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Don’t sit on it for too long

If your work requires for you to spend a considerable amount of time sitting down, I hope you invest the next three minutes reading this post – it can literally add years and quality to your life.

The statistics that are being published about the perils of sitting for too long are frankly quite scary. You may want to stand up for this…:

– Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3. Even if you exercise.

– Sitting makes you gain weight. As soon as you sit down, your calorie burning drops to 1 per minute and the enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%

– The World Health Organisation has identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead of obesity.

The human body simply isn’t built to sit for long periods of time. Ever since we evolved from archaic homo sapiens to anatomically evolved modern humans more than 150,000 years ago, we were meant to be active, to spend time outdoors walking and running. Sitting for extended periods of time whether at work and/or during our commute is something mother nature hasn’t prepared us for.

When you remain inactive (or sitting down) for long periods of time, the muscles in your back are affected, particularly the erector spinae muscles which run parallel to your spine. Not maintaining proper posture whilst sitting can seriously damage your spine structure and even cause permanent problems such as back pain.

Evidence of the health benefits of standing up compared to sitting down goes back to the 1950’s when a study by one of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed British general medical journal “The Lancet” compared bus conductors (who stand) with bus drivers (who don’t). The study revealed that bus conductors had around half the risk of developing heart disease of the bus drivers.

Standing is like walking: It increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, ramps up your metabolism, increases blood flow and improves your posture along the way.

Recommendations:

1.- Sit smarter. When sitting on a chair, make sure you sit back and move your chair close to the desk to maintain proper contact between your back and the seat back to help support and maintain the natural inward curve of your lumbar spine. So remember to always sit up straight without hunching over and use ergonomic chairs or furniture when possible.

2.- Try sitting on a stability ball. Also known as Pilates balls, the use of a stability ball (a big, round piece of exercise equipment used for strength training) to replace regular chairs is becoming increasingly popular. The key here is to alternate between the ball and an ergonomically designed chair since you need every so often to reduce disc pressure in your back.

3.- Get a sit-stand desktop. There are now plenty of products in the market which allow you to easily convert a tabletop into a height-adjustable standing desk. This option allows you to sit or stand to work at anytime.

4.-Don’t eat at your desk.– Having lunch at your desk will unnecessarily prolong the time you remain sitting down. Your brain needs this time of the day to physically recharge anyway and eating at your desk means this much needed rest will not happen given that your mind will most likely be actively engaged doing work, reading the news, etc. Your performance, memory, concentration and most of your brain’s executive functions will be affected if you don’t disconnect from work for a little while, so do your lower back and brain a favour and have a mindful lunch somewhere else.

5.- Give walking or standing meetings a try. Since alternating between sitting, standing and walking is the best you can do for your body-mind, then use meetings as an opportunity to get up to either stand or walk. The benefits of walking meetings are numerous : Your attention span will expand, your energy levels will go up, your creative juices will flow freely and you’ll even get the extra benefit of burning more calories. I take most of my calls standing up and my conversations benefit from this without a shadow of a doubt.

And perhaps the most compelling argument of this post to get you to stand more: Data published by BuzzFeed showed that selfies taken while standing get more “Likes” than those taken while sitting!

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What you need to know about Coffee

If you drink coffee and are wondering whether it’s good for you or not, science has an answer for you.

It depends…

Your psychophysiological profile is unique. How your body and your mind will respond to stimuli whether in the form of a beverage (like coffee) or an experience (like a rollercoaster ride) depends on the uniqueness of your psychology and biology in combination.

I am not a coffee drinker, but many years ago, my boss used to start our morning meetings with a trip to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee. After many weeks of declining her offer to buy me a cup, there was this one instance in which, to avoid the awkwardness, I accepted a cup of decaffeinated coffee (which still contains caffeine by the way).

I remember becoming so wired that for a few hours, I kept involuntarily tapping my desk with my fingers as if I was sending a message in morse code. I found that reaction so foreign to me.

During that episode, my Cuban friends in Miami came to mind. Some of them are able to drink later in the evening a Café Cubano or Cafecito, a small but potent dose of Cuban coffee served in a thimble-sized cup which you down like a shot. After drinking this Cafecito, which in terms of caffeine content it makes a double espresso look like Evian water, they sleep like logs. How is that even possible?!

It all comes down to how your unique genetic configuration metabolises caffeine. So this is what you need to know about coffee:

The positives of drinking coffee

There are now plenty of studies that show how coffee can boost metabolism, improve memory and mood, decrease our chances of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer and can also improve our sports performance.

Some people even use it for weight loss or to treat asthma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low blood pressure.

The negatives of drinking coffee

On the other hand, caffeine has been known to exacerbate anxiety disorders, heart conditions, high blood pressure, insomnia, stress, irritable bowel syndrome and weak bones (caffeine can increase the amount of calcium that is flushed out in the urine).

If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, a condition common in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress, coffee is definitely not advised as it will accentuate the symptoms which include trouble getting out of bed, chronic tiredness and trouble thinking clearly or finishing tasks.

Coffee can also become highly addictive and, for most people, it serves as a substance to suppress appetite or as an “energy” source to either feel motivated or even function.

Should I drink coffee or not?

If you drink coffee in moderate amounts (one or two cups a day) for the simple pleasure of it and don’t use coffee as a stimulant to get you going, most studies agree that there are no major health risks.

If you have been dependent on coffee to fuel your day for years, rest assured that you can enjoy even greater levels of energy without caffeine. You will have access to cleaner and more powerful energy sources once you drop the caffeine addiction, a topic which I will cover in a future post.

Recommendations

Don’t use a coffee as an energy source. Be completely frank and honest with yourself. Are you drinking coffee to enjoy the unique aroma of those Peruvian dark beans or just to get you through your next meeting?

Limit your consumption to 1 or 2 cups a day. Most studies show that having 4 cups of coffee a day is not considered hazardous to your health, but in my experience, people that drink more than 2 cups a day fall in the category of “drinking coffee for fuel”.

Believe that there is “energy” at the end of the tunnel. Some people that rely on caffeine for energy have the irrational belief that they if they bring their caffeine intake to a halt, they will not have enough energy to cope with the day. On the contrary, the clean and natural energy that you will derive from healthier sources (wholefoods and natural beverages) and exercise, will take your energy levels far beyond what caffeine can do for you and without any side effects or unpleasant symptoms to bear .

Don’t quit caffeine overnight. If you make the wise choice of eliminating caffeine once and for all, don’t go cold turkey. Switch from multiple cups to just one cup and then eventually switch to herbal teas. I will write another post on how to quite coffee in the healthiest way possible shortly 🙂

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Be careful who you sleep with

Let’s be frank : I have done it, you have done it, and most likely, a lot of people that you know still do it. Sleeping with our electronic devices is perhaps one of the most underrated health risks in modern times.

In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Children are the most vulnerable given that their scalps and skulls are thinner than adults’, and are therefore more vulnerable to radiation. When I shared these findings with my teenage son, he was shocked and immediately embraced the recommendations you will find at the end of this post.

Just the potential health risks should be enough of a deterrent to keep our devices out of our bedroom, but there are other compelling reasons why we should be motivated to keep our bedroom electronics-free.

The temptation to play games, scan our inbox, chat with friends and read the news are just a few of the many activities that we can engage in if we invite our electronics to our bedroom in the evening. More often that not, giving in to these temptations will delay our bedtime which will surely shorten the duration of our sleep, leading us to suffer the characteristic symptoms of sleep deprivation: erratic decision making, low energy levels, mercurial emotional state, memory lapses, generalised feeling of stress, etc.

If you are in a relationship, spending time with your electronics in the bedroom will compromise the mindful and nurturing time you could devote to your partner. The quality of our close relationships plays a big part in our emotional, mental and physical state, so neglecting our personal interactions with loved ones for the sake of screen time will undoubtedly have an unwanted effected. Any relationship expert will tell you the poor communication and lack of intimacy are key contributors to the downfall of most relationships.

Well, enough with the somber news. Let’s move on to the simple tips that will improve your relationships, keep you healthy and set you up for a great day at work.

Recommendations

Don’t use your mobile device as an alarm clock. If you really need an alarm clock to wake up, get a dedicated alarm clock that uses a warm & gentle light and natural sound effects to get you up in the morning. Please, stay away from those incessant beeping devices that wake you up in a state of alarm and stress.

Impose a devices curfew and stick to it. First and foremost, have an open conversation with members of your household about the physical, mental and emotional perils of using electronic devices in the bedroom and then agree on a time when curfew will be observed. The imposing comes after the consensual agreement. As you know, dictatorships in civilised societies are short-lived.

Find a place outside your bedroom to put away your electronic devices. Select an official designated area in your home where all members of the household will place their devices in sleep mode or simply turned off. A designated charging station could do the trick. The adults in the house should be setting an example by always following this rule – no double standards please!

