Guys, here’s a sobering fact: Americans are experiencing a shift…life expectancy has begun to decline. I’m talking men AND women. And, not because of genetic changes…but due to our lifestyles — what we eat (or what we don’t eat which can be just as important), what we are exposed to, the quality of our sleep, etc.
You might ask, “With so many lifestyle choices, where does one begin?” My humble vote is to start with the gut. Why? Well, for starters, healthy gut bacteria:
Regulates digestion & metabolism
Impacts our body’s immune system
Blocks harmful microbes
Extracts & make vitamins & other nutrients from ingested food
Produces anti-microbial chemicals to fight off pathogens
Builds & maintains our gut wall to protect us from outside invaders
Plays a CRUCIAL role with brain health
So now that we know the “why gut” — where do we go from here? Let’s first consider food and nutritional intake. The reason is because the wrong dietary/foods will impact the integrity of our gut lining and that increases inflammation in the body. This is important becausethere is a correlation of inflammatory markers with most common diseases like coronary heart disease, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, autism, diabetes, and cancers. This, my friends, makes our gut bacteria is tres importante!
Knowing which foods contribute to bodily inflammation can be done with a food sensitivity test. Or, you can keep a journal noting what you eat and how you feel afterwards. You can get a pretty darn good indication of offending foods from a food journal.
Going one step further with some type of inflammatory testing is a GREAT idea especially if you are on medications for a chronic condition or battling (or have battled) one of the diseases above. There are a couple basic lab tests for inflammation including determining C – reactive protein, TMAO (trimethylamine oxide), or TNF (tumor necrosis factor) levels. Please…find out if you have inflammation and FIX IT! If you think you shouldn’t look at these markers until you are middle age, think again.
Don’t wait to test because studies have shown those people with inflammatory levels in their 30’s/40’s have the worst memories 24 years later (and brain shrinkage). David Perlmutter, the author or Grain Brain (newly updated, btw), suggests we fix the roof when the sun is shining. My younger adult friends, this means you. Pregnant women, this means you. My middle aged peers….THIS MEANS YOU.
Not motivated yet? There was another study done correlating the size of one’s belly and the risk for dementia. This test spanned 36 years. You guessed it, there was a DIRECT correlation. Another easy test to help here is to determine oxidation of LDL with a glycated hemoglobin test (or A1C). The higher the A1C, the greater the brain shrinkage (seriously).
Please don’t buy into the pharmaceutical companies making money off of Alzheimer’s drugs (which are mostly ineffective and cause people to decline faster) when the natural solution is right in front of us. Yes my friends, we have to be intentional. And yes, we will have to let go of artificial and way-over-sized portioned conveniences of eating out frequently, but isn’t the payoff worth it? BTW, the SAME efforts to improve brain function and improve gut health will (drum roll) improve your overall health and help you lose unneeded fat.
My short list for improving your diet is this:
Eliminate gluten & processed flour foods
Reduce consumption of inflammatory red meat and other inflammatory proteins (btw there are more than a few studies relating to the consumption of red meat and colorectal cancer…)
Eat LESS protein – and when you do, make sure it’s clean (antibiotic /hormone free) like wild fish or some hormone /free range eggs)
Increase diversity of high fiber vegetables
Next, I recommend reading the new Grain Brain book by David Perlmutter or Dave Asprey’s Game Changers for specific recommendations relating to resting insulin, vitamin D levels, hemoglobin A1C levels, fasting blood sugar, the amount of exercise, the amount/quality of sleep, etc.
YOU are worth the education and investment of time to learn what’s best for you (and your loved ones). AT the very least, search for podcasts with key words and these authors’ names and learn while you drive.
What have you got to GAIN? (Check my past posts if you’re still not sure!)
Until next time. Love yourself. Hug a person or a pet. Get outside. Laugh.
Hey friends, how are you feeling these days…with work, family or the holiday season upon us? If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, maybe it’s time to take a breather and add intentional steps to alleviate stress.
By now you probably know that meditation and other recommended stress reduction techniques previously considered “new age” really work. Many high performers incorporate various forms of meditation into their daily lives because it works (and are a heck of a lot better than drugs & those nasty side effects). There are many forms meditation from walking in nature, guided meditations (especially good if you have an active monkey brain like me), breathing exercises (try inhaling completely for 4 seconds, hold 7 seconds, exhale completely for 8, repeat 9 more times), or simply enjoying the love & affection of a pet. Try them out and see what suits you best.
