Category Archives for "Health"

What Happens To Your Body When You Never Move?

being active to stay healthy

Our culture today is experiencing a lifestyle shift unlike any other. As modern technology continues to skyrocket toward the future, an almost perfect negative correlation can be found in the amount of physical activity the average individual performs.

While the perils of a sedentary lifestyle are pretty well known now, I want to go into a few specifics with you.

How inactivity affects your muscular system

A common trend you’ll notice as you read through this post is the body’s remarkable ability to re-allocate resources to specific parts as it deems necessary. Muscles a clear example of this and one that you can observe quite quickly if you do choose a sedentary lifestyle.

When the muscular system is not frequently exposed to outside stresses and resistances that require muscle tissue to contract and shorten, the body notices and begins to decrease the amount of nutrients and oxygen the muscle receives.

Naturally, this leads in turn to a reduction in overall muscle size and strength. On the contrary, if the body realizes that a muscle or group of muscles is being asked to handle an increased workout on a consistent basis, these structures will receive a greater influx of nutrients, thereby increasing in both size and force output.

In other words, don’t use your muscles and you’ll lose them, which brings a number of related health issues, such as slowed metabolism, risk of falls, reduced immunity, inability to handle the normal activities of daily living and more.

BUT, use your muscles and challenge them to greater work through resistance training and they’ll get stronger and increase in mass meaning you’ll burn more calories at rest, everything you do will take less effort, you’ll boost your immunity and you’ll have reduced risk of falls.

What not moving does to your skeletal system

Our bones are specifically designed to provide an overall framework for the body, protect vital organs, store nutrients and specific types and cells and manage the perpetual effect of gravity. When an individual’s lifestyle is devoid of adequate physical activity, the skeletal system, as with most other body systems, begins to deteriorate due to a decrease in the nourishment it receives.

The overall strength of a bone is usually described in terms of bone mineral density (BMD). Processes such as prolonged periods of inactivity and ageing are marked by an increase in this parameter. Quite obviously, decreased bone mineral density is highly correlated to increase breaks and fractures, as well as reduced overall functionality an individual maintains so it’s definitely not something you want to encourage.

Inactivity and your cardiovascular system

No matter how inactive you choose to be, your heart won’t join you lounging around on the sofa doing nothing.  It will carry on beating as long as you’re alive but although your heart will continue to function despite an inadequate amount of movement, it is far from immune to it.

Just a few examples of how lack of movement negatively affects the heart are a weaker, less efficient contraction, decreased oxygen uptake and obstructed flow of blood the through body. These issues force the heart to work much harder to keep you alive, which inevitably decreases the lifespan of the heart itself.

What not moving does to your metabolism and subsequently your weight

Probably the most visibly obvious consequence of not moving enough is an increase in body weight, oftentimes leading to obesity. Your body has a specific amount of calories it requires to maintain vital structures such as the heart, brain and liver.  This is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate.  It’s the number of calories your body needs to keep you alive. The calories you eat over your BMR is allocated to provide energy towards physical activity and movement.

In a movement deficit, these leftover calories are not burned and end up being stored somewhere in the body for a later date. As you can probably guess, one of the main storage vessels is adipose tissue or body fat. Digressing back to the effects of inactivity of muscle tissue, specifically the reduction in muscle size due to non-use, metabolism is intricately involved in this process. Lean muscle mass actually has a high demand for calories even while at rest.

The more muscle present in the body, the higher the metabolic rate becomes. To put it simply, there will actually be less of those leftover calories we previously discussed, resulting in less potential for storage in the form of fat.

So that adage that “sitting is the new smoking” is unfortunately very close to the mark.

The Importance Of Strength Training

resistance training for health benefits

When we think of strength training we often think of muscle-bound puffing out their pumped up arms and chests, eating chicken, rice and broccoli day in day out.

And even when we do some resistance training it’s often more for aesthetical reasons that health gains but, having an optimal amount of lean muscle tissue is important for many more reasons other than looking like a movie star.

Having a good proportion of muscle tissue in the body carries a wide array of benefits for everyone.  In fact, it’s essential to ensure you continue to lead a fit, active and independent life for as long as possible.

So, let’s discuss a few reasons why increasing lean muscle tissue is important for more than just looking good on your family beach vacation!

Increased Caloric Expenditure

Most of us know that in order to prevent excess weight gain, the number of calories we consume must be equal to or less than the amount consumed. This is a very straightforward equation. However, when thinking of ways to put this into action, we tend to do one of two things. The first idea is usually attempting to burn excess calories through some form of exercise, usually cardio. The second method is to cut back on the number of calories consumed each day.

While both of these options are beneficial in that they will get the job done, having more lean muscle tissue in the body also burns calories, but in a much more passive way.

Not only does muscle have relatively high oxygen and nutrient demand, but it also maintains a higher temperature than fat or skin. Because of these requirements, lean muscle mass burns a pretty significant amount of calories even at rest. Put simply, the more lean muscle present in your body, the more calories you will burn doing absolutely nothing. Consider this the anatomical version of passive income.

Maintained Vitality With Age

As we age, there are some inevitable declines throughout the body. One of these unfortunate processes is a decrease in overall muscle tissue. As this deterioration of muscle mass happens it puts you at risk for a wide array of injuries and decreased physical ability.

The solution to this issue is to ensure you work on maintaining your existing muscle mass.  However, this does not mean you should try to pack on as much muscle as possible in your younger years and cease working out at a certain age. At every stage of life, we still have the ability to gain muscle as long as we adhere to the basic principles of this process: regular exercise and sufficient nutrition. Long story short, the more muscle mass you have to lose, the less of a decrease in vitality and function you will experience over the course of your lifetime.

Enhanced Immune Function

The immune system works day in and day out to ward off almost constant threats of illness. When illness does occur, this system fights the intruder head on to maintain and restore normal function in the body. When thinking of ways to fortify the immune system, we often turn to vitamin C supplements and other pharmaceuticals to get the job done.

Another method for strengthening the immune system is to increase lean muscle mass. During periods when the immune system is working overtime to maintain your health, there is often a shortage of fuel.

When this occurs, the body actually begins breaking down protein stored in muscle tissue to keep pushing forward. Naturally, the more lean muscle tissue your immune system has available to pull from, the stronger the system becomes as a whole!

I know that there will be some people reading this who will be thinking, but I don’t want to get bulky.  TBH I’m talking about ladies here.  Well, you won’t.  Although you can improve your body composition and increase your muscle mass with a couple of half our resistance sessions a week, it’ takes much, much more to bulk up.

Bodybuilders that you see workout A LOT and they eat masses, absolutely masses of the right foods at the right times.  It takes years of dedication and extremely hard work and control of your diet to look like that and the majority of us just can’t do it, even if we wanted to.

Heartburn – Do you suffer with it and can you help it with diet and lifestyle?

I was recently talking to one of our members and they mentioned they’d been suffering a lot with heartburn recently.  It’s not an uncommon complaint with around half of all adults experiencing it at least once a month and about 10-20% of adults have it at least once a week.

It’s caused by the strong stomach acid creeping up into the oesophagus and feels like a burning sensation, hence the name!  Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing or a sore throat.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that stomach acid isn’t a good thing.  It’s essential for good health and optimal digestion and we need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks.

But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our oesophagus!

Stomach acid doesn’t usually burn the stomach itself because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.  But your oesophagus doesn’t have that same protection.  What it does have is a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and stomach acid in the gut where it’s supposed to be).

When this valve isn’t working properly your oesophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.

If you suffer with heartburn and have done for a while then it’s probably a good idea to visit your GP but I’m going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally.

Tip #1 – Foods to eat (and avoid)

You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterwards. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.

Heartburn might also result from a sneaky food intolerance. You could try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for a few weeks and see if that helps.

Often, people don’t realise that they have an intolerance to a food because they eat it so often, they just assume that how they feel is normal.  It’s not until you remove the food for a few weeks and then try to re-introduce it that you’ll really notice how it makes you feel.

Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”

Try increasing fibre intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.

Tip #2 – How and when to eat

Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. Don’t eat meals that are too big.

And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.#

Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques

Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on strength training and low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling.

If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two so your head is a bit higher than your stomach.

Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from “leaking” into your oesophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. So, when you’re lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve.

Conclusion

Heartburn is a very common condition where stomach acid creeps up into the oesophagus (where it’s not supposed to be).

If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn, there are many things you can do. There are foods and drinks to avoid and veggies to increase. You can eat slower, chew more thoroughly, and don’t lie down within 2-3 hours of eating. Also, try low-intensity exercise and sleeping on your left side.

Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms for you.

