If exercise was a pill, every doctor would be prescribing it. Far reaching are the benefits for body and mind! In fact, according to Australian Burden of
Disease Study (released in November 2017):
So what are the current health recommendations for physical activity?
If you are age 18-64 the following are recommended:
Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines
Being ‘physically inactive’ means not doing enough physical activity (not meeting the physical activity guidelines). However, being ‘sedentary’ means sitting or lying down for long periods. A person can do enough physical activity to meet the guidelines and still be considered sedentary if they spend a large amount of their day sitting or lying down.
According to the National health Survey (2014-15), 55.5% of 18-64-year olds participated in sufficient physical activity in the last week!
If you are 65 year or older, the following is recommended:
Remember these guidelines are for general health. If you are training for a specific outcome, the training protocol will vary.
If you desire to reduce your weight (body fat) and clothing size…
ACSM Position Statement for Exercise & Weight Loss (2009)
A Vital Approach To Being Active
How does your physical activity measure up?
How much time do you sit at work, or in leisure screen activities?
Is there an area that you can improve on?
As part of my Diploma in Health & Wellness Coaching, I am offering a free coaching session for anyone interested in creating healthy, sustainable change in their exercise and activity patterns.
Contact Jason Hurry, as offer is limited to first three applicants
Moving mindfully is simply connecting with your body in the here and now. It is about noticing how you move with awareness.
The benefits of exercise are far reaching for both mind and body. When you do so in a mindful manner, you can amplify the positive experience.
Here are four simple tips to start moving mindfully:
4. End the session with a body scan and take time to reflect. I like to finish my cool down, lying on the floor connecting with my breathing. I then complete a short body scan starting at my neck and working my way down to my toes. In doing so, I notice any extraneous muscle tension and let it go, coordinating with my out breath. On completion, I notice how my body is contacting the floor and with a sense of gratitude thank it for allowing me the opportunity to move.
Finally, try noticing how your body is feeling at the end of your workout and how this compares to your experience prior to commencing the session. This is a great way of becoming present to some of the benefits associated with regular movement. By doing so you develop your intrinsic motivation that creates a desire to move regularly and create a healthy habit that sticks!
This year I will be offering sessions to those who want to move more mindfully. If this is of interest to you, please contact me :) J
During Melbourne’s hard lockdown (when I was prevented from leaving the city limits), training outdoors was key to me maintaining physical and mental health. Training under my oak tree, and connecting with the family of owls’ that roosted near by, helped ground me and give me a sense of perspective. I became acutely aware that we are a part of something bigger, and that this pandemic will come and go, as Mother Nature has been present for many such encounters.
As I resumed face-to-face training in Fawkner Park this week, I was reminded by why I enjoy training outdoors. The 6am call of our local Kookaburra’s, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the pleasant morning breeze, helped me connect with my environment and ground me in the present. Indeed there is growing research as to the benefits of regular “nature bathing” In this previous article I unpack some of the research and rational behind the need for nature in maintain optimum health and wellbeing.
Of course there are other important benefits for training outdoors. With us still experiencing outbreaks of the virus, and the likelihood that this will continue throughout the year, maintaining physical distance and airflow are key. There are growing concerns of the infectious nature of new variants and how air born transmission is responsible for spreading the virus. This only reinforces my desire to train outdoors for the foreseeable future. This article in the wall street journal outlines the importance of airflow and physical activity.
At Vital Lifestyle the health & wellbeing of our community is paramount. Throughout this COVID normal year I will continue to provide training services outdoors or from the convenience of your home via Zoom :) J.
What a year 2020 has been! With all its upheaval and uncertainty I have been reminded that the only constant in life is change. And with the changing winds I say good-bye, after nearly 13 years, to 54 Commercial Road.
A lot has happened in 13 years! Personally I have:
I will remember my time at the studio with mixed emotions. There have been times of great challenge, but also growth. Like most business owners I have learnt to strengthen my physical, mental & emotional muscle. I am grateful for the wonderful community that has been a part of my journey. For all clients and trainer past and present thank you!
This pandemic period has allowed many of us to reassess our lives and connect with what is truly important. I would like to remember this time as a period where I learnt to appreciate the small things, to harvest and savour all that was good. Even though there have been challenges, I have learnt to be flexible, adaptable and take actions in a valued direction. I feel blessed that this pandemic time has helped defined who I am and what I stand for.
So what next? Firstly, I will finish clearing out the studio over the holiday period and resume face to face training February 1. I will also be announcing some exciting Coaching programs in the New Year. I look forward to spending time with family, friends and taking a few deep breaths in nature. Be well and I look forward to resuming your Vital Lifestyle in February J
It’s time we got back to basic. What you eat affects your whole body, not just your waistline. A healthy diet leads to more energy and a higher chance of preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, heart diseases and osteoporosis.
In Australia malnutrition is rarely a problem. The greater problem is with diets that include large intakes of energy-dense foods, saturated fats, sugar and/or salt, and low intakes of vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals. These are the main contributors to overweight and obesity, diet-related disease and poor health (AIHW 2012)
The 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) surveyed the population's usual dietary intakes. The key findings in this survey were:
So is my diet balanced?
In Australia the most reliable nutrition advice is provided by The National Health and Medical Research Council. NHMRC has guidelines for healthy eating based on the best available scientific evidence including the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The Guidelines highlight the groups of foods and lifestyle patterns that promote good nutrition and health. They have been designed to help Australians consume a healthy diet by eating a variety of foods. The aim of these Guidelines is to help individuals consume a balanced diet, namely:
In Australia the five food groups include:
To help maintaining a healthy and balanced diet the guidelines suggest the following tips:
How much food from each food group do I need each day?
Foundation diets are dietary patterns developed by the NHMRC based on the five food groups. It describes the minimum number of serves from each food group required to be eaten each day, to ensure adequate nutrients are consumed. The diets consider gender, age and life stage.
People who want to lose weight are recommended to choose the minimum number of serves. Additional portions or discretionary choices are needed only by people who are taller or more active to meet additional energy requirements
In summary, the foundation diet and associated servings has been developed by the NHMRCH to promote health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of diet-related conditions and chronic disease. It does so by promoting a wide variety of whole foods. The underlying premise: Any diet that excludes any essential food groups leaves you at risk of nutrient deficiencies
The guidelines apply to all healthy individuals, however if you have a specific medical condition (including food allergies and intolerances) you should consult a qualified dietician.
So how do your eating habits measure up?
Q. How would you rate your nutrition on a scale of 1-10?
Q. In regards to the foundation diet, on average do you meet the recommended daily serves in respect to the five food groups (for your age and sex)?
Q. Is there a particular food group that you feel you could improve your consumption for overall health and wellbeing?
Q. What step can you take this week to improve your variety of whole unprocessed foods?
If you would like assistance in supporting your healthy eating, I am offering three complimentary coaching sessions as part of my Professional Diploma in Health & Wellness Coaching
As a health & wellness coach I help my clients to increase self awareness, building their resources and skills so that they can make changes to healthful eating and wellbeing on their terms. J Contact Jason
One of my biggest challenges has been managing my anxiety, mood and energy levels. With the stage 4 lock down being extended, I am the first to admit that I am suffering pandemic fatigue! In our “Resilience Skills for a Pandemic” webinar series, Kate and myself shared some strategies for managing physical and mental wellbeing. Now more than ever, I am scheduling some “self-care reminders” to nurture me through the following weeks. Here are a few:
Get present and breath. When I am anxious, so much of my time is future focused, usually predicting the worst. Taking time out to take 10 deep belly breaths, helps me connect with the here and now and creates some time out from my “monkey mind.” Engaging in some regular mindfulness practice helps me to better observe my thoughts, and connect with my feelings. From this space, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings have less control and I am better able to connect and savour what’s good.
Focus on your circle of control. In this pandemic so much has been outside of our control. Taking the time to identify what is within my control has been key for me maintaining a sense of agency. The pillars of exercise, healthful eating, sleep and connecting with loved ones are things that I can control and take action towards.
Manage your news feed. The 24-hour news cycle is full of doom and gloom. Checking in once a day to a reputable news source has allowed me to stay informed, yet not be overwhelmed by negativity. I think now more than ever we need to be more selective with what we feed ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
Be Kind. Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown has been challenging for us all. The resurgence of partisan politics and political points scoring has made me reflect on my personal values. For me, I would like to focus more on compassion, empathy and hope rather than blame. Like the political landscape, we all have our own inner critic. Exercising some self-compassion and being kind to yourself and others is key if we are to recover well.
Is this helping or hindering? This could either be a thought or a behaviour. Asking myself this question has given me the space to choose how I want to show up in this world moment to moment. What I want to stand for and who I want to be! All too often we can think and act in a way that moves us away from what we value in life. This question has helped me be more accountable.
Trust. The other day when feeling a little low, I was reminded by my wife Karen, of all the challenges we have faced as a couple. She helped me reconnect with our strengths and our resources that have enabled us to overcome adversity. The take home message: Have trust in yourself; your ability and that this to shall pass J J.
During this pandemic, exercise has been my number one strategy for keeping me resilient during uncertain times. If exercise was a pill, every doctor would be prescribing it! We know that when we move regularly our immune systems operate optimally. From and emotional and mental perspective, exercise is one of the best things we can do for our brain health, cognitive function and our mood!
Having a physical release to manage and use the fight and flight hormones of adrenalin and cortisol is key if we are to mediate the stress response. This is important if we are to dodge the long-term physical and mental health consequences of chronic stress.
In his book “Spark- How exercise will improve the performance of your brain,” Dr John Ratey explains how exercise transforms your mind. “Regular exercise will help you pay better attention, be more creative, you will remember things better and have more flexibility in your thinking!” I too have my own subjective experience of this. In my running days, if I encountered a problem or challenge, going for a run would improve my problem solving skills. Invariably, during or post workout, I would come up with a solution to my quandary.
When we move we use more of our brain and nervous system than any other activity. Consequently we release dopamine and nor-epinephrine, both of which are used in our attention system. This is what is targeted in psychiatry when people with ADHD are prescribed Ritalin. Exercise will make you more alert and more focused! A study from Stanford University measured the creativity of students. They discovered those students that were moving, performed better in the cognitive tests that they were given.
If you exercise for 5-10 minutes you will get an increase of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin that helps create a calming effect. Psychiatrists target this neuromodulator when they prescribe antidepressants. What’s more, you will boost the release of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), the “miracle grow” or fertilizer for the brain. This helps neuroplasticity, creating new connections in your brain.
In summary, exercise metaphorically oils the brain, allowing our mental cogs to function better. It also fertilizes our neural networks so that they can grow and make further connections.
So what should I do?
Do the activity that you enjoy and move regularly. If you feel your brain is in “lockdown” get moving to shift your mood! If you can do it outside, you will also get the additional benefit of vitamin D, which is important for inflammation and the immune system. If you can move with someone else (socially distant), you also get the benefits of social interaction that is critical for our mental and emotional health.
