Activity

Keep your body moving.

One of the most important elements to a happy and healthy life is to keep active. When you get up and move, even standing away from your desk for a few moments, you gain focus and are better able to adjust to your surroundings. Here are some simple and life affirming activities many of my patients love.

 

Daily Walking

photo of woman walking in fieldA few reasons to take those extra steps and make walking a part of your healthy lifestyle:

  • New research links brisk walking to a significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is a predictor of this disease, even in people with normal glucose levels. A recent British study found that people with a family history of the disease who walked briskly, or performed some other type of moderate to vigorous activity on a routine basis, improved insulin sensitivity.
  • You sexy thang. In a study of women between 45 and 55 years old, those who exercised, including brisk walking, reported not only greater sexual desire, but better sexual satisfaction, too.
  • Saves bucks.  No matter where you live, it's always cheaper by foot.
  • Walk away from meds. The National Walkers’ Health Study, found those who took the longest weekly walks, were more likely to use less medication. This shouldn’t deter you from taking shorter walks more frequently throughout the week, but you should consider squeezing in a longer walk once a week, perhaps on the weekend when you have more spare time.
  • Check this out, you can walk away from back pain.
  • Walk out breast cancer. Women who walk regularly after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a 45 percent greater chance of survival than those who are inactive, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Yale researchers heading up the study also found that those who exercised in the year before being diagnosed were 30 percent more likely to survive, compared to women who didn’t exercise leading up to their diagnosis.
  • Reduces stroke risk. Walking briskly for just 30 minutes, five days a week can significantly lower your risk of suffering a stroke.
  • Walk into your bright beautiful brain. People who go on daily walks decrease their risk of developing dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain.

 

Daily Meditation

The health benefits of mindfulness can be boiled down to four elements, according to a Perspectives on Psychological Science study: body awareness, self-awareness, regulation of emotion and regulation of attention. 

Yogis have given us this highly effective clue for thousands of years: take a deep breath and relax.

Long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, self-create far more ''disease-fighting genes'', compared to those who practiced no form of relaxation.

Meditation is as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects. Genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer can be switched on as easily as left dormant. And, in the long-term, it takes a great deal less energy to prevent disease than to fight it.

A state of relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and to the growth hormone which repairs cells and tissue. Relaxation lowers heart rate, boosts immunity and enables your body to thrive.

Put simply, those who meditate witness their thoughts, as opposed to those who allow their thoughts to be dictators.

Try one or more of these techniques for 15 minutes once or twice a day:

  • Body Scan: Starting with your head and working down to your arms and feet, notice how you feel in your body. Taking in your head and neck, simply notice if you feel tense, relaxed, calm or anxious. See how much you can spread any sensations of softness and relaxation to areas of your body that feel tense. Once you reach your feet, work back up your body.
  • Breath Focus: Sit comfortably. Tune into your breath, follow the sensation of inhaling from your nose to abdomen and out again. Let tension go with each exhalation. When you notice your mind wandering, return to your breath.
  • Mantra Repetition: The relaxation response can be evoked by sitting quietly with eyes closed for 15 minutes twice a day, and mentally repeating a simple word or sound such as ''Om''.
  • Guided Imagery: Imagine a wonderfully relaxing light or a soothing waterfall washing away tension from your body and mind. Make your image vivid, imagining texture, colour and any fragrance as the image washes over you.

 

Adventure

photo of man on mountainIf you're like me, you may be vulnerable to Adventure Deficit Disorder.  I love having an adventure planned. It keeps me stoked and energetic about meeting the goals that make adventures happen. 

Turns out, there are a lot of reasons why going on adventures benefit our health and spirit.  Whether it's a trip to the local park or climbing Yosemite's Half Dome-  adventures, and the planning of them, are what keep life interesting and engaging.

Outdoor adventures reduce stress, improve self-esteem, confidence and creativity, spiritual growth, and an increased sense of exhilaration from life.

The great outdoors afford social benefits like bonding with like-minded people who enjoy outdoor activities and feel an increased pride in community, culture and nation.

It's a production booster. People who regularly participate in outdoor adventures are more productive at work.

And, when you enjoy outdoor adventures, you benefit the environment. Outdoor recreation provides environmental awareness. This connection results in our involvement in environmental issues.

If you find yourself looking for ideas, there are always cool community resources like this.  Check around your region.  Adventure awaits.  

 

Yoga, Pilates & Tai Chi

photo of yoga studio

Whether it's a downward dog, a one leg circle, or wu chi-- it's all good.

