It's so important to give our minds and bodies a break from our ever busier, technology driven world by
taking daily doses of laughter, mindfulness and nature. Here's some thoughts on how to accomplish this healthful habit.
Last Friday evening as we completed a 19 mile bike ride to Old Stonebridge – coming back along Stitzel, King, Findley, and McFarland – we were treated to a beautifully spreading and glowing sunset, lighting up the clouds with azures, rose, violet, orange and golden edges. I felt my mood soaring. Later as I sat down to my computer again – revisiting the irksome website I had been working on earlier in the day – even then my mood remained elated. It wasn’t just the endorphins of the exercise that did this; it was the 2 hours of immersion into the out of doors – our beautiful rolling hills, fields, streams, woods, mountain views.
My experience gave me some further insight into the term “Nature Deficit Disorder”, coined by child advocacy expert Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”. He points out that getting out into nature is actually key to the developing brain, mobility and agility, and remains important to adult mental and physical health.
Anyone who takes a nice walk outdoors over lunch-break, will tell you that they come back refreshed from the morning’s work and energized for the afternoon. The exercise is great for your heart, lungs, brains, bones, and joints, and it goes beyond that; the mindfulness of the daylight, the fresh air, the views, the sights and sounds around – debrief us from the busy work morning, relax us, refresh us. Not only does it make us work more efficiently in the afternoon, the physiologic benefits of stress reduction are well known.
In a presentation to the American Academy of Pediatrics*, Mr. Louv included some interesting facts from research on nature’s role in our growth and wellbeing:
Think of when you were a child. On weekends we left the house in the morning and road the neighborhood on bikes, explored streams, climbed trees. Remember the delight and amazement of finding a birds nest, spying a box turtle hidden in the garden, gathering brightly colored leaves; we collected acorns, rocks, feathers, shells from our nature trips – and made a “natural science center” at home.
In one generation we have dramatically shifted away from that exploring, adventure, creativity, and fresh air, to a world focused on hand held devices, Aps and screens – at home, at school, at work. We’re connected to the internet and disconnected from the outside world.
We can blame technology, but behind every screen-dominant upbringing is an overly cautious parent. Understandably, we want to protect our kids from “out there” variables; but as a result we’ve created a divide in our lives from nature. The more we get back out doors and preserve it in our yards and our communities, the more we recapture security as well as key health benefits.
One might think that kids and adults can “travel” further and see more with computers and TV. One can look at pictures from Tuscarora Ridge, but that’s nothing like hiking up there, marveling at the rock formations and seeing the vast views of our valleys. One can look at a picture of Johnston Run, but that’s nothing like sitting there, listening to the stream and the rustling of the wind and birds in the trees, or catching a glimpse of a curious critter out of the corner of your eye. One can look at a field of wild flowers, but that’s nothing like standing in it, watching bees, monarchs, humming birds and other pollinators busily at work. Interestingly – they are actually harvesting in their garden, and creating the seeds for their next year’s food supply. Listen intently and you can hear the flap of a butterfly’s wings – honest!
Further, if we only explore the world in photos or in virtual reality, our non- involvement in the real world of nature causes us to not see its changes, pollution and degradation; we are risking losing it.
Enjoy some of these (and there are many more) outdoor activities in our area:
Perhaps, if we each enrich our well being with daily doses of laughter, mindfulness and nature, we can have a world with joy, awareness of each moment, and a commitment to a sustainable Earth.
Tuscarora Area Cycling Map – an MPMC and JBHS Digital Design Class Collaboration
By Elizabeth George MD
MPMC Tuscarora area bicycle maps are now available at numerous public places in Franklin County and at mpmcproject.org. This is the product of a collaboration between MPMC volunteers and JBHS students; Summit Health has generously funded the printing of the 1st Edition. Since our Feasibility Study on walkabiity/ bikeability, area cyclists, have been providing MPMC with their favorite routes for traveling to work and for exploring our beautiful area; many thanks to cyclists Sean Grove, John Johnson, and Ryan Smith. The map design work was done by JBHS Advanced Digital Design Class of 2015-2016 under the instruction of Mrs. Erin Martin.
Vice Principal Rick Burkette noted “this is a great example of ‘Experiential Learning’ – a student project resulting in an authentic product for the community.”
The assignment was kept intentionally vague to give students the opportunity to really create and develop the brochure. “Take this local map with color markings showing favorite bike routes and create a brochure that will be informative and inviting to people to explore our beautiful area. Include scenic, recreational, historic destinations.”
