You hear about it, you read about it, you even talk about it, but for some reason you ignore it… it’s the health advice you know you should follow but choose not to. It's easier and, at times, more gratifying to dismiss it, but have you thought of the long-term implications of continuously ignoring it? In honor of National Nutrition Month this March, we’re reigniting the conversation on the health advice you continue to overlook. In this article, we provide you with the research behind the advice and present tips to help you implement it once and for all.
“Don’t sit for too long.”
A few months ago, 'Sitting is the New Smoking' made dramatic headlines in the news highlighting the detrimental effects of sitting for an extended period. While the consequences of smoking still outweigh those of sitting, we shouldn’t ignore the latter. Recent research indicates that sitting for prolonged periods (defined as 8+ hours a day) increases the risk of premature death and chronic diseases by 10-20%! Sedentary people have higher rates of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cancer-related deaths. Moreover, research has established a link between a sedentary lifestyle and an increased risk of developing dementia.1 Eight hours of sitting can quickly add up after a long day at work followed by a car ride home, proceeded by a few evening Netflix episodes.
It’s time to stop sitting for hours on end; here are some ways to help you do this:
- Set up alarms on your phone; aim to walk for 5-10 minutes every hour.
- Take all phone calls standing up.
- Engage in walking meetings - walking not only gets you moving, but it boosts creativity.
- Have a Fitbit, Garmin watch or pedometer? Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day.
- During TV commercial breaks, get up and move around. Incorporate dynamic stretches.
“Limit your alcohol to 1-2 servings per day.”
Evidence indicates that drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol may provide beneficial health effects. However, ‘moderation’ is a fine line. The Dietary Guidelines of America recommends no more than one serving of alcohol for women and two for men per day. If you do not drink during the week, this does not mean you can accumulate your drinks for the weekend. For many, when the weekend approaches, the drinks start flowing resulting in binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as four drinks for women and five drinks for men in the span of two hours. Even if you don’t meet the requirements for binge drinking, the liver can process only one drink per hour.
While there is a lack of research on weekend binge drinking, evidence shows that both light and heavy drinking increases the risk of some cancers. The more you drink, the higher the risk2. Additionally, one study found that 21 binge drinking sessions over seven weeks caused mice to develop symptoms of early liver disease3. Shockingly, researchers in the UK found that imbibing in more than five drinks each week was associated with a shorter life expectancy.4 More research needs to focus on people, but as of now, the evidence is damning.
How can we limit or slow down our alcohol intake?
- Sip slowly. Aim to finish your drink over the course of one hour.
- Gulp down 1-2 glasses of water after every drink.
- Dilute wine with seltzer to make a spritzer.
- Choose non-alcoholic beers and virgin cocktails either in place of or between cocktails.
“Incorporate more strength training.”
Strength training is one of the most effective ways to build muscle as it uses resistance to stimulate muscle growth. This form of exercise sustains muscles as we age but is often overlooked or not prioritized. As we get older, we naturally begin to lose muscle mass and strength - also known as sarcopenia - which can begin as early as your 40s5. Multiple factors affect the onset and progress of sarcopenia including hormonal changes, neurological decline, insufficient exercise, and poor nutrition6. However, maintaining muscle mass through strength training coupled with a proper diet can significantly delay its onset.
Instead of skipping ‘leg day,’ it’s time to add strength training into your routine. Aim for at least 2-3 strength training sessions a week; here are tips to get you there:
- Sign up for strength training classes at your gym or consider hiring a personal trainer.
- Many gyms offer one or two free personal training sessions. Take advantage and ask the trainer to build you a routine you can do later on your own.
- Read The InsideTracker Guide to Gaining Muscle.
“Avoid electronics before bed.”
Scrolling through your phone before bedtime is doing you much more harm than good. Continuous screen time before bed can negatively impact sleep. The blue light emitted from electronics - phones, TVs, iPads - suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythm7. Reduced melatonin can create difficulty falling asleep and achieving sound sleep. Diminished sleep quality and quantity affect energy levels, contribute to overeating, and may even worsen memory.
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night, so shut down electronics 2-3 hours before bed and try some of these relaxing techniques:
- Read a book to help your mind drift off.
- Apply magnesium oil on your skin. Magnesium aids in relaxation and sleep.
- Listen to guided sleep meditation on HeadSpace or Calm.
“Eat more fiber.”
Did you know more than 90% of Americans do not reach the recommended amount of daily fiber?8 You should aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day - that’s around 2 cups of black beans or 3 cups of raspberries. Fiber’s unique properties make it an essential component of our diet for numerous reasons. For one, fiber passes undigested through our gastrointestinal tract serving as food for the good bacteria in our gut. With ample fiber, the bacteria can nourish, thrive, and hinder the growth of unhealthy bacteria. A healthy gut is linked to better brain function, weight control, and insulin regulation.9 Moreover, multiple studies show that a fiber-rich diet leads to an overall decrease in calorie intake and weight loss. It doesn’t stop there. A high fiber diet also reduces your risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain gastrointestinal diseases10. With all these benefits, it’s time to up your fiber intake.
Instead of focusing on a low carb diet, aim for a high fiber one. Here are some tips for implementing fiber into your diet:
- Incorporate oatmeal into your breakfast.
- Top yogurt off with berries and flax seeds.
- Add beans to your meals, better yet, incorporate plant-based meals into your diet.
- Aim for 2-4 servings of fruit each day.
We hope we’ve provided you with the proper tools to implement the health advice you’ve been ignoring. If applying all five seems overwhelming, start slowly and focus on one change at a time.
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(4) Wood, AM et al. Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599 912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies. Lancet; 14 April 2018; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30134-X
(5) Ferrucci, Luigi, et al. "Of Greek heroes, wiggling worms, mighty mice, and old body builders." (2011): 13-16.
(6) Walston, Jeremy D. "Sarcopenia in older adults." Current opinion in rheumatology 24.6 (2012): 623.
(10) Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients,5(4), 1417-1435. doi:10.3390/nu5041417