Three Easy Ways To Drink More Water

Want to drink more water? We all have the best intentions when it comes to staying hydrated, but for such a simple task, it can still be tough to keep up with. It doesn’t have to be though. Try one of two of these simple options and keep your body happy.

Start The Day Right

Are you a coffee or tea drinker? (I am a coffee drinker. A lot of coffee.) While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the coffee to brew, get yourself a glass of water. Drink at least some of it while you wait. Make it interesting if you want: I drink mine warm, sometimes with lemon. I hear I’m weird like that.

Use A Straw

For whatever reason, it’s way easier and faster to drink a lot of water (or anything) through a straw. Invest in a plastic tumbler with a straw and keep it full and nearby. You’ll be amazing how often you’ll need to fill it up. Bonus: Most of those cups are double walled, so your cold drinks stay cold.

Stick With Small Glasses

Think a bigger glass will help you drink more? Well, it might, but it also might not. One of the biggest truths in the health and fitness industry: Success breeds success. Drink one small glass and it’s easier to drink another. Drink several glasses today, and you’ll be more likely to tomorrow. String together a few days and you’re well on your way to a great habit.

Looking for practical ways to improve your health and fitness? Four weeks can change your next forty years. Spend some time with a HealthFit health coach and find out just how healthy you can get. Find out more.


A fast healthy lunch of Asian soba noodle salad or soup with chicken and vegetables

Veggie and Soba Noodle Salad

This never lasts more than a day at my house.

It’s so good, and as a two-for-one recipe for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, it’s really versatile. You can make this into a cold salad (perfect summer recipe) or a hot soup (perfect winter recipe). It’s also easy and fast. I go overboard on veggies, which means more prep time, and I can still have it ready in about 10 minutes.

Soba noodles definitely do not fit into a wholly low-carb diet, but carbs are not the enemy. If you prefer to keep your diet low-carb, substitute zucchini noodles (or “zoodles”) for the original soba noodles. To make gluten-free, also substitute tamari for the soy sauce.

 

Soba Noodle Salad/Soup – Per serving

90g/3 oz soba noodles

1/3 – 1/2 cup each of at least four of the following:

  • Thinly sliced red or yellow capsicum or bell pepper
  • Thinly sliced cucumber
  • Snow peas, sliced diagonally
  • Grated carrot
  • Grated zucchini
  • Thinly sliced red or green cabbage
  • Bean sprouts
  • Spring onions

One small chicken breast, thinly sliced

Dressing – Makes enough for four servings

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Juice of 1/2 a small orange

Zest and juice of one lime

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 coin-sized round of ginger

1 tablespoon sesame oil

For soup:

2-3 cups chicken stock

 

Make dressing by combining all ingredients and mixing well.

Tip: To easily mix salad dressings really well, keep an old glass jam jar with a tight fitting lid. Place all dressing ingredients in the jar, tightly close the lid, and shake well. 

Chop desired vegetables and chicken, and then cook noodles according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl with 1/4 of the dressing, and combine well. For soup, add desired amount of warm chicken stock.

Watch it disappear!

For low-carb, substitute zucchini noodles.

For gluten free, substitute rice or zucchini noodles and tamari.

 

Tried it? Share your review in the comments!


Cartoon of two people sitting down having a conversation

Why Healthcare Is Like Dating

You’re looking for someone to care about you, enough so that they want the best for you.

Could be dating, could be finding a new healthcare provider. Whether going well or not, these two situations have a lot of similarities. They boil down to some base questions:

Are you meeting the right kind of person?

In dating, you want to meet someone that you have something in common with.

In healthcare, you want to meet a provider that has training “in common” with your condition. A doctor for illnesses, a dietician for nutritional advice, a massage therapist and exercise physiologist for muscle imbalance and injury prevention – the list could go on and on.

Are you meeting them at the right time?

I recently had a client come in with debilitating back pain. She could hardly move. She’d already been to the physiotherapist, who had given her some exercises to increase her core strength (the right solution, long term)… that she couldn’t do, because she could hardly move. What she needed was the right type of healthcare for her present condition – in this case, remedial massage to relieve the muscle spasm and allow the exercises to work. For the most effective and efficient outcome, you need the right healthcare at the right time.

