8 simple tips for living a healthy lifestyle
Monday, June 9th 2020
Your Monday Motivation: I believe living simply can be great for your health, and as a coach I think there are eight things you can do to encourage healthier lifestyle choices.
The Roman poet Virgil profoundly stated that “the greatest wealth is health.” Living in the time of a global pandemic, we are quickly realizing that our health is the most valuable thing in life. And when I say health I mean the whole picture: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
We have to remember that there are people who were born with illnesses and chronic diseases, not a result of lifestyle choices. But if you were born healthy – you are lucky to have responsibility for your own health, at least in most cases. You have a choice! I am aware that we don't always have the power over everything that is happening to us in our lives, but we should always strive for the best version of ourselves when it comes to our wellbeing. I often use the phrase: “Be Healthy, Be Happy,” when in reality it can be put as “Being Healthy = Being Happy.” I believe living simply can be great for your health, and as a coach I think there are eight things you can do to encourage healthier lifestyle choices.
1. Eat Well
Hippocrates said many centuries ago, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” And it still holds true today. Healthy eating is the key to wellbeing. Our body needs the right nutrients to function optimally 24/7. The food that we put in our bodies affects all kinds of processes from building up our immune system, to giving us fuel for physical activities, to growing and repairing cells and tissues. Did you know that the food you consume also affects how we think and is responsible for our mood? This topic is very complex and it would be impossible to cover it with a couple sentences. But in my opinion if we follow a couple simple rules in nutrition, we are already on the right track: mostly whole foods, as fresh as possible, lean protein, good fat sources, complex carbs and the less processed foods the better!
2. Move Often
Our bodies were meant for movement. As a species humans are able to walk, run, climb, crawl and swim, but how many hours a day do you actually move? The answer is unique to every individual, just like the kind of physical activities we choose. Nowadays (many) people spend most of their time SITTING. In those situations I advise that the more you sit at work the more you should move afterwards to balance it out. Often people go from the desk to the car and from the car to the couch – AUTCH! Our body works like an engine that has to be oiled to move properly, the ‘oiling process’ happens only when we move. The stronger the muscles, the stronger the connective tissues, the stronger the bones, the better for our bodies as we age. Our organs and processes all benefit from movement, and that movement releases hormones that equip us with natural recovery resources.
Endorphins are our natural pain killers, according to sport and exercise psychologist Dr. J. Kip Matthews, and they get released after a sweat session. They make us feel happy which can affect our emotional and mental health as well, and they assist in recovery after a rigorous workout. It doesn't always have to be a specific type of athletic training. A yoga session, a lunch break walk, a sweat session at a boxing gym, or just a bike ride home instead of using the car, just make sure that you MOVE!
3. Get Sleep
The more you move, the more you should rest and recover. I don't agree with the “no days off” rule when it comes to training. The stress that you put on your body during a workout is necessary for the body to adapt and to change, but that change won´t happen until your body fully recovers. The process is called super-compensation. There are many ways to recover from a physical activity: active rest like yoga, an easy bike ride, self-myofascial release (foam rolling), or total rest which is simply taking a compete day off. The ultimate recovery tool, not just for athletes but for everyone, is a good night sleep. It’s recommended for professional athletes to sleep between 8 to 9 hours, a non-athlete should get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is the “time capsule” where our body produces new cells, and builds and recovers our blood vessels and circulation.
4. Reduce Stress
A good night of sleep is known to reduce stress, the number one killer! A regular sleep schedule and routine calms and restores the body, improving concentration and mood while also sharpening judgment and decision-making. Those are very important points in the area of stress management. Chronic stress is linked to a multitude of health conditions, so in order to live a longer and happier life we need to reduce stress levels to a minimum. “You should meditate twenty minutes a day. Unless you are too busy- then you should sit for an hour,” a belief held by Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon. I think he is 100% right. Meditation is one of the best stress relievers. Simply taking the time to be aware, and in a space away from what’s bothering you can have a profound impact on your day.
What else can help in reducing stress? Staying organized. Creating a daily routine. Practicing gratitude. Spending time with people who makes us feel good. Exercising. Spending time in nature. Finding an activity that brings you joy is the key to offsetting what stress does to our bodies and minds.
