Is sitting REALLY the New Smoking?

Sitting is the new smoking In this current day we are spending far too much of our lives being sedentary. Sedentary behaviour is described as a distinct class of behaviours (e.g., sitting, watching TV, driving) characterised by little physical movement and low energy expenditure. But is sitting REALLY the new smoking? Around 15 studies looking at the relationship between sitting and all-cause mortality indicate people who had the highest levels of sitting (around 8-9 hours/day) had ~20% increased risk of premature death compared to those people who sat the least. For smoking, however, smokers had around a 200% increased risk of premature mortality compared to non-smokers, and this risk increased to 400% for those who had the highest rate of smoking! As you can plainly see, the difference between smoking rate and mortality risk is MUCH higher than those who are sedentary. This is not to say that sedentary behaviour is not concerning to health. Risks are said to include:

  • Decreased Metabolism
  • Decreased bone mineral content
  • Decreased vascular health
  • ­Increased cardiovascular disease
  • ­Increased plasma triglyceride levels
  • Decreased levels of HDL (good)  cholesterol
  • Decreased insulin sensitivity
  • ­Increased obesity
  • ­Increased cancer risks
  • ­Increased psychosocial problems

Being seated for long periods of time also increases pressure on your lumbar spinal discs which can increase the chance of disc bulges and herniations.  This position also tightens up your hip flexor muscles and contribute to an anterior pelvic tilt that will lead to lower back pain. So try and break up long periods of sitting, and get up from your seat more often throughout the day. Stand up whilst taking phone calls, do calf raises whilst seated, take exercise breaks every hour where you get up and walk around. Think of creative ways to get up and about. Lots of little behavioural changes can contribute greatly to improving your health and reducing morbidity and mortality.

When eating healthy becomes unhealthy!

Orthorexia nervosaOrthorexia nervosa is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It is a “health food eating disorder”. Yes. You read it correctly. When anyone has an exaggerated focus on something – even something healthy, it can become problematic.

Today more than ever we have cult-like behaviour from people following multitudes of fad diets. As a result, they follow strict regimes of eating, not allowing this or that to the point of the ridiculous.  Furthermore, there are extremists who are devoted to cleanses, detoxes, Atkins, paleo, veganism, gluten- free, juicing…….the list goes on and on.

However, don’t mistake my blog….I am NOT telling you that focusing on healthy eating is wrong or that you should throw caution to the wind and eat whatever you like. I am advising you to make educated decisions towards healthier eating behaviour where it doesn’t negatively impact your life. When your healthy eating completely consumes you to the point of obsession, (specifically, where you cannot function without total commitment and are filled with guilt at the very thought of other options), then it is a cause of concern. Clearly it is a problem if it causes a person distress,

Additionally, an unhealthy obsession with food can affect friendships, relationships, and even your own sanity. In particular, it can cause social isolation and mental health problems.  It is important to understand that stress causes many physiological complications too. Consequently, stressing over food can manifest itself negatively by causing health problems in the very body you are trying to keep healthy! Ironic isn’t it?

Focusing on health doesn’t need to be a chore. We shouldn’t constantly try and eat like bodybuilders preparing for competition! I have been around these athletes for many years and trust me, they aren’t happy to be on such restricted eating regimes and don’t eat that way once their comp is over. Make healthier food options whenever possible but don’t let your desire for health stop you from living! Find a balance and don’t make food the primary focus of your life.

 

Healthier Grocery Shopping

Healthier grocery shopping

It is common for people to drop grocery products into their trolleys out of habit…. without arming themselves with the information required to determine if their choice was the best one for their body….or just for their taste buds! So many of us grocery shop blindly…and wonder why our health is compromised. Supermarkets are clever little manipulators. They structure their products to influence your “choices”. Manufacturers pay for shelf positioning, so those who pay the most get their products placed in the most convenient line of sight for consumers…..eye level. The healthier more nourishing and nutritious choices are usually harder to find, and if you aren’t specifically looking for them, they would be easy to miss. And don’t get me started on how they strategically place chocolates and chips at the checkouts to tempt you and your children whilst you are waiting in line! So how do you make healthier shopping choices? Here are some basics to guide you.

