After several weeks of family togetherness, holidays, sleeping in, and going to bed at all hours, we are returning to the most productive 8 weeks in the Israeli calendar. We are filled with good intentions of getting our schedules, our work and school lives back on track.
We promise we will eat healthier, exercise more, lose weight, all those “good” things, we’re supposed to be doing but not getting around too as we clean the house, do the dishes, make lunches for our children, take the dog to the vet…well, you get the point.
So I thought I’d put together a few facts and figures about staying healthy that are realistic, evidence-based, and doable.
I decided to go rogue and visit one of my favorite sites, NICE, or the National Institute for Care and Excellence, the U.K.’s clearinghouse of evidence-based guidelines for all things health-related. They base their guidelines on a multitude of large-scale studies and reviews. I only selected summaries that had moderate to strong statistical evidence to support them.
Pretty much every large-scale study on preventing or mitigating cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, the three main causes of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) as we age, includes an analysis of the positive effects of exercise. Meaning? You exercise more, you live longer without these major diseases. You may also prevent obesity.
But what does exercising really mean? Strolling around the block for ten minutes a day? Attending a spinning class every morning?
Science says: It seems that “regular brisk walking (an average of about 38 minutes on 5 days a week) may be effective at reducing weight by around 1.4%”. 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise seems to offer similar effects.
In Real Life: Any activity that causes adults to get warmer and breathe harder and their hearts to beat faster, but they should still be able to carry on a conversation is considered moderate intensity exercise. High intensity includes running and sports such as swimming or soccer.
Sedentary activities (such as watching T.V.):
Science says: “Moderate evidence suggests that there is a positive association between screen time (specifically TV) in adulthood and measures of overweight and obesity in adults. “…each additional 2 hours of TV viewing was associated with a 23% increase in risk of obesity.”
In Real Life: Try to reduce your screen time to 2 hours or less daily in order to reduce your risk of becoming overweight, a known risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Science says: There is strong quantitative evidence that suggests that there is a positive association between consuming sugary drinks and weight gain in adults. [This includes alcoholic beverages.]
In Real Life: Drink mostly water, supplement with tea and coffee, and natural fruit juices; add 2 alcoholic drinks or less a day.
Science says: Moderate evidence suggested that whole grain consumption or dietary patterns rich in whole grains may be inversely associated with weight-related outcomes in adults. Moderate evidence was of a small positive association between refined grain consumption and weight-related outcomes in adults. And moderate evidence suggests that fruit and vegetable consumption has an inverse association with weight-related outcomes.”
In Real Life: Reduce white flour and white rice consumption and try whenever possible to eat whole grains and more fruit and vegetables in order to maintain a healthy weight.
In summary, what does our new healthy life look like?
- Move our bodies at least 30 minutes a day so our heart rate goes up.
- Choose the brown rice and whole oatmeal when we cook as compared with pasta and boxed cereal.
- Find another form of leisure time that doesn’t always involve a screen.
- Most importantly, though, we try to incorporate habits that will stick with us. Don’t try to change your life completely, because science has definitely shown that does NOT work.
Other helpful tips from NICE? When possible, eat together as a family and reduce snacking throughout the day.
Made any little changes that have helped you in these areas? Let us know.