Never mind resolutions; for 2016, strengthen your resolve instead

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Resolutions are a tradition, and traditions can be a good thing. They form habits, of sort, and not all habits are bad.

But breaking our resolutions seems to be as much part of that tradition as making the resolutions.

You see, the problem is that a list of resolutions is just a wish list.

Without a formal plan of realistic actions, without concrete steps towards the goals, and with a list of dreams (“if only I could do this, I would be wonderful…”) that is often so long that it is daunting just figuring where to start, resolutions are actually a recipe for failure.

Make that a prediction of failure.

Take my list of resolutions for last year (2015), for instance. (It wasn’t very long, but it was still too long.)

On that list, there was an item that read “learn to juggle three balls.” Not four, not five; just three. Seemed reasonable enough.

So I started following the method to learn. Way back in January.

Then life took over (and all the other things on the list of objectives for the year, including major moves, trying to stay in shape, writing this blog mostly regularly, etc.). And now, in January 2016, I’m nowhere near being able to juggle.

No big deal, really, because I’m already juggling a lot of other things in my life. But it illustrates the point (and it is not the only objective on the list that did not get done, of course).

So what I am saying we should do about it?

Don’t wish, just do

Don’t make wish lists. Don’t indulge in wishful thinking. Don’t just dream what you would like to improve this year.

Get moving.

Strengthen your body.

Through better physical fitness you’ll be better equipped to cope with what life throws at you. And you’ll feel better. (Heck, you might even get to look better, though that should not be your first goal.)

Don’t just put “joining a zumba class” item on your list. Don’t write the vague (and tired) “exercise more” wishful thinking slogan.

Move. Every. Single. Day.

Just put the one item you need, the one that will take on many shapes and (better) forms over the year: Move today. (Or “Move today!” if you prefer; sometimes the exclamation mark helps.)

And repeat.

As opposed to resolutions, that you write down once and generally never read again for 12 months, a resolve is something you have on a daily basis.

So strengthen your resolve today. And tomorrow. And the day after that…

That one item is enough. You’ll find that, once you have been “moving today” for a while, you’ll have the energy to do more, and you’ll even find you have time to do more.

Your resolve to do more will be strengthened, and more things that you would normally have put on your list of resolutions will be within reach.

I’ve given you plenty of ideas already, and I’ll continue to do so this year (albeit at a resolutely slower pace). So no excuses. Start moving more today.

And a Happy New Orbit to you!

Pictures from Pixabay

Good and bad habits, and discipline

I was busy cooking the other morning when it dawned on me: I must be a really boring person, because I always make the same breakfast (see photo above)!

It seemed, to my not quite fully awake mind, that a not so boring person would find all sorts of ways to make a healthy breakfast, whereas all I do is make the same healthy breakfast every morning. And I don’t need to be fully awake to do it.

Actually, when my mind started working a bit better, I realized that I have formed a breakfast habit: I make pretty much the same breakfast every morning, and it is a healthy breakfast. And since when I’m fully awake I’m pretty much always in “coaching mode,” it made me think of the need to talk about habits in relation to the oft-misunderstood concept of discipline. So here’s a post about that.

You see, when you have habits, you don’t need discipline.

Wait, no, let me re-phrase that a little:

When you have good habits, you don’t need very much discipline.

There, that’s better. But wait, don’t go yet; allow me to explain a little.

Habits

We all have them. There can be no doubt about that. Many, as a matter of fact.

Whether it is the side of the bed you sleep on, the time of day when you read your newspaper, how many hours per day you spend reading Facebook, the road you take to get to work every day, or what you eat on a typical day, these are only some of the habits you likely have.

I can almost hear you say “but, those are just routine things we do,” and you are correct. Because that is exactly what habits become: The routine, automatic things we do without really thinking about them.

It is true of things like breakfast, as I illustrated. Most of us eat the same thing day in, day out. It saves time, and it is efficient.

Many of you are probably tempted to respond that you don’t really have a choice in the matter, perhaps by providing the example of the route to get to work, which is what it is simply because of the origin and destination combination. I must, however, put a red light to that train of thought: If you think about it a little, except in some very specific situations, there is always a way to find alternate means and routes that, at some point, you decided against. Route choices were made at some point in time, and you’ve become comfortable with those decisions.

