- Environmental Health -

Ditching Disposables

Bottled water might be convenient, but the environmental impact of the petroleum-based plastic bottles it comes in may have you looking for alternatives.

plastic water bottles

Ditching Disposables

  • Americans discard more than 30 million plastic bottles each day. That’s billions of bottles a year in our landfills and oceans — plastic that can take more than 1,000 years to decompose.
  • Over 1 billion bottles of water are shipped every week. In fact, the Container Recycling Institute estimates that supplying Americans with bottled water uses more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually (enough to heat 250,000 homes for a year)
  • For the shelf price of one bottle of name-brand water, you can use about 1,000 gallons of tap water in your own home.

If you don’t like drinking tap water, consider investing in a water filter. For H2O on the go, try a reusable stainless-steel thermos or high-quality plastic bottle (see “Picking Your Way Through Plastics” in the April 2005 archives). You’ll be saving money and giving the earth a much-needed break.

A Brief Routine

Is a hectic schedule preventing you from squeezingin the recommended 30 minutes of daily activity? You’re not alone — 60 percent of U.S. adults aren’t meeting that goal. So here’s some good news: According to new research from Queens University Belfast in Northern Ireland, even a little exercise can go a long way toward improving your health and fitness.

The study, published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, offered participants a lighter fitness regimen than current recommendations, which many adults find challenging to fit in to their busy lives. Researchers divided 106 sedentary adults into three groups during the 12-week study. One group walked 30 minutes a day, five days a week; a second group walked 30 minutes a day, three days a week; and a third did nothing.

Upon completing the program, the group that walked only three days a week showed the most improvement in weight, body-mass index, waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. So if unrealistic fitness goals are overwhelming you, just do what you can a few days a week. The bonus: Once you’ve begun exercising regularly, chances are good that you’ll feel like moving your body more often.

Recovery Eats

Refueling your body within an hour of a grueling sweat session is essential for repairing muscle tissue and replenishing your glycogen levels. But that doesn’t mean you have to reach for prepackaged snacks or sports drinks. If you’re looking for more wholesome postworkout recovery foods, consider these simple childhood favorites:

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich — A spread of natural peanut butter (or any nut butter) with banana on a slice of whole-wheat bread is a tasty and convenient recovery snack. At only about 350 calories, this combo offers the carbohydrates and protein necessary to replace glycogen and help your muscles heal. (Honey in place of banana is good, too.)
  • Chocolate milk — After a challenging workout, chocolate milk is an easy way to give your body the recommended 4-to-1 carbohydrate-protein ratio during recovery. A 2006 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that chocolate milk makes a better refueling beverage than many commercial fluid-replacement drinks. Look for an organic brand without loads of added sugar. For lactose-intolerant types, flavored soy milks may be an option.

Saving Sleep

Plopping down in front of the television or computer before bed may be sabotaging the quality of your sleep. A 2007 study at Osaka University in Japan, published in the peer-reviewed journal Sleep and Biological Rhythms, found that people who watched television or spent time on the Internet before bed were more likely to report insufficient sleep.

Nearly half of the 5,875 adults surveyed reported self-perceived lack of sleep because of pre-bedtime media use — even if their actual amount of sleep didn’t decrease. While those who spent the most time in front of the TV or computer (more than three hours) had the highest percentage of perceived sleep disturbance, about 30 percent of “light” users (two hours or less) also cited electronic media as the cause of their sleep deprivation.

Instead of surfing the Web or watching late-night comedy shows before going to bed, use that time for relaxing activities like meditation, journaling, warm baths or listening to peaceful music. These de-stressors will help you wind down for a good night’s sleep. (For more on ending the day the right way, see “Book Ends” in the May/June 2003 archives.)

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