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Every morning I love to take our two dogs, BB and Sky, for a 30-40 minute early walk as soon as the sun rises. The dogs love it and it sets me up for the day mentally and physically as it clears my head, wakes me up, and also gives my legs and heart a workout.

A big bonus is that I have clocked up around 4500 steps on my FitBit by the time we return home and this means I have a good chance of reaching my daily goal of 10,000 steps by the time I go to bed. It is a habit that is now a normal part of my daily routine and I look forward to it every day, come rain or shine. And I love it!

It is not unusual for me to be asked for diet and fitness advice by friends when they want to lose a few lbs and it was a few months back that one such friend asked for my help. Tom didn’t have a lot of weight to lose, but like so many men of a certain age, he carried his weight around his middle. I suggested he start off by setting himself a ‘step challenge’ to aim to achieve 10,000 steps a day. Whilst Tom has always been quite fit, having played sport for most of his life, he agreed to give it a go and report back, knowing that I would ask how he was getting on in a few weeks’ time! He didn’t want to fail so by making himself accountable, he knew he had a greater chance of success.

Weight-wise, Tom was teetering just outside being a ‘healthy’ BMI of 25. He was in fact, BMI 26. We kept in touch and I was impressed by his dedication. On almost every day he reached his 10k step goal, proudly exceeding it on several occasions. He said he was enjoying the challenge and he reported feeling fitter in himself.

Six weeks later, he was amazed that he had dropped half a stone and now had fallen into the healthy BMI bracket! Whilst 7lbs may not sound a lot, when I saw him a couple of weeks later, I could see he had lost inches around his middle. He looked younger and fitter – and happier!

I explained that now being a ‘healthy’ rather than ‘overweight’ BMI would be significant for his health and not only was Tom delighted that he had achieved such a significant benefit to his shape but he was positively shocked that it had affected his health rating.

The moral of this story is recognising that trying to take our 10,000 steps every day is not only a brilliantly healthy habit, but it helps to keep us fit and trim. We just have to find the best way to reach that goal in a way that we can enjoy it rather than it being a chore! And just think of the benefits it will bring you!

Recipe of the Week

You will need to plan ahead to roast the garlic before making this recipe. Roast garlic brings a deliciously mellow garlic flavour to the soup. To save heating up your oven especially, you may like to cook it at the same time as preparing a roast dinner or similar. Once cooked it will last for up to six days wrapped in foil in a refrigerator. I suggest you use cans of whole tomatoes rather than ready chopped ones as they are more luxurious and flavoursome. This soup also works as a delicious pasta sauce. Suitable for freezing.
Serves 4
Per serving: 70 calories, 0.7g fat
Prep time: 10 mins (assuming garlic roasted in advance)
Cook time: 10 mins

 1 whole head of garlic
3 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 vegetable stock pot
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper 

Preparing the garlic:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6.
  2. Remove the outer skin from the garlic bulb and slice the top off. Place on a square of foil and wrap the foil around to form a parcel. Place in the oven for 45 minutes until soft. Set aside to cool.
Preparing the soup:
  1. Pour the cans of tomatoes into a soup maker or saucepan.
  2. Squeeze out the garlic puree from the roasted bulb and add to the tomato mixture along with the chopped spring onions, the stock pot, and the freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Bring to the boil then cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Liquidise until smooth then add the fresh basil leaves and liquidise again.
  5. If you wish, you can push the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds but if you liquidise it well, you may not need to do this.
  6. Season with additional freshly ground black pepper to taste.
For more recipes click here to visit the website

Fun, Facts & Fitness from Mary Morris MSc.

I always set a challenge to my members at the start of a New Year to set them off on the right path for the months ahead.  They may want to lose some weight, or to stop eating biscuits, or to get more active... and I always tell them that they simply need to set their own goal. I always include myself in this (or my members would start a revolt!) and this year I set myself the target of achieving 10,000 steps per day... every day! 

I had no idea it would be so difficult, as on days such as this (sitting at the computer writing to you) it was impossible to achieve.  So, I decided to be kinder to myself and I would change it to 70,000 steps per week which of course is the equivalent really, and I find that this is totally achievable.  I enjoy a long walk at least once a week which seriously ups the steps for that day allowing me to feel better about my more sedentary days.

So where did this requirement of 10,000 steps come from you may ask? It would be good to tell you it has a scientific and solid research origin but sadly that is not the case. It started with a pedometer developed by a marketing company for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics called the Manpo-kei.  'Man' meaning 10,000, 'po' meaning steps and 'kei' meaning ‘meter’.  It was hugely successful and the number of 10,000 has simply resonated with people across the world. It has gradually become an excellent goal to encourage us to walk more. Today the scientific community is definitely onboard and you can find lots of facts and figures that have been created around it, all aimed at getting us to walk more.

Here are a few of them:

  • Walking 10,000 steps per day burns on average 3.500 calories per week.  That equates to 500 active calories per day and 1lb of fat.  Great if you want to lose weight as long as you don't eat an extra 500 calories!
  • One research study found that women who regularly walked 10,000 steps per day reduced their blood pressure significantly after 24 weeks.
  • Another study on overweight participants over a 12-week period found that walking 10,000 steps per day had significantly lowered anxiety, depression and anger AND they lost a significant amount of weight.

Now we do need a reality check here because, as I alluded to earlier, the pressure of reaching that goal every day could be extremely arduous and you might say that then walking loses some of its pleasure.  It just becomes hard work!  So, I was delighted to come across a study where 16,000 women in their 70s were tracked over a 4-year period monitoring the value of steps between 5,000 and 10,000 per day.  The good news is that at 7,500 steps per day we will realise the same health benefits and longevity as 10,000.  Thanks to the scientific community, we are now getting some really valuable information, properly measured and evaluated, that we can trust.  So, let's set our step goal ‘realistically’ allowing us to thoroughly enjoy our walks knowing, too, that our good health is being preserved.

This Week's Fitness Challenge

  1. If you have a method of measuring your steps (eg with a FitBit, pedometer or on your phone) then every day this week make sure you reach 7,500 as a minimum.
  2. Complement your walking with some strength exercises by doing either the Standing Weights Workout or the Floor Weights Workout.  If you have used the same weights for more than 3 months try going heavier to be even more effective. Alternatively, do one of the Pilates workouts instead.
  3. Up your step count and 'active' calories by getting up and moving every 30 minutes without fail.

Cancer Research UK are running a campaign to get participants to do 10,000 steps per day for the month of March.  Now that is very do-able if you know it is just for a period of one month and the bonus is you are raising money for a very worthwhile charity.  Why not enrol today? Find out more by clicking on the picture above.

Did you know...

Garlic has long been associated with medicinal preparations and variously credited in folklore with having a positive effect on all kinds of ailments from the common cold to cancer!

In recent times it is recognised that garlic provides a host of anti-oxidents and is strongly believed to help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and support our immune function. 

If you like garlic have you tried our Roasted Garlic and Green Pea Soup?

And finally...

It used to be the excitement of a holiday or a wedding that motivated us to lose weight and tone up but, having read all of the above, I think we realise that it is even more important for us to keep ourselves fit and strong so that we can live longer, healthier and happier.

Have a great week!

With love and best wishes,

Rosemary Conley CBE DL


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