But you could choose to sleep on the other side of the bed, to not read Facebook at all, to read the newspaper at another moment of the day, to use a roundabout way to get to work. It might not be comfortable, and perhaps it would mean a longer transit time, and less recent information to discuss with colleagues at the water cooler (and in the case of Facebook, a lot more free time for other things), but it is possible.

Hence the inescapable conclusion that our lives are filled with habits that we accept. We simply could not function if we had to make every single decision about every action everyday. So we form habits.

The question is : Are they good habits, or bad habits? You see, the key to fitness and health becomes one of having more good habits than bad one.

Good or bad?

So, if you are still here, the idea is to have more good habits than bad ones.

Because I’m such a helpful kind of guy (that’s what good coaches are), I’m going to give you a few examples:

  • Good: To move regularly, frequently. Every day, if possible, even it it is not very strenuously.
  • Bad: To stay idle for too long, like sitting in a chair at the office.
  • Good: To eat real food; meals made from fresh ingredients without extensive processing by machines.
  • Bad: To drink calories, largely through pops, but also by consuming juices, milk, etc.
  • Good: To get off the couch and do physical work around (and outside) the house on weekends, or just to go outside to play with the kids.
  • Bad: To get on the couch and watch sports on TV on weekends, especially if accompanied by lots of liquid calories and NOT FOOD items.
  • Good: To cook your own meals.
  • Bad: To eat prepared meals, either bought in grocery stores (especially in the frozen aisles) or at restaurants (especially fast food restaurants).
  • Good: To read this blog on a regular basis.
  • Bad: To read Facebook for more than 30 minutes per day.

Ok, I think you are getting the point; even if I add a bit of humour around it, you know this is a serious matter.

But keep in mind that I’m talking about habits here. Once in a while, those “bad” behaviours are not a problem. They become a problem, however, when they are automatic, casual, and frequent actions. When that’s the case, something has to be done.

Discipline, what is it good for?

If you are like most folks, you are a little in awe of elite athletes. At the very least, you probably have some admiration for them, as well as for those who manage to train regularly.

You might be telling yourself something like “Wow! I wish I were that disciplined myself…”

At this point, you should begin to understand that training regularly is more a matter of having good habits than of having a strong self-discipline. With good habits, the behaviours that impress us the most are actually easy, because that are automatic!

But don’t get me wrong : This is not to say those athletes (and everyday athletes) we admire don’t have any discipline. They do. It is just that their discipline is used sparingly, and put to work where it works best.

If you try to apply discipline to make yourself do your training sessions, or eat better, you will run out of steam before very long. And you will fail. The good habits you seek will not be created.

You must first set your lifestyle, your daily and weekly routine, so as to make the good habits possible, instead of trying to wedge good behaviours into a routine that is not built to accommodate them. You must have a Purpose, and align your activities accordingly. Discipline comes a distant second, or even third if you include a good dose of motivation, towards building good habits that will serve your purpose.

Then, and only then, do you use discipline to eliminate bad habits. And to make sure you don’t go overboard in your training, like doing too much, too soon.

What does discipline at work look like?

You are tempted to read Facebook? Get up and go for a short walk. You feel like having yet another large coffee with lots of sugar and cream? Take a tall glass of water instead (and for crying out loud, don’t take it out of a plastic bottle!).

Simply put: Say “no” to the bad habit. You know how to recognize it when you see it…

If you use discipline to limit the behaviours you wish to do away with anyway, while you have set the stage for good habits to form, you stand a better chance of succeeding. At least, according to my life, and coaching, experience.

Saying “no” to the “free” pop with a meal or during a meeting at work, not picking up a fast food meal on your way home after work, or refraining from doing “just a few more kilometres” when in fact your training session is completed, that’s what discipline is good for.

The heavy lifting is done by establishing good habits, by being mindful of what your Purpose is, and setting the stage correctly. That Purpose might be something like “To be healthy and fit so as to live a long, active life” or it could be something else; what matters is that it must be explicit.

Choose your own, and be clear about it. Then set the stage for the good habits that will support your Purpose. And only then, when you really need it (and not all that often), use discipline to stay on course…

Photo credits: Sacha Veillette

5 Things to Do while Traveling (to stay in, or get back into, shape)

 One finds inspiration where one can.

Take this post, for instance:

My wife and I are currently in Florida for a conference. Well, it is more accurate to say that my wife is here for a conference; I’m just tagging along to keep her company and to carry the luggage. (Isn’t that convenient?)

This short trip is bringing back to mind a whole slew of tips and advice about traveling and keeping in shape. Or getting back in shape. So allow me to use the opportunity to pass on a small part of my vast amount of knowledge. (Not to put too humble a point on it.)

And since we all know that posts with a number between two and ten are far more likely to be read, I’ve distilled the fount into five key ideas.

1) If you travel by plane, wear comfortable clothing and running shoes, and walk as much as you can.

At the airport, don’t just go straight to the boarding area once you have (finally) gone through the mandatory security checkpoint: go for a walk, do some sightseeing, and use the time to visit the airport and check out the various planes. Finding yourself between two flights and with some time on your hands? Walk to your next gate instead of using the various escalators, moving sidewalks, and inter-terminal trains that are so prevalent in airports. Seize every opportunity to move on your own power…

2) If you travel by car for a long time, stop frequently to do body weight exercices, or just to walk a little.

It will help you remain in top shape for driving, and make the road trip more enjoyable. Better yet: Plan your itinerary so as to have some running or hiking stops along the way. The drive should also be part of the trip, not just something to get over with as quickly (and stressfully) as possible, so why not make the most of it? Your entire trip will be fare more relaxing that way!

3) Get outside, but in particular, get out of your comfort zone, by trying new activities or sports.

You happen to be in a place where nobody knows you? Use the opportunity to try something you might not be very good at, so you won’t have to worry about being embarrassed (taking pictures and posting to Facebook is entirely up to you)! Never used snowshoes? Try some on and go for a wintery hike! Never played tennis? Grab a racket and hit a few balls, or take a private class to learn how to play! Haven’t been on a bicycle since you were a wee lad? Rent a bike and knock yourself out (not literally, please)! Never participated in a spinning class because, like me, you consider it to not be real bike training? Broaden your mind a little, like I did yesterday, and try it!

4) If you are heading to the sun and warmth in response to winter’s onslaught, please, please (please!) don’t just lie on the beach sipping alcoholic beverages and eating food (or worse, NOT FOOD).

First of all, moving will help you relax a lot more than just doing nothing. Or stuffing your face. The heat may seem oppressive at first, but while crisping yourself in the sun will help your vitamin D levels, it does not melt fat. Moreover, it puts you at risk for skin cancer. So enjoy the warmth and use the time to move. Also, should you be enjoying an “all included” hotel in a sunny setting, don’t forget that alcohol is high in calories, and that drinking a lot just because it is included in the deal is a sure way to send the signal to your body that your brain is not really in charge. Be reasonable. Water is better for you. Incidentally, a beach also has a lot of water; you can do more than just cool yourself off in it: You can swim in it, too!

5) Don’t just take a break from your daily grind: Use the opportunity to start a new routine.

Vacation time, or even just short business (or otherwise) trips, have the great advantage that they break the monotony of the daily grind. It is a break that does not need to be just temporary. You can use the opportunity of a trip of any length to put aside old habits, and put in place new, and better, ones. For instance, adding a walking routine to your day, removing some food (or NOT FOOD) items from your diet, setting a few minutes aside each evening for a meditative look-back on the day, reducing the amount of TV you watch, etc. Changing habits is easier when there is a clean break; do you know anything that is a cleaner break than a trip? Moreover, after you return, you can use the newly formed habit as an enjoyable reminder, almost as an extension, of the vacation time…

So there you have it! Use the opportunity to move more, whether you go far or not so far, and improve your fitness. I have to stop now, because it is time to go for a run, barefooted, on the beach…

Photo credits: Sacha Veillette

Same old, same old… if you want to get old in good shape

Exercise, Everyday, Health, Fitness, Training

Go ahead, make a move! Make it over and over again…

I know, I said I would write about physiology next. But that will have to wait just a little longer.

Today’s post will sound like I’m repeating myself, and of course it is a little the case.

In my defense, it is a well-known fact of communication that in order for your message to get through, and for it to be believed, it must be repeated many times. (Preferably by more than one independent “sources,” though that never stopped anyone. Just think of the persuasion success the American leadership had a few years ago about weapons of mass destruction…)

So while I continue learning about physiology (I’m taking an online course, among other things) and clarifying my thinking about how to get that message across effectively, today I’m inviting you to review some recent news items about the importance of fitness for long-term health.

