Tag Archives: sleep

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

(This is part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

When it comes to losing weight or reducing body fat, it’s generally accepted that one has to eat fewer calories than he or she burns each day. Many diets achieve this simple math equation for fat loss by applying strict rules on what types of foods to avoid. However, these diets often fail because the rigidity that characterizes these diets can make people feel deprived of their favorite foods or excluded from social events. Other diets focus on constantly measuring and counting portions, but few people have ever said their favorite part of eating or cooking was the math. Fortunately, there is a better way to take control of your eating habits without going to extremes. Try incorporating these behavior changes into your routine one at a time to create healthy eating habits that will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. These simple changes can help you improve your nutrition without the stress of math or constant deprivation.

1. Slow Down Your Eating

It can take 20 minutes or more for stretch receptors in your stomach and hormonal signals from your small intestines to signal to you that you are feeling full. Giving your body time to let you know that you are satisfied is an easy way to reduce how many calories you consume in a given meal. Stop racing through meal times by incorporating strategies that slow you down. You can try: Putting down your utensils between bites of food; creating a halfway point in your meal and taking a break from eating when you get to it; setting a timer or stopwatch so you have some feedback on how much time you’ve taken to eat.

2. Decrease Distractions

Multitasking while eating with activities such as watching television, working or scrolling social media can make it more difficult to recognize how much you’ve eaten. It can also reduce how full or satiated you feel from a meal. People who eat with distractions tend to feel hungrier and eat more later. Turning off distractions and focusing on enjoying your meal is a helpful way to reduce your caloric intake and still feel more satisfied. Getting rid of screens and other distractions during meals is an easy way to change your environment to better support your healthy eating.

3. Avoid Eating From Large Packages

Interestingly, when people eat out of large packages it makes it much more difficult to realize how much is actually being consumed. Instead of eating foods directly from large containers, try eating only from bowls and plates. This requires you to choose your portion size before you start eating. You can also prep your serving sizes in advance by portioning foods into single-serving containers immediately when you get home from purchasing them. These simple behavior changes make it much easier to avoid overeating certain types of foods.

4. Drink More Water

Drinking plenty of water not only improves our health and fitness, it can also be a useful tool for reducing the amount of calories consumed. Being thirsty can easily be confused with feelings of hunger. Drinking a glass of water before eating snacks or meals may help you realize that you aren’t as hungry as you may have thought. Additionally, drinking water with meals can also help slow down meals and stimulate the stretch receptors in the stomach, which help to signal that you are feeling full. Finally, if you are accustomed to drinking beverages with calories, swapping some or all of them with water can help decrease caloric intake.

5. Sleep More

Getting enough sleep doesn’t just improve recovery for workouts. It also helps regulate the hormones responsible for feelings of hunger and satiety. Leptin and ghrelin are both disrupted when you don’t get enough sleep, which may result in increased hunger and decreased feelings of satiety. You can improve your sleep habits by adopting specific times to go to bed and wake consistently each day. In the evening, create a specific routine to follow, including dimming the lights and turning off screens to help you wind down. Reducing caffeine consumption after noon can also help you get to sleep easier.

Focusing on behavior changes that help you sleep better can help you make better food decisions and feel more satisfied with your healthy eating each day. Improving nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t have to exclusively be about planning meals and counting calories. The most sustainable behavior changes help you to consistently control your intake and feel satisfied without creating additional stress or deprivation.

Try practicing one of these habits at a time to start improving your eating without constant calorie counting.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit

Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 2 – Sleep Facts That May Surprise You

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Back in May, I had the privilege of attending an online seminar about sleep. Prepare to have your mind blown. Science keeps shining a light on the unknown to illuminate things we don’t know. The undeniable value of sleep has led to a recent expansion of the body of science around sleep. New understandings of sleep may be pleasantly surprising—and a welcome relief to those feeling pressured to adopt the mythical “early bird” lifestyle dogma so commonly promoted in health circles.

The Early Bird Myth

There seems to be society-wide pressure to get up early and “crush the day.” This is especially rampant in the health and fitness space. This flawed idea has no basis in science or the historical human experience. Instead it is a byproduct of an attempt to fit all of us into the “workday” boxes laid out by the work and school schedules of modern society. In sleep research, there are different “chronotypes” that refer to genetically predisposed best times to wake up and best hours of focus. An “early chronotype” (commonly referred to as an “early bird”) refers to someone who likes to rise very early, usually before sunrise. A “normal chronotype” typically rises around sunrise or just after. A “late chronotype” refers to what we commonly call a “night owl”. (that’s me..most of the time) Most people fall naturally into one of the three types. For example, the Hadza people of Tanzania are hunter-gatherers whose lifestyle remains similar to early humans. At any given time during the night, no fewer than eight of the tribe members are awake. This is in line with the “sentinel theory” first proposed in the 1960s. In essence, it says that somebody needs to be awake to keep watch for animal or human predators during any of the 24 hours in a day. As a result, there are genes for staying up late, getting up super early and everything in between bred into us and health is optimized when you follow what works for you rather than what you “should” do. In other words, if you’re not in the “early bird” group, it’s best for you if you stop trying to be one.

Polyphasic Sleep

The idea of getting all our sleep in one uninterrupted session is a given in modern life. Surprisingly, many people instead follow a “biphasic” sleep pattern where they sleep in two separate chunks, or a “polyphasic” sleep pattern where they sleep in many chunks during a 24-hour period. It was very common in preindustrial times (before lighting and modern work schedules) to follow a biphasic sleep schedule. The most common form is to sleep for several hours, get up for an hour or two, and then return to sleep for several more hours to achieve the total amount of sleep needed to be well-rested. Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla stuck to almost impossibly strenuous polyphasic sleep cycles. Da Vinci reportedly slept 15 minutes every four hours, while Tesla never slept more than two hours in any 24-hour period (it is probably worth noting that Tesla had a nervous breakdown at age 25). These men were undoubtedly prolific and intelligent, yet their anecdotal examples are not a model to follow for most people. It can be as harmful to health to spend too many consecutive hours awake as it is to get less than your body’s required number of optimal hours of sleep. Our natural, historical tendency toward biphasic sleep warrants the acceptance of napping as a suitable method for being well-rested, especially if schedules or preferences make it impossible to get all your sleep in a single session.

Brain Flushing

When you are asleep, your body may be resting, but your brain is busy taking out the trash. The network that drains waste from the brain is called the glymphatic system. It works by circulating cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain tissue and flushing any resulting waste into the bloodstream, which then carries it to the liver for detoxification. Brain cells even shrink when we sleep, allowing cerebrospinal fluid to enter and flush out the brain. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are believed to be caused by inflammation and the accumulation of cellular waste products from energy production. These waste products are cleared out of the brain more effectively and more rapidly during sleep. Thus, in addition to the already familiar immediate effect of sleep quality and quantity on your mental function and mood the next day, there are apparently significant long-term brain health benefits to getting proper rest.

Bottom line: Don’t under value the importance of sleep. It could be your undoing.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day  #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever

Why Sleep Should Be Taken Seriously

As we continue in these days of uncertainty, we must strive to stay positive and find a silver lining. For me, I had the unusual opportunity to attend not one, but two online seminars just over a week ago. And the best part? They were free! Unfortunately, both had been set up to be live events but due to the current situation made good on their promise to deliver and went online instead. Now to most people, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. But when you consider most multi day conferences run anywhere from $300-$500, I call that a win. I wanted to share with you though the one conference that I know you would find the most valuable and interesting and that was the one on sleep and recovery.

Sleep Needs a Bigger Priority

One thing I’m sure most would agree on is that we need more sleep. Our lives have become this constant state of go and while most would complain about being tired or drained, the cycle seems to repeat endlessly. Have you ever noticed the amount of “energy” products that exist in the marketplace? While it appears to be highly unlikely to return to a time when we awoke at sunrise and were asleep by dark, we have to adapt or it can certainly kill us. Insufficient sleep is a public health concern.