Check out what a trainer does in lockdown to shift his mood! PS Mute the cheesy music :)
Please contact me if you would like assistance with your own ISO home workout
With major disruption to our lives, we need to redefine a new way of living. This 4 week program, provides you with the tools, support and accountability to help you get back on track.
Do you want to….
As a Vital Lifestyle Client you will receive free access to this online program.
Contact Jason to register
What people are saying....
"Thanks Jason for a really enriching session last night. You and Kate have clearly put a lot of work and thought into these sessions and I feel they have been very valuable and thought provoking. You both left me with lots of things to ponder on and explore. Can’t wait to Zoom in next week!"
"Thanks Jason – Monday night was great. Such a good thing to be doing at the moment, as I’m sure lockdown is going to continue. I have a feeling the whole year will have passed and I’ll feel like I‘ve spent it all at home (apart from going out for a walk!!)
TED Talk: Three Secrets To Resilient People
“Where you focus your attention is what you will experience.” It may seem like a simple statement, but it has profound implication to our experience of life.
With the 24-hour news cycle fixated on the pandemic and all the implications socially, economically and medically, it’s easy to get swamped by the “bad news” presented by the media. One antidote is to foster practices that help harvest and savour positive emotions.
This idea is derived from current neuroscience research that recognises that positive experiences are like Teflon- they slip away. Where as negative emotions are like Velcro- they stick around.
Further more, research by Fredrickson suggests that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions helps people experience a state of mind that can; “enhance your relationships, improve your health, relieve depression, and broaden your mind.”
Our brains are wired to focus on the negative aspects of life and these are the ones we remember easily. This is our survival mechanism at play and is part of the brain’s protective make-up. After all, if we were unable to identify a threat, our ancestors would not have been naturally selected.
On the other hand, celebrating the good things in life, the events, relationships, the wow and ah-ha moments contribute to the joy of living and it is good to train ourselves to hold onto these experiences.
Here are three practices that I am currently experimenting with to facilitate connecting with the good.
Following up on our resilience and wellbeing webinar, Gill has made available several recipes that have helped her through this period of lock down and social distancing. Enjoy :)
Please take note, not only of the model, but the beautiful kitchen. I have been assured that it is always this clean!
During this period we are all trying to inoculate ourselves against the COVID 19 virus. In order to help our immune system we know that regular exercise, healthful eating, good sleep and stress management practices are all integral in supporting immune function. (For a good overview to boosting your immune system, listen to this ABC podcast)
Besides physical inoculation, there is also the mental and emotional need for inoculating ourselves against the fear, panic and anxiety of uncertain times. I know personally I have been in a heightened state of fight and flight.
Stress put simply is our bodies’ response to a perceived (real or imagined) threat or challenge. This response can be physiological, mental, emotional or behavioural. I personally have been experiencing increased anxiety and worry about the future. Here are some strategies I have been using to assist me in maintaining some form of balance and equanimity.
Breath! When we become stressed or anxious our breathing rate and patterns change as part of the biological stress response, in order to warn us that we may be under threat. When this happens we generally take short and shallow breaths from high up in our chest, rather than using our diaphragm. Slow conscious diaphragmatic breathing is a physiological intervention that can mediate our stress response. Check out this short video
Maintain social connection. Even though you are physically distancing doesn’t mean you need to be isolated. Social connection and the release of oxytocin is another recognised intervention in mediating the stress response. Get creative. I know of people who are using Zoom, Skype and Face time to have regular coffee catch ups, wine time (not whine time) dinner parties, and kids social catch ups. For more on the importance of social connection and good brain health click here.
Develop psychological flexibility. This implies you have the skills and ability to build awareness and be present, make room for uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, yet still take action guided by your core values. As the stress response more often than not involves uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and sensations, having the cognitive skills to better relate to these is imperative to managing stress.
Engaging in some regular mindful practice is a great way of creating some space between troubling thoughts and tumultuous emotions. Mindfulness based practice is like an antidote to living in the past (rumination, regret, resentment) or the future (worrying or predicting the worst). It enables grounding, centering and calming down when stressed. It’s like “dropping an anchor amidst an emotional storm”
Emotional flexibility involves:
Check out this short video on internal struggles by Dr Russ Harris
Download below this great resource created by DR Russ Harris for better inoculating you mentally & emotionally from COVID 19
Manage your (social) media intake. I am normally a veracious consumer of news and current affairs often listening to BBC, NPR and our ABC. Recently I have limited my exposure to the 24-hour news cycle. This involves taking a break from watching, reading or listening to crisis news stories, including social media. Instead I check in once a day and spend other moments listening to something more uplifting like ABC classical or an interesting podcast.
Maintain a routine is something that one can control. Having a written daily plan helps you stay on track with your self-care and other areas that you value and are important for maintaining resilience and equanimity. Check out Kate’s video below. Contact Kate for psychotherapy support.
As a health and wellbeing coach I help people build their physical, mental and emotional resources to meet life challenges. Over the last month I have been deploying all that I have learnt in the last 30 years of working in health and fitness. This has been identifying what is within my circle of control, taking action and calling on those resources that have me be as resilient as I can, in the face of uncertainty.
Some of you may already know that I have been amidst a family health crisis, with both parents currently in hospital, a wife that has a chronic health condition (reliant on immune suppressing medication) and the emerging uncertainty of COVID 19. I have had a few sleepless nights to say the least! I have also made it a non negotiable, to maintain and indeed increase my self- care behaviour, that has me be the most effective and resilient in these eventful times. Here I would like to share my top 6 strategies.
