Control Your Food Portions, Control Your Waistline

Recently I have been reading a book about making decisions and the psychology behind it. Actually this book is more about neuroscience than psychology but more on that later.

One of the studies in the book talks about how we automatically eat more when we don’t control our portion sizes. It was a study done by the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

The researchers placed candy and pretzels in a variety of public places and studied the effects of how much people consumed depending on the serving spoon or serving size available. As you can probably guess people ate more when the serving spoon was bigger even though they could have eaten more by using the smaller serving spoon multiple times.

Perhaps we are culturally ingrained to eat everything on our plate. Waste not, want not, right? Unfortunately when it comes to food, by eating all the food on our plates we eventually want to lose weight.

In a “super-size” world, controlling our portions isn’t easy, but it can still be done.

First we need to realize that this is something we need to think a little about before we are hungry at the dinner table. Eating food is pretty much an automatic event for all of us. We develop patterns of eating over the years and don’t really think much about what we are doing. Until we want to lose weight…

Whenever someone asks me for help in losing weight (or any type of diet plan), I always tell them to start a food journal or log. This is the single most important tool you have in your arsenal. Don’t even think about starting a diet plan without one.

The second most important tool in your arsenal is all the people who support you. Sometimes it is hard to stick with a plan when it is up to ourselves. Our minds are weak for chocolate cake. Surround yourself with supportive people and you can achieve almost any goal.

If you have the two things above in place, then the next couple of practices should come easily…

First you should never eat directly out of a container that has more than a single portion size you have determined beforehand. The slogan for Pringles potato chips really speaks the truth, “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” Measure out correct size portions into plastic baggies, or whatever container works, and only eat that portion.

Recognize what a serving size really is. As I mentioned in my article “How To Read Nutrition Labels“, serving sizes really can be deceiving. There are a lot of great articles on the internet that show you in pictures what a real serving size looks like. I previously wrote about this in my article What Does 200 Calories Look Like. And here is an example of What 300 Calories Looks Like. A Google search for similar terms should give you some good results.

Finally you should do some food planning. You don’t need to plan every meal, but when you are first starting out you should plan a whole day or week worth of food, calculate the serving sizes, and calories consumed. Once you get enough practice doing this, you should be able to reasonably estimate how much calories you are eating at any meal, and then adjust you serving sizes accordingly…

This is our 30th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , |

Back From The Colorado Trail

Hi All,

This is just a quick message to let everyone know I am back. I recently completed a month long trip hiking the Colorado Trail. It was an amazing experience. I met a bunch of great people and I learned a lot.

Here is a link to my personal website if you are interested in reading about it…

Thru Hiking the Colorado Trail by Jeremy Day

And here is a link to some of my best photos from the trip…

Colorado Trail photos on Google Plus

I eventually will write a book about my experience on the trail. It will be a mix of “how to backpack”, details about the Colorado Trail, and my experience of it. If you are interested at all please follow the link to my website and sign up for the email updates so you will know when the book comes out.

As far as Insight Writer goes I do plan on getting back to a regular posting schedule. At least posting once a week and hopefully more.

In the coming months I will finish the Better Health Challenge Series. My current goal for the release of a book on this topic is January 2013.

I originally planned on releasing my Personal Finance Challenge Book by this time, but my focus was taken away by my interest in the Colorado Trail. And I honestly lacked the motivation to write about the subject. One way or another I will finish it, and my current goal for release is also January 2013.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Or suggestions to make this website better. There are a lot of things in the works as you can tell, and this website is more or less on cruise control at the moment. But I do hope to keep improving it and making it better.

Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,
Jeremy

Posted in Interesting Things, Personal Development, Personal Finance, Personal Health Tagged , |

How to Combat Fatigue and Tiredness

If there is one symptom that people complain about more than any other it is fatigue. With our busy lives and general lack of sleep it is no surprise we suffer from fatigue. But sometimes fatigue can have a deeper cause…

An infection, a thyroid problem, a kidney disease, and even diabetes can cause fatigue. There are many causes of fatigue and it is important to remember that is can be a symptom to a much more dangerous disease. Regardless of the cause there are also numerous ways to help combat fatigue and general tiredness.

