Exercise in Green spaces for your Health. Explore and go a little wild!

Exercise in Green spaces for your Health. Explore and go a little wild!

On the back of Jacinta’s recent great blog on developing a Blue Mind by being around water, I want to take you from Blue Spaces to Green Spaces. As much as I love the ocean, the hills is where I find my happy place, and the benefits of exercise in green spaces for your health –  both physical and mental, are indisputable. How lucky are we in Adelaide to have both the ocean and the hills so easily accessible! So whichever you chose, the benefits you will get from each are very transferable!

Is it about scarcity and a drive to be wild??

I’m sure I don’t have to go to great lengths to try to convince you that when we are out in nature we feel good, right? The fresh air, the sound of birds, the smells of leaves and earth… the breeze blowing through the trees and on to our skin… the warmth of the sun, or the refreshing rain! Perhaps a big driver for the pleasure we get from these experiences is because they are becoming so rare?! We are busy right? Stuck indoors for most of our daily activities. Getting out to explore takes a commitment, plus at least some planning, which can start to make it all a bit too hard. In addition, the amount of green space is decreasing, even in Adelaide, with ongoing housing and infrastructure developments.

Another great driving force for our attraction to green spaces is that interacting with nature is programmed deep into our DNA… don’t you think? Not that long ago (relatively) our survival depended on our exploration and interaction with nature. We are hormonally primed (via dopamine) to be explorers. Dopamine encourages us to explore our surrounding ‘wilderness’, and it triggers our brains’ rewards-centres when that exploration is successful: In the past that may have included finding food or shelter, but now, it may be as simple as when you hike over a crest and are rewarded with an amazing view…

Cycling through the Adelaide Hills, seeking out prey?!

We could be discussing golf, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, or any other nature based sport. In my case, I love to cycle through the Adelaide hills. It really is my happy place; my time-out; my opportunity to de-stress; where most of my creativity comes from. And there’s certainly something about that hunter-gatherer deep within that is awakened when I spot a cyclist a few hundred metres ahead of me…! If you ride you will know what I mean! Almost sub-consciously the pace picks up to see if I can chase him/her down! There’s an innate drive to explore, to see what is over that next crest or bend; to ride new roads, explore new trails; to feel the exertion and satisfaction of climbing a new hill! And I can truly say that I’m a better human being for prioritising the time to have those experiences (Just ask my business partner, and my wife!)!

The benefits of exercise in green spaces for your health according to the WHO

The World Health Organization has summarised the health benefits of exercising in natural spaces covered by vegetation in a 2016 review titled Urban Green Spaces and Health: a Review of the Evidence:

  • Reductions in depression, anxiety and stress
  • Reduced cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Better pregnancy outcomes
  • Reduced early mortality
  • Increased happiness

So whether you are seeking the direct health benefits outlined above, or perhaps a greater balance in your week-to-week activities, can I encourage you to take advantage of the amazing green (and blue!) spaces that Adelaide provides us within a thirty-minute drive?!

And if you feel you need help developing your strength to tackle some new ‘nature’ challenges we are here to help!

Do New Year’s Resolutions fail because they don’t have real value?

Do New Year’s Resolutions fail because they don’t have real value?

It’s that time of year. Many resolutions have been made, and unfortunately, but not surprisingly, most of them have already been broken. How are yours fairing? One of the key reasons why our resolutions fail is because we haven’t given them enough true value. If you really valued them, you would commit to them right? In fact, they wouldn’t even be New Year resolutions, because you would probably already be doing them!! This piece will highlight what tends to go wrong, how you can increase the real value of your New Year’s Resolutions to ensure they become a reality in 2018.

It’s a question of pleasure vs pain!

There are two types of New Year’s Resolutions: Those that focus on achieving an idealistic and perfect picture of the future; or those focused on improving something

Psychologists have been telling us for a long time that two strong forces motivate action: The achievement of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. From a survival perspective we are much more strongly motivated to avoid negative events and experiences, over the achievement of positive ones.

Can you guess which group most resolutions fall into? That’s right, the aspirational hopeful group (!), such as deciding that 2018 will be the year you  become a better looking, thinner, richer, French speaking, instrument playing version of your current self!

These type of resolutions are less likely to be accomplished, because there’s less pain associated with NOT achieving them! And quite likely some short term pain and discomfort in trying to accomplish them!

To increase the chance of a New Year Resolution succeeding, I would recommend you start by focusing on something you want to change, something that you are currently unhappy with, something that creates some ‘pain’ (not necessarily the physical injury type of pain) just due to its existence; rather than an aspirational picture of the future.

Not only does a resolution need to be truly motivating for it to have a chance of being achieved, but it should also be sustainable … and beyond the month of January! A key way to ensure the sustainability of your new behaviour is to adopt it as a way of life. Which means we need to frame the goal in a context and language that implies long term change:

Telic and atelic activities and goals.

We could define our resolutions by terms used by the philosopher Kieran Setiya, explains that many of our activities are either telic or atelic, where almost anything we call a ‘project’ will be telic: such as buying a house, starting a family, earning a promotion, getting a job. These are all things one can finish or complete.

In contrast, atelic activities do not aim at a point of termination or completion: a final state in which they have been achieved and there is nothing more to do. For instance … you can go for a walk with no particular destination. Going for a walk is an ‘atelic’ activity. Further, aiming to run a marathon is a telic goal, while running because one enjoys the benefits of it is atelic.

Setiya proposes that if a goal gives purpose to our life, then when we complete it, that purpose disappears, and so, in “pursuing a goal, you are trying to exhaust your interaction with something good, as if you were trying to make friends for the sake of saying goodbye” (philosophers have a great way  to portray concepts, don’t they?!)

Process for increasing the value of your New Year’s Resolutions

To ensure you succeed in sticking to, and benefiting from your resolutions, I would encourage you to focus on three key points. Firstly, focus on something that is relevant to you now that you are not happy with and you want to change. Then frame it in a way that ensures sustainability, so that it can become a lifestyle change. Turn the more common telic type goals such as “I want to lose 5kgs” or “I want to be able to run 5km” or ” I want to get rid of my low back pain”, to more atelic, lifestyle behaviours such as “I want to eat foods that are healthier for me…”, “I want to run often because….” or “I will identify and modify the daily things that are affecting my back pain”.

Following is a practical process to help you along: of primary and most significant importance, is the choice you will need to make. Because at the end of the day, it will be you who will need to implement change; and that will be so much easier once you are convicted that it’s because you TRULY want to change.

So, I’d encourage you to ask yourself the following questions, which I have modified from an earlier blog:

  • What is the main thing that you are not happy with and you want to change?
  • How good will it actually feel if you achieve that goal, and why?
  • What are behaviours that you feel put you at greatest risk of not achieving that goal? (such as eating too often/too much, etc)
  • How good do those behaviours ACTUALLY feel when we do them? Have you experienced that sometimes the ‘idea’ of those behaviours is actually more powerful than the behaviour itself… for example, if drinking a lovely wine and eating cheese was actually SO good, you would be doing it all the time right? But you don’t, you can actually put those behaviours aside… see where this is heading?
  • I hope this next question doesn’t sound patronising, as I certainly don’t mean it to be so…. Can you have a good time without overdoing your particular behaviours in question?
  • How much better will you feel when you get home from that party and you succeeded in not overconsuming??!
  • Does that feeling of victory and control outweigh the short lived feeling had you eaten/drank more than you wanted… How nice to not have to regret anything, right?!

The third key point is support. While it is you who will need to make the changes, having the right team around you, at least at the beginning, while change is harder to implement, will go a long way towards increasing the value of your new year’s resolutions. Please remember that we are here to help. And a practical way we can do that is via our “Draw a Line in The Sand” campaign, which is designed to closely support you and equip you to create change, and which we have extended until the end of January.

Here’s to a great 2018!!

Determined to make healthy choices? Resist pressures around you!

Determined to make healthy choices? Resist pressures around you!

How is this week going for you? I hope you’ve had a great Christmas, and that you are excited for the year ahead! For many of us this time of year also presents an interesting struggle, as we start to think about the things we would like to do differently next year, while indulging in behaviours that may be in contradiction to those goals?! In the following few paragraphs I’d  like to provide you with a few insights that will help you make healthy choices despite the environment and society around you making it difficult to do so!

In my last blog we focused on a process to help you identify the right MOTIVATION and reason for change. After all, I’m sure that everyone reading this blog has a very good idea of what we should eat, what we should (or shouldn’t) drink, what’s good for us, what’s bad for us, what to avoid, etc. Yet, this knowledge alone is clearly not enough to help us  and empower us to make better choices. So the very first thing we should aim to do, is to spend time working out what we want and why we want it. So if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read that blog and spend some time answering the questions it poses.  The answers you come up with, and the concepts below will assist you to make healthy choices based on current knowledge, but that work for YOU.