Sleep Loss and Deprivation

There are many factors that contribute to insufficient or poor sleep, such as hormones and psychological factors, but the reality is with some focus and concentration on making sleep a priority, we have the ability to improve it. Lifestyle changes such as choosing to go to bed at the same time everyday, turning off all electronics 1 hour before going to bed, and either adopting a meditation or breathing regime can go a long way. You simply can’t afford to not improve your sleep and following are 10 reasons why.

What Poor Sleep is Costing You

  1. Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight. People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity, respectively.
  2. Poor sleepers tend to eat more calories. Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.
  3. Poor sleep causes poor concentration and productivity. Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
  4. Poor sleep can negatively affect athletic performance. Less sleep duration has been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation.
  5. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors.These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease.
  6. Poor sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes. Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population.
  7. Poor sleep is linked to depression. Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.
  8. Poor sleep decreases your immune function. Not the best thing to hear during these times. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.
  9. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease.
  10. Poor sleep affects emotions and social interactions. Believe it or not, sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially. Kind of like the reason for being a moody monkey. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

The bottom line: along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

6 Reasons to Schedule Summer Morning Workouts

Summer’s about half way over and while it might be tempting to sleep in, the extended daylight morning hours may be the best time to create a new behavior. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a morning person but once you have a child, lifestyle changes are a necessary evil. In addition, with my profession, I’m up early to workout others. With being up early, there’s a sense of accomplishment, most notably that you still have your entire day in front of you. Why not start your day with some exercise? After all, who wouldn’t want to be done with it before the excuses begin to mount?

Morning Exercise Recommendations

I know. You’d still rather sleep. But I promise you, once you get started, the new habit will take over, hopefully as the year progresses into the colder and darker mornings ahead. Here are some recommendations to consider:

• Aim for eight to nine hours of restful sleep the night before. Not a bad habit to develop right there. We collectively sleep very little.
• If possible, consume a small, easily digestible carbohydrate/protein meal with water to maximize your workout. For convenience, prepare the small meal the night before and store it in the fridge for quick access. Now I know there are those who prefer or can not eat first thing in the morning and that’s ok too. Just understand there is NO benefit from exercising on an empty stomach and that your energy stores will be compromised.
• Follow your workout with a post-exercise carbohydrate/protein meal to promote recovery and act perhaps as your breakfast.
• Perform a dynamic lower- and upper-body warm-up particularly because muscles and joints are generally tighter earlier in the day.

Six Morning Exercise Benefits

Beating the Heat

Perhaps the most logical or obvious reason to train earlier in the day is to avoid working out in summer heat. Exercising when it’s generally cooler in the early morning is also healthier to prevent heat-related cramping, fatigue (disrupting and ruining workouts) and worse, a possible heat stroke.

Early Birds Catch the Worm

Be an early bird exerciser before heading to school or work (so the workout is over and done without having to schedule it around other activities). Also, training early in the day makes the remaining time available for other things you’d like to do.

Get an Early Mood-Boosting/Energizing Endorphin Rush

Exercising any time during the day stimulates desirable mood-elevating endorphins. Working out early in the morning, however, gets the endorphins flowing for optimizing energy and a positive outlook for the rest of the day!

Start the Day with a Feeling of Accomplishment

Completing something productive and worthwhile such as an intense or challenging workout elicits a great feeling of achievement to begin the day on a high note.

Jump-Start Your Metabolism

Beginning mornings with a heavy weight training session or high-intensity interval training, for example, are both excellent for revving metabolism throughout the day.

Make Morning Workouts a Year-Round Routine

Early morning summer workouts can become habit-forming throughout the year (in a good way)—as exercising before school or work can be more preferable than scheduling them later. Busy schedules during other times of the year can zap one’s mental and physical energy and attitude for even considering evening workouts, for instance.

There are many benefits to exercising in the morning, but of course the best option is to just do it whenever it fits your schedule. Make it happen.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness

(This is Part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and  tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

3320970787_58eb36939aEveryone has their interpretation of what fitness is or what it means to be fit. However, at the end of the day we can all agree that fitness is (and should be) an important part of our lives no matter how we all go about it. The most important concept to remember is the best way to improve and work on your fitness is the one you’re doing and going to keep doing. If you’re successful with that concept, here are a few key points to always keep in perspective no matter what you’re doing.

