Wellness

Behavior Change, Wellness

Finding Movement in the Day


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Part of a healthy lifestyle is moving our bodies and the benefits are enormous. While we think of movement primarily as exercise – going to the gym, getting out for a run, a bike ride, or a yoga class – movement is more than structured activities. Both exercise and movement are essential parts of health and here is why I advocate for doing both. Exercise usually has more structure to it, like a class (spin, yoga, boot camp, CrossFit) or some specific element of cardio for a particular distance or time (going for a run, elliptical, bike ride) or it can look like a weight lifting session. All of these are good things, and we should seek to make them to our routine. Where movement differs from exercise is in the lack of structure. Movement is often a bit more sporadic and sprinkled in throughout the day–movement is the smaller things that keep us from being too sedentary during the day. This is playing with kids, standing, walking, opening doors, it takes many forms. Often we go to the gym, and we get an hour or so of exercise in and we think we have done our part, that we have “moved.” Then we proceed to sit in our cars on our way to work, sit at our desks and then sit in our cars on the way home from work. We sit at dinner and to read or watch TV. “Sitting is the new smoking” has been a popular phrase recently, and with stand up desks being a new rage we are trending in a better direction. Full disclosure, I use both. But, standing stationary all day is not much different than sitting all day. There are times to sit and times to stand, times to exercise and times to move.
The need for movement is important and while no job is perfect, jobs that involve skilled labor and reduce the amount of time one sits during the day does have an advantage since movement is built into part of their day. This does not imply that someone should change jobs, but it is an option and in some circumstances, a career or job change can provide be a step in a healthier direction. I often think back to the years I spent working as a finish carpenter, it was constant movement, with and without a load, up and down and all around. It felt pretty darn good too. Today my environment has changed, as it has for many of us, and we need to adapt and learn to move within these changes. I am at a desk a lot, more than I have ever been, which has made getting movement more difficult. For a while, I struggled to “find” movement in my day.

These are some tips that I use, and that I have seen others use, to find places to add more movement into my day.
I do have a sit-stand desk, and I do not sit or stand all day, I rotate between the two. When I am standing I am often moving around a bit, shifting weight, this an excellent place for a balance or wobble board as well, personally I have a Plane by Fluid Stance.
When I am standing and need a file, I squat down to open the drawer instead of bending over. I make sure I give my brain a break every 50 minutes and take that moment to walk around, sometimes I go to the stairwell and go up and down a flight of stairs or two.
Taking the stairs is another great way to find more movement. Don’t use the elevator if you don’t have to, or alternate between the stairs and the elevator. I am on the 9th floor of my building, some days I use only the stairs, other days I may take the elevator to the third or the fourth floor and then use the stairs depending on the time I have. I park at the far end corner of the lot as well, adding distance means I have to walk. I park far from almost anywhere I go into to add an element of walking (my wife kids me, saying that I park equal distance from our house to the store). I try to use the manual doors as well. I go for a quick walk around the block during lunch. If I have a long call to be on and the weather is permitting I take the call on my cell phone outside while walking around. I add push-ups to my routine whenever I change my clothes (except at the gym) twice a day, it gives me a chance to move a little more. I add body weight squats here and there. I start my mornings walking our dog around the block. Playing with your kids can be another great way to move. So can dancing around the house while listening to music. Cooking a meal from scratch is also a way to add some more movement and have a better meal, this one is a win-win.

Bike Ride
Biking to work.

Be creative with your environment and find what works for you. Adding more movement to your day requires some self-experimentation. If something doesn’t work well for you feel free to modify it or abandon it and do something different. I like making some things a little harder to get to, just a bit out of the way, even in my home–it forces movement, but there is a balance with this approach. When forming a new habit or creating a routine, one key element is how convenient it is. The more convenient, the easier it is to add the new routine, the more inconvenient, the less likely it will get done. The ease of the task helps break a habit or routine that you want to eliminate.

Habit stacking can be a trick to help add some small movements; it is a tool I use personally and with clients. Recall the pushups I do when I change clothes, that is habit stacking, My cue to do push-ups, (25 if you are wondering), is changing my clothes. The bedroom and act changing my clothes is a daily habit I already have. It can also be something like walking into your office and then doing a few bodyweight goblet squats before sitting at the desk. I have a cup I keep at my desk for water, it is not a big 32oz mega cup I see many others use. It is 14oz; this is intentional. It means I have to refill it many times during the day. Which forces me to walk, adding a bit more movement in my day I would not otherwise get.

Have fun with finding movement in your day, structured exercise is excellent for the mind and body, but movement during the day is also an essential component to a healthy life, be creative in finding ways to move more during the day and have fun in the process of discovering how many new ways you can move.

Recap of Ideas and Ways to Add Movement
– Take the stairs
– Park further away
– Take a mental break from work and to walk
– Add some push-ups or squats
– Use manual doors
– Cook meals from scratch
– Play with kids
– Chores – make them a movement game
– Gardening and yardwork
– Shovel the snow with a shovel
– Go for a walk
– Play with your pets, if you have one
– Alternate sitting and standing
– Use balance and wobble boards
– Climb a tree
– Play on the playground – I love this one, playing on the playground with my daughter is always fun
– Ride a bike
– Have fun and be creative, find small places to habit stack.