Once you have decided what it is you want to achieve and why, and have also identified your main barriers, you will have completed the most important part of the journey! Now  we will explore some strong external forces that are likely to be working against you. Understand these will help you not be influenced by them!

Are your behaviours  being ‘nudged’ away from your ideal healthy choices?

The concept of a ‘nudge‘, from Nudge Theory, refers to any aspect of ‘choice architecture’ (the way in which choices can be presented to consumers to impact choice) that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without actually forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. This concept is so powerful, that it won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2017. It suggests that we are influenced by the choices given to us, even if they are subtle and we have the ability to chose an alternative.

For example, when you go and get your lunch, what do you see first? Do you see the salad or do you see the chips? That will very strongly influence what you end up eating. This is not always a ‘Machiavellian’ design, as we might say is the placing of lollies and chocolates at a supermarket checkout to tempt our kids while we are waiting to be served! Sometimes they are basic business choices, with good intentions at heart made by commercial inertia. An example of this may be the local café, which understands you are busy and have a short lunch break, so they place the ready made rolls in the most visible spot as you enter the shop…

How can we avoid this social engineering so you can make healthy choices?

One of the strategies we suggest in this scenario, is for you to decide what you are going to have before you get there! Don’t wait to be in the café to make a choice… the options to tempt you are too powerful!!
You should know what your next meal is, and where it’s going to come from… otherwise you risk being dictated to by external factors.

Is your social circle subtly influencing your choices?

Social norms are one of the very powerful forces in behaviour. We are influenced by what other people are doing. Not what we are told we are supposed to do – If everybody else is eating more or eating a certain kind of food, we will eat more of it, right?

If your friends are active, you are more likely to want to join them on that Mt Lofty hike. On the flip side, if they are all starting to put on weight, you are more likely to as well! Our social circles, our community, have a ‘recalibrating’ effect on our understanding of what is normal or not, hence having a very powerful influence on our behaviour.

It’s not easy to swim against the flow. The currents set by our environment (shops, etc.) and by our social networks are strong. But our success depends on it! We are here to help, and hopefully this piece has shone the light on a couple of areas that were lurking in the dark.

Here’s to a successful, fun, healthy and fulfilling 2018! Happy new Years!!

What’s your plan to survive Christmas?

What’s your plan to survive Christmas?

Warning – challenging content ahead!

Please only read on if you are prepared to have a serious conversation with yourself about your health choices over the next month; and if you are willing to not only set up a plan to survive Christmas, but to come out the other side feeling great about your choices!

As mentioned in a previous blog, we are currently facing a seasonal conundrum – our environment is against us! While we try to stay healthy, and perhaps even get in better shape and fitness to enjoy summer more, we are also being invited to more parties, with more food, and more drinks! And it’s hard to say no, as it is the ‘silly’ season after all, right?!

… but are we happy with the outcome this will lead to? How will we feel on the 2nd of January? Groggy, heavy, lethargic? Or energised and vibrant?

So, we have an interesting choice to make. We can go with the flow, and let circumstances and the environment dictate what happens to our health OR we can take a stand against the status quo!! In an earlier blog I shared iNform’s mission to help you push back against this environmental tide. We personally and professionally understand how tough it is to stand strong when everything and everyone around you is pushing another glass of wine or cheese platter your way! However, we would not be true to our calling, or doing our job; or doing you any favours for that matter, if we didn’t challenge you, and support you, to make this year different!

So lets make a plan to survive Christmas!

How will we do this? Well, I’ll share some practical tips to help you along, but of primary and most significant importance, is the choice you will need to make. Because at the end of the day, it will be you who will need to implement change; and that will be so much easier once you are convicted that it’s because you TRULY want to change. Your picture of yourself at the other side of Christmas in great health needs to be more important and real, than the desire for short term satisfaction that will come from over-eating… Are we ok so far?

I’d like to ask you some questions, which you should answer to yourself:

  1. How do you want to look and feel on the 2nd of January? (you may have some specific goals, such as an actual weight; scale of 1-10 of ‘wellbeing’; or an outfit you want to feel comfortable in.)
  2. How good will it actually feel if you achieve that goal, and why?
  3. What are behaviours that you feel put you at greatest risk of not achieving that goal? (such as eating too often/too much, etc)
  4. How good do those behaviours ACTUALLY feel when we do them? Have you experienced that sometimes the ‘idea’ of those behaviours is actually more powerful than the behaviour itself… for example, if drinking a lovely wine and eating cheese was actually SO good, you would be doing it all the time right? But you don’t, you can actually put those behaviours aside… see where this is heading?
  5. I hope this next question doesn’t sound patronising, as I certainly don’t mean it to be so…. Can you have a good time at a gathering without overdoing your particular behaviours in question?
  6. How much better will you feel when you get home from that party and you succeeded in not overconsuming??!
  7. Does that feeling of victory and control outweigh the short lived feeling had you eaten/drank more than you wanted… How nice to not have to regret anything, right?!