  1. Respect Sleep and Rest. Somewhere along the way we became martyrs to our work. The more you worked (not necessarily harder) the better you would be and sleep or rest would leave you behind the pack. Who has time to rest when there’s all this work to do? Wrong! A good night’s sleep, when your body’s chemistry shifts, and all kinds of beneficial bodily repair gets underway is one of the easiest ways to make an investment in your health. Want to be stubborn about it and think sleep is overrated? Your lack of sleep probably manifests itself daily with the same stubbornness with which you don’t recognize it – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Exercise Specific to Your Goals. Just because you exercise doesn’t always correlate with what you’re trying to accomplish. Somewhere along the line we grouped ALL exercise as a way to achieve any goal. If you want to be a bodybuilder then train like a bodybuilder. If you want to be a runner, then train like a runner. If you want to just feel good and healthy, it’s not necessary to kill yourself with mindless exercise that will probably cause more harm than good. Be clear about your goal first and foremost and then use the literally thousands of tools in the tool chest to accomplish that goal.
  3. Stop Buying Into Supplements. The word supplement itself simply means “in addition to.” The “in addition to” is an already healthy lifestyle that may or may not get an extra added boost from taking a dietary supplement. Supplementing a poor diet and lifestyle isn’t going to magically improve anything. The kicker is despite the supplement industry being a multi-billion dollar industry there is very little real data to support most of the theoretical claims. While you probably can’t do a lot of real harm if you take any supplement, putting your blind faith into them is time and energy poorly spent.
  4. Do It Right or Don’t Do It at All. If you’re going to commit to the time and energy to make fitness a part of your daily life, don’t waste any time and learn to do it right. The mindset of “something is better than nothing” has a very low return on investment and it’s a lie people keep telling themselves to feel good about what little they do. Remove the hood of pride and ego. Do it right, and make fitness worth your time every time.
  5. Get Off Your Ass. If you sit on your butt for the greater part of your day at a desk or even in the car, the little bit of exercise that you might be doing isn’t enough. According to a new study that found an hour of sedentary behavior increased people’s risk of being unable to perform basic functions—like doing household chores—by 46 percent even if they still met the minimum exercise requirements of 3 days a week of 30 minutes. Get up and move often. It’s why we were born with legs.
  6. Never Stop Moving. Take this in the most expansive and philosophical way. Build movement into all aspects of your life—work, home, play—and throughout your life. You name the diseaseand exercise is the cure. Workout, and not only will you be healthier, but happier and more confident.
  7. Eat Real Food. You won’t find the recipe for a healthy diet on the back of a package. Change the way a food naturally exists, and you change the way your body absorbs it. There is a huge disconnect between the marketing claims of pre-packaged food and real food made from scratch.
  8. Real Fitness Goes Beyond Skin Deep. Our society has been assuming for years that the picture of health is thin. If you look great externally you must be healthy and of course the opposite that if you carry some extra weight you must be unhealthy. You can be skinny and fat just as you can be overweight and very healthy. Exercise goes a long way to prevent many diseases better than it can change the shape of your appearance. If change in your appearance is what you truly desire, you have to have a concern for the growth and development of lean tissue – whether you see it or not. But that is not what fitness is all about.
  9. Experiment on Yourself What works for others may not work for you —and vice versa. We all have the same muscles and biological make up but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t many differences among us. Find what works for YOU based on what YOU want and will keep YOU engaged.
  10. It’s Not All About the Gear. Don’t get me wrong. Good gear makes things more enjoyable and potentially more comfortable but they ultimately don’t get the work done. Put as much priority, care, and thought into your fitness and nutrition and you’ll look good in any gear you put on. Remember, the ancient Greeks used to compete in the Olympics naked. I don’t think there was much concern for their gear over performance then.


