Sunday, October 28, 2018

Easy Ways to Be More Active and Less Sedentary

How can you add some activity to your every day life?  So much to do?  Commute to work.  Sit at a desk job. Commute back home and watch some TV or have some other screen time.  How can you switch up a sedentary lifestyle to a more active lifestyle?  And doing so will lower your risk of a number of diseases.  Just moving more can help one lose weight or keep off the weight you have lost.  And reducing your weight by 5% or more can lower your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  An article in Verywell Health described, 9 Ways to Beat a Sedentary Lifestyle.  What are some of their suggestions and others you can try?
  1. Walking – aim for a 30 minute walk a day.  I used to commute to work, have a desk job, but planned a walk with friends at lunch every day.   No time for 30 minutes?  Then take three 10-minute walks each day. If you commute by bus or train, then get off a few blocks before your stop and walk the rest of the way.   In the morning and at night take your dog for a walk.  Go for a walk in the neighborhood after dinner.
  1.  Stairs – skip the elevator and choose the stairs.  So many people choose the elevator when they are going up or down just one level.  I had a student that was a security guard.  When walking around the building she began always taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  She began to lose some weight and she said she felt a lot better.  And stair climbing is a way to add some more vigorous exercise into your day.  VeryWell notes that stair climbing burns “eight to nine time more energy than sitting.”  In Sweden, they wanted more people to take the stairs instead of the escalator.  They changed the stairs into piano keys.  You “played” the piano as you climbed the stairs.  They found 66% of the people choose the stairs over the escalator as it was more fun.  
  1. Stand Up – answering the phone at your desk, stand up to take the call.  VeryWell suggests standing up every 20 minutes or so.  Take a break and stand up and walk to the water fountain.  Stand up and walk over to a colleague instead of sending an email. 
  2. Move during commercial breaks – instead of watching all those commercials, get up and move.  A good time to get in a few push ups, sit ups if you are trying to shape up, or stand up and march in place.   Or stand up and do some stretching.  Or finish washing the dishes, cleaning the counter, folding clothes.  Anything that will get you moving.  One exercise physiologist suggests stretching five or six times a day.
  1. Park far away – this is one of my favorites.  My car is always FAR away.  This will easily add some steps to your day.  And these extra steps add up. 
  2. Pedometer – get a pedometer or use an App for your phone that will track your steps.  The first week just see how many steps you are walking each day.  If short of the 10,000 steps a day, then try to add 500 steps a day to your average.  In a week or two, add 500 more steps until you get to the 10,000 steps a day. 

This week, try to sit less and move more.  Good for your heart, your waistline and your overall health.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Can you rev up your metabolism?

Are there things you can do to rev up your metabolism?  Yes.  There are things you can do to rev it up in the short run and other things that will rev up your metabolism longer term.  Some people complain they have a slow metabolism and envy those who seem to have a faster metabolism.  Well there are people that will have a faster metabolism than you for a number of reasons.  So why do some people seem to have a more revved up metabolism?  What are the things you can do to boost your metabolism both in the short term and long term?

Who has a faster metabolism?
  • Men – guys will have a faster metabolism than women, even if they are the same height and weight.  Why?  Because guys have more muscle than women.
  • Tall people – the taller one is, the higher their metabolism. 
  • Age – younger people have a faster metabolism than older people.  Metabolism starts to slow after age 40 and some say before that.  It slows about 5% per decade.  But some of this “slowing” is due to loss of muscle and people getting less exercise.  So, as you age, it pays to do some weight training to keep that muscle and to make sure you are getting some exercise every day.
  • Genetics – yes, some people have a faster metabolism than others.  But there are things you can do to influence your metabolism. 

What can you do to boost your metabolism short term?
  • Coffee or Green tea – a cup of coffee or green tea can rev up your metabolism over the short term.  Some articles note about 5-8%.  One study found that metabolism increases for up to 3 hours after your coffee consumption.
  • Water – stay hydrated.  Being even slightly dehydrated can slow your metabolism.  Dr. Clifford Nottingham at the Carilion Clinic notes, “Water is needed for cellular metabolism and in its absence, the metabolic functions slow down.”   Drink cold water when you can as it takes some calories to warm up that water.  And carry some water with you, in the car, going to work or school.  Choose water over soda as drinking a bottle of water instead of a sugar-sweetened soda can save you 240 calories.

What can you do to boost your metabolism longer term?
  • Muscle – lean body mass – As noted above, muscle increases the calories you burn every day, all day long.  So building up some muscle by lifting weights will help boost your metabolism.  One doesn’t have to become a “weight lifter” and bulk up but toning is a good thing.  And after a bout of lifting some weights, your body burns more calories over the next few hours.  How much is enough?  Building muscle through weight training (two sessions a week is ideal) is key to boosting BMR, because lean muscle mass burns about seven to ten calories per pound, while fat burn two or three.     I lift weights twice a week.  Not to build big muscles but to keep toned and to preserve my lean body mass.  
  • Aerobic exercise -  aerobic means you are exercising at a pace that speeds up your heart.  That’s why it is also called “cardio” because you are working the heart muscle.  This revs up your metabolism for a while after you exercise.  But if you do aerobic workouts 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes each time, after a few weeks you have a longer term effect.  The best way to rev up your metabolism is with the high-intensity interval training or HIIT which is now the rage.  There are many 20-30 minute HIIT workouts on the web.  I found one to do on a stationary bike.  Or find a gym workout that uses HIIT.  Fitness expert, Rob Sulaver, says, “All exercise helps burn fat by burning calories.  But “more intense exercise burns more fat.”  

