You do everything right for your health, from tracking food and eating nutrient-dense options to working out regularly, getting enough sleep and hydrating like a champ. (Well, maybe “mostly” on all of that, anyway.) But are you potentially missing a big health booster if you spend more time scrolling social media than hanging out?
Many people focus on taking care of themselves with all the sure-fire tactics but forget social connection is just as critical as food, movement and sleep, according to Emma Seppala, PhD, Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and author of “The Happiness Track.”
“Research has shown that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure,” she says. “On the other hand, strong social connections can have huge benefits, and may even lengthen your life.”
Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
Here are numerous reasons why you need to use that smartphone to set up coffee dates and gym buddy time, rather than just scrolling through Instagram posts:
In a study done at Carnegie Mellon University, college freshmen were studied for their antibody response to the flu shot, based on their self-reported levels of loneliness and social network activity. Those who felt lonelier and had fewer real-life social connections had a worse antibody response to the vaccine.
Also, researchers added, loneliness was associated with poor sleep quality, which has often been linked to decreased immune system response.
When you’re out with friends, especially if you’re a hugger, you tend to be better at regulating your level of cortisol — the hormone most responsible for your stress response.
Even better, research has found simple human touch (or even petting an animal) can reduce pain as well as improve mental and emotional health, making it a plus for body and mind.
What’s good for your figurative heart is also beneficial for your literal one — forging deeper social connections can lower blood pressure, and that reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Improved blood pressure is partly due to lower cortisol levels, but loneliness also creates other stresses on the body, including increased inflammation, which can also be tough on the ticker. One study noted that poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increase in risk of coronary heart disease and a 32% increase in risk of stroke.
Despite all of these benefits, loneliness and isolation are on the rise in the United States, says Seppala, adding that it’s been estimated that up to a quarter of all Americans feel they have no one with whom they can share a personal problem. Social media can exacerbate this, because you can have 10,000 followers and still not feel like you have a single close friend.
Set up gym buddy time, rather than just scrolling through Instagram posts.
So, for the sake of your mental and physical health, start the process of going to the gym and asking others to join you. Find some good friends to workout with and you will begin to feel more alive than ever before.
adapted from Elizabeth Millard, myfitnesspal.com
As the temperature rises this summer, we want to strongly encourage you to drink plenty of water. Water is an essential nutrient that makes your body run smoothly and efficiently. Because the average adult’s body is about 65% water, it’s no wonder that we can only survive for about three to five days without it! Water transports nutrients and oxygen to cells, carries away waste products and lubricates our digestive tracts, joints and cartilage. The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences suggests an adequate total fluid intake of about 13 cups per day for men and about 10 cups per day for women. (Keep in mind that you may need more or less, depending on activity level, body size and environment.)
As the foundation for all body functions, this zero-calorie drink is a liquid asset. Here are five reasons why you should make water your pal:
1. IT CURBS HUNGER AND PROMOTES SATIETY
The body’s “thirst center” in the brain, the hypothalamus, also regulates appetite. When you’re dehydrated, your body can perceive mixed signals on hunger, causing you to believe that you need to eat when you’re actually just thirsty. One study found that drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before meals helped subjects lose more weight. Hungry? Drink some water first. Staying hydrated can help you ward off fake hunger signals.
2. IT KEEPS YOUR MIND SHARP
In addition to being naturally calorie-free, sugar-free and caffeine-free, water helps transport oxygen to the brain to ensure it functions at optimum levels. Even mild dehydration can impact your cognitive performance, tamper with your mood and make you feel fatigued. These effects can lead to mindless stress eating, poor food choices and, ultimately, breaking the calorie bank. Next time you’re feeling spaced out, try drinking some cold water to zap the sluggishness out of you.
3. IT POWERS YOUR WORKOUTS
In addition to boosting your metabolism, water helps prevent muscle cramping, so you can work out harder and longer. Take note that your water needs increase after working out. During long endurance workouts, drink water with carbohydrates and electrolytes to help maintain fluid balance and prevent post-exercise exhaustion.
4. IT HELPS YOU STAY HEALTHY
From start to finish, water keeps your digestive system running smoothly. The saliva in your mouth contains water and digestive enzymes to break down your food. In your stomach, water balances the acidic environment to prevent ulcers, indigestion and heartburn. 2 glasses after waking up help activate your internal organs. 1 glass 30 minutes before a meal helps digestion. 1 glass before taking a shower helps lower blood pressure. And 1 glass before going to bed avoids stroke or heart attack.