See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight


The Importance of Sleep On Your Health

Have you ever given any thought to the impact sleep has on your health?  If you are like most Americans, chances are you probably did not even give it a second thought because you do not have enough time.  As a result, most of us would probably say that we do not get enough sleep.  Of course there are others that if sleep meant fitness, they would be two time decathletes by now.  Sleep is something most of us lack and take for granted, but can make a big difference in our approach to improving our health.

Sleep On This

On average, Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night.  While the debate still goes on as to how much sleep one person needs, eight hours has been the golden rule for years.  In addition, 43% of Americans suffer from sleeping disorders, everything from sleep apnea to insomnia.  This can result from a number of causes such as anxiety, nervousness, mental tension, illnesses, medications, and changes in hormonal levels. Since sleep is something we do take for granted, most people deny or refuse to believe that they have a sleeping problem.  However, that awareness usually presents itself in not so kind ways, such as the 100,000 auto accidents caused last year by sleepy drivers.

Get To Sleep

Lack of sleep itself can be detrimental to you if you do intend to make exercise a regular part of your life.  Not to mention some of the risks associated with lack of sleep, such as increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, lung problems, and impotence.  For those who compete in athletic competitions, sleep is of the utmost importance for awareness and body recovery.  The same is true for those individuals trying to build lean muscle mass.  Sleep is a time of increased growth hormone levels when the body repairs and rebuilds from the rigors of an exercise session.  It is true that gains are not made during the exercise, but what you do afterwards.  The workout is simply the catalyst to get the process started.  Following are some steps to better sleep and unfortunately for some, more is not necessarily better.

  1. Get up out of bed if you are not sleepy when you lie down, or give your eyes some exercise until they tire, such as reading or a crossword puzzle.
  2. Avoid alcohol too close to bed time.  Although some claim it puts them out, it can cause restlessness and irritability as sleep goes on.
  3. Avoid caffeine before bed.  Caffeine is a stimulant.
  4. Try using some background noise, either soft music or the TV turned down set to go off at a certain time.
  5. Do not over sleep.  Too much sleep can actually leave you feeling sluggish.


One of the more common tell tale signs of bad sleep is snoring.  Snoring, while not always bad, (except for those around you), can be a sign of serious health problems if it is chronic. Men who snore habitually run a 50% risk of high blood pressure, and a 70 to 100% chance of ischemic heart disease (insufficient blood delivered to the heart).  Women who snore chronically have a 20% risk of heart disease and triple their chance of high blood pressure.  Some ways to treat snoring are as follows:

  • Lose weight to reduce fatty blockages in throat and nose.
  • Elevate the top of the bed or sleep slightly upright.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back, which prevents the tongue from blocking the throat.
  • Try wearing nasal strips to open passage ways.

Sleep can make all the difference between a great day and a bad day; losing weight or gaining weight; increased performance or poor performance; good health or poor health. Do yourself a favor and give sleep as much priority as you would your training efforts, eating efforts, and reaching your goals. And considering the amount of time you should spend in your bed, it is worth the investment to get a good quality mattress.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


Is Exercise The Best Medicine?

exercise-busy-scheduleJust as fast as the temps dropped this winter, so too have the number of people affected by what appears to be a rough and tough flu season.  When we’re stuck indoors with little to no ventilation from the outdoors, the environment for virus vitality grows and hits everything or everyone in its path; couple that with holidays and gatherings where people are shaking hands, hugging, and kissing and viruses find their way to infinite expansion. What is one supposed to do?  Flu shot? (Don’t even get me started.  That’s another discussion.) Not go out?  That is to submit to fear.  Load up on Vitamin C, Echinacea, golden seal, and zinc? Works for some.  Believe it or not, one of the best weapons against colds and flu is plain ol’ exercise.

What Does the Research Say?

Everyone has an opinion on what works best for them despite most of it not being proved conclusively by research.  But when it comes to exercise, research has shown that those who exercise regularly (3-5 days per week) even at moderate intensities drop their risk of catching colds and/or flus by 40%. How is that possible? With exercise, there is a temporary trigger causing an increase in immune system cells that circulate within the body. Although immune system cell levels soon return to normal after exercise, they most likely improve the body’s surveillance of pathogens – harmful bacteria, viruses and other organisms. This improved pathogen surveillance leads to fewer and less severe infections. However, don’t get any grandeur ideas that if you’re not feeling well to go sweat it out.  Illnesses such as the cold or flu are attacks (stresses) on the body’s immune system and if they are at the point of weakness (point at which bacteria or flu takes over) there is little benefit exercise can provide other than prolonging your recovery.

When to Exercise and When Not to Exercise

If you are exercising regularly – great!  There’s still a chance you could catch something but you are less likely in comparison to your non-active pals. But what if you are already coming down with something or have it currently. If your symptoms are confined to your head, dealing with a runny nose or sore throat, moderate exercise is permissible. Intense exercise can be resumed a few days after symptoms subside.  The point here is that a cold is not an excuse to skip your workout, but also not the time to be a hero. If your illness is systemic, that is, spread beyond your head you should not work out. Respiratory infections, fever, swollen glands, gastrointestinal afflictions, and extreme aches and pains all indicate that you should rest up, not work out.

The best advice is don’t try to do too much too soon following a bout of illness.  Drink plenty of fluids, don’t under estimate the power of sleep, and gradually work back to where you left off.  A few days of no to moderate activity will not set you back, but ignoring the signs and signals from your body could lead to weeks, even months of prolonged recovery. And that’s noting to sneeze at.

12 Days of Fitness Truth 2010: Your 2011 Checklist to Taking Control of Your Health – Day 8

2011 newsA short one for a Sunday morning.  Just think, in two weeks we’ll be fresh into a brand new year.  Here’s a checklist to prepare yourself for what’s going to be a great 2011!

  • Get up and move around for at least 30 minutes everyday.  And this does not mean a leisurely stroll; you body must be working harder than normal.
  • Eat five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables a day.  The health benefits are high, but so are the lack of high calories and fat intake
  • Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep can not only help with alertness but also metabolism.  The number of hours is dependent on age as well as individual – seven to eight hours a night is recommended.
  • Stop talking about taking action and actually do it.
  • Drink water.  Drinking the eight recommended glasses of water a day is a great way to replenish your body after a workout but can also help with everything from your metabolism to the condition of your skin you reducing some types of cancer.
  • Cut out the things that are getting in the way of health.
  • Improve overall attitude.
  • Understand metabolism.  Metabolism works better if you eat better food more often and in smaller portions.
  • Make a list of daily habits.  These are not the extra things, but the things that aid health and wellbeing.
  • Disable and avoid all negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, and if necessary,negative people.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness Truth.

Recession Proof Your Health

recession-proofDoes your head hurt as the bills pile up? Is your heart racing as your investments and job opportunities head south? In these tough economic times, financial stress can hurt not only your wallet but also your body and your mind. According to a recent poll from the Associated Press, the recession and consequential debt may be harming the health of up to 16 million Americans. Although a recession does not kill tens of thousands of people in a single catastrophic event, it harms health in the long run. The consequences of dealing with financial uncertainties can be devastating. Bankruptcies, foreclosures and other economic woes are boosting a higher than normal demand for mental-health services. Money woes can trigger insomnia, anxiety and depression, rob you of time to get exercise and cook healthy foods, and make it harder to afford regular medical care. Aside from turning off the TV and ignoring the press, it’s time to fight back and protect your greatest asset–your health.  So what can you do to protect your health during the recession? Plenty. And you can do it with just a little extra effort — and very little money.

Bail Out Your Stress Reaction

A certain amount of stress in life is normal and healthy. But many people have too much or handle it poorly, and that can make us sick. It can lead to alcohol and substance abuse, headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure and heart disease. It can also raise the risk of obesity, diabetes, infections, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome and many other conditions. The wild stock market ride, rising foreclosure rates, and increasing layoffs may give you a queasy feeling in your stomach, but it’s your heart that is really at increased risk during a recession, cardiologists say. “We may not think of chemicals when it comes to matters of the heart, but much of the way the heart responds to stress comes down to body chemistry”, explains Cam Patterson, MD, chief of the division of cardiology at the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill. And several different chemical molecules can harm us as a result of stress. Our bodies react to stress by producing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Especially for those already at risk for heart disease, the results of an outpouring of stress hormones can be deadly — or at least risky. They can build up over time, with effects that lead to damage of arterial walls and weakening plaque that may already be in a vessel. “They make the plaques more likely to explode,” Patterson says.  “Stress, anxiety, and depression all affect heart health,” says Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, section head of preventive cardiology and rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. One major effect is accelerated atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate are also side effects of stress.

