Monday 25th February - The Benefits of Jumping, Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese and The Life of Flowers

Jumping for Joy to Help Prevent Bone Thinning

by Jane Kirby via the 'I' newspaper

I thought you might be interested in this article that I saw in the 'I' newspaper recently. That a simple thing like jumping could make such a big difference to your health makes it worth factoring to your daily exercise routine...

"Just six minutes of exercise per week – such as jumping – could help prevent bone thinning in women, a study suggests.

Simple exercises performed for two minutes, three times a week, could cut the risk of osteoporosis caused by the menopause, it found.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Hull examined the impact of counter-movement jumps, box-drops and heel-drops.

A counter-movement jump is performed from a standing position and involves swinging the arms to jump vertically off the ground. To do box-drops, a person stands on a step or box set at knee-height and jumps down to land on two feet whilst bending the knees.

Heel-drops involve standing as high as possible on the toes before instantly relaxing the leg muscles and dropping on to both heels to create an impact with knees slightly flexed.

All the women in the latest study wore an accelerometer on their lower back to estimate the intensity and duration of movement.

The results, published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, showed both jumping regimes were beneficial for bone health.

The researchers recommended that women complete 30 jumps, three times a week.

Dr Gallin Montgomery, lecturer in sport and exercise biomechanics at Manchester Metropolitan University, said counter-movement jumps were most beneficial for women “as these had the highest muscle activation along with the highest impacts, which are really important for bone health”.

But box-drops and heel-drops also helped. He added: “These movements are really easy and can be completed in the comfort of your own home. It would only take women seven minutes using the longer rest time and two minutes with the shorter rest time to complete. Often, just walking is not enough for bone health and we hope that this encourages more women to perform high-impact exercise and go some way in combating the issue.”

Osteoporosis is thought to affect around three million people in the UK, most of whom are women.

The disease leads to thinner bones, making them more liable to fracture.

Losing bone density is a normal part of the ageing process, but women are particularly susceptible around the time of the menopause.”

You can bring a little jumping into your yoga practice too by coming into your standing poses the way they're done in Iyengar yoga - start in Tadasana with the feet together and the hands together at the chest, bend the knees and jump the feet and arms wide so that your ankles are below your wrists (see picture below). This pose is called Extended Hands and Feet Pose (Utthita Hasta Padasana). You can then turn the feet to begin your standing poses such as Triangle Pose (Trikonasana), Warrior 2 Pose (Virabhadrasana II), Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) etc. before coming back to Extended Hands and Feet Pose and jumping the feet back together.  


You can also practice jumping forward from Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) to Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana).  From Downward Dog, bend the knees really well, lift the hips high and look forwards to where you want your feet to land. Arch the back as if you were doing Cat Pose and power off those bent knees to land the feet lightly further up your mat.  Practice makes perfect - start by jumping your feet just a few centimetres forward and slowly progress to being able to jump your feet right up to your hands so you're in Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). This has the added benefit of being a preparation for Handstand - you are starting to bear weight on your hands while your feet are in the air - even if it's just for a second.  


Have fun with this - it will add a lighthearted, playful element into your practice as well as strengthening your bones.  


This Week's Recipe... Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese

This is just the best spag bol ever! It's rich and filling and easy to make and best of all there are no animal products. So if you're trying to eat less meat for health or environmental reasons or you just fancy a new take on an old favourite I really recommend this recipe.  It comes from the very excellent book 'BOSH - simple recipes, amazing food, all plants' by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby.

You will need: 

700g chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
500g spaghetti (make sure it doesn't contain egg if you don't want to eat any animal products)
a few small fresh basil leaves to serve
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce:
2 red onions
1 celery stick
4 garlic cloves
2 carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato puree
300ml red wine
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
half a tablespoon of dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons soy sauce

You will also need a food processor, a large frying pan on a high heat, a large saucepan and a kettle of boiled water.

And here's how to make it:

Put the mushrooms in the food processor and pulse until very finely minced (you can chop them if you want but it's quicker with a food processor). Pour the oil into the frying pan. Add the mushrooms and season with a small pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are well browned. Take the pan off the heat, transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.

Peel and roughly chop the onions for the tomato sauce. Trim the leaves and root from the celery and roughly chop. Peel the garlic. Trim the carrots and peel if the skin is tough, then roughly chop. Put the chopped vegetables and garlic into the food processor and mince well.

Put the same pan back on a medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the minced onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook for about 10 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Stir in the tomato puree. Add the red wine, balsamic vinegar, oregano, bay leaf and soy sauce. Stir everything together and then turn down the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the large saucepan on a high heat, pour in the hot water, season with a big pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Add the pasta to the pan and cook until al dente, following the instructions on the packet. Spoon 100ml of the pasta water into a cup and set aside. Drain the pasta.

Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the minced mushrooms to the simmering sauce, turn up the heat and pour in the reserved pasta water. Stir everything together and let the sauce simmer for another 3-5 minutes to warm through.

Pour the sauce into the pasta pot and stir everything together so that the sauce completely covers the pasta. Scatter over the basil leaves and grind over some black pepper. Serve to happy faces! 


This Week's Musical Offering... Balasana by Bjorn Lynne.  Balasana is the Sanskrit name for Child's Pose - play this track as you're winding down your yoga practice, slowing down and breathing deeply, ready for Savasana.

This Week's Video and Mother Nature's Magic are combined in this beautiful 3 minute animation about the life of flowers...

 Have a wonderful week - I hope you continue to enjoy this unexpected warmth and sunshine.