Do you like them?

In healthcare and dating, there are many fish in the sea. Your doctor, exercise physiologist, dietician, remedial massage therapist, physiotherapist, etc. has approximately the same training as all the others in their field. But, as with dating, just because a person meets basic criteria doesn’t mean that you have to stick with them. Better healthcare happens when you have good communication, and good communication happens when you connect with people. Look for someone who listens to you, asks good questions about how you feel, wants your input, looks to make you a part of the solution, and is nice to you!

(And just like dating, when you find a good one, hang onto them!)


Walking along coronation drive in Brisbane

Is Walking Worth It?

With the popularity of high intensity workouts like Crossfit, F45, or bootcamps, it might seem like going for a walk isn’t much of a workout at all. If you’re looking to increase your fitness and improve your health, is it worth your time?

Actually, yes – especially if you are interested in health benefits more than getting lean and ripped.

Going for a brisk walk is moderate intensity exercise for most people, and can even count as vigorous exercise if you aren’t normally active. A meta-analysis (a research paper pooling and organizing other research to better understand and apply results) reviewing 32 studies has shown that a brisk walk at least a few times per week will improve your health. Significant improvements in aerobic fitness were found, as well as decreased BMI, body weight, body fat percentage, and measurements of waist circumference – all of which are strongly linked to high risk of cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure also showed a significant decrease following a program of regular walking.

So what?

The benefits of weight loss and lower body fat are well-discussed: Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions. But those are things that may or may not happen in the future. What about right now?

While the health and fitness improvements found in the reviewed studies weren’t so great that the participants ended up with six-pack abs, the average increase in fitness was about 10%. This is enough to make a noticeable difference in how easily you can manage to do daily tasks, or how much energy and stamina you might have to get through a busy day. This means that by the time you get to kick back and watch some TV before heading to bed, you’ll actually get to watch the entire episode of your favorite show, rather than falling asleep on the sofa. Overall, better fitness means more energy for the day to day things that matter to you, which in turn means a better quality of life.

These benefits improvements took place in as little as eight weeks of regular walking, with the most people in the studies walking 30 minutes, three to five times per week as part of an organized program. You don’t have to “start exercising” to make walking worthwhile though. A few 8-10 minute walks per day can give the same benefits as a single 30-minute session, which in real life might mean walking around the block in the morning and evening. (An additional benefit of “starting small” is that often you just need a nudge to get going. It’s easy to extend once you’ve gotten out the door – or onto the treadmill.)

Lastly, it’s helpful to remember that health and fitness improvements aren’t all-or-nothing. Instead, they happen on a continuum, and in fact any movement has a positive impact on your fitness levels and health risks, and therefore your quality of life. It doesn’t have to be high intensity to be worthwhile; your own brisk walking pace will be just fine. So whether you have five minutes to spare, or fifty, it’s all worth doing – what are you waiting for?

 

More Information
Murtagh, E. M., Nichols, L., Mohammed, M. A., Holder, R., Nevill, A. M., & Murphy, M. H. (2015). The effect of walking on risk factors for cardiovascular disease: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials. Preventive Medicine, 72, 34-43. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.12.041
Phys. Act. Guidel. Advis. Comm. 2008Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report: 2008Washington, DCUS Dep. Health Hum. Serv. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/Report/pdf/CommitteeReport.pdf

Brain-Boosting Exercise

Exercise 101:  It builds muscle, and increases fitness, and can make life a little easier – and not just physically!

It’s well known that exercise and physical activity helps you maintain good physical health. Did you know that exercise is good for your mental health too? Maybe you’ve heard that it’s a primary treatment recommendation for depression, or heard a friend describe getting a mental boost from a workout. Maybe you’ve had the really strong “I FEEL GREAT” feelings after you’re done. But where does that boost come from?

exercise fun

While these “feel-good” feelings are stimulated by exercise, their actual source is in the brain itself. During times of stress, which is how the body perceives exercise, the brain releases endorphins, a type of hormone that we commonly associated with a rush of euphoria. These hormones help block any pain signals that the stress might be causing, as a preventative measure of sorts.

They also make you feel damn good. As above, endorphins create feelings of euphoria – they are chemically similar to morphine! – and can increase positive thoughts and feelings. The “endorphin effect” can be both immediate and (with regular exercise) long-lasting. My first-hand experience with post-workout elation and exhilaration has made me a strong supporter of exercise as a useful element of treatment for depression and anxiety, both of which have popped up in my life. And there’s growing support that exercise can play a role in treatment and prevention of other mental illnesses, including helping to manage physical health challenges that can sometimes occur alongside.

It’s not just about feeling good, though. Long-term mental health can also get a boost from exercise. During times of stress, the brain releases another biochemical protein: brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein protects brain cells and their connections with each other, called synapses, which in turn helps improve brain cell signaling and can reverse cell damage. Improved connections between brain circuits mean improved memory, attention span, and processing speed. In some studies, increased levels of BDNF have actually been shown to have a reparative effect, and may eventually help us restore learning abilities and memory. Even low-key or modest levels of exercise, like going for a walk every day, have been show to produce BDNF-related improvements.

Neurons

The protective effects of BDNF extend throughout life. Many studies of brain health in older adults have shown that people who were more physically active earlier in life were less likely to develop degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In the early stages of these diseases, people can also benefit from exercise: the aforementioned walk can help prevent disease progression. We tend to produce less BDNF as we age. Given the benefits, it makes sense to get moving regardless of current age or mental health.

Biochemicals aside, exercise actually benefits the brain in some of the same ways that it benefits the rest of our body. The blood vessels in our brains are very small, but still susceptible to the same types of damage as any of our other blood vessels. A stroke is one of the most common types of cardiovascular disease, and is the brain equivalent of a heart attack. While large strokes are usually quickly noticeable, small ones may occur without your knowledge. Tiny blockages leading to potentially unnoticeable mini-strokes can damage small areas of the brain and may lead to long-term mental health decline. You can vastly decrease your risks though: Your brain’s blood vessels are positively affected by exercise – the same way as the rest of your blood vessels throughout your body. Good blood vessel health (also called vascular health) also means optimal blood flow to the brain, and with it, optimal delivery of nutrients and oxygen. Sounds like a good idea to keep those channels open!


One skillet cauliflower hash with red peppers ready for a healthy breakfast

Cauliflower Hash

Hash is traditionally a dish of meat and chopped potatoes. This spin on it is vegetarian and low-carb, but no less tasty! Cauliflower is substituted for the potatoes and the umami flavor that the meat traditionally provides comes from a dose of parmesan cheese. If you like a bit of spice, a sprinkle of chili powder or chili flakes add a pleasant heat, though if spicy is not your thing, you won’t miss them either!

This is great for an easy, healthy dinner, but works equally well as a healthy breakfast, giving you an alternative to the more usual breakfast foods that are basically dessert in disguise. Up the protein by topping with an egg or two – the runny yolk makes a delicious sauce and you get a delicious, filling dinner that won’t leave you feeling anything but great.

 

Cauliflower Hash

  • 1 small-medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 med-large brown/yellow or sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower
  • 1 large red bell pepper or capsicum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground pepper
  • 2 tsp each dried thyme and oregano
  • Grated parmesan cheese, to serve
  • Optional to serve: Chili powder or flakes

Grate or finely dice the carrot, and chop the celery and onion. Spray a large pan with oil (if not using non-stick) and cook carrot, celery, onion, and garlic over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

While the other vegetables are cooking, break cauliflower into smaller heads and then chop into smallish pieces. Add to pan when vegetable mix is starting to soften, and continue to stir frequently. Deglaze the pan with water as needed (see note).

Chop the bell pepper/capsicum and add to pan when vegetable mix is starting to turn golden brown, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Sprinkle over salt, pepper, thyme and oregano, and mix through. Serve sprinkled with grated parmesan and chili, if desired, and an egg or two.

 

NoteDeglazing is a wonderful way of adding more flavor to a dish without adding any extra ingredients, and also helps keep your food from scorching. Learn how to deglaze a pan here (and you’ll also learn more about why and how it maximizes taste).


model of person holding knee in pain from an injury

My Knee Hurts. Who Should I Go See?

