Playgrounds and Treadmills

Today’s post is inspired by a couple of articles I read in the Wall Street Journal.

Are Playgrounds Too Safe?  It’s an interesting look at how playground equipment has become too safe thus boring for kids.  It doesn’t challenge their need to take risks and test the limits thus stunting the desire to get outside and play and experience physical activity.

A new playground in Boston includes a zip-line, a rock climbing structure, and a climbing net.  All designed to challenge kids’ physical fitness and build upper-body strength.

My experiences with school and park playgrounds involved lots of metal, woodchips, old tires, and rusty swings.  Classic playground moment was trying to copy my friends who were short, nimble, and flexible.  They could do twists, turns, and flips on the monkey bars.  Me…not so much.  I was always the tall kid.  Gymnastics are difficult for us.  But, not to be out-done, I tried all sorts of flips.  That ended with me on the ground and my mom having to rush to the playground to find out if I was ok.  I was also the kid who was on a first-name basis with the local ER staff–broken bones, a split forehead, stitches galore.

Next article is How Sick Do You Have to Be to Skip Going to the Gym?

I work hard to stay healthy and at least “control” those things that I can.  I’ve got hand sanitizer in my purse, car, work bag, and on my desk.  I wash my hands a lot.  If I feel a cold or virus coming on, I up my water and tea consumption and add in extra fruits and veggies.  But I still work out.  It takes a lot to knock me down.  An illness day might mean a light yoga workout.  There are two friends of mine who really don’t let me rest so I may get outside for a walk.

The WSJ article covers the basics that it’s still OK to work out if you’re not feeling 100%–just lower your expectations and exertion level.  If you have a fever – skip the gym/workout.  If your symptoms are below the neck, skip it.  And avoid group exercise classes – do you really want to be the person sneezing and coughing on the person in front of you at Zumba?  (Side note – I wipe down the Spin bike before and after class.)

As always, check with your doctor and take care of yourself.

What was your favorite piece of playground equipment?  What are your ideas for equipment/experiences that should be at new playgrounds?

Tips for staying healthy?  Do you work out when you’re sick?

 

Sweetums

This post isn’t an ode to Pawnee, Indianan’s favorite employer (Parks N Rec) or this muppet:

Muppet Wiki–Amazing, I learned that there’s a Muppet Wiki site and that this muppet’s name is Sweetums

Rather, it’s a few facts and figures from Choosing a Sugar Substitute:  Doubts by the Teaspoonful on nytimes.com.  I didn’t grow up drinking a lot of soda – we were allowed Sugar Free Kool-Aid as a treat.  I still remember how excited I’d get when we got to play at a neighbor’s house and drink “real” Kool-Aid – the green flavor that was made with scoops and scoops of sugar – so much that you could practically chew the last sips.

An even bigger treat?  My mom letting us have a sip or two of her Tab or Pepsi Lite

This is really old school soda (source)

The sweeteners of yesterday have grown to include sucralose (Splenda), stevia, asparatame, and are a $1.5 billion a year market.  

Sweeteners seem to be one of those “food” groups (the artificial sweeteners are all chemicals that react to tell the body ‘Sweet’) that are confusing – do they or don’t they cause cancer?  What happened to those rats used in the studies in the 1970s?  That’s when the Food and Drug Administration fought to ban saccharin because rats “gorged” on the sweetener developed bladder cancer.

Here’s some interesting (and possibly useful) information for people who like their artificial sweeteners:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, slaps an “avoid” label on saccharin and aspartame, but deems sucralose and neotame — a newer, more intense sweetener that is chemically similar to aspartame — to be safe. The center also warns against acesulfame potassium, a less common sweetener that is rarely found in tabletop packets but is combined with other sweeteners in soda and baked goods for a more sugarlike taste. Fresca, for example, is sweetened with acesulfame potassium and aspartame, as are Halls sugar-free cough drops.

That sneaky sweetener–it’s in so many products.  I picked up a jar of pickles at the grocery store and I’m glad I read the label–they were sweetened with Splenda.  I can go pickle-free on my burger, thank you very much.

For those who turn to stevia, a sweetener derived from a plant, the Center for Science in the Public Interest gives it a “caution,” because cancer studies were conducted in only one species of lab animals. (“Just because a substance is natural does not mean that it is safe,” the center’s Web site warns.)

The alternative is sugar.  And though it’s natural, it can make you fatter.

Research published last year that analyzed health data on more than 100,000 nurses in the United States over nearly a quarter-century found a strong correlation between weight gain and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts. There was no weight gain for those who drank beverages with artificial sweeteners.

Personally, I get headaches from eating/drinking anything with artificial sweetener.  A few years ago I was drinking a lot of those single drink packets of sugar-free iced tea and would leave work with a pounding headache.  I ditched the packets for naturally flavored sparkling water and tap water and I’m a happy, hydrated camper.

Not trying to be a buzz kill today–everything in moderation.