How to Keep Your TV From Killing You

Older adults are the most sedentary segment of society.  Beyond sitting at our desks in front of computers for hours on end, one of our major leisure time activities is watching television for hours on end. The new buzzword for this is “binge-watching”. According to a Deloitte survey, 70% of Americans, including over 1/3 of baby boomers engage in “binge-watching”, or watching multiple episodes of a TV show in one sitting. There is no shortage of data pointing to evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can shorten our life. The data show that low levels of physical activity are responsible for over 5 million deaths each year world wide, and long hours of TV viewing increases the risk of premature death by 33%.

Physical activity, on the other hand, reduces cardiovascular risk, as well as obesity, hypertension and even cognitive impairment later in life.

Getting rid of our TVs is probably not a realistic an option, but there are a few solutions that may counteract the health risks associated with hours of continuous television-watching. One of those solutions is “active” TV-watching, such as stepping in place during commercials.

Research has found that the average number of calories burned from stepping (i.e. marching or walking) in place during commercials within 1.5 hours of TV watching, is equal to the number of calories expended during 30 minutes of walking at a pace of 3mph (150 calories).

Another suggestion is to take advantage of an entire half hour show or newscast to use your home exercise equipment. Do some strength training with your light dumbbells and leg weights or do a few calisthenics using your body weight: knee pushups, planks, modified squats, and dips. Before you know it you will have a half hour of daily exercise under your belt And that belt, by the way, will gradually need to be tightened!

You can also alternate strength training with cardio exercise; same half-hour TV slot, only you can march in front of your favorite program through the entire 30 minutes, free form dance, alternate jumping jacks with grapevine dance moves, or step lifts, kicks, or any other move that gets your heart pumping a bit.

Last but not least, don’t forget to warm up and cool down adequately.  Protecting our muscles and bones is even more important as we age.  Do a few stretches; take a few deep breaths. Reset.

Remember this: Ageless fitness doesn’t require a Herculean effort; only non-negotiable regularity.  Be consistent about turning your TV time (or at least a portion of it) into active watching time. You’ll feel better, and look better too!

 

 

References:

Chastin, S.F.M. et al (2015) Systematic literature review of determinants of sedentary behavior in older adults: a DEDICAC Study.  International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Vol 12:127.

Deloitte.com/us/tmttrends (2015) Digital Democracy Survey

Steeves, J.A., Thompson, D.L, & Basset JR D.R. (2012) Energy cost of stepping in plae while watching television commercials.  Medicine and Science in Sports Medicine. Pp330-335.

Steinberg, S.I., et al. (2015) Exercise, sedentary pastimes, and cognitive performance in healthy older adults.  American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias. Vol 30 (33) pp290-298

Turi, et.al. (2017) TV viewing time is associated with increased all-cause mortality in Brazilian adults independent of physical activity. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 28:596-603.

(c) Raeleen Mautner, LLC 2018

 

 

The Placebo That Really CAN Help You Lose Weight-Your Mindset!

Experts say there is no easy way to lose weight or improve your fitness level. Yeah okay; we all know the routine: Eat right and get plenty of physical activity. Kudos to you who love to go to the gym—but you probably won’t find me there. Different strokes for different folks. I like to exercise to home videos, or go outside for a brisk walk then finish with some strengthening moves. Whatever way we get the job done. But here’s something I haven’t paid enough attention to—UNTIL NOW. Did you know that aside from your daily planned workout, you can also reap some real exercise benefits by simply regarding your household tasks as “exercise” too?

If you don’t already do that, you might want to reconsider.

The placebo effect is an outcome that has nothing to do with an actual drug or remedy but rather, to the therapeutic effect of your own beliefs and expectations. A review of the research in this area shows that the mind-body connection is no fairy tale. Placebo studies that involved depression drugs have produced impressive results, but the mind-body connection has also been explored in other ways. It has been effective—not as a cure—but as a powerful way to address pain, insomnia, stress, and even to counteract the side effects of cancer treatments; like nausea and fatigue. As it turns out, our mind is not only capable of producing positive effects on our health, but negative expectations can also produce negative results, which scientists call the “nocebo” effect. For example; older persons who perceive their health as “poor” were 6x more likely to die than those who regarded their health as “excellent”; regardless of actual health status. In another study, participants who were exposed to fake poison ivy (but believed it was real) developed actual poison ivy rashes. Likewise, subjects who were told they were drinking caffeine (but really weren’t) produced increased motor performance and heart rates, similar to what would be seen with the effects of caffeine.

But how can all of this make me lose weight?

A study out of Harvard revealed that when it comes to getting exercise, your mind-set can influence how many calories you burn, how much body fat you lose, and how fast your waist will whittle down—by simply being aware that your daily activities ALSO burn calories, and believing that these activities, too, are “exercise”. Think of the possibilities: We make the bed every day, go up and down the stairs in our home or workplace, vacuum and wash the floors, clean bathrooms, dust furniture, till the garden, shovel snow, repaint the backyard fence, mow the lawn, sweep the driveway and push a grocery cart for at least 30 minutes twice a week. These are just routine tasks, but when perceived as exercise, they may actually help you get fit—without doing anything else beyond what you are already doing.

The researchers in the Harvard study randomly assigned hotel room attendants from 7 hotels to the “informed” or control group. Hotel attendants clean on average 15 rooms a day, which takes about 20 minutes each to complete. They are bending, lifting, pushing vacuums and carts, carrying supplies, etc. Those in the informed condition received information on the benefits of exercise, and were informed that their daily work satisfied the Surgeon General’s statement that all adults should get 30 minutes of exercise each day. They were given specific information about the benefits of exercise and the calorie expenditure of each of the tasks they performed in their job. This group was also told that their daily housekeeping work satisfied the recommended prescription for daily exercise. Subjects in the control group received the same information about the benefits of exercise, but were not told that their work tasks fulfilled the requirement for daily exercise. There were no other significant changes to the housekeepers’ diet, or other aspects of their lifestyle.

