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When she was 116 years old, the Guinness Book of Records announced Kane Tanaka as the oldest woman in the world whose age is unquestionably confirmed. Since then, she hasn’t stopped breaking records, and this January (2022) celebrated her 119th birthday.

During her birthday celebration, people were curious as to the happiest moment she has ever experienced in her life. She surprised and touched them deeply by answering with just one word: “Now.”

Kane Tanaka
Tanaka in 1923, aged 20

When you think about a woman who’s been around since 1903, you may believe that her life wasn’t very active or eventful. But Tanaka actually makes it a habit to wake up at 6am every morning and passes her day studying Mathematics and calligraphy.

Many along the way have asked her about her secret for longevity, to which she answered that it all has to do with a belief in God, the family that surrounds her and her healthy sleep habits. If you’re wondering, even at her venerable age, Tanaka does not give up on coffee, and drinks at least three cups a day, as well as fizzy drinks.

Kane Tanaka Birthday
Tanaka at the Guinness record award ceremony

Tanaka’s story teaches us that there’s always hope for change – despite and sometimes thanks to the difficulties we encounter during our lives. When she was “only” 103 years old, Tanaka was diagnosed with colon cancer, and against all odds – managed to beat it. Sixteen years have passed since that moment, and all that’s left for us is to wish her many more healthy years to come.

Earthing is an ancient practice that has been recently rediscovered by environmental medicine. Though it is a simple process, it has potentially incredible benefits for those who practice it. In a society that is dominated by electronics, it should be no surprise that simply reconnecting with the Earth can make people feel healthier and happier.

Earthing, also known as grounding, is the process of “walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body.” (1)

Grounding is best viewed as a preventative lifestyle that can help prevent and reverse the damage that is being done to our bodies by the modern lifestyle which often does not include being outdoors on a regular basis.

By practicing Earthing on a regular basis and actively connecting with the electrons flowing through the earth, it is possible to undo much of the cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscle damage that has occurred in a person.

earthing and grounding
Earthing on a regular basis and actively connecting with the electrons flowing through the earth

Is there Science Behind Earthing/ Grounding?

Although grounding is a newer field of study, there has already been some research that has shown that regular earthing can help improve the health of those who live with cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions, chronic pain, and muscle damage. (2)

When viewed as a form of bio-hacking, earthing has also been shown to reduce a person’s stress levels and can significantly improve a person’s mental health and well-being by reducing depression, stress, and fatigue. 

In addition, when combined with healthy changes to diet and exercise, earthing has the potential to increase a person’s longevity and healthspan. (3)

These benefits can be achieved in a number of ways. The simplest, and most effective way, to practice grounding is to simply walk barefoot on the ground. It is important to note that direct contact with the earth is necessary for this to work, so walking on dirt, sand, grass, etc. is essential. These benefits cannot be achieved when you are walking on concrete or other man-made substances.

Submerge yourself or go swimming in a natural body of water such as the ocean, lakes, rivers, or streams

Another method of grounding is to lie directly on the ground or to submerge yourself or go swimming in a natural body of water such as the ocean, lakes, rivers, or streams.

It is not always possible to practice earthing outdoors. In cases of extreme weather, metropolitan living, or in cases where age or health conditions may not allow it, alternative methods of grounding should be utilized. These may include grounding mats, sheets, socks, or patches that mimic the electric current of the earth. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Earthing?

There are a number of health benefits that directly result from Earthing. These benefits can be felt after 30 minutes of direct, barefoot contact with the ground, and many people report feeling the positive effects after their first-time grounding. 

Not only has earthing been shown to improve both a person’s healthspan and lifespan, but it also has a number of other incredible health benefits including: (4)

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced pain
  • Lowered levels of stress
  • Improved blood flow
  • Improved energy
  • More restful sleep and better sleep quality
  • Reduces chronic fatigue
  • Improves sleep disorders
  • Reduced blood pressure levels

While grounding is generally recommended for everyone, it is still important to discuss it with your doctor if you have any serious underlying medical conditions. Earthing should not be used as a replacement for any medications or other treatment options that you may be currently undergoing without first talking with your doctor.

earthing benefits
Many people report feeling the positive effects after their first-time grounding

How Long Does It Take to Experience the Benefits?

Some of the immediate benefits of earthing, such as improved blood flow, improved energy, and reduction of pain and inflammation have been reported as soon as 30 minutes after a grounding session.