Why is it important to work on controlling/limiting or reducing stress? Because with chronic stress, the brain atrophies…which means it gets smaller and less effective. When you are stressed, you release cortisol. With elevated cortisol, your brain begins overload and …then begins to degenerate. The parts most affected are the areas of the brain associated with dementia/long term memory.
There are also vascular impacts of stress on our brains due to the flight or fight response. This response releases hormones that decrease blood flow to our brain. Chronic stress has long term effects on our brains.
What else happens? Well, elevated cortisol can also decrease circulation. That’s why it makes sense then to engage in an activity that causes an increase in circulation. Exercise increases your heart rate and oxygen to the brain. On the opposite side of the spectrum, long term sedentary activity decreases blood circulation all over the body. Then, if you add a stress response to being sedentary and possibly a thyroid issue, all these factors impact the health of our brains.
Public service message: The more intense the exercise, the better the benefit because your heart has to pump harder. Try intervals or short bursts of increased energy/effort for 10-30 seconds, 10-15 times.
To recap, we have the impact of stress and a sedentary lifestyle impacting our brains. Now, let’s talk diet. “Type 3 diabetes” is now used to describe dementia because if we indulge in sugar or processed carbs, we get too much insulin. Seriously, our bodies were not made to consume the sugar we load into them daily. Chronic surges of insulin also cause damage to the brain. I’m saying this with a lot of love….so hear me when I say, “If you are tired after meals, it’s time to review what you are eating.” A normal response after a meal should be your hunger is vanished – NOT an energy surge – or an energy drop.
Small changes in our diets can make a HUGE difference with our brain health (& overall health & weight)!
When it comes to gluten…there is a high correlation between neurological symptoms and gluten antibodies – most specifically with wheat gluten. So if you have an inflammatory diet, you are inflaming your brain. It WILL begin to degenerate. As these various factors (stress, blood sugar instability and/or surges, sedentary lifestyles, lack of circulation, poor diet) add up, we will begin to feel foggy. That “fog” is brain degeneration. You have a thought but can’t get to it.
What would a balanced brain focused diet consist of? The key is to eat a diversity of vegetables/plant fibers along with healthy fats and LIMITED sugar/processed carbs. Proteins can also be inflammatory with most inflammatory proteins being milk protein, egg protein, and soy protein. Experts suggest a diet that is A.) gluten & dairy free, B.) one that includes flax seed & fish oils (healthy fats), and for sure, C.) a diet low in sugar and processed carbs to prevent sugar surges, and D.) a diet FULL of diverse vegetables.
The bottom line is thatanything that causes inflammation to the body has an effect on the brain.
That would include stress, diet, sedentary lifestyle, arthritis, food allergies, auto immunity diseases, etc. What’s the best way to support our brains?Ultimately, what we should do for a healthy lifestyle and weight is what we should do for our brain: eat properly, exercise with intensity to increase our heart rates, and supplement with dietary flavonoids like turmeric, resveratrol, and polyphenols. Last, try meditation or breathing techniques to lower stress. Laugh. Help others. Try inversion. Get a pet. And educate yourself because you are worth it. Some of my favorite recent reads include:
The good news is EVERY little bit helps and most of what helps is in our control. Isn’t it nice that the things we can do to remain healthy, fit and active will also serve our brains well?
I think today is a great day to take action. A friend of mine likes to ask, “What have you got to lose?” Well, my friends, taking no action WILL lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. I think a better question is, “What have you got to gain?”
I spent the better part of the last year immersed in reading, researching and trying to better understand what we call the “aging process” as it relates to health. What I learned is: the term “aging” is really more a misnomer…
The truth is, 80% of disease/illnesses “attributed” to aging are environmentally based. In other words, WE can choose and control most of what impacts our health and longevity. That’s pretty powerful, right?
Some folks may not want to hear this. Changing habits may mean letting go of fast food, cheap convenience and hours of blue screen entertainment. I have one thing to say about that: choosing that crap (and it IS crap…) is choosing weight gain, metabolic syndrome, creeping obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and a slew of other health challenges. If you find yourself a bit reluctant to change habits, then consider the people you love. What I mean is… illness is expensive. It causes financial drain. It causes physical and emotional stress on the caretaker. If you don’t care enough about yourself, consider the impact your choices have on the ones you love.
