In part 1 I looked at how introducing small, smart choices into your daily routine (Opportunities to Move, Meditation and reading), can lead you to great health. In part 2, I outline 3 more areas that I believe will propel you to better health.
I don’t need to explain the merits of exercising but maybe I do need to dispel a few myths and tell some truths that you may be unaware of.
You don’t need to train for hours each day in an attempt to burn more calories. You can’t out train a poor diet and your body will adapt by burning fewer calories if you try (read more here) If you want to change your body composition use resistance training to sculpt your figure/physique and then concentrate on your nutrition to reduce body fat and body weight. I’m not saying you shouldn’t run or cycle for miles, that’s your choice, but I am saying is you don’t need to perform these exercises to achieve a fit and healthy body.
Recent research is also showing us that WHY you exercise is critical to sustained motivation and adherence. Michelle Segear, a leading researcher in motivation for health related behaviors, discovered that people who exercise because it made them feel good, exercised 32% more frequently than the group who exercised for health and weight management reasons.
I exercise 6-7 times a week & all my sessions last under 10 minutes (read my blog for further proof). For example, I have an exercise bike at home which I perform timed sprints on for less than 10 minutes, keeping track of my progress as I go. My muscle endurance, strength & body fat percentage have all improved whilst adopting this habit, plus I repeatedly set new PBs. I am happy to report that whilst scientific research tells you so, I am living proof that it works!
The great news is that you can receive these benefits from as little as 5 minutes of exercise. Kelly McGonical (The Willpower Instinct 2013) analyses several studies from which found the biggest mood boosting, stress busting, effects came from 5 minute doses of exercise, rather than hour long sessions.
So if you missed the gym today, don’t despair, you can still accomplish much in under 10 minutes of exercising.
Flexibility and agility are useful resources at any age but I believe it becomes more critical as we advance in years. Once we leave school we tend to become less mobile and undertake less exercise. Poor sitting and posture habits begin to take their toll on our mobility and health. Our joints begin to ache and we become more vulnerable to injury.
I stretch in my living room in front of the TV or whilst listening to a book. In the space of 18 months I have gone from the position of being the least flexible to the most flexible that I have been at any stage of my life, simply by taking 10 minutes each morning to improve my mobility. There is no reason why you couldn’t achieve similar or better results if you make this a daily habit.
One of the many advantages of stretching is that it can been done anywhere. Anybody can improve their flexibility by selecting a specific area of their body and consistently trying to increase the range of motion. There are many guides to stretching on the Internet or you could attend a class at your local gym or leisure centre.
Following day food planning (pre-commitment)
Having healthy options at hand makes it much easier to make right food selections during the day and by spending 10 minutes the night before planning for these will go a long way. We are faced with 227 food choices every day (The Willpower Instinct 2013) and if you are in a rush, feeling extremely hungry, experiencing low blood sugar levels or just feeling a little peckish, it’s much easier to stay on a healthy eating plan if you have healthy food choices at your disposal.
Here are some suggestions of what you could spend 10 minutes preparing:
1) Last night’s healthy meal: If you have some of the previous night’s healthy meal left over why not put it in a container, refrigerate it and take it into work the following day as a pre-prepared lunch? This has the added bonus of saving money too, it’s a win/win.
2) Fruit: It’s always good to have a few pieces fruit handy – a healthy and convenient snack, packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Due to their high fibre content they can keep you feeling fuller for longer and even reduce the amount of food you eat for your main meal as studies suggest a 15% reduction in calorie consumption when you have a piece of fruit before a main meal.
3) Vegetables (salad): A salad for lunch or anytime during the day is one the best meals you can give your body. Just like fruit, it is packed full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and if you include fish with your salad you can also obtain protein and healthy fats (omega 3s) from this dish. For those who count calories (I don’t count calories personally, I believe in nutrient quality over calorie quantity) it is a low calorie option packed with an array of essential nutrients needed to optimise your health throughout the day. It needn’t be boring either – use your imagination and mix it up to keep your taste buds interested.
4) Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit: Many people wrongly omit nuts and seeds from their diet because they concentrate on counting calories believing that is the only way of reducing or maintaining weight. Scientific research shows that weight management is a lot more complex than calories in vs calories out. How a food effects your body’s internal environment (hormone regulation, gene expression and your gut bacteria balance, which are critical to weight management and health) is of greater significance than calorie quantity. For this reason, I believe you should concentrate on feeding your body quality food and your body will regulate your weight appropriately. That is why nuts and seeds packed with omega 3s, protein, fibre, slow releasing carbs and many antioxidants are a great choice for anybody looking to achieve great health.
5) Probiotic Yoghurt (great with mixed berries for increased protection):
Probiotic yogurt, or any food item that can improve the ratio of beneficial bacteria in the gut, is a must for anybody wanting to improve their health. Recent research is showing us that the gut microbiota (the community of bacteria that reside in our gut) is a major player when it comes to weight management and health in general. We all contain 10 times as many bacteria cells as human cells and these bacteria cells are key to our health. We have bad bacteria which can cause illness and good bacteria (probiotics) which can improve our health.
A study which was published this year showed that your gut bacteria ratio, good vs bad, can affect your diet. If you have high ratio of good to bad then you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. If you add in mixed berries, then you have a super healthy snack. Berries are packed full of antioxidants and are also very high in fibre. They not only have the potential to improve your health but can also benefit anybody looking to lose or maintain their weight.
My Story….Food Prep…
In the past 12 months I have adapted my daily diet to include preparing my food for the following day, even the following week. I make sure I have the right foods in store (because if I have chocolate there, I will eat it) so that when I need a snack, the right choices have already been made. I keep a bag of frozen berries in the freezer so I minimise waste and always have them to hand to add to yogurt or porridge. I buy a lot of food online, especially nuts/seeds or supplements as this also helps to cut costs.
6) Green Tea: Green tea is undoubtedly one of the healthiest beverages that anyone could consume. It contains many powerful antioxidants, one such compound is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) This substance helps reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. It is also known to be anti–carcinogenic, activating our own cancer suppressor cells, defending us from the continued threat of cancer proliferation (our body produces thousands of cancer cells everyday but a healthy immune system destroys these faulty cells).
Green tea has also been shown to reduce your risk of premature death. In a study of over 40,000 adults, it showed that those people who drank the most green tea significantly reduced their chances from dying from heart disease and stroke. In fact, it reduced these avid green tea drinkers chances from dying from all causes of death. Try and make green tea consumption a daily habit if your serious about improving your health.
You have two choices in life, you can create a life for yourself by adopting habits that shape your life in the direction that you would have it go, or you can take your chances and react to life, allowing circumstances to dictate your path.
Why not be the driver of your own destiny instead of the passenger? Why not dictate your future rather than having your future decided for you? I strongly believe that if you are thirsty for knowledge and adopt self-education, hope, success and improved happiness are the inevitable consequences of this worthy ideal.
I truly and wholeheartedly believe that if you adopt many of these practices and are consistent in your approach, you will be a totally different person in a 12 months’ time. You will be fitter, slimmer, healthier, happier, more mobile, more focused, less stressed, more knowledgeable, more motivated, more optimistic and have greater willpower. These are the benefits I have received and I believe you are only 10 minutes away from also reaping these rewards if you start investing in your health today.