In one study, a diabetic woman with a persistent open wound on her ankle reported significantly decreased pain after 30 minutes of grounding treatment with an electrode patch. After one week of daily 30-minute treatments, she reported a pain reduction of 80%, and the limp that she had initially presented with was completely gone.

After two weeks of the daily treatments, she was completely pain free and her persistent wound, that had resisted all other forms of treatment for eight months, was almost completely healed. (5)

How Often Should Earthing Be Done?

If possible, grounding should be performed for at least 30 minutes every day. Simply going outside and lying on the grass in your backyard, taking a barefoot walk on the beach, or standing in the grass at a park can all provide the above health benefits.

It may not be possible for everyone to regularly practice holistic grounding however. If possible, a person should try to practice grounding as often as they are able to. Even once or twice a week can provide some of the health benefits, such as decreased depression and increased blood flow.

For those who do not have regular access to nature, grounding mats may be utilized to mimic receive similar benefits.

Immediate benefits of earthing include improved blood flow, energy, and reduction of pain and inflammation

What Are Grounding Mats?

Grounding mats are devices that are connected by a wire to the ground port of your home. It is important to note that you are not plugging directly into an electrical port, but rather the ground wire of your home. Most grounding mats come with instructions that detail how to use them and where to find this port in your home.

Grounding mats come in a variety of sizes, and can be used flat on the floor, on or under a desk, or on a bed so that a person can place their bare body, hands, or feet on it. While there has been less research done on these mats that on direct grounding methods, the research than has been done on them shows promise. (6)

In particular, there has been evidence to show that grounding mats can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and lower stress levels when used regularly and correctly.

Conclusion

Earthing provides several incredible and holistic health benefits and it is a simple process that the majority of people can do. While the most significant benefits can be achieved when earthing is practiced on a daily basis, it is still possible to see results when done only once or twice a week.

Walking barefoot on the grass, sand, or dirt allows our bodies to reconnect with the earth and allows us to absorb the electrons that can help rebalance our bodies. In turn, this can help prevent and heal several health conditions and has been proven to help those who do it regularly to improve their healthspan, longevity, and overall happiness.

Any person can access and reap the benefits of grounding with minimal effort, and it is a practice that everyone should take part in as often as possible.

Resources

(1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/#:~:text=Earthing%20(or%20grounding)%20refers%20to,the%20ground%20into%20the%20body.
(2)https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding
(3)https://publichealth.wustl.edu/heatlhspan-is-more-important-than-lifespan-so-why-dont-more-people-know-about-it/
(4)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550830719305476
(5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/
(6)https://www.healthline.com/health/under-review-grounding-mats

When was the last time you stood up? Was it more than half an hour ago?

While it’s true that sitting and lying down gives relief to our bodies, resting too much only causes harm. If you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, you increase the chances of chronic diseases, turbulent mental health, and even early death [1].

You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t stay sedentary that much.” 

But with how our modern society is designed, see how this daily schedule may sound familiar:

  • Wake up from a 7-hour sleep [2] and sit down for breakfast. You then sit in a car for half an hour [3] to get to your office.
  • Complete your 9-5 job inside a cubicle, where you only stand up for bathroom breaks or to have lunch—which you enjoy while sitting down.
  • Take another car ride home, where you’ll sit down for dinner and sit down to relax by the TV.
sitting too long
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

It’s not just how technology has developed, too. We’ve been conditioned to sit down since we were young [4]. From having proper manners in school to the office, sitting still shows respect and discipline. We grew up thinking sitting down equals behaving, but it’s actually detrimental to our health.

In total, the average American spends more than half of their day sitting—a whopping 15 hours every single day [5]. This figure doesn’t even consider the coronavirus pandemic, which forced us into working from home—effectively decreasing our body movements even more [6].

Moreover, while many of us resort to doing some type of workout once a day, you can’t “make up” for the lost movement in one go [7], because our bodies should move regularly. To quote Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of the best-selling book, Move Your DNA, “There is more to movement than exercise” [8].

sitting all day
Our bodies should move regularly

You’ll need to find a way to move constantly—which is what this article will help you achieve.

How Not Moving is Harmful

Let’s take a closer look at how a sedentary lifestyle or lack of regular movements negatively affects your physical health, mental state, and overall quality of life.

Higher Chances of Chronic Diseases

Obesity. Not moving regularly limits the number of calories you burn, which leads to an increase in weight gain and often results in obesity. Plus, once you’re overweight, research shows that people with obesity sit even more than people with average weight [9], putting you in a downward spiral.