Finally I always come back to this….
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
One thing that is within my circle of control is choosing actions that are in alignment with my values.
At this time I stand for being: compassionate, caring, accepting, calm and healthy J
What are your self-care behaviours that you turn to in stressful times? i would love to hear from you :)
At Vital Lifestyle our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of our community. With the evolving COVID 19 situation, we are mindful of eliminating and minimizing risk to both you our valued client and our trainers. As such you will notice a few changes and we ask for your assistance.
We kindly ask for you to:
We recognise that this is a global epidemic and one which we are treating with serious precaution, however we wanted to reiterate that it is important for you, your health, and your family that you remain calm and rational, considerate of others, and most importantly maintain a healthy lifestyle wherever possible.
The New Year is often a time for reflection. It is also a period where many make resolutions for the year ahead and some create goals to track performance. Goal setting is often the starting point for most who want to create behaviour change.
As a coach, I suggest this should be one of the final steps. I believe many are unsuccessful in creating healthy change because they haven’t created a compelling vision or have not identified key values that drive their behaviour. If values are not in alignment with a personal vision it is understandable why there maybe ambivalence and why many become unstuck, during the process of change.
So what are values ?
Values are about how you want to present in the world, what you want to stand for and where and how you spend your time. A definition that resonates for me comes from and Australian psychologist Russ Harris, who specialises in ACT (Acceptance, Commitment Therapy). According to him they are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life.
“Values are not the same as goals. Values are directions we keep moving in, whereas goals are what we want to achieve along the way. A value is like heading North; a goal is like the river or mountain or valley we aim to cross whilst traveling in that direction. Goals can be achieved or ‘crossed off’, whereas values are an ongoing process. For example, if you want to be a loving, caring, supportive partner, that is a value – an ongoing process. If you stop being loving, caring and supportive, then you are no longer a loving, caring, supportive partner; you are no longer living by that value. In contrast, if you want to get married, that’s a goal - it can be ‘crossed off’ or achieved. Once you’re married, you’re married – even if you start treating your partner very badly. If you want a better job, that’s a goal. Once you’ve got it - goal achieved. But if you want to fully apply yourself at work, that’s a value – an ongoing process.”
In summary values are desired qualities of ongoing action. They reflect how we want to treat ourselves and others. They enhance our deepest desires as to how we want to show up in the world and behave. As any change we wish to create is a result of our behaviour, distinguishing ones values first is key.
Try this exercise for the New Year…
For the New Year try being mindful before taking action. Ask yourself the question: "Am I moving in alignment with my values?"
Christmas is often a time for catching up with family and friends. Indeed the benefits associated with most organised religion is the sense of community and meaning. In my last blog post I touched on some research indicating the importance of connecting with nature and its part in maintaining optimal health. In this post I want to focus on connecting with community and why this has an important effect on your wellbeing.
By our very nature we are social creatures. Throughout the ages our survival has depended on our ability to live and work with others. As Dr Craig Hassed states in his book ‘The Essence of Health,’ “connectedness is … deeply etched into our natures genetically, psychologically, socially and behaviourly.”
Human beings first evolved in the savannahs of Africa where we survived in small hunter- gatherer tribes of a few hundred people or less. We owe our existence to the very fact that these first communities learned how to co-operate. They shared food, looked after the sick and managed threats together. Against all odds humanity survived, mainly due to the dense web of social contacts and the vast number of reciprocal commitments they maintain.
Being lost or isolated from the group for a protracted period meant you would be in terrible danger. You would be vulnerable to predators, if you got sick nobody would nurse you, and the rest of the tribe was also vulnerable without you. Every human instinct is honed not for life on your own, but for life in a tribe. It’s no wonder we feel anxious and distressed when faced with social solation. It’s an urgent signal from our body and brain to get back to the group. Ultimately we have strong impulses in favour of connection. Loneliness is an adverse state that motivates us to reconnect. Indeed, evolution has shaped us not only to feel bad in isolation but also to feel insecure.
Social isolation is painful and is represented in the top 10 stressors, according to the scale of life stressors- death of a loved one, marital breakdown and conflict at work to name but a few. The pain of feeling disconnected is expressed in many ways including physical illness, anxiety and depression.
Connectedness comes from the Greek word ‘harmos’ (harmony), which means ‘to join.’ While the positive effects of harmony can be seen in an orchestra or sporting team the negative effects of disharmony can manifest as disease and imbalance within the human body. Indeed studies consistently show that when it comes to staying healthy, both physically and mentally, strong relationships are at least as important as avoiding smoking and obesity!
According to neuroscience researcher John Cacioppe, loneliness in today’s society isn’t the physical absence of other people; it’s also the sense that you are not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. To end loneliness you need to have a sense of “mutual aid and protection.” This is an interesting concept, one worth considering in the society we are faced with today.
Research by Harvard professor Robert Putman has documented over the last few decades how our families and communities are unraveling- “We do things together less than any humans who came before us.” Even eating a meal or watching TV (and screen time) are no longer done together! An interesting American study wanted to know: ‘How many people you could turn to in a crisis or when something really good happens to you?’ When they started collecting data several decades ago, the average number of close friends was three. By 2004, the most common answer was none. This when the Internet was becoming mainstream, promising connection when other forces of disconnection were reaching a crescendo.
