Health And Sports Day: A Japanese National Holiday

While the promotion of health and sports is fairly widespread throughout the countries of the world, Japan went to the extreme in promoting sports among its population by creating a national holiday that advocates an active and healthy lifestyle prompted by the 1964 Olympic Games.

Asia’s First Olympic Games

The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games was a significant event for all of Asia, especially for Japan. As the first Olympics to be held in Asia it signified the advancement of the Asian region as a whole and for Japan it provided a global stage to impress the world with the level of its economic growth and development since the devastation of World War II.

Not only was hosting the Olympics a boost for Japanese pride and morale, but it also brought with it further economic growth in the form of improved infrastructure. In preparation for the games the government constructed the first bullet train, the Tokaido Shinkansen, as well as the Metropolitan and Meishin Expressways.

Most importantly, in terms of the Olympics themselves, the government established athletic programs which undoubtedly played a role in Japan’s final medal count of 29, third after the United States and the Soviet Union, which in turn contributed to the spread of sports clubs and training centers across the country.

A New National Holiday

To commemorate the spirit of the 1964 games, in 1966 the Japanese government declared October 10, the opening day of the ’64 Olympics, a national holiday called Taiiku no Hi, translated as Health and Sports Day. October is late for a summer Olympics, but due to Japan’s rainy summer season meteorologists determined that mid-October would provide optimal weather conditions. As a result, the holiday is also generally favored with good weather. In support of a three-day weekend the holiday’s original October 10th date was changed to the second Monday of October in 2000.

Most schools from kindergarten up hold undoukai (athletic meets) around this time in the spirit of the holiday. Children are generally divided into two teams (red and white) and compete in games including tsunahiki(tug-of-war), kibasen (a mock cavalry battle), and creative dance.

The government also takes part in promoting physical activity with its Japan Sports Association (JASA) organizing a National Sports and Health Day Festival every year in Tokyo. While only elementary and middle school children can participate in the various sport events, track and field, soccer, swimming, boxing, and fencing for instance, elementary children through adults can participate in other health related games, fitness tests, and learn about nutrition.

National Sports Festival

On a much larger scale, the government also organizes a National Sports Festival which has been an annual event since 1946, although not made official until 1961 under the Sports Promotion Law. All 47 prefectures participate and it is organized jointly by JASA, the Ministry Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the hosting prefecture.

Chiba Prefecture hosted this year’s main events which lasted from September 25, 2010 through October 5, 2010 and included, among others, hockey, sailing, badminton, softball, wrestling, fencing, basketball and more traditional sports such as sumo, archery, kendo (Japanese sword fighting), and naginata (a pole weapon with a long wooden handle and curved blade on the end). Skiing, skating, and ice hockey competitions are winter events held in January and February and usually hosted by another prefecture.

How To Have Better Health & Help The Environment

As an individual, doing anything meaningful to help the environment can seem daunting. However, making an effort to follow one or more of the “green” grocery shopping practices described in this article gives you an easy way to help the environment. As added bonus, most of these changes can help you improve your own health as well.

Buy or Make Some Reusable Fabric Grocery Bags

The first item to put on your healthy, green grocery shopping list should be reusable fabric grocery bags. Many grocery stores stock these bags already with a retail price usually around $15 apiece. Another, much less expensive option is to make your own reusable fabric grocery bags. What difference does it make to switch to reusable fabric bags? Visit Reuse This Bag to learn the gory details about pollution from plastic grocery bags.

Add Organic and/or Natural Whole Foods to the Grocery List

While organic and/or natural foods may cost a little (or sometimes a lot) more than their conventionally grown counterparts, both your body and the environment will thank you for your choice. Why? For one, because certified organic foods are more sustainably grown, without the use of harsh chemicals and other environmentally harmful practices. And choosing organic allows you to avoid putting those chemicals into your body, too. Organic foods have many additional health benefits.

Another aspect of the healthy grocery shopping list to consider is that purchasing foods in their more whole, less-processed form tends to be better for both your own health as well as for the environment. Time and again, whole foods have proven to be healthier options than the more prevalent, highly processed and refined options. Whole foods help the environment because less energy and waste (fuel, packaging, and so forth) is involved in their production.

One other thing to consider when shopping for organic and/or natural, whole foods is that some companies may practice relatively or even entirely organic farming techniques, but not be “certified organic.” They may choose to forgo certification due to its expense, instead focusing their efforts on self-regulation, which can have even higher standards than official organic certification. It’s important for concerned consumers to do the research on individual companies to discover the truth.