Diabetes. Sedentary lifestyles also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 112% [10, 11]. This is because sitting for long periods without limiting your calorie intake causes an increase in insulin resistance—a key driver of type 2 diabetes [12].

Heart Diseases. Moreover, you increase the chances of having cardiovascular diseases by 147% and the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 90% [11]. You’re more likely to experience coronary artery diseases, heart attacks, higher blood pressure, and strokes if you don’t move your body enough [13].

Poorer Mental Health

Depression and Anxiety. Not only are you affecting your physical wellbeing, but being sedentary also increases the risk of developing mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and stress [14, 15]. These researches aren’t talking about just being sad, but clinical disorders identified by physicians.

Increased Mortality Rate

Accelerated Aging. A study shows that women who spend most of their day sitting and doing minimal exercises had biologically older cells by eight years more than their actual age [16]. Moreover, those who sit upwards of 10 hours and participate in less than 40 minutes of physical activities every day had shorter telomeres—the part of DNA strands that protects chromosomes from getting older. 

Early Death. There is a 71% increase in the mortality rate for those who spend more than 6 hours a day sitting [17]. Even with significant exercising, sitting for 5-6 hours a day increases your mortality rate by 50% [18]. Physical inactivity is also the fourth leading risk for global mortality [19].

The message is clear: There are serious health effects of not moving. It kills us and makes us sick—the complete opposite of how we may perceive extended periods of rest to be.

In reality, constant movement is the key to a healthy body.

In reality, constant movement is the key to a healthy body

How to Stop Being Sedentary

It’s not easy to move all the time in our modern world today. “Human beings evolved as a walking entity, exploring the world on our feet,” said James Levine, MD, the author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot [20].

But the reality is that we’re now glued to our screens to work, socialize, and even entertain ourselves.

So how can we change our sedentary lifestyle to engage our bodies like we’re supposed to? Check out these steps to incorporate movement and start living a healthier life:

Practice Functional Movements and Patterns

Functional movement exercises enhance your ability to do everyday movements. 

“These are normalized, neurodevelopmental sequences that we see from birth on. It’s basically what human beings have to do in order to live life every day,” says John Rusin, DPT, strength coach and sports performance therapist [21].

So, try to make these movement patterns [22] regularly:

  • Squats: Lower yourself and use your ankles, knees, and hips to drive yourself back up. Squatting helps you develop muscles for multiple vertical levels throughout your day.
  • Lunges: Known as a “traveling squat,” lunges engage your lower body into a single-leg stance. This practice helps your balance and control, one leg at a time.
  • Hinges: Contrary to “lifting with your knees,” hinges develop your core and back muscles to lift heavy objects. Lift weights by leaning and raising your torso like a drawbridge.
  • Pushes and Pulls: Practice pushing and pulling something away and nearer to you. Have a combination of both vertical and horizontal versions to heighten your overall balance.

Carries: Develop dynamic stability by engaging your entire body in carrying heavy objects. The idea is that you shouldn’t feel the burn in just one area, but your whole body.

Additionally, enhance any of the functional movements by adding rotation to the pattern. You want to transfer power from your lower half to your upper half through your core, getting your body to function as one unit for full-body stability. 

Start Using a Standing Desk

For a more seamless integration of movement into your working life, switch to a standing desk so you can get into an upright position without interrupting your workflow. You’ll be able to adjust the height of your table whenever you need to take a break from sitting.

Here are a few tips for using a standing desk:

  • Set intervals to alternate between sitting and standing with your desk. A good ratio to keep in mind is 1:1 or 2:1, which means you should stand around 30 to 45 minutes per hour of sitting [23].
  • Ensure that the position of your keyboard allows your elbows to sit at a 90-degree angle [24].
  • Attach arm supports to your desk to reduce the pressure on your mouse-controlling wrist [24].
  • Relax your neck and shoulders and shift your weight from one foot to another to minimize strain.
  • Don’t slouch or lock your knees to prevent any injuries from standing for an extended time.

Ensure that you’re not standing too long, because that’s just as harmful as sitting too much. Instead, use standing desks correctly to help your blood circulation, engage your muscles, and boost your mood.

Exercise with Balance Boards

Another neat item you can try out is balance boards—a fitness tool for strength and balance training [25].

A balance board has a flat top and a dome-shaped bottom, allowing the board to shift in multiple directions. Since the base is unstable, you’ll have to use your muscles to maintain balance.

Here are some ways you can use a balance board:

  • Balancing: Step up to the board with your feet hip-distance apart. Tilt the board forward and backward, having it touch the floor without you falling over. Next, try doing it from side to side. Shift your body weight from left to right, slowly feeling the floor while keeping your balance.
  • Squats: While standing on top of the board, do mini squats to engage your lower body muscles and core strength. Place your arms in front and lower yourself while maintaining your balance.
  • Planking: Get into plank position—but with your hands on the balance board. Use your core muscles, slightly bend your elbows, and maintain a steady position.
  • Push-ups: Do push-ups on the balance board to engage your core and upper body muscles. Keep your hands on the sides, bend your elbows to lower yourself, and return to the starting position while keeping balance.

You can do many other exercises with a balance board, but these simple ones should get you started. Balance boards use your body weight to develop strength and balance, increasing your physical capability to do everyday tasks.

Stop Sitting Yourself to Death

Sedentary lifestyles are not natural. It increases your chances of getting chronic diseases, gives you poorer mental health, and increases your mortality rate.

No, our bodies should move around—at least once every 30 minutes.

You need to bring movement back to your life to extend your health span, improve your quality of life, and enjoy the world like you’re supposed to. So practice functional movements, start using a standing desk, and exercise with balance boards to give yourself a better life—one motion at a time.

Need more help in breaking free from your sedentary lifestyle?

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Citations

[1] Wilmot EG; Edwardson CL; Achana FA; Davies MJ; Gorely T; Gray LJ; Khunti K; Yates T; Biddle SJ; (n.d.). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22890825/


[2] 25, S. C. T. | M., Team, S. C., & Team, S. C. (2021, June 3). How much sleep does the average AMERICAN GET? The Checkup. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/sleep-statistics/


[3] Bureau, U. S. C. (2021, March 18). Census bureau estimates show average one-way travel time to work rises. The United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/one-way-travel-time-to-work-rises.html#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20the%20average%20one,about%2010%25%20over%2014%20years


[4] Blatt-Gross, C. (2015, January 3). Why do we make students sit still in class?. CNN. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/30/living/no-sitting-still-movement-schools/index.html


[5] Leech, J. (2019, June 19). Is sitting too much bad for your health?. Healthline. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-sitting-is-bad-for-you#prevalence-of-sitting


[6] Zheng, C., Huang, W. Y., Sheridan, S., Sit, C. H.-P., Chen, X.-K., & Wong, S. H.-S. (2020, August 19). COVID-19 pandemic brings a sedentary lifestyle in Young Adults: A cross-sectional and longitudinal study. International journal of environmental research and public health. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7503726/


[7] Duvivier BM; Schaper NC; Bremers MA; van Crombrugge G; Menheere PP; Kars M; Savelberg HH; (n.d.). Minimal intensity physical activity (standing and walking) of longer duration improves insulin action and plasma lipids more than shorter periods of moderate to vigorous exercise (cycling) in sedentary subjects when energy expenditure is comparable. PloS one. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23418444/


[8] Kuklovskai︠a︡ Elizaveta. (n.d.). DP. Amazon. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0718X8N7H/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


[9] Levine JA; Lanningham-Foster LM; McCrady SK; Krizan AC; Olson LR; Kane PH; Jensen MD; Clark MM; (n.d.). Interindividual variation in posture allocation: Possible role in human obesity. Science (New York, N.Y.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15681386/


[10] Park, J. H., Moon, J. H., Kim, H. J., Kong, M. H., & Oh, Y. H. (2020, November). Sedentary lifestyle: Overview of updated evidence of potential health risks. Korean journal of family medicine. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7700832/


[11] Wilmot EG; Edwardson CL; Achana FA; Davies MJ; Gorely T; Gray LJ; Khunti K; Yates T; Biddle SJ; (n.d.). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22890825/


[12] Krogh-Madsen R;Thyfault JP;Broholm C;Mortensen OH;Olsen RH;Mounier R;Plomgaard P;van Hall G;Booth FW;Pedersen BK; (n.d.). A 2-WK reduction of ambulatory activity ATTENUATES peripheral insulin sensitivity. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20044474/


[13] U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, May 5). Health risks of an inactive lifestyle. MedlinePlus. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/healthrisksofaninactivelifestyle.html