Today, let’s talk about Alzheimer’s. So, what is Alzheimer’s exactly? The short answer is it’s a disease resulting from a protective response from different insults and is sometimes referred to as “type 3 diabetes”.
“Cognitive decline is a major concern of the aging population, and Alzheimer’s disease is the major cause of age-related cognitive decline, with approximately 5.4 million American patients and 30 million affected globally . In the absence of effective prevention and treatment, the prospects for the future are of great concern, with 13 million Americans and 160 million globally projected for 2050, leading to potential bankruptcy of the Medicare system. Unlike several other chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease prevalence is on the rise, which makes the need to develop effective prevention and treatment increasingly pressing. Recent estimates suggest that AD has become the third leading cause of death in the United States , behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. Furthermore, it has been pointed out recently that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic, with 65% of patients and 60% of caregivers being women . Indeed, a woman’s chance of developing AD is now greater than her chance of developing breast cancer . (Link to abstract if you want more!)
Those are alarming stats. How lucky we are that we can take positive steps NOW to help reverse and prevent brain health and so called “aging”. If we are to combat Alzheimer’s, then we must identify the “insults” causing inflammatory responses within our bodies. While one size doesn’t fit all, there are common inflammatory causes to consider (or test for). For example, you may be more affected by mercury. If so, remove the fillings, cease eating fish high in mercury and get assistance from a holistic/functional doctor to cleanse your body.
The biggest factor impacting most of us is insulin resistance because our bodies were not made to take in the amount of simple carbs we’ve been ingesting.
Insulin resistance leads to metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and other health challenges. Another possibility is chronic inflammation from other organisms. Until those are addressed, that inflammation is negatively impacting your brain. For other folks, hormonal imbalance (vitamin D levels, testosterone, thyroid, etc.) is a contributing factor.
If you are starting to think about the costs of multiple tests…stop. Many of these can be done at home or through the mail. It isn’t likely you need an entire battery of tests. HOWEVER, when you consider the financial cost of long-term care, spending a few dollars on a test or two hardly compares. And that’s not considering the impact on loved ones. According to national averages, long term care costs about $250/day or $8,000/month. Spending well under 1% on tests hardly compares. Even without testing, you can take steps NOW to avoid/address the things that cause bodily harm and work on enhancing your immunes system.
Enhance your diet by reducing sugar (avoid processed carbs like rice/pasta/breads/crackers/gluten)
Enhance your sleep (if you have apnea, get it checked out now) and let’s not forget blue light impact
Lower stress (meditation, community)
Ayurveda trio including Ashwagandha
To increase knowledge and offer solutions to improve brain health, these are my top three book recommendations:
Isn’t it great that we live in a time with so many resources available to help our quest for better health—and much of it for little or no cost? Find a website or like-minded community and commit to your health quest today.
Here is some candor: you have time for what’s important. If you are full of excuses, let’s face it… health is NOT a priority for you. I’m not saying there won’t be challenges, but you can choose to seek alternatives & options – or use those challenges as an excuse.
The thing is…to be healthy long term, we must address chronic “insults”. This is a different approach from 20th century medicine because it gets to the underlying causes & addressing them now vs. waiting until there is illness/disease and then addressing those symptoms. Trust me, early reversal is the way to go. You and your health are worth it.
There may be some trial and error along the way, but isn’t that life? A healthy lifestyle is a journey and a science that isn’t perfect. Like any journey, it starts with intention.
It’s time to be personally accountable. We are giving ourselves diseases…through our day to day exposures and choices. I think it is liberating to know that WE can positively impact our health. The bullet list above will impact more than our brains…optimizing those components will positively impact aging and a host of other diseases, as well. Why would we not embrace this opportunity?
We have time for what is important.
Every minute is an opportunity for self-improvement and finding time IS possible.
Each day, we get the opportunity to do better, to forgive our mistakes, to love more, laugh more, learn more, and to LIVE.
For years, losing weight meant reducing calories and increasing energy expenditure, sometimes to extremes. While the basic math (1 lb. = 3500 calories) is a good starting point, studies are showing us there is far more to successful fat loss than the math. Like a lot of western medicine, the calorie deficit formula to lose weight targets the symptoms vs. the root cause or underlying problem. When calories are restricted in the wrong manner, with the wrong foods, the body feels tired, deprived…just plain HANGRY! After that, it’s a matter of time fore we give in to temptation and then the weight comes right back –often making us heavier than we were pre-diet! What’s great about research, science, and discovery is that in time, we discover new methods or bust previously held beliefs.