(Added note: I know most bloggers would have split this up in 2 or 3 topics. I’m not most bloggers because I prefer to see things as they fit together, not apart. And I think most people are capable of taking a bit of extra time to read a slightly longer post, instead of three short ones. Like my coaching, my blogging is about quality, not quantity…)

In the News

There has not been anything ground-breaking in the news lately; the artificial conflict between maintaining (or returning to) a healthy weight through diet alone versus exercising more (while being careful what we eat) has been raging. Because most folks on the “food only” side are clearly peddling books and special diets, I’m not even going to talk about what ridiculous stuff has been said on that side of the “debate.”

Instead, you should keep in mind that the best way to increase the odds of being healthy for a long time is through exercising a lot, and being careful about the food (not too much, mostly from plants) we ingest. That’s the “same old, same old” part of my message.

In support of that, you should read an interesting article about how many of the health problems of aging are due to inactivity, not “just” getting old. This is exactly what I mean when writing about muscles being extremely important, not just for metabolic reasons, but to keep bones and brains healthy.

Basically, to be healthy and active well into old age, you need to use your muscles more. The thing is, as one of my favorite authors on the subject has recently added, you don’t even need to do a whole lot in order to reap the benefits. That’s a key point about the approach I embrace and promote: balance is more healthy than excess.

Exercise, Health, Fitness, Training, Marathon

Running the New York Marathon in 2013.

For instance, while I say that we should all move a lot more than we currently do, there are some who say that we should all be training like professional triathletes, 25 or more hours per week. And others say we should not move at all, and instead restrict what we eat in a radical way.

I’m clearly not on the side of diet restrictions without any exercise, and I’ve run ultra-marathons and I do an ironman distance triathlon each year “just to stay in shape,” but even I would not pretend that such a level of training is sustainable for everyone. Although not sustainable, it may be something to shoot for, or, at least, going well beyond the “standard” recommendations of some 150 minutes per week of exercise, remains a very good idea.

Which brings me (finally) to a third tidbit of news about those who have been clamoring that doing marathons and intense training for more than 150 minutes per week were actually causing damage instead of doing good for their health. In light of new research, it seems they are admitting that our bodies can really benefit from a lot more exercise than they previously allowed for.

Moving More, Up to A Point

But keep in mind that, based on the research, there is a diminishing return to be had from increasing the activity level. And at some point, while it may not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer (which is what the study was concerned with), you up the risk of injury, which is not really taken into consideration from what I’ve read so far.

As reported in Runner’s World:

When mortality rates were adjusted for exercise levels, the researchers found the lowest rate among those who exercised about three to five times the amount recommended by federal guidelines (i.e., 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise like running). However, the increased benefit of working out three to five times more than the guidelines was modest, the researchers wrote.

More importantly to serious runners, there was no evidence of harm at ten or more times the recommended minimum.

At three to five times the federal guidelines, you are in marathon and short-distance triathlon training territory. Maybe up to a decent half-ironman. Nothing crazy. And sustainable, if part of a lifestyle choice that features living a long and healthy life as its Purpose.

And you can go well beyond that, if you are careful.

Same Old Advice (Summary)

In summary, allow me to repeat what little wisdom I can impart, based on what I’ve learned and what more knowledgeable people have said before me:

  1. Move, a lot, because our bodies are at their best when they do.
  2. Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants.
  3. Obtain, and follow, the advice of a coach (especially if you are going to train seriously for something like a marathon or triathlon (or any endurance- or speed- or strength-focused sport).
  4. Steer clear of excess and obsession; strive for balance in all things.

Oh, and I should probably have added “stay tuned.”

Because I’m bound to come back to this subject, and provide more specific advice over time.

After all, much like with training, repetition is what eventually gets the message through… and turns it into a no-brainer.

Running, Marathon, Fitness, Health, Training, Exercise

A bunch of superheroes with their capes, or tired marathon runners done running?

Photos by the author at various events.

The Trouble with Superheroes

Exercise, Training, Consistency, Everyday, Movement

Who wants to be “super”? Who doesn’t?

Full disclosure time: I read comic books. I watch TV shows and movies about superheroes. I enjoy that tremendously. I also read “real” books, some that aren’t science-fiction or fantasy, or even about fitness and health. I also watch other types of movies (but watch very little TV in general).

This topic is coming about through serendipity: On the one hand, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since visiting the JFK Museum a year ago, where I was struck by the Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy initiative for health and fitness back in the 1960s. On the other hand, I’m currently enrolled in a course on edX called The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture.