The results were fascinating. After just 4 weeks, the informed group’s blood pressure was lower, they lost weight, their BMI went down, and so did their waist-to-hip ratio. No such changes occurred among the participants in the control group. In other words, increasing one’s “perceived” exercise—independent of actual exercise—resulted in measured physiological benefits.

The implications of this study go far beyond exercise benefits. Think of how many ways your positive expectations might create other meaningful changes in your life. Imagine how you might benefit by training yourself to habitually expect the best; not dread the worst.

Placebo or not—Sign me up for a lifetime prescription!

Comment below: What are some ways you could expect more positive results from some aspect of your life? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Please “subscribe” to my blog if you enjoy reading it. And don’t forget to download the free Happiness Tips eBook on my home page. Thank you for stopping by!

Reference

Crum, Alia J., & Langer, Ellen J., (2007). Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science.Vol 18(2) Pp165-171.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

Can Gardening Actually Make You Happy? Yes, And Here Are 10 Reasons Why

 

As a kid, let’s just say I “apprenticed” in my grandparents’ garden, year after year. I watched with baited breath as my grandfather prepared the soil; anticipating the moment he would signal me to sprinkle in the vegetable seeds, or place the little tomato plants into their grooves. Then my grandmother and I would weed the irises and tulips that lined our little back yard; water the hydrangeas; and prune the rose bushes that bordered along the front wall. On Sundays I would go see my other grandparents—the ones who hoisted water up from a bucket in a well to moisten the soil around their grape arbor, and who would wrap and bury their fig trees in the winter. In other words, in my family, gardening was no trivial pursuit.

But if you think I inherited even a tip of a green thumbnail, think again. Year after year I continue to plant my basil, parsley, oregano, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and lettuce. Maybe 1/5th of what I plant actually turns into what it is supposed to. But that’s beside the point. I garden anyway.  I garden because I must garden. Because gardening brings be back to the days of my grandparents. Because gardening  brings me joy—even if it doesn’t bring me flowers or vegetables.

Research shows that nature has a significant effect specifically on the well-being of older adults. For example, hospital patients who have a window, through which they can view trees or plants, heal faster than those who just have walls to look at. Similarly, gardening has been shown to positively impact both emotional and physical health of those who plant, water, reap, and admire. In a study that surveyed 331 older adult Australian gardeners, gardening was seen as critical to their physical and psychological well-being.

Plus, the older we are, the more benefits we derive from gardening. Such as the following:

  1. Aesthetic beauty that lifts our mood

  2. A connection with nature, which affirms our place in the universe

  3. Physical exercise from bending, weeding, hoeing, digging

  4. Fresh air and vitamin D from the sunshine

  5. A sense of achievement

  6. A meditation effect as we dig our hands into the soil

  7. Stress reduction as we immerse ourselves in the process

  8. Engagement with life

  9. Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables

  10. Food to feed your body; flowers to feed your soul.

It may be snowing outside but Spring is just around the corner. So start planning your “horticulture therapy” now and look forward to an extra seasonal dose of happiness!

Let’s start a discussion. What do you like to plant in the Spring?

Reference

Scott, T.L., Masser, B.M., & Pachana, N.A. (2015). Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults. Aging & Society (35) 2176-2200.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC

Move it! And Be Happy.

There are a lot of reasons to keep exercising as we age, but one you rarely hear about is HAPPINESS. In a randomized trial of 120 male and female older adults with a mean age of 71, researchers found that participating in an 8-week physical exercise program had a significant impact on their wellbeing. Most experts agree that you don’t have to go to extremes, or even exercise as intensely as you might have when you were in your twenties. Just do something—and do it every day.

It’s been a while since I said good-bye to the Jane Fonda leg-warmer workouts, the gym weight machine routines, the mountain trail hikes (yes, even the White Mountains), and the long-distance jogs (ouch, my knees!). Throughout the years I’ve had home treadmills, steppers, skiers, weight benches, bicycles, mini rebounders–and yes, I would use them all. Back then. At one point I even tried preparing my graduate student notes while dong side leaps over a high step—and let’s just say that didn’t end so well. But that is how committed and determined I was. Back then my goal was fitness, but I also felt better when I worked out. My mind was clearer, I was better able to focus, and I felt more confident.

Then as the years passed and my body slowed down a bit, I began to lose my resolve to get back on the equipment or do the crazy high-intensity workouts I used to do. Yet I have always hated how I feel when I’m sedentary.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of men and women in their 60s, 70’s and even 80’s that keep to a rigorous exercise routine. I admire you if you are one of them. But if you are like me, and even the thought of doing a Yoga “screaming pigeon pose” makes you want to go lie on a couch and sit this one out—the answer might be to find an activity that is gentler on your body, more enjoyable for you, and is something you really look forward to doing each day because it makes you feel so good. Consider options like barre, basic Yoga (no headstands, thank you), 15-minute low impact interval training, Zumba, ballroom dance (or any other kind), or even a calisthenics routine you put together myself. Take the stairs, walk at lunchtime, or get up and march during commercials when watching the news.

 

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you MOVE. Move a lot. Move every day. And be happy.

 

Reference: Khazaee-Pool, M., et.al. (2015) Effects of physical exercise programme on happiness among older people. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health nursing (22) 47-57.

 

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC