The message is simple (but it is worth repeating)

Movement, Diet, NOT FOOD, Everyday

A new beginning, of sort, so time to get moving again.

To get the ball rolling, not because of the new year but because of the launch of the No-brainer Fitness Facebook page (yes, I finally did that; one thing off my list, hooray!), I thought I’d re-visit the message of No-brainer Fitness.

Although it is the time of year for lists of resolutions and things to do, don’t be mistaken: This is NOT a list of resolutions.

It is much simpler than that. It is what should always be on your mind, every year, every day, every moment. To the point that it becomes automatic or, as I put it, a “no-brainer.”

About that name

By the way, for those of you curious about it, that is the point of the name “No-brainer Fitness.”

It is what Zen is all about. Far from being a mystical philosophy or esoteric design principle, Zen is about practicing something consciously so much and so systematically that thereafter you simply do whatever it is you have practiced without having to think about it anymore.

Anything you put your mind to long enough, practice hard enough, becomes second nature. Something in which your brain no longer needs to take an active part. Thus, a “no-brainer”.

The other meaning, that of something which makes perfect sense, and does not need to be thought through much, or at all, is also valid. Moving more is such a thing.

So let’s get back to it

One thing you need to know about No-brainer Fitness is that, although I get side-tracked at times, and try to infuse the posts with my own type of humour, I always get back on track.

Therefore, what you need to know about No-brainer Fitness, is that it stands for one single, very simple prescription, and two secondary recommendations:

1) Move more

Movement is the key to fitness and health. It has been shown time and time again, be it in terms of the effect of exercise on body functions, brain activity, and as was recently reported, our ability to age well and remain healthy and active for a long time.

Some the prescription is to move more, move all the time, move everyday. Not necessarily training for a specific sport, which is great and I encourage, but at least get into the habit of NOT being sedentary and using energy-saving devices like cars and elevators all the time.

2) Don’t diet

So you’ve gained some weight over the years (who hasn’t?). Your sedentary lifestyle and sitting job are causing your mid section to expand faster than the rest of the universe? What’s the solution?

Go on a diet, of course!

WRONG!!!

The problem is, in a large proportion (pun intended), that you do not move enough. So the solution cannot be to change what you eat. At least, that is true in the same proportion as the cause of the problem.

So the first recommendation is to NOT go on a special diet, NOT focus on what you eat, and NOT obsess over your weight. And I’m not alone in saying it. (That, by the way, is a link to an excellent and very refreshing blog post by a dietician.)

Rather, get moving more, and slowly learn to listen to your body. Because, guess what, if you listen, it will tell you what it needs, and over time you’ll get to eat better, without counting calories or obsessing about food. (Obsession of any kind, even obsession about training and exercise, it NOT healthy.)

For more specific food advice, I defer to those who know more than I do on the subject. I prefer to stick to a simple (no-brainer) approach: Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants.

3) Cut back on NOT FOOD

Which of course does not preclude me from making further suggestions about what NOT to eat.

You see, the “Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants” statement above is not originally from me. It seems simplistic, but for full effect you have to consider what “food” actually is. And for that, you need to remember that we are, fundamentally, animals.

Animals eat plants and other animals. At least, that’s what omnivores like us do. They don’t eat inorganic matter, stuff that does not grow on plants or that don’t move of their own volition.

The way I like to put it, “food” is anything that comes directly from plants, or that has been transformed mechanically and/or chemically from plants by other living creatures. Another way of putting it: food is biological matter that has been minimally transformed by means other than other animals’ biological processes.

Yes, I know, it can get messy and scientific-y. So often I use a shorter definition: If you can’t find it in nature in the form you eat it, then it’s probably overly processed, and you should pass.

For instance, things like coffee, doughnuts, soft drinks, and booze, are what I consider NOT FOOD. (For more on that, feel free to read a couple of my past posts.) When’s the last time you came across a free-flowing river of coffee? Or a tree in which Coca-Cola bottles grow? Or dug up a plant and found perfectly shaped and wrapped Hershey Kisses in its roots?