If you are a typical westerner in the twenty-first century, you check your phone every 6.5 minutes. If you are a teenager, you send an average 100 texts a day. And 42 percent of us never turn our phones off! For many, we escape anxiety through distraction. According to Dr Hillary Cash an American psychologist specialising in Internet addiction, “our impulsive internet use is a dysfunctional attempt to try and solve the pain that we are already in, caused by feeling alone in the world.” Our obsessive use of social media is an attempt to fill a hole, that took place before anyone had a smart phone. “We are living in a culture where people are not getting the connection that they need in order to be healthy humans…. Which is face to face, where we are able to see, and touch, and smell and hear each other… We’re social creatures. We’re meant to be in connection with one another in a safe, caring way, and when it is mediated by a screen, that’s absolutely not there!”
There are many ways we can experience the benefits (physical, mental and emotional) of social connectedness and being part of a community. For many of us our workplaces and immediate family and social circle provide our main source of interaction. While these relationships are crucial it can also be beneficial to look beyond these and to develop new habits and activities. Examples may include connecting with others who share a hobby, joining a sports team or a group such as a book club, enrolling in a class learning something you’ve always wanted to do or engaging in voluntary work or religious/ spiritual practice with others.
So this festive season my intention is to forgo the commercial pressure to buy and give gifts, but to focus on connecting with others, face to face and sharing something that matters. J
In the New Year I will continue my exploration of connection as a pillar of health and vitality... The importance of connecting to meaning and purpose for optimum wellbeing.
The Essence Of Health.
Dr Craig Hassed
Lost Connections. Uncovering the real causes of depression - and the unexpected solutions .
Go Wild: Eat fat, run free, be social, and follow evolutions other rules for total Health and wellbeing.
John J Ratey MD & Richard Manning
For the last 30 years I have regularly enjoyed time away in a natural setting. Invariably I would feel emotionally and mentally recharged, even if physically I was recovering from an extended bushwalk, mountain bike or weekend climbing. In my own terms this was like a reboot for my soul, where the benefits would last for weeks until my next nature fix. There are now more and more scientists researching how “forest bathing” makes changes to our health and wellbeing.
The term forest bathing is a translation of the Japanese movement “shinrin-yoku”. So strong is the movement that the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine has formally conducted research. Indeed the Japanese, Taiwanese and South Korean governments are investing heavily into this area. Of interest is that these nations are the big users of technology, and many of the populous are disconnected from the natural world.
A series of studies have measured cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure to demonstrate the measurable benefits of wellbeing and performance by simple contact with nature. Interestingly some Japanese research has shown that exposure to nature not only mediated the stress response, but also impacted the immune response. A group of Japanese businessmen had a 40% increase in natural immune “killer cells” after a walk in the woods. These killer cells are our immune systems first line defensive weapon against infection like the influenza virus. Interestingly these killer cells were still elevated by 15% over baseline figures one month later!
In the book “Your Brain on Nature: The science of natures influence on your health, happiness and vitality”, the authors a medical doctor and naturopath, cite various examples around the world supporting the title of their book. Among them, subjects in an aged care facility in Texas showed decreased stress hormones when in a garden setting; a study in Kansas using EEG showed less stress in subjects when plants were in the room; researches in Taiwan using measures like EEG and skin conductance noted therapeutic effects in subjects viewing natural settings; a group in Japan had lower heart rates after viewing natural scenes for 20 minutes; another 119 research subjects in Japan showed less stress response when transplanting plants in pots than they did simply filling pots with soil.
So what are the mechanisms for these reported changes to wellbeing?
In the 1970’s, research showed changes to alpha brain wave activity when partcipants drove along tree line boulevards instead of freeways. Alpha waves are associated with serotonin production and had a positive effect on depression, anxiety, anger and aggression. More recent, research into phytoncides- phytochemicals that are given off by trees and plants, showed they had a profound effect on the brain. Not only did they lower stress hormones, they regulated pain and reduced anxiety. Simply taking a walk in the forest and breathing deep was providing a direct chemical pathway to the brain via our olfactory system.
It appears that our brain has evolved in nature. There is only a minority of humanity that has existed for more than a couple of generations in a purely urban environment. Nature is ingrained in our DNA and neurobiology! Researches using fMRI have pinpointed where in the brain nature works its magic. In particular the parahippocampus gyrus, which is rich in opioid receptors. Nature is like a little drop of morphine to the brain!
But there are other benefits of being in the outdoors. Firstly, play in nature exposes children and everyone else to a full range of microbes to support a healthy gut flora and challenge and tune ones immune system. Otherwise known as the hygiene hypothesis -where modern, urban people are showing a rapid increase in autoimmune disease because they live in an over sanitized environment. To be healthy our internal ecosystems need to be connected to external ecosystems.
Other researches propose the hypothesis that sleep disorders have become epidemic because of widespread Vitamin D deficiency. Being outdoors exposes people to the full spectrum of light, with a variety of benefits, not the least amongst them regulating melatonin and sleep cycles but also making healthy levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in its own right, but in this light it is the subject of the epidemic of nature deficit disorder!
So how do I get my nature fix? Prior to the birth of my son Samuel this involved regular weekends away camping and walking. These days I enjoy gardening when at home or lying in the hammock enjoying the surrounding tree canopies. A simple mindful walk in the Botanic Gardens or down by the Yarra River is another great place to forest bath. My wife Karen knows that I need a regular nature fix every 4-6 weeks to maintain emotional regulation at home and work. Apparently I am not nice to be around when in nature deficit.
Your Brain on Nature: The science of natures influence on your health, happiness and vitality.
Eva M Selhub MD & Alan C Logan
Go Wild: Eat fat, run free, be social, and follow evolutions other rules for total Health and wellbeing.