[14] Sánchez-Villegas, A., Ara, I., Guillén-Grima, F., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Varo-Cenarruzabeitia, J. J., & Martínez-González, M. (1970, January 1). [PDF] physical Activity, SEDENTARY index, and mental disorders in the SUN cohort Study.: Semantic Scholar. undefined. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Physical-activity%2C-sedentary-index%2C-and-mental-in-S%C3%A1nchez-Villegas-Ara/b0869f0e2b071fe8063a180edcbd2decec7bdbae?p2df


[15] Zhai, L., Zhang, Y., & Zhang, D. (2015, June 1). Sedentary behaviour and the risk of depression: A meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/11/705


[16] Preidt, R. (2017, January 18). Too much sitting ages you faster. WebMD. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20170118/too-much-sitting-ages-you-faster


[17] Patel, A. V., Bernstein, L., Deka, A., Feigelson, H. S., Campbell, P. T., Gapstur, S. M., Colditz, G. A., & Thun, M. J. (2010, July 22). Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of us adults. OUP Academic. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/172/4/419/85345


[18] Melville, N. A. (2014, January 12). Sedentary behavior associated with higher mortality. Medscape. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/744006


[19] U.S. National Library of Medicine. (1970, January 1). Physical activity for health. Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305049/


[20] Levine, J., & Yeager, S. (2009). Move a little, lose a lot. Amazon. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.amazon.com/Move-Little-Lose-Lot-T/dp/0307408558


[21] Exercise science & injury prevention. Dr. John Rusin – Exercise Science & Injury Prevention. (2021, August 10). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://drjohnrusin.com/


[22] 6 essential functional movements. Oxygen Mag. (2020, June 17). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.oxygenmag.com/training-tips-for-women/6-essential-functional-movements/


[23] How to use a standing desk correctly – full tutorial. ergonofis. (2020, June 26). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://ergonofis.com/blogs/news/how-to-use-my-sitstand-desk-correctly


[24] Leech, J. (2017, June 18). 6 tips to use a standing DESK CORRECTLY. Healthline. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-tips-for-using-a-standing-desk#TOC_TITLE_HDR_8


[25] Brachman A;Kamieniarz A;Michalska J;Pawłowski M;Słomka KJ;Juras G; (n.d.). Balance training programs in athletes – a systematic review. Journal of human kinetics. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28828077/

 

What do cold showers, intermittent fasting, freediving, saunas and supplementing with curcumin, all have to do with extending your healthspan? They are all forms of hermetic stressors, a practice that involves applying stress in measured doses for a beneficial health outcome.

Surely, you are familiar with the phrase “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” While this phrase is often used by well meaning friends to encourage you during difficult life situations such as heartbreak, divorce, and loss, resilience research now shows it isn’t always the case. Often, repeat trauma or injury that doesn’t fully heal, isn’t solid ground for growth. In terms of building both mental and physical resilience, sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you more vulnerable. 

The opposite approach to “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is that stress is something to be reduced as much as possible. But, what if they are both wrong? And what if some form of stress could improve your wellbeing and extend healthspan? Such a form exists. It’s called Hormetic stress, or Hormesis, and it could be the answer to using stress in a way that enhances longevity.

So, what is hormesis? Hormesis involves the application of low doses of mild to moderate stressors for short periods. These stressors, referred to as hormetic agents, may include heat stress, cold stress, fasting, hypoxia, intellectual tasks, exercise, and exposure to poison in small doses. The idea is that your body adapts to the stressor and becomes more resilient (1). In the long term, it makes you stronger. But only if you let the body recover properly between stressors.

Cold Stressor
Hormesis via cold-shock therapy

In this article we will focus on reaping the rewards of hormesis with exercise.

“Hormesis is a biological reaction in which low doses of an agent that could be toxic or lethal at higher doses have a beneficial effect, such as improved health, stress tolerance, muscle growth, or longevity. Sure, exercise could kill you if you went to extremes, but in controlled doses, exercise can give you hormetic benefits, such as an increased ability to fight free radicals, manage heavy loads, or be more resilient to environmental stressors.” (8)

Exercise: Helpful or Harmful for Longevity?

Some 500 years ago, Swiss physician Paracelsus expressed the basic principle of toxicology: “All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.” This idea is popularly condensed to: “The dose makes the poison.” It means that a substance that contains toxic properties can cause harm only if it occurs in a high enough concentration. But in the right amount it can be a potent cure.