You get the point.

Cut back on those NOT FOOD items is my second recommendation; you’ll not only remove unnecessary calories (and in some cases drugs) from your body, but you’ll make room for the real taste of food, and the refreshing feeling of water going down. And that’s why you should do it.

That’s it

The rest, as they say, is details. (That’s also, as they also say, where the Devil lives, but that’s another story.)

If you insist on seeing this as a list of resolutions for the new year, then consider that you don’t need a list. You need only one item:

Get moving more!

You body will do the rest; just pay attention to what it tells you in the process.

I’ve now taught you everything you need to know. But feel free to keep an eye on this blog, and like the brand spanking new Facebook page… (Please?)

Picture from Pixabay.

What’s NBF all about – a refresher

Fitness, Exercise, Sport, Triathlon

What’s NBF all about? More than this picture, that’s for sure…

To celebrate the 40th post of No-brainer Fitness, I thought it worthwhile to offer a brief recap.

Basically, in case you are still wondering, or if you are fairly new to No-brainer Fitness, here’s what it’s all about, in the form of an interview, but definitely in No-brainer Fitness style:

What does NBF stand for?

NBF is my acronym for No-brainer Fitness.

Ok, smart ass, but what is it all about, really?

No-brainer Fitness is about getting fit so as to be, and remain, as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

Why the “No-brainer” part?

Because it is my contention that, in order to get and remain fit, you don’t need to do anything very complicated. Also, the benefits of being fit are so good and numerous, that you should not have to think twice about it.

Don’t you have some secret agenda?

You mean other than helping others reap the benefits of fitness?

Yes.

No.

C’mon, admit it! You are trying to create a cult to fitness, or at least get rich from this, aren’t you?

Well, it would be nice to make a living helping others, but I still do it for free.

So, no cult?

No cult. Quite the contrary, I promise.

Ok, prove it: How does one get fit?

You need to move more. A lot more. On a daily basis. Not just 30 minutes of intense exercise every other day, and then sitting on your chair or sofa the rest of the time. Instead of seeking ways to save your energy, you need to get into the habit of using more energy. Walking more, taking stairs instead of escalators or elevators, doing some light strength exercises, not sitting so much at work, picking up a fun sport again, etc.

That sounds like hard work: I’m getting tired just reading about it. How does one get there?

A big part of it is changing your mindset so that you no longer think about moving as hard, but as something that your body craves, much like you crave food. Our bodies really do crave movement, and as you get moving, you start to feel it more keenly.

Talking about craving, what about eating super foods and taking supplements that will make me fit and healthy and help me lose weight? Isn’t that a lot easier?

There is no such thing as “super foods”, and if you eat well, you don’t need supplements. Losing weight comes naturally from moving more and eating a good diet, not from dieting. But the key is moving more. First and foremost, that’s what you have to focus on. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something (like supplements).

Unlike you?

Unlike me.

But if we wanted to buy something from you, we could. Right?

Well, if you are interested in picking up running or triathlon as a sport, because those are great ways of getting and remaining fit, I could help with that, too. And for that, yes, I do get paid, because it demands much more attention to make sure it is done right, and you reach your personal objectives.

What else do you provide? Surely it can’t be that simple…

It is. Really. But I try to make it enjoyable to do the right thing, and I provide advice to help steer through the wild west of products and tips out there. Because being fit is both simple and fun.

Hmmm… What else?

Well, it doesn’t hurt to stay away from things that are clearly bad for you, what I call NOT FOOD. But the key, I insist, is in moving a lot more.

Ok, I think that’s enough for now. I almost believe you.

Feel free to ask me other questions. Or read some of my 39 previous posts; you are sure to find more about what NBF stands for, and how to be more fit.

Move on!

Health, Fitness, Exercise

Working on some visuals for No-brainer Fitness… Feedback welcome.

 

First things first: put your muscles on

 

Dancing, Music, Muscles Mass, Aging

Put on some music, but put on some muscles, too.