Ways to Fight Tiredness:

  1. Simply Sleep – Nothing can overcome tiredness like simply sleeping more. A daily nap, or setting a solid sleep schedule can do wonders for making you feel more alive during the day.
  2. Eat Better – Even with a good amount of sleep everyday sometimes you are still tired. Food plays a big role in your alertness during the day. Eating a lot of junk food and sugary snacks and drinks may give you a quick up, but they can bring you down even quicker. Eating green leafy vegetables have a lot of B vitamins that have been shown to increase energy levels. Eating a little more protein and fat earlier in the day will help keep your energy levels pretty steady over the day.
  3. Exercise – Sleep more, eat better, and exercise more seem to be the prescription for everything, but they truly do work. Exercise has a moderating effect on our energy levels. It helps flush out toxins through sweat and push a nourishing volume of blood to the far regions of our body. Better blood flow pretty much equals better energy levels.
  4. Practice breathing – Oxygen is what gives us life. It only takes a few minutes without oxygen for us to die. Like blood flow, breathing deeply helps us to gain better energy levels through increased oxygen uptake. At any point of the day remember to get a few good belly breathes. Focus on moving your abdomen to bring oxygen into your lungs, and push out as much air (carbon dioxide) as possible.
  5. Drink water – Increasing your energy is all about bringing good things into your body and pushing bad things out. Like blood and air, our bodies need water to perform those tasks. Good clean water is vital for life and most of us need to drink more water than we normally do. Go grab a drink of water anytime you think about it. Maybe even set the alarm on your phone to drink something at least every hour or two.

If all of the above doesn’t work it is probably a good idea to consult a doctor and have them test for some other possible problems. As I mentioned in the beginning fatigue can be caused by a lot of things, but doing the 5 things above will go a long way to improving your energy levels each and every day.

This is our 29th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , |

How to Read Nutrition Labels

I have been looking at a lot of nutrition labels lately and they sure are confusing. It seems like they give very little useful information and seem so disorganized. I am sure there is a better way but we are stuck with what we have. In any case, let’s start out at the beginning and see if we can sort a few things out.

The very first thing you see might be the most confusing. That is the serving size. There are no set rules to serving size and companies often list simply ridiculous serving sizes to distort the truth about their product.

I have seen serving sizes in ounces, fluid ounces, cups and fractions of cups, grams, and all kinds of other units of measure. Even if you know exactly what all these units of measure are, they still don’t give you a good idea of what a serving size looks like.

For instance, something dry and light can have a lot of calories per ounce and seem like a very small amount, while something that is water laden and heavy can have few calories and seem really big for the suggested servings. A tomato is very heavy and has few calories per ounce, but sun dried tomatoes are very light and have a lot of calories per ounce.

Luckily food manufacturers have to list the servings per container. By doing a little math you can figure out the total amount of calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, etc. per container than figure out your own serving size. Of course, this is more math than most people like to do.

It is very interesting to note that nutrition labels list calories then calories from fat. Some fat is good and some fat is bad. My opinion is that this is a holdover from an old idea that all fat, or too much fat is bad for you. Too much good fat is good for you, too much bad fat is bad for you is another way of saying something closer to the truth.

Next up Daily Value is listed. Daily Value is of almost no use to us because it varies depending on our calorie needs among other things. Various types of activity place a higher or lower demand on your daily needs as well. It can act like a somewhat good reference point though.

Most labels today list Total Fat and then list the various types of fat underneath it. Trans Fats are the worst and I would say you should have 0% of them in your diet. You can’t go wrong by avoiding trans fats if any is listed on the label. Mono-unsaturated fats (those found in high amounts in olive oil) are some of the best fats out there. Eat plenty of those. All other fats fall on a spectrum between those two from bad to good.

Cholesterol is next up. My opinion is that cholesterol is good for you. And recent research has shown that dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on blood serum cholesterol.

Sodium and Potassium are next up on the list. These are micronutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of ion transport. This basically means that sodium and potassium are essential for getting all nutrients back and forth across the cell membrane. Without them cells start dying off.

