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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20 Health and Fitness Facts Based on Research that Could Help You

We are inundated each day with hundreds of adds while online, on our phones, watching TV, or from just about anything else we may read. With that said, there is a great deal of conflicting information and more than one view on just about any health/fitness/exercise topic. I’m always interested in where the content and data are coming from and are they backed by science. Even when it is, there can be times that the information or data collected has been taken from a small sample size or the researcher had a vested interest in the research being done.

Here are a few health and fitness facts for you that come from prominent academic sources involving research that you can hopefully use to improve your own health and fitness.

  • 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.
  • Research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, show mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi do more than just relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.
  • Research from the journal Obesity, shows exposure to higher levels of cortisol, an indicator of stress, over several months is associated with people being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight. The research involved 2,527 men and women aged 54 and older who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, that looked at data over a four-year period.
  • Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance, and his colleagues have shown through their research that every additional 150 calories of added sugar consumed above daily requirements was associated with a 1.1 percent increase risk of type 2 diabetes. A second study showed subjects who got 17-21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21% or more of their calories from added sugar (D’Adamo, 2015).
  • “Fat (in our diet) is not the problem,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” Research from Harvard University published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed subjects over a twenty year period and determined that the food most often associated with weight gain was you guessed it, white potatoes (NEJM, 2011).
  • The fact is that a brain hijacked by a diet high in sugar and flour blocks weight loss. It does this in three ways: (1) sugar and flour raise baseline insulin levels far past what our bodies were designed to handle. The elevated insulin not only sets us up for diabetes, but it turns out its blocking the brain from recognizing a critical hormone: leptin. (2) after eating the average American amount of sugar for just three weeks, 22 teaspoons, the brain’s pleasure receptors do something called “down-regulating.” Essentially, to cope with the excessive stimulation, the brain takes some of its receptors offline. (3) willpower isn’t a dimension of your personality, something some people are born with and others simply lack. Willpower is a cognitive function and we all have about the same amount, fifteen minutes, give or take. Meaning any successful diet MUST expect that your willpower will fail AT LEAST once a day and work anyway (source: Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD).
  • The average American consumes too much added sugar on a daily basis. Americans currently eat about 76 pounds of different forms of sugars every year. Even though we have seen a 15% decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
  • A meta-analysis published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed 49 studies of men ages 50 to 83 who did progressive resistance training and found that subjects averaged a 2.4-pound increase in lean body mass.
  • Approximately three decades of age-related strength loss and two decades of age-related muscle mass loss can be recovered or reversed within the first couple of months of starting a strength training program. (Ivey, 2000).
  • A study in the journal Nutrients suggests a daily intake of 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for older adults who do regular strength training. This is much higher than 0.8 grams/kg/body weight than you may have previously read or been told. This would mean, for example, that a 175-pound man would need about 79 grams to 103 grams a day. If possible, divide your protein equally among your daily meals to maximize muscle protein synthesis.
  • It was reported in Stuart Phillips 2016 paper, Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health, that “evidence suggests that intakes of high quality protein in the range of 1.2-1.6 grams/kilo/body weight is a more ideal target to achieve optimal health outcomes in adults.”
  • The average American spends more than 9 hours a day sitting. Research shows that people who sit the most have a 112 percent increase in the Relative Risk (RR) of Diabetes and a 147 percent increase in the RR of cardiovascular events compared to people who sit the least. Sitting down for a large part of the day has similar mortality rates to smoking (Wilmot et al., 2012).
  • According to research, individuals who did not strength train lost about 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and a by-product of this was that there was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day. As you grow older, the loss of muscle becomes more pronounced and by the time you reach the age of 70, the muscular system has experienced a 40 percent loss of muscle mass and a 30 percent decrease in strength.
  • Strength appears to peak between the ages of 25 and 35 and is maintained or slightly lower between ages 40 and 59 and then declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 50 years of age, according to research published by Doherty in 2001.
  • Research has demonstrated that individuals who use a pedometer take an additional 2,000 steps each day compared to nonusers and their overall physical activity level increases by 27 percent. Looks like its time to break out the pedometer and start to step it up!
  • In a 2014 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Australian researchers looked at the relationship between various personality traits and exercise and other health-related habits. The researchers found that people who thought they had control over their lives were more likely to exercise and adopt other healthy steps than those who felt that luck or fate largely dictated their lives.
  • According to Len Kravitz, PhD, a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, “High intensity interval training (HIIT) adds up to 15 percent more calories to the total calories expended.” That means if you’ve worked off 550 calories doing HIIT, you can reasonably expect to burn at least another 83 calories post-exercise.
Credit: https://sunstonefit.com
  • Research has shown that drinking 17-ounces of water upon waking up in the morning will increase your metabolic rate by about 30 percent over the next few hours. The same researchers believe that over the course of a year, individuals who increase water consumption by just 1.5 liters a day could burn an extra 17,400 calories and experience a five-pound weight loss.
  • Research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School determined that those who skip breakfast are 4 ½ times more likely to be obese compared to people who make time to eat in the morning.
  • According to a Georgia Centenarian Study, individuals who eat breakfast regularly have lower rates of Type 2 diabetes and are less likely to develop heart failure over the course of their lifetime compared to than those who don’t eat breakfast. The study that looked at older Americans, over a 13-year period, suggests that regularly eating breakfast may lead to a longer-than-average life span.