5. IT HELPS YOU SAVE ON CALORIES
Liquid calories like juices and sodas don’t fill you up, and their high sugar content can cause insulin spikes that can set you up for a crash. According to this systematic review, drinking water in place of sugar-sweetened beverages resulted in less weight gain over a four-year period. If you want more pizzazz than plain water, try sparkling water, or give it a flavor makeover with berries, cucumbers, mint or grapefruit.
Finally, if for no other reason, drink plenty of water a day and you will avoid other people’s drama, because you will be too busy going to the bathroom!!
Drink up and stay hydrated, BlackWatch family!
Avocado Toast is getting much attention because of its fiber and healthy fats that help keep you full and satisfied. Avocados are also a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as several minerals. But what if you were able to add some protein to this delicious mix?
AVOCADO ENGLISH MUFFIN
Swap out basic toast for a Thomas’ Original English Muffin, paired with mashed avocado, a poached egg, and a little onion salt. If you want even more protein, add yourself some Canadian bacon or turkey bacon. And for an added kick, toss a dash of hot sauce on there!
This beauty is a great, easy-t0-make breakfast sandwich rocking only 300 calories, before adding the additional proteins.
So instead of grabbing something unhealthy on the go, take 5 minutes to make you this delicious and simple breakfast.
WHY YOU’LL BENEFIT FROM JOINING A GYM
We’ve all at some point in time made a decision to get fit. The problem is we never follow through with it, or it just seems to fade.
Statistics are staggering at the number of people who are either inactive or have very little physical activity. You don’t have to become a part of that statistic. If you need a little help to take action, read the top 8 reasons to join a gym and get moving.
1. Huge health benefits
It’s clear, but we’ll mention it anyway – going to the gym is good for your health and fitness! Put simply, during exercise we increase our cardiovascular fitness through strengthening our heart and lungs and we increase our strength through creating lean muscle. Many Departments of Health recommend five hours of moderate exercise per week, including muscle strengthening activities at least twice per week.
Studies show that regular exercise and an increase in strength and cardio fitness levels can help reduce the risk of health concerns and diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Diabetes (type II)
- Stress related illnesses
2. Access to equipment
One of the big advantages of joining a gym is the wide variety of equipment available, that keeps your exercise interesting. It might be intimidating at first, but you’ll find friendly experts on hand to help you use it all. Trust them – it’s all a lot simpler than it looks!
3. Make friends
The gym is a great way to be social and meet like-minded people. Group fitness classes will help you work towards your goals and are a fun way to make friends. You might find someone who loves strength training just as much as you! Once you connect with someone at your fitness level and appoint them as your official training buddy, you’ll be able to team up and partner in workouts for maximum results.
4. Access to knowledge
The best gyms have qualified, experienced personal trainers (many with health and sports-related degrees) on hand who can advise you on the best exercises and workouts for reaching your goals. They can give you individualised direction for your workouts in the gym, keeping you safe and motivating you along the way too.
5. Establish a healthy routine
One of the hurdles in committing to a gym membership is justifying the cost and how much you will use it. It’s easy to establish a healthy routine with a gym membership when you have the use of facilities regardless of rain, hail or shine outside. There’s no soggy ground to worry about, no dogs to hurdle when running and no risk of heat exhaustion on summer days. So flip that financial hurdle into a motivator, establish a routine and you’ll create a new healthy habit well worth the investment in no time.
6. Increased energy levels
One of the side effects of exercise is an increase in energy levels and enhanced mood, due to the release of natural, happy endorphins. There’s no better feeling than leaving the gym after a workout feeling energised and ready for whatever the day throws at you. If you’re looking for an extra spring in your step, it’s a great benefit of joining a gym!
7. Be challenged
When you work out at home alone, you do not tend to challenge yourself at all. Look to your gym to offer a targeted exercise program to help you achieve long-term and life-changing results. From strength training to cardio boot camps to fun challenges, a gym will mix it up and provide challenges that you would never participate in at home.
8. Be motivated
You either love exercise or you have to drag yourself along to get it done! If you’re one of the latter, heading to the gym and being around others who are in the same situation as you can be just the incentive and motivation you need to keep going. You might even find yourself converting into an exercise lover when you’re heading to the gym on a more regular basis, hitting your fitness goals and seeing results on the inside and out!
adapted from Emily Doughty