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.

Balinese And Javanese Spa Therapies

Bali is one of more than 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago bordered by the Indian Ocean and the Bali Sea. Beckoned by its luxurious spas, eighty percent of international visitors to Indonesia only stop in Bali. Bali’s spa therapies are rooted in the rituals of Javanese royalty and Chinese, Tibetan, and Ayurvedic therapies.

The Balinese Massage

The Balinese massage is a unique blend of massage therapy, acupressure, reflexology and aromatherapy. Essential oils, especially jasmine, rose, sandalwood, coconut, cempaka, sandat and frangipani, are used freely and are chosen on the basis of one’s individual condition. These oils help the flow of blood and oxygen, which balances the body’s qi or energy flow.

Clients wear loose clothing or smocks or they’re lightly draped with towels. Clients lie on a conventional massage table, massage sofa, or a mat on a floor. If needed, clients can also be seated in a chair. The massage therapist starts with a dry massage that combines kneading strokes, skin rolling, gentle stretches, compressions and foot massage. Room temperature fragrant oils are added during the procedure, and warm oils with lemon grass, clove or ginger are used to address specific pain. Pushing techniques predominate and are used to heal muscle spasms and provide a deep pressure massage.

After the massage, which usually lasts an hour, clients may be treated to a Lulur or Boreh body scrub or they may be covered with hydrating ingredients such as yogurt or honey. Depending on the spa, clients may opt for a Flower Bath or an invigorating shower.

Benefits

The Balinese massage calms the nerves, restores the spirit and heals the body. It’s reported to improve sleeping disorders and provide relief from migraines, headaches, allergies, asthma, and muscle pain. The Balinese massage boosts the circulation, identifies and treats painful areas and spasms, and increases energy flow.

Contraindications

Because it is a rigorous procedure, individuals who have had recent surgery should abstain. It’s also not recommended for pregnant women, individuals with joint or limb pain, or who have problems with either low or high blood pressure.

The Jamu Massage

The Jamu massage is a type of Balinese massage that relies on Indian, Chinese, and European massage techniques such as acupressure, rolling motions, long strokes, and percussion-like drumming. The Jamu massage is more invigorating than the traditional Balinese massage and is intended to increase blood circulation and revitalize the body.

Mandi Lulur or Lulur Bath

The mandi lulur is a Javanese specialty procedure. It’s used to exfoliate and soften the skin. The lulur includes a light coconut oil massage that’s combined with rose, frangipani and jasmine scents. Although the pressure is lighter, occasionally deeper pressure is applied to the palm or thumb to stimulate the nervous system. A paste-like mixture made from rice, turmeric and fragrances is applied as an exfoliating agent. Afterwards, clients step into a flower bath with rose and jasmine petals.

The Javanese Volcanic Mud Wrap

Indonesian mud is rich in minerals, including minerals found in volcanic lava. Clients are covered in mud, which detoxifies and heals the skin, and covered with a wrap so that the minerals can penetrate the skin.

The Boreh Body Scrub

Similar to the mud wrap, this procedure uses a paste made from warming ingredients such as ginger, cloves and sandalwood. The body is covered with paste and allowed to set. It is then vigorously massaged into the skin and rinsed, leaving the skin glowing and the body energized.

American Spas with Balinese and Javanese Therapies

More and more American spas are offering Indonesian therapies or are exclusively Indonesian therapy-based spas. The Taman Sari Spa in Whistler British Columbia is the only Javanese Spa in North America. Clients can enjoy traditional Javanese hydrotherapy and massage procedures as well as treatments for weight loss and pre-wedding events. Treatments include post-maternity package, the Four-hand Prameswari Queen massage, the classic Javanese Massage, the sublime Javanese Lulur body scrub and the indulgent Merapi Volcano Body wrap. Natural Javanese herbs and fragrant oils make guests feel as if they landed in the Indonesian islands.

Absolute Nirvana, a Balinese spa, is located near the main plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Procedures include traditional Balinese Massage, Lulur, Balinese facials, and hot stone massages. The spa has handicapped access and employs LaStone certified massage therapists that receive special training in Javanese Lulur, Ocean of Flowers, Brown Sugar exfoliation and Balinese Boreh. Guests are provided with cotton batik kimonos and sarongs, which are imported from Bali. Absolute Nirvana is also a member of the Green Spa Network and has its own water treatment system.

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 Choose The Best New York Spa Vacation

The sheer number of New York spas and treatments can make it difficult to decide. Take time to determine your priorities before booking.

New York City or State of New York Spa

It’s easy to find a hotel spa in the heart of New York City. Many major hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel in Times Square, or The Peninsula on Fifth Avenue, offer luxurious spa treatments for business and leisure travelers who wish to stay overnight. Their spa services are also available for day trippers.

In Manhattan, it would be simple to stay at a budget hotel and pamper oneself with visits to any of New York’s outstanding day spas. Bliss Spa is one well-known and respected name, as is Oasis Day spa, which bills itself as “affordable luxury.” Dorit Baxter Spa and Skin Care is a New York institution and reasonably priced as well.

