Walking is a simple and inexpensive activity that offers many benefits for our health and general wellbeing. Despite this, it can still be challenging to find the time to walk during a busy day.
Sometimes it’s our family, work, or study commitments that take priority. Sometimes it’s the weather that puts us off. And sometimes – if we’re honest – we just can’t find the motivation.
That’s all fine, but given that walking is something that most people can manage and as it has so many health benefits maybe it’s time to give it a bit more focus? Let’s look at some of the key benefits of walking, and then see if we can’t offer some suggestions to help get you out the door.
The Benefits Of Walking
- Walking is free – No gym membership required, no fancy gear needed beyond a basic pair of trainers (and – given that this is England – possibly some waterproofs), and you can do it at a time, place and pace that suits you. Sure, get a fitbit and count your 10,000 steps if you want to, but you don’t need to if that’s not your thing.
- Walking works anywhere – We prefer country or coastal scenery to walk in, but walking in urban environments is fine too. That’s one of the great things about living in the North East – we’re spoilt for choice!
- Walking gets you moving – Sorry for stating the obvious, but with so many people chained to their desks, stuck in their car or camped on their sofa sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. Our sedentary lifestyles are really damaging our health, movement is the solution, and walking is a great form of movement.
- Walking is low impact – Walking doesn’t unduly stress the body in the way that higher impact forms of exercise can, but it still increases general mobility and flexibility, helps to alleviate the muscle tension that builds up in our body over time, and helps to improve stamina, strength and balance. It’s a great form of exercise at any age, but is particularly beneficial in helping us age well.
- Walking helps to improve your posture – Many of us spend countless hours at our desk or looking down at our smart phones, creating issues like ‘text neck’, tension headaches and various other issues. Walking helps to strengthen our spine and musculoskeletal framework, and helps us maintain a natural upright position.
One little caveat here: Please don’t become part of the zombie generation! They’re the folks who walk from A to B whilst constantly looking down at their phone, bumping into other people, tripping on unnoticed kerbs or steps, nearly getting run over by cars and buses, and so on. I’m sure you’ve come across the type before…just don’t be one of them!
- Walking keeps your spinal discs healthy – The motion of walking helps to rehydrate spinal discs. Normal everyday movements place a lot of pressure on our spinal discs, especially if you’re stuck in a limited set of postures for an extended period of time. This sustained pressure dehydrates and weakens the discs, but the movement of walking counteracts this by stimulating circulation throughout your body, thus bringing greater hydration and nourishment to the discs and keeping them in better shape.
- Walking aids with weight loss/control – There’s lots of reasons for this, not the least being that walking improves pre and post eating insulin sensitivity, it increases activity of a fat shredding protein called lipoprotein lipase (which makes it easier to burn fat for fuel rather than store it in the body after a meal), and psychologically helps you resist the urge to raid the biscuit tin if your walk has just helped you blow off the stress of a busy day or intense discussion with your significant other. Combine walking with healthy eating and other aspects of a wellness lifestyle for best results.
- Walking is in our DNA – I’ve touched on weight loss, but walking has heaps of other metabolic benefits as well. Did you know that kids who walk to school tend to be fitter than their peers who do not? That older healthy adults who walk briskly live longer than those that do not? That brisk walking helps lower blood pressure? That regular walking improves working memory and limits cognitive decline? Quite simply, we’re designed to walk, and it has remarkable benefits throughout our body.
- Walking is a great way to get/stay social – Life is busy, and it is easy lose touch with friends, family and even ourselves! This is particularly important when we remember that social isolation is as detrimental to our health as cigarette smoking, and that anxiety and loneliness are extremely common in our society. Why not grab some friends and create a regular walking date? Having a consistent time reserved for walking with others is a great way to stay motivated, have a laugh and get fit all at the same time.
- Walking eases stress – At a neurological level, moderate physical activity “soothes” us by stimulating the release of “calming” neurotransmitters in our brain. It’s possible that this works in conjunction with the fresh air we take in when walking, the relaxing effects of getting outside and having some natural light and space around us (especially if it is green space), the stepping away from our desk and the tasks we associate with it, and a number of other factors, but either way walking helps to ease stress and calm us down.
- Walking stimulates creativity – Be it a student struggling with their maths homework, a writer who can’t get the words to flow onto the page or someone else whose thinking has become a bit constipated it’s pretty easy to find people who’ll vouch for the positive effects walking has on their creativity. Again, maybe it’s the release of “feel good” chemicals associated with movement coupled with a change in perspective and fresh air, but whatever the underlying mechanism, it works for plenty of other people, and maybe it will work for you too?
So, there are just some of the benefits of walking. Now for some suggestions to help you incorporate walking into your daily life.
- Prioritise The Time – It starts with this! Things that are worthwhile rarely just happen by themselves. We know life is busy, but setting aside even just 30 minutes a day to walk does make a difference to physical and mental wellbeing. You can either enjoy the peace of walking by yourself or invite your partner, kids or a friend to share the time walking and catching up with you, but either way prioritising your walking time makes it far more likely to happen.
- Tweak Your Commute – While it may be too far to walk the whole way to work or school, what about finding a way to walk part of the journey? If you take public transport, you could try walking to the station rather than driving and parking, or getting off one stop early and walking the remaining distance. For those that drive, it could be as simple as parking a bit further away from your destination.
- Use Your Lunch time – Instead of working through your lunch break, why not utilise the time and go for a walk? You might be surprised at the great walks nearby. You could even invite a friend or colleague to join you. A lunch time walk may even reenergise you for the afternoon and stop you reaching for caffeinated drinks or sweets.
- Get Socialising – While we often catch up with friends and family over a meal or drink, why not suggest catching up over a walk? Walking is a great activity for socialising and you can even reward yourself afterwards by walking to a desired destination such as a shop, café or favourite pub.
- Get a dog – Ok, so this one won’t be possible for everyone, but we’ve certainly found that since our dog Bear joined our family and clinic team we’ve been doing a lot more walking. As a result, we’re fitter, more relaxed, and have met so many new people…most of whom remember Bear’s name far more readily than ours!
Click here or here if you’d like to read a couple of further articles on the benefits of walking, and remember that no matter how you go about it walking is a great way to get active to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. 30 minutes a day really makes a difference, so give it a try and hopefully you’ll find that the benefits are definitely worth the effort.Posted in Move Well |
If you’ve got young kids maybe you’ve heard of the Wiggles? They’re a world famous group of children’s entertainers from Australia who have achieved success and popularity on a global scale with their colourful cast of characters, catchy tunes, fun DVD’s and high energy concerts.
My kids certainly loved them, and I vividly recall my first hand experience of the full on energy of their concerts when I was asked to provide chiropractic care to the cast and crew when they were touring Newcastle in years gone by. It was all great fun, but boy those guys and girls worked hard!
Inevitably, the touring and workload really challenged their health, and in 2012 Anthony Field (the Blue Wiggle) published his book How I Got My Wiggle Back to describe the kinds of health challenges he faced, and to share his ‘road to recovery’ story.
Chiropractors were a significant part of the team that helped Anthony get his life back together.
The book talks about the struggles and triumphs of his personal and professional life, initially as a 1980’s rock star on exhaustingly long tours with the band The Cockroaches, and then again in an ongoing fashion with the hugely popular Wiggles.
The tough life travelling for tours led to bad eating habits and exacerbated pre-existing ailments for Field such as dental issues, hernias, back ailments, broken bones, food sensitivities, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, circulation issues, exhaustion and depression.
Field loved his job but felt miserable most of the time due to his ill health. Eventually a friend of Field’s who was a chiropractor talked him into having an adjustment and after that everything changed.
“Previously I’d been a sceptic, but unquestionably a single visit to the chiropractor provided more relief than countless other exercises and treatments I’d tried.”
After receiving surprising immediate results, Field decided that while touring they would enlist the help of local chiropractors wherever they went.
“Eventually, I developed a little routine – the first thing I’d do after arriving in a small town or city was to track down a chiropractor,” Field said.
Field had almost given in to his unhealthy and painful lifestyle, but he said the chiropractors helped “… connect the dots about my health situation and helped me to understand that there was hope.”
“I didn’t plan to be an advocate, but the fact that I’m still alive and kicking is testimony to the fact that there are solutions. There is a better way,” Field said.
The book How I Got My Wiggle Back is emphatic and energetically written, and is a glowing endorsement of the benefits of chiropractic and trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
The book’s message is aimed towards middle aged men to encourage them to reignite their health, but is an enjoyable read for anyone who wants to hear a hopeful tale of recovery or who is a fan of The Wiggles.
“But take heart, middle-aged comrade, you don’t have to meekly accept this deterioration and you don’t have to start a new round of pain killers and anti-in ammatories to cope. A healthy lifestyle and regular care from a chiropractor who – I bet you a sachet of Captain Feathersword’s eye patches – will check your back and possibly your feet and can turn things around.”
Anthony FieldPosted in Latest News |
Dr Rangan Chatterjee – the U.K. based G.P. who features in the BBC’s health show Doctor In The House – has just released a great book called The 4 Pillar Plan. Its central message is that even just small, everyday changes in how people live make a huge difference in the health and happiness they enjoy, and can even reverse chronic lifestyle driven diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Chatterjee focuses improving 4 key areas of our lifestyle (Relax, Eat, Move, Sleep), and his book offers easy to understand explanations of some of the latest scientific evidence about the impact these aspects of our lifestyle have on our health. Just as importantly, it also offers a host of simple, practical but powerful suggestions for making any changes that may be needed.
There are many reasons why we highly recommend this book. It’s not just that his 4 pillars concept echoes our own “Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well, Stay Well” philosophy of health, but that his information is presented in a clear, uncomplicated way that is understandable to us all. What’s more, we love the fact that this book is not based on faddish hype, but rather represents a clear and honest synthesis of common sense and good quality scientific evidence.
In a world where we’re all time pressed and overloaded with information this book cuts through much of the “noise” that constantly clamours for our attention, and we believe that its message is relevant to everyone, be they someone who is struggling with poor health in some way, or someone who already understands the foundations of good health but simply wants to stay up to date with the latest thinking on how to live in ways that leave people better nourished, less harassed, leaner, stronger, and better rested.
You can leaf through a copy of the book in our reception – and you might also like to check out the Feel Better, Live More podcast program Rangan has just started (especially the interview with cardiologist Aseem Malhotra in episode 3), but we certainly encourage you to check this book out and consider implementing some of the lifestyle suggestions it makes.Posted in Latest News |
A powerful new 2016 study by McDonnell et al has shown that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with significantly increased overall risk of cancer, whereas Vitamin D sufficiency (defined as blood Vitamin D levels of > 100mmol/l) is associated with a 77% lower incidence rate of cancer.*
This most recent research makes a significant contribution to the science of Vitamin D and cancer, which also includes:
- A 2005 study by Lowe et al that reported an 83% reduction in breast cancer risk in women with high vs low vitamin D levels – European Journal of Cancer
- 2014 study by Mohr et al that showed breast cancer patients with the highest levels of Vitamin D had approximately half the fatality rate of those with the lowest levels of vitamin D – Anticancer ResearchA 2007 study by Lappe et al that reported a 77% reduction in all invasive breast cancers in women who supplemented with vitamin D vs those who did not – American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- A 2007 study by Lappe et al that reported a 77% reduction in all invasive breast cancers in women who supplemented with vitamin D vs those who did not – American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
How is this Relevant to You?
You need to make sure that your body has sufficient levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplementation is the easiest way to do this and can help lower your cancer risk.
- This study – the most comprehensive to date investigating the relationship between omega 3 fatty acid supplementation and heart disease risk – cites known benefits of omega-3 supplementation such as reduced triglyceride levels, improved LDL and HDL cholesterol profiles, and improved blood pressure.
- These benefits had real effects as “participants with elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol experienced statistically significant reductions in coronary heart disease” as a result of the omega-3 supplementation.
- Higher doses (>1g/day of EPA + DHA) had a stronger impact on CHD than lower doses (<1g/day), explaining why studies using lower doses of omega 3 fats sometimes fail to show benefits (i.e. humans require more than the dosages used in those trials!).
How is this Relevant to You?
Heart health is just one benefit of omega 3 fish oil supplements – there are many others as well, but the reality is that an adult aiming to get 1g of EPA/DHA per day would have to eat a lot of fish!
This is why a high quality, natural triglyceride, contaminant-free, unconcentrated omega-3 fish oil supplement is so useful, and the best we have found is the Nordic oil brand available here in the clinic, which provides over 1390 mg of EPA/DHA per adult serving (one teaspoon per day!).
Latest News |
Michael Mosley and colleagues have been busy in recent years. They’ve been looking for strategies that ordinary, time pressed people like you and I can use to control our weight, become fitter, and enjoy a better quality of life, whilst at the same time minimising our risk of joining the ever growing numbers of people being diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, obesity, or other associated lifestyle diseases.
Along the way, they’ve exposed many counter-productive and potentially harmful flaws in the prevailing “conventional wisdom” on healthy nutrition and exercise, and they’ve summarised their findings in their books The Fast Diet, Fast Exercise, Fast Life, and The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet.