What to Eat For A Healthy Brain

food for a healthy brain

We all know that eating a healthy diet is one of the most important things to do in order to maintain or improve our quality of life. Normally the benefits that come to mind when we think of eating healthy are weight loss or reducing excess body fat, reducing or managing cholesterol to promote cardiovascular health and allowing the guts and digestive system to function properly.

Every one of these benefits is certainly true and has a massive impact on our quality of life. But one really important reason to maintain a proper diet that is grossly understated is the positive effects this habit has on the brain!

The brain may be the control centre of the body, but this organ depends on a necessary supply of nutrients in exactly the same way as all the body parts it manages. The focus of this blog post will be to illustrate a few key nutrients that allow the brain to maintain its heavy workload and optimize overall function.

Omega-3

Omega-3 is what is known as an essential fatty acid. This means that our bodies do not naturally produce this substance; therefore, it must be supplied solely through the foods we eat. Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in a variety of foods that meet the needs of those adhering to a wide variety of diets. Oily fish products such as salmon and mackerel are loaded with this substance, while those following a vegan diet can turn to various seeds such a flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

Not only does omega-3 ensure the proper production of the hormone responsible for feelings of well-being, serotonin, consuming adequate amounts of this nutrient has repeatedly been linked to slowing cognitive decline and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease! You can read more about this in a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Kulzow et al.).

Vitamin K

 This nutrient is yet another tool in consuming a diet that supports optimal brain function. Vitamin K is known to aid in the function of neurotransmitters, which are basically the vehicles of the brain that carry information along the synapses.

Synapses can be thought of as the highway system of the brain in which information is shared. This remarkable benefit of Vitamin K is supported in a report published in the journal, Frontiers in Neurology, entitled “The Relationships Between Vitamin K and Cognition: A Review of Current Evidence (Ludovico et al.).

To make sure you are consuming enough vitamin K, try to consume various green leafy vegetables such as broccoli.

Turmeric

Despite being well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and being a delicious herb that can be added to many food recipes.  Turmeric also has significant effects on the brain when and intake is adequate.  Turmeric is known to contain the powerful antioxidant, curcumin, which has been shown time and time again to both enhance memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells.

The well-known research journal, Geroscience, described a study entitled, “Efficacy of curcumin for age-associated cognitive decline: a narrative review of preclinical and clinical studies” (Sarker et al.) in which researchers discovered a positive correlation between the consumption of curcumin and cognitive decline.

While this herb is probably best known for its role in creating many curry dishes, turmeric can also be used as a tasty additive to many other foods.

Conclusion

 A healthy diet should be a priority for every individual for an immense list of reasons. Given that the nutrients we consume are quite literally the fuel source for the body, every effort should be made to ensure our engines are able to safely keep us on the road for the long haul!

References:
Alisi, L., Cao, R., Angelis, C. D., Cafolla, A., Caramia, F., Cartocci, G., … Fiorelli, M. (2019). The Relationships Between Vitamin K and Cognition: A Review of Current Evidence. Frontiers in Neurology, 10. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00239
Külzow, N., Witte, A. V., Kerti, L., Grittner, U., Schuchardt, J. P., Hahn, A., & Flöel, A. (2016). Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Memory Functions in Healthy Older Adults. Journal of Alzheimers Disease, 51(3), 713–725. doi: 10.3233/jad-150886
Sarker, M. R., & Franks, S. F. (2018). Efficacy of curcumin for age-associated cognitive decline: a narrative review of preclinical and clinical studies. GeroScience, 40(2), 73–95. doi: 10.1007/s11357-018-0017-z

 

 

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Avo Breakfast Bowl

Breakfast can often be one of the hardest meals to get right.  A lot of conventional “breakfast” foods are high in carbs and low in protein so it’s really good news when you come across a tasty recipe with the right balance.

This recipe serves 2.

Nutrition per serving: 417 kcal, 24g Fats, 28g Carbs, 23g Protein

What you need:

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. hot paprika

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the potato cubes over it evenly. Drizzle with half a tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes, then toss them around and roast for another 10, until browned.  You can do this the day before and add them with the peppers so they re-heat

In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the diced pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.

Next, add in the eggs and egg whites and cook for five minutes, mixing and folding them in with the onion and pepper. Stir in the garlic powder and season with salt, and pepper

Add in the tomatoes and heat them until softened. Next, add the roasted sweet potatoes and stir to combine.

