Monday, December 18, 2017

"Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" -- The Debate Goes On...

Last week, a colleague in my office asked me if I believe that "Happy Holidays" has become the most common phrase of the Christmas season, rather than "Merry Christmas." In fact, he asked which phrase I tend to use the most. I'm a "Merry Christmas" kind of guy, but I certainly don't mind the "Happy Holidays" phrase because that also encompasses New Years. Regardless, whether to use "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" has been a debate for many Americans over the past several years.

Just in the past week, CBS News reported that a new poll shows that “Merry Christmas” remains the top holiday greeting among Americans. The poll, conducted by Monmouth University Poll Institute, shows that 67 percent say that at this time of year ‘Merry Christmas’ is the greeting they tend to use. Twenty-five percent of those polled say “Happy Holidays."

In another poll conducted in the past week by the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life, it was shown that most Americans are not concerned about the language of Christmas/Holiday greetings in public places. In fact, 52 percent of Americans say they don't care how a store clerk acknowledges the holiday, while 32 percent would like to hear "Merry Christmas," and 15 percent would prefer "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings."

So, what does any of this have to do with health and fitness (since this is a fitness-oriented blog)? Well, your vocal apparatus is your lips, tongue, teeth, top of the mouth, and the voice box in your throat. There are muscles in the lips, tongue and throat as well as your cheeks and jaw. Overall, it takes about 100 muscles to speak! In fact, it takes the same amount of physical energy to say any of the following: "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," or "Seasons Greetings." So, exercise your vocal apparatus this month by expressing to others one of the three phrases -- and have yourself a wonderful Christmas... Holiday... or, Season!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Over Five Thousand Santa Claus Runners Set World Record

It was just one year ago that 5,025 road race participants dressed in Santa suits crossed the finish line at the Surf-N-Santa 5 Miler in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As a result, they broke the Guinness World Record for the Largest Santa Claus Run.

The most complicated Guinness requirement was that the participants had to be wearing all five pieces of the Santa suit provided to them for the duration of the race, including the red pants, a red jacket, hat, black belt, and a white beard. Guinness officials allowed runners to pull the beard down under their chin, if needed, so it wouldn’t restrict their breathing.

To help make the suits as comfortable as possible for runners, there was an alteration table set up during packet pickup the day before the race, as well as the day of the race.

Race officials were also required to take video of the start and the end of the race, and have counters at the finish line to see how many racers did not have their full five-piece suit on. The official counters tallied 191 Santas who did not have their full suit on at the finish, which left them with 5,025 official Santa finishers — enough to break the previous world record of 4,961 Santas set at the 2013 Dundalk Charity Santa Fun Run in Ireland.

The course went along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, which was decorated with Christmas lights. Racers could even make pit stops at either a gingerbread cookie or a candy cane aid station for an energy boost throughout the race. Check out the 2016 highlight video below!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Go Nuts, Not Donuts -- Going Nuts for Heart Health!

Harvard researchers followed 210,000 adults for 32 years. They looked at heart health for people who ate nuts at least once a week to those who didn’t eat any nuts. People who ate:
  • Walnuts at least once a week had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease.
  • Peanuts two or more times a week had a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease.
  • Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, or macadamia nuts) two or more times a week had a 15 to 23 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Of course, it’s possible that other habits helped reduce the risk of heart disease in the study's adults, such as being active each day. However, it can't be overlooked that nuts are high in fiber, nutrients, antioxidants, and healthy fats that can help lower heart disease risk.

So, go nuts! Even a small handful once or twice a day can help keep your heart healthy.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Enjoying The Feeling of Being Retired From Adventure Running

One year ago, I announced via this blog that I have retired from running across states and countries. Sometimes when athletes retire from something that they've done for most of their life, they come out of retirement so that they can try and relive the feeling and excitement of their sport one more time. So, what am I feeling now that it has been nearly 7 years since my last adventure run (across the Mojave Desert) and having been officially retired from running over a marathon a day across vast land areas all alone while pushing a support stroller of gear, food and water weighing half of my body weight?

I feel great and have absolutely no regrets!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 4, 2017

North Pole, Alaska is a Great Place to Visit!

I grew up in Alaska and have been to the small Alaskan town of North Pole a couple of times. It's known for its year-round Christmas decorations, including candy cane–striped street lights. Santa Claus House is a Christmas store with walls covered in children’s letters to Santa, as well as a 42-foot-tall Santa Claus statue outside! Streets have names like Kris Kringle Drive and Mistletoe Lane. Live reindeer and an opportunity for a photograph with Santa Claus at the Santa Claus House are available year round.

As I write this blog post, it's currently minus 5 degrees at North Pole, Alaska. However, when I ran through there during the spring of 2009 on my 500-mile Alaska running adventure, the temperature was pleasantly in the 50's. On average, North Pole, Alaska receives just over 5 feet of snow during the winter months, and has only 3 hours of daylight at mid-winter. The lowest recorded temperature there was achieved in 1990 when it got down to minus 53 degrees!

Prior to Christmas each year, the post office in North Pole receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus, and thousands more from people wanting the town's postmark on their Christmas greeting cards to their families.

You may be wondering if there are any athletics going on in the tiny town of North Pole, Alaska (population around 2,000 people). You may be surprised to learn that the town has an all-female flat-track Roller Derby league called the "North Pole Babes in Toyland" (NPBT) whose athletes have Christmas and/or North Pole inspired Skater names.

I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in Alaska and I will always cherish my memories of visiting North Pole, Alaska with my parents.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, December 1, 2017

Are There Health Benefits of Peppermint Candy Canes?

Did you know that the United States has a "National Candy Cane Day" on December 26? Each year, nearly 2 BILLION candy canes are made and 90% of candy canes are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The "candy cane" is first found in literature in 1866. Its earliest known association with Christmas was in 1874, and by 1882 canes were being hung on Christmas trees. In 1921, a machine was invented that could automatically make candy canes. Before this, each cane was made by hand.

Traditionally, candy canes are white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint, but there are many other flavors... such as, bacon; pickle; gravy, and more. Candy canes typically contain sugar, corn syrup, natural flavor, and have color added. The average candy cane contains around 50 calories and does not contain any fat or cholesterol.

According to Harvard Health Publications, peppermint oil can help relieve indigestion. Also, peppermint oil in candy canes contains a substantial amount of antioxidants -- in fact, among the highest found in nature. The Cornell Center for Materials Research notes that peppermint oil contains higher antioxidant levels than those in cereals, fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants strengthen your body's ability to fight diseases and infections, protecting your cells against attacks by the molecules produced when your body breaks down food.

Some studies have found that tension headaches may be alleviated with peppermint, including one study that found using peppermint is as effective as taking acetaminophen after 15 minutes. Also, the menthol in peppermint is known to be an effective decongestant to open up nasal passages. In addition, it's soothing to the throat and can calm a dry cough.

Enjoy some candy canes this holiday season!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso