live it active


From the Book of (Even More) Awesome

Neil Pasricha has got things right. He makes an excellent living writing about how Awesome life is. And life is pretty Awesome when you think about. Sometimes the little things in life can bog you down, but sometimes they can remind you of how amazing it is to be alive. Here are a few of those little things (and yes, they are different from the 10 I shared a few months ago):

1. Walking around naked when you are home alone – don’t deny it, you’ve done it. And if you haven’t, do it. It’s Awesome.

2. Finally peeing after holding it forever. As many of my friends will know, I have the smallest bladder in the universe so this one really hits home with me.

3. Hanging out with your mom (definitely going to get some brownie points for that one).

4.   Becoming a regular somewhere. I recently became  a regular at the Tim Horton’s on campus. I had been going there for almost a year before I became a regular. Now, they just look at me get the coffee ready and the Tim Bits in the bag.

5. When the dog’s really excited that you are back home. Pets are wicked friends because they are always happy to hang out with you and all they demand is your love. I just adore animals.

6. Seeing old people holding hands. Not only is it cute, it is a clear demonstration that love can last.

7. When somebody holds the elevator door for you. At my old apartment I would see people rushing to get on the elevator and get the door closed before I could get in the front door. So when people actually wait for me now I feel honoured.

8. When someone compliments your new hair cut. How many of you have spent a fortune on a new dye and cut job to have no one (not even your partner) notice this new you?  It sucks. So when you do finally get noticed, it’s pretty Awesome.

9. When you learn a new word and start seeing it everywhere.

10. Seeing shapes in clouds. The only way you get to see shapes is if you lie down on the grass (or a blanket) on a warm summer day and relax. So while seeing shapes is awesome, so is the associated and necessary relaxing time.

When the little things start to bog you down, remember the little things that are Awesome. See how many you experience today. See how many good things you experience tomorrow. It’ll be more than you expected.

Happy Monday

M

References:

Pasricha, N. The Book of (Even More) Awesome. 2011.


Friday Workout Tip: How to workout in the heat

Unless you are summering in the Arctic, you may have noticed the heat wave that has taken over Southern Ontario. There is no doubt about it (please say in Canadian accent) it’s hot out there.

So how can you exercise in this kind of heat? Well, hopefully your gym has air conditioning. Not a gym member? Seek out an outdoor pool or a local beach and go for a swim (just remember to wear sunscreen). Not interested in swimming? If your house is air-conditioned (or your basement is cool) do an indoor workout. It’s funny, the link for indoor workouts is from a blog I wrote when it was too cold to go outside for a workout.  

I would highly recommend not running/walking/cycling or doing anything outside at the moment. Yes, I know you think you’re tough (and/or superhuman) and can survive exercising in the heat but your body will dislike (and/or hate you) if you do.

If you absolutely must exercise outside please just walk. Take water with you and don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat. Don’t go out for long and try to walk in the shade. If your body is urging you to sit down, sit down for goodness sake. That urge is produced when your core temperature is getting close to its maximum (around 40 degrees). If you hit that point bad things will start to happen…

So be smart in the heat – listen to your body. 

M


The Weekend Warrior

Many of you will be familiar with the colloquial phrase for individuals only active on the weekend – the weekend warrior. Such individuals are those that make time for a long cycle or golf game on their Saturday or Sunday. They are individuals that understand the importance of activity, but cannot fit it into their weekly schedule.

Doing something is better than nothing. However, findings from a 2004 paper (yes, I know it’s old, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant) found that weekend warriors categorized as high-risk (i.e. smokers, overweight, had a history of hypertension and/or hypercholesterolemia) were at an increased risk of all-cause mortality relative to high-risk sedentary individual (expending less than 500 calories per week) and high-risk insufficiently active individuals (expending between 500-999 calories per week).

How can we explain such seemingly backward findings? The authors of the paper suggest that the benefits associated with exercise in this high-risk group may be short-lived. Yet, isn’t something still better than doing nothing (i.e. being sedentary)? Even if the benefit is short-lived, there is still more benefit than that accrued from sitting on your behind, no?

I hypothesize that men in this high-risk category who exercise for longer and more intense durations on an irregular basis may be putting increased strain on their heart, more than they would be placing on the vessel by sitting. Such exertion, on an already strained heart (due to smoking and/or obesity for example) may contribute to an increased incidence of CVD events that may, in turn, lead to an increased incidence of mortality.