What does a little old lady on Britain’s Got Talent, an article claiming that muscle mass is a better predictor of longevity than BMI, and No-brainer Fitness: E, have in common?

Other than being tidbits of “information” you can find on the Internet?

Well, the first may very well be an illustration of the second. Anecdotal, to be sure, but an illustration nevertheless. And the third is definitely derived from the principle of building muscle mass as a starting point to having fit and healthy bodies well into older age.

First, the little old lady.

Paddy is 80 years old. And she’s on the show with a much younger, much taller partner called Nico. They are doing a dance routine. At first, it’s tame and boring. And then, her partner starts twirling her about, lifting her and spinning her in the air. Acrobatic Rock ‘n Roll style. The audience holds its breath, commentators are speechless.

Why? Because everyone is afraid for this fragile little old lady. She might break a hip. She might lack strength and let go as she’s dangling precariously, and then crash and need an ambulance. You can see them thinking it. Heck, it’s almost impossible not to think it.

But she doesn’t. She holds on, and finishes the routine on her own high-heeled two legs. With a smile.

Why would we think this extraordinary?

Because we have been trained, perhaps brainwashed, into thinking that becoming old means becoming fragile. That frailty is the norm for older people.

But as MRI images of older triathletes reveal, in comparison to both younger and same age but sedentary folks, when you maintain your muscle mass and remain active, other than slowing down some and requiring more recovery time, we can remain lean, muscular, and prevent our bones from losing strength well into old age.

Second, what about that article about muscle mass?

Muscles, Athletes, MRI

Which one do you want to be when you grow old?

While most of the medical establishment (and people providing dietary advice) have been saying for some time that losing weight is good for your health in the long term, it seems in fact that having more muscle mass, even with a higher BMI, is a better predictor of outcomes.

Simply put: Don’t just try to lose weight; put on some muscles. It’s better for you.

I’m no expert, but I can think of many reasons why that would be logical, beyond the fact that diet alone never works:

  1. Muscle mass is what burns the most calories; so the more muscle mass you have, the higher your base metabolism, and therefore the less you tend to gain weight. Or the faster you burn through extra reserves. Remember that excess weight, especially abdominal fat deposits, is a major risk factor; but muscles burn calories, so you don’t need to starve yourself half to death to lose the weight.
  2. Muscles are what put strain on your bones, and therefore keep them from becoming weak (in reaction to the strain, bones become denser, and more sturdy). Stronger bones means less chances of fractures, which is an important contributor to loss of autonomy and health in older age.
  3. A stronger body in general is insurance against injuries caused by attempting to perform tasks that once were normal, but that become a challenge as we age. We’re not old in our heads, so when we think we can do something, but have not maintained our bodies, we run the risk of getting hurt.

The main issue, as I see it, is that as we age (starting around our mid-twenties), our metabolism and hormonal equilibrium shift, and it takes some activity to maintain muscle mass. It is not automatic that we gain weight, but if we lose muscle mass because we don’t use it enough, then we start to burn less, and thus put on the weight.

A good remedy to that is to maintain muscle mass. Or re-build it.

This is where No-brainer Fitness: E comes in, as a third part to the initial comparison.

The first thing to focus on when beginning a new regimen of activity is re-building muscle mass. And that is precisely what occupies a great deal of the time of No-brainer Fitness: E.

The best way to protect your body against excess weight and injuries is to have a stronger body.

And now, it seems, research is showing that long-term health is better if you have greater muscle mass.

So put first things first, and re-build (or maintain) that muscle mass. (Which is not the same as saying that you should not do any cardio, or eat badly. It’s just a place to start…)

References:

Muscle mass index as a predictor of longevity in Older adults, The American Journal of Medicine (article in press), 2014

The article from which the MRI images are claimed to originate can be found here.

Watch Paddy and Nico here. (Hopefully that link is still up…)

The best moment of the day to exercise

Movement, Daily, Morning

Seize the day!