Divide the eggs between two bowls and top with the diced avocado, sprinkle with hot paprika. Serve immediately.

Dealing with Isolation When You Live Alone

Isolation at home when you live alone can be a lot harder than when you have family or roommates to bond with. This time when you are pretty much completely isolated from other people might cause panic, stress, worsened anxiety, and a disconnect from society in general.

Here are some ways to cope.

Add Self-Care to Your Daily Routine

You probably already know that having a routine is going to help a lot if you are in quarantine or self-isolating, especially if you are living alone. But one thing that helps even more is when you add some self-care to your routine. If you are working from home, you need breaks every day where you focus on your own needs. One day, this might mean going for a walk or doing an indoor workout. Other days, you might want to read for fun or take a bath. What it is doesn’t matter, as long as it makes you feel better, happier, and more relaxed.

Socialise Online or Through Video Chats

Remember that you are physical distancing, not social distancing. You should still connect with others, get and give support, and keep socializing as much as you can. This might mean talking to your friends through social media, texting or calling your loved ones, or even using the various video conferencing programs out there. It can make you feel connected, even though you are at home alone.

Learn Something New

Make a list of anything you have been wanting to learn, but haven’t dedicated the time because you were too busy with other things. This might be a foreign language or sign language, a new skill, playing an instrument, or perfecting a handstand. Now is the time to practice and learn something new! You are at home alone with all this free time, so why not take full advantage?

Take Time to Journal and Self-Reflect

Journaling is beneficial throughout the year no matter what you’re doing but can be even more therapeutic while in quarantine or if you are alone at home for any other reason. Your journal allows you to self-reflect, explore how you are feeling, discover ways to improve your life right now, set goals, and find clarity. Try to dedicate at least a few minutes every day to write in your journal. You can use journaling prompts, write about a specific topic, or just write about whatever comes to your mind.

 

 

 

At-Home Self-Care Options

At home self care

If you’re still self-isolated or quarantined at home, it is easy to just sit in front of the TV or Netflix all day, or constantly check the news and social media for updates, but this is only going to make your stress worse. Instead, you should be focusing on adding more self-care into your routine.

Take Social Media and News Breaks

The first way you can practice self-care is by giving yourself breaks from both the news and social media. It is a lot of information, debates, and numbers to absorb constantly. You should not be checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the news online and on your TV all day long. This is going to lead to stress, panic, and anxiety.

If you feel overwhelmed by everything going on, give yourself breaks away from your phone and computer, or at least log out of social media and watch anything but the news.

Find Fun Activities to Move Your Body

Exercise doesn’t have to feel like work. During this time of being home, don’t make exercise out to be punishment for eating extra cookies or some kind of challenge to change your body. Instead, focus on making it fun and healthy for you and your family. If you have kids at home, get them involved. Do soothing exercises that are good for self-care, like yoga or stretching, go for walks, and try new workouts at home.

Add in Creative Activities During Your Day

Self-care also means doing something just for you that makes you happy. If you are a creative person, this might mean arts or crafts. Maybe you haven’t used for your crafts in a while, or you have been wanting to use those watercolours in your room, but haven’t had the free time. Now is the time to take advantage of being home and really let your creative sparks fly.

Try Pampering at Home

The salons and day spas are closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pamper yourself! This is a common form of self-care and one you shouldn’t underestimate. IT can feel amazing to paint your nails, use new skincare products, take a hot bath, or put on a face mask. It is simple inexpensive, and something to do for yourself while at home.

Practice Meditation or Mindfulness

Lastly, relax your mind and body with meditation or mindfulness. With meditation, you can practice breathing exercises that let you clear your mind and focus on positive energy. If you prefer mindfulness, you will appreciate what is in this moment, without worrying about the past or stressing about the future.

 

 

 

5 Tips for Reducing Stress While Home Alone

When you are spending a lot of time at home alone, whether in self-isolation or because you are ill, it can be really easy to get stressed out. Right now, the pandemic around the world is creating enough stress on its own, but it gets worse when you have to be quarantined alone.

If you are experiencing signs of stress like constant worry and panic, problems sleeping, unusual eating habits, and increased use of alcohol or drugs, then the following tips can be very useful for you.

  1. Limit How Often You Watch the News

It can be hard to walk away, but if you are currently staying home because of the Coronavirus pandemic, you really need to be careful with how much time you are devoting to updates. While you don’t want to unplug completely, try to limit how often you watch the news. Try getting your updates just once a day – they repeat a lot of information, so that is really all you need. Choose just one way to get your news, and leave it at that.