5. Find Your Passion
There is a Japanese concept for a happy life and it is simply about finding the reason for living, it’s called “ikigai.” How can you discover your ikigai? You have to find the one thing in life that you are the most passionate about and then find a way to share it with the world. We are all born with amazing talents and we learn skills that make us unique. A great example for a man living his passion was Steve Jobs. Being a genius in technology he found a way to live it, and he made his talent his profession. Waking up in the morning and looking forward to work sounds amazing doesn't it? But there is more to it than that. Your hobbies, your family, your personal life can also play a huge role in living your purpose. Think about being a parent, or a great partner for example. Now before you move onto the 6th method of healthy living, close your eyes and think of something that really sets your heart on fire. What are you great at and what would you do if it wasn't for money? Take that thought and passion and turn it into something actionable. Find your place, find your ikigai.
In Ken Mogis’ book “Ikigai” he stresses that the simplest things in life play a huge role in our health and happiness. In the book, the oldest residents of a Japanese village in Okinawa were asked about their recipes for longevity. The answers were clear: stay active, don't retire, give thanks, take it slow, don't fill your stomach, smile, reconnect with nature, live in the moment, get in shape for your next birthday and surround yourself with good friends! Their favorite activities after work were dancing and socializing with friends. We are social species. Socialization has a huge affect on our mental and emotional health. Psychologists say that person-to-person contact improves not only our self-esteem, but because of the dopamine production in our body (similar to physical activity) this type of interaction has been known to lower our stress and anxiety levels.
7. Be Grateful
If you ever practiced yoga or meditation, or prayed in a church, one of the most important steps in the “prayer” is gratitude. Have you ever asked yourself why? Most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s wellbeing. Lets think about it for a moment. Think about five things that you are grateful for at this moment. How does it make you feel? I am sure your feelings are very similar to the feelings of love and compassion which are proven to have a positive effect on our health. Try starting your mornings with a little gratitude practice. Write down what you are grateful for and make that daily practice into a habit. Give thanks to your family and friends. Be grateful for the small things in life.
8. Live in the Moment
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” I couldn't agree more. We can´t change the past, but we can use it as a teacher. There are many kinds of situations that can make us stronger for the future. I personally believe that we even need to go through difficulties in our lives in order to become stronger and more resistant, just like in the realm of physical fitness. We weaken our bodies in training so that they can adapt and become better and stronger. Dreaming of the future will keep us accountable to our work and in some cases give us great motivation, but let’s be honest, we can’t predict the future. So, working for a better future and having goals and dreams is necessary, but worrying won´t get us anywhere. I always say “worrying makes us suffer twice in case the worries will come true.” By constantly living in the past or future we might miss important moments that are happening right now. If you spend time with your kids, be with them 100%! If you go on a date, forget your smartphone. If you are at work give it your whole focus. This kind of mindset also gives us more opportunities to practice gratitude. Be in the moment and be grateful for it right now.
Start Your Healthy Living Today
Monday is my favorite day of the week. From past experiences with my clients I know that the first day of the week isn't always as loved as the rest of the week. We hear “Happy Friday” and “Sunday Fun-day” but what about the rest of the week? My motto is: HAVE THE BEST DAY EVER (everyday!). Since my passion is to motivate and inspire people to live a healthy and happy life I will share fitness and health related content each Monday in my series called “MOTIV8.” Today you read about my ultimate 8 rules for creating a healthy lifestyle, and I will be expanding on those 8 topics in the following weeks to give you more insights of how attainable living a healthy, but simple, lifestyle can be.
8 Ways to Stay Active Every Day
Monday, June 15th 2020
Exercise doesn’t only happen in a gym — for today’s Monday
Motivation, try these tips for adding more movement to your life.
When we think about physical fitness, we often associate it with a
gym membership and a set training plan. Of course, having a
personal trainer, joining a gym or exercising with a group are very
beneficial if you want to take your fitness to the next level. But is
this the only way to stay fit? Absolutely not. Our bodies are meant
for movement. Since sitting takes many hours of the day, any kind
of natural movement is good to balance it out. There are countless
possibilities when it comes to incorporating movement into our
everyday life. You are probably already using some movement
“hacks” without even knowing how beneficial they are for your
body. There are also a lot of bodyweight moves you can do
anywhere and anytime.
How many of these do you already practice daily, and what else can
you add to your routine?
Sitting at the desk, sitting in the car, sitting on the couch … modern life is full of sitting. In some cases, there are no other options than to sit, but I am sure many of the car rides can be replaced by a walk. Skipping public transportation and walking a couple of blocks to work in the morning will not only give you a few hundred extra steps on your health app, but you will automatically get some fresh air and get your heart rate up. It’s a great way to avoid morning stress as well. Using your lunch break for an outdoor walk has upsides, too: exercise for the body and relaxation for the brain. It’s probably one of the best ways to improve productivity in the afternoon hours. Walking at any time of the day boosts your physical and your mental health.
