MOVE RIGHT– Bottom line is that regular physical activity is “good” for us: It increases our chances of living longer by decreasing our risk for various diseases and chronic illnesses. It helps us to control our weight and can make us feel better about ourselves. It improves our mental health and mood; reduces the chance of becoming depressed. It helps us sleep better at night which helps us focus and function better during our busy days. It strengthens muscles and bones that help us to get around better. Plus it can often be a great way to socialize and have fun with others in a healthy environment.
When considering becoming active or adding more exercise to your lifestyle, it is important not to fall into the trap of the “no pain, no gain” or the “higher the calorie burn, the better” thought processes. Realize that there are so many ways to move our bodies in a healthy way, and there is not one “MAGIC MOVEMENT” that will make us completely fit. Plus anything done to the EXTREME can be hazardous. I believe it is important to find movement that you enjoy, that makes you feel good in your body, and that you are capable of doing safely at your current fitness level, so you can progress successfully without added injury risk. Try different modes of exercise and mix it up. If you are a social person, perhaps a group fitness atmosphere will motivate you more than trying to exercise alone. If you are already active and want to improve your performance, perhaps getting some guidance from a fitness expert can go a long way to increasing your fitness potential. It is also important to address all of the components of fitness including: cardio-vascular, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility/mobility and postural balance…
It’s natural for us to be drawn to exercise modes that we are “good at,” but if we neglect some of the areas we are weak, we can create greater imbalance(s) and a higher risk for injuries later. SO if running is your thing, you may want to look into some modes of movement that address upper body strengthening and total body flexibility (weight training and yoga). This will not only help you run longer injury free but will probably make you a stronger runner as well. If you are a “die-hard” weight lifter maybe some mind/body movements and or high intensity interval cardio training might take you to the next level by lengthening those short muscle bellies and strengthening the “ticker.”
SLEEP RIGHT– This is the Yin to the Yang of movement. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more. Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability. You get more emotional stability with good sleep. Sleep affects quality of life.
“Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep,” says Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear.”
Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep. A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
If you are trying to lose body fat, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.) Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep. Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation). In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
Considering all these important benefits of getting better sleep….
HOW DO WE ENSURE BETTER ZZZ’S?
- Stick to a sleep schedule- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. There’s a caveat, though. If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you’re tired. If you agonize over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink- Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
- Create a bedtime ritual- Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.
- Get comfortable- Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters.
- Limit daytime naps- Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid afternoon. If you work nights, you’ll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight — which adjusts your internal clock — doesn’t interrupt your daytime sleep.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine- Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.
- Manage stress- When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.