  1. Have “No Social Media” Blocks

When you are spending a lot of time alone, social media can seem like a good way to keep up with your friends and family. While it definitely helps, you might notice that absorbing too much of it is hurting your mental health. If you find that you feel fine before logging on, then are in a bad, irritable, sad, or upset mood after checking Facebook or Twitter, it’s time to limit your time on social media.

A better strategy is to have blocks of time where you don’t use social media at all. The length of time depends on your routine, but try for blocks of 1-2 hours at a time.

  1. Take Care of Your Mental Health

To reduce stress while you are spending a lot of time home alone, you want to focus on your mental health. This can help you reduce anxiety.  Try to focus on other things than the ones that are most concerning to you.  Taking action and doing something just for you helps.

For example, if you need fresh air, head outside to go for a walk. Keep your distance from others if you are social distancing, but just getting outside in the fresh air and getting some exercise is amazing for your emotional health. Some other ideas include reading, doing meditation, and participating in baking or making crafts.

  1. Take Care of Your Physical Health

In addition to your mental health, you can reduce stress by taking care of your body as well. This includes getting more exercise, eating a nutritious diet, and drinking water. But keep in mind that eating healthy doesn’t mean being on a restrictive diet or never having treats. Don’t burden your mind right now with dieting or weight loss. Just try to balance your meals and snacks with something healthy that also includes some indulgent treats.

  1. Socialize From a Distance

Even when you need to keep your physical distance from others, you can still socialize! Connect with friends or loved ones on Zoom or FaceTime, text or call them, or just talk online when you get the chance.

How to Focus on Your Mental and Physical Health (When You’re Home)

Whether you are quarantined and on self-isolation or just spending more time at home, you need to focus on both your mental and physical health. They are both vital to keeping your sanity and focusing on general wellness.

Take it Easy and Give Yourself a Break

During this time, try not to stress about being perfect and doing everything right. Nobody can “win” at being home and being productive. Whether you’re shielding, self-isolating or have been furloughed, putting too many expectations on yourself is going to make your stress and panic worse. This will severely affect your mental health.

Give yourself a break and remember you are trying your best. Set small goals that can be achieved easily, but be open and flexible for things to change.

Know What You Need Right Now

What are your biggest needs right now? Take a few minutes to consider what you need the most, both for your mental and physical health. Using a journal is a great way to do this. Write down anything you think would improve your life while at home, or would make it easier.

This might mean having a schedule or routine, talking to friends online or on the phone, finding a therapist who you can work with remotely, getting in a little exercise or getting more fresh air. The sooner you understand what you need the most, the faster you can switch up your schedule to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Get Your Body Moving

While at home, try to find ways to get exercise and move your body. This can be both exercises inside and outside your home. If you are on strict quarantine and can’t go outside, then find online workouts you can do. There is a lot that can be done even without equipment, like stretching, yoga, Pilates, and bodyweight workouts.  Don’t forget we’ve got a some great workout templates in our fitness app or you can follow our video workouts if you’d prefer.

If you can go outside, go for a walk, walk the dogs, do some gardening or home improvements, or take a family stroll every evening.

Combine Treats with Nutrition

While nutrition is very important for your physical health, restricting yourself and trying to be on a “diet” while in isolation is not going to do your mental health any favours. An easy method is to trade a treat for every nutritional thing you eat. If you are going to have a piece of fruit as a snack, maybe add a few pieces of dark chocolate. Have dessert after your healthy dinner, or enjoy popcorn or a few nuts while watching a movie after dinner.

Recipe: Raspberry Breakfast Trifle

Trifle for breakfast?  Surely not… oh but it’s so quick, so yummy and so healthy!

What you need:

  • 2 cups (450g) cottage cheese
  • 10 oz. (300g) raspberries
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 8 tbsp. muesli

What you need to do:

Place the cottage cheese, 2/3 of the raspberries and honey into a high-speed blender and blitz until smooth (you can also use Greek yoghurt instead of cottage cheese). Keep the rest of the raspberries for garnish.

Prepare 4 not too big glasses or jars and layer the trifle.

Start with a layer of raspberry cheese, 1 tbsp of muesli, and some fresh raspberries. Continue until you use all of the ingredients.

Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator until required.