Outside of the city, New York State also hosts many spas in romantic and scenic locales. The Finger Lakes region is known for fine wine and fabulous cuisine. The Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Skaneateles boasts award-winning dining and relaxing spa treatments in a charming French -inspired setting. The inn is noted for its beautiful gardens and warm hospitality.

One benefit of staying at a spa with accommodation is that meals, which are likely to be both healthy and appetizing, will be included, making it easy to budget for total costs.

Spa Visit for Health or Beauty

Visitors to a New York spa should also decide in advance what sort of treatments to book. Each spa has a speciality, such as Asian or European treatments, and the focus might be on health and wellness, strictly beauty or a combination of both.

Couples’ Getaway or Girls’ Weekend Spa Visit

Depending on whether one is planning a couple’s retreat or girls’ get together will determine which spa to choose. Though most women will appreciate a picturesque setting, a girls’ weekend spa visit might be more fun in the city where other activities, such as shopping and sightseeing, are readily available.

A couple’s retreat or honeymoon might be more suited to an out-of-town location, where the stresses of everyday can be left behind.

How to Find the Best Prices at a New York Spa

After deciding on which type of treatment, and before booking, check online for any special prices or package deals. Business hotels and city day spas might have lower prices on the weekends, whereas an out-of-town destination spa might charge less during the week.

Always phone and ask if there are any better offers, or if a little extra, like a manicure or free products, can be included in the deal. Be sure to mention if one is celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday, anniversary or honeymoon.

Visitors to New York might be interested in reading more about the New York Wine & Culinary Center or the Taste of New York Restaurant, also in the Finger Lakes area.

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.

Costa Rica Hot Springs: Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

Situated 13 kilometres west of the town La Fortuna, Tabacon hot springs has flourished into one of Costa Rica’s premier attractions. Here natural hot springs feed off the geothermal energy of their fiery neighbour, Arenal Volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. To lovers of pure pampering indulgence, this means guests are exposing themselves to a somewhat moderate risk on a daily basis as they lap it up in the resort’s sensual surrounds.

Curiously enough, Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort is located right where Arenal erupted in 1975, an event which killed a most unfortunate local. While not a common occurrence, guests are occasionally evacuated when the conical fire breather emits poisonous gas, or becomes a little too spirited. However it appears this is a fair price to pay for what lies inside, as guests are treated to geothermal cascades, rainforest landscapes, volcanic mud-wraps and even a resident shaman. Surely such indulgence is worth it.

Getting the Best Views – When to Travel to Costa Rica

Fortunately there have been no mishaps since, and Arenal’s active lifestyle means there’s plenty to see, even while floating with a drink near the resort’s poolside bar. This all depends on the time of the year, as cloud forest often surrounds Arenal’s peak from December through to February. September, October and November offer the finest views, when rainstorms are likely to disperse any unwanted cloud cover.

Travel during these times is recommended, circumstances permitting, as flights to Costa Rica are not only cheaper, but the volcanic display of fiery mayhem can get quite entertaining. There’s something infinitely satisfying about viewing wild energy firsthand as it bathes you in Earthly pleasures. Views of the volcano are available from all thermal pools within the resort. However favourable weather also draws visitor numbers, so it’s best to book in advance.

The Hot Springs Resort

The resort entrance is a gaudy showcase to the influx of dollars supplied by the resort’s many hedonistic visitors. A well stocked gift shop flanks the entrance booth, while inside, heated cascades are surrounded by carefully placed stones, and caves that have an air of natural, yet resort-laden aesthetics. Although one of the pricier places to stay in Costa Rica, Tabacon manages to supply the goods while providing cheaper services than many developed countries.

Inside, there’s a master spa that holds free sweat lodge ceremonies for guests staying in the resort. However it’s the outdoor hot mineral springs located within the grounds that the visitors really flock to. Altogether, there are five natural springs, ranging in temperature from 25 to 50 degrees Celsius. Tabacon claims these are part of a unique geothermal heating system, which contains the perfect combination of temperature, volume and mineral content.

The Tabacon River, which is fed by rainwater, flows through magma in the nearby volcano before rising to bathe the guests in its minerals. Three of the springs, all which are 97% rain-based and 3% magma-based, surface and flow naturally on the property, reaching a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. There is also a cold spring, which feeds the rainforest before trickling amongst the resort surroundings.

The Benefits of Hot Mineral Springs

Flowing from the Earth’s core energy, hot springs symbolise Earthly power and life giving properties. Bathing oneself in mineral springs is not only beneficial to the skin, but can invigorate life energy, while the hot spring water helps relax the muscles, dilate the skin, and improve oxygen flow throughout the body. Hydrothermal flora and fauna surrounding the pools also contain beneficial microbes that help prevent ageing.

Besides offering an invigorating pamper amidst lush settings and geological fireworks, Tabacon provides one of the more versatile vacations in Costa Rica. With intimate spas and gardens surrounded by rainforest, the place caters for romantic getaways, weddings and the family holiday. It’s a unique blend of Earthly contact and consumer indulgence, a sensual paradise, all compliments of Earth’s sizzling hot rock action.