Most of us are not hitting the weekly exercise targets the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outlined in 2018.
- at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, cycling or dancing
- 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise like running
- strength training at least twice a week
We’ll find a routine post-pandemic, after the holidays, when work calms down, when the weather is cooler or warmer.
We pay a price with these strategies. While we are negotiating, our bodies are not frozen in time.
Exercise may help people stay sharp – at any age. “Physical activity seems to make people a bit more hardy against cognitive decline, ” says Charles Hillman, associate director of the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health at Northeastern University. “And it can lower your risk for more serious cognitive impairments like dementia.” That is based on studies that tracked thousands of people for up to 12 years.”
“One of the most notable findings is that a single bout of exercise has transient benefits on cognitive function,” says Hillman. He served on the panel that examined the evidence for the Physical Activities Guidelines.
The most evidence pointed to aerobic exercise for “crystalized intelligence”, our ability to remember facts: people, places, things like that.
It was known that the most consistent benefits of exercise are on memory, attention, the ability to ignore distractions and stay focused, and the ability to multi-task. Exercise protects the brain by changing its physical structure.
“Both grey matter – which are the neurons themselves – and white matter – which improves how well the neurons communicate with each other – benefit from physical activity,” Hillman explains.
In one study, researchers randomly assigned 120 cognitively healthy older adults to do either stretching and toning exercises or 40 minutes of walking three times a week. After a year, the volume of the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and learning, had increased in the walkers but declined in the stretchers.
“Regular physical activity strongly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people of all body sizes,” concluded the Physical Activity Guidelines. Experts on the panel found that people who fit the guidelines targets have a 25 to 35 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes that people who do no activity.
The reason is the exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin. “Insulin tells tissues in the body to take in sugar from the bloodstream,” explains Jenna Gillen, assistant professor to exercise physiology at the University of Toronto. “The more sensitive your tissues are to insulin, the more quickly sugar is removed from the blood. Insulin sensitivity is important for lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.”
Studies show that a single exercise session improves insulin sensitivity for a day or two! Improvement is seen immediately; you so not have to put in months of training to see better numbers. But, it is also noted that after four days of inactivity, the improvements disappear. Consistency is the key.
“We’ve known since the 1950s that physical activity plays and important role in the prevention of heart disease, says Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of population and public health sciences at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
In one recent analysis of nine studies, those who reported doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise had a 15 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who did no exercise.
Exercise lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and other risk factors for heart disease. It also helps keep you blood vessels supple.
Being sedentary raises the risk for both cardiovascular disease and mortality. Katzmarzyk’s advice: “If you have a job where you have to sit for most of the day, you are going to need a fair amount of exercise to negate the health effects, whereas if you’re up and about most of the day, you don’t need to do as much exercise.”
(‘Get up every hour for 10 minutes’ is not based on any data. Still, if you have to sit all day, it isn’t a bad idea.)
In a survey of roughly 3,000 U.S. adults, those who became less active during lockdown reported higher levels of depression, stress, and loneliness. There is good evidence that staying active can boost your wellbeing. Charles Hillman from Northeastern University says that a commitment to regular activity benefits mental health by lifting anxiety and depression.
“We’ve known for quite a while that high levels of physical activity are linked with a lower risk of colon cancer and breast cancer,” says Charles Matthews, and epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute. “High levels of activity are quite consistently linked to a lower risk of endometrial, kidney, bladder, and stomach cancers,” continues Matthews. “And, there’s emerging evidence that it may also be linked to a lower risk of liver cancer.”
“As we age, we all lose muscle,” says Alexander Lucas, and instructor in the department of health behavior and policy at Virginia Commonwealth University. “You are probably going to peak around age 30.” After 40, expect your muscle mass and strength to start to fall, with big drops after the age of 70.
Even so, Lucas says that there is no age at which you cannot build muscle. Climbing stairs, doing a couple of squats, pushups or lunges will help. Use elastic bands or light hand weights to build muscles. “You have to overload the muscle,” says Lucas. “Make it work harder than it’s accustomed to. That’s how you’ll make the fibers both bigger and stronger.”
Don’t forget that exercise also leads to better sleep. The time of day doesn’t matter. Fit exercise in whenever you can.
The World Health Organization says that physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death around the world. When researchers ask people about their exercise habits, then track them for years, the risk for early death plummets in those who do even small amounts of moderate to vigorous activity compared to those who are inactive.
Interventions to get people moving are needed. They should be affordable and accessible across population groups. This is particularly pertinent, given the higher prevalence of physical inactivity and sedentary behavior documented in those with less education and lower socioeconomic status.
The use of wearable fitness trackers as tools for self-management is growing. These fitness trackers are typically worn on the body and are able to monitor and track statistics, such as distance walked or ran, number of steps taken, and calorie expenditure. Some fitness trackers are able to offer coaching and feedback during activities and provide prompts to engage in activity. Set a goal for 4,000 steps a day.
