Swimming Gives Your Brain a Boost But Scientists Don’t Know Yet Why It’s Better Than other Aerobic Activities

It’s no secret that aerobic exercise can help stave off some of the ravages of aging. But a growing body of research suggests that swimming might provide a unique boost to brain health.

Regular swimming has been shown to improve memory, cognitive function, immune response and mood. Swimming may also help repair damage from stress and forge new neural connections in the brain.

But scientists are still trying to unravel how and why swimming, in particular, produces these brain-enhancing effects.

As a neurobiologist trained in brain physiology, a fitness enthusiast and a mom, I spend hours at the local pool during the summer. It’s not unusual to see children gleefully splashing and swimming while their parents sunbathe at a distance – and I’ve been one of those parents observing from the poolside plenty of times. But if more adults recognized the cognitive and mental health benefits of swimming, they might be more inclined to jump in the pool alongside their kids.

Until the 1960s, scientists believed that the number of neurons and synaptic connections in the human brain were finite and that, once damaged, these brain cells could not be replaced. But that idea was debunked as researchers began to see ample evidence for the birth of neurons, or neurogenesis, in adult brains of humans and other animals.

Now, there is clear evidence that aerobic exercise can contribute to neurogenesis and play a key role in helping to reverse or repair damage to neurons and their connections in both mammals and fish.

Research shows that one of the key ways these changes occur in response to exercise is through increased levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. The neural plasticity, or ability of the brain to change, that this protein stimulates has been shown to boost cognitive function, including learning and memory.

Studies in people have found a strong relationship between concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor circulating in the brain and an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory. Increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor have also been shown to sharpen cognitive performance and to help reduce anxiety and depression. In contrast, researchers have observed mood disorders in patients with lower concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

Aerobic exercise also promotes the release of specific chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. One of these is serotonin, which – when present at increased levels – is known to reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood.

In studies in fish, scientists have observed changes in genes responsible for increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels as well as enhanced development of the dendritic spines – protrusions on the dendrites, or elongated portions of nerve cells – after eight weeks of exercise compared with controls. This complements studies in mammals where brain-derived neurotrophic factor is known to increase neuronal spine density. These changes have been shown to contribute to improved memory, mood and enhanced cognition in mammals. The greater spine density helps neurons build new connections and send more signals to other nerve cells. With the repetition of signals, connections can become stronger.

But what’s special about swimming?

Researchers don’t yet know what swimming’s secret sauce might be. But they’re getting closer to understanding it.

Swimming has long been recognized for its cardiovascular benefits. Because swimming involves all of the major muscle groups, the heart has to work hard, which increases blood flow throughout the body. This leads to the creation of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. The greater blood flow can also lead to a large release of endorphins – hormones that act as a natural pain reducer throughout the body. This surge brings about the sense of euphoria that often follows exercise.

Most of the research to understand how swimming affects the brain has been done in rats. Rats are a good lab model because of their genetic and anatomic similarity to humans.

In one study in rats, swimming was shown to stimulate brain pathways that suppress inflammation in the hippocampus and inhibit apoptosis, or cell death. The study also showed that swimming can help support neuron survival and reduce the cognitive impacts of aging. Although researchers do not yet have a way to visualize apoptosis and neuronal survival in people, they do observe similar cognitive outcomes.

One of the more enticing questions is how, specifically, swimming enhances short- and long-term memory. To pinpoint how long the beneficial effects may last, researchers trained rats to swim for 60 minutes daily for five days per week. The team then tested the rats’ memory by having them swim through a radial arm water maze containing six arms, including one with a hidden platform.

Rats got six attempts to swim freely and find the hidden platform. After just seven days of swim training, researchers saw improvements in both short- and long-term memories, based on a reduction in the errors rats made each day. The researchers suggested that this boost in cognitive function could provide a basis for using swimming as a way to repair learning and memory damage caused by neuropsychiatric diseases in humans.

Although the leap from studies in rats to humans is substantial, research in people is producing similar results that suggest a clear cognitive benefit from swimming across all ages. For instance, in one study looking at the impact of swimming on mental acuity in the elderly, researchers concluded that swimmers had improved mental speed and attention compared with nonswimmers. However, this study is limited in its research design, since participants were not randomized and thus those who were swimmers prior to the study may have had an unfair edge.

Another study compared cognition between land-based athletes and swimmers in the young adult age range. While water immersion itself did not make a difference, the researchers found that 20 minutes of moderate-intensity breaststroke swimming improved cognitive function in both groups.

Kids get a boost from swimming too

The brain-enhancing benefits from swimming appear to also boost learning in children.

Another research group recently looked at the link between physical activity and how children learn new vocabulary words. Researchers taught children age 6-12 the names of unfamiliar objects. Then they tested their accuracy at recognizing those words after doing three activities: coloring (resting activity), swimming (aerobic activity) and a CrossFit-like exercise (anaerobic activity) for three minutes.

They found that children’s accuracy was much higher for words learned following swimming compared with coloring and CrossFit, which resulted in the same level of recall. This shows a clear cognitive benefit from swimming versus anaerobic exercise, though the study does not compare swimming with other aerobic exercises. These findings imply that swimming for even short periods of time is highly beneficial to young, developing brains.

The details of the time or laps required, the style of swim and what cognitive adaptations and pathways are activated by swimming are still being worked out. But neuroscientists are getting much closer to putting all the clues together.

For centuries, people have been in search of a fountain of youth. Swimming just might be the closest we can get.

By:

Source: Swimming gives your brain a boost – but scientists don’t know yet why it’s better than other aerobic activities

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The Hidden Dangers of Protein Powders

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Adding protein powder to a glass of milk or a smoothie may seem like a simple way to boost your health. After, all, protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle, bone strength, and numerous body functions. And many older adults don’t consume enough protein because of a reduced appetite.

But be careful: a scoop of chocolate or vanilla protein powder can harbor health risks. “I don’t recommend using protein powders except in a few instances, and only with supervision,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

What is protein powder?

