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Archive for January, 2013

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek in the Grand Canyon

It’s true; we’re getting fat in America, but studies show that just thinking we’re fat makes us unhealthy, regardless of our weight. People obsessively focusing on their size, get depressed and stressed and their blood pressure rises. This leads to chronic problems like heart disease as well as social isolation. According to a report by Dr. Peter Muennig, “Younger persons, whites and women are disproportionately affected by negative body image concerns.” In one study, 89 percent of formerly obese participants reported that they would choose blindness over a return to being obese.

So what do we paranoid people do? There are many ways to feel better, but walking in the wilderness works wonders.

deer-petroglyph

Deer Petroglyph

It’s been well-documented  that just 15 minutes in a natural setting improves mood and lowers stress. If you want to feel beautiful, keep your eyes on beauty: a distant peak, pine needles waving in the spring air and the golden light of sun on the clouds. Watch this inspirational Ted video on experiencing natural wonders through photography, and then go outside and enjoy the world directly.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.―Rachel Carson

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Last week, we learned how sitting all day is making Americans unhealthy. This week, Dr. Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, introduces fun ways to break out of that routine. In an engaging Ted video, she explains how body postures can change your mind. If you pose, for as little as two minutes, you can raise your testosterone and cortisol levels, increase your risk tolerance, perform better in job interviews, and cope well with stressful situations. Here are three big moves to practice:

Pose like Wonder Woman  for Two Minutes.

Pose like Wonder Woman for Two Minutes. You’ll Feel It!

1. The Wonder Woman: Stand with your legs parted and hands at hips

2. The Victory Stretch: Reach your arms up in a V, like you just crossed the finish line.

3. The Cool Cat: Put your legs in front of you, prop your feet on a desk or a table, lean back, with your hands on the back of your head, fingers interlaced, and elbows pointing out.

Try them out before your next interview, meeting or big game, and see what happens! It worked for me!

And watch Dr. Cuddy’s awesome TEDTalk. It’s about 20 minutes long, but it’s worth your time. It reached 2 million views and is one of the 50 most-viewed TEDTalks of all time.

Freedom begins the moment you realize someone else has been writing your story and it’s time you took the pen from his hand and started writing it yourself.―Bill Moyers

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Right again, Thoreau. But who in America is actually standing up? Not many of us. We spend 9.3 hours a day sitting, more than we do sleeping, and our health as a nation is plummeting.

Jump! Stand! Walk!

Jump! Stand! Walk!

Consider a recent 378-page study, which showed that Americans under 50 die earlier and live in poorer health than their counterparts in other developed countries. American men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries, and American women ranked second to last. (Yet, we spend the most on health care.)

“Something fundamental is going wrong,” said Dr. Steven Woolf,  in a New York Times article. “Something at the core is causing the U.S. to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it’s getting worse.”

But is our problem really all that complicated? According to Dr. James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, it’s not. “Excessive sitting is a lethal activity,” he says. The conventional wisdom suggests that if you watch your diet and exercise, you’ll offset your sedentary life. But Levine says, this is simply not true. Being sedentary all day is bad for your health whether you go home and watch TV or go for a run.

So what do we do? We get moving. We stand up. We walk. We break up those nine hours and insert action. That may not be so easy, but it is the key to long term health, and it might just make you more effective at work.

Next week, we’ll look at how your body can change your mind.

Human beings must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. —Albert Einstein

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