  • Get into the habit of comparing items and identify healthier options (see below).
  • Read & understand the nutritional panel. The lowest calories are not always the healthiest options. Check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMGUmcveQeg
  • Examine the ingredients list. The order of ingredient represents its amount in the product, i.e. if sugar is listed as the first ingredient, then sugar is the main ingredient in the product. This would be a good reason for returning that item back to the shelf! Look for products that contain healthier ingredients and stay away from those E numbers as much as possible. (There are great apps for your phones that help you identify those confusing E numbers so this is something I recommend).
  • Allow more time on your first few shops to study the products.
  • Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry. You will tend to make less healthier choices.
  • Compare 100g not per serve. Comparing one product with a 50g serving to another with a 35g serve can be easily misleading.
  • Total energy is important but low HI (Human Intervention) is the most significant factor (meaning the product will be more nutrient rich). Wean yourself off all the processed gunk that is clogging up your body and preventing it from performing at its best. Low energy ≠ healthiest as stated earlier. Use the ingredients list to help you determine this. It is more informative than the nutritional panel.
  • Don’t focus too much on protein or total carbohydrates at first. Gradually work these in later when you are more comfortable with everything else.
  • If plant origin – then ↑ fibre. It is recommended that we have 30-40g per day but this is thought by some dietitians as being too low. Our ancestors were having up to ten times that amount!
  • ↓ sugar (but also be mindful of artificial sweeteners which can have their own negative effects on health).
  • ↓ salt. Sodium is necessary. It is an electrolyte and essential for electrical activity through the body (such as muscle contraction, including the heart). But so many processed foods are swimming in the stuff. The American Heart Association recommends that adults stay under 1,500mg per day and never take in more than 2,300mg per day. To put this into perspective, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt contains 562mg sodium.

I would like to finish by asking you to ponder the following statement: “The absence of conclusive data demonstrating harmful side effects does NOT mean the product is safe!” As we are still learning about the long term effects of certain food products in our daily diet, proceed with caution and attempt to eat as close to nature as possible. No diet is best for every single person on the planet. Whether you are a paleo, vegetarian, vegan……eat according to what suits YOUR body best and make adjustments accordingly. Tribes throughout history have flourished on very different diets so to think one is the absolute best for all is just ludicrous. The one constant similarity is that they have all eaten from nature. I hope you take the time deserved to involve yourself in healthier grocery shopping. Your body needs you to pay attention. Remember that the absence of disease is not health, so don’t wait for symptoms of illness before you change you behaviour. Prevention is better than cure and we are supposed to be adults who act responsibly………….but are we? Your children are learning from you. Do not “bless” them with a shorter lifespan riddled with disease, because that is the current reality due to increasing sedentary lifestyle and the landscape of food that they have grown up eating. Only YOU can change this! I shouldn’t want your health for you and your family more than you want it for yourself. Take back control and reap the benefits.

The Great Cholesterol Myth

The Great Cholesterol Myth

There are many myths surrounding health, nutrition, and fitness as most of us know, but there are none quite as big as the one on cholesterol! A little while back I came across a three-part Catalyst documentary on the ABC – it covered the truth on sugar, cholesterol, and statin drugs. It was hugely controversial and the ABC were even forced to remove these videos from their website. The other day I again saw a TV interview with two of the men on the afore-mentioned documentary who have since published a book called “The Great Cholesterol Myth”. The authors are Dr Stephen Sinatra MD who has been a cardiologist for most of his long life, and Dr Johnny Bowden PhD who is a well-respected nutritionist. What they have to say is important to help us at the very least question our beliefs and hopefully nudge us into some further investigation for ourselves.