Protein powders are powdered forms of protein that come from plants (soybeans, peas, rice, potatoes, or hemp), eggs, or milk (casein or whey protein). The powders may include other ingredients such as added sugars, artificial flavoring, thickeners, vitamins, and minerals. The amount of protein per scoop can vary from 10 to 30 grams. Supplements used for building muscle contain relatively more protein, and supplements used for weight loss contain relatively less.

What are the risks?

There are numerous risks to consider when using a protein powder. Among them:

  • A protein powder is a dietary supplement. The FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labeling of products. So, there’s no way to know if a protein powder contains what manufacturers claim.
  • We don’t know the long-term effects. “There are limited data on the possible side effects of high protein intake from supplements,” McManus says.
  • It may cause digestive distress. “People with dairy allergies or trouble digesting lactose [milk sugar] can experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they use a milk-based protein powder,” McManus points out.
  • It may be high in added sugars and calories. Some protein powders have little added sugar, and others have a lot (as much as 23 grams per scoop). Some protein powders wind up turning a glass of milk into a drink with more than 1,200 calories. The risk: weight gain and an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.

A new risk revealed

Earlier this year, a nonprofit group called the Clean Label Project released a report about toxins in protein powders. Researchers screened 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA, which is used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions. Some toxins were present in significant quantities. For example, one protein powder contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA.

How could protein powder contain so many contaminants? The Clean Label Project points to manufacturing processes or the existence of toxins in soil (absorbed by plants that are made into protein powders).

Not all of the protein powders that were tested contained elevated levels of toxins. You can see the results at the Clean Label Project’s website (www.cleanlabelproject.org).

Daily protein goals

Aim for the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein intake: 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams for men. For example:

  • an egg for breakfast (6 grams)
  • 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt at lunch (18 grams)
  • a handful of nuts for a snack (4–7 grams)
  • a cup of milk (8 grams) and 2 ounces of cooked chicken for dinner (14 grams).

What you should do

McManus says that in certain cases, chemical-free protein powders may be helpful—but only with medical supervision. Such cases could include

  • difficulty eating or an impaired appetite (as a result of cancer treatment or frailty from older age)
  • a surgical incision or a pressure wound that is not healing well (your body needs protein to repair cells and make new ones)
  • a serious condition requiring additional calories and protein in order for you to get better (such as burns).

Otherwise, get protein from whole foods: nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy products (yogurt, milk, cheese), legumes (beans, lentils), fish, poultry, eggs, and lean meat. “You’ll find,” McManus says, “that there are many ways to get protein without turning to a powder.”

Source: The hidden dangers of protein powders – Harvard Health

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Critics:

Bodybuilding supplements are dietary supplements commonly used by those involved in bodybuilding, weightlifting, mixed martial arts, and athletics for the purpose of facilitating an increase in lean body mass. The intent is to increase muscle, increase body weight, improve athletic performance, and for some sports, to simultaneously decrease percent body fat so as to create better muscle definition.

Among the most widely used are high protein drinks, pre-workout blends, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), glutamine, arginine, essential fatty acids, creatine, HMB, whey protein, ZMA and weight loss products. Supplements are sold either as single ingredient preparations or in the form of “stacks” – proprietary blends of various supplements marketed as offering synergistic advantages.

While many bodybuilding supplements are also consumed by the general public the frequency of use will differ when used specifically by bodybuilders. One meta-analysis concluded that – for athletes participating in resistance exercise training and consuming protein supplements for an average of 13 weeks – total protein intake up to 1.6 g/kg of body weight per day would result in an increase in strength and fat-free mass, but that higher intakes would not further contribute.

In addition to being potentially harmful, some have argued that there is little evidence to indicate any benefit to using bodybuilding protein or amino acid supplements. A 2005 overview concluded that “[i]n view of the lack of compelling evidence to the contrary, no additional dietary protein is suggested for healthy adults undertaking resistance or endurance exercise”.

In dispute of this, a 2017 meta-analysis concluded that for athletes participating in resistance exercise training and consuming protein supplements for an average of 13 weeks, total protein intake up to 1.6 g per kg body weight per day would result in an increase in strength and fat-free mass, i.e. muscle, but that higher intakes would not further contribute. The muscle mass increase was statistically significant but modest – averaging 0.3 for all trials and 1.0 to 2.0 kg, for protein intake ≥ 1.6 g/kg/day.

See also

The Health Benefits of Coffee

Americans sure love their coffee. Even last spring when the pandemic shut down New York, nearly every neighborhood shop that sold takeout coffee managed to stay open, and I was amazed at how many people ventured forth to start their stay-at-home days with a favorite store-made brew.

One elderly friend who prepandemic had traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan by subway to buy her preferred blend of ground coffee arranged to have it delivered. “Well worth the added cost,” she told me. I use machine-brewed coffee from pods, and last summer when it seemed reasonably safe for me to shop I stocked up on a year’s supply of the blends I like. (Happily, the pods are now recyclable.)

All of us should be happy to know that whatever it took to secure that favorite cup of Joe may actually have helped to keep us healthy. The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee (or about 400 milligrams of caffeine) a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee. Perhaps most dramatic was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of suicide among both men and women who were moderate coffee drinkers, perhaps by boosting production of brain chemicals that have antidepressant effects.

As a report published last summer by a research team at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded, although current evidence may not warrant recommending coffee or caffeine to prevent disease, for most people drinking coffee in moderation “can be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

It wasn’t always thus. I’ve lived through decades of sporadic warnings that coffee could be a health hazard. Over the years, coffee’s been deemed a cause of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, pancreatic cancer, anxiety disorder, nutrient deficiencies, gastric reflux disease, migraine, insomnia, and premature death. As recently as 1991, the World Health Organization listed coffee as a possible carcinogen. In some of the now-discredited studies, smoking, not coffee drinking (the two often went hand-in-hand) was responsible for the purported hazard.

“These periodic scares have given the public a very distorted view,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Overall, despite various concerns that have cropped up over the years, coffee is remarkably safe and has a number of important potential benefits.”

That’s not to say coffee warrants a totally clean bill of health. Caffeine crosses the placenta into the fetus, and coffee drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. Pregnancy alters how the body metabolizes caffeine, and women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to abstain entirely, stick to decaf or at the very least limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day, the amount in about two standard cups of American coffee.