By now you’ve probably heard about the studies that measured brain activity after ingesting fast digesting food (high glycemic foods like breads, pastas, rice, crackers, processed foods) and the part of the brain that is impacted by cravings, rewards, and addictions…lit up like a Christmas tree. The same way that alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine do. So you see, activating this part of the brain totally erodes willpower and highly processed carbs somehow turn on the reward part of the brain causing a direct impact on our metabolism. What’s all this mean?
All calories are not created equal in that the different TYPES of calories affect us differently. And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. J But first, we have to learn how to conquer the cravings. We do this by eliminating processed carbs from our diets.
And Virginia, the low-fat diet is not the way to the North Pole. A low-fat diet does NOT protect us against chronic diseases (in spite of what we’ve been erroneously told for years). Two recent and very large studies proved diets high with a lot of olive oil or nuts (think Mediterranean!) reduced cardiovascular disease by more than 30% (wow). Couple the Mediterranean type of diet with weight loss and you will be #WINNING with huge health benefits, increased lifespan & more.
Add fat to your diets. ENJOY the fat you add, just make sure it’s not trans-fat (partially hydrogenated oils). Think avocados, nuts, nut butters, cheese – or even steak.
Reduce highly processed foods as much as possible as they are directly linked to the majority of diet related diseases and contribute to weight gain.
The faster-acting (digested more quickly) the carbs, the worse off you & esp. your kids will be. (If you know someone with ADD diagnosis, help them clean up their diet.)
Last, quality sleep & good hydration are two of the best things you can do for your metabolism & health.
Until next time, choose fit, laugh often, and take 5. Because you can.
So of course, people start talking about losing weight, washboard abs, etc. The conversation generally moves into building muscle in certain areas and losing fat in others. There are multiple studies and reasons for why you should prioritize your goals and then direct efforts accordingly, however if you want to gain muscle as efficiently as possible, you really need to get lean first. And, if you are overweight, from a health perspective (swimsuit season aside), losing fat should be priority one. So now that we’ve established you should lean up first and then build later, let’s look at a few strategies to help you do that.
If your schedule permits, workout in the morning in a fasted state. Without any carbs for energy, you are apt to burn more fat during this time.
Try variations of the catholic schoolgirl diet where you eat clean/lean (and 250-500 calories lighter each day with a tad less protein) for 6 days…and then make the devil blush on the 7th. Or, try shortening your eating windows to allow a full 12-18 hours of fasting. Also, you’ll need to drop calories by 500/day in order to drop a pound a week. Or, decrease calories by 350 and burn an additional 150…but that’s in ADDITION to your normal workouts. Do that 5-6 days a week, and then have a day where you bump your calories back up. Seems contradictory, but it’s effective and it works.
Interval training – either cardio or with weights. Download a couple tabata tracks (music with timing for 8 sets for 20 second intervals on with 10 seconds of rest. Good stuff.
Drink adequate water.
Get 7-8 hours of good sleep each night.
A great jumpstart to any diet is the Fast Track Detox which is essentially 7 days of clean (like, really clean) eating followed by 1 day of “fasting” which includes an easy to make home juice blend, and then 3-4 more days of clean eating with probiotic foods. Most folks lose weight on this and I find it helps me get back on the clean eating wagon again.
You can read about it here or order the book on amazon.
Please, don’t expect results overnight—or big changes in a week. For long term success, it’s best to incorporate small changes you can commit to, but also forgive yourself along the way if you don’t eat or train perfectly. As long as you keep going, you are moving in the right direction. And if you are looking at the scale, just remember the only real way to know if you are losing weight is to test your body fat.
Once you’ve dropped some “LBs” it’s time to move your focus muscle building or strength. For me, these workouts are the most fun. This is where full body movements like deadlifts, squats, tire flips, clean and press, and kettle bell training come into play. During this time, you might amp up your protein intake just a little and make sure you’re taking in solid amino acids and omega 3’s. Also, good rest is tres importante for muscle building.
And there you have it- basically these two cycles can be repeated as needed with the length depending on your progress and starting point.
Today is a GREAT day to recommit to fit!
Until next time, choose health, laugh often & love.
How is your cholesterol? Your blood pressure? Your breathing? What about your ability to move without breaking into a sweat? Do you find you have no time to workout or prepare healthy meals? How much time do you spend going to the doctor? And how much money is spent on medicines that treat symptoms of disease?
