Get Fit Balance Openers
April marks the start of blueberry season, and we now have yet another reason to stock up on this delicious superfood. Of course, we all know the tiny berries are bursting with huge health benefits, including antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C. Now, the latest research shows they may also help keep blood pressure in check. A small study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, focused on 48 post-menopausal women with borderline hypertension. Half the participants consumed a tablespoon-and-a-half of freeze-dried blueberry powder (equal to a cup of blueberries) and after two months they experienced a 5 to 6 percent drop in blood pressure compared to the women who ate powder with no blueberries. Researchers also found the blueberry powder spiked blood nitric oxide levels by around 68 percent. Nitric oxide, which helps widen the blood vessel walls, may be at least partly responsible for the lower blood-pressure levels, researchers say.
Move over apples; it turns out avocados might be giving you a run for your money in keeping the doctor away. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating an avocado a day, as part of a diet rich in healthy fats, may help lower LDL, known as the bad cholesterol. Researchers studied 45 overweight and obese individuals who were fed three cholesterol-lowering diets for five weeks each: a low-fat diet and two moderate-fat diets, one of which included a daily avocado. Ultimately, the one with the daily avocado resulted in a 10-percent drop in LDL levels, compared with an approximate 5-percent decrease for the other diets. Pass the guacamole.
Photo by Nick Shirghio
With the proper instruction, kiteboarding is a great pursuit for practiced boarders and newbies alike. It takes a board, a hardness and 75 feet of line as you use the kite to capture the wind and power you up to tide the waves. Nick Shirghio, a professional local photographer who has enjoyed kiteboarding for more than a decade, says that anyone can do it, with the right training. “Trainers will usually start you out with a smaller trainer kite that drags you through the water so you can get a feel of controlling the sail. Then you start on a board and figure out when to start edging out.” Shirghio notes that kiteboarding provides an excellent workout. “Kiteboarding is a great isometric and core workout because you can use your lower back and abs to control your body, and you have to squat and hold your position to get the board under control.” If kiteboarding sounds like something that interests you, Shirghio recommends you check out Windstalkers in Naples. (naplesfloridakiteboarding.com, 239-601-2700)
Fitness doesn’t always have to be serious. For a relaxed and active day out, try miniature golf. Kids can work on hand-eye coordination and their math skills (someone has to keep score!), and most importantly—it’s fun. Here are some local places to play mini-golf in our area.
- Coral Cay Adventure Golf, Naples: Two 18-hole courses that include caves, reefs and a waterfall.
- Golf Safari Mini Golf and Congo River Golf, Bonita Springs: Kids love the jungle theme of these two 18-hole courses. At Congo River, families can even feed gators at its interactive exhibit.
- Glowgolf, Estero: Enjoy 18 holes in an indoor glow-in-the-dark course that opened to much fanfare last year at Coconut Point mall.
- Marco Golf & Garden, Marco Island: This 18-hole course is nestled in a tranquil garden setting.
Hibiscus are widely prized as beautiful tropical blooms, but the brilliantly colored flowers are more than just decorative. They may also help your heart, according to research that includes a 2010 study in the Journal of Nutrition led by Tufts University. It found participants with mild hypertension who drank three cups of hibiscus tea per day over six weeks saw a measureable decrease in blood pressure. Hibiscus tea is available in health food stores and gourmet markets—but be sure to look for the purest form. Several tea blends contain licorice root, which should be avoided by those with hypertension.
Taking a dip in the pool is a refreshing way to cool off during a summer scorcher, but the health benefits of swimming go beyond just burning a few extra calories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water-based exercise can even help alleviate joint pain for those who suffer from osteoarthritis, which affects about 50 million people. Neapolitans who want to put a fun spin on their swim can try an aqua Zumba class at the River Park Aquatic Center or yoga-infused water aerobics at the Greater Naples YMCA.
Kick-start a new fitness regimen with kickboxing. The martial-arts workout combines elements of karate with Muay Thai and Western boxing for a total body workout. Derrek Duffy, general manager of Title Boxing Club in Naples (239-963-8585), says the hour-long classes at the studio provide intense cardio, resistance training and core exercises. What’s more, you’ll learn self-defense moves and have fun, Duffy says. Several other area gyms offer classes, so kick up your heels and find one near you.
Pu-erh tea, a centuries-old Chinese brew, is generating a buzz among health seekers and teatotalers. Made from aged and fermented black tea leaves, this handy tea is known for its earthy aroma and wholesome benefits. It naturally contains small amounts of the cholesterol-lowering compound lovastatin and is a source of probiotics for digestive health. Find it at Brambles Tea Room, Naples (239-262-7894).
It doesn’t need to be winter to reap the benefits of an icy workout. Take part in ice skating at Germain Arena in Estero. Aside from public skating, the arena offers eight-week programs for lessons in hockey, figure skating and, of course, the basics of just staying vertical on the ice. We love that it’s a great calorie burner and quad workout—plus, skating sharpens your balance. No figure eights required! (skateeverblades.com)
Take a break from hardcore exercising and find relief with Tai Chi, a low-impact exercise class that is based on an ancient Chinese martial art. Often referred to as “meditation in motion,” the class includes a series of gentle movements performed slowly, with a focus on deep breathing. You can practice Tai Chi in Naples at Love Yoga Center (239-692-9747).
If running on a treadmill and lifting weights equal pure boredom to you, Pure Barre studio in Naples may be the key to stepping up variety in your workouts. Using a barre, instructors teach a ballet-inspired series of exercises to tone glutes, thighs, abs and arms. Studio owners Olga Metzler and Lenka Valigurska say the classes are designed for women of all ages.