2. Take the Stairs
Have you ever wondered why taking the stairs gets you out of breath? Your body uses fast-twitch muscle fibers to get you up the stairway. These are the same kind of muscle fibers we use for explosive movements like sprints. You are using big muscle groups such as the glutes, which need a lot of oxygen to work (it can be a shock to the system because you don’t usually warm up before climbing the stairs!). And this is one of the benefits you get from skipping the elevator. Glutes are very important hip muscles that are very inactive in a sitting position. Taking the stairs will activate them and at the same time burn lots of calories. There is a reason why you see plenty of stair machines in modern gyms. Thankfully, there are stairs everywhere. When you have the option to take the escalator, elevator or stairs, you already know what my suggestion would be.
3. Squats (aka Sit Down and Stand Up)
Another great way to activate the glutes during the day is just simply standing up and sitting down on your chair. Try it as a simple, quick break at the desk (or incorporate it in your home workout). Squats are a very natural human body movement and probably one of the first major muscle group moves you did as a toddler (back when the hip mobility was on point). Standing up and sitting down should always feel natural and pain-free. Squats work all leg muscles, and this is what makes this exercise so important. If you are not a squat beginner, you can always try to hold some weight in your hands to make it more difficult.
Trainer tips: wide stance, heels on the floor, chest up, tight core.
A plank works isometrically nearly all muscles in the
body at once. Isometric means static contraction without
any joint movement. Holding a plank literally works your
body without even moving it (which doesn’t mean it is easy!).
Since our core muscles have an anti-rotational and
anti-flexion function, the best way to train the core is
without moving it a lot — the goal is to resist a flexion
through the lumbar spine. So if you want to strengthen
your core, challenge yourself with some planks. This
exercise helps to stabilize the hips and the spine during
other movements. A plank can be very beneficial for
everybody who suffers from lower back problems, and, of
course, for everybody who wants to prevent them. For
advanced plankers, there are a lot of progression variations to try (side planks, lifting one limb, sliding, etc.).
Trainer tips: body in one “line,” keep your abs engaged and prevent extension in the hips. If you feel your lower back, go on your knees first.
The body has a lot of ways to move, and it is able to move its joints in many different directions. Depending on lifestyle and activities, people tend to use some of the functions more than others. This is how imbalances are created. As a trainer, I always advise that people make sure to use both their upper body and lower body, and for both parts incorporate push and pull movements into their training plan. The most popular upper body push exercise is the push-up.
Trainer tips: keep your elbows 45 degrees from the head, move your body as one unit (hips and chest to the floor), tight core. If you are unable to do a push-up, start in an elevated position — on a table, for example — and then work yourself down all the way to the floor.
The opposite of a push movement for the upper body is the pull. Pull-ups,
chin-ups and rows are the most popular ones. I have to admit those are
not the easiest ones to do at home without equipment or a pull-up bar.
Pull-ups work the biggest back muscle and build up a strong upper body
and shoulders. If you have access to a pull-up bar or to any kind of
resistance bands for rows, my advice: Use them! Other activities that
improve the strength for the back muscles and shoulders are swimming
7. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
You don’t have to be a yoga master to know what a down dog looks like. This one you can do anywhere, and it also strengthens the shoulders. But this is just one of the benefits of what is probably the No. 1 pose in yoga practice. If done properly, all the body parts benefit from it, starting with your hands and wrists and moving to your shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons and the arches of your feet. A downward-facing dog doesn’t only strengthen but also stretches the body, especially the posterior chain of muscles — exactly the muscles that are very inactive in our modern sitting world. It’s a perfect exercise to add to your daily routine.
Trainer tips: spread your fingers wide, press through your palms, draw the navel toward the spine and sink the heels toward the floor.
The most important thing about daily movement is that it should make you feel good — you should really enjoy it and have fun! This is the only way to make it a part of your life instead of using it as a tool to just quickly lose weight or get ripped for the summer. Movement is essential for our health and fitness, and this is the reason why we need to find this kind of movement that we really enjoy. As I mentioned before, there are many kinds of physical activities you can find during the day to bring joy and health. It could be playing with your kids, cleaning up the house, riding a bike, playing tennis, dancing, hiking, swimming ... the choice is yours, but I know for sure that if you do it regularly, it will feel more natural and less exhausting. You will feel stronger and fitter tomorrow and 10 years from now. Have fun!