3 Lifestyle Choices That Could
Save Your Life!
It’s all about the 3P’s...
1. Play and move
2. Participate in something that inspires you everyday
3. Practice heart rate variability
1. Play and move: Yes, these two words can and should go together. Do something that is playful and that requires movement. I don’t like the word “exercise” because to some, it is associated with something unpleasant. However, “movement” to me, simple means doing something you like to do that gets your heart rate up, your lymph circulating, and your muscle contracting. Remember any movement is great, but if you’re able to both work up a sweat and you’re happy at the same time, it is a synergistic reward!
Fun ways to move and play at the same time might look like playing with your kids in the pool, or throwing a Frisbee on the beach, taking a bike ride, going roller blading, or hiking in the forest. But what if you are one of those people that doesn’t enjoy those kinds of outdoor activities? Then I have a few suggestions. First of all, do you like to dance? If so, join a group! Or, do you do your own housework? Well that counts too; just move a little faster when you are vacuuming, washing the floors or dusting.
If you can’t find a playful way to move, or if you want a greater intensity of exercise, then one trick I find especially helpful is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) at only 7 minutes per day. I figure anyone can do 7 minutes of something they may not like per day if they know the benefits can be life changing. There is even an advanced HIIT 7 minute workout for those who want a greater challenge. There are many studies on HIIT and the one I found most particularly interesting is the one on breast cancer survivors. It showed improvements in quality of life, functional capacity and selected cardiovascular disease risk factors (1).
To conclude on my first of three “P’s,” the important thing to remember is that ANY movement beats being sedentary or living a couch potato life ANY day! So get out there and start playing and moving!
2. Participate in something that inspires you everyday: This will be different for each person but the idea is to experience the feeling of inspiration. Inspiration has a long history positively impacting the human psyche. It was originally thought of as coming from divine or supernatural forces. In ancient Greece, the Muses were goddesses who inspired the creation of literature and the arts by speaking directly with the human creators themselves. Maybe due to the mystical connotations associated with the inspiration, scientists hadn’t really touched the term until recently. However, we now have several studies showing how purpose in life and gratitude lead to inspiration and how inspiration promotes health and well being (2).
For me, it is not just the educational or the informative information that helps me get through the tough times, rather it is in the little bits of inspiration that touch my heart and strike a chord in my soul. So I encourage you to find quotes, tips and little snippets of inspiration that will give you a little lift and encourage you to have a more positive outlook. Have these written on a note pad or post-it and put them up in different rooms of your house. Listen to an inspiring TED Talk or a motivational speaker lecturing on a topic that you enjoy. If not that, then listen to inspirational music for a few minutes every day. You can also go for a walk on your favorite beach if you’re able to. And yet, an even more simple idea - just sit down, close your eyes and relive something inspirational that you have already experienced in the past. Relish in the feeling.
3. Practice heart rate variability: Heart rate variability (HRV) is a relatively new method for assessing the effects of stress on your body. It is measured as the time gap between your heart beats that varies as you breathe in and out. Put another way, heart rate variability is measured by calculating the time between R spikes on an electrocardiogram (ECG) trace. Research evidence increasingly links high HRV to good health and a high level of fitness, while decreased HRV is linked to stress, fatigue, burnout and even disease (3).
Normally, our heart is under the control of the parasympathetic nervous system, however as we get more stressed, the sympathetic nervous system takes over. This means we lose the variability between each beat of our heart which decreases the health and resilience of our body. By using a HRV monitor you can assess this and do certain movements such as diaphragmatic breathing, to increase your HRV. The good thing is the more time you spend on increasing the variability of your heart, the easier it is to get there. Our body remembers “normal,” so as you practice HRV, your body can more easily return to that space if you habitually train it to do so.
I recommend obtaining a HRV unit and using it regularly. There are hand held units or ones you can download to your computer or even apps for your smart phone. Initially you’ll be able to establish what your usual HRV is and then learn you’ll how to stay in the “coherent zone” more regularly. I recommend using the unit at least 5 minutes every day and once per week for 15 minutes.
- Dr. Trindade
1. Toohey K, Pumpa KL, Arnolda L, Cooke J, Yip D, Craft PS, Semple S. A pilot study examining the effects of low-volume high-intensity interval training and continuous low to moderate intensity training on quality of life, functional capacity and cardiovascular risk factors in cancer survivors. PeerJ. 2016 Oct 20;4:e2613.
2. Thrash TM, Elliot AJ, Maruskin LA, Cassidy SE. Inspiration and the promotion of well-being: tests of causality and mediation. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Mar;98(3):488-506.
3. Lu WC, Tzeng NS, Kao YC, Yeh CB, Kuo TB, Chang CC, Chang HA. Correlation between health-related quality of life in the physical domain and heart rate variability in asymptomatic adults. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2016 Oct 21;14(1):149