Smile your way to Optimal Health in this Olympic Summer


By Robert Brennan




Fitness Expert gives some great tips to get you smiling

August 8, 2012

The weather has finally brightened up, England are getting beaten at cricket, Andy Murray has lost at Wimbledon again, and criedÖ Surely this is it, the Great British Summer is finally here. This year it is even more special of course; the Olympics are upon us! After 7 years of preparation, London has descended into (even more) chaos for 2 weeks of intense sporting action and surely this will inspire the nation to get fit in 2012. However, if the Olympics doesnít do the trick then hopefully reading this article will motivate you to make some simple changes to ensure you have a happy and healthy 2012.

Summer Tip 1 Ė Smile

In many ways, the wettest April Ė June period on record is enough to make one smile, only in Britain could we experience such a treat! Smiling (even if it is through gritted teeth) is actually one of the best things we can do to help us survive this miserable summer, because there is far more to a smile than you may think.

The smile is a complex physiological process. A beaming smile releases endorphins and serotonin, both strongly linked to feelings of well-being and relaxation. Even forcing a smile has been shown to alter the chemical balance of the body, enhancing our mood and reducing stress!

In studies of telesales, those who were told to smile when they answered the phone or made sales calls experienced more success and had higher morale than teams who did not do this. So whether you work in telesales or not, the verdict is, you should smile!

A little extra benefit of smiling is that it exercises and tones the 40+ muscles in the face to keep your skin more toned and younger looking.

Of course, if you are worried about revealing your smile then I know a certain dentist who can help you with that!

Summer Tip 2- Hydration

Has anyone ever heard someone complaining of headaches in the morning, feelings of lethargy during the day, sore eyes or just general fatigue? I imagine that is a yes from everyone reading this.

You may go hunting for something more sinister affecting your health but Iíll take a bet on dehydration being a big factor.

In the course of a normal day we can lose over 3 litres of water through bodily functions such as sweating, breathing and urinating. How many of us drink even near this amount of water? Of course we do replace some water through the food we eat, but this leaves us with an estimated 2 litre daily deficit which must be filled.

A dip of just 1-2% of our bodyís optimal hydration level causes a significant decrease in our ability to concentrate and affects short term memory. A dehydrated mind is cloudy and makes mistakes, your body can ache when you are dehydrated and it often feels like fatigue, but itís not. You just need more water in order for your body to carry out the necessary daily chemical reactions effectively. Hunger is also often confused by the body with dehydration, so being properly hydrated can reduce hunger pangs and in turn, your food intake.

A study referenced in the economist in 2010 showed that inactive people who were told to drink water shortly before every meal lost significantly more weight over a 12 week period when compared to a control group who didnít, despite being on the same diet. (http://www.economist.com/node/16881791)

Practical hint: Drink a large glass of water daily on rising before anything else. I know this sounds horrible but it is the easiest way to replace the water lost in sleep and kick start your day. Also try to match coffee/tea or any alcoholic drinks with water this is an easy way of preventing dehydration and may even cut down your caffeine / alcohol intake.

Summer Tip 3 Ė Get moving!

Exercise is the number one way to make you feel good and reduce stress! In our ancestral past it is thought that we averaged 12-14 hours PER DAY of hard physical activity; walking, hunting, building, caring for children, making clothes and tools and travelling. Life consisted of community and family time, exercise and sleep. Simple.

In todayís world when we struggle to get to the gym even once a week for a half baked workout, is it any wonder we donít feel great and full of vitality?!

In a clinical study (http://neuroscene.com/?p=80) 3 X 30 minute walks per week were shown to lift as many patients out of a state of mild depression as a control group prescribed with the latest anti-depressant drugs. Now which option would you take?!

We need to be active, our body craves it, yet our mind doesnít always want to because itís hard. Nonetheless it is a must.

It doesnít have to be gruelling; UK guidelines for achieving health benefits from exercise state that 5 x 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week is all that is required. Start with a 20 minute walk every day at lunchtime and perhaps a longer walk at the weekend, take stairs not escalators and donít use the lift! Walk when you can and you will soon be accumulating exercise and feeling far better. Get in touch with me to discuss many more tips to becoming more physically active.

Summer Tip 4 Ė Eat Well

There are far too many theories on food to discuss in this article, so for a more detailed overview click here http://fitnessuniversal.com/fundamentals_diet_article.php. The following are a few simple rules which will certainly be a step in the right direction:

Rule 1 Ė If itís processed, donít eat it. Processed food tends to contain additives, preservatives, salt, sugar, possibly trans fats and E numbers. I know it is hard to imagine a life without processed food, and the odd lapse isnít going to hurt you, but just try to bear in mind that if the food in front of you was not grown reared or produced naturally, then itís on the bad list.

Readily available processed food is a relatively new phenomenon, and so is the rapid growth of obesity, depression, diabetes and heart disease, this is not the whole story, but it is certainly a chapter or two.

Rule 2 Ė Donít add sugar to drinks and avoid sugary drinks, snacks and juices. They give a short term boost in energy then cause a large insulin release locking away the sugar, causing a dip or crash in energy levels. Sound familiar? This often occurs around 3 or 4pm, tempting you into yet more sugary snacks. Avoid this downward spiral of snacking by getting your energy from slow release high energy foods like rye bread, oats and brown rice.

The other negative of a sugary diet is that it can greatly contribute to the production of plaque acids that attack tooth enamel. Eventually, these acids can cause tooth enamel to break down, forming a cavity.

Rule 3 - Eat your Greens! Calorie for calorie, green leafy vegetables are one of the most concentrated sources of nutrition. They include minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium and vitamins, K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including Beta-Carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems.

Summer Tip 5 Ė Get to Bed!

We need 6-8 hours of sleep per night on average, almost without exception. Of course some people are fine with 5 or even 4 hours, but it is rare, some people may need 9 or 10 hours per night. We are all different, so to figure out how much sleep you need, experiment with trials over 2 or 3 week periods and once you know your optimum sleeping time stick to it religiously.

We are far more physiologically active when asleep than when awake. During this time our body releases an intricate array of hormones and undergoes essential growth and repair of tissues. If weíre not allowing sufficient time for these processes, our body is going to struggle in many ways. We will feel hungry at odd times, we may eat more because of this, our immune system underperforms, we feel tired in the middle of the day and we can, of course, be grumpy and emotional! Sleep really is key to a healthy and happy life and recent studies have emphasised the importance of a good nightís sleep in aiding weight loss and regulating a healthy weight. Good quality sleep can even contribute to prevention of chronic conditions such as Arthritis, Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer.

Thank you for reading, I hope you are able to implement even just a couple of the above tips and start to enjoy a more active, happy and healthy 2012. Enjoy the Olympics and, when you smile as Britain wins gold time and time again, remember just how much good you are doing to your body!!

For any further hints and tips please email or call me directly. I also offer a free 1 hour consultation to cover all of your individual fitness and health needs, wants and goals, so get in touch to book yours!