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2 Things to Avoid if You Want to Live Longer

2 Things to Avoid if You Want to Live Longer

The first and most reliable choice for guidance when making changes to your lifestyle is that from your primary care physician (PCP). Establishing a solid relationship with your doctor has been proven to improve both quality of life and lifespan. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 17% of Americans have had zero contact with a healthcare professional in the past twelve months. If you learn nothing else from this guide, understand that consulting your doctor prior to following the advice listed below is highly advised. If it’s been more than twelve months since your last check-up, call your PCP and schedule an appointment. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your medical needs are being addressed, and you can always double-check the information you read online. As I’ll point out below, the information you receive from friends and strangers on the internet can be less than reliable. Let’s go ahead and start dispelling some of the pervasive rumors.

1. Vaping is Dangerous

There’s a growing number of people in the US and abroad that feel e-cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional tobacco cigarettes. I have a few friends in the industry so my views may be biased based on my personal experiences, but I’ll share what one of my friends shared told me at a party last week. My friend, Dan Merchant and his business partner, Vlad Vassilieve are the managing directors of Vape Club. Dan pointed out to me that, “With Public Health England stating that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking and an endorsement from the Royal College of Physicians, it is clear that the scientific community is able to see the enormous harm-reduction benefits for smokers who switch to vaping. It is a crying shame that the political powers are not so astute- particularly with tobacco harm reduction being one of the most problematic areas of public health for decades. As a result, the industry is now faced with disproportionate regulations dreamed up in Brussels with illegitimate help from big Pharma and big tobacco.” This is clearly a statement made by someone in the industry, but let’s look at some of the studies performed by organizations on both sides of the issue. In the United States, the government has launched an entire website dedicated to discouraging e-cigarette use. One of the major points that everyone seems to agree upon is that e-cigarettes should not be sold or used by minors. Adults, however, should be able to make their own informed decisions. It appears the UK-based studies are ahead of the US in regards to smoking cessation, or the attempt to eventually quit smoking by switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes. As Dan points out, the UK’s health agency, Public Health England, states on their website, “An expert review of the latest evidence concludes that e-cigarettes are around 95% safer than smoked tobacco and they can help smokers to quit.” In the US the government has published an interesting counter-claim. “Any e-cig brand could go through the clinical trials to become an FDA-approved cessation device, but so far none of them have announced that they’ve submitted an application to do so.” If this is true, which appears to be the case based on the FDA’s current publication on cessation methods, then there are questions that linger in regards to why e-cig companies in the US haven’t attempted to validate their claims with the government. Is vaping bad for you? Is it worse for you than smoking tobacco cigarettes? I think the studies overseas and the comments from some industry insiders point to it being a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. It’s my hope that the e-cig industry in the US begins to validate some of their claims with the government so that the smoke clears a bit here at home.

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2. Vitamin Supplements and Energy Pills Are Regulated

I think this will come as a shock to the people shopping in the vitamin and supplement aisle at their local drug store. All of the claims and assertions made on the packaging of the vitamin supplements and energy pills available for purchase are largely unverified. There may be private testing that points to the benefits of a specific product, but the entire supplement industry is unregulated in the U.S. The first time I learned about this I was stunned. I grew up taking a multivitamin. I always assumed the claims made on the label were verified truths. I’m not saying that everything we’re reading on the sides of bottles is a lie, but I know I’d feel a lot better if the FDA actually verified the claims made. The American Council on Science and Health points out that the $30 billion supplement industry in the US became completely unregulated as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Educational Act of 1994. This means that they are not regulated in the same way as prescription drugs or food. The FDA actually outlines what parts of the industry they do monitor and regulate on the Dietary Supplements page of their website. The part that sticks out the most for me is the section where the FDA states, “Firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations.” My interpretation of this statement is that firms are responsible for regulating themselves. If I’m understanding this correctly, it means that the main mechanism for enforcement of nutritional standards and public health is the use of lawsuits and legal claims against faulty manufacturers.

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From vaping to supplements and energy pills, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. Some are based on intentional misinformation and others are based on a lack of government action. The good news is that your PCP can help guide you in the right direction about many things floating around on the web. Talk to your doctor and find out about the supplements you’re taking, and if the efforts you’re making to quit smoking are right for you.

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Featured photo credit: conysturm via flickr.com

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Ahmed Raza

CEO of Samurais.co

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

One Exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

What will happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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