When referring to exercise and physical activity how many times a week do you get to the gym? How many times do you change up your intensity level or use different machines? How about the times where you left your car at home and walked to pick the kids up from school? Do you partake in resistance training? How often do you stretch? What would be the total minutes be in your week if you added each exercise or bout of physical activity?
All of these are questions you, your personal trainer or friends may ask you to refer to your physical fitness, but how do you measure improvements, or know how “fit” you actually are?
These questions are overwhelming so let’s start with the basics!
Quantity or Quality, you decide
A lot of the time we quantify how fit we are by the size of our biceps or how fast and far we run. If you’re competitive, and training for an event, there are tests and measurements for body composition, aerobic fitness and musculoskeletal health that a personal trainer can conduct that can quantify and look at improvements that you can physically define.
But this is not the only way. Why not look at quality first. Why don’t we start looking at the amounts of energy we have, the ability to cope with stress, the added minutes in the day by making better quality choices? You may not be the fastest, but you may be the most enthusiastic. This leads to better health overall and your enthusiasm about physical fitness is a huge step in the right direction.
Everyone’s lifestyle is different and by how you feel is just as important as how jacked you look.
Easy steps to activity
- start slowly
- increase duration first
- then increase intensity
- take the stairs
- park the car the furthest from the grocery store doors
- get off the bus 2 stops earlier
- sign up for a group class
- call a close friend, walk and meet halfway, and walk some more
- sign up to run a race
- aim for 150 minutes of activity a week or more!
- look for variety
- clean the house (get down on your hands and knees and scrub!)
Benefits of Physical Activity
Not only will you feel energized, have better posture, feel toned, and stronger but your self-esteem, more and deeper sleeps, ability to make decisions improves, and overall quality of life will improve! You`re also reducing your chances of premature death and diseases like coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, hypertension, and many more!
Now that we have looked at quality and quantity of our physical fitness, why not look at the quality and quantity of the foods we consume.
Some ways to start eating healthier are to:
- purchase organic foods
- buy locally
- opt for lean meats without skin and/or bone
- go for dark green leafy veggies, and orange fruits and veg (health Canada, 2012).
- track or record the food you consume and how much
- follow Canada’s Food Guide, or look into joining a reputable weight loss program like Weight Watchers
- use smaller plates to help choose smaller portions
- choose more vegetables and fruits!
- eat until you feel full! You do not have to eat everything on your plate! Save it for later!
These are all ways to eat “cleaner” and “wiser” but does any of this matter if you are not in the right mindset to be eating healthy anyways? When thinking about our health and starting to change our eating habits Dr. Andrew Hill who is a senior lecturer and psychologist at Leeds University School of Medicine suggests to start with a new clean slate! We have all heard this before but it’s true. You feel better about yourself when you have a clear mind and a positive attitude. This way when you’re ready to start eating healthy you won’t feel like you need to excessively eat all of the things you love, or that are “bad” for you right before you start being healthy. Stay positive, and think about a healthy lifestyle, with “bad” foods only in moderation. For example if you have ice cream left over in your freezer don’t panic, simply enjoy it in smaller amounts and you won’t feel as if you’re giving something up, or depriving yourself. Being deprived can lead to overeating in the long run.
Benefits of Healthy Eating
Eating healthy can be a challenge at times but, it is very rewarding when you stick with it! Especially since healthy eating is how to maintain a healthy weight, to build strong bones, to feed your nervous system to stay alert and focused on the days tasks with the good healthy carbs. You also stay fuller longer with more protein and fiber, you eventually don’t feel deprived, or like you’re missing out “sweets” either. You start to taste the natural salts and sugars of food when you eat “cleaner,” plus you get creative with your meals, and end up with plates of colour and nutrition!
So now that we have figured out where we are going right with our diet and exercise, let’s dive deeper into what else we can do to be healthy! Adding a night walk with the family, check. Buying organic, or from the local market, check. Becoming product savvy, well not yet, but this is where you start!
Skin care, hair, makeup, and any scented products you buy from retail stores may (and most probably do) contain substances in which can be a) hazardous to our health and well-being like formaldehyde-donating preservatives, dyes, and other toxic chemicals b) contain substances that our cells cannot absorb, and c) usually are tested on animals, and contain animal by-products.
- DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate3 are all formaldehyde containing preservatives known as carcinogens. These ingredients can irritate the eyes, and cause allergic reactions and is usually inhaled. Try to avoid products with these chemicals.
- Preservatives like BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole),BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) can cause allergic reactions, and are considered carcinogens and surprisingly can be found in many lipsticks and moisturizers.
- Dyes like Coal tar-derived colours are not allowed in foods but can be found in our cosmetics as well. Some coal tar colours have aluminum in them and are usually found in darker coloured products, these are also labelled as carcinogens.
- DEA (diethanolamine) is used in our shampoos, cleansers and lotions to make the product feel soft and creamy or sudsy. DEA substances when combined and react with other cosmetics and as you can probably guess, form possible human carcinogens.
- Dibutyl phthalate or DBP is used in nail polishes as a solvent that makes the nail polish strong. DBP is absorbed through the skin and reacts with other chemicals causing developmental defects, changes in the endocrine system, and even as extreme as kidney and liver failure in young children. Other phthalates are also used in fragrences and can also cause harm to endocrine function. Try to avoid products without parfum, and aim for unscented items.
- Parabens are the most widely used ingredient in cosmetics almost 75-90%, and are linked to changes in the endocrine system. In studys parabens were detected in breast cancer tissue which raises questions as to whether or not this preservative is linked to cancer. Another concern with parabens is that when interacted with UVB leads to skin damage and DNA disruptions. Parabens are found in small amounts in foods like strawberries, currents, vanilla and, carrots but this isn`t a bad thing. When eaten the body is able to metabolize them, but when used in cosmetics the body does not digest these preservatives, and is absorbed straight into the blood stream and body organs. “It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50 mg per day of parabens from cosmetics“(David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). Although more research is needed to be conducted with regards to parabens and resulting levels.
- Mineral oils and other petroleum based ingredients like benzene, petrolatum, phthalates and toluene are used as moisturizers and are found in hair products to keep the hair shiny. A petrolatum based product can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) possibly leading to cancers. Therefore these products are labelled as carcinogens.
- The reason I am bringing this last point up is because when I personally found out about it, I was in total shock. If you’re doing your own research Google animal rendering. Yes, it is true that most of our products contain animal by-products from markets that recycle animals… If you are vegan, or an animal lover, aim for products without any animal ingredients, not just products that are being tested on animals.
Some of these products can be found on Health Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, but some are not so keep an eye out for what is considered a dangerous product. Usually international cosmetic and skin care products have more strict standards as to what is safe and what won`t be a hazard.
To conclude this overview of health, I am trying to keep us all aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly. You know exercise and healthy eating is good for you, but steer clear of the bad procrastination or deprivation! And lastly, the ugly is referring to the dangers of unsafe ingredients in our health and beauty products we didn’t know about.
Awareness is Empowering!