What habits can slow your metabolism?
  • Night time snacking – so tempting to reach into the fridge or pantry for a late-night snack.  I love to have my dessert before bed.  But that can lead to a slower metabolism according to Dr. Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD. 
  • Crash dieting – take in too few calories and your body says “slow down” and your metabolism slows.  Why?  Because your body thinks you are starving so it slows down your metabolism to conserve fuel.  Dietitian Gradney, says, “Your body will start to do more with less calories, ultimately cutting down the amount of calories it uses.”. 
  • Sitting a lot – as they say, “move more, sit less”.  So, every hour, get up and move.  Walk to get a drink of water, walk to a co-workers office instead of sending an email.  Walk up and down a couple of flights of stairs on a break.  Stand when taking a phone call. 
    Sit less and move around more

Find some ways to rev up your metabolism this week.  Whether short term boosts or more long term, revving up your metabolism has good health benefits.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What are healthy fats?

Fat – we need fat in our diets.  So many people focus on cutting carbs but rarely do people focus on cutting the fat in their diets or changing their diet to include healthier fats.  And there are healthy fats we should be sure we have in our diets.  So, what are the fats we should be cutting back on and what are the healthy fats we should be choosing?  And where do we go to get advice on what fats we should be putting in our diets?  

What are the fats we should cut back on, the bad fats?
Saturated fats are the fats the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends we cut back on.  Why?  Because it is the saturated fats that raise your cholesterol, especially raising the bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol.  As the AHA notes, “high levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.”  
Foods with saturated fat
Not easy to meet their recommendation though on how much saturated fat you should aim for as only 5-6% of your calories should be from saturated fat.  Thus, if you eat 2000 calories a day, the calories from saturated fat should only be about 100-120 calories.  As AHA notes for a 2000 calorie diet, that is only 13 grams of saturated fat a day.  Try eating at a Fast Food restaurant for lunch and try to stick to 13 grams of saturated fat at a meal let alone for the entire day.  Hard to do.  I doubt if I could limit my saturated fat to only 13 grams a day, but we do try to cut back on it.  

What are saturated fats?
These are the fats that are usually solid at room temperature.  The bacon fat that hardens at room temperature is one example.  The marbling of fat you see in steak.  Butter is solid at room temperature, the Crisco.  But also, there is saturated fat in whole milk and in whole milk cheese.  AHA lists a number of foods with saturated fat:

  • Fatty beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Poultry with skin
  • Beef fat
  • Lard and cream
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Other dairy products made with whole milk
  • Fried foods
  • Palm oil, coconut oil  (Yes, coconut oil is not a heart healthy choice). 
How can you cut back on saturated fat?
AHA recommends choosing lean cuts of beef.  Trim the fat from the pork chop.  Choose lean ground beef.  You want dairy in your diet but choose low-fat dairy.  If you are used to drinking whole milk, try 2% milk.  Look for yogurt that is low fat.  Choose cheese that is made with 2% or skim milk for a cheese lower in fat and lower in saturated fat.  

What are the healthy fats you should be adding to your diet? 
Replacing saturated fats with more unsaturated fats is a heart healthy thing to do.  Why?  Because unsaturated fats help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and triglycerides.   
AHA recommends four healthy fats you can choose. 

  1. Fish – fish is loaded with the healthy omega-3 fats which are good for heart health.   Some fish are higher in omega-3 fats than other fish.  Choose salmon, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna. 
  2. Nuts – Dr. Oz recommends a handful of nuts a day.  A heart healthy habit.  Why?  Because nuts provide a heart healthy fat along with many nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Mix it up.  Choose peanuts, or almonds or pistachios.  I like to sprinkle ground walnuts on my oatmeal.  Enjoy a peanut butter sandwich at lunch or a nut butter sandwich.
  3. Seeds – a lot of people into health and fitness add seeds to their day.  Flaxseeds in their smoothies.  Add some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.  Choose a whole grain bread with the seeds added, like Dave’s Bread.
  4. Avocado – enjoy that guacamole as it is heart healthy.  Avocados do have fat but it is a heart healthy fat.
Avocados have a heart healthy fat

What cooking oil should you buy? You want an oil that has a lot of unsaturated fat in it.  Good choices are Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Safflower Oil, Sunflower oil.  When buying prepared food look for these heart healthy oils in the ingredients.  It is always interesting to me how manufacturers will say a food is low-fat but the fat they add is palm oil or palm kernel oil which are not healthy fats.  But other manufacturers like Lay’s using heart healthy oils in their chips such as Sun Chips.Next time you are in the grocery store, choose some heart healthy cooking oils.  AHA provides a good alphabetical list of “better-for-you” cooking oils.  Take a picture of this list or copy the list into the “notes” on your cell phone to make it easier to choose heart-healthy oils. 

    • Canola
    • Corn
    • Olive
    • Peanut
    • Safflower
    • Soybean
    • Sunflower
Choosing a cooking spray like Pam?  Choose one made from this list of oils.  
Where to go for guidance on healthy fats and not so healthy fats.
Looking for more information on how to choose healthy fats?  One of the best sources for reliable information is the American Heart Association.  They provide great guidance such as 4 Ways to Get Good Fats and Healthy Cooking Oils . 

This week try to cut back on the saturated fat.  Going out to a Fast Food restaurant?  Look at the menu ahead of time and look at the nutritional information on the website.  Look at the saturated fat content of the food you wanted to order.  Is there another menu item with less saturated fat?  Order the grilled version of the sandwich instead of fried.  Going out to dinner?  Many restaurants have the nutritional information posted.  Look for menu items with less saturated fat.  But some heart healthy oil for your pantry.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fasting – Good for You?

Is fasting good for you?  How long should you fast?  Are there any health benefits to fasting?   A student in my class asked me if fasting is good for you and how long should one fast?  Good questions.  As it turns out, Dr. Oz talked about fasting and how he fasts in a recent article, It’s About Time!.  Dr. Oz talks about how he uses the clock for fasting and for losing weight and also for some good health benefits.  Personally, I am not a fan of fasting.  I tend towards hypoglycemia and going for days without food is not for me.  But, Dr. Oz provides a somewhat new twist on fasting.  More short-term fasting – giving your body a rest from food.  This type of fasting I can do and maybe it is something that will work for you.  In January, I wrote a blog about fasting:  To lose weight, should you count time or calories?    This plan focused on Time Restricted Feeding or TRF.  The theory is based on counting time and not calories.  TRF says to limit your eating to a 12-hour period.  A relative has followed this fasting plan for months now and she eats what she wants and has lost quite a bit of weight. 

What is the fasting plan Dr. Oz recommends?

The 12 hour plan – most of us eat all day, every day.  We eat when we are hungry and when we feel like eating.  Dr. Oz says most of us eat during most of the time we are awake – about 17 hours each day.  

The 12 hour plan – is eating when you want during 12 hours of the day and then FASTING for 12 hours every day.  Basically, it is the TRF – the Time Restricted Feeding I wrote about in January.  Dr. Oz also refers to it as “intermittent fasting”.  Dr. Oz says he has limited his eating, including meals and snacks, to a 12-hour window.  He is now in his second year of the 12-hour plan.  He prefers a 12-hour window from 8 AM to 8 PM, but the 12-hour time period can be up to you.   

Choose your 12 hour time period.   Choose a time period in which you can stop eating at least 2 hours before you go to bed. 
Why does Dr. Oz say fasting is good for your health?

Dr. Oz says for too long we have focused on the “what”.  What drugs to treat our conditions, what we eat.  But we haven’t focused on the “when” – when do we eat?  He says that “when” we eat is also important to our health. 
  1. Weight loss – Dr. Oz recommends the 12-hour fasting plan for weight loss or weight maintenance.  He says this fasting plan helps prevent hunger better than some dieting plans.  And why not?  You can eat what you want during the 12-hour window of time.  No need to go hungry.  And he jokingly notes that you aren’t drinking down your juicing drink while your friend is downing some tempting tacos.  And people who fast for those 12 hours seem to eat fewer calories during the day.  Want to lose weight from your stomach?  The 12-hour fast seems to help you lose more belly fat. 
  2.  Alzheimer’s – at least in animal studies, fasting may help halt decline of cognitive abilities. 
  3. Gut health – I’ve written a number of times how important healthy gut bacteria are to good health (eat that yogurt every day).  Dr. Oz says that by fasting, we actually help create diversity among our gut bacteria. 
  4. Inflammation -  fasting such as the 12-hour plan seems to reduce inflammation in those with rheumatoid arthritis or with asthma.  

 And not just Dr. Oz promotes Intermittent Fasting.   In June,  Harvard gave an update on Intermittent fasting:  Surprising update .  They note that Intermittent Fasting can not only help with weight loss but also is good for diabetes prevention.   Dr. Tello discusses a research article comparing results from an 8 hour fast to that of the 12-hour fast.  The research studied obese men with prediabetes.  One group restricted their eating to 8 hours a day, from 7AM to 3 PM.  The second group restricted their eating to 12 hours a day from 7 AM to 7 PM.  Both groups were successful in maintaining their weight.  The 8-hour group had the most health benefits with lower insulin levels and lower blood pressure. 

So, if you are interesting in “fasting” try this more moderate approach.  It may be good for your health and it is a lot easier to do than fasting for a day or fasting for days at a time.