Although imbalances are rare, people tend to get more sodium than they need and not enough potassium. These should be roughly equal when added up in all the foods you eat over the course of a day. Sweat producing exercise/work causes people to lose a lot of sodium through sweat so those people may need to worry about their sodium needs more than sedentary people. Likewise, sedentary people should really focus on having a low sodium diet.

Total Carbohydrate is next up. Again, this is broken down into dietary fiber (good for you) and sugars (bad for you in excess). This is another place things get confusing. The “health” community keeps saying that complex carbohydrates are good for you, but that too much sugar is bad for you. Well complex carbohydrates are still made of sugars, no matter how much fiber they have. Yes, your whole grain cereal has a ton of sugar in it. I’m sorry. But it is ok. Your body will do just fine with some sugar. Just don’t overdo it.

And protein is last. Protein is made up of different amino acids. Some better than others, but it isn’t necessary to talk or worry about every single one. The average person should aim for half their body weight in grams of protein a day. If you work out a lot than you should probably up your protein requirement. Just remember to drink a lot of water with your protein. Your kidneys will thank you.

Next up we have the daily values for a few micronutrients represented in the food product. As I mentioned before the daily values are almost useless if you don’t have a good handle on the actual amount you are eating. Eating a large variety of nutritious foods will help you ignore this section entirely.

Last but not least we have the ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in the order of their amounts. This means that the #1 ingredient is the main ingredient in the food. The last ingredient usually represents less than 2% of the actual final product. Things to look out for are foods that you are allergic too, and any nasty ingredients such as MSG (monosodium glutamate). yum!

That about does it for this article. Hope this helps in your future nutrition facts label reading odysseys. :-)

This is our 28th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , |

Be Ready For An Emergency

This might seem like a detour from your normal health advice, but it certainly isn’t. Emergencies sometimes turn out to be a life or death situation. If you have the knowledge and tools you need to improve the situation, you can literally save someone’s life, including your own.

The best way to prevent an emergency is to avoid them in the first place. Be a defensive driver, avoid dangerous situation, etc. But no matter what we do accidents can and do occur all the time.

I, along with many other people, are under the belief that everyone should have basic first aid and CPR training. Watching it on tv does not count. You have to get in a classroom and practice the necessary skills. If it has been a number of years since you have taken the course then perhaps it is time you took a refresher course.

(Disclaimer: While I offer some of the basics here, reading about this stuff can never replace actually practicing it.)

So some people watch CPR happening on tv and actually believe they can do it in an emergency situation without proper training. They think that CPR is just blowing air into a person’s mouth and pounding on their chest. This is foolhardy at best and dangerous at worst.

The easy way that we all remember how to do CPR (or at least used to) is by minding our ABC’s. First comes Airway, then Breathing, and finally Circulation. If you haven’t taken a class in a few years then you won’t know that the guidelines changed a bit. It is now CAB. Circulation comes first because recent research has shown that circulating the blood to the brain is more important than getting more oxygen in the blood by breathing. Again, please go take a class, even if you took one 10 years ago.

2010 CPR Layman Guidelines2010 CPR AHA Scientific Guidelines

In a situation requiring CPR you should ALWAYS call 911 first! Only then can you proceed to CPR. If your workplace has a defibrillator you should know how to use it. Then proceed to do CPR.

The American Heart Association has shown through its research that a “hands only” approach to CPR is still much better than doing nothing, and almost as effective as managing the the airway and breathing for the person. If you go into panic mood and all else fails simply doing chest compressions fast and hard will prolong a person’s life, hopefully long enough till emergency responders can get there.

The other part of being able to respond to an emergency situation is to have a first aid kit AND first aid training.

You should have some basic emergency supplies in your home, car, and place of work. The type and amount in each kit will just depend on where you are traveling and what type of work you do. Your home emergency kit should be well stocked as well.

So when it comes to what you have in each kit it is good to think about the function it will serve instead of actual specific items. For instance, when you need pain relief you should have some ibuprofen or aspirin.

You should have things to clean wounds such as antibiotic ointment and a syringe to irrigate the wound with water. If you think about it, it is always good to have a bottle of water just to stay hydrated.