These books contain a lot of really helpful information, so what follows is our quick review of each of them (excluding Fast Life, as it is just Fast Diet and Fast Exercise combined as one book), and we encourage you to check them out for yourself if our reviews happen to pique your interest.
Posted in Latest News |
When it comes to good health exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, but with our hectic, time pressed lifestyles many people ask: “What type of exercise should I be doing to get the greatest possible benefit in the time available to me?”
Against this backdrop you may remember the spate of headlines a couple of years ago suggesting that just a few minutes of high intensity exercise a day was all you needed to achieve major improvements in your health and fitness, and that all those hours spent grinding it out in the gym or out on the running trails as dictated by conventional health and fitness wisdom were unnecessary.
Were those headlines really telling the whole story?
Well…er….no, there’s a bit more to it than that, but high intensity training does have its place within a well structured approach to exercise, and Fast Exercise looks into the effects that short bursts of high intensity training (HIT) can have on your body irrespective of your age or level of fitness, and claims to reveal the simple secret that will help you get fitter, stronger, leaner and better toned with just a few minutes exercise a day.
Here are the key points that we took from the book:
1. The principles behind HIT are not new – in fact, they’re ancient, and echo the kinds of selection pressures our hunter gatherer paleolithic ancestors faced over many thousands of years of evolutionary progress.
Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint book and podcast series explains this better than anyone else we have come across to date, but Michael also makes the point that we evolved with “exercise” patterns that involved a lot of light background activity (such as walking) interspersed with short burst of moderate to high intensity activity (as we strove to catch our lunch, or avoid becoming the lunch of something else), and that our bodies are well adapted to this type of exercise pattern.
2. There is high quality science that shows that HIT delivers significant improvements in aerobic fitness and endurance, reduces body fat levels, increases upper and lower body strength, and improves insulin sensitivity.
If you want to lose fat then intensity is the key, and the “long and slow” (or low intensity/high duration) is not the way to go for weight loss.
What’s more, improvements in aerobic fitness (as measured in VO2 max improvements) and blood sugar control are two of the most important predictors for a long and healthy life, and these are more powerfully influenced by HIT exercise patterns than lower intensity workouts.
However – and this is where the headlines can be misleading – other authors point out that whilst the benefits of HIT are very significant, lower intensity exercise still has an important role in a well structured exercise plan in that it helps build a strong and supple body, and an aerobic base from which higher intensity efforts can be safely launched. Building this foundation of strength and suppleness in a gradual way matters, as the premature and unrealistic launch into high intensity exercise patterns is a common cause of many of the injuries we see in our patients!
3. HIT exercise produces greater numbers of more active mitochondria in skeletal and heart muscles than does lower intensity training.
Mitochondria are the site of energy production within cells, so the more you have and the better they work makes for a fitter, stronger, healthier you.
So how should HIT training fit into an overall approach to exercise? Well, page 56 offers the following guidelines (which are remarkably similar to those advocated by Mark Sisson of The Primal Blueprint fame):
- Do a lot of light background activity such as walking.
- Have hard days followed by easy days. You need rest, relaxation and sleep.
- Include interval training: short intermittent bursts of moderate to high intensity exercise interspersed with rest and recovery, 2-3 times a week.
- Make sure you do regular sessions of strength and flexibility building (hunter gatherers have to chop wood, climb trees or carry a child around).
- Ideally do all exercise outdoors, where your skin gets exposed to sunlight and your body has a chance to manufacture vitally important vitamin D.
- Try to do as much exercise as possible in a social setting…we’re social animals, after all.
In conclusion, Fast Exercise contains many other fascinating insights on the benefits of high intensity exercise, and provides practical suggestions for how to go about safely incorporating it into our lifestyle, but perhaps its greatest feature is that it shows how just a few minutes exercise a day can make a huge difference to our health in a relatively short period of time, and that when this information is coupled with a reasonable understanding of nutrition we have the most powerful tools we require to stay healthy and lead long and active lives.Posted in Move Well |
First released back in 2013, this book focuses on the health benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). It offers a practical guide to implementing IF into your lifestyle, built around the idea of eating normally for 5 days a week, but limiting your calorie intake to only 500-600 calories per day on the other 2 days (i.e. the 5:2 model).
Motivated as much by his own personal need to take action to control his weight, blood sugar and familial risk of developing diabetes as he was by the broader question of how we combat the obesity and diabetes epidemics that plague people all over the world, Michael explores the science behind how IF helps to regulate our body’s metabolic functioning, and shares the dramatic improvements in weight loss and blood sugar control that he experienced as a result of intermittent fasting.