Over-exercising or the wrong type of workout can be harmful for your healthy longevity. For example, prolonged stretches of intense physical exercise, such as Iron Man training, can induce chronic inflammation which is associated with a wide range of ailments, including premature and accelerated aging. Hence the term ‘inflammaging’, a condition which is gaining attention in longevity research. On the other hand, short bursts of intense exercise stress the body just enough to trigger an adaptive response. The exercise breaks your muscles down, but they become stronger when they recover.

The benefits of just the right form and amount of workout goes up to your head too. Wendy Suzuki, Professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, said in her TED Talk, “Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today.” (2)

When referring to your healthspan, the goal is to extend the years of your life in which you are in good health, instead of just lengthening your lifespan, which simply adds years to your life. To improve your healthspan, you want to promote a healthy brain and body. Through her research, Suzuki found that exercise has protective effects on the brain. This was primarily in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, the most vulnerable areas to cognitive decline as you age. Exercise is one surefire method of biohacking your healthspan by boosting your mood, energy, attention span, and long-term memory.

What Is Exercise-Induced Hormesis?

Hormesis is sometimes referred to as voluntary stress since you are intentionally putting stress on yourself. The difference between voluntary stress and everyday physical stress is that you use voluntary stress in a controlled and measured way. In the case of exercise-induced hormesis, you choose to engage in short bursts of specific types of high-intensity exercise.

How does hormesis support longevity? Over time, your mitochondria become damaged by free radicals in your environment (3). These free radicals, from environmental toxins, chemicals in your food and water, and chronic stress, can all lead to oxidative stress that reduces cell efficiency. Hormesis pushes the body to weed out weak, dysfunctional, or mutated cells, or if the cell is in good enough condition to save,  hormesis can help to fortify cellular health. When short doses of stressors are applied, your mitochondria adapt by increasing productivity to maximize your chances of survival(4).

Exercise-Induced Hormesis
High Intensive Interval Training

What Are the Benefits of Exercise-Induced Hormesis?

The main perk about the hormetic approach to exercise? It’s short! It can take 10 to 20 minutes. No matter how busy your schedule, everyone has time for that. Plus, it’s mostly free! On top of the convenience and affordability, there are plenty of science-backed benefits to exercise-induced hormesis (6):

  • Improved physique
  • Enhanced pulmonary-cardio stamina
  • Possible prevention or delay of age-related metabolic diseases
  • Emotional balance
  • Hormonal regulation
  • Maintenance of cognitive function

Using exercise strategically for its hormetic effects is a quick and effective way to impact your healthspan positively.

How Can You Induce Hormesis Through Exercise?

To enjoy the longevity-supporting hormetic effects of exercise, you must choose a physical activity that provides brief spurts of intense training. Five qualities for physical activities that support your healthspan are: brief, intense, infrequent, safe, and purposeful. What type of exercise fulfills these qualities? High-intensity interval training!

It is recognized that high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, has a particularly strong hormetic effect on cell mitochondria. They become more efficient in dealing with the stress, which increases your energy production and slows down aging at the cellular level.

Hormesis
HIIT

Some examples of exercises ideal for HIIT are:

  • Tabata
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Crossfit
  • Powerlifting
  • Resistance machines
  • Weight training

So, how does HIIT work? You exercise in short bursts at a high intensity with active rest periods between each set. During your active rest period, you continue moving your body at a low intensity. Here’s a sample beginner HIIT workout:

  • Warm-up for 2 minutes.
  • Sprint for 10 seconds.
  • Walk for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat the cycle two more times.

You’ll want to pick the work/rest ratio that best suits your abilities. Above, we used a 1:2 ratio, but if this pace is too challenging, reduce your ratio to 1:3 or 1:4. For example, sprint for 10 seconds, then walk for 30 or 40 seconds. The key is to put all of your efforts into your work period, whether it be sprinting, lifting weights, or jumping on a trampoline.

Summary

Yes, exercise breaks down your muscles. But it builds them back up even stronger and more resilient than before. In small doses. Pick a high-intensity workout and do it in short bursts with rest in between each set. Enjoy the healthspan boosting benefits of exercise-induced hormesis…

References
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248601/#:~:text=Hormesis%20is%20a%20term%20used,dose%20 inhibitory%20or%20toxic%20effect
  2. https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_suzuki_the_brain_changing_benefits_of_exercise/up-next?language=en
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4145906/#:~:text=Oxidative%20stress%20is%20characterized%20by,homeostasis%20and%20mitochondrial%20defense%20systems
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836144/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836153/#:~:text=The%20evidence%20for%20this%20is%20the%20well%20demonstrated%20health%20benefits,mental%2C%20hormonal%20and%20emotional%20functionality
  6. Greenfield, Ben. Boundless. Victory Belt Publishing, 2020.

