5 Tips to Improve Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Let’s face it, there are plenty of ideas circulating around that you could try to use in your everyday life that may potentially help you become more healthy. But what are the best things to try and how should you implement each into your lifestyle so they eventually take hold and become a habit? Here are a few ideas that I have tested that may be just what you need in order to become a healthier 2.0 version of yourself!

 

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be”
John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach

 

  • Try a yoga class. Keep in mind, that it may take time to find the right class and instructor that ends up working for you and your body. Personally, I have not found any activity that hits on all three areas of mind, body and spirit better than yoga. It’s simple, you will continue to lose joint range of motion, mobility and flexibility as you age and yoga can help bridge the gap between health and disability. After you leave a class – all three (mind/body/spirit) feel like they have been re-energized. Research continues to demonstrate that a regular yoga practice can improve everything from back pain to depression.
  • Focus on both mobility and strength training.  The majority of people focus on one or none. They are both critical in the aging process. If you want to maintain functionality as you age you must do both on a regular basis. Think “mobility and strength for life.” Make it a priority adding in mobility work before and/or after – each strength training session. Individuals continue to load their joints and muscles without spending the necessary time on improving mobility. Ever wonder why chiropractors, orthopedic docs and PT’s are continually taking on new patients? Work on mobility to prevent disability.
  • Let technology help. It seems everyday there are new apps coming out that can help make us more aware of our current health status. I actually came across one such app called Welltory that does just that. It basically documents how well your body is handling stress each day and what your energy level looks like. Take a look at this free app for a week or two and see how well you’re doing in those areas. When your body releases too much cortisol (known as the stress hormone), from lack of sleep, too much stress, etc. – you’ll have trouble in other areas, like trying to build muscle. Another cool meditation app that can help reduce stress and improve mood is Headspace. I have previously written about it here and here.
  • Don’t neglect sleep. In my opinion, sleep is one of the key missing pieces of the human puzzle.  Have a few bad nights with inadequate amounts of sleep and you’ll (always) pay the price.  We have become a sleep-deprived society and the evidence supports this; showing that we sleep on an average 6.8 hours as opposed to 9 hours a century ago. About 30 percent of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours per night. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that individuals who got less than 5.5 hours of sleep each night lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Another study from the University of Colorado showed subjects that got minimal sleep on consecutive nights gained two pounds on average over the course of the study. A third study from the University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate an average of 553 more calories, typically choosing foods higher in fat, when they were kept awake until the early morning hours. Make sure you get or catch up on your ZZZZZ’s.
  • Cut back on added sugar. This one tip that hopefully turns into a habit can significantly improve many different facets of your life, including sleep, energy, oral health, body weight and body fat, to name a few. The average American consumes about 40 teaspoons of sugar each day (about 600 calories) and this far exceeds what your body needs. The American Heart Association recommends the amount be cut to a maximum of six teaspoons (100 calories or 25 grams) a day for women and nine teaspoons (150 calories or 38 grams) for men. One study that was completed at the University of California at Davis, found adults who consumed 25 percent of their daily calories from HFCS for two weeks had increase levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease. And in 2011, researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University concluded that high fructose consumption by teenagers could potentially put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

References

Webb WB and Agnew HW (1975). Are we chronically sleep deprived? Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, vol. 6, p. 47. (82)

National Sleep Foundation, Sleep in America Poll (2003). National Sleep Foundation, Washington, DC, USA.

Nedeltcheva AV, et al., (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Internal Medicine 153, 435-441.

Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013). The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873

Stanhope KL, Bremer AA, Medici V, Nakajima K, Ito Y, Nakano T, Chen G et al. (2011). Consumption of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Increase Postprandial Triglycerides, LDL-Cholesterol, and Apolipoprotein-B in Young Men and Women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(10); DOI: 10.1210/jc.2011-1251

Pollock NK, Bundy V, Kanto W, Davis CL, Bernard PJ et al., (2011). Greater Fructose Consumption is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Markers and Visceral Adiposity in Adolescents. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 142 (2): 251 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.150219

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6 Manly Tips for Men’s Health Month

It was much too difficult to pick just one topic to discuss for Men’s Health Month so as you can see, I picked six things to talk about. These items have been on my mind as of late and are relevant for all the men out there so let me know your thoughts and own experiences regarding the following topics.