Here are the key “take home” messages that we have pulled from the book:
1. Reputable scientific studies suggest that intermittent fasting (IF) promotes health and longevity because it stimulates the natural “repair and maintenance” processes that take place within the cells of our body.
There are a number of mechanisms by which this happens: IF reduces the levels of an insulin like growth factor called IGF-1 circulating in your body (which has been implicated in accelerated ageing and increased cellular turnover/cancers), it reduces oxidative damage and inflammation within the body, it helps to optimise energy metabolism, it switches on some of the body’s “repair” genes, it helps to keep your immune system functioning properly, and it bolsters cellular protection.
Thus, IF has the potential to delay ageing, and to help prevent or treat many kinds of disease including cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, obesity and others.
2. Intermittent fasting helps people lose weight in a safe and sustainable way.
Importantly, this weight loss stems from reductions in body fat levels (which is exactly what you want) as opposed to the loss of lean muscle tissue (which is exactly what you don’t want).
Just as importantly, Michael suggests that this weight loss is not merely the result of ingesting fewer overall calories as a result of the reduced caloric intake on the two fasting days, but by improving the body’s sensitivity to the energy storage hormone insulin.
Put simply, insulin inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat for energy, but because IF can help to improve insulin sensitivity within the body there tends to be less of it floating around in the bloodstream all the time, thus making it easier for your body to burn stored body fat for energy and helping to ensure that the weight loss you experience is due to fat loss rather than muscle loss.
3. Intermittent fasting can dramatically lower blood glucose levels.
Elevated blood glucose levels is one of the key features of type 2 diabetes, and this “sugary” blood is quite damaging to the cells of your body tissues, and in particular to your blood vessels. The consequences of this damage include an increased propensity for stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, visual loss, cognitive decline, and many other serious health disorders.
Michael describes his own improvements in blood glucose levels as “spectacular”, and relates how his doctor – who had been preparing to put Michael on medication to try and control his blood sugar levels – was astonished at the dramatic improvement. Needless to say, the medication wasn’t necessary.
There are many other important messages contained within this book, and it also offers practical ideas about meals that can be used on those days when one is fasting, but perhaps its greatest strength is that it has shown that not only is there good science behind the concept of intermittent fasting, but that it is a safe and sustainable way that most people can use to make to make significant improvements in their health and longevity. We happily recommend the book to everybody.Posted in Eat Well |
There was a time when comments such as “lose weight fast and reprogram your body” or “how to prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes and stay off medication” would have decried as being gimmicky and unrealistic.
However, as Michael Mosley shows in the 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet there is very good science to back these claims up, and he does a great job of explaining some of it in a way that makes totally good sense and is easy to follow.
This book explains how calorie dense foods high in refined carbohydrates and low in fibre wreak havoc with our body’s ability to maintain healthy control of our blood insulin levels and general metabolism, and how this is contributing to epidemic levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia and many other illnesses, and the chronic dependency on medication that goes with them.
But – inspired by the work of Professor Roy Taylor, who is a Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University and runs the Diabetes Research Group there – it also shows that there is strong evidence that practical changes in our food choices and general lifestyle are the most effective means by which we can turn many of these negative health trends around.
Like his earlier books Fast Diet and Fast Exercise, the 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet is full of fascinating insights, and debunks a number of nutritional myths that have ultimately contributed to many of the health challenges we are facing here in the U.K.
Unfortunately, the book’s title might suggest that it is primarily aimed at those who have already developed type 2 diabetes, but this is most definitely not the case – its true audience is anybody who wants to understand the fundamental role that nutrition plays in helping us avoid the lifestyle diseases that plague so many of the people around us, and who wants to eat in a way that will help them sustain good health throughout their life. We highly recommend the book.
insert link to his website, and maybe to the two radio interviews.Posted in Eat Well |
UK cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra explains his strong opinions on the deleterious health effects of too much sugar in this 10 minute interview filmed in April 2016 .
His comments on the sugar issue are well worth noting, but so are the comments he makes on the ever present problem of research bias.
It is widely acknowledged that when those funding the research have a vested interest in its outcomes (as is often the case in the research climate of the modern era) it is very difficult – and sometimes even dangerous – to take the findings of that research at face value.
Unfortunately, this situation is unlikely to change any time soon, so until it does: caveat emptor.Posted in Eat Well, Latest News |