On first appearances, your knee is a simple joint. It doesn’t move as much as the hip or shoulder. It’s got fewer bony parts to worry about than the elbow does. And it’s built to hold your body weight, all day every day, so it’s pretty sturdy. But many things can create knee pain, and when this happens, it can sometimes be tough to figure out what to do about it.

  • If you are one of the almost 20% of the population experiences knee pain, it’s worth finding out what’s going on. Here’s how to take the first step (no pun intended):
  • Did you recently have an accident or injury where you twisted, jammed, jerked or otherwise injured your knee? Go to the doctor (or the emergency department).
  • Is your knee swollen, red, and/or hot? This can be a sign of an infection, especially if you also have a fever, excessive fatigue, or are having hot or cold flashes. Go to the doctor!!
  • Does your knee click, lock out, give way when walking or standing? This may be a sign of a past injury that didn’t heal well. Get yourself to an orthopedic doctor or a physiotherapist/physical therapist. You may need a referral for these, but not always. If you aren’t sure, call the offices of the doctor or therapist and ask them.
  • Current or old injuries to the knee joint and other types of knee pain can also lead to compensation patterns in the way your muscles work and develop tension. This can be helped with soft tissue therapy – i.e. some type of massage.
  • Do you have the sensation of joint weakness, especially in conjunction with a history of injury or a low-activity lifestyle? Go see an exercise physiologist to help you rebuild strength and control in the muscles that surround the knee. (If you can’t find an exercise physiologist, go see a personal trainer or strength coach that specializes in late-stage rehab and injury prevention.)

Want to know why? We’ll talk in more depth about this in our next post. Be one of the first to see it by following HealthFit via email below (you’ll only ever receive notifications of new posts on the website).


Increasing The Evidence For Food As Medicine

We all know that eating nutritious food helps keep you healthy. Now a research study in California is aiming to demonstrate just how much your diet can actually impact you.

Over the next three years, researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Stanford will evaluate how a healthy, nutritious diet and nutrition education will impact the treatment, prognosis (or likely course or outcome of a condition), and overall cost of medical care for people with chronic disease. This study will build on the results of earlier smaller and less rigorous studies that have had positive results, including substantial decreases in the cost of medical care.

The food-as-medicine concept is being increasingly accepted and promoted by doctors and other facets of the western medical system. This approach has long been advocated by natural and allied healthcare providers, but in the past there has been little research and scientific evidence to back up recommendations for diet as an adjunct or supportive element of medical care.

The evidence is growing now though, and quickly – at least relatively quickly, as high quality research takes a long time. I’m excited that there is more of this research occurring, and that more attention is being paid to it. The New York Times piece tells the story much better than I do, so head over and read for yourself: Cod and ‘Immune Broth’: California Tests Food as Medicine.


middle age woman doing yoga on rooftop

How do I become stronger physically without going to the gym?

I don’t have (or want) a gym membership. What can I do every day to get stronger?

Muscle mass naturally decreases with age, about 1% per year from your mid-30s onward. Strength decreases along with that loss. This is easy to ignore – when you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, it’s easy to not notice any losses, or feel like you’ve got plenty of time to make them up. And there’s no shortage of people that say they figure it’s just part of getting old.

While these losses are indeed part of the aging process, that doesn’t mean you just have to sit there and accept them. There’s lot that can be done to maintain strength and muscle mass regardless of age. And you definitely do not need a gym. Instead, get creative and find ways to move your body against resistance. Some of the examples commonly discussed with our personal training and exercise physiology clients include:

Do some pushups. For easier versions, choose an incline option, with hands on the wall, the kitchen table, counters or benchtops, back of the sofa etc. The lower you get to the ground, the harder the exercise gets. You’ll want to find the balance between the difficulty of the exercise and your ability to maintain good technique – if your back hurts or you can’t maintain a straight line while doing it, find something easier.

Carry your groceries in a shopping basket or bags, rather than a cart. This will help build upper body strength and perhaps surprisingly, core stretch – the core muscles will work hard to counterbalance the external weight and keep you in an upright position. It’s important to alternate which side you carry items on, only using one can actually create an imbalance in core strength and muscle tension. Bonus: If you park farther away, you’ll carry grocery bags for a longer period (building upper body and core strength) and get more steps.