You need to have something that can stop bleeding, bandages, gauze, medical tape, all the way up to a large trauma pad.

You should also think about having things that can relieve burns, reduce allergic reactions, keep you warm, and well hydrated. The types of things you carry with you will all depend on the most likely situations you will face.

Having good knowledge about first aid will help you buy and build the best kit possible. And again I will emphasize the need to take a class and practice this stuff. Reading it here should only spark your interest. Right now you should be saying to yourself, “Maybe I should go sign up for a CPR and first aid class”. I can guarantee you won’t regret it!

This is our 27th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Personal Health Tagged , , , |

Change Up Your Exercise Routine

I have had a pretty steady workout routine in the gym for about 8 months now. I work out with weights either 2 or 3 days a week and hit all the major body parts at least once during the week. I saw some good gains when I first started out, but I have had a couple of months where I didn’t see any gains at all. Then almost suddenly I started to have major gains again. What is the secret?

Changing things up…

Whatever your workout routine is, your body will eventually adjust to it. If you lift the same amount of weight all the time you will never get bigger or stronger. If all you ever do is run 3 miles a couple times a week, then you won’t get faster or be able to run longer distances that well.

As far as weight lifting goes I was making steady progress in the big 3 powerlifting moves (bench press, deadlift, squat). I didn’t change up my routine at all and after a few months my squat started really lagging behind my deadlift. After reaching a max on my deadlift that I was proud of I went back and worked on my squats. Better technique, using lighter weights to go lower to the ground, focusing on positioning, etc. After a few months of work there I finally hit a new max in the squat.

What is interesting is that the exact opposite happened to me in the bench press. I reached a max I was proud of and stopped working on it. Instead I worked a lot on my shoulder press and some other complementary movements. What happened? I came back and increased my max by 20 pounds overnight!

What I have noticed is that 3-4 months is the optimal time to try something new. Nothing too drastic, but just something that might have a big impact on your performance.

Weight lifters often focus on the big movements, but forget that some of the complementary movements can help them increase the amount of weight they can move in the big movements. Power cleans help the deadlift, shoulder presses help the bench press, lunges help the squat. Sometimes it also pays to lower the weight and increase your reps while working on your form.

Runners can benefit from sprint intervals and hill running. Runners also benefit a lot from doing pace work. Running their race pace in shorter distances.

Athletes in every sport can benefit from cross training. Swimming is a much more intense cardiovascular activity than practically anything out there. Volleyball or basketball can improve the power of your legs as can biking and hiking. Various activities can help your performance in your chosen sport, but it pays to learn about what can benefit you and what really doesn’t help.

No matter what, whether you play a sport or just practice an activity for your health, it pays to mix things up a bit. See what works and what doesn’t. It is better than constantly wearing down your body in specific areas and not improving at all. A balanced workout routine will keep you healthier in the long run.

This is our 26th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , |

On the Mind Body Connection

Have you ever just sat down and thought about how amazing the human body is? It is a wonderfully complex machine capable of so many things. How variable the human body is continues to confound scientists, and certainly will continue to confound scientists for generations to come.

Sometimes I wonder if the only limits the human body has is the mental limits we set upon it.

Take Roger Bannister for instance. For a very long time people thought that running a 4 minute mile was impossible. Maybe it was improbable because no one had ran a mile that fast up to that point, but certainly not impossible because on May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister proved it could be done.

We are now reaching another milestone in running history. Since 1908 the world record for the marathon has dropped from 2:55 (breaking 3 hours was a big deal then too) to an all time low of 2:03:38 set by Patrick Macau on September 25th, 2011. We are now close to seeing a sub 2 hour marathon which many people thought would have been impossible up to recent times.

Another amazing person is Wim Hof. He has set many records associated with extreme cold including a 1 hour 44 minute ice bath. He has also run a full marathon in -20 degree temperatures in only shorts, and ran a full marathon in the desert without water. He attributes his amazing abilities to his meditation techniques. Keep in mind that any three of these records he holds would probably kill or severely injure someone else, if they could even finish them.

