Sitting to Death

According to a study done by the American Journal of Epidemiology stated that sitting more than 6 hours raises your death risk. The study said even if they exercised, women who sat 6 or more hours a day were 37% more likely to die over a 13-year period than people who sat less than three hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day had an 18% higher risk of death over a 13-year period than men who sat 3 or fewer hours a day.

The death risk was even higher for people who don’t work out and the least active women in the study who also reported the highest amount of sitting were 94 percent more likely to die than those who said they sat the least and exercised the most. For men, it was 48%, the study said.

Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin,” American Cancer Society researcher Alpa Patel, Ph.D., said in a statement. By including an office workout as a vital aspect to your work day will add to a healthy lifestyle.

death-by-sitting

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Burn More Calories While Doing Nothing

This is what we all want, right?  Let’s be honest, the idea of receiving maximum benefits for minimum efforts sounds pretty sweet.  Almost too sweet.  Well, it is possible – but (ah yes, there’s always a ‘but’!), we need to kick-start the whole process first.

Our metabolism is like an engine that runs all day long, it never really stops, it constantly burns energy (calories).  When we are active, our body is expending more energy, thereby burning more calories than when we are inactive.  However, even when we’re sitting around on the couch, we’re burning calories.  This is called our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the energy we burn at rest.  Therefore, whether we lose weight or gain weight depends greatly on how efficiently our metabolism is functioning.  A slow running metabolism is inefficient at burning calories and can lead to weight gain, whereas, a fast running metabolism efficiently burns calories at a higher rate throughout the day, even when you are doing nothing!  The key is not only to burn enough calories during activity, but to keep the metabolism revved up during rest, that is, to increase our BMR.  This is what leads to successful long-term weight loss.

BMR Facts

BMR is based on a number of factors like our gender, age, weight, height, the amount of fat or muscle we carry around, plus a host of other genetic factors that vary from person to person.  BMR calculators can provide a general idea of your BMR.  Here are some key numbers to keep in mind:

  • Number of calories burned at rest = 12 cal per lb per day
  • Number of calories burned by muscle = 30 – 50 cal per lb per day
  • Number of calories burned by fat = 3 cal per lb per day

The numbers obviously speak for themselves.  Muscle tissue is metabolically active and burns 10-15 times more calories than fat.  This is an important fact to keep in mind when considering how to go about revving our metabolism.

Our lifestyle, our habits, our nutritional choices directly affect our metabolic rate.  There are a number of things we can do to ensure that our metabolism is functioning optimally all day long.

#1 Muscle is Metabolism

We already know that regular exercise is important for weight loss.  However, all exercises are not created equal and will not deliver the same results.  Remember, muscle burns way more calories than fat, therefore, the focus of exercise should be to build more muscle.  A regular strength and resistance training program will not only help build lean muscle but will burn more calories.  Muscle increases your BMR which means the calorie burn from weight training continues long after your workout is done.

#2 Muscle is Made in the Kitchen

What we eat, when we eat, how often we eat have a great effect on our metabolism.  In order to support the hard work we put in at the gym, we need to feed our body clean, natural foods.  Nutrition accounts for approximately 80% (if not more) of the fat loss battle.  We should try to eliminate as many refined and processed foods as we can from our regular diet.  This type of change does not have to take place overnight.  In fact, I don’t recommend that anyone make drastic changes as it would be an unrealistic approach.  Small, incremental changes made regularly are more likely to stick and become habits rather than drastic changes.  The focus of a healthy diet should be on nutrient-dense foods rather than calorie-dense foods.

How much and how often we eat is very important in keeping the metabolism stoked.  Eating less is a common misconception regarding weight loss, in fact, to lose weight we need to eat more often.  On average, we should try to eat 6 small meals throughout the day to keep our blood sugar levels stable and our metabolism humming.

#3 Chill Out

Stress plays havoc on our metabolism and our health in general.  The mind-body connection has been given much attention as of late.  For our optimal well-being it is essential for us to practice stress management on a regular basis.  Stress throws our body out of balance and in order to restore homeostasis our body responds by releasing stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline).  Both cortisol and adrenaline are released by the adrenal glands at the same time, but we feel the effects of this a few hours later.