References

Phillips SM et al., (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health, Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41: 565-572

Sarah E. Jackson, Clemens Kirschbaum, Andrew Steptoe (2017), Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity, 25 (3):539 DOI: 10.1002/oby.21733

Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil (2017). What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 8 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

Wilmot EG1, Edwardson CL (2012). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis, Diabetologia. 55(11): 2895-905. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2677-z

Poon, L.W., Clayton, G., & Martin, P., et al. (1989). Individual similarities and differences of the oldest-old in the Georgia Centenarian Study. The Gerontologist, 29, 43.

Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 88(12):6015-6019

Ivey, FM et al., The Effects of Age, Gender and Myostatin Genotype on the Hypertrophic Response to Heavy Resistance Strength Training. J. Gerontol: Med Sci 55A: M641-M848, 2000.

Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, and Hu FB, (2011). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England J Med; 364:2392-2404.

Thompson SP (2017). There Is A Reason You Can’t Lose Weight

D’Adamo P.J (2015). The Many Consequences of Sugar Imbalance

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.

Do You Need to Change Your Exercise and Diet Mindset?

How many times you have tried some exercise or diet routine but for whatever reasons, it just never seem to “workout” for you? Maybe you initially had some success but as time progressed you eventually lost interest or your results weren’t significant enough to keep you going.

Could this be the year for an altogether different approach when it comes to your exercise routine and diet?

Many of us seem to complicate the process of getting and then staying in shape. We need to go back to the basics and remember to always keep it simple. Think about your diet and workout history for a moment. What worked temporarily and what inevitably ended up not working for you?

Let’s work on starting to change your mindset as the new year approaches.

“Your mindset is your collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape your thought habits.  And your thought habits affect how you think, what you feel, and what you do.  Your mind-set impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of you.” (credit: http://sourcesofinsight.com)

Now that you’re starting with a clean slate, be honest about exercise, if you’re like most people, you may not even like to exercise! If that is true, it’s not a problem but be mindful of it and be more creative with your thinking in terms of how to add more movement into your day. You need to make a list of the top five to ten activities you like to do instead of the traditional types of exercise you have tried in the past and then replace them with items from your new list. Maybe it’s yoga, hiking, trail running, an obstacle course race or a boot camp type class with friends.

Mindset
Source: http://entrequest.com

As Michelle Segar, PhD, states in her informative book, No Sweat (Amacom, 2015), don’t think of it as a chore but more of a gift to yourself. Everything you do during the day can start to count as “exercise” if you think of it differently. Dr. Segar believes, as a result of more than twenty years of research, that there are six ideas that create the context for successfully negotiating more physical activity within a persons busy life and “cultivating lifelong sustainability.” Dr. Segar goes on to state in her book:

“Having a learning mindset and goals will lead you to intrinsic motivation, persistence, and resilience so you can better sustain your behavioral and well-being aims.”