1. If it has been more than a year since your last full physical exam then pick up the phone today and call your primary care physicians office and book yourself an appointment. When you’re done have the secretary book you in advance a year from that date. I try to make it each year the same month as my birthday. A great number of ailments and for that matter diseases that people end up getting would never exacerbate if caught early and a yearly check-up could significantly improve your odds in those areas. While you’re at it do the same thing regarding regular teeth cleanings and eye exams.

2. We like to say at Koko, that lean muscle is like the fountain of youth, the more you have the better off you and your metabolism will be as you age. Research shows staying active coupled with regular strength training is the best prescription to help fight your cause.

3. If you’re really interested in seeing how healthy you are then take a look at your blood profile. I have used Inside Tracker, a company founded by scientists from MIT, Harvard and Tufts University to “give you blood-based, science-driven, effective advice on simple changes you can make to optimize your performance and health.” I really enjoy looking at what is going from a “deeper” perspective and track those metrics over time. Inside Tracker also does a great job at suggesting food options if you’re low in specific areas to help you drive those numbers back into a healthy range (think testosterone here guys).

4. Make a foam roller, a pair of tennis balls and a lacrosse ball your best friends. All that pain, stiffness and tightness that you typically experience may be due to restricted fascia. Fascia is basically connective tissue, along with ligaments and tendons, that acts as, among other things, as a support structure and plays an important role in overall health. Use the tools mentioned to roll away some of that residual pre/post workout stiffness. This helps just temporarily though and to get at the root of the problem speak to a coach and take advantage of applying some pressure to “tight” areas with those tennis balls or lacrosse ball. Have someone show you the right way to accomplish this or you could do more harm than good. In addition, get more sleep and drink more H2O to help your cause.

5. Work on reducing your body fat level by 1-2% this month. No, not by doing more steady-state, long duration cardio. Try completing eight short, high intensity interval (HIT) sessions over the course of the month. Get outside and do sprint intervals, try using a Schwinn Air-Dyne bike, maybe a Versa climber or a rowing machine, you get the picture. Separate the HIT sessions with 3-days between each session. On those “off” days watch your added sugar and do some form of strength training. In regard to added sugar, consume less than 150 calories a day (38 grams) and use the MyFitnessPal app to make you more aware of what you’re consuming and to help you document it. As for strength training, try using “giant sets” – choose five multi-joint movement exercises, like lunges, squats, deadlifts, chest press and pull-ups, and do each round for a desired number of repetitions or for a specific amount of time like 30-45 seconds each. Aim for a minimum of two weekly sessions. Like your cardio, it does not have to be long, quality trumps quantity especially during Men’s Health Month.

6. Finally, mix things up and take a yoga class. You may have to go out of your comfort zone here. There is a reason why more and more college and pro athletes are now doing more yoga. It’s great for your mind/body/spirit. If you don’t want to venture out or pay for it then download the Headspace app and meditate a bit. Adding these six health and fitness tips during the month of June will make you not only more manly but a better friend, brother, dad, and husband. Hopefully, this time next June, a few of these will stick and be part of your regular routine.

How One Small Change this Year Could Have a Significant Impact on Your Overall Health

If you’re looking to make one change this year that in turn will have the biggest impact on your overall health, then start looking at the amount of added sugar you’re consuming. All the exercise that you’re doing is great but simply cutting back on your daily added sugar consumption, in conjunction with moving more, is the key to effectively changing your body composition and improving your overall health.

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Source: http://www.heart.org

To help keep you motivated, take a waist and hip circumference measurement and look at what is known as the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Check this every 8-12 weeks and monitor changes. Research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation with added sugar consumption, overall health and WHR.

“The WHO defines the ratios of >9.0 in men and >8.5 in women as one of the decisive benchmarks for metabolic syndrome. Welborn and Dahlia (2007) and Srikanthan, Seeman, and Karlamangla (2009) confirm, and cite several other investigations that show waist-to-hip ratio being the superior clinical measurement for predicting all cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.”  (Kravitz)

Look to put yourself (and family) on a sugar budget at the start of the new year. Its difficult to totally remove it from your diet but if you begin to monitor it on a daily basis, you’ll be amazed first, how prevalent it is and secondly, as you slowly begin to take it away you won’t crave it as much after a week or two.