Keep a book by your bedside. Since the moment I started using this strategy, it had an immediate effect. After I put my kids to bed, most of the time I’m looking forward to reading the next section of the book currently on my nightstand. Unless of course my wife has other ideas – literature can always wait!

So please, choose wisely who you sleep with…

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Skipping breakfast – Is it actually worth it?

Some of us wake up, look at the clock and realise that although it would be nice to sit down to have a healthy, mindful breakfast, the morning rush simply doesn’t allow it. A cup of coffee, a piece of bland, dry toast and out the door. Others simply pick up something on the way to work or skip breakfast altogether. Is breakfast such an important meal after all? Can’t we make up for skipping breakfast during our other meals?

The answer I’m afraid is not that straightforward. Are you skipping breakfast because you haven’t got the time, because you are simply not hungry or because you want to lose weight? Let’s take a look at what the latest research has revealed in connection to what has been labelled in the past as “the most important meal of the day”.

For growing children, there is no doubt breakfast is an essential meal. For adults, the jury is still out.

Having a healthy breakfast has a number of health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who regularly eat a healthy and mindful breakfast enjoy brain-boosting powers, enhanced immune system, heart health, improved skin, stabilised energy levels, reduced risk of eating disorders, weight control, and longevity.

In the case of short-term fasting, some researchers suggest that fasting diets that involve taking no food between dinner and lunch the next day brings benefits to the digestive system (allowing time to flush away unwanted toxins), potentially help with weight loss and cholesterol levels. Not all researchers, however, are convinced that short-term fasting benefits outweigh its risks across the board.

Skipping breakfast has been consistently associated with triggering increased hyperglycaemia (an excess of sugar in the bloodstream). Other research shows that if you experience stress when fasting (given the fact that fasting is a potentially stressful state for the body) prolonging the fast by not eating when you wake up, amplifies the stress and may lead to heart disease and other serious health conditions typically associated to stress.

Given that there are positive and negative implications to skipping breakfast, my suggestion to you is to always pay attention to how you feel both in the short-term and the long-term whenever you are making adjustments to your eating habits or strategies. Also, have the following recommendations in mind:

Recommendations

1.-Listen to your body’s hunger cues. Bring awareness to your eating decision-making process. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being famished and 10 being completely sated), for optimal mind-body performance, it’s probably wise to eat when your appetite reaches 2 or 3 and stop eating when you get to 7. This rule applies not only to breakfast, but to all meals in general.

2.-Keep it light. If you do decide to have breakfast and want to avoid energy drops in the morning, make a conscientious effort to limit your intake of sugar, fat and excess calories. A veggie or fruit juice/smoothie, oatmeal (porridge), dairy, wholewheat toast, nuts and eggs are options you could consider if you want to feel naturally alert and sharp.

3.-Keep it conscious. If you do decide to skip breakfast once in a while to test the potential benefits of short-period fasting, be aware of how you feel throughout the day. If you feel like ransacking a vending machine mid-morning to satisfy your hunger, you can kiss your productive day and weight management objectives goodbye.

4.- Don’t fool yourself. If you are skipping breakfast simply because you haven’t got the time (even though you are hungry), then the stress factor will kick-in, leading you to perhaps become exasperating and marring your decision making abilities due to your discomfort and irritable state of mind.

5.-Ask for supervision. If you want to take this fasting business seriously and for prolonged periods of time, make sure you consult with expert nutritionists and medical doctors before you embark on these experiments.

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What is the ideal bedtime for you?

“I believe you are being dogmatic”, I was told by a lady in the audience during one of my wellbeing workshops in reference to the advise I was giving as to what is the ideal bedtime for adults. This comment came as no surprise to me since I am quite accustomed to experience pushback when I share the science that supports the recommendation of going to bed around 10pm.

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The unknown reason behind why we feel stressed : Tip 4

In my previous articles, I mentioned 3 of the 4 reasons why we get stressed: Perceiving situations as stressful based on how our brain is wired, ingesting foods that rapidly raise our sugar levels and consuming stimulants (particularly caffeine). I’d like to share with you the 4th and less known reason why we experience stress: A hormone imbalance and/or deficiency.

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 César Gamio - Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist - CesarGamio.com
 César Gamio - Executive Life Coach - EMCC-EIA - CesarGamio.com
 César Gamio - Chopra Center Certified Instructor - CesarGamio.com
César Gamio - Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist - CesarGamio.com César Gamio - Executive Life Coach - EMCC-EIA - CesarGamio.com
César Gamio - Chopra Center Certified Instructor - CesarGamio.com