This just includes what people can do with their bodies alone and not technology. With technology we can do so many more amazing things. One of my favorite daredevils is Jeb Corliss who is known for “flying” dangerously close to the ground in what we would call a “flying squirrel” suit. One of his most famous videos is called Grinding the Crack where he flies off a mountain and down through a canyon hence the name, “Grinding the Crack.”

I don’t mention all these people to inspire you to do similar things or even to achieve similar records. I mention all these people to inspire you to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Maybe you just want to get in shape or lose a few pounds. Maybe you just want to be able to be healthy enough to participate in a sport or hobby. Your mind can lead the way.

Read their stories… Be inspired… Get out of your house and do your thing, whatever it may be…

This is our 25th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Development, Personal Health Tagged , , |

The Metabolism Myth

Metabolism might be the least understood and most misused health topics that exists. By misused, I mean that many people blame their “slow” metabolism for being overweight, or a “fast” metabolism for being skinny. While there are some genetic factors involved, these kind of statements about the metabolism couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your metabolism is primarily based on the amount of Fat Free Mass (FFM) you have. This only differs slightly from Lean Body Mass (LBM) in that LBM also includes some essential fat that is mostly around and in your organs.

If you have had a an accurate body composition test done then your Basal Metabolic Rate with be an amount closely related to the amount of your Lean Body Mass percentage. Basically this means that the more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolic rate will be in relation to someone your same weight, height, and gender.

Before we move ahead let’s go back and examine what your metabolism really is, before we worry how high or low it is, and if you can change it.

The majority of your metabolism revolves around simply staying alive. Your organs use up anywhere from 60-75% of the daily energy you consume. Men generally have bigger organs than women which accounts for their slightly higher metabolic rate. That and the fact that men generally carry more muscle mass than woman. Your body also has to stay within an optimal temperature range to function well. These factors make up the vast majority of what we call a metabolic rate.

When we say someone has a fast or slow metabolism what we are really saying is that “the devil is in the details.” Does this person have more or less muscle mass? Do they exercise more than we do? Do they eat more or less than we do? What a minute. I think what we are really saying is that they have a faster or slower metabolism than us. Doesn’t it make sense that a 220 pound man will have a higher metabolism than a 120 pound woman? Of course that makes sense, but we really don’t think about that when we are explaining away our own thinness or thickness.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that your metabolic rate has very little, if any, relation to how fat you are. In fact, the fatter you are the more likely it is that you have a higher metabolism than you should have. How can that be possible? Every pound of body weight you have requires some maintenance. That maintenance costs some energy. Every additional bit of energy cost your body has increases your metabolic rate. Now muscle mass burns somewhere around eight times as many calories as fat mass does, but each bit of mass has a cost nonetheless.

So if metabolism has nothing to do with how fat someone is, then what is the real reason a person becomes fat.

Appetite.

But let me digress for a moment and also mention that each bit of food you digest has a cost to it. Meaning that a bit of food could amount to 200 calories of energy, but cost you 30 calories to digest it, leaving you with 170 calories left for future use. Some foods have a higher energy cost than others. For instance, celery is known to have a negative net cost to it. Meaning that the cost to digest celery is more than the calories it provides you in return.

So back to appetite…

Generally speaking, when you eat more calories than you use up in a given day you gain weight. This is why people think they are fat because their metabolisms are low. They blame calorie output for their fatness, instead of calorie input.

Going back to celery example. Certain foods such as celery that are high in fiber help you lose weight and keep the fat off. Why? Because they cost a lot of energy to digest and give you little energy in return. Highly processed foods are super easy to digest and give you a ton of energy in return. See the pattern? Carbohydrates are easier to digest and give you a lot of energy in return. Fat is hard and slow to digest, but gives you a ton of energy in return. Protein is very hard to digest, and gives you little energy in return, specifically because protein is used as a building block rather than an energy source in many areas of the body.

All that to say that there are other factors to consider in how fat or skinny you are than just the rate of your metabolism.

This is our 24th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

10 Stubborn Exercise Myths That Won’t Die, Debunked by Science

Normally I don’t make a whole post about one article, but this one was just too good to pass up. It was written on the Lifehacker website and it has made the rounds on all the social media networks. It is called 10 Stubborn Exercise Myths That Won’t Die, and it talks about some reasons why society as a whole believes the things that it does.

My goal with this whole Better Health Challenge is to educate you on the current research science and inform you what the best of science has to share with us. Not all science experiments are created equal and a lot of what passes as science is actually pretty wishy-washy. It takes some critical thinking to discern what is good science and what is bad science, and unfortunately a lot of the major news networks pass around a lot of bad science.

In any case, I will give a few brief thoughts of my own on these myths and potentially write longer articles on certain ones in the future. But here are the 10 Stubborn Exercise Myths that won’t die…

Myth 1: No Pain, No Gain (My thoughts… Too much pain could mean you are producing too much cortisol, which is our major stress hormone. Too much cortisol means absolutely no gains to be made at all. End of story.)

Myth 2: Soreness After Exercise is Caused by Lactic Acid Building Up in Your Muscles (My thoughts… As the article says soreness is created by the microscopic tears in your muscles. Lactic Acid is long gone by the time delayed muscle soreness sets in a day or two later.)

Myth 3: Exercise Takes Long Hours/Is Worthless If I Can’t Exercise Regularly – (My thoughts… Great benefits can be seen from exercise that is as short as an hour or two a week. Exercise doesn’t have to seem like “exercise” either as I explained in my article last week about walking.)

Myth 4: You Need a Sports Drink When Exercising to Replenish Your Body’s Electrolytes/Minerals/Etc (My thoughts… Whenever you hear BS like this you know someone is trying to sell you something. Just ask yourself what we did before sports drinks were invented. Unless you are running a marathon or working out for hours on end, you don’t need anything to replenish yourself. A simple breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack after you exercise is all you really need. Wait, you do that anyhow? Then you are covered.)

Myth 5: Stretching Before Exercise Will Prevent Injury – (My thoughts… Oh stretching. What can I say about you? The article perhaps says it best that people often confuse “warming up” with stretching. I have always liked the advice to never stretch before your muscles have been warmed up which kind of prevents this confusion. I believe strongly that people should add in some “mobility work” to their workouts, but not necessarily stretching. This seems to be an area we need a whole article on so…)

Myth 6: Working Out Will Only Build Muscle, Not Help Me Lose Weight – (My thoughts… This one almost makes me want to pull my hair out. Working out is a great way to lose weight, but you have to do it intelligently. Certain exercises are better than others for fat loss, but in general a well designed workout plan along with a well designed eating plan will help you retain muscle at the same time you lose fat, which is the body composition you are looking for. Simply losing weight means you are probably losing fat and muscle at the same time which isn’t exactly the best case scenario.)

Myth 7: Exercise Will Help Me Lose Weight Quickly – (My thoughts… This goes hand in hand with the above myth. Here is a hard and fast rule folks… “More exercise = more hunger = more eating = less weight loss” Make sense? If you are obese you can lose weight very quickly with a well designed exercise and dieting plan, but the closer you get to the optimal weight for your height and gender, the slower you lose weight.)

Myth 8: You Need to Take Supplements to Build Muscle – (My thoughts… I love Whey Protein and Creatine, and all the amino acids, but you really don’t need them to build muscle. Again, it’s like sports drinks, someone is trying to sell you something. Do they work? Yep. Will they work for you? Maybe. Should you just buy a few more steaks instead of whey protein? Probably.)

Myth 9: If You Don’t Exercise When You’re Young, It’s Dangerous When You Get Older – (My thoughts… First off, don’t let anyone tell you what is and isn’t dangerous. Hopefully you can decide that for yourself. Exercise is almost imperative when you are old so that you can retain most of your abilities into old age. But again, it should be a well designed intelligent program. Can old people get hurt? Yes, but so can younger people. In any case, the benefits to exercise for the elderly outweigh any dangers they pose.)

Myth 10: Working Out at Home/Working Out at the Gym is Better than Working Out at Home/Working Out at the Gym – (My thoughts… Does it really matter as long as you are doing a well designed exercise program? What is well designed since I mention it so much? A well designed program is one in which you get the results you desire. End of story. You can achieve the results you want anywhere. This is just one more excuse for people not to exercise.)