Take the stairs. This may seem more like cardiovascular work, and climbing stairs does count as aerobic exercise, but it’s also a great strength builder for the lower body. Minimize your risk of knee pain by taking your bodyweight through the back of the foot, not just the toes. Bonus: Carry things while you’re doing it for increased resistance.

Squat down to pick things up. Instead of bending over from the waist to pick something up off the floor, squat down by reaching down and back through your hips and sitting on your heels. NOTE: This move is often stiff and uncomfortable for people who sit a lot, especially at first. Squat as low as you can and keep your chest lifted to minimize back strain. Even if it’s not a large movement, this will actually help you regain joint mobility and movement ability through the hips over time.

Do some sit-to-stand squats. Find a chair, sofa, stool, etc. that is slightly lower than what you normally sit on. Reach backwards with your hips and slowly lower yourself down to the seat, controlling your movement all the way. Push through your heels to stand back up. Repeat 10-15 times per set.

Daily activities can be safe strength builders as long as you keep two key points in mind. Anything you do need to be pain-free, both during and after the movement (noting that there is a difference between the muscle burn from 1000 crunches and the catching, stabbing, sharp pains that often go along with acute injuries). The first rule is always “Stay Pain Free”. The second point: Strength building still takes effort, regardless of where you do it. That means that whatever you’re lifting, moving, or carrying will still need to be heavy enough to feel like effort. There are many many ways to achieve this, so get creative. What can you come up with?


Sick middle age woman blowing her nose

Client Question: Should I Exercise When I’m Sick?

Another great question from one of our exercise physiology clients in St Lucia:

Should I exercise when I’m sick?

In broad terms, moderate exercise and good fitness support good health. But improving your fitness levels doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never catch a cold or the flu. Here are your science-supported guidelines for exercising when you’re sick.

  • Consider how sick you actually are. If your illness is moderate to severe, with an associated fever, aching muscles, extreme fatigue, or swollen glands, skip your workout and rest up. Do what you would normally do to get yourself better, whether that’s heading to the doctor or heading to bed with some extra vitamin C.
  • If you are severely ill, with the above symptoms, you may need as much as two to four weeks away from moderate to intense exercise. Illness and exercise both stress the immune system in the same way, and depending on what type of viral or bacterial infection, pushing through to work out when you’re sick can actually make your illness worse. In extreme cases, this can lead to lasting damage to your heart or lungs.
  • If your illness is minor, without any associated fever, muscles aches or fatigue, or swollen glands, you might be ok to exercise. General guidelines suggest that:
    • If your symptoms occur above the neck (stuffy or runny nose, dry cough, or sore/scratchy throat), you’re safe to start with easy exercise or activity – think short sessions that are low intensity, like heading out for a walk. If you find your symptoms get worse, stop exercise until they improve.
    • If you’ve got symptoms below the neck (fever, aching muscles, vomiting, diarrhea, or anything else to do with your digestive tract), rest up until your symptoms go away.
  • Use your common sense. Do you feel too tired to work out, or otherwise just don’t feel up to it? Your body is giving you the answer right there! You wont make any gains when working out under fatigue or illness, and in fact you may prolong your recovery. Get some extra sleep and get back to quality exercise when you’re feeling ready for it.

Putting your workouts on hold can be frustrating, especially when you’re working hard to build your momentum and maintain your progress. If you’re feeling this, take a minute to step back and look at the big picture: You could push through and do your workout, but will it be worth it? You’re unlikely to make any gains in fitness, and may prolong your illness and recovery. We all need more sleep anyway, so indulge in that, get better faster, and get back to life as you want it!

For more information:
Gleeson, M. (Ed.). (2006). Immune function in sport and exercise. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Plowman, S. A., & Smith, D. L. (2017). Exercise Physiology For Health, Fitness, and Performance (5th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

 

 

Get started with a safe exercise that will improve your health and fitness with an in-home exercise physiology program from HealthFit Coaching. Regardless of your current health levels, you can safely work out to improve your health, fitness, energy levels, and quality of life. Contact us now to find out how.