“If you can't fly then run. If you can't run then walk. If you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
I will never forget the first impression my husband, originally from Princeton New Jersey, had when he met my (then) eighty-year-old grandma. The moment she heard him speak to her in her language she grinned with a toothless smile from ear to ear. They connected like as if he was her grandson and she was the grandma that he never had. Recently widowed, the majority of farm work, from feeding the animals, gardening, and working in the fields collecting hay, fell directly on her shoulders. One day she invited us to follow her in the field to help her collect the hay in a tall pile in the middle of the field and cover it with a tarp to protect it from rain and snow for the winter. My husband didn’t think anything of it. Of course, he was going to help a frail elderly woman collect her hay for winter.
It was a hot day, and my husband and I were sweating just sitting in the shade, not to mention working in the field. My grandma patiently showed my husband how to hold a pitchfork. The object was to pick a row of hay and start collecting it with small up and down movements until the pitchfork contained the maximum hay stacked on it. Then you were supposed to carry it to the middle of the field and throw it on the already formed pile that was now well over 7 feet tall. My uncle was at the top of the haystack waiting for us to throw the piles from our pitchforks over our heads and onto the big pile. He would then rearrange it carefully and create a uniform circle which was growing into a taller and taller cylinder as we brought more and more hay.
I remember my husband’s and my pitchfork were quite heavy, that we would barely hold it above the ground as we walked across the field toward the haystack. Then this small old woman, barely five feet tall passed both of us carrying her pitchfork loaded with twice as much hay than either of us had! Not only that, but when she came to the main haystack, she would send her pile flying over her head, placing it perfectly in the center for my uncle to catch. We on the other hand still in awe, dragged behind her trying to imitate her only when we threw our piles above our heads it fell back on us like fresh snow. How did this little old woman have so much strength and agility? Because of hours in a gym? She didn’t even know what a gym was. Her daily steps alone would blow past any of our pedometers! Not to mention strength or cardio training. My grandma hasn’t stopped working hard since she married a wealthy farmer at the young age of 16. Her hands are bigger than yours and mine combined. Just to think of her feeding well over a hundred different livestock each day, several times and my inability to feed my three dogs even once a day, makes me shake my head in disbelief.
Most of the men and women in the Blue Zones have active lives and move naturally. Whether they are walking to a friend’s house or market, or working in the gardens and fields, or shepherding in mountains, they are always on the go, encouraged by the environment that surrounds them.
We are dynamic beings and our bodies are designed to move. Unfortunately, the majority of us have jobs that require sitting behind a desk and this means we have sedentary lifestyles. The latest research conducted by Saarland University in Germany on 69 healthy individuals who did not exercise regularly shows that the best habit you can adopt to improve your health, increase your lifespan, and decrease the chances of having coronary disease by half in your fifties and sixties is to exercise 25 min a day, whether it’s a brisk walk, jog or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Furthermore, their blood tests have shown that the anti-aging process was triggered and old DNA was repaired, basically delaying the aging process. So, if you adopt one exercise habit, let it be daily walking.
As a general health benefit, I would suggest to anyone that they should take a brisk walk or jog at least 20 to 30 min a day, which is a little less than 2 miles or about 3,500 steps. However, to move toward true fitness, I suggest you start with 4,000 steps a day and increase it by 1,000 steps a day each week until you reach 10, 000 steps a day. Do this in addition to your high-intensity training.
I personally like to alternate between cardio (walking and running) and calisthenics (using body weight as resistance like HIIT&RUNT) for 6 consecutive days. This gives me the perfect mixture of health and fitness benefits. Cardio exercises, such as walking, jogging, biking, and swimming, make a heart strong and more efficient. An efficient heart will be able to pump the blood at a slower rate, conserving the body’s energy without much strain. Resistance training, such as HIIT&RUN, improves strength, bone density, and muscular efficacy. It is shown to be nine times more effective than steady cardio when it comes to burning calories from fat.
MY EXERCISE ROUTINE
On average, I walk 10,000 steps a day regardless of what training I am doing. And for six days in a row, I alternate between running and HIIT&RUN. This routine seems to work really well for me. It keeps me strong, fit and healthy. Just ask my family doctor who wanted to know the secret to my perfect lab results. Even the vitamins I was deficient in when I took a similar test in the past are now all well within the normal ranges with my plant-based food and exercise routine. My BMI is steady and normal at 20. My muscle mass percentage is high, above 38%, and my fat percentage is low, under 10%. And my gynecologist said I have hormones like a 20-year old! This is why I wanted to share my routine and my meal ideas with you so that you too could find a way to your optimal health.
IDEAS ON HOW TO ADD MORE NATURAL MOVEMENT TO OUR LIVES
Create your own daily routine where you will take more advantage of your surroundings, going beyond your local gym. Any time you have a chance to walk or bike instead of driving, take it. If there is a choice between an elevator or stairs, go for the stairs. If you can organize a walking meeting instead of sitting one, you will all feel more creative, happy and agreeable. If you have a baby, put it in a baby carrier and do your daily cleaning and walking with the baby strapped to you. Walk your dog. If you don’t have one, get one. Studies have shown that people with pets live longer, and kids with pets are more responsible.
Create a daily habit of walking, jogging or running in nature every day for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Nature is important because it has positive effects, not only on our bodies but on our psyche. The sight of nature relaxes us and helps to reduce our tension and stress.
To read more about the common centenarian habits go to