So what is the take away message? If you’re a smoker and obese you shouldn’t engage in any activity because you are more likely to die? Definitely not. The take away message here is that regular exercise is much better than irregular weekend warrior-style activity in high-risk men. High risk-men who engaged in regular exercise had close to a 40% reduction in risk for all-cause mortality.

All in all, the message is the same – regular exercise is the key to success. While weekend warrior-style activity is OK for individuals categorized as low-risk (i.e. non-smoker, normal weight, etc.) it is not OK for a growing proportion of North American adults.

M

References:

Lee I., et al. The “weekend warrior” and risk of mortality. Am J Epidemiol 2004;160(7):636-641.


“DNA is not destiny”

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this catchy title. It was first used by the author Ethan Watters in a 2006 Discover publication in his article on the growing field of epigenetics.

So what is epigenetics? It is the study of changes produced in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence (i.e. external forces in your environment).

Why is epigenetics so fascinating? Because it suggests that our environment from birth to death influences the expression of certain genes.

How can epigenetics influence gene expression? First, epigenetic change can influence the proteins called histones which are the building blocks of the double helix (i.e. our DNA). Alterations to this packaging cause certain genes to be more or less available. A second epigenetic change is DNA methylation.  Attaching a methyl group – one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms – to a particular base in the DNA sequence interferes with chemical signals that would put the gene into action.

What specifically in our enviornment can cause the alteration of histones and/or DNA methylation occur? Examples include, changes in diet and differences in the level of nurturing one receives as a newborn from their mother. It is remarkable that such simply changes and behaviours can alter the expression of certain genes.

What’s even more interesting is that these epigenetic changes can be passed down for generations. In the words of Watters, “what you eat and smoke today could affect the health and behaviour of your great-grandchildren”. 

Over the next while I will dig deeper into the field of epigenetics. More specifically, I will discuss the role of diet and newborn nurturing and how such alterations can influence personality and/or our vulnerability to different forms of cancer. 

Epigenetics challenges the notion that genes are fate. What an absolutely fascinating concept and area of research.

M

P.S. I will be away for the next wee while and thus, blog posts will be at a minimum. My sincerest apologies.  

References:

Watters E. 2006. DNA is Not Destiny. Discover (27);1-8.


On busyness: The ups and downs of leading a busy life

We are all busy. You are not the only one struggling to meet a deadline, get the grocery shopping done and dinner cooked in addition to cutting the lawn, cleaning the kitty litter and ironing your shirt for work.

North Americans take a lot of pride in being busy. Likely, because it’s a good thing. It is indicative of productivity and autonomy. It suggests intelligence  and dedication (either to a particular job, project, or interest). These are very good things and thus, I am definitely an advocate for being busy.

However, living a hectic schedule has its downsides. Fatigue, irritability, alienation of family and friends, and burn out are just a few of those downsides. More, we sometimes compare how good we are as a person/colleague/employee by our level of busyness relative to others. If we’re not as busy as Sally in accounts we may start to think and feel negatively about ourselves. Additionally, we may start to harbour feelings of resentment towards Sally who hasn’t done anything apart from be herself (see how quickly the alienation of colleagues can happen?). This can lead to a fairly rapid descent into a perpetual state of negativity.    

While being busy is good for the mind it sometimes conflicts with the needs/wants of the soul. Yes, that is a fairly abstract notion, but I am sure most of you can relate.

It is important to keep your commitments in check and not compare yourself to others. Doing so will likely result in feelings of inadequacy –  not a good nor productive feeling to have.

M


Relax, unwind and enjoy your Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all my lovely readers. It is an absolutely gorgeous day – the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect. We are about to set off to my father’s citizenship ceremony. After 41 years he is finally becoming a Canadian citizen! The day promises to be a good one.

Today most of you will be enjoying a hot-dog, a potato chip (or two) and a beverage (perhaps more than one :)). I encourage you to enjoy and experience the food you are eating. Engage in mindful eating (something I touched on a while ago). The biggest thing – don’t feel guilty.  

Restraining yourself from the foods you love will only make you want them more. I am not suggesting that you gorge yourself on sweets, soda, and chips but, encouraging you to eat and enjoy in moderation. It’s hard at the beginning, but it pays off in the long run.

Enjoy today (as you enjoy everyday). Enjoy the food you eat and the beers you drink. Do NOT feel guilty. Food and guilt are never a good combination.

Happy Canada Day!

M



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