Stretching your body is essential.  These practices increase mental focus, stamina, strength and protect you from injury.  Amazingly, your body's flexibility is relevant to the health of your arteries, too.

What's a good amount of time to begin?  At least 10 minutes a day.  A lot of my patients take great joy in joining a class.  A group experience heightens the positive effects greatly while ensuring a tenacious dedication to your practice.  It's powerful to hear "Hey Sally, we missed you in yoga class, last night."

The more you do it, the more you will get out of it—both physically and emotionally. We can't say this about watching TV or a poor diet. 

 

Aerobics

Exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The job of these cells is to neutralize pathogens throughout your body.

The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and defending against viruses and diseases trying to attack your body.

Your immune system is your first line of defense against everything from minor illnesses like a cold or the flu right up through devastating, life-threatening diseases like cancer. It’s not possible to be optimally healthy if your immune system is weak or compromised.

Sweat is not only good, it's GREAT!

According to research reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the more than 2,000 people tested showed traces of about 60 different toxins -- including uranium and dioxins -- in their systems. The more we learn about these toxic invaders, the more the idea of being able to somehow "sweat them out" has gained momentum. While this is compelling, it is equally important to provide your body with alternative mechanisms to carry out toxins.  The best one is pure water. 

Replenish your body with pure water when your aerobize. 

Yes, it tightens your booty. And, creates those yolks. But, without proper replenishment, it can become depleting. 

Ultimately, it's best to listen to your body. Endorphins are FUN. Exhaustion is not. Only you know when a 'worked' muscle feels great and an 'injured' muscle is preventing living life to its fullest.

Mix it up. Dance.  Go for a power walk. Your program should include, anaerobic (interval) training, weight strength training, and core exercises to build, strengthen and improve the flexibility of all the muscles of your body, like yoga, Pilates or active isolated stretching.

If you’ve been sedentary for any length of time it is vitally important to get started with an exercise program – but start small. One of the main reasons people don’t stick with a workout program is because they go too hard, too fast and wind up with an injury, illness or simple exhaustion.

Write your exercise program based on these factors:

  • My current physical condition
  • My fitness goals
  • My health concerns
  • Stuff I enjoy and want to try
  • What's the best time of day for my workout?

Whatever your goals, moving your body will make you feel better and happy.  I promise. 

 

Flex Your Brain Muscle

Your brain is actually the master of the muscles. It tells your muscles what to do. It runs your body.

Muscles that you do not use or work can and will atrophy, shrink, and become useless.  The good news? You can build brain back up.

People generate new brain cells, and new connections between them, throughout life. And the more mental reserves people build up, experts believe, the better they can stave off age-related cognitive decline.

The more you challenge your brain, the more new nerve pathways you form. You can give your brain a good workout with just a few modifications in your daily life.

Some of the niftiest are “neurobics” — a term popularized by the late neurobiologist Lawrence Katz for engaging different parts of the brain to do familiar tasks. Try brushing your teeth or dialing the phone with your non-dominant hand. Theoretically, that can strengthen the pathways in the opposite side of your brain.  Involve more of your senses in everyday activities — such as showering or eating dinner with your eyes closed.

Activities that challenge your brain on many levels, such as learning how to play a musical instrument, speak a new language or learning to dance provide great stimulation. So do games like chess, bridge and Stratego that require you to strategize and interact socially at the same time.

Stress has the opposite effect. The stress hormone cortisol depresses the growth of nerve cells and the connections between them. Yoga, meditation, exercise and social interaction can all help alleviate it.

Getting sufficient sleep is also crucial. Untreated sleep apnea can be very detrimental to memory; age-related declines in testosterone and estrogen also interfere with sleep.

It is almost a given that what is good for your heart is good for your head, and vice versa. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity — particularly abdominal fat — all raise the risk for age-related cognitive decline. A heart-healthy diet is essential to brain-health.

Exercise is emerging as an extremely valuable way to enhance brain health. Studies show that even 30 minutes of brisk walking daily can improve blood flow to the brain, boosting neural growth factors and brain connectivity, perhaps as much as mental cross-training does.

Here are five ways to stoke your brain:

  • Redecorate a room in your home -- move things around so you interact with the space in a slightly different way.
  • If you're left-brained, or rigidly organized, experiment with allowing for some comfortable disarray
  • If you're right-brained, try adopting some organizational systems for your home or office that will help you access information you need that you can never find.
  • Ask yourself what a friend would choose the next time you go shopping or redecorate.
  • Stop spending time on things you don't need to do. A balanced life is really imbalanced. Spend more time doing what you love.

Do what you love, love what you do, and you'll always be successful.