John J Ratey MD & Richard Manning
The Nature Fix: Why nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative.
Dr. Ming Kuo’s extensive research scientifically proves what we intrinsically know to be true: That spending time in nature has profoundly positive and long-lasting effects on our psychological, physical, and social health.
Fasting has always been a part of human evolution. Back in hunter-gatherer days we would go prolonged periods without food, expending energy as we hunt our prey. It wasn’t until 10,000 years ago when agriculture emerged, going without food became less normal. However, fasting has never been truly absent in many cultures and religions: e.g. short fasting in Judaism’s 24-hour Yom Kippur, and Buddhism’s daily post-midday fast, to the prolonged 30-day dawn-to-dusk fasting for Muslims in Ramadan
Fasting- The science
In recent times fasting has become a hot topic amongst scientists and has fueled much research into the mechanism of associated health benefits associated with reduced calorie consumption and intermittent fasting (IF).
Back in 1945, a study in the Journal of Nutrition discovered that rats could increase life expectancy (20% for males and 15% for females). This was achieved by reducing calorie consumption with an intermittent fast of 1 day in 3 achieving best results.
Since this time there has been a variety of studies both in animals and humans to see how health and longevity were affected by IF. A review of such research in the American Journal of Nutrition found that IF modulated several risk factors, thereby preventing chronic disease in animals. Human trials to date have reported greater insulin-mediated glucose uptake. The limited human evidence suggests higher HDL-cholesterol concentrations (healthy cholesterol) and lower triacylglycerol concentrations.
Currently some of the reported benefits of IF:
So how do we explain the benefits of daily energy restriction (DER) and IF? A breakthrough came from a Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi who won the Nobel prize in 2016 for his work into autophagy (pronounced ‘or-toffa-gee’) – when pathogens (infectious agents), cell ‘junk’ or old and damaged structures are broken down inside a cell and the parts reused.
This is basically what happens in the body everyday as a byproduct of its metabolic processes. Otherwise known as “oxidative stress” it’s a bit like rust building up on your engine over time. It will inevitably happen unless we give our body an opportunity for essential maintenance. This is where autophagy kicks in and fasting taps into this process of cell repair and regeneration.
This is how physiologist believe it happens…
When we don’t eat for several hours the liver stops secreting glucose into the blood stream and instead uses it to repair damaged cells. Simultaneously the liver releases enzymes that break down stored fat and cholesterol. Hence during an (IF) our liver is repairing oxidative stress and burning fat.
The key is that what we eat, and when, affects this process. Sometimes what we eat pushes cells to keep multiplying and not recycle, called an anabolic state. Sometimes our body moves into a different state – one where we tidy up cells, kill off and recycle old ones. This is called the catabolic state, and it happens when we don’t eat. For optimal human health, the balance between anabolic and catabolic processes is crucial. Unfortunately this has been disrupted by modern society- readily available food sources, high-density calorific processed food and environmental influences such as marketing that promote regular snacking!
Putting Intermittent fasting into practice.
Michael Mosley has popularized (IF) with his books the 5:2 and the fast 800….
Time-restricted feeding (TRF): has been gaining popularity in recent years as perhaps an easier way of reducing the calories you consume every 24 hours. The basic premise is to only eat within a set period of time – anything from an 8 to 12-hour window being typical. In practice this means you finish eating after dinner at, say, 8pm – and you don’t eat again until 8am the next day (12-hour window for eating) or 12pm the next day (8-hour window for eating).
I have been trialing this 16 hour fast in every 24-hour period, as I am asleep for half and need only miss breakfast. From a compliancy perspective this is more realistic and the key for me is not to overcompensate in volume or quality. As previously reported I mainly stick to a Mediterranean diet, mainly plant based with fish, legumes, nuts (and red meat 1 -2 times week).
Finally for any eating plan to work it must be specific to your dietary needs attractive to you and sustainable for the long term. Certain Individuals should reframe from severe calorific restriction and fasting protocols. Michael Mosley has some guidelines, but best speak to your physician or qualified nutritionist/ dietician first.
Have you tried Intermittent fasting? If so what has your experience been?
I would love to hear from you J
Listen to Michael Mosley on RN podcast
Inflammation: a new approach to obesity and depression
Centenary Institute Oration recorded 16 September 2019
As you know, my husband and I have been on a “diet” since 28/8/19 and he’s lost 5 -6 kg so far and I’ve lost 4kg. You might remember I mentioned how he got a gee-up from the GP about his fats and sugars trending the wrong way – and the doc sent him off to lose 4 kg before November. It turned out to be very motivating!! (Also, I told him I wasn’t interested in spending my retirement looking after a stroked-out diabetic husband and that I was re-thinking the “in sickness and in health” bit of the marriage vows (joke)).
Click below for full transcript
When people come to me and discuss weight loss, our conversation inevitably moves from what they are eating to how much. In my previous blog post I talked about the importance of eating a whole food and mainly plant based Mediterranean diet. This month I want to share with you three hacks (backed by science) that have proven to reduce calories consumed per meal.
My first strategy is to stop the mindless eating. Put more simply, remove any devise (TV, tablet, computer or phone) and eat without distraction. New Research shows that when people engage in activities such as watching television, engaging in social media or playing video games at the same time as eating, they tend to eat more and consume greater amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fat and saturated fat according to findings published in “Obesity”.
The researchers found that when participants ate while doing something else during they took in 17.6 more grams of carbohydrates, 6.5 more grams of fat, 6.1 more grams of protein and 2.1 more grams of saturated fat.