The most common ill effect associated with caffeinated coffee is sleep disturbance. Caffeine locks into the same receptor in the brain as the neurotransmitter adenosine, a natural sedative. Dr. Willett, a co-author of the Harvard report, told me, “I really do love coffee, but I have it only occasionally because otherwise I don’t sleep very well. Lots of people with sleep problems don’t recognize the connection to coffee.”

In discussing his audiobook on caffeine with Terry Gross on NPR last winter, Michael Pollan called caffeine “the enemy of good sleep” because it interferes with deep sleep. He confessed that after the challenging task of weaning himself from coffee, he “was sleeping like a teenager again.”

Dr. Willett, now 75, said, “You don’t have to get to zero consumption to minimize the impact on sleep,” but he acknowledged that a person’s sensitivity to caffeine “probably increases with age.” People also vary widely in how rapidly they metabolize caffeine, enabling some to sleep soundly after drinking caffeinated coffee at dinner while others have trouble sleeping if they have coffee at lunch. But even if you can fall asleep readily after an evening coffee, it may disrupt your ability to get adequate deep sleep, Mr. Pollan states in his forthcoming book, “This Is Your Mind on Plants.”

Dr. Willett said it’s possible to develop a degree of tolerance to caffeine’s effect on sleep. My 75-year-old brother, an inveterate imbiber of caffeinated coffee, claims it has no effect on him. However, acquiring a tolerance to caffeine could blunt its benefit if, say, you wanted it to help you stay alert and focused while driving or taking a test.

Caffeine is one of more than a thousand chemicals in coffee, not all of which are beneficial. Among others with positive effects are polyphenols and antioxidants. Polyphenols can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes; antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects, can counter both heart disease and cancer, the nation’s leading killers.

None of this means coffee is beneficial regardless of how it’s prepared. When brewed without a paper filter, as in French press, Norwegian boiled coffee, espresso or Turkish coffee, oily chemicals called diterpenes come through that can raise artery-damaging LDL cholesterol. However, these chemicals are virtually absent in both filtered and instant coffee. Knowing I have a cholesterol problem, I dissected a coffee pod and found a paper filter lining the plastic cup. Whew!

Also countering the potential health benefits of coffee are popular additions some people use, like cream and sweet syrups, that can convert this calorie-free beverage into a calorie-rich dessert. “All the things people put into coffee can result in a junk food with as many as 500 to 600 calories,” Dr. Willett said. A 16-ounce Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, for example, has 51 grams of sugar, 15 grams of fat (10 of them saturated) and 370 calories.

With iced coffee season approaching, more people are likely to turn to cold-brew coffee. Now rising in popularity, cold brew counters coffee’s natural acidity and the bitterness that results when boiling water is poured over the grounds. Cold brew is made by steeping the grounds in cold water for several hours, then straining the liquid through a paper filter to remove the grounds and harmful diterpenes and keep the flavor and caffeine for you to enjoy. Cold brew can also be made with decaffeinated coffee.

Decaf is not totally without health benefits. As with caffeinated coffee, the polyphenols it contains have anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Jane E. Brody

 

 

Source: The Health Benefits of Coffee – The New York Times

Contents to read:

Four out of five people say that they suffer from sleep problems at least once a week and wake up feeling exhausted. Here’s a guide to becoming a more successful sleeper.

Stretching and meditative movement like yoga before bed can improve the quality of your sleep and the amount you sleep. Try this short and calming routine of 11 stretches and exercises.

Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed in a recent study reported having more or much more trouble than usual during the pandemic. Follow these seven simple steps for improving your shut-eye.

When it comes to gadgets that claim to solve your sleep problems, newer doesn’t always mean better. Here are nine tools for better, longer sleep.

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Critics:

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species. All fruit must be further processed from a raw material—the fruit and seed—into a stable, raw product; un-roasted, green coffee. To process the berries, the seed is separated from the fruit to produce green coffee. Green coffee is then roasted, a process which transforms the raw product (green coffee) into a consumable product (roasted coffee). Roasted coffee is ground into a powder and mixed with water to produce a cup of coffee.

Coffee is darkly colored, bitter, slightly acidic and has a stimulating effect in humans, primarily due to its caffeine content. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways (e.g., espresso, French press, caffè latte, or already-brewed canned coffee). It is usually served hot, although chilled or iced coffee is common. Sugar, sugar substitutes, milk or cream are often used to lessen the bitter taste. It may be served with coffee cake or another sweet dessert like doughnuts. A commercial establishment that sells prepared coffee beverages is known as a coffee shop (not to be confused with Dutch coffeeshops selling cannabis).

Market volatility, and thus increased returns, during 1830 encouraged Brazilian entrepreneurs to shift their attention from gold to coffee, a crop hitherto reserved for local consumption. Concurrent with this shift was the commissioning of vital infrastructures, including approximately 7,000 km of railroads between 1860 and 1885. The creation of these railways enabled the importation of workers, in order to meet the enormous need for labor. This development primarily affected the State of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the Southern States of Brazil, most notably São Paulo, due to its favorable climate, soils, and terrain.

See also

Organizations:

Hot Tub Health Kick: Why a Long Bath is Almost As Good For You As a Long Run

A soak in a hot tub could be just the thing to relax you after a long day. The warm, bubbly water also eases aches and pains from conditions like arthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.

But hot tubs might not be safe for some people, including pregnant women and those with heart disease. And when they aren’t cleaned well, they pose risks to even healthy people.

Before you buy a hot tub for your backyard or step into those warm waters at the spa or gym, make sure you know a bit about their safety.

Health Benefits

Warm water soothes your body for a few reasons. The heat widens blood vessels, which sends nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. Warm water also brings down swelling and loosens tight muscles. And the water’s buoyancy takes weight off painful joints.

A dip in the hot tub might also help your mental state. Research shows they can promote relaxation and ease stress.

Hot Tub Risks

These warm water whirlpools can pose some risks if you’re not careful.