Start by reading all food labels and cut back on the processed foods. You need to first get educated on where sugar “hides” and then start to cut back. Keep in mind there are more than 50 different names for sugar, avoid anything that ends in “ose” or contains high-fructose corn syrup etc. Choose better food options for you and your family and begin to replace the high sugar foods today. This is from a recent tweet of mine:

A simple concept that I follow for myself and my (male) clients is to consume no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar which equates to 38 grams (which is what you can start to keep track of or “budget” on a daily basis). Keep in mind that carbohydrates contain 4 calories/gram of energy (4/150 = 38 grams). Women on that same line should consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar which figures out to 25 grams a day (4/100 = 25 grams).

There are two types of sugars, natural sugar and added sugar. The conversation today is not about natural sugars (like fruit, milk, cheese, etc.) it’s about added sugar, which is everything you may have been eating that comes out of a package, box, carton or can.

If you need a little more convincing on the topic, take time to read Gary Taubes latest book, The Case Against Sugar, which I highly recommend.

Follow this one health tip and you will not only see noticeable changes – you’ll also avoid having a negative impact on your metabolism, the way all fad diets invariably do.

References

Welborn, T.A. and Dhaliwal, S.S. (2007). Preferred clinical measures of central obesity for predicting mortality. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61, 1373-1379.

Srikanthan, P., Seeman, T.E., and Karlamangla, A.S. (2009). Waist-hip-ratio as a predictor of all-cause mortality in high-functioning older adults. Annals of Epidemiology, 19, 724-731.

Taubes, G., (2017) The Case Against Sugar, Random House.

6 Tips for Growing Healthy Habits with Your Kids

A new season of the Emmy-winning series CYBERCHASE premiered this week on PBS stations across the country! And now, kids can get a sneak peek of two full-length episodes online and on the PBS KIDS Video app ahead of the on-air premiere. Season 10 takes kids on educational adventures involving math, health, and the environment – from encouraging kids to be active and eat well, to teaching kids about reducing waste and growing gardens, all while caring for the health of their community.

Source: http://heart.org
Source: http://heart.org

Eating healthy meals and being active every day is essential for human health, and how you achieve your goals can have a big impact on the health of the planet. Cyberchase Season 10 Health Advisor Kristie Hubbard, PhD, MPH, RD, has developed the following 10 tips to help families develop the same healthy habits at home.

  1. Plan ahead and track your progress.
    Key strategies for improving eating habits and increasing physical activity are planning ahead and tracking progress. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time and ask for your child’s input. Provide structured choices: Would you like broccoli or salad for your vegetable tonight? Ask your child to create a family dinner and physical activity calendar. Use a chart or graph to keep track of family meals and minutes spent being active (toward the goal of at least 60 minutes a day).
  1. Make cooking a family event.

Designate at least one day each week to prepare a family meal. Involve your child with the prep work – from meal planning based on the five MyPlate food groups all the way through clean-up. Spend some quality time with your child while teaching her about healthy eating. Depending on your child’s skill level, try these fun and child-friendly tasks:

  • Creating the menu based on MyPlate
  • Searching for recipes
  • Writing the shopping list
  • Cleaning fruits and vegetables
  • Measuring and adding ingredients
  1. Rethink your drink.
    Sugar-sweetened drinks are the top source of added sugar in children’s diets. Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks when she’s thirsty. Ask your child to guess how many teaspoons of sugar are in her favorite drinks. To build math skills, read the nutrition facts panel and help your child calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving of her favorite beverage, using the 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon conversion.
  1. Chores count!

Chores to do? Involve your child in active chores around the house and make it fun. Indoor chores like sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming can also get your child’s heart pumping. Make it upbeat by cleaning the house to your child’s favorite music playlist. Be sure to count these activities toward your child’s goal of at least 60 minutes each day!

  1. Hit the “off” button.

Hitting the “off” button on almost any electronic device is a surefire way for finding more family time for physical activity. Dance indoors, play catch outside, or do yoga after dinner. If your child doesn’t want to miss her favorite show, get up and moving while you watch! Have a contest and count how many jumping jacks she can do during the opening credits, a song or another scene.

  1. Be a food detective.

A healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein, grains, and dairy. Create an individualized meal plan for your child based on her age and activity level at choosemyplate.gov. Ask your child to estimate how many ounces of liquid fit in your glasses at home and how many cups of cereal fit in your bowls. If your usual dishes are leading to portion distortion, switch to smaller glasses, bowls and plates to help with portion control.

Dr. Kristie Hubbard is a nutritionist with the United States Department of Agriculture and an adjunct instructor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University.