We all should be moving all the time, be true Everyday Athletes. But let’s face it, most of us have jobs that tie us down to a desk for large chunks of the day.

So the question can be raised: When, on any given day, should we exercise in order to fit it all in?

The answer, of course, is: first thing in the morning.

There you go, question answered. Shortest blog post ever!

Ok, maybe not.

Leaving aside the facile answer (which, for many reasons, remains probably the right answer for many), let’s have a look at the pros and cons of various moments of the day.

Assume for the sake of this discussion, that you are doing “some” exercise only. It could be the basic program of No-brainer Fitness: E, or some other light to moderate training regimen…

The Morning: Seize the Day!

The main positive aspects of exercising first thing in the morning is that you can make sure that it gets done. Especially if it is a short routine that only takes a few minutes, there’s no time like the present to get it done!

You are also mentally most energetic at this time of day; your stores of willpower and decision-making energy are full from a good night’s rest, so there is less chance you will give up in the middle of your routine.

However, be careful of eating a little something (unless you are purposefully training “on empty”) because you might not feel enough physical energy.

The main drawbacks to exercising in the morning come from family life and logistics in general. If you have kids, it is often hard to get everything prepared and the kids ready and fit some exercise in the morning. Also, having to get everything or everyone else ready then head over to a gym or pool, and then get ready yourself for work, is a major hassle.

It may be difficult to get the kind of class or training session you seek at a time and location that is practical for you in the morning. So perhaps mornings are not best for you.

However, for short exercise routines that don’t need to be done at a gym or pool, and especially with a good partner to share the load, the morning time remains ideal for exercise.

Also, a lot of the morning pressure can be lifted by getting up earlier, for instance well before the kids, and doing your exercise then. This can become your personal time. But make sure to get to bed earlier as well (getting to bed too late is a major problem in modern life, about which it is high time I write something on this blog…).

Lunch Time or Mid-Day: Re-energize!

The main positive aspect of exercising in the middle of the day is that it provides a very good break from work, and can even replenish your energy levels for the rest of the day.

It is certainly always a good change of pace, if you can swing it.

Unfortunately, most people’s lunch time is often too short to be of much use, especially considering the need to go somewhere, get changed, exercise, get changed again, go back, and still find time to eat something.

If you can just zip out for a run or a brisk walk, that’s great. And there might be some short fitness classes offered near your work. Much of anything else is sure to be a logistical challenge.

Our modern schedules are bad. We really should be able to take the time we need during the day to stay fit. Our productivity would soar! But until that’s the case, exercising in the middle of the day won’t be ideal.

Evening: Make or Break Time!

Everybody’s favourite time of day; freed from work, time for ourselves… and family/household obligations.

The evening provides far more flexibility for exercising, and there are plenty of activities to choose from. It would seem ideal at first, but there are major drawbacks.

By this point, even if you’ve psyched yourself all day, you are at your most tired mentally. And at the greatest risk of simply skipping the workout.

Also, there are equally many things to juggle at night: cooking, homework, dishes, catching up on your partner’s day, etc. Making time for exercise is even more an issue in the evening as it may seem to be in the morning. And without clear deadlines (school or daycare time, being at work, etc.) the temptation to take it easy so as to stress less often leads to overruns and something having to drop. Care to guess what is most likely to get dropped?

If you are still keen and decide to exercise “later”, say as last thing in the evening, then you face the worst possible scenario: needing another meal, and not being able to fall asleep for quite some time. Indeed, the boost to your hormonal levels and wakefulness due to exercise, and the need to refuel, will push your bedtime to the point of making getting up the next day a Herculean task.

Some light routine, a bit of strength work and relaxing stretches, or making sure your training is before dinner time, can work just fine.

So there you have it, more fully.

When’s the best moment to exercise? Whenever it works best for you.

But if you are thinking about starting a new routine, consider making it a morning one, and making sure you get that sense of accomplishment first thing in the morning, to give a positive outlook on your entire day…

(And this turned out to be one of my longest posts. But it could have been the shortest.)

Photo by Pixabay.