Infections

Between 2000 and 2014, outbreaks from treated pools and hot tubs were linked to more than 27,000 infections and eight deaths in the United States. When hot tubs aren’t cleaned well, their moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Pseudomonas, one type of bacteria that thrives in hot tubs, causes infections of the hair follicles and skin. Symptoms include red, itchy bumps on the belly and areas covered by your bathing suit. These bumps can pop up anywhere from a few hours to a few days after you take a dip. The same bacteria cause an infection known as swimmer’s ear.

Other germs that live in hot tubs can also make you sick. Cryptosporidium causes GI infections with diarrhea. Legionella causes a severe type of pneumonia, or lung disease.

Hot Tub Use in Pregnancy

Hot tubs might not be safe for pregnant women because they increase body temperature. Research finds that pregnant women who use a hot tub more than once or for long periods of time are more likely to have babies with neural tube birth defects like spina bifida or anencephaly.

Avoid hot tubs if you can during those 9 months. If you do use a hot tub, turn down the temperature and limit your time in the water to less than 10 minutes.

Heart Risks

Be cautious when using a hot tub if you have heart disease. When you soak in hot water, your body can’t sweat. Your blood vessels instead need to widen to cool you off. This makes your blood pressure drop. In response to falling blood pressure, your heart rate speeds up.

This isn’t a problem for healthy people, but if you have heart disease, it can strain your heart.

Hot Tub Safety Tips

To stay safe, follow these tips:

Ask your doctor. If you’re pregnant or you have a health condition like heart disease, ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to get into a hot tub.

Check the cleanliness. Ask the hotel or gym how often they clean their hot tub, and whether they keep the pH and chlorine concentrations at levels the CDC recommends (a pH of 7.2-7.8, and a free chlorine concentration of at least 3 parts per million). If the water looks murky or slimy, don’t get in.

Avoid crowds. Stay away when a hot tub is full. More people equals more germs. About half of people say they don’t shower before they swim.

Turn down the heat. A temperature of 100 F should be safe for healthy adults. Anything over 104 could be dangerous. Turn it down another couple of degrees if you have a medical condition.

Limit your time. Don’t stay in the hot tub for longer than 10 minutes. If you feel dizzy, overheated, or unwell, get out right away.

Watch where you sit. Don’t sit too close to the heat source. Keep your head, arms, and upper chest out of the water to avoid overheating, especially if you’re pregnant.

Stay hydrated. Drink water while in the hot tub to cool off your body. Avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate you.

Don’t go from hot to cold. Don’t jump straight from the hot tub into the pool to cool off. The cold water could shock your system and spike your blood pressure.

Wash off afterward. Take off your bathing suit and shower with warm water and soap as soon as you finish.

By  Carol DerSarkissian, MD

Source:https://www.webmd.com

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Safety

Sitting in water above normal body temperatures can cause drowsiness which may lead to unconsciousness and subsequently result in drowning. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that water temperatures never exceed 40 degrees Celsius. A temperature of 37 degrees is considered safe for a healthy adult. Soaking in water above 39 degrees Celsius can cause fetal damage during the first three months of pregnancy.

It is also recommended to install residual-current devices for protection against electrocution. The greater danger associated with electrical shock in the water is that the person may be rendered immobile and unable to rescue themselves or to call for help and then drown.

Hot tubs and spas are equipped with drains that can create powerful suction and between 1980 and 1996, the CPSC had reports of more than 700 deaths in spas and hot tubs, about one-third of which were drownings to children under age five. In the same period 18 incidents were reported to the CPSC involving body part entrapment.

To reduce the risk of entrapment, US safety standards require that each spa have two drains for each pump, reducing the amount of suction. From 1999 to 2007 there were 26 reports to the CPSC concerning circulation entrapments hot tubs and spas, including three deaths.

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References

 

Long Working Hours Killing 745,000 People a Year, Study Finds

 

The first global study of its kind showed 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long hours.The report found that people living in South East Asia and the Western Pacific region were the most affected.

The WHO also said the trend may worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours.

The study, conducted with the International Labour Organization (ILO), also showed almost three quarters of those that died as a result of working long hours were middle-aged or older men.

Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the long hours were worked.Five weeks ago, a post on LinkedIn from 45-year-old Jonathan Frostick gained widespread publicity as he described how he’d had a wake-up call over long working hours.

The regulatory program manager working for HSBC had just sat down on a Sunday afternoon to prepare for the working week ahead when he felt a tightness in his chest, a throbbing in his throat, jawline and arm, and difficulty breathing.

“I got to the bedroom so I could lie down, and got the attention of my wife who phoned 999,” he said.While recovering from his heart-attack, Mr Frostick decided to restructure his approach to work. “I’m not spending all day on Zoom anymore,” he said.

His post struck a chord with hundreds of readers, who shared their experiences of overwork and the impact on their health.Mr Frostick doesn’t blame his employer for the long hours he was putting in, but one respondent said: “Companies continue to push people to their limits without concern for your personal well-being.”

HSBC said everyone at the bank wished Mr Frostick a full and speedy recovery.”We also recognise the importance of personal health and wellbeing and a good work-life balance. Over the last year we have redoubled our efforts on health and wellbeing.

“The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority.”

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While the WHO study did not cover the period of the pandemic, WHO officials said the recent jump in remote working and the economic slowdown may have increased the risks associated with long working hours.

“We have some evidence that shows that when countries go into national lockdown, the number of hours worked increase by about 10%,” WHO technical officer Frank Pega said.

The report said working long hours was estimated to be responsible for about a third of all work-related disease, making it the largest occupational disease burden.

The researchers said that there were two ways longer working hours led to poor health outcomes: firstly through direct physiological responses to stress, and secondly because longer hours meant workers were more likely to adopt health-harming behaviours such as tobacco and alcohol use, less sleep and exercise, and an unhealthy diet.

Andrew Falls, 32, a service engineer based in Leeds, says the long hours at his previous employer took a toll on his mental and physical health.”Fifty to 55 hour weeks were the norm. I was also away from home for weeks on end.”

“Stress, depression, anxiety, it was a cauldron of bad feedback loops,” he says. “I was in a constant state of being run down.”After five years he left the job to retrain as a software engineer. The number of people working long hours was increasing before the pandemic struck, according to the WHO, and was around 9% of the total global population.

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that people working from home during the pandemic were putting in an average of six hours of unpaid overtime a week. People who did not work from home put in an average of 3.6 hours a week overtime, the ONS said.

The WHO suggests that employers should now take this into account when assessing the occupational health risks of their workers. Capping hours would be beneficial for employers as that had been shown to increase productivity, Mr Pega said. “It’s really a smart choice to not increase long working hours in an economic crisis.”

Source: Long working hours killing 745,000 people a year, study finds – BBC News

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References

“Spain introduces new working hours law requiring employees to clock in and out”. Idealista. Retrieved 30 April 2020.

Is Sitting Still Slowly Killing Us?

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This is the one piece of bad news you shouldn’t sit down for: Sitting for hours on end, every day, is bad for your health. Sitting at work is bad for you. Sitting after work is bad for you. Sitting is the new smoking, except that the furniture lobby probably isn’t as powerful as the tobacco one.According to Harvard Health Publications, too much sitting has been linked to everything from osteoporosis to heart disease to diabetes .

So if you feel like you’re wasting away in your chair all day, you probably are. It might be time to invest in a standing desk or make time for periodic walking breaks. A lot of research has appeared in the last few years as a testament to all that is unholy about our love of office chairs, La-Z Boys, couches and cushions. What’s worse: Even a healthy amount of exercise can’t save you.

If you work in an office setting, sitting is hard to avoid, unless you’re an early adopter of the treadmill desk. You might laze around the house on your days off, but one study found that people spend more time sitting–and do less standing or walking–on work days compared to their leisure days. You may have lost track of all of the ways that your office job can turn deadly. So as I sit hunched over in my rolling chair in a position that screams “live fast, die young,” let’s talk about what kind of damage all we, the over-sitters, are in for.

Here are 11 health issues linked to excessive sitting:https://i.insider.com/57855b5788e4a7dd488b6c1d":{"contentType":"image/png","aspectRatioW":2,"aspectRatioH":1}}” />

Leg problems

The Daily Mail noted that a study published in the British Medical Journal found that excessive sitting causes blood to pool in your legs, leading to dangerous blood clots.

Insulin spikes

University of Colorado at Denver human physiologist Audrey Bergouignan explained that sitting too much can mess with your insulin production, reports the Washington Post. This can put you at greater risk for diabetes. Double whammy: Sitting could be bad for your mind, too. An April 2012 study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine analyzed the association between sedentary behavior and mental well-being using Well@Work, a workplace health promotion project in the UK.

According to self-reported survey data from almost 3,500 people of non-occupational sitting time — watching TV, using a computer, driving, etc. — sitting time outside of work was negatively associated with mental health for women. Again, men got off comparatively easy — only sitting time at the computer negatively impacted their mental well-being.

Slowed brain function

Newcastle University professor of movement and metabolism Mike Trenell told the Daily Mail that without movement, muscles pump less fresh blood and oxygen through your brain. By reducing “excessive sitting” to less than three hours a day, the U.S. life expectancy could increase by two years, according to a July 2012 study in BMJ Open. Reducing TV time to less than two hours a day would bump it up by 1.4 years.

(By comparison, smoking knocks off 2.5 years of life expectancy for men and 1.8 years for women.) The study estimated that the average adult spends 55 percent of his or her day doing something sedentary, but also notes that even high levels of self-reported sitting could be conservative. It’s not easy to remember all the time you’ve spent sitting during the day, since it’s not necessarily a domain-specific behavior like watching TV.

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Want to know How Sitting Down is Slowly Killing Us then this video need to be considered. Revealing the Truth About Our Sedentary Lifestyle. Do you want to know, how sitting for longer period effects your body? Well, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by the American Cancer Society after following 123,216 subjects from a 2010 study stated this. The study found out some shocking truth. If you want to live longer then see this. ————————————————- Health Apt Channel https://www.youtube.com/healthaptgala Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/healthapt/ Google+ Page https://plus.google.com/u/0/116987186… Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aRel…
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Weak bones

PreventDisease.com explained that excessive sitting can lead to osteoporosis, citing a 2010 study published in The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Obese individuals sit 2.5 more hours a day than lean individuals, according to a November 2009 Obesity study. In turn, sitting more is associated with Metabolic Syndrome, a combination of factors — like abdominal obesity, low levels of “good cholesterol,” high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels or hyperglycemia — that together put you at a higher risk for serious medical issues like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

A review study in PLOS ONE last year confirmed that people who spent more time being sedentary were 73 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome. In 2005, a group of researchers theorized that reducing TV and computer use to less than one hour a day outside of work could reduce the prevalence of adult metabolic syndrome in the U.S. by 30 to 35 percent.

Aches and pains

Inactivity might be the cause of your sore back. The Financial Times reports that when you slump in your seat, you can strain your back muscles. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, sitting could still be what kills you. A January 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that both before and after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, more leisure time spent sitting down meant a higher risk of death.

The study tracked the self-reported habits of more than 2,000 patients with colorectal cancer for up to 16 years after their diagnosis. The most physically active had a 28 percent lower chance of dying than those who exercised less. Those who spent at least six leisure hours a day sitting had a 36 percent greater risk of dying than those who sat less than three hours a day.

Stiff spines

When you sit for too long, your soft discs between vertebrae become squashed, leading to inflexibility, according to a group of scientists interviewed by the Washington Post. A March 2012 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine tracking more than 200,000 Australian individuals 45 years and older found that regardless of sex, age and body mass, sitting puts you at a higher risk for mortality from all causes. People who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40 percent higher risk of dying within three years. The risk of death was much lower for people who exercised five hours a week or more, but it didn’t negate the sitting death-trap. Time to shell out for a standing desk.

Heart disease

Mercola.com reported that women who sit for 10 more hours a day have a higher risk of heart disease , according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. An October 2012 analysis of a self-reported survey — 6,379 people between the ages of 40 and 75 — found that even controlling for physical activity and body mass index, those who sat less had lower risk of having chronic kidney disease. The effect was especially profound in women: When they cut down their sitting time from a full workday to only three hours, their risk fell by more than 30 percent. For men, the risk decreased by 15 percent.

