Enjoy your vin ... Red wine, a staple of the French diet, is bursting with health benefits. Besides being good for your heart, it may also aid in the fight against gum disease, a Canadian study reports. And according to Danish researchers, people who buy wine tend to buy healthier food than those who purchase beer. Searching for a way to stay svelte? Research shows that light to moderate drinking may help. The scientists looked at over 8,000 subjects, and found that those who consumed one or two drinks a few times a week were less likely to be obese than those who didn't drink. Over-imbibing didn't help, however -- having four or more drinks per day increased the risk of obesity by 46%. The French enjoy small portions of alcohol, as well as food. (One to two glasses per day, says Clower -- not one to two bottles.)
... But don't drink alone. If you do drink alcohol, follow the French diet, and consume it only with meals. Even light-to-moderate alcohol consumption can increase your risk of high blood pressure if it's done outside of meals, a study in the journal Hypertension reports. And alcohol on an empty stomach can dissolve your inhibitions, leading you to eat much more than you'd planned.
Do what you love. Forget slaving away at the gym -- French people stay fit simply by living their daily lives, which seldom involve hours spent stuck in traffic. Instead, they walk or bike where they need to go. And they walk because they enjoy it, not because it's something they have to do to stay fit. An American study found that people who exercised to lose weight or tone up spent about 40% less time exercising than those who exercised for reasons beyond dropping pounds, such as reducing stress, spending time with friends, or increasing their well-being. "A desire to lose weight or shape up may get you started on an exercise plan," says lead author Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, a psychology researcher at the University of Michigan, "but it's often the intrinsic factors, such as simply enjoying what you do, that determine if you'll keep up with the activity over time." Do what you love -- whether it's tennis, dancing, biking, or horseback riding, and you'll reap the rewards of a strong body and healthy heart.