As a society we largely believe information that is regurgitated without even looking into the facts. What I am encouraging is to at least make your opinions educated ones. It takes a long time to change perceptions, but remember we all used to believe the world was flat! We believed the myth that cholesterol caused heart disease as fact. We were taught this based on research done in the 1960’s and 70’s which has since been shown to be extremely faulty. That sort of research wouldn’t even get published if done today.

Most well-meaning doctors don’t have time to actually read the details of the research and in that research it shows pretty clearly that cholesterol doesn’t really lead to heart disease. It’s a bad predictor.

Here is some information that you may not have been aware of.

Cholesterol is an essential component for health. Here are some of its important protective uses:

  • It is vital for cellular function
  • Makes vitamin D in the skin
  • It assists with cerebral-vascular function
  • It helps with neurotransmitter function so we can think better
  • It lubricates the skin
  • It protects from diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs

Framingham studies have shown that increased cholesterol over the age of 40 correlates to increased lifespan. (The Framingham Heart Study is a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular study on residents of the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study began in 1948 with 5,209 adult subjects from Framingham, and is now on its third generation of participants. It is the longest running study on heart disease).

The root cause of heart disease is inflammation, and inflammation causes the plaque that leads to heart problems. So what causes inflammation? Being overweight, what we put into our body, and SUGAR! Sugar is the villain. Sugar in your blood causes oxidative stress and plaque and you get an enormous insulin response.

Ok so what about stain drugs to reduce your cholesterol? Well they DO reduce cholesterol. But remember cholesterol isn’t the problem. By reducing it in your body you are also reducing the protective properties that cholesterol is responsible for. Plus statins have huge side effects. For the general population, for women and children, statins tend NOT to be useful. They do seem to work well with ONE population however….middle aged men with coronary disease, primarily with reduced HDL’s. Statin drugs have been shown to predispose women to diabetes and have also been linked to cancer. It has been linked to coronary calcification, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain, and liver problems. In children statins can interfere with development….especially cognitive! Statin drugs are amazing at making pharmaceutical companies VERY rich by using their scare tactics on uneducated people.

The best things to do to reduce the risk of heart disease and to keep the heart healthy are:

  • Reduce inflammation.
    • Processed foods, sugar, trans fats, alcohol, omega 6 rich foods (vegetable oils) when not balanced adequately with omega 3, ALL encourage inflammation.
    • Look for natural foods that have anti-inflammatory properties such as those rich in omega 3, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries, apples, garlic (which helps to reduce blood pressure). Doing a google search will give more specifics.
  • Get rid of toxic relationships
  • Lower stress in your life (stress is a very high risk factor for heart disease)
  • Getting adequate sunshine and Vitamin D (see earlier blog for information on this)
  • Getting enough fresh air
  • Regular exercise/physical activity
  • Saturated fats CAN increase cholesterol, but more of the GOOD cholesterol (yes there is ANOTHER myth). Remember though that there are both good and bad foods that are high in saturated fats so choose the healthy natural ones like coconut oil, nuts, oily fish rather than ones like processed meats.

Keeping the heart healthy is NOT the same as lowering cholesterol!

For 99% of the population cholesterol in the diet has virtually NO effect on anything of importance! Can you hear the eggs screaming out in victory? 🙂

As far as tests are concerned, the number one medical test that could predict your risk of heart disease is the “Particle Size Test”. This test measures specifics about the bad cholesterol in your body. It measures LDL (low density lipoprotein) but not all LDL is as harmful as commonly believed. The small LDL’s are the ones that tend to attach themselves to artery walls (they are oxidized LDL’s). The large ones are not the monsters they are labelled. The small LDL’s get into the nooks and crannies of the arteries and when they bore in they explode, This causes inflammation and contributes fundamentally to the plaques and to the risk of a heart attack.

So if you are someone who likes to think for themselves, I ask you to do some further research and actually investigate the findings. Don’t just been sheep who follow the others in front who have no idea where they are going. Remember….a million wrong people are still wrong.

Happy self-awareness everyone.

 

Sleep and Health

Sleep and health

Sleep is absolutely crucial to your health. Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition. Good sleep helps our bodies and minds recover, keeping us lean, happy, mentally focused, and healthy. But chronically bad sleep slathers on body fat, screws up our hormones, ages us faster, increases chronic illnesses, and drains our IQ and mojo.

Often the real reason for lack of sleep is rarely long work hours or physiologic abnormalities; rather, most people lose sleep due to voluntary bedtime delay. If we were to remove forms of artificial stimulation and excessive work/life demands, humans would likely sleep for about 8 hours per night, based on the natural sleep/wake cycle of the brain.

“Sleep loss due to voluntary bedtime curtailment has become a hallmark of modern society… Chronic sleep loss, whether behavioural or sleep disorder related, may represent a novel risk factor for weight gain, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.”

Spiegel K, Leproult R, Cauter EV.  Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function.  Lancet 1999;354:1435-1439.

While there are many reasons that lack of sleep could influence body fat, one of them may be the decreased growth hormone (GH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and increased cortisol, most notably in the evening.  Moreover, chronic sleep restriction results in elevated sympathetic nerve activity and a slow insulin response. Pragmatically speaking, lack of sleep may lead to more body fat simply because more time spent not sleeping means more time to eat. And those junk food commercials start looking pretty appealing at 1 a.m.

Getting less than 7.5 hours of sleep each night also means that you’re at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death than your pals who get plenty of snooze time.

Here are 8 reasons why getting a good night’s shut eye will set you up for a brighter day.

1. Weight Control

2. Increase Concentration

3. You’ll be in a great mood

4. You’ll look more attractive

5. Increased ability to make better informed decisions

6. You’ll live longer

7. Improved athletic performance and reaction time

8. You will reduce your risks of getting ill (as lack of sleep can suppress your immune system)

 

With a few simple strategies, you can get the high-quality, restful sleep your body and your mind deserves.

CREATE A SLEEP ROUTINE

Just like you can’t go from 0 to 100 first thing in the morning, you can’t do the reverse at night — going from “on” to “off” in a few minutes. Your body needs transition time and environmental cues to wind down.

  • Keep a regular schedule – If you’re consistent, your body will know when to release calming hormones before bed, and stimulating hormones to help you wake up. You’ll feel sleepy when it’s time for bed and wake up more refreshed, often without needing an alarm.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake – Even though it seems like alcohol is relaxing, more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can interfere with deep sleep, as can too much caffeine. Although you may “sleep” for 7 hours, your sleep won’t be high quality, and you won’t get the recovery benefits.
  • Eat and drink appropriately – Having a large meal immediately before bed can disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep.  Instead, eat a regular-sized (or even smallish) meal a few hours before bedtime. In addition, try to limit your fluids 2-3 hours before bedtime to prevent frequent waking for bathroom breaks. While total sleep time is important, uninterrupted sleep time is even better.
  • Do a brain dump – We’ve all done it: Stared at the ceiling, long after lights-out, obsessing about all the things we’re supposed to do tomorrow, tossing and turning and getting more and more stressed by the minute. Whatever is in your brain, get it out and on to paper. It clears your mind for genuine relaxation
  • Turn off electronics – Digital devices stimulate our brain with their light, noise, and mental demands. Unplug from allscreens — TVs, computers, phones, tables — at least 30 minutes before bed. Our brain produces melatonin as light levels decrease. This ensures deep sleep, and may also help regulate metabolism. If we have too much light at night, we don’t get proper melatonin production.
  • De-stress before bed – What de-stresses you? Do that! Gentle movement — such as stretching or yoga; Reading before bed — but make sure it’s not too engaging; Meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation exercises.
  • Sleep at least seven hours – Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. 7 should be your baseline. Also factor in transition time. Don’t stop what you’re doing at 9:29 and expect to be snoring by 9:30. Start moving in the direction of bed by 9:00.
  • Exercise regularly – Exercising regularly helps normalise circadian rhythms, tone down the sympathetic nervous system, and regulate endocrine function. However, some people report being “revved up” by intense exercise so if this is true for you then you may wish to save the higher intensity exercises for during the day if possible.
  • Take a bath or shower – Warm water before bed can help us relax and de-stress, which is key for falling asleep. A short, very cold shower may also do the trick. The logic is that cold water stimulates a strong parasympathetic nervous system response once the initial shock has passed.