I went to my first meeting with the students and was impressed by their creative and practical questions – they had previously looked at MPMC and MACWell materials and started to think about themes – who’s the audience, size, how will it be used, what map style?
A key part of the project was getting out and exploring the community – students traveled by van to observe, take photos of favorite areas, create descriptions, “get to know their subject”. Mrs. Martin assigned each student one of the routes to investigate and research in advance; “they didn’t come up with much, But as they traveled out on the routes, they discovered so much to include and so many photos of historic and scenic locations, they weren’t sure how they would fit everything in.”
A month later at our next meeting all students presented a basic design concept for the map/description - their design ideas - their energy and creativity was notable. One student created a map that actually folded up into a hat; that would be a fun 2nd edition of the map. Graduated student Samantha (“Sammy”) Fritsche came up with the base design that was used for the final project along with additional design elements from the class.
Then the really technical part and fine-tuning began. Working with the base map (downloaded from County info) was a computer challenge – working with the “layers” of information and different computer programs is more complex than someone just looking at a map might realize. Carl Rosenberry commented that this part, “though challenging and often frustrating, was a valuable learning experience. “ Mrs. Martin said “I’m going to include this new knowledge in my teaching plans for future design classes”.
This fall I met with students again to go over our proofs. As we reviewed the map Jaiden Hart displayed a “magnificent eye” (as Mrs. Martin said) for alignment and find details on graphic design products
As the students looked at the printers proofs with great satisfaction – they reminisced over the project. “The hardest part was getting started - coming up with the design concept. Rick Burkett noted that this is a key learning point – “people in graphics/ advertising have to know how to get started on a project they are unfamiliar with. “
Sydney Jones said –“I really enjoyed our trip out – I learned so much about our community - I had never explored our area so much. Now, I can even find the alpaca farm.” And Jaiden noted, “it’s amazing how much is almost right next door to us, that I never really explored.” Mr. Burkett added, “It was motivational to get me out and bike more.” Mrs. Martin noted that only half the students had previously been out to the JB Monument State Park. (I don’t know if they had time to poke around under the rocks in the stream and find crawdads – a favorite Saturday activity last summer with my Grandkids). The students agreed that the trip up to white Tail was a favorite part – especially the extra treat of hiking up for a wonderful view from the top
As part of their “real world experience”, Jaiden Hart and Sydney Jones, along with Mr. Burkett and Mrs. Martin met with Lyndon Shank at Mercersburg printing to go over some final editing. Mr. Shank noted that he was very impressed with the design work and extensive computer skills of the students. Many thanks go to Mr. Shanks for his work on printing details.
Mr. Burkett summarized, “This was an opportunity for our students to gain real-world experience applying what they have learned in class to the creation of an authentic product for a client in the community. They learned so much more than digital design. The gained a deeper appreciation for the surrounding area. They learned how to work through the exchange of ideas between designer and client to create a quality product that represents both their hard work and also the interests of their client. They worked with a local business and toured their outstanding facility.” He added “I’m very proud of our students for their leadership and commitment to seeing this project through! I’d like to thank Mrs. Erin Martin and Dr. Liz George for their patience and willingness to engage our students in this valuable learning opportunity.” I would add that, once again, it was an absolute pleasure to work with JBHS talented and energetic students, and see their commitment to making a difference in the area in which they live.
Here are 5 Inexpensive Valentines gifts!
February is “Heart Month”. Here are 5 gifts to promise your heart and your loved ones for a lasting valentine!
Once again this year’s research points to the following basic “gifts to your health” as being important for vigorous longevity, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimers and improving general wellbeing. Research has yet to produce any pills with anywhere near the benefits.
1. Go for a walk – in fact, go for 150 minutes of brisk walking or other physical activity each week (gardening, hiking, Zumba, cycling are my favorites). Whether you do it all in 1-2 days or spread out over the week, it’s a benefit. This 150 minute a week habit will not only improve your mood, but will reduce the risk of hypertension, strokes, and Alzheimer’s by 50 %. If you have a sedentary job (or a lot of “screen” time)– a new study encourages folks to get up and move for 5 minutes every 30 minutes; this will lower your BP and help manage your glucose (and benefit your sanity).
2. Move plants to the middle of your Plate – for generations in the past, Mothers reminded their children “eat your fruits and veggies”. The advent of fast foods pretty much disrupted this healthy pattern. It’s a good idea to start counting your fruits plus veggies again; aim for 5-7 (or more) each day; benefits include reducing hypertension and many cancers. And a new study showed this helps reduce frailty in aging.
Legumes (beans) have been shown to support your arteries’ (blood vessels’) ability to dilate and to prevent plaques. They’re easy to add to soups and salad, serve Mexican style on brown rice with veggies, or make a delicious chili or hummus. There’s an endless variety (over 1,000 kinds) - kidney, garbanzo, navy, adzuki, butter, canolini, lentils, peas, limas and many more.
Avoid saturated and trans fats – found mostly in animal products. These fats are the culprits in hardening of the arteries and also seem to increase some cancers. They also play a role in insulin resistence.
Choose whole grains and limit processed and fast foods high in salt and added sweeteners. Most people seem to be understanding how these contribute to hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The trick is to read the fine print on the labels. Manufacturers are still adding more sodium and sugar. Even Campbell’s new supposedly healthy YES brand has 580 mg of sodium per portion. I wrote them a letter asking them to take a look at this contradiction – still waiting for a reply. Meanwhile, don’t fall for the tricky advertising on the front – read the ingredients closely. Another important step is to cut out the #1 sugar culprit in the USA – sodas.
And don’t fall for the TV hype and advertising by the pharmaceutical companies. A cholesterol pill might make some of your numbers look better, but it won’t have near as many benefits on your arteries or for disease prevention. And a pill for diabetes might help the numbers, but choosing these healthy habits could actually reverse or prevent diabetes.
“Poly pharmacy” is a problem, with many seniors being on >10 medications; this has been shown to often produce more side affects than benefits. Meanwhile our healthy longevity is decreasing. Pills aren’t the answer – they don’t prevent or reverse disease. Go to your grocery store for your “Farmacy” and eat plenty of foods made from plants, not made in plants!
3. Be sure your home and the places you work and play are smoke free (and don’t let your kids think that “e – cigs” are safe.) (See last weeks helpful Journal article by Larry Stillwell). I think the risks of tobacco and smoking have become very clear to most. Hooray for so many community programs and public education over the years. If you’re still struggling with this addiction, don’t give up! Most people who finally successfully quit, have had to try several times. Just remember, the day you quit, your blood pressure and heart attack risk start to improve!
4. Laugh often! Laughing actually has physiologic benefits – increasing circulation to your heart and brain, decreasing blood pressure and producing powerful, helpful endorphins. Remembering to find humor in challenging situations can also help find the solution. And take time to play with the kids (spouse, friends etc) and aim for 7 hours of sleep each night.
5. And last, but probably the most important - Love - do daily good deeds, take care of Mother Earth, volunteer, stay active with family, friends, community groups, your church. Studies on health and longevity worldwide show that these are key contributors to wellbeing
When you give these gifts to your heart, chances are you’ll be giving them to those around you as well. You’ll be sharing a helpful example (and maybe share some of your delicious foods), and your good health will speak for itself.
By Dr. Elizabeth George
But now there is a new twist on the role of physical activity in wellness. Two recent articles (well really many, but I’ll go over 2) are noteworthy. Health care providers are saying, “Sitting is the New Smoking”
Blood pressures were measured eight times per day. At the end of the light-walking day, subjects’ blood pressure was on average 14/8 mm Hg lower than on the uninterrupted sitting day. On the simple resistance activity day, it was 16/10 mm Hg lower. Once again – a lifestyle change can give you a comparable result to a blood pressure pill – without side affects and no co-pay!!
I don’t want to make this article to long – but real quick – there’s another study of similar design in diabetics that showed improved glucose control and better insulin function with just this simple shift to standing up every 30 minutes and moving around!! So simply put, sedentary jobs are risky!! People with sedentary jobs, or sedentary lifestyle should get up every 30 minutes and move for 3 minutes – to reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
So, you might be asking, what’s this about “Nick Iula’s Standing Desk”? Today Patti Nitterhouse and I went to Shippensburg University to enjoy Roberta’s dreamy art show “How’s the Weather?” Looking at her artwork, you feel like you’re right there in the painting. Afterward, we went to the dining hall for lunch. Yes, the public is welcome. Nick was there, so we got to rave to him about our delicious meal AND he got to proudly show us the “standing desk” he had created for his computer in his office - so he can stand, walk in place, move while he designs those delicious menus for the whole school. No wonder he has more energy and glow than ever!!
Check back weekly for new posts on health and wellness!
Dr. Elizabeth George