I was in Chicago a couple days ago and as I was walking along Lake Michigan, this is what I saw…
This was at about 2 pm on a weekday. And THAT many people were out running/walking/biking/etc. And just a block or so away, thousands were walking up and down Michigan Avenue – shopping, going to a meeting or heading to Starbucks for a coffee run. After a few hours of some hard-core shopping and hoofing it up and down the streets, I exhaustedly turned to my mom and said, “There is NO way you could function in this city if you weren’t in good shape.”
I got to thinking – I drive everywhere. I drive to work, to the store, to go out to eat. I mean, I even drove to a park less than 2 minutes away the other day to go on a walk. Not only is this not financially desirable given the inflated gas prices, but it really isn’t necessary. With the near-perfect weather that we’ve been having all year, what excuse do I really have to not walk to Walgreens? If I can run 13 miles, can’t I ride my bike half a mile to the gym?The American College of Sports Medicine put together a list of the 10 Healthiest Cities in America. The criteria for ranking these cities came from the American Fitness Index, which looks at health behaviors, health care access, community resources, levels of chronic disease conditions, and of course, policies that support physical activity. Unfortunately, our hometown did not make the list, but these ten did:
- Minneapolis, MN
- Washington D.C.
- Boston, MA
- Portland, OR
- Denver, CO
- San Francisco, CA
- Hartford, CT
- Seattle, WA
- Virginia Beach, VA
- Sacramento, CA
Notice any trends? The glaring standout to me is that all these cities are either on the East or West coast – no Southern or Midwest cities to be found. I was surprised to see Minneapolis at number one; however, because of its low unemployment rate, higher than average median income, high percentage of physical activity and low percentage of smokers, it shines above the rest and has earned the notable title.
In case you were wondering, Chicago made the list as the lone Illinois city, ranking 28 out of 50. Not bad, but definitely could be better. If only we could get rid of the deep dish pizza and hot dogs, maybe we would bump up a few notches…
Okay – so what is my point? I am a firm believer that living an overall healthy lifestyle and incorporating functional activities into our daily routine is the key to success. Sure, it is great to do an interval training session or run a half marathon. But making the small changes in your every day life are what is going to give you the biggest payout in the long-run. Check out some ideas below. And I’m interested to hear your feedback – on the overall health status of our community or the nation, the little things you do to live a healthy lifestyle, or just whatever is on your mind. Now I am hungry for deep dish pizza…
- Walk more. Obviously I already touched upon this one a bit, but try to look for small ways to walk more. When you get the mail, take a walk around the block. Take Fido for an extra outing each day (or ask your neighbor if you can walk their dog with them) or park the car in a spot farther from the door.
- Turn off the TV. We all have our TV shows (I wish I was not glued to the set for Keeping up with the Kardashians…). But once a week, turn off the tube and do something a little more physical. Play games with your family, organize all those old family photos, take a walk…almost anything will be more active than sitting on the couch.
- Pace while you talk. I feel like I’m on my cell phone half the day, between work and catching up with friends. Next time you call Grandma to check in, pace around your house or even do some cleaning while gabbing. This is a great way to stay moving while doing something you enjoy.
- Do some chores. Working in the garden, rake those leaves still on the ground from last fall, mop the floor…these kinds of activities may not be the kind of exercise where you break a sweat, but they can keep you moving and in shape. And added bonus: your house is in much better shape too.
- Be aware. Make a list of all the physical activities you do on a normal day, even if it is as simple as going grocery shopping. If you find that the majority of your time is spent sitting, make another list of all the ways you could move more: getting up each hour to stretch or walk, walk the stairs at work, etc.
- Eat more fruit. I make a point to have fruit with every meal of the day. This time of year is a great time to start incorporating more fruits with the increase in fresh fruits available. And if your not a fan of eating a banana by itself, pair it with some peanut butter and dark chocolate chips. Hey, it’s still fruit, right?
- Sneak in more veggies. Add veggies in wherever you can: a tomato on your sandwich, peppers on your pizza or mushrooms and onions in your pasta sauce. Keep pre-cut or canned/frozen veggies ready for quick snacks.
- Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy. Switching to skim milk or fat-free yogurt is another simple way to eat less calories without having to change too much in your diet. Dairy is a good source of protein as well, so add a half-cup of cottage cheese to your lunch for a quick and filling bite.
- Switch your salad dressing. Salad dressing is the downfall of so many healthy salads. Swap your full-fat topping for something lighter; the fat-free kinds are good, but having a light dressing with a little fat will actually help you absorb more nutrients from your veggie salad. You can also try some oil and vinegar for a nice alternative.
- Make some substitutes. Look through your cabinets or fridge and pick three foods you eat every day. Write down the nutritional content and the next time you’re at the store, find lower-calorie substitutes for just those three items. For example, if your three items are cookie dough ice cream, sour cream and onion chips and flour tortillas, try buying some sorbet, carrots with low-fat veggie dip and whole wheat wraps next time.