My friends, today IS “some” day. The day you decide to commit to a fit lifestyle. Just do it. For yourself, your family, your children, your community. Because if you live a life with too little sleep combined with continual over-indulgences, ill health WILL creep into your body. There is simply no way to sugar coat the cost of not committing to making small healthy lifestyle changes.
Often we create our own self sabotage by setting unrealistic goals. However, you don’t need to run marathons. I’m a big fan of “every little bit counts” and the “10 minute difference”. Small steps in a healthy direction, made consistently over time, WILL make a huge difference in your health. These 31 steps (from Bulletproof) are an EXCELLENT place to start. Set small, simple goals and BE KIND to yourself along the way.
And please, go moderately. Walking is a great way to start. Find an activity you enjoy so you are likely to continue doing it. (That is one of my most often asked questions, “Which type of exercise is best?” My reply is, “Whatever workout you are most likely to stick to!”) And if you hate lettuce, don’t eat it! But don’t set a “10 pound weight loss in two weeks” goal. Healthy living is a journey that’s about doing your best—and forgetting the rest, one step and one day at a time.
Here are some things I’ve learned..
Bodyweight involves more than willpower and biology plays a big role. And, when it comes to willpower, environment matters! (I cannot stress that enough.) Low fat diets blame people when they don’t lose weight—but “fat-free” is not the way to go; it’s damaging and the very nature of that path contributes to failure! Society treats people with a weight problem with more stigma than anything else, sadly. In a nutshell, a healthy “diet” is one that has REAL food, limits processed foods, and limits sugars.
When it comes to fat, we NEED fat in our diets! When we leave it out, our bodies goes into starvation mode. Yes, we can lose weight.. but the body fights back, hunger goes up, metabolism goes down, and the stress hormones secreted erode lean tissue. The best way is to reverse this recipe for failure is to focus on eliminating processed carbs (which raise insulin and drive fat cells into a feeding frenzy- ugh). Once fat cells calm down, the calories you eat stay in the blood stream longer, so they are able to nourish your brain, muscles and organs. What happens then? “Health” happens, that’s what. Hunger decreases, metabolism increases, and…we lose weight. I wish I could shout this from mountain tops and get the message out—there are so many misconceptions around fat and carbs!
The government quietly lifted the dietary limitations on fats in 2015, but who heard? That’s because their prior recommendations for “low fat” were erroneous and directed us to look at fat vs sugar. Quite frankly, this direction contributed to the obesity epidemic… along with processed food product quality and convenience–but that’s a blog for another day! Regardless, those earlier low fat “recommendations” were wrong.
Note: In all fairness, Trans fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, for example) are AWFUL & should be avoided at all costs, but fat in general is needed and necessary. Let’s help get the word out that the low fat message was wrong.
Now back to our healthy living journey! Starting a new year is a great time to develop a plan, but honestly, I find short term goals work best. I create new lists, look over old lists regularly, and adjust them continually to suit life’s desires.
Here are a couple of ideas for you– but you can create your own “Get Healthy in 2017” list:
Pay attention to your sleep and create better bedtime habits
Drink less soda, drink more water
Learn something new
Identify a couple accountability partners (the closer in proximity, the better, but virtual works too)
Consider incorporating coconut oil into your diet (and research why it’s a good idea)
Find a good healthy living/eating/exercise site/book and READ it regularly
Eat dark chocolate
Find your inner child
Learn how intermittent fasting may benefit you
De-clutter your life
So make your list, check it regularly, share it with those around you—and make a point to surround yourself with a good supportive network. #EnvironmentMatters
In the end, we have ONE body. Take care of it so you can live your life more fully.
Until next time, I wish you the best of HEALTH, happiness & dreams fulfilled.
I started this blog with a focus on holiday weight gain. However, as I dug into various studies, I noticed similarities between holiday (or vacation) weight gain and the “Freshman 15” as root causes, along with the strategies to regain (& maintain) good health (and weight), are the same.