Cortisol is a powerful appetite stimulant which researchers suggests may interfere with our brain’s normal hunger signals.  Cortisol causes us to crave foods that our body can quickly convert to energy to deal with the threatening situation – stress.  We, therefore, end up craving simple sugars and carbs in the form of refined foods and sweets.  Cortisol not only promotes weight gain, but it affects where you put on the extra pounds.  Elevated cortisol levels generally cause weight gain in the abdominal area.  Increased abdominal fat is dangerous as it increases our risk of developing  cardiovascular disease.  Managing stress is crucial to our well-being especially in our fast-paced lifestyles.  Combating the effects of cortisol is simple, and it doesn’t necessarily involve yoga or tai chi, just 30 minutes of moderate level physical activity of any kind daily can significantly reduce stress.

Training with a Friend

Our friends are always the ones we spend time with on weekends, in the evenings and even at the office, so why not bring that relationship into the gym and both benefit?  Training with a friend always brings out a higher level of accountability as well as an added edge of competitiveness!  This can serve as the perfect source of motivation to begin the fitness journey and have a lot of fun while you’re at it!

Who’s Your BFF?

Who’s your Best-Fitness-Friend?  What about your best friend who’s been telling you he/she needs to get to the gym?  A co-worker?  A family member?  Couples can have great success training together as well.  Bear in mind, just because you’re friends doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make great training partners.  When choosing a training partner, it’s important to find a person who has similar fitness goals as yourself and is at a similar fitness level.  This will allow the training sessions to flow better, making them more efficient, and you’ll get more from your one hour.

Sync Your Schedules and Goals

Making a plan of attack on times to meet, as well as coordinate your specific fitness goals is in my opinion, just as important as the work out itself. The work out schedule needs to be convenient for both parties so that there are no excuses.  Sit down together and plan out a schedule; put it in your calendar just like any other appointment, and then stick to it.  Make a pact to help each other stick to it.

Take some time to individually identify some SMART goals and then review them together to ensure they are in sync. And here’s the best part about training with a friend:  use the buddy system to hold one another accountable and push each other to reach those goals.  This is a proven recipe for success!

Dare To Suck!

What I mean by “dare to suck” is this:  you will always be what you’ve always been if you always do what you’ve always done.  Step out of your comfort zone and use each other to get fired up and complete your mission. Don’t be afraid to challenge each other and dare to suck while doing it!  The important thing is that you’re daring to go beyond your limitations, and this is when the magic happens.  In terms of fitness, this is how you get results!

Study after study show that support is the key to success in anything we do!  Getting healthy is no different.  Here are some of the many benefits of training with a friend…

  • Extra motivation and accountability
  • Fosters friendly competition – to make each other work harder!!!
  • Fun and enjoyment
  • Saves money OR allows them to train more regularly
  • Encouragement and support
  • Improves relationships
  • Increases chances of success and gets results!

fitTip: Watch your Posture! Stand and Sit Up Straight

No slouching or hunching, please!  Whether you are sitting, standing or engaging in any activity, maintaining proper posture is so crucial.

Poor posture is the major cause of work-related back problems.  The spine wasn’t designed to sit in front of a computer or behind the steering wheel of a car for long periods of time.  But, as reality has it,  these activities are here to stay and we need to be proactive in finding ways to prevent injury to our spine.  We’re all guilty of slouching or hunching at our computer, however, consciously correcting our posture throughout the day is one way of being preventative.

Good posture requires core activation.  Proper core activation is something that needs to be practiced regularly, and only with practice, will it become a habit.  Until it becomes subconscious, we need to consciously check ourselves throughout the day and make sure we are engaging our core muscles.

Core activation requires the contraction of the deep abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominus, and the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles (which I often refer to as the “pee” muscles).  Together, these muscles, when contracted, help to support and protect the spinal cord from stress and injury.

How do you properly activate the core muscles?  Pretend to blow out a candle by deeply exhaling.  This action causes a contraction of the transverse abdominus which is responsible for forced exhalation.  Now, once the core is activated, we need to make sure our torso is upright and our spine is straight.  Imagine a puppet string attached to the top of your head; pretend to pull that string straight up, therefore, straightening out your spine.  The last part requires pulling our shoulders and head back.  And there you have it, perfect posture!

By practicing this as often as you can, where ever you are, you’ll become aware of your posture and will eventually be able to catch yourself slouching or hunching.  Good posture will not only save your back, but it’ll make you appear more confident, and taller!