Shop for Locally Grown Food Whenever Possible

One of the best ways to help the environment is to shop for locally grown food. Local Harvest lists farmers markets’, natural grocers, and stores that sell organic food online, allowing you to find the locations offering such services closest to you (in the United States). By shopping locally, you reduce the amount of fuel burned to bring your food to you—and you nourish your body with fresher, often organic, whole foods, too.

A Healthy Grocery List Helps You and the Environment, Too

By employing the green grocery shopping practices described above, you can both help the environment and improve your own health as an individual. Changes such as using reusable grocery bags, purchasing organic and/or natural whole foods, and shopping for locally grown food whenever possible are easily implemented and can make a huge difference. For better health both personally and globally, consider adding these environmentally sound shopping ideas to your next grocery shopping list.

How To Buy A Spa Gift Certificate

One gift that is popular for all sorts of occasions is the gift certificate for a relaxing day at a spa. But sometimes it’s difficult to know which spa offer would be best for a loved one. A spa certificate is similar to gift card for a specific store, which is then taken to the spa on an appointed day for redemption.

What does a Spa Gift Certificate Include?

Gift certificates for day spas can cover a wide range of services all designed to rejuvenate one physically and spiritually. And once a person has experienced the refreshing feeling that can come with spa treatment, he/she will be eager to go back for more. If that happens, one only need to contact one of the spa attendants and buy a gift certificate for another day. Many spa certificates are primarily advertising tools for spreading the word about some specific treatment available at the facility. In many cases, certificates include groups of services in a package, and it’s best to use all of the offers that are available..

A number of spas offer gift certificates online. There are a number of high-end spa websites that allow a person to take a virtual tour of the facility and spa treatment options, so that one can get a better understanding of what awaits him at a spa. There are all sorts of spas offering a vast selection of spa treatments. Virtually everybody can find some type of treatment to suit them. When one is searching for spas online, check out the first spa on the search list, then browse through the site until one finds a treatment that he/she likes.

Choosing the Right Spa Gift Certificate

If one buys a certificate for a massage, be sure he/she is dealing with a licensed therapeutic massage therapist or massage school that has a good reputation. Memberships are available through some spas, but often these deals are more about getting money to cover financial hardship. Don’t buy into any membership deal that seems too good to be true – it probably is. Also check the duration of validity, and don’t choose one that’s too restrictive. The better spas allow six months or so to redeem certificates; deals that have to be used within a month or two aren’t practical for many people.

Another benefit of spa gift certificates is that they’re great for last-minute gifts. When a person is offering a day of rest and relaxation, he is really showing his friends, family and co-workers how much he cares about their well-being.

Flipping-Fantastic Options For A Healthful Holiday Feast

There are ways to keep the fat low and the spirits high this holiday season by preparing healthier soon-to-be holiday classics.

Who doesn’t love the festive joy and over-indulgence the holiday season brings to one and all? Some people even enjoy baking the food to serve to their famished family and friends. But no one likes the seemingly unavoidable weight gain that quickly creeps up on the average adult during the holidays.

In the spirit of giving, and after being thoroughly badgered, family and friends gave up their favorite recipes for healthy holiday options, and the easiest and most popular are featured below. So escape the morass of dining remorse by swapping out typical seasonal meals for the goodly grub below.

Delectable Green Beans

This recipe completely disregards the use of greasy french fried onions, heavy mushroom soup, or butter incorporated in the typical green bean casserole dish. Instead, boil two pounds of fresh green beans and place in a large bowl. Toss green beans with 1/2 cup of chopped almonds, 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese, and two teaspoons of sherry vinegar. It’s that simple to make a flavorful and far less fattening veggie side!

Coveted Squash Casserole

This deliciously cheesy alternative to potatoes au gratin starts with two pounds of sliced squash and 3/4 cup of chopped red onion, boiled until tender. Pour boiled vegetables into a casserole dish and cover with 1 cup of reduced-fat cheddar and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes to achieve gooey perfection.

Juicy Baked Pears

Take 4-6 pears, depending on the number of guests and keeping in mind that a serving size is half a pear. Peel and halve the pears and place in a baking pan, flat side up. Pour a cup of apple juice over the pears and into the baking pan. Sprinkle each pear halve with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm with a scoop of either vanilla frozen yogurt or fat free ice cream. Super-sweet Bosc pears work best in this dish.

Rich Pumpkin Pie Pudding

This creamy dessert is individual sized and crust-free, making it a great low-fat option. Start with 2 4oz packages of french vanilla pudding and pie mix and prepare per directions on the box. Add 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice to prepared pudding and mix thoroughly. Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. Ladle chilled pudding mixture into custard cups just prior to serving and garnish each with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

Walking Every Day Is Good For Senior Health

Walking every day is a habit that nearly everyone can develop and maintain and is especially suitable for older adults (50+) and seniors (65+). Running is a high impact aerobic exercise that causes many injuries as people age. By contrast, walking is much lower in impact and is virtually injury free when performed on smooth surfaces. There are serious health risks involved in being physically inactive. By walking every day older adults can exercise aerobically, improve their fitness, reduce health risks, and likely improve any chronic conditions they may have.

The Benefits of Aerobic Exercise for Older Adults

According to the Mayo Clinic the top 10 benefits of aerobic exercise include:

  • Living longer
  • Reduced health risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity
  • Management of chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and control high blood sugar
  • Strengthening the heart
  • Keeping arteries clear
  • Warding off viral illnesses by activating the immune system
  • Being able to stay active and live independently longer
  • Boosting one’s mood
  • Increasing one’s stamina
  • Controlling weight

For older adults, aerobic exercise can also stem cognitive decline, and weight bearing aerobic exercise like waking can lower the risk of osteoporosis.

Walking Aerobically Every Day is the Goal

Seniors need first to receive approval from their doctors before beginning any exercise program and this is critically important when they have one or more chronic medical conditions. Exercise prescriptions should be individualized. But the large majority of seniors are able to walk aerobically and they can benefit a great deal if they can eventually work up to walking aerobically each and every day.

Walking aerobically usually means walking at a brisk pace that raises the heart rate and involves sighing respiration. Gasping for breath is working too hard. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise should be the goal for most seniors. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines moderate-intensity aerobic exercise as “working hard at about a level-six intensity on a scale of 10. You should still be able to carry on a conversation during exercise.” Although it varies by individual and existing fitness, aerobic walking paces can range from two miles per hour to four miles per hour. Many fit people will walk even faster than that.

Research shows that for substantial health benefits seniors should perform at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. But for those who are able to tolerate more, aerobic walking at moderate intensity every day for 60 minutes would reap even more health benefits. Those who have been inactive would need to work up gradually to this level of seven hours of aerobic walking per week.

Walking Strategies for Health and Fitness

There are a number of things that older adults can do to begin and to sustain a daily aerobic walking program for their health and fitness. Strategies for success might include:

  • Investing in a good pair of walking shoes to avoid foot and other potential problems
  • Walking with others – friends, family, or co-workers – to help all involved to stick with it
  • Starting gradually and progressing slowly to avoid soreness or trying to do too much too soon
  • Walking outside only in daylight and only in safe areas
  • Walking on a treadmill if available, but not holding on to get the maximum benefit (unless balance is an issue)
  • Doing shorter aerobic walks of 10 to 20 minutes multiple times a day
  • Walking in malls during bad or extreme weather
  • Using a pedometer to track the number of daily steps taken (10,000 per day is a typical goal)
  • Warming up by walking slowly for five minutes and cooling down by walking slowly for five minutes (important for safe and effective conditioning)
  • Drinking water before, during and after walking, especially in warm weather

Motivation is a critical success factor so seniors need to focus on the benefits of enhanced health and fitness and the difference it can make to the quality of their lives. Walking every day should become an ingrained habit after three months. So whatever it takes to walk every day for the first three months should be in one’s plan.

Those who are motivated by weight loss goals can plan to walk every day to lose weight. Such a commitment is doubly significant because getting fit and losing weight (or preventing weight gain) should be the key goals of all older adults who want to have high quality lives.

Walking Every Day Improves the Health of Seniors

Walking every day is something nearly all seniors can do. Walking is cheap, easy, and effective in improving health and fitness when it is done aerobically. The research documenting the health benefits of aerobic exercise is overwhelming. Walking every day is not hard to sustain once it becomes a habit. The key is getting started and committing to daily walks for three months. Seniors should make the time to do this for a longer and better quality of life and to maintain their ability to live independently.