The process above is aimed to give some context to the behaviours you chose. It really comes down to a choice of ‘short term satisfaction vs long term pain’ OR ‘short term control for long term satisfaction’! Why would you choose the former?? Why do we tend to? Most often, because we just ‘go with the flow’… we don’t stop and take stock of the consequences, as we would with other behaviours. So if you just read through the numbered questions above without giving them some real thought, can I encourage you to go back and spend some time on them?

The process won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it in so many ways! And as the ‘Quit Smoking’ ads encourage us to do: if you fail the first time, try again! you will get closer every time you do. Very importantly, don’t be harsh on yourself – these behaviours in question have been in place (in one way or another) for a very long time, in addition, the environment IS against you, so you have these two battles on your hands. But you have us by your side, every step of the way! If you would like our support through this process, can I encourage you to take advantage of our “Line in the Sand Campaign“?

As I’ve been writing this I’ve realised that this will be a short series of about three blogs, so part 2 and 3 will be out shortly!

Exercises to burn more calories over christmas – resist the momentum against you!!

Exercises to burn more calories over christmas – resist the momentum against you!!

Are you enjoying the warmer weather we are having in Adelaide? Have you started to attend a few extra barbeques and ‘Christmas’ parties already?! I certainly feel like the social calendar is getting busier, and so the demand for time is increasing. So I’d like to share with you my strategy for exercises to burn more calories over christmas!

Increased Strength Training to grow the ‘metabolic engine’ and burn more calories

This year I have increased my training both on the bike and in the gym in preparation for my next big cycling challenge, which is going to require much larger amounts of strength than my last (bike ride from Melbourne to Adelaide!). One of the side benefits of this extra strength training has been greater muscle mass, which I have certainly felt has helped my capacity to absorb some of those extra calories that I have eaten at the extra social events!

I feel like at this time of year we face an interesting conundrum, where on one hand the desire to get in shape for summer is matched by the gathering momentum of parties around us! So I have two thoughts for you to help you succeed this summer:

Structure your exercises to burn more calories over Christmas

There’s no question that the best way to avoid an expanding waistline is to a) limit caloric intake, b) eat wholesome foods, c) do the right types of exercise. But lets be realistic, ‘a’ & ‘b’ are particularly hard to do during the silly season (but not impossible, and a blog is coming up soon about this!), so ‘c’ can be a great way to shift the needle in the right direction. The key, considering the reduced amount of time we have because of all this socialising (!) is to be efficient. This means lifting as heavy as you can and exercising at the greatest intensity you can. Both of these strategies will ensure the best return for your time. My favourite work-out at the moment is alternating heavy deadlifts with push ups. This combination results in pretty much every muscle in my body being worked with just two exercises. Due to the very different nature of these exercises, I can back them up and do quite a few sets of each in a short period of time.

There are many different combinations you could do, but as a rule of thumb, focus on exercises that target large muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, pressing movements like push-ups, and pulling movements like chin ups or rows.

Partner an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, so that while you are doing one, you are resting the other body part. And if you don’t have access to weights, then alternating a body-weight lower body exercise (such as squats or lunges) with some push ups (for example) will do the trick!

We can help with more guidance on this to ensure that your technique is good and you get the best out of your exercises!

Lets draw a line in the sand and resist the momentum around us!

I’m reading an interesting book (by Sonia Arrison) at the moment that explores the health changes we need to make to ensure we live an extended, and healthy, life. A quote from the book really jumped out at me and I’d like to share it with you:

“We cannot (or should not) outsource our own lives. In whatever capacity we can – as intellectuals, scientists investors, voters, cultural leaders – we must take ownership of the future. In order to win, we must fight! We are not mere spectators.”

What stood out to me from this quote is that at the end of the day we have to take a front step to change our situation. There’s no question that our environment, and in fact society, make it difficult for us to remain healthy, especially this time of year. So we have to make a choice to resist that momentum around us! My follow up blog to this one covers a process that will help you approach the festivities in a way that will see you succeed and avoid the extra calories in the first place!

Our commitment is to help and support you with that, so don’t hesitate to contact us!

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