The take home message is put down that phone or controller!
Distracted eating leads people to consume more at a meal. The research also showed that there was no evidence for compensating and eating less at the next meal. The result is extra food, calories and energy intake.
My second strategy is to simply eat slowly. Firstly it is an opportunity to connect mindfully with the flavours, textures and aromas of your meal. To truly connect, be present and enjoy! From a physiological perspective, it takes 20-30 minutes to produce the hormone cholecystokinin. Once triggered it tells your brain its time to stop eating. The take home message is to slow down and let your physiology take over!
Finally, hack your environment to nudge smaller portions. Firstly, after serving your meal (but not eating) place all leftovers in Tupperware and place straight in the fridge for future meals. This simple action will mean you are less likely to have seconds. The other nudge is to use smaller plates and bowls. Large plates and large packaging, mean more eating (Wansink, 2006) and they are a form of choice architecture that works as major nudges. Just ask the food and beverage industries!
Currently the most topical strategy for reducing calories is to try an intermittent fast. There is increasing research and evidence into the health benefits, but the science of fasting and helpful hacks will be in my next blog. J
Do you have any other strategies to mange portion control when eating? I would love to hear from you and share your thoughts.
You can't afford not to watch this Ted Talk! Learn more about sleep's impact on your learning, memory, immune system and even your genetic code with sleep expert Matt Walker...
Some hacks to Improve your sleep
The following are a range of tools for improving poor sleep. Some maybe more applicable to your own situation. If sleep problems continue despite the application of the following strategies it is advisable that you seek attention from a trained sleep specialist.
Are there any other rituals or behaviours that assist you in getting the best possible sleep? If so, I want to hear from you :)
RN Health Report Related Sleep Stories
Sleeping pills don't work for insomnia in the long run — they can often make your sleep worse — but there's good evidence a specialised type of cognitive behavioural therapy can help. Listen to Report
Some people are naturally inclined to sleep early and wake early, too — what you probably know as a 'morning lark' or 'early bird. Listen to Report
My grandfather who originated from Crete ate a mostly plant based diet not for health but mainly due to availability and financial constraints of animal protein. Red meat was an occasional luxury and his original diet was a traditional Mediterranean affair with the staple array of vegetables, pulses, a moderate intake of fish, Greek yoghurt a little red wine and plenty of olive oil!
With his migration in the 1920’s came more affluence, urbanization and increase access to meat, this status symbol was wholeheartedly embraced in this new “lucky country.” Interestingly today only 7% of Australians eat the recommended five serves of vegetables per day!
We know that diet plays a big role in chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Scientists have been looking into the benefits of traditional diets in their quest for answers, with the Mediterranean diet attracting most of the research. According to the American Journal of clinical nutrition, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancers neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and living a longer life. Unfortunately my grandfather who took on the Australian love for steak and sausages, died in his 80s with diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia!
According to the World Health Organisation, there is sufficient evidence that processed meats like ham, bacon, salami and sausages may increase your risk of colorectal cancer. For instance eating 50g of processed meat (such as two small rashes of bacon) every day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18%. There is also some evidence that red meat may also increase the risk of certain cancers.
The planet would also benefit from the reduction of red meat consumption, given the global livestock sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas, water pollution and forest clearing. Recently 37 experts collaborated for two years to produce the Lancets report; Food in the Anthropocene, to address a “civilization in crisis”. They came up with a “planetary health diet” that would optimize people’s health and reduce deaths globally by 19-24%.
The dietary overhaul includes a reduction in global consumption in less healthy food such as added sugars and red meat by less than 50%. Total daily meat consumption it recommends, shouldn’t exceed 28g/ day. The average Australian consumption is 250g a day!
The report also recommends a 100% increase in legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables globally. These foods contain lots of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients called polyphenols that support a healthy body and brain. They are low in kilojoules, rich in fibre, which fills you up and feed your beneficial bacteria. Fibre also slows the release of glucose into the blood stream, which along with polyphenols, helps maintain healthy blood sugar control and reduces the risk of diabetes. According to research from the University of Florence, vegetarians who eat a balanced diet have long enjoyed significant health benefits when compared to meat eaters.
So, how does this information influence my family’s eating? We generally eat a diet high in vegetables, legumes and nuts. We do eat some red meat, but no more than once a week. With my wife Karen’s Multiple Sclerosis, we have been following a lower saturated fat diet and opt for eating kangaroo. With only 4% saturated fat, it is one of the healthiest meats and has less environmental impact to conventionally farmed animals. Eating Roo is a great way of getting your iron and B vitamin fix. Our tip is to try making a lean Bolognase sauce where you can mask the gamey flavour with smoky paprika and other herbs and spices. Substitute your pasta for broccoli, roasted cauliflower or zuchinni ribbons! Our other protein sources are: fish a few times a week, legumes, tofu and nuts.
The easiest way I find to increase vegetable intake is to have a soup or a salad as a main meal. In winter vegetable soup is both warming and filling. You are only limited by your imagination, but I like to add as many colours and supplement with legumes. The same is for my salads. No boring Iceburg lettuce and tomato for me! Instead I will use every available vegetable in the fridge (at least 8 varieties) and supplement with seeds, nuts and a can of legumes. Not only do I love the texture and flavours, but it’s like taking my daily vitamin… only better!
How many serves of vegetables do you get a day? www.eatforhealth.gov.au
What strategies do you use to boost your vegetable consumption?