In addition, you may need to change your mindset in respect to nutrition and how you’re fueling your body on a daily basis. The goal here is to start with one small nutritional change, be successful, and then move to a second small change. It could be as easy as drinking more water first thing when you wake and again before each meal. It may include eliminating the “extra” calories you’re taking in daily through alcohol, sports drinks, soda, juices, etc. Maybe it’s adding more protein into the mix, to keep you satiated longer; your body always works harder to digest protein compared to fats or carbohydrates. That is a good thing because you will expend additional calories for this particular metabolic process to occur. This could be the year that you finally work on getting more fiber into your daily diet. A good goal could be 14 grams for every 1000 calories you consume.

static1.squarespace
Source: http://human-current.com

Finally, one small change that could unleash significant changes in body composition is to eat less added sugar each day. Remember that we are not talking about fruits, vegetables, or milk but everything else out of a can, package, box or carton. Eat no more than 38 grams a day (150 calories) or 25 grams a day (100 calories) for men and women respectively. These are just a few examples of small changes that could pay back big dividends over the course of the next few months if implemented now.

Your goal is to find activities that you like to do and the by-product will be “exercise” then make one small nutritional change each week over the course of the next month. Maybe it’s more simple than some of us have been lead to believe.

Small Changes are Key to Improving Health and Fitness

lens19443020_1335810382aThe cumulative effect of small changes are key to improving both your health and fitness level. Many people are looking for the home run or the secret “ingredient” when it comes to trying lose weight or improve their fitness level. Implementing a few of the recommended changes throughout your day, coupled with your daily workout, is a great start to help you change the way you look and feel over the course of the next few weeks.

Morning
-Drink more water first thing in the morning.
-Make sure your eating breakfast.
-Try squeezing in more activity like walking/hiking before work (start wearing a pedometer).

Afternoon
-Workout at lunch time if you’re able, and if not, take a walk.
-Add more protein to your lunch and avoid bread and fried foods.
-Stand more at work rather than sitting for 6-8 hrs (make a standing work station).

Evening
-Make dinner your smallest meal of the day.
-No eating within three hours of going to bed.
-Cut down on your screen and TV time.

Finally, throughout the Morning/Afternoon/Evening watch your added sugar and salt intake – this one simple tip will pay back big dividends in no time! If you’re a female, work on consuming <100 calories a day of added sugar (25 grams/day) and if you’re a male, work on taking in <150 calories a day (38 grams/day).

Added Sugar is Associated with More than Just Weight Gain

PJ-AR203_HEARTB_NS_20090824194939Added sugars that are found in processed foods may contain only four calories per gram, similar to protein, but when consumed in surplus, those calories can become toxic in the body. It has been reported that Americans eat an additional 355 extra calories a day from added sugar, according to the American Heart Association. In addition to potential weight gain, added sugar has been reported to decrease testosterone levels in men by 25 percent.  We know the impact too much added sugar can have on conditions like diabetes and risk of cancer. Too much added sugar can also negatively affect the cells in our body, a study in 2009 found a positive association between glucose consumption and the aging of our cells. In a 2012 study, too much sugar was linked to deficiencies in cognitive health.

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

It has been said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” To help prevent the many side effects from too much added sugar it is important to be aware of what you’re consuming in the added sugar department. The easiest way to do this is to read food labels and start monitoring the amount of added sugar (in grams) each day. Put yourself on an added sugar budget especially during the Holiday season. Our craving for sugar has increased 39% between 1950 and 2000, according to reports from the USDA. The average American consumes about 156 pounds of sugar each year (about three pounds of sugar each week). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 10 percent of daily calories come from sugar and for the majority of people this is about 50 grams a day. Keep in mind that just one can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar. WHO further suggests that “a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits.” This should be your goal, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and finally, be aware of the following guidelines.

  • Eat no more than 2.5 grams of added sugar per 100 calories.

  • Men = Consume <150 calories (38 grams) a day of added sugar or about 9 teaspoons a day.

  • Women = Consume <100 calories (25 grams) a day of added sugar or about 6 teaspoons a day.

Suggested Reading

Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert Lustig, MD

7 Health Tips from Fitness Expert Michael Wood, CSCS

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photo credit: http://kokofitclub.com

One of the many great things about life is that we continue to learn as we advance in age. This is especially true when it comes to finding new health and fitness tips and I’m sure this applies to your own personal health and fitness routine too. After close to thirty years working in the fitness industry, I have learned a few tricks of the trade myself and here are a few fitness tips that I focused on this past year that you may want to follow as well.