OPTIMISING YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT

  • Keep the room as dark as possible
  • Create a relaxing sleep area that is quiet and free of clutter
  • Set your room at an appropriate temperature
  • Use white noise if needed

CONCLUSIONS

  • Good sleep is crucial for good health. There are no short cuts, despite what the “sleep hackers” say.
  • Make good sleep a priority. Your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing will thank you.
  • Think about good sleep as a 24-hour process. What you do during your waking period will affect your sleeping period, and vice versa.
  • Reinforce your natural circadian needs. When it’s supposed to be dark and quiet, make things reallydark and quiet. When it’s supposed to be bright, noisy, and stimulating, get moving with some bright light.
  • Give your body and mind transition time. Allow at least 30 minutes (and preferably an hour) in the evening to slowly wind down and prepare for sleep.
  • Stick to a routine. Bodies love routines and consistency. If your body knows what to expect in your day, it’ll help you wake up and doze off at the right time.
  • You can’t control your actual sleep. But you cancontrol your sleep behaviorsand environment. Take charge of your actions and surroundings, be consistent, and enjoy the Zs.

 

 

 

Quality of Life!

Quality of life

It would have been my late fathers birthday a few days ago and reflecting back on his life gave me the idea for content for today’s blog. Coupled with a Precision Nutrition reading that finished with the words “Don’t just survive – THRIVE!” I was compelled to discuss this subject matter in detail.

Ok, so firstly let me set the scene with some family history. Both of my parents were born early last century – my father in 1920 and mother in 1926. Sad;y, both have now passed and each of them lived to around the age of 80 (so lifespan was very similar). However,  they lived their lives VERY differently. By the time I was born my mother was in her early 40’s. All I remember growing up is her sitting in her chair watching TV and smoking like a chimney. She suffered depression quite badly and never left the house. Whenever she did anything remotely active she would be in pain for days afterwards. In my eyes, my mother was always old and frail, and though I loved her with all my heart I cry for the life that she had. My father, on the other hand, was forever out and about. He never smoked and was always out taking numerous walks or scenic drives. He was strong and capable and forever present with life and nature. Clearly, their lives were completely opposite to one another.

Quality of life is something that is very precious and often people neglect to make the effort to enhance theirs. Genetics is an important indicator for longevity and disease but your behaviour matters! Your genetics will not counteract bad behaviour. Quality of life principles are really quite simple, but like anything worth having, it requires dedication and effort.

  1. Physical activity. Get moving! Move more, and move with intent. Work the heart and lungs, strengthen muscles, and improve range of motion by stretching regularly.
  2. Nourish your body. Eat natural healthy foods with a balance of nutrients amongst all food groups; drink plenty of clean water; get adequate sunlight (without burning the skin); enjoy quality replenishing sleep;
  3. Nurture your mind. Take time out to relax and unwind the mind; be present with nature (earth yourself on grass, sand, sea). Explore ways to de-stress and be at peace.
  4. Avoid toxins. Minimise toxic foods (processed, high sugar, trans fats, additives and preservatives); give up cigarettes and control intake of alcohol. Look for other alternatives to prescription medications if needing to take them long term (some medications can be alleviated by change of lifestyle!). Research toxins that surround you everyday – your toiletries, sunscreen, household cleaning agents etc and see if there are healthier alternatives.

Yes this all takes time and effort and it isn’t going to happen all at once. But once you start focusing on health and see the results healthier behaviours can yield then the snowball effect will stem into other areas of your life. I don’t just want to exist. I want to enjoy the time I have on this earth. If quality of life is something that you are lacking, then look for ways to make improvements and bit by bit you yourself may find yourself starting to thrive!