I was also pleased to learn, according to an Ohio State University study, the average student only gains 2-3 lbs. his/her first year vs 15–which is good news, but I digress..! Whether it’s the extended holiday season (the morphing of Halloween into Thanksgiving into Christmas into New Year’s!), vacation, or the beginning of your college career, weight gain is often due to repeated choices that aren’t in your best interest. Choices like poor quality cafeteria food, a plethora of venues offering unhealthy eats, energy drink vending machines, along with the limited college budgets encouraging cheap fast & fried “food” or a vacation budget allowing rich foods. Because of hectic schedules and multiple opportunities to indulge, meals get skipped and food prep falls to a low priority (or not even possible) resulting in cheap and low quality processed foods that are nutritionally void while offering “value meal” calories. A Cornell study showed that 20% of weight gained by students was due to eating at “all you can eat” dining halls. Yikes. Haven’t we all patted ourselves on the back with that same “value meal/what a deal” thinking while on vacation?
Poor food choices contribute to weight gain while another root cause is stress. Stress causes a double whammy because it causes surges of insulin and cortisol which can keep your body from mobilizing fatty acids as fuel. At the same time, stress prevents our body from using sugar leading to weight gain and fat storage. For our students, they are in a new living environment complete with a new set of friends, a different bed and late nights….well, you get the picture. Also, some folks deal with stress by…yep, you guessed it: eating.
So we have poor food choices and stress…now let’s add alcohol to the mix. Not that either of my college kids would indulge (yeah right)! With alcohol, we might as well add some “weighting” to the impact it can have on weight gain. Like junk food, it’s high in calories and low in nutrients. And, just one night of partying add a LOT of excess calories. But, add to that the hormonal impact of less testosterone and an increase in fat storage hormones like cortisol. A big double whammy. And…yes, there’s more. When imbibing, defenses (aka willpower and better decision making) goes out the window. Where does this excess fat get stored? Why right around the waist…hello “muffin” top.
Now…to each of the above root causes for weight gain, let’s add one more: not sleeping enough. A sleep deprived body causes hunger hormones to be stimulated (increased) AND causes a drop in dopamine and serotonin causing you to feel LESS full and MORE hungry leading to snacking.
So you can see, whether you are in holiday/vacation mode or are a newbie college freshman, the “environment” for weight gain is all around you. However, it’s not a forgone conclusion and there are simple strategies to combat the fat:
Hit the gym—or, find ways to be more active. If at the office, stand at your desk, make a point to take walk breaks. In the dorm, put a chin-up bar in the doorway -or keep a sandbag or pair of dumbbells so you can lift on a regular basis in addition to bodyweight exercise. Make a point NOT to sit for longer than an hour without getting up, try walking a few flights of stairs, or pumping out a set of squats, push-ups, dips, jumping jacks or leg swings. It’s all movement and every little bit counts. I hate to tell you this, but the research is in: it doesn’t matter how hard you train—if you spend most of your time in a seated position, you will be health challenged. So instead of Facebook or Snapchat surfing while sitting, walk to as much as possible. Walk while reviewing note cards and enlist nearby dorm friends to join you in the movement effort.
Be healthy. Choose health, that is. Avoid drinking high amounts of caffeine and choose drinks flavored with stevia vs those sweetened with sugar, sucralose or aspartame. Eat a variety of fresh, colorful food vs. packaged & processed foods. Add in some seeds and nuts.
As your energy increases, you can take it to another level by:
Focus on managing stress. Become aware of triggers and incorporate breathing and or meditation exercises.
Move outdoors and enjoy nature.
Vent to a friend or try gratitude journaling. And,
Sleep more. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and blue light before bed.
Till next time, choose fit, be healthy, & have a blessed holiday season!
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” –Henry David Thoreau
There are soooo many positive benefits from engaging with nature! Study after study reveal that people who are more connected to nature feel less anxious. And, you don’t even have to move to reap benefits. Being still OR being active outside are both reprieves from everyday life. Some psychologists believe the busyness of our lives can overwhelm our attention spans while nature does not. Some experts suggest that we have an innate pull to the outdoors and are wired to seek connections to nature and other living things. All I can say is being outside soothes my soul and I absolutely love exploring trails, riding hills, sitting on a rock, or putting my toes in the sand while listening to the sounds of waves and seagulls. Quite simply, nature’s song and beauty nourishes our souls in a multitude of ways.
For my Cliff Notes readers, here’s short list of benefits from being outside:
Reduced anxiety & muscle tension
Renewed energy levels
Increased immunity & decreased stress hormones
Decreased blood pressure and lower heart rate
Your vitamin D levels rise.
See, sunlight hitting the skin begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. Also, you’ll get more exercise since being outside should mean less time in front of the TV/computer and more time spent walking and doing other things that put the body in motion.
There’s no doubt about it. Nature is God’s “battery charger” for our minds, bodies and souls. I mentioned the benefit of taking short meditative breaks throughout the day in an earlier blog. Make it a priority to step outside, feel the sun on your face (vitamin D), listen for birds, walk through trees—or simply sit. You will serve your body and soul a big plate of restoration.
So my friends, what are you waiting for?
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods. There is rapture on the lonely shore. There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea and music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more.” –Lord Byron
Until next time, choose fit, be happy, and get outside!
Many people think that running is the workout to do on the track, trail or road, but walking has many wonderful benefits, as well. It’s an alternate form of cardiovascular exercise that has been proven to be good for us, possibly even better in some ways, than strenuous running.
A brisk walk offers these advantages:
It strengthens the heart and lungs
It helps with weight loss (walking equal distance burns as many calories as running or jogging distance because it takes longer, but the time X calories is equal to running expenditure)
It improves your mood (Many studies show that walking is better than anti-depressants–especially if combined with some sun and nature!) It reduces depression & stress (see above)
It tones up muscles, especially in the lower body
It helps prevent varicose veins, increases circulation, & strengthens bones
It allows you to sleep better (see prior blogs on sleep)
It promotes loss of waste products in the tissues
It lowers the risk of injury compared to running/jogging since it’s low impact
It supports your joints & puts less stress on your spinal discs
It slows mental decline & can lead to a longer life
Most of all, it’s probably the easiest form of exercise to do most anywhere. Don’t worry if you don’t have a gym membership or a treadmill at home. Walking takes no special skills, no need for long practice sessions, and no other equipment other than a good pair of walking shoes.
If you are still not convinced, let me share another walking benefit…walking after a meal improves triglycerides levels and lowers blood pressure. So, what are you waiting for? Get those sitting glutes engaged & do your body some good!
Look at what you have to gain.
Until next time, live strong, be happy, and choose fit.
I knew that’d get your attention! While I hope not to disappoint…a more appropriate word would be “gender” as it relates to metabolism. But first, let’s talk about our metabolism since it’s important to understand how we can use it to our advantage in keeping a fit body for life.
In past blogs I’ve talked about calories in/out and that not all calories are created equal, but to LOSE weight, there needs to be a negative energy balance or deficit (we need to burn more energy than we take in). That can be done by eating clean, eating less, and moving more.
What does that have to with sex, you ask? Well, quite a lot…let me explain…
Our Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR, is what we normally think of as our metabolism. It’s basically about 60-75% of our daily energy expenditure and what our body burns performing normal stuff like brain function, breathing, heart beats, etc. So, it makes sense that a taller or larger person would require more energy than a smaller person, right? That’s partially true, but the bigger differentiator is composition. Or muscle vs. body fat. Yep good ol’ fat vs muscle. Generally, athletes have a higher RMR than their non-athlete friends due to more muscle.
What else affects RMR? Age. Yeah, I said it. But it’s because we lose 2-3% of our RMR each decade after 30. Doesn’t have to be so, though…if you lift. Age related muscle decline is NOT something that occurs to everyone. It occurs due to sedentary lifestyles, my friends. That’s a lifestyle choice.
But…I digress and you are waiting to read about SEX, err I mean, gender. And sex DOES impact metabolism. So, here’s the sex part:
Men generally have higher metabolic rates b/c they typically carry less fat and more muscle. As a result, they typically have higher RMRs.
There are other things that can impact RMR…like hormones, having a high fever, or dealing with an injury or illness.
I do want to share a word of caution regarding energy intake. If you take in too few calories, your body will break down protein. Less protein/muscle = lower body weight. It’s amazing how the body works, but if you don’t give it the necessary amino acids, it will steal them from your muscles. So that “weight loss” is simply muscle break down and not fat. That is NOT the result you want, trust me. That kind of weight loss will slow your metabolic rate and you will need fewer calories. Plus, the less you eat, the more efficient your body gets in using calories, again resulting in fewer calories needed.
So, if you aren’t up to changing your gender, you can boost your metabolic rate by moving more, lifting weights, and focus on clean eating as there are differences with the thermic impact of food.
Oh…and there IS another way to increase RMR and that is living and exercising in a tropical climate, which can increase RMR from 5-20%! Now that’s a prescription I want!
Until next time, choose fit, laugh often, & lift strong. What have you got to gain?