1. Challenge Your Mind, Body and Spirit with New Activities. Your thing may be yoga, running, biking, swimming or taking the 10,000 step challenge and if it’s something else that’s great too because these types of activities will get your body stronger, give you more energy and keep your mind clear. The key, however, is to stimulate your mind, body and spirit each day with either one of these eight letter words: movement, activity or exercise. For example, a few activities that I gravitated towards over the past year were stand-up paddle board, walking or running stadium stairs and snow-shoeing. What were some of your new activities?

I highly recommend that you try a new activity or two before the year comes to an end.

2. Start Wearing a Pedometer. A pedometer is ideal for helping you increase your daily activity. I have been wearing a Fitbit pedometer since 2009 and I really like the accountability factor. Fitbit, as a company, has gone on record stating their user base takes 43% more steps with Fitbit. If you go out and purchase a pedometer, have a goal of determining your daily average steps over the course of three days, then try adding 500 to 1000 steps a week (or 10-20% increase of your average from baseline) until you progress to 10,000 steps a day (this is about 5 miles). The average Fitbit user records about 6000 steps a day. Research conducted by Tudor-Locke and Schuna recommend that adults avoid averaging less than 5,000 steps a day and strive to average greater than 7,500 steps a day, of which about 3,000 steps (about 30 minutes) should be taken at a cadence of 100 steps or more a minute. Stanford University researchers looked at 26 different studies and summarized the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their synopsis showed individuals who use a pedometer take 2,000 additional steps each day compared to nonusers and had significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure while overall physical activity level increased by 27%.

Your goal is 10,000 steps a day and about 8-10 flights of stairs.

3. Get Stronger with Stadium Stair Workouts. Whether you walk or run the stairs it doesn’t matter because in the end the stairs always win. Stair workouts are ideal for improving cardiovascular health and increasing hip and leg strength. It is also a great supplement to your weekly strength training. It engages most of the muscles in your body and the caloric expenditure is high especially if you run. Look for an area high school stadium or college near-by and if you’re in the Boston area give Harvard Stadium a try and don’t forget to wear your pedometer, you won’t be sorry.

Try adding a 30-minute stair workout to your routine at least once a month.

4. Understand Strength Training is for Life. Some things in your training bag will come and go but when it comes to strength training it should be done for the rest of your life!  Be consistent, challenge yourself and make it progressive. According to one 1992 study women who did not strength train lost about 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years and a by-product of this was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day.

Add strength training in 2-3 times each week.

5. Bring High Intensity Interval Training into Play. No matter what you’re doing on the cardio side of things add interval-based cardio sessions into the mix on a weekly basis. You can find this type of exercise at a Koko FitClub near you. Here are two FREE (audio-based) cardio sessions to try. You can find interval-based workouts like Tabata and Stadium Stair intervals for all ability levels at Koko FitClub.

Add high intensity intervals to your cardio 1-2 times a week with adequate recovery between workouts.

6. You Are What You Eat. Exercise is great but if you don’t fuel up optimally it will eventually catch up with you. Try this one tip, watch your added daily sugar. If you’re a male eat no more than 150 calories a day (38 grams/day) and if you are female make it no more than 100 calories (25 grams/day). Do this for the next 4 weeks and see how much better you look and feel. A recent study found a correlation between high sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes rate across various countries. Remember that more than 80% of processed foods have high levels of added sugar.

Monitor your added sugar on a daily basis for the next 4 weeks.

7. Lengthen and Restore Tight Muscles. First, perform a quick “needs analysis” on your body. Have a goal of finding out what muscles are weak and what’s tight. Once this is determined, you need to work on strengthening what’s weak and lengthen what’s tight. In regard to the tight muscles, try adding these modalities or activities to your current routine: add a dynamic warm-up prior to exercise, try a yoga class, use a foam roller, get a regular massage or relax in a hot tub. If muscles are either too tight or too weak they are basically an accident waiting to happen. Maybe this is the cause of your low back pain?

Start using a foam roller asap. Focus on “rolling-out” your glutes, hamstrings, calf, back, IT-band and quads.

References

Tudor-Locke C and Schuna JM (2012). Steps to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Exercise, Walk More, or Sit Less? Frontiers in Endocrinology 3(142):1-7.

Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, et al. (2007). Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. Journal American Medical Association 298(19):2296-2304.

