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The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

Here I will outline what I believe are the four pillars of optimal health — in other words, the four lifestyle factors you can manage to improve your health. These are all based on sound science, to the best of my knowledge.

The four pillars are: nutrition, physical fitness, sleep and stress control. I will cover these four pillars here without going into too much detail. It goes without saying that if you smoke, drink excessively, or do drugs, then diet or exercise are the least of your worries.

1. Nutrition

Optimal nutrition is all about eating real food, not processed crap. The problem is that most people have been misinformed about nutrition their entire lives, so they really have no idea what food is actually healthy.

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Disease-promoting foods that should be avoided include:

  • Added sugar in all its forms, including High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • Refined wheat. This is just as bad as sugar.
  • Trans fats should be avoided at all costs.
  • Seed and vegetable oils should also be avoided.
  • Most highly processed foods: “If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.”

Healthy foods that should be eaten:

  • Meat, fish and eggs. Grass fed/wild caught is better.
  • Vegetables should be eaten every day.
  • Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes are fine for healthy people.
  • Fruits, in moderation.
  • Some grains like oats and white rice may be okay for healthy people.
  • Nuts can be eaten, in moderation. Unroasted nuts are preferred.
  • High-fat dairy like cheese and cream. Grass-fed/pastured is best.
  • Fats and oils such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil.
  • All sorts of spices, salt is fine in moderation.

People with diabetes should not eat any grains, starches, sugar or fruit (except perhaps berries). Overweight people should eat no more than 100–150 grams of carbs per day, possibly even less if weight loss stalls. A large part of calories should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats. Excess Omega-6 fats should be avoided, and Omega-3 consumption is encouraged.

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Healthy animals should be the primary source of protein. Sedentary people need little while active individuals or athletes need a lot.

2. Physical Fitness

When it comes to physical fitness, there are sports and activities that are more efficient than others, but in my opinion just doing something is critical. If you like walking, walk. If you like swimming, swim. If you like lifting weights, well — you get the idea.

Personally, I think the calories burned during exercise are useless if you are not on a calorie restricted diet and therefore I don’t recommend you think about calories when exercising, try to focus on improving your physical fitness instead. Optimal exercise would involve a combination of strength training, low and high intensity cardio, and stretching, but the key focus should really be on doing something that you enjoy. If you enjoy doing something, it is much more likely that you will stick to it.

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3. Sleep

Sleep is critical for both physical and mental health, and often ignored. It is very important to rule out a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have one.

I have compiled a few tips to improve sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the last 3 hours before bed.
  • Sleep in a room that is completely dark.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping.
  • Dampen your lights about 1–2 hours before bed.
  • Have bright lights in the morning, from the sun if possible.
  • Don’t ingest any caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Take a Magnesium supplement.
  • Exercise regularly.

4. Stress Control

Stress control is also important for physical and mental health, and it is often overlooked. When it comes to stress, avoiding unnecessary obligations is important. In other words, simplifying your life as much as possible can work wonders.

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If you feel obligated to do certain things, ask yourself if they are something you really need to be doing, or if you can delegate to someone else. Also, writing down a schedule to organize your day can be great. Certain supplements like Magnesium and Omega-3 may help, as well as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising. Meditation is very effective too.

Featured photo credit: treehugger via media.treehugger.com

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Jae Berman

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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