Decreased hip mobility

Livestrong.com explains that sitting too much causes your hip muscles to shorten and tighten, limiting your range of motion.

Higher rates of cancer

Harvard Health Publications explained that separate studies have linked excessive sitting to higher rates of cancer and cancer-related deaths.

Feeble glutes

Unsurprisingly, sitting on your butt all day is bad for your butt.

Dan Giordano, cofounder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy, told SELF that sitting all day causes your glutes to essentially “shut down.”

Slouching toward arthritis

Consistently poor posture at work can lead to arthritis and bursitis, according to the Huffington Post.

By:

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com

COVID-19 Vaccination Passports Worry Public Health Experts

More and more people are getting vaccinated, and some are even traveling. Which has led to a debate over whether countries should require COVID-19 vaccination passports or IDs. The European Union is proposing a so-called Digital Green Pass so vaccinated people can move more freely.

Family vacation in Italy? Business trip to China? No problem. Just show me your COVID-19 vaccine certificate. This might be the future. “I think it would certainly speed up the recovery of those sectors that have been slowed down or shut down because of risk of exposure to COVID,” said Glenn Melnick, a health economist at the University of Southern California.

Many worry about creating an underclass of unvaccinated people who also can’t travel. Dr. Wafaa el-Sadr at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health said the U.S. still has a lot of work to do.

“I’m hopeful that if there’s a true commitment in this country to equity that we would be able to reach a point where we have been able to overcome the very real barriers that people are facing now in accessing vaccination,” she said.

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NBC News medical contributor Dr. Vin Gupta and CNBC’s senior health and science reporter Meg Tirrell join TODAY to discuss the latest news surrounding coronavirus vaccine candidates. They discuss the possibility of a vaccine passport required by businesses and events to ensure the safety of customers and employees. » Subscribe to TODAY: http://on.today.com/SubscribeToTODAY » Watch the latest from TODAY: http://bit.ly/LatestTODAY
About: TODAY brings you the latest headlines and expert tips on money, health and parenting. We wake up every morning to give you and your family all you need to start your day. If it matters to you, it matters to us. We are in the people business. Subscribe to our channel for exclusive TODAY archival footage & our original web series. Connect with TODAY Online! Visit TODAY’s Website: http://on.today.com/ReadTODAY Find TODAY on Facebook: http://on.today.com/LikeTODAY Follow TODAY on Twitter: http://on.today.com/FollowTODAY Follow TODAY on Instagram: http://on.today.com/InstaTODAY Follow TODAY on Pinterest: http://on.today.com/PinTODAY
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And if it’s going to happen, Jennifer Nuzzo at Johns Hopkins University said, universal verification systems will be needed. “You are requiring countries to show proof of having provided something that is very hard to get, that can create incentives for perhaps not being completely transparent about what’s actually going on,” she said.

As other countries start to experiment with vaccine credentials, Americans who want to travel may have to participate.

Source: COVID-19 “vaccine passports” worry public health experts – Marketplace

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Four Causes For ‘Zoom Fatigue’ & Their Solutions

Even as more people are logging onto popular video chat platforms to connect with colleagues, family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford researchers have a warning for you: Those video calls are likely tiring you out.

Prompted by the recent boom in videoconferencing, communication Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), examined the psychological consequences of spending hours per day on these platforms. Just as “Googling” is something akin to any web search, the term “Zooming” has become ubiquitous and a generic verb to replace videoconferencing. Virtual meetings have skyrocketed, with hundreds of millions happening daily, as social distancing protocols have kept people apart physically.

In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Bailenson has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as “Zoom fatigue.”

Bailenson stressed that his goal is not to vilify any particular videoconferencing platform – he appreciates and uses tools like Zoom regularly – but to highlight how current implementations of videoconferencing technologies are exhausting and to suggest interface changes, many of which are simple to implement. Moreover, he provides suggestions for consumers and organizations on how to leverage the current features on videoconferences to decrease fatigue.

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Covid Fatigue: how our brain affects our motivation to follow safety precautions — the strain of following safety precautions for the past six months to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is getting to many of us. Some people are becoming lax and even resistant to wearing masks or practicing physical distancing. Why do we lose the motivation to follow safety guidelines, even when the threat of danger is still there? Experts say our brain is part of the problem – and the solution. Dr. Joe Bienvenu explains how our brain causes us to be desensitized and how we can train ourselves to develop safe habits to continue protecting ourselves and others. #JohnsHopkins #CovidFatigue
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“Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to,” Bailenson said.

Below are four primary reasons why video chats fatigue humans, according to the study. Readers are also invited to participate in a research study aimed at developing a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF) Scale.

Four reasons why

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.

Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural.

In a normal meeting, people will variously be looking at the speaker, taking notes or looking elsewhere. But on Zoom calls, everyone is looking at everyone, all the time. A listener is treated nonverbally like a speaker, so even if you don’t speak once in a meeting, you are still looking at faces staring at you. The amount of eye contact is dramatically increased. “Social anxiety of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population,” Bailenson said. “When you’re standing up there and everybody’s staring at you, that’s a stressful experience.”

Another source of stress is that, depending on your monitor size and whether you’re using an external monitor, faces on videoconferencing calls can appear too large for comfort. “In general, for most setups, if it’s a one-on-one conversation when you’re with coworkers or even strangers on video, you’re seeing their face at a size which simulates a personal space that you normally experience when you’re with somebody intimately,” Bailenson said.

When someone’s face is that close to ours in real life, our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict. “What’s happening, in effect, when you’re using Zoom for many, many hours is you’re in this hyper-aroused state,” Bailenson said.

Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.

Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that’s unnatural, Bailenson said. “In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,” he added.

Bailenson cited studies showing that when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself. Many of us are now seeing ourselves on video chats for many hours every day. “It’s taxing on us. It’s stressful. And there’s lots of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror.”

Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the “hide self-view” button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.

In-person and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with videoconferencing, most cameras have a set field of view, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. “There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,” Bailenson said.

Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

Bailenson notes that in regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.

In effect, Bailenson said, humans have taken one of the most natural things in the world – an in-person conversation – and transformed it into something that involves a lot of thought: “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”

Gestures could also mean different things in a video meeting context. A sidelong glance to someone during an in-person meeting means something very different than a person on a video chat grid looking off-screen to their child who just walked into their home office.

Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an “audio only” break. “This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen,” Bailenson said, “so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.”

ZEF Scale

Many organizations – including schools, large companies and government entities – have reached out to Stanford communication researchers to better understand how to create best practices for their particular videoconferencing setup and how to come up with institutional guidelines. Bailenson – along with Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab; Géraldine Fauville, former postdoctoral researcher at the VHIL; Mufan Luo; graduate student at Stanford; and Anna Queiroz, postdoc at VHIL – responded by devising the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, or ZEF Scale, to help measure how much fatigue people are experiencing in the workplace from videoconferencing.

The scale, detailed in a recent, not yet peer-reviewed paper published on the preprint website SSRN, advances research on how to measure fatigue from interpersonal technology, as well as what causes the fatigue. The scale is a 15-item questionnaire, which is freely available, and has been tested now across five separate studies over the past year with over 500 participants. It asks questions about a person’s general fatigue, physical fatigue, social fatigue, emotional fatigue and motivational fatigue. Some sample questions include:

  • How exhausted do you feel after videoconferencing?
  • How irritated do your eyes feel after videoconferencing?
  • How much do you tend to avoid social situations after videoconferencing?
  • How emotionally drained do you feel after videoconferencing?
  • How often do you feel too tired to do other things after videoconferencing?

Hancock said results from the scale can help change the technology so the stressors are reduced.

He notes that humans have been here before. “When we first had elevators, we didn’t know whether we should stare at each other or not in that space. More recently, ridesharing has brought up questions about whether you talk to the driver or not, or whether to get in the back seat or the passenger seat,” Hancock explained. “We had to evolve ways to make it work for us. We’re in that era now with videoconferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way to do things for different settings, different organizations and different kinds of meetings.”

“Hopefully, our work will contribute to uncovering the roots of this problem and help people adapt their videoconference practices to alleviate ‘Zoom fatigue,’” added Fauville, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. “This could also inform videoconference platform designers to challenge and rethink some of the paradigm videoconferences have been built on.”

If you are interested in measuring your own Zoom fatigue, you can take the survey here and participate in the research project.

By Vignesh Ramachandran

Source: Four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their solutions | Stanford News

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Feeling Cold: Why Do You Feel Colder Than Others?

1

I’m freezing,” has to be my most used phrase. I’m not even talking about during winter, when everyone’s cold, but all year round. You can find me complaining about the fact that I can’t feel my fingers in mild March or that I need a jacket during July’s heatwave evenings. I won’t even begin to tell you how many layers I wear when I go skiing.

The Stylist team’s morning call is also a never-ending chorus of complaints about temperature (yes, our editor was wrapped up in a puffer jacket this morning). Yet, my housemate can walk down the street in shorts in December, and others sweat the second they put a coat on.

So why do some people just seem to feel the cold more than others – and what does it mean?

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Finding out what is ‘normal’ when it comes to our temperature is pretty tricky though, explains Dr Clare Eglin from the Extreme Environments Laboratory in the Health and Exercise Science department at the University of Portsmouth. While our core temperature should ideally not change, “our perception of whether we find somewhere warm or cool is very individual and usually down to our skin temperature,” Dr Eglin says. “This is what gives our body feedback, and lots of things can affect that from the clothes that we are wearing to the activities we are doing – and also the wind and dampness of the environment.”

However, there are genetic and personal factors that can mean that two people, wearing the same thing, in the same environment feel different temperatures.

Why do some people feel colder than others?

There are many factors to this, including:

  • Overall body size can impact how cold you feel, as smaller people have less cells in their body that produce heat
  • People with higher levels of body fat and/or muscle mass have more insulation and a higher resting metabolic rate so burn energy faster
  • Being active not only warms the body immediately but can have a long-term effect on temperature regulation
  • Older people also tend to have a slower resting metabolic rate, so may feel the cold more

These factors do mean that gender is a big divider, as women are generally smaller than men and carry less muscle mass. We’ve all fought over the thermostat in the office (or central heating while at home) but the fact is that “the temperature deemed comfortable for most people is meant to be about 21 degrees. Actually, that’s ideal for a man in a suit, but women generally do better with a higher temperature,” says Dr Eglin.

Interestingly, we feel this disparity internally too. “Estrogen and progesterone, which change throughout the menstrual cycle, affect how quickly our blood vessels constrict to the cold. So depending what part of the menstrual cycle you’re in, you might find your hands and feet get colder, affecting your overall temperature perception,” says Dr Eglin.

Plus, your temperature perception can change throughout the day. “For instance, at six o’clock in the morning your core temperature is at its lowest, and from midday to mid-afternoon, it’s at its highest,” she adds.

Why do my hands feel cold?

Don’t panic if, like me, you have hands like ice cubes on a summer’s day. “It is a very typical thing, particularly for women, as our hands are really good for regulation,” says Dr Eglin. Our hands have a large surface area but a small volume and are filled with lots of blood vessels very close to the surface of the skin. “They’re very good for losing heat and so therefore, when you’re slightly cool, the blood flow shuts down,” she says.

While “peripheral temperature is generally nothing to worry about”, it can be a sign of Raynaud’s syndrome, an extreme response to cold or stress where arteries narrow to the point that fingers and toes turn white or blue and feel cold and numb – but circulation returns to normal when warm again.

Is it bad to be cold all the time?

Generally, being cold is simply down to our body type, and as long as we take precautions it’s not a bad thing. But if constant coldness is mixed with other symptoms it could be a sign of something more serious. For example, coldness paired with tiredness or dizziness could be a symptom of an iron or B12 deficiency, or even anaemia. Constantly being cold coupled with hair loss, a change in your digestive system and weight gain could also be a sign of a low thyroid – when the gland stops producing enough thyroxine (a hormone which regulates your metabolism).

Ultimately, your body is pretty good at regulating itself, so trust what it’s telling you. “Our behaviour is the most important thing when it comes to keeping warm. I think quite often we underestimate the weather in the UK. You always hear people say ‘It’s not that bad, it’s not like we’re in the Arctic!’, but with the windchill and dampness it can be very cold. We don’t pay enough attention to that,” says Dr Eglin. So, bundle up when you’re feeling the chill.