Yes, I also take courses from time to time. Also, the latest Avengers movie recently came out. And they were my favorite superheroes when I was a kid. That’s quite enough disclosure for now.

It’s a simple, fairly well known observation that comic books and stories about superheroes are a great form of escapism. Not just for kids. They are fun distractions from the daily grind. They manage to make us dream a little. We sure need that once in a while.

In some cases, they inspire us to accomplish much. Many have pursued dreams of becoming athletes, scientists, journalists, doctors, soldiers, and other occupations (though probably never lawyers and politicians) based on the stories they read in comic books as children.

And that’s great.

Or is it?

Yes, actually, it is. Being inspired like that is a good thing. That’s one of the prime benefits of fiction. But not everyone reacts the same way, both consciously and sub-consciously, to fiction. Especially to fiction about, or featuring, superheroes.

Allow me to explain.

Becoming a Superhero

Here’s where I think there is a problem with superheroes in particular, and the stories, be they in comic books, on the television, or on the big screen, that feature them: There’s always a secret sauce, a previously unknown causation device (known as a “ghost in the machine” in the jargon) that comes from outside the characters and without which there is simply no story.

In the case of superheroes, the main such plot device is about how they became “super.” It is a pernicious plot device because, no matter how much one tries, no matter how much effort one puts into preparing, the outcome is, ultimately, up to chance alone. But how often do normal folks acquire special abilities as a result of an accident? (Answer: Never. On the contrary. And too many have tried, so don’t.)

Stories, Training, Exercise

Inspiration, but also sub-conscious lessons.

I dare you to find a single superhero character that did not become “super” by some freak accident (of birth, of being bitten by something, of having something radioactive spilled on him or her, etc.) or that does not benefit from being extremely rich (typically by birthright) or extremely intelligent (innate trait). Or a combination thereof.

Basically, I dare you to find a (major) superhero that became that way through long years of training, without any money, just barely making do with minimal support and resources.

No, Batman does not count: Yes, he trained hard and for many years, or so the story goes, but he’s super-rich, and can afford lots of cool gadgets which he did not have to invent. Similarly for Green Arrow. Ironman is a combination of super-smart and super-rich, without any effort. Etc. You get the gist.

And those who were born on Krypton or elsewhere, or were given powers by mysterious extra-terrestrial entities, etc., simply abound in the same direction.

Let’s face it, the message superheroes propagate is that one does not train to become super; it is simply something that happens to you. Or that you are born into.

Which begs the question:

If I’m not super (or fit, or an athlete, or really really smart already), why should I bother work at it? Why should I train my body or my mind to become better? Might as well just drink beer and watch football on TV… – Anonymous

Superpowers, not Supertraining

In fact, I think I noticed a troubling trend that amplifies what I’m talking about.

Even when the story talks about training, it if often after one becomes a superhero. As maintenance. And when the story relates the training that took place before becoming a superhero, it used to be (in comic books) that it took a really long time (e.g. Batman again); but now, in TV and films, it seems mere months, when not just weeks, of training will turn someone of no skill (and precious little fitness) into a tough crime-fighting vigilante (e.g. TV series The Arrow).

Take another example of the same thing, but from another realm of fiction, and quite similar: In the Star Wars series, we are made to think it takes training from childhood to become a Jedi as an adult. Yet Luke Skywalker is able to achieve it with a few months of discovering his powers (the Force, in this case) and at most a few days of training with Yoda.

No wonder consistency, long practice, and the respectful following of a coach’s instructions is so under-valued nowadays.

C’mon, I want to be a sub-10 hours Ironman triathlete, and I want it now. Gimme a training program that will take me there in 6 weeks, and, by the way, I’m going to listen to every other bit of advice I can find out there, and try lots of different things at the same time… – also Anonymous, but a different one

As a coach, it makes you want to dunk the athlete in radioactive, mutagenic goo. Whatever that is. With an extra-dose of magically enhanced plant enzymes for good measure. Whatever that does.

I Need a (Super)Hero

Seriously again. When it comes to fitness and health, the subconscious message we get from these superhero stories is two-pronged:

  1. Most of what you are, what you are capable of, is innate. Or the result of freak accidents. That’s just the way the world works.
  2. If you train, you should expect results to be both very quick, and very dramatic. No need for long years of honing skills and becoming fit. Fitness, more often than not approximated by weight loss, should be almost instantaneous. Or take no longer than the duration of a TV show’s season.

It makes us look for quick fixes. At the very least, it makes us believe those who tell us their 90 days program, their 60 days program, their 4 weeks program, etc., will get us looking and feeling fantastic. (Like one of the Fantastic 4: stretchy and nimble, or hot like fire, or bulky-muscular like The Thing.)

In the end, we are looking for a silver bullet, for a hero, to save us from poor health. Just because it seems to work that way. We are thus constantly looking for that super solution; the next one must be the right one. We enter a vicious cycle; a kind of prison of the expectations. A prison of our own making.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

What is the truth that shall set you free? It is this: It takes time, and effort.

Just how much time, and how much effort, depends on each person’s genetic make-up, as well as on whether the person gets helped by a coach or not.

So, in a sense, some of it is innate. It does come easier for some. We each have some predisposition for some types of activities. I’ve touched upon that before.

But all of us can become much better everyday athletes, to the point of being true heroes of our own health, families, and society around us, by exercising regularly, consistently.

So move, train, and exercise more. That’s the ticket. After all, the extra weight and the shortness of breath when trying to run for a minute did not come all of a sudden; they happened gradually over many years of too little activity.

And when you need to rest, because training requires proper recovery, I know just what you can do to spend a bit of quiet time: Pick up a comic book, and let your mind dream a little. It won’t hurt, as long as you remember that it is pure fantasy.

Training, Exercise, Regularly, Everyday

You want a piece of me? You’d better train hard. And eat a lot of… gamma radiation.

Images from Pixabay.

P.S.: Regarding the dare, a couple of superheroes come to mind, but I wasn’t about to let that get in the way of the argument’s flow. Besides, they are fairly minor, and don’t have “super” powers: Black Widow and Hawkeye, two so-called “master assassins.” I wish we had more stories about how they trained, and how long it took, for them to become what they are in the Avengers’ world. But keep in mind that they also use super gadgets, which they must have had someone finance for them… Just sayin’…

Do we really need more evidence?

Exercise, Daily, Fitness, Health, Diet

You can rejoice in the high level of confidence of at least one thing: Exercise is good for you.

The results keep pouring in.

The titles are often exaggerated, sometimes misleading, occasionally downright wrong. But that’s journalists for you. You gotta read beyond the headlines.

Even without reading beyond the headlines, however, the general trend is very clear: Exercise is good for you. Even in large doses, it is certainly better to be exercising than not exercising at all.

Thus the question I ask in the title: Do we really need more evidence?

As a scientist, I understand that there cannot be absolute certainty. It is a matter of “degree of confidence.” And it is difficult to tease apart the effects of various lifestyle decisions in something as complex as health. So I cannot begrudge researchers wanting to do more research, needing to clarify (or identify) causality among the sea of correlations that past research has brought to our attention.

But no matter how much clarification and specific causality determination still remains, no one is claiming that exercise is NOT a good thing for you. On the contrary. That’s pretty much the best, most agreed-upon, common denominator to all the research out there (on the subject of fitness and health). There is a lot of confidence.

So for you and me, normal folks, it truly is a no-brainer: Exercise. Move. Regularly. Everyday. The more, the better.

But because it is always fun to do (and it provides good fodder for a blog), here are a few recent conclusions from articles published on the subject.

Answers

First of, it really looks like exercising is not only good for increasing the odds of long-term health, but it is also a really good idea if you are sick or have suffered from a serious illness.

Then, if you are getting older (and who isn’t?), exercise can really help keep your head in better shape, not just your body.

Speaking of which, I’d be remiss not to mention this really interesting piece of research about the effect of diet, particularly greens, on cognitive health. I do love my greens, even though I promote exercise first and foremost.

There’s a passage in the summary of that particular article that is worth copying here:

They followed participants for 2 to 10 years, assessing cognition annually with a comprehensive battery of 19 tests and adjusted for age, sex, education, smoking, genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and participation in physical activities when estimating the effects of diet on cognitive decline.

By the way, when a researcher talks about “adjusted for (…) participation in physical activities” to estimate the effect of diet, it means that exercise was already understood as an important contributor to health (high correlation between exercise and health) and what is being looked for is the remaining contribution of diet. Get it? Exercise comes first, diet comes later. Just sayin’.

In closing, let’s go back to one of the earlier things I hinted at: Even if you do “too much” (and the exact definition of “too much” is unclear), you are still better off than if you are not doing any. So exercise, regularly. Vigorously at times.

That’s a no-brainer for which your body (and your brain) will thank you later.