The Ultimate Guide to Gratitude, appreciation-bio-hacking tools, and the effects of focusing on the blessings in our lives on our health.

Repetitive negative thoughts can kill us. Slowly but surely. The mechanism by which a thought pattern can cut our healthspan short so effectively is that thoughts evoke emotions. And emotions directly effect production of hormones. When we focus more on the negative things in life, we suffer over exposure to the stress hormone Cortisol. This leads to high blood pressure, poor sleep patterns, harmful coping habits, like overeating, and a host of other issues that are all, at the end of the day, health related.

On the upside, if our thoughts can kill, they can also heal! Shifting our negative thought patterns to focus on the good things in our lives can counteract the damage. In this article, we’ll go over:

  • How we are biologically programmed with a negativity bias
  • How gratitude physically reprograms us for better health
  • Simple actions you can take today to extend your healthspan through gratitude

What is Negativity Bias?

Negativity bias is our natural, biological tendency to focus on negative factors around us. It is a survival mechanism that helped our ancient ancestors survive by anticipating danger before it happened. This survival mechanism required our ancestors to pay more attention to the bad things than the good things. They could afford for good things to come again later. However, if a threat caught them unaware, they might not live to try again [1].

In the modern-day, we do not have a saber tooth tiger lurking around the corner. Instead, we have a host of other uncertainties like the pandemic, novel viruses, toxic workplaces, uncertain economies, job instability, manipulative family members, divorce, heartbreak and other threats to our well-being. It often feels like we can not ‘unplug’ even for a moment or we will be caught unaware.

How Does Negativity Bias Affect Our Health?

maya elhalal healthspan hacking

Negativity bias creates stress and anxiety. Short, brief doses can be good for the body, as it encourages us to do something about the source of the stress. However, our modern society produces severe and chronic levels of stress.

Here are a few troubling statistics about how stress directly affects your health [2]:

  • In a study by Everyday Health, over 33% of the respondents reported going to the doctor for stress-related health issues.
  • 57% of respondents to another study reported they were paralyzed by stress.
  • Stress caused sleep deprivation in 66% of American workers in 2018.
  • Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths yearly
  • Both women and men cope with stress through habits bad for our healthspan like drinking extra caffeine (37%), smoking (27%), overeating and snacking (46% women, 26% men), and illicit drugs (12% men and 2% women).

Why does stress cause health problems? 

Our bodies are made to use stress as a short-term boost to help us overcome a threat. Chronic stress, however, leads to a lot of wear and tear on our bodies in the form of high blood pressure, fat-building cortisol, and fatigue. We also tend to let our healthy habits falter as we seek to cope with that stress. As a result, our quality of life and eventually our healthspan suffers.

Our bodies are made to use stress as a short-term boost to help us overcome a threat. Chronic stress, however, leads to a lot of wear and tear on our bodies in the form of high blood pressure, fat-building cortisol, and fatigue. We also tend to let our healthy habits falter as we seek to cope with that stress. As a result, our quality of life and eventually our healthspan suffers.

Luckily, the biological effects of stress, anxiety, and negativity can be counteracted without drugs or expensive treatments. We can change our thought processes by focusing on the things in our life that we are grateful for.

How Does Practicing Gratitude Overcome Negativity Bias?

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is actively expressing our appreciation for what we have. Rather than focus on the stressors and uncertainties in life, we acknowledge there are good things in the world. We also acknowledge the gifts and benefits we have received from other people, circumstances, and higher powers [3].

What Does Gratitude Look Like?

Just like stress has physical symptoms like headaches, tightness in the chest, and tension, gratitude can be consciously felt. 

Jing Lee, founder of @pacificpause describes it as “…warmth in the body, a sense of grounded-ness, a slowing of the breath, spaciousness in the chest and heart, uncontrollable tears or an automatic smile. I know when I am experiencing gratitude because it’s not just a concept in my head, I can feel it in my body. [4]”

How Does Gratitude Affect Health?