By

Source: Feeling cold: why do you feel colder than others?

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Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain

I’ve said before the first 3 hours of your day can dictate how your life turns out. And this often begins with the very first thing that you decide to put in your brain. You can either start you day with junk food for the brain (the internet, distracting apps, etc) or you can start the day with healthy food for the brain (reading, meditation, journaling, exercising, etc). When you start the day with junk food for the brain, you put yourself at a self imposed handicap that inhibits your ability to get into flow and prevents you from doing deep work. When you start the day with health food for your brain, the exact opposite happens.

Anytime I start my day with junk food for the brain, the quality of the day goes down. I’m less happy, focused, and productive. I spend a ton of time on the internet and don’t get any real work done. But if I start my day with health food for the brain, I find that my mood is better, I’m happier, more focused and productive.

Why Junk Food for the Brain is Toxic

If you woke up in the morning, smoked a cigarette, ate 2 donuts, and washed it down with 2 cups of coffee, it wouldn’t be surprising that your physical performance is subpar. You’re probably not going to go out and run 2 miles or win a prize fight after that kind of breakfast.

But when it comes to our brain, we’re not nearly as mindful about the idea that we should treat the information we consume like the food we eat.

“When you wake up you’re in this theta alpha state and you’re highly suggestible. Every like, comment, share, you get this dopamine fix and it’s literally rewiring your brain. What you’re smart device is doing especially if that’s the first thing you grab when you wake up and you’re in this alpha theta state, is rewiring your brain to be distracted.” — @Jim Kwik

If we start our days by checking email, instagram, or the internet, we keep reinforcing the behavior of distraction until it becomes our new habit. Some of the smartest behavioral scientist and designers in the world have worked really hard to make sure that their products are addictive, habit forming, and only provide you with a temporary sense of fulfillment so the you are always jonesing for your next fix. As Mark Manson so brilliantly said, cell phones are the new cigarettes, And a significant amount of what’s on the internet is nothing more than junk food for the brain.

Why Healthy Food for the Brain is So Powerful

If you woke up in the morning and had a really healthy breakfast, that revitalized and energized you, you’d likely hit the gym or a morning run expecting to be at your peak. The same goes for our brains.

When we start the day with health food for the brain, instead of a self imposed handicap, we give ourselves a massive competitive advantage. On the days when I religiously follow through on the 8-step daily routine that allowed me to write multiple books and 100’s of articles, my productivity goes through the roof, flow happens effortlessly, and I end up doing a lot of deep work. The idea for this article was actually the result of giving my brain some health food to start the day.

  • I did 20 minutes of meditation
  • I did almost an hour of reading
  • I wrote in my journal for 30 minutes
  • When I turned on my computer, I blocked distractions and started writing.

When you start the day with health food for your brain, you don’t end up depleting your willpower, and as a result you get more done in far less time.

So how exactly do you start the day with health food for your brain? To wean ourselves off of junk food for the brain, we have to actually replace it with something else.

Don’t use your devices in the morning

Smartphones distract us whether they are on, off, in our pockets, or on a table, and they command our attention even when they are not our own. The best solution for preventing smartphone distraction is to remove it from the picture altogether — Steve Magness

If your refrigerator or pantry is filled with junk food, you’re going to be much more likely to eat it. Same goes for your devices. If you turn them on first thing in the morning, you’re going to be much more likely to give into the sources of distraction that they make accessible. The only thing that I use my phone for in the morning is a 20 minute meditation with the Calm app. After that, I take it out of the room I’m working in.

Set aside 20 minutes to meditate

Reality as we know it occurs in the space between stimulus and response. An event happens and we make it mean something. But this happens so fast that we don’t question the validity of the meaning we’ve assigned to an event, situation or circumstance. The way to take control of the meaning is to slow that process down, and the way to slow that process down is with meditation.

I have a natural tendency to overreact or make situations more stressful than they really are. But as my meditation practice has deepened, I’ve noticed a profound energetic shift. Many of the things that would have previously rattled me don’t. On the mornings that I follow through with my 20 minutes of meditation, I’m able to focus more easily, and I don’t crave sources of distraction nearly as much

The most successful people I’ve interviewed on Unmistakable Creative, all of the peak performance books I’ve read, spiritual teachings, and many billionaires all reference the role that a daily meditation habit is played in their life. That was convincing enough evidence for me to make it a daily habit.

Read books, not the internet

When we read on the internet, we tend to scan more than we read. How often do you sit around at a dinner party discussing the amazing article you read on the internet? Almost all of my ideas for what I want to write about have come from books. Almost none of them have come from reading articles on the internet. I’ve even found in my cases that when I read a physical book that I previously read on Kindle, I tend to get far more value out of it.

Years ago when I interviewed Julien Smith, he said “I don’t read blogs. I read books.” And he had one of the most popular blogs on the internet. I stopped reading blogs, started reading books, and as a result became a more prolific writer. After watching the prolific career that Ryan Holiday has built, and observing his reading habits, I decided to follow his lead. Believe me the irony that you’re reading this on the internet is not lost on me.

Do 1 hour of Deep Work

One hour of deep work is a form of self care. It’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s an affirmation to yourself and to the universe that you value yourself and your time. You can accomplish extraordinary things in just one focused hour a day of uninterrupted creation time. With deep work, you get disproportionate results from your efforts. It’s the 80–20 rule at work. 80% of your output will come from 20 percent of your effort.

Just some food for thought. When I started writing this article I set my distraction blocker for 45 minutes. As I wrote this sentence I decided to do a check on my word count and realized I’d written over 1200 words in about 35 minutes. That’s what happens when you combine flow and deep work together

One last thing to consider. What are you really getting out of checking Facebook, instagram, or anything on your phone when you wake up in the morning? Is it making you happier or more successful in any way at all? If you added up all the time you possibly waste over the course of a year on this behavior, it’s likely you could write a book, build a business, or learn an instrument, all of which are going to do far more for the quality of your life than the temporary dopamine fix your phone provides.

Source: Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain

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