I would love to hear from you :)
When I share with people that I like to climb rocks in my spare time I regularly encounter faces of dismay and questions… Why? Reflecting back on what I have learnt about wellbeing over the years, I note that my recreational pursuit ticks many of the foundations I explore in my corporate wellbeing programs. Here is why I find climbing so rewarding, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The most obvious is the physical nature of the activity. Climbing encapsulates most of the fundamental components of fitness: strength, power, endurance, balance and flexibility. We know that if exercise was a pill, all doctors would be prescribing it. Far reaching are the health benefits of regular activity to mind and body.
When I climb I do so with others. My wife is very thankful that I am not a free soloist, someone who climbs without a rope or partner! For me, a climbing weekend is a great way to catch up with friends and be social in an active way. Humans are social creatures and there is an abundance of research into the benefits of remaining connected and the health risks associated with social isolation.
Climbing outdoors is also a way that I get a regular green fix. Connecting with nature is good for the soul and there is an increasing amount of study going into the health benefits associated with regular “nature bathing.”
When I climb there is no time to be caught up with rumination or extraneous thoughts. I am acutely aware of my environment and being engaged in the present moment. On a good day this is experienced as being in the “zone” or experiencing a state of “flow”. That is: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.”
Stress and building resilience
The fear of falling is one of the earliest anxiety patterns developed by an infant. For most of us the fear of height and the potential for falling and injury are hard wired. Climbing is an exquisite dance in regulating the fight & flight response. With exposure one becomes better at managing the stress response to big wall climbing.
Through climbing I have learnt how to remain focused in the present moment while still visualizing future moves that move me closer to my climbing goal. It’s not that one does not experience fear at times, but having faith in the process and taking action in the face of fear. Key to this is managing risk, assessing fall consequence and committing when necessary. Learning breathing techniques to better regulate ones nervous response to stress is critical in performance in climbing and any stressful situation.
From my studies in neuroscience climbing helps to create new connections, assisting the prefrontal cortex in taking charge over the amygdala and limbic system. Rewiring mind and body to be more resilient when faced with stress or a challenging situation.
Climbing involves living some of my core values of: courage, acceptance, personal growth, self-care and enjoying nature. Living my values gives me purpose and a sense that I am creating a life that is meaningful. This also gives a sense of wellbeing. The feeling is vital!
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all take to rock climbing for better wellbeing, however understanding some of the foundations that underpin your wellbeing and implementing them is key. Here is my top 6:
What are your foundations for being well? I would love to hear from you.
Jason's winter Vital lifestyle
Are you tired of:
If you are keen for change, but not sure where to start, I will assist in finding your path.
If you have a goal that seems light years away, I will help you get there.
You can trust me to inspire, nudge and keep you accountable.
Can you prescribe… a diet or give medical advise?
As your coach I will collaborate but not direct. I recognise you as the expert in your own life. I will facilitate a conversation that allows you to come up with your answers, strategies and tools for change.
Together we will draw out your inner wisdom, deepest desires, values and dreams – then use a step-by-step process to realise them, while outgrowing the challenges and obstacles that come up along the way.
Together we can brainstorm options that work best for you. We can collaborate on what you need to do more of, less of, or what you need to do completely different, so that you move closer to a vital lifestyle. You get to live life on your terms!
As your health and performance coach I will never replace your doctor or specialist. They are best for diagnosing. My place is to work in conjunction with your primary health practitioner, helping you to implement habits that improve your over all health, wellbeing and experience of life.
How long do I need?
Everyone’s health and wellbeing journey is unique. We are all faced with varying challenges (physical, mental and emotional) and have varying resources to meet those challenges. Our change process involves implementing healthy habits you can live with for the long term. Together we will achieve this by developing and implementing strategies and tools for change.
Some people say you can create a habit in as little as 21 days. Research from the University of London would suggest complex behaviours require much longer. On average it took 66 days until a habit was formed. As you might imagine there was considerable variation in how long habits took to form depending on what people tried to do. More complex habits took the better part of a year (254 days). Vital Lifestyle program run for a minimum of 12 weeks as this time is more realistic time frame for experiencing benefits.
What program is best for me?
Emotional Agility-A 12 week program that helps busy and stressed professionals to better manage thoughts and emotions and develop a mindset for success. You will learn simple and practical tools so you can feel better, achieve more and live a life that aligns with your values.
Being Vital-A 12 week program unpacking the power of habits and how best to maintain self care behaviour for the long term. You will build motivation and momentum with simple and effective strategies for change. A vital lifestyle for life!
Sustained Performance-A 12 week program that discovers your personal pillars of wellbeing. You will learn how to build resilience and boost vitality when faced with work and life challenges. Avoid burnout- sustain performance!
For your private discovery session, contact me below.
I can answer any questions and together determine if we are a match :)
Wellbeing implies a sense of thriving, flourishing, being fully alive, 'firing on all cylinders' and living life to the full, as well as feeling balanced and calm, contented and at ease with life.
Wellbeing is affected by many elements in our lives and varies from person to person because each of us has a different combination of psychological, emotional, social and physical inner resources upon which we draw. Our wellbeing fluctuates depending on the events, challenges and experiences we encounter in our lives
Here is another definition…
"Wellbeing can be imagined as a “see-saw” with a balance point between an individual’s inner resource pool and the challenges faced. Stable wellbeing is when individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet a particular challenge. When individuals have more challenges than resources, the see-saw dips, along with their wellbeing."
(Dodge, Daley, Huyton & Sanders 2012)
How would you rate your wellbeing on a scale of 1-10?
What are your current challenges?
What are the resources that could move you closer to a 10?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.