Breaking the stress of negative bias has profound effects on our healthspan:

  • Reduces stress and improves sleep quality, which helps build resilience [5][6][7][8].
  • People who regularly express gratitude have more grey brain matter [5]
  • Gratitude acts as a natural anti-depressant, and you can build the neural pathways to make the anti-depressive benefits permanent! [5][6][8]
  • Stops stress on the limbic system, which controls emotions, memory, and body functions. Activating the system with gratitude is reported to shorten recovery times and contribute to better feelings of well-being [5][7][8].
  • Gratitude releases dopamine, which helps regulate and reduce pain [5][6][8].
  • Gratitude dramatically reduces the stress hormone cortisol. This stress hormone is a big contributor to belly fat, high ‘bad’ cholesterol and blood pressure, and other health factors [5].

These are just the tip of the iceberg in how a change in how we view the world affects the condition of our health. 

Bio-Hacks to Practice Gratitude Today

Practicing gratitude is an easy and inexpensive way to improve your healthspan. Here are a few tips and practices to try today!

Be Patient With Yourself

Gratitude is a process. It will not work its magic all at once, and you will find yourself sliding into old negative thought patterns at first. Like any habit or a new skill, it will take time to master. Be kind to yourself when you find yourself stressing over the negative things in life. The last think you want is to add that to your list of stressors. Take a deep breath, acknowledge yourself for the awareness, and gently course correct. Gratitude is a muscle that builds overtime.

Try Out Journaling

For most people, journaling all the positive things you experience can help bring on a more positive bias thought pattern. It is more than listing out the good things though- you need to reflect on them and allow yourself to feel that appreciation and calm of having good things in your life. 

Try listing out five things you are happy to have in your life in the morning. Record good memories after an event. End the day with a brief letter to yourself about something good about the day. This will help your mind keep on the lookout for good things to write down and distract yourself from some of the negative.

Write a Letter of Gratitude

Sit down and write to someone who has contributed to your day (or life) in a positive way. You do not have to send it unless you want to. Just the act of writing out the letter will be enough to evoke positive thoughts and emotions.

Gratitude Visit

Going a step further from a letter, visit someone who has had a positive effect in your life to express your gratitude face to face. Maybe treat them to their favorite tea or reminisce about a moment that they made a huge impact on you. This activity fulfills both a focus on positives in life and a social need to be around positive and supportive people.

Find a Gratitude Buddy

It could be a spouse, child, friend, or companion online. The goal is to check in daily and spend a minute or two sharing positive news and things you are grateful for.

Take a Walk

Mixing the practice of observing the beautiful and positive parts of your surroundings with the endorphins produced with light walking, cycling, or wheelchair travel can significantly improve your mood and feelings of well-being.

Meditation/Gratitude Ritual

Take a few minutes of your day to focus on the good things you are grateful for. Find a distraction-free area, put your phone on silent, close your eyes, and just focus on the good things in your life.

Volunteer

Assist at a homeless center, a soup kitchen, a children’s hospital, or another good cause. Seeing the struggles of others and helping them in a small but meaningful way helps us put our own troubles and blessings into perspective!

An Attitude of Gratitude Extends Your Healthspan

Negative bias and the stress it produces is easy and inexpensive to counter. Live a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life by focusing on the things you are grateful for. The psychological and physical benefits will greatly improve your healthspan!


Citations

[1] Hanson, Rick, Ph.D. (2021). Taking in the Good vs. The Negativity Bias. Retrieved 5 September 2021, from https://www.sfsu.edu/~holistic/documents/Spring_2014/GoodvsNeg_Bias.pdf

[2] Heckman, W. (2021). 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics – The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved 5 September 2021, from https://www.stress.org/42-worrying-workplace-stress-statistics-2

[3] Gratitude Definition | What Is Gratitude. (2021). Retrieved 6 September 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition

[4] Jing, L. (2021). What Gratitude Really Feels Like. Retrieved 6 September 2021, from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/what-gratitude-really-feels-like/

[5] The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief. (2019). Retrieved 6 September 2021, from https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/

[6] What Science Reveals About Gratitude’s Impact on the Brain – Mindful. (2019). Retrieved 9 September 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/what-the-brain-reveals-about-gratitude/

[7] Your brain on gratitude: How a neuroscientist used his research to heal from grief. (2021). Retrieved 9 September 2021, from https://whyy.org/segments/your-brain-on-gratitude-how-a-neuroscientist-used-his-research-to-heal-from-grief/

[8] Why Gratitude Is Good. (2021). Retrieved 9 September 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good