Nuts? Sleep trackers? Cross Fit? Which fads to keep and which to lose? How will sticking with the foundations make the biggest difference re: brain-cleaning sleep and age-defying exercise?
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Media is full of new, intriguing studies by scientists (somewhere) who’ve published (incredible) new findings. Last week, headlines were bursting with calls for readers to eat more nuts. There’s always a new study, a new food, or a behavior that will vastly improve your health, cut your risk of death, or stroke, or heart attack. How can you tease out the signal from the noise?
The answer is to tune out the majority of the noise. In the midst of all the noise, we forget the simple stuff. Allow the latest studies touting the benefits of nuts or kale or a new form of yoga to fade into a blur of white noise. The signals beneath these studies are what matters.
Trends pass, but the foundations of health don’t change all that much. Today, I’ll discuss two trends and the foundations in which they are rooted.
Health Foundation: Exercise
The Trend: Freestyle, Step, and Dance Aerobics Classes of the 1990s
Richard Simmons’ heyday was the 1990s, courtesy of his popular exercise tapes, Sweatin’ to the Oldies. As the leader of the aerobics craze, Simmons was a positive force and an eccentric presence. Many others created and cashed in on the aerobics and home video trend, but none have endured quite the way Simmons has.
Today, aerobics classes have largely gone the way of VHS tapes. High-intensity interval training regimens like Cross Fit have replaced them. The foundational behavior, exercise, remains just as important to health. Exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, improves your mental health and mood, and increases your chances of living a long, healthier life. As we age, it becomes even more important to build core strength, improve or preserve heart health; stay toned, and maintain balance and agility.
At a minimum, you should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, per week. Let me stress: this is the minimum amount of exercise you should shoot for. Ideally, you’d get some aerobic activity every day. (If you hope to lose weight, you’ll need to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.)
Joining in an exercise trend can be fun. And if it helps you get the aerobic exercise and strength training you need, there are benefits to participating. Don’t worry about the “best” new trend to follow. Just enjoy engaging in a foundational health habit. If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to do it.
Health Foundation: Sleep
The Trend: The Sense sleep tracker
When Sense launched their Kickstarter campaign, they broke records, raising $120,000 in just a few hours. Most of that cash came from 4000 pre-orders for the sleekly designed sleep tracker. When Sense officially launched in February this year, the New York Times reviewer wrote of his week with the tracker, “…I was reminded, again, of how fundamentally useless these devices can be.”
That’s the rub with a lot of personal health tech these days. There’s a lot of promise, but not a whole lot of value in what the tech provides. The demand for Sense is – obviously – there. People value their rest. Those who aren’t getting good sleep are desperate for a remedy.
Sleep matters. Here are just a few of the things that spending enough time in the land of Nod can do for you:
- The brain cleanses itself of toxins.
- A good night’s sleep improves learning, helping you to be creative, make decisions and pay attention.
- Sleep is involved in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. On-going sleep deficiency is linked to higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
- Deficient sleep increases your risk of obesity. Getting enough sleep helps you maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry and full (ghrelin and leptin, respectively.)
- Sleep plays a major role in regulating a number of hormones, including insulin. When you don’t get enough sleep, you have higher than normal blood sugar levels, which may increase your risk of diabetes.
- Children and teens need sleep to grow. Deep sleep causes their bodies to release the hormone that promotes normal growth. This same hormone boosts muscle mass and helps to repair cells and tissues, no matter what your age.
To help you get a full night’s rest, establish a nightly routine. A calming routine is key, as is unplugging from electronic devices and screens for at least an hour before bed. Save the bed for sleeping and your bedtime routine. When you get the nagging feeling that you need to stay up, to accomplish that one last task, remember: sleep is an investment in your health. So hit the pillows!
Don’t let trends or new studies stress you out. When you start to fret that you’re not, say, eating enough nuts to lower your risk of early death, look at the foundation beneath. Eating healthy foods, including plenty of vegetables, is the goal. But, hey – nuts can be a tasty addition to a salad. The takeaway? Give into the trend if it helps, while making smart health foundations such as getting enough sleep, hitting your exercise quota, and eating healthier, your on-going and long-term objective.