 

By Nathan Marsala | Primal Health Coach

Wellness

The Need for Sleep


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Sleep – That thing we all do every single day but give little thought too.
Sleep – That thing that sometimes we feel gets in our way and robs us of our time to do other things.
Sleep – That thing that is vitally important to our health and wellbeing and without it we do not function at our best.
Sleep – That thing like air, water, and food that will cause death when a abstained from for too long.

Sleep is a fascinating thing that we do. We spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping, seemingly doing nothing. It is perhaps this thought that leads many of us to sacrifice a good nights sleep in the name of conquering bigger to-do lists. The lack of sleep has bee worn as a badge of honor in many workplaces, somehow seen as a sign of being a hyper-achiever. But sleep is not nothing, and it is not something that we “just” do. No. A good nights sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. Without a good nights sleep, we are less productive, less creative, have less energy and yes, a lot less healthy.

It is during this seven to nine hours of each day for adults, longer if you are a child or teenager. That our body gets a reboot, it receives the recovery that its needs from a hard days work, it is when the brain gets its refresh if you will cleaning out all of the days build up of plaques and uploading what we learned to long term storage. It is when our hormones get a good reset. Two hormones that many people seem to fight a lot like leptin and ghrelin are reset during sleep; these two hormones regulate our appetite, the former signaling us when we are satiated and the latter when we are hungry. Sleep affects our mood, our ability to focus and to take charge of the day and too often it is ignored.

We need to stop ignoring it and start treating a good nights sleep as an essential and integral part of our health that it is. A good nights sleep is both a matter of the quantity of sleep we get and the quality of sleep we get. The quantity is pretty easy, for most you reading this, that is going to be somewhere between seven to nine hours a night. For those of you who think you do fine on only six hours or even fewer than six hours of sleep. The research begs to differ. I will concede there may be in the extremely rare genetic anomaly among this audience. But by extremely rare I mean extremely rare and you are probably not it. We often do not notice the decline in our cognitive abilities as our sleep deteriorates, we get used to the new normal if you will, but while test subjects often feel they have better functions on this six hours of sleep model, their test results show otherwise. So aim for the seven minimum hours and error on the side of caution and go for the eight. This time does not include the time in bed falling asleep either, which for most people is around 20 minutes. So remember the amount of time spent in bed is not the same as the time sleeping.

Many things can affect our sleep quality and quantity, and many of these items are low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruit that we have control over most days is the amount of blue light we are exposed to in the evening after the sun sets, that amount of caffeine we have and when we consume it, the number of hours we give ourselves to be asleep and when we stop feeding ourselves during the day. We also have control over keeping our routine, a routine for all seven days of the week. And the environment we sleep in, like how dark it is and what temperature the room is at.

Blue Light Exposure
Blue lights are emitted from the screens we watch, TV’s, smartphones, tablets and even some of the CFL and LED light bulbs we have in our homes can be on the cool side and emitting blue light. This blue light is the same blue light that the sun shines down on us that sets our circadian rhythms. We want blue light exposure early in the morning, preferably from the sun and not the phone. In the evening we want to prevent the blue light exposure, exposure keeps the melatonin from ramping up. We need melatonin production to kick up in the evening to signal to our body that its time for sleep. We can reduce or eliminate this exposure by using apps or blue light blocking glasses when we need to, but it is best to turn off screens altogether about 90 minutes before going to bed. Use this time to unwind in other restorative ways, having a friendly conversation, journaling with a pen and paper, reading a book – not on a Kindle or iPad. Be creative with this time, turn the lights down and use lamps, set the mood it is time for bed and the day is over.

Environment
Our bedroom is a critical part of this puzzle to a good nights sleep. A dark room without lights or alarm clocks glowing helps us get a much deeper sleep. The temperature is also important as our body temperature drops slightly at night. Remove the screens and any device that makes light from the room or use a dark tape to tape over the power light indicator. Use blackout shades and curtains to block outside street lights and turn the thermostat down to around 65 degrees.

Timing
Getting the quantity of sleep we need requires some timing and planning on our part. Plan on being done with meals and any other food intake a couple of hours before bed to help our body temperature drop and to give our metabolism a break for the evening so the body can focus on restoring not digesting. It also means looking at what time you need to be somewhere in the morning and how long you need for your morning routine. For example: If work starts at 9:00 AM and your morning routine and commute account for two hours then you need to rise at 7:00 am, so bedtime is 10:30 PM, screens are off at 9:00 PM and dinner were done by 7:30 PM.

Routine
We want to establish a daily routine we can live by most days, that does not mean only Monday through Friday and take the weekends off. That means as much as possible we want to sick the routine for the time we go to sleep and the time we get up in the morning. Over time this routine helps our body naturally find its rhythm for sleeping and being awake. Getting up only for work and then sleeping in on the weekends hurts our circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.

While much of this is not too difficult to do, yes it means we need to adjust a habit or two, the harder request is to make this routine seven days a week now. That’s right, go to bed and wake up each night, including the weekends at the same time. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help your body get into the zone for going to bed and rising, it will allow for waking without an alarm clock, you will also awaken more energetic and more refreshed when you are in a rhythm and can awaken on your own without an alarm clock.

A quick recap – Good sleep –quality + quantity – is essential, it is an integral part of being healthy, and without it, our health suffers. To get a good nights sleep, we can do the following:

Wake up and get some sun on the face
Stop caffeine at an appropriate time of day
Don’t eat too late, especially heavy meals
Turn off our screens 90 minutes before bed
Sleep in a dark, cool room.
Make our bedtime and wake up time a daily habit.

By Nathan Marsala

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