These things really get me going, but they are worth talking about. It is hard to believe people still think these things are true, but I hear them all the time. You need to do this, or that, or the other thing. Just try some things out and see what works for you and what doesn’t. Take some time to do some research and bring a critical mind to the subject matter.

This is our 23rd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Walking is Mans Best Medicine

This piece of advice is right up there with mom’s advice to eat your vegetables. There really aren’t any downsides to walking, and there are a bunch of positive things that can happen to your health if you do walk more often.

Human beings are designed to walk. We are actually designed to walk pretty far. In our “hunter-gatherer” days we often had to walk long distances to gather food. And even when we became an agricultural society we still had to do a lot of walking out to the fields, around the fields, and back from the fields to plant, water, and harvest the crops.

Now in modern society we get to sit at a desk all day and type away at our computers. We hardly move from one spot at all. When we leave work we go and sit in a car, then we go home and sit down. We never really walk that far at all. Is it any surprise that our middle sections are a bit thicker than we want them to be?

This article was inspired by some of the latest studies coming out about how sitting all day is killing us. Here is an awesome “infographic” entitled, “Sitting is Killing You

Here is just one telling statistic from that infographic… “Between 1980 and 2000 the amount of exercise people were doing stayed the same, sitting time increased by 8%, and obesity doubled.” I think this statistic also has to do with what we were eating in that 20 year time span, but sitting down a lot more sure didn’t help.

Another statement that struck me as odd was that… “Of those that sit in front of the tv 3 hours per day, those that exercise are just as fat as those that don’t.” Folks, those couple of hours you exercise a week just don’t make up for all the other bad habits you do during the other 95% of your hours.

So if sitting down is bad for us, shouldn’t we simply just start standing up more often? Actually that is what a lot of people are starting to do in their offices. David Teten just wrote a great blog post on the 4 Hour Work Week blog called Reinventing the Office: How to Lose Fat and Increase Productivity at Work. It is some interesting stuff.

And you can do all that, but I would recommend that your simply get your body moving by walking.

It doesn’t have to be much. A lot of doctors recommend a simple 30 minute stroll after dinner. You can talk to a friend or loved one who walks right beside you, or maybe just spend 30 minutes with them on the phone while walking around the block.

You see it isn’t hard to do and it has so many benefits.

  1. Heart Health – People that walk daily have much lower instances of heart disease. Nothing gets the heart pumping as well as a good brisk walk.
  2. Better than Running – Most people know that running, especially on pavement or concrete, is hard on the joints. You can still get all the benefits of running by simply walking for the same amount of time, not necessarily the same distance. If you want to be a fast runner, then by all means go running, but if you just want to be healthy, walking will be your best bet.
  3. Bone Strength – Walking is also good for improving your bone density and preserving it into old age. Running can also improve bone density if not overdone, and weight lifting is the best way to improve bone density, but walking is perhaps the the healthiest way to keep your bones strong.
  4. Fat Loss – Again, walking may be the best way to lose fat. Yes, you can help yourself lose fat with just about any exercise, but you are guaranteed to burn out with most other exercises if you do them everyday. More intensive types of exercise cause an increase in the hormone cortisol which causes your body to repair itself, but also causes your body to retain fat, not lose it. Light exercise like walking will start the process of fat metabolism without causing too much stress on the body.
  5. Anyone can do it – And everyone should do it. With few exceptions, everyone can place one foot in front of the other and start walking. You can walk and talk with friends. You can walk to the park, or the grocery store. You can walk pretty much anywhere, anytime. Listen to some music. Think some deep thoughts. Anyone can do it. And maybe there are some hardcore exercisers who think walking is too easy. For you, you can try some hardcore uphill hiking. :-)

But yes, walking is for everyone. I will leave you with a great quote from the Father of Medicine…

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates, Greek physician (460 BC – 377 BC)

Some of our oldest advice is still the best advice. Now go out and take a walk my friends!

This is our 22nd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , |