Friday, July 6, 2007

Five Different Ways to Maximize Summer

By Connie Aronson

Beg, borrow or buy the book "Day Hiking Near the Sun Valley Area"

There are five gorgeous mountain ranges nestled around the Wood River Valley. They are easy to get to and back from in a day, and offer spectacular alpine experiences. Organize yourself and companions so you're ready for an early start to beat the heat. Pack plenty of water, and carbohydrate-type snacks. After the first hour or so of uphill climbing, carbohydrates from muscle glycogen stores get depleted. A 135-pound person can burn almost 200 calories in just half an hour of hiking. Pack along whole-grain sandwiches or fruit juices to keep energy levels high and savor the views.

Grapes, berries, and the French paradox

Fresh berries and smoothies both scream summer. Low in calories, berries contain an array of phytochemicals that protect our cells from damage that might lead to cancer. Phenols, one of the principle phytochemicals in berries, are mini warriors that combat free radicals and actually slow the growth of cancer cells. Another phytochemical, famously found more in red wines than whites, is reservatrol, a contributor to the astounding health of our svelte French friends. Red and purple grapes, red grape juice and peanuts are power-packed with reservatrol. All this protection¾just by incorporating two cups a week, including cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, and all recommended by The American Institute for Cancer Research.

Learn three Yoga poses

You don't need to be strong or flexible to practice yoga, though you may well be with regular practice, even if it's only 10 or 15 minutes a day. Scientists now believe that it's not just our bodies that have an ability to turn over new cells, but our brains as well as we are exposed to more experiences. On the other hand, chronic stress decreases this ability to regenerate new cells. Simple breathing and relaxing in a yoga pose allows our minds to rest, releasing stress. As you practice your three simple poses, let this time spent stretching become a daily habit and an oasis in your busy day.

Be free and weighty

As we hit 40, few things are as important as strength training to prevent an annual 2 percent loss of muscle and bone-mineral density. If you can't bear to go the gym in the summer, you can use a Swiss ball and some free weights outside at home. Increasing muscular strength improves functional ability, and trains brain neural connections that help improve coordination and how you move about. Cholesterol levels improve, and belly fat diminishes. In his new book, "Chasing Life," Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, explains how an upper-body resistance-training program is paramount to health as we age. The simple chest fly, for example, opens up the ribs and gives our lungs more room, which could even enhance our ability to ward off pneumonia later in life.

Park your car and walk

Biking or walking on errands this summer will make your heart happy. The heart, an exquisitely engineered pump, powerfully pumps blood through miles of blood vessels that run through your body, and clears out fatty deposits from blood vessel walls. You can slow down the process of coronary heart disease by becoming a regular mover, and avoid Main Street's sweltering gridlock. Most stops are less than a few blocks away anyway. A big, strong heart enjoys a big, strong life, with lots of beautiful summer days.


Connie Aronson is American College of Sports Medicine certified, ACE Gold certified, and an IDEA elite personal trainer. She's located at Koth Sports Physical Therapy in Ketchum.

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