To keep financial stress from making you sick, the American Psychological Association (APA) advises you to:

  1. Pause and not to panic. Stay aware of current events without succumbing to media hysteria. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.
  2. Identify stressors and make a plan. Review your finances and note which areas are stressing you. List ways you can trim spending and better handle your money. Budget for health care, food, grooming and other expenses. Write up a financial plan and review it regularly. Contact creditors if you’re having difficulty paying bills.
  3. Examine how you handle financial stress. Beware of negative behaviors such as smoking, drinking, gambling or fighting with your spouse. Get help if needed.
  4. View problems as opportunities. Realize that blowing your paycheck at the mall doesn’t bring happiness. Explore ways to simultaneously save money and boost physical and mental health such as walking, biking, cooking and having a family game or story night. Learn how healthy behaviors can save you money. If you’re overweight, for example, losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight may save you thousands of dollars in medicals costs over your lifetime.
  5. Chill out. Learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation. Even sharing your experiences in support groups can help your health during the recession.

Health is Wealth

When the economy is stressed, you need your health more than ever. Resist the urge to react to stress with unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or excess drinking. Look for positive, inexpensive ways to manage stress, such as:

Exercise. I know you’ve heard that exercise is important, but during a recession, your health may depend on it. This is particularly true if you’ve been laid off. The tendency may be to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed — or sit in front of the TV. Don’t. “Get your day started with a brisk walk”, says Winston Gandy, MD, co-director of cardiac ultrasound at Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta. Hazen recommends, “Do jumping jacks, take a milk crate and turn it upside down and step on it — do something.” Repeated studies have shown the benefits of exercise to heart health, with as much as a 15% decrease in mortality rates with relatively minor changes in one’s exercise routine. Running, walking and hiking are fun activities to get your heart pumping, while having fun with your friends. The bonus: it doesn’t cost a dime!

Social support. Family and friends are more important than ever in tough economic times. Researchers have documented that isolation harms our health and social support improves it. Connect with family and friends. Check out support groups or online communities. Join neighborhood organizations.

Sleep  Sleep is not just a time of rest, but of restoration,” says Charles Raison, MD, director of the Mind-Body Clinic in the department of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine. While we are sleeping, our bodies repair a lot of the damage that happens during the day. Although we need eight hours of sleep a night, many Americans live in a sleep-deprived state, and that’s not good for our health during the recession, or any other time. To sleep better, avoid doing stressful things before bedtime, such as paying bills, reading about your diminishing retirement fund, or having a tense conversation with your partner or family. If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, discuss this with your doctor.

Nutrition  Eat healthful foods and limit fatty, processed foods. Fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean meats should top your grocery list. Skip desserts and fried foods — and save money, too. If you’ve been laid off, it’s especially important to watch your weight.. “Suddenly people begin to see 5 pounds around their middle, and they don’t know where it came from,” Gandy says. Often, it comes from mindless nibbling and snacking throughout the day. That extra weight, particularly around the middle, can increase a person’s risk of heart disease. Before heading to the store, create lists and reduce your impulse buying with a grocery list, and stick to the list. When you are hungry, don’t shop. Keep your attention on the perimeter of the store where the fresh produce and foods are. Processed and packaged foods are in the middle. Be a smart snacker and avoid junk foods that are low on nutrition and high in calories.

Above all, while the financial news is horrible, focus on the good things going on in your life. Even if you have lost a great deal in your retirement fund, maybe you still have your house. Maybe you still have a job. And with a little extra attention, you can still have your health.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Featured in July 2009 Issue of 422 Business Advisor