 

Checking in on the 10,000 Step Wellness Challenge

Now that you’re on the fifth day of the 10,000 Step Wellness Challenge you may have some questions about the challenge itself so hopefully this post answers some of those questions.

Do I need to really get 10,000 steps a day?

That should be your goal. You may have to build up to that number depending on what level you were at when you started the challenge. I had about 10 straight days of getting 10,000 steps about a week before I started the challenge and that trend continued until this Saturday when I had to attend a wedding. Now that the streak is broken I’m focusing on still getting more than 70,000 steps for the first week of the challenge (October 1-7th). So, your goal is to try to hit 10k a day and if not  – don’t freak out – life can get in the ways some times. You always have your back-up goal of 70k+ a week or 280k+ for the month. Here is a great research paper (abstract) showing the importance of 10,000 steps a day that you should take a look at. You can also take a look at this paper as well.

What does my waist-to-hip (WHR) data mean?

There are many different measurements that you can take to get a snapshot of your health (like percent body fat and/or lean muscle level). The WHR is one of the easiest ways to do this. There was a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2007), by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center. They found that people with a larger waist-to-hip ratio may be at increased risk for heart disease. The research evaluated the association between different measures of obesity and the prevalence of arterial disease.

“Our study shows that people who develop fat around the middle have more atherosclerotic plaque than those who have smaller waist-to-hip ratios,” said Dr. James de Lemos, associate professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study. “The risk was the same for both men and women who develop abdominal fat.”

Why no diet? Why are you having us monitor our daily added sugar?

Diets do not work long term. One of the easiest ways to start looking and feeling better is to cut back on added sugar. Monitoring your added sugar will also improve your blood glucose level which for many people is typically elevated. Americans consume more than 130 pounds of sugar over the course of a year and some reports even say its more like 3 pounds of sugar a week. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons and men no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugars per day. Keep in mind one can of Coke has more than that! The amount of sugar Americans are consuming a day is closing in on 500 calories a day. Do you want to change the way you look and feel? Want to lose an inch around your waist or hips? Then cut back the added sugar to no more than 150 calories a day for men (which is 38 grams a day) and 100 calories a day for women (which is 25 grams a day). A great app that I’m using to help me, among other things, monitor what I’m eating and drinking is called Nudge – check it out.

Keep up the great work! Stay focused and you may have to sacrifice a bit but that is what it takes to change the way you look and feel. If it were easy everyone would look good and sadly that is not the case. Let the 10,000 Step Wellness Challenge enable you to increase your activity level, change your body composition and give you more energy!

Please checkout My Flipboard site and my 10,000 Step Wellness Challenge Magazine – content is added each day for all participants of the challenge.

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Start Preparing for the 10k Step Wellness Challenge

images-1Lets face it, now that summer is over it can be more difficult for some of us to stay active. This 10K Step Wellness Challenge is the first step to keeping you active during the upcoming months especially as the seasons change. The challenge is as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Try to walk 10,000 steps a day for the month of October. There maybe days due to work commitments or travel that you won’t be able to do this. No problem, you can also have a secondary goal of 70,000+ cumulative steps over the course of each week during the month of October. You will need to use a pedometer. Read 7 Benefits of walking from the San Diego Spine & Rehab.

2) Become more aware of your added sugar consumption. Your goal for each of the 31-days in October is to eat less than 150 calories of added sugar a day (which is 38 grams) if you’re a man. If you happen to be a women your goal is to eat less than 100 calories of added sugar (which is 25 grams) a day. You will need to start looking at food labels from everything you eat that is not whole food. Meaning, check the side of that box, carton, package or can to see the amount of sugar it contains. That is it. Don’t over-complicate it – if you want to record the number of grams of added sugar you eat from breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner…then go for it…”you don’t own it until you write it down.” Remember fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain natural sugar not added sugar.

3) Determine your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR). Seeing changes in body composition over the course of the month can happen by increasing your activity and monitoring your added sugar intake. You need to determine a baseline measurement though and then do a follow-up. The easiest way to due this is to take a waist and then a hip measurement. To find out what your WHR is simply divide your waist/hip. Try using this online calculator. Please read this article on the importance of knowing what your waist measurement and WHR are.

Start date: Wednesday October 1, 2014

Completion date: Friday October 31, 2014