzuki MD, Makato; Willcox MD, Bradley; and Willcox Ph.D, Craig.
"The Okinawa
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Weis, Dennis B. "Bill Pearl's Super Nutrition Seminar."
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