As we write this during July 2021, a majority of Australians are under lock down in efforts to reduce spread of Delta variant. To keep us all healthy at home, here are some recent research findings & practical tips.
Won’t you come outside and play (If you dare, AC/DC)
Adults usually spend 80-90% of their time indoors, which isn’t healthy. Going outside is good for exercise, mindfulness and fresh air, and has proven benefits for mental health, creativity, Vitamin D levels & our bones.
Researchers who monitor daily habits and brain MRI scans, have recently found that spending more time outdoors is correlated with more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain that oversee cognitive control, regulation, and planning. This means more gray matter (brain function) in areas as concentration, memory and the psyche as a whole.
A brisk 20 minute walk is the equivalent of a bag of potato crisps. Walking every day for this amount of time means a 30% lower risk of death and a 20% improvement in energy levels. Furthermore, walking for an hour every day switches off our genes that promote obesity.
Seeing green is also healthy. Researchers have shown spending time in nature is calming, reduces cortisol and lower blood pressure. An interesting study showed patients recovering from an operation in hospital needed less pain killers if their window had a view of trees.
Exercise your game (Exercise Yo Game, Coolio)
Sleep disturbances are common with 60% of Australians reporting a sleep symptom at least a few times each week. We know that chronic sleep deprivation can be associated with depression, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) & diabetes – death rates are higher in those that don’t get good rest.
A recent study from the UK has shown that physical exercise can reduce these adverse health impacts of poor sleep. The physiology seems to be that exercise reduces inflammation and improves metabolic function – plus exercise itself helps you sleep.
Early morning exercise is best. A study showed it was easier getting to sleep, with less disturbance during the night, if you exercised early in the morning.
You’re my soul food (Soul Food, Hasani Dada)
A Mediterranean diet with lots of fruit & vegetables is well known to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce cancer risk. Specifically, green leafy vegetables (e.g collard, spinach, kale, and lettuce), beta carotene vegetables, citrus fruits and berries (e.g grapefruits, clementines, pomelo) achieve the best result.
Be careful to moderate your alcohol, juice & milk intake (dairy is associated with mucous production, insulin resistance, inflammation and cognitive decline). Many Australians are drinking more during lock down – some red wine is ok (good for cardiovascular health due to anti-oxidants and reduces diabetes risk – current guidelines are no more than 10 standard drinks per week).
And for an odd insight, fermented foods may be healthy. A study showed that kim chi, kerfir & sauerkraut, improves gut biome and this helps with healthy ageing, cognitive fitness and less metabolic disorders.
Here’s a free nutrition App, MyFitness Pal.
Don’t want another heart break (Heart break, Tyneshi Keli)
Researchers have shown that being able to walk up 4 flights of stairs in less than 45 seconds is associated with reduced mortality. And being able to do 40 push-ups in a row is associated with a 90% lower heart attack risk. High intensity training, for those with no health constraints, can reduce your risk of heart attacks.
And the DASH diet is known to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and damage to heart muscles – it consists 5 daily serves of fruits & vegetables, 8 daily serves of whole grains, 3 daily serves of low-fat dairy products, and small serves of lean meat, poultry and fish.
Close your eyes, And relax (Everything’s alright, Andrew Lloyd Webber)
Covid is stressful so find ways to relax and improve mental resilience, including some of these interesting findings from recent research: Drink cocoa and green tea, eat berries, practise mindfulness and slow, deep breathing, video-calling friends and singing & playing music. Music additionally protects against dementia.
Also, make sure you’re not just working around the clock. Balance life at work and at home, even if they are the same location now – a World Health Organisation study showed that working more than 55 hours a week results in a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of heart disease.
Even short breaks have been shown to improve mood and boost work productivity.
You live, You learn (You learn, Alanis Morrisette)
Learning is good for the brain. Think of the brain as a muscle that needs constant testing and exercise. Learning builds neural pathways which is good for white matter density and processing speed. High levels of learning through life can delay dementia by up to 9 years!
Learning is also good for your confidence – a study showed that 80% of learners had improved self confidence or self-esteem.
Get Up, Stand Up (Bob Marley)
An Australian study called 45 And Up, showed that sitting for 11 hours a day results in a 40% increased risk of dying in the next 3 years. Whilst we are working from home, there is less need to walk to different work locations, commute to work and move around.
The important advice is avoiding prolonged sitting. Sedentary behaviour is associated with cancer, metabolic syndrome, depression, diabetes and heart disease.
Let’s get moving!