Questions

You think my section titles are backwards? Answers first, then questions? Nope. Answers always lead to other questions. At least if you are serious about asking questions.

So let’s.

Do we really need more evidence that exercise is good for us? Ok, we know the answer to that. It is a resounding “no!”

Do we really need more evidence in order to get us moving more? That’s a different question. The answer is also, probably, no.

So what do we need, if not evidence, to get us moving more? That’s a far more intriguing question.

Perhaps it has to come from our emotions? Perhaps it is simply a commitment? The big stick of Discipline, or the easy persuasion of our Purpose?

I don’t know for sure, and it probably depends. And it is a good question to finish with.

One thing is certain: It is what I’ll spend my next post talking about…

Picture from Pixabay.

5 Little Ninjas

Movement, Daily, Exercise

Cute… and very good at what they do.

Sometimes, you have to make do with what you have, no matter how “little” that is. It just might turn out it is not that “little” after all, once you get moving.

If you are like most people nowadays, that means you work a mostly desk-bound job, commute for a sizable chunk of your day, don’t get enough sleep, drink too much coffee and in general consume too much NOT FOOD items. Oh, and you have precious little time to exercise the way you know you should.

That’s why when I saw this image of five little ninjas, I was inspired to remind us all about the ways in which we can sneak exercise into our days without requiring big changes to our lifestyles. (As I wrote this post, I was also reminded of some ads for smoking replacement products that featured ninjas, so I can’t claim to be very original. But bear with me. My ninjas are cuter. And more healthy.)

So let’s call this the 5 Little Ninjas of Daily Exercise. (5LNDE for short in the rest of the text.)

Just like real ninjas (supposing such persons really exist), the 5LNDE are sneaky, which means that others might not even notice they are there.

The 5LNDE are also quiet; they don’t require big noisy equipment, or loud grunts on your part.

And because they are little ninjas, they might not appear deadly, but they certainly can make a difference if you do them often enough. Don’t be fooled.

So, without any further ado, here they are:

Walk Ninja – The very essence of stealth and quiet. Simply walking more on a daily basis will make a difference in your muscles and bones, and even though it does not burn many calories, it burns more than sitting and doing nothing in your car or in public transit. Go for a walk at lunch time, have a walking meeting. It does not require any extra time; just make it part of your daily getting from point A to point B. Let this little ninja sneak into your daily habits.

Stairs Ninja – Also very quiet, and can also be done as part of your normal movements during the day (instead of escalators/elevators, for instance). Or use a break or part of lunch time to sneak into the stairwell of your building, and go up and down for a while. 5 minutes. Very good for your muscles and bones, and burns a decent amount of calories, without making you sweat too much. Good ninja to have on your team.

Getting Up Ninja – To go talk to someone, or get water; any pretense is good to get up from your chair. Sitting is really, really bad for us. So the more often you can interrupt a sitting session, the better. Best still if you can work standing, but that is hard to pull off. The most effective, and sneaky, approach to this is simply to stand up once in a while. At least every hour, preferably more. The more active your day becomes, the better off you’ll be.

Squats Ninja – This may seem strange to witnesses, but when you have a moment, perhaps in conjunction with the previous little ninja, go down and then back up again from a standing position. Do 10 at a time at first. Slowly, while breathing. 20 is better. Full amplitude is better than partial; however, just doing the sitting to standing squat, and back down again, without using your arms to help yourself in and out of the chair, does the trick. It only takes a few minutes, so you can do it multiple times during the day. Easier if you have a closed office, but this little ninja can be active anywhere, without being overly conspicuous. And it does wonders for your legs.

Push-ups Ninja – Yes, I know, push-ups are hard. Harder than squats, and stairs. Perhaps even harder than running. But guess what? That’s precisely why they are so good. We systematically under-use our muscles, which means our bones have no reason to remain strong, and our base metabolism slows down because the muscles are smaller. Time to change that. You don’t need to do a whole lot; maybe 5 at a time to start. But do them a few times per day, and you’ll soon see results. Maybe not at the office, though I dare you to start a “lunch push-up club” and recruit a few co-workers to share the pain, er, I mean, fun. Do them first thing in the morning (it is very much like eating a frog), and in the evening. It takes almost no time, so it is the quickest of the ninjas. But just as effective.

That’s it. The 5LNDE.

Make them part of your team in the fight for better fitness and health.

Image from Pixabay