Kohlrabi, also known as German turnip or cabbage turnip, is very popular in Northern and Eastern European countries like Germany and Hungary as well as northern Vietnam and eastern India. The funny-looking vegetable is part of the same family as broccoli and cabbage and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes.
Kohlrabi grows as a bulb with leaves shooting up from the sides. It can be white, green, or purple with little difference in flavor.
Despite its name, kohlrabi is not a root vegetable and does not belong to the turnip family. Instead, it belongs to the Brassica genus of plants and is related to cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. It has a long leafy stem and round bulb that’s usually purple, pale green, or white. It’s always white-yellow on the inside. Kohlrabi’s taste and texture are similar to those of broccoli stems and cabbage, although it is slightly sweeter.
When raw, kohlrabi has a flavor similar to raw cabbage with a lightly spicy kick like a radish or turnip. The amount of spice will depend on the size of the bulb, with smaller bulbs having a milder taste and crisper texture. Cooked, it has a subtle flavor and texture similar to broccoli stems. The stems and leaves are also edible, and when cooked, they resemble mild-tasting collard greens or Swiss chard.
One cup of raw kohlrabi provides:
- Calories: 36
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 93% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin B6: 12% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the DV
- Magnesium: 6% of the DV
- Manganese: 8% of the DV
- Folate: 5% of the DV
Kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that protects your body from free radical damage and plays a role in wound healing, collagen synthesis, iron absorption, and immune health. It is also rich in vitamin B6, which supports immune health, protein metabolism, and red blood cell production.
It’s also a good source of potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that’s important for heart health and fluid balance.
A single cup of kohlrabi provides approximately 17% of your daily fiber needs. Dietary fiber helps support gut health and blood sugar control. It contains both soluble, which maintains healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and insoluble fiber which isn’t broken down in your intestine, helping add bulk to your stool and promoting regular bowel movements.
Fiber is the main fuel source of healthy gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which nourish the cells of your gut and may protect against heart disease and obesity. A healthy gut microbiome is associated with a healthier immune system and lower risks of obesity and bowel disease.
Kohlrabi contains powerful plant compounds called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which are mainly found in cruciferous vegetables. High glucosinolate intake is linked to a lower risk of heart disease due to this compound’s ability to widen blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Moreover, isothiocyanates have antioxidant properties that may prevent plaque buildup in your arteries.
Kohlrabi is high in vitamin B6, which is important for many functions, including protein metabolism, red blood cell development, and immune function. Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of white blood cells and T-cells, which are types of immune cells that fight foreign substances and are key to a healthy immune system.
How to Buy
Kohlrabi is available year-round, with peak season running from fall through spring. You can find green, white, and purple kohlrabi often sold with the leaves still attached. This ensures that the vegetable is extra fresh, plus the leaves are delicious. When buying whole kohlrabi, choose ones with crisp-looking, vibrant leaves.
Look for kohlrabi that feels heavy and is firm without blemishes or dark spots. Smaller bulbs tend to be sweeter, with large bulbs becoming woody and stringy.
How to Store
Remove the stems and leaves if they are still attached and cook as soon as possible (within the first day or two) since they will wilt quickly. Store all parts of the kohlrabi in the crisper, with the leaves wrapped loosely in a silicone bag and the bulbs left uncovered. The bulb will keep for up to a month in the fridge but use it sooner if you are planning to serve the vegetable raw to ensure a crisp texture.
How to Cook
The bulb, stems, and leaves of kohlrabi are all edible. Trim the brown end before using, and separate the leaves from the bulb for best results. Stems and leaves should be cooked as soon as possible since they will wilt quickly.
Creamy Kohlrabi Risotto
- 1 heads of kohlrabi with the leaves
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 sweet onion chopped
- 3 cups Vegetable Stock
- 3/4 cups of arborio rice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Tellicherry Black Pepper
Clean the kohlrabi: Wash, remove the leaves, roughly chop them, and set aside. Begin by peeling the bulb with your hards and then use a vegetable peeler to remove the rest of the outer layer from the root. Dice the root of the kohlrabi.
In a medium pot, heat the vegetable stock bring to a simmer with the lid on. Turn to low heat.
In a medium pan, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sauce the greens for 8-10 minutes on low with a pinch of salt.
In a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sauce the garlic, onions, and kohlrabi root for 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the arborio rice and sauté for an additional 5 minutes until rice begins to brown slightly. Stir constantly so the rice doesn’t burn. Add the white wine to the mix, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Remove the greens from the pan and add them to the kohlrabi rice.
Add one ladleful of vegetable stock at a time to the kohlrabi rice (about half cup) stirring the rice slowly. Once the stock has been absorbed add another ladleful, stirring constantly. Repeat for about 45-60 minutes until rice has absorbed all the stock and becomes thick and creamy.