Avoid Long Weekend Weight Creep

After weeks or months of marking X’s on the calendar, the long weekend is finally here. If you’ve been diligently sticking to your fitness and nutrition plan, then there is no reason why you can’t let loose a little. The key here is to let loose ‘a little’ and not go overboard. You don’t want to sabotage all the progress made so far. Spending time with family and friends almost always involves food and lots of it. It’s easy to eat mindlessly when you’re in good company and there’s a smorgasbord of goodies all laid out. The calorie count can rack up real fast! Let’s not forget all the liquid calories we consume in sugary alcoholic beverages.

Here are some tips on how you can keep the long weekend festivities from destroying your efforts in the gym:

#1   Squeeze in a quick workout to allow for the extra calories and to keep the metabolism revved.

#2   Be mindful of portion sizes

#3   Choose healthier foods rather than calorie-dense foods. It’s ok to have a cheat day but even that should be within limits.

#4   Drink responsibly and wisely. Alcohol packs a double whammy, not only is alcohol high in calories but it also impairs your body’s ability to burn fat as efficiently. So, choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks and try to avoid sugary mixers.  Cheers!

#5  Have fun!

Happy long weekend everyone!

Goal-Setting Leads to Faster Weight loss

Ask yourself, “would you take a road trip without mapping out a plan”?  Probably not.  When mapping out your road trip, what’s the most important thing to consider?  Your destination, of course, where are you going?  Starting a journey without a destination in mind could leave you wandering around aimless, not really getting anywhere.  Most people, however, use common sense when planning trips, events, holidays, etc., in order to ensure a desirable outcome.  Then why is it that, when it comes to our health, well-being, fitness, and exercise, we don’t apply the same prudent approach as we do when planning other important things in our lives?  Why is common sense not so common when it comes to good nutrition and exercise?  Many a times, we may have the right intentions, but somehow end up side-tracked and going against what we know to be common sense.  Why does this happen?  The answer is plain and simple – lack of focus.

Are You Fuzzy or Focused?

It has been said that successful people are successful because they are very clear about their values.    Unsuccessful people are fuzzy or unsure.  Complete failures have no real values at all.

What’s Important to You? – What do you value?

You must begin by determining what’s important to you.  Do you value your health?  Is your future well-being and quality of life important to you?  Do you value yourself enough to make healthy lifestyle habits a priority?  These are big questions that must be addressed before you can move forward to devise a plan.

Set SMART Goals

Most of us have, at some point, made resolutions to eat better, exercise more, or lose weight.  But what happens to these resolutions as time goes on?  They usually fizzle out.  Life gets in the way, and for whatever reason, our resolution fades into the background and is no longer in the forefront of our mind.

Resolutions are often just wishful thinking, and until you put it in writing, it is simply a pipe-dream. Writing out your goal makes it concrete, now it becomes a commitment, and now it can act like a map, guiding you to your destination.  Goals are not difficult to set, however, effective goal-setting involves some thinking and planning.  The most effective type of goals are SMART goals.

SMART goals are written out so they can be reviewed regularly, and thus, are less likely to be forgotten or neglected.  To turn a simple resolution into a SMART goal, you must make it:

  • Specific – State in detail exactly what you want.
  • Measurable – You must be able to measure your goal in some way in order to know when you’ve achieved it.  State specific quantity, time-frame, cost, etc., anything that can be measured.
  • Attainable – What are you willing to do to achieve your goal?  Goal must be within your control, in other words, you must be in control of whether it can be achieved or not.  The achievement of your goal should not be dependent on external factors.  By setting a goal outside your control, you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Relevant – You must ask yourself, “Can I do this?”  If there is any doubt in your mind that you may not be able to achieve your goal, then you probably won’t put in the required effort.  A goal is unrealistic or irrelevant unless you’re confident about achieving it and are willing to give it your 100% effort.
  • Time-bound – Set a deadline for achieving your goal.  This gives you a target and creates a sense of urgency.

What is an example of a SMART goal?

Not a SMART goal:  I want to lose some weight.

SMART goal:

  • Specific:  I want to lose 20 lbs.
  • Measurable:  Weekly weigh in and recording body measurements.
  • Attainable:  Eliminating fast food and eating more veggies; exercising 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week, reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity
  • Relevant:  Losing 1-2 lbs per week
  • Time-bound:  target can be reached in 15 weeks

Achieving success is not necessarily difficult, but not easy either.  It requires discipline, focus and a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.  Simply stating, ‘I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to be fit’ is not good enough.  If it really were that simple, then we would already have everything we want.  Whatever your goals are, plan them out thoroughly by writing them down, and review them every single day.  This will bring focus and clarity.  Clarity is the key to success.  The clearer you are about what you really want, the more successful you will be.

