When Duke Ellington started playing Take the A Train during the 1940s and 1950s, about 30 percent of North American adults were overweight. Now the rate is near 70 percent. If you want to avoid, or escape, that expanding demographic, take public transportation. - It seems that men who use what researchers are calling active transportation (walking, biking and taking public transit) are 7 pounds lighter than average, and women are 5.5 pounds lighter. Proof comes from an analysis of 15 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and North America. The United States is the fattest and most car-dependent: Just 5 percent of people walk, bike or take public transit to get around. Denmark is the thinnest (the obesity rate there is 20 percent), with nearly 58 percent of Danes walking, biking or taking public transportation to work. -Active transportation means you're changing your position frequently: standing, bending, walking, climbing stairs, sitting and then standing again. You're revving your metabolism, toning muscles and keeping your brain sharper.
MOOD-ALTERING SUBSTANCES (FROM YOUR PRODUCE AISLE)
Need one more reason to eat your veggies (and fruits)? New research confirms that consuming more fresh produce every day (essential for good health) coincides with feeling more curious, content and purposeful (essential components of happiness).
It may be that when you are happy, you eat more nutritious food. (You aren't drowning your sorrows in a sea of depressing sugar and fat.) Or maybe fueling your body with the right nutrients makes everything, from your brain to intestines, work more smoothly, and that creates a happy glow.
Here are some of the mood-enhancing powers of fruits and veggies:
- Carrots, walnuts, squash and lima beans deliver an omega-3 called alpha-linoleic acid that's key for decreasing inflammation. You want to keep your gray (and white) matter happy.
- Polyphenols in globe artichokes, broccoli, asparagus, rosemary, oregano, apricots, blueberries, green tea and turmeric help prevent cell aging and fight off cognitive decline. They also may fight anxiety, depression and stress.
- And broccoli? Along with other cruciferous veggies, it contains a good dose of calcium, essential for maintaining healthy levels of the happy neurotransmitter serotonin.
BEFORE YOU PUMP THAT ANTIBACTERIAL PRODUCT ...
Germ phobia seems pretty widespread these days. More than 2,000 antibacterial products are sold, from hand soaps and toothpastes to household paints, and most contain the chemical triclosan (or its cousin, triclocarban). The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing its use in soaps, and its decision is due in 2016. Minnesota banned its use in some products starting in 2017. But we think you should act now to get it out of your life.
There's growing evidence that the compound may trigger developmental and reproductive problems in humans. One study found that 100 percent of pregnant women tested had triclosan in their blood, and many had it in umbilical cord samples, meaning the fetus had it too. Triclosan does clear from the body pretty quickly, but most folks are continually exposed. Check beyondpesticides.org to see which products contain triclosan and triclocarban.
You still can slash your risk for colds, flu and gastric distress; just use soap, environmentally friendly cleansers and a touch of alcohol-based hand sanitizer when those things aren't available. Wash your hands frequently, and keep your immune system in germ-fighting shape: Get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly; get a blood test to check your vitamin D-2 level (it should be over 35); take half a men's over-50 multivitamin (women too!) morning and night; and - daily - eat nine servings of fruits and veggies, get 30 minutes of physical activity and work up to walking 10,000 steps.