Get Motivated!

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” ~ Zig Ziglar

It’s going to happen!  You might as well be ready for it!

Most people struggle with their motivation when it’s regarding exercise or eating healthier.  There may be times when your motivation will seem as far-fetched as six-pack abs.  This is completely normal and anyone striving to make lifestyle changes should have a coping strategy in place  to deal with this situation when it arises.

The key to gaining better control and mastering your motivation is to understand what motivates you.

Our natural instincts move us towards pleasure and away from pain. It’s that simple.

By human nature, we will do more to avoid pain. It’s a fact that most people react rather than act, meaning, they first need a wake-up call or some sort of “pain” (ex:  heart attack, diabetes, etc.) before moving into action.

Motivational experts skillfully associate pain and pleasure and use them in behavior modification.  Whether it’s the words they use, the thoughts they think, the images they visualize, or the actions they take … they stack up pain deliberately to discourage undesirable behaviors, and they promote pleasure to encourage new desirable behaviors, or to reinforce good habits.

Here are 8 Strategies you can use to keep yourself motivated and on the track to getting real results.

1. Find Your Reasons Why

You need to figure out a compelling purpose.  For example, if your goal is to lose 25 lbs, you need to identify WHY that’s important to you.  Is it to feel sexier for your spouse, fit into that old pair jeans, or feel more confident?  Once you identify your initial reason, keep asking “why?” to dig deeper and finally come up with true reason that will motivate you!

2. Connect to Your Core Values

This is the ultimate secret. If you can connect the process (ex. exercise and eat healthier) to your core values, even in small ways, you can change your game.  For instance, some core values might include freedom, happiness, love, connection, family, or growth.  Figure out what matters most to you and work from there.

3. Change Your Mindset

You can instantly find more enjoyment in exercising by shifting your mindset from “having to workout” to “getting to workout”.  Often, people say, “I’ve got to workout!”.  This phrase leaves the person feeling compelled and thus less empowered.  Instead, consider adopting the phrase, “I get to workout!”.  Now, all of a sudden, this puts the person in a state of gratitude instead of obligation. Big difference!

4. Find your Happy Place

Remember how good it feels after you’ve had a great workout session or you’ve eaten a healthy meal.  Find a way to anchor that feeling within yourself so that anytime the going gets tough, you can easily revert back to your “happy place” to remind yourself why you do this.

5. Use Reference Points From Past Successes

Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed or unsure of your ability to achieve a good workout or prepare a healthy meal.  However, if you can think back to similar situations in the past where you were successful, then you can realize that it’s possible to do again. For example, if you were once able to do 12 push ups in a row, then draw from that experience and reassure yourself that you can or will be able to do it again.

6. Find a Visual Reminder

A visual tool such as a photograph or a piece of clothing can serve as a reminder of your weight-loss goals and your progress.  Find something that reminds you of why you began this journey and put it somewhere you can see it everyday.  This visual reminder can be a motivational phrase written on a piece of paper, a magazine photo of your ideal body, a photo of yourself when you were in better shape, a bikini or dress or pair of jeans you’d like to eventually fit into.  Whatever you choose, the important thing to keep in mind is that this visual tool must be realistic.  When the going gets tough, use this tool to pull yourself back on track.

7. The Buddy System

Pair up with someone who shares similar fitness goals as you and together, you can support and help each other through the rough spots. This is one of the greatest advantages of partner-training.  Training with a friend can take your workouts to a whole new level and save you both $$.

8. Take Action and Reward Yourself

Here’s a secret that once you know it and apply it, can change your life.

Action comes before motivation.

Instead of waiting to feel motivated to get started, go ahead and take action, the motivation will follow, especially if you have a reward waiting yourself.  You might not always look forward to your workouts and I’m sure there are a zillion excuses you could make for skipping out, but if you can push aside those negative thoughts and just get started, not only will you feel great about getting your workout done, but you’ll feel empowered and more confident for not giving in.  Once your workout is done, reward yourself with something that makes you feel good – and preferably not a piece of chocolate cake!

Try these Motivation Strategies and see how  they can empower you to take action and stick to it!  And remember, take it one day at a time.  Good Luck